Category: Audiobook reviews

Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige – Review

dorothy must die
Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige – ReviewDorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige
Series: Dorothy Must Die #1
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Devon Sorvari
Length: 14 hrs and 12 mins
Genres: Classics, Contemporary Fantasy
Buy from AmazonKoboiTunesAudible
Evelynne's rating: four-stars

Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige was one of my most anticipated reads of the season.  I read and loved the prequel – No Place Like Oz –  and indeed my desire to read Dorothy Must Die sent me into a reading slump for a while as nothing else hit the spot.  Having read it, I can say that, while there was a lot to enjoy about Dorothy Must Die it didn’t quite live up to my anticipation.

What I liked

The protagonist.  I really liked our protagonist, Amy Gumm, and enjoyed following her journey. She is a strong, kick-ass heroine, yet is dealing with her own internal demons and has her own buttons that can be pressed.  Coming from Kansas as she does, she is the reader’s inroad to Dorothy’s Oz.  Many parallels are drawn between Amy and Dorothy; both are originally from Kansas, both were feeling trapped in their mundane lives with little escape from their farm/small town before their arrival in Oz.  Both are sensitive to the magic that is all around in Oz.

The worldbuilding.  While it’s fair to say that L. Frank Baum did a lot of the heavy lifting in his creation of the world of Oz, Paige has added her own twist to the world.   Baum’s Oz is clearly identifiable in the book, but there is a much darker twist to it with Dorothy’s influence.  It’s based on the children’s novels rather than the 1939 Judy Garland film in that there are characters mentioned who are in the books not in the movie, and also that the original slippers are silver not red.  I would suggest you read No Place Like Oz first before coming to Dorothy Must Die to get an idea of the background.

Good vs Wicked and Trust.  The question of trust and whom to trust and whom not to trust comes up too many times for it not to be a major theme in the series.  Amy is working for the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked and is repeatedly advised by the operatives not to trust anyone.  It’s clear that they don’t trust Amy either, keeping her in the dark until the last possible moment.  It’s a common trope in good vs evil fantasy that the good guys always win because they trust their colleagues to have their backs and are willing to sacrifice themselves for the greater good whereas the bad guys are too busy looking out for themselves to implement any cohesive plans or trust their colleagues to work with them.  Although the so-called wicked have come together in Dorothy Must Die they don’t have that trust that good guys have.  It’s an interesting twist and I look forward to seeing how it plays out in subsequent books.

Writing style.  I did enjoy Paige’s writing style.  It came across as fresh and immediate and really brought me into the story.

What I didn’t like

Pacing.  Here we come to the main problem I had with Dorothy Must Die; the pacing was off.  For a significant chunk of the first half of the book Amy is training with the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked yet, due to trust issues mentioned above, has not been given a goal to work towards except the vague Dorothy Must Die.  This section drags on far too long and really slows the book down.  I would encourage you to work past this section though – it improves a lot once Amy is working on a more specific goal.

Misleading marketing.  HarperCollins’ blurb for Dorothy Must Die contains the following:

“My name is Amy Gumm—and I’m the other girl from Kansas.I’ve been recruited by the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked.I’ve been trained to fight.And I have a mission: Remove the Tin Woodman’s heart.Steal the Scarecrow’s brain.Take the Lion’s courage.Then and only then—Dorothy must die!”

If that is the blurb you’re using to hook readers into the book, it might be a good idea to have your protagonist actually work towards that goal in that book and not have it be a supposed finale twist that Dorothy can’t die until the Tin Woodman, Scarecrow and Lion have been neutralised.  Clearly, it’s a blurb for the series as a whole not just Dorothy Must Die.  When reading the book please bear this in mind so that you are not frustrated at the end.

The audio narration.  In general I really liked Devon Sorvari’s narration.  She really brought out Amy’s strength of character and kick-ass attitude.  However there were long pauses left at the end of each paragraph – long enough to be very noticeable and very irritating.  I kept wondering if I’d reached the end of a chapter.  Of course, it may not bother you at all.  Here’s a sample.

In general though I really enjoyed Dorothy Must Die and will definitely continue with the rest of the series.  Amy is a really great character and I love the world of Oz.  I look forward to seeing more.

I gave Dorothy Must Die four stars out of five.

 buy from Amazon, Kobo, iTunes, Audible, eBooks.com

four-stars

Northanger Abbey by Val McDermid

Northanger Abbey by Val McDermid is the second in The Austen Project series of novels which are modern retellings by contemporary authors of Jane Austen’s classics.  Perhaps it’s because I didn’t have the baggage of my knowledge and love of the original as I had with the first, I much preferred this second outing to Joanna Trollope’s updating of Sense and Sensibility.  Austen’s original story of Northanger Abbey tells the story of a sheltered young girl whose love of gothic novels leads her to make some very strange assumptions about the family of the young man she meets while visiting Bath.  During the novel she learns to separate fiction from reality and to develop a better understanding of human motivations.

What I liked

The updating.  I felt McDermid did a much better job than Trollope of bringing Austen’s characters into the 21st century.  They felt modern and fresh and their motivations seemed in line with a modern teenager or young person.  I could easily imagine sitting down to coffee with Cat and Ellie to discuss the latest novel.  And as evidenced by John Thorpe and Frederick Tilney, men who are too full of self-importance to consider the wishes of the women they are with are obnoxious in any century.  

As well as the characters, McDermid has done sterling work in updating the setting.  Transforming Bath into Edinburgh mid Festival worked incredibly well.  In their respective eras, both cities represent a cultural hotspot and a chance for our sheltered heroine to move into a wider world and social circle.  The Festival also allows McDermid to bring in events like dance lessons and a ball without their seeming too much out of place.

Cultural and social media integration.  This was something that was also better done in Northanger Abbey than in Sense and Sensibility.  Social media such as Facebook, email, texts and Twitter are an integral part of our characters’ lives and are used to drive the plot on in many cases.  The updating of the gothic novels much beloved by Austen’s heroine to Twilight and other contemporary vampire novels also works very well.

The narration.  Narration for Northanger Abbey is done by Jane Collingwood and was excellent.  Being a Scot I did appreciate her attempt at a Scots accent for the Scottish characters in the novel.  In particular she brings across Cat’s good nature and John Thorpe’s horribleness perfectly.  Here’s a sample:

What I didn’t like

Bella’s “voice”.  The way this character spoke really irritated me.  I’m referring to her word choice “totes,” “BFF”, not the narration.  On the other hand, the character is supposed to be superficial so maybe McDermid’s done her job too well.

Motivations.  In Austen’s original I assume money was a strong motivating factor in the relationship choices made by the characters.  In McDermid’s updating, at some points it seems finances are a contributing factor, and at other times not.  it just didn’t seem clear.

All in all I really enjoyed Northanger Abbey and gave it four stars out of five.

 buy from Amazon, iTunes, Audible, eBooks.com

Northanger Abbey by Val McDermid

Northanger Abbey by Val McDermidNorthanger Abbey by Val McDermid
Series: The Austen Project #2
Also in this series: Sense and Sensibility, Eligible
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Jane Collingwood
Length: 8 hrs and 54 mins
Genres: Classics, Contemporary
Buy from AmazoniTunesAudible
Evelynne's rating: four-half-stars

Northanger Abbey by Val McDermid is the second in The Austen Project series of novels which are modern retellings by contemporary authors of Jane Austen’s classics.  Perhaps it’s because I didn’t have the baggage of my knowledge and love of the original as I had with the first, I much preferred this second outing to Joanna Trollope’s updating of Sense and Sensibility.  Austen’s original story of Northanger Abbey tells the story of a sheltered young girl whose love of gothic novels leads her to make some very strange assumptions about the family of the young man she meets while visiting Bath.  During the novel she learns to separate fiction from reality and to develop a better understanding of human motivations.

What I liked

The updating.  I felt McDermid did a much better job than Trollope of bringing Austen’s characters into the 21st century.  They felt modern and fresh and their motivations seemed in line with a modern teenager or young person.  I could easily imagine sitting down to coffee with Cat and Ellie to discuss the latest novel.  And as evidenced by John Thorpe and Frederick Tilney, men who are too full of self-importance to consider the wishes of the women they are with are obnoxious in any century.  

As well as the characters, McDermid has done sterling work in updating the setting.  Transforming Bath into Edinburgh mid Festival worked incredibly well.  In their respective eras, both cities represent a cultural hotspot and a chance for our sheltered heroine to move into a wider world and social circle.  The Festival also allows McDermid to bring in events like dance lessons and a ball without their seeming too much out of place.

Cultural and social media integration.  This was something that was also better done in Northanger Abbey than in Sense and Sensibility.  Social media such as Facebook, email, texts and Twitter are an integral part of our characters’ lives and are used to drive the plot on in many cases.  The updating of the gothic novels much beloved by Austen’s heroine to Twilight and other contemporary vampire novels also works very well.

The narration.  Narration for Northanger Abbey is done by Jane Collingwood and was excellent.  Being a Scot I did appreciate her attempt at a Scots accent for the Scottish characters in the novel.  In particular she brings across Cat’s good nature and John Thorpe’s horribleness perfectly.  Here’s a sample:

What I didn’t like

Bella’s “voice”.  The way this character spoke really irritated me.  I’m referring to her word choice “totes,” “BFF”, not the narration.  On the other hand, the character is supposed to be superficial so maybe McDermid’s done her job too well.

Motivations.  In Austen’s original I assume money was a strong motivating factor in the relationship choices made by the characters.  In McDermid’s updating, at some points it seems finances are a contributing factor, and at other times not.  it just didn’t seem clear.

All in all I really enjoyed Northanger Abbey and gave it four stars out of five.

 buy from Amazon, iTunes, Audible, eBooks.com

four-half-stars

William Shakespeare’s Star Wars – The Empire Striketh Back – Review

William Shakespeare’s Star Wars – The Empire Striketh Back by Ian Doescher is the sequel to William Shakespeare’s Star Wars, a retelling of George Lucas’s space saga in the style of William Shakespeare.  I would strongly recommend picking this up as an audiobook rather than ebook or hard copy – Random House Audio’s production is top notch with an excellent cast.  It is far more like a radio play than an audiobook and the excellent cast does a wonderful job of telling the story.

What I liked

The source material.  The original Star Wars trilogy is a darn good story.  It contains a lot of strong themes which would have been as relevant in Shakespeare’s time as today: love, betrayal, youthful impetuousness, struggle against tyranny.  Doescher therefore has a strong base on which to base his adaptation.  It also isn’t too jarring, for example, when Han rails against Lando’s betrayal in Shakespearean language as it is a theme and emotion found in many of Shakespeare’s works.

Yoda.  On my first listen through I was a little disappointed that Yoda didn’t sound too different from the other characters.  In the movies, he has a unique speech pattern and I was hoping that this would be reflected in Empire Striketh Back.  It was only on reading Doescher’s commentary that I realised Yoda was speaking in haiku!  Darn I wished I’d picked that up first time.  This is intended to reflect Yoda’s role as Luke’s master – or sensei – in the mystical force giving an eastern feel to it.  Brilliant. Appropriate and brilliant.

The production.  Random House Audio has gone full out to make this a radio play rather than an audiobook.  We have a strong cast, sound effects (including the iconic swish of the lightsabres) as well as snippets of John Williams’ memorable soundtrack.  It all combines to make it a wonderful listen.  

Doescher’s Notes and Commentary.  I the ebook edition I also possess, Doescher adds some commentary explaining some of the creative decisions he made while writing Empire.  This, combined with the teachers notes provides a fascinating new insight into the book.

What I didn’t like

There was nothing, I tell you, nothing i disliked about The Empire Striketh Back.  I already have The Jedi Doth Return on pre-order.  As the trailer says “these are the books you have been looking for.”

William Shakespeare’s Star Wars – The Empire Striketh Back – Review

William Shakespeare’s Star Wars – The Empire Striketh Back – ReviewThe Empire Striketh Back by Ian Doescher
Series: William Shakespeare's Star Wars #2
Also in this series: The Jedi Doth Return
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Various
Genres: Classics, Contemporary Fantasy
Buy from AmazonKoboAudible
Evelynne's rating: five-stars

William Shakespeare’s Star Wars – The Empire Striketh Back by Ian Doescher is the sequel to William Shakespeare’s Star Wars, a retelling of George Lucas’s space saga in the style of William Shakespeare.  I would strongly recommend picking this up as an audiobook rather than ebook or hard copy – Random House Audio’s production is top notch with an excellent cast.  It is far more like a radio play than an audiobook and the excellent cast does a wonderful job of telling the story.

What I liked

The source material.  The original Star Wars trilogy is a darn good story.  It contains a lot of strong themes which would have been as relevant in Shakespeare’s time as today: love, betrayal, youthful impetuousness, struggle against tyranny.  Doescher therefore has a strong base on which to base his adaptation.  It also isn’t too jarring, for example, when Han rails against Lando’s betrayal in Shakespearean language as it is a theme and emotion found in many of Shakespeare’s works.

Yoda.  On my first listen through I was a little disappointed that Yoda didn’t sound too different from the other characters.  In the movies, he has a unique speech pattern and I was hoping that this would be reflected in Empire Striketh Back.  It was only on reading Doescher’s commentary that I realised Yoda was speaking in haiku!  Darn I wished I’d picked that up first time.  This is intended to reflect Yoda’s role as Luke’s master – or sensei – in the mystical force giving an eastern feel to it.  Brilliant. Appropriate and brilliant.

The production.  Random House Audio has gone full out to make this a radio play rather than an audiobook.  We have a strong cast, sound effects (including the iconic swish of the lightsabres) as well as snippets of John Williams’ memorable soundtrack.  It all combines to make it a wonderful listen.  

Doescher’s Notes and Commentary.  I the ebook edition I also possess, Doescher adds some commentary explaining some of the creative decisions he made while writing Empire.  This, combined with the teachers notes provides a fascinating new insight into the book.

What I didn’t like

There was nothing, I tell you, nothing i disliked about The Empire Striketh Back.  I already have The Jedi Doth Return on pre-order.  As the trailer says “these are the books you have been looking for.”

five-stars

Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson – Full review – SPOILERS

Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson – Full review – SPOILERS

Cress by Marissa Meyer

Cress by Marissa Meyer is the third in the Lunar Chronicles series and is loosely based on the Rapunzel fairytale.  It also continues the stories of Cinder and Scarlet, the heroines of the first two novels based on Cinderella and Red Riding Hood respectively.  

Cress is quite a different kind of protagonist to Cinder and Scarlet who are both rather feisty and capable.  This fits very well with the Rapunzel backstory; like her fairytale counterpart, Cress has spent the majority of her life isolated from human contact and the world in general and when the girls and their guys break her out she is naturally very uncertain and rather naive.  One of the themes of the fairytale is leaving parental (over)protection and going out into the world despite all its dangers and this is seen in Cress.  Once again Meyer has woven in the main storybeats of the original fairytale – maiden, trapped in a tower, wicked witch, prince blinded – but has given them a very original twist in her retelling.

What I liked

Cress’s characterisation.  Despite being less kickass than Cress or Scarlet, Cress still has her strengths more so as she gains in confidence.  Certainly, she ends up in situations that her more worldly wise companions might have avoided, but she doesn’t allow her fear to hold her back from doing her part to help her friends.  I have the feeling that by book four Cress will be a force to be reckoned with.

Good balance.  The novel was perfectly balanced with Cress’s story and the continuation of that of Cinder and Scarlet.  Meyer was able to give all the characters plenty of time and space for their development without compromising the pace, which moves along at a good clip.

The androids.  I don’t know why, but I have a real soft spot for Iko and in this book Little Cress.  I suspect it’s a combination of Meyer’s excellent writing and Rebecca Soler’s fantastic narration – she adds so much life to these non-human characters!  I really enjoyed the dynamic between Cress and Little Cress, who is a programmation of a younger version of herself.  I was sorry that Little Cress didn’t remain in the story very long, but I can understand why she had to go for Cress’s character development.  

The romance between Cress and Thorne.  This was beautifully done, moving from Cress’s childlike crush on her distant idol and Thorne’s wry amusement at her feelings for him, learning to know him as a real person, through mutual dependence and finally a clearer understanding of each other’s strengths and faults.  

The narration.  Once again Rebecca Soler give an amazing performance as narrator for these books.  She brings so much life to the characters that it’s a joy to listen to these books.  This is one series I definitely prefer to listen to thanks to the narration.

What I didn’t like

There was nothing I didn’t like – Cress was a fantastic continuation of a brilliant series and I can’t wait for Winter!

I gave Cress five stars out of five.

 buy from Amazon, Kobo, iTunes, Audible, eBooks.com

Cress by Marissa Meyer

Cress by Marissa MeyerCress by Marissa Meyer
Series: The Lunar Chronicles #3
Also in this series: Cinder, Scarlet, Fairest - Levana's Story
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Rebecca Soler
Length: 15 hrs and 40 mins
Genres: Contemporary Fantasy, Young Adult
Buy from AmazonKoboiTunesAudible
Evelynne's rating: five-stars

Cress by Marissa Meyer is the third in the Lunar Chronicles series and is loosely based on the Rapunzel fairytale.  It also continues the stories of Cinder and Scarlet, the heroines of the first two novels based on Cinderella and Red Riding Hood respectively.  

Cress is quite a different kind of protagonist to Cinder and Scarlet who are both rather feisty and capable.  This fits very well with the Rapunzel backstory; like her fairytale counterpart, Cress has spent the majority of her life isolated from human contact and the world in general and when the girls and their guys break her out she is naturally very uncertain and rather naive.  One of the themes of the fairytale is leaving parental (over)protection and going out into the world despite all its dangers and this is seen in Cress.  Once again Meyer has woven in the main storybeats of the original fairytale – maiden, trapped in a tower, wicked witch, prince blinded – but has given them a very original twist in her retelling.

What I liked

Cress’s characterisation.  Despite being less kickass than Cress or Scarlet, Cress still has her strengths more so as she gains in confidence.  Certainly, she ends up in situations that her more worldly wise companions might have avoided, but she doesn’t allow her fear to hold her back from doing her part to help her friends.  I have the feeling that by book four Cress will be a force to be reckoned with.

Good balance.  The novel was perfectly balanced with Cress’s story and the continuation of that of Cinder and Scarlet.  Meyer was able to give all the characters plenty of time and space for their development without compromising the pace, which moves along at a good clip.

The androids.  I don’t know why, but I have a real soft spot for Iko and in this book Little Cress.  I suspect it’s a combination of Meyer’s excellent writing and Rebecca Soler’s fantastic narration – she adds so much life to these non-human characters!  I really enjoyed the dynamic between Cress and Little Cress, who is a programmation of a younger version of herself.  I was sorry that Little Cress didn’t remain in the story very long, but I can understand why she had to go for Cress’s character development.  

The romance between Cress and Thorne.  This was beautifully done, moving from Cress’s childlike crush on her distant idol and Thorne’s wry amusement at her feelings for him, learning to know him as a real person, through mutual dependence and finally a clearer understanding of each other’s strengths and faults.  

The narration.  Once again Rebecca Soler give an amazing performance as narrator for these books.  She brings so much life to the characters that it’s a joy to listen to these books.  This is one series I definitely prefer to listen to thanks to the narration.

What I didn’t like

There was nothing I didn’t like – Cress was a fantastic continuation of a brilliant series and I can’t wait for Winter!

I gave Cress five stars out of five.

 buy from Amazon, Kobo, iTunes, Audible, eBooks.com

five-stars

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green – Review

I had been initially reluctant to read The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, despite the many positive reviews, mainly because of its subject matter.  It deals with the romance between two teenage cancer survivors.  I eventually relented when I saw that my local library had an e-copy, which was duly downloaded to my Kobo.

From the first few pages I fell in love with these characters – it was clear that Green had put a lot of effort into creating them as unique, individuals with their own hopes, fears and desires, who just happen to be ill with cancer.  I ended up purchasing my own copy of the book, as I suspect I will reread it more than once.

What I liked

The characters.  As I mentioned, I fell in love with these characters.  The beauty of Green’s writing is that Hazel and Augustus are not defined by their illnesses.  They are two young people who happen to be living with cancer.  Hazel is defined more by her love of the book “An Imperial Affliction”, which is a plot point in the novel, and her obsession with America’s Next Top Model.  Augustus’ sharp wit and fun-loving nature is what defines him rather than his illness.  This shift of definition brings a whole different view to the book and stops it being maudlin.

The “An Imperial Affliction” subplot.  Within the novel, the character Hazel is obsessed with the book, which ended abruptly.  She has contacted the author multiple times to find out what happened to the characters but he didn’t reply.  I imagine it would be for me as if George R.R. Martin said he’d had enough and was no longer completing A Song of Ice and Fire.  It brings up the whole question of what is the author’s responsibility to his readers?  That reminds me of Neil Gaiman’s response, aptly set to music by John Anealio.  Of course, Paul and Storm have a different take on the matter.

Ahem, I digress.  In any case, I found that I was so invested in the main character of Hazel that I was also invested in the book in which she was invested.  I wanted to find out, too, what happened to Anna’s mum, the Dutchman and Sisyphus the hamster, dammit.

The romance.  I loved the romance between Hazel and Augustus.  It was beautifully written and so sweet.

What I didn’t like

The prospect of the movie.  The book is being turned into a movie later this year starring Shailene Woodley and Ansel Egort.  I really don’t know how the charm of the movie will translate to the big screen, so I fear it will end up being purely a tearjerker rather than uplifting in the way the book is.

I gave The Fault in Our Stars five stars our of five.

 buy from Amazon, Kobo, iTunes, Audible eBooks.com

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