Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Alex (Delirium #3.5) by Lauren Oliver - Paul's Review

Goodreads

Title: Alex
Author: Lauren Oliver
Year Published: 2013

Ashley's Review


Review: Like the other novellas, this one gives us a glimpse into a minor character's head. The voice is so different from the rest. It feels very Alex.

I wasn't a big fan of Alex in the second and third books of this trilogy, but I felt more for him when I saw his perspective. Many scenes we already are familiar with from Lena's point of view are retold from Alex's.

I liked seeing his thoughts and learning more about his past. I want more novellas! I think the Delirium world has come to a close, but I want more! Oliver did an excellent job creating this world and filling it with interesting characters. I give this novella a 4/5.


--PAUL

Foundation (Razorland #0.5) by Ann Aguirre - Ashley's Review

Goodreads | Tor.com

Title: Foundation
Author: Ann Aguirre
Year Published: 2012

My Enclave Review
My Endurance Review

Synopsis: In Ann Aguirre’s award-winning novel, Enclave, humans have taken refuge in colonies below ground. Here is the story of what drove them there, told through the eyes of a teen who would later have vast influence over the fate of many, and who gave his heart to the one person who needed him most.

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Review: Since I finished Enclave, I've been curious as to whether we'll find out about the origin of the Freaks. And then, when I finished Endurance, I wanted to know who Robin was. And then I found this little story, which answered both questions! Well, at least in part. We also get a little bit of background on the world and helps make a broader picture of what Deuce, Fade, Slacker, and Tegan might be up against.

For some reason, I associate the name "Robin" with a female character (I'm blaming HIMYM for that), so it took me a few pages to realize that the narrator is actually male - which I should have known from the description. The only difference this makes is that Robin is gay; otherwise, his character could be totally gender neutral. I'm not entirely sure that that bit of information is necessary to the story, or that the little bit of romance that's included is necessary. I'm also not sure it was necessary to mention that he comes from a mixed family. All of those things seem trivial to me, but I guess it helps develop him as a character? I don't know.

I did enjoy the connection between Robin and the Wordkeeper, Robin's father and Bonesaw (though it isn't explicitly mentioned), and how the system of Hunters, Builders, and Breeders is formed. By the end of the story, I understand why it was so short but I still wish we had been given more. I still have so many questions about the disease and the Freaks and everything, but hopefully we'll get those answers later on.

I would recommend this story to anyone who has read at least Enclave and Endurance. I really liked how it tied up some loose ends and connected those stories, but I wish it was longer and answered a few more questions. A 3/5 on this one from me.


--Ashley

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Raven (Delirium #2.5) by Lauren Oliver - Paul's Review

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Title: Raven
Author: Lauren Oliver
Year Published: 2012

Ashley's Review

Synopsis: This captivating 50-page digital-original story set in the world of Lauren Oliver’s New York Times bestselling Delirium series focuses on Raven, the fiery leader of a rebel group in the Wilds.

As a teenager, Raven made the split-second decision to flee across the border to the Wilds, compelled to save an abandoned newborn—a baby girl left for dead and already blue from the cold. When she and the baby are taken in by a band of rebels, Raven finds herself an outsider within a tight-knit group. The only other newcomer is an untrustworthy boy known as the Thief until he finally earns himself a new name: Tack.

Now she and Tack are inseparable, committed to each other, the fledgling rebellion, and a future together. But as they both take center stage in the fight, Raven must decide whether the dangers of the revolution are worth risking her dreams of a peaceful life with Tack.

As her story hurtles back and forth between past and present, Raven transforms from a scared girl newly arrived in the Wilds to the tough leader who helps Lena save former Deliria-Free poster boy Julian Fineman from a death sentence. Whatever the original mission may have been, Raven abides by a conviction that she believes to her core: You always return for the people you love.

By turns surprising, revelatory, and poignant, Raven’s story enriches the Delirium world and resonates with a voice that is as vulnerable as it is strong.



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Review: Lauren Oliver did an excellent job with these novellas. They are just glimpses into minor characters' heads. I love the way she writes in a different voice for each character. This novella felt very Raven.

Raven isn't that deep of a character in the regular trilogy. You don't know a lot about her other than that she's an awesome survivor and leader. This novella adds depth to her character. It really explains the character of Raven

This novella is so well written. I like the way we get to see a less guarded side of Raven. I really liked the ending. It was so bitter sweet. I give this novella a 5/5.


--PAUL

Siege and Storm (The Grisha #2) by Leigh Bardugo - Ashley's Pre-Reading

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Title: Siege and Storm
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Year Published: 2013

Paul's Pre-Reading

Synopsis:
Darkness never dies.


Hunted across the True Sea, haunted by the lives she took on the Fold, Alina must try to make a life with Mal in an unfamiliar land. She finds starting new is not easy while keeping her identity as the Sun Summoner a secret. She can’t outrun her past or her destiny for long.

The Darkling has emerged from the Shadow Fold with a terrifying new power and a dangerous plan that will test the very boundaries of the natural world. With the help of a notorious privateer, Alina returns to the country she abandoned, determined to fight the forces gathering against Ravka. But as her power grows, Alina slips deeper into the Darkling’s game of forbidden magic, and farther away from Mal. Somehow, she will have to choose between her country, her power, and the love she always thought would guide her--or risk losing everything to the oncoming storm.

Why?: I read and loved Shadow and Bone, as well as the two short stories released as part of the series, and have loved all of them. I'm so excited to finally be able to find out what's next for Alina, Mal, and the Darkling. 

Expectations: I expect a dark novel with a lot of magic and adventure. Also, probably a lot of mystery and self-discovery, and more romance than the first installment. Since I loved Shadow and Bone so much though, I'm expecting quite a lot from this book.

Judging a book by its cover: This cover has a very Russian feel to it, like the first book did. I especially like the dragon at the top. If I saw this one on a shelf in a bookstore or library, I would most likely pick it up. 


--Ashley

Monday, July 29, 2013

Annabel (Delirium #1.5) by Lauren Oliver - Paul's Review

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Title: Annabel

Author: Lauren Oliver
Year Published: 2012

Ashley's Review

Synopsis: Lena's mother, Annabel, has always been a mystery—a ghost in Lena's past. Until now.


Discover her secrets in Lauren Oliver's brilliant original digital story set in the world of New York Times bestsellers Delirium and Pandemonium.


Lena Halloway's mother, Annabel, supposedly committed suicide when Lena was only six years old. That's the lie that Lena grew up believing, but the truth is very different. As a rebellious teenager, Annabel ran away from home and straight into the man she knew she was destined to marry. The world was different then—the regulations not as stringent, the cure only a decade old. Fast forward to the present, and Annabel is consigned to a dirty prison cell, where she nurtures her hope of escape and scratches one word over and over into the walls: Love.


But Annabel, like Lena, is a fighter. Through chapters that alternate between her past and present, Annabel reveals the story behind her failed cures, her marriage, the births of her children, her imprisonment, and, ultimately, her daring escape.



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Review: These novellas are really great. I love that they are all compiled into a paperback. This one is from Lena's mom, Annabel,'s perspective.

I liked that we got to see what the world was like when Annabel was young and the dystopia aspect of the world was just forming. I kind if got a weird 60's vibe from it, but I think that was just me.
This novella follows the same format of Pandemonium with "now" and "then" sections. I like the way they played off of each other.

I was surprised how much depth was added to this character in such few pages. The storytelling was excellent and I want more! I'm glad these novellas exist. I give this particular novella a 4/5.

A Darkness Strange and Lovely (Something Strange and Deadly #2) by Susan Dennard - Ashley's Review

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Title: A Darkness Strange and Lovely
Author: Susan Dennard
Year Published: 2013

My Pre-Reading
My Something Strange and Deadly Review
My A Dawn Most Wicked Review

Synopsis:  
Following an all-out battle with the walking Dead, the Spirit Hunters have fled Philadelphia, leaving Eleanor alone to cope with the devastating aftermath. But there’s more trouble ahead—the evil necromancer Marcus has returned, and his diabolical advances have Eleanor escaping to Paris to seek the help of Joseph, Jie, and the infuriatingly handsome Daniel once again. When she arrives, however, she finds a whole new darkness lurking in this City of Light. As harrowing events unfold, Eleanor is forced to make a deadly decision that will mean life or death for everyone.



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Review: Ohmygosh you guys. This book. Like I don't even think I have words to describe how amazing this book was. I was up so late finishing it because I just couldn't put it down. I didn't think it was possible, but this book might be even better than the first one. I'll try to keep things as spoiler free as possible...

I absolutely love Eleanor, and I love how different she is in this book compared to Something Strange and Deadly. She's stronger, braver, and willing to do whatever it takes to protect herself and those she loves. She does make some bad decisions, but who doesn't? I do think that the Spirit Hunters were all very quick to judge her though, and that kind of annoyed me. I mean, give the poor girl a break and let her explain herself.  

Speaking of the Spirit Hunters, I thought it was interesting that they really weren't in the book as much as I expected. Don't get me wrong, they're there, and they're important, but it just seems like they had a bigger presence in SS&D. This book felt very focused on Eleanor, and it worked very well. I just missed them. And I was very sad not to see as much of Daniel as I hoped. I adore him and the scenes he was in, and it's obvious how much cares for Eleanor. Seeing him all dressed up and trying to act like a proper gentleman made me laugh too, because it was just so out of character - at least the character I knew before. I think it makes it all the more endearing when he slips back into his normal habits though. 

I could go on about the characters all day though, especially Oliver, Laure, and all of the other new people we're introduced to. Even the minor characters are so well developed that I feel like I know them all. Dennard does an excellent job expanding the world she's created, and seeing Paris through Eleanor's eyes was really cool. And I really enjoyed the irony of the darkness in the City of Light. And learning what the Darkness that is Strange and Lovely is! Figuring out where the title comes from in the book is one of my favorite things ever.

Although this book takes place over the course of maybe a month (it might be longer, but it feels like about a week), everything is very fast paced and flows so smoothly. I never felt like things were dragging or that we were given detail just for the heck of it. Everything is important, and if you play close enough attention, you can definitely figure out all of the twists and everything without it taking away from anything. I literally could not put the book down, and never wanted it to end.

I'm so sad that now I've got to wait a whole year again, but that just gives me time to read these books all over again. I definitely recommend this to anyone who has read the first book. If you haven't started the series yet, do it ASAP! Especially if you are looking for a new twist on zombies, a strong heroine, romance with a very swoon-worthy boy, adventure, action, a little bit of steam punk, and a dark story with comic relief. I would most definitely give this one a 5/5, and can't wait until I can get my hands on the conclusion to this trilogy! I will certainly be doing a re-read later this year too. One of my favorite books and series by far!


--Ashley 

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Requiem (Delirium #3) by Lauren Oliver - Paul's Pre-Reading

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Title: Requiem (Delirium #3)

Author: Lauren Oliver
Year Published: 2013

Ashley's Review

Synopsis: 
They have tried to squeeze us out, to stamp us into the past.


But we are still here.


And there are more of us every day.


Now an active member of the resistance, Lena has been transformed. The nascent rebellion that was under way in Pandemonium has ignited into an all-out revolution in Requiem, and Lena is at the center of the fight.


After rescuing Julian from a death sentence, Lena and her friends fled to the Wilds. But the Wilds are no longer a safe haven—pockets of rebellion have opened throughout the country, and the government cannot deny the existence of Invalids. Regulators now infiltrate the borderlands to stamp out the rebels, and as Lena navigates the increasingly dangerous terrain, her best friend, Hana, lives a safe, loveless life in Portland as the fiancĂ©e of the young mayor.


Maybe we are driven crazy by our feelings.


Maybe love is a disease, and we would be better off without it.


But we have chosen a different road.


And in the end, that is the point of escaping the cure: We are free to choose.


We are even free to choose the wrong thing.


Requiem is told from both Lena’s and Hana’s points of view. The two girls live side by side in a world that divides them until, at last, their stories converge.


Why?: This is the third book in the Delirium trilogy. I enjoyed the second book, Pandemonium, even more than the first. Im hoping this one is even better.

Expectations: As the third book in a dystopian trilogy, I'm expecting a huge Finale. Maybe an epic war? Maybe a one-on-one confrontation? Maybe an internal realization? Whatever it ends up being, I want a good ending.


Judging a Book by its Cover: I'm not a huge fan of these covers. They are too similar. The color differences aren't even that much. There is a fierceness I'm the eyes that I do like, though.


--PAUL

Ignite (Ignite #1) by Erica Crouch - Ashley's Pre-Reading

*I received this book as an eARC from Patchwork Press on NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*


Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Title: Ignite
Author: Erica Crouch
Year Published: 2013

Synopsis: 
Penemuel (Pen) fell from grace over a millennium ago, yet there are still times she questions her decision to follow her twin brother, Azael, to Hell. Now that the archangel Michael has returned, threatening Lucifer’s vie for the throne, she begins questioning everything she has always believed. 


As Hell prepares for war - spreading a demonic virus and pilfering innocent souls to build an army - the lines separating the worlds blur. Fates erase and the future is left unwritten. Azael is determined that he and his sister will continue to serve as demons together, but for the first time in her life, Pen is not ruled by destiny. She has the freedom of choice. 

With choice comes sacrifice, and Pen must decide which side she’s willing to risk everything fighting for: the light, or the dark.

Why?: Most books about angels vs. demons are written from the perspective of the angels - the good side. I don't think I've ever read a book from the viewpoint of a demon, so that made this book sound really interesting. I don't think this book is a new concept by any means, but I'm interested to see how Crouch puts her own spin on things.

Expectations: I expect a good vs. evil, demons vs. angels, light vs. dark war that turns from black and white into something more gray. I think there will be a lot of fighting, but also a lot of self-discovery for Pen. Other than that, I'm not sure what to expect.

Judging a book by its cover: I really like this cover. I assume the girl on the cover is Pen, and she definitely looks like a dark angel. It isn't colorful or flashy, but it still catches my attention and I would probably pick it up if I saw it sitting on a shelf somewhere. 


--Ashley

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Enclave (Razorland #1) by Ann Aguirre - Ashley's Review

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Title: Enclave
Author: Ann Aguirre
Year Published: 2011

My Pre-Reading

Synopsis: 
In Deuce’s world, people earn the right to a name only if they survive their first fifteen years. By that point, each unnamed ‘brat’ has trained into one of three groups–Breeders, Builders, or Hunters, identifiable by the number of scars they bear on their arms. Deuce has wanted to be a Huntress for as long as she can remember.


As a Huntress, her purpose is clear—to brave the dangerous tunnels outside the enclave and bring back meat to feed the group while evading ferocious monsters known as Freaks. She’s worked toward this goal her whole life, and nothing’s going to stop her, not even a beautiful, brooding Hunter named Fade. When the mysterious boy becomes her partner, Deuce’s troubles are just beginning.

Down below, deviation from the rules is punished swiftly and harshly, and Fade doesn't like following orders. At first Deuce thinks he’s crazy, but as death stalks their sanctuary, and it becomes clear the elders don’t always know best, Deuce wonders if Fade might be telling the truth. Her partner confuses her; she’s never known a boy like him before, as prone to touching her gently as using his knives with feral grace.

As Deuce’s perception shifts, so does the balance in the constant battle for survival. The mindless Freaks, once considered a threat only due to their sheer numbers, show signs of cunning and strategy… but the elders refuse to heed any warnings. Despite imminent disaster, the enclave puts their faith in strictures and sacrifice instead. No matter how she tries, Deuce cannot stem the dark tide that carries her far from the only world she’s ever known.
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Review: This book surprised me - I was not expecting to fall in love with it as much and as quickly as I did. I knew it was a dystopian book with a strong female main character, but I had no idea what else was in store for me. From the beginning to the end, this book had me hook, line, and sinker.

Although it takes a few chapters for the plot to actually get moving, the set up and background information is still very interesting on its own. I never felt like things were moving too slowly or that there was too much information. The pacing and the detail were absolutely perfect for what was happening. And then, as Deuce learns more about College and the politics behind it, we're thrown into a crazy adventure that keeps throwing more and more surprises at you. I felt like I was right there with Deuce and Fade and the new friends they meet along the way, and I was scared for them most of the time. 

Because aside from the crumbling enclave, there are also the Freaks to worry about. We don't know much about them except that they will eat anything they can except other living Freaks and are pretty slow and stupid. Or at least, they used to be. They kind of have a zombie feel about them, which I loved. I'm kind of on a zombie kick right now, so that was a really pleasant surprise. I just really enjoy how many different variations of zombies there are, and Aguirre manages to take a well known pop culture phenomenon and make it something totally her own. So major props on that. 

Like The Hunger Games, this is a very dark dystopian book (although that's really where the similarities end). We're presented with some very depressing topics, like death and exile and rape, among other things, and I think it's interesting to see how Deuce deals with them. She's very strong, and she's taught that the strong survive her entire life, so I can see how she wouldn't understand how someone would "allow" themselves to be subjected to the things Tegan is subjected too. Deuce is very narrow-minded, and she grows so much over the course of the book, and has so much more growing to do. I'm excited to see how she changes further over the rest of the series.

I also really loved Fade. I'm not sure the romance aspect was set up very well, but I think it eventually worked. I really wish we had the opportunity to see in Fade's mind in this book, but at the same time I don't know that it would have been an effective approach. He's strong, but he's also been hurt, and he kind of hides inside himself whenever things don't go exactly like he thinks they should. I think that makes him very real, and I definitely found myself wanting to give him a big hug whenever he seemed upset. 

All in all, I absolutely loved this book. The plot and the characters and just everything about it made this exactly the kind of story I've been looking for. I would most definitely recommend it to fans of The Hunger Games and Divergent series, and to anyone who enjoys YA dystopians in general. It's dark and scary at times, so I wouldn't recommend it to a younger audience though. I can't wait to read more of the Razorland series, and will be getting my hands on Outpost and Horde ASAP. A 5/5 for Enclave


--Ashley

Friday, July 26, 2013

Siege and Storm (The Grisha #2) by Leigh Bardugo - Paul's Review

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Title: Siege and Storm (The Grisha #2)
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Year Published: 2013

Paul's Pre-Reading
Paul's Review of Shadow and Bone
Ashley's Review of Shadow and Bone

Synopsis: Hunted across the True Sea, haunted by the lives she took on the Fold, Alina must try to make a life with Mal in an unfamiliar land, all while keeping her identity as the Sun Summoner a secret. But she can’t outrun her past or her destiny for long.

The Darkling has emerged from the Shadow Fold with a terrifying new power and a dangerous plan that will test the very boundaries of the natural world. With the help of a notorious privateer, Alina returns to the country she abandoned, determined to fight the forces gathering against Ravka. But as her power grows, Alina slips deeper into the Darkling’s game of forbidden magic, and farther away from Mal. Somehow, she will have to choose between her country, her power, and the love she always thought would guide her–or risk losing everything to the oncoming storm.


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Review: This was a surprisingly slow read for me, but I don't think it was the book's fault. I think I subconsciously didn't want to ever finish it.

Shadow and Bone was one of my favorite books of last year and this sequel meets the high expectations I had. Bardugo created such an extensive, interesting world with a cool system of power and order. Then, she broke it. Those are always the best books, books in which the world is just so epic and its falling apart.

All the characters are back, especially the minor characters. Many of them have changed quite a bit since the last book. The Mal and Alina relationship takes an interesting turn, but its reminiscent of most middle book in a trilogy relationships.

There are also new characters. I really enjoyed the Stormund character. I enjoyed him more than Mal.

I like the way Alina is seen as a Saint figure and the way different groups see her. She has become such a powerful person in this world.

The ending was so good! Everything came together. I am so excited for the next book! 5/5!



--PAUL

Endurance (Razorland #1.5) by Ann Aguirre - Ashley's Review

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Title: Endurance

Author: Ann Aguirre
Year Published: 2012

Synopsis: When rebellion destroys the underground world in which Thimble and Stone have grown up, they take Stone’s son and try to escape the chaos. Along the way, they must evade the Freaks, beings who feed on human flesh. Leaving behind the roles of Builder and Breeder which they were assigned at birth, they wander the underground tunnels, looking for safety yet afraid to go “topside” where legend has it that the light and water will burn their skin from their bones.


Their journey takes them upward to an unimagined world of tinned food, comfortable furniture, and books. Away from their regimented society for the first time, and still facing imminent danger, Thimble and Stone acknowledge the forbidden attraction which both have denied for years.



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Review: I'm such a sucker for short stories about minor characters, and this one was definitely no exception. Like Deuce, I wondered what happened to Thimble and Stone after Deuce and Fade leave the enclave. Did the Freaks attack and take over College? Did Thimble and Stone survive? Did they even know that Deuce lied for Stone? This story answered all my questions and even gave me answers to questions I didn't even know I had! 

I really liked that the chapters went back and forth between Stone and Thimble, and that we get to see the rebellion from both of their perspectives. We also get to see how they finally come to accept and admit their feelings for each other, and the little bit of romance included in this story was actually nice. Both characters have their strengths, and I enjoyed learning about how they were able to play off of each other and survive. 

Hopefully we get to learn more about Stone and Thimble, and Robin too!, because I still want to know what happens to them after the end of this story. I love this world and the characters and the story and everything, and I can't wait to read more. I would give this story a 4/5 and recommend it to anyway who has read any of the Razorland series. 


--Ashley

Thursday, July 25, 2013

A Darkness Strange and Lovely (Something Strange and Deadly #2) by Susan Dennard - Ashley's Pre-Reading

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Title: A Darkness Strange and Lovely
Author: Susan Dennard
Year Published: 2013

Synopsis:  
Following an all-out battle with the walking Dead, the Spirit Hunters have fled Philadelphia, leaving Eleanor alone to cope with the devastating aftermath. But there’s more trouble ahead—the evil necromancer Marcus has returned, and his diabolical advances have Eleanor escaping to Paris to seek the help of Joseph, Jie, and the infuriatingly handsome Daniel once again. When she arrives, however, she finds a whole new darkness lurking in this City of Light. As harrowing events unfold, Eleanor is forced to make a deadly decision that will mean life or death for everyone.


Why?: I loved everything about Something Strange and Deadly, and I've been anxiously waiting to find out what's next for Eleanor, Daniel, Joseph, and Jie. Plus zombies, steam punk, mystery, adventure, and romance. So, of course I'm going to read this book! 

Expectations: I'm really expect a lot from this book. Something Strange and Deadly was so good, that I'm hoping this one is even better. I'm looking forward to learning more about Marcus and the dead, as well as the Spirit Hunters. I think Eleanor will be stronger and braver in this book than she was at the beginning of the first one.

Judging a book by its cover: I absolutely love this cover. I fell in love with the Something Strange and Deadly cover, and this one is even better than that one. I would totally pick this book up if I saw it on a shelf somewhere... especially because I absolutely love Eleanor's dress. 


--Ashley

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Water (Akasha #1) by Terra Harmony - Ashley's Review

*I received this book from Patchwork Press on Netgalley in exchange for an honest review*

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Title: Water
Author: Terra Harmony
Year Published: 2011

My Pre-Reading

Synopsis: 
Elemental powers in the palm of her hand...and it won't be enough to save her. 


When Kaitlyn Alder is involuntarily introduced to a life of magic, she becomes part of an organization hell-bent on saving the Earth. Just as her new-found life holds promises of purpose, romance, and friendship, the organization divides and a rogue member holds Kaitlyn hostage. 

Now one of the most terrifying men the human race has to offer stands between her and Earth's survival.
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Review: When I received this book, I completely missed that it was filed under the "New Adult" genre. I've been kind of avoiding all things New Adult, because I wasn't really interested in the whole "romance featuring 18-25 year olds!" thing. I am so glad that I missed that classification on this book though, because Water was so much more than I was expecting and I'm glad I didn't pass it up because it was "New Adult." 

I've never really read an eco-fantasy book, but I think the concept is very interesting and Harmony does an excellent job of making it not seem like some tree-hugging book that's all "Save the environment!" with little to no plot or action. The plot actually moves along pretty quickly once you get past the setup, and I found myself not wanting to put the book down the further in I got. Once Kaitlyn begins to understand her powers a little bit, the pace picks up even further. 

The "rogue member" isn't really a huge secret - I figured out who he was pretty early on. And he is pretty terrifying. I think most of the reason this book isn't classified as YA is because of the things he does to Kaitlyn (including raping her). Although those parts were a little hard to read (and I wouldn't recommend this book to a younger audience because of them), I think that they were very necessary to showing him as the monster he is. I also think that the events made her a stronger heroine - she uses her anger towards him to keep her focused on her escape plan. 

I do think that the romance between Kaitlyn and Micah moves a little too fast to make sense at the beginning, but I was glad when things slowed down. They get to know each other better, and they have their issues, but I liked them much more as a couple at the end of the book than I did at the beginning. I'm still not sure about them, but we'll see how they progress throughout the rest of the series. The romance is kind of important to the plot, but it's more of a side plot, so that was nice. 

Although there is magic involved in this story, I think Harmony did an excellent job of making it sound like something plausible. The places are very real, and the characters are not over-the-top and unbelievable. Kaitlyn, Micah, and Shawn could be people that we all know and love. They just have the ability to manipulate either nature or someone else's powers. It's a really cool concept, and I can't wait to see how it's developed in the rest of the series. 

For the most part, I really enjoyed Water. I would recommend it to someone looking to get their feet wet (haha) in the New Adult genre, or to someone who enjoys fantasy novels. Especially atypical fantasy novels. I would give this book a 4/5, and I can't wait to read the next installment! 


--Ashley

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Enclave (Razorland #1) by Ann Aguirre - Ashley's Pre-Reading

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Title: Enclave
Author: Ann Aguirre
Year Published: 2011

Synopsis: 
In Deuce’s world, people earn the right to a name only if they survive their first fifteen years. By that point, each unnamed ‘brat’ has trained into one of three groups–Breeders, Builders, or Hunters, identifiable by the number of scars they bear on their arms. Deuce has wanted to be a Huntress for as long as she can remember.


As a Huntress, her purpose is clear—to brave the dangerous tunnels outside the enclave and bring back meat to feed the group while evading ferocious monsters known as Freaks. She’s worked toward this goal her whole life, and nothing’s going to stop her, not even a beautiful, brooding Hunter named Fade. When the mysterious boy becomes her partner, Deuce’s troubles are just beginning.

Down below, deviation from the rules is punished swiftly and harshly, and Fade doesn't like following orders. At first Deuce thinks he’s crazy, but as death stalks their sanctuary, and it becomes clear the elders don’t always know best, Deuce wonders if Fade might be telling the truth. Her partner confuses her; she’s never known a boy like him before, as prone to touching her gently as using his knives with feral grace.

As Deuce’s perception shifts, so does the balance in the constant battle for survival. The mindless Freaks, once considered a threat only due to their sheer numbers, show signs of cunning and strategy… but the elders refuse to heed any warnings. Despite imminent disaster, the enclave puts their faith in strictures and sacrifice instead. No matter how she tries, Deuce cannot stem the dark tide that carries her far from the only world she’s ever known.

Why?:
I love dystopian novels, and I've been wanting to read this book for a while now. A strong female protagonist, adventure, a little bit of romance, imminent disaster and a futuristic dystopian world set around New York? Count me in! I can't believe I haven't read this yet.

Expectations: I expect an adventure with some romance, mystery, and danger thrown in. I've heard so many good things about this series, so I have pretty high expectations for it.

Judging a book by its cover: This cover kind of looks like something you'd see on a TMNT advertisement, so I'm totally ok with that. It's shiny too, so I'd probably pick it up if I saw it on a shelf somewhere. It doesn't really give too much away about the book either, so I'm intrigued.



--Ashley

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Tailor (Grisha #1.5) by Leigh Bardugo - Ashley's Review

Goodreads | Scribd

Title: The Tailor
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Year Published: 2013

Synopsis: New scene from Shadow and Bone told from Genya's point of view.
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Review: This new scene is very short (18 pages), so there's not too much to review for it. I pretty much love anything by Leigh Bardugo, so it's not really a surprise that this story (even though it is pretty short) is great. 

I've been interested in learning more about Genya since we meet her in Shadow and Bone, and I was so excited to learn about this scene. I feel like we don't get a really god explanation of her background or motives in Shadow and Bone, and this story really provides more details about her life that help us better understand who she is and why she does what she does. 

We also get to learn a little bit more about the Darkling (I can't help but love him), and about what happens to Alina's letters to Mal. I think all of the information that we gain in this very brief scene really help to expand some characters we don't know much about, and that in turn helps readers understand the more major players.

I would totally recommend this to anyone who is a fan of the Grisha series. Plus, it's free! So you don't have much to lose at all. It's totally worth it. 4/5 from me, only because I wish it was longer! 


--Ashley

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Prey by Michael Crichton - Ashley's Review

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Title: Prey
Author: Michael Crichton
Year Published: 2002

My Pre-Reading

Synopsis: 
In the Nevada desert, an experiment has gone horribly wrong. A cloud of nanoparticles—micro-robots—has escaped from the laboratory. This cloud is self-sustaining and self-reproducing. It is intelligent and learns from experience. For all practical purposes, it is alive.


It has been programmed as a predator. It is evolving swiftly, becoming more deadly with each passing hour.

Every attempt to destroy it has failed.

And we are the prey.

As fresh as today's headlines, Michael Crichton's most compelling novel yet tells the story of a mechanical plague and the desperate efforts of a handful of scientists to stop it. Drawing on up-to-the-minute scientific fact, Prey takes us into the emerging realms of nanotechnology and artificial distributed intelligence—in a story of breathtaking suspense. Prey is a novel you can't put down.

Because time is running out.
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Review: I've never read a Michael Crichton novel before, and now I'm a little concerned as to what I might be missing out on. This book was absolutely fantastic, and I'm so glad it was recommended to me. I loved how the real science was blended with fiction - it made everything seem so much scarier because it might actually be able to happen. Nanoparticles can be kind of scary anyway, but to have a swarm of them become self-aware is terrifying. After taking a class on nanotechnology, it was also really interesting to see the field in its earlier stages even though it was presented in a work of fiction.

Although the book picked up about 1/4 of the way through, the beginning seemed a little slow. Yes, it was necessary background, but I had a little bit of a hard time getting past all of the family issues and such before coming to the meat of the story. It was interesting and well written, but it just didn't seem like it was important (at first). I do think it made the story more feel real though - all of the characters are flawed in some way or another, and nobody is perfect or makes the best decisions.

I also really enjoyed how subtle details from earlier in the book came into play later on, once we start to learn about the swarms. Not everything is as it seems, and it makes for a more thrilling read. At least in my humble opinion. And then you have the swarms themselves. Those things are freaking scary, and it's amazing to me how Crichton is able to take something that is just a bunch of tiny robots and turn it into a crazy predator that hunts pretty much everything that moves. And then, even when the story starts to get weird, it's still pretty crazy and I could totally see it happening.

I will definitely be checking out more of Crichton's books - I'll probably hunt down Jurassic Park next. This book has some pretty strong language in it, so I wouldn't recommend it to young kids or anyone who is easily offended, but I would definitely recommend this to any fans of fiction backed by real science, suspense, thrillers, and all those sorts of books. I would give this book a 4/5.


--Ashley

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Water (Akasha #1) by Terra Harmony - Ashley's Pre-Reading

*I received this book from Patchwork Press on Netgalley in exchange for an honest review*

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Title: Water
Author: Terra Harmony
Year Published: 2011

Synopsis: 
Elemental powers in the palm of her hand...and it won't be enough to save her. 


When Kaitlyn Alder is involuntarily introduced to a life of magic, she becomes part of an organization hell-bent on saving the Earth. Just as her new-found life holds promises of purpose, romance, and friendship, the organization divides and a rogue member holds Kaitlyn hostage. 

Now one of the most terrifying men the human race has to offer stands between her and Earth's survival.

Why?: I mean, who wouldn't want to read this book based on that description? Magic, a doomed planet, secret organizations with rogue members and hostage situations, and a terrifying man? Count me in! 

Expectations: I'm honestly not sure what to expect. I hope this book is full of magic and all of that jazz and not so heavy on the romance, but I have no clue. Definitely some world-building going on even though it's set on Earth since there's magic and elemental powers and things.

Judging a book by its cover: I actually kind of like this cover. It's not complicated, but it relates well the to the title. The water stands out against the black background really well, and makes it visually appealing. I would probably pick this up if I saw it at the bookstore or the library.


--Ashley

Friday, July 19, 2013

Blood & Gold (The Ferryman + The Flame #2.5) by Rhiannon Paille - Ashley's Review

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Title: Blood & Gold

Author: Rhiannon Paille
Year Published: 2013

My Justice Review
My Lantern & Poison Review

Synopsis: This is Justice from the villain's POV.

The Daed are pawns to one of the most powerful members of the Valtanyana. Crestaos is insane, his hunger for the Flames insatiable. The closer the Daed get to achieving his goal, the more expendable they become.
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Review: While I love reading short stories from the perspectives of minor characters, I'm not sure that it's fair to say this is Justice from the villain's POV. I mean, it's a very condensed Justice, that's true. But we're not really seeing things through Crestaos' eyes. We actually get to view things from some of the Daed, and through the eyes of one of the Flames. And it's certainly interesting, but not really what I was hoping for. 

We are able to learn a little bit more about some of the Daed, and I think it's fascinating that they don't really support Crestaos as much as it appears in Justice. They're terrified of him, and rightly so. I mean, he's freaking crazy. And this story really portrays how crazy he is - we even learn that he's not human/elven/etc, he's actually a Mithronian (some sort of giant lizard creature). I think that really helps the reader understand him a little bit better, and since his people were banished to the center of the earth it kind of makes sense why he hates everyone.

I thought that this story flowed quite a bit better than Lantern & Poison, so that was nice. The plot is more cohesive, and I enjoyed seeing events from another viewpoint. I think this story actually helps broaden the world and gives a better insight into the conflict, so there's that too. I would definitely recommend it to anyone who has started reading The Ferryman + The Flame series, and would rate it as a 3/5. 


--Ashley

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Justice (The Ferryman + The Flame #2) by Rhiannon Paille - Ashley's Review


Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Title: Justice
Author: Rhiannon Paille
Year Published: 2013

My Pre-reading

Synopsis: 
How far would you go to destroy yourself?


Krishani always knew he would have to go to the Lands of Men, but he never thought it would be like this. Enemies everywhere, an ancestor he can't respect, elders he can't trust, a curse he can't stop and friends he can't help but hate. Desperate to end the pain, he sets out on a quest to find the other Flames and face the enemy that took everything from him.


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Review: I really want to like this series. It has the makings of a really good fantasy series, and the world building is really excellent. Every time I picked up this book, I was amazed by how complex Paille's world is because I often forgot that there are so many more lands than just the few that Krishani and his companions travel to. Although each Land isn't described completely in depth (the story would be so long if they were!), Paille gives just enough detail to make the reader feel like they are familiar with all of them. And I just think it's crazy how different all of them are - the amount of creativity and imagination required to come up with these lands is astonishing. So definitely props for that! 

This story is quite a bit more serious and more grimy than Surrender was. Although the elements of the love story are definitely there, this is more of a revenge story. Krishani is devastated, and his reason for continuing to live is just to avenge Kaliel. I really liked this this book was so much darker; I don't think I could have handled another love story, and I really enjoyed how this series did a complete 180 as far as themes and such. And I thought it was done well - Krishani's descent into the dark place he's in makes complete sense and isn't just something that comes out of the blue.

Although I like most of Paille's writing style, I did find myself confused at points throughout this book. It's a lot more stream of consciousness than I anticipated, and I found myself having to go back and read passages to figure out how we switched people or places or times. There was very little indication that we were no longer with Krishani on Terra, or that we were now several days in the future - or months in the past. I liked the flashbacks/dreams with Kaliel, but sometimes I felt like they were out of place or the transitions were very weak. So just be aware that this story isn't entirely linear and might not flow as easily as other YA fantasy books.

I thought the Vultures were really interesting, and I'm hoping we get to learn more about them in the next book. I also hope we get to learn more about some of the more minor characters (like the witches). Krishani was one of my least favorite characters in this book, but I just haven't really liked him from the beginning so I wasn't surprised that I still didn't like him. He's just not the hero type but I'm pretty sure that's the point, but I can't bring myself to like him. I think the Flames were my favorite characters, even if we don't know much about them yet. Especially Klavotesi. I didn't realize some of the Flames were male, and I thought that was really cool that they can basically be anyone. 

Overall, I think this series has a lot of potential. I enjoyed this book more than Surrender, but I still feel like I'm missing something. I will probably continue to read this series, since I've already invested the time to read the first two books and short stories,and I hope they continue to get better. I would recommend this book to anyone who read Surrender, even if you didn't like it - I think it's an important continuation to the story and might be more up your alley. If you haven't read Surrender, I think fans of YA Fantasy would like this series. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone very young though, since there are sexual situations and gory battles and such. I would rate this book a 3/5.


--Ashley