Dani and Jessie's October Recap

Friday, October 31, 2014

Reviews Posted:
Lark Ascending by Meagan Spooner (Skylark #3)
Stitching Snow by R.C. Lewis
Hit by Lorie Ann Grover
The Paper Magician by Charlie Holmberg (The Paper Magician #1)

Fun Stuff:
Book Blogger Trick or Treat: Bookish Costumes!
Discussion: How Do You Find Time to Read?

A photo posted by Jessie Hall Wallace (@jypsyhowl) on


Reviews Posted:
Book Tour: Enchantress by Maggie Anton (Rav Hisda's Daughter #2)
October DNFs
Book Tour: A Day of Fire by various

Happy reading in November!

Book Tour Review: A Day of Fire by Stephanie Dray

Thursday, October 30, 2014
Title: A Day of Fire: A Novel of Pompeii
Author: Stephanie Dray, Ben Kane, E. Knight, Sophie Perinot, Kate Quinn, Vicky Alvear Shecter
Series: N/A
Pages: 315
Published: expected November 4 2014
Source: Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours for review
Rating: 4/5

Pompeii was a lively resort flourishing in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius at the height of the Roman Empire. When Vesuvius erupted in an explosion of flame and ash, the entire town would be destroyed. Some of its citizens died in the chaos, some escaped the mountain's wrath . . . and these are their stories:

A boy loses his innocence in Pompeii's flourishing streets.
An heiress dreads her wedding day, not knowing it will be swallowed by fire.
An ex-legionary stakes his entire future on a gladiator bout destined never to be finished.
A crippled senator welcomes death, until a tomboy on horseback comes to his rescue.
A young mother faces an impossible choice for her unborn child as the ash falls.
A priestess and a whore seek redemption and resurrection as the town is buried.

Six authors bring to life overlapping stories of patricians and slaves, warriors and politicians, villains and heroes who cross each others' path during Pompeii's fiery end. But who will escape, and who will be buried for eternity?

 "Vesuvius has claimed us for its own, and created a tomb of my once beautiful villa." 
-page 211

A series of stories about various people living around the infamous city of Pompeii -- from the rich to the poor, the aedile to the prostitute -- A Day of Fire is a compelling and interesting collection of individual tales sourced from one of history's most infamous tragedies. Featuring several well-known and popular historical authors, using both real and imagined people from Pompeii, each story is distinct and complete. They also can be read out of order, though the overall effect will have more of an impact when you read them in the order presented.

I normally have an issue connecting to characters in historical short stories. Fifty or sixty pages is not usually enough to forge a real connection or a sense of empathy for new characters, but nearly all of these stories surprised me with their emotional depth and personal characterization. Be it Prima's anger or Diana's independence, I was sucked into the stories being interwoven by these authors. It helps that people from different stories crop up in others (Prima is in the first, the fourth, the sixth. Diana of the Cornelii, Marcus Norbanus, Capella, etc. appear in various author's additions), serving to flesh out both the character development and the ever-more-dangerous plot.

Despite knowing what happens in Pompeii and to the majority of its citizens, A Day of Fire is a book full of suspense, fear, and unexpected bravery. Not everyone featured makes it out alive, but there were far more survivors from the core group than I had expected to see by the time the lava flowed. Some die by design, others by being unable to flee to safety in the nearby Roman towns of Nuceria/Neapolis/Stabiae. Each story has a unique feel to it, but each has the same sense of desperation and determination before it's over.

A carefully cultivated collection of such excellent short stories, A Day of Fire is a detailed and well-written piece of historical fiction. While I found the works by Dray, Perinot, and Quinn to be the most finely-tuned and crafted additions, the entire novel is to be recommended and eagerly read. We may never know definitively what happened on that fateful day, but these six authors have offered up versions that are satisfying, original, and engaging.


Giveaway ends at 11:59pm on December 5th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
Winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter on December 6th and notified via email.
Winner have 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

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A Day of Fire Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, October 27
Review at The Maiden’s Court

Wednesday, October 29
Review at Ageless Pages Reviews
Spotlight at Passages to the Past

Thursday, October 30
Review at leeanna.me

Monday, November 3
Review at Bibliophilia, Please

Wednesday, November 5
Review at Peeking Between the Pages

Monday, November 10
Review at Flashlight Commentary

Wednesday, November 12
Review at With Her Nose Stuck in a Book

Thursday, November 13
Review at Book Lovers Paradise

Tuesday, November 18
Spotlight at Historical Fiction Connection

Wednesday, November 19
Review at Book Babe

Tuesday, November 25
Review at Reading the Past

Wednesday, November 26
Guest Post at Historical Tapestry

Friday, November 28
Review at The True Book Addict

Monday, December 1
Guest Post at From the TBR Pile

Thursday, December 4
Review at CelticLady’s Reviews

Friday, December 5
Review at Let Them Read Books

Book Blogger Trick or Treat: Bookish Costumes

Wednesday, October 29, 2014
It's almost Halloween! And we at Ageless Pages are so excited to be part of Great Imaginations’ Blogger Trick or Treat, because do you know what the best part of Halloween is? Skittles. And expressing your personality and likes through a carefully thought out and elaborate costume. But mostly Skittles. (You're all bringing me my favorite candy, right? That's what I signed up for?)

Do you know what the worst part of Halloween is? Running to the costume store because you forgot your carefully thought out and elaborate costume, and only finding...this.

I know the joke, but it really does seem like the only costume options for women are "sexy noun". It's super frustrating, not to mention you're going to freeze your Horcrux off. Luckily, we've come up with a few bookish costumes based on Take Back Halloween's special brand of realistic and fully clothed costumes.

Jane Austen (Or Elizabeth Bennet. Or Emma Woodhouse. Or literally any another Regency character.)

Take Back Halloween has done all the work for us on this one. You need an empire waist dress, (their suggestions are still a little pricey for my blood, this one on Etsy serves or check second hand stores for a cap sleeve dress you can tie a sash around,) a bonnet, cap, and slippers. Prepare your favorite Austen quotes and spend the night looking for your Mr. Darcy.

Katniss Everdeen

The good thing about beloved books being turned into monstrously popular movies, you can buy Katniss costumes that don't suck. This is the Mockingjay version, but I prefer the more iconic original costume, which is out of production but readily available on Amazon. 

Just make sure you pick the right one. Katniss would not approve of your footwear or cutouts, madam.
If those don't do it for you, or you can't find them, here is an excellent resource on making your own. You'll need tan cargo pants, a black windbreaker, a mockingjay pin, and a braid. You can probably source that for $20 if you have good second hand-fu. 

Hermione Granger (Or other Hogwarts students)

Like Katniss, you can buy Hermione costumes. Especially for adults, they look more like the one at the top of this post, than Emma Watson in the movies, but if you search for Harry... A robe is a robe, after all. (You can also find the other houses on Ammy.) Then you just need a collared shirt, black pants or skirt, and a tie in your house colors. Of course, if you want a better quality of robe, Universal offers more authentic (and expensive) options. If you don't have access to Olivanders, this wand tutorial couldn't be easier. Remember it's levi-OH-sa, not levi-o-SAH


From Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Karou is a blue haired, tattooed teenager with eyes like a silent movie star and a mysterious link to another world. Luckily, it's easy enough to dress like a Prague artist, (not so easy to dress as Madrigal.) You're going to want a lot of black: black pants, black jacket, black boots. Add a blue wig, (I like this one in electric or indigo blue.) Don't forget to draw on her tattoos, especially "True" and "Story" on each wrist and the indigo eyes on her palms. Finish the costume off with a wishbone necklace and you're done. Just be careful about breaking that bone.

Linh Cinder, Scarlet Benoit, and Crescent Moon

The girls of the Lunar Chronicles are super easy to dress as and would make a great group costume! In fact, they're almost too simple, but with a few accessories, you'll be recognizable to other Lunartics. 

Cinder is a mechanic, so put on your cargo pants, your tank top, some dirt or grease smears, carry a wrench and you're almost good to go. Slip one of these gloves on your left hand and grab Iko. Try not to let your foot fall off.
She's an android. Android? I kill me.
Scarlet works on her grandma's farm, so she always wears a red hoodie that clashes with her curly ginger hair, a black tank top, torn jeans, and boots. Done. Because she's such a simple character to dress, I would paint "Benoit Tomatoes" on the side of a cardboard box and carry a stuffed wolf in it, but that's totally optional. 

The most important part of a Cress costume is the hair. You need a long, long, wavy, tangled blonde wig. This in light blonde is probably your best bet; it's popular for other Rapunzel costumes. Unlike the other girls, Cress' clothes aren't as important. I suggest something like this or this to play up the fact that she's from Luna, unlike the other characters. The other option, of course, is to follow the fan art and pick up a blue baby doll dress with a ribbon for a sash. But if you find Thorne at the party, hands off. I called dibs.

Lola Nolan

For Lola, every day is Halloween. There is literally nothing off the table, which makes Lola the perfect last minute costume. Got a wig? Got something vintage, off beat, or colorful? Got boots, ballet shoes, or heels? Congratulations, you've got a Lola costume! If you can work a pink bottlecap in somewhere, so much the better! Be Lola. Get your best friend to be Lola. GO AS AN ARMY OF LOLAS!

So there we go, eight bookish costumes that will keep you stylish, comfortable, and above all warm this Halloween. Did we forget someone super obvious? Do "sexy" costumes make your eye twitch too? Have you ever dressed as a book character? Let us know in the comments! 

October's DNFs

Tuesday, October 28, 2014
The 100 by Kass Morgan (The 100 #1) - read 125 out of 277 pages

In the future, humans live in city-like spaceships orbiting far above Earth's toxic atmosphere. No one knows when, or even if, the long-abandoned planet will be habitable again. But faced with dwindling resources and a growing populace, government leaders know they must reclaim their homeland... before it's too late.

Now, one hundred juvenile delinquents are being sent on a high-stakes mission to recolonize Earth. After a brutal crash landing, the teens arrive on a savagely beautiful planet they've only seen from space. Confronting the dangers of this rugged new world, they struggle to form a tentative community. But they're haunted by their past and uncertain about the future. To survive, they must learn to trust - and even love - again.

Day 21 by Kass Morgan (The 100 #2) - skimmed for last 50 pages

No one has set foot on Earth in centuries -- until now.
It's been 21 days since the hundred landed on Earth. They're the only humans to set foot on the planet in centuries...or so they thought. Facing an unknown enemy, Wells attempts to keep the group together. Clarke strikes out for Mount Weather, in search of other Colonists, while Bellamy is determined to rescue his sister, no matter the cost. And back on the ship, Glass faces an unthinkable choice between the love of her life and life itself.

In this pulse-pounding sequel to Kass Morgan's The 100, secrets are revealed, beliefs are challenged, and relationships are tested. And the hundred will struggle to survive the only way they can -- together.

Lumping these together because they're both short and were "read now" no NetGalley. Best said: lots of potential, poor, weak execution. Watch the TV show instead. (especially since Gilly points out this a series that seems written just to get a tv show.)

Chasing Power by Sarah Beth Durst - read 175 out of 368

 Lies, secrets, and magic — three things that define Kayla's life.

Sixteen-year-old Kayla plans to spend her summer hanging out on the beach in Santa Barbara and stealing whatever she wants, whenever she wants it. Born with the ability to move things with her mind — things like credit cards, diamond rings, and buttons on cash registers — she has become a master shoplifter. She steals to build up a safety net, enough money for her and her mom to be able to flee if her dad finds them again. Well, that, and the thrill of using her secret talents.

But her summer plans change when she's caught stealing by a boy named Daniel — a boy who needs her help and is willing to blackmail her to get it. Daniel has a talent of his own. He can teleport, appearing anywhere in the world in an instant, but he lies as easily as he travels. Together, they embark on a quest to find and steal an ancient incantation, written on three indestructible stones and hidden millennia ago, all to rescue Daniel's kidnapped mother. But Kayla has no idea that this rescue mission will lead back to her own family — and to betrayals that she may not be able to forgive... or survive.

The Lost by Sarah Beth Durst (The Lost #1) - read 150 out of 350 pages

Lost your way?

Your dreams?


Welcome to Lost.

It was supposed to be a small escape. A few hours driving before turning around and heading home. But once you arrive in Lost...well, it's a place you really can't leave. Not until you're Found. Only the Missing Man can send you home. And he took one look at Lauren Chase and disappeared.

So Lauren is now trapped in the town where all lost things go-luggage, keys, dreams, lives-where nothing is permanent, where the locals go feral and where the only people who don't want to kill her are a handsome wild man called the Finder and a knife-wielding six-year-old girl. The only road out of town is engulfed by an impassable dust storm, and escape is impossible....

Until Lauren decides nothing-and no one-is going to keep her here anymore.
I've had a good track record with Sarah Beth Durst before (Drink, Slay, Love and Vessel) but these two newest novels both failed to work for me. Chasing Power was an early DNF thanks to a somewhat blah plot and some corny dialogue. The Lost just failed to grab my attention as well. I gave both books at least 150 pages but had to call it on both.

The Fire Artist by Daisy Whitney - read 150 out of 288

A forbidden romance literally heats up in this new fantasy from acclaimed author Daisy Whitney.

Aria is an elemental artist—she creates fire from her hands. But her power is not natural. She steals it from lightning. It’s dangerous and illegal in her world. When she’s recruited to perform, she seizes the chance to get away from her family. But her power is fading too fast to keep stealing from the sky. She has no choice but to turn to a Granter—a modern day genie. She gets one wish at an extremely high price. Aria’s willing to take a chance, but then she falls in love with the Granter . . . and he wants his freedom. Aria must decide what she’s willing to bargain and how much her own heart, body, and soul are worth.

In a world where the sport of elemental powers is the most popular form of entertainment, readers will be swept away by a romance with stakes higher than life and death.

There was just too much romance in this for me, for starters. And that romance? It was chock full of tropes I cannot stand. So, I wasn't involved and I wanted more action, more more Aria herself instead of the blahtastic version, and definitely more worldbuilding (preferably some that made more sense).

Divided by Elsie Chapman (Dualed #2) - 80 out of 320 pages

The hunter becomes the hunted. . . .

West Grayer is done killing. She defeated her Alternate, a twin raised by another family, and proved she’s worthy of a future. She’s ready to move on with her life.

The Board has other plans. They want her to kill one last time, and offer her a deal worth killing for. But when West recognizes her target as a ghost from her past, she realizes she’s in over her head. The Board is lying, and West will have to uncover the truth of the past to secure her future.

How far will the Board go to keep their secrets safe? And how far will West go to save those she loves? With nonstop action and surprising twists, Elsie Chapman’s intoxicating sequel to Dualed reveals everything.

This series just kinda waned, both in interest and execution, for me. I wasn't the biggest fan of the first, though it had some memorable aspects. When I couldn't remember exactly how Dualed ended and couldn't be bothered to even google, I knew I should just move on. A strong premise, just not a fit for my reading tastes.

Evidence of Things Not Seen by Lindsey Lane - read 100 out of 224

When high school junior Tommy Smythe goes missing, everyone has a theory about what happened to him. Tommy was adopted, so maybe he ran away to find his birth parents. He was an odd kid, often deeply involved in his own thoughts about particle physics, so maybe he just got distracted and wandered off. He was last seen at a pull-out off the highway, so maybe someone drove up and snatched him. Or maybe he slipped into a parallel universe. Tommy believes that everything is possible, and that until something can be proven false, it is possibly true. So as long as Tommy’s whereabouts are undetermined, he could literally be anywhere.

Told in a series of first-person narratives from people who knew Tommy and third-person chapters about people who find the things Tommy left behind—his red motorbike, his driving goggles, pages from his notebook—Particles explores themes of loneliness, connectedness, and the role we play in creating our own realities.

I just did not connect emotionally with this book. It left me cold and bored when I wanted to be invested and concerned. It is really cool how Lindsey Lane structures her story and all the elements she pulls into Tommy's world. I am just not the audience for this -- for someone looking for an odd, original thinker, this would work.

The Break-Up Artist by Philip Siegel - read 200 out of 319 pages

Some sixteen-year-olds babysit for extra cash.

Some work at the mall.

Becca Williamson breaks up couples.

Becca knows from experience the damage that love can do. After all, it was so-called love that turned Huxley from her childhood best friend into a social-world dictator, and love that left Becca's older sister devastated at the altar. Instead of sitting on the sidelines, Becca strikes back—for just one hundred dollars via PayPal, she will trick and manipulate any couple's relationship into smithereens. And with relationship zombies overrunning her school and treating single girls as if they're second-class citizens, business is unfortunately booming. Even Becca's best friend, Val, has resorted to outright lies to snag a boyfriend.

One night, Becca receives a mysterious offer to break up the most popular couple in school: Huxley and raw football team's star player, Steve. To succeed, she'll have to plan her most elaborate scheme to date—starting rumors, sabotaging cell phones, breaking into cars...not to mention sneaking back into Huxley's good graces. All while fending off the inappropriate feelings she may or may not be having for Val's new boyfriend.

No one said being the Break-Up Artist would be easy.

This book frustrated me when all I wanted was a fun contemporary. But instead I got slut shaming, girl hating...so many useless, tired, harmful YA tropes.

House of the Rising Sun by Kristen Painter - Crescent City #1 - Rating 1/5

Augustine lives the perfect life in the Haven city of New Orleans. He rarely works a real job, spends most of his nights with a different human woman, and resides in a spectacular Garden District mansion paid for by retired movie star Olivia Goodwin, who has come to think of him as an adopted son, providing him room and board and whatever else he needs.

But when Augustine returns home to find Olivia's been attacked by vampires, he knows his idyllic life has comes to an end. It's time for revenge—and to take up the mantle of the city's Guardian.

So this is truly not a DNF since I did read all of the novel. I just was so bored and unconcerned that I have literally nothing to say about it; I kept going because there were a few decent twists and the woman can write the hell out of certain scenes. It lacked the imagination of her earlier novels and felt rote, routine, and blah. Especially in regards to plot and to the relationships being set up.

Review: The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg

Monday, October 27, 2014
Title: The Paper Magician
Author: Charlie N. Holmberg
Genre: Fantasy
Series: The Paper Magician Trilogy #1
Pages: 226
Published: September 1, 2014
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Ceony Twill arrives at the cottage of Magician Emery Thane with a broken heart. Having graduated at the top of her class from the Tagis Praff School for the Magically Inclined, Ceony is assigned an apprenticeship in paper magic despite her dreams of bespelling metal. And once she’s bonded to paper, that will be her only magic…forever.

Yet the spells Ceony learns under the strange yet kind Thane turn out to be more marvelous than she could have ever imagined—animating paper creatures, bringing stories to life via ghostly images, even reading fortunes. But as she discovers these wonders, Ceony also learns of the extraordinary dangers of forbidden magic.

An Excisioner—a practitioner of dark, flesh magic—invades the cottage and rips Thane’s heart from his chest. To save her teacher’s life, Ceony must face the evil magician and embark on an unbelievable adventure that will take her into the chambers of Thane’s still-beating heart—and reveal the very soul of the man.

From the imaginative mind of debut author Charlie N. Holmberg, The Paper Magician is an extraordinary adventure both dark and whimsical that will delight readers of all ages.

The Paper Magician is a book with a standard enough premise, another "fantasy London, turn of the century, but magic!" novel, but a really fun magic system that sets it apart. Magicians bond to the first man-made material they work spells through, creating different guilds of magical craftsmen that make everything from bespelled fountains to un-dullable scissors.

Ceony Twill, an apprentice mage, dreams of being a Smelter and working through metal to create weapons and tools. Useful items. Instead, as the top student at Tagis Praff School for the Magically Inclined, she’s assigned to a dying guild that no one else chose. She will be a Folder, working useless, decorative magic through origami and paper snowflakes. As someone who has been doing origami for more than 15 years, I can’t tell you how delightful I found Emery Thane and his animated flowers, cranes, and frogs. I would give anything to trade places with Ceony and have my own Fennel, the paper dog he makes for her as a welcoming gift.

Obviously the paper magic turns out to be more than pretty flowers, as Ceony learns a few months into her training when a mysterious woman breaks into the cottage and literally steals Thane’s heart via forbidden blood magic. This is about the point in the book where I asked what was going on with the pacing. To this point, the previous months had been rushed through in a few chapters, with Ceony coming to appreciate her new bond in a pretty short amount of time. The remaining hundred and fifty pages after Lira appears, however, cover two days and massivecharacter development.

See, since making her Fennel, Ceony’s falling pretty hard for Emery. Ngl, I also fall in love with men who give me puppies, so... Unable to bear her crush and mentor’s whole “bleeding to death without a heart on the kitchen floor” thing, she creates a temporary paper replacement and sets off after Lira. And that’s where things kind of go off the rails.

I want to be clear, I loved this book until Ceony entered Emery’s heart. It reminded me of a lot of my favorite YAs from the 90s with a magic system that resonated with me personally. Ceony’s driven, intelligent, and snarky with a mysterious backstory. Emery’s that frazzled and slightly spacey magical genius, in the vain of Numair and Mairelon. I loved the book after the heart. Unfortunately, the largest part of the book takes place, literally, on a tour of the inside of Thane’s heart.

Each of the four chambers represents a different set of visions that mean something to the man she’s coming to love. His love, his hopes, his hate, and his disappointments are all described in sometimes tedious detail as Ceony searches for a way back to the real world while unravelling the mystery that connects Emery to Lira and the Excisioners. And info dumping Emery’s characterization without actually letting us interact with the character.

It’s not a bad conceit, it just drags on too long. There are only two brief scenes of peril with Lira, despite the fact that she’s supposed to be chasing Ceony. The rest of the bulk of the book is Ceony watching someone else’s thoughts. I felt too far removed from the action and while I learned a lot of facts about Emery, I didn’t feel close to the character. And Ceony moves from, “I think I have a crush, maybe,” to “he doesn’t love me yet, but he will!” in the span of 48 hours. It’s just oddly paced.

Once Ceony gets free and confronts the villain, the book picks up again. The final battle could have gone a bit longer; it’s a shame to tease some offensive paper magic and then drop all the paper in water. I wonder if Ceony can work her magic on wax paper… Still, the book is awfully fun. It’s not a perfect debut, but the highest recommendation I can give is when I closed The Paper Magician and immediately opened The Glass Magician to see where Ceony and Emery go from here.

Review: Uninvited by Sophie Jordan

Monday, October 20, 2014
Title: Uninvited
Author: Sophie Jordan
Genre: young adult, dystopia
Series: Uninvited #1
Pages: 384
Published: expected January 28 2014
Source: publishers via edelweiss
Rating: 2/5

The Scarlet Letter meets Minority Report in bestselling author Sophie Jordan's chilling new novel about a teenage girl who is ostracized when her genetic test proves she's destined to become a murderer.

When Davy Hamilton's tests come back positive for Homicidal Tendency Syndrome (HTS)-aka the kill gene-she loses everything. Her boyfriend ditches her, her parents are scared of her, and she can forget about her bright future at Juilliard. Davy doesn't feel any different, but genes don't lie. One day she will kill someone.

Only Sean, a fellow HTS carrier, can relate to her new life. Davy wants to trust him; maybe he's not as dangerous as he seems. Or maybe Davy is just as deadly.

The first in a two-book series, Uninvited tackles intriguing questions about free will, identity, and human nature. Steeped in New York Times bestselling author Sophie Jordan's trademark mix of gripping action and breathless romance, this suspenseful tale is perfect for fans of James Patterson, Michelle Hodkin, and Lisa McMann.

The plot of the Scarlet Letter? Sure, I can buy that.  Character-driven, ostracism and all that.
Minority Report? That is a little less reasonable, but whatever, I can embrace suspension of disbelief.
Uninvited? Somehow takes both those ideas and renders them really, really boring. Using really, really blah characters.

For three hundred eighty-four pages.

I looked like this after the first 15% aka when I realized Uninvited was not going to be awesome in the vein of my other favorite teenage killer stories like I Hunt Serial Killers/I Am Not A Serial Killer:

Technically, I have little to comment on. Jordan's writing is decent, nondescript, readable. But the content is just not there. The whole endeavor comes off as very a lackluster effort, as the characters definitely are. I know next to nothing about ANY of them (besides random facts stated by other characters, like: "Gil aced his ACTs!" or "Davy is really good at music." but she only plays an instrument ONCE in the entire novel.....). No one is a fully dimensional or realized person, not even the narrator. There's a very cold and clinical feel to Davy's narration.

I was bored reading this. I was promised serial killing teens, I was promised creepiness and suspense, but that is not what I got with Uninvited. The slow dehumanization of the carriers is interesting and has/had promise, but sadly is used as a sideplot to watching Davy's personal and love life derail. There's also no atmosphere to the story -- we are told horrible things are happening (not from Davy's first-person present tense POV because that's too focused on her own life) that these things are happening, but they are nearly ALL offscreen. It makes for ZERO suspense in the characters' stories.

There are also issues with the constructs Jordan has created for her world. The situation for carriers is deteriorating as the atrocities continue, and cities are "quarantined" and detention camps created to control the problem. However, it's stated that "they" (who knows who "they" are-- they army? The government? Dr. Wainwright?) cannot even control the camps. How then do they quarantine and control entire, MAJOR cities like Atlanta, Baltimore, Miami, St. Louis, Oakland, Dallas, Detroi, Phoenix among others? That does not make sense to me.

Uninvited boasts a premise that sounded really fun, a mix mix of two very disparate but interesting things. Unfortunately, for me this was a case of great premise but a dispiriting execution. Davy wasn't the type of character I like or relate to, her narration was hard to care about, the other characters are shallow enough to make a puddle look deep, the story can be nonsensical, and I hated the romance. Despite all of that,  I can't fault Jordan for her ideas and some of what happens in Uninvited is creative and clever, so it's 2-stars and a "wait and see" for book two.

Review: Hit by Lorie Ann Grover

Thursday, October 16, 2014
Title: Hit
Author: Lorie Ann Grover
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Series: None
Pages: 224
Published: October 7, 2014
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Rating: 2 out of 5

After receiving a full-ride scholarship to Mills College for Girls, it appears Sarah's future is all laid out before her that is until she walks into a poetry class led by Mr. Haddings, a student teacher from the nearby University of Washington. Suddenly, life on the UW campus seems very appealing, and Sarah finds herself using her poetry journal to subtly declare her feelings for Haddings. Convinced Mr. Haddings is flirting back, she sets off for school in the rain with a poem in her back pocket one that will declare her feelings once and for all.

Mr. Haddings has noticed Sarah's attention; the fallout from any perceived relationship with a student is too great a risk, and he has decided to end all speculation that morning.

But everything changes when Mr. Haddings feels a thud on his front bumper when he glances away from the road, and finds Sarah in the street with blood pooling beneath her.

Hit is a combination of If I Stay and a Lifetime original movie about student teacher relationships. The premise sounded intriguing, and I think it has promise, but unfortunately the execution is lacking. The prose didn’t resonate with me because it was marred by sophomoric writing. Metaphors were mixed, dialogue was stilted, and scenes were hard to visualize due to clunky descriptors. (“Her wild black bun bobs around her head like a boxer’s fist”.) Characters in this book say each other's names more in one scene than I say my husband's in a month.

“It’s going to be all right, Luke, …Oh, Cydni and her mother, Chantelle are here?... Sarah is going to be fine, Janet,” …
“Mark, listen --”
“Have you seen Sarah or the doctor?”
“Yes, Mark. … Sarah’s having brain surgery.”

Not only is that lazy exposition, regarding Chantelle, it’s all redundant and boring to read. There are instances of characters licking their own cheeks and American characters using “flat” for apartment. I could forgive some of these issues, but not all of them, not from an author publishing for ten years.

I wanted some mystery to Sarah and Haddings’ relationship, but the dual POVs very quickly remove any suspense. Haddings is an unreliable narrator, but stalking the girl, sending her red roses, being disappointed at her ultimate choice, all point to his true feelings. If it had only been Sarah’s point of view, especially with the false memories from her trauma, it might have lent the book some depth. Or not, considering how little their relationship actually plays into their lives.

I also think the book takes place on too small a scale. There are no legal ramifications, no real emotional struggles. The book only takes place over three days. Everything happens too fast, too neatly. There’s too much emphasis is placed on how hideous Sarah looks after her surgery, but not enough on her possible brain damage. I would say 90% of her and her mother’s interactions are about Sarah’s ruined beauty.

The end was the biggest disappointment. As I said, it’s too neat. Characters undergo insane amounts of growth and discover forgiveness through faith in an unnatural way. And then there’s the paragraph where Sarah actually sums up all of the literary ideas in the story. Well it’ll make it easy for anyone who’s writing a book report. Highlight for spoiler:

"A thousand thoughts flood my brain. University of Washington. Mills College. Guilt versus attraction. Duty versus love. Friendship wit Haddings or being alone, at least for the foreseeable future. School versus guy relationships. Forgiveness versus anger. Me versus us, when there never really was an “us”, although I won’t give up that I caught his eye. Finding out who I am now versus trying to return to who I was. Good versus bad. Right versus wrong. Ultimately, what’s best for me solely."

In the end, the book doesn’t work for me at all. I wish it did, but unfortunately I recommend a pass.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Review: Stitching Snow by R.C. Lewis

Title: Stitching Snow
Author: R.C. Lewis
Genre: fantasy, sci-fi
Series: None
Pages: 338
Published: Expected October 14, 2014
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Rating: 3 out of 5

Princess Snow is missing.

Her home planet is filled with violence and corruption at the hands of King Matthias and his wife as they attempt to punish her captors. The king will stop at nothing to get his beloved daughter back—but that’s assuming she wants to return at all.

Essie has grown used to being cold. Temperatures on the planet Thanda are always sub-zero, and she fills her days with coding and repairs for the seven loyal drones that run the local mines.

When a mysterious young man named Dane crash-lands near her home, Essie agrees to help the pilot repair his ship. But soon she realizes that Dane’s arrival was far from accidental, and she’s pulled into the heart of a war she’s risked everything to avoid. With the galaxy’s future—and her own—in jeopardy, Essie must choose who to trust in a fiery fight for survival.

This book is a sci-fi retelling of a popular fairy tale, involving a hidden princess exiled to another planet to save her from her murderous step-mother, where she works as a mechanic alongside her bumbling droid sidekick until a prince turns her life upside-down and convinces her to join the fight against the wicked queen.

Did I describe Cinder or Stitching Snow?

It’s true, Stitching Snow is derivative. There are superficial differences: Essie works mostly with computer programs instead of mechanics, there are seven droids, she knows she’s a princess, unlike Cinder, but the basic plot is there. They even both have the same power to control others’ minds. That’s more than coincidence.

Still, I like Essie. On Thandra she works hard to build a life for herself after being dealt a really shit hand. She’s cautious, but there’s still compassion. Her interactions with the droids are pretty sweet. I like that she taught herself to fight and used men’s expectations of her to win money. Unfortunately, I never really liked her and Dane together. I felt like he undermined her, especially with the fighting. As the book progressed, especially as she took on the princess role, there was a lot of inequity and fighting over who protects whom. It doesn’t help that he started their relationship by lying, and worse.

I wish I knew Dane the person. His people love him, but I didn’t get a sense of why. He can rewire droids, fight like a beast, and pilot any space ship, but where did he learn that? All I really know about him is that he loves his father enough to lead a coup against the most powerful planet in the system, kidnapping and lying as he goes. That seems at odds with the guy who loves Dimwit and little kids. And yet I’m supposed to invest in the romance.

The plot is a pretty good update of Snow White. The main elements are all present, but with the changes to the romance, and the slow reveal, I actually managed to forget that Essie was Snow for the first part of the story. I thought that was pretty impressive, considering. The locations are planets instead of forests, which ended up feeling less than organic. Our Snow leaves Hoth, stopping in Tatooine for upgraded technology, before traveling to Dantooine to meet with the rebels, and ending up in Coruscant to face the emperor. Sorry, wrong sci-fi again. Whatever they’re called, the planet hopping felt abrupt and kept resetting the plot.

Speaking of the king, I really, really could have done without a child sexual assault/incest plot. I don’t think a child who’s faced attempted murder, been chased from her home, lived alone in the wilderness with a bunch of drunk miners, and had to become a cage fighter to survive needs another reason not to get close to people. It’s a no. Especially after Essie had to deal with two attempted assaults in the first hundred pages. Find a better way to put your heroine in danger.

It’s obviously not a perfect book, but it is a fun one. For all my complaints, I enjoyed Essie’s journey. I prefer the first half to the second, but it’s not a book I put down. Dane wasn’t bad, just underdeveloped. It’s not a book I’d reread, but for other fairy tale fans, I’d suggest giving it a try.

Review: Lark Ascending by Meagan Spooner

Thursday, October 9, 2014
Title: Lark Ascending
Author: Meagan Spooner
Genre: fantasy, sci-fi
Series: Skylark #3
Pages: 332
Published: Expected October 7, 2014
Source: Publisher via edelweiss
Rating: 2 out of 5

The thrilling conclusion to The Skylark Trilogy Revolution is brewing in the city within the Wall. The city stands divided, and war is imminent. The rebels need a leader. After months beyond the Wall, Lark returns with Owen by her side, prepared to overthrow the Institute once and for all. But Lark's triumphant homecoming is short-lived when another leader emerges to unite the rebels: Eve, a mysterious Renewable. Lark wonders if Eve's powers will bring them strength or bring humanity's final downfall.

I’d like to start by reminding our readers that my Skylark review was 5 stars and I named it my favorite book of 2012. My Shadowlark review was a bit more reluctant, but it was still a 4 star rating. This review does feature spoilers for previous books in the trilogy.

A popular review of the final Skylark book says,

"Trust me. Everything you've been hoping for, all in one book."

And that is completely true. Provided what you're hoping for is cliched writing, a new, unbeatable bad introduced two and a half books into a trilogy, even more jealousy, endless relationship drama, and interminable conversations about the shadows inside us. If what you were hoping for was wonder, world building, or that showdown between Lark and Gloriette? Perhaps you could go read book one again.

There is actually a scene where the main character and the villain face off on a catwalk over a bunch of evil science equipment. Has the book been optioned, because I feel like this was written just for the dramatic trailer shot of Shailene Woodley hanging from the scaffolding, feet shrouded in factory fog, while the music crescendos. Otherwise, there is zero reason to include something straight out of a 1980s action movie or a Silver Age comic book.

Beyond the cliched set pieces and writing, (two instances of the evil YA sentence, “I exhaled a breath I hadn’t realized I was holding”,) Lark has suddenly become an awful person, actually telling Oren that he can’t explore a cure for his shadow because, “It changes my life too, you know.” The whole subplot about them not being together because of their shadows was pretty much resolved in the last book, and yet it makes up the greatest part of this one.

For a story that’s supposed to be about a rebellion overthrowing the government and healing the magical rift in the land, it spends an awful lot of time: describing the hideous gruel the rebels eat; flashing back to the life of Eve, the renewable; talking, talking, and more talking about whose turn it is to risk their life. (Hint, Lark always thinks it’s Lark’s). I complained that Shadowlark was light on action, compared to Skylark, but this time around, there is 1 (one!) fight scene before the climax. I’m not asking for non-stop war, but I never felt the urgency of the rebellion. I was bored.

Gloriette is in two flashbacks and two current scenes. For a character that’s been built as the ultimate bad and head of the evil organization, that’s just not ok. Her resolution was bullshit. The climax was actually pretty exciting, aside from the set dressing, and I didn’t hate the resolution, though I did think they started building the light/dark equivalency too late in the book.

Unfortunately, I can’t recommend Lark Ascending. Where the first book had everything I love in YA fantasy, this book had everything I hate. The magic system has become muddled and ill defined. There are now three love triangles. Animal deaths, (sort of.) Jealousy and girl fighting. It’s unfortunate, but even if the series wasn’t over, it would be for me.

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