The Hammer of Thor by Rick Riordan (audiobook)

*This review may contain spoilers if you haven’t read the first book, The Sword of Summer.*

“Just like the good old days: marching together into the unknown, searching for missing magical weapons and risking painful death. I’d missed my buddies!”

Synopsis from GoodreadsThor’s hammer is missing again. The thunder god has a disturbing habit of misplacing his weapon–the mightiest force in the Nine Worlds. But this time the hammer isn’t just lost, it has fallen into enemy hands. If Magnus Chase and his friends can’t retrieve the hammer quickly, the mortal worlds will be defenseless against an onslaught of giants. Ragnarok will begin. The Nine Worlds will burn. Unfortunately, the only person who can broker a deal for the hammer’s return is the gods’ worst enemy, Loki–and the price he wants is very high.

Feelings: While I didn’t care much for the narrator, the storyline was pretty good. There were a lot of hot button “issues” going on in this story, which made it feel really relevant, even with all the mythology and history mixed in. I think Riordan handled it well, showing us multiple perspectives, dishing up truths, and making us feel vulnerable all at the same time.

Issues: I still don’t love the talking sword. Sorry, Jack. It just weirds me out!

I got to the end of this book and was only dazzled by mentions of Annabeth and Percy. It just…ended. I didn’t feel like things were really resolved, but rather recycled. I felt like I’d read this story before. Sometimes Riordan’s books echo each other (lost item, angry gods, tricky monsters) but it doesn’t always FEEL so familiar because of the new crew and circumstances. This time, though, I just felt like I’d done this song and dance before. I’m still going to give the story 4 stars simply because the characters and writing overshadowed any issues I had.

Narrator: Kieran Culkin narrates this book and adds a good amount of fun to the story. However, I noticed the voices he used changed over time. So the way he voices Alex, the girl, in the beginning, is different from how he voiced Alex, the girl, in the middle or the end. Culkin just lacked some consistency. While I think he narrated Magnus well, the rest of his performance lacked depth. My rating for the narrator alone is 2.5 stars out of 5.

Final thoughts: As always, I love Riordan’s writing and the way his narrators have a voice. I enjoyed the cast of characters in this story and the journey we took together. It’s definitely an upper middle grade level story, so just know that going into it. I’d recommend the print version of this book over the audio, just as a personal preference.

Pick this up if you liked:

The Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan

The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

Loki’s Wolves by K.L. Armstrong and M.A. Marr

Goodreads rating: 4.37/5

Audible.com rating: 4.6/5

My rating: 4/5

Happy reading! – Caitlyn

May I Have Your Attention, Please? (audiobook) by James Corden

“The difference between doing something and not doing something is doing something.”

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Synopsis from GoodreadsAs far back as he can remember James Corden has only ever wanted to be in one place: in front of you, doing something to make you cry, shout, scream or giggle uncontrollably; whether it’s entertaining the congregation at his baby sister’s christening at the age of four, clowning around in class, or snogging Sue Barker in front of thousands of people at Sports Relief. May I Have Your Attention Please? Is the story of how it all happened. From his time as one of the founding players of his school’s first ever rugby team to nationwide fame as the loveably loud Smithy in the award-winning Gavin and Stacey, this is a tenderly — and very funnily — told story of what it’s like to try, try and try again and get there in the end.

Feelings: This book was okay. Going into this book, I really didn’t know much about James Corden and unfortunately, I was coming off the high that Trevor Noah’s audiobook had given me. So I may have unfairly compared them, which you just can’t do.

There were some parts that made me laugh out loud and others that brought a smile to my face. At some points, I got distracted and was only half listening, while at other points I just had to turn it off. My response from beginning to end was kind of all over the place. However, I did enjoy the last few chapters when he talked about his experience working with celebrities for charity sketches. Then I immediately looked the sketches up on YouTube.

When he got to his experience with “The History Boys”, I was really interested. I actually didn’t know it started as a play, but I’ve seen the movie many times!

Issues: I was surprised by the amount of negativity and apologies. He apologized to people from his past and he apologized to the reader. This is one of my pet peeves when it comes to books. If you have to apologize for something being boring, either make it more interesting or take it out. When he made this specific apology in the book, I thought…huh…he’s right…that was boring. I guess I was just expecting him to be much lighter, after watching him on The Late Late Show.

I was expecting it to be…funnier? I’m not sure why, I mean…it’s about his life, not a book of jokes. Sometimes it just felt like a timeline, while at other points it was just repeating something that had already been stated. When I just had 3 hours left in the audiobook, I wasn’t nearly as interested as I had been at first.

The way he talked about his work was weird. We’d go from him discussing his role in Fat Friends and being in a stage show, then how he’d be in The History Boys and oh yeah, another film role at the same time. It was just kind of hard to follow because he’d go from talking about one work which would remind him of something else and he’d tell us a story about it. I kept wondering…wait what show are we talking about now?

Narrator: I did enjoy the fact that Corden narrated it, himself. His accent and gusto made it easy to listen to. Plus he does all the different accents for people from other parts of Britain, and as an American…if I’d just been reading it, I wouldn’t have known the differences between voices. As a narrator, I’d give James Corden 4.5 stars.

Final thoughts: If you’re a huge fan of James Corden, then sure…pick this up. If you just like watching his carpool karaoke videos, maybe skip this one. It wasn’t what I was hoping, as a fan of his late night bits.

 

Goodreads rating: 3.86/5

Audible.com rating: 4.4/5

My rating: 3/5

Happy reading! – Caitlyn

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah (audiobook)

“Language, even more than color, defines who you are to people.”

born-a-crime

Synopsis from GoodreadsTrevor Noah’s unlikely path from apartheid South Africa to the desk of The Daily Show began with a criminal act: his birth. Trevor was born to a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother at a time when such a union was punishable by five years in prison. Living proof of his parents’ indiscretion, Trevor was kept mostly indoors for the earliest years of his life, bound by the extreme and often absurd measures his mother took to hide him from a government that could, at any moment, steal him away. Finally liberated by the end of South Africa’s tyrannical white rule, Trevor and his mother set forth on a grand adventure, living openly and freely and embracing the opportunities won by a centuries-long struggle.

The eighteen personal essays collected here are by turns hilarious, dramatic, and deeply affecting. Whether subsisting on caterpillars for dinner during hard times, being thrown from a moving car during an attempted kidnapping, or just trying to survive the life-and-death pitfalls of dating in high school, Trevor illuminates his curious world with an incisive wit and unflinching honesty. His stories weave together to form a moving and searingly funny portrait of a boy making his way through a damaged world in a dangerous time, armed only with a keen sense of humor and a mother’s unconventional, unconditional love.

Feelings: This audiobook was the highest-rated new book of 2016 by Audible customers and was the winner of Audible’s Best of 2016 – Celebrity Memoirs. And I completely understand why. I’m a fan of Trevor Noah. I especially kept up with The Daily Show during the presidential election process. He has a way of sifting through the political BS and in a way, he made sure I was really seeing what was going on. He has such a unique perspective, which you learn all about in this book, and I now have a deeper understanding of where he’s coming from during his commentary on American politics and culture.

He has a great ability to paint a picture of a world I’ve never experienced. In no way can I say that I now suddenly totally understand what it’s like to be considered colored in South Africa, but I do finally have a surface level understanding…which is more than I had before. I also was completely unaware of the number of languages and stigmatisms throughout South Africa. In the book, he talks about how black people in South Africa hated John Cecil Rhodes more than Hitler, because of the difference in impact for their people and I wanted to hide under a rock. (See my last name to understand.) I’d always heard that he “founded” or “established” Zimbabwe (once called Rhodesia), but I was completely naive to the negative side of what he did. Now I”m interested in learning more about someone who may have been my ancestor.

Issues: When I picked up this audiobook, I’d just finished another collection of essays. I think this may have tainted my experience with this book. The only issue I really had was with the way the essays were organized. I tried to figure out why they were in the order that they were, but I couldn’t really track with it. They weren’t necessarily in time order, so sometimes it took me a minute to figure out when it was in relation to what he’d already shared.

Narration: No one else could have done this book justice. His accent and personality make this an easy listening book. He does different voices for the people he quotes, speaks in multiple languages, and adds little quirks that, to me, have become trademark Trevor Noah. Rating him as a narrator independent from the actual story, I’d give him 5 stars.

Final thoughts: I really enjoyed this audiobook. I think it would be great on its own, if you aren’t into audiobooks, but his narration really adds something special. I’m now really interested in audiobooks from authors who had very different experiences for me. There’s something about hearing it in their own voice that adds more life to their story. I also want to say, that even if you don’t watch The Daily Show for whatever reason, this book isn’t loaded with political commentary. So it’s still a great read.

This is a great video posted by Audible.com where he talks about his writing process!

 

Goodreads rating: 4.57/5

Audible.com rating: 4.9/5

My rating: 4.75/5

Happy reading! – Caitlyn

Top 5 Audiobooks

I’m not an auditory learner; I’m super visual. I need illustrations and demonstrations, I need to write things down and look at them over and over again. This is how my brain works. But a couple of years ago, I decided to give audiobooks a try. I’ve noticed that when I listen to an audiobook and do other things at the same time, I don’t process everything that happens, unlike when I’m actually reading the pages of a book. When my attention is split, I’m really just picking up things here and there. I tend to choose non-fiction for audiobooks, because I don’t necessarily need to keep up with a plot line. However, sometimes if I’ve already read a book once before or if I’m not 100% feeling it anyway, I’ll choose to listen to the audiobook.

These are 5 of my favorite audiobooks. My local library lets me check audiobooks out online, as well as my school library. I also have an audible subscription so that I can pick out one new audiobook a month.

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Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling, narrated by Jim Dale

I’ve listened to the first HP book that was narrated by Stephen Fry, as well as Jim Dale’s, and I definitely prefer my good friend Jim. I’ve only listened to the first three books so far and this one is my favorite by far. Jim Dale has a way of capturing each character’s essence and the mood of a scene that is captivating. His voice is so easy to listen to and he made me want to keep listening, no matter what I should have been doing at the time. Ha!

illuminae-audio

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff, narrated by Olivia Taylor Dudley, Lincoln Hoppe, and Jonathan McClain

The best way to experience this story is to listen to the audiobook and read the print at the same time. There are diagrams and pictures in the printed text that you can’t fully understand from the audio alone. I liked the narrators. I wasn’t ever really annoyed by them, which is a make or break thing for me. It SOUNDED like it was happening in space. You just have to hear it to know what I mean. This is such a cool story. Please read it. And listen to it.

six-of-crows-audio

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo, narrated by Jay Snyder, David LeDoux, Lauren Fortgang, Roger Clark, Elizabeth Evans, Tristan Morris, and Brandon Rubin

YES. There ARE that many narrators. It’s crazy; it has a full cast, you guys. I wouldn’t say that I love that it has 7 narrators because they each have slightly different interpretations of characters. There are a few scenes that played out better in my head, with my own interpretations when I read the print version. But because it has 7 narrators, it’s different and I didn’t get bored with it. (Unlike the Song of Ice and Fire audiobooks…I get burned out on hearing the same guy talk for like 48 hours.)

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Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, narrated by Rosamund Pike

I will forever and always love this book. That being said, I was skeptical about listening to the audio because I didn’t want it to be tainted by anyone. Then I saw Rosamund Pike was the narrator and I think she was the perfect Jane Bennet, so I gave it a chance. I loved it. Rosamund Pike is one of those people that I could listen to all day and she really understands this family. I’ll probably listen to this many times in the future. If you’re skeptical about reading classics, I’d recommend starting with this audiobook.

kaling-audio

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling, narrated by Mindy Kaling

I’ve listened to quite a few good non-fiction audiobooks (including For the Love by Jen Hatmaker, who also narrates it), but this one stands out as my favorite. I know that not everyone loves Mindy Kaling (including my own mother) and I’m really ok with that, but I love her. I think she’s hilarious. I think I enjoyed listening to her read this book far more than I would have liked reading it on my own. Her words in her voice is the way to go.

What are some of your favorite audiobooks? Let me know in the comments below!

Happy listening! – Caitlyn