Friday, August 31, 2012

Witch Born!

*I received this as an eARC from Amber Argyle for review purposes.*

Amazon | Goodreads | Barnes & Noble 

Witch Born

Author: Amber Argyle
Year Published: 2012

Synopsis:  Brusenna thought it was finished.

She defeated the Dark Witch, saving the Haven Witches from imprisonment and death. She found love and a place to belong.

She was wrong.

Haven is not the sanctuary it appears to be. Even love is in danger of slipping away like water through cupped hands.

Some things can't be saved.

A new threat merges with the old as the Witches’ dark history begins to catch up with them. Only Brusenna knows the extent of the danger and how to stop it, though doing so might cost her everything.

Including her life.

Will Brusenna be required to make the ultimate sacrifice?

Why?: Aside from receiving this as a copy for review, I absolutely loved the first book in this series, Witch Song (my review is here). I've been anxiously awaiting the arrival of Witch Born!

Expectations: I expect Brusenna to have grown as a witch and as a person since the events of Witch Song. I also expect her world to be turned upside down again, but I think she will prevail over the hardships she's presented with. I expect her to lose someone close to her, or maybe something close to her. I think the world has already been well established, so I'm hoping that this book focuses more on character growth and development.

Judging a book by its cover: While the cover is gorgeous, I'm not sure I would pick it up in a book store if I saw it on the shelf. I would definitely stop and look it at for longer than some other books, but I'm not sure if it would stand out as much as it should amongst all of the other gorgeous covers out there.


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Versatile Blogger Nomination

We were nominated for the Versatile Blogger Award by PidginPea's Book Nook!!! Thank you so much!

Here are the rules for the award...

- Thank the blogger who nominated you.
- Add the Versatile Blogger award picture to your post.
- Share 7 random facts about yourself.
- Nominate 15 fellow bloggers who are relatively new to blogging.
- Let the nominees know that they’ve been nominated.And so...

7 facts about us...
1. Both of us (Ashley and Paul) play a musical instrument. Ashley plays clarinet, as well as anything else with a single reed. Paul plays the trombone.
2. Paul has a degree in marine biology and is currently working as an endangered species observer, keeping manatees and sea turtles safe.
3. Paul is an only child.
4. Paul has a weird allergy when it comes to apples. They make his mouth and throat itchy if eaten raw. This also sometimes happens with peaches and other fruit.
5. Ashley has degrees in Chemical Engineering and Mathematical Sciences, and is currently working on her master's degrees in both.
6. Ashley hates clowns and gas tankers. And especially the idea of a clown in a gas tanker.
7. Ashley loves going to zoos & aquariums, and usually ends up at one at least once a year.

15 bloggers I nominate:
1. YA Novelties
2. The Reviews News
3. Conversations of a Reading Addict
4. Makeshift Bookmark
5. Electrifying Reviews
6. The Reading Geek
7. Book Nerd Swag
8. Loving Books
9. Books With Dylan
10. Young Adult Book Haven
11. Movies in My Head
12. Pages from My Thoughts
13. Almost Grown-Up
14. Beauty and the Bookshelf
15. Paper Cuts

Thanks again for the nomination, PidginPea! We happily pass on the Versatile Blogger Award to the 15 lovely bloggers above!

Paul's July Pick: Shadow and Bone (Ashley's Pre-Reading)

I realized today that I'm very behind on reading. Classes recently started and have me all sorts of messed up. So, I'm finally getting to Paul's book from July! It's about time...

Title: Shadow and Bone 
Leigh Bardugo
Year Published: 2012

Synopsis: Alina Starkov doesn’t expect much from life. Orphaned by the Border Wars, all she’s ever been able to rely on is her best friend and fellow refugee, Mal. And lately not even that seems certain.

Drafted into the army of their war-torn homeland, they’ve been sent on a dangerous mission into the Fold, a swath of darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. When their convoy is attacked, all seems lost until Alina reveals a dormant power that not even she knew existed.

She is torn from everything she knows and whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling. He believes that she is the answer the people have been waiting for: the Sun Summoner. Only her power can destroy the Fold.

Overwhelmed by luxury, envied as the Darkling’s favorite, Alina struggles to keep her wits about her without Mal by her side. But nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her mastery of her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha—and the secrets of her heart.

Why?: Paul chose this as his book of the month for July, and so that means I get to read it too! Also, it sounds really interesting - magic and danger and mystery? That's right up my alley.

Expectations: I expect a pretty epic novel. Battles, and magic training, and forging new friendships/alliances as well as trying to mend broken ones. Plus, probably quite a bit of self-discovery. And some pretty intense world-building.

Judging a book by its cover: The cover has a pretty Russian feel to it, so I feel like that will play a pretty big role in the setting and world-building. It's an interesting cover, but it doesn't really catch my attention. I think if I stumbled across it in a bookstore or a library, I might pick it up. But it wouldn't jump out and grab me.


Paul's Endlessly Pre Reading

*I received this as an ARC from epicreads*

Author: Kiersten White
Year Published: 2012

Evie's paranormal past keeps coming back to haunt her. A new director at the International Paranormal Containment Agency wants to drag her back to headquarters. The Dark Faerie Queen is torturing humans in her poisonous realm. And supernatural creatures keep insisting that Evie is the only one who can save them from a mysterious, perilous fate.

The clock is ticking on the entire paranormal world. And its fate rests solely in Evie's hands.

So much for normal.

Why?: I have enjoyed the first two books in this series. I originally received this from epicreads, not thinking I would enjoy it because of the cover , but this series has surprised me.

Expectations:  I'm expecting to learn more about the paranormals like the Faeiries and Elementals as well as some new paranormals. I want to know more about the faerie history. I think this is the last in the series, so I expect a conclusive ending.

Judging a book by its cover: .I do not like this cover. I don't think any of the books in this series match their covers. I would not pick this book up because it looks like another angtsy paranormal romance probably with a love triangle and a weak female lead. Thankfully, I know Evie is a strong female character and the romance is natural and not the primary story.


Monday, August 27, 2012

Girl of Nightmares: Ashley's Review

Anna Dressed in Blood was one of my favorite books that I've read in the past year (you can read my review here). I loved the story, I loved the characters, and I loved how scary it was. So, you can imagine that I was pretty excited when Girl of Nightmares came out. Especially since I only had to wait a couple of months!

Girl of Nightmares was not at all what I was expecting after finishing Anna Dressed in Blood. I figured Cas would be fighting his way through all these ghosts trying to find and save Anna, and that Carmel and Thomas would be right there with him. I figured he'd grown stronger, more cautious, and that he was more mature than he had been in Anna.

That's definitely not what I got, but I still loved it. Cas still hasn't accepted that Anna is gone, and although he's stilling killing bad ghosts, it doesn't seem like it's as much he was before Anna.  And then when he starts seeing Anna everywhere, he decides that he must save her in one way or another. I was kind of hoping his journey to saving her would be more epic, but I think it was epic in a different way. He grows more as a person, and he comes to realize that sometimes you don't always get what you want.

While I thought that Anna Dressed in Blood did a great job of creating a world that seemed very realistic, yet was somehow different, I think that Blake does an awesome job of expanding that world and adding elements to it that make it have so much more depth. The Suicide Forest, the idea of "Hell," and all of the other new places make Cas' world very rich... and also very scary. Especially the Suicide Forest. That place was almost as scary as Anna's Victorian.

Most of the book is a lead-up into Cas going to save Anna, but I think that it's all necessary. I never felt like the plot dragged, and I think that the build-up made the last few chapters that much better. It's really interesting to be in Cas' head and see how he feels about things and how he judges other people, and I thought that spending the majority of the book getting to know Cas' depression was really intriguing.

All in all, this was an excellent sequel/conclusion to the Anna series. It's actually refreshing to find a good duology that doesn't leave too many questions unanswered by the end. Plus, there's less time for the plot to drag as it sometimes does in a trilogy. I would definitely recommend this to anyone who has read Anna Dressed in Blood. And, if you haven't but are a fan of horror books or books about ghosts, you should go read Anna Dressed in Blood and then go pick this book up! I would give this book a 5/5!


Paul's Supernaturally Review

Pre Reading
Paranormalcy Review

This series continues to surprise me. I may have to reconsider judging some books by their covers. Personally, I think the cover doesn't match the story, but maybe other YA books with teen models aren't all about the romance. I really enjoyed this sequel.

The biggest disappointment I have with this book is that it wrapped up the ending, for the most part. I wish it would have ended a few chapters before it did. I actually wanted a cliffhanger ending. This trilogy seems more like a series with an undetermined about of books than a trilogy. I don't know if that was Kiersten White's intentions or not.

The new character of Jack was annoying, but I'm pretty sure that was White's intentions. It was unfortunate that Jack helped revert Evie to her more teen angsty ways.

My favorite part of this series is White's take on so many different paranormal beings. I really enjoyed the backstory of how vampires came to be. The world that I so enjoyed in Paranormalcy is even deeper in this sequel. The Faerie Realm was really interesting. The imagery was amazing. I like that each book introduces more paranormals and more information about paranormals already introduced.

I liked that Lend is pursuing a college degree in zoology with the intentions of studying cryptozoology. I was a little confused as to why or how he was taking vertebrate biology as a freshmen. I don't know about other universities, but in my college Comparative Vertebrate Anatomy was a higher level course.

I give this novel a 4/5. This series is a fun easy read in a really interesting world of paranormal beings.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Paul's The Kill Order Pre Reading

Title: The Kill Order

Author: James Dashner
Year Published: 2012

Synopsis:Before WICKED was formed, before the Glade was built, before Thomas entered the Maze, sun flares hit the earth and mankind fell to disease.

Mark and Trina were there when it happened, and they survived. But surviving the sun flares was easy compared to what came next. Now a disease of rage and lunacy races across the eastern United States, and there’s something suspicious about its origin. Worse yet, it’s mutating, and all evidence suggests that it will bring humanity to its knees.

Mark and Trina are convinced there’s a way to save those left living from descending into madness. And they’re determined to find it—if they can stay alive. Because in this new, devastated world, every life has a price. And to some, you’re worth more dead than alive.

Why?: This is a prequel to The Maze Runner Trilogy. I enjoyed the trilogy although my biggest qualm was with the science of the world. It wasn't a believable future to me. Hopefully this prequel will show how the world could really turn out that way. 

Expectations: I'm expecting there not to be any crazy mutated creatures and kids with psychic powers. I'm looking forward to an end-of-the-world story. 

Judging a book by its cover: The cover goes well with the apocolyptic story. Even if I had not read the trilogy I probably would have picked this up off the shelf. 


Thursday, August 23, 2012

Paul's Supernaturally Pre Reading

Title: Supernaturally
Author: Kiersten White
Year Published: 2011

Evie finally has the normal life she’s always longed for. But she’s shocked to discover that being ordinary can be...kind of boring. Just when Evie starts to long for her days at the International Paranormal Containment Agency, she’s given a chance to work for them again. Desperate for a break from all the normalcy, she agrees.

But as one disastrous mission leads to another, Evie starts to wonder if she made the right choice. And when Evie’s faerie ex-boyfriend Reth appears with devastating revelations about her past, she discovers that there’s a battle brewing between the faerie courts that could throw the whole supernatural world into chaos. The prize in question? Evie herself. So much for normal.

Why?:  I am quickly reading through this series. It has surprised me so far.

Expectations: I enjoyed Paranormalcy, so I am hoping this is similar, but different enough. I like it when sequels don't just have the same formula as their predecessor with a few details switched around. Why is she back with IPCA? There better be a good explanation for that! I am glad Reth is back. He was an interesting character in the first book and there are so many unanswered questions about, not only, him but also the Faeries as a whole. The Faerie Courts sound really interesting. 

Judging a book by its cover:  I do not like this cover. I would not pick this book up in the store. But, I said the same for Paranormalcy.


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Paul's Review of Paranormalcy

Pre Reading

This makes two books in a row that I don't like their covers. I don't think this cover portrays the feel of the book. I feel that this cover is so similar to so many other paranormal romance novels out there. A romance does come into play in this novel, but there's so much more. 

I was really surprised by this novel. I wouldn't have picked it up just from the synopsis had I not received the third in the series free. I ended up really enjoying it. The story takes place in our world, except there is an organization (the IPCA) that internationally takes care of any Paranormal problems. It is like a paranormal Men In Black, except the protagonist is a 16 year old girl with the ability to see through the Paranormals' glamour to their true selves. This book reminded me of an old tv series on the Disney Channel when I was growing up, So Weird. Each week the teenage Fiona would come across some crazy paranormal being while traveling the world on a tour bus with her mother's band. 

White put an interesting spin on a lot of the well known paranormals. For example, the fairies don't have wings and are so creepy. I liked the use of bread and iron as deterrents as well.

At times I thought the teen angst overpowered pressing situations. Although, it may be understandable considering how much Evie wants to be just a normal teenage girl in high school with a boyfriend and an awesome locker. 

Each character in this novel was well written. They all had their own subtleties. One character has very descriptive sighs. A mermaid's translator turns all curse words to bleeps. Evie is completely obsessed with a popular teen drama. Another character sketches well. 

Overall, I enjoyed this book and will continue reading the series. I give this book a 4/5. I recommend it to anyone interested in paranormal beings with a bit of teen girl drama. It reminds me of the Wake series by Lisa McMann.


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Paul's Something Strange And Deadly Review

Pre Reading
Ashley's Review

First, I must comment on the cover. Although this cover is stunning and I do think it accurately portrays the feel of the book, I wish the model used wasn't so thin. Eleanor is described as having a little more cushion than the average girl. I like that she isn't a barbie character. I think the book would get a broader audience if the Spirit-Hunters were some way included on the cover. 

Dennerd did an excellent job creating a unique world within a real time period. I loved her use of Victorian era clothes, devices, and such. The one big difference is that, possibly once or twice a year, a few Dead rise from their graves. The novel takes place during a time when the Dead are becoming more common and greater in numbers. 

My favorite characters were the Spirit-Hunters. They are like the Ghostbusters of the late 1800s. I like how Dennard integrated diversity into a time period where it wasn't common. I can only assume a Cajun black man and a Chinese girl dressed as a boy were not a common sight in Philadelphia during the late 19th century. The Spirit-Hunters all have unique personalities as well. 

Dennard's take on high society Victorian culture was very interesting. I liked how Eleanor defied her place in society as the story progressed. I also really liked the Centennial Exhibition. It reminded me of The Carousel of Progress in Disney. 

I've seen a lot of reviews of this novel that didn't like the way zombies were portrayed, but I loved it! I enjoy the traditional voodoo controlled zombies more than the more recently popular crazy flesh-eating virus. I loved the way the Necromancer controlled them, but if he lost control they became Hungry. I also liked the way Dennard incorporated a seance and a Spirit. 

There was a little bit of a love triangle, but the story was more powerful. In the next novel I want to learn more about how the Spirit got in during the seance. I would also like to see the Spirit-Hunters challenged by some more paranormal beings. I think I remember a tweet between Marissa Meyer and Dennard talking about a Parisian landmark. 

I give this novel a 5/5! One of my favorite debuts of the past year. 

And as a post script, I have a video for you that you must see! It's an endearing youtube vid of Dennard opening a package containing her finished book.


Monday, August 20, 2012

Paul's Paranormalcy Pre Reading

I received Endlessly from epicreads right before it came out. I hadn't read the first two installments in the trilogy, but thought the books sounded really interesting. I got Paranormalcy when it was really cheap for kindle. 

Title: Paranormalcy
Author: Kiersten White
Year Published: 2010

Synopsis: Weird as it is working for the International Paranormal Containment Agency, Evie’s always thought of herself as normal. Sure, her best friend is a mermaid, her ex-boyfriend is a faerie, she's falling for a shape-shifter, and she's the only person who can see through paranormals' glamours, but still. Normal.

Only now paranormals are dying, and Evie's dreams are filled with haunting voices and mysterious prophecies. She soon realizes that there may be a link between her abilities and the sudden rash of deaths. Not only that, but she may very well be at the center of a dark faerie prophecy promising destruction to all paranormal creatures.

So much for normal.

Why?: I received Endlessly, so I am going to gradually read through the trilogy until I get to the final installment. 

Expectations: I haven't read much urban fantasy so I don't know what to expect. I have heard the protagonist isn't a typical emo chick, but a preppy pink-loving teen instead. I expect a lot of paranormal things happening in the modern world.

Judging a book by its cover: This cover is not typically something I would pick up. It looks a little too paranormal romancey for me. 


Sunday, August 19, 2012

Ashley's Pre-reading of Paul's August Pick: The Forsaken

Title: The Forsaken
Author: Lisa M. Stasse
Year Published: 2012

Synopsis: As an obedient orphan of the U.N.A. (the super-country that was once Mexico, the U.S., and Canada), Alenna learned at an early age to blend in and be quiet—having your parents taken by the police will do that to a girl. But Alenna can’t help but stand out when she fails a test that all sixteen-year-olds have to take: The test says she has a high capacity for brutal violence, and so she is sent to The Wheel, an island where all would-be criminals end up.

The life expectancy of prisoners on The Wheel is just two years, but with dirty, violent, and chaotic conditions, the time seems a lot longer as Alenna is forced to deal with civil wars for land ownership and machines that snatch kids out of their makeshift homes. Desperate, she and the other prisoners concoct a potentially fatal plan to flee the island. Survival may seem impossible, but Alenna is determined to achieve it anyway.

Why?: Honestly, I'm really only reading this because Paul picked it as his August book. I haven't looked into it very much, and I have no idea what it's about other than what the synopsis gives.

Expectations: I expect an interesting dystopian world with lots of conflict and hardship for the main character. I also expect there to be quite a bit of world-building. Paul liked this book a lot so I think I will too, since we have similar taste in books!

Judging a book by its cover: I am not really a huge fan of this cover. The colored lines remind me of some sort of matrix or plot, and the girl's face looks like it's made out of an islanth an observatory and a satellite... Maybe it will make more sense after reading it, but I probably would not pick this book up off the shelf based solely on the cover.

Paul's Flatland Review

Title: Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions
Author: Edwin A. Abbott
Year Published: 1884

This was another oldie I found on my bookshelf unread and then found out it is free on goodreads. I will definitely be taking advantage of the free classics on goodreads.

This book is highly conceptual and the first half is very slow, but it really makes you think. I enjoyed the breaks I had between reading this book in which I could contemplate how a 2 dimensional being would comprehend a third dimension or how I could possibly comprehend a fourth. 

The first half describes the two dimensional world in which the protagonist lives. The social structure is definitely dated. This novel is very sexist, but it may have been the norm at the time. 

The second half of the novel describes the square protagonist's adventure into the three dimensional world and his resulting evangelizing. This part was more enjoyable to read than the first. 

I give this novel a 3/5 because of the slow start and the dated vocabulary and structure. If you are a math nerd or like to think about crazy ideas, you will really enjoy this. 

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Paul's The Forsaken Review

Pre Reading

First, I am glad I have the US cover. I like it so much more than the UK cover, which you can see to the left. 

I really enjoyed this book! It was a wonderful dystopian YA novel. It had so many bits from the many other dystopian YA out there now. If this book had come out two years ago, I would have been so amazed by it. One series that I think it has a lot of similarities in feel to is the Maze Runner series. Now, my big qualm with the Maze Runner series was that it didn't seem real enough. The science just didn't convince me. In The Forsaken, this was not a problem. Stasse creates a world that, I think, could actually exist. There is just enough explanation of the science and politics to get by.

Alenna is an excellent example of a female protagonist in a dystopian world. She rises to the obstacles that are presented to her and tries to find answers. The inhabitants of The Wheel are are so unique. One of my favorite storylines involved the godlike leader of a rival group on The Wheel. Masks always make villians more interesting. 

If you enjoy dystopian YA, this is a must read! I give this novel a 5/5!

I will definitely be picking up the sequel!


Friday, August 17, 2012

Paul's The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell Review

I was planning on doing a video review for this book. Unfortunately, with me being away from home, I can not do that right now. It has been a long enough time since I finished reading this. Hopefully, I will have a video review of this book up in the next few weeks! Sorry, guys! Here is my youtube channel: Pwdecker!

Pre Reading

First I must say that I did enjoy this book. It is a wonderful, fantastical story involving many colorful fairy tale characters living all in one world after their "Happily Ever After"s. BUT, it was definitely too young of a read for me. I do understand that a 23 year old man is not the target audience, though.

I can see how Chris Colfer has been working on this since he was young. The world has depth, with many of the kingdoms ruled by a traditional fairy tale princess. Reading this book reminded me of so many books, as well as other media from my childhood. The twins, Alex and Connor, as well as their storybook reminded me of the kids from The Magic Tree House series. Harry Potter also came to mind, although this book isn't as well structured. Warriors of Virtue and other fantasy 90's children's films where kids are thrust into magical worlds also came to mind. Something from my early childhood that this book reminded me of was the Wee Sing VHS tapes. One of my favorite computer game series as a child was King's Quest.  Many nursery rhyme and fairy tale characters are in both of these. This book especially reminded me of King's Quest because of the list of items they needed to collect to complete the Wishing Spell. On that same note, there is a game called Enchanted Forest that has a similar theme of collecting storybook characters' items. Since Chris Colfer is around my age, I wonder if any of these things actually did inspire him.

This book is a very easy read. Many of the big revelations were very predictable. I thought everything in the story was too easy for the twins. I wish there would have been more difficult hardships and conflicts to conquer. At some points the story was unusually dark. There were some deaths in which no repercussions were mentioned. I wanted to see more of the wolves' stories. They were seen as merely bad guys. I wanted more depth. Red Riding Hood's Kingdom is surrounded by a wall discriminating against all wolves of all shapes and colors. I thought this was going to lead to a message about not generalizing groups of people, but that never came. The story is generic, but what really pulled me in was the rich characters and the rich world they inhabit. Colfer took a clever take on many of the well known fairy tale characters. 

My favorite character was the Evil Queen. I really enjoyed her back story. I could not get The Mayor from Once Upon A Time out of my head whenever I imagined the Evil Queen. 

In the end. I give this book a 3/5. Now, this is my rating for me, a 23 year old man, reading this. If I was age 10 to 12, I would probably have given this a very strong 5. I recommend this to anyone interested in fairy tales and magical worlds. I recommend this even more so to a younger audience. If you have a niece, nephew, son, daughter, or if you just know a youngling that likes fairy tales, this would be a PERFECT gift!


Thursday, August 16, 2012

"A person can be educated and still be stupid, and a wise man can have no education at all."

My Pre-Reading
Paul's Review

Although I've seen The False Prince as being billed as a book for younger YA/older MG audiences, I think it's written in such a way that anyone can enjoy it. I would probably place it more in the YA genre than the MG one, but I can definitely see how this would be an appropriate novel for younger audiences. The plot moves along at a decent pace, and there aren't big words that could cause younger readers to struggle with the context.

I thought Nielsen's world building was great in this novel. Once the world was pretty established, she continues to incorporate details that make it a rich and exciting place for the story to take place. At times, I felt like I was walking the halls of Connor's extravagant home and that Sage's world was actually real.

Nielsen did an excellent job of creating an aura of mystery about Connor and the missing prince. How does Connor know the prince is dead? Is he really dead? Why is Conner so intent on saving the royal family and placing someone on the throne? What about the servants - how much do they know and do they support Connor's plans if they know about them? I also liked that we are presented with just enough information about Sage's background to make us believe that we know enough about him. I felt like Nielsen kept the reader as in the dark as Connor about the boys he had chosen to train to become prince.

I do wish that some of the minor characters had been given more focus in the novel, as I would really have like to know more about the other three boys competing against Sage. Why don't they fear Connor as much as Sage seems to? What do they really think of this whole thing? I also found myself wondering about Mott and Cregon and how they ended up as Connor's servants. Especially Mott, since he's more compassionate and helpful than Cregon. The juxtaposition of the compassionate, honorable soldier (Mott) with that of the ruthless, cruel soldier (Cregon) was one of my favorite character comparisons in the book.

Although I was pretty sure I had guessed the big reveal before it happened, it was really interesting to be thrown into a completely different narration style for a little bit in order to be given the whole story. I really enjoyed that, and I liked how it disrupted the story in order to introduce a crucial plot point. It was kind of similar to the way the life of the involved party was disrupted.

With a few more answered questions, The False Prince could have been a great standalone novel. As the beginning of a trilogy though, I'm really looking forward  to what happen next with Sage, Imogen, Mott, Tobias, and all of the other characters from this novel. I would give this book a 4/5, and recommend it to fans of YA fantasy and mystery novels.


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Ashley's August Book: Girl of Nightmares

Title: Girl of Nightmares
Author: Kendare Blake
Year Published: 2012

Synopsis: In this follow-up to Anna Dressed in Blood, Cas begins seeing Anna everywhere: sometimes when he’s asleep, and sometimes in waking nightmares. But something is very wrong. These aren’t just daydreams. Anna seems tortured, torn apart in new and ever more gruesome ways every time she appears.

Cas doesn’t know what happened to Anna when she disappeared into Hell, but he knows she doesn’t deserve whatever is happening to her now. Anna saved Cas more than once, and it’s time for him to return the favor.

Why?: I absolutely loved Anna Dressed in Blood, and so naturally I've been dying to read this sequel. I can't wait to find out what happened to Anna, how Cas and friends are dealing with her loss, and if Cas is still killing ghosts.

Expectations: I expect this book to be just as scary as Anna Dressed in Blood, but in a different way. I also expect Cas to be very depressed because of losing Anna, but I also hope he's matured some since the last book. Not that I didn't love Cas before - I just think the experience of losing the girl he loves will have caused him to re-examine himself.

Judging a book by its cover: I think this cover is absolutely gorgeous. I love that it's similar to the cover of Anna Dressed in Blood. I would definitely pick this up off of a shelf if I saw it somewhere.


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Paul's Pre Reading of Something Strange and Deadly

Ashley's Pre Reading
Ashley's Review

Title: Something Strange and Deadly
Author: Susan Dennard
Year Published: 2012

 The year is 1876, and there’s something strange and deadly loose in Philadelphia…

Eleanor Fitt has a lot to worry about. Her brother has gone missing, her family has fallen on hard times, and her mother is determined to marry her off to any rich young man who walks by. But this is nothing compared to what she’s just read in the newspaper—

The Dead are rising in Philadelphia.

And then, in a frightening attack, a zombie delivers a letter to Eleanor…from her brother.

Whoever is controlling the Dead army has taken her brother as well. If Eleanor is going to find him, she’ll have to venture into the lab of the notorious Spirit-Hunters, who protect the city from supernatural forces. But as Eleanor spends more time with the Spirit-Hunters, including their maddeningly stubborn yet handsome inventor, Daniel, the situation becomes dire. And now, not only is her reputation on the line, but her very life may hang in the balance.

Why?: Ashley has read this book and really enjoyed it. We usually have a pretty similar taste, so I am excited for this one.

Expectations: I have heard a lot of really good things about this book, but nothing specific. I really don't know what to expect.

Judging a book by its cover: I don't know if I would have chosen this book based solely on the cover. It looks like just another paranormal romance. The trees and cogs in the background do intrigue me, though. 


Monday, August 13, 2012

The Island of Dr. Moreau

Title: The Island of Dr. Moreau
Author: H.G. Wells
Year Published: 1896

I haven't read a classic in some time. I believe the only other H.G. Wells novel I have read is The Time Machine, which I read many years ago. It was interesting going from modern YA to something written in the 1800s.

I did not know what to expect when I started reading this. I was recently home in Memphis, where my parents still live and my old bookshelf lives as well. I perused the bookshelf for books I hadn't read that I was interested in reading. This was one of my discoveries. I later found out that this book is available for free on Goodreads. I'm glad I know that now because other classics can also be found there, too.

The main subject this book deals with is the difference between man and beast. Dr. Moreau has created Beast Men through vivisection, merging different breeds into humanlike entities. The science of this book is unbelievable, but I'm sure this was a potential fear for people in the late 1800s. Darwinism had emerged and science was quickly progressing.  

Taking into account the time period this book was written, it must have been groundbreaking. I really enjoyed the way religion was brought into it. The Beast Men's mentalities has similarities to the animals in Animal Farm, with laws that they force themselves to follow. 

The language was, at first, difficult to comprehend, but I got used to it a few chapters in. The word "presently" is used in this novel an excessive amount!  

I give this book a 4/5. Classics always seem better when you aren't reading them for school. I recommend this to anyone interested in a classic thriller sci-fi. There were some pretty creepy parts in this book.


Sorry Guys, But I'm Saving Manatees!

I am back on a job. This is both a good thing and a bad thing when it comes to this blog. How about the bad news first? I won't be able to upload reviews or film video reviews as often. I work 12 hour days! Now, the good news! During those 12 hour days, there is a possibility of breaks lasting anywhere from 15 minutes to many hours. I'm taking advantage of that time to read, of course. 

I will try and catch up on my reviews this week. Maybe I will even film some footage on my iPhone to make a video review while at work. 

I have finished reading both The Land of Stories and The Forsaken! If you follow me on goodreads or twitter, you may know I am one chapter away from finishing an H.G. Wells classic, The Island of Dr. Moreau. I will be starting Something Strange and Deadly tonight!


Friday, August 10, 2012

Glow: Pre-Reading

Title: Glow
Author: Amy Kathleen Ryan
Year Published: 2011

Synopsis:  What if you were fifteen, bound for a new world, about to pledge your life to someone you’d been promised to since birth, and one unexpected violent attack made survival – not love – the issue? Out in the murky nebula lurks an unseen enemy: the New Horizon. On its way to populate a distant planet in the wake of Earth’s collapse, the ship’s crew has been unable to conceive a generation to continue its mission. They need young girls desperately, or their zealous leader’s efforts will fail. Onboard their sister ship, the Empyrean, the unsuspecting families don’t know an attack is being mounted that could claim the most important among them… 

Fifteen-year-old Waverly is part of the first generation to be successfully conceived in deep space; she was born on the Empyrean, and the large farming vessel is all she knows. Her concerns are those of any teenager – until Kieran Alden proposes to her. The handsome captain-to-be has everything Waverly could ever want in a husband, and with the pressure to start having children, everyone is sure he’s the best choice.

Except for Waverly, who wants more from life than marriage – and is secretly intrigued by the shy, darkly brilliant Seth. But when the Empyrean faces sudden attack by their assumed allies, they quickly find out that the enemies aren’t all from the outside.

Why?: I think it's really interesting when novels take place in space, and this one seems like no exception. Throw in a little bit of mystery, and it's almost reminiscent of Across the Universe. Only with two ships and a love triangle. And no frozen people, of course. Well, at least I don't think so.

Expectations: I expect a deep space mystery with a side of love triangle. I'm not really sure what else to expect, since I've never read anything by Ryan. Hopefully this book will surprise me!

Judging a book by its cover: Aside from the title, the cover only has a picture of a girl in a porthole. She looks distraught, or maybe tired, so I assume something bad happens to her. The cover is simple, and I like that the title and picture stand out from the background. I would likely pick this up if I saw it on a bookstore shelf somewhere. 

"Even the greatest feats of man lose their luster when one's head is filled with storm clouds."

My Pre-Reading

I went into this book thinking it was going to be an epic zombie novel. And while there were zombies, this book was so much more than that. It had adventure, mystery, zombies, spirits, a necromancer, Spirit Hunters, and lots of awesome Victorian conventions. And I absolutely loved all of it!

Dennard does a fantastic job building Eleanor's world. When I was reading, I felt like I was completely immersed in a world where the dead wake up and wander the streets. Like this could even have happened. Ok, maybe not in the 1800s we know, but maybe in a parallel universe where the only difference is that the dead have suddenly risen.

Eleanor is one of the best female heroines I've seen in a YA novel in a while. She's independent, smart, brave, and she cares enough about her family that she'll do anything to protect them, even if trying to save them puts her in grave danger. But she's also willing to give up everything she knows to save the world. She also tries to see the best in everyone, and while that can get her into trouble, I don't think it's a terrible trait to have. At least she's optimistic about the people who surround her, instead of being paranoid and distrustful. I loved how she grew over the course of the novel - slowly, but surely. Oh, and I loved, loved, loved the way Dennard uses a play on words with Eleanor's name. I didn't even pick up on it until Eleanor does, and it definitely made me smile. Because it's definitely fitting.

I assumed from the gears in the background and the Victorian dress that the model on the cover wears that this would be set in a steam-punk reality. That isn't entirely wrong, but it's more of just the time period, where technology and steam engines are just starting to become more popular. The incorporation of the Centennial Exhibition was a very nice touch, and I think it's interesting to see how people imagine things like that would have been like.

Without giving too much away, I thought that the way Dennard ties all of the characters and all of the seemingly pointless information and all of the random story lines tied together. It was actually kind of incredible how, at the end, it all just fits into place. It makes me want to read the book again just to see what all I missed on a first read through.

Something Strange and Deadly was definitely one of my favorite books this year. Probably even my second favorite debut, right after Cinder. So, I would rate this a 5/5 and recommend it to anyone who is looking for something completely different. Anyone looking for a really good mystery and/or fans of paranormal/supernatural novels would most likely enjoy this. I also think that fans of Cinder would enjoy Something Strange and Deadly as well, but that might just be my own bias. I really think everyone should pick up this book and read it, because I think there's something in it for everyone. I can't wait to read the next installment!


Thursday, August 2, 2012

Paul's August Pick: The Forsaken by Lisa M. Stasse

Title: The Forsaken
Author: Lisa M. Stasse
Year Published: 2012

As an obedient orphan of the U.N.A. (the super-country that was once Mexico, the U.S., and Canada), Alenna learned at an early age to blend in and be quiet—having your parents taken by the police will do that to a girl. But Alenna can’t help but stand out when she fails a test that all sixteen-year-olds have to take: The test says she has a high capacity for brutal violence, and so she is sent to The Wheel, an island where all would-be criminals end up.

The life expectancy of prisoners on The Wheel is just two years, but with dirty, violent, and chaotic conditions, the time seems a lot longer as Alenna is forced to deal with civil wars for land ownership and machines that snatch kids out of their makeshift homes. Desperate, she and the other prisoners concoct a potentially fatal plan to flee the island. Survival may seem impossible, but Alenna is determined to achieve it anyway.

Why?: I am a fan of dystopian books. I always have been. This big boom in YA has got me very excited, but some books that shouldn't slip through the cracks of publication. I'm hoping this is not one of those.This book looks like a genuinely interesting idea. I have heard it described as The Hunger Games meets Survivor meets Lost. Now I've never watched Lost, but that combination intrigues me. 

Expectations: I am expecting a strong female protagonist that rises to the challenges in her life. It sounds like she has a naturally harsh personality. It will be interesting that all the characters on this island have gotten the same results in this test of aggressive tendencies. It reminds me of the Dauntless of the Divergent series. 

Judging a book by its cover: This cover really captured me. I like simple and abstract covers. On the cover there is a gerl's profile made up of trees, a satellite dish, and abstract colored lines that connect to form topographic-like lines.I also like the font. 


Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The False Prince

Title: The False Prince
Author: Jennifer A. Nielsen
Year Published: 2012

Synopsis:   THE FALSE PRINCE is the thrilling first book in a brand-new trilogy filled with danger and deceit and hidden identities that will have readers rushing breathlessly to the end. In a discontent kingdom, civil war is brewing. To unify the divided people, Conner, a nobleman of the court, devises a cunning plan to find an impersonator of the king's long-lost son and install him as a puppet prince.

Four orphans are recruited to compete for the role, including a defiant boy named Sage. Sage knows that Conner's motives are more than questionable, yet his life balances on a sword's point -- he must be chosen to play the prince or he will certainly be killed. But Sage's rivals have their own agendas as well.

As Sage moves from a rundown orphanage to Conner's sumptuous palace, layer upon layer of treachery and deceit unfold, until finally, a truth is revealed that, in the end, may very well prove more dangerous than all of the lies taken together. An extraordinary adventure filled with danger and action, lies and deadly truths that will have readers clinging to the edge of their seats.

Why?: Books filled with adventure and mystery tend to usually be very exciting. Especially when discovering the truth could lead to someone's death. It's also been a while since I've read a more middle-grade book, and I think it will be a nice change of pace from the older YA novels I've read lately. I also think books about a kingdom and trying to save a people from inciting a civil war sounds very much like a fairy tale, and I love fairy tales.

Expectations: I expect a richly developed world with characters who only want to save their current way of  life. And then, in the midst of that, I expect there to be an antagonist with minions who wants to completely change the way things are to his/her benefit. Sage will probably get himself into a lot of trouble, and will learn things about himself, Conner, and his kingdom that he never knew and/or never wanted to know.

Judging a book by its cover: The cover has simply a broken crown on it, with the title and author in gold. This leads me to believe that Sage and Conner will have a hard time rebuilding the kingship and creating a new prince to fill the shoes (or crown, as the case may be) of the old, missing prince. It kind of reminds me of the cover of the Song of Fire and Ice books, as well as many other high fantasy books, and I would probably pick it up off the shelf in a bookstore based solely on that.


"Some infinities are bigger than other infinities."

My Pre-Reading
Paul's Review

Sometimes, after I finish a book, I feel like I should really have liked it more. But something is just off, or one of the characters annoys me, or some scene that I think should have been really powerful was lacking. For me, that was the case with
The Fault in Our Stars.

Don't get me wrong - I thought the idea behind it was really interesting and something not often touched upon in YA. Kids with cancer and how they deal with it, how their loved ones try to cope, how to live when you know your time is limited, and how hard it is to feel normal when there's nothing normal about you. A romance doomed from the start in one way or another, especially since this one was born in a childrens' cancer support group. Hazel was diagnosed with Stage IV thyroid cancer at age 12, and has only lived to age 16 by a medical miracle. She's kept alive through a concoction of oxygen and chemicals, and pretty much only attends this support group to make her parents happy. And I know she has cancer and probably has some sort of right to be as cynical as she is, but she kind of drove me crazy at the beginning of the novel. I didn't like her attitude, and I wasn't really sympathetic to her case. Which kind of makes me feel like a terrible person, but just because you have cancer doesn't really give you a right to be like Hazel.

And then there's Augustus Waters. In remission, his outlook on life is so much brighter than Hazel's. And then they end up together, and Hazel becomes a little bit more likeable. Her thoughts become more relateable, and she actually kind of starts to act like a 16 year old. I almost wish parts of the book had been written from Augustus' point of view. It definitely would have been interesting to see what he is actually thinking and to see if he's really as happy as he seems.

I really liked the unfinished book that Augustus and Hazel bond over, and how it leaves so much to be imagined by the reader. If I ever read a book like that though, I think I would be just as confused as Hazel. And as much as I hate epilogues most of the time, I feel like an epilogue would have been appropriate. But then the book wouldn't have the same impact, would it? Peter Van Houten, the author of said book, was probably my favorite character. He seems so put together in his correspondence with Hazel and Gus, but he's really a huge mess. And I love how his story relates so well to theirs. 

The one thing that really bothered me was that when the inevitable happens and one of the characters dies, it's really not at all what I expected. The reactions of the other characters, save for the immediate family, weren't what I thought they should be and I was actually really disappointed. I think maybe it was just too predictable. Which, in a case like that, I guess it kind of is... but still. The whole situation was really predictable. A couple other plot points bothered me too, and although the pacing was alright I felt like it was difficult to measure the passage of time.  Maybe that was intentional. If it was, well done!

Overall, I really did enjoy The Fault in Our Stars. I just had a few problems with it, and for that, I give it a 4/5. I would recommend it to someone looking for a serious YA novel about things that really could and do happen. A good story with decent characters, and a love story without a happy ending.