After listening to The Wee Free Men, I bought a couple of Pratchett's Discworld books. While I enjoyed them, I am convinced after listening to A Hat Full of Sky that more than 50% of the reason I loved both is Steven Briggs's excellent narration. All of the voices are distinguishable through changes in pitch and accent. The Scottish brogue of Rob Anybody and his Feegles are the crowning glory. I would recommend any book narrated by Briggs.
Both this title and its predecessor, A Dark Unwinding, provide pure gothic entertainment following the tried and true gothic formula--an orphaned heroine journeying to unknown relatives, two potential love interests--one dark, one light--a surly housekeeper, potential insanity, an inheritance. What distinguishes them from gothic drivel are Katherine's Uncle Tully, a loveable autistic savant, and Katherine herself, who learns to take matters into her own hands rather than wait for rescue. Because the author has followed the traditional gothic formula, the listener will be able to predict some details. Ms. Cameron, however, delights in finding other ways to surprise. Her characters develop beyond their 2-dimensional prototypes and provide delightful suspense. While not necessarily "improving literature," both books are excellent stories, well narrated. Worth the credits.
It makes me terribly sad to give a Jackson Brodie novel by Kate Atkinson less than 5 stars, but the narrator nearly ruined it for me. His voice did not change for any of the characters, nor did his pitch or inflection ever vary from a near monotone. I gave up listening and went to my local bookstore to buy the hard copy, which was wonderful (although not as good as When Will There Be Good News? or One Good Turn). I can't imagine why the publisher went with a narrator other than Ellen Archer, who read WWTBGN. She was spectacular. Graeme Malcolm wasn't. Kate Atkinson does lovely plot twists and I really like what she has been doing with Jackson and his delayed cultural growth--reading poetry, going to museums, attending the theatre. I did miss the tension between Jackson and Louise, so I am hoping that the end of this book is not just a tease.
If you've read (or listened to) Case Histories and One Good Turn, then When Will There Be Good News? is just what you'd expect from Kate Atkinson. If this is your first experience with this author, be prepared. Her characters and their predicaments will draw you in to the point where you'll find yourself sitting in the driveway or tuning out your family to find out what happens next. Jackson Brodie is back along with the string of misfortunes that have been plaguing him since Case Histories. In addition, we get better acquainted with DCI Louise Monroe and meet the ineffably persistent Reggie Chase. The mysteries in this book are compelling and, as always with Kate Atkinson, twisted together in ways that do not all become apparent until the very end of the book. When Will There Be Good News?, along with Atkinson's other Jackson Brodie books, are mystery thrillers for people who don't like mystery thrillers. The characters are as intricately developed as the plot line. The dialogue is natural, never forced. The endings are like good chocolate--satisfying, but leaving you wanting just a little more. The reader does a creditable job of managing a variety of British accents and both male and female voices.
I didn't realize until I was part of the way through this listen that it was anything more than a work of fiction. Imagine my surprise when I started seeing the names of characters from Palace of Illusions in the actual book I was reading. Upon doing a little internet searching, I discovered that Palace of Illusions is actually a re-telling of the Hindu epic, the Mahabharata, told from the point of view of Draupadi, the main female character.
You will not always like or sympathize with Draupadi--she is a pampered, self-centered, vindictive woman who doesn't appreciate what she has until it is gone. Her story is compelling, however, and the reader does a wonderful job, using subtle changes in her voice and accent to characterize the many different people in the story. This one is definitely worth your time. A note of caution, however--the author's previous books on audible, from The Brotherhood of the Conch, are aimed at upper elementary or middle school aged children. The Palace of Illusions is probably not appropriate for children of that age.
I could only listen to 20 minutes of this drivel. The writing was bad and the reading was worse, both of which were extremely disappointing because the premise was interesting. Don't waste your time with this one.
My daughter and I have thoroughly enjoyed all three of Terry Pratchett's books about Tiffany Aching. As a middle school teacher and parent, I love the message that everyone makes mistakes--the important thing is what you do about it--and being smart is more about listening to other people than using big words. The humor makes the message completely palatable and opens the door for great conversations with your tween. Plus, it's hard to resist Rob Anybody, Daft Wully, and Wee Billy Big-Chin.
By the time this book finishes, Leisl, Rudi and the Hubermanns will feel like people you have known and loved forever. Leisl's story is both heartbreaking and beautiful. Given up to foster care by an impoverished, Communist mother during the Third Reich, ten year old Leisl is taught to read, to trust and to love by her foster father, Hans Hubermann. As she learns and grows, she touches other lives through her love for words. The narrator does a marvelous job with the voices and German accents--they do not sound like caricatures, but like real people. Zusak's writing is unique and elegant. He has a very sensory style that I found very appealing. He writes the kind of sentences that you notice for the quality of the language as well as the thought expressed. I did not want this book to end.
I will agree with other reviewers that the reader was not the greatest--she was very distracting at first, but once I got interested in the story, I found I didn't care. I knew next to nothing about Italy during WWII before listening to this book. Now, I wish I knew more. This book is filled with many interesting characters, although the "main" character, Claudette Blum, is not really one of them. I found myself fascinated by Renzo Leone and the German doctor. It's hard to portray how riveting their characters were without giving away much of the story line. I'm sorry for those who could not get into this book because they missed an excellent story.
My 9-year old daughter and I listen to audiobooks any time we have a drive longer than 15 minutes and this has been one of our favorites. I find myself chuckling just thinking about Rob Anybody and Not-so-big-as-medium-sized-Jock-but-bigger-than-wee-Jock Jock and their escapades. Humor aside, I love the message that looking at things and thinking them through is more important than being able to do magic. We should all have First Sight and Second Thoughts. Especially since they generally help Tiffany sort things out for herself before the Nac Mac Feegle arrive back on the scene from whatever carousing has distracted them from the crisis at hand.
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