Friday, December 19, 2014

Introducing First Impression Reviews!

First Impression Reviews is a new feature here at Stories & Sweeties. As a reader and reviewer, how many times do you get asked,"So how are you liking it so far?"  We all know first impressions are important and this is no less true when it comes to books! The first 50-100 pages  can make or break a book for me, either have me salivating for more or ready to drop it and move on. So I’ll be chatting about my first thoughts on the opening, the characters, and the story so far. How it hooked me ..or didn’t.  Plus I think it’s fun to see how an opinion of a book can change between the excitement of starting out the story and the journey to the end.  Each one will, of course, get a full review when I’m done, but who doesn’t love discussing a book when they’re in the thick of it? :)

Here’s how they’ll be rated:
 For when I'm loving the book so far:

For when I'm enjoying it, but maybe not fully invested yet:
 Nope. Not working for me. Getting ready to DNF:

In the comments I’d love for you to jump in and discuss!! Tell me what you’re in the middle of and how you’re liking it.  Tell me what you think of what I’m reading.  And especially if you’ve already read a book that I’m ready to bail on, I’d love to get your opinion---vote DNF or Keep going!!  (In those cases, I’ll even provide a little votey widget!)

 Check out my first First Impression Review for Princess of Thorns from yesterday's blog tour stop!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Princess of Thorns: First Impressions Review & Giveaway! {blog tour}

Today I'm participating in the blog tour for Princess of Thorns by Stacey Jay! I was so excited to read this one after absolutely loving Of Beast and Beauty (my review) last year---so amazing! Thanks to the wonderful folks at Random House, I'm giving away two copies of Princess of Thorns, so be sure to enter below!

Today I'm doing a First Impression review of Princess of Thorns, a new feature I'm starting here at Stories & Sweeties! Check back tomorrow for a formal introduction to this feature, but for today, here's my first thoughts on Princess of Thorns!

Where I'm at: 100 pages in

First Impressions: Princess of Thorns has me dazzled already!  After a short prologue and first chapter that firmly establishes it as a mash-up twisted fairy tale of both Sleeping Beauty and The Wild Swans, the story jumps straight into full action with a daring rescue and escape scene! Told in alternating points of view, we meet Aurora, daughter of the Sleeping Beauty, who must face the Ogre Queen to rescue her brother, and Nicklaas, who must outwit his father's curse or be turned into a swan when he reaches the age of 18.
I'm once again swept away by Stacey Jay's grasp of writing high fantasy. The world is clearly building up all around the characters as they begin their journey so that the reader is completely immersed in journey and can feel what's at stake.  Both characters' personalities come through right away and it's fun to watch them get under each others skin as the story goes along.  Wonderful so far! Can't wait to see where this is headed!
What I'm feeling at this point:

Stacey Jay is a recovering workaholic (or at least working hard at recovering) with three pen names, two small children, and a passion for playing pretend for a living. She’s been a full time mom-writer since 2005 and can't think of anything she'd rather be doing. Her former careers include theatre performer, professional dancer, poorly paid C-movie actress, bartender, waiter, math tutor (for real) and yoga instructor.

Website  •  Twitter  •  Facebook

Enter to win one of 2 gorgeous finished copies of 
Princess of Thorns!
•US mailing address only please
•Must be 13 or older
•Ends January 1st, 2015
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

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 Rachel Caine

 hitting shelves July 7, 2015 
from NAL
In an exhilarating new series, New York Times bestselling author Rachel Caine rewrites history, creating a dangerous world where the Great Library of Alexandria has survived the test of time.…

Ruthless and supremely powerful, the Great Library is now a presence in every major city, governing the flow of knowledge to the masses. Alchemy allows the Library to deliver the content of the greatest works of history instantly—but the personal ownership of books is expressly forbidden.

Jess Brightwell believes in the value of the Library, but the majority of his knowledge comes from illegal books obtained by his family, who are involved in the thriving black market. Jess has been sent to be his family’s spy, but his loyalties are tested in the final months of his training to enter the Library’s service.

When he inadvertently commits heresy by creating a device that could change the world, Jess discovers that those who control the Great Library believe that knowledge is more valuable than any human life—and soon both heretics and books will burn.…

My thoughts: Oh this sounds amazing. Anything that has the words alchemy and library in one sentence has my full attention. And the cover...gorgeous.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black {review}

The Darkest Part of the Forest
by Holly Black
♦publisher: Little Brown BYR
♦release date: January 13, 2015
♦hardcover, 336 pages
♦intended audience: Young adult
♦stand alone
♦source: from publisher for honest review
Children can have a cruel, absolute sense of justice. Children can kill a monster and feel quite proud of themselves. A girl can look at her brother and believe they’re destined to be a knight and a bard who battle evil. She can believe she’s found the thing she’s been made for.

Hazel lives with her brother, Ben, in the strange town of Fairfold where humans and fae exist side by side. The faeries’ seemingly harmless magic attracts tourists, but Hazel knows how dangerous they can be, and she knows how to stop them. Or she did, once.

At the center of it all, there is a glass coffin in the woods. It rests right on the ground and in it sleeps a boy with horns on his head and ears as pointed as knives. Hazel and Ben were both in love with him as children. The boy has slept there for generations, never waking.

Until one day, he does…

As the world turns upside down, Hazel tries to remember her years pretending to be a knight. But swept up in new love, shifting loyalties, and the fresh sting of betrayal, will it be enough?

Review:  Confession...I haven't read a Holly Black book since reading the Spiderwick Chronicles with my kids. But I looooved them. And I was so excited to see Black return her stories to fairyland with The Darkest Part of the Forest.  But I have to say that while the writing was very lyrical and beautiful, the story and characters (for the most part) didn't really draw me in. 

The writing, like I said, is worth another mention---there were literally some turns of phrase that I just had to reread in absolute awe at the gorgeousness. Black knows how to bring fairyland alive for her readers with beautifully visualized creatures and a creepy atmospheric mood that makes you feel like the characters can be swept away by the fae at any moment, never to be seen again. The town of Fairfold is full of oddities defined by their knowledge of the nearby Fae. They struck a deal long ago that the people of Fairfold were safe but the tourist are basically fair game for the fae to snatch away or torment.  

The story was good, but just felt a little muddled to me, both emotionally and plotwise.  It had a slow start and took a long time to get to a place where I was invested. Its a bad sign when the beginning starts out introducing a fair amount of characters at a party and the one character that turns you off the most turns out to be the protagonist. Hazel did kind of grow on me by the end; she is definitely lost and utterly flawed, and I did love the connection between her and her brother Ben. Ben was sweet, but I couldn't help but find him a bit broody, bordering on sulky.  Their backstory is good and gave you a perspective on their bond---they had horrible flaky parents who left them unattended and hungry while they partied the night away when they were very young. Because of that, they are both kind of a mess when it comes to trust and relationships.  They consider themselves kind of wild and they think of the boy in the coffin as their prince.  

The one character I really loved was Jack. He is a changeling but he's grown up among the humans.  He has such a genuine honesty to him and he's so torn between the two worlds, never really feeling comfortable in either.  Both worlds turn on him and he still finds a way to stand by his family and friends.  

The actual love stories were just okay for me, but there are some definite pulse-racing  scenes! Steamy kisses on rooftops and treetops and rolling around in the woods! ;)

All in all, not everything I'd hoped for in my return to Holly Black's books, but it was another intriguing visit to the land of Faerie!  

Find Holly Black online:  Website  •  Twitter  •  Facebook

Buy the book: Indiebound  •  BookDepository  •  Amazon

Sunday, December 14, 2014

New Shelf Goodies & The Weekly Nutshell {111}

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)

Here's what's new on my shelf this week:
This looks so good! Another "couldn't resist" moment at my library :D
I'm eager to see if I like this one better than the first book, which I liked but had some issues with. :)
Deep Blue & Rogue Wave nail polishes
best.swag.EVER.  Why don't more books come with custom nail polishes??

The Weekly Nutshell  

 I hope everyone is having a great December. We just got a bit soggied with rain, but I loved it. We were lucky though, some areas around us got some pretty bad flooding. Again this week, not much going on around here, just shopping and decorating and getting ready for the holiday!
On the reading front, I finished Love, Lucy so look for a review of that this week. Started Princess of Thorns for an upcoming tour stop and giveaway and I'm loving it so far! I'm hoping to read either Waistcoats & Weaponry or Storm Siren when I'm done--depending on what I'm in the mood for! 

Happy reading, all!

Friday, December 12, 2014

This Shattered World by Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner {review + giveaway}

This Shattered World
by Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner
♦publisher: Disney-Hyperion
♦release date: December 23rd, 2014
♦hardcover, 390 pages
♦intended audience: Young adult
♦series: Starbound, book 2
  review of book 1, These Broken Stars
♦source: ALA Las Vegas
Jubilee Chase and Flynn Cormac should never have met.

Lee is captain of the forces sent to Avon to crush the terraformed planet's rebellious colonists, but she has her own reasons for hating the insurgents.

Rebellion is in Flynn's blood. Terraforming corporations make their fortune by recruiting colonists to make the inhospitable planets livable, with the promise of a better life for their children. But they never fulfilled their promise on Avon, and decades later, Flynn is leading the rebellion.

Desperate for any advantage in a bloody and unrelentingly war, Flynn does the only thing that makes sense when he and Lee cross paths: he returns to base with her as prisoner. But as his fellow rebels prepare to execute this tough-talking girl with nerves of steel, Flynn makes another choice that will change him forever. He and Lee escape the rebel base together, caught between two sides of a senseless war.

Review: It astounds me just how different the feel of this book was from These Broken Stars while still being just as gripping of a story. Far from the eerie and mysterious planet where Tarver and Lilac fought for their survival, This Shattered World takes place in the stark, swampy world of Avon, where Captain Jubilee “Lee” Chase and colonist Flynn Cormac find themselves at the turning point of a rebellion.  He kidnaps her, convinced that her high position in the military can answer questions he has about a “disappearing” base in the east. As their two opposing worlds coming crashing down around them, they find themselves thrown together working toward the same truth.

Lee is known for being icey and hard-hearted by her squadron, a serious soldier through and through, and it’s interesting to see how she struggles with this reputation herself---constantly at odds with her own emotions about living up to it, or not living up to it. Flynn is also in much the same situation; he is basically alone in thinking it may be possible to talk his people and the military down from war, but he's determined to do so. He is also the younger brother of a well-known rebel, so the pressure is there to live up to what she began.  Each of them surprises the other in unexpected ways, and in the end they’re drawn together in a deliciously slow-building attraction. This whole story rides on a wave of high emotions all the way through, one heart-stopping and sometimes violent event happening after the next. 

There is also a sickness known as the Fury taking over the minds of the people---with very little warning it switches on a violent rage and usually ends in bloodshed.  This is where much of the story’s violence really comes in and I admit it’s what made me it just a tiny bit less appealing to me than These Broken Stars.

Still it was outstanding, the plot twists and tie-ins with the first book are exhilarating, and those hoping to get a little glimpse of Tarver and Lilac from These Broken Stars will definitely not be disappointed!  The fantastic writing and world-building in these books makes it a definite that not only will I be reading any other books in this series, but also seeking out other books by the individual authors!
Find Amie Kaufman online: Website  •  Twitter  •  Facebook
Find Meagan Spooner online: Website  •  Twitter  •  Facebook

Purchase This Shattered World: Amazon  •  BookDepository  •  Indiebound

I ended up with an extra copy of this, so who wants it??? Enter below! :)
 •US mailing addresses only please
•must be 13 or older
•Ends 12/26/14
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

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 Shanna Swendson

hitting shelves June 14, 2015 
from Farrar, Straus, & Giroux
A sixteen-year-old governess becomes a spy in this alternative U.S. history where the British control with magic and the colonists rebel by inventing.

It’s 1888, and sixteen-year-old Verity Newton lands a job in New York as a governess to a wealthy leading family—but she quickly learns that the family has big secrets. Magisters have always ruled the colonies, but now an underground society of mechanics and engineers are developing non-magical sources of power via steam engines that they hope will help them gain freedom from British rule. The family Verity works for is magister—but it seems like the children's young guardian uncle is sympathetic to the rebel cause. As Verity falls for a charming rebel inventor and agrees to become a spy, she also becomes more and more enmeshed in the magister family’s life. She soon realizes she’s uniquely positioned to advance the cause—but to do so, she’ll have to reveal her own dangerous secret.

My thoughts: Everyone once in a while I need a good steampunk fix :) This looks like it will do nicely.  Especially with the promise of secrets, charming rebel inventors, and a little magic thrown into the mix. :)