Monday, July 22, 2013

Audiobook review: Once by Morris Gleitzman

Narrator: Morris Gleitzman
Publish date: 2006
Length: 3 hours 8 minutes
"Felix, a Jewish boy in Poland in 1942, is hiding from the Nazis in a Catholic orphanage. The only problem is that he doesn't know anything about the war, and thinks he's only in the orphanage while his parents travel and try to salvage their bookselling business. And when he thinks his parents are in danger, Felix sets off to warn them--straight into the heart of Nazi-occupied Poland.

To Felix, everything is a story: Why did he get a whole carrot in his soup? It must be sign that his parents are coming to get him. Why are the Nazis burning books? They must be foreign librarians sent to clean out the orphanage's outdated library. But as Felix's journey gets increasingly dangerous, he begins to see horrors that not even stories can explain.

Despite his grim surroundings, Felix never loses hope. Morris Gleitzman takes a painful subject and expertly turns it into a story filled with love, friendship, and even humor.
" (Goodreads)

I recently downloaded Once from because, well, it was free and I like free things, especially books. I have the physical book in my classroom library, but was never too interested in trying it out. I love short audiobooks though, so I tried out Once and actually liked it.

Once takes place during the Holocaust and is told from Felix's point of view. Felix lives at an orphanage because his parents need to travel to save their bookselling he thinks. The beauty of Once, for me, was Felix's innocence throughout the whole story. He truly thought his parents were fine and had only taken him to the orphanage three years earlier because they needed to work and travel. Sad, but brutally effective.

As an audiobook, I really liked this too. Morris Gleitzman, the author, actually narrates this as well and he did a fantastic job. He did a great job conveying Felix and I thought it was pretty cool that he was able to narrate his own book. I wish more authors did!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Review: Exposed by Kimberly Marcus

Publish date: 2011
Source: Classroom library
Format: Paperback
Length: 255 pages
"Sixteen-year-old Liz is Photogirl—sharp, focused and confident in what she sees through her camera lens. Confident that she and Kate will be best friends forever.

But everything changes in one blurry night. Suddenly, Kate is avoiding her, and people are looking the other way when she passes in the halls. As the aftershocks from a startling accusation rip through Liz's world, everything she thought she knew about photography, family, friendship and herself shifts out of focus. What happens when the picture you see no longer makes sense? What do you do when you may lose everything you love most? Told in stunning, searingly raw free verse, Exposed is Kimberly Marcus's gut-wrenching, riveting debut and will appeal to fans of Ellen Hopkins, Laurie Halse Anderson and Virginia Euwer Wolff.
" (Goodreads)

I've had this one in my classroom library for a while, but didn't read it until I needed to write a poetry review for the YA lit grad class I am taking. It was a quick read that I ended up really enjoying.

Exposed tells the story of Liz and her best friend Kate and what happens that rocks their previously solid friendship. I figured out pretty early on what happened to Kate, but it didn't affect my enjoyment of the book. It was interesting to see how everything played out and I found myself rooting for Liz and Kate's friendship over everything.

This is a verse novel, so it was a quicker read than you'd expect for a 255 page book. My only other experience with verse novels has been Ellen Hopkins and I found Exposed to be quite different from Hopkins's work, but I think that's due to the subject matter. I would definitely recommend Exposed if you like verse novels and think it would be an excellent addition to classroom and public libraries anywhere.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Audiobook review: Feed by M.T. Anderson

Narrator: David Aaron Baker
Publish date: 2002
Source: Library
Length: 5 hours 10 minutes
"Identity crises, consumerism, and star-crossed teenage love in a futuristic society where people connect to the Internet via feeds implanted in their brains.

For Titus and his friends, it started out like any ordinary trip to the moon - a chance to party during spring break and play with some stupid low-grav at the Ricochet Lounge. But that was before the crazy hacker caused all their feeds to malfunction, sending them to the hospital to lie around with nothing inside their heads for days. And it was before Titus met Violet, a beautiful, brainy teenage girl who has decided to fight the feed and its omnipresent ability to categorize human thoughts and desires. Following in the footsteps of George Orwell, Anthony Burgess, and Kurt Vonnegut Jr., M. T. Anderson has created a not-so-brave new world — and a smart, savage satire that has captivated readers with its view of an imagined future that veers unnervingly close to the here and now.
" (Goodreads)

I've had Feed in my classroom library for a while, but could never quite get myself to pick it up and read it. I saw it at the library in audiobook format earlier this year and when I noticed that it was only about 5 hours, I knew that would be how I would read it. I was completely sucked into this strange, strange little book.

Feed is essentially futuristic satire and boy, is it scarily real! In M.T. Anderson's future, everyone has a feed implanted in their brains that affects everything. You can communicate silently, see advertisements, order things, etc. It was scary to think about how this could very well be our future. We have already made so many technological leaps in the last hundred years--what is coming next? Maybe brain feeds!

Audiobook-wise, I think I definitely made the right choice to listen to this one. David Aaron Baker was a fantastic narrator and I loved all of his voices for each character. I also loved the touches the audiobook had like changes in the volume/tone to indicate when characters were communicating via the feed and the commercials to show how often advertisements popped up on the feed. I would highly recommend listening to this over reading the print.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Review: The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

Publish date: 2013
Source: Conference
Format: ARC
Length: 457 pages
"After the 1st wave, only darkness remains. After the 2nd, only the lucky escape. And after the 3rd, only the unlucky survive. After the 4th wave, only one rule applies: trust no one.

Now, it’s the dawn of the 5th wave, and on a lonely stretch of highway, Cassie runs from Them. The beings who only look human, who roam the countryside killing anyone they see. Who have scattered Earth’s last survivors. To stay alone is to stay alive, Cassie believes, until she meets Evan Walker. Beguiling and mysterious, Evan Walker may be Cassie’s only hope for rescuing her brother—or even saving herself. But Cassie must choose: between trust and despair, between defiance and surrender, between life and death. To give up or to get up.
" (Goodreads)

The 5th Wave had TONS of buzz. I personally don't like when a book has a lot of buzz, since I am usually let down by my unrealistic expectations of it. I ended up liking it, but I didn't absolutely love it.

The 5th Wave is a book that made me want to keep reading. I read the majority of it on a flight, and it held my attention for those few hours very well. The chapters are short, which I love in a book, and the narrators changed every so often. In my opinion, short chapters are one of the best ways to hold a reader's attention, and Rick Yancey kept the tension high in this book partly due to that.

I liked the differing narrators, but was disappointed in one of them, finding him to be a bit unrealistic and unbelievable. If you've read The 5th Wave, you probably know who I'm talking about. My student book club chose this for our first summer read, and they felt similarly about the narrator. Some liked the book as a whole, some didn't. All in all, I think it was a good choice for a group read and brought up some great discussion points.

I think I will read the sequel when it comes out (next year?), but I won't be clamoring for it. Please tell me your thoughts in the comments! Has anyone listened to the audiobook?

Friday, July 5, 2013

Review: Going Vintage by Lindsey Leavitt

Publish date: 2013
Source: Classroom Library
Format: Hardcover
Length: 320 pages
"When Mallory’s boyfriend, Jeremy, cheats on her with an online girlfriend, Mallory decides the best way to de-Jeremy her life is to de-modernize things too. Inspired by a list of goals her grandmother made in1962, Mallory swears off technology and returns to a simpler time (when boyfriends couldn’t cheat with computer avatars). The List:1. Run for pep club secretary
2. Host a fancy dinner party/soiree
3. Sew a dress for Homecoming
4. Find a steady
5. Do something dangerous
But simple proves to be crazy-complicated, and the details of the past begin to change Mallory’s present. Add in a too-busy grandmother, a sassy sister, and the cute pep-club president–who just happens to be her ex’s cousin–and soon Mallory begins to wonder if going vintage is going too far.
" (Goodreads)

I put Going Vintage on my TBR list when I first heard about it last year and read it recently as part of my YA lit class to fulfill a contemporary fiction assignment. I really enjoyed it and think it has a lot of teen appeal!

Mallory, the main character, is now one of my favorite YA protagonists. She was funny, smart, and dedicated to her goal of living like her grandma. I laughed out loud while reading, mostly due to Mallory's comments and observations about her life. She is definitely likable and easy to root for.

I had a few issues with how the book ended, mostly because of a number of things that happened regarding Mallory's family members like her grandma and mom. It seemed like there were too many things going on and I wanted to focus to be kept on Mallory. Ultimately, though, I really liked the book and think it will be popular at school this fall!