Listen, Slowly | The Real Boy | Connect The Stars

Mini audiobook reviews of Listen, Slowly by Thanhha Lai, The Real Boy by Anne Ursu, and Connect The Stars by Marisa de los Santos and David Teague.

I received this book for free from Library, Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Listen, Slowly | The Real Boy | Connect The StarsListen, Slowly by Thanhha Lai
Also by this author: Inside Out and Back Again
Narrator: Lulu Lam
Length: 7 Hours 32 Minutes
Published by Harper Collins on February 17th 2015
Genres: Young Adult, Family, Multigenerational, People & Places, Asia, Social Themes, Emigration & Immigration
Pages: 288
Format: Audiobook, eARC
Source: Library, Publisher
Buy on Amazon
ISBN: 9780062229205

Listen, Slowly is a New York Times Book Review Notable Book and a Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year! This remarkable and bestselling novel from Thanhha Lai, author of the National Book Award–winning and Newbery Honor Book Inside Out & Back Again, follows a young girl as she learns the true meaning of family.
A California girl born and raised, Mai can’t wait to spend her vacation at the beach. Instead, she has to travel to Vietnam with her grandmother, who is going back to find out what really happened to her husband during the Vietnam War. Mai’s parents think this trip will be a great opportunity for their out-of-touch daughter to learn more about her culture. But to Mai, those are their roots, not her own. Vietnam is hot, smelly, and the last place she wants to be. Besides barely speaking the language, she doesn’t know the geography, the local customs, or even her distant relatives. To survive her trip, Mai must find a balance between her two completely different worlds.
Perfect for fans of Rita Williams-Garcia and Linda Sue Park, Listen, Slowly is an irresistibly charming and emotionally poignant tale about a girl who discovers that home and culture, family and friends, can all mean different things.

Listen, Slowly is the first non-verse book by Thanhha Lai that I have read. I absolutely loved Inside Out And Back Again, so when I saw this available on Edelweiss, I knew I had to read it. Of course, I am the biggest procrastinator, but eventually I got through Listen, Slowly via audiobook. I have to admit though, the audiobook is great, especially because there are Vietnamese words in Listen, Slowly and the audiobook has those words pronounced. Also? This was a pretty darn good audiobook.

Listen, Slowly is a story about Mai. Mai is a girl who has been born and raised in California. Her parents, however, are Vietnamese immigrants. Mai’s grandmother who lives with them is going back to Vietnam for the summer to figure out what exactly happened to her husband during the Vietnam War. Mai’s parents think maybe she should come along for the ride and get into touch with her roots. Of course, she’s resistant at first because she wants to spend the summer at the beach with her friends and this boy that she likes. However, Mai is a kid so of course her parents have veto power and she makes the journey from California to Vietnam.

So, you know how ownvoices is a pretty big deal in the young adult community right now? Well, Listen, Slowly is definitely an own voices book but for middle grade. Thanhha Lai is Vietnamese. So, using reason, I hope this voice rings authentic for people who are Vietnamese.

Listen, Slowly is a good book about identity and embracing your roots. There’s a story of friendship and being more confident in yourself. Mai is pretty relatable for middle schoolers – I mean, the girl really misses social media when she’s cut off for a little bit. She also loves her parents but gives them attitude from time to time. Plus, she’s still trying to figure herself out.

The audiobook is narrated by Lulu Lam. It’s available via Hoopla if your library has access to Hoopla. Listen, Slowly is 7 hours and 32 minutes long. It’s a decent listen as well.

Other reviews of Listen, Slowly by Thanhha Lai:

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I received this book for free from Library, Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Listen, Slowly | The Real Boy | Connect The StarsThe Real Boy by Anne Ursu
Also by this author: Breadcrumbs
Narrator: Chris Sorensen
Length: 8 Hours 40 Minutes
Published by Harper Collins on September 24th 2013
Genres: Young Adult, Social Themes, Friendship, Self-Esteem & Self-Reliance, Fairy Tales & Folklore, General
Pages: 352
Format: Audiobook, eARC
Source: Library, Publisher
Buy on Amazon
ISBN: 9780062049254

National Book Award Longlist2014 Bank Street Children's Book Committee Best Book of the Year"Beautifully written and elegantly structured, this fantasy is as real as it gets."—Franny Billingsley, author of Chime
The Real Boy, Anne Ursu's follow-up to her widely acclaimed and beloved middle grade fantasy Breadcrumbs, is a spellbinding tale of the power we all wield, great and small.
On an island on the edge of an immense sea there is a city, a forest, and a boy named Oscar. Oscar is a shop boy for the most powerful magician in the village, and spends his days in a small room in the dark cellar of his master's shop grinding herbs and dreaming of the wizards who once lived on the island generations ago. Oscar's world is small, but he likes it that way. The real world is vast, strange, and unpredictable. And Oscar does not quite fit in it.
But now that world is changing. Children in the city are falling ill, and something sinister lurks in the forest. Oscar has long been content to stay in his small room in the cellar, comforted in the knowledge that the magic that flows from the forest will keep his island safe. Now, even magic may not be enough to save it.

There’s just something about a good middle grade fantasy book that fills me with wonder and joy when I read them. One of the solid voices in this genre is Anne Ursu. For real, if you haven’t read Breadcrumbs, her debut, you are missing out. After falling for her debut, I was beyond eager to read The Real Boy. However, I procrastinate and so it was on my TBR until I found an audiobook of it on Hoopla.

Unfortunately, I am not all that enthusiastic about the audiobook of The Real Boy. I think that this is a book best read the traditional non-audiobook way. The Real Boy is about this boy named Oscar. Oscar lives with his master, Caleb, who is the magician for this place called the Barrow. Oscar also lives with Caleb’s apprentice – Wolf – who is a total jerk. Anyways, Wolf leaves and Caleb is out. So, Oscar is left to his own devices and that is where our story really begins. You see, Oliver doesn’t really remember much beyond being Caleb’s servant, almost. And instead of just prepping herbs, he now has to work in the shop.

The only people Oscar really likes talking to are the cats. He gets along with them so well. They sort of seem to really understand him. Eventually, though, Oscar makes friends with this girl named Callie who is an apprentice healer. Together, the two assist each other to run their master’s shops. Eventually, they must figure out the deal with the magic and the trees and how to keep their island safe.

So, The Real Boy by Anne Ursu is a magical sort of book, but like I said, not one that I would recommend via audiobook. The audiobook is narrated by Chris Sorensen. Personally, I just did not gel all that well with his narration. I don’t know exactly why I felt it was so off putting, but I had the worst time getting invested and paying attention. Otherwise, this is a decent book.

Other reviews of The Real Boy by Anne Ursu:

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I received this book for free from Library, Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Listen, Slowly | The Real Boy | Connect The StarsConnect the Stars by Marisa de los Santos, David Teague
Also by this author: , Saving Lucas Biggs
Narrator: Cassandra Morris, Jesse Bernstein
Length: 8 Hours 11 Minutes
Published by HarperCollins on September 22nd 2015
Genres: Young Adult, Mysteries & Detective Stories, Social Themes, Friendship, Action & Adventure, Survival Stories
Pages: 368
Format: Audiobook, Hardcover, eARC
Source: Library, Publisher
Buy on Amazon
ISBN: 9780062274670

From Saving Lucas Biggs authors Marisa de los Santos and David Teague comes a heartwarming middle grade adventure about two misfits discovering the importance of just being themselves.
When thirteen-year-olds Aaron and Audrey meet at a wilderness camp in the desert, they think their quirks are enough to prevent them from ever having friends. But as they trek through the challenging and unforgiving landscape, they learn that they each have what it takes to make the other whole.
Luminous and clever, Connect the Stars takes on some hefty topics of the day—bullying, understanding where you fit in, and learning to live with physical and mental challenges—all in a joyous adventure kids will love!

After listening to Saving Lucas Biggs, I decided that I also wanted to listen to Connect The Stars by Marisa de los Santos and David Teague. The first purpose for listening being clearing the book off of my shelf. The second purpose being that I had really enjoyed the audiobook of  Saving Lucas Biggs and felt like I would also enjoy Connect The Stars, there’s something about magical realism middle grade fiction.

Connect The Stars by Marisa de los Santos and David Teague is told from the point of view of two children – Audrey and Aaron. Both kids are sort of having trouble in their lives and so their parents send them to wilderness camp. Also, both kids have one special talent.

Audrey is a human lie detector and can tell whenever someone is lying. This makes it very hard for her to keep friends. Aaron has a photographic memory and if he reads, sees, or hears something he memorizes it forever. At first this is cool for Aaron, but he doesn’t really ever grasp different nuances.

So, this camp that they go to sets the kids off on a journey through the wilderness in two teams. Audrey and Aaron are on the team of misfits, of course. However, they all end up really bonding as they solve clues and come together. Each person sees the value of the other people on their team. It’s really quite neat.

In all, Connect The Stars is a nice little book. It’s definitely well suited for an audience of middle graders. The audiobook is narrated by two heavy hitters in the MG audiobook market – Jesse Bernstein and Cassandra Morris. Chances are if you listen to a lot of middle grade books, you’ve heard them before. So, the audiobook is well produced and well narrated. I’d definitely recommend adding it to a school library collection or a classroom collection.

Other reviews of Connect The Stars by Marisa de los Santos and David Teague:

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About April (Books&Wine)

April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.


  1. Wow, these all sound like great reads! I don’t read much MG but I definitely would for these. I especially would like to read Listen, Slowly. Great reviews, thanks for putting these books on my radar!

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