Category: Audiobook reviews

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green – Review

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green – ReviewThe Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Kate Rudd
Length: 7 hrs and 14 mins
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Buy from AmazonKoboiTunesAudible
Evelynne's rating: five-stars

I had been initially reluctant to read The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, despite the many positive reviews, mainly because of its subject matter.  It deals with the romance between two teenage cancer survivors.  I eventually relented when I saw that my local library had an e-copy, which was duly downloaded to my Kobo.

From the first few pages I fell in love with these characters – it was clear that Green had put a lot of effort into creating them as unique, individuals with their own hopes, fears and desires, who just happen to be ill with cancer.  I ended up purchasing my own copy of the book, as I suspect I will reread it more than once.

What I liked

The characters.  As I mentioned, I fell in love with these characters.  The beauty of Green’s writing is that Hazel and Augustus are not defined by their illnesses.  They are two young people who happen to be living with cancer.  Hazel is defined more by her love of the book “An Imperial Affliction”, which is a plot point in the novel, and her obsession with America’s Next Top Model.  Augustus’ sharp wit and fun-loving nature is what defines him rather than his illness.  This shift of definition brings a whole different view to the book and stops it being maudlin.

The “An Imperial Affliction” subplot.  Within the novel, the character Hazel is obsessed with the book, which ended abruptly.  She has contacted the author multiple times to find out what happened to the characters but he didn’t reply.  I imagine it would be for me as if George R.R. Martin said he’d had enough and was no longer completing A Song of Ice and Fire.  It brings up the whole question of what is the author’s responsibility to his readers?  That reminds me of Neil Gaiman’s response, aptly set to music by John Anealio.  Of course, Paul and Storm have a different take on the matter.

Ahem, I digress.  In any case, I found that I was so invested in the main character of Hazel that I was also invested in the book in which she was invested.  I wanted to find out, too, what happened to Anna’s mum, the Dutchman and Sisyphus the hamster, dammit.

The romance.  I loved the romance between Hazel and Augustus.  It was beautifully written and so sweet.

What I didn’t like

The prospect of the movie.  The book is being turned into a movie later this year starring Shailene Woodley and Ansel Egort.  I really don’t know how the charm of the movie will translate to the big screen, so I fear it will end up being purely a tearjerker rather than uplifting in the way the book is.

I gave The Fault in Our Stars five stars our of five.

 buy from Amazon, Kobo, iTunes, Audible eBooks.com

five-stars

Legend by Marie Lu – Review

Legend by Marie Lu is the first in a YA dystopian trilogy and tells the story of Day and June two teenagers on the opposite sides of the political fence.  June is a young government soldier, while Day is a freedom fighter.  When June’s brother is killed during a raid on a hospital in which Day is taking part, their paths collide.

What I liked

The romance.  It’s an old trope, but an effective one, to have the protagonists fall in love but be unaware that they are in fact mortal enemies because of their political viewpoints.  (see You’ve Got Mail, Pillow Talk, The Shop Around the Corner)The added personal motivation of Metias’, June’s brother’s death adds an extra element to the mix.  Lu builds up an excellent tension for the reveal of the identities to each other.  She actually had the revelation take place earlier in the book than I’d expected – however, it works well, as the rest of the book is devoted to finding out the truth behind Metias’ death.

The setting.  I found Lu’s world nicely written.  The dystopian side of it is very subtle at first, and it’s only when we learn more about it that its nature really becomes apparent.  This fits in with June’s growing understanding of her world.  I liked that our learning about the world was tied into the mystery of Metias’ death.

The characters.  I really liked both June and Day and was fascinated by the parallels, contrasts and comparisons drawn between them.  Sometimes it was a little heavy handed though – it didn’t need a character to explicitly say that their lives could have been the same had Day’s not taken a different turning at one point.  I liked that June was very book smart, but is rather naive and trusting whereas Day is equally intelligent, but his knowledge is more street smarts.  Unlike June, his experiences have made him bitter and not very trusting.  I liked that their relationship with each other made them both really think about their points of view.

What I didn’t like

The narration.  I found it hard to become engaged in the audio narration of this book.  I personally didn’t enjoy Mariel Stern and Steven Kaplan’s narration, which I found rather flat.  That is my own opinion, and of course you may enjoy the narration.  Here’s a sample.

All in all, I really enjoyed Legend and gave it four stars out of five.  I look forward to continuing with the series.

 buy from Amazon, Kobo, iTunes, Audible

Legend by Marie Lu – Review

Legend by Marie Lu – ReviewLegend by Marie Lu
Series: Legend #1
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Mariel Stern, Steven Kaplan
Length: 7 hrs and 48 mins
Genres: Dystopian, Young Adult
Buy from AmazonKoboiTunesAudible
Evelynne's rating: four-stars

Legend by Marie Lu is the first in a YA dystopian trilogy and tells the story of Day and June two teenagers on the opposite sides of the political fence.  June is a young government soldier, while Day is a freedom fighter.  When June’s brother is killed during a raid on a hospital in which Day is taking part, their paths collide.

What I liked

The romance.  It’s an old trope, but an effective one, to have the protagonists fall in love but be unaware that they are in fact mortal enemies because of their political viewpoints.  (see You’ve Got Mail, Pillow Talk, The Shop Around the Corner)The added personal motivation of Metias’, June’s brother’s death adds an extra element to the mix.  Lu builds up an excellent tension for the reveal of the identities to each other.  She actually had the revelation take place earlier in the book than I’d expected – however, it works well, as the rest of the book is devoted to finding out the truth behind Metias’ death.

The setting.  I found Lu’s world nicely written.  The dystopian side of it is very subtle at first, and it’s only when we learn more about it that its nature really becomes apparent.  This fits in with June’s growing understanding of her world.  I liked that our learning about the world was tied into the mystery of Metias’ death.

The characters.  I really liked both June and Day and was fascinated by the parallels, contrasts and comparisons drawn between them.  Sometimes it was a little heavy handed though – it didn’t need a character to explicitly say that their lives could have been the same had Day’s not taken a different turning at one point.  I liked that June was very book smart, but is rather naive and trusting whereas Day is equally intelligent, but his knowledge is more street smarts.  Unlike June, his experiences have made him bitter and not very trusting.  I liked that their relationship with each other made them both really think about their points of view.

What I didn’t like

The narration.  I found it hard to become engaged in the audio narration of this book.  I personally didn’t enjoy Mariel Stern and Steven Kaplan’s narration, which I found rather flat.  That is my own opinion, and of course you may enjoy the narration.  Here’s a sample.

All in all, I really enjoyed Legend and gave it four stars out of five.  I look forward to continuing with the series.

 buy from Amazon, Kobo, iTunes, Audible

four-stars

Scarlet by Marissa Meyer – Review

Scarlet by Marissa Meyer is the second in The Lunar Chronicles series and is loosely based on the fairytale of Little Red Riding Hood.  The narrative is split between continuing the story of Cinder from the first book and following Scarlet as she attempts to find and rescue her kidnapped grandmother.

What I liked

Strong, intelligent protagonist.  Scarlet, like the fairytale Little Red Riding Hood, is a spirited, feisty young heroine and a lot of fun to read.  I enjoyed her story and watching her learn about her grandmother’s secrets.  I was amused that at the end both of the male protagonists were out of commission and it was up to the ladies to save the day.

Intriguing love interest.  The character of Wolf was very well written.  Meyer deliberately keeps the character’s motivations unclear right until the very end and the way Meyer fulfilled the fairytale’s wolf role was masterfully done.

There are probably fewer iconic moments to bring over from Little Red Riding Hood – the red cape of course, “what big eyes you have, grandma” and both of those do make an appearance.  I loved the way Meyer brought those and the wolves into her narrative – it was very imaginatively done – and well woven into the broader story arc of Cinder and the Lunar Queen.

The pacing.  Having the dual points of view kept the pacing moving along very quickly.  it also allowed for mini cliffhangers as Meyer would switch PoV just at a crucial point.

The narration.  Once again, Rebecca Soler took on narration duties and I loved her interpretation.  She gave unique voices to the characters and enacted the directions “she said, snippily” excellently.  Here’s a sample.

What I didn’t like

Again there was nothing I disliked about Scarlet.  Meyer’s world and characters are just so beautifully written.

I gave Scarlet five stars out of five.

From Netgalley and Amazon I picked up the first few chapters in the sequel, Cress, which is due out in early February 2014.  This continues the story of Cinder and Scarlet and throws the spotlight on Cress, a character we met briefly in Cinder.  Cress is loosely based on the fairytale of Rapunzel, and even in the first few chapters I loved the character.  I really look forward to seeing more of the interaction between “Big Sister” and “Little Cress.”  It’s already clear from the excerpt how Meyer is weaving the fairytale into this story and the wider narrative.

I really look forward to reading Cress, and it’s on my pre-order lists at both Audible and Amazon.

 buy from Amazon, Kobo, iTunes, Audible, eBooks.com

Scarlet by Marissa Meyer – Review

Scarlet by Marissa Meyer – ReviewScarlet by Marissa Meyer
Series: The Lunar Chronicles #2
Also in this series: Cinder, Cress, Fairest - Levana's Story
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Rebecca Soler
Length: 11 hours and 19 minutes
Genres: Dystopian, Sci-Fi, Young Adult
Buy from AmazonKoboiTunesAudible
Evelynne's rating: five-stars

Scarlet by Marissa Meyer is the second in The Lunar Chronicles series and is loosely based on the fairytale of Little Red Riding Hood.  The narrative is split between continuing the story of Cinder from the first book and following Scarlet as she attempts to find and rescue her kidnapped grandmother.

What I liked

Strong, intelligent protagonist.  Scarlet, like the fairytale Little Red Riding Hood, is a spirited, feisty young heroine and a lot of fun to read.  I enjoyed her story and watching her learn about her grandmother’s secrets.  I was amused that at the end both of the male protagonists were out of commission and it was up to the ladies to save the day.

Intriguing love interest.  The character of Wolf was very well written.  Meyer deliberately keeps the character’s motivations unclear right until the very end and the way Meyer fulfilled the fairytale’s wolf role was masterfully done.

There are probably fewer iconic moments to bring over from Little Red Riding Hood – the red cape of course, “what big eyes you have, grandma” and both of those do make an appearance.  I loved the way Meyer brought those and the wolves into her narrative – it was very imaginatively done – and well woven into the broader story arc of Cinder and the Lunar Queen.

The pacing.  Having the dual points of view kept the pacing moving along very quickly.  it also allowed for mini cliffhangers as Meyer would switch PoV just at a crucial point.

The narration.  Once again, Rebecca Soler took on narration duties and I loved her interpretation.  She gave unique voices to the characters and enacted the directions “she said, snippily” excellently.  Here’s a sample.

What I didn’t like

Again there was nothing I disliked about Scarlet.  Meyer’s world and characters are just so beautifully written.

I gave Scarlet five stars out of five.

From Netgalley and Amazon I picked up the first few chapters in the sequel, Cress, which is due out in early February 2014.  This continues the story of Cinder and Scarlet and throws the spotlight on Cress, a character we met briefly in Cinder.  Cress is loosely based on the fairytale of Rapunzel, and even in the first few chapters I loved the character.  I really look forward to seeing more of the interaction between “Big Sister” and “Little Cress.”  It’s already clear from the excerpt how Meyer is weaving the fairytale into this story and the wider narrative.

I really look forward to reading Cress, and it’s on my pre-order lists at both Audible and Amazon.

 buy from Amazon, Kobo, iTunes, Audible, eBooks.com

five-stars

Cinder by Marissa Meyer – Review

Cinder by Marissa Meyer is a YA sci-fi novel and is the first in a series of four books based on classic fairytales.  This first one is based on Perrault’s Cinderella.  Many elements of the original are incorporated: the persecuted heroine, the wicked stepmother and stepsisters, Prince Charming, a ball at the palace, the protagonist’s desire to attend thwarted by her stepmother, the pumpkin turned coach, footwear left on the palace step.

Cinderella is an interesting choice for the basis of a YA novel.  Generally speaking, YA heroines tend to be strong, proactive heroines (we’ll try to forget Bella Swan for a moment).  This fairytale princess is the epitome of a passive character. In part, that is why the tale is so beloved. The idea that a fairy godmother could suddenly whisk you away from your humdrum existence to a life of luxury and privilege is very appealing to many people.  it’s the ultimate rags to riches story.  As a character though Cinderella is, well, boring.  She does very little to earn her happy ending other than to be generally nice.

Fortunately, that is one aspect that Meyer did change for her novel.  Her Cinder is strong, assertive and willing to go after what she wants.  Having said that, just as Cinderella’s innate goodness leads to her life being changed, Meyer’s Cinder’s cyborg nature has a significant influence on her life.  The one major aspect not carried over from the fairytale is the fairy godmother (or magic tree, depending on what version you’re looking at.)  Meyer’s Cinder doesn’t hang around waiting for someone to come along to wave a magic wand to change her life.   Certainly, she starts off the story in a comparatively powerless position, but she doesn’t sit around passively and wait for her fairy godmother to improve her life, she goes out and works for what she needs. She needs transport; she gets out and gets her hands dirty by fixing up a car.  In essence, Cinder is her own fairy godmother.

Like Cinder, Meyer’s Prince Charming has a lot more depth than the prince of the fairytale.  We can see just what a difficult position he is in.  I have the impression that things are only going to become more difficult for Kai as the series progresses.

What I liked

Sci-fi twists of the classic tropes of the tale.  I just loved how Meyer incorporated all the favourite aspects of the original but gave them a wonderful sci-fi twist.  I had such fun playing spot the original.

Wonderful characters. As I have mentioned above, the protagonists of Cinder are such wonderful rich characters and I loved reading about them.

The narration. Rebecca Soler performed the narration for Cinder – as she does for the other two released/soon to be released books in the series.  I absolutely adored her reading of the book.  She gave each of the characters unique voices which fit perfectly with my mental picture of them, and she brought out Cinder’s humour too.  Here’s a sample.

What I didn’t like

There was nothing I didn’t enjoy about Cinder – except that it wasn’t long enough!  I’d have happily read a book twice as thick.

As you might have guessed I gave Cinder five stars out of five.

 buy from Kindle, Kobo, iTunes, Audible

Cinder by Marissa Meyer – Review

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Cinder by Marissa Meyer – ReviewCinder by Marissa Meyer
Series: The Lunar Chronicles #1
Also in this series: Scarlet, Cress, Fairest - Levana's Story
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Rebecca Soler
Length: 10 hrs and 6 mins
Genres: Sci-Fi, Young Adult
Buy from AmazonKoboiTunesAudible
Evelynne's rating: five-stars

Cinder by Marissa Meyer is a YA sci-fi novel and is the first in a series of four books based on classic fairytales.  This first one is based on Perrault’s Cinderella.  Many elements of the original are incorporated: the persecuted heroine, the wicked stepmother and stepsisters, Prince Charming, a ball at the palace, the protagonist’s desire to attend thwarted by her stepmother, the pumpkin turned coach, footwear left on the palace step.

Cinderella is an interesting choice for the basis of a YA novel.  Generally speaking, YA heroines tend to be strong, proactive heroines (we’ll try to forget Bella Swan for a moment).  This fairytale princess is the epitome of a passive character. In part, that is why the tale is so beloved. The idea that a fairy godmother could suddenly whisk you away from your humdrum existence to a life of luxury and privilege is very appealing to many people.  it’s the ultimate rags to riches story.  As a character though Cinderella is, well, boring.  She does very little to earn her happy ending other than to be generally nice.

Fortunately, that is one aspect that Meyer did change for her novel.  Her Cinder is strong, assertive and willing to go after what she wants.  Having said that, just as Cinderella’s innate goodness leads to her life being changed, Meyer’s Cinder’s cyborg nature has a significant influence on her life.  The one major aspect not carried over from the fairytale is the fairy godmother (or magic tree, depending on what version you’re looking at.)  Meyer’s Cinder doesn’t hang around waiting for someone to come along to wave a magic wand to change her life.   Certainly, she starts off the story in a comparatively powerless position, but she doesn’t sit around passively and wait for her fairy godmother to improve her life, she goes out and works for what she needs. She needs transport; she gets out and gets her hands dirty by fixing up a car.  In essence, Cinder is her own fairy godmother.

Like Cinder, Meyer’s Prince Charming has a lot more depth than the prince of the fairytale.  We can see just what a difficult position he is in.  I have the impression that things are only going to become more difficult for Kai as the series progresses.

What I liked

Sci-fi twists of the classic tropes of the tale.  I just loved how Meyer incorporated all the favourite aspects of the original but gave them a wonderful sci-fi twist.  I had such fun playing spot the original.

Wonderful characters. As I have mentioned above, the protagonists of Cinder are such wonderful rich characters and I loved reading about them.

The narration. Rebecca Soler performed the narration for Cinder – as she does for the other two released/soon to be released books in the series.  I absolutely adored her reading of the book.  She gave each of the characters unique voices which fit perfectly with my mental picture of them, and she brought out Cinder’s humour too.  Here’s a sample.

What I didn’t like

There was nothing I didn’t enjoy about Cinder – except that it wasn’t long enough!  I’d have happily read a book twice as thick.

As you might have guessed I gave Cinder five stars out of five.

 buy from Kindle, Kobo, iTunes, Audible

five-stars

The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken

darkest minds
The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken

The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken is a young adult dystopian novel which tells the story of Ruby, a young survivor of the IAANS plague.  IAANS killed off most of the children between the ages of about eight and fourteen and those who survived, like Ruby, are left with supernatural powers.  This frightens the government who responds by placing them in “rehabilitation camps.”  The Darkest Minds is about Ruby’s escape from such a camp and her search for a way to live a normal life.

What I liked

Multi-layered characters.  The people we meet in The Darkest Minds are generally neither wholly good nor wholly evil.  There are a lot of shades of grey in the characters and it’s often difficult to tell whose side a person is on.  Even those characters who are not, shall we say, altruistically concerned about Ruby’s welfare have good and believable motives for their actions.  This adds a great deal of depth to the characters and a nice level of narrative tension.  Even the mute Suzume has a real personality.

Beautifully descriptive writing style.  I immediately fell in love with Bracken’s way of writing.  She has a wonderful way of describing things that made me laugh as well as making crystal clear what she meant.  A couple of examples I noted were “the kid is basically a grumpy seventy-year-old man trapped in a seventeen-year-old’s body.”  Wonderful!  It also describes Chubs to a T.  “We got Hansel and Greteled.” Tee hee!

Nice balance between narrative tension and romance.  Too often in YA, the romance overshadows the narrative plot, which for me is off-putting.  The romance between Ruby and Liam was beautifully developed – enough to really make me feel sad at the ending – yet didn’t overshadow the plot.  After all, these kids are basically running for their lives – I’m sure romance isn’t at the forefront of their minds.

The worldbuilding.  I really enjoyed the world of The Darkest Minds.  The premise of the IAANS disease and the supposed threat of the superpowered kids was well thought out and executed.  Again, it was portrayed that there was neither a wholly good or wholly wrong side in this struggle.  

Brisk pacing.  Tied into the above, other than a brief slump about a third of the way through, the book kept me listening in to see what happened next.  The fact that the characters had shades of grey kept that tension high, not knowing what their real motives were.

The narration.  Amy McFadden narrated this book and did a great job.  She really brought Ruby, Liam and the others alive for me.  Here’s a sample

What I didn’t like

Other than a brief point where I lost interest about a third of the way through, I loved The Darkest Minds.  It is a gripping story with wonderful characters.

It will come as no surprise to learn, then, that I gave The Darkest Minds five stars out of five.

 buy from Amazon, Kobo, iTunes, Audible

The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken

darkest minds
The Darkest Minds by Alexandra BrackenThe Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken
Series: The Darkest Minds #1
Also in this series: The Darkest Minds: Never Fade
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Amy McFadden
Length: 14 hrs and 57 mins
Genres: Dystopian, Young Adult
Buy from AmazonKoboiTunesAudible
Evelynne's rating: five-stars

The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken is a young adult dystopian novel which tells the story of Ruby, a young survivor of the IAANS plague.  IAANS killed off most of the children between the ages of about eight and fourteen and those who survived, like Ruby, are left with supernatural powers.  This frightens the government who responds by placing them in “rehabilitation camps.”  The Darkest Minds is about Ruby’s escape from such a camp and her search for a way to live a normal life.

What I liked

Multi-layered characters.  The people we meet in The Darkest Minds are generally neither wholly good nor wholly evil.  There are a lot of shades of grey in the characters and it’s often difficult to tell whose side a person is on.  Even those characters who are not, shall we say, altruistically concerned about Ruby’s welfare have good and believable motives for their actions.  This adds a great deal of depth to the characters and a nice level of narrative tension.  Even the mute Suzume has a real personality.

Beautifully descriptive writing style.  I immediately fell in love with Bracken’s way of writing.  She has a wonderful way of describing things that made me laugh as well as making crystal clear what she meant.  A couple of examples I noted were “the kid is basically a grumpy seventy-year-old man trapped in a seventeen-year-old’s body.”  Wonderful!  It also describes Chubs to a T.  “We got Hansel and Greteled.” Tee hee!

Nice balance between narrative tension and romance.  Too often in YA, the romance overshadows the narrative plot, which for me is off-putting.  The romance between Ruby and Liam was beautifully developed – enough to really make me feel sad at the ending – yet didn’t overshadow the plot.  After all, these kids are basically running for their lives – I’m sure romance isn’t at the forefront of their minds.

The worldbuilding.  I really enjoyed the world of The Darkest Minds.  The premise of the IAANS disease and the supposed threat of the superpowered kids was well thought out and executed.  Again, it was portrayed that there was neither a wholly good or wholly wrong side in this struggle.  

Brisk pacing.  Tied into the above, other than a brief slump about a third of the way through, the book kept me listening in to see what happened next.  The fact that the characters had shades of grey kept that tension high, not knowing what their real motives were.

The narration.  Amy McFadden narrated this book and did a great job.  She really brought Ruby, Liam and the others alive for me.  Here’s a sample

What I didn’t like

Other than a brief point where I lost interest about a third of the way through, I loved The Darkest Minds.  It is a gripping story with wonderful characters.

It will come as no surprise to learn, then, that I gave The Darkest Minds five stars out of five.

 buy from Amazon, Kobo, iTunes, Audible

five-stars

City of Glass by Cassandra Clare – Review

City of Glass by Cassandra Clare is the third in the Mortal Instruments series and ties up the first three books in the series.  In it Valentine’s end game is revealed as is the truth about Jace’s lineage.

What I liked

Visiting Alicante, the so-called City of Glass.  I was fascinated to see Alicante, the capital of the Shadowhunters.  I personally would have liked to have seen more of how its inhabitants manage without electricity.

Logical plot progression.  All of the plot development within the book was entirely logical within the framework of the story.  There were some surprises, certainly, but nothing to disrupt the internal logic of the story.  The foreshadowing was well done and very subtle.

The relationships.  I was invested in all the key relationships: Jace/Clary, Luke/Jocelyn, Magnus/Alex.  They were all beautifully written and I was happy that they worked out the way they did.

What I didn’t like

Pacing.  For once I felt the pacing was slightly off.  For a book that was supposed to tie up a lot of loose ends, there were a lot of slow moments, especially towards the beginning.  

Scenery chewing villains.  Personally, I prefer my villains to be a little more ambiguous.  Both Valentine and especially Jonathan Morgenstern were squarely in the sociopathic camp.  I had the strong impression both of them liked killing for the sake of killing. I suspect Clare was trying to give Valentine more depth with his belief that his way was the right way, even if it was flawed, but it didn’t quite come off for me.  It would have been a stronger book for me if Valentine had been truly conflicted by the Clave’s inability to see his point of view and the ensuing need to purge the Shadowhunters.

All in all though, I still love the Shadowhunter world, and thought City of Glass was a good tie up for the first three books in the series.  I gave City of Glass four stars out of five.

 buy from Amazon, Kobo, iTunes, Audible

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