Podkayne of MarsAuthor: Robert HeinleinNarrator: Emily Janice CardPublication Date: 10/1/09Publisher: Blackstone Audio[Goodreads | Amazon | Audible]Blurb (GR):
Meet Podkayne Fries, a thoroughly Martian Ms. who thinks that Earth is not really fit for habitation and that humanity evolved on the now-exploded Fifth Planet
Paddy has one goal in life; to be the first female
starship captain.She has her strategy all scoped out, and with her determination, looks and I.Q. she'll get there, never you doubt!
But all work and no play would make Poddy a Dull Girl, so when a chance comes her way to travel to distant Earth to Venus witrh her elderly uncle, Paddy jumps at it, even if it does mean having her loathsome little brother along for the trip. Travel, Adventure, the chance to cuddle up (in a nice way) with real spaceship officers and ruthlessly pump their brains- she'll have it all!
What Poddy doesn't know is that "Unca Tom" is more than her warmly supportive relative: he is also the Ambassador Plenipotentiary from Mars to the Three-Planets Conference (travelling not quite incognito enough) and that certain parties will stop at nothing to gain control of his vote -including kidnapping and doing terrible things to sweetly innocent Poddy Fries....
Review: So this was a bit ridiculous. I listened to all five discs rather quickly, as it started out as a fun space story. Then suddenly I was on disc four and thinking to myself, "Sooo, nothing much has happened yet." This book is about creating a world, setting the stage for what could be a cool story about a future female space pilot and then having the main character talk herself out of her ambitions because childbirth and mothering are the most important aspirations for women in the world and blahbitty blah blah blah. Thanks, Robert A. Heinlein, I definitely needed the reminder of how women should act. In case you're reading this review and wondering what kinds of awesome tidbits the main character shares in her journal, they are statements about hiding your intelligence from men, never letting a man see that you are better at anything than he is, and accepting that you should never have aspirations that will hinder your ability to find a man and reproduce for the good of the universe.
This book hints at so many possible plotlines and they go nowhere. The actual plot/action doesn't even start to occur until at least halfway through, probably further. Heinlein hints at a possible romance; it goes nowhere. He describes a lot of planets and governmental structures; it's all irrelevant. He spends the first half of the book on a space journey; it has very little bearing on the overall plot. The book ends more abruptly than any I've ever read. Honestly, this felt like the first part in a serialized story. (Ha! I just looked it up on Wikipedia
and the book itself started out as a serialized story.)
Emily Janice Card did a good job voicing the teenage protagonist and her 11-year old genius brother. The side characters, including one or two with southern accents, were distinguishable, which isn't always the case in audiobooks. I do enjoy her narrations but unfortunately, I always keep thinking about her father's politics and it takes me away from the story she's reading. I know this isn't the case for everyone but it IS the case for me, even if she doesn't share the same beliefs. (I don't know one way or the other)
Skip this one unless you're a writer who is looking for a world that was created and then just disregarded. There are lots of ideas to be had here! 2/5 stars
Wolf-Speaker (Immortals, #2)
Author: Tamora Pierce
Publication Date: 1994
Publisher: Simon Pulse
When humans start cutting down trees and digging holes in peaceful Dunlath Valley, the wolves know that something is wrong. They send a messenger to the only human who will listen -- Daine, a fourteen-year-old girl with the unpredictable power of wild magic. Daine and her closest companions heed the wolves' cry for help. But the challenge they are about to face in the valley is greater than they can possibly imagine...
This didn't excite me as much as its predecessor, Wild Magic
, primarily for the following reason:
Daine and Numair are in the forest then
Daine enters into the mind of an animal.
Daine and Numair and some wolves are in the forest then
Daine enters into the mind of an animal.
Daine and Numair go to a castle then
Daine enters into the mind of an animal.
Daine hangs out with wolves and then
Daine enters into the mind of an animal.
Daine meets some immortals, good and bad, and then
Daine enters into the mind of an animal.
Daine enters into the mind of an animal to talk to Numair through a barrier.
Daine is always tired because it takes a lot of energy when
Daine enters into the mind of an animal.
Daine enters into the mind of an animals to go everywhere, all the time, forever and ever amen.
Okay, that's it, you get the point. I still love Tamora Pierce and I'll still keep going with the series because I like the world.
Please Ignore Vera DietzAuthor: A.S. KingPublication Date: 10/12/10Publisher: KnopfBlurb (GR):
Vera's spent her whole life secretly in love with her best friend, Charlie Kahn. And over the years she's kept a lot of his secrets. Even after he betrayed her. Even after he ruined everything.
So when Charlie dies in dark circumstances, Vera knows a lot more than anyone—the kids at school, his family, even the police. But will she emerge to clear his name? Does she even want to?
Edgy and gripping, Please Ignore Vera Dietz
is an unforgettable novel: smart, funny, dramatic, and always surprising.Edit: For some reason, many people seem to be finding this review while looking for the setting of Please Ignore Vera Dietz--it is set in an unnamed town outside Philadelphia. Somewhere in Eastern Pennsylvania. (at least I can't remember the author ever mentioning the name.)Review:
Vera Dietz is a good person. This book is like watching Vera in the gallows being pelted with tomatoes until she is finally released to go on her way. Her lifelong best friend Charlie just passed away under somewhat mysterious circumstances, the town blames him for something which tarnishes his reputation, and Vera is being harassed by some of her schoolmates. The thing about Vera, and I absolutely loved her as a character, is that she just deals with it. She is angry with Charlie, she hates him and she loves him and she realizes it is possible to feel both of those feelings at the same time. She resents all the choices that he made that led up to his death and she resents herself for not doing something more to help him.
Vera’s father has been raising her as a single dad since his wife skipped town. The narration, which skips between Vera, her father, Charlie, and even a town architectural landmark, lets us know that the main characters are all worried about being foregone conclusions. Are we all destined to be like our parents or what everyone tells us we’ll become? I truly hope not, not because my parents aren’t lovely people but because that would be a sad state of affairs. Vera’s father Ken struggles with Vera drinking because he is an alcoholic. Vera worries about becoming like her absent mother. Charlie worried about becoming an abuser like his father. We all worry about something.
I can absolutely see why this book was a Printz Honor pick. Vera’s voice is very matter-of-fact but her contemplations and commentary were funny at times, poignant at others, and she keeps a level-head for almost the entire book. She deals with her missteps while still trying to figure out how to grieve for her best friend who was mostly lost to her even before he died. I’m reading another book right now where someone has just passed away (Minding Frankie
) and a character talks about that saying that a person remembered through memories or mentions is never truly gone. Or how Jacob Coote tells Josie Alibrandi that he dealt with his mother’s death by crying at the memories until one day, he could smile or laugh at them. (Looking for Alibrandi
) This book takes place before Vera has come to terms with the loss but by the end, it was clear that she was no longer using a band-aid to cover up a gaping wound. Please Ignore Vera Dietz
was very successful in audio format. The narrator’s Vera was perfect and I appreciated the fact that male narrators pitched in for the points in the story not narrated by Vera. I’m curious whether the descriptions of flow charts in the narration were actually flow chart images in the book so maybe someone who knows can chime in with an answer. I would absolutely recommend it in this format.
I’m excited to check out A.S. King’s upcoming Everybody Sees The Ants
. After reading a review that said it had similar themes, I’m hoping that it will be sufficiently different but retain a similar tone. This one was sad but weirdly hopeful. It was about 4.5/5 for me. 4.5/5 stars
Stork (Stork, #1)
Author: Wendy Delsol
Publication Date: 10/12/10
Publisher: Brilliance Audio (Candlewick)
Blurb (GR): Moving from LA to nowhere Minnesota, sixteen-year-old Katla Leblanc expected the local fashion scene to be frozen in time. What she didn’t expect was induction into the Icelandic Stork Society, an ancient order of women charged with a unique mystical duty. Not only is Katla the youngest member, but Hulda, the society’s omen-guided leader, immediately bestows the coveted Second Chair on her — a decision that ruffles a few feathers.
As if that weren’t enough, Katla also has to deal with her parents’ divorce and the social aftermath of a bad date with popular but creepy Wade. Katla, however, isn’t one to sit on her designer-jean-clad behind, and soon she’s assigned the fashion column for the school paper and making new friends.
Things would be looking up if it weren’t for editor in chief Jack. Even though they argue every time they meet, Katla is inexplicably drawn to him. Juggling her home life, school, and Stork duties, will Katla be able to unravel the mystery surrounding Jack? More importantly, will she find a dress in time for Homecoming?
Folktales collide with reality in Wendy Delsol’s debut novel, in which one girl finds herself tail-feathers deep in small-town life.
Oh, hey! Look at that! It's me at a playground! Look at how excited I am at the top of the slide:-) My ponytail is bouncing and I have a huge smile on my face. I'm waving to you;-) Life is so much fun when you are about to go down a slide--it's going to be a big adventure! Hi. Now I am at the bottom of the slide. My ponytail fell out. There aren't as many MS paint flowers down here, but there IS a semi-barren tree--it has a bird in it though, so things really aren't all bad. And, I mean, even if a slide is bad, it's still good, right?
I think I might do more of my reviews on Paint...I mean, clearly my skills are out of this world. Anyway, Stork
was a rather original concept in the YA realm: Katla (which is a little too similar to Katniss and Katsa, both heroines from books I love) moves with her newly divorced mother back to her mother's hometown in Norse Falls, Minnesota. It is a far cry from the life she'd been living as a fashion-obsessed, coffee-saturated California girl and she feels like an outsider. (At this point, we are still in pretty well-worn territory) Wendy Delsol
deviates from the beaten path by introducing the fact that Katla is actually a stork who helps match essences of children to a potential mother. Before I went into the story, I was really skeptical about how successful this idea could be. As it turns out, I found the idea rather fascinating, though I had to tone down my cynicism a ton to roll with the story. (mostly because I kept asking myself: Is it only in this town? Or only towns with lots of Icelandic people? How do we have so many unfit parents? These questions are only partially answered) But the description of the process was still intriguing. I wish Delsol had concentrated this book on the revelation of Katla as a stork and her assimilation into her new high school and relationship with Jack.
Buuuut, she doesn't. Instead it turns out to be the ole good v. evil plotline and you see it coming from a mile down the track. And the love is epic predestined love and, while the romantic interest is rather adorable, it started to feel cheesy. I definitely enjoyed listening to this one and I kind of hope the author will continue writing books set in Norse Falls--I just hope they won't be trying so hard to be everything to everyone. I mean, this book has ALL of the following:moving,divorce, possible pregnancy of main characters, MAKEOVERS!, a school dance, a hiking trip,secret meetings,a childhood accident, mythology/folklore, mean girls, her mother's new boyfriend,FASHION(if you are annoyed by constant mentions of brands and outfits, avoid this one),a character death, AND foreverlove.
I am tired from just writing that list. It's a good thing I'm still sitting on that slide:-) I did
enjoy it. Katla is funny, and I even caught myself laughing out loud a few times. 3/5 stars
Author: M.T. Anderson
Publication Date: 2/23/04
Publisher: Candlewick PressBlurb (B & N):Brave New World
takes a romantic teen twist in this disarming, engrossing novel set in a hyper-computerized future.
Spending time partying on the moon and riding around in his "upcar," Titus is an average teen of the future, complete with a computer chip implant -- the "Feed" -- that lets corporate marketers and government agencies broadcast directly into his brain. Then Titus meets Violet, and an anti-Feed hacker shuts down their Feeds for a short time; but when Violet's Feed is seriously damaged, she begins spouting some radical ideas.
M. T. Anderson has predicted the future, and it's startling indeed. Although Titus is a good, well-meaning kid, his blissful ignorance of the control over him leaves readers thinking twice about the destiny of earth's citizens. Beneath the book's techno-veneer, however, lies a romantic tale between a boy who gives into the system and a girl who sees beyond it. All told, Feed
is a "meg" remarkable work of science fiction, and once readers begin, they'll be caught up in its powerful grip.Review:
While I’m sitting here writing this review, a Seattle Groupon advertisement is trying to get me to buy nachos with some amazingly tasty-looking picture in my sidebar. Now I really want some nachos. I just turned on the television and the advertisements while I’m perusing the OnDemand selections (because who can be bothered to watch television in real time these days?) made me want to watch The Fighter again. But I’m not going to! (I’m going to watch Clueless, duh) My mom told me today that Bath & Body Works is bringing back Copa Cabana scented lotion so I just bought lots of it online. (It was Buy 3, get 2 free!! OMGZZ!) We are sick. Our entire consumer-based society makes me ill but I am a willing participant in a lot of it.
This book is set in a (plausible?) future wherein our consumer desires have taken over. Corporations rule the roost, run the schools, and implant wetware into humans so people can research online without having to do any work, receive targeted ads and shop 24/7, and chat their friends without, you know, having to move their lips. There isn’t an incentive to learn anything because your feed can just tell you what you need to know. It’s soooo MEG! Titus and his friends do all sorts of unit things like frag around in clubs on the moon, wear whatever the hip new style of clothing is (I actually laughed out loud at the conversation about the geriatric chic clothing—canes, walkers, muumuus—and the riotware—the “Kent State Collection”), and go mal (malfunction) which is the equivalent of getting f*&ked up. No one seems to give a second thought to the system they are a part of--save a few people. Titus meets Violet on the shuttle to the moon and she got her feed later than most. Because her parents are academics she still has a lot of experience reading actual books, speaking (in the air as opposed to chatspeak), and philosophizing. She, arguably foolishly, tries to get Titus and his friends to actually think about what their consumptive lifestyle means in the larger scale of things. It was frustrating to listen to his friends let her inquiries about their knowledge of worldwide riots, mass killings, deforestation, etc. just slide off them—they just called her pretentious and said she was on the lookout for any sign of the decline of civilization. Sigh.
This aspect of the book, actually thinking about the effects of disposable culture and (over)consumption really struck home for me. I am fascinated by attempts to create closed-loop manufacturing systems. (ideally, a circle from raw materials through to end product in which little to nothing is wasted and byproducts may be used rather than disposed of) and the entire seven generation sustainability concept. (making our ecological decisions based on their effect seven generations ahead). But do I get ecstatic thinking about new video games coming out? Yes, I totally do. Can our individual environmental choices actually effectively change anything
? Is our only choice to either watch our entire world deplete its resources at a disgusting rate oroverthrow it all and start anew?
Even at the end of this book, though it ends on a semi-hopeful note, I was still depressed. The types of people who would probably benefit the most from reading a satire like this will never read it.
While I feel like this book was successful at making me think a lot about our current society and its possible devolution into something even more corporate than it already is, I don’t know if this book is as successful as it could’ve been. I thought Unwind
was so fascinating because it brought up tons of societal issues while still having an engaging plot. Here, I was only passively interested in what was going on in the story. Which brings me to the audiobook—awesome. The audiobook is narrated by one man but the feed portions are actually done by a cast and it sounds completely real. You hear all sorts of crazy commercials and advertisements just like you are actually experiencing the feed. I really don’t think I would’ve enjoyed this one as much in book form—maybe 3 stars—but the audiobook popped it up to a 4. 4/5 stars
Wake (Dream Catcher, #1)
Author: Lisa McMann
Publication Date: 3/4/08
Publisher: Brilliance Audio (Audiobook)
For seventeen-year-old Janie, getting sucked into other people’s dreams is getting old. Especially the falling dreams, the naked-but-nobody-notices dreams, and the sex-crazed dreams. Janie’s seen enough fantasy booty to last her a lifetime.
She can’t tell anybody about what she does they’d never believe her, or worse, they’d think she’s a freak. So Janie lives on the fringe, cursed with an ability she doesn’t want and can’t control.
Then she falls into a gruesome nightmare, one that chills her to the bone. For the first time, Janie is more than a witness to someone else’s twisted psyche. She is a participant…
Before I start this one, just know that I LIKED IT. I don't love it as much as many of my Goodreads friends but this could be because I started out listening to this and finished the last 30-40 pages in book form. I'm glad I did so because I can say that I liked this book loads more in audio format. I'm fairly sure the writing style just wasn't doing it for me.
You know when you are trying to write a paper for school and you are a couple pages short? You start playing around with the margins, change the font around, block quote a few times, and ta-da! You're suddenly at the length requirement. That's what this book felt like--a substandard research paper. Sure, it was enjoyable but when you hold it up against other YA lit, it falls short because it's missing something. (40 more pages)The central characters were well done but the brevity of the book made me want more in terms of plot development and several of the side characters were brought up but they didn't add much nor do we learn much about them. Frustrating. Also, though I enjoyed the development of Janie and Cabel's relationship, it was lacking the attraction for me.
The pacing is lightning speed--I think someone could read this in an hour and a half, no joke. I'll finish this series because the story is interesting and it won't take much time. Honestly, though, I'm sorry to say I could really take it or leave it.
Gone (Dream Catcher, #3)
Author: Lisa McMann
Publication Date: 2/9/10
Publisher: Simon Pulse (audio publisher: Brilliance Audio)
Blurb (GR): Janie thought she knew what her future held. And she thought she’d made her peace with it. But she can’t handle dragging Cabel down with her. She knows he will stay with her, despite what she sees in his dreams. He’s amazing. And she’s a train wreck. Janie sees only one way to give him the life he deserves: She has to disappear. And it’s going to kill them both.
Then a stranger enters her life — and everything unravels. The future Janie once faced now has an ominous twist, and her choices are more dire than she’d ever thought possible. She alone must decide between the lesser of two evils. And time is running out. . . .
Now, I'm not saying that length and quality are completely connected. (they're definitely not) All I am saying here is that the entire Dream Catcher series is shorter than many adult novels and is half the length of some middle grade series. There just isn't much going on--and there wasn't enough substance for me. Sure, I enjoyed the writing. Sure, I thought the story was interesting. But when it came to writing a review, I felt like there just wasn't enough
. This series is the first where I just do not understand the 5-star reviews. The gushing love out of every bodily crevice. (I take it back. I also don't really understand Mortal Instruments, Twilight, and a few others) Perhaps people just fell in love with the writing style and I missed out on it with the audiobooks. However, I read the last section of the first book (Wake
) and didn't love that.
I doubt anyone will be reading this review that hasn't read the preceding two books but here is a recap of the series in three sentences: In book one, Janey, who lives with her alcoholic mother, figures out that she falls into people's dreams and falls for a neighbor boy who is actually (SPOILERa narc for the copsEND SPOILER)
and she helps solve a drug ring. In book two, Janey and Cabel help figure out which teacher at school is sleeping with students and Janey comes to know more about the ramifications of her "gift." Book three just wraps things up...I guess. I just finished it yesterday and I had to actually think hard
about what actually happened plot-wise. Not much. I feel like a total jerk. The second book definitely has the most going for it--substance and story-wise.
Anyway, if you are at all curious about the series, I'd recommend it. It takes a nanosecond to read all three and they are enjoyable. Just don't be expecting anything earth-shattering. 3/5 stars
If I Stay
Author: Gayle Forman
Publication Date: 1/1/09
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile, Audio-Penguin AudioBlurb (GR):
In a single moment, everything
changes. Seventeenyear- old Mia has no memory of the accident; she can only recall riding along the snow-wet Oregon road with her family. Then, in a blink, she fi nds herself watching as her own damaged body is taken from the wreck...
A sophisticated, layered, and heartachingly beautiful story about the power of family and friends, the choices we all make - and the ultimate choice Mia commands.Review:
Books about death and dying are particularly hard to review. The way we react to them is so deeply personal that I'm skeptical about the actual value of my (or anyone's) review of the work to other readers. When we read, we don't come to the book with a clean slate--we come to it with years of experiences, friendships, and memories that provide us with a vantage point from which to view the story. And if you have an awful tendency toward existentialism, like I do, these books only become more emotional as you evaluate your own life,choices, and relationships along with the protagonist.
I spent two years of my life moving around the US doing service projects, and most of that time I lived in the gulf after Hurricane Katrina. Living in a tent city and gutting houses for months in what basically felt like a post-apocalyptic world was life-changing for me, but the absolute devastation of the area wasn't what did me in, it was the people. Most of the people whose homes we gutted had not returned from evacuation yet. Their homes had been under 10-12 feet of water for two weeks. My point is this: we threw out almost all of their belongings. Barely anything was salvageable--at the most, we found a few pictures or some of their silver or china. I cannot imagine what it was like for those families. Is it better to come back to a nightmare or to come back to an empty, clean slate from which to start again? I still don't know. But I realized, after speaking to so many residents, that most of their stuff didn't matter to them. They had their lives. Their family. Their connections to other people. I know it sounds cliche, but I feel like it is something that a lot of us tend to forget. Even when it feels like all is lost, there is always
something there to hold on to.
Mia, the protagonist of If I Stay
is in the intensive care unit after a horrible car accident. While she is in a comatose state, some part of her (her soul?) is able to see everything that is going on outside of her body. I found it fascinating--so often with an outside watcher, we see a person hovering over their funeral or watching to see what happens afterward. In Mia's case, we were able to follow along with her while she makes her decision to stay or go. I wasn't sure what Mia's choice was going to be, even to the last second, and I appreciated that fact--Gayle Forman
gets it. The relationships between the characters felt so real to me, especially because a lot of my immediately family are doctors and nurses so I've spent a lot of time in hospitals.
I read an article today about the decline of the "book review." The author was discussing the extent to which people used to depend on critical and objective book reviews for suggestions of what to read and how the number of literary critics has severely decreased. (actual literary critics, not just reviewers)It got me thinking about what I actually look for in a book review. What makes me want to read it? Though I definitely enjoy the NYT Book Review, I am much more likely to buy a book that my friends recommend, on Goodreads or in real life. Give me a subjective book review about what a book made you feel
and I am all over it. If you are the same way, you should know: This book made me feel optimistic for the future at a time when I have been feeling completely lost, so for that, it is getting 5 stars. (9/10 on my blog scale)
As an aside, I'd just like to add that this book was fantastic in audio format. Once in awhile, cello music played in the background and it was lovely to hear it considering Mia was an amazing cellist. Also, having a person actually read me the lyrics to Mia's father's song and to hear Adam say his speech to her was beautiful. I'd definitely recommend this book in audio format.5/5 stars
Shadow of the Giant (Shadow Series, #4) (audiobook)
Author: Orson Scott Card
Publication Date: 3/1/2005 (audio, book published 2000)
Publisher: Audio Renaissance
Blurb (GR): Bean's past was a battle just to survive. He first appeared on the streets of Rotterdam, a tiny child with a mind leagues beyond anyone else. He knew he could not survive through strength; he used his tactical genius to gain acceptance into a children's gang, and then to help make that gang a template for success for all the others. He civilized them, and lived to grow older. Then he was discovered by the recruiters for the Battle School.
For Earth was at war -- a terrible war with an inscrutable alien enemy. A war that humanity was near to losing. But the long distances of interstellar space has given hope to the defenders of Earth -- they had time to train military geniuses up from childhood, forging them into an irresistible force in the high-orbital facility called the Battle School. That story is told in two books, the beloved classic Ender's Game, and its parallel, Ender's Shadow.
Bean was the smallest student at the Battle School, but he became Ender Wiggins' right hand. Since then he has grown to be a power on Earth. He served the Hegemon as strategist and general in the terrible wars that followed Ender's defeat of the alien empire attacking Earth. Now he and his wife Petra yearn for a safe place to build a family -- something he has never known -- but there is nowhere on Earth that does not harbor his enemies -- old enemies from the days in Ender's Jeesh, new enemies from the wars on Earth. To find security, Bean and Petra must once again follow in Ender's footsteps. They must leave Earth behind, in the control of the Hegemon, and look to the stars.
Review: Oh, jeesh, where do I even begin? Okay, well I love Ender's Game and Ender's Shadow. No one really annoyed me in those two books. I can't speak to the remainder of Ender's series because I got so bored listening to Speaker for the Dead that I set is aside for a bit. I've finished off Bean's series with this one and phew, thank goodness it is over because I don't think I could've read/listened to another one. Why do I keep doing it? Good question. Answer: Because I do enjoy OSC's writing when his characters aren't talking about religion, military strategy, or BABIESBABIESBABIES. And the readers for his books are absolutely fabulous. I wish I could just have them walk around with me and narrate my life. Then again, I'd probably be lulled to sleep a little too much. As you can see by the graph, my annoyances hugely increased from Book 1 to Book 3. (I listened to them out of order) It was only downhill from there.
NOTE: The 10% I don't find annoying don't really make appearances in this series--Ender and Valentine.