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Audiobook Review – Mortal Heart – Robin LaFevers

mortal heartMortal Heart
Author: Robin LaFevers
Series: #3 in the His Fair Assassin series
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ¼

Narrator: Jennifer Grace
Run Time: 17hrs 52min

Review Copy Provided by Audiobook Producer

Description:
Annith has watched her gifted sisters at the convent come and go, carrying out their dark dealings in the name of St. Mortain, patiently awaiting her own turn to serve Death. But her worst fears are realized when she discovers she is being groomed by the abbess as a Seeress, to be forever sequestered in the rock and stone womb of the convent. Feeling sorely betrayed, Annith decides to strike out on her own.

She has spent her whole life training to be an assassin. Just because the convent has changed its mind doesn’t mean she has…

Review:
The final book in the My Fair Assassin series has been a long time coming and it did not disappoint. I mean, Assassin Nuns (which I’m pretty sure I raved about in my review of book 1 in the trilogy). In the third and final entry, we get Annith’s story. Annith who has always been the steadfast supporter of the mission of the convent and who only ever wanted to carry out the mission she had trained for – but who was never given the opportunity. As with the previous books in the series, I was immediately sucked into the author’s method of storytelling. The visuals that she paints (and maybe this was due in part to being in audio) are just so vivid, you feel as though you are in France with Annith, Ismae and Sybella (who are featured in bk 1 and 2 of the series).

While the first book in the series was much more a romance, and the second filled with political intriguing, this one reminded me of a story of redemption; of finding your place in an ever changing world. There were so many different elements that combined together during Annith’s story to complete the story arc. Anne of Brittany’s story (hint, don’t google if you don’t want to know what happened to her) played a central role once again. Honestly, one of the things I loved about this series in general was how the author took characters who would normally be minor characters (handmaiden’s) and made them key to the success of the story.

Honestly, this is a really hard review to write because I loved the book and yet I’m struggling to say why I loved it. There was so much going on – all the various storylines from the previous 2 books were being tied up as well as Annith getting her romance (and boy did she ever). I loved how the story ended (although there was one little thing that I think could be fleshed out into a further book in what ultimately happened to the Abbess – but that is something for another day).

Jennifer Grace was a new to me narrator but it won’t be the last time I listen to her. One of the things I appreciated about this series was that a different narrator was used for each book (since they were all told via different POV’s), but at the same time, how well the narrators did keeping similar pronunciation through-out (so it wasn’t ear-jarring either). I liked how she was able to bring distinctive voices to all the various characters and I never really felt that I was getting people confused as I listened (which is key to stories like this with lots of political intrigue and character interaction). One of my favorite things about Jennifer’s narration was that she was able to capture Annith’s innocence in the world because she had been sheltered all her life (as compared to Ismae and Sybella who had had much harsher lives prior to the Convent).

I gave both the book and the narration 4.5 stars, but rounding down to 4. It didn’t blow me away like the first book did, but was still heads and shoulders above many books that I have read/listened to recently. I’m intrigued to see where the author goes next, now that this trilogy is complete (personally, I would love to see some more historical YA fiction in lesser written about time periods)

 
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Posted by on March 20, 2015 in Audiobook Review

 

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Review – Cinderella’s Dress – Shonna Slayton

cinderella's dressCinderella’s Dress
Author: Shonna Slayton
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ½

Review Copy Provided by Publisher

Description:
Being a teen-ager during World War II is tough. Finding out you’re the next keeper of the real Cinderella’s dress is even tougher.

Kate simply wants to create window displays at the department store where she’s working, trying to help out with the war effort. But when long-lost relatives from Poland arrive with a steamer trunk they claim holds the Cinderella’s dress, life gets complicated.

Now, with a father missing in action, her new sweetheart shipped off to boot camp, and her great aunt losing her wits, Kate has to unravel the mystery before it’s too late.

After all, the descendants of the wicked stepsisters will stop at nothing to get what they think they deserve.

Review:
Sooo, I actually read Cinderella’s Dress back in June prior to its release, started to write my review and then got distracted by some life stuff (here’s a hint, if you want time to read/review, don’t sign up for a triathlon that will take 15 hours to complete – just sayin’). But as I look back at all the books i’ve read this year, trying to figure out which review to post next, the cover of this one caught my eye, because honestly, its gorgeous and i’m a total cover whore. Yeah, i said it, i’ve been known to pick books up based solely on the cover – sometimes it has been successful, like with this book, other times I’ve been majorly burned. So gorgeous cover combined with a fairy tale retold and I was a happy camper.

I really enjoyed how the author managed to work the various elements from the original Cinderalla (specifically the dress and the wicked stepsisters) into a YA romance (although, while marked as YA, most adults would likely enjoy it also). But the author did a great job moving the setting to a WW2 time period – her descriptions made you feel like you were experiencing the war through Kate’s eyes. I really liked Kate as a character – she wasn’t willing to accept the status quo of what was expected for women who were working at the time (being store models and seamstresses), she wanted more and was willing to work for it and prove that she deserved the job she wanted/got.

The underlying Cinderella element was good and the mystery of the dress – and the idea of did Cinderella actually exist? (I mean, I loved the Drew Barrymore movie where it was based in historical context) and the way the author developed the story made it seem plausible/likely. There was a truth to the way the author wrote the book that I enjoyed (if that makes sense). Both the main and the secondary characters were well-developed – none of them seemed fake (for lack of a better word) – I could easily see (should a movie be made) how they could be portrayed.

Overall, I gave Cinderella’s Dress, 3.5 stars and would recommend for anyone interested in fairy tale re-tellings or YA historical fiction.

 
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Posted by on December 5, 2014 in Book Review

 

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Review – Dirty Little Secret – Jennifer Echols

dirty little secretDirty Little Secret
Author: Jennifer Echols

Review Copy Provided by Publisher via Edelweiss

Description:
I was being given the chance to do the one thing I wanted most in the world. The chance was presented to me by a guy so gorgeous, he turned my skin to fire when he touched me. And joining a band was the one thing I was most forbidden to do, the thing that would ruin my future forever.

There are too many secrets in eighteen-year-old Bailey’s life. Not just the obvious one: that she told her grandfather she was going on a date, and instead is playing fiddle in a Nashville bar. There’s all the stuff that makes it worse. Like how her younger sister, Julie, was offered a recording contract, and her family is terrified that Bailey is going to mess the deal up. Like the way that Bailey has been acting out. Like the way they’re all mad at her, even Julie.

Bailey’s parents don’t want her playing any gigs at all, but when they leave her with her grandfather in Nashville for the summer so they can tour with Julie, he lands her a music job that’s beneath the radar, playing old country songs in cheesy costumes at a local mall. That’s where she meets Sam. . . .

Review:
I have to admit that I primarily requested/downloaded this book because I fell in love with the cover. It just was to me, eye-catching. You could tell by looking at it, that the story behind it was going to be interesting – so many different elements – the violin, the picture of two people kissing…I wondered how it was all going to play out. And I’m pleased that say that it was well-worth it. In this case, the picture on the cover lived up to the story in the book (it is always disappointing when it doesn’t…).

It was also nice to see a young adult/new adult romance (since it kind of falls into both worlds), where there wasn’t a root story that involved rape (attempted or occurred); molestation; kidnapping etc. But rather, an almost normally, albeit slightly screwed up family. Sure Bailey probably got the wrong end of the stick and I felt back for her – but it was nice to see some semblance of normalcy.

I will have to admit though, that the blurb available on the authors website (as well as Amazon and other book-related ones), basically gives away the entire story. For what its worth, I edited out what you see here so it was shorter. Which is kind of disappointing…there wasn’t really that much mystery into how everything was going to play out…I wish that cover designers would go back to a more limited description, so that there is some surprise to the story…but back to the story.

The romance that developed between Bailey and Sam was sweet (there isn’t really any other way to describe it). It is definitely a book that I would recommend for older teens, because there are scenes that involve sex that would make it inappropriate for the younger people in the age group. But there was also some teenage angst (I mean, what would a YA romance novel be without the angst ;) ). But it wasn’t overdone, it felt more believeable than some of the scenarios that I have read about in different books.

This was my first book by Ms Echols, and it definitely won’t be my last. I think I have two more by her waiting on the pile at home. I gave Dirty Little Secret a solid 4 stars.

 
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Posted by on June 5, 2013 in Book Review

 

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Audiobook Review – My Awesome/Awful Popularity Plan – Seth Rudetsky

the audies

awful awesome popularity planMy Awesome/Awful Popularity Plan
Author: Seth Rudetsky

Narrated by: Seth Rudetsky, Andrea Burns, Paul Castree, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Josh Gad, Ana Gasteyer, Megan Hilty, Marc Kudisch, Will Swenson, James Wesley
Run Time: 5hr and 15 minutes
Produced By: Audible, Inc

Description:
Justin has two goals for sophomore year: to date Chuck, the hottest boy in school, and to become the king of Cool U, the table in the cafeteria where the “in” crowd sits.

Unfortunately, he has the wrong look (short, plump, Brillo-pad curls), he has the wrong interests (Broadway, chorus violin), and he has the wrong friends (Spencer, into Eastern religions, and Mary Ann, who doesn’t shave her armpits). And Chuck? Well, he’s not gay; he’s dating Becky, a girl in chorus with whom Justin is friendly.

But Justin is determined.

In detention one day (because he saw Chuck get it first), Justin comes up with a perfect plan: to allow Becky to continue dating Chuck, whom Becky’s dad hates. They will pretend that Becky is dating Justin, whom Becky’s dad loves. And when Becky and Justin go out on a fake date, Chuck will meet up with them for a real date with Becky. Chuck’s bound to find Justin irresistible, right? What could go wrong?

Review:
One thing I have loved about listening to books nominated for the Audie Awards is that it made me find authors that I had never before read and narrators I had never before listened to. And in the case of My Awesome/Awful Popularity Plan, I got a double dose – with a new author, plus getting to listen to his narration/interpretation of his characters. I got to also listen to the fabulous narration by Megan Hilty (who stars in my favorite, although now cancelled show, SMASH – boo hoo). I think I spent almost the entire time chuckling at Justin’s antics. He was the epitome of the high school geek. I have to wonder how much of the book was based on the author’s experiences. There seemed to be a sense of realism that doesn’t always appear in books (that, or he never truly left his teenage years…).

To say where the plot put forth by Justin was insane, would be an understatement…I couldn’t wait to see what would happen next. It was like listening to a comedy of errors as the school-year progressed. Rudetsky managed to pack nearly a full-year of high school trials and tribulations into a relatively short book (I mean, the audiobook was just over 5 hours long). I enjoyed the various narrators who participated in the book. I thought that the director found the right blend of youthful innocence and snarky humor in their voices. I also appreciated the fact that at the beginning of the book, the various narrators were introduced and the characters that they were portraying was mentioned. This really helped me be able to put a voice to a character rather than all of the various narrators blending together. This, to me, is something that I have discovered to be important in multi-narrator books.

I gave My Awesome/Awful Popularity Plan a solid 4 stars and I know that I will be seeking out more books by the author in the future.

 
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Posted by on May 14, 2013 in Audiobook Review

 

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Review – UnWholly – Neal Shusterman

unwhollyUnWholly
Author: Neal Shusterman
Series: #2 in the Unwind Trilogy

Description:
Thanks to Connor, Lev, and Risa—and their high-profile revolt at Happy Jack Harvest Camp—people can no longer turn a blind eye to unwinding. Ridding society of troublesome teens while simltaneously providing much-needed tissues for transplant might be convenient, but its morality has finally been brought into question. However, unwinding has become big business, and there are powerful political and corporate interests that want to see it not only continue, but also expand to the unwinding of prisoners and the impoverished.

Cam is a product of unwinding; made entirely out of the parts of other unwinds, he is a teen who does not technically exist. A futuristic Frankenstein, Cam struggles with a search for identity and meaning and wonders if a rewound being can have a soul. And when the actions of a sadistic bounty hunter cause Cam’s fate to become inextricably bound with the fates of Connor, Risa, and Lev, he’ll have to question humanity itself.

Review:
Sometimes there are books that just stick vividly in our minds and even a year or so after reading it – you can recall what happened in certain parts. For me, Unwind, the first book in this trilogy was like that. So I was excited to see the second book come out late last year…I pre-ordered it and everything…and then it sat, gathering dust on my bookshelf. I wanted to read it, but was too scared to, for fear that my memories of Unwind, would be ruined by a not so good second installment (I mean, it had been like 4 years since Unwind came out). Reviews among my friends were split – some loved it, others found it ok, but the majority of the reviews had the word BUT in them…like something was missing and that was concerning to me. However, I finally sucked it up and read it (or I think devoured might be a more appropriate description).

But moving on – the one thing I really liked about UnWholly was how it took the same issue, but looked at it from a wider perspective. While Unwind really focused on the micro-issues of the kids who were subjected to being Unwound, Unwholly focused on them, as well as society. I liked the touches of written ads (very similar to those we see during elections) campaigning both for and against unwinding and the various “groups” who were contributing for/against it. There was also a lot more history involved in this installment.

Plus, Shusterman introduced Cam – who might be one of my favorite characters in the series so far. He is the complete opposite to an Unwind – someone that has been created from parts of kids that were unwound. It was kind of freaky (for lack of a better word)…but he was certainly intriguing.

I can’t wait to read the third book in the trilogy that is due out later on this year and see how he ties up all the bits and pieces. Overall, I gave UnWholly a solid 4 stars.

 
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Posted by on May 7, 2013 in Book Review

 

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2013 Armchair Audies – Multi-voiced Performance

Armchair Audies

Since I finished up my first category of nominations for the 2013 Armchair Audies (romance) and there was still a month and a bit before winners are to be annouced (sometime in May, I finished my category up in mid-April). I decided to take a look through the other categories and find one that no one was writing on and see if I could fit those books in prior to the announcement of the winners. I was surprised to see that there were several categories not being represented, and so I opted to do the Multi-Voice Performance Category. This is something totally new to me, I have listened to books with multiple narrators before (normally 2 or 3 – or in the case of The Help, 4). But never to the extend of the books that are being recognized in this category.

The nominations for this category are:
Dracula by Bram Stoker
Narrated by Alan Cumming, Tim Curry, Simon Vance, Katherine Kellgren, Susan Duerden, John Lee, Graeme Malcolm, Steven Crossley, Simon Prebble, and James Adams

My Awesome-Awful Popularity Plan by Seth Rudetsky
Narrated by Seth Rudetsky, Andrea Burns, Paul Castree, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Josh Gad, Ana Gasteyer, Megan Hilty, Marc Kudisch, Will Swenson, and James Wesley

October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard by Lesléa Newman
Narrated by Emily Beresford, Luke Daniels, Tom Parks, Nick Podehl, Kate Rudd, and Christina Traister

The Privilege of the Sword by Ellen Kushner
Narrated by Ellen Kushner, Barbara Rosenblat, Felicia Day, Joe Hurley, Katherine Kellgren, Nick Sullivan, and Neil Gaiman

Suddenly, a Knock on the Door: Stories by Etgar Keret
Translated by Nathan Englander (translator), Miriam Shlesinger (translator), and Sondra Silverston (translator)
Narrated by Ira Glass, Willem Dafoe, Ben Marcus, Gary Shteyngart, Michael Chabon, Neal Stephenson, Nicole Krauss, and Josh Radnor

That Is All written by John Hodgman
Narrated by Dick Cavett, Patton Oswalt, Jon Hamm, Paul Rudd, Sarah Vowell, Brooke Shields, Scott Adsit, Robin Goldwasser, Jonathan Coulton, John Roderick, Rachel Maddow, Wyatt Cenac, Stephen Fry, Paul F. Tompkins, and Prominent Ragnarok Denier Dr. Elliott Kalan

Initial Thoughts:
It was interesting to see the wide variety of genres presented here, from the classic Dracula to a book of poetry (October Mourning). I was also interested to see that for two of the books, the authors played a role in the narration. I’m looking forward to broadening my reading boundaries and listening to these books.

multivoice narration nominees

 
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Posted by on May 1, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Review – City of a Thousand Dolls – Miriam Forster

city of a thousand dollsCity of a Thousand Dolls
Author: Miriam Forster
Series: #1 in the Bhinian Empire

Description:
An exotic treat set in an entirely original, fantastical world brimming with deadly mystery, forbidden romance, and heart-stopping adventure.

Nisha was abandoned at the gates of the City of a Thousand Dolls when she was just a child. Now sixteen, she lives on the grounds of the isolated estate, where orphan girls apprentice as musicians, healers, courtesans, and, if the rumors are true, assassins. Nisha makes her way as Matron’s assistant, her closest companions the mysterious cats that trail her shadow. Only when she begins a forbidden flirtation with the city’s handsome young courier does she let herself imagine a life outside the walls. Until one by one, girls around her start to die.

Before she becomes the next victim, Nisha decides to uncover the secrets that surround the girls’ deaths. But by getting involved, Nisha jeopardizes not only her own future in the City of a Thousand Dolls—but her own life.

Review:
When I first started to read City of a Thousand Dolls, I was reminded in part of the Kushiel series’ by Jacqueline Carey. There was something about Nisha that reminded me of Phaedre – the idea of the abandoned girl finding her way in the world and eventually knowing where she belongs. I also liked the idea of the city being the place where the abandoned children are sent. It made me wonder, in places like China, where there is a limit on how many children families can have, what would have happened, if children couldn’t be adopted or what to do with them. So it was an interesting take on a problem that I see could easily occur in the world in the future.

I have to admit that the reveal for the ultimate mystery was a bit of a disappointment – I had the potential suspects narrowed down to three, early on in the book, so for me it was more of a confirmation rather than a reveal. This was a bit disappointing for me – I was hoping for some out of the blue antagonist – even the ultimate actions of the main characters were fairly obvious as to what was going to happen. However, the world building was intriguing, I definitely want to read more in the series when the books are released. Overall, I’d give it 3.5 stars, but rounding up to 4.

 
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Posted by on April 12, 2013 in Book Review

 

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