Unreservedly yes! The books stands alone (though readers of other books from the Chrestomanci series, particularly The Lives of Christopher Chant, will appreciate the recurring characters), and I would recommend it to anyone with a taste for YA, or for fantasy in general. It's a well-written book, with good language, vivid characters I'd love to befriend, and a plot that comes together perfectly in a final, surprising - and funny - group confrontation.
The end, certainly, where all the different threads and characters finally come together in one place. Conrad's adventures with Christopher, however, were also both fun and memorable.
Conrad himself: he's an endearing character, and a believably 12-year old boy. Doyle's characterizations of some of the secondary characters, such as Mr. Amos and Mr. Prendergast, the butlers, were also excellent.
Recommended unreservedly: an excellent book that has received the audio treatment it merits.
A lovely, delicious start to Florand's Amour et Chocolate series, The Chocolate Thief has a lot going for it: strong characters, great dialogue, and amazing ability to capture the charm and frustration of being an American in Paris. Cade and Sylvain are believable, fun characters whose developing relationship is off-beat enough (as Cade continuously breaks into his laboratoire) to keep the reader waiting to see what will happen next. In romance, where the conclusion is foregone, a lot of the fun is not knowing how the relationship will grow, and that's my favorite part of this: it IS unexpected.
Sylvain's chocolate is practically a character in its own right: the descriptions are absolutely mouth-watering. Don't read this while hungry! Cade also holds her own well. Although she doesn't come from the artisan background that the other characters embrace, she holds her own, with a great sequence that shows, after the books has dedicated pages to Sylvain's stunning creations, that her skills, too, are valuable and just as hard-won. I loved it, and them.
My only real complaint about this book was the French. French is my second language, and as a fluent-French speaker, I found the reader's accent to be literally incomprehensible at times. This may not bother you if you don't speak French, but some of it is really very basic: é is ALWAYS pronounced 'eh' in French, never 'ee,' for example, something that is mangled multiple times. A little training in French pronunciation would have gone a long way; that this was so distracting was a pity, when all of the reading in English is so good.
Despite my serious issues with the narration, however, the book overall was wonderful, and I strongly recommend it!
"The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom" is a funny, light-hearted middle-grade story that delights in twisting the fairy tales it draws on. The characters are interesting and easy to enjoy, and the plot, though slightly meandering, comes together well (though readers should be warned that the last chapter is open-ended enough to allow for sequels).
What might just be a very fun and unapologetically silly children's story, however, has been enhanced by very good narration. Bronson Pinchot has developed distinct and appropriate voices for each character and the narrator, and his characterizations add depth to the characters.
The characters - from Puck and Sean, through secondary characters like George Holly and Finn, not to speak of Dove and Corr (as the horses, both ordinary and water horses, are certainly characters in their own right).
The narrative: the two viewpoints added nuances and shifts in experience that, while separate, united seamlessly into one narrative.
I can't pick! I would have to each Sean and Puck - Sean performed by Steve West, and Puck by Fiona Hardingham.
The ending was beautiful, and the race itself, though a long time coming, was an excellent culmination of a lyrical, well-written, and beautifully read book.
Recommended, without reservation.
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