Monday, July 22, 2019

Audiobook Review: Wayward Children series #1-3 by Seanan Maguire

Since these were so short for audio, I thought I'd do some quick reviews of the books. This is not the complete series but only the ones my library had at the time.

Series: Wayward Children #1
Published: 4/5/16
Publisher: Macmillan Audio
Narrator: Cynthia Hopkins
Length: 4 hrs. 44 min.
Source: Hoopla/Library

No SolicitationsNo VisitorsNo Quests 
Children have always disappeared under the right conditions; slipping through the shadows under a bed or at the back of a wardrobe, tumbling down rabbit holes and into old wells, and emerging somewhere... else. 
But magical lands have little need for used-up miracle children. 
Nancy tumbled once, but now she’s back. The things she’s experienced... they change a person. The children under Miss West’s care understand all too well. And each of them is seeking a way back to their own fantasy world. 
But Nancy’s arrival marks a change at the Home. There’s a darkness just around each corner, and when tragedy strikes, it’s up to Nancy and her new-found schoolmates to get to the heart of the matter. 
No matter the cost.
My thoughts: This is a modern adult faerie tale even though it centers around young children. It is often dark and deals with a few adult themes and is also very inclusive. If you are looking for a dark adventure with diversity, this series is for you. There is a mystery that is easily solved but it still captured me nonetheless. I give it 4 stars as it had a slow start but worked well on audio.

Series: Wayward Children #2
Published: 5/18/17
Publisher: Macmillan Audio
Narrator: Seanan Maguire
Length: 4 hrs. 4 min.
Source: Hoopla/Library

Twin sisters Jack and Jill were seventeen when they found their way home and were packed off to Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children.
This is the story of what happened first… 
Jacqueline was her mother’s perfect daughter—polite and quiet, always dressed as a princess. If her mother was sometimes a little strict, it’s because crafting the perfect daughter takes discipline. 
Jillian was her father’s perfect daughter—adventurous, thrill-seeking, and a bit of a tom-boy. He really would have preferred a son, but you work with what you've got.
They were five when they learned that grown-ups can’t be trusted.

They were twelve when they walked down the impossible staircase and discovered that the pretense of love can never be enough to prepare you a life filled with magic in a land filled with mad scientists and death and choices.
My thoughts: It was delightful to hear the book by the author and so I was intrigued to hear how she would voice all the characters. She did an excellent job and I slipped easily into the world. This one had a great message in how people try to box someone into their expectations and how it effects the person and how the brave find who they are despite those expectations.

Wayward Children #3
Published: 1/9/18
Publisher: Macmillan Audio
Narrator: Michelle Dockery
Length: 4 hrs. 15 min.

Beneath the Sugar Sky returns to Eleanor West's Home for Wayward Children. At this magical boarding school, children who have experienced fantasy adventures are reintroduced to the "real" world.

Sumi died years before her prophesied daughter Rini could be born. Rini was born anyway, and now she’s trying to bring her mother back from a world without magic.
My thoughts: This was probably my least favorite in terms of Rini as I didn't care for her until the end. However the secondary characters make up for that lack and I was excited to see Sumi again. The ending was interesting and I love it when characters find where they truly belong. I look forward to listening to more of these stories and I hope my library gets them.


Monday, July 15, 2019

Audiobook Review: The Library of Light and Shadow by M.J. Rose

Series: Daughters of La Lune #3
Published: July 18, 17
Publisher: Dreamscape Media
Narrator: Sherry Baines
Length: 13 hrs. 17 min.
Source: Hoopla/Library

In the wake of a dark and brutal World War, the glitz and glamour of 1925 Manhattan shine like a beacon for the high society set, which is desperate to keep their gaze firmly fixed to the future. But Delphine Duplessi sees more than most. At a time in her career when she could easily be unknown and penniless, like so many of her classmates from L’École de Beaux Arts, in America she has gained notoriety for her stunning “shadow portraits” that frequently expose her subjects’ most scandalous secrets—for better or for worse. Most nights Delphine doesn’t mind that her gift has become mere entertainment—a party trick—for the fashionable crowd. Though her ancestor La Lune, the legendary sixteenth-century courtesan and—like Delphine—a witch, might have thought differently.

Then, on a snowy night in February, in a penthouse high above Fifth Avenue, Delphine’s mystical talent leads to a tragedy between two brothers. Horrified, she renounces her gift.
Devastated and disconsolate, Delphine returns to her old life in the south of France where Picasso, Matisse, and the Fitzgeralds are summering. There, Delphine is thrust into recapturing the past. First by her charismatic twin brother and business manager Sebastian in his attempts to cajole her back to work and into co-dependence, then by the world famous opera singer Emma Calvé, who is obsessed with the centuries-old Book of Abraham, written by the fourteenth-century alchemist Nicolas Flamel. And finally by her ex-lover Mathieu, who is determined to lure her back into his arms, unaware of the danger that had led Delphine to flee Paris for New York five years before.
My thoughts:

I read the other 2 books in the series (reviews HERE) but for some reason I missed this one. Luckily my library had this book available so I decided that now was the time to dive back into this world. I was glad I did and this one was filled with legendary artists and lots of color to temper the darkness within the tale.

The side story of Nicolas Flamel mentioned in the blurb was just a way of getting Delphine back into her own story, one she couldn't run from no matter how she tried, but it felt more important. Unfortunately it wasn't a part of Delphine's journey and that saddened me. Perhaps we will get that story next?

Without revealing too much I think those who enjoy romance with a bit of magic will enjoy this story. The romance isn't without tragedy and a bit of drama but all of it is well placed and designed for our couple (especially Delphine) to learn and be ready for the next phase of their lives.

The narration by Sherry Baines was good but there was little separation between characters and her females all sounded roughly the same. It did not hinder my enjoyment of the book but I thought I'd mention it.

I give the book 4 stars. It is a good addition to the series and I hope we get more as I enjoy following this family though their trials and finding true love.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Audiobook Review: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

Published: Dec. 26, 04
Publisher: HarperAudio
Narrator: Jeremy Irons
Length: 4 hrs.
Source: Hoopla/Library

Paulo Coelho's masterpiece tells the mystical story of Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy who yearns to travel in search of a worldly treasure. His quest will lead him to riches far different—and far more satisfying—than he ever imagined. Santiago's journey teaches us about the essential wisdom of listening to our hearts, of recognizing opportunity and learning to read the omens strewn along life's path, and, most importantly, to follow our dreams.
My thoughts:

If you have read anything by Joseph Campbell then you have heard of the typical heroes journey which many books follow in one way or another and this book is a prime example of this journey. Santiago is questing to find a treasure which is both external and internal. The story also teaches how to listen to your self and to recognize opportunities leading to your personal treasure. It does it in a non preachy way. It also teaches that sometimes losses can be in itself a win and that the road to your treasure is not an easy one, but that life will help you on your journey if you recognize the signs.

I think this is why it has spoken to a lot of people when it was published. My favorite part is knowing that the road is not smooth. That not everything goes perfectly your way just because you are on your journey.

I give this book 3 1/2 stars. I did enjoy it but it didn't quite capture me the way it has other readers. The journey is a bit uneven but that may be due to translation of the book. Still a worthwhile read. I think that Jeremy Irons does an excellent job narrating and his voice really pulls you though the quest. I would definitely listen to another book by this actor.

Monday, July 1, 2019

Protect the Prince by Jennifer Estep

Series: Crown of Shards #2
448 p.
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Published: July 2, 2019
Source: Edelweiss
First, Evie has to deal with a court full of arrogant, demanding nobles, all of whom want to get their greedy hands on her crown. As if that wasn’t bad enough, an assassin tries to kill Evie in her own throne room. 
Despite the dangers, Evie goes ahead with a scheduled trip to the neighboring kingdom of Andvari in order to secure a desperately needed alliance. But complicating matters is the stubborn Andvarian king, who wants to punish Evie for the deaths of his countrymen during the Seven Spire massacre. 
But dark forces are at work inside the Andvarian palace, and Evie soon realizes that no one is safe. Worse, Evie’s immunity to magic starts acting in strange, unexpected ways, which makes her wonder whether she is truly strong enough to be a Winter Queen. 
But Evie’s magic, life, and crown aren’t the only things in danger—so is her heart, thanks to Lucas Sullivan, the Andvarian king’s bastard son and Evie’s . . . well, Evie isn’t quite sure what Sullivan is to her. 
Only one thing is certain—protecting a prince might be even harder than killing a queen…
My thoughts:

I loved the first book and I couldn't wait to get to this one. I was not disappointed and loved this book too. Also note that  I will try to make sure I don't spoil anything... which will be hard.

The book picks up right after the last book and it is filled with lots of action. Evie is no wilting royal and protects herself well (both mentally and physically) and has a great mind for sussing out mystery. There is a mystery in the book which was unfortunately not hard to figure it out, however, this really wasn't an issue as it was only a part of the whole story and it all fits together so well. In other words, it was a well executed mystery despite it's ease.

I will also say that if you are reluctant to start a fantasy but really enjoy UF, give this series a try. It feels more UF and isn't a heavy handed book at all. Also, for those wanting romance, there IS romance in the book even though it was frustrating for most of the book. Still loved how it turned out for at least 2 couples. I also suggest you read the first book as these really do need to be read in order like most fantasy.

I give this book 5 stars and I really love these characters (which you will find more to love) and how Evie's brain works. I can't wait for the next installment.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Shadow of the Fox by Julie Kagawa

Series: Shadow of the Fox #1
Publisher: HarperAudio
Published: Oct. 2, 2018
Narrators: Joy Osmanski and Brian Nishii
Length: 14 hrs. 45 min.
Source: Audiobook Sync

One thousand years ago, the great Kami Dragon was summoned to grant a single terrible wish—and the land of Iwagoto was plunged into an age of darkness and chaos.
Now, for whoever holds the Scroll of a Thousand Prayers, a new wish will be granted. A new age is about to dawn. 
Raised by monks in the isolated Silent Winds temple, Yumeko has trained all her life to hide her yokai nature. Half kitsune, half human, her skill with illusion is matched only by her penchant for mischief. Until the day her home is burned to the ground, her adoptive family is brutally slain and she is forced to flee for her life with the temple’s greatest treasure—one part of the ancient scroll. 
There are many who would claim the dragon’s wish for their own. Kage Tatsumi, a mysterious samurai of the Shadow Clan, is one such hunter, under orders to retrieve the scroll…at any cost. Fate brings Kage and Yumeko together. With a promise to lead him to the scroll, an uneasy alliance is formed, offering Yumeko her best hope for survival. But he seeks what she has hidden away, and her deception could ultimately tear them both apart. 
With an army of demons at her heels and the unlikeliest of allies at her side, Yumeko’s secrets are more than a matter of life or death. They are the key to the fate of the world itself.
My thoughts:

I think I was just ready for a good fantasy adventure in a culture we don't often see. This one has some great characters which build on Japanese folklore and mythology. This is also one reason I highly suggest the audio. You get the correct pronunciation of the Japanese words sprinkled throughout the story. Not only that but the dual voices really work for the characters in the book. I did slightly prefer Joy Osmanski's narration but that is typical of me. I like female voicing female characters over male and I don't mind a male character from a female narrator. However that is my own preference and take it as such.

The story actually reminded me of a mixed up Inuyasha anime (if you haven't seen the show it is quite cute) and it feels like the quest is familiar. I actually think that endeared me more to the book. I actually anticipated a cliffie so it didn't put me off when I reached the ending (which is not usual for me, I hate cliffies). Kagawa is notorious for those kind of endings and I expect it in the next book as well (which I think I must also do as an audiobook).

I don't want to spoil too much of the quest but I do think this is a fun YA fantasy and also hints at a possible romance budding. You know Kagawa won't make that easy and we probably won't get fulfillment of that romance for a couple of books out (my prediction... lol).

I highly recommend this audio and I really did enjoy both narrators voicing the characters. I give the book 5 stars.