Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Torn Away by Jennifer Brown - Ashley's Pre-Reading

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

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Title: Torn Away
Author: Jennifer Brown
Publication Date: May 6, 2014

Synopsis: 
Born and raised in the Midwest, Jersey Cameron knows all about tornadoes. Or so she thinks. When her town is devastated by a twister, Jersey survives -- but loses her mother, her young sister, and her home. As she struggles to overcome her grief, she's sent to live with her only surviving relatives: first her biological father, then her estranged grandparents.


In an unfamiliar place, Jersey faces a reality she's never considered before -- one in which her mother wasn't perfect, and neither were her grandparents, but they all loved her just the same. Together, they create a new definition of family. And that's something no tornado can touch.

Why?: I'm no meteorologist, but weather related books always fascinate me. I think because most of the time they're something that could actually happen, and probably have happened. I'm interested to see what the tornado teachers Jersey about her life and the people in it, even though I'm pretty sure it's going to be a very sad read.

Expectations: I expect this to be a pretty dark book, with quite a bit of death and lives torn apart. I also expect Jersey to be pretty upset for most of it, having just lost her town, her family, and her home. It also seems like there will be a little bit of a mystery to it (with learning secrets about her mother and her grandparents), but I hope that things will lighten up by the end of the book.

Judging a book by its cover: I'm really undecided on this cover. I love how the title takes up most of it, and how the author's name is a different color and very pronounced. But I think the girl's face is really over done on YA books right now, and I'm not sure the title and author's name are enough to draw me to this book based on the cover alone.


--Ashley

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Deliver Me by Kate Jarvik Birch - Ashley's Review


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

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Title: Deliver Me
Author: Kate Jarvik Birch
Publication Date: April 29, 2014

My Pre-Reading

Synopsis: One People. One Union. One Future.

Wynne’s entire life is dictated by the Union: the clothes she wears, the books she reads, even the genes she inherited. And like every other girl in the Union, Wynne dreams of being chosen as a Carrier on her 16th birthday—one of the elite selected to carry the future generation within her womb. Wynne and her best friend Odessa are certain they will both make the cut, but when Odessa is chosen and whisked off to a life of privilege, Wynne is left behind to work as an assistant, delivering perfectly planned babies for the Union.

As Odessa slips deeper and deeper into the role of Carrier, Wynne begins to see the Union for what it really is: a society that criminalizes the notion of love, and forbids words like mother and family.

For the first time in her life, Wynne is faced with a choice: submit to the will of the Union, or find a way to escape and save Odessa before she is lost forever.

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Review: I read The Handmaid's Tale for my one of my AP English classes in high school, and it's been one of those books that's just stuck with me ever since. It's haunting and terrifying and yet somehow empowering in a strange, convoluted way. I also believe it's one of those books that not enough people have read. So when I saw Deliver Me called "The Handmaid's Tale" for a new generation, I knew I had to read it. And I was not disappointed.

Don't get me wrong - this is NOT The Handmaid's Tale. This book stands entirely on its own, and although it draws heavily from the society of The Handmaid's Tale, this is definitely a little more tame and more approachable for teens. But the punch is still there, and it's still just as terrifying and poignant as the story it's based on. I did like that the women were still allowed to keep their names and their identity (although they are assigned numbers), because I think it helps relate to them more easily even if their world and their lives are nothing like we've experienced in our lifetimes. 

I think Wynne was an excellently crafted character, and I'm sorry that this book wasn't longer so we could spend more time with her. She is obedient to the Union even when she's denied the position of Carrier, and only begins to doubt the ideals of and the laws governing the Union because she's placed in a role where she sees the cruelty of forcing women to be Carriers. I'm really glad Tamsin is introduced so that Wynne has someone to talk to, because I don't think she would have gotten to the point she does if she never ended up with a confidante. 

One of my favorite parts of this book was the relationships. Friendships are made and lost, and "love" is a concept that's hard for the characters to grasp at first. There are no real romantic relationships, and I think that makes the friendships and rivalries that much more important. Wynne chooses her friends carefully, and keeping those friendships is incredibly important to her. I definitely think there's a lesson to be learned in there somewhere. 

I would totally recommend this book to fans of The Handmaid's Tale, or fans of dystopian YA books in general. It isn't very long, but it's still packed with character development and world-building. It can stand on its own, but could also be the beginning of an interesting series. It kind of has the same feel as The Giver in that respect, and I think fans of The Giver would also enjoy this book. I'd give it a 4/5!


--Ashley

Moth and Spark by Anne Leonard - Paul's Pre-Reading

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads | Audible

Title: Moth and Spark
Author: Anne Leonard
Year Published: 2014

Narrator: Christian Coulson
Audiobook Length: 14 hours 10 minutes

Synopsis: Prince Corin has been chosen to free the dragons from their bondage to the Empire, but dragons aren’t big on directions. They have given him some of their power, but none of their knowledge. No one, not the dragons nor their riders, is even sure what keeps the dragons in the Empire’s control. 

Tam, sensible daughter of a well-respected doctor, had no idea before she arrived in the capital that she is a Seer, gifted with visions. When the two run into each other (quite literally) in the library, sparks fly and Corin impulsively asks Tam to dinner. But it’s not all happily ever after. Never mind that the prince isn’t allowed to marry a commoner: war is coming to Caithen. 

Torn between Corin’s quest to free the dragons and his duty to his country, the lovers must both figure out how to master their powers in order to save Caithen. With a little help from a village of secret wizards and a rogue dragonrider, they just might pull it off.


The Sword and Laser Author Interview with Anne Leonard




Why?: I first heard of this novel from the Sword and Laser bookclub's author spotlight episode. It sounded really interesting with dragons and intrigue. When i was looking for my next audiobook on audible I saw this one and had to get it. I've been listening to mostly older books on audiobook so I'm excited for a book that was published this year.   

Expectations: I'm expecting a fun fantasy novel that takes an inetresting take on dragons. I'm also expecting a court intrigue kind of story with a little bit of romance. I am hoping for some modern themes.    

Judging a book by its cover: This cover looks cool. It leads me to ask so many questions. I'm intrigued to see what the moth and spark are referencing.   


--PAUL

Monday, April 28, 2014

The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets by Simon Singh - Ashley's Review

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Title: The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets
Author: Simon Singh
Year Published: 2013


My Pre-Reading

Synopsis: You may have watched hundreds of episodes of The Simpsons (and its sister show Futurama) without ever realizing that cleverly embedded in many plots are subtle references to mathematics, ranging from well-known equations to cutting-edge theorems and conjectures. That they exist, Simon Singh reveals, underscores the brilliance of the shows’ writers, many of whom have advanced degrees in mathematics in addition to their unparalleled sense of humor.

While recounting memorable episodes such as “Bart the Genius” and “Homer3,” Singh weaves in mathematical stories that explore everything from p to Mersenne primes, Euler’s equation to the unsolved riddle of P v. NP; from perfect numbers to narcissistic numbers, infinity to even bigger infinities, and much more. Along the way, Singh meets members of The Simpsons’ brilliant writing team—among them David X. Cohen, Al Jean, Jeff Westbrook, and Mike Reiss—whose love of arcane mathematics becomes clear as they reveal the stories behind the episodes.

With wit and clarity, displaying a true fan’s zeal, and replete with images from the shows, photographs of the writers, and diagrams and proofs, The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets offers an entirely new insight into the most successful show in television history.

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Review: It's been a while since I've read a non-fiction math book, and the last one was probably a textbook. But The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets was definitely one of my favorites thus far. It's interesting and insightful and manages to present math topics without reading like it's a textbook. I think that if we want more people to be interested in mathematical topics, this is the way to present it.

Singh takes complicated math theorems and problems that the writers have ingeniously hidden in both The Simpsons and Futurama and managed to whittle them down into something that can be easily understood by someone with even the most basic knowledge of math. Jokes are explained in such a way that, most times, you don't even need to have any knowledge of math. There are some "exams" included that list math jokes and test the reader's "math nerdiness" by assigning points and totaling up the jokes that you understand, but that's pretty much the only time advanced knowledge of mathematics is at all required. 

I've only watched a few episodes of The Simpsons, but I'm more interested to go back to the beginning and watch them all now that I know there are hundreds if not thousands of hidden math jokes to look for. I just think it's incredible that such a ridiculous cartoon sitcom actually has so many jokes for people of all ages and educations, and I think that's a huge part of why it's still running today. And I love Futurama and have always appreciated their math jokes, but there are still so many that I missed. 

I would definitely recommend this book to any fans of The Simpsons and/or Futurama. It gives a whole new depth to both series, and ca be enjoyed regardless of if you have a mathematical background (I do) or if you're one of those people who just really hated every single math class you had to take. Even if you do have a math background, you're likely to learn something new from this book. I'll be looking into some of the theorems and such to learn more, and looking for a way to watch The Simpsons from the beginning to look for even more hidden math! A 5/5.


--Ashley

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Hedge Witch (The Cloven Land Trilogy #1) by Simon Kewin - Ashley's Pre-Reading

*I received this book as part of the Hedge Witch blog tour in exchange for an honest review*


Amazon | Goodreads

Title: Hedge Witch (The Cloven Land Trilogy #1)
Author: Simon Kewin
Publication Date: 

Synopsis: 
Fifteen year-old Cait Weerd has no idea she's being sought by the undain: sorcerous creatures that feed off the spirit of the living. She doesn't know they need her blood to survive. She doesn't even know she's a witch, descended from a long line of witches. Cait Weerd doesn't know a lot, really, but all that's about to change.


At Manchester Central Library she's caught up in sudden violence. In the chaos she's given an old book that's been hidden there. Given it and told to run. Hide the book or destroy it. The book contains all the secrets of the undains' existence. They and their human servants want to find it as much as they want to find her.

Cait learns the fates of two worlds are at stake. Just what she needs. Along with definitely-not-a-boyfriend Danny, she has to decide what the hell to do. Run, fight or hope it all goes away.

It's only then she learns who she really is, along with the terrible truth of what the undain have been doing in our world all this time...

Why?: For whatever reason, I really like books with witches. I love how different magic is between all the different books, and how they go about solving their problems. I'm especially looking forward to reading this one because Cait has to destroy a book - not that I love when books are destroyed, but because a book hold so much power and information that it cannot reach the wrong hands. Powerful books are awesome! 

Expectations: I'm not entirely sure what to expect from this book. Definitely witches and magic and fleeing for their lives, but I don't know beyond that. Also, I think there will be quite a bit a humor (based on how the synopsis is written). Bonus points for making me laugh out loud! 

Judging a book by its cover: I'm kind of undecided on this cover. The girl on the front is just so overdone in YA, but I kind of love her blue hair and eyebrow. The birds in the back are also intriguing, and I wonder how they're relevant to the book. I think I might pick this up based solely on the cover if I saw it in a bookstore or a library, but I'm not entirely convinced that I would.


Don't forget to check back in a couple weeks to see my review and visit all of the other stops on the Hedge Witch Blog Tour! 


--Ashley

Saturday, April 26, 2014

The Wizard's Promise (Hanna Duology #1) by Cassandra Rose Clarke - Paul's Pre-Reading

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


Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Goodreads

Title: The Wizard's Promise (Hanna Duology #1)

Author: Cassandra Rose Clarke
Cover Art: Sarah J. Coleman

Publication Date: May 6, 2014 (US/CAN) 1 May 2014 (UK)

Ashley's The Assassin's Curse Review
Ashley's The Pirate's Wish Review
Ashley's The Witch's Betrayal Review
Ashley's The Automaton's Treasure Review

Ashley's The Wizard's Promise Pre-Reading

Paul's The Assassin's Curse Review
Paul's The Pirate's Wish Review
Paul's The Witch's Betrayal Review


Synopsis: All Hanna Euli wants is to become a proper witch – but unfortunately, she’s stuck as an apprentice to a grumpy fisherman. When their boat gets caught up in a mysterious storm and blown wildly off course, Hanna finds herself further away from home than she’s ever been before.

As she tries to get back, she learns there may be more to her apprentice master than she realized, especially when a mysterious, beautiful, and very non-human boy begins following her through the ocean, claiming that he needs Hanna’s help.


Why?: I really enjoyed The Assassin's Curse and its sequel. I have read one of the short stories as well and I liked that too. My favorite part of that series is the world building. It is such a fantastically large and epic world! This book takes place in that same world so I am very excited to return to such a great place. 

Expectations: I'm expecting to learn even more about this world and travel to locations we may have only heard of in the prior series. It sounds like there will be more magic in this novel. I'm excited to see the magic system more established.  


Judging a book by its cover: I really liked the covers of the first series and this cover matches it in tone. It has a colder feel to it, so maybe we will be heading far North. The antler and skeletal face are creepy and intriguing.  



--Paul

One Man Guy by Michael Barakiva - Ashley's Review

*I received this book as an eARC from Macmillan Children's Publishing Group/Farrar, Straus, and Giroux (BYR) on NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Title: One Man Guy
Author: Michael Barakiva
Publication Date: May 27, 2014

My Pre-Reading

Synopsis: 
Alek Khederian should have guessed something was wrong when his parents took him to a restaurant. Everyone knows that Armenians never eat out. Why bother, when their home cooking is far superior to anything "these Americans" could come up with? Between bouts of interrogating the waitress and criticizing the menu, Alek’s parents announce that he’ll be attending summer school in order to bring up his grades. Alek is sure this experience will be the perfect hellish end to his hellish freshmen year of high school. He never could’ve predicted that he’d meet someone like Ethan.


Ethan is everything Alek wishes he were: confident, free-spirited, and irreverent. When Ethan gets Alek to cut school and go to a Rufus Wainwright concert in New York City’s Central Park, Alek embarks on his first adventure outside the confines of his suburban New Jersey existence. He can’t believe a guy this cool wants to be his friend. And before long, it seems like Ethan wants to be more than friends. Alek has never thought about having a boyfriend—he’s barely ever had a girlfriend—but maybe it’s time to think again.

Michael Barakiva's One Man Guy is a romantic, moving, laugh-out-loud-funny story about what happens when one person cracks open your world and helps you see everything—and, most of all, yourself--like you never have before.

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Review: This is a super cute summer romance that would be a good book to read while sitting out on the beach or in a hammock enjoying some gorgeous summer weather. It's a quick easy read, and it was fun to watch Alek rediscover himself. 

I think this book has really good intentions. I've never read another book about an Armenian main character, so I think that it was neat to be able to glimpse a part of the Armenian-American heritage. I also really enjoyed that, even though Alex hated parts of his Armenian upbringing, it was still so deeply ingrained within him that he could recall the stories and the manners without a second thought. Although he hates his parents for being so strict, he's really a good kid. 

Another thing I enjoyed about this book was how accepting everyone was. The D.O.s accept Ethan for who he is, and even the people you think might be the least likely people to accept Alek and Ethan are incredibly open and caring and loving. It's just really nice to see in a YA book, especially as it's becoming more common in every day life. Just because Alek starts to fall for a boy doesn't make him any different than any of his peers. 

There were some really good, strong things about this book, but as a whole it just wasn't anything spectacular. Even though it's a gay teen romance, it's still a teen romance, and I'm not sure that having "gay" stamped on it is enough to make it stand out from all of the other contemporary YA romances. It's cute, it's sweet, and it makes a lot of good points... but then again so do most other books in its genre. I would probably recommend it to anyone looking for a nice summer romance without much suspense, mystery, magic, or any of that jazz. I'd give One Man Guy a 3/5.


--Ashley

Friday, April 25, 2014

Tales From Oz by Dan Wickline, Joe Brusha, & Meredith Finch - Ashley's Review

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


Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Title: Tales from Oz

Author: Dan Wickline, Joe Brusha, & Meredith Finch
Publication Date: April 29, 2014

My Grimm Fairy Tales: Oz Review

Synopsis: 
Now, the most infamous Oz characters appear in Zenescope's intense, dark, and daring re-imagining of the Oz mythos. The mesmerizing and often times frightening origins of the Tin Man, The Scarecrow, Thane the Lion, and a wolf named Toto are collected together in this epic trade paperback.



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Review: I think I'm on a Wizard of Oz kick right now, because I keep finding all of these interesting new spins on the world and characters of Oz. After reading Grimm Fairy Tales: Oz, I had so many questions about the Cowardly Lion, the Tin Man, and the Scarecrow that I thought would never be answered. Then I saw Tales from Oz, and I was really excited! 


Learning about the past of these well-known and beloved characters in the world of Grimm Fairy Tales was really interesting. Their backgrounds have hints of the original stories in them, but are still entirely new and exciting. How the Tin Man loses his heart, how the Scarecrow loses his brain, and why the Lion is so cowardly are all dealt with in magical ways. The Wicked Witches are often involved, and it was really cool to see their transformations. I also enjoyed learning more about Toto - he's not the small little terrier that he's usually portrayed as, and there's next to nothing about his background in the Grimm Fairy Tales: Oz comics. So it was nice to get to see where he came from and how he ended up with Dorothy. 

The artwork was really well done in these comics, and fit the tone of the stories well. Everything is darker than the original Oz books, and the artwork definitely reflects that. I'm not sure I would recommend this for a younger audience though, because the witches and most of the other females wear very little clothing and are drawn to be sexy, so it's probably not appropriate for the younger fans of Oz to read this series. I definitely think it's geared towards the older generations. 

I do with some of the stories had been a little longer and had flowed together more smoothly - I sometimes found myself having to go back a few pages to figure out what in the world had just happened or where transitions had occurred within the stories. Overall though, this was an enjoyable collection of comics that I think any fans of Grimm Fairy Tales: Oz should really read. It adds depth to the more secondary characters and allows us to glimpse their lives before Dorothy came to Oz. A 3/5.


--Ashley

Neil Gaiman Presents Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner (audiobook) - Paul's Review

 Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads | Audible

Title: Swordspoint: A Melodrama of Manners
Author: Ellen Kushner
Year Published: 1987

Narrators: Ellen Kushner, Dion Graham, Katherine Kellgren, Robert Fass, Nick Sullivan, Simon Jones
Audiobook Length: 10 hours 54 minutes

Synopsis: On the streets of Riverside, a man lives and dies by the sword. Even the nobles on the Hill turn to duels to settle their disputes. And in this city, the swordsman Richard St. Vier is the undisputed master, as skilled as he is ruthless – until a death by the sword is met with outrage instead of awe, and the city discovers that the line between hero and villain can be altered in the blink of an eye. Because every man lives at sword's point, if you can only find his weakness. And even the greatest swordsman in Riverside has one thing he cares for deeply.

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Review: This audiobook is presented by Neil Gaiman. The majority of the novel is narrated by Ellen Kushner herself. A few of the scenes are acted out, some with even background music and other added sounds. I preferred just Ellen Kushner reading. The acted out scenes weren't frequent enough for me to attach the characters to voices. I was more familiar with Ellen Kushner's voices of the characters. There were also so many characters with unique names that it took me a while to get to know them as well. 

It also took some time to get into the world, too. But once I started to figure out how this world works, I really liked it. The politics of the world reminded me of Downton Abbey, but add Game of Thrones in there. The swordsman are the celebrities in this culture. And the wealthy hire them to fight out their disputes. 

This novel was written in 1987 and I didn't think it felt old. It withstood the 25 years since it was published, in my opinion. The depiction of sexuality was very progressive. Almost all the characters are portrayed as fluid in their sexuality with same-sex pairings commonplace. Besides their sexuality, all the characters are also very grey. There is depth to all of them. They play the game and each have their own ideas of honor and morale. 

I loved the ending. All the pieces fell into place just right. I was very satisfied. I will definitely be looking into the sequels. I give this audiobook a 4/5 and recommend it to fans of intrigue set in a unique world. 

  
--PAUL

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Deliver Me by Kate Jarvik Birch - Ashley's Pre-Reading

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


Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Title: Deliver Me
Author: Kate Jarvik Birch
Publication Date: April 29, 2014

Synopsis: 
One People. One Union. One Future. 


Wynne’s entire life is dictated by the Union: the clothes she wears, the books she reads, even the genes she inherited. And like every other girl in the Union, Wynne dreams of being chosen as a Carrier on her 16th birthday—one of the elite selected to carry the future generation within her womb. Wynne and her best friend Odessa are certain they will both make the cut, but when Odessa is chosen and whisked off to a life of privilege, Wynne is left behind to work as an assistant, delivering perfectly planned babies for the Union.

As Odessa slips deeper and deeper into the role of Carrier, Wynne begins to see the Union for what it really is: a society that criminalizes the notion of love, and forbids words like mother and family.

For the first time in her life, Wynne is faced with a choice: submit to the will of the Union, or find a way to escape and save Odessa before she is lost forever.

Why?: This book is being promoted as The Handmaid's Tale for a new generation, so of course I had to check it out! The Handmaid's Tale is one of my all-time favorite books, and I've never come across a re-imagining of it. I'm interested in how this will play out, and in how it will be different from the original. 

Expectations: I honestly have no idea what to expect. A modernized version of The Handmaid's Tale? Or maybe not even modernized, because the original took place in the not-so-distant future. I really just don't know. I'm looking forward to being surprised though! 

Judging a book by its cover: I like the colors of this cover, but I'm not terribly impressed by the image. Knowing the original story, I do like that the girl's profile is just a silhouette, but I think it's just a very stereotypical cover for a YA book. I might pick it up based on the colors and the way the title looks, but I'm not sure.


--Ashley

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

No Place Like Oz (Dorothy Must Die #0.5) by Danielle Paige - Ashley's Review


Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

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

Paul's Review

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.

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Review: I love the Oz books, and I love when there are retellings of things that happen in Oz. I think it's one of my favorite classics to read new and interesting spins on, because the world is so vast and there are so many ways it can be changed into something new and exciting. This novella was no different, and might even be one of my favorites! 

Dorothy is always portrayed as being the hero - she killed the Witches and restored peace to Oz, and all of the residents of Oz love her for that. In this novella though, she's not the sweet little girl from Kansas that everyone remembers. She's actually kind of a jerk for most of the book, and I actually liked that about her. Especially since the next book is called Dorothy Must Die.... I'm pretty glad that I'm not sure whether or not I should actually like Dorothy. 

One of my favorite parts about this novella was all of the references to the originial book series. Ozma is really important in the books, and it makes sense that she's the ruler at the time that this novella is taking place. Other fans of the series may notice that the Saw-Horse, Polychrome, and the porcelain dolls (among other inhabitants of Oz) make appearance or are mentioned, which is pretty neat. And Dorothy's slippers stick to the original story in terms of their color, although she does receive a special gift on her sixteenth birthday that will make bring back memories of the original movie. 

I really enjoyed this novel, and I'm excited to see what will happen to Oz as the story continues in the rest of the Dorothy Must Die series! I think I want to read a few more Oz books before I read Dorothy Must Die though so that I can pick up on all of the subtle references and know who the characters and places are from the original books. I would definitely recommend this novella to anyone who is thinking about reading Dorothy Must Die and to any fans of The Wizard of Oz, be it the movie or the books. A 5/5! 


--Ashley

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Neil Gaiman Presents Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner (audiobook) - Paul's Pre-Reading

 Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads | Audible

Title: Swordspoint: A Melodrama of Manners
Author: Ellen Kushner
Year Published: 1987

Narrators: Ellen Kushner, Dion Graham, Katherine Kellgren, Robert Fass, Nick Sullivan, Simon Jones
Audiobook Length: 10 hours 54 minutes

Synopsis: On the streets of Riverside, a man lives and dies by the sword. Even the nobles on the Hill turn to duels to settle their disputes. And in this city, the swordsman Richard St. Vier is the undisputed master, as skilled as he is ruthless – until a death by the sword is met with outrage instead of awe, and the city discovers that the line between hero and villain can be altered in the blink of an eye. Because every man lives at sword's point, if you can only find his weakness. And even the greatest swordsman in Riverside has one thing he cares for deeply.

Why?: I've heard great things about this book. Felicia Day's book club, Vaginal Fantasy, read this book as one of their alternate picks last year. I added it to my tbr list back then and since then I've subscribed to audible. I saw the audiobook was produced by Neil Gaiman. There's also a quote from George R. R. Martin on the cover featured on goodreads. If so many great people like it, I'm hoping I will too.   

Expectations: I'm expecting an in depth fantasy novel with some same-sex romance. I've heard the fantasy world established is quite vast and I am definitely a sucker for good world building.   

Judging a book by its cover: The cover for the audiobook is pretty simple. There's just a guy in a really unique white cape/jacket of some sort. An alternate cover featured on goodreads shows two characters in elaborate clothes. These covers both remind me of older fantasy novels. This book was published in 1987.  


--PAUL

Feather Bound by Sarah Raughley - Ashley's Pre-Reading

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


Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Title: Feather Bound
Author: Sarah Raughley
Publication Date: May 6, 2014

Synopsis: 
When Deanna's missing friend Hyde turns up at his father's funeral to claim his corporate empire and inheritance, she is swept into his glittering world of paparazzi and wealth.


But re-kindling her friendship and the dizzying new emotions along for the ride are the least of her concerns. Because Deanna has a secret - and somebody knows. Someone who is out to get Hyde. And if she doesn't play along, and help the enemy destroy him...she will be sold to the highest bidder in the black market for human swans.

Now Deanna is struggling to break free from the gilded cage that would trap her forever...

Feather Bound is a dark debut reminiscent of Gabriel García Márquez's A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings, and the twisted truth behind the fairy tale of Cinderella.

Why?: I am always game for a fairy tale retelling/background story! And Cinderella is really well known, so I'm excited to see where this book is going to take it. Also - human swans?! Tell me more, tell me more...

Expectations: Strange Chemistry has not let me down yet, so I am super excited for this book. My expectations are probably ridiculously high for a debut... but oh well. It just sounds like everything I want in a book! 

Judging a book by its cover: I absolutely love this cover. I love the birds and the feathers and the typography and the girl hiding in the feathers and the colors... basically I would pick this book off of the shelf in a heartbeat. It's just too pretty not to! 


--Ashley

Monday, April 21, 2014

A World Without Princes (The School for Good and Evil #2) by Soman Chainani - Paul's Review

**I was provided an eARC of this novel from the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review**

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Title: A World Without Princes (The School for Good and Evil #2)
Author: Soman Chainani
Year Published: 2014

Recent Release Date: Tuesday April 15, 2014

My REVIEW of The School for Good and Evil #1
My PRE-READING of The School for Good and Evil #1

My Pre-Reading of A World Without Princes (#2)

Synopsis: When Agatha secretly wishes she’d chosen a different happy ending, she reopens the gates to the School for Good and Evil. But the world she and Sophie once knew has changed.


Witches and princesses, warlocks and princes are no longer enemies. New bonds are forming; old bonds are being shattered. But underneath this uneasy arrangement, a war is brewing and a dangerous enemy rises. As Agatha and Sophie battle to restore peace, an unexpected threat could destroy everything, and everyone, they love—and this time, it comes from within.

Review:
I loved what the first book in this middle-grade series did to break so many barriers and cliches. There are two female leads and although romance has its place in the book, friendship is at the core. The first book centered around the ideas of good and evil. This book tackles the complexities of boys and girls. There are inherit difficulties in dealing with gender. There are so many preconceived gender stereotypes and although I think Soman Chainani addresses them well, I wish there would have been more breaking of the cliches that are so ingrained within our culture. 


The school from the first novel is back, but with a few interesting changes. Even though this series has a Harry Potter feel, it is more fantastical than grounded. It doesn't take the time to build the characters over seven books. It is action packed, with both protagonists experiencing huge changes. The story alternates between Sophie and Agatha's perspectives, but when both characters are present it can lead to some confusion. 

The conclusion felt very "middle book" to me and it makes sense considering a third book in the trilogy comes out next year. I am excited to find out how these two girls' fairy tales will truly end. Children reading this book are at the perfect age to think about the issues presented and change the way they see the world. What really is Good? What makes you Evil? And can you change your "destiny"?

I give this book a 4/5 and highly recommend the series! I bought the first book for a friend's 8-year-old niece after reading it myself. What interests me most about the series is that it presents stereotypes in a way that makes the reader think and reevaluate their own ideas. This series is a great catalyst to discussing concepts such as good, evil, destiny, love, and friendship with a middle-grade audience. 

--PAUL

My Not So Super Sweet Life - Release Day Blitz + GIVEAWAY!



HAPPY RELEASE DAY!!!



Cat Crawford just wants to be normal—or at least as normal as a daughter of Hollywood royalty can be. And it looks like fate is granting her wish: she’s got an amazing boyfriend, Lucas; her fabulous cousin, Alessandra, living with her; and her dad planning his second marriage to a great future stepmom. That is, until her prodigal mother reveals on national television that she has something important to tell her daughter…causing a media frenzy.

Lucas Capelli knows his fate is to be with Cat, and he’s worked hard to win her over once and for all. Unfortunately, Lucas has his own issues to deal with, including a scandal that could take him away from the first place he’s truly belonged.

As secrets are revealed, rumors explode, and the world watches, Cat and Lucas discover it’s not fate they have to fight if they want to stay together…this time, it’s their own insecurities.

Well, and the stalkerazzi.



My Not So Super Sweet Life is a special digital only, fan requested addition to the series!

It's also told in DUAL POV. Woohoo!


TEASER!






Read the first chapter...




GET YOUR COPY TODAY





To celebrate the release author Rachel Harris is hosting a giveaway!




US - A Signed RARE paperback copy of My Not So Super Sweet Life & SWAG PACK
INT - An eBook copy of My Not So Super Sweet Life


a Rafflecopter giveaway


ABOUT RACHEL HARRIS


Rachel Harris writes humorous love stories about sassy girls-next-door and the hot guys that make them swoon. Emotion, vibrant settings, and strong families are a staple in each of her Rachel Harrisbooks…and kissing. Lots of kissing.

A Cajun cowgirl now living in Houston, she firmly believes life’s problems can be solved with a hot, sugar-coated beignet or a thick slice of king cake, and that screaming at strangers for cheap, plastic beads is acceptable behavior in certain situations. She homeschools her two beautiful girls and watches way too much Food Network with her amazing husband.

An admitted Diet Mountain Dew addict, she gets through each day by laughing at herself, hugging her kids, and losing herself in story. She writes young adult, new adult, and adult romances, and LOVES talking with readers!

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Tumblr | Instagram




Thanks for dropping by to check out My Not So Super Sweet Life!  Don't forget to enter the giveaway! :)

--Ashley & Paul

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Splintered (Splintered #1) by A.G. Howard - Ashley's Review

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads
Title: Splintered (Splintered #1)
Author: A.G. Howard
Year Published: 2013

My Pre-Reading

Synopsis: 
This stunning debut captures the grotesque madness of a mystical under-land, as well as a girl’s pangs of first love and independence. Alyssa Gardner hears the whispers of bugs and flowers—precisely the affliction that landed her mother in a mental hospital years before. This family curse stretches back to her ancestor Alice Liddell, the real-life inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Alyssa might be crazy, but she manages to keep it together. For now.


When her mother’s mental health takes a turn for the worse, Alyssa learns that what she thought was fiction is based in terrifying reality. The real Wonderland is a place far darker and more twisted than Lewis Carroll ever let on. There, Alyssa must pass a series of tests, including draining an ocean of Alice’s tears, waking the slumbering tea party, and subduing a vicious bandersnatch, to fix Alice’s mistakes and save her family. She must also decide whom to trust: Jeb, her gorgeous best friend and secret crush, or the sexy but suspicious Morpheus, her guide through Wonderland, who may have dark motives of his own.


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


Review: HOLY WOW. This book, you guys, is probably the best Alice in Wonderland reimagining I have ever read. And I've read quite a few. It has everything that you would expect from the original novel, but with a totally different spin on it. The Mad Hatter, the Door Mouse, the Caterpillar, the Red & White queens, the card soldiers, the White Rabbit, the talking flowers.... even the walrus and the carpenter! But nothing is as it seems, and I think that's what made this book so exceptional and put it so far about every other Alice retelling.

Apart from all of the wonderful references and plays on the original characters and places, A.G.'s writing is absolutely gorgeous. I felt Alyssa's pain when she thinks about her mother and her other relatives going mad, and I could picture Wonderland as Alyssa discovers it for herself. Things are shown instead of told, and it makes such a huge difference in a world where the visual aspect is hugely important. The world building, in addition to and probably because of the beautiful writing, is absolutely stunning. Wonderland is fascinating and terrifying and everything I would imagine it to be. It kind of reminded me of Tim Burton's rendition, but was still entirely its own creature.

There is definitely romance in this book, and I found that I just could not pick a team when it came to the boys. Jeb is, quite literally, the boy next door. He's grown up with Alyssa and is basically perfect for her. He's chivalrous and caring and he loves her despite her flaws and only wants what's best for her. Morpheus, on the other hand, is definitely the bad boy every girl's parents warn her about. He's manipulative and sneaky and only helps other people when it coincides with what he wants or what will benefit him. But he's mysterious and he obviously cares a great deal for Alyssa and I really want to learn more about him. 

This book wraps up really nicely, with a lot of the plot wrapping up and ending in a pretty satisfactory way. If I had read this book when it first came out, I probably would have thought it was a standalone even though there are still quite a few questions I have. But luckily there are more books and I can't wait to get my hands on them to visit Wonderland again! And to see if I can finally choose Team Morpheus or Team Jeb (probably not), and to find out how the major reveal plays in to the rest of Alyssa's life. 

Splintered is a spectacular book that should be read by any and all fans of Lewis Carrol's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. It's the right combination of new and old, and takes on a life of its own even when things seem very familiar. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone looking for a YA fantasy, and to anyone who enjoys classic retellings. A 5/5, although I wish I could give it more! I can't believe I waited so long to read it and will not be making that same mistake with Unhinged and Ensnared!


--Ashley

Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Wizard's Promise (Hanna Duology #1) by Cassandra Rose Clarke - Ashley's Pre-Reading

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

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Goodreads

Title: The Wizard's Promise (Hanna Duology #1)

Author: Cassandra Rose Clarke
Cover Art: Sarah J. Coleman

Publication Date: May 6, 2014 (US/CAN) 1 May 2014 (UK)

Ashley's The Assassin's Curse Review
Ashley's The Pirate's Wish Review
Ashley's The Witch's Betrayal Review
Ashley's The Automaton's Treasure Review

Paul's The Assassin's Curse Review
Paul's The Pirate's Wish Review
Paul's The Witch's Betrayal Review



Synopsis: All Hanna Euli wants is to become a proper witch – but unfortunately, she’s stuck as an apprentice to a grumpy fisherman. When their boat gets caught up in a mysterious storm and blown wildly off course, Hanna finds herself further away from home than she’s ever been before.


As she tries to get back, she learns there may be more to her apprentice master than she realized, especially when a mysterious, beautiful, and very non-human boy begins following her through the ocean, claiming that he needs Hanna’s help.



Why?: I've loved every book and short story set in the world of The Assassin's Curse, so I was so excited when I learned that Cassandra would be revisiting the world in a new duology. I can't wait to learn more about this incredible world. 

Expectations: Since I enjoyed the first two books and the two short stories so much, I have really high expectations for this book. I think it will have more magic than the other two, but will be just as exciting and lovely and fun and mysterious as The Assassin's Curse books. I just can't wait to start it! 

Judging a book by its cover: I love this cover so much! It's so different from most other YA covers out there, and I think it just screams "fantasy" and "mystery," which is awesome! I'm also glad that it's different from The Assassin's Curse covers, but still ties in nicely and would look so pretty next to the other books. I would so pick this up if I saw it on a shelf! 


--Ashley

Friday, April 18, 2014

Redshirts by John Scalzi (audiobook narrated by Wil Wheaton) - Paul's Review

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads | Audible

Title: Redshirts
Author: John Scalzi
Year Published: 2012

Narrator: Wil Wheaton
Audiobook Length: 7 hours 41 minutes

My Pre-Reading of Redshirts

Synopsis: Ensign Andrew Dahl has just been assigned to the Universal Union Capital Ship Intrepid, flagship of the Universal Union since the year 2456. It's a prestige posting, and Andrew is thrilled all the more to be assigned to the ship's Xenobiology laboratory. Life couldn't be better...until Andrew begins to pick up on the facts that (1) every Away Mission involves some kind of lethal confrontation with alien forces; (2) the ship's captain, its chief science officer, and the handsome Lieutenant Kerensky always survive these confrontations; and (3) at least one low-ranked crew member is, sadly, always killed.

Not surprisingly, a great deal of energy below decks is expended on avoiding, at all costs, being assigned to an Away Mission. Then Andrew stumbles on information that completely transforms his and his colleagues' understanding of what the starship Intrepid really is...and offers them a crazy, high-risk chance to save their own lives.

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

Review: This was soooooo much more than I expected it to be. I thought it would just be a fun simple satire of the redshirts from Star Trek: The Original Series, but it is so much more. Not to be too spoilery, but this book tackles topics of existentialism and is super meta. I was surprised how much it made me think. Between listening to the chapters, I was thinking about so many things. 


The "meta"ness of this book is amazing. There are so many levels that it will make your head explode. Scalzi did an excellent job putting this book and the concept together. I loved the explanation for each character. They all had their place. 

There were so many specific Star Trek episodes that were referenced or indirectly referenced that I got the nostalgic chills for. I'm sure they were even more references place by Scalzi that I didn't get. You don't have to be that familiar with Star Trek though. 

The three codas at the end of this novel have a completely different feel to the rest of the novel. When listening to the audiobook, the story ended and I still had two hours left. There were so many emotions felt by me during the codas. I related to each of them in a different way. 

This book was entertaining, funny, and thought provoking. I absolutely loved it and highly recommend it. Wil Wheaton's narration is also excellent. I give this book and its audiobook a 5/5


--PAUL