Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Have you got your nominations in yet?

There's just 5 days left to nominate your favorite books of the year for the Cybils awards!  If you haven't yet, head over to the Cybils blog right now to submit your favorites.

About this time each year, the Cybils blog collects lists of items that haven't been nominated yet, but
someone would like to see still make the list.  If you haven't used of your one item per category nomination yet, you might want to peruse the lists to see if you can help someone out.

As I mentioned in my last post, I'm judging in the new audiobook category this year, and we could still really use some nominations!  So I thought I'd put together this list of things I found on audible that are definitely eligible.

And if none of these float your boat, remember that most books nominated in another Cybils category this year that has an audio version available is eligible for the audiobook category.  Even if you haven't listened to the audio version, but you know the book is good, then it might still deserve and audio nomination.

Here's some audiobooks that are eligible based on their date and the middle grade criteria for this year.  I haven't read all of these yet, but if you have read any of these and you loved it, consider nominating it for our category.  Hopefully this list helps you think of a great audiobook nomination!

A Most Magical Girl by Karen Foxlee
All Four Stars by Tara Dairman
Audacity Jones to the Rescue by Kirby Larson
Book Scavenger by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman
Case of the Girl in Grey by Jordan Stratford
Disenchanted: The Trials of Cinderella by Megan Morrison
Foxheart by Claire Legrand 
Frazzled: Everyday Disasters and Impending Doom by Booki Vivat 
Fuzzy by Tom Angleberger
Going Wild by Lisa McMann
Grayling's Song by Karen Cushman
Grounded by Megan Morrison
Hour of the Bees by Lindsay Eagar 
I Survived the Eruption of Mount St. Helens, 1980 by Lauren Tarshis
Impyrium by Henry H Neff
It Ain't So Awful, Falafel by Firoozeh Dumas
Knights of the Borrowed Dark by Dave Rudden
Lock and Key by Ridley Pearson
Look Out for the Fitzgerald-Trouts by Esta Spalding
Milo Speck, Accidental Agent by Linda Urban
Moo by Sharon Creech
Mr. Lemoncello's Library Olympics by Chris Grabenstein
Ned's Circus of Marvels by Justin Fisher
Once Upon a Toad by Heather Vogel Frederick
Out of Abaton by John Claude Bemis
Pax by Sara Pennypacker
Red: The True Story of Red Riding Hood by Liesl Shurtliff 
Save Me A Seat by Sarah Weeks
Shadow Magic by Joshua Khan
Six Kids and a Stuffed Cat by Gary Paulsen
Slacker by Gordon Korman 
Sting: A Loot Novel by Jude Watson
Summerlost by Ally Condie
Sweet Home Alaska by Carole Estby Dagg
The Adventurer's Guide to Successful Escapes by Wade Albert White
The Candymakers and the Great Chocolate Chase by Wendy Mass
The Case of the Vanishing Emerald by Holly Webb
The Charmed Children of Rooksill Castle by Janet Fox
The Dala Horse by Lissa Jonston
The Door by the Staircase by Katherine March 
The Firefly Code by Megan Frazer Blakemore
The Girl in the Well Is Me by Karen Rivers 
The Girl Who Could Not Dream by Sarah Beth Durst 
The Glass Castle by Trisha Priebe
The Haunting of Falcon House by Eugene Yelchin
The Lincoln Project by Dan Gutman
The Scourge by Jennifer Nielson
The Secret Keepers by Trenton Lee Stewart
The Secret of Dreadwillow Carse by Brian Farrey 
The Trilogy of Two by Juman Malouf
Time Stoppers by Carrie Jones
Time Traveling With a Hamster by Ross Welford
True Heroes: A Treasury of Modern-Day Fairy Tales Written by Bestselling Authors
Warren the 13th and the All-Seeing Eye by Tania del Rio
What Elephants Know by Eric Dinerstein
When Friendship Followed Me Home by Paul Griffin
Will Wilder: The Relic of Perilous Falls by Raymond Arroyo
Wish by Barbara O'Connor 
Wishing Day by Lauren Myracle
Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk

Thursday, October 06, 2016

It's that time again...

I'm a few days behind on announcing this, but things have been crazy the past few weeks.  In addition to getting the usual autumn cold, helping mom continue to recover from surgery, and trying to keep up with things at work, we also bought a new car.  Which came with its own long weeks of shopping and deal wrangling.  O.o

Anyway, things are getting back to normal for me, and a few days ago the Cybils Awards opened up for nominations!  For those of you who are not familiar with the Cybils, they are the Children's and Young Adult Literary Blogging awards.  Basically it's the kidlitosphere's blogging version of the literary merit of awards like the Newberry medal combined with the popular vote of the Webby Awards.  The biggest criteria for the Cybils is both good writing/literary merit and kid appeal.

I'm happy to be participating again as a Round 1 judge this year, in a brand new category, audiobooks!  It will be fun to break ground in this new area for the Cybils.

The biggest part of the "popular vote" section of the awards is now.  The awards accept nominations for books in 11 categories from people just like you!  So if you have a favorite book for kids or teens published in the last year, make sure you go nominate it.

We especially need audiobook nominations!  So even if audiobooks aren't your thing, if you have a book that you want to nominate (or has already been nominated) in either of the middle grade categories this year, all you have to do is check if it has an audio version to qualify for the new category.  I found tons of great possible nominations on audible.com, there's lots that will qualify.

Happy reading everyone!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Review: The Forbidden Stone

The Forbidden Stone (The Copernicus Legacy #1) by Tony Abbott

Wade Kaplan loves astronomy, something he learned from his Uncle Henry. When Wade, his stepbrother Darrell, and their two friends Becca and Lily get a strange email from Uncle Henry shortly before receiving word of the old man’s death, Wade is sure it has something to do with the star map Uncle Henry gave him for his birthday. Together the group of friends, although with Wade’s father, travel to Germany to attend Uncle Henry’s funeral, where they discover the strange email was in fact a code. The code leads to a clue which leads the kids to discover the mysterious Copernicus Legacy. Now they must race against time to find the other clue and protect this ancient secret before a sinister secret society gets to it first.

This book has all the hallmarks of a good adventure story, with international espionage, clues, secrets, codes, historical artifacts, and just enough wonder to push the book over the edge from realistic fiction to that speculative/science fiction “what if” sphere. This being the first book in a series, it does get bogged down a bit in the beginning through the introduction of the characters and the plot. That being said, it definitely does a good job of building the suspense through these introductions, which kept me going even though I felt a bit bored and confused at the beginning.

I may be posting a separate review of the additional books at another time, but I can confidently say that although my rating of this first book may be a little on the low side, the series definitely gets better the farther you go along. As of this post I’ve read all but the last (yet unpublished) volume, and I am eagerly awaiting its release in November of this year. I’m only awarding this one an “it was okay” rating, but I do still recommend it, especially as it gets better the farther the series goes on. This one also gets an Up All Night award leaf since the action kept me eagerly reading, especially near the end. Recommended especially for middle grade/teen readers that enjoy astronomy and/or spy stories.

Shady Glade Rating: 3 leaves and the Up All Night Award

Available at Amazon.com in Hardcover, Paperback, Kindle, or Audiobook
Add to your Goodreads shelf
Check availability on Paperbackswap.com

Thursday, September 08, 2016

Review: Princesses Comic #2

Disney Princess Comics #2 by Amy Mebberson and Geoffrey Golden

If you know me well, you know that I have a bit of a Disney obsession. Well, maybe more than a bit. My mom likes to say that my blood cells are probably Mickey shaped. And as a girly-girl at heart, there’s nothing I love more than the Disney Princesses. So when I found out about this new comic series that was being published, I knew it was a no brainer for me to try it. Sadly, I missed out on the first issue (it was sold out long before I got to the comic book store), but I was able to pick up this second volume on a birthday trip this year.

Unlike some serial comics, the Princess comics are done as a series of short stories with no correlation to each other, so it wasn’t a problem to pick up the second issue without reading the first at all. Each story is more of a behind-the-scenes type peek into the lives of the princesses, outside what the movies show of their stories. The balance of smaller 1 strip and large multi-strip stories is a good combination, and both types of strips have the perfect amount of humor. I particularly liked the story of Princess Jasmine dealing with her tiger Rajah at bedtime. Anyone who has ever owned a cat will understand that one.

And as much as I love the storytelling, I have to say that I love, love, love, the artwork. I am a big fan of Amy Mebberson from her Pocket Princesses fanfic comic on her Facebook page, and it is nice to see her Disney artwork in an official capacity. For those who haven’t seen her work before, I would describe this as a sort of Japanese “chibi” style, while still being very true to the actual Disney artwork. I will definitely look forward to collecting these comics!

Shady Glade Rating: 5 leaves and the Gold Leaf Award 

Available at Amazon.com in Kindle (hard copy sold out)
Add to your Goodreads shelf

Friday, September 02, 2016

Review: Wild Born

Wild Born (Spirit Animals #1) by Brandon Mull

In the fantasy world of Erdas, each child who comes of age must go through a special ceremony. The purpose of this ritual is to see if the child summons a spirit animal; a special animal with which you form a spiritual/mental bond with that grants additional strengths to both human and animal. It’s kind of like your own personal animal best friend. Conor, Abeke, Meilin, and Rollan all summon spirit animals. But not just any animals. The wolf, leopard, panda, and falcon who apper during their ceremony are special animals, great beasts; animals of legend who have been foretold to return to Erdas in its greatest need. Together the four must work together and learn how to use their spirit animals in battle before the sinister forces taking over Erdas one country at a time have a chance to succeed.

I went into this one with pretty high expectations, mostly because I just love Brandon Mull. On the other hand, I’m always a bit worried with these multi-author series that Scholastic does (39 Clues and Infinity Ring being two other examples) just because I’m worried about continuity between character traits, world settings, plots, etc. I’m happy to say that Mull does a good job introducing the series. For a book that’s much shorter than many introductory middle grade fantasy books, there’s a nice balance between character introduction and the initial conflict of the series’ overall plot. Readers really only get glimpses of settings and characters other than the main four characters, but I felt it was enough to keep me satisfied, expecting that further explorations will occur in later books in the series. While there may not be a lot of substance literarily to this series, I think the kid appeal is definitely there, especially for kids who like books with animal characters. I plan on continuing with the rest of the series, which is always a good indication it hasn’t lost my interest so far.

Shady Glade Rating: 4 leaves

Available at Amazon.com in Hardcover, Kindle, or Audiobook
Add to your Goodreads shelf
Check availability on Paperbackswap.com

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Continuing Thoughts on Audiobooks

Continuing my thoughts on audiobooks from a few days ago, which you can read here if you haven’t already. I mentioned in that post how I love that audiobooks can bring books alive and make them so much more real. A lot of this is credited to the narrator (and I suppose the director) for how well they tell the story itself. Well, a narrator can also kill a book too, which I’ll highlight in a few examples. These are books that aren’t necessarily bad books, but in my opinion the audiobook was not worth listening to.

The Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini, read by Gerard Doyle

I will start off by saying Gerard Doyle has narrated A LOT of audiobooks, and there’s been some that I’ve enjoyed a lot more than Eragon et al, so I don’t entirely blame the narrator for this one. Eragon was always a good example of how I often dislike books that have gotten a lot of hype. I had tried to read it several times, but just hadn’t gotten that into it. So I decided to try the audio, since a lot of times that can get me over the hump. The narration ended up making all of the characters seem rather whiny and weak, and although I slogged all the way through the first book, I did not get any farther in the series. And I have to say that Doyle’s voice for the dragon Sapphira was always completely ridiculous to me.

The Looking Glass Wars and Seeing Redd by Frank Beddor, read by Gerard Doyle

Another fail by Gerard Doyle, although I didn’t realize it until I started writing this post. The Looking Glass Wars, a retelling of Alice in Wonderland, was a book that should have been right up my alley. The synopsis made it sound amazing. And yet listening to it wasn’t so amazing. The urgency of the war was just never there for me. But I enjoyed it enough to try the sequel. Again, not wowed, but now I wanted to find out what happened. So when the third book came out, I simply read it rather than listening to it. And suddenly, the world and characters and plot and motivations became so much more real to me. I ate the book up. To this day I’m still not sure if the third book was so much better than the other two, or if it was the lackluster narration of the first two books that made me not like them so much.

The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo, read by Graeme Malcolm

I think I may be the only person in the entire world who didn’t love this book. It had all the hallmarks of a story I would have loved: a brave mouse knight, a princess in peril, etc. And yet it was rather forgettable to me. I listened to it several years ago and to this day I can remember that I didn’t like it, but not why I didn’t like it. One of the marks of a good audiobook is that it impresses the story into your mind. It’s something you can remember and reflect on. And this one just didn’t do it for me.

The Dispossessed series by Page Morgan, read by Katharine McEwan

I would be remiss if I only included male narrators in this post, so here’s a female narrator I didn’t care for. Although the narration itself didn’t bug me so much, the accents of the individual characters, especially the French characters, was ridiculous to the point of being distracting. Some narrators are more successful than other at creating distinct voices for each character, and let’s just say these books don’t do male characters well at all.

I could dig up more examples of audiobooks that fell short of my expectations, but if you’ve read the blog awhile, you know I don’t like talking a lot about things I didn’t like. I’d rather spend time on positive opinions. So I think I’ll leave the list off there. Now, by all means, feel free to try these audiobooks for yourself. I think audiobooks can be even more subjective than the books themselves, because the listener usually invests a lot more in the story than a reader would (or at least I do). So perhaps the things that bug me won’t bug you at all. Each book definitely has its own advantages, and each reader to his own of course!

Monday, August 29, 2016

Thoughts on Audiobooks

I’ve been thinking a lot about audiobooks lately. I don’t mention it a lot on the blog, but a lot of my “reading” these days is done via audiobook. I find it’s the perfect way to combine my hobby of reading with another of my hobbies, cross stitch. But that’s a discussion for my other blog.

I love that audiobooks in general have been gaining so much more attention lately, even among teens, which is awesome. Programs like Sync Audiobooks (hosted every summer) and the prevalence of digital audiobooks through sites like audible.com are bringing so much more awareness to readers. Which is awesome, because of course that means more audiobooks are being made every day.

For me, audiobooks are a good way to “read” a book while I’m busy doing something else. They are also lifesavers on long drives and car trips. A lot of what I listen to are books that are new to me. But I also love hearing my favorite books come alive too. Perhaps my love of audiobooks harkens back to when I used to be read to every night before bed by my parents. I love closing my eyes (except when driving on those long car trips of course) and getting lost in the story.

So in case you’ve never tried audiobooks, I thought I’d share a few of my favorites with you.

The Harry Potter series by JK Rowling, read by Jim Dale

I cannot highly recommend these enough. Besides the fact that the books are awesome all on their own, Jim Dale’s narration does an amazing job of bringing the books to life. He gives each character a distinct voice, which is a nice contrast to his somewhat dry narration style. Some narrators have voices that are very similar to each other, or don’t distinguish very well between sexes, two of my biggest narrator pet peeves. No problems with that here. The really nice thing is that Dale is consistent with each character voice from book to book too, which is amazing considering they were recorded years apart as the individual books were coming out. Fun fact, I don’t think I ever actually have read Goblet of Fire or Half Blood Prince. Both books I finished by listening to them on summer car trips.

The Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer, read by Nathaniel Parker

So I had read the first 2 Artemis Fowl books and enjoyed them, although I wouldn’t say they made it on a favorites list by any means. Then my brother borrowed the audiobook for the 1st book from the library, and it changed everything for me. Nathaniel Parker made Artemis Fowl for me. Something about his narration captured Artemis’ personality so crystal for me, I was able to understand him as a character so much more. Holly also became much more real of a character and friend, and less of an intimidating presence, which was definitely something that had a large influence on the series later on. Needless to say, I’ve listened to all of the books now, and they’re definitely books I fall back into listening to from time to time.

Fairest by Gail Carson Levine, read by Full Cast Audio

In picking my favorite audiobooks, just about everything done by Full Cast Audio would make the full list. Seriously, they are amazing recordings. Rather than being read by a single person, the book is read by, well, a full cast. So a different person for each character. This gives the books another dimension; makes them feel almost like watching a play instead of listening to a single person relate a story. I’ve listened to so many of their recordings now that I frequently recognize actors from one story to another, which gives a whole different dimension to the characters of the stories (as a weird and unintentional side effect). As I said, I love Full Cast Audio’s productions and would recommend many, many of them, but for the sake of keeping this post manageable size, I would choose Fairest as one of my favorite. I loved this book, both because of its standalone qualities and also because it was a prequel of sorts to one of my favorite books of all time, Ella Enchanted. But in addition to the amazing full cast reading, this book has music. Lots of it. Music plays a big part in the story line, and the studio put the author’s songs to actual music, so you get to hear the main character actually sing her parts. The result is nothing short of fantastic. Sadly, I don't think Full Cast is doing much these days, and a lot of their books have been re-recorded by other narrators, but I'd definitely get this version if you can.

Dealing with Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede, read by Words Take Wing Repertory Company

Okay, this one is a cheat in several ways. If you’ve read my review of this book on the blog here, you’ll know that this is one of my all-time favorite books. So it was probably a no brainer I was going to love it for that reason. Secondly, this was done by the Words Take Wing division of Listening Library, which was the precursor to Full Cast Audio, which we’ve already covered the fact that I adore their productions. This is a great book to read, and also a great one to listen to. There’s something about hearing the story being read that highlights the hilarity of the plot and characters, which is one of the most charming devices Wrede uses in this story.

I could go on a lot more about these and other favorites, but to keep this shorter, I’ll just highlight two more books that I didn’t expect to love at all, but listening to the audiobook completely changed my mind.

The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde, read by Elizabeth Jasicki

I had tried several times to pick up Fforde’s Thursday Next series, never with much success. Probably because I kept getting distracted by other books. So when I saw this audiobook at the library, I decided to give it a try, since it was supposed to be his attempt at a “young adult” series. To my surprise, I quite enjoyed the book, and I think it was mostly because the narration made the main character Jennifer Strange so endearing to me. I was completely lost in Jennifer’s world, and I fell in love with many of the characters, causing me to actually shed tears at the end. If I hadn’t picked this up, I certainly wouldn’t have ever picked up the second book in the series, Song of the Quarkbeast, which I loved just as much.

Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos by R. L. LaFevers, read by

This is another book I really task the narration with my falling in love with it. The narrator became Theodosia for me. I could believe that an 11-year-old was telling this story. Although I had seen this book around from time to time, for some reason it hadn’t really appealed to me that much enough for me to actually give it a try. But needing something to keep me entertained on a long commute, I gave the audiobook a listen. And I’m so glad I did. Listening to it definitely opened up the whole world of this story, where the setting of ancient Egyptian curses and prophecies is almost a character of its own. I’ve already done a full review of this book here, so I’ll let you go read that if you want more specifics.

Well, hopefully that’s a few suggestions to get you started if you’ve never been brave enough to try them. I’ve got a few other audiobook discussions I’d like to have rolling around in my head, but I’ll save those for another post.

Until then, happy reading (or listening!)