Betwixt the Books Reads! Fairy Tale Retellings

Hey guys! Once again, bringing you a new feature: Betwixt the Books Reads! This is a series of mini-reviews under a particular theme, like this one and fairy tale retellings! Michaela and I have each chosen four books each based on a wide variety of fairy tales from Snow White to Alice in Wonderland. I know I got some books that I wanted to read just from listening to Michaela’s four picks, so I hope you enjoy watching!

Weekly Wrap Up + What We Read 1/17/16

Betwixt the Books is back with another weekly wrap up, plus what we read this week! As an added bonus, I look like a very sad and botoxed chipmunk, since I just got my wisdom teeth out. This is a sight not to be missed, Michaela says. I say that you shouldn’t miss this video even though I look like … this. Anyways, without further ado!

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Worth It Wednesdays: “Throne of Glass” by Sarah J. Maas

Worth It Wednesdays is a weekly post where I feature my favorite YA titles. Find out more about it here!

16034235Title: Throne of Glass

Author: Sarah J. Maas

Publication Date: August 7th, 2012

Goodreads Description: After serving out a year of hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier for her crimes, 18-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien is dragged before the Crown Prince. Prince Dorian offers her her freedom on one condition: she must act as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin.

Her opponents are men-thieves and assassins and warriors from across the empire, each sponsored by a member of the king’s council. If she beats her opponents in a series of eliminations, she’ll serve the kingdom for three years and then be granted her freedom. Celaena finds her training sessions with the captain of the guard, Westfall, challenging and exhilirating. But she’s bored stiff by court life. Things get a little more interesting when the prince starts to show interest in her… but it’s the gruff Captain Westfall who seems to understand her best.

Then one of the other contestants turns up dead… quickly followed by another. Can Celaena figure out who the killer is before she becomes a victim? As the young assassin investigates, her search leads her to discover a greater destiny than she could possibly have imagined.

Why it’s worth it: LISTEN PEOPLE. I WORSHIP ON THE GROUND SARAH J. MAAS WALKS ON. I tend to have a thing against high fantasy novels for being too detailed, but sometimes YA fantasy teeters too far the other way. The Throne of Glass series is absolute perfection.

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Bibliomancy for Beginners: “Ready Player One” by Ernest Cline

This episode of Bibliomancy for Beginners features some AMAZING things, so you will NOT want to miss it! For one, me and Rachel are in the SAME CAMERA – crazy, right? For two, it features the first time since our 13 Days of Misfortune that we’ve featured a guest reader and reviewer! Time to shake things up!

Ready Player OneIt’s the year 2044, and the real world is an ugly place.

Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes his grim surroundings by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia that lets you be anything you want to be, a place where you can live and play and fall in love on any of ten thousand planets. 

And like most of humanity, Wade dreams of being the one to discover the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this virtual world. For somewhere inside this giant networked playground, OASIS creator James Halliday has hidden a series of fiendish puzzles that will yield massive fortune — and remarkable power — to whoever can unlock them. 

For years, millions have struggled fruitlessly to attain this prize, knowing only that Halliday’s riddles are based in the pop culture he loved — that of the late twentieth century. And for years, millions have found in this quest another means of escape, retreating into happy, obsessive study of Halliday’s icons. Like many of his contemporaries, Wade is as comfortable debating the finer points of John Hughes’s oeuvre, playing Pac-Man, or reciting Devo lyrics as he is scrounging power to run his OASIS rig. 

And then Wade stumbles upon the first puzzle. 

Suddenly the whole world is watching, and thousands of competitors join the hunt — among them certain powerful players who are willing to commit very real murder to beat Wade to this prize. Now the only way for Wade to survive and preserve everything he knows is to win. But to do so, he may have to leave behind his oh-so-perfect virtual existence and face up to life — and love — in the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape. 

A world at stake. 
A quest for the ultimate prize. 
Are you ready?

Review: “Sweet Reckoning” by Wendy Higgins

Sweet ReckoningSweet Reckoning (The Sweet Trilogy #3) by Wendy Higgins

Goodreads | Amazon

It’s time. 

Evil is running rampant and sweet Anna Whitt is its target. Nobody knows when or how the Dukes will strike, but Anna and her Nephilim allies will do anything necessary to rid the earth of the demons and their oppressive ways.

The stakes are higher than ever, and Anna is determined that the love she feels will be her strength, not a liability. But trying to protect the ones she loves while running for her life and battling demonic forces proves to be perilous—especially as faces are changing and trust is fleeting. When the Duke of Lust sends Anna’s great love, Kaidan Rowe, to work against her, Anna must decide how much she’s prepared to risk.

In the most sensual and fast-paced installment yet, Sweet Reckoning brings all the beloved Neph together one last time to fight for their freedom.

3 1/2 stars

Warning! This review WILL have spoilers for Sweet Evil (#1) and Sweet Peril (#2)!

In my review of the first book, I moaned about the character of Anna being blah and swooned over the sexiness of Kaidan. My basic feel was that it wasn’t worth the hype it was getting. In my review of the second book, Anna was still blah and Kaidan was still swoon-worthy. However, despite it’s “middle book syndrome” I declared that this series was a guilty pleasure I just couldn’t quit, despite questionable plot choices.

Quite frankly, this book is exactly the same.

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Random Reads: “Dark Star” by Bethany Frenette

After a last minute vacation, I can proudly say I have at least two weeks of reviews to come. One–but not the only–is this one. I finally got a random reads read! Scroll to the bottom of the post for the next Random Read!

Dark StarDark Star (Dark Star #1) by Bethany Frenette

Goodreads | Amazon

Audrey Whitticomb has nothing to fear. Her mother is the superhero Morning Star, the most deadly crime-fighter in the Twin Cities, so it’s hard for Audrey not to feel safe. That is, until she’s lured into the sweet night air by something human and not human–something with talons and teeth, and a wide, scarlet smile. 

Now Audrey knows the truth: her mom doesn’t fight crime at night. She fights Harrowers–livid, merciless beings who were trapped Beneath eons ago. Yet some have managed to escape. And they want Audrey dead, just because of who she is: one of the Kin. 

To survive, Audrey will need to sharpen the powers she has always had. When she gets close to someone, dark corners of the person’s memories become her own, and she sometimes even glimpses the future. If Audrey could only get close to Patrick Tigue, a powerful Harrower masquerading as human, she could use her Knowing to discover the Harrowers’ next move. But Leon, her mother’s bossy, infuriatingly attractive sidekick, has other ideas. Lately, he won’t let Audrey out of his sight. 

When an unthinkable betrayal puts Minneapolis in terrible danger, Audrey discovers a wild, untamed power within herself. It may be the key to saving her herself, her family, and her city. Or it may be the force that destroys everything–and everyone–she loves.

Four stars

I’ll be completely honest: I wasn’t expecting much from this one. I’d heard mixed things, so that was why I took so long to read it. However, though there were definite iffy parts, I’m totally glad I did. This book rocked way more than I expected.

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Stories That Shape Us: the Chronicles of Narnia

My copy, which looks very good for a book I've had since I was five.  Most of the damage is from repeated rereads and a minor disagreement with a puppy...

My copy, which looks very good for a book I’ve had since I was five. Most of the damage is from repeated rereads and a minor disagreement with a puppy…

When I was five years old, my mom–probably tired of repeating Dr Seuss books over and over again–came home from the store and handed me a copy of The Magician’s Nephew.   “I wasn’t sure if it would be too scary,” she said, “but I thought you might like to try it.”   She would have read it out loud to me if I asked her to, but in a fit of independent spirit I decided that it was time I tackled a real novel all by myself.

I was not a fast reader (yet), but I got all the way to the introduction of Jadis (that scary-looking lady on the cover) on my first try.  Jadis scared me, so I stopped for a while.  I don’t remember it being very long, although it’s true that time is funny in childhood memories.  I had been enjoying the story so much that eventually, to reassure myself, I flipped through the book looking only at the pictures.  With the flawless logic of a very girly five-year-old, I decided that no book containing a pegasus could possibly be THAT bad, and immediately plunged through the rest of the book.  (“I could lose my job for saying this,” said my kindergarten teacher to my parents, “but have you ever considered homeschooling?”)

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Review: “The Coldest Girl in Coldtown” by Holly Black

Coldest Girl in ColdtownThe Coldest Girl In Coldtown, by Holly Black

Amazon | Goodreads

Tana lives in a world where walled cities called Coldtowns exist. In them, quarantined monsters and humans mingle in a decadently bloody mix of predator and prey. The only problem is, once you pass through Coldtown’s gates, you can never leave.

One morning, after a perfectly ordinary party, Tana wakes up surrounded by corpses. The only other survivors of this massacre are her exasperatingly endearing ex-boyfriend, infected and on the edge, and a mysterious boy burdened with a terrible secret. Shaken and determined, Tana enters a race against the clock to save the three of them the only way she knows how: by going straight to the wicked, opulent heart of Coldtown itself.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is a wholly original story of rage and revenge, of guilt and horror, and of love and loathing from bestselling and acclaimed author Holly Black.

4 stars

Read this book if: you’re looking for adventure, fantastic worldbuilding, and vampire fiction that thinks outside the box.

Do not read this book if: you’re looking for sweet-and-broody vampire romance, or you don’t like blood.  Seriously.  There’s a lot of it.

I read the short story this book started with a while back, and when I found out she was writing a book off the idea, I was very, very excited.  The short story was an interesting take on the vampire myth, free of stereotypes and surprisingly believable.   The novel absolutely lives up to that, and more.  

In this take on the vampire myth, vampirism is well and truly a disease: once infected, people must either drink human blood and turn into vampires or find someone to lock them up for 88 days while they scream and throw up and try to attack anyone who comes close.  If the government finds out you’re infected, you’ll be quarantined in a Coldtown–a walled vampire city–and never, ever allowed to leave, even if you beat the infection.  Due to the existence of the Internet and TV, the public has a somewhat unhealthy fascination with the goings-on in Coldtowns, and lots of people dream of being infected.  In a way, I think what made this book work so well is that it’s not about vampirism so much as it’s about people’s reactions to vampirism.  Some people dream of being turned, romanticizing the idea; some people fight the idea for all they’re worth, even after being infected.  Some people become vampires and stay exactly the same, and some people turn into bloodthirsty maniacs.  Some families lock infected family members in the basement for 88 days and suffer through the screaming, and others turn them in to the police and ship them off to Coldtown.  There’s a broad range of humanity explored through the idea of vampirism here, and I really love how multidimensional the idea gets.

Tana is a very…appropriate main character for her setting.  She’s got some nastiness in her past and some problems in her present, and she ends up going to Coldtown for not-very-good reasons, with minimal preparation and a vampire chained up in the backseat.  Once she gets there, though, she is no helpless vampire-romance heroine.  She is drugged and locked up with two very bad options to choose from, and instead of playing along she makes a third option.  She is threatened and she doesn’t back down; she’s attacked and she defends herself.  Often writers of vampire fiction play up their human characters’ helplessness in the face of such supernatural strength and give the vampires all the agency, but Tana seems to be at her strongest and most formidable when surrounded by people who think she looks yummy.  She gets involved in big, dangerous events and refuses to be sidelined.  She is not taking any of your bloodsucker BS.

I think one of this book’s biggest strengths is its ability to produce character development and worldbuilding without slowing the action down at all.  The author really does her ensemble cast justice here, and it’s delightful.  Even the jerk ex-boyfriend mentioned in the blurb actually gets some interesting character development and does some good things.

Romance didn’t play a very big part, and I was pretty happy with that.  Gavriel, the obligatory mysterious/hot vampire boy, is a good character, there’s no denying that: he’s driven, he’s angry, and he is insane–legitimately crazy–in ways that make a really weird amount of sense.  He fits right in in the opulent, bloody environment of Coldtown: extravagant, devious, gleefully mad, and dangerous in ways even the other vampires can’t guess at.  Which brings me to a plot element I had to think about a LOT before I decided what I thought of it…

–WARNING: Thoughts on relationships ahead.  Spoilery, but only with plot elements that you probably guessed anyway!–

Gavriel is everything I could ask for out of a character, but NOT someone I would want my friend dating.  He and Tana circle each other throughout the book, which, anyone who’s read any YA at ALL knew from the blurb that there would be romantic tension there, right?  I’m super-happy that it’s mostly just romantic tension–these people are REALLY BUSY, they don’t have TIME for smoldery vampire sex.  And Gavriel is not…safe.  He’s unstable, and a self-acknowledged monster.  But he never shows any violence or cruelty or even abuserish tendencies towards Tana (which is better than I can say of 99% of vampire boyfriends out there), and although any relationship between them is going to be inherently abnormal and a bit twisted…I think that’s more because both parties are really abnormal.  They live in a weird, violent world, and they’re both weird, somewhat violent people (okay, Tana’s only violent out of necessity, but she doesn’t seem to have much of a problem with it).  So although it’s certainly not a normal relationship,  it doesn’t seem inherently damaging, just a product of Coldtown and of the two people involved–and I actually am glad that the weirdness of it is acknowledged.  Gavriel gives me the creeps, but he’s supposed to.  At least the narrative acknowledges that he’s not stable, and Tana is aware of it.  And honestly?  I think she can handle him.

–End Predictable Spoilers–

So, basically: this book is dark and bloody and sometimes twisted.  The world is extravagant and insane and manipulative.  People are desperate.  Some of the vampires are still people, and some of them turned into monsters as soon as their bodies gave them permission.  This book has a lot of desperate people (human ones) in it, and also a lot of blood.

If those are not turn-offs for you, I definitely recommend this book.

ARC Review: “Battle Magic” by Tamora Pierce

Battle Magic Battle Magic, by Tamora Pierce

Goodreads |  Amazon

On their way to the first Circle temple in Gyongxi, mages Briar, Rosethorn, and Evvy pay a visit to the emperor’s summer palace. Although treated like royalty when they first arrive, the mages soon discover that the emperor plans to invade Gyongxi, posing a fatal threat to the home temple of the Living Circle religion. Accompanied by one of the emperor’s prize captives, the three mages rush to Gyongxi to warn its citizens of the impending attack. With the imperials hot on their trail, Briar, Rosethorn, and Evvy must quickly help the country prepare for battle. But even with the help of new allies, will their combined forces be enough to fight the imperial army and win the war?

Four stars

Thanks to Netgalley and Scholastic for this eARC.  This title will be released September 24th, 2013.

So, you remember how I said I was excited for this book?  Immediately after I posted about it, Gretchen and I got an ARC.  We were both extremely excited.  But because Gretchen has more ARCs to review than I do, I get to be the one talking about it!  (Which in retrospect may have been a bad idea, because I am very sleep-deprived.  Bear with me.)  Before I do that, here’s some quick, spoiler-free context if you haven’t read Tammy’s Circle books:

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Weekly Wrap Up + Stacking the Shelves for 9-14-13

wrapup

Welcome to another two week’s Stacking the Shelves and Wrap Up! Sorry I have to do two again, but last weekend just didn’t have the time to do this! As always, watch the video for all the deets, and the links are below the break!

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