Saturday, December 7, 2013

Taking a Hiatus

I have been considering taking a break for a while.  Lately it seems that I am so busy that I don't have time to read and review as I should.  Most of what I read in the last year, was done on audio--if it wasn't for my audio books I probably would have read much at all.   I know it has been a while since I blogged.  I love blogging, reading and reviewing, but sometimes life takes over, and hobbies have to take a back seat.

I want you to know that I didn't make this decision lightly, and there were a lot of factors going into my decision to take a break from blogging and these are only the tip of the iceberg.

  • This year, my son started school and never before did I realize how much homework I would have as a parent.  I feel like I can barely keep track of my schedule, let alone his and all the things I have to send with him.  
  • Fall has always been the busiest time of year at work.  Every year we host an annual Battle of the Books competition and for each book we use I have to write 100 questions.  It also takes a lot of planning and coordinating.  It is our biggest teen program of the year, and it takes so much time and effort I have little time for anything else.
  • Sometimes the world keeps sending you a message and you keep ignoring it as long as you can, and then life sends you a billboard sign with the message flashing in bright neon letters.  This was one of those times.  On November 18th the day after my Battle of the Books competition, my town was struck by a tornado.  While my family was one of the lucky ones (we still have our home) we have to navigate the murky waters of finding a contractor to repair our home.  We sustained damage to a wall on our second floor--we think we were hit by a tree, but the experts think it was something bigger.  Regardless, we have a lot to do before we can get things back to normal.  
I still hope to continue reviewing my books on Goodreads, but right now I just need a break.  I hope to begin blogging again as soon as possible, but right now I need some time to prioritize, organize, and regain a little of my sanity.  Hopefully I will be back soon!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Audio Book Review: Tandem by Anna Jarzab


Title: Tandem
Author: Anna Jarzab
Genre: Teen Fiction, Science Fiction
Publication Date: October 8, 2013
Publisher: AudioGo
ISBN Book: 9781482929096
Narrator: Amanda Dolan
Length: 11 hrs
Format: Audio Download from AudioGo
FTC Disclosure:  I received a copy of this book on CD from AudioGo for review through Audiobook Jukebox and I also purchased an ebook version of this book from Amazon.  This is my honest review.

Tandem (Many-Worlds, #1)Tandem by Anna Jarzab
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Summary:

Sasha was shocked when Grant asked her to the prom. She had known him forever, but he hadn’t really ever shown any interest in her. Little did she know that he was not Grant, and that his plans for prom involved kidnapping her and taking her through the tandem where she would be required to take the place of her analog, Princess Julianna or be shot. In a world on the verge of war, Sasha must pretend to be someone she’s not in order to be returned safely to her own world.

Review:

When I first came across this novel, I was afraid it was going to be just another parallel universe novel. I was so glad to be disappointed. This novel stood out to me. Jarzab does a great job with her characters. I loved Sasha. She is a smart and sassy narrator and I couldn’t help wishing her to succeed. I even liked Thomas once I understood his motivations. The characters were completely believable.

Although with a novel like this you could easily fall down on the world building, Jarzab does a remarkable job making Aurora seem real. The characters of Aurora were just as believable if not more so than the ones on earth. The science was interesting, but it was the story that made this novel so great.

I loved the idea of stepping into another world and finding out that you are somebody else. The pacing was great and kept the pages turning. You didn’t want to stop reading until you know how this novel was going to turn out.

I have one tiny quibble and I am not even sure it is worth mentioning. In the novel the main character mentions visits to “Lake Okobogee.” While that is a common variation of the spelling (thanks apparently to the X-Files, the correct spelling is Lake Okoboji. Sorry, I don’t usually notice spelling errors, but that one just jumped out at me.

Audiobook Review:

The audiobook was read by Amanda Dolan and produced by AudioGo. Dolan does an admirable job narrating this novel and is quite believable for the character of Sasha. She even does a good job with the male voices. I enjoyed how she made all the voices and characters distinctive without sounding false. One minor note is that some place pronunciations sounded a little off to me especially place names. As a Midwesterner I know sometimes local pronunciation of a place can vary from what others outside the area may believe the pronunciation to be and I believe that may have been what happened here. I remember when I first moved to where I live now, everyone could tell I wasn’t from around her because I pronounced the town Galveston the same way you would the city in Texas—I was corrected by locals who place a strong emphasis on the –ves- in Galveston. I believe this is a similar situation, and while I noticed, it didn’t influence my enjoyment of the production and I would definitely listen to an audiobook narrated by Dolan again.

The production quality of this audiobook is excellent, and the format is suitable to the book. The audiobook is roughly 11 hours long. I definitely recommend giving the audiobook a chance for this novel—it was an enjoyable listening experience. I hated stopping the book, and couldn’t wait until the next time I had time to listen to the book.

Overall:

For some reason we have seen a lot of parallel universes in the YA market lately. This one, is one in particular caught my eye. Step through the Tandem into a parallel universe and become a princess--what girl hasn’t dreamt of that. With a sensible and likable main character and a plot that will keep you guessing this one is a fun read. I will definitely be picking up the next book in the Many-Worlds Trilogy trilogy!

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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Book Review: Beta by Rachel Cohn

Title: Beta
Author: Rachel Cohn
Genre: Teen Fiction, Science Fiction
Publication Date: October 16, 2012
Publisher: Hyperion
ISBN Book: 978-1423157199
Format: Book
FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book for committee work.  This is my honest review.

Beta (Annex, #1)Beta by Rachel Cohn
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Summary:

Elysia is a beta. She is a clone. She was created when another sixteen year old died, and is used to be a companion on the island of Demesne. She serves the family who purchased her, and does their bidding. Clones aren’t supposed to have feelings, want things, enjoy pleasures such as eating or swimming. Her job is to serve, that is what she is programmed to do. But something is wrong with her programming, because Elysia loves the taste of food, she is a natural athlete and loves being in the water, she has feelings, and she has doubts. And in the end, serving isn’t what she wants for herself. She wants more and even worse she remembers things about the life of the girl she was cloned from, but she is a clone and if the family that owns her finds out what she wants or what she remembers, she will be labeled a Defect and destroyed.

Review:

This was a surprisingly quick read. The setting is an island paradise for only the wealthiest people in the world. Because these wealthy people need servants, and human ones might be too tempted by the lifestyle to serve and not want more, they have created clones to serve the wealthy residents. Clones can be purchased and at the very beginning of the novel, that is exactly what happens to Elysia. She is purchased by the governor of the island’s wife, as a companion to the family.

As you can imagine connecting to the character who is supposedly an unfeeling clone can be difficult for the reader. Elysia isn’t truly unfeeling, but she is a bit of a distant narrator that makes it tricky to understand her or her motivations. Once you get used to her though, you find her to be likable, and also a bit calculating. She knows more than she should, she feels more than she should.

At first her life serving her new family seems to be relatively happy. The family approves of her, and encourages her to be one of them. It seems like a cushy gig. Unfortunately there is a much darker side to this family that is slowly revealed throughout the course of the book.

I enjoyed the story and the plot line. The pacing was quick and the book is interesting. It is science fiction, and that tends to be a genre I favor. Overall it was an interesting read, but I just couldn’t cross from “like it” over to the “love it” category. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it was just missing something, and was a bit too predictable in places. I was left with a lot of questions that remained unanswered and really wanted to know more of the back story.

While I did enjoy the book, and can see it appealing to teens, you will want to save this one for your mature readers. The teens in the book use a lot of drugs. Sex is openly discussed and there is a rape. If there was a hot button topic, this book tried to hit it.

Overall:

This book is an interesting science fiction novel, with an interesting premise. I think I will definitely be checking out the sequel because I think it has some serious possibilities and I am dying of curiosity after the major cliffhanger. I am also hoping I will get some of the answers to the questions I have about the back story.

Cautions for Sensitive Readers:

Sex: Yes, including a rape.
Language: Some
Drugs/Alcohol: Yes
Violence: Yes


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Monday, September 23, 2013

Audiobook Review: Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson


Title: Second Chance Summer
Author: Morgan Matson
Genre: Teen Fiction, Realistic Fiction
Publication Date: June 11, 2013
Publisher: Audible, Inc.
ISBN Book: 9781416990673
Narrator: Brittany Pressley
Length: 10 hrs and 37 mins
Format: Audio Download from Audible
FTC Disclosure: I purchased a copy of this audio download from Audible.  This is my honest review.

Second Chance Summer
Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Summary:

Taylor the girl who is great at running away from anything difficult has finally found something she can’t run away from. Her father is dying. Though no one in her family really wants to say the C word, it is the one thing running through all of their minds. He only has a few months left, and wants to spend them at their summer home in Lake Phoenix, where they shared some of their happiest times as a family. Now Taylor must face some of the people she ran away from 5 years ago, friendships she shattered when she ran, and that this summer will be the last one with her father.

Review:

I loved this book for so many reasons it is hard to name them all, but a big warning to the readers: HAVE YOUR TISSUES HANDY!!!

Taylor is your average teen. She has an older brother who is a genius, a younger sister who is a dance prodigy, and two loving parents. By comparison, she is the normal one, exceptional at only one thing; running away when anything gets too hard. Throughout her life, he dad has always been the one to find her when she has run away. Now she is losing that too.

Although you know that this novel is about death and the death of a parent. It is really about second chances and reminding us that it is never too late to change things. I loved watching Taylor grow throughout the course of this novel. She had a lot to learn and a lot to face, and while times are difficult she did in such a realistic way.

This novel really is character driven. You have a wonderful family, that has never been really close reaching out to each other as the tragedy unfolds. I loved each one of the characters for their flaws and their realism. I felt like this could have been the family next door.

Ultimately, yes you can guess how the novel will end, but the true beauty of this story lies in the journey.

Audiobook Review:

I adored this audiobook. The audiobook is published by Audible, Inc. and is roughly 10 hours and 37 minutes long. It was read by Brittany Pressley who did a remarkable job with the narration. I had no trouble believing she was Taylor and all the other characters in the novel. The production was clean and free of flaws. I highly recommend this audiobook to anyone who loves to listen to teen fiction. It was a wonderful performance and an amazing book.

Overall:

This book is amazing. If you love realistic fiction and authors like Sarah Dessen you won’t want to miss this one. This book was Sarah Dessen with a punch!

Cautions for Sensitive Readers:

Violence: No
Language: Mild
Sex: No
Drugs/Alcohol: No


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Thursday, September 19, 2013

Book Review: Exposed by Kimberly Marcus

Title: Exposed
Author: Kimberly Marcus
Genre: Teen Fiction, Realistic Fiction, Novel In Verse
Publication Date: February 28, 2012
Publisher: Ember
ISBN Book: 978-0375865916
Format: Book
FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book for committee work.  This is my honest review.

ExposedExposed by Kimberly Marcus
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Summary:

Liz loves the simplicity she finds from behind the camera lens, but after one fight with her best friend Kate suddenly she can’t see clearly even behind the camera. Suddenly Kate won’t speak to her, and other kids won’t look at her as she passes them in the hall. Who do you believe when your whole world is turned upside down.

Review:

I really need to read more novels in verse. This book reminded me why novels in verse can be so potent. In sparse lines, this story unfolds. This novel tells the story of two best friends since childhood suddenly no longer speaking after one small fight, and a secret that tears these two apart. I loved how you saw so much through Liz’s eyes and how her photography shaped how she saw the world. I love how she relates stories of her family in the past, and how those incidents influenced her life.

For a novel in verse, Marcus does a remarkable job defining the conflict, and getting to the emotion and the betrayal the characters feel in the novel. I love how she slowly reveals things and how Liz must come to terms with her own version of that night despite the conflicting stories.

The pacing in this novel is really quick. The story and verse pulls you in from the first pages, and the momentum of the novel never falters. This quick read will definitely appeal to fans of realistic fiction who love the novel in verse format.

Overall:

Highly recommended for those who love realistic fiction and novel in verse format. This was a very engaging and interesting read.

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Monday, September 16, 2013

Audiobook Review: Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi


Title: Under the Never Sky
Author: Veronica Rossi
Genre: Teen Fiction, Adventure, Science Fiction
Publication Date: February 14, 2012
Publisher: Listening Library
ISBN Book: 9780449013984
Narrator: Bernadette Dunne Flagler
Length: 9 hrs and 39 mins
Format: Audio Download from from Audible.com
FTC Disclosure: I purchased a copy of this audiobook from iTunes. This is my honest review.

Under the Never Sky (Under the Never Sky, #1)Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Summary:

Life inside the protected walls of Reverie could never prepare Aria for what she would find when she is exiled to life outside. Threatened with a knife, almost killed by the savage Aether storms, Aria is ill prepared for the outside world. She has been taught that even the air could kill her with some mysterious disease. Thrown together with someone she considers a savage outsider, a young man whose very presence is the difference between survival and the brutal outside world, Aria seeks to find her mother, and prove that she was wrongly exiled.

Perry has always relied on his strength and skill to survive the world outside. He longs to be the leader of his tribe, but that means displacing his brother the current blood lord. When his young nephew is taken by the dwellers (people who live inside the domed cities like Aria), he will do anything to get him back. Even make a pact with this strange dweller girl, and travel with her across wild and unpredictable terrain to seek the answers that will lead back to his nephew.

Review:

I had been wanting to read this book for a while, but like what so often happens, it just kept getting pushed back farther and farther into the massive pile I call a reading list. I am so happy that I finally got to this one though. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this novel, and I must admit, I went into it not really in the correct mood for reading this type of science fiction. Luckily, that quickly changed as I became more and more engrossed with the novel.

The story is told from two perspectives. First you have Aria who is exiled from the domed cities. Secondly, you have Perry’s story. At first Aria comes across as privileged and elitist. She refers to Perry for a good portion of the story as “savage.” She is appalled at the violence of the world outside the dome, and finds it hard to accept that sometimes you must kill to stay alive. She has been sheltered and is ignorant of life outside. When we first meet Perry is comes across as brash, aggressive, angry, and stubborn. He believes that he knows what is best for his tribe and he longs to challenge his brother to become leader or blood lord. Unfortunately, he also knows such a challenge would result in the death of one of them. These first impressions draw the reader into the story, they make for compelling characters, and you long to see how they will change over the course of the novel. When the change and growth of the characters finally occur, you feel rewarded. I think the growth of these two characters really make this story interesting.

This really is an action packed story. Much of the action happens while Perry and Aria travel together. The world outside is extremely dangerous, and aether storms aren’t the worst of it. I love how the travel and the action propel the story forward. It hooks you right at the beginning and keeps you going for the last page.

This is the first book in the trilogy, and I honestly can’t wait to read more. I hope I enjoy it as much as the first.
Audiobook Review:

The audiobook is produced by Random House/Listening Library. It consists of 8 CDs and is approximately 9 hours 39 minutes long. The audiobook is read by Bernadette Dunne Flagler whose narration style is clear and clean. My only problem with the narrator is that she sounded older than the characters whose thoughts and voices she was narrating. Her narration was very good, but I like the narration to be from someone about the age of the characters in the book. Still, in this instance it was only a minor flaw and the audiobook was still very pleasant to listen to and a very good way to experience the novel.

Overall:

I really enjoyed this novel. It hooked me from the beginning and kept getting better and better. Science fiction fans should definitely give this book a try.

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Thursday, September 12, 2013

Audiobook Review: Shadows on the Moon by Zoe Marriott


Title: Shadows on the Moon
Author: Zoë Marriott
Genre: Teen Fiction, Fantasy
Publication Date: April 24, 2012
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
ISBN Book: 9781455851904
Narrator: Amy Rubinate
Length: 11 hrs and 17 mins
Format: Book on CD
FTC Disclosure: I checked out a copy of this audiobook from my public library.   This is my honest review.

  Shadows on the MoonShadows on the Moon by Zoë Marriott
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Summary:

In an instant your life can change forever, and that is exactly what happened to Suzume. One moment she was frolicking with her best friend and cousin in a tree near her home and the next soldiers were raiding her home, murdering both her father and cousin. Saved by the ash man and trained as a shadow weaver, Suzume uses her skills to hide her anger over the death of her father and her mother’s sudden remarriage to the man that betrayed her family. In her journey Suzume takes on the many disguises, loyal daughter of a noble house, lowly drudge, and even as the most beautiful courtesan in the land. Appearances can be deceiving, something Suzume knows all too well. Is there room for love in a heart desiring revenge? Shadows on the Moon story of brutality, pain, loss, beauty, and ultimately love. It is a Cinderella story where the remarkable strength of one girl will shine through.

Review:

I love fairytale retellings. I always have. For me, most of the fairytales I read as a child left me wanting more from them. I wanted more detail, and wanted to know exactly how the story got from point a to point b. Where did Cinderella meet her fairy godmother, and how did the magic really happen. As you can imagine, this desire for the why and how often left me disappointed, but it didn’t change my love for these stories. As I grew up, the fairytales from my youth got longer, and suddenly my questions were being answered by authors who took those old tales, and breathed new life into them. They allowed me to experience a favorite fairytale in new ways with new details.

There are so many fairytale retellings out there, but so far I haven’t met one I didn’t like. Retellings seem to come in all shapes and sizes these days, some more traditional than others. I loved this particular retelling for many reasons, but the most prominent among them is a strong heroine who tries to get what she wants out of life.

I loved Suzume. She was a character who I could easily relate to. She was a teen who was happy and then has that happiness ripped from her. She is loyal and determined, and yet she makes mistakes and is human. I enjoyed the fact that her ability to shadow weave gave her the ability to hide her true feelings while in plain sight. For someone like me whose emotions are an open book, I wished I could hide like she did behind those illusions.

I relished the supporting characters in this novel for they were just that supporting. They didn’t rescue her, they let her slowly solve her own problems and choose her own destiny. My favorite character of all (besides Otieno) was Akira, you know what Akira thought was best for Suzume, but she stood back and let Suzume discover that for herself. The author also made her villain easy to loathe, but also easy to understand. Like Suzume, his motivations were purely human. It was greed and desire that led him to the choices he made.

Audiobook Review:

The audiobook was produced by Brilliance Audio and read by Amy Rubinate. Rubinate did a remarkable job narrating the book and making the characters sound so believable. She wove a spell with her voice and I couldn’t stop listening. This book is a little on the longer side. It consisted of 10 sound discs for a total of 11 hours and 17 minutes of listening time. Still I enjoyed every minute and hated to stop listening at the very end. Definitely a great book to listen to.

Overall:

Overall, I really enjoyed this novel and found it a pleasant addition to the collection of fairytale retellings. Marriot knows how to create interesting characters who are motivated by human desires and needs.


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