Star Wars: Master and Apprentice by Claudia Gray, narrated by Jonathan Davis.

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An unexpected offer threatens the bond between Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi as the two Jedi navigate a dangerous new planet and an uncertain future in the first canon Star Wars novel to take place before the events of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace.

A Jedi must be a fearless warrior, a guardian of justice, and a scholar in the ways of the Force. But perhaps a Jedi’s most essential duty is to pass on what they have learned. Master Yoda trained Dooku; Dooku trained Qui-Gon Jinn; and now, Qui-Gon has a Padawan of his own. But while Qui-Gon has faced all manner of threats and danger as a Jedi, nothing has ever scared him like the thought of failing his apprentice.

Obi-Wan Kenobi has deep respect for his Master but struggles to understand him. Why must Qui-Gon so often disregard the laws that bind the Jedi? Why is Qui-Gon drawn to ancient Jedi prophecies instead of more practical concerns? And why wasn’t Obi-Wan told that Qui-Gon is considering an invitation to join the Jedi Council – knowing it would mean the end of their partnership? The simple answer scares him: Obi-Wan has failed his Master.

When Jedi Rael Averross, another former student of Dooku, requests their assistance with a political dispute, Jinn and Kenobi travel to the royal court of Pijal for what may be their final mission together. What should be a simple assignment quickly becomes clouded by deceit and by visions of violent disaster that take hold in Qui-Gon’s mind.

As Qui-Gon’s faith in prophecy grows, Obi-Wan’s faith in him is tested – just as a threat surfaces that will demand that Master and apprentice come together as never before or be divided forever.

I did the same thing that I did for Queen’s Shadow. I bought a hardcover special edition at Celebration Chicago last year and I downloaded the audiobook, because I like the music and sound effects included. And I read along as I listened.

I really enjoyed this book, but let me get the things I didn’t like out of the way. These little things knocked off a star in the rating.

– No character, especially Jedi, in the Star Wars universe, in the films or other mediums says “By the Force” or “Thank the Force.” Actually, it’s a big pet peeve of mine when I see it written in fan fiction.

– The voice for Mace Windu was totally off. Which was a let down because the other voices were spot on. I don’t know what that accent was.

– Young Obi-Wan’s love of flying felt out of character.

Ok, so on to the likes!

– Great voice work for Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan, Dooku, and Rael Averross (a new character).

– I loved the flashbacks with Dooku and studying the prophecies.

– I loved any discussions and debates the Jedi had about prophecies, and how wanting to control the future lead to the Dark Side.

– I loved Rael’s renegade Jedi attitude and disregard for the Jedi Code, especially when it came to celibacy. Now I want to read a fan fiction where he became Anakin’s teacher because things would have turned out WAY differently.

– I really liked Rahara and felt such sympathy for her.

– I found the idea of performance artist demonstrators really amusing.

– One of my favorite things were seeing the fault lines in the Jedi Order because it makes their downfall understandable. Like how they would serve the government of the Republic over being guardians of justice. Also, how some of their methods of raising young Jedi are wrong. I made a lot of bookmarks.

– I loved the little preludes to The Phantom Menace.
Like the plight of the enslaved people that Czerka corportation owned.
The Chosen One prophecy.
I am sure Qui-Gon learned from the young princess to look closer next time, and don’t underestimate her.

Everything tied together to well. Sometimes the pacing was a bit slow, but I liked the plot of story and the conclusion of it. I had so many suspects and was actually surprised by the twist.

4 out of 5 Prophecies.

Queen’s Shadow by E.K. Johnston, narrated by Catherine Taber

Written by the #1 New York Times best-selling author of Ahsoka!

When Padmé Naberrie, “Queen Amidala” of Naboo, steps down from her position, she is asked by the newly-elected queen to become Naboo’s representative in the Galactic Senate. Padmé is unsure about taking on the new role, but cannot turn down the request to serve her people. Together with her most loyal handmaidens, Padmé must figure out how to navigate the treacherous waters of politics and forge a new identity beyond the queen’s shadow.

I bought a hardcover copy at Celebration Chicago last year and I downloaded the audiobook, because Catherine Taber (the voice of Padmé on The Clone Wars) narrates. I read along as I listened.

I loved this book. This might not be a book for every Star Wars fan because it is way more political than the novels we’re used to. There aren’t any big battle scenes and no lightsaber fights, but if you love Padmé, then this is a book to read/listen to.

So I loved this book for many reasons. The friendships between Padmé and the handmaids were great. It was wonderful to see what their strengths were and what their interests were outside of their duties.

The transition from being queen to becoming a senator and navigating the different political arenas was so well done. I especially like seeing Padmé learn how she had to change her demeanor, make allies, and learn how to shed the negative image people had about her. She had to get out of the shadow of what she did to Chancellor Vellorum as queen.

I loved the inclusion of the press articles because image is everything in the public eye.
Besides character image I loved the descriptions of her clothing. Practical armor hidden in style.

Minor spoilers below, but not really if you know a lot about Star Wars.

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Hidden Figures: The Untold Story of the African American Women Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly, narrated by Robin Miles.

Hidden Figures: The Untold Story of the African American Women Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly, narrated by Robin Miles.

The phenomenal true story of the black female mathematicians at NASA whose calculations helped fuel some of America’s greatest achievements in space. Now a major motion picture starring Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae, Kirsten Dunst, and Kevin Costner.

Before John Glenn orbited the Earth or Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, a group of dedicated female mathematicians known as “human computers” used pencils, slide rules, and adding machines to calculate the numbers that would launch rockets and astronauts into space.

Among these problem solvers were a group of exceptionally talented African American women, some of the brightest minds of their generation. Originally relegated to teaching math in the South’s segregated public schools, they were called into service during the labor shortages of World War II, when America’s aeronautics industry was in dire need of anyone who had the right stuff. Suddenly these overlooked math whizzes had shots at jobs worthy of their skills, and they answered Uncle Sam’s call, moving to Hampton, Virginia, and the fascinating, high-energy world of the Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory.

Even as Virginia’s Jim Crow laws required them to be segregated from their white counterparts, the women of Langley’s all-black West Computing group helped America achieve one of the things it desired most: a decisive victory over the Soviet Union in the Cold War and complete domination of the heavens.

Starting in World War II and moving through to the Cold War, the civil rights movement, and the space race, Hidden Figures follows the interwoven accounts of Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Christine Darden, four African American women who participated in some of NASA’s greatest successes. It chronicles their careers over nearly three decades as they faced challenges, forged alliances, and used their intellects to change their own lives – and their country’s future.

 

I bought the audiobook after seeing the movie in 2017 and wanted to listen to it now for Women’s History Month.

I am so torn about what to say. I think these stories are so important – the unsung heroes, especially women, who didn’t get the credit they deserved. The brains behind the achievements and discoveries much be known. Especially when it is centered around women in STEM.

However, listening to this book was a real struggle. I would tune out, or leave the room and let it run. Half way through I started skipping ahead so I could “skim” it. It was filled with too many facts. It was like listening to a text book. I especially would tune out when it explained anything about engineering, aerodynamics, mathematics, or computing. There were also so many facts about the history of segregation and the space race. I understand the importance of telling it, but the delivery – just rambling facts was so boring.

I often struggle with non-fiction books. I want to be shown facts, not told facts. In the end what I really wanted was the movie in novel form.

2 out of 5 Rockets.

The Half-Life of Marie Curie by Lauren Gunderson, Narrated by Kate Mulgrew & Francesca Faridany

In 1912, scientist Marie Curie spent two months on the British seaside at the home of Hertha Ayrton, an accomplished mathematician, inventor, and suffragette. At the time, Curie was in the throes of a scandal in France over her affair with Paul Langevin, which threatened to overshadow the accomplishment of her second Nobel Prize.

Performed by Kate Mulgrew and Francesca Faridany, this play by Lauren Gunderson is an ode to two remarkable women who, despite tremendous personal and professional obstacles, continued to devote their lives to scientific innovation and social change.

Playwright Lauren Gunderson was awarded a commission through the Audible Emerging Playwrights Fund, an initiative dedicated to developing innovative original plays driven by language and voice. As an Audible commissioned playwright, she received funding and creative support to develop The Half-Life of Marie Curie.

I finally decided to listen to this Audible Original for Women’s History Month. I really loved it.

First – I never knew that Marie Curie had an affair with a married man and there was a whole scandal. So, wherever she is now she should be happy to know that is not her legacy. I only knew of her scientific achievements.

Second – I am embarrassed to say I never heard of Hertha Ayrton. But that is what Women’s History Month and audiobooks are for, learning new things. She sounds badass.

The performances were fantastic. Kate Mulgrew and Francesca Faridany had great chemistry. There were some sad moments:

Hertha Ayrton: It’s love’s destiny to wound us. That’s how you know it mattered at all.

But also it was incredibly funny. This cracked me up:

Hertha Ayrton: Men get to have sex all the time. They don’t mind what Einstein does with his evenings. Einstein gets to keep his lab.

Marie Curie: Einstein doesn’t have a lab. He just wanders the halls looking a bit off.

Also, it being a short audio drama, it is so easy to listen to again anytime.

5 out of 5 Nobel Prizes.

Romeo and Juliet: A Novel by David Hewson, narrated by Richard Armitage

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Exclusively written for Audible, only available in audio

“I think Romeo and Juliet is the greatest, most tragic love story ever told. What David Hewson did with this script is so exciting to me. I really love the fact that he followed avenues that Shakespeare suggested but didn’t necessarily detail in depth. If you want to immerse yourself in a warm bath of Garganega and the heat of Verona and hear a brilliant story about a young woman who is challenging the restraints of her time, listen to this audiobook, which has romance, poetry, politics, and humor to spare.”(Narrator Richard Armitage)

It’s a story you think you know: the age-old tale of “star-cross’d lovers”; two families at war; a romance, so pure and absolute, fated for a tragic end. It’s a story so thoroughly embedded in our culture, and so frequently retold. Yet, nothing captures the spark, the possibility, and the surprise of Shakespeare’s work quite like this….

In Romeo and Juliet: A Novel, author David Hewson reworks and expands on the classic story so that it becomes something richer, something new and entirely its own. Much more than a simple love story, it is a brilliant examination of young versus old, hope against despair, and, for Juliet, the search for individual identity at a time when women were regarded as little more than chattel.

An original production commissioned by Audible, Romeo and Juliet: A Novel marks the second pairing of David Hewson and actor Richard Armitage, whose previous partnership resulted in Audible’s 2014 Audiobook of the Year, Hamlet, Prince of Denmark: A Novel. Hewson’s talent for writing for audio is undeniable, and he finds his perfect vocal foil in Armitage, an actor of immense range and absorbing intensity. Together, they bring you a familiar story told in a surprising way – with an ending you might not expect.

Bonus: Audiobook includes an afterword written and narrated by David Hewson.

I am not a big fan of Romeo and Juliet. I got this audiobook because Richard Armitage is the narrator. Since Valentine’s Day is in February I made this my V-month listen.

It took a while for me to get into the story because I am not a fan of this classic tale, but once I did get into it I really enjoyed it.

Something I learned in the Author’s Note at the end is that Shakespeare didn’t come up with the story originally . The tale of Romeo and Juliet already existed in the form of a few Italian romances that were an inspiration for Shakespeare. I liked this new take on the story. I really loved the time setting and the little hints thrown in about the Renaissance, like Da Vinci. I also really liked the modern, intelligent and independent version of Juliet in this new version.

I had forgotten how many famous lines came from R&J. It was much easier to understand in novel form. The prose is very pretty.

Richard’s narration is excellent. He has a great range of different voices for the characters, and his voice is just downright sexy. Oh my goodness gracious, the wedding night scene. With the honey and that verse…that was steamy. *Unfolds a fan.*

In the end I’m glad I pushed through and gave this a chance. It turned out to be a version of Romeo and Juliet that I enjoyed.

Overall: 3 out of 5 Poisons
Performance: 5 out of 5 Poisons
Story: 4 out of 5 Poisons

Some of my favorite quotes:

Chapter 9: A husband betrayed was a cuckold. A woman treated the same way was a wife.

Chapter 31: Rash acts may spur rash consequences.

Chapter 49: The blood of martyrs is the seed of the church.

 

The Color Purple by Alice Walker

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The Color Purple is a classic. With over a million copies sold in the UK alone, it is hailed as one of the all-time ‘greats’ of literature, inspiring generations of readers.

Set in the deep American South between the wars, it is the tale of Celie, a young black girl born into poverty and segregation. Raped repeatedly by the man she calls ‘father’, she has two children taken away from her, is separated from her beloved sister Nettie and is trapped into an ugly marriage. But then she meets the glamorous Shug Avery, singer and magic-maker – a woman who has taken charge of her own destiny. Gradually, Celie discovers the power and joy of her own spirit, freeing her from her past and reuniting her with those she loves.

To expand my library beyond my usual go-to genres, two years ago I started dedicating October to horror novels. This year I am adding to that expansion during Black History month. I started with The Color Purple. Friends have been recommending the movie to me and I wanted to listen to the audiobook first.

The Color Purple is a true American classic novel. It has heart and beauty but also does not shy away from the ugly truth of abuse and violence. I loved the discussions about religion, philosophy, history, culture, race and classism. It really makes you think and consider those issues.

I loved the letters between Celie and Nettie. Those were some of my favorite parts. All the relationships between the characters were well developed, but the one between Celie and Nettie was so bitter sweet. My heart would ache for them.

One thing I was confused about though was

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Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love by Dani Shapiro

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The acclaimed and beloved author of Hourglass now gives us a new memoir about identity, paternity, and family secrets—a real-time exploration of the staggering discovery she recently made about her father, and her struggle to piece together the hidden story of her own life.

What makes us who we are? What combination of memory, history, biology, experience, and that ineffable thing called the soul defines us?

In the spring of 2016, through a genealogy website to which she had whimsically submitted her DNA for analysis, Dani Shapiro received the stunning news that her father was not her biological father. She woke up one morning and her entire history—the life she had lived—crumbled beneath her.

Inheritance is a book about secrets—secrets within families, kept out of shame or self-protectiveness; secrets we keep from one another in the name of love. It is the story of a woman’s urgent quest to unlock the story of her own identity, a story that has been scrupulously hidden from her for more than fifty years, years she had spent writing brilliantly, and compulsively, on themes of identity and family history. It is a book about the extraordinary moment we live in—a moment in which science and technology have outpaced not only medical ethics but also the capacities of the human heart to contend with the consequences of what we discover.

Timely and unforgettable, Dani Shapiro’s memoir is a gripping, gut-wrenching exploration of genealogy, paternity, and love.

 

I was not familiar with Dani Shapiro or her writing prior to listening to this memoir. The first I heard about it was when listening to an episode of Audicted in November: Ep. 26: Family Stories: Our Favorite Listens of Kinship. It sounded really interesting and the editors at Audible mentioned that with many DNA testing sites now there is a rise in stories from people who find out their father or/and mother is not their father or/and mother.

I, for one, am fascinated by these stories. I think there is a primal instinct that we need to know who we came from. It’s why shows like Finding Your Roots and Who Do You Think You Are? are so popular.

I listened at 1.0x and still sped through it. I learned a lot about the beginnings of fertility treatments and I also learned a lot about Jewish laws and practices.

What I often do when I finish a book is read other reviews, and what I found was that a lot of people were saying that she was making too much out of nothing and they didn’t understand her trauma. That her father was still her father and genetics don’t change that.

I agree with that. Especially when couples adopt or use egg or sperm donors. What I think made it traumatic for her was first – the secrecy. Second, was that she had a complicated relationship with her mom, who was a pathological narcissist with a borderline personality disorder. She also said her mother would have fits of rage and that she was at times scared of her.

It sounded like her relationship to her father and her father’s family was very close. It seemed that there were pictures of only his family and ancestors all over their home. Dani’s dad was a religious man and she learned about the Jewish faith from him. So yes, while Dani is still Jewish because her mother is Jewish, it sounded like her mother was not the reason she was brought up to be Orthodox Jewish. So when she is trying to come to grasps with the Jewish laws that say her father was not her father and she was an abomination, I understand why she was having such a difficult and traumatic time trying to come to terms with the truth.

Going back to the secrecy, there is the feeling of being lied to for one’s entire life. Did they know and kept it a secret? Were her parents ignorant of the donor? Or were they subconsciously keeping themselves in denial. I can understand how those questions would eat away at someone. Never knowing the answer is frustrating.

My favorite quote is in Chapter 49: “It would be easy to fantasize that this would have been better. But we can never know what lies at the end of the path not taken. Other difficulties, other heartaches, other complexities would certainly have emerged. But at least we would have been a family traversing them together.”

I really loved when she got to meet her biological dad and the slow build of their relationship. I am a total sucker for those stories, and then I cry. Which is why if I find myself suck into an episode of Long Lost Family, I better have the tissues with me.

4.5 out of 5 DNA Strands.

Thrawn: Treason by Timothy Zahn; narrated by Marc Thompson

Grand Admiral Thrawn faces the ultimate test of his loyalty to the Empire in this epic Star Wars novel from bestselling author Timothy Zahn.

“If I were to serve the Empire, you would command my allegiance.”

Such was the promise Grand Admiral Thrawn made to Emperor Palpatine at their first meeting. Since then, Thrawn has been one of the Empire’s most effective instruments, pursuing its enemies to the very edges of the known galaxy. But as keen a weapon as Thrawn has become, the Emperor dreams of something far more destructive.

Now, as Thrawn’s TIE defender program is halted in favor of Director Krennic’s secret Death Star project, he realizes that the balance of power in the Empire is measured by more than just military acumen or tactical efficiency. Even the greatest intellect can hardly compete with the power to annihilate entire planets.

As Thrawn works to secure his place in the Imperial hierarchy, his former protégé Eli Vanto returns with a dire warning about Thrawn’s homeworld. Thrawn’s mastery of strategy must guide him through an impossible choice: duty to the Chiss Ascendancy, or fealty to the Empire he has sworn to serve. Even if the right choice means committing treason.

 

I think this will be the last of the Thrawn books for a while based on the timeline. It is set right before the finale of Rebels. The third book of this trilogy was not my favorite of the three. I was a little bit bored in the middle of the story, and I thought the plot was a bit..weak.

That being said I will focus on some of the positive things.

I really liked the humor Marc Thompson brought to some of the characters. Such as his Sean Connery voice for Admiral Savit. That cracked me up. As did his pompous, snobby voice for Assistant Director Ronan.
Whenever Director Krennic made an appearance he was always yelling, but Marc’s voice work for him was spot on. Oh, and I was so amused by the jokes at his expense about his white cape. So pretentious.

I loved the voices Marc did for the Death Troopers and how they were just grilling Assistant Director Ronan, because he was so annoying.

This time Thrawn did not say “Perhaps” as much! What a relief!

I did enjoy the subplot with Eli Vanto, the Chiss and their navigators. He didn’t annoy me this time and it was interesting to see his role with the Chiss were he is an outsider. I wouldn’t mind seeing more of them and learning more about the Force Sensitive girls who navigate their ships.

SOME SPOILERS BELOW!

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Review of Iron Gold – the audiobook.

Iron Gold By: Pierce Brown
Narrated by: Tim Gerard Reynolds, John Curless, Julian Elfer, Aedin Moloney

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I last read Iron Gold back in January of 2018. This week I listened to the audiobook for the first time to refresh my memory for Dark Age (coming out this Tuesday).

I have heard mixed reviews about the new voices. Some say that Lysander’s voice is too low and that he doesn’t do different voices for different characters speaking. Some say Lyria’s is too whiny and others say she has great emotion.

Here are my thoughts:

Tim Gerard Reynolds, as always, is perfect for Darrow’s POV. I have no complaints.

The voice of Lysander, Julian Elfer, was what I imagined a Gold like him to sound. Kind of stuffy and pompous. Something was off with the volume. His parts sounded lower and I’d turn up the volume. It is true that he doesn’t do many variations for the voices and it’s hard to tell who is saying what. Actually at 25% in I started reading along on my ebook.

Lyria, Aedin Moloney, has the accent I imagined her to have, but like the narrator for Lysander, she didn’t have much range for doing the different voices. Especially for Ephraim and Holiday. I will say though that I think she got the emotion of Lyria right: the anger and sadness.

After TGR the narrator for Ephraim, John Curless, was second best. John Curless is the only one to return for Dark Age. He really got the tone of Ephraim and was able to do more of a variety of voices. I really liked his accent for Volga and The Duke of Hands.

Listening to Iron Gold to refresh my memory was a smart decision. I forgot some details, but my feelings from the review I wrote in 2018 have stayed the same.

So excited for Dark Age! I’ll read the ebook first, then listen to the audiobook, and I will review both. I’ll reserve judgment for the new voices, though I think I will miss Julian Elfer and Aedin Moloney. I got used to them.

Doctor Sleep by Stephen King, narrated by Will Patton.

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Stephen King returns to the characters and territory of one of his most popular novels ever, The Shining, in this instantly riveting novel about the now middle-aged Dan Torrance (the boy protagonist of The Shining) and the very special 12-year-old girl he must save from a tribe of murderous paranormals.

On highways across America, a tribe of people called The True Knot travel in search of sustenance. They look harmless – mostly old, lots of polyester, and married to their RVs. But as Dan Torrance knows, and spunky 12-year-old Abra Stone learns, The True Knot are quasi-immortal, living off the “steam” that children with the “shining” produce when they are slowly tortured to death.

Haunted by the inhabitants of the Overlook Hotel where he spent one horrific childhood year, Dan has been drifting for decades, desperate to shed his father’s legacy of despair, alcoholism, and violence. Finally, he settles in a New Hampshire town, an AA community that sustains him, and a job at a nursing home where his remnant “shining” power provides the crucial final comfort to the dying. Aided by a prescient cat, he becomes “Doctor Sleep.”

Then Dan meets the evanescent Abra Stone, and it is her spectacular gift, the brightest shining ever seen, that reignites Dan’s own demons and summons him to a battle for Abra’s soul and survival. This is an epic war between good and evil, a gory, glorious story that will thrill the millions of hyper-devoted fans of The Shining and wildly satisfy anyone new to the territory of this icon in the King canon.

I listened to the audiobook narrated by Will Patton. At first I really didn’t like his voice at all and missed Campbell Scott’s voice. But as I started getting into it I got used to his gruffness and thought it actually worked really well with some of the members of the True Knot and with Billy Freeman.

I thought Dan’s character as an adult was spot on for what would become of his life in the aftermath of the traumatic events of the Overlook Hotel. Also, the way he wrote his recovery from alcoholism was so well written and so believable that (besides King saying it himself in the Author’s Note) I looked it up and King knows from experience! I did not know that Stephen King was a recovering alcoholic.

WARNING: NOW THE REVIEW WILL HAVE SPOILERS BELOW.

THIS IS YOUR FINAL WARNING!

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