June 29, 2017

“You and I are not monsters. If anything, we’re miracles.”


Although it came out in 2015, Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin was never really on my radar. I wasn't crazy about the cover, and I zoned out the few times I scanned the summary. There's something about the words "motorcycle race" that just made me mentally dismiss the book. However, I felt like I kept seeing people talk about it earlier this year - which surprised me since it's not a new book. When I spotted it in Audible's "First in Series" sale in February, I loved the narrator's voice in the sample and decided to buy it. So, it immediately came to mind for June's Picky Pledge Reading Challenge prompt: "A Book You Bought on Audio."

Wolf by Wolf is historical fiction... except it's not. It's an alternative history: set in 1956 and in a world where the Axis powers won World War II. Yael, a former death camp prisoner, is tasked with one mission by the resistance: assassinate Hitler. The reclusive Hitler always attends the Victor's Ball at the end of an annual motorcycle race, and last year he allowed the winner of the race to dance with him. Yael is uniquely qualified for the mission because she possesses the ability to skinshift (due to human experimentation in the camp). So, she's able to impersonate the previous winner, Adele Wolfe, in this year's race. But she doesn't count on Adele's twin brother, Felix, entering too... or the watchful eyes of Luka, another rider.

There are two main timelines in the story: Then and Now. Now is 1956 and follows Yael through the motorcycle race. It introduces treacherous characters who'll stop at nothing to win, surprising moments of kindness, the harsh reality of spending that much time on a motorcycle, the fear of being discovered, the complication of a twin brother tagging along, and the threat of a secret connection between Adele and a boy. 

Then is the story of Yael before - of how she became. It is the train journey, the camp, the Doctor, the needles, the loss, the escape, the resistance... It's all the moments in Yael's life that have led to this one. She has five wolves tattooed on her arm that cover the numbers marking her as a death camp prisoner and serve as a tribute to the loved ones she has lost. They are the reason she fights. And in Then, you get to hear their stories. 

I'm not always a fan of dual timeline, but I absolutely loved it in this book. I was swept up in the action of the motorcycle race - and in the fear that someone would uncover Yael's secret. In the portions in the past, I was moved by the suffering Yael experienced and all that had been taken from her. It allowed me to see so many sides to her: the fighter, the survivor, the victim. And through it all, I admired her strength of will.

I enjoyed the pacing of the book. The portions leading up the race and during it are exciting and nerve wracking. There's so much on the line and so many ways it could go wrong. But I liked the shift to the past, too, and how those portions were a bit slower. I never felt like the Then sections interrupted the flow of Now. Instead, they added depth by fleshing out all the reasons Yael must not fail at her task.

Listening to Wolf by Wolf on audio exemplified why I love this format so much. Narrator Christa Lewis brought so much to the story - everything from accents to a richness of emotions. I honestly think I loved the book more because I was listening to it than I might have if I'd picked up the hardcover. I was completely immersed in the story! And as soon as the book ended, I hopped on Audible and bought the sequel, Blood for Blood, so I could continue. The audio made it such a wonderful reading experience.

I can't tell you anything about the plot of Blood for Blood because it might spoil the ending to the first book. I'll just say that it increased the tension and the stakes tenfold. I loved the way it shifts to focus primarily on three characters. While Yael still anchors the book, it was wonderful to have her story juxtaposed with two others that were quite different. There were twists that I didn't see coming, and Graudin made several choices that surprised me. I was racing to find out how it would end, and I honestly didn't expect to be so emotional. 

In case you can't tell, I loved reading Wolf by Wolf and Blood for Blood! If I've convinced you to give them a try, I hope you'll strongly consider listening to them on audio. I just can't say enough about how much I loved the way Christa Lewis narrated! But no matter what format you choose, these books are worth reading. The writing, characters, and plot were all on my mind long after the books were over.

PS: Pretend that I took a photo highlighting the audio editions instead of the hardcovers. #struggle
Narrated by: Christa Lewis
Release Date: October 2015; November 2016 | Publisher: Hachette; Little Brown BFYR
Pages: 400 pages; 481 pages | Source & Format: Bought; Audiobook 

This was my sixth read for The Picky Pledge Reading Challenge that Alexa and I are doing in 2017! It's the perfect motivation to read books from my TBR and adds an extra dose of accountability, too. In addition to reading and reviewing one challenge book per month, we're answering three questions about each one!

1. How long has this book been on your TBR?
Not long - only since February of this year! I had older, unfinished audiobooks in my account, but they're all be re-reads. I figured I'd choose something new-to-me, even though it hasn't been on my TBR very long!

2. Why did you choose to buy it in audiobook format? 
Although Wolf by Wolf came out in 2015, it wasn't on my radar until earlier this year. I kept seeing people talk about, and then I noticed it in Audible's "First in Series" sale. I couldn't resist because I loved the sample.

3. Would you listen to more audiobooks with this narrator?
I would! Christa Lewis added so much to the reading experience that I feel like I probably loved the books more than I might have if I'd just read the hardcover myself. She exemplified why I love this format!

1 comment:

  1. Yes! These were so excellent on audio! Glad to hear you enjoyed them -- when I chime in to recommend a book, I'm always a little nervous I might miss the mark LOL

    ReplyDelete

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