Review of The Twits, The Minpins, and The Magic Finger by Roald Dahl

November 26, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

 twitsThe Twits, The Minpins, & The Magic Finger
By Roald Dahl; Read by Richard Ayoade, Bill Bailey, and Kate WinsletPublisher: Penguin Audio
Publication Date: 26 September 2013
[UNABRIDGED] – 2 hours

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

Publisher summary:

THE TWITS
How do you outwit a Twit? Mr. and Mrs. Twit are the smelliest, nastiest, ugliest people in the world. They hate everything—except playing mean jokes on each other, catching innocent birds to put in their Bird Pies, and making their caged monkeys, the Muggle-Wumps, stand on their heads all day. But the Muggle-Wumps have had enough. They don’t just want out, they want revenge.

THE MINPINS
Little Billy strays into the forest, where he meets the Minpins?tiny people who live within the trees. The Minpins tell Billy about The Gruncher, who preys on them. So Billy embarks on a mission to rid the Minpins of their foe once and for all, and sets off?on the back of a swan?to confront The Gruncher.

THE MAGIC FINGER
What happens when the hunter becomes the hunted? To the Gregg family, hunting is just plain fun. To the girl who lives next door, it’s just plain horrible. She tries to be polite. She tries to talk them out of it, but the Greggs only laugh at her. Then one day the Greggs go too far, and the little girl turns her Magic Finger on them. When she’s very, very angry, the little girl’s Magic Finger takes over. She really can’t control it, and now it’s turned the Greggs into birds! Before they know it, the Greggs are living in a nest, and that’s just the beginning of their problems.

Although I have enjoyed many of the movies made from Roald Dahl’s books (most notably James and the Giant Peach) I cannot recall reading any of his books except Charlie and the Chocolate Factory which was … fine but not world changing for me. That’s kind of odd too, when I think about it, because I was the right age to be the prime audience when a lot of his books were coming out but I was largely oblivious to them. (Yep. Dated myself. Don’t care.)

However, as I have learned in the past, audio often breaks open a book or author who I didn’t find congenial in print. It was that way with Coraline by Neil Gaiman. It was that way with the last half of The Lord of the Rings (yes, I am ashamed but I will not lie). And, now, it is that way with Roald Dahl.

The Twits are the most horrible couple in the world and quite hateful to each other, until they are under attack from a common enemy. Even then they are horrible which makes it quite gratifying to see them get their comeuppance from the Muggle-Wump monkey family and the Roly Poly bird. This story had the most disgusting description of a beard I have ever encountered. Even while I was grimacing, I was also laughing because Dahl had such a clever way with words. Narrator Richard Ayoade had a lovely, calm British narration style that didn’t preclude hilarious, low-class voices for the Twits. First class stuff.

The Minpins has the most perfect monster name I’ve ever heard — The Gruncher, a fire-breathing, boy eating creature in Sin Forest. It sends Billy right up a tree where he meets the Minpins and they form an ingenious alliance to deal with their common foe. Bill Bailey narrated this with a great deal of gusto which didn’t detract in the least from the story.

The Magic Finger was my favorite story, partially because Kate Winslet’s narration won me over from the very beginning. I also just couldn’t resist the little girl who “puts my Magic Finger” on those who displease her. The Greggs are worthy of a magic finger punishment because they are such keen hunters. What the Magic Finger does is typical Dahl ingenuity at its best.

All three of these are little stories but each is a gem which children would love. Heck, I liked them quite a bit myself and, as I have revealed, I am far past the age of tender youth. I am now going to look for more Roald Dahl in audio, possibly even revisiting Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Posted by Julie D.

 

Review of Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

January 6, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Daughter of Smoke and BoneDaughter of Smoke and Bone (Daughter of Smoke and Bone #1)
By Laini Taylor; Read by Khristine Hvam
Publisher: Hachette Audio
Published: September 2011
ISBN:

Themes: / fantasy / paranormal romance / YA / angels / creatures / seraphim / other worlds / portals / magic / regeneration / flight /

Publisher summary:

Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil’s supply of human teeth grown dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war.

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she’s prone to disappearing on mysterious “errands”; she speaks many languages – not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out.

When one of the strangers – beautiful, haunted Akiva – fixes his fire-colored eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?

While YA paranormal romance is not normally my thing (I read this with a book club), I think the author Laini Taylor does a few things that make this book far superior to some of the not-great YA paranormal romance we have been inundated with since Twilight came out.

First of all, the world. The author has chosen Prague as the location for where Karou, the main character, lives. She goes to an art school and lives on her own, but has to trick the school with a fake grandmother.  Prague is mysterious enough on its own, but we soon discover that she uses certain gateways to travel between that city of the 21st century and Elsewhere, to do errands for Brimstone, a creature that helped to raise her.

I saw this picture of Prague at night in the fog in Pinterest, and it pretty much matched what I see in my head as I listen to this book.  There could so easily be magic here.

The storytelling kept me interested, although I was rolling my eyes at some of it – I’m just not the intended audience. I’m not going to swoon over a desperately handsome seraphim in a star-crossed lover type scenario, but I can see how that might be appealing to a slightly younger crowd (honestly, I don’t remember ever quite being that girl, but maybe I was.) I did appreciate some of the details. The description of Madrigal’s dress, little tidbits like Karou being given the gift of knowing a new language on her birthday, the burned handprints that come back in the end, and so on.

Even better, the story takes some interesting twists. The story of Madrigal may be the most interesting part, and it isn’t even introduced until the last fourth of the novel.  It helps that the reader discovers Karou’s story along with her, and she does not yet know her history or all the ramifications for what is happening around her.

I had the audio version of this book from a free download I got last summer when the publisher was trying to promote new books alongside YA classics. Khristine Hvam does a nice job with the accents, although Brimstone sometimes sounded Nigerian, which didn’t fit with how I was hearing his voice in my head. Most of the time, I wasn’t thinking about the reader at all, which to me is a good sign. She also is a great reader of emotion, and captures Karou well.

Posted by Jenny Colvin