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)
Book: Prodigy (Legend, book two) by Marie Lu, Penguin Audio, January 8, 2012 (Hardcover on sale Jan. 29)
Audiobook Info: YA Dystopia, Own audiobook via Audible credit. Audio length: 10 hours 10 minutes, read by Steven Kaplan and Mariel Stern.
Rating: 4.5 / 5 Stars
I held off on reading this book for as long as I could. I’ve had a copy for a long time, but I didn’t want to read it too early when there will be another long wait for the next book. But- when I saw Prodigy pop up on Audible I couldn’t resist it any longer. The sequel to Legend is so exciting- I couldn’t stop listening. It has lots of heart pounding action and veers off in unexpected directions. The audio experience was also a treat and brought the excitement to life. I think this series is right up there with Divergent, and even though I don’t read a ton of dystopia anymore I’ll always have room for this series.
When Prodigy starts out, Day and June are on the run in Las Vegas. Day is injured and they meet up with Patriot rebels who agree to help them. In exchange, they have to prove their loyalty by agreeing to assassinate the new Republic Elector. Seems like an easy decision, right? The Republic has hurt Day and June in a lot of devastating ways, and maybe it’s the right time to make a change. But things are not all black and white, and Day and June have to decide the best course of action on their own.
Day and June alternate POV again in Prodigy. I have to hand it to Lu that she kept me involved even with the introduction of new characters and through character separations. Day and June have both been through so much, and have each other’s backs, but still have a lot to learn about each other at the same time. Doubts and insecurities plague our duo this time around.
There is more information filled in about the Republic, Colonies, and Patriots and it’s eye opening to learn more about them. Even though Day and June travel to several cities, we still keep tabs on Los Angeles as well. The characters are a big part of why I love this series, though the setting certainly plays a role as well and takes on a character of it’s own in a way. And speaking of characters, Anden, Kaede and Tess play wonderful supporting roles in the story. And I especially look forward to seeing how Anden’s part develops in the next book.
I always know when I have a good audiobook on my hands because I get a cleaner house because I want to keep listening, such as the case with Prodigy. Steven Kaplan and Mariel Stern read the audiobook, and both narrators are new to me. Since I read the book Legend I already had an idea in my head of how the characters should sound. Stern lines up pretty well to how I envisioned June – she sounds like a young girl of privilege from Los Angeles. And Kaplan is outstanding as Day and nails the tone of his character. Both narrators convey emotion in their readings and make the action scenes that much more tense and thrilling. About three quarters into the book I’d barely notice the narration at all because I was so drawn in the story. I’d absolutely continue to listen to this series.
Ultimately I’m glad that I waited to read this book because that ending is brutal, and I don’t want to wait any longer than I need to for the sequel. Can’t wait to find out what happens next! Prodigy comes out in hardcover and e-book January 29th and the audiobook is available now.
Audiobook Info: Audiobook purchased at Audible.com, Audio length: 11 hours 19 minutes, read by Emily Gray.
Rating: 4 / 5 Stars
It’s been almost two years since I last read a book in the Parasol Protectorate series. Seeing Gail Carriger at Comic-Con reminded me that I needed to catch up on the books, especially now that the series is complete. This is the first book of the series I’ve listened to in audio format. A risky proposition for book four when you already have a feel for how the characters should sound. But Emily Gray is a truly marvelous narrator and brought the parasol protectorate world alive. Heartless is as witty and surprising as I’ve come to expect from this author and delivers some surprising twists to set up the last book in the series.
In this latest installment of Carriger’s steampunk series, Alexia and Conall are reunited and preparing for their new addition. But it’s not all hearts and flowers for those two- someone is trying to kill Queen Victoria after all, and Alexia is on the case. Along the way, Alexia makes some personal discoveries and uncovers secrets about her close associates. I’m glad I waited to read this book until I had the last book in the series on hand because this book made me eager to keep reading.
I like the mystery of this series, the charm, and the setting, but the characters are I think my favorite part. They are so exaggerated and make the books so much fun to read. And even in book four we find out some unexpected tidbits about familiar characters. Ivy and Lord Akeldama are in fine form in Heartless as usual, and Biffy also becomes a more central character. I was pleased to find out the origin of the “Parasol Protectorate” in this one and I liked the way the amusing way the secret unfolded.
Emily Gray reads the audiobook and deftly handles all of the different characters and accents. Listening to the books is really a treat and made me wish I’d listened to the whole series. Gray has a great grasp on the characters and captures all the right nuances. The voices are distinct and consistent and she reads with a brisk, even pace. Lord Akeldama and Ivy sound just how I’d imagined, and I also enjoyed her no-nonsense Alexia as well as all the other characters.
After listening to Heartless, I immediately moved on to the last book in the series, Timeless. They go together hand in hand almost like a two-part finale. I don’t read a lot of urban fantasy or steampunk but for some reason I can’t resist this fun series. I especially recommend the audiobooks if you are so inclined.
Audiobook Info: Fantasy, Purchased at Audible.com, Audio length: 24 hours 2 minutes, read by Jennifer Ikeda.
Rating: 3.5 / 5 Stars
I am late to the Discovery of Witches party. And frankly, the idea of a 24-hour audiobook was very intimidating. But with the’ sequel in hand, I knew I’d better catch up with the series, because I had a feeling I would be too lost if I skipped it. Jennifer Ikeda’s narration made the time fly by and I soon found myself lost in the world of witches, vampires, demons, and a mysterious lost manuscript. The over-protective vampire romance is familiar, but the historical details and setting kept me intrigued.
Diana Bishop is a dormant witch and a scholar doing some research at Oxford’s Bodelein library. She comes across a valuable manuscript in her research and after she finds it she becomes a demon magnet. Even though she no longer has the manuscript in her possession, paranormal creatures stalk her in hopes that she will re-obtain the manuscript and break its spell. One such creature is vampire geneticist Matthew Clairmont, and he’s taken more than a passing interest in Diana, and wants to protect her.
Though Diana has lived her life without using her witch powers, it seems they are ready to be unleashed now. If only she could control them and believe in herself. Matthew is more than happy to look after her, even though their relationship breaks all kinds of rules in their world and puts them both in danger. Matthew plays the controlling, handsome, brilliant, rich vampire role to perfection and is determined to stay by Diana’s side. He wines and dines Diana and takes her to a supernatural yoga class, and she’s smitten in no time. If you are a fan of vampire romances, this is the book for you.
The story changes setting a couple of times, letting us get a glimpse into Matthew and Diana’s background. I liked the Paris chapters with Matthew’s mother who provides insight into Matthew’s character. But things really got going later at the Bishop House in New York, with Diana’s aunts. The house is a really cool character all in itself, and kind of reminded me of the Glass House in Morganville, but to the extreme. We meet a lot of characters over the course of the story, and the house gets very crowded quickly, though that problem is solved in a clever way.
It wasn’t hard to keep track of the large cast of characters because Jennifer Ikeda’s (Gilt) narration and well-done accents helped me keep everyone straight. She has a pleasant voice to listen to over many many hours, and I liked her interpretation of the characters. Like the book, Ikeda reads at a leisurely pace, and I did end up speeding things up a bit with the Audible app. It wasn’t a frustration I had with the narration, but more with the pacing of the book. In the end I think Ikeda made the story more interesting, and I highly recommend the audio.
This book is a good YA/Adult crossover book, especially for fans of paranormal romance and character driven books. Keep in mind this is the first book in a series so don’t expect everything to be wrapped up in this installment. The sequel, Shadow of Night, is out now and I’m excited to see where it goes.