Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Audio Book Review: Splintered by A. G. Howard

Title: Splintered
Author: A. G. Howard
Genre: Teen Fiction, Fantasy Fiction
Publication Date: January 16, 2013
Publisher: Amulet Books
ISBN-13 Book: 9781419704284
Audiobook Publisher:  AudioGo Ltd. 
Narrator:  Rebecca Gibel
Audiobook Release Date:  1/1/13
Length: 12 hrs. and 42 minutes (Unabridged)
Disclosure: I received a copy of this audio book for review from AudioGo through Audiobook Jukebox.  This is my honest review!


SplinteredSplintered by A.G. Howard
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Summary:
Alyssa Gardner’s mother was institutionalized because she can hear bugs and flowers speaking to her, but Alyssa has a secret. She hears them too. She always knew that she was a descendant of Alice Liddell, the little girl who went down the rabbit hole. Little did she know that all the female descendants in Alice’s line are cursed. Alyssa must go back to Wonderland and right the wrongs of Alice. Only then can she save her mother from the shock treatments that await her at the asylum.

Review:
This is one seriously warped and twisted tale, and I loved it! Alyssa is a skater girl, and about as different from Lewis Carroll’s Alice as she can be. She is a descendant of Alice though, and as such, lives with the curse that all the women of her family have had since Alice first went down the rabbit hole. Howard’s characters are brilliant, and Alyssa is the pinnacle. She reacts and acts like a real teen. Sometimes she is uncertain, sometimes she is impulsive, and she certainly isn’t perfect.

Yes, this book does feature a love triangle between the guy next door (literally), and the mysterious Morpheus. Both these characters are well developed, and are realistically motivated. You can understand Alyssa’s attraction to both of them, though sometimes it felt like the story tripped over this love triangle, or maybe got too caught up in it, but you can get past this small flaw.

The setting of this book is wild. I loved traveling through Wonderland, never knowing what to expect next. Howard draws you into this magical, wacky, place and makes you want to stay. With each scenario weirder than the next, you can’t stand to put this book down. I had no trouble visualizing the sometimes bizarre places and creatures Howard describes—it would make a wonderful movie.

The pacing of this novel might be one of the minor flaws. At times, this novel just flew from one situation to the next at breakneck speed. In other places, the novel would slow to a crawl, and you would find yourself yelling at it for that next big great revelation. I’ll admit this certainly created tension and suspense, but at other times, you found yourself impatiently waiting for the other shoe to drop. Still the fact that I was loathe to walk away from this novel for long tells, you that despite that minor frustration, I really wanted to know what was going to happen next, and I was willing to keep reading to get there.

Audiobook Review:
The unabridged audio book version of this novel is produced by AudioGo and narrated by Rebecca Gibel. Gibel does a great job with the narration and the voices of the various characters. At first I thought her voice for Alyssa might have been too husky, but her reading was so well done, that after a while I no longer noticed. Some of the best audio books are the ones where you get so involved with the story and the characters that you forget that this is a book being read by a single person. This was the case with this novel—Gibel had me believing she was Alyssa and all the other characters she was voicing. The audio book is 12 hours and 42 minutes long, but it is worth every minute. I found myself sitting in the car, not wanting to get out because I wanted to hear more. The audio book production is free of flaws, and was a very enjoyable way to experience this remarkable novel.

Overall:
Overall, this has to be one of my favorite books in recent memory. I couldn’t put it down, and was hooked until the very last page. It is making me want to go back and read Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. The rich storytelling, and the fantastic characters make this a book I won’t soon forget. I only wish there was more to come—I love Wonderland and would welcome a trip back. Highly recommended.


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Thursday, January 24, 2013

YA Audiobook Challenge

I haven't signed up for any challenges this year, and I decided it is time to change all that.  I adore audiobooks, and I though this might be the perfect way to kick things off.  I am joining the YA Audiobook Challenge hosted by A Book and a Latte.  For this challenge there are multiple levels:

Easy Listening
Listen to and review 12 audiobooks.
Rock’n Out
Listen to and review 24 audiobooks.
Head Bang’n
 Listen to 36+ audiobooks, and review at least 24 of them.
Mosh Pit
Listen to 48+ audiobooks, and review at least 36 of them.

Since I listened to 34 audiobooks last year, I am going to challenge myself to listen at the Head Bang'n level and listen to 36+ audiobooks this year.  Wish me luck!

2013 YA Audiobook Challenge
Designed by Jessi of Otherwhere.Co

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Audio Book Review: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

Title: Daughter of Smoke and Bone
Author: Laini Taylor
Genre: Teen Fiction, Fantasy Fiction
Publication Date: September 27, 2011
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
ISBN-13 Book: 9780316134026
Audiobook Publisher:  Hachette Audio
Length: 12 hrs. and 32 minutes (Unabridged)
Disclosure: I purchased this audiobook from audible.com.  This is my honest review!


Daughter of Smoke & Bone (Daughter of Smoke & Bone, #1)Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Summary:

Karou has lived a double life as long as she can remember. She was raised as a child of two worlds. Her guardians were chimera who raised her from the time she was a little child in a mystical shop. In our world she is an art student, who on occasion runs errands for the chimera Brimstone. When the gateways to the chimera world are closed by angels, Karou searches for a way back, and along the way she finds out the truth about who she really is.

Review

I honesty don't know what took me so long to pick up this book. I admit I wasn't a big fan of Taylor's Lips Touch, and perhaps that was what was holding me back. I am so glad that I finally got around to reading this one.

The setting in this book was wonderful. I loved that she set the book in Prague. The portions of the book in the real world were just as wonderful and magical as the portions that took place in the world of the chimera. Taylor does a wonderful job describing both worlds, and Karou's place in them.

Karou was instantly likable. While so much of her life was shrouded in mystery, you knew you liked her. She is a tough heroine, and one that isn't afraid to go after what she wants. I loved her strength, determination, and her ability to stand up for herself.

It really felt like this novel was two books in one. First you have Karou's story and then you have the story of her former life. I am not sure I liked the way the flashback was told, but the telling was necessary to understand who Karou really is. It felt like we spent too much time in the flashback, when we were desperate to get back to Karou in the present. I don't know how else Taylor could have done it, but it did take up a considerable chunk of the book.

Audio Book Review:

The audio version was fantastic, and definitely a great way to experience this book. I purchased the book from audible during one of their sales. It is narrated by Khristine Hvam, who did a superb job with all of the voices. I loved listening to her narrate this story, and all of the accents. The audio was produced by Hachette Audio and is a nice clean production. It is an unabridged audio which lasts 12 hours and 32 minutes. This was definitely a great listening experience.

Overall:

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I am only sorry that it took me so long to get around to reading. I do plan on reading the next book in the series, Days of Blood and Starlight. Despite the prolonged flashback, I really did enjoy the story, and finding out more about this wonderful world. The cliffhanger ending definitely left me wanting more.



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Friday, January 11, 2013

Book Review: Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

Okay, big confession here.  I am way behind on my book reviews.  I used to write them as soon as I finished the book.  In fact I used to be excited to write my next review and get it up on the blog.  Well, sad news is I slacked off this fall, and am more than a little behind.  Luckily I have a pretty good memory and take decent notes--yep I'm a note taker.  Anyway, I should be catching up on these reviews soon.  Here is the first one, and there will be more to come!

Title: Scorpio Races
Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Genre: Teen Fiction, Fantasy Fiction
Publication Date: October 8, 2011
Publisher: Scholastic Press
ISBN-13 Book: 9780545224901
Audiobook Publisher:  Scholastic Audio
ISBN-13 Audio CD: 9780545357050
Length: 10 sound discs (12 hrs. and 7 min.)(Unabridged)
Disclosure: I checked out the audio from my library and received a copy of the book for committee work.  This is my honest review!


The Scorpio RacesThe Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Summary:

Sean Kendrick watched his father die in the Scorpio Races, killed by a water horse. Still, he continues to race and win every November. This November he hopes to win his freedom and his horse. Despite being the first girl to ever enter the race, Puck decides to race to win the money her family needs to keep their home. Both are outsiders, but both hope to win the race despite all the odds.

Review:

This novel was not what I was expecting. I was expecting more of a fantasy element to the story, when if you take out the water horses, you almost have a realistic fiction novel. Stiefvater’s weaving of the fantasy was so subtle, that it makes it that much more real.

The pacing in the novel could have been better. The beginning is very slow, and friends who have tried to read this novel have said that they couldn’t make it past that slow start. It is worth the persistence though, because the payoff at the end is great. Once I was half way through the novel I had a hard time putting it down—I wanted to know what was going to happen to Puck and Sean.

I loved Sean from the beginning, but had a little harder time getting to know Puck. She is fiercely independent, and very opinionated. It made it harder to get to know her, but as the novel progressed you began to love her as well.

The setting for this story was perfect. The small island of Thisby, where the bloodthirsty water horses come raging out of the sea, was wonderfully depicted. I wanted to know more about the island and their festivals and of course, the horses.

Audiobook Review:

The audio version of this novel was produced by Scholastic Audio and read by Steve West & Fiona Hardingham. The two readers served this novel well since it is narrated from the perspectives of both Puck and Sean. I love the accents! It suited the characters perfectly. Because the book had such slow pacing at the beginning, the audiobook was a perfect medium to keep me reading and interested. I doubt I would have finished without the audio, and that would have been a shame because this book was brilliant.

Overall:

The slow beginning makes this a hard sell to readers, but the book is brilliant. It is definitely up there with my favorite reads of the year. I loved the characters, the setting, and the horses (who couldn’t love man eating horses???). I definitely recommend this book, and the audiobook. Just be prepared, you may have to stick with it for a while.



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Wednesday, January 2, 2013

2012 Recap and 2013 Blogging Resolutions

It's the start of a new year, and time to recap the last and seal the pages once and for all.  I'll admit it--last year was a hard one for me.  I had so much happen last year, and at times it felt like I had to force myself to read.  Reading is supposed to be fun, enjoyable, and relaxing.  At some point last year it became work.  As a result my goal to read 100 books in 2012 crashed and burned (I only read 68), but I think I learned something too.  It isn't about numbers it is about enjoyment. 

For 2013 my reading goal is a bit more modest.  I set my goal back to 75.  If I achieve it, great.  If I don't no big loss.  I need to start enjoying reading more, rather than making it all about the numbers.  If I find 75 books I enjoy, rather than 100+ books I had to force myself through, then I will have won.

Looking back at 2012 is hard for me.  We had some family losses and some illnesses in the family.  There were high points though.  I love the week we spent visiting family in Iowa and attending my cousin's wedding.  I also enjoyed my far too brief holiday spent with my parents.  The year seemed to fly by.

Here are some of my favorites from 2012:

Favorite Book Published in 2012:

Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness  (I had to know what was going to happen next!)

Shadow of Night (All Souls Trilogy, #2)

 Favorite Book Read in 2012: 

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness (The cover caught my eye a while back, so I picked it up when it came out in paperback.  I couldn't put it down, and then made me not want to read anything else! Loved this book!)

A Discovery of Witches (All Souls Trilogy, #1)


Favorite Movie of 2012:

The Hobbit--I'll admit I have been waiting for this one!














Book I am most looking forward to reading in 2013:

A Memory of Light by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson (I started this series several years ago, and am dying to know how it ends.  I think we are in for a spectacular ending--I just hope we get it!)

A Memory of Light (Wheel of Time, #14; A Memory of Light, #3)  

So how about you?  What were your favorites from last year?  What are you most looking forward to reading in 2013?

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