Book review: "The Magic Misfits" by Neil Patrick Harris (audiobook)

The Magic Misfits I came across “The Magic Misfits” as I was browsing the newest releases at my favourite Indigo store. I was thrilled to find out that Neil Patrick Harris wrote a book! The cover looked so adorable that I couldn’t wait to read it. Since I occasionally struggle with middle-grade books, I went to my favourite option - that is an audiobook.

“The Magic Misfits” has a gorgeous cover! And for once, I can’t decide whether I like US or UK edition better!

The Magic Misfits UK edition

Synopsis

 

From beloved award-winning actor, Neil Patrick Harris comes the magical first book in a new series with plenty of tricks up its sleeve.

When street magician Carter runs away, he never expects to find friends and magic in a sleepy New England town. But like any good trick, things change instantly as greedy B.B. Bosso, and his crew of crooked carnies arrive to steal anything and everything they can get their sticky fingers on.

After a fateful encounter with the local purveyor of illusion, Dante Vernon, Carter teams up with five other like-minded kids. Together, using both teamwork and magic, they'll set out to save the town of Mineral Wells from Bosso's villainous clutches. These six Magic Misfits will soon discover adventure, friendship, and their own self-worth in this delightful new series.

 

Review

 

“The Magic Misfits” is read by Neil Patrick Harris himself and it was a treat to my ears. I should not have expected anything less than a stellar performance from him, but I was still thrilled. He has a perfect voice range and goes from low and grumbly to high pitched. Neil also performs all the songs in the story, and that was just an added bonus! The audiobook is only 4 hours long, so I went through it fairly quickly.

My admiration for Neil’s performance, I was a bit bored by the plot. It is a cute story about an almost orphaned runaway boy who finds his place in the world and his new family. Everything from Carter’s backstory (which really reminded me of Oliver Twist for some reason) to the magic shop and carnival, to the group of unpopular kids - it all has been done before.

What has not been done before is this amount of diversity in a middle-grade book, and that representation is not the focus of the main story and nobody is given grief or bullied for whatever they represent. And that is a big deal! We have characters of colour, disabled characters, foster and adoptive families, as well as LGBTQ+ representation. In one middle-grade novel. I mean, c’mon! This book has to be a bestseller at least for that!

Sadly, I had issues with the plot, especially the very ending. The conflict seemed to have been resolved as if by magic (which it was, in a way). The book has filler chapters in which the author addresses the readers directly, breaking the fourth wall (which is my least favourite device as it keeps taking me out of the story), and provides instructions to future magicians on how to do tricks. It is a lovely concept and will, undoubtedly, appeal to the younger audience, but for me, it was all more of a nuisance. Overall, it felt as if the book was targeted at the younger side of the middle-grade scale. I mean, sometimes the author even explained certain words to the listeners! It felt as if it was not a recording but a real person reading the story, which is excellent, but I am obviously too old for that kind of narration.

It is hard to rate the book without taking into account the brilliant performance by Neil. So, I am going to give the book a half-star more for the narration and representation, although the plot left more to be desired. It was a cute story, but not a very original one.

However, since “The Magic Misfits” is only the first book in the series (a quartet?), I have hopes that the plot will improve with the sequel, and I definitely plan to continue reading the series.

 

Performance: 5 stars Plot: 2.5 stars Overall: 3.5 stars

 

More of my book reviews

 

Links:

Book review: "Legendary" (Caraval #2) by Stephanie Garber (audiobook)

Legendary

If you read my review of “Caraval” last year, you probably can guess that I had a lot of reservations about “Legendary”. I felt let down by “Caraval” so much that I even considered not picking up the sequel. But since I am a glutton for punishment, I did request a physical copy of “Legendary” from the library. I must say, Stephanie Garber’s books have stunning covers, both US and UK editions.

I thought that I could get through “Legendary” but quickly realized that I didn’t care much to read the physical copy and got myself an audiobook instead.

Synopsis

A heart to protect. A debt to repay. A game to win.

After being swept up in the magical world of Caraval, Donatella Dragna has finally escaped her father and saved her sister Scarlett from a disastrous arranged marriage. The girls should be celebrating, but Tella isn’t yet free. She made a desperate bargain with a mysterious criminal, and what Tella owes him no one has ever been able to deliver: Caraval Master Legend’s true name.

The only chance of uncovering Legend’s identity is to win Caraval, so Tella throws herself into the legendary competition once more—and into the path of the murderous heir to the throne, a doomed love story, and a web of secrets…including her sister's. Caraval has always demanded bravery, cunning, and sacrifice. But now the game is asking for more. If Tella can’t fulfill her bargain and deliver Legend’s name, she’ll lose everything she cares about—maybe even her life. But if she wins, Legend and Caraval will be destroyed forever.

Welcome, welcome to Caraval...the games have only just begun.

Review

Whatever I said about the writing and plot holes in “Caraval”, sadly, still applies for “Legendary”. The characters seem to be two-dimensional, flat, their traits exaggerated beyond measure. The writing only follows the same route: the book is full of beautiful but completely useless in their abundance similes and metaphors like, “and her dress was made out of blue silk and midnight stars” (not an exact quote, but you get the meaning). It would have felt more magical and profound if not for the complete lack of world building and character development. Using pretty words won’t help the lack of plot.

“Caraval” was told from Scarlet's point of view. Her main objective in the first book was to find her missing sister Donatella. She does find her, but the ending has a twist that left a sour taste in my mouth. I felt that Donatella had betrayed her sister, and there was nothing that could redeem her in my eyes, even though Scarlet, naturally, forgives her sister. (I had a problem with it also because Scarlet should have had PTSD after everything that happened, but her feelings and mental state after events in “Caraval” were not addressed.)

Donatella was portrayed as spoiled, uncontrollable, impulsive, and greedy. Yes, Scarlet still loved her and forgave her, but that was how Donatella was depicted in the book. And I hated her.

In “Legendary” though, Donatella is portrayed as impulsive, yes, but also very determined to save and protect her sister in any way possible. Her character voice in the second book changed so much that I couldn’t believe my eyes. Donatella is fierce and unbending but also very gullible, which really goes against her character who reminds us again and again that “she does not kiss the same boys twice”. I found that annoying as her character seemed to be inconsistent with what she was in the first book - at least, this is how it felt to me.

Throughout “Legendary”, Donatella is being almost thrown at one of the villains of the story by the author. She constantly says that she should not trust him and that she is disgusted by what he did, etc., but she is still attracted to him. I found that too unrealistic, as that character went beyond the mere trope of “a bad boy”. He was written as a real villain, who would even force himself on Donatella (there were at least one or two kisses that she did not consent for), and somehow she also found that exciting. I think that Stephanie Garber was trying very hard to create some sort of a love triangle, but it felt forced and unattractive to me.

The author tried to include some red herrings in the narrative, but it was done in such a blunt way that it was just ridiculous. For almost two-thirds of the book, Donatella kept saying that she couldn't believe that THIS could be true. And lo and behold, it turns out to be true. What a twist!

The only thing that “Legendary” made me happy about was Dante. I love his character, and we get to see more of him in this book, which was exciting. My favourite moment in the book was: “And, oh glory, he was shirtless. So very shirtless.”

(I keep hoping to see at least some LGBTQ+ representation in Caraval trilogy, but alas. My headcanon is that Dante is bisexual or polysexual - that would have been very cool.)

Scarlet was barely present in the book, and the way Donatella sees her is also skewed, in my opinion, from what she truly is as a character. At some point, Donatella even starts to doubt her sister. And, once again, big surprise - she shouldn’t have!

I think that overall Stephanie’s writing did improve from book one. “Legendary” is heavy on romance and not so heavy on fantasy and magic, which is a big let down once again. I love Rebecca’s narration - it was the only thing to keep me from giving up on his book. I will most probably pick up the last book in the trilogy in audio as well. I have no idea where the plot would go in book 3, as there is barely any plot, to begin with. I guess we need to get our happy ending for everyone so there will be more romance. Oh boy.

Plot: 2.5 stars
Narration: 4 stars
Overall rating: 3.25 stars

More of my book reviews

Links

BLOG: Audible Canada Launch - Info & FREE Audiobook

You know, sometimes you find yourself thinking, “how the heck did I miss this?”. This was exactly my thought today, when I realized that Audible launched a separate Canadian website. I am a Amazon Prime member and I was fooling around on Amazon Canada a couple of days ago (aka binge shopping), when I saw that a new button appeared next to a cart. I clicked it, logged in to Audible with my Amazon login, and completely missed the fact that I was logging into audible.ca and not audible.com as I had been doing for years.  

Half an hour ago, I thought of checking Audible for new releases and then I remembered Audible.ca, and then it hit me.

 

Audible launched a dedicated Canadian marketplace.

A dedicated Canadian marketplace.

 

OMG THIS IS AMAZING!

 

I did a double take. I looked at Audible.ca, saw a letter from the founder and CEO of Audible, and finally believed what I saw. Moreso, turns out I am two weeks late as it was launched in mid-September. (In my defence, I was just coming back from my vacation and was very jetlagged.)

 

After a decade of using American Audible, I can switch to Canadian membership. This sounds like a dream.

 

I have been using Audible.com for over 10 years. No even kidding (see the screenshot). I registered in 2006, back in a day when Audible was an independent company, because I learned that my favourite fantasy series, The Nightrunner by Lynn Flewelling, was available in audiobook format.

 

My Audible US page

 

A lot of things have changed since 2006. I switched from downloading Audible files to my computer and uploading them to my iPod to using a very new and glitching Audible app on iPod Touch then to upgrading to an iPhone, etc. For years I used Audible login separately from Amazon. In fact, I even had (and still do) several Audible logins (another US one registered during a special promo, and two UK ones). I only ever linked Audible with my Amazon account this summer (which resulted in all of my earned statistics & badges being annulled for some reason). And now it seems like there is an option to migrate to Canadian website with my old login.

 

I have not explored this option yet, as I accidentally logged into to Audible.ca with my Audible.com login (which is the same as my Canadian Amazon, which makes it all very confusing). Perhaps, I should be able to see my full library from 2006 on Audible.ca but it is not the case. The article that I read on the new marketplace made it sound very easy, but as it shows I am too old-school for any changes (although the thought of using just one login/password combo for Audible and Amazon and being charged in Canadian dollars is very appealing). I will need some time to explore and adjust.

 

As it stands right now, I somehow have US and Canadian Audible accounts. And I use the same logins/passwords. Perhaps, I would need to get in touch with tech support for that.

 

For years, I have been paying 14.95 USD for my monthly membership. I am looking forward for being charged 14.95 CANADIAN dollars, as the exchange rate is not in our favour.

 

Audible Canada membership for Prime users

 

If you have Amazon Prime, you are eligible for a special promotion at Audible which is giving you 90 days of free trial that includes 1 credit per month. You can purchase any price audiobook for 1 credit. Meaning you are getting 3 audiobooks for free!

 

As an additional incentive to sign up with Audible.ca, you can get a FREE copy of Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale”. This is a all new version by Audible, which is narrated by the full cast and is unabridged, and includes an afterword from the author and an essay written by author Valerie Martin. This promotion is available for Canadian residents only.

 

FREE on Audible Canada

 

Am I excited about this new change? - Heck yeah!

Am I also confused about how to migrate my account from US to Canadian marketplace? - Same answer.

My confusion aside, I am very excited about this change, even though it comes hot on the heels of Kobo launching their audiobooks service. I am all for supporting Canadian companies and I do have a soft spot for Indigo (the former owning company of Kobo), I still prefer Audible for my audiobooks. It has been over 10 years, folks. This type of commitment is hard to break.

 

Go and register with Audible.ca today!

 

P.S. I am in no way affiliated with Audible. I am just a fan. :)

 

Links:

 

Book Review: Heartless by Marissa Meyer (audiobook)

 

A year ago when several lucky booktubers were hauling an advanced reader’s copy of “Heartless”, a new stand alone novel by Marissa Meyer, I was feeling rather jealous. The ARC looked stunning and the final version was beautiful too. I had not read a single book by the author, but I was extremely interested in reading “Heartless”.

 

“Heartless” is a retelling of a story about Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland. Catherine might be a daughter of marques, but her dream is to become a baker and open her bakery. Her mother, however, dreams of her daughter to be wed to the King of Hearts. Catherine is struggling to find the balance between her parents’ wishes and her own dreams, until one day she meets Jest, a royal joker, and she is immediately attracted to him. But nothing is what it seems, and their secret courtship is overshadowed not only by the impending marriage to the king, but also the attacks by hideous and murderous monster named Jabberwock.

 

In spite of a great premise, I felt disappointed by the book. I read the first 100 pages and then got stuck, not because I hated the writing or was completely not interested in the plot, but rather because the story felt too slow-paced and too reflective for my taste. I felt almost bored when I was reading it, that is why I found myself picking up the book less and less, until I put it aside for a month or two. Frustrated, I decided to switch to an audiobook version, especially since I found out that it was narrated by Rebecca Soler, who voiced Nimona, and whom I rather liked.

 

So, I switched to an audiobook, started from the very beginning, and found that, although it was much easier to get through “Heartless” while colouring or doing something else, I was still getting annoyed by the fact that almost nothing was happening. Cath seemed too weak-willed to turn into a real Queen of Hearts. Her shiness and modesty didn’t match with the image of the queen yelling “Off with their heads!”. Jest was intriguing enough, but too good to be true, and I kept waiting for a big dirty secret to be revealed about his past and, unfortunately, was let down. I found some of the secondary characters more interesting than Cath herself.

 

However, no matter how many problems I had with the action and plot, I found the world wonderfully written. Marissa Meyer did an amazing job intertwining all the elements from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass world together into something that was very fascinating on its own. I would have loved another book set in this world, but not related to “Hearltess” in the plot.

 

Although Rebecca Soler does a great job voicing different characters, I found her British accent quite annoying and unnecessary. Her Cheshire and Hatter sounded too similar at times. Her King was extremely annoying (purposefully, I assume). Jest was lovely, but I could barely stand Cath or her friend Mary-Ann (not sure if it was because Rebecca is so good of a narrator of it is because I just disliked the characters).

 

I think the downfall of Heartless for me lies in the predictability of the ending. I mean, we all know what kind of character Queen of Hearts was in Lewis Carroll’s books, so it was never about the ending, but rather about the journey to that ending. ‘The journey’ failed to deliver and ‘the ending’ was just as expected, which turned this book, to my surprise, into a three star read.

 

I enjoyed the book, I liked the world and some characters a lot. I think that it was very well written. But the plot line made me want to grab the book and shake it until everything gets mixed inside and all the puzzle pieces finally fall into right places. I am still on the fence about how I feel about the book. I liked it, but I might have overhyped it to myself (I wanted to be so badly swept off my feet by it!), so it turned out to be a letdown. It is in no way as bad as some other retellings - it is well written! But it could have been so much better!

 

Therefore, I am splitting the ratings as follows, as I am not able to give just one rating to this book:

 

Plot: 3 stars

World/characters: 4.5 stars

Narration: 4 stars

 

Overall: 3.5 stars

 

If the author ever decides to write another book in this universe, that would have a completely original plot, I would totally down for it. Otherwise, I am glad that I only spent an Audible credit for an audiobook and didn’t succumb to the urge to buy a physical copy, no matter how pretty the cover is.

P.S. I am totally NOT OKAY with what Marissa Meyer did with Jest and Hatter at the very end. NOPE. That was just UNFAIR.

 

Affiliated links:

Heartless 

Book review: Scarlet (The Lunar Chronicles, #2) by Marissa Meyer (audiobook)

 

I started “Scarlet” audiobook immediately after finishing “Cinder”. Just like “Cinder”, it is a retelling of yet another children’s favourite story. This time of “Little Red Riding Hood”. I definitely like this fairytale better than Cinderella, but I was wary of how they would portray the big bad wolf.

 

Okay, I loved what they did with Scarlet and Wolf. I liked how the story developed and that we got glimpses into other parts of this world. What I was honestly surprised by is how seamlessly “Cinder” and “Scarlet” were connected. I expected to get a whole new set of characters and only episodic references to Cinder and what was happening to her, but on the contrary, two plot lines run in parallel and intertwine at the end. That pleasantly surprised me.

 

I felt that “Scarlet” was overall a better thought through book than “Cinder”, although not without its faults and number of cliched twists. My favourite part was, actually, Cinder’s escape and her meeting with Carswell Thorne and how self-absorbed and oblivious he was. Scarlet rocked the novel though. I liked the depiction of her home and all of those little references to her life and memories of the past. Scarlet’s father turned out to be an annoyingly predictable character. As well as Ran (whom I actually liked - no idea why). I liked the character of Wolf too, although at times it seemed as the author was trying too hard to make him into a typical “bad boy with a heart of gold” character.

 

The plotline with Princess Selene became even more obvious to the point that I wondered how I can sustain the interest in it till the end of the series. Thankfully, there were other things happening in this book.

 

All plot holes aside, “Scarlet” was a bit more engaging than “Cinder” and some of the fighting scenes were pretty cool. Also, it seems like Prince Kai has finally grown some backbone, which made him a bit more interesting in this book.

 

My biggest pet peeve with “Scarlet” was that the narrator Rebecca Soler gave Scarlet the most infuriating little French accent. Same as with British accents in “Heartless”, Rebecca couldn’t sustain it at 100% at all times and sometimes it just felt redundant and annoying. Not sure, if it is only me who thinks this or not.

 

I think, I can tell that Marissa is getting better, as “Scarlet” is more fast paced, in my opinion, but I am still annoyed with her overly romanticizing everything in her novels. I am quite okay with not listening for the millionth time about how fit Wolf is or how hard his muscles are. It gets tiresome after time.

 

I find “The Lunar Chronicles” series interesting but not wowing, which is disappointing.

 

Plot: 3.5 stars

Performance: 3 stars

Overall: 3.5 stars

Book review: Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles, #1) by Marissa Meyer (audiobook)

 

Here is to another book series that I am reading far behind everybody else. But in my defence, I started reading young adult novels less than 2 years ago. I have a lot of catching up to do.

“Cinder” is a debut novel by Marissa Meyer, and having read (or rather listened to) “Heartless”, which was the author’s fifth full novel and being slightly disappointed, I was not too hot on reading “Cinder”. However, I decided to go the same route as I did with “Heartless” and picked an audiobook version, in spite of owning the whole series in physical copies. I had my problems with some of the voices that Rebecca Soler did in “Heartless”, but her rendition of “Cinder” turned out to be quite good.

 

The Lunar Chronicles is a series of  fairytale retellings set in a sci-fi world, a sort of dystopian version of Earth, split into various alliances and empires. “Cinder” retells the story of Cinderella, who in this story, is named Linh Cinder, and is a cyborg and a mechanic. The is also an adorable android sidekick Iko, a handsome and slightly naive Prince Kai, his overbearing counsellor, a bit too vicious Queen Levana, and a vindictive stepmother and two very different stepsisters.

 

I had the same problem with “Cinder” that I had with “Heartless” - I liked the world well enough, but the relationships seemed shallow at times, the emotions too exaggerated (and why is everyone so hung up on Prince Kai?), and nothing really happened for some portion of the book, which undoubtedly would have made me DNF if I had been reading it in physical form.

 

As an audiobook, though, “Cinder” is pleasant enough to serve as a background for doodling, cleaning or cooking. It has an interesting enough world to keep me listening, but I admit that since Cinderella is my least favourite fairytale, I couldn’t wait to be done with this part.

 

I liked it enough to continue with the series, thanks to the coolness factor of fairytales in sci-fi setting, but “Cinder” failed to ‘wow’ me. In some way, I might have done a disservice to myself as I read a rather overhyped “Heartless” before “Cinder”, but nothing can be done about it now. I sincerely hope that the series will get only better with each book.

 

 

Plot: 3 stars

Performance: 3.5 stars

Overall: 3 stars

Book Review: Caraval by Stephanie Garber (audiobook)

 

Warning: might contain very minor spoilers

 

“Caraval” is a young adult fantasy novel about two sisters who live on a remote island with a tyrannous father. Scarlett, the elder sister, is willing to do anything to save both herself and her younger sister Donatella, including accepting the arranged marriage. She has a dream, though, of seeing a mysterious performance, Caraval, and one day she gets the invitation from the master Legend himself. When Scarlett is brought to the island to partake in the game, almost against her will, she is faced with the fact that Donatella is missing, and now Scarlett has to win the game to save her sister.

I was very excited to get my hands on Caraval, but since I had never heard about this author (and only later found out that it is a debut novel), I got it from the library. Unfortunately, I failed to read the book and had to return it. So, when I found out that Caraval was narrated by Rebecca Soler, I immediately went to Audible and got my copy of this audiobook.

 

I finished the book surprisingly quickly. I felt, however, very much let down by it. Very similar to my experience with “Heartless” by Marissa Meyer (but only worse in this case), the book left me feeling as the author had poured all efforts into creating visually appealing world and characters, but the plot was crafted from cliches and tropes. It was getting so ridiculously predictable at times, that I could even guess the lines in dialogues. Because I have already read all of those before, in multiple books.

 

Caraval, which is positioned as a fantasy novel, is surprisingly romance heavy. It has too many elements of romantic settings and all of those descriptions of ‘smooth, muscled backs’ and ‘chiseled features’ only made me roll my eyes repeatedly. It would have been okay if this book was meant to be a romance novel. In a fantasy setting, it seemed just a bit too much of sugar at inappropriate places.

 

The world of Caraval is crafted well enough, however, the ideas behind it are not new. A deadly game to save the loved one? We have all read a book or two about that. Falling for a bad boy? Yup. Dying but not actually dying? Err, what?

 

I had a big problem with the plot, which had more holes than a plot is allowed to have, but the biggest issue for me was with the ending. The dead should stay the dead unless their death wasn’t such a big deal. Because if it is, if it is supposed to be a hoax, do not let either readers or characters believe in it for so long. And especially, if it all turns out to be a trick - do not treat it so lightly. I personally found annoyed and cheated at the end.

 

I liked Scarlett fair enough, although I didn’t always agree with her actions. I liked Dante, probably, the best from all secondary characters. I liked both his and Julian’s backstories, however, everyone else verged at the edge of annoying. Especially, Tella. I am ready to say that she was the most annoying and least enjoyable character for me.

 

There is so much hype surrounding this book, which I don’t understand at all. The plot is weak, the romance is predictable, the characters are cliched. The idea was great, but it should have been executed and wrapped up in one book. But we, it seems, are getting a sequel.

 

Rebecca Soler does a good job with this book. I had some trouble distancing myself from my experience of “Heartless” at the very beginning, but overall I think “Caravel” characters sound more believable and alive. I am not sure if it was due to the fact that I started listening to “Caravel” right after “Heartless” or perhaps because both books are narrated by Rebecca, but I kept thinking that these two novels have a lot in common in the way certain things are romanticized and exaggerated. Of course, these two books are different, but I kept wondering if Stephanie Garber was somehow inspired by Marissa Meyer’s writing.

 

At the end of the audiobook, there was an interview with Stephanie Garber. Listening to her talk only solidified my opinion that this author is just not for me. Since we are getting the sequel that will focus on Tella, I am still on the fence with whether I would like to continue with duology (and I hope it is only going to be a duology), but I might give it a go if I have time and if I get it as an audiobook (preferably, from OverDrive). Because I am not spending a penny on the book that could have been so good, but turned out to be a hoax.

 

Plot: 2 stars

Performance: 4 stars

Overall rating: 3 stars

 

Affiliated links:

 

Caraval

Book review: The King of Average by Gary Schwartz (audiobook)

The King of Average I have received a copy of this audiobook from Aurora Publicity in exchange of a free and honest review. I love audiobooks and jumped at this opportunity as I usually do not get to choose between an ebook and audiobook copy.

 

"The King of Average" is a middle grade fantasy adventure novel about an eleven year-old boy named James, who is so ordinary and average, that one day he decides to become the most average person ever. The moment he makes his decision, he is transported into a fantasy world, the Realm of Possibilities, where he makes friends and faces challenges on his road to become the King of Average.

I adored this book! It is incredibly well written and gripping for a debut novel. More so, it works perfectly well as an audiobook, as it is performed by Gary Schwartz himself, who is an actor, a voice artist and an impov coach. Mr. Schwartz created a variety of characters with very distinct voices - literarily and figuratively speaking - and the wordplay that he uses for the creation of his imaginary word is simply superb. I often couldn’t help laughing at the telling names of the places, like Eureka and Epiphany, or characters, like the professional pessimist Killjoy or the real scapegoat Mayor Culpa. I think it would prove to be quite educational for kids in terms of abstract concepts and wordplay.

 

It’s been awhile since I was this taken by a middle grade novel, as I often find them to be too simplistic and talking down to children. This is, fortunately, not the case with "The King of Average".

 

James faces some serious problems in his life. He is neglected by his mother, who seems not to care for his existence at all and inadvertently blames him for his father abandoning them. James longs to be important, to matter, he wants family love and friends, and he finds all of those in the Realm of Possibilities. As true to adventure stories, he also discovers things about himself and is given a glimpse into the reasons behind his mother’s antagonism.

 

I believe that any reader will be able to find a character they can relate to in this book. I liked many characters in this book but I think that Monsieur Roget is probably my favourite. (While listening to the audiobook, I kept envisioning him as a more friendly version of Suchet’s Poirot, which made me smile a lot.) This audiobook brought up the long forgotten feeling of a childhood story well-told - something that I often find missing in contemporary middle grade fiction. Loveable characters and curious adventures - what more can you ask for! I think that the fact that Gary is a professional voice actor, undoubtedly, adds to the story. His narration is so perfect, I kept forgetting that I was listening to one person doing all of those voices.

 

I did, however, had a bit of an issue with the tiny small thing at the end. Can’t really explain it explicitly without giving away the ending, but I felt that it should have been given more attention. Also the ending made me scream internally for the sequel. Because I want to know what will happen after the last chapter! But as far as I am aware, this is a standalone novel.

 

I can’t praise this book enough. It is a sweet and witty middle grade novel, that both kids and adults (hey, I am an adult!) would love, and I highly recommend you pick the audiobook version. Those six hours flew by very quickly.

 

I hope that Mr. Schwartz would write and voice more books, as I am already hooked.

 

Overall rating: 4.5 stars

Plot: 4 stars

Performance: 5 stars

 

Sources:

More of my book reviews

Book Review: Catalyst (Star Wars) by James Luceno

When I saw "Catalyst (Star Wars): A Rogue One Novel" on the shelves at a bookstore, I initially assumed that it was a tie-in edition for Rogue One, the movie. I looked it up online, and it turned out to be a prequel. I requested this book from the library but it was a hot release, so instead of waiting I picked up the audiobook version on Audible. My review below is of the audiobook version.

The audiobook is 11 hours long and is narrated by Jonathan Davis, a rather well known and popular narrator on Audible. It was the first time I listened to his narration, though, and I was instantly smitten. Davis does various voices and accents quite wonderfully, and the audiobook itself is full of accompanying sounds and noises. Which almost seemed as if I was listening to a radio drama which reminded me of my childhood (gosh, I used to love those!).

 

It took me awhile to get through the book though. Not because I did not like it, but because it was rather slow paced and required a rather thorough knowledge of Star Wars universe. Unfortunately, even though I watched the movies more than once (especially Episodes IV - VI - my favs!), I had trouble remembering all of planets and moons and keeping track of who was where.

 

The book is set right between Episode III and Rogue One. It is told in third person and focuses on the Orso family, mostly on Galen and Lira, Jyn’s parents. Galen is shown as a slightly distracted but brilliant scientist who is conned by the Empire into developing an extremely valuable and unlimited source of energy, which is eventually used to power the Death Star. Galen is led to believe that his research will save millions of inhabitants of the empire and only by the end of the book discovers the truth. His wife Lira is a smart and brave woman, who not only supports Galen in his research but also tries to shield him from the influence of the Empire. I found both Galen and Lira absolutely lovely and very believable. It was the first time that I got to see the things from the Empire employees’ perspective, which was rather refreshing.

 

I think that if I were a more of a SW fan, I would have enjoyed the book more. I went to see Rogue One before I was fully done with the audiobook (I had about 2 hours left and it was just the remaining few chapters after the big revelation - funnily enough, the movie took off almost from the same moment where I had stopped listening). I enjoyed the movie a lot and I think that it was mostly thanks to this prequel. Some people I spoke to complained about Rogue One lacking character development and depth - I agree and believe that the movie should have been merged with this prequel novel and split into two parts, which would have made the plot more balanced between political intrigue and battle scenes.

 

I enjoyed this book, even though sometimes I was lost in all of those names of planets and worlds; even though sometimes the story was too slow paced; even though I knew exactly how it was going to end. The performance by Davis made it all worthwhile.

 

Plot: 3 stars

Performance: 5 stars

Overall: 3.5 stars

More of my book reviews