Monday, January 25, 2016

Review: The Selection Stories

Title: The Selection Stories: The Prince and the Guard
Author: Kiera Cass
Release Date: February 4th 2014
Publisher: HarperTeen
Pages: 227 pages
Rating: 4 Cows

Goodreads Description: Two novellas set in the world of Kiera Cass's #1 New York Times bestselling Selection series are now available in print for the first time. The Prince and The Guard both offer captivating views into the hearts and minds of the two men fighting to win America Singer's love. This collection also features exclusive bonus content, including a sneak peek at The One, the eagerly anticipated third novel in the Selection series.

Before America arrived at the palace to compete in the Selection, there was another girl in Prince Maxon's life. The Prince opens the week before the Selection begins and follows Maxon through the first day of the competition.

Raised as a Six, Aspen Leger never dreamed that he would find himself living in the palace as a member of the royal guard. In The Guard, readers get an inside look at Aspen's life within the palace walls—and the truth about a guard's world that America will never know.

            I read The Selection Series earlier in 2015 and fell in love with the books! Although The Heir wasn’t my favorite and I ended up DNF’ing it, I wasn’t opposed to The Selection Stories because I knew they were told from Maxon and Aspen’s POV and they were two of my favorite characters in the series.
            The Prince: I loved this short story the most because it was honestly a side of Maxon we didn’t really see in the books when they were told from America’s POV.  When I read the series, it always appeared as if Maxon had everything under control and was extremely sure of himself.  Always the diplomat, Maxon was calm and collected in many of the situations, including the time America kicked him in the gardens.  After reading The Prince though, I know that wasn’t entirely the case!  Maxon actually has a slight temper and he thought about sending her home for it.  Reading this story also showed just how relatable both Maxon and America’s experience was in the selection process.  Like America, Maxon struggled initially.  All his life he’s always lived in the palace and never really interacted with many people his age, especially girls. One of my favorite parts about The Prince was that the chapters were snippets of different moments in the series and not continuous.  Each of the chapters were memories from Maxon’s POV from some of the most important scenes in the books or some of the ones that stood out the most (for me, that would be the garden scene; girls kicking boys in the groin never fails to give me a good laugh).
            The Guard: Although I think it’s safe to say we all knew Aspen didn’t send America off to the selection process because he didn’t love her, I think I still felt some level of resentment towards Aspen for the role he played in the books.  He was the first to get angry when he saw just how close Maxon and America had become, but the truth of the matter is that his actions led to her arrival at the palace.  That being said, reading this story from his POV gave me a little more compassion for Aspen.  He’s torn between wanting to do what’s best for America and wanting to be the one she ends up with.  This internal battle he goes through makes for interesting chapters in The Guard, especially after he arrives as a guard at the palace and has to see American on a daily basis, but pretend as if he doesn’t know her.   One of my favorite parts about reading this from Aspen’s perspective is that we find out a few things we didn’t know about in The Selection Series.  For example, some of the moments that take place between Aspen and America’s maids are included in The Guard. I loved just how much respect Aspen showed towards them and the friendships he builds with them over time. 

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday (126)

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by Broke and the Bookish!

Top Ten Books I've Recently Added To My TBR
1. Passenger by Alexandra Bracken
2. Nettle King (Night and Nothing #3) by Katherine Harbour
3. Charmed (The Witch Hunter #2) by Michelle Krys
4. The Name of the Wind (The Kingkiller Chronicle #1) by Patrick Rothfuss
5. Dreamland by Robert L. Anderson 
6. The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
7. The Magicians by Lev Grossman
8. Wild Crush (Wild Cards #2) by Simone Elkeles 
9. The Martian by Andy Weir
10. The White Rose (The Lonely City #2) by Amy Ewing

Friday, January 15, 2016

Guest Post: Power to the (Human) People: Could The 5th Wave Be Real?

Today we are pleased to welcome back guest writer Beth Kelly to the blog.  


 Beth Kelly is a freelance writer and blogger based in Chicago, IL. After graduating from DePaul University with a degree in Communications she taught English throughout Southeast Asia. Now back in the Windy City, more often than not you can find her baking bread at home with her pet rabbit Anthony Hopkins. She’s currently studying Italian and hopes to travel to Europe this summer. Find her on Twitter @bkelly_88

Power to the (Human) People: Could The 5th Wave Be Real?

No trend in YA lit has gotten quite as much attention over the past couple of years than dystopian and post-apocalyptic novels. Readers young and old are both enticed and alarmed by a world that looks so much like our own but could crumble so easily around us. Heroes and heroines like Katniss Everdeen and The Maze Runner's Thomas are great for intense stories, but they also serve as mirrors for young readers. In the 2013 novel The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey, 16-year-old Cassie Sullivan must face "waves" of alien destruction that take out most of the world's population and push them back into a Stone Age-like existence. This novel and its sequels are especially chilling because the methods of otherworldly destruction are not too far off from some problems we’re seeing in the world today.

First Wave

In the novel, the first wave is an electromagnetic surge that results in mass power failure all over the world. Thousands die instantly due to failures in cars and airplanes, and the lack of functioning telephones and computers make mass communication impossible. While electric companies have long built natural gas and oil-powered generators close to customers, USA Today has shared that there have been over 360 attacks on the U.S. power grid over the last four years, proving that the power grid is certainly vulnerable to critical destruction and the potential for continuing attack attempts is high.

Second Wave

Due to the alien "Others" controlling the destruction in The 5th Wave, they know that a huge percentage of the Earth's people live in coastal areas, so they drop gigantic steel beams onto major fault lines to cause devastating tsunamis. Though this disaster was caused by a malevolent force in the novel, the type of destruction is completely possible for our own planet. In 2014 alone, natural disaster events like heatwaves, floods and ongoing droughts can all be traced back to man-made climate change, showing that we don't exactly need an alien race to come in and alter our world indefinitely.

Third Wave

The third wave in the novel is the one that is most immediately familiar to our own world. The aliens infect the Earth's birds with an Avian flu that turns humans into a bleeding viral time bomb ripe for infecting everyone around them. The disease spreads quickly and violently, much like so many diseases in our history, like Ebola or the Spanish flu. In 2015, scientists discovered a strain of bacteria that is resistant to most of our known antibiotics, which shows just how quickly an epidemic on Earth could get out of hand, and with no help in sight.

Fourth Wave

Though this wave is the one closest to science-fiction rather than real life, we do have a basis for why we should fear this type of upheaval. The fourth wave in the novel involves the aliens inhabiting the bodies of humans and gaining the trust of the survivors, resulting in them killing off 97 percent of the remaining population. In popular media like the 1978 film Invasion of the Body Snatchers, audiences have watched in horror as alien races take over families and next-door neighbors, showing that we can't always trust the people who we're closest to. This mirrors political fear stemming from the Red Scare during the Cold War and similar widespread events of panic all over the world, showing that humans have a strange history with the concept of trust.

Although post-apocalyptic tales like The 5th Wave (hitting screens January 22) are thrill rides meant to entertain, they are not created in a vacuum. More often than not, life imitates art, so we better keep our eyes on the world around us for who knows what’s waiting out in the galaxy beyond!
Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Cover Reveal: Right of First Refusal

Right of First Refusal
By: Dahlia Adler
Cover Reveal January 13th 2016


On the lacrosse field, Cait Johanssen gets what she wants. Off the field is another story. Because what she wants is the school's hot new basketball student-coach, Lawrence Mason, who also happens to be the guy who broke her heart in sports camp two years earlier.

But it's Cait's new roommate who's got him.

Cait and Mase agree it's best to keep their past a secret, but she doesn't expect him to completely ignore their history...or how much it'll hurt when he does. So when a friend on the basketball team asks her to pose as his girlfriend for a night, Cait can't turn down the opportunity for distraction. (Okay, and a little spite.) But what starts as an evening of fun turns into a fake relationship with more lies than the usually drama-free Cait can handle, and it's only keeping her from the one truth that's nagged at her for years: Why did Mase cut her out of his life to begin with?

And is it really too late to get him back?




Dahlia Adler is an Associate Editor of Mathematics by day, a blogger for B&N Teen Blog by night, and writes Contemporary YA and NA at every spare moment in between. She's the author of the Daylight Falls duology, Just Visiting, and the Radleigh University series, as well as over five billion tweets as @MissDahlELama. She lives in New York City with her husband and their overstuffed bookshelves.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday (125)

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by Broke and the Bookish!

Top Ten 2015 Releases I Meant To Get But Didn't
1.Walk on Earth a Stranger (The Gold Seer Trilogy #1) by Rae Carson
2. A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis
3. Emmy & Oliver by Robin Benway
4. Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
5. An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
6. Slasher Girls & Monster Boys by April Genevieve Tucholke
7. Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
8. Mirrored by Alex Flinn
9. Silver in the Blood by Jessica Day George
10. Joyride by Anna Banks

Monday, January 11, 2016

Review: Siege and Storm

Title: Siege and Storm
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Release Date: June 4th 2013
Publisher:Henry Holt and Co.
Pages: 435 pages
Rating: 5 Cows

Goodreads Description: Hunted across the True Sea, haunted by the lives she took on the Fold, Alina must try to make a life with Mal in an unfamiliar land. She finds starting new is not easy while keeping her identity as the Sun Summoner a secret. She can’t outrun her past or her destiny for long.

The Darkling has emerged from the Shadow Fold with a terrifying new power and a dangerous plan that will test the very boundaries of the natural world. With the help of a notorious privateer, Alina returns to the country she abandoned, determined to fight the forces gathering against Ravka. But as her power grows, Alina slips deeper into the Darkling’s game of forbidden magic, and farther away from Mal. Somehow, she will have to choose between her country, her power, and the love she always thought would guide her--or risk losing everything to the oncoming storm.

            Despite the obvious reasons for which Alina and Mal are on the run, I couldn’t help but feel a tiny bit disappointed knowing that the Darkling would not have a large presence in the beginning of Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo. Try as I might, I couldn’t put all of the blame on the Darkling for the terrible things he did in Shadow and Bone.  I wish I could say I have a strong aversion to villains in books, but we all know that just isn’t the case.  More times than not, I find myself falling hard for the bad characters and their dark natures.  Much like Alina did in the first book of the Grisha series, I fell for the allure of the Darkling, and shipped him and Alina BIG time.  Even though I knew what it would cost Mal (who I do love, despite my fondness for the Darkling), I would have chosen the Darkling over Mal anytime.
            Imagine my surprise when I found out the Darkling wouldn’t be gone for long!  Unfortunately for Alina and Mal, tracking them proved easy and in no time at all they find themselves back in the capture of the Darkling and his followers.  What I loved about the beginning of Siege and Storm was the setting, which moves from land, to sea, to air. With Grisha power, there seems to be no end to the feats they manage to accomplish.  Sturmond, the privateer the Darkling initially teams up with in order to travel the sea, also has a ship that they fly with the help of some of the Grisha in his crew.  This portion of the book and the time they spent in the air reminded me a lot of Magonia by Maria Dahvana Headley and Stardust by Neil Gaiman.
            NEW CHARACTERS: I love the twins, Tolya and Tamar, who are helping Sturmond when we first meet them.  Then of course there’s Sturmond himself, who becomes a potential love interest for Alina and who is downright hilarious. Despite his joking nature, he takes everything very seriously and his main goal is helping Ravka and saving the citizens from the Darkling himself.
            One aspect of this book that really stood out to me was this idea of human nature and good versus evil.  In most cases where the villain is automatically deemed evil and the hero has all the inherent good traits, many of the characters in Siege and Storm have some of both.  As Baghra reminds Alina on more than one occasion, “What is infinite? The universe and the greed of men.” The more power Grisha obtained, the more likely they would be drawn to using it and obtaining more. Although being the Sun Summoner is a great deal of responsibility for Alina, she knows that some of her dark nature is surfacing, especially with the addition of her amplifier.  She has to battle this throughout the book, or risk becoming like the Darkling himself.
            The ending of Siege and Storm was fantastic and I loved the short story "The Tailor" about Genya in the back of the book.  I had a little more compassion for her after reading the story and gaining some background about her time at the palace prior to the arrival of Alina.  

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday (124)

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by Broke and the Bookish!

Top Ten Resolutions/Goals I Have For 2016
1. Increase my Goodreads goal! This year I had a goal of 75, which I surpassed by 10 booksI think my goal for 2016 will be 100! 
2. Attend more bookish events. This year was insane to say the least, so I didn't have much spare time between work and school to attend many conferences or signings. 2016 I want to make sure I leave some time to do these things, since they're my favorite and I always have so much fun at them!
3. Write more. And actually FINISH things.  I know that sounds so vague, but I have a million and one writing projects I've started over the past few years and never actually finished.
4. Last year I set a goal of running my first half marathon (which I accomplished, despite a few injuries at the time).  For 2016 I want to do my first triathlon!
5. Drink more tea and water! I am the worst when it comes to staying hydrated!  It also doesn't help that I'm a huge coffee fan which actually dehydrates you (the caffeine content). 
6. Pay more compliments.  This was actually something I had in mind for last year and although I try to give compliments when I can, I didn't make it an actual habit of it last year.  I know how much it can improve my attitude and make me feel better to be on the receiving end of a compliment, and I firmly believe that you can change someone's mood just by being nice to them.  Even if it's just one compliment a day, I want to make a better effort to do this in 2016.
7.  Spend more time with my family.
8. Pray more.  As someone who's extremely religious, I'm embarrassed (and sad) to say that I've fallen off the bandwagon a bit with my nightly prayers this year.
9. Worry less.  Yes I know there is no good way to go about this, but I'm one of those people who worries about every little aspect of my life, from what I'm going to eat for breakfast down to the last piece of jewelry I choose to accessorize with each day.  Worrying literally made me sick this year and the stress I was accumulating made me a miserable person.  In 2016 one of the ways I hope to fix this and decrease some of my worrying is by focusing on the task at hand.  If I tune in to each moment instead of worrying about things that won't happen until later that day or even later in the week, I tend to find myself worrying less and enjoying each moment more. 
10. Spend less time on my phone.  I'm a social media addict, as well as a picture-taking junky.  Although I'm not opposed to being on the internet, I do think the time I spend on my phone each day is a bit much, and I'd rather use that time on other things, such as reading, spending time with my family and friends, and being in the moment.  The internet is cool, I love blogging, and I love all my bookish friends, but there's a time and a place and sometimes I just need to step back and enjoy what's in front of me.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Review: Shadow and Bone

Title: Shadow and Bone
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Release Date:June 5th, 2012
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co (BYR)
Pages: 368 pages
Rating: 5 Cows

Goodreads Description: Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.

Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.

Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha . . . and the secrets of her heart.

Shadow and Bone is the first installment in Leigh Bardugo's Grisha Trilogy.

            How I managed to remain ignorant of this series for quite some time still remains to be seen, but I am pleased to say I have officially hopped on the bandwagon that is the Grisha series fandom, and I couldn’t be happier.  The first book in the series, Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo, was not my first introduction to the Grisha world.  Unlike the vast majority of my bookish friends who finished the Grisha series and were eagerly awaiting the release of Six of Crows, I received a signed copy of Six of Crows as a gift, which was how I ended up reading it prior to this series.
            LOVES: The world building and the characters.  Although I recognized the Russian influence in Shadow and Bone as I was reading it, it wasn’t until I read the interview with Leigh Bardugo that I realized to what extent she based the world the Grisha series is set in on Russian culture (tsarist Russia of the 1800s specifically).  From the descriptions of food, to the clothing and jargon in the book, I loved every Russian cultural influence that showed up in Shadow and Bone and it was unlike anything I’ve picked up before in the YA genre. One of my favorite characters was obviously Alina, which should be expected considering the depiction of her in the first book. Alina is another great example of a strong female character in YA  (with lots of cute suitors banging on her door I might add), but I love that she doesn’t start off this way.  At the beginning of the first book she’s awkward and unsure of herself.  In fact, when she learns of her powers she can’t believe it.  Grisha are beautiful and powerful in their world and she can’t imagine herself as one of them.  As the story goes on though she slowly gains some self-confidence and becomes more sure of herself and her powers.  I loved watching her grow, especially throughout the whole series. 
             Another big shocker: I fell in love with the Darkling.  As someone who was rooting for Death in The Arcana Chronicles by Kresley Cole, I was not surprised to find myself so obsessed with the Darkling in Shadow and Bone.  Both characters are extremely similar and play a part in a love triangle in their stories.  From the second Alina first meets this powerful Grisha, my Mal and Alina ship went out the door.  For Vampire Diaries fans, if you love Klaus or Damon, I guarantee you will find the Darkling to your liking! 
            After finishing Shadow and Bone (in 2 sittings mind you), I was THRILLED to learn that this book has already been optioned for a movie deal, which is SO EXCITING! I am nervous to see the cast for it, but I think this series will be incredible to see on the big screen.  Anyone already casting their votes for who they want to play for the Darkling? I wouldn’t mind seeing Ian Somerhalder play him! *crosses fingers 


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