Happy Thursday everyone! Today I wanted to do a double audio book review for 2 books I finished recently. You guys know how much I advocate and listen to audio books. The audio book world can be really immersive and genuinely can make the whole experience so much better. If you’ve heard people say that they prefer the audio book after reading the physical copy, these two books are exactly what I feel. Both these audio books are ones I HIGHLY recommend if you’re wanting to check these books out 🙂
Title: Aurora Rising (The Aurora Cycle #1)
Authors: Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff
Release Date: May 7th 2019 from Knopf
Audio Book Listening Time: 14 hrs, 5 mins
Narrators: Kim Mai Guest, Johnathan McClain, Steve West, Candice Moll, Erin Spencer, Lincoln Hoppe, Jonathan Todd Ross, Donabella Mortel, full cast
Goodreads Synopsis: The year is 2380, and the graduating cadets of Aurora Academy are being assigned their first missions. Star pupil Tyler Jones is ready to recruit the squad of his dreams, but his own boneheaded heroism sees him stuck with the dregs nobody else in the Academy would touch…
A cocky diplomat with a black belt in sarcasm
A sociopath scientist with a fondness for shooting her bunkmates
A smart-ass techwiz with the galaxy’s biggest chip on his shoulder
An alien warrior with anger management issues
A tomboy pilot who’s totally not into him, in case you were wondering
And Ty’s squad isn’t even his biggest problem—that’d be Aurora Jie-Lin O’Malley, the girl he’s just rescued from interdimensional space. Trapped in cryo-sleep for two centuries, Auri is a girl out of time and out of her depth. But she could be the catalyst that starts a war millions of years in the making, and Tyler’s squad of losers, discipline-cases and misfits might just be the last hope for the entire galaxy.
They’re not the heroes we deserve. They’re just the ones we could find. Nobody panic.
HOLY CRAP THIS WAS AN EXPERIENCE! This was the first book I had read by this duo and originally, I wasn’t on the hype train for this book. But then it became available on Audible and I decided to get it. I can’t recommend the audio book enough and I think I loved this book more due to the amazing voice actors and sound effects to get me fully immersed into this story. I am picky with audio book narrators and this is a rare case of where I DIDN’T DISLIKE A SINGLE NARRATOR! How is this real?! But it’s true; they really pulled out all the stops for getting some major talent for this audio book. The actors really dug deep for the emotions which made it even better, since I think some narrators only go so far when these guys pulled out all the stops.
But with the actual story, I loved this sci-fi adventure as Tyler and his crew deal with the consequences of rescuing Aurora who was in cryo sleep for 200 years. They get the real interesting task of “transporting precious cargo” that takes them to the unexpected parts of space and running into dangerous people. This mission clearly wasn’t what they signed up for and man this was an adventure. I got Guardians of the Galaxy vibes SO much and even tiny bits of Star Wars as far as the different alien races and all the space action.
Plot: I really like how the synopsis doesn’t give you a lot of information for the book, since I think you should just go off the synopsis that’s on the dust jacket and on Goodreads. But I loved how this story is about seven teens who really didn’t fit into the Aurora Academy and in the future time period and how they’re forced to work together to survive. I didn’t expect this to have the emotions that it did and I even got misty eyed sometimes. The authors really balanced the action, emotions, revelations and the quieter moments very well. The book can seem intimidating with having 7 POVs, but I think it was pulled off well with the audio book. Having a distinct voice for each character helps you not get lost. I think this book is mainly Aurora’s book, with her dealing with being 200 years in the future and having no idea what happened to her world. Then it’s a close second with also being Tyler’s book, the golden poster boy who gets a wrench thrown into his plans. I do admit that at times, I do wish for a tiny bit more character development from a couple characters, but this is an amazing first book.
Tyler Jones (voiced by Jonathan McClain): I really thought Tyler was an interesting character for a YA book. He’s the golden poster boy of Aurora Academy, who doesn’t drink, smoke, swear, do drugs and gets high marks on everything. His father was a previous hero who fell during a battle and Tyler is trying to make his late dad proud. But when he goes to answer a distress call and helps rescue Aurora, whose been in cryo sleep as her ship starts to get torn apart, he sets off the chain of events for the whole book. He is a true leader though, with trying to get people to do their best and trying to stay calm during stressful and scary situations. But the moments when he does show vulnerability, those small moments really show the deeper part of him. The narrator brought the proud leader to the table and I think he was perfectly cast.
Aurora Jie-Lin O’Malley (voiced by Kim Mai Guest): MAN Aurora blew me away as a character and Kim Mai Guest really shines as the voice actress for her. Aurora wakes up 200 years in the future and she’s confused, feels lost and also feels the loss of knowing that everyone she once knew is dead. She tries to find out what happened to her family and also trying to see how life is now in this uncertain future. She is innocent in the beginning, unaware of the powers she contains, but I think she grew so so much in this first book and I think she’s memorable. I liked the bits of her past with her complicated feelings with her family and the bond she has with them was so strong. I liked how she started to feel the “found family” in this crew and it was so sweet.
Scarlett (voiced by Erin Spencer): Scarlett is Tyler’s older sister and she’s the diplomat in the crew. She doesn’t get a ton of time in the story, but man she is talented with trying to smooth prickly situations and with her brave moments of infiltration. Erin Spencer had a really appropriate tone for Scarlett’s love of fashion, hair and talking about her previous exes. I liked her fine honestly but with her not getting many chapters, I think she might get more development in the next books.
Cat (voiced by Candice Moll): Can I just say that I LOVED the Australian voice actress that played Cat? I loved that they recruited an international voice actress and she brought all the sass and attitude. Cat is Scarlett’s best friend, the pilot of the crew and also has a thing for Tyler. She is very abrasive and mouthy and she brought an interesting dynamic in the crew. She had the same thing as Scarlett did with not having a ton of time compared to some other characters, but she was a solid character. I did care for her in the end with things that happened, but I did wish she got more “screen time” so that the ending had a bit more meaning for me. But the voice actress really goes there with the spectrum of emotions and made Cat the way she was.
Finian (voiced by Lincoln Hoppe): SASSY ALIEN! Finian was absolutely hilarious and the narrator really brought the sarcasm to this character to a T! Finian is a bisexual character and also wears an exo-suit due to his disability to function and move better. He’s the hacker of the crew and I just loved how he never stopped inserting his snark whenever he could and he made me laugh out loud a few times. But also, he was one of the most deep characters in this book like Aurora and I liked seeing the other side of him. He had some great moments with Scarlett and as well and maybe I sense a ship between them? I wasn’t sure about Finian at first, but the authors really give us a complex alien character that quickly became a favorite for me in the crew. I hope he gets even more great moments in the next book.
Kal (voiced by Steve West): HOT DAMN I LOVE THIS MOODY SPACE ELF! Plus it’s Steve West so this is PERFECT casting and I wanted MORE of him! Kal is a Syldrathi, a race of space elves who are wary of humans and Kal fights between his inner rage, being branded as “war breed” which makes him a stranger to his own people and his other complicated feelings. I liked that we finally get elves in space and the way we see their culture was very interesting. I liked seeing his struggles and inner conflict and Steve West always delivers on bringing characters to life. I know the attraction he feels for another character might throw people off, but I was completely fine with it. HE NEEDS more screen time in the next books 😀
Zila (voiced by Donabella Mortel): Zila was interesting since her chapters are super short in the story. She’s the medic of the team and definitely the smartest of the group. She doesn’t get a lot of personal chapters, but she’s very valuable and she does have a couple moments where we can see a bit deeper into her. The narrator gives such an interesting voice to the character, with sounding very professional but kinda flat and in a good way. I’m not quite sure about her yet, but I’m sure she’ll get more development in future books.
I have linked a post the Penguin Random House Audio about the cast of this book and I HIGHLY recommend going to this post and checking it out. You’ll hear samples of each main character so this will help you decide if the audio book is for you 🙂
Overall: This really is a favorite book of the year so far! The space was so cool, fun alien races, great action, humor and a really genuine found family. It also has some great diversity such as LGBTQ+ rep, disability and ethnicity rep and I’ve heard the rep is good from many reviews. The villain stuff was actually kinda freaky to me and this series has SO much potential for even more awesome stuff. I know that some people say that it can “read young” but I didn’t think so. I don’t know if the narrators helped me not feel that, but really if you want to check this book out, GO get the audio book. It really adds more layers, emotion and fun to this story and makes it a complete experience. I NEED book two so bad after that ending man!
Title: Five Midnights
Author: Ann Dávila Cardinal (Debut solo novel)
Genre: YA Horror/Mystery/Contemporary
Release Date: June 4th 2019 from Tor Teen
Narrator: Almarie Guerra
Listening Time: 9 hours, 34 mins
Source: Library Overdrive audio book
Goodreads Synopsis: Five friends cursed. Five deadly fates. Five nights of retribución.
If Lupe Dávila and Javier Utierre can survive each other’s company, together they can solve a series of grisly murders sweeping though Puerto Rico. But the clues lead them out of the real world and into the realm of myths and legends. And if they want to catch the killer, they’ll have to step into the shadows to see what’s lurking there—murderer, or monster?
This came out just this past week and it was immediately available on my library Overdrive app. The cover is very interesting so I read the synopsis and just picked it up. I had seen this book only mentioned once on Twitter and so since I didn’t know hardly anything about it, I figured why not? I tend to have a much better reading experience not knowing much about the book before picking it up.
This story is set in Puerto Rico and man this book is so immersive in Puerto Rican culture and the narrator’s voice made me feel like I was on the island with these characters trying to solve this mystery. Young teens are dying in mysterious circumstances and Lupe becomes involved when she comes to visit her aunt and cop uncle on the island. We mainly follow Javier and Lupe while getting other chapters from Vico, Memo, Marisol and others as the two teens try to figure out who the killer is and the possibility of El Cuco is real.
I enjoyed this book, especially the audio book narration. Almarie Guerra does a fantastic job bringing her accent and personality to these characters! She makes this a more rich experience as we try to unravel this mystery. This book feels part contemporary about Lupe finding her roots and Javier trying to figure out how him and his friends are dying. The Puerto Rico setting is rich with the struggle of drugs, getting clean, how to help your friends and other personal issues. I really related to Javier’s story, as he’s been clean off drugs for a couple years but still feels occasional temptations. His other friends were still involved in gangs and drugs and the author really digs deep into these issues and made me feel for these characters. I liked seeing how the friendships and familial relationships were all complicated and individual. You get a good look into these people’s lives and makes this book such a nice breath of fresh air.
I also really liked learning about El Cuco, a monster in Latinx culture who is essentially the boogeyman. While I do think this story is lighter on the “horror” than I wanted, I did like learning more about a mystical creature and the moments with the monster was interesting. This book made an interesting point about how some cultures live with their monsters, which is a nice change. But we also see how humans are also monsters in more ways and this made the book a bit deeper.
The main cons that I had is that the story did take a little long to get to the point of the murders and finding out the truth. It did drag a bit and felt slightly repetitive. I also did struggle a bit with Lupe, since she was too stubborn to see how her tío cared for her and how people were trying to help her. She also had the thinking of males being the “inferior gender” and that bothered me. But she did grow a bit by the end. I’m also slightly disappointed that this wasn’t as scary as the cover makes you think. It was also kind of predictable, but that didn’t bother me as much as the other things I mentioned.
Overall: But if you like diverse books and contemporaries that blends with the supernatural, definitely check out the audio book! This is a debut novel to check out and support. This was a nice surprise in some ways and the characters do make the entire experience worth it alone. I want to check out other audio books that Almarie Guerra narrates and also future books by this author.
Rating: .5 stars
Audio Narration: .5 stars
Have you read these books? If so, what did you think about them? Would you listen to these on audio books? Let me know in the comments!