Monday, October 20, 2014

Review: Stray by Elissa Sussman

Release date: October 7, 2014
Author info: Website | Twitter | Facebook
Publisher: Greenwillow
Pages: 384
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher provided for review
Buy the book: Barnes & Noble | Amazon | The Book Depository
“I am grateful for my father, who keeps me good and sweet. I am grateful for my mother, who keeps her own heart guarded and safe. I am grateful for my adviser, who keeps me protected. I am grateful for the Path, which keeps me pure. Ever after.”

Princess Aislynn has long dreamed about attending her Introduction Ball, about dancing with the handsome suitors her adviser has chosen for her, about meeting her true love and starting her happily ever after.

When the night of the ball finally arrives and Nerine Academy is awash with roses and royalty, Aislynn wants nothing more than to dance the night away, dutifully following the Path that has been laid out for her. She does not intend to stray.

But try as she might, Aislynn has never quite managed to control the magic that burns within her-magic brought on by wicked, terrible desires that threaten the Path she has vowed to take.

After all, it is wrong to want what you do not need. Isn’t it?
The world Elissa Sussman has created in Stray is a fascinating and completely terrifying one. Only women are born with the ability to do magic, but their magic is seen as wicked, Commoners are bound by a lord and unable to do but the simplest of magic and the upper classes are forced to control themselves, with the threat of being Redirected--stripped of their title and forced to become a fairy godmother, essentially a slave--hanging over their heads should they lose control one too many times. Sounds like a fairy tale, huh? This reversal of fairy tale tropes is one of the things I liked best about Stray. What is often happy and simply magical is dark and forbidden; what is normally a happy ending is essentially a sentencing to a life of hiding.

I loved that we're treated to a story about Aislynn, who is Redirected to become a fairy godmother. Instead of the sweet, kindly women we've seen in movies, those who seem perfectly happy to help and very warm, fairy godmothers are nobility who have been forced to their status. Because they supposedly couldn't handle their magic and were in danger of straying off their Paths, they are essentially servants, their loving hearts taken away, and they become the property of a girl's adviser, subject to his whims. So, the side character who in fairy tales often pops in to save the princess and lead her off into a happily ever after is given the chance to have her own story. And Aislynn doesn't shy away. She wants to do what's expected of her, but she finds she can't, and as she comes to know more of the world outside of the bubble she lived in for most of her life, her ideas about what's good and evil are challenged.

The main problem with Stray for me was that I just couldn't connect well with Aislynn. I was always interested in the story, but I felt very few emotions for her. I felt very differently for side characters, Brigid and Ford especially. While I was disconnected from Aislynn, I didn't feel the same for the story itself or the world. I also found at times that the plot kind of skittered from place to place, not spending enough time in one spot at times to really hammer the moment home. There were also a few things that I didn't think were explained quite as well as they could have been--but that at least is something I imagine will be fixed in later books.

All in all, I quite liked Stray. If you're a big fan of fairy tales, as I am, reading this will be a treat to see how the classic elements can be flipped around and still make a story that feels magical.

About the author:

Elissa Sussman is a writer, a reader and a pumpkin pie eater.

Her debut novel, STRAY (Greenwillow Books/HarperCollins), is a YA fantasy about fairy godmothers, magic and food. She received her BA from Sarah Lawrence College and in a previous life managed animators and organized spreadsheets at some of the best animation studios in the world, including Nickelodeon,  Disney,  Dreamworks and Sony Imageworks. You can see her name in the credits of THE CROODS, HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA, THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG and TANGLED.

She currently lives in Los Angeles with her boyfriend and their rescue mutt, Basil.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Stacking the Shelves {90}

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews where we get to share the books we've bought, been gifted, or received for review!

How was everybody's week? Mine's been good! I just finished a streak of 10 days working in a row, with two of those days working back-to-back shifts, so I'm a little tired. I'm off today, though, and am deliriously happy about it. I kind of think the trend of buying books is going to continue, what with having money and an employee discount at Barnes & Noble. I ordered two more books online that'll probably arrive this week... :D :D No self control. Also, today's pictures really aren't great, and I apologize for that! I took quick pictures to put up, so... 

For review:

I'll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios

The Winner's Crime (The Winner's Trilogy #2) by Marie Rutkoski


The Cure for Dreaming by Cat Winters
This is seriously the most gorgeous hardcover. I might not have bought it this week if it hadn't been so pretty, quite honestly, but I couldn't resist!
Clariel (Abhorsen #4) by Garth Nix
I've been waiting what feels like my whole life for this book, so I had to get a copy the week it came out. I really want to reread the first three before I read this, though, so I'm not sure when I'll get to it. What's a few more weeks? :)

A recap of the week here on Paper Cuts:
Monday - Review: Kiss of Broken Glass by Madeleine Kuderick
Tuesday - Teaser Tuesday: Clariel (Abhorsen #4) by Garth Nix
Wednesday - Waiting on Wednesday: Hold Me Like a Breath by Tiffany Schmidt
Thursday - Review: The Fine Art of Pretending by Rachel Harris
Saturday - Blog Tour: Atlantia by Ally Condie {Guest Post + Giveaway}

Books I read this week:
Kiss of Broken Glass by Madeleine Kuderick
The Fine Art of Pretending by Rachel Harris

I'm currently reading:
Stray by Elissa Sussman

So that's been my week! Not a huge haul, but seriously awesome in terms of quality. I'm certainly satisfied. :) Have a lovely Sunday and a fabulous week!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Blog Tour: Atlantia by Ally Condie {Guest Post + Giveaway}

You guys, you guys. YOU GUYS. I am absolutely over the moon to be hosting today's stop on the blog tour for Atlantia, Ally Condie's new book. To celebrate, Penguin has put together a rather different kind of blog tour. We're divided into two teams: Team Below (WOOT!) and Team Above. All through the month we're posting tons of great content, including interviews, guest posts, playlists, fancasts, and reviews. And today, I've got Ally herself stopping by with some great Atlantia-inspired party ideas. But first, a bit about the book to rouse your memory...

About the book:

Can you hear Atlantia breathing?

For as long as she can remember, Rio has dreamt of the sand and sky Above—of life beyond her underwater city of Atlantia. But in a single moment, all her plans for the future are thwarted when her twin sister, Bay, makes an unexpected decision, stranding Rio Below. Alone, ripped away from the last person who knew Rio’s true self—and the powerful siren voice she has long hidden—she has nothing left to lose.

Guided by a dangerous and unlikely mentor, Rio formulates a plan that leads to increasingly treacherous questions about her mother’s death, her own destiny, and the complex system constructed to govern the divide between land and sea. Her life and her city depend on Rio to listen to the voices of the past and to speak long-hidden truths.

Ideas for an ATLANTIA Party 

Over the years I’ve been lucky enough to go to some amazing book parties hosted by some extremely talented readers. It made me wonder…what would I have at my “ideal” ATLANTIA party? Well, the truth is that you only really need a book and a reader and that is pretty much perfect. But in the interest of daydreaming, I gathered some fun images for a party I would never actually be able to pull off (but I know there are people who could!).

  1. This beautiful white cowrie shell could have so many uses—place setting, gift for the party attendees, icebreaker (pass it around and each person tells part of their story when they have the shell). And, of course, it’s symbolic of an important part of the book (but I don’t want to give too much away!). Image source.
  2. Okay, so I never actually mention anyone eating cake in ATLANTIA (gross neglect on my part, I should make sure people eat cake at least once in every book). But how perfectly beautiful is this aqua cake? And the roses look a little like waves to me. Image source.
  3. These are so beautiful—books wrapped in brown paper, library cards on top!—and could be used so many ways. Favors for guests—maybe notebooks inside for them to write their own stories?—or guests could bring a favorite book to pass along to someone else, wrapped in brown paper for anonymity and used in a passing game. Image source.
  4. Another beautiful shell—very similar to the one used on the cover of ATLANTIA—could have lots of uses (see above, Item #1). Image source.
  5. I could never pull it off, but I think SOMEONE at the party should wear this dress—or maybe everyone should wear something made of aqua chiffon. ☺Image source: Etsy. No longer for sale.
  6. I think it would be so fun to visit a local aquarium as part of the event (or see if I could host the party itself there!).  There’s something about seeing all that blue water and all those beautiful creatures that induces awe. I’ve seen it in my kids when we visit our local aquarium, and I feel it myself. Image source.
  7. A gorgeous way to decorate—shells, filled with dirt, and growing little tiny plants! I love the marriage of the Above and Below—of things from the ocean and from the land—in this picture. Image source.
  8. More beautiful decorations—these metal fish above the table and around the room. True (an important character in ATLANTIA) would be so happy! Image source.
  9. Guests could wear these ribbons in their hair, as Rio and Bay do in the opening scene of ATLANTIA. Image source.
  10. A gorgeous illustration print of The Little Mermaid, one of the inspirations for the story of ATLANTIA. I’d love to put a print of these right in the center of the table, or little versions at place settings. Image source.
  11. This is the food (an Italian dessert bread called panettone) that Rio smells while walking through the deepmarket. Image source.
  12. Total pipe dream, but there are underwater hotels. Who knew?!? And how crazy would it be to have a book party there. Crazy. But the good kind. Image source.
  13. And last but not least, the perfect table setting. Image source.

About the author:

Ally Condie is the author of the MATCHED Trilogy, a #1 New York Times and international bestseller. MATCHED was chosen as one of YALSA’s 2011 Teens’ Top Ten and named as one of Publisher’s Weekly’s Best Children’s Books of 2010. The sequels, CROSSED and REACHED, were also critically acclaimed and received starred reviews, and all three books are available in 30+ languages. Disney has optioned the film rights for the series.

A former English teacher, she lives with her husband and four children outside of Salt Lake City, Utah. She loves reading, writing, running, and listening to her husband play guitar.
Find Ally online: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

If you'd like to follow the rest of the tour and cheer on Team Below, check out the #AtlantiaBelow hastag on Twitter and here's the lineup of fabulous bloggers:

September 28 – Katie (Mundie Moms) – Long Q&A
September 30 – Jen (I Read Banned Books) – Guest post
October 2 – Katie (Katie’s Book Blog) – Short Q&A
October 4 – Lea (YA Book Queen) - Review
October 6 – Taschima (Bloody Bookaholic) - Fancasting
October 8 – Jeremy (Novel Thoughts Blog) – Guest post
October 10 – Erin/ Flo (Fangirlish) - Review
October 12 – Nancy (Ravenous Reader) – Review
October 14 – Sara (Novel Novice) - Playlist
October 16 – Jess (Gone with the Words) – Short Q&A
October 18 – Rachel (Paper Cuts) – Guest post
October 20 – Georgia (Eve’s Fan Garden) - Playlist
October 22 – Gabby (Queen Ella Bee Reads) – Long Q&A
October 24 – Andrea (Reading Lark) - Review
October 26 – Tirzah (The Compulsive Reader) - Playlist

One reader will receive a copy of Atlantia and a necklace! Open INTERNATIONALLY. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Review: The Fine Art of Pretending by Rachel Harris

Release date: September 30, 2014
Author info: Website | Twitter | Facebook
Publisher: Spencer Hill Contemporary
Pages: 256
Format: Egalley
Source: Publisher provided through Netgalley
Buy the book: Barnes & Noble | Amazon | The Book Depository
According to the guys at Fairfield Academy, there are two types of girls: the kind you hook up with, and the kind you're friends with. Seventeen-year-old Alyssa Reed is the second type. And she hates it. With just one year left to change her rank, she devises a plan to become the first type by homecoming, and she sets her sights on the perfect date—Justin Carter, Fairfield Academy’s biggest hottie and most notorious player.

With 57 days until the dance, Aly launches Operation Sex Appeal and sheds her tomboy image. The only thing left is for Justin actually to notice her. Enter best friend Brandon Taylor, the school’s second biggest hottie, and now Aly’s pretend boyfriend. With his help, elevating from “funny friend” to “tempting vixen” is only a matter of time.

But when everything goes according to plan, the inevitable “break up” leaves their friendship in shambles, and Aly and Brandon with feelings they can’t explain. And the fake couple discovers pretending can sometimes cost you the one thing you never expected to want.
You like cute? You like fluffy? Then The Fine Art of Pretending is for you! If you want a story that's not fully romance-driven or predictable, I'll go ahead and steer you elsewhere. (These are not the droids you're looking for.) The Fine Art of Pretending is exactly what it promises to be, and while it doesn't break any molds, it's still a very enjoyable time getting to the expected conclusion.

Aly is on a mission to change her label for her senior year. No more does she want dance pictures with her girlfriends or just-a-friend dates, so she initiates Operation Sex Appeal. Reading her saying this was just the first moment I wanted to shake some sense into her. Aly is a perfectly likable girl. She's smart, talented, and funny, but she thinks her high school experience isn't complete without this. And I knew (as you have to in reading the synopsis) that she'd eventually come to the idea that she was awesome the way she was and all that jazz, but it always makes me sad when people think they're not good enough just being themselves--real or fictional. This obviously didn't make me dislike her, but it just made me want to sit her down and talk some sense into her all the way through the book.

Speaking of wanting to talk sense into someone, I have to say the same for Brandon. Like Aly, he's clearly a good guy. He's a bit of a player, but he doesn't hurt girls or anything, and he's a great friend to Aly. But his idea that "relationships" as a rule inevitably lead to someone being hurt is just silly. I knew how that'd be resolved (as it was), but I couldn't help wanting to sit down with him and give him some reality as well. So while I enjoyed the book, it's one of those where I feel the need to dole out advice to characters.

Nonetheless, The Fine Art of Pretending does a few things really, really well. First, Aly's best friends, Kara and Gabi, are absolutely a highlight. They're so fun, and not only are they super supportive of Aly even in her ill-advised scheme, but they're also fleshed-out characters--and not just in relation to Aly. I also really liked that it didn't take the predictable scheme that Justin was this girl-abusing jerk, showing Aly in that way that she didn't want to be a "casual". He's given a lot more as a character.

So, no, The Fine Art of Pretending isn't earth-shattering or even unpredictable. However, it does manage to avoid a few common tropes and deliver a cute romance that you'll be happy you read.

About the author:

Award-winning and bestselling author Rachel Harris writes humorous love stories about sassy girls next door and the hot guys that make them swoon. Emotion, vibrant settings, and strong relationships are a staple in each of her books...and kissing. Lots of kissing.

An admitted Diet Mountain Dew addict and homeschool mom, she gets through each day by laughing at herself, hugging her kids, and watching way too much Food Network with her husband. She writes young adult, new adult, and adult romance, and LOVES talking with readers. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday: Hold Me Like a Breath by Tiffany Schmidt {66}

Title: Hold Me Like a Breath
Author: Tiffany Schmidt
Release date: May 19, 2015
Penelope Landlow has grown up with the knowledge that almost anything can be bought or sold—including body parts. She’s the daughter of one of the three crime families that control the black market for organ transplants.

Penelope’s surrounded by all the suffocating privilege and protection her family can provide, but they can't protect her from the autoimmune disorder that causes her to bruise so easily.

And in her family's line of work no one can be safe forever.

All Penelope has ever wanted is freedom and independence. But when she’s caught in the crossfire as rival families scramble for prominence, she learns that her wishes come with casualties, that betrayal hurts worse than bruises, that love is a risk worth taking . . . and maybe she’s not as fragile as everyone thinks.

This was on my "might I have you right this moment" shelf, but I completely forgot what it's about until, like, an hour ago. WHAT? I'm a dummy, but I won't forget again! I would like a copy on my shelf!

So what are you guys waiting on this week? :)

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Teaser Tuesday: Clariel (Abhorsen #4) by Garth Nix {92}

Title: Clariel (Abhorsen #4)
Author: Garth Nix
Release date: October 14, 2014
Sixteen-year-old Clariel is not adjusting well to her new life in the city of Belisaere, the capital of the Old Kingdom. She misses roaming freely within the forests of Estwael, and she feels trapped within the stone city walls. And in Belisaere she is forced to follow the plans, plots and demands of everyone, from her parents to her maid, to the sinister Guildmaster Kilip. Clariel can see her freedom slipping away. It seems too that the city itself is descending into chaos, as the ancient rules binding Abhorsen, King and Clayr appear to be disintegrating.

With the discovery of a dangerous Free Magic creature loose in the city, Clariel is given the chance both to prove her worth and make her escape. But events spin rapidly out of control. Clariel finds herself more trapped than ever, until help comes from an unlikely source. But the help comes at a terrible cost. Clariel must question the motivations and secret hearts of everyone around her - and it is herself she must question most of all.

My teaser, from 2% in the egalley:
"Dear Greten!" he exclaimed. "I will be strong! Tell me what you need."

"First," whispered Greten, in a voice he alone could hear. "I need to know things. Who rules the Kingdom? How many years have passed since the second Dyran was on the throne? Do the Abhorsens still scour the land against the Dead and...others?"
SQUEEEE! Happy release day to Clariel! I don't know how long I've been waiting for this book, but it's felt like ages. It's been in a kind of limbo for years and it's been killing me--the day is finally here! The Abhorsen books were a favorite series of mine in elementary and middle school, so it's so wonderful for another to come out now.

I'll be visiting around and visiting back, so leave me links to your teasers! :) Happy Tuesday!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Review: Kiss of Broken Glass by Madeleine Kuderick

Release date: September 9, 2014
Author info: Website | Twitter
Publisher: HarperTeen
Pages: 224
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher provided for review
Buy the book: Barnes & Noble | Amazon | The Book Depository
Madeleine Kuderick’s gripping debut is a darkly beautiful and lyrical novel in verse, perfect for fans of Sonya Sones and Laurie Halse Anderson. Kiss of Broken Glass pulses with emotion and lingers long after the last page.

In the next seventy-two hours, Kenna may lose everything—her friends, her freedom, and maybe even herself. One kiss of the blade was all it took to get her sent to the psych ward for seventy-two hours. There she will face her addiction to cutting, though the outcome is far from certain.

When fifteen-year-old Kenna is found cutting herself in the school bathroom, she is sent to a facility for mandatory psychiatric watch. There, Kenna meets other kids like her—her roommate, Donya, who’s there for her fifth time; the birdlike Skylar; and Jag, a boy cute enough to make her forget her problems . . . for a moment.
Kiss of Broken Glass is my first foray into verse novels, and I have to say, if they're all as compelling and readable as this one I'll be reading a lot more. The idea behind it, cutting as a popularity mechanism, is frightening--and it's even more frightening to read in the author's note that the book was inspired by a similar event in her daughter's life. To explore Kenna's mindset and thought process is sad, and it's so easy to see her flawed logic, but it's also easy to understand why she did it, why she's addicted.

The book only takes place over 72 hours, Kenna's whole stay in the psych ward, but it does an excellent job of showing how Kenna thinks and creating a progression into how her time there changes her. She begins as completely against all they talk about--and even ends being against a lot of it--but she also sees the pain of others who are much worse than her and sees how her actions hurt others, especially her younger brother. It's not a complete change, and it's not meant to be, but it's a transition for her.

The verse style works really well for this, too. Instead of focusing on a plot and surroundings, we're immersed in Kenna's mind. The details of her stay are related only so far as they're important to her. The verse is able to set off certain phrases and give a style that mimics thoughts much more closely than a linear narration would, but it never feels like it's been manipulated without reason.

I do wish the whole Jag bit would have been left out. Mostly because it feels a little like a distraction, like a bit of fluff and a romantic interest to fill things in. More built on Kenna's relationship with Skylar would have been better, because Skylar has a real effect on Kenna. The strength of Kiss of Broken Glass is in its exploration of Kenna's mindset, and Jag only detracts from that.

While I have no other verse novels to compare to it, Kiss of Broken Glass was, at least for me, a great read. It's so quick and immersive that you'll find yourself surprised to have devoured the book so quickly.

About the author:

Madeleine Kuderick writes for anthologies and magazines and has spoken at conferences including the International Reading Association, where she's an advocate for reluctant readers and the teachers who touch their lives. She has a bachelor's degree from the University of South Florida and an MBA from Saint Leo University.

Madeleine grew up in Oak Park, Illinois, a community with a rich literary tradition, where she was editor in chief of the same high school newspaper that Ernest Hemingway wrote for as a teen. She now lives on Florida's Gulf Coast with her husband and two children.