Book Review: Calvin by Martine Leavitt

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An emotionally charged story about finding yourself — even when your mind is working against you, Calvin by Martine Leavitt is as much a look at a love, life and mental illness, as it is a love letter to the beloved Calvin & Hobbes comic strip.

calvinIn this latest novel from National Book Award finalist Martine Leavitt, a schizophrenic teen believes that Bill Watterson can save him from his illness if he creates one more Calvin & Hobbes comic strip.

Seventeen-year-old Calvin has always known his fate is linked to the comic book character from Calvin & Hobbes. He was born on the day the last strip was published; his grandpa left a stuffed tiger named Hobbes in his crib; and he even has a best friend named Susie. As a child Calvin played with the toy Hobbes, controlling his every word and action, until Hobbes was washed to death. But now Calvin is a teenager who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, Hobbes is back—as a delusion—and Calvin can’t control him. Calvin decides that if he can convince Bill Watterson to draw one final comic strip, showing a normal teenaged Calvin, he will be cured. Calvin and Susie (and Hobbes) set out on a dangerous trek across frozen Lake Erie to track him down.

Leavitt’s narrative is packed with tension, as unreliable narrator Calvin questions just how much of what is happening to him is real and how much is a delusion caused by his schizophrenia. But even while you doubt his credibility, you trust that his heart is in the right place and that his emotions are genuine, even if his account of factual events may be questionable.

A large part of the book’s charm is its ode to the beloved Calvin & Hobbes comic strip and creator Bill Watterson. Leavitt gives her Calvin his very own Hobbes, his very own Susie, and his very own adventures — but its the tribute to such a well-known and beloved series that really shines through.

But as much as the book is a tribute to Watterson’s comic, Calvin is very much a story about mental illness and how it affects one individual. On the whole, this is a relatively fluffy and light story about mental illness — Calvin doesn’t veer too far into a dark place, and the story never delves too deeply into the consequences of his illness or how it affects (or will affect) his life. But you do see how it agonizes him; how his diagnosis triggers a desire to be “normal.” It’s heartbreaking, and yet it barely scratches the surface of the mental illness discussion.

Calvin is, on the whole, a sweet story with a charming premise. Though it touches on some heavy subject matter, it never delves too deep, keeping the book as a whole a fairly light, breezy read. It is in stores November 17th.

Exclusive Q&A with Hotel Ruby author Suzanne Young: Part 2

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Today we bring you part 2 of our three-part exclusive Q&A with Hotel Ruby author Suzanne Young. If you missed it, catch part 1 here.

Suzanne Young2While billed as a standalone, do you see yourself ever coming back to the Ruby and writing other stories within this universe?

It is nice to wrap up the story in one book. But to be honest, I wouldn’t mind revisiting the Ruby again. I’m sure there are still quite a few secrets in the walls.

Switching gears a little bit, let’s talk about your PROGRAM series. The fourth book in that series — the second of your prequels — comes out next year. Do you have any plans for more stories set in that Program, Theuniverse?

I’m really excited for THE EPIDEMIC in spring! It will tie THE REMEDY and THE PROGRAM together really well, and we’ll see an end to Quinn and Deacon’s story.

But also exciting, I just announced a new series coming out in spring of 17 starting with THE ADJUSTMENT. It will be set after THE TREATMENT—so The Program is no more—but it asks the question: what happened to all of the patients who were erased? What are their lives like now?

They’re outcasts. A new company is developed and they offer Adjustments—a way to put memories back in (very Total Recall). But memory is a matter of perspective. So when the main character wants her boyfriend to remember their shared past, she doesn’t realize that what she thinks they had might be the idealized version…

Can you tell us anything about what you’re working on now?

I’m drafting THE ADJUSTMENT and I’m starting edits on a fall book called ALL IN PIECES. It’s a heartbreaking contemporary that I’ve been waiting years to publish. I’m… I’m actually breathless when I think about it. I absolutely love and hurt for it.

Don’t miss part 3 of our Q&A on Friday!

Holiday Shopping Guide: What book do you give?

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The holiday shopping season is well upon us — and if there’s a book lover in your life, you’re probably facing the on-going question of WHAT BOOK do you buy them for a gift?

Well, firstly — we have a non-book gift guide for book lovers available here, and a new one coming next week.

But if you really want to fill their stockings with books — then we are here to help.

Using the form below, tell us what books (or what kinds of books) the person you’re shopping for loves (BE AS SPECIFIC AS POSSIBLE), and their age range (if appropriate, like for teens and younger readers). Be sure to include a working email address, and we’ll send you a personalized list of recommended titles!

New YA Releases: November 10, 2015

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Here’s a look at today’s new YA releases:

consentConsent by Nancy Ohlin

In this sexy and intriguing novel, an intense—and passionate—bond between a high school senior and her music teacher becomes a public scandal that threatens the reputation of both.

Bea has a secret.

Actually, she has more than one. There’s her dream for the future that she can’t tell anyone—not her father and not even her best friend, Plum.

And now there’s Dane Rossi. Dane is hot, he shares Bea’s love of piano, and he believes in her.

He’s also Bea’s teacher.

When their passion for music crosses into passion for each other, Bea finds herself falling completely for Dane. She’s never felt so wanted, so understood, so known to her core. But the risk of discovery carries unexpected surprises that could shake Bea entirely. Bea must piece together what is and isn’t true about Dane, herself, and the most intense relationship she’s ever experienced in this absorbing novel from Nancy Ohlin, the author of Beauty.

august 5The August 5 by Jenna Helland

In this debut novel, two worlds collide amid clashes of power, honor, and what it truly means to be brave.

Tommy Shore is the son of the most important man on Aeren—a high-ranking politician who wants nothing more than to take away all of the rights of the lower-class cottagers. Tamsin Henry is the daughter of a revolutionary man who has hopes of overthrowing the corrupt politicians, also called the Zunft, the group that holds all the power in this world.

The two sides clash when Tommy rescues Tamsin during the August Rising, a cottager attack organized by a group of rebels known as the August Five. He starts to question the motives of the Zunft and realizes that it will take all of his resolve to stand up to his father and fight for the rights of those who have none.

if onlyIf Only by Richard Paul Evans

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Christmas Box and The Mistletoe Promise comes a novel filled with hope and redemption about two teens who turn to each other to find trust and love.

If only I could stay with you forever. I would.

Eric is having a hard time adjusting to his family’s move from California to Utah. Then he meets Grace – his classmate and a runaway – dumpster diving behind the burger joint where he works. Eric decides the only thing to do is to hide Grace in the clubhouse in his backyard.

With the adults concerned about the looming Cuban Missile Crisis and his father recovering from an immune disorder, Eric grows closer to Grace but can their new relationship survive the harsh realities of life?

In this poignant, sensitive, and realistic narrative, Richard Paul Evans shares Grace&amp’s heartbreaking predicament and Eric’s realization that everything is not as simple as it might appear.

young widows clubYoung Widows Club by Alexandra Coutts

For seventeen-year-old Tam, running off to marry her musician boyfriend is the ideal escape from her claustrophobic high-school life on the island, and the ultimate rebellion against her father and stepmother. But when Tam becomes a widow just weeks later, the shell-shocked teen is forced to find her way forward by going back to the life she thought she’d moved beyond—even as her struggle to deal with her grief is forcing her to reinvent herself and reach out to others in ways she never imagined.

da vinci's tigerDa Vinci’s Tiger by L. M. Elliott

Young, beautiful, and witty, Ginevra de’ Benci longs to take part in the artistic ferment of Renaissance Florence. But as the daughter of a wealthy family in a society dictated by men, she is trapped in an arranged marriage, expected to limit her creativity to domestic duties. Her poetry reveals her deepest feelings, and she aches to share her work, to meet painters and sculptors mentored by the famed Lorenzo de Medici, and to find love.

When the charismatic Venetian ambassador, Bernardo Bembo, arrives in Florence, he introduces Ginevra to a dazzling circle of patrons, artists, and philosophers—a world of thought and conversation she has yearned for. She is instantly attracted to the handsome newcomer, who admires her mind as well as her beauty. Yet Ginevra remains conflicted about his attentions. Choosing her as his Platonic muse, Bembo commissions a portrait by a young Leonardo da Vinci. Posing for the brilliant painter inspires an intimate connection between them—one Ginevra can only begin to understand. In a rich and enthralling world of exquisite art, elaborate feasts, and exhilarating jousts, she faces many temptations to discover her voice, artistic companionship, and a love that defies categorization. In the end, she and Leonardo are caught up in a dangerous and deadly battle between powerful families.

winterWinter by Marissa Meyer

Princess Winter is admired by the Lunar people for her grace and kindness, and despite the scars that mar her face, her beauty is said to be even more breathtaking than that of her stepmother, Queen Levana.

Winter despises her stepmother, and knows Levana won’t approve of her feelings for her childhood friend–the handsome palace guard, Jacin. But Winter isn’t as weak as Levana believes her to be and she’s been undermining her stepmother’s wishes for years. Together with the cyborg mechanic, Cinder, and her allies, Winter might even have the power to launch a revolution and win a war that’s been raging for far too long.

Can Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Winter defeat Levana and find their happily ever afters?

darkness hiddenDarkness Hidden by Zoe Marriott

Against all odds, Mio has defeated the evil Nekomata and seen her love, Shinobu, restored to life. But in the wake of the battle, Mio’s unsettling connection to the katana—an ancient sword her family has been compelled to guard for generations—has grown more frightening. And now the Underworld has sent the Shikome—foul women whose feathers carry death—to spread a supernatural plague through London. With her best friend in the hospital, Shinobu’s very existence at risk, and the city in chaos, Mio realizes there is no way she can keep everyone she loves alive. What terrible sacrifice must she make to save the world?

autumn's kissAutumn’s Kiss by Bella Thorne

Everyone knows how crazy junior year is, but Autumn Falls never imagined it would be so flirty. The wish-granting diary her father left her stopped working, leaving Autumn to decode what’s going on with her and Sean on her own. He seems into her . . . and he also seems into Reenzie. And when JJ steps up and tells Autumn he’s the one she should be with if she wants someone who really cares about her and a pop star makes a major play for her, Autumn is totally confused. Her friends have Big Drama issues going on too, and Autumn wants to be there for them. Then something mind-blowing happens. She’s suddenly given an incredible crazy-fun opportunity: a map that takes her anyplace she wants to go. At first it seems like an amazing gift. But showing up IRL where you’re least expected has life-changing consequences. Is Autumn ready to handle the fallout?

for the recordFor the Record by Charlotte Huang

Chelsea thought she knew what being a rock star was like… until she became one. After losing a TV talent show, she slid back into small-town anonymity. But one phone call changed everything

Now she’s the lead singer of the band Melbourne, performing in sold-out clubs every night and living on a bus with three gorgeous and talented guys. The bummer is that the band barely tolerates her. And when teen heartthrob Lucas Rivers take an interest in her, Chelsea is suddenly famous, bringing Melbourne to the next level—not that they’re happy about that. Her feelings for Beckett, Melbourne’s bassist, are making life even more complicated.

Chelsea only has the summer tour to make the band—and their fans—love her. If she doesn’t, she’ll be back in Michigan for senior year, dying a slow death. The paparazzi, the haters, the grueling schedule… Chelsea believed she could handle it. But what if she can’t?

soundlessSoundless by Richelle Mead

From Richelle Mead, the #1 internationally bestselling author of Vampire Academy and Bloodlines, comes a breathtaking new fantasy steeped in Chinese folklore.

For as long as Fei can remember, there has been no sound in her village, where rocky terrain and frequent avalanches prevent residents from self-sustaining. Fei and her people are at the mercy of a zipline that carries food up the treacherous cliffs from Beiguo, a mysterious faraway kingdom.

When villagers begin to lose their sight, deliveries from the zipline shrink and many go hungry. Fei’s home, the people she loves, and her entire existence is plunged into crisis, under threat of darkness and starvation.

But soon Fei is awoken in the night by a searing noise, and sound becomes her weapon.

Richelle Mead takes readers on a triumphant journey from the peak of Fei’s jagged mountain village to the valley of Beiugo, where a startling truth and an unlikely romance will change her life forever…

serendipity's footstepsSerendipity’s Footsteps by Suzanne Nelson

From Nazi Germany to a modern-day orphanage in the American South, three girls separated by decades and thousands of miles are about to give up when a single pair of shoes binds them all together.

Dalya is the daughter of a cobbler in 1930s Berlin, and though she is only fifteen, she knows she will follow in her father’s footsteps. When she is forced into a concentration camp one violent November night, she must leave behind everything she knew and loved.

Ray is a modern-day orphan, jagged around the edges in every possible way. She sees an impulsive escape to New York as her only chance at happiness; there, she knows she’ll be able to convert her sorrows into songs.

Pinny is an unwavering optimist and Ray’s unintended travel companion on her passage to a new life. She inherited from her eccentric mother a fascination with shoes as a means of transformation and expression.

A single pair of shoes entwines these lives. How these women connect across different times and places is an unforgettable story of strength, love, bravery, memory, and the serendipity that binds us all together.

all the major constellationsAll the Major Constellations by Pratima Cranse

Laura Lettel is the most beautiful girl in the world. . . and Andrew’s not-so-secret infatuation.

Now he’s leaving high school behind and looking ahead to a fresh start at college and distance from his obsessive crush. But when a terrible accident leaves him without the companionship of his two best friends, Andrew is cast adrift and alone—until Laura unexpectedly offers him comfort, friendship, and the support of a youth group of true believers, fundamentalist Christians with problems and secrets of their own. Andrew is curiously drawn to their consuming beliefs, but why? Is it only to get closer to Laura? And is Laura genuinely interested in Andrew, or is she just trying to convert him?

This provocative and compelling debut novel will resonate deeply with readers as it explores questions of identity, sexuality, and spirituality.

this way homeThis Way Home by Shawn Goodman & Wes Moore

One young man searches for a place to call home in this gut-wrenching, honest novel from New York Times bestselling author Wes Moore with Shawn Goodman.

Elijah Thomas knows one thing better than anyone around him: basketball. At seventeen, he’s earned the reputation of a top-level player, one who steps onto the court ready for battle, whether it’s a neighborhood pickup game or a tournament championship.

What Elijah loves most about the game is its predictability: if he and his two best friends play hard and follow the rules, their team will win. And this formula has held true all way up to the summer before their senior year of high school, when a sinister street gang, Blood Street Nation, wants them to wear the Nation’s colors in the next big tournament.

The boys gather their courage and take a stand against the gang, but at a terrible cost. Now Elijah must struggle to balance hope and fear, revenge and forgiveness, to save his neighborhood. For help, he turns to the most unlikely of friends: Banks, a gruff ex-military man, and his beautiful and ambitious daughter. Together, the three work on a plan to destroy Blood Street and rebuild the community they all call home.

This Way Home is a story about reclamation. It’s about taking a stand for what matters most, and the discovery that, in the end, hope, love, and courage are our most powerful weapons.

unforgivenUnforgiven by Lauren Kate

High school can be hell.

Cam knows what it’s like to be haunted. He’s spent more time in Hell than any angel ever should. And his freshest Hell is high school, where Lilith, the girl he can’t stop loving, is serving out a punishment for his crimes.

Cam made a bet with Lucifer: he has fifteen days to convince the only girl who really matters to him to love him again. If he succeeds, Lilith will be allowed back into the world, and they can live their lives together. But if he fails…there’s a special place in Hell just for him.


Spread your wings and cry as bad boy dark angel Cam finally reveals his anguished heart in the epic new FALLEN novel, UNFORGIVEN.

triple moonTriple Moon: Summer on East End by Melissa de la Cruz

After they cause a terrible accident at their old high school, twin witches Mardi and Molly Overbrook are sent to live with their “Aunt” Ingrid Beauchamp in North Hampton, on Long Island’s mist-shrouded East End. Because the twins cannot control their powers, their father begs Ingrid to tame them over the summer, before the White Council exiles the girls to Limbo.

Trouble continues to bubble and boil when the girls meet the younger Gardiner boys, who are just as handsome and sexy as their older kin. But all is not as it seems. As Ingrid helps the girls learn to control their magical impulses, Mardi and Molly have just this summer to figure out how to grow up, how to love, and how to be a family.

dangerous liesDangerous Lies by Becca Fitzpatrick

A teen is forced to make a fresh start after witnessing a violent crime—but love and danger find her anyway in this novel from Becca Fitzpatrick, the New York Times bestselling author of the Hush, Hush saga.

Stella Gordon is not her real name. Thunder Basin, Nebraska, is not her real home. This is not her real life.

After witnessing a lethal crime, Stella Gordon is sent to the middle of nowhere for her own safety before she testifies against the man she saw kill her mother’s drug dealer.

But Stella was about to start her senior year with the boyfriend she loves. How can she be pulled away from the only life she knows and expected to start a new one in Nebraska? Stella chafes at her protection and is rude to everyone she meets. She’s not planning on staying long, so why be friendly? Then she meets Chet Falconer and it becomes harder to keep her guard up, even as her guilt about having to lie to him grows.

As Stella starts to feel safer, the real threat to her life increases—because her enemies are actually closer than she thinks…

For the comments: Which of today’s new releases are you most excited about?

Novel Novice Junior Picture Book Review: Sharing the Bread by Pat Zietlow Miller & Jill McElmurry

Today’s Novel Novice Junior book review is the perfect title to share with your little ones this upcoming Thanksgiving.

sharing the breadSharing the Bread by Pat Zietlow Miller and Jill McElmurry tells the story of a 19th century family preparing their Thanksgiving feast, and despite the passage of centuries, shows readers that not so much has changed when it comes to how we celebrate.

Beautifully illustrated, each page is rich with lively images that bring to life the rhyming passages perfect for reading aloud. Sharing the Bread is a timeless story about an American tradition: in which families stop their usual hustle and bustle for one day to prepare and share a meal together.

Whether your Thanksgiving feast still resembles the traditional fare featured in Sharing the Bread, or is something more unique and different, the message of the book still rings true: that Thanksgiving is a day to be thankful, and share time and food with your loved ones.

Sharing the Bread is in stores now. Here is the official synopsis:

Celebrate food and family with this heartwarming Thanksgiving picture book. We will share the risen bread. / Our made-with-love Thanksgiving spread. / Grateful to be warm and fed. / We will share the bread. In this spirited ode to the holiday, set at the turn of the twentieth century, a large family works together to make their special meal. Mama prepares the turkey, Daddy tends the fire, Sister kneads, and Brother bastes. Everyone—from Grandma and Grandpa to the littlest baby—has a special job to do. Told in spare, rhythmic verse and lively illustrations, Sharing the Bread is a perfect read-aloud to celebrate the Thanksgiving tradition.

Exclusive Q&A with Hotel Ruby author Suzanne Young: Part 1

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Today we are delighted to kick-off our three-part exclusive interview with Hotel Ruby author Suzanne Young. Thanks for stopping by, Suz!

hotel rubyI always love hearing your “origin stories” for your books. What was the idea that sparked HOTEL RUBY?

I’d wanted to write a YA version of the song Hotel California. After staying in a creepy hotel in San Francisco, I was truly inspired. First, I was put on practically abandoned floor with moving boxes in the hallway. Then my room was set in an old-fashioned style while my friends’ rooms on another floor was modern and fine. And when I went to leave the room, the hallway was so eerily quiet, it was suffocating. By the end of that weekend, I had a full synopsis.

Suzanne Young2I know you’ve dabbled in horror before (especially with your adult e-book THE WILLING), but this is your first time writing horror for YA. How did you approach writing HOTEL RUBY?

I think at first I planned to go all-out horror, but as I wrote the book, I ended up adding so much emotion and grief that it became less about the scares and more about the character’s journey.

Did anything surprise you while writing HOTEL RUBY?

I loved the main character’s backstory with her ex-boyfriend. It came from a real place, and on the page, I think it feels very real. It added an unexpected depth to the character.

Tune in on Wednesday for part 2 of our Q&A!

October 2015 Contest Winners

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Since we’re officially a week into November, it’s time to announce our October 2015 contest winners!

Illuminae Contest


After posting our review of this stunning new YA science fiction novel, we invited you to enter to win a free copy of the book!

The winner is Dan Denman.

Voyagers Contest

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For this contest, we’re giving away a Voyagers series prize pack.

The winner is Toby Price.

Halloween Reads

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We shared our picks & invited you to share your recommendations for Halloween reading material, and offered up a couple of great books and some swag for the winner.

And that winner is Natasha Schumacher.

What We Left Behind Contest

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For this contest, we offered up one copy of What We Left Behind.

The winner is Katherine Ivan

Waterfire Saga Giveaway

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We invited you to discover Jennifer Donnelly’s Waterfire Saga, and offered up a prize pack including all three books and their matching custom nail polishes.

The winner is Juana Esparza.

Magnus Chase Contest

To celebrate the release of Rick Riordan’s newest book Magnus Chase & the Gods of Asgard, we offered up one copy to a lucky winner!

That winner is Maria Mitchell.

Poet Anderson … Of Nightmares Contest

Poet Anderson Week

To celebrate the release of Poet Anderson … Of Nightmares by Tom DeLonge and Suzanne Young, we offered up a prize pack including a signed limited edition book, poster and CD.

The winner is Viki Sloboda.

Congrats to all our winners. Be sure to check out our latest contests here.

Top 10 YA Audiobooks (to Listen to in Your 2016 Buick Regal*)

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Since I recently got to try out the AMAZING new technology in the 2016 Buicks that makes listening to audiobooks on the go so much easier — not to mention Buick’s new partnership with — I thought today warranted a look at the best YA audiobooks out there for your listening pleasure. And since I don’t actually listen to a lot of audiobooks, I turned to my good friend Lauren, who listens to them voraciously! Today, she stops by with this guest post to share HER favorite YA audiobooks (plus, a few adult audiobooks, too).

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I fought audiobooks for a long time. I would get super drowsy when I’d listen and drive, and nothing really captivated me. That all changed a few years ago when, at the start of a month-long road trip, a friend whose book opinion I trust gave me a whole series of audiobooks for the drive. Figuring it couldn’t hurt to try once again, especially with such strong encouragement, I dug in. And it has completely changed my reading life.

buick viewsI don’t say that lightly! I’m head of the book department for, a site that covers all sorts of scifi and fantasy goodness, and so I’m always getting ARCs to read. But what do I do about other books, books on my to-read list that keep getting pushed further down the pile due to the ever-increasing ARC influx? Audiobooks.

What makes a good audiobook? Obviously the story needs to be captivating to you, but I think things like distinct and consistent accents for each and every character, alternating male and female narrators for books that have different POV, good pacing, consistency of narrators in series, and narrators who really show emotion in their voice, these are all things that add an extra level to audiobooks.

I’ve listened to 45 audiobooks this year so far (new and old releases alike). So many of them were amazing, but I wanted to share the books and series that really captivated me as a listener, not just with the story.

So here’s my list of some of my favorite audiobooks, in no particular order:

scorpio races1: The Scorpio Races, by Maggie Stiefvater

This book is probably the best audiobook I’ve ever listened to. There was definitely magic made between Maggie’s lyrical words and the beautiful voices of narrators Steve West and Fiona Hardingham.

ember in the ashes2: An Ember in the Ashes, by Sabaa Tahir

Holy crap, this one. One of the best things about audiobooks is that you really get to experience the story on a deeper level if it’s told well. There’s a really intense, emotional scene in this book that was absolutely horrific to listen to, in the best way possible. I couldn’t skim ahead, and it definitely added to my reading experience with this one. Narrated by Steve West and Fiona Hardingham (seeing a trend here?).

these broken stars3: The Starbound Trilogy (These Broken Stars & This Shattered World) by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner.

Two different books, three different narrators for each. Beyond alternating narrators between the POVs of the main male and female protagonists, there are weird interludes between chapters that takes listening to a higher level. I’m eagerly awaiting book 3, out in December.

throne of glass4: The Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas

Narrator Elizabeth Evans really brings Celaena and the world of this series to life with her no-nonsense way of speaking. She definitely does a great job capturing the tone of these books.

falling kingdoms5: The Falling Kingdoms series by Morgan Rhodes

I absolutely love this series, and the narration really just adds another layer of awesome to an already awesome story. Though there is only one narrator- Fred Berman – he does a fantastic job of capturing the voices of the many different important characters that make up this epic tale. The next book is out in December and it can’t come fast enough.

sabriel6: The Abhorsen Trilogy by Garth Nix.

I was late to this series, only having read it last year. But listening to it was an absolute joy, as it’s narrated by none other than actor Tim Curry. Even if you’ve read these ones I’d recommend giving them a listen. He embodies the characters in such a way that I will forever hear his voice in my head when I think of them. Seriously, these are outstanding.

The Girl of Fire and Thorns7: The Girl of Fire and Thorns series by Rae Carson.

Narrator Jennifer Ikeda miiiiight be my favorite narrator. She does an absolutely fantastic job of capturing the character voices, and I’ve listened to a lot of her stuff, including this series. Take her strong acting voice and combine it with Rae’s amazing trilogy and this is a win-win audio series.

acotar8: A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas (narrated by Jennifer Ikeda)

Seeing a narrator trend here? ;) I don’t really like fae books particularly much, but Sarah’s storytelling with Jennifer’s voice made me really love this one.

trial by fire9: The Worldwalkers series by Josephine Angelini

This was actually my first series of Josie’s, I came across Trial by Fire in my library and thought it sounded interesting. I completely fell in love with the creativity of this series, and I have since devoured Firewalker. Narrator Emma Galvin did a wonderful job keeping me connected with the characters.

uprooted10: Uprooted by Naomi Novik (narrated by Julia Emelin)

This book touches on eastern European fairy tales, and the narrator has an accent to match. Absolutely wonderful story with a great narration.

Other great audiobooks I did this year:

  • The Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard (narrated by Amanda Dolan)
  • The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson (narrated by Emily Rankin)
  • The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey (narrated by Julia Whelan)

Also enjoy reading adult stuff every once in a while? I have some extra recommendations for you as well!

The Stormlight Archive series by Brandon Sanderson (narrated by Kate Reading and Michael Kramer). These audiobooks will completely immerse you into Sanderson’s epic fantasy world. This series on audio is one of my favorites.

Anything written by Jim Butcher (seriously). He really lucked out with audiobooks. His fantasy series, The Codex Alera (narrated by Kate Reading), is phenominal, and honestly, The Harry Dresden Files are what started all of this audiobook obsession for me. They’re narrated by James Marsters (Spike from Buffy!) and he is Harry.

The All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness (narrated by Jennifer Ikeda). This series is one of the best I’ve read in a long time, and when it’s brought to life by Jennifer I am completely captivated. This is the only series I’ve ever listened to all the way through more than once.

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lauren zurchinLauren Zurchin is a photographer and the creator of the Beyond Words author fantasy charity calendar. She’s also book managing editor for You can find her at

*You can listen to these audiobooks in ANY car or on any device, we just really particularly enjoyed the experience of listening to audiobooks in our 2016 Buick Regal. And by “our,” I mean the one Buick loaned us for the weekend. 





Book Review: Hotel Ruby by Suzanne Young

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Creepy and moody, Hotel Ruby by Suzanne Young is a tension-filled story rich with atmospheric horror and intense emotions.

hotel rubyWhen Audrey Casella arrives for an unplanned stay at the grand Hotel Ruby, she’s grateful for the detour. Just months after their mother’s death, Audrey and her brother, Daniel, are on their way to live with their grandmother, dumped on the doorstep of a DNA-matched stranger because their father is drowning in his grief.

Audrey and her family only plan to stay the night, but life in the Ruby can be intoxicating, extending their stay as it provides endless distractions—including handsome guest Elias Lange, who sends Audrey’s pulse racing. However, the hotel proves to be as strange as it is beautiful. Nightly fancy affairs in the ballroom are invitation only, and Audrey seems to be the one guest who doesn’t have an invite. Instead, she joins the hotel staff on the rooftop, catching whispers about the hotel’s dark past.

The more Audrey learns about the new people she’s met, the more her curiosity grows. She’s torn in different directions—the pull of her past with its overwhelming loss, the promise of a future that holds little joy, and an in-between life in a place that is so much more than it seems…

Welcome to the Ruby.

Young has a knack for writing captivating and passionate romances, and Hotel Ruby is no exception — with the added layer of an ominous mystery that overshadows Audrey’s stay at the Ruby, and her budding relationship with the enigmatic Elias.

Suzanne masterfully draws out that tension and mystery, peeling back each layer just a little at a time — all building to a stunning and unexpected reveal that really changes the game and makes you rethink every moment in the book. It’s clever, intense, and brilliantly executed.

Described by the author herself as “The Shining meets ‘Hotel California,'” that apt description just scratches the surface of what Hotel Ruby has to offer its readers. Stay tonight or stay forever, your stay within the pages of Hotel Ruby will be well-spent. The book is in stores now.

Top 8 Features in the 2016 Buick Regal

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During our recent trip to Big Sur, California — during which my husband and I got to enjoy a relaxing weekend away, all while testing out Buick’s new in-car technology & partnership with — we got to drive around in a 2016 Buick Regal. And while my area of expertise is more on the book end of things, there was quite a bit I loved about that car.

So as a regular driver with no special expertise in cars — here are my top 8 favorite features in the 2016 Buick Regal:

8. Apple CarPlay capability (& Android Auto coming soon!)

It's so easy to download & listen to audiobooks in the new 2016 Buicks!

Photo Credit: Buick

The compatibility between the new 2016 Buick Regal and Apple CarPlay makes synching your device — and all of its apps and functions — with your car easier than ever. And as a dedicated Android user, I was THRILLED to learn that an update in early 2016 (March-ish) will make the cars compatible with Android Auto, as well!

7. Get up & go!

curvesAdmittedly, my husband did most of the driving during our trip — mostly because he’s a bit of a motor-head and loves driving zippy cars on windy roads, and I prefer taking in the scenery and snapping photos.

So this trip — and this car — were perfect for him. Derek LOVED cruising along Highway 1, which hugs the California coast. The Regal handled the curves beautifully, never faltered getting up to speed, and overall gave us an insanely smooth ride.

6. So comfy.

buick regal interior

Photo Credit: Buick

Riding in the 2016 Buick Regal was like lounging around the house in my favorite pajamas … that is, unbelievably comfortable. Despite a sleek and sporty exterior, the interior of this car is roomy and spacious. The seats are super comfortable and supportive (I often get back issues during long drives — but not so during our 2-hour drive to Big Sur). And all-in-all, it just oozes the feel of a luxury ride … but at a reasonable price point.

5. Adaptive cruise control.

buick viewsDo you ever have those days where you’re doing a lot of driving and you just want to use cruise control to give yourself a break — but there’s too much traffic? Too many cars on the road? Speeds not consistent enough?

The new 2016 Buick has got that covered with adaptive cruise control — which speeds up and slows down according to traffic, all while maintaining a comfortable distance from the car in front of you. The car doesn’t quite drive itself … but with this feature, it almost does.

4. In-Car WiFi

buick audiobooks

Photo Credit: Buick

Every new 2016 Buick — regardless of make or model — comes standard with a built-in 4G LTE WiFi hotspot, so you’re always connected.

And the WiFi is lightning fast, too! We downloaded the entire audiobook for All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr — a 16 hour recording — in a matter of minutes, while cruising through traffic.

3. Lane. Change. Indicator. Lights.

buick regal

Photo Credit: Buick

When I first started driving the 2016 Regal, I was frustrated by the major blind spots when I went to change lanes. Until I discovered the most amazing feature: lane change indicator lights.

What are these? On each side mirror is a little light that illuminates whenever there is a car in the lane to your left or right. (The light on your left mirror illuminates when there is a car in the left lane, and vice versa.) So when you go to change lanes, you don’t NEED to look out the window and those pesky blind spots don’t matter anymore. The car tells you when it’s clear.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to swerve suddenly back into my lane because a car I didn’t see comes speeding along just as I try to change lanes. This is a feature I wish I had in my current car right now.

2. Unbelievable gas mileage.

big surMy husband and I could not BELIEVE what good gas mileage we were getting on our drive from the San Jose airport, down windy Highway 1, to Big Sur — almost 100 miles, and we barely used a quarter of a tank.

In fact, the gas mileage was SO good … we thought we were driving a hybrid. I mean, I could have SWORN it was a hybrid. Until the Buick rep assured me that while the Regal does COME in a hybrid option, we were not driving one of them.

1. The car reads books to you!

all the light_buickFor a book nerd like me, this really was the coolest feature to the Buick Regal — especially considering it is currently the only car that actually caters to book lovers. The integration of Apply CarPlay (and soon to include Android Auto, which is great news for Android users like myself) makes it easier than ever to listen to your audiobooks on the go.

With that in-car WiFi as a standard feature, it’s also easy to download new books wherever you are. Plus, with the new partnership between Buick and, you’ll get two free audiobook downloads next year!

Try it for yourself! Head on down to your local Buick dealership and ask to check out any of their 2016 models with this new technology.