Audiobook Review: The Winter Witch


What first brought my eye to The Winter Witch was this arresting cover. When I went to add it to my list, I discovered that I had already put Paula Brackston’s earlier book “The Witch’s Daughter” on there as well.  Sometimes I just like to read a well-written witch story and this one looked like it would fit the bill.  Then I saw it was available on audio! And what a spectacular treat for the ears that was! More on that later, but honestly, if you want the full pleasure package for The Winter Witch, you must listen to it! Here’s a clip for a brief taste of Marisa Calin’s brilliant work.

Synopsis taken from Paula Brackston’s site: In her small early nineteenth century Welsh town, there is no one quite like Morgana.   She is small and quick and pretty enough to attract a suitor, but there are things that set her apart from other girls. Though her mind is sharp she has not spoken since she was a young girl. Her silence is a mystery, as well as her magic—the household objects that seem to move at her command, the bad luck that visits those who do her ill.  Concerned for her safety, her mother is anxious to see Morgana married, and Cai Jenkins, the widowed drover from the far hills who knows nothing of the rumors that swirl around her, seems the best choice.

After her wedding, Morgana is heartbroken at leaving her mother, and wary of this man, whom she does not know, and who will take her away to begin a new life.  But she soon falls in love with Cai’s farm and the wild mountains that surround it. Here, where frail humans are at the mercy of the elements, she thrives, her wild nature and her magic blossoming. Cai works to understand the beautiful, half-tamed creature he has chosen for a bride, and slowly, he begins to win Morgana’s affections.  It’s not long, however, before her strangeness begins to be remarked upon in her new village.  A dark force is at work there—a person who will stop at nothing to turn the townspeople against Morgana, even at the expense of those closest to her.  Forced to defend her home, her man, and herself from all comers, Morgana must learn to harness her power, or she will lose everything in this beautifully written, enchanting novel.

The Winter Witch was a great little tale about a young woman coming in to her own first in love, and then in her development of her magical gifts. It was made all that much greater by the brilliant and fantastic narration of Marisa Calin. She has taken Brackston’s beautiful language and made it and her characters come to vivid life. Morgana is just a young girl when she is whisked off to marry Cai Jenkins and her narration was perfectly done to give Morgana that younger voice. Not too much mind you, but just right. And her voice for old Mrs. Jones, their housekeeper and the kindly woman that helps Morgana along with her craft is also perfectly rendered. And again, the voice she gives to the evil Isolde was pure delight as well. Isolde was the bad witch intent on casting spells on Morgana and Cai to gain control of the magical well on Cai Jenkins’ land. She actually made her voice lower and take on this evil, sophisticated, low sounding snake-like voice just like the serpent’s body she transforms into in front of Morgana. You really just have to listen to it. It was seriously a 5-star narration. All those Celtic endearments and places and words would have been completely and utterly lost without Calin’s brilliant narration.  Marisa Calin has also narrated The Witch’s Daughter, so I’m off to track that down now thank you!

Overall, The Winter Witch was a very enjoyable read. Sit back and let this bewitching tale cast you into the time of Morgana and Cai as they find themselves fighting the evils of another witch to save their home, their land, and discover the great love they have for each other. Good always triumphs over evil! It is a long story mind you, I think it took me close to a month to finish! But again, I can’t say enough about how wonderful the narration was. It truly made this great little story even greater.

This review gives another rightful look in to all you will find and enjoy in The Winter Witch:

“There’s a whiff of Harry Potter in the witchy conflict—a battle between undeveloped young magical talent and old malevolence—at the heart of this sprightly tale of spells and romance, the second novel from British writer Brackston (The Witch’s Daughter, 2011)…. Love of landscape and lyrical writing lend charm, but it’s Brackston’s full-blooded storytelling that will hook the reader.” —Kirkus

Audiobook Review: Shine Shine Shine

A heartfelt thank you, thank you, thank you to Audiobook Jukebox and Macmillan Audio for sharing Shine Shine Shine with the Literary Hoarders.  What a wonderful story, and what a marvelously written debut novel!

First, I must warn you not to be fooled by the simplistic phrase “epic love story.”  To do so would be to grossly underestimate this book’s charm, and its power to resonate.  This was, for me, more than a love story.  It swelled and burst with life, and the characters surged from the story with brilliance and enviable candor.  I struggle now to recall a key person in this novel that I did not want to meet.  Each one was deliciously complex, and beautifully flawed.

Shine Shine Shine orbits around Sunny and Maxon Mann, childhood best friends who eventually married and had a child of their own (affectionately nicknamed “Bubber”).  Sunny, now pregnant with her second child, has shoehorned herself and her little family into Virginia’s ideal version of suburbia.  These three exhaust themselves fitting in to the perfect Stepford small-town.

Alas, they are different.  Sunny, born in Burma during a full eclipse, was born strong-willed, wildly intelligent, and completely hairless.  Sunny is bald, has no eyelashes, eyebrows or hair of any kind.  In order to fit in to her perfect world, Sunny has disguised herself with a beautiful blonde wig, and an impeccable taste in craft fairs.  Paired with her pretty cardigans and granite countertops, Sunny passes as everywoman, and blends beautifully with her surroundings.

Maxon (hands down my favorite character) is a genius.  His off-the-charts brilliance has him working for NASA.  As the book kicks off, Maxon is on his way to the moon, for the purposes of robot colonization.  Having been coached how to behave properly by Sunny and Sunny’s mother, Maxon knows when to nod, grimace, respond quietly, or offer scripted condolences.  Typically equipped with an erasable marker, Maxon is always ready to solve any of life’s problems with striking mathematical accuracy (and a completely stoic demeanor).  If you’re not crazy about Maxon by the halfway mark, then you’re not reading carefully enough.  Would love to give the man a bear hug, but chances are excellent that he would have no clue what to do with it.  Besides, he only has eyes for Sunny.

Bubber is an autistic child.  Thanks to Sunny’s effort to control his outbursts, head-banging, and repeated jabbering, he’s heavily medicated.  Bubber must fit in too, just like his father.  His preschool would like Sunny and Maxon to consider more medication.  They don’t like what happens when Bubber doesn’t “get the blue chair” during art class.  They aren’t equipped to deal with… difference.

And then one day, there’s a fender bender in this quiet town, and just as Sunny’s airbag goes off, the wig flies out the window, and into a puddle.  Her neighbors see her for the first time.  Really see her.

And that’s when the story actually starts.  You are then privy to everything from the courtship of Sunny’s mother, to early life in Burma, to a move to the U.S. where a chance meeting with a neglected child from down the street pairs Sunny with the man of her dreams.  There are secrets, longings, love in its purest form, and yes, even a little bit of murder.  See?  I told you it wasn’t just a love story.

Truly, however, I understand this classification.  Because this book is love.  Love through pain, through differences… love between husband and wife…love between parent and child.  It’s also love and acceptance of one’s true self, which is no small feat.

Lydia Netzer’s writing is remarkable.  On more than one occasion, I was pretty convinced that she too must be an astronaut.  How else could she describe Maxon’s complexities with such agility?  How could she hop from discussing robotics, to the umbrella of autism, and then over to the pain of saying goodbye to an ailing parent?  She made it seem so effortless.  Of course, it isn’t.

I could keep waxing rhapsodic about Shine Shine Shine, but instead, I’ll recommend that you get your copy today.  I promise that you’ll be taken aback by Lydia Netzer’s intellect, and her gift for telling a unique and unparalleled story.  If you happen upon the audiobook version, I also promise that Joshilyn Jackson will do justice to the characters, with affection and understanding.  I was surprised at this narrator’s pitch at first, but she then became the perfect fit for everyone in the book.

4.5 enthusiastic stars for Shine Shine Shine, and a plea for Lydia Netzer to hurry and publish a second!