Audiobook Review, General Fiction (Adult), Young Adult

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

The Hate U GiveThe Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I had been hearing about this book everywhere and knew the movie was coming out soon (just came our Friday) so hurried and got on the wait list at my local library. After waiting a few months, it was finally my turn!

The Hate U Give is the story of Starr, a young African American teenager caught between two worlds. One night, her and her friend Khalil are stopped by a police officer. Khalil is shot in the back three times by the police officer and killed. The police officer claims he was reaching for a gun (which turned out to be a hairbrush). Meanwhile, Starr attends a mostly white school and her parents encourage her to keep her involvement in the shooting private. But her world starts to crumble when her mostly white friends begin talking about Khalil’s death, unaware that he was her friend.

Unfortunately, this story is not unique. But, seeing the story through the eyes of a young, African American girl was unique for me. Having grown up in a white, middle class family in suburbia, I’ve never experienced some of the struggles Starr lives with on a daily basis: the drive by shootings, the drugs, the gangs. But this book transported me into Starr’s world and gave me a glimpse into her life.

Books like this are always thought provoking and give new perspective to heated social issues. It makes you think about how the media and justice system portray the victim in relation to the perpetrator. In police brutality cases, the media can frequently portray the officer as the victim and we often lose sight of the true victim – the African American men and women who have lost their lives.

This book reminded me very much of Beartown but with a different underlying social topic. While Beartown discussed issues of rape and sexual assault, The Hate U Give focused on police brutality. But the underlying theme in both books is how the community responds following the incident and people begin to take sides, further perpetuating the divide.

I should also mention that the audiobook is fantastic. It was one of those audiobooks where you feel like you’re listening to a movie. And I could absolutely feel and hear Starr’s struggle and strife. Incredible narrator.

I think this would make a great discussion book for a book club meeting, especially those clubs looking for something told from the perspective of a person of color. I cannot wait to see the movie.

My review for Beartown #1 here and Beartown #2 here.

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Audiobook Review, Fantasy, Young Adult

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by Newt Scamander (aka J.K. Rowling)

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find ThemFantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by Newt Scamander

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Full disclosure… Almost anything that relates to the Harry Potter series is going to get five stars from me. And this book was no different.

Let me start by talking about the structure of the book. When I saw previews for the movie Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, I assumed the book was the written form of the movie. I was wrong. The book is written like an actual reference textbook that would be used in Hogwarts. It is not a story.

That being said, I wasn’t mad about it. I think it’s so clever of J.K. Rowling to keep growing the wizarding world of Harry Potter by creating additional texts that are outside of the original series but still related. I enjoyed her creativity in creating the various “beasts” that were detailed throughout the text. And at times I caught myself chuckling at little at her little hints of humor.

The audiobook was unique as well in that there were sound effects throughout that gave the listener an idea of what some of the beasts would sound like.

As it’s a super short read/listen, would highly recommend for anybody looking for a short story or just needs a break from long novels.

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Audiobook Review, General Fiction (Adult), Young Adult

A Short History of the Girl Next Door by Jared Reck

A Short History of the Girl Next DoorA Short History of the Girl Next Door by Jared Reck

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve been reading a ton of really long books lately, and I needed something short and sweet. This book was definitely on the shorter side, and although pieces of it were sweet (the idea of young love with the girl next door), there were also very heavy and sad elements.

A Short History of the Girl Next Door is such an important book for anybody who is dealing with grief or loss of a loved one. It perfectly illustrates the stages of grief.

Denial.
Anger.
Bargaining.
Depression.
Acceptance.

Jared Reck perfectly illustrated these stages as they related to the main character. It definitely reminded me of losing one of my childhood friends, and the events that unfolded in the community afterward.

From an audiobook perspective, it’s only about 6 hours long so is perfect if you’ve got a car ride coming up. The narrator, Mike Chamberlain, kind of reminded me of Wil Wheaton (narrator of Ready Player One) and I enjoyed his rendition.

In keeping with the “short” theme, I’m going to keep this review short. Definitely would recommend for anybody who has dealt with grief and is looking for something to relate to.

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Audiobook Review, Dystopian, Science Fiction, Young Adult

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Ready Player One (Ready Player One, #1)Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

One word sums up this book for me: NOSTALGIA

When one of the richest men in the world (on par with Bill Gates or Steve Jobs) dies, the contest begins. As the world’s most famous virtual reality computer programmer, he decides to leave his life’s fortune to whomever can find his “Easter Egg” hidden within the virtual reality world he created called The OASIS. Wade Watts, a young, antisocial high school student living in the impoverished outskirts of Oklahoma City, is obsessed with The OASIS, even attending high school via virtual reality. He is also obsessed with the contest, and has been searching for 5 years to unlock the clues to find the Easter Egg. One day, he finally stumbles upon the first clue and becomes the top scorer on the leaderboard. But he won’t keep the lead for long. There are plenty of people that would kill to get to the Easter Egg first, and Wade will find himself in a battle for survival and the ultimate prize!

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I also can’t go any further without mentioning the 80’s. The creator of the virtual world had kind of a think for the 80’s and there are no lack of references to 80’s pop culture. As an 80’s baby (okay, I was born in 1988, but still…) I loved the nostalgic feel of the story. It transported me back to when I was at my dad’s cottage playing Intellivision and Atari which were some of my favorite games growing up. There are also plenty of references to 80’s movies and music that transported me right to the decade.

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The best thing I can say about this book is that it was insanely creative. Ernest Cline wrote a novel that takes the reader on a ride through space, time, and reality. It’s really difficult to liken it to any other book due to it’s uniqueness but I would say the closest thing that I’ve read would be The Maze Runner. It was filled with really creative concepts and new ideas I haven’t read anywhere else.

It did have a lot of reference to video games, so if that’s not really your thing, you may not be as in love with the book as I was. However, I definitely would not consider myself a “gamer” by any sense of the word, and I loved it just the same.

If you’re looking for something completely and utterly unique, and unlike anything you’ve read before, this is definitely the book for you. The audiobook version read by Wil Wheaton was fabulous, and the narration was definitely engaging. It is pretty long (15+ hours in total) but worth spending the time if you have a long trip or commute. Highly recommended!

I cannot wait to see the movie that will be coming to video shortly directed by Steven Spielberg!

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Mystery, Science Fiction, Young Adult

The Last Equation of Isaac Severy by Nova Jacobs

The Last Equation of Isaac SeveryThe Last Equation of Isaac Severy by Nova Jacobs

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What a unique story! The Last Equation of Isaac Severy was much different than any other book I’ve read this year, and ended up being a refreshing addition to the list (thanks Book of the Month yet again!). The front cover says “A Novel in Clues” and that’s certainly how it felt.

One question: Have you ever played one of those escape games that are popping up in cities across America? If not, the premise is this…. You get locked in a room and a timer is set for one hour. Usually there is some sort of story to get you started about being kidnapped or needing to break out of prison or get out of a room before it explodes. When the timer begins, your goal is to get out of that room by using clues and puzzles that are stealthily placed throughout the space. Well, this book felt kind of like that. There were secret clues and puzzles throughout the story that both the main character and the reader had an opportunity to solve.

Overall, the story was about a brilliant mathematician named Isaac Severy who tragically dies. But in his passing, he leaves a cryptic message to his granddaughter, providing clues as to the whereabouts of his legacy, a mysterious formula which could be devastating if in the wrong hands.

I found myself constantly trying to figure out the cryptic messages and solve the riddles. And while it wasn’t the absolute best thing I’ve ever read in my life, it was certainly very entertaining. I would consider it a “page turner” for anybody looking for a quick read. Also a great book for my math and science people out there (although you don’t have to be a nerd like me to like it). I also did get a little bit of a young adult feel from the writing style so categorized it as such.  This is a great book for anybody who is feeling tired of reading the same old stuff and looking for something just a little bit different.

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