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

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Paul's Band Fags! Review

Pre Reading

Review: This book wasn't exactly what I expected. I had just finished reading Geography Club, which was a very fast read, and I was looking for more LGBT coming-of-age high school stories. This novel was all that and more. This novel takes place over 6 years, following the protagonist from middle school to high school. Throughout the book, the reader is given an up close and personal view of the protagonist's thoughts and opinions. The characters were very well written. Each character felt like a real person. I liked how the characters changed throughout the 6 years, as well. There were so many characters in this book, too, that it felt like a real person was telling you his life story. When some characters were brought up later in the book I had to think back about what they had done in past years.

At first, this book is overwhelming and slightly off putting because of the vast amount of information, but once I got into it and knew the characters I was hooked. Some of the scenes have so much raw emotion. The inner thoughts of the protagonist really add to the realness of these scenes. 

There are a lot of 80's pop culture references. I was born in 1988. The protagonist graduates high school in 1988. So, I didn't know some of the references. But, I googled a lot of them to understand what the characters were talking about and it really added to the story. I liked the way they were used. It made the book feel even more autobiographical. One reference I didn't get was the use of "dah-dah, dah-dah". At one point I thought it might be the Jaws song, but I am still unsure. I'm looking forward to reading Polito's Lost in the 90's because I won't need as much google assistance. 

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I want to read Drama Queers! eventually, but I think I'll have to be in the right mood for it. This is an extensive novel, that is definitely worth a read. If you were in high school in the late 80's, you will probably enjoy this book even more. I give it a 4/5

-PAUL

Monday, October 15, 2012

Alternity by Mari Mancusi - Ashley's Pre-Reading

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

Title: Alternity
Author: Mari Mancusi
Year Published: 2012

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Synopsis:
 Imagine waking up in a post-apocalyptic, nightmare world--and being told your whole life is but a dream. Skye Brown thought she was your typical teen--good grades, hot boyfriend, and an after school job that pays her to play video games. But then she started having the dreams.


In her dreams, there is no Earth. Only Terra, a bleak, underground wasteland where people live in squalor and oppression. In her dreams, there is no Skye--only Mariah, a rebel leader fighting against a vile, dystopian regime. And then there's Dawn, a handsome, but haunted solider who sees her as but an empty shell of the girl he once love--a betrayer he vows to hate forever, despite what she sees deep in his eyes.

Now, ripped between Dark Siders and club kids, the mundane and the mystic, Skye finds herself in a fight against time--to learn who she really is, where she belongs..and why. The shocking truth will have her questioning her own reality...and her heart.

Why?: I really enjoy dystopian novels, and this one seems really interesting. Especially with the whole two different realities and not knowing which one is which.

Expectations: I expect an epic adventure with a very confused heroine who has to discover (or rediscover) who she really is. I'm sure there will be a ton of conflicts, and I'm interested to see how Skye/Mariah deals with them. And I also expect quite a few things that are very Matrix-like

Judging a book by its cover: This cover is actually pretty striking, in my opinion. The tall skyscrapers set against the huge moon, with a girl who looks like she's ready to kick some bad guy butt? I would totally pick this up off of a shelf if I saw it in a store or in the library.


--Ashley

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Two and Twenty Dark Tales (Paul's Review pt.3)

This is the third and final post for this collection of short stories. Check out the links below if you haven't read my earlier posts.

Two and Twenty Dark Tales -- Part 1
Two and Twenty Dark Tales -- Part 2

My overall review of the collection at the bottom!

Little Miss Muffet:
This one was very unusual. It is about a family that has a secret that involves spiders. The ending is super creepy. This story left me confused with many questions. 2/5

Sea of Dew:

So at one point in my life, when I was approximately 4 years old, I had this whole rhyme memorized. My parents would recite it to me as I drifted off to sleep. So, this story was very morbid for me. It took a nursery rhyme that I was very familiar with and definitely made it dark. Now although this may sound like I disliked it, I didn't. I thought the writing was done well and re-imagining these characters as survivors on a lifeboat was a very interesting take. I like stories involving survival, especially in very bad conditions. Also, there were many clever references to the original rhyme, involving the moon and such.The ending was just so very morbid. 4/5

Tick Tock:

This one was just straight up creepy. It is a common story of babysitter and unruly children, but these 4 children are so completely creepy, from their clothes to their actions. This story was very well written. It is an instance of a scary story with no explanation. There are so many open ends. 4/5

A Pocket Full of Posy:

This story did not go where I thought it would, knowing the original references in this rhyme. Although, another classic monster is used. A boy wakes up to find blood on him and an empty memory of the night before. I thought this was written well, but I'm not that fond of the way it ended up playing out. 3/5

The Well:

This story features the familiar characters of Jack and Jill, only they are nothing like the childhood images you have in mind. They are no longer chipper, sing-songy siblings. Instead, a virus has killed pretty much everyone in the world except these two. It was interesting how the well comes into play. This one was very disturbing, although I think that's what it was going for. 2.5/5

The Wish:
This one deals with the simple idea of wishing on a star...to be dead. I thought this one was well written, but it was a little too predictable and teen angsty for my likings. 2/5

 A Ribbon of Blue:
The main character in this one is a teen girl with Cerebral Palsy. I thought it was a very interesting read. I loved the way her handicap was dealt with. I thought her grandmother having emphysema was a nice addition to the story, as well. The carnival really gave good imagery. The fortune teller was interesting and I really liked the way the story played out. 4/5

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OVERALL REVIEW: 
This was a well put together collection. There was a good amount of variety between the stories. Some were very dark, while others just slightly twisted the original rhyme. I would suggest this book to anyone familiar with the original Mother Goose nursery rhymes who is prepared to see some wholesome characters in very creepy and scary situations. 

By averaging my reviews for each individual story, the mean rating for a story in this collection is 3.175/5. So, I'll give this collection, as a whole, a 3/5.

-PAUL

Two and Twenty Dark Tales (Ashley's Review pt. 3)

Here's the final part of my review for Two and Twenty Dark Tales! And, if you missed them, the first two parts can be found by following these links:

Two and Twenty Dark Tales - Part 1
Two and Twenty Dark Tales - Part 2

My review of the collection as a whole is at the end!

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Little Miss Muffet: I kind of thought this story was pretty terrible. The incorporation of Miss Muffet and the spiders was strange, and it didn't really flow at all. Plus, the ending was horrifying, and not in a good way. I don't really like spiders anyway, and this just made that worse. Seriously, huge spiders? Not necessary. 1/5

Sea of Dew:
 This was another that got off to a great start! And then... totally didn't deliver. I guess I can see where the author was trying to go with it, but if you take out the boys and make them animals, including one tiger, it's almost Life of Pi. Only not as good. 2/5.


Tick Tock:
I'm pretty sure this one will win the award for "Creepiest Story" in this collection. The kids are terrifying, and I'm glad I never babysat for children I had never met before. As scary as this one was though, I think it fits perfectly with the whole dark re-tellings of  nursery rhymes theme. The whole scary kids, unknowing babysitter thing might be over played, but I thought this was written well. 4/5


A Pocket Full of Posy:
I totally didn't see the direction this one was heading from the beginning, but it's a really interesting take on the nursery rhyme. It has nothing to do with any sort of plague, and I think it was refreshing to read something completely different. Although elements of this story are definitely over-done, I didn't think it was too much or too cliche. 4/5 for this one as well.


The Well:
 I really don't know how I feel about this one. I didn't like Jack or Jill, or connect with them in any way. And, since I wasn't emotionally invested, I really didn't care when they fell down the hill. I wish it had been a little bit different, and not pretty much an exact version of the nursery rhyme... but I guess it could have been worse. The virus thing was strange though, and I'm not sure it was entirely necessary. 2.5/5


The Wish:
 The way that the whole wishing on stars thing is dealt with here is actually pretty interesting. I loved the character of Peter and the way he makes Lauren feel like living again after she wishes she was dead. I thought the ending was a little bit predictable, but it was delivered well. Plus, who's to say she can't still be with him? I give this one a 4/5.


A Ribbon of Blue:
Another kind of predictable story, but this one was also done well. I think the fact that Ruby has Cerebral Palsy makes this one even more interesting. She doesn't really fit in anywhere, and even though she's been handicapped since birth she's still very high functioning and can manage to care for herself and her grandmother. She's a very strong young lady, and I really enjoyed reading about her. I think the ending was a very nice release. Also a 4/5 on this one.

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As a whole, I think this collection was put together well. Some stories were lacking, and others were very good, but nothing was too similar to make it very difficult to read through. Some stories weren't as dark as I had hoped for, but others were much darker than I expected. It ends up being a nice balance of completely scary/horrifying and nice stories with a few dark elements.

I would recommend this anthology for any fans of Mother Goose rhymes looking for new takes on them. Some of these aren't for the faint of heart, but I think young adults who grew up with the original nursery rhymes would really enjoy this. As an overall collection, I would give this a 3/5.


--Ashley


Saturday, October 13, 2012

Two and Twenty Dark Tales (Paul's Review pt.2)

This is my second post since there were quite a few stories in this collection. My third post and final overall review will be posted tomorrow.

Two and Twenty Dark Tales -- Part 1

I Come Bearing Souls:
This story finds Egyptian gods in the form of teenage kids living in a funeral home. I loved the way the ancient Egyptian mythology was connected to modern day. The feel of this story reminded me of Dead Like Me. I definitely could have read more about these characters. 4/5

The Lion and the Unicorn, Part the First:
I liked how this story took a real time in history. The witch hunts are brought up with a very interesting explanation. The main character hears voices from angels. This was a well written short story that left me aching for Part Two, which unfortunately wasn't in the eARC. I can't wait for this collection to be released so I can read the end of this story. 4/5

Life in a Shoe:
This story kept to the spirit of the original rhyme. It was interesting to see how this rhyme was placed into a dystopian future with forced children. The wall tv reminded me of the walls in Fahrenheit 451. 3/5

Candlelight:
This was a very predictable story that held to its rhyme. Upset teenagers escape their "mom" mom using magic. Although predictable, I thought this story was nicely written. 3/5

One for Sorrow:
This story felt like Edgar Allen Poe turned into a paranormal romance. There were many things that happened in this story that I did not suspect. I am not a fan of insta-love and I thought there was a little too much of that. 2/5

Those Who Whisper:
This story was a nice one. It was interesting how the birds communicated. It was also interesting how this story showed nature providing. 3/5

-PAUL

Two and Twenty Dark Tales (Ashley's Review, pt. 2)

Since there were so many stories in this collection and the reviews of all of them are probably a lot to read in one post... Here are the next 6 stories! The reviews for the last bunch of stories and a summary of the whole book will be up tomorrow!

Two and Twenty Dark Tales - Part 1

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I Come Bearing Souls: I love when mythology is mixed with contemporary settings, and I think this story was done pretty well. I wish more information had been given about the brother and sister, and how they always ended up back together on Earth, but the main character's story and struggle were well defined. I enjoyed how characters from the beginning related to the overall plot, and the irony of the situation at the end. I wish there had been more after she goes back to the heavens though. What happens next? 3.5/5


The Lion and The Unicorn: Part the First: This story started off really interesting - a girl dressed as a boy, on a mission from the angels. Plus, throw in a king and some witches, and it's got so much potential. I thought the writing was done very well, and the characters and the world are introduced very nicely. However, I wish the second part was in the eARC! I'm so anxious to find out how this story ends. 4/5 for this first part though, especially for making me want to read the second part.

Life in a Shoe: This story was very short. I felt that it could have used so much more detail about the world, and about all of the characters. Why, other than creating more soldiers, were women required to have so many babies? Why wouldn't they be taken care of better if they had so many children? Why don't the older siblings move out when younger ones are able to take care of the youngest ones? I feel like this story had too many unanswered questions and not enough character or plot development. 2/5.

Candlelight: As I was reading this one, I felt like there was very little depth to it. Two sisters are angry with their mother for punishing them and establishing rules... so they decide to run away. It was almost like "ok, here's the nursery rhyme, and here's this story where they pretty much follow the rhyme exactly and end up in Babylon." I didn't like the two main girls, and I wish we had known more about the mother. And Pamela is kind of creepy, and I wish her character had been more developed. Not a huge fan of this one either. 2/5

One for Sorrow: I think I might have known this nursery rhyme at one point in time, but I didn't really remember it when I started this story. I really liked how the crow was incorporated into the story, and especially having one for sorrow and two for joy. I wish we had gotten to know more about the father and about the accident, but I thought that Rose was very well depicted. The plot was interesting and had a pretty good pace. Nothing was really too slow or too fast. 4/5.

Those Who Whisper: I really enjoyed this story. I thought it was a really nice take on the rhyme, and I thought the ending was very fitting. I wish we had seen a little bit more of the main character, but it was a pretty decent amount for a short story. This one was one of my favorite. 5/5


--Ashley

Friday, October 12, 2012

Two and Twenty Dark Tales (Paul's Review pt.1)

My Pre Reading

I'm following Ashley's lead and posting multiple posts on consecutive days, each of which will cover my review of a few of the stories. 

Overall, I really enjoyed this collection of short stories. There were some very familiar nursery rhymes and others I had never heard. each of the contributing authors took their own twist on how to retell or re-imagine these Mother Goose tales. There were definitely some I liked more than others. I'll go into some brief details in these following posts. I must warn you that I have been slowly reading this collection over at least a month and I wasn't as detailed in my notes for the first few short stories. 

As Blue as the Sky and Just as Old:
I wasn't familiar with this rhyme. It was interesting how it dealt with destiny and whether destiny can be changed or broken.  3/5

Sing a Song of Six-Pence:
I really liked the imagery in this one. It brought to my mind a very interesting Tim Burton-esque world. The Blackbird was described well. The whole story was done well and creepy. Like Ashley, I had many questions after reading this one. I could see it expanded into a full novel, or maybe a novella. 3/5

Clockwork:
I thought this one had a really interesting ending. It deals with self sacrifice for the greater good. It was interesting the way the mouse from this familiar rhyme is shown as an enchanted human. 4/5

Blue:
This story had a very interesting concept. It reminded me of Gossamer by Lois Lowry. It may have been too conceptual to really come through to me, though. 2/5

Pieces of Eight:
This one was quite epic for a short story. I thought music was used in a very interesting way. I love when music is incorporated into written works. I liked The Wolf. The atmosphere of this one reminded me of Game of Thrones. 3/5

Wee Willie Winkie:
This one was truly creepy. This reminded me of Darkness Falls and I imagined it as a B-grade horror/thriller. The tension in this one was written so well. 4/5

Boys and Girls Come Out to Play:
I liked the way witches were incorporated into this story. I liked how metal rings were used instead of wands. Magic being genetic is always interesting, as well as children competing in magic trials at a young age. I would love to see this story expanded on. 4/5

-PAUL

Two and Twenty Dark Tales (Ashley's Review pt. 1)

My Pre-Reading

I know this seems like a really long review, and I apologize for that. I tried to review each story briefly, but when there are twenty stories it gets a little long winded. So, I split it into a few different posts. Bear with me on this one!

Overall, I liked how the original nursery rhymes are included before every story. It's nice to have a refresher for rhymes I already know, and to get an idea of what the story will be about for ones I  don't know. The titles of the stories don't always give away what nursery rhyme story is based on, so the inclusion of the rhymes really helps to see some of the correlations that I might otherwise miss.


As Blue as the Sky and Just as Old: I didn't know the original rhyme that this story is based on, but I was intrigued as to how author would approach it after reading it. I really enjoyed how it was done, although it seemed kind of jumpy and kind all over the place at times. Nothing really settles down long enough to get a real grip on this story. I found it hard to get to know the characters and decide who was good and who was evil, but I still liked the way the that the story played out. 3/5

Sing a Song of Six-Pence: I honestly had no idea what to expect when I saw that the story was based on "four and twenty blackbirds." How can you possibly make blackbirds baked in a pie interesting rather than gross? But I really thought that it worked here! The character of the maid was not as developed or relateable as she probably could have been, but the mystery of her was done well. I loved Blackbird, and how his four and twenty siblings were "baked in a pie." Very clever. I would have liked to know if Blackbird was supposed to be more man than beast, or more beast than man. Also, why were his siblings baked in the pie to begin with, and why wasn't he there with them? How did the maid know she would be dealing with him and not another demon? I want to know more about the world and the characters, but the information provided was good for a short story. 3.5/5

Clockwork: I loved this one! I had never thought of the mouse as enchanted human, but I really enjoyed that take on it. Plus the mystery behind who she was, who enchanted her, and why she was enchanted was done well enough that you could figure it out if you really try, but isn't terribly obvious if you don't. The story had good flow, and the incorporation of the clock and time was very interesting. Not too many questions were left unanswered, but I would love to know what happens to the girl after the end. 4/5

Blue: This one is VERY abstract, and a little too artsy for my tastes. I kind of see where author is trying to go, but I felt like I was missing something the whole time. The connections were a little too stretched for me, and I had to read it several times to figure out what was going on. An interesting concept, but it just wasn't my cup of tea. 1/5

Pieces of Eight: I wasn't familiar with this nursery rhyme either, but I still enjoyed how it was dealt with. The world is different, and I think it was built well within the realm of a short story. Not too much attention was given to details such that the story lagged, but enough were given to create a fairly clear picture of the world. I do wish that the conflict had been explained a little better. I liked the wolf/protagonist dynamic, and the last few lines were exactly the kinds of things I feel they would say to each other. I was kind of confused with the ship fiasco, but eventually figured it out after re-reading the scene. 3.5/5

Wee Willie Winkie: This was definitely one of the darkest stories so far, and also the scariest. I liked how the author took such a seemingly innocent nursery rhyme and turned Wee Willie Winkie into such a monster. In the amount of time, I think the world and the characters were developed very nicely. I didn't like that the main character and her parents lied about her age, but I did kind of like that the lie had its consequences. There were a few unanswered questions - did her parents know before they brought her to this town? What does Willie do with the children's spirits? Still, very good. 4.5/5

Boys and Girls Come Out to Play: I love that the story was twisted to be about witches. I do wish the witches had been further explored, and that it had been explained what they do other than call out children to come and play. Also, the world seemed to lack depth. I felt like the world could have been constructed with so much more detail. I didn't really connect with the characters either, and wish we had been given more about Maddox and Rhys. This story had a lot of potential, but never really got there. The ending was very interesting though! 3/5 


--Ashley

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Paul's Band Fags! Pre Reading


Title: Band Fags!
Author: Frank Anthony Polito
Year Published: 2008

Amazon | Goodreads

Synopsis:  

Polito's debut novel is a funny, exhilarating coming-of-age story filled with biting wit and pitch-perfect observations, as two best friends discover they have more in common than being in the band.


Why?:  I picked up this book right after reading Geography Club. I was in the mood for some more coming-of-age high school outsider fiction. I also haven't played my trombone in a while and wanted to remember some good ole band geekery.

Expectations: I expect this novel to conquer some controversial topics. I am interested to see how they use the word "fag." I expect some fun band references.  

Judging a book by its cover: The cover has a band uniform with the title of the book. I have seen this on book store shelves and I have picked it up. It grabs my attention.


-PAUL

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Paul's Geography Club Review

Pre Reading

REVIEW: This was a really fast and easy read. It reminded me of a gay Mean Girls. I could see this done as a movie with voice overs and fantasy sequences. And it is happening! I hope they keep it to the early 2000s and don't make it modern. I want some music from a decade back! I will definitely watch this in theaters. There are also sequels that I will have to read!

I liked the progression of this book. I thought the main character of Russell went through some interesting changes and they were gradual and believable. I thought the high school environment was believable, although I don't think such bullying went on at my high school, at least not among my friends. I was a freshmen in high school when this book came out. I wish there would have been more pop culture references, but this book could have happened any time in the past 30 years, except any later than the early 2000s and cell phones would have been more prominent. 

My favorite aspect of this book was Russ's inner dialogue. I loved being able to see why he did something. there were many actions he went though that wouldn't have had the same impact had I not have known his thought process. I also liked the way he would playfully refer to earlier in the book. I like when books casually break that fourth wall. It was like Russ was sitting there telling a story of his life to me. 

This book is full of many characters, representing people of all different kinds. I really enjoyed how the Brian Bund storyline played out. 

I give this novel a 4/5. It is a very easy, fast read. If you like coming-of-age high school stories involving the less than popular students, you will enjoy this book.

-PAUL


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Paul's Two and Twenty Dark Tales Pre Reading

***I received this book as an eARC from Month9Books, LLC on Netgally.com***

Title: Two and Twenty Dark Tales: Dark Retellings of Mother Goose Rhymes
Edited By: Georgia McBride & Michelle Zink
Year Published: 2012


Synopsis:  In this anthology, 20 authors explore the dark and hidden meanings behind some of the most beloved Mother Goose nursery rhymes through short story retellings. The dark twists on classic tales range from exploring whether Jack truly fell or if Jill pushed him instead to why Humpty Dumpty, fragile and alone, sat atop so high of a wall. The authors include Nina Berry, Sarwat Chadda, Leigh Fallon, Gretchen McNeil, and Suzanne Young. 

Why?: I am a sucker for fairytale retellings, so nursery rhymes isn't far off. When I heard about this book from Ashley, I immediatley requested it on netgalley. 

Expectations: I am expecting some really creepy and dark takes on children's nursery rhymes I am familiar with. I am not familiar with many of the authors so maybe I will find some writing I like and stalk some authors on the internet.  

Judging a book by its cover: The cover has dark colors that remind me of blood. I'm thinking these tales are going to be creepy. I don't know if I would pick this up in the book store, but if I read the title I definitely would. 


-PAUL

Monday, October 8, 2012

Two and Twenty Dark Tales - Pre-reading

*I received this book as an eARC from Month9Books, LLC on Netgally.com*


Title: 
Two and Twenty Dark Tales
Edited By: Georgia McBride & Michelle Zink
Year Published: 2012

Synopsis:  In this anthology, 20 authors explore the dark and hidden meanings behind some of the most beloved Mother Goose nursery rhymes through short story retellings. The dark twists on classic tales range from exploring whether Jack truly fell or if Jill pushed him instead to why Humpty Dumpty, fragile and alone, sat atop so high of a wall.

Why?: I love fairy tale re-tellings, and so I was pretty excited to see a new spin on the Mother Goose rhymes!

Expectations: I expect well known nursery rhymes to be followed loosely, but much with much darker tones than normal. Some might be very close, and others might be very different from what typically imagine, but I'm fairly certain that all be a new twist on classics. I don't know many of the authors, so I don't really know what to expect when it comes to writing style, but I'm definitely looking forward to discovering new authors in new genres.

Judging a book by its cover: The cover has a girl laying on the floor beneath a bunch of paper cranes. Is she dead? What significance do the paper cranes hold? I would probably look at this in a bookstore, especially once I saw the title. 

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Ashley's Review of A Part to Play by Jennifer L. Fry

My Pre-Reading

*I received this book from the author in return for a fair review*

Amazon | Goodreads | Rogue Phoenix Press


I really wasn't expecting all that much from this book, but I was definitely surprised by all that it gave me! Although I don't really read much contemporary YA, I thought this one was a pretty good representation of what a teenager going through such a tragic event might act like and do.

While Lucy is definitely a well-structured character, and she definitely grows and matures and begins to move past the loss of her older sister, I felt like a lot of the minor characters were pretty stagnant and could have used a little more development. Lucy's friends, for instance, are basically only there to help her deal with her boy problems. She never confides in them about her sister, and I don't really think any teenager would be able to go that long without talking to someone about it. And although Nicole has a little bit of depth, her relationship with Lucy is never really explained very much and is kind of just dismissed after one short heart-to-heart.

And then we have Chris. While I applaud Lucy in her decision to eventually end things, it's kind of predictable that that's where it's going. And I was actually surprised that Lucy found the strength to even break it off. Chris is a total jerk though. And kind of creepy. And he gives me that "Phantom of the Opera" vibe - crazy musician playing in the middle of the night underneath the auditorium who falls head over heels for a girl he barely knows and insists that they are each other's muses and neither can succeed without the other. Plus, throw in some extreme jealousy, a devastating loss, and a girl who wants out of a bad relationship and you've got a modern retelling of Phantom of the Opera.

But, I'm not going to lie, that's kind of what I liked about it. That this is a story that can be told across generations and never really lose its impact. It could be about a young woman who lost her father but has a beautiful voice and sings opera, or about a 15 year old girl who lost her sister but has a real talent for acting and being on stage. Or any other number of scenarios. Fry makes this age-old plot her own though, and moves the story along very nicely.

I would recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a contemporary YA story about loss, acceptance, and moving forward. Also, I think fans of Phantom of the Opera might enjoy this story as well, although you shouldn't go in to it expecting all the glamour and intrigue of an old opera house mystery and all the things that go along with it. I give this book a 3/5, and definitely think that Fry has a great career ahead of her in YA literature.


--Ashley

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Ashley's Review of Gossamer by Lois Lowry

My Pre-Reading

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

When I was a kid, I used to love reading The Giver. I thought the world that Lois Lowry created was so interesting, and I always wondered what it would be like to be in Jonas' shoes. I also always wondered what happened to Jonas after the end of The Giver, and wanted to read more books by Lowry.

I wish I had found this book back then. Although I still found this book to be rich and exciting, I think I definitely would have enjoyed it even more when I was younger.  Lowry's world-building skills never cease to amaze me, even when she's just expanding on the existing world. The idea that there are little creatures out there that bring us our dreams, and evil creatures that bring us nightmares, is actually pretty fascinating. And even though there's a scientific explanation for dreams, little kids would definitely enjoy this explanation more than the scientific one.

I loved the character of Littlest, and I really loved how "gossamer" ties in to the whole story. While you can kind of see where it's going, it's nice to have it finally presented by the end. And I love how even the smallest of creatures can be the one that saves the day. It's a pretty good lesson for the age group this book was intended for.

I would definitely recommend this book to fans of Lois Lowry, and especially to those with small children. I really think every child should be given the opportunity to experience Lowry, and this book would be a great push in that direction - even better than The Giver sequence, I think. Definitely a 5/5 here, and I will most definitely be keeping an eye out for any other Lois Lowry books I haven't read yet.


--Ashley

Friday, October 5, 2012

Ashley's Review of Partials by Dan Wells

My Pre-Reading
Paul's Review

Amazon | Goodreads | Barnes & Noble

I really love a good post-apocalyptic novel, and this one nailed it right on the head. I guess you could call it a YA dystopian, but I felt like it was more sci-fi than anything. A virus that killed nearly the entire human population, man-made beings that are basically enhanced humans, and a city trying to rebuild after a devastating war? Plus, all of the virology included throughout most of the book. Definitely more sci-fi than dystopian, I would say. Plus, it just takes place in the future, with all of the cities and burroughs and everything retaining their previous names.

I really liked Kira's character, and I absolutely loved how much she grows and changes over the course of the book. She starts out with one mentality, although she does sometimes disagree with the Senate, but by the end of the book she ends up a completely different person. She's a great, strong heroine, and I think Wells did an excellent job of taking a girl in bad circumstances and turning her into such a dynamic character. Actually, almost all of the characters are dynamic and changing and multi-dimensional.

I also really enjoyed how Wells constructed the world that Kira and her friends live in. It was different enough from this present world to be something new and exciting, but similar enough so that it was relateable. The people that survive RM are completely diverse, and I found that really refreshing. It's kind of nice to read a book where the author specifically notes that people of all races and creeds can come together and join forces in light of a tragedy.

And of course, the secret tying the Partials and the humans together. I found it really interesting, and I cannot wait to see how the rest of the series progresses in an attempt to solve that conflict. And I have so many other questions that I need answers to as well, so I'm hoping the sequel doesn't leave as many open ends!

Although some parts of the plot did drag on a bit, and the virology tends to be a little bit long winded, I still really enjoyed this book and would definitely recommend it to fans of sci-fi YA, and even dystopian YA. I will most definitely be reading the sequel and the prequel novella! A very strong 4/5 for this one, and I think if the pacing was a little quicker, a couple more questions had been answered, and we hadn't been left hanging so much at the end that it would definitely have been a 5! Go pick this up and read it soon, this is a book you won't want to miss.


--Ashley

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Gossamer by Lois Lowry (Ashley's Pre-Reading)


Title: Gossamer
Author: Lois Lowry
Year Published: 2006


Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Synopsis: Where do dreams come from? What stealthy nighttime messengers are the guardians of our most deeply hidden hopes and our half-forgotten fears?

Drawing on her rich imagination, two-time Newbery winner Lois Lowry confronts these questions and explores the conflicts between the gentle bits and pieces of the past that come to life in dream, and the darker horrors that find their form in nightmare. In a haunting story that tiptoes between reality and imagination, two people—a lonely, sensitive woman and a damaged, angry boy—face their own histories and discover what they can be to one another, renewed by the strength that comes from a tiny, caring creature they will never see.

Gossamer is perfect for readers not quite ready for Lois Lowry's Newbery-Award winner The Giver and also for readers interested in dreams, nightmares, spirits and the dream world.

Why?:
I loved The Giver and its companion books, and I've always been interested in Lois Lowry's other books. I also think that the idea of dreams being delivered by tiny creatures is really interesting. It almost seems like a modern fairy tale, especially since the target age range is very young. I also think it will be nice to step out of the YA genre for a bit and read something a little quicker and easier.

Expectations: I expect a nice story about little creatures, invisible to the human eye, that deliver all of the nice dreams to people and animals. I also expect there to be some sort of conflict, but I don't really expect it to be too intense or too scary.

Judging a book by its cover: I think the cover is really pretty, at least for the US Paperback edition. I feel like it should be covered in glitter (and part of it is). If I saw this on a shelf, I would probably at least pick it up. Especially since Lois Lowry's name is on it.


--Ashley

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Paul's Geography Club Pre Reading

Title: Geography Club
Author: Brent Hartinger
Year Published: 2003

Amazon | Goodreads

Synopsis:  Russel Middlebrook is convinced he's the only gay kid at Goodkind High School. 

Then his online gay chat buddy turns out to be none other than Kevin, the popular but closeted star of the school's baseball team. Soon Russel meets other gay students, too. There's his best friend Min, who reveals that she is bisexual, and her soccer-playing girlfriend Terese. Then there's Terese's politically active friend, Ike. 

But how can kids this diverse get together without drawing attention to themselves?

"We just choose a club that's so boring, nobody in their right mind would ever in a million years join it. We could call it Geography Club!"

Brent Hartinger's debut novel is a fast-paced, funny, and trenchant portrait of contemporary teenagers who may not learn any actual geography in their latest club, but who learn plenty about the treacherous social terrain of high school and the even more dangerous landscape of the human heart.


Why?: I have heard good things about this book. For it's time, I don't think there were many other coming-of-age gay stories out. I don't read a lot of contemporary YA, but I think I will enjoy this one because of the gay twist. 

Expectations: I'm expecting a story about outcasts coming together to find a place they can feel safe. I'm sure the idea of being closeted and putting up a front will be a big part of this book. I hope it is a believable portrayal of high school. 

Judging a book by its cover: The cover shows a boy behind a classroom door with the club's sign outside. Maybe this is showing how the members of the club hide behind this fake front. I like the cover. 


-PAUL

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Paul's Before I Fall Pre Reading

Title: Before I Fall
Author: Lauren Oliver
Year Published: 2011

Amazon  | Goodreads

Synopsis:  

What if you only had one day to live? What would you do? Who would you kiss? And how far would you go to save your own life?

Samantha Kingston has it all: looks, popularity, the perfect boyfriend. Friday, February 12, should be just another day in her charmed life. Instead, it turns out to be her last.

The catch: Samantha still wakes up the next morning. Living the last day of her life seven times during one miraculous week, she will untangle the mystery surrounding her death--and discover the true value of everything she is in danger of losing.

Why?:  This is Ashley's pick for the month of October. I've liked the Delirium series by Lauren Oliver. The concpet of this book is also pretty interesting. It is like Groundhog Day meets The Lovely Bones. 

Expectations: I'm expecting a very interesting mystery with some slight spiritual tones. I am interested how Oliver will portray an afterlife. This book may focus more on the worldly story though. 

Judging a book by its cover:  This is a pretty bland cover. Not much is revealed. Is that girl dead?If so, that makes this cover a lot more creepy. I wouldn't have picked this book off the shelf at a store unless I noticed the author.

-PAUL 

Paul's October Book: Every Day by David Levithan (Ashley's Pre-Reading)

Title: Every Day
Author: David Levithan
Year Published: 2012

Synopsis:   A has no friends. No parents. No family. No possessions. No home, even. Because every day, A wakes up in the body of a different person.

Every morning, a different bed. A different room. A different house. A different life. A is able to access each person's memory, enough to be able to get through the day without parents, friends, and teachers realizing this is not their child, not their friend, not their student. Because it isn't. It's A.

Inhabiting each person's body. Seeing the world through their eyes. Thinking with their brain. Speaking with their voice. It's a lonely existence—until, one day, it isn't. A meets a girl named Rhiannon. And, in an instant, A falls for her, after a perfect day together.

But when night falls, it's over. Because A can never be the same person twice. But yet, A can't stop thinking about her. She becomes A's reason for existing. So each day, in different bodies—of all shapes, sizes, backgrounds, walks of life—A tries to get back to her. And convince her of their love. But can their love transcend such an obstacle?

Why?: The whole concept of only being able to live in one body is really interesting. Why is A cursed with this existence? Is there magic involved? Also, the lack of pronouns in the summary is intriguing - is A always a boy? Or is A sometimes a girl? Does it even matter what gender A is? Also, Paul chose this for his October book, so I  get to read it too!

Expectations: I expect a different love story than any I've ever read. Also, some mystery. And I hope magic! But probably not.

Judging a book by its cover: Yeah, this cover is not anything I would ever pick off a shelf. It's too black and white, and the whole people falling from the sky thing makes me think of The Wizard of Oz. I think it's too artsy for me...


--Ashley

Monday, October 1, 2012

Ashley's October Book: Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver (Pre-Reading)

Title: Before I Fall
Author: Lauren Oliver 
Year Published: 2011

Synopsis: What if you only had one day to live? What would you do? Who would you kiss? And how far would you go to save your own life?

Samantha Kingston has it all: looks, popularity, the perfect boyfriend. Friday, February 12, should be just another day in her charmed life. Instead, it turns out to be her last.

The catch: Samantha still wakes up the next morning. Living the last day of her life seven times during one miraculous week, she will untangle the mystery surrounding her death--and discover the true value of everything she is in danger of losing


Why?: I've read both books in Oliver's Delirium trilogy, and loved both of them, so I wanted to see what her debut novel was like. I've heard very good things about it, and I've wanted to read it for a while. I'm excited to see how Oliver will construct the world and the characters given that Samantha only lives one day.

Expectations: I expect a very emotional novel dealing with life and death, and how people would live differently if they knew they were going to die at the end of the day. I expect the heroine to be a strong young woman, but I don't expect her to fully grasp why she's given the chance (or maybe forced?) to live her last day over and over. 

Judging a book by its cover: Typically, I wouldn't pick up a book with a cover like this. The colors and the picture of the girl's face that's really close don't really depict a story I'd be interested in. But, that being said, I think the cover is done well for what it is.


--Ashley