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.

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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.

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

Title: Mockingjay
Author: Suzanne Collins
Narrator: Carolyn McCormick
Series: The Hunger Games #3
Publisher: Scholastic Audio
Release Date: 8/24/2010
Length: 11 hours, 43 minutes
Format: Playaway
Genres: Fiction, Dystopian, Young Adult
Challenges: N/A
Source: Library
Purchase: Audio CD | Digital Audiobook
Rating: ★★★★★

Katniss Everdeen, girl on fire, has survived, even though her home has been destroyed. Gale has escaped. Katniss’s family is safe. Peeta has been captured by the Capitol. District 13 really does exist. There are rebels. There are new leaders. A revolution is unfolding.

It is by design that Katniss was rescued from the arena in the cruel and haunting Quarter Quell, and it is by design that she has long been part of the revolution without knowing it. District 13 has come out of the shadows and is plotting to overthrow the Capitol. Everyone, it seems, has had a hand in the carefully laid plains – except Katniss.

The success of the rebellion hinges on Katniss’s willingness to be a pawn, to accept responsibility for countless lives, and to change the course of the future of Panem. To do this, she must put aside her feelings of anger and distrust. She must become the rebels’ Mockingjay – no matter what the personal cost.

Warning: This review may contain spoilers of the previous books.

I was absolutely thrilled with this book. It’s taken all the three books to do it, but these are some of my favorite books. I’m very glad I decided to check out the audiobook. It just felt right to finish in the same medium I started in. I also probably wouldn’t be half way through if I’d read it physically. I’m just thrilled with some of the authors in the young-adult genre right now. It’s not just Collins, but she is one of the best.

My poor, sweet Peeta. It was so hard for me to read about some of the things he goes through. Peeta has certainly been my favorite character throughout the trilogy. I was so upset when he was captured at the end of Catching Fire. I was so worried he would be absent from this book. I’m so glad he wasn’t, but he really has a rough time. I really warmed up to Katniss. It’s been a very slow process. I wasn’t crazy about her in the first book, liked her a little more in the second, and loved her by the end of this one. I find it funny that people think she’s heartless. I think she has a big heart. Maybe it’s because I have access to her thoughts. I just know she’s really become a truly wonderful heroine. Gale, however, I never got into. I just don’t understand what’s so wonderful about Gale. To be honest, I think he’s a total jerk. Sure, he’s gone through pain just like everyone else in the book, but I’ve never liked him and now that I’ve seen more of him my dislike has increased.

I agree with Katniss about most of her thoughts and feelings. For instance when Gale and some of the other rebels are planning ways to take down the Capitol she finds herself horrified by some of the tactics they suggest because they sound exactly like some of the things the Capitol would do. The rebels think they deserve a dose of their own medicine, but I have my doubts about this just like Katniss. They have to draw the line somewhere or they will all become just like the people they’re trying to overthrow. I also agree with her in regard to those who were born and raised in the Capitol. These people were brought up under the influence of the superficial and malicious Capitol leaders. To a degree, they can’t help some of their actions or instincts. They were raised to think of the Hunger Games as just that, a game. There are also plenty of Capitol residents who understand the injustice of the Hunger Games. This explains the Capitol rebels. Some of the district rebels don’t make any effort whatsoever to put away their prejudice and are blinded by it.

Collins made me hold my breath for some moments and want to jump up and down in anticipation for others. The story was paced to perfection. I really loved all the action. I think these books will make terrific films. I’m very interested to see the people of the Capitol all decked out in their plastic surgery and ridiculous clothing.

I originally wasn’t crazy about Carolyn McCormick. I thought she sounded too old, but by the end I found her appropriate. The only thing I still don’t like about her is the speed of her narration. It’s really slow and it just doesn’t sound natural. I really like the Playaway audiobooks. They’re really neat. The only thing I don’t like is the fact that I can’t see my progress because of the way they split up the time. That’s not that big of a deal though.

 

Previous books in this series:
The Hunger Games
Catching Fire

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

Title: Catching Fire
Author: Suzanne Collins
Narrator: Carolyn McCormick
Series: The Hunger Games #2
Publisher: Scholastic Audio
Release Date: 9/1/2009
Length: 11 hours, 41 minutes
Format: Unabridged Digital Audiobook
Genres: Fiction, Dystopian, Young Adult
Challenges: N/A
Source: Borrowed
Purchase: Audio CD | Digital Audiobook
Rating: ★★★★★

Against all odds, Katniss has won the Hunger Games. She and fellow District 12 tribute Peeta Mellark are miraculously still alive. Katniss should be relieved, happy even. After all, she has returned to her family and longtime friend, Gale. Yet nothing is the way Katniss wishes it to be. Gale holds her at an icy distance. Peeta has turned his back on her completely. And there are whispers of a rebellion against the Capitol – a rebellion that Katniss and Peeta may have helped create.

Much to her shock, Katniss has fueled an unrest she’s afraid she cannot stop. And what scares her even more is that she’s not entirely convinced she should try. As time draws near for Katniss and Peeta to visit the districts on the Capitol’s cruel Victory Tour, the stakes are higher than ever. If they can’t prove, without a shadow of a doubt, that they are lost in their love for each other, the consequences will be horrifying.

Since I was late reading The Hunger Games, I got to begin this one immediately. I didn’t think I would like this series, but it had me hooked pretty quickly. Since the first book left some unmended fences, this one begins at a great pace.

First thing I love about this book: the charachter development. There’s tons of it. This isn’t your everyday YA craze novel. It deals with some heavy issues. Katniss grows a lot. Her ordeal with Gale and Peeta forces her to confront how she really feels. I really liked that we got a lot more Gale in this. I had a hard time feeling torn between Gale and Peeta in the first book because Gale just wasn’t around. We get to know Gale a little in this one and it makes me sympathize with Katniss a little more.

Some of this was a little hard to read, especially in the beginning. In the last book the only injustice we were truly faced with were the ones going on inside the arena. Here, we got to see what’s really going on in the districts. People being shot for their “rebellious” actions, riots, and any kind of opression you can think of. The horrible thing is, these things really happen in the world. The concepts and ideas in this book are nothing new. They’re the past, present, and future of the world. I think that’s what makes this trilogy something truly special. It’s always wonderful to see people standing up against injustice. It makes me very excited about reading Mockingjay.

I can’t think of a single complaint to make about this book. I just loved it: the characters, the plot, the pace, the themes. It all surpassed my expectations.

 

Previous books in this series:
The Hunger Games

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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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