I'm an audiobook addict and blog about books at The Reading Date. My favorite genres are YA, New Adult, Fiction & Memoirs.
In Lola and the Boy Next Door, Lola “Life’s a costume party” Nolan, is in a relationship with an older musician when her old crush Cricket moves back next door after a few years absence. They departed on awkward terms, and his return brings back some old feelings. Cricket is sweet and nerdy, and with his own quirky sense of style and now that he’s back things are about to get complicated.
This book is fun to revisit in audio format and fall in love with the characters again. The tricky thing with reading the book first, though, is that I already had an idea of what I thought Lola should sound like. My impression of book-Lola is that she’s adventurous, dramatic, and a little kooky. And audio-Lola didn’t quite line up with what I had in mind. McManus’ delivery is more subdued and mature than I expected I guess. It’s almost like the narrator’s for Anna and Lola should switch places, because the Anna narrator was quite bubbly. But overall McManus does a nice job with the different characters and their personalities. Her character differentiation is subtle and not over the top, yet it is easy to tell the characters apart. She handles the voices of different genders and accents pretty well, and I thought she did a great job with Cricket, Max, and the two dads in particular.
In terms of the story itself, I think it holds up pretty well. I liked all the quirky character traits and the fun Perkins has with setting. There is a good balance of serious family stuff, romance, and friendship. And I liked that Lola has a job and we see her working at the movie theatre. As a fan of Anna it’s great to see Anna and St. Clair appear in this book so we can check in with them. But on the other hand it’s a testament to Perkins that I wished they were in the book a little less so that the focus is more on Lola, a character that holds her own. I liked all the details that make this book fun like costume design, figure skating, live bands, pie making, cute dogs, inventing, and boys next door of course. And Lola’s family is pretty awesome too.
I liked both the book and the audio versions of the book, but if I hadn’t read the book first I might have liked the audio a little more.
I read the book Blood Red Road upon its release last year and liked it a lot. It has a different vibe than the other YA dystopians on the shelf and it’s one I recommend frequently. The author’s distinctive writing style translates well to audio, and I think I enjoyed listening to the book even more than reading it. The story holds up well and is as action packed and intense as ever.
Blood Red Road is the story of a girl named Saba whose life falls apart when four cloaked horsemen kidnap her twin brother Lugh. She sets out to rescue him, and much to her dismay her little sister is along for the ride. Saba and her family have lived in isolation in the sandstorm-stricken Silverlake, and now she has to venture into the scary unknown to try to keep her promise to her brother. On her journey she finds out what she’s really made of as her character faces several dangerous challenges.
Saba ‘s strength and determination made me root for her. She rises to every challenge and doesn’t back down from her chosen path – a true survivor. She’s not perfect, and she still has a lot to learn, but I liked seeing her come into her own and grow throughout the book.
Along the way Saba meets several characters on her journey, some more helpful than others. The secondary characters fill in some of the missing details in Saba’s knowledge about the politics of their world. Some of the characters are fairly mysterious and I hope to find out more about them in the sequel. I also liked the dynamic between Saba and her love interest Jack and am curious to see how that progresses.
One thing that tripped me up a little when I read it the first time is the writing style. Saba’s character can’t read or write and her character’s dialogue is written phonetically. I found it a bit of a challenge to get through initially, but eventually I was caught up in the story and appreciated the style choice. With the audiobook, Heather Lind narrates with an accent and makes it easier to get immersed in the story. She gives a distinct voice to all the characters and brings them to life. Lind does a nice job portraying Saba in her different emotional states, and also Jack sounds just about how I’d imagine he’d sound. In this case, I think the audiobook experience improves upon the book and I can’t recommend it highly enough.
Though I like all the action and adventure of the entire book, the first half sticks with me more. Listening to it again helped me to fill in some of the holes in my memory from the second half, getting me up to speed for the sequel. Being the first book of a trilogy, there are a lot of mysteries left unsolved, though the book is still pretty satisfying on it’s own. I’m looking forward to the rest of this series, and think Blood Red Road has the potential to be a very cool movie.
In The Lucy Variations, sixteen-year-old piano virtuoso Lucy walks out on an important competition in Prague and abruptly quits playing altogether. Her family keeps a family tragedy secret from her so she doesn’t lose focus on the competition, and this is the last straw for Lucy. Her grandfather and mother totally micro-manage her career and she’s had enough. Eight months later, Lucy hasn’t played a note and now she’s passed the piano bench on to her younger brother Gus. When Gus’s elderly tutor dies during a piano lesson, a new instructor named Will is brought in.
Lucy didn’t think her days of playing the piano were over exactly but since her controlling grandfather washed his hands of her she feels cut off from the piano. Now she has time to explore San Francisco with her friends, hang out with Gus, and decide what else she wants to do with her life. The new piano tutor Will is familiar with Lucy’s career and wants to help her rediscover her love for music on her own terms. And things get a little messy between them.
The Beck-Moreau family is very wealthy and Lucy has a lot of options available to her. I felt for her that it was all or nothing with the piano and I wanted her to get her mojo back. But on the other hand, she’s a little infuriating at times. She can be a pretty bad friend, and her morals are sketchy as well. I cut her some slack due to her horrible parental role models- her grandfather is truly awful and her parents don’t do anything about it. Her mother even gives her the third degree about the elderly piano teachers death as if she was somehow to blame. So in terms of the characters it wasn’t always easy to connect though the story is compelling.
The author, Sara Zarr herself, narrates the audiobook. She’s actually read a few of her books though this is the first one I’ve listened to. One thing that’s very cool about the audiobook production is that short snippets of music are included in the story. So when Lucy is talking about performing a piece of music, the piano parts are overlaid in the story. I get nervous when authors narrate their books since usually their forte is writing, not voice acting. But on the other hand, they know the story inside and out so sometimes it works out. Zarr’s reading is low-key and her voice is pleasant to listen to. She’s subtle with the character voices, but I was actually impressed with how much personality she puts into the characters without overdoing it. She makes the characters come alive but doesn’t sound unnatural doing it, so kudos to Zarr. I think I’ll check out her narration on Story of a Girl next.
I think if you have an interest in contemporary YA with a musical theme you’ll especially appreciate this book.