Tabitha Sparks and the Door to Everywhere – Jae El Foster [Audiobook Review]

tabitha sparksI don’t really listen to audiobooks, but I was approached very kindly by Kathleen Powell, the narrator for Tabitha Sparks and the Door to Everywhere, and asked if I would be interested in reviewing the audiobook. I decided I would give it a go.

Blurb

Intelligent, kind Tabitha Sparks has a wonderful life, with loving parents, a kind tutor, and an unusual connection to nature. But one day, when returning from her favourite place, she finds her parents and house completely gone, without a trace. Child Services take Tabitha to live with her last living relative, Aunt Demonia. In a cold, lifeless house, Tabitha discovers something wonderful, something which could lead her to her parents – the Door to Everywhere. But someone else is looking for the door, too, and Tabitha must stop him before it’s too late.

Book Review

Tabitha Sparks and the Door to Everywhere is a delightful children’s book, with plenty of creepy characters, mysterious happenings, and adventure to keep children and adults entertained. Tabitha is an endearing child, one it’s hard not to like almost instantly, curious and intelligent and keen to explore the immediate world around her home. She looks to adults for guidance and help, but often comes up against brick walls, with those who are supposed to help her turning out to be either useless or downright cruel. But she does find other adults, who really are looking out for her best interests, or at the least, help her in small ways.

Then there is Lapis, Tabitha’s feline friend, named after the protective stone. Lapis is a really fun character, supporting Tabitha through her trials and assisting where he can, although as he is a cat, he spends more time jumping into Tabitha’s arms than anything else!

My only real gripe with this book, and perhaps it’s because it’s audiobook I picked up on it more, was that there were a lot of adverbs. Notably, ‘curiously’ is repeated fairly often, and it got a little annoying at times.

Other than that, however, this is a really sweet story about friendship and kindness and doing the right thing, and a young girl searching for her parents. The different worlds we’re introduced to are intriguing and imaginative, and sure to entertain readers, old and young, with the different inhabitants and worlds Tabitha accesses.

Audiobook

I’ve only listened to one audiobook before, and that was Camilla, in Podcast format, so I listened to it between other podcasts, in ten and twenty-minute snippets. With Tabitha Sparks, I basically listened to it when I would usually listen to podcasts. And it was great! It felt like reading while at work, an ability to do other things while also being entertained by an audiobook. Although I understood why people listened to audiobooks before, I can definitely see the appeal more now.

There’s just something wonderful in falling into a different world through someone else’s voice, and the narrator Kathleen Powell does a fantastic job with Tabitha Sparks, hitting the right notes and affecting slightly different voices for each character. She has an absolutely charming style, one that really conveys the wonder and fear Tabitha goes through in the novel. It was a pure delight to listen to, and really made me feel like a little kid, gathering around for storytime.

Overall, I found this to be a fantastic, lovely book with a brilliant narrator really able to bring the story to life. I can only imagine the joy children would get out of reading this, or listening to the audiobook! It is definitely one worth checking out.

Audible

Goodreads

Amazon: UK   /    US

Kathleen Powell’s Website

The Queen of Nothing – Holly Black [Review]

queen of nothingPlease note, dear friends, this review will contain spoilers for the first two books in the series, The Cruel Prince and The Wicked King.

In this trilogy, collectively called The Folk of the Air, Holly Black has created a rich, beautiful, dangerous and alluring world, one I could not wait to get back to in The Queen of Nothing.

Introduced to Jude in The Cruel Prince, when we first meet her she is powerless, at the whim of the fae, and trying to forge some sort of protection for herself in a world she calls her home, but where others insist she doesn’t belong. In The Wicked King, we see the development of her relationship with Carden, as she gains control over him and, in essence, rules the land from the shadows.

The Wicked King drew them closer together, resulting in marriage between the pair, before Carden has Jude exiled to the mortal world, until she is pardoned by the crown.

The Queen of Nothing starts there, with Jude scraping by in the mortal world, living with her sister and brother, and doing odd jobs for the fae folk on this side. But her unhappiness is clear, and though she pretends it’s homesickness, her worries revolve around Carden, the throne, and those who would betray him. When Taryn arrives, offering a chance to briefly go back, Jude is all too eager to take it.

Although Jude is essentially the queen, she returns to a world where she is basically powerless, unable to do much except observe and wait. And the world as she knows it has changed, as forces move against Carden and the threat of war builds.

As with the previous books, the book feels much like the fae; beautiful and dangerous, drawing us deeper into this world and giving fans, I think, exactly what they would have wanted from the final book.

To a point, anyway.

It’s hard to go into what I love about this book without spoilers, but I will say there were moments I held it close, glued to the page, entranced by the events unfolding with my heart in my throat. Moments I gasped from joy, moments I gasped from fear. The Jude-Carden scenes are as enthralling as ever, the relationship between the sisters brought tears to my eyes, and the choices Jude faces up the stakes in a way the last in a trilogy should.

The only ‘problem’ I have with this book is that it is the last, and I so desperately miss it already. I miss the anticipation of wondering what’s going to happen next, I miss the interactions between the various characters, the sense that Jude is always skirting on the edge of something dangerous. The Queen of Nothing provides a fantastic, satisfying conclusion to an absolutely brilliant series. The Cruel Prince was the first book of Holly Black’s I read, and I will now be seeking out more, hoping to forever fill the void this trilogy – like others before it – has left in me.

On that note, if you have any recommendations for similar books, I would absolutely love to hear them.

Twisted Tales: Let It Go – Jen Calonita

twisted 4The Twisted Tales series are stories about films and characters we know and love from Disney films, but putting one twist into the story that either changes everything, gives something additional in the middle, or extends the story beyond the familiar endings. I wrote about the series as a whole here, and purposefully held onto reading Let It Go so I could read it while on my Disney trip last week. I started it on the coach on the way to the airport, didn’t actually finish it until this week. Turned out, I was way too tired while travelling to read, and by the time we got back to the hotel in the evening, I was too exhausted to spend more than a small amount of time reading about this alternative version of Anna and Elsa’s story.

Anyway, this was an ideal book to take away, and the bits I did read, I enjoyed, though not as much as the others in the series. But a big charm of this series is that everyone has a different favourite. It’s handled by three different authors, with three different writing styles, and it ensures every book feels unique.

With Let It Go, (which, as far as I can tell, is Conceal, Don’t Feel in the US) I didn’t enjoy it as much as I enjoyed some of the others. I like when the story is turned completely on its head, presenting new scenes and putting the characters in different, new settings. To me, this one felt like too close to the source material, scenes rehashed from the film and put into the written word. But this aspect of it is something other readers might thoroughly enjoy.

When we join Anna and Elsa in Let It Go, it’s to find that neither know of the other. Elsa lives as princess with her parents, while Anna lives in a small village overlooking the city. Both feel something is missing in their lives, but neither quite knows what it is. As the story unfolds, we discover that when they were taken to the trolls, after Elsa hit Anna with her magic, Elsa interrupted the spell, causing a curse that means they cannot be near each other. To protect them, the trolls cast a spell to ensure they forgot one another, and the kingdom forgot there was another princess.

The twist is good, and in some places executed really well, bringing forward the sense of sisterly love that made the film feel so fresh in the first place. The main thing I disliked, as stated above, was the way scenes from the film felt repeated. Dialogue is lifted almost word for word, song lyrics feel forced in, and scenes take place exactly as they do in the film, just in a different way.

Much of the novel feels forced towards the same point as the film, leaving the twists to be clearly visible and marked, and meaning the last part just felt like rehash. It feels like more could have been done with it, really.

Saying that, however, Calonita does have a fantastic way with words. The descriptions – of the city, the village, the icy mountains and the valley where the trolls live – are brilliant, and she has a clear, deep understanding of the characters. Despite the situation they’re in, they feel like the characters we know from the films, and they react how you’d expect them to react. The love elements are handled really well, emphasising the sisterly love but also allowing more time for relationships to develop, to show why Hans is actually present, and why Kristoff is willing to run off with Anna, in search of someone he’s never met. The threads of the story are woven well, and although this wasn’t my favourite of the series, I did enjoy it, and if you’re a fan of Frozen, it’s definitely worth  checking out.

(As a side note, the two women I work with who also read this series absolutely loved the book, much more than I did! Like I said, it’s one thing I really love about the series as a whole – the varied reactions to each book.)