The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau – Book Review

The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau
Published by Houghton Mifflin Books for Children

For as long as she can remember, Cia has dreamed of being selected for The Testing and going to University. After all, her father is a University graduate, and if he had not been selected, he would never have met her mother and she wouldn’t even exist. Not to mention, Cia is a born engineer; she can fix or rig just about anything. However, nobody from the Great Lakes Colony has been selected for The Testing for years, and on the day of graduation it seems that the rumor of an official from Tosu City attending their graduation is just that, a rumor. When an official shows up the next day and selects four graduating students, nobody is more surprised or excited than Cia – at least until Cia’s father tells her the few horrific things he remembers about his own experience with The Testing. Now that Cia has exactly what she always wanted she must face the fact that it may not be what she thought it was.

The Testing  will be compared to The Hunger Games, absolutely without question (I’m writing this in January, so if the comparisons start in April or May, my apologies for seeming behind the ball). There are definite similarities: selections, plus a brutal survival setting that, to some extent, pit young people against one another. That being said, The Testing is no The Hunger Games knockoff. Charbonneau has created an intriguing world, perhaps most intriguing because it is not clear just how dystopian it is. Clearly something is rotten in the United Commonwealth, but whether it is completely corrupt or whether this is simply a case of the road to hell being paved with good intentions isn’t clear.

Here are some of my favorite things about The Testing:

  • Cia is a kick-ass, largely self-taught engineer.
  • Cia being both a girl and an engineer is not a big deal, it just is.
  • No love triangle!
  • Cia is smart, strong, and the heroine of her own story.

The Testing is a really promising start to Charbonneau’s first YA trilogy. I can’t wait to read the second book. Highly recommended.

Buy this book from:
Powells | Indiebound*

Source: Publisher.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

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Independent Study by Joelle Charbonneau – Book Review

Independent Study by Joelle Charbonneau
Published by Houghton Mifflin Books for Children

I previously reviewed the first book in this series, The Testing, this review will include spoilers for The Testing.

Cia made it through the Testing, but now that she has a record of what she went through during that time – most of the participants were made to forget it – she is constantly uneasy. Will her next mistake cost her her life? Things don’t get any easier when Cia is placed in her learning program. First she is assigned an unheard of number of classes, and then she is put through an initiation by the older students in her program. As things escalate, Cia becomes increasingly determined to figure out just what exactly is going on and who – if anyone – she can trust.

Independent Study is perhaps not quite as action packed as The Testing, but this is to be expected for the second book in the trilogy. What impresses me is that it doesn’t suffer from the mid-series slump, despite being quite a bridge book between what happened in The Testing and what is coming in Graduation Day. Charbonneau keeps up a good amount of action, particularly with the initiation rites. At the same time, Cia and the reader are able to gain measure of insight into what exactly is happening in the United Commonwealth.

Independent Study continues the story of The Testing and sets up Graduation Day while managing to tell its own story as well. This makes for a very nice middle of the series book. Recommended.

For more information, please see the publisher’s page.
Source: Author.

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Some Cozy Mysteries I Have Been Enjoying

While stuff has been crazy this fall I’ve been reading quite a few cozy mysteries. They are fun and light and often quite delightful. Also I tend to have the WORLD’S MOST DIFFICULT TIME reviewing them, particularly once I’m past the first book in the series. So, instead of three or four reviews, here’s a roundup.

The Christie Curse and The Sawyers Swindle by Victoria Abbott – Jordan Kelly needs a job and by some miracle, she seems to have found the perfect one, curating the library of Vera Van Alst, a rare book collector. Tracking down rare mysteries is a more dangerous job than it seems, however. Luckily for Jordan, she has great resources in her uncles who aren’t always on the right side of the law, but who love Jordan dearly.

A Chorus Lineup by Joelle Charbonneau – the third in the Glee Club Mystery series. Paige’s glee club has the opportunity to perform in a huge Nashville competition, but when most of the teams’ costumes are destroyed and Paige is blamed, she gets sucked back an investigation that could put her and those she loves in serious danger. Charbonneau writes two other great series and she is really getting on a roll with this cozy series. I particularly liked the revelations about Paige’s personal life.

Home of the Braised by Julie Hyzy – the White House Chef Mystery series is one of my very favorite cozy series, I look forward to them every January. In Home of the Braised Olivia is back in the White House and is all ready to focus on her upcoming marriage to her secret service beau Gav when the two of them inadvertently walk in on a mass murder just before the secret service gets there. Now Olivia is back in the middle of things and it may be up to her to save the President.

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Devourer of Books Best Books of 2013

I know some of you think that I’m gone, but I’m not! At least not completely. I’m hoping to talk more over the next week about where I plan to take this blog in 2014 and beyond, but for now I want to wrap up 2013. I can’t tell you how many books I read or how many were audio or anything because sometime in September I sort of stopped actually tracking what I was reading. Oops. It happened around the same time I stopped blogging so much, I’m not really sure what happened there, other than I went on a short trip and didn’t get back into the swing of things when I returned. I do know, though, that I did a whole lot of listening with all the walking, and then running, I did after I got my fitbit back in May (plus a bunch of yard work trying to get our landscaping in some semblance of order). Many of the non-audiobook picks below actually were audiobooks, including all of the nonfiction picks, but despite the fact they were well-narrated I specifically chose some of them for their contribution to the genre rather than their audio production.


Parlor Games by Maryka Biaggio, narrated by Leslie Carroll
Frances and Bernard by Carlene Bauer, narrated by Angela Brazil and Stephen R. Thorne
Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight, narrated by Khristine Hvam
Murder as a Fine Art by David Morrell, narrated by Matthew Wolf (links to Audiofile review)
Blood and Beauty by Sarah Dunant, narrated by Edoardo Ballerini
On the Come Up by Hannah Weyer, narrated by Yolonda Ross (links to Audiofile review)
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, narrated by Rebecca Lowman and Maxwell Caulfield
Cartwheel by Jennifer DuBois, narrated by Emily Rankin (links to Audiofile review)

Historical fiction

The Other Typist by Susanne Rindell
The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker
The Queen’s Gambit by Elizabeth Freemantle
The House of Special Purpose by John Boyne (links to Audiofile review)
Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler

Contemporary and Literary Fiction

Life after Life by Kate Atkinson
The Engagements by J. Courtney Sullivan
The Whole Golden World by Kristina Riggle (links to SheKnows feature)
Night Film by Marisha Pessl
Driver’s Education by Grant Ginder
The Liar’s Gospel by Naomi Alderman
The Crooked Branch by Jeanine Cummins
The Theory of Opposites by Allison Winn Scotch (links to Bloggers Recommend blurb)

Middle grade and young adult fiction

The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau
Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman


Eighty Days: Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland’s History-Making Race Around the World by Matthew Goodman
Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us by Michael Moss
Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth by Reza Aslan

What were your favorite books this year?

Many of the above books were provided to me for review.

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June 2013 Reading Wrap-Up

Goodbye, June. Goodbye, June is Audiobook Month. Hello me coming ever closer to not being able to keep up with my current posting schedule because I’m not reading enough. I finished a total of 13 books in June, 6 of which were audios (for a total of about 62 hours) and 7 of which were print (for a total of about 2300 pages).

What I Reviewed:

Snapper by Brian Kimberling, narrated by Macleod Andrews
Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple, narrated by Kathleen Wilhoite
Confessions of a Sociopath by M.E. Thomas, narrated by Bernadette Sullivan
Stormbringers: Order of Darkness by Philippa Gregory, narrated by Nicola Barber

Still Midnight by Denise Mina
The Engagements by J. Courtney Sullivan
The Demon Lover by Juliet Dark
Penny, n by Madeline McDonnell

Young Adult/Middle Grades Fiction
The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau

Burning the Page: The Ebook Revolution and the Future of Reading by Jason Merkoski

Other Posts:
Joe’s America – guest post by Daniel James Brown, author of The Boys in the Boat
Saint-Exupery in New York – and in Studio Saint-Ex – guest post by Ania Szado, author of Studio Saint-Ex
Going Public…In Shorts and an interview with narrator Cassandra Campbell
D.E.A.R. – June 2013
2012-2013, you audiobook year – Audiobook Week discussion
How do you choose your audiobooks? – Audiobook Week discussion
Audiobook Week mid-week meme
Audiobook tasks – Audiobook Week discussion
Learning about audiobooks – Audiobook Week discussion
Author and narrator roundtable – Mary Kay Andrews and Kathleen McInerney discuss Ladies’ Night

Pick of the Month:

Other Books Read, Watch for Reviews:

Close My Eyes by Sophie McKenzie, narrated by Marisa Calin
Revolutionary Summer by Joseph Ellis, narrated by Stefan Rudnicki
Rescue for a Queen by Fiona Buckley, narrated by Wanda McCaddon
Murder as a Fine Art by David Morrell, narrated by Matthew Wolf

The Whole Golden World by Kristina Riggle
The Village by Nikita Lalwani
Tampa by Alissa Nutting

Blue Plate Special by Kate Christiansen
Independent Study by Joelle Charbonneau

Note: Some of these books were provided to me for review.

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