Friday, February 28, 2014

Alienated by Melissa Landers - 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: Alienated
Author: Melissa Landers
Year Published: 2014


Synopsis: Two years ago, the aliens made contact. Now Cara Sweeney is going to be sharing a bathroom with one of them. 

Handpicked to host the first-ever L’eihr exchange student, Cara thinks her future is set. Not only does she get a free ride to her dream college, she’ll have inside information about the mysterious L’eihrs that every journalist would kill for. Cara’s blog following is about to skyrocket.

Still, Cara isn’t sure what to think when she meets Aelyx. Humans and L’eihrs have nearly identical DNA, but cold, infuriatingly brilliant Aelyx couldn’t seem more alien. She’s certain about one thing, though: no human boy is this good-looking.

But when Cara's classmates get swept up by anti-L'eihr paranoia, Midtown High School suddenly isn't safe anymore. Threatening notes appear in Cara's locker, and a police officer has to escort her and Aelyx to class. 

Cara finds support in the last person she expected. She realizes that Aelyx isn’t just her only friend; she's fallen hard for him. But Aelyx has been hiding the truth about the purpose of his exchange, and its potentially deadly consequences. Soon Cara will be in for the fight of her life—not just for herself and the boy she loves, but for the future of her planet.

Why?: This book sounds really fun. It seems like it will be a lighthearted sci-fi YA book. Just from the description, I could see this as a Disney Channel original movie. 

Expectations: I'm expecting a high school drama with fun alien sci-fi bits added in. 

Judging a book by its cover: I really like this cover. All of the colors really pop. I like how the guy is on a more bland landscape and both of the characters are looking up at the sky. 


--PAUL

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Seraphina (Seraphina #1) by Rachel Hartman - Ashley's Pre-Reading


Title: Seraphina (Seraphina #1)
Author: Rachel Hartman
Year Published: 2012

Synopsis:
In her New York Times bestselling and Morris Award-winning debut, Rachel Hartman introduces mathematical dragons in an alternative-medieval world to fantasy and science-fiction readers of all ages. Eragon-author Christopher Paolini calls them, "Some of the most interesting dragons I've read in fantasy."

Four decades of peace have done little to ease the mistrust between humans and dragons in the kingdom of Goredd. Folding themselves into human shape, dragons attend court as ambassadors, and lend their rational, mathematical minds to universities as scholars and teachers. As the treaty's anniversary draws near, however, tensions are high.

Seraphina Dombegh has reason to fear both sides. An unusually gifted musician, she joins the court just as a member of the royal family is murdered—in suspiciously draconian fashion. Seraphina is drawn into the investigation, partnering with the captain of the Queen's Guard, the dangerously perceptive Prince Lucian Kiggs. While they begin to uncover hints of a sinister plot to destroy the peace, Seraphina struggles to protect her own secret, the secret behind her musical gift, one so terrible that its discovery could mean her very life.

Why?: Mathematical dragons and singing and medieval setting? Count me in! I've been wanting to read this book since I first heard about it, and I finally picked it up. Everything about it just sounds so good, and I can't wait to dive right in!

Expectations: I've heard some pretty excellent things about this book, so I've got fairly high expectations for it. Fantasy books are some of my favorites, especially when there are dragons involved. And music. I really want this book to be as epic as I think it's going to be.

Judging a book by its cover: There are actually two covers for this one - the reddish one above and a purple one. They're both pretty similar except for differences in coloring, but I really like this reddish one better. It's simple and looks like it came out of someone's sketchbook, which is pretty neat and different from most other fantasy novels. It's one of the things that drew me to this book, so I would definitely say that I would pick this book based solely on the cover! 


--Ashley

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (Audiobook read by Wil Wheaton) - Paul's REVIEW

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads | Audible

Title: Ready Player One
Author: Ernest Cline
Year Published: 2011

Narrator: Wil Wheaton
Audiobook Length: 15 hours 46 minutes

Synopsis: It's the year 2044, and the real world is an ugly place.

Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes his grim surroundings by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia that lets you be anything you want to be, a place where you can live and play and fall in love on any of ten thousand planets. 

And like most of humanity, Wade dreams of being the one to discover the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this virtual world. For somewhere inside this giant networked playground, OASIS creator James Halliday has hidden a series of fiendish puzzles that will yield massive fortune--and remarkable power--to whoever can unlock them. 

For years, millions have struggled fruitlessly to attain this prize, knowing only that Halliday's riddles are based in the pop culture he loved--that of the late twentieth century. And for years, millions have found in this quest another means of escape, retreating into happy, obsessive study of Halliday's icons. Like many of his contemporaries, Wade is as comfortable debating the finer points of John Hughes's oeuvre, playing Pac-Man, or reciting Devo lyrics as he is scrounging power to run his OASIS rig. 

And then Wade stumbles upon the first puzzle. 

Suddenly the whole world is watching, and thousands of competitors join the hunt--among them certain powerful players who are willing to commit very real murder to beat Wade to this prize. Now the only way for Wade to survive and preserve everything he knows is to win. But to do so, he may have to leave behind his oh-so-perfect virtual existence and face up to life--and love--in the real world he's always been so desperate to escape. 

A world at stake. 
A quest for the ultimate prize. 
Are you ready?

Review: This was my first Audible audiobook and I absolutely loved it. Wil Wheaton's narration really added to the story. I think it also helped that he was familiar with the nerdy material of the 80's. There are even instances where he references himself or Star Trek: The Next Generation


If you aren't familiar with the nerdy pop culture of the 80's, it isn't necessary. There were many references I didn't already know, but there were also plenty that I was familiar with. 

The characters in this book are all very interesting. Most of them have devoted their lives to this one competition. They are all filling different voids in their life. I was completely enthralled by all the characters. 

I highly recommend this book to any nerdy reader, especially those familiar with the 80's geek culture. The future world created is so interesting. If the Internet progresses in a similar direction, I would be completely fine. I give this book a 5/5.


--PAUL

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Batman: Li'l Gotham Vol. 1 - Paul's REVIEW

*I received this book as an eARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Title: Batman: Li'l Gotham Vol. 1 
Author:  Dustin Nguyen and Derek Fridolfs

Year Published: 2014

Release Date: Tuesday February 25, 2014

Synopsis: First up, Robin needs Batman's help to learn the true meaning of Halloween. Then, on Thanksgiving, Batman and Robin join the families of Gotham City around the table for a holiday feast--and birds of a feather flock together to stage a march against the city...led by The Penguin!  As Christmas time approaches, the search for a missing holiday choir leads Batman and Nightwing into a confrontation with Mr. Freeze! But in this heartfelt Christmas tale, the frozen fiend's motives aren't as nefarious as they seem...
And on a festive New Year's Eve, Catwoman thinks she'll be spending a quiet night at home, contemplating her New Year's resolutions--until Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn show up, that is!

This volume collects stories from Detective Comics Annual #11, Batman Annual #27, Batman: Li'l Gotham Digital chapters 1-11.

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

Review: The artwork in this graphic novel is so unique. The well known characters of Gotham are portrayed in vivid watercolor in chubby, almost childlike appearances. Each story surrounds a holiday and the bright colors of celebration do really well in this art style. Some of the stories include the Penguin on Thanksgiving, Mr. Freeze on Christmas, the Joker on Valentine's Day, and the Mad Hatter on Easter. 

So many characters from the Batman universe make appearances, some small and some in main roles. I am fairly familiar with the mainstream heroes and villains, but there were some characters I had to look up online or consult a friend more familiar with Gotham. I think a die hard Batman fan will absolutely love this graphic novel. I on the other hard, found myself feeling a little left out.  

I give this graphic novel a 3.5/5. I enjoyed the art and light humor, but found I wasn't strong enough in my Batman lore. I recommend this graphic novel to super fans. 


--PAUL

The Shadow Throne (The Ascendance Trilogy #3) by Jennifer A. Nielsen - Ashley's Review

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

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads
Title: The Shadow Throne (Ascendance Trilogy #3)
Author: Jennifer A. Nielsen
Date of Publication: February 25, 2014

My The Shadow Throne (#3) Pre-Reading
My The Runaway King (#2) Review
My The Runaway King (#2) Pre-Reading
My The False Prince (#1) Review
My The False Prince (#1) Pre-Reading

Paul's The False Prince (#1) Review

Synopsis: One war.
Too many deadly battles.
Can a king save his kingdom, when his own survival seems unlikely?

War has come to Carthya. It knocks at every door and window in the land. And when Jaron learns that King Vargan of Avenia has kidnapped Imogen in a plot to bring Carthya to its knees, Jaron knows it is up to him to embark on a daring rescue mission. But everything that can go wrong does.

His friends are flung far and wide across Carthya and its neighbouring lands. In a last-ditch effort to stave off what looks to be a devastating loss for the kingdom, Jaron undertakes what may be his last journey to save everything and everyone he loves. But even with his lightning-quick wit, Jaron cannot forestall the terrible danger that descends on him and his country. Along the way, will he lose what matters most? And in the end, who will sit on Carthya's throne?

Rousing and affecting, Jaron's adventures have thrilled and moved readers in The False Prince and The Runaway King. Journey once again with the Ascendant King of Carthya, as New York Times bestselling author Jennifer A. Nielsen brings his story to a stunning conclusion with The Shadow Throne.

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

Review: I really thought that The Runaway King was going to be as good as it got. That The Shadow Throne would wrap up the story, but that it wouldn't be as intense, fast-paced, or insightful as The Runaway King. You guys. I was wrong. So, so wrong. Because The Shadow Throne was probably my favorite book of the series, and had so much going for it. I don't know how, but Jennifer Nielsen managed to write a series that only gets better as it goes along, and grows as Jaron does.

I knew that Jaron was going to get himself into quite a bit of trouble in this book. I mean, what would a book in this trilogy be if he wasn't in some ridiculous predicament that seemed impossible to get out of? Before, there was pretending to be an orphan pretending to be a king. Then, there were pirates and thieves. And now, Jaron has to try to pull his entire country through a war where all of the odds are stacked against him. And THEN, to make matters worse, he experiences one of the greatest losses he's ever been through. He's pretty much an emotional wreck this entire book, but he still manages fight for his country and his friends and his life. 

One of my favorite things about Jaron is how he always keeps everyone guessing. As readers, we all know he's got a plan stewing even when it seems like everything is hopeless. He drops hints and does things that should give away what he's going to do, but somehow Nielsen manages to add details that make it a surprise every time. I would love to spend a day in his head, or to be able to talk with him for an afternoon. That kid is crazy, and I loved every bit of it. It just amazed me how smart and cunning and resourceful Jaron is, and I loved reading about his situation and trying to pick out clues as to what his plan was.

Another thing that I really liked about this book was how much darker it seemed than The False Prince and even The Runaway King. There's so much death and violence and war is always a dark thing, and I was really impressed that Nielsen managed to write everything in a way that would still be alright for a younger audience. This book definitely felt older to me than the other two - closer to a YA book than a MG book, I think - but there's nothing too scary or gory or anything that a younger child wouldn't be able to handle. 

I could really go on about how incredible this book is for a long time, but I don't want to give too much away. The best way to experience the conclusion to this series is to read it yourself, and I don't think you'll be disappointed. The ending is satisfying and fits very much with the characters and the overall tone of the series, and I'm glad things worked out the way they did. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who has read the rest of the series, and to anyone who is a fan of YA/MG fantasy. Especially for younger kids who are looking to get into a really good fantasy series. 5/5!


--Ashley

Monday, February 24, 2014

Emilie and the Sky World (Emilie #2) by Martha Wells - Ashley's Pre-Reading

*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: Emilie and the Sky World (Emilie #2)
Author: Martha Wells
Publication Date: March 4, 2014

My Emilie and the Hollow World Review
My Emilie and the Hollow World Pre-Reading

Synopsis: 
A Girl’s Own Adventure in the spirit of Jules Verne


When Emilie and Daniel arrive in Silk Harbor, Professor Abindon, an old colleague of the Marlendes, warns them that she’s observed something strange and potentially deadly in the sky, a disruption in an upper air aether current. But as the Marlendes investigate further, they realize it’s a ship from another aetheric plane. It may be just a friendly explorer, or something far more sinister, but they will have to take an airship into the dangerous air currents to find out. 

Emilie joins the expedition and finds herself deep in personal entanglements, with an angry uncle, an interfering brother, and an estranged mother to worry about as well as a lost family of explorers, the strange landscapes of the upper air, and the deadly menace that inhabits the sky world

Why?: I enjoyed Emilie and the Hollow World, and although it could have acted as a standalone, I'm pretty excited that there is a sequel. I'm interested in learning more about Emilie, her family, and this mysterious Sky World. The Hollow World was unique and interesting and I can't wait to find out what secrets the Sky World is hiding.

Expectations: My expectations for this book are moderately high. I think it will be pretty similar to the first book in terms of content and pacing, only this time the new world is in the sky instead of in the center of the world. I do expect there to be quite a bit of world building and definitely more scientific discoveries. Maybe some more explanation to things that were left a little open-ended at the end of the last book.

Judging a book by its cover: I really love this cover. The colors are interesting, and I love how it's mostly blue - like the sky! It also matches really well with the cover for Emilie and the Hollow World, which is a huge bonus. I would most likely pick this book up based on the cover alone if I saw it chilling on a shelf somewhere. 


--Ashley

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (Sudiobook read by Wil Wheaton) - Paul's PRE-READING

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads | Audible

Title: Ready Player One
Author: Ernest Cline
Year Published: 2011

Narrator: Wil Wheaton
Audiobook Length: 15 hours 46 minutes

Synopsis: It's the year 2044, and the real world is an ugly place.

Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes his grim surroundings by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia that lets you be anything you want to be, a place where you can live and play and fall in love on any of ten thousand planets. 

And like most of humanity, Wade dreams of being the one to discover the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this virtual world. For somewhere inside this giant networked playground, OASIS creator James Halliday has hidden a series of fiendish puzzles that will yield massive fortune--and remarkable power--to whoever can unlock them. 

For years, millions have struggled fruitlessly to attain this prize, knowing only that Halliday's riddles are based in the pop culture he loved--that of the late twentieth century. And for years, millions have found in this quest another means of escape, retreating into happy, obsessive study of Halliday's icons. Like many of his contemporaries, Wade is as comfortable debating the finer points of John Hughes's oeuvre, playing Pac-Man, or reciting Devo lyrics as he is scrounging power to run his OASIS rig. 

And then Wade stumbles upon the first puzzle. 

Suddenly the whole world is watching, and thousands of competitors join the hunt--among them certain powerful players who are willing to commit very real murder to beat Wade to this prize. Now the only way for Wade to survive and preserve everything he knows is to win. But to do so, he may have to leave behind his oh-so-perfect virtual existence and face up to life--and love--in the real world he's always been so desperate to escape. 

A world at stake. 
A quest for the ultimate prize. 
Are you ready?

Why?: I finally got an Audible subscription. It makes a lot of sense with my line of work and I'm so excited to start listening to books. After much browsing, I picked Ready Player One not only because I've heard amazing things about the book, but also because Wil Wheaton narrates. The book is about a near future where there's an epic virtual world that has pretty much become the new internet. The creator of this program dies and leaves behind a game involving riddles in which the winner will earn the creator's inheritance. I've heard there are a lot of 80's pop culture and nerd culture references. I hope I get the references and if not, I'm excited to learn about the decade I was born in but barely experienced. 

Expectations: I'm expecting a fun and nerdy adventure through 80's references. I'm expecting an interesting take on the future.

Judging a book by its cover: This cover is very simple. The colors are bold. I like the 8-bit player and the key. It reminds me of the game Chip. 


--PAUL

Friday, February 21, 2014

The Fifty-Seven Lives of Alex Wayfare (Alex Wayfare #1) by M.G. Buehrlen - Ashley's Pre-Reading

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


Title: The Fifty-Seven Lives of Alex Wayfare (Alex Wayfare #1)
Author: M.G. Buehrlen
Publication Date: March 4, 2014

Synopsis:
For as long as 17-year-old Alex Wayfare can remember, she has had visions of the past. Visions that make her feel like she’s really on a ship bound for America, living in Jamestown during the Starving Time, or riding the original Ferris wheel at the World’s Fair.

But these brushes with history pull her from her daily life without warning, sometimes leaving her with strange lasting effects and wounds she can’t explain. Trying to excuse away the aftereffects has booked her more time in the principal’s office than in any of her classes and a permanent place at the bottom of the social hierarchy. Alex is desperate to find out what her visions mean and get rid of them.

It isn’t until she meets Porter, a stranger who knows more than should be possible about her, that she learns the truth: Her visions aren’t really visions. Alex is a Descender – capable of traveling back in time by accessing Limbo, the space between Life and Afterlife. Alex is one soul with fifty-six past lives, fifty-six histories.

Fifty-six lifetimes to explore: the prospect is irresistible to Alex, especially when the same mysterious boy with soulful blue eyes keeps showing up in each of them. But the more she descends, the more it becomes apparent that someone doesn’t want Alex to travel again. Ever.

And will stop at nothing to make this life her last.

Why?: This synopsis sounds so cool - a girl with flashbacks to history who has actually lived those lives.  And then there's the part where someone wants her to stop traveling which means mystery and danger and I am really excited about that too!

Expectations: Since I have yet to be disappointed by a Strange Chemistry or Angry Robot novel, I have pretty unreasonably high expectations for this book. Not only does it sound like something I would love, but it's also published by one of my favorite publishing houses.

Judging a book by its cover: I love the colors of this cover, and I really like how the girl is standing in the woods but all you can see is her silhouette. The cover is really pretty too, and I like how the author's name is a different color than the title. I would be pretty likely to pick this book up based solely on the cover.


--Ashley

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Shadow Throne (Ascendance Trilogy #3) by Jennifer Nielsen - Ashley's Pre-Reading

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

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Title: The Shadow Throne (Ascendance Trilogy #3)
Author: Jennifer A. Nielsen
Date of Publication: February 25, 2014

My The Runaway King (#2) Review

My The Runaway King (#2) Pre-Reading
My The False Prince (#1) Review
My The False Prince (#1) Pre-Reading

Paul's The False Prince (#1) Review

Synopsis: One war.

Too many deadly battles.
Can a king save his kingdom, when his own survival seems unlikely?

War has come to Carthya. It knocks at every door and window in the land. And when Jaron learns that King Vargan of Avenia has kidnapped Imogen in a plot to bring Carthya to its knees, Jaron knows it is up to him to embark on a daring rescue mission. But everything that can go wrong does.

His friends are flung far and wide across Carthya and its neighbouring lands. In a last-ditch effort to stave off what looks to be a devastating loss for the kingdom, Jaron undertakes what may be his last journey to save everything and everyone he loves. But even with his lightning-quick wit, Jaron cannot forestall the terrible danger that descends on him and his country. Along the way, will he lose what matters most? And in the end, who will sit on Carthya's throne?

Rousing and affecting, Jaron's adventures have thrilled and moved readers in The False Prince and The Runaway King. Journey once again with the Ascendant King of Carthya, as New York Times bestselling author Jennifer A. Nielsen brings his story to a stunning conclusion with The Shadow Throne.

Why?: Having read the first two books in this series, I have to know how the story ends for Jaron and Imogen and the rest of Carthya! I have so many unanswered questions, and I hope this book answers them and ties everything up nicely.

Expectations: I have pretty high expectations for this book after reading the first two. This is such an engrossing fantasy world, and I hope that it continues to be so. War, a failing kingdom, a king willing to sacrifice everything for his country... I just want this last book to do the series justice!

Judging a book by its cover: I really like how the covers in this series have stayed consistent but have still been their own. The red really makes this cover pop, and I really want to know what the significance of the key is. I also really like that on each of the covers in this series, the item on the front has been damaged in some way. It's really interesting, and I'm pretty sure I'd pick this up if I saw it on a shelf in a bookstore or a library.


--Ashley

Monday, February 17, 2014

The Runaway King (Ascendance Trilogy #2) by Jennifer A. Nielsen - Ashley's Review

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Title: The Runaway King (Ascendance Trilogy #2)
Author: Jennifer Nielsen
Year Published: 2013

My The Runaway King Pre-Reading
My The False Prince Review
My The False Prince Pre-Reading

Paul's The False Prince Review

Synopsis: A kingdom teetering on the brink of destruction. A king gone missing. Who will survive? Find out in the highly anticipated sequel to Jennifer A. Nielsen's blockbuster The False Prince!

Just weeks after Jaron has taken the throne, an assassination attempt forces him into a deadly situation. Rumors of a coming war are winding their way between the castle walls, and Jaron feels the pressure quietly mounting within Carthya. Soon, it becomes clear that deserting the kingdom may be his only hope of saving it. But the further Jaron is forced to run from his identity, the more he wonders if it is possible to go too far. Will he ever be able to return home again? Or will he have to sacrifice his own life in order to save his kingdom?

The stunning second installment of The Ascendance Trilogy takes readers on a roller-coaster ride of treason and murder, thrills and peril, as they journey with the Runaway King!

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

Review: I didn't think it would be possible, but The Runaway King is even better than its predecessor! I found myself immediately drawn into Jaron's story and his world, and was so surprised when everything just.. ended. I was definitely not ready for this book to be over, and I'm so glad that Scholastic gave me an eARC of The Shadow Throne so that I don't have to wait to finish Jaron's story! 

I really loved how calculating and smart and witty Jaron is. Yes, he does make really bad decisions sometimes and he gets himself into a lot of trouble, but he is always able to come up with a plan to get him out of those bad situations. And sometimes things don't go according to plan (things pretty much never go according to his plans, actually), but he still manages to figure something out. He never runs away from his problems, even if it seems like he is, and he uses his past experiences to help him get ahead. There's just so much I admire about him and I think he's an excellent role model for younger boys. Except the getting himself into trouble parts, don't do that. 

It was also pretty interesting to watch him grow as a character. He learns more about friendships and the people in his life, and he learns that everything is not always what it seems. There's so many great lessons in this book! And all of the minor characters are just as great as Jaron. They're all multi-faceted and developed and it's so neat to see Jaron discover sides of them that he didn't know before.

The world building is also pretty phenomenal. We know quite a bit about Carthya from The False Prince, but now we get to learn more about Avenia and the borderlands between Carthya and Avenia and the land of the pirates. I love that this series has elements of high fantasy in it, but that it's written at a level that's appropriate for a younger audience that might not be familiar with or capable of reading high fantasy yet. It's like the perfect gateway drug! 

Really, all of this book was just fantastic. If you've read The False Prince, you don't want to miss this book. I'm a little upset with myself for waiting so long to read it, but at least now I have no wait for The Shadow Throne! The ending will definitely leave you wanting more. I would recommend this to any fans of high fantasy, and to younger audiences looking for a thrilling ride full of mystery, secrets, pirates, fantasy, betrayal, and friendship! I did not want to put this book down, and devoured it all in one sitting. 5/5!


--Ashley

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Danielle Jensen - Stolen Songbird (The Malediciton Trilogy #1)

Today, we are happy to be hosting Danielle Jensen, author of Stolen Songbird on the blog! Danielle took some time to answer a few question for us, and we're really excited to share these with you. Before we get to the interview though, here's a little bit about Stolen Songbird (out in April 2014 from Strange Chemistry) and Danielle. Also, make sure to enter to win the book on Goodreads - you have until March 14th, 2014 to enter!



The Book

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads | Strange Chemistry

Title: Stolen Songbird (The Malediction Trilogy #1)
Author: Danielle L. Jensen
Publication Date: April 1, 2014

Synopsis: For those who have loved Seraphina and Graceling comes another truly fabulous fantasy...

For five centuries, a witch’s curse has bound the trolls to their city beneath the ruins of Forsaken Mountain. Time enough for their dark and nefarious magic to fade from human memory and into myth. But a prophesy has been spoken of a union with the power to set the trolls free, and when Cécile de Troyes is kidnapped and taken beneath the mountain, she learns there is far more to the myth of the trolls than she could have imagined.

Cécile has only one thing on her mind after she is brought to Trollus: escape. Only the trolls are clever, fast, and inhumanly strong. She will have to bide her time, wait for the perfect opportunity.

But something unexpected happens while she’s waiting – she begins to fall for the enigmatic troll prince to whom she has been bonded and married. She begins to make friends. And she begins to see that she may be the only hope for the half-bloods – part troll, part human creatures who are slaves to the full-blooded trolls. There is a rebellion brewing. And her prince, Tristan, the future king, is its secret leader.

As Cécile becomes involved in the intricate political games of Trollus, she becomes more than a farmer’s daughter. She becomes a princess, the hope of a people, and a witch with magic powerful enough to change Trollus forever.



The Author! 

Danielle was born and raised in Calgary, Canada. At the insistence of the left side of her brain, she graduated in 2003 from the University of Calgary with a bachelor’s degree in finance.


But the right side of her brain has ever been mutinous; and in 2010, it sent her back to school to complete an entirely impractical English literature degree at Mount Royal University and to pursue publication. Much to her satisfaction, the right side shows no sign of relinquishing its domination.

Find Danielle online: WWW | Twitter | Facebook



And now, the interview! 

1. If you could spend an evening with any author, living or dead, who would it be?
Oscar Wilde. He was so darn witty and clever, I can't imagine a day spent with him would be anything less than supremely entertaining. We'd visit dens of disrepute, drink too much absinthe, and get up to all sorts of shenanigans.

2. What made you decide to write a book about trolls?
I actually decided I wanted to write a book about a city that had been buried by rock, and the trolls came into being as I considered what sort of creatures would inhabit it.

3. Which author(s) has inspired you the most?
For writing fantasy in general, David Eddings, Tolkien, Anne McCaffrey, George R. R. Martin are a few who come to mind. For writing YA, I’d say Maggie Stiefvater (I hero worship her), Cassandra Clare, and Rae Carson are some of the authors I enjoy the most.   

4. Do you currently have any books on your nightstand?
I have a whole stack. Every room of my house has books littered about. I’ve even got a zombie survival guide sitting on top of one of the toilets.

5. Which character in Stolen Songbird did you most enjoy writing? 
Marc, who is Tristan's cousin and best friend. I love him so much. Maybe I’ll write a short story or novella about him one of these days!

6. What do you like to do when you aren't writing?
I like reading, but I suppose that's a given. There are a few television shows I quite like, so I watch those when I have time. I'm currently working my way through the BBC's Sherlock, and I love it. I have a thing for clever people.

7. How would you describe Stolen Songbird in five words or less? 
Magic, intrigue, mystery, romance, adventure

8. What is your favorite genre to read?
I like massive, complicated fantasy series.

9. What was the hardest part about writing Stolen Songbird?
Working out all the layers of politics in Trollus without it becoming boring was a challenge.

10. Did you have to do any research while you were writing Stolen Songbird?
A bit, here and there. I like using the names of places and people from things that inspired me while I was writing, and it's been interesting to see which ones people have picked up on. Cécile's surname is a big one 
;-)

11. If you could visit any world from any fantasy book, which one would you pick and why?
When I was a teenager, I wanted so badly to live on Pern and have my own dragon. It really broke my heart that it was never going to happen. For me, that's one of the markers of a great fantasy novel: my absolute devastation that the world and the characters don't actually exist. 


Thanks again for taking the time to feature me!




Thank you again to Danielle for taking the time to stop by and answer some of our questions! We'll be posting our reviews of Stolen Songbird sometime between now and April, so be on the lookout for those :). And don't forget to enter to win Stolen Songbird on Goodreads if you're as excited as we are for its release! 


--Ashley & Paul

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Pivot Point (Pivot Point #1) by Kasie West - Ashley's Pre-Reading


Title: Pivot Point (Pivot Point #1)
Author: Kasie West
Year Published: 2013

Synopsis:
Knowing the outcome doesn’t always make a choice easier . . .

Addison Coleman’s life is one big “What if?” As a Searcher, whenever Addie is faced with a choice, she can look into the future and see both outcomes. It’s the ultimate insurance plan against disaster. Or so she thought. When Addie’s parents ambush her with the news of their divorce, she has to pick who she wants to live with—her father, who is leaving the paranormal compound to live among the “Norms,” or her mother, who is staying in the life Addie has always known. Addie loves her life just as it is, so her answer should be easy. One Search six weeks into the future proves it’s not.

In one potential future, Addie is adjusting to life outside the Compound as the new girl in a Norm high school where she meets Trevor, a cute, sensitive artist who understands her. In the other path, Addie is being pursued by the hottest guy in school—but she never wanted to be a quarterback’s girlfriend. When Addie’s father is asked to consult on a murder in the Compound, she’s unwittingly drawn into a dangerous game that threatens everything she holds dear. With love and loss in both lives, it all comes down to which reality she’s willing to live through . . . and who she can’t live without

Why?: I've heard really excellent things about this book, so I finally decided to give it a try. The synopsis also sounds like something I would really enjoy - a book set in our time but with a paranormal twist. I'm really curious what it would be like to be able to see into the future every time you're faced with a difficult choice.

Expectations: Since I've heard so many good things about this book, I've got relatively high expectations even though I've never read anything by Kasie West. I expect a fast-paced book with romance and mystery and loss, although I'm not sure what to expect other than that.

Judging a book by its cover: This cover is really interesting. Mirror images of the same girl, which I guess represents the two futures. It doesn't look paranormal, but maybe that's a good thing. I would most likely pick it up if I saw it on a shelf somewhere. 


--Ashley

Saturday, February 15, 2014

The Guard (The Selection #2.5) by Kiera Cass - Ashley's Review

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Title:  The Guard (The Selection #2.5)
Author: Kiera Cass
Year Published: 2014

My The Elite (#2) Review
My The Elite (#2) Pre-Reading
My The Selection (#1) Review
My The Selection (#1) Pre-Reading
My The Prince (#0.5) Review

Paul's The Elite (#2) Review
Paul's The Elite (#2) Pre-Reading
Paul's The Selection (#1) Review
Paul's The Prince (#0.5) Review

Synopsis: Before America Singer met Prince Maxon . . . 
Before she entered the Selection . . . 
She was in love with a boy named Aspen Leger.

Don't miss this digital original novella set in the captivating world of Kiera Cass's #1 New York Times bestselling Selection trilogy. This brand new 64-page story begins just after the group of Selected girls is narrowed down to the Elite and is told from Aspen's point of view. The Guard also features a teaser to The One, the thrilling conclusion to The Selection trilogy

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Review: So, if I'm being totally honest... Aspen Leger is not who I think America should end up with. He broke her heart, and then he decides that was a mistake and now he's at the palace and hes probably going to get America into trouble by sneaking around with her. Sure, he says it's because he loves her... but he's been kind of a real jerk and I wouldn't be as quick to forgive as America.

Now that that's out of the way, I actually did enjoy this story. I liked being able to get into Aspen's head and to see what he thinks of this whole Selection thing. Also, to see his thoughts about America and how he really does love her. He's really an interesting character and probably has a lot more going on for him than I want to give him credit for. He also cares about his friends and family, and often goes out of the way to make sure everyone is taken care of. 

Maybe because I'm disinclined to be Team Aspen, but one thing that still really bothers me about his character is how he's so concerned with how the Selection might change America. I mean, I can totally understand that he doesn't want her to become some snotty brat like Celeste, but I wish he would understand that maybe change isn't a bad thing. She's never going to be the same girl from the treehouse. And also, she might fall in love with someone else. I know that he keeps telling her that he'll only ever love her... which I guess is sweet if you're Team Aspen, but it just annoys me now.

I digress. Seeing some of the events from The Elite from the perspective of one of the guards adds a whole new depth to the story that wasn't there before. If you've read the rest of the series, and The Prince, I definitely recommend giving this story a read! Even if, like me, you're 100% Team Maxon (even though he has his flaws too). I don't think Aspen gets enough screen time in the main series (although I'm glad he doesn't take away from Maxon Time), and I'm glad we got to see more of him and how caring he really is. 4/5!


--Ashley

Friday, February 14, 2014

Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff - Ashley's Review

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Title: Paper Valentine
Author: Brenna Yovanoff
Year Published: 2013

My Pre-Reading

Synopsis: 
The city of Ludlow is gripped by the hottest July on record. The asphalt is melting, the birds are dying, petty crime is on the rise, and someone in Hannah Wagnor’s peaceful suburban community is killing girls.


For Hannah, the summer is a complicated one. Her best friend Lillian died six months ago, and Hannah just wants her life to go back to normal. But how can things be normal when Lillian’s ghost is haunting her bedroom, pushing her to investigate the mysterious string of murders? Hannah’s just trying to understand why her friend self-destructed, and where she fits now that Lillian isn’t there to save her a place among the social elite. And she must stop thinking about Finny Boone, the big, enigmatic delinquent whose main hobbies seem to include petty larceny and surprising acts of kindness.

With the entire city in a panic, Hannah soon finds herself drawn into a world of ghost girls and horrifying secrets. She realizes that only by confronting the Valentine Killer will she be able move on with her life—and it’s up to her to put together the pieces before he strikes again.

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Review: This book was not really at all what I expected. I kind of thought Lillian was going to be one of the murder victims, but that was totally wrong. I also thought that this was set in a different world for some reason... also pretty wrong. But you know what? It was even better because I was wrong about those (and other) things. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and it was so hard to put it down so that I could do things that I needed to get done. This book is about love and loss and it's heartbreaking and terrifying and just all the feels.

One of my favorite parts about this book was the setting. We know that Hannah lives in Ludlow, but that's about it. She could be living in the States (which I think is most likely) but we're never told specifically which one. She could be somewhere in Europe. Or maybe it's a fictional Ludlow. Not knowing does not take away from this book, and all of the contemporary references (the girls visit Dairy Queen and Claire's, for instance), make it really easy to connect with this book and the characters. Apart from the paranormal aspects, this story could happen anywhere to any teenage girl. The characters, both minor and major, are all the same types of people that most high school kids know. It's kind of remarkable how well Brenna Yovanoff creates a town that could be any town in the US. 

The setting and not knowing where exactly Ludlow  is really helps the plot, in my opinion. The Valentine Killer could literally be anyone, and yet even in a town where most people know each other and the crime rate is low, nobody is really a suspect. Hannah is only able to put pieces together because of the ghost girls, especially Lillian. Everyone has their secrets, and without the girls it would have been impossible for Hannah to gather all of the information she does. I would be terrified if I was haunted by even my dead best friend, and I loved how Hannah grew and became a stronger person because of the hauntings.

Aside from helping Hannah with the murders, I think Lillian's ghost is really important in helping Hannah move on, stop blaming herself, and become a stronger person. Lillian isn't murdered - she effectively kills herself several months before the start of this book, although she does suffer a very slow death. She's sick, and no matter how hard Hannah tries, there's nothing she could have done to save Lillian. It's actually really sad, and I really kind of liked how Yovanoff worked a real problem into this book and had the characters have to deal with loss that way. Lillian is eventually able to admit to Hannah why she did what she did, and I loved seeing Lillian change over the course of the book just as much as Hannah did. 

And then there's Finny, who is not your typical romantic interest. But honestly? He's one of my favorites that I've read so far. He's huge and scary and he does things that make him seem like the worst person for Hannah to be involved with... but once you get to know him with Hannah, I think you'll love him too. He's really just a big teddy bear, and that made me so happy. There's no instalove, and the relationship is very slow, but it fit the characters and felt very natural. 

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who likes books like Anna Dressed in Blood  or murder mysteries with a paranormal aspect. It's not quite as terrifying as Anna Dressed in Blood, and is definitely a tamer sort of horror, but I wouldn't really recommend it to a younger audience. The details of the deaths are not gross and bloody or anything, but there are some parts that might be a little scary. I will definitely be reading Brenna's other books! 5/5 for sure. 


--Ashley



Thursday, February 13, 2014

Grim - Edited by Christine Johnson - Ashley's Pre-Reading

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

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Title: Grim
Editor: Christine Johnson
Date of Publication: February 25, 2014

Synopsis: Claire de Lune, Nocturne, and The Gathering Dark author Christine Johnson is the editor of Grim, an anthology of dark fairy tale retellings, featuring stories by New York Times bestselling authors Ellen Hopkins, Amanda Hocking, Claudia Gray, Rachel Hawkins, Julie Kagawa, and others. Published by HarlequinTeen, the stories range from the macabre to the fantastic, with settings from make-believe castles to trailer parks in Georgia and everything in between.


The full list of contributors is:

Kimberly Derting
Sonia Gensler
Tessa Gratton
Claudia Gray
Rachel Hawkins
Amanda Hocking
Ellen Hopkins
Shaun David Hutchinson
Julie Kagawa
Malinda Lo
Myra McEntire
Saundra Mitchell
Jackson Pearce
Sarah Rees Brennan
Jon Skovron
Jeri Smith Ready
and
Christine Johnson

Why?: I love fairytale retellings, and I knew I had to read this anthology of them when I saw the list of contributors. I mean, look at that list! So many excellent authors! And since they're short stories, I can read them a couple at a time in between other books. Or all at once, which is more likely what's going to happen...

Expectations: I expect some pretty dark retellings of popular and maybe even less known fairy tales. Since there are so many bestselling authors on this list, I have pretty high expectations for the stories in this anthology.

Judging a book by its cover: I love this cover so much. I love the purple against the black/gray, I love how there are charms on the tree that I assume represent each of the stories... I just like everything about it. I would definitely pick this up if I saw it in a store somewhere! 


--Ashley

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Hollow City (Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children #2) by Ransom Riggs - Ashley's Review

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Title: Hollow City (Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children #2)
Author: Ransom Riggs
Year Published: 2014

My Hollow City Pre-ReadingMy Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children Review
My Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children Pre-Reading

Paul's Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children Review

Synopsis: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children was the surprise best seller of 2011—an unprecedented mix of YA fantasy and vintage photography that enthralled readers and critics alike. Publishers Weekly called it “an enjoyable, eccentric read, distinguished by well-developed characters, a believable Welsh setting, and some very creepy monsters.”

This second novel begins in 1940, immediately after the first book ended. Having escaped Miss Peregrine’s island by the skin of their teeth, Jacob and his new friends must journey to London, the peculiar capital of the world. Along the way, they encounter new allies, a menagerie of peculiar animals, and other unexpected surprises.

Complete with dozens of newly discovered (and thoroughly mesmerizing) vintage photographs, this new adventure will delight readers of all ages.

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Review: I have been waiting to read this book for what seems like forever, and it was 100% worth that wait! Hollow City has everything that I loved about Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, and then takes the stakes and raises them even further. The children must work together to save Miss Peregrine, and all peculiar-kind, and learn so much more about their world, their enemies, their allies, and themselves than I even thought was possible. Plus, there are just as many creepy and interesting pictures in Hollow City as there were in Miss Peregrine's, and they just fit so seamlessly in with the story! 

I really loved that this book picks up right where Miss Peregrine's left off. It kind of makes me wish I had read Miss Peregrine's again before reading this book though, since it took me a little while to remember some of the events and characters. Luckily, Jacob gives us enough information that the major events and people are easy enough to remember without making it obvious that we're being given a refresher. I think if we had been thrown into the story anywhere but the end of Miss Peregrine's, it would have been way too confusing.

Another thing that I really enjoyed was going through all of the loops with the children. It was really cool to see all the different places and time periods and even meet some of the other peculiars that lived in those loops. Some of them had really neat peculiarities, and other ones had some pretty worthless ones, but they were interesting all the same. There were quite a few new characters, but I think they really helped move the story along and I was never overwhelmed. Many of them are also pretty well developed for only being around for a few chapters, especially since everyone is always hiding something.

The wights and the hollows are just as scary as ever, and I can't even imagine how terrifying it must be for the children to find them pretty much around every corner and when they least expect them. Especially because only Jacob can see and sense the hollows. His power really grows throughout this book, and it was pretty neat to read about. He's physically the same age as the rest of the children, but he's still so much younger mentally and it definitely shows in this book. It really helps to develop his character though, and he has to make some really tough decisions that I wouldn't want anyone to have to make.

I also think that the romantic relationships in this book are done very well. It's not too fast and is not inappropriate for their ages (physically at least), and never comes in the way of saving Miss Peregrine or keeping everyone safe. Jacob and Emma have a closer friendship because of their romantic interest in each other and confide more in each other than they do in everyone else, but it never really affects their friendships with the other children, which is nice.

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who has read Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, and I cannot wait for the third installment to find out what happens after that ridiculous ending. I also want to see what new found pictures Ransom Riggs will have for us next! I also recommend this series to anyone looking for something completely different with a little bit of mystery, history, time travel, creepiness, and a mixing of photographs with a written story. This series is unlike anything I've ever read, and I love every eerie minute of it! 5/5 for sure! 


--Ashley