Friday, August 30, 2013

Book Review: The Bitter Kingdom

The epic conclusion to Rae Carson's Fire and Thorns trilogy. The seventeen-year-old sorcerer-queen will travel into the unknown realm of the enemy to win back her true love, save her country, and uncover the final secrets of her destiny.
Elisa is a fugitive in her own country. Her enemies have stolen the man she loves in order to lure her to the gate of darkness. As she and her daring companions take one last quest into unknown enemy territory to save Hector, Elisa will face hardships she's never imagined. And she will discover secrets about herself and her world that could change the course of history. She must rise up as champion-a champion to those who have hated her most.  Quoted from Goodreads

********************

I love this series.  I adore this series.  Anyone who reads fantasy at all needs to pick this up.  Anyone who writes and reads YA should read this series.  Why?  Because it is absolutely excellent.  This is, without a doubt, a 5 star series.

First: Elisa.  I adore her for so many, many reasons. She's smart, funny, brave, determined,  cleaver, and refuses to give up.  She's also fat when she starts the series.  This may sound silly, but when's the last time you read a YA book whose main character wasn't "too skinny?"  Seriously.   Plus she's changed so much from the beginning of the series to it's conclusion.  She's really grown up, discovered who she is, and she's accepted it while constantly striving to be better.   She trusts and depends on her friends, but she really comes into her own.  

Then, of course, there is Hector.  While it was great to get a glimpse into his mind in the prequel novella The King's Guard, we actually get a few chapters from his POV in this book as well!  I loved those little insights.  Plus, well, he's just plain awesome. I love the way his and Elisa's relationship has developed.  It's delightfully free of angst this time around.  It's honest and sweet, and I love the way they are together.

Then there's Elisa's friends.  I love them.  I love her bond with Mara. She's not an annoying sidekick or the plucky comic relief.  She's serious, encouraging, and fun.  Then we have Storm.  I really do love the way his and Elisa's relationship has developed, from contempt to strong friendship.  They are an excellent support system for Elisa, while both having their own depth, hardships, and trials.

The action.  This is a perfect third book.  We get peak after peak of highlights.  There were several points that could easily have been the end of the book or the adventure.  Not in a Return of a King sort of way (love the movie, the the endings went on and on), but this has to be the climax of the book---no, this is the high point.  There is always something happening, some new threat, whether political, magical, weather, monsters, or just plain kicking butt, that keeps you turning pages.

Finally, the ending.  It's perfect.  It gives you just enough of the after to be satisfied without dragging everything out for too long (Clockwork Princess, I'm looking at you).  I won't say more because I don't want to give anything away, but I loved the way things worked out with just about everything.

This is a solid 5 star book and series. It's been one of my most anticipated releases this year, and I'm kind of sad to see the series end.  Still, Rae Carson has a new series coming out next year, and I can't wait to see what she comes up with next.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Theater Thursday: The Book Thief

This preview looks so good!  Seriously, it looks amazing.  I just hope the movie lives up to all the promise.  Check it out below.


Now, if you haven't read the book.   Here's a quick summary.  You really should pick it up.   I especially liked the intro by death.  It's such an interesting/excellent way to start a book.

It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will become busier still.

Liesel Meminger is a foster girl living outside of Munich, who scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement. 

In superbly crafted writing that burns with intensity, award-winning author Markus Zusak, author of I Am the Messenger,
 has given us one of the most enduring stories of our time.  Quoted from Goodreads

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Book Review: Doon

Veronica doesn't think she's going crazy. But why can't anyone else see the mysterious blond boy who keeps popping up wherever she goes? When her best friend, Mackenna, invites her to spend the summer in Scotland, Veronica jumps at the opportunity to leave her complicated life behind for a few months. 

But the Scottish countryside holds other plans. 
Not only has the imaginary kilted boy followed her to Alloway, she and Mackenna uncover a strange set of rings and a very unnerving letter from Mackenna's great aunt—and when the girls test the instructions Aunt Gracie left behind, they find themselves transported to a land that defies explanation. Doon seems like a real-life fairy tale, complete with one prince who has eyes for Mackenna and another who looks suspiciously like the boy from Veronica's daydreams. But Doon has a dark underbelly as well. The two girls could have everything they've longed for . . . or they could end up breaking an enchantment and find themselves trapped in a world that has become a nightmare.   Quoted from Goodreads

********************

There are a lot of things I really liked about Doon . . . and then there are a few things I would have changed.

First, I love the whole idea of Doon, the mythic land that you can only access once every hundred years, Scotland's hidden Utopia/Atlantis if you will.  Yes, it's inspired by the musical and the poem, but it definitely has it's own mythology going for it.  I really did like the world and the conflicts inherent in it. For example, they live in this perfect kingdom, but they can never leave.  They can see the ocean but never swim in it.  Part of me wishes the author's would have explored the sacrifice of living there further. Still, I love the idea of this idyllic kingdom.

Veronica and Mackenna are both great characters.  They're strong, spunky, and I love their friendship. They're both the sort of people you could see yourself being friends with.  To be completely honest, I actually wish the whole book would have been told from Veronica's POV.  It's not that I didn't like Mackenna. I did.  She's fun, spunky, and has a lot more to loose than Veronica, but the book time isn't shared out equally between them.  We get four chapters of Veronica, then one of Mackenna, and Mackenna's chapters didn't tell us anything we couldn't have gotten from Veronica's POV (well, except, maybe, how perfect and beautiful Veronica is).  It sort of broke up the story for me.  Honestly, I wish we would have simply gotten an epilogue from Mackenna's POV, maybe a prologue too, and that's it.  Then she could be the main character in the second book, which seems to be shaping up to be more of her story. Still, since there are two authors, maybe that's how the decided to split the work?

This sort of leads me to the down-side of this book.  It's a little bit too wish fulfillment happy for me.  For example, both friends potentially have a prince devoted to them? Couldn't one have at least been the captain of the guard or something?  Plus, Veronica's life is horrible.  From the beginning, you know the girls have to choose whether to stay in the Doon or leave.  For Veronica, she's basically leaving nothing behind. Half of what makes Brig o'Doon such a great story is what a person would have to give up to live there, and for Veronica the price is a bit too easy.

Other than that, the book really is a fun adventure.  There's plenty of romance.  Like I mentioned before, there are two princes for our two main characters.  Both are dreamy in their own way, though it took me a while to warm up to one of them.  

As for our villain, she is pure black and white evil (make of that what you will), and the book led up to a strong conclusion/confrontation. Most of it I totally saw coming, but there were a few twists that I enjoyed. 

Overall, this is a fun, light read.  I love the mythology behind it and our main characters. I'm interested to see how this series will continue and where the authors will take it next.  It's a delightful 3.5 stars for me.  Now I just need to figure out when the second book is coming out.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Flashback Friday: Avalon High

To newcomer Ellie, Avalon High seems like a typical American high school, complete with jocks, nerds, cheerleaders, and even the obligatory senior class president, quarterback, and all-around good guy. But it doesn't take Ellie long to suspect that something weird is going on beneath the glossy surface of this tranquil hall of learning. As she pieces together the meaning of this unfolding drama, she begins to recognize some haunting Arthurian echoes, causing her to worry that she has become just a pawn in mythic history.   Quoted from Goodreads

********************

Do not judge this book by the horrible Disney movie of the same name. Seriously.  I read the book, then someone told me there was a made for TV movie based on it, so of course I checked it out.  Poor decision.  First, it changed just about everything from the book.  Second, it was painfully cheesy. Third, the ending made no sense. Granted, it was a made for TV movie, so that should have tipped me off right there, but stupid me, I still watched it.  Now it's up there with Ella Enchanted as the worst book adaptions of all  time.

Now on to the real review.  I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I've been a big Meg Cabot fan (well as big as you can be without having read her Princess Diaries series) for a while, and this book follows pretty much what you come to expect from her.  Strong heroine, cute romance, difficulties caused by some paranormal aspect. You know the drill.

First and foremost, I loved Ellie as a main character.  She's not as snarky or funny as some of Meg Cabot's other MCs, but she's completely relatable.  She's the kind of girl you want to be friends with.  I loved her confidence in herself and her refusal to be shoved into the roll everyone else wanted her to play.  

I  enjoyed the interpretation of the King Arthur myth.  I love Arthurian interpretations, and this was a simple, fun one.   Even if you don't know anything about Kind Arthur (besides his name) this would be an interesting adaption. If you do know something about the legend, this book is even better.  

I enjoyed the portrayal of teenagers. We aren't inundated with cliches and stereotypes.  The popular girls aren't all mean, the jocks aren't all dumb muscle, etc.  And it's not just because they're reincarnated legends from the past. You may hate Lancelot and Guenevere's roll in what happened, but they're sympathetic here.  As for  Arthur, well A. William or Will, he's an excellent modern King Arthur.  He's the sort of person you can see becoming someone great in the future, helping the world the way helped his high school.  Plus he's cute. And confident.  Always a plus.

All in all, if you're looking for a light, fun read, you should check this out.  It's a stand alone, so not a huge commitment.  Plus it's just fun. I love the whole Lady of Shallot thing going on, and that there were a lot of adults involved in their kids lives.  Really, it's a solid 4 stars for me.  Maybe because I have a soft spot for the legend, but mostly because the book was just fun.  

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Trailer Tuesday: Unbreakable & Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

Here's a few more trailers that recently came out (and I realize they've been out for a week or two) for books I'm super excited for.  Enjoy!

I never believed in ghosts. Until one tried to kill me.

When Kennedy Waters finds her mother dead, her world begins to unravel. She doesn’t know that paranormal forces in a much darker world are the ones pulling the strings. Not until identical twins Jared and Lukas Lockhart break into Kennedy’s room and destroy a dangerous spirit sent to kill her. The brothers reveal that her mother was part of an ancient secret society responsible for protecting the world from a vengeful demon — a society whose five members were all murdered on the same night.Now Kennedy has to take her mother’s place in the Legion if she wants to uncover the truth and stay alive. Along with new Legion members Priest and Alara, the teens race to find the only weapon that might be able to destroy the demon — battling the deadly spirits he controls every step of the way.  Quoted from Goodreads



You stop fearing the devil when you’re holding his hand…

Nothing much exciting rolls through Violet White’s sleepy, seaside town…until River West comes along. River rents the guesthouse behind Violet’s crumbling estate, and as eerie, grim things start to happen, Violet begins to wonder about the boy living in her backyard. Is River just a crooked-smiling liar with pretty eyes and a mysterious past? Or could he be something more? Violet’s grandmother always warned her about the Devil, but she never said he could be a dark-haired boy who takes naps in the sun, who likes coffee, who kisses you in a cemetery...who makes you want to kiss back. Violet’s already so knee-deep in love, she can’t see straight. And that’s just how River likes it.
Blending faded decadence and the thrilling dread of gothic horror, April Genevieve Tucholke weaves a dreamy, twisting contemporary romance, as gorgeously told as it is terrifying—a debut to watch.  Quoted from Goodreads


Okay, so I know that last one already came out, but I haven't read it yet, so I decided to include it.  Plus, it made me want to read it even more than I already did. Now you can get excited with me!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Book Review: Infinity Glass

The stakes have risen even higher in this third book in the Hourglass series.

The Hourglass is a secret organization focused on the study of manipulating time, and its members — many of them teenagers -­have uncanny abilities to make time work for them in mysterious ways. Inherent in these powers is a responsibility to take great care, because altering one small moment can have devastating consequences for the past, present, and future. But some time travelers are not exactly honorable, and sometimes unsavory deals must be struck to maintain order.

With the Infinityglass (central to understanding and harnessing the time gene) at large, the hunt is on to find it before someone else does.
But the Hourglass has an advantage. Lily, who has the ability to locate anything lost, has determined that the Infinityglass isn't an object. It's a person. And the Hourglass must find him or her first. But where do you start searching for the very key to time when every second could be the last?  Quoted from Goodreads

********************

Expectations make a big difference.  For example, I didn't know quite what to expect with Hourglass, and ended up really enjoying it.  Then Timepiece came along.  I hadn't bothered to read the back of the book.  I trusted the author, so what was the point? Book two in the series, what else did I need to know? Suddenly it wasn't from Em's POV, which irritated me, and was definitely suffering from sophomore slump.  It wasn't that it was so bad, just not what I expected.  Kaleb's powers weren't nearly as cool as Em and Michael's, and after the ending of the first book, I was hoping for more time traveling.

I didn't quite know what to make of this third book.  From the blurb I couldn't tell who would be narrating, so I wasn't sure quite what to expect.  Honestly, this may be the best book in the series yet, or at least on par with the first one.

What we get is Hallie and Dune, duel POV, and I loved them both.  Dune always cracked me up as the body-building nerd with power over water.  Okay, he's more than that, but that was my impression from the first two books.  Hallie is our delightful new character and the titular infinityglass.  She's strong, sassy, and a strange mix of sheltered and jaded.  She goes after what she wants, and she's confident in herself.  It's an excellent mix, and I loved both of them.

This story is, in some ways, more action-packed than the first two books.  Most of the world-building has already been done (though we do move locations this time around), so there's less explaining and more happening. There were a few twists I wasn't expecting (and not all of them came at the end, either).  Plus, the ending was excellent, perfect even.

We also get to see all our favorite characters from the last two books show up. Everyone helps, though the final showdown is focused around Hallie and Dune (they are our main characters this time around). It's fun to see how everyone works together after their individual happily ever afters at the end of their respective books. Plus, we get the epilogue from Em's POV, bringing the story full circle.

The pacing is good, with plenty of internal and external conflict. There's Hallie's complex relationship with her parents, Dune's transition from thinking of the infinityglass as an object to a person.  Their budding romance, and Hallie's changing abilities.  This book kept me turning pages long after I should have been doing something else (like sleeping or something).

All in all, this is a must read for fans of the series, and if you haven't picked this up before, you really should now that it's over.  I love the way it wrapped everything up and the different ways their abilities came into play.  it's a strong 3.5 stars for me, 4 if I take into account the series as a whole.  Now I can't wait to see what the author comes out with next.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Trailer Tuesday: The Burning Sky, All Our Yesterdays, & The Bone Season

So there are some fantastic trailers coming out for August and September books I can't wait to read.  Check them out below and see if you aren't just as excited as I am.

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

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

Prince Titus of Elberon has sworn to protect Iolanthe at all costs but he's also a powerful mage committed to obliterating the Bane to revenge the death of his family—even if he must sacrifice both Iolanthe and himself to achieve his goal.
But Titus makes the terrifying mistake of falling in love with the girl who should have been only a means to an end. Now, with the servants of the Bane closing in, he must choose between his mission and her life.   Quoted from Goodreads

You can watch the trailer here: The Burning Sky

Okay, that looks great, and really different from the synopsis above, which I think is kind of a good thing. The synopsis gave me one expectation for the book, the trailer gave me another.  All in all, I think the combination of the two will be awesome.  Now for our second book.

"You have to kill him." Imprisoned in the heart of a secret military base, Em has nothing except the voice of the boy in the cell next door and the list of instructions she finds taped inside the drain.

Only Em can complete the final instruction. She’s tried everything to prevent the creation of a time machine that will tear the world apart. She holds the proof: a list she has never seen before, written in her own hand. Each failed attempt in the past has led her to the same terrible present—imprisoned and tortured by a sadistic man called the doctor while war rages outside. 

Marina has loved her best friend James since the day he moved next door when they were children. A gorgeous, introverted science prodigy from one of America’s most famous families, James finally seems to be seeing Marina in a new way, too. But on one disastrous night, James’s life crumbles apart, and with it, Marina’s hopes for their future. Now someone is trying to kill him. Marina will protect James, no matter what. Even if it means opening her eyes to a truth so terrible that she may not survive it. At least not as the girl she once was. 

All Our Yesterdays is a wrenching, brilliantly plotted story of fierce love, unthinkable sacrifice, and the infinite implications of our every choice.   Quoted from Goodreads

You can watch the trailer here: All our Yesterdays

Okay, so that trailer may have been a bit weaker than the other two I'm featuring today, but I'm excited for the book, so I wanted to include it.  Now on to The Bone Season.


It is the year 2059. Several major world cities are under the control of a security force called Scion. Paige Mahoney works in the criminal underworld of Scion London, part of a secret cell known as the Seven Seals. The work she does is unusual: scouting for information by breaking into others’ minds. Paige is a dreamwalker, a rare kind of clairvoyant, and in this world, the voyants commit treason simply by breathing.

But when Paige is captured and arrested, she encounters a power more sinister even than Scion. The voyant prison is a separate city—Oxford, erased from the map two centuries ago and now controlled by a powerful, otherworldly race. These creatures, the Rephaim, value the voyants highly—as soldiers in their army.

Paige is assigned to a Rephaite keeper, Warden, who will be in charge of her care and training. He is her master. Her natural enemy. But if she wants to regain her freedom, Paige will have to learn something of his mind and his own mysterious motives.
The Bone Season introduces a compelling heroine—a young woman learning to harness her powers in a world where everything has been taken from her. It also introduces an extraordinary young writer, with huge ambition and a teeming imagination. Samantha Shannon has created a bold new reality in this riveting debut.  Quoted from Goodreads

You can watch the trailer here: The Bone Season

Monday, August 12, 2013

Meme Monday

http://themetapicture.com/its-crazy-when-you-think-about-it/

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Bargain Books!

Right now there are tons of amazing books at super great prices!  Seriously, there are some I'm almost a little bitter about because they weren't this good when I got them.  Then there are some I'm excited about because everyone needs to own these books and now a lot more people can.  Anyway, take a look.  I especially recommend the books by Rae Carson,  Myra McEntire, Kasie West, Veronica Roth . . . and the lis goes on.  Really you need to check out these great deals on these awesome books.


















Well, there's a nice sized list. Hopefully this is helpful, and have a great time reading!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Flashback Friday: Throne of Glass

Meet Celaena Sardothien.
Beautiful. Deadly. Destined for greatness.


In the dark, filthy salt mines of Endovier, an eighteen-year-old girl is serving a life sentence. She is a trained assassin, the best of her kind, but she made a fatal mistake: she got caught.


Young Captain Westfall offers her a deal: her freedom in return for one huge sacrifice. Celaena must represent the prince in a to-the-death tournament—fighting the most gifted thieves and assassins in the land. Live or die, Celaena will be free. Win or lose, she is about to discover her true destiny. But will her assassin’s heart be melted?  Quoted from Goodreads


*********************

First, I think this cover is so much better than the last one.  Call me shallow, but the last cover totally put me off the book.  I didn't like the girl on the front.  She didn't seem hard core like an assassin, but she did look really stuck up.  Not a great combination or selling point.  This cover is infinitely better.

As for the book, I think it pretty much lives and dies by Celaena.  She's an interesting character.  I adore how strong and confident she is.  She knows she's awesome, and she's not afraid to tell anyone.  If she weren't so proud, she'd almost be a Mary Sue, but that pride thing definitely keeps her out of that category.  At times, I'll admit, I found her kind of annoying because she is so proud. She hates to loose, and it makes her a little stupid at times.  Still, her confidence is refreshing.

My one real complaint about her character is that it takes us about half the book before we really ever see her do anything cool.  She's constantly bragging that she's the best be we rarely get to see that.  I know there are four novellas that delve into her history and awesomeness, but you don't get that for a long time in the book, and they're useless if you haven't read them. You're just constantly told she's amazing in the beginning, never shown.  I realize the book's pretty long, but I, as a reader, needed to see how amazing she is from the get go.

Strangely enough, I enjoyed the love triangle between her, Captain Choal, and Prince Dorian.  Yes, I have my favorite, but at this point it could go either way and I would be okay with that. I won't give the particulars away, but it served more as another complication instead of an angst fest that so many other triangles inspire. Plus we have six---yes, six---books to explore the relationship, so a straightforward I love you sort of thing would have probably gotten boring.

The world building was good but not great. A lot of things were introduced but not really explained.  So, there's a lot of potential to explore, and I'm hoping now the contest is over, that the author will focus a little bit more on it in subsequent books.  She definitely set up a good base for future conflict.

All in all, this is a fun adventure.  It started off a little bit slower than I wanted, especially with the whole assassin promise, but it ended up being a good adventure.  All in all it's a nice 3.5 stars for me.  I wanted it to be more, but then I think I had really high expectations going in that sort of cut down on my appreciation of the book.  Still, the next one comes out in a few weeks, and I'll have to pick it up.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Book Review: Indelible

Some things are permanent.

Indelible.

And they cannot be changed back.

Joy Malone learns this the night she sees a stranger with all-black eyes across a crowded room—right before the mystery boy tries to cut out her eye. Instead, the wound accidentally marks her as property of Indelible Ink, and this dangerous mistake thrusts Joy into an incomprehensible world—a world of monsters at the window, glowing girls on the doorstep, and a life that will never be the same.

Now, Joy must pretend to be Ink’s chosen one—his helper, his love, his something for the foreseeable future . . . and failure to be convincing means a painful death for them both. Swept into a world of monsters, illusion, immortal honor and revenge, Joy discovers that sometimes, there are no mistakes.

Somewhere between reality and myth lies . . .
THE TWIXT.   Quoted from Goodreads

********************

I enjoyed this book surprisingly a lot.  This is one of those I was on the fence about.  The idea sounded fantastic, the cover was beautiful, but a guy who tries to cut out a girl's eye as a love interest?  You can see why I wasn't sure.

Like I said, this actually was a really fun book.  Even the eye part.  First, the author gave a decent explanation for what he did . . . sort of.  If Ink were a normal person it would still be inexcusable, but with his character in the beginning, I understood why and what he did. Ink's character was one of the ones I enjoyed the most. First, he changes---drastically.  He's not the same person in the beginning that he becomes in the end, both emotionally and physically (you'll have to read the book to really understand that one). He's a unique romantic lead and a refreshing change from the sarcastic, bad boy who only the main character can truly see or understand.

I thought Joy was a good, albeit rather average, main character.   She was brave when she needed to be, and I really liked her attitude about being indispensable.  It helped her handle the challenge of the Twixt and Ink.  I did get a little sick of her issues with her mother. I might understand her feelings, but, for me, it sort of detracted from the rest of the book and added an unneeded level of angst that wasn't even resolved particularly well.

The world-building was excellent.  There are all sorts of mythical creatures that are new and unique and, honestly, a bit dark.  The Twixt, while it has it's good moments, is really more of a dark, strange place than some fantastical fairy world.  It took a while to see where this book was really going, but I loved the climax in the end and the way everything resolved.  I'm pretty sure it's supposed to be a series, but it could be one book, and I really liked that.

The supporting characters were fun.  I especially liked the beings from the Twixt as opposed to Joy's human friends and family, mostly because they were far more interesting.  I should probably say something about Inq here.  She's actually rather the stereotypical love interest's "sister," and I wasn't a fan of the Q at the end of her name, but I did enjoy the contrast between her and Ink.  She's mysterious enough that I want to find out more about her in later books, and I loved her devoted group of guys.

All in all this is a fun, albeit slightly dark, read.  It's a strong 3.5 stars for me.  Some things happened a little too fast and there were a few transitions that confused me a bit, but overall I liked it.  It's a new, unique world, and I look forward to future books.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Book Review/Trailer Tuesday: The School for Good and Evil

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

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

But when the two girls are swept into the Endless Woods, they find their fortunes reversed—Sophie’s dumped in the School for Evil to take Uglification, Death Curses, and Henchmen Training, while Agatha finds herself in the School For Good, thrust amongst handsome princes and fair maidens for classes in Princess Etiquette and Animal Communication.. But what if the mistake is actually the first clue to discovering who Sophie and Agatha really are…?
The School for Good & Evil is an epic journey into a dazzling new world, where the only way out of a fairy tale is to live through one.   Quoted from Goodreads


**********************

Okay, and if that fabulous synopsis wasn't enough to convince you, you have to check out this trailer.  It is probably the best book trailer I've seen to date and got me excited for the book all over again.



Wasn't that just about perfect.  Seriously, if that didn't make you want to rush out and get the book right this second, well, this book probably isn't for you at all then, because I loved it.  I'm almost glad I didn't see it before I read the book because my expectations might have been too high.  Still, I'm including it because I loved it.

As for the book, it was also delightful.  It's a middle grade, but it's a long middle grade.  Almost too long, really, but it keeps you turning pages, making it impossible to put down.  Plus, it's an excellent spin on your classic fairytale set up.  It actually reminded me a little bit of Patricia C. Wrede's Enchanted Forest Chronicles, where some things get turned on their head, but there were other things that played straight  out of a Grimm's fairytale.

Both Sophie and Agatha are delightful characters, and I really liked the way the author explored not only what makes a person good or evil, but the relationship between the two girls. While there is a handsome prince in the picture, it's the friendship between the two girls that is the backbone of the story.

I love Sophie's earnestness and drive to get what she wants. She views the world a very certain way, and even after obstacle after obstacle is thrown in her path, she keeps plunging forward towards what she wants.  Agatha, while a bit more practical and less self-assured, is just as dedicated, but her goals are different.  Sophie wants to be a princess, to marry a prince and live beautifully ever after.  Agatha wants to go home and protect her friend.  Both of them are willing to do whatever they need to to get what they want, but it leads them to becoming very different people, and I loved watching their journey.

Plus this book is funny.  I was totally cracking up at certain points, which made me glad I wasn't reading it in public (just a warning).  The role reversal was a perfect setting for some laughs, and the author absolutely explores that. 

Plus the supporting characters are excellent. Yes, some begin as your stereotypical cutouts, but most of them move past that as the characters relationship with them changes. And they're funny, interesting, disturbing, and creative.

Then we have twists and more twists.  Some of them I totally expected, but there were a  bunch I never saw coming, and I loved that.  The ending is an excellent mesh up of completed story and cliff-hanger, and I absolutely can't wait for the next book.  I'm really interested to see what happens to some of the characters now and how the author is going to keep playing with the themes of good and evil.  Plus, there's a bit of a mystery surrounding the Story Master himself, who he is, what he is, and the war that created him.

All in all, this is a strong 4 stars for me, with a good chance at being bumped higher.  It's an excellent adventure with an intriguing premise and good follow-through.  Really, the only problem is I have to wait until next April for A World Without Princes to come out.  Oh, it's also been optioned for a movie with Universal (I think the author is currently co-writing the screenplay), and I'm excited.  This could be excellent.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Book Review: Earthbound

Tavia Michaels is the sole survivor of the plane crash that killed her parents. When she starts to see strange visions of a boy she’s never spoken with in real life, she begins to suspect that there’s much about her past that she isn’t being told. 

Tavia immediately searches for answers, desperate to determine why she feels so drawn to a boy she hardly knows. But when Tavia discovers that the aunt and uncle who took her in after her parents' death may have actually been responsible for the plane crash that killed them--and that she may have been the true intended victim--she flees for the safety of Camden, Maine, where the boy she sees in her visions instructs her to go.

Now, Tavia is on the run with no one to trust. No one, that is, except for her best friend and longtime crush, Benson.
Tavia feels torn between the boy who mysteriously comes to her at night and the boy who has been by her side every step of the way. But what Tavia doesn't know is that the world is literally falling apart and that to save it she will have to unite with the boy in her visions. Only problem? To do so would mean rejecting Benson's love. And that's the one thing Tavia Michaels swore she'd never do.   Quoted from Goodreads

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This has been quite the summer for Aprilynne Pike.  First we got Life After Theft, now Earthbound.  

I quite liked this book.  While certain elements reminded me of other works, the plot as a whole was in a totally different format from those books, and I enjoyed the way it meshed together. Actually I think it combined a few prominent themes from a few years ago (not vampires, so no worries) with some plot structures/antagonists that are popular now, which is a nice twist.  Okay, I know that was vague, but I don't want to give too much away by mentioning specifics.  

Probably what I loved and disliked most about the book was the romance. First, I wasn't a huge fan of the love triangle angle, but it ended up being a pretty important part of the book.  That being said, I'm hoping it's mostly over in the second one. Actually, the way they left things, I'm really excited for the second book.  The thing is, I like the idea of both Benson and mystery boy, Quinn.  They're both play an important role in the story and are good characters in their own right. I just wish there was a little bit less kissing. 

Shocking, I know!  

Still, the characters make out a lot in this book, and every kiss is sooo intense, that after a while they stop meaning all that much.  I wish we would have gotten our first kiss maybe around the half way point instead of the first third.  It would have meant more at that point, since while Tavia knew Benson for a while, we as readers didn't, and I needed more time to fall in love with him as a character before she started making out with him.  As for Quinn, I liked the way that relationship progressed.  It wasn't exactly normal, but it worked.

The adventure/conspiracy, I really enjoyed.  It's got plenty of twists and action that kept me reading just one more page.  Plus, a lot happens in a short amount of time.  The whole book takes place in something like a little over a week, so every day matters and takes it's toll on Tavia. As for Tavia, herself, she grew on me.  She started the book recovering from a traumatic experience, one that defined her whole life, and then to have all this other stuff thrust upon her really tested her, both physically and mentally.  Despite that, I think she handled things pretty realistically, all things considered.

All in all, this is a fun read, and seems to be setting up a great series.  That's kind of how I felt about Wings.  The first book was good, but the series got better as it progressed, so I have high hopes here.  Plus, the way the ending left things, the second book definitely looks to be more exciting/fun than the first. It's a lovely 3.5 stars, with bright hope for future installments.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Saturday Shorts: The King's Guard

At fifteen years old, Hector is the youngest squire in the most elite military force in the country. And his first day is disastrous. Everyone assumes the only reason he was recruited is his close personal association with King Alejandro, not because he's really earned it.

But Alejandro needs Hector for a secret mission, one that gives him the chance to prove to everyone—including himself—that he is worthy to be a Royal Guard. Hector must break into the ancient Fortress of Wind to retrieve something so important that the kingdom's future depends on it. What Hector finds in the fortress will stretch his bond of friendship with his king near to breaking. And it will prepare him to become the fearsome warrior and lord commander Elisa will never let go.
A riveting prequel to Rae Carson's epic and acclaimed Fire and Thorns series.  Quoted from Goodreads

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Perfect.  Absolutely perfect.

It's always hard to write reviews about novellas.  For the most part, I think I tend to gush a bit too much.  Any extra tidbits the author gives us makes me happy if it's a story I love, and if it's a story I'm  not thrilled and elated by, I generally don't read the extra parts. I'm simply not invested enough in that world.  I know I've gushed about both of Rae Carson's previous novellas, told from Elisa's sister and friend's POV, but this is the one I enjoyed the most. I won't lie and say it's strictly the quality of the story.  Both of her previous two were amazing, but this one has Hector!

The best part of it is, the story is so Hector.  We finally get something from his viewpoint, and I loved that, especially after that horrible/perfect ending in Crown of Embers.  Not that this has anything to do with that.  This takes place a something like 7 years before the first book, but still . . .

Now, besides Hector, this is an absolutely amazing short story for so many reasons.  I won't give them away, but first, we get learn a little something about his fellow guards.  Hector's two companions both appear in the books, but I had never really noticed them much before.  They were simply faceless guards and not really that important.  Now, looking back (okay, so I spend half an hour reading bits and pieces of Crown of Embers after I finished this because I wasn't quite ready to let the world go),  I realized how prominent their position in the castle was and their relationship with Hector.

Then there's the new information.  This is something all novellas really should have.  While you could totally read the series without ever reading this short story, it does provide some interesting information. One of my biggest pet peeves is when we get short story that just rehashes stuff we already knew from another character's POV.  New information should always be present because no other character will see the same events the same way or have the same background.  This story had an excellent plot twist that I want to gush more about but I won't.

 Plus we get adventure.  Lots of adventure, and a chance to see Hector at 15.

This is a solid 4.5 stars for me.  It's probably one of my top short stories ever.  And it is a complete story in and of itself.  If you had never read the series, you could pick this up and enjoy it for what it is.  It can serve as a gateway drug, if you like, to the rest of the series.  Basically, I thoroughly enjoyed it, and it will now be setting the bar for other novellas.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Anticipating August

This August is shaping up to be a rather odd month.  The first half is, to put it mildly, pretty pathetic. There are a few books I'm looking forward to, but for the most part it's like a YA desert out there (okay, maybe it's not quite that bad, but still . . . ).

Then we hit the last tuesday, Aug. 27th, and everything changes.  There are so many books coming out that day I'm dying to read.  I wish publishers would have spread them out a bit more over the month.  Of course, The Bitter Kingdom tops my list, but after that, I have no idea what I'm going to read first. It's like the feast after famon.  It also serves as an excellent lead in to September, one of the best months for YA books.  So here's my list for August.  If I missed anything, let me know.  At least I still have plenty of books from past months to fill my time while I'm waiting for the 27th.

            6thInfinityglass – Myra McEntire

                                               The Deepest Night –Shana Abe
                                               Battle of the Ampere - Richard Paul Evans
               – April Genevieve Tucholke

            20th: Doon – Carey Corp and Lorie Langdon
                     Soulbroken – Heather Brewer
                     The Bone Season - Samantha Shannon 

            27th: The Bitter Kingdom – Rae Carson
                     Origin – Jennifer L. Armentrout
        Deception – CJ Redwine
                                                 The Morning Star – Robin Bridges
                     Crown of Midnight– Sarah J. Mass