Happy Saturday everyone! I apologize for being so behind on my content. I’ve been busy with a few things, working and I’m writing my novel again! I’m really trying not to break the habit of working on it everyday. But today here’s a super late double audio book review 😀
Title: Contagion (Contagion #1)
Author: Erin Bowman
Genre: YA Sci-fi/Horror
Release Date: July 24th 2018 from HarperTeen
Narrator: Amy McFadden
Listening Time: 9 hours, 37 mins
Format: Library audio book
Goodreads Synopsis: Perfect for fans of Madeleine Roux, Jonathan Maberry, and horror films like 28 Days Later and Resident Evil, this pulse-pounding, hair-raising, utterly terrifying novel is the first in a duology from the critically acclaimed author of the Taken trilogy.
After receiving a distress call from a drill team on a distant planet, a skeleton crew is sent into deep space to perform a standard search-and-rescue mission.
When they arrive, they find the planet littered with the remains of the project—including its members’ dead bodies. As they try to piece together what could have possibly decimated an entire project, they discover that some things are best left buried—and some monsters are only too ready to awaken.
When I downloaded this book from my library’s Overdrive app, I was hoping that I would be in the mood for something different. I was struggling with keeping my attention with an audio book for very long. Plus, I’ve heard great things about this duology and the last book came out this past July. So I started listening and this was quite the ride. This book really kept my attention and I wanted to keep listening and it was a solid experience.
In this first book, we mainly follow young intern Althea Sadik, who is an intern to a famous biologist. The planet they’re on is experiencing an ice storm, so the whole group is evacuating. As this happens, one of the higher up people Dylan Lo, talks about a distress call. She needs a group to go with her and see what’s happening. Along with the doctor and Althea, the group also contains: Nova, a pilot with a sight impairment, Cleaver (a trigger happy soldier), Toby (a computer specialist), Sullivan (Nova’s cousin) and Dylan herself. They head to a planet called Achlys, where a drilling site is. There’s rumors that years ago, people died there but people don’t really believe the conspiracy theories.
But once they reach the planet, they see dead bodies and evidence of a horror that occurred there and no survivors. They find footage of people going crazy and cryptic messages: IT GOT IN US, DON’T TRUST THE KID. As they explore the planet, they do discover a young boy that they’re unsure if they can trust. Also, they slowly start to discover the reason why all of the crew members died and they fight to try and survive and get off the planet.
Overall, like I had mentioned, this was a solid read. I enjoyed the bleak atmosphere that was all throughout this story; you feel the nervousness and the slow build of terror that the crew feels. The author really nails the feelings of dread, mystery and sudden horror as the story continues. She also really nailed the kind of research about biology, chemistry and other technical things in the book and I really commend the author for. I think this was the highlight that kept me listening. I also enjoyed the way the horror element was introduced; while this is a kind of element I’ve seen before in some movies and TV, it was still interesting and at times very intense.
As far as our group of characters, I only really cared about Althea, or Thea as she likes to be called. She’s a 17 Korean-Turkish girl whose mother went missing when she was young and has never had much. The internship with the famous Doctor Tarlow really meant a way out for her. She’s a smart and determined girl who really fights for her life and I did care for her. She felt the most fleshed out to me from the others. I did really hate Dylan for several reasons and the author did a great job to make sure that you really hate her for the most part. I do think she was a bit too rough around the edges and a bit too arrogant, which causes major consequences, that at times, it was a little unrealistic. The other characters were either flat or not given enough time to know them better, but I think they might be more developed in the next book.
The final thing is the audio book narration, which was a letdown when I really think about it. I hadn’t listened to an audio book by this narrator before and I won’t listen to the next book in this series, but read the print version instead. Her voice was just too flat and snobby sounding at times, draining some of the life from the story. Her voice did work for Dylan’s snappy personality, but that was it. She didn’t do a ton of variation with the voices, which could cause a little bit of confusion with some of the story transitions. While her narration wasn’t awful, she didn’t really get into the moments of horror to bring something extra to the story.
Overall: I did enjoy this story, but doing the audio book wasn’t the best choice, even though it did help me finish this book. The horror elements were good and the atmosphere was pitch perfect, including one character that I did care about and well crafted research. But I will read the next book in this series instead of the audio version. But I do think this would be a great, spooky Halloween read.
Rating: .5 stars
Title: Don’t Date Rosa Santos
Author: Nina Moreno (Debut)
Genre: YA Contemporary
Release Date: May 14th 2019 from Disney Hyperion
Narrator: Almarie Guerra
Listening Time: 9 hours, 4 mins
Format: Audible audio book
Goodreads Synopsis: Rosa Santos is cursed by the sea, at least, that’s what they say. Dating her is bad news, especially if you’re a boy with a boat. But Rosa feels more caught than cursed, caught between cultures and choices, between her abuela, a beloved healer and pillar of their community, and her mother, an artist who crashes in and out of her life like a hurricane. She’s constantly caught between Port Coral, the quirky South Florida town they call home, and Cuba, the island her abuela refuses to talk about. As her college decision looms, Rosa collides literally with Alex Aquino, the mysterious boy with tattoos of the ocean whose family owns the marina. With her heart, her family, and her future on the line, can Rosa break a curse and find her place beyond the horizon?
This is such a hyped and beloved YA contemporary that debuted this year and I was excited to listen to it. Noura did a book club group for this last month for reading an #ownvoices Latinx story and I did listen to some of it with them….and then took forever to finish it lol. But I saw so many good reviews for this and I can say that I agree with all the great reviews. This is such a sweet and wonderful debut novel that taught me more about Latinx culture and Cuba. There was so much I loved about this book!
The first thing I loved about this book was the narrator! Almarie Guerra reads this story with a fantastic and refreshing voice! I’m glad that an #ownvoices narrator reads this story; she brings that Cuban culture and Rosa’s voice to life with an honesty, humor and brings out the longing for understanding your culture and finding your identity. She also great small voice changes for characters like her friends, her abuela and some of the townsfolk in Port Coral. Everyone felt like they were real people and her narration made me wish that Port Coral was real. She is a fantastic narrator that brings the book to life even more.
The next thing I loved was Nina Moreno’s writing; this is a debut that just feels so fresh but also tender at times with emotions of feeling lost, longing for deceased family but also wanting to know where you belong. Rosa wonders “how Cuban” she is with feeling lost and these questions, along with how much she doesn’t even know about her ancestor’s home country is hard. Her grandmother doesn’t share stories openly and there’s also a tense and rocky relationship between Rosa’s mother and grandmother. The feeling of being lost and even cursed was so palpable with Rosa’s voice. This was so present in the first chapter, and the first chapter alone just grabbed me and pulled me into the story.
The next part of the story I loved was Rosa herself; she is a YA character, especially in a contemporary book, that will stand out for years to come. She’s a girl who likes to plan things to the T and she has her plans to get out of her small town and study abroad in Cuba. She also doesn’t have quite the best family dynamics, since her mother isn’t around all the time and is mostly raised by her grandmother. I liked seeing this family dynamic because it’s a less talked about one in YA, where the main character lives with their grandparent(s). Her grandmother was one of my favorite characters, with how she tries to teach Rosa but has her own reservations. While her and Rosa do clash, you understand why and see how their generations are so different. But I liked how Rosa grew as a character; where the author took her journey felt very authentic and true to her character.
My only hesitations was the romance and the plot itself. While I do love Alex as a male character and their romance was sweet at times, it wasn’t quite as important as I expected. Alex appears very closed off at first, so the first impression we get of him was a bit different from his actual personality. Also, their romance was a little too quickly developed and it didn’t balance compared to the main plot point as well as I hoped. The other thing is that the plot does feel a little overstuffed. Since the audio book is just over 9 hours, at times, this story felt like it was actually 15 hours instead of 9 due to how long the plot felt. Some stuff in the middle felt like it was holding the story back from flowing well and I think a couple things could’ve been cut out or shortened to help the story move along better. But these are small complaints and just things I noticed in the last half.
Overall: This was a really sweet and memorable YA contemporary that really shows how one girl feels lost in her own culture and really fights to find her place. The family dynamics felt so genuine and also sad at times. The writing is incredible for a debut and there were moments where I giggled and was uplifted by the end. The narration is also top notch and an audio book I completely recommend to get even more richness of a story. While a couple parts weren’t perfect, I’m excited to see what Nina Moreno does next and I’m happy I agree with the hype on this one.
Have you read these books? If so, what did you think of them? Do you know books like these that you would recommend? Let me know in the comments!