Saturday, June 30, 2012

Stacking the Shelves (7)

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.

We did it again. We went to the library just to return books and wound up borrowing more. There were a lot of great books on the shelves this week, and we had to force ourselves to leave before we went too crazy.

Ally's Books:

Paper Towns by John Green
Eve by Anna Carey
Hallowed by Cynthia Hand
The Demon King by Cinda Williams Chima
Ripper by Stefan Petrucha

Lee's Books:

Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side by Beth Fantaskey
Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier
Cybele's Secret by Juliet Marillier
Crossed by Ally Condie

Be sure to leave your link so we can check out what you added to your shelves this week!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Feature & Follow Friday (6)

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:
Birthday Wishes -- Blow out the candles and imagine what character could pop out of your cake . . . who is it and what book are they from?

Ally: I recently had a dream in which Adrian Ivashkov from Richelle Mead's Vampire Academy and Bloodlines series gave me a birthday card, so he's my choice.

Lee: I totally wish that Will Herondale from Cassandra Clare's Infernal Devices series had jumped out of my birthday cake earlier this month. There's always next year . . . .

Which character did you choose? Leave your link in the comments, and we'll stop by!

Review: Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers

Grave Mercy (His Fair Assassin #1)
By Robin LaFevers
Houghton Mifflin

To Sum It Up: Ismae Rienne has been feared and hated since she was first conceived. It is common knowledge to anyone who catches sight of the nasty red scar running all the way from her shoulder down to her hip that Ismae's true father is Saint Mortain, one of the old gods and Death himself. Ismae seeks refuge in the convent of St. Mortain when, in an attempt to rid himself of his cursed stepdaughter, Ismae's spiteful stepfather forces her into an abusive arranged marriage. At the convent, the sisters keep the faith of the old gods and serve Death in every way they can. The sisters offer to train Ismae to be a handmaiden of Death. When Ismae's first mission takes her into the heart of the high court of Brittany, Ismae's devotion to both her father and the convent will be tested. Mixing a beautiful assassin into a treacherous court filled with the ever scheming royalty and the intriguing Gavriel Duval can only lead to disaster or redemption.

Review: When I first heard about Grave Mercy, my initial reaction was pure enthusiasm. I'm totally into the whole assassin sort of thing; I have been since I first read about Valek in Maria V. Snyder’s Poison Study! ^-^ Not only was Grave Mercy going to be featuring a young, kick-arse female assassin, but it was going to have a little dose of historical fiction mixed in, too. I just knew that Robin LaFevers could do no wrong, and I was pretty confident that I was going to love this book. And I wasn't wrong!

Grave Mercy was beautifully written. There was never a dull moment or awkward, boring gaps in the story. Everything seemed to flow perfectly for me. Too perfectly, actually! Whenever I'm reading a book, I always like to leave off at the start of another chapter or at a calm point in the story. With Grave Mercy, I literally could not put the book down! I couldn't find a safe point in the story to stop reading for the night. But, enough about my sleepless nights, let’s get to the good stuff: the plot and characters! :D

Ismae was so cool! She didn't take crap from anyone! I also thought that her life story was really interesting; sad, but interesting. Ismae hates men, and when I say, “hates,” I mean hates. Her feelings toward males are due to the abuse she took from her stepfather and almost-husband. One of the main reasons for Ismae joining the convent of Saint Mortain was that Ismae wanted to learn how to kill men. So when she meets Gavriel, things get interesting! I loved their dialogue, and I loved the slow, so very slow, development of their relationship. I was a little worried about meeting Gavriel. All I could think was that since Ismae was so kick-arse, she was going to be the man in the relationship, leaving Gavriel with the damsel in distress role. But that wasn't the case! Gavriel was just as cool! He definitely held his own, and despite Ismae's distrust of him (because he was a guy!) I genuinely liked him and fell for him pretty quickly!

The other characters only added to my enjoyment of the book. I loved Gavriel's friends, especially Beast, and I really liked the nuns at the convent of St. Mortain. It is safe to say that this particular convent will be the only convent I will ever think about joining! I liked the idea of Death as a real person. And I thought it was cool that his daughters were running around as his personal vengeful assassins. Death's handmaidens only killed those treacherous to the crown of Brittany, and I found that weirdly justified and cool. The whole premise of trying to wheedle out the corrupted in the historical court of Brittany was very interesting. And I think I had just as much fun, if not more, as Ismae did when it came to finding the schemers!

In the end, Grave Mercy did not let me down. Not only was it beautifully written, but it was also a genuinely unique idea. The only thing that bothered me about Grave Mercy was how Ismae decided to place her trust in people. At times, her wary nature seemed a little extreme and inconsistent. Other than that, I thoroughly enjoyed Grave Mercy and am glad that I picked it up. It kept me up late at night reading, and I haven't been that immersed in a book in a while. For that, I thank you, Grave Mercy!

All in All: Grave Mercy was a kick-arse book filled with kick-arse characters, a kick-arse setting, and an all around kick-arse plot! I really enjoyed it and am looking forward to the continuation of the series!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Review: Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi

Under the Never Sky (Under the Never Sky #1)
By Veronica Rossi

To Sum It Up: Aria has always lived under the dome of Reverie, an enclosed city that protects its Dwellers from the ferocious Aether storms that make life outside of Reverie, and other Pods like it, nearly uninhabitable. When Aria suddenly finds herself expelled from Reverie, she must form an uneasy alliance with an Outsider named Perry if she hopes to survive the harsh environment and find her way back home. As much as he hates to admit it, Perry also needs Aria's help finding someone very close to him who's been taken by Dwellers. Together Aria and Perry journey across the unforgiving landscape in search of a way to recover what they both have lost.

Review: I really liked Under the Never Sky. It started off a bit slow because it took me a while to absorb everything about life under the domes and outside of them. Once the action got going, though, I became totally hooked. Rossi deftly switches back and forth between Aria and Perry's points of view, maintaining two unique narrative voices throughout the book. The technique works very effectively here.

Aria grows a lot as a character. Having literally lived a sheltered life, it's not surprising that she's rather self-centered and spoiled at the beginning of the book. I never found her intolerably whiny; there's a good balance between Aria being upset over her banishment to the Outside and her doing something about it. She even learns how to fight and defend herself. It's difficult to imagine the Aria that we meet in the opening chapters ever doing that.

I loved Perry's storyline, especially his relationship with his nephew, Talon. Perry is a fascinatingly complex character. He wants what's best for his tribe, the Tides, but is powerless to do anything unless he challenges his brother for their leadership. It's Perry's devotion to Talon that makes Perry hesitant to take some kind of action: either to fight his brother or leave the Tides and strike out on his own. I could have read an entire book centered on Perry's life with the Tides because I found it so engrossing. I can't forget to mention Perry's friend Roar, who turns up later in the book. Roar is hilarious and practically steals the limelight; I hope to see much, much more of him in the next book.

For me, the heart of Under the Never Sky is the relationship that develops between Aria and Perry. Now, forcing two characters from completely opposite backgrounds to work together could have ended up being a contrived mess, but thankfully, that is completely avoided here. Aria and Perry's realizations that maybe their initial impressions of each other weren't exactly accurate happen at a gradual, and most importantly, believable, pace.

Dystopian/post-apocalyptic books are sometimes hit or miss for me, but this one was a definite hit. Under the Never Sky is a very entertaining combination of action, adventure, and romance, with some humor tossed into the mix as well (thank you, Roar). Fans of dystopian novels need to add this to their to-be-read lists for sure.

All in All: Despite a few gaps in the world building, this is an excellent read thanks to the engaging characters and spot-on pacing. I'll definitely be reading the sequel.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday (8): Characters Who Remind Us of Ourselves or Someone We Know in Real Life

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

This week's topic is:
Top Ten Characters Who Remind Us of Ourselves or Someone We Know in Real Life

We each picked five characters for this week's list, and we especially had a lot of fun choosing literary counterparts for each other.

Ally's List:
  1. Lissa Dragomir from the Vampire Academy series reminds me of my own sister, and our guest blogger, Melissa. Not only are their names similar, but Melissa has a big heart, just like Lissa. They both like to find the good in everything. But then again, they can both have their crazy days. xD
  2. Molly Weasley from the Harry Potter books reminds me of my mommy. My mom cooks and cleans her way through the house! But, just like Mrs. Weasley, you do not want to get on her bad side or mess with her kids.
  3. Even though he's a cat, Church from The Infernal Devices and The Mortal Instruments reminds me of my dog, Tyler. Like Church, Tyler is very lazy and privileged, but he is always there for you. Church has lived a very long life, and I like to think that Tyler will, too.
  4. I think that my cousin, Lee, is like Sydney Sage from Vampire Academy and Bloodlines. They are both perfectionists and like to do everything to the best of their abilities. They're also both fiercely protective of their friends and family and would do anything for them.
  5. For myself, I would like to think that I'm like Arya Stark from A Song of Ice and Fire. She's a young girl who doesn't let anyone tell her that she can't do something. Arya's not afraid to get dirty or say what's on her mind, and she would literally go to the ends of the world for her family, just like I would.

Lee's List:
  1. I have a cousin who seems destined to become a computer genius like Wade Watts from Ready Player One. If there's ever a real-life contest like the one in the book, my money is on my cousin to win.
  2. Charlie Swan from Twilight reminds me a little of my own father. My dad loved me to pieces but during my adolescent years would make a beeline for the opposite direction if he smelled any teenage drama in the air and left it to my mom to handle.
  3. Catelyn Stark from A Song of Ice and Fire makes me think of my mother. Loving and protective, they both always put their children first.
  4. Just like Vampire Academy's Rose Hathaway, my cousin and co-blogger Ally doesn't take anything off of anyone. Ally is also tough, determined, and always ready with a witty remark.
  5. Hermione Granger from Harry Potter is the character I can relate to the most. Like Hermione, I was obsessed with my grades when I was in school. My boggart definitely would have been a teacher telling me that I had failed everything.

Which characters make you think of yourself or people you know? Leave your link, and we'll stop by your list!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Review: Everneath by Brodi Ashton

Everneath (Everneath #1)
By Brodi Ashton
Balzer + Bray

To Sum It Up: Nikki Beckett has just spent six months in the underworld known as the Everneath, a place where immortal beings known as the Everliving feed off of the energy of humans. Now Returned to the Surface, she has six months to say goodbye to her loved ones before she must go back to the Everneath forever. Nikki must choose either to become immortal herself and Feed off of others or become part of the Tunnels, the energy source that powers the Everneath. As Nikki steadily grows closer to her former boyfriend, Jack, she realizes that she must find a way to avoid her fate.

Review: Everneath was an underwhelming read for me. The writing is solid, and the story smoothly switches back and forth between the events leading up to Nikki going to the Everneath and the present. I just couldn’t get invested in the story or the characters. I also felt like I had missed some details on how the world of the Everneath worked. Why was Nikki allowed to Return to the Surface for six months? Why didn’t she have to decide between becoming an Everliving and going to the Tunnels right after the Feed? This system seemed kind of murky to me.

Nikki wasn’t a standout heroine for me. While she doesn’t incessantly bemoan her fate, I don’t think that she’s exactly proactive about altering it, either. I understand that she wants to spend her remaining time on the Surface with her family and friends. I realize, too, that the Feed has drained her physically and emotionally, so she’s not in the best condition to put up a fight. As the novel went on, though, I never felt like I could rally behind her.

Nikki’s boyfriend, Jack Caputo, suffers from the same lack of spark that Nikki’s character does. He’s a good guy with a good heart, but he’s a little too perfect for my liking. I found Cole Stockton, the immortal who Fed off of Nikki in the Everneath, more interesting because he had some edge to his character. Cole is the closest thing to a villain that you’re going to find in the book, but even then, just when you’re ready to peg him as such, he displays a tender side. Normally I’m all for morally gray characters, but with Nikki and Jack being the polar opposites of teenage rebels, I think that a truly evil bad guy would have added some welcome dimension to the story.

I really liked the concept behind Everneath, a retelling of the Hades and Persephone myth, but less-than-compelling characters and a predictable ending made me glad that I borrowed this from the library instead of buying it.

All in All: I don't plan on continuing with this series. There are books which I’ve given fewer stars to, yet I’m willing to read their sequels. That's because even though I might not have been crazy over a book, there’s a character whom I really care about, or I want to see how a certain plotline gets resolved. In the case of Everneath, none of the characters was especially memorable to me, and I'm not all that interested in whatever awaits them in the next book.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Still Distraught Over Fateful

* Spoiler warning for Fateful by Claudia Gray *

In my review of Fateful by Claudia Gray, I expressed my disappointment with the ending, but I felt like I couldn’t go into as much depth as I would have liked to without spoiling the entire book, so here I am.

Now, from the beginning of the book, I had it in my head that people were going to die. I mean, it is the Titanic, after all; it kind of goes with the territory. Fateful was going to be a tragic love story that would leave me thinking about it for days afterward.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for happy endings, but this book was supposed to end sadly. But nooo, the two main characters, Tess and Alec, lived happily ever after. >:/ What’s up with that?! It’s not supposed to end like a Disney princess movie! That’s just not how a story about the Titanic works!

In my opinion, it would have been far more romantic if Tess and Alec had died together! The ending ruined the entire book for me; it could have easily gotten five stars from me if the conclusion had been heartbreakingly tragic.

Well, now I feel much better. Thanks for listening.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Review: The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab

The Near Witch
By Victoria Schwab
Hyperion Books CH

To Sum It Up: All of the children in the small town of Near know the legend of the Near Witch. Lexi Harris knows the story better than most; her father would whisper all sorts of stories about the small village in which they live, tales about the moor which surrounds Near on all sides, and rumors of the witches who live on the brink of both worlds. When Lexi catches a glimpse of a strange figure standing on the hills just outside the reach of her home, she doesn't know what to think. And when the figure becomes a wisp of a shadowy wind and disappears just before her eyes, Lexi begins to think that she is imagining things. That is, until the next morning, when the whole town of Near is gossiping about the stranger. It is all harmless curiosity until children start to go missing in the night. Almost everyone in town is convinced that the mysterious stranger is the culprit. Lexi is the exception. She has met the stranger, Cole, and he's just a boy, maybe a few years older than she is. And while the whole town is convinced of his guilt, Lexi believes he is innocent. Cole wants nothing more than to help, and Lexi can use all the help she can get. While the rest of the town wastes time chasing shadows, Lexi has a real idea of who is magically making the children disappear. Lexi doesn't just believe in the stories of the Near Witch; she believes that the Near Witch is real.

Review: The Near Witch was an excellent book. I have always been fond of fairy tales, so when I heard about this book I just knew I had to read it. It was a fantastic story and I really did enjoy it.

The Near Witch isn't one of those princes and princesses/happily ever after sort of books; it kind of reminded me of one of the Grimm Brothers' stories. And since I love the Grimm Brothers, I obviously liked this story as well. Victoria Schwab perfectly mixed darkness and danger into her fairy tale. I actually remember reading the first couple of pages and thinking, wow this really reminds me of The Hunger Games. I mean, come on, the main protagonist is the eldest daughter of a single mother, who just happens to be the town's bread baker :D Said girl has just recently lost her father whom she was extremely close to, leaving the teenage girl to look after her beloved little sister while her mother ghosts around the house, an empty shell of her former self. Try telling me that you wouldn't be thinking the same thing! Lexi, the protagonist of the book, even wears her father's old leather boots and hunting knife, and Lexi just happens to be a tracker. Talk about déjà vu!

Anyway, enough about the factors which reminded me of The Hunger Games; let’s get back to the book I'm reviewing. The Near Witch was really sad at times, and the conflict was pretty haunting. I couldn't read certain parts late at night because like the little wimp that I am, I got pretty creeped out. Not to toot my own horn or anything, but I like to think of myself as fairly brave. I usually don't get scared so easily.

Aside from my fear of being kidnapped by the Near Witch, I really liked the plot and premise of the book. I thought the whole thing was pretty unique. Sure, witches and the battle between good and evil are in a lot of fairy tales, but Schwab managed to put a new twist on some old ideas. The characters and mystery of the book were enjoyable as well. I really like Lexi. She sometimes reminded me of Katniss Everdeen while also being a totally new and different fictional character. Lexi was strong but didn't think she had to do everything on her own; she was more than willing to accept help from others. I also liked the fact that she had a mind of her own. The whole town seemed to be brainwashed, except for Lexi.

Cole was all right. He was the main male protagonist but I didn't care about him. I obviously liked how he helped Lexi and all; he just seemed a little weak. Not weak in the muscle sort of way, but in the emotional, strength of mind sort of way. He was very quiet, and I tend to like the snarky type of fictional guys. So, in a way, me not loving him is not Cole's fault. It's me, not you, Cole! He was an okay guy and I liked his back story, but he just wasn't my kind of guy.

My favorite characters in this book have to be the Sisters. I loved them; they were hilarious. The Sisters are two hedge witches who live on the outskirts of the small town of Near. They are not accepted in the town's society, but they still help whenever they are needed. The Sisters are very old, sarcastic, powerful, and intelligent. Those girls had attitude, and I loved them for it! Almost every time Lexi or Cole had a problem, they went to the Sisters for help. The two witches seemed to know everything. They knew what was going down and how to stop it. They were just that cool.

In the end, I enjoyed reading The Near Witch. It had me intrigued from the very first page. I enjoyed the story, and the characters were likable. Besides being beautifully written, the concept was truly unique. Heck, I think Disney should make a movie out of this fairy tale! Not many people can write good, original fairy tales anymore. To say the least, I would gladly reread The Near Witch or read a sequel, if there is one; I'll need to check on that ;) I'd even happily watch a Disney movie adaptation!

All in All: The Near Witch was very enjoyable to read. I do not have my own copy of the book nor do I think I will be getting one any time soon due to a lack of funds; I will, however, happily jump at the chance to read a sequel. I love this sort of stuff; I just eat it up!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Review: Fateful by Claudia Gray

We have a guest reviewer today—it's Melissa, Ally's sister and Lee's cousin! Melissa will be contributing occasional posts in the future, too. Without further ado, here's her first book review!

By Claudia Gray

To Sum It Up: Tess Davies is a servant for a wealthy English family, the Lisles. Tess dreams of escaping the cruelty of Lady Regina and creating a new life for herself. Opportunity arises when the Lisles decide to take a trip to America on the luxurious Titanic. Tess has devised a plan to leave the Lisles when the ship reaches America. She only has a few more days of servitude, but will Tess lose sight of her dreams when she meets the handsome first class passenger, Alexander Marlowe? Alec has a dark past that could put Tess and everyone she loves in terrible danger.

Review: I found Fateful to be very well-written, and it brought new life to the story of the Titanic. Claudia Gray created an enticing plotline with werewolves and a werewolf-kind-of-cult. That kind of drama mixed with the inevitable disaster awaiting the passengers of the Titanic is a recipe for a fantastic book. I feel like this book was so close to a five star, but there were only two things holding it back.

First of all, I just couldn’t connect with the characters. I didn’t dislike them; I just wasn’t in love with them. Tess was cool, but I wish there had been something more to her. Alec also had so much potential, but he, too, was missing something. Alec is a cursed and tortured soul, but I feel like Claudia Gray could have pulled more out of him. I feel like he should have had some passion besides Tess, making him more memorable. The plotline was so good; I wish the characters had been just as good.

I was also very, very disappointed with the ending. I really wish it had ended differently. I feel like if the end had gone in a different direction, the book could have reached its full potential.

All in All: I think the book is definitely worth a try. The plotline is too good to just write off because of a few letdowns. Even though Fateful is not one of my favorites, it was very enjoyable. I hope you like it just as much, if not more than I did.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday (7): Books on Our Summer TBR Lists

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

This week's topic is:
Top Ten Books on Our Summer TBR Lists

We're splitting the list this week and each choosing five books we really want to read over the summer:

Ally's List:
  1. Nightshade by Andrea Cremer: One of my school friends is always talking about it with the highest regard, demanding that I read it.
  2. The Golden Lily by Richelle Mead: My love for Adrian obliges me to read it!
  3. Les Misérables by Victor Hugo: Lately I have become extremely interested in the musical and the storyline. I can't wait until I can read the book!
  4. Slammed by Colleen Hoover: Another friend keeps ordering me to read it. All I hear are good things about it.
  5. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green: I really, really want to read one of John Green's books. I love the Nerdfighters, so I feel that I owe it to Green to read one of his books. My friend kindly suggested this one.

Lee's List:
  1. Divergent by Veronica Roth: Must. Read. I bought this book last year and it's still sitting unread on my bookshelf. I'm hanging my head in shame right now.
  2. Froi of the Exiles by Melina Marchetta: I loved Finnikin of the Rock and am dying to read this sequel.
  3. For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund: This is supposed to be a dystopian take on Jane Austen's Persuasion, which is my favorite novel ever. Of course I have to read this.
  4. Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo: Thanks to George R. R. Martin's books, fantasy has become one of my favorite genres, and Shadow and Bone looks amazing.
  5. Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers: This one is also sitting on my bookshelf. The main character sounds really intriguing. An assassin trained by nuns? I'm sold!

What do you plan to read this summer? Let us know by leaving your link in the comments!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Review: Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
Jellicoe Road
By Melina Marchetta

To Sum It Up:

At age eleven, Taylor Markham was abandoned by her addict mother at a 7-Eleven on the Jellicoe Road. Now head of her House at the Jellicoe School, where some students are wards of the state, Taylor struggles to settle into her new leadership position. Besides being head of Lachlan House, she’s also in charge of the school’s secret Underground Community, which engages in a yearly territory war with two other groups, the Townies and the Cadets. Taylor’s life becomes even more complicated when Hannah, the only constant adult presence Taylor has really known, disappears one day. Taylor’s only remaining link to her is Hannah’s manuscript, a seemingly fictional story that is more relevant to Taylor’s life than she could have ever thought possible.


Whenever I read something that is as stunning as Jellicoe Road is, I find it extremely difficult to adequately capture in words how amazing the book is. This is the best contemporary YA novel that I’ve read to date. Everything is perfect: the writing, the characters, the plotting. I loved Melina Marchetta’s epic fantasy Finnikin of the Rock and found Jellicoe Road equally impossible to put down.

One of the many things that I admire about Marchetta’s novels is the amount of depth that she gives to her characters. They’re always complex and never clichéd. Their dialogue is smart and free of cringe-inducing platitudes. I found it very easy to root for Taylor. As the story unfolds and you find out just how hard her life has been, it’s a heartbreaking realization. I got a bit teary-eyed a few times. That’s not to say that the book is one big weep-fest, though. There are plenty of snappy exchanges between the characters to make you laugh. Throughout the novel, there is always a balance between the book’s heavier subject matter and its more lighthearted moments.

Jellicoe Road is also a fantastic story of unwavering friendship, which is epitomized by the characters from the manuscript within the book. Tragedy brings them together, and an unbreakable bond forms between them. I also really liked Taylor’s friend, Rafaella. She struck me as the type of person who’s there for you no matter what, which is exactly what Taylor needs.

A note about the previously mentioned manuscript: Jellicoe Road has a book-within-a-book thing going on with this manuscript, which Taylor’s mother figure, Hannah, has been working on. At first I was a little confused by the manuscript excerpts which were interspersed with the main storyline. Their relevance quickly becomes clear, though, and when everything comes together, the payoff is immense. I urge anyone who reads this book to stick with it even if it sometimes seems as though the story is jumping around. You’ll be richly rewarded for your efforts.

All in All:

I should know better by now than to borrow Melina Marchetta’s books from the library. As soon as I finished the copy of Finnikin of the Rock that I borrowed, I bought my own copy. The same thing happened with Jellicoe Road: I borrowed it from the library, then ended up buying my own copy. Note to self: in the future, just BUY all of Melina Marchetta’s books from the get-go!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Stacking the Shelves (6)

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.

We went to the library this week to pick up Ally's books for her summer reading assignments (Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed and a rather large tome on U.S. History). Here's Ally's drawing of herself leaving the library and realizing that she's probably not going to have much time to read her usual book genres this summer:

Lee's Books:

If I Stay by Gayle Forman
Where She Went by Gayle Forman
Black Heart by Holly Black

Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta

Did you add any books to your shelves this week? Leave your link and we'll check them out!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Feature & Follow Friday (5)

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:
Happy Father's Day! Who is your favorite dad character in a book and why?

We decided to go with these two fictional dads:

Ned Stark from the A Song of Ice and Fire series: He's one of the most dedicated fathers we can think of. We especially loved how he encouraged his daughter, Arya, when she wanted to learn how to use a sword by finding a teacher to give her lessons.

Abe Mazur from the Vampire Academy series: Sure, he's a bit of an unconventional dad, but he'll always be there when times are tough. Plus, he's got a killer sense of style!

Who is your favorite fictional father? Leave your link, and we'll check it out!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Review: Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier

Ruby Red (Ruby Red #1)
By Kerstin Gier, Translated by Anthea Bell
Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)

To Sum It Up: All her life, Gwyneth has lived in the shadow of her cousin, Charlotte. Charlotte has the time traveler gene, which runs through the female line of their family. As a result, Charlotte has been trained her whole life to travel through time; the mysteries of time traveling and her family’s past are kept from Gwyneth. Although at times not being allowed in on the family secret is frustrating, Gwen happily contents herself with her normal life. That is, until Gwyneth unexpectedly travels back in time. When Gwen reveals that she has the time traveling gene, her family can't help but not believe her. Charlotte was born on the calculated day when the twelfth time traveler was supposed to be born, Gwen being born a mere day after. But, what if Gwen's family made a grave mistake, and they were training the wrong the girl all along? Suddenly, Gwen is pushed into the spotlight, and everyone expects great things from the twelfth time traveler, the girl who is supposed to close the circle and reveal a centuries long secret.

Review: I'd never read anything about time travelers before Ruby Red. Well, I did see the movie version of The Time Traveler's Wife, but that doesn't really count, so I was pretty excited when I found this book. Not only was the cover pretty, but the synopsis definitely had me hooked. Although I didn't find this book mind-blowingly amazing, I did find myself enjoying the story. I really like the whole idea of time traveling. Kerstin Gier did an amazing job weaving a story out of this concept; she covered all of her bases. Subconsciously, I had a bunch of questions to test the plausibility of the plot, but Gier answered most of them before I had a chance to ruin the story with my logic. For me, she tied everything together perfectly. I can safely say that under certain circumstances, I would totally believe that time travel was real.

The main character, Gwyneth, is pretty cool. She wasn't like other protagonists who find out that they have a supernatural ability; she didn't whine or complain about how life was unfair. Gwen took it in stride and was actually excited about her new ability. She was also pretty funny. I liked her best friend, Lesley, a lot. Lesley was really supportive but sadly, a little dim. I found her amusing all the same, though; she made me chuckle.

Charlotte, Gwen's cousin, was kind of mean and stuck-up. Despite her snottiness, though, I kind of felt bad for Charlotte. It's sort of sad to be raised to believe that you have an awesome gift and destiny, just to be told that they made a mistake and that it's your cousin who can actually time travel, not you. I know I would be upset. And to think that your guy, an amazingly attractive and intelligent fellow, is not your time traveling partner any more, but your cousin's. It's not like Charlotte could deny the inevitable attraction between Gideon and Gwyneth, either. Even if the attraction is not there now, all that time traveling together will surely make it blossom! Poor, Charlotte; I can't help but feel sorry for her!

Ahh, let's move on to Gideon. I like Gideon well enough, but I'm not rooting for him or anything like that. He's cool, but he's kind of just there. I kind of like Paul and Lucy's story better than I like Gideon and Gwen's. You don't get to read too much about Paul and Lucy until later on in the book. They are mentioned like a gazillion times, though, and I found myself really liking them! They just seem really cool, and I can't help thinking that Kerstin Gier should have written a book about them instead of about Gwen and Gideon.

Most of the little secrets in the book came together really easily for me. Although I pieced together some of the mysteries, other pieces of the puzzle eluded my greedy hands, and that added to my enjoyment of the book. I don't like stories with plots too easy to figure out. I like a challenge!

Anyways, I did like Ruby Red a lot. It didn't reach my high expectations, but most books seldom do. The plot was enjoyable and the concept was unique. Gier mixes enough paranormal and science into the time travel idea. The characters were likable enough, though I did like the secondary characters more than I liked the main ones. To me, Paul and Lucy just seemed to be more interesting. There is a lot more to the book than what I can write in a review without spoiling the whole thing. I am excited to read the next book in the trilogy, though in all honesty, it's not the highest book on my to-read list. I will, however, read the book as soon as I can, out of support for Lucy and Paul! I have an inkling that they will have a more prominent role in the next book!

All in All: Ruby Red was a good book. I did enjoy the story and will read the rest of the books in the trilogy. The concept was truly interesting, and I am glad I took the time out to read it. I recommend this book to anyone curious enough to try it!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Review: The Golden Lily by Richelle Mead

The Golden Lily (Bloodlines #2)
By Richelle Mead

* I received a copy through Goodreads First Reads.

To Sum It Up: Alchemist Sydney Sage continues her mission to watch over Jill Mastrano Dragomir, half-sister to the Moroi queen. Although the Alchemists firmly believe that vampires are aberrations of nature, Sydney has grown comfortable being in the company of Jill, guardian Eddie Castile, and the inimitable Adrian Ivashkov. Sydney frequently wonders if she’s become too close to her little group and worries what would happen if her superiors thought so. When a new threat to all vampires, both Strigoi and Moroi, arises, Sydney must decide between adhering to the Alchemists’ procedures, like she always has, and following her feelings.

Review: The gang is finally back, and not a moment too soon. I only read Bloodlines a few months ago, but it seemed like I’d gone ages without a new Adrian quip. After finishing the Vampire Academy books, I couldn’t really picture the character combination of Sydney, Jill, Eddie, and Adrian working in Bloodlines, but I should know much better than to question Richelle Mead’s genius. Those four are brilliant together, and their relationship only strengthens in The Golden Lily. They may be posing as a family as part of their cover story, but they truly have become one.

What struck me the most upon finishing this book was how much the characters had grown, especially Sydney. I was pleasantly surprised by her engaging narrative voice in Bloodlines, and she really establishes herself as a heroine in The Golden Lily. We know that she’s super intelligent and fiercely dedicated to her Alchemist work, but we haven’t seen much of the person behind that stoic professional exterior until now. It was a lot of fun watching Sydney let her hair down a little at last and enjoy life outside of her job. Sometimes she feels guilty for doing so, just as she feels guilty over how much she’s come to care for her vampire companions. Sydney’s struggle to reconcile the Alchemists’ teachings with her loyalty to her friends increasingly makes her question the accuracy of the Alchemists’ view of vampires. I liked that Sydney challenged her beliefs and began to rely on her instincts as well as logic when making decisions. She’ll probably never be the warrior that VA’s Rose Hathaway is, but Sydney has her own way of putting up a fight that is equally powerful.

And now for the obligatory Adrian paragraph! Like Sydney, Adrian has matured as a character since Bloodlines. The trademark charm and wit are still there, but he has quite a few unguarded moments in which his sincere, caring, sensitive side shines through. He also goes through a rough patch that’s heartbreaking to watch because he’s been trying so hard to bring structure to his life and change how others perceive him. Adrian really wears his heart on his sleeve in this book, and as much as I love his arrogant, snarky self, I adore this Adrian, too.

As in Bloodlines, the baddies are pretty easy to spot. The action in The Golden Lily takes a little while to kick into high gear, too, but when it does, it’s like a volcanic eruption. It’s Sydney’s constant internal conflict between listening to her mind vs. listening to her heart that takes center stage here, and it’s just as intense and absorbing as a physical battle. Be prepared to retrieve your jaw from the floor when you reach the ending; I know I had to. Repeatedly. Um, how long until the next book comes out?

All in All: Bloodlines fans won’t be disappointed until they arrive at the last sentence and realize that they must begin the wait for a new installment all over again. Here’s hoping that we won’t have to go too long without our Adrian fix.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Review: Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Anna and the French Kiss (Anna and the French Kiss #1)
By Stephanie Perkins

To Sum It Up: After deciding that living abroad would be a good experience for her, Anna Oliphant’s father ships her off to a French boarding school for her senior year. Although at first she misses her family and friends back in Atlanta, Anna soon settles into her new life in Paris. Her adjustment goes more smoothly than she had expected, thanks in no small part to one of her new classmates, the gorgeous and charming Étienne St. Clair. Soon Anna finds herself spending more and more time with St. Clair, as everyone calls him. There’s one minor problem, though: he already has a girlfriend.

Review: I hadn’t read a contemporary, non-paranormal, non-fantasy YA novel in ages (which probably means not since I actually was a young adult). Anna and the French Kiss was a nice departure from my normal dose of angst-ridden adolescents coming to terms with their newfound supernatural powers. It was a fun, breezy read that I would have devoured in a day if I’d had the time. The romance was sweet but not saccharine; plenty of sarcasm, both American and British, keeps the story from becoming sappy.

Anna is a very likable, relatable protagonist. She’s smart, funny, and endearingly self-conscious. Whenever she couldn’t stop herself from saying something awkward, which happened quite often, I completely sympathized with her. She wasn’t a whiner, either; I’m not a fan of main characters who spend pages and pages complaining about how horrible their lives are yet do nothing to change their situations. Of course, Anna isn’t completely without faults; there wouldn’t have been much tension to the plot otherwise.

Ah, St. Clair. He had me from the moment that he uttered his first line of dialogue. I admit it: I totally have a thing for guys with English accents. Even if St. Clair had turned out to be a complete creep, I still could not have hated him. Because of the accent. Fortunately, St. Clair is not a creep. He possesses all of the qualities (intelligence, charisma, a wicked sense of humor, an English accent!) that would make any girl swoon but with enough flaws to make him human.

The suspense surrounding Anna and St. Clair’s will-they-or-won’t-they-get-together relationship drives this novel. What would probably be a cliché in any other book works winningly here. I thoroughly enjoyed reading Anna and the French Kiss and highly recommend it to anyone who’s looking for a good, old-fashioned, straightforward romance without any vampires, werewolves, faeries, witches, or other paranormal types in sight.

All in All: I borrowed this from the library because I wasn’t sure if I was going to like it or not. Now I’m definitely considering buying a copy of my own.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Stacking the Shelves (5)

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.

Ally was super busy with final exams this week (I don't miss those days at all!), so it's only my small stack again. I've been trying to be very good about how many books I buy lately, but it's my birthday next week, and if you can't splurge a little for your birthday, then really, when can you?

The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa
The Piper's Son by Melina Marchetta

Won from Goodreads:
The Golden Lily by Richelle Mead

What books did you add this week? Be sure to leave your link below!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Review: Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld

Behemoth (Leviathan #2)
By Scott Westerfeld
Simon Pulse

To Sum It Up: It is official: Great Britain has just joined the war, siding against Austria-Hungary and Germany and complicating Prince Aleksander's stay on the Leviathan. Although only the perceptive Doctor Barlow and the trustworthy midshipman, Dylan, know of Alek's true identity, the captain suspects Alek and his men of being Clankers. Even after saving the dying Leviathan and its crew, Alek and his men are deemed the enemy and are not allowed to leave the ship under any circumstances. This confinement allows the friendship between Alek, the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, and Deryn Sharp, a commoner girl disguised as a boy in the British Air Service, to grow. When Alek is forced to escape from the Leviathan when it lands in Constantinople, a neutral country in the war, their friendship is tested. The Leviathan's peacekeeping mission fails, and Deryn is given the opportunity to join and help the young prince she loves. Alek has the ability to stop the war, especially now that he has a band of rebels as allies, and the help of one fearless Mr. Sharp.

Review: I can't convey in words how excited I was to read this book. And let me tell you, it was worth it! Behemoth is just as amazing as the first book, Leviathan. Behemoth kicks off with a rocking start, picking up where the previous book left off. Alek is on board the Leviathan and is with Deryn! Deryn is obviously crushing on the Clanker prince, and Alek is obviously clueless. I can't tell you how frustrated I get sometimes. At points, it looks like either Alek is going to figure out that Dylan is actually a girl or that someone is going to blurt out Deryn's secret, but it just doesn't happen. Ughh, those two need to get together! They would be perfect for each other. Then again, Deryn is a commoner, and somehow I don't think Alek would do that to his own kids, marrying a commoner, even if he does love her. It’s just not going to happen. Anyway, no matter how frustrated I get, I still love them! Deryn and Alek were extra cool in this book. They each had their own struggles which they had to overcome and then they had their "as a team" struggles, which they demolished!

To me, the action in this book just got better! And the illustrations! They are still beautifully crafted and enjoyable! I look forward to those things in each chapter. They just seem to add to the story. Speaking of the story, the plot of this book was really intriguing. I liked the idea of Alek having to fly solo and Deryn facing the decision of joining him or not. The whole idea that the misfit prince and commoner girl can stop a world war is kind of kick-arse! And the whole rebel thing was uber cool. That is my kind of thing! I also liked the introduction of new places, people, machines, and yes, beasties! Doctor Barlow always keeps me thinking. She is just so shady. And now I have to keep an eye on Count Volger too! Who thinks Barlow and Volger would make a good couple? I do—that would be so fitting!

Like before, Westerfeld ties together historic events with his writing, helping me even more in my history class! No, it's actually really cool to be able to connect things like that. And I love the way all this steampunk-ness is mixed in with it. I would die to live in Deryn and Alek's world! I think that I would be a Darwinist, though. Anyway, back to the topic at hand, Westerfeld doesn't let down on his amazing descriptions of his creations. It's just all so remarkable. I’ve never read a book so unreal that it seemed real. I also really liked the setting in Constantinople. I feel like I'm actually there, traveling the world. This book never had a dull moment. I enjoyed every last bit of it, even the frustrating parts. I can't say I hate anything about it, except maybe the enemies in the novel. Behemoth is the type of book that just draws you in and makes you want to be a part of it. I can't count how many times I wanted to leap into the book and jump in on all the action or push Alek and Deryn together ;)

All in All: Behemoth was just as mind-blowingly awesome as Leviathan. I don't think Westerfeld could disappoint readers if he wanted to. Needless to say, I have already gotten my grubby hands on the next and final book in the series, Goliath. I am so psyched to read Goliath and highly recommend the Leviathan series to everyone!