Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Audiobook Review: The Trials of Morrigan Crowe (Nevermoor #1) by Jessica Townsend

The Trials of Morrigan Crow (Nevermoor, #1)The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Morrigan believes she is cursed to die on her twelfth birthday but imagine her surprise as she is whisked out of her world, into Nevermoor. Once there, she begins her quest to be apart of the Wonderous Society, competing through a series of trials meant to bring out the best--and worst--of her character. She has odds stacked against her as an outsider, but can she rise up to claim her spot?

This delightful tale is brought to life through its audiobook production. Gemma Whelan does a masterful job of bringing to life this complex audiobook production. The use of music and sound effects further enhances the listener's experience of Townsend's imaginative tale of Morrigan Crowe, Jupiter North, and the rest of those competing for a chance to be in the Wunderous Society, Unit 919. Whelan's voices are clear, distinct, and add richness to each of the characters, and provides depth to them as well. I highly recommend the audiobook adaption to anyone who is new to audiobooks, as this is a wonderful taste as to what an audiobook can add to a fantastic story. I could not imagine experiencing this book through any other means than the audiobook and I look forward to continuing the series through its audio editions.

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Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Review: Refugee by Alan Gratz

RefugeeRefugee by Alan Gratz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

3.5 Stars rounded up...

A timely read for any middle grade to middle school reader, this brings the refugee story to life from an author that has proven popular with the intended audience time and time again. Weaving together three different story lines, we see the plight of a refugee from the eyes of a twelve/thirteen year old boy Josef escaping from Nazi controlled Germany; a similar aged girl, Isabel, from Castro's Cuba in the 1960s; and more current day Muhammad, a refugee from war ravaged Syria.

Gratz is a master at keeping middle graders hooked into his story, even with this more complicated tale of three stories in three different time periods semingling unrelated. I wished he had decided to tell the story of the refugees as complete parts, with the ending bringing them appropriately together, however I can completely understand why Gratz made the decision to let the stories unfold together. Even with the complication of having three stories throughout--changing perspectives at tension filled cliffhangers-- I would recommend this book for reluctant readers as it does keep you engaged into the stories. Weaving time periods of historical perspectives to present day, this survival themed novel is an excellent conversation starter for those who are seeking to identity and learn about refugees throughout time.

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Monday, February 10, 2020

Review: The Gown by Jennifer Robson

The Gown: A Novel of the Royal WeddingThe Gown: A Novel of the Royal Wedding by Jennifer Robson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

4.5 stars rounded up

Ann and Miriam are two women, just trying to do the best they can, roommates and coworkers at famous designer Hartnell's embroidery studio in 1947. As a designer to the Queen, Princess Elizabeth and the rest of the royal family, Hartnell's designs grace the pages of magazines, newspapers, and newsreels of the time. The most famous of his designs is arguably the now Queen Elizabeth's wedding dress:

Image result for hartnell designer

Ann and Miriam's stories are woven together with Heather, Ann's granddaughter after she has passed away. When Heather finds the box with embroideries and some pictures, she sets out to learn more about her beloved grandmother in 2016. What she uncovers about her grandmother shocks her, and has her questioning whether or not she truly knew her.

I finished this book up the day of the Oscar Award show (Academy Awards) and it actually ended up being quite timely. Looking at all the beautiful dresses chosen by the celebrities, it is interesting that we acknowledge the famous designers who made the dresses, but we often times never hear about the people who actually sewed the dresses and put the finishing details such as the gems or sequins. Robson brings this situation to life as we experience what it was like to make Princess Elizabeth's wedding dress in 1947. I quite enjoyed this book and especially loved reading about the work these women mastered to create an iconic wedding dress.

The only criticism I have for this book is at times I struggled to stay invested in some of Ann's and Miriam's storylines as it felt stoic, lacking in emotions. It could be the time period, or it could be just the points in the story, but I did not feel as invested at times as much as I wanted. One content concern I feel I should also mention is with Miriam, there is discussion of the Holocaust, including some time at the concentration camp. If this is something you do not like to read, please know while it is pivotal to who Miriam is, it is not discussed in detail but a few short times. Overall, I really appreciated and enjoyed this book and highly recommend it to anyone that likes multiple point of views and multiple timelines woven together, even if you are not an anglophile.

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Thursday, February 6, 2020

Review: Dangerous Alliance by Jennieke Cohen

Dangerous Alliance: An Austentacious RomanceDangerous Alliance: An Austentacious Romance by Jennieke CohenMy rating: 3 of 5 stars

I have been a longtime fan of Regency, Edwardian, and Georgian historical romances and because of this, I am always intrigued to read the latest young adult novel set during these time periods. Enter Dangerous Alliance one of the more recently published young adult book in one of these time periods. In the vein of Austen, this is a witty take on this genre, introducing us to Vicky, her sister Althea, and her neighbor Tom, among others. Vicky and Tom have been estranged since Tom was forced to leave England though Vicky never knew why. What reunites them is the attempt on Vicky's life that Tom thwarts, thus bringing the two back together.

I enjoyed the beginning and the ending, but the middle part lagged a bit as Cohen built up Tom's backstory and interweaved the mystery surrounding the attempts on Vicky's life. Despite this, it built to a solid conclusion. What I appreciated most about this book, however, is learning about the time period's philosophy on divorce, legal separation, and what it took to leave an abusive relationship. It is an unusual stance to discuss in young adult books set in this time period, introducing teen readers to way marriage and divorce was viewed during this period.

I recommend this book to those readers who enjoy time period stories with strong relatable heroines and not so perfect heroes, with a bit of mystery and romance woven together. And while there were parts that lagged for me, I do look forward to reading more books by this author in the future as this was a solid debut.

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