Tag Archives: audiobooks

Books I’m looking forward to

I’m taking a short vacation before Summer Reading starts and the library gets really busy. In addition to seeing family and working on going from zero draft to first draft on a new-ish project, I hope to get some reading time in. Here are the books I have on my to-read pile or downloaded to my phone.

Pointe, Claw.Pointe, Claw by Amber J. Keyser

I’m about half-way through this book. Rarely do I encounter a book so intense/heavy that I need to step away from it, but I’m finding with this book I can only read in one-hour stretches. It’s brilliant, though also dark, so if you’re looking for a fun escape, maybe try something else. Here’s the summary from Amazon:

Jessie Vale dances in an elite ballet program. She has to be perfect to land a spot with the professional company. When Jessie is cast in an animalistic avant-garde production, her careful composure cracks wide open. Nothing has felt more dangerous.

Meanwhile, her friend Dawn McCormick’s world is full of holes. She wakes in strange places, bruised, battered, and unable to speak. The doctors are out of ideas.

These childhood friends are both running out of time. Jessie has one shot at her ballet dream. Dawn’s blackouts are getting worse. At every turn, they crash into the many ways girls are watched, judged, used, and discarded. Should they play it safe or go feral?

The Star-Touched Queen.The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi

This is going to be the first of my road trip audiobooks. I listened to the first chapter and love the Indian-inspired fantasy setting. Here’s the summary from Amazon:

Maya is cursed. With a horoscope that promises a marriage of Death and Destruction, she has earned only the scorn and fear of her father’s kingdom. Content to follow more scholarly pursuits, her whole world is torn apart when her father, the Raja, arranges a wedding of political convenience to quell outside rebellions. Soon Maya becomes the queen of Akaran and wife of Amar. Neither roles are what she expected: As Akaran’s queen, she finds her voice and power. As Amar’s wife, she finds something else entirely: Compassion. Protection. Desire…

But Akaran has its own secrets—thousands of locked doors, gardens of glass, and a tree that bears memories instead of fruit. Soon, Maya suspects her life is in danger. Yet who, besides her husband, can she trust? With the fate of the human and Otherworldly realms hanging in the balance, Maya must unravel an ancient mystery that spans reincarnated lives to save those she loves the most … including herself.

Girl Out of Water.Girl Out of Water by Laura Silverman

I’ve been looking forward to this book for almost a year now. It should be a good, lighter follow-up to Pointe, Claw. Here’s the summary from Amazon:

Ocean breeze in her hair and sand between her toes, Anise can’t wait to spend the summer before her senior year surfing and hanging out on the beach with friends. Santa Cruz is more than her home—it’s her heart. But when her aunt, a single mother, is in a serious car accident, Anise must say goodbye to California to help care for her three young cousins.

Landlocked Nebraska is the last place Anise wants to be. Sure, she loves her family, but it’s hard to put her past behind her when she’s living in the childhood house of the mother who abandoned her. And with every Instagram post, her friends back home feel further away.

Then she meets Lincoln, a charismatic, one-armed skater who challenges her to swap her surfboard for a skateboard. Because sometimes the only way to find your footing is to let go.

gena/finn.Gena/Finn by Hannah Moskowitz and Kat Helgeson

I was lucky enough to meet Kat at an author event near me last weekend, and picked up a copy of this book, which has been on my to-read list for a while. Online friends becoming IRL friends? Yes, please! Here’s the summary from Amazon:

Gena and Finn would have never met but for their mutual love for the popular show Up Below. Regardless of their differences—Gena is a recent high school graduate whose social life largely takes place online, while Finn is in her early twenties, job hunting and contemplating marriage with her longtime boyfriend—the two girls realize that the bond between them transcends fanfiction. When disaster strikes and Gena’s world turns upside down, only Finn can save her, and that, too, comes with a price. Told through emails, text messages, journal entries, and blog posts, Gena/Finn is a story of friendship and love in the digital age.

What are you reading? Any books I should add to my to-read list?

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Awesome Audiobooks: Illuminae

Happy Election Day! If you’re a U.S. citizen over 18 and haven’t done so already, please go vote! I won’t get into politics here, but in an election as crazy as this one, I think every vote is especially important.

Illuminae.If, like me, you could use a distraction from all the election news, I recommend getting lost in a book. I just finished listening to Gemina, the second book in the Illuminae series by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff, and wow, are these books great. The writing is fantastic — each character has a distinct voice, and the authors managed to make me laugh out loud at some of the tensest moments. Also, if you want an excellent study of dialog and voice, I take a look at Hanna’s and Nik’s conversations with Kady about two-thirds of the way through Gemina.

Gemina.If you like science fiction, thrillers, or are into really gripping characters, I cannot recommend these books enough. Because of the format (the Illuminae Files are a series of documents, transcriptions of chats and videos, and so on), I can’t say exactly how the audio adaptations compare to the text. But these full-cast adaptations are phenomenal, and a welcome escape from the real world.

Happy reading, happy writing, and happy (hopefully) end of election season!

Awesome Audio

Lately I’m becoming more and more of an audiophile. Audiobooks were my gateway, and for a while my main listening material (aside from music). Then a friend convinced me to listen to a podcast, and a few weeks later I was asking her to recommend an app so I could subscribe to the ones I like and get every new episode in one place.

I posted a few weeks ago about podcasts for writers, but today I have a few more specific audio recommendations. First, this episode of Writing Excuses on setting and the environment blew my mind. L.E. Modessit, Jr., discusses how the environment affects many aspects of daily life in far more detail than I’ve thought about before. If you’re writing science fiction, fantasy, or historical fiction, I highly recommend listening to this. (And even if you write contemporary fiction, there’s some fascinating information here.)

Illuminae.My second recommendation is the audiobook of Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. The book is composed entirely of documents — chats, interview transcripts, military reports, etc. — so I didn’t think it would translate well to audio. It was on my list of books I should really read when I got through my current stack of print books. But then another writer recommended the audio version, and boy am I glad I listened! The production is great, and of course the story itself is fantastic. (And if you don’t want to take my word for it, Illuminae was also just nominated as a finalist for YALSA’s 2016 Teens’ Top Ten.)

Happy listening!

Road trip playlist

I’ll be driving cross-country this weekend, which means I’m going to need listening material to keep me entertained. Since I’m too busy writing and preparing for my trip to come up with a post about writing, I thought I’d share some of the books I plan to listen to on my drive.

The Whispering Skull. The Whispering Skull by Jonathan Stroud, narrated by Katie Lyons. This is the second in the Lockwood & Co. series, fun books about teenaged ghost hunters. I liked listening to the first book, The Screaming Staircase, so much that I decided to save this one for my road trip.

Egg & Spoon. Egg & Spoon by Gregory Maguire, narrated by Michael Page. I’ve had mixed feelings about other books by Gregory Maguire, but this one comes highly recommended. Plus Russian fairy tales, mistaken identities, and Baba Yaga sound like fun.

The Poison Eaters and Other Stories. The Poison Eaters and Other Stories by Holly Black, narrated by Holly Black. I don’t know why it took my so long to read something by Holly Black, but everything I’ve read by her has been brilliant. I haven’t read a collection of short stories in a while, so I think this will be a good pick.

What’s on your to-read/to-listen list?

Review: Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld

Afterworlds. I haven’t read a book by Scott Westerfeld that I didn’t like, and his latest does not disappoint. I chose this week to highlight Afterworlds because in addition to being a great novel, it mentions NaNoWriMo quite a bit. Hopefully it’ll inspire all of you out there who are doing NaNoWriMo! (And as a bonus, if you’re worried about reading cutting into your writing time, Afterworlds is also a fantastic audiobook read by Sheetal Sheth and Heather Lind. So you can read while driving to work, making dinner, washing dishes, working out, and plenty of other non-writing activities.)

First, the summary from Goodreads:

Darcy Patel has put college and everything else on hold to publish her teen novel, Afterworlds. Arriving in New York with no apartment or friends she wonders whether she’s made the right decision until she falls in with a crowd of other seasoned and fledgling writers who take her under their wings…

Told in alternating chapters is Darcy’s novel, a suspenseful thriller about Lizzie, a teen who slips into the ‘Afterworld’ to survive a terrorist attack. But the Afterworld is a place between the living and the dead and as Lizzie drifts between our world and that of the Afterworld, she discovers that many unsolved – and terrifying – stories need to be reconciled. And when a new threat resurfaces, Lizzie learns her special gifts may not be enough to protect those she loves and cares about most.

Now my own thoughts. This book really spoke to me as a writer who is just starting to immerse herself in the world of publishing (no book deals, but I know all about conferences, and I’ve worked on the librarian side of library visits). Reading about Darcy’s first YA Drinks Night and her dreams of YA Heaven had me thinking, over and over, “these are my people!” It’s so great to read a book that I can really see myself in.

Which brings me to the next awesome part of this book: it fits well with the We Need Diverse Books campaign. Darcy is an Indian-American who comes from a Hindu family. The love interest in her novel is a Hindu death god. And there’s plenty of other diversity in this book, but I don’t want any spoilers. (And even having to describe a book as “diverse” makes me cringe, because I wish books were just books and we didn’t need to classify stories that reflect the real world as anything unique.)

But Westerfeld takes We Need Diverse Books a step further. While discussing her book with another writer, Darcy says that the male love interest is Indian (his appearance based off of a Bollywood actor) but the female protagonist is white because she didn’t want it to be like she was crushing on the actor, but like the world was crushing on him. (I’d give the exact quote, but the downside to audiobooks is there’s no way to go back and look that up. And all our print copies of Afterworlds are checked out right now.) So basically, Darcy is saying an Indian protagonist would be seen as representing her, but a white protagonist can represent any girl. I think this scene proves exactly why we need diverse books — Darcy has grown up in a world where she can’t see non-white characters as representing a large portion of the general population. I don’t know whether Westerfeld intended to do this or not, but I think it makes a brilliant point about the need for diversity in a deftly subtle way.

So, write on, Wrimos, and give Afterworlds a read (or listen)!

Have you read any books that really resonated with you lately? Any great NaNoWriMo books? What about books that address diversity? Please share in the comments!

Awesome Audiobooks

June is Audiobook Month, and I’m getting ready to take a long drive to the east coast, so I thought I’d highlight some of my favorite audiobooks this week. If you want more recommendations, check out my great audiobook shelf on Goodreads. And please feel free to add your own favorite listens in the comments!

Thirteen Reasons Why. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, narrated by Debra Wiseman and Joe Johnstone

Summary from Goodreads:

Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a mysterious box with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers thirteen cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker, his classmate and crush who committed suicide two weeks earlier.

On tape, Hannah explains that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he’ll find out how he made the list.

Through Hannah and Clay’s dual narratives, debut author Jay Asher weaves an intricate and heartrending story of confusion and desperation that will deeply affect teen readers.

If ever there was a book written for audio, this is it, and these narrators do a fantastic job of bringing this story to life. I still get chills every time I hear Hannah Baker’s (Debra Wiseman’s) voice.

Leviathan. Leviathan and the rest of the Leviathan series by Scott Westerfeld, narrated by Allen Cumming

Summary of the first book from Goodreads:

Prince Aleksander, would-be heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, is on the run. His own people have turned on him. His title is worthless. All he has is a battletorn war machine and a loyal crew of men.

Deryn Sharp is a commoner, disguised as a boy in the British Air Service. She’s a brilliant airman. But her secret is in constant danger of being discovered.

With World War I brewing, Alek and Deryn’s paths cross in the most unexpected way … taking them on a fantastical, around-the-world adventure that will change both their lives forever.

This series solidified my love of audiobooks. It’s a fantastic story, and Cumming does a great job with the plethora of accents.

The Graveyard Book. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, narrated by Neil Gaiman

Summary from Goodreads:

After the grisly murder of his entire family, a toddler wanders into a graveyard where the ghosts and other supernatural residents agree to raise him as one of their own.

Nobody Owens, known to his friends as Bod, is a normal boy. He would be completely normal if he didn’t live in a sprawling graveyard, being raised and educated by ghosts, with a solitary guardian who belongs to neither the world of the living nor of the dead. There are dangers and adventures in the graveyard for a boy. But if Bod leaves the graveyard, then he will come under attack from the man Jack — who has already killed Bod’s family…

I’d recommend just about anything written and read by Neil Gaiman. His stories all have bizarre premises that are wonderfully executed, and his narration is phenomenal. To quote a colleague, “I could listen to that man read the phone book.”

The Raven Boys. The Raven Boys and the rest of The Raven Cycle series  by Maggie Stiefvater, narrated by Will Patton

Summary of the first book from Goodreads:

“There are only two reasons a non-seer would see a spirit on St. Mark’s Eve,” Neeve said. “Either you’re his true love … or you killed him.”

It is freezing in the churchyard, even before the dead arrive.

Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue herself never sees them — not until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks directly to her.

His name is Gansey, and Blue soon discovers that he is a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble.

But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can’t entirely explain. He has it all — family money, good looks, devoted friends — but he’s looking for much more than that. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents all the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul who ranges from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher of the four, who notices many things but says very little.

For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She never thought this would be a problem. But now, as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.

In addition to a great story and reader, this audiobook is enhanced by music that was written and performed by the author and her fellow musicians. The music complements the story and setting nicely.

If I Stay. If I Stay by Gayle Forman, narrated by Kirsten Potter

Summary from Goodreads:

Choices. Seventeen-year-old Mia is faced with some tough ones: Stay true to her first love — music — even if it means losing her boyfriend and leaving her family and friends behind?

Then one February morning Mia goes for a drive with her family, and in an instant, everything changes. Suddenly, all the choices are gone, except one. And it’s the only one that matters.

With the movie adaptation coming out this summer, I thought I’d mention this one. It’s on the shorter side, so it’s great for a medium-length road trip, and it has some beautiful cello music that ties in nicely with the main character’s story.

If you want a more specific recommendation, leave a comment with the genre or type of story you’re interested in and I’ll come up with a few titles for you. And if you have books to add to this list, please share them in the comments.

Happy listening!