Life is But a Dream by Brian James

Title: Life is But a Dream
Author: Brian James
Series: N/A
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Release Date: 3/27/2012
Length: 234 pages
Format: Paperback Galley
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary, Young Adult
Challenges: N/A
Source: Around the World ARC Tours
Purchase: Hardcover | Kindle | NOOK | ePub
Rating: ★★★★☆

Sabrina, an artist, is diagnosed with schizophrenia, and her parents check her into the Wellness Center. There she meets Alec, who is convinced it’s the world that’s crazy, not the two of them. They are meant to be together; they are special. But when Alec starts to convince Sabrina that her treatment will wipe out everything that makes her creative, she worries that she’ll lose hold of her dreams and herself. Should she listen to her doctor? her decision may have fatal consequences.

Achingly beautiful. Those are the two words that come to mind upon finishing this book. I sincerely hope that this book gets all the buzz it deserves and does well. With so many hyped books coming out next year, it would be easy for this one to fall between the cracks. Don’t let that happen! It really is beautiful.

This book is both a look at the world through the eyes of a girl while her mind slowly unravels and a gorgeous love story about two troubled teens who find solace in their understanding of one another. I will say that the quick progression of Sabrina and Alec’s relationship was a little off-putting. I had to remind myself of the desperate and intense emotions that comes with being a teenager. I can only imagine that those emotions would be taken to another level if suffering from the psychological and social disorders that these two have. What’s so beautiful about it all is that they get each other. In the same situation most people would decide Sabrina or Alec was crazy and walk quickly in the other direction. Because they’ve both felt what it’s like to be weird or outcast (or “special,” as Sabrina would say) they develop a deep connection.

The book isn’t just about Sabrina and Alec’s love. It’s mostly about the world Sabrina lives in vs the real world. She struggles to hold onto what is real and what isn’t. What I loved about Sabrina’s illness what that it was written in a way that’s easy to understand. It’s easy to see how she gets confused. Her obsessive fixations on some things seem to take her away from real life. It’s so easy to sympathize with her character when experiencing the whole thing through her eyes. She’s constantly afraid of what will happen. She doesn’t want to change. She doesn’t want to become fake, like all the people she sees around her. She most definitely does not want to lose Alec. It’s all very engaging. I could hardly tear myself away from the book.

Within her stay at the hospital, she sorts through her memories. I slowly got to discover what happened to her and why she ended up there in the first place. That part was almost as interesting to me as her developing relationship with Alec and the progression of her illness. I just needed know how things ended up this way. There was also a small focus on her relationship with her parents. I think that part was a little more understated, but it was there. I am glad they’re not the terrible parents that always seem to inhabit teen books.

To sum things up, I thought this book was terrific. Everything really leaped off the page. It was a very visual experience for me. The writing was beautiful and I can’t wait for it come out so I can go get my very own finished copy.

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins (audio remix)

Title: Anna and the French Kiss
Author: Stephanie Perkins
Narrator: Kim Mai Guest
Series: N/A
Publisher: Listening Library
Release Date: 10/11/2011
Length: 10 hours, 29 minutes
Format: Unabridged Digital Audiobook
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary, Young Adult
Challenges: 2011 Audiobook Challenge
Source: Purchased
Purchase: Audio CD | Digital Audiobook
Rating: ★★★★★

Anna is looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a great job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. Which is why she is less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris – until she meets Etienne St. Clair: perfect, Parisian (and English and American, which makes for a swoon-worthy accent), and utterly irresistible. The only problem is that he’s taken, and Anna might be, too, if anything comes of her almost-relationship back home.

As winter melts into spring, will a year of romantic near – misses end with the French kiss Anna – and readers – have long awaited?

I just fell in love all over again. I loved this book when I first read it, and I recently got the chance to love it again. This is just as good on audio as it is in print. When I first read this book, I was just coming off the high from Lola and the Boy Next Door, so I didn’t understand why people said this one was better. I get it now. This is the better of the two, but they’re both super cute.

Anna and St. Clair are two of the best characters I’ve come across in contemporary YA lit. I mean, they’re perfectly written for their age. They’re a little angsty and a little immature sometimes. It’s hard to fall in love when you’re seventeen. There are so many emotions floating around that it all seems so intense. I think Stephanie captures that feeling perfectly. Another thing she captures well is the fact that people make mistakes all the time. Both Anna and St. Clair make some bad decisions throughout the book and that’s okay. It happens to everyone. It’s what you do about it that matters and I think that message was brought out well.

Kim Mai Guest does such a good job with this. She captures Anna’s voice perfectly. It took me a bit to get used to her voice for St. Clair, but it worked. The only reason that was hard for me was that I listened her read Incarceron and Sapphique, and the accent is similar to those. I was actually suprised by how awesome she was. After listening to the Incarceron books, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I loved it though. Good fluency and distinctive voices. She also did a great job capturing the emotion is some of the more intense scenes. She almost had me in tears at one point.

This book is super cute and will leave you with an enormous smile on your face. Highly recommended!

 

Read my original review of this book here.

Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins (audio remix)

Title: Lola and the Boy Next Door
Author: Stephanie Perkins
Narrator: Shannon McManus
Series: N/A
Publisher: Listening Library
Release Date: 10/11/2011
Length: 8 hours, 59 minutes
Format: Unabridged Digital Audiobook
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult
Challenges: 2012 TBR Challenge, 2012 Audiobook Challenge
Source: Purchased
Purchase: Audio CD | Digital Audiobook
Rating: ★★★★★

In this companion novel to Anna and the French Kiss, two teens discover that true love may be closer than they think.

For budding costume designer Lola Nolan, the more outrageous, the outfit – more sparkly, more fun, more wild – the better. But even though Lola’s style is outrageous, she’s a devoted daughter and friend with some big plans for the future. And everything is pretty perfect (right down to her hot rocker boyfriend) until the dreaded Bell twins move back into the house next door.

When the family returns and Cricket – a gifted inventor and engineer – steps out from his twin sister’s shadow and back into Lola’s life, she must finally reconcile a lifetime of feelings for the boy next door.

This a huge warning that I’m going to be fangirling like crazy during this review… again. I read this book as an ARC and reviewed it on my personal book blog. I bought it on audio as soon as it came out and I couldn’t wait to get started. I finally got a chance to start it last month and it took me a while to get through it since I don’t listen to audio quite as much now. Let me just say, it was AMAZING! It was just as good as it was the first time around. I love love loved it.

Lola is just so awesome. She’s awesome to begin with, even with some of that angst she carries. Watching her learn and grow up was awesome though. I’m glad St. Clair was there to give her some advice because he definitely had a similar experience. And Cricket? Oh my stars, he’s so precious. I adore him. I mean, I liked St. Clair in Anna and the French Kiss, but Cricket is the kind of guy I find appealing: smart, quirky, a little geeky and shy. And tall! I love tall! Seriously, his character is really great. I think he did most of his growing while he was away, but there’s still some development going on during the book.

So, the plot is similar to that of Anna and the French Kiss, but in the most basic ways. Lola and Cricket are into each other, but mostly try to ignore it, much like Anna and St. Clair. They’re ignoring it because Lola has a boyfriend, just like St. clair had a girlfriend. Lola’s relationship with Max is not exactly healthy, just like St. Clair’s relationship with Ellie wasn’t really healthy. So it’s similar. In this one, the characters are vastly different in personality, they’ve known each other most of their lives, and the feelings of one of them is out in the open pretty early in the book. It defintiely makes for some interesting differences. So, if for some insane reason, you’re thinking that this book will be just like the last one so you’re not going to read it, have no fear. There are many things that are different.

Though, I have to ask what the problem is with musicians. The two bad relationships in Lola and Anna are both with musicians. Interesting…

Shannon McManus does a pretty good job. When I first read it, I had a different cadence or rhythm to some of the dialogue than she did. I loved her voices for the characters. I think it’s a really well done production. If you love audio and adorable stories about first love, pick this one up!

 

Read my original review of this book here.

Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley

Title: Graffiti Moon
Author: Cath Crowley
Narrators: Ben Maclaine, Hamish R. Johnson, Chelsea Bruland
Series: N/A
Publisher: Listening Library
Release Date: 2/14/2012
Length: 6 hours, 9 minutes
Format: Unabridged Audio CDs
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary, Young Adult
Challenges: 2012 Audiobook Challenge, 2012 Support Your Local Library Challenge
Source: Library
Purchase: Audio CD | Digital Audiobook
Rating: ★★★★★

Senior year is over, and Lucy has the perfect way to celebrate: tonight, she’s going to find Shadow, the mysterious graffiti artist whose work appears all over the city. He’s out there somewhere—spraying color, spraying birds and blue sky on the night—and Lucy knows a guy who paints like Shadow is someone she could fall for. Really fall for. Instead, Lucy’s stuck at a party with Ed, the guy she’s managed to avoid since the most awkward date of her life. But when Ed tells her he knows where to find Shadow, they’re suddenly on an all-night search around the city. And what Lucy can’t see is the one thing that’s right before her eyes.

I devoured this book in a little over 24 hours. That’s always a good sign so get ready for a rave review. I do really wish all of the art in this book was real. I want to see Ed’s walls so bad. I’m about to do some major graffiti stalking just to see if I can find something half as beautiful as the descriptions of Ed’s art. Also, Lucy’s fleet of memories? Genius.

The story takes place in one night. Lucy and her friends decide they’re going to have fun and celebrate the end of their high school careers. Lucy is also determined to find Shadow, the graffiti artist she’s convinced herself she could fall in love with. Ed and his friends have something illegal going down later, and this time it’s worse than painting walls. When the groups collide, Ed and Lucy end up on their own seeking out the mysterious Shadow. During their trip across the city staring at walls he’s painted, they begin to deal with some of their issues–issues with each other and issues within themselves. There were definitely some lessons learned and I think that added a lot to the plot.

I was instantly connected to the character, mostly Lucy and Ed, but Leo had a good place in the book, as well. I think the good connection was due to the first person point of view changes between chapters. I got to see inside their heads and that was nice. I’m not sure the story would have been the same without that. The story is so character-driven that it needs a good connection, and it’s there. I really felt Ed’s insecurity and Lucy’s passion. I loved watching them learn a little more about each other until the truth was revealed. They really made the book for me.

Like I said, the changing perspectives were really nice and crucial, and I really appreciate how there was no trouble switching it up. I really enjoyed hearing something from Lucy’s perspective and then from Ed’s. I also love how descriptive Cath Crowley is. She brings their art to life. I could almost see it in my head and I really want it to exist. I also love Poet’s small chapters. I’m not really that into poetry, but his has a contemporary urban style to it that I really enjoyed. It also really fits the feel of the book. All of those things really enhanced the whole experience.

One of the things that drew me in instantly were those lovely Australian accents. I didn’t know where this book was set when I picked it up. I didn’t know anything about the author so I had no real cues to let me know it would be an Australian book, so those voices were a pleasent surprise. I never realized how much love hearing those accents. In any case, it made everything much more authentic. They all did a wonderful job too, perfect flow and sincerity. Great performances all around. I highly recommend this one on audio!

If you enjoy gritty contemporary YA books, this is a good one. I also think it would be a good one for reluctant teen readers. It’s the kind of book that could open kids up to reading.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green & David Levithan

Title: Will Grayson, Will Grayson
Author: John Green & David Levithan
Narrators: MacLeod Andrews & Nick Podehl
Series: N/A
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Release Date: 4/6/2010
Length: 7 hours, 52 minutes
Format: Unabridged Audio CDs
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary, Young Adult
Challenges: N/A
Source: Library
Purchase: Audio CD | Digital Audiobook
Rating: ★★★★☆

One cold night, in a most unlikely corner of Chicago, two teens–both named Will Grayson–are about to cross paths. As their worlds collide and intertwine, the Will Graysons find their lives going in new and unexpected directions, building toward romantic turns-of-the-heart and the epic production of history’s most fabulous high school musical.

This book was a little different, probably because Levithan was involved. I liked Levithan. Like Green, he writes teens well. It just didn’t have that usual John Green feel to it. I think Green’s Will Grayson (distinguished in the print version by all caps WILL GRAYSON) definitely felt like the typical John Green protagonist. Levithan’s Will Grayson (distinguished in the print version by lower-case will grayson) is kind of the opposite of the John Green protagonist. It gave the book this very different feel, but not in a bad way. I really enjoyed it.

I loved WILL GRAYSON just like I love all of Green’s characters. He’s not quite as dorky as the characters of previous books, but he’s just as witty. He does have one problem though. He thinks the best way to stay out of trouble is to keep your mouth shut and not care too much. This rule, though it sounds good in theory, gets him into trouble. will grayson, on the other hand, just resolves to hate the world and everyone in it. His angsty attitude put me off at first, but after a while I found the humor in his cynicism. These are two common attitudes of teens. The truth is teens are terrified of life, just like the rest of us. But they have different tactics: act like you don’t care or hate everyone. Teens being the hormonal creatures they are, of course they choose the two most dramatic options. The book does have a message to give, and that becomes clearer as both Will Grayson realize that they can’t just push the people they care about away. It takes one huge, flamboyantly gay teen to make them both realize this.

I really enjoyed this book. It was hilarious, but still had a real message. I may have to read more Levithan since I enjoyed his portion of the book. I’m definitely ready for more John Green whenever he’s ready to write another book. MacLeod Andrews and Nick Podehl did an amazing job with the narration. They even sang! They were incredibly entertaining and delivered every witty line perfectly. I’m really enjoying my luck with good audiobooks lately.

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    Some of the books reviewed on this blog were sent to me by the author or publisher for review. I did not receive any payment in exchange for the review nor was I obligated to write a positive one. All opinions expressed here are entirely my own and may not necessarily agree with those of the author, the book's publisher and publicist or the readers of these reviews. This disclosure is in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255, Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.
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