The Shadow Thief (#1) by Alexandra Adornetto

Published: July 1st 2007 (print)/28 January 2011  (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 HarperCollins Australia/Bolinda Audio
Pages: 288 pages/5 dics
Narrator: Alexandra Adornetto
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Fantasy/Young Adult
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

Millipop Klompet and Ernest Perriclof live in the uneventful town of Drabville, where the cautious Ernest spends his time enlarging his rock collection and Milli dreams of adventure. When the pair are kidnapped from their homes and brought to live in the gothic mansion known as Hog House, they are adopted by the madcap Mr and Mrs Mayor and a series of bizarre encounters follows. Things do not add up and the children find that sinister plans are beginning to emerge. Why has the notorious Lord Aldor stolen the shadows of all of the town’s residents and where are they being held? Assisted by a band of prisoners, the children must venture into the Taboo Territories, and battle the perils dished out by the Lurid Lagoon, in order to outwit Lord Aldor and prevent him from executing his secret master plan.

From very early on I compared this book to Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. It’s actually a lot better than that in my opinion. Though, not being a huge fan of Snicket’s famed series I’m not sure what that means.

But if you are a fan of Snicket’s work then I suggest you read this series. Adornetto uses the same whimsical tone and storytelling style that addresses the reader, gives us facts about the characters, bemoans when things unfortunate happen to them, and states matter of factly when things aren’t going their way. I listened to this as an audio book and Adornetto was the narrator which worked really well. Adornetto’s storytelling ability is entertaining and while she doesn’t vary voices that noticably, you really don’t need it and her narration is wonderful.

One thing I absolutely ADORED in this book was Adornetto’s language. She uses big, wonderful, words that are so eloquent, and ones that give the story such a wonderful tone. It suits the strange surreal, British nature of this book (despite Adornetto being Australian) that is absurd and outlandish, that of course there will be beautiful and clever words in it as well.

The story is delightful and innocent, but with the cheekiness that kids love. As I said, very much like Lemony Snicket but with a bit less intense unfortunatenesses and more daring adventures with Milly at the helm and Ernest trailing reluctantly behind her.

Milly is a wonderfully brave and rebellious girl who doesn’t let the rules of Drabville hold back her adventures. When she gets caught breaking these town rules she and her best friend Ernest are imprisoned and discover a whole other world they knew nothing about. She is clever, resourceful, filled with gusto and enthusiasm for adventure and doing the right thing. Ernest is less enthusiastic but he does follow Milly into adventure and while he is wary he does embrace what he finds and loves to work with Milly in thinking up solutions to their problems.

The supernatural element of the story is quite creative, the evil Lord Aldor has stolen shadows off the residents of Drabville and is using them for nefarious purposes. The premise is clever and quite interesting, Adornetto keeps it filled with action and suspense, along with daring characters and wily plans of escape and rescue.

This book (as subsequent series) is classed as young adult at times, but I’d put it in the primary school range, maybe the lower teens. With Milly and Ernest being twelve years old it may not appeal that well to older readers. Having said that, I did love it, so there’s that.

 

Mad Men, Bad Girls and the Guerilla Knitters Institute by Maggie Groff

Published: 3rd March 2012 (print)/6th August 2012 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 Pan Macmillan Australia/Bolinda Audio
Pages: 364 pages/7 dics
Narrator: Georgie Parker
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Mystery
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

When a secretive American cult moves to the Gold Coast, freelance journalist Scout Davis’s investigative antennae start quivering. She sets out to expose the cult’s lunatic beliefs and bizarre practices, but when she learns the identity of a recent recruit, her quest becomes personal. And dangerous.

But Scout has her secrets too. In the dead of night she sneaks out with an underground group of yarn bombers to decorate the locality with artworks. The next mission ticks all the right boxes – it’s risky, difficult and extremely silly. However, Scout has a sneaking suspicion that the local police sergeant, Rafe Kelly, is hot on her tail.

Jess from The Never Ending Book Shelf reviewed this a while back and since then I have been keen to read it. It came across my desk at work and I borrowed it right away to give it a go and I was… satisfied, I think that’s the best word to use.

The story itself is quite interesting, the investigation into a cult and the second mystery and investigation at the school is really good. Scout is a great investigative journalist and seeing how she maps out her stories and her plans are a nice insight into the mind of someone in her profession. She is headstrong and good at her job, she is clever and creative and seeing her work is an engaging part of the story. But having said that, I wasn’t a fan of Scout herself at times. Yes, admittedly, she is strong and confident and snarky and sarcastic and knows how to laugh and enjoy life, but she also isn’t the most faithful, and while she is having adulterous thoughts about a friend she doesn’t seem the least bit guilty. I kept waiting for her to snap out of it, to realise she couldn’t have these thoughts while her partner is overseas. It annoyed me she didn’t try to stop herself and that she went on with no remorse. It didn’t make you like her as a character in that regard.

Also while the guerrilla knitting part was interesting, I couldn’t see the point in relation to the rest of the story. It was more like a side quest that had no relation to anything else. It is like Groff has just put a few weeks of Scout’s life together and is telling us. Which is fine, but while the rest of the events sort of blended together or connected in some way, this never really needed to be there in terms of story.

This snippet of a life approach is supported by the fact Groff goes into a lot of detail about Scout’s day to day business, a lot of little details and descriptions are included about what she does, from shopping to what she eats and her daily routine. Whether this has to do with her diabetes and Groff felt like in the daily routine we needed to know the practices and how they fit into her life otherwise it wasn’t believable I’m not sure. When exciting things happen it all comes back to her diabetes and how it comes into play. Whether it would be as saturated with detail and description if she didn’t have diabetes I don’t know, I’m not sure I really needed to know every little thing Scout did though.

As a narrator Georgie Parker probably isn’t the best choice and maybe this also came into play of how I enjoyed the story. She adds emotion as she reads into odd places and doesn’t read it…I don’t want to say normally, but she pauses at odd times in sentences, it’s very casual and seems like a fun activity rather than trying to read the book as it were. Not to mention there is little difference in the voices she uses for characters, sometimes it disappearing altogether at times. Granted you don’t always need it, but it was something I noticed. Like all audiobooks you get used to some things, but I couldn’t quite get used to Georgie’s style and her voice annoyed me more often than not, it kept bringing me out of the story and while I accepted her style, I never stopped noticing it like I have done with other audio books when I become more invested in the story than the voice telling it.

Overall it was interesting for the investigative style and the story surrounding it. Groff frames the story well and shows how Scout moves from one part of her research into another, how she fits it into her day with life’s little dramas and adventures. The writing is good, the action and suspense was good, the balance of the serious and the every day worked well and Groff flows from one event to the next successfully. It was enjoyable and I might have to find the next book to see if it really gets me into the series and maybe see more of the Guerilla Knitters in action.

You can purchase Mad Men, Bad Girls, and the Guerilla Knitters Institute via the following

Print

Booktopia | Pan Macmillan Aus

Angus & Robertson | QBD

Audio

Booktopia | Angus & Robertson

Hamlet by John Marsden

Published: 8th April 2013Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Bolinda Audio
Length: 5 hours
Format: Audio CD (4 Discs)
Narrator: Humphrey Bower
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

Hamlet’s father has just died. By the time they’ve filled in the grave his mother has remarried. Hamlet suspects foul play, and it’s troubling his spirit. Or maybe he was always troubled. Ophelia is in love with him. His best friend Horatio can’t work him out. Then, on a cold, still night, Hamlet meets the ghost of his father…

John Marsden, one of Australia’s most-loved writers, takes Shakespeare’s famous play and turns it into a moving and full-blooded novel.

I have wanted to read this novelisation of Hamlet since it was first published and I am so incredibly happy that I was not disappointed. It exceeded my expectations (whatever they were) and it has made me wish that more of Shakespeare’s plays were given the Marsden novelisation treatment because I think they would be divine.

Whether it’s Marsden magic or just the fact that the novel could include more detail, but I had so much more sympathy for Hamlet listening to this than I ever did with the play. Marsden’s words really brings out Hamlet’s home life and his despair, yes, he is a dramatic idiot and you roll your eyes at him at the start, but through the rest of the story you see what his life is like, what he is like, and you really pity him and for the situation his father put him in and how it affects him.

The plot follows the play in terms of events, I did find myself waiting lines to be included that are so well known from the play, but Marsden doesn’t fall for cheap copying, the same elements are there, the same moments, but Marsden doesn’t reduce this novelisation to simply adding quotes from Shakespeare in it.

The tragedy is there, Horatio is amazing and I love him throughout. He is my absolute favourite character in this whole thing. The extension of the story allows more character depth I found, you really get a sense of not just Hamlet, but also Ophelia, Claudius and the rest. Claudius’ villainy is evident; Marsden shows us his thoughts and feelings, his desires and plans in detail that offers explanation and depth to his character. The same is true of Ophelia as her love for Hamlet is expressed through the thoughts and actions of a young woman discovering who she is and what she wants.

Marsden doesn’t update the play either, the same events are there, but they aren’t modernised or anything. Set in a time with swords and ships the locations are the same, and Marsden’s writing feels write for the era in which it is set. Not overly complex but not basic either, very poetic and melodic at times, very Shakespeare without being Shakespeare.

This was my first time listening to an audio book and it was a wonderfully absurd contrast listening to a novel which is based on a play, meaning that it was like a radio play of sorts, even though it is not written as such. Humphrey Bower as narrator did an excellent job and because you are so engrossed in the story it’s easy to follow as the voices change and you’re hardly aware that is just one person reading. I would easily call this my favourite adaptation of Hamlet and I would readily sit down and read, or listen, to it all over again.

You can purchase Hamlet via the following

Print book

AmazonBook Depository

Booktopia | QBD

Audio

Amazon Aust | Amazon

Booktopia | Book Depository