Quantcast

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (audio)

Source: Purchased
Audible, 11+ hours
I am an Amazon Affiliate

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, narrated by Bahni Turpin, is a young adult novel examining not only racism, but also life as a 16-year-old girl, Starr Carter, after witnessing the murder of her childhood friend Khalil by a police officer. (there’s a read-a-long at Book Bloggers International, if you’re interested) Following the death of Khalil, his murder is viewed not as the life of an unarmed teen who will never graduate high school or go to college but as the death of a drug dealer and a gang banger. Starr is forced to re-live those moments beside him as a unprovoked traffic stop turns into something tragic. Along the way, this young woman realizes that not only has she abandoned her old friends for the new ones at her suburban prep school, but that she has a voice that should be heard — loud and clear.

She also has to come to terms with where she comes from in Garden Heights — “the ghetto” — to where she wants to be as an educated woman capable of making her own life choices. Her double life comes to a head as she must reconcile the two halves of her identity — Starr Carter and Williamson Starr — to emerge on the other side of tragedy as a confident young lady. Starr also needs to stop placing labels on herself, all of her friends, and especially her white boyfriend, Chris — who let’s face it is mature beyond his years if he can refrain from sex and let her cry on his shoulders instead.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, narrated by Bahni Turpin, is a multi-layered novel about racism, poverty, justice, and healing. Starr and all of us need to review our own prejudices to see where justice can be had and how to bring together communities for the right reasons, not the wrong ones. Another one for the Best of List this year.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Author:

Angie Thomas was born, raised, and still resides in Jackson, Mississippi as indicated by her accent. She is a former teen rapper whose greatest accomplishment was an article about her in Right-On Magazine with a picture included. She holds a BFA in Creative Writing from Belhaven University and an unofficial degree in Hip Hop. She can also still rap if needed. She is an inaugural winner of the Walter Dean Meyers Grant 2015, awarded by We Need Diverse Books. Her debut novel, The Hate U Give, was acquired by Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins in a 13-house auction and will be published in spring 2017. Film rights have been optioned by Fox 2000 with George Tillman attached to direct and Hunger Games actress Amandla Stenberg set to star.

New Authors Reading Challenge 2017

Ashes (The Seeds of America Trilogy) by Laurie Halse Anderson

Source: Public library
Hardcover, 272 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

***This is the final book in a trilogy. I recommend reading the first two books before this one.***

Ashes (The Seeds of America Trilogy) by Laurie Halse Anderson is a stunning conclusion that bring Isabel and Curzon full circle in their own struggle for freedom as the country nears the battle at Yorktown and the end of the American Revolution.  Isabel and Curzon have been searching for her younger sister Ruth for months after fleeing Valley Forge and Bellingham, who had held Isabel in chains once again.  They are slowly making their way south to find her sister with their forged papers of freedom.  Tensions between them have grown, and Isabel fears being abandoned by him, even as she knows that he wants to rejoin the Patriots’ cause against the British.

“There was no way of figgering what he saw when he looked at me, for he’d gown skilled at hiding the truth from his eyes.  Time and hard travel had much changed us both.” (pg. 4)

“‘Don’t forget how to be gentle,’ she warned.  ‘Don’t let the hardness of the world steal the softness of your heart.  The greatest strength of all is daring to love. …'” (pg. 39)

In the chaos of war, these young people are eager to hide themselves in the confusion and use it to their advantage, but danger continues to cross their paths.  But even when they find Ruth, there are further battles to be had as southern men continue to hold onto their slaves and purchase new ones to run their plantations and use those slaves — women, children, and men — very ill.  They are forced to hold onto their stories for strength and to turn to one another in quiet to rejuvenate their resolve.  Isabel and Curzon have been together on their own for a long time, and when Ruth and Aberdeen join their band and head northward, both need to adjust and learn to be flexible.

“‘Why bother? You won’t know what you’re planting?’

‘Not until they sprout, I won’t,’ I admitted.  ‘But I’ve got to start with something.  Once they grow and bloom, I’ll know what to call them, and eventually the garden will be orderly.’

‘A fool-headed way to farm,’ he grumbled.

‘Tis a fool-headed way to grow a country, too, but that’s what we’re doing.’

‘Now you’ve gone barmy, Isabel,’ he said sourly.

I walked over to the blanket, gathered the small handful of the good seeds, and sat back down next to him.

‘Seems to me this is the seed time for America.'” (pg. 271)

Anderson’s trilogy provides an intimate look at life as a slave, life as slaves on the run, and people simply searching for their own lives in the midst of a country in turmoil.  Ashes (The Seeds of America Trilogy) by Laurie Halse Anderson is a solid conclusion filled with reconciliation and hope.  With the promise of freedom brought to the fore by the Revolution against the British, it allows all who are oppressed to dream of something more.

RATING: Cinquain

Other Reviews:

About the Author:

Laurie Halse Anderson is the New York Times-bestselling author who writes for kids of all ages. Known for tackling tough subjects with humor and sensitivity, her work has earned numerous ALA and state awards. Two of her books, Speak and Chains, were National Book Award finalists.

Mother of four and wife of one, Laurie lives in Northern New York, where she likes to watch the snow fall as she writes. You can follow her adventures on Twitter and on her tumblr.

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater (audio)

Source: Public Library
Audiobook, 10 CDs
I am an Amazon Affiliate

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Steifvater, narrated by Steve West and Fiona Hardingham, is an atmospheric novel based on a tale of water horses. Puck Connolly (Kate) is a young orphan girl who lives on Thisby, loves it with all of her heart, and barely has enough food for herself and her brothers. Her other main love is her horse, Dove. Her oldest brother, Gabe, earns the bulk of the money in the family, but he’s also plotting a life of his own away from the family home.

On the other side, there is the wildly successful horse trainer at the Malvern Farm, Sean Kendrick. This farm breeds horses and Kendrick is the premier rider in the Scorpio Races along the beach in November every year, and his capaill uisce (a type of water horse) Cor. While he has won the race four out of six times, he cannot escape the small room near the stable beneath the thumb of his employer, Malvern. He and Cor have a special bond, and it is clear that Sean’s love is for his horse.

Unlike Stiefvater’s other novels, which tend to be heavy on teen romance, the setting and the horses are the true stars of the Scorpio Races, especially on a less-than-forgiving island that is far enough away from American that a horseman can be considered a foreigner and the mainland can be seen as a way to improve one’s financial situation and see picture shows and musical numbers. The water horses are mysterious beasts that must be captured and dragged from the oceans they love, and while they eat flesh and can be difficult to control, they are the fastest and most magnificent animals to behold. The mystique of the island and the horses will draw readers in, but the story is not about the myth, so much as the love between man and beast and woman and beast.

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Steifvater, narrated by Steve West and Fiona Hardingham, is about wishes and reality, love and despair, hardship and compassion. It’s a story that comes from the sea mists and rises to the cliff tops to sing like a water horse thriving in its natural environment despite the November cold.

RATING: Cinquain

Other Reviews:

About the Author:

New York Times bestselling author of The Shiver Trilogy, The Raven Cycle, and The Scorpio Races. Artist. Driver of things with wheels. Avid reader. All of Maggie Stiefvater’s life decisions have been based around her inability to be gainfully employed. Talking to yourself, staring into space, and coming to work in your pajamas are frowned upon when you’re a waitress, calligraphy instructor, or technical editor (all of which she’s tried), but are highly prized traits in novelists and artists. She’s made her living as one or the other since she was 22. She now lives an eccentric life in the middle of nowhere, Virginia.

Goliath by Scott Westerfeld (audio)

Source: Public Library
Audiobook, 9 CDs
I am an Amazon Affiliate

***Read Leviathan and Behemoth before reading this one.***

Goliath (book #3) by Scott Westerfeld, narrated by Alan Cumming, takes Alek and Deryn to Siberia to pick up the slightly mad inventor Nikola Tesla, who claims to have created an invention that will end the war – Goliath. Alek continues to believe in his destiny as the next leader of Austria and as the only one who can end the war. As machines and manufactured animals come to battle, Alek uncovers Deryn’s secrets, but learns the true meaning of friendship, whom he can truly trust, and what it means to love something more than destiny.

Cumming continues to narrate this series with aplomb and he engrosses readers from the beginning. Westerfeld has created a believable alternate history, although gender issues are sort of glossed over for the most part, even as one of the main characters is a girl. Alek has grown up quite a bit in this story, and Deryn remains the anchor in the story. With appearances from William Randolf Hearst and Pancho Villa, it is clear that the politics of the war goes far beyond the war between machines and manufactured animals for superiority.

Goliath (book #3) by Scott Westerfeld, narrated by Alan Cumming, is a whole new world with a war threatening everything past and present. The series is strong throughout and the characters have evolved a great deal in the course of three books, with several close calls. Wonderful series.

RATING: Quatrain

Other Reviews:

About the Author:

Scott Westerfeld‘s teen novels include the Uglies series, the Midnighters trilogy, The Last Days, an ALA Best Book for Young Adults and the sequel to Peeps. Scott was born in Texas, and alternates summers between Sydney, Australia, and New York City.

Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld (audio)

Source: Public Library
Audiobook, 8 CDs
I am an Amazon Affiliate

***Leviathan was a book club selection and I’ve finally been able to get back to the series, though this book is our book club selection for June. You’ll need to read the first to read this book.***

Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld, narrated by Alan Cumming, is the second book in a young adult trilogy that is an alternate WWI history rife with steampunk elements. The German Clankers who rely on machines are advancing their war against the British Darwinists, using secretive technology and subversive tactics. Deryn, a young man in the British Air Service, has divided loyalties as he tries to continue hiding his identity from his closest friend, Alek, who is the heir to the empire. The Leviathan’s peace mission has hit a snag, and Alek stumbles upon a resistance in Constantinople even as they find themselves in enemy territory.

Alan Cumming is a stunning narrator; it’s clear that he enjoyed this book and narrating the heart-stopping action of Westerfeld’s alternate history. As the Clankers connive to garner support from Istanbul, the Darwinists seek to appease the government with gifts only to find they are too late. Deryn is quick-witted and eager to prove himself a dedicated soldier, even as he feels a bit of camaraderie and loyalty to Alek and his plight to escape the Clankers. Alek comes into his own away from his guardian, as he is forced to seek out people to trust and to devise his own plans to prevent an all-encompassing war between the Clankers and the Darwinists and get revenge on the Germans.

Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld, narrated by Alan Cumming, is a stunning middle book in the series, providing Alek and Deryn with ample opportunity to prove themselves brave. Even as secrets continue between them, they remain friends. Westerfeld has a vivid imagination and it comes alive in the prose, especially as read by Cumming. Readers will fall into this world of unbelievable animal creations and giant machines of war.

RATING: Quatrain

Other Reviews:

About the Author:

Scott Westerfeld‘s teen novels include the Uglies series, the Midnighters trilogy, The Last Days, an ALA Best Book for Young Adults and the sequel to Peeps. Scott was born in Texas, and alternates summers between Sydney, Australia, and New York City.

Reached by Ally Condie (audio)

Source: Public Library
Audio, 11 CDs
I am an Amazon Affiliate

**If you missed my first review, this one could contain spoilers for Matched or the second review for Crossed.**

Reached by Ally Condie, narrated by Kate Simses, Jack Riccobono, and Matt Burns, reveals so many things that were forgotten by the characters or that other characters they meet along the way reveal to them. The backstory is here in the third book about the Society and the Rising, and all of the factions that are outside the two main struggling societies. Cassia continues to find her way through the darkness with Ky (who may not always be at her side), and Xander faces his own struggles as the plague ravages the population, even those inoculated with the vaccine provided by the Rising.

As a medic, he sees the stillness take hold of his friends and colleagues and the fear in their eyes. He is dutiful and eager to follow those he believes in. Cassia wants to find an end to the suffering; she’s looking for a way to inoculate the Society and the Rising with beauty. She finds it in the Gallery where people come to share their art and poems and songs. Like many things in these controlled societies, the beauty and originality is snuffed out. Ky, on the other hand, still tries to stay below the radar. The only one he believes in is Cassia.

This triangle of characters and their love for one another — though different for all of them — is heartening as they tackle the nearly impossible with only their faith in each other to guide them. Although there are moments of repetition when Cassia begins to regain some of her memories long after she was forced to take a red pill to forget, it is in line with the world Condie has created. The narrators are well matched with their characters, though Xander’s point of view is less robotic in this book compared to the last. The dialogue for him as improved.

Reached by Ally Condie, narrated by Kate Simses, Jack Riccobono, and Matt Burns, is a series of books that requires patience with the world and tension building. Readers will be satisfied with its conclusion as these societies tackle a mutated plague together and come out the other side eager to rebuild and collaborate with one another (even if only tentatively).

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

Ally Condie is a former high school English teacher who lives with her husband, three sons and one daughter outside of Salt Lake City, Utah. She loves reading, running, eating, and listening to her husband play guitar.

Crossed by Ally Condie (audio)

Source: Public Library
Audio; 8 CDs
I am an Amazon Affiliate

**If you missed my first review, this one could contain spoilers for Matched.**

Crossed by Ally Condie, narrated by Kate Simses and Jack Riccobono, is the second book in the series and is told from alternating points of view. Cassia is on a mission to find Ky after he was taken from her home province. Their story has been star-crossed since the beginning, and she is confident that her choice to find him in the outer provinces is the best one for her. While she still loves her best friend and match, Xander, she does not believe she can live without Ky. Although this is a story of young love, Condie has created an intricate society in which everything is controlled from the 100 poems the society has kept to the loss of writing letters. In this controlled experiment, these children are told the rules and how to be from the moment they enter school.

Because people are given options that make it appear as though they have choices, many do not question the rules of the society, but a rebellion has been brewing in the background since the 100 poems to be kept were chosen. As readers are shown more and more of the society and layers are pulled back, they will have more questions. Cassia is just beginning to see the world through new eyes whereas Ky has seen a little too much of its dark side. She pushes to know more, and he wants to hold back and just be.

The different points of view helped flesh this out more for me, as Ky has knowledge that the cloistered Cassia does not. The use of poetry by Condie is intricate and adds to the mystery, but when will we meet the pilot or know what is really going on? Crossed by Ally Condie, narrated by Kate Simses and Jack Riccobono, is a satisfying second book, but it seems like both the first and second book are building and building the societal tension for book three, Reached. The advantages in this book are a little more knowledge and a little more freedom for the characters and the introduction of new characters.

RATING: Tercet

About the Author:

Ally Condie is a former high school English teacher who lives with her husband, three sons and one daughter outside of Salt Lake City, Utah. She loves reading, running, eating, and listening to her husband play guitar.

Matched by Ally Condie (audio)

Source: Public Library
Audiobook, 8 CDs
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Matched by Ally Condie, narrated by Kate Simses, is set into a future where many of the choices of the society are manipulated or made for its residents. On the date of her matching — a process through which her mate is chosen — Cassia gets a glimpse of another future, another choice. Xander, her childhood friend who lives in her neighborhood, is her match, something that doesn’t happen that often. But her interactions with another boy, Ky, in the neighborhood, lead her to question more than just the matching system.

Although aberrations in the perfect system have created a sense of unease for Cassia, part of her still wants to believe that they system does things for good, at least the good of society. Her hikes with Ky, however, reveal that not all of the society’s decisions are for the best and not even done with the best intentions. Her inner struggle is exacerbated by the words her grandfather said to her before his passing and the advice he had given her in the past. Condie has created a world that is believable, but it seems like there is too much that is not reveals about this society and its past. Everything is kept very close to the officials’ vests, and readers are likely to see that it is for very good reason in subsequent books (or so I suspect).

Simses is an excellent narrator for a young girl who is torn between the way she knew things to be and the way she sees they could be. Her narration of the male characters are well done, too. Matched by Ally Condie, is a quick listen on audio and even though readers know Cassia is about to commit an infraction she cannot come back from, not too much happens in the book.

RATING: Tercet

About the Author:

Ally Condie is a former high school English teacher who lives with her husband, three sons and one daughter outside of Salt Lake City, Utah. She loves reading, running, eating, and listening to her husband play guitar.

Yellow Brick War by Danielle Paige (audio)

Source: Purchased
Audible, 8+ hours
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Yellow Brick War by Danielle Paige, narrated by Devon Sorvari, is the third part of this young adult series in an alternative world to the one we grew up with in Oz. This is a series that would be hard to follow without having read the first two books in the series — Dorothy Must Die and The Wicked Will Rise.

Amy Gumm finds herself back in Kansas, but she’s not alone.  The Wicked are with her as well, and she must find something to help get them back to Oz before Dorothy destroys everything.  This is Amy’s worst nightmare — returning to high school where she’s picked on by her peers and her mother is too drunk to even care where she is or if her homework is finished.  However, the witches show her that things have changed since her disappearance, and her mother is now sober and her former bullies are nicer now that they’ve been ostracized.

In this installment, the action is much slower as Amy reunites with her mother and the peers that once tortured her.  She feels just as out of place here as she did in Oz, but at least in Oz she could use magic and had a purpose.  She meets up with the former quarterback and his former girlfriend — Amy’s nemesis — and they strive to uncover the truth about the real Dorothy from Kansas.  It’s clear that Dorothy’s story was real and that no one believed her, but there is something magic still hidden in Kansas, and Amy must find it.

Yellow Brick War by Danielle Paige, narrated by Devon Sorvari, is a unique retelling of the Oz story, and readers will enjoy the characters and plot twists.  However, the dangling cliffhanger means there is sure to be another book in this series.  When the action abruptly ends, readers can be frustrated, especially in the case here where there is a big question mark over everyone’s fate.

Rating: Tercet

About the Author:

Danielle Paige is a graduate of Columbia University and the author of Dorothy Must Die and its digital prequel novellas, No Place Like Oz and The Witch Must Burn. Before turning to young adult literature, she worked in the television industry, where she received a Writers Guild of America Award and was nominated for several Daytime Emmys. She currently lives in New York City.

The Wicked Will Rise by Danielle Paige (audio)

Source: Purchased
Audiobook, 9+ hours
I am an Amazon Affiliate

The Wicked Will Rise by Danielle Paige, narrated by Devon Sorvari, is book two of a series, and this is a series you’ll want to read in order. (check out my review of Dorothy Must Die)

Amy Gumm is battered and bruised and concerned about The Revolutionary Order of the Wicked, particularly about the safety of Nox, a brooding young warlock. Even though she’s failed in her mission to kill Dorothy, she is determined to complete her collection of the objects controlling the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Cowardly Lion.

She’s still unsure who she should trust in the world of Oz, a place that’s full of fluctuating magic.  Left on her own, she finds herself face-to-face with distrustful wingless monkeys who refuse to get involved in the war against Dorothy.  She has little choice but to strike out on her own and find Nox and figure out how best to take care of Dorothy and the evil powers that rule the Emerald City.  As she enters the land of forgetfulness and digs deep to find her true self, she must struggle to keep the dark magic at bay.

Unlike the previous installment, Paige has created a very fast-paced book that provides the right balance between backstory and action, as well as character development and description.  Amy is the main focus, and as she comes into her own, readers will cheer her on, even when she’s making decisions that may not have the best outcome.  Readers will want to root for her.  Even as she still has doubts about her abilities and her role in the war, she’s coming to terms with her place in it and she’s taking action.

The Wicked Will Rise by Danielle Paige, narrated by Devon Sorvar, does end on a cliffhanger of sorts, but readers won’t mind since they’ll be even more invested in Amy’s story by the end of this second book.

Rating: Quatrain

About the Author:

Danielle Paige is a graduate of Columbia University and the author of Dorothy Must Die and its digital prequel novellas, No Place Like Oz and The Witch Must Burn. Before turning to young adult literature, she worked in the television industry, where she received a Writers Guild of America Award and was nominated for several Daytime Emmys. She currently lives in New York City.

Sinner by Maggie Stiefvater

Source: Public Library
Hardcover, 357 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Sinner by Maggie Stiefvater is the culmination of everything readers will love about the Shiver series; these characters, flawed as they are, have come a long geographic distance to outrun their problems but instead are faced with the reality that they cannot be run from.  Cole St. Clair, a former famous rocker, has come to Los Angeles to get away from the empty quiet of Minnesota, and as the new star on a reality TV series, he hopes that he’ll find a way to win Isabel Culpeper’s heart and keep her forever by his side.  However, he has forgotten one thing, Isabel is not interested in being an accessory for anyone’s life; she’s a star of her own show, even if it is inside a cold winter not-so-wonderland.

Baby, the producer of the reality TV series, is well aware that Cole is a reformed addict — though she doesn’t know about his baser nature — and she’s ready to make some great TV, even if she has to throw naked women at the fallen rock star. Isabel, however, is made of tougher stuff, or so she thinks. She’s an ice queen, but like ice under pressure, she’s bound to crack.

Stiefvater’s characters may have supernatural problems, but those only really magnify what’s broken inside them emotionally. Feeling abandoned, out of place, unloved — all are deep problems that cannot be ignored, lest they destroy the victim.  Sinner by Maggie Stiefvater is a wonderful addition to the Shiver trilogy, and it will have readers cheering for that reality TV happy ending. But will they get it?

Other Reviews:

About the Author:

New York Times bestselling author of The Shiver Trilogy, The Raven Cycle, and The Scorpio Races. Artist. Driver of things with wheels. Avid reader. All of Maggie Stiefvater’s life decisions have been based around her inability to be gainfully employed. Talking to yourself, staring into space, and coming to work in your pajamas are frowned upon when you’re a waitress, calligraphy instructor, or technical editor (all of which she’s tried), but are highly prized traits in novelists and artists. She’s made her living as one or the other since she was 22. She now lives an eccentric life in the middle of nowhere, Virginia.

Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater (audio)

Source: Digital Library
Digital audio, 9+ hrs
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater, narrated by Will Patton, is the third book in this series, and it is such a strong series of books.  Listening to these back to back on audio with the fabulous Will Patton as the narrator has been an immersive experience.  Where a hot room can feel like a jacket closing you in, readers will fall into the world Steifvater has created, wanting to uncover the magic and secrets within the pages quickly, but at the same time struggle not to linger over her images and poetic prose.  Adam and Blue are sent on a journey into the caves with the other Raven Boys, but as they are less sure of their own abilities, they are edging closer to a precipice they may not come back from.

What do you so when your psychic mother disappears, the Greenmantle comes to down to unearth darkness, and the Raven Boys are ever closer to discovering the resting place of a former Welsh king, Glendower?  While things have seen more certain, they are less certain than ever because the ley lines are in disorder, dream thieves are rifling with things they do not fully understand, and others are scrying in the search for guidance.  Time is fluid in this book, and so is what is real and what is not.  Stiefvater has woven a believable world in which readers will be trapped with Blue and the Raven Boys, searching for the unknown and hoping for answers.

Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater, narrated by Will Patton, reveals answers and poses more questions, but readers will never tire of this world and its fantastical elements.  Her characters are nuanced, engaging, twisted and damaged, but they all cling to some form of hope, a hope that things will improve, things will go their way, and that all will be re-aligned as it should be.  However, what they believe it to be, might not be how it ends up when all is said and done.  Stiefvater is a rare talent in the young adult fiction genre.

Other Reviews:

About the Author:

New York Times bestselling author of The Shiver Trilogy, The Raven Cycle, and The Scorpio Races. Artist. Driver of things with wheels. Avid reader. All of Maggie Stiefvater’s life decisions have been based around her inability to be gainfully employed. Talking to yourself, staring into space, and coming to work in your pajamas are frowned upon when you’re a waitress, calligraphy instructor, or technical editor (all of which she’s tried), but are highly prized traits in novelists and artists. She’s made her living as one or the other since she was 22. She now lives an eccentric life in the middle of nowhere, Virginia.