Tag Archive: young adult fiction


Death Cloud – Sherlock Holmes: The Legend Begins63128
By: Andrew Lane
Narrated by: Daniel Weyman
Series: Holmes: The Legend Begins, Book 1
Length: 7 hrs and 17 mins
Release date: 02-01-11
Publisher: Macmillan Audio

So once again I venture into the YA world of literature. This time, however, I go knowing what to expect. I love the Sherlock Holmes stories. So picking this up, I say yeah, why not, get those kids reading Sherlock stories. Get them into the classics. The best way to do so is to make Sherlock their age, an origin story, if you will.

This definitely could get someone’s interest piqued toward exploring the Arthur Conan Doyle world of the master detective. However this was not without its flaws. First and foremost I have to approach the violence. Not for being a YA novel was the violence too much but just the fact that it was present. I’ve always looked at Holmes in much the same way as Doctor Who, and Star Trek, in that violence was an extremely last resort, but this book has Holmes being trained by an American on how to be more violent. It really didn’t ruin the story but it did sort of jab at me on occasion.

In typical YA form it seems if only one adult was there to listen and believe what was going on the problems would have been over sooner. I’ve always been bugged by that go to element of YA stories. Anyway, while this did have some issues, the story still captured the essence of a Sherlock Holmes story, and did provide a good listen.

Daniel Weyman delivers the story with great narration that just plunges the listener into the world of Young Sherlock. Being a native of the UK his accent (from this American’s point of view) was perfect.

Publisher’s Summary

It is the summer of 1868, and Sherlock Holmes is 14. On break from boarding school, he is staying with eccentric strangers—his uncle and aunt—in their vast house in Hampshire. When two local people die from symptoms that resemble the plague, Holmes begins to investigate what really killed them, helped by his new tutor, an American named Amyus Crowe. So begins Sherlock’s true education in detection, as he discovers the dastardly crimes of a brilliantly sinister villain of exquisitely malign intent.

©2010 Andrew Lane (P)2011 Macmillan Audio

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Carter Finally Gets It45210
By: Brent Crawford
Narrated by: Nick Podehl
Length: 8 hrs and 21 mins
Release date: 04-07-09
Publisher: Brilliance Audio

When a good YA book comes out I like to see what they are about. I got suckered into the “Twilight” series because of this curiosity and you’d think I’d never do it again but with examples like “The Sword of Darrow,” the Harry Potter series, the Lemony Snicket books, and the “Eragon” series I see there’s more good than bad. One bad, no make that horrible shiny vampire series will not stop me.

This book is definitely one of the good ones. It was offered up as a free audiobook for the Summer SYNC YA reading program books, so I jumped on it. That way if it was bad I didn’t lose any money. After listening to this audiobook, I will definitely seek out the rest of the books in by Brent Crawford. Even better thing about this book is that most YA novels (unless they are supernatural based) are typically from a young girl’s point of view. This time we get the point of view of a young man about to start high school. However teen girls should read this as well, it will give them an inside source as to what is going on to their male counterpoint’s brains.

Publisher’s Summary

Meet Will Carter, but feel free to call him Carter. (Yes, he knows it’s a lazy nickname, but he didn’t have much say in the matter.) Here are five things you should know about him:

1. He has a stuttering problem, particularly around boobs and belly buttons.

2. He battles Attention Deficit Disorder every minute of every day…unless he gets distracted.

3. He’s a virgin, mostly because he’s no good at talking to girls (see number 1).

4. He’s about to start high school.

5. He’s totally not ready.

Join Carter for his freshman year, where he’ll search for sex, love, and acceptance anywhere he can find it. In the process, he’ll almost kill a trombone player, face off with his greatest nemesis, suffer a lot of blood loss, narrowly escape death, run from the cops (not once, but twice), get caught up in a messy love triangle, meet his match in the form of a curvy drill teamer, and surprise the hell out of everyone, including himself.

©2009 Brilliance Audio, Inc.; ©2009 Brent Crawford

Poor Carter stutters and has ADD but he is still pretty much the average teen boy. The book does have some somewhat crude teen locker room humor, but really is pretty typical. If you don’t think your teen thinks or has a friend that thinks this way, come out from under that rock once in a while.

In Carter’s case the mixture of raging hormones, not knowing a thing about the opposite sex and throw in his ADD and things just don’t go as planned. This book has several Laugh out Loud moments, and still some of the poignancy of the troubles of growing up. Any teen going into high school NEEDS to read this book.

In the case of the narrator of this audiobook, Nick Podehl, Nick captures the teen voice perfectly and delivers the story right where it needs to be.

henry sugar

Audiobook Review: “The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and Six More”
by Roald Dahl
read by Andrew Scott
Published by Penguin Audio
Approx. 7 hours

Penguin Audio has recently released the works of Roald Dahl, the man who brought us “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” and I have the pleasure of getting all these audiobooks for review. I immediately jumped in with “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and “Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator” and really didn’t know which book to listen to next. It was great reliving my childhood and being entertained as an adult with these fantastically funny and whimsical stories.

I decided to just randomly choose my next Roald Dahl audio choice and this is the one I came up with. This audiobook came as a complete surprise. The stories in this collection are much different from the Roald Dahl stories I was used to. This collection is a combination of fiction and non-fiction stories each one was unique and while most were poignant they each revealed a little bit of humanity as the story progressed and unfolded. Not knowing any of the stories beforehand made for a very pleasant surprise as the end of each story was reached. Sometimes there was that bit of tear in my eye and sometimes there was a hopefulness for all of humanity.

This is definitely a collection to grab for the older fans of Roald Dahl. A couple of the stories are autobiographical in nature and as the listener you will discover a little more about the man that told such great children’s stories. The narrator in this collection did a superb job in presenting each story and giving each story their own unique ambiance through his vocal presentation.

 

Next, I will briefly summarize each story to give you a hint as to what you can expect.

 

“The Boy Who Talked with Animals”

This story is told from the point of view of someone on vacation in Jamaica. One night a huge sea turtle is being brought on the shore by some fishermen. All the people on the beach are enthralled by the massive beast and many talk about the ways the turtle could bring in money, some of the enterprising vacationers offer money for the turtle. All offers are turned down because the hotel owner has already paid for the turtle to make turtle soup. The vacationers are then talking about how great dinner will be. A young boy steps in and calls everyone horrible and cruel. The boy loves animals and even talks with them according to his parents. The boy’s father pays off the fishermen and the hotel manager and the turtle is set free. But that is not the end of the story. The next day the boy is missing and only when the fishermen return from sea can the story find a very heartwarming ending.

 

“The Hitch-hiker”

I found this story very intriguing. The beginning is not clear where the story will go but by the end it is quite humorous. The story is told from the point of view of a man who has a brand new BMW 3.3 LI. He is enjoying a drive down the highway and stops to pick up a “rat-like” hitch-hiker with long fingers. They begin talking and eventually talk about the car and the hitch-hiker talks the man into pushing the car to it’s limits. They get the speed up faster and faster until a police officer on a motorcycle comes up from behind. The driver is given a ticket and even threatens the driver with prison time. After receiving the ticket the driver becomes quiet. The hitch-hiker then tries to cheer him up by making him guess his profession. Once the driver starts to guess the story becomes funny and even with a little twist to the end of the tale.

 

“The Mildenhall Treasure”

This story is the first non-fiction in the collection and tells of a plowman who is plowing a field in England during WWII for a local farmer. The plowman, Gordon Butcher, hits a hard spot in the field and the plow becomes disconnected from the tractor. Wanting to get the field plowed before the snow hits he rushes back to try and clear the plow. What he discovers is a large metal plate. The area is well known for it’s buried Roman Treasures. When he tells the farmer, the farmer proceeds to uncover the treasure which is a collection of silver dinnerware, later discovered to be worth millions. The farmer moves all of the treasure to his home where he cleans the silver and keeps it for himself. The catch is that the United Kingdom has a law that buried treasures must be reported and become property of the country, (compensating the discoverer, of course). The farmer hides the treasure and keeps it to himself until a visiting historian sees one of the silver spoons accidentally left out. This may be a bit of a spoiler but the treasure now sits in the national museum, but the events that lead to getting the treasure in the proper hands make this story intriguing.

 

“The Swan”

Break out the tissue for this one. Peter Watson loves nature and birds, when bullies Ernie and Raymond set off to kill some rabbits with the new gun Ernie received for his birthday, they run into Peter. Peter has always been the target of the two bullies and this day just became his worse day ever. Holding Peter at gunpoint the bullies tie him to the middle of a railroad track. They tie him down between the rails so that he narrowly escapes death as the train rolls by and Peter barely fits under the passing train. They then march Peter to a nature sanctuary and shoot a swan. This brings Peter to tears to see such a beautiful creature shut down. The bullies send him over to retrieve the swan. This is when Peter discovers the unhatched eggs. To further Peter’s humiliation, Ernie says he can bring the swan to life and cuts off the wings and straps them to Peter. The events that follow present a little hope to anyone being bullied.

 

“The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar”

Henry Sugar is an extremely wealthy man who loves gambling. While visiting with a doctor friend he discovers a medical report about a man who could see without using his eyes. This man studied with a Yogi until he developed the ability. Henry Sugar sees this as a way to guarantee winning at numerous casinos. The catch is the process of learning this ability requires strict mind and body training. The training, while successful, changes Henry in many ways and soon he looks at life from a different viewpoint.

 

“Lucky Break”

This is a non-fictional account which discusses the events in his life that led to Roald Dahl becoming a writer, including a meeting with a famous writer, who helped to launch his career. The story is about Dahl’s school and all the teachers, up until after the publication of his first story.

 

“A Piece of Cake”

This final story is another non-fiction story which is autobiographical in nature. This one covers Dahl’s time as a fighter pilot in World War II, and details how Dahl was injured and eventually forced to leave the Mediterranean arena. The original version of the story was written for C. S. Forester so that he could get the gist of Dahl’s story and rewrite it in his own words. However, Forester was so impressed by the story (Dahl at the time did not believe himself to be anything approaching an accomplished writer) that he sent it straight off to his agent who had it published (as “Shot Down Over Libya”) in the Saturday Evening Post, thereby kick-starting Dahl’s writing career.

 

A great collection of some of Roald Dahl’s lesser known works, that will give you a little more insight of the famous children’s author.

 

amulet-of-samarkand

Audiobook Review: “The Amulet of Samarkand: The Bartimaeus Trilogy, Book 1”

by Jonathan Stroud

read by Simon Jones

Published by  Listening Library

13 hours and 30 minutes

 

Once again I find myself seeking an audiobook adventure in the world of young adult fiction.  It seems that  YA fiction is filled with many stories of the supernatural, especially wizards.  This is one of those books, or rather series.

 

Every coming of age story deals with the confusing times of life when it seems the world just won’t listen when because you are too young and yet you know everything.  This time around eleven year-old Nathanial, a magician’s apprentice, knows there is going to be an attack on London’s magical community, but proving that without giving away that he has been studying more than his mentor has allowed is a tricky situation.

 

This story takes place in an alternate timeline in which Great Britain’s Parliament is run by wizards or Magicians.  Nathaniel is adopted through an agency by Arthur Underwood.  The parents are paid large sums of money while the children adopted are made to forget their birth names.  Any being from the nether can use a magician’s real name to take control of the magician.

 

Underwood is, at best, a mediocre magician, and does not realize the full potential of his young apprentice.   Nathaniel teaches himself the advance magicks since Underwood will not.  The main reason Underwood does not teach the advance magicks is because he thinks they are too far advanced for the young apprentice.  There is also a bit of a hint through the book that Underwood may not have that strong of a grasp of the magicks to teach them anyway.

 

Nathaniel’s troubles all begin when an arrogant, high on the social ladder, magician, Simon Lovelace embarasses him publicly.  Nathaniel retaliates by releasing some mites but when Lovelace beats the mites without breaking a sweat Nathaniel is punished by Underwood.  That’s when Nathaniel  takes it upon himself and go beyond his magical training and summon a demon, or rather a Djinn, demon is pretty much like a racial slur to the Djinn.  The Djinn he summons is the sarcastic Bartimaeus.   Nathaniel tasks Bartimaeus to steal the Amulet of Samarkand from Lovelace because it seems to be his most prized possession.

 

Soon the secret of the Amulet is revealed and the mystery of why Lovelace has it is revealed when Bartimaeus and Nathaniel learn how it was acquired.  The fun and adventures begin as the two race across London to stop the impending doom that is destined to fall on the magic community.

 

Not sure yet about the rest of the books in the series, but this coming of age story definitely weaves in the fun with some great sarcasm from Bartimaeus and some really cool magic theories.  I will definitely be looking for the next three books. (Yes, I know it says trilogy but it seems the author has added a fourth book into the mix.)

 

Simon Jones does an outstanding job bringing out the voice of Bartimaeus making him a true-to-life character.  Jones does an excellent job throughout the book but he made me really become a fan of Bartimaeus.

activist

Audiobook Review: “Theodore Boone: The Activist”

by John Grisham

Read by Richard Thomas

Published by Penguin Audio

Approx. 6 hours

 

 

John Grisham is well known for his attorney novels such as; “The Rainmaker,” “The Pelican Brief,” “The Client” and others and has great success with that genre. Within the last few years Grisham has branched out into the Young Adult market with his Theodore Boone series of books.

 

Theodore Boone 13 years old is the son of two lawyers and practices law for the kids his age. I guess practices law is a bit much, he pretty much just passes on legal advice on such things as rescuing impounded animals and, in the case of this story, how to fight the politicians. Basically, Theodore Boone is the “Encyclopedia Brown” in the modern age. This time around the cases are solved in the court system, actually from a former closet-turned-office inside Theodore’s parents’ law office. In this book the big concern is; eminent domain.

 

In Theodore’s hometown the politicians have decided to start building a bypass. At first this seems logical in that the bypass will allow a congested area of town to become free of trucks moving through town, but on closer inspection the bypass will take out a good chunk of the town’s soccer fields, displace many residence and allow for the trucks to belch out noxious exhaust fumes within yards of an elementary school, not to mention the traffic hazards so close to the school.

 

Along with fighting the system in order to keep his hometown bypass free Theodore Boone is also a normal 13 year-old boy. He still has to be a boy scout, and as a leader of his group he is supposed to keep the boys safe, but an encounter with a copperhead snake threatens that security, Theodore learns what it means to be responsible.

 

Politicians and copperhead snakes are what Theodore Boone is up against in this, the fourth novel in the Theodore Boone series by John Grisham. Grisham writes these young adult fiction novels with the same intrigue as any of his other legal novels but with characters and events that will fascinate and captivate readers age nine to ninety. Theodore’s relationship with his parents, friends and community members is very realistic and is the driving force behind this book.

 

What also keeps this audiobook worth hearing is that it is read by Richard Thomas. Yes, John Boy from the Waltons delivers this audiobook and does so with so much personality that you’d think this was his life he was talking about. In all actuality, I think Richard Thomas could read the phone book and I’d listen and not be able to stop until the very end. His voice during the narration makes the listener feel at home in the story,and his ability to extend the character’s psyche into the delivery within the dialogue makes this a completely enjoyable audiobook.

Tales_from_the_Arabian_Nights_Naxos

“Tales from the Arabian Nights” Abridged

Compiled by Andrew Lang

Read by Toby Stephens

Published by Naxos AudioBooks

Length: 2 hours and 14 minutes

 

Once in a while, as you probably know from reading my posts, I have to go back and visit the classics, especially when they appear in audiobook form.  I ran across this version a year ago and planned on giving it a listen during my vacation but that didn’t work out and it sat in my iPod for a year.  I was looking for a short audiobook to fill time between some major novels and decided, it was time.

 

This abridged version is a sanitized childrens version of the classic collection. So you won’t be getting the adult-themed aspect of why the stories are being told; the woman telling erotic and exotic stories to the king to entertain him and entice him with wanting to hear more so she may live. Without this element, this merely becomes is a nice collection of fables. While they are cleaned up a bit, by no means are these dumbed-down, sanitized disney versions. The language used is age appropriate for young listeners, but, there is a body count, and there is a scene where somebody dumps boiling oil in the jars with the murdering thieves. This makes the stories digestible for ages nine and up, in my opinion.

 

This version also features some really nice music as segues between some of the scenes.  The music and the nice delivery from the narrator make for an entertaining two hours of classic story-telling.

 

The premise of the story is that Shahrazad is promised to a King, Shahryar.  Shahryar is notorious for killing his wives on their wedding night.  Shahrazad comes up with the plan that will make Shahryar intrigued enough to keep her alive until the next day.  She does this by telling stories with cliff-hanger endings and has to rest until the next telling.

 

The stories themselves are actually a collection of stories collected over thousands of years by various authors, translators and scholars. They are an amalgam of mythology and folk tales from the Indian sub-continent, Persia, and Arabia. Some of the stories date back to around the year 800-900 C.E. Many tales that have become independently famous come from the Book, among them Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, Alladin and the lamp and the voyages of Sinbad the Sailor.

 

For the most part I remember the old Popeye meets Sinbad cartoons that actually placed some of these tales in the world of Popeye the Sailor.  This made for a nice reminiscing moment for me.

 

 

colin-fischer-audiobook

“Colin Fischer”
by Ashley Edward Miller & Zack Stentz
Read by Jesse Eisenberg
Published by Penguin Audio
Running time: 4 hrs, 16 mins.

I think that this book had “too big to fail” written all over it, it’s got an Oscar nominated actor reading the audiobook, it is written by two people who were the screenwriters for “Thor” and “X-men: First Class,” a hero with Asperger’s Syndrome and a facial expression guide on the cover of the hard copy version. What could go wrong? Well, absolutely nothing. This book is a big win and once again proves that Young Adult readers always get the best books aimed at their age group.

Penguin Audio listed this book as one of their upcoming releases and the first thing that grabbed me was the authors listed. Being a comic book fan, this got my attention immediately then seeing that this was a an older version of Encyclopedia Brown with some Sherlock Holmes thrown in made it that much more interesting. Then throw in that the main character, Colin Fisher, has Asperger’s Syndrome, I knew it would be not only very interesting but fulfilling and I immediately requested a copy.

Recently the BBC did two seasons of a television series version of Sherlock Holmes, “Sherlock”, which explained that the genius behind the deductive reasoning of the famous detective was due to having Asperger’s Syndrome. Asperger’s Syndrome is an autism spectrum disorder that is characterized by significant difficulties in social interaction, alongside restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior and interests. In this book many aspects of Asperger’s syndrome are observed in Colin that are humorous, those are: he has a vicious dislike for the color blue, he cannot stand to be touched, he needs index cards to recognize facial expressions and does not get humor. These all combine in Colin Fisher to create a very quirky genius detective.

It’s Colin’s first day in High School and he feels he’s armed for the worst, with his notebook for jotting down observations, his collection of cards with various facial expressions and his intellect. But that all goes to pot (literally) within the first few minutes when his nemesis, Wayne Connelly dunks Colin’s head in the toilet. So much for High School being different.

Some things have changed however, Colin’s nerdy female friend returns from the summer having had the full effect of puberty hit head on. In other words; she left middle school a nerd, but comes to high school as a hotty. Throughout Colin’s school life she has always been a friend to him. When her friends bring her a cake to school to celebrate her birthday, the school’s peaceful atmosphere is forever shattered when a gun is fired amid a scuffle between boys wanting to get some of the cake.

The gun is found on the cafeteria floor with a smudge of frosting by Colin, to which he simply replies, “Interesting,” while all of the other student’s run out of the cafeteria in fear for their lives. The school officials immediately put the blame on Wayne Connelly, but Colin knows better and sets out to prove his nemesis’ innocence.

Putting the powers of Asperger’s Syndrome to work, Colin is able to find the real owner of the gun and create some humorous situations that can only happen to Colin. One of the fun things about this audiobook is that whenever a situation arises that needs further explanation or just that something reminds Colin of a fact he knows, there are footnotes. In the production of this book all footnotes and Colin’s journal entries are produced with a slight reverb-type effect that gives the listener the feel that this occurs within Colin’s brain. Nice production trick that makes this book very interesting. By the way, there are several footnotes that range from in depth explanations of Asperger’s Syndrome, the doctor for whom the syndrome is named after, various logical thinkers in history and fiction and sharks.

Speaking of the production, Jesse Eisenberg (who starred in “Zombieland” and “The Social Network”) narrates the audiobook and in my opinion has the vocal fortitude and acting talent to bring the character of Colin to life. He is able to deliver parts of the story with the proper emotional level and yet,when portraying Colin, is able to be the non-emotional Asperger’s Syndrome personality that makes Colin tick.

All in all this is an extremely fun book for all ages, to prove that, I had the audiobook playing during one of my family’s out of town shopping adventures, and everyone in the car; my 12 year-old son, my wife and myself were quite and absorbed by the story. This was yet another audiobook which my son would not let me listen to unless he was present. We all had a blast with this story, and from the way the book ended with a hint of ongoing adventures, look forward to many more Colin Fisher stories.

“Little Brother”
by Cory Doctorow
Read by Kirby Heyborne
Produced by Listening Library
11 hours 53 minutes

 
I wasn’t really sure what I was getting into when I started this audiobook but It turned out to be a fun ride. This book was offered as a free summer read from AudiobookSync Young adult summer audiobook program. This program always has great weekly free audiobooks and they pair up a modern YA literature with a classic piece of literature. When this book came out it was teamed up with George Orwell’s “1984.” The books are always teamed up with a theme and knowing that I loved “1984,” I thought I’d give this book a try.

The target audience would probably be a freshman in high school or older, but I started listening with my son who was in 5th grade at the time in the car with me on a trip. He got so engrossed in the story that he insisted that I only listened while he was also listening and only on long trips. So here I am a year or so later and finally finished this book. I had to actually finish it up on my own, because I was eager to find out what happened to, Marcus a.k.a. W1n5ton a.k.a. M1k3y.

The subject matter of this story, at the time of its release, was very topical. After terrorists strike, the question arises, “How much of our freedom are we willing to give up to be safe?” All the time I was listening to this book the Benjamin Franklin quote, “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety,” kept coming to mind. After the terrorist attacks of 9/11 here in the U.S. many of our liberties were taken away under the name of freedom and that controversial P.A.T.R.I.O.T. Act. So the events in this book parallel the real world events of the early 21st century, and while you never know what is going to happen, you will keep saying, “hmmm…that could happen.” The big question is, “Did it already happen?”

Okay, before I go and try to demystify this book I do have to say that the reader, Kirby Heyborne was the perfect voice for this audiobook. His voice captured the emotions and spirit of the main character Marcus perfectly. He was also able to perfectly alter his voice just enough to signify changes of characters’ dialogues and keep it consistent through the book.

The beginning of this book introduces to the tech savvy high-schooler Marcus who already has experience “fighting the man” in his high school, by being able to deceive the gait recognition software on the school’s surveillance system and able to do all sorts of tricks with his public issued phone. This story takes place in the near future and cell phones are a must and in order to make sure everyone has one they are sponsored by corporations. Marcus hacks his phone and does things that the average user cannot do. One of the things he does is search for wi-fi networks to play the game Harajuku Fun. Harajuku Fun is a type of role-playing game where while skipping school the kids can get clues through various wi-fi hotspots.

One day while skipping school and playing this game with his friends in downtown San Francisco, the Oakland Bay Bridge is bombed. At the time the kids don’t know what is going on and the same goes with the rest of the population. While fear grows everyone makes their way to the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit subway system) to try to head home they are jostled by the crowd. Knowing the overcrowding of the subway stops is not going to be the safe way to go Marcus and his friends head the opposite direction. In going against the grain they look suspicious. Homeland security finds them and sweeps them up and into the unmarked van.

The friends are kept separate in a prison area and question about their motives and reasons for being in the area. When Marcus refuses to give the officials his password to get into his phone they see him as a terrorist or at least working with the terrorists, and you may remember the great quote from the U.S. president at the time of 9/11, “You’re either with us or against us.” This puts Marcus on the “against us side.” After weeks of torture with no contact with the outside world Marcus breaks and gives his password. Eventually he and his friends (except for one) are taken home. The problem is where’s Daryl? the one left behind. Marcus and his friends are warned to never speak of their imprisonment or they will be brought back in with no hope for release.

Soon Homeland Security begins taking away the populations few liberties by monitoring where everyone is at all times and when something seems strange average citizens are arrested. The department uses the toll passes that people use in their cars to travel the many toll areas in the Bay area, monitoring BART passes and all public transportation passes. If someone looks like they stray from the norm the local police sweep in and incarcerate the suspects. The department even starts monitoring private citizen’s internet usage.

As a bit of rebellion, Marcus combines the gaming system of the X-Box with a linux operating system to create an anonymous web experience called the X-net. The X-netters soon organize under Marcus’ online identity of M1k3y and create RFID spoofers and change the data stored on toll passes, BART passes and create total anarchy with the average citizen having no idea of what is being done, thus keeping Homeland Security busy arresting nearly everyone, creating a bottleneck of investigations.

Homeland Security gets wise and is now out to catche M1k3y, unaware it is Marcus. Marcus soon has to become more paranoid than the government and try to find a way to find out what happened to his friend Daryl.

In an exciting cyber-adventure this story will keep you enthralled until the climactic ending. Great story and nice anarchist mixed with hippies attitude about keeping us in a free world.

“Phantom Universe: Summer Chronicles, Book 1”
By Laura Kreitzer
Read by Karen Savage
Published by Revolution Publishing
8 hours 38 minutes

Once again it’s time to take a romp into the world of Young Adult fiction, and sticking to my favorite genre overall, Science-Fiction.  Some of the most interesting stories come from Young Adult fiction, but then again so have some of the worst, I won’t mention any names (cough, cough, Twilight, cough, cough), but I think you know some.   Anyway this book and what looks to be a series is among one of the most interesting.   I will admit it was a bit frustrating, but in a fun way.  Frustrating because it was so cleverly written that it kept me trying to guess what was happening next, and constantly changing that guess.

This audiobook is read by Karen Savage, and I’ll be one of the first to jump on her bandwagon.  Ms. Savage captures the voice, or rather the inner-voice of Summer, the main character in the story.  She also is able to differentiate the separate voices of the other characters with  ease and let me tell you that is no easy feat.  The voices range from Scottish and British accents, to pirates, to Native American, to Canadian, and even some Southern American.   Each one is performed beautifully in order to enhance the telling of this romp through time.   So now I have one more audiobook voice artist to put on my list to listen to more often.

Oh, I see you caught that time travel hint.  Well the time traveling done in this first book of the Summer Chronicles is only one way with a large amount of people traveling 200 years into the future.  But before I get caught up in that aspect, which was one of the frustrating parts of the story for me, remember, frustrating in a good way.

Summer lives in the modern day world as a slave.  Yes this book talks about child slavery and gets a bit rough, but it is all done to further the story and create the what turns out to be a strong character in Summer.  Summer was sold into slavery by, what at first seems like her mother, but more is learned to deter that idea later in the book.  She is sold at the age of 4 and is beaten with a whip until she learns to not make any noise.  The lessons of the whip are so harsh that Summer, even at the age of 16, does not talk.   She communicates with expressions and by writing on a very few trusted people’s palms.  I have to throw in at this time that this is another time to send kudos to both the author and the reader in representing the thoughts and actions of summer, the author provides the perfect descriptions and the reader presents these words in such a manner that I could visualize easily the facial expressions and emotions of Summer.

At the age of 6 Summer is sold to a Captain of a Pirate ship.  Yes this is modern times, and the pirates, capture ships and sell the cargo.  The Captain of this ship has a liking for large screen TVs and captures container ships carrying this cargo.  Throughout her life on the ship, Summer never talks and becomes the Captain’s favorite because she doesn’t talk.  This section of the book is told with flashbacks throughout her life on the ship to modern day of Summer at 16 years old with the flashbacks talking about different things that shaped her character.  One such event is one where she is nearly raped by a crew member but is saved by another slave, a boy near her age by the name of Landon.  Summer and Landon become best friends from then on.

About halfway through the book a surprising event happens and the Pirate ship is boarded by The Secret Clock Society in search of Summer.  Jaiden, a slave from before Summer was sold to the pirates, is sent to find Summer, but instead she betrays the Society and helps Summer escape just as the ship explodes.  Jaiden and Summer manage to make it to shore, but are unsure of the fate of Landon.

On shore a strange thing happens and the two wake up to the intrusion of a military force capturing the two girls and rounding up what are called “Outlanders.”  Summer strangely begins to feel something for the commander of the force, Gage, and for some odd reason trusts him, this trust comes from deep within and she doesn’t understand why when she has never trusted anyone in her life, except for Landon.

Gage and the others are members of the Canadian military and reveal to Jaiden and Summer that they are now in the year 2210.  This is where it got really frustrating for me.  How did they travel through time? Why?  Summer is examined by a medical personnel and it is decided she is not in any shape to be taken to the Outlanders internment camp.  So she spends some time in a hospital where the years of starvation and severe beatings are treated.

In the year 2210 the Canadian government has taken over most of the civilized world.  While the United States and the rest of the world were busy with World War III, the Canadians were tired of wars and wanted peace and were able to invade through covert actions and behind the lines invasions.  I found this odd but so did some of the other characters from the past so this part was not treated too lightly and an explanation is provided, but I will leave that up to you to discover.  One of the things that caused the Canadians to be able to take control was an “Exodus,” in which 200 million people disappeared.

So how did Summer travel to the future? and why?  Well that is the fun of this story, and it would be a spoiler, so I won’t be telling you, but it completely changes the character of Summer and all her friends new and old, and starts a saga that is only begun in this book one of “The Summer Chronicles.”  I’ll warn you now, don’t try and figure out why or how, just enjoy the great storytelling and when it is explained, just say, “Ahhh, of course.”  Oh also as is in most Young Adult fiction you have a bit of silly teen romance going, but that is not the bulk of the story, so just let that slide as well.

“Rot & Ruin”
by Jonathan Maberry
read by Brian Hutchison
Published by Recorded Books (2010)
13 hours and 12 minutes

Once again I’m amazed at the range of Young Adult fiction genres available. This time around I was just looking for another zombie book to listen to, and I had heard one of Maberry’s other books (actually a couple of them) and his writing was so creative I thought, well, it’s about zombies and it’s by Jonathan Maberry, so I can’t go wrong. Nope, I didn’t go wrong, the story was fantastic, but what surprised me was that this was released as a Young Reader’s fiction, or rather it was written, as a Young Reader’s book. Really, how cool is that, a zombie book with a bit of a coming of age story?

One of the things I like about MOST Young Adult fiction, is that they usually offer up some sort of life-lesson which the main character learns and matures as the book progresses. Throw in a Zombie Apocalypse, and boom, you know kids would love this book. At least I hope so, because, sure, while it is a coming-of-age/life-lesson book, there are some super cool zombie massacre scenes, and some cool samurai swordplay that totally rocks this story.

Props definitely have to be given to Brian Hutchison on the reading of this book, with the variety of characters providing dialogue, he did a superb job of vocally separating each character from the main characters, brothers, Benny and Tom Imura, to the various rough and tumble zombie bounty hunters, like Harry Pink-eye and the Makong brothers. He also knew exactly when to emphasize the action and slow down for the moments when something serious was being discussed, keeping the focus on the story and the creative way of telling a coming-of-age story.

The story begins about 13 years after “First Night,” the night when the dead began to rise and feed upon the living. The world has changed, the zombies still walk out side towns protective walls in what is now known as “The Rot & Ruin.” Benny Imura has turned 15 and that being the age where he must find a job in order to keep getting rations, he searches out several avenues. Most people are surprised he’s not becoming a bounty hunter like his brother. Benny doesn’t care for his brother, Tom. Benny thinks Tom is a coward because of his first memory. That memory takes place on “First Night” where Benny’s mom hands Benny to Tom and Tom runs away carrying Benny as their father kills Benny’s mom. I should point out that Benny and Tom are Half Brothers.

Benny searches for a job all over Mountainside, the fenced in community where many have settled, so he can keep his rations. He tries for the job as an erosion artist, artists that take pictures of the formerly living and turns them into zombies so bounty hunters can bring closure to the families (at least SOME bounty hunters). Benny makes the zoms too scary so that job is denied him. Seeing an ad for a bottler, Benny thinks cool, bottling soda, that should be great, but as it turns out that soda is not being bottled, instead, Cadaverine is being bottled. Cadaverine is the “essence” of the dead that keeps the zombies from attacking the hunters who go out into the rot and ruin.

All through Benny’s job searches, more and more is learned about this post zombie apocalypse world, and Benny finally thinks it would be cool to be a bounty hunter. After all he hangs out at the local store hearing tales of expeditions from the roughest of all bounty hunters, Harry Pink-eye. Benny can’t figure why everyone is always saying his brother is the best of all bounty hunters, when Harry seems to have all the greatest stories about the Rot & Ruin.

Tom takes Benny out to try to show him what a bounty hunter really does and changes Benny’s view of the world. Tom shows Benny that he kills zombies only to bring closure to grieving families, so they finally know what happened to lost loved ones. Seeing a new side of Tom, Benny’s world begins to change.

In this strange zombie world, the kids all collect zombie cards, cards that depict great moments of the world since First Night, and the heroes and bounty hunters. When the latest release of zombie cards comes out and features a rare card featuring the “Lost Girl,” Benny becomes intrigued. The story is she was left alone to fend for herself in the Rot & Ruin, and is still alive killing zombies.

Benny finds out that there is more to the story one that involves his brother and some bounty hunters that create extra-curricular activities by forcing men women and children to fight zombies in an arena. Benny and Tom’s worlds are destroyed when the card comes out because the bounty hunters don’t want the world to know about the “Lost Girl” and they kidnap Benny’s friend and head out to find the “Lost Girl,” leaving Benny and Tom on a race against time and zombies to save the innocents.

Super exciting zombie story with some great life-lessons, give this one a go. Trust me, you’ll be glad you did.

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