Book: The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: Book I: The Mysterious Howling
Author: Maryrose Wood (@Maryrose_Wood)
Narrator: Katherine Kellgren (@KatyKellgren)
Age Range: 9-12
I do not, alas, recall who it was that recommended the audio versions of Maryrose Wood's Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place series. But I am grateful to whichever blogger it was, because I quite enjoyed the first book, The Mysterious Howling, and have already started the second. These are excellent audiobooks. The narrator, Katherine Kellgren, is fabulous. And the audio production (involving more than one scene with howling noises) is top-notch. The book itself is hilarious (though I always find it difficult to review books that I only have on audio, as I can't flag passages, and flip back through the book).
The Mysterious Howling begins as 15-year-old Penelope Lumley heads to Ashton Place for her first ever interview to be a governess. Her parents lost, Penelope has been raised at the Swanburne Academy for Poor Bright Females. She is a capable, resourceful, and animal-loving young female, all traits that stand her in good stead at the highly unconventional Ashton Place.
The book is set in some unspecified historical time period in rural England. The narrator often speaks directly to the reader, explaining how things were different back then (and, in some cases, how they aren't so different). The narrator also sometimes defines unfamiliar words, etc., shades of the Lemony Snicket books. I sometimes find this writing style entertaining, while in other cases I find it annoying. Maryrose Wood stays solidly on the side of entertaining. Although I can't share any quotes, unfortunately, I know that I laughed out loud on a number of occasions. This omniscient narrator approach also enables the reader to sometimes notice things that Penelope herself misses (thus making the reader feel smart).
Katherine Kellgren is especially good at showcasing the personalities of the secondary characters in the book, including the housekeeper and Lord and Lady Ashton. The children, well, I suspect that their personalities will be developed more in later books (to say more would be a spoiler). As for Penelope, she is a delight from start to finish.
The Mysterious Howling doesn't really stand alone. It leaves a number of mysteries unsolved, positively begging the reader to start the next book immediately. In fact, as soon as I started Book 2, I made sure to order Book 3. I've learned from Penelope the benefits of being well prepared.
I should note that although the heroine is 15, The Mysterious Howling is solidly middle grade (albeit with sparks of humor to appeal to adults). Penelope is quite innocent for her age, and her adventures with the Incorrigibles are fully kid-friendly. I highly recommend The Mysterious Howling, particularly in the audio version, for anyone who enjoys middle grade fiction presented with a droll wit, and more than a dash of mystery.
Publisher: Balzer + Bray (@BalzerAndBray)
Publication Date: February 23, 2010
Source of Book: Purchased from Audible on MP3
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