Thursday, October 31, 2013

First Kiss (Confessions of a 16-Year-Old Virgin Lips #1) by Cindy M. Hogan - Ashley's Review

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Title: First Kiss (Confessions of a 16-Year-Old Virgin Lips #1)
Author: Cindy M. Hogan
Year Published: 2013

Synopsis: 
VL. Virgin Lips. You may not have heard of it, but where I live, it's a thing with a card, even if it is a figurative card. I was Brooklyn Hamlin, certified virgin lips, and I planned on clinging to that figurative card with all I had--while dating as many of the hottest guys at school as I could.


Maybe that's a bit strange. I mean, what teenage girl isn't interested in kissing? Locking lips definitely interested me, but the drama that came with it didn't. No kissing, no drama. Simple.

But on my sixteenth birthday, on my first real date even, the drama found me. His name was Luke Graham--cute, funny, and bad news for the whole female race.

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Review: This little novella was free on Amazon for Kindle for a little bit, and it sounded like a cute little story about high school romance so I got it. And it was pretty much exactly that. The main character is a little strange, but I kind of figured that going into it. 

Brooklyn is your typical teen girl in that she has friends, they hang out, she does after-school activities, and she wants to date all the hottest boys in school. Where she's different is that she isn't allowed to date until she's 16 (she's a good little Mormon girl), and her dates must all be group dates. This might be typical of teens in the LDS church, but I didn't relate to that part of the story or Brooklyn's character because I have no experience there. 

I do not blame her at all for wanting to avoid drama in high school, so I totally felt her on that one because I was pretty much the same way. It's so much better when you can just enjoy your friends and your activities instead of having to worry about if your boyfriend is going to break up with you for the next pretty girl who comes along or if some girl is going to fight you because she's jealous. So you go, girl. Avoid the drama! 

The plot moves pretty quickly and is fairly simple, so there's not too much extra fluff or anything. If you're looking for a quick little contemporary romance, I think this would be a good choice. It's well written and most things I didn't know about concerning the LDS church were explained well enough that I didn't dwell on not knowing from personal experience. There are more stories in this series, but I don't know if I will be continuing to read them. 2.5/5 from me. 


--Ashley

Few Are Chosen by Storm Grant - Paul's REVIEW

***I was provided an ecopy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review***

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Title: Few are Chosen
Author: Storm Grant
Year Published: 2012

Synopsis: Apprentice warrior Blake St. Blake is the Chosen One, raised by an ancient order to defend the world against evil. Well, maybe not the whole world, but at least his neighborhood in downtown Detroit. When a dreaded reflux demon is sighted in a local cemetery, Blake is sent off to his very first battle, armed with his sword, his super-senses, his black leather duster, and a few well-rehearsed one-liners.

But another Chosen One gets in Blake’s way—an apprentice wizard named Shadow. While the boys argue about who’s the more chosen of the two, the demon escapes.

Blake wants to be angry, but it turns out he and Shadow have a lot in common. Besides, Shadow’s pretty cute, and Blake can’t help but think that the wizard’s skills (and hands and lips and other bits) might make the perfect complement to his. Blake and Shadow are brave enough to challenge the reflux demon in a second battle, but will they have the courage to tell each other how they feel?

Review: I liked the concept of this novella. It is cool to see gay characters take the lead in a paranormal fantasy novel. Unfortunately, it did not meet my expectations. It was done very basic and didn't turn out to be that unique. There are many cliches, but you should go into reading this knowing it is very lighthearted. 


Maybe this is just because the story is so short, but I didn't feel this story was fully fledged out. I have read short stories that had a lot more depth that this 45 page story. The dialogue was bad. There were many awkward moments. And I wanted more romance. There was sex, but not romance. 

I give this novella a 2/5. I think it has a lot of potential and I would be interested in seeing this world, story, and its characters fully fledged out. These 45 pages just did not do it for me. 


-PAUL

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Boy From Ilysies (Libyrinth #2) by Pearl North - Ashley's Review


Title: The Boy From Ilysies
Author: Pearl North

Synopsis: 
The magical sequel to Pearl North’s critically acclaimed debut novel, Libyrinth

On a world light-years away, Earth is long forgotten, except for the knowledge protected in the vast libyrinth. But that knowledge was threatened by the Singers, who for generations beyond remembering have relied on oral storytelling. They sought to destroy the books in the libyrinth, which they thought would—if read—kill the words they sing, and the knowledge in their songs.

Now a Song has created peace between the Singers and the Libyrarians who work in the libyrinth. However, the libyrinth is quickly running out of food, and the survival of the ancient edifice and those who serve it may depend on Po, a young Ilysian who has had trouble adjusting to life at the libyrinth. Caught between his longings for acceptance and the Machiavellian tactics of his queen, Po is tricked into a crime that causes him to be cast out. 

He may return only if he retrieves a legendary artifact that may be the answer to all of the libyrinth’s problems…or could turn the world into a barren, lifeless ruin. For Po, life has finally become exciting…but the cost may be his life, and the lives of those he loves.

The Boy From Ilysies is an exciting, fast-paced novel about acceptance, growing up, and learning to trust oneself.

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Review: I really enjoyed Libyrinth, and was really excited to read its sequel. And it did not disappoint! If anything, The Boy From Ilysies is even better than the first book. This series does not suffer from second-book-syndrome in any way, and it was very refreshing.

One of my favorite things about this book was that it took a previously minor character and turned him into the unlikely hero. In the first book, Po is the kinesthesiologist's apprentice and just happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and ends up flying with Clauda in the wing. At the beginning of this book, he's lost and homesick and wants to leave the Libyrinth to return home to Ilysies. But throughout the book, he matures and grows and begins to accept the other ways of life as not being so different from the one he knows. He's definitely one of the most well-developed characters in the series and in YA in general I think, and it's a real shame not more people know about him. At the start of this book, I did not like Po at all but by the end I found myself cheering him on.

Another thing that Pearl North does exceptionally well is building a new and fascinating world. I mean, I can't even begin to fathom how she came up with this concept. There are four main groups of people (the Libyrarians, the Singers, the Ayorites, and the Ilysieans), and each group has totally different viewpoints on the roles of men and women, on what/who the Ancients were, on what the driving force behind everything is, and so much more. I could barely keep them straight as the reader, I can't even imagine how North was able to create this world and then expand upon it. I thought I knew enough from the first book, but somehow North gives us even more insight into the world of these books and expands the world so much. 

The plot moves a little slowly at first, but I think it ends up being alright because we get to learn more about Po and his feelings about the Redemption and life at the Libyrinth. Once the group leaves and their mission is underway though, things pick up quite considerably. There is very little downtime, and we find ourselves right in the middle of all of the action. I also thought that switching back and forth between characters as narrators was a really great technique, and is done very well. Not only do we see what Po and his group are experiencing, but we also get to see a little bit of what is going on back at the Libyrinth. 

Overall, I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who read and enjoyed Libyrinth. It's better than the first one, and you don't want to miss this next chapter in the trilogy! I would also recommend this series to anyone who is looking for an excellent fantasy series to start. They're easy reads, but I think they have appeal for both younger and older audiences. Anyone who loves books would love this series, regardless of age. A 4/5! I can't wait to read The Book of the Night!


--Ashley

Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan - Paul's PRE-READING

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Title: Boy Meets Boy
Author: David Levithan
Year Published: 2005

Synopsis: This is the story of Paul, a sophomore at a high school like no other: The cheerleaders ride Harleys, the homecoming queen used to be a guy named Daryl (she now prefers Infinite Darlene and is also the star quarterback), and the gay-straight alliance was formed to help the straight kids learn how to dance. 

When Paul meets Noah, he thinks he’s found the one his heart is made for. Until he blows it. The school bookie says the odds are 12-to-1 against him getting Noah back, but Paul’s not giving up without playing his love really loud. His best friend Joni might be drifting away, his other best friend Tony might be dealing with ultra-religious parents, and his ex-boyfriend Kyle might not be going away anytime soon, but sometimes everything needs to fall apart before it can really fit together right.

This is a happy-meaningful romantic comedy about finding love, losing love, and doing what it takes to get love back in a crazy-wonderful world.

Why?:  I have loved everything I have read by David Levithan. I just finished Two Boys Kissing and I purchased this book for kindle a while ago so I am excited to finally read it.

Expectations:  I expect unique characters that feel real. I also expect to become emotionally invested in this book. This was Levithan's first book so it may not be as fledged out as his recent books.   

Judging a book by its cover:  It is simple. I like it.

-PAUL

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Ten by Gretchen McNeil - Ashley's Pre-Reading

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Title: Ten
Author: Gretchen McNeill 
Year Published: 2012

Synopsis: SHHHH!

Don't spread the word!
Three-day weekend. Party at White Rock House on Henry Island.
You do NOT want to miss it.

It was supposed to be the weekend of their lives—an exclusive house party on Henry Island. Best friends Meg and Minnie each have their reasons for being there (which involve T.J., the school’s most eligible bachelor) and look forward to three glorious days of boys, booze and fun-filled luxury.

But what they expect is definitely not what they get, and what starts out as fun turns dark and twisted after the discovery of a DVD with a sinister message: Vengeance is mine.

Suddenly people are dying, and with a storm raging, the teens are cut off from the outside world. No electricity, no phones, no internet, and a ferry that isn’t scheduled to return for two days. As the deaths become more violent and the teens turn on each other, can Meg find the killer before more people die? Or is the killer closer to her than she could ever imagine?

Why?: And Then There Were None was the first Agatha Christie novel that I ever read, and it's always been one of my favorites. I love how often it's mentioned in pop culture, and I just think it's an excellently written book with an intricate plot and characters that you love to hate. This sounds like an updated take on the original novel, and I'm really excited to see the direction that it takes. It also kind of reminds me of Clue:The Movie, which I also loved. I really just like murder mysteries, I guess.

Expectations: Although I've never read anything by McNeill, I kind of have high expectations for this book because of its apparent similarities to And Then There Were None. I also expect a very creepy book, with mystery and murder and teen angst. 

Judging a book by its cover: This cover is wonderfully creepy! I love the silhouette of the island against the dark sky, and how simple the title is. The red really stands out, and I love it! I would most likely stop and pick this book up based solely on the cover.


--Ashley

Monday, October 28, 2013

The Rain is a Lie (Crewel World #1.5) by Gennifer Albin - Ashley's Review

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads | Tor.com

Title: The Rain is a Lie
Author: Gennifer Albin
Year Published: 2013

My Crewel review
My Altered review
Paul's Crewel review

Synopsis: 
In Arras, space and time aren't ideas, they are tangible substances woven together by beautiful girls into the very fabric of reality. The looms that create Arras are as controlled as the Spinsters who work them, ensuring a near idyllic world for the average citizen. But at what price? 


As an election approaches, a surprise weather forecast and a mysterious stranger hint that not all is as it seems, and a young boy learns that in Arras nothing can be trusted, not even memories. "The Rain is a Lie" is an original short story set in the world of Gennifer Albin's Crewel.

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Review: I love short stories set in known worlds, so I was really excited when I found out about this one! Crewel was one of my favorite books this year, and I am so glad I was able to learn a little bit more about Arras and its people before Altered was released. It definitely helps to ease the anticipation! 

This story was a lot more tame than Altered, but I think it still gave the same message - that things are not always as they seem. Instead of a young woman, we follow a small boy as he goes to meet his mother at the market. He sees and hears things that he finds strange and doesn't understand, but no one is willing to listen to him or explain anything. I think it also says something about parents and adults in this society. Sometimes children hear and see things that the adults miss or pretend are not there, but end up being right. 

I really want to know the significance of the rain being a lie, and how this story ties in to the main books. I think I need to reread Crewel at the very least, but it was still a good story and expansion on the world nonetheless. I definitely recommend this to anyone who has read any of the other books/stories in the Crewel World series! Especially because you can read it for free on Tor's website! 3/5. 


--Ashley

Proxy by Alex London - Paul's REVIEW

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Title: Proxy
Author: Alex London
Year Published: 2013

My PRE READING

Synopsis: Knox was born into one of the City’s wealthiest families. A Patron, he has everything a boy could possibly want—the latest tech, the coolest clothes, and a Proxy to take all his punishments. When Knox breaks a vase, Syd is beaten. When Knox plays a practical joke, Syd is forced to haul rocks. And when Knox crashes a car, killing one of his friends, Syd is branded and sentenced to death.

Syd is a Proxy. His life is not his own.

Then again, neither is Knox’s. Knox and Syd have more in common than either would guess. So when Knox and Syd realize that the only way to beat the system is to save each other, they flee. Yet Knox’s father is no ordinary Patron, and Syd is no ordinary Proxy. The ensuing cross-country chase will uncover a secret society of rebels, test both boys’ resolve, and shine a blinding light onto a world of those who owe and those who pay. Some debts, it turns out, cannot be repaid.


Review: 
This is a great Dystopian YA book with a main character that just happens to be gay. I like that its just seen as one of his many character traits. It obviously affects things he does, but its not his lone identity as a character. He is also a person of color and its dealt with the same way. It was unfortunate that there is still some discrimination in this futuristic world, but it matched the world London created. Although, I would have liked to see other examples of LGBT characters, maybe a patron? I liked the little quirks and such of the world. Chapter 11 was interesting. (That's not a chapter, but a reference you'll get if you've read the book)

There are two main characters and its written in third person, but focused on one of the characters at a time. This happens within chapters, often from paragraph to paragraph. I found this confusing at first, but I got used to it.


Guilt and debt are strong themes in this book. All different perspectives and feelings toward these things are shown. There are also some interesting historic and fiction references. Destiny is another theme that is talked about often. I liked how different characters had different opinions and different ideals were showcased. All of the characters had depth. There were many characters introduced early on that filled larger roles in the story later. Almost every character was not who they originally seemed to be.

I liked the use of technology. Everyone relies on the datastream, with different ways of accessing it depending on your social status. The med patches that could change almost anything about a person were interesting as well.


This is a really great dystopian YA filled with diversity. Many themes and ideas are brought up and it is in no way preachy. The story follows a common dystopian roadmap, but it takes some different routes. I give this book a 4/5 and can't wait to read the sequel, Guardian!


-PAUL

Sunday, October 27, 2013

I Am Pusheen the Cat by Claire Belton - Ashley's Review

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


Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Title: I Am Pusheen the Cat
Author: Claire Belton
Year Published: 2013

Synopsis: This collection of oh-so-cute kitty comics—an online cult phenomenon, now for the first time in an adorable gift book—Pusheen combines the online reach of The Oatmeal’s How to Tell if Your Cat Is Plotting to Kill You with the super-sweet appeal of Hello Kitty.

With more than 2 million page views a month, 500,000+ blog subscribers, and 500,000+ Facebook followers, Pusheen is a pleasantly tubby gray tabby cat who has warmed hearts and tickled funny bones of millions worldwide with her signature GIF animated bops, bounces, and tail wiggles. Now, Pusheen is ready to make the leap from digital to print with her first comic collection!

I Am Pusheen the Cat features some of the most popular comics from the website, including Reasons I Love Fall, Career Options for Your Cat, and Christmas To Do List, as well as a healthy serving (at least 25 percent) of never-before-seen material that is sure to delight Pusheen’s many dedicated fans.

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Review: Having not really read any of the Pusheen comics online, I wasn't really sure what to expect. I mean, I've seen the pictures and some of the comics and I send the stickers to everyone on Facebook, but I didn't know much about it or her. This comic was an excellent starting point though, and I enjoyed pretty much every second of it. 

This comic is fairly short and simple, and shows Pusheen doing all sorts of (remarkably accurate) cat things. I can totally see my cats in pretty much all of these situations, and I think that made it even funnier. I think she's adorable, and I can totally see how this become an internet phenomenon. There's not really an over-arcing plot or anything, but I think it worked in this case. 

I think this comic would be great for long-time fans of Pusheen and people who are just starting to discover her. I definitely think this would be a hit with a younger audience, especially those who love cats and have some of their own. It's cute, clean, full of pictures, colorful, and funny. And it's relatively short, so there's really no fear of getting distracted easily and leaving it unfinished. I would give it a 3/5, and will definitely be looking out for more of Pusheen in the future!


--Ashley

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Cryer's Cross by Lisa McMann - Ashley's Pre-Reading

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Title: Cryer's Cross
Author: Lisa McMann
Year Published: 2011

Paul's Review
Paul's Pre-Reading

Synopsis: 
Kendall loves her life in small town Cryer's Cross, Montana, but she also longs for something more. She knows the chances of going to school in New York are small, but she's not the type to give up easily. Even though it will mean leaving Nico, the world's sweetest boyfriend, behind.


But when Cryer's Cross is rocked by unspeakable tragedy, Kendall shoves her dreams aside and focuses on just one goal: help find her missing friends. Even if it means spending time with the one boy she shouldn't get close to... the one boy who makes her question everything she feels for Nico.

Determined to help and to stay true to the boy she's always loved, Kendall keeps up the search--and stumbles upon some frightening local history. She knows she can't stop digging, but Kendall is about to find out just how far the townspeople will go to keep their secrets buried...

Why?: I've read several of Lisa McMann's books and enjoyed them all, so I was excited when I stumbled across this one. I want to know what the "unspeakable tragedy" is, and what all the buried secrets are. The synopsis is so intriguing, I can't help but want to read this book.

Expectations: I have kind of high expectations for this book, since I've read some of McMann's other books. I think it will be an easy read, but still have lots of twists and excellent character building and development. Maybe even a supernatural element? 

Judging a book by its cover: This cover is actually pretty simplistic. The desk does stand out against the dark background, but I don't know if it's enough to catch my eye. If I saw it on a shelf, I might pick it up, but no guarantees. 


--Ashley

Friday, October 25, 2013

Proxy by Alex London - Paul's PRE-READING

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Title: Proxy
Author: Alex London
Year Published: 2013

Synopsis: Knox was born into one of the City’s wealthiest families. A Patron, he has everything a boy could possibly want—the latest tech, the coolest clothes, and a Proxy to take all his punishments. When Knox breaks a vase, Syd is beaten. When Knox plays a practical joke, Syd is forced to haul rocks. And when Knox crashes a car, killing one of his friends, Syd is branded and sentenced to death.

Syd is a Proxy. His life is not his own.

Then again, neither is Knox’s. Knox and Syd have more in common than either would guess. So when Knox and Syd realize that the only way to beat the system is to save each other, they flee. Yet Knox’s father is no ordinary Patron, and Syd is no ordinary Proxy. The ensuing cross-country chase will uncover a secret society of rebels, test both boys’ resolve, and shine a blinding light onto a world of those who owe and those who pay. Some debts, it turns out, cannot be repaid.

Why?:   I don't know much about this book other than it has a gay character in it and I've heard wonderful things about it. From what I remember, a character just happens to be gay and the book isn't entirely about it.  I didn't have access to Internet where I was when I wrote this, before I started reading it, so I went into this without reading a synopsis.

Expectations: I'm not sure. An interesting YA that just happens to have a gay character. Another good dystopian YA.

Judging a book by its cover: I like the cover. I like the colors. There aren't many clues that I can infer before reading. Bar code? Negative image of a boy? Maybe something about parallels or twins? 

-PAUL

BLOG TOUR: Cracked by Eliza Crewe - Author Interview!

Hi all! We're really excited to be hosting Eliza Crewe for the Cracked blog tour today!  Eliza stopped by to chat for a little bit about her book and more. Cracked comes out on November 5th from Strange Chemistry, and in case you haven't heard about it, you can find the synopsis below. You can also find out what Ashley thought about Cracked in her review!

You can find the rest of the stops on the Cracked blog tour on Eliza's website, so make sure to stop by and check them all out!

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Title: Cracked (Soul Eaters #1)
Author: Eliza Crewe
Publication Date: November 5, 2013

Synopsis: Meet Meda. She eats people.

Well, technically, she eats their soul. But she totally promises to only go for people who deserve it. She's special. It's not her fault she enjoys it. She can't help being a bad guy. Besides, what else can she do? Her mother was killed and it's not like there are any other “soul-eaters” around to show her how to be different. That is, until the three men in suits show up.

They can do what she can do. They're like her. Meda might finally have a chance to figure out what she is. The problem? They kind of want to kill her. Before they get the chance Meda is rescued by Crusaders, members of an elite group dedicated to wiping out Meda's kind. This is her chance! Play along with the “good guys” and she'll finally
figure out what, exactly, her ‘kind’ is.

Be careful what you wish for. Playing capture the flag with her mortal enemies, babysitting a teenage boy with a hero complex, and trying to keep one step ahead of a too-clever girl are bad enough. But the Hunger is gaining on her.

The more she learns, the worse it gets. And when Meda uncovers a shocking secret about her mother, her past, and her destiny… she may finally give into it.


About Eliza! 

Eliza Crewe always thought she’d be a lawyer, and even went so far as to complete law school. But as they say, you are what you eat, and considering the number of books Eliza has devoured since childhood, it was inevitable she’d end up in the literary world. She abandoned the lawyer-plan to instead become a librarian and now a writer.

While she’s been filling notebooks with random scenes for years, Eliza didn’t seriously commit to writing an entire novel until the spring of 2011, when she and her husband bought a house. With that house came a half-hour commute, during which Eliza decided she needed something to think about other than her road-rage. Is it any surprise she wrote a book about a blood-thirsty, people-eating monster?

Eliza has lived in Illinois, Edinburgh, and Las Vegas, and now lives in North Carolina with her husband, daughter, hens, an angry, talking, stuffed dwarf giraffe, and a sweet, mute, pantomiming bear. She likes to partially-complete craft projects, free-range her hens, and take long walks. Cracked is her first novel.



And now it's time for the interview! 

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1. What was your biggest inspiration for writing Cracked?
The manuscript I wrote right before Cracked. I had just finished revising it for the millionth time, and the heroine in that one is a timid little mouse of a girl with low self-esteem. I really love her, don’t get wrong, but after months in her head I was ready for something completely different--and that’s how wicked-and-doesn’t-care Meda was born. At the time, it was all about what she wasn’t!

2. Which of your characters do you see the most of yourself in?
I don’t know that I see myself in any of them; I’m a bookish introvert, and they’re all loud and aggressive. More my alter egos than anything--the Hydes to my Jekyll.

3. How does your typical writing day usually go?
I get most of my writing done on Saturday and Sunday mornings, from about 7am to noon, but I’ll also write for a couple hours at night, propped up in bed with my laptop after the baby falls asleep. If I’m really short on time, or have a really good idea, I’ll sometimes squeeze in some writing on my lunch break, but usually I try to save that time for emailing, writing guest posts and interviews, or doing any of the other business-y type stuff.

4. If you could be any supernatural being, which would you choose and why?
I’m going to have to go with a shifter. It’d be pretty badass to be able to change into any animal I want (especially birds and fish--awesooooooooome). I wouldn’t want to be a vampire (too many limitations and I wouldn’t want to live that long), or angels (too good), or demons (too bad), or ghosts (too tragic).

5. What was the most difficult thing you faced when writing Cracked?
One challenge was writing an anti-hero protagonist.It’s tricky to make bad characters likeable. The reader wants to like a good character--they want the world to be saved, the cat to be rescued, and the good guys to win. But when your character murders people and eats their souls--and likes it--not so much! So you have to find other ways to make the reader turn the page.

Another challenge is that Meda is an unreliable narrator. What she thinks she feels isn’t the same as what she actually feels a lot of the time (if that makes sense). So I had to keep two storylines running in my head at all times--one of Meda’s actions which shows her true feelings, and the inner monologue which demonstrates what she thinks she feels. Both of those storylines each have to have their own motivations, as well, i.e. why she feels the way she feels, and why she thinks she feels a different way. And lastly, it has to be done subtly enough so the reader recognizes the conflict but doesn’t want to slam their head against the wall at the the main character’s inability to recognize something so obvious. It can get a bit tricky to keep it all straight!

6. If you could only use 140 characters (or less) to describe Cracked, what would they be?
Wicked, people-eating monster Meda pretends to be good so she can infiltrate a secret society bent on the destruction of her (evil) kind.

7. What book is currently on your nightstand?
I have a pile! One is The Madman’s Daughter by Megan Shepard. It seems an appropriately creepy read for October.

8. What three words would you use to describe Meda?
People-eating monster girl (or does that count as four?) 

9. What do you like to do when you aren't writing?
Right now, it's play with my baby. I work full time, my debut launches in two weeks, and the deadline for the sequel is looming, so I never get as much time with her as I like. So when I'm home, and she's awake, that's what I like to do.

10. Which books and/or authors made you want to become a writer yourself?
I read anything that couldn’t escape, so that’s a tough one! I loved L.M. Montgomery (Anne and Emily especially); the old vintage Nancy Drews handed down from my mom; fantasies like Mercedes Lackey and Tamora Pierce. Plus I raided my grandmothers 80s/90s bodice rippers and my brothers’ Dragonlance series. Pretty much if it had words, I read it.

11. Who was your favorite character to write in Cracked?
Meda. She is just awful--a truly wicked character who does what she wants and makes no apologies for it. Even though writing bad characters is hard, it’s loads of fun because nothing is off limits. As Meda puts it, she “gets to play the game without any rules.”

Thanks for having me!

It was our pleasure! Thanks for stopping by!! 


--Ashley and Paul

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Arise (Hereafter #2) by Tara Hudson - Ashley's Pre-Reading

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Title: Arise
Author: Tara Hudson
Year Published: 2012

Synopsis: 
New Orleans 

Saint Louis 
Number One Cemetery
A night there can change a life...or a death.

Increasingly worried that dark spirits will carry out their threats and hurt the people she cares for most, Amelia is ready to try anything to protect them. And for his own very different reasons, Joshua has come to this cemetery at midnight to join her in a powerful ritual.

Both know that once Amelia steps inside the Voodoo circle and the beautiful girl from the Conjure Cafe begins the ceremony, everything will change.

Tara Hudson's enthralling sequel to Hereafter escalates the danger and excitement, bringing a new dimension to her already mesmerizing story of a haunted love

Why?: Although Hereafter wasn't my favorite ghost story ever, I'm still interested in how Amelia and Joshua's story continues. Plus, this one is in New Orleans and there are dark spirits, and Voodoo, and it sounds like the creepy just got turned up a notch or three. Also, I won this book as an ARC on Twitter from @HarperTeen.

Expectations: I expect a paranormal romance, but I think this book will be quite a bit darker than Hereafter. While Hereafter was cute and fun, I think this one will focus more on the dark side of being a ghost. 

Judging a book by its cover: I love the colors on this cover - the black, purples, and blues blend to make a really creepy color combination, especially within a cemetery. I also really like that you can't see Amelia's face. It's very mysterious. This cover is pretty typical of paranormal romances though, so I'm not sure if I would pick it up. I probably would though.


--Ashley

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Aberrant (Aberrant #1) by Ruth Silver - Ashley's Review

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


Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Title: Aberrant
Author: Ruth Silver
Year Published: 2013

My Pre-Reading

Synopsis: 
In the future dystopian society of Cabal, the government instills equality for all and offers its citizens the perfect system. There is food, shelter and jobs for everyone. The one requirement is to follow the rules without question, including the government's match in marriage and "The Day of the Chosen", a lottery that randomly selects families to conceive children as natural means hasn't existed in generations. 


Following her eighteenth birthday, Olivia Parker accepts her requirement to marry her childhood best friend, Joshua Warren, and is eager to start her work assignment and new life when it all comes abruptly to an end as she's arrested and thrown in prison. The only crime committed, her existence. Olivia is unlike the rest of the world born not from "The Day of the Chosen." The truth haunts the government and puts her life in grave danger as one simple fact would destroy the perfect system. 

With Joshua's help, Olivia breaks free of prison and is forced on the run. Together they set out to find the promised rebel town in search of a new home and new life together. Their situation seems less than promising as they reach the town of Haven. New rules and customs must be adhered to in order to stay. Leaving would mean most certain death in the large expanse of the Gravelands. 

Time is running out as the government mounts an attack to destroy Olivia and bury her secret with her. Thrown into a world unlike their own, they must quickly adapt to survive.

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Review: This book really surprised me! Most of it was exactly what I expected, but other parts were even better. The situations are extraordinary, but Olivia and Joshua are very real and react to circumstances pretty much like you would imagine a couple of 18 year olds to react when they realize their whole life is a lie.

While the idea of the dystopian society isn't new, Ruth puts her own spin on things and makes something very common in YA literature a world all her own. I definitely felt the influence of big-name dystopia books in this one (Divergent kept coming to mind while I was reading), but the similarities are only enough that fans of one would probably enjoy the other. I really enjoyed the world building and learning about all of the different cities and types of people, even if we only got a small taste. 

The pacing is very quick and the plot moves along almost at breakneck speed, so it was a little difficult to keep up at times. One problem I had with the plot though was that the synopsis pretty much gives away the whole book. The twists and turns and big reveals aren't given away, but I always felt like I knew what was coming up even if I didn't know the path. Some of the twists surprised me, so that was nice. I wish the synopsis was shorter or less detailed or something because I want to be able to experience a book on my own. I don't want to be told what's going to happen step-by-step.

This book is from Olivia's perspective, and it was interesting to see things from the only natural-born girl in the world. The explanation as to why women are infertile is a little fast and not well explained, but I thought it was an interesting concept. I'm also really curious now to see if Olivia is actually able to have children naturally, and I hope this is explored more in the rest of the series! I really enjoyed seeing how she changed and matured after learning about her origin, her past, and then having to be on the run - twice. She still has quite a ways to go, I think, so it will be interesting to see how she handles new situations now that her world has been turned upside down. 

Josh, on the other hand, kind of drove me crazy. He was a pretty big jerk fairly often and I kind of wanted Olivia to just slap him. I mean, he eventually shapes up and stops making jokes that could be very hurtful, but still. He acts like he's 12 instead of 18 sometimes and it's really annoying. The romance between him and Olivia is totally understandable an comfortable though, since they became best friends at 5 and have been basically inseparable since then so that didn't bother me once he started acting his age. 

I would definitely recommend this book to fans of the popular dystopian books, like Divergent or The Hunger Games, especially if you're looking for a little sci-fi thrown in. I think fans of Crewel would also enjoy this book. It was a quick, engaging read, so it would be a perfect candidate for someone looking for an afternoon read. I'm looking forward to reading Moirai next! 3/5


--Ashley

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Katya's War (Russalka Chronicles #2) by Jonathan L. Howard - Ashley's Review

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

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Title: Katya's War
Author: Jonathan L. Howard
Year Published: 2013

My Katya's War Pre-Reading
My Katya's World Review
Paul's Katya's World Review

Synopsis: 
The battle lines have been drawn. The people of Russalka turn upon one another in a ruthless and unwavering civil war even while their world sickens and the deep black ocean is stained red with their blood. As the young civilization weakens, its vitality fueling the opposing militaries at the cost of all else, the war drums beat louder and louder. 


Katya Kuriakova knows it cannot last. Both sides are exhausted – it can only be a matter of days or weeks before they finally call a truce and negotiate. But the days and weeks pass, the death toll mounts, and still the enemy will not talk. 

Then a figure from the tainted past returns to make her an offer she cannot lightly refuse – a plan to stop the war. But to do it she will have to turn her back on everything she has believed in, everything she has ever fought for, to make sacrifices greater even than laying down her own life. To save Russalka, she must become its greatest enemy.


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Review: It's so hard to find a straight, hard sci-fi novel in the YA genre right now. Most everything is a mix of sci-fi/fantasy, fantasy, dystopian, post-apocalyptic, or romance, or some combination. The Russalka Chronicles comes as a breath of fresh air, and Katya's War did not disappoint! 

Although I had a little bit of a hard time getting into this story, I really enjoyed it once I finally got past all of the (necessary) setup at the beginning. It doesn't really seem all that important to know about the FMA and the Nags and the fighting and Katya's life in between Katya's World and this book, but all of it ends up being a huge reason why this book works so well. Katya feels safe amidst the civil war, and figures it must be on the brink of ending soon. The big reveal in the middle would not have been nearly as effective if the seemingly-slow beginning hadn't been there. 

Katya really had to grow up in Katya's World, and was put into extraordinary situations that were incredibly difficult for adults, much less a 15 year old girl. In Katya's War, she finds herself in even worse circumstances, and handles them better than the people who put her there to begin with. She's quick-thinking, caring, loyal, adaptable, and willing to do whatever it takes to save her world, regardless of what that means for her personally. I think she's one of my favorite heroines in any series, and I love watching her grow and mature. I don't like that such a young girl is forced to make the decisions she has made, but I think it's great that she handles them with grace and never allows them to tear her down or give up. 

I was really glad that some old favorites were back too - Kane, the Chertokva, Sergei, and others eventually show up to put in their two cents. These minor characters don't go through the amount of change and growth that Katya does and stay mostly the same, but each one is met with certain situations that make them look at aspects of their lives differently. They have minor revelations and try to right past wrongs, and I thought it was really neat to get to know them even better. I really hope they come back in the final book in the trilogy! 

This book was very similar to Katya's World, but still had its own unique characters and plot points and conflicts. I love that it's hard science fiction, and I would definitely recommend this series to anyone looking for pure sci-fi in YA. If you've read Katya's World, you definitely don't want to miss this sequel! The ending is so open that I can't wait for the final book to come out so I can find out what's next for Katya, Russalka, and all her friends. 4/5!



The Pirate's Wish (The Assassin's Curse #2) by Cassandra Rose Clarke - Paul's Review

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

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Title: The Pirate's Wish (The Assassin's Curse #2)

Author: Cassandra Rose Clarke
Year Published: 2013

My PRE-READING of The Pirate's Wish
My REVIEW of The Assassin's Curse
My REVIEW of The Witch's Betrayal
Ashley's REVIEW of The Assassin's Curse
Ashley's REVIEW of The Witch's Betrayal
Ashley's REVIEW of The Automaton's Treasure

Synopsis: After setting out to break the curse that binds them together, the pirate Ananna and the assassin Naji find themselves stranded on an enchanted island in the north with nothing but a sword, their wits, and the secret to breaking the curse: complete three impossible tasks. With the help of their friend Marjani and a rather unusual ally, Ananna and Naji make their way south again, seeking what seems to be beyond their reach.

Unfortunately, Naji has enemies from the shadowy world known as the Mists, and Ananna must still face the repercussions of going up against the Pirate Confederation. Together, Naji and Ananna must break the curse, escape their enemies — and come to terms with their growing romantic attraction.



Review: This world is one of my favorite fantasy worlds out there. It's up there with the world of Graceling, Fire, and Bitterblue. The great thing about it is that we've only seen parts of it and there's so much more to explore. One of my favorite characters in this book was the manticore. She is a great character alone and also leads to a whole other interesting book of this world.


Another of my favorite characters was Marjani. I love her backstory and her desires in life. She's a badass with a big heart. I need to read the short story about her soon!

I liked the way this duology used curses. I did want some of the impossible tasks to take longer, but I think that's just because I didn't want their adventure to end. 

Romance is also done in a way I liked. It's integral to the story, but there's so much more. And the characters are larger than their love lives. 

I've heard there are more books set in this world so I am very excited to read those! I give this book a 5/5 and recommend this duology to anyone who likes fantasy adventures in which the world itself feels like its own character.


-PAUL

Monday, October 21, 2013

The Boy from Ilysies (Libyrinth #2) by Pearl North - Ashley's Pre-Reading

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Title: The Boy From Ilysies
Author: Pearl North
Year Published: 2010 

My Libyrinth Review
My Libyrinth Pre-Reading

Synopsis: 
The magical sequel to Pearl North’s critically acclaimed debut novel, Libyrinth


On a world light-years away, Earth is long forgotten, except for the knowledge protected in the vast libyrinth. But that knowledge was threatened by the Singers, who for generations beyond remembering have relied on oral storytelling. They sought to destroy the books in the libyrinth, which they thought would—if read—kill the words they sing, and the knowledge in their songs.

Now a Song has created peace between the Singers and the Libyrarians who work in the libyrinth. However, the libyrinth is quickly running out of food, and the survival of the ancient edifice and those who serve it may depend on Po, a young Ilysian who has had trouble adjusting to life at the libyrinth. Caught between his longings for acceptance and the Machiavellian tactics of his queen, Po is tricked into a crime that causes him to be cast out. 

He may return only if he retrieves a legendary artifact that may be the answer to all of the libyrinth’s problems…or could turn the world into a barren, lifeless ruin. For Po, life has finally become exciting…but the cost may be his life, and the lives of those he loves.

The Boy From Ilysies is an exciting, fast-paced novel about acceptance, growing up, and learning to trust oneself.

Why?: I read and really enjoyed Libyrinth, so I wanted to continue the series! I've heard that this series gets better with each book, so I'm really looking forward to this one. I'm also really curious about learning more about the world and Po. 

Expectations: I have pretty high expectations for this book because I enjoyed the first one so much. I expect there to be a lot of expansion on the world, as well as on some of the more minor characters in the first book. Also, I expect there to be magic, adventure, and quite a bit of coming-of-age lessons.

Judging a book by its cover: I love this cover! I love the books and how the title stands out against the dark background. I love the stars. I would definitely pick this book up if I saw it on a shelf somewhere. 


--Ashley

The Witch's Betrayal (The Assassin's Curse #0.6) by Cassandra Rose Clarke - Paul's Review

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Title: The Witch's Betrayal
Author: Cassandra Rose Clarke
Year Published: 2013

My REVIEW of The Assassin's Curse
Ashley's REVIEW of The Witch's Betrayal
Ashley's REVIEW of The Assassin's Curse

Synopsis: An e-book original short story set before The Assassin's Curse.


You've read The Assassin’s Curse. You've met Naji. Now go back in time and see Naji in his earlier years, as he seeks a target and ends up clashing with Leila, the river witch.



Review: This is the story of how the assassin Naji acquired his scarred appearance. It was nice to see this world from his perspective although we only saw one city. I'd like to see more about the Order. 

I liked seeing his blood magic from his own perspective, inside his head. It was also cool to see him slipping into the shadows. 

I give this short story a 4/5 and think you should definitely read it if you like the series. I wouldn't suggest reading this short story first though.


-PAUL