Thursday, August 30, 2012

Feature & Follow Friday (12)

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:
Best cover? What is the best cover of a book that you've read and loved?

It was just too hard to choose between these two, so here they both are:

If you're a new follower, be sure to let us know so that we can follow you back. Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Review: Red Glove by Holly Black

* Spoiler warning for White Cat, the previous book in The Curse Workers series *

Red Glove (The Curse Workers #2)
By Holly Black
Margaret K. McElderry Books

To Sum It Up: Still reeling from the discovery that he is a curse worker, and a powerful one at that, Cassel Sharpe’s problems have only gotten bigger. Both the Feds and the mob want him to work for them, and each side will resort to just about anything to recruit him. Cassel also has to deal with the fallout from his emotion worker mother’s “gift” to him: cursing Lila, the girl whom Cassel once transformed into a white cat, into loving him. Once again, Cassel doesn’t know whom he can trust (if he can trust anyone at all) and must rely on his cunning to unravel a murder mystery that has directly impacted his family.

Review: Although I liked White Cat, the first book in The Curse Workers series, it didn’t exactly leave me dying to read the sequel, Red Glove, either. The latter happened to be on the shelf at the library one day, and I figured, eh, why not borrow it? I did really enjoy the snarky narration by the main character, Cassel Sharpe. It was the world-building in White Cat that I found a bit lacking. I was very happy to discover that Red Glove filled in the gaps regarding the world of the curse workers, those who wield magical powers with a simple touch of their hand. With those details much better explained this time, I was able to sit back and become engrossed in the story.

In Red Glove, Cassel is still grappling with White Cat’s shocking revelation that he is a transformation worker who used his powers to literally disguise the body trail left behind by his older brothers’ misdeeds on behalf of the crime boss Zacharov. The fact that Cassel’s brother Barron used his memory worker powers to make Cassel forget everything, including the knowledge that he was a worker, doesn’t alleviate Cassel’s guilt over what he’s done. Despite how much his family has manipulated him, though, Cassel still feels a certain loyalty to them. This plays a huge role in his dealings with the Feds, who are not-so-gently trying to recruit him. Meanwhile, Zacharov is dropping equally not-so-subtle hints that he’d like to put Cassel on his payroll. Complicating that proposition is Cassel’s relationship with Zacharov’s daughter, Lila, Cassel’s onetime best friend whom he once transformed into a cat. Cassel’s emotion worker mother has used magic to make Lila love him. As much as he wants that to be true, he can’t love her in return because he’ll always harbor doubts about whether or not her feelings are real. If all of this seems like a lot for one teenage boy to deal with, it is, but Cassel handles whatever is thrown at him with impressive cunning and biting wit.

I liked Cassel’s friend, Sam Yu, in White Cat, and was glad to see their friendship strengthen even more in this book. We also get to see Cassel’s mother, Shandra, in person now that she’s been released from jail. The beginning of Red Glove finds her resuming her grifting ways in Atlantic City, with Cassel as her assistant. Highly questionable parenting skills aside, Shandra is undeniably an entertaining character to read about. I was disappointed that Cassel’s grandfather, Desi, made only a few brief appearances in the book. I really missed his gruff manner and bluntness; Cassel surely must have inherited his way with words from his grandfather.

I thought that Red Glove featured tighter pacing than its predecessor, and it was quite riveting in some parts. Overall, I found this novel to be a page-turner thanks to its magic-meets-The Sopranos (the books are even set in New Jersey!) world and morally ambiguous characters who constantly keep you guessing about where their allegiances lie. Black is very adept at surprising her readers with clever plot twists, and I can’t wait to see what she has in store for Cassel and company in Black Heart.

All in All: I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed reading this sequel, and I’m glad that I picked it up when I did. The characters, especially Cassel, are what make this series for me, and their continued development in Red Glove does not disappoint. This book really turned me into a fan of The Curse Workers, which I highly recommend reading if you’re looking for a fresh take on magic books.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Book Toss-Up: A Tale of Two Annas

A few months ago, I read Stephanie Perkins's Anna and the French Kiss and loved it. I tried to get Ally to read it, but she very rarely reads contemporary and pretty much scoffed at my book recommendation. I then approached Melissa about reading it, and although she was skeptical, she wasn't outright dismissive, either. Then I got an idea. Melissa had been urging me to read Kendare Blake's Anna Dressed in Blood, which she loved, for quite some time. Aha! A bargaining chip! So Melissa and I made a deal: I'd read Anna Dressed in Blood if she read Anna and the French Kiss, and then we would write a post on how our little book swap went . . . .

And here's the post! We actually had a lot of fun doing this and would love to toss books at each other again. Now for the results of our first toss-up:

Melissa Read: Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Lee's Thoughts on This Book: I loved Anna and the French Kiss! It's one of my favorite contemporary reads. Anna is an extremely likable, yet realistic, protagonist. And Étienne St. Clair? He's handsome, charming, and has a British accent. Need I say more?

Why I Wanted Melissa to Read This: I thought that she'd like the story, which centers around American Anna spending her senior year in Paris and slowly falling for St. Clair, who already has a girlfriend. Even if Melissa didn't like the book, I was pretty sure that she'd at least love St. Clair (I know I did!).

Melissa Says: At first, I thought that Lee was off her rocker. I usually don't read contemporary books, so I was a little shocked when she recommended it to me. However, Lee insisted I would like it, and she was right. I loved everything about Anna and the French Kiss! It was wonderful, and I can't wait to buy it! I'm so glad Lee forced me to read it.

Lee Read: Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake

Melissa's Thoughts on This Book: I love ghost stories, so when Goodreads recommended this book to me, I put it on hold at the library ASAP. It was awesome! Anna Dressed in Blood was my kind of book. I loved all of the characters and their backstories.

Why I Wanted Lee to Read This: I loved this book so much, I had to share it with someone else. I didn't really expect Lee to like it; I just wanted to push her out of her comfort zone and make her read something she normally wouldn't read. Mwahaa (evil laugh). Lee doesn't really like horror-related stuff, so I thought it would be fun to hear her rant about it.

Lee Says: Melissa kept trying to convince me to read Anna Dressed in Blood, and when she sets her mind to do something, man can she be persistent! I'm a big chicken when it comes to all things horror, so I was a little reluctant to read this. I didn't expect to like Anna Dressed in Blood, but I did! What surprised me the most was how hilarious the main character, Cas Lowood, was. The story was also quite sad, which I hadn't expected, either. Naturally there were some scary scenes, but I didn't mind them at all; the book was just so engrossing. I really have to thank Melissa for pestering persuading me to read this.

You can check out our reviews of these books below:
Anna and the French Kiss: Lee | Melissa
Anna Dressed in Blood: Lee

Monday, August 27, 2012

Review: Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake

Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake
Anna Dressed in Blood (Anna #1)

By Kendare Blake

Publisher: Tor Teen
Format: Hardcover
Source: Borrowed

To Sum It Up: Being a ghost hunter/killer necessarily involves seeing things which are out of the ordinary. Cas Lowood has certainly witnessed his share, so when it comes to all things supernatural, there isn’t much that can surprise him anymore. Cas’s next destination is Thunder Bay, Ontario to investigate the legend of the ghost whom the locals call Anna Dressed in Blood. The real Anna Korlov was a 16-year-old girl who was killed on her way to a school dance; now her ghost is rumored to kill anyone who sets foot in her old home. Cas thinks that this is going to be just another routine job until he comes face-to-face with Anna for the first time. She’s the most powerful ghost he’s ever encountered, and he knows that she won’t be easy to kill. Cas hopes to find her weakness by looking into her past, but instead he finds a tragic story that makes him question whether he can finish the task that he set out to do.

Review: Wow, wow, and wow! This book just may have turned me into a horror fan. Because I am an utter wuss, I usually stay away from any book or movie that is remotely scary. I’ve been attempting to be braver lately by trying books that normally, I’d shy away from. The zombies in Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Infinity weren’t bad at all, and I had a lot of fun reading about the evil Crits in Emma Silver’s Blackbrooke. Since I was on a bit of a roll with the creepy creatures books, it was an ideal time to give in to my cousin Melissa’s pleas to read Anna Dressed in Blood, which she’d loved. Melissa was right: this book was amazing!

With a pretty eerie-sounding title like Anna Dressed in Blood and a pretty eerie-looking cover to match, I expected this to be one bone-chilling read. It was in some parts, but the book was also surprisingly moving and even laugh-out-loud funny thanks to Cas’s frequent sarcastic remarks. I loved Cas’s snarky demeanor; even when facing imminent death, he still managed to crack a joke. Cas is also really smart, and I admired his determination to avenge the death of his ghost hunter father, who was killed by a ghost. I’ve read several YA books this year with strong male protagonists in them, and Cas is definitely among that group.

The secondary characters are also very well-developed. I really grew to like Thomas Sabin, a geeky telepath and classmate of Cas’s whom Cas regards as a bit of a nuisance at first. By the end of the novel, though, Thomas has proven himself to be a brave and loyal friend. Another character who surprised me with her depth was Carmel Jones, another classmate of Cas’s who also turns out to be a true friend to him. When Cas initially meets her, he pegs her as the Queen Bee of the school. Carmel is actually made of steelier stuff, though, and along with Thomas, aids Cas in trying to unravel the mystery behind Anna’s death.

As for the title character, Anna is beyond terrifying when we first meet her. I happened to read about one of her more frightening appearances in the book at about 12:30 in the morning. I knew that continuing to read this part in the middle of the night wasn’t the brightest idea, yet I couldn’t put the book down. One of the best things about Anna Dressed in Blood was how Kendare Blake had me frightened of Anna at the outset of the novel and then had me feeling nothing but sympathy for her once the tragic history of her life was revealed. Anna may be a ghost, but Blake imbues her character with a stunning amount of dimension.

I can’t rave enough about how well-written and perfectly paced this book is. Reading it took me on a fantastic roller coaster ride of reactions: amusement at Cas’s humorous narration, outrage and sadness upon learning the truth about what really happened to Anna, and of course fear whenever Anna was in murderous-ghost mode. I can’t wait to read the sequel, Girl of Nightmares!

All in All: This is an absolute must-read. It even won over a non-horror fan like me. I definitely want to buy a copy of this book for my shelves.

Favorite Quote: You’ll be just like those four chaps in the movie. You know the one, with the oversized marshmallow.Gideon Palmer, an old friend of Cas’s family, Chapter 13

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Cousinly Conversation Vlog: Rally the Readers Storms the Screen!

So we thought that it would be fun to give vlogging a try even though we're not the most photogenic people in the world. Of course on the day that we decided to do this, all three of us started coming down with colds, so we all sound weirder than usual. We also apologize for the less than stellar video quality- we shot this on my laptop's webcam because it was the only video recording equipment that was available. If we do another vlog in the future, we'll try our best to make it a vast improvement over this one. As for the video, it's basically a short, "About Us" type of thing in which we attempt to avoid looking and sounding too dorky but don't really succeed.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Feature & Follow Friday (11)

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:
Worst cover? What is the worst cover of a book that you've read and loved?

It's not the worst cover ever, but it really doesn't do justice to how amazing the book (and the series) is. And if that's supposed to be Adrian on the cover with Sydney, why is only half of his face showing? Seriously? You do not put half of Adrian Ivashkov's face on a book cover!

If you're a new follower, be sure to let us know so that we can follow you back. Thanks for stopping by!

Review: Shakespeare's Scribe by Gary Blackwood

Shakespeare's Scribe (The Shakespeare Stealer #2)
By Gary Blackwood
Dutton Children's Books

To Sum It Up: Orphan Widge has come a long way since he first arrived in London on a mission to copy William Shakespeare’s Hamlet so that another acting company could perform it. Although Widge’s secret was eventually revealed, he still found a place among the Lord Chamberlain’s Men. Now Widge is about to experience the life of a traveling actor. A plague outbreak in London forces the closure of all of its theaters, and Shakespeare decides to take a small group of players, Widge among them, on the road to perform. Widge’s knowledge of shorthand becomes invaluable to Shakespeare after the latter injures his arm and needs Widge’s assistance in writing down his latest work in progress. But Widge’s future with the group whom he’s come to regard as a family becomes unclear when a stop in his former hometown provides a possible clue to his past.

Review: The Shakespeare Stealer was a very enjoyable read, so I was really looking forward to reading the follow-up, Shakespeare’s Scribe. Much to my disappointment, the sequel lacked the charm and wit that made the first book so captivating. I just didn’t feel as invested in the story and the characters as I did with The Shakespeare Stealer.

The plot of Shakespeare’s Scribe, which centers around the Lord Chamberlain’s Men taking their act on the road after the plague forces the shutdown of London’s theaters, wasn’t all that compelling to me. I failed to find anything particularly fascinating about the day-to-day life of a traveling actor in Elizabethan England. As Shakespeare and his actors trudged through muddy country roads, I felt like I was slogging through the book. Shakespeare, who’s in the midst of writing a play that will eventually become All’s Well That Ends Well, has a greater presence here than he did in The Shakespeare Stealer. Although it’s welcome, more page time for the Bard still doesn’t inject enough spark into the story.

The biggest letdown was the lack of character growth by the protagonist, Widge. We pretty much see the same Widge from the previous book. The story line involving the addition of an apprentice named Sal Pavy, who previously belonged to another acting company and becomes Widge’s rival, fell kind of flat. My interest was piqued when the Lord Chamberlain’s Men made a stop in York, where Widge grew up, and a visit to his old orphanage resulted in an unexpected clue to his parentage. I thought that this development in Widge’s story had a lot of potential, but I didn’t like the way that it played out. At times this plotline seemed forced, like it was in the book just to give Widge something to do besides transcribing for Shakespeare and worrying about losing his roles to Sal Pavy. I really do like Widge; he’s an endearing sort of lad whom you can’t help but cheer for, and I felt that he deserved a more satisfying resolution to his search for answers about his identity.

Shakespeare’s Scribe isn’t a bad book by any means. It’s just that I went into it with high expectations after liking the previous book so much, and this installment in the series didn’t quite meet those expectations. I do still plan on reading the third book in this series, Shakespeare’s Spy, to see if the story picks up.

All in All: I thought that the series lost some of its momentum this time around, but fans of The Shakespeare Stealer might still want to check this out and follow Widge on his latest adventure.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Review: Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare

Clockwork Angel (The Infernal Devices #1)
By Cassandra Clare
Margaret K. McElderry Books

To Sum It Up: Tessa Gray travels to England from New York to be reunited with her brother after their aunt dies. Her brother Nate, is the only other family that Tessa has left. Things go awry when Tessa is kidnapped by the sinister Dark Sisters. During her imprisonment, Tessa learns of an incredible power that she has always possessed. When Tessa is rescued by the Shadowhunters, a group dedicated to fighting demons, she must put the world she has always known behind her and join the one that she has always belonged to.

Review: Set in Victorian England, Clockwork Angel is filled with wonderful surprises. As a huge fan of Jane Austen and other classic authors, I loved the setting. However, it had a dark twist with classic monsters, including vampires, werewolves, and demons, as well as some new ideas such as the Shadowhunters. Although the setting limits women in the mortal world, the women in the supernatural world are not stuck with such limitations. Tessa and Charlotte are kick-arse!

One of the biggest things that makes or breaks a book for me is the characters, and Cassandra Clare did a phenomenal job with her characters. Tessa is a fierce and courageous heroine who rarely lets the reader down. Charlotte, head of the London Institute, is just awesome; I don't even know how to describe her. Henry, Charlotte's husband, reminds me of Arthur Weasley from Harry Potter, and it's impossible not to love him. Will and Jem are a whole different story; I love them both sooooo much! They are both tortured souls, and although they are complete opposites, they find comfort in each other, making them as close as brothers. I still can't decide who I favor—it’s too hard!

I love my paranormal books, and this one takes the cake. It just doesn't compare to other books that I've read lately. I love the whole concept, and the plot is so good, you are always on the edge of your seat. Everything about it is awesome. I found this review hard to write because there was so much to say, but I didn't want to give anything away.

All in All: I haven't read the Mortal Instruments series, but you really don't need to in order to enjoy this book. I can't put into words how much I loved this book! You have to read it! It's the kind of book that leaves you sad because it's over.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Pledged Blog Tour: Author Interview with Gwynneth White

Today we'll be chatting with Gwynneth White, author of the upcoming Pledged, which will be published by Swallow Press on September 1. You can enter to win one of five eBook copies of Pledged, as well as read our interview with two of the book's characters, Sophia and Jared, by clicking here.

Our Interview with Gwynneth White

Welcome to Rally The Readers, Gwynneth! Thanks for joining us today.

The pleasure is mine! I’m delighted to be with you.

When did you decide that you wanted to be a writer?

You know, it wasn’t really a decision. It was more like . . . it just happened. I was writing stories when I was very young. When I first started working, life thrust me into jobs where they needed someone with writing skills. I seemed to be it. Then my husband – he’s a writer/publisher/film-maker – needed a travel guide written, so I did that too. It became a bestseller. No one was more surprised than me. A second travel guide followed. Then I had a loooooong hiatus while I raised my children. But all through that drought, I had a story brewing in my head. When it refused to go away, I decided to give it voice. And I cannot tell you how happy I am to be out of the wilderness and back in the writing world. It is truly my first professional love.

What is your writing process like?

My stories always start with the characters, from there I move onto plotting. And do I ever plot! I like to write out a broad narrative of the whole story before I start writing. I need quiet to work, and often I burn aromatherapy oils, which seem to inspire my creativity.

What inspired you to write the Soul Wars Saga?

It was a process. The soul mates came first because I love the concept that we knew and loved our life partners before we were born. Then came the demons and angels . . . while I was writing one of the many drafts of Pledged, my mother contracted cancer. After she died it seemed like I heard her voice in my head, encouraging me to finish the series. Thus the involvement of the dead – angels and demons – was born. And finally the time travel? Well, at first Pledged was set in ancient times, but I decided it needed a modern twist. Enter Seth and Erin. With their story came the diamond Seer-Stone which enabled them to time travel. So I guess the creation of Pledged reflects the many layers contained in the actual story.

Are any of the characters modeled on real-life people?

Yes. Erin, Stephanie and Kate are modeled on my daughters (including their names) and the similarities between them are pretty startling.

Is there one character you especially love to write about, or is it too hard to pick a favorite? (After all, we don’t want to make Seth jealous or anything.)

Jared. I just love him. If anyone has leapt off the page for me, it’s that sardonic, arrogant young Warlord. He’s not uber good-looking, but he’s got a strong, commanding face, which pretty much tells the world what he’s about. When you first meet him, you’ll find him hugely egotistical, but if you win his heart, he will be loyal to you unto death.

If you could spend a day in Shenaya, what would your ideal day be like?

Is there are ideal day in Shenaya? I don’t think so. Fighting for your soul mate and avoiding Pledging to Reuel are all-consuming, leaving little opportunity for idle sightseeing. And then there are those pesky angels and demons hounding you all the time.

If you had a Seer-Stone and could travel back in time, where would you hope it would take you?

I’d like to go back to before my birth to see what promises I made before coming into mortality. I have no doubt that there were some - I just hope I’ve lived up to them all.

What can readers look forward to in the next book, Sacrificed?

The by-line for Sacrificed is: Everyone has a soul mate. But what happens if the only way your soul mate can live is for you to die? As you can imagine, in Sacrificed life is very dark for all the characters, both modern and ancient. Reuel seems unstoppable, betrayals are rife, and relationships are shattered. I’m sorry to say, but it ends on another cliffhanger.

And now for the obligatory random questions:

Favorite book?

That is a horrible question! How can I possibly answer that when I have dozens of ‘favourite’ books? But if you insist, then I will say current favourites are Pathfinder by Orson Scott Card and Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi.

Favorite fictional character?

Ditto my answer to the favourite book question! Impossible to answer. I love Harry Potter. I think the Hobbit is amazing. Tris is great. But so is Alina. How does one pick only one favourite?

Who would win in a fight: Gideon or Reuel?

Reuel, probably, because he would cheat.

If you could change anything in the past, what would it be?

Change the past? But that’s not possible – even with a Seer-Stone. As Seth and Erin learned, all we can hope to do is change the future through our choices in the present. That sounds really wacky! So how would I like the future to be? Simple. Everyone should have the best chance to be with the one they love.

Happy endings or tragic endings?

I’m a sap for happy endings. Life is often tragic enough without having sad endings in the books I escape to.

Thank you again for your time today, Gwynneth. We really appreciate it!

About Gwynneth White

I have spent my entire life living in a parallel universe of make-believe characters, only coming back to reality for long enough to check that no one burnt the house down in my absence. A few years ago I decided to commit some of those ‘friends’ and their stories to paper. The Soul Wars Saga is the result of those efforts. Before that I co-authored two non-fiction travel books – The Complete Guide to 4x4 Trails and The Ultimate 4x4 Guide. Both books became instant best-sellers in South Africa where I live. And before that even, I studied a degree in African History and Politics at the University of Stellenbosch. When I’m not writing, I am a wife to Andrew and a mom to Stephanie, Erin, and Kate, our teenage daughters. My family and I live in a small town outside Cape Town with two dogs, a cat, a horse, and some neglected fish. Now that you know a little about me, I would love to get to know you. Please befriend me at:
Twitter: @GwynnethWhite

Monday, August 20, 2012

Review: Eyes Like Stars by Lisa Mantchev

Eyes Like Stars (Théâtre Illuminata #1)
By Lisa Mantchev
Feiwel and Friends

To Sum It Up: The Théâtre Illuminata is unlike any other theater. Its actors are not merely playing parts; they are the characters. For Beatrice “Bertie” Shakespeare Smith, the Théâtre is the only place that she’s ever called home. Bertie has no memory of her parents or how she came to the Théâtre. When one antic too many causes the Theater Manager to ask her to leave, Bertie must prove that she’s invaluable to the Théâtre or else face the unknown in the outside world.

Review: Eyes Like Stars came up as a Goodreads recommendation. When I read the synopsis, the idea of a theater in which the characters are real, living beings intrigued me. The main character’s name also caught my attention because it had “Shakespeare” in it. Once I saw that, I had to add this book to my TBR list. One day, I spotted Eyes Like Stars at the library and figured that I’d give it a try. This turned out to be one little gem of a book, and I probably never would have discovered it if it hadn’t been for Goodreads.

Mantchev is an amazing writer. Eyes Like Stars instantly pulled me in with a whimsy that reminded me a bit of Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus. In the Théâtre Illuminata, someone merely has to call for a scene change, and voilà! The stage is all set for another production. What makes all of this possible is The Book, a magical tome that contains every play ever written. The Book also binds all of the actors to the Théâtre; they cannot venture outside of its walls. Mantchev vividly brings this setting to life; I absolutely believed that this world was possible.

The characters, or should I say cast, are as brilliant as the microcosm that they inhabit. Bertie, the cobalt blue-haired heroine, is smart, witty, and determined. She also possesses a knack for getting into mischief, and watching her wheedle her way out of it is highly amusing. Bertie’s frequent run-ins with her nemesis, the Stage Manager, have a lot to do with the company that she keeps. Her best friends happen to be the fairies from William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Although Peaseblossom, the only girl in the group, tries to keep the boys (Cobweb, Moth, and Mustardseed) in line, there always seems to be a scuffle breaking out among them. The fairies steal the show with both their shenanigans and their smart-aleck remarks. I loved the book’s dialogue in general; it crackled with wit.

My only quibble was with the ending. It felt kind of rushed and left me scratching my head a bit. I thought that some things were explained away a little too conveniently. I was also disappointed with the way in which one character’s fate was left hanging in the air. The rest of the novel, however, was just too good to let the ending affect the book’s overall rating. There’s also some good news: Eyes Like Stars is the first book in a trilogy, so I’m optimistic that I’ll eventually find out what happened to that character.

All in All: Eyes Like Stars is a delightful read. If the image of Lady Macbeth trading catty insults with Queen Gertrude from Hamlet makes you laugh, then you should pick up this book. Even if you’re not a fan of Shakespeare, I’d still recommend this because of its humor and winning charm.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Stacking the Shelves (11)

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.

This post is for the past two weeks, during which Ally and Melissa celebrated their first Goodreads wins, and Ally and I made a spur of the moment library run. It was yet another one of those "We're just going to browse but not borrow anything" trips. Of course we borrowed books. In our defense, though, we were both having a pretty bad day, and going to the library cheered us up a bit.

For Review:

The Lure of Shapinsay by Krista Holle
Thanks to Krista Holle for the eBook!

Ally's Books:

Jinx by Meg Cabot
Vesper by Jeff Sampson
Across the Universe by Beth Revis
Nightshade by Andrea Cremer
Won from Goodreads:
Signed copy of Skylark by Meagan Spooner

Lee's Books:

If I Stay by Gayle Forman

Infamous by Sherrilyn Kenyon
This Is Not a Test by Courtney Summers
Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
Gone by Michael Grant

Melissa's Books:

Won from Goodreads:
The Edge of Nowhere by Elizabeth George

What did you add to your shelves this week?

Friday, August 17, 2012

Pledged Blog Tour: Character Interview & Giveaway

As part of the blog tour for Gwynneth White's Pledged, today we'll be chatting with two of the novel's characters, the always witty Sophia and Jared. Swallow Press is also generously providing 5 eBook copies of Pledged to give away, so be sure to fill out the Rafflecopter form below.

Pledged (Soul Wars Saga #1)
By Gwynneth White
Swallow Press
Publication Date: September 1, 2012

Synopsis: Everyone has a soul mate. But what do you do when your soul mate would rather give his soul to the demons than be with you?

Seventeen-year-old Erin has a problem. Seth has been hers forever, but now an ancient promise is tearing him away. And Reuel, the demon to whom the promise was made, will stop at nothing to force Seth to forsake Erin and to worship him.

How can Erin win against a pledge so binding that it has damned countless others to the same fate she and Seth will face if Reuel wins – an eternity alone?

The answer lies in the past. To find it, Erin and Seth must risk all, travelling back in time to a dangerous world where love is forbidden, and life – and death – hang on a promise.

Follow Erin and Seth as they travel to ancient Shenaya to break the pledge that has plagued their families for millennia. Caught in a war between the Angelic Guardians and the Gefallen, the disembodied dead, they must fight to keep their souls in tact and their love untainted.

Our Interview with Sophia and Jared

Sophia and Jared, welcome to Rally The Readers! We're glad that both of you could join us today.

Jared: Good day, my ladies. You’ve summoned us from a feast, what could be so important that it could not wait?

Sophia: Given that the Shenayans insist on serving worms and dead crocodiles, you’ve definitely done us a service, for which I thank you. Now, how can we help?

Can you describe in one word your first impressions of each other?

Jared: *gives sardonic smile* My, is this an interrogation? How fascinating.

Sophia: *suppresses smile* Just answer the question, Jared.

Jared: Sophia, how could I deny you? One word, you say . . . beautifully indiscrete.

Sophia: That’s two words, a fact which sums you up perfectly.

Jared: I’ll admit, I’m never shy of speaking my mind.

Sophia: Arrogant.

Jared: *laughs* And that’s just one of my more appealing characteristics.

As we've just seen, you both have pretty strong-willed personalities. Who usually wins an argument?

Jared: Sophia.

Sophia: Jared.

Sophia, you were less than enthused about having to leave your homeland of Norin to go to Shenaya. Are there any aspects of Shenayan life that came as a pleasant surprise to you?

Jared: Sophia thinks everything we do is disgusting. In her mind, we have no redeeming features. Nothing racist at all about our young Norin, is there now?

Sophia: *smacking Jared’s arm* Since when is your name Sophia? *To Ally and Lee* But to be honest, I have to say no, I didn’t find anything positive – up until the time I met a certain Warlord. Then everything changed.

Jared: *mocking smile* That wouldn’t be me, would it?

Sophia: Lee, Ally, please do us all a favour and grill Jared with some really tough questions.

Sure, Sophia. So Jared, how did you manage to convince your father, Rustus, to let you skip the Emblem Picking ceremony? He doesn’t seem like the most flexible guy in the world.

Jared: That’s your idea of a tough question? *To Sophia* They should spend an afternoon with you, learning how to be really blunt and biting.

Sophia: I think they’ve managed just fine on their own. After all, I don’t see you rushing to answer the question. Finally tongue-tied?

Jared: Hardly. At the risk of sounding arrogant-

Sophia: *interrupts, laughing* Arrogant? Heaven forbid!

Jared: *ignoring Sophia* My father had a glorious future plotted out for me in which he would prosper greatly. To achieve his lofty ambition he was willing to do anything to keep me docile - even if that meant breaking every rule in the book.” *smiles* Being used definitely has its advantages.

So it would seem. Now, Sophia our next question is for you. What do you think makes two people soul mates?

Sophia: To me it’s a spiritual connection. Even though I couldn’t stand Jared when I first met him, somehow I felt I could trust him.

Jared: Is that the excuse you’re giving for talking your mouth off and generally being indiscrete?

Sophia: No. That’s just my nature. But even when I thought you’d betrayed me, I couldn’t help trusting you. How bizarre is that? So I suppose, for me at least, the knowledge that you’re my soul mate was instinctive.

What quality do you most admire in each other?

Jared: Sophia’s integrity. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a real pain having to justify and plead with her to do things the Shenayan way, but I can definitely appreciate that quality in her.

Sophia: From a distance.

Jared: Hey! Not fair. You don’t have to live in the confines of the system the way I do.

Sophia: Jared, you don’t live in the confines of any system! You make your own rules as you go along. It’s one of the things I love most about you.

Before this turns into an argument, do you have any advice for other literary couples out there who are facing obstacles in their relationships?

Jared: *raises eyebrows* Relationship advice from a Shenayan Pledged? Hmm . . . That’s a novel idea. I think I’ll let Sophia go first.

Sophia: Gee, thanks. And the pun was pathetic.

Jared: *gives a cocky smile*

Sophia: Believe in yourself and in each other regardless of what your enemies are doing to you.

Jared: Good advice. I suggest you take it next time someone tells you I betrayed you.

Sophia: *gives Jared an arch smile* And here I thought you would say something profound like "keep your sword sharpened and your hand close to your axe."

And now for the obligatory random questions:

Worst nightmare you’ve ever had?

Sophia: That’s easy. Dreams that featured me marrying Caleb.

Jared: Dreams that featured Caleb. Full stop.

Optimist or pessimist?

Sophia: I can answer for us both. Optimists. Most of the time.

Morning person or night owl?

Jared: Either. I’m a soldier, so I do what it takes, day or night.

Sophia: Morning.

Must-have item on a desert island?

Jared: A fishing rod.

Sophia: A flint so we can make a fire to cook the fish.

Jared: We’ll eat like kings.

Sophia: Ally and Lee, thank you for the entertaining time we’ve spent with you.

We really enjoyed our time with you, too. Thanks again to both of you for stopping by!

* Giveaway *

Enter to win one of five eBook copies of Pledged by filling out the Rafflecopter form below. At the end of the giveaway, the winners' info will be forwarded to Swallow Press, who will then send them a Smashwords coupon for downloading the book.

This giveaway is open internationally and ends on August 31, 2012.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Review: Ripper by Stefan Petrucha

By Stefan Petrucha

To Sum It Up: All his life, Carver Young has dreamed of becoming a detective and finding his biological father. Carver studiously reads crime novels, perfects his lock-picking, and even finds stolen items for the fellow children at his orphanage. When Carver comes across a supposed letter from his father while snooping around, he goes out on a limb, writing to the present Police Commissioner, asking to be taken on as an apprentice. The orphanage is moving to a different location anyway, and any children over the set age are required to be turned out. Carver is over the restricted age and has nothing left to lose; he needs the Police Commissioner to adopt him. Instead, Detective Albert Hawking of the famous Pinkerton Agency takes up Carver's offer. Carver's first case as Hawking's apprentice is to find his biological father. Carver is more than ecstatic with his first assignment, but when his first case starts to intertwine with the investigation of New York City's most recent serial killer, things become much trickier.

Review: I've always been oddly fascinated by Jack the Ripper; he is a weirdly interesting historical figure. I guess like everyone else, I want to know what made him tick. I also admire detectives and the way they have to think like the psychopaths they're up against. So when I saw this book tucked away on the shelf, I knew I had to have it!

Ripper takes place in New York City during the 1890's, so the setting was right up my alley. Petrucha did a great job of setting the scene. Everything was quite believable, so imagine my surprise when I caught of whiff of steampunk. There were secret underground agencies, a highly tech-savvy library, and gadgets galore! It was a surprising delight. It made the detectives seem all that more kick-arse. The action was non-stop. Whether Carver was sneaking into upscale parties, running around the city looking for dear ol’ dad, or fighting off the psycho serial killer, I was on the edge of my seat. It was even interesting when Carver was in the New Pinkerton library doing book work. I feel as though I've learned a lot about being a detective; it's kind of like I took a course on it or something.

Carver was a great protagonist. He was admirable while also being believable; there were enough flaws to make him seem real. Carver was pretty smart and brave, but he also got terribly jealous and frustrated when things did not go his way. I also enjoyed reading about Carver's friends, Delia and Finn. They always had Carver's back. Detective Hawking was pretty cool, too. As for Jack, I think that Ripper portrayed him quite differently from the average Jack the Ripper story.

A couple of things did bother me about this book, one being the chapter lengths. The chapters were so short; there were around one hundred in the whole book. I have nothing against short chapters; that kind of thing is totally up to the author. But I felt that sometimes the abrupt ends of the chapters disturbed the flow of the story, and at other times I felt like I was reading a middle grade book. Another thing that bothered me was the inconsistency throughout the book, for example, Carver 's detective skills. Sometimes Carver would be a pure genius and figure things out that I hadn't even begun to imagine, and at other times I was screaming at the poor lad to pull this or that lever. The ending killed me! It was so confusing and random that no amount of detective skills would have given you even the slightest chance of seeing it coming. It was like getting hit by a bus. Some elements of this book could have used more thought and work, but despite these flaws, I still really enjoyed reading Ripper and would recommend it.

All in All: Ripper is an amazing book. I was on the edge of my seat during the whole ride. I'm so glad that I gave this book a chance, and I hope more people will give it a chance, too!

Wednesday, August 15, 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: Anna Oliphant knows she should be excited about spending her senior year in France, but she can’t stop thinking about all the things she is forced to leave behind, including her younger brother, her best friend, and her crush. The only things that can help Anna adjust to and begin enjoying France are her new friends, in particular, the handsome Étienne St. Clair. Although St. Clair already has a girlfriend, their friendship might turn into something more.

Review: Anna and the French Kiss was a pleasant break from my usual paranormal books. At first I was skeptical, but I was surprised by how much I really liked it. I have to say, Lee really knows how to pick a book! Now besides the setting (France!!!), the element that really pulled me in was the characters. All of the characters were easy to like and very relatable.

Anna was easy to relate to, funny, and an overall good person. Her inner struggle throughout the book shows that she has strong morals and also strives to be a good friend. Anna knows that St. Clair has a girlfriend, but she can’t help her growing feelings for him. St. Clair was just awesome! He is hilarious, sweet, charming, and he has a British accent! St. Clair also battles with himself throughout the story. These inner demons make Anna and St. Clair human and get the reader to sympathize with them. Oh, and Meredith, she is a giant Beatles fan! And if that isn’t enough to make you love her, she is super nice!

Anna was such a fast read. It wasn’t overly dramatic or cliché like I expected. I was worried it was going to be like a bad episode of Degrassi. I know I keep saying it, but the story was totally relatable (well, besides maybe going to school in France). When I read a contemporary book (which is rare), I expect it to be relatable. Stephanie Perkins did a great job making the story believable, which made the book more enjoyable.

All in All: Anna and the French Kiss was an amazing novel! I loved it! It’s not a book for everyone, but if you’re a sucker for a well written love story, this is the perfect book for you. This is going onto my to-buy list.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Review: Invincible by Sherrilyn Kenyon

Invincible (Chronicles of Nick #2)
By Sherrilyn Kenyon
St. Martin's Griffin

To Sum It Up: Just when Nick Gautier thinks he can take a breather from his recent encounters with zombies, he finds himself entangled with the supernatural all over again. He’s trying to learn how to control the powers he never knew he had until recently, and one of his teachers is none other than Death himself. Nick also has a new foe in his school’s football coach, who’s threatening to have Nick put in jail if Nick refuses to assist him with his top-secret, and undoubtedly evil, scheme. Once again, Nick must save the day, all while trying to avoid being grounded by his mom.

Review: It’s been a while since I had the opportunity to read two books from the same series back-to-back, as I did with Infinity and Invincible, the first two books in Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Chronicles of Nick series. Since Invincible picks up immediately after the events in Infinity, the timing worked out particularly well. Although Infinity was a fun read, I ended up liking Invincible even more. I haven’t read any of Kenyon’s adult Dark-Hunter books (something that I plan to remedy ASAP!). Infinity was my introduction to the world of the Dark-Hunters, and I spent a good deal of the book trying to keep track of the characters. Now that I had a better grasp of who was who, I was able to dive right into Invincible’s story.

Nick’s acerbic commentary is what made Infinity so much fun to read for me, and he doesn’t disappoint here. He appears to have met his match in the sarcasm department, though, in the form of Death. Death, or Grim as he likes to be called, has the not-so-easy task of teaching Nick how to use his powers. With Grim being Death and all, he’s not very tolerant of being upstaged by the Gautier wit and bluntly tells Nick so. The verbal exchanges between these two are laugh-out-loud funny; Kenyon certainly knows how to write humor.

I was happy that Kyrian, the Dark-Hunter who saved Nick’s life in Infinity, had a slightly larger role in this book. I was equally glad to see the towering immortal Acheron and Simi, the demon who’ll eat anything with barbecue sauce on it, again, too, although their appearances were much too brief, especially Simi’s. My favorite zombie hunters, Bubba and Mark, are also back. Those two seriously need their own spin-off! We get a bit of Bubba’s backstory here, and it is really heartbreaking. I respect that man even more than I did before.

I thought that the story line, which involved the new football coach at Nick’s school blackmailing Nick into stealing seemingly random objects for him, was meatier this time around. On the whole, Invincible seemed less expository than its predecessor. Before even finishing this book, I knew that I was going to continue with the series, but once I reached the jaw-dropping cliffhanger, I wished that I had a copy of Infamous to begin reading the moment I was done with Invincible.

All in All: If you became a fan of Nick’s after the first book in the series, like I did, you won’t be disappointed with Invincible. I’ve really taken a liking to the characters in these books, and I cannot wait to read more about them in Infamous!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Feature & Follow Friday (10)

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:
What would you do over if you were to start your blog again from scratch?

We've been blogging for about four months now, and for the most part, we're happy with how things have turned out so far. One thing that we definitely should have done from the beginning was get on Twitter. We knew that blogging was going to be a lot of fun and a lot of work, but there are still times when we underestimate how time-consuming it can be, so our time management skills could use some polish as well.

Is there anything that you would have done differently with your blog?

If you're a new follower, be sure to let us know so that we can follow you back. Thanks for stopping by!

Review: Infinity by Sherrilyn Kenyon

Infinity Sherrilyn Kenyon Book Cover

Infinity (Chronicles of Nick #1)

By Sherrilyn Kenyon


St. Martin’s Griffin

To Sum It Up:

Fourteen-year-old Nick Gautier has learned a lot about hardship during his short life. He and his mother are barely getting by, and his father is in prison. Nick doesn’t fit in with the rich kids at his posh school, where his classmates constantly taunt him. As if things couldn’t get any worse for Nick, he’s attacked one night by some guys who he thought were his friends and is rescued by a mysterious stranger with almost inhuman fighting skills. Little does Nick know that he’s about to become acquainted with an entire world of supernatural beings, and zombies in particular because his classmates are turning into them.


This was the first book that I ever read with zombies in it . . . and I liked it! I don’t watch horror movies because I’m pathetically squeamish, but these zombies were more than tolerable to a wimp like me. But there’s a lot more to Infinity than a football team of the undead. Throw some demons, shapeshifters, and a scrappy hero with razor-sharp wit into the mix, and you have one highly entertaining read.

I’m particularly fond of snarky fictional guys; in fact, the snarkier, the better. Nick Gautier’s opening line in Infinity, “I am a socially awkward mandork,” pretty much ensured that we were going to get along famously. And we did. Nick is hilarious, and his nonstop biting commentary was my favorite thing about the book. I even laughed out loud a few times, prompting stares from family members who figured that I’d finally cracked from too much time spent with fictional characters. Anyway, Nick = very funny.

This book is teeming with memorable characters, some quirkier than others. On the quirky front, we have Bubba Burdette and Mark Fingerman, supernatural hunters extraordinaire. Bubba owns a computer repair/gun shop, so, as his ad, says, if he can’t fix your computer problems one way, he’ll fix them another (presumably through the use of firearms). In the event of a zombie apocalypse, you want Bubba and Mark on your team. I also loved the demon Simi, who carries a bottle of barbecue sauce and a lobster bib in her purse in case there are any tasty zombies to eat. Simi loves her barbecue sauce!

I wish that we’d seen more of Kyrian, Nick’s mysterious savior, and Acheron, the 6’8”, Porsche-driving immortal. I haven’t read Sherrilyn Kenyon’s adult Dark-Hunter series, in which these guys and some other faces from Infinity appear. While I wasn’t completely lost as I read Infinity, there were a few times when I felt that some prior knowledge of this world and the characters might have come in handy.

With a fairly straightforward plot, Infinity is a light yet fun read, thanks largely to its sarcastic protagonist. If you appreciate the humor of someone like Jace Wayland from Cassandra Clare's The Mortal Instruments or Cassel Sharpe from Holly Black's The Curse Workers, then you need to meet Nick Gautier. And I need to read Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Dark-Hunter series to find out more about Kyrian and Acheron.

All in All:

I’m so happy that I borrowed Infinity and the sequel, Invincible, at the same time. I can continue reading about Nick’s adventures immediately!