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Audiobook Review – Here There Be Dragons – James A Owens

here there be dragonsHere There Be Dragons
Author: James A Owens
Series: #1 in the The Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica series

Narrator: James Langton
Run Time: 8hrs and 27 minutes

Description:
The Imaginarium Geographica

“What is it?” John asked.
The little man blinked and arched an eyebrow.
“It is the world, my boy,” he said. “All the world, in ink and blood, vellum and parchment, leather and hide. It is the world, and it is yours to save or lose.”

An unusual murder brings together three strangers, John, Jack, and Charles, on a rainy night in London during the first World War. An eccentric little man called Bert tells them that they are now the caretakers of the Imaginarium Geographica — an atlas of all the lands that have ever existed in myth and legend, fable and fairy tale. These lands, Bert claims, can be traveled to in his ship the Indigo Dragon, one of only seven vessels that is able to cross the Frontier between worlds into the Archipelago of Dreams.

Pursued by strange and terrifying creatures, the companions flee London aboard the Dragonship. Traveling to the very realm of the imagination itself, they must learn to overcome their fears and trust in one another if they are to defeat the dark forces that threaten the destiny of two worlds.

Review:
So my initial thought after finishing this was how the heck have I not read/listened to this author before. I initially bought it back in February of 2011 and then never listened to it, but I needed a book that had been shelved as fantasy and sci-fi for a challenge, as well as trying to knock off some of my purchased and not listened books off the pile. I was immediately sucked into the story. Its actually pretty easy to describe – take any fantasy book that you have probably heard of in the past, and then mash all of the various worlds together into a series of islands and a governing council and you’ll have the basis of the story.

It begins in 1920(ish) England, so there was immediately a historical feel to the story, along with the impact of the war, which is felt by several of the main characters. We are introduced to Jack, John and Charles who are the protagonists of the story (and there is a pretty cool twist at the end over who the main characters really are). A murder of a mentor and the mission to protect the Imaginarium Geographica, or the atlas of all the imaginary worlds that we believe exist.

The entire story was like a roller coaster of adventure – it was literally on the go from the get-go – I think the whole book took place only over about a 4 day period (or so it seemed, maybe it took a bit longer). And while it was a longer book, it didn’t feel like it was long – I was sucked in (and for the first time in a long-time I found myself sitting in the car listening to just a couple more minutes…). This is the kind of book that would appeal to not only adults but children, while the main characters were older (in their early 20′s), it was written in a way to appeal to a younger audience with the adventures.

It was my first time listening to a book narrated by James Langton. I do think that his strengths were in the male voices which were the predominate part of the book. While his female voices weren’t bad, they were definately weaker than the male ones. I will say, however, that I plan to see what else he has narrated in the future. I’ve already added the second book in the series to my audible wishlist for a future credit.

Overall, I gave Here, There Be Dragons 4 stars and a high recommendation to other people who enjoy fantasy with touches of realism.

 
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Posted by on March 1, 2014 in Audiobook Review

 

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Audiobook Review – The Privilege of the Sword – Ellen Kushner

privilege of the swordThe Privilege of the Sword
Author: Ellen Kushner
Series: #2 in the Riverside series

Run Time: 15 hours and 40 minutes
Narrators: Ellen Kushner, Barbara Rosenblat, Felicia Day, Joe Hurley, Katherine Kellgren, Nick Sullivan, Neil Gaiman
Producer: Neil Gaiman Presents

Description:
Welcome to Riverside, where the aristocratic and the ambitious battle for power in the city’s ballroom, brothels and boudoirs. Into this alluring world walks Katherine, a well-bred country girl versed in the rules of conventional society. Her mistake is thinking that they apply. For Katherine’s host and uncle, Alec Campion, aka the Mad Duke Tremontaine, is in charge here—and to him, rules are made to be broken. When Alec decides it would be more amusing for his niece to learn swordplay than to follow the usual path to marriage, her world changes forever. Blade in hand, it’s up to Katherine to navigate a maze of secrets and scoundrels and to gain the self-discovery that comes to those who master: the privilege of the sword.

Review:
And once again, listening to a category for the Audies made me find a book that I would never have picked up and read if it hadn’t been nominated. It wasn’t like this was a new release – in fact, the book was released in 2006. But with the advent of Audibles ACX program, older books that were never released in audiobook format are slowly appearing on the market. And I have to say that I love Neil Gaiman for producing this audiobook (as well as having a cameo in it!).

Anyways, at first I thought this was a neat twist on historical fiction with a female in a typically male role. But rather, when I looked at the random shelving on Goodreads, it fell more into the fantasy genre. Although it was written in such a way that the fantasy aspect was rather down-played. However, I did manage to find a new sub-genre that I’d never before heard of, Mannerpunk – or a satirical take on the uptight societal manners that you would expect to see in historical fiction. Kind of like the steampunk genre – stuff set in Victorian time period with the use of mechanical equipment…but back to Katherine.

I love kick-ass heroines and Katherine was definitely that. I mean, a female trained in sword-fighting. But its a bit hard to go into various facets of the story without providing spoilers for other parts – but needless to say, it was full of swordplay (both real and training), theatre, drama and romance and various combos of all four. Kushner was able to develop such a detailed world – I felt like I was there with them.

I will admit that having not read either of the books in the series published previously, so I did feel like I was missing some of the backstory. But never fear – I have book 1 (Swordspoint) on Mt. TBR and plan on getting to it probably in the next week or so. This review is very scatter-brained apparently and i kind of struggled with it – which is weird, because I don’t normally have those issues…but anyways, I highly recommend this book and possibly the other ones in the series (although I can’t say for sure, since I haven’t read them…).

The narration was almost as entertaining as the story itself. I have to admit that I was rather taken-aback when I started it and Neil Gaiman was the first person I heard at 6am on the way to work, as he did provided the introduction to the book. The main narration was done by the author and Barbara Rosenblat. I will admit that I am normally not a fan of author narrating their own books, but for some reason, this seemed to work. Ellen was the voice of Katherine and then Barbara the voice of Artemeisia. The rest of the cast, including (once again) the fantabulous Neil Gaiman appeared as various other characters in the book. Overall, I would give both the book and the narration a solid 4 stars and I’m looking forward to listening to more books produced by Neil Gaiman’s production company.

 
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Posted by on June 13, 2013 in Audiobook Review

 

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2013 Armchair Audies – Multi-voiced Performance

Armchair Audies

Since I finished up my first category of nominations for the 2013 Armchair Audies (romance) and there was still a month and a bit before winners are to be annouced (sometime in May, I finished my category up in mid-April). I decided to take a look through the other categories and find one that no one was writing on and see if I could fit those books in prior to the announcement of the winners. I was surprised to see that there were several categories not being represented, and so I opted to do the Multi-Voice Performance Category. This is something totally new to me, I have listened to books with multiple narrators before (normally 2 or 3 – or in the case of The Help, 4). But never to the extend of the books that are being recognized in this category.

The nominations for this category are:
Dracula by Bram Stoker
Narrated by Alan Cumming, Tim Curry, Simon Vance, Katherine Kellgren, Susan Duerden, John Lee, Graeme Malcolm, Steven Crossley, Simon Prebble, and James Adams

My Awesome-Awful Popularity Plan by Seth Rudetsky
Narrated by Seth Rudetsky, Andrea Burns, Paul Castree, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Josh Gad, Ana Gasteyer, Megan Hilty, Marc Kudisch, Will Swenson, and James Wesley

October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard by Lesléa Newman
Narrated by Emily Beresford, Luke Daniels, Tom Parks, Nick Podehl, Kate Rudd, and Christina Traister

The Privilege of the Sword by Ellen Kushner
Narrated by Ellen Kushner, Barbara Rosenblat, Felicia Day, Joe Hurley, Katherine Kellgren, Nick Sullivan, and Neil Gaiman

Suddenly, a Knock on the Door: Stories by Etgar Keret
Translated by Nathan Englander (translator), Miriam Shlesinger (translator), and Sondra Silverston (translator)
Narrated by Ira Glass, Willem Dafoe, Ben Marcus, Gary Shteyngart, Michael Chabon, Neal Stephenson, Nicole Krauss, and Josh Radnor

That Is All written by John Hodgman
Narrated by Dick Cavett, Patton Oswalt, Jon Hamm, Paul Rudd, Sarah Vowell, Brooke Shields, Scott Adsit, Robin Goldwasser, Jonathan Coulton, John Roderick, Rachel Maddow, Wyatt Cenac, Stephen Fry, Paul F. Tompkins, and Prominent Ragnarok Denier Dr. Elliott Kalan

Initial Thoughts:
It was interesting to see the wide variety of genres presented here, from the classic Dracula to a book of poetry (October Mourning). I was also interested to see that for two of the books, the authors played a role in the narration. I’m looking forward to broadening my reading boundaries and listening to these books.

multivoice narration nominees

 
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Posted by on May 1, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Review – City of a Thousand Dolls – Miriam Forster

city of a thousand dollsCity of a Thousand Dolls
Author: Miriam Forster
Series: #1 in the Bhinian Empire

Description:
An exotic treat set in an entirely original, fantastical world brimming with deadly mystery, forbidden romance, and heart-stopping adventure.

Nisha was abandoned at the gates of the City of a Thousand Dolls when she was just a child. Now sixteen, she lives on the grounds of the isolated estate, where orphan girls apprentice as musicians, healers, courtesans, and, if the rumors are true, assassins. Nisha makes her way as Matron’s assistant, her closest companions the mysterious cats that trail her shadow. Only when she begins a forbidden flirtation with the city’s handsome young courier does she let herself imagine a life outside the walls. Until one by one, girls around her start to die.

Before she becomes the next victim, Nisha decides to uncover the secrets that surround the girls’ deaths. But by getting involved, Nisha jeopardizes not only her own future in the City of a Thousand Dolls—but her own life.

Review:
When I first started to read City of a Thousand Dolls, I was reminded in part of the Kushiel series’ by Jacqueline Carey. There was something about Nisha that reminded me of Phaedre – the idea of the abandoned girl finding her way in the world and eventually knowing where she belongs. I also liked the idea of the city being the place where the abandoned children are sent. It made me wonder, in places like China, where there is a limit on how many children families can have, what would have happened, if children couldn’t be adopted or what to do with them. So it was an interesting take on a problem that I see could easily occur in the world in the future.

I have to admit that the reveal for the ultimate mystery was a bit of a disappointment – I had the potential suspects narrowed down to three, early on in the book, so for me it was more of a confirmation rather than a reveal. This was a bit disappointing for me – I was hoping for some out of the blue antagonist – even the ultimate actions of the main characters were fairly obvious as to what was going to happen. However, the world building was intriguing, I definitely want to read more in the series when the books are released. Overall, I’d give it 3.5 stars, but rounding up to 4.

 
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Posted by on April 12, 2013 in Book Review

 

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Review – Sanctum – Sarah Fine

sanctumSanctum
Author: Sarah Fine
Series: #1 in the Guards of the Shadowlands series

Description:
“My plan: Get into the city. Get Nadia. Find a way out. Simple.”

A week ago, seventeen-year-old Lela Santos’s best friend, Nadia, killed herself. Today, thanks to a farewell ritual gone awry, Lela is standing in paradise, looking upon a vast gated city in the distance—hell. No one willingly walks through the Suicide Gates, into a place smothered in darkness and infested with depraved creatures. But Lela isn’t just anyone—she’s determined to save her best friend’s soul, even if it means sacrificing her eternal afterlife.

Review:
Its times like this, that I am thankful for recommendations from friends on Goodreads – because I can say for certain that I would never have found this book, let alone read it, without their recommendation. I am still conflicted over my final star-rating, but it has the potential to be one of my first 5-star reads for the year (and yes, I know its already 3 months into the year…) At first I was skeptical how the theme of youth suicide would be handled, especially when mixed with a fantasy type world – but I felt that the author managed to walk the fine line pretty well. It wasn’t until I looked at her biography and realized that she was a child psychologist that I realized why she did it so well – it (youth suicide) is obviously a topic that she is passionate about and has done research about/likely worked with children who have been affected by it.

It did raise a lot of thought-provoking ideas – most religions, if not all, have a form of heaven – but how many of them address whether people who commit suicide end up there – are they buried on un-consecrated ground (like the Catholic church) or what happened? And is there anyway for them to move from where they end up to heaven for real. I know that I had never really considered any of it until reading Sanctum – which to me is a sign of a great book.

However, about 2/3 of the way through, it did start to hit a bit on the teenage angst that was fustrating – I think the book would have automatically been a 5 star without that, and from how it ended, I have to admit that I am a bit concerned about where book 2 in the series is going to go…hopefully it will stay clear of the total teen angst/love triangle that seems to be so prevalent in a vast majority of YA books recently…Right now, I think I am going to give it 4.5, but rounding down to 4 on the Goodreads scale.

 
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Posted by on March 26, 2013 in Book Review

 

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Classics Challenge – The Fellowship of the Ring – J.R.R. Tolkein

the fellowship of the ringThe Fellowship of the Ring
Author: JRR Tolkein
Series: #1 in the Lord of the Rings trilogy

Description:
One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them

In ancient times the Rings of Power were crafted by the Elven-smiths, and Sauron, the Dark Lord, forged the One Ring, filling it with his own power so that he could rule all others. But the One Ring was taken from him, and though he sought it throughout Middle-earth, it remained lost to him. After many ages it fell into the hands of Bilbo Baggins, as told in The Hobbit.

In a sleepy village in the Shire, young Frodo Baggins finds himself faced with an immense task, as his elderly cousin Bilbo entrusts the Ring to his care. Frodo must leave his home and make a perilous journey across Middle-earth to the Cracks of Doom, there to destroy the Ring and foil the Dark Lord in his evil purpose.

Why I chose this book:
I knew going into doing the classics challenge that I wanted to do some classics that were in a specific genre, rather than true classics (as many people would define them). So I chose to pick books that were seen as classics in the sci-fi/fantasy genres (I combined the 2, because there is often some overlap). However, I did use the Lord of the Rings as the listing, so I am planning on doing the entire trilogy – this is just the first installment.

Review:
Having never read these books, I remember standing in line at the movie theater while in college waiting to see the first of the books – and I was with a bunch of Tolkein fanatics (which made for some interesting viewing – I mean, they even spoke elvish…) But for some reason I never actually read the books. So similar to The Hobbit, when I saw that the audiobooks had been re-mastered and released, I jumped on the opportunity to get them – having loved Rob Inglis’ narration of the Hobbit. And he didn’t disappoint in The Fellowship of the Ring.

For me, the one thing that took me by surprise was the length of time that was actually encompassed in the book. From the movies you would have thought that Frodo ended up with the ring and almost immediately left on his journey – but in truth, there was actually a period of about 12 years between when he got it and he left on journey. There were also many things that didn’t quite make it into the movies (Tom Bombadil for one) – which added to the listening experience; and yet at the same time, proved that at its core, there was probably a lot of extraneous stuff in the book that wasn’t needed (and maybe if that was the case and it was reduced a bit more people may read/enjoy it – because it seemed a common complaint that I have seen is the length/meandering style of his writing).

I have to admit that I’m a bit in 2 minds over whether I enjoyed it or not – for the most part I did, and the parts that were reflected in the movie, I was glad to see how they were described in writing; but at the same time – if I hadn’t been listening to the audiobook, I probably would have given up at some point because there were parts where it felt like I wasn’t going anywhere…

Rob Inglis once again nailed the narration from the voice distinction of the different Hobbits; to the continuous voicing of Gandalf (from The Hobbit), I was impressed. I think that my one comment would be, that at times, Gandalf and Aragon started to sound a bit similar to each other – but it wasn’t too overwhelming. I’m curious to start the next book and see how it turns out as compared to the movie and overall because I remember it not being my favorite…Overall, I would give FotR 3.5 stars, but rounding up to 4.

 
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Posted by on January 27, 2013 in Audiobook Review, Classics Challenge

 

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Review – Fushigi Yûgi: The Mysterious Play, Vol. 1 – Priestess – Yuu Watase

the mysterious play priestessFushigi Yûgi: The Mysterious Play, Vol. 1 – Priestess
Author: Yuu Watase
Series: #1 in Fushigi Yûgi: The Mysterious Play

Description:
When best friends Miaka and Yui open the pages of an ancient Chinese book, they are transported into the Universe of the Four Gods, a parallel world to ancient China. Now, to escape schoolwork and family problems, Miaka flees to the parallel world, only to find a lot more danger and romance than she bargained for.

Review:
So this is the first time I have ever attempted to read a Manga, and i’m fairly confident that it probably won’t be the last. As a form of book, it has intrigued me, especially with the wide variety that I see whenever I go to Books A Million, but since I don’t really know anyone personally who reads it, I didn’t know where to start – and I didn’t want to just pick anything and hate it – to find out that it is a bad representation of the genre. But anyones, I ran across a recommendation for Yu Watase’s on Goodreads from someone who reads Manga fairly regularly and decided to try it.

I will admit that it did take some getting used to – reading a book from back to front and right to left – and there were a few times that I read parts in the wrong order and was totally scratching my head thinking what the heck…but about half-way through, it clicked and I was able to pick up the pace – i mean, I’m normally not that slow of a reader, but I felt slow trying to get my brain around the different reading style.

The story itself was intriguing and I liked seeing the glimpses into contemporary Japanese life (and if our high school kids think they have it hard, they should go and live in Japan…) – but the time-travel parts at first seemed a bit disjointed and I was only just starting to get into the story when the book ended. Which means, that I am going to have to pick up book 2 and see what happens next…and if its similar, I might as well just grab the entire series…yeah, I’m that much of a dork.

Anyways, the art work was fabulous – i am totally jealous of any person who can write and draw like that. It did remind me of quite a few covers from books that are released by Dreamspinner Press – so I would be interested to know if their cover artist has a background in Manga. And the little sidebars put in by the author, just added to the authenticity of the book – they were quite funny to read. Overall, I’d give it 3 stars, because I did enjoy it and want to pick up the next one. I think that this would probably be a good one for newbies to pick up. Does anyone out there have any other recommendations?

 
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Posted by on January 7, 2013 in Book Review

 

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Audiobook Review – The Hobbit – J.R.R. Tolkein

The Hobbit
Author: J.R.R. Tolkein

Narrator: Rob Inglis
Run Time: 11 hours and 8 minutes
Publisher: Recorded Books

Book Description:
In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.

Review:
So I am probably one of the few people who had never read or listened to the Hobbit prior to this audiobook. Growing up I was never really into fantasy books – that is something that I have only started getting into in the last year or so. Of course, during college, I did go and see all three of the Lord of the Rings movies when they came out – so when I heard that the Hobbit was going to be released in December, I thought that this was a perfect time to read/listen to it (since I have a personal rule to always read the book prior to seeing the movie). As a side-note, in college, it was funny, that my one room-mate and I had christened our room, the Hobbit hole…mostly because we were the two shortest people in our company (ROTC and all that jazz), and it gave us some laughs…

Upon finishing it, all I can say is, why the heck did no one force me to read/listen to this sooner. I laughed so much while I was driving and listening – I’m actually amazed I didn’t have an accident or anything like that. I think that a lot of my enjoyment was tied up in the narration of the audiobook (but I will touch on that in a few moments). I do think that there was a lot of meandering, and times where chunks of words could have been cut out – but I also think that if that had happened, some of the magic might have been lost.

And on to the narration – I cannot imagine anyone better than Rob Inglis to narrate this book. As soon as I started, I was sucked into his narration. His singing of the various ditties through-out was perfect (I wasn’t sure how they were going to turn out). And his Golem voice – I seriously felt like I was in the movie theater seeing Golem as he was in the Lord of the Rings movies (although, looking at the cast list, I can see that it wasn’t him). My mind is still boggled at how he managed to make all of the dwarves sound different through-out – especially with how similar many of the names were – I know that I would have been likely befuddled.

This is an audiobook that can be enjoyed by all – lovers of Tolkein and newbies; young and old. Listen to it!

 
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Posted by on November 30, 2012 in Audiobook Review

 

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Review – Highland Guardian – Melissa Mayhue

Highland Guardian
Author: Melissa Mayhue
Series: #2 in the Daughters of the Glen series

Book Description:
Ian McCullough is neck-deep in his own trouble. A half-mortal descendant of Faeries, he’s been a Guardian for more than six hundred years, but he’s never encountered a woman like Sarah. Assigned to protect her, he finds the job tougher than he could have imagined. Oh, he can handle the stalker, and even the renegade Faeries trying to kidnap her. But falling in love means forsaking his role as Guardian — which is some-thing he could never do.

But there is no denying the passion that exists between two souls fated to be together.

Review:
Sometimes when you dig through your ancient purchases file you find a good read – I think I bought this book like 3 years ago not long after I got my kindle and I went crazy buying books. Then I promptly forgot about it until recently when I came across a recommendation for the first book in the series and I remembered that I had enjoyed the first book in the series, and had bought at least the next few to read. So I dug it out. Overall, I was pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed the read. Fae’s in general are a favorite paranormal creature of mine to show up in books and are often overlooked in the craze of vampires and werewolves that seems to dominate paranormal romance currently.

In terms of character development, I liked Sarah the main female character, but there was just something about Ian that irked me – its hard to describe – maybe it was because he was fae and had that immortality thing going on – but I’m not sure. The cast of secondary characters were also fun and I can’t wait to read later books in the series to see if they re-appear. I have a feeling (although its been a while since I read the first book) that the characters in that one did make an appearance in this one – but I can’t remember…(whoops)…

Overall, cute read if you like paranormal romance and are looking for something new to try out. If you like the Fae storyline, you could also check out Karen Marie Moning’s Highlander series (Paranormal Romance) or Fever Series (Urban Fantasy) or the first book in Charlotte Featherstone’s Sins and Virtues series – Lust. I’d give Highland Guardian 3.5 stars.

 
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Posted by on September 27, 2012 in Book Review

 

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Review: The Blade Itself

The Blade Itself
The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Review of the Book
i’ll be the firs to admit that I am not normally a fantasy fan – in fact, I can probably count the number of fantasy books I have read on one hand. So when I picked this book up (on the recommendation of a GR friend), I wasn’t sure what to expect. Listening to the audiobook, that went for a 22 hour period, I was sucked into the story of Jezel, of Logan and their merry cast of characters. While towards the end it had a bit of a Lord of the Rings feel (based on my experience with the movie, not the books), with the forming of a group to solve a mystery, I still enjoying it and I have already bought the second one to listen to in the near future.

Review of the Narration
Steven Pacey is probably one of the best narrators I have come across in the last few years while listening to audiobooks on my commute to work. He was able to convey a wide range of different accents for the various characters and parts of the world where they came from and I had no problem immediately being able to identify who was speaking. My only comment would be that through-out this whole book, there were only 2 females with speaking roles and then they weren’t all that significant, so it was kind of hard to judge how well his female voices are. Overall looking forward to the rest of the books in the series and i’ll be checking out more narrations by him in the future.

View all my reviews

 
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Posted by on March 20, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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