These are two audiobooks that I received for review and listened to with my two older kids. It takes us a little while to get through these because I can only listen when the three of us are in the car together (or suffer their wrath), but these were both well worth the wait! Hopefully these bite-sized reviews will be enough to feed your fiction addiction!
Published by Dreamscape Media on 4/12/16
Genres: Middle Grade, Fantasy, Fairy Tales, Legends & Mythology
Pages: 320 Audio Length: 8 hours and 12 minutes
Source: AudioBook Jukebox
Xander Miyamoto would rather do almost anything than listen to his sixth grade teacher, Mr. Stedman, drone on about weather disasters happening around the globe. When spring break begins at last, Xander plans to spend it playing computer games with his best friend, Peyton. Xander’s father briefly distracts him with a comic book about some samurai warrior that pops out of a peach pit. Little does either boy know that the comic is a warning that they are about to be thrust into the biggest adventure of their lives. To win at this deadly serious game they will have to rely on their wits, courage, faith, and especially, each other. Maybe Xander should have listened to Mr. Stedman about the weather after all.
This book was absolutely perfect for us because of how excited my son has been about Japanese culture. None of us had ever heard the Japanese folktale that this book is based on—Momotaro (about a Japanese samurai who is found as a boy in a peach!), but we really enjoyed learning the tale right along with Xander and his best friend Peyton. When the book begins, Xander is an average, everyday kid who tends to get in a bit of trouble at school because his head is in the clouds. Xander is creative, which shows up in his artwork and in his video game programming, but he doesn’t feel like his creativity is particularly appreciated. Until one day when Xander’s world is turned upside down—his father is taken by oni (which are sort of Japanese demons), and Xander discovers that he might have to be very creative indeed to get him back. It turns out that Momotaro’s story is much more important than Xander ever imagined as he and Peyton are faced with tsunamis, strange creatures, oni, and other friends and foes. This book is filled with Japanese cultural references and folkloric magic (neverending rice balls to eat!) that make it incredibly fun, and it’s action-packed which kept it exciting.
I have to confess that I wasn’t as fond of the very beginning of the book, when Xander was still in school. His thoughts and feelings about school and some of his classmates weren’t my favorite aspect of the book, but it didn’t take long to be rid of the school setting and to move onto the fantastical adventures, so I’m not taking much off of my rating for that. My kids and I can’t wait to hear the next installment and we’re eagerly awaiting more of Xander’s adventures!
Narration: I thought the narration for this book was spot-on! Chris Patton has a great kid voice that sounds natural for this age group, and his inflections and speech patterns made him completely believable as a middle grade MC.
Overall, I give this book 4.5/5 Stars.
***Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher via AudioBook Jukebox in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***
Escape From Kraile by J.R. Cleveland
Self Published on 3/17/16
Genres: Young Adult, Science Fiction
Pages: 231 Audio Length: 6 hours and 59 minutes
Source: Audiobook Boom!
After discovering two aliens trying to milk a cow in his Grandfather’s barn, fourteen year old Luke Summers is abducted. Scared out of his wits, he soon discovers that the aliens, Simon and Leonidas, aren’t planning to probe him… huge relief.
Instead, after injecting Luke with nano-translators so he can understand them, they tell him that his parents, both astronauts who were pronounced dead during a failed mission to Mars, are still alive… and they need his help to rescue them from an evil spider-alien dictator named Drac Moor.
There’s just one itsy bitsy catch. Luke will first need to be “reconditioned” so that he can withstand the harsh alien atmospheres that he’ll be subjected to. Oh… and it’s probably going to hurt a little.
Follow along as Luke stumbles through one disaster after another, in an attempt to pull off a daring prison break and free his parents before it’s too late.
This was a delightful book that took me completely by surprise. For some reason I wasn’t expecting to love it as much as I did. My kids and I thoroughly enjoyed the story and were engaged right from the very start. Luke’s experiences in space are full of action, danger and mystery as he goes on a (sometimes crazy) quest to save his parents from a deadly race of aliens. I loved all of the fun references to alien conspiracy theories (yep, this book confirms that aliens helped build the pyramids. Who knew?), and it was truly interesting to see what the aliens thought about humans and human emotions. One small detail that didn’t make sense to me: the aliens seemed to be incredibly impressed by the fact that humans are willing to put themselves in danger for others, but the aliens themselves were doing that for Luke and his family. (I guess the argument could be made that they were doing that out of duty rather than sacrifice, but it didn’t seem completely that way.) I did enjoy how Simon and Leonidas seemed very logical at first but as Luke got to know them you totally saw their soft sides.
Narration: I’m hoping the audiobooks for the next two books in the series come out soon because we really enjoyed listening to these—my kids especially loved that the narrator gave the aliens interesting voices. They were bummed to hear that we might have to actually read the next two if we want to get to them soon. 🙂 Braden Wright is an excellent narrator, though it took me a little while to get used to his deeper, more serious voice right after listening to Momotaro, where the full narration was in more of a kid’s voice. (Wright did a great job with Luke’s fourteen-year-old voice in the dialogue, but he didn’t sound kiddish for the whole narration—which was totally fine, just different.) And, like I mentioned before, Wright did a fantastic job with all of the different alien character voices.
I highly recommend this book if you’re looking for something fun to read or listen to with younger YA readers (or MG, though there is a bit of violence in parts—nothing too horrible). This one gets 4/5 Stars.
***Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher via Audiobook Boom! in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***