Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Illusionarium by Heather Dixon {review + giveaway}

by Heather Dixon
♦publisher: Greenwillow Books
♦release date: May 19th, 2015
♦hardcover 368 pages
♦intended audience: Young adult
♦source: from publisher for honest review
What if the world holds more dangers—and more wonders—than we have ever known? And what if there is more than one world? From Heather Dixon, author of the acclaimed Entwined, comes a brilliantly conceived adventure that sweeps us from the inner workings of our souls to the far reaches of our imaginations.

Jonathan is perfectly ordinary. But then—as every good adventure begins—the king swoops into port, and Jonathan and his father are enlisted to find the cure to a deadly plague. Jonathan discovers that he's a prodigy at working with a new chemical called fantillium, which creates shared hallucinations—or illusions. And just like that, Jonathan is knocked off his path. Through richly developed parallel worlds, vivid action, a healthy dose of humor, and gorgeous writing, Heather Dixon spins a story that calls to mind The Night Circus and Pixar movies, but is wholly its own.

Review:  Illusionarium seems to be one of those books that people are either loving or hating. Both sides have their reasons, and I find that awesome!  It reminds me once again about the fabulous diversity of readers, how the wonderful idea behind the phrase “to each his own” seems to apply to reading more than any other thing in the world!

For me, Illusionarium was absolutely fantastic! An adventurous, imaginative, unique, and wildly creative story of not one, but two alternate steampunk versions of Victorian London, with a pacing that barely leaves you time to catch your breath.  The main character, Jonathan, is a quirky, dry-humored, slightly awkward scientist-type. He and his little sister, Hannah have a good sibling rivalry going where intelligence is concerned, but it’s also a very sweet and protective relationship. The author uses the amusing addition of annotations to add funny little bits of information and comments to Jonathan’s POV, and I loved that. 

I liked watching Jonathan’s character develop throughout. He starts off a bit light and naïve, but his outlook and aggression darkens as he faces this bleak new world and as his desperation grows to find a way to save his family and he’s put off again and again.  I also liked the enemy-to-ally friendship that grows between Jonathan and Lockwood, they find themselves forced together and a bond grows through mutual respect…eventually. One word of warning, despite what the cover might imply, don’t look to this one if you’re in the mood for romance. You won’t find it here. But I was happy with that---with such a desperate and time-sensitive mission at hand, it might have bothered me if Jonathan had stopped to flirt. 

The idea behind illusioning is a clever mix of science and magic.  The illusions can only be seen by someone who is inhaling a hallucinogenic drug called fantillium, but if someone is being attacked or killed by illusion, their body will react as if it’s really happening. In the twisted alternate society, the people have made illusioning a bloodsport.  Talented illusionists are able to conjure illusions to outwit each other in competition. But there is a gruesome downside to overdosing on the drug. The concept and world building that went along with it demands a stretch of the imagination, but it’s a wild idea and makes for stunningly visual storytelling. 

Maybe on another day, in another mood, I might have nitpicked this one a bit more. But I found this incredibly entertaining, imaginative, and exactly the story I was craving. I’m not saying it’s for everyone, but I definitely recommend giving it a try!

 Find Heather Dixon online:  Website  •   Instagram

Purchase Illusionarium:  Indiebound  •  BookDepository  •  Amazon


I have an extra copy of this one so I'm going to pass it on! 
•US mailing address only please
•Ends June 3rd, 2015
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday

"Waiting on Wednesday" is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine. It lets us all gush about what soon-to-be released books we are jumping-up-and-down excited for.
by Sarah Henstra

hitting shelves May 5th, 2015  
from Penguin Canada
London, 1872. Seventeen-year-old heiress Leonora Somerville is preparing to be presented to society -- again. She's strikingly beautiful and going to be very rich, but Leo has a problem money can't solve. A curious speech disorder causes her to stutter but also allows her to imitate other people's voices flawlessly. Servants and ladies alike call her "Mad Miss Mimic" behind her back...and watch as Leo unintentionally scares off one potential husband after another.

London in 1872 is also a city gripped by opium fever. Leo's brother-in-law Dr. Dewhurst and his new business partner Francis Thornfax are frontrunners in the race to patent an injectable formula of the drug. Friendly, forthright, and as a bonus devastatingly handsome, Thornfax seems immune to the gossip about Leo's "madness." But their courtship is endangered from the start. The mysterious Black Glove opium gang is setting off explosions across the city. The street urchins Dr. Dewhurst treats are dying of overdose. And then there is Tom Rampling, the working-class boy Leo can't seem to get off her mind.

As the violence closes in around her Leo must find the links between the Black Glove's attacks, Tom's criminal past, the doctor's dangerous cure, and Thornfax's political ambitions. But first she must find her voice.

My thoughts:
So as you can see, this one is already out in Canada, but it's not anywhere that I can get it, at least not without paying large shipping fees lol.  So here I wait :)  For it to get picked up by a US publisher (because it sounds awesome and why wouldn't it get picked up?) or for it to be available on BookDepository. Sigh. This sounds really good. Plus, gorgeous cover---simple, but I love its subtle significance to the story!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

New Shelf Goodies & The Weekly Nutshell {127}

For New Shelf Goodies, I'll be showing you what lovely books I acquired this week, whether from publishers, or the library, or from whatever half-crazed book-buying binge I happened to go on. :D (Inspired by Tynga's Stacking the Shelves) The Weekly Nutshell will be just week here at Stories & Sweeties, in a nutshell. (inspired by Ginger @ GReads and her recaps at the end of the TGIF posts)

Mailbox goodies:)
Until the Beginning by Amy Plum
First book ended on a such a cliffhanger--looking forward to seeing what happened!
The Fill-In Boyfriend by Kasie West
I haven't had a chance to read this author, but I've heard good things!
Extraordinary Means by Robyn Schneider
 This looks really good! Also an author I haven't read yet.

Many thanks to Harper Collins for these! 

The Weekly Nutshell
{Friday}Review & Giveaway: Made You Up by Francesca Zappia

Well I was still sick for most of this week, but I think I've finally kicked this cold. :) Feeling much better now.  Still reading Rook---its not a fast read by any means, but its really good.  I did need an alternate read for when I was in the mood for something light-hearted (something Rook is definitely not lol) so I started Pip Bartlett's Guide to Magical Creatures also. Had a lovely Mother's Day despite still being sniffly! Lots of Doctor Who gifts (hehe, my kids know me so well!) and a trip to Bouchon Bakery for some super yummy pastries and cookies. 

Hope you're all reading something fabulous this week! :D


Thursday, May 14, 2015

Made You Up by Francesca Zappia {review + giveaway}

Made You Up 
by Francesca Zappia
♦publisher: Greenwillow Books
♦release date: May 19th, 2015
♦hardcover, 448 pages
♦intended audience: Young adult
♦stand-alone, contemporary
♦source: from publisher for honest review
Alex fights a daily battle to figure out the difference between reality and delusion. Armed with a take-no-prisoners attitude, her camera, a Magic 8-Ball, and her only ally (her little sister), Alex wages a war against her schizophrenia, determined to stay sane long enough to get into college. She’s pretty optimistic about her chances until classes begin, and she runs into Miles. Didn't she imagine him? Before she knows it, Alex is making friends, going to parties, falling in love, and experiencing all the usual rites of passage for teenagers. But Alex is used to being crazy. She’s not prepared for normal. 

Review: Made You Up caught me by surprise and made me love it.  While it took a few chapters to really get a handle on Alex and the other characters, once I was in, I was all in and completely glued to every page until the very end.  With a witty but unreliable narrator that constantly has you guessing what is real and what isn’t, this story is all at once compelling, emotional, humorous, mysterious, and heartbreaking.

Alex is a fantastic character, genuine, flawed, and with some very well-founded fears.  She’s been living with paranoid schizophrenia since she was 7 and she seems to manage it pretty well. Despite the fact that she hides it to keep from being shunned or taunted by her peers, she fully owns it and the little quirks she’s developed to help her deal---things like taking photos of things she things might not be real so she can refer back to them later, scanning a room she walks into or her food for threats without anyone noticing she’s doing it. Illness aside, Alex is super smart and has a fiery, fun attitude that I loved getting to know. Her dad is supportive enough, but her mother threatens to commit her or call her psychiatrist every time she slips and I just wanted to cry for her every time. But her greatest comfort is her little sister, who is always there for her with a no-questions-asked cuddle. 

The love story is hard-won and slow building from a strange sort of rivalry. When she meets Miles she is sure he is the same little boy she met as a child, but always thought he was a hallucination. It’s fun to watch Miles and Alex come together and slowly start to understand each other. Alex and Miles melt the ice ( and yes, I do mean ICY) on their relationship slowly and with lots of friction and emotional hesitation and stand-offishness, but their feelings finally show through what is undoubtedly the swooniest game of 20 questions I’ve ever seen! 

There is a bit of mystery as Alex and her friends investigate the school’s past to find out what is going on with the principal, a popular girl and her mother, and the infamous school scoreboard. The plot is well-written and rings true, with a few major twists that completely pulled the rug out from under me and left me drowning in emotions.  I don’t reread often, but this one made me want to flip back to the front and experience it again the second I turned the last page. 

 Find Francesca Zappia online:  Website  •  Twitter  •  Instagram

Purchase Made You Up: Indiebound  •  BookDepository  •  Amazon

I've ended up with two copies of this wonderful book, so I want to pass one on!
Enter below to win an ARC!
•US mailing addresses only
•Ends  5/19/15

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday

"Waiting on Wednesday" is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine. It lets us all gush about what soon-to-be released books we are jumping-up-and-down excited for.
by Kim Savage

hitting shelves February 23rd, 2016
from Farrar, Straus, Giroux
From author site: When a predator abducted them, Julia fought back and Liv escaped, leaving Julia in the woods for a terrifying night she remembers only in flashes. Nearly one year later, a body is discovered in those same woods, and Julia is forced to face the truth about that day, and her own sacrifice.
From Goodreads:..A psychological thriller about two friends in the aftermath of an abduction, where one risked her life to save the other and spent a night in the woods she wants to forget. Now, nearly a year later, a girl’s body is found, and dark secrets are tearing the best friends apart.

My thoughts:
Just tiny snips of a synopsis for this so far but already I'm excited to read it! Especially after this blog post where the author talks about the woods that inspired the story.  And that cover?? Stunning. I love it, and with so long to go before publication, I hope it doesn't get changed!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

New Shelf Goodies & The Weekly Nutshell {126}

For New Shelf Goodies, I'll be showing you what lovely books I acquired this week, whether from publishers, or the library, or from whatever half-crazed book-buying binge I happened to go on. :D (Inspired by Tynga's Stacking the Shelves) The Weekly Nutshell will be just week here at Stories & Sweeties, in a nutshell. (inspired by Ginger @ GReads and her recaps at the end of the TGIF posts)

What my nice mailman brought me:
This one's been compared to Alice Hoffman's work, so of course, I'm in. 
Cover swoon! The story sounds awesome as well :)
Romeo and Juliet meets Children of the Corn. YES.
Lovely finished copy of this one! I used to love Picoult's work so I'll have to give this one a go soon!

 Made You Up by Francesca Zappia
Loved! and I love this watercolor cover!
Illusionarium by Heather Dixon
Also loved! So happy to have finished copies of both of these! 
The Fog Diver by Joel Ross
Oooh, this looks interesting. Love a good airship adventure! :) 
The Death Code by Lindsay Cummings
I don't know much about this series, but I know this is a sequel---anyone recommend? 

 Huge thanks to Penguin, Harper, and Random House for these!!

The Weekly Nutshell
{Saturday} TLA Recap! My adventures with Texas Librarians!
This week I had to worst cold I've had in a loooong time. It was miserable and I missed a lot of work---but being stranded sick on the couch meant that I watched a lot of Doctor Who and Downton Abbey reruns and when my eyes weren't too tired and sore, I read a bit.  This week I finished Made You Up, which took me a bit to get really hooked into, but once I did I absolutely loved it. I also started Rook, but I'm not very far into it yet. High hopes for this one, though! 
Have a great week, everyone, and to all you mamas out there:

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Return to Texas :) My adventures at TLA!

So as I mentioned before, a few weeks ago, I flew out to the big ol' state of Texas and attended TLA.  My bestie and sometimes guest reviewer, Amy, recently moved to Missouri so not only was it a trip to go hang with some awesome library and book people, it was the first time we got to visit each other in 10 months. She hadn't been back to CA and I hadn't yet made it to MO, so we figured it was the perfect opportunity to meet in the middle!
There we are! :D

I've been to lots of conferences before, but I have to say, I think this little jaunt out to Texas might have been my favorite so far! This is a great conference! With it being a smaller conference, everything is just much more chill, more time to chat and visit and look around.  I got to meet up with the lovely Lena from Addicted2Novels again, and I met Jasmine and Marissa from Beneath the Moon and Stars!  Everyone we chatted with was super friendly, lots of people curious about why we came all the way from CA & MO (we were probably two of the very few people from outside of the state) and the signings...OH the signings, people! I couldn't have been more impressed with the amount of amazing authors they had attend! And ALA organizers, TAKE NOTE!! TLA does an amazing job at running the signings. They are in their own separate area---so no aisles and booths getting blocked by lines which is a common problem at ALA. It made for a wonderful relaxed experience for everyone.  Here are just a fraction of the incredible authors!
From top to bottom:
Rachel Caine, Sarah J. Maas, the ever so sparkly Aletha Kontis, Becky Wallace, Marie Rutkoski, Renee Ahdieh, April Lindner, Micol Ostow, Mary Pearson, Gena Showalter, Andrea Cremer, and Martha Brockenbrough.  Somehow I forgot the pic of Sherry Thomas. She was such a sweetheart---told me my beauty mark (above my lip) is in a very lucky place according to her culture! :D

Yes, all very organized, though at one signing, Martha Brockenbrough's, the books got lost. Noooo!  But Martha handled it like a pro, taking the time while staff searched high and low for her books, to visit with everyone in line and thank them all for lining up for her debut, A Game of Love and Death! She even jumped up on a chair and did an impromtu reading for us!
Isn't that awesome!! If you're wondering who the guy is in front of her: the chair was quite wobbly, so Amy's hubby stepped up to hold it steady for her. And she had the cutest dress, tights, and cat-eye glasses!

Books were not the only fun thing to see at the conference! There was a guy shooting a video, a crazy clown guy up on stilts,...oh and guys, I got to hold the tiniest baby monkey I've every seen!!
You can see my fingers at the bottom of this pic so you can tell how super-itty-bitty he was! Cutest thing ever! Looked like something out of Jim Henson or Dr Suess!  And this guy was roaming around too:

Outside of the conference, we had a great time seeing Texas again.  Texas holds a special place for hubs and I--we lived there quite a few years ago. It's where our lives started out together since we were stationed there shortly after getting married! It's where our first two kids were born, too! So we went back to see our first apartment and hit a few of our old hang-outs for a nice little walk down memory lane ♥

We also hit a few great places to eat in Austin and San Antonio.  Lena  recommended the local favorite, Torchie's Tacos, and they were absolutely the best!!
 Then we ate at Saltgrass in San Antonio and had the best fried zucchini EVER.
It poured down buckets of rain while we were in San Antonio, and we ate outside on the covered patio of the riverwalk while it thundered loudly..but that was wonderful, the wild thunder and lightning storms is one of the things I missed most about Texas. :)

Well of course, I can't end without showing you some of the lovely treasures I came home with from the conference, right? There were a few more, but this pic is of my favorite finds!

Beastly is mine!!
I also love how super excited the publicist at Algonquin was for this book LOL. He made me promise to let him know what I thought.  So many that I am just over the moon excited for, guys. And some really amazing looking MG books that I'd never heard of, like Out of Abaton, Anyone but Ivy Pocket, and Crown of Three.  So. Much. Bookswooning!!

Well that was my adventure at TLA!!  Thanks for reading! :D