Review: The Things We Learn When We’re Dead by Charlie Laidlaw

What happens when you’re dead? Well, that depends a lot on who you ask. In “The Things We Learn When We’re Dead”, Lorna Love finds out, in a manner of speaking, when she wakes up on a ship called the Hyperspace Vehicular Navigator: HVN for short…

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Published: 26 January 2017

Publisher: Accent Press Ltd

Category: Literary Fiction

The Things We Learn When We’re Dead is about how small decisions can have profound and unintended consequences, but how we can sometimes get a second chance.

On the way home from a dinner party, Lorna Love steps into the path of an oncoming car. When she wakes up she is in what appears to be a hospital – but a hospital in which her nurse looks like a young Sean Connery, she is served wine for supper, and everyone avoids her questions.

It soon transpires that she is in Heaven, or on HVN, because HVN is a lost, dysfunctional spaceship, and God the aging hippy captain. She seems to be there by accident… or does God have a higher purpose after all?
Despite that, The Things We Learn When We’re Dead is neither sci-fi nor fantasy. It is a book about memory and how, if we could remember things slightly differently, would we also be changed?

In HVN, Lorna can at first remember nothing. But as her memories return – some good, some bad – she realises that she has decisions to make and that, maybe, she can find a way back home.

Rating: 3 Stars

CW: scenes dealing with unplanned pregnancy/abortion, anti-fat character attitudes scattered throughout

The Things We Learn We When We’re Dead begins in Lorna’s present, actually before we learn she’s Lorna, and continues through to her afterlife, such as it is, in HVN (Heaven). The novel is then told in something resembling alternating “perspectives”, going back to Lorna’s memories. They’re not exactly flashbacks, because they don’t start in Lorna’s current time and proceed backward, thus fulfilling their name.

The relevant scenes, such as that of Lorna’s birth and stories relating to her family, are more like exposition scenes meant for the reader’s benefit. This storytelling method creates a slightly disconnected feeling. There’s a lack of linearity regarding the memories, which isn’t necessarily a negative, but it disrupted the flow of the story when I tried to orient myself the different characters and where they fit in.

I understood, while reading, that this might have been in an effort to make the reader relate to Lorna remembering things disjointedly, explained to her in Heaven as part of her regeneration, but in attempting to make it more relatable, it actually became more difficult, thus less satisfying. There’s also the manner of separating the memory and current time sections. There weren’t totally distinct chapters, rather there might have been many sub-instances of memory-current-memory within the same chapter. Going back and forth like that was a bit rough for me.

Heaven, or HVN, as a setting was such an odd place. The concept of it being both an idea (what religions think) and a place (a spaceship of a far off species that’s been stranded half a light year from Earth) wasn’t difficult to grasp. The place itself was odd in its essential breadth and inherent creepiness. It’s everything an inhabitant could ever want and this is apparently supposed to be a big selling point (just think it and it can be yours!), down to any food or experience such as lamb cutlets or high end shipping. However, along with the eternity of life is the fact that brains can’t cope with all those memories so you will forget everything eventually, even the people you loved, and the fact that because no upset is allowed in Heaven, mood controlling drugs (likened to Diazepam) are pumped into the air supply. To be honest, it made Heaven feel rather like a cult to me while I was reading.

I felt a bit ambivalent about the pacing of the book. While it’s a not a terribly long novel (around 400 pages according to Amazon), as I was reading my e-copy, it felt longer due to the manner in which it was written (particularly the jumps I mentioned earlier) as well as the long windiness of some portions. The first 30-40%, for example, is just so heavy on explanation and seemingly pointless memories that I was quite bored. There was some social commentary early on that I thought might be interesting if it went somewhere, but then Lorna died and the “action” became all about how Heaven works, what she was meant to do with this new “life”, and so on. I spent so much time waiting for something to happen.

The characters themselves, who might have alleviated some of this boredom in the meantime, weren’t particularly likable. Lorna was a bit blase but at least her memories started to introduce some depth to her as things went on. This wasn’t always a good thing, as she started out with some characteristics that I wasn’t too keen on and her memories didn’t really reassure me. Irene was not someone I liked at all. She pontificated, she judged, all the acting as though it were the right way to be and Lorna’s personality was to be disregarded in the face of a new Heaven life, as if memories were garbage. She really rubbed me the wrong way, let’s say.

The ending…oh dear, what can I say about that? I was shaking my head toward the end because I thought things were getting sorted and, as best as I can figure out, it all basically boils down to The Wizard of Oz all over again only the hamsters didn’t get to talk. The revelation of what Lorna’s situation was, the conclusion of this book, honestly just made me want to throw up my hands in frustration. It felt like I’d spent quite a lot of hours slogging through some dense text and the payoff at the end wasn’t up to snuff.

I’d venture that I might try this author’s work again, but not in this series. There wasn’t anyone in this book I’d care to know more about.

 

 

 

I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

All media (pictures, quotes, etc.) belong to the respective owners and are used here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

 

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Audiobook Review: The King of Average by Gary Schwartz

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Published: 14 December 2016 (Originally published 7 October 2016)

Publisher: Bunny Moon Enterprises LLC

Category: Middle Grade/Fiction/Humor

James isn’t the world’s greatest kid, but he’s not the worst, either: he’s average! When he decides to become the most average kid who ever lived, James is transported to another world where he meets Mayor Culpa, a well-dressed talking Scapegoat who recruits him to become the new King of Average.

He’s joined on his quest by a professional Optimist and his grouchy companion, an equally professional Pessimist. Together, they set out on a journey of self-discovery that leads them all the way from the Sea of Doubt to Mount Impossible, the highest peak in the Unattainable Mountains. When James stumbles into a Shangri-la called Epiphany, he uncovers the secret of who he really is.

Follow James on his hilarious, adventure-packed journey to find self-worth in this heartfelt middle grade novel The King of Average by debut author Gary Schwartz.

Rating: 2.5 Stars

CW: emotional abuse by a parent

The premise of The King of Average sounds like it could be a fun enough story. Who doesn’t love adventure? Sure being Average might not be what everyone wants, but it sure seems safe enough, right? Well, that’s what I thought, but there’s are some rather sad and dark reasons that made this book not be the wholly lighthearted novel that I thought it was.

The author made use of more than a few puns and quite well, I thought, from the goat Mayor Culpa to the Nervous Nellies, to phrases like “a little birdie told me” (referencing the little birdie harbinger of James’s story to the other characters). The Mayor was nice enough, reminding me very much of a certain house elf from a wizarding series. Their behaviors, such as of taking the blame for everything and head butting against things in penance, brought the resemblance into sharp relief. The other characters, such as the Optimist and the Pessimist, were very true to their names and played off each other like a pair of comedians might have done on stage.

Now, the darkness I mentioned earlier. There were rather dark undertones in the book that I’m was surprised by. There were some hints about poverty, but they got swept up in the portrayal of the main character’s emotional abusive mother, whose emotional abuse was evident explicitly in the things she said very early on and which continues to crop up throughout the story. Then, there was the Shadow, or the manifestation of James’s depression itself, which was never treated quite right. It seemed to be written as depression, with all the qualities thereof, but it seemed like the ending didn’t know how to deal with it properly and things were resolved with the flick of a switch and not really all that well.

There was history revealed as to James’s mother’s potential “reason” for the abuse she inflicted upon her child, a dream sequence that James had that reveals the cycle of abuse his mother’s family is in that felt jammed in to give her an excuse. It was an awkward scene, when James is in this scene, and once the book concluded, I felt it all the more because it once again made me feel like the dark undertones weren’t quite given the necessary respect and for a middle grade, which can tackle this subjects, I think it’s even more important.

I’m not sure whether the author meant to get so invested in this subjects of abuse and mental illness, but it hit a chord with me and I wanted to mention it because parents reading this to their children ought to know what’s coming up before stumbling over this blind, plus kids reading on their own might have questions about the nasty things this woman says.

The pacing of the book was one of my bigger problems and where I thought it dipped from being Average to being merely Okay, just a bit under the A bar there. Reading this straight through feels like more of a chore than it should. It just didn’t have enough fun in it, enough humor, to make it enjoyable to swallow all at once. It slogs in places and that makes the overall thing suffer. Because I alternately listened to the provided audiobook and an e-copy that I picked up, I think I saw both sides of the coin: reading with my eyes and my ears. The King of Average comes out much better as a “being read to” book, maybe as a nightly treat, than it does a “soldier through it”.

Gary Schwartz was a good narrator. While I wouldn’t say I became fully immersed in the story, I can fully imagine Schwartz reading this at a reading event in a bookstore or some such event. The emphasis, the enthusiasm, it all came across in his telling.

The King of Average was longer than needed, didn’t treat all its angles with the attention they needed, but had some fun moments and really reveled in its puns.

 

 

 

 

 

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

All media (pictures, quotes, etc.) belong to the respective owners and are used here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

 

Waiting on Wednesday: In an Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire

Waiting on Wednesday

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event created by Breaking the Spine in which we highlight a title we’re looking forward to reading. You can find their website here.

The Wayward Children series has swiftly become one of my favorite series. It answers the question: what happens to those individuals that go through portals into fantasy worlds when they come back, willing or no? Have you ever wondered what life might have been like for Alice, for the Pevensie children, for Dorothy? Read these books and find out what it’s like to finally find a world where you belong, only to lose it.

 

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Published: 8 January 2019

Publisher: Tor.com

Category: Fantasy

This is the story of a very serious young girl who would rather study and dream than become a respectable housewife and live up to the expectations of the world around her. As well she should.

When she finds a doorway to a world founded on logic and reason, riddles and lies, she thinks she’s found her paradise. Alas, everything costs at the goblin market, and when her time there is drawing to a close, she makes the kind of bargain that never plays out well.

For anyone . . .

In An Absent Dream tells the story of one of the characters introduced in McGuire’s first Wayward Child book, Every Heart a Doorway. Lundy wasn’t the focus of that book, but there was enough detail to make a story all about her very tantalizing.

A goblin market alone would make for a fascinating story. A tale set in that sort of world, knowing what’s coming? I have a feeling this book will be equally thrilling and heartbreaking.

2019 is going to be full of tears.

 

 

 

 

 

All media (pictures, quotes, etc.) belong to the respective owners and are used here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

 

Spotlight: Literary Book Gifts

Today on my blog, I’m trying something new and spotlight a company who produces gifts with a bookish theme that I think my readers would enjoy.

 

 

Melissa at Literary Book Gifts has a range of items from t-shirts to totes to backpacks that suite many literary tastes. Read on to view some of the visually fascinating products Melissa has in stock and at the end pick up a discount code just for readers of The Hermit Librarian blog!

Note: all prices and links are accurate as of this post date.

 

Alice in Wonderland Backpack ($58.00 USD)

 

The backpacks look particularly attractive. Made out of padded material with well seamed looking sides, they come in three sizes and with a padded laptop sleeve.

Also on Literary Book Gifts you can find shirts, tanks, and hoodies, available in range of colors and sizes. Some titles, like Anne of Green Gables  pictured below, are available in all three styles in complementary colors.

Women’s Anne of Green Gables Hoodie ($48 USD), Women’s T-shirt ($28 USD),
Women’s Tank Top ($24 USD)

 

The prices between Women’s and Men’s items are identical, which I like because I usually find a huge disparity on other sites. There’s not one between sizes, either, as of this post.

Men’s Wuthering Heights Hoodie ($48 USD), Men’s 20,000 Leagues T-shirt ($28 USD),
Men’s Cinderella Tank Top ($24 USD)

 

According to the Sizing Chart, all tops start at Small with Women’s going to 3x and Men’s to 5x at present. While not all sizes appear in the drop down menus right now, they will appear in the future. Until then, an email to the site can have it added to the catalog for your purchasing convenience.

Another thing to take note of: in each item’s description, it lists important information such as material, how the sizing runs (larger/smaller). Having this kind of information in such an accessible place makes me happier about ordering clothes from the site.

Regarding color, as I said, there seems to be a wide range from light to dark. I would recommend taking advantage of the preview images to see whether you think the chosen design looks right again the background. Some of the text tends to not stand out well against the lighter/brighter colors, such as the white text against certain grays or yellows.

Men’s Emily Dickinson T-Shirt ($28 USD)

 

Back to bags, the totes are just as nice as the backpacks. The colors, like the backpacks, are limited to the ones chosen by the designed, but I think they’ve been chosen well as they appear to be complimentary to the story or piece they represent.

 

Dracula Tote ($28), Peter Rabbit Tote ($28), The Garden Party Tote ($28)

 

There are three sizes available in totes, from 13/17/18 inches in height and 13/15/18 inches length to give you an idea of the size. No note on width, so I’d imagine you couldn’t pack these with as many books as the backpacks, but they’d do well for some shopping and certainly for gifting to that bookworm in your life.

While looking into the site, I made more than a few notes about things I’d like to buy myself and I hope that my spotlight on Literary Book Gifts has given you a few ideas as well. Melissa was kind enough to make a special discount code for fans of The Hermit Librarian. It’s good for 20% off your purchase at Literary Book Gifts. I hope you’ll find something nice for yourself and come back and share it with me. 🙂 The code is: TheHermitLibrarian20. It can be used on anything in the store, no minimum, and has unlimited uses.

 

 

 

 

 

All media (pictures, quotes, etc.) belong to the respective owners and are used here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

 

Star-Touched Stories Blog Tour: An Excerpt from Roshani Chokshi’s Newest Release

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Roshani Chokshi has a deft hand at her craft, weaving worlds that embrace the reader and take us away, whether it be in her novels The Star-Touched QueenCrown of Wishes, or this newest bind-up of short fiction that accompanies those two, Star-Touched Stories.

Returning to the world of Otherworldly beings and the humans that interact with them, readers are treated to new faces and old, familiar stories that go on just a bit longer and reveal depths about Death & Night, spy mistresses, and a whispered tale of doomed love.

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Published: 7 August 2018

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Category: Fantasy/Young Adult/Short Stories

Three lush and adventurous stories in the Star-Touched world.

Death and Night

He was Lord of Death, cursed never to love. She was Night incarnate, destined to stay alone. After a chance meeting, they wonder if, perhaps, they could be meant for more. But danger crouches in their paths, and the choices they make will set them on a journey that will span lifetimes.

Poison and Gold

Now that her wish for a choice has come true, Aasha struggles to control her powers. But when an opportunity to help Queen Gauri and King Vikram’s new reign presents itself, she is thrown into the path of the fearsome yet enchanting Spy Mistress. To help her friends, Aasha will have to battle her insecurities and perhaps, along the way, find love.

Rose and Sword

There is a tale whispered in the dark of the Empire of Bharat-Jain. A tale of a bride who loses her bridegroom on the eve of her wedding. But is it a tale or a truth?

Rating: 5 Stars

Roshani Chokshi’s eloquent writing remains as beautiful as ever. The worlds crafted trend toward the fantastical, weaving intricate images of gardens and beings at the Night Market. Physicality aside, there’s also the depth of feeling the reader gets from the characters. Interacting with one another, it’s possible to really understand the depth of want, need, loneliness, fear. These aren’t passing mentions that in a lesser hand might just be words. Chokshi’s compels the reader to experience heartache right alongside her characters, to laugh with them as mock each other, to long for an answer to their problem just as much.

My favorite tale was “Death and Night”, a novella that was the first offering of Star-Touched Stories. It had all of the emotional buildup that I mentioned above, but it also had levity that I think some stories lack when the focus is so much on romance. Gupta, the adviser to Death, was a kick. He was able to make remarks to Death that few others might have dared and his demeanor was overall pleasant.

This book is considered 2.5 of the Star-Touched series, with each story taking place at intervals around the main works (Queen, Crown). I think that it would be possible to read it without having read those two primary books, but there would be something lost in the reading, especially in regards to Poison & Gold, which would actually be a bit spoiler-y for A Crown of Wishes.

Are you ready to pick up Star-Touched Stories? Read below for an excerpt from the book, a look into Death & Night:

 

Excerpt

 

>> 1 <<

DEATH

 

I stood outside the home, watching as the light beaded and dripped down the length of the Tapestry thread. I waited. There was never any rush. Not for me at least.

The light dangled from the end of the string, clinging and re- luctant. A passing wind stirred the ends of the thread, teasing out strands of memory. The memories plumed into the air, releasing the scent of a life lived in love. One by one, the memories unraveled— a pillow shared by two heads bent close in secrecy, a frayed blanket kept inside an eternally empty cradle, a table that sagged from the weight of uncertain feasts. Happiness stolen from the edges of sorrow.

I stepped over the threshold.

The lights in the hut extinguished. Shadows slipped off the walls to gather around my feet. Inside the hut, someone had propped up a stingy fire. Cinnamon scented the air. Past the dusty vestibule, rows upon rows of bay leaves hung from the ceiling. Strange runes scratched into small animal bones and ivory hairpins lay in carefully constructed patterns. I laughed. Someone had tried to ward me away. But there was no door that didn’t open to me.

At the far corner of the house huddled two people. A man in the arms of a woman. Old age had blessed him, yet for all his gnarled veins and silver-streaked hair, the woman cradled him as if he were a child. He murmured softly into the crook of her neck. I watched them. She wasn’t crying.

The woman looked up . . . and saw me. How refreshing.

“Greetings, Dharma Raja,” said the woman in a clear voice.

I took in the bay leaves and bone pins. “You were expecting me, I take it.”

“Yes,” she said, hanging her head. “I regret that I cannot serve you any food or drink or treat you as a guest in our home.”

“Don’t let it trouble you,” I said, waving my hand. “I am rarely a guest. Merely an inevitable occurrence.”

Her husband did not stir in her arms. His breath had grown soft. While the woman had kept her eyes trained on me, I had taken away his pain, siphoned it bit by bit. I was in a generous mood.

“You have come for him.”

“As I will for you, one day. I could tell you the hour, if you wish it.”

“No.”

I shrugged. “Very well.”

She clutched him tighter. Her hands trembled. I knew she could feel his life unspooling. She may have seen me, but she did not see his life pooling beneath him.

 

“May I ask something of you, Dharma Raja?” “You may.”

But I need not honor it.

“We always wished to leave this life together.”

“I cannot change your appointed time, even if I wished.”

She closed her eyes. “Then may I request, instead, that you not let him pass to the next life until I may join him there?”

Now this was interesting. I sank backward into the air, and an onyx throne swirled up to meet me. I tilted my head, watching her. “Why? I haven’t weighed your life yet. What if you were far more honorable than your husband in this life? I could pour your soul into the mold of a princess blessed with beauty and intellect, riches and wonders. I could add silver to your heart and fortify you from any heartbreak. I could give you a life worthy of legends.” She shook her head. “I would rather have him.”

“You’d rather have him, and whatever life that entails?” I leaned forward, eyeing the dingy room.

Her eyes flashed. “Yes.”

“He may not even come back as a human. Believe me. I’ve remade emperors into cockroaches and cockroaches into kings. You seem like a reasonably intelligent woman. Would you truly like to keep house for a bug?”

She lifted her chin. “I would be his mate in any form.”

A curious emotion prickled my skin, nudging the back of my thoughts. My hands tightened on the shadow throne. Before I could stop myself, the question flew from me:

“Why? ”

“Because I love him,” said the woman. “I would prefer any life with him than any life without him. Even the deities know love to the point that they will chase their counterpart through thousands of lifetimes. Surely you, oh Dharma Raja, understand how extraordinary love can be?”

I knew very well what could come of love. I had seen it. Been cursed by it. Even now, I thought of her. The way she ran away and left a shadow in her place. Love was extraordinary.

Extraordinarily spiteful. Extraordinarily blind. Extraordinarily misleading. “Bold words,” I said.

“They do not move you?”

I shrugged. “You may appeal and supplicate and wheedle as you wish, but I have heard every excuse and plea and sputter, and my heart has never been moved.”

The woman bowed her head. She gathered her husband to her chest. Her wedding bangles clanked together, breaking the silence. When I left, custom dictated that she must remove those wedding ornaments. Widows did not wear such bracelets. I had not consid- ered until now that the sound itself was a thing near death. And that chime—gold against gold—struck me far louder than any keening. In the echoes, I heard something hollow. And lonely.

I dropped the noose. It slid through the man’s skin, noiseless as silk. Life had left him. All that was left was his soul.

You never forget what it’s like to withdraw a soul. It is an un- clasping. Sometimes a soul is tough and hard, surrounded by sin- ews of memories gone brittle with age. Sometimes a soul is soft and bursting like wind-fallen fruit, all bruised tenderness and stale hope. And sometimes a soul is an ethereal shard of light. As if the force of its life is a scorching thing.

This soul belonged to light.

When the woman looked down, she knew that her husband was gone. The thing she cradled was nothing more than meat soon to spoil. Tears slid down her wrinkled cheeks.

“Come now,” I said, standing from the throne. “I have taken husbands when their wives still wore the henna from their wedding. I consider you lucky.”

“I beg of you,” she said. “Don’t let him move on without me. He would have asked the same.”

I swung the soul into a satchel and the light faded. I headed for the door, more out of formality than anything else. If I wanted, I could’ve disappeared right then and there.

“Please. What would you do for someone you loved?”

I stopped short. “I can’t say I’ve had the pleasure of that provocation.”

“You love no one?” she asked, her eyebrows rising in disbelief. “I love myself. Does that count?”

And then I left.

 

About the Author

Roshani Chokshi CREDIT Aman Sharma

Photo by Aman Sharma

 

ROSHANI CHOKSHI is the New York Times bestselling author of The Star-Touched Queen, A Crown of Wishes, and Aru Shah and the End of Time. Her work has appeared in Strange Horizons, Shimmer, and Book Smugglers. Her short story, “The Star Maiden,” was longlisted for the British Fantasy Science Award.

 

 

 

 

 

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley as part of a blog tour in exchange for an honest review.

All media (pictures, quotes, etc.) belong to the respective owners and are used here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

 

Waiting on Wednesday: Comics Will Break Your Heart by Faith Erin Hicks

 

Waiting on Wednesday

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event created by Breaking the Spine in which we highlight a title we’re looking forward to reading. You can find their website here.

I love comics. I love manga and American style and the works. So, while I can’t remember the exact moment that I added this book to my to-be-read list, upon reading the description, I sure can tell you why I added it.

 

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Published: 12 February 2019

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

Category: Young Adult/Graphic Novels/Sequential Art

A sweet, funny contemporary teen romance for the inner geek in all of us from graphic novelist Faith Erin Hicks.

Miriam’s family should be rich. After all, her grandfather was the co-creator of smash-hit comics series The TomorrowMen. But he sold his rights to the series to his co-creator in the 1960s for practically nothing, and now that’s what Miriam has: practically nothing. And practically nothing to look forward to either-how can she afford college when her family can barely keep a roof above their heads? As if she didn’t have enough to worry about, Miriam’s life gets much more complicated when a cute boy shows up in town . . . and turns out to be the grandson of the man who defrauded Miriam’s grandfather, and heir to the TomorrowMen fortune.

In her endearing debut novel, cartoonist Faith Erin Hicks pens a sensitive and funny Romeo and Juliet tale about modern romance, geek royalty, and what it takes to heal the long-festering scars of the past (Spoiler Alert: love).

I haven’t heard a lot about Comics Will Break Your Heart which seems a real shame. The author/artist behind it, Faith Erin Hicks, has done some amazing work. Among her published works is her current series, The Nameless City, now being released by First Second, a graphic novels company after my own heart.

The plot behind Faith’s new series is inspired by a classic Shakespearean tale, but who knows? There’s a lot more at play here than the general R&J outline. There’s the possibility of young love, sure, but also poverty, resentment, justice, and an art form that Miriam and the grandson of her family’s enemy just might be able to bond over. So many angles, so much to choose from, I don’t know where Faith’s going to take this book.

I’m hoping to see a lot of depth from Miriam’s side of the family. I know there’s going to be a lot of heartbreak and probably more than a little bitterness, which from the look of things sounds rightfully earned. But who knows? Is there another side to it? Another truth, as it were? What is the co-creator’s story? Stories change throughout generations and I’m sure there’s going to be explanations galore or something of the sort. What kind though? What are these kids and their families going to have to go through to find peace?

February seems like such a long time away, but with the speed that 2018 seems to be passing, I think we’ll be there before we know it and devouring this book.

 

 

 

 

 

All media (pictures, quotes, etc.) belong to the respective owners and are used here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

 

 

Audiobook Review: Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery, Performed by Laurel Schroeder

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Physical Copies: Amazon  – Barnes & Noble  –  Book Depository  –   Indiebound

Published: 30 June 2017 (first published June 1908)

Publisher: Spoken Realms

Category: Classics/Childrens/Historical Fiction

When Anne Shirley arrives at Green Gables farm on Prince Edward Island, she surprises everyone: first of all, she is a girl. Marilla Cuthbert and her brother, Matthew, had specifically asked for an orphan boy. She has bright red hair that won’t manage and a mouth that won’t shut. Nothing will ever be the same at Green Gables!
A favorite story of generations of girls ever since it was first published in 1908, Lucy Maud Montgomery’s classic story of one girl’s profound effect on a small Canadian community has stayed in print for nearly one hundred years and has been made into a popular TV series and even a musical.

Rating: 3.5 Stars (Performance: 4 Stars; Story: 3 Stars)

Anne of Green Gables is a classic novel that I remember begging to purchase in a Waldenbooks years ago when I was a child. Sadly I cannot remember if I ever did read it; I think I did and I do have that copy on my shelf. Luckily, Jess at Audiobookwork Promotions gave me the opportunity to listen to an edition of this widely beloved tale as part of the Adopt-an-Audiobook Program, for which I’m very thankful.

Audiobook Review

Laurel Schroeder is the narrator of Spoken Realms’s version of Anne. Before starting this book, I’d never heard her perform before, but now that I have, I would add her to the list of narrators or voice actors that I would be happy to listen to again. The pitch in her voice never reached a level that I found unpleasant, a point that I hold to be very important with audiobooks.

Laurel read very clearly and didn’t mumble at all, also very important. I never strained to hear what was going on, even when it was implied that a character might be reserved in their speech. It was easy enough to tell the characters apart, as far as the adults went. I thought that the children, aside from Anne, tended to sound a bit too similar overall.

The sound quality was excellent. There was no scratchiness in the background, no unnecessary musical elements between chapters or added nature sounds that tried to force a sense of setting. The writing and the voice actor did that just fine on their own. Letting these factors shine rather than adding in surplus bits was a smart decision on the part of the production company.

Anne of Green Gables translates very well to an audiobook format. If anything, I think it gains something in the transition because a lot of what makes Anne special is her energy and her fondness for stories, something which someone can imagine, but which can really be enhanced by a good narrator, which Laurel Schroeder was. All the enthusiasm that Anne had for life leaped right off the page and came to life in the air around me as I was listening. If you’re going to listen to any audiobook presentation of Anne of Green Gables, I would recommend this one.

Text Review

The execution of bringing L.M. Montgomery’s book to life was exceptional and got me to enjoy it quite a lot more than I think I would have if I were reading a physical edition.

Montgomery’s text, I had to remember, was written over a hundred years ago and there were some sentiments that were definitely of the time, especially regarding other nationalities.

The author also tended to wax poetical about nature, particularly flowers. Flowers in and of themselves are nice enough, but it felt like, after awhile, I was hearing about them far too often and I began to tire of the frequent occurrences and the time spent on said occurrences.

Another thing about that I thought I noticed about the writing was that Montgomery tended to tell rather than show, particularly when there were large periods of time to be gotten past. As the reader we didn’t get to experience these times with Anne or her fellows, we just got a passing mention of the months that had passed before the author got to the point she’d really wanted to write about. For example, Anne’s time spent at Queen’s school was hardly mentioned at all, even though it was extremely important to her as a character.

A branching off point to this is that because of the abundance of telling rather than showing, I felt like there wasn’t as much heart to the overall novel as there could have been. Anne is a character that is ready to be in your heart forever and in the scenes where she’s allowed to be herself, she truly exhibits this. As the novel progressed, though, and she spent more time among the people of Avonlea and more time was “told”, it felt like she wasn’t that girl anymore. Oh sure, we were told she was, that she had the old love of stories still, but it felt like her soul was being tramped down to make her respectable in the eyes of the people around her, like she wasn’t really allowed to be herself after all.

Conclusion

The narration performance of Laurel Schroeder makes this book a much more pleasant performance than I think reading the page would have been. I’d recommend buying this Audible version if at all possible if you’re thinking of reading Anne of Green Gables because your experience will be infinitely better. Here’s hoping Laurel will do more in the series of Anne books.

 

 

 

 

 

I received this audiobook at no-cost from Audiobookworm Promotions. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it.

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