Thursday, May 31, 2012

Review: Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

Leviathan (Leviathan #1)
By Scott Westerfeld
Simon Pulse

To Sum It Up: In a world where Darwinists and Clankers compete in a war that will decide the supremacy of animals or machines, Deryn Sharp and Prince Aleksander are caught right in the middle.

Deryn yearns to be in the air. She wants to be in the British Air Force, flying on beasties and serving her country. There is one small problem, though. Deryn is a girl, and girls are not allowed in the air force. Forced to disguise herself as a young boy, Deryn lands herself a spot on the Leviathan, a famous giant whale airship. The Leviathan is Britain's prized possession; not only is it a brilliant ship, but it can also support an entire ecosystem, and Dylan, as Deryn now goes by, is more than proud to be a part of it. From hiding her secret, to training as a midshipman on the Leviathan, to fraternizing with Clankers, Deryn has a lot on her plate, especially with the war coming.

Prince Aleksander has led a pretty charmed life, up until now that is. Alek's father, the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, married a commoner, leaving Alek illegitimate in the eyes of his family and making Alek's claim to the throne almost nonexistent. When Alek's parents are murdered by whom he suspects to be his own people, Alek is forced to go on the run from his own country. Hated by the Darwinists for being a Clanker and chased from his own Clanker country by his own people, Alek is left with a small walker, a Clanker battle machine, as a home and a small band of loyal crewmen as his family.

When Alek and Deryn meet, not only do both change each other’s lives forever, but they also might just be able to change the tide of the war.

Review: Leviathan was a beautifully written book with elegantly crafted illustrations. Yes, illustrations. There is at least one in every chapter of this stunning book! It was like a nice little present every chapter; I looked forward to each new picture, and I wouldn't be lying if I said the illustrations added to my enjoyment of the book. Besides the amazing pictures found in Leviathan, the story itself was something else. Scott Westerfeld wrote a whole entire world when he wrote this book. Leviathan is my first steampunk novel, so I thought the whole idea was fascinating and captivating. Westerfeld describes the genetically engineered animals and Clanker machinery vividly. And if you don't get the whole picture Westerfeld is trying to get across, all you have to do is look at the illustrations on the next page, which capture the scene perfectly. Westerfeld also incorporated factual, historic events into the story. Leviathan most undoubtedly is taking place during World War I. I found it extremely fun to connect real life events with their fictional counterparts. And reading Leviathan while I was taking A. P. World History didn't hurt either.

Although I could gush about the setting of the novel forever, I would really like to move on to the main characters. I loved Alek and Deryn! They were both great protagonists, and I found myself connecting to both of them for different reasons. Usually, in books with different POVs, I tend to pick a favorite and then get annoyed whenever the story isn't focused on that person. In Leviathan's case, this did not happen. I loved both of them, Deryn and Alek, equally. I kept hopping back and forth between who I liked more until I finally came to the understanding that I loved them both.

Deryn is amazing! She does whatever she has to do to reach her goals and if that means masquerading as a boy, so be it. I just thought she was so cool! She got a place on board the Leviathan and she's always swinging about, right in front of the face of danger.

Alek was also pretty cool. I felt terribly bad for him and admired him for holding it together like he did. He's not some stuck-up prince. He really cares about the well-being of his men. Alek is a fighter and isn't afraid to go after what he wants. Awww I want Deryn and Alek to get together! They deserve each other! Sorry, I'll try to stop gushing. The minor characters were also lovable. Oh well, at least I tried ;) I was intrigued by Alek's loyal crew of men and fascinated by Deryn's shipmates and beasties.

Another thing I loved about Leviathan was all the action! Leviathan was set during the Great War, and so Westerfeld set the scene! It was really cool, and almost every action scene had my blood pumping. Deryn was fearless; she swung from ropes thousands of feet in the air. Alek expertly piloted clunky battle machines, stunning even the best master of mechanics!

In the end, I really loved Leviathan. The book was very refreshing, and it has opened my mind to other steampunk novels. I'm not lying when I say that I'm itching to get my hands on the sequel and will gladly read the third book after that.

All in All: Leviathan is an amazing story. The plot and characters are refreshing and unique. Sadly, I do not own my own copy. I had to borrow Leviathan from the library, but I will be sure to save up to get the whole trilogy! ;)

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Mortal Instruments' Mysterious Brother Zachariah

* Spoiler warning for The Mortal Instruments series and The Infernal Devices series *

After finishing City of Lost Souls recently, our curiosity about the true identity of this character from Cassandra Clare’s The Mortal Instruments series has become an obsession. We debate this topic at least twice a week during our after-dinner walk. Seriously. Since we love theorizing about books, we figured we’d add our thoughts on this enigmatic Silent Brother to the pile.

The two of us had read the first four Mortal Instruments books before reading Clockwork Angel, so we didn’t make the connection between the Herondales mentioned in The Mortal Instruments and Will Herondale from The Infernal Devices until after we’d read Clockwork Angel. Then our brains went into overdrive trying to figure out how Will and Jace are related. Then it also dawned on us that Brother Zachariah seems to know a lot about the Herondale family, as suggested by these Brother Zachariah quotes from Chapter 13 of City of Fallen Angels:

Would that I had been here, he said, his voice unexpectedly gentle, when you were growing up. I would have seen the truth in your face, Jace Lightwood, and known who you were.
We cannot and should not harm the boy. Old ties exist between the Herondales and the Brothers. We owe him help.

Our initial thought was that Brother Zachariah is really Jem Carstairs from The Infernal Devices. Jem somehow survives and becomes one of the Silent Brothers. It would definitely explain why Brother Zachariah seems to be so knowledgeable about the Herondales.

Now let’s take a look at City of Lost Souls. Brother Zachariah’s comments, and the clues which they might provide to his identity, become even more tantalizing. In Chapter 12, he tells Maryse Lightwood that he has “a particular interest” in Jace’s well-being. When Maryse asks him if he ever had children, his answer is no. The mystery only deepens when you consider that Cassandra Clare’s next series, The Dark Artifices, will feature a Shadowhunter named Emma Carstairs. Hmmm . . . . Does this mean that she’s descended from a different branch of the Carstairs family? Or is it possible that Brother Zachariah is . . . Will?! Will would also be concerned about Jace’s welfare. If Will had no children, though, then from which Herondale ancestor does Jace trace his lineage? Will has a sister, Cecily; she could be the ancestor, but then how did the Herondale name get passed down from her? Yeah, we’ve got quite the conundrum here.

And we’re pretty convinced that Brother Zachariah is either Jem or Will. We know that he was once a Shadowhunter, and in the Epilogue to City of Lost Souls, he tells Clary that there were once two people whom he would have died for. Will most certainly would have died for Tessa and Jem. Jem most certainly would have died for Tessa and Will. There’s also an intriguing quote from Magnus in Chapter 7 of CoLS: "I’ve known parabatai so close they were almost the same person. Do you know what happens, when one of them dies, to the one who’s left—" Given that Magnus is also in The Infernal Devices, we’re thinking that he’s discussing Will and Jem there. Naturally, Magnus never tells us what happens. By any chance does the surviving parabatai have to join the Silent Brothers? The suspense is driving us insane!

As for our guess as to who Brother Zachariah is, we’re just not sure. The hints which are given in City of Lost Souls could point to either Jem or Will. Of course, there’s always the possibility that Brother Zachariah is neither of them, and Cassandra Clare has done an outstanding job misleading us. We wouldn’t be surprised if the questions surrounding Brother Zachariah aren’t answered until City of Heavenly Fire, even though Clockwork Princess will be released first.

We’d love to hear from other fans of The Mortal Instruments and The Infernal Devices who are also puzzling over this. Do you have any theories on what Brother Zachariah’s story might be?

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday (5): Books Written in the Past 10 Years That We Hope People Are Still Reading in 30 Years

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.
This week's topic is:

Top Ten Books Written in the Past 10 Years That We Hope People Are Still Reading in 30 Years

The two of us read a lot of Young Adult fiction, so quite a few of the books on our list are YA titles.

  1. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling: Of course we hope that in 30 years, everyone will still be reading ALL of the Harry Potter books. ;-)
  2. The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins: This thrilling series captures the importance of fighting for what you believe in, a lesson that will always be relevant.
  3. A Dance with Dragons by George R. R. Martin: Again, we hope that the entire series (A Song of Ice and Fire) will continue to captivate readers.
  4. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini: This haunting, heartbreaking story is simply unforgettable.
  5. Atonement by Ian McEwan: A brilliantly crafted novel with amazing, timeless prose.
  6. Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta: YA Fantasy novels don't get much better than this.
  7. The Infernal Devices series by Cassandra Clare: This list would not have been complete without our favorite YA series.
  8. Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder: We can always appreciate strong heroines who turn adversity into an advantage while remaining true to themselves.
  9. The Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan: People have been reading Greek mythology for centuries. Percy's adventures are epic in their own right.
  10. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline: It'd be interesting to see what readers think of all the 80's references in this book 30 years from now.

What books from the past decade do you hope future generations will still be reading? Let us know by leaving your link. Thanks for checking out our Top Ten this week!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Review: City of Lost Souls by Cassandra Clare

We're both reviewing this one today, so this post is going to be quite long. We had both wanted to reread the previous Mortal Instruments books before reading City of Lost Souls, but we just didn't have the time. When we have the chance to read the first four books again, we'll post reviews for them then.

* Spoiler warning for the previous Mortal Instruments books and The Infernal Devices series *

City of Lost Souls (The Mortal Instruments #5)
By Cassandra Clare
Margaret K. McElderry Books

To Sum It Up: Although the demon Lilith has been defeated, Jace and Sebastian are missing. When the search for the boys proves fruitless, the Clave moves on to what it considers issues of higher priority, forcing Clary and her friends to take matters into their own hands. At last, Jace comes looking for Clary, and she is horrified to learn that Lilith’s ritual has bound him and Sebastian together. Harm one, hurt the other; kill one, the other dies as well. Not only that, but Jace is also under Sebastian’s control, a pawn in the latter’s plans to destroy the Shadowhunters. While Isabelle, Alec, Magnus, and Simon work feverishly to find a way to break the connection, Clary flies solo with a dangerous plan of her own to bring back the Jace she loves.

Ally's Review: In one word, City of Lost Souls was epic. And when I say “epic,” I don’t mean the version of “epic” that’s used nowadays where every little thing is mind-blowing. No! This is Shadowhunter epic! What can I say? Cassandra Clare did it again.

City of Lost Souls picks up where the last book left off. Jace is missing and the gang is out to find him. I liked this book a lot better than the last book, City of Fallen Angels. To me this book just flowed better and it was more interesting. I think I could have done without reading the other book and just jumped to City of Lost Souls. I loved all the different characters and POVs, except Maia and Jordan; I could've done without them. Although I appreciated their help in finding Jace and all, I felt that they took away from the story. I liked reading about Isabelle and Simon as well. I think they are good for each other, and I'm looking forward to seeing their relationship develop.

I thought the relationship between Sebastian and Jace was great! I was chuckling nonstop. Sebastian may be a deranged creep, but he is funny. I also thought that he was really misunderstood. I get that Sebastian is supposed to be evil and all, but what do you expect?! His parents showed him no love. I don't blame him for being a little twisted; I just think he needs some help. And I do think he truly did enjoy having a friend in Jace even though it was completely fake.

Although I found myself liking Sebastian, I was really mad at Jace for the majority of the book. To me, we lost the real Jace during City of Glass. Jace never seemed to fully recover from his brooding syndrome. I know he's been through a lot with all that possession crap and now this bonding thing with Sebastian, but come on, he's a Herondale for crying out loud! A descendant of Will freaking Herondale! Ahem, excuse me . . . . Anyway, as I was saying, Jace just wasn't living up to the Herondale expectations for me. But he was still cool and snarky. And I still love him! ;)

Ahhh, let's move on to Alec and Magnus! I love, love, loved that Alec had a POV! It was so cool to see Magnus through Alec's eyes and to see what their relationship was like. I just think that they are so sweet together! Awww, I love them! I love Magnus! Ally, stay focused! But, Alec, on the other hand, was always a little sketchy to me. He just always seemed so brooding, but now that I've read more about him I think I can understand him better. I mean, what's not to like? He looks like Will and he's pretty wicked with his bow and arrows! Let’s go back to Magnus; you can never have enough Magnus! City of Lost Souls keeps making all these references to Magnus's father, and now I'm interested. Who is Magnus's father? I have some theories, but in the end I don't know! Uggh, Magnus needs his own spinoff!

Let's move on to Clary. Clary, Clary, Clary, oh how you annoy me at times. It's not that I hate Clary; it’s just that I find her too headstrong and reckless. I also think she is kind of selfish. In the process of getting what she wants, her friends sometimes get hurt. I can, however, respect her for her fighting skills and her determination and loyalty. I wouldn't be lying if I said I would want her on my side of the fight.

Let's get to the good stuff: the Infernal Devices clues/references! I flipped out whenever I thought something referenced those guys! I slammed the book, I squealed, I laughed. It was amazing! I want Clockwork Princess! I won't give away any of the good stuff, but let me tell you, I was shooting out theories like there was no tomorrow. Lee and I were trying to piece together the ending of The Infernal Devices. We have some pretty farfetched theories, but let me tell you, reading the epic series, A Song of Ice and Fire, teaches you things, things which Lee and I have picked up and are putting to good use. The Silent Brother, Zachariah, is sketchy! And that is all I'm going to say on that topic . . . for now.

Anyway, I really, really loved this book! It was amazing and leaves readers wanting more! So my advice: read it! And if you have read all the Mortal Instruments books, then get to reading The Infernal Devices! But, if you are like Lee and me and have already read all of these amazing, life-changing books, then I am sorry, but you’re going to have to wait! At least we have our theories . . . . I know, small comfort. But I'm really glad Cassandra Clare decided to write these books. I can't imagine life without them, sniffle, sniffle.

All in All: I am a proud owner of my own copy, courtesy of Lee, and recommend this book to anybody and everybody. Just go read it!

Lee's Review: I’m going to try to keep this review somewhat sane in length, but when it comes to Cassandra Clare’s books, I just don’t know when to shut up. Please forgive me in advance for the amount of blathering that’s about to go down here.

I LOVED this book. As much as I enjoyed most of the previous Mortal Instruments books, City of Lost Souls just hit all the right notes for me. Reading about these characters again was like meeting up with an old friend you hadn’t seen in years. It was so easy to fall right back into the story.

I wasn’t crazy over the last installment, City of Fallen Angels, mostly because I couldn’t stand Jace’s moping. It drove me insane. Yes, there was a very important, plot-related reason for it, but I still didn’t like it. And yes, I’m heavily invested in Jace's well-being; I have to remind myself constantly that he's fictional. We still don’t have the real Jace here, but this version is a huge improvement over the one from CoFA.

I feel like City of Lost Souls should have been Book Four, or at least some elements should have been in City of Fallen Angels. The build-up to the confrontation with Lilith in the latter took forever. I probably would have liked CoFA more if its pacing had been better.

Multiple characters, including Alec, Isabelle, Jordan, and Jocelyn, have points-of-view in this book. Things could have spiraled out of control very easily, but Clare juggles all of them adeptly. I really liked Alec and Isabelle’s POVs; I was glad to see them step into the spotlight a bit more. Alec’s POV was especially welcome because it meant more pages with Magnus in them!

Sebastian is truly the type of villain that you love to hate. His warped, sadistic mind makes it very easy to despise him. Yet there were a few moments in this book when I almost believed that maybe he was slightly less evil than I’d originally thought. Not only does he play games with the characters in the book, but he also toys with readers by keeping them guessing as to what his true face looks like, if he even has one.

This review wouldn’t be complete without mentioning our heroine, Clary. I’ve never been a big Clary fan because of her propensity to act first and think about the consequences later. I’ve always thought that Isabelle would have made a better protagonist for the series. In this book, though, Clary finally seems to realize what being a Shadowhunter is all about. She shows off some pretty mean fighting skills, and at one crucial point in the story, she reflects on a particular rash decision that she made and learns from it. Please continue in this direction, Clary; we might become friends yet.

All in All: Five stars all the way! It’s going to be a very long wait until 2014, when City of Heavenly Fire gets released.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Feature & Follow Friday (4)

Feature & Follow Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Parajunkee's View and
Alison Can Read. It's a great way to meet other book bloggers!

This week's question is:
Activity! Dreamcast your current read.

The book that both of us read most recently was:

Jamie Campbell Bower is set to play Jace in the movie adaptation of The Mortal Instruments that's in the works, but his turn as Caius in the Twilight movies makes us think that he'd make a better Sebastian. Instead, our choice for Jace would be Lucas Till, who played Alex Summers/Havok in X-Men: First Class. In fact, we were watching this movie the other night and kind of simultaneously looked at each other and said, "He should be playing Jace!" For Clary, we'd go with Bonnie Wright. She certainly has the perfect hair color for the role.

Who made the cast of your current read? Let us know by leaving your link!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Review: Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta

Finnikin of the Rock (The Lumatere Chronicles #1)
By Melina Marchetta
Candlewick Press

To Sum It Up: As young boys, Finnikin and his friends Prince Balthazar and Lucian pledge to protect the kingdom of Lumatere, sealing their vow with their blood. Little do they know that Lumatere is about to be torn apart during the five days of the unspeakable. The tragedy begins with the brutal murder of the royal family, followed by the seizure of the throne by the dead king's cousin. Finally, a curse traps everyone within Lumatere’s walls forever. Those outside become exiles, often dying in fever camps.

Ten years later, Finnikin receives a message that Balthazar is alive. Together with his mentor, Sir Topher, Finnikin journeys west, where they meet a mysterious novice named Evanjalin. She claims that she can walk the sleep of those still inside Lumatere and can lead them to Balthazar. At first Finnikin is wary of her assertions, but he gradually begins to believe that returning home to Lumatere might not be impossible.

Review: This book. Was. Amazing. I’m still recovering. It is hands down the best book that I’ve read so far this year. There were bawl-your-eyes-out-sad moments. There were triumphant moments. I laughed. I almost cried. I need to find a copy of the next book in the series ASAP.

Where do I begin with the gushing? Finnikin of the Rock is a superb piece of epic YA fantasy. Once you enter this world, you don’t want to leave. Ever. The writing is phenomenal; it captivates you from the first sentence of the prologue and never flags. The characters, especially the female ones, are masterfully crafted. They’re so real that it’s very easy to forget that they’re fictional. The dialogue is sharp, fluid, and vibrant. If I hadn’t been so obsessed with finding out what happened next, I would have taken more time to write down my favorite quotes.

It’s really difficult for me to choose what I liked best about the book. If I absolutely had to, I’d say it was the relationships between the characters. Whether the bonds are romantic, familial, or of friendship, they are all depicted with stunning depth and realism. There’s no love-at-first-sight here, which suited me just fine. Even when characters are reunited after years apart, the scenes are not always fairytale perfect; they can be awkward and tense, too. I liked this unflinching approach. The relationships in this book are refreshingly complex instead of cookie-cutter simple.

Although I adored all of the characters, I have to give Evanjalin a special mention. Throughout the book, she kept me guessing about what motivated her actions. I loved how she went from a seemingly meek novice who had taken a vow of silence to a fierce, determined, kick-ass heroine. Evanjalin is a shining example of how to write a strong, female literary character. I really admire Marchetta for that.

Even if you’re not into fantasy, Finnikin of the Rock is an engrossing, inspiring, and sometimes heartbreaking read with a fully realized world, a brilliantly plotted story, and unforgettable characters.

All in All: I originally borrowed this from the library. A few chapters into the book, I knew that I had to own a copy of this, so I bought one. It now sits happily on my bookshelf, where it will always have a place.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Congratulations Ally!

Congrats, Ally, on FINALLY getting your braces off after three years! Welcome back to the world of crunchy foods (except corn on the cob, which you hate).

Monday, May 21, 2012

Review: Legend by Marie Lu

Legend (Legend #1)
By Marie Lu
Putnam Juvenile

To Sum It Up: In the western part of the United States now known as the Republic, fifteen-year-olds Day and June lead drastically different lives. Day hails from a poor sector and is the Republic’s most wanted criminal. June was born into an upper class family and is poised for a promising career in the Republic’s military. When June’s brother Metias is killed and Day is fingered as the culprit, June goes undercover to find Day and bring him to justice. June’s quest for vengeance and Day’s struggle to save his family lead both teenagers to discover how much the Republic has ruthlessly manipulated both of their lives.

Review: Legend is the first YA dystopian novel that I’ve read since The Hunger Games trilogy, and it didn’t disappoint. The absorbing plot, top-notch pacing, and compelling characters kept me turning pages into the wee hours of the morning. I’d been in a bit of a reading slump, and Legend broke me out of it.

When I first realized that the story was told from the alternating perspectives of the two main characters, I was a bit skeptical. In my past experiences reading books with multiple points-of-view, there would inevitably be one POV that I liked less than the others. This was not the case with Legend. Day and June both have intriguing stories. He’s fighting not only for his own survival but also for that of the family that he can only steal occasional glimpses of due to his fugitive status. She’s a soldier-in-training who’s never questioned the Republic’s teachings and knows nothing of the hardships which Day has dealt with all of his life. Even though I found June haughty in the beginning of the book, I understood why she was like that. She’d never found herself outside of her privileged sphere. By the end of the book, she’s certainly humbled.

Day needs a paragraph all to himself. I think that I have a new book crush. He’s smart, clever, and fiercely dedicated to his family. He exudes cool without trying. His story is really heartbreaking at times, but he continues to fight.

There were two things about the book which kept it at four stars. I found the romance element a little sudden and unconvincing. Then again, I like my romances to build slowly; I guess that I’m not much of a believer in love at first sight. I also would have liked more background on how the United States split into the Republic and the Colonies. Perhaps more will be revealed in the sequel.

All in All: Considering how crowded the YA dystopian genre is right now, Legend is a solid entrant in the field. I’m looking forward to the next installment of the series (more Day- yay!).

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Stacking the Shelves (3)

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews. It's an opportunity for everyone to share the books which we've added to our shelves.

So we went to the library this morning to return books and to take a quick browse. That quick browse rapidly turned into a book haul for both of us.

Ally's Books:

The Iron Thorn by Caitlin Kittredge
Croak by Gina Damico
The Line by Teri Hall
Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers
Dragonswood by Janet Lee Carey
Dark Inside by Jeyn Roberts
Goliath by Scott Westerfeld

Lee's Books:

Illuminate by Aimee Agresti
The Selection by Kiera Cass
Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood
Infinity by Sherrilyn Kenyon
Invincible by Sherrilyn Kenyon

Sweet Evil by Wendy Higgins

What did you add to your shelves this week? Let us know by leaving your link!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Feature & Follow Friday (3)

Feature & Follow Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Parajunkee's View and
Alison Can Read. It's a great way to meet other book bloggers!

This week's question is:
Summer Break is upon us! What would be the perfect vacation spot for you to catch up on your reading & relax?

We're both originally from New York City, and we would happily head back there for a visit in a heartbeat. Our idea of a perfect day is hanging out in one of our old neighborhood parks with a good book or two.

What's your ideal vacation spot? Let us know by leaving your link! Thanks for stopping by!

Review: Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins

Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins
Hex Hall (Hex Hall #1)
By Rachel Hawkins
Disney Hyperion

To Sum It Up:

When a simple love spell takes a turn for the worse, Sophie Mercer is exiled to Hex Hall, a reform school for the least desirable members of Prodigium society. Having lived in the human world with her non-gifted mother all her life, Sophie is not prepared for all the different students at Hex Hall, and she is definitely not prepared for her first day there. As if getting attacked by a werewolf, sniffed by a shapeshifter, and made fun of by an incredibly handsome and arrogant warlock isn't enough, Sophie also has to deal with her new roomie, who just happens to be a vampire, and a clique of beautiful dark witches who insist that Sophie join their coven. To top it off, there's been a mysterious string of murders, and the prime suspect is the only vampire student on campus. But Sophie can handle it; she is a witch, after all.


Hex Hall was a surprisingly good book. Although I know you're not supposed to judge a book by its cover, I do it all the time, most recently with Hex Hall. I can't tell you how many times I walked past this book and scowled at the cover. To me, it just wasn't appealing. It didn't look like the kind of book that was supposed to be about witches. Eventually I caved, curiosity getting the better of me, and I picked up the book. And, it is safe to say, I was wrong. Hex Hall was an enjoyable book. It was one of those easy reads that gets you back into the groove of a certain genre, in this case, witches.

Sophie was a funny, easy-going character, and I liked watching her grow as a witch. Though at some times she was stupid and vain in a way that only spoiled teenage girls can be, Sophie was all right. The other characters in this book were very intriguing. I liked how Hawkins didn't limit herself to one supernatural character. She let her creative mind take charge and included characters ranging from fairies to shapeshifters to supernatural hunters. The whole concept of a reform school for these creatures was beyond interesting; it was hilarious. The teenage angst mixed in was great, too! The main guy, Archer Cross, gave me a good laugh. First, his name was funny (come on, Archer?!) and secondly, he was a very sarcastic wizard. I looked forward to all the parts of the book where he played a big role, and I don't think I spent as much time as I should have trying to figure this guy out. Though in my defense, I was trying to piece together other parts of the puzzle.

Surprisingly, nothing really bugged me about this book. I thought the writing was fast-paced, and the characters weren't unbearable. The story itself had a good hook and was deeper than a one plot kind of book. Then why, Allison, isn't this book marked five stars? Well, the book was good—it was all right. And that right there is your problem. The book didn't stick out for me. In a few months I'll forget the names of the main characters and eventually parts of the plot. I think the Harry Potter references in this book made me like it more than I would have originally. But that's me, and in the end, I'm glad I caved and read it.

All In All:

Hex Hall was a good book. I think anyone who enjoys reading about the supernatural or even good old high school drama will like reading this book. I borrowed Hex Hall from the library and will kindly return it. I feel no urge to go run out and purchase a copy. For that, Hex Hall, I thank you. Demonglass, the sequel to Hex Hall, is happily sitting on my dresser at home.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday (4): Top Ten Characters We'd Like to See on a Reality Show

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

There were a few options for this week's topic. One of the choices was Top Ten Authors I'd Like to See on a Reality Show. We found it easier to come up with reality shows for book characters, so we went with:

Top Ten Characters We'd Like to See on a Reality Show
  1. Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games trilogy on Survivor: As a Hunger Games veteran, this should be a walk in the park for her!
  2. Cersei Lannister from the A Song of Ice and Fire series on Supernanny: Although she rules the Seven Kingdoms as Queen Regent with an iron fist, her son Joffrey is uncontrollable. She needs some help.
  3. Valek from the Study series on Undercover Boss: Having to spy on his employees is just another day at the office for him. :)
  4. Fred and George Weasley from the Harry Potter series on America’s Got Talent: This dynamic duo not only wows with their magic act but with their comedy act as well.
  5. Alice Cullen from the Twilight series on Project Runway: Designing is just her thing.
  6. Peeta Mellark from The Hunger Games on Next Great Baker: Peeta’s decorative baking and caking skills will give him an edge that the other competitors do not have.
  7. Yelena Zaltana from the Study series on Hell’s Kitchen: Yelena has a way with food, and if any of the competition proves too much for her, it wouldn’t hurt to use a little Butterfly's Dust poison.
  8. Finnick Odair from The Hunger Games on Deadliest Catch: Growing up in District 4, Finnick can spear just about anything, and who wouldn’t want to see him in a wet T-shirt?
  9. Aria from Under the Never Sky on American Idol: Her name speaks for itself.
  10. John Thornton from North and South on The Apprentice: His résumé is quite impressive, but is it enough to wow The Donald?
What topic did you choose for this week's Top Ten Tuesday?

Monday, May 14, 2012

Review: Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr

Wicked Lovely (Wicked Lovely #1)
By Melissa Marr

To Sum It Up: The ability to see faeries has always been part of Aislinn Foy’s life. Raised by her grandmother, Aislinn has been taught to never acknowledge or attract the attention of these dangerous creatures. Aislinn has done her best to live by these rules, but they are of no help to her when the fey’s Summer King, Keenan, decides to make her his queen. He believes that Aislinn can help him restore his power and prevent his sadistic mother, the Winter Queen, from making summer disappear forever. Even after learning what’s at stake, Aislinn still isn’t sure that she’s willing to sacrifice everything about her mortal life, especially her friend Seth, to become part of the very world that she’s always feared.

Review: Meh. Wicked Lovely started out interesting enough, with a scene depicting the consequences of not being the girl who’s destined to be the Summer Queen. Several chapters later, though, I was still trying to sort out how the whole Winter Girl/Summer Queen/Winter Staff thing worked. Choppy exposition and characters who floated along without leaving much of an impact made this a mediocre read for me.

As a heroine, Aislinn isn’t anything special. Whereas the Summer Queen test is explained in dribs and drabs, it’s blatantly clear that Aislinn wants nothing to do with the fey world. Consequently, once she finds out that Keenan is pursuing her to be his queen, Aislinn spends a lot of time fleeing from him. The following cycle develops: encounter Keenan, run away. Encounter Keenan, run away. Repeat a few times more. What really got me about Aislinn, though, was when she accepted a drink from a faery. For someone who’s so afraid of faeries and constantly reminds herself of the rules to avoid trouble with them, you’d think that she’d know a lot better than to eat or drink anything that they offer. She doesn’t.

Fortunately for Aislinn, her best friend Seth is there to comfort her when she’s had a rough day being chased by Keenan and other faeries. When the relationship headed for let’s-be-more-than-friends territory, I really got frustrated with the book. I did not buy Aislinn and Seth as a couple. At all. He’s a good listener and a supportive friend, but nothing really stands out about him.

Keenan wasn’t that much more appealing as a romantic interest, although I felt a bit sorry for him because his mother, Beira, is such a witch to him (and everyone in general). For me, the best scenes/dialogue in the book were between these two characters. If the interactions between other characters had crackled this much, the book would have held my attention better.

The character who I became most invested in was Donia, the last girl who failed the Summer Queen test and must remain the Winter Girl until someone else attempts the test. Her story was both absorbing and sad, and I thought that she was the best written character. Personally, I would have preferred it if Wicked Lovely had focused on Keenan’s courtship of Donia and how she became Winter Girl (with a few guest appearances by Beira for comic relief). Unlike Aislinn and Seth, Donia and Keenan definitely had chemistry between them.

All in All: I don't like giving up on a series, even when the first book doesn’t blow me away. The only series that I’ve abandoned so far is The Vampire Diaries, and that was after the third book. Maybe it’s because I always hope that the next book will be an improvement, and if I quit before reading it, I’ll regret it. Wicked Lovely had a solid hook but just didn’t deliver fully. I’m curious to see if the follow-up does, so I’ll hang in there for at least one more book.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Happy Mother's Day!

We want to wish all of the moms out there a very Happy Mother's Day! We hope that you have a wonderful day!

On a personal note, we'd like to say Happy Mother's Day to the moms in our family. We love you guys!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Stacking the Shelves (2)

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews. It's an opportunity for everyone to share the books which we've added to our shelves.

Our favorite addition to both of our shelves this week was, of course:

Ally's Books:

Tortall and Other Lands by Tamora Pierce
Peeps by Scott Westerfeld
Seeker by William Nicholson
The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
The Fallen and Leviathan by Thomas E. Sniegoski

City of Lost Souls by Cassandra Clare

Lee's Books:

Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins

City of Lost Souls by Cassandra Clare

Which books did you add to your shelves this week? Post your link, and we'll check them out! Thanks for stopping by!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Feature & Follow Friday (2)

Feature & Follow Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Parajunkee's View and
Alison Can Read. It's a great way to meet other book bloggers!

This week's question is:
This Sunday in the U. S. is Mother's Day. In celebration, what are some of your favorite books with strong mother/child relationships?

The Harry Potter series immediately comes to mind. Lily Potter made the ultimate sacrifice for her son. Molly Weasley is a loving mother of seven who happily knits sweaters but will also fight to the death to protect her children.

Another series with strong mother/child bonds is George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire. Lady Catelyn Stark doesn't hesitate to throw herself in front of her young son, Bran, when an assassin comes after him. She sometimes acts as emissary for her eldest son in his military campaign and is one of his closest advisers. Catelyn is also willing to do whatever it takes to have her two daughters safely returned to her.

Which books did you choose for this week's Mother's Day-themed question? Just leave us a link, and we'll check them out. Thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Review: Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl

Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl Beautiful Creatures (Caster Chronicles #1)
By Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl
Little, Brown and Company

To Sum It Up:

Ethan Wate has lived in the small town of Gatlin all his life. Nothing changes in Gatlin; Ethan knows everybody and everybody knows him. Except the new girl, Lena Duchannes. As if being the new girl isn’t different enough, Lena is also the niece of the town shut-in, Macon Ravenwood. Despite knowing that associating himself with Lena is social suicide, Ethan can’t help but feel drawn to her. And when Ethan realizes that Lena is the mysterious girl haunting his dreams, he becomes further determined to uncover their obvious connection. But their intertwined lives aren’t the only secret in Gatlin. With paranormal powers and a century old curse, the small, boring town of Gatlin isn’t as normal as it seems.


Beautiful Creatures is a stunning novel that keeps readers guessing the whole way through. There were so many secrets and mysteries that even the best sleuths couldn’t have caught them all. Although it took me forever to read, which is highly unusual, I found myself really enjoying the book. I went in a little skeptical because I had heard that this paranormal romance was written from the male protagonist’s perspective. I remember thinking oh, here we go, a hormonal teenage boy falling for the poor paranormal creature/girl.

Unfortunately, I had condemned the book before giving it a chance. Imagine my surprise when I started reading and Ethan turned out to be the perfect Southern gentleman. I actually really enjoyed reading from Ethan’s perspective; it was a fresh twist and I’m not sure if I would have liked the book as much with Lena as the narrator. Ethan was a very interesting, funny character. Being able to see into his head was a fun experience. He’s just this average guy trying to mix into the life of an above average girl.

Although I liked Ethan, I didn’t care for Lena much. I mean, I tolerated her for Ethan’s sake, but alone she was kind of melodramatic. I know she had a hard life, but Ethan did too, and he didn’t whine half as much as Lena did.

My favorite character in this book was Macon Ravenwood. For the longest time, Garcia and Stohl paint this guy as some barbaric illiterate, but when you meet him he’s like Southern gentleman meets English scholar! Macon was above all the most interesting person in this book. The whole time I was like, what’s up with this guy? What’s his issue? For the life of me I couldn’t figure out what this guy was. And when I did, I was still a little perplexed.

Although I did like this book, I do have a few bones to pick with it. For starters, Beautiful Creatures has so many To Kill a Mockingbird references that I’m not sure I would have understood the book if I hadn’t read the classic already. Sure, a lot of books make allusions to popular works, but to me Garcia and Stohl went a little overboard. My other little annoyance was the whole paranormal part of the book. At first I was bending over backwards trying to figure out what type of paranormal creature was going to have the starring role in the novel. But there were no clues. You had no idea what was going on until Lena outright told Ethan. For me, that was a little disappointing. I love figuring out those kinds of things but Garcia and Stohl didn’t give me the chance. Then again, it’s only my personal preference. Aside from my minor grievances, I really did enjoy the book and can’t wait to get my hands on the sequel.

All in All:

This is the kind of book where if you do have the extra money, yeah, why not, you would buy it. But if you’re like me and don’t have full pockets, then a library borrow is sufficient.