Recent Listen: The Dead and the Gone

6 01 2012

The Dead and the Gone by Susan Beth Pfeffer

This is the second book in Pfeffer’s “The Last Survivors” trilogy, which began with Life As We Knew It.  Both books describe the aftermath of a terrible disaster in which the moon is struck by a meteor and knocked out of its orbit.  When the moon shifts, terrible events begin taking place on Earth, from giant tsunamis, to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

In Life As We Knew It, the action follows a teen named Miranda and her family in rural Pennsylvania as they deal with the disaster and its various consequences, such as lack of communication, sporadic electricity, and outbreaks of illness.  In The Dead and The Gone the action moves to New York City, where high school junior Alex Morales and his family must deal with these same issues, but in a very different environment.  Alex and his two sisters have been separated from the rest of their family by the catastrophe – their mother, a nurse, was called in to work following the disaster and never returned, and their father was stranded (or possibly killed) by a tsunami in Puerto Rico where he had gone to attend a funeral.

Now Alex must take responsibility for his sisters, twelve-year-old Julie and fourteen-year-old Bri, as resources in the city begin to dwindle and humanity crumbles around them.  It becomes more and more clear that Alex must find a way out of the city before it is too late for his family.

Pfeffer has begun this series with a fascinating premise, but what makes the books such page-turners are the realistic characters she places in this extraordinary situation.  The reader quickly identifies with Miranda and Alex and wants to see them survive.  It’s also interesting to read how different people react to such an earth-shattering event in such different ways.

I’m looking forward to reading (or listening) to the final book in the trilogy, This World We Live In, which will tie the two previous stories together.  I listened to both of the first two books on audio.  It was strange to be walking or driving in the sunshine while listening to stories in which the characters are dealing with frigid temperatures and little or no heat, but the audio versions were both well done.


Recent Listen: Heist Society

13 05 2011

I’ve had Ally Carter’s Gallagher Girls series on my list of books I want to read for a while now.  They look like really fun books.  However, with so many books on that “to be read” list, it’s hard for me to commit to a series.  So, I was really glad to see that Carter had written a stand-alone book, Heist Society, which looked equally as fun.  (Although now, it turns out it’s just the first in another series, since a sequel is coming out next month.)

Heist Society did turn out to be really fun.  I listened to the audiobook, read by Angela Dawe.

Katarina Bishop is a fifteen-year-old who has grown up in a family of art thieves.  She’s tried to leave the family business behind by enrolling at an exclusive boarding school.  However, her time there is cut short when a dangerous Italian mobster accuses her father of stealing his collection of priceless paintings.  Even though all the adults around her warn her to stay out of the situation, Katarina knows she is the only one who can prove her father’s innocence.  So she enlists an all-teen crew (including a couple of possible love interests) to break into a museum with a state-of-the-art security system to steal the mobster’s paintings back.

While on the surface this book was just another light YA read, it also delved deeper with Kat’s family dynamics.  Kat struggles to find a balance between her own independence and her loyalty to her family, which she discovers isn’t always defined by DNA.  The book was a little bit coming-of-age tale, a little bit mystery, a little bit comedy, a little bit romance, and a little bit crime caper.  All those little bits added up to a total pleasure to read (or listen to, in my case).

Recent Listen: The Red Blazer Girls #1

19 07 2010

I love it when I just stumble upon a fantastic book.  That was how I found the first of the new Red Blazer Girls series.  I was looking for my next audiobook to listen to, picked this one up, and just loved it.  I will say that this book is not exactly a hidden gem – it’s received lots of good reviews, and it’s been growing in popularity with young readers.  I just personally happened to miss this title when it came out.

 (Love the cover by the way – that’s part of what drew me to the book).

The Red Blazer Girls: The Ring of Rocamadour by Michael D. Beil, read by Tai Alexandra Ricci, is a mystery set at a Catholic all-girls school in New York.  Sophie and her friends, Margaret and Rebecca, are your (somewhat) typical seventh grade girls who get wrapped up in a twenty-year-old mystery.  I say that they’re somewhat typical because they’re not exactly average – all the girls are fairly intelligent and high-achieving with special talents that serve them well on their quest to solve this mystery.   The mystery involves a scavenger hunt created by an archaeologist for his granddaughter to find the hidden Ring of Rocamadour, an ancient relic which may possess the power to grant wishes.

The mystery itself is quite intriguing, as the scavenger hunt clues the girls are given consist of various puzzles related to literature, math, and even religion.  But the scavenger hunt also turns into quite an adventure along the way – the girls often find themselves sneaking around and hiding from adults who may or may not be out to steal the ring from them.  In addition to mystery and adventure, the story also contains plenty of romance and tween drama, mostly surrounding the character of Raf, a boy who helps the girls with their search.  The girls also enlist the help of new classmate Leigh Ann and their English teacher Mr. Eliot.  The book really benefits from excellent character development – each character is an individual with his or her own unique personality and quirks.

One of the things that surprised me most about this book was the fact that it was written by a man, because author Beil so convincingly tells the story through the voice of a tween girl.  Granted, I did listen to the audio version of the book, and Tai Alexandra Ricci does a great job sounding like a girl Sophie’s age should sound, but I think even if I had read the book I would have felt the same way.  My guess is that Mr. Beil’s job as a high school English teacher has provided him with loads of experience on what girls this age sound like.

I absolutely adored this book, and I’m so excited that it is indeed becoming a series.  The next title in the series, The Vanishing Violin, is due out next month.  I can’t wait!

Recent Listen: Bloody Jack

22 04 2009

Now that I’ve learned how to put audiobooks on my MP3 player, I’ve really begun to enjoy listening to them as I walk and jog.  It’s important to find just the right audiobooks for listening to while exercising, but I’ve been fairly successful so far.

One of my recent favorites was Bloody Jack: Being an Account of the Curious Adventures of Mary “Jacky” Faber, Ship’s Boy written by L.A. Meyer and read by Katherine Kellgren.  The book is a great adventure story with lots of humor sprinkled throughout.  The audio version is fantastic.  Kellgren uses various voices and accents that bring the words to life.  It made the drudgery of exercise much more bearable.


My review of the book:

After being orphaned and left to survive on the streets of eighteenth-century London, thirteen-year-old Mary spends her days begging and scrounging for food.  But in a split-second twist of fate Mary makes the decision to become “Jacky” and take to the high seas as a ship’s boy.  Disguising herself as a boy and making use of her quick wits, Jacky sets off on a life-changing adventure filled with hard work, excitement, and danger.  This novel brings to life the experience of being in the British Navy during its heyday – traveling to exotic ports, battling pirates, and enduring wild storms.  Author L.A. Meyer infuses this story with history, humor, and heart – a winning combination.