Monday, July 29, 2013

Oath of Servitude Review!

Oath of Servitude by C.E. Wilson

This is the story of Teague and Cailin, two teenagers who have been brought together by fate. Teague, a human, struggles to come to terms with the consequences of a recent accident that has destroyed the happy life that he had once enjoyed. Cailin, a pixi, is trying to stay true to herself while fighting against forces beyond her control that have exiled her from her home into this strange world of humans. She fears the darkness. He cannot escape it. But when the two of them are thrown together, they begin to discover the light inside of themselves.

(Cover and synopsis from Goodreads.)

Note: We were given this book by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Natalie: Today we're going to try review the book conversationally, but not spoil anything. Tell us what you think. Hannah, what did you think of the book?
Hannah: This book had a very interesting concept. I really like fantasy books, so I was excited to read a book about pixis.
Natalie: The concept was very original, which I liked.
Hannah: I also liked the humor in Cailin and Teague's exchanges.
Natalie: I liked the way the story was told from many different characters' points of view.
Hannah: Yeah, it was cool how you still could learn about the pixi-world even after the main character had left it.
Natalie: So this was the first book that I've read that was not on paper.
Hannah: And that is the last book I will ever read not made of paper. I can't stand not holding an actual book. (By the way, neither of us have e-readers, so we read this book on computers.) It is just not the same.
Natalie: This was also the first self-published book I've ever read, so I don't have anything else to compare it to, but in my opinion, this book could have used more editing. I know it probably takes a lot of work to self publish, and it's awesome that the author did that, but there were some grammatical, punctuation, and repetition errors that could have been easily fixed.
Hannah: I agree. Whenever I have to write a paper or something for school, I always have a friend look over it because they can always catch those little errors that I skip over because I'm still seeing what I thought I wrote. This book could have benefited from another set of eyes before it was published.
Natalie: Now onto the plot.
Hannah: I really enjoyed the initial plot of the-pixi-in-a-human-world. However, the pixi-politics plot just wasn't my favorite. The pixi government just seemed mean, and I didn't care for any of the politicians enough to get into that particular plotline. There was also a plotline about Cailin's sisters, a plotline about Owen and Nolkrin, a backstory for Owen, and the relationships between the pixis.
Natalie: I think there were too many plotlines being crammed into such a short novel. It was too much to keep straight, and it made it harder to get into the story.
Hannah's sister Emma said that this part won't spoil anything, but it does mention something that happens towards the end of the book. If you think that this might spoil the book for you, skip this part.
Hannah: I was confused by the love triangle at the end. It didn't make any sense to me.
Natalie: It was too out of the blue. You didn't know much about Cailin's relationships with the other pixis before going to the human world, so it was a random guy just proclaiming his love for Cailin.
Hannah: Love triangles have been overdone in lots of YA lately, so they really have to be good for me to get behind them, and, unfortunately, this one just didn't work for me.
Natalie: I thought it was really weird.
End sort-of spoilers.
Hannah: I thought this book had a very intriguing concept, but the execution could have been a bit better. There were funny moments and good characters, just a few too many of them.
Natalie: It was an interesting take on supernatural elements in a realistic setting, but there were too many plotlines and it wasn't as well-woven as it could have been.


Hannah: Now we're off to go feed a turtle named Lloyd.
Natalie: Yay!!!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

If He Had Been With Me Review!

If He Had Been With Me by Laura Nowlin

If he had been with me, he wouldn't have died.
Throughout their whole childhood, Finn and Autumn were inseparable—they finished each other's sentences, they knew just what to say when the other person was hurting. But one incident in middle school puts them in separate social worlds come high school, and Autumn has been happily dating James for the last 2 years. But she's always wondered what if...
The night she's about to get the answer is also one of terrible tragedy.

(Picture and synopsis from Goodreads.)

Natalie: We were lucky enough to meet Laura Nowlin at our localish library, and when we told her we were going to review this book, she said to be honest. (More about this at the end...)
Hannah: And we can honestly say that we loved it!


Natalie: How about we start with the green socks?
Hannah: What do you want to say about the green socks?
Natalie: I don't know. It was funny.
Hannah: Apparently we can't form sentences that actually sound good today. 
Natalie: How about we squeal about stuff? We can do that!
I want a baby goat named Augusta!
Hannah: Me too! Even though a goat tried to eat my dress once when I was five.
Natalie: But goats are so cute!
Now onto characters that aren't goats.
Hannah: I loved Autumn's character, but I didn't like how she thought that she would just marry Jamie and everything would be perfect. Mostly because Jamie irritated me, but also because no high school freshman has their life that planned out. 
Natalie: It seemed a little naive, especially for someone starting high school. That's around the time that most people realize that happily ever afters don't usually happen in real life.
Hannah: Though I guess freshman year is a lot of being glad you still have time before having to deal with standardized tests and college searching and everything.
Time for quotes that make us hate Jamie. 
"It's hard to predict when Jamie will approve or disapprove of any eccentricity of mine." (page 70)
"'I will never, ever, never leave you,' he says." (page 63) 
"That isn't beautiful. That just sucks." (page 138, while they are discussing the meaning of life)
Natalie: And now a character we did like--Finn. He was so nice and he always saw the best in people.
Hannah: And even though there was a rift between him and Autumn, he kept it friendly between them. Autumn and Finn had such a great friendship that they were able to go right back into being friends even after the awkward period between them. They were more of best friends than Autumn and Sasha ever could have been. And he was so concerned when Autumn got the black eye from Jamie when they were sledding.
Natalie: "'F*** you, Sylvie,' I say." (page 100)
That was exactly what I was thinking for pretty much the entire book. The author wanted the reader to hate this character and it worked really well. 
Hannah: That pretty much sums up our feelings for Sylvie.
I loved how If He Had Been With Me was set in Saint Louis, our lovely hometown. I really liked reading and hearing something about how St. Louis winters go on forever and just thinking, yeah, pretty much. 
Natalie: Also, she mentioned something about how September is a summer month in St. Louis and how the weather doesn't turn cold until October or even November. Sadly, this is true. St. Louis is special in the way that winter and summer drag on forever.
Now for a quote that we book nerds love.
"I want to savor this wonder, this happening of loving a book and reading it for the first time, because the first time is always the best, and I will never read this book for the first time ever again." (page 141).
Hannah: Besides Jamie and Sasha, I liked Autumn's friends a lot. 
Natalie: It was surprising when Angie got pregnant. 
Hannah: It was, but I did like that she never was that mad that she got pregnant. It wasn't what she ever thought would happen, but she ended up being very happy. 
Natalie: And Preppy Dave was so supportive.
Hannah: I thought that they all should have stopped calling him Preppy Dave when they got married.
Now back to hating Jamie. I hated how he thought Autumn was too depressed so he just didn't want to deal with it, even after he had said he wasn't ever going to leave her. He's a horrible boyfriend and person.
Natalie: "Sasha and I have discovered that we have feelings for each other." (page 245) OH REALLY. 
Natalie: So let's talk about Finn's death. I didn't like the way he died.
Hannah: But it's a tragic ending. Like every single book I read in English last year.
Natalie: I understood that the author wanted Finn's death to be Sylvie's fault, but I thought he should have just died in the car crash instead of the freak electrocution. My issue with the ending was that after Autumn tried to kill herself, she realizes that she might be pregnant. Suddenly, she doesn't want to die anymore and everything's going to be perfect and Finn is going to live on through this baby that she might have. It's as if this suicide attempt was completely forgotten and now that she might be pregnant, everything's okay. I loved this book so much, but this ending is the reason I didn't give it five stars.

Ratings (no spoilers beyond this point)

Hannah's Rating: ✭✭✭✭✭
Natalie's Rating:  ✭✭✭✭1/2

Overall Impression:
Hannah: I loved this book. The characters, the voice, everything was so interesting and unlike anything I've read before. The ending wasn't my favorite, but I still loved this book. 
Natalie: I really enjoyed this book. It was very "character driven" and each of the characters was fantastic. The book was very well written and an addictive read. I took off half a star because I had a problem with the ending, but other than that this book was amazing.

Emma (Hannah's sister), Natalie, Hannah, and Laura Nowlin
We talked to Laura Nowlin after the reading, and she was really nice and funny. Afterwards we explored the Wizard of Oz storybook exhibit and we posed as munchkins.
Hannah, Natalie, and Emma

Aren't we cute munchkins?

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Siege and Storm Review!

Hi everybody!!! Welcome to our blog! Since this is our first post, we're going to quickly introduce ourselves. 
Hannah: I'm Hannah.
Natalie: And I'm Natalie. And we will conversationally review books.
Hannah: I think we should tell them a little more about us, don't you think?
Natalie: I guess.
Hannah: I love to read (obviously), dance, and be annoyed with my dear friend Natalie. I also play viola in my school's orchestra. I'm trying to come up with what my favorite books are, but I can't think of any right now, so here's a link to my Goodreads. I'm currently reading Les Miserables by Victor Hugo.
Natalie: And I think Hannah's insane for reading that giant, 1,000 page monstrosity. 
Hannah: I only have ninety pages left.
Natalie: You're crazy. 
Hannah: *sticks her tongue out at Natalie*
Natalie: I guess I have to introduce myself now...I'm currently reading Eyes Like Stars by Lisa Mantchev. Here's my Goodreads and here's a list of things I do:
  • Read (Duh. I feel like we shouldn't even have to say this. Why would someone start a book blog if they don't like to read?)
  • Write
  • Figure skate
  • Play the violin
  • Take care of our blog mascot, Cole the Royal Rat (more on him to come)
  • Annoying my annoying friend Hannah

Hannah: We should probably get on with the review now.

Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo

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

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

(picture and synopsis from Goodreads)


Hannah: And now we will start reviewing this very very very very pretty book.
Natalie: It's so pretty!!!
Hannah and Natalie: *squealing about the cover and the map and the chapter headings*
Natalie: And now that we've gotten that out of the way...
Hannah: ...we will now begin discussing this book which is as well written as it is pretty.  
Natalie: So apparently the Darkling can create creepy shadow people now. 
Hannah: That was very disturbing, but it was an interesting insight as to how evil he was and how much he hated the traditional Grisha rules since he was actually creating matter, which goes against the nature of their powers.
Natalie: That's very deep. Readers, don't get used to this.
Natalie: The earliest death is this book was Ivan, the Darkling's right hand man. I thought this was surprising since Ivan had played a somewhat important role in Shadow and Bone. His death was fitting though, since he was killed the same way he had killed others.
Hannah: It also shows that the Darkling can be defeated since his right hand man, who had to be powerful to get that position, was taken down. If they can bring down Ivan, the Darkling can't be invincible.
Natalie: Ivan's death was a crack in the Darkling's armor.
While we're speaking of death, I thought an important decision was made when Strumhond decided that they should fight back and hunt the volcra. The volcra were frightening enemies for a long time and when they decided that they weren't going to be afraid of them anymore, the shift in power was notable.
Hannah: Another important power shift was when Alina decided she was tired of being a pawn and symbol and decided to lead the Second Army. I really liked seeing Alina take charge and not just be another figurehead.
Natalie: One of the more disturbing scenes was when Alina rode by the peddlers who were selling supposed relics of her bones. 
Hannah: That was creepy!
Natalie: It was weird that they were worshipping her as a saint when they knew nothing except that she was the Sun Summoner. 
Hannah: Let's talk about Nikolai/Strumhond for a bit.
Natalie: I loved his character.
Hannah: He wasn't my favorite character, but I did like his wit and comebacks.
Natalie: And that is where we differ. He was definitely my favorite character. 
Hannah: Mal was my favorite.
Natalie: I liked him for the most part, except at the end when he was off brooding in the woods and such.
Hannah: Even though Nikolai wasn't my favorite, I enjoyed when he told Alina not to punch him and then kissed her.
Natalie: And he's the younger prince! Did you see that coming?
Hannah: Nope. That was surprising.
Natalie: I didn't even remember that there was a second prince, but it was still out of the blue.
Hannah: Now back to Mal! I liked how Alina made him blush when she told him he was a much better kisser than Nikolai after the don't-punch-me-but-I'm-going-to-kiss-you thing.
Natalie: That was funny.
Hannah: I enjoyed Alina's sarcasm throughout the book.
Natalie: Alina and Mal's banter was hilarious! (For example, the goiter conversation in the first chapter.)
Hannah: Speaking of witty dialogue, one of my favorite lines was when Baghra told Alina "You couldn't make a meat pie from what you know" (page 256). I really love Baghra's character.
Natalie: I felt really bad for her in this book. But what happened to her showed how much the Darkling didn't care about anybody else.
One of my favorite parts was when the Grisha did this: *hand gesture of fingers interlocking*
Hannah: I liked that too, but I'm going to laugh at your description.
Natalie: It's a good description. They converged and did this: *repeat of hand gesture*
Hannah: It works, but it's also funny.
Natalie: It's a good representation of what happened! Are you done making fun of me now?
Hannah: I never said it wasn't a good representation. Moving on...
Natalie: I didn't like the addition of the third love interest in Nikolai. It bothers me that the Darkling is considered a love interest at all. That's like being on Team Warner. Guys, Warner and the Darkling are the BAD GUYS. They can have some redeeming qualities, but that doesn't change the fact that they do bad things and I do not want the protagonist to end up with them. And the whole thing with the Darkling in Alina's bedroom was CREEPY. How can you like the dude when he does stuff like that?
*end of rant*
Hannah: I think your rant covered everything about that topic so...
Natalie: Did you see Vasily being stupid and making a pact with the Darkling coming?
Hannah: Well I certainly saw the being stupid part coming. I didn't predict that he would make the pact with the Darkling, but it wasn't that surprising when I thought about it.
Natalie: Vasily's death confused me. Can you really die from getting your arm ripped off?
Hannah: Well, can't he if he lost enough blood?
Natalie: It seemed like he died very fast. 
Hannah: Well, he did die, so in the least morbid way possible, that's good. 
Natalie: I loved how David was quiet and reserved and then he was all determined and ready to go down fighting in the end.
Here's another one of my favorite parts of the ending. "Only two were unmarked. Tolya and Tamar led the charge, eyes wild, blades flashing, roaring my name." (page 408)
Hannah: I think that Genya will have an important role in the third book, Ruin and Rising, since she is referred to as the Ruined.
Natalie: Time for the ending. Alina really is fulfilling her martyrdom by being willing to die as a saint to stop the Darkling. She's going to earn many more followers even without succeeding.
Hannah: I loved the ending, especially Mal not letting Alina destroy herself to stop the Darkling. 
Natalie: Alina losing her powers is just like the very beginning when she couldn't get her light to come.
Hannah: It was a great ending and book three cannot come soon enough.

Ratings (no spoilers here)

Hannah's Rating: ✭✭✭✭✭
Natalie's Rating: ✭✭✭✭✭

Overall Impression: READ THIS NOW. Well, read Shadow and Bone first if you haven't. But Siege and Storm is even better than Shadow and Bone. The Grisha series is unique, engaging, and has really pretty covers.

And here's a picture of the pretty chapter headings and our pretty Shadow and Bone nail polish that we got from Leigh Bardugo at the RT Booklovers Convention.