Archive for the ‘Jeanne DuPrau’ Category

[LISTENED TO: August 2017] The Diamond of Darkhold

The end of the previous book (the prequel) left me in very good spirits about this final book.  This one had not come out while I was working at the public library so I didn’t know about it and the title and cover puzzled me.

But whatever, it was time to see how this series ended (I assume its over).

But, oh no!  Another new audio book reader!  This time Katherine Kellgren.  Kellgren has the unenviable task of following up Wendy Dillon’s establishment as a reader.  It was a little disconcerting hearing Doon and some other characters who had very distinctive voices portrayed differently.  In fact, I wasn’t all that impressed by her reading at first because the characters kind of sounded the same.  But as soon as new characters entered the picture I was really thrilled with her reading.  The diverse voices she brought to the story were outstanding.

So what happens in it?

The story picks up about nine months after the Emberites left Ember.  Winter is coming upon them and things are very hard.  People are also getting sick (some people have died).  (more…)


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[LISTENED TO: August 2017] The Prophet of Yonwood

I did not enjoy the second book of Ember much at all.  I wasn’t even going to continue with the series, but I was intrigued at this being a (shorter) prequel.

This book came out when I was still working at a public library so I remember the cover quite vividly.

But when I put in the disc I was shocked to realize that the narrator was different!  Where was beloved Wendy Dillon?  That was disappointing.  Worse yet, this book was set in the South so the new narrator, Becky Ann Baker, had a whole lot of Southern to speak to us, which I don’t care for in an audio book.

So there were already two strikes against this.  And then it turned out that the story has literally nothing to do with Ember at all.  Well, that’s not strictly true, but it is set in America (at an unspecified future date) where global stresses are tense, but in which life goes on.

Set with a backdrop of global war, the United States is up against the “Phalanx Nations,” and unless changes are made, war seems imminent.

Into this we see Nicole (Nickie) Randolph, an eleven-year-old girl visiting Yonwood, NC, with her aunt Crystal.  Nickie’s grandfather recently died and Nickie’s mother and aunt want to sell the property, called Greenhaven, and be out of Yonwood.  For reasons either unclear or which I don’t remember, Nickie is travelling with her aunt and not her mother, which is a little odd, but whatever. (more…)

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[LISTENED TO: July 2017] The People of Sparks

After finishing up The City of Ember this summer, with that promising cliffhanger-ish ending, I was pretty excited to listen to book two.

Holy cow did I hate this book (until the end).  I blame the combination of DuPrau’s writing and Wendy Dillon’s excellent vocal work.  Because as soon as the book started, the sorta main character Torren quickly became the single most irritating character in fiction.  He is bratty.  He is incredibly whiny.  He is a really mean.  And he is unchecked by adults.  Perhaps we are supposed to feel sorry for him, but he is so incredibly unlikable and does such horrible things that I don’t see how one could.

I imagined that this book would pick up where Ember left off–Mrs Murdo finding the note and rallying the city together to come and meet Lina and Doon in the new place.  I imagined a lengthy first part where the characters try to convince the mayor and gather their stuff and eventually work their way out.

But no.  The book begins in the city of Sparks.  Horrible brat child Torren is sitting on a windmill (not sure why they have these windmills if they don’t harness the energy) and sees people marching across the empty land.

Soon enough Lina and Doon are introducing the 400+ Emberites to the 300+ people of Sparks.  The leaders of Sparks: Mary, Ben and Wilmer meet to decide what to do with this huge influx of people. (more…)

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[LISTENED TO: July 2016, July 2017] The City of Ember

I enjoyed this book when we listened to it the first time and I enjoyed the graphic novel as well.

But I couldn’t remember enough about the audio book to post about it so I listened to it again.  And what was so interesting this time was how much it sounded like an attack on our current political situation:

A greedy pig in charge of a country; sycophants as his cronies; keeping as much as possible for themselves and allowing the richer to get richer while the country falls apart; shutting down truth; imprisoning dissenters and just to top it off, the mayor is a large man with very small hands (seriously).  The only real difference is that the mayor speaks eloquently and has a big vocabulary.

I absolutely loved the reading by Wendy Dillon.  She has quite distinctive voices for the main characters and some of the secondary characters have wonderful details about them that keeps them individual–the mayor wheezes, another character smacks his lips together, Clary speaks slowly and deliberately almost with a stutter.  It’s wonderful.  And the sound effects, while not necessary, are a nice addition.  Although they are fairly infrequent and can be surprising if you forget about them.

So what’s the story about? (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC-“Gump” [single] (1996).


This was the second single I purchased from “Weird Al”‘s Bad Hair Day album, this time it was “Gump” with six, yes six, B-sides.  The first one was “Spy Hard” the theme from the movie (starring Leslie Nielsen).  It’s a funny theme song, very Bond, but also with great spoofy lyrics.  It wasn’t available anywhere else, although it has since been released as its own single (with no B-Sides).

The rest of the B-Sides include “Since You’ve Been Gone” from the album and a karaoke version of the same song.  This karaoke version is quite funny and is probably the best B-side he’s released.  The band provides the backing vocals to keep you in place.  Which means that in the middle of a quiet bit you suddenly hear “red hot cactus up my nose!.”

Then the B-sides get even weirder–an instrumental version of “Callin’ in Sick”
which really nobody wants.  And then two more versions of “Spy Hard,” and instrumental and an orchestral mix.  I can’t really tell them apart, and frankly they’re rather useless anyhow.  So all in all, not a great single, but that karaoke song is pretty great.

[READ: April 20, 2013] The City of Ember: The Graphic Novel

I have had the City of Ember t trilogy on my to-read list for a long time, but I’ve never gotten round to it.  So I was pleased to see this graphic novel version.  I know that the novel is pretty long, so I was surprised that this graphic version could be polished off in less than an hour.  (It’s also written at a level that is more appropriate for younger kids—the dark darknesses of the novel are condensed to just one or two pages in the beginning.  Of course, how young you want your kids reading books about corruption and dystopian societies is something else entirely.  The focus is on the kids’ attempts to escape and their working together (again, I haven’t read the novel so I don’t really know how that breaks down in the book).

So the story as presented here is a simple one.  The city of Ember is the only place where there is light in an otherwise dark world.   As the story opens we see a classroom where children are set to pick their future occupation.  Lina, our heroine, picks Pipeworks laborer, which she is utterly distressed at—she wanted to be above ground. Later, Doon, our hero, chooses Messenger, but he is disdainful of the whole process— courting the wrath of the mayor who says he’s going to keep an eye on Doon.

When class ends, Doon offers to switch jobs with Lida (which I assumed would get them in trouble, but didn’t).  Lida is thrilled to work as a messenger and agrees eagerly.  Doon believes that he can cause trouble from the inside by working in the Pipeworks.  Although when he finally gets down there he sees that it is a much bigger and more daunting project than he ever imagined. (more…)

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