Audiobook Mini-Reviews

I’m not the best at reviewing audiobooks.  They are always harder for me to remember details about and that makes it hard to write reviews.  But I’ve been REALLY good about posting reviews for what I’ve read this year, so I’m going to post some mini-reviews.  Both these books were ones I downloaded as part of the SYNC summer audiobooks.  I love that program, it exposes me to books I’d never read otherwise!

Code Name Verity  by Elizabeth Wein

This book was everywhere in the book blog world a couple years ago.  A female British pilot ferrying a female Scottish spy across the English Channel crash-lands in the Nazi-occupied French countryside.  The spy, Verity, is picked up by the Gestapo and interrogated and tortured.  Verity cooperates with the Gestapo, spinning out a tale of her friendship with Maddie, the pilot who crash-landed with her.  What follows is a story of friendship set against the horrors of war.

What I liked: the writing, the narrators, the fact this had no romantic subplot (so rare in YA), smart female characters putting their lives on the line for their country
What I felt meh about: the narrative structure was such that you don’t really see Maddie and Verity interact, instead it is all stories about their relationship, which put their friendship at a distance, also some parts dragged a bit for me
All in all: I liked it, but not my favorite book ever.  I guess there’s a sequel?  I don’t know that I will seek it out, but if I came across it, I’d read it.

Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice by Phillip Hoose

This is the story of Claudette Colvin, an African-American teenager who, 9 months before Rosa Parks, refused to give up her seat on a segregated Montgomery bus.  Claudette was arrested and her arrest and mistreatment by the police set the wheels in motion for the Montgomery Bus Boycott, as well as the federal district court case Browder v. Gayle, which ruled that segregation on the city buses was unconstitutional.

What I liked: This was a really inspiring, interesting, and timely story (I read this about a month ago when Ferguson was big in the news).  I liked that oral interviews with Claudette Colvin underpinned the story.  Hoose also does a great job of placing Claudette’s story within the historical context of the Civil Rights movement.  It was very short, which I appreciated!
What I was meh on: I felt the analysis was a lacking a bit, but I admit my expectations as a reader might be a little high given that I come from an academic history background and am not really the target age/education level for this book.
All in all: Great non-fiction that kept me thinking about social movements for weeks after finishing.


All Our Yesterdays- Cristin Terrill

Goodreads Summary:

What would you change?

Imprisoned in the heart of a secret military base, Em has nothing except the voice of the boy in the cell next door and the list of instructions she finds taped inside the drain.

Only Em can complete the final instruction. She’s tried everything to prevent the creation of a time machine that will tear the world apart. She holds the proof: a list she has never seen before, written in her own hand. Each failed attempt in the past has led her to the same terrible present—imprisoned and tortured by a sadistic man called the doctor while war rages outside.

Marina has loved her best friend, James, since they were children. A gorgeous, introverted science prodigy from one of America’s most famous families, James finally seems to be seeing Marina in a new way, too. But on one disastrous night, James’s life crumbles, and with it, Marina’s hopes for their future. Marina will protect James, no matter what. Even if it means opening her eyes to a truth so terrible that she may not survive it… at least, not as the girl she once was. Em and Marina are in a race against time that only one of them can win.

All Our Yesterdays is a wrenching, brilliantly plotted story of fierce love, unthinkable sacrifice, and the infinite implications of our every choice.


I have been trying a new thing lately.  I try to jot down a few sentences of my thoughts on a book on Goodreads since it has been taking me a while to get around to writing reviews.  My notes are pretty awful, but sometimes they jog my memory about things I want to elaborate on in a review.  Well, I went back and read my Goodreads review for All Our Yesterdays and well, it is much different that what I was going to sit down and write in this review!  Upon finishing All Our Yesterdays, I mostly liked the story and thought it had interesting themes, though it didn’t wow me.  A typical good, but not great sort of feeling/rating from me.  Looking back on it now, all I can think is that it wasn’t very special at all and that I remember next to nothing about it.  It’s kind of like I didn’t even read it.  So.  That’s a depressing sum up of my feelings, but yeah, I think this is worth checking out from the library if like the idea of a smash up of time travel, dystopia, and YA romance.  Otherwise, skip it.  Or read it and completely forget everything about it 3 weeks later.

This has been my short and somewhat scathing review of a book I supposedly liked.


The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian- Sherman Alexie

Junior is a 14 year old boy growing up on the Spokane Indian reservation.  When he realizes that his only chance to improve his life comes from leaving the reservation, he transfers to a white high school off the res.  The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is Junior’s story as he deals with finding his identity as he moves between two worlds.  He is neither Indian nor white.  It makes it hard for him to fit in on the res (his old best friend feels abandoned) and it takes a long while for him to make friends at his new school.

This book offers a great depiction of life in some of the poorest parts of the United States– Indian reservations.  The issues of poverty and widespread alcoholism wind their way through the book; Junior’s life is impacted in big ways by both.  Sometimes he doesn’t get dinner.  Getting to school 22 miles away is a challenge when gas prices are up.  Alcoholism destroys the lives of several of the people closest to Junior.  I really appreciated this peek into modern res life because it isn’t something that I’ve had personal experience with or have seen much in literature.

This is a very “boy” book, if there is such a thing.  There is talk about masturbation and erections, as well as other “boyish” topics like farting and basketball.  Junior is pretty unapologetic about it all, too.  I, for one, liked that these topics were included– they made Junior seem like an actual, honest teenage boy.  Just keep in mind that you are dealing with a teenage boy narrator here, something I’m not sure that would appeal to everyone.

I listened to this on audiobook narrated by the author, who turns out to be an excellent narrator.  I’m pretty big on accents in audiobooks and Alexie has that reservation Indian accent that I’m not sure I really realized existed (outside of stereotype) until listening to this whole book.  Accents really lend an authenticity to the story for me and give me something I can’t easily imitate when reading, so this was a huge highlight for me.  However, it seems that the print version of the book includes cartoons which you don’t get with an audiobook (obviously).  I feel like this audiobook might be good for a reread or to be read in conjunction with the book.  I hear the cartoons are great and I hate that I missed out on them.  One day I’ll track this down and read it properly!

Overall, I really enjoyed this book.  It had both funny and sad moments in it and it offered an interesting depiction of contemporary Native American life and identity.  If you are looking for a male narrator who isn’t white (!), I’d highly recommend you check this out.

Okay for Now- Gary D. Schmidt

Goodreads summary:

“The Dump” is what Doug Swieteck calls his new home in upstate New York. He lands there in the summer of 1968, when the Apollo space missions are under way, Joe Pepitone is slugging for the New York Yankees, and the Vietnam War is raging. At home he lives with a father who has lost his way and a brother accused of robbery. And Doug’s oldest brother is returning from Vietnam. Who knows what wounds his missions have given him?

But Doug has his own mission, too, and it begins when he first sees the plates of John James Audubon’s Birds of America at the local library. His mission will lead him to Lil Spicer, who shows him how to drink a really cold Coke, to Mrs. Windermere, who drags him to a theater opening, and to the customers of his Saturday grocery deliveries, who together will open a world as strange to him as the lunar landscape.

Swieteck, who first appeared in Gary D. Schmidt’s Newbery Honor book The Wednesday Wars, will discover the transforming power of art over disaster in a story about creativity and loss, love and recovery, and survival

I listened to Okay for Now on audiobook read by Lincoln Hoppe.  Hoppe is the perfect narrator for this story.  He’s got the right sort of accent for a kid from Long Island and he nails the tone of all the rhetorical questions Doug peppers his story with.  This was also a great audiobook experience because the story is pretty linear… no jumping between characters or times or places.

Doug Swieteck (who I kept accidentally calling Todd for some reason) is such a great character.  His jerk of a father uproots the family from their home in Long Island to take a job at a paper mill in stupid Marysville, New York (Doug’s words, not mine) in the summer of 1968.  Doug is stuck trying to battle the negative impressions people have of him because of his twisted criminal brother and his drunk, abusive, loud-mouth father.  He has several devastating secrets.  And not so secretly, he’s poor and can be a smart ass.  But in spite of all those things stacked up against him, Doug manages to create a life for himself in Marysville.  He makes friends, he discovers his talents, works hard at school, and discovers the amazing community around him.  His resilience was pretty incredible.  I, like the citizens in Marysville, couldn’t help but love this boy.  I cried for him.  I laughed with him.  My heart swelled when good things happened for him and broke when bad things happened.

My only complaint is that the heartwrenching beauty of the book diminishes as the book goes on.  Nearly everyone ends up with a happy ending, some of which involve over-the-top scenarios, melodramatic circumstances, and bending a character or two until they are almost broken.  I was thrilled that Doug got a happy ending, but I am not sure it was the appropriate ending for this story.

Still, I think this a really great book and would highly recommend it to anyone who likes well-done child characters and coming-of-age/into-one’s-own stories.  It will have you both laughing and tearing up!

Bonus Points*

  1. Baseball– Doug is a big Yankees fan (booooo) and will often drop baseball stats into the story.  He also will describe his life in stats.  As a baseball fan, this was a pretty endearing part of the story.
  2. Audubon– I’m not sure if the Audubon paintings are included in the print edition of this book, but I had to google all of them just to get an image of them.  Schmidt does a nice job of using the different birds to symbolize different stages in Doug’s life.
  3. The language–  Doug has a very particular way of speaking and there are certain phrases he uses repeatedly (“stupid Marysville, New York” or “my brother’s twisted criminal mind” for example) and this really makes his character come to life.  I’m not lying, it’s pretty great.  (that’s another of his, too.)

Other Reviews:
The Librarian Who Doesn’t Say Shhh! inspired me to pick this one up and I’m so glad I did!

*I am borrowing this little feature from Candice at The Grown-Up YA because it is an awesome way to share some random tidbits about a book!