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A Reader of Fictions: Audiobook Review: House of Secrets

A Reader of Fictions

Book Reviews for Just About Every Kind of Book

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Audiobook Review: House of Secrets

House of Secrets
House of Secrets, Book 1

Authors: Chris Columbus & Ned Vizzini
Narrator: Daniel Vincent Gordh
Duration: 11 hrs, 48 mins
Publisher: Harper Audio
Publication Date: April 23, 2013
Source: Publisher for review

Description from Goodreads:
From legendary Hollywood director Chris Columbus (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets) and bestselling author Ned Vizzini (It's Kind of a Funny Story) comes this first book in an epic new fantasy series.

Brendan, Eleanor, and Cordelia Walker once had everything: two loving parents, a beautiful house in San Francisco, and all the portable electronic devices they could want. But everything changed when Dr. Walker lost his job in the wake of a mysterious incident. Now in dire straits, the family must relocate to an old Victorian house that used to be the home of occult novelist Denver Kristoff—a house that feels simultaneously creepy and too good to be true.

By the time the Walkers realize that one of their neighbors has sinister plans for them, they're banished to a primeval forest way off the grid. Their parents? Gone. Their friends? A world away. And they aren't alone. Bloodthirsty medieval warriors patrol the woods around them, supernatural pirates roam the neighboring seas, and a power-hungry queen rules the land. To survive, the siblings will have to be braver than they ever thought possible—and fight against their darkest impulses. The key may lie in their own connection to the secret Kristoff legacy. But as they unravel that legacy, they'll discover it's not just their family that's in danger . . . it's the entire world.

Alright, audiobook reviews can be sort of tricky to review, since the experience can be so different from reviewing a print book. I notice such different things and don't tend to remember super specific details as well. I'm going to try borrowing (with approval, of course) April of Good Books and Good Wine's format she's been using lately.

Why Did I Read This Book?
Okay, this may not reflect particularly well on me as a person, but the allure was equal parts the famous name and the awesome cover. Basically, I was curious about whether this would be any good, and whether it would live up to the cover. Obviously, I was skeptical, because Chris Columbus isn't an author, but Ned Vizzini's written things of which I have had good report, so I thought maybe it would pan out well.

What's the Story Here?
The Walker family lost most of their money and their reputation when the surgeon father did something totally whack during a surgery. They've moved to San Francisco in hopes of getting far enough away from the lawsuit that he can find employment in a hospital (good luck, buddy). Though they lack much money for a house, the realtor show's them this totally insane house, Kristoff House, and they can have it for pretty much nothing. Obviously, they are stoked and ready to move in immediately. Then, the inevitable drawback: Dahlia Kristoff, the daughter of author Denver Kristoff, who built the crazy house is like totally evil and she kills the parents and sends the three kids to a magical world that continually tries to kill them. They face, among other things, barbarians, pirates, skeletons, sharks, witches, and giants. Basically, action, action, action. Oh, and there's a surprising amount of violence. Pretty much everyone gets injured throughout the course of the book and a few die.

How Are the Characters?
Characterization is totally not what this book is about, so they're pretty flat mostly. Elinor, the youngest walker, tends to actually be the most useful, even if she does tend to run into things without a plan, like when she stabs the leader of the barbarians with a fork. Brave, but ill-considered. Brendan is a teen boy, and he's pretty typical. He doesn't like to read much, and constantly has his eyes on a video game, but he steps up to defend his sisters. Cordelia, the eldest, should be my favorite, because she's all about reading and vocabulary, but she ended up annoying me because of her blindness with regards to boys. Oh, one touch I did like is that both teens actually had acne. That is so rare in books, and, seriously, how many teens don't have pimples now and then? Or, you know, all the time?

What About Romance?
So, like I said, Cordelia desperately wants a certain boy within this book. He's an aviator named Will, and he's British and handsome. Like, I do not blame her for crushing on him, because British and hot, however, he regularly says seriously sexist things and pisses her off. Yet, she will quickly brush that off and reset to swooning all over the place and being jealous, which only reinforces his negative attitudes towards women. He is totally not a candidate for romance right now, because that is not cool. Overall, though, Cordelia would rather have him as a boyfriend, even if he is sexist, than NOT have him as a boyfriend. Brendan has a couple of little crushes too. I will say, though, that mostly there's not much romance, and that the authors seem to delight in crushing their hopes for the most part, which was a pretty nice change from the romance heavy books I usually read.

Am I Going to Continue with the Series?
Probably not. It's not character-based enough to be an ideal read for me. I'm glad I satisfied my curiosity, but I'm not interested to continue on for more, especially since the direction it's going in at the end annoys me. I feel like this could have been a standalone, but those aren't all that popular right now.

How Was the Audio?
Daniel Vincent Gordh does a pretty good job. His lady voices are a little bit weak, but that's not uncommon. His little girl voice for Elinor was really obnoxious, though. Otherwise, he was easy to listen to, and the audiobook was an enjoyable way to pass the time. I don't think I would have been able to three star this in print, because it's just not really my thing, but it was fun on audio.

Sum It Up with a GIF:
I totally pictured the creepy Dahlia Kristoff as Ursula from The Little Mermaid, only missing a hand. And she totally magics the kids and then distracts a couple of them with romantic temptations, so this totally works. Oh, and also the kids are slightly transfigured by the experience, maturing a bit.

Rating: 3/5

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Blogger Jenni said...

haha Is it bad that what got me really excited in this review is that she stabbed a guy with a fork? That sounds fun! It's too bad this one didn't have more in the way of character building but I am happy that it did manage to be pretty fun overall. It seems like everything nowadays is a series, hey? It drives me mad too. Maybe that's what has added to my contemporary love, those tend to be standalones (well the ones I read anyway, I know you read quite a few contemp series) Anyway, great review! Sorry you didn't like it enough to continue the series.

April 23, 2013 at 9:13 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

Nah, it does sound pretty entertaining when you think about it. There's a lot of ridiculous stuff like that in here, and it can be pretty funny. I suspect little kids will really enjoy it, because they're pretty bloodthirsty. Haha.

Maybe you could read this with your kids in a few years!

April 23, 2013 at 9:17 AM  
Blogger Steena said...

This book is on my to-read shelf but I am going to specifically seek out the audiobook because Daniel Vincent Gordh played Darcy on The Lizzie Bennet Diaries and I am shameless like that.

April 23, 2013 at 11:33 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

OMG, what?!?!?! Really? He did. My mind is blown. I didn't actually get to the part where he showed up, but I need to finish the show now that it's done.

April 23, 2013 at 11:36 AM  
Blogger Amy said...

Sounds violent!! I like that lol!! This seems like an interesting book, but being a very character driven reader I think I would have issues with it too. I have noticed a lot of the time audiobooks will work for me better than the print book will. Like Beautiful Creatures, I totally would have given up reading that super quick, but with the audio I almost got through it. I still DNF'd it, but the audio wasn't nearly as hard to endure as physically reading would have been.

April 23, 2013 at 2:06 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

Hahaha, omg,you still DNFed with the better version? I can't even. That's crazy! I use audio for things I think I wouldn't like in print a lot of the time, like when I'm skeptical about the writing quality. Flat characters are slightly more 3d when they have voices, you know?

April 23, 2013 at 2:08 PM  
Blogger Ashley said...

I was thinking of listening to this because I watched The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. However, since we tend to agree on books (shocking) I will be moving this slightly down my TBR list for a bit.

April 24, 2013 at 2:57 PM  
Blogger Dragana M. said...

I'm also attracted to this book for the same things that attracted you. But after reading your review, I think I am going to skip it: flat characters and I don't like description of Cordelia and her love interest. :/
I'm glad that you enjoyed the book (at least well enough to finish it).

April 25, 2013 at 6:37 AM  

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