Reboot by Amy Tintera is a delicious mix of sci-fi, dystopia, and zombies, with a healthy dash of romance. Zombies I say?? Why yes, though not the normal kind of zombies I must admit. I’m not how many people would agree with me on that, since the Reboots are approached from a fairly dystopian angle, but when dead people rise due to a virus, I can’t help but think zombie ;-). I’ve had Reboot sitting on my shelf for about six months, ever since Tintera came through my city on the Dark Days tour! However, I finally downloaded the audiobook version because my favorite narrator (Khristine Hvam) voices Reboot, and I’m so glad I did! It also means my signed copy can sit safe on my shelf forever now :D.
I love that Reboot is basically a combination of zombie and super-humans. It’s such a delightful sci-fi take on the normal horror trope, and since it’s sci-fi I wasn’t too scared either :D.
Did I mention already that Khristine Hvam is my favorite narrator? Yes? Well I’m gonna say it again! The narration on Reboot was amazing and definitely made the book for me. I cannot recommend listening to Reboot enough if you like audiobooks. (Khristine Hvam also narrated Daughter of Smoke and Bone 1 & 2, check those out!)
Ren and Callum are our lead characters and they are pretty freaking cute. Since we’re getting the whole story through Ren’s perspective, it is especially amusing to hear her thoughts of Callum when she first meets him and later on ;-). While I wouldn’t call their relationship slow burn necessarily, it definitely felt well-paced and realistic given the circumstances.
Ren has a pretty limited knowledge of her world due to what her life has been like so far, but there have been some interesting hints that all is not as it seems. I’m so excited to see what the next book holds since I’m hopeful and suspicious that our understanding of Reboots is going to completely change *crosses fingers*.
So Ren starts off the book claiming to feel no emotions and not really understand human behavior anymore since she was dead for so long. But then she starts feeling emotions and participating in human behavior quite easily. This transition kind of bugged me, since it didn’t seem consistent with her character, though I’m hoping that it is explained later in the series!
I’ve seen others point out that the romance is too much in Reboot. I wouldn’t say that exactly, but it definitely plays a bigger role than what really seemed necessary. It worked for me because Ren and Callum worked for me, but if you don’t like one of them, I can see where they would get annoying.
I was pretty surprised when Reboot ended. I had definitely expected it to continue for a bit longer. Reboot could almost be a stand alone with how things end (which doesn’t really make sense with my feelings that the ending was abrupt, I’m conflicted!), mostly because I don’t really know what the big conflict of the next book is going to be ya know? I’ve gotten so used to YA cliffhangers that a first book that doesn’t emphasize the problems remaining to be solve in the rest of the series was a bit surprising ;-).
I very much enjoyed Reboot, though I think that if I had read it instead of listened, my rating would be a little lower. The narration did a wonderful job of making me really like Ren and Callum as characters. I want to be friends with them! If you listen to audiobooks you should definitely listen to this one, since I think I won’t be the only one that enjoys listening more than reading Reboot. I will test this theory with the second book though!
Dreamer’s Pool by Juliet Marillier is a beautiful fairytale full of broken characters and a disturbing mystery. If you are tired of worrying about romance ruining perfectly good friendships, but also kind of like the sweet naïveté of the adorable secondary characters sometimes, Dreamer’s Pool is probably your book. Dreamer’s Pool is also your book if you love writing that just keeps pulling you back in and character development that wrenches your heart but makes your proud at the same time. Basically, Dreamer’s Pool is rockin’ and the narration of the audiobook is pretty darn good as well!
Note: I received an audiobook copy of Dreamer’s Pool from the publisher. Audiobooks change my experience with the story.
Dreamer's Pool by Juliet Marillier
Narrated by Natalie Gold, Nick Sullivan, Scott Aiello
(Blackthorn and Grim #1)
Published by Roc on Nov. 4th, 2014
Genres: Adult, Fantasy
Length: 448 pages
How I got my copy: Publisher
In exchange for help escaping her long and wrongful imprisonment, embittered magical healer Blackthorn has vowed to set aside her bid for vengeance against the man who destroyed all that she once held dear. Followed by a former prison mate, a silent hulk of a man named Grim, she travels north to Dalriada. There she'll live on the fringe of a mysterious forest, duty bound for seven years to assist anyone who asks for her help.
Oran, crown prince of Dalriada, has waited anxiously for the arrival of his future bride, Lady Flidais. He knows her only from a portrait and sweetly poetic correspondence that have convinced him Flidais is his destined true love. But Oran discovers letters can lie. For although his intended exactly resembles her portrait, her brutality upon arrival proves she is nothing like the sensitive woman of the letters.
With the strategic marriage imminent, Oran sees no way out of his dilemma. Word has spread that Blackthorn possesses a remarkable gift for solving knotty problems, so the prince asks her for help. To save Oran from his treacherous nuptials, Blackthorn and Grim will need all their resources: courage, ingenuity, leaps of deduction, and more than a little magic.
Blackthorn and Grim are both very troubled and broken main characters (so of course I adored them to no end), but they are balanced well with our third main character, Oran, who is such a hopeless romantic that I probably wouldn’t have been able to tolerate him without Blackthorn’s amusing assessments. Oran is not just a naive prince though, he is knowledgeable about the law and cares for his people, which makes it all the more amusing when he is confronted by surly Blackthorn and silent Grim ;-).
You’d think that three points-of-view would be too much, but it worked quite well, with each character having a very distinct voice. The audiobook has three narrators, too, so that helped a lot. Each of the narrators portrays their character very well and I kind of want to find Grim’s narrator and just give him a hug!
I can’t tell you the last time I came across an adult story with a man and a woman being JUST FRIENDS! Blackthorn and Grim are very clearly just friends from the start and it was so refreshing to see their friendship and trust develop without any worry about relationship angst.
The writing and mystery of Dreamer’s Pool is so addicting. I found myself doing extra chores around the apartment, listening while walking and driving and any other excuse I could find. I even kept listening while icing my forehead from eyestrain! I just had to know what happened next!!!
You find out very quickly that Blackthorn and Grim are in prison and it has been a very tough prison sentence. Thinking back on where they both were at the start of Dreamer’s Pool now that I know how much they grow and recover from their trauma, I can’t help but be impressed by the character development that Marillier smoothly pulls off.
There are some seriously hairy issues in Dreamer’s Pool and I applaud Marillier for not shying away from them and giving Blackthorn a voice to shout what so many of us wish we could. I don’t want to give anything away, but there were definitely times when my eyes got quite big because I just didn’t expect Marillier to pull it off but she does!
Dreamer’s Pool is the start of a series but stands alone quite well. You’ll be relieved to know that there will be more Blackthorn and Grim adventures though as soon as you’re at the end of Dreamer’s Pool. I certainly can’t wait to hear what they’ll be up to next!
Oran’s narration is the one exception to the otherwise excellent narration choices. He has some quirks such as a very strange and rather annoying voice for Oran’s manservant and close friend. I was kind of relieved when that character faded to the background because he was so annoying to listen to at first.
Major trigger warning for sexual violence in Dreamer’s Pool. Those tough issues I mention above? Yeah, they involve some pretty horrible things done to innocents. Nothing is graphically depicted, but I got sad just thinking about it myself so I want to make sure others are warned in case you’re more sensitive to those subjects.
Dreamer’s Pool is an excellent choice for fantasy fans and promises to be just the beginning for a great series. I was guessing right up until the end and am thrilled to have been able to listen to the audio version so I could fit in lots of extra reading time ;-). I am now quite convinced that I need to go read everything else Marillier has written because there is just something downright addictive about her storytelling!
The Burning Sky by Sherry Thomas is a fantasy series that has been getting a crazy amount of hype. When the second book, The Perilous Sea, came out earlier this year, I knew I needed to find out what everyone was gushing about. Therefore, I turned to audiobooks because how else was I supposed to fit it in in a timely manner?? Fortunately, there was pretty good narration, so I now have happily started The Burning Sky series and am just one book away from being all caught up! While I wouldn't say it blew my mind, I can definitely see where The Burning Sky has the potential to begin a truly ground-breaking fantasy series, and it has that whole girl-disguised-as-a-boy thing that so many of you love ;-).
Note: I listened to The Burning Sky which inarguably influences my reading experience.
The fantasy world of The Burning Sky is actually multiple worlds, ours as one and at least one, perhaps multiple others that have magic. The Burning Sky is one of those books that will confuse you initially because there is a lot of lingo to pick up and the characters have basic assumptions about how the world works that they don't share with you, but figuring all that out is half the fun!
I never felt that The Burning Sky was dumping information on the reader in order to make sure we got all the details of how things work between the teleportation (called vaulting), the elemental magic, the other kind of magic, the shadow government somehow connected to the magic world which is also then connected to our world, etc. Instead, you as the reader get to discover things and slowly put the pieces of the puzzle together. Just be warned that you don't have all the pieces by the end of book one, but that just leaves more fun for book two :D.
There was a danger to my listening to The Burning Sky because the male MC, Prince Titus, acts like a complete jackass most of the time, but very early on he makes a reference internally to having to keep up the act. If you miss that part, you'll hate him, but instead, I loved him because of the complexity of teasing out which parts are really him and which parts are him playing a part so hard his life depends on it. I'm not shipping these kids or anything, but I love their depth ;-).
There is a chosen one trope in The Burning Sky, but the twist on it is simply marvelous. Titus has been informed by his psychic mother that he must protect the great elemental mage that will appear with his very life. Therefore, even though there is a chosen one, there is also the very painful dynamic of a second main character who knows that he is not the chosen one and will in fact someday die for the cause. There is somehow an extra edge added when your mother had a vision of your actual death over the more general "I'd be willing to die for you" sort of thing ya know?
I love magic systems and it is a simple delight when a book presents not one, but two and possibly more magic systems! I'm honestly still a little confused about how all the different worlds/realms link together, but I'm having fun with the more traditional elements-based magic mixing and evolving with the more "handy" magic that sweeps and cleans and such.
I'm not general a fan for relationship angst, but this complicated romance seemed minimal on the angst despite the kind of horrendous circumstances. I mentioned that Titus knows his fate early on, and so you can imagine his feelings for Iolanthe would be a bit complex, and then there is the whole they are supposed to both be straight boys at boarding school thing to add lots of laughs :-P.
I have more to say about the narration in the next section unfortunately, but I do feel the need to say that I think the male narrator did a decent job of giving the characters each their own pretty good voices, even the female characters, so while I didn't love the audiobook more than I would have the physical, this was a convenient way to get another book in my head ;-).
For some reason a British older gentleman just doesn't seem like the right narrator choice for a YA fantasy with one female MC and one male MC. This narration choice completely changed the tone of The Burning Sky for me and I think it kept me from loving it as much as I might have with a narrator that fit better.
While Iolanthe does actually train quite hard and long for her magical gains, it is glossed over for the most part, so it seems like she had an easy time learning impossible tasks. Intellectually, I know that I remember the days to weeks she spent training constantly, but I really didn't feel like a part of that struggle with her.
I will be honest that I really wasn't sure what to make of The Burning Sky in the first half. Things seemed like they could be cool (and eventually did get very compelling), but I found myself not eager to jump back into listening in the beginning and possibly even *gasp* switched to music once!
The Burning Sky is a very ambitious start to a promising fantasy trilogy. As long as I get more answers in the next book about all the awesome worlds and magic hinted at in The Burning Sky, I'll be a happy fantasy geek! While I wasn't all over the romance, I did connect emotionally with the characters individually, and I worry a bit that the narration tone influenced this. Unless you really love the narrator sample, I recommend sticking with a physical read for The Burning Sky. Now off to book two!
White Cat by Holly Black is the first in the Curse Workers trilogy and introduces us to a world where everyone knows that magic is real, but generally controlled by several families mob-style in the USA. I’ve been meaning to read this trilogy for over a year ever since I met Holly Black at a signing, and I’m so glad that the audiobook was available and of solid quality so that I can finally fit this great series in! If you enjoy the idea of an alternative history mixed with a dash of magic, definitely check these books out and maybe even the audio versions ;-).
White Cat by Holly Black
Narrated by Jesse Eisenberg
(Curse Workers #1)
Published by Margaret K. McElderry Books on May 4th, 2010
Genres: Contemporary Fantasy, Dark Fantasy, YA
Length: 320 pages
How I got my copy: Purchased
Cassel comes from a shady, magical family of con artists and grifters. He doesn't fit in at home or at school, so he's used to feeling like an outsider. He's also used to feeling guilty; he killed his best friend, Lila, years ago.
But when Cassel begins to have strange dreams about a white cat, and people around him are losing their memories, he starts to wonder what really happened to Lila. In his search for answers, he discovers a wicked plot for power that seems certain to succeed. But Cassel has other ideas and a plan to con the conmen.
White Cat is told from the main character, Cassel’s perspective, so having a male narrator who mostly stuck to his natural voice worked out well. I found myself easily imagining Cassel telling me the story of this period of his life over drinks ;-).
I looooooved the magic system since it involved some powers I haven’t read much with before and “blowback” when you use your power. If you use your power for good to give someone good luck or make someone happy, you get good luck or happiness yourself. If however, you use your death curse or physical curse to hurt others, a part of your body suffers the same consequences.
Another cool part of White Cat that I hadn’t realized is that it doesn’t take place in some far off fantasy world, it takes place in a version of the US where curse work has always been known to exist and is currently going through various stages of being banned and tested for and unbanned as with any other cause. I am pretty in love with these sorts of “out in the open” urban fantasy settings with alternative histories and everything :D.
The plot of White Cat is concise and flows quickly. I enjoyed the twists even though I guessed some from having accidentally read the blurb for the second book once, but I was pleased to find that I never felt things were dragging along even with some nice world-building thrown in.
The crime family twist in White Cat is a whole lot of fun. I’ve never been that in to stories with the mob, but the idea that the mob would be run by curse workers (for very good reasons too!) instead of our world’s incarnation makes me love the twist in White Cat. I especially love that the formation of the crime families makes complete sense with the alternative history that is touched on and that the families use curse workers the same way that tough guys are used in our crime families throughout history.
I generally prefer narrators that have separate voices for each character since it makes it easier to keep characters straight during dialogue. The narrator for White Cat doesn’t do this, which I was generally fine to let go since like I said, White Cat is told in first person. However, it did make it a little confusing the follow the dialogue at times when he started to use a different voice and then didn’t stick with it.
There are a lot of cool secondary characters in White Cat, but the book is just too short for them to get properly fleshed out. There are certain characters that I hope to get to know better as the trilogy goes on, but I definitely wasn’t satisfied with their portrayals in White Cat just because of the length.
I was in a weird place mentally when I started listening to White Cat (remember that weird week where I just needed to read happy things?) and the beginning was a little too dark for me in that mind set. That darkness doesn’t continue too much though, so I ended up being fine once I got past the beginning. Just to warn you though, no pretty butterflies here ;-).
White Cat is a great start to a trilogy I know many readers have loved. I’m really excited to have finally jumped on the Holly Black fan bandwagon and I highly encourage you all to do the same! If you like audiobooks and don’t mind a narrator that doesn’t do individual voices, I do recommend White Cat since it is pretty short and you could easily listen to the whole thing in a week or two!
I freaking love Andrea! She is such a great character with a really heart-wrenching past. We got to see so much more about her, her previous life, what it's like being beastkin, and how she really feels about Raphael. Awesome!
The narration for Gunmetal Magic ended up working quite well. A lot of the characters have southern accents, which makes sense given the Pack is based in the south. I ended up being quite happy with Andrea's voice and all the other characters'.
Gunmetal Magic brings in Egyptian mythology! .>.
The narration worked for me in the end, but it did take getting used to!
Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore is the conclusion to the Graceling trilogy and I’m definitely late to the game on this one ;-). I listened to the entire trilogy on audiobook though and do recommend them if you’re like me and still catching up on this awesome fantasy series! One of the big things to know about Bitterblue and the previous books, however, is that they are much more like companion novels than a continuous trilogy. Each book is about a different character and while Bitterblue relies on events that occurred previously, it’s set years in the future and so you probably could easily read it without having read the previous books. I listened to the previous two books over a year ago and only kind of remember them, so it worked out for me in any case ;-).
Bitterblue is a much different book than Fire and Graceling, which made me happy. I was impressed that Cashore was able to write such a character-driven book without her typical kick-butt heroine from the previous books.
I loved that Bitterblue brought the whole trilogy together even though it is set so apart from the other books. Katsa and Fire both play big roles and a lot of the questions we were left with about a certain evil mind-reader are pursued in Bitterblue.
I loooooved the mysteries of Bitterblue City and all of the strange things that Bitterblue keeps encountering and needs to figure out. Bitterblue the girl is also so like me in her need to make lists to figure out how everything fits together ;-). Lists are the best!
Bitterblue is pretty low on the romance but it was just the right amount for me. I enjoyed that Bitterblue had priorities other than a pretty boy given that she is a queen and all! That doesn’t mean that she doesn’t have feelings that she has to deal with on her down time though ;-).
Bitterblue has a great narrator who fit Bitterblue’s character quite well. While Graceling is full-cast audio, Bitterblue has just one narrator, which seems to be a bit more common.
Since the book is so character driven, it was pretty important for Bitterblue to be a strong character and I enjoyed her a lot! She is smart and strong, but very realistic in her difficulties of ruling a country that has been torn apart by the previous king, not to mention the horrors that she and her mother endured when her father was still ruling.
The plot is kind of all over the place given the character-driven nature of Bitterblue. I didn’t really know what the actual plot was going to end up being until half-way through I’d say. Things just kind of happen for a while.
After 2/3 of the book, Bitterblue gets SUPER TRIGGERY. Horrible things happened during Leck’s rule, including physical and sexual abuse to an absolutely terrifying degree. It was difficult to listen to sections where these things were revealed so be sure you are prepared.
The narrator’s voices for different characters were inconsistent, which disappointed me. I like it when I can realize which character is talking just by the voice, but that wasn’t the case with Bitterblue.
Despite my general approval of Bitterblue’s character, she can get a bit whiny at times. I just wanted her to toughen up a bit here and there, but I guess I wouldn’t have been much better given the situation >.>.
Bitterblue is a very interesting conclusion to the Graceling trilogy. It’s quite different than the previous books, focusing on a character-driven plot with a very different heroine than Katsa and Fire. However, I still enjoyed Bitterblue for being different and for pulling the three books together in a rather fresh way. With the huge number of connected trilogies out there, it was fun to listen to three books that each stood on their own and were simply based in the same world. I wouldn’t say Bitterblue was my favorite of the three (Fire is for the record), but I’m very glad that I’ve finally finished these books!
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