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M. Schreiber, Reader of Lots of Speculative Fiction, YA & Otherwise

TV-free, Battery-operated-toy-shunning, Natural-ish Mama


  • Through the Ever Night: Under the Never Sky, Book 2

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 55 mins)
    • By Veronica Rossi
    • Narrated By Michael Goldstrom
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    It's been months since Aria learned of her mother's death. Months since Perry became Blood Lord of the Tides, and months since Aria last saw him.

    Now Aria and Perry are about to be reunited. It's a moment they've been longing for with countless expectations. And it's a moment that lives up to all of them. At least at first. Then it slips away. The Tides don't take kindly to former Dwellers like Aria. And the tribe is swirling out of Perry's control. With the Aether storms worsening every day, the only remaining hope for peace and safety is the Still Blue. But does this haven truly exist?

    Katheryne says: "Way beyond my expectations! Amazing sequel"
    "PLEASE bring back Bernadette Dunne Flagler!"
    What did you like best about Through the Ever Night? What did you like least?

    I wish I had something constructive to say but alas, I am just going to rant about the narrator at this point. If you loved the narration on "Under the Never Sky", be very wary of this book.

    I thought "Under the Never Sky" was one of the best listens I've ever had from Audible. Bernadette Dunne Flagler was AMAZING - she just did an amazing job performing that book. I was SO, SO looking forward to hearing her again on this sequel.

    Well, they didn't bring her back, for whatever reason. (Only DEATH would be a good enough reason, to my mind, and I certainly hope and pray THAT wasn't the case!)

    I am about fifteen minutes into the MUCH anticipated "Through the Ever Night", and already I can envision myself bashing my head against my keyboard in frustration and misery.

    This narrator is TERRIBLE! And he doesn't pronounce "Scire" correctly! He says it "sire" the first book it clearly says that it is supposed to sound kind of like "scare". Rrrgghh! I can't stand narrators who don't do their research! And he .... reads.... so ....freakin' .... slowly! It just sounds so fake. Sigh. Weep. Weep. Sob.


    What did you like best about this story?

    Will update this review when (IF) I can make it through this audiobook. I hope I can hear past the narrator and get into the story so I can actually FIND something to like.

    What didn’t you like about Michael Goldstrom’s performance?

    Was there anything TO like about this "narration"? So unemotional, so feeling of really being WITH the characters, as in the first book. I feel like someone is reading to me, not like I am INSIDE another world. He makes the characters sound childlike and goofy.

    Aria is read as though she is a total melodramatic, wussy ...CHICK.

    Perry is read like he is about fifteen and a little mentally challenged. Totally NOT sexy.

    Bring back the narrator from "Under the Never Sky"!!!! Tears on my laptop keyboard.

    Did Through the Ever Night inspire you to do anything?

    Stab my ears with a sharpened pencil.

    Any additional comments?

    Get Bernadette Dunne Flagler to reprise this book! PLEASE get Bernadette Dunne Flagler back and rerecord this book so that it can be worthy of the first one! PLEASE!

    4 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • Tumtum and Nutmeg: A Seaside Adventure

    • UNABRIDGED (2 hrs and 19 mins)
    • By Emily Bearn
    • Narrated By Bill Wallis

    Hidden in the broom cupboard of Rose Cottage is the most delightful little house. Shh, it’s a secret. No one knows it’s there... This is the home of Tumtum and Nutmeg... When Arthur and Lucy are sent to stay with their Uncle Jeremy at the seaside, Tumtum and Nutmeg decide to go along and keep an eye on them. But then the mice stumble upon an abandoned doll’s house and a mysterious treasure map - and all sorts of adventures unfold!

    M. Schreiber, Reader of Lots of Speculative Fiction, YA & Otherwise says: "A Wholesome and Happy Good Time for Little Kids"
    "A Wholesome and Happy Good Time for Little Kids"
    What made the experience of listening to Tumtum and Nutmeg: A Seaside Adventure the most enjoyable?

    If you are the PARENT of a little kid (ages 4-9?) who likes audiobooks, and you feel like you are constantly hard up to find age-appropriate books in which the characters are not only likeable, but admirable, who treat each other with kindness and compassion (for example, in sibling relationships), and do not use the word "stupid" at least seven times in each paragraphy a la "Judy Moody" (gag!), AND in which the story lines are adventurous, fun, and fast-paced, well, I feel your pain, because so am I.

    And if you ARE an audiobook loving kid who wants to listen to something fun, with a bit of a mystery, and a mix of human and talking-animal characters, this is a good book for you.

    What makes this book (and the other TumTum and Nutmeg books) enjoyable for me as a parent is that it is wholesome (no bloody gory scenes, no freaky supernatural stuff, no characters treating others badly when they are supposed to be on the same side). There is equal treatment of male and female roles (although there are only a few female characters, they are strong, capable, and smart - when they are not the villain), so the book is good for both boys AND girls. The narrator does a nice job of making the characters' voices different enough so that you can always tell who's talking, yet not SO overacted or contrived that you just find them ruddy annoying (a la "Owls of Ga'Hoole" as narrated by Pamela Garelick, which makes you want to take your kitchen shears to your ears or flush the MP3 player down the loo).

    I like knowing that my kid can listen to an audiobook with me not having to worry that it is going to suddenly turn (what I consider to be) inappropriate as soon as I am not listening. I like knowing that my kid can listen to stories where characters are creative in their problem-solving, bold and courageous, friendly and helpful, and of both genders. I like my kid to spend storytime with characters that I wouldn't mind her spending time with in Real Life (other than the villains, natch).

    What was one of the most memorable moments of Tumtum and Nutmeg: A Seaside Adventure?

    Oh, I can't really say for sure. Frankly, one thing I like in a book like this is the fact that it is really quite forgettable. If you are a parent, you may know what I mean. It means you can have it on in the car over and over again and it doesn't intrude on your consciousness and make you want to pull over so that you can bury your head in roadside ditch for a while, or actually get so enthralling that it distracts you from your navigational duties and you end up in Vancouver when you were aiming for Dallas. It means you can put it on at Quiet Time and the room stays quiet. It means that your kids don't come away with all sorts of new words and phrases that they want to try out on their little sister.

    Which character – as performed by Bill Wallis – was your favorite?

    Well, Nutmeg, not surprisingly, as she is my favorite character in the books. She's kind of smart but shy, kind of feisty and strong, but also gentle and caring. She's always got a good idea to help get everyone out of trouble.

    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    NO, and that's a GOOD thing. It's a fun book. It's got a cute plot. It's a little kids' book, though. If you are looking for the next "Redwall" or "Despereaux" or something, this is not it. It's simple and fun and exciting (for little ones) and wholesome family-friendly fun. There is some violence, but is is of the cartoonish sort, just as there are some "baddies" who behave badly in a very cartoonish way (a la Roald Dahl's "bad" characters like Aunts Sponge and Spiker from "...Giant Peach" or the Trunchbull from "Matilda", although not quite as bad as either).

    It's something I wouldn't mind letting a 4-year-old listen to, but I don't think it would interest your average child who has already moved into the "Harry Potter" type books which have a lot more action and intensity (as well as protagonists acting more "human" and maybe not always making the best choices or behaving the best). I would think that for most kids, third grade would be the absolute limit for TumTum and Nutmeg. Mine is age 7 and she loves them.

    Any additional comments?

    All the TumTum and Nutmeg books are equally pleasant, but if you want the full experience, get them in order, because there are (small) plotlines and (some) character development that goes on throughout the series. Things are explained in the first book ("Adventures at Nutmouse Hall") that aren't really reiterated in too much detail in later books, and there are references to past adventures in the books as they go in order. Not that you won't really figure it all out, but I am glad we read them in order.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Hero

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 17 mins)
    • By Perry Moore
    • Narrated By Michael Urie

    In the story comic book legend Stan Lee calls "spellbinding" and "totally original," Thom Creed has secrets. For one, like his father, he has super powers. Also, he's been asked to join the League—the very organization of superheroes that spurned his dad. Then there’s the secret Thom can barely face himself: he's gay. But becoming a member of the League opens up a new world to Thom. There, he connects with a misfit group of aspiring heroes, including Scarlett, Typhoid Larry, and Ruth, a wise old broad who can see the future. Like Thom, these heroes have things to hide....

    Jed says: "Great"
    "All Kinds of Wrong! Terrible book! Run Away!"
    What would have made Hero better?

    Not having been about superheros in that geeky, old-fashioned Marvel comics way, where they actually wear tights and capes and act like dorky-but-powerful DudleyDo-Rights. Not having been about a gay boy having a cheesy teen crush on a dorky, cape-wearing superhero called "UberMan" (gag!).

    Just FYI, being GBLTetc-friendly, it's not the gay part I minded, it's the google-eyed drooly-dreamy teenybopper fantasizing that made me retch - boy or girl, this is NEVER attractive. Or interesting.

    "Just looking at UberMan's strong muscles through his tight unitard made me imagine resting my head on his manly, hairy chest as he whispered romantic sweet nothings in my ear and read me a noble, uplifting bedtime story. With UberMan, it's not just that he's soooo handsome and wonderful, it's that he's really sensitive and sweet, too! He not only fights crime and saves the world every day, but he spends his spare time rescuing household pets from danger and volunteering at the retirement home! Oooh, UberMan! You're so DREAMY!" I mean, REALLY. All this in the first chapter of the book, basically.

    The main character (the gay teen) is totally NOT relatable. I have NEVER known anyone like him, NEVER. The character is just so contrived...I cannot believe that he is a real person. I can't believe that ANYONE in this book is real...they are all so sterotyped and ridiculous. The book is written in the first person, natch (hardly ever a good start), and the protagonist must mention his father's mysterious disgrace and how much everyone hates his father now, and how all the superheros despise his father after his fall from grace (even though the father has a "trophy room" full of commendations, such as the one he received for singlehandedly saving the planet from a fleet of alien ships from another planet), and he brings up this "disgrace" about four hundred times by the third chapter. Halfway thru the book and still haven't found out what the mysterious disgrace is all about, but it's still hammered on gets a mention every fourth paragraph or so, with no more explaination than in the beginning. Really?! Talk about beating a dead horse to death!

    What would have made this book better? Probably, um, not having been written.

    What do you think your next listen will be?

    Something that has NOTHING to do with superheros (I'll never chance another superhero book again) and something that is NOT on the Audible list of "You Really, Truly Shouldn't Miss Out On These Amazing Books" booklist for teens.

    I was surprised to see "Hero" on that list alongside "Great Expectations" and, now that I've listened to it, I'm even more surprised. Shocked, really. Wondering what they are smoking over there at Audible, and more importantly, what has it been laced with. Sheesh!

    Would you be willing to try another one of Michael Urie’s performances?

    No. His voice is annoying. I can't really say why. It's just the kind of voice that gets under my skin...there's a little bit of a pathetic whine to his performance (or maybe that's just the "voice" of the character), but he didn't do anything special with the other characters in the book, either. It was pretty underwhelming.

    What character would you cut from Hero?

    UberMan, first. Then the disgraced Dad. Then all the rest of them. If there was a dog or something, I might leave it. There's not much harm a household pet can do in a book utterly devoid of any other characters.

    Any additional comments?

    I will be returning this book at my earliest opportunity. Do not waste your credits on this one, seriously. There are *plenty* of other really bad books out there that are better than this one!

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • 14

    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs and 38 mins)
    • By Peter Clines
    • Narrated By Ray Porter
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    There are some odd things about Nate’s new apartment. Of course, he has other things on his mind. He hates his job. He has no money in the bank. No girlfriend. No plans for the future. So while his new home isn’t perfect, it’s livable. The rent is low, the property managers are friendly, and the odd little mysteries don’t nag at him too much. At least, not until he meets Mandy, his neighbor across the hall, and notices something unusual about her apartment. And Xela’s apartment. And Tim’s. And Veek’s.

    Magpie says: "Super solid listen!!"
    "Ray Porter Deserves Super Kudos for Narration!"
    What did you love best about 14?

    Well, the narration was out-of-this-world. If only all audiobook performers could be this good. Each character had a unique voice and style! And, unlike SO MANY otherwise decent male narrators, Mr. Porter didn't make his female voices sound simpering and pathetic (for example, Michael Goldstrom, who read "Through the Ever Night" - gag!, and even Ron Keith in "The Amber Cat" - a kid's book, but still!). The book itself is a VERY mysterious mystery. I had no idea where it was leading for the first two thirds AT LEAST. It was a "keep you awake at night listening because you can't bear to shut it off even though it might affect your dreams in an unpleasant way" type of book. Otherwise known as a page-turner, if there were pages to turn.The characters are great...they are a little bit like characatures, but not so much that you find yourself disliking them for that. I mean, you've got your tech geek, your kinda lost-ish aging gen-x temp, your carpenter-married-to-biotechnology-student, your hot young artist, your freaky bible-thumper, etc. So there are stereotyoes there. But mostly they are likeable and behave like real people. They also have a kind of rapport that makes you feel somehow...included in their friendship. There's a lot of the same kind of witty banter you might actually find if you're a member of a bright, quick set of friends.The was quite original to me, let's say that much. I haven't read any HP Lovecraft or others of that strange sci-fi/horror genre, so I'm not qualified to say whether the book was derivative or not. But for myself, I've not read anything like it before.

    What was one of the most memorable moments of 14?

    Oh, the last two hours of the book will stick with me a little more than I might like to admit. Or, a little more than I might like. Everything was very spooky and mysterious, and then the last two hours got a little more into the actual....EXPLANATION (?) of what was going on, and that was, perhaps, a bit more...ah...graphic...than I would like to have listened to late at night and alone. I don't want to say anything more on this subject for fear of spoiling anything for anyone.

    Which character – as performed by Ray Porter – was your favorite?

    Oh, gosh, what a hard question. They were all good. Really good. I don't think I could name a favorite. Mr. Porter did a really fantastic job...I looked through other books he's done, but sadly, none of them look like anything I would be interested in, else I would jump on those, too.The only problem I had was that the way Mr. Porter portrayed Veek (sp?) didn't seem to really fit her. She was supposed to be very good-looking, very petite, 28 years old, and he did her with a bit of a harsh accent and demeanor. Don't get me wrong, she was no wuss, and she cussed like a trucker and had a bit of a hard shell, but I think he could have done her just a little softer. It was borderline.

    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    I did giggle in a couple of spots - mainly at Roger's little quips - but it didn't make me outright laugh or cry. Throughout the book I had that eerie foreboding sensation that I don't usually LIKE to have (why I don't read thrillers or horror, usually).The last two hours had me tense as a spring, though. After the book was over I had to pry my shoulders off my ears, I was so high strung! So the extreme reaction was the the incredible tension and pace of the last bit of the book.

    Any additional comments?

    If one more person "took a hit off his beer", I thought I was going to scream. Considering that drinking beer on the roof deck features prominently for most characters in this book, it is AMAZING that NOBODY in this book ever SIPS a beer, SWIGS a beer, GULPS down a swallow, TAKES A DRINK, CHUGS their brewski (ha!) or any other of the hundred ways that a good writer could find to tell us that someone is imbibing a fermented beverage - they ALWAYS "take a hit off their beer" - ALWAYS. And they do it repeatedly, in scene after scene, so after a while, it kinda gets to you. (A decent editor might have suggested some revisions to this regard.) Also, you might notice that the author describes everything in exhaustive detail. Just someone sitting down and opening a beer can take HUGE amounts of pretty irrelevant text, such as, "She walked over to where they were sitting and reached into the cardboard box of ice and beer. The ice shifted as she pulled out a bottle, making a clinking noise against the other bottles. She pushed his legs aside on the deck chair and sat down beside them with her legs folded to one side. She then placed the edge of the bottle against the leg of the chair and thumped it with the base of her palm so that the cap sprung off and rolled to the deck with a metallic clatter. She wiped the lip of the bottle off on her white cotton button down shirt that was two sizes too big for her. It made a small dark circle of dampness on the hem of her shirt. The bottle dripped with condensation in the late afternoon heat. She took a hit off her beer and said,...." (This isn't word-for-word, but if you listen, you'll recognize the scene.)Now, not that I don't appreciate detail in a book, but when the whole book is FILLED with this kind of niggling detail that isn't actually telling you anything important about the characters or the story, it starts to feel like the author was either a) being paid by the word, or b) procrastinating because he was not sure where to go with the story.All that said, I think it was a pretty good book, worthy of a credit, and especially if you like the sci-fi/horror/steampunk kind of book (although less steampunk than the others, but it has elements). I'll listen to it again when the graphic images have gone from my nightmares and I have forgotten what the mystery is.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • The Hunger Games

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 14 mins)
    • By Suzanne Collins
    • Narrated By Carolyn McCormick
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    Could you survive on your own, in the wild, with everyone out to make sure you don't live to see the morning? In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by 12 outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18 to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV.

    Teddy says: "The Book Deserves The Hype"
    ""What Hasn't Already Been Said?" by A. Latecomer"
    What did you love best about The Hunger Games?

    I came late to The Hunger Games Franchise; I think I was probably the last person on earth to even hear of this series, in August 2012, not even knowing there had been a movie made (and another one coming). So my mind was pretty unspoiled by public opinion when I finally listened to The Hunger Games on Audible.

    But what did I like BEST? Well, I think the characters were intriguing, and the plot was original enough (reminiscent of "The Lottery" by Shirly Jackson, but not so much that it wasn't enjoyable), but I think what I liked best was the WORLD Suzanne Collins created. The world itself, the nation of Panem, the Arena, the Districts, and especially the twisted settings in The Capitol, where the young people of the nation are lauded as heros even as they prepare to die: the rich detail, the descriptions of time and place - these are the things I really loved. (Incidently, I think these are the things that also make a reader - or a screenwriter - easily envision a book as a movie.)

    What was one of the most memorable moments of The Hunger Games?

    I think this is kind of a silly question as regards this book, mainly because I don't think the book had too many FORGETTABLE moments. From first to last, it kept me listening...with my mouth half open, staring at the computer screen, engrossed.

    The characters were fantastically drawn - familiar, yet not stereotyped (at least, not too badly), and the book was a stream of surprises. The book is so indelibly etched into my brain that I can't even begin to separate it into separate MOMENTS. It was non-stop action fleshed out with a lovely first-person narrative that really delves into the main character's psyche.

    If forced to answer this question without giving away anything (for the ONE other person who has yet to listen, read, or see the movie) I would say the most memorable (or at least SURPRISING) moment is the last moment in the Arena.

    And one thing that was rather memorable (in a negative way) was the EXTREMELY rapid denoument. It was as if Collins noticed that she was running long on words for a YA book, so she prepared an incredible climax and then badda-boom, The END. So, memorable, but slightly disappointing.

    Another memorable thing was that for once, I think the movie was actually BETTER than the book...although with a different narrator, or if I had READ the book FIRST instead of listened, my opinion might have been different.

    How did the narrator detract from the book?

    Oh, let me count the ways! Oh, wait, actually, that would take too long, so how about if I could the ways the narrator DIDN'T detract from the book instead?

    Ummm...well, I guess counting to ZERO doesn't take very long.

    Well, actually, there was ONE way the narrator didn't detract from the book...she managed to pronounce most-if-not-all of the words with their correct English pronunciations, so I guess that's okay.

    Seriously, I am NOT the first (or even the 100th) person to say that this narrator could hardly have been more WRONG for this book. Here are just a few ways she (the narrator) detracts from the book:

    1. She doesn't sound REMOTELY the age of the main character, whose voice the book is written in. It's like hearing a sixteen-year-old girl (granted, an emotionally mature and fairly tough sixteen year old girl) talking with the voice of...oh, I don't know...say, Alice from "The Brady Bunch". Or someone's slightly-past-middle-aged seventh-grade English teacher. Just wrong.

    2. She OVERACTS and makes her voice extremely melodramatic and strained during parts of the book she (the narrator) feels are exciting or stressful, or sometimes just at miscellaneous parts here-and-there where is is completely un-called-for.

    3. She sounds like she is reading the book to a group of slightly impaired second-graders; her inflections and intonations are just that overdone.

    Poor narrator, I feel sad for her, because most reviewers are tearing her narration to shreds, but realistically, she was the Wrong Choice for this book. I'm sure there's SOMEthing she could read well, like, oh, I don't know, some bodice-ripper like those Diane Gabaldone "Outlander" books (about the middle-aged woman who goes back in time to medieval Scotland)...she would be PERFECT for those books, actually.

    But please, to whomever cast her for the main character in a dystopic YA novel - stop smoking what you're smoking and get some professional help before making any more casting decisions.

    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    Oh, goodness...Audible, you need to rethink these questions. Really? Moved me? Not to be cynical, but...uh, gag. It was a dystopic thriller, not a Lifetime afternoon movie. Okay, okay, well, I suppose there was one character's death that did bring a tear to my eye, but I don't want to spoil anything for that last person who hasn't read, listened, or seen the movie yet. You'll know it when you get to it, because it's made much of in the book...kind of a tearjerker scene.

    Any additional comments?

    Well, I don't want to sum up the plot, because there's no need. But I will reiterate that The Hunger Games is truly a good read / listen (except for the narrator, obviously, but if you can get past that), exciting, original, dark, lots of interesting characters and good development of them.

    I can't say anything that hasn't already been said, HOWEVER, I will ADD that I think the first book of the series (The Hunger Games) is by far the best of the three. I won't go into too much detail (since I am not reviewing the OTHER two books in the series here) but suffice it to say that The Hunger Games is the only one that came across as being very fresh, spontaneous, vital - as though the author had a FLASH of inspiration.

    The next two books (and I may get around to reviewing them someday too) seemed to me to be too forced, contrived, like Collins had a team that was really pushing her to stretch this world to its limits, and the story suffers for it. But then, every writer also has to put food on the table, and The Hunger Games was so downright GOOD that I am sure writing a couple of slightly sub-par sequels was the only thing that could be done in order to milk the cash cow for every drop (to mix metaphors just slightly).

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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