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The Beginning of Everything follows Ezra, a high school golden boy, severely injured by a car accident that sidelines him from his popular life in high school. Enter Cassidy, who is different from any other girl he knows and obviously has her own major baggage. Their relationship and Ezra’s recovery, both physically and emotionally, is told in The Beginning Of Everything. I guess what held me back from really liking this book was how hapless Ezra was. Even if he wasn’t really into it, someone who was a former class president and tennis team captain would surely have a little more drive or ability to handle life. The two parts of his character just didn’t flow together well. Perhaps it was because we don’t really know him until after the accident, but he never rang true to me. On the other side, Cassidy was…well, she was a very Alaska Young type character. I couldn’t stop thinking “this is so similar to Looking For Alaska.” I guess you could make the argument that she is a bit of an anti-MPDG, but her place in Ezra’s life served the same purpose as a full-on MPDG. The connection that Ezra and Cassidy share, which you don’t find out until the end of the book, was supposed to be shocking, but simply seemed too convenient. Having said all of that, this book was not a total loss. The friends that Ezra makes after his fall from popularity were fun to read. Ezra does go on a sort of journey into his past friendships that have been resurrected after his accident. The new friends were probably my favorite part of the book. I did like the idea of the story, even if the execution was somewhat lacking. I also appreciated the ending which was bittersweet and did justice to the rest of the book. I think that I was expecting more from this book, in the end, and it just never delivered the emotional punch I was looking for.
The narration of the audiobook was good. Ezra’s voice came through very well in the reading. I was not a huge fan of the female voice that the narrator used, but I think that has more to do with my extreme pickiness about that and not any problem with the narration.
Set on a remote island, The Scorpio Races tells a story that is half fairy tale, half coming of age story. Puck and Sean are both facing great obstacles on their small island home. Sean is a Scorpio races champion many times over, but there is something empty about racing with a horse that you love, but isn't yours. Puck is struggling to keep her home and to keep her family together after the death of her parents at the hands of the capaill uisce, the carnivorous horses that are raced every year. Maggie Stiefvater paints a detailed picture of life on the island, with beautiful and rich imagery. The more I read her books, the more I am convinced that she is doing some of the most beautiful writing out there today. The book switched back and forth between Puck and Sean, so you get a good idea of each character's world. Even though Thisby could be a harsh place, I grew to love it, as well, and could understand why people chose to make it their home. When Puck decides to ride in the race, you could see her insane bravery as well as how scared she was. Obviously, Sean saw it, too, and while the romance is very subtle, it is also so sweet and well done. This isn't a book that is fast paced, but I always say that I think we need more books that aren't "wham, bam". It's ok for a writer to take their time in building a story and it's ok for the two protagonists to be established as characters before they meet. I thought the slow burn of this book was one of the things that made it so amazing.
The narrators were absolutely outstanding. Although we never really know where Thisby is, the voices are English and I felt that was a good choice because it was written as if they were, in there manner of speech and colloquialisms. (The narrator who reads Sean's parts has a sexy, sexy voice, guys.) Both had excellent pacing and read the other characters very well. If you listen to this audiobook you will see why it has won so many awards. As an added bonus, the author reads the acknowledgments and the notes about the book at the end. I give it my highest recommendation.
I actually started listening to this book while I was having a round of pretty unpleasant dental work and I have to say that it was still quite enjoyable! (The book, not the dental work.) Partials is a long and slow build up which was nice because I really felt like the author took time to build this world. The details about life after a total breakdown of society and its rebuilding was very interesting. The combination of things we know now, things that would be lost in this situation, and advancements that were made created a place that felt very real to me as a reader. The pandemic that caused the societal breakdown has had a devastating effect on infants and childbirth. (Please note that the first scene in this book involves the death of a baby.) It reminded me a little bit of Children of Man in that the survival of humans is in peril because of a lack of children. Everything hangs on the cure for RM. Kira is a smart and capable heroine who I really grew to like. Her bravery did not seem over the top, which I think helped me relate to her. The characters were all well formed and the very subtle romance added to the story without overwhelming it. As the plot slowly reveals itself, the story becomes more and more engrossing. For a book that was very long, it was paced in a way that never seemed to drag.
The performance was part of the reason why I liked this book so much. The narrator did a good job of voice differentiation and tone so that I always knew who was talking. The emotion with which it was read helped keep the story going. Overall, I thought that Partials was an excellent story with great world building and a riveting plot. If you are like me and have been putting off reading this book, you might want to try experiencing this book through audio.
I was completely blown away by how much I loved this book. First of all, it is not a love story. At least, not the kind you are used to seeing. This is about Bea and Jonah, who feel like outsiders and find a friend in each other. They both have somewhat complicated inner lives, but Jonah's life is full of real pain and a bit of mystery, as well. As Bea gets sucked into Jonah's reality, you'll see that he is not the typical "misunderstood YA male protagonist who is really very good and handsome". He is not always nice. He is not always nice to Bea. Bea does not always stand up for herself. It was frustrating to listen to this and painful to hear what they were both going through, but that pain was tempered by writing that was laugh-out-loud funny, as well. I found it to be such a real way to present two close friends and I was completely and utterly sucked into this book. It was also one of those books where I felt myself relating to everyone, even the characters that did terrible or misguided things. I would be remiss if I did not mention the best part about this story: the radio show. Throughout the story, we get to tune in to Nightlights, a local call-in radio show with its own cast of quirky and lonely characters. It was a perfect way for two people that felt the awkwardness of face-to-face interaction, to connect, although it was also one more way for Jonah to keep his distance as a faceless radio caller. I found myself wondering about those characters as much as I thought about Bea and Jonah.
The narrator of this book was Kate Rudd, who is one of my very favorites. She does such a great job of conveying the emotion and the humor in this quirky story. The BEST thing about this audiobook, though, is the radio show. Voice actors perform the various parts, so it's as if you are actually listening to a radio program. It really made this audio something amazing and even if the fabulous Kate Rudd wasn't the narrator, I would recommend it simply because of what they did with the radio show. If this is one of those books you've been meaning to read, as it was for me, I give this audiobook my very highest recommendation.
Pat Peoples is not mentally stable and that is something that becomes clear almost immediately as you hear his inner dialogue. Pat's world is repetitive and highly structured which works for him since his entire focus is on getting his ex-wife back. Since we only know what Pat knows, it takes a while for the layers if his instability to become clear, but while that happens, you will most definitely start liking Pat. Pat's child-like understanding of the world around him and his frank observations brings his flawed and sometimes messed-up family into sharp focus. Before Pat went into the Bad Place it is easy to imagine him behaving much like his stoic and unpleasant father, but his post-Bad Place understanding lets you into a world where he starts to recognize that practicing kindness is more than just a means to an end. Much like the Nick Hornby books I love, this story revolves around a sports team (The Philadelphia Eagles) and its place as a conduit for communication in the Peeples family. The team was almost a character itself, and I loved the way their wins an losses were woven throughout the story and permeated every aspect of Pat's life. In truth, I was surprised by how poignant and funny this book was. It is not only a very frank look at how people view mental illness and how we treat the mentally ill people we interact with every day, it is also a sort of delayed coming of age story. It was as if, at 34, Pat wakes up and is forced to start over with only a limited understand of why. I did not love every character in the book, but I loved the way they were written because it made me feel like I made that judgement after really getting to know them, and you will certainly feel as if you know all of the characters in this story through Pat's eyes.
The narrator was a big reason I loved this book. His voice did a fantastic job of capturing the cadence of a working class family, their inflections and how they might talk to each other. He did a great job with the female voices and the various accents that were sometime required. He brought life to Pat's voice and I highly recommend the audio version to anyone who has been curious about this book.
Fans of Adrian will not be disappointed in The Indigo Spell. There is plenty of Ivashkov to go around, and boy does he take you on a crazy trip! Richelle Mead really packed in a lot of action without feeling too rushed. I was surprised that Marcus Finch wasn't in the book more. He was still very important, mind you, but this was really a book that gave you more time with Sydney and Adrian. There were some really tense moments as Sydney put her neck on the line several times and I found myself actually holding my breath. One thing I love about this series is trh way that Sydney constantly battles with her inner control freak. Her idn never stops and the little asides she gives to the reader crack me up, especially when they involve something that Angeline has done:
"I heard about the pinata. It had been for her class's cultural day, and she'd been so thorough with her papier-mâché that none of her classmates had been able to open it through normal means. Angeline had ended up beating it against the wall and had to be stopped by the teacher when she'd produced a lighter." - Pg. 101
One thing that surprised me was the ending. It was very...happy. Not resolved by any means, but much happier than I thought it would be. All I can think is that Richelle Mead is really going to bring the pain in the next book which is exciting and scary at the same time.
I also listened to the audio of the first two books in this series and I love Emily Shaffer's narration. She definitely embodies Sydney's uncompromising inner voice, but I have also developed a real soft spot for her Adrian. I know there was some controversy because she gives Adrian an English accent, but I am telling you that it works! When I read these books, I am still hearing that voice in my head. I really hope that she will be narrating the rest of the series, as well.
I have had this book on my list for a very long time, but somehow it was always pushed aside. Well, I was an idiot. Looking For Alaska was just as good as everyone said it was. The description of life in the somewhat eccentric world of Culver Creek Boarding School was so well written that I felt like I might be there, myself. There was not one character in this story that I did not like, and that includes the unlikable ones. Alaska Young was more than just your typical MPDG, although I know that many people believe that about her. She certainly has some of those characteristics, but she was much more three dimensional that just a vehicle for someone else's realizations. She was also more than just the focus of Miles Halter's lust, but since the book is told from Miles's point of view, what we know of Alaska has to be discovered by Miles, and he does discover it very painfully. While calling a character a MPDG is the 21st century equivalent of being a Mary Sue, I propose that it isn't all bad to have a character that inspires change in a protagonist. To say more would be to spoil the story and I could go on all day about this and how I think that calling a female character a MPDG is a type of sexism in literary criticism, but I'll save that for another time.
This book was narrated by Jeff Woodman, who has an impressive number of books under his belt, including An Abundance of Katherines. His use of voice was amazing. I loved the way he voiced everyone, but especially The Colonel, whose personality really shone through in the voicing. It's always tricky to have a male narrator when a female character plays such an important role in a story, but this narrator did a fantastic job of reading Alaska Young without sounding silly. Since this book is set in Alabama, accent was also very important. Mr. Woodman did a great job with that, as well. Although this book would be great whether you listened to it or read it, I think that this particular narration really added to the story. If this is a book that has been on your list forever, as it was on mine, please consider listening to it. You won't be disappointed!
I knew that this series had a large fan base and now I understand why. Graceling was an utterly captivating fantasy with a heroine that I loved with my whole heart. No one is tougher than Katsa, and even though the story is told from her perspective, you really only get to know her through the few people in her life that she trusts. With her Grace as a weapon wielded by her uncle, she is feared and avoided by most people and I found myself feeling so very sorry for her. Her life is lonely and her belief that to avoid hurting others she must be alone is understandable, if not tragic. Slowly, and with great skill, Kristi Cashore uses characters (like Po) to reveal Katsa's humanity and show she reader her growth from someone who feels trapped to someone who is in charge of her own destiny. I would love to add this to the required reading list of every young woman in America. I think that Katsa's flaws and the complexity of her personal journey make this book relatable in so many ways, although I know that sounds like a funny thing to say about a fantasy. This book was much more than a story of good versus evil. It dug deep into the question of morality and obligation to seek justice, and whether we should use the skills we have to try to put good into the world. It also told a deeply addictive story full of harrowing journeys, romance, fighting, and sacrifice. Basically, it had everything you could ever want in a book.
As much as I just gushed about the story, I will continue to gush about the audiobook. One thing that makes it unique is that it's read by a cast. I had never listened to a story that way, and I loved it! It was very much like listening to a play and I think that part of the reason this book made such an impression on me was the method of delivery. Katsa and Po were cast perfectly, as was Bitterblue. Although Fire and Bitterblue were not recorded this way, I am glad that Graceling was. I would say that this has been my favorite audiobook, so far, and I recommend it to seasoned audiobook listeners and newcomers, alike.
Days of Blood and Starlight lives up to its name because, above all, it is a story of war. There is a lot of bloodshed in this book and Laini Taylor's beautiful writing does much to illustrate every death and every harsh reality. The book is told in alternating viewpoints between Karou, Akiva and many other characters. In fact, we meet a lot of new angels and chimera in book two and I really felt that all of those viewpoints brought so much more depth to the story. I think a few of my favorites were Zuzana and Mik and Akiva's sister, Liraz, who turned out to be so much more than I thought she would be. You should definitely expect twists and turns and be prepared to have your heart broken as everyone is stripped down to their rawest emotional forms in this book. It was amazing to me, and a true testament of Taylor's writing, that in such a violent book there could be so many profoundly touching and tender moments. Akiva and Karou spend most of this book apart from each other, but only in a physical sense, because their connection is still strong. Even as Karou deals with her sense of betrayal and Akiva grieves, it is impossible to believe that they are completely broken. The ending was satisfying with a large dose of cliffhanger and I cannot wait for the third book so that I can go back into the world that has so captured my imagination.
This audiobook was narrated by Khristine Hvam, who also narrated book one. She does a phenomenal job of bringing the characters to life. Each voice and inflection really put you in the middle of the story. She is a popular narrator, so I knew it was going to be good, but I was not prepared for how good it was. I highly recommend listening to this book for the brilliant narration and the obvious understanding of the characters and the story.
To say that Chime is unusual doesn't quite do justice to this unique and enchanting story. Franny Billingsley created a world of witches and mysteries set in a small marsh-side village that is coming into violent contact with the industrial revolution of the early 1900s. There is definitely a theme of old ways versus new industry as the leadership in the village wants to drain the swamp for railroad access. Watching all of this is Briony, who has a vast reserve of self-hatred fed by her sister's mental condition and her step-mother's death. Much of Briony's observations revolve around her belief that she is inherently evil, but there is still the feeling that she is trying to convince herself that it's true. One of the very best things about this book is Eldric. There is the opposite of instalove in this story. Eldric is a mystery to Briony and her fascination with his manner and her jealousy of his ability to live such a free life draws her to him. Their romance is very slow and, more often than not, she is pushing him away. Their slowly building relationship was one of the sweetest and most satisfying romances I have read. They are both very flawed, but not without the desire to rescue each other, and rescue each other they do.
As narrator, Susan Duerden is outstanding. So much of the lexicon of British English can be told through accent and it was the accents that made this story. Briony, Eldric, et al are the more educated class, while the locals speak in a rougher cadence. Ms. Duerden captured this perfectly and I am certain that my love of this book is due, in large part, to her narration. To be honest, I am not sure what I would have thought of this book had I read it. However, as an audiobook it is outstanding. So much of the story seemed to reside in the rhythm of the language and the repetitiveness of Briony's tortured inner thoughts. It is a book that lends itself perfectly to audio and if you haven't read it, I give this audiobook my highest recommendation.
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