Audiobook Review: Sorry, Wrong Number

Sorry, Wrong Number by Lucille Fletcher (performed here by L.A. Theater Works) is a famous one-act play (made into a movie!) about a handicapped woman who overhears a murder being plotted and starts to FREAK OUT because she can’t get anybody to do anything about it.

This book is only 23 minutes long, and it is INTENSE. We listened to it while running errands today, and, wow, we were totally invested in the story. The voice work is fantastic. I love that the play is performed by a full cast, and the voice-only production (with a few ringing phones and busy signals thrown in) kind of adds to the mounting terror. Everything is so sparse that it’s like I was sitting trapped in the room with Mrs. Stevenson, trying to get someone to listen to me.

I think because this book is so short, it would be an excellent introduction to audiobooks for someone who wants to try them out. Not only is the action intense, but the storyline is clear, and it’s easy to keep track of all of the characters and what’s going on. Also? It’s really fun to listen to.

Audiobook Challenge: 8; Page to Screen: 7

Note: I received this book for free to review from the publisher through the Solid Gold Reviewer program over at Audiobook Jukebox.

Book Review: The Son of Neptune

Multigrain fighting is not allowed!

Oh, gosh I just loved The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan. LOVED. The second book in the Heroes of Olympus series, it picks up with Percy (YAY PERCY!!!!) and the kids at Camp Jupiter.

There is nothing about this book that I didn’t like, so a few highlights of why I loved it.

– Rick Riordan wears the hat of cleverness! The Amazons run an online business that specializes in low prices and fast shipping. (Can you guess which one?)

– Love all of the characters. All! Even Ella the harpy who mostly talks in book quotes and Terminus the armless boundary god.

Also, even though these characters are just as tragic as the ones in The Lost Hero, they are more fun and less, well, annoying. I mean, I loved all three narrators whereas last time I just loved Leo.

– Loved the inclusion of Chinese mythology here with Frank’s character. Also, he’s Canadian! In fact, I’m a big fan of the diversity in this series overall. Two thumbs up.

– Oh, and Frank has a badass grandma and those are the best. THE BEST.

– The title, again, works on levels.

– Obviously, I loved seeing Camp Jupiter and all the ways it’s different from and similar to Camp Half-Blood.

– Riordan introduces his readers to The Art of War by Sun Tzu. There’s just a mention of the Tzu’s book at the end of the novel, but you know some kids are going to seek it out.

– The humor is spot on. Just so great.

Oh wait, there is one thing I hated about the book. The cliffhanger! But that’s only because I want to read the next book now, now, now.

Apparently, I’m not the only person who had that response. From Riordan’s blog:

In the meantime, sorry about the cliffhanger in The Son of Neptune . . . wait, no I’m not! I always do cliffhangers. I’m just evil that way.

Yes. Yes, you are.

I can’t believe I have to wait basically a whole year for the next book. I wonder who the narrators will be.

YA Challenge: 40; POC Reading Challenge: 25

Book Review: A Tale of Two Proms

It occurred to me that this was my first big adult decision. And I have to say if this was what it meant to be an adult–to worry that any big decision you made was the wrong one–maybe growing up was seriously overrated.

Before I even get into my review of Cara Lockwood’s fourth Bard Academy novel A Tale of Two Proms, I have to point out that this novel represents two firsts for me: (1) the first book I read on the Nook I got for Christmas and (2) the first book I am reviewing via NetGalley. Exciting stuff!

Okay, and now since I have never reviewed any of these books here before, allow me to nerd out like the big literary nerd I am. So, basically, I love this series because the books provide a big old lit nerd fest. Aside from the fact that school is called Bard Academy (after Shakespeare, of course) and that the teachers are ghosts of authors stuck in purgatory (Jane Austen, Charlotte Brontë, Ernest Hemingway, etc.), Lockwood manages to seamlessly blend plots and characters from many classic novels. In this book alone, she uses characters/plots/settings from:

  • A Tale of Two Cities
  • Wuthering Heights
  • Jane Eyre
  • The Great Gatsby
  • The Odyssey
  • Pride and Prejudice
  • Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Like I said, that’s just in this book. The previous three include references to other classics.

Anyway, the basic premise for the series is that Miranda gets sent to Bard Academy, which is for problem teens. Once there, she falls for Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights who has somehow escaped from his book. Each book deals with the fallout from characters leaving their narratives and also some wackiness that Miranda manages to enmesh herself in.

In A Tale of Two Proms, the focus is on literary doubles–particularly Catherine from WH (who Miranda favors)–and, of course, the prom. Oh, and Heathcliff asks Miranda to marry him and she finds out that she got into one of her dream schools. Which will she choose????

The only thing I don’t care about in the books is the romance between Heathcliff and Miranda. However, that’s pretty easy for me to get past. Which..considering that’s pretty much the foundation/driving conflict for all four books is saying a lot about how fun they are.

I love the setting and the characters. (I really get a kick out of Parker taunting Miranda for being “Fictional-American or whatever.” Because why not? Hahaha. I am easily amused sometimes.) There’s lots of humor and the characters are definitely teenagers with teenage concerns even as they are trying to save their school. So I enjoy that.

Lockwood said on her blog that this is probably the last book in the series, and I think everything is wrapped up pretty nicely. I did have one plausibility issue with the end, but then I reminded myself that this is a book with a Fictional-American character, book characters that come to life, moving settings, and ghost teachers, so I let the whole plausibility thing go.

In conclusion: If you’re a fan of gothic, gothic romance, mystery, paranormal, teen lit, classic lit, or adventure stories, this book/series might be something you’d want to check out.

YA Reading Challenge: 39

Book Review: My Life Undecided

Because when you’re being handcuffed and lowered into the backseat of a squad car, you kind of have to start reconsidering the way you live your life.

In My Life Undecided by Jessica Brody, main character Brooklyn constantly makes horrible choices that end with her getting arrested or on the news. Inspired by Choose Your Own Adventure books, she creates a blog so the readers can make life choices for her. Wacky hijinks ensue.

What I Liked

– I love the premise of the book. Love, love, love.

– Brooklyn, while annoyingly self-absorbed, is funny and has a good sense of self.

– While this book has elements of a mean girl narrative, it’s really not one. Brooklyn’s best friend is manipulative and cold, yes, but instead of Brooklyn trying to be like Shayne or kiss up to Shayne, Brooklyn’s really trying to deal with what it means that she lost her best friend.

– The plot moves quickly.

– Most important, the book is FUN.

What I Didn’t Like

– Aside from Brooklyn and Brian (love interest), the characters are pretty flat.

– The relationship with the sister needs way more development. It’s like her sister is only there to prove a point, but beyond that point (trying to avoid spoilers), she has no impact on the story or on Brooklyn. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if Brooklyn never saw her or talked to her sister again. You know, if the world of the book were real. That’s how little development their relationship gets.

– I actually wish the blog were used more throughout the story, though I like that it doesn’t take over the narrative.

In conclusion: A fun book, perfect for the beach or pool. Or as a distraction from all the grading. (SO MUCH GRADING.)

Support Your Local LIbrary: 42; YA Reading Challenge: 37

Book Review: How to Save a Life

If you don’t grow up to be a wife or a mother, what are you? A person alone, always wanting to be one thing or the other or both? My mother was never a wife, and that’s what she wanted more than anything. She didn’t want to be a mother, and she wasn’t one. Where does that leave her? A husband makes you a wife, and a child makes you a mother…What if there isn’t anyone to make you something?

In How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr, Mandy is searching for a new life for herself and her baby, and Jill is still recovering from the loss of her father. Their two paths cross when Jill’s mom offers to adopt Mandy’s baby, and Mandy comes to live with Jill and her mom.

There isn’t anything I didn’t like about this book, so some highlights of things I enjoyed:

– Sara Zarr is so great. SO GREAT. Here, she takes these two (three, really, if you count the mom) characters suffering from loss and grieving in their own ways and creates this quiet, yet powerful story about love, forgiveness, and family.

– I love the discussion about motherhood and worth highlighted in the quote above. The whole story isn’t devoted to that, but, wow, that moment hit me. What do we teach girls and women about their choices?

– The love interests are used well here. The relationships are important, but not so much that they take over the book. Basically, this book doesn’t become about the boys but stays about the girls and their own development and growth.

– I can understand the way both girls see the world. I can understand why Mandy makes people uncomfortable, but also why she latches onto them the way she does. I can see why Jill is so angry and brokenhearted and treats people cruelly but also with kindness. The characters are nuanced and flawed and real. Love.

– I like that the story ended exactly the way I thought it should, but I wasn’t sure how Zarr would get me to that ending. I also like that I didn’t expect the story to end the way I thought it should, but it did anyway. If that makes any sense.

This was just a great story. I really enjoyed it.

Support Your Local Library: 41; YA Reading Challenge: 36

Audiobook Review: Howl’s Moving Castle

In the land of Ingary where such things as seven-league boots and cloaks of invisibility really exist, it is quite a misfortune to be born the eldest of the three. Everyone knows you are the one who will fail first, and worst, if the three of you set out to seek your fortunes.

Every once in a while, I’ll read a book that I can honestly say I have no clue what’s going on in it, but still I enjoy it very much.

Howl’s Moving Castle by Dianna Wynne Jones is one of those books.

Oh, sure, I can give you a rundown of the basic plot: Sophie pisses off the Witch of the Waste who then hits Sophie with a curse so that she turns into an old woman. Sophie, who previous to the curse had settled for being the oldest and therefore the one with no choices, leaves home so as not to freak anybody out and takes up residence in Howl’s castle, which moves across the countryside. Howl has a reputation for destroying young girls, but since Sophie’s no longer young, she’s not afraid. While staying with Howl, she meets Calcifer the fire demon who asks her to break a spell on him. And the other resident of the moving castle is Michael, Howl’s apprentice.

Then some stuff happens with seven league boots, moving between worlds, the witch, Howl being vain and trying to get all the ladies to love him, and Sophie being really nosy or ornery because she’s old. I mean, a lot happens that I can’t really explain so well.

All I do know is that I was completely wrapped up in the story.

This was my second time reading the book. The first time I read it in paperback form; this time, I listened to the audiobook. The narrator, Jenny Sterlin, is fantastic. All of the characters have different and distinct voices, even young Sophie compared to old Sophie.

I listened to most of the book on a very long road trip, and I will admit that I had to shut it off a few times because I got sleepy. I don’t know if it’s because the pace of the story is a little slow or what. But I did need a break from time to time.

That said, even though this was my second time reading the book, I can give you a better run down of some of the plot stuff, though I couldn’t remember the terms of Calcifer’s contract so kept missing all of the hints. And because I was listening instead of holding a physical book, I couldn’t mark the passages to go back and say, “ohhhhhh.” Which means I want to go back and re-read it again in paper form.

I do know that I had the exact same response to the end of the book that I had the first time I read it. It just makes me smile and smile and clap my hands together.

Also, Sophie is the best. Such a great character. I really kind of love her.

YA of the ’80s and ’90s: 7; Support Your Local Library: 40; YA Reading Challenge: 35; Howl’s Moving Castle: 7;  Page to Screen: 6

Mini book reviews: November and December

I am currently eight (!) books behind on reviews, so it’s time for some mini-reviews, yes? Yes.

The Daily Show’s Five Questions from Comedy Central: Back when Craig Kilborn hosted TDS, he had a segment in which he asked the celeb guests five questions. This book chronicles his favorites or the most memorable, I guess. I have no real opinion of this book. I read it in the bathroom, and that’s about all I have to say about it. That, and the book was worth the ten cents I spent on it at the library book sale.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling: I really, really, really want to hang out with Mindy Kaling. I think she’d be a lot of fun, and not just because we’re the same age. I liked the longer, more personal essays in this book, but the short vignettes were cute, too. I think I’d have liked this better if it were more of the longer essays or if it leaned more specifically to either personal or comedic essays. Either way, reading the book made me feel like I was sitting down and swapping stories with a good friend. A friend who I could talk about *NSYNC with.

Support Your Local LIbrary: 39; POC Reading Challenge: 23

Astronaut Academy: Zero Gravity by Dave Roman: There is a lot going on in this little comic book–a lot. Tons of characters are introduced as well as scores of conflict. In the end, though, more world building than anything went on. I felt like this book was really to get me ready for the next book in the series since the major plotline wasn’t really resolved. Great characters, though. GREAT characters.

POC Reading Challenge: 24; Graphic Novels: 9/10; Off the Shelf: 12

How Al-Anon Works for Families and Friends of Alcoholics by Al-Anon Family Groups: The first half is an outline of the program; the second half is packed full of personal stories about various experiences with Al-Anon. A great primer if you’re interested in the program. The book really told me a lot about my life as well as showing me that exploring Al-Anon is something I need to do right now.

Off the Shelf: 13

I Hate Being Gifted by Patricia Hermes: As someone identified as gifted in elementary school, I was interested to see what, exactly, the main character hated about being gifted. Turns out she was upset because the gifted class took her away from her friends and then they made new friends. HOW COULD THEY? I couldn’t really connect to or relate to the book because the focus was on friendship and cliques and sixth grade mean girls. Also, the main character was kind of whiny. It’s not like I was the most mature 12-year-old or anything, but I guess I just didn’t see what the big deal was.

Off the Shelf: 14

Best Friends Tell the Best Lies by Carol Dines: Let me just say that the cover art on my copy of the book (another library book sale find) is totally misleading. It shows three people smiling and having a snowball fight, and that did not happen at all! There was no smiling in the snow, only heartache and crying and yelling. I mean, yes, I knew this book was about lying best friends so I didn’t expect all roses and sunshine, but it was really sad. My favorite thing about the book is probably that the ending is really kind of bleak. The characters are well drawn, the conflict is solid, and the plot is realistically messy.

Off the Shelf: 15; YA Challenge: 38; YA of the ’80s and ’90s: 8

Reading Challenges 2012

My brain is so fried from grading that I am currently incapable of posting any reviews. I wish I were joking, but alas. Every time I think of writing a review, my brain just kind of shuts down, like, “Seriously? You want me to think right now? Do you know what I’ve been doing for the past three weeks?” And then I go take a nap.

So! I will post instead about the reading challenges I’m going to do next year.

At first, like Vasilly, I was all, “I’m not doing any challenges. Imma read what I wanna read.” But then I read this post she linked and had an a-ha moment. The issue for me wasn’t signing up for challenges; the issue was the type of challenges I signed up for. I mean, signing up for gimmes isn’t really challenging. Yes, I read almost exclusively YA so why sign up for a YA challenge? Same with the library book challenge, etc. Also, I was lowballing my numbers, which is not really a challenge either.

On the flip side, when I signed up for the Women Unbound challenge, that really pushed me to seek out and read books I might not have otherwise. So, with that in mind, I’m participating in the following challenges:

Off the Shelf: My bookshelves are ridiculously full of books I haven’t read yet. I mean, it’s kind of a problem. I really want to cull my shelves, especially since I’m moving this summer. So that means I’m going to do the Making a Dint level, 30 books.

  1. Fatherhood by Bill Cosby
  2. The Romantic Obsessions & Humiliations of Annie Sehlmeier by Louise Plummer
  3. The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi
  4. Jane by April Lindner
  5. The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success by Deepak Chopra
  6. And This Is Laura by Ellen Conford
  7. Now and Zen by Linda Gerber
  8. Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce
  9. Kristy’s Great Idea by Raina Telgemeier

TV Reading Challenge: I love reading books that have been turned into other media, and I’m already planning to read The Count of Monte Cristo (see: Revenge on ABC), and this challenge will finally give me an excuse to read Peyton Place. Normally, I don’t list the books I’m reading in advance, but well, there go two right there. I’m doing the Series level, 3-4 books.

  1. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
  2. Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

Tea & Books Reading Challenge: Since I was already planning on reading CoMC, which is a bazillion pages long, I thought this challenge, which focuses on books with more than 700 pages might be fun. Because I don’t really read long books, I’m going for the Chamomile Lover level, 2 books. Second book TBD, obvs.

  1. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

Classic Double Challenge: It’s possible that CoMC might also qualify for this challenge–as long as I can find a corresponding contemporary retelling. Can I just say I had a slight nerdgasm when I saw this challenge? SUCH A NERD. I’ll probably be taking most of my cues from the book From Hinton to Hamlet, but I could be lying. WE’LL SEE. I mean, Melissa has her own pretty comprehensive list up, so I may let that guide me. I’m doing Medium, 4 pairs of related books.

  1. The Count of Monte Cristo/Murder on the Orient Express/”Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption”

2012 Audiobook Challenge: I am all about some audiobooks, and this is kind of a gimme, except I’m going to push myself by signing up at the Going Steady level, which is 12 books. This year, I read ~8 books on audiobook, so that’s a good push. One book a month. I think I can handle that.

  1. Seriously…I’m Kidding by Ellen Degeneres
  2. Let It Go by T.D. Jakes
  3. Invisible by Pete Hautman
  4. Matilda by Roald Dahl
  5. Jeremy Brown: Secret Agent by Simon Cheshire
  6. Go the Fuck to Sleep by Adam Mansbach

And that’s it unless some super sexy challenge comes along in the next week or so. Oh, and the people who run the blog haven’t said whether or not it’s coming back, but I’m all aboard the People Of Color Reading Challenge train if it does. So I’ll just leave this here as a placeholder until it’s official.

And it’s back! I’m doing Level 5, 16-25 books.

  1. Fatherhood by Bill Cosby
  2. No Crystal Stair by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson
  3. Angry Management by Chris Crutcher
  4. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
  5. The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success by Deepak Chopra
  6. Let It Go by T. D. Jakes
  7. Now and Zen by Linda Gerber
  8. Grace for President by Kelly DiPucchio
  9. Claudia and Mean Janine by Raina Telgemeier
  10. A La Carte by Tanita S. Davis

Audiobook Review: Ella Enchanted

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine is a reread for me, though the audiobook narrated by Eden Riegel is a brand new experience. It has been years–years!–since I’ve read EE. In fact, the last (and first) time I read the book was right after the movie came out.

What can I say about this book? It is pretty much perfection. I love Ella so much. I LOVE HER. Love, love, love, LOVE. I wish words could adequately express how awesome Ella is because she is JUST THAT AWESOME. She’s smart, funny, clever, stubborn, bullheaded, and just…I just love her is all. She is so great.

I mean, really. That is my largest take away from the book.

And, yes, the rest of the book is awesome, too, but mostly I just love Ella THE MOST.

As for how it fares as an audiobook: I’m not the biggest fan of Riegel as a narrator–only because Ella sounds much younger than fifteen. And, yes, I realize that’s how Riegel sounds in real life, but that’s not the way I expect Ella to sound. Also, there are weird musical interludes that I didn’t care for.

That said, I could ignore all of that because the story is just so amazingly fantastic.

Did I mention I love Ella? She is really my favorite. Love her.

YA of the ’80s and ’90s: 6; Support Your Local Library: 38; YA Reading Challenge: 34; Audiobook Challenge: 6/6; Page to Screen: 5/5;