Friday, August 30, 2013

Review: The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery

The Little Prince
Antoine De Saint-Exupery 
Series: N/A
Genre: Fantasy, Children's
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Word Rating: Simply Magical
On Goodreads

The Little Prince is one of those books every single person needs to read at one point in his or her life -- preferably at multiple points because this book is one of those books that you appreciate differently at different points in life. I don't even know where to begin with this magnificent work -- there are so many things that make it amazing that it's hard to put them all together in a cohesive review.

First of all, it's written exceptionally well. It's told simply and straightforwardly, and manages to feel magical and thoughtful all at the same time. Our narrator, although an adult, speaks as a child, remembering certain events that happened to him. He remembers these things not in hindsight but as if he was still a child and still living the adventure. I loved the little Prince as a character, too. He was somewhat self-absorbed but in a way that embodied the self-obsessed nature of all children. He asked a lot of questions and didn't understand adults. He got angry at what he didn't understand but little did he know, he was much wiser than meets the eye. My favorite part of this book is the message behind it. The Little Prince explores the mindset of children versus the mindset of adults and challenges things adults often consider sensible. Once, he commented:
 "Grown - ups like numbers. When you tell them about a new friend, they never ask questions about what really matters. They never ask: 'What does his voice sound like? 'What games does he like best?' 'Does he collect butterflies?' They ask: 'How old is he?' 'How many brothers does he have?' 'Hoe much does he weigh?' 'How much money does his father make?' Only then do they think they know him." 
This was personally one of my favorite parts because it highlighted one of the biggest flaws with people today: they are more concerned about how much something in worth than what it has to offer. The book also showed how some adults are not as sensible as they are made out to be. There was the monarch who was too commanding, the man too obsessed with his own self, the businessman obsessed with numbers, and the man who had no time to enjoy his days. There was also the alcoholic who provides us with a wonderful example of adults who are misdirected:
"Why are you drinking?...
To forget... That I'm ashamed... Of drinking."  
We get the overall impression that adults are very strange creatures who do not entirely understand how to be themselves. The Little Prince is definitely not any old children's book -- it's a phenomenal piece of artwork that should be preserved forever. It includes criticisms of people today and what they do and it brought to light the way children act how they do it. It also adds a childlike perspective on how strange adults are and how much they don't understand because of their close-mindedness. The ending of the book was also amazing. His last drawing was a black and white version of the drawing on the page before. His musings gained an air of sadness while still retaining the childlike quality. Overall, this book is so perfect and a short read. It probably takes less than an hour to read but it stays with you for so much longer. Like I said before, it's one of those books that everyone should read at least once because it's definitely life chnging and mind blowing.

- Noor

Do you think adults are strange creatures?
Let us know in the comments!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Book Blitz Excerpt and Giveaway: Aberrant - Ruth Silver

Hello, everyone! We Live and Breathe Books is proud to be a part of the Aberrant by Ruth Silver book blitz this week! Aberrant has been on my to-read shelf for a long time, and I'm definitely going to read it soon. I hope you find it as interesting as I do! - Kiersten

Ruth Silver
Series: Aberrant, #1
Release Date: April 17, 2013

In the future Dystopian society of Cabal, the government instills equality for all and offers its citizens the perfect system. There is food, shelter and jobs for everyone. The one requirement is to follow the rules without question, including the government's match in marriage and "The Day of the Chosen", a lottery that randomly selects families to conceive children as natural means hasn't existed in generations. Following her eighteenth birthday, Olivia Parker accepts her requirement to marry her childhood best friend, Joshua Warren, and is eager to start her work assignment and new life when it all comes abruptly to an end as she's arrested and thrown in prison. The only crime committed, her existence. Olivia is unlike the rest of the world born not from "The Day of the Chosen." The truth haunts the government and puts her life in grave danger as one simple fact would destroy the perfect system.

With Joshua's help, Olivia breaks free of prison and is forced on the run. Together they set out to find the promised rebel town in search of a new home and new life together. Their situation seems less than promising as they reach the town of Haven. New rules and customs must be adhered to in order to stay. Leaving would mean most certain death in the large expanse of the Gravelands. Time is running out as the government mounts an attack to destroy Olivia and bury her secret with her. Thrown into a world unlike their own, they must quickly adapt to survive.

Book Links

     ...I sighed softly and did something I'd only read about in forbidden novels. I leant in, brushing my lips against his. The kiss was soft and chaste. It lasted no more than a mere second before I pulled back.
     "What was that, Olive?" He gave me a horrified look and all I could feel was my stomach somersault. I knew romance and love weren't ever spoken of in Genesis. There was no need when the government knew who was perfect for one another, and children were won by lottery and conceived in a lab. Intimate acts were considered unnecessary.
     "I read about it in a book," I whispered, afraid I'd done it all wrong. "It was a kiss," I breathed, chewing on my bottom lip nervously. I’d never kissed anyone before and worried he thought it was terrible. I’d never seen two people share a kiss, I didn’t quite know what it was supposed to look like, but I thought I’d done it right after reading about it. My hand reached out, grabbing his arm. "Please don't be mad at me." I breathed. "You have to swear you won't tell anyone!" Joshua hesitated for only an instant before he leaned in, taking another taste from my lips trying again. The second kiss was softer and satisfied both of our curiosities. My heart raced and my skin warmed to his touch. "I thought today was going to turn out so much worse," I confessed.
     Joshua laughed as he pulled back slightly, staring at me. His eyes had darkened a deeper richer shade of blue. I'd never seen his eyes change colors before. His fingers moved to tickle my stomach with a grin. "Worse? Really? You're not happy you married me? You're just relieved it wasn't someone worse?"
     "No!" I shrieked, "That's not what I meant!" I tried to catch my breath, but he hardly gave me a second more than necessary. I pulled from his ticklish grasp, jumped from the couch and ran across the room in a fit of laughter. He quickly followed, jumping over the sofa as he was just inches from me. He was close now, smiling and trailing behind me as I ran toward the bedroom. It was probably the worst place I could go, trapped between Joshua and a mattress. I felt him tackle me down onto the plush bed, his hands skimmed my stomach but he was no longer tickling me. The laughter still hadn't subsided.
     "Breathe," Joshua said, staring intently at me.
     "Trying," I gasped between fits of laughter. Lying down helped settle the feeling of my racing heart, and after a moment I shifted along the mattress, reaching out to him. "I want to tell you a story," I insisted as my fingers found his cheek. "One I read in a book." I wanted him to learn the things I had about love and romance. I couldn't help but feel my body stir with a strange fire and warmth as he loomed just above me. Staring up at him I froze on the mattress hearing the latch click on the front door. I knew it had been locked.

About the Author

Ruth Silver first began writing poetry as a teenager and reading heaps of fan fiction in her free time. She has written under three unique pseudo names and penned well over a hundred stories.

She attended Northern Illinois University in 2001 and graduated with a Bachelor's in Communication. While in college she spent much of her free time writing with friends she met online and penning her first novel, "Deuces are Wild", which she self-published in 2004. Her favorite class was Creative Writing senior year where she often handed in assignments longer than the professor required because she loved to write and always wanted to finish her stories.

Her love of writing, led her on an adventure in 2007 to Melbourne, Australia. Silver enjoys reading YA novels and sharing her favorite books with other readers. She runs her own book blog and also enjoys photography and traveling.

Her favorite YA genre is a mix of Dystopian & Fantasy which is evident in the upcoming release of her latest book, Aberrant. Slated for release April 2013 by Lazy Day Publishing, it is the first in a trilogy.

Author Links

1 signed paperback of Aberrant (US only)
3 Scrabble tile necklace charms and signed bookmark (INT)
3 bottle cap keychains and signed bookmark (INT)

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Book Blitz organized by YA Bound Book Tours

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday: The House of Hades - Rick Riordan

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week, I'm waiting on The House of Hades by Rick Riordan.

The House of Hades
Rick Riordan
Series:  Heroes of Olympus, #4
Release Date: October 8th, 2013
Publisher: Hyperion Books
Waited on by: Amrutha
On Goodreads

At the conclusion of The Mark of Athena, Annabeth and Percy tumble into a pit leading straight to the Underworld. The other five demigods have to put aside their grief and follow Percy’s instructions to find the mortal side of the Doors of Death. If they can fight their way through the Gaea’s forces, and Percy and Annabeth can survive the House of Hades, then the Seven will be able to seal the Doors both sides and prevent the giants from raising Gaea. But, Leo wonders, if the Doors are sealed, how will Percy and Annabeth be able to escape?

They have no choice. If the demigods don’t succeed, Gaea’s armies will never die. They have no time. In about a month, the Romans will march on Camp Half-Blood. The stakes are higher than ever in this adventure that dives into the depths of Tartarus.

UGH.  I HAVE BEEN WAITING FOR THIS BOOK SINCE THE DAY THE MARK OF ATHENA CAME OUT. (The Mark of Athena is the 3rd book in this series.) I have bought and read every book in this series the day it came out, and it was so worth it. This series is a continuation of the Percy Jackson series, and it is just as fabulous. Rick Riordan aims to please with Percabeth and a love triangle between Reyna, Jason, and Piper. I'm so nervous for Percabeth (Percy and Annabeth, the main characters and my favorite ship of the series), I hope nothing but the best for them. I absolutely cannot wait until this book comes out, and I know I'll be first in line to get it.

- Amrutha

What are YOU waiting on?
Let us know in the comments!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Release Day Review: The Returned - Jason Mott

The Returned
Jason Mott 
Series: N/A
Genre: Adult Fiction, Dystopian
Rating: 3.75 out of 5 stars
Word Rating: Passable
On Goodreads

I’m one of those people who carry a book around in her purse – if you do this too, then this is the book for you. The Returned is interesting enough that you can pick up and read it whenever you want, but also flat enough that you can put it down when you need to do something. This book was better than average, but it wasn’t good enough to warrant a 4 star rating.

Brief summary: These two delightful parents, Lucille and Harold lost their son in 66. Years after his death, their son returns – alive and well, the same age he was when he died. However, this wasn’t just a special circumstance. This was happening around the globe, and everyone was receiving their lost loved ones back. The premise of this results in a wild dystopia, and the idea of this was unique and I was so intrigued by it. Unfortunately, every time I’m intrigued by the premise of a book, I end up being disappointed. However, this time around, Mott did better than expected, and I was pretty excited to read it.

So these people who’ve returned from the dead are not only un-aged, but they are confused as well. They don’t know what happened and are being treated as third rate citizens. One of the cool parts of the book was that Mott tried to tell us of the dystopian society from many different people, including the undead. However, this is where the book lost points with me – although it was a fascinating idea to write in different POVs, it made the book kind of flat – I was interested in some of the secondary characters, but I never got close enough to them to truly care about them.

The characters we mainly follow however, Lucille, Harold, and Jacob, their son, are warm and loving. Although there isn’t much growth in the characters (huge pet peeve of mine), Mott made them fairly average characters. By this I mean, I never really felt their pain as I did the other Returned. The others that had come back from the dead had rather interesting stories and I actually teared up at one or two of them. Sadly though, Mott didn’t tell me more about them so instead I got stuck with Lucille, Harold and Jacob.

The other unfortunate thing (I’ll stop being so negative soon I swear) is that the main reason I read the book, the interesting plot, seems to be hidden behind backstories of the Returned. The intellectual stuff that really intrigued me was blended into the background, which makes me sad :’( Come on Jason, you could’ve done better.

Otherwise, this book was fairly good. The concept of the Returned along with the Bureau’s actions to deal with the problem was very interesting. It wasn’t action packed, but it did have many touches of sadness and emotion that is hard to find. By the end of the book I was reminded of how much I truly love my friends and family, and to remind them of such. If you’re ever looking for a book to read on the way to work or during the ten minutes after a test, this would definitely be it.

On a side note, if you enjoy The Returned, you may want to check out the short stories: The First, The Sparrow, and The Choice.

- Amrutha

How would you react if your dead loved ones were returned to you?
Let us know in the comments!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Review: The Boy who Swam With Piranhas - David Almond

The Boy who Swam with Piranhas
David Almond
Series: N/A
Genre: Children's, Fantasy
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Word Rating: Endearing
On Goodreads

I received this book as an ARC (BEA 2013) and thus had very little idea the extend to which I would be amazed. The ability of an author to capture the mind of a child is what makes children's books so bloody incredible, and David Almond eats this quality alive like a starved piranha.

Stanley Potts is an "ordinary kid living an ordinary life" until his Uncle Ernie turns the world upside down when he loses his job and ventures into the fish-canning business and very quirky, wonderful things happen. (Almond, 1) Also, some pretty not-wonderful things happen. The book is quite intricately woven with concepts and lessons that make one wonder how the author laced it into a children's book. This is definitely something I would have loved to read as a kid, but I believe I appreciate the intelligence and creative capacity behind making it so engaging for all ages.

The book reads rather scattered and colorful, just like a child's head usually is:
"A what?" said Ernie.

"A evistigator," said the investigator. "A evistigator what investigates things. Strange things. Peculiar things. Things that shouldn't even be things." He stepped a little closer. "Fishy things!" (29)
In the beginning, the world is rather black and white. Stanley's ordinary life is suddenly interrupted by the fact that more efficient ships could now be built in other countries. Very straightforward explanation. "It all started when Simpson's Shipyard shut." (2)

However, as the story progresses and we are all faced with harder-to-deal-with situations with splendid adventures to counter them, it becomes very apparent that life is not black and white, but as colorful as the fair he eventually escapes to. The explanation for his goldfishes death is not black and white, as he finds it, it's rather an intense shade of red that he has to face.

More so, Stanley faces forgiving those you love who have hurt you, what courage really is, and of course who to swim with piranhas. It's hard not to grow with Stanley, he's a charmer, and he feels the feels pretty darn hard. If you doubt me consult chapter twenty-two in its one page of glory and anger and suffering and you will understand what it means to feel homesick for a home that only exists in the past.

- Marlon

Do you think you would be able to run away like Stanley?
Let us know in the comments!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

School's in Session Giveaway Hop hosted by Ruby's Reads

Ruby's Reads

Hello, everyone! We Live and Breathe Books is a relatively new blog, but we thought that it was about time that we have our very first giveaway! For this giveaway, we are participating in the School's in Session Giveaway Hop hosted by Ruby's Reads.

The winner of this giveaway will receive one of the following books (of his/her choice). Click the covers for Goodreads pages:

 photo thesweetestdark.jpg  photo hexhall.jpg  photo lookingforalaska.jpg
 photo slide.jpg  photo toptenusesforanunwornpromdress.jpeg

  • Please be honest when filling out the Rafflecoptor. If you lie, you will be disqualified.
  • This contest is open internationally, so long as The Book Depository ships to where you live. Please check to make sure if The Book Depository ships to you before entering.

Enter Now!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Check out other stops on the School's in Session Hop for more opportunities to win!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Stuffed Animal Saturday [2]

Stuffed Animal Saturday is a meme that we post here at We Live and Breathe Books every two weeks to showcase the book we're currently reading with one of our favorite stuffed animals and discuss our stuffed animal's opinion (well, it's really our opinion, but that's besides the point). We hope you enjoy our quirky feature as much as we enjoy writing it!

Kiersten here with Sloth this Stuffed Animal Saturday! I've been kind of MIA lately with college move in, but I'm hoping that I'll be able to get back into the swing of things and regular reviewing in the near future! Due to my hectic life lately, filled with summer reading assignments, packing, and moving into my dorm, Sloth and I haven't been able to read much for pleasure, but we're hoping that either today or tomorrow we'll get a chance to start a book we've been dying to read: The Deepest Night by Shana AbĂ©.

So Far: Well, nothing so far. I bought this book the day it came out, but with all my summer work, Sloth and I couldn't read it (sadface). Although I haven't begun this book, I've read the first book in the series, The Sweetest Dark (review here), and I'm really excited to find out what's next for the heroine, Lora.

A Sneak Peek: Because Sloth hasn't read any of the book yet and he's too lazy to find a really good passage, he's going to share the very beginning of The Deepest Night with you:
I'm not a ghost. I am dead, though.
My body lies in its casket underneath the pale sandy sod and wind-scrubbed grass of southern England, not far from where I was born. The marker for my grave looks much like all the others in the cemetery, plain gray stone, chiseled edges. Chiseled letters spelling out my name and significant dates, and a single phrase beneath all that about the salvation of hope. 
Sloth finds this a little creepy because the speaker is dead, but, knowing who the speaker is, Sloth also finds it a bit sad. It reminds him of this character in the first book and everything that happened. This is part of the prologue, so Sloth isn't sure how it will lead into the main story (with the living characters), but he really looks forward to reading more soon.

- Kiersten

Are you and your stuffed animal reading anything interesting?
Let us know in your own Stuffed Animal Saturday!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Review: Beauty - Nancy Butcher

Nancy Butcher 
Series: N/A
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Word Rating: Delightful
On Goodreads

I actually read this book in middle school, a few years back and stumbled upon it again in the Great Bookshelf Reorganization of August 2013. I figured I’d review it because even though it’s meant for a slightly younger audience, I still think it’s a great book and I’d definitely enjoy it if I read it now instead of in seventh grade.

Beauty is a somewhat retelling of the classic Snow White. I’m a sucker for a good spin on a fairy tale so I thought I’d give this book a go. It focuses on Ana, the daughter of the beautiful Queen Veda of Ran. As the years pass by, Ana’s beauty starts to surpass that of her mother, to which her mother does not take kindly. She realizes her only option is to make herself hideous. But then she is sent to a very prestigious academy for girls, where she learns more about beauty and about herself than she ever thought possible.

One thing I really liked about this book was the emotion behind the characters. Even though Ana is a practical, headstrong person, she buckles at the disapproval of her mother. In fact, having her mother show affection becomes a sort of obsession for Ana, who constantly tried harder and harder to make herself ugly in order to gain her mother’s approval. There are so many instances in the book that highlight just how far Ana is willing to go, like:
“Ana still craved—craved—more of her mother’s affection. She would have to figure out how to get it, even if it meant doubling her pastry consumption or cutting all her hair off. She would do whatever it took.”  
 “It had all been worth it: the looks at school, the horrible bloating of her belly, the pocks on her skin. The emptiness felt every time she saw herself in the mirror. Her mother truly loved her—finally, again. And Ana would not risk losing that a second time.”
I love how Nancy Butcher portrays the toxicity of the relationship between Ana and Veda. Just like Veda is obsessed with her beauty, Ana is obsessed with making herself ugly. She skips bathing for days, sometimes weeks. Her toenails “were long and, with ripples of green and yellow.” Even though I hated Veda as a person, I loved what was done with her character. I thought she was such an interesting character, especially when the book got more into how twisted of a person she really is.

 Another character I loved was the Beauty Consultant. He was to Veda what the magic mirror was to the original evil queen. I loved how his eyes changed colors and how he had a different sort of power, possibly even greater than the Queen. He was a dark character but one of my favorites nonetheless. I also loved reading about the dynamic of all the girls at the Academy and how much they cared about their appearance. To all of them, being beautiful was worth any price.

Beauty is definitely a very enjoyable read. The story is fast paced and it’s full of awesome dialogue, delightful writing, and a story that you will love no matter how old you are. I loved what Butcher had to say not only about beauty as a whole, but about how relationships can change, and be based off, jealousy and fear. It’s a short book, but every page is full of wonderful surprises.

- Noor

How far would you be willing to go to be beautiful?
Let us know in the comments!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Review: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams (Part 1)

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
Douglas Adams
Series: Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy #1
Genre: Science Fiction, Fantasy, Comedy
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Word Rating: Unbelievable
On Goodreads (Note: I'm linking to the omnibus version of the first five books because it is the author's preferred text.)

Caution: you're going to need a notebook to pen down all of the quotes, a room empty of people so that you won't embarrass yourself too much, an improbability drive to sustain the improbable amount of laughter, and most important, a towel.

The first novel is rather short, a whopping 145 pages, but it tells its story well enough. The story of the human man, Arthur Dent, the day the Earth was blown up to be replaced with an Interspace Bypass, and his adventures thereafter. In fact, it tells the story extraordinarily well; my absolute favorite part of the first novel is the complexity with which it is written.

It is dazzling in its creative expression, each and every story arc tying into one another fluidly, and often with support from the author's narrative pieces specifically to the readers. A rather basic example of this is the fact that the whole story, Arthur seems so sensationally useless, and if we had paid a bit more attention, we'd have seen otherwise. It is hard to provide quotations (that aren't pages long) for what I mean but think about a small pond. Drop a few pebbles in the pond and the ripples will interfere, even as they die out and become almost unnoticeable.

On the other hand, the most gripping aspect of the novel is the humor, which is the aspect I'll place in second. I have literally never laughed so much in my life. Much of the humor found in this novel, and all subsequent novels, is self-referential and sometimes quite complex. Adams makes a good use of the first aspect here, tying together seemingly random bits of information into a joke.
It startled him even more when just after he was awarded the Galactic Institute's Prize for Extreme Cleverness he got lynched by a rampaging mob of respectable physicists who had finally realized that the one thing they really couldn't stand was a smart-ass. (Adams, 61) 
Otherwise, the humor is found in the diverse and interesting cast of characters, especially Marvin the Paranoid Android, who would make depression an art form if it didn't inspire others to commit suicide upon speaking to him. He reminds me of Eyore gone very, very wrong, and very, very witty. But it's hard to forget Arthur's idiocy, Ford's sarcasm, Zaphod's . . . well . . . Zaphodness, and Trillain's wit.

This book is also subtly insightful. It is packed to the brim with interjections from the author and action and dialogue and there are rare gems embedded on these structures that you can't help but dog-ear or highlight or, indeed, simply write down. This book will screw up your thinking for a while, but you're going to appreciate it.
Isn't it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too? (80)
However, Adans's insight is wonderful in that he often strives to prove himself wrong to show the balance of the world. The character who thought this thought is immediately shown that there are faeries at the bottom of a particular garden, but the quote still stands by itself as a plea to respect the beauty and complexity of nature without falling to superstition.

If there is anything I can complain about, it is that the beginning seemed to take a while until anything started actually happening, but I realized later why Adams took the extra few sheets of paper to set himself up. I also believed everyone to be static and that to be a horrible, miserable thing. However, Arthur changes quite a bit from the bumbling idiot (specifically to a slightly more passive bumbling idiot). Indeed, the book satirizes many science fiction and fantasy aspects, including static and over-dynamic characters. The dynamics can be found spanning the entire series rather than the books themselves.

In all though, this book deserves more than five stars. It is one of the great storytelling feats, able to deliver its massive messages in rather chaotic, messy, and hilarious situations.

- Marlon

What would you do with a ship that could take you anywhere?
Let us know in the comments!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Review: Confessions of a So-Called Middle Child - Maria T. Lennon

Confessions of a So-Called Middle Child
Maria T. Lennon
Series: N/A
Genre: Children's Fiction
Rating: 1 out of 5 stars
Word Rating: Sobbing
On Goodreads

When Kiersten gave this to me, she quoted the woman who gave it to her. “In my opinion, [Maria T. Lennon] is the next Judy Blume.” NO. WRONG. As a faithful Judy Blume fan from now until the end of time, I am so upset that anyone would have the audacity to compare Lennon to Blume. This was endlessly boring, formulaic, and cringe worthy. (As a note, I know that as a teenager it might seem that I’ve just grown out of the children’s genre, but I still wholeheartedly enjoy a good kids book).

The plot of the story is dried out and over told – there’s a girl who makes a mistake. To pay for the mistake, she has to start over in a new place. With some pitiful effort, she transforms miraculously. Woo. The dry nature of the book is killing me. The main character, Charlie, is annoying, and quite frankly, I hated her. As someone who is really obnoxious herself, I can tell you for a fact that Charlie is so terrible that not even I can stand her. She is a bully who needs to see the wrongs in her ways, and honestly, it has nothing to do with being a “middle child.” While Lennon tried to use her middle-child-ness as an excuse for her bad attitude, nothing allowed for the way Charlie behaved. Plus the pranks that she pulled were crazy even for college kids – no one in middle school could pull off something like that.

Crazy plot holes, huh? I’d let you know more of the plot holes, but I’d be giving away the only semi-interesting part of a terrible book. But be forewarned, there’s a lot of stuff that doesn’t quite add up. Let’s go back to the characters though. Lennon tries to portray Charlie as a misunderstood fashionista who can work miracles with computers and is at a bad place in her life. As we all know too well, middle school is often worse than it seems, and the kids that are like Charlie never end up reforming. Honestly, for this kind of character to work in a story, she has to appeal to the audience, and she didn’t appeal to me.

Don’t forget about Charlie’s family. Her family is apparently perfect, and none of them change at all: totally static. Her mom forces her to be a good person and read while also supporting her, and her Dad is an architect who is working on Harry Houdini’s mansion (which is both relevant and irrelevant information in the book because Lennon cannot form a cohesive plot as it seems). Her little brother is adorable and her elder sister is kind and charitable, but also popular despite her lack of fashion sense which is so important to Charlie. (Her family seems too good to be true, even for a story about a middle child).

And what about the other characters? Also completely static. There’s Trixie, your typical mean girl, and Babs, her follower. And then there’s Marta, who is the wounded bird in this story. Honestly, she’s a huge plot hole for me – with her knowledge of ehm –certain things- ehm (because of her mother). Like, if you see your mom attain something you want, would you or would you not be careful to do things similarly to her? Yes right? UGH. Don’t understand you Marta, although your home situation helps (but not enough to clarify the plot hole).

I’ll tell you about one more gap in the plot before stopping, because then we will get into spoilers (if we can even say that, this is a super routine book with maybe two plot twists in it the whole way and it’s honestly not anything special). Okay, so I told you that Charlie loves computers. Did I also tell you her parents allow her to webcam with some random Indian guy named Jai who lives in Mumbai? Well. She does. And on top of that, every time there’s something questionable happening in the story, Charlie (with the help of Jai) hacks into a secure database, and forges a document of some sort. Like she’s 12. That is not possible. I know 12 year olds in real life, and having been 12 at some recent point in time, I can personally tell you that any 12 year old that can create a fake H1 Visa is so gifted with computers that they need to graduate high school early and just move to college. Charlie, is not this 12 year old.

I don’t want to complain about her any longer but I’ll end it with this. Charlie is vapid, and shallow, and frankly, too obnoxious for her own good. At least she wasn’t TOTALLY static throughout the book, albeit, she only changes begrudgingly.

All in all, this was not a good book. Sorry Maria Lennon, but you struck out with me. This copy of my book was an ARC provided by BEA 2013, and honestly, they can have it back if they wanted. Unfortunately, I will not be recommending this to anyone.

- Amrutha

Do you believe in middle-child syndrome?
Let us know in the comments!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Review: Stolen Away - Alyxandra Harvey

Stolen Away
Alyxandra Harvey
Series: N/A
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Word Rating: Interesting
On Goodreads

I got Stolen Away as a Kindle daily deal – I was so intrigued by the blurb that I had to have it. Eloise Hart is just a normal girl who likes to fly under the radar. One day when she’s at the ice cream parlor with her friends, a strange boy in medieval dress kneels in front of her and tells her that she needs to go with him or “the others” will find her. Of course, Eloise is totally freaks out and leaves. As it turns out, Eloise’s aunt Antonia was married to the King of Faery, Lord Strahan, and Strahan wants to lure Antonia back to the world of Faery with Eloise as bait. Soon, Eloise gets captured and it’s up to her friends to try to save her.

Stolen Away is told from alternating point of views between Eloise and Jo. Although I found both girls to be charming, their voices were very similar and I found it a bit confusing sometimes. When the girls were separated, it was fine because of how different their situations were, but when they were together, I could barely follow who was saying what because of the “she said” and “I said”s.

Jo’s story seems to center around her romance. Jo’s romance was cute, but it was really rushed, even more so than Eloise’s. Jo sees this gorgeous stranger at a party, but doesn’t get a chance to talk to him. One day while she’s at a coffee shop, said stranger appears and she starts getting to know him. Of course, when I say, “getting to know him,” I’m using this rather loosely. Jo ends up bringing this guy to her family’s farm and kissing him before she even knows his name. In fact, he actually shows up at her farm later on and they kiss some more and she still doesn’t know his name after this encounter. Once she finally knows his name, she insists that she loves him. Sounds a bit like my favorite Pixar dog…

But seriously. After they actually get to know each other, the romance grew on me a lot more. In between seeing this boy, Jo is supposed to be helping her friend escape from the Faery Rath in which she is trapped. Jo is surprisingly resourceful when it comes to finding her friend, but she’d probably do a better job if she weren’t obsessed with her handsome stranger.

On the other hand, Eloise’s story is a lot more action packed. Her story follows how she’s trapped in Strahan’s Faery Rath and how she finds out about the Faery world and her aunt’s part in it. Through Eloise’s point of view, the reader finds out most of the mythology in this book. Although the mythology is interesting, it’s thrown at the reader a bit too fast. Like Jo, Eloise had a romance, but hers was much briefer. Eloise’s romance was so sweet and made me giddy. I wish there had been more of this romance.

The ending of Stolen Away, while finishing the actual conflict of the story, seemed to need more. I wish there had been a few more chapters to explain how everything turns out rather than the few pages of epilogue we get right after the conflict is resolved. It was just too brief. After investing myself in the plot and the characters, I just wanted more from the ending. Honestly, I would love to see a sequel. With a second book, Stolen Away would definitely move up to 4 stars for me.

Overall, I really wanted to enjoy Stolen Away more than I did, but it was just too brief. This book had so much potential with its story, but it lacked the follow through and elaboration I was looking for. However, I would still recommend this story for someone looking for a fun paranormal story with interesting faery mythology.

- Kiersten

How would you react if some faery king kidnapped you?
Let us know in the comments!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Review: Mermaid in Chelsea Creek - Michelle Tea

Mermaid in Chelsea Creek
Michelle Tea
Series: N/A
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Word Rating: Enchantingly magical
On Goodreads

So I got a signed copy of Mermaid in Chelsea Creek at BookExpo America and just read it this past week. I really wish I hadn't waited so long to finally read it because it was fantastic.

Number one on the list of reasons why this book is phenomenal is the diction. I can't even begin to explain how much I was entranced by Michelle Tea's writing style. It was b-e-a-utiful. I found myself, instead of reading a chapter or two and going on to something else, sitting there and devouring the book until all of a sudden I reached the hard blue back cover. Just like Sophie's pass-out shenanigans, it felt like I had sat down only ten minutes ago, only to realize it had been two hours and the book was finished. There is no word that can accurately depict the wondrous writing of this novel. I really liked that, even though it follows the journey of a thirteen year old, the writing doesn't sound immature or choppy. Instead, Michelle Tea manages to mix in the childlike innocence of her main character with a fluid, elegant writing style that just kept me turning page after page, not only wanting to find out what happened next but wanting to keep reading the sweet, melodic narration. There were so many awesome gems that picking a few to prove my point is really hard, because I want to just keep quoting paragraphs and pages and essentially the whole book. However, copying the entire book into a blog post might be copyright infringement so here are some of the beautiful lines in this book:
 "It was a piece of glass, a blue so faint it was like the thought of blue, the very beginning of the color. Caught inside its frosted center was a scalloped seashell, white with a stripe of rose at the bottom base, like the last glow of an excellent sunset before it sank into the sky." 
 "Sophie felt, feelings like a black wave risen from the middle of the ocean and then crashing down on her, crushing her, pounding the air from her lungs until all that she breathed, all that filled her was an infinity of pain."
 "The problem with feelings was, first you had one, which was generally bad enough. But then you had a feeling about your feeling, and then a feeling about how your were feeling about your feeling, and then another feeling would pop up at the sight of it all, this teetering pyramid of emotion, and all of it would look wrong to Andrea, all her feelings somehow incorrect, too much or too little, too soft or too hard, and another feeling would emerge at the thought of that. It was endless, having feelings."
I hope all of you reading this appreciate how hard it was to pick just a few quotes when this whole novel is written in such a lovely manner. If picking a place to start quoting wasn't hard enough, it was near impossible to find where to end it. I also mentioned some more of what I loved about the writing style in my Stuffed Animal Saturday, so check that out and read another gem, this time from the prologue.

Okay, now that I'm done gushing about the writing style, I can get on with mentioning what else I loved about this book. Like the fact that she did a phenomenal job with the characters and the city of Chelsea itself. The whole book had sort of a gritty feel to it -- the pretty words and pretty girls were a sort of glamour for the real truth of the world they lived in. And the characters felt so real. There's Sophie, our protagonist, who I absolutely loved. I loved how she was so open to everything that happened to her. Instead of thinking she's going insane, or that she's hallucinating, Sophie thinks "I don't think I'm crazy, but you got to admit all this is pretty seriously crazy." I also loved the way she tackled her situation and handled everything that was thrown at her. The best part was that she felt like an actual honest-to-goodness thirteen year old. I've noticed that sometimes in these types of novels, teenagers are written as either overly mature (and boring) or overly childish (and irritating). Tea captured the the mix of maturity and innocence that comes with being 13. Overall, I really liked how Sophie grew and matured. I also loved reading about the other characters. I found Ella, Sophie's best friend, particularly interesting, because of her extreme germaphobia. It was so fascinating reading about how she scrubbed her legs so raw they hurt to touch or how she "drank half a pint of mouthwash. The liquid had seared a groove down her throat and into her guts and quickly retraced its steps, heaving out from her mouth and into the sink." The whole cast of characters is made up of peculiar and remarkable individuals, like the lovable Angel, the evil Kishka, the wise Livia, and especially the strange, rough mermaid who has traveled so very far for Sophie. Chelsea is a town with lots of secrets, and with every one I uncovered by reading, I wanted more.

A book can have great writing and characters, but it'll fall short if it doesn't have a good plot. I am delighted to say that Mermaid in Chelsea Creek definitely delivered in the plot department. The story was so gripping and throughout it all, I wanted to know more about what Sophie could do, more about what was at stake, more about what exactly she was saving Chelsea from. And Michelle Tea gave quite interesting answers to those questions. The plot kept moving quickly, as Sophie learned more about what her destiny was.

Overall, I thought this book was spectacular. It's a short read but definitely an impactful one. Mermaid in Chelsea Creek, with its witty dialogue and enchanting writing left me impatiently craving the next book in the trilogy. (It also left me craving salt, but you'll know why that is once you read the book.)

- Noor

How would you react if you saw a mermaid cursing at you in a creek?
Let us know in the comments!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Waiting For Wednesday: The Fall of Five - Pittacus Lore

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week, I'm waiting on The Fall of Five by Pittacus Lore.

15861491The Fall of Five
Pittacus Lore
Series:  Lorien Legacies, # 4
Release Date: August 27th, 2013
Publisher: HarperTeen
Waited on by: Marlon
On Goodreads

The Garde are finally reunited, but do they have what it takes to win the war against the Mogadorians?

John Smith—Number Four—thought that things would change once the Garde found each other. They would stop running. They would fight the Mogadorians. And they would win.

But he was wrong. After facing off with the Mogadorian ruler and almost being annihilated, the Garde know they are drastically unprepared and hopelessly outgunned. Now they’re hiding out in Nine’s Chicago penthouse, trying to figure out their next move.

The six of them are powerful, but they’re not strong enough yet to take on an entire army—even with the return of an old ally. To defeat their enemy, the Garde must master their Legacies and learn to work together as a team. More importantly, they’ll have to discover the truth about the Elders and their plan for the Loric survivors.

And when the Garde receive a sign from Number Five—a crop circle in the shape of a Loric symbol—they know they are so close to being reunited. But could it be a trap? Time is running out, and the only thing they know for certain is that they have to get to Five before it’s too late.

The Garde may have lost battles, but they will not lose this war.

Lorien will rise again.

I can't stand it. Only thirteen more days until this book comes out. Thirteen. For those of you unfamiliar with the Lorien Legacies, welcome. For those who have only watched I am Number Four and not even bothered to read the series, then shame on you. The novels take place in the present day world, spanning Spanish Monasteries and small Mideastern towns in the U.S. and it involves primarily three races: the Loric people, who are mostly dead, the Mogadorians, who have mostly killed them, and the humans, who, as usual, have no clue what's going on. But ugh. This is the fourth book, and the third left off in such a shocked state. I need more. 

What makes these books amazing is the suspense, the anticipation, and the raw emotion and adventure.

You know, the exact opposite of sitting here and waiting thirteen days.

- Swordfish

What are YOU waiting on?
Let us know in the comments!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Double Review: Top Ten Uses for an Unworn Prom Dress - Tina Ferraro

Top Ten Uses for an Unworn Prom Dress
Tina Ferraro
Series: N/A
Genre: Young Adult, Romance
Rating: 4.25 out of 5 stars
Word Rating: Decent
On Goodreads

If you are ever in need of a quick fix, I recommend this novel. You'll fly through it in an instant and it will make whatever you're doing about three hundred percent better. This is because it simply accomplishes what it sets out to do, and nothing else. No random florid side bullcrap, just a good time.

This novel contains a few elements that defy the girly, romance-y, tackyness that you would expect from a pink polka-dotted cover. (Not that I think that but you know what I mean). It is absolutely hilarious (compliments of the narrator), has a bit of mystery and suspense, and tons of hardship that grip you all 222 pages.

There's humor:
"Hire me Who's to say you can afford me, Nic?" (Farrero, 5) 
There's tension:
"You're calling him tonight?" Rascal asked me, although you'd hardly know it from the way his gaze seared into Jared's. (12)
There's humor:
. . . when I could have been perfecting something constructive . . . Kickboxing. Karate. Projectile vomiting. (85)
And a damn good story-line packed in only two hundred pages:
I grabbed my books, slammed my locker, and walked off. I had an agenda. A class about to start. A mother to protect. (12)
Did I mention the humor:
Oh, you know what they say. If you are what you eat then fast-food lovers are cheap, fast, and easy. (107)
Seriously this book is hilarious and will make you roar with laughter and feel all the feels you can. Which is one of the main points of concern for me . . . how could you fit a decent romance into such a small book? Well, very carefully and with simple, simple exposition and little twists that make you adore it all.

One of my main loves: the back story. The whole plot is centered around a few events that transpired in the past and how ridiculously important they are now (like Nicolette's dad leaving her and having another kid -- scandalous!).

And also: Jared. Jared. He's everything you want when your life is falling apart.

Unfortunately: I felt as though a bit more could have been done characterization wise. The main character is perfectly fine and dynamic, but most of the other characters seem like still pictures. But other than that, this book is one of those rainy day, just got terrible news, anything kinda books.

- Marlon

Kiersten's Top Ten Uses for an Unworn Prom Dress Review
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Word Rating: Unbelievably Fun

Top Ten Uses for an Unworn Prom Dress follows the lovely Nic Antonovich through her various different struggles. Nic's prom date ditched her right before prom, leaving her to sulk with her unworn dress. Although the book starts out as Nic just trying to get over the embarrassment that came from being dumped at the last minute, the reader is gradually drawn into the messed up life of Nicolette Antonovich.

Every time I think about it, it amazes me just how many conflicts are packed in this book. Nic struggles in so many different ways throughout this book. From family to volleyball to boys, Nic's life keeps throwing problems at her. The greatest thing about Nic is how she gets through it all. She may need some support along the way, but that doesn't stop her from accomplishing what she sets out to do. I love the way Tina Ferraro built Nic with all these problems she faces and how she's such a fighter. There are so many sides to Nic that we get to see throughout the story and I absolutely loved all of them.

What I love about the romance in this book is how Nic's problems aren't magically solved when she falls in love, but rather that Nic falls in love as a boy she's known for so long helps her solve her problems. He's not the hero who magically fixes everything, but he provides a helping hand and comforts her when she's upset.

While Top Ten Uses for an Unworn Prom Dress may not be some life changing book, it's definitely enjoyable. I bought this book several years ago, and I've read it so many times since. This is absolutely one of my favorite books and I highly recommend reading it if you want something on the lighter side and impeccably sweet.

- Kiersten

What would you do with an unworn prom dress?
Let us know in the comments!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Stuffed Animal Saturday [1]

As a new blog, we've been trying a lot of things out - some of which work and some of which don't. One thing we tried out was Stacking the Shelves. After just two Stacking the Shelves posts, we realized it wasn't quite working for us. There were some of us (Kiersten) who would get countless books in the two weeks between posts, and then there were some of us (Marlon) who wouldn't get a single book. Stacking the Shelves just didn't work for all our different book buying habits. When we decided to pick a new meme to replace Stacking the Shelves, there were some that intrigued us, but ultimately we weren't in love with any of them. Through some mild joking, we came up with this: Stuffed Animal Saturdays. The idea of Stuffed Animal Saturdays is that we show the book we're currently reading with one of our favorite stuffed animals and discuss our stuffed animal's opinion (well, it's really our opinion, but that's besides the point). Although this may seem kind of, er, odd, we hope you enjoy our quirky, new feature! - Kiersten

Hello, everyone! This is Jesse and he and I are currently enjoying Mermaid in Chelsea Creek by Michelle Tea. (Even though Jesse loves mermaids, he isn't too fond of swimming, so he thought reading about a creek would be better than being in one.)

So far: At this point in the book, Jesse really likes the story! He thinks the characters are really interesting and he especially loves the way the author writes. He's still in the beginning and he loves the mysteriousness of the book and the way the mystery carries into the town of Chelsea as well as into the characters, especially Sophie (although he thinks Sophie shouldn't let Ella be so mean.)

A Sneak Peek: Jesse thought one of the best parts of the book so far has been the prologue. He thinks Michelle Tea has a fantastic way with words and the prologue just oozes magic. He wants to share one of his favorite passages with you!
     All of the stories were different, but then all of them were exactly the same. And the stories brought from the many places were all different, but then, they were all the same. And the oldest story, the silliest and most dangerous story, the saddest and most hopeful story, was the story of the girl who would bring them magic, the girl who would come to save them all.
     "Save us from what?" snapped the adult children, impatient with these old women and the hocus-pocus they'd never been able to shake, even with their electricity and televisions, their blenders and flushing toilets and the million plastic gadgets they could never have imagined in their village. And the old women told them about how a girl would come and she would be a magic girl, she would twist the world we think we know and knot it into a bow, she would stop time and peer into your heart, she would take your troubles--and yours, and yours--and they would pass through her and into the earth. 
Jesse really liked how this passage set up the story to come, and how it made him want to keep reading to find out who this girl would be. He especially thought the first two sentences were absolutely brilliant and fabulously written. He thought this would be a good excerpt to share because it shows just how much mystery is wrapped up in this book and just how well it is written. He can't wait to read more!

If you think this book is as interesting as Jesse and I do, check back next Thursday for a full length review on it by yours truly.

- Noor

Are you and your stuffed animal reading anything interesting? 
Let us know in your own Stuffed Animal Saturday!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Review: Cleopatra's Daughter - Michelle Moran

Cleopatra's Daughter
Michelle Moran
Series: Egyptian Royals Collection (No particular order)
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Word Rating: Stunning.
On Goodreads

THIS WAS AWESOME. STOP WHAT YOU’RE DOING, AND READ THIS. It was short and sweet and oh my god, absolutely beautiful (I’ll explain the .5 lacking from the stars in a bit). I’m a huge fan of historical fiction and words cannot express how hard it is to find the good stuff. Mhm mhm good.

Now that I have fangirled, I shall explain. Cleopatra’s Daughter is told by Selene, (who, as can be inferred, is Cleopatra’s Daughter) who is smart and fabulous and so so strong. She tells her epic story and conveys her relationship with her twin brother, Alexander, and her little brother, Ptolemy. Can I take a minute to be really pleased with Selene. She is scholarly and kind and very charitable and is even talented and can draw brilliant architecture – these traits attract Marcellus, the air to Octavian’s throne. I SHIP IT SO HARD. Not only are the sparks between Marcellus and Selene super adorable, so was Selene's relationship with Alex. It’s so hard to find a book that accurately portrays a sibling relationship in a way that makes sense for their situation. Think about this: two scared 11-year-olds have lost their parents and have been moved to a new place, and have to watch over their little brother. The twins are playful and affectionate with one another, mostly because of their super close relationship (which can probably be attributed to their suffering and loss).

This review seems not very put together, but honestly, that’s how I felt about the story. The feels. The criticism I have about the story comes here. Though there were so many tragedies that these kids faced, I don’t believe they were explained in a way that made me truly feel for them. Selene seemed a bit idealistic for her situation, although I admired her for making it through such a tough time. I almost wish that this story would exist between both her and Alexander’s point of views, so that both of their personalities would be exemplified.

Even though there was that minor problem with the story, I really really loved it. The story is both historical and modern, in that Moran stuck to the truth (only straying from real life to create one rebellion that flowed well in the book) and also created a world that I completely empathized with. Selene grows up far from home, with people she doesn’t connect with, and honestly, I get what that feels like. However, she is also placed in a situation where she needs to be able to prove to Octavian, her caretaker, that she is worth keeping around after she enters adulthood. Selene is an appealing and realistic heroine, and I found myself running to the end of the book to find out what happens to her.

I especially love historical fiction because I love two things - history and books - and Moran does a fantastic job of making history come to life in this beyond exciting story - the romance and intrigue in it makes this a great read for anybody.

- Amrutha

How do you like your historical fiction: by the book or more fiction than fact?
Let us know in the comments!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Review: The Book Thief - Markus Zusak

The Book Thief
Markus Zusak
Series: N/A
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Word Rating: Breathtaking
On Goodreads

The Book Thief was one of those books I’d been meaning to read for quite a while, but it had just never been the right time. I finally got around to reading this glorious piece of literature and it was phenomenal. Markus Zusak has written something new, different, and extraordinary. The Book Thief was so gripping and alluring that it was near impossible to put down. The best part was all the seemingly unconnected strings that tied up into a perfectly neat bow at the end. The way people and places and incidents connected was simply awe-inducing.

 The novel centers around a little girl, Liesel. She lives with a foster family in Nazi Germany and forms a love of books, and a habit of stealing them. Of course, at the time of her first act of thievery, she does not know how to read, and as the book progresses, so does her level of reading. I really loved Liesel as a character. I loved the way she thought and her way of handling situations. I loved that she was not afraid to stand up for herself and was always taking risks. Liesel was such a dynamic character, who really grew over the course of the novel.

 Aside from Liesel, The Book Thief features so many great characters. There’s Rudy Steiner, Liesel’s friend who is a bit crazy but ultimately loyal and caring; Mama, her foster mother who is strict and ruthless, but loves Liesel on the inside; Papa, her foster father, who is kind, loving, and teaches her to read; and Max, the Jew Liesel’s family hides in their basement. With the addition of Max to their little household, Liesel learns a lot more than she ever thought she would – about Germany, about the Fuhrer, and about herself. The characters in this book all have their own special air about them that makes them feel real. Mama is a tyrant and is very “good at being furious. In fact, you could say that [Mama] had a face decorated with constant fury. That was how the creases were made in the cardboard texture of her complexion.” Rudy is always asking Liesel for a kiss. These characters come alive on the pages.

And then there is one very important “character”: the narrator. You see, The Book Thief, as you can tell from the very first page, is narrated by death itself. And death makes a wonderful narrator. It slips in personal comments throughout the book, and speaks with remarkable eloquence. When describing a person Liesel and Rudy encounter, he does not simply list his attributes. He says
“He was a delicate frame. He was white hair. He was a black raincoat, brown pants, decomposing shoes, and a mouth – and what a mouth it was.” 
I particularly loved this because man was the very qualities that made him up, rather than a blank canvas with these qualities spilled about it.

And I can tell you now that our narrator is no bystander, watching as this all unfolds. Oh, he is as much involved in the story as Liesel. When we first learn of Max’s existence, Death tells us
“The juggling comes to end now, but the struggling does not. I have Liesel Meminger in one hand, Max Vandenburg in the other. Soon, I will clap them together. Just give me a few pages.” 
Can I say just how much I loved this phrase? Something about the way it is spoken (come to think of it, most things said by our grim narrator make me feel this way), the way it hints at what’s to come, and the way it reminds us that this is a story just gave me chills when reading it for the first time.

One of my favorite things about The Book Thief was the narrator’s interjections. Sometimes they would be conversation bits, or facts about a character, or a sneak peek of what was to come. They gave the book a unique feel, and added a very refreshing type of break between paragraphs.

 Markuz Zusak’s beautiful diction and articulation, through the narration of Death, definitely set this book apart from any that I’ve read before. One of my favorite lines was
 “She was the book thief without the words. Trust me, though, the words were on their way, and when they arrived, Liesel would hold them in her hands like the clouds, and she would wring them out like the rain.”
There are so many beautiful gems of writing and dialogue throughout the book, and all the words intertwine so complexly and wonderfully that each page just left me wanting more. When people say authors “craft” works, they must be speaking of Markus Zusak, because these words were delicately sewn into the hearts of every person who has read a single line of this book.

There is little else I can say without spoiling the book, which I would certainly hate to do. There are so many components that make it so breathtaking, like the accordion player and the growing book thievery and The Book Thief itself (you’ll see what I mean when you read it). It left me wanting to be able to read it for the first time all over again instead of going back to reality. It’s one of the most magnificent books I’ve read in a while and I absolutely loved it.

- Noor

Would you risk your family's safety to hide someone in your basement?
Let us know in the comments!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Review: Branded - Abi Ketner and Missy Kalicicki

Abi Ketner and Missy Kalicicki
Series: Sinners, #1
Genre: Dystopian, Young/New Adult, Romance, Action
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Word Rating: Amazing
On Goodreads

When I found Branded, I immediately bought it after reading the concept – I was really intrigued by a society that literally brands people for their sins. Branded definitely did not disappoint me.

The society of Branded is crazy. I could never have imagined something like Lexi’s society until I read this. In Branded, the Commander calls the shots. He can make whatever rules he wants for whatever reason he wants and doesn’t have to explain. The Commander thought the seven deadly sins were the reason for all the bad things in the world, so anyone accused of a sin was branded and sent off to the Hole, the place where all sinners are forced to live. Just for being accused. There’s no trial – any one accused of sinning is assumed guilty and branded. That’s precisely how Lexi ends up there.

Branded follows Lexi when she is accused of lust and thrown into the Hole. When Lexi goes into the Hole, she has pretty much given up on life. After her whole family either abandons or betrays her, Lexi is left very meek and feeling like no one cares about her. I absolutely loved watching Lexi evolve throughout the story. While she starts out accepting her fate even though she was wrongly accused, Lexi grows to be a confident girl with the will to survive and get out of the Hole.

While Lexi’s actions and developments felt so real, Cole, the guard assigned to watch and protect her, was kind of all over and never fully made sense to me. From the beginning of the story, Cole is nice to Lexi for what seems like no reason. Instalove? It’s the only possibility I can think of for him caring for her so much almost immediately after they met. Even though this didn’t make sense to me, I really loved Cole. The way he cared for Lexi through everything was so sweet. This was definitely a romance that made my fingers all tingly and filled me with joy, although there were a few corny lines. I was especially happy for Lexi finally finding someone who truly cared for her and made her happy when her life had been so dismal.

The romance wasn’t the only aspect of Branded that evoked emotion in me. Throughout the entire story the reader gets tastes of the trauma that Lexi went through before being thrown into the Hole. My heart absolutely broke when I found out exactly what that trauma was (and it was by no means predictable!). Abi Ketner and Missy Kalicicki did a phenomenal job expressing Lexi’s emotion. When Lexi was scared, I was scared; when she was desperate, I could feel her desperation deep down to my core. Branded threw me through so many emotions that I didn’t expect. It made me laugh, it made me smile, it made me cry – it was just wonderful.

One thing that was sort of disturbing but completely necessary to the world building was the violence in the Hole. Not only are sinners branded and sent to live in the Hole, they’re also treated as though they aren’t human beings. Like the Commander does whatever he wants in the society, the guards do whatever they want in the Hole. Without protection by a guard, a pretty, young girl like Lexi, branded for lust, would be attacked by anyone, including the guards. The Hole is a place of chaos with no rules. The people living in the Hole have been reduced to nothing and they act that way. There was so much violence and death in Branded, but it shows exactly how unhinged and desperate the people who live there are.

The end of Branded wasn’t quite a cliffhanger, but it definitely left me wanting more of Lexi and Cole’s story – I absolutely cannot wait to find out what happens to their world after the events of the book. I saw one of the “twists” at the end coming, but I think it was just me trying to figure out how a twist could work in rather than the twist actually being obvious. Overall, I really loved Branded. There were some minor mistakes in the Kindle copy I had (sider instead of spider, on instead of in, etc.), but nothing that took away from the story. I highly recommend this book for anyone looking for an emotional journey through such an intriguing dystopia.

- Kiersten

How would you feel if you were wrongly accused of sinning?
Let us know in the comments!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Review: Torn - David Massey

David Massey
Series: N/A
Genre: Realistic Fiction, War, Young Adult, Action, Mystery, Love
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Word Rating: Thrilling
On Goodreads

This novel is, if anything, extremely blunt and forward. It does not hold back. From the blurb on the back cover, I first thought it would be a mediocre action-drama with blood and guts and a little bit of love, as tacky but as heartfelt as the rest. Fortunately, I found that David Massey is anything but tacky. This piece is wrought with emotion, humor, suspense, and insight on the human mind under pressure.

What struck me the most was the sense of realism that absolutely earns this novel its genre. It may well have been a series of letters. Massey was able to clearly describe the environment of a war that others struggle to understand or even imagine, all through the eyes of a young woman who seems so genuine it is difficult to consider she is the fictitious work of any man at all.
As if in answer, there is the crackle of gunfire behind us in the village. It looks like the rest of the platoon has troubles of its own. (Massey, 23)
What I loved the most: this simple and effective writing. Not only does this bit lend us important information about the rest of the platoon, but it gives us incredible insight on the people involved. If a regular person were in this situation, the adrenaline and gunfire would have them running or insane. Instead, Private Nielson doesn't even consider it. There is this horror:
The walls around it are pockmarked with bullet holes and blood. (72)
Which is beautifully measured by the mystery elements I'd like not to give away, and the lighthearted bits (like the football match) that allow the characters -- and you -- to have some breathing space. The relief and that spark of romance, as well, are balanced by the fear of the war, the mysteries surrounding the girl, Aroush, and the fact that everyone in this novel has something to hide. Everyone has layers and layers that Massey shows can only be exposed under the harsh conditions they are forced to face.

The relationships formed under the pressure of war are astounding. For instance, even in the first few pages, Ellie and Yugi bond like they'd been friends for a lifetime and Yugi would protect her from anything. Similar unlikely relationships develop and change Ellie from the girl she was before tracing blood on the field, especially her friendship with Husna, a thirteen year old boy.

It is a short novel but it has much to say about human nature and society. However, I would have loved for there to be a few more chapters of it, maybe? Some more exposition on the feelings between Ben and Ellie, because at times the novel can get quite rough, and not even the quasi-mystical aura of Aroush could soften it. But I suppose that's what Massey teaches. War is hard, but it is war.

- Swordfish

How do you think you could handle being in Ellie's shoes? Would you have been able to cope with all she was forced to go through? 
Let us know in the comments!