Fantasy Book Review
(and audiobook details)
So I probably shouldn’t be reviewing this one.
Well…there’s a brand-new audiobook coming out for this title soon.
And I voiced it.
So I might be a little biased.
In that light, I’m freeing myself of the responsibility of giving a specific rating for the book. Instead, you’ll get a review and few fun little details about me voicing the audiobook…because there should be something to make up for the missing Bookmarked rating, right? And I’ll try to be as impartial as I can, even though, clearly, I would like it very much if somebody went to go buy the audiobook on Amazon/Audible/iTunes.
From the top.
Book: Tabitha Sparks and the Door to Everywhere by Jae El Foster
Series: Tabitha Sparks Trilogy (#1.)
Genre: Juvenile Fiction/Fantasy
Content for the sensitive reader: Very little, actually. The book is tame for the most part, but with some scenes in the second half (including witches, human-dissecting robots, ghosts and the realm of the dead–but they are very well-mannered for the most part. Children’s fiction–even the guardians of the Underworld are polite.) that could be disturbing to younger readers, and a few comparisons to characters as “devils” or “devilish.” No other concerning language whatsoever, largely appropriate for young audience.
Tabitha Sparks and the Door to Everywhere is the story of a little girl embarking on a magical adventure replete with talking cat, creepy aunt, the token disappearing parents, a hunchbacked butler, and, perhaps obviously, a door that leads to, well, everywhere.
Let’s have the ruthless part of the review first. Because if you’ve read enough on my blog by now, you know only a handful of books are worthy, in my humble estimation, of the perfect 10.
The actual traveling to everywhere doesn’t start happening for a while. First we have to meet Tabitha, take our time setting up the plot, meet side characters, etcetera…
And while most of the time I would be impatient, growling “get to the point,” there’s something that makes me hesitate with this book.
First off, Tabitha’s charming. I’d probably have been content to read another chapter or two with her at home before her adventures get going, just because it has a sweet innocence to it.
And on the other hand…
The Door to Everywhere leads everywhere. And in this particular adventure it leads this particular little girl to some rather creepy places.
I’m not big on the horror genre (mostly because I don’t want to turn writing-induced insomnia into intense terror of the dark and all things that lurk in it, and a mild interest in tea into love for caffeine to keep them at bay), so I can’t be certain that’s the idea Jae El was going for. But I have read some sci-fi (when I can’t get my claws on fantasy), and the creatures Tabitha meets seem more like things I’ve heard about H.P. Lovecraft fiction than from C.S. Lewis or Roald Dahl. Not entirely surprising, since Jae El’s other books seem to lean toward that creepy side of the world. He does keep it very tame for the young audience, but it is something to be aware of depending on who you’re reading to.
And it’s something that actually made me just want to read about Tabitha going exploring with her sarcastic cat more than finding out what world she would next discover.
Second picky detail?
The characters are…a little archetypal. Tabitha is the intelligent little girl, Demonia is the creepy old aunt, Hilda is the gruff (presumably German) maid, villains are ugly (and seriously need dental), heroes are good-natured and full of energy.
I know, I know. I’m a little hyper-critical since I’m a fantasy geek and this is a children’s book written for 6-10 year olds. And for that audience, there’s really nothing wrong with having slightly archetypal characters. Like in Roald Dahl’s Matilda. Sometimes you need things plain and square. Or however the saying goes.
Do I have more? Yes…afraid I do…
The prose is pretty ordinary, with some phrases that Jae El comes back to over and over again…but it’s going to stick out to me way more than an ordinary reader because of the audiobook recording process. It basically involved having to
- Read it once
- Re-record what didn’t come through on the first take
- Listen to the entire recording to edit out background noise, plosives, and any lines I repeated because I didn’t like the first take
- Listen to the recording again to check for volume, buzzes, and any final edits
- Eventually send the recordings to real editing people because enough is enough.
So I probably noticed the few typos and repetitive lines more than anybody else would. And to be fair, most of the writing is easily rival to Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory that everyone raves about even though the grandparents are named Grandpa Jo and Grandma Josephine and Grandpa George and Grandma Georgina.
I’m still having a hard time grasping that.
I mean, what if George had married Josephine as a young man and Georgina had married Jo? Why would they search out people with identical names like four-year-olds carefully separating carrots and peas?
Do they sit at home all day while Charlie’s at school separating carrots and peas?
Anyway. That’s an argument for a whole other day.
Getting to what I did like…
I do like Tabitha. And whole thing really was fun to voice.
Want to know my favorite three characters to voice in the whole book?
Lapis the cat, Damien the hunchbacked butler, and the green head Helen of the two-headed witch. And if I had to pick a fourth, Lola the French maid.
I know! Damien’s such a trivial character probably no one else would even remember him. He shows up, blinks once, opens the door, and exits stage right. But for some reason when I was reading his lines, I just had a little too much fun.
He’s described as unbelievably old, and with such a monotone voice…well, I might have gone a little overboard. To the point when Damien was coming up, I was thinking ooh, good, I get to voice Damien again!
I know. Weird.
Lapis was fun because he has this saucy, sarcastic tone with everything he says. I tried to read it so you could almost see his ears twitching back with not wanting to be cuddled. There’s a cat from the movie April and the Extraordinary World I kept thinking of when doing it. Cats are just fun.
The green head of the witch…well, the two-headed witch is essentially two sisters, right? So they need different voices. Of course they need different voices. So the beautiful sister gets to sound like my closest approximation of a Disney princess (Jae El actually describes birdsong in the background when she’s talking), and the green sister…
…well…I’m not sure I can describe what I did. It’s very round, like she’s trying to make her mouth look like a Cheerio shape. Kind of reminds me of a Huggly monster. You know, from the old books with the bug-eyed creatures that live under your bed…No? Just me that read those as a kid?
Lola actually took me a while to get the hang of because…I’m not French.
And anyone from France/Gemany/New Jersey out there that can tell I’m a fake…please, please don’t be offended. I did the best I could. I think you all have wonderful accents and wish I could truly do them justice.
That being said, I’m pretty content with Lola’s voice. Once I got used to it, it’s very light more than anything else. Like she’s ready to laugh at every turn.
Of course, there are other fun characters I got to voice along the way, including a wolf who (I think) sounds like your typical Jas. Hook from Peter Pan.
Because…why not? I kind of got the go-ahead to do whatever I wanted with the audio.
How did it turn out?
I don’t know. Like I said, I’m probably the wrong person to judge this book and the audiobook.
On the other hand,
if there are any lovely book bloggers out there willing to give Tabitha Sparks an honest review, I think I can get promo codes from ACX to get reader (or listener?) copies. I’d very much like to hear what someone thinks of it besides the author and myself. And to spread the word that it exists.
That’s Tabitha Sparks and the Door to Everywhere. And if you want, go bug Jae El Foster on his blog. Read about the book, tell him I said hello (but don’t get me in trouble. There are two more books, and I like this job.), and go to iTunes/Audible/Amazon if you want to buy it once it’s released.
But only if you really want to.