Wednesday, August 25, 2010

"It could be worse" giveaway!

Ah yes! The giveaway we promised months ago. As school quickly comes upon us students, we all groan and wish for summer. And for all those past school- lament the departure of hot summer days by the pool and whatnot. But fear not, we're here to try to brighten the coming fall with, of course, a giveaway!

To win:
  • The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan (HC)
  • The Dead-Tossed Waves by Carrie Ryan (HC)
  • Wondrous Strange by Lesley Livingston (PB)
  • Darklight by Lesley Livingston (PB)
  • After by Amy Efaw (HC)
  • The Absolutely True diary of a Part-Time Indian (PB)

2 winners. Each person gets to pick either zombies or faeries, and then a contemporary one too. Gotta get a bit of a mix, right?

This contest is US & CANADA ONLY. Sorry, we're just students. (Ignore what the form says. It's a mistake. Though if anyone knows how to edit the form and is willing to tell us how, we'd be super grateful!)

Simple enough, just fill out THIS FORM. We tried to make it as simple as possible.

Good luck! If this goes well, we may add more books & winners. Giveway ends September 21st!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Mini Reviews: Part Two

So I didn't feel like writing full reviews for all of these. Instead, it's return of the mini-reviews!

After by Amy Efaw
In short: Devon's life changes drastically when a baby is found in the trash and all signs point to her as the mother. The big question though, is why. Why would someone like Devon, who's a star soccer player, a good student, etc. throw her baby away? After follows Devon as she goes from court to jail to court and what goes on through her mind, slowly revealing her reasons.

My thoughts: To be honest, at first After did not do anything for me. It's written in third person, present tense, and that threw me off and didn't work for me.

For a large portion of the book, I couldn't understand how Devon could do something like that, and I didn't like her as a character, nor anyone else, for that matter. The part that saved After though, is the last quarter, where Devon goes to court on whether or not she should be tried as an adult or a child, being 15 going on 16. After actually made law seem interesting to me, which is something that my dad has never been able to do- and he's a lawyer. So kudos to Amy Efaw.

The conclusion: Brings a new perspective to law and Dumpster babies, and the desperation and seeming insanity one will go to. But also a little dull and annoying at times. 3.5/6.

The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams
from Goodreads: Thirteen-year-old Kyra has grown up in an isolated polygamous community without questioning her father’s three wives and her twenty brothers and sisters. Or at least without questioning them much—if you don’t count her secret visits to the Mobile Library on Wheels to read forbidden books, or her meetings with the boy she hopes to choose for herself instead of having a man chosen for her. But when the Prophet decrees that Kyra must marry her 60-year-old uncle—who already has six wives—Kyra must make a desperate choice in the face of violence and her own fears of losing her family.

My thoughts: The Chosen One is haunting for its topic. To have it viewed through the eyes of a mere 13 year old girl makes the brutality of her world significantly worse. It's a well written novel that goes by really quickly, partly because of the short length and partly because it's written not in chapters but as snippets and blocks with no chapters to divide it.

It's short, but powerful for the view of a polygamous community that The Chosen One gives us. It's certainly unusual for a YA novel and shows a completely different world that most readers have. I don't know what else to say but that the relationships are all deftly done and the characters, especially Kyra, are particularily heartbreakingly beautiful.

The conclusion: Surely a must-read for those wanting to get a glimpse of what it would be like to live a polygamous lifestyle, and a wake up call to many others. Certainly it was to me. 5/6 stars.

Feed by M.T. Anderson
From Goodreads: Identity crises, consumerism, and star-crossed teenage love in a futuristic society where people connect to the Internet via feeds implanted in their brains.

For Titus and his friends, it started out like any ordinary trip to the moon - a chance to party during spring break and play with some stupid low-grav at the Ricochet Lounge. But that was before the crazy hacker caused all their feeds to malfunction, sending them to the hospital to lie around with nothing inside their heads for days. And it was before Titus met Violet, a beautiful, brainy teenage girl who has decided to fight the feed and its omnipresent ability to categorize human thoughts and desires.

My thoughts: Feed is more of a commentary on consumerism and the way of life than anything else. As far as plot goes, there isn't much to it, which made it a little harder to get into. It's mostly about Titus and his friends and then meeting a girl who challenges the world they live in and changing his views. Toss in some love and tragedy and you've got Feed. That's not to say it's not good, because obviously it is - I mean, it did get an award - but Feed isn't a fast paced Hunger Games. So I shouldn't have expected it to be, but I did.

Regardless of my expectations, Feed makes an interesting satire. The way it's written mocks the way teenagers speak - which is to say, it's really annoying. And that's the point. But the writing isn't that hard to get used to. (Which is slightly depressing to me. If it's so easy to fall into reading it, what does that say about me?) As far as characters go, Titus seemed quite... useless, and Violet could be desperate and clingy, but that's would happen to most in a setting like they live in.

The conclusion: A good read for what is is, but my expectations for something exciting fell exceedingly short. 4/6.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Review by Alex- Brightly Woven

Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken
Sydelle Mirabil is living proof that, with a single drop of rain, a life can be changed forever. Tucked away in the farthest reaches of the kingdom, her dusty village has suffered under the weight of a strangely persistent drought. That is, of course, until a wizard wanders into town and brings the rain with him.

In return for this gift, Wayland North is offered any reward he desires—and no one is more surprised than Sydelle when, without any explanation, he chooses her. Taken from her home, Sydelle hardly needs encouragement to find reasons to dislike North. He drinks too much and bathes too little, and if that isn’t enough to drive her to madness, North rarely even uses the magic he takes such pride in possessing. Yet, it’s not long before she realizes there’s something strange about the wizard, who is as fiercely protective of her as he is secretive about a curse that turns his limbs a sinister shade of black and leaves him breathless with agony. Unfortunately, there is never a chance for her to seek answers.

Along with the strangely powerful quakes and storms that trace their path across the kingdom, other wizards begin to take an inexplicable interest in her as well, resulting in a series of deadly duels. Against a backdrop of war and uncertainty, Sydelle is faced with the growing awareness that these events aren’t as random as she had believed—that no curse, not even that of Wayland North, is quite as terrible as the one she herself may carry.

First Impressions: I had read some reviews praising Brightly Woven when it first came out, and so I was excited to finally read it. I love fantasy! And that cover? So pretty. Brightly Woven resembled a lot like the Immortal series by Tamora Pierce, which pretty much decided that I would read this book.

Brightly Woven was all that I thought it would be. It's a light fantasy - and not paranormal fantasy, thank god - and a romance. The fantastical elements are really interesting, because well, I do love me some magic. I thought it was really unique that Wayland used magic through his capes- and that Syd could weave those capes. It's an exciting world, but we unfortunately only seemed to get a snippet of it. I'm sure there's a lot more to it. (Companion novel coming up?)

The characters were all quite fun, and Syd and Wayland North are adorable together. Syd's wary of North at the beginning, but through their travels they grow on each other and protect each other. Cue the "aaaw"s. The other characters could have used more time, but it is a rather short novel at 368 pages (for a fantasy, where many new things of the new world have to be explained) so it can be understandable. The problems and revelations both Syd and North face are fascinating.

The writing is easy and smooth and Brightly Woven is a book to finish in a night. Which is what I did. Actually, I stayed up late into the night, so that's telling you something. While some parts of the story didn't always mesh well together, the overall plot is quite addicting, and the ending goes at a brisk pace.

Final Impressions: A fantasy that's full of fun, romance, and of course magic, Brightly Woven lives up to its expectations. It's a lighter version of novels by Kristin Cashore and Tamora Pierce, so fantasy fans, line up.

Oh! And Lauren and I are planning on having a big giveaway at the end of the summer, but it would be even better if we could also celebrate 200 followers at the same time! We only have 9 more to go... We could toss in an extra book or something if it happens.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Review by Lauren - Guardian of the Gate

Guardian of the Gate by Michelle Zink

The ultimate battle between sisters is nearing, and its outcome could have catastrophic consequences. As sixteen year-old Lia Milthorpe searches for ...more The ultimate battle between sisters is nearing, and its outcome could have catastrophic consequences. As sixteen year-old Lia Milthorpe searches for a way to end the prophecy, her twin sister Alice hones the skills she'll need to defeat Lia. Alice will stop at nothing to reclaim her sister's role in the prophecy, and that's not the only thing she wants: There's also Lia's boyfriend James.

Lia and Alice always knew the Prophecy would turn those closest to them against them. But they didn't know what betrayal could lead them to do. In the end, only one sister will be left standing.

First Impressions: Not so pumped since the first one disappointed me - you can read my review here and Alex's here.

So I decided I would switch back to a bit of teen literature, and this one seemed like a good place to start. If you haven't read the first book, Prophecy of the Sisters, you pretty much have to read it first. I spent the first couple chapters completely bewildered because I just couldn't remember all the crazy information from the first book. There is a lot of background to these books, so you really can't just jump in somewhere.

I liked Guardian of the Gate more than Prophecy of the Sisters for a couple reasons. First, more happened in this book. The first one had a lot of carousing around and information, setting up for the next two books. So I was hoping this one would have some big moments. I will admit it definitely had more to it than the first one, but it was still a big set-up for the next book. That's pretty much the only issue I had with it, but it wasn't enough for me to put the book down or anything - I read it in a night.

The second reasons I enjoyed Guardian of the Gate more than Prophecy of the Sisters was the romance. Yes, yes, that's all I live for in a book, but despite Lia's adorable relationship with James in the first book, I still found myself wishing for more. Guardian of the Gate definitely has more. I won't reveal too much, but it was plenty for me.

Final Impressions: Better than the first one for sure, but still not up there in my favorites. Keeps that haunting atmosphere but not quite as dark as the first one.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Review by Alex- Jellicoe Road

Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
"What do you want from me?" he asks. What I want from every person in my life, I want to tell him. More.

Abandoned by her mother on Jellic...more "What do you want from me?" he asks. What I want from every person in my life, I want to tell him. More.

Abandoned by her mother on Jellicoe Road when she was eleven, Taylor Markham, now seventeen, is finally being confronted with her past. But as the reluctant leader of her boarding school dorm, there isn't a lot of time for introspection. And while Hannah, the closest adult Taylor has to family, has disappeared, Jonah Griggs is back in town, moody stares and all.

In this absorbing story by Melina Marchetta, nothing is as it seems and every clue leads to more questions as Taylor tries to work out the connection between her mother dumping her, Hannah finding her then and her sudden departure now, a mysterious stranger who once whispered something in her ear, a boy in her dreams, five kids who lived on Jellicoe Road eighteen years ago, and the maddening and magnetic Jonah Griggs, who knows her better than she thinks he does. If Taylor can put together the pieces of her past, she might just be able to change her future.

First Impressions: Well, this is a reread, so I already knew I loved Jellicoe Road and Melina Marchetta. All of her books have impressed me and left a mark, Jellicoe Road especially. So when I happened to make a trip and spot Jellicoe Road, well I just had to pick it up.

Jellicoe Road has everything. No, it IS everything. If there was ever to be a book with a soul, this would be it. It has a raw power to it. It makes me smile, it makes me cry - a lot - but most of all, it makes me believe in something beautiful. I really do believe that it's one of those rare and special books.

It's one of those that are better as a reread than the first time reading, if possible. The clues fit in better. At my library, it's labelled as a mystery, but it's so much more. It's a love story, a coming of age. Two stories of growing up and making lasting friendships. It's filled with passion and confusion and glorious fun and hope.

Now, it is confusing at first. Two very different stories are related, and it's hard to tell what's going on. You're kind of dropped into a story of a war- a war over territory, between 3 sides, and it's hard to tell what exactly is happening. But it's worth sticking with because all is understood after a couple chapters, about the current situation. But that doesn't mean other secrets are revealed- some wait until the very end, and you have to race to get there, because it's impossible not to.

Jellicoe Road is complicated and heartbreaking. It's filled with little beautiful things, like times when Taylor has fun with her House. Huge beautiful things like the relationship between Taylor and a boy. And that secretive past- the story of 5 teenagers who are all connected to each other, whether through tragic accident, coincidence, or luck.

Everything from the intertwining stories, to the characters thrown together who, at first are enemies but grow into something much, more more, to the histories and pasts of the characters, to the characters themselves who are alive and passionate and for the most part, filled with life- they're all so gorgeously drawn. So well done, so amazing.

Final Impressions: No words can do justice for Jellicoe Road. It was completely different from anything I'd ever read last year, the first time I read it, and it's still completely different. It's astonishing, and breathtaking, and tearjerking, and gloriously beautiful. Jellicoe Road is really something you have to read to fully understand the amazing wonderfullness of it all. Melina Marchetta may very well be my idol.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday (28)

Oh, it's been a while, hasn't it? Since I've done a WoW, that is.

Where the Truth Lies by Jessica Warman
Release Date: September 28, 2010
Publisher: Walker Books for Young Readers
On the surface, Emily Meckler leads the perfect life. She has three best friends, two loving parents, and the ideal setup at the Connecticut prep school where her father is the headmaster. But Emily also suffers from devastating nightmares about fire and water, and nobody knows why. Then the enigmatic Del Sugar enters her life, and Emily is immediately swept away—but her passionate relationship with Del is just the first of many things that aren't quite what they seem in Emily's life. As the lies she's been told start to unravel, Emily must set out to discover the truth regarding her nightmare; on a journey that will lead her to question everything she thought she knew about love, family, and her own idyllic past.

This companion novel to Warman's critically acclaimed Breathless proves that sometimes the biggest lies are told to the people you love the most.

I'm not too sure if this is paranormal. I haven't read Breathless but as far as I know, it isn't. The description sounds like Where the Truth Lies could be paranormal, but I don't think so. Which would make it all the better- suspense and mystery without anything normal seems like a breathe of fresh air to me.

And I love the title. Where the Truth Lies. It does sound very similar to Wherever Nina Lies and And then I Found Out the Truth, but it's a similarity I really, really like. Titles that are phrases are so... [insert perfect adjective here]. Love.

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

What are you all waiting for?

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Review by Alex- Vampire Academy series

I don't know if words can express how much I love the Vampire Academy series. Hands down, my favourite vampire books and one of my top urban fantasies too.

As this was actually a reread of the first four in the series, since I finally bought them all for cheap (!), and I don't want to spoil Spirit Bound, I figured I would just review the series as a whole.

You'd have to living under a rock to not have heard of the Vampire Academy series and you'd have to be annoyingly stubborn to refuse to read them. coughLaurencough. Think you're over the huge vampire trend? Please don't be. Give VA a chance and you won't regret it.

Vampire Academy starts out fast and continues to be a speedy read- partly because the writing is smooth and easy to read, partly because you just want to keep reading to get to the end to know what's going to happen. The plots of each novel are extremely strong, with lots of action and excitement. There are some periods of downtime, like the first half of Blood Promise, but that time only promises better battles.

The characters are dynamic and fun. Rose is incredibly tough and kickass. She's got a snarky comment for everything which makes for laugh-out-loud dialogue. And she's loyal. Best friend material? Oh yeah. Lucky for Lissa, the only one in the royal Dragomir line, that the two have been best friends for years. Lissa as a character becomes stronger and more likeable over the course of the series. At first, she doesn't really hold much of a candle next to Rose, but Lissa's her own person and is brave in a different way.

And then there are the guys. Of course. There's Dimitri, Rose's hot older Russian tutor. And there's Adrian, party boy and constantly drunk - but there's a reason - who's confident and a royal vampire. Both vying for Rose. That ever present and so very addicting love triangle. (I'm turning into an Adrian fan. I did not like Dimitri at all in Spirit Bound. What a wuss.)

Final Impressions: Oh dear. I seriously cannot do the Vampire Academy series justice. It deserves all the praise it gets and more. Awesome characters? Check. Addicting romance? Check. Powerful plot? Check. What more can you ask for? For all those who haven't read this series yet: Really, please, don't hesitate to read them. For all those who have: Want to fangirl squeal with me over this series? There are few series I'd fawn over, but Vampire Academy is one of them. This may not be stuffy literature to last the ages and to be read in schools time and time again, but for what it is, Vampire Academy is the finest.

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