Review of Fantastic Mr. Fox and Other Stories by Roald Dahl

February 10, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Fantastic Mr FoxFantastic Mr. Fox and Other Stories
By Roald Dahl; Read by Quentin Blake, Hugh Laurie, Stephen Fry, and Chris O’DowdPublisher: Penguin Audio
Publication Date: September 2013
[UNABRIDGED] – 2 hours, 59 minutes

Themes: / children’s fantasy / short stories / animals /

Publisher Summary:

Fantastic Mr. Fox: Nobody outfoxes Fantastic Mr. Fox! Someone’s been stealing from the three meanest farmers around, and they know the identity of the thief – it’s Fantastic Mr. Fox! Working alone they could never catch him; but now fat Boggis, squat Bunce, and skinny Bean have joined forces, and they have Mr. Fox and his family surrounded. What they don’t know is that they’re not dealing with just any fox – Mr. Fox would rather die than surrender. Only the most fantastic plan can save him now.

Esio Trot: An ancient spell, 140 tortoises, and a little bit of magic…Mr. Hoppy is in love with his neighbor, Mrs. Silver; but she is in love with someone else – Alfie, her pet tortoise. With all her attention focused on Alfie, Mrs. Silver doesn’t even know Mr. Hoppy is alive. And Mr. Hoppy is too shy to even ask Mrs. Silver over for tea. Then one day Mr. Hoppy comes up with a brilliant idea to get Mrs. Silver’s attention. If Mr. Hoppy’s plan works, Mrs. Silver will certainly fall in love with him. After all, everyone knows the way to a woman’s heart is through her tortoise.

The Enormous Crocodile: The Enormous Crocodile is a horrid greedy grumptious brute who loves to guzzle up little boys and girls. But the other animals have had enough of his cunning tricks, so they scheme to get the better of this foul fiend, once and for all!

The Giraffe and The Pelly and Me: Who needs a ladder when you’ve got a giraffe with an extended neck? The Ladderless Window-Cleaning Company certainly doesn’t. They don’t need a pail, either, because they have a pelican with a bucket-sized beak. With a monkey to do the washing and Billy as their manager, this business is destined for success. Now they have their big break – a chance to clean all 677 windows of the Hampshire House, owned by the richest man in all of England! That’s exciting enough, but along the way there are surprises and adventures beyond their wildest window-washing dreams.

This collection of stories written by Roald Dahl contains Fantastic Mr. Fox, Esio Trot, The Enormous Crocodile, and The Giraffe And The Pelly And Me with each story narrated by a different reader. The stories are all highly imaginative and definitely targeted to young children. The stories and their readings are very British, so if that turns you away this may not be the collection for you. Don’t expect deep life lessons in these stories but just some silly fun.

Fantastic Mr. Fox read by Chris O’Dowd – The headline story and my favorite of the bunch. Mr. Fox gets into trouble with 3 mean farmers and has to find some way to save his family! The reading by Chris O’Dowd has great voices and sound effects. I found one or two of the voices mildly irritating but I’m sure kids would love it. Lesson: It’s ok to steal if you’re stealing from mean people to help your family?

Esio Trot read by Geoffrey Palmer – Also an interesting story about a guy who teaches his female neighbor how to speak tortoise and make her tortoise grow. Geoffrey Palmer’s reading was great and he did a great job with the “tortoise language”. If doing audio don’t worry – I’m sure reading this story makes it easier to see what’s going on with the tortoise language but they explain what’s going on shortly after it’s introduced. Lesson: It’s OK to lie to people and mess with their stuff as long as you are trying to pick up a gullible lady.

The Enormous Crocodile read by Stephen Fry – Stephen Fry does a great job with the voices in this story about an enormous crocodile who wants nothing more than to eat children. I thought the story was fun albeit a little disturbing. Lesson: Don’t go around boasting about bad things you plan to do and be surprised when they do something about it. Oh and elephants are strong.

The Giraffe And The Pelly And Me read by Hugh Laurie – This was an odd story about a very unique group of window washers. I only say odd because I didn’t really know where this story was going aside from trying to be quirky; but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Hugh Laurie did some nice voices and even some singing on this one! Lesson: Be awesome at the things you like to do and helping people can lead to good things.

Posted by Tom Schreck

Review of The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar by Roald Dahl

October 15, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Henry Sugar by Roald DahlThe Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and Six More
By Roald Dahl; Read by Andrew Scott
Publisher: Penguin Audio
Publication Date: 25 July 2013
[UNABRIDGED] – 7 hours
Listen to an excerpt: | Link |

Themes: / children’s fantasy / short stories / animals / buried treasure / turtles / trains /

Publisher summary:

Meet the boy who can talk to animals and the man who can see with his eyes closed. And find out about the treasure buried deep underground. A cleaver mix of fact and fiction, this collection also includes how master storyteller Roald Dahl became a writer. With Roald Dahl, you can never be sure where reality ends and fantasy begins.

Roald Dahl’s The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar: and six more, is a collection of seven brilliant short stories. Andrew Scott narrates this audio, and I speak true when I say his voice along with Dahl’s words produce a galvanic amalgam of magic intimacy for the ear and mind.

The seven stories are:
* The Boy Who Talked with Animals
* The Hitchhiker
* The Mildenhall Treasure
* The Swan
* The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar
* Lucky Break
* A Piece of Cake.

These are all fine specimen. In “The Boy Who Talked with Animals,” I became spellbound with the plight of the large old turtle on its back as crowds of people gathered close. Maybe it was the idea of a helpless animal being pulled up to the kitchens where the sharp knives waited, but I could sense the immediacy of the old sea turtle’s predicament. As a gauge, this story is good and solid.

The three stories that stole my breath?
* The Mildenhall Treasure
* The Swan
* A Piece of Cake.

Out of these, “The Swan” is reason enough to read this collection. This story is haunting. It lingers in the mind and tied me into knots. Dahl made me taste the hot close breath of the train. It frightened me, and I’m a grown man. When you reach the duck and swan on the water, Dahl’s description is heart-wrenchingly beautiful.

To all the folks at Penguin Audio, “Thank you.” Thank you for getting this right.” Thank you for not cluttering up the tracks with God Damn sentimental music that’s supposed to tell me how and when to feel. Thank you for not mucking about with narrators trying to needlessly inject drama into stories that only require reading, not a performance. Thank you Penguin Audio for doing one of the best production jobs I’ve come across in a while. Sometimes the best ingredients are truly simple, a healthy appetite and a pinch of salt.

Here is an interesting video on the process of recording Dahl’s books:

Posted by Casey Hampton.

Review of Birds of a Lesser Paradise by Megan Mayhew Bergman

January 2, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Birds of a Lesser ParadiseBirds of a Lesser Paradise: Stories
By Megan Mayhew Bergman; Read by Cassandra Campbell
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
ISBN: 9781442357921
[UNABRIDGED] – 7 hours, 28 minutes
Publication Date: November 2012

Themes: / birds / animals / relationships / parents / cancer / literary /

Publisher Summary:
An “astonishing debut collection, by a writer reminiscent of such greats as Alice Munro, Elizabeth Strout, and even Chekhov” (Sara Gruen, author of Water for Elephants), focusing on women navigating relationships with humans, animals, and the natural world. Exploring the way our choices and relationships are shaped by the menace and beauty of the natural world, Megan Mayhew Bergman’s powerful and heartwarming collection captures the surprising moments when the pull of our biology becomes evident, when love or fear collides with good sense, or when our attachment to an animal or wild place can’t be denied.

This book came out in print in March 2012, and the audiobook was new in November.

The title is apropos – while the stories aren’t about birds exactly, most of them do seem to include animals in some way – many birds, but also ferrets, dogs, sheep, cats, even a chinchilla.

The author is at her strongest when she writes about relationships, particularly when they have failed because of issues the people can’t control – death, disease, savior complex, you name it. The most powerful story to me was the first one – Housewifely Arts – that tells the story of a woman and her young son, driving to visit her deceased mother’s bird, just to hear her voice one more time. Wow. I will remember it for a long time. It also takes place in a city that I know well on the coast of South Carolina, which also brought it to life.

Yesterday’s Whales demonstrates what happens when your life deters from your Values, while Every Vein a Tooth demonstrates what can happen when you stick to them. Both are heartbreaking and memorable. The Right Company, with the weird salve of the obese food writer, is one story with unique, super southern characters.

The Artificial Heart was probably my least favorite story, because the vision it attempts of a post-fish dystopic Florida was not quite as successful as the painful realities of the other stories.

Most of the stories are set in the south, which is where Bergman grew up, with one set in Vermont where she lives now. The stories are read by Cassandra Campbell, who does a great job with subtle changes in accents, vocal tone, and pacing. (I’ve heard her before, as one of the readers for the Cloud Atlas audiobook.)

Posted by Jenny Colvin

New Releases: iambik audio’s Science Fiction & Fantasy Collection

May 18, 2011 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: New Releases 

New Releases

Iambik AudiobooksIambik Audiobooks has just released its first Science Fiction & Fantasy Collection! Individual books are $6.99, and you can get the whole collection of nine titles for $43.99.

Use the code “sff-audio-25” and get a 25% discount on your order.

Number one on my to listen list is this classic David Gerrold novel…

IAMBIK AUDIO - The Man Who Folded Himself by David GerroldThe Man Who Folded Himself
By David Gerrold; Read by Charles Bice
MP3 or M4B Download – Approx. 4 Hours 28 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: iambik audio
Published: May 2011
ISBN: 9781926673400
The Man Who Folded Himself, written in 1973 (and reissued by BenBella in 2003) is a classic science fiction novel by award-winning author David Gerrold. This work was nominated for both Hugo and Nebula awards and is considered by some critics to be the finest time travel novel ever written.

IAMBIK AUDIO - An Occupation Of Angels by Lavie TidharAn Occupation Of Angels
By Lavie Tidhar; Read by Elizabeth Klett
MP3 or M4B Download – Approx. 3 Hours 23 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: iambik audio
Published: May 2011
After Archangels materialise over the bloodbaths of WWII, they take up residence in most of the world’s major cities. But what would happen if, more than quarter of a century later, something somehow managed to kill these supreme beings? Killarney knows and, as an agent working for the Bureau, a British agency that’s so secret it doesn’t officially exist, she finds herself embroiled in the consequences as, one by one, the Archangels die. Assigned to trace a missing cryptographer thought to have information on the murders, she travels from England, through France, heading for the frozen wastes of the USSR. But there’s an unknown third party intent on stopping her, and there’s God, who also has an agenda. Not knowing who is friend and who is foe, and with only a brief glimpse of a swastika on angel wings as solid information, Killarney struggles to remain alive long enough to glean sufficient information to put together the pieces of the puzzle and complete what is, without them, an impossible mission.

IAMBIK AUDIO - Ben And The Book Of Prophecies by Kristy RiddifordBen And The Book Of Prophesies
By Kirsty Riddiford; Read by Ruth Golding
MP3 or M4B Download – Approx. 9 Hours 25 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: iambik audio
Published: May 2011
ISBN: 9781926673431
Ben and the Book of Prophecies is the first book of the Prophecies of Ballitor. Ben is the youngest and most successful thief in the royal city of Quadrivium, but an unexpected encounter with Bella, the queen’s mother, changes his life forever. In return for a substantial reward Ben agrees to track down the Book of Prophecies which disappeared from the palace library many years before. It is believed that the Book contains a prophecy which will save the kingdom from an impending war with the rebels. Yet Bella also has an ulterior motive, to find her son who went missing whilst searching for the same book. Ben finds himself catapulted into an unfamiliar world of magic and intrigue where talking eagles and mythical creatures help him on his quest. During his travels he unearths dark secrets as lives are put in peril and an unforeseen reunion surfaces. But not everyone wants the book to be found

IAMBIK AUDIO - Open Your Eyes by Paul JessupOpen Your Eyes
By Paul Jessup; Read by Tadgh Hynes
MP3 or M4B Download – Approx. 3 Hours 23 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: iambik audio
Published: May 2011
ISBN: 9781926673196
Her lover was a supernova who took worlds with him when he died, and as a new world grows within Ekhi, savage lives rage and love on a small ship in the outer reaches of space. A ship with an agenda of its own. Critically acclaimed author of weird fiction Paul Jessup sends puppets to speak and fight for their masters while a linguistic virus eats through the minds of a group of scavengers in Open Your Eyes, a surrealist space opera of haunting beauty and infinite darkness.

IAMBIK AUDIO - Fall From Earth by Matthew JohnsonFall From Earth
By Matthew Johnson; Read by Emma Newman
MP3 or M4B Download – Approx. 9 Hours 3 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: iambik audio
Published: May 2011
ISBN: 9781926673332
Shi Jin is a rebel, the latest in a long line of those who have challenged the Borderless Empire and failed. Dropped with a crew of convicts on an uninhabited planet, Shi Jin – and mankind- encounter alien life forms for the first time. She discovers that she is part of a much bigger game…one that will force her to decide between her desire to defeat the Empire and the future of humanity.

IAMBIK AUDIO - In The Shadow Of Swords by Val GunnIn The Shadow Of Swords
By Val Gunn; Read by Clive Catterall
MP3 or M4B Download – Approx. 10 Hours 15 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: iambik audio
Published: May 2011
ISBN: 9781926673424
When the assassin Ciris Sarn, murders Hiril Altaïr, he unwittingly leaves behind the legendary Books of Promise. They come into the hands of Hiril’s vengeful widow, Marin, and she becomes a target even as she hunts for her husband’s murderer. Meanwhile, Fajeer Dassai, a brutal kingmaker, plots to retrieve the fabled treasure to make himself wealthy beyond imagination. His only obstacle is Pavanan Munif, a capable, but drug-addicted tracker. Soon assassins, sheikhs, spies, and viziers are all embroiled in a potentially world-shattering conspiracy racing to an inevitable showdown where violence and murder is the only path to true redemption.

IAMBIK AUDIO - Space Captain Smith by Toby FrostSpace Captain Smith
By Toby Frost; Read by Clive Catterall (Myrmidon)
MP3 or M4B Download – Approx. 7 Hours 6 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: iambik audio
Published: May 2011
ISBN: 9781926673417
Space Captain Smith is the first book of the Chronicles of Isambard Smith. It’s the 25th Century and the British Space Empire faces the gathering menace of the evil ant-soldiers of the Ghast hive, hell bent on galactic domination and the extermination of all humanoid life forms. Captain Isambard Smith is the square-jawed, courageous and somewhat asinine new commander of the clapped out freighter John Pym, destined to take on the alien threat because nobody else is available. Together with his bold crew- a skull-collecting alien lunatic, an android pilot who is actually a fugitive sex toy and a hamster called Gerald- he must collect new-age herbalist Rhianna Mitchell from the New Francisco orbiter and bring her back to the Empire in safety. Straightforward enough – except the Ghasts want her too and, in addition to a whole fleet of Ghast warships, Smith has to confront void sharks, a universe-weary android assassin and John Gilead, psychopathic naval officer from the fanatically religious Republic of Eden before facing his greatest enemy: a ruthless alien warlord with a very large behind…

IAMBIK AUDIO - The Golden Casket And The Spectres Of Light by Katie PatersonThe Golden Casket And The Specters Of Light
By Katie Paterson; Read by Karen Savage
MP3 or M4B Download – Approx. 8 Hours 44 Minutes Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: iambik audio
Published: May 2011
ISBN: 9781926673448
The Golden Casket And The Specters Of Light is the second book of the Chronicles of Valonia. Three years after Rachel and Gareth’s lives had returned to normal, they are forced to revisit Valonia, after receiving an unsettling phone call. The Golden Casket And The Specters Of Light pursue them back into the heart of danger, this time to face an even greater threat, as they attempt to unravel a mysterious disappearance. The twins find themselves in a race against time beside a trio of evil sorcery.

IAMBIK AUDIO - The Jewels Of Valonia by Katie PatersonThe Jewels Of Valonia
By Katie Paterson; Read by Karen Savage
MP3 or M4B Download – Approx. 7 Hours 43 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: iambik audio
Published: May 2011
ISBN: 9781926673394
The Jewels Of Valonia is the first book of the Chronicles of Valonia. It follows 12-year-old twins, Gareth and Rachel, as they embark on a mystical adventure after travelling to the remote village of Valonia, where everything is far from what it seems. An encounter with a stranger leads them into a world of sorcery and danger. As they pass through the realms of time, the twins realise that their destiny lies within powers that they have yet to understand and control.

IAMBIK AUDIO - Science Fiction And Fantasy Collection No. 1Complete Science-Fiction & Fantasy Collection 1
By various; Read by various
MP3 or M4B Download – Approx. 62 Hours 53 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: iambik audio
Published: May 2011
This collection includes all the titles in Iambik’s first release of Science-Fiction and Fantasy books.

Titles in the collection:
Ben And The Book Of Prophecies by Kirsty Riddiford
Fall From Earth by Matthew Johnson
In The Shadow Of Swords by Val Gunn
The Man Who Folded Himself by David Gerrold
An Occupation Of Angels by Lavie Tidhar
Open Your Eyes by Paul Jessup
Space Captain Smith by Craig Smith
The Jewels of Valonia by Katie Paterson
The Golden Casket And The Spectres Of Light by Katie Paterson

Posted by Jesse Willis

LibriVox: Beautiful Joe by Marshall Saunders

February 9, 2011 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Online Audio 

SFFaudio Online Audio

I spotted this terrific looking book while browsing book covers at a local big box bookstore.

Beautiful Joe COVER

It turns out the book is a Canadian classic, one I’d never read, or even heard of, but one which I probably should have. The illustrator, Scott Plumbe, writes of it on his blog saying:

“[Beautiful Joe was written] in the 1890s by Canadian author Margaret Marshall Saunders [it was] inspired by a real life dog who had been cruelly maltreated by his owner and was later taken in by the kindly Morris family.”

What makes the novel rather different, and thus all the more interesting, is that it’s told from the perspective of the main character (a dog). Hoping that somebody had recorded it, I did a search and found a single voiced narration of Beautiful Joe over on LibriVox!

The vintage introduction makes it sound as if Beautiful Joe is a religious novel, but the actual text is fairly secular (at least so far). This seems to be a book designed with a message in mind, that cruelty to animals is wrong, worthy of banning.

LIBRIVOX - Beautiful Joe by Marshall SaundersBeautiful Joe
By Marshall Saunders; Read by Allyson Hester
2 M4Bs (1,2), 19 Zipped MP3 Files or Podcast – Approx. 10 Hours 2 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: LibriVox.org
Published: June 6, 2008
Beautiful Joe is a real dog, and “Beautiful Joe” is his real name. He belonged during the first part of his life to a cruel master, who mutilated him in the manner described in the story. He was rescued from him, and is now living in a happy home with pleasant surroundings, and enjoys a wide local celebrity. The character of Laura is drawn from life, and to the smallest detail is truthfully depicted. The Morris family has its counterparts in real life, and nearly all of the incidents of the story are founded on fact.

Podcast feed: http://librivox.org/bookfeeds/beautiful-joe-by-marshall-saunders.xml

iTunes 1-Click |SUBSCRIBE|

The Wikipedia entry for Beautiful Joe mentions that there is a park, in Meaford, Ontario, named after Beautiful Joe. When you do a search on YouTube for same you can only get this effable, and oddly unironic, tour:

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale

June 5, 2006 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Fantasy Audiobook - The Goose Girl by Shannon HaleThe Goose Girl
By Shannon Hale; Performed by a Full Cast
10 CDs – 10 hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Full Cast Audio
Published: 2005
ISBN: 1932076727
Themes : / Fantasy / Magic / Horses / Animals /

When I finished listening to Shannon Hale’s The Goose Girl, I wanted to start the story again. I had read the fantasy novel in print form about two years before hearing it and Full Cast Audio brings the characters to life in spot-on performances which won’t disappoint fans of the novel.

The story of Ani, the Princess Anidora Kiladra, (Erica Lustig) is as intimate as if you were hearing the troubles of your best friend, while at the same time covering a sweeping political plot. Princess Ani is sent to a neighboring kingdom to marry a prince she has never met. On the way there, her handmaid conspires to have her killed and take over her identity as Princess. Ani narrowly escapes with her life and must struggle to regain her identity.

What makes this book really wonderful is that during this political struggle, Ani goes through a great deal of very real personal growth. You can see the insecure girl become a confidant young woman through the combined performance of Grace Gates (young Ani), Erica Lustig (Ani) and the compelling narrative. Even if you have already read The Goose Girl, pick up a copy of the audio; it is well-worth the listen.

Posted by Mary Robinette Kowal