The Bagthorpe books are classic British humor, and the audio versions are ideal for two reasons: 1. A narrator who fits the material perfectly; 2. When I try to read these books aloud to my kids I have trouble because I keep laughing so hard.
A foster child with no memory of her origins learns she's from another magical world. That's always an irresistible premise, and I did get caught up in the story. But the characters' relationships and emotional reactions to each other kept ringing false. Close bonds of trust and affection would seemingly pop up in an instant, while genuine tragedies seemed to only merit an "oh no, what a shame!" I just didn't believe in the characters, and so I found it hard to really care about the book.
A YA paranormal romance that mostly takes place in a mental hospital? Yes, this is definitely no Twilight wannabe (nor is it a violent dystopian fable, hurrah!) Ultraviolet is the story of a girl who may or may not be crazy, but definitely thinks in different ways than those around her. And she may or may not be a murderer, but even her own memories can't answer that question clearly.
I appreciated the freshness of the story, and the nuanced approach. This is not a book where people simply line up on sides of good vs. evil, or even sane vs. insane. The reader is very solid and lets you get swept up in the story.
This book couldn't quite decide what it was. A fantasy about fairy-tale elves come to life? A satire of bureaucracy in government, education and labor unions? A lighthearted romance? As a result, none of it worked for me. The magic was mired in details of -- I kid you not -- trying to file estimated taxes and secure mortgages given the challenge of elves having no social security numbers. If that bureaucracy had been played for laughs it might have made for a good satire, but alas, it was all tiresomely serious.
Most: the details of creating a scavenger-elf civilization: Least: a tie between the unconvincing romances and the endless bureaucracy.
Well-meaning; bouncy; makes every female character high-pitched and breathy.
I listened to more than three-quarters of this book, thinking all the while that surely things were finally about to get interesting. Unfortunately, it never happened for me.
There's much to love in this story: intriguing mysteries across time, a fresh scientific take on a subject that's usually far from science, and strong supporting characters. Whenever the plot was churning and the focus was on magic, research or history, I was swept up in the story.
The weak point, alas, was the protagonists. They're just not terribly interesting, and the level of attention lavished on their romance and the most mundane details of their life throws the book's rhythm way off. You get the exact same painstaking deliberation over the lead lady's choice of what sweater or yoga pants to wear -- page after page after page -- as over a brewing global supernatural war.
Also, listeners should be aware that this is very much the start of a series, not a stand-alone novel.
Howard Pyle was the writer who put together stray tales of the English outlaw and created the narrative of Robin Hood we know today. His original novel is still great fun -- it took my kids (ages 9 & 10) a little while to get used to the language, but then they absolutely loved it. They've been acting out scenes and cracking themselves up. The narrator of this edition, Christopher Cazenove, is spot-on perfect for the material, too.
This is a young-adult mystery with a splash of romance, set in 19th-century London. (You should definitely consider it YA, not a "kid's book" -- tons of references to prostitution, opium, extramarital affairs, etc.) It's perfectly decent listening, but I didn't find myself especially wrapped up in either the characters or the story, and the period details/language weren't very persuasive. The reader, too, was simply fine. Not something that lingers in your mind.
First off, top grades to narrator Davina Porter. She's outstanding. And there's actually a lot to like about the story. BUT...30 hours of the author's obsessively detailed descriptions of violence, sex, and gruesome sexual torture is just not an enjoyable experience.
This is the sort of book where you find yourself desperately wishing you could flip past the the author's obsession with flogging and buggery and get back to the story, but it isn't possible with an audio book.
Bless Daniel Pinkwater for writing stories quirky, funny and rich enough for our whole family to enjoy on a longgggg car ride. The Neddiad had everybody from age 7-39 enrapt. Pinkwater's own inimitable voice helps make even the most outrageous plot elements seem reasonable. (Billy the Phantom Bellboy was a particular favorite.)
...with a classic (and fabulous) British narrator -- think a world-weary John Cleese. The Bagthorpes are at least as funny to adults as children, making this a great choice for family car trips.
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