Favorite Audiobooks

For the last few years, I’ve listened to quite a few audiobooks. They’re perfect to listen to before falling asleep or while doing things around the house.

(I’d definitely recommend looking into checking out digital copies from your local library–that’s how I listened to all of the books on this list!)

Here are some of my favorite audiobooks!

ast5-square-4001. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, Narrated by Jim Dale — Jim Dale has a deep, pleasant voice that he uses to create distinct voices for each character. He’s amazing at setting the mood for this magical story, in which the physical setting of a mysterious circus takes on a life of its own. AND he has an English accent! Nothing against American accents (because I, of course, have one), but I’ve (generally) found English voice actors much more pleasant to listen to for long periods of time.

b9hf-square-1536.jpg2. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie, Narrated by Dan Stevens — Okay, so Dan Stevens is the actor who plays Matthew Crawley in Downton Abbey. Firstly, he’s very attractive so it’s kind of fun knowing that he’s reading the book to you. Secondly, he’s so fantastic at his different voices for all the characters that you sometimes forget it’s even him. Thirdly, his accent in general is fantastic. And, come on, Agatha Christie is the queen of mystery, and this is one of her very best. A group of strangers all meet on an island and they mysteriously die one by one. Add all that together and you get hours of edge-of-your-seat entertainment.

b9hi-square-1536.jpg3. Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie, Narrated by Dan Stevens — Well, obviously, after listening to And Then There Were None, I just had to listen to another one of Christie’s best novels narrated again by the good ol’ Dan Stevens. A train full of people becomes stranded in the snow as a passenger’s death occurs. The French detective Hercule Poirot is then put on the case to find out who on the train was responsible. Dan Stevens somehow manages a fantastic French accent for Poirot, along with a unique voice for every other character. The whole thing is great and I have a lot of feelings about the brilliant narration.

pride-and-prejudice-audiobook-carolyn-seymour4. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, Narrated by Carolyn Seymour — Finally a female voice on my list! (Still British, though…) Listening to this recording was how I first experienced this beloved classic. It was my first Jane Austen novel, and it prompted me to take a fantastic Austen Lit/Film college course. No matter what form you choose, Pride and Prejudice is a must-read classic, especially for the back-and-forth between Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy. If you have an aversion to classics in general, maybe try listening instead! If done well, a recording can make it a more lively experience.

atjc-square-1536.jpg5. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell, Narrated by Rebecca Lowman & Sunil Malhotra — It’s a whole other kind of awesome listening experience when an audiobook has dual narration! The recording uses a female narrator for Eleanor’s chapters and a male narrator for Park’s. This was the perfect way to absorb the loveliness of this Young Adult Contemporary that quickly earned a spot among my favorites. It’s a story, set in the ’80s, about teenagers Eleanor and Park as they navigate their own lives and find comfort in each other. A sweet, heartfelt, but deals-with-real-issues contemporary.

imgres.jpg6. Crooked House by Agatha Christie, Narrated by Hugh Fraser — Can you tell I love Agatha Christie? Here’s another by an English narrator who has narrated quite a few other Christie novels. Excellent, soothing voice. This story revolves around the sudden death of a wealthy elderly man, and suspicions rest on all those who reside in the mansion. Another twisted, unexpected tale with brilliant narration.


Those are just a few of my favorite audiobooks! I plan to make more lists once I’ve accumulated more favorites.

What are your thoughts on audiobooks? Do you have any recommendations for me?

Thanks for reading! 🙂

xx bits of prose and whimsy

Favorite Reads of 2015!

2015 was a very successful year of reading for me! My grand total was 51 books!

Here are my top 10 favorite books of 2015:

184603921. All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven — A book about mental illness and love and so many other things. It absolutely destroyed me. It was a full-out sobbing kind of situation. If you’re up for a book that will tear your heart to pieces, but is ultimately worth the hurt, this may be the book for you.

213638125Vicious by V.E. Schwab — Two ordinary college students who decide to risk everything to prove a theory on how to acquire superpowers? Yes, please! Morally grey characters, compelling story, fantastic writing. I see more Victoria Schwab in my future!

Funny_Story_front3. It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini — Loved this one. If you read my book review from earlier 2015, you’ll know how I feel about it. Wonderful and relatable book about mental illness.

98751074. Crooked House by Agatha Christie — I listened to this on audiobook and absolutely loved it, and I actually preferred it to And Then There Were None. (Both excellent books, though.) Haunting and fascinating. Had me hooked and guessing until the very end.

228083395. Locke & Key graphic novel series by Joe Hill, Gabriel Rodriguez (Illustrations) — It’s maybe sort of cheating to put a series in here, but the whole thing is brilliant! And this is coming from a girl who isn’t typically a fan of the horror genre, by the way. Great artwork and a thought-provoking, mysterious, and complex story. It had me on the edge of my seat.

Print6. Soulless by Gail Carriger — I also wrote a brief review of this book early in the year. This was such a fun read that was recommended to me by a friend as one of her all-time favorite books. I still haven’t read the rest of the series because series are evidently my kryptonite, but I plan to read the rest in the future. Very fun characters and world.

175715647. Hyperbole and a Half  by Allie Brosh — So incredibly relatable. It covers topics ranging from depression to adulthood to funny childhood experiences. The quirky drawings only add to the hilarity.

132284368. Batgirl, Vol 1: The Darkest Reflection by Gail Simone — As one of quite a few comic books I read this year, this one really stood out to me. It’s where my love for Batgirl/Barbara Gordon began. A great beginning to the series. As was probably assumed, I have yet to continue on with the rest, but I will soon!

3172829. Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac by Gabrielle Zevin — I’ve consistently thought about this book since I read it months ago. A very memorable YA contemporary about a girl trying to piece her life back together.

1282036010. Edenbrooke by Julianne Donaldson — I was really in the mood for an Austen-esque story when I picked this up, and it totally fit the bill! Sweet love story with lovely characters.

 


Now, let’s see how I did on following my 2015 reading goals…

  1. Read 50 books-51/50 😀
  2. Read 8 classics-Almost! I read 7 🙂 — And Then There Were None, Crooked House, The Witness of the Prosecution and Other Stories, The Man in the Mist, & Jane in Search of a Job–all by Agatha Christie; We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson, The Shining by Stephen King
  3. Reread the Harry Potter series-Completely failed 😦
  4. Finish 5 series-Only 2 😦 — Eon duology by Alison Goodman and the Locke & Key series by Joe Hill
  5. Listen to 4 audiobooks-7/4 😀 — The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke, all of the Agatha Christie stories, and The Shining by Stephen King

Reading Wrap-Up: Jan/Feb ’15

So, here’s a check-in for my reading during the first two months of the year. Despite feeling like I’m slacking, I’ve actually been keeping right on track with my goal of 50 books. Yay! Here are the books that I’ve completed thus far!

1. It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned VizziniFunny_Story_front

YA Contemporary. You guys may already know that I love this book, and it was a great one to kick off the new year with. I’ve posted a book review for it, so I have some collected thoughts there. It was memorable and poignant, and I will definitely pick it up again at some point. Loved it. ☆☆☆☆☆

2. Crown of Embers (Fire and Thorns, #2) by Rae Carsonimgres

I’m just…not the biggest fan of this YA fantasy trilogy. I don’t hate it, but there are quite a few things about it that really bother me. The heroine is difficult to empathize with, I find the storyline of how she got to her position of power a bit silly and too convenient, the constant talk of religion and praying gets on my nerves pretty quickly, etc. Some people will love this series–there are definitely things to enjoy–but it’s just not my cup of tea. I read the first one (The Girl of Fire and Thorns) toward the end of 2014 and enjoyed it much more than this one. (I gave that one 4 stars.) I’ll eventually read the third one to see how everything wraps up. ☆☆☆

3. Sweet Thing (Sweet Thing, #1) by Renée Carlinoimgres-1

This was a fun read. New Adult contemporary romance about a girl who is coping with loss and unsure in which direction her life should go. Great development of chemistry between the main characters, interesting side characters, and good plot. Mia can become really frustrating, but I cut her some slack. A bit too sappy at times. Overall very enjoyable and I completely flew through it. I’ll be picking up the novella sometime this year. ☆☆☆☆

imgres-24. The Wicked + The Divine, Vol. 1 by Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, and Matt Wilson

A bind-up graphic novel about gods in the form of pop stars. I really wanted to love this, but I feel pretty ‘meh’ about it. The art style is beautiful, and that’s one of the things that drew me to it. I honestly didn’t know what was going on during a lot of the story. I might reread it at some point and try the next volume to see if my opinion changes. ☆☆☆

5. Soulless (Parasol Pretectorate, #1) by Gail CarrigerPrint

This is the first book in a Paranormal/Fantasy steampunk romance series and it’s fast-paced and sassy and so, so fun. Alexia is a snarky, intelligent, and badass heroine who doesn’t take shit from anyone. The romance is great, the side characters are colorful and hilarious. So enjoyable. A friend lent this to me because it’s one of her favorite series, and I was happy to report back that I loved it. I’ll definitely be reading the next one very soon–I’m sure it’ll be just as addictive! ☆☆☆☆☆

6. Chopsticks by Jessica Anthony and Rodrigo CorralChopsticks

I’ve done a review for this one as well, so you can see my semi-collected thoughts over there. I already had enough difficulty forming coherent thoughts the first time around, so I’m simply going to say that it was a thought-provoking read that offers a very unique and unexpected narrative and premise. ☆☆☆☆

2274437. Bridget Jones’s Diary (Bridget Jones, #1) by Helen Fielding

Oh look, I just talked about this one. This wasn’t really what I was expecting. A fast read, somewhat enjoyable, but pretty ‘meh’. ☆☆ 1/2

8. The Name of the Star (Shades of London, #1) by Maureen Johnson

13595639YA Paranormal/Fantasy about a Jack the Ripper killing spree. I really wanted to like this more than I did. There were definitely parts that I enjoyed, but I was never truly invested in the story. I was neutral about most of the characters and what happened to them. Yet another example of why I should seriously just give up on ghost books. (I’m really stubborn though.) ☆☆ 1/2

I think I’ll be switching gears into more high fantasy books and graphic novels for a while. I’d love to hear your thoughts on any of these books or any recommendations for me! 🙂

Book Thoughts: Bridget Jones’s Diary

Title: Bridget Jones’s Diary227443
Author: Helen Fielding
Genre: Fiction, Chick-Lit, Contemporary, Romance, Humor
Year: 1996

Rating: ✩✩ 1/2

Huh. I have mixed feelings about this one. I decided to read this right around Valentine’s Day, since I wanted a silly rom-com read. I lost interest for a week or so, then picked it back up a few days ago.

I thought the character of Bridget Jones would be more endearing than she turns out to be. I kept comparing it to Pride and Prejudice, an inspiration for the story, and the end result didn’t totally work for me. I’d be all over a well-written, modern version of P&P, but this just wasn’t it. Bridget wasn’t the spunky Elizabeth Bennet-esque female character I was hoping for. (A side note: her obsession with her weight gets really irritating after a while.)

I’ve watched only a few scenes from the film adaptation, but I was somewhat familiar with the basic premise of the story. I honestly think I’d enjoy the film a lot more than the book. One of my major issues with it was the writing style. It’s written as if it were a diary (duh), but not in a fun way. She skips words like “a” and “the” and writes “v.” instead of very. It’s a bit off-putting. I don’t know about other people, but this isn’t the way I write when I’m on a journal-writing kick.

The ‘fun’ and ‘silly’ aspect that I was expecting came across instead as more whiny and infuriating. There wasn’t much character growth, in my opinion, which is what typically keeps me reading.

I wasn’t ever expecting to love this book, since it falls outside of what I typically read, but I thought it would be a fun change. It was quick, entertaining, and somewhat relatable. There were several moments when, in my mind, I was like, ‘I feel ya, girl. You do you.’ Overall, however, I ended up feeling pretty ho-hum about it. I might pick up the next one at some point, but I’m not itching to at the moment.

Book Thoughts: Chopsticks

ChopsticksTitle: Chopsticks
Authors: Jessica Anthony & Rodrigo Corral
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Graphic Novel
Year: 2012

Rating: ☆☆☆☆

This book pushes the boundaries of storytelling. On the surface, it is a love story. Deeper down, it is something else.

Chopsticks uses a variety of images and very few words to essentially create a scrapbook. Its contents coalesce into a compelling story. It plays with the reader’s expectations and sense of understanding by scattering small hints throughout its pages. It allows for such a unique reading experience. You should go into it with few preconceived notions or expectations.

This book is honestly very difficult to describe. It’s beautiful and unlike anything I’ve read before. You have access to intimate yet fragmented details of people’s lives. It left me speechless as I closed the book, with questions still swarming around my head. This prompted me to immediately reexamine it from the beginning. The second time helped me to better form my thoughts, but they’re still difficult to articulate.

I recommend Chopsticks to anyone who is curious about other ways to tell stories, who loves photography, and who enjoys looking closely into characters’ lives.

Book Thoughts: It’s Kind of a Funny Story

Funny_Story_frontTitle: It’s Kind of a Funny Story
Author: Ned Vizzini
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Year: 2006

My Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

I sort of hesitate calling this a book review, since I’m still getting the hang of them, but here are my thoughts on the most recent book I’ve finished.

The basic premise: An intelligent and driven 16-year-old named Craig has a mental breakdown and winds up in the hospital’s psychiatric unit. We are able to see the world from Craig’s perspective in order to get a better sense of his day-to-day struggles and his views on life. We see the gradual build-up of his problems and the subsequent downfall and aftermath, and through this experience we encounter a cluster of interesting characters.

This is a very special novel. I knew I wanted to read it ever since I first heard about it. Having also suffered from anxiety and depression myself, it’s such a wonderful thing to find fantastic novels about people, especially young people, who suffer from mental illness. I know how isolating it can often be, so it’s powerful to find a story like this to connect to.

Craig is an endearing and insightful young narrator, and each supporting character brings something special to the story. Each sheds light on reactions to mental illness: people who are exploitive, while others are supportive. Other patients expose us to various types of mental illness, and these colorful characters add dimension and a thoughtful reflection to the story. The psychiatric patients seem like actual people, much more than placeholders for mental illnesses. The setting is vivid as well. Everything is accessible, while both familiar and unfamiliar. Descriptions of mental illness demonstrate a lot of heart, and a familiarity and insight that can only be expressed by someone who has experienced something like this.

The story somehow strikes a great balance between realism and humor. It never feels overly dark or pessimistic. It doesn’t shy away from the devastating effects of mental illness, but it deals with these heavy topics in a refreshing way. It’s refreshingly honest.

I can’t ignore the fact that the author Ned Vizzini committed suicide in late 2013. While so tragic, this book he left behind is such a gift.

Favorite Reads of 2014

Well, my first post might as well be about books, right? 2014 was a wonderful year for reading–I actually read 48 books! Not too shabby for having still been in school. My New Year’s resolution two years ago was to read more, and I’ve stuck with it. I seriously can’t get enough, and I actually feel guilty when I’m not actively reading something. BookTube is probably (partially) to blame for that. That’s the bookish community on YouTube, in case you didn’t know. I’m far too scared to make my own videos, but that doesn’t stop me from watching them all the time. Like, too much. Anyway, I’ll probably talk more about that some other time.

I’ve managed to read so many amazing books over the past year, so it’s pretty difficult to narrow them down. And it doesn’t help that I’ve literally always been terrible at picking favorites of anything. But it’s worth a shot!

*drum roll*

1. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

What a beautiful, heart-wrenching story. It features memorable characters that feel so real, and it’s narrated by Death. Yes, death. Exquisitely done. It’s impossible to do this novel justice with a short description. It’s a must-read. And please don’t let the subject matter (Nazi Germany) turn you off! Also, prepare to cry. A lot. But seriously, read it.

2. Persuasion by Jane Austen

Oh man, I took a film & literature course on Jane Austen in the fall and it made me fall in love with Jane Austen. I love this one. Anne Elliot is a great heroine, and there are quite a few memorable side characters. As always, Austen’s dialogue is brilliant. I think this could be a great Austen novel to begin with, since it’s quite a bit shorter than her others.

3. Solanin by Inio Asano

One of my first graphic novels and my first-ever manga! Reading it ‘backwards’ took some getting used to, but I eventually got the hang of it. Beautiful, poignant story. It really captures the confusing time of early adulthood, so I could really relate to it. It also made me cry, which I wasn’t expecting from a graphic novel. Loved it.

4. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Let’s be honest, it seems that Gaiman can do no wrong. I’ve now read four books of his and have loved every one. This is an imaginative children’s/middle-grade story a la The Jungle Book, but with ghosts and other paranormal aspects. Gaiman creates this otherworldly-yet-familiar feeling in his novels that I find amazing. I don’t know how he does it. Brilliant.

5. Saving June by Hannah Harrington

This is a contemporary story about a girl dealing with her sister’s suicide. It’s realistic and beautiful and heart-wrenching. It has some great, relatable characters, and it features some talk about music, which I always appreciate in books. A well-balanced story that offers much more than I expected. Absolutely loved it.

6. Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas

Two hunky guys, a kick-ass heroine, and magic. What more could you want? I’ve been impressed with the world-building in both Throne of Glass and this second installment, and the plot keeps me guessing. I’m itching to read Heir of Fire soon.

7. Angelfall by Susan Ee

This novel shoves you right into the craziness of a world ravaged by fallen angels. It was my first angel book, and it’s gotten me intrigued to read more. Raffe and Penryn are both spunky and memorable characters. World After is calling to me on my shelf!

8. Maybe Someday by Colleen Hoover

This is my first New Adult read and, because of how great this was, it won’t be my last. This love story features a main character who is deaf, but it deals with so much more than that. The story was sweet and they have great chemistry. It didn’t feel like insta-love, which is a huge pet peeve of mine. I think it could be a great pick for someone else’s first New Adult read.

9. Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan

Fun, fun, fun! It made me want to go to The Strand bookstore in NYC and/or leave a notebook somewhere for a stranger to find. Fun characters, fun plot, such a great wintry/holiday read.

10. Saga, Vol. 1 by Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples

Another one of my first graphic novels! What a fantastic start to a series. Beautiful art-style, exciting plot. I finally have my hands on the next two and I can’t wait to dive in!

Well, this was fun! More bits of prose and whimsy to come…