YA Weekend: Audiobook Review Bites

One of my unofficial reading resolutions of 2016 is to catch up with (and in some cases, complete) all the Young Adult series I started over the years. On some level, I want this goal to remain a fun, relaxing, no-stress pastime between my review books, but it may also be my most ambitious challenge yet. I know sometimes I call it my guilty pleasure, but I do love YA, I do. It’s a love that I can’t quit, and with so many excellent new YA titles and series to discover this year, I really should work harder on cleaning up my backlist YA TBR.

Gathering Darkness audioGathering Darkness by Morgan Rhodes
Genre: 
Young Adult, Fantasy
Series: Book 3 of Falling Kingdoms
Publisher: Listening Library (12/9/14)
Author Information: Website | Twitter
Narrator: Fred Berman
Mogsy’s Rating (Overall) : 3 of 5 stars

Speaking of not being able to quit, the Falling Kingdoms series by Morgan Rhodes is one of the most addictive YA series I’ve ever read, even if does have its ups and downs. Mostly I love it for its fantasy setting and the huge number of characters it follows. If you like twisty relationship dynamics and perhaps prefer something more than your usual love triangle, you might want to try this one on for size. This series has also been called the “Game of Thrones” of YA, and even though I’d take that comparison with a grain of salt, there’s no denying that the flavor of court intrigue you find in Falling Kingdoms is a lot more complex than what you’d find in your typical run-of-the-mill YA novel.

Perhaps my one beef with this specific installment is how nothing of real import seems to happen for the first three-quarters of the novel, and then the last 25% is a deluge of momentous events and crazy plot developments. Still, there were other things I enjoyed a lot, like the introduction of Ashur and Amara, the royal Kraeshian siblings. For the most part though, the brooding Prince Magnus is still brooding, the Watchers are still watching, the rebels are still rebelling, and Lucia can’t stop making dumb decisions. And apparently everyone and their brother has discovered in themselves a burning passionate love for Princess Cleo. Seriously, this girl gets all the boys.

Fred Berman continues to do a great job reading the audiobooks, even though I was initially skeptical of the studio’s choice of him as narrator. I still think a female narrator or a multi-cast production would have been better, but I confess Berman’s sexy Prince Magnus voice is slowly growing on me. Oops, did I just say that out loud?

3stars

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The Winner's Crime audiobookThe Winner’s Crime by Marie Rutkoski
Genre: 
Young Adult, Fantasy
Series: Book 2 of The Winner’s Trilogy
Publisher: Listening Library (3/3/15)
Author Information: Website | Twitter
Narrator: Justine Eyre
Mogsy’s Rating (Overall) : 2.5 of 5 stars

In retrospect, I really should have waited until the third and last book was out before I read this. The problem with The Winner’s Crime is that in the areas the book does well it does VERY well, but where it was bad it was truly a struggle.

This was a series I first started because I was drawn to my weakness: Forbidden Love. I now know I have no one to blame but myself, because ultimately I expected something from this series that it was in no position to deliver. Even the first book had me doubting that this was the kind of story I was looking for, because can a general’s daughter and a slave of a nation that her people conquered truly find happiness together?  In the first book, Lady Kestral and Arin probably spent more than half the time locked in bitter conflict with each other, but I was hoping more feeling would spark between them in book two. Sad to say, it didn’t really happen. What we did get were more lies, more secrets, more obfuscation. Clearly, these two can never be honest with each other, even if they think they have the other’s best interests at heart. I wanted so badly to reach into the book and knock their stubborn, clueless heads together.

Why do some YA couples work for me and some don’t? This is where I get all marriage counselor-like and ask myself, can I picture these two characters still together and happy in ten years? All I see is disaster for Kestral and Arin. There is no chemistry between them beyond the delicious scandal which would explode if the two of them get discovered. It occurred to me, this dynamic just didn’t work for me as much as I’d hoped. And unfortunately, this was the central focus of The Winner’s Crime. Kestral does try her hand at being a spy and ends up being really clumsy at it, but I could hardly blame her for it when this part of the plot itself was oversimple and superficial. Romance was all this book had going for it, and it kind of fumbled–that’s what disappointed me most. It’s hard to believe I’m actually calling for more romance in a YA novel, but there you have it. I’ll probably read the last book just for completion’s sake, though I do have doubts that Kestral and Arin will miraculously get their acts together for the final volume. Still, I hope to be surprised.

2-5stars

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End of DaysEnd of Days by Susan Ee
Genre: 
Young Adult, Fantasy
Series: Book 3 of Penryn & the End of Days
Publisher: Brilliance Audio (5/12/15)
Author Information: Website | Twitter
Narrator: Caitlin Davies
Mogsy’s Rating (Overall) : 3 of 5 stars

I was very happy I got to finally read this concluding volume and finish the Penryn & the End of Days trilogy, which all began with the very awesome Angelfall. To be sure, it was a good ending, with a lot of cheering and crying to be had. And yet, I can’t deny there is a part of me that remains somewhat underwhelmed.

This was the explosive finale, and I wanted nothing more than to love it. We have Penryn and Raffe on the run, both driven by the same goals. Still, despite their growing feelings for each other, theirs is a precarious alliance. We all know that humans and angels cannot coexist, and sooner or later, our characters are going to reach a turning point and each of them will have to choose which path to take. The stage was set for great things.

And yet, the story faltered by falling back on predictable outcomes and overused tropes. Not to mention, the events in the climax and ending felt forced and the whole book felt rushed. There’s just so much crammed in here and we’re shuffled through it all at breakneck speed. (Interestingly, I only found out recently that this series was originally intended to be five books, before it was amended to become a trilogy, and I can’t help but wonder if that might that have had something to do with the state of this novel.) I’m also disappointed at the lack of answers. There’s no attempt to even try and fill in the mythology, likely because the author didn’t want to bring God into the picture, so the result is this awkward dance around the issue. It gets even more confusing when we’re suddenly introduced to a hellish realm where a lot of the action in this book takes place. I don’t think I would have minded the lack of answers so much if this book hadn’t hurled even more questions at us that never really get explained.

Overall, this wasn’t a bad conclusion. Could the book have been better? Sure. But it had its moments and on the whole I enjoyed myself. I will say though, the way this trilogy started was much stronger than the way it ended. My rating did fall with each subsequent book, but it’s also true I’ve become a lot pickier about my YA and I am far more demanding than I was two and half years ago when I first read Angelfall. Regardless, I’ll still always remember how impressed I was with Susan Ee’s debut. If or when she writes another novel, I am so there.

3stars

Mogsy 2

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13 Comments on “YA Weekend: Audiobook Review Bites

  1. It seems like you’re doing great with catching up on series.

    I’m glad you still enjoyed End of Days – it was a complete miss for me, especially because it really felt like it was all over the place + a lot of the violence seemed unnecessary. I didn’t know the series was supposed to be longer but it does explain some things. Poor author, it must have been awful to stuff everything into one book.

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    • I thought End of Days was okay, which actually translates to a let down considering how much I loved Angelfall. I imagine a lot of stuff had to be cut or pared down to make it a trilogy, maybe that explains why the scattered storyline!

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  2. I really need to work on cleaning up my YA backlist as well. I’m doing a little better at reading those titles this year, but I still feel like the pile is pretty large.

    I’ve never heard of the Falling Kingdoms series. It sounds interesting though.

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    • There’s WAY too many YA series I have left abandoned/hanging. Most of them I actually want to follow through with, I just have to be more discerning before jumping into new series in the future, or this will be a neverending challenge 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This is really weird. I was sure I’d read the final book in the Penryn series…I remember the stuff about Hell and oh yes the concert… and yet I don’t have it reviewed or even marked off as read…hmm

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  4. I was hoping for greatness with the Angelfall series – I’ve only read the first and I agree – I want a grand finale ending! Still I have to finish the series now.
    Lynn 😀

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  5. The first Winner’s book didn’t work for me, but I admit to still being curious about the second one. I’m glad to read your review. I’ve been trying not to get sucked into reading it. 🙂

    I’m a little disappointed to hear the Susan Ee series didn’t end so great. I’ve been meaning to start that one for ages. Like you, everyone seemed to really enjoy Angelfall.

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  6. Pingback: Audiobook News & Reviews: 2/11-2/22 | ListenUp Audiobooks

  7. Pingback: Mogsy’s Bookshelf Roundup: Stacking the Shelves & Recent Reads | The BiblioSanctum

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