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More Than Zombies: Zombie Baseball Beatdown by Paolo Bacigalupi

Hi friends!

Welcome back! So, this past year I was on a committee to chose the titles that would go on the state middle grades award list and I read Zombie Baseball Beatdown by Paolo Bacigalupi while on this committee. So let’s talk about what I read!

Overview

The apocalypse begins on the day Rabi, Miguel and Joe are Zombie Baseball Beatdown by Paolo Pacigalupipracticing baseball near their town’s local meatpacking plant and nearly get knocked out by a really big stink. Little do they know the plant’s toxic cattle feed is turning cows into flesh-craving monsters…ZOMBIES!!! The boys decide to launch a stealth investigation into the plant’s dangerous practices, unknowingly discovering a greedy corporation’s plot to look the other way as tainted meat is sold to thousands all over the country. With no grownups left they can trust, Rabi and his friends will have to grab their bats to protect themselves (and a few of their enemies) if they want to stay alive…and maybe even save the world.

My Thoughts

First of all, isn’t this cover completely perfect for middle school? I know what when my boy students see it, they’re going to eat it up! But let’s not let the lighthearted (and hilarious) cover fool us, because while Zombie Baseball Beatdown is full of baseball, zombies and boys being boys, the author has also packed in a conscious and some social issues he’d like us to consider.

One thing I liked about this book right off the bat was the diversity among the characters. Ravi, our main character is Indian American, his friend Miguel is Latino American and his friend Joe is just American.  I’m a huge proponent of the We Need Diverse Books movement and it was refreshing to see these three very different boys and each of their different experiences with life in small town USA and how they relate to one another. I think my students will notice too (they’re always watching even when we think they’re not).

Although the plot line is full of boys being boys, chasing and killing zombies the author manages to pack in a social awareness into the story, which although I think a good thing, was a little heavy handed at times. Ravi and his friends are not just dealing with bullies, rude baseball coaches, and zombies, but they’re also facing racism, immigration issues, ethics in the meat packing industry. While each of these topics relate strongly to the story line, I wish Bacigalupi had been a little more creative in bringing them up. I did find myself rolling my eyes at times because these ethical plot points were pretty thinly veiled and I’d argue that his own opinion comes through strongly rather than letting the reader make their own decisions on things. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad he adds these themes to the story, I just think it could have been done in a less “preachy” way at times.

All that said regarding the socially conscious themes, I enjoyed Zombie Baseball Beatdown (although it’s not the type of book I’d normally choose for myself), and I feel strongly that my middle school students, mostly the boys, will enjoy this very different zombie/sci-fi read. I’m excited that many of them will see themselves in these diverse characters.

 

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When Will I Learn? Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

Hello!

Okay, so I’ve been trying to figure out why I haven’t been reviewing books recently. and I came to the conclusion that I was feeling overwhelmed. Overwhelmed by the amount of books I had read and not yet written reviews for, but also by the time it takes to write a review.

I decided to try something new. Over the next few weeks you may see reviews pop up with different formats and lengths. I’m trying to figure out what is sustainable for me. I’ve also decided to forget about all of those unwritten book reviews piling up and start fresh. So bear with me!

Leviathan by Scott WesterfeldOverview

Prince Aleksander, would-be heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, is on the run. His own people have turned on him. His title is worthless. All he has is a battletorn war machine and a loyal crew of men. Deryn Sharp is a commoner, disguised as a boy in the British Air Service. She’s a brilliant airman. But her secret is in constant danger of being discovered. With World War I brewing, Alek and Deryn’s paths cross in the most unexpected way…taking them on a fantastical, around-the-world adventure that will change both their lives forever.

My Thoughts

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

This was the cover that kept me from this book for so long.

To be fair, I held off on Leviathan for years. I was intrigued by the story, but the cover was killing me slowly every time I saw it at my local library. I know I shouldn’t let that stop me from reading a potentially enjoyable book, but alas, it did. Everything in me revolts at this cover…I think it’s that protruding forehead bone. But I digress…

In need of a new audiobook, I found this one available on my library’s Overdrive account (if you haven’t started using Overdrive you should!) and finally decided to give it a go. I am so glad I did because Leviathan was such an interesting mix of alternate history and steampunk adventure. It reminded me a lot of Kenneth Oppel’s Matt Cruse trilogy, which I loved. The characters are interesting and are found in unique situations (by choice and not) and both are forced to deal with their own prejudices and misconceptions of others.

The steampunk/alternate history setting had me scouring the internet for more information. Of course I know the basics of how World War I began (thank you Social Studies teachers and Jeopardy!) but I had to know more about the details, which I then compared to Westerfeld’s version. Weaving in the Clankers and Darwinists was a brilliant way to illustrate the clash between eastern vs. western ideals that played a part in the start of World War I. Scott Westerfeld, you get mucho points on the world building scene!

Recommended For

Leviathan is not the book for every reader. If you’re already a fan of the steampunk sub-genre, than this one would get your little steam engine going right away. That being said if you haven’t delved into this sub-genre I think Leviathan’s story is strong enough to be a quality introduction. If you enjoy audiobooks, this was the perfect book to listen to and it was narrated by the amazing Alan Cumming. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this book and am embarrassed by how long it took me to actually read it…when will I learn?!

Details

Author: Scott Westerfeld
Publisher: Simon Pulse (October 6, 2009)
Format: Audiobook
Length: 8 hours and 20 minutes
Series: First in a series
YA/MG: Both
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Fantasy Fest: The Song of the Lioness (Books 1-3)

Well hello there friends!

If given the choice between a whole array of books of different genres, I’d most likely choose the one that is fantasy. I’m a huge fantasy fan and am always on the lookout for my next fantasy read.

Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora PierceFor years everyone had been telling me I could not call myself a fantasy fan unless I’d read the Song of the Lioness books by Tamora Pierce. I rolled my eyes and thought, yeah whatever, those old covers are so unappealing. Well, I finally decided to give them a go, so I started with Alanna: The First Adventure and could not believe I’d wasted so many years not having these books in my life! I quickly devoured book one, and did the same with In the Hand of the Goddess and The Woman Who Rides Like a Man!

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And so young Alanna of Trebond begins the journey to knighthood. Though a girl, Alanna has always craved the adventure and daring allowed only for boys; her twin brother, Thom, yearns to learn the art of magic. So one day they decide to switch places: Disguised as a girl, Thom heads for the convent to learn magic; Alanna, pretending to be a boy, is on her way to the castle of King Roald to begin her training as a page.

But the road to knighthood is not an easy one. As Alanna masters the skills necessary for battle, she must In the Hand of the Goddess by Tamora Piercealso learn to control her heart and to discern her enemies from her allies. Filled with swords and sorcery, adventure and intrigue, good and evil, Alanna’s first adventure begins – one that will lead to the fulfillment of her dreams and the magical destiny that will make her a legend in her land.

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If you call your self a fantasy lover and you haven’t yet read this series, you really need to add them to your reading queue. Pierce, a master of fantasy and storytelling, fills these books with magic, romance, intrigue, evil villains, humor, and many mystical happenings (like a talking cat…yes.). As a character, Alanna is a predecessor to Katniss in all of her strengths and weaknesses. She is bold, sassy, stubborn, courageous, determined, kind-hearted, naive, unsure of herself, and smart. Alanna has faults and failings, but is an admirable heroine and I just can’t help but want to read more about her and her adventures.

The world of Tortall only expands as the series continues. At first it seems that Tortall could be any medieval European setting, but as Alanna matures the world building does as well. Pierce begins to give us more of Woman Who Rides Like A Man by Tamora Piercethe cultural details of Tortall and we learn more about the gods and goddesses, mysterious sorcerers, desert dwellers and even shamans. Although these books are pretty short reads, Pierce manages to pack them full of so much action and adventure that you don’t actually realize how short the books are until the end.

I haven’t yet gotten my hands on the fourth book in the series, Lioness Rampant. As soon as I do, however, you can bet I’ll rip through it as quickly as I did the first three. So, yes, the Song of the Lioness quartet comes highly recommended by one fantasy lover to all of you other fantasy fans out there!

Author: Tamora Pierce

Publisher: First published 1983, 1984, 1986)

Format: Hardcover

Length: Alanna: The First Adventure, 274 pages

In the Hands of the Goddess, 264 pages

The Woman Who Rides Like a Man, 284 pages

Series: Song of the Lioness Quartet

YA/MG: MG/YA

Buy the Books:

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Ups and Downs: The Flame in the Mist by Kitt Grindstaff

Welcome back BookTasty Friends!

I’ve been working pretty hard to get caught up with my book reviews, because as of now I’m still a month or two behind! *GASP* I just read so much faster than I can write a review, which isn’t really a problem! haha

Today’s review is for fantasy read, The Flame in the Mist by Kitt Grindstaff.

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Set in an imagined past, this dark fantasy-adventure is for fans of Philip Pullman’s The Golden Compass and features Jemma, a fiery-headed heroine held captive in Agromond Castle, yet destined to save mist-shrouded Anglavia.

Fiery-headed Jemma Agromond is not who she thinks she is, and when the secrets The Flame in the Mist by Kit Grindstaffand lies behind her life at mist-shrouded Agromond Castle begin to unravel, she finds herself in a chilling race for her life. Ghosts and misfits, a stone and crystals, a mysterious book, an ancient prophecy—all these reveal the truth about Jemma’s past and a destiny far greater and more dangerous than she could have imagined in her wildest fantasies. With her telepathic golden rats, Noodle and Pie, and her trusted friend, Digby, Jemma navigates increasingly dark forces, as helpers both seen and unseen, gather. But in the end, it is her own powers that she must bring to light, for only she has the key to defeating the evil ones and fulfilling the prophecy that will bring back the sun and restore peace in Anglavia.

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Fantasy is most definitely my favorite genre. I just love the idea of different worlds where magic is the norm! Because so many of my favorite books are fantasy, so I was excited to pick up The Flame in the Mist. In the end this book had it’s ups and downs. I didn’t love it, nor did I totally hate it either.

First of all the pacing of Jemma’s story is pretty slow, which was a struggle for me because the book is well over 400 pages (which makes for a long audibook!). It’s not that I don’t have the attention span for slowish story-lines, but Jemma makes two perilously long journeys that just felt like they dragged on and on at times. These journeys were necessary and many significant events occurred on them both, but I found myself thinking that the story could have been condensed a bit to make it seem less sluggish.

Jemma is one of those characters that are, from the beginning, pretty easy to cheer for. Her life has been full of so many secrets and betrayals relating to her detestable family that the reader turns every page with the hope that the Agromonds will get what’s coming to them. Although Jemma is easy to root for however, she isn’t that multifaceted a character, which makes the cast of secondary characters all the more exciting because they all (mostly) are surprisingly complex, especially some of Jemma’s family members. In fact, I believe that one of this book’s strongest qualities is it’s characters. Also, let’s not forget about Jemma’s two sidekick rats, Noodle and Pie – I loved them!

The Flame in the Mist is definitely a middle grades fantasy novel, but will appeal to older fantasy lovers as well. As with most fantasy novels magic is a common theme in this story, but there are times where I wonder if some of the said magic is too dark and creepy for younger middle school readers. Although this wasn’t the best fantasy I’ve read, it was still a fun audiobook to listen to and it kept me entertained.

Author: Kitt Grindstaff

Publisher:  Delacorte Press (April 9, 2013)

Format: Audiobook (Listening Library)

Length: 13 hours and 29 minutes

Narrator(s): Rosalyn Landor

Series: Standalone

YA/MG: MG/YA

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Well Played: The Eye of Minds by James Dashner

Welcome back BookTasty friends!

James Dashner is one of my favorite YA authors and his Maze Runner series is always my number one recommendation in my library. So, I was pretty excited to see that he had another book coming out! The Eye of Minds is the first book in the Mortality Doctrine series.

Michael is a gamer. And like most gamers, he almost spends more time on the VirtNet than in the actual world. The VirtNet offers total mind and body immersion, and it’s addictive. Thanks to Eye of Minds by James Dashnertechnology, anyone with enough money can experience fantasy worlds, risk their life without the chance of death, or just hang around with Virt-friends. And the more hacking skills you have, the more fun. Why bother following the rules when most of them are dumb, anyway?

But some rules were made for a reason. Some technology is too dangerous to fool with. And recent reports claim that one gamer is going beyond what any gamer has done before: he’s holding players hostage inside the VirtNet. The effects are horrific—the hostages have all been declared brain-dead. Yet the gamer’s motives are a mystery.The government knows that to catch a hacker, you need a hacker. And they’ve been watching Michael. They want him on their team.
But the risk is enormous. If he accepts their challenge, Michael will need to go off the VirtNet grid. There are back alleys and corners in the system human eyes have never seen and predators he can’t even fathom—and there’s the possibility that the line between game and reality will be blurred forever.

Let me start by saying that The Eye of Minds is not as good as The Maze Runner books, but it is an entertaining adventure that has Dashner’s signature non stop action style!

In typical Dashner fashion, the first scene is so intense that you’re automatically captivated by the story! We quickly learn that, Michael lives in a future where many people get their entertainment in a virtual reality experience, the VirtNet. I like this take on futuristic technology and the idea that there is someone, or something, in this “game” that is hurting people in real life, as well as in the virtual one. It makes for a very menacing and mysterious villain.

One thing about this book I enjoyed was that Micahel isn’t in it alone. He doesn’t leave everyone else behind to achieve his goal. He takes his friends with him because he knows that they all have different strengths and weaknesses. Although the characters fell a tiny bit flat at times, I still really liked Michael and his friends mostly because of the way they interacted together, which is a change from the usual YA “only you can save the world”.

The Eye of Minds reminded me of a giant game of Mouse Trap, in that each chapter is action packed with hurdles and challenges for Michael and his friends to overcome (they reminded me a little of Doctor Who episodes sometimes). However, there is a sense of predictability in the overall plot. Until you get to the twist of course! I remember standing in my kitchen cooking dinner while listening to the audiobook and having to relisten to the final chapter because I was so stunned and surprised by what had happened! Well played Mr. Dashner. Well played.

Although this is not the first Dasher title I’d recommend to people, I think that those who are fans of his writing will ultimately enjoy The Eye of Minds. It’s not as strong as I would’ve liked, but it was still a fun and exciting read.

Author: James Dashner

Publisher: Listening Library (October 8, 2013)

Format: Audiobook

Length: 8 hours and 36 minutes

Narrator(s): Erik Davies

Series: First in the Mortality Doctrine series

YA/MG: MG

Buy the Book:

 

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The Much Dreaded Curse: The Runaway King by Jennifer A. Nielsen

Hola!

Books about kingdoms and royalty are kinda up my ally. Duh. I love them! So, it’s no surprise that I’m a fan of Jennifer A. Nielsen’s Ascendance trilogy!  Today we’re focusing book two, The Runaway King.

Just weeks after Jaron has taken the throne, an assassination attempt forces him into a deadly Runaway King by Jennifer A. Neilsensituation. Rumors of a coming war are winding their way between the castle walls, and Jaron feels the pressure quietly mounting within Carthya. Soon, it becomes clear that deserting the kingdom may be his only hope of saving it. But the further Jaron is forced to run from his identity, the more he wonders if it is possible to go too far. Will he ever be able to return home again? Or will he have to sacrifice his own life in order to save his kingdom?

The Runaway King is the second book in the Ascendance Trilogy and although still a fun read, it’s pretty clear that this installment has fallen slightly into the much dreaded “second book curse”. Did it live up to the first book? No. Was it still fun? Yes!

I think a huge part of the weakness of this book is in Jaron’s character himself and the lack of world building. Jaron/Sage is so awesomely awesome in book one – he is this snarky, secretive, competitive, stubborn and loyal boy who’s daring sarcasm kept me entertained the whole time.  In The Runaway King, it seems a little like Jaron is a bit overshadowed by the plot. There is so much going on that it’s like Jaron has forgotten to be his witty self…or, rather, Nielsen forgot to write him that way. It is almost like she wrote him so well in The False Prince, that she felt like she could take a break. Jaron is there, but he’s kind of like a much dimmer, more muted version of himself.

Since most of this story takes place out in Jaron’s kingdom of Carthya and the surrounding areas, I was really hoping to explore the region in more detail. I wanted more information about the culture of his people and how the kingdom looked. Expect for a few tiny details, there really wasn’t much to sink your teeth into. Nothing to truly make you care about Carthya. Honestly, Carthya could be any random fictional kingdom – it just doesn’t seem to have a personality of its own.

Okay, so I did say the story was still fun and it really was. All of my favorite characters were back. Yes, Imogen, Mott, Amarinda, Tobias are all back by Jaron’s side and we even see those I dislike…such as Conner for example.  It’s interesting that while Jaron’s personality seems to fade into the background a little, his supporting characters all glow a little brighter in this book, especially Imogen and Amarinda. Plus, we’re introduced to pirates! Pirates are always cool!  Also we have a lot of buildup to a cliffhanger ending, which of course always makes you crave the next book no matter what!

So, while I was slightly disappointed in The Runaway King, I did still enjoy it in the end and you might too.

Author: Jennifer Nielsen

Publisher: Scholastic Press (March 1, 2013)

Format: Hardcover

Length: 331 pages

Series: Second in The Ascendance trilogy

YA/MG: MG/YA

Buy the Book: The Runaway King: Book 2 of the Ascendance Trilogy

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Won’t Let You Down: The False Prince by Jennifer A Nielsen

Welcome back friends!

Sometimes I read a book, love it, and go on with my life only later realizing that I never reviewed it! What?! How can this be?! Especially when it’s a book I truly enjoyed. I have to admit that The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen accidentally fell between the cracks of my review schedule. OOPS!

The False Prince by Jennifer A NielsenIn a discontent kingdom, civil war is brewing. To unify the divided people, Conner, a nobleman of the court, devises a cunning plan to find an impersonator of the king’s long-lost son and install him as a puppet prince. Four orphans are recruited to compete for the role, including a defiant boy named Sage. Sage knows that Conner’s motives are more than questionable, yet his life balances on a sword’s point — he must be chosen to play the prince or he will certainly be killed. But Sage’s rivals have their own agendas as well.

As Sage moves from a rundown orphanage to Conner’s sumptuous palace, layer upon layer of treachery and deceit unfold, until finally, a truth is revealed that, in the end, may very well prove more dangerous than all of the lies taken together.

There is nothing about this book I didn’t like. It has everything readers are looking for in a quality read. A snarky main character, a kingdom on the bring of civil war, deception, political intrigue, romance and a plot twist that is so awesome it makes you freak out!

ExcitedLet’s start with that snarky main character. Sage is hilarious and just fall for his defiant, witty, street urchin persona right off the bat! Sage is definitely not a romantic hero, in my opinion anyway. Instead he’s kind of like the little brother who keeps on doing annoying things but you just have to love him anyway. You want him to stick around because he just keeps things interesting.

When we meet Sage, we discover, as he does, that the kingdom of Carthya is on the brink of civil war. Multiple kingdoms are threatening to take over and it seems that there isn’t anyone who truly wants what is best for the people of Carthya. But that’s just it, with the royal family poisoned, who will take over the throne?  Political intrigue and deception abound! Nielsen just writes this so well that you never really seem to know who to trust.

Plus there is romance brewing between a quiet, pretty housemaid and our beloved street urchin. The friendship and romance that comes here is just so innocent and sweet. It is definitely not a super steamy romance with Sage as the teen heartthrob because…guys…remember this is a middle grades novel! This romance is so perfectly endearing and full of friendship that it just makes you smile warmly on the inside.

Okay, so I mentioned the awesome plot twist. And that’s all I’m going to mention. Because we no like spoilers! But just know if you’re looking for a fun middle grades read that will appeal to both boy and girl readers than The False Prince is a strong pick that will not let you down!

Author: Jennifer A. Nielsen

Publisher: Scholastic Press (April 1, 2012)

Format: Hardcover

Length: 342 pages

Series: First book in the Ascendance Trilogy

YA/MG: MG

Buy the Book: The False Prince: Book 1 of the Ascendance Trilogy

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Doesn’t Get Any Better Than This: The Matt Cruise Trilogy by Kenneth Oppel

Guys!

Do you ever just love a book so much you rip through the entire series in no time at all?

That’s exactly what happened with me and the Matt Cruise trilogy by Kenneth Oppel. Because I read all three books (Airborn, Skybreaker, and Starclimber) so quickly I thought I’d just review them all as a group.

So as not to give anything away I’ll only share the summary for Airborn, which is book one.

Matt Cruse is a cabin boy on the Aurora, a huge airship that sails hundreds of feet above the ocean, Airborn by Kenneth Oppelferrying wealthy passengers from city to city. It is the life Matt’s always wanted; convinced he’s lighter than air, he imagines himself as buoyant as the hydrium gas that powers his ship. One night he meets a dying balloonist who speaks of beautiful creatures drifting through the skies. It is only after Matt meets the balloonist’s granddaughter that he realizes that the man’s ravings may, in fact, have been true, and that the creatures are completely real and utterly mysterious.

In a swashbuckling adventure reminiscent of Jules Verne and Robert Louis Stevenson, Kenneth Oppel, author of the best-selling Silverwing trilogy, creates an imagined world in which the air is populated by transcontinental voyagers, pirates, and beings never before dreamed of by the humans who sail the skies.

I was immediately in love with these books from the very beginning. Oppel’s writing has a smart mix of suspense and wit to just keep you turning the pages and his characters are the kind you just fall in love with.

Let’s take our main character, Matt Cruise for example. Matt is the kind of character you miss once the Skybreaker by Kenneth Oppellseries is finished. Sure, Matt is humble, kind and hard working, but he also struggles with jealousy, can be overly sensitive, and is pretty darn stubborn at times. He is an all around regular, nice guy who you’d love to be friends with. Matt Cruise simply, put is a normal guy who ends up getting involved with abnormal situations. Most of these abnormal situations tend to come because of his friendship/romance with the adventurous, heiress Kate de Vries. Despite Kate’s stubborn single-mindedness and annoying tendency towards being haughty, you can’t help but love her.

Oppel’s world building skills are unbelievable. In this series he has created this alternate world that is very much like our own, however it’s just different enough to be interesting and make you questions things. For example, the Pacific Ocean is called the Pacificus and there are references to historical events that are similar to those in our history (the ill-fated airship Titanticus). The world Matt Cruise lives in is pretty much steampunk and the main form of international transportation is by transoceanic dirigible. TStarclimber by Kenneth Oppelhere is so much detail that you just completely believe that this world truly does exist somewhere out there.  Additionally, these three books are 100% page turners. Almost every chapter is full of action and suspense whether it be pirate attack or an airship falling out of the sky!

So, if you’re in the mood for some quality YA action and adventure, you need to read Airborn, Skybreaker, and Starclimber right away! I honestly think that YA just doesn’t get any better than this!

Author: Kenneth Oppel

Publisher: Airborn, Harper Collins (May 25, 2005)

Skybreaker, Harper Collins (November 29, 2005)

Starclimber, Harper Collins (February 24, 2009)

Format: Audiobook

Length: Airborn (10 hrs and 46 mins), Skybreaker (11 hrs and 26 mins), Starclimber (11 hrs and 44 mins)

Narrator(s): Full Cast Audio, David Kelly

Series: The Matt Cruise Trilogy

YA/MG: MG/YA

Buy the Book: Airborn Skybreaker Starclimber

 

 

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Nothing to Write Home About: Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi

Hi there!

I’m so behind in reviews! But that’s okay. I’m going to “shrink the change”. I’m going to write one review tonight instead of focusing on the 20 I want to write, so I won’t feel overwhelmed.

A while ago, I read Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi.Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi

Aria has lived her whole life in the protected dome of Reverie. Her entire world confined to its spaces, she’s never thought to dream of what lies beyond its doors. So when her mother goes missing, Aria knows her chances of surviving in the outer wasteland long enough to find her are slim.

Then Aria meets an outsider named Perry. He’s searching for someone too. He’s also wild – a savage – but might be her best hope at staying alive. If they can survive, they are each other’s best hope for finding answers.

Honestly, I was surprised that I actually enjoyed this book in the end. It is such a different take on the dystopian genre that I wasn’t sure if I liked it at first. I didn’t love it, but it was entertaining.

First, I have to comment on the names. Ughhhh. Aria? Peregrine? Lumina? Paisley? Soren? Echo? I found myself rolling my eyes at times because I just can’t handle the names. I feel like books set in futuristic settings throw in these overly strange names to make up for a lack of world building. “Oh it’s the future! I know! Let’s give them weird names because it’s the future!”  Sorry. Sometimes a weird name is just a weird name.

The plot as a whole was really interesting. The whole idea of Reverie and the Realms is plausible as our society gets more and more lethargic because we’re interacting more digitally instead of physically. It reminded me of the society in WALL-E that just floats around in their little lazy-boy chairs with everything handed to them. It’s far out there, but plausible. In addition, I liked how the world outside of Reverie is so tribal. It seems like the two worlds have both reverted to the far ends of the spectrum. You have Reverie where society is so advanced that reality is virtual and in contrast you have Blood Lords and cannibals running around in the woods being chased by wolves. There was just so much potential!

Aria as a character fell flat, as did most of the other characters, with the exception of Peregrine in my opinion. I actually enjoyed learning more about Peregrine’s tribe and his back-story and I really liked the relationship with his friend Echo; the way they played off of each others strengths to do what needed to be done.

All in all, this one was simply entertaining and nothing to write home about. I think fans of dystopian YA will probably enjoy it, but I’d recommend other titles in this genre before Under the Never Sky for sure.

Author: Veronica Rossi

Publisher: Listening Library (February 14, 2012)

Format: Audiobook

Length: 9 hours and 39 minutes

Narrator(s): Bernadette Dunne Flagler

Series: First in the “Under the Never Sky” series

YA/MG: YA

Buy the Book: Under the Never Sky

 

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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