Monday, September 30, 2013

Under the Dome by Stephen King - Ashley's Pre-Reading

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Title: Under the Dome
Author: Stephen King
Year Published: 2009

Synopsis: 
On an entirely normal, beautiful fall day in Chester's Mill, Maine, the town is inexplicably and suddenly sealed off from the rest of the world by an invisible force field. Planes crash into it and fall from the sky in flaming wreckage, a gardener's hand is severed as "the dome" comes down on it, people running errands in the neighboring town are divided from their families, and cars explode on impact. No one can fathom what this barrier is, where it came from, and when -- or if -- it will go away. 


Dale Barbara, Iraq vet and now a short-order cook, finds himself teamed with a few intrepid citizens -- town newspaper owner Julia Shumway, a physician's assistant at the hospital, a select-woman, and three brave kids. Against them stands Big Jim Rennie, a politician who will stop at nothing -- even murder -- to hold the reins of power, and his son, who is keeping a horrible secret in a dark pantry. But their main adversary is the Dome itself. Because time isn't just short. It's running out

Why?: My boyfriend, as a fan of Stephen King, read this book before it was turned into a television show and really enjoyed it. Then we started watching the show, which I found really interesting. Hearing the book was better than the show (and not wanting to wait to find out what happens), my dad read the book and enjoyed it. So I figure at this point I should probably read it too. I haven't read much by King, but I really liked what I have read.

Expectations: I expect a sci-fi story with elements of horror and mystery. I don't want to base any of m expectations on the show, since I've heard that some pretty big plot points and characters have been changed, but I do hope that the book is better. King knows how to tell a story, so I do have pretty high expectations because of that.

Judging a book by its cover: I don't know how I feel about this cover. It isn't really eye-catching or stunning or anything, so I don't think I would pick it up off a shelf in a bookstore or library. I do think it fits the story without giving anything away though, so there's that.


--Ashley

The Legend of Korra: The Art of the Animated - Series Book 1: Air - Paul's REVIEW

*I received this book as an eARC from Dark Horse Comics on NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*

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Title: The Legend of Korra: The Art of the Animated Series - Book 1: Air
Authors: Michael Dante DiMartino, Bryan Konietzko, Dave Marshall
Year Published: 2013

Synopsis: Go behind the scenes of the animated series The Legend of Korra - created by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko - the smash-hit sequel to their blockbuster show Avatar: The Last Airbender! 

This handsome hardcover contains hundreds of pieces of never-before-seen artwork created during the development of Season 1 of the show. With captions from Michael and Bryan throughout, this is an intimate look inside the creative process that brought the mystical world of bending and a new generation of heroes to life!


Review: I absolutely loved Avatar: The Last Airbender. It was such a unique show. We won't mention the movie. The Legend of Korra has continued that uniqueness. It takes place in the same world, but so much has changed. I love seeing actual progression in a fantasy world. Usually a fantasy world is stable for decades or even sometimes centuries. Progress has come to the world of the Avatar. Mechanical contraptions begin to appear for a not quite steampunk kind of feel.

This book shows the art progression for the whole first season or Book One of Legend of Korra. So if you haven't finished the first season, be warned that this book contains spoilers.

This book has everything when it comes to artwork. There are small sketches of the initial ideas for characters. There are full spreads of a beautiful landscape or action scene. There are even sone diagrams of the technology. All of the artwork is beautiful. It's all so detailed.

In addition to the art, there is a foreword and comments throughout the book from the creators. There are nice little tidbits describing a characters evolution or inspiration.

This book would be a perfect gift for a fan of the television series. I could just flip through these pages and admire the artwork for hours. I give this book a 5/5.


-PAUL

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Irony of Survival (Zharmae Anthology Series #2) - Ashley's Review (Book II)

*I received this anthology from The Zharmae Publishing Press in exchange for an honest review*

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Title: Irony of Survival

Edited by: Anna McDermott
Year Published: 2013

My review of Irony of Survival: Book I

Synopsis: Futures teetering between fate and chance unravel in fantastical realities spanning time and space; each bringing us face-to-face with the unexpected in Irony of Survival – a dynamic collection that explores how life’s ironic twists and turns challenge and, at times, ensure mankind’s survival. 


Never before has the role of irony in challenging our perspective, questioning consequence, and disrupting equilibrium been more distinctly illuminated than in this artfully spellbinding work that provides readers a looking-glass through which to view their own tales of survival. 


Experience firsthand how an unlikely instance, in an instant, can be the turning point of destiny.



------------------------------------------------------

Review: Since this anthology is split into three different books, I think I'll review each story, with the reviews separated by Book. Anthologies are always so weird for me to review.

1. Tower of Strength by Colleen Anderson: This story is a re-imagining of the Crucifixion/Easter story, but from the viewpoint of Mary Magdalene and with the addition of ancient magic. I wasn't really sure what was happening at first because the names were all different and there was a lot of dialogue. There are some elements of the original story, but the magic seemed weird and out of place. It was alright, but just didn't hold my attention well and left me with more questions than answers. 2/5

2. Restitution by James Wymore: A group of people live on a spaceship used to dump garbage, and are made to live in, eat, and scavenge through the garbage in order to survive. After receiving visions, our protagonist decides to stage a mutiny and get all these people out of their lives of trash. I think the concept was interesting, and the characters were likable, but the underlying setup was underdeveloped. How could people on Earth just forget about all the people they sent up into space? And why is he all of a sudden getting these visions? This one had potential, but fell short in the details. 2.5/5

3. The Sentinel by Jak Kavan: A tech company develops a super processor, it disappears, and all of a sudden banks and stock markets start to collapse. I actually thought the idea was really interesting, once everything became connected. I think too much of the beginning focuses on finding the processor though, and on trying to hunt down the guy who they think took it. If more time was spent on the program and how/why it becomes a sentinel, I think it would have been better. 3/5

4. The Romance Chip by Jon Del Arroz: Imagine a world where romance is dictated by a government issued chip that tells you when you are compatible with someone. Now, what if you have never had a match? The idea of making romance this simple is actually really interesting. How would people actually react to it? Would it be worth it? I did feel sorry for the main character, but I think the coincidence at the end was very unbelievable. It was just too much coincidence. 3/5

5. Replacement Hearts by Edward McKeown: A man is injured so badly that he becomes a cyborg - mostly metal, but with his brain, heart, etc. all in tact. He lives alone and has no relationships with full humans except for professional ones. When he has to transport an android "joygirl" though, things change. This story is actually one of the better ones I've read. It's written well, isn't too slow, and has realistic and likable characters. 4/5

6. The Ice Dragon by J.B. Rockwell: This story tells about the life of a fearsome ice dragon. How she falls in love with a man, has sons and daughters, and what happens to them. I actually really liked this story. It was on the longer side, but never felt too long. It has the feel of a fairy tale, which is pretty cool. I would love to have learned more about this world, but the glimpse we got was enough for the story. 5/5! 

Overall, Book II would be about a 3/5. This Book was definitely better than the first one. I hope Book III is even better! 

--Ashley

RealLies: A Zharmae Collection of Short Works (Zharmae Anthology Series #1) - Paul's Review

*I received a copy of this book from The Zharmae Publishing Press in exchange for an honest review*

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


Title: RealLies: A Zharmae Collection of Short Works

Edited by: Max Avalon
Year Published: 2013

Ashley's REVIEW of RealLies (Part I: Curiosity)
Ashley's REVIEW of RealLies (Part II: Control)

Synopsis: Enter a world where fantasy and reality collide, where seeking answers only raises more questions, and the paths you choose can change everything you have ever known. The pages in this collection will send you on an adventure into the unknown to discover the truth about yourself and the world around you.


Create and destroy destinies when facts and reasons fail in Robson's "Walk on By." Question reality with Lisabeth in "Onward Into Dark," where dreams come to life and the past returns to haunt those searching to escape the truth. Don't believe in escapism? Join the characters of Pike's "The Wolf of Descarta," as they face reality head-on and struggle against wild fantasies that eclipse life itself.


But be careful, our dear readers. One bite of "reality" and you might wish you could wrap the illusions around your eyes once more because as you will find, the truth lies.



Review: For this anthology, I'm just going to give a brief description and mini review for two of its stories.

Chasing the Shadow by Karen McCreedy

An asteroid is coming at the earth. We have colonies on the moon and Mars. The protagonist is an astronaut on the moon. The short story follows the process of them attempting to rescue the planet Earth from total destruction. There are a lot of stories like this out there. Armageddon is one if my favorites. I didn't find anything special with this short story. 2/5


The Ghost in the Sword by Wol-Vriey Jesuto

There is a magic sword. There is also a animal farmer who thinks he isn't manly enough. The man finds himself in a position in which he wants revenge. I thought this was going to be a fairy-tale with a moral, but I don't think it was. I'm confused as to what this story was telling. I didn't like the portrayal of women and physical features. I thought it was done to teach a lesson, but I must have not got the lesson. The imagery was very interesting though. I liked the concept if the afterlife presented. 3/5


-PAUL

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Irony of Survival (Zharmae Anthology Series #2) - Ashley's Review (Book I)

*I received this anthology from The Zharmae Publishing Press in exchange for an honest review*

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


Title: Irony of Survival

Edited by: Anna McDermott
Year Published: 2013

Synopsis: Futures teetering between fate and chance unravel in fantastical realities spanning time and space; each bringing us face-to-face with the unexpected in Irony of Survival – a dynamic collection that explores how life’s ironic twists and turns challenge and, at times, ensure mankind’s survival. 


Never before has the role of irony in challenging our perspective, questioning consequence, and disrupting equilibrium been more distinctly illuminated than in this artfully spellbinding work that provides readers a looking-glass through which to view their own tales of survival. 


Experience firsthand how an unlikely instance, in an instant, can be the turning point of destiny.



------------------------------------------------------

Review: Since this anthology is split into three different books, I think I'll review each story, with the reviews separated by Book. Anthologies are always so weird for me to review.

1. Of Dogs and Vomit by Kevin Bennett: This is a story about a cop and an escaped slave and involves theft, drugs, and a secret plot involving government officials. I think it had some potential, but felt really awkward as a short story. There were chapters and it kept going back and forth between characters and perspectives and didn't really work. I think it would have been better as a full-length novel. 2.5/5

2. Catalogue Phantasma by Frances Pauli: What would you do if you found a catalogue that could make your dreams come true and then had to choose just one? I actually really enjoyed this story, although it did get a little confusing at times with the jumps between dreams and reality. I thought the ending was actually interesting and well done, and I'm not surprised that the MC made the choice she did. 4/5.

3. Shall You Know Me When You See Me? by Johanna Lipford: After 15 years of marriage to an older woman, Henry has an affair with his secretary and considers divorce. I'm not really sure how I felt about this story. The only character I really liked was the wife, Cynthia, and we don't really see much of her. I have absolutely no idea what happened at the end, and it felt like the whole story just came to a screeching halt. I wish there was more to the ending and more of a plot. 1.5/5

4. Knackerman by Malachi King: In this story, a man - the Knackerman - goes to a farm to pick up dead cows that have strange cuts and things on them. This story was pretty far out there and was a little slow at times, but for the most part it kept me entertained. The ending was very abrupt and open, but it wasn't terrible. 3/5

5. Station 17-B by Brandon Steenbock: The crew of Station 17-B have severe cases of PTSD, but no one knows what happened to them because the only thing they can say concerning the incident is "Station 17-B." So of course, we get to find out! The set-up is very slow, and then the reveal is not at all what I expected, so props on that. I think if there had been a little more action and it had been explained more clearly, this story would have been better. 3/5

6. The Green Shadow by Nyla Nox: I honestly have no idea what happened in this story. There's a girl who sees another girl who is pretty much "the green shadow" and a King who has many wives and many babies by these wives... but I could not figure out what in the world this story was trying to do. I think it's too long and doesn't really fit in this anthology with stories that are 20 pages or less, and it did not hold my attention at all. 1/5

Overall, Book I would be a 2.5/5. Some stories are interesting and along the lines of what I expect from a short story, but others just fall short. I hope Book II and III are better! 


--Ashley

Of Triton (Of Poseidon #2) by Anna Banks - Paul's Review


Title: Of Triton (Of Poseidon #2)
Author: Anna Banks
Year Published: 2013

My PRE READING
My REVIEW of Of Poseidon 
Ashley's REVIEW of Of Poseidon

Synopsis: In this sequel to Of Poseidon, Emma has just learned that her mother is a long-lost Poseidon princess, and now struggles with an identity crisis: As a Half-Breed, she’s a freak in the human world and an abomination in the Syrena realm below. Syrena law states that all Half-Breeds should be put to death.

As if that’s not bad enough, her mother’s reappearance among the Syrena turns the two kingdoms—Poseidon and Triton—against one another. Which leaves Emma with a decision to make: Should she comply with Galen’s request to keep herself safe and just hope for the best? Or should she risk it all and reveal herself—and her Gift—to save a people she’s never known?


Review: I really enjoyed this sequel. I'm glad we got to learn more about the Syrena. We also got to meet a lot more of them. I enjoyed seeing them all especially Grom and the Archives.

Just like the first book, I was surprised by how sad certain chapters were. Although, the book is mostly a light fun read. I had to leave my degree in marine biology behind yet again and just accept the world Banks created.

There are a lot of parallels to current civil rights issues. The same arguments used in the book could be used today. Or during the Civil Rights Movement. All people should be accepted as people, no matter their differences.

I am very excited for the sequel. Mountains? I give this book a 4/5. If you read Of Poseidon, you should definitely pick this up.

-PAUL

Friday, September 27, 2013

Tainted (Broken #2) by A.E. Rought - Ashley's Pre-Reading

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

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Title: Broken
Author: A. E. Rought
Year Published: 2013

My review of Broken

Synopsis: 
Alex Franks believes the madness is behind them. With Ascension Labs under his direction and the forces threatening Emma's life overcome, they have a chance at a normal life, and keeping his secrets safely buried. But a shadow rises from Alex’s past, and she wants him back. Criminally brilliant, Hailey Westmore will stop at nothing to claim the boy she was meant to be with. 


Without warning, Emma Gentry finds she cannot trust anything. Not her mind, her memory, not even herself. Tragic events and unexpected deaths stalk Alex and Emma, testing them in ways they would never imagine, and may not survive. Alex carries a new secret, and a horrifying guilt that Hailey uses to her advantage. 

Emma’s life and sanity hang in the balance, and Alex may have created a monster...

Why?: I read Broken last February and enjoyed it. I liked the spin on Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, and I loved the dark, Gothic feel of the whole book. I thought that it was a standalone though, so imagine my surprise when I found out there was a sequel - told from Alex's point of view! I'm excited to find out what happens next and to find out more about Hailey Westmore.

Expectations: I expect this novel to be just as dark, if not darker, than Broken. I also expect there to be less of a Frankenstein influence on this one. A lot of mystery and conflict and romance will probably be in this book. 

Judging a book by its cover: I love the colors of this cover. The blue and the black go well together and complement the red and black from Broken. Alex and Emma look a little bit cartoon-ish to me, but I think it works. If I saw this on a shelf, I would probably pick it up.


--Ashley

Lost Vegas by Jim McCann & Janet Lee - Paul's Review

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

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Title: Lost Vegas
Author: Jim McCann & Janet Lee
Year Published: 2013

Synopsis: 
The Eisner Award-winning team behind Return of the Dapper Men reunites to create a completely different, and far more dangerous cosmos filled with intrigue as one gambler-turned-slave has 24-hours to go all in and pull off the greatest heist the universe has seen! 


Aboard a luxury star-cruiser whose glamour hides deep secrets that endanger the entire galaxy, will Roland choose his own freedom, or expose the greatest lie hiding in plain sight? High-risk stakes where either choice means someone will lose everything! 

Ocean's Eleven meets The Fifth Element.


Review: Looking for a Space Opera set in a prison/casino? Well that's exactly what this graphic novel is. Imagine a heist movie featuring the diverse cast of a sci-fi space adventure. There's a handsome antihero, a quirky mechanic, and a sexy princess. Not to mention the psychic goo called Ink and the talking reindeer with science.

A lot of the world isn't heavily explained, but the world itself is diverse and colorful. The terms "peace" and "war" are used in an interesting way. 

I really enjoyed this graphic novel and look forward to seeing what happens next. I give it a 4/5!


-PAUL

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Irony of Survival (Zharmae Anthology Series #2) - Paul's REVIEW

*I received this anthology from The Zharmae Publishing Press in exchange for an honest review*

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Title: Irony of Survival
Edited by: Anna McDermott
Year Published: 2013

Synopsis: Futures teetering between fate and chance unravel in fantastical realities spanning time and space; each bringing us face-to-face with the unexpected in Irony of Survival – a dynamic collection that explores how life’s ironic twists and turns challenge and, at times, ensure mankind’s survival. 

Never before has the role of irony in challenging our perspective, questioning consequence, and disrupting equilibrium been more distinctly illuminated than in this artfully spellbinding work that provides readers a looking-glass through which to view their own tales of survival. 

Experience firsthand how an unlikely instance, in an instant, can be the turning point of destiny.


Review: For this anthology, I'm just going to give a brief description and mini review for two of its stories.

Tower of Strength by Colleen Anderson

This story started out with a lot if dialogue and I was confused. I quickly realized I knew these characters from a familiar story told once every year: the Easter story. Mary Magdeline is the protagonist. She and other "Mary"s have magical powers. There is a lot of female power in this story. It reminded me of one if those specials on Discovery about what really happened to Jesus and all the conspiracies.  This was an interesting idea, but many people may not enjoy it. 2.5/5


Nowhere to Go But Mars by Barry Nove

Planetary colonization is in effect, but you must pass certain qualifications and take a mate to journey to Mars. Even then, your chances of surviving the long sleep aren't the best. I liked that America was portrayed as not one of the top powers. I found the process the applicants had to go through interesting and thought some interesting body image questions were brought up. I think this would be interesting to see continued. 4/5

-PAUL

RealLies: A Zharmae Collection of Short Works (Zharmae Anthology Series #1) - Ashley's Review (Pt. II - Control)

*I received a copy of this book from The Zharmae Publishing Press in exchange for an honest review*

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Title: RealLies: A Zharmae Collection of Short Works
Edited by: Max Avalon
Year Published: 2013

My review of RealLies - Part I: Curiosity

Synopsis: Enter a world where fantasy and reality collide, where seeking answers only raises more questions, and the paths you choose can change everything you have ever known. The pages in this collection will send you on an adventure into the unknown to discover the truth about yourself and the world around you.

Create and destroy destinies when facts and reasons fail in Robson's "Walk on By." Question reality with Lisabeth in "Onward Into Dark," where dreams come to life and the past returns to haunt those searching to escape the truth. Don't believe in escapism? Join the characters of Pike's "The Wolf of Descarta," as they face reality head-on and struggle against wild fantasies that eclipse life itself.

But be careful, our dear readers. One bite of "reality" and you might wish you could wrap the illusions around your eyes once more because as you will find, the truth lies.


-----------------------------------

Review: Reviewing anthologies is always weird for me. Should I review all of the stories individually, or should I review the thing as a whole? Since this one is split into two sections, each containing 7 or 8 stories, I think I'll review the stories individually but collected in two parts. Yesterday, I posted my review for the stories in "Part I: Curiosity." Today, we have the stories from "Part II: Control!"

1. Crossroads of Sin by D.H. Aire: In this story, time and reality are threaded together to create a world where several timelines exist at once, and some must be sacrificed in order to save others. At least, I think that's what happens. This story was choppy and confusing and I really have no idea why things happened or what Xin was really trying to save. Something about aliens and Christopher Columbus? And why were there chapters in an 18 page story? This just was not my thing. 1/5

2. Walk on By by Jenny Robson: If you lived in a country where contraceptives were frowned upon and HIV ran rampant, what would you do if you found yourself with the disease? This story follows one woman as she exacts her revenge on the slime balls of the world for raping girls like her and giving them the virus. I think it's something that's a real issue and needs to be dealt with, and this short gives a pretty decent insight into what it might be like to live such a life and then be judged by "privleged" people. It was easy to follow and made me think, so a 3.5/5.

3. The Ghost Machine by Ellen Denton: This story tells about time travel and the impending destruction of the world via a virus aboard a meteorite destined to slam into the Mojave Desert. I actually enjoyed the first 3/4 of this story, and thought it was pretty well done. There was humor and sci-fi and believable characters. But then the ending was just meh and felt rushed or maybe just too convenient. We didn't really need to bring real ghosts into it, did we? Had the ending been done better, or maybe differently, I think I would have enjoyed it more. 4/5

4. Holofied by Mariev Finnegan: An aging gossip columnist who vlogs using futuristic technology finds herself pondering the meaning of life and love. And I really did not connect with her or her story at all. Everything was too convenient, and she just got on my nerves most of the time. And even though there's one event that's pivotal in Gloria's life and to the plot, I thought it was totally unnecessary that we had to relive it with her at least a dozen times. This story was way too long and kind of confusing and didn't hold my attention at all... I even found myself skipping ahead to try and get to something that I cared about reading. An interesting concept, but not well executed. 1/5

5. The Ghost in the Sword by Wol-Vrieg Jesuto: A magical sword, an animal farmer who is unsure of his masculinity, and a tale of revenge should all add up to make an excellent story, right? Well, this one starts out great - the sword and the reincarnation and afterlife and revenge all point towards a story with a moral. But then all of a sudden things get weird and I'm not sure what happens and I don't think there was any lesson. If this had gone in a different direction, I think it would have been much better. I think a 3/5 sounds reasonable? 

6. Onward into Dark by Zach Lisabeth: I think this story is about a group of people being selected to go on a journey to another planet, but I'm not really sure. There's talk of a background check and characters deceiving those in charge and dreams, but I honestly have no idea what was going on. Besides that, it's not written poorly or anything... it isn't choppy or all over the place or anything. I think there might just be too much dialogue or too many flashbacks or something. A 1.5/5 because the plot is so unclear.

7. The Wolf of Descarta by Daniel Park: I'm pretty sure this story is about a virtual reality game/setting that can be played across planets in which Blamus/Jaren Reese pretends to be the Wolf Knight. Stories and books about virtual reality games have got to be really well done in order to catch my attention because Killobyte by Piers Anthony is one of my favorite books ever and kind of ruined other books with similar themes for me. I think this story has a lot of potential, but just seemed like a cheap copy of KillobyteI think this story would be a lot better for anyone who hasn't read a good virtual reality book. Unfortunately, for me, it's a 3/5.


So, overall, this half of the anthology has an average of about 2.5/5. As a whole, I think this anthology really had potential but falls short with sloppy writing and stories that don't flow very well or capture the attention of the reader. I think there's an audience out there for these stories, but it just wasn't me. For me, sci-fi/fantasy stories (especially short ones) need to be able to grab my attention within the first couple of paragraphs, and it just didn't happen for me here. 2.5/5 for the whole collection.


--Ashley

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Seven Forges by James A. Moore - Paul's Review

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

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Title: Seven Forges
Author: James A. Moore
Year Published: 2013

Synopsis: Captain Merros Dulver is the first in many lifetimes to find a path beyond the great mountains known as the Seven Forges and encounter, at last, the half-forgotten race who live there. And it would appear that they were expecting him. As he returns home, bringing an entourage of strangers with him, he starts to wonder whether his discovery has been such a good thing. For the gods of this lost race are the gods of war, and their memories of that far-off cataclysm have not faded.

The people of Fellein have live with legends for many centuries. To their far north, the Blasted Lands, a legacy of an ancient time of cataclysm, are vast, desolate and impassable, but that doesn't stop the occasional expedition into their fringes in search of any trace of the ancients who had once lived there... and oft-rumored riches.


Review: Seven Forges is a digestible Game of Thrones. It has all the intrigue and high fantasy, but packaged in a Lunchable instead of an eighteen course feast.

There are a lot of characters, but they all are interesting and complex, having their own goals and motives. Within each chapter the character perspective may change multiple times. I found this hard to follow at first, but I quickly got used to it.

The world of Fellein is an interesting and complex world. There is an emperor with kings under him ruling different countries. At the start of this novel, a new people are discovered in an area thought to be inhospitable. The book follows the changes these people's appearance bring to the world. 

The mythology and religion of all the different cultures are very interesting. There are just enough details given that are relevant to the current situation and overall story. In A Song of Fire and Ice, there are so many details that aren't necessarily relevant to the plot at that time. Seven Forges gives you just enough information, leaving you hungry for more.

I liked how magic was portrayed with the emperor's aid, Desh Krohan. Magic always has a price and its not very common. I thought the silver hands were really cool and I thought the story might dip its feet into sci-fi territory, but it didn't in this book. Maybe it will lead that direction in sequels.

The royal intrigue is also present. There are characters from all walks of life, from a homeless teenage boy to the emperor himself.

I keep comparing this to George R.R. Martin's series, but that is only because its one of the most popular fantasy series out there right now. Seven Forges didn't feel as epic. Many of the high intensity moments fell a little flat to me. I wanted more to happen. I wanted things to get more complicated. And toward the end they did. And I want more!

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and I want more. I am now invested in this world and want to know more about it. I will definitely be looking for a sequel. If you are having Game of Thrones withdrawal or want to read something more manageable, I suggest this book. I give this book a 4/5!


-PAUL

RealLies: A Zharmae Collection of Short Works (Zharmae Anthology Series #1) - Ashley's Review (Pt. I - Curiosity)

*I received a copy of this book from The Zharmae Publishing Press in exchange for an honest review*

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Title: RealLies: A Zharmae Collection of Short Works
Edited by: Max Avalon
Year Published: 2013

Synopsis: Enter a world where fantasy and reality collide, where seeking answers only raises more questions, and the paths you choose can change everything you have ever known. The pages in this collection will send you on an adventure into the unknown to discover the truth about yourself and the world around you.

Create and destroy destinies when facts and reasons fail in Robson's "Walk on By." Question reality with Lisabeth in "Onward Into Dark," where dreams come to life and the past returns to haunt those searching to escape the truth. Don't believe in escapism? Join the characters of Pike's "The Wolf of Descarta," as they face reality head-on and struggle against wild fantasies that eclipse life itself.

But be careful, our dear readers. One bite of "reality" and you might wish you could wrap the illusions around your eyes once more because as you will find, the truth lies.

-----------------------------------

Review: Reviewing anthologies is always weird for me. Should I review all of the stories individually, or should I review the thing as a whole? Since this one is split into two sections, each containing 7 or 8 stories, I think I'll review the stories individually but collected in two parts. So first, we have the stories collected under "Curiosity!"

1. Psycho Submersible by Oscar Francesco: This story deals with telepathy and the consequences of entering someone else's thoughts and subconscious. Although the idea is very interesting, and the realizations of the id, superego, and ego are very well done, this story just didn't do it for me. I had a hard time connecting with Jay, and the plot doesn't really flow very well. It's choppy and confusing and also kind of predictable. I'd give this a 2/5 for the concept though.

2. What Happened in the Library by Tucker Cummings: In this story, a young man named Fatu travels from Samoa to the university where his father studied in order to continue his father's research on medicinal uses for mold. Coincidentally, the books he studies are covered in mold from where they have been wter damaged and exposed to the elements and the mold gives Fatu weird visions. I thought it was interesting that both sides of mold are shown, but I didn't really connect with the characters and didn't really care about what happens to them. The story does flow pretty well and transitions nicely between dreams and reality though, so I would gives this one  3/5.

3. The Sea's Own by Madeleine Vaughn: Ships are being found without their crew, and a mysterious man offers his services to find out why. I actually enjoyed this story more than I thought I would. The world is very interesting, and I wish we had learned more, but it's well enough developed for this story. I'm also still very intrigued by Varyn, and I would definitely read more stories about him. I do think that the prologue and epilogue were a little unnecessary though, and that kind of ruined the whole flow of the main story for me. 3.5/5

4. Explorer by K.I. Borrowman: Set on another planet, this story tells the adventures of a man who travels to the other side of the planet to find out about the creatures that live there. There really wasn't too much mystery or intrigue or exciting plot twists, so it didn't really keep my attention very well. I did like the underlying message that you shouldn't believe everything you hear and that the only way to satisfy your own curiosity is to do something about it though. The world and the creatures were creative and had excellent descriptions. A 2.5/5 on this one.

5. The Mysterious Disappearance of Charlene Kerringer by Marlena Frank: Reading like an old detective novel (think film noir), this story tells of the disappearance of a baby girl, Charlene Kerringer. While it starts out like your typical detective story, it soon takes a sudden turn in a completely unexpected direction. Things get weird, but I actually enjoyed where they ended up. I'm still not sure why some things happened or what the point was, but it's nothing that's really important to this story I guess. This story is actually surprisingly well written too, so I think that helped. 4/5

6. Chasing the Shadow by Karen McCreedy: What would happen if an asteroid was barreling toward Earth and the only people who could stop it were out in space? That's what we find out in this story, in which a spaceship must collide with an asteroid in order to save humanity. While the concept is interesting, I didn't think it was well executed at all and found myself skimming over most of it. I didn't connect with any of the characters or care if their plan succeeded. I guess it just wasn't my cup of tea. 1/5

7. The Face of Entropy by Greg Leunig: We again find ourselves in space, but this time our characters are looking for a new planet after the destruction of Earth. This story deals a lot with the effects of entropy and chaos on everything in the universe, and tries to turn a scientific principle into a sort of creature. Again, an interesting concept, but I think this story was just too short. I wanted to know more about what happened on Earth and what the creatures were and what happens to all the people frozen in the pods. Since this story was lacking for me, I would give it a 2/5. 

8. Book in Advance by Cathy Bryant: If you found a book that seemed like it was giving you a glimpse into your future, would you believe it? In this story, our protagonist Trish finds that things may not always be what they seem, and that maybe you shouldn't always believe everything you read. I think it was a very interesting concept, albeit a little far-fetched. Trish isn't really likable, and I never really felt bad for her or her situation. It's her own fault and she deserves what she gets. A 3/5 for this story. 

So, overall, the first part of this anthology has an average of just over 2.5/5. I'm hoping the second part has stories that grab my attention more! 


--Ashley

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Witchstruck (The Tudor Witch Trilogy #1) by Victoria Lamb - Ashley's Review

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

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Title: Witchstruck
Author: Victoria Lamb
Year Published: 2013

Synopsis: 
If she sink, she be no witch and shall be drowned. 


If she float, she be a witch and must be hanged. 

Meg Lytton has always known she is different; that she bears a dark and powerful gift. But in 1554 England, in service at Woodstock Palace to the banished Tudor princess Elizabeth, it has never been more dangerous to practice witchcraft. Meg knows she must guard her secret carefully from the many suspicious eyes watching over the princess and her companions. One wrong move could mean her life, and the life of Elizabeth, rightful heir to the English throne. 

With witchfinder Marcus Dent determined to have Meg's hand in marriage, and Meg's own family conspiring against the English queen, there isn't a single person Meg can trust. Certainly not the enigmatic young Spanish priest Alejandro de Castillo, despite her undeniable feelings. But when all the world turns against her, Meg must open her heart to a dangerous choice. 

The Secret Circle meets The Other Boleyn Girl in Witchstruck, the first book of the magical Tudor Witch trilogy.

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Review: It's been a really long time since I've read a book about the Tudors and even a historical fiction in general. History just isn't my thing, and I prefer things set in the present or in the future. But Lamb does a really great job of making this book seem less historical and more fantasy/romance/adventure! 

I'm sure there are some historical inaccuracies, but for the most part all of the major information seemed right to me. Like I said, I'm no history buff, but everything was believable and fit in with what I imagine would be going on during the reign of Queen Mary. There are real historical figures mixed in with the fictional ones, and Lamb makes it seem like all of them are (or were) real people living through the real past. Elizabeth is lovable most of the time, but never forgets that she is a princess. Meg knows she was born to be a witch but must keep her powers hidden. Marcus Dent is terrifying and someone I would never want to cross.

And then there's Alejandro de Castillo, who is charming and handsome  but destined to become a Spanish priest. So naturally, Meg develops feelings for the one man who cannot (or will not) love her back. I really enjoyed how the romance in this book was presented very slowly and develops over time instead of being love at first sight. Meg and Alejandro have their issues that they need to work out, and secrets that need to be shared. I was a little annoyed with Meg sometimes though because I felt like she just doesn't listen when Alejandro tells her important things. I wanted to reach into the book and slap some sense into her. 

Although this book takes place over the course of 1-2 years, it doesn't really feel like it. Lamb keeps the plot moving quickly and smoothly, and only gives us events that are important to advancing the plot. Missing periods of time are explained quickly and brushed off as unimportant, and I thought it was very well done. I think there might have been a few unnecessary scenes and some things that slowed the book down a little, but overall it wasn't too bad. And there's enough adventure and conflict and even some sword-fighting that is definitely worth the read! There are quite a few questions that are left unanswered, but since this is the first book in a trilogy, that didn't bother me too much. 

I would totally recommend this book to someone looking for a quick, fun, paranormal romance with a historical flair. Especially if you know anything about the Tudors or the Boleyns, and want to hear their story with a new and exciting twist. I will definitely be reading the sequel, Witchfall, and I can't wait to find out what happens next for Meg and Alejandro and Elizabeth! a 3.5/5 to Witchstruck from me! 


--Ashley

Of Triton (Of Poseidon #2) by Anna Banks - Paul's Pre-Reading


Title: Of Triton (Of Poseidon #2)
Author: Anna Banks
Year Published: 2013

Synopsis: In this sequel to Of Poseidon, Emma has just learned that her mother is a long-lost Poseidon princess, and now struggles with an identity crisis: As a Half-Breed, she’s a freak in the human world and an abomination in the Syrena realm below. Syrena law states that all Half-Breeds should be put to death.

As if that’s not bad enough, her mother’s reappearance among the Syrena turns the two kingdoms—Poseidon and Triton—against one another. Which leaves Emma with a decision to make: Should she comply with Galen’s request to keep herself safe and just hope for the best? Or should she risk it all and reveal herself—and her Gift—to save a people she’s never known?

Why?:  I enjoyed Of Poseidon. It was a light and fun read and it left me craving more. I want to learn more about Emma's mother. I am also intrigued by the half breeds. And I want more of the Syrena.

Expectations: I expect another light fun read. I'm hoping the world will be expanded more and we will learn new things. Since this book is called Of Triton, maybe we will see the Gift of Triton.   

Judging a book by its cover:  The cover has a similar feel to the first book. They aren't anything special to me. I think there are many similar covers out there.

-PAUL

Monday, September 23, 2013

Hereafter (Hereafter #1) by Tara Hudson - Ashley's Pre-Reading

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Title: Hereafter
Author: Tara Hudson
Year Published: 2011

Synopsis: 
Can there truly be love after death?


Drifting in the dark waters of a mysterious river, the only thing Amelia knows for sure is that she's dead. With no recollection of her past life—or her actual death—she's trapped alone in a nightmarish existence. All of this changes when she tries to rescue a boy, Joshua, from drowning in her river. As a ghost, she can do nothing but will him to live. Yet in an unforgettable moment of connection, she helps him survive.

Amelia and Joshua grow ever closer as they begin to uncover the strange circumstances of her death and the secrets of the dark river that held her captive for so long. But even while they struggle to keep their bond hidden from the living world, a frightening spirit named Eli is doing everything in his power to destroy their newfound happiness and drag Amelia back into the ghost world . . . forever.

Thrilling and evocative, with moments of pure pleasure, Hereafter is a sensation you won't want to miss.

Why?: I won the second book in this series in a contest on Twitter, so I figured I should probably read this one before I start that one. Also, ghost stories are really interesting to me, and this one sounds like it will be fun but mysterious. But definitely not as dark and gritty as some of the other ghost stories I've read recently.

Expectations: I expect a fun ghost story with mystery and secrets. Definitely a lot of romance too, which I hope isn't tacky or overdone. I've never read anything by Hudson before though, so I'm not sure what else to expect.

Judging a book by its cover: This cover doesn't really feel like anything special to me, although I do like the effect of the ghost in front of the water. It seems like a very typical YA cover, so I don't think I would pick it up based solely on the cover.


--Ashley

Dangerous Voices by Rae Carson - Paul's Review


Smashwords | Goodreads

Title: Dangerous Voices
Author: Rae Carson
Year Published: 2012

Ashley's Review

Synopsis: Errik has been a prisoner--and alone--for a long, long time. He lives for the moment each day when the window of his dungeon cell shines a bit of light onto his bearded face.

But everything changes when he gets a new neighbor--a young girl with a voice as beautiful as the springrise.

They both know the rules: No singing. No speaking. Voices are dangerous. But they can't help themselves. And soon enough, Errik begins to remember himself, why he's here in this dark place, and why his captors will stop at nothing to ensure his silence.


Review: This was way too short. I want more Rae Carson! I'm very excited that I'll be reading The Bitter Kingdom soon!

Like with her trilogy, this novella creates such an interesting world. There are music mages and muses. And they are in prison. I want to know so much more about this world!

Rae Carson writes beautifully. She did an excellent job describing sounds in this novella.

I give this novella a 4/5 and recommend it to any Rae Carson fan like me looking to devour anything by her.


-PAUL

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Warm Up (Vicious #0.5) by V.E. Schwab - Ashley's Review

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads | Tor.com

Title: Warm Up
Author: V.E. Schwab
Year Published: 2013

Synopsis: It’s been 297 days since David died–and came back.

He may have survived the avalanche, but the aftermath has been far worse. His wife moved out, taking his son with her, and a devastated David hasn't left his house since, terrified of the mysterious new power that followed him home from the ill-fated expedition.

After months in seclusion, David’s ready for a fresh start, and ventures out, determined to keep his power in check. But David’s power isn't the one he needs to worry about.

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Review: I pre-ordered Vicious way back in July, and have been anxiously waiting for it to be released ever since. I was pretty excited when I heard there was going to be a prequel story, to get us all "warmed up" for Vicious. After reading Warm Up, I'm more excited than ever to become fully immersed in this new and exciting world! 

Even though this story is short, I still feel like I learned quite a bit about David and was really able to connect with him. His story is heartbreaking and I just wanted to give him a big hug most of the time (minus the part about his new power...). This guy just cannot catch a break.

I can't wait to find out more about the powers these people have, and to find out where they came from. I have so many questions after reading this story, and I'm really hoping Vicious will answer them. I'm also really excited that the powers these people have are more along the lines of something like "Heroes" or "Alphas," and not something like the Justice League. 

If you want a taste of a dark, unique world with characters who make you feel for them and have superpowers, then you should definitely check out this story! It's even available to read for free on Tor's website (or you can buy it for your ereader), so you don't have anything to lose! I definitely recommend this for anyone who is looking forward to Vicious! A 4/5 from me. 


--Ashley

My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic Volume 2 - Paul's REVIEW

***I was provided an ecopy of this graphic novel from IDW Publishing via NetGalley in exchange for a fair review***

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Title: My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic Volume 2
Author: Heather Nuhfer
Illustrations: Amy Mebberson
Year Published: 2013

Ashley's REVIEW
My REVIEW of Volume 1
Ashley's REVIEW of Volume 1


Release Date: September 24, 2013

Synopsis: Get ready for another unforgettable adventure in the land of Equestria! Twilight Sparkle and gang are confronted with a perilous new danger in the form of a long-unseen enemy!

Review: Another adventure for the ponies of Ponyville. I always like the episodes when the ponies come together to help Princess Celestia save the kingdom. This volume depicts one of those epic adventures. 


Rarity has a leading role in this story which means Spike's infatuation for her is upfront and present. The ponies' adventure takes them to the Moon. Is Nightmare Moon back? 

I liked how we got to see the creatures of the Moon. The MLPFIM artwork is always so bright and fun. It's interesting to see how they depict darker creatures. 

Overall, this volume is about overcoming insecurities and working together. They prove that friendship really is magic. I suggest this to fans of the current tv series. These graphic novels would be an excellent way to introduce comics to a young reader. I give this volume a 3.5/5. I liked it more than the first volume. 



-PAUL

Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Ash-Born Boy (The Near Witch #0.5) by Victoria Schwab - Ashley's Review

Read it here FREE! | Goodreads

Title: The Ash-Born Boy
Author: Victoria Schwab
Year Published: 2012

My Review of The Near Witch
My Pre-Reading of The Near Witch

Synopsis: Before he came to Near... 
Before he met Lexi... 
Before they faced the witch... 
Who was the boy named Cole? 

Follow us to Dale, a city on a hill, where in a matter of days fire will devour everything. Meet the Lord and Lady, and their son, the boy destined to inherit all...until everything turns to ash. 

It's time to learn the truth behind the stranger's story.


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Review: This prequel story answered all of the questions I had about Cole after reading The Near Witch! It was really interesting to see who Cole was before he came to Near, and especially to find out why he is the way he is. We learn so much about why he thinks and acts the way he does, and it's both heartbreaking and enlightening. 

This story is written just as beautifully as The Near Witch, and I was so sad when it ended (even though it ends pretty much right before he comes to Near, minus the wandering in between). I didn't want to leave Dale or Cole or the world that Schwab so beautifully crafts in this series. 

Anyone who read and loved The Near Witch should definitely pick up this story as well! I mean, it's free, so you really have nothing to lose. I recommend reading this after reading The Near Witch though, because it might give away some things that are better discovered in the course of the full novel. But this story makes me want to go back and read The Near Witch again to see what hints i can pick up about who Cole is! A 4/5. 


--Ashley