Tuesday, September 29, 2015

RELEASE DAY SPOTLIGHT: Menagerie by Rachel Vincent

Happy book birthday to Menagerie! I was immediately intrigued by the unique-sounding premise when I first heard about this book. I didn't get it finished by today like I had planned, but I am currently reading it and will look forward to reviewing it when I'm done.

Here's the Book Summary:

When Delilah Marlow visits a famous traveling carnival, Metzger's Menagerie, she is an ordinary woman in a not-quite-ordinary world. But under the macabre circus black-top, she discovers a fierce, sharp-clawed creature lurking just beneath her human veneer. Captured and put on exhibition, Delilah in her black swan burlesque costume is stripped of her worldly possessions, including her own name, as she's forced to "perform" in town after town. 

But there is breathtaking beauty behind the seamy and grotesque reality of the carnival. Gallagher, her handler, is as kind as he is cryptic and strong. The other "attractions"—mermaids, minotaurs, gryphons and kelpies—are strange, yes, but they share a bond forged by the brutal realities of captivity. And as Delilah struggles for her freedom, and for her fellow menagerie, she'll discover a strength and a purpose she never knew existed. 

Renowned author Rachel Vincent weaves an intoxicating blend of carnival magic and startling humanity in this intricately woven and powerful tale.

Will you be picking up Menagerie?

Monday, September 28, 2015

The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman

Book Summary
A thrillingly reimagined fairy tale from the truly magical combination of author Neil Gaiman and illustrator Chris Riddell – weaving together a sort-of Snow White and an almost Sleeping Beauty with a thread of dark magic, which will hold readers spellbound from start to finish. 

On the eve of her wedding, a young queen sets out to rescue a princess from an enchantment. She casts aside her fine wedding clothes, takes her chain mail and her sword and follows her brave dwarf retainers into the tunnels under the mountain towards the sleeping kingdom. This queen will decide her own future – and the princess who needs rescuing is not quite what she seems. Twisting together the familiar and the new, this perfectly delicious, captivating and darkly funny tale shows its creators at the peak of their talents.

Lavishly produced, packed with glorious Chris Riddell illustrations enhanced with metallic ink, this is a spectacular and magical gift.

Flo's Review
So...I had no idea what I was getting into when I opened this book. Honestly, I just picked it up because it was pretty. And because I've been wanting to read a Neil Gaiman book for awhile. But if we're being honest? Because it's pretty. Don't mind if I intersperse random book images throughout this review to drive my point home.
The illustrator of the book is Chris Riddell.
What an interesting take on a fairy tale! It was kinda dark. (I mean, there are skulls on the queen's blanket in that picture up there, let's be real.) But not really dark. The tone of Neil's writing was to the point, but with a little element of snark. Gaiman described fanciful fantastic things in a simple, straight manner. The descriptions were clean -- not flowery. This was interesting because usually fairy tale lands are described in a flowy, full-of-wonder, full-of-awe tone. 

But here you had lines like, "They had names, the dwarfs, but human beings were not permitted to know what they were, such things being sacred. The queen had a name, but nowadays people only ever called her Your Majesty. Names are in short supply in this telling." I love it! Definitely chuckled at that.

Then there's the famous element that has been reported about quite a bit (that I've noticed on my post-read Google searching) -- Snow White's kiss is the one to wake Sleeping Beauty.

Neil Gaiman says in this article in the Telegraph: "You don't need princes to save you. I don't have a lot of patience for stories in which women are rescued by men." (In the same article, he describes The Sleeper and the Spindle by saying, "I feel like some kind of alchemist. I have to go to the cupboard and take one ounce of Snow White and two ounces of Sleeping Beauty, and heat the Sleeping Beauty and froth the Snow White and mix them together: it's kind of like fusion cuisine. It tastes like both of them but it's actually a new dish.")
This is what happened to the last dude who tried to rescue the sleeping princess.
True to form in surprising me, the end of this story was not at all what I was expecting! Neil Gaiman throws in an interesting and creative twist. All in all, this is definitely worth your time. It's a unique and surprising story, and the artwork is awesome.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

A New Hope: The Princess, the Scoundrel, and the Farm Boy by Alexandra Bracken

Book Summary
Acclaimed, New York Times best-selling author Alexandra Bracken delivers a captivating retelling of Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope like you've never experienced before, infusing the iconic, classic tale of good versus evil with a unique perspective and narrative style that will speak directly to today's young readers while enhancing the Star Wars experience for core fans of the saga. 

This illustrated novel is the first in the highly-anticipated series and features richly detailed art by celebrated Star Wars concept artist Iain McCaig. Fans old and new will be delighted by this beautifully crafted book and the unexpected twists in this retelling of a beloved story.

Flo's Review
I have to start by saying I've never really seen Star Wars. I mean, technically I have. One of my first memories of my childhood is my sister and her friends locking me in the bedroom and popping in The Return of the Jedi VHS tape so that they could play without interruptions from the annoying little sister. (She may deny this, but it totally happened.) Then a few years ago an ex-boyfriend made me watch A New Hope after I made him watch Twilight. But by the time we started A New Hope it was super late and I admit to being asleep for most of it. Needless to say, I couldn't tell you much about either movie. Of course, by nature of being alive in this day and age, I knew the characters enough to understand cultural references. And I knew the general idea of the story. But that's where my Star Wars knowledge ended when I opened The Princess, the Scoundrel, and the Farm Boy.

The first thing about this book? It's so pretty! Illustrator  Iain Mccaig did a great job! I'd recommend reading this book just because it's pretty, honestly. There are two-page color illustrations before each of the 4 sections of the story, and throughout the book there drawings scattered. I really like it. (I tweeted a pic on our Instagram page.)

When I picked it up, I admit I thought, "Oooh these words are big! This won't take me long to read at all!" It's true. The typesetting is a little larger and combined with the pictures, you are not looking at a big, heavy read. Which I thought was refreshing, because the reality is -- I'm not a huge sci fi fan. I've enjoyed some Beth Revis, Pierce Brown, Meagan Spooner & Amie Kaufman, and my #otspsecretsister just got me a Silvers book. But, for the most part, sci fi is not what I'm reaching for first in the bookstore.  But what Alexandra Bracken did was tell the story not as a straight narrative, but as the story of these people -- Leia, Han, and Luke. This story was their story, through their eyes, at the forefront. Yes, it's the story of the Rebellion and all that. But it's told as the characters' story, not as a story with characters in it. I really liked it. This made me connect with the characters right away. And I can't speak from the perspective of a Star Wars fan, but I think this will make a story that they already love seem kind of new of them. (I am so curious to know if this is the case, so if you are a Star Wars fan and you do read this, please let me know.)

The only downside of not being a Star Wars fan and reading this is that some details were not fully explained. I mean, I basically figured things out and made conclusions on what must be happening and what had happened, but things weren't necessarily spelled out for me. The story started right in the middle of the action. It didn't seem to have a beginning, and I don't know if that's how the movie is? (Maybe, since they made prequels, right!? Star Wars fans are reading this and freaking out on my lack of knowledge right now -- lol. Sorry guys!) But the point is, Alexandra Bracken may have converted me! The Princess, the Scoundrel, and the Farm Boy was a fast and easy read that made me invested in the characters. I finished it and now I want to watch the movie. And I am certainly looking forward to Star Wars Illustrated Novels. 

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Stuck In A Good Book Giveaway Hop!

Who doesn't love to get stuck in a good book?! The one we're giving away features history, mystery, and more!

Sweet Madness by Trisha Leaver and Lindsay Currie
Seventeen-year-old Bridget Sullivan is alone in Fall River, a city that sees Irish immigrants as nothing more than a drunken drain on society. To make matters worse, she's taken employment with the city’s most peculiar and gossip-laden family—the Bordens. But Bridget can’t afford to be picky—the pay surpasses any other job Bridget could ever secure and she desperately needs the money to buy her little sister, Cara, passage to the states. It doesn’t hurt that the job location is also close to her beau, Liam. As she enters the disturbing inner workings of the Borden household, Bridget clings to these advantages.

However, what seemed like a straightforward situation soon turns into one that is untenable. Of course Bridget has heard the gossip around town about the Bordens, but what she encounters is far more unsettling. The erratic, paranoid behavior of Mr. Borden, the fearful silence of his wife, and worse still…the nightly whisperings Bridget hears that seem to come from the walls themselves.

The unexpected bright spot of the position is that Lizzie Borden is so friendly. At first, Bridget is surprised at how Lizzie seems to look out for her, how she takes a strong interest in Bridget’s life. Over time, a friendship grows between them. But when Mr. Borden’s behavior goes from paranoid to cruel, and the eerie occurrences in the house seem to be building momentum, Bridget makes the tough decision that she must leave the house—even if it means leaving behind Lizzie, her closest friend, alone with the madness. Something she swore she would not do.

But when Bridget makes a horrifying discovery in the home, all that she thought she knew about the Bordens is called into question…including if Lizzie is dangerous. And the choice she must make about Lizzie’s character could mean Bridget’s life or death.

SWEET MADNESS is a retelling of the infamous Borden murders from the point of view of Lizzie’s Irish maid, Bridget Sullivan.

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Good luck! If you're done with that, then by all means, click here to hop on.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles, #1)

Jacque's Review

With the upcoming release of the final book in this series, Winter, Flo and I decided to join the Lunar Chronicles Read Along hosted by The Book Addict's Guide.

Cinder is a unique twist on the traditional Cinderella story.  Cinder is a cyborg, which is someone who is part human and part machine.  Her step-father died from an illness shortly after her arrival and her step-mother blames her for no apparent reason.  There are of course two step-sisters to keep with the original story.

Rather than having to scrub the floors and clean the house, Cinder is one of the best mechanics in the area.  She can repair just about any mechanical device, but all of the money she earns goes to her step-mother.  As a cyborg, she is technically the property of her step-mother and is not considered a free citizen.

The story is set well into the future in New Beijing, which is one of the rebuilt cities after the fourth world war.  Earth has been trying to establish a treaty with the Lunar people for over a decade, but the Lunar Queen's demands have been unreasonable.  The Lunar Queen hopes that the newly crowned Emperor of New Beijing will finally be her chance to control Earth as well as the moon.  With a plague spreading across Earth, the Queen may have something to offer that the Emperor will not be able to refuse.

Overall, I found this book to be very entertaining.  I loved "prince charming" (Emperor Kai) and can't wait to see how things unfold her him and his people in the next book in the series.  He is in a very difficult spot with the manipulative queen, but I feel like he will have some leverage as this series progresses.  There is also hope for Cinder.  She is more valuable than she ever imagined and may finally be able to gain her independence and more.  I wish there had been a little more to this love story, but hopefully that will escalate throughout the series.  

Flo's Review
Cinder, Cinder, Cinder...I'm glad to have finally read this and know what all the talk is about! And especially as we come closer to Winter! This story is so unique. One of my best said to me, "I love how she takes this story and makes it her own." And it's so true! Prince Kai is so swoonworthy and Levana is so evil and Iko is so cute and fun! I listened to the audiobook, which has a great narrator, but found myself so invested in the story that I finally had to read the last part in my book because I couldn't wait to be driving around to see what happens! With a re-imaging of an established story, it's always fun to see how memorable plot points and elements translate, and I enjoyed that aspect of Cinder, too.

Onward to Scarlet!

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Book Con 2015
Book Summary
Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price—and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can't pull it off alone...

A convict with a thirst for revenge.

A sharpshooter who can't walk away from a wager.

A runaway with a privileged past.

A spy known as the Wraith.

A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums. 

A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes. 

Six dangerous outcasts. One impossible heist. Kaz's crew is the only thing that might stand between the world and destruction—if they don't kill each other first.

Flo's Review
I am pretty sure that if you haven't read this book yet, then you've heard about it. And if you haven't heard about it -- well, let me tell you! I cannot even put into words how impressed I am with the level of detail in this story. Not only is it in a completely different world, but it also involves a scheme with so many moving parts. I am seriously in awe of Leigh Bardugo. 

There was so much to love about this book. My favorite part was definitely that the characters were real. They didn't become insta-friends or completely trust each other  just because they were working together. They all had things they were telling the others; they all had personal agendas. They all had flaws. They all had pasts. But the way they came together for this task was completely honest and satisfying. Not only did each one of the characters grow individually, but together they grew as well. There was a progression there from looking out for numero uno to looking out for the other five. I don't want to give too much away from the story, but I really loved Inej's journey especially.

I was pretty much holding my breath for this entire story! I lost count of how many times I said to myself things like, "Nooooo!" or "What?!?!" or "OMG!!!" I am positive that there are things that I missed with this first read -- I am definitely going to try to read it again before Book #2 comes out.

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Truly, Madly, Famously by Rebecca Serle

Book Summary
In this romantic sequel to Famous in Love, new Hollywood "It Girl" Paige must navigate love with her co-stars, both on and off screen and all in the public eye.

Lights, camera, love!

After being plucked from obscurity, Hollywood's newest starlet, Paige Townsen, has a hit film to her name and Rainer Devon on her arm. But being half of the world's most famous couple comes with a price, and soon Paige finds herself dodging photographers; hiding her feelings for her other costar, Jordan Wilder; and navigating tabloid scandals that threaten to tear her and Rainer apart-and end her career as quickly as it began.

Rebecca Serle's sequel to Famous in Love is filled with the kind of celebrity drama and swoon-worthy romance fit for the silver screen.

Flo's Review
I loved Famous in Love. The scenes with both the boys were amazing -- because they're both amazing -- and it was just fun to read about a regular girl's rise to stardom. So I was all ready to love Truly, Madly, Famously as well...

...I wanted to love it. I really did.

But...I didn't. This book starts with Paige being a full-blown celebrity. And she doesn't like it. She is so miserable about being famous, that she made me, the reader, miserable too. Now I fully realize that being a celebrity is hard: your whole life is out there, you have no privacy, people believe whatever about you -- regardless if it's true or not. But you know what? I'd still do it. Right now, if you asked me if I wanted to be a celebrity? Yeah! Let's do this thing! Because for the regular Flo who works a 9 to 5 office job, there is glamour in being a celebrity. But all Paige does is hate it. I don't want to escape into a book about, "Oh I'm a multi millionaire and my life is soooo hard! It's so annoying that I have to hide out in this big, beautiful home and spend my days and nights doing what I love" when I crack open this book after a long week of work, bills, home repairs, car troubles, and every day living. Paige was so thoroughly miserable that I had to force myself to open the book and read more about how she had to hide away at a friend's fancy house and how, if she must, she will travel across the world and attend the MTV Movie Awards. 

I thought this might be a duology, but it looks like there will be a third book. I'll be honest -- I don't know if I can do it. However, I do enjoy these boys: Rainer and Jordan. If I see this story through to the end, it will be for them and not for Paige.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen

Flo's Review
I went into the library a couple of weeks ago to return a book and saw this audiobook on display. I grabbed it on a whim. As I was driving home listening to it, I thought, "I don't know if I can do 12 + hours with this narrator. She talks so slow." Let me tell you, today as I was driving around everywhere and not even caring because it meant I could listen to more of the story, it didn't even seem to me that she was speaking slowly. Usually my audiobook limit is about 7 CDs, 8 hours. This one was 10 CDs and almost 13 hours. But I was so engaged in the story that it didn't feel long at all.

Sydney Stanford is used to being invisible. Her brother, Peyton, has gotten in scores of trouble with the law, which culminated in him hitting and paralyzing a teenage boy while driving drunk. He is now in prison for it. Sydney's mom is a planner and likes to spend her time organizing things around Peyton. Her Dad works a lot and usually just goes along with what his wife says. Sydney spends her days obsessing over the fake version of The Real World and being creeped out by her brother's best friend Ames.

But this book is about Sydney's journey from invisibility to visibility; from being looked over to looking out for others; from sitting back and taking it to standing up and taking action. She starts by switching schools from the fancy prep school she and her brother went to to the larger Jackson High. Here she fast becomes friends with the Chatham family.

As a writer, this story inspires me and scares me. I am writing a YA contemp. This is the level I am striving for. Sarah Dessen's characters are not just characters. By the end of the story, I felt like I intimately knew this family and their friends. Like I could walk out of the door of my apartment and see Laila, Mac, Eric and Irv hanging out and I would already feel like part of the fold. Sydney's mom made me so mad and Ames really creeped me out. I developed legit feelings for these people!

I've confessed in the past having trouble with Sarah Dessen's flashbacks. Saint Anything is not without them. But they didn't really annoy me here. Maybe because I was expecting them? Or maybe because the flashbacks were usually short snippets and not lengthy scenes?

Saint Anything also takes a couple of different-than-average viewpoints, which I like. First, with the saints. The saints are talked about a bit and play a decent role in the weaving of the story. Yet not in a full-on religious way. I think no matter what your religious beliefs, it wouldn't be hard for you to get on board with the idea of saints and their roles in the lives of some of these characters. Secondly, we are seeing the fully human side of the perpetrator of the crime. We are all familiar with the idea that the victim is not in isolation -- whatever happened to him or her affects his/her family and friends. But this looks at the family and friends of the drunk driver. They are deeply affected, too. Sydney definitely is.

Mac Chatham. <3

I just finished this tonight and am already in full book hangover mode! I kind of what to go ahead and pick up another Sarah Dessen book. Which one do you recommend?