Title: It’s Not Summer Without You
Author: Jenny Han
Performer: Jessica Almasy
Length: 6 hr, 45 min
Series: Summer, Book 2
Publishing Date/Publisher: 2011 by Recorded Books
Review: I was not quite as enamored with this book as I was with the first one, but it was still a great read. Han captures the feelings of grief, angst, heartbreak, regret, and guilt so so well. As with many trilogies, the second book hits the peak of conflict, so there really is no resolution at the end. I imagine the feelings of resolution will come in the third and final book, and I am really hoping that Belly chooses the brother that I feel is better suited for her.
I certainly experienced some feelings of frustration while reading this book. The characters are so young and impulsive that sometimes I just wanted to shake the selfishness right out of them. I think though that Han’s depiction of how the characters react to tragedy is realistic. It is hard to know exactly how you will cope with something until it happens to you, and sometimes in our hurt we push away the people that matter most and make rash decisions.
That said, I am really looking forward to the final book!
Title: The Summer I Turned Pretty
Author: Jenny Han
Performer: Jessica Almasy
Length: 7 hr
Series: Summer, Book 1
Publishing Date/Publisher: 2011 by Prince Frederick, MD : Recorded Books
Review: There is a lot of hype right now surrounding Jenny Han’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before series due to the delightful Netflix movie adaptation that was released last year (if you haven’t seen it already, go watch it immediately!). I will probably get to that book series eventually, but her Summer trilogy has been on my “To Read” list for years, so I finally decided to check it out.
Jenny Han’s writing has a way of transporting me back in time. I literally felt 15 years old again as I was listening. The angst and anguish of first love and the end of childhood innocence was conveyed so incredibly well. It made me wish desperately that I had had a summer home in my youth. Seriously who doesn’t long for carefree days filled with waves and sun and ice cream! As someone who had many unrequited crushes in my youth, I could also completely sympathize with Belly’s longing to be noticed by the object of her affection.
Although this book is part of a trilogy, I almost wish it was a standalone. The ending of the book was very sweet, but I could sense that there was going to be a lot of heartache in the next book (which I of course checked out immediately upon finishing this one). Just like Belly, I did not want the summer to end!
They selected a great reader for this series. Her voice sounds age appropriate, and she infuses the story with a lot of emotion with the inflection and tone of her voice.
Title: The Darkangel
Author: Meredith Ann Pierce
Page Count: 238
Series: Darkangel Trilogy, Book 1
Publishing Date/Publisher: April 1, 2007 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (originally published in the early 1980s)
Review: I checked out this book from the library because it came to me as a patron recommendation. I was helping her find a book for her son, and we began reminiscing about book series we read and loved in our youth. She was very nostalgic about this particular book series, and when I discovered that we had a couple copies left floating around in our system, I decided to read it.
This book is categorized as Young Adult Fiction (I assume because of the dark content), but it read to me more like Juvenile Fiction. There is very little world building, and the Darkangel gets surprisingly little page presence despite the fact he is constantly being mentioned by the other characters. He is more like a periphery character, yet he drives the plot. The heroine of the story, Aerial, reminds me of the character of Belle in Beauty and the Beast. She is selfless and kind, and for whatever reason sees good in the Darkangel. She is the only one who can save his soul from the clutches of his evil witchy “mother.”
This book was highly predictable and sometimes I became frustrated that the characters came upon their revelations so much later than I did as a reader. I didn’t have to be frustrated for long though because I was able to read this book in a matter of a few hours.
This book lacks broad appeal, but I can see how some people might really enjoy it. It’s gothic feel and dark brooding anti-hero would certainly titillate people who fetishize this sort of paranormal subgenre.
Title: A Blade So Black
Author: L.L. McKinney
Performer: Jeanette Illidge
Length: 11 hr, 24 min, 1 sec
Series: A Blade So Black, Book 1
Publishing Date/Publisher: 2018 by MacMillan Audio
Review: This book wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t really my cup of tea. It was sort of Alice in Wonderland meets The Mortal Instruments meets Social Justice Warrior.
The author was clever in how she wove the aspects of the original tale into her adaptation, which is why I thought it was an OK read. Unfortunately, many of the hot button issues that were addressed in the story such as race relations and violence were not fully fleshed out and I was bothered by the occasionally prejudiced dialogue, the selfish characters, and the anti-law enforcement undertones.
I will, however, note that many of the elements I found to be problematic are mostly in the first half of the book. The second half of the book is, in my opinion, a much more enjoyable read than the first half. I initially thought I would be rating this book with two stars, but it went up to three as I neared the end of the book. I believe this is McKinney’s debut novel, so I imagine her character/plot development and pacing will continue to improve in any subsequent books in this series.
I did listen to this book in audiobook format, and although I thought that the various voices chosen by the performer worked for the characters, I thought that she had some difficulty with transitioning between those voices. At times this was confusing, but overall I liked the cadence of her voice and thought she did a good job.
Title: The Hazel Wood
Author: Melissa Albert
Performer: Rebecca Soler
Length: 10 hr, 35 min, 25 sec
Series: The Hazel Wood, Book 1
Publishing Date/Publisher: 2018 by MacMillan Audio
Review: This is an example of a fairytale done right. In the same fashion as the Brothers Grimm, Albert weaves together a series of dark and twisted tales with no morals and a whole lot of death. I can honestly say that I never knew what to expect with this story, because it is not an adaptation of anything I am familiar with. It does have echoes of Alice in Wonderland in the sense that a character named Alice portals into a fantasy world; however, that seems to be where the similarities end. I enjoyed the characters, and the dialogue, and the way the author wove together a modern day setting with a more fantastical one. I am also a sucker for stories within a story, and I was very pleased to find out that although this could easily have been a standalone, there will be a continuation of this story in another book. There were a number of story titles mentioned that were not told, and I am hopeful that those stories might be revealed in the next installment. I also hope that there is more to the story of Alice and Finch. Fingers crossed!
As always, Rebecca Soler was a perfect performer in this story. Loved it in audiobook format!
Title: Lovely War
Author: Julie Berry
Page Count: 480
Publishing Date/Publisher: March 5, 2019 by Viking Books for Young Readers
Review: In the past I have enjoyed both books relating to Greek mythology and World War I/II. Never before have a read a book that combines both themes. It is an interesting concept, and I gave the book an extra half star in my rating for originality.
There were parts of the story I really enjoyed, however, there were also parts that I felt fell short of my expectations. This story is meant to be a sweeping romance, intertwining three sets of lovers, but I did not feel swept away by any of the couples. It is a very sweet story, and I greatly enjoyed the historical aspects. The two mortal lovers are struggling through a very dark point in history, World War I. This is a less common setting than the more commonly discussed World War II.
Trench warfare is truly heinous, and I think the author did a good job of depicting how wretched and traumatizing fighting in this war was. I was less of a fan of the insta-love that sprang up between the two mortal couples. I know that war has a tendency to heighten emotion, but the complete and utter devotion that the couples felt towards each other upon meeting was a bit difficult for me to wrap my head around.
I was not at all a fan of how the author incorporated the mythological aspect of the Greek gods into the story. To be honest, it didn’t really seem as well constructed as the rest of the story, and it did not really add much to the plot other than an introduction of the mortal characters. I think the story would have read equally well if this portion of the story had been eliminated entirely.
In the end, I can safely say that I liked the story but did not love it.
Title: Tempests and Slaughter
Author: Tamora Pierce
Performer: Ariadne Meyers
Length: 16 hrs, 1 min, 21 sec
Series: The Numair Chronicles
Publishing Date/Publisher: 2018 by Listening Library
Review: There is no disputing that Tamora Pierce is an excellent writer, but this, in my opinion, is not her most enthralling book. For fans who are interested in the origin story of the great mage Numair, this will probably have more appeal. I am not as familiar with his character because it has been many years since I read Pierce’s other series.
This is a very strong read-alike to the Harry Potter series. It is about a young mage of extraordinary power who has a penchant for getting himself and his friends in trouble. There is no clearly defined conflict in this book, and I would say it is more like vignettes of various things that happen to young Arram over the course of his years in mage school. The pacing is very slow, and I often found my mind drifting away during the reading. On several occasions I had to rewind the audiobook, so that I could re-listen to the parts I missed. The dramatic title, Tempests and Slaughter, implies that this is going to be an action-packed book, but that is not at all the case.
The performer has a very soothing voice, and I thought she did a great job voicing the various characters; however, I was a little surprised that they chose a female reader for this story because it is told primarily from the perspective of a male character. The voice worked fine when he was a young boy, but it didn’t work quite so well once he became a young man.