Thursday, November 29, 2012

Review: Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce

Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce
Sisters Red (Fairytale Retellings #1)
By Jackson Pearce
Publisher:
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

To Sum It Up:

Scarlett March lives for the hunt. Ever since the attack that killed her grandmother and took her eye, Scarlett knows that there is nothing left in the world for her besides protecting her sister, Rosie, and killing werewolf-like Fenris. But Rosie isn't like Scarlett. Rosie loves her sister more than anything, but she would rather be leading a normal teenage life than adorning a red cloak, leading Fenris to their death. When Silas, Scarlett's old hunting partner, comes to town, Rosie is given a chance at being normal. But Rosie is conflicted—Scarlett needs her sister more than ever, especially with the sudden emergence of Fenris in the area. Rosie owes Scarlett her life, but Rosie isn't sure if she's willing to give hers up.

Review:

This cover is just so beautiful! I spent countless hours gawking at it, turning it this way and that. Now, the stuff between the pages did not meet the cover's standards, but it was still pretty good. I love any kind of fairytale retellings, so I knew I had to give Sisters Red a try.

There were two big things in the book that stood out for me. One of them was Scarlett. This girl was beyond cool! I felt so bad for her. Scarlett was always worrying about everyone (besides herself, obviously). So in the book, Scarlett lost her eye; I think this really changed her and kind of defined her future. Reading from Scarlett's point of view, you can really see how much her looks really bothered her. She didn't think she was good enough for anything besides killing. She was horribly embarrassed and self-conscious. Scarlett removed herself from society and distanced herself from almost everyone. As I was reading this book, all I could think about was getting Scarlett a man! A nice, handsome, young lad would work wonders on Scarlett's self-esteem. It also would have made the book loads more interesting.

The other “thing” that stood out for me was Rosie . . . and not in a good way. I did not like this girl! Rosie was so self-centered. What really bothered me was how Rosie treated her sister, Scarlett. Rosie would always complain about hunting the Fenris, which is understandable yet selfish. Time and time again, Rosie would state how she would continue hunting for Scarlett. However, this dedication to her sister did not come out of love but out of repayment. Scarlett lost her eye protecting Rosie; Scarlett basically saved Rosie's life. This fact was the only thing tying Rosie to her sister. I also didn't like Rosie and Silas's relationship. Silas was decently cool, but instead of rooting for the two love birds to get together, I was a little grossed out at the idea of them as a couple.

Despite all the action and Fenris killing, which was completely awesome, the book was slow. I didn't know what the plot was, besides the obvious werewolf hunting. The book was more of a diary or a recount of what they did in that month, la-di-da-da. It was boring when the Fenris weren't involved. I think that if there was more werewolf action, I would have enjoyed the book more. Another thing I wished went differently was how the Fenris were painted. They were made out to be completely bad, no good at all. I would have loved to have seen a werewolf buddy mixed with the hunters, or even some conflict among the pack.

Other than the aforementioned, the book was good. I liked the concept and I liked the killing. I think the reason why I tolerated this book so much was because I wanted to like it. I wanted to find a good series with a modern interpretation of old fairytales. I don't know yet if I found it or not. I guess I'm going to have to read the next book in the series.

All in All:

Even though I didn't especially enjoy Sisters Red, anyone looking for a fairytale retelling should definitely check it out.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

2013 Paranormal Reading Challenge

The 2013 Paranormal Reading Challenge is hosted by Megan Likes Books and Auntie Spinelli Reads. I've never participated in a reading challenge before, and since I love paranormal books, I thought that this one would be perfect! For all of the details and to sign up, just click on the button above!

The goal is to read at least one book featuring each of the following paranormal creatures:

  • Vampires
  • Werewolves/Shifters
  • Fey
  • Angels/Nephilim
  • Mermaids
  • Dragons
  • Zombies
  • Demons
  • Witches/Wizards
  • Ghosts
  • Aliens
  • Other (ie: sirens, unicorns, centaurs, timetravel etc.)

This is going to be a lot of fun! I'm especially excited about checking out books with paranormal creatures that I haven't had the chance to read about yet.

Review: Infamous by Sherrilyn Kenyon

Infamous by Sherrilyn Kenyon
Infamous (Chronicles of Nick #3)
By Sherrilyn Kenyon
Publisher:
St. Martin’s Griffin

To Sum It Up:

So far, Nick Gautier has gone up against zombies and a football coach who had once made an unholy bargain that necessitated committing some nefarious deeds. Nick is still standing, but he can’t afford to lower his guard for a single second. He is destined to become the Malachai, a demon with the potential to destroy the world, and there is more than one plot underway to eliminate him, including one hatched by Nick’s own father, who wants his son’s powers for himself. Nick is in greater danger than ever, and the choices that he makes now could mean the difference between ensuring that there is a future for mankind and erasing it.

Review:

I’ve really come to love the characters in Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Chronicles of Nick series, and the title character himself, especially. Even when he’s staring down death, Nick Gautier always finds time for a witty quip. But there’s so much more to Nick than his trademark snark. As his powers continue to strengthen, Infamous finds Nick dealing with the increasingly heavy burden that is his fate: turning into the Malachai, the demon that will bring about the end of the world. Nick, however, keeps defying the profile of your average apocalypse-triggering, epitome of evil; he possesses the capacity to love, something that the Malachai is most definitely not supposed to be capable of doing. A lot of the credit for Nick not embracing the hatred that is supposed to consume the Malachai goes to his mom, Cherise, who has to be one of the most devoted mothers in YA. Infamous reveals more of the hardships that she had to endure as a teenage mother, including being disowned by her uppity parents. Cherise is one tough, determined woman, and her love for her son may be what prevents him from becoming a monster like his father.

Speaking of Nick’s father, his dear demon dad, Adarian, who currently resides in prison, is working overtime to take out his son and gain his powers. Nick has been no stranger to peril since the first book in the series, Infinity, but Infamous really ratchets up the amount of conspiring against him that’s taking place. Almost everyone is a potential foe, and the prospective enemies list isn’t restricted to paranormal beings. As was the case with both Infinity and the second book, Invincible, there’s a subplot involving trouble at Nick’s school. Someone is posting sick, doctored photos of the students and writing defamatory things about them on a website. Of course Nick ends up embroiled in the midst of the situation; it’s a wonder the kids at this school learn anything with the constant commotion that goes on there. I’ve never been a big fan of the school story lines because I’d rather focus on whether or not Nick will alter his future, but this time, I thought the school drama tied in better with the main plot.

I’ve loved the Dark-Hunters Kyrian and Acheron and the way they just exude cool since Infinity, and the two put on a very brief, but awesome, show of badassery in Infamous. Those few sentences describing the scene made my day. We also get to meet Bubba’s mama, Dr. Bobbi Jean Burdette, who promptly reminds Nick upon greeting him how he once (accidentally) put a bullet through the photo of her that Bubba proudly displays in his gun/computer shop, the Triple B. Kenyon gives all of her characters such memorable personalities; even the minor ones leave a lasting impression and aren’t there merely to fill space.

Infamous is the largest installment in the series to date, and it’s crammed with action, suspense, and enough backdoor dealings to make your head spin. Being the next Malachai is like painting a giant target on yourself in neon colors, and even after all that Nick has gone through so far, the ending of Infamous makes it look as though his troubles are only beginning. The title of the next book, Inferno, sounds very apt because all of the schemes to manipulate Nick and/or cause him harm can only smolder for so long before they combust. Knowing Nick, he’ll likely fire off a few sarcastic comments before the pyrotechnics commence.

All in All:

I was on my library’s waiting list for this for quite some time, and it was absolutely worth the wait. The series just keeps getting better and better as Nick edges ever closer to unlocking all of his powers. Inferno, your release date needs to get here. Now.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday (13): Most Anticipated Books for 2013


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

This week's topic is:
Top Ten Most Anticipated Books for 2013

This was yet another hard list to compile because there are so many books that we can't wait to get our hands on next year. These are the ones that we came up with off the top of our heads; we've probably missed a lot and will kick ourselves later for forgetting them.

  1. Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare: This one is a no-brainer for us. We already know that it will be our favorite read of 2013.
  2. Boundless by Cynthia Hand: Lee has recently become obsessed with the Unearthly series and is really, really looking forward to the conclusion. Ally wants to find out if what she thinks will happen does happen.
  3. The Indigo Spell by Richelle Mead: It's Adrian! After the jaw-dropping cliffhanger of an ending in The Golden Lily, we're dying to see what's in store for Sydney and Adrian in the next book.
  4. The sequel to The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater: Another recent read that we've both become obsessed with. We sincerely hope that we'll see this in 2013, or we might just have to cry. Ally loves Ronan; Lee loves Gansey.
  5. Quintana of Charyn by Melina Marchetta: It's the conclusion to The Lumatere Chronicles. It's a Melina Marchetta book. Therefore, Lee must read it.
  6. Through the Zombie Glass by Gena Showalter: Ally loved the first book, Alice in Zombieland, and can't wait to read the sequel.
  7. Requiem by Lauren Oliver: Lauren Oliver writes the most devastating cliffhangers ever. Pandemonium ended with a real doozy, and Lee is eagerly awaiting the release of Requiem.
  8. Dark Triumph by Robin LaFevers: Ally is really invested in this series and wants to see where it goes from the previous book, Grave Mercy.
  9. Just One Day by Gayle Forman: Gayle Forman is one of Lee's favorite contemporary YA writers, so this is a must-read for her.
  10. Through the Ever Night by Veronica Rossi: Lee says: More Roar, please!

And we hold out hope that there will be some kind of news about the next George R. R. Martin book in 2013. If there isn't any, at least we have Season 3 of Game of Thrones to watch!

What books are you most looking forward to reading in 2013? Please link us up!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Review: Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side by Beth Fantaskey

Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side by Beth Fantaskey
Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side (Jessica #1)
By Beth Fantaskey
Publisher:
Harcourt

To Sum It Up:

Jessica Packwood receives the surprise of her life when the Romanian vampire prince she’s been betrothed to since birth turns up in her rural Pennsylvania town. Jessica is a vampire, too, the biological daughter of vampire royalty. There’s even a guidebook called Growing Up Undead: A Teen Vampire’s Guide to Dating, Health, and Emotions to help her adjust to this shocking news. Despite both the book and her fianc√© Lucius’s determined efforts to convince his future wife to accept her destiny, Jessica wants no part of his world. But she may have no choice but to join it when she learns that she is the key to averting a war between her and Lucius’s families.

Review:

Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side is a solid take on the ubiquitous subject of teenage vampires. Although it doesn’t add anything particularly groundbreaking to the topic, I liked the sort of culture shock (species shock might be a better way to describe it) that both Jessica and her prince-to-be, Lucius Vladescu, both experience. She has to absorb the fact that she’s a vampire; he has to adapt to living among American humans as he tries to woo the girl he’s always known he would marry. It’s a really awkward situation, what with Lucius posing as a foreign exchange student at Jessica’s school and staying with her family, and the ensuing hilarity is one of the highlights of the book.

Poor logical Jessica, a self-described “mathlete,” just can’t wrap her head around the revelation that she’s a vampire, and a royal one at that. I thought she was okay as a heroine; she wasn’t overly memorable, but she did grow more confident as the story went along. While I didn’t think that she should have dropped everything to run off with Lucius when he first came crashing into her life like a ballistic missile, I wasn’t crazy about her deciding that she wanted to be with him once he turned his attention elsewhere. Jessica redeems herself in the end, though, so I do give her credit for finding the courage to face danger head-on.

I couldn’t help but love Lucius; to me, he stole the show. His letters to his uncle Vasile back in Romania, containing Lucius’s less than flattering observations on American culture, are a riot. Lucius is one haughty vampire, but there’s actually a good guy beneath that snooty exterior. The bond that he forms with Jessica’s adoptive parents, who treat him like family, is very sweet. I think readers’ opinions of him will depend on how tolerant they are of snarky, arrogant vampire princes. I happen to be highly tolerant of them, so I didn’t have a problem with him until he started getting chummy with mean girl Faith Crosse, Jessica’s archenemy. This development really put a damper on my enjoyment of the book; by this point, I just wanted Jessica and Lucius to get together and live happily ever after already. Instead, the story became progressively darker in tone, which in itself I didn’t mind, but the shift from the lighter mood of the previous chapters seemed rather abrupt.

Despite a few flaws, Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side proves that there’s still plenty of mileage left in vampire-centric stories. Beth Fantaskey excels at writing humor, which helps to set this book apart from its peers. I’d read a collection of Lucius’s letters in a heartbeat if it were available.

All in All:

This was a pretty creative variation on the typical YA vampire novel. It does falter in a handful of places, but on the whole, the book is an entertaining, and often amusing, read.

Favorite Quotes:

“The Packwoods have been kind enough to supply me with a TV out here in my backyard exile, to which I can only reply with the Americanism 'Whoopee.'”—Lucius, Chapter 7

“Can I ever again be happy in our soaring Gothic castle after walking the halls of Woodrow Wilson High School, a literal ode to linoleum?”—Lucius, Chapter 7

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Cousinly Conversation Vlog: Our Thoughts on Breaking Dawn - Part 2

We saw Breaking Dawn - Part 2 this week and recorded a short vlog to share our thoughts on it.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Stacking the Shelves (18)

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.

With Thanksgiving break, we finally had time to all go to the library together, and we made the most out of the trip:

Ally's Books:

Borrowed:
Alice in Zombieland by Gena Showalter
The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
Entwined by Heather Dixon
The Dead-Tossed Waves by Carrie Ryan

Lee's Books:

Bought:
The Infernal Devices: Clockwork Angel manga by Cassandra Clare & HyeKyung Baek

Borrowed:
Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl
Reached by Ally Condie

Melissa's Books:

Borrowed:
Darkwater by Catherine Fisher
Girl of Nightmares by Kendare Blake
Unearthly by Cynthia Hand

What did you add to your shelves this week? Please link us up!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Review: The Girl in the Steel Corset by Kady Cross

The Girl in the Steel Corset by Kady Cross
The Girl in the Steel Corset (The Steampunk Chronicles #1)
By Kady Cross
Publisher:
Harlequin Teen

To Sum It Up: Finley Jayne has a dark side that gives her superhuman strength. Unfortunately, she is forced to use it against her employer, a wealthy lord, after she finds herself the object of his unwanted attention. Now without a job and a home, Finley is taken in by the kindly Griffin King, a duke with a secret power of his own. He views Finley’s strength as a blessing rather than a curse because he and his friends are all special in their own way. Griffin and his colleagues are dedicated to keeping Victorian England safe from the likes of villains like the mysterious Machinist, who is suspected of setting malfunctioning automatons loose on a series of crime sprees. The unlikely group, which now includes Finley, must track down The Machinist and put an end to his evil schemes.

Review: This was pretty good, if a tad too long. I loved the world that Kady Cross created, with all of its steam-powered and clockwork technology. I’m a big tech geek and a fan of all things Victorian, so this novel’s steampunk setting was just my sort of thing. I did, however, feel that the abundance of details sometimes bogged down the pacing. It’s obvious very early on in the book that we have a steampunk novel here, and in the later chapters it seems like we’re still being reminded of that, as though the setting hasn’t become second nature by now. I would have liked to have seen the focus shift more to the plot.

I loved the idea of an Avengers-like team of individuals with special gifts working together to protect Victorian England. The point-of-view switches between the various members fairly smoothly. I really liked Griffin, Duke of Greythorne and the leader of the group, and Emily, its tech genius. Griffin’s colleague and best friend, Sam, was nearly killed by an automaton that stopped following its programming and turned homicidal, and Emily had to resort to some extreme scientific measures to save him. Sam is still brooding over not being quite as human as he once was, and I felt sorry for him, but his dour demeanor could also be tiresome at times. As for the newcomer to this little circle, Finley, I liked that she could pummel anyone who dared to mess with her, but like Sam, she, too, frayed my nerves occasionally. She repeatedly runs to the “safety” of a sketchy character named Jack Dandy, who heads up his own mysterious crew called the Dandies. Jack doesn’t have the greatest reputation, yet he’s Finley’s go-to guy whenever she needs a break from Griffin’s house. Now, I frequently root for the bad boys and I do like Jack, but hello, Finley. There’s a really nice duke who quite fancies you, and you keep shutting him out. Argh!

The automatons immediately made me think of Cassandra Clare’s The Infernal Devices, but I’d say that The Girl in the Steel Corset definitely leans more towards science fiction than urban fantasy. While some parts of the story dragged, on the whole, it was an entertaining read. Each character possesses an interesting backstory; I found Griffin’s to be the most fascinating. He was the character whom I became the most invested in, and I’ll eventually check out The Girl in the Clockwork Collar to see what kind of adventure he and his friends embark on next.

All in All: This wasn’t a quick read for me, and I thought that some parts could have been condensed, but I took a liking to most of the characters and the world. If you enjoy steampunk and don’t mind some lulls in the action, then this is probably worth checking out.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Painting the Page: The Marauders from Harry Potter

We thought that it would be fun to occasionally post some of the images that have been inspired by our reading adventures. My very talented cousin and co-blogger, Ally, loves the Marauders from Harry Potter and gave me this wonderful drawing of the four of them for my birthday earlier this year.

The Marauders from Harry Potter

Monday, November 19, 2012

Review: Embrace by Cherie Colyer

Embrace by Cherie Colyer
Embrace (Embrace #1)
By Cherie Colyer
Publisher:
Omnific Publishing

* A copy was provided by the author for review.

To Sum It Up: Madison is a normal teenager leading a fairly ordinary life until a new guy arrives in town. There’s something mysterious about Isaac, and Madison senses it, but that doesn’t stop her from wanting to get to know him better. But as Madison witnesses stranger and stranger events happening around her and her best friend suddenly believes that she’s being attacked by creatures no one else can see, Madison must turn to some unlikely places for answers. The truth isn’t at all what she expected, especially since it directly impacts her life, which will never be the same again.

Review: Embrace has a rather cryptic synopsis, and I’m going to have to be equally cryptic with this review lest I ruin the book for others. This was a highly enjoyable thriller of a read in huge part because I spent a good deal of the book trying to unravel all of its mysteries. I loved the plotting and how perfectly the suspense was built up; they were both just top-notch. Something very strange is happening in Madison’s town and its newest arrival, Isaac, isn’t all that he appears to be, and trying to figure out exactly what is going on is a lot of fun.

Madison has a very engaging narrative voice and is a refreshingly realistic teen with normal adolescent concerns: her grades in school, the status of her relationship with her boyfriend who moved to another state, and her current attraction to Isaac. She’s also very devoted to her family and friends. When her best friend, Kaylee, starts hallucinating in class and has to be taken to the hospital, Madison frantically searches for a way to help her. That’s not to say that Madison is without flaws, though; there’s a good balance between her being a strong protagonist and not seeming too perfect.

The paranormal aspect of the book was very well done. It gradually makes itself known, leading up to a nice surprise when all is revealed. The foreshadowing in the book was stellar, with events that I was fairly certain were mundane at the time proving to be highly significant later on in the novel. And every time I thought I had figured out the who and the why behind the dark deeds that were going down, the plot would twist again and put me back at square one. A book hasn’t stumped me like this in a while, and I enjoyed every minute of it.

Again, I apologize for sticking to generalities in this review, but I really want readers to appreciate the reading experience for themselves. Embrace was an absorbing novel that immediately intrigued me with its air of mystery and made me turn the pages to see how all of the puzzle pieces fit together. I loved Cherie Colyer’s writing style, and I’d definitely read a sequel!

All in All: This is a highly recommended paranormal read with just the right amount of suspense to keep you glued to the page. Thanks to some really clever plotting, readers should be very gratified when they and Madison discover the cause of the bizarre occurrences that are taking place.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Stacking the Shelves (17)

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.

It's just my tiny stack this week. Ally and Melissa have their final and most important marching band competition of the season today, so best of luck to them! I had to drop off a book at the library and didn't plan on getting anything, but I realized how much I was missing Tucker after reading Unearthly, so I picked up the sequel, along with the next Dark-Hunter book I have to read.

Borrowed:
Dance with the Devil by Sherrilyn Kenyon
Hallowed by Cynthia Hand

What did you add to your shelves this week? Please link me up!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones Teaser Trailer!


Oh. My. God. How INCREDIBLE does this look?! And it's just the teaser trailer! Needless to say, August 23, 2013 can't get here fast enough!

Why I Love YA

Writing about why I love YA is like answering one of those “Why should I hire you?” or “Tell me about yourself” type of job interview questions. I've never been very good at those. You know that you need to go into specifics, but you’re drawing a total blank. In my heart, I know that I love Young Adult books, but I guess that I’ve never actually sat down to think about why I do. I sort of feel like I’m back in school, staring at an open-ended writing prompt on a test; I have a lot to say on the topic, but I don’t know where to begin. So please bear with me, because I think that I’ll really be putting the “Ramble” in “Random Rambles” today.

If you would have told me that, at 35, I would be reading YA books, I would have laughed. Hard. I don’t remember there being as wide a selection of Young Adult titles as there are now way back when I was in high school. And I definitely don’t recall seeing adults borrowing them from the library or reading them in doctors’ offices. Once I had outgrown reading Sweet Valley Twins (I tried the Sweet Valley High books but felt like I’d move beyond those, too), I jumped straight into adult fiction and pretty much stayed put there. It was finally giving in and reading a little book called Twilight that ignited a YA reading frenzy. I couldn’t read enough books about star-crossed teens and their paranormal adventures. I think that a huge reason why I fell so hard for these kinds of books was because I didn’t have the chance to read them when I was a teen. I love the idea that supernatural beings could be walking among us. Apparently, I’m also a complete sap for tales of falling in love for the first time.

After getting my hands on as many YA paranormal romances as I could, I started branching out into other genres. In the back of my mind, I kept waiting to encounter a YA book that I just wouldn’t get because I’m not part of the target demographic, but that has only happened maybe once or twice. The overwhelming majority of young adult books that I’ve read made me completely forget that I was reading a young adult book. There’s nothing watered down about YA; its characters often face situations as difficult and as complex as those of any adult characters. I’ve been moved to tears by Melina Marchetta’s Jellicoe Road, Gayle Forman’s If I Stay and Where She Went, and, of course, John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars. I’ve been sent into fits of laughter by Stephanie Perkins’s Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door and Rachel Cohn and David Levithan’s Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares. I’ve been utterly blown away by the beautiful prose of Melina Marchetta’s Finnikin of the Rock and Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Boys. It pains me to think that I would have missed out on all of these amazing books and many, many more if back in 2008, I’d decided that I was too old to read Twilight.

For me, the very best thing about reading YA as an adult is getting to talk about these books with my teenage cousins. Besides not having the incredible selection of books that they enjoy today when I was their age, I also didn’t have any family or friends who shared my love of reading. Ally (co-blogger here), Melissa (guest blogger here), and I have spent many hours debating whom Katniss should have ended up with and whether Tessa will choose Will or Jem. Sometimes we manage to rope in their younger brother, Denis (who also occasionally posts here), on the conversation, as long as the book under discussion isn’t too girlish. I love having this connection with them, and I really believe that even when we’re all adults, we’ll still be reading YA together.

I’m very proud to be an adult who reads YA. It rekindled the love of reading that I had as a kid. Reading books again eventually led to reviewing books. I haven’t written this much since I was in college, and I realized how much I missed doing yet another thing that I had once loved so much. I owe a lot to YA, and I’m always happy to spread the word about how awesome it is whenever I can to young adults and not-so-young adults alike.

Beth Revis, author of the Across the Universe series, is having an incredible giveaway on her blog in which you can win nearly 50 signed YA books! For all of the details, you can click here or on the image below:


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday (12): Books We'd Want on a Deserted Island


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

This week's topic is:
Top Ten Books We'd Want on a Deserted Island

We're cheating a little bit here by assuming that we'll be stuck on the same island and can borrow each other's books. :)

  1. Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare: We couldn't live without our dose of Will, Jem, and the Shadowhunters. Plus, it would give us time to figure out what's really going to go down in Clockwork Princess!
  2. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins: We can definitely use Katniss's survival techniques in the games for our own benefit.
  3. A Storm of Swords by George R. R. Martin: It's the one with Jaime and Brienne!
  4. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling: It would keep us occupied for quite a while.
  5. Frostbite by Richelle Mead: Ally's Vampire Academy choice because she can't get enough of Adrian! Her favorite book in the VA series.
  6. The Golden Lily by Richelle Mead: Lee's choice because she, too, loves Adrian!
  7. Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder: It's just one of our all-time favorites!
  8. Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta: Lee just loves this book and could never leave it behind!
  9. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green: Ally's choice for keeping her grounded to the real world.
  10. A collection of the Grimm Brothers' fairy tales: It would not only take forever to read, but it would really allow you to escape your problems- being stuck on the island and all.

What books would you want on a deserted island? Please link us up!

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Violet Fox Blog Tour: Review, Character Interview, & Giveaway

Welcome to our stop on The Violet Fox blog tour! Besides our reviews, we also have an interview with one of the most intriguing characters in this action-packed fantasy novel, Advisor Ivor Ferguson, as well as a very cool giveaway!

The Violet Fox (The Violet Fox #1)
By Clare C. Marshall
Publisher:
Faery Ink Press
Amazon | Goodreads

* A copy was provided by the author for review.

Synopsis: There are two kinds of people in the land of Marlenia.

The Marlenians, who live on the surface,

and the Freetors, who are forced to live underground.

The war between them ended two hundred years ago, but the Freetors still fight for the right to live under the sun. Fifteen-year-old Kiera Driscoll embodies the Freetors’ hopes as the Violet Fox. In a violet cape and mask, she sneaks around Marlenia City stealing food and freeing her people from slavery.

Then the Elders task her with a secret mission: retrieve a stolen tome that contains the secrets of Freetor magic, something the Marlenians both fear and covet. Kiera must disguise herself as a noblewoman and infiltrate the Marlenian castle before the Freetor-hating Advisor finds out her real identity, before her brother is imprisioned because of the secrets he hides, and before she falls any more in love with the prince she’s supposed to hate.

More is happening in the castle than she realizes, and Kiera is faced with a difficult choice. Will she be loyal to her people and their fight for freedom, or will she be loyal to her heart?

Ally's Review: I was kind of torn while reading The Violet Fox. There were times when I was wholeheartedly captivated. At other times, I felt as if I were forcing myself to read the book. But the good outweighed the couple of things that I wasn’t so enthusiastic about, and I ended up really enjoying the book.

I guess I'll start with what I wasn’t crazy about. The main issue I had with the book was Kiera. Well, it wasn't really Kiera herself, but her attitude. At times, I felt that Kiera was unbearably arrogant. She referred to herself as the invincible Violet Fox who would never, in any situation, be caught. Kiera expected the best for herself and her people and whined when it wasn't. I did, however, value Kiera's wit and unyielding dedication to her cause. I also didn't like the relationship between Kiera and Keegan. I felt that it was unconvincing. The relationship didn't work for me, and I was looking for any other guy to replace Keegan as the love interest.

Now to end on a good note. The world-building in this book is amazing. The information and history are given to you in small bits, never choking you or causing confusion. The pacing was ideal. I expected it to slow down while Kiera was undercover so I was okay with that. I loved, loved the whole Robin Hood feel to the story. I was rooting for the Freetors all the way! My favorite part of the book, though, was the relationship between Kiera and her brother. They were so close, and Rordan was just the perfect brother! I was kind of reminded of my own brother, and I'd like to think that in that situation, Denis and I would be like that.

The Violet Fox ended up being an entertaining read. I feel that right now any bit of time I put into reading a book is valuable, seeing as I don't have much free time at all. My time was definitely well spent reading The Violet Fox.

All in All: The Violet Fox took me a little while to get into but it ended up being an enjoyable, action-packed book. I'm glad I read it, and I eagerly await the sequel.

Lee's Review: When I first read the synopsis for The Violet Fox, I immediately thought of Robin Hood. I absolutely love Robin Hood, so I was beyond excited to read this. I was not disappointed! The Violet Fox is a thrilling fantasy packed with adventure, magic, social injustice, and political intrigue, all set against a richly detailed world. In short, it’s exactly my type of fantasy novel.

Hands down, my favorite part of the book was the world-building. It’s a critical element in any genre, but I think particularly so for fantasy, where you have to be able to believe that things like magic and mythical creatures are real. Marshall does an outstanding job of putting the reader right in the middle of both the opulence of the Marlenian court and the bleakness of the underground Freetor caverns. I also loved how thorough the lore of this world was and how well it was explained. The history between the Marlenians and the Freetors is a key part of the novel, and it’s never overwhelming to absorb.

Although I admired Kiera, whose alter ego is the title character, for her courage and fierce dedication to helping her people, at times I also found her a little too sure of herself. Occasionally her sense of invincibility as the Violet Fox sends her charging headfirst into situations. Kiera does, however, mature a lot over the course of the novel and tempers her swagger. Another character who really grew on me as the book went on was Prince Keegan. At first I wrote him off as a haughty, privileged rich guy with nothing but disdain for those beneath him. Like Kiera though, Keegan learns to see things from the opposing point-of-view, and he proves to be an honorable fellow. Finally, I have to mention Advisor Ivor Ferguson, the right-hand man to Marlenia’s ruler, the Holy One. The Advisor is quite an enigmatic character; I had a lot of fun trying to guess what he was up to.

With its vividly descriptive world, fully drawn characters, and engrossing story, The Violet Fox is a prime example of YA fantasy. I’m eager to see what adventures await Kiera (and the Violet Fox) in the next book, The Silver Spear.

All in All: For anyone who’s been hesitant to try the fantasy genre, I think that The Violet Fox is the perfect place to start. If you’re already a fan of the genre, then by all means read this, especially if you love Robin Hood like I do!


About Clare C. Marshall

Author Clare C. Marshall
Clare Marshall grew up in rural Nova Scotia with very little television and dial up internet, and yet, she turned out okay. She has a combined honours degree in journalism and psychology from the University of King’s College, and is a graduate from Humber College’s Creative Book Publishing Program. She founded Woulds & Shoulds Editing and Design in 2010 for self-published authors and businesses looking for quality editing and design services. She enjoys publishing books through her publishing imprint, Faery Ink Press, and released her first novella, Within in 2011. When she’s not writing, she enjoys playing the fiddle and making silly noises at cats.

You can find Clare on Facebook, Twitter, her website, and Goodreads.


** Our Interview with Advisor Ivor Ferguson **

Welcome to Rally the Readers, Advisor Ferguson! We know that you’re an extremely busy man, so we really appreciate your time today.

I will always make time for good ladies and lords who devote their time to spreading the word about worthy books.

We’ve heard some rumors that you covet the Holy One’s position. Is this true? If you were in charge, what would you do differently?

Ah yes, many tongues wag about things they know nothing of. It is best that ladies such as yourselves pay no mind to such nonsense. The rumours were no doubt started by Freetor-loving, jealous merchants. I was once a successful merchant, you know. Many of the shops I’ve invested in carry on today.

However, if the ladies must know, if I were in charge I would enforce stricter laws and penalties against Freetors, and allow merchants to carry more weapons to defend themselves in case of a Freetor attack.

What is your opinion of the Freetors? What, in your opinion, is the best way to deal with them?

Freetors are sub-human creatures that must be exterminated like a disease if we are ever to achieve economic prosperity.

What do you think of Freetor magic? Who do you think should control it: the Marlenians, the Freetors, no one, or everyone?

Magic is still a misunderstood field to all Marlenians who try to study it. Because of its mysteries, very few should control it (if it indeed can be controlled). If it were my decision, I would propose that the most learned scholars--such as myself--have an opportunity to wield its majesty, assuming that it does no harm to me physically.

The Violet Fox is a bit of a thorn in the Marlenians’ side, to say the least. What do you think of her?

A filthy creature, playing dress-up, believing that she is above the law. She whispers in the ears of the susceptible Freetors, rallying them to her cause, ruining the lives of the good Marlenian people everywhere. I hope that you ladies steer clear of her, lest she relieve you of your valuables.

What is the toughest part of your job?

I admit, dealing with the everyday troubles of the Marlenian folk can be tiresome. I know it tires the Holy One, and I hope that I can someday relieve him of this duty before young Prince Keegan takes over.

If you are wondering if the Freetors give me trouble, I assure you, good ladies, that dealing with the Freetors is one of my easier tasks. In most cases, a Freetor is unable to comprehend the difference between right and wrong, and therefore must be removed from society.

And now for a few random questions:

Favorite color?

While I have great respect for the Tramore colours, the Violet Fox has tainted the colour violet and purple for me. Therefore, I would have to say that I prefer greens, browns, blacks, and sometimes red, when I am feeling fashionable.

Ideal job?

While my position as Advisor to the Holy One has its stresses, I do enjoy the freedom to roam the castle and travel the realm, especially when it nets me a good book. I would not trade it for anything. Well . . . almost anything.

I suppose it would be nice to retire at some point, when my work is complete. A simple shop would keep my mind stimulated until Dashiell decides it’s time for my eternal rest.

Person you most dread having to deal with?

Ha! Ladies, you grow bold with your questions, but how can I resist a curious mind? The day we catch the Violet Fox, I dread dealing with her as one dreads dealing with a rabid Northern tiger stuck in a cage too small for its size.

Thank you again for stopping by today, Advisor!

My pleasure, ladies. Though I must advise you. Your organization, “Rally the Readers.” Such words like “rally” may attract the attention of the Freetors. They may think it’s an organization sympathetic to their cause. I trust it is not. Such learned, proper ladies have no business dallying with cutthroats and thieves.


** Giveaway **

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Thursday, November 8, 2012

Feature & Follow Friday (18)


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:
Do you mind books with similar ideas to other books? Similar concepts, backgrounds, retellings or pulled-to-publish fanfic?

Not really, just as long as there's some kind of fresh twist to the concept, like with Marissa Meyer's cyborg Cinderella in Cinder or Bethany Griffin's steampunk take on Edgar Allan Poe's short story in Masque of the Red Death. We never would have read as many vampire books as we have if they'd all been just another rehash of Twilight. Coming up with an entirely new, never-before-seen idea for a book has to be really difficult, so when it comes to retellings or books with jacket blurbs that say, "If you liked Book X, you're sure to love Book Y," what we look for is how the author has put his or her own stamp on a particular premise.

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

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Review: Where She Went by Gayle Forman

Where She Went (If I Stay #2)
By Gayle Forman
Publisher:
Speak

To Sum It Up: Three years have passed since the accident that tore Mia’s life apart and fractured her relationship with her boyfriend, Adam. He has achieved superstardom with his band, Shooting Star, and seemingly has everything he could want: money, fame, and an actress girlfriend. All he can think about is Mia, though, and why she stopped answering his calls and emails. Mia is gaining her own celebrity status in New York, where she now lives. Adam happens to be in the city when Mia is playing a recital at Carnegie Hall, and he can’t pass up the chance to maybe finally find out why Mia left and broke his heart.

Review: Where She Went is told from the perspective of Adam Wilde, Mia’s boyfriend from If I Stay. The story picks up three years after the accident that killed Mia’s parents and younger brother and left her critically injured. Although Adam is now a certified rock star, nothing can fill the void left by Mia’s departure for Juilliard and New York and her subsequently breaking off all contact with him. In If I Stay, Adam promised an unconscious Mia that he’d do anything she wanted, even let her go, if she only woke up. Now he’s living with the consequences of that promise.

This novel was every bit as beautiful and powerful as If I Stay. I even liked Where She Went a tad more. I thought that Forman made a brilliant choice in writing from Adam’s point-of-view this time and showing how Mia’s accident affected not only her but other people in her life, like Adam, as well. We learn about Mia’s grueling recovery from her injuries and her struggle to go on without her parents and brother through Adam’s flashbacks. These scenes are just as heartbreaking as the emotional moments in If I Stay, and once again, I found myself on the verge of tears quite a few times while reading this book.

The aspect of Where She Went that really hit home for me was the depiction of the ripple effect that tragedy can have, how far-reaching and lingering its effects can be. You do what’s necessary to survive when it strikes, but when you have time to think about it, it hurts. On bad days, it hurts a lot. In Adam’s case, the fallout from Mia’s accident still reverberates three years later. Neither his professional success nor a medicine cabinet filled with anti-anxiety medication and sleeping pills can help him get over Mia leaving him. Adam’s a mess, but I never found him overwrought with angst or self-pity. His pain seemed entirely real to me, cutting and raw. At first I couldn’t help being a little upset with Mia for never giving him an explanation for why she so abruptly cut him out of her life. When I finally heard Mia’s side of the story, though, I understood the reasoning behind what she did. And yes, it was another misty-eyed moment for me as a reader. In fact, reading this back-to-back with If I Stay left me feeling a bit like I’d been emotionally steamrolled.

If, like me, you loved If I Stay, then it goes without saying that you need to read Where She Went. Once more, Forman expertly writes about love and loss in a way that is never contrived or saccharine. That is why she has quickly become one of my favorite contemporary YA authors.

All in All: This is another absolutely amazing novel from Gayle Forman. Her characters are just so real, and you’ll be thinking about them long after you’ve finished reading.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday (11): Ultimate Superhero Team


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

It's a freebie week where you get to pick your own topic, and we're combining our nerdy love of books with our nerdy love of comic book superheroes. We thought it would be fun to assemble our own superhero team, all Avengers-like, but instead made up of fictional characters from YA books. So here's the list:

  1. Dimitri Belikov from the Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead: Every superhero team needs a leader. Dimitri doesn't just lead but he fights too!
  2. Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling: Obviously, Hermione covers the brains department.
  3. Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins: If you need expert scouting or recon, or just someone who's killer with a bow and arrow à la Hawkeye, Katniss is your girl!
  4. Percy Jackson from the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan: Every superhero team needs Thor-like help. Percy might not wield a hammer, but he's still a demigod!
  5. Cassel Sharpe from The Curse Workers series by Holly Black: Sometimes missions can get very messy, and Cassel, with his transformation powers, has a knack for cleaning things up.
  6. Adrian Ivashkov from the Vampire Academy and Bloodlines series by Richelle Mead: Those tech gadgets and weapons don't come cheap, and Adrian's wallet knows no depths.
  7. Ismae Rienne from Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers: Whether the mission requires stealth or not, assassin Ismae has got you covered.
  8. Han Alister, aka Cuffs, from the Seven Realms series by Cinda Williams Chima: He may not have "super powers," but a negotiator always comes in handy.
  9. Bubba Burdette from the Chronicles of Nick series by Sherrilyn Kenyon: Tech gadgets and weapons are an absolute necessity, whether it be for zombies or your more typical villain. Bubba can help you out.
  10. Saba from Blood Red Road by Moira Young: Saba smash!!

What topic did you choose for your list this week? Please link us up!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Review: If I Stay by Gayle Forman

If I Stay (If I Stay #1)
By Gayle Forman
Publisher:
Speak

To Sum It Up: Mia is a talented cellist with a close-knit family and a very promising musical career ahead of her. There’s even a place at the prestigious Juilliard School looming in her future. But in a single moment, Mia’s life is shattered by tragedy. As she observes her unconscious self lying in a hospital bed and reminisces about the past, Mia has an extraordinarily tough decision to make. Should she return to her remaining family and friends, knowing how difficult and painful it will be to go on without those she loved the most? Or would it be easier to leave her old life behind and join those she’s just lost?

Review: I’m having a lot of trouble organizing my thoughts on this one, so I hope this review makes sense in the end. I’m always very wary of reading books like this because I absolutely hate it when tragedy is milked for every last cloying drop. I feel the same way about mawkish movies in which I can just tell that the director was probably ordering the actors to turn on the treacle so that the viewers will flood their popcorn buckets with tears. I’m not sure why syrupy books and movies have always bugged me so much; maybe it’s because I don’t like being told how to feel about something. If a book moves me to tears, I want it to be because the story has struck me in a genuine way and not because the author thinks I should be bawling my eyes out at a particular point. For me, there’s a fine line between a veritably emotional read and utter sap, and fortunately, If I Stay never even comes close to crossing into the dreaded territory of the latter.

Despite my skepticism (you might even call it cynicism) toward potential tearjerkers, I picked this book up because the reviews had been so glowing. I figured that if it didn’t turn out to be my cup of tea, I’d just set it aside. That never happened. This novel completely mesmerized me with its heartbreakingly beautiful story. I admit to having a hard time getting through some parts of the book without my eyes welling up, but never once did I feel like my emotions were being manipulated. Never. Nothing in this book ever feels forced.

I loved the portrayal of Mia’s tight-knit family and how close she was to her former rocker parents and her little brother, Teddy. They have their normal family squabbles, though, as shown through Mia’s flashbacks. I loved how realistically all of Mia’s relationships were depicted, including those with her best friend, Kim, and her boyfriend, Adam. The brilliant dialogue played a big role in making all of the characters so three-dimensional. There aren’t enough superlatives to describe Forman’s prose.

I know that what I’m about to say sounds incredibly trite, but this book resonated with me in a way that I can’t even articulate properly. There are some truly gut-wrenching, emotionally raw scenes in the book, but the grief and loss do not ring anything but true. I think that it takes a very special writer to accomplish this, and Gayle Forman certainly made a lifetime fan out of me with this stellar novel.

All in All: If I Stay is one of the best contemporary novels that I’ve ever read. If all contemporaries that dealt with weighty material were written like this one, I wouldn’t be so hesitant to read them.

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