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.

Digiprove sealCopyright protected by Digiprove © 2013

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.

Digiprove sealCopyright protected by Digiprove © 2013

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.

Digiprove sealCopyright protected by Digiprove © 2013

Frances and Bernard by Carlene Bauer – Audiobook Review

Frances and Bernard by Carlene Bauer, narrated by Angela Brazil and Stephen R. Thorne
Published in audio by AudioGo, published in print by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Synopsis:

I would probably use about a billion words to try to describe this and the publisher’s description is SO pithy and perfect, so I’m just going to use that:

Loosely inspired by Robert Lowell and Flannery O’Connor, this absorbing, charming novel brings us into mid-century New York and the lives and letters of two writers– their intense friendship, their discussions of writing and art and faith, and their bittersweet romance.

Thoughts on the story:

Frances and Bernard is a fairly contemplative book, the musings of (and repressed affection between) Bernard and Frances. I’m not entirely sure how I would have felt about this in print, I’m not sure it would have held my interest initially. Luckily the narrators were enough to keep me entertained at that point, and later Bauer’s story itself becomes emotionally involving enough to captivate me. I was surprised at the sheer volume of their discussion of their Catholic faith and equally surprised just how intrigued I was by all of their discussions, from the personal, to the religious, to the literary.

Thoughts on the audio production:

Angela Brazil and Stephen R. Thorne? Perfect. PERFECT. This is an example of fabulous casting, both narrators fit their role perfectly, and since nearly the entire book is a letter written by one of them or the other, the dual narrator format works incredibly well.

Overall:

Frances and Bernard is a quietly lovely epistolary novel and the narration elevates the audio to another level entirely. Highly recommended.

For more, please see my review for Audiofile magazine.

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

Source: Audiofile Magazine.
* 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.

 

Mister Linky’s Magical Widgets

This plugin requires intervention by this site’s administrator.

To display the widget for this post, please click here.

Digiprove sealCopyright protected by Digiprove © 2013

A Long, Long Time Ago and Essentially True by Brigid Pasulka – Book Review

A Long, Long Time Ago and Essentially True by Brigid Pasulka
Published by Mariner Books, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Poland is on the verge of Nazi occupation, but in Half-Village all Pigeon can concentrate on is the beautiful Anielica. In order to set himself apart from other potential suitors, Pigeon decides to help Anielica’s family repair and upgrade their house. It is in this way, by his constant presence, that Pigeon wins his beloved’s heart, slowly and quietly. Unfortunately, with the advent of World War II, their village life is disrupted enough that it is quite some time before they are able to marry.

Some fifty years later, their granddaughter Beata attempts to navigate life in Krakow, part of the “New Poland.” In Beata’s experience, however, New Poland does not always work so much differently than when the country was still under the yoke of Communism.

Pigeon and Anielica’s story is absolutely charming. There is a fairy tale air to the whole thing, Nazis notwithstanding. Beata’s storyline was a tougher sell for me. She seems somewhat disaffected by life in Krakow and I wanted to know more about life back in the village with her grandmother. For quite some time I was wishing that Pasulka had simply stuck with Pigeon and Anielica, but Beata’s story builds in a way that makes it worth the effort that the reader puts into it.

A Long Long Time Ago & Essentially True is a worthwhile read. Recommended.

Buy this book from:
Powells | Indiebound*

Source: Personal.
* 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.

Digiprove sealCopyright protected by Digiprove © 2013