A #WyrdAndWonder Audiobook Review | “Magical Neighbours” (a #KidsLit audio story about gnomes and the fey!) by Mary Ellen Spencer, narrated by Rosemary Benson

Posted Thursday, 27 May, 2021 by jorielov , , , , 0 Comments

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Acquired Audiobook By: I started to listen to audiobooks in [2016] as a way to offset my readings of print books whilst noting there was a rumour about how audiobooks could help curb chronic migraines as you are switching up how your reading rather than allowing only one format to be your bookish choice. As I found colouring, knitting and playing solitaire agreeable companions to listening to audiobooks, I embarked on a new chapter of my reading life where I spend time outside of print editions of the stories I love reading and exchange them for audio versions.

Through hosting for Audiobookworm Promotions, I’ve expanded my knowledge of authors who are producing audio versions of their stories whilst finding podcasters who are sharing their bookish lives through pods. Meanwhile, I am also curating my own wanderings in audio via my local library who uses Overdrive for their digital audiobook catalogue wherein I can also request new digital audiobooks to become added to their OverDrive selections. Aside from OverDrive I also enjoy having Audible & Scribd memberships as my budget allows. It is a wonderful new journey and one I enjoy sharing – I have been able to expand the percentage of how many audios I listen to per year since 2018.

I received a complimentary audiobook copy of “Magical Neighbours” via Audiobookworm Promotions who is working with the author on this blog tour in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

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Hallo, Hallo dear hearts!

*waves* It is time to reveal my second audiobook story I’ve listened to this #WyrdAndWonder which involves *gnomes!* Remember, earlier in the month when I shared my audio review for The One Great Gnome? You might have caught the *excitement!* I had in listening to select Middle Grade Fantasy stories this Wyrd And Wonder in audiobook – as prior to this lovely, I was truly smitten with the world within The Marvelwood Magicians!

One of my most earnest requests for audiobooks across the board are to have cast & narrator lists – wherein if there is more than one narrator, each voice a narrator represents needs to be given to a listener whilst a cast listing is wicked helpful for dyslexic listeners such as myself who struggle to sort out how a name is properly spelt in the stories we’re listening too. Guess what!? This particular author must’ve have known how helpful a PDF character disclosure would be – as she’s included one with this audiobook!

Not only are there hand-crafted gnome and fairy doors throughout the PDF file but there is also artwork representing the characters themselves as well as how their names are spelt! They each have their own unique personality and the one who graces the cover of Magical Neighbours is known as Hoedown, which I could only conclude before hearing the story was due to her gardening obsession!?

What a brilliant treat to find!! I wish all audiobooks came with a PDF file to accompany the stories wherein each story we listen to would disclose the names of the characters like Magical Neighbours has given us! And, of course, for harder to spell/hear names for settings in stories, that would be most ideal as well.

Let’s find out my reactions to this super short story which has such a big heart!

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A #WyrdAndWonder Audiobook Review | “Magical Neighbours” (a #KidsLit audio story about gnomes and the fey!) by Mary Ellen Spencer, narrated by Rosemary BensonMagical Neighbours
by Mary Ellen Spencer
Source: Audiobook via Audiobookworm Promotions
Narrator: Rosemary Benson

The sudden appearance of a portly gnome on a humdrum, ordinary day definitely threw me for a loop. When this gnome began to speak to me about building him a home in our neighborhood, I know my eyes were as big as saucers, but I tried to appear casual. And I even managed to answer graciously, “Sure, I’d be glad to.” Then other gnomes who wanted to live in my neck of the woods showed up. Fairies, too! They all became part of my world. And their world became part of mine. Life’s been astonishing ever since.

Maybe you’ve never met anyone who lives beyond fairy doors. Well, I’d like you to meet my new neighbors. They’re really quite wonderful in their own magical way. Knock on their doors and have a chat. Make friends with fairies and garden gnomes. Come spend some time with us!

Genres: Fantasy Fiction, Middle Grade Fantasy

Places to find the book:

Add to LibraryThing

ASIN: B0932B15V8

Published by One Night Stand Studios

on 21st April, 2021

Format: Audiobook | Digital

Length: 40 minutes (unabridged)

Published by: One Night Stand Studios

Converse via: #Fantasy, #KidsLit and #MGLit or #MiddleGrade
as well as #AudiobookwormPromotions OR #TheAudiobookEmpire
+ #MagicalNeighbours & #WyrdAndWonder

About Mary Ellen Spencer

Mary Ellen Spencer

Mary Ellen Spencer lives in a forested neighborhood near Harrods Creek in Kentucky with her cute husband Hank and her trusty dog Annie. She likes to make things—fairy doors and birdhouses from gourds, men of the forest carved from stone, and woodspirits carved into cedar. She enjoys growing things—like trees and hostas and oak leaf hydrangeas. And sometimes stories spill out.

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my review of magical neighbours:

The humour within this lovely short story is straight up my street! I love the cheekiness of it and the warmth of setting you immediately feel connected to as soon as Ms Benson’s voice is tickling your ears with the story of Ms Spencer! Benson brings Spencer’s world to beautiful life – especially keen is how cheekily Spencer’s humour aligns with my own!! For instance, you’d think when your about to first meet a gnome, rather than finding himself completely pre-occupied with his own agenda and affairs, which he imparts to you as if you’ve been designed the bearer of his news and with the assertion you’ll know exactly how to assist him in his quest of having a ‘perfectly built house’ to his exact specifications is the charming way in which this story opens!

Percival is quite the fellow – happily stout, full of life and of course, single-minded towards himself, he brings us into this ‘otherworld’ within the garden the ‘storyteller’ occupies with her own gardening pursuits; oblivious of course, until now, mind of the other creatures and characters living just outside the scope of her former knowledge.

You cannot help but laugh when you are entertained with the conversation between Wattle and the storyteller – the whole topic of course is about turkeys and how protective Wattle is of their community. You have to give the bloke credit due to his dedication to the birds and to their way of life even if to the outside peering in he has quite the odd affection for a very misunderstood bird!

Morioka san has very high standards and has a particular way about him which imposes an air of sophistication in his person. Whereas Magdalena the fairy simply wants a quieter repose – a place where she can commune with the natural world but not feel oppressed by anyone or anything. She wants to find the harmony she constantly seeks out and to live a simpler life than the one she has currently. As you listen to her story, you cannot disagree with her choice!

This wouldn’t be a proper garden with a bit of romance in the air and the affection Benjamin has for Magdalena is not just honourable but its adorable! He would definitely move heaven and earth for her and he has such an inverted personality, I wasn’t even sure if she realised his affection?

I liked how Spencer kept finding ways to intuitively write-in life lessons for her younger audience -such as the lesson Tomas has to learn for himself about what is more important in life? And, how to properly act and behave whilst what to expect out of different experiences isn’t always what a person thinks is necessary but how there is a right and wrong way to live one’s life if your priorities are backwards!?

As we travel through the lives of the gnomes and the fey who live in the storytellers garden, we see how with minimal influences by our humanness we can depart their world back into our own with friendship, kindness and the hopefulness of what tomorrow will yield. It is a such a wonderfully gentle story and one that has a lot of hidden secrets of its own to reveal – especially in how gnomes and the fey differ from one another as much as they share a few things in common as well. The concept of home and community are also present in the story but so too, is the revelation that it is good to spend time out with others but not at the sacrifice of one’s own health and home. There are a lot of simple joys and pleasures in this tale and I’d be shocked if every listener doesn’t leave the story feeling uplifted with a bounty full of happiness just for having heard it.

on the fantastical styling of mary ellen spencer:

The self-depreciating opener about the ‘storyteller’ is quite a lot of self-reflective banter about Ms Spencer – I wasn’t sure if all the humour in that section would be understood by a younger audience but I was hopeful it might be because it was such a charming way to open the story. In essence, it was a way to denote that ‘why’ should I be the one to tell the story? And, of course the ready answer is – because only ‘she’ could. Especially as her particular garden held a world of wonder all of its own. I, mean, its not everyday a gnome comes up to speak to you!

loved how the arts and crafts projects of creating gnome and fey houses has become the backbone of this story! It is a way of merging the mystical mythos of the fey and gnomes into the contemporary world by an unsuspecting carpenter who uses her instincts to create homes which befit the residents of her garden. I wasn’t sure at first if that was going to be the format of the storyline but given the accompanying PDF focus on both the gnomes and fey and their homes – it felt like a natural direction to fit the space of the story. Curiously enough, I liked how the writer (Spencer) was using different words to describe certain aspects of their person and/or personality – such as ahem, how Percival isn’t stout or heavy boned but rather is described as one might their beloved cat having a bit more fur round their middle making them full of ‘fluff’. It is a good way to show adjectives and alternatives to children in how to use descriptive language which is both playful and kind as well as educating about differences and how to address those differences in each other without the cruelty of insults. That is a lesson in of itself for childhood as children sometimes act first in defiance of differences and second in reaction to differences without taking into account personal feelings where they should show empathy instead of judgement.

Like any writer who wants to ‘leave open’ a story towards a sequel, Spencer leaves us museful about how she will re-examine this garden world in her next installment of the series. It might remain a one-off but I am hopeful she will continue to spin these stories into reality as she has the knack for writing blissfully curious short stories which give your imagination a boost of joy.

Seeking out the fantastical elements –

→ Gnomes!

→ the Fey!

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About Rosemary Benson

Rosemary Benson

Rosemary Benson is an award-winning Audible #1 best-selling narrator, singer, educator, and stage actress. She has appeared across the U.S., Canada, and Italy, and regularly performs with several ensembles and big bands. A passionate learner and audiobook fan, she is at home in many genres. Her musical ear allows her to produce myriad accents for storytelling, while her expertise in differentiating instruction guides her abilities in nonfiction. She lives across the river from Philadelphia with her husband in a house full of musical instruments and books.

In regards to the audiobook directly:

I am appreciative of Ms Jess providing a cursory outline of how best to articulate my listening hours on behalf of this audiobook and the others I shall be blogging about or reviewing in future. I’ve modified the suggestions to what I felt were pertinent to respond too on my own behalf as well as keeping to the questions I felt were relevant to share.

Number of Times I’ve heard the Narrator(s):

This is my first time listening to Rosemary Benson.

Regards to the Narrator’s Individual Character performances:

Percival: The gnome whom came to speak to the storyteller first has such a deep voice and the descriptive personality given to him was quite the hoot, too! When you first see the character sketch of him, his being comes to life in your own mind’s eye yet it isn’t fused until you hear his voice!

Morioka san: His voice sounds just as if he were accented with a voice you’d expect of a Japanese character, a credit to the voice performances of Ms Benson. She has a natural way of presenting different accents and ethnicities in a manner which feels very organic and natural. I appreciated how she voiced his character and how she took care to letting him ‘sound’ like himself rather than forcing his character to be something he wasn’t.

Magdalena: Her voice is quiet and soft; she has a gentle spirit and a kind heart.

The characters in the background:

Pachay: Is an animal in the story and is voiced as you would believe they would be if you could hear your own animal speaking to you!

Emogine: She has such an angry voice and a sour disposition; she had me in chuckles because of how she constantly has to complain in order to make herself feel better about her situations.

How the story sounded to me as it was being Read: (theatrical or narrative)

I definitely felt this was a theatrical narrative story being narrated by Ms Benson due to her wicked sweet personality alighting throughout the audiobook! She truly took this story on and made it her own as much as she honoured the words and the tale by Ms Spencer! The two of them worked so well together – it would be wicked lovely to see them matched up together again.

Regards to Articulation & Performance of the story:


Benson truly takes her time to articulate every inch of this story – so much so, you sometimes have to pause and/or re-listen to a piece of it to fully enjoy the whole experience because each time she tucks into one of the characters in the story itself, you find yourself re-enchanted by how she’s performing the narration!


love when voice actors stretch themselves into a role and give us such a strong representation of the characters in the story as to bewitch us into believing there is an ensemble cast! Benson has clearly done this with Magical Neighbours as she has created a whole community of neighbours to visit as if you could just go outside your own door and meet them for yourself in your own garden!

Notes on the Quality of Sound & the Background Ambiance:

Such a wonderful produced audiobook – the sound is bang-on brilliant without any untoward distractions and although, I suppose some background ambiance could have been inserted here or there, I was just mesmerised by the performance, the hour of the audioread herein went by too fast!

Preference after listening to re-Listen or pick up the book in Print?

Ooh! Although I think it would be brilliant to one day own this story in hardback – I am most delighted by the performance of Ms Benson, that I am definitely one of those listeners who will always hold a special place in her bookish heart for these magical neighbours due to the narrator’s attention to both detail and the adventure of being in a particular place where you don’t have to seek out the magic of the moment because the magic has already arrived and has encompassed the scene outright.

In closing, would I seek out another Rosemary Benson audiobook?

Ooh most definitely! I love her strength in narration and I love her instincts for how she tells the story as well. She has such wicked instincts for etching out a character by voice but also in giving breadth and gravity to characterisations that you might oft only find in film or tv – where the action is right in front of your eyes rather than settled into your ears. I love how she gives you this dimensional space where you can believe what your hearing and almost see these lovely characters for yourself with your own eyes! If Spencer writes more stories like this one, I hope she can hire Benson to narrate them! Likewise, I’d be keen to know if Ms Benson has narrated other Fantasy stories or other genres within the Speculative Fiction universe. As she made this lovely such an enjoyable read!!

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This Audio blog tour is courtesy of:

Host badge for Audiobookworm Promotions.Follow the Virtual Road Map

as you visit others participating:

Magical Neighbours audio blog tour banner provided by Audiobookworm Promotions and is used with permission.
I look forward to reading your thoughts & commentary!
Be sure to leave notes, takeaways and commentary to let me know if this has been a story on your bookish radar and/or if it is one you’re going to be adding to your own TBR! I’d love to hear your thoughts about this kind of story and others you might have already read on similar themes.

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Reading this story contributed to my #WyrdAndWonder Year 4:

#WyrdAndWonder Year 4 banner created by Jorie in Canva.


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Enjoying my fantastical reviews about the worlds of Fantasy?

Ever since the beginning of Jorie Loves A Story, I have embarked on a Quest to seek out stories within the worlds of Fantasy which would heighten my awareness of the genre and give me wicked good reads – across the subniches of a genre I’ve loved since I was seventeen. Every May, I happily co-host @WyrdAndWonder – whilst throughout the months of the year, I regularly read & discuss the Fantasy reads I am discovering.

Visit my full archive for ALL my #EnterTheFantastic wanderings! As well as take a walkabout through my archives for #WyrdAndWonder – or take a walkabout through my archive for everything deemed wickedly fantastical!

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{SOURCES: Book cover for “Magical Neighbours”, book synopsis, author biography, author photograph of Mary Ellen Spencer; the narrator biography and photograph of Rosemary Benson as well as the audio tour banner and tour host badge were all provided by Audiobookworm Promotions and are used with permission. Post dividers by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination. Tweets were embedded due to codes provided by Twitter. Blog graphics created by Jorie via Canva: #WyrdAndWonder Year 4 banner, Wyrd And Wonder Book Review banner and the Comment Box Banner.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2021.

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About jorielov

I am self-educated through local libraries and alternative education opportunities. I am a writer by trade and I cured a ten-year writer’s block by the discovery of Nanowrimo in November 2008. The event changed my life by re-establishing my muse and solidifying my path. Five years later whilst exploring the bookish blogosphere I decided to become a book blogger. I am a champion of wordsmiths who evoke a visceral experience in narrative. I write comprehensive book showcases electing to get into the heart of my reading observations. I dance through genres seeking literary enlightenment and enchantment. Starting in Autumn 2013 I became a blog book tour hostess featuring books and authors. I joined The Classics Club in January 2014 to seek out appreciators of the timeless works of literature whose breadth of scope and voice resonate with us all.

"I write my heart out and own my writing after it has spilt out of the pen." - self quote (Jorie of Jorie Loves A Story)

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Posted Thursday, 27 May, 2021 by jorielov in #WyrdAndWonder, Audiobook, Audiobookworm Promotions, Blog Tour Host, Children's Literature, Fantasy Fiction, Indie Author, Juvenile Fiction, Middle Grade Novel, Twitterland & Twitterverse Event

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