The basic plot is quite similar to the ones currently in vogue in YA Literature: somewhat emotionally damaged girl meets charming but mysterious boy, pair become embroiled in epic (supernatural) conflict, powers are revealed, random civilians placed in jeopardy, etc. As a fan of YA Lit, definitely up my alley.
The characters are excellent and endearing in that "love me even though I'm broken" kind of way. The good news is that the focus of the story is overcoming that "brokenness," so to speak, unlike many YA novels that seem to wallow in it. Also, the solution to their emotional damage is not simply romantic love - a nice change of pace from what much of the currently popular novels suggest.
What makes this book incredibly unique is its spiritual foundations. Using angels & demons as characters is not new, but using them in a way that actually promotes faith is. Dittemore raises some great, thought-provoking questions and weaves Biblical stories & truths into her story line.
In terms of narration, Cassandra Campbell does an excellent job. I could hear the emotions of the characters throughout the performance.
All in all, an awesome listen. As a final note: the ending of the novel, though not a cliffhanger, does suggest future sequels -- I look forward to them!
The Story: The plot is pretty standard for the genre, but the characters are quite enjoyable. I like that there is some real psychology in the villain; his characterization was certainly the most complex and interesting (though he is in NO way sympathetic). The romance(s) were sweet and done more realistically for the time period. Our hero is a zero in the romance department most of the time, but you can't help but love him like Ruthie does anyway. Ruthie herself is a fun spitfire, which speaks to my inner feminist :)
The biggest flaw is in McCulloh's narration. The worst part is that she pauses ridiculously long between her phrases. Seriously, ridiculously long. I had to listen to the whole book at 1.5x the speed, which made some words and phrases sound a bit funny, but shortened the pauses enough to keep me from going completely insane. Also, sometimes I couldn't distinguish between her different character voices and got confused about who was talking. I had to use the little rewind 30 seconds button and listen again, paying more attention to the other dialogue cues to figure it out.
All in all, the narration really took away from the selection, and my next step is to return Swept Away and get my credit back. I think I'll pick up the ebook though.
I'm going to assume you're already familiar with the hallmarks of the historical Christian romance genre (clean romance, religious themes, lots of old West stuff, etc.), and instead focus on what makes Head in the Clouds unique (and awesome!)
A Much More Modern Take on the Genre:
There are some great themes like crossing cultures, adoption, and some that I can't mention for fear of spoilers, but mostly, it's the protagonists that seem to be born in the wrong century (and I mean that in a good way!). Adelaid is very independent, passionate, and intelligent---one of my favorite lines is when she mentions how all little girls should dream up stories of "fair maidens who outwit dull princes to rescue friendly dragons." Gideon, though, is no dull prince; in fact, he's the sexiest male protagonist I've come across in this genre (don't worry, nothing scandalous). He's compassionate, occasionally sharp-tempered, and quite witty. Though he's got the whole protective vibe characteristic of the genre, he's characterized more by his humor and charm.
A Believable Romance
Gideon and Adelaid are so right for each other, and their relationship unfolds in a very real and endearing way. This genre is usually strife with romances that are all about how the characters' insecurities (particularly the heroine's) or lots of miscommunication get in the way of their happily ever after. For G & A, this is not the case (won't say anymore---you've got to read it yourself).
~Note on Narration: Poole does a great job, particularly with the funny lines. Although the accents weren't perfect, they were believable and really added to the experience. I could always tell who was speaking; the characterization was spot-on.
Plots and Pans is a light and enjoyable read for those who enjoy Christian romance fiction. The characters are flawed but likeable, and the chemistry between the leads is satisfying. I enjoyed the Biblical lesson woven into the story, but didn't find it forced down my throat. The only criticism that I can offer is that the story is fairly predictable and the transition from "Wait, maybe I don't actually hate you----we just passionately misunderstand each other" to "Let's get married!" is a bit rushed.
As to the narrator, Dunn's reading voice is animated and engaging, but she doesn't differentiate the characters' voices enough. Sometimes it was difficult to follow the dialogue because the characters sounded so alike.
This is the first Lauren Oliver novel that I have read. The story line is exciting and well thought out. The thematic elements definitely bring to mind other teen dystopia favorites such as The Giver and The Hunger Games, but Delirium has enough of its own flair to keep from feeling unoriginal.
The best part of this audiobook, by far, is Sarah Drew's masterful narration. I don't believe that I would have been as impressed with the novel had she not so completely wrapped me up in the story. She IS Lena Haloway - complicated, often conflicted, but utterly real.
Although The Raven Boys is quite different from Maggie Stiefvater's Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy and The Scorpio Races, it highlights her amazing characters, exciting suspense, and that intriguing sense that the words could almost be poetry.
Each of the characters in this novel are both utterly deep and (despite the supernatural themes and plot) utterly real. For fans of Stiefvater's other works, this is expected. The bonus of this novel is that we get so many characters and yet can feel invested in all of them. Blue, Gansey, Adam, Ronin, & Noah (the most central characters) were especially wonderful because they were neither wholly good nor wholly bad. Each had his/her own idiosyncrasies and failings as well as moments of heroism and compassion. I fell in love with all five!
I'm not generally a fan of the supernatural genre, but this story had me mesmerized and on the edge of my seat. I would have listened straight through if it weren't for those pesky distractions of sleep and work. You can tell that this is the beginning of a series ("The Raven Boys Cycle," according to the audiobook), but it does not end in an annoying cliffhanger.
The prose itself is captivating. I'm not even sure how to describe it, really, except that you can tell that Stiefvater's writing style is influenced by her love of music. I highly recommend reading/listening to any and all of her works.
Note about narration: Will Patton did an excellent job; he really brought the text to life! I wasn't sure if I would like his narration because I expected the narrator to be about the same age as the characters (late teens) and Patton is definitely much older. However, the 3rd person point-of-view and his engaging narration really made it work and, I think, added to the whole experience.
Like many of those $4 paperbacks at Wal-Mart, this Christian suspense novel was enjoyable but ultimately forgettable. There were a couple of eye-rolling moments, but who doesn't like some sweet brain candy every once in awhile? The romance is sweet, the action exciting, and the characters likeable.
Word of Warning: The narrator's performance can get kind of annoying. Play the little sample and you'll see why. I was mostly able to get past it, but it got in the way sometimes.
If you enjoyed Shiver at all (which I did), you should definitely give this book a try. The voices are amazingly well done (especially compared to the Shiver production). I appreciated the "new" characters, Cole & Isabel, because it really relieved what would otherwise be a repetitive and sappy story. Having the very different perspectives allowed the Sam & Grace bits to stay sweet and not become drippy.
Some have argued that the story rambled in places or didn't accomplish much, but I didn't feel that at all. Just being with these great characters was more than enough to keep me entertained. Also, those who felt that this is just another Twilight ripoff should know that Shiver & Linger are way better than Meyer's saga.
P.S. The original music by Stiefvater played at the end is excellent. I actually rewound the track to listen to it again! :)
A big fan of Margaret Peterson Haddix myself, I was thrilled to see "Palace of Mirrors" on audible (a book I have never read before). I clicked play with great anticipation, but unfortunately the audio performance that followed was more than disappointing.
I listened for 30 minutes before I decided that although the story itself was engaging I was not going to let Polly Lee (narrator) ruin it for me. Her slow mechanical reading of the narration drained Haddix's words of any life. Although her dialogue-voice for the main character was passable, she seemed to be completely misinterpreting the dialogues between the characters. What is written as playful banter between friends sounds almost menacing. And Harper (whom I can only assume will be the male lead of the story) sounds like a bully which is not what the actual words being spoken imply.
I have decided that I will simply need to get this one from the library, and now I'm left only with a bitter feeling that I've wasted an audible credit. I recommend you do the same, or at least have the good sense that I didn't have and listen to the sample first (not a mistake I'll likely make again).
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