Monday, March 31, 2014

Enders (Starters #2) by Lissa Price - Ashley's Review

*I received this book as an eARC from Delacorte Press/Random House Children's on NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Title: Enders (Starters #2)
Author: Lissa Price
Year Published: 2014

My Enders (#2) Pre-Reading
My Starters (#1) Review
My Starters (#1) Pre-Reading

Paul's Enders (#2) Review
Paul's Enders (#2) Pre-Reading
Paul's Starters (#1) Review
Paul's Starters (#1) Pre-Reading

Synopsis: Someone is after Starters like Callie and Michael—teens with chips in their brains. They want to experiment on anyone left over from Prime Destinations—Starters who can be controlled and manipulated. With the body bank destroyed, Callie no longer has to rent herself out to creepy Enders.

But Enders can still get inside her mind and make her do things she doesn't want to do. Like hurt someone she loves. Having the chip removed could save her life—but it could also silence the voice in her head that might belong to her father. Callie has flashes of her ex-renter Helena's memories, too . . . and the Old Man is back, filling her with fear. Who is real and who is masquerading in a teen body?

No one is ever who they appear to be, not even the Old Man. Determined to find out who he really is and grasping at the hope of a normal life for herself and her younger brother, Callie is ready to fight for the truth. Even if it kills her.

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

Review: I really enjoyed Starters. The world is really interesting, the characters were well-developed and relateable, and the story was excellent. And even though Starters was great, I think I enjoyed Enders even more! 

Enders was definitely darker and more complicated than Starters was. There are so many secrets that are revealed, and some of them are secrets within secrets. I saw a few things coming, but one of the main reveals took me by surprise! I was so willing to accept things the way they were originally explained that I didn't even think that things might be way more complicated than the simple solution. Enders held me complete attention and I found myself not being able to put it down because I just HAD to know what was going to happen next! I did think a few things were very convenient and probably a little far-fetched, but it didn't bother me too much since it helped move the plot along.

There are some old favorites in this book, although we don't really see as much of them as I would have liked. There's still so much about Michael that I don't know and want to know, since he's kind of tossed in the background again. I mean, he does have his moments, but this is definitely Callie's series. The new characters were really interesting too though, and most of them were actually very well developed. Hyden was my favorite, mostly because I just could not figure him out. He's so sketchy but seems to genuinely care about the Starters and Callie... I still am not sure if I should trust him or not. 

Although I do have some minor questions left, I think this series ended very nicely. Pretty much all of the loose ends are tied up, but there's still some work left to do. Callie still has to figure out relationships of all kinds - familial, friendships, and romantic interests - but she's still got some growing up to do, so that's understandable. I'm very glad that this was only a duology, because I think anything longer would have been too much and anything shorter would not have been enough. 

 I would definitely recommend Enders to anyone who has read Starters. I would also recommend the series to anyone looking for something dystopian with a little sci-fi thrown in. I really think fans of Divergent and The Maze Runner would like this series. I even think the younger crowd would enjoy this series; there's not too much violence or anything, and there are no inappropriate situations. Having said that though, I still think it's enjoyable for the older YA fans as well. A 4/5!


--Ashley

No Place Like Oz (Dorothy Must Die #0.5) - Paul's Review

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads 

Title: No Place Like Oz (Dorothy Must Die #0.5)
Author: Danielle Paige
Year Published: 2013

Synopsis: After returning to Kansas, Dorothy Gale has realized that the dreary fields of Kansas don’t compare to the vibrant landscapes of Oz. And although she’s happy to be reunited with Aunt Em, she misses her friends from the yellow brick road. But most of all, Dorothy misses the fame and the adventure. In Kansas she’s just another prairie girl, but in Oz she was a hero. So Dorothy is willing to do anything to get back, because there really is no place like Oz. But returning to the land she left comes at a price, and after Dorothy is through with it, Oz will never be the same.


Dorothy Must Die UPCOMING RELEASE DATE 


Tuesday April 1, 2014



Review: No Place Like Oz is more than just a novella with added content to attach to a full fledged novel. It is almost 200 pages and a complete story on its own. After finishing this novella, I immediately pre-ordered Dorothy Must Die. I was intrigued by the upcoming book already just based on the hype and the source material, but this novella has got me completely hooked. 

The famous Dorothy Gale is back in Kansas and life just isn't what it used to be now that she knows there's a whole world of magic out there, just over the rainbow, out of reach. She receives a mysterious gift on her 16th birthday and finds herself on a whole new adventure. I won't spoil the story any more than that, but the places this story goes are wonderful.  

No matter your familiarity with Oz, you will enjoy the magic in this novella. For those diehard Oz fans, characters from the original books make appearances. And for those who have only seen the movie, you may be slightly confused by some name changes and subtle differences, but all the differences are explained in the context of the book to allow easy access for those unfamiliar with L. Frank Baum's books. There weren't ruby slippers in the original novel. The silver shoes were made more vibrant to showcase the revolutionary technicolor of the 1939 film. 

If you are a fan of retellings or continuations of classic tales, I think you'll like this. There are some darker themes in this than the source material. It seems like the first full book in the series will continue that darker feel. If you are planning on reading Dorothy Must Die on its release, I suggest checking out this novella first. I give this novella a 5/5. 

--PAUL

Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Here and Now by Ann Brashares - Ashley's Pre-Reading

*I received this book as an eARC from Random House Children's/Delacorte Press on NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Title: The Here and Now
Author: Ann Brashares
Publication Date: April 8, 2014

Synopsis: An unforgettable epic romantic thriller about a girl from the future who might be able to save the world . . . if she lets go of the one thing she’s found to hold on to.


Follow the rules. Remember what happened. Never fall in love.

This is the story of seventeen-year-old Prenna James, who immigrated to New York when she was twelve. Except Prenna didn’t come from a different country. She came from a different time—a future where a mosquito-borne illness has mutated into a pandemic, killing millions and leaving the world in ruins. 

Prenna and the others who escaped to the present day must follow a strict set of rules: never reveal where they’re from, never interfere with history, and never, ever be intimate with anyone outside their community. Prenna does as she’s told, believing she can help prevent the plague that will one day ravage the earth. 

But everything changes when Prenna falls for Ethan Jarves. 

From Ann Brashares, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series, The Here and Now is thrilling, exhilarating, haunting, and heartbreaking—and a must-read novel of the year.

Why?: I was pretty much sold at "thriller," but I knew I had to read this book as soon as I read that Prenna has immigrated from a different time. Plus, with the mosquito-borne illness killing everyone thing, it kind of sounds like a sci-fi dystopian, which also excited me. Throw in a little romance to make things more complicated and that sounds like a pretty fantastic book to me. 

Expectations: Although I've read (and enjoyed) the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants books, I am expecting this book to be completely different. That series was light and fun, though it did have its share of heartbreak, but I think this book will be much darker. And I'm actually kind of excited to see a different side of Ann Brashares, so my expectations are probably a little bit higher than they should be.

Judging a book by its cover: I'm really torn about this cover. I think the colors and the geometric feel that the triangles give it make it stand out from other books that would be on the same shelf, but I'm not convinced that it's enough to make this book totally unique. It kind of reminds me of a stereotypical YA summer romance, and I'm not normally drawn to those kind of books. 


--Ashley

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Daughter of Chaos (Red Magic #1) by Jen McConnel - Ashley's Pre-Reading

*I received this book from Month9Books in exchange for an honest review*

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Title: Daughter of Chaos (Red Magic #1)
Author: Jen McConnel
Publication Date: March 25, 2014

Synopsis: 
There comes a time in every witch's life when she must choose her path. Darlena's friends have already chosen, so why is it so hard for her to make up her mind? Now, Darlena is out of time. Under pressure from Hecate, the Queen of all witches, Darlena makes a rash decision to choose Red magic, a path no witch in her right mind would dare take. As a Red witch, she will be responsible for chaos and mayhem, drawing her deep into darkness. Will the power of Red magic prove too much for Darlena, or will she learn to control it before it's too late?


Daughter of Chaos is the first in the Red Magic paranormal YA trilogy.

Why?: I am always up for a good witch story, and this one sounds really interesting. A witch who chooses something that no other witch would choose? Chaos and mayhem and the power to control them? Plus the synopsis mentions Hecate, so I'm hoping for some mythology! 

Expectations: Besides witches and magic and mythology, I'm not really sure what to expect. I'm really hoping for a fast paced story with a lot of character development and some excellent world building though.

Judging a book by its cover: I'm not really sure how I feel about this cover. It's dark and mysterious, but I don't think it would stand out amongst other YA Fantasy books. I think the girl's face on book covers is incredibly overdone, and I'm not convinced that I would pick up this book based solely on the cover.


--Ashley

The Space Between by Brenna Yovanoff - Ashley's Review


Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Title: The Space Between
Author: Brenna Yovanoff
Year Published: 2011


My Pre-Reading

Synopsis: Everything is made of steel, even the flowers. How can you love anything in a place like this?

Daphne is the half-demon, half-fallen angel daughter of Lucifer and Lilith. Life for her is an endless expanse of time, until her brother Obie is kidnapped - and Daphne realizes she may be partially responsible.

Determined to find him, Daphne travels from her home in Pandemonium to the vast streets of Earth, where everything is colder and more terrifying. With the help of the human boy she believes was the last person to see her brother alive, Daphne glimpses into his dreams, discovering clues to Obie's whereabouts. As she delves deeper into her demonic powers, she must navigate the jealousies and alliances of the violent archangels who stand in her way. But she also discovers, unexpectedly, what it means to love and be human in a world where human is the hardest thing to be.



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

Review: I cannot believe I waited so long to read this book! I loved Brenna's Paper Valentine, and The Space Between was just as good (although radically different). Her writing is gorgeous and flawless, and everything about this book was just excellent. The characters, the world building, the plot... I loved it all. 

My favorite part of this book was the world building. Brenna puts her own spin on Hell (which she calls Pandemonium), and it's hauntingly beautiful. Everything is made of steel and the only things that can survive when the furnace is open are things that have been made in Pandemonium or are protected behind closed doors. Any clothes or objects from Earth are incinerated or melted immediately. Even the inhabitants of Pandemonium are steel-like (unless they're fallen angels). The fire and brimstone that are stereotypical of hellish settings is still there, but Pandemonium is still its own place, unique and terrifying.

Another thing that I really enjoyed about this book was how we're able to see things happening from both Daphne's and Truman's perspectives. The switch between first person and third person is a little jarring at first, but the chapters are clearly marked and I got used to it after about the second time. After reading this book, I definitely think the third person perspective for Truman's sections really helped develop his character in a way that first person wouldn't have been. He's sad and broken, and I feel like being completely immersed in his thoughts would have been really confusing.

I think that, while Daphne and Truman are complicated and very multi-dimensional, some of the other minor characters fell kind of flat. I wish we knew more about Obie and about Lilith. I kind of just want a whole book about Lilith because I think it would be really interesting to learn more of her thoughts and her wants and her needs. But maybe taking away the mystery about her would take away from her character in this book. 

There are quite a few twists and turns in this plot, and I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that I couldn't guess them all. Some were more obvious, but there are some secrets that run pretty deep and aren't as easily deciphered. It kept me hooked, and I found myself staying up until the wee hours of the morning just to finish reading and to find out what was going to happen next. 

This book is pretty intense, and I wouldn't recommend it for a young audience. I would definitely recommend it to anyone interested in angels and demons and the war between them. I thought Brenna Yovanoff did an excellent job of taking well known entities and making them completely her own, and I can't wait to get my hands on more of her books! I would also recommend this book to anyone who enjoys darker books with love and loss and characters questioning themselves. Definitely a 5/5 from me! 


--Ashley

The Guard (The Selection #2.5) - Paul'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 Selection (#1) Review
My The Prince (#0.5) Review

Ashley's The Guard (#2.5) ReviewAshley's The Elite (#2) Review
Ashley's The Selection (#1) Review
Ashley'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



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

Review: This novella follows Aspen's POV for many memorable events of the series so far, similar to how the end of The Prince did with Prince Maxon. It is nice to see a different perspective, especially when a character's thoughts are different than his actions. I preferred the completely new scenes to the ones from the previous books. 

I think I prefer Prince Maxon for America between the two of them, but it was nice to see why Aspen did some of the things I didn't understand in The Elite

If you are a fan of the series, you will probably enjoy this novella. I do not think it is necessary though. I give this novella a 4/5


--Paul

Friday, March 28, 2014

Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee - Ashley's Review

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

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Title: Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy
Author: Karen Foxlee
Publication Date: January 28, 2014

My Pre-Reading

Synopsis: A modern-day fairy tale set in a mysterious museum that is perfect for readers of Roald Dahl and Blue Balliett.

Unlikely heroine Ophelia Jane Worthington-Whittard doesn't believe in anything that can't be proven by science. She and her sister Alice are still grieving for their dead mother when their father takes a job in a strange museum in a city where it always snows. On her very first day in the museum Ophelia discovers a boy locked away in a long forgotten room. He is a prisoner of Her Majesty the Snow Queen. And he has been waiting for Ophelia's help.

As Ophelia embarks on an incredible journey to rescue the boy everything that she believes will be tested. Along the way she learns more and more about the boy's own remarkable journey to reach her and save the world.

A story within a story, this a modern day fairytale is about the power of friendship, courage and love, and never ever giving up.

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


Review: The Snow Queen has been really popular in the past year or so for some reason. I'd never heard of it, much less read it, before 2013. And that's really a shame, because it's a really incredible story. And Karen Foxlee's take on it is just as good!

Being promoted as a book for fans of Roald Dahl is a pretty big standard to live up to, but I really think that Foxlee managed to do it. The whole time I was reading Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy, I felt like I was in the middle of a Dahl book or even a Narnia book. It has the feel of a classic children's story, but is still relateable to children of the present day. One of my favorite things about this book was that I felt like it could be enjoyed by children young and old. For younger children, Ophelia has the spunk and innocence of someone they can relate to. For the older audience, there's the Marvelous Boy who has lived for hundreds of years but still has the innocence of a child because he's been a prisoner.

I really enjoyed watching Ophelia grow and learn more about herself. Her mother speaks to her and encourages her to step outside her comfort zone, and I think that's really important for children nowadays. Ophelia deals with loss in her own way, but eventually she is able to overcome it and grow into herself and become a more well-rounded individual. At first, she's very strict about believing only in things that can be proved with science. As the story progresses and she travels through the museum though, she begins to accept magic more and more, and I think there's a lesson to be learned there for everyone about believing in things without concrete proof and following your heart.

The story within a story was also really well done, and I really liked learning about the Marvelous Boy as Ophelia learned more about him. I do wish there had been more of him in the present day, but I guess this story is supposed to be more about Ophelia so it's not too bad that his story is mostly in the past. I also really liked that the main story is happening in a museum - it helped add to the mystery and the magical-ness of it all. 

Overall, this was a thoroughly entertaining read that I would definitely suggest to children of all ages! I think it'd be a good one to read together with a child or younger sibling or niece/nephew, etc. I especially think fans of Roald Dahl or C.S. Lewis would really enjoy Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy. It's magical and mysterious and fun and a little scary and just everything you'd hope for in a children's book. I'd give it a 4/5!


--Ashley

Cress (The Lunar Chronicles #3) by Marissa Meyer - Paul's Review

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Title: Cress (The Lunar Chronicles #3)

Author: Marissa Meyer
Year Published: 2014

My Cress (#3) Pre-ReadingMy 
The Little Android (#2.5) Review
My Scarlet (#2) Review
My The Queen's Army (#1.5) Review
My Cinder (#1) Review

Ashley's Cress (#3) Review
Ashley's The Little Android (#2.5) Review
Ashley's Scarlet (#2) Review
Ashley's The Queen's Army (#1.5) Review
Ashley's Cinder (#1) Review


Synopsis: 
Rapunzel’s tower is a satellite. She can’t let down her hair—or her guard. 


In this third book in the bestselling Lunar Chronicles series, Cinder and Captain Thorne are fugitives on the run, with Scarlet and Wolf in tow. Together, they’re plotting to overthrow Queen Levana and her army. 


Their best hope lies with Cress, who has been trapped on a satellite since childhood with only her netscreens as company. All that screen time has made Cress an excellent hacker—unfortunately, she’s just received orders from Levana to track down Cinder and her handsome accomplice. 


When a daring rescue goes awry, the group is separated. Cress finally has her freedom, but it comes at a high price. Meanwhile, Queen Levana will let nothing stop her marriage to Emperor Kai. Cress, Scarlet, and Cinder may not have signed up to save the world, but they may be the only ones who can.



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

Review: This series just keeps getting better. I really like how much of an ensemble story it has become. The main cast each have their own stories that take place in different locations, but everything connects in such a wonderful way. There really isn't a main character anymore. Cress of course takes the center stage for this book, but Cinder and Scarlet are still right there. I love how quirky the characters are. They're very Whedon-esque. Iko, Cress, and Thorne are three of my favorite when it comes to quirks. And I bet Winter is going to be even more unique!


I can't separate my love for Joss Whedon from what I love about this series. Everything I love about Whedon's works is present in this series. I always imagine the Rampion's insides as that of a Firefly-class starship. 

This is a retelling of the Rapunzel story. There are many very obvious references, but there are also subtle references to the original story. If you aren't familiar with the fairy tale and only Disney's version you may want to find a telling of it first. I think knowing the original story adds to this one, but it is not necessary. The story is its own, especially since all the other characters don't necessarily follow the retelling. But, some characters from past books take on unexpected roles in this book. I also love how Winter is being set up.

The ensemble cast is handled so well and I really enjoy how the characters interact with eachother. The couples don't only interact with their potential love interest, but with all the characters in unique and interesting ways. Cress and Wolf is one example. 

This was one of those books I couldn't put down, but never wanted it to end. I am glad these books are getting thicker. I hope Winter is even longer! I give this third book in The Lunar Chronicles a 5/5. I highly recommend this series.     


--Paul

Thursday, March 27, 2014

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart - Ashley's Pre-Reading

*I received this book as an eARC from Delacorte Press/Random House Children's on NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Title: We Were Liars
Author: E. Lockhart
Publication Date: May 13, 2014

Synopsis: 
We Were Liars is an original and deeply charged psychological thriller.


New York Times bestselling author John Green describes We Were Liars as "thrilling, beautiful, and blisteringly smart . . . utterly unforgettable."

A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.

We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from National Book Award finalist and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart. 

Read it.
And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE

Why?: I am always down for a good mystery/suspense novel. Since this one is also described as a psychological thriller, and since I like those too, I knew I had to read We Were Liars. There's been so much hype and mystery surrounding it that I really wanted to know what happens! 

Expectations: I expect a lot of mystery caused by lots of lies and a teen romance. I'm also expecting a little bit of commentary on love and loss and heartbreak and the power of friendship. Since there's not really any information given about this book though, I really have no idea what else to expect. I've never read anything by Lockhart either, so I don't know what to expect from her writing style. I'm kind of excited to not know much about this book though! 

Judging a book by its cover: I actually really like this cover. I like how the title takes center stage, and  is over a group of four friends. It's only their silhouettes though, so I like the mystery of that. The colors of the sky and the ocean remind me of summer. I would probably pick it up if I saw it on a shelf in the library or in a bookstore.


--Ashley

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Infinite (Newsoul #3) by Jodi Meadows - Paul's REVIEW


Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads 

Title: Infinite (Newsoul #3)
Author: Jodi Meadows
Year Published: 2014

My REVIEW of Incarnate(#1)
My REVIEW of Asunder(#2)
My REVIEW of Phoenix Overture (#2.5)
My PRE-READING of Infinite (#3)

Ashley's REVIEW of Incarnate(#1)
Ashley's REVIEW of Asunder(#2)




Synopsis: 
DESTRUCTION
The Year of Souls begins with an earthquake—an alarming rumble from deep within the earth—and it’s only the first of greater dangers to come. The Range caldera is preparing to erupt. Ana knows that as Soul Night approaches, everything near Heart will be at risk.

FLIGHT
Ana’s exile is frightening, but it may also be fortuitous, especially if she can convince her friends to flee Heart and Range with her. They’ll go north, seeking answers and allies to stop Janan’s ascension. And with any luck, the newsouls will be safe from harm’s reach.

CHOICE
The oldsouls might have forgotten the choice they made to give themselves limitless lifetimes, but Ana knows the true cost of reincarnation. What she doesn’t know is whether she’ll have the chance to finish this one sweet life with Sam, especially if she returns to Heart to stop Janan once and for all.

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

Review: I have thoroughly enjoyed this trilogy. The Newsoul series is such an amazing amalgamation of sci-fi and fantasy themes. Reincarnation is at the heart of this series and it plays out in such an interesting way. A world of finite souls, reborn each time they die.  It has been two years of reading these books and anxiously awaiting the release of the next. I am definitely looking forward to Jodi Meadows's future works. 


The sci-fi and fantasy world of this series is one of the reasons I've enjoyed it so much. There are laser guns, but also dragons, centaurs, phoenixes, and sylphs. This third book really delves into these mythical and magical creatures. The world is even bigger than this trilogy. There are so many questions I still have about this world and how it came to be. I'm still hoping for that anthology of Sam's dragon deaths. 

The final book in a trilogy always has the difficulty of wrapping up the story. Meadows did an excellent job with this conclusion. Everything came together perfectly. The last chapter was pure perfection! 

There were a few scenes in this book that I found particularly captivating. I wish there was artwork of them. One of those scenes involves a girl playing her flute with some pretty amazing things happening around her. Another was towards the end when something epic goes down.  

The romance in this series is done so well. It is subtle and natural. I really like the evolution of Sam and Ana. Music is also such a big part of this series and it comes into play in a big way in this conclusion. 

I highly recommend this trilogy! It is one of my favorite YA series. If you have not read Incarnate, you should definitely pick it up! If you like completely unique worlds with magic and sci-fi elements you'll love this series! And I also absolutely love how music is used. If you are a musician, especially instrumentalist, you will enjoy these books! I give this third book in an amazing trilogy a 5/5. Go read these books!!!


--PAUL

Cress (The Lunar Chronicles #3) by Marissa Meyer - Ashley's Review


Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Title: Cress (The Lunar Chronicles #3)
Author: Marissa Meyer
Year Published: 2014

My Scarlet (#2) Review
My The Queen's Army (#1.5) Review
My Cinder (#1) Review



Synopsis: Rapunzel’s tower is a satellite. She can’t let down her hair—or her guard. 

In this third book in the bestselling Lunar Chronicles series, Cinder and Captain Thorne are fugitives on the run, with Scarlet and Wolf in tow. Together, they’re plotting to overthrow Queen Levana and her army. 

Their best hope lies with Cress, who has been trapped on a satellite since childhood with only her netscreens as company. All that screen time has made Cress an excellent hacker—unfortunately, she’s just received orders from Levana to track down Cinder and her handsome accomplice. 

When a daring rescue goes awry, the group is separated. Cress finally has her freedom, but it comes at a high price. Meanwhile, Queen Levana will let nothing stop her marriage to Emperor Kai. Cress, Scarlet, and Cinder may not have signed up to save the world, but they may be the only ones who can.

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

Review: I don't understand how one series can be so incredible. Each book gets progressively better, and I wasn't sure that was going to be possible after Cinder. Everything about The Lunar Chronicles is just so good that I don't know why everyone hasn't read these books! I had ridiculously high expectations for Cress, and Marissa Meyer blew every single one of them out of the water! 

My favorite part about Cress was the ensemble cast. It reminded me of a Joss Whedon show - everyone is somewhere in the world doing something, but it never feels like one character is left out because they're saving a different part of the world. It also never really feels like there's one main character. Sure, Cinder might be the most important character and the one who brings everyone together, but this group wouldn't be successful without each and every person. And not a single member of the ragtag crew is left underdeveloped. Somehow we jump all over time and space and I never felt overwhelmed or like things were just thrown together. Every single detail is important and comes back in some way. 

Even details from the first book! We're given more background in this book, and I think it's crazy how well some of the reveals were set up. We've known Cress since book 1, and we've even been hearing bits and pieces about Winter since book 1. And characters are connected in ways that I would not have imagined. I could guess some of the relationships, but it was still really neat to read about how the reveals are made to the characters and to see their reactions. 

Although this book, and the series really, are very character heavy, the plot is still pretty intense and moves along at a pretty good pace. I was never bored and I didn't feel like there were parts where I was trudging through just to get to the next part. Like I said before, every detail is important. As upset as I was at times about characters being split up, I really enjoyed reading about what was going on in other parts of the world. Or worlds, I guess? And I thought it was really interesting to read things from the perspective of pretty much every character. We see things from Cinder, Thorne, Scarlet, Cress, Kai, Sybil, Levana, Dr. Erland... Pretty much everyone gets at least a chapter's worth of story to tell.

I could talk about this book forever and discuss all of the theories I have about what will happen in Winter (speaking of Winter, I think she's going to be my favorite character. She's kind of awesome in the few scenes she's in), but you should really just read it for yourself.  I would recommend this series to basically everyone, but especially to fans of Joss Whedon, Sailor Moon, fairy tales (I loved all of the subtle and not-so-subtle nods to the original fairy tales too!), and sci-fi YA. Actually, just sci-fi in general. It's not too bad for a younger audience either, although I think it might be a little overwhelming with all of the characters. If you've read Cinder and Scarlet, read Cress ASAP! If you haven't read the first two books.... what are you waiting for?! 5/5!


--Ashley

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Under Nameless Stars (Zenn Scarlett #2) by Christian Schoon - 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: Under Nameless Stars (Zenn Scarlett #2)
Author: Christian Schoon
Publication Date: April 1, 2014

Christian Schoon's TOP TEN Exotic Animals
My Zenn Scarlett Review
My Zenn Scarlett Pre-Reading

Synopsis: 
Zenn Scarlett’s novice year of exoveterinarian training on Mars isn’t quite going to plan…


After facing a plot to destroy her school and its menagerie of alien patients, could things get worse? Yes, they could: her absent father has been kidnapped.

Desperate to find him, Zenn stows away aboard the Helen of Troy, a starliner powered by one of the immense, dimension-jumping beasts known as Indra. With her is Liam Tucker, a Martian boy who is either very fond of her, very dangerous to her, or both. On the verge of learning the truth about her father, Zenn’s quest suddenly catapults her and Liam thousands of light years beyond known space, and into the dark heart of a monstrous conspiracy.

Braving a gauntlet of lethal environments and unearthly life forms, Zenn’s courage is tested as never before. With the fate of entire worlds in the balance, she is racing headlong into trouble… again.

Why?: I really enjoyed the first book in this series, and I've been eagerly awaiting this sequel. I can't wait to find out more about Zenn Scarlett, what happened to her father, the alien species that she cares for, and answers to all sorts of questions I had after the first book. Ever since I realized that Zenn Scarlett was the introduction to a whole series and not a standalone novel, I've been really excited to continue Zenn's story. 

Expectations: Since I loved the first book so much, I've got pretty high expectations for this sequel. I'm also hoping for more mystery and adventure, but more resolution than the first book had. Also, probably a little romance! And lots of cool alien animals and space technology. I'm really looking forward to seeing Zenn grow and mature even more as well. 

Judging a book by its cover: I absolutely adore everything about this cover. The colors of space and all the stars are gorgeous, and I love the look on Zenn's face as she looks out over all of it. I liked the cover of Zenn Scarlett quite a bit, but I think this one is even better. It's just so gorgeous! I would definitely stop and pick this book up off of a shelf if I saw it in a bookstore or somewhere. 


--Ashley

Friday, March 21, 2014

GUEST POST: M.G. Buehrlen's TOP TEN Time Travel Films: The 57 Lives of Alex Wayfare BLOG TOUR


Hello! Today, we're really excited to bring you a guest post from M.G. Buehrlen, author of The 57 Lives of Alex Wayfare, out earlier this month from Strange Chemistry! Before we get to her Top Ten Time Travel Films though, here's a little bit about The 57 Lives of Alex Wayfare and M.G.! You can also check out Ashley's review by clicking here.

About the Book: 

Title: The 57 Lives of Alex Wayfare
Author: M.G. Buehrlen

Release Dates: 

March 4, 2014 (US)
6 March 2014 (UK)

Purchase Links: 
Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | Amazon | Indiebound | The Book Depository | Waterstones

Publisher: Strange Chemistry
ISBN: 9781908844934

Synopsis: One girl. Fifty-seven lives. Endless ways to die.

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.


About the Author:

When she’s not writing, M.G. moonlights as a web designer and social media/creative director.

She’s the current web ninja lurking behind the hugely popular website YABooksCentral.com,
a social network for YA (and kids!) book lovers. The 57 Lives of Alex Wayfare is her debut novel. M.G. lives nestled away in Michigan pines, surrounded by good coffee and good books, with her husband and son and three furbabies. Say hello on Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr.

Social media links: 



Top Ten Time Travel Films
guest post by M.G. Buehrlen

In my debut novel, The 57 Lives of Alex Wayfare, my main character Alex can travel back in time to her reincarnated past lives. The inspiration for this *may* have come from my obsession with time travel films in all shapes and sizes. (Also time travel TV shows, but that’s another list for another day.)

Here are a few of my favorite time travel films in no particular order. If you haven’t seen any of these, make haste and get them lined up in your Netflix queue. You won’t be disappointed.


Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure / Bogus Journey
Time travel method: Phone box time machine
What I loved: Smart humor, tons of quotable lines, and the ability to watch over and over without ever getting old. I don’t think I’m too far off if I say this is possibly Keanu’s finest role to date. ;)


12 Monkeys
Time travel method: Time machine
What I loved: Brad Pitt is a perfect psycho, and he delivers the performance of a lifetime in this mind-bending futuristic thriller. His performance outweighs everything else in the film. Everything. Else.


Midnight in Paris
Time travel method: Uncertain (“time slip”)
What I loved: I’ve always had a soft spot for simple time travel, where someone slips seamlessly into another time. They aren’t quite sure how they got there, but they’re going to enjoy the ride while it lasts. Plus, 1920s Paris? Yes, please.

Time Traveler’s Wife
Time travel method: Born with a time travel gene
What I loved: The unique and interesting side effects of time traveling, such as always ending up naked every time Henry travels. So many great ideas are touched on here, like being able to make out with a younger version of your spouse. (It wouldn’t be cheating, would it?) Mind twisty stuff!


Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Time travel method: A magic “time turner” device
What I loved: It’s my favorite of the Harry Potter series. It’s darker, twistier, brilliantly executed, and Ron and Hermione’s budding romance is Super Sweet. Harry knowing he could defeat the Dementors because he’d already seen himself do it was a twist I hadn’t yet seen in the time travel genre.


Back to the Future
Time travel method: Delorean (time machine)
What I loved: The idea that Marty McFly might inadvertently erase his own existence by tampering with time is the age-old time travel question. Back to the Future approaches it best. Plus, young Michael J. Fox? Yes, please, and thank you.


Groundhog Day

Time travel method: Uncertain (trapped in time)
What I loved: Bill Murray gets the Ebenezer Scrooge test in this film about reliving the same day over and over again. Selfish jerkwad learns a lesson about having a heart and becomes a better man. Who wouldn’t love that?


Meet the Robinsons
Time travel method: Time machine
What I loved: This is one of my favorite Disney films, one that is often overlooked. It shouldn’t be! Not only is it a great time travel film with great twists, it’s a heart-warming story about family and finding where you belong. Also, I’m an adoption advocate, and the adoption themes are beautifully done here. *wipes a tear*


Star Trek
Time travel method: Black hole
What I loved: Besides the fact that JJ Abrams can deliver a kick ass adventure film? I actually enjoyed the implications of the new timeline Nero created by killing Kirk’s father. I liked that the heroes didn’t scramble to reverse the damage done, and that this new timeline sticks in the end and the characters must play it out. I love when time travel endings are messy and flawed, rather than tied up nicely with a bow (put back to normal).


Kate and Leopold
Time travel method: Falling through a portal
What I loved: I’m not sure why this film has such low ratings. It’s utterly delightful and unconventional. The quirky, brilliant ex-boyfriend having to help his equally quirky and brilliant ex-girlfriend find love? Delightful. The juxtaposition of gentleman-era New York to hardcore present day NYC? Delightful. The idea that you might have to change history in order to NOT change history? You guessed it. Delightful. Also mind-bendy. I love it.



A huge thanks again to MG for taking the time to stop by our blog and talk about some of her favorite time travel films. We'll definitely be checking out the ones we haven't seen yet! Don't forget to pick up your copy of The 57 Lives of Alex Wayfare from your favorite online or local bookseller! You definitely won't regret it.

--Ashley & Paul

The Undertaking of Lily Chen by Danica Novgorodoff - Paul's REVIEW

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

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


Title: The Undertaking of Lily Chen
Author: Danica Novgorodoff
Year Published: 2014

Upcoming Release Date: March 25, 2014

Synopsis: In The Undertaking of Lily Chen, Deshi, a young man struggling to make a life for himself in rural China, watches his life comes unhinged when he accidentally kills his older brother in a fight. His distraught parents send him on a hopeless journey to acquire a bride for his brother to marry posthumously so he doesn't enter the next world alone—an ancient Chinese tradition with many modern adherents. Eligible female corpses are in short supply, however. When Deshi falls into company with a beautiful, angry, and single young woman named Lily, he sees a solution to his problems.  The only hitch is Lily is still very much alive. Danica Novgorodoff, author of Slow Storm and Refresh, Refresh, brings her distinctive voice and gorgeous, moody watercolors to this wry, beautiful, and surprising literary graphic novel.

Review: First, I really like this cover. The silhouettes of the protagonists with a setting/rising sun behind them. The cliffs on either side come together with the clouds to make a skull. With death very relevant to the story I like this. The art also matches the artwork within the graphic novel, with beautiful watercolor and ink strokes. 


The protagonist is on the search for a female corpse to wed to his recently deceased unmarried brother. I wasn't familiar with this tradition and I find it very interesting. There are many abstract parts of the book with consecutive pages of very simple art. I loved all the art in this book. I loved the Asian influence with the colorful watercolors and ink. 

This graphic novel is a quest story with many twists and interesting characters. I give it a 3.5/5. If you like slightly abstract comics with beautiful artwork, you will love this.  



-PAUL

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Rotten at the Heart by Bartholomew Daniels - Ashley's Pre-Reading

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

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Title: Rotten at the Heart
Author: Bartholomew Daniels
Publication Date: March 25, 2014

Synopsis: 
London, 1596. With their patron's mysterious death and their Puritan landlord's sudden determination to evict them, William Shakespeare and the Lord Chamberlain's Men teeter on the brink of ruin. So when the new Baron Carey--son of their late sponsor--reveals to Shakespeare his suspicions that his father was murdered, and demands that Shakespeare use his own powers of observation to ferret out the killer in exchange for Carey's continued patronage, Will has little choice but to agree.


Shakespeare juggles his duties to his troupe with a desultory attempt at playing shamus, only to find himself attacked by a hooded swordsman, his reputation besmirched by a vicious anonymous pamphleteer, and his every move marked by a strange man with a hideously scarred and deformed nose. His professional life unraveling, Shakespeare must now face a personal life destroyed by the tragic consequences of a failed affair, the death of his son Hamnet, and his estrangement from his wife, Anne. 

Driven at last to serve the truth, Shakespeare uncovers plots inside plots--some stemming from historical ills, some from the new evils of the burgeoning stock exchange, and all seeming aimed as much at Shakespeare as at his late patron. Rooted in historical fact and written in Will's own accessibly Elizabethan voice, Rotten At the Heart explores the intersection of religion, politics, and corruption, and underscores the sacrifices that honor demands when a troubled man finally discovers his own.

Why?: Shakespeare as a detective? I was totally hooked from that alone! I can't wait to find out how Shakespearean works are tied into this book, and how historical fact is woven into crime fiction. It just sounds like a really good time! I also love a  good mystery, so this sounds like it will be great. 

Expectations: I've never read anything by Bartholomew Davis and I've also never read any books about Shakespeare or from his point of view, so I'm not really sure what to expect. I hope that the story is good and twisty, and that I can separate fact from fiction and recognize subtle references to the more popular Shakespearean plays/sonnets/etc. 

Judging a book by its cover: I really like the simplicity of this cover. It reminds me of a chalk board, or maybe a chalk outline on asphalt. Either way, I really like it. I would probably pick it up if I saw it on a shelf somewhere. I think it's different from most other crime novel covers, so that's cool! 


--Ashley