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–A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis


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.

I was looking at my last WoW post and in it noted that I try not to be swayed by pretty covers. It made me chuckle reading that because the cover for A Madness So Discreet grabbed my attention right away. It’s so pretty and haunting! The tone of the cover is perfect for an October release. I love reading mysteries in the fall around Halloween, so this will be perfect.

Title & Author: A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis

Release Date: October 6th, 2015

Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books

A Madness So DiscreetSummary (From Goodreads):

Grace Mae knows madness.

She keeps it locked away, along with her voice, trapped deep inside a brilliant mind that cannot forget horrific family secrets. Those secrets, along with the bulge in her belly, land her in a Boston insane asylum.

When her voice returns in a burst of violence, Grace is banished to the dark cellars, where her mind is discovered by a visiting doctor who dabbles in the new study of criminal psychology. With her keen eyes and sharp memory, Grace will make the perfect assistant at crime scenes. Escaping from Boston to the safety of an ethical Ohio asylum, Grace finds friendship and hope, hints of a life she should have had. But gruesome nights bring Grace and the doctor into the circle of a killer who stalks young women. Grace, continuing to operate under the cloak of madness, must hunt a murderer while she confronts the demons in her own past.

In this beautifully twisted historical thriller, Mindy McGinnis, acclaimed author of Not a Drop to Drink and In a Handful of Dust, explores the fine line between sanity and insanity, good and evil—and the madness that exists in all of us.

Book Trailer Thursday (139)–The Apothecary by Maile Meloy

Book Trailer Thursday

First, thanks to all of you who commented last week with suggestions for Book Trailer Thursday! One of the suggestions was to feature more middle grade book trailers. Thankfully I was able to find one today!

A couple months ago I went to a local overstock store and found a copy of The Apothecary by Maile Meloy. I haven’t read it yet, but it sounds like a fun book that middle grade students would really enjoy. The trailer has elements of mystery and whimsy that I really like, too. What do you think?

The ApothecarySummary (From Goodreads):

It’s 1952 and the Scott family has just moved from Los Angeles to London. Here, fourteen-year-old Janie meets a mysterious apothecary and his son, Benjamin Burrows—a fascinating boy who’s not afraid to stand up to authority and dreams of becoming a spy. When Benjamin’s father is kidnapped, Janie and Benjamin must uncover the secrets of the apothecary’s sacred book, the Pharmacopoeia, in order to find him, all while keeping it out of the hands of their enemies—Russian spies in possession of nuclear weapons. Discovering and testing potions they never believed could exist, Janie and Benjamin embark on a dangerous race to save the apothecary and prevent impending disaster.

Book Trailer Thursday (134)–Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger

Book Trailer Thursday

I’m leaving for NCTE in Boston today! I was hoping to get a few more blog posts written & scheduled before leaving, but it simply didn’t happen. Oh well. I’ll get caught up when I get home. I’ll make sure to post about NCTE/ALAN as well. Today I have the book trailer for Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger and a music video made for it and its sequel Curtsies & Conspiracies. Enjoy!

Summary (From Goodreads):

It’s one thing to learn to curtsy properly. It’s quite another to learn to curtsy and throw a knife at the same time. Welcome to Finishing School.

Fourteen-year-old Sophronia is a great trial to her poor mother. Sophronia is more interested in dismantling clocks and climbing trees than proper manners—and the family can only hope that company never sees her atrocious curtsy. Mrs. Temminick is desperate for her daughter to become a proper lady. So she enrolls Sophronia in Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality.

But Sophronia soon realizes the school is not quite what her mother might have hoped. At Mademoiselle Geraldine’s, young ladies learn to finish…everything. Certainly, they learn the fine arts of dance, dress, and etiquette, but they also learn to deal out death, diversion, and espionage—in the politest possible ways, of course. Sophronia and her friends are in for a rousing first year’s education.

Set in the same world as the Parasol Protectorate, this YA series debut is filled with all the saucy adventure and droll humor Gail Carriger’s legions of fans have come to adore.

Audiobook Review: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Audio Review

The Book Thief audioTitle: The Book Thief

Author: Markus Zusak

Narrator: Allan Corduner

Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers/Listening Library

Release Date: March 14th, 2006/September 26th, 2006

Interest: Printz Honor / Movie

Source: Purchased book & audio (via Audible)

Summary (From Goodreads):

The extraordinary #1 New York Times bestseller that will be in movie theaters on November 15, 2013, Markus Zusak’s unforgettable story is about the ability of books to feed the soul.

It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will become busier still.

Liesel Meminger is a foster girl living outside of Munich, who scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement.

In superbly crafted writing that burns with intensity, award-winning author Markus Zusak, author of I Am the Messenger, has given us one of the most enduring stories of our time.

Audio Review: I chose to listen to The Book Thief because I couldn’t get into the book reading it traditionally. Thankfully, Allan Corduner is an excellent narrator and really made Markus Zusak’s book come alive. His voice is easy to listen to and his accent fits the story perfectly. His voices fit the different characters well, which added to my enjoyment of the audio. If you’re like me and are either hesitant to read The Book Thief traditionally, or you’ve tried reading it and couldn’t get into it, I suggest giving the audio a try.

Book Review: I enjoyed The Book Thief, but I didn’t love it to pieces like so many others. I appreciate the story, and I love that Death is the narrator, but something is missing for me. I guess I sort of felt like, “So what?” when I finished listening. Thinking that and writing that makes me feel like a horrible person. I understand that “books feed the soul” but I think I needed something more than that from the story.

Maybe I need to admit to myself that World War II/Holocaust stories don’t work for me anymore. I’m a history minor and understand the importance of the time period. I have a tough time finishing these novels because I know how all of them end–tragically. Yes, that’s a generalization, and yes, The Book Thief ends with a sense of hope. But from this story in particular, which I did finish, I needed something more.

I will say, however, that the writing it beautiful and the character development is wonderful. I can easily see why it received the Printz Honor. Hopefully the movie will affect me more than the book did.

Book Trailer Thursday (122)–The Book Thief by Markus Zusak Movie Trailer

Apparently I’m late to the party on this one because I haven’t read The Book Thief yet.  I started it a couple years ago, wasn’t in the mood for it, set it down, and never picked it back up. I saw the movie trailer courtesy of a few Facebook friends and thought, “Maybe I should give this another try.”  And then I felt nothing but shame when I saw the long list of five-star ratings on Goodreads.  Maybe I’ll listen to the audio during my drive to work once school starts.

The movie definitely looks good, but like I said, I wasn’t thrilled when I started reading this.  Considering the large pile of TBR books I have, what makes The Book Thief a must-read title?

According to IMDB, The Book Thief will be in theaters on November 15th, 2013.

The Book ThiefSummary (From Goodreads):

The extraordinary #1 New York Times bestseller that will be in movie theaters on November 15, 2013, Markus Zusak’s unforgettable story is about the ability of books to feed the soul.

It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will become busier still.

Liesel Meminger is a foster girl living outside of Munich, who scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement.

In superbly crafted writing that burns with intensity, award-winning author Markus Zusak, author of I Am the Messenger, has given us one of the most enduring stories of our time.

Top Ten Tuesday: Intimidating Books


Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and The Bookish

Today’s post features books that I’ve been intimidated to read even though many of my friends and reviewers have loved them.  I don’t know if all of these books have been loved by many, but many of them have received awards and starred reviews.

The Printz Books:

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein–I can only think of one person who wasn’t a huge fan of this book; everyone else I’ve spoken with has raved about it. I can’t explain why I’m scared to try reading it.  I’ve had it on my Kindle for over a year, and I have two copies of it in my classroom.

A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly–I listened to the audio for Revolution, and while the audio was great, I really didn’t like the story. I want to read as many Printz books as I can, especially considering it’s part of the summer homework assignment for my honors sophomores, but I’m scared to try another one of her books.

The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey–Horror isn’t really for me, unless it’s Anna Dressed in Blood because that book is flat out great.  I sampled the audio for this book, and it sounded pretty good, so I might try it that way.  Maybe even around Halloween!

Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta–Sigh. I’ve tried reading this and listening to the audio and neither worked for me.  But I REALLY want to love this because SO MANY of my friends have raved about it.  What should I do??

So Many Series Books:

Unearthly by Cynthia Hand–I’ve tried reading this a couple times and I can’t stick with it.  My mom has read the entire series and loved it.  My students have read these books and loved them.  My close friends have read this series and loved it.  Should I give it another shot?

Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore–I absolutely loved Graceling; I flew right through it. I tried reading Fire THREE times and couldn’t finish it.  I’m scared to try Bitterblue because I’ll be really sad if I don’t like it.  And it’s super long.

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman–I sat down and tried reading this a few months ago and I couldn’t pay attention.  It’s really dense, and I’m sure I’ll enjoy it, but I’m hesitant to try it again.  I really should buckle down and do it this summer.

Historical Books:

The Book of Blood and Shadow by Robin Wasserman–I own a copy of this, and I have it sitting on my shelf right now.  The summary sounds really intriguing.  Maybe it’s the size of the book, or maybe it’s the historical part of it, but I’m simply intimidated by it.

Bomb: The Race to Build–and Steal–the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin–I have a copy of this in my classroom library thanks to a Donors Choose project, and one of my seniors grabbed it right away to read.  He’s a huge historical non-fiction buff, and he absolutely loved it.  This book has FOUR medals on it, yet I’m hesitant to read it mostly because I don’t like non-fiction.  It’s hard to admit that, but I really don’t like non-fiction, although I do enjoy memoirs.

Hits too Close to Home:

My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult–I’ve read and enjoyed a few of Jodi Picoult’s books.  I tried reading My Sister’s Keeper when I was in college, but I couldn’t get past the first 100 pages.  My dad had leukemia (thankfully he’s been cancer-free for years) a couple years before I tried reading this.  I couldn’t do it.  I kept crying and crying and finally decided to eat the money I spent on the book and put it away.  It’s hugely popular in my classroom and my students want to talk about it with me whenever they finish.  I haven’t see the movie, but I know what happens in both the book and the movie, so I can at least discuss a little bit with them.  I always tell them why I haven’t read it, but I don’t want to not talk to them about it either.

My Sister's Keeper

Review: Star Cursed by Jessica Spotswood

Star Cursed finalTitle: Star Cursed

Author: Jessica Spotswood

Publisher: Putnam Juvenile

Release Date: June 18th, 2013

Interest: Series / Historical fiction / Paranormal

Source: NetGalley

Summary (From Goodreads):

With the Brotherhood persecuting witches like never before, a divided Sisterhood desperately needs Cate to come into her Prophesied powers. And after Cate’s friend Sachi is arrested for using magic, a war-thirsty Sister offers to help her find answers—if Cate is willing to endanger everyone she loves.

Cate doesn’t want to be a weapon, and she doesn’t want to involve her friends and Finn in the Sisterhood’s schemes. But when Maura and Tess join the Sisterhood, Maura makes it clear that she’ll do whatever it takes to lead the witches to victory. Even if it means sacrifices. Even if it means overthrowing Cate. Even if it means all-out war.

In the highly anticipated sequel to Born Wicked, the Cahill Witch Chronicles continue Cate, Maura and Tess’s quest to find love, protect family, and explore their magic against all odds in an alternate history of New England.

First, if you haven’t read Born Wicked (my review), then please stop reading this review and go get a copy of that to read :)

I devoured Born Wicked and have been looking forward to reading Star Cursed ever since!  Jessica Spotswood really knows how to write an engaging story full of suspense, romance, and magic.

Star Cursed picks up not long after the cliffhanger ending in book one.  Cate is with the Sisterhood and understandably unhappy about it.  She misses her sisters, her garden, and of course Finn.  While I sympathized with Cate, I enjoyed learning more about the Sisterhood and the history.  This also opened up the story to more characters and witches, adding some interesting layers.  Some of the characters left me skeptical, while others I really enjoyed and want to know more about.

I had a tough time reading sections with the Brotherhood because they are so harsh and brutal in Star Cursed.  At times I felt like I was reading a historical fiction-turned-dystopian novel.  The laws they created and the way they started treating women is horrible!  I couldn’t help but keep hoping that Finn wouldn’t turn to their side.  A ton happens in this part of the storyline, but I still have no idea what to expect in the third book, especially after reading the ending.  This part of the storyline really draws a line between Cate and Maura and their relationship.

We get to know Maura and Tess in Born Wicked, but I feel like I know each of them so much better after reading Star Cursed.  I absolutely adore Tess.  I have a lot of things to say that I won’t say about Maura.  The situations and conflicts that take place are really defining Cate, Maura, and Tess.  One of the sisters left me speechless at the end, so now I have another thing to look forward to in book three.

The mood is a little darker in Star Cursed than it is in Born Wicked, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  Finn is present just enough to satisfy my need for his character presence, but ultimately this sequel is all about learning more about Cate, her sisters, and the Sisterhood.  I tend to worry about books in the middle of a series/trilogy because sometimes they fall flat, but thankfully Star Cursed does not suffer from that.  It’s just as fun and suspenseful to read as Born Wicked.

Audiobook Review: A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

A Great and Terrible BeautyTitle: A Great and Terrible Beauty

Author: Libba Bray

Narrator: Josephine Bailey

Publisher: Simon & Schuster / Listening Library (audio)

Release Date: December 9th, 2003 (book) / January 16th, 2004 (audio)

Interest: Historical fiction / Supernatural / Author

Source: Audio borrowed from the library

Summary (From Goodreads):

It’s 1895, and after the suicide of her mother, 16-year-old Gemma Doyle is shipped off from the life she knows in India to Spence, a proper boarding school in England. Lonely, guilt-ridden, and prone to visions of the future that have an uncomfortable habit of coming true, Gemma’s reception there is a chilly one. To make things worse, she’s been followed by a mysterious young Indian man, a man sent to watch her. But why? What is her destiny? And what will her entanglement with Spence’s most powerful girls—and their foray into the spiritual world—lead to?

Audio Review: At first the audio sounded a little robotic and canny, but after a short while I didn’t notice that anymore.  I ended up enjoying Josephine Bailey as the narrator, but I did think she sounded a little old to be acting as the voice of a sixteen year old girl.  Listening to Libba Bray’s beautiful writing out loud was quite a treat, however.

Book Review: A while back I posted about reading gaps and trying to read more historical fiction, which is one reason why I chose to read A Great and Terrible Beauty.  I like that this is historical fiction with a supernatural twist because it opens up the audience a little bit when I make book recommendations to my students.  I also decided to read this because I’ve only read The Diviners by Libba Bray and one of my good friends was reading and really enjoying it.

For the most part I liked A Great and Terrible Beauty.  I like Gemma’s character, I like the setting, and I like the plot.  But my feelings don’t stretch much beyond like.

This is the beginning of the Gemma Doyle trilogy, so I understand the amount of plot development taking place, but the story didn’t move fast enough.  There wasn’t enough happening to really keep me interested in the story.  The spiritual world is interesting, but too much time was spent building it up instead of getting into the dangers and the “what’s really going on” part of the story.

Like I said, I like Gemma’s character.  The other girls, however, aren’t developed enough.  The girls fall into the overdone roles of dull and boring, power hungry, beautiful and misunderstood, etc.  I wanted more from these girls.  Considering that A Great and Terrible Beauty is written in third person, I thought I would have known them more.  Unfortunately that wasn’t the case.

I noticed these two issues when I read The Diviners.  I really like the story and the setting for that book, but again, I finished without knowing the characters well enough and the story was all over the place.  I’m afraid to give up on Libba Bray, but I’m starting to think maybe she isn’t an author for me.  Her writing is beautiful and vivid, and I know plenty of people who love her stories, but maybe I’m simply not her intended audience.

Student Book Review: The Berlin Boxing Club by Robert Sharenow

The Berlin Boxing ClubTitle: The Berlin Boxing Club

Author: Robert Sharenow

Publisher: HarperTeen

Student Reviewer: Ayla

Summary (From Goodreads):

Karl Stern has never thought of himself as a Jew; after all, he’s never even been in a synagogue. But the bullies at his school in Nazi-era Berlin don’t care that Karl’s family doesn’t practice religion. Demoralized by their attacks against a heritage he doesn’t accept as his own, Karl longs to prove his worth.

Then Max Schmeling, champion boxer and German hero, makes a deal with Karl’s father to give Karl boxing lessons. A skilled cartoonist, Karl never had an interest in boxing, but now it seems like the perfect chance to reinvent himself.

But when Nazi violence against Jews escalates, Karl must take on a new role: family protector. And as Max’s fame forces him to associate with Nazi elites, Karl begins to wonder where his hero’s sympathies truly lie. Can Karl balance his boxing dreams with his obligation to keep his family out of harm’s way?

Student Review:

In The Berlin Boxing Club, Karl, a young Jewish boy, becomes a boxer to defend himself from the “Hitler Youth” and figures out he wants to become even more than that. As he is trying to strive for perfection in techniques, he finds himself striving to protect his entire family from the SS and getting them out of Nazi Germany.

The Berlin Boxing Club was a perfect story to show how Jewish people were treated and how they personally felt during World War II. The novel was very sad and had an effect on me because Robert Sharenow made the feelings of the characters very lifelike and I felt the emotions of the characters. THE BERLIN BOXING CLUB would be perfect for almost anyone. Especially those who are learning about the Holocaust or learning about the push against Jews in Germany.

The characters in this book were perfectly put together. The most realistic character to me would be Karl’s mother. She goes into a depressed mood any time something bad happens in her life. The book starts right when the Jews are starting to be excluded from mostly everything and she will just lock herself in the bathroom and sit in the bath for hours. I think she would be a real character because she knew there was nothing she could do. The government and the police would have it however they wanted it and the rules were just not in her favor.

Also, I liked the character of Karl’s little sister. She was getting the worst out of all of the characters because she apparently looked like a Jew so there was no way she could actually hide the fact that she was one. She gets tortured in the book and it was realistic because she was tired of being the kind of human she was and she took it out on those who didn’t look like she did and they looked normal. Karl didn’t look Jewish so he got away with it longer than the rest of his family. I could almost relate to her because sometimes I wish I didn’t look they way I do, but don’t we all think that sometimes?

I loved all f the fighting scenes in the book. Karl becomes a great fighter and Robert Sharenow wrote The Berlin Boxing Club so all of the boxing scenes play like a movie in your head. All of the scenes were as if they came out of a Rocky movie. Every detail was thought of and every moment was captured.

This book was shocking and inspiring by the way it was written and the show of determination in the eyes of a young boy going through the worst part of his life.

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