Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The School for Good and Evil (The School for Good and Evil #1) by Soman Chainani - Paul's Review

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Title: The School for Good and Evil (The School for Good and Evil #1)
Author: Soman Chainani
Year Published: 2013

My The School for Good and Evil PRE-READING

Synopsis: The first kidnappings happened two hundred years before. Some years it was two boys taken, some years two girls, sometimes one of each. But if at first the choices seemed random, soon the pattern became clear. One was always beautiful and good, the child every parent wanted as their own. The other was homely and odd, an outcast from birth. An opposing pair, plucked from youth and spirited away.


This year, best friends Sophie and Agatha are about to discover where all the lost children go: the fabled School for Good & Evil, where ordinary boys and girls are trained to be fairy tale heroes and villains. As the most beautiful girl in Gavaldon, Sophie has dreamed of being kidnapped into an enchanted world her whole life. With her pink dresses, glass slippers, and devotion to good deeds, she knows she’ll earn top marks at the School for Good and graduate a storybook princess. Meanwhile Agatha, with her shapeless black frocks, wicked pet cat, and dislike of nearly everyone, seems a natural fit for the School for Evil.

But when the two girls are swept into the Endless Woods, they find their fortunes reversed—Sophie’s dumped in the School for Evil to take Uglification, Death Curses, and Henchmen Training, while Agatha finds herself in the School For Good, thrust amongst handsome princes and fair maidens for classes in Princess Etiquette and Animal Communication.. But what if the mistake is actually the first clue to discovering who Sophie and Agatha really are…?

The School for Good & Evil is an epic journey into a dazzling new world, where the only way out of a fairy tale is to live through one.


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Review: 
It's great to see a book for young girls with two female leads. Romance still has its place in the book, but the friendship of the two leads is at the focus of the story. 


This book plays with so many fairy tale tropes and cliches. Many well known fairy tale characters make appearances or are referenced. The concepts of villains and heroes, evil and good, are really played with. It really plays with assumptions and what you are inside. I loved all the parallels and the fairytale roles different characters took. 

I had so many different thoughts on where the story was going, but my theories constantly changed. And I didn't predict the ending. This book had my brain constantly working. 

There are a lot of physical attributes corresponding to good/evilness though. It's addressed, but one's inner self was often reflected by their outer self. 

There are a few LGBT references in the book, but some just as jokes or shock value. I wish I could have seen a different representation. That of course was one of my early theories too. 

While reading this book, I couldn't help seeing it as a musical, either stage or movie. There were even some lines of dialogue that after reading them seemed like the title of a song. 

There's apparently a sequel coming out in a few months. I was surprised because the ending wasn't left super open ended. I do like the sequel's title though: A World Without Princes.

I enjoyed this book and think it would be a great book for girls especially age 10-14. I'm not saying this is a girl book, but I think young girls would enjoy this different take on a princess story. I, a 24 year old man, enjoyed this book as well. I give it a 4.5/5.


--PAUL

Monday, December 30, 2013

Isaura (Aberrant #3) by Ruth Silver - Ashley's Pre-Reading

*I received this book as an eARC from Lazy Day Publishing on NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Title: Isaura
Author: Ruth Silver
Publication Date: December 4, 2013

My Moirai Pre-Reading
My Aberrant Review
My Aberrant Pre-Reading

Synopsis: 
SECRETS WILL BE REVEALED.


Olivia has little choice but to head into the dangerous Gravelands, as the new government wrestles with fixing the damage to society. If traveling through outlaw territory isn’t frightening enough, Olivia learns she has exposed her secret and is hunted by those she trusted. In a race against time, her life and those she loves are in jeopardy.

Why?: After reading Aberrant and Moirai, I just had to pick up this book! This trilogy so far has been exciting, fast-paced, and has kept me on the edge of my seat. I have to find out how Olivia's story ends, and see if she's able to save herself and those she loves. 

Expectations: As I've read these books, my expectations have steadily grown higher and higher. I expect this to be a thrilling conclusion to an excellent trilogy, and I expect that we learn even more about Olivia, her world, and especially the Gravelands. 

Judging a book by its cover: I think the covers for these books are extremely well done, and so far have been very fitting for the books. I'm glad to see that Olivia's hair is still red, which is consistent with the books so far, and it definitely looks like she's standing in the Gravelands. Although these covers are pretty typical for YA books featuring a heroine, I would likely be inclined to pick this one up based solely on the cover.


--Ashley

The Burning Sky (The Elemental Trilogy #1) by Sherry Thomas - Paul's Pre-Reading

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Title: The Burning Sky (The Elemental Trilogy #1)
Author: Sherry Thomas
Year Published: 2013

Synopsis: It all began with a ruined elixir and an accidental bolt of lightning…

Iolanthe Seabourne is the greatest elemental mage of her generation—or so she's being told. The one prophesied for years to be the savior of The Realm. It is her duty and destiny to face and defeat the Bane, the greatest mage tyrant the world has ever known. A suicide task for anyone let alone a sixteen-year-old girl with no training, facing a prophecy that foretells a fiery clash to the death.

Prince Titus of Elberon has sworn to protect Iolanthe at all costs but he's also a powerful mage committed to obliterating the Bane to avenge the death of his family—even if he must sacrifice both Iolanthe and himself to achieve his goal.

But Titus makes the terrifying mistake of falling in love with the girl who should have been only a means to an end. Now, with the servants of the Bane closing in, he must choose between his mission and her life.

Why?: Elemental magic, fantasy, and romance. I'm also really excited to start a new YA fantasy series. I've also heard great things about this book from both Rae Carson and Jodi Meadows, two of my favorite fantasy YA authors!!! 

Expectations: I have high expectations. If Rae Carson and Jodi Meadows loved it then I'm ready for some awesome world building. 

Judging a book by its cover: I really like this cover.


--PAUL

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Reality Boy by A.S. King - Paul's Review

*I received this book as an eARC from Little, Brown Books for Young Readers on NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Title: Reality Boy
Author: A.S. King
Date of Publication: October 22nd, 2013

My Reality Boy PRE-READING

Synopsis: Gerald Faust knows exactly when he started feeling angry: the day his mother invited a reality television crew into his five-year-old life. Twelve years later, he’s still haunted by his rage-filled youth—which the entire world got to watch from every imaginable angle—and his anger issues have resulted in violent outbursts, zero friends, and clueless adults dumping him in the special education room at school.

Nothing is ever going to change. No one cares that he’s tried to learn to control himself, and the girl he likes has no idea who he really is. Everyone’s just waiting for him to snap…and he’s starting to feel dangerously close to doing just that.

In this fearless portrayal of a boy on the edge, highly acclaimed Printz Honor author A.S. King explores the desperate reality of a former child “star” who finally breaks free of his anger by creating possibilities he never knew he deserved.

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

Review: Although this book wasn't exactly what I expected, I enjoyed reading it. The story follows a teenager with anger management problems who has infamously been dubbed the Crapper after appearing on the reality tv show Network Nanny as a child. The teenage comes from quite the dysfunctional family.

Throughout the book, chapters cover the episodes in which the family were featured on Network Nanny. I really liked these chapters because you got to see why he become the teenager he is. 

This book really makes you think about the people you see on reality television. What happens after? And what actually happened during?

I could see this book as an indie movie with awesome indie fantasy scenes, maybe with cartoons, puppets, or some sort of elaborate paper folding.

This book is an enjoyable read and really delves into a unique teenager's life. I give this book a 4/5.


--PAUL

Saturday, December 28, 2013

The School for Good and Evil (The School for Good and Evil #1) by Soman Chainani - Paul's Pre-Reading

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Title: The School for Good and Evil (The School for Good and Evil #1)
Author: Soman Chainani
Year Published: 2013

Synopsis: The first kidnappings happened two hundred years before. Some years it was two boys taken, some years two girls, sometimes one of each. But if at first the choices seemed random, soon the pattern became clear. One was always beautiful and good, the child every parent wanted as their own. The other was homely and odd, an outcast from birth. An opposing pair, plucked from youth and spirited away.


This year, best friends Sophie and Agatha are about to discover where all the lost children go: the fabled School for Good & Evil, where ordinary boys and girls are trained to be fairy tale heroes and villains. As the most beautiful girl in Gavaldon, Sophie has dreamed of being kidnapped into an enchanted world her whole life. With her pink dresses, glass slippers, and devotion to good deeds, she knows she’ll earn top marks at the School for Good and graduate a storybook princess. Meanwhile Agatha, with her shapeless black frocks, wicked pet cat, and dislike of nearly everyone, seems a natural fit for the School for Evil.

But when the two girls are swept into the Endless Woods, they find their fortunes reversed—Sophie’s dumped in the School for Evil to take Uglification, Death Curses, and Henchmen Training, while Agatha finds herself in the School For Good, thrust amongst handsome princes and fair maidens for classes in Princess Etiquette and Animal Communication.. But what if the mistake is actually the first clue to discovering who Sophie and Agatha really are…?

The School for Good & Evil is an epic journey into a dazzling new world, where the only way out of a fairy tale is to live through one.

Why?: The reason I picked up this book was the cover. It's absolutely enthralling. I love all the parallels and the black and white. The school crest with the swans is really cool. The second reason this book caught my attention was the title. A school for good AND evil? A school for fairytale characters? All these things intrigue me.


Expectations: I know this is middle grade, so I'm not expecting too much mature or dark content, but I'm hoping for some interesting conversation on good and evil. I'm expecting to enter a fun and interesting world of future fairytales.


Judging a book by its cover: Like I said, I love this cover. So many parallels. I have so many questions about the characters and the castles.


--PAUL

Friday, December 27, 2013

BOYS: An Anthology - Paul's Review

AmazonGoodreads

Title: BOYS: An Anthology
Editor: Zach Stafford & Nico Lang
Year Published: 2013

Synopsis: Boys is an anthology of essays showcasing the voices, stories, and lives of gay, queer, and trans* men from around the world. Through these essays, readers are allowed an intimate glimpse into moments like the time one of the boys accidentally came out as gay on MySpace, another was kidnapped by his mother who wanted to “pray the gay away,” to the first time a boy went to a leather bar after transitioning to male and before he became a famous porn artist and performer. Boys shows readers that at the end of the day, there isn't one type of boy in the world, but lots of boys with all their own stories


Review: I first heard of this anthology from R.J. Aguiar on his twitter account. I downloaded it the day it came out. It's full of stories from so many different queer perspectives. I like how many minorities within the gay community are thoroughly discussed such as trans men and people of color. Some of the stories reminded me of similar experiences I've had or of things friends of mine have gone through. I'd suggest this book to any gay man from 19 to 99, but especially those in their 20-something's. I give this anthology am overall 4/5. 

I'm going to list just a few things about each of the stories. 

1. Vomit: This story reminds me of my own growing up. AIM as well as early college experiences and feelings. I had different experiences, but I think everyone has the same feelings as they experience their own coming of "(g)a(y)ge" story.

2. A Trip Down Route 666: This is a sad story of a family that refuses to love their child. It's unfortunate that there are so many people that have similar experiences.

3. Confessions of a Snow Queen: This is a really interesting story of race in the gay American scene from the perspective of an Indian. And then what it means to be an American with Indian heritage in India.

4. My Closet is Better Than Yours: A gay twin tries to make himself unique and find out who he really is and not just a comparison.

5. We're Desperate: This story is about appearance and perception.

6. Like That: This story covers racism and its complexities

7. Inside Man (by R.J. Aguiar): This story follows an out young man trying to make a living in politics and a broken system, particularly in FL. It was interesting to read this knowing R.J.'s story from his YouTube channel with his now fiancé.

8. Testosterone Fueled Injection: This story is about a very unique encounter in a leather bar. I had also known of this author. This story is a little steamier than others in the anthology. 

9. For Colored Boys Who Love White Boys: This is another story that addresses race and "preferences".

10. The Time I Outed Myself on AIM: This story is about an unfortunate incident in a freshmen high school student's life. And how important certain things seem in high school. 

11. Much Ado About a Name: This story really shows how much power and emotion can go into a name.

12: The Couple Undercover: I liked how this story was told in an interesting 2nd person perspective. It deals with ambition and priorities.

13. My Hideous Angel: This is an insirational story. It shows that you can go from a low to a high. Bad family relations to helping homeless lgbtq.

14. What Would I Do Without You?: This story covers the inability to leave behind memories of a relationship that ended too soon.

15. Gandhi School of Hookups: This is another interesting tale of race. How set in stone are gay men when it comes to race preferences? This story is from an Asian perspective

16. Pages From the Penis Book: The stories of a gay man's youthful attractions and actions.

17. A Series of (Fortunately) Unfortunate Events: A Craigslist Chronicle: This story follows a 25 year old remembering his sexual encounters via Craigslist as a 20 yr old.

18. When a Bulimic Goes on a Diet: A young boy comes out as bulimic in this story.

19. Studs Abroad: This is a story of a gay man in Amaterdam.


--PAUL

Thursday, December 26, 2013

These Broken Stars (Starbound #1) by Amie Kaufman & Megan Spooner - Paul's Review

*I received this book as an eARC from Disney Hyperion on Netgalley in exchange for an honest review*


Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Title: These Broken Stars (Starbound #1)
Author: Amie Kaufman & Megan Spooner
Date of Publication: December 10th, 2013

My These Broken Stars PRE-READING

Synopsis: It's a night like any other on board the Icarus. Then, catastrophe strikes: the massive luxury spaceliner is yanked out of hyperspace and plummets into the nearest planet. Lilac LaRoux and Tarver Merendsen survive. And they seem to be alone. 

Lilac is the daughter of the richest man in the universe. Tarver comes from nothing, a young war hero who learned long ago that girls like Lilac are more trouble than they’re worth. But with only each other to rely on, Lilac and Tarver must work together, making a tortuous journey across the eerie, deserted terrain to seek help. 

Then, against all odds, Lilac and Tarver find a strange blessing in the tragedy that has thrown them into each other’s arms. Without the hope of a future together in their own world, they begin to wonder—would they be better off staying here forever?

Everything changes when they uncover the truth behind the chilling whispers that haunt their every step. Lilac and Tarver may find a way off this planet. But they won’t be the same people who landed on it.

--

A timeless love story, These Broken Stars sets into motion a sweeping science fiction series of companion novels. The Starbound Trilogy: Three worlds. Three love stories. One enemy.


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

Review: The first few chapters of this book introduce such an interesting world of space travel. It's told from two perspectives: a space industry heiress and a decorated war hero. I really liked these parallel points of view because often the characters say and do things counter to their actual thoughts and opinions. 


I don't want to say too much about the book as to not spoil, but it was a great survival story. If you like The Original Series and The Next Generation Star Trek episodes, then you will enjoy this. The story is straight out of one if those episodes, just heavily expanded upon. 

I really enjoyed this book. I highly recommend it to sci-fi fans. I feel like it could be its own book, but apparently I hear it's part of a series. I look forward to finding out more about this galaxy. I give this book a 5/5.

--PAUL

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Reality Boy by A.S. King - Paul's Pre-Reading

*I received this book as an eARC from Little, Brown Books for Young Readers on NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*


Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Title: Reality Boy
Author: A.S. King
Date of Publication: October 22nd, 2013

Synopsis: Gerald Faust knows exactly when he started feeling angry: the day his mother invited a reality television crew into his five-year-old life. Twelve years later, he’s still haunted by his rage-filled youth—which the entire world got to watch from every imaginable angle—and his anger issues have resulted in violent outbursts, zero friends, and clueless adults dumping him in the special education room at school.

Nothing is ever going to change. No one cares that he’s tried to learn to control himself, and the girl he likes has no idea who he really is. Everyone’s just waiting for him to snap…and he’s starting to feel dangerously close to doing just that.

In this fearless portrayal of a boy on the edge, highly acclaimed Printz Honor author A.S. King explores the desperate reality of a former child “star” who finally breaks free of his anger by creating possibilities he never knew he deserved

Why?: This book sounds really interesting. It reminds me of The Truman Show and those kids some morning show checked in on every year to see how their life was. I'm interested to see how this concept plays out. 

Expectations: I'm expecting a story that has a lot of hidden or maybe blatant messages about individuality and reality tv. 

Judging a book by its cover: This book has a really interesting cover. It's colorful. It is what first caught my interest. 


--PAUL

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Cold Spell (Fairytale Retellings #4) by Jackson Pearce - Paul's Review

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Title: Cold Spell (Fairytale Retellings #4)
Author: Jackson Pearce
Year Published: 2013

My Cold Spell (#4) PRE-READING
My Fathomless (#3) REVIEW
My Sweetly (#2) REVIEW
My Sisters Red (#1) REVIEW

Ashley's Cold Spell (#4) REVIEW
Ashley's Fathomless (#3) REVIEW
Ashley's Sweetly (#2) REVIEW
Ashley's Sisters Red (#1) REVIEW

Synopsis: Kai and Ginny grew up together–best friends since they could toddle around their building’s rooftop rose garden. Now they’re seventeen, and their relationship has developed into something sweeter, complete with stolen kisses and plans to someday run away together.

But one night, Kai disappears with a mysterious stranger named Mora–a beautiful girl with a dark past and a heart of ice. Refusing to be cast aside, Ginny goes after them and is thrust into a world she never imagined, one filled with monsters and thieves and the idea that love is not enough.

If Ginny and Kai survive the journey, will she still be the girl he loved–and moreover, will she still be the girl who loved him?

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Review: This book is a wonderful adaptation of The Snow Queen. I really liked how I could match the characters with their fairytale counterpart. Pearce continues to expand the mythology she has created. I loved all the connections to her already existing mythology as well as all the new and interesting things she introduced. I like how we get more details each book. 

I really liked the main relationship in this book. I loved all their little quirks and how some of those nuances came into play at the conclusion of the book. 

There were so many unique and interesting characters. I especially liked the chapters from Mora's point of view.

This book was an easy and fun read. Some things happen too easy, but it's still an enjoyable read. I think Pearce's books have only gotten better. I liked Fathomless more, but I think that's only because of the subject. 

I'm waiting for an epic team up book where all these awesome characters from each Fairy Tale Retelling come together to take on the Fenris. This needs to happen!

I hope Pearce continues to reinterpret fairytales into modern stories. I give this book a 4.5/5 and it's a must read if you've read Pearce's other books. If you like fairytales and haven't, I'd suggest starting at the beginning though. They are each their own stories, but the experience of reading them as a series is so much better.


--PAUL

Monday, December 23, 2013

These Broken Stars (Starbound #1) by Amie Kaufman & Megan Spooner - Paul's Pre-Reading

*I received this book as an eARC from Disney Hyperion on Netgalley in exchange for an honest review*


Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Title: These Broken Stars (Starbound #1)
Author: Amie Kaufman & Megan Spooner
Date of Publication: December 10th, 2013

Synopsis: It's a night like any other on board the Icarus. Then, catastrophe strikes: the massive luxury spaceliner is yanked out of hyperspace and plummets into the nearest planet. Lilac LaRoux and Tarver Merendsen survive. And they seem to be alone. 

Lilac is the daughter of the richest man in the universe. Tarver comes from nothing, a young war hero who learned long ago that girls like Lilac are more trouble than they’re worth. But with only each other to rely on, Lilac and Tarver must work together, making a tortuous journey across the eerie, deserted terrain to seek help. 

Then, against all odds, Lilac and Tarver find a strange blessing in the tragedy that has thrown them into each other’s arms. Without the hope of a future together in their own world, they begin to wonder—would they be better off staying here forever?

Everything changes when they uncover the truth behind the chilling whispers that haunt their every step. Lilac and Tarver may find a way off this planet. But they won’t be the same people who landed on it.

--

A timeless love story, These Broken Stars sets into motion a sweeping science fiction series of companion novels. The Starbound Trilogy: Three worlds. Three love stories. One enemy.

Why?: I've heard great things about this book. A space adventure. Romance. Similar to Battlestar Galactica? All of these things intrigue me.

Expectations: I'm expecting a really good space adventure. 

Judging a book by its cover: I think this cover is beautiful. I love the stars.


--PAUL

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Fraggle Rock Classics Vol. 2 by Stan Kay, Marie Severin & Jake Myler - Paul's Review

*I received this comic book as an eARC from Archaia Entertainment on NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Title: Fraggle Rock Classics Vol. 2
Authors: Stan Kay, Marie Severin (Illustrations), Jake Myler (Contributor)
Date of Publication: October 16th, 2012

Synopsis: Another blast from the Fraggle past! From the same creative team that brought you Fraggle Rock Classics Volume 1 comes the final collection of the original 1980s Fraggle Rock comic series! Inspired by the Jim Henson TV series, the Fraggle Rock comics capture the same spirit and valuable life lessons set forth in the show. Great for existing fans of Fraggle Rock, and a perfect introduction to new ones!

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

Review: This graphic novel collects reprints of the 1985 Fraggle Rock comic as well as two newer stories from the past few years. In one if the stories, Mokey teaches Junior about friends. In another, Red makes friends with Lanford, Mokey 'a pet plant. One if the newer stories centers around Halloween. 

If you're a fan of Fraggle Rock, you will enjoy this collection. I liked the two newer stories more than the 1985 reprints because I liked their different art styles. I give this graphic novel a 4/5. If there's a Fraggle Rock fan in your life this would make a great gift.


--PAUL

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Ascension: A Tangled Axon Novel by Jacqueline Koyanagi - Ashley's Review

*I received this book as an eARC from Diamond Book Distributors on NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*


Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Title: Ascension: A Tangled Axon Novel
Author: Jacqueline Koyanagi
Publication Date: December 4, 2013

My Ascension Pre-Reading

Synopsis: 
Alana Quick is the best damned sky surgeon in Heliodor City, but repairing starship engines barely pays the bills. When the desperate crew of a cargo vessel stops by her shipyard looking for her spiritually-advanced sister Nova, Alana stows away. Maybe her boldness will land her a long-term gig on the crew. But the Tangled Axon proves to be more than star-watching and plasma coils. The chief engineer thinks he's a wolf. The pilot fades in and out of existence. The captain is all blond hair, boots, and ego ... and Alana can't keep her eyes off her. But there's little time for romance: Nova's in danger and someone will do anything—even destroying planets—to get their hands on her!



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Review: I feel like this book had so much potential. A sci-fi set in an unknown world (universe?) that defies all gender stereotypes. A woman engineer, a woman captain, a woman pilot... it's pretty rare to find so many strong female characters crammed into one sci-fi book. At least in my experience. And I think it could have been done so much better.

For one, I never really liked or connected with Alana. She's brash and selfish and annoying and just everything I hate in a main character. I feel like we were always on information overload with her - I know it's important to establish a character early on, especially the protagonist, but she seriously had so many problems that I never knew which one she was going to be complaining about next. I think if her issues had been spaced out more and dealt with one or two at a time instead of all at once, I would have liked her more. Or at least been less inclined to want to punch her in the face. 

I also wasn't a huge fan of the pacing or the plot in general. The beginning was so slow to me, and it took me way longer than it should have to become invested in anything that was going on. The only character we really get to know is Alana, and I think more character development early on for Tev, Slip, Ovie, Marre, and Nova would really have helped move things along. We don't really see that until the end, where all of a sudden we learn all the things about all of the people. Throw in some more twists and it's more information overload. There was just too much in this one book. 

I did love the world and the explanations of some things, and I would really like to learn more about all of it. Especially with the twist at the end. Marre was probably my favorite minor character, and I'm glad we got to learn about her background and her past and her condition. I almost wish she was the main character instead of Alana. 

Another issue I had was the lack of male characters. I can only think of a few unnamed ones and Ovie, and it just made everything really hard to believe. At least throw in a few male guards or passerby or something... This book was way too gender-biased and just annoyed me the whole time. I mean, I'm not against women being successful and holding the same jobs as men, but you can't just disregard an entire sector of the population. 

Because the feminism is so strong, the relationships were kind of weird too. I think they took too much precedence and didn't allow for the actual problems to come through. I have a hard time with romance in sci-fi, and while it was nice and interesting to see the different atypical group dynamic, I really don't need to be reminded of it every single time Tev walks into the room. That's like every other page, for crying out loud. 

I think I went into this book with my expectations a little too high, and that's part of the reason I came out disappointed. I do think there's a market out there for this book - I'm just not a part of it. If you're looking for a sci-fi with a lot of feminism, unusual relationships, interesting new worlds and universes, and love space, I think this might be a good fit for you. For me though, it was only a 2/5. 




--Ashley

The Bitter Kingdom (Fire and Thorns #3) by Rae Carson - Paul's Review

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Title: The Bitter Kingdom (Fire and Thorns #3)
Author: Rae Carson
Year Published: 2013

My The Bitter Kingdom (#3) PRE-READING
My Girl of Fire and Thorns (#1) REVIEW
My The Shadow Cats (#0.5) REVIEW
My Crown of Embers (#2) REVIEW

Ashley's Girl of Fire and Thorns (#1) REVIEW
Ashley's Crown of Embers (#2) REVIEW

Synopsis: The epic conclusion to Rae Carson's Fire and Thorns trilogy. The seventeen-year-old sorcerer-queen will travel into the unknown realm of the enemy to win back her true love, save her country, and uncover the final secrets of her destiny.

Elisa is a fugitive in her own country. Her enemies have stolen the man she loves in order to lure her to the gate of darkness. As she and her daring companions take one last quest into unknown enemy territory to save Hector, Elisa will face hardships she's never imagined. And she will discover secrets about herself and her world that could change the course of history. She must rise up as champion-a champion to those who have hated her most.

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

Review: Rae Carson is at the top of my list of favorite authors right now. She not only creates an amazing and interesting world inhabited with complex characters, but she does it in beautifully written prose. 
Romance plays a big part of this trilogy, but there is so much more that is bigger. Elisa is such a bigger person than just her love life. And she knows it. The evolution of her relationships from the first book to this one is done so well. 

There are so many great minor characters, some that we have known since the beginning and some that we don't meet until this book. And characters we know more about from the excellent novellas. Some of my favorite were Mara, Belen, and Red. 

Another whole subset of characters that I love are the locations. Carson did an excellent job making so many of the locations have as much depth as the minor characters. 

There were so many callbacks to the earlier two books. It made this book really feel like a conclusion to a trilogy. It was one story spread between three books instead if three stories back to back. 

It was so nice to see Elisa's growth from the start if the series. I loved where all the characters ended. You can really tell Carson put a lot if thought into each character's path. 

The godstones play their own part in this book. And we get to learn more about the Inviernos. We get to see them in their native lands with snowy mountains and the caves within.

One of my favorite scenes was when Elisa fulfilled her godstone's calling. It was done so well and I loved the implications of it. 

This trilogy is my favorite YA fantasy series. Everything about it gives me chills. You should definitely read this trilogy if you have not! I can not wait for Rae Carson's next book!!! I give this book a 5/5!!!


--PAUL

Friday, December 20, 2013

The Marvelous Land of Oz (Oz #2) by L. Frank Baum - Ashley's Review

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Title: The Marvelous Land of Oz (Oz #2)
Author: L. Frank Baum
Year Published: 1904

Synopsis: First issued in 1904, L. Frank Baum's The Marvelous Land of Oz is the story of the wonderful adventures of the young boy named Tip as he travels throughout the many lands of Oz. Here he meets with our old friends the Scarecrow and Tin Woodman, as well as some new friends like Jack Pumpkinhead, the Wooden Sawhorse, the Highly Magnified Woggle-Bug, and the amazing Gump. How they thwart the wicked plans of the evil witch Mombi and overcome the rebellion of General Jinjur and her army of young women is a tale as exciting and endearing today as it was when first published over eighty years ago.

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Review: Having read The Wonderful Wizard of Oz earlier this year, I knew I had to continue the journey through the magical land of Oz with this next book. It took me a while to get back into it, but it was definitely worth the time and the read. 

Having never read any of the Oz books, I had no idea what to expect when Dorothy's story ends in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Would we have an entirely new cast of characters? Would we see the Scarecrow or Nick Chopper ever again? Luckily, it was a little of both! New characters, like Tip, Jack Pumpkinhead, and the Woggle-Bug are introduced and old favorites make appearances and help our new heroes on their journey. It was interesting to learn more about the characters everyone knows and loves, as well as finding out more of the history of Oz and the wizard and the times before the wizard. 

It might just be because this book is over a century old, but I found some of the language to be a little tedious to get through. There was a lot more exposition than I typically prefer, and I felt like it slowed the plot down quite a bit. This isn't a long book, but it did take me a little while to finish. The plot is simple and definitely good for children. 

If you're a fan of all of the Wizard of Oz retellings and the original story, I definitely recommend reading this book! It's a short, quick read that you could probably knock out on a lazy weekend or something. I would give it a 3/5. 

--Ashley

Cold Spell (Fairytale Retellings #4) by Jackson Pearce - Paul's Pre-Reading

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Title: Cold Spell (Fairytale Retellings #4)
Author: Jackson Pearce
Year Published: 2013

My Fathomless REVIEW
My Sweetly REVIEW
My Sisters Red REVIEW

Ashley's Cold Spell REVIEW
Ashley's Fathomless REVIEW
Ashley's Sweetly REVIEW
Ashley's Sisters Red REVIEW

Synopsis: Kai and Ginny grew up together–best friends since they could toddle around their building’s rooftop rose garden. Now they’re seventeen, and their relationship has developed into something sweeter, complete with stolen kisses and plans to someday run away together.

But one night, Kai disappears with a mysterious stranger named Mora–a beautiful girl with a dark past and a heart of ice. Refusing to be cast aside, Ginny goes after them and is thrust into a world she never imagined, one filled with monsters and thieves and the idea that love is not enough.

If Ginny and Kai survive the journey, will she still be the girl he loved–and moreover, will she still be the girl who loved him?

Why?: Pearce does a wonderful job of retelling classic stories in new and interesting ways. I've enjoyed all of her books that I've read and I think they've improved. So, I'm really excited for this one. I just read the original Snow Queen story so I'm excited to see how Pearce twists the tale.

Expectations: I'm expecting subtle references to her prior Fairy Tale Retellings. I'm also expecting an interesting take on the Snow Queen story in modern times. 

Judging a book by its cover: I like the cover with the broken mirror, but I wish it had a cover to match my Sisters Red and Sweetly books. I really liked the style of those covers. 


--PAUL

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Alice in Tumblr-land by Tim Manley - Paul's Review

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

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Title: Alice in Tumblr-land
Author: Tim Manley
Date of Publication: November 5th, 2013

Synopsis: Disney meets Lena Dunham in this illustrated humor book featuring your favorite fairy-tale characters dating and finding their way in 21st-century America

The Ugly Duckling still feels gross compared to everyone else, but now she’s got Instagram, and there’s this one filter that makes her look awesome. Cinderella swaps her glass slippers for Crocs. The Tortoise and the Hare Facebook stalk each other. Goldilocks goes gluten free. And Peter Pan finally has to grow up and get a job, or at least start paying rent.

Here are more than one hundred fairy tales, illustrated and re-imagined for today. Instead of fairy godmothers, there’s Siri. And rather than big bad wolves, there are creepy dudes on OkCupid. In our brave new world of social networking, YouTube, and texting, fairy tales can once again lead us to "happily ever after" — and have us laughing all the way.

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Review: If you're a 20-something who often gets lost on the Internet and questions their life choices when drunk, you will enjoy this book. This book takes fairy tale characters out of their fantasy worlds and plants them into the modern life of a lost 20-something. 

I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it as a gift for a friend who likes fairy tales and the Internet. This book would do well on a coffee table or in a guest bathroom. I give it a 4/5.


--PAUL

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Allegiant (Divergent #3) by Veronica Roth - Paul's Review

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Title: Allegiant (Divergent #3)
Author: Veronica Roth
Year Published: 2013

My Allegiant (#3) PRE-READING
My Insurgent (#2) REVIEW

Ashley's Insurgent (#2) REVIEW
Ashley's Divergent (#1) REVIEW

Synopsis: The faction-based society that Tris Prior once believed in is shattered—fractured by violence and power struggles and scarred by loss and betrayal. So when offered a chance to explore the world past the limits she’s known, Tris is ready. Perhaps beyond the fence, she and Tobias will find a simple new life together, free from complicated lies, tangled loyalties, and painful memories. 

But Tris’s new reality is even more alarming than the one she left behind. Old discoveries are quickly rendered meaningless. Explosive new truths change the hearts of those she loves. And once again, Tris must battle to comprehend the complexities of human nature—and of herself—while facing impossible choices about courage, allegiance, sacrifice, and love. 

Told from a riveting dual perspective, Allegiant, by #1 New York Times best-selling author Veronica Roth, brings the Divergent series to a powerful conclusion while revealing the secrets of the dystopian world that has captivated millions of readers in Divergent and Insurgent.

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Review: I was not impressed with the beginning and middle of this book, but the ending I enjoyed. It seemed too much like The Maze Runner series to me. It didn't feel like a fluid trilogy. There were so many new things for just this third book in the trilogy. It also seemed like many of the same situations from the previous two books with just different details. 

Now don't get me wrong, I did really enjoy this book. I was just not overly impressed. 

It was weird to have Tobias's perspective at first, but I eventually got used to it. I enjoyed how Tris and Tobias's relationship progressed. And there were a lot of minor characters that I really enjoyed. 

I found Peter's obsession with the size of the world really interesting. I also really liked Amar in this novel. I liked getting to know more about him. Parental relationships in this series, especially this novel are very interesting. 

I thankfully avoided all spoilers before reading this book, but I guess there was controversy over the ending. I thought the ending was done very well. I thought it was an excellent ending to the series. I give this third book a 4/5.

--PAUL

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Bitter Kingdom (Fire and Thorns #3) by Rae Carson - Paul's Pre-Reading

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Title: The Bitter Kingdom (Fire and Thorns #3)
Author: Rae Carson
Year Published: 2013

My Girl of Fire and Thorns (#1) REVIEW
My The Shadow Cats (#0.5) REVIEW
My The King's Guard (#0.7) REVIEW
My Crown of Embers (#2) REVIEW

Ashley's Girl of Fire and Thorns (#1) REVIEW
Ashley's Crown of Embers (#2) REVIEW

Synopsis: The epic conclusion to Rae Carson's Fire and Thorns trilogy. The seventeen-year-old sorcerer-queen will travel into the unknown realm of the enemy to win back her true love, save her country, and uncover the final secrets of her destiny.

Elisa is a fugitive in her own country. Her enemies have stolen the man she loves in order to lure her to the gate of darkness. As she and her daring companions take one last quest into unknown enemy territory to save Hector, Elisa will face hardships she's never imagined. And she will discover secrets about herself and her world that could change the course of history. She must rise up as champion-a champion to those who have hated her most.

Why?: Rae Carson! Her writing is amazing! I've loved the first two books in this series so I'm ready for this one!

Expectations: I expect another amazing fantasy novel. 

Judging a book by its cover: I like this cover. I like that the covers for this trilogy all match. I like the wintery feel if this cover. 


--PAUL

Monday, December 16, 2013

The Transfer (Divergent #0.1) by Veronica Roth - Paul's Review

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Title: The Transfer (Divergent #0.1) 
Author: Veronica Roth
Year Published: 2013

Synopsis: More Four! Fans of the Divergent series by #1 New York Times bestselling author Veronica Roth will be thrilled by "The Transfer," the first of four new short stories told from Four’s perspective. Each brief story explores the world of the Divergent series through the eyes of the mysterious but charismatic Tobias Eaton, revealing previously unknown facets of his personality, back story, and relationships.

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Review: This story covers Tobias's story from before he chose Dauntless until he acquires his name, Four.

It's nice to see Dauntless members again, mostly the older ones like Amar and Tori.

It's cool to see all the details of Tobias's life, but there's not much new. My favorite part was probably seeing Tobias' fears. 

Any fan of the Divergent series will enjoy this, but it's not a necessary read. I give it a 4/5.

--PAUL

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Plants vs. Zombies: Lawnmaggedon by Paul Tobin & Ron Chan - Ashley's Review

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

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Title: Plants vs. Zombies: Lawnmaggedon
Authors: Paul Tobin & Ron Chan
Date of Publication: November 19, 2013

Synopsis: PopCap's immensely popular Plants vs. Zombies game finally gets the plant-filled, zombie-zapping comics treatment it deserves! The confusing-yet-brilliant inventor known only as Crazy Dave helps his niece, Patrice, and young adventurer Nate Timely fend off a "fun-dead" neighborhood invasion in Plants vs. Zombies: Lawnmageddon

Winner of over thirty "Game of the Year" awards, Plants vs. Zombies is now determined to shuffle onto bookshelves to tickle funny bones and thrill...brains. Paul Tobin (Marvel Adventures, Falling Skies) and Ron Chan (The Guild, Husbands) join forces with a bevy of battling plants to deliver a hilarious, all-ages, action filled zombie romp to your neighborhood!

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Review: Who doesn't love Plants vs. Zombies? It's on pretty much every platform and device, and it's fun for all ages. The zombies are slow and fun to destroy, the plants are creative and punny and colorful, and Crazy Dave is...well, crazy. So imagine my glee at finding a comic featuring Crazy Dave, his plants, and the zombies! 

This comic is basically a contained adventure in which Nate Timely and Patrice must save their neighborhood from the zombie invasion. Crazy Dave talks crazy, and only Patrice can translate, and I really enjoyed those conversations. Even translated Crazy Dave makes zero sense. I felt like Nate and I could have been friends, since he's the only one coming up with ideas and actually trying to save the town while Patrice gets sidetracked and helps her uncle with his ridiculous ideas. They make quite a duo, and I was surprised how much fun they were to read about.

I also really enjoyed seeing all of the plants and zombies from the game. The artwork is exceptional, and looks like it could have come straight from the actual game. The colors are bright and fun when Nate and Patrice are running around destroying zombies outside, and then dark and scary when they need to be. 

This was a really fun comic, and I would definitely recommend it to fans of the games. It would also be appropriate for younger readers, since it isn't too scary and there isn't any blood and gore and all of that that you would usually associate with zombies. I think this would be a fun way to introduce kids to the magic of comic books, especially if they're familiar with the game. 3/5 from me! 


--Ashley

Friday, December 13, 2013

Board Stiff (Xanth #38) by Piers Anthony - Ashley's Pre-Reading

*I received this book as an eARC from Premier Digital Publishing on NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*

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Title: Board Stiff
Author: Piers Anthony
Publication Date: December 17, 2014

Synopsis: 
Be careful what you wish for...


"I'm actually a smart girl who would make any man an excellent wife. But no man sees that. No man is interested in my mind or personality, just my whatevers. So here is my wish: I'm board stiff. I want Adventure, Excitement, and Romance.”

So begins Piers Anthony's 38th Xanth novel, in which Irrelevant Candy, looks at her reflection in the water of the shallow well and sees luxuriant midnight black hair to her breathtakingly slender waist, matching dark eyes in a lovely face. A torso coming yea-close to absolute perfection. She was man's desire. That was part of the problem.

And in the shallow magic of a wishing well, she asks her wish to be granted. Something happens. A sudden whirlwind surrounds her, lifting her up and ripping off her clothing. She is changing, somehow. Then she falls flat on the ground.

Literally. She has been transformed into a flat, stiff board with two knotholes for eyes.

Why?: Since I discovered the Xanth books in middle school, I've been a huge fan of Piers Anthony. I've read every book I could get my hands on, and have read several of them more times than I can count. I always come back to the world of Xanth excited for another book, and for all of the puns that abound. It's been a while since I've read a Xanth book though, so I'm so excited to jump back into the world and go on new adventures and meet new characters and groan through all of the new bad puns. 

Expectations: I have pretty high expectations for this book, because I love Piers Anthony so much. I'm hoping Xanth has just become more colorful and more fun and all of the good things that make Xanth Xanth since I've read one of the books. I hope the characters are as well developed as they have been in the past, and that the plot is engaging and fast-paced. 

Judging a book by its cover: Like the other Xanth covers, this one has a pretty heavy cartoon feel to it, which I love about this series. If I didn't know anything about this series, I might not pick this book up based on the cover alone, since it really doesn't look like anything special. But then again, the pun in the title would probably be enough to make me look twice... so I don't know. I might pick up this book if I could only judge it by its cover. 


--Ashley