Tag «audiobook»

Single Sundays: Dear Martin by Nic Stone

Single Sundays: While this blog may be focused on reviewing book series as a whole, we can’t forget about the good ole’ standalone novel! On Sundays, I will review a novel that is considered to be a standalone novel. Here is this week’s offering:

Synopsis for Dear Martin (from Goodreads):

Justyce McAllister is top of his class and set for the Ivy League—but none of that matters to the police officer who just put him in handcuffs. And despite leaving his rough neighborhood behind, he can’t escape the scorn of his former peers or the ridicule of his new classmates. Justyce looks to the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for answers. But do they hold up anymore? He starts a journal to Dr. King to find out.

Then comes the day Justyce goes driving with his best friend, Manny, windows rolled down, music turned up—way up, sparking the fury of a white off-duty cop beside them. Words fly. Shots are fired. Justyce and Manny are caught in the crosshairs. In the media fallout, it’s Justyce who is under attack.

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Fav 2018
Author: Nic Stone
Genre: Young Adult, Realistic Fiction, Contemporary
Heat Rating: cold
Point of View: Third Person + First Person
Publication Date: October 17, 2017
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I saw this book floating around quite a bit last year. While The Hate U Give seemed to catch more of the main stream attention, this book was mentioned quite a bit in the blogging community.

I was drawn to this book for 2 reasons. One is the fact that its lead is a male character. After getting a black female perspective in The Hate U Give, I was curious to see what the black male one would be. Two is the fact that Justyce writes a journal to Dr Martin Luther King Jr.

The Concept & Writing Style:

What I really loved about this book was the narrative’s style. You get chapters told from a third person narrator; then a transcript of dialogue of classroom discussions; Justyce’s letters to Dr Martin and the transcripts of news reports and the like. It keeps the story moving, focusing on the important topics and conversations. Nothing ever dragged in this book and it never losses sight of the main messages by distracting us with unnecessary plot devices.

The Plot:

As I said, this story is always moving. It’s a very straight forward plot but it works so well.  I laughed, I cried, I screamed in frustration and it made me think. You can’t ask for more in a book.

The Characters:

Justyce lives in a bit of a bubble and one that only recently gets burst. It was interesting to see how he copes with everything that is thrown at him. And he does get a lot thrown at him. He makes mistakes but he learns from them and I appreciated that. I truly became invested in his story and life.

The Romance:

It’s just a tiny part of the novel but when it does appear, it does contribute in a positive way to the many topics this book touches.

My Audiobook Experience:

I thought the narration was fabulous! Dion Graham is the narrator and he was just amazing. Everyone had a distinct voice, his pauses and dictation were perfect, and he really captured my attention at all times. He truly brought this book to life for me.

My Rating: 5/5

overall

Another great novel that is so on point with the current issues in society. I highly recommend this for fans of The Hate U Give and those of realistic fiction.

Read if You Like: realistic fiction, current events
Avoid if You: dislike non-classical prose/writing formats

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Service Review: Kobo Audiobooks Subscription

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Kobo Audiobook Subscription Service

**This is in no way affiliated with Kobo! It is simply my take on using the service!**

Compared to some, I’m a newbie when it comes to audiobooks. But I’ve come a long way since I did my last service review on the audiobook service Audible. I listen to audiobooks during my commute to work every week so they’ve become an everyday staple of my reading life.

While I mostly use my library, I’m always on the lookout for other great audiobook providers. So I was very, very excited when Kobo launched its own audiobook service in the latter half of 2017.

I’m a huge Kobo fan! My main eReader is a Kobo Aura and I love it for many reasons. I just feel like the understand the reader in me when it comes to features, tracking my reading stats and recommending books. I also really like dealing with the Kobo company. They’re based in Canada (though they are now owned by a Japanese company) and I find their customer service is always AMAZING. I like supporting Canadian industry and with the amount of books I go through, I’ve probably lost a significant portion of my paycheck to Kobo over the years.

For the first bit of this review, I’m going to lay out the basics of the Kobo Audiobook Service and give my take on it independently. At the end, I will do a comparison to my Audible experience just to give some context.

How Does it Work?

Kobo Audiobooks is both a single transaction audiobook purchase AND has its own monthly subscription service. In this review, I’m focusing on the monthly subscription service. Here is the schematic of how it works:

So basically, you pay $13 a month (CAD) to get one audiobook of your choice via a credit. The credit can be applied to any audiobook in their library and of any price range. So it can save you a lot of money if the books you are looking at buying are over $20 (which most are).

If you read more than one audiobook a month, they have other options as well including a monthly subscription for 2 credits (books) a month or a yearly subscription where you get all your credits as soon as you start for the entire year. Here are those other plans (all are in CAD):

And if you don’t want to wait for your next monthly credit, you can always buy 3 instant credits that you can use immediately in addition to your subscription.

My Experience:

–Signing-Up–

When I decided to sign-up, there was an incentive for MasterCard holders to get an additional 2 credits during the free trial if you signed-up with a MasterCard. That meant I got 3 books for simply trying the service!

Since I already have a Kobo account (and the app on my phone), it was super easy to sign myself up and get started.

–Listening Experience–

Since I already had the Kobo app on my Android Phone, I used that to listen to my audiobooks. That works perfectly fine for me because I just plug my phone into the auxiliary port of my car and listen that way. I would just make sure to download the book while I was connected to my home WiFi the night before and be on my way.

The app itself is pretty basic. I think those new to audiobooks (or those who find Audible has way too many features) will appreciate the simplistic design. It’s easy to scroll to a particular point in the novel and it has a quick link to the table of contents. It does tell you have far time-wise you are into the chapter and how long in total that chapter is. And when you view the book from your shelf, it tells you the exact time left of the entire novel as well as your total percentage complete.

But for those listeners who are more familiar with Audible and/or Overdrive apps, there are a few features missing. You can’t increase the speed; no ability to bookmark; and it has no sleep feature. I use the speed feature a lot when I listen to audiobooks (I default audiobooks to 1.25X speed) so that was a huge disappointment.

–Book Selection–

I had a bit of a struggle picking the three audiobooks I wanted to use my credits for but I was being a little pickier than usual. I really didn’t to use my credits on books I could get from my library so that limited me somewhat. I found Kobo did have a lot of the bigger titles in audiobooks so that wasn’t an issue. I did find their romance section wasn’t as large as Audible (but Audible is starting to have “Audible Exclusives” so that might be why).

However, their search feature makes it easy to see if titles are available in audio without clicking through multiple pages. They also have great subheadings and categories for you to search. AND, if you read enough with Kobo, they have a great algorithm for recommendations. I’ve found a lot of great books based on my reading and rating history with my Kobo books–and this has translated over to my audiobook selections as well.

How does it Compare to Audible?

I’m going to break it down a little by some of the notable Audible features:

  • Audible: 30% Discount on Individual Buys for Subscription Members
    • In general, Kobo doesn’t offer this deal BUT they have lots of other ways to save. (And, in general, their books appear to be cheaper than Audible in some cases)
      1. You can buy the instant credits (books average out to $13 each)
        • Which can save you more than 50% for certain books
        • The yearly subscription also saves you big $$$
      2. You can Price Match with another audiobook site to get the cheaper price
      3. You can use you Kobo Super Points to redeem audiobooks
  • Audible: can listen to books on your computer
    • Kobo only lets you listen on your phone or tablet. Which is fine for me but it is noteworthy.
  • Audible: has more listening option features (sleep, note taking, colour schemes)
    • As I said above, the Kobo app keeps things simple. While I would personal like the speed and sleep features, I do enjoy the less is more approach. I find Audible to be slightly overwhelming in all that you can do and since I’m driving most of the time, I don’t use those fancier features. It’s also much easier to find your overall % complete on Kobo compared to Audible.
  • Audible: has exclusive audio titles only available through their company
    • A lot of the romance authors I read have audiobooks only available on Audible. For the most part, Kobo does have a lot of the main publishing house works but there are some they don’t get right away or just plain lack.

So, Am I Keeping It?

As of right now, no but it’s definitely something I’m going to keep in the back of my mind. I haven’t exhausted my library yet and with the increasing popularity of audiobooks, they’re adding titles on a more regular basis. I’m sure one day I will want a wider, more readily available selection but I’m good with what I have right now. I will be keeping an eye out for sales though and I plan on redeeming some of my Super Points for audio reads later this year.

But as I said with the Audible review I did, for those who regularly buy audiobooks, this is a noteworthy service for you to explore. The way I see it, you’re saving money when you get the credits. I’m sure they mark up the titles (have you seen some of the $80 titles on audiobook sites?!) but you are still saving almost $10 a book regardless and you still have access to this books should you ever cancel your service.

>>TIP: If you are interested in a trial of any audiobook subscription service, keep an eye out for various incentives. Most free trials include 1 audiobook but there are usually other promotions floating around. For example: MasterCard holders got 2 bonus credits for using their MasterCard (which is never charged, just kept on file) for the Kobo subscription. And when I tried Audible a few years ago, I was able to get the first 2 months after the free trial for only $2–so I got 3 audiobooks for $2! You can find these deals by simply Google searching them or keeping an eye out on other blogs!

Do you use Kobo Audiobooks? What about another Audiobook Service? Any tips or feedback on the service?

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Single Sundays: Tiger Lily Jodi Lynn Anderson

Single Sundays: While this blog may be focused on reviewing book series as a whole, we can’t forget about the good ole’ standalone novel! On Sundays, I will review a novel that is considered to be a standalone novel. Here is this week’s offering:

Synopsis for Tiger Lily (from Goodreads):

Before Peter Pan belonged to Wendy, he belonged to the girl with the crow feather in her hair…

Fifteen-year-old Tiger Lily doesn’t believe in love stories or happy endings. Then she meets the alluring teenage Peter Pan in the forbidden woods of Neverland and immediately falls under his spell.

Peter is unlike anyone she’s ever known. Impetuous and brave, he both scares and enthralls her. As the leader of the Lost Boys, the most fearsome of Neverland’s inhabitants, Peter is an unthinkable match for Tiger Lily. Soon, she is risking everything—her family, her future—to be with him. When she is faced with marriage to a terrible man in her own tribe, she must choose between the life she’s always known and running away to an uncertain future with Peter.

With enemies threatening to tear them apart, the lovers seem doomed. But it’s the arrival of Wendy Darling, an English girl who’s everything Tiger Lily is not, that leads Tiger Lily to discover that the most dangerous enemies can live inside even the most loyal and loving heart.

breakdown

Author: Jodi Lynn Anderson
Genre: Teen, Fairy Tale Retelling, Fantasy, Romance
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: Third Person, Single
Publication Date: July 3, 2012
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I came across this book at my local library when I was getting into eReading in 2012. I’m really only familiar with the Disney version of Peter Pan but Tiger Lily is a character that we only see a flash of and it’s in a slightly negative light. So I was curious to see what her story was and learn a bit more about her.

Of course, I never got around to this story. I blame my focus on book series for this blog a bit since standalones get a lower priority. So that was why I added it to my 5 Year 5 Book Challenge for 2017.

The Concept / The World:

I wouldn’t say this is a retelling but more so an origin story. The introduction of Wendy really doesn’t happen until well after the 80% mark so you spend most of the time learning about Tiger Lily’s home life and how she met Peter. It’s like a prequel to the events of Peter Pan.

I truly struggled with forgetting the Disney Peter Pan story and remembering that a retelling will change things. You get inklings of common story themes (Hook, the crocodile, mermaids) but things change (like how people get to Neverland, etc)–that’s the point of a retelling. It manipulates what you know to show you a new perspective.

I also thought it was interesting that the novel is narrated by Tinkerbell. It provides some good insight for why Tink is often a pest to Wendy and others.

Also–maybe it’s just me–but this book felt “weird” to me. I mean, the whole premise of Neverland is an odd one (and I like that this one addressed why some people were older and some were forever young) but I really struggled with understanding what exactly was happening. Everything just seemed “odd” to me.

The Plot:

I definitely read the synopsis and interpreted it wrong. I thought the story would focus a bit more on Wendy’s arrival and how Tiger Lily deals with that. But like I said above, that only happens in the last quarter of the book.

For the most part, I felt like this book didn’t have much of a plot. The first 20% jumps all over the place talking about past stories and current situations. And then you get Tiger Lily living her life and struggling with her relationship with Peter and her family. I think I wanted more drama than the mundane everyday life moments. It just didn’t capture my attention like I wanted it to.

The Characters:

I find origin stories often focus on the mundane but what really makes them are the characters (Blackhearts is a great example of that, where the story is slower but you just fall in love with the characters).

Unfortunately here, the characters fell flat to me.

I went into this really wanting to like Tiger Lily. She’s such an enigma of a character to me and I wanted to see her in a new light. But I just felt indifferent to her. I couldn’t get a good read on her character (perhaps because we get everything through Tinkerbell who develops a bias?) and that stopped me from getting total invested.

Peter was annoying–I mean what type of maturity did I expect from a boy who never grows up?–and I felt like Tiger Lily could do better.

Understanding Tinkerbell was a highlight though–I almost wish this was called “Tinkerbell” instead.

The Romance:

Like I said, I wasn’t feeling the love between Tiger Lily and Peter. When I don’t like the two characters, I don’t like the romance between them. I also didn’t get the draw of Tiger Lily. Everyone seemed to be in love with her and I didn’t get why.

My Audiobook Experience:

This was a book I probably should have read as a physical book because I could have benefited from page breaks. The start jumps around a lot between past and present and I found myself getting lost. And having the third but first person POV with Tink made it hard to follow at times.

My Rating: 2/5

overall

This book was a huge let down. I feel like my expectations and what the story actual was were polar opposites. If you plan on reading it, know that Wendy Darling doesn’t play that big a role in the story despite what the synopsis implies.

Read if You Like: Peter Pan retellings, slower stories
Avoid if You: want action, want all consuming romance
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Series Review: Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins

Series Review: Is this series worth your time? Does it get better as the novels progress? Or does it get worse? Find out below:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Rebel Belle (from Goodreads):

Harper Price, peerless Southern belle, was born ready for a Homecoming tiara. But after a strange run-in at the dance imbues her with incredible abilities, Harper’s destiny takes a turn for the seriously weird. She becomes a Paladin, one of an ancient line of guardians with agility, super strength and lethal fighting instincts.

Just when life can’t get any more disastrously crazy, Harper finds out who she’s charged to protect: David Stark, school reporter, subject of a mysterious prophecy and possibly Harper’s least favorite person. But things get complicated when Harper starts falling for him—and discovers that David’s own fate could very well be to destroy Earth.

With snappy banter, cotillion dresses, non-stop action and a touch of magic, this new young adult series from bestseller Rachel Hawkins is going to make y’all beg for more.

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Fav Audiobook 2017, Cover Love
Series: Rebel Belle Trilogy
Author: Rachel Hawkins
# of Books: 3 (Rebel Belle, Miss Mayhem, Lady Renegades)
Book Order: Connected
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Dates: April 2014 – April 2016
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I totally found this series by accident last year when I browsing potential audiobooks to borrow. I’d had Rachel Hawkins’ Hex Hall on my TBR for years but removed it during my Goodreads Purge sometime in the last year or two. This series caught my eye thanks to that awesome cover for Rebel Belle. After reading the synopsis, this seemed like it would be a fun series to listen to as an audio one and so I put it on hold.

The Concept / The World:

First, the concept for this series is just awesome. I had a great time learning about the various roles and what Harper was expected to do. It’s got a lot of layers and I enjoy that in my fantasy worlds.

The setting itself is equally fun. I don’t usually enjoy novels set in The South (they have a slower nature to them) but I seem to find exception in my YA fantasy/paranormal worlds like this one (or Beautiful Creatures for example). The prim and proper nature of Harper’s town and lifestyle provides a great backdrop for craziness to ensue. It’s this added factor to everything that happens and I think this series wouldn’t be the same without that Southern Charm.

The Plot:

Rebel Belle had a great blend and balance between the drama, the character moments, action and the romance. You get those moments dedicated to the world-building but you also get those moments where Harper learns more about herself as a teenaged girl and not just a Paladin.

Unfortunately, the other two books have a hard time living up the the high standards of Rebel Belle and come up a little short..

I found that the middle novel, Miss Mayhem, didn’t have the same charm as the first book. I think the synopsis for it is a little misleading too because you think you are going to get this action packed story. Instead, you get your typical Book 2 of a Trilogy novel that simply bridges the actions of Books 1 and 3 together.

The final novel, Lady Renegades, reminded me more of the first novel in terms of its delivery. It sees the return of the back and forth banter Harper is great at delivering. But I did find that my enthusiasm waned as the plot progressed.

That being said: I never got bored and I was always entertained even if I wasn’t entirely loving the plot’s direction.

The Characters:

I’ll admit, I wasn’t sure what to make of Harper when she first started narrating her story. I even thought to myself “what did I get myself into?” just a few paragraphs into the story. But by the 15% mark she had completely charmed me. She’s hilarious with her inner monologue. I haven’t laughed that much in a long time. She’s witty and has a very unique perspective on life, so I had a blast listening to her. In addition to that, she’s also a very sweet girl who genuinely wants to improve everyone’s lives so I couldn’t help but love her.

My only peeve with Harper is her lack of character development throughout the series. I think in an effort to make this series “light” and “fun” we don’t dwell on certain things that we should, like Harper’s relationship with her older sister. It gets mentioned on occasion and in a way that implies to the influence the sister has on Harper’s actions and reactions to be perfect, but it’s never expanded on. Because the fact of the matter is this: you could remove her sister’s character entirely from this series and it wouldn’t alter this story in any way since it has that little of an impact. I just felt like why mention it if you aren’t going to do anything worthwhile with it?

Moving on: the rest of the cast is fun too. I think they perhaps fall a little into the cliched roles but they do a great job supporting Harper’s story.

The Romance:

All the tension in Rebel Belle was delicious! I really liked David and Harper’s interactions. The whole “hate-to-love-you” bit provides some great banter between them.

I liked that the romance was never the main focal point of this series. It focuses on the fantasy elements for the most part. The only exception would be in Book 2, Miss Mayhem, where the romances of all the characters become on of the main plot-points in an effort to move the story forward.

My Audiobook Experience:

I’m very glad I read this as an audiobook. Honestly, I might have DNF’d this if I read the novel because I’m not sure if I would find Harper as charming as I did. With the Southern twang to her voice and the obvious sarcasm you get in the audioversion, it just made for an immersive and entertaining read for me.

Series Rating: 4/5

Rebel Belle 5/5| Miss Mayhem 3/5 | Lady Renegades 3.5/5

overall

While its sequels don’t live up to the charm of the first novel, this series is still very entertaining for fans of light and fun YA fantasy novels. I highly recommend the audiobooks!

Read if You Like: books set in the South, fun fantasy novels, lighter reads
Avoid if You: want only action in your fantasy novel, dislike magic

similarreads

  • Touch of Frost by Jennifer Estep (Mythos Academy #1)
  • A Breath of Frost by Alyxandra Harvey (The Lovegrove Legacy #1)
  • Oh. My. Gods. by Tera Lynn Childs (Oh. My. Gods. Series #1)

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Series Review: Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenselle

Series Review: Is this series worth your time? Does it get better as the novels progress? Or does it get worse? Find out below:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Daughter of the Pirate King (from Goodreads):

There will be plenty of time for me to beat him soundly once I’ve gotten what I came for.

Sent on a mission to retrieve an ancient hidden map—the key to a legendary treasure trove—seventeen-year-old pirate captain Alosa deliberately allows herself to be captured by her enemies, giving her the perfect opportunity to search their ship.

More than a match for the ruthless pirate crew, Alosa has only one thing standing between her and the map: her captor, the unexpectedly clever and unfairly attractive first mate, Riden. But not to worry, for Alosa has a few tricks up her sleeve, and no lone pirate can stop the Daughter of the Pirate King.

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Fav 2018
Series: Daughter of the Pirate King Duology
Author: Tricia Levenseller
# of Books: 2 (Daughter of the Pirate King, Daughter of the Siren Queen)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Historical, Adventure, Pirates, Romance
Heat Rating: warm **suggestive content**
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Dates: February 2017 – February 2018
Source & Format: Public Library & Own–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I saw this book a lot in 2017 and it sounded like something I would enjoy. I love a good pirate story; I’m usually not a fan of the adventure story but with pirates, something just works for me. So while the hype around this scared me a little, I was very excited to pick it up and dive right in!

The Concept / The World:

I loved the ordered chaos of this world. The whole hierarchy of the pirate world here was fascinating and very straightforward to follow. It has all those elements you expect when it comes to pirate tales, including the sword fights and death. It’s not overly violent by any means but you do have some blood and life loss so I liked that it didn’t sugar coat those aspects.

The Plot:

I think I ended up liking Daughter of the Pirate King more than I thought I would because it wasn’t your typical pirate adventure. Instead, it felt like more of a battle of wits between Alosa and Riden as Alosa tries to complete her mission. It’s a pretty stationary setting (as opposed to sailing from destination to destination) and things happen quickly as a result so I was never bored. Even if the plot seemed a little slow, Alosa’s sass or scenes with Riden had me eager for more. I easily became addicted to the story.

But that wasn’t the case for the sequel and finale, The Daughter of the Siren Queen. I had the hardest time getting invested into this story. Honestly, if it wasn’t the sequel I would have likely DNF’d it. It isn’t because it’s bad, it just wasn’t what I was expecting. I found things got off to a slow start and we kept rehashing the same sentiments again and again (mainly Alosa struggling with her true nature). Which is fine but I needed more to keep my full attention. The last quarter does pick up and there was some great romantic development but this definitely wasn’t the sequel I had anticipated.

The Characters:

I immediately loved Alosa because she is exactly the type of sassy pirate I want to read about. Her wit and kick-ass attitude had me from the start. She also had a surprising amount of character growth later on in the book (and series) and I liked that a lot (even if it did get a little dry in the sequel).

Riden is a great adversary for her as well. He’s her match in every way and I loved every scene that they had together. I love battles of wit and banter and these two don’t disappoint.

Everyone else is what you want them to be. You’ve got your villains and the shifty crew members and they all add to this fantastic atmosphere and story.

The Romance:

Clearly I was a fan. Like I said, these two had great chemistry from the start and I loved all their scenes together. I felt like the romance only got stronger in the sequel and it really became apparent to me why these two were such a great match.

My Audiobook Experience:

I think I enjoyed this more as an audiobook than I would have as a physical book. Actually hearing Alosa’s sass and witty remarks aloud had me laughing out loud throughout. But it also allowed her emotion and conflict to show too which made her a more complex character than I originally thought. Highly recommend the audiobook!

Series Rating: 4/5

Daughter of the Pirate King 5/5 | Daughter of the Siren Queen 2.5/5

overall

Despite my less than stellar experience with the sequel (I really think it was just a “me” thing), this is a great series for those who love pirate adventures. It’s got a strong heroine who does have her own flaws but learns along the way who she truly wants to be. It’s a great duology!

Read if You Like: pirates, kickass heroines, banter
Avoid if You: dislike adventure stories, want more romance

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Single Sundays: Daughter of Deep Silence by Carrie Ryan

Single Sundays: While this blog may be focused on reviewing book series as a whole, we can’t forget about the good ole’ standalone novel! On Sundays, I will review a novel that is considered to be a standalone novel. Here is this week’s offering:

Synopsis for Daughter of Deep Silence(from Goodreads):

I’m the daughter of murdered parents.
I’m the friend of a dead girl.
I’m the lover of my enemy.
And I will have my revenge.

In the wake of the devastating destruction of the luxury yacht Persephone, just three souls remain to tell its story—and two of them are lying. Only Frances Mace knows the terrifying truth, and she’ll stop at nothing to avenge the murders of everyone she held dear. Even if it means taking down the boy she loves and possibly losing herself in the process.

Sharp and incisive, Daughter of Deep Silence by bestselling author Carrie Ryan is a deliciously smart revenge thriller that examines perceptions of identity, love, and the lengths to which one girl is willing to go when she thinks she has nothing to lose.

breakdown

Author: Carrie Ryan
Genre: Young Adult, Mystery, Contemporary, Revenge
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: May 26, 2015
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

Did you read that synopsis? I love a good revenge story. I just love the suspense and the anticipation that comes from righting the wrongs of the past. I also love a good conspiracy theory and this sounded like it had the potential to be great.

Also, it really reminded me of the TV show Revenge which I loved in the first season…and not so much later on. But, again, I loved the whole idea so I couldn’t wait to listen!

The Plot:

Have you ever read a book where you build up the big reveal to be this big epic thing only to find out that the truth is much less enthralling? That’s exactly what happened here for me. I built this book up to be something else and in the end, I was left disappointed.

Image result for revenge gifs

Let’s start with the revenge plot. The positive is that I like how everything gets started. I found the introduction to be thrilling and captured my attention. Learning what has happened to Frances and how she plans to learn the truth was great.

The unfortunate thing is that this book takes far to long to get things into motion. At the 50% Frances has maybe done 2 things to get her plan in motion and–while original–weren’t all that exciting. And for all her efforts, she really hasn’t learnt anything either. We don’t get an inkling of what the actual conspiracy is until the 72% mark so I couldn’t put the pieces together myself until that moment (and it gets a little spewed out all at once anyways).

Instead, the book focuses on Frances’ internal struggle to keep up her charade and enact her revenge. And I get why, she’s dealing with some heavy stuff and frankly, if she wasn’t conflicted about it I would worry for her sanity (though I do enjoy a dark heroine with no remorse on occasion). But, I find her worries become monotonous after awhile and I grew bored listening to her lament on and on about it all.

The Characters:

None of these characters are overly impressive to me.

As I said above, I can appreciate Frances’ struggle with what she is doing. Her struggle to maintain her true identity through it all is endearing. Everything is building up yet crumbling around her and it’s an interesting situation for a heroine to find herself in.

Image result for revenge gifs

The Romance:

I knew pretty early on that I wasn’t going to be a fan of this given the circumstances. It’s young puppy love that gets built up into something more grandiose than it is because of the situation. Thankfully, it’s not a huge focus of the book. Rather, it is used as a device to move the plot forward and it’s utilized well enough when all is said an done.

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My Audiobook Experience:

The audiobook was a great choice I think. I love how emotions are conveyed through audio and it helped me bring the story to life. I will admit that as my interested waned in the actual story I did bump the speed up to 1.25X and eventually 1.5X just to get things to go a little faster.

My Rating: 3/5

overall

This book has a lot of potential but I felt like the focus wasn’t on what I wanted it to be. Instead we get a story more about the struggle for identity and what it means to need revenge than the actual taking of revenge. It entertained me but I didn’t love it by any means.

Read if You Like: more character based stories
Avoid if You: want a more thrilling revenge seeking story

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SERIESous Tips: 5 Ways to Get Into Audiobooks

Last July, I published a post declaring my love for audiobooks.

But it took me a long time to reach that conclusion. As I mentioned in that post, it took me 7 years to get comfortable listening to audiobooks. That’s a long time!

Audiobooks are a growing tend in the publishing industry. In 2017, audiobook sales increased by nearly 30%! That’s crazy! And I can only imagine that they are doing the same (if not better this year). I’ve noticed that a lot of my favourite authors have been releasing audio versions of their new books months before they published versions hit the shelves.

Which is why I wanted to created this post today. I know that for some, audiobooks are a daunting format to even consider reading. But I’m hoping that with some of the tips below, you are encouraged to at least try and see why audiobooks can make a great addition to your reading habits.

Below you’ll find some of the tips that I have tried and tested over the last 8 years. My previous post focuses more on my journey to find that all important first book but the tips below focus more on the actual reading experience.

1 – Start With Nonfiction

This is a tried and true method for me. Nonfiction novels are a great starting point for a number of reasons. Some of those reasons are listed in more detail for Tip #2 and Tip #3, but this biggest reason is their subject matter.

I found nonfiction audiobooks didn’t require me to listen all the time. Seems counter-intuitive I know, but what I mean is that I was able to teach myself to listen to the book but not berate myself when I missed something important. You can easily discourage yourself when you get angry for missing certain parts and in turn, it can make for a horrible listening environment and experience.

For example, celebrity memoirs are great to listen to because you don’t need to listen to every detail. You can zone in and out if you have to and not miss too much. (And you can always use the rewind button if you need to!) I found by listening to these stories, I got used to focusing on the words and putting things together as well as remembering past topics without having the ability to flip back and check the previous pages.

Consider it audiobook training if you will.

2 – Find a Narrator You’re Familiar With

I read of a lot of celebrity memoirs when I first got into audiobooks because I enjoyed the familiarity of a voice I already knew. It’s especially true with actors because you are used to hearing their voices and deliveries on TV or at the movies. With audiobooks, all you’re doing is removing the visual but your brain can do the rest and you can easily visualize it in your head.

>> Tip: Listen to an audiobook sample before taking the plunge. You can usually tell pretty quickly if you will get annoyed by the narration or not simply by listening to a couple of minutes of the production.

But a lot of actors narrate fiction novels as well. When I made the jump to fiction I first picked up Veronica Mars: The Thousand Dollar Tan Line because it is narrated by Veronica herself, Kristen Bell. Best decision EVER! Again, I felt like I was watching an episode of Veronica Mars without the visuals and it just really allowed me to immerse myself in the narrative and world.

>> List: Here’s a list of some classic novels as audiobooks narrated by celebrities!

3 – Start With Shorter Novels

If you’re like me, you might have a shorter attention span. I don’t do so well with books that have more than 300 pages because I often find myself getting bored (I’m looking at you Throne of Glass Series). That isn’t always the case but I do get distracted easily.

After listening to a few audiobooks, I soon learned that I didn’t enjoy books that had a length greater than 11 hours. So when I’m contemplating whether or not to choose the audio verison or the print, I take into account the length of the narration.

But, if you really want to listen to the audiobook you can always…

4 – Bump Up the Delivery Speed

I rarely used this feature before I started listening to fiction novels. But once I started using it, I couldn’t stop!

Bumping up the speed can help in a variety of ways. One is that it shortens the amount of time you have to listen to the novel. This is great for novels that are just that little bit too long for my attention span. For example, when I wasn’t totally enjoying Kingdom of Ashes, I bumped of the speed to get through it a little more quickly because I did want to see the ending.

But I also use the increased speed when the dialogue seems a to be a little stifled. Again, I used the speed initially in Kingdom of Ashes to help smooth out the awkward dialogue of the narrator. I did the same thing in West as well. Both times, it increased my enjoyment of the novel as I wasn’t as annoyed or distracted by the slower delivery.

Now, by default (unless it is for review copy purposes) I listen to all audiobooks on 1.25X to help smooth out the dialogue and help me finish that little bit faster.

>> Tip: If you find that audiobooks are too fast, most audiobook applications have a 0.5X speed to slow things down!

5 –  Listen to a Previously Read Series

Finding that first audiobook to dive into can be daunting. I detail how I came to pick my first fiction novel in my post last year–it took me (at least) an hour to whittle it down to one.

Which is why I think returning to an old favourite is a great start. I’ve never done this per say but it was in my mind when I picked up the Veronica Mars series as audiobooks since I was already familiar with all the characters thanks to the show.

In a similar idea, I ended up picking up the audiobook version of Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? after not being fully invested in the print version. Again, this goes back to Tips #1 & #2 but I just knew the stories Mindy tells would be much more entertaining if I heard her tell them to me in her voice. And they were!

Returning to a world or story you are already familiar with can help you get accustomed to the audio version. You can teach yourself to listen without having to worry that you will unintentionally miss something (and if you do, you already know what it is!). Familiarity in something that is new to you can be a great asset and that’s what a reread provides when it comes to audiobooks.

>> Tip: If you don’t want to pay to try out an audiobook, try you’re local library or an audiobook subscription service. Read my Service Review of Audible here!

Bonus – Listen to an Audiobook Instead of Music

When I first started listening to audiobooks 3 years ago, I started listening to them while running errands and doing chores because I was tired of listening to the music I had on my iPod. Sure, I could listen to the radio but I hate listening to commercials and music streaming services weren’t my thing. Listening to audiobooks was the equivalent of listening to the TV while it played in the other room and I quickly became engrossed in the story.

Which is why I started listening to audiobooks on my drive to work instead of the radio (which I listen to for my entire shift at work). When you drive by yourself, you can’t really spend that time reading or doing other things because you have to concentrate on your surroundings. And given the fact I was losing 2 hours commuting back and forth, I wanted to do something productive and make up for my lost reading time. Audiobooks were the answer.

Of course, there are times when audiobooks instead of music might not be the best idea. For example, I can’t listen to an audiobook and write a post for my blog at the same time (I can’t even listen to music with lyrics when I write). I don’t mind listening to books while doing cardio exercises but for some people they might need the beat of music to keep up their motivation. But the next time you reach for the playlist, why not try out an audiobook instead?


I hope you found some of those tips helpful!

Be patient as you try audiobooks. They are a very different reading experience and it’s something that takes time to get used to–especially if you are hesitant to try or go in thinking you won’t enjoy them. I had to teach myself to listen (it helps when you are driving by yourself and have nothing else to do but listen) while others can dive right in. Don’t be discouraged if that first book doesn’t work. Keep an open mind and try different things (i.e. genres) to see what works for you. 

Here are some recommendations of audiobooks I loved in the last year:

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda When Dimple Met Rishi The Hate U Give Fragile Chaos Rebel Belle (Rebel Belle, #1)

Do you listen to audiobooks? Why or why not?

Any Tips?

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Series Review: Perfected by Kate Jarvik Birch

Series Review: Is this series worth your time? Does it get better as the novels progress? Or does it get worse? Find out below:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Perfected (from Goodreads):

Perfection comes at a price.

As soon as the government passed legislation allowing humans to be genetically engineered and sold as pets, the rich and powerful rushed to own beautiful girls like Ella. Trained from birth to be graceful, demure, and above all, perfect, these “family companions” enter their masters’ homes prepared to live a life of idle luxury.

Ella is happy with her new role as playmate for a congressman’s bubbly young daughter, but she doesn’t expect Penn, the congressman’s handsome and rebellious son. He’s the only person who sees beyond the perfect exterior to the girl within. Falling for him goes against every rule she knows… and the freedom she finds with him is intoxicating.

But when Ella is kidnapped and thrust into the dark underworld lurking beneath her pampered life, she’s faced with an unthinkable choice. Because the only thing more dangerous than staying with Penn’s family is leaving… and if she’s unsuccessful, she’ll face a fate far worse than death.

For fans of Kiera Cass’ Selection series and Lauren DeStefano’s Chemical Garden series, Perfected is a chilling look at what it means to be human, and a stunning celebration of the power of love to set us free, wrapped in a glamorous—and dangerous—bow.

breakdown

Series: Perfected Trilogy
Author: Kate Jarvik Birch
# of Books: 3 (Perfected, Tarnished, Unraveled)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Dystopian
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Dates: July 2014 – April 2018
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook (Perfected); Netgalley–eARC

Tarnished & Unraveled were provided via NetGalley

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I initially had this series as a pass after reading a few mixed reviews. But then I saw the audiobook at my library and decided to give it a second chance. I was intrigued by the concept and I seem to have great success listening to dystopian YA worlds (The Lone City Trilogy for example) so why not?

The Concept / The World:

The idea that girls are bred as pets for wealthy people is an interesting and unique dystopian spin. I’ve read books where girls are bred for surrogates (The Jewel) or girls are sent off to marry older men to repopulate the world (Wither) but nothing of this variety before.

What’s the purpose? Why has society come to this?

Unfortunately, we don’t really explore this too much, especially in Perfected (Book #1). I think we get one line in Perfected that gives us the history of why they started breeding girls (or at least where the idea originated from). So in that respect, I was a little disappointed because I wanted to learn more.

However, I find the sequels do a better job or highlighting the various issues of having “pets”. The focus shifts to questions about what makes someone human and allusions to owning humans (ie slavery). It gets more of a social conscience as the story progresses and that definitely appealed to me as a reader.

The Plot:

I’d have a hard time telling you the exact plot for Perfected  (Book 1) because there isn’t too much of one. The synopsis is a touch misleading because the kidnapping aspects seems like it would be the main plot-point but it isn’t. It’s a crucial moment in the novel but it isn’t the main story.

Perfected is mostly about Ella losing her naivety about the world. She’s been at her “kennel” for 16 years and told the world is a certain way. But as she lives in the real world, her ideology changes and she grows as a person. It isn’t terribly exciting but I did find myself entertained nonetheless. I love good character progression and Ella–though she makes some mistakes–is endearing in her efforts.

Compared to the first novel, the sequels (Tarnished and Unraveled) have much better pacing and are constantly introducing new elements into the plot. I didn’t find myself getting bored or lost in the mundane everyday life of a pet. Ella gets tested and she has some hard decisions to make and I loved watching that journey.

The Characters:

Like I said, Ella is naive but given the circumstances of her life up until the start of Perfected, it makes sense. I think people might forget that a little. She’s the very definition of sheltered and so she has a child-like approach to the world. I found as the story progressed, she evolved and the gears started turning for her a little more. She broke out of that shell and I liked that. Sure, she makes some silly mistakes but I find she is constantly learning and evolving as a character and you can’t ask for much more than that.

I also really liked some of the side characters as well, especially as the series progressed. There’s one character who completely captivated me with her story and I think she provides a nice complement to Ella with her someone jaded personality and approach.

The Romance:

Truthfully, I wasn’t totally sold on the romance between Ella and Penn. It’s one of those situations where they connected over one thing (music) and the rest is developed “off-camera” away from the reader. It’s cute but it just seemed fluffy to me. But it is a good catalyst for driving the plot forward, especially in the sequels. It isn’t a huge focus moving forward so I appreciated that and I even appreciated the sweet moments later on.

My Audiobook Experience for Perfected (#1):

I was only able to read Perfected as an audiobook and I’m glad I did. I think getting Ella’s tone of voice as she narrated her story helped me understand her character a lot more. I could understand her struggles and developed sympathy for her character which allowed me to enjoy the story more. Having that voice in my head as I read the print versions of the sequels helped me establish her character as well.

Series Rating: 4/5

Perfected 3/5 | Tarnished 4/5 | Unraveled 4/5

overall

Despite a slower start in Book #1, I found this series grew exponentially as the sequels evolved. It’s an intriguing concept and world and I think if you take the time to establish everything in the first novel, you’ll appreciate the great sequels.

Read if You Like: light dystopian, romance
Avoid if You: want stronger world building, action

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Single Sundays: Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum

Single Sundays: While this blog may be focused on reviewing book series as a whole, we can’t forget about the good ole’ standalone novel! On Sundays, I will review a novel that is considered to be a standalone novel. Here is this week’s offering:

Synopsis for Tell Me Three Things (from Goodreads):

Everything about Jessie is wrong. At least, that’s what it feels like during her first week of junior year at her new ultra-intimidating prep school in Los Angeles. Just when she’s thinking about hightailing it back to Chicago, she gets an email from a person calling themselves Somebody/Nobody (SN for short), offering to help her navigate the wilds of Wood Valley High School. Is it an elaborate hoax? Or can she rely on SN for some much-needed help?

It’s been barely two years since her mother’s death, and because her father eloped with a woman he met online, Jessie has been forced to move across the country to live with her stepmonster and her pretentious teenage son.

In a leap of faith—or an act of complete desperation—Jessie begins to rely on SN, and SN quickly becomes her lifeline and closest ally. Jessie can’t help wanting to meet SN in person. But are some mysteries better left unsolved?

Julie Buxbaum mixes comedy and tragedy, love and loss, pain and elation, in her debut YA novel filled with characters who will come to feel like friends.

breakdown

Author: Julie Buxbaum
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: April 5, 2016
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

Like most titles, I don’t know how this one crossed my radar but I know a lot of my friends on Goodreads have read (and enjoyed) it since its release.

I was really excited to read it though because it sounded a lot like Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda–the idea of a secret pen-pal that helps the lead cope with the current situation. I had heard this book was funny and charming, so I was eager to dive into the audiobook.

The Concept:

I definitely think people can relate to this book–and Jessie–in some way or another. She’s going through a lot of changes in her life and she’s just doing the best she can to adapt. I related to her because I’ve totally been that new kid at school, trying to navigate life in a new place. But meeting her new step-family and grieving the loss of her mother are other aspects readers will gravitate towards as well.

The whole concept of Somebody Nobody (SN) reminded me a lot of Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda where the characters interact and bond with someone online. But instead of Jessie dealing with her sexuality like Simon in a place he is familiar with, she’s dealing with grief and living in a whole new city. Both are charming leads that will have you laughing out loud and feeling their pain throughout their respective novels.

The Plot:

I liked that there was a lot going on in this book. You aren’t focused solely on Jessie and her grieving–which is important, don’t get me wrong. I just mean that there are other things happening that add to the overall experience and makes everything that little bit richer. It also gives the book a lighter tone in between those moments of grief.

Also, the mystery of SN was fantastic! It truly keeps you invested and has this addicting quality to it. I couldn’t tell if it was just wishful thinking on my part or if it was obvious who SN was. Either way, it was still an enjoyable aspect of the story.

The Characters:

Like I said before, Jessie is a very relateable character and hilarious. Some of her comments had me laughing out loud for quite a while. I loved her wit and sass–usually I only find that in contemporaries with male leads.

But I also loved her character development. Watching her get that self confidence back was fabulous.

Why this book doesn’t get 5 stars though is because she is also frustrating at times. Her assumptions about who SN was were maddening to listen to. I swear, she would purposely miss things to meet an end. As I noted at the 78% mark:

“Maybe he doesn’t act like he’s SN because he ISN’T SN! I swear, Jessie is a little dense sometimes -.-“

And again at the 97% mark:

“Girl, for the love of all, stop assuming things and just ask or wait for someone to tell you!”

I just wanted to give her a smack and say THINK ABOUT IT! Her biggest fault is her inability to communicate. However, thanks to her character’s story and development, I understood why that would be the case so I cut her some slack. Still didn’t make it easier to listen too at times.

The Romance:

This was super cute and I liked that it wasn’t a huge focus of the book either. I don’t want to give too much away but I think readers will be happy with this.

My Audiobook Experience:

I really enjoyed listening to the audiobook and I think that positively impacted my rating. As a reader, I have a better time understanding wit and sarcasm when it’s spoken instead of simply words on a page. But there is also something about listening to someone pour their heart out. You feel so connected to the character as they tell you their story and I definitely felt that with Jessie.

My Rating: 4/5

overall

This is a YA contemporary that hits all the right notes. It’s charming, funny and sweet–readers will love this! Plus, it has heart waffles on the cover! Waffles!

Read if You Like: realistic YA contemporary, witty heroines
Avoid if You: dislike realistic contemporary fiction

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Single Sundays: Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman

Single Sundays: While this blog may be focused on reviewing book series as a whole, we can’t forget about the good ole’ standalone novel! On Sundays, I will review a novel that is considered to be a standalone novel. Here is this week’s offering:

Synopsis for Challenger Deep (from Goodreads):

Caden Bosch is on a ship that’s headed for the deepest point on Earth: Challenger Deep, the southern part of the Marianas Trench.

Caden Bosch is a brilliant high school student whose friends are starting to notice his odd behavior.

Caden Bosch is designated the ship’s artist in residence, to document the journey with images.

Caden Bosch pretends to join the school track team but spends his days walking for miles, absorbed by the thoughts in his head.

Caden Bosch is split between his allegiance to the captain and the allure of mutiny.

Caden Bosch is torn.

A captivating and powerful novel that lingers long beyond the last page, Challenger Deep is a heartfelt tour de force by one of today’s most admired writers for teens.

breakdown

Author: Neal Shusterman
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction, Mental Health
Heat Rating: cold
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: April 21, 2015
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I’ve never read a Neal Shusterman novel–never even heard of the guy either–but apparently he is “one of today’s most admired writers for teens”. So that both excited and scared me when it came to this novel. Excited me because he is (apparently) known for writing captivating stories; scared me because promotional hype can easily heighten expectations and leave you devastated.

I really had no idea what to expect. I don’t even know how I found out about this book. And when I started listening to the audiobook, I didn’t read the synopsis so I was going in completely blind.

The Concept:

I think if I had read the synopsis before starting the audiobook, I would haven’t felt as lost as I was at the start. See, all I remembered when I started this book was the part about the ship. I missed the rest of the synopsis so I was a little confused as to why were were jumping back and forth between Caden’s life at home and his life on the ship.

This is a book about mental illness and I think it is important to know that going in so you can get into the right mindset. Because honestly, I was confused until I figured that out. That’s when you can start putting things together and figure out what Caden is describing and how he is feeling.

The Plot:

As I said above, the plot shifts a lot at the start and it can be a little overwhelming. But once you start to delve a little deeper, you start to see how everything is working together.

I love stories that have you continuously working it out in your head. Honestly, I would love to study this book in school and dissect every moment of it because it is beautifully crafted. It’s one of those books that you really don’t appreciate until you finish it and see how everything blends together.

The Characters:

I think everyone can relate to Caden’s story in one way or another. Whether you know someone who suffers from a mental health condition or you yourself have one, you’ll connect with this story in some capacity.

This book does a fabulous job of delivering Caden’s thoughts and reasonings in a way readers can understand and experience for themselves. There’s a part where Caden switches to the 2nd person POV and you really get to put yourself in his shoes and see what it feels like to be in his current situation. I’ve never had that connection to a character that I didn’t share some trait with and it was a refreshing experience for me as a reader.

The Romance:

I’ve read a lot of really great YA contemporaries in the last year that focus on mental health but they’ve all been a little hindered by the romance. So I was really happy when this book never took that turn. This story is all about Caden’s journey and it never shies away from that.

My Audiobook Experience:

I’m very glad I read this as an audiobook: the production was fabulous! Every character had their own unique voice and that made it such a treat to listen to. It also forced me to pay attention too (not that I don’t normally pay attention to my audiobooks–I just mean I paid particular attention to remembering the story) so that I could make sure I knew what was happening and why that particular chapter was important to remember later on. It was like listening to a mystery that you only get clues to along the way but you can’t look backwards. I guess what I’m trying to say is that this book captured my full attention and the audiobook experience was very immersive.

My Rating: 5/5

overall

Easily one of the best books I’ve read about mental health in the YA genre. Ever.

Read if You Like: books about mental health, books with allusions
Avoid if You: want a romance, can’t handle shifting narration
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