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 throughthe 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.
Confessions of Marie Antoinette by Juliet Grey Published by Ballentine Books, an imprint of Random House
In this, the last book of the Marie Antoinette trilogy (see my reviews of Becoming Marie Antoinette and Days of Splendor, Days of Sorrow), Juliet Grey covers the well-worn territory of the last days of the French monarchy, beginning with the march on Versailles and the family’s imprisonment in the Tuileries.
Despite the fact that Marie Antoinette’s life has been written about so often, Grey’s series continues to be immensely compelling – partly because she is taking the time of three books to tell the queen’s story and thus can delve deeply into her life.
If you have a decent background on pre-Revolutionary France, you could pick up any one of these books separately for a more in-depth look at a given period of Marie Antoinette’s life, but taken together they provide a great deal of insight not only into the queen herself, but also into France and the genesis of the Revolution.
Very highly recommended, but take the time and read the whole series, they are all worth it.
The Registry by Shannon Stoker, narrated by Kate Reinders Published in audio by Harper Audio, published in print by William Morrow, both imprints of HarperCollins
From the publisher:
Welcome to a safe and secure new world, where beauty is bought and sold, and freedom is the ultimate crime.
The Registry saved the country from collapse, but stability has come at a price. In this patriotic new America, girls are raised to be brides, sold at auction to the highest bidder. Boys are raised to be soldiers, trained to fight and never question orders.
Nearly eighteen, beautiful Mia Morrissey excitedly awaits the beginning of her auction year. But a warning from her married older sister raises dangerous questions. Now, instead of going up on the block, Mia is going to escape to Mexico—and the promise of freedom.
All Mia wants is to control her own destiny—a brave and daring choice that will transform her into an enemy of the state, pursued by powerful government agents, ruthless bounty hunters, and a cunning man determined to own her . . . a man who will stop at nothing to get her back.
Thoughts on the story:
You know, two or three years ago I might have dismissed The Registry as being outlandishly unrealistic. With the whole ‘war on women’ of the last couple of years and the seemingly-concerted effort to erode rights, I don’t see it as necessarily being totally insane if set far enough out. Is it actually likely? Well, no, but (hopefully) few dystopians are actually likely. It has a very similar concept to Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, at least as far as the role of women and in my opinion has a similar level of likelihood. Atwood does spell out the events that lead to her dystopia more clearly, but she also has them happen much, much more quickly, so it is logical that her characters would know exactly what led to their current situation, while Mia is in a world that is generations removed from the one we know, which is why neither she nor anyone around her truly understands how they have come to be in such a predicament.
Uh, so that was a lot of stuff to say I found the story interesting, and believable enough to keep my interest, even if I don’t exactly think this is going to happen next week.
Thoughts on the audio production:
For the most part, I really enjoyed Kate Reinders’s narration. She was a big part of what sucked me in to the book right away. The only thing that bothered me was her depiction of one of the male characters who, thankfully, came in later in the book. I found the way she presented him to be very creepy, one might even say ‘rape-y.’ Luckily he came in a good portion of the way through the novel, but I don’t think that Stoker intended him to come off like that and it distracted me from the story every time he spoke, wondering whether or not he was actually a total creep.
All in all I found The Registry to be a fun, enjoyable audiobook.
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.
The Village by Nikita Lalwani
Published by Random House
After a long journey from England, Ray Bhullar arrives early on a winter morning at the gates of a remote Indian village called Ashwer which will be her home for the next three months. The door of the hut she will share with Serena, her English co-worker, is a loose sheet of metal, the windows simple holes in the walls. Beyond the lockless door, village life goes on as usual. And yet, the village is anything but normal. Despite the domestic chores being carried out, cooking, fetching water and sewing and laundering linens, Ashwer is a village of murderers, an experimental open prison. And when Ray and her crew take up residence, to observe and to make a documentary, it seems that they are innocent visitors into a violent world, on a mission to hold the place up to viewers as the ultimate example of tolerance. But the longer Ray and her colleagues stay and their need for drama intensifies, the line between innocence and guilt begins to blur and an unexpected and terrifying new kind of cruelty emerges. A mesmerizing and heartfelt tale of manipulation and personal morality, Nikita Lalwani’s new novel brilliantly exposes how truly frail our moral judgment can be.
This is a really fascinating novel and now, in the wake of my Orange is the New Black obsession, I find myself thinking about it even more. The main character is a BBC producer of Indian heritage visiting this open prison in India, and the ways she interacts with the prisoners, is fascinating, with both their cultural and class differences. Ray finds herself in the middle between her white BBC colleagues and the Indian prisoners. In addition to issues of race and culture, Lalwani also examines different approaches to justice. If you’ve already finished binging on Orange is the New Black, check out The Village for a prison story with a totally different approach.
For more information, please see the publisher’s page. Source: Publisher.
Margot by Jillian Cantor Published by Riverhead Book, an imprint of Penguin
We all know the story of Anne Frank, thanks to the diary she kept, published by her father. Less attention is typically paid to Anne’s older sister, Margot, although we know that she, like her sister, died before the end of the war. But what if Margot survived?
In Jillian Cantor’s Margot, Margo Frank is, indeed, still alive and living in Philadelphia after the war. She no longer goes by Margot, though. Now she is Margie Franklin, a Gentile who works in a Jewish law firm and refuses to ever remove her sweater, even in the heat of summer. Margie believes she is relatively comfortable in her life, but in 1959, the film version of The Diary of Anne Frank is in theaters and everyone Margie knows is seeing the movie and wants to discuss it, bringing up memories that Margie has worked so hard to bury.
Margot is an incredibly engaging read. At its core, it is a story of identity, of the ways you can and cannot change who you really are. What most concerned me, going into the book, was how Cantor would find a plausible way to get Margot to Philadelphia and even more so to make her deny her past, but the character motivations make sense, and even Margot’s survival contains echoes of the stories of other Holocaust survivors. What ended up being the best part about Margot, though, were the ways in which Margie’s circumstances challenged her to reexamine the life she lived Before, as well as the decisions she had made after coming to America.
Margot is a really lovely book, well-written and with real heart. Highly recommended.