Audiobook Review: Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson

Audio Review

Walk on Earth a StrangerTitle: Walk on Earth a Stranger

Author: Rae Carson

Narrator: Erin Mallon

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Release Date: September 22nd, 2015

Interest: Author / Fantasy / Historical Fiction

Source: Audible purchased via Scribd

Summary (From Goodreads):

Gold is in my blood, in my breath, even in the flecks in my eyes.

Lee Westfall has a strong, loving family. She has a home she loves and a loyal steed. She has a best friend—who might want to be something more.

She also has a secret.

Lee can sense gold in the world around her. Veins deep in the earth. Small nuggets in a stream. Even gold dust caught underneath a fingernail. She has kept her family safe and able to buy provisions, even through the harshest winters. But what would someone do to control a girl with that kind of power? A person might murder for it.

When everything Lee holds dear is ripped away, she flees west to California—where gold has just been discovered. Perhaps this will be the one place a magical girl can be herself. If she survives the journey.

The acclaimed Rae Carson begins a sweeping new trilogy set in Gold Rush-era America, about a young woman with a powerful and dangerous gift.

Audio Review: I couldn’t buy a physical copy of Walk on Earth a Stranger yet, but I really wanted to read it so I decided to download the audio via Scribd. I’m so thankful that I did because the audio is great and so is the story. Erin Mallon has a voice suitable for a sharp shooting girl who’s fleeing to the west. It’s just the slightest bit gritty and easy to listen to. Also, the audio is almost 11 hours long and I finished it within a few days because I kept finding excuses to keep listening. There were a few times I walked into work a little late so I could keep listening in the parking lot. And I did the same thing in my garage. I was thoroughly entertained.

Book Review: I’m a big Rae Carson fan so I had high expectations for Walk on Earth a Stranger and I’m sure her other fans feel the same. Looking for epic world building? You’ll feel like you’re trekking into the wild west with Leah. Want to feel a crazy bond with the characters? I haven’t felt so close to a group of a characters in a very long time. I was hoping for more fantasy elements, but this is a stunning piece of historical fiction.

Did any of you play the Oregon Trail game in elementary school? I remember playing in my 4th or 5th grade social studies class and loving it. I clearly remember the wagon I built with my dad for our class project. Reading Walk on Earth a Stranger was like playing the Oregon Trail game on steroids. There’s an especially vivid buffalo scene that made my hair stand on end. I’m sure the audio helped, but I really felt like I was alongside Leah throughout the story. Her magic sense added an extra layer of excitement, but I liked the historical elements even more. For some reason I’m not always quick to pick up a historical fiction novel, but if they were all this entertaining I’d read more from the genre.

Let me tell you, I experienced so many emotions as I read this book. Some of the men in this book made my skin crawl. During the Gold Rush era women still weren’t respected and treated fairly. I love that Leah fights that and so do some of the other women she meets. It was also difficult listening to characters depict Native Americans in such a backwards and bigoted manner, but that’s sadly true to the time period. There were also a few moments that had me tearing up and had my heart swelling. There’s a good reason why Walk on Earth a Stranger is on the long list for the Young People’s Literature category for the National Book Award!

I wish I didn’t have to wait a year to read the second book in the series. I’m expecting more magic as the series progresses, so I know it will continue to be a fun series to read. Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson is a must read!

Waiting on Wednesday–Inherit the Stars by Tessa Elwood


Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine.  It’s designed for bloggers to spotlight the upcoming releases that they simply can’t wait to read.

During the ALAN workshop this November I’m moderating the fantasy author panel, which means I’m reading a few fantasy novels this fall. I didn’t know about Tessa Elwood’s debut Inherit the Stars until I saw her name as part of the panel. I enjoy reading fantasy even though I don’t read it as regularly as I should, so I’m excited to read Elwood’s promising debut.

Inherit the StarsTitle & Author: Inherit the Stars by Tessa Elwood

Release Date: December 8th, 2015

Publisher: Running Press Kids

Summary (From Goodreads):

Three royal houses ruling three interplanetary systems are on the brink of collapse, and they must either ally together or tear each other apart in order for their people to survive.

Asa is the youngest daughter of the house of Fane, which has been fighting a devastating food and energy crisis for far too long. She thinks she can save her family’s livelihood by posing as her oldest sister in an arranged marriage with Eagle, the heir to the throne of the house of Westlet. The appearance of her mother, a traitor who defected to the house of Galton, adds fuel to the fire, while Asa also tries to save her sister Wren’s life . . . possibly from the hands of their own father.

But as Asa and Eagle forge a genuine bond, will secrets from the past and the urgent needs of their people in the present keep them divided?

Author Tessa Elwood’s debut series is an epic romance at heart, set against a mine field of political machinations, space adventure, and deep-seeded family loyalties.

Book Trailer Thursday (170)–The Witch Hunter by Victoria Boecker

Book Trailer Thursday

The Witch Hunter by Victoria Boecker slipped past my radar until I went searching for a book trailer to post today. I’m glad I found it, however, because it has a really intriguing summary and trailer. I especially love the music playing at the end of the trailer. Since it’s being compared to Game of Thrones, maybe I’ll read Boecker’s debut when GoT ends this month and I need something to help me hang on to the show for just a little while longer.

The Witch HunterSummary (From Goodreads):

The magic and suspense of Graceling meet the political intrigue and unrest of Game of Thrones in this riveting fantasy debut.

Your greatest enemy isn’t what you fight, but what you fear.

Elizabeth Grey is one of the king’s best witch hunters, devoted to rooting out witchcraft and doling out justice. But when she’s accused of being a witch herself, Elizabeth is arrested and sentenced to burn at the stake.

Salvation comes from a man she thought was her enemy. Nicholas Perevil, the most powerful and dangerous wizard in the kingdom, offers her a deal: he will save her from execution if she can break the deadly curse that’s been laid upon him.

But Nicholas and his followers know nothing of Elizabeth’s witch hunting past–if they find out, the stake will be the least of her worries. And as she’s thrust into the magical world of witches, ghosts, pirates, and one all-too-handsome healer, Elizabeth is forced to redefine her ideas of right and wrong, of friends and enemies, and of love and hate.

Virginia Boecker weaves a riveting tale of magic, betrayal, and sacrifice in this unforgettable fantasy debut.

Book Trailer Thursday (163)–An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

Book Trailer Thursday

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir doesn’t release until April 28th, but I received an ARC months ago and the book trailer was released a couple weeks ago. It’s high fantasy and sounds really exciting, which must be why Penguin is spending so much time and effort publicizing it. Hopefully this book trailer will excite some of my students.

An Ember in the AshesSummary (From Goodreads):



LAIA is a Scholar living under the iron-fisted rule of the Martial Empire. When her brother is arrested for treason, Laia goes undercover as a slave at the empire’s greatest military academy in exchange for assistance from rebel Scholars who claim that they will help to save her brother from execution.
ELIAS is the academy’s finest soldier— and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias is considering deserting the military, but before he can, he’s ordered to participate in a ruthless contest to choose the next Martial emperor.
When Laia and Elias’s paths cross at the academy, they find that their destinies are more intertwined than either could have imagined and that their choices will change the future of the empire itself.

Book Trailer Thursday (162)–Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

Book Trailer Thursday

I’m making it a goal to read more fantasy this year. I’ve noticed that I keep recommending the same few fantasy titles to my students which means it’s time for me to expand my fantasy novel knowledge. Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard looks like a cool place to start!

Summary (From Goodreads):

Red QueenThe poverty stricken Reds are commoners, living under the rule of the Silvers, elite warriors with god-like powers.

To Mare Barrow, a 17-year-old Red girl from The Stilts, it looks like nothing will ever change.

Mare finds herself working in the Silver Palace, at the centre of
those she hates the most. She quickly discovers that, despite her red blood, she possesses a deadly power of her own. One that threatens to destroy Silver control.

But power is a dangerous game. And in this world divided by blood, who will win?

Book Trailer Thursday (159)–The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black

Book Trailer Thursday

The Darkest Part of the ForestHolly Black’s newest release, The Darkest Part of the Forest, released from Little, Brown Books for Young Readers on January 13th, 2015. Hopefully this book trailer makes some Holly Black fans happy!

Summary (From Goodreads):

Children can have a cruel, absolute sense of justice. Children can kill a monster and feel quite proud of themselves. A girl can look at her brother and believe they’re destined to be a knight and a bard who battle evil. She can believe she’s found the thing she’s been made for.

Hazel lives with her brother, Ben, in the strange town of Fairfold where humans and fae exist side by side. The faeries’ seemingly harmless magic attracts tourists, but Hazel knows how dangerous they can be, and she knows how to stop them. Or she did, once.

At the center of it all, there is a glass coffin in the woods. It rests right on the ground and in it sleeps a boy with horns on his head and ears as pointed as knives. Hazel and Ben were both in love with him as children. The boy has slept there for generations, never waking.

Until one day, he does…

As the world turns upside down, Hazel tries to remember her years pretending to be a knight. But swept up in new love, shifting loyalties, and the fresh sting of betrayal, will it be enough?

Book Trailer Thursday (153)–Stray by Elissa Sussman

Book Trailer Thursday

I’ll admit that fairy tales aren’t always my thing, but Stray by Elissa Sussman has me intrigued. I do love fantasy, however, and this sounds more like a dark fantasy than a fairy tale (at least the type of fairy tale I’m used to). Stray released on October 7th and I may or may not be thinking about getting myself a copy to read sooner rather than later. It has one of those summaries that makes me want to put down the book I’m currently reading and jump right into this one instead.

StraySummary (From Goodreads):

“I am grateful for my father, who keeps me good and sweet. I am grateful for my mother, who keeps her own heart guarded and safe. I am grateful for my adviser, who keeps me protected. I am grateful for the Path, which keeps me pure. Ever after.”

Princess Aislynn has long dreamed about attending her Introduction Ball, about dancing with the handsome suitors her adviser has chosen for her, about meeting her true love and starting her happily ever after.

When the night of the ball finally arrives and Nerine Academy is awash with roses and royalty, Aislynn wants nothing more than to dance the night away, dutifully following the Path that has been laid out for her. She does not intend to stray.

But try as she might, Aislynn has never quite managed to control the magic that burns within her-magic brought on by wicked, terrible desires that threaten the Path she has vowed to take.

After all, it is wrong to want what you do not need. Isn’t it?

STRAY is the first in a collection of intertwined stories, all set in a world where magic is a curse that only women bear and society is dictated by a strict doctrine called The Path. A cross between The Handmaid’s Tale and Wicked, with a dash of Grimm and Disney thrown in, this original fairy tale will be released October 7th, 2014 from Greenwillow Books/HarperCollins.

Is YA Fantasy Really YA?

Within the past couple years I’ve made it a point to read more YA fantasy since I have so many avid fantasy readers in my classroom. For the past week or so I’ve been listening to the audio of Laini Taylor’s Days of Blood & Starlight (the sequel to Daughter of Smoke & Bone) since the third book in the series, Dreams of Gods & Monsters, released this week. As I’ve been listening to this book I’ve found myself questioning whether it’s truly YA.

I adore Laini Taylor’s series and her writing. My students adore it as well. What exactly about this series qualifies it as YA though? Karou’s a teenager, but is she going through any sort of specific teenage struggle? Karou’s major conflict, especially as the series progresses, is about past lives and how she fits those past lives currently. (I don’t want to spoil the series for anyone.) So is it the questioning of identity that qualifies Karou’s story as YA? The Daughter of Smoke & Bone series could easily appeal to an adult audience, especially when I consider Taylor’s lush writing style and how layered the story is. Some adults unfortunately dismiss YA because of the angst and many other reasons, but I wonder if a non-YA reading adult would realize that this series has been published as YA after having read it.

I’ve started thinking about this about many of the YA fantasies I’ve read. Besides the age of the character, what makes those books YA novels exactly? Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers and The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson are two other books that have made me question this. I don’t have a problem with these books; I think they’re fantastic. I love that my students love them. But some of the elements to these stories, like characters marrying adult men and taking on adult roles like protecting and ruling a kingdom, causes me to pause and think about this. Could these stories be marketed and published in the adult market and be as successful? Would teens still find them and love them? Would more violence and sex, like in The Game of Thrones series, push these novels into the adult market? I understand that many fantasies are set in feudalistic worlds where teen girls are getting married and teens are ruling realms/lands, but it still seems like some other young adult aspect is missing.

This series of questions crossed my mind briefly while reading Cinda Williams Chima’s The Seven Realms series, but I didn’t find myself reading  Han’s or Raisa’s characters as if they’re adults. Their voices still rang true as teenagers to me while I read their stories. While those characters are also worrying about kingdoms and arranged marriages and so on, many of their thoughts, discussions, and actions still fit those of a teenager’s.

I’d really love to get some opinions on this. Has anyone else found themselves thinking like this? I think this discussion could cross over into the dystopian genre as well. I hope we can get a discussion going through the comments!

Book Trailer Thursday (121)–Scorched by Mari Mancusi

Scorched by Mari Mancusi is releasing from Sourcebooks Fire on September 3rd, 2013.  I’m not always sure about dragon books, but this one looks interesting.  I’m looking forward to sharing this book trailer with my students when school starts again so I can gauge their reactions to it.  I wonder how many will request a copy to read.

ScorchedSummary (From Goodreads):

Don’t leave me here… It starts with a whisper. At first Trinity thinks she’s going crazy. It wouldn’t be a big surprise–her grandpa firmly believes there’s a genuine dragon egg in their dusty little West Texas town. But this voice is real, and it’s begging for her protection. Even if no one else can hear it…

He’s come from a future scorched by dragonfire. His mission: Find the girl. Destroy the egg. Save the world.

He’s everything his twin brother Connor hates: cocky, undisciplined, and obsessed with saving dragons.

Trinity has no idea which brother to believe. All she has to go by is the voice in her head–a dragon that won’t be tamed.

Book Trailer Thursday (116)–Giants Beware! by Jorge Aguirre

I love graphic novels, and when I saw my friend Beth @ A Foodie Bibliophile in Wanderlust pin this book trailer on Pinterest, I knew I had to read it.  This trailer is so much fun, so I can only imagine how much fun the actual book is.

Giants Beware! is written by Jorge Aguirre and illustrated by Rafael Rosado.  It released on April 10th, 2012.

Giants Beware!Summary (From Goodreads):

Make way for Claudette the giant slayer in this delightful, fantastical adventure!

Claudette’s fondest wish is to slay a giant. But her village is so safe and quiet! What’s a future giant slayer to do?

With her best friend Marie (an aspiring princess), and her brother Gaston (a pastry-chef-to-be), Claudette embarks on a super-secret quest to find a giant—without parental permission. Can they find and defeat the giant before their parents find them and drag them back home?

Giants Beware! offers up a wondrous, self-contained world in the tradition of the very best of Pixar. Claudette and her friends will have you laughing out loud from page one.

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