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.

Review: Dead Silence by Kimberly Derting

Dead SilenceTitle: Dead Silence

Author: Kimberly Derting

Publisher: HarperCollins

Release Date: April 16th, 2013

Interest: Series

Source: ARC received from the publisher

Summary (From Goodreads): Violet thought she’d made peace with her unique ability to sense the echoes of the dead and the imprints that cling to their killers…that is until she acquired an imprint of her own. Forced to carry a reminder of the horrible events of her kidnapping, Violet is more determined than ever to lead a normal life. However, the people who run the special investigative team Violet works for have no intention of letting her go.

When someone close to Violet becomes a suspect in a horrific murder, she finds herself pulled into a deadly hunt for a madman with an army of devoted followers. Violet has survived dangerous situations before, but she quickly discovers that protecting those closest to her is far more difficult than protecting herself.

I think I’ve said this in all of my reviews of The Body Finder series, but I really love it.  They’re fun, suspenseful, and romantic.

I’m not sure if Dead Silence is concluding Kimberly Derting’s series because there isn’t a fifth book listed on Goodreads.  I liked the ending, but it didn’t feel like a series closer.  Maybe there will be a spin-off?  Regardless, I’ve really enjoyed reading about Violet and “watching” her grow as a character.  She really comes into her own in this book.  I feel like she really has a sense of who she is, what her ability/gift can do, and who her true friends are.

One of the reasons I like The Body Finder series so much is because Violet is so independent.  Sure, she leans on her boyfriend Jay quite a bit, but I never get the sense that she needs him.  Violet makes her own decisions and does what she thinks is right.  Many YA heroines look to their male counterpart/love interest for guidance and help, and that simply isn’t the case with Violet.

Kimberly Derting finally gives us more background information about Violet’s ability and the group she’s working with.  I’m not going to say much about this because I don’t want to spoil anything, but the new layer to the story is really interesting and answers so many questions.

Like the other books, we get to read from a killer’s point of view.  And like the other books, it adds an exciting sense of creepiness and suspense.  I didn’t have as many questions about who was behind everything in Dead Silence as I did in previous books, but I still enjoyed it.

If you haven’t picked up this series, I highly recommend that you do.  It’s very popular in my classroom and really enjoyable.

Review: Mind Games by Kiersten White

Mind GamesTitle: Mind Games

Author: Kiersten White

Publisher: HarperTeen

Release Date: February 19th, 2013

Interest: Author / New series

Source: ARC received from the publisher

Summary (From Goodreads): Fia was born with flawless instincts. Her first impulse, her gut feeling, is always exactly right. Her sister, Annie, is blind to the world around her—except when her mind is gripped by strange visions of the future.

Trapped in a school that uses girls with extraordinary powers as tools for corporate espionage, Annie and Fia are forced to choose over and over between using their abilities in twisted, unthinkable ways… or risking each other’s lives by refusing to obey.

In a stunning departure from her New York Times bestselling Paranormalcy trilogy, Kiersten White delivers a slick, edgy, heartstoppingly intense psychological thriller about two sisters determined to protect each other—no matter the cost.

I’m kind of debating between 2.5 and 3 for Kiersten White’s newest novel. I’m leaning towards 3 since it’s a quick read and kept me reading, but the only real reason I kept reading is because I never knew what was going on.

In all honesty, Mind Games has connections and an interesting plot, but it’s not executed cleanly enough. I appreciate the flashbacks between Annie and Fia and how they round out the story, but the actual present day pieces of the story drag and really don’t reveal much. I learned that Fia is angry and broken and feels responsible for her sister. Annie is oblivious and wants what’s best for her sister. And round and round it goes. There’s too much repetition of how the girls feel and not enough plot development moving the story forward.  It really frustrated me.

I like the two points of view, but the voices aren’t developed enough. I knew which character was which because of the chapter headings and when Fia was tap, tap, tapping. Otherwise I had no idea based on voice alone.

Positives.  I think my readers will probably enjoy this because of the fast pace and the mystery. For me, on the other hand, I can see what Kiersten White is trying to do, but she fell short. I hope I can still sell this to my students even though I’m disappointed, because I realize that this book will work for lots of readers.

Book Trailer Thursday (97)–Backlist Titles

I’ve been trying to keep up with current book trailers, but recently I’ve seen quite a few backlist trailers on Pinterest that I want to feature.  Enjoy!

The Adoration of Jenna FoxThe Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson Summary (From Goodreads): Who is Jenna Fox? Seventeen-year-old Jenna has been told that is her name. She has just awoken from a coma, they tell her, and she is still recovering from a terrible accident in which she was involved a year ago. But what happened before that? Jenna doesn’t remember her life. Or does she? And are the memories really hers?

This fascinating novel represents a stunning new direction for acclaimed author Mary Pearson. Set in a near future America, it takes readers on an unforgettable journey through questions of bio-medical ethics and the nature of humanity. Mary Pearson’s vividly drawn characters and masterful writing soar to a new level of sophistication.

This Dark EndeavorThis Dark Endeavor by Kenneth Oppel Summary (From Goodreads): Victor and Konrad are the twin brothers Frankenstein. They are nearly inseparable. Growing up, their lives are filled with imaginary adventures…until the day their adventures turn all too real. They stumble upon The Dark Library, and secret books of alchemy and ancient remedies are discovered. Father forbids that they ever enter the room again, but this only piques Victor’s curiosity more. When Konrad falls gravely ill, Victor is not be satisfied with the various doctors his parents have called in to help. He is drawn back to The Dark Library where he uncovers an ancient formula for the Elixir of Life. Elizabeth, Henry, and Victor immediately set out to find assistance in a man who was once known for his alchemical works to help create the formula.

Determination and the unthinkable outcome of losing his brother spur Victor on in the quest for the three ingredients that will save Konrads life. After scaling the highest trees in the Strumwald, diving into the deepest lake caves, and sacrificing one’s own body part, the three fearless friends risk their lives to save another.

Audiobook Review: Crash by Lisa McMann

CrashTitle: Crash

Author: Lisa McMann

Narrator: Allyson Ryan

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Release Date: January 8th, 2013

Interest: Author / New series

Source: ARC received from the publisher / Audio purchased via Audible

Summary (From Goodreads): If what you see is what you get, Jules is in serious trouble. The suspenseful first in a series from the New York Times bestselling author of the Wake trilogy.

Jules lives with her family above their restaurant, which means she smells like pizza most of the time and drives their double-meatball-shaped food truck to school. It’s not a recipe for popularity, but she can handle that.

What she can’t handle is the recurring vision that haunts her. Over and over, Jules sees a careening truck hit a building and explode…and nine body bags in the snow.

The vision is everywhere—on billboards, television screens, windows—and she’s the only one who sees it. And the more she sees it, the more she sees. The vision is giving her clues, and soon Jules knows what she has to do. Because now she can see the face in one of the body bags, and it’s someone she knows. Someone she has been in love with for as long as she can remember.

In this riveting start to a gripping series from New York Times bestselling author Lisa McMann, Jules has to act—and act fast—to keep her vision from becoming reality.

Audio Review:

I chose to read Crash with my ears because reading it traditionally wasn’t holding my attention.  I write this first because the audio swayed parts of my enjoyment of this book, but not all of it.  Overall Allyson Ryan did a good job narrating the story.  Her voice is believable as a teen girl, and I was able to discern most of the other character’s voices.  Ryan did a great job expressing the emotions of the characters which really brought the story to life.  This is weird, but something I noticed about Allyson Ryan’s narration that bothered me.  Every now and then she awkwardly pause while speaking and it reminded me of William Shatner’s quirky speaking.  Do you know what I’m referring to when I mention his speaking?  That. Awkward. Pausing.  It didn’t happen often, and usually I’d giggle when it did, but it was slightly distracting.

Book Review:

Lisa McMann is one of my favorite authors.  She writes engaging stories that hook my students and leave them wanting more.  So when I found out about Crash and its premise I was really excited.  I loved the idea of the visions because I knew it would make the story exciting with that added supernatural twist while still feeling realistic.  When I started reading it traditionally, I couldn’t stay with the story.  I wasn’t engaged.  Thankfully the audio kept me engaged, but I still found some key faults with the story.

First, I have to say that my absolute favorite part of Crash is Jules’s relationship with her siblings.  Trey and Rowan are wonderful supporting characters; they’re full of life and really add something extra to the scenes.  I think I even liked them more than Jules!

The problem I have with the story is that it’s more of a spin on Romeo & Juliet than a story about visions of a crash.  I like that Jules has a love interest and the reasons why she can’t be with him.  I simply wish for more balance in the story.  Jules starts seeing the crash visions at the very beginning of the story, and they’re dragged out until almost the very end.  That’s not completely unexpected, especially since Crash is a short book, but most of the focus is on Jules worrying about and pining over Sawyer.  When I was hoping for an exciting story about visions, that left me disappointed.

The sequel to Crash, Bang, releases this October, and I’m sure I’ll read it.  Crash ended with a twist, so I’m curious to know how that will play out.  I’d also like to read Bang because so much wasn’t explained in Crash.  I have mixed feelings about the unexplained elements because if less time was spent on the Jules/ Sawyer love aspect, we could have learned more about the visions themselves.

Most of my friends really enjoyed Lisa McMann’s newest YA novel, and I’m positive many of my students will love it as well.

Top Ten Tuesday: 2013 Debuts

toptentuesday-New

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and The Bookish

I can’t say that these ten 2013 debuts are the ones I want to read the most, but they are ten that stand out.  Quite simply, there are way too many debut author book releases every year to choose ten that I’m looking forward to the most.  Which debut titles are you excited about?

Wild Awake by Hilary T. Smith (Goodreads)–

Things you earnestly believe will happen while your parents are away:

1. You will remember to water the azaleas.
2. You will take detailed, accurate messages.
3. You will call your older brother, Denny, if even the slightest thing goes wrong.
4. You and your best friend/bandmate Lukas will win Battle of the Bands.
5. Amid the thrill of victory, Lukas will finally realize you are the girl of his dreams.

Things that actually happen:

1. A stranger calls who says he knew your sister.
2. He says he has her stuff.
3. What stuff? Her stuff.
4. You tell him your parents won’t be able to—
5. Sukey died five years ago; can’t he—
6. You pick up a pen.
7. You scribble down the address.
8. You get on your bike and go.
9. Things . . . get a little crazy after that.*
*also, you fall in love, but not with Lukas.

Both exhilarating and wrenching, Hilary T. Smith’s debut novel captures the messy glory of being alive, as seventeen-year-old Kiri Byrd discovers love, loss, chaos, and murder woven into a summer of music, madness, piercing heartbreak, and intoxicating joy.

Wild Awake

Transparent by Natalie Whipple (Goodreads)–

Plenty of teenagers feel invisible. Fiona McClean actually is.

An invisible girl is a priceless weapon. Fiona’s own father has been forcing her to do his dirty work for years—everything from spying on people to stealing cars to breaking into bank vaults.

After sixteen years, Fiona’s had enough. She and her mother flee to a small town, and for the first time in her life, Fiona feels like a normal life is within reach. But Fiona’s father isn’t giving up that easily.

Of course, he should know better than anyone: never underestimate an invisible girl.

Transparent

Fault Line by Christa Desir (Goodreads)–Ben could date anyone he wants, but he only has eyes for the new girl — sarcastic free-spirit, Ani. Luckily for Ben, Ani wants him too. She’s everything Ben could ever imagine. Everything he could ever want.

But that all changes after the party. The one Ben misses. The one Ani goes to alone.

Now Ani isn’t the girl she used to be, and Ben can’t sort out the truth from the lies. What really happened, and who is to blame?

Ben wants to help her, but she refuses to be helped. The more she pushes Ben away, the more he wonders if there’s anything he can do to save the girl he loves.

Fault Line

Let the Sky Fall by Shannon Messenger (Goodreads)–A broken past and a divided future can’t stop the electric connection of two teens in this “charged and romantic” (Becca Fitzpatrick), lush novel.

Seventeen-year-old Vane Weston has no idea how he survived the category five tornado that killed his parents. And he has no idea if the beautiful, dark-haired girl who’s swept through his dreams every night since the storm is real. But he hopes she is.

Seventeen-year-old Audra is a sylph, an air elemental. She walks on the wind, can translate its alluring songs, and can even coax it into a weapon with a simple string of commands. She’s also a guardian—Vane’s guardian—and has sworn an oath to protect Vane at all costs. Even if it means sacrificing her own life.

When a hasty mistake reveals their location to the enemy who murdered both of their families, Audra’s forced to help Vane remember who he is. He has a power to claim—the secret language of the West Wind, which only he can understand. But unlocking his heritage will also unlock the memory Audra needs him to forget. And their greatest danger is not the warriors coming to destroy them—but the forbidden romance that’s grown between them.

Let the Sky Fall

The Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth LaBan (Goodreads)–Tim Macbeth is a 17-year-old albino and a recent transfer to the prestigious Irving School, where the motto is, “Enter here to be and find a friend.” Tim does not expect to find a friend; all he really wants to do is escape his senior year unnoticed. Despite his efforts to blend into the background, he finds himself falling for the quintessential “it” girl, Vanessa Sheller, girlfriend of Irving’s most popular boy. To Tim’s surprise, Vanessa is into him, too, and she can kiss her social status goodbye if anyone finds out. Tim and Vanessa enter into a clandestine relationship, but looming over them is the Tragedy Paper, Irving’s version of a senior year thesis, assigned by the school’s least forgiving teacher.

The story unfolds from two alternating viewpoints: Tim, the tragic, love-struck figure, and Duncan, a current senior, who uncovers the truth behind Tim and Vanessa’s story and will consequently produce the greatest Tragedy Paper in Irving’s history.

The Tragedy Paper

Prophecy by Ellen Oh (Goodreads)–The greatest warrior in all of the Seven Kingdoms… is a girl with yellow eyes.

Kira’s the only female in the king’s army, and the prince’s bodyguard. She’s a demon slayer and an outcast, hated by nearly everyone in her home city of Hansong. And, she’s their only hope…

Murdered kings and discovered traitors point to a demon invasion, sending Kira on the run with the young prince. He may be the savior predicted in the Dragon King Prophecy, but the missing treasure of myth may be the true key. With only the guidance of the cryptic prophecy, Kira must battle demon soldiers, evil shaman, and the Demon Lord himself to find what was once lost and raise a prince into a king.

Intrigue and mystery, ancient lore and action-packed fantasy come together in this heart-stopping first book in a trilogy.

Prophecy

Linked by Imogen Howson (Goodreads)–Elissa used to have it all: looks, popularity, and a bright future. But for the last three years, she’s been struggling with terrifying visions, phantom pains, and mysterious bruises that appear out of nowhere.

Finally, she’s promised a cure: minor surgery to burn out the overactive area of her brain. But on the eve of the procedure, she discovers the shocking truth behind her hallucinations: she’s been seeing the world through another girl’s eyes.

Elissa follows her visions, and finds a battered, broken girl on the run. A girl—Lin—who looks exactly like Elissa, down to the matching bruises. The twin sister she never knew existed.

Now, Elissa and Lin are on the run from a government who will stop at nothing to reclaim Lin and protect the dangerous secrets she could expose—secrets that would shake the very foundation of their world.

Riveting, thought-provoking and utterly compelling, Linked will make you question what it really means to be human.

Linked

The Symptoms of My Insanity by Mindy Raf (Goodreads)–A laugh-out-loud, bittersweet debut full of wit, wisdom, heart, and a hilarious, unforgettable heroine.

When you’re a hypochondriac, there are a million different things that could be wrong with you, but for Izzy, focusing on what could be wrong might be keeping her from dealing with what’s really wrong.

I almost raised my hand, but what would I say? “Mr. Bayer, may I please be excused? I’m not totally positive, but I think I might have cancer.” No way. Then everyone at school would know, and they would treat me differently, and I would be known as “Izzy, that poor girl who diagnosed herself with breast cancer during biology.”

But Izzy’s sense of humor can only get her so far when suddenly her best friend appears to have undergone a personality transplant, her mother’s health takes a turn for the worse, and her beautiful maybe-boyfriend is going all hot and cold. Izzy thinks she’s preparing for the worst-case scenario, but when the worst-case scenario actually hits, it’s a different story altogether—and there’s no tidy list of symptoms to help her through the insanity.

The Symptoms of My Insanity

Bruised by Sarah Skilton (Goodreads)–When Imogen, a sixteen-year-old black belt in Tae Kwon Do, freezes during a holdup at a local diner, the gunman is shot and killed by the police, and she blames herself for his death. Before the shooting, she believed that her black belt made her stronger than everyone else — more responsible, more capable. But now her sense of self has been challenged and she must rebuild her life, a process that includes redefining her relationship with her family and navigating first love with the boy who was at the diner with her during the shootout. With action, romance, and a complex heroine, Bruised introduces a vibrant new voice to the young adult world — full of dark humor and hard truths.

Bruised

The Beautiful and the Cursed by Page Morgan (Goodreads)–After a bizarre accident, Ingrid Waverly is forced to leave London with her mother and younger sister, Gabby, trading a world full of fancy dresses and society events for the unfamiliar city of Paris.

In Paris there are no grand balls or glittering parties, and, disturbingly, the house Ingrid’s twin brother, Grayson, found for them isn’t a house at all. It’s an abandoned abbey, its roof lined with stone gargoyles that could almost be mistaken for living, breathing creatures.

And Grayson has gone missing.

No one seems to know of his whereabouts but Luc, a devastatingly handsome servant at their new home.

Ingrid is sure her twin isn’t dead—she can feel it deep in her soul—but she knows he’s in grave danger. It will be up to her and Gabby to navigate the twisted path to Grayson, a path that will lead Ingrid on a discovery of dark secrets and otherworldly truths. And she’ll learn that once they are uncovered, they can never again be buried.

The Beautiful and the Cursed

Flash Reviews (18)

Title: Tilt

Author: Ellen Hopkins

Source: ARC received from a friend

Summary (From Goodreads):

Love—good and bad—forces three teens’ worlds to tilt in a riveting novel from New York Times bestselling author Ellen Hopkins.

Three teens, three stories—all interconnected through their parents’ family relationships. As the adults pull away, caught up in their own dilemmas, the lives of the teens begin to tilt….

Mikayla, almost eighteen, is over-the-top in love with Dylan, who loves her back jealously. But what happens to that love when Mikayla gets pregnant the summer before their senior year—and decides to keep the baby?

Shane turns sixteen that same summer and falls hard in love with his first boyfriend, Alex, who happens to be HIV positive. Shane has lived for four years with his little sister’s impending death. Can he accept Alex’s love, knowing that his life, too, will be shortened?

Harley is fourteen—a good girl searching for new experiences, especially love from an older boy. She never expects to hurdle toward self-destructive extremes in order to define who she is and who she wants to be.

Love, in all its forms, has crucial consequences in this standalone novel.

Flash Review: I have to be honest and say that I’m really disappointed in Tilt, which really upsets me because I’ve enjoyed all of Ellen Hopkins’ books.  I was hoping for something new, but Tilt feels like a replay of most of Hopkins’ other books.  Many of the same problems (drugs, sex, sexuality, etc) are focuses again, which I enjoy reading about, but they feel like the same stories in Tilt only with different characters.  The format is difficult to read as well.  At the end of each character’s point of view, a secondary character has a part.  This became confusing because I was already having a hard time keeping track of the main characters.  More than in any of Hopkins’ other books, it was difficult hearing the individual voices of these characters.  I knew them better by their conflict than their actual character.  I hope she’ll go back to writing about one character because her books featuring one voice, one main character have been the strongest.

Title: The Evolution of Mara Dyer

Author: Michelle Hodkin

Source: Purchased

Summary (From Goodreads):

Mara Dyer once believed she could run from her past.

She can’t.

She used to think her problems were all in her head.

They aren’t.

She couldn’t imagine that after everything she’s been through, the boy she loves would still be keeping secrets.

She’s wrong.

In this gripping sequel to The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, the truth evolves and choices prove deadly. What will become of Mara Dyer next?

Flash Review: It’s hard to review a Mara Dyer book because there’s so much to say and so much to wonder at the same time.  I had a number of questions when I finished The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, many of which were answered (thank goodness!), but now I have even more questions after finishing The Evolution of Mara Dyer.  As I was nearing the end I was starting to wonder if some kind of Fight Club situation was playing out, if that tells you anything about how trippy this story becomes.  I do wish the steaminess from book one was just as strong in book two, but I’ll take any amount of Noah steaminess Michelle Hodkin decides to dish out.  This review isn’t saying much because I really can’t say anything without giving away plot points, so just be prepared for more suspense, mystery, and questions when you start reading book two 🙂

As always, thank you for the Flash Reviews idea, GreenBeanTeenQueen!

Audiobook Review: Every Day by David Levithan

Title: Every Day

Author: David Levithan

Narrator: Alex McKenna

Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers

Release Date: August 28th, 2012

Interest: Author / Concept

Source: Audio purchased via Audible

Summary (From Goodreads): In his New York Times bestselling novel, David Levithan introduces readers to what Entertainment Weekly calls a “wise, wildly unique” love story about A, a teen who wakes up every morning in a different body, living a different life.

Every day a different body. Every day a different life. Every day in love with the same girl.

There’s never any warning about where it will be or who it will be. A has made peace with that, even established guidelines by which to live: Never get too attached. Avoid being noticed. Do not interfere.
It’s all fine until the morning that A wakes up in the body of Justin and meets Justin’s girlfriend, Rhiannon. From that moment, the rules by which A has been living no longer apply. Because finally A has found someone he wants to be with—day in, day out, day after day.

With his new novel, David Levithan, bestselling co-author of Will Grayson, Will Grayson, and Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, has pushed himself to new creative heights. He has written a captivating story that will fascinate readers as they begin to comprehend the complexities of life and love in A’s world, as A and Rhiannon seek to discover if you can truly love someone who is destined to change every day.

Audiobook Review:

The audio itself is enjoyable and easy to listen to.  Alex McKenna’s voice works as the narrator because her voice can sound both male and female which suits A’s character.  There were times when she had to use a female voice to portray a character other than Rhiannon, but it still sounded like Rhiannon’s voice.  Overall, however, her voices for A and Rhiannon worked well for the story; every time I heard Rhiannon or A’s voice I could picture them and their interactions very well.

Book Review:

I’m really not sure how I feel about Every Day.  I’m a big David Levithan fan, so I was really excited to read this, but I have a few big issues with it.

  • The insta-love.  A starts off the book in Justin’s body who happens to be dating Rhiannon.  A has never met Rhiannon before being in Justin’s body, but he (is it okay to refer to A as a male?) is instantly attracted to Rhiannon.  He notices things about Rhiannon that Justin apparently never notices or cares about.  From this day forward he’s head-over-heels in love with her.  Sometimes I’m okay with insta-love, but most times I’m not, and this is another example of when it didn’t work for me.  I understand crushes and lust, but his obsession with her bothered me.
  • Where did A come from?  He talks about being this way forever, but at one point in the novel he worries about someone finding out about him.  Why?  Does it really matter?  What will possibly happen to him?  How will someone know where to find him?  This whole sub-plot of the story, which includes another character who adds more conflict, really threw off the story.  It felt like adding conflict for the sake of adding conflict.  But maybe the story needed more conflict since the main conflict with Rhiannon is introduced at the very beginning of the book.  It simply didn’t make sense.
  • Why the twist at the end?  I’m not going to ruin the ending for anyone, but the twist at the end made me angry.  Really, it ruined the book for me.  I have a feeling that David Levithan is planning a sequel which would be good for the story, but upsets me at the same time.  The ending feels like a cheap way get me to read another book.  If there’s going to be a sequel then all of Every Day is like a prologue.  I was almost able to suspend my disbelief and ignore some of the points that bothered me until that ending.
  • I feel like the only person who doesn’t LOVE Every Day.  I’m not sure if that’s because I’m the only person who doesn’t “get” the story or appreciate it, or if maybe some readers love this book mostly because it’s written by David Levithan.  Sometimes I think the author’s name on the book impacts what people think of the book.  Or maybe I’m just not being fair right now.
  • I do like the focus on person over gender and appearance.  It adds a unique way of thinking about why we like/dislike people and how attraction plays a role in relationships. I wasn’t thrilled with some of the stereotypes Levithan wrote for A to take over (a drug addict, an obese guy, a “mean girl,” and so on).  These scenes often felt preachy.

Like I said, I’m having a hard time deciding how I feel about Every Day.  I’ve listed more negatives than positives, but I still enjoyed listening to the book and wanted to finish it.  I was holding out hope that some big revelation was going to take place and when I realized I had only 20 minutes left of the audio I started to get mad.  I felt let down and sort of cheated.

Book Trailer Thursday (86)–The Evolution of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin

I loved The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, so I’m super excited about the release of the sequel, The Evolution of Mara Dyer.  I would like this trailer if there was less making out and more scenes related to the conflict outside of Mara and Noah, but I’m still okay with it.  I really want to find out what Michelle Hodkin has in store for Mara, but I’ll have to wait until I get The Evolution of Mara Dyer back from a very excited student (I bought my copy on its release day and gave it to her the following day to read).

If you haven’t read The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, or if you haven’t seen the trailer for that book, here’s a link.

Summary (From Goodreads):

Mara Dyer once believed she could run from her past.

She can’t.

She used to think her problems were all in her head.

They aren’t.

She couldn’t imagine that after everything she’s been through, the boy she loves would still be keeping secrets.

She’s wrong.

In this gripping sequel to The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, the truth evolves and choices prove deadly. What will become of Mara Dyer next?

Review: The Diviners by Libba Bray

Title: The Diviners

Author: Libba Bray

Publisher:Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Release Date: September 18th, 2012

Interest: Historical Fiction / Supernatural / Ghosts

Source: ARC received from the publisher

Summary (From Goodreads): Evie O’Neill has been exiled from her boring old hometown and shipped off to the bustling streets of New York City–and she is pos-i-toot-ly thrilled. New York is the city of speakeasies, shopping, and movie palaces! Soon enough, Evie is running with glamorous Ziegfield girls and rakish pickpockets. The only catch is Evie has to live with her Uncle Will, curator of The Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult–also known as “The Museum of the Creepy Crawlies.”
When a rash of occult-based murders comes to light, Evie and her uncle are right in the thick of the investigation. And through it all, Evie has a secret: a mysterious power that could help catch the killer–if he doesn’t catch her first.

I’ve never read any of Libba Bray’s books before, but after watching the trailer for her newest book, The Diviners, I knew I had to read it.  The 1920s is one of my favorite time periods, and I love a good ghostly mystery.  It’s exciting when books like The Diviners release in the fall because the setting and tone fits the fall weather perfectly, especially if you choose to read this on a dark, stormy night 😉

In a nutshell, I enjoyed The Diviners and I’ll read the sequel.  The story is engaging, and the characters are interesting.  Unfortunately, the writing itself kept me from enjoying Libba Bray’s new novel as much as I hoped to.

My first roadblock was Evie’s constant 1920s slang.  It’s important to make the language fit the time period when writing historical fiction, but the heavy use left me with the impression that Bray wanted to show she did research.  When it becomes that distracting, then it’s not done very well.  Evie uses the slang the most, which fits her character wanting to be a Flapper; she’s trendy, vivacious, and energetic.

The biggest roadblock is the constant jump from character to character.  I love reading novels with multiple points of view; I love reading novels written in third person which switch between characters.  Libba Bray included too many characters and didn’t write them cohesively.  The Diviners would have benefited from a set up like Neal Shusterman’s Unwind where each character jump is marked by a section header with the character’s name.  While reading I had a better understanding and visual of the setting than the characters, so it was hard to figure out right away which character was the new focus.  Considering the amount of details written into the story, I expected to have a better picture of Evie.  I kept picturing her like a little girl, not an older teenager.  Think Shirley Temple.  Maybe it’s how naive she is, or because so many people around her keep treating her like a child, but I had a really hard time visualizing her.  The only character I could picture clearly was Memphis and he has significantly fewer scenes than Evie.  I found Memphis and his brother Isiah to be two of the most interesting characters in The Diviners.

On a more positive note, the suspense and mystery is excellent in The Diviners.  So many scenes had me holding me breath and racing to get to the next page.  I love it when an author builds up the suspense like that because it keeps me reading and engaged.  The degree of creepiness is perfect.  None of the scenes are too graphic (for me) and they’re not too scary either.  Libba Bray has included an excellent blend of creepy, mystery, and humor.

Even though the writing didn’t work out as well for me as I wanted it to, I still think The Diviners is worth reading.  It’s awfully long at over 570 pages, so some of my students may be wary of reading it.  I hope the second book cuts down on the overwritten scenes and is clearer when switching characters.  I especially hope to learn more about what the purpose of the Diviners is going to be.  We met them, and we know their abilities, but it will be great to know how they might all come together.

Book Pairing: The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

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