Two sisters' reviews of Young Adult and Middle Grade books, inspired by their lovely library.
Kate and I love audiobooks. We are frequent crafters and cleaners and love listening to audiobooks on long car trips. Today we’d like to share some of our favorite audiobooks, and encourage readers to try one out. Audiobooks also offer the advantage of finally learning how long fantasy words and names are actually pronounced! We get audiobooks from our public library and from Listen Up Vermont (there might be similar programs in other states), which offers free downloadable audiobooks with a library card. We recommend books read by Full Cast Audio, which includes a narrator and different voices for each character, to make it seem more realistic.
Fairest by Gail Carson Levine, read by Sarah Naughton, Full Cast Audio (Middle Grade)
Description: Aza is far from beautiful. With pale skin and blood-red lips (not to mention ungainly size), she is seen as odd, at best. But Aza does have one blessing: a voice of astonishing beauty. In Ayortha, where singing is the main mode of communication, this gift is no small thing, and soon Aza finds herself rising at court. But, as she will discover, unexpected good fortune can also bring unexpected danger….
Funny and moving, wise and uplifting, Fairest represents New York Times best-selling author Gail Carson Levine at her finest. Composer-director Todd Hobin has crafted melodies for all the story’s lyrics and songs, resulting in a unique listening experience—an audiobook that has as much original music as a Broadway show!
Gwen & Kate’s Comments: The fantasy world in Fairest revolves around frequent singing, and this audiobook actually sings all the songs, so you don’t have to make up your own melodies anymore!
Bloody Jack: Being an Account of the Curious Adventures of Mary “Jacky” Faber, Ship’s Boy by L.A. Meyer, read by Katherine Kellgren, Listen & Live Audio (Young Adult)
Description: Life as a ship’s boy aboard HMS Dolphin is a dream come true for Jacky Faber. Gone are the days of scavenging for food and fighting for survival on the streets of eighteenth-century London. Instead, Jacky is becoming a skilled and respected sailor as the crew pursues pirates on the high seas. There’s only one problem: Jacky is a girl. And she will have to use every bit of her spirit, wit, and courage to keep the crew from discovering her secret. This could be the adventure of her life–if only she doesn’t get caught…
Gwen & Kate’s Comments: Katherine Kellgren may not have the prettiest voice, but she does have many! This narrator reads in many different accents, doing them all very accurately and making the fantastic story come to life.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling, read by Jim Dale, Listening Library (Middle Grade)
Description: Harry Potter has no idea how famous he is. That’s because he’s being raised by his miserable muggle aunt and uncle who are terrified Harry will learn that he’s a wizard, just as his parents were.
But everything changes when Harry is summoned to attend an infamous school for wizards and he begins to discover some clues about his illustrious birthright.
From the surprising way he is greeted by a lovable giant, to the unique curriculum and colorful faculty at his unusual school, Harry finds himself drawn deep inside a mystical world he never knew existed and closer to his own noble destiny.
Gwen & Kate’s Comments: Jim Dale is a wonderful narrator, with a soothing and perfect voice for the many characters throughout this series. We have however noticed that he pronounces things differently than the movies do, making for some confusion.
The False Princess by Eilis O’Neal, read by Mandy Williams, Listening Library (Young Adult/Middle Grade)
Description: Princess and heir to the throne of Thorvaldor, Nalia has led a privileged life at court. But everything changes when she learns, just after her 16th birthday, that she is a false princess, a stand-in for the real Nalia, who has been hidden away for her protection. Cast out with little more than the clothes on her back, the girl now called Sinda must leave behind the city, her best friend, Kiernan, and the only life she’s ever known.
Sent to live with her only surviving relative, Sinda proves inept at even the simplest tasks. Then she discovers that long-suppressed, dangerous magic runs through her veins, and she realizes that she will never learn to be just a simple village girl. Sinda returns to the city to seek answers. Instead, she rediscovers the boy who refused to forsake her, and uncovers a secret that could change the course of Thorvaldor’s history forever.
An intricately plotted and completely satisfying adventure, The False Princess is both an engaging tale in the tradition of great fantasy novels and a story never told before that will enchant – and surprise – its listeners.
Gwen & Kate’s Comments: Mandy Williams has a lovely voice and reads audiobooks very well. When we listened to this audiobook over the summer, we had listened to Seraphina by Rachel Hartman and Entwined by Heather Dixon right beforehand, both of which happened to be read by the same narrator! We recommend all three of these books, both in audiobook and print format.
The Apothecary by Maile Maloy, read by Cristin Milioti, Penguin Audio (Young Adult/Middle Grade)
Description: It’s 1952 and the Scott family has just moved from Los Angeles to London. Here, fourteen-year-old Janie meets a mysterious apothecary and his son, Benjamin Burrows – a fascinating boy who’s not afraid to stand up to authority and dreams of becoming a spy. When Benjamin’s father is kidnapped, Janie and Benjamin must uncover the secrets of the apothecary’s sacred book, the Pharmacopoeia, in order to find him, all while keeping it out of the hands of their enemies – Russian spies in possession of nuclear weapons. Discovering and testing potions they never believed could exist, Janie and Benjamin embark on a dangerous race to save the apothecary and prevent impending disaster.
Gwen & Kate’s Comments: Even though there is only one narrator, it feels like more because Cristin Milioti is amazing at many different accents. We highly recommend both this book and this audio reading.