Tag Archives: ya

Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare

Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare (unabridged audiobook read by Jennifer Ehle; 15.5 hrs on 13 discs): When Tessa travels from her native New York to London to meet up with her brother, she is greeted by the Dark Sisters, strange women who hold her captive, forcing her to master a talent she never knew she possessed: shape shifting. She soon finds herself in the company of shadow hunters, those half-angel humans who uphold the law among the supernatural. Unlike the modern Mortal Instruments series, this takes place in Victorian times. There’s a bit of a steampunk vibe, what with clockwork critters and all that, but it’s not overbearing or overly unrealistic (for a story with demons and warlocks, that is). I like Tessa; she’s smart and confident without being reckless (using “character is too headstrong and doesn’t listen to reason and gets herself into trouble” as a plot device is a pet peeve of mine). The shadow hunters are also pleasantly individual: surly Will, kind Jem, prissy Jessamine, determined Charlotte, flighty Henry. I liked that I couldn’t predict where everything was going, but also never felt like things were plucked out of thin air. I don’t know if I would be enjoying it as much if I hadn’t already been introduced to the shadow hunter universe through the Mortal Instruments series, though I do feel the characters and story are much stronger here. The book ends on a slight cliffhanger, but that’s okay because it’s the beginning of a trilogy. Game on.

A note on the audio: When only a couple of the characters are American, it is best to get someone who can pull off a decent British accent. This reader, alas, cannot.

City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau

The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau (unabridged audiobook read by Wendy Dillon; 7 hrs on 6 discs): Lina and Doon live in Ember, the only city in existence. The sky is black; the streets are illuminated by huge floodlights. When the lights go out, the entire world is plunged into impenetrable darkness. All supplies come from the cavernous store rooms. This is how it has been since the beginning of time, but lately there have been fewer supplies and more blackouts. As a reader, you know that this city is most likely in a cave or underground, the power produced by a hydroelectric generator, but of course the characters have never known anything different. It is, truly, a fascinating idea. One day Lina finds a set of instructions, partially destroyed by her baby sister. She and Doon embark on an adventure as they attempt to decipher it. This is not an overly complicated story, but I really enjoyed all the subtle differences that living in such a place would imply. I look forward to reading the rest of the series.

A note on the audio: Dillon’s character voices were excellent. I could have done without the rather loud sound effects, though. The rush of the river was especially distracting.

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow (unabridged audiobook read by Kirby Heyborne; 12 hrs on 10 discs): I’ve been meaning to read this for some time now, but when I saw on the cover that it had been blurbed by both Neil Gaiman and Scott Westerfeld, well, I decided I simply could not wait any longer. When San Francisco is attacked by terrorists, Marcus and his friends find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time, and immediately detained by the Department of Homeland Security, where they are interrogated and tortured. This terrible and unjust treatment motivates Marcus to try to beat the system, creating a separate and untraceable internet using a fictional XBox network. There’s a lot of discussion of how much privacy and freedom one can sacrifice in the name of security, and a lot of questions are raised about how many of these intrusive security measures actually make us any safer. I can see some folks dismissing the whole tale as far too paranoid, but I think it’s still an important book to read, if only as a starting point to a conversation about the larger issues of liberty and security and terrorism. I do not have any answers, but I appreciate any book that makes me want to learn more about the world around me.

A note on the audio: Heyborne is fantastic. That is all.

Just Ella by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Just Ella by Margaret Peterson Haddix (unabridged audiobook read by Alyssa Bresnahan; 5.25 hrs on 5 discs): What happens after the glass slipper fits and Cinderella is whisked away to Prince Charming’s palace? In this story, “happily ever after” doesn’t seem to be in the cards. Ella, having spent so much time as a servant, is having trouble adjusting to the tight-laced bureaucracy of palace life. Worse, her regular meetings with Prince Charming are stilted and awkward, with no one showing any interest in her beyond her beauty. I liked this one. I liked Ella’s determination and practicality. I liked the lack of a fairy godmother or any other magical elements. Definitely one to pick up if you like fairy tale retellings.

A note on the audio: Besnahan was very talented, but sounded a bit too old to be 16. Admittedly, I probably wouldn’t have even noticed had the book been told in third person instead of first.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

Feed by M.T. Anderson

Feed by M.T. Anderson (unabridged audiobook read by David Aaron Baker; 5 hrs on 5 discs): In a future America where the internet is inside everyone’s head, Titus and his friends are regular teenagers just looking for a good time. At a club on the moon during spring break, they meet Violet, a homeschooled outsider hoping to experience regular teenage life. After their feeds are hacked by dissidents, Violet’s feed begins to malfunction, and Titus must choose between this interesting girl he’s just met and his longtime but shallow friends. I’m not going to lie to you: Titus is not a good or admirable person, but he’s actually pretty realistic. He’s self-absorbed and wishes bad things would just go away and not bother him. I’m sure many of us have wished an inconveniently ill person could just “get over it” but unlike Titus, we readers have a moral compass reminding us that their trauma is not about us. This is a dystopia clearly inspired by the inanity of the internet; most of the characters talk like they’re on Tumblr. I found it an interesting and worthwhile read, but if you need to have some level of fondness for the main character in a book, this story will likely be pretty hard to take. If nothing else, it reminded me of the importance of empathy and kindness.

A note on the audio: I am so glad I listened to this one. The entire thing is written in dialect that would surely have driven me mad in print, but isn’t so bad to hear. (It helps that Baker is an excellent reader.) Also, the feed ads are done just like radio ads, which brings some extra realism to the story. I was kind of confused when they first cut in, because I thought maybe my CD player had switched over to radio accidentally or something, but a lot of the content is actually quite absurd and funny.

The Hand of Osiris by Jim Mastro

The Hand of Osiris by Jim Mastro: This is the second book in the Children of Hathor series, but it’s been long enough since I read the first one that I can safely say that it’s not absolutely essential to read that one to enjoy this one. All you really need to know is that American middle-schooler Jason and his friends Amelia and Kevin were abducted by aliens, and Jason became the holder of a powerful talisman. In this book they are once again spirited away into the realm of galactic politics and long-lost talismans, but as the situation worsens and the galaxy plunges toward war, Jason starts to doubt his so-called allies. Is he being told the truth? Whose side is right? It’s a grand sci-fi adventure, full of memorable aliens and fast-paced action. I look forward to seeing how Jason’s story pans out.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

I am the Messenger by Markus Zusak

I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak: Underachieving taxi driver Ed Kennedy lives a pretty uninteresting life until one day he receives a playing card with three addresses on it. After visiting these addresses, he learns that he must can change these people’s lives for the better. As the weeks go by, he receives more cards with more situations to put right. The individual situations themselves are wonderful to read, and I liked and sympathized with Ed. However, the ending left me a bit sour. I was unimpressed with how the mysterious card-leaver was revealed. Still, the book was quite good up to that point, so it’s certainly possible that other folks would really like the somewhat unconventional resolution.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld

Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld (unabridged audiobook read by Julie Dretzin; 17.75 hours on 15 discs): This is, in a nutshell, Lee Fiora’s experiences attending boarding school near Boston after growing up in South Bend. It’s more a collection of anecdotes than a single narrative, but that’s pretty much what high school is after all: a series of events with no ultimate cohesion or story arc. Which is fine, as far as that goes, but I personally found this book absolutely excruciating most of the time, as Lee embodies many of my worst traits as a teenager. She’s awkward and self-absorbed and petty and miserable. And as familiar as her attitude was to me, I had very little sympathy for someone who chose this life for herself. No one forced her to do this. But you know what? Part of me thinks this may be a book like Catcher in the Rye, where you really have to read it at a certain age. Maybe, had I been 16 when I read this, I would have really liked it. As a 34-year-old, I really didn’t.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

Vampirates: Demons of the Ocean by Justin Somper

Vampirates: Demons of the Ocean by Justin Somper: “Vampirates” is one of those ideas that people tend to both roll their eyes at and wish they’d thought of first. When orphaned twins Connor and Grace are separated at sea, Connor finds himself on a more traditional pirate ship, while Grace is taken in by the Vampirates who are – as you may have guessed – vampire pirates. It’s easily as silly as you expect it to be, but it’s also a heck of a lot of fun. If you like your pirates to be of the Caribbean variety, you’ll probably enjoy this little romp.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

Thwonk by Joan Bauer

Thwonk by Joan Bauer: A.J. McCreary is a teen photographer desperately in love with the unattainable Peter Terris. One day she is visited by a real life cupid who offers to make her dreams come true. Because she is a teen girl and without stupid decisions we wouldn’t have a story, she immediately asks for Peter to fall in love with her. The whole thing pans out about as well as you’d expect it to, but the really interesting thing about this book is the photography angle. My favorite parts were A.J.’s experiences snapping pictures and developing them. It’s easy to forget that photography is just as much an art form as drawing and music, where composition is key. So while the teen romance story was a bit silly and a lot predictable, I still enjoyed this cautionary tale about love and art. I don’t know how well it would hold up to a current teenager (I found it very relatable since it takes place in the years I attended high school), but what do I know?

Also posted on BookCrossing.

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