Audiobook Review: Bone Gap by Laura Ruby

Bone GapAuthor: Laura Ruby

Narrator: Dan Bittner

Audiobook length: 8 hours and 21 minutes

Genre: Young adult, magical realism

Publisher: Balzer + Bray (book); HarperAudio (audiobook)

YOU GUYS WHY DID I WAIT SO LONG TO READ THIS BOOK?

This book is SO. COOL. I’m really glad that Nic Stone couldn’t stop talking about how much she loved it. I finally checked it out because of her, and it made my trip up to Chicago (for BEA) feel so short. I was completely engrossed in this story.

Bone Gap is super strange. Like, so completely weird. But in the best possible way. It’s magical realism, so there are some scenes that take you by surprise – I know I wasn’t expecting to see Roza in a castle, and it felt a bit weird at first. But mostly I felt like I was dreaming. That’s my favorite part of magical realism – you feel awake and asleep at the same time. Bone Gap was exactly that: I felt like I’d fallen into this strange, beautiful, bizarre dream. I thought the book was really well-written and I loved all of the characters, especially Petey. I will definitely be rereading this one in physical format.

THE NARRATOR: I thought Dan Bittner did a fantastic job at narrating the book. I’ve previously listened to Dan as he is the narrator for Cole St. Clair in the later Wolves of Mercy Falls books by Maggie Stiefvater. I really like his voice, as it’s a bit gruff, so I enjoyed his Bone Gap narration.

The bottom line: READ THIS BOOK, YOU GUYS. I thought it was fantastic and beautiful. I will say that I don’t think this book is for everyone, and if you’ve never read a book that’s magical realism, just be prepared. It’s bizarre at first, but it is so so good.

Rating: 9 – practically perfect

Reread/Audiobook Review through Tweets: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

I recently reread Becky Albertalli’s Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda as an audiobook, and of course, I loved it again. When I was almost done with the reread, I was…inspired, I suppose, to tweet a bit about how much I love the book and why I think Becky is just so good at what she does. And I thought it’d be fun if I just shared those tweets here as a kind of Reread Review through Tweets. 🙂

Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky AlbertalliSimon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Narrator: Michael Crouch

Audiobook length: 6 hours and 45 minutes

Publisher: Balzer + Bray (book) / Blackstone Audio (Audiobook)

Find it on Goodreads.

 

Before I start with the tweets, I want to talk about the audiobook for a second. I need to mention just how FREAKING perfect Michael Crouch is as a narrator. I mean, his voice fits Simon SO well, and I really just want to listen to every single one of his audiobooks and have him narrate everything forever. So if the universe could just get on that, that’d be great. Thanks.

So this was harder than I thought it was going to be because Twitter or WordPress likes to put the previous tweet as well if it is a conversation like this one. But I got it.

The bottom line: Just in case I wasn’t clear, you need to read this book. Get on it.

Find it on Goodreads. Or just go ahead and order the book – B&N | Amazon | IndieBound

Audiobook Review: Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Cinder by Marissa MeyerAuthor:  Marissa Meyer

Narrator: Rebecca Soler

Genre: Young adult, science fiction, retelling

Publisher: Macmillan Young Listeners (audiobook); Feiwel & Friends (physical book)

Audiobook length: 10 hours, 6 minutes

Check out the full synopsis on Goodreads.

The book:

Cinder is a retelling of Cinderella in a dystopian, Asian world in which Cinder is a freaking cyborg! How cool is that?! I was a little nervous for this one just because of the huge amount of hype surrounding this series, but I honestly wish I would have read it years ago! I feel like there isn’t much I can say about this book that hasn’t already been said, but let me point out a few of my favorite things:

– Queen Levana is exactly what a villain should be like – manipulative, creepy, horrible, and just deliciously evil.

– The way Meyer took this well-known and sometimes overdone story of Cinderella and completely transformed it into her own story was amazing. Yes, sometimes you’d be able to predict what was going to happen, but for the most part, it just read as a quick nod to the original story and then she’d take it somewhere else. It was fascinating.

– The world that Meyer has created is incredible, original, and all around captivating. I just wanted to know EVERYTHING about it. The politics, science, technology – all of it was SO cool, and I was completely engaged with the story and world from the beginning.

– There were a few parts that felt a little long/drawn out, and the main reason I’m not giving this a TOP rating is because I figured out the big “twist” pretty early on, and while I definitely didn’t want to stop reading because of that, it made reading/listening a little less fun.

The audiobook/narrator:

I absolutely LOVED Rebecca Soler’s narration. There were a few times in the book that I think would have…bored me during the story but her narration kept me completely enthralled and I didn’t want to stop listening for a second. I wanted to start the next book right away.

The bottom line: I can’t believe I waited this long to read Cinder, but I’m glad I finally did. A fascinating world, wonderful retelling of Cinderella, perfect villain, and fantastic writing all mix together to create a book I didn’t want to stop reading for a second. I figured out the twist early on, but the book was so good I didn’t really care that much.

Rating: 8 – freaking fantastic

I’m participating in The Lunar Chronicles Read Along hosted by the lovely Brittany from The Book Addict’s Guide!

Audiobook Review: Jackaby by William Ritter

Jackaby by William RitterAuthor: William Ritter

Narrators: Nicola Barber

Audiobook length: 7.5 hours

Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction

Publisher: HighBridge Audio (Audiobook); Algonquin Young Readers (book)

Check out the full synopsis on Goodreads.

The book:

Jackaby is described in its summary as “Doctor Who meets Sherlock”. I think this is a pretty apt description – Jackaby is similar to both the Conan Doyle Sherlock and the Benedict Cumberbatch Sherlock with a little bit of Matt Smith thrown in for good measure. Usually I hate when books are compared to other books, TV shows, or movies, but in this case, it wasn’t off the mark. Thankfully, Ritter’s characters are so unique and solidly-done that I was able to completely separate them while reading (er..listening to) the story. The world that Ritter has created is full of seriously cool fantastical creatures and I absolutely loved learning about everyone and everything in it.

My only complaint is probably going to surprise most of you. There is practically no romance in the book, which is actually quite nice to have, but the lengths Ritter went through to emphasize the lack of romance between Abigail and Jackaby is a little ridiculous. Instead of allowing the two leads who would actually make a really great couple because of how well they balance each other, we end up having two secondary characters written in for Abigail and Jackaby and it really just muddles the story. In fact, the romance between Abigail and her police officer often feels forced. Here’s hoping the romance that actually should be happens in Beastly Bones (the sequel to Jackaby).

The audiobook/narrator:

Nicola Barber is a fantastic narrator. She has an amazing ability to do different voices distinctly and with incredible believability. I was able to become fully immersed in the story because each of the characters’ voices were all so unique and easily identified. I’m so glad she narrated this story because it made for a wonderful listening experience. I would highly recommend checking out some of the other books she’s narrated (I also listened to Wild Born by Brandon Mull narrated by her).

The bottom line: Jackaby is a fun, enjoyable novel. Ritter mixes an amazing fantasy world with historical details that make reading Jackaby like being in the world of Sherlock Holmes if it were on a different planet. Nicola Barber’s narration is absolute perfection, and if you are a fan of audiobooks, I’d highly recommend checking this one out in that format.

Rating: 7 – pretty good

Audiobook Review – Four: A Divergent Story Collection by Veronica Roth

Four: A Divergent Story Collection by Veronica RothAuthor: Veronica Roth

Narrator: Aaron Stanford

Audiobook length: 6 hours and 33 minutes

Genre: Young adult, dystopian, science fiction

Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books

Check out the full synopsis on Goodreads.

I finished this one early last month and have continued to forget to post a review ever since. I liked it, mostly, but it didn’t really leave a lasting impression on me. Let’s do a one or two sentence mini review for each of the four stories in Four: A Divergent Story Collection and then I’ll talk about the narrator.

The Transfer – very cool to learn about Four when he still lived in Abnegation and the process he went through in deciding to transfer to Dauntless. We learned about his home life with Marcus, and while we already knew most of what was discussed, we actually got to see why Four transferred and why he felt the way he did towards his home and Marcus. I also enjoyed being back in this world.

The Initiate – this one was probably the best of the four stories. We learn more about Four, but also about some of the secondary characters like Shauna and Zeke. I wish we’d gotten to know Amar a bit better as he was supposed to mean so much to Four, but we hardly see him and they don’t get that close. Learning more about Four BEFORE he meets Tris was why I liked this story.

The Son – this is the story in which Four begins to question Dauntless leadership. Other than that, I honestly can’t really remember what happens…seriously, I’m sitting here trying to remember and it obviously just left hardly any impression on me. :/

The Traitor – this was probably my least favorite story. It takes place during the events in Divergent and is basically that story but from Four’s perspective, which could’ve been cool if it had actually added anything to the story. Four and Tris feel like basically the same character, especially when we are reading (or in this case, listening) to scenes with both of them in it. I had to force myself to finish this one because I was bored.

In addition to these four stories, we also get three extra scenes from Four’s perspective, one of which was when Tris was the first jumper. While I didn’t really like the story when Four and Tris were already together, this scene was fun to see from Four’s perspective.

The narrator – Aaron Stanford has a REALLY monotone, even voice. When I first starting listening to Four, I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to finish it. But then his voice started to pull me in and began to really fit Four and his personality. I ended up really liking his voice for the middle part of the audiobook. And then we got to the last story that bored me and added his monotone voice and…yeah, it was hard to get through that last story.

The bottom line: Even though the last two stories weren’t my favorite, I do think any fans of the Divergent trilogy will appreciate learning more about Four and his life before and after Tris.

Audiobook Review: I Don’t Know What You Know Me From by Judy Greer

I Don't Know What You Know Me FromAuthor: Judy Greer

Narrators: Judy Greer

Audiobook length:

Genre: Autobiography

Publisher: Doubleday (book); Random House Audio (audiobook)

Check out the synopsis on Goodreads.

So you might be looking at the cover of that book and asking yourselves why that person looks so familiar (which is the point behind the title of the book).

Like me, you might’ve first come across Judy as the mean-girl best friend in 13 Going on 30.

Judy Greer - 13 Going on 30

Or as the co-worker best friend in 27 Dresses.

Judy Greer - 27 Dresses

Or her one-episode guest role as the slutty Dr. Elizabeth Plimpton on The Big Bang Theory.

Judy Greer - The Big Bang Theory

Or the unstable office assistant in Arrested Development.

Judy Greer - Arrested Development

Or The Village. Or the voice of Cheryl in Archer. Or really, the tons of other co-star roles she’s been in since she started acting. She’s “Hollywood’s go-to best friend,” and because of that she’s relatable and easy to connect with. Her autobiography provides us with anecdotes about how much going to the Oscars can suck, especially when you don’t know anyone and you have to wear Spanx.

This book isn’t laugh out loud funny as the synopsis makes it out to be. It is, however, full of amusing (but not hilarious) essays on Greer’s life before Hollywood, her life as a co-star, and her life as a step-parent to Dean Johnson’s kids (it was amusing and also weird how she always first and last named him). It’s not a tell-all about the various actors and actresses she’s worked with. It doesn’t really go in depth about what it’s like working on movies. It’s probably not what you’d expect. But it isn’t necessarily bad either. There are really amusing bits – like the things she texts to her friends (probably the only laugh-out-loud moment in the book, but so funny my face hurt from laughing) or what she gets up to off-set on-location.

If you’re interested in what it’s like to be a co-star or the shenanigans you could get up as a step-parent (which are pretty funny), then check this book out.

Although, I will say that I DNF’ed this audiobook at about 85% (I know! I made it almost to the end). I just couldn’t keep going. I kept saying to myself, “Who cares?” – which is harsh, I know, but I just wasn’t invested enough to finish.

Audiobook Review: Doll Bones by Holly Black

I am reading several books for the Magnolia Book Awards. When I saw that Doll Bones was on the list, I volunteered to read it for my library as it’s been on my TBR for a while. I checked out the audiobook to listen to, and I am glad I did.Doll Bones

Author: Holly Black

Narrators: Nick Podehl

Audiobook length: 5 hours and 15 minutes

Genre: Middle grade, fantasy, adventure

Publisher: Listening Library (audiobook), Margaret K. McElderry Books (physical book)

When I’ve reviewed audiobooks in the past, I’ve kind of just done a general review, mixing both the story and the review of the narration into one review. I think I want to start breaking them down into Story and Audiobook as a way to better clarify my reviews and make them easier to read. How’s that sound to you guys?

STORY

Zach, Poppy, and Alice are best friends who’ve been playing a continuous game of adventure – with mermaids, pirates, and thieves – for a long time. Ruling over their land of make-believe is the Great Queen, a special, bone-china doll locked up in a cabinet and trapped there. When Zach’s there-again father pushed Zach to give up make-believe, Zach quits the game. But Poppy begins having dreams of a ghost girl who won’t rest until the Great Queen is laid to rest, the threesome must go off on an adventure to bury her. Is there really a ghost? Will she curse them if their quest isn’t completed? Bum. Bum. Bum.

This is a perfect coming-of-age story full of fun, adventure, spookiness, and a sense of is-this-real-or-not? Holly Black wonderfully captures that age just before adolescence that us adults tend to forget. Growing up tends to mean putting away our toys and entering a new and scary world of adulthood, and Holly Black is able to weave a story that brings you back to that age of first crushes, awkwardness, and confusion.

There’s also a ghost story here. I think it was just creepy enough, but not too creepy to scare young children into nightmares. The best part is that Black leaves it up to the reader to decide whether or not the story is real.

NARRATION

I’d heard Nick Podehl’s narration once before in the audiobook for Wonder. I enjoyed him then, but I really liked him in Doll Bones. He was able to use his obvious talent for creating voices and narrated the entire book himself. He perfectly captures the voices of Poppy, a somewhat sassy, confident young girl, Zach, a sad, strong, intelligent young boy, and Alice, a shy, reserved girl, as well as the variety of other cast members – including a creepy old man on a bus and a firm but kind librarian. Nick Podehl is very, very good, and I will look up some of his other narrated books to try.

OVERALL, I quite liked the audiobook for Doll Bones, and I will definitely be checking out some of Holly Black’s other books to read. Recommended for those who have middle-school aged children or for those who just enjoy a good ghost story.

Audiobook Review: Panic by Lauren Oliver

PanicAuthor: Lauren Oliver

Narrators: Sarah Drew

Audiobook length: 8 hours, 11 minutes

Genre: Young adult, thriller

Publisher: Blackstone Audiobooks (book via HarperCollins)

The plot of this book is really intriguing: in a small, boring town named Carp in the middle of nowhere New York, the students give a dollar every day for the whole year into a pot. The pot is the prize for the winner of Panic, a game that the newly graduated seniors can take part and which tests their courage, smarts, and daring through a series of exceedingly ridiculous and sometimes illegal stunts over the course of the summer. Heather wasn’t going to participate, but she does and throughout the game, her friendships are tested, alliances are made (and broken), and her life is put on the line. Interesting, right?

Well, it was a little underwhelming for me. I’m really glad I listened to this as an audiobook because Sarah Drew’s narration made this book for me. Her cadences and emphasis and ability to race through words to give the listener a sense of the overwhelming panic Heather feels throughout the tasks was amazing. There are lots of feels in this book too. Heather’s family problems with her mother and the relationship between her and her friends goes through a rollercoaster of emotions and changes, and this is definitely a part that Oliver did a seriously good job with.

On the other hand, several parts of this story are unrealistic. To illustrate, I’m going to quote my friend over at Booknerderie’s review of Panic:

The game itself. On what planet do teens participate in a game that consists of breaking and entering, arson, russian roulette and tigers. Not this planet.

In addition to being somewhat unrealistic, it is also seriously predictable at times. I called the end by about halfway through, which is disappointing.

I’m glad I listened to this as an audiobook, because I think if I had read this, I would’ve given up. Unrealistic, predictable, eye-rolling inducing. Yeah, I would’ve given up, but Sarah Drew’s narration made this book actually thrilling. So yay for audiobooks!

Audiobook Review: The Help by Kathryn Stockett

I loved The Help audiobook so much that I didn’t want it to end. I could have listened to stories about those characters every single day.

The Help

Author: Kathryn Stockett

Narrators: Jenna Lamia, Bahni Turpin, Octavia Spencer

Audiobook length: 18 hours, 19 minutes

Genre: Realistic, historical, southern fiction

Publisher: Penguin Audio

I’m pretty sure everything that I could possibly say about The Help has probably already been said at some point, but I’m going to try. I won’t go into the fact that the novel, and Kathryn Stockett, perpetuated the Mammy stereotype in The Help and that no white woman will ever be able to fully express or comprehend what it was like to be African-American in the South during this time. What I will talk about is the fact that The Help is highly entertaining. It is a really good story, and I did not want the audiobook to end.

I haven’t read this as a print book, but the audiobook was fantastic. The narrators, particularly Octavia Spencer, perfectly embody their characters, and I was able to visualize everything through the rhythm, cadence, and passion in their voices. By the way, Octavia Spencer plays Minny in the movie, so she was well-versed in Minny’s sass, passion, hardships, and anger for her role in the movie. The listener really gets a true sense of how each character felt. I honestly don’t know if I would have enjoyed to read the print version of the book; I think having four distinct voices to listen to really worked for this book. I do want to try to read The Help in the future though.

I think that readers of The Help can and should enjoy this story for the emotions it elicits and for the absolutely wonderful story it tells. However, a reader should also remember that the story told here is one person’s side of the story – the white side, whether or not you have African-American characters who are “speaking their minds”.

Oops. Got a little rant-y there. Back to the book: I honestly didn’t want this audiobook to end. I could’ve listened to stories about Skeeter, Minny, Aibileen, and the rest every single day on the way to and from work. I know I’ve said it a few times already, but The Help is truly entertaining. I enjoyed the four voices of the woman chosen to narrate this one. I got completely swept up in this story. I cried, laughed, smiled, and felt sick. This audiobook evoked emotions in me that no other audiobook has done so far. I wanted it to keep going. I missed the characters as soon as it ended.

If you like audiobooks, I would highly, HIGHLY, highly recommend this one.

Audiobook Review: Wonder by R.J. Palacio

After reading/listening to The Dead Fathers Club, which ruined all audiobooks for me, Wonder was the second one I could get through. It was a rough start, but I ended up really enjoying it.

Wonder

Title: Wonder

Author: R.J. Palacio

Reader: Nick Podehl, Kate Rudd, and Diana Steele

The Wonder audiobook is narrated by three different people. The person who narrated the main character, Auggie Pullman, is a woman, and it is pretty obvious that she is not a young boy but rather a woman attempting to sound like a young boy. At first, I found it really difficult to get used to her voice because she purposely has a slight lisp and a scratchy voice. Honestly, I didn’t think I would be able to force myself to listen to the entire thing for eight hours, but I was drawn in by the story and I couldn’t stop listening. Eventually, I got used to her voice – I think it probably helped that it changed between the narrators and points of view about every disc and a half so I didn’t get too irritated. By the end of the audiobook, however, I found myself actually enjoying her voice; not sure how that happened.

While there are only three narrators, we get a total of six different perspectives throughout the book, and each of their voices was unique to me. Occasionally you could tell that it was the same narrator, but for the most part, their voices were different but not in such a way that it was weird. In between The Dead Fathers Club and Wonder, I tried several different audiobooks but couldn’t get more than one drive to work through them. Several of them had readers that tried too hard to make the voices distinct – a super rough, scratchy voice for an old man, etc.

As for the book, I liked the story a lot. You might have seen my Quote Quoted post where I talked about one of the parts that really hit home for me. I could relate to a lot of this book, and I think the lesson being taught in the book is something that everyone should read. My only issue with this book was the ending. To me, the ending of this book was too perfect. For a novel about a young boy’s struggles with bullying that felt authentic and real, the ending felt wrong. Real life isn’t like that. It isn’t tied up with a cute little bow. Everyone doesn’t just suddenly realize that just because you look different on the outside, you’re super cool and interesting on the inside. It’d be nice if that happened, but it doesn’t. I really loved how Palacio handled everything in the book when it came to how mean people can be, the horrible things they’ll do or say, and how it feels to be the one on the receiving end of all of this crap, but the end disappointed me. Other than that, great book and great audiobook. Definitely recommended.