Audio Adventures Review: Illuminae by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

Rating: 5 stars!
Narrator: Olivia Taylor Dudley, Lincoln Hoppe, Johnathan McClain (and many, many, many more!)
Pub date: October 20, 2015
Publisher: Listening Library
Length: 11 hours & 41 minutes

Rating: 5 stars
Pub Date: October 20, 2015
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Links: see my review here

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Illuminae is one of my favorite novels of all time. Full stop. It's funny. It's scary. It's thought-provoking. It's swoony. It's smart. It's so very many amazing things, all wrapped up in a creative and unique package. I LOVE the epistolary style Amie and Jay used. Illuminae is a visual pleasure, but that meant I was a bit trepidatious to give the audio a try. I wasn't sure how it would translate given that so much of the story relies on the documents and the art. HAVE NO FEAR, audio listeners! I was immediately put at ease when I started listening to the audio because of the talent of the narrators (of which there are many) and the production quality and the audio effects.

First of all, the narrators. I've always had narrator issues since usually it's one or two people performing a whole cast. Illuminae gives me what I want in a full cast! Everyone is distinct. Olivia is Kady, Johnathan is Ezra, Lincoln is AIDAN (I think?), and then all the major secondary characters—video surveillance analyst guy, Jimmy, Winifred, Syra Boll, Torrence, Byron, etc—all had their own narrators too, plus plenty of background people to make up the rest. I was never confused about who was who, and I loved the IMs and interviews where the characters interacted because it actually sounded like a conversation between two people! BRAVO! The only time I ever had an issue was when I was looking forward to a particular scene with Jimmy, but because it was "video footage," the analyst guy ended up reading that scene. That was kind of disappointing. It's a sad scene, but I wanted to hear Jimmy's narrator perform it. Overall, though, I was ridiculously impressed. Everyone wholly embodied their character.

Olivia-as-Kady was sarcastic and prickly, but then she also pulled off soft, uncertain, exhausted, and emotionally wrung-out. Johnathan-as-Ezra was earnest AND THE DRUNK EFFING EMAIL IS THE GREATEST THING I HAVE EVER HEARD IN MY LIFE (it sounds particularly awesome if you slow down the speed. MAJOR lolz!). Lincoln perfectly encapsulates AIDAN's robotic AI tone, but he also manages to be superior, weirdly humorous, condescending, and even, at times, sweet (but only with Kady); plus he did a great job with the computer code and the damage AIDAN sustains (ie "<error>"). It's a masterful performance. Syra is unsure; Winifred confident yet disapproving, the Marine with a heart. Jimmy is fun and a total bro, but I adored him. Everyone did such a great job, and I also love that listeners can hear a diverse cast reading diverse characters.

Illuminae the physical book has fantastic art, as mentioned, and yes, it's sad there's no way to really translate that audibly. Like Kady's space walk across the Alexander's hull, Ezra's rose, etc. But I thought the production team did a remarkable job creating unique aspects to the audio that couldn't be replicated on the page. There are sirens and alarms, blasters and gunfire, and more. We can't see the text bounce across the page during Kady's spacewalk, but we can hear her breathing in her envirosuit. We can hear Ezra's dogfight during the second encounter with the Lincoln. We can hear the afflicted tearing through the ship. It's visceral and intense, and you feel like you're IN the story. It's absolutely engrossing in the best way. I always know I love a book when it makes me forget the real world around and I feel like I live in the story's world, and this audiobook accomplishes that better than most.

I have been championing Illuminae for over a year now, and I have always recommended people both read and listen to it. Although I love to listen to books I've read before, I know not many people double up like that. In this case, for anyone who is able, I highly recommend it. The book is phenomenal and the audio perfect, but they are both wholly unique parts that create a whole story. It's incredible, and I don't know of any other book and audiobook that can do it.

Book Links:

About the Authors:
Amie Kaufman is the New York Times bestselling co-author of the Starbound trilogy. Jay Kristoff is the award-winning author of the Lotus War trilogy. Collectively they are 12'5" tall and live in Melbourne, Australia, with two long-suffering spouses, two rescue dogs, and a plentiful supply of caffeine. They met, thanks to international taxation law, and stuck together due to a shared love of blowing things up and breaking hearts.

Amie's Links:

Jay's Links:

One winner will receive a digital copy of the Illuminae audiobook from Audible via the Send This Book feature. Open to anyone who can receive an audiobook this way. Terms and conditions of Send This Book are listed here. Entrants must be 13+ with parents' permission. Giveaway is open until 12 AM CST November 1. Please enter via Rafflecopter below; winner will be chosen at random, and odds are determined by number of entries. I reserve the right to disqualify any entries that are not in accordance with my giveaway policies as stated in the Review & Site Policies tab at the top of the page. Good luck! 

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Book Blitz: The Twelve Days of Dash & Lily by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan

Author: Rachel Cohn & David Levithan
Release Date: October 18, 2017
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Genre: young adult contemporary romance
Status: sequel to Dash & Lily's Book of Dares

Summary: New York Times bestselling authors Rachel Cohn and David Levithan are back with a life-affirming Christmas romance starring Dash and Lily.

Dash and Lily have had a tough year since readers first watched the couple fall in love. Lily’s beloved grandfather suffered a heart attack, and his difficult road to recovery has taken a major toll on her typically sunny disposition. 

With only twelve days left until Christmas—Lily’s favorite time of the year—Dash, Lily’s brother Langston, and their closest friends take Manhattan by storm to help Lily recapture the holiday magic of New York City in December. 

Told in alternating chapters, The Twelve Days of Dash & Lily reunites two beloved characters and is bound to be a Christmas favorite, season after season.

Available from:

About the Authors:
Rachel Cohn is the author of the critically acclaimed YA novels Very LeFreak, You Know Where to Find Me, Cupcake, Shrimp, Gingerbread,and Beta. A graduate of Barnard College, she lives and writes in Los Angeles. Find her online at

Author Links:


David Levithan is a children’s book editor in New York City and the New York Times bestselling author of several books for young adults, including Another Day, Every Day, Boy Meets Boy, and Will Grayson, Will Grayson (with John Green). In 2016, David was named the recipient of the Margaret A. Edwards Award, given to honor an author, as well as a specific body of his or her work, for significant and lasting contribution to young adult literature. You can learn more about him at
Author Links:

10 winners will receive a copy of The Twelve Days of Dash & Lily

This giveaway is open to US residents only. Must be 13+ to enter. Please enter via Rafflecopter below; winner will be chosen at random, and odds are determined by number of entries. This giveaway is sponsored by the authors and their publisher. No purchase necessary. Mary Had a Little Book Blog is not responsible for lost or damaged books.

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Many thanks to Jean of Jean Book Nerd for giving me the opportunity to be part of this Nerd Blast. You are awesome!

Audio Adventures: Listening Quirks

Welcome to another edition of Audio Adventures! Today I'm going to talk about 

Quirks of Being an Audiobook Listener

Quirk #1
I've found that when I talk about loving audiobooks with people, even more than with books, people LOVE to give me recommendations. This is a problem for me because of my biggest audiobook quirk which is that I only listen to audiobooks that I have previously read. If you're giving me a weird look, I get it. Some people listen to audiobooks to increase the total number of books they read each year; some people only listen to audiobooks. Sadly, these things don't work for me.

I'm an auditory learner when it comes to things like music and accents. I was in band for over a decade of my life, and I was always a terrible sight-reader. Notes don't come easily to me. The best way to learn a new piece of music was to hear it, and then I understood my part. When it comes to everything else, though, I'm very much a visual person. This is why I love to read. It's why I prefer to read blogs and write my own than listen to podcasts or watch youtube videos. The sounds distract me.

When I got hooked on audiobooks, I was commuting about 10 hours each week. Two years ago, I started working two jobs and was commuting about 13 hours each week. Thanks to a certain amount of job flexibility, I also attended a LOT of book events in other cities, which would result in 7-10 hour round trips. All of this meant I had plenty of time each day where I couldn't do anything but listen as I drove, and if you've ever listened to the radio, you know they play about 10 songs and 10 commercials on repeat. I got so sick of the radio! I was given a recommendation to listen to Libba Bray's Beauty Queens, which is a novel I loooooved reading. I gave it a shot, and lo and behold, the audio was fan-freaking-tastic! But I noticed as I listened that sometimes driving needed my attention and I'd realize I missed several minutes of the book. There's a joke floating around the internet about how people turn down their radios when they're navigating as if not listening to music will help you see better.

Haha, but really. Just as you hear better when your eyes are closed, you can see better when it's quiet. This is because your brain can focus more on one sense or the other. My car is old, and it has a CD player, and that's it. I also don't really like listening to stuff on my phone for long periods of time because 1. it runs the battery down, and 2. my car's speakers are WAY better than my phone's. So when I kept missing moments in the book, I would have to rewind the CD (which is super awkward to do) and hope that I got to the right spot. 

The good news is that because I had previously read Beauty Queens, it wasn't so bad missing a little bit because I already knew what happened. So rediscover a beloved book in a new way? Check. Didn't miss any of the story because I already knew it? Check. 

These days my commute is down to about 15 minutes each way, but I get to listen to books a lot more at work, and the same rule applies. If I zone out of my book because I'm working on a project that requires more brain function, I don't actually miss anything because I've read it before. Call me crazy, but out of seven books I have listened to without reading first, four of them have received lower ratings than I would have given them if I'd read them first. You might say, "But Mary! That's half!" But I'm trying to go for a better percentage than 50. Listening to books I've read before brings me a great deal of pleasure. Some people call it weird, but whatever. This is what I like, and it works for me. 

Quirk #2
Related to #1, this year I discovered a new and admittedly odd way to listen to books. One thing about audiobooks that is attractive to readers is that it's an easy way to reread books in series without throwing your entire TBR aside before a new sequel comes out. But I've found it's really interesting to listen to the first book while I read the sequel. I know what you're thinking, and no, I don't mean simultaneously. Like, I'm not playing the audio while I'm reading. But while I'm at work or whatever, I'll listen to book 1, and when I read, I'll read book 2. Example: I started listening to A Court of Thorns and Roses on June 14. I started reading A Court of Mist and Fury on June 26. I finished ACOMAF on June 30 and the ACOTAR audio on July 5. I also did this with Gemina and the Illuminae audio this summer. I tried to do it with Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom, but because Reasons, Life and Work and Sleep got in the way. Lest you think this is only a YA or a genre fic thing, I also did this with Elle Kennedy's new adult Off Campus series. Last week I read The Goal (book 4) and listened to The Score (book 3). 

Again, you may call me crazy, but consuming series books during the same time span made me catch SO MANY THINGS in the first book that reference stuff that happens in the second. FORESHADOWING, MOTHER LOVERS. It's super cool to pick up on little hints that make you go "ohhhhhhhh," and it's also really interesting to have such a stark difference in the characters' development. I'm a nerd for things like that so this is definitely something I'll be doing more often.

Quirk #3
As I stated in the Perks of Being a Listener, it's awesome to listen to an audio adaptation of a beloved book because you get to read it for the first time again, in a manner of speaking. Quirk 3 is that I am sometimes too impatient to wait very long and often listen to an audiobook mere months, weeks, or even days after I read the book. In fact, I've found that if I wait too long, I have trouble listening to the book because I've forgotten too much of it. I recently tried to listen to Huntley Fitzpatrick's My Life Next Door so that I could finally read The Boy Most Likely To. MLND was one of my favorite books in 2012, but that was a big problem trying to listen to it in 2016. It's been three and a half years, and I have forgotten all but the bare bones of Sam and Jase's story. This is super sad, and now I have to actually reread MLND, which could be a problem with my TBR. 

How long does it take me before I listen to the audiobook? It's hard to say. I'm much looser with my audio TBR than my reading one because it's so easy to reread. Even though audiobooks technically take longer to read since they can be anywhere from 7 to 24 hours for most YA and romance, I can get through them more quickly since I can listen during work and stuff. I binged half of Sarina Bowen's The Ivy Years series in January, and I binged the audiobooks throughout all of July. I read The Beauty of Darkness at the beginning of August and listened to the audio three weeks later. I read ACOMAF at the end of June and the audio at the end of July. It just kind of depends on my mood and also release dates since I get ARCs, but I have never gotten an audiobook to review (to all those of you listening to Gemina right now: I AM SO JEALOUS). 

Quirk #4
Sometimes, if I am REALLY reluctant to leave a world behind or if I just like an audiobook so much, I'll listen to it again immediately after finishing. I've done this with movies too, particularly Tangled, Frozen, Because I Said So, and Pride and Prejudice. It's a comfort thing. I love Christina Lauren books, and they have REALLY good narrators so I've twice binged both of their series on audio (once last fall and once this past spring). In April, I listened to Beautiful Player twice, back-to-back. This also happened in July with Sarina Bowen's Blonde Date from The Ivy Years, which I listened to fully twice and then one time, I just skipped around the chapters. Coincidentally, I listened to it again last week when I was emotionally devastated by another book and needed something sweet, light, and happy to take my mind off said emotional devastation. It doesn't hurt that Blonde Date is a novella so it's less than three hours long, but Player is about 10, I think, so it's not just about length. 

What do you think about my quirks? I know I'm actually not alone regarding listening to audiobooks that I've previously read so it's common as far as quirks go. But what about the rest? Do you have any audio quirks? Please share in the comments!

Review: The Hating Game by Sally Thorne

Rating: 3 stars
Pub Date: August 9, 2016
Publisher: William Morrow
Genre: contemporary romance
Format/Source: paperback, my library
Status: standalone

Nemesis (n.) 1) An opponent or rival whom a person cannot best or overcome.
2) A person’s undoing
3) Joshua Templeman

Lucy Hutton has always been certain that the nice girl can get the corner office. She’s charming and accommodating and prides herself on being loved by everyone at Bexley & Gamin. Everyone except for coldly efficient, impeccably attired, physically intimidating Joshua Templeman. And the feeling is mutual.

Trapped in a shared office together 40 (OK, 50 or 60) hours a week, they’ve become entrenched in an addictive, ridiculous never-ending game of one-upmanship. There’s the Staring Game. The Mirror Game. The HR Game. Lucy can’t let Joshua beat her at anything—especially when a huge new promotion goes up for the taking.

If Lucy wins this game, she’ll be Joshua’s boss. If she loses, she’ll resign. So why is she suddenly having steamy dreams about Joshua, and dressing for work like she’s got a hot date? After a perfectly innocent elevator ride ends with an earth shattering kiss, Lucy starts to wonder whether she’s got Joshua Templeman all wrong.

Maybe Lucy Hutton doesn’t hate Joshua Templeman. And maybe, he doesn’t hate her either. Or maybe this is just another game.

Audio Adventures: Wish List

It is a sad fact that for as many books that get published, not all of them can become audiobooks. The following is a list of all the books (or authors' entire works) I wish I could listen to.

Audiobook Wish List

Paula Stokes 

You're right, Paula isn't a book, but I would like ALLLLLL of her work to be audiobooks. I ADORE The Art of Lainey and Girl Against the Universe. I have not read Vicarious yet, but I'm sure it is also fantastic. Paula's characters are so REAL. They're dynamic individually, and dynamite as an ensemble. I would love to hear her stories since I always get a different perspective when I listen to a book.

Jennifer Echols

Jennifer is a favorite of mine, but she has always been part of the quiet YA movement. Her books aren't flashy bestsellers (which is a darn shame!), but I have always connected with her stories and her characters from the very first time I saw Major Crush's cover. Something in each of Jen's books feels like it's been pulled out of the diary of my life, and how could I not want to listen to them? Plus, Jen has some seriously swoony guys and sassy gals I'd love to hear!

Jodi Meadows

I LOVED Jodi's Incarnate series; each installment kept getting better and better. So it pains me that only Incarnate has an audiobook. Conversely, I didn't LOVE The Orphan Queen duology, but I enjoyed it. I would love to see if listening and gaining new perspective would make me enjoy the story even more. The bottom line is that Jodi writes kickass fantasy, and that always makes for entertaining and engrossing audiobooks. C'mon, Harper, jump on it!

I'll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios
Again, I didn't LOVE this book, but I did really like it. Plus it's a 13 on the 1-10 swoony scale. Skylar and Josh have phenomenal chemistry, and that translates well in audiobooks if you have the right narrators. With as popular as IMYT is, honestly I'm shocked it didn't get an audio.

Meg Cabot's Boy series

I have long loved Meg's teen books: Princess Diaries, Mediator, Airhead, Abandon, Avalon High, Teen Idol, etc. She's queen of teen fiction. But Meg ALSO has a ton of amazing adult books, and I got hooked on those when I picked up Boy Meets Girl probably about a decade ago. Since then, I have read the entire companion trilogy about once every two years or so (probably a little more), and I have long stalked Meg's website FAQ which has hinted for a couple years that she was working on another epistolary novel. This year when The Boy is Back was announced, I couldn't have been more excited. To celebrate, I began searching for the audiobooks of the other three so I could listen to them before number four releases in September. Imagine my disappointment, nay, horror when I realized THEY DON'T EXIST. Granted, this is probably because they are epistolary novels and instead of traditional prose narration, these stories are told through letters, notes, emails, IMs, diary entries, airplane tickets, documents, etc. But if Illuminae can make it work, SO CAN THESE.

Update: I just discovered an AUDIO CASSETTE of the first book in the series The Guy Next Door (I guess before it was Boy Next Door! Sold from Germany and the UK so maybe that's why?) on Amazon for $9.08. This shall be mine!

This Adventure Ends by Emma Mills
This book isn't out yet, but it's already one of my favorites of the year. Emma herself narrated the audiobook for her first novel First & Then, which was pretty good. I wouldn't mind if she narrated This Adventure Ends; I just want one period!

I wrote this list a couple months ago. This Adventure Ends released last week, and I haven't seen an audiobook pop up on Amazon or Audible. FINGERS CROSSED that it will happen!

The Storyspinner and The Skylighter by Becky Wallace
 Fantasy novels make the best audiobooks, and I'd love for Becky's Brazilian-inspired world to come to life in an audio. It's a magical, beautiful series, and I think it would sparkle and shine via audio interpretation.

The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord
I just don't think it's very fair that both of Emery's other books have audios, but Me and You doesn't. It was a really interesting story, and I would love to hear Paige's intense and emotional story.

Tiffany Schmidt's Once Upon a Crime Family series
I would love to have audiobooks (and more sequels!) for Hold Me Like a Breath and Break Me Like a Promise. They're such unique books, and I think they would be really exciting in audio. Again, these are more quiet YA, but these books are really cinematic (seriously, these should be movies!), and that's a great quality to have in an audiobook.

Do you agree with my picks? What books would you choose to have audiobooks? Let me know in the comments!