Sunday, January 29, 2012

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

loopyker's #CBR4 Review #03: Circle of Magic Series by Tamora Pierce

I listened to all four audiobooks in this series in rapid succession right before signing up for CBR4, so I will treat them as one review since I can't really separate them completely in my memory now.

The Circle of Magic series begins with Sandry's Book, with the individual stories of four lonely, outsider children. Each is from a very different background (noble, merchant, trader and thief) and has either been abandoned or orphaned in some way. Each is found by a kind man, and taken to a private school of sorts. There each finds their way to a teacher and mentor who turns out to be a mage in a special kind of magic - a different kind than is well-known in this world. Given the title of the series and hints along the way, it is no surprise to anyone except the children's characters that each posses their own rare kind of magic (weaving, weather, metal and plant).

As you can tell by the book titles, each of the four books, is from the point of view of one of the children (3 girls and 1 boy), but all four are still main characters in each book. The first book, Sandry's Book is rather slow to get started as it introduces all the characters and locations and really is more about setting up the rest of the series. The four children are getting to know each other and figuring out their new lives. There is finally some real action with the group of four at the end which ends up binding them in a way that is important for the rest of the series. Together they form a completely unique magic which keeps changing and surprising them in the later books.

Surprisingly, since I read a lot of young adult fantasy, this was the first Tamora Pierce book I've read! I was a good, average, juvenile-young adult fantasy book that interested me enough to continue to the next in the series, Tris's Book.

Tris's Book begins soon after Sandry's Book ends. The children are now bonded both my magic and by growing friendship. They are learning more about their abilities and how to control their magic, but still have a long way to go. However, there is a pirate attack on the way, before they are prepared. These are not the “nice” pirates of some stories, but the ruthless kind.

For me, Tris's Book was the weak one in the series. I found it predictable and emotionally flat. It also depended more than I liked on the cliche of children not listening to what they are told to do and getting into trouble when they should have known better. However, by then I was invested enough in the characters to want to continue to the third book, and I'm glad that I did.
Daja's Book, is the third in the series. By now the children are very good friends and are taking their magic for granted at times, while they still have things to learn and discover about it. Daja is from the most unique culture, with a different sense of honour and duty that we come to better understand through this book. An accident with her metal magic produces something that interested my artistic sense and I enjoyed that unexpected aspect of her blacksmithing talent.

In Daja's Book, the children also learn more about the serious consequences and responsibilities of magic, for themselves and for other mages as they travel with their teachers. Through this they start to show more maturity. Fire and drought provide the scene for more physical adventures that are more compelling than the previous book, so I happily proceeded to the fourth book.

Book four is, Briar's Book - Briar being the only boy in the group of four. Despite being the boy, he is one of the more sensitive of the group, but hides it well in a non-wimpy way. As a gardener myself, I enjoyed his work with plants throughout the series. This books gives us a much more emotional view into Briar's past and current life.

The children have now learned and matured enough to be doing some work on their own, but are still connected through their magical bond and friendships. In contrast to the physical adventures of the previous book, Briar's Book, deals more with the internal fears of illness, separation and death within their current lives which also brings up past trauma for those who had lost friends and family before.

I enjoyed this book the most out of the series because of this emotional component and maturity. However, it wouldn't have near as much impact as a stand-alone book and I would still recommend reading the series in order to watch the characters grow and develop.

Overall, I enjoyed the series and the characters. The overall message of tolerance and respect for other cultures and non-stereotyping of genders was not presented in the gimmicky way that has bothered me in other books before. Anyone who has felt like an outsider can probably relate to at least one of the children, if not more.

I enjoyed the quality of this series as audiobooks, read by Tamora Pierce and a full cast of voice actors. I will definitely be looking for more audiobooks published by Full Cast Audio, which also specializes in family-friendly books. This series is recommended for ages 10 and up. I look forward to reading the sequel series, Circle of Magic: The Circle Opens and Tamora Piece's many other books in the future. 

Circle of Magic Series
Author:  Tamora Pierce
Read by: Tamora Pierce and Full Cast
Publisher: Full Cast Audio
Audiobook: Unabridged

Circle of Magic Series, Book 1
Duration: 5 hours, 49 minutes
ISBN:  9781932076691
Release date:   Nov 02, 2002

Circle of Magic Series, Book 2
Duration:  5 hours, 37 minutes
ISBN:  9781932076783
Release date:  Dec 31, 2003

Circle of Magic Series, Book 3
Duration:  5 hours, 25 minutes
ISBN:  9781932076790
Release date:   Dec 31, 2003

Briar'sBook (UK title The Healing in the Vine )
Circle of Magic Series, Book 4
Duration:  6 hours, 32 minutes
ISBN:  9781932076813
Release date:   Jun 01, 2004

Monday, January 16, 2012

Book Related Links

Just some book-related links I've looked at recently.

US World Book Night

"We need 50,000 book-loving volunteers to fan out across America on April 23, 2012! Just take 20 free copies of a book to a location in your community, and you just might change someone's life. 

The goal is to give books to new readers, to encourage reading, to share your passion for a great book. The entire publishing, bookstore, library, author, printing, and paper community is behind this effort with donated services and time. And with a million free World Book Night paperbacks!"

The US sign-up date is by Feb. 1.  There are also UK and Ireland sites.

Author Name Pronunciation Guide

Here author's say their name, sometimes with stories about their naming or meaning of the names too.

10 Impressive People Who Educated Themselves With Only a Library Card

Granted it's a little harder to get somewhere these days without a piece of paper showing your education, but it certainly gives you something to think about!

loopyker's #CBR4 Review #02: Dewey the Library Cat: A True Story by Vicki Myron and Bret Witter

This review is for the audiobook only. When looking for “Dewey” books it can be a little confusing, so to clarify - this is the juvenile adaptation (grades 3 and up) of the original adult version, Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World. There are also international versions simply called Dewey by other publishers. In addition to those, there are illustrated children's books Dewey: There's a Cat in the Library! and Dewey's Christmas at the Library for the kindergarten to grade 2 children. All, of these are about the same cat, Dewey Readmore Books, who brought joy to many people of all ages.
Dewey the Library Cat begins with the discovery of a sad, frozen, little grey kitten in the book return box of a small-town public library. After being brought back from near-death with a warm bath, it was discovered he was actually a sad, frost-bitten, little orange kitten. The librarian, Vicki Myron, who found him bonded instantly with the little guy and, with the approval of the City, he became the official “library cat” and lived in the library, except for when it was closed for holidays.
The book has many sweet stories of how Dewey impacted the lives of many of the staff and patrons of the library. It takes a special cat to have the personality to welcome so many different people! Many accounts tell how he did this while entertaining and comforting many people during his 19 years of life at the library, leading to world-wide fame. A satisfying, heartwarming book for those who enjoy cats and/or animal-human bonding stories. It just makes it better that it is also a true story.
As an audiobook listener, I missed out on the photographs, but there are photos and videos available on the Dewey web site and the Spencer Public Library. The narrator, Laura Hamilton, sounds like she would be right at home in a library reading this to juvenile aged children, but not so much that adults can't enjoy this audio version too.
My only little problem with the book, even as a cat-lover who constantly talks to her own cat, is that the anthropomorphism of Dewey's motivations and actions by Vicki can be a bit much to take at times, but they weren't enough to take too much away from the book. And, just a warning if you are getting this for a tenderhearted young person, Vicki does describe how Dewey gets ill in his old age and is put to sleep. A very emotional part of the book for readers of any age.
Overall, I enjoyed the audiobook and Dewey for a light and entertaining read. I listened to much of it with my own cat sleeping on my lap. It left me wanting to know more about Dewey, and from all of the information I see up on the web site, I'm guessing that many others had the same response. I've already added the next book to my list for future listening.

You can find more about Dewey, Dewey products and the newer book, Dewey's Nine Lives at the Dewey website. There is also a the Facebook Page, Dewey .

Author: Vicki Myron with Bret Witter
Narrator: Laura Hamilton
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Duration: 4 hours, 13 minutes (unabridged)
ISBN: 9781441885517
Release date: Oct 12, 2010

Hardcover: 224 pages
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers; 1 edition (May 3, 2010)
ISBN-10: 0316068713

Monday, January 02, 2012

loopyker's #CBR4 Review #01: Audition: A Memoir by Barbara Walters

My very first book review ever!  This review refers to the *unabridged* audiobook version of Audition: A Memoir narrated by Bernadette Dunne.  There is another audiobook available - an abridged version, read by Barbara Walters herself, which I have not listened to.

I really knew nothing about Barbara Walters' personal life and hadn't thought too seriously about her work, besides irregular watching of 20/20, her interview specials (Oscar Night Specials and 10 Most Fascinating People) and even less often, The View.  But, I've paid enough attention to know that she is a well-respected broadcast journalist who has interviewed, not only celebrities, but many important political personalities as well, so I was interested to learn more about her life and personal feelings about the people she interviewed.  I wasn't disappointed.

This was one of the longest audiobooks I've listened to at 26 hours and 46minutes  (624 pages in the print version), but it kept me interested much more than I expected.  Bernadette Dune does a wonderful narration job, sounding similar enough to Barbara in maturity to have the same feel, while leaving out the quirks of Barbara's voice and speaking style which I think I would have tired of well before the end.   Bernadette is also a talented voice actor for reading the quotes from a variety of different well-known people from Barbara's personal and professional life.

Barbara begins by introducing her mentally challenged, older sister Jackie - a subject she has been very private about before.  This sets the tone of the personal aspects of the book with Barbara looking at her family-life from her earliest memories forward with the maturity of hindsight and the courage to reveal her own faults and, at times, selfishness.  I found the the stories of her father's great successes and failures and the toll on the family interesting and revealing.  And to me, the details of Barbara's marriages, other relationships with men and the challenges of motherhood vs. career, made her seem more human than her TV persona. 

Since Barbara's career was already well-established during my childhood, I hadn't thought much about a woman's difficulties in entering a broadcasting career.  I found the stories about her struggles to get taken seriously professionally, for herself and for women in general, to be enlightening.  It was a big deal for a woman to finally be recognized as a "co-host" and not just a decoration beside the male host.  Women today often forget that it really wasn't all that long ago when things were so different.

Audition then touches on details of many of the interviews that had the biggest impact for Barbara, personally or professionally.  For myself, I found this interesting even though most of the political figures were before my time (or age for me to have have noticed).  One problem, for me at least, with an audiobook - it can get a little confusing hearing foreign names in different sections and remembering exactly who is who.  Apparently, the print version of Audition has a comprehensive Index and list of interviewees to help interested people follow this better.

As we follow Barbara's career through 20/20 and The View we can see how the American audience moves more and more towards celebrity culture and gossip at the cost of political awareness.  This is then the ultimate reason that Barbara gives for deciding when it was the right time to leave 20/20.  (Another problem with doing reviews from library editions of audiobooks, is that I can't find the quote I really wanted for this since I no longer have access to it - but, IIRC, she had a scheduling conflict between a President and a reality TV star - the producers chose for her to interview the reality TV star.  I found this telling.)

Overall, Audition was one of the few books where I found myself wanting to discuss it with others afterwards.  I think a big part of why I found it compelling was that I really had no expectations of who Barbara was as a "real" person.   If you are expecting Barbara's book to be a shining example of professionalism and virtue, you are going to be sadly disappointed in her.  She is human and she has faults, but I think Audition gives you a real feel for her motivations, whether you agree with her choices or not.  She is not always the best writer, but she has lived an interesting life and met a lot of interesting people and is not afraid to give her thoughts and opinions on much of it in this book. 

Audition: A Memoir by Barbara Walters
Unabridged Audiobook narrated by Bernadette Dunne.  (not to be confused with the abridged version read by Barbara Walters)

Duration:  26 hours, 46 minutes
Publisher:  Books on Tape (a division of Random House Inc.)
ISBN:  9781415943687
Release date:  May 20, 2008
Category:  Nonfiction, Autobiography