Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Audiobooks

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This week, The Broke and the Bookish is giving us a freebie, and I’ve been on such on audiobook kick lately, that I wanted to make a list of the best audiobooks I’ve listened to.

 

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, narrated by Wil Wheaton

While there’s something about Wil Wheaton that really bugs me, Ready Player One is just as excellent an audiobook as a physical one. You can tell when the voice actor really loves the story and when the voice actor is just phoning it in, and this pair is a match made in the OASIS.

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein, narrated by Morven Christie and Lucy Gaskell

A stunning book and a terrific audiobook. I would say to read Code Name Verity first, to see the clues, but holy crap is the audio done well. I was much more emotional while reading, partly because of the spectacular job the narrators do and partly because I already knew what was coming.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett, narrated by Jenna Lamia, Octavia Spencer, Bahni Turpin, and Cassandra Campbell

While I didn’t have the best experience with this one (every CD was scratched and part of the last disc was so damaged it was unlistenable), the quality and performance was terrific. I loved having so many narrators instead of just one or two trying to do different voices. Jenna Lamia also narrates The Wolves of Mercy Falls as Grace, which I recently listened to, and it was cool (I have a weird idea of what’s cool maybe) to recognize her voice.

The Raven Boys and The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater, narrated by Will Patton

Will Patton took a while to grow on me, but I wound up loving his narration. He does each of the boys perfectly and distinctly and I’m sure Blue Lily, Lily Blue is just as good, I’m just waiting for it to be available at the library.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, narrated by Jim Dale

Jim Dale is best known for narrating the Harry Potter series (which I am audio re-reading this year), but he’s also so perfect for The Night Circus. He should read me every book with magic. He should just read me every book, period.

 

How to Tell Toledo From the Night Sky by Lydia Netzler, narrated by Joshilyn Jackson

This is another one where the narration took a little bit of getting used to, but it wound up being wonderful for this quirky story.

Smoke and Bone Trilogy by Laini Taylor, narrated by Khristine Hvam

I’m listening to Dreams of Gods and Monsters in my binge audio re-read right now, and holy hell Karou, these are great. I would recommend for a re-read or for first time readers of the series.

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater, narrated by Steve West and Fiona Hardingham

This one is tricky, because I feel like it’s more on the list because it’s one of my favorite books that I just happened to audio re-read. There’s nothing wrong with it as an audiobook, it just didn’t pack the same emotional punch as reading the beautiful writing.

Everything Neil Gaiman has written, narrated by Neil Gaiman

Well, duh.

 

ARC Review: I’ll Meet You There

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Title/Author: I’ll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios

Publication Date/Publisher: February 3, 2015/Henry Holt & Co.
Series: No
Source and Format:
I received this book for free from the publisher via Netgalley. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Rating: 4 stars

 

From Goodreads:

If seventeen-year-old Skylar Evans were a typical Creek View girl, her future would involve a double-wide trailer, a baby on her hip, and the graveyard shift at Taco Bell. But after graduation, the only thing standing between straightedge Skylar and art school are three minimum-wage months of summer. Skylar can taste the freedom—that is, until her mother loses her job and everything starts coming apart. Torn between her dreams and the people she loves, Skylar realizes everything she’s ever worked for is on the line.

Nineteen-year-old Josh Mitchell had a different ticket out of Creek View: the Marines. But after his leg is blown off in Afghanistan, he returns home, a shell of the cocksure boy he used to be. What brings Skylar and Josh together is working at the Paradise—a quirky motel off California’s dusty Highway 99. Despite their differences, their shared isolation turns into an unexpected friendship and soon, something deeper.

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Do I even read what books are about because I WAS NOT EXPECTING THAT.

I finally read…well, finished…a book by Heather Demetrios and I am not disappointed! Exquisite Captive was a miss for me and I’ve owned Something Real for what seems like my whole life but still haven’t read it.

I really felt for Skylar and her tough life – she becomes the sole provider for her family after her mom is fired from Taco Bell and can’t find another job in their tiny town. Like, Bakersfield is their big city, is how tiny Creek View is. Bakersfield may be the 9th largest city in California, but it’s wikipedia page boasts that it has “5 multi-screen movie theaters” as if that’s an accomplishment, so.

Anyway. Skylar. She really had me feeling sorry for her until she started flip-flopping on whether or not she would take the full-ride scholarship that would get her out of her one horse town. All she’s ever wanted is to leave, but with her mom’s situation and Josh’s return, she starts thinking about giving it all up. The mom thing is understandable to a point, but it’s not like Skylar’s mom ever took care of Skylar! And why would you stay for a guy who also wants to get the hell out of dodge – he could move closer to where you are (which isn’t even THAT far away)!

Sometimes it’s frustrating to read about 18 year olds making life decisions as someone who is verrrrry close to 30. It’s so easy to see the solution from this point in my life, but I can at least kind of remember how dire and impossible everything seemed. And I know this review seems pretty complain-y for 4 stars, but I read I’ll Meet You There about a month ago and didn’t take the greatest notes (oops). Contemporary lovers and especially fans of Something Like Normal are sure to count this one among their favorites of the year.

ARC Review: Playlist for the Dead

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Title/Author: Playlist for the Dead by Michelle Falkoff

Publication Date/Publisher: January 27, 2015/Harper Teen
Series: No
Source and Format: I received this book for free from the publisher via Edelweiss. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Rating: 3 Stars

 

From Goodreads:

A teenage boy tries to understand his best friend’s suicide by listening to the playlist of songs he left behind in this smart, voice-driven debut novel.

Here’s what Sam knows: There was a party. There was a fight. The next morning, his best friend, Hayden, was dead. And all he left Sam was a playlist of songs, and a suicide note: For Sam—listen and you’ll understand.

As he listens to song after song, Sam tries to face up to what happened the night Hayden killed himself. But it’s only by taking out his earbuds and opening his eyes to the people around him that he will finally be able to piece together his best friend’s story. And maybe have a chance to change his own.

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There’s absent parents, grieving teens, a supernatural tangent, a first love, bullying, pretty good nerdiness, glaring factual errors – everything one might need in YA. And I do mean EVERYTHING. Playlist for the Dead had soooo much crammed into one book that it wound up being only pretty good for me. I mean, you don’t need to have every character go through everything to make them fully formed.

The playlist as a whole is a mess, but some of the music is actually pretty good, or at least interesting. The songs tie in to the story well, but if you don’t look at the song at the start of the chapter the name of it might never be mentioned and that was a little confusing sometimes.

The most important lesson Sam learns is that people aren’t just one thing. It takes him a long time to realize this – that even your best friend (who you know better than anyone) might still not have shown you every side of himself. Sam is quick to judge and make assumptions about people, which is kind of annoying, but also true to the nerdiness of his character – if people only see him as a nerd or whatever, then it doesn’t matter if he makes assumptions about the characters that are gay or weird in different ways than he is.

 

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The Perks of Being a Wallflower and The Spectacular Now. I’m way more familiar with Perks, and I think the music and loss is the reason for this comparison. I read The Spectacular Now in 2013 and don’t really remember much about it. Re-reading my review, I can’t draw any comparisons. There is some light teen drinking in Playlist for the Dead, but nothing close to the amount taking place in The Spectacular Now.

Audio Review: The Lightning Thief

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Title/Author: The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan (read by Jesse Bernstein)

Publication Date/Publisher: January 28, 2005/Miramax Books
Series: Percy Jackson and the Olympians #1
Source and Format: Borrowed from library – eaudiobook.

Rating: 2 stars

From Goodreads:
Twelve-year-old Percy Jackson is about to be kicked out of boarding school . . . again. No matter how hard he tries, he can’t seem to stay out of trouble. But can he really be expected to stand by and watch while a bully picks on his scrawny best friend? Or not defend himself against his pre-algebra teacher when she turns into a monster and tries to kill him? Of course, no one believes Percy about the monster incident; he’s not even sure he believes himself.
Until the Minotaur chases him to summer camp.

Suddenly, mythical creatures seem to be walking straight out of the pages of Percy’s Greek mythology textbook and into his life. The gods of Mount Olympus, he’s coming to realize, are very much alive in the twenty-first century. And worse, he’s angered a few of them: Zeus’s master lightning bolt has been stolen, and Percy is the prime suspect.

Now Percy has just ten days to find and return Zeus’s stolen property, and bring peace to a warring Mount Olympus. On a daring road trip from their summer camp in New York to the gates of the Underworld in Los Angeles, Percy and his friends-one a satyr and the other the demigod daughter of Athena-will face a host of enemies determined to stop them.
To succeed on his quest, Percy will have to do more than catch the true thief: he must come to terms with the father who abandoned him; solve the riddle of the Oracle, which warns him of failure and betrayal by a friend; and unravel a treachery more powerful than the gods themselves.
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It’s hard to review older books, especially older books that are well-loved and ESPECIALLY older books that are well-loved that I didn’t also love. I can’t exactly tell what I didn’t like about The Lightning Thief. I think it read a lot younger than I expected for some reason – even though the characters are 12.
Actually, if they’re only 12 – why are they being sent on these hero missions? Shouldn’t they do some training first and do that kind of stuff later?
The story was pretty entertaining, if extremely Harry Potter-y, so I’ll keep listening – though the narrator could be better. Hopefully he picks it up in the volumes to come. I have enough interest in Greek mythology to keep going, and luckily that was the most well-done part of The Lightning Thief – even when I was thinking “this one’s the Snape” and “what a weird Dumbledore”.

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten 2014 Releases I Didn’t Read

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This week, The Broke and the Bookish is asking for the Top Ten 2014 Releases I never got around to reading.

 

  1. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel – this wasn’t even on my radar last year!
  2. Bad Feminist by Roxanne Gay – I waited through over 200 holds at the library for this one…and didn’t even have time to read it once I got it.
  3. Yes Please by Amy Poehler – I’m still waiting on this one from the library…I have a hold for the audio and the hardcover, I’m just waiting to see which becomes available first.
  4. All the Light We Can Not See by Anthony Doerr – another one that wasn’t even on my radar.
  5. Tibetan Peach Pie by Tom Robbins – There’s no excuse for this…it’s not even very long!
  6. Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley – Despite the rave reviews and the fact that I KNOW I like historical fiction, despite the fact that I constantly forget I do, I just kept pushing this one back and never got around to it.
  7. Compulsion by Martina Boone – I won this from the author in a giveaway aaaaages before it came out and I still haven’t read it!
  8. Clariel by Garth Nix – my plan was to read the whole Abhorsen series, but then I didn’t love Sabriel and kind of lost interest.
  9. Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas – I also had big plans to binge the Throne of Glass series, and that didn’t happen (due to lack of time obviously, not lack of interest).
  10. Symbiont by Mira Grant – I loved Parasite even before I knew who Mira Grant was and I was super disappointed that Symbiont was not marketed at all. I didn’t even realize it was out until I went looking for the release date myself! I have it from the library now and I can’t wait to read it!

ARC Review: Girl Before a Mirror

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Title/Author: Girl Before a Mirror by Liza Palmer

Publication Date/Publisher: January 27, 2015/ William Morrow Paperbacks
Series: No
Source and Format: I received this book for free from the publisher via Edelweiss. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Rating: 5 stars

 

From Goodreads:

An account executive in a Mad Men world, Anna Wyatt is at a crossroads. Recently divorced, she’s done a lot of emotional housecleaning, including a self-imposed dating sabbatical. But now that she’s turned forty, she’s struggling to figure out what her life needs. Brainstorming to win over an important new client, she discovers a self-help book—Be the Heroine, Find Your Hero—that offers her unexpected insights and leads her to a most unlikely place: a romance writers’ conference. If she can sign the Romance Cover Model of the Year Pageant winner for her campaign—and meet the author who has inspired her to take control of her life—she’ll win the account.

For Anna, taking control means taking chances, including getting to know Sasha, her pretty young colleague on the project, and indulging in a steamy elevator ride with Lincoln Mallory, a dashing financial consultant she meets in the hotel. When the conference ends, Anna and Lincoln must decide if their intense connection is strong enough to survive outside the romantic fantasy they’ve created. Yet Lincoln is only one of Anna’s dilemmas. Now that her campaign is off the ground, others in the office want to steal her success, and her alcoholic brother, Ferdie, is spiraling out of control.

To have the life she wants-to be happy without guilt, to be accepted for herself, to love and to be loved, to just be—she has to put herself first, accept her imperfections, embrace her passions, and finally be the heroine of her own story.

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I love this book. I love Liza Palmer. I love RomanceCon.

I find Liza Palmer’s books to make me emotional in the weirdest ways. Like, who am I that I’m crying because someone won Mr. RomanceCon? In the breakroom at work. During the busiest lunch time.

I feel like I’m on my way to BEING Anna Wyatt. I have a few more years until 40, but I see the signs now. Distancing myself from everyone and the shame and self-sabotage. It’s there. It’s brewing. By 40, who knows how potent it could be. So I love that I have her and The Brubaker to help me nip it in the bud now.

The dialogue is witty and smart and the characters are terrific and I loved every reference and I so wish RomanceCon was a real thing. (I tried to google but the results are very different than what I want them to be).

So You Want to Read…Neil Gaiman

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So You Want to Read… is a new monthly thing I’m trying out, as so far I really only have two ideas for posts. But! That gives me two months to come up with some more!

So You Want to Read…. is a starter guide for well established authors. Authors with SO MUCH work out there that is so loved that one might feel overwhelmed and not know where to start. I came up with this idea a few months ago when one of my friends from high school put out the call to facebook for recommendations on where to start reading Neil Gaiman.

As Neil Gaiman is my favorite, I had a lot of information for her and might have been too much for what she was looking for. There’s Neil Gaiman the novelist and Neil Gaiman the graphic novelist and both are important on this journey.

 

WHERE TO BEGIN?!

 

There are so many options! I would almost always say to start with the one-two punch of American Gods and Anansi Boys, but that’s quite a time commitment and might be overwhelming to some. For the YA book-blogger crowd, I’m going to say to start with Stardust and move directly to Neverwhere to get a sense of how different and the same and weird Neil Gaiman is.

Early in your Neil Gaiman journey, you’re going to want to read Good Omens. It’s a collaboration, and the story of the collaboration is almost as fantastic as Good Omens itself. The apocalypse has never been so hilarious. Depending on how much you enjoyed A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore, Good Omens might be a good starting place for you.

The children’s books are short enough to make an early appearance. Most are probably already familiar with Coraline and the gorgeous film, so The Graveyard Book is the next obvious step. Fortunately, the Milk goes in a completely different direction, so it’s best as a palate cleanser when you’ve gotten too much dark in your weird.

 

FROM THERE

 

The volumes of short stories can and should be enjoyed at your leisure. Smoke and Mirrors, Fragile Things, Unnatural Creatures, et al., contain many stories, obviously, and sometimes it’s best to just read one and get some other reading done in the meantime.

Sandman. It’s got to happen. Like I told my friend on facebook, unless you are already into comics (and if you are, you would have already read Sandman so) Sandman is not where you want to start. It’s a huge world and while it’s completely and absolutely a necessary part of one’s Neil Gaiman education, wait a bit before diving in.

At this point, you may also choose to start picking his other work depending on what you’ve read that’s become a favorite. The other comics, the other children’s books, the other short stories. really anything Dave McKean illustrates. If you’re a fan of audiobooks, anything Neil narrates himself is outstanding.

 

JOURNEY’S END

 

There is no real end to this journey – there’s always going to be something more to enjoy. I’m about to start listening to the BBC radio performance of Good Omens, there’s Doctor Who episodes, and a ton more books and comics not even mentioned or that I don’t even know about!

ARC Review: The Sweetheart

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Title/Author: The Sweetheart by Angelina Mirabella

Publication Date/Publisher: January 20, 2015/Simon & Schuster
Series: No
Source and Format: I received this book for free from the publisher via Edelweiss. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Rating: 5 stars

 

From Goodreads:

It’s 1953 and seventeen-year-old Leonie Putzkammer is cartoonishly tall and curvaceous, destined to spend the rest of her life waiting tables and living with her widowed father, Franz, in their Philadelphia row house. Until the day legendary wrestling promoter Salvatore Costantini walks into the local diner and offers her the chance of a lifetime.

Leonie sets off for Florida to train at Joe Pospisil’s School for Lady Grappling. There, she transforms into Gorgeous Gwen Davies, tag-team partner of legendary Screaming Mimi Hollander, and begins a romance with the soon-to-be Junior Heavyweight Champion Spider McGee. But when life as Gorgeous Gwen leaves her wanting, she orchestrates a move that will catapult her from heel to hero: she becomes The Sweetheart, a choice that attracts the fans she desires but complicates all of her relationships with Franz, Joe, Spider, Mimi (who becomes her fiercest competitor), and even with herself.

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WOW. And I mean WOW like HOLY MOLY and also like WOMEN OF WRESTLING, something I was very into during it’s initial run in 2000-2001. It was on on like Sunday afternoons and it was amazing. According to it’s wikipedia page, it’s made a comeback in recent years!

Anyway. My love for tough broads and full skirts was fully realized in The Sweetheart. I love the story and the setting and the characters, but there is so much action! I was hoping for a more in depth look into the research and what was based on real events in the acknowledgements, but I am definitely signing on to be one of Gwen Davies’ Gorgeous Girls.

It’s hard to remember that Gwen was a young girl the entire time – all the training and traveling really made it seem like there was a lot of time going by – really, she was only like 19 by the end of it. Imagine, at 17 and in 1953 (!!), leaving your father and responsibilities behind to become a female wrestler. Gwen makes some not great career and life choices, but she never seems childish about it – possibly because the story is being told by an older acquaintance trying to hunt Gwen Davies down to have her come to an awards gala.

This other nameless woman decides she needs to retrace her steps and might as well start at the beginning – and thus we have The Sweetheart. It’s a bit of a sly move and makes the hints about where Gorgeous Gwen Davies is a little confusing.

“This, sweet girl, is what happens when you ignore your feelings. They didn’t disappear; they were only tucked away, compounding interest.”

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Most Anticipated 2015 Debuts

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This week, The Broke and the Bookish is asking for the Top Ten Most Anticipated 2015 Debuts. This is something I’m keeping track of this year on my fancy new 2015-Read spreadsheet, so hopefully these don’t disappoint!

Note: I chose these titles based on Goodreads lists, and while I double checked that each author had no previous books, I could still be wrong. I also only chose previously unpublished authors – several I was excited for had been published in anthologies, etc.

 

  1. Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard
  2. More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera
  3. Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon
  4. We All Looked Up by Tommy Wallach
  5. Denton’s Little Deathdate by Lance Rubin
  6. A Wicked Thing by Rhiannon Thomas
  7. Locke & Mori by Heather Petty
  8. Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
  9. Shutter by Courtney Alameda
  10. One of the Guys by Lisa Aldin

2015 is going to be a great and DIVERSE year, if any of these debuts have anything to say about it! A Sleeping Beauty re-imagined, a female Moriarty in a YA Sherlock Holmes story, some humor and some heart….even some horror! A few of these I’m cautiously optimistic about (One of the Guys, mostly) but I’m betting there’s more excellence than not.

ARC Review: When

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Title/Author: When by Victoria Laurie
Publication Date/Publisher: January 13, 2015/Disney-Hyperion
Series: No
Source and Format: I received this book for free from the publisher via Netgalley. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Rating: 2 stars

From Goodreads:

Maddie Fynn is a shy high school junior, cursed with an eerie intuitive ability: she sees a series of unique digits hovering above the foreheads of each person she encounters. Her earliest memories are marked by these numbers, but it takes her father’s premature death for Maddie and her family to realize that these mysterious digits are actually death dates, and just like birthdays, everyone has one.

Forced by her alcoholic mother to use her ability to make extra money, Maddie identifies the quickly approaching death date of one client’s young son, but because her ability only allows her to see the when and not the how, she’s unable to offer any more insight. When the boy goes missing on that exact date, law enforcement turns to Maddie.

Soon, Maddie is entangled in a homicide investigation, and more young people disappear and are later found murdered. A suspect for the investigation, a target for the murderer, and attracting the attentions of a mysterious young admirer who may be connected to it all, Maddie’s whole existence is about to be turned upside down. Can she right things before it’s too late?

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An interesting concept that completely misses the mark in execution.

I may have to go back to partial stars in 2015, because When does not deserve two full stars, but it wasn’t the hate read that I reserve 1 star for, either. When is just so over the top unbelievable that Maddie being about to see everyone’s death date on their forehead is the most normal part.

The weirdest issue I have with When is the wonky dialogue that reads like it’s straight out of amateur erotica: that overly stiff, formal talk that 50 year old men write for purring co-eds BUT mixed with that golly gee-willickers wholesomeness that is not exactly the norm for teens today. I feel like When should be targeted for a younger audience (there is no actual content that makes it read like amateur erotica, there’s barely even a love interest).

I didn’t like how quickly and nicely everything was wrapped up. At the climax of the story, almost everyone has a complete personality change and then every single problem everyone has ever had is solved and there’s a ghost dad and…it’s all just a little too neatly done for me.