Tag Archives: fantasy

Mini Review: Caraval by Stephanie Garber

caravalHmm… this is a tough review to write because I definitely enjoyed the overall plot of Caraval, but didn’t necessarily enjoy the journey to get to the bigger plot points. For the first 270 pages or so, this read was a slog that I only trudged through because it was one of two books I brought on holiday (Side note: I found an Advance Reading Copy version of this book in a lending library so it’s possible the final published version is different from what I read). Once I hit the turning point, I quickly finished and enjoyed the remaining storylines, but nothing should take more than 200 pages to be compelling! The romance between two of the leads was a little much for me and I found myself annoyed that adolescents might read this and think this is how they should build their crushes on other people (stop describing this man’s ~perfect muscles~!!), but hopefully the t(w)weens will roll their eyes while reading those pieces too and think “not for me!” The family relationships and affiliations were better described and fuller. All that said, I’ll probably still pick up the sequel if it gets good reviews since the laborious (unnecessary) world building was established with the first novel and I enjoyed the second half much more than the first. 

Publication Date: 31 January 2017 by Flatiron Books. Format: Paperback ARC.

Author: Stephanie Garber web/facebook/@twitter

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stardust by neil gaiman

stardustVery rarely do I enjoy when authors narrate the audiobooks of their own novels (see my cringe worthy review of Lord of the Flies by William Golding), but Neil Gaiman must be a multi-talented superstar! I found myself borrowing the audiobook of Stardust from my local library upon realizing that I had never read any of Gaiman’s works despite seeing that lots of people I follow on twitter mention him often. This is no doubt aided by his own very active Twitter presence  because it truly appears that Gaiman is a Renaissance man and can don many hats. I selected Stardust as my first Gaiman read because I remembered that the film version is one of my best friend’s favorite movies (… yet I somehow still haven’t seen the film… sorry Sam!).

Gaiman is an incredibly animated narrator and is able to tell the story in a similar vein to people who are trained to be the best audiobook narrators. Thus, I didn’t have any of the normal issues that I experience when I listen to books narrated by their authors when I listened to Stardust. Despite Gaiman’s enthusiasm, I did find the book a bit boring in the beginning and likely would have put it aside after the first few pages if I had been reading the book instead of listening to it. That said, I became much more engaged after the “world building” was complete and the action started filling my ears.

Stardust is a fairytale for grown ups, according to Gaiman in a bonus interview that is included at the end of the audiobook. The “grown up” part mainly means that the novel includes some sex scenes and that the overall tale, in the way it’s presented (even if the sex scenes hadn’t been included), wouldn’t be that entertaining to a child. This is because pieces of the book draw upon experiences and feelings that you have as you become older, but that you likely don’t have a familiarity with if you’re under the age of twelve. Stardust follows the story of Tristan Thorn, a young man, who decides to leave his home on a quest to win the hand of a lady that he would like to marry. He ventures to another land to complete a quest that he conjured himself and encounters many hijinks and twists and turns (fit for a fairytale!) along the way. I didn’t really get into the book until the introduction of Yvaine, which luckily happens fairly early into the story, as I found her to be the most interesting character in the book and thoroughly enjoyed all of the scenes which included her. While I was able to guess some plot pieces of the book along the way, parts of the ending surprised me and left me in awe of how Gaiman constructed his truly great fairytale for grown ups.

Should I check out a different one of Neil Gaiman’s works? What’s your favorite thing that he’s published?

Publication Date: 1 February 1999 by HarperCollins. Format: Digital Audiobook from Harper Audio.

Author/Narrator: Neil Gaiman web/@twitter

harry potter series by j. k. rowling

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Audiobook Cover

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Audiobook Cover

Last fall during the holiday season, I found myself feeling a bit nostalgic. I had moved to a new city that I hadn’t quite adjusted to yet and was missing being geographically close to my loved ones. To combat my homesickness, I decided to dip into one of my favorite memories and reads from my childhood: the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling. I hadn’t done a proper re-read since the final book (Deathly Hallows) was published in 2007 and it was time for me to re-visit the beloved series. I was able to finish the first two books in 2014 and listened to books 3-7 in 2015, with Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban being my first completed book of 2015 and thus kickstarting my journey of reading 52 books in 52 days during 2015.

Unfortunately, my hardcover books are stowed away at my grandparents’ house and I didn’t want to carry the heavier books (aka 4-7) on the subway every day, so I decided to digitally check out the audiobooks from my local library. If you’re a member of your local library, you should find out if your library has digital services. The Brooklyn Public Library has a few digital resources, including Overdrive, a service that I access on my phone regularly. If you haven’t used Overdrive or if you’re not a member of your local library, I thoroughly recommend you introduce both of these into your life! Libraries are pretty great, but they’re even better when they give me access to resources like digital Harry Potter audiobooks for free when the entire series would have cost $242 if I paid to own them!! Audiobooks are very expensive and public libraries are helping expand access to them. This post could also aptly be titled “A Love Letter to Public Libraries.”

These audiobooks were absolutely great and allowed me to dive back into a series that I grew up adoring, while allowing them to feel fresh because the narrator, Jim Dale, is enormously talented. Even though the series is comprised of more than a hundred characters, Dale managed to provide each of them with a unique voice. He is definitely the most adept audiobook narrator that I’ve listened to so far since my foray into audiobooks approximately a year ago.

If you haven’t done a re-read (or a read ever) of the Harry Potter series, think about adding them to your to-read pile. If you haven’t listened to an audiobook before, I think this series narrated by Jim Dale is a wonderful introduction to how fun they can be to weave into your life.

Publication dates: 29 June 1997 – 21 July 2007 by Pottermore. Format: Digital Audiobook.

Author: J. K. Rowling web/@twitter

Narrator: Jim Dale web