Tag Archive: young adult


409082_180

“Peter Pan”
by J. M. Barrie
read by Christopher Cazenove
Published by Blackstone Audio
Approx. 5 hours

It’s time once again to visit a classic, this time a children’s classic, “Peter Pan.” I had thought I had read “Peter Pan” before, but I must have been wrong, or maybe read a cleaned up/Disneyfied version. I know the Disney film version was definitely made more fun for the kids and all the versions on television were fun (remember Sandy Duncan as Peter?). Don’t get me wrong, the original is the way to go and the story really should be read by all, but maybe wait until the teen years before reading this dark story about a boy that never grows up.

The gist of the story seems to always be there in the retelling of the story. Peter Pan sneaks into the Darling family home and in his hasty retreat leaves his shadow behind. Returning to retrieve the shadow he finds the shadow to not want to remain attached to Peter. Wailing in sorrow, Peter wakes Wendy, the oldest of the Darling children. Wendy proceeds to help Peter by sewing on his shadow. Peter is smitten by Wendy and tells her of Neverland where children never have to grow up. He brings Wendy back with him, despite some stern protestations from Tinker Bell, a fairy who seems to be in love with Peter. Tinker Bell becomes insanely jealous and proceeds to make Wendy’s life difficult. Wendy’s arrival at Neverland brings her to her new role in life, that as a mother the Peter’s “Lost Boys.” She makes the boys more responsible and soon falls into the role of mother and as time goes by she and her brothers begin to forget about their home.

Peter wants them to forget so they may stay forever with him. But soon Wendy breaks out of her stupor and begins to remember her life before and tries to return home, but is captured by Captain Hook, the pirate leader who is always out to kill Peter.

The darkness in the story dwells within the characters of Peter, Tinker Bell and Captain Hook. Peter is a knowing kidnapper of Wendy and the boys and will not let them escape. Tinker Bell is insanely jealous and nips at Wendy every chance she gets. Finally there’s Captain Hook, who lost his hand to a crocodile. Hook doesn’t merely want to capture the Lost Boys, he wants to kill them, and he wants to keep the young Wendy as his bride. Very dark and mature story matter here that makes revisiting the classic worthwhile.

In this audiobook version published by Blackstone Audio, the reader, Christopher Cazenove, does a smash up job creating voices for all the wily characters in the story while reading with just enough vigor to never allow the listener to get bored.

Grab this classic and be prepared to remember the fun while being surprised at some of the darker sides of the story you may have missed.

greatglasselevator

Audiobook Review: “Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator”
by  Roald Dahl
read by Douglas Hodge
Published by Penguin Audio
Approx. 3.5 hours

 

When I wrote the review of the newly released audiobook version of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” I felt I had to mention the two movies based on this book. The first movie, from the 1970s “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” starring Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka, seems to be the cult favorite. The latest version was actually titled “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” and starred Johnny Depp as Willy Wonka. Many folks refer to the first as the original and some even say best, but the latter version was the one that actually stayed true to the book. The first movie seemed to add in some features that are borrowed from this sequel by Roald Dahl, “Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator.”

That is all that needs to be said about the movies this time around. It is time to focus on the book, more specifically the latest audiobook release. Being the audiobook I first have to talk about the reader or more accurately, the performer, in this release. The genius in casting the voice for this audiobook is that Douglas Hodge performed the role of Willy Wonka in the 2012 musical stage production of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” The catch is that Wonka is not the only character in the book, and Hodge has to perform all of the voices. Hodge does this to perfection. Sure, he presents Wonka perfectly, but that perfection is carried on in all the voices represented in the book, from Charlie Bucket to the President of the United States of America. The characters in this book are over the top children’s book characters and Hodge brings the to full-color audio life. I was totally consumed by this book due to the overwhelming performance by Hodge that brought this childhood classic to life.

 

As for the book, well, it all starts off exactly where “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” left off. Charlie has just found out that Willy Wonka has decided to leave the factory to him. In order for Charlie to take over he has to move his family, which includes; his mother and father and two sets of grandparents. This will not be an easy feat since the grandparents are bedridden and have been for years, the reason they are bedridden is quite comical in that they just won’t get out of bed, Grandpa Joe is the exception because he got out of bed to accompany Charlie on the tour of the chocolate factory. To move them into the factory Wonka decides to transport the entire family in the glass elevator. The problems begin when Wonka uses too much speed to take off from the home causing the entire family and Wonka to blast into space.

 

Once in space they decide to board the world’s first space hotel only to find out that it is overrun by Verniciou Knids. The staff of the hotel are just about to arrive when they see the glass elevator and mistake it for an invading ship unaware that the invaders (the Vernicious Knids) are already on the station. It is then up to the elevator occupants to save the world through the only way Wonka knows how, through extreme silliness and creativity.

 

This audiobook adventure is pure fun and a great entertainment. It is also a nice way to introduce a new generation to Roald Dahl or simply re-visit a childhood classic.

charlie

Audiobook Review: “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”

By Roald Dahl

Read by Douglas Hodge

Published 2013 by Penguin Audio

Approx. 3.5 hours

 

I think it is pretty safe to say that we have all seen the movie based on this book.  Whether it was the 70s movie “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” starring Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka, or the recent “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” starring Johnny Depp as Willy Wonka, this book launched two movies that have become hits.  The Gene Wilder version was a box office flop but has become a cult favorite and pictures of the Wilder Wonka as a recent internet meme.  The Johnny Depp version was a box office hit.   As a side note, the Johnny Depp version is the one that stayed closest to the book’s plot and actions.

 

No matter which version you prefer, you should make sure and read the book for yourself and to your kids.  This book is just plain fun and with just as much non-sensical moments as Lewis Carroll’s adventures with Alice through Wonderland books.  Roald Dahl had such a great way of playing with words and sounds and they come out even more so in this audiobook production.

 

The narrator, Douglas Hodge, recently portrayed Willy Wonka in the stage musical at the West End’s Theatre Royal, Drury Lane in England.  His narration of this book is pure magic.  The words, story and characters all gently roll into the ears and through the brainspace creating a magical audiobook adventure.  His vocal characterizations of all the fun people in the story are spot on and his portrayal of Willy Wonka will have you laughing out loud and even cheering out loud.

 

The gist of this story is that Willy Wonka has not allowed anyone in or out of his chocolate factory in years.  When it is time to find someone to replace him he devises a contest to find the most imaginative child to take over running the factory.  The contest first involves five golden tickets distributed with his candy and the five lucky winners get a tour of the factory and a lifetime supply of chocolate.

 

The five winners consist of: Augustus Gloop, a fat boy whose hobby is eating, Veruca Salt, a spoiled rotten brat, Violet Beauregard, a dim-witted gum-chewer who talks more than she listens, Mike Teavee, a boy obsessed with television and Charlie Bucket, the hero of the story and who seems to be the world’s only honest, kind and brave child.

 

The children are each swept away due to their own short-comings and the adventures along the way are narrated with musical numbers from the Oompah Loompahs, the true labor force in the chocolate factory.

 

Sit back and enjoy this great audiobook with great narration and even a few fun sound effects to keep the fun rolling.

 

 

“Three Times Lucky”
by Sheila Turnage
read by Michal Friedman
Published by Penguin Audio
7 hours 57 minute

Every once in a while I get a book that I have no idea what I’m getting into but I feel I must read or listen to it. On rare occasions I strike out and end up not listening to the rest of the book or reading it. This time, however, I hit a home run, actually a full clear-the-bases-grand-slam home run. I had originally planned on listening to this audiobook while on my vacation, which was pretty much one week of full driving, but the family had other plans, so my audio book time was limited. I should have vetoed them on this one because I know my 12 year-old son and my wife would have loved this, I know I did.

This book was filled with humor, sadness, adventure, mystery and even some great lump in the throat while laughing at the same time moments. The main character of Mo’ was a great outlet for some superb metaphors that kept this story a constant adventure in the English language. The reader, Michal Friedman, performed this book more than read it. Her voice as 11 year-olds Mo’ and Dale was spot on. The various other characters were represented to their full extent as well from the excellent performance of Michal Friedman’s voice. The combination of the wonderfully written story and the enthralling vocal performance will keep you glued to this audiobook until the surprising end.

This story would be appreciated by anyone who has loved the experience of stories like “Because of Winn-Dixie,” “Second Hand Lions,” or even “Holes.” The life through the eyes of an 11 year-old, who never knew her real family, but runs the risk of losing the ones she calls family is full of happy, sad and anxiety-ridden moments is full of ups and downs and Sheila Turnage has created one of the best stories telling this one right. With characters you’ll want to visit over and over again, “Three Times Lucky” should be on the reading list of anyone from 12 to 120. While the story is fitting for a young adult reader in middle school, the story is written so that even as an adult reading it everyone will come out having read a great story and seem like it is a young adult novel.

Mo’ LoBeau came to the town of Tupelo Landing, North Carolina on the waves of a hurricane 11 years ago. Actually the town of Tupelo Landing received 3 new citizens on that fateful day. The Colonel, who was found holding Mo’ in his arms after having a car crash in the hurricane and floating in the creek saw a baby secured to a floating billboard, Mo’ whose “upstream mother,” in order to save her baby, secured her to the floating debris, and Miss Lana. Miss Lana and The Colonel have since opened the only cafe in the town of Tupelo Landing and with the help of Mo’, who the Colonel calls, soldier, run a nice service that seems to be the center of the town. Everyone stops in and when an out-of-town Detective stops in to investigate a murder that occurred in Winston-Salem, the whole town is there to know about it.

Before the Detective, Joe Starr, leaves town one of Tupelo Landing’s own is found murdered and the mayor asks Starr to investigate. In a series of twists and turns and sometimes humorous events, the town is put on edge and appears to be the target of a bank robber out for revenge after not getting his loot from a heist he and others did 11 years in the past.

All this time Mo’ and her friend Dale are investigating the murder while Mo’ is trying to track down her “upstream mother,” thus forming the Desperado Detective agency. Mo’ and Joe Starr are out to find a murderer that may be after more of the towns folk and may even be one of their own.

To put it simply, great fun and mystery in a book that everyone should read and read now, or as in my case listen in audiobook form. In fact, I would recommend highly to grab the audiobook and get started because of the superb performance.

 

“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.

“A Million Suns”
by Beth Revis
Read By Tara Carrozza & Lucas Salvagno
Published by Penguin Audio
10 hours and 18 minutes

Young Adult fiction is one of those great genres that appeals to all ages, and can be a hit or miss. Recently the “Twilight” series of young adult vampire romance took the world by storm (hopefully that waste of time is over), before that there was Harry Potter and now “The Hunger Games” has been released as a movie. So the young adult fiction genre is one worth checking out, no matter your age. Many of the stories are extremely well written and just having the main characters as teenagers puts them in the YA category. While listening to this audiobook, I was (and still am) listening to another YA audiobook. This one is science fiction and the other is a Zombie Apocalypse YA book. So as you can see lots of directions you can go with this genre.

This book is book two of the “Across the Universe” trilogy with the third book due (at the time of this posting) early 2013, so If you haven’t read the first one or listened to the audiobooks you still have some time so get going. Being the second book in the series there are some things that need to be stated to help you get caught up. The ship Godspeed is a multigenerational ship that has been sent on its 300 year mission to a planet that orbits the twin suns of Alpha Centauri. The crew consists of a group of people who have been set up in the ship with specific duties to keep the ship running generation after generation. The citizens of Godspeed are led by an Eldest who trains an Elder to rule the next generation. The ship’s main cargo consists of around a hundred or so people from various walks of life who are frozen in cryogenic chambers to be thawed upon arrival at Centauri Earth.

There has been a bit of a mutiny in the Eldest/Elder community where one Elder is thought dead and a younger Elder is being trained to replace Elder. The missing Elder has taken the name Orion and started unthawing the “frozens.” Amy has been thawed out and joins Elder in solving the mystery of who is killing the frozens. Amy discovers that there are engine problems and that Godspeed may not arrive for another 50 years. Soon Orion is caught and frozen to be thawed and tried by the other “frozens” upon arrival at Centauri Earth. But not before it is revealed that the population of Godspeed have been controlled through drugs, and fooled for generations about the arrival at Centauri Earth.

Here in book two, Amy now has settled with the fact she may never see her parents again (they are among the “frozens”) and has to start her life on Godspeed and decide if she is going to have a relationship with Elder. Elder is now in charge of the Godspeed, following the death of Eldest. He is determined to be different in his leadership style, no more lies and no more drugging his people. But rebellions begin rising up, laziness threatens food production, and there’s another murderer onboard. Meanwhile, Amy stumbles across a thread of clues left behind by Orion, explaining his extreme actions and revealing more secrets that will affect the entire ship, leaving Amy and maybe Elder with a choice to make. One of those secrets is that Godspeed is no longer moving through space, not merely moving slower than expected.

This story mixes a coming-of-age type story with mystery, romance and adventure with some superb science-fiction. The science-fiction aspect should be the one that grabs you but with all the rest thrown in, it’s pretty hard to resist.

Both teen and adult science fiction fans will enjoy this extraordinary coming-of-age story. Filled with intense suspense, adventure, mystery, and a bit of romance – A Million Suns is pure excitement from beginning to its cliffhanger ending. This fantastic space opera trilogy is a must-read.

The book is separated with each chapter told from the point of view of either Amy or Elder and the team of Tara Carrozza and Lucas Salvagno doing the reading the story flows perfectly. Each able to capture the main characters and all their personalities, as well as vary their voices well enough to still allow for the multiple character’s dialogues to be perfectly translated.

 

“Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children”
by Ransom Riggs
Published by Quirk Books (2011)
352 pages

Okay before we start on this book I have to share some info that took place in the reading of this book. While reading this fascinating young adult fiction, I opened up a store with a friend of mine. While opening the store I started reading this book in hardcover format, that’s important and will be explained later. The store we have opened is True Hideaway Family & Gaming ( http://www.truehideaway.com or find us on face book) The central focus of the store is for gamers especially those that play “Magic; the Trading Card Game,” we have friday night tournaments and are looking at maybe doing tournaments other nights since we’ve become popular.

We affectionately refer to our store as a “nerd store,” because it is home to all things nerdy. My part of the store is comic books and collectibles, the other aspect is we sell books (manga, reprinted pulp-fiction books, sci-fi / fantasy novels and graphic novels) as well as all the gaming materials. We even have regular “old-fashioned” board games and anyone can come in anytime and play a game. Role playing games seem to be highly popular and we have folks come in and play their campaigns. I am liquidating my old comic book collection of around 2,000 or so comics and when I sold an old “Kiss” comic from the mid-70s for $70, I decided to reward myself by finally buying a kindle.

With my rewarded kindle in hand, I loaded up some books that are on my to-read list and took off. The first book I loaded was this book, I was halfway through the hardcover, but I thought what better way to launch than to get this “peculiar” book rolling. I am now in love with my kindle, but every so often I know I’m going to go back to a regular tree killing book, but for now, I’m a kindler.

Okay let’s move on to this book, “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.” When I first picked up this book I wasn’t aware that it was a Young Adult fiction, I knew it was fiction, but the goal is for ages 13 and up. The and up is very true, this book is very well written, with a fascinating story and some great adventures thrown in that make this book perfect for all ages.

The book was originally intended to be a picture book with the photographs that were collected by various people from bins of lost photographs found at flea markets and such. But thanks to a genius editor at Quirk Books, Riggs wrote a story based on the photographs. The photos are all peculiar in and of themselves and putting them together to form a story the author shows not only genius himself but a storytelling ability that would put any comic book writer to shame.

The bulk of the pictures feature various weirdness of subjects; a man posing with a rock in the background looking as though he’s lifting the boulder, a young boy’s head on a dog’s body, a young girl looking as though she’s holding a flaming orb. Many of the pictures are a bit creepy and sometimes when the story behind them created by Riggs is told they can seem extremely normal or even creepier.

The story revolves around Jacob whose grandfather had escaped Nazi invasion by fleeing to a children’s home on an island off the coast of Wales. The children are all “peculiar,” at least according to the stories from Jacob’s grandfather. There is the invisible boy, a teacher that is a bird, a strong man, a girl that floats, one that controls the growth of plants. So at times this school seems to have come out of an issue of X-men comics. But the story goes even further when Jacob witnesses the death of his grandfather at the hands of a shadowy figure. Jacob tells his story and immediately branded as suffering a mental breakdown due to the loss of his grandfather. His grandfather’s last words were to follow the loop to September 30, 1940 and find the bird. Cryptic yes, but after exploring his grandfather’s possessions he finds that the school his grandfather survived the war in exists.

When Jacob and his father make a trip to Wales, the dark secret behind “Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children” is revealed and soon Jacob must save the children and possibly the world.

Superb creativity that will capture the attention of anyone of all ages.

“Across the Universe”
by Beth Revis
read by Lauren Ambrose and Carlos Santos
Published by Penguin Audio
Approx 10 hours

Once again I venture into the world of Young Adult fiction, and this time around it’s a really cool science fiction book, “Across the Universe.” The story is a simple, yet very intriguing, tale of love and power.

Scientists of Earth have discovered a planet that is capable of supporting life, the problem is that travelling to the planet would take 350 years. To solve this problem the ship Godspeed has been created which will carry a generational crew that will for several generations support the ship on the long journey and a special cargo of several specialists frozen in cryogenic boxes that will be unfrozen when landing on the new planet.

Amy, a 17-year-old girl, is one of the members frozen but only because here mother is a genetics specialist and her father is military, both of whom are essential in the mission. Amy is listed as non-essential, because she serves no purpose in the mission. During her Cryogenic stasis, Amy is treated to dreams that haunt her during the 300 year journey. Finally she is unfrozen, but awakes onboard the Godspeed, that is still travelling to the planet. In fact her premature thaw is part of a mystery that has plagued the ship for some time.

To keep the ship running the ship’s generational crew is led by a leader called Eldest. Eldest leads the current generation in its mission to take the ship to the new planet and at the same time is teaching Elder, who will be the next Eldest when that generation “dies-off.” Elder is around 18 years and the generation he will lead is yet to be born.

Before I go more into the story I’d like to talk about the audiobook itself. The book is told from the point of view of Amy and Elder and this production casts the part of Amy read by Lauren Ambrose and Elder by Carlos Santos. Each of the readers does a great part in reading their part as well as voicing the other character’s dialogues. With the dual cast aspect this audiobook is very smooth flowing and definitely attention grabbing. Each reader is strong in their performance, and able to effectively portray all emotions and attitudes of the characters.

So where were we? Oh yeah, Amy has been thawed out prematurely. She soon finds out that the ship still has about 50 years left on its journey and realizes that by the time the ship arrives on the planet she will be older than her parents. Add to that horror she finds that the ship’s crew are mono-ethnic, meaning that as a pale-skinned redhead she stands out in a population where everyone has brown hair, dark eyes, and olive skin. Add on top of that, other bodies are being thawed out but their thawing process is not done right and they drown in their cryo-chambers. Amy only survived because Elder was exploring this part of the ship that is hidden from all other members, and managed to find her before she died. Elder was exploring this section of the ship under the suggestion of Orion, the records keeper, who has a dark mystery.

Everyone on the ship has a job to do and there are no people under the age of 20. Each generation’s population is strictly controlled by the ship’s mysterious doctor and Eldest. Amy is unfrozen around the time of “The Cycle” when as if going in heat the current generation suddenly begins acting as animals do and the urge to mate overwhelms all senses of decency.

Elder soon learns the big secret as to why the structure of Eldest/Elder was formed. It seems the ships engines weren’t all they were cracked up to be and the ship is actually further than 50 years from its final destination. To keep this secret the Eldest have been controlling the population with mind control drugs in the water to keep them obedient. With this dark secret, Elder and Amy are faced with the decision of what the population needs to know and how to keep the ship on course, no matter how long it takes.

A great story, some very well thought out Sci-fi, and great performances from the readers makes this young adult fiction something everyone should put on their must listen list.

“The Cay” by Theodore Taylor

“The Cay”
by Theodore Taylor
Read by Michael Boatman
Published by Listening Library (2006)
2 hours and 58 minutes

How many of you out there have read a Young Adult book?  Hopefully many, but for those of you who haven’t, I hope I can get you started in a new direction.  Young Adult literature are books that are aimed at the ages of 12-18.   These books run the gamut of genres and can be some very interesting reading.  Sure they are written for “the kids” but we adults can thoroughly enjoy them as well.  Take for example the “Eragon” series or the Harry Potter series, many adults found hours of enjoyment in those books, and there are lots more where those came from.

A couple of summers ago I was introduced via an online community the group Audiobook Sync.  Each summer they have pair up  YA (Young Adult) audiobooks with a similar theme, so each week in the summer kids & adults can download 2 audiobooks for free.  Last summer I downloaded every week’s pairing and even though it has taken me until now to get to some, I love these books.  This book, “The Cay” was teamed up with “Storm Runners.” I haven’t listened to “Storm Runners,” yet but if this book is any sign, it should be fun.

“The Cay” takes place during World War II but is not a war story, rather this is one of survival and friendship.  When WWII breaks out Phillip Enright and his family are living on the island of Curacao.  Phillip’s father was brought in from the states to help build oil refineries for the Island.  The Germans send submarines to the island to prevent the refining process so the non-axis countries cannot have the fuel.  When the island becomes unsafe Phillip and his mother board a boat, the S.S. Hato, to Virginia.  The ship is torpedoed and Philip is separated from his mother.  He finds himself on a raft with an old West Indian man, Timothy, from the boat and a cat named Stew. Phillip has been warned by his mother about black people, “They are different, and they live differently,” and is wary of Timothy.  Timothy rescues Phillip but during the boat attack Phillip was hit in the head and after a couple of days becomes blind.

Phillip becomes extra dependent on Timothy because of the blindness.  Soon the odd trio arrive at a cay, a small island with no fresh water, and begin setting up camp for survival.  The two characters learn to overcome their disdain for one another, and develop strong bonds of friendship by the end of the novel. The two characters learn to overcome their disdain for one another, and develop strong bonds of friendship. Timothy teaches Phillip how to do many survival skills, such as weaving sleeping mats, building ways to catch fresh water and ways to fish, all while overcoming Phillip’s blindness.  The trio overcomes many obstacles until a hurricane blows in and they must rush to tie everything down, including themselves.  During the storm they lose their shelter, also sometime during the storm Timothy, who is somewhere near 80 years old, dies, leaving Phillip to fend for himself,  Phillip soon learns why Timothy did the things he did, he was preparing Phillip to survive alone.

This story was one of those filled with every emotion from anger, anxiety to love and friendship and will keep you listening until the very end.  Michael Boatman does a superb job of voicing this book, and captures the accents and emotions of both of the characters perfectly.

%d bloggers like this: