Category Archives: 5 stars
Audiobook: If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch, published by Blackstone Audio Inc, March 26, 2013
Book Info: YA contemporary, purchased via Audible. Run time: 7 hrs, 51 mins. Read by: Tai Sammons. Also available in HC, 256 pages from St. Martin’s Griffin.
Rating: 5 / 5 Stars, Raw, emotional, and honest.
I read the book If You Find Me recently and was so impressed. I didn’t write up my thoughts on it right away though, so when I saw the audiobook I took the chance to experience the book with fresh ears. If You Find Me is Emily Murdoch’s debut novel and is heartfelt, harrowing, and lovely all at once. This is a tough issue book about abuse and survival that is hard to hear/read at times but very powerful and uplifting too. Tai Sammons’ narration makes the story feel even more realistic, and I noticed things I missed the first time I read the book.
If You Find Me is the story of 15-year-old Carey and her 5-year-old sister Jenessa. They live in the woods in a camper with their unstable mother who frequently leaves them alone to find drugs. Carey is more like a mother than a sister to Jenessa and they only have each other to rely on. One day, Carey’s father and a social worker suddenly appear to rescue them from the woods. Now they must adjust to life in the real world, including school, technology, what to wear, and how to act. But the woods still haunt them in various ways, and secrets can’t be kept forever.
Even though I’ve read the book and listened to the audiobook now, it’s still hard to put my thoughts into words. The descriptive writing would sometimes distract me with its elegance and I’d get lost in the story. Even though the subject matter is disturbing, Murdoch adds lighter moments like a new friend, or a cute dog, to brighten the mood. But at the same time there are certain recollections of Carey’s that hurt like a kick in the gut. The reader learns about Carey’s backstory through flashbacks that hint at the mystery behind Jenessa losing her voice.
Carey has an artistic spirit and a unique way of thinking and expressing herself. She is such a mature character, that it was easy to relate to her from one mother to another, even though she’s still a teen. The sisterly bond is strong understandably, and I rooted for them both to get some well-deserved peace and happiness. My heart soared with each small victory on their journey, and ached for the pain that lingered.
Tai Sammons’ reads the audiobook, and this is my first experience with her narration. Her dialect is spot on and she conveys Carey’s emotional state of being well. The book is set in Tennessee and Sammons’ gives the book an authentic feel with her Southern accent. Sammons’ gets to use her talents on different types of voices like the mean girl, authority figures, and a child’s voice for Jenessa. I’d listen to this narrator again- she delivers a strong, nuanced performance that made me feel all the emotions. Though the book is powerful on its own, the audiobook made me connect even more with the story.
If You Find Me is a great choice for realistic contemporary readers, and one you won’t want to put down. I’m looking forward to reading more from Emily Murdoch.
Book: Clockwork Princess (The Infernal Devices #3) by Cassandra Clare, Simon & Schuster Audio, March 19, 2013
Audiobook Info: YA Fantasy, Received for review from Simon & Schuster Audio, Audio length: 16 hours 24 minutes, read by Daniel Sharman.
Rating: 5 / 5 Stars
Writing about the end of a trilogy is always hard but this one seems especially daunting. Every adjective I want to use to express my feelings about Clockwork Princess I worry will come across as a spoiler. I’m a fan of the Mortal Instruments series and I must admit it took me a little while to warm up to this prequel series. I wasn’t receptive to the new characters and setting at first. But in the end the Infernal Devices series won my heart, and with the satisfying conclusion I may even prefer it to the original.
In Clockwork Princess the tension with the relationships, love triangle, and battle with the villain Mortmain comes to a head. The love triangle was particularly gut wrenching in Clockwork Prince so I didn’t know how much more I could stand! The journey in this book is surprising, passionate, and fulfilling, and the epilogue gave me chills. There’s not much more I could ask for in a series conclusion. I think the ending was perfect and very much in keeping with the tone of the series.
I’ve “read” this series exclusively via audiobook. In an unusual move, a different narrator reads each book of the trilogy. Clockwork Prince is the only book with dual narration, and I liked it, but I think my favorite is Daniel Sharman’s Clockwork Princess reading.
It’s funny because I was listening to the audiobook and liking it, but thinking it was moving a little slow at the beginning. But then I’d look down and see I was already at disc 6, at the halfway point. I savored every moment but had an uneasy feeling throughout, anticipating the inevitable heartbreak. I do think this series is ideally suited to audio format, and each of the narrators does bring the flavor of Victorian London to life.
This is the first book of the trilogy without a female narrator. Daniel Sharman has the task of conveying the voice of Tessa, as well as the other standout female characters. Plus he has to speak Mandarin and Welsh and use an American accent. I think he does an outstanding job with his accents, and with Will, Jem and the other male characters especially. The female characters also sound believable, such as Cecily, Charlotte and Sophie. The best complement I could give Sharman is at the end I didn’t notice the narration at all because I was so engrossed in the story.
I’m really pleased with the conclusion of this trilogy and I’ll miss these characters, so it’s a bittersweet ending for me. I’m looking forward to the City of Bones movie, and The Dark Artifices series to come. Kudos to Cassandra Clare on this amazing series!
If you want to check out Clockwork Princess on audio, be sure to enter my giveaway. It’s ending this weekend!
Have you read Clockwork Princess? What did you think of the conclusion?
Check out an interview with Cassandra Clare & Daniel Sharman discussing the audiobook below:
Book: Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys, Penguin Audio, Feb. 12, 2013
Book Info: YA Historical Fiction, Audiobook received for review from Penguin Audio and Audiobook Jukebox. Running time: 9 hrs, 51 mins. Read by: Lauren Fortgang. Also available in HC, 352 pages from Philomel.
Rating: 5 / 5 Stars
I’m a big fan of this authors Between Shades of Gray (not to be confused with that other Shades of Gray) and was excited to check out her new novel. This is quite a departure for Ruta Sepetys and I was curious to see what she would do with it. Historical is not my category of choice, but Out of the Easy’s New Orleans 50s setting was an easy sell for me. Sepetys weaves a great story and uses the Bayou setting to good advantage along with a cast of colorful characters. I’d read more historical if they read as easy as Out of the Easy.
Josie Moraine is a street-smart 17-year old who is wise beyond her years. She’s the daughter of a brothel prostitute and not high on her list of priorities. The brothel madam Willie is in fact more of a maternal figure to her. Josie works in a bookstore and lives alone in a room upstairs. It’s her dream to go to college and escape the Big Easy. Josie gets caught up in the mystery of a stranger’s death though that puts her future plans at risk.
Even though Out of the Easy takes place in the past, the contemporary theme is relatable to today’s reader. Obviously Josie hasn’t had an easy life, and her mom is a nightmare. But Josie is pretty tough and self-reliant, not that she had a choice in the matter. College is out of reach for a lot of teens in the best of circumstances but Josie has even more of an uphill battle to climb. She has a lot to worry about in her daily life, and now gets into some sticky business with her love life as well. Along with the mysterious death, there’s a lot going on in Out of the Easy.
The characters really stand out in this novel. Josie especially is root worthy and you want things to go her way for once. She is a spunky go-getter that is easy to like. I enjoyed the makeshift family she has supporting her, when she has been so letdown by her blood family.
Sometimes historical reads are slow paced for me, but Out of the Easy read quickly and kept me entertained. The character voices are strong and full of life and the historical details ring true. I was thinking about the characters and that they have shades of gray to them much like the title of Sepetys debut. You wouldn’t think to find so many sympathetic characters in the corrupt world of this novel but Sepetys does open your mind with her portrayal.
Narrator Lauren Fortgang reads the audiobook. It is my first time listening to this reader, though she has a lot of audiobook experience under her belt. Fortgang expertly conveys Josie’s tough yet vulnerable nature and puts a spicy, rich tone into her reading. The flavor of New Orleans comes through the audiobook and there’s a lot of attention to detail put into each character. In Fortgang’s hands the 1950 setting comes alive with personality. I do think the audiobook format gives the story that something extra and it’s a treat to listen to. The author talks about all the research she put into writing this book at the conclusion of the audiobook.
This is my second 5-star read of the year, and I think it will appeal to fans of Ruta Sepetys, and fans of New Orleans centered noir. Maybe I haven’t given historical a fair shake in the past, but I’m open to trying out some more and seeing what’s next from Sepetys.
If this sounds like your cup of tea, you might also like these books:
Book: The Fault In Our Stars by John Green, Brilliance Audio, January 2012
Audiobook Info: YA Contemporary, Own audiobook. Audio length: 7 hours 14minutes, read by Kate Rudd. Also available in hardcover & ebook from Dutton Juvenile.
Rating: 5 / 5 Stars
I read The Fault in Our Stars by John Green over a year ago, but was happy to get the opportunity for a re-read (er, listen) with The Armchair Audies. I don’t know what more I can say about the book that hasn’t been said already. It’s the Time magazine book of the year and a mega best seller. For all its acclaim I could go out on a limb right now and predict that this audiobook will win the Audie for best teen audiobook, even though this is the only nominee I’ve listened to so far. Of course I won’t do that, though this audiobook does set the bar high.
The Fault in Our Stars is a story about Hazel Grace Lancaster and Augustus Waters who meet at a Cancer support group. It’s a book with cancer at the center but it’s also about love and life in general. The characters are wonderful, and so smart and funny. John Green gives his readers a lot of credit and doesn’t talk down to them, and I think that’s part of why this book appeals to such a wide audience. I would love to be friends with Augustus, Hazel and Isaac, but at the same time I could absolutely relate to their parents and their struggles.
I’ve noticed that some people who have been affected by cancer, or the death of a loved one avoid reading this book, fearing it will be a grief trigger or just too sad a read. In my own experience, I read the book first early last year and overall found it funny, touching, witty and yes sad at times. This time around I’m experiencing it through the eyes of someone who has experienced a big loss, so I had those same uneasy feelings about picking this book up again. But, I do think a lot of the book is hopeful, romantic and even funny. So to those of you on the fence about reading it, I say give it a shot.
I listened to the official audiobook version read by Kate Rudd. (Did you know John Green also released a limited edition version that he narrates?) This audiobook is a quick listen at just over 7 hours long. Kate Rudd sounds the way I imagined the characters to sound, and expertly handles different ages, genders and accents. Though her interpretation of Hazel and Augustus was spot on, it was also a treat to hear her rendition of Peter Van Houten, and the Dutch accent of his assistant. Rudd puts a lot of emotion and heart into her narration, and the joys as well as the pain were felt even more than in the print edition. The sad parts of the book felt sadder listening to the audiobook, perhaps because I knew what to expect. At the end of the audiobook John Green talks about the book, so that was a nice surprise. I think this is a great starter audiobook for readers that want to try out the audiobook experience, even/especially if you’ve already read the book. I really enjoyed revisiting this book and appreciate it even more.
For more thoughts on the book, check out my review of the print version.
Narrator Kate Rudd talks about the audiobook production of The Fault in Our Stars:
Book: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell, Listening Library, February 26, 2013
Audiobook Info: YA Contemporary, Own audiobook. Audio length: 8 hours 56 minutes, read by Rebecca Lowman and Sunil Malhotra. Also available in hardcover & ebook from St. Martin’s Griffin.
Rating: 4.5 / 5 Stars
Rainbow Rowell’s latest book Eleanor & Park is set in Omaha, Nebraska in 1986. It is the story of an all-consuming first love formed from a shared comic book and alternative music connection.
I almost never include favorite book passages in my reviews but when I was listening to the audiobook of Eleanor & Park there were so many quotes I wanted to bookmark or write down. Here’s the official book summary with an example of the writing:
Bono met his wife in high school, Park says.
So did Jerry Lee Lewis, Eleanor answers.
I’m not kidding, he says.
You should be, she says, we’re 16.
What about Romeo and Juliet?
Shallow, confused, then dead.
I love you, Park says.
Wherefore art thou, Eleanor answers.
I’m not kidding, he says.
You should be.
Set over the course of one school year in 1986, this is the story of two star-crossed misfits—smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try. When Eleanor meets Park, you’ll remember your own first love—and just how hard it pulled you under.
I’ve been meaning to read this book for months because I’m a fan of Attachments, and am attracted to the 80s as a book setting, as well as alternative music. But I’m glad I waited to experience the book as an audiobook. Since the book shares Eleanor and Park’s stories in alternating chapters it’s a treat to hear two different narrators bring their story to life.
The book is primarily about the relationship between Eleanor & Park, two teens that feel like outsiders. Eleanor is the new girl who wears all the wrong clothes, and stands out with her large frame and red hair. She’s bullied and called Big Red. Park is half-Korean and isn’t new in town but feels isolated because of his musical taste. In 1986 there was a divide between the Top40 and alternative scenes and Park’s tastes were ahead of the curve in Omaha. The pair end up next to each other on the school bus and slowly form a connection over music and comic books that develops over time.
The 80s decade is an interesting YA book setting for many reasons, but stands out for the lack of technology & the explosion of post-punk. There were no cell phones for Eleanor and Park to text (not that Eleanor could even afford a cell phone) and music was not that accessible either. It was the time of mix tapes, and I could definitely relate to Eleanor falling in love with the music mixes Park made her, listening to the same songs over and over. And it’s so satisfying for Park to have someone to share his interests with, finally.
It’s nice for Eleanor to have Park as this bright spot in her life because her family life is rough. She lives with her mom and step-dad and shares a room with her four younger siblings. Her step-dad is abusive and an alcoholic and her home life is all-around difficult. Park has some drama with his dad but for the most part has it pretty great compared to Eleanor.
Even though the story is a heavy read due to Eleanor’s family drama, there are plenty of feel-good moments that made me smile. Rowell captures that first love feeling, and made me root for Eleanor and Park. The book has short chapters and Rowell writes in third-person, with alternating Eleanor and Park perspectives. Rowell makes you feel like you’re back in the 80s with many pop culture references.
Rebecca Lowman and Sunil Malhotra read the audiobook, and this is my first experience with their narration. I thought they both did a great job, and sounded age-appropriate. I didn’t feel any disconnect between the characters as written vs. how they sounded. Each narrator uses different voices for different genders, ages, and accents, and gets the tone of the book right. I think the audiobook format made it easier to connect with both Eleanor & Park. It’s a book that I didn’t want to stop listening to, and will probably listen to again. One thing that would have been cool is if the audiobook contained music snippets since music is such a running theme. But, on that note Rowell did create several Spotify playlists so you can check out Eleanor & Park’s musical taste.
I’m definitely a Rainbow Rowell groupie now and eagerly await her next book Fangirl. And I truly hope she does write a follow-up to Eleanor & Park! (Check out this great Elision interview with Rainbow Rowell where she talks about that possibility)
Rainbow Rowell has put together several Spotify playlists for Eleanor & Park, so check out her Spotify feed. I love her official book playlist:
Book: Just One Day by Gayle Forman, Penguin Audio, January 3, 2013
Audiobook Info: YA Contemporary, Own audiobook. Audio length: 10 hours 29 minutes, read by Kathleen McInerney. Also available in hardcover & ebook from Dutton Juvenile.
Rating: 4.5 / 5 Stars
Gayle Forman’s latest book Just One Day explores how your life can change seemingly overnight. A story with mystery, adventure and romance, Just One Day follows Allyson as she gets lost and found again in Paris.
The story begins with Allyson’s trip to Europe one summer before college. She’s always been a girl who follows the rules and doesn’t veer from her chosen path. But in Europe she starts to get a little more adventurous, and her edgy new haircut allows her to try on a new persona.
Allyson meets Dutch actor Willem and makes a spur-of-the-moment decision to abandon her existing travel plans and go with him by train to spend the day in Paris. Willem doesn’t even know Allyson’s real name, and calls her Lulu for her Louise Brooks haircut. Willem is quite mysterious himself and Allyson is constantly second-guessing her decision to go off with him. When she wakes up the next morning to find Willem missing, it sets into motion a new path for Allyson.
Willem seemed like a shady character to me, but I could see how Allyson could be so charmed by him. The sights and sounds of Paris were the perfect romantic backdrop for their adventure, and Allyson enjoys feeling like the leading lady in the movie (or Shakespeare play) for the first time. Part of the appeal is that the reader doesn’t really know if they can trust Willem and it’s easy to get swept up in the romance and mystery of it all with Allyson.
Many of the themes found in Just One Day lend themselves well to the New Adult niche, especially with regards to finding yourself. Allyson is just starting college and living away from home for the first time. The aftershocks of her day in Paris with Willem impact her schoolwork and social life completely. Allyson also has to deal with a new relationship with her parents, especially her mother who is used to being in charge of her life. Even her friend alliances and school focus shifts. But can Allyson move forward with her life if she doesn’t resolve her past with Willem? Or is Willem not the point at all in Allyson’s self-development?
Just One Day has Forman’s trademark dramatic intensity but didn’t make me cry like If I Stay. The book is gorgeously written and made me feel all of Allyson’s changing moods. The nature of the book makes it a good fit to read in one day if you have the time, and especially because you’ll want to see it through to the end. But the weightiness of it all made me want to take little breaks to really digest the story.
I listened to the audiobook of Just One Day, read by Kathleen McInerney, a new-to-me narrator. McInerney got into the character well, and sounded like a young, naïve college student to me. She does get the opportunity to try a variety of accents and age ranges in her reading and makes the most of the audio format. McInerney does the heavy lifting with the pronunciations and foreign words to make things a little easier for the reader. The story does lend itself to audio, but overall I liked both the reading and listening experiences equally (I read the book first). Listening doesn’t make the torturous ending any easier though!
And about that ending, Just One Day is Allyson’s story, and in the sequel Just One Year we get to hear Willem’s side of things. If only Just One Year wasn’t nearly just one year away! (Fall 2013) If you enjoy Gayle Forman’s books, or reading about self-discovery or foreign travel, treat yourself to Just One Day.
I realized coincidentally that I’ve only spent just one day in Paris in my life, though it wasn’t nearly as eventful a day as Allyson’s. And I didn’t even get to try any of the delicious sounding macarons- speaking of which, keep some handy when you’re reading this book – you’ll be craving them.
And if you find book playlists fascinating like I do, check out the Spotify playlist Gayle Forman created for Just One Day!
- Just One Day by Gayle Forman (thequietvoice18.wordpress.com)
- Review: Just One Day (Just One Day #1) – Gayle Forman (unconventionalbookviews.com)
- Book Rec: JUST ONE DAY (katyupperman.com)
- YA Wednesday: A Q&A with Gayle Forman (omnivoracious.com)
- Just One Day by Gayle Forman (caitieflum.wordpress.com)
The Reece Malcolm List, Amy Spalding’s debut novel totally took me by surprise and had me grinning from ear to ear. It is such a cute and touching read that pulls at your heartstrings. The performing arts backdrop is a bonus but the action behind the scene steals the show. You will cheer for Devan’s successes and ache with each roadblock on her journey to find where she belongs.
It all starts off with a list. Devan never met her birth mom, famous author Reece Malcolm. All she knows about her is from book jackets or the rare author interview, and each new clue is jotted down in her notebook. When Devan’s father dies, Devan leaves her home in St. Louis to live with her elusive birth mother Reece in Los Angeles. Finally she’ll get to figure out the mystery of her mother, a woman who dedicated a book to her but has never reached out in sixteen years.
Devan did not have a close relationship with her dad or stepmother in St. Louis, but her love of musical theater kept her going. That is one area that she feels confident about, and moving to LA allows her to flourish at a performing arts school. Here she can finally be around people that share her passion for the arts and really get her. And she even falls for another fellow student from St. Louis, the gorgeous and talented singer Sai.
While Devan connects with her new school, she’s still trying to find her place with her mom, and Brad- Reece’s boyfriend. Reece is a very private person and a tough nut to crack. They find in some ways they are a lot alike though they are each scared to let the other in. Devan adds more entries to her Reece Malcolm list in each chapter, and some of the items warm your heart while others cut like a knife. I could see both Reece and Devan’s side of things and really rooted for them to find their bond.
There are other supporting characters in Reece’s world that help Devan decipher the mystery of Reece. Brad especially is so nice and supportive and helps to make the transition easier.
Los Angeles is its own character in the book, with popular landmarks like The Grove, Amoeba, and The Arclight getting a mention. I always like to read books set in my city, and to see it through someone else’s eyes. Devan never thought she could belong in LA (NY she thinks is more her speed) but it takes her by surprise.
I also think Spalding gets the performing arts scene right. Even though Devan is a little shy and unsure in her social skills or with Reece, she blossoms on the stage. She knows what she wants and goes after it. Sometimes there’s jealousy and hurt feelings from her peers, but that is all true to life.
Amy Spalding has a knack for dialogue and for creating realistic characters. I found both Reece and Devan relatable and likable. The writing is sharp, witty and quick to read. I really wanted to pace my reading to make the book last but couldn’t help but speed through it. Though the book is a stand-alone I wouldn’t mind another book with these characters.
If you have a passion for the theater you will adore this book – there’s even a big musical finale. But you will also find a truly satisfying story with great characters and heart, and contemporary fans will eat this one up. Amy Spalding’s next book is Ink is Thicker than Water due out at the end of the year.
I received a review copy of The Reece Malcolm List from Entangled Publishing via NetGalley. The book is available in paperback or e-book now and is a bargain at just over $5. Read more about it on Goodreads.