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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Dark Triumph by Robin LaFevers – Book Review

Dark Triumph by Robin LaFevers
Published by Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin

This is the second book in the His Fair Assassin series. I have previously reviewed the first book, Grave Mercy. This review may contain spoilers for Grave Mercy.

Picking up just where Grave Mercy left off, Dark Triumph focuses not on Ismae, as the first book did, but on her fellow initiate from the convent of St. Mortain, Sybella. Damaged and hurting, Sybella is forced by the sisters at the convent to return to the home that tortured her, that made her the creature she is today.

Can she find a way to save her friends and Brittany, or will her time at home return her to the thrall and control of her father.

I am absolutely thrilled that LaFevers chose to tell Sybella’s story in Dark Triumph. For one thing, it is a much more involved and compelling story than I had imagined when we met her in Grave Mercy. For another, telling Sybella’s story allows LaFevers to move the story of the Franco-Breton war and Anne’s duchy forward without falling prey to the middle-of-the-trilogy slump. Much of what happens in regards to Anne’s story is in the background, but Sybella’s engaging story means there is significant narrative thrust to keep the reader entertained.

I can’t wait to see what is next for us in this series. Highly recommended.

For more information, please see the author’s website.
Source: Library.

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Stormbringers by Philippa Gregory – Audiobook Review

Stormbringers: Order of Darkness by Philippa Gregory, narrated by Nicola Barber
Published in audio by Simon & Schuster Audio, published in print by Simon Pulse, both imprints of Simon & Schuster

I previously reviewed the first book in the Order of Darkness trilogy, Changeling.

Synopsis:

Luca and Isolde have a growing relationship and are happy that they will be able to continue traveling together for the foreseeable future. Their plans are halted, however, when a young man named Johann arrives in town leading a veritable army of children who claim to be on a crusade, sent by God. Johann has been prophesying, but when one of his prophecies comes true in an unexpected manner, Luca, Isolde, and the rest of their party find themselves in mortal danger.

Thoughts on the story:

In Stormbringers, Gregory does a great job telling a new complete story as well as forwarding the stories of Luca and Isolde, their relationship, and the lives as a whole. I am most intrigued to continue learning about this order Luca finds himself working for; I am fairly certain that I know where Gregory is going with this, and I think it has wonderful potential. If anything, I find myself looking forward to the third book in the trilogy even more than I looked forward to this one.

Thoughts on the audio production:

Initially I was disappointed that Charlie Cox was not selected to narrate Stormbringers after narrating the first book in the series, Changeling. I had fond memories of his narration and the switch from a male to a female narrator is kind of a big difference. However, with a third person point of view and a cast very nearly equally split between male and female characters, the gender of the narrator does not really matter here, and once I got used to Nicola Barber being the voice of Stormbringers I actually found her quite good. One thing Barber really excels at is bringing out the humor in the secondary characters, two of whom can be really quite funny. She is good overall, though, and by the end I was pleased by Cox’s replacement, even if I’m not sure why he was replaced.

Overall:

I am really loving this series, particularly in audio. I can’t wait until the next one comes out! Highly recommended.

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

Sound Bytes is a meme that occurs every Friday! I encourage you to review your audiobooks 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.

 

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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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The Eleventh Plague by Jeff Hirsch – Audiobook Review

The Eleventh Plague by Jeff Hirsch, narrated by Dan Bittner
Published in audio by Scholastic Audio, published in print by Scholastic Press

Synopsis:

From the publisher:

In an America devastated by war and plague, the only way to survive is to keep moving.

In the aftermath of a war, America’s landscape has been ravaged and two-thirds of the population left dead from a vicious strain of influenza. Fifteen-year-old Stephen Quinn and his family were among the few that survived and became salvagers, roaming the country in search of material to trade. But when Stephen’s grandfather dies and his father falls into a coma after an accident, Stephen finds his way to Settler’s Landing, a community that seems too good to be true. Then Stephen meets strong, defiant, mischievous Jenny, who refuses to accept things as they are. And when they play a prank that goes horribly wrong, chaos erupts, and they find themselves in the midst of a battle that will change Settler’s Landing–and their lives–forever.

Thoughts on the story:

I would have perhaps liked to have more information about how exactly the world as we now know it collapsed in The Eleventh Plague, but that might not be a reasonable request since Stephen is a teenager who was born after the collapse. The Eleventh Plague‘s biggest strength is its depictions of how Stephen adjusts to living in a civilization, after having lived all his life on the move. He has heard stories about the organizations and games, so school and baseball aren’t unfamiliar, but Stephen has trouble accepting the trust inherent in civilization. The people of Settler’s Landing aren’t his family, they don’t know him, so why should they help him?

Thoughts on the audio production:

Dan Bittner is a good fit for The Eleventh Plague. He does not sound fifteen exactly, but his voice is youthful enough that I could accept him as Stephen without much problem. He narrates in a natural voice, no attempts (none noticeable, anyway) to make his voice higher as an attempt to sound younger. His delivery is natural and he captures Stephen’s angst as he tries to fit into Settler’s Landing’s civilization.

Overall:

An enjoyable listen.

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

Source: Personal copy.
* 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.

Sound Bytes is a meme that occurs every Friday! I encourage you to review your audiobooks 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.

 

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