“The City of Ember” by Jeanne DuPrau

audiobookreview

I meant to pick up this book so long ago, and lo-and-behold, fourteen years have passed and even though I’m no longer a young reader, I still think THE CITY OF EMBER is an excellent story, well worth picking up.


thecityofemberThe City of Ember

by Jeanne DuPrau

Narrated by Wendy Dillon

❤︎ ❤︎ ❤︎ ❤︎ ❤︎

Series: The City of Ember (1)
Genres: Young Adult, Science Fiction, DystopiaFantasy, Fiction
Published By: Listening Library in 2004
Original Publication: Penguin Random House in 2003 (Original US Hardcover Edition)
Format: Audiobook (7 hours, 6 minutes)

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summary

Many hundreds of years ago, the city of Ember was created by the Builders to contain everything needed for human survival. It worked…but now the storerooms are almost out of food, crops are blighted, corruption is spreading through the city and worst of all—the lights are failing. Soon Ember could be engulfed by darkness….

But when two children, Lina and Doon, discover fragments of an ancient parchment, they begin to wonder if there could be a way out of Ember. Can they decipher the words from long ago and find a new future for everyone? Will the people of Ember listen to them?

review

After being burned so many times post-Twilight and The Hunger Games, I’m a bit wary of YA books that smell like they may end up filled with love triangle angst.  There is a time and place, and you never know.  Plus, The City of Ember is marketed for the 8-12 crowd, and I am way, way past that.  I’m pleased to report that none of my concerns were an issue with The City of Ember, and I give it ALL FIVE hearts.

Characters

❤︎

I’m not crazy about Doon, but I’m also not crazy about creepy crawlies or hot tempers.  He and Lina are complete opposites – one dark and frustrated, the other sweet and innocent.  They are an awesome complement to each other, and they have a really awkward relationship… as twelve-year-olds do.  I also felt like they were both realistic in their settings – Lina is protective of her little sister, happy to be alive, curious and brave.  Doon is a little moodier, but he’s also very interested in the world.  They both have an essential childlike belief that the world could be better.  That people are inherently good.  It’s sweet.

As for the minor characters, they’re also lovely.  They are a bit kinder than I have come to expect from adults in YA fiction, but more’s the better for a middle grade audience.  I particularly liked Clary.  And Poppy, but that may be because the voice Wendy Dillon used for her was adorable.

World

❤︎

The world is the thing I really want to talk about, but I can’t talk about the parts I want without being a little spoilery!  …  I will suffice it to say that I really liked the world, and I liked how the darkness was basically this big, black, menacing character of itself, and that I think it’s crazy they were eating 220-year-old canned peaches.

Story

❤︎

If I’m being really honest, this type of story isn’t particularly new.  I see a bunch of references to The Giver on Goodreads, and I’m also thinking of the Crossed by Ally Condie.  It’s also important to remember, however, that The City of Ember predates Condie’s writing, even predated The Hunger Games.  So this book was dystopia before dystopia was mainstream.  And it holds up 14 years after publication.  YES.

Writing / Narration

❤︎

Anyone wanting to jump in here expecting intricate writing and complex subplots may want to take a step back – DuPrau’s writing is very simple.  This is intended to be an easy, engrossing read for ages 8-12, and it succeeds very well in that regard.  If you’re expecting Lord of the Rings detail, this is not it.  And I’m fine with that!  I am not the intended audience.  And, for that matter, I liked it fine.

As for Wendy Dillon’s narration, it was mostly good.  I wasn’t crazy about the voice she used with Doon, but it wasn’t grating.  The Mayor and the Guard at the Desk (especially the Guard) were intolerable.  Fortunately, they had very few lines, and I endured.

Personal Thoughts

❤︎

Overall, I really liked it.  This was a fun, light read in a genre I enjoy without boatloads of romantic tension, a few little laughs, and really endearing characters.  I would definitely pick up a copy of this for my home library.

tldr

Good characters, a solid middle grade dystopia.  Would recommend for young readers, but still enjoyable for adults.

source

I borrowed this book from the New Hampshire Library Exchange on Overdrive.  Overdrive is wonderful.  Someday I’ll write a whole post about how wonderful it is.  That said – all opinions here are my own, I get no love and no commission for promoting this book.

firstsentence

“When the city of Ember was just built and not yet inhabited, the chief builder and the assistant builder, both of them weary, sat down to speak of the future.”

favoritequotes

“People find a way through just about anything.”

“Wouldn’t it be strange, she thought, to have a blue sky? But she liked the way it looked. It would be beautiful – a blue sky.”

“Lina looked out at the lighted streets spreading away in every direction, the streets she knew so well. She loved her city, worn out and crumbling though it was.”


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“The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde” by Robert Louis Stevenson

audiobookreview

A man with a curiosity about the nature of good and evil creates a potion to separate the two parts of his nature.  When things don’t go as planned, the monster grows stronger and lives are lost.


jeckyllandhydeaudiobook

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde

by Robert Louis Stevenson

Narrated by Scott Brick

❤︎ ❤︎

Series: Standalone
Genres: Classics, Fiction, HorrorScience Fiction, Mystery, Gothic, Fantasy, Literature, 19th Century, Academic, School
Published By: Tantor Audio in 2006
Original Publication: Longmans, Green, & Co in 1886 (Original UK Paperback Edition)
Format: Audiobook (3 hours, 6 minutes)

goodreads librarything publisher author

summary

An intriguing combination of fantasy thriller and moral allegory, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde depicts the gripping struggle of two opposing personalities – one essentially good, the other evil – for the soul of one man. Its tingling suspense and intelligent and sensitive portrayal of man’s dual nature reveals Stevenson as a writer of great skill and originality, whose power to terrify and move us remains, over a century later, undiminished.

review

A few years ago, I picked up Treasure Island and absolutely loved it.  I figured, hey!  Jekyll & Hyde is also a classic, and written by the same author, I’ll like this one too!  Unfortunately, it just didn’t hit home for me.  Actually, I’m sort of preparing myself to be pummeled with tomatoes because out of all classics, this one seems to be the one most people like… eek!  Here goes….

Characters

We spend the book trailing a man called “Utterson” who appears to be a prominent lawyer and in service to all the important men of London.  Utterson is nosy, judgmental, and pompous.  I suppose for the time it was written, this character would have been a respectable character with high morals and great compassion, but frankly I found him annoying.  Having to see the story through his eyes was, I believe, an unfortunate choice of Stevenson’s, for it would have been so much more insightful and interesting to see it from Jekyll himself.

The other characters we come across are more or less the same, with the exception of Jekyll (who is only like Utterson half the time.  The other half, obviously, is Hyde) and his manservant Poole, who simply comes across as small and rash and a bit like the Cowardly Lion.

World

❤︎

The story takes place in London.  I found this aspect a bit interesting, actually, because although most of the tale itself is just a series of conversations and letters, you really do get a sense of the surrounding world.  In particular, I thought Jekyll and Hyde’s individual houses – Hyde’s Soho apartment and Jekyll’s sprawling manorhouse complete with operating theatre – to be particularly well imagined.  In addition, these spaces gave a visible sense of character where otherwise the reader has only to rely on an eyewitness account and a pair of letters.

Story

❤︎

The morality tale is an interesting one.  This is along the vein of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Grey as well, asking the question of “what if we could split ourselves into two halves, one good and beautiful, the other ugly and villainous?  We could indulge our fancies and not face the consequences”.  Unlike Dorian, Jekyll is unable to truly separate himself from that dark, hedonistic side and the consequences chase after him.  See, Dorian Grey strips himself of his conscience as well as the strings between crime and punishment, whereas Jekyll must carry the knowledge of his evil in his heart.  For both, temptation is paramount, although Dorian has more patience than Jekyll, for Jekyll is thrown into his vices rather than growing into them.  For the philosophical question alone, this book is worth reading.  It makes you think.

Writing / Narration

As mentioned above, I feel as though this story would have been much more interesting if it were presented differently.  A first person standpoint would have served it well, rather than a third person outsider.  The dialogue-style storytelling is a fairly common format for 19th century literature, especially for this sort of story where the reader may wish to distance oneself from the subject matter, but I just don’t think it works well here.  Ultimately, the story comes across as mostly a monster stamping on people and an old man being strange and reclusive.

The narration, thought, I will say was just fine.  Scott Brick distinguished the voices well and read at a good, manageable pace.  With classics, especially those written in times when the language and popular styles were a little different, it’s doubly important to have a good narrator or they are unreadable.

Personal Thoughts

All in all, I’m glad I picked up this book and gave it a try, but I don’t think that I will revisit it any time soon.

tldr

Although a classic and woven so much into our daily understanding, I think this is just plain boring.

source

I got this as part of a sale on Audible a couple years ago: I think it was Buy 2, Get 1 Free!  Or something to that effect.  I purchased this book of my own volition and this review is commitment-free.

firstsentence

“Mr. Utterson the lawyer was a man of a rugged countenance that was never lighted by a smile; cold, scanty and embarrassed in discourse; backward in sentiment; lean, long, dusty, dreary and yet somehow lovable.”

favoritequotes

“It is one thing to mortify curiosity, another to conquer it. ”

“There comes an end to all things; the most capacious measure is filled at last; and this brief condescension to evil finally destroyed the balance of my soul.”

alternativecovers

 


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