Audiobook Review: Soul Surfer by Bethany Hamilton

Audiobook Review: Soul Surfer by Bethany HamiltonSoul Surfer: A True Story of Faith, Family, and Fighting to Get Back on the Board by Bethany Hamilton
Published: October 1, 2004
Narrator: Eleni Pappageorge
Audiobook Length: 3 hrs and 52 mins
Genres: Memoir, Young Adult
Source: Library

The Short, Sweet, and Spoiler-Free Blurb:

The amazing story of the thirteen-year-old surfer girl who lost her arm in a shark attack but never lost her faith -- and of her triumphant return to competitive surfing.They say Bethany Hamilton has saltwater in her veins. How else could one explain the tremendous passion that drives her to surf? How else could one explain that nothing -- not even the loss of her arm in a horrific shark attack -- could come between her and the waves?

"Soul Surfer" is a moving account of Bethany's life as a young surfer, her recovery in the wake of the shark attack, the adjustments she's made to her unique surfing style, her unprecedented bid for a top showing in the World Surfing Championships, and, most fundamentally, her belief in God. It is a story of girl power and spiritual grit that shows that the body is no more essential to surfing -- perhaps even less so -- than the soul.
3 Stars

After watching the movie Soul Surfer, I wanted to read the original biography that the movie was based on.  The story line in this book was very similar to the movie but I think I liked the movie better.  The movie focused on her struggles and overcoming them.  The book focused more on her life before and after the shark attack and what she learned from it.  If you liked the movie, the book is still definitely worth reading because it shows what an amazing person she is and how she learned from all of it.  But I feel like the book was a lot of telling about her life instead of showing us the details of what happened.  Even though it was short it made it a little difficult to get through because the writing wasn’t that great.  I felt like I connected more with the story in the movie.

At the end of the book, she also talked about the experience of making the movie which was fun to listen to.  She did all the surfing in the movie which I didn’t know until I read this.  Bethany Hamilton also talked about the history of surfing which I thought was so cool.  I could really see her passion for the sport come through in Soul Surfer.

Narrator Rating: ★★★★

The narration for this novel was great.  The narrator did an amazing job of reading this like a teenager would.  She was interesting to listen to and read at a great pace.

Overall, a great read about overcoming hardships from an inspiring teenager.

Content Rating: Mild, for non-graphic descriptions of a shark attack.

This post contains affiliate links and I receive a small percentage of sales made through these links.  

About Bethany Hamilton

Bethany Hamilton

Bethany Hamilton has become a source of inspiration to millions through her story of faith, determination, and hope. Born into a family of surfers on February 8, 1990, on the island of Kauai, Hawaii, Bethany began surfing at a young age. At the age of eight, Bethany entered her first surf competition, the Rell Sun Menehune event on Oahu, where she won both the short and long board divisions. This sparked a love for surf competition within her spirit.

At the age of thirteen, on October 31, 2003, Bethany was attacked by a 14-foot tiger shark while surfing off Kauai’s North Shore. The attack left Bethany with a severed left arm. After losing over 60% of her blood, and making it through several surgeries without infection, Bethany was on her way to recovery with an unbelievably positive attitude. Lifeguards and doctors believe her strong water sense and faith in God helped get her through the traumatic ordeal.

Miraculously, just one month after the attack, Bethany returned to the water to continue pursuing her goal to become a professional surfer.

Married at the age of 23 to Christian youth minister, Adam Dirks, Bethany has a story that is continually growing as she strives to be the best at whatever God calls her to do. The future is truly wide open for this young soul surfer!

Book Review: Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

Book Review: Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria SempleWhere'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple
Published: August 14, 2012
330 pages
Genres: Adult Fiction
Source: Library

The Short, Sweet, and Spoiler-Free Blurb:

Bernadette Fox is notorious. To her Microsoft-guru husband, she's a fearlessly opinionated partner; to fellow private-school mothers in Seattle, she's a disgrace; to design mavens, she's a revolutionary architect, and to 15-year-old Bee, she is a best friend and, simply, Mom.

Then Bernadette disappears. It began when Bee aced her report card and claimed her promised reward: a family trip to Antarctica. But Bernadette's intensifying allergy to Seattle—and people in general—has made her so agoraphobic that a virtual assistant in India now runs her most basic errands. A trip to the end of the earth is problematic.

To find her mother, Bee compiles email messages, official documents, secret correspondence—creating a compulsively readable and touching novel about misplaced genius and a mother and daughter's role in an absurd world.
5 Stars

Where’d You Go, Bernadette is a literary book that is full of witty, intelligent humor.  The voice of the teenage girl, Bee, who narrates this book is delightful and sarcastic especially about some of the crappy things that happen to her.  I love the humor of the unpopularity of Bee’s dad working at Microsoft where they are “acronym-happy (pg. 123).”  Bee has a sweet personality, too.  She is collecting letters, emails, transcripts, and blog posts in this journal that she is writing about where her mother went.  I ADORE the blog post that Bee puts in the book that is 500 words long and literally all the post says is that it’s going to rain.  Ah to love something that much that you could write 500 words about the smallest detail.

The writing is amazing in this book.  I don’t think there is a single cliche thing said in the entire book.  There’s a scene where people freeze as they stare at an argument.  But does she just say that they froze? No.  She describes them as this:

Nobody had moved.  Some hands were frozen in midair, in the middle of doing a fold.  It looked like a wax museum diorama of an origami presentation.

– Maria Semple, Where’d You Go, Bernadette pg 275

I love it.  This was an example of the ultimate show not tell with everything from the unique structure of emails, faxes, and letters, to the writing itself.  Where’d You Go, Bernadette was very entertaining and full of personality.

The crazy small community that this story is set in was hilarious and it kind of reminded me of the small town charm and quirkiness of Gilmore Girls.  This book was full of interesting characters.  Literally all of them exaggerate.  We get to see different perspectives and how each character tends to bend the story a little in their favor to make themselves the victim.

I learned so much from the character of Bernadette.  She showed me that creativity is sometimes found within extreme limits.  I admired her ability to use her interpersonal skills to help her thrive in the male dominated professions of architecture.  Remember to embrace your talents – even the weird ones – and use them to do something you love that no one else can do.  I also loved the theme of Bernadette getting lost literally and figuratively in motherhood which I found very relatable.  Even though Bernadette doesn’t say this particular quote, I think it describes motherhood perfectly.

I felt so alone in this world, and so loved at the same time.

– Maria Semple, Where’d You Go, Bernadette pg. 199

Overall, it was a impeccably written and hilarious story full of fascinating characters that taught me a lot about embracing your talents – even the weird ones.

Content Rating: High, for some strong language – about a dozen or more f-words.

This post contains affiliate links and I receive a small percentage of sales made through these links. 

About Maria Semple

Maria Semple

Maria Semple's first novel, This One is Mine, was set in Los Angeles, where she also wrote for television shows including Arrested Development, Mad About You, and Ellen. She escaped from Los Angeles and lives with her family in Seattle, where her second novel takes place.

Book Review: Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch

Book Review: Snow Like Ashes by Sara RaaschSnow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch
Series: Snow Like Ashes #1
Published: October 14, 2014
432 pages
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Source: For Review

The Short, Sweet, and Spoiler-Free Blurb:

Sixteen years ago the Kingdom of Winter was conquered and its citizens enslaved, leaving them without magic or a monarch. Now, the Winterians’ only hope for freedom is the eight survivors who managed to escape, and who have been waiting for the opportunity to steal back Winter’s magic and rebuild the kingdom ever since.

Orphaned as an infant during Winter’s defeat, Meira has lived her whole life as a refugee, raised by the Winterians’ general, Sir. Training to be a warrior—and desperately in love with her best friend, and future king, Mather — she would do anything to help her kingdom rise to power again.

So when scouts discover the location of the ancient locket that can restore Winter’s magic, Meira decides to go after it herself. Finally, she’s scaling towers, fighting enemy soldiers, and serving her kingdom just as she’s always dreamed she would. But the mission doesn’t go as planned, and Meira soon finds herself thrust into a world of evil magic and dangerous politics – and ultimately comes to realize that her destiny is not, never has been, her own.
3 Stars

The fantasy world that Snow Like Ashes is set in is the best and worst thing about this book.  The idea of seasons being a kingdom is pretty cool.  Some kingdoms have one season all the time and some kingdoms have all four seasons every year.  The Season Kingdoms and the “Rhythm” Kingdoms don’t like each other.  That’s a lot of kingdoms and weather to keep track of, which is where the love/hate relationship comes in.  The world is interesting and complex but difficult to figure out which made the narrative prone to info dumping at times.  Thankfully, the kingdoms and their cities had obvious names to help me out.  I liked the play on the names of calendar months for the capital cities – Jannuari, Abril, Oktuber, and Juli.  But going for the obvious made it feel a little cliche.  The people in the Autumn Kingdom had a Native American ethnicity.  The people of the Winter Kingdom had all white hair and blue eyes.  It’s fun and cheesy at the same time and I still can not figure out how I feel about it.

The magic system grew on me.  I did not like it at first.  From a logical standpoint, it seemed completely stupid to have magic reside in an object that can easily be stolen (see also: the entire conflict of this novel).  I wanted to tell the whole Winter Kingdom, “Duh.  That’s obviously a stupid idea.”  Many, many chapters later it’s explained why magic only resides in objects and I changed my mind about not liking it.  The nature of evil is portrayed through magic as feeding on itself and being about a choice between good and evil.  It was actually pretty interesting.  Although, there was one scene at the beginning that seemed like it was supposed to have a lot of shock value but since the rules of magic hadn’t been explained yet, I was not impressed.

The writing wasn’t the best I’ve read.  It had a few cliche sayings that pulled me out of the story and would sometimes tell me things I had already figured out.  Villain motivation is very important to me.  This villain fell into the category of wanting more power for no particular reason.  That is probably the least interesting motivation that a villain can have.  I mean, at least have a reason for all this power.  Maybe he’s always wanted all the things because he never had the things.  Please.  Something.  I kept wondering through the whole book what it was that he wanted.  They just called him “evil” the whole time.

Meira is a strong, spunky female lead.  I liked her character and reading about her.  She wants to be a soldier, not a princess.   As much as I liked Meira though, I loved Theron.  I thought he was the best character in the book.  He was so far from cliche that I don’t think Theron and cliche have ever met.  Theron says my favorite quote from the entire book:

“There will always be a THEY in your new life, Meira. THEY make decisions; THEY mold your future.  The trick is to find a way to still be YOU through it all.”

-Sara Raasch, Snow Like Ashes (Chapter 14)

Overall, this was a good epic fantasy with an interesting world (once I figured it out) full of fun characters but had a few too many cliche moments for me to completely love it.

Content Rating: Medium, for some violence that is mildly graphic.

This post contains affiliate links and I receive a small percentage of sales made through these links.  I received this book for review from the publisher, Harper Collins, in exchange for an honest review. I was not told what to say, I was not paid to write this review and all the opinions expressed are my own.  I read an Advanced Reading Copy for this review. 

About Sara Raasch

Sara Raasch

Sara Raasch has known she was destined for bookish things since the age of five, when her friends had a lemonade stand and she tagged along to sell her hand-drawn picture books too. Not much has changed since then -- her friends still cock concerned eyebrows when she attempts to draw things and her enthusiasm for the written word still drives her to extreme measures. Her debut YA fantasy, SNOW LIKE ASHES, is coming out Fall 2014 from Balzer + Bray. It does not feature her hand-drawn pictures. She is represented by Charlotte Sheedy Literary.

Book Review: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

Book Review: We Were Liars by E. LockhartWe Were Liars by E. Lockhart
Published: May 13, 2014
240 pages
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Source: Purchased

The Short, Sweet, and Spoiler-Free Blurb:

A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.

We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from National Book Award finalist and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart.

Read it.
And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.
3 Stars

The subtitle for We Were Liars should be, “I Can’t Remember the Really Stupid Thing I Did Last Summer.”  I read this book because there was a lot of hype around it. “Crazy Twist Ending! Must Read!” is what everyone said.  I don’t normally read contemporary YA books, but I decided this one might be fun because of all the hype around it.

My first impression of We Were Liars was that there was a map at the beginning.  I LOVE MAPS. Are there more contemporary books out there with maps? Because if there are, you need to tell me so I can read them all.

The short sentences and broken lines made the writing feel very poetic.  It also showed the broken mind of the main character, Cadence.  To me, I didn’t enjoy the reading experience as much as I could have because it felt like I was impatiently waiting to get to The Twist. The Twist was pretty cool and unexpected but it’s not like a twist that has never been done before.  Ironically, I read this because of the hype about the ending but because I knew there was a crazy ending I couldn’t enjoy it all the way.

The biggest questions I had while reading this were: “What happened to Cadence?” and “Why does she keep giving her things away?”  The first question is eventually answered, but I felt like the second question was left up to me as the reader to decide.  Cadence’s attitude towards things and objects was really interesting.

“…the accumulation of beautiful objects is a life goal. Whoever dies with the most stuff wins. Wins what? is what I’d like to know.”

– E. Lockhart, We Were Liars pg 46

Overall, it was an interesting read with beautiful writing but the over-hyped ending left me a little disappointed.

Content Rating: High, for strong language.

This post contains affiliate links and I receive a small percentage of sales made through these links.  

About E. Lockhart

E. Lockhart

E. Lockhart is the author of We Were Liars, Fly on the Wall, Dramarama, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks and the Ruby Oliver quartet: The Boyfriend List, The Boy Book, The Treasure Map of Boys, and Real Live Boyfriends. How to Be Bad was co-written with Lauren Myracle and Sarah Mlynowski.

Disreputable History was a Printz Award honor book, a finalist for the National Book Award, and recipient of the Cybils Award for best young adult novel. We Were Liars is a New York Times bestseller.

Audiobook Review: Tolstoy and the Purple Chair by Nina Sankovitch

Audiobook Review: Tolstoy and the Purple Chair by Nina SankovitchTolstoy and the Purple Chair: My Year of Magical Reading by Nina Sankovitch
Published: June 7, 2011
Narrator: Coleen Marlo
Audiobook Length: 6 hrs and 41 mins
Genres: Memoir
Source: Purchased

The Short, Sweet, and Spoiler-Free Blurb:

After the death of her sister, Nina Sankovitch found herself caught up in grief, dashing from one activity to the next to keep her mind occupied. But on her forty-sixth birthday she decided to stop running and start reading.
3 Stars

Tolstoy and the Purple Chair reminded me of Eat, Pray, Love. The author, Nina, uses reading to deal with her grief instead of travel like in Eat, Pray, Love, but both books had very interesting insights and growth from their experiences.  Nina sets out to read a book a day for a year and also blogs a review about each book.  This obviously took a huge amount of time and because of that she let a lot of unimportant things slip out of her life.  For example, she didn’t obsess about sending out tons of Christmas cards or putting up tons of decorations.  She got her family to help with dishes more.  Nina describes books as an escape back to life and it was easy to see how having a time consuming hobby helped her get her priorities in life straight again.

The title was very misleading.  While it was interesting to see the kinds of books you could read in one day, I was expecting a book about someone who reads all of Tolstoy’s works or something.  Tolstoy doesn’t even show up until the very end and she obviously doesn’t read any of his major works since they are way too long to read in one day.  I can’t remember what of Tolstoy’s she did read. Even though I was disappointed that there was hardly anything in the whole novel about Tolstoy, it was a good way to find out about new books.

I found some interesting insights about reading and books while listening to this, but overall it was actually kind of dry.  In between the boring stuff I found a few thoughts that I really enjoyed.

  • Why are kids encouraged to read every day but adults aren’t?
  • There is always beauty to live for whether it’s in memories of the past, blessings in the present, and the idea that beauty will come again.
  • Good fiction IS truth.
  • Books don’t have to be hard work to do you some good.

Mostly, this book made me want to read a book a day for maybe a month.  A year is kind of crazy, but it did sound fun to just read a ton of books.

Narrator Rating: ★★

This book did not translate well into an audiobook.  It was very hard to tell when the author was quoting a book or was speaking in her own words.  I think it would be better to read this one especially since the narrator sounded like Siri.  She just sounded so robotic that I’m not 100% convinced this was narrated by a person.

Overall, it was kind of a dry read but had a few insights about reading that I liked.  It also gave me the idea of reading a book a day which seems like a really fun idea.

Content Rating: High, for a chapter that talks about sex. It does not go into specific or graphic detail but it is probably geared more for adults.

This post contains affiliate links and I receive a small percentage of sales made through these links.  

About Nina Sankovitch

Nina Sankovitch

Nina Sankovitch has written two books of non-fiction. The first, her memoir of a life of reading, entitled Tolstoy and the Purple Chair, came out in 2011. Tolstoy and the Purple Chair not only tells the story of Nina's life of reading but of how books helped her to cope with the death of her oldest sister. Described as a must-read by Oprah Magazine and hailed as an outstanding debut by Kirkus Reviews, Tolstoy and the Purple Chair is for anyone who has ever found refuge -- or comfort or escape or joy - in a book.

Nina was born in Evanston, Illinois, and is a graduate of Evanston Township High School, Tufts University, and Harvard Law School. She lives with her four children, husband, and three cats in Connecticut.