Monday, December 31, 2012

Flatland by Edwin A. Abbott - Ashley's Review

My Pre-Reading
Paul's Review

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

As a math major, I really enjoyed this book. It introduced the concept of multiple dimensions without sounding too much like a textbook, and romanticized geometry without straying too far from actual facts.

I thought the personification of the shapes and lines and points was very well done. I especially enjoyed the sections where A. Square explains how two dimensional shapes see, hear, move, and live. Although it could be slow at times, it really helped to visualize how creatures of other dimensions might behave. Especially those of a fourth dimension, since we live in a three dimensional world.

The book is highly conceptual, and while I think that someone who isn't well versed in math or theory could enjoy this book, I think that someone with at least basic understand of shapes, dimensions, and theory would come away with more. I would give this book a 4/5 though, and recommend it to all of my nerd friends, and anyone who might be interested in learning a little something about math through a fictional medium.


--Ashley

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Fathomless by Jackson Pearce - Ashley's Review


My Pre-Reading
Paul's Pre-Reading
Paul's Review

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


I have been looking forward to reading Fathomless since I first heard that Jackson Pearce was using "The Little Mermaid" as the inspiration for her third book in the "Fairytale Retellings" series. I loved her takes on "Little Red Riding Hood" and "Hansel and Gretel," and this was no exception. I've always enjoyed Disney's take on "The Little Mermaid," and although I hadn't heard the original fairy tale until more recently, I think the darker spin on it makes it even more interesting. I loved how she took the idea of mermaids and made them all her own, and how she subtly tied Fathomless to Sisters Red and Sweetly.

I've always been interested in meeting the Reynolds girls, and I'm so glad we finally got to learn more about them and their place in the story. I thought that Celia was the most interesting of the three, and I'm very glad that one of the perspectives in this book was hers. Although her situation reminded me a little bit of Rosie March and her struggle with her sister, I think it was done very well and the story wasn't too much like the sibling relationship in Sisters Red. I also liked the each sister could see the past, present, or future and that each learns to control her powers in different ways.

Lo was probably my favorite character in this book because I have no idea if I should like her or hate her. It's sometimes hard to tell if her intentions are good or bad, and if she as actually a creature to be feared. She's such a dynamic, round character, and I really enjoyed reading the sections from her perspective.

The way Pearce writes this book is also really interesting, and I don't think I've ever read anything like it. I've heard it described as being from "2.5 perspectives," and I agree with that. I don't want to give anything away with that, but if you've read the other two books in the series, it will make perfect sense.

Although I kind of knew where this story was going, after having read Sweetly, I thought that the background and the explanation of the "mermaids" was very well done. Especially when it's revealed to the main characters how they are formed and what they later become. The pacing was excellent, and I never felt like the story dragged or had too many erroneous details.

If you've read the rest of Pearce's Fairytale Retellings, you should definitely pick up Fathomless. If you haven't, this book can be read as a standalone, but you won't get as much out of it (so go read Sisters Red and Sweetly)! I would give this a 5/5 and definitely recommend it to anyone who is a fan of either Jackson Pearce or twists on classic fairy tales.


--Ashley


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Calling by Kelly Armstrong - Ashley's Pre-reading


Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Title: The Calling
Author: Kelley Armstrong
Year Published: 2012


Synopsis: 
Maya Delaney’s paw-print birthmark is the sign of what she truly is—a skin-walker. She can run faster, climb higher, and see better than nearly anyone else. Experiencing intense connections with the animals that roam the woods outside her home, Maya knows it’s only a matter of time before she’s able to Shift and become one of them. And she believes there may be others in her small town with surprising talents.

Now, Maya and her friends have been forced to flee from their homes during a forest fire they suspect was deliberately set. Then they’re kidnapped, and after a chilling helicopter crash, they find themselves in the Vancouver Island wilderness with nothing but their extraordinary abilities to help them get back home.

Why?:
I won this book from a HarperTeen tweetstakes a while back. So, I bought the first book (The Gathering) and read it a few months ago. I finally got around to this book, so I'm excited to find out where Maya and her friends are at now.

Expectations: I'm expecting this novel to pick up right where The Gathering left off - with the kids in a helicopter escaping the forest fire raging in Salmon Creek. I'm also expecting Maya to start coming to terms with her powers and actually using them, as well as finally shape shifting. I'm sure there will be some added mystery and some added conflict as well, although I'm not sure what exactly.

Judging a book by its cover: The cover is very similar to the cover  for The Gathering - it's just a girl's face. I probably wouldn't pick this up off of a shelf if I saw it in a book store or in the library, only because it isn't really unique and it doesn't stand out like so many covers do now. I do like it though, and I think it fits the books. 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Katya's World by Jonathan L. Howard - Ashley's Review

My Pre-Reading
Paul's Review

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


*I received this book as an eARC on Netgalley from Angry Robot/Strange Chemistry in exchange for a fair and honest review.*

The whole premise of this book - that an entire civilization has come from Earth and developed on a planet completely covered with water - is what originally drew me in. I'm always up for a good story that takes place in extraordinary conditions. Throw in a little bit of mystery (what kind of monster lives in the depths of the ocean that can destroy an entire planet??), some pirates, and a strong heroine, and you've got me hook, line, and sinker. Although it wasn't exactly what I expected, Howard did not fail to deliver with Katya's World.

I think my favorite part of this book was definitely the world building. Howard had to take something completely new and fashion it in a way that the reader could relate. At times, I would forget that this entire story was taking place under the ocean and then I'd be hit with some subtle detail and be amazed all over again at how Howard created such a place. Plus, all of the new devices and such the Russalkans had to create in order to adapt to living underwater just seemed so real and like something that might one day exist.

Although the name of the world is adapted from Russian, it seems like there was quite a bit of Russian influence that was lacking. I understand that after the war, many of the Russalkans wanted nothing to do with Earth and any of their ancestors, but I think it would have been a nice touch to have included a little bit more of the Russian culture into the novel.

One of the only things that really bothered me about this novel was the pacing in some places. I felt like Katya and her fellow Russalkans would be off worrying about one problem and trying to figure out a solution when all of a sudden - BAM! - here's something new and completely unrelated! While it did keep me on the edge of my seat, there were points when I felt so anxious and really would have just liked one or two simple conflicts to have been resolved.

I really liked Katya, but I didn't think that her personality was very well matched with her age. I don't see any fifteen year olds ever acting like Katya, and I think it would have been better to have had her a little bit older.  Even 17 or 18 would have made things a little more believable. The supporting characters, however, were excellent. Especially the pirates and the Leviathan. I loved how the creature was constructed and then how it evolved over time. Even if this had taken place on a normal planet, I think the characters would have carried the story and made it just as engaging.

If I were to try and explain this book to someone, I think it would be fairly difficult. It's one of those books that doesn't fit into just on genre, but I think that it definitely works in this case. You've got a little bit of dystopia and post apocalyptic going on, and definitely a lot of science fiction. I mean, they live on a world completely covered by oceans. And of course there's the YA nature of the young protagonist. So, I would probably recommend this book to anyone who enjoys hardcore Sci-Fi, but is looking for a younger cast and an easier to read story. I would give this book a  4/5, and I will definitely be looking for the rest of the Russalka Chronicles!


--Ashley

Monday, December 17, 2012

I'm back!

As you probably noticed, November was a very slow month here. December has started off pretty slow too.

Between school and work and everything else, I barely had any extra time, and my blogging definitely suffered because of it. But now it's Winter Break, and I have time to catch up!

Be on the lookout for quite a few posts coming your way! I'm going to try and catch up on all of my reviews and pre-readings and everything in the next couple of days.

I'm so sorry it's taken me so long to get back in to the swing of things, but thanks for sticking it out!

--Ashley

Friday, December 7, 2012

Star Wars: Dawn of the Jedi Volume One- Force Storm (Paul's Review)

***eARC provided by Dark Horse Comics on netgalley***

Title: Star Wars: Dawn of the Jedi Volume One - Force Storm
Author: John Ostrander
Year Published: 2012

***Release Date: December 12, 2012***

Review: The only comic book series I have consistently read since I was a kid is Star Wars. I would save up my money to get the trade paperbacks of the Clone Wars as they came out. Recently, I have fallen behind. I read the first few volumes of the Legacy series and really liked John Ostrander's writing. When I heard about the Dawn of the Jedi series, I was very excited to get back into the Star Wars world. 

This series takes place 36,453 years before the battle of Yavin. There is no separation of the Jedi between light and dark or Jedi and Sith. The Jedi are known as the Je'daii. They don't even use lightsabers! They have swords. Ostrander did a good job of simplifying the technology. Everything takes place within one solar system. There is an outside force, though.

I liked how the many species I am familiar with from the Star Wars universe appear. The main cast is diverse and full of many interesting characters. Some classic Star Wars tropes are played with, but I can tell these characters will pave their own paths. 

I really enjoyed the art work. Star Wars comics always find a way to incorporate the original feel of the movies, having things in the background that catch your eye. This makes the world richer and fuller. 

I look forward to continuing to read the Dawn of the Jedi series. I may have to go to my local comic store and pick up the individuals as I don't know if I'll be able to wait for the trade paperbacks. 

I give Volume One a 4/5. I can't wait to see where these characters go!

-PAUL

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Dollhouse: Epitaphs - Paul's Review


Title: Dollhouse Volume 1: Epitaphs
Author: Andrew Chambliss, Jed Whedon, Maurissa Tanvharoen
Year Published: 2012

Amazon | Goodreads

Synopsis: The Rossum Corporation's Dollhouse technology has gone viral with a synchronized phone call that wiped the minds of everyone it reached, turning them into mindless killers. Those who avoided the call—including show favorites Echo, Alpha, Mag, Zone, and Griff—must try to survive in the sudden apocalypse and be wary of Rossum's expansive technological reach. This is only the beginning! Collects the complete Dollhouse: Epitaphs miniseries.

Review: Dollhouse is one of my favorite shows so when I saw that there was a graphic novel out, I had to get it. This book takes place after the first two seasons, before the Epitaphs episodes. We get to see how Felicia Day's character and her group originally got together. We also glimpse into the world of the survivors of the Dollhouse. 

The book starts with the synchronized phone call that started it all. It reminded me of the first volume of Y: The Last Man in that normal people are shown reacting to a sudden apocalyptic action. 

I recommend this to any fan of Dollhouse. If you aren't familiar with the tv series, this book probably won't do much for you. I look forward to more comics from this universe. I give this book a 4/5.

-PAUL

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Golden Twine (Cat's Cradle Book 1) - Paul's Review


*I received this book as an eARC from Kids Can Press on NetGalley in exchange for a fair review*

Title: The Golden Twin (Cat's Cradle Book 1)
Author: Jo Rioux
Year Published: 2012

Amazon | Goodreads

Synopsis: In the valley of Galatea, monsters slip through a rift in the mountains, bringing fear and suspicion to the land. 

Of course, the monsters are evil - or so the stories go - but they are kept in check by heroic monster tamers. Suri dreams of being one such hero. But this tagalong orphan of a merchant caravan has no luck - until the day a horseless caravan pulls up. Its driver is a man with a metal heart... and a monster for sale. 

Review: Suri, the orphan, wants to become a Monster Tamer. This comic introduces Suri and her caravan of merchants. The world created by Rioux is interesting and I am interested in discovering more of it. Monsters seep in through a crack in the mountains. Brave Monster Tamers protect the people from these evil monsters. 

This world is Pokemon meets monsters in a fantasy, mid-evil world. There are only a few monsters shown in this introductory comic, leaving me wanting to see more. Magic seems to be at play within this world as well. 

This comic introduces so much and leaves so many questions unanswered. This is definitely just the start of an interesting tale. 

I would recommend this to middle grade readers interested in comics and fantasy. I give this book a 3/5.

-PAUL

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Son (Giver #4) by Lois Lowry - Paul's Review


Title: Son (The Giver Quartet #4)
Author: Lois Lowry
Year Published: 2012

Amazon | Goodreads


My Pre Reading Post


Review: Lois Lowry does not disappoint with this conclusion to The Giver Quartet. Although it does not live up to my high standards of The Giver, it is my second favorite of the four-book series. The style of it is very different that The Giver. The book is separated into three sections. Each of these sections could almost be its own contained story. If these had been released as smaller separate books or enovellas, they would have worked well. This book is much longer than The Giver

The first part introduces us to Claire, a young girl in the community from The Giver, who has been chosen to conceive children for the community. She has complications during birth and is not the same after. I really liked being back in this community. The timeline coincides with events in The Giver, so it was fun to remember the original story and see events from a different perspective. 

I won't go into details of the second and third parts, as to not spoil you. I will say, though, that they each take place in different communities and one of them may be a community from the second or third books. The third part of the book does a good job connecting all four books together. It makes me want to reread all four books in order to have each character fresh in my mind. 

Some of the gifts that characters possess in the latter three books in this series feel very different than The Giver. After reading the first book, I didn't think these characters lived in a world of magic. There is also an unusual personification near the end that didn't feel right to me. 

Since this book takes place over many years, many interesting characters are introduced. Lowry did an excellent job with making unique characters in all three communities. 

This book is not The Giver, but if you have read the other books in the series you will in no way be disappointed. Don't expect a short, simple story going into this. The story is not simple, nor linear. Its a complex life story of a very interesting character. I give this conclusion to The Giver Quartet a 4/5.

-PAUL 



Friday, November 16, 2012

Paul's Dorothy of Oz Prequel Review

***I received an eARC from IDW Publishing on NetGalley***

Title: Dorothy of Oz Prequel
Authors: Denton J. Tipton, Blair Shedd, Eric Shanower
Year Published: 2012

RELEASE DATE: November 20, 2012

Review: I have always loved "The Wizard of Oz". Everyone wishes to escape their own life and end up on the other end of a rainbow. Just thinking of the sepia tone farm leading way into the colorful Munchkin city bring a smile to my face. So, when I heard about this new animated movie I was excited, yet hesitant. I have enjoyed past incarnations of Oz, such as Return to Oz, The Wiz, and Wicked(both the book and the musical). I want this movie to capture the magic of Oz. With Lea Michele and Megan Hilty providing their voices, I don't think there will be any problems there.

This comic book takes place after the original Wizard of Oz story. Dorothy has only recently left after reciting her famous lines. The Lion, Scarecrow, and Tin Man have their new found courage, brains, and heart. Unfortunately for our heroes, a new villain steps in: the Wicked Witch's brother jester. Dorothy's old companions band together with the help of some new colorful characters to try and bring Dorothy back to Oz. That's where I'm assuming the movie, which comes out in 2013, will pick up.

I loved how colorful each of the pages were. The art style is the same as the upcoming movie. Many characters that will appear in that movie are introduced. There is a city full of people made of china, like the plates not the country. There's also a man made of marshmallows and a large owl named Wiser. Each of these characters plays a small part in this prequel and I'm sure they will have bigger roles in the movie. 

Although there were many cliches and I am not fond of a sequel villain being related to a former villain  this was a very fun read. The actions are childish and the dialogue is playful. 

After reading this, I am confident the new movie will uphold the spirit if Oz. I give this prequel comic a 4/5.

-PAUL

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Oath of Servitude - Paul's Review



*I was provided an ebook copy from the author in exchange for a fair review*

Title: Oath of Servitude 
Author: C. E. Wilson
Year Published: 2012

Amazon | Goodreads

Synopsis: This is the story of Teague and Cailin, two teenagers who have been brought together by fate. Teague, a human, struggles to come to terms with the consequences of a recent accident that has destroyed the happy life that he had once enjoyed. Cailin, a pixi, is trying to stay true to herself while fighting against forces beyond her control that have exiled her from her home into this strange world of humans. She fears the darkness. He cannot escape it. But when the two of them are thrown together, they begin to discover the light inside of themselves.

Review: This was an enjoyable book. Wilson creates an interesting world inhabited by pixis, but I wanted more. I really felt that way about the whole novel. I wanted more. 

Cailin is a pixi forced to live with humans for a year. Teague is a teenage human recently blinded by a baseball injury. They find ways to help each other and get to know each other and themselves more.

I liked the way Teague was written as a character. He hides from the world using alcohol. His blindness is mirrored in The Darkness, which Cailin has avoided as a punishment. I like that he can't see that she is only a foot tall. 

Owen is Teague's father and he has unknown history with the pixis. I like the way Wilson hints at things throughout the novel, but in the end she leaves it all still hidden. 

There was no conclusion. As I read the end of this book, I was surprised when my kindle told me I was already at 98%. The story wasn't at a stopping point. I understand holding some back for a sequel, but there was no ending to this novel. I didn't feel closure in the least. 

Though the characters were fun, the world imaginative, and the conflicts engaging this was not a well written book. I believe an editor and a few more drafts would have really helped. I noticed many misspellings, grammar mistakes, awkward wording, and missing or added words. I give this book a 3/5 generously. I think the story pushed through the writing. I am looking forward to see where Wilson will go with this series. 

-PAUL

Monday, November 12, 2012

Year Zero - Paul's Review


Title: Year Zero
Author: Rob Reid
Year Published: 2012

Amazon | Goodreads

Synopsis: In the hilarious tradition of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Rob Reid takes you on a headlong journey through the outer reaches of the universe—and the inner workings of our absurdly dysfunctional music industry.

Low-level entertainment lawyer Nick Carter thinks it’s a prank, not an alien encounter, when a redheaded mullah and a curvaceous nun show up at his office. But Frampton and Carly are highly advanced (if bumbling) extraterrestrials. And boy, do they have news.

The entire cosmos, they tell him, has been hopelessly hooked on humanity’s music ever since “Year Zero” (1977 to us), when American pop songs first reached alien ears. This addiction has driven a vast intergalactic society to commit the biggest copyright violation since the Big Bang. The resulting fines and penalties have bankrupted the whole universe. We humans suddenly own everything—and the aliens are not amused.

Nick Carter has just been tapped to clean up this mess before things get ugly, and he’s an unlikely galaxy-hopping hero: He’s scared of heights. He’s also about to be fired. And he happens to have the same name as a Backstreet Boy. But he does know a thing or two about copyright law. And he’s packing a couple of other pencil-pushing superpowers that could come in handy.

Soon he’s on the run from a sinister parrot and a highly combustible vacuum cleaner. With Carly and Frampton as his guides, Nick now has forty-eight hours to save humanity, while hopefully wowing the hot girl who lives down the hall from him.

Review: This book is a really fun read. If you are a fan of Douglas Adams(Hitchhiker's Guide) and pop culture, you will enjoy this book. You don't have to be a  huge sci-fi reader to enjoy this. One of my favorite aspects of the book was the footnotes. They really added humor and some zing.

Rob Reid is the founder of the company that created the Rhapsody music downloading program. His familiarity with the law behind music can be seen in the writing. He cleverly pokes fun while explaining the intricacies.

The concept that Earth has the best music in the universe is such a cool idea and it is treated very well. When the aliens hear a human perform live they feel pure ecstasy. The many alien races Reid created are unique and fun. This isn't a hard science sci-fi book so don't go into reading this expecting the science to make sense. This is a sci-fi comedy.

I give this novel a 4/5 and suggest it to anyone who is familiar with pop culture (especially music) and looking for a book that will provide plenty of chuckles.

-PAUL

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Cloud Atlas - Paul's Review (Book and Movie)


Title: Cloud Atlas
Author: David Mitchell
Year Published: 2004

Amazon | Goodreads

Synopsis: A reluctant voyager crossing the Pacific in 1850; a disinherited composer blagging a precarious livelihood in between-the-wars Belgium; a high-minded journalist in Governor Reagan’s California; a vanity publisher fleeing his gangland creditors; a genetically modified “dinery server” on death-row; and Zachry, a young Pacific Islander witnessing the nightfall of science and civilisation—the narrators of Cloud Atlas hear each other’s echoes down the corridor of history, and their destinies are changed in ways great and small.


In his captivating third novel, David Mitchell erases the boundaries of language, genre and time to offer a meditation on humanity’s dangerous will to power, and where it may lead us.




Book Review: I hadn't heard about this book until I saw the initial 6 minute long trailer for the movie. It immediately grabbed my attention. It appeared to be everything a movie could be. After doing some research into the novel this movie was being adapted from, I decided I had to check it out. 

This book is different from every book I have ever read. There are six seperate, yet somewhat linked stories. You get the first half of the first five stories, then you get the whole sixth story. From there, you get the conclusions of each story starting with the fifth and going back to the first. So, the book starts and ends with the same story. 

Each of the stories are written in completely different styles. Mitchell is an amazing writer because he did this so well. The language in each section appears very true to each time period from the late 1800s to modern day and to the future. Mitchell invents his own style of language and grammar for the future stories. One is told in the near future and the sixth story takes place in a post apocalyptic world. 

Mitchell is an excellent storyteller. Although the language may be difficult to get into, once you have entered the world you won't want to finish each section. Leaving a story halfway through, usually at a climax or even midsentence makes you want to continue reading the next story even more so you can get to the second half. But then, you get engulfed by the story of the new story. 

The experience of reading this book is so unique. While reading the second half of the book, you feel like you are finishing a whole book every forty pages or so. 

Not only is each story told in its own style, language, and timframe, but each is a different genre. You will definitely have a favorite story when reading this book. It may be the geriatric comedy, the post apocalyptic epic, the young musician's tragic life, the lawyer's journey on the high seas, or the journalist's 70's mystery. My favorite was the genetic engineered fast food server's tale of self discovery. 

Mitchell does an excellent job weaving in ideas of self and philosophical questions. It is up to you to interpret how these six stories fit together. 

I give this novel a 4/5. It is an excellent read, but the concept of it is so much to wrap your head around. I suggest this to anyone who loves to read all different kinds of books. 





Movie Review: If I had read this book before knowing a movie was being made, I would not call this book adaptable. There are six completely different stories, each with its own protagonist and many side characters. Each story takes place in such a different world. But, the Wachowski siblings did an excellent job with this. 

Having read the book first, the movie is more an interpretation of the material in the book rather than a straight adaptation. The ideas, basic stories, and characters are kept for the most part, although the way in which the stories are told is changed. Throughout the movie, we jump from story to story as each story progresses. 

The cinematography in this movie is amazing. The near future sci-fi story is transformed from a traditional sci-fi novel feel to a traditional sci-fi movie feel. There are added laser battles and flying car chases. I think this added to the movie as a whole. Just like the in the book, the Soumni storyline was my favorite in the movie as well. 

The way this movie uses its actors is so unique. It introduces another level to the idea of Cloud Atlas. In the novel, each protagonist has a comet birthmark on their body. This is still present in the movie, but a different actor plays each protagonist. Some actors play six different characters, appearing in all six stories. The make-up team did an excellent job with this. The actors cross every gender and race barrier. Halle Berry plays an old Asian man! In the credits, each actor's many characters are shown and throughout the theatre gasps could be heard. 

Since I had read the book before seeing this movie, I knew what to expect and I could easily follow the storylines. Some were altered, but that is expected from a book adaptation. 

I highly suggest reading the book before watching this movie. It may take you a while to understand what is happening. I don't think this is a movie everyone will enjoy. It may be over a lot of people's heads. 

I give this movie a 4/5. I will definitely be watching it again once it is released on blu-ray, if I don't purchase it myself. I am interested in what features will be released. If you like weird, conceptual movies your mind will be thoroughly massaged by this film. 

-PAUL

Friday, November 9, 2012

Son (Giver #4) by Lois Lowry - Paul's Pre Reading


Title: Son (The Giver Quartet #4)
Author: Lois Lowry
Year Published: 2012

Amazon | Goodreads

Synopsis:  They called her Water Claire. When she washed up on their shore, no one knew that she came from a society where emotions and colors didn’t exist. That she had become a Vessel at age thirteen. That she had carried a Product at age fourteen. That it had been stolen from her body. Claire had a son. But what became of him she never knew. What was his name? Was he even alive?  She was supposed to forget him, but that was impossible. Now Claire will stop at nothing to find her child, even if it means making an unimaginable sacrifice.


Why?:  The Giver is one of my favorite books of all time. I read it in elementary school and have reread it multiple times since then. I have since read each of the sequels as they have come out. I'm enjoyed them, but they haven't quite caught the spark that is The Giver. This is the last book in the quartet. 

Expectations: From the synopsis, it sounds like the protagonist is from the same community as The Giver. I am very excited to learn more about this community. I expect another strong story with a strong protagonist who has a special, unique gift. I hope it lives up to The Giver, but I am not expecting it to. 

Judging a book by its cover:  This cover reminds me of the end of The Giver when they come upon a house in the middle of a snow storm. The boy's eyes are haunting. This cover reminds me of the original cover of The Giver that was black with trees and The Giver's face.


-PAUL

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Saga (Volume One) - Paul's Review


*I received this book as an eARC from Image Comics on NetGalley in exchange for a fair review*

Title:
Saga (Volume One)
Author: Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples
Year Published: 2012

Amazon | Goodreads

Synopsis: When two soldiers from opposite sides of a never-ending galactic war fall in love, they risk everything to bring a fragile new life into a dangerous old universe.

From New York Times bestselling writer Brian K. Vaughan (Y: The Last Man, Ex Machina) and critically acclaimed artist Fiona Staples (Mystery Society, North 40), Saga is the sweeping tale of one young family fighting to find their place in the worlds. Fantasy and science fiction are wed like never before in this sexy, subversive drama for adults.


Review: I read this series as each issue came out. When I saw Image Comics had the trade paperback compilation of all the released issues, I had to get it and review it. 


One of my favorite graphic novel series, in which I even own all ten volumes, is Y:The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughn. He write really well with characters over a long period of time. Some series lack as it continues, but Vaughn has an excellent way of never losing the reader's interest. This series definitely has that potential. 

At the start, you are thrust into this completely captivating world. There are feuding planets, winged aliens, horned aliens, and robot people. And that is just to start. Later we met bounty hunters with large feline companions and another that resembles a giant spider. A ghost even joined the cast!

The world is so rich and I really hope this series continues for a long time. Each story is told from the two main characters' daughter's future self. She is only just born in the story. Her parents are from the feuding sides of the war. Her mother has wings, while her father has horns. She has both. 

Vaughn and Staples bring up issues of family, asking what exactly makes a family? Is love enough for this family to get by on? Can they raise a child while they are being hunted down by both sides of a war?

If you are a fan of sci-fi epics like Star Wars, Firefly, or Battlestar Galactica you will enjoy this series!

I can't wait to pick up new issues! I give this first volume a 4/5. I hesitated to give it a 5 because I know further issues will draw me in to the story even more now that I know the characters. I hope this is only the start of an awesome series!


-PAUL

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Paul's November Book: The Crown of Embers by Rae Carson

Title: The Crown of Embers (Fire and Thorns #2)
Author: Rae Carson
Year Published: 2012

Amazon | Goodreads

Synopsis:  In the sequel to the acclaimed The Girl of Fire and Thorns, a seventeen-year-old princess turned war queen faces sorcery, adventure, untold power, and romance as she fulfills her epic destiny.


Elisa is the hero of her country. She led her people to victory against a terrifying enemy, and now she is their queen. But she is only seventeen years old. Her rivals may have simply retreated, choosing stealth over battle. And no one within her court trusts her-except Hector, the commander of the royal guard, and her companions. As the country begins to crumble beneath her and her enemies emerge from the shadows, Elisa will take another journey. With a one-eyed warrior, a loyal friend, an enemy defector, and the man she is falling in love with, Elisa crosses the ocean in search of the perilous, uncharted, and mythical source of the Godstone's power. That is not all she finds. A breathtaking, romantic, and dangerous second volume in the Fire and Thorns trilogy.


The Girl of Fire and Thorns Review

The Shadow Cats novella Review

Why?:  I absolutely adored the first book in this series. After finishing it, I immediately wanted to read more about Elisa. It has been over a year and I am so excited to finally read more of her stories.

Expectations: I expect Carson to continue the awesomeness that was the first book in this series. I expect even more growth from Elisa. I also expect to learn more about many minor characters as well as get to meet more characters that will have depth. I want to learn more about the origins of the godstones.

Judging a book by its cover: I like this cover. It is similar to the first book's cover. 


-PAUL

Monday, November 5, 2012

Katya's World - Paul's Review

*I received this book as an eARC from Angry Robot/Strange Chemistry on NetGalley in exchange for a fair review*

Title: Katya's World
Author: Jonathan L. Howard
Year Published: 2012

Release Date: Tuesday November 6, 2012

Goodreads | Amazon

Synopsis: The distant and unloved colony world of Russalka has no land, only the raging sea. No clear skies, only the endless storm clouds. Beneath the waves, the people live in pressurised environments and take what they need from the boundless ocean. It is a hard life, but it is theirs and they fought a war against Earth to protect it. But wars leave wounds that never quite heal, and secrets that never quite lie silent.

Katya Kuriakova doesn’t care much about ancient history like that, though. She is making her first submarine voyage as crew; the first nice, simple journey of what she expects to be a nice, simple career.

There is nothing nice and simple about the deep black waters of Russalka, however; soon she will encounter pirates and war criminals, see death and tragedy at first hand, and realise that her world’s future lies on the narrowest of knife edges. For in the crushing depths lies a sleeping monster, an abomination of unknown origin, and when it wakes, it will seek out and kill every single person on the planet.

Review: I was very excited when I received an eARC of this book. Adventures at sea, an ocean world, a submarine crew, and it's set in the future? Sounds like my kind of book. Although it didn't quite meet all my expectations, I really enjoyed this book. 

First I will start with the world Howard has created. I loved it. The concept of colonies from Earth filled with people all originally from the same region of Earth was interesting. The Russian influence was done in a cool way. Although, I didn't think it was anywhere near as thorough and captivating as Leigh Bardugo did with her Russian influence in Shadow and Bone. The technology of this world also added to the world building, but often it was too wordy. 

One particular thing that irked me that may not bother some is the use of what I like to call the Scooby Doo plan. This happens when a character comes up with an idea to solve the problem at hand and gathers everyone together to tell the plan. Then, in a tv show or movie there is a fade out to the plan taking action. In a book, it just jumps ahead in time to when the plan is followed through. This sometimes works, but I felt this happened often in this book and each time I came upon one I cringed.

The plot of this book is far from simple. The goals of the characters change throughout the story as new things come into play. There wasn't a simple beginning, middle, and end. Instead, more and more conflicts just kept arising. I thought this gave the story an edge-of-your-seat kind of feel. 

The end of this book was very filmlike. For most of the book we follow Katya's point of view, then for the last few scenes we see other characters perspectives. It felt like a film script adapted to novel format. It worked in this situation, but it confused me at first. 

I liked that there was no true romance story. Most YA with a female lead is primarily about romance. My favorite aspect of this book was the characters. Each of them were very full. Minor characters introduced in the beginning gained more depth as the novel progressed. Many characters ended up having inner struggles that were not apparent. Minor characters had their own goals and sides of different conflicts that brought more complexity to the plot.

Overall, I enjoyed this futuristic submariner story set on a world of water. I would recommend this to anyone who is a regular reader of YA sci-fi looking for a female lead that doesn't rely on a love interest. I give this book a 3/5.

-PAUL

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Paul's October Book Review: Every Day by David Levithan

Pre Reading

Review: This book was absolutely amazing. I loved every bit of it. 

Let's start with the concept. An entity, A, wakes up each morning in a new person's body. A has no gender, race, sexual orientation, or any other common identifiers. Each morning, A wakes up within a few hours of the prior body. Each body is close to the same age as A. A is now a teenager and may have just fallen in love. This concept alone should be a reason to pick this book up!

Each chapter is a new day and thus a new body. David Levithan did an amazing job with the characters A inhabits each chapter. Most are only present for one chapter, yet they have the depth of a main character. Levithan utilizes these chapters so well, bringing up so many different teenage issues. Some of the chapters are very heartfelt. No, most of the chapters are heartfelt. Levithan did such a good job of making the reader feel like they were inhabiting a new person's head each chapter. 

I could gush on about this book for many paragraphs, but it would be so much easier for you to just go purchase it and read it for yourself. That way I won't accidentally spoil something. This novel will not disappoint. I look forward to reading more novels from David Levithan. I give this novel a 5/5.

-PAUL

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Raven Boys - Ashley's Pre-Reading

*I received this book as an eARC from Scholastic Press on NetGalley in exchange for a fair review*

Title: The Raven Boys
Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Year Published: 2012

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Synopsis: 
“There are only two reasons a non-seer would see a spirit on St. Mark’s Eve,” Neeve said. “Either you're his true love . . . or you killed him.”


It is freezing in the churchyard, even before the dead arrive.

Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue herself never sees them—not until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks directly to her.

His name is Gansey, and Blue soon discovers that he is a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble.

But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can’t entirely explain. He has it all—family money, good looks, devoted friends—but he’s looking for much more than that. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents all the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul who ranges from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher of the four, who notices many things but says very little.

For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She never thought this would be a problem. But now, as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.

Why?:
 I'm all about creepy books, and this one sounds like it's right up my alley. I've also heard really good  things about it, so I've been wanting to read it for quite some time.

Expectations: I expect an adventure story filled with mystery and action. I think Blue will turn out to be a strong heroine, even if she doesn't expect to be. And probably quite a few very creepy scenes involving ghosts and such, especially if the characters are somewhere they aren't supposed to be.

Judging a book by its cover: The cover has a raven that seems to have painted feathers and a glowing chest. While it is striking, I'm not sure that I would pick up this book based solely on the cover. I might, but it would depend on what other books were around.


--Ashley

Monday, October 22, 2012

Star Wars: Agent of the Empire Volume One - Iron Eclipse (Paul's Review)


***eARC provided by Dark Horse Comics on netgalley***

Title: Star Wars: Agent of the Empire Volume One - Iron Eclipse
Author: John Ostrander
Year Published: 2012

***Release Date: October 24, 2012***



Review: Most of the Star Wars comics I have read take place before the Original Trilogy. I really liked the Republic and Clone Wars series. This series takes place between Episodes 3 and 4! There isn't much media from this era, leaving plenty of untold stories. I am still hoping for the live-action Star Wars tv show that has been talked about for years.

The Empire is in control, but this series takes a different perspective. Instead of seeing the evils of the Empire through the Rebels' eyes, our protagonist is employed by the Empire. And his job is pretty much the James Bond of the Star Wars universe. I really enjoyed the way the writer and illustrator played with this secret agent feel. The sex appeal, gun fights, and class are all there. 

As you can see from the cover, two of your favorite smugglers also make a cameo. I liked the way they were introduced into the story and look forward to other cameos as the series continues. 

Johan Cross, the secret agent I've mentioned, has his own way of doing things. He also has an android with boobs named IN-GA 44. I really liked all the supporting cast, ranging from the sole alien mechanic to the rich Stark heiress. This first volume introduced a really fun vibe. I am looking forward to reading the rest of this series. I give this first volume a 4/5.

-PAUL

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Flatland by Edwin A. Abbott - Ashley's Pre-Reading


Title: Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions
Author: Edwin A Abbott
Year Published: 1882

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Synopsis: 
Classic of science (and mathematical) fiction — charmingly illustrated by author — describes the journeys of A. Square and his adventures in Spaceland (three dimensions), Lineland (one dimension) and Pointland (no dimensions). A. Square also entertains thoughts of visiting a land of four dimensions — a revolutionary idea for which he is banished from Spaceland.

Why?:
 As a math major, I think this will be a really interesting book. I'm curious to see how a two dimensional being would perceive one dimension, three dimensions, and even four dimensions. And to see how one would go about explaining those kinds of things to people/beings/etc. who exist in more or less dimensions. 


Expectations: I expect a highly theoretical book. It will probably be very difficult to read at times, and I expect to have to go back and read some passages. I'm sure parts will read like a textbook. But I also think it will be very interesting.

Judging a book by its cover: This particular cover has lines everywhere, and I assume lines will be very important to Flatlandians. I might pick up this book if I saw it on a shelf, but it depends on which of the covers the bookstore/library had in stock.


--Ashley

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Paul's Wither Review

Title: Wither
Author: Lauren DeStefano
Year Published: 2011

Amazon | Goodreads

Synopsis: By age sixteen, Rhine Ellery has four years left to live. She can thank modern science for this genetic time bomb. A botched effort to create a perfect race has left all males with a lifespan of 25 years, and females with a lifespan of 20 years. Geneticists are seeking a miracle antidote to restore the human race, desperate orphans crowd the population, crime and poverty have skyrocketed, and young girls are being kidnapped and sold as polygamous brides to bear more children. When Rhine is kidnapped and sold as a bride, she vows to do all she can to escape. Her husband, Linden, is hopelessly in love with her, and Rhine can’t bring herself to hate him as much as she’d like to. He opens her to a magical world of wealth and illusion she never thought existed, and it almost makes it possible to ignore the clock ticking away her short life. But Rhine quickly learns that not everything in her new husband’s strange world is what it seems. Her father-in-law, an eccentric doctor bent on finding the antidote, is hoarding corpses in the basement. Her fellow sister wives are to be trusted one day and feared the next, and Rhine is desperate to communicate to her twin brother that she is safe and alive. Will Rhine be able to escape--before her time runs out?
Together with one of Linden's servants, Gabriel, Rhine attempts to escape just before her seventeenth birthday. But in a world that continues to spiral into anarchy, is there any hope for freedom?


Review: I have been interested in this series for a while, but it hadn't made its way to the top of my reading list. When I saw it in a used bookstore for only a few dollars, I had to get it. 

I really enjoyed the world building in this book. There was just enough to give the reader a good idea of the outside world's situation, while keeping the reader out of the loop with the protagonist. In this world, women die at 20 and men at 25. The first generation of modified humans are now old, so there is a large gap in the middle of the age range. The technology is interesting, including a lot of use of holograms. I am excited for the sequel, to see what else this world has. 

Rhine ends up as a wife to a rich man destined to die around when she does. He also marries two other girls at the same time. At first I thought each of these sister wives were cliche, but as the story progressed their personalities really rounded out. It was similar to meeting someone and assuming their traits, only to learn more about them overtime. The reader gets to experience this with Rhine as she gets closer to her sister wives. 

I enjoy YA novels where the protagonist is faking or acting. The most well known example right now would be Katniss in The Hunger Games and her confusing relationship with Peeta. I always like when the reader can compare a character's thoughts to actions. It is something that a book does so much better than a movie ever could. This book does it as well, with Rhine putting on an act for her husband and his father. 

I enjoyed the minor characters as well. Gabriel and the rest of the staff reminded me of the help in Downton Abbey. Vaughn, Rhine's new father-in-law, is very creepy. Although, I am unsure of his true intentions. It will be interesting to see how his character plays out. 

I am excited to read more in this series. The next book is already out and it is called Fever. I give this book a 4/5.



Friday, October 19, 2012

Alternity by Mari Mancusi - Ashley's Review

*I received this book as an eARC from NLA Digital Liaison Platform LLC on Netgalley in return for a fair review*

Happy release day to Alternity! In celebration, here's my review of it!

My Pre-Reading

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


I really wish that there were more books in the YA science fiction genre that took an interesting concept and use it to turn everything upside down. Alternity does just that. While Skye thinks she's just a normal teenage girl living in New York City and working for a video game company, she comes to learn that the world is so much bigger than what she thought. People, places, and things are never what they seem, and your whole life could be a total lie.

Without giving too much away, I thought Mancusi did an excellent job creating a post-apocalyptic world with believable attributes and inhabitants. Terra exists completely below the surface, and has different levels for the different classes of people. And of course those in the lower class want to rebel against the upper class. But I thought it was really interesting that they didn't really want to overthrow the government at first - they just want to be able to "Gaze." And then, after several twists and turns, the Eclipsers learn that there is so much more to their fight than they originally thought.

At first, I was not a huge fan of Skye. I mean, I'm sure it's incredibly difficult to be caught between two worlds, and to find out that you're supposedly the long lost leader of an underground rebellion. That would be a shock for anyone. But I don't really think she handles it well. Seriously, if you remember someone you trust telling you to avoid a certain person, you should probably steer clear. Also, when people freak out when you take your "asthma" medication, don't you think you'd like to find out more about it before you take it again? I definitely didn't agree with some of her decisions, but I guess they made sense all things considered.

I did think that the pacing was a little slow near the beginning. It took me a while to get into the story, but after about the halfway point I started to tear through it. I couldn't wait to find out who Skye really is, or to find out what  is really happening on Terra - is it really just a dream, or is it an alternate reality? Or even a completely different world? Why are there so many similarities between  Earth and Terra? And Mancusi certainly delivered answers, which was very nice.

I think anyone who enjoys YA science fiction novels would enjoy this book. Especially if you're into things like The Matrix or online video games like World of Warcraft or any other online multiplayer video games like that. Although there were things that I thought could have been done better in this book, I really enjoyed it and found it to be a fun, albeit sometimes stressful, read. I would give it a 3/5.


--Ashley

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver - Ashley's Review

My Pre-Reading

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


"Maybe you can afford to wait. Maybe for you there's a tomorrow. Maybe for you there's one thousand tomorrows, or three thousand, or ten, so much time you can bathe in it, roll around it, let it slide like coins through you fingers. So much time you can waste it.

But for some of us there's only today. And the truth is, you never really know." --
Lauren Oliver, Before I Fall
When I first heard about this book, I kind of pushed it to the side thinking it really wasn't my kind of book. I'm so glad I finally gave it a chance though, because it was excellent in so many ways. I did not want to put it down, and I definitely didn't want it to end.

At the beginning, I was not Sam's biggest fan. I didn't like her or her friends, but I could definitely see the "popular high school girl" stereotype that Oliver was trying to portray in Sam and her friends. The girls are stuck up, mean, and don't care about anyone other than themselves. And even then, they're not even really good friends to each other.

But then, Sam dies. And she has to relive the same day seven times. And although she's angry and bitter at first, she ends up completely redeeming herself. Even though to everyone else it may seem completely out of character, Sam will always be remembered in a good way. I wasn't looking forward to Sam's last day, but the ending was absolutely satisfying. Not enjoyable, necessarily, but satisfying.

The lessons that she learns over the course of the seven days are things that I wish every high school girl learned. I would even go as far as to say that everyone can learn a little something from Sam - whether it be a reminder of how you should treat others, or what the important things in life are, or to cherish what you have. Especially in these times when bullying and teen suicide has become such a big deal; bullies and the bullied alike would benefit from taking a look through Sam's eyes. Oliver is able to present serious themes like bullying, suicide, death, friendship, sacrifice, and consequences relating to life choices without sounding preach-y or without shoving them down the readers' throats.

If you're willing to wait out the first chapter and give this book and Sam a chance, you will not be disappointed. Before I Fall made me laugh and cry, and made me think about things that most YA books don't. I really think this could be one of those timeless YA novels that can just pass from generation to generation and still manages to inspire or affect people. This book was incredible. So, if you haven't read it yet, go pick it up ASAP. I would most definitely give this book a 5/5 and recommend it to everyone I know.


--Ashley

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Katya's World by Jonathan L. Howard - Ashley's Pre Reading

*I received this book as an eARC from Angry Robot/Strange Chemistry in exchange for a fair review*

Title: Katya's World
Author: Jonathan L. Howard
Year Published: 2012

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Synopsis: 
The distant and unloved colony world of Russalka has no land, only the raging sea. No clear skies, only the endless storm clouds. Beneath the waves, the people live in pressurized environments and take what they need from the boundless ocean. It is a hard life, but it is theirs and they fought a war against Earth to protect it.


But wars leave wounds that never quite heal, and secrets that never quite lie silent. Katya Kuriakova doesn't care much about ancient history like that, though. She is making her first submarine voyage as crew; the first nice, simple journey of what she expects to be a nice, simple career.

There is nothing nice and simple about the deep black waters of Russalka, however; soon she will encounter pirates and war criminals, see death and tragedy at first hand, and realize that her world's future lies on the narrowest of knife edges. For in the crushing depths lies a sleeping monster, an abomination of unknown origin, and when it wakes, it will seek out and kill every single person on the planet.

Why?:
 The idea of an world completely covered by ocean sounds really intriguing, and I'm really interested in how Howard executes it. Also, what kind of monster lies in the depths of the ocean? How is it awoken? Where did it come from?


Expectations: I expect this to be very sci-fi, and to have a huge amount of world building. Also, I expect there to be a huge amount of questions and probably not nearly as many answers. And probably a lot of history and military speak. But, I also expect Katya to be a very strong, brave heroine willing to risk everything to save her world.

Judging a book by its cover: The cover kind of has a military feel to it, and I'm not sure that it would pique my interest enough to want to pick it up. I like that it looks like everything is underwater though.


--Ashley