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Archive for the ‘Audiobook’ Category

The Girl is Murder
By Kathryn Miller Haines
ISBN: 9781250006394
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Date of Publication: 2011

Reader’s Annotation:
While attempting to secretly asset her father in one of his cases, Iris Anderson finds she’s over her head.

Plot Summary:
The year is 1942 and America is at war. Iris Anderson, fifteen, is abut to start a new school n New York’s Lower East Side. Still reeling from her mother’s suicide, Iris is trying to make the best of her new situation. Her former school was an all-girls private school in New York’s richer Upper East Side. The differences are striking on Iris’s first day at PS 110 and she feels lucky to even have even survived.

At home, life is different as well. Iris’s father is a survivor of the attack on Pearl Harbor, though he lost his leg due to the conflict. He has set up a private detective agency in the home that have rented from a lovely Polish woman, Mrs. Mrozenski whose own son is serving in the Marines. Iris is only just beginning to have a relationship with her father as he was away in the Navy. He retired after the attack and took Iris away from her Aunt and Uncle to live on their own. Iris’s father is a proud man and is trying to make a success of the business though it’s hard with his fake leg.

One afternoon, Iris overhears a client complaining to her father about the lack of results for a case. Iris decides to secretly help out as her little family needs the money. As Iris begins her life as a girl detective she starts to realize how much hard work can go into a case. And that every mystery is filled with a little danger.

Critical Evaluation:
Drawing on her love of the 1940s, Haines attempts to create a girl detective series falls a bit short. The story is still engaging and the characters are fun, but sometimes Haines relies too much on the language of the times. The characters speak in cliches and catchphrases.

Beyond the issues with the character’s language, Haines presents a story that truly does reflect the period. While it is not a main theme of the book, Iris’s background might raise a few eyebrows. Issues such as anti-semitism and racism fit into the story nicely, and at times help move the story along.

Haines also succeeds in discussing social classes, a subject that continues to be relevant in today’s ever changing economy. As Iris adjusts to life in the Lower East Side, her perspective shifts and she sees how the two world she now knows conflict with each other.

Overall, Haines does provide for an entertaining read, despite my earlier concerns of cliches. The mystery is an interesting one and has an unexpected ending. As this is the first in a potential series of books, one hopes that Haines is merely setting the foundation for what could be a very engaging series.

Audio Evaluation:
Rachel Botchan is the narrator of this book. The manner in which she narrates the book is striking in that she has a higher pitched tone that matches the cliches of the era. Her voice fluctuates from high class to street trash with each different characterizations. While the material does have its problems, Botchan’s attempts in keeping with the spirit of the material should be applauded. It enhances the story and allows the listening an opportunity to go back into time and experience the 40s.

Information about the Author:
From Kathryn Miller Haines’s Webpage, Haines is a graduate of Trinity University where she double majored in English and Theatre. She possess a MFA in English from the University of Pittsburgh. Haines first dipped her foot into the mystery genre with the publication of the Rosie Winter Mysteries, which highlights her love of the World War II time period.

Her most recent mystery series has been geared towards a young adult audience. Haines has recently published a sequel to The Girl is Murder called The Girl is Trouble. She lives in the Pennsylvania area with her family.

Kathryn Miller Haines on Twitter

Kathryn Miller Haines Blog

Genre:
Mystery/Crime

Curriculum Ties:
World War II History, Racial Inequality, Noir Mystery

Booktalking Ideas:
What does a detective really do?
How often are we perceived to be “different” because of the way we dress?

Reading Level/Interest Age:
Kirkus Reviews suggests an age rage of 12-18.

Challenging Issues:
There are no current challenges for this book. The American Library Association’s Guide to Library Materials Challenges is a great resource if the book is challenged in the future.

Why did I include this book in the title selections?
Having been a fan of the Veronica Mars television show, I was excited to hear about a book that used the same idea but set in World War II. Despite some of the problems that I had with the story, I still found it engaging. It’s not on par with Veronica Mars but still worth suggesting.

Reference:
Haines, K.M. (n.d.). About the author. Retrieved from http://www.kathrynmillerhaines.com/author.htm

Kirkus Reviews. (2011). The Girl is Murder. Retrieved from http://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/kathryn-miller-haines/girl-murder/

Deanna Durbin

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Ready Player One
By Ernest Cline
ISBN: 9780307887443
Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
Date of Publication: 2011

Reader’s Annotation:
In the year 2044, orphaned Wade Watts has found a clue that could change everything in the OASIS gaming system.

Plot Summary:
Wade Watts is an orphan who lives in the stacks. He spends the majority of his day plugged into the OASIS, an extensive online simulation. The OASIS is were Wade can access games and his classroom. The only friends Wade has exist within the OASIS, where identity is created by the user.

The year is 2044 and the world is in ruin. The poor economy has taken a toll on the world and the majority of its citizens suffer in vain. Food and other resources are scarce, which is why more people plug into the OASIS as a means to escape.

At the time of his death, OASIS co-creator James Halliday was a lonely man who left no heirs to his empire. Instead, he left instructions that his legacy would be inherited by the winner of a game by Halliday’s design. Unfortunately, the rush to find the pieces of the game, or the Easter Eggs, produced nothing. Egg Hunters, or Gunters, now devote their time learning everything about Halliday’s past times in order to find clues towards Halliday’s fortune.

Years go by without any progress. Until one day, when Wade Watts stumbles onto an unexpected clue, and changes everything. And as Wade unlocks that first clue, he discovers that there are others out there that will do anything to win the contest.

Anything.

adventure

Critical Evaluation:
A love letter to the 1980s and nerd culture, Ernest Cline’s first novel is a pop culture fanatic’s dream. Cline has created a fun world, despite the various economic hardships endured by the characters. Such examples of financial ruin are more likely inspired by the poor economic conditions of the past five or more years. Cline’s insight into entertainment and economics almost seems prophetic as more humans plug into the Internet for their news and social interaction.

But towards the middle of the book, the story seems to falter. It’s as if Cline was confused as to how he could bridge the story’s enticing beginning with the exciting ending. Even with audio narration by Wil Weation, the story moves at a slower pace with too much explanation and not enough action. Pop culture fans will still push through, enjoying the heavy references. At times the various cultural references seem too much for those unfamiliar with the different historical materials. Cline’s strength as a reader is that he endeavors to explain such history with patience and ease.

The novel’s many video game references are a great selling point to reluctant readers who prefer video gaming. Interested readers might go beyond the book to seek the materials in the book. The book’s Wikipedia page provides a great list of all the different cultural references mentioned.

Audio Evaluation:
Wil Wheaton, Weasley Crusher on Star Trek: The Next Generation, provides the audio narration for Ready Player One. A profiic member of modern geek and nerd culture, it seems fitting that Wheaton should be the one narrating Wade’s tale. The audiobook is a delight as it seems that Wheaton genuinely enjoys the material. Unfortunately, the problems with the second act of the book is not diminished withe Wheaton’s narration. He still gives the story his full attention and the audience might be inclined to forgive Cline’s offensive with Wheaton’s devotion to the material.

Information about the Author:
Ernest Cline’s webpage is more of a fun, nerdy slideshow. What visitor’s to the page can discover is that Cline’s background has been soaked in science fiction and video games. His love of Science Fiction/Fantasy films led him to become a screenwriter. Cline’s obsession with Star Wars led him to write the screenplay that would eventually become the film Fanboys.

Ready Player One is Cline’s first novel and continues to be amazed by the novel’s success. Cline has continued to cultivate his love of the 80s pop culture. His most recent book tour involved traveling from each location in a Delorean automobile, similar to the one used in the film trilogy Back to the Future.

Cline and Wheaton
(Ernest Cline and Wil Weaton with a Delorean)

Genre:
Science Fiction

Curriculum Ties:
Popular Culture History, Future of Technology, History of Video Games

Booktalking Ideas:
What is your favorite video game and why?
What is the role of social networking and internet use in your life? Personal and professional?

Reading Level/Interest Age:
This is a crossover title in that it was written for an adult audience but does have mass appeal for younger readers. The novel would be recommended for a 16 and up audience. The book was a 2012 Alex Award winner. The Alex Award is given to adult written books that have young adult appeal.

Challenging Issues:
There are no current challenges for this book. The American Library Association’s Guide to Library Materials Challenges is a great resource if the book is challenged in the future.

Potential issues would include violent situations.

Why did I include this book in the title selections?
Ernest Cline’s book is a treat for anyone who has any awareness of popular culture history, specifically history from the 1980s. As a child of the 80s, much of the material presented were relevant to my upbringing. The story is not condescending to those readers who lack previous popular culture knowledge and does explain situations and history in a manner that will excite readers to explore more about nerd culture after they finish the book. This is a great book to use for those reluctant readers who prefer video gaming to recreational reading.

Reference:
YALSA. (2012). Alex Awards. Young Adult Library Services Association. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/yalsa/alex-awards

Cline, E. (2012). About Ernie. Ernest Cline. Retrieved from http://www.ernestcline.com/blog/about/

Ready Player One Poster

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If I Stay
By Gayle Forman
ISBN: 9780142415436
Publisher: Speak, an imprint of the Penguin Group
Date of Publication: 2009

Where She Went
By Gayle Forman
ISBN: 9780142420898
Publisher: Speak, an imprint of the Penguin Group
Date of Publication: 2011

Special Note:
I had thought of doing a separate review for these two books but I felt that since they are so closely connected to each other, I should treat these two novels as one complete story. Hence the double feature review.

Reader’s Annotation:
If I Stay: When a tragic accident leaves Mia Hall in a coma, she must decide if she must live or die, stay or go.

Where She Went: In the aftermath of Mia’s decision, Adam Wilde must come to terms with the accident and his place in Mia’s life.

Plot Summary: If I Stay
Mia Hall has a great life. Her parents are supportive and she loves her younger brother. She’s been accepted to Julliard and she’s in love with a wonderful boyfriend. All of this changes one snowy morning when Mia’s family is torn apart in a tragic car accident. Now Mia must contemplate a new life where everything is different.

As Mia reels from this new reality, she spends a day contemplating her past and considers her future. If she leaves this new life, she would be free from the inevitable heartache. If Mia stays, she must face a different future than she once imagined.

Plot Summary: Where She Went
Three years after Mia’s car accident, Adam Wilde is a successful rock star. Yet, despite his fame, Adam is still attached to his memories of his first love. By chance, Adam and Mia meet once again in New York City. From that chance encounter, Adam and Mia begin to connect once again, walking through the city as they look back at their past and their future. Will this random chance lead to a second opportunity for happiness?

Critical Evaluation:
Gayle Forman’s tale of love, death, and reconciliation was an enthralling read. Forman places a lot of love in the characters, which provides the reader with the means of an honest connection to the story. The story does delve into more mature themes for the second book, which is understandable in that the characters are in their early-twenties. It doesn’t distract from the story but enhances the natural evolution of the characters.

The story is a great showcase for young readers in that it provides an understanding that not all relationships are perfect. Relationships work best when each party involved are confident in themselves before they give love to another. Mia and Adam’s struggle in finding themselves in the midst of tragedy and success feels genuine in that Forman never forgets to show that these characters are still very human and feel pain and joy like the reader.

Audio Evaluation:
The method in which I read these two books was through an audiobook. The audiobook editions were fun in that both narrators gave great performances. I found myself enthralled with the manner in which the book was read, ignoring my surroundings until I could get to the end. I would highly recommend the audio versions of these books, though be careful where you listen as parts will induce tears.

If I Stay was read by Kirsten Potter

Where She Went was read by Dan Bittner

Information about the Author:
From Gayle Forman’s Website, Gayle began her writing career at Seventeen magazine and branched out to freelance work with other magazines such as  Cosmopolitan and The Nation. After traveling the world with her husband, Forman began to write stories for a younger audience. Her first book, Sisters in Sanity, was published in 2007. Her next two books, If I Stay and Where She Went, were published in 2009 and 2011 respectively. Forman’s next two books are scheduled for publication towards the beginning and end of 2013.

Gayle Forman on Twitter

Gayle Forman on Facebook

Genre:
Realistic Fiction, Romance, Death and Dying

Curriculum Ties:
Family Relationships, Near Death Situations

Booktalking Ideas:
What role does music play in your life?
How has your family impacted your life?

Reading Level/Interest Age:
While the material is given a listing on Amazon for ages 14 and up, I would agree with the Kirkus Reivew that the material should be for older teens, specially for the second book with its more mature themes.

Challenging Issues:
There are no current challenges for either book. The American Library Association’s Guide to Library Materials Challenges is a great resource if the book is challenged in the future.

Potential issues would include sexual situations, after-death discussions, and the use of substance abuse in the second book.

Why did I include this book in the title selections?
I picked this book up on a whim while browsing the YA selection at the Kensington/Normal Heights Branch. I instantly fell in love with both the writing style and the storyline. I visited the material once again when I discovered there was a sequel to the book, which was a wonderful compliment to the first.

Reference:
Amazon. (n.d.). Where She Went: Gayle Forman. Amazon. Retrieved from http://www.amazon.com/Where-She-Went-Gayle-Forman/dp/0142420891

Kirkus Review. (2010). If I Stay by Gayle Forman. Kirkus Review. Retrieved from http://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/gayle-forman/if-i-stay/

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