Liesl & Po by Lauren Oliver – Audiobook Review

Liesl & Po by Lauren Oliver, narrated by Jim Dale
Published in audio by TK, published in print by HarperCollins

Synopsis:

The death of her beloved father has left Liesl helpless in the clutches of a very evil stepmother. Instead of forcing her to clean house Cinderella-style, though, Liesl’s stepmother keeps her locked in the attic Bertha Rochester-style. Surprising as it may seem, the luckiest day in Liesl’s young life is when a ghost named Po shows up in her attic bedroom. No longer male or female, the prickly Po befriends Liesl, and is able to give her information about her father on the Other Side, information that makes Liesl determined to take action to change her lot in life and her father’s lot in the afterlife.

Thoughts on the story:

Lauren Oliver’s middle grade story Liesl & Po is very cute and sweet. Liesl and Po have an interesting friendship as they attempt to overcome the barrier between the living and the dead. Similarly charming is the ardent schoolboy crush that Will, the alchemist’s apprentice, has on Liesl. It may be slightly creepy that he watches through her window from the street, but before long it becomes clear that his is a noble (or at least shy and embarrassed) love. Perhaps the best thing about Liesl & Po, though, is that it failed to simply go exactly where I thought it would. Oliver kept the story fresh, and moving in new and more complex directions, which was both surprising and refreshing.

Thoughts on the audio production:

Jim Dale’s adult women all sounded very mannish in Liesl & Po, but they were simply supporting characters, so it wasn’t really a problem. Overall his voices were relatively good, and he certainly made for an engaging listening experience.

Overall:

An enjoyable audiobook and a good palate cleanser. Recommended.

Buy this book from:
Powells: Print*
Indiebound: Print*
Audible.com

I’m launching a brand-new meme every Friday! I encourage you to review any audiobooks you review on Fridays and include the link here. If you have reviewed an audiobook earlier in the week, please feel free to link that review as well. Thanks to Pam for creating the button.

Source: Library.
* 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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White Horse by Alex Adams – Book Review

White Horse by Alex Adams
Published by Atria/Emily Bestler Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster

When I wake, the world is still gone. -p. 5

Zoe is thirty, working at as a janitor at Pope Pharmaceuticals when the jar shows up in her house. Her alarm system didn’t register an intruder, and there’s nothing to indicate where the jar came from, or why it is there. To deal with the strange appearance, Zoe enlists the help of friends who work at the museum to try to figure out what exactly the jar is, but she also heads to a therapist, with an alleged dream about a jar. Before long, though, the cats in Zoe’s building all begin to disappear, and people around her start getting sick, first those who examined the jar, then her neighbors. Throughout the city and the world, people begin to die from this bizarre disease, and those who don’t die mutate in bizarre ways. Before long, society is breaking down and the President of the United States has declared that humans are no longer a viable species.

White Horse alternates between the story of the rise of the plague – nicknamed White Horse by a televangelist, after one of the horses of the apocalypse – and Zoe’s present, as she works her way through Europe. During the lead-up to the utter collapse of civilization, Zoe and her therapist, Nick, formed a romantic relationship. She knows that he planned to try to find his parents in Greece, and as the world continues to fall apart she realizes how much she needs to be with him and travels across a dangerous landscape, full of mutants and others who have lost their humanity in an even more terrifying manner, in order to find him once again.

Zoe is a badass main character. As she struggles to keep even herself alive as she crosses a continent, she is unable to leave others who are suffering, which leads her to travel with a blind young woman who was being raped by her father and uncle. Sight is a fairly important sense at the end of the world, so it is possible that by bringing this girl along Zoe is endangering herself and her own mission, but she is unable to let the injustice of the situation stand, and rescues and protects the girl at great cost to herself. She fights when it is necessary to protect herself and the innocent, but at the same time she keeps her humanity in an increasingly inhumane world. She is, above all other things, a survivor, both physically and mentally.

In White Horse, Adams has created a fascinating apocalyptic world. By alternating between the world before and after the complete downfall of society, Adams keeps the story moving forward quickly, she gives enough time in each world that the reader is not left frustrated by lack of information, but also moves on quickly enough to keep up a good deal of suspense. The result is a page-turner of a book, with enough depth and world building to leave the reader feeling satisfied when the book is over. White Horse is apparently the first book in a trilogy, and there is certainly enough material there to continue to build on this world, but Adams also brings her story to a satisfying conclusion – no cliffhangers here.

All in all, White Horse is a haunting and engrossing story of survival. 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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Zombiestan by Mainak Dhari – Audiobook Review

Zombiestan by Mainak Dhari, narrated by John Lee
Published in audio by Tantor Media, published in print by TK

Synopsis:

It begins with an airstrike on a Taliban compound where new biological weapons are being stored. The initial response to the strike is unabashed joy, finally the US military has taken out some of the top members of the Taliban, certainly now that the leadership is dead, the group will fall apart. Soon, though, the allegedly dead Taliban are ravishing villages, storming US military compounds. Shooting them does nothing, nor does attempting to blow them up, and anyone they bite or scratch gets terribly sick and begins acting in the same mad way. Thanks to the soldiers who are on their way home, and the ones who are taken out of country for medical care, the epidemic begins to spread throughout the world, although it seems to be worst in the Middle East.

It is against this backdrop that our unlikely band of protagonists comes together in India. They include a Navy SEAL, an aging romance author, a teenage boy who has lost his family, and a teenage girl with her toddler brother in tow. During an attack by the “biters,” as they are being called, it becomes evident that the young boy is somehow immune to these strange zombies, a discovery that provides hope to survivors and enrages the creatures at the same time. Suddenly, there is more at stake that minute-to-minute survival, the fate of the human race may lie with a little boy obsessed with Disney.

Thoughts on the story:

With Zombiestan, Dhar introduces a new an interesting twist to the classic zombie story. Unlike most zombies, Dhar’s biters move quickly, possess rudimentary group memories from the original Taliban victims, and even seem capable of learning. These deviations from classic zombie lore kept Zombiestan fresh, aided by the quick pace and the engaging plot. The men were better developed than the women as characters, but the women still formed an integral part of the plot, and were able to play a significant role in the group’s quest to get to someone who could do something with the possibility of immunity. Zombiestan is very engaging, and incredibly easy to get caught up in.

Thoughts on the audio production:

Ah, John Lee. I haven’t listened to very many things he has narrated, so I tend to forget just how amazing he is; after all, he did manage to keep me grounded during The City & The City. In Zombiestan, he shows his exceptional talent with accents. Lee himself is British, and narrated the book as such, which works for something set in the Middle East and India. However, he had a variety of accents to cover among the different characters, primarily Indian and American. The main characters occasionally came into contact with others from the region, and Lee managed to switch voices and accents with a seemingly effortless flair.

Overall:

Zombiestan is a captivating and unique zombie story, which is truly brought to its fullest potential by John Lee’s expert narration. Very highly recommended.

Buy this book from:
Powells: Audio/Print*
Indiebound: Audio/Print*

I encourage you to review any audiobooks you review on Fridays and include the link here. If you have reviewed an audiobook earlier in the week, please feel free to link that review as well. Thanks to Pam for creating the button.

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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Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers – Book Review

Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers
Published by Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

This is the first book in the His Fair Assassins series.

The scars on Ismae’s body mark her as something different, something to be feared. Leftover from the failed abortifacient taken by her mother before her birth, the scars also mark Ismae as a daughter not of a human man, but instead sired by St. Mortain, otherwise known as Death. The fear induced by her heritage keeps her safe – barely – from her turnip farming father, but enrages the man she is sold to in marriage, a man who promises to see her killed. Luckily, there are many who are still loyal to the old gods of Brittany, gods who must now be called saints to avoid conflict with the Catholic church and these priests and herbwives smuggle Ismae to the convent of St. Mortain. In the convent, Ismae becomes a handmaiden of Death, trained in the art of killing those marked by St. Mortain, those enemies of Brittany.

Brittany has many enemies these days. The Duke is dead, and his daughter the Duchess Anne is only 12, although she is a wise and mature young woman. France is hungry to expand its borders and it seems that she must marry to ensure the safety of her country, but her most ardent suitor is a man not remotely suitable. Ismae, who grew up a peasant, finds herself sent to Anne’s court with a courtier and member of the Privy Council, Duval, to protect the Duchess and Brittany, and to ensure that Mortain’s will be done.

LaFevers has created in Grave Mercy a wonderful and engaging world that is particularly effective for being set against true historical events, such as Anne’s ascension to the Duchy of Brittany, and the ensuing Franco-Breton War. Whether Brittany the veneration of ancient pagan gods as saints continued in 15th century Brittany I do not know, but LaFevers certainly made it ring true, particularly when setting this veneration against the close relationship between Brittany’s enemy France and the Pope. In addition, Ismae is an incredibly captivating heroine, naive and damaged at the same time she is brave and strong. Her reactions and emotions are entirely consistent with her character as LaFevers develops it.

Perhaps best of all is the way that LaFevers ended this, the first book in the series. Although there is a question of what will happen in Anne and Ismae’s futures, the story that is being told is also completely wrapped up. I would be thrilled to read about Ismae’s continuing adventures, or in learning more about some of the other girls from the convent, and yet Grave Mercy completely satisfies in and of itself.

This series shows much promise, and I can’t wait for the next installment in 2013. Highly recommended.

Buy this book from:
Powells | Indiebound*

Source: Publisher, via Netgalley.
* 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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Among Others by Jo Walton – Book Review

Among Others by Jo Walton
Published by Tor Books, an imprint of MacMillan

Once upon a time, Morwenna – known as Mori – did magic. She and her twin sister Mor played with fairies and closed down factories by simply each throwing a flower into a pond. Now Mori alone is in England with her all-but-unknown father and his three spinster sisters who, unsure of what to do with her, send her to a local boarding school. Here she doesn’t know anyone, and the fairies barely speak to her, it is not like Wales at all. Her loneliness is more than just being in a place without friends, though, it is also the memory of what she left behind, and what she will never quite be able to recover.

Among Others is an incredibly engaging book. What is perhaps most interesting, is the confluence of science fiction and fantasy. With Mori’s belief in her ability to do magic and her discussions with fairies, the story itself is absolutely fantasy – or, also plausibly, Mori’s disturbed childhood has caused her to live in a fantasy world, and she is an unreliable narrator of the things happening around her – but much of what informs her daily life is her love of science fiction novels.

Fans of classic science fiction – Among Others is set in the 1970s – will particularly enjoy Mori’s thoughts about what she is reading, and the scenes set in her science fiction book club at the library. The truly magical thing about Among Others, though, is the fact that Walton manages to so thoroughly infuse her book with science fiction without alienating those readers who don’t have much familiarity with the genre (and I would know, considering my experience with classic science fiction is limited to a single Heinlein novel read in high school).

Among Others is a lovely, complex coming of age novel, and one that I highly recommend.

Buy this book from:
Powells | Indiebound*

Source: Library.
* 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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