I’ve got bite-sized reviews of some of the audiobooks I’ve been listening to lately. I truly love my library (or, technically, most of these came from my mom’s library). If you have access to Axis 360, I highly recommend you check it out—they have a fantastic selection of audiobooks! I hope these bite-sized reviews will be enough to feed your fiction addiction!
Midnight Jewel by Richelle Mead
Series: The Glittering Court #2
Also in this series: , The Glittering Court
Published by Listening Library, Razorbill on June 27th 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Narrator: Kyla Garcia
Length: 15 hrs. 39 min.
My content rating: YA (Characters have sex, Some violence)
The Selection meets Reign in this dazzling trilogy of interwoven novels about three girls on a quest for freedom and true love from #1 internationally bestselling author Richelle Mead.
Mira is not like the other Glittering Court girls. She is a war refugee, cast out of her home country and thrust into another, where she has learned to fight against the many injustices around her. For some, the Glittering Court offers a chance at a life they've only ever dreamed of, one of luxury, glamour, and leisure. But for Mira, it's simply a means to an end. In the new world, she plans to earn off her marriage contract price, and finally be free.
Mira pitches herself as an asset to one of the passengers on board the ship: the sardonic and aloof Grant Elliot, whom she's discovered is a spy for the prestigious McGraw Agency--and her ticket to buying her freedom. His cover blown, Grant has little choice but to take her on. Mira applies herself by day, learning the etiquette and customs that will help to earn her anonymity. By night, she dons a mask and slips into the city, fighting injustice and corruption on her own terms--and impressing Grant with her extraordinary abilities and insights into a brewing rebellion. But the rebellion isn't all they're fighting...
Neither of them can ignore the attraction burning between them--an attraction so powerful, it threatens to unravel everything Mira's worked so hard for. With freedom finally within her grasp, can Mira risk it all for love?
One thing to know going into this book is that it takes place concurrently with the events in The Glittering Court, but it’s told from the perspective of Mira as opposed to Adelaide. This means that some of the story overlaps. But, if you read book one, you remember that there were a lot of mysteries surrounding both Mira and Tamsin. This book fills in those holes for Mira and we find out where she was disappearing to all the time—among other secrets.
I really enjoyed the spy aspects of the book and I was on board with the romance, though I thought that Grant’s lack of emotion made it a little harder to connect to. It was definitely fun to unravel the story and see how Mira’s story became interwoven with Adelaide’s. I loved remembering pieces of the plotline in the first book and seeing how it all tied together. There were a few aspects of Mira’s story that I’d guessed, but there were still quite a few surprises. There are also more hints about what’s to come in Tamsin’s story as well (I have lots of suspicions about that). For the most part, I wasn’t too bothered by the overlap between the storylines of the first two books—Mead mostly skimmed over plot points we’d already seen. There were a few points where it felt repetitious or lacked drama (for instance, when Tamsin’s ship sank), but I thought it worked overall. (I wouldn’t recommend binge reading these, though—it might have seemed more repetitive if I’d read them back-to-back. Then again, maybe I’d catch onto even more clues?)
The narration of this book was great. It’s a different narrator from the first book in the series, but that makes sense in this case since it’s told from a different POV. I’d definitely listen to other books narrated by Kyla Garcia.
I give this installment 4/5 stars.
Daughter of Smoke and Bone Series by Laini Taylor
Published by Hachette Audio, Little Brown Books for Young Readers on October 12th 2011
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Length: 48 hrs. 50 min. (for the whole series)
Karou leads two lives. One is in the tangled streets of Prague, as an orphan and art student; the other in a clandestine workshop, overflowing with jars of teeth and wishes, run by the ram-horned magician, Brimstone—the closest thing to family Karou has ever known. She doesn't know where she came from, but she's about to find out. When Karou meets stunning, haunted Akiva, she finds a love whose roots drink deep of a violent past, and an ancient war that is far from over.
Master storyteller Laini Taylor imagines a wholly unique fantasy about a forbidden love, an epic battle, and hope for a world remade.
This is one of those series where I was seriously behind the rest of the world. And I finally get why people love Laini Taylor so much. Her worldbuilding is simply astounding. The world that she created for this series is incredibly complex, but she manages to keep it from being confusing. And Taylor’s writing is just incredibly gorgeous.
The first book got 4/5 stars from me, mostly because I wasn’t always crazy about the way it flipped back and forth in time. The story sometimes felt slightly disjointed because of that. But I LOVED Karou and Akiva, and I was very invested in their romance. And I was certainly intrigued by the idea of angels and monsters (and figuring out which was which!). Oh, and Zuzana was awesome!
The second book was my favorite. I had read a few reviews from people who’d loved the first book but not the other two, so I was a little nervous, but I didn’t feel that way at all. This second book was much more brutal than the first, but that meant that the stakes were even higher. Karou is put in some pretty impossible situations. It was hard to see Akiva and Karou at odds with each other, but the tension between them made for some intense reading! I gave this one 5/5 Stars.
Night of Cake and Poppets is an adorable little novella. It feels completely different from the main books in the series because it’s told from Zuzana’s POV. It’s fun and quirky, just like she is! If you’re a fan of the series, I highly recommend this addition! (4/5 Stars)
And as for the series finale: The last book was a little more convoluted than the first two, and we got a brand new, very important character (Eliza) who seemed to come out of nowhere. It took awhile for Taylor to bring all the threads together and make it clear where the story was going, but the payoff was worth it. Again, this installment got 4/5 Stars from me.
Kristine Hvan does a great job with the narration of this series. Even though it’s been a while since I listened to these, I can still hear her voice for Zuzana perfectly in my head. 🙂
So, overall, I’d give the series 4 stars (but maybe 4.25 if that was a thing?). I really enjoyed it and I definitely get the Laini Taylor hype now. I’ll be reading more of her!
Firstlife by Gena Showalter
Published by Harlequin on February 23rd 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Narrator: Emma Galvin, Zachary Webber
Length: 12 hrs. 17 min.
ONE CHOICE.TWO REALMS.NO SECOND CHANCE.
Tenley “Ten” Lockwood is an average seventeen-year-old girl…who has spent the past thirteen months locked inside the Prynne Asylum. The reason? Not her obsession with numbers, but her refusal to let her parents choose where she’ll live—after she dies.
There is an eternal truth most of the world has come to accept: Firstlife is merely a dress rehearsal, and real life begins after death.
In the Everlife, two realms are in power: Troika and Myriad, longtime enemies and deadly rivals. Both will do anything to recruit Ten, including sending their top Laborers to lure her to their side. Soon, Ten finds herself on the run, caught in a wild tug-of-war between the two realms who will do anything to win the right to her soul. Who can she trust? And what if the realm she’s drawn to isn’t home to the boy she’s falling for? She just has to stay alive long enough to make a decision…
I liked the concept of this book, but I had a hard time connecting to Ten and understanding her decision-making a lot of the time. Especially in the beginning, Ten’s refusal to pick a realm felt sort of random. I could understand not wanting to make a hasty decision that would affect you forever, but she didn’t seem to have much reasoning behind making or not making the decision, so it seemed odd that she would endure torture over it. And I really didn’t get why torturing someone into choosing a realm would be a useful tactic in the first place. As the book went on, I found a lot of parallels to Christianity, which I found intriguing and I like the way Showalter tied the story into Christian ideals without being completely overt or pushy about it. Still there were a lot of disconnects. I didn’t get why anyone would choose either of the realms based on how they were being pushed to make a decision. And the further I got into the book, the less sense it made sense for her to be confused because one realm was so clearly better than the other.
One other note: The narration of this book seemed a little stilted at times—there was just something about the way that Emma Galvin stressed things sometimes that just didn’t seem to work for me. Or maybe I just didn’t like her tone in general? I can’t put my finger on it exactly. I thought that Zachary Webber did a great job with the guys’ accents, though.
Of Beast and Beauty by Stacey Jay
Published by Tantor Audio, Delacorte Press on July 14th 2015
Length: 10 hrs. 18 min.
My content rating: YA (Some violence, Nothing more than kissing)
It's pointless. Hopeless. Even if she weren't afraid of me, we'll always be enemies at the core . . . In the city of Yuan, the blind Princess Isra is raised to be a human sacrifice. Her death will ensure her city's vitality. In the desert, a mutant beast named Gem fights to save his people, known as the Monstrous, from starvation. Neither dreams that, together, they can return balance to their worlds. When Gem is captured for trying to steal Yuan's enchanted roses, he becomes a prisoner of the city. Isra enlists his help, and soon begins to care for him-and to question everything she has been brought up to believe. She's a queen; I'm her prisoner. I am her monster and she is mine.
This was the only book I ended up picking up from this year’s SYNC program for some reason. Probably because now that I have access to Axis360, I have plenty of great audiobooks to listen to. But I’m a sucker for fairy tale retellings, so I had to download this one!
I actually didn’t have super high expectations going into this book—I don’t know why. I was intrigued by the fairy tale aspect of the story, but I feel like there are a lot of Beauty and the Beast retellings, so I wasn’t expecting anything terribly unique. But I was pleasantly surprised! This version of the classic tale is set in a fantasy world—with a touch of sci-fi, since it technically takes place on another planet that humans have fled to. The worldbuilding was complex but not overly complicated—the planet is treacherous and the magic there (a sort of God-like presence) has attempted to help the humans by changing them so that they can survive. But the humans fear these monstrous changes and they turn to a darker sort of magic to survive. Society ends up divided between “monsters” who have been changed and those who have not.
I really enjoyed the precarious and yet tender relationship that develops between Isra and Gem. I also loved the exploration of the morally gray—often it was hard to tell who was the beast in the story and who was the beauty. Isra and Gem both face unpleasant choices, but they do their best in their circumstances, and I was emotionally attached to both of them and eager to find out how their stories would play out. I was much more moved by the story than I expected to be! I give the book 4.5/5 Stars!
The narration by Julia Whelan was delightful as well, so I highly recommend the audiobook!
***Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher via SYNC summer audiobook program. No review was specifically requested and all opinions are my own.***