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My Husband Likes YA: Legend and Prodigy by Marie Lu

Hi!

Every once in a while I suggest that my husband and I listen to a YA audiobook together. We’ve done the Harry Potter series, The Hunger Games trilogy and The Maze Runner series before and we both had fun listening to them together. He usually enjoys the titles I’ve picked, but I do have to choose the right book to get him interested, which is why I was excited when I read the summary for Legend by Marie Lu.

What was once the western United States is now home to the Republic, a nation perpetually at war with iLegend by Marie Luts neighbors. Born into an elite family in one of the Republic’s wealthiest districts, fifteen-year-old June is a prodigy being groomed for success in the Republic’s highest military circles. Born into the slums, fifteen-year-old Day is the country’s most wanted criminal. But his motives may not be as malicious as they seem.

From very different worlds, June and Day have no reason to cross paths – until the day June’s brother, Metias, is murdered and Day becomes the prime suspect. Caught in the ultimate game of cat and mouse, Day is in a race for his family’s survival, while June seeks to avenge Metias’s death. But in a shocking turn of events, the two uncover the truth of what has really brought them together, and the sinister lengths their country will go to keep its secrets.

In October, the Husband and I were driving back to Florida for my brother’s wedding.  It was a six hour drive so we knew we needed an audiobook. We chose Legend and loved it! When we got back to South Carolina we snagged the second book, Prodigy from the library too.

One thing that was special about this audiobook is that there are two narrators; one for Day and one for June.  It makes sense because the chapters alternate between Day and June’s point of view. I think I Prodigy by Marie Luprefer listening to books with multiple points of view on audio rather than reading them because the voices help me remember who is speaking. Even when the two characters’ voices are very different from each other, I still end up getting a bit confused so it helps having literally two different voices!

Speaking of June and Day I liked the combination of the two personalities and backgrounds coming together to help each other. June is very much a tom-boy, incredibly analytical, and often doesn’t realize how much her sheltered and privileged background shapes her world view.  This, mixed with the chip Day has on his shoulder from having been born to a life that is the complete and total opposite of June’s. The two don’t trust one another at first and it’s interesting to see just how they learn to do so.

The dystopian world Day and June live in is hinted at in Legend and the reader (or in our case, listeners) get even more of it in book two, Prodigy. We learn more and more about this futuristic version of the United States as June does. There are characteristics about this dystopian US that are believable (natural disasters taking a toll), but other aspects that seem a fall a little short (where is the rest of the world while the US is dealing with this stuff?!).  I was incredibly intrigued by the whole skills testing teens undergo to get placed (or tracked) into specific careers or…other things. As an educator I see creepy similarities to our focus on testing.

Although both books are incredibly fast paced with pretty much non stop action the entire time, I preferred Prodigy to Legend. It’s not uncommon for me to prefer the second book in a series to the first though, because I tend to get really excited when the characters’ world opens up and we learn about deeper layers of the story and new characters are introduced.

This series is pretty fun and totally accessible to middle grade readers, older young adult readers and up and the audiobooks are highly recommend by me and the Husband (we’re currently trying to get our hands on book three, Champion!) So, if you’re a fan of dystopian YA, or are simply trying to lure your significant other in the world of YA,  Legend and Prodigy are good additions to your TBR stack!

Author: Marie Lu

Publisher: Penguin Audio (Nov. 29, 2011) & (Jan. 29, 2013)

Format: Audiobooks

Length: Legend (7 hours and 48 minutes), Prodigy (10 hours and 10 minutes)

Narrator(s): Steven Kaplan, Mariel Stern

Series: Books 1 & 2 in the Legend series

YA/MG: MG/YA

Buy the Book: Legend    Prodigy: A Legend Novel

 

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Closure and Onions: The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart

Hello! Okay, so Winter Break has been over for about a week now and I’ve been back at work. Don’t get me wrong, I love my job, but I do miss those days of lounging on the couch reading, blogging or just seeing my friends in the middle of the day! But, I guess if…
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2013 YA Audiobook Challenge Wrap-Up

Hi again friends!

As it turns out I’m a huge fan of audiobooks! Haha That is the understatement of the year! I LOVE audiobooks and pretty much everyone I know is fully aware of it! I may have mentioned it one or two times.

2013 was my second year of participation in the YA Audiobook Challenge, which is hosted by Jen at Book and a Latte and was, I’m pretty sure, created solely for me alone. For the most part, I listen to audiobooks while I’m running, which I do a lot of. I’ll also have one playing while doing those chores that drive me crazy, like washing dishes and folding laundry. So, over the course of the year I listened to 35 YA audiobooks (1 short of my original goal of 36) which qualified me for the “Rockn’ Out” level of the challenge!

Let’s go ahead and re-cap all the awesome audiobooks I read this past year.

Everlost by Neal Shusterman Entwined by Heather Dixon The Raven Boys by Maggie StiefvaterPaper Towns by John Green

1. Everlost by Neal Shusterman
2. Paper Towns by John Green
3. The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
4. Entwined by Heather Dixon

Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl Etiquette and Espionage by Gail Carriger If I Stay by Gayle Forman A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly

5. Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl
6. Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger
7. If I Stay by Gayle Forman
8. A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly
Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare Switched by Amanda Hocking Torn by Amanda HockingAscend by Amanda Hocking

9. Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare
10. Switched by Amanda Hocking
11. Torn by Amanda Hocking
12. Ascend by Amanda Hocking

Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta Between Shades of Gray by Ruta SepetysScarlet by Marissa Meyer
13. Okay for Now by Gary Schmidt
14. Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta
15. Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
16. Scarlet by Marissa Meyer
The Kill Order by James DashnerEnder's Game by Orson Scott Card The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson Silence by Becca Fitzpatrick

17. The Kill Order by James Dashner
18. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
19. The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson
20. Silence by Becca Fitzpatrick

Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers Delirium by Lauren Oliver The Crown of Embers by Rae Carson The False Prince by Jennifer A Nielsen
21. Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers
22. Delirium by Lauren Oliver
23. The Crown of Embers by Rae Carson
24. The False Prince by Jennifer Nielsen

Chime by Franny Billingsley Legend by Marie Lu The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver
25. Chime by Franny Billingsley
26. Legend by Marie Lu
27. The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart
28. Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver

Requiem by Lauren Oliver BitterKingdom The Burning Sky by Sherry Thomas Icefall by Matthew J. Kirby
29. Requiem by Lauren Oliver
30. The Bitter Kingdom by Rae Carson
31.The Burning Sky by Sherry Thomas
32. Icefall by Matthew J. Kirby

Curtsies & Conspiracies by Gail Carriger Days of Blood and Starlight by Lani Turner Prodigy by Marie Lu

33. Curtsies & Conspiracies by Gail Carriger
34. Prodigy by Marie Lu
35. Days of Blood & Starlight by Laini Taylor

I know I should have linked to my reviews, but I’m too lazy to do all that…haha

So, there you go! Yay for audiobooks!!

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Fulfilling Fantasy: The Crown of Embers and The Bitter Kingdom by Rae Carson

Hi there!

Have I told you how much I am loving my winter break? Because I totally am loving it! This morning we went to the local SodaCity Market. It was cold (yay!) but fun as usual!

In addition to fun outings my winter break has been full of blogging! I’m finally getting back on track after about two months of letting the blog lag a little. Normally, when I read a trilogy I either review the books as a whole, or each title individually. Well, I already reviewed the first book in Rae Carson’s trilogy, The Girl of Fire and Thorns, but to make things a little easier on me, I’m going to combine the last two books, The Crown of Embers and The Bitter Kingdom together into one review.

Elisa is the hero of her country. She led her people to victory against a terrifying enemy, and now she is their queen. But she is only seventeen years old.The Crown of Embers by Rae Carson Her rivals may have simply retreated, choosing stealth over battle. And no one within her court trusts her-except Hector, the commander of the royal guard, and her companions. As the country begins to crumble beneath her and her enemies emerge from the shadows, Elisa will take another journey. With a one-eyed warrior, a loyal friend, an enemy defector, and the man she is falling in love with, Elisa crosses the ocean in search of the perilous, uncharted, and mythical source of the Godstone’s power. That is not all she finds.

I have to start by saying this fantasy trilogy is wonderful. I adored the first book, and the last two didn’t let me down. Elisa’s world of Joya d’Arena is so full of magic and mystery, I don’t think I could ever get enough of stories set in this world! One of my favorite thing about both The Crown of Embers and The Bitter Kingdom is that both books are centered around journeys (both physical and emotional). Because of these journeys we get to see so much more of Joya d’Arena and the surrounding nations. In general, I prefer when stories open up and the author gives us a glimpse of the world our characters live in. Also, journeys, like Elisa’s allow for more adventure and excitement to enter the plot…which of course, is awesome.

Elisa’s, like before, is an inventive character. She has already gone through so much maturation and BitterKingdomgrowth in the first book, that I was afraid Elisa would fall a little flat in the sequels. Elisa, however continues to be as interesting as before: she is strong, vulnerable, afraid of her older sister, wise, frustratingly stubborn, and massively in love with a man who doesn’t always seem to reciprocate her affections. Elisa has a lot going on! And at the start of The Crown of Embers Elisa is forced to stretch herself even further as she now has the weight of a nation on the brink of war on her shoulders.

Also, I have to add that my favorite character by far is Storm, the enemy defector. He is completely sassy, suspect, grumbly, and all around hilarious. His presence adds just the right amount of sarcasm and intrigue to the already strong story.

And we cannot forget that there is some major, major swoon-worthy romantic tension going on in these second and third books! The back and forth between Elisa and her man (you’ll have to read to find out who…although it’s pretty obvious from the get-go) due to some heavy power and gender issues. But all this pent-up passion makes for amazing romance scenes! I think I swooned a thousand times. Yes. It is true.

So, in the end The Crown of Embers and The Bitter Kingdom are a fulfilling final two books to Rae Carson’s trilogy. If you’re a lover of fantasy, whether you’re in high school or older, this trilogy is completely recommended to you! You will not be sorry!

Author: Rae Carson

Publisher: Harper Collins, Recorded Books (September 18, 2012 & August 27, 2013)

Format: audiobook

Length: The Crown of Embers (11 hours and 41 minutes), The Bitter Kingdom (12 hours and 58 minutes)

Narrator(s): Jennifer Ikeda, Luis Moreno (The Bitter Kingdom)

Series: Fire and Thorns trilogy, books 2 and 3

YA/MG: YA

Buy the Book:  The Crown of Embers (Girl of Fire and Thorns) The Bitter Kingdom (Girl of Fire and Thorns)

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Fairy Tale with a Twist of Sci-Fi: Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

Welcome back BookTasty friends!

Whew! Moving is intense! First the packing and living in chaos, then the cleaning and packing up the truck. This is then followed by driving the truck and your cars to new home (from Florida to South Carolina in our case) and unpacking said truck. Finally  you unpack boxes and organize. It’s a good thing we have amazing friends in both states who were ready to help!

Recently I was able to snatch up the audiobook of Scarlet by Marissa Meyer from my library – I literally did a little happy Scarlet by Marissa Meyerjumping dance in the middle of the teen section when I saw it sitting on the shelf! I absolutely loved Meyer’s first book in The Lunar Chronicles, Cinder, so I knew Scarlet (book two) was one I had to read!

The fates of Cinder and Scarlet collide as a Lunar threat spreads across the Earth. Cinder, the cyborg mechanic, returns in the second thrilling installment of the bestselling Lunar Chronicles. She’s trying to break out of prison—even though if she succeeds, she’ll be the Commonwealth’s most wanted fugitive.

Halfway around the world, Scarlet Benoit’s grandmother is missing. It turns out there are many things Scarlet doesn’t know about her grandmother or the grave danger she has lived in her whole life. When Scarlet encounters Wolf, a street fighter who may have information as to her grandmother’s whereabouts, she is loath to trust this stranger, but is inexplicably drawn to him, and he to her. As Scarlet and Wolf unravel one mystery, they encounter another when they meet Cinder. Now, all of them must stay one step ahead of the vicious Lunar Queen Levana, who will do anything for the handsome Prince Kai to become her husband, her king, her prisoner.

Marissa Meyer just knows how to write a fun book! Fairy tale retellings are some of my favorites, and Meyer took the Little Red Riding Hood fairy tale and added a kick-butt futuristic, sci-fi twist to it. LOVE!

In Cinder, we met Cinder and Prince Kai. Their stories were great – a cyborg Cinderella meets reluctant prince amidst a plague epidemic in futuristic Asia? But what I love about Meyer’s storytelling is she doesn’t stop with them and make them the central focus of each book, she adds in new main characters to move the plot forward but also add new story lines. In Scarlet we met, Scarlet (who always wears her red hoodie) and Wolf, an intriguing mystery guy who knows more than he lets on.

As a main character it took me a while to warm up to Scarlet. In the beginning she seems unnecessarily reckless and rebellious, but her sarcasm (which I’m always a fan of) starts to grow on you and you can’t help but be on her side. Plus, the more and more I remember the original story of Red Riding Hood, Scarlet’s personality reflects Red Riding Hood pretty well. Not following authority’s recommendations?! That’s Scarlet!

On another character note, Cinder is much darker and snappier than she was in the first book, but then again if I was on the run from the law I’d probably be a little snappy too! Oh and Captain Thorne?  You remind me of someone just as naughty and honorable…(pssst…it’s Captain Mal from Firefly). Of course, Queen Levana is an evil and manipulative as ever, while her “army” is terrifying!

Meyer’s sci-fi futuristic world is fabulously imagined, but isn’t the focus of the story. The reader isn’t laden down with technology and scientific descriptions of things. These characters live a world of robots, vid-screens, trackers,s pace ships, and cyborgs but ultimately the reader can recognize the world as one that’s not so different from ours today.

So, all in all I really enjoyed Scarlet and can’t wait for the next book in The Lunar Chronicles, Cress which is to be released in early 2014. So, if you’re looking for a quality fairy tale retelling, or are in the mood for some fun science fiction you should definitely read Scarlet by Marissa Meyer (only you should start with Cinder since, you know, it is the first book!).

Author: Marissa Meyer

Publisher: Feiwel and Friends (February 5, 2013)

Format: audiobook

Length: 11 hours and 19 minutes

Series: Second book in The Lunar Chronicles

YA/MG: MG/YA

Buy the Book:  Scarlet (Lunar Chronicles, Book 2)

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This Happened: Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Welcome Back!

I try to stay away from books that want to make me cry. We’ve talked about this before. I don’t like to cry when I’m reading, that’s not a fun part of the reading experience for me. Sometimes though…just sometimes…I hear such wonderful things about a book that crying or not I have to read it (no matter how much it intimidates me!). So, I read Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys.

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta SepetysLina is just like any other fifteen-year-old Lithuanian girl in 1941. She paints, she draws, she gets crushes on boys. Until one night when Soviet officers barge into her home, tearing her family from the comfortable life they’ve known. Separated from her father, forced onto a crowded and dirty train car, Lina, her mother, and her young brother slowly make their way north, crossing the Arctic Circle, to a work camp in the coldest reaches of Siberia. Here they are forced, under Stalin’s orders, to dig for beets and fight for their lives under the cruelest of conditions.

Lina finds solace in her art, meticulously–and at great risk–documenting events by drawing, hoping these messages will make their way to her father’s prison camp to let him know they are still alive. It is a long and harrowing journey, spanning years and covering 6,500 miles, but it is through incredible strength, love, and hope that Lina ultimately survives. Between Shades of Gray is a novel that will steal your breath and capture your heart.

I really am speechless and have no idea what to say about this book that will do it justice. Between Shades of Gray is haunting. The story itself is incredibly intense and horrific.

Guys. This happened.

I had no idea that the Soviets went into the Baltic states and just took people from their homes and shipped them off to Siberia to die. I mean I knew a little, but the happenings of World War II often get eclipsed by the Jewish Holocaust, Hitler and the Nazis, so I had no idea to what extent Stalin’s damage had on the people of countries such as Lithuania. Interestingly enough, now that I’ve read this book, I’m remembering my mom telling me about one of the priests at the church I grew up in. Father Palis was born in Lithuania, was in seminary when the Soviet’s invaded and had to escape to Germany in secret. Personally knowing someone who went through parts of what Lina experienced makes the story in Between Shades of Gray that much more tangible.

Ruta Sepetys’ writing is beautiful. The horrors that Lina and her family witness and experience take on an almost lyrical quality, which made me continue turning the pages even though my heart hurt so much. You want to know what happens to this remarkable, vulnerable, bitter, kind and brave teenage girl. You want to know that she gets to go home and be a normal teenager who goes to school, flirts with boys and imagines her future as an artist. Sepetys’ writing just makes you get completely caught up in these characters.

It is interesting to see how the others in Lina’s group of deportees respond to the harsh circumstances. Some, like Lina’s mother, show amazing courage and kindness, while others are so broken that they become hard and bitter. Lina touches on these reactions throughout the story, and Lina herself struggles with alternating feelings of hatred and anger versus love and grace.

If you haven’t read Between Shades of Gray yet, you need to add it to your TBR list as soon as possible. It is so well done (and the audiobook narrator is fabulous). The story of what Lina and her people are forced to bear with will cause you to wonder why our history textbooks don’t teach us more about what happened in the Baltic states during Stalin’s rule. As an educator, I believe this book could be (and should be) taught as a supplement to any history or language arts curriculum at the middle school level and up (if it’s not already…but it probably is). Parents note that there are very disturbing scenes of death and violence and you should read it along with your middle schooler.

Author: Ruta Sepetys

Publisher: Philomel Books (March 22, 2011), Penguin Audio

Format: Audiobook

Length: 7 hours and 47 mins

Narrator(s): Emily Klein

Series: Standalone

YA/MG: MG/YA

Buy the Book: Between Shades of Gray

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Sarcasm and Redemption: Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt

Well hello there!

I’ve been reading some of the 2013-2014 Florida Sunshine State books even though I’m moving out-of-state soon.  One of these books is Okay for Now by Gary Schmidt, which is apparently also on the South Carolina Junior Book Award list as well!

Okay for Now by Gary D. SchmidtOkay For Now explores a seemingly improbable alliance, this one between new outsider in town Doug Swieteck and Lil Spicer, the savvy spitfire daughter of his deli owner boss. With her challenging assistance, Doug discovers new sides of himself. Along the way, he also readjusts his relationship with his abusive father, his school peers, and his older brother, a newly returned war victim of Vietnam.

This was the first of the Florida Sunshine State books that I read this year. Being narrated by a male main character, I wouldn’t have chosen to read it first, but my library had the audiobook so I decided to give it a try.

Okay for Now was incredibly good. Like I want everyone I know to read it good.

First of all, I don’t know why I always shy away from male main characters, but I do! When I do actually take the time to read a book with a male main character, I usually end up enjoying it, so I don’t know whats wrong with me!  Well Doug, the main character in Okay for Now was incredibly refreshing. He was sarcastic and cynical in a way that I can relate to.  As the reader you quickly realize that Doug’s cynicism is just a shell he’s constructed to protect himself because that’s how he thinks real men should behave.

What I can’t get out of my head is what an awesome story of personal growth and redemption Okay for Now is. Doug grows and matures so much throughout the course of this book and the reader gets to see how far a little nurturing and love can do to really alter someone’s life. He starts out with an incredibly negative view of life and relationships, but eventually starts to let go of all that negativity with the help of some encouraging friends/mentors. But Doug isn’t the only character who experiences a little redemption in the end and this is probably the most difficult to accept yet beautiful maturation of all.

The difficulty and tension of the father-son relationships in Doug’s family is palpable. You can just feel the wall in Doug’s heart growing taller with every negative word or action from his father. It is amazing that Doug is able to turn into the young man he becomes considering the type of man his father is.

I will say that I was a little thrown for a loop with the sudden plot twist toward the end, but I did enjoy the fact that this surprise didn’t cause Doug to buckle under the pressure, but instead spurs him to love harder than ever.

Okay for Now is a hilariously witty and sarcastic coming of age story that everyone should read. I loved it and highly recommend it, but I don’t know how my students will respond to it since they normally aren’t fond of historical fiction.

Author: Gary D. Schmidt

Publisher: Clarion Books (April 1, 2011)

Format: audiobook

Length: 9 hours and 16 mins

Narrator(s): Lincoln Hoppe

Series: Standalone

YA/MG: MG

Buy the Book:  Okay for Now

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For Historical Fiction Fans: A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly

Hello!

I listened to another audiobook! I recently finished A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly and I think it was my eighth audiobook of 2013.

Sixteen-year-old Mattie Gokey has big dreams but little hope of seeing them come true. Desperate for money, she takes a job

This isn't the cover for the audiobook, but I like this one better.

This isn’t the cover for the audiobook, but I like this one better.

at the Glenmore, where hotel guest Grace Brown entrusts her with the task of burning a secret bundle of letters. But when Grace’s drowned body is fished from the lake, Mattie discovers that the letters could reveal the grim truth behind a murder.

Set in 1906 against the backdrop of the murder that inspired Theodore Dreiser’s An American Tragedy, Jennifer Donnelly’s astonishing debut novel effortlessly weaves romance, history, and a murder mystery into something moving, and real, and wholly original.

Historical fiction…why are you so good?! I love you! Seriously, I’m picky about my historical fiction, but when I do read one I like….I REALLY LIKE IT! Jennifer Donnelly’s books have this gritty realistic quality to them that I don’t always see in a lot of YA. Last year I listened to Donnelly’s Revolution, which I really enjoyed (read my review here) so I thought I should give another of her books a try. I’m glad I did because I think I prefer A Northern Light to Revolution.

First I think the main character, Mattie, is what made A Northern Light that much more enjoyable for me. Mattie, an intelligent farm girl with dreams of college and the big city was an engaging character. She is sharp and observant while also sarcastically witty. Mattie is under a lot of pressure and struggles to keep her head afloat amidst the contradictions of her dreams and her reality.

Both Mattie and Grace’s stories are told through flashbacks and both girls are fleshed out really well. Mattie begins to see something of herself in Grace’s letters which ultimately scares her. Although the story is mostly about Mattie and Grace, the supporting characters are written well. Sometimes minor characters get the two-dimensional treatment, but I really felt each character’s voice from the beginning.  They were all complex and had their own struggles which sometimes even mirrored Mattie’s. Each one was flawed in ways that make you want to love them more. Also, the mystery surrounding Grace Brown’s death is gripping. As the reader you just know something is not right and you can’t wait to figure out what it is. I’d say this was a page turner, but I was listening to it so that doesn’t apply!

Now, I did get a little frustrated at times because Donnelly’s overarching theme is pretty heavy-handed. It was incredibly clear that the main message was that women will be nothing but prisoners if they allow men into their lives. Not one woman in Mattie’s story lived a life that was happy and fulfilled, unless they made the choice to be manless. I was bothered by this not simply because I disagree with this idea, but because Donnelly doesn’t give us any room to see other possibilities. I know this story is set in a different era, but I cannot believe that EVERY woman throughout history who chose to have a man in their life was less fulfilled than those who chose to be alone. I find it frustrating that the reader is left with only one possibility.

OKAY…I’m getting off my soapbox now.

Despite the above mentioned frustrations, I still really, really enjoyed listening to A Northern Light. The narrator’s voices were all well performed (although one character’s southern accent shifted here and there) and I enjoyed her narration. If you don’t enjoy historical fiction, Donnelly’s books probably aren’t for you, and I do believe A Northern Light will be best enjoyed by older high school students (and those of us who find ourselves a tad bit older) who love historical fiction.

Author: Jennifer Donnelly

Publisher: Random House Audio (March 1, 2003)

Format: Audiobook

Length: 8 hours and 49 minutes

Narrator(s): Hope Davis

Series: Standalone

YA/MG: YA

Buy the Book: A Northern Light

5

Crying Books and My Comfort Zone: If I Stay by Gayle Forman

Welcome back!

There are tons of different types of books out there. There are books that want to make me laugh. Books that want to make me swoon. There are books that just want to entertain me. There are even books that want to make me think.  But then there are also these devious little books whose only desire in life is to make me cry.

I am a pretty emotional person in real life. I can cry at the drop of a hat. There was even a commercial about a friendly lady and her daughter who send their lonely elderly neighbor a greeting card. The old lady is so touched that she comes over and hugs the lady and her daughter…I WAS WEEPING! So, you see when I sit down to read a book I’m not in the mood to cry. When I read a book, I pick the ones that are going to make me laugh or swoon or think. I kind ofIf I Stay by Gayle Forman just want to be entertained. I don’t want to cry…and If I Stay by Gayle Forman ONLY wanted me to cry.

In a single moment, everything changes. Seventeen-year-old Mia has no memory of the accident; she can only recall riding along the snow-wet Oregon road with her family. Then, in a blink, she finds herself watching as her own damaged body is taken from the wreck… A sophisticated, layered, and heart-achingly beautiful story about the power of family and friends, the choices we all make, and the ultimate choice Mia commands.

Can’t you just tell from the summary that this is a book that is plotting the imminent emotional demise of all its readers?! YES! I knew this going into it, but I thought it’d be good to step out of my reading comfort zone a little. In the end, I’m glad I did but If I Stay isn’t a book that I can say I enjoyed.

Forman’s writing is stunning and almost musical and the story itself is well imagined. The lyrical writing is reflected in Mia’s love of music and everything about the story just kind of flows by smoothly even though the story weaves back and forth through flashbacks and the story’s current point.

Mia’s story was interesting. I was enthralled with the possibility of her decision. Which choice will she make and what will happen to her because of it? I loved learning about her life and family and friends up until that fateful moment on that particular snowy morning. You begin to see just how complicated and painful Mia’s decision is going to be. But Mia herself isn’t the most intriguing character I’ve ever read. She just doesn’t seem all that colorful of a person.  Her friends and family do, but Mia seems to fade into the background of the scenes she shares with her family and friends.

So. You want to know. Did If I Stay achieve its mischievous little goal to make me cry?

No. It didn’t. But that’s because I knew I had to protect myself going into it. Don’t get me wrong, this book was painfully heartbreaking and there were times where I was VERY CLOSE to shedding some tears while listening (I had the audiobook from my public library) but in the end I was stronger than the book….VICTORY!

The audiobook was a quick listen, and I believe I finished the book in a little over two days (while running or driving or cleaning the house).  I love getting through an audiobook that fast!

So, if you’re one of those people who do enjoy a good cry while reading (I know there are tons of you out there!!!) you should definitely pick up If I Stay by Gayle Forman. It may even be a good idea to stop by the store to pick up a box of Kleenex as well! I also have to mention that this book is definitely intended for high school readers as there is some language and some sexual scenes sprinkled throughout.

I’m glad I stepped out of my comfort zone a little, but now that I have I’m going to crawl right back into my preferred reading cave! :)

Author: Gayle Forman

Publisher: Dutton Juvenile (April 5, 2011)

Format: Audiobook

Length: 4 hours and 48 mins

Narrator(s): Kristen Potter

Series: First in the If I Stay series

YA/MG: YA

Buy the Book:  If I Stay

wasn’t my favorite

12

Pleasantly Suprised: Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

Hiya!

For a few years I watched Beautiful Creatures by Margaret Stohl and Kami Garica circulate through my Media Center frequently, by teachers and students alike. I thought to myself, “I should read that.” But I always held back. Then I heard it was being turned into a movie and I thought, “Ok I need to read that.” So I did. Only I listened to it.

Lena Duchannes is unlike anyone the small Southern town of Gatlin has ever seen, and she’s struggling to conceal her power, Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohland a curse that has haunted her family for generations. But even within the overgrown gardens, murky swamps and crumbling graveyards of the forgotten South, a secret cannot stay hidden forever.

Ethan Wate, who has been counting the months until he can escape from Gatlin, is haunted by dreams of a beautiful girl he has never met. When Lena moves into the town’s oldest and most infamous plantation, Ethan is inexplicably drawn to her and determined to uncover the connection between them. In a town with no surprises, one secret could change everything.

So I finally read/listened to this! I figured it was time to know what all the fuss was about. And I was honestly, pleasantly surprised!
The main thing I think I enjoyed the most was the male main character and narrator. It is rare in Young Adult fiction to have a male be the narrator. Ethan Wate is a refreshing taste of YA supernatural romance through the eyes of a guy. He was a funny, flawed and incredibly loyal character and I enjoyed hearing the story as it unraveled from his point of view.

The story itself wasn’t most well written or most unique tale I’ve ever read, but it was fun. And this surprised me! I think after I recently read another supernatural YA novel (that shall not be named) I kind of had low expectations for Beautiful Creatures. Fortunately I was pleasantly surprised when I found myself being majorly entertained while listening and really wanting to find out what would happen next    Particularly, as one who majored in history in college, I enjoyed the Civil War references throughout the plot. It was interesting to imagine what Sherman’s March to the Sea (where he burned much of the South in his wake) was like and the effect it may have had on the people who lived there.

One of my favorite minor characters was Marian the Librarian. It’s so nice to see a librarian portrayed in a positive way (again I will not mention that other book ehhhmmm). And I completely hated Ms. Jackson, who reminded me so much of Hilly Holbrook from The Help that I wanted to smack her! But this all makes sense to me now!

The audiobook and narrator were fine.  There were some sound effects that were added in, which didn’t bother me too much, but the song…the SONG! It was SOOO hilariously bad I laughed every time it played. My husband heard it once and even looked at me with disgust on his face! It wasn’t the lyrics that Garcia and Stohl wrote that were awful, it was the audiobook’s take on how it should sound that was bad. We started singing it around the house to be funny and that it was!  I was also pretty distracted towards the end when the narration suddenly shifts to Lena and the audiobook narrator for her just had no inflection to her voice and was pretty boring.

So, other than a few minor issues, I found myself really enjoying Beautiful Creatures. I think I’ll definitely check out the rest of the Caster Chronicles in the future (most likely on audio because they’re just so darn big!) to see what happens in the end. Fans of supernatural YA fiction will most likely find this one a fun and interesting read, so I recommend it to older middle school readers and up.

Author: Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

Publisher: Little, Brown and Company (December 1, 2009)

Format: Audiobook

Length: 17 hours and 38 minutes

Narrator(s): Kevin T. Collins,

Series: First in the Caster Chronicles series

YA/MG: YA

Buy the Book: Beautiful Creatures