Monthly Archives: December 2013

Razorbill Rewind 2013 – Two Lesley Livingston Favourites

So,  since the conception of this blog, River and I have been making friends with wonderful people within the publishing industry. One lovely lady we get to work with is Vikki Vansickle, who is a fabulous lady who always gives us the up and up on all the awesome YA and Middle Grade books that will be releasing from Penguin and their various imprints. I thought it would be fun to spotlight a book that came from Penguin as a way to say thank you to Penguin and Vikki in particular, for all their support over this year in helping us get our feet wet in this crazy world of book blogging.

But instead of giving you one release to talk about, I’m actually going to give you two by the same author: the amazing, quirky Lesley Livingston. She released three books I adored this year, but two I’m going to spotlight because they were published by Razorbill/Penguin Canada.

The first is How to Curse in Hieroglyphics, Lesley’s co-write with Jonathan Llyr.

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What I loved about How to Curse in Hieroglyphics is the positive energy it instills in the reader. For every negative incident that happens in the story,  Cheryl and Tweed always find ways to solve the problem and try their best to make the right decisions. They are written so realistically, despite the film-ish dream worlds they concoct. Did I meant they come up with the best plotlines and solutions ever? Plus the humor is beyond brilliant, and both Livingston and Llyr really, in a lot of ways, show that they understand the mind of twelve year old children. This book is a complete must-read for any middle grade fans, and if my mini-pitch doesn’t convince you, may be my review will? I distinctively remember giving it all the stars.

The second work by Lesley Livingston I wanted to share might be one folks may have forgotten about because it released so early, is Every Never After, the follow up to Once Ever Never.

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I feel like this series is completely under-appreciated and valued, meanwhile it has so much to offer its readers. There’s time travel, Arthurian history, cute boys, craziness. What is not to love? Clare and Allie are fabulous characters who actually have an awesome friendship. They actually care about each other, are insanely supportive, and simply right for each other in a lot of ways. While the backdrop of this series is nutty and wonderful, its their relationship that truly made me love the second novel over the first. This book didn’t suffer from a middle book syndrome and it had me beyond excited for the release of the final book.

And there you have it! These are two books that I felt went a little under the radar and just happened to be released by the same author. Lesley also writes the Starling series (Harper Teen) and has another trilogy called Wonderous Strange (Harper Teen), which I have sadly not read yet.

I hope you enjoyed this little author and publisher spotlight, and I hope 2014 continues to be a strong year for readers, writers and publishers alike.

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ARC Review – Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

18106318Title:  Cruel Beauty

Author: Rosamund Hodge

Rating: ★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: Based on the classic fairy tale Beauty and the Beast, Cruel Beauty is a dazzling love story about our deepest desires and their power to change our destiny.

Since birth, Nyx has been betrothed to the evil ruler of her kingdom-all because of a foolish bargain struck by her father. And since birth, she has been in training to kill him…

Huge thank you to the publisher for letting me read an advanced copy of this. I’m writing an honest review to say thank you

River’s Review:

3.5 Stars.

I went into this with low expectations because a lot of the reviews were bad, but I rather enjoyed it. I DID get very bored about 50% into it and thankfully I pushed on through and then around 70% it picked up again.
The writing was beautiful, and the story was interesting. This is NOTHING like Graceling so I don’t know why that’s on the synopsis. It’s also not that ‘high fantasy’ either. It’s pretty light fantasy with some Greek elements.

Overall the story was good, but I’m not a huge fan of re-tellings or fairytales, so this was a bit out of my normal genre. I also was NOT a fan of the romance and the ‘love-triangle’. I also didn’t really like it when the ‘L’ word started flying around. And I felt that the whole marriage thing was a bit out of place for a YA book… I did like the characters a lot though! Nyx was sassy (tho I was confused at why she was so violent towards her husband… I was under the impression that she was supposed to woo him and kill him…) and the Gentle Lord (whatever his name was, I can’t be bothered to look it up right now, Ingenfixealdkjf something) was smarmy, but in a charming way.

I really liked how the curse worked out and the end was great.

So if you like fantasy or re-tellings then you’ll probably love this.

Sam’s Review:

Coming Soon.

ARC Review – Love Letters to the Dead, by Ava Dellaira

18140047Title:  Love Letters to the Dead

Author: Ava Dellaira

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: It begins as an assignment for English class: Write a letter to a dead person. Laurel chooses Kurt Cobain because her sister, May, loved him. And he died young, just like May did. Soon, Laurel has a notebook full of letters to people like Janis Joplin, Amy Winehouse, Amelia Earhart, Heath Ledger, and more; though she never gives a single one of them to her teacher. She writes about starting high school, navigating new friendships, falling in love for the first time, learning to live with her splintering family.

Huge thank you to Macmillian and Netgalley for this advance reader’s copy.

Sam’s Review: 

You can tell that Ava Dellaira is a protege of Stephen Chbosky with her debut novel Love Letters to the Dead. There’s something about the  nature intimate of Laurel, her desire to reach out to those who have already passed, and her need to find comfort in someone or something that may or may not be listening to her.

This book is beautifully written and has moments that are clever and sweet. It’s also a messy gut puncher when it wants to be as well. Laurel’s voice was so easy to fall into, you wanted to know more about her pain and why she was reaching out to the unknown. She wanted someone to understand how she feels about losing her sister, lacking direction, and just trying to cope overall.

Everything about this story worked for me, even the romance between Laurel and Sky, though at times I found myself so frustrated with their lack of communication. However, even with those feelings, it made sense why the two often behaved the way they did and never fully saw eye-to-eye. The ending though was sweet and I did find myself rooting for them, even when I was mad at them.

There’s just something about the style that resonated with me. Perhaps it was the fact that its told entirely in letters, or its the fact that its on a topic I understand very well. I found myself nodding along with Laurel’s feelings of displacement and grief — they felt so natural and I appreciated that approach. I think I would have been more disappointed had it come across very forced.

There’s a lot to like about Love Letters to the Dead, though it’s definitely a difficult read that you need to be in the right frame of mind for. It can be dark, but often you’ll find yourself humming along to the songs many of the dead artists had written, and often reminds us just how hard death can really hit us and how we have to adapt when we lose someone. Loved, loved, loved this one.

ARC Review – Being Sloane Jacobs by Lauren Morrill

Untitled-1Title:  Being Sloane Jacobs

Author: Lauren Morrill

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: When the two Sloanes meet by chance in Montreal and decide to trade places for the summer, each girl thinks she’s the lucky one: no strangers to judge or laugh at Sloane Emily, no scouts expecting Sloane Devon to be a hero. But it didn’t occur to Sloane E. that while avoiding sequins and axels she might meet a hockey hottie—and Sloane D. never expected to run into a familiar (and very good-looking) face from home. It’s not long before the Sloanes discover that convincing people you’re someone else might be more difficult than being yourself.

Huge thank you to Delacorte and Netgalley for an advance copy of this book.

River’s Review:

Okay, to be honest I requested this, forgot about it, and then when I got it it sat on my to-read shelf forever because I wasn’t in the mood for contemporary and then I wasn’t in the mood for a ‘summer’ book. My co-author was like BUT WINTER SPORTS and I was like meh~ but my poor Netgalley account hasn’t seen an update in ages, so I decided to go for it and OMG THIS WAS SO CUTE AND MADE ME SO HAPPY.

I’ve never been great at sports, but I had MY sport. I horseback rode for 6 years, and sadly quit to be more active in high school things (I lamely quit for cheerleading and band). But I was GOOD at riding. And I probably could have made something of myself if I had gotten into competing more seriously (rly, I went to only 1 show and got a blue ribbon in my very first dressage class and I didn’t even have the routine fully memorized). So I totally love things about people who are passionate about sports. And I really like hockey AND figure skating (yes I had my little-girl dreams of being a famous figure skater as I taught myself how to do simple spins on my frozen pond in the winter), so I really enjoyed this.

If you know me, you know I HATE multiple or alternating POV books. But if they’re done right I don’t mind. And this was done really well. I could tell the two girls voices apart and had no trouble distinguishing their stories.

I really liked BOTH Sloane’s, but I liked Sloane Devon slightly more. And I loved how their lives were weird juxtaposed images of each other.

Some of this was predictable, but there were ALL THE FEELS so it didn’t even really matter because I was so busy tearing up or swooning that I didn’t care. And the ending made me laugh so hard.

I’m definitely going to check out Lauren Morrill’s other work!

Sam’s Review: 

Huge thank you to Delacorte and Netgalley for the advance copy of this book!

Being Sloane Jacobs was an absolute surprise for me. The premise gives you a sense that this could be a very light-hearted,Parent Trap-esque romp, and it’s actually a lot deeper than that.

I absolutely love stories that take place in Canada. I LOVE being able to point out in a story “Hey! I’ve been there!” and giggle to myself — with this story set in Montreal it was so easy to visualize where Sloane Emily and Devon were roaming around, and I think Morrill did a great job of making the setting feel vibrant, so good on her!

I ADORED both Sloanes. I loved that Sloane Emily is a bit of a princess who comes from a broken home and an affair that hangs over her head, and I love that Sloane Devon is such a tough gal (I mean, you have to be to play hockey), yet she is surprisingly perspective and kind. Each has a problem they are ultimately running away from, yet are forced to confront, but Morrill does a great job of making it all come together. Sure there were parts that were predictable, but I didn’t care considering how easy it was to fall in love with both girl’s voices.

I think what surprised me about Being Sloane Jacobs is that it really is a book where you expect one thing and actually get another. There’s a wonderful amount of cunning that takes place, you have two girls switching sports and actually LOVING the change, you have summer romances that actually are fun and work well. Actually, the romances were so EASY to root for, and I was happy overall.

Being Sloane Jacobs, for me, might me one of the more fun and surprisingly engaging reads I’ve encountered this year. It’s not only a great contemporary story full of charm, but it has just enough darkness to make these girls feel so real. It’s definitely worth the read when it releases, and one I urge those who love contemporary to check out.

ARC Review – Avalon by Mindee Arnett

17149396Title:  Avalon (Avalon #1)

Author: Mindee Arnett

Rating: ★★★★ / ★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: A ragtag group of teenage mercenaries who crew the spaceship Avalon stumble upon a conspiracy that could threaten the entire galaxy in this fascinating and fast-paced sci-fi adventure from author Mindee Arnett.

Huge thank you to Balzer + Bray and Edelweiss for an advance copy of this book!

River’s Review:

So I really really loved this but at the same time wanted to love it even MORE than I did. When I read this I was super burned out on contemporary and needed sci-fi sooooo badly. I dove into this and loved it so much. But at the same time I just wanted MORE.

With all of the comparisons to Firefly I had a lot of trouble getting my head around the fact that this was NOT Firefly. Don’t compare this to Firefly guys. Jeth is way too young to be Mal. And that hurt. So once I got over that, I was okay, but left feeling a little flat and wanting something more from Jeth and his crew. And I didn’t get it.

I also wanted more show and less tell. The info dumps were just… bleh. I kept picturing things in my mind like a movie to make up for it. God, there were some missed opportunities with the imagery and I just wanted to shake the book and be like WORDS MATCH THE PICTURE IN MY HEAD.

Aside from those two points, and the slightly flat, stereotypical characters, I really really really loved this. I loved flying around space. I loved the crime lords. I loved the double dealing. The corrupt government. Broken space ships. And I did love Jeth once I stopped trying to picture a young Mal. I loved how devoted he was to his crew, how much he loved his sister, and his ship.

The romance… I could have done without. It was too rushed and too contrived. Not totally instalove, but just… idk. Again, too much show, not enough feel.

Read this if you’re a sci-fi fan and need something entertaining to read. And don’t compare it to Firefly.

Now pardon me while I go re-watch Cowboy Bebop for the 10th time..

Sam’s Review:

3.5


In some ways, it’s hard not to compare Avalon to Firefly. The characters within this novel have little traits that just scream influence in some ways. Jeth, our protagonist, is such a cheeky bastard, who would do anything for his crew, his ship, and the world that is in front of him. Does this sound familiar to someone?

In a lot of ways, it was hard for me to look past the level of influence that Avalon has borrowed from in terms of space westerns. It’s hard not to see it, no less. Yet, it’s a fun ride with a lot of great ideas that are its own as well. There’s a lot of info-dumping and telling not showing, but I do feel like Arnett is really trying to help the reader visualize the world and what the characters have to face in order to survive the wastes within space. I love books that allow me to feel like I can travel through space and understand what is happening within it. I think Arnett does a great job of giving the reader the connection they need to follow Jeth and his crew.

I wish she had done more with the characters though. At times they were a bit flat and stereotyped (Sierra in particular fits this bill) and it actually upset me at times because their was the potential to make everyone interesting, but other than Jeth, they don’t get the full realization they need to feel like real characters. It’s like, we know Jeth and Lizzie are brother and sister, but let’s try to deepen that understanding a bit more, y’know?

Still, Avalon is an insanely fast read, action-packed, and just plain fun. If you can avoid making comparisons there is tons to enjoy here, but if you’re like me, it’s hard to push what you see aside and look at it as its own entity.

Books We’re Excited For Releasing in 2014

River and I are totally trapped under a pile of books at the moment, but that doesn’t me we aren’t excited to read more. Today we’re going to share our Top Five that we are most excited to get our grubby hands on.

River’s Top Five:

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1) Salvage, by Alexandra Duncan (Greenwillow)

2) Tease, by Amanda Maciel (Balzer + Bray)

3) (Don’t You) Forget About Me, by by Kate Karyus Quinn (Harper Teen)

4) After the End, by Amy Plum (Harper Teen)

5) Alienated, by Melissa Landers (Disney Hyperion)

Sam’s Top Five:

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1) Guy in Real Life, by Steve Brezenoff  (Balzer + Bray)

2) Dorothy Must Die, by Danielle Paige (Harper Teen)

3) Prisoner of Night and Fog, by Anne Blankman (Balzer + Bray)

4)  The Rule of Three, by Eric Walters (Razorbill Canada)

5) (Don’t You) Forget About Me, by by Kate Karyus Quinn (Harper Teen)

So these are the books that River and I are beyond excited about. One treat I will let you in on is that “Guy in Real Life” is going to be participating in an upcoming feature over at RPGamer.com (video games in a book blog? How dare you, Sam!), so there will be a few goodies related to that one that will likely be cross-posted to here.

Coming up River and I are going to share our Top Five Favourite Books that we read in 2013. Keep in mind they may be actual 2013 releases, or just books we finally got to within the year. In the comments let us know what 2014 releases you’re excited for and why you simply cannot wait for them!

ARC Review – Me Since You by Laura Weiss

mesinceyouTitle:  Me Since You

Author: Laura Weiss

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: Before and After. That’s how Rowan Areno sees her life now. Before: she was a normal sixteen-year-old; a little too sheltered by her police officer father and her mother. After: everything she once believed has been destroyed in the wake of a shattering tragedy, and every day is there to be survived.

If she had known, on that Friday in March when she cut school, that a random stranger’s shocking crime would have traumatic consequences, she never would have left campus. If the crime video never went viral, maybe she could have saved her mother, grandmother, and herself from the endless replay of heartache and grief.

Finding a soul mate in Eli, a witness to the crime who is haunted by losses of his own, Rowan begins to see there is no simple, straightforward path to healing wounded hearts. Can she learn to trust, hope, and believe in happiness again?

River’s Review:

Huge thank you to the publisher for this ARC. I’m writing an honest review to say thank you.

Wow. This book is emotional. I can’t remember the last time I’ve cried MULTIPLE TIMES while reading a book.

On Goodreads there are two different synopsis for this, and if you read the one attached to the hardcover, you’ll get some of the story spoiled… the one attached to the kindle version doesn’t say exactly what happens… but there is death and this is the story of losing a parent and dealing with the grief that follows.

There’s also a sub-plot with a dog that utterly wrecked me.

And this book deals with suicide and the way it was handled was really good. I hate it when books use suicide as a gimmick or plot device and this… was not. It was deep and terrifying and so utterly sad.

If you’re up for a really, really emotional book, this is worth a read.

Sam’s Thoughts:

Huge thank you to MTV Books and Netgalley for an advance reader copy of this book.

I was dreading reading this book, if only because my co-blogger told me repeatedly to brace myself for a lot of what the subject matter was about.

No matter how much I prepared myself, I knew I wasn’t ever going to be ready. This novel deals with the death of a father, a daughter who attempts to cope with grief, and a family that attempts to cling to each other in their time of loss. This is the situation I lived in now for almost a year, and while my father didn’t commit suicide like Rowen’s, I found myself easily connecting to her because of what she was going through.

This novel does not sugarcoat death, grief or loss. In fact, it’s realistic and does an amazing job of dealing with the more complicated emotions that exist when someone is grieving. Every time Rowan wrote in her grief journal, I found myself nodding along with her pleas. She wanted answers. I often find myself talking to my dad, whether it be in decisions I am making, or when I’m having a good cry. It’s hard because you often wonder why someone has been taken from you. There’s a feeling of abandonment, frustration, and relief takes along time to achieve. Admittedly, I know for myself, that I am not there yet.

Watching Rowan’s mother cling to her daughter is how I feel with my own mother. While my mother and I don’t fight the way Rowan and her mother do, I understood their frustrations. There’s a suffocating feeling with grief, and one you can’t endure alone. Moreover, it can be harder to grieve with someone else around you, but you learn to find strength in each other to keep moving and going. Rowan also had that in Eli, thankfully, because let’s face it — when you’re grieving you need the biggest support system you can find and one that respects when you want their friendship and when you need time alone. This book tackles all of this emotions and feelings with such ease and yet…

I had to put it down so many times. Not because it was a bad book, but because sections of it always felt too close to home for me. One scene in particular, Rowan’s father’s funeral, was done almost identical to my father’s, right down to the man wearing his work clothes in his casket. That image alone made me think back to my father’s funeral, and I knew I had to put the book away for awhile. This book is emotional and raw, and it’s not the best read for those dealing with loss. It’s not a book you seek comfort in, but how Rowan goes through the motions, the whirlwind — I’ve been there and I am still living it. That’s why for me, as painful as this read was, it was important as well.

There’s nothing light about Me Since You. It’s one of those books that deals with loss and grief in the right way but doesn’t force emotion or beg for the reader’s sympathy. Rowan isn’t a likable person, and in a way that’s why a lot of this novel works so well. This is a book you also need to be in the right headspace for, because if you’re like me and weren’t, the amount of angry and sad tears that will be shed are many.