Monday, March 31, 2014

Review: Steadfast (Spellcaster #2) by Claudia Gray

And maybe you should scroll down to the end of this post, because maybe there's a giveaway... ;D

Release date: March 4, 2014
Author info: Website | Twitter | Facebook
Publisher: HarperTeen
Pages: 346
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher provided for review
Buy the book: Barnes & Noble | Amazon | The Book Depository
Nadia, Mateo, and Verlaine have saved Captive's Sound from the dark Sorceress Elizabeth...or so they thought. Despite their best efforts, a crack opened and a new, greater evil seeped through. With Mateo as her Steadfast, Nadia's magic is magnified and she is more powerful than ever. But there is still so much she doesn't know about the craft, leaving her open and vulnerable to a darker magic...which has begun to call Nadia's name.
I was a little bit surprised by how much I enjoyed the first book in the series, Spellcaster, but going into Steadfast, I knew I'd enjoy myself. And I was right! It's got higher stakes, more interesting magic, lovely romance, and black goo coming out of people's mouths--what more could you want?

After seemingly defeating Elizabeth in her planned destruction of Captive's Sound, Nadia, Mateo, and Verlaine seem to be in the clear, believing Elizabeth is dead. But, when she starts showing up around town again, they realize her plan at the carnival was only one step in a larger, more sinister plan. With very little time to stop her and with her demon, Asa, always hovering and interfering both with their plans and relationships, the three try as hard as they can to stop Elizabeth's ultimate plan and save the world as they know it.

I'm still struck so hard by how different and innovative the magic in this series is. There's "no foolish wand-waving or silly incantations" (to quote Severus Snape), but instead experiences and feelings make up the core, augmented by natural elements like obsidian. It makes the magic so much more personal and it means a witch can't, at times, do a certain spell because she doesn't have the experience in life for it. I love that a lot of the restraints on power come from this. There's one magical instance that is so striking and so powerful in this book that it moved me to tears. To see the sacrifice it takes and the potency of it is just astounding. (But to talk of it in any detail is a major spoiler, and one that I'd really hate to ruin for anyone... But, I cried.)

I enjoyed getting to know Nadia and Mateo in the first book, but here I especially liked seeing more of Verlaine, her situation, her history, and her feelings. She's much more appealing as a character than just as a sidekick to Nadia and she deserves so much more than she receives.

The plot in this one is rather similar to the first but with higher stakes. This isn't a bad thing necessarily, but it does feel a little repetitive, with Elizabeth as the bad guy and her superior knowledge and power always kind of easily defeating Nadia. It is definitely helped by the addition of Asa but I'd like to see something a bit different in terms of the plot (and the third book looks to promise that).

Despite the slightly plot, Steadfast is a good sequel that is just as exciting as the first book and builds a lot on the foundations of the world. Not only does it deliver on romance and excitement, but it's ending promises an equally (though probably more) exciting third book, one that I personally can't wait to read. Hey, if you like witches, why aren't you reading this series?



About the author:

Claudia Gray is the pseudonym of Amy Vincent, a bestselling, New Orleans-based novelist. She is perhaps best known for her four-book Evernight series, which follows a girl named Bianca, who is sent to Evernight Academy, a boarding school for vampires.

Gray has also published Balthazar, a spin-off of the Evernight series about Bianca's vampire friend, and a stand-alone novel entitled Fateful, the tale of a young serving woman aboard the doomed ship Titanic, and a dark stranger who is pursued by werewolves. Gray's short stories have been featured in anthologies such as Immortal, Enthralled, and Vacations from Hell. Before working as a full-time novelist, Gray worked as a lawyer, a disc jockey, a journalist, and a waitress (a terrible one by her reckoning). She enjoys hiking, traveling, reading, and listening to music, but says she loves writing best of all.
My review of Spellcaster.

And guess what? I happen to have an extra copy of Steadfast, and I figured I'd share it with one of my lovely readers! Just follow the instructions in the Rafflecopter to enter! :) Ends 4/21 11:59 p.m. Eastern. US ONLY.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Stacking the Shelves {61}


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 great! My spring break has been lovely, mostly relaxing, which is exactly what I needed. I wouldn't say I'm totally ready for the last month of classes, but I'm better than I was before! :D

For review:


Searching for Sky by Jillian Cantor
The Girl from the Well by Rin Chupeco

A big, big thanks to Bloomsbury Children's, Sourcebooks Fire, and Netgalley for these! :)

Won:


This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales
The Fallout by S.A. Bodeen
Horde by Ann Aguirre
Tumble & Fall by Alexandra Coutts
Altered by Gennifer Albin

This was through a Twitter giveaway from Fierce Reads, and I totally screamed both when I won and when I opened the package. They're all signed! SQUEEEEE!

Gifted:

This is NOT the best picture, eh? Oops!
Maybe Someday by Colleen Hoover
Just One Day by Gayle Forman
We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

Purchased: 



Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes


Foreplay by Sophie Jordan
Prophecy by Ellen Oh

A recap of the week here on Paper Cuts:
Monday - Review: Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen
Tuesday - Teaser Tuesday: Steadfast (Spellcaster #2) by Claudia Gray
Wednesday - Waiting on Wednesday: The Only Thing to Fear by Caroline Tung Richmond
Thursday - Feisty, Fierce, Flawed: My Favorite Female YA Heroines
Friday - Review: The Last Best Kiss by Claire LaZebnik

Books I read this week:
Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen
Steadfast (Spellcaster #2) by Claudia Gray
Maybe Someday by Colleen Hoover

I'm currently reading:

The Ring and the Crown by Melissa de la Cruz

So that's been my week! Kind of an awesome book week, if I do say so myself, which I do!  :) Have a lovely Sunday and a fabulous week!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Review: The Last Best Kiss by Claire LaZebnik

Release date: April 22, 2014
Author info: Website | Twitter | Facebook
Publisher: HarperTeen
Pages: 320
Format: Egalley
Source: Publisher provided through Edelweiss
Buy the book: Barnes & Noble | Amazon | The Book Depository | IndieBound
Anna Eliot is tired of worrying about what other people think. After all, that was how she lost the only guy she ever really liked, Finn Westbrook.

Now, three years after she broke his heart, the one who got away is back in her life.

All Anna wants is a chance to relive their last kiss again (and again and again). But Finn obviously hasn’t forgotten how she treated him, and he’s made it clear he has no interest in having anything to do with her.

Anna keeps trying to persuade herself that she doesn’t care about Finn either, but even though they’ve both changed since they first met, deep down she knows he’s the guy for her. Now if only she can get him to believe that, too....

With her signature wit and expertly authentic teen voice, Claire LaZebnik (the author of fan favorites Epic Fail and The Trouble with Flirting) once again breathes new life into a perennially popular love story. Fans of Polly Shulman, Maureen Johnson, and, of course, Jane Austen will love this irresistibly funny and romantic tale of first loves and second chances.
I've never read one of Claire LaZebnik's books before, but after reading The Last Best Kiss I know I'll be reading more. Persuasion is one of my favorite Austen stories, and I love retellings of it. The Last Best Kiss is equal parts adorable and fun, and a perfect light read. I read it in one sitting and enjoyed the heck out of doing so.

Three years ago, Anna was in love with Finn, the deeply nerdy boy who rode in the backseat with her in carpool. But she rejected him because her friends would never approve, and Finn soon moved out of town. Now, Finn is back, no longer quite so nerdy, and, clearly, he's still mad. Anna has realized in time that she never stopped loving Finn and that her biggest regret was hurting him. She only wants to show him she's changed, but Finn wants nothing to do with Anna. And it looks like he wants everything to do with one of her best friends, which just might completely break Anna's heart.

Even without having read Persuasion, there's so much to love in The Last Best Kiss. Anna is someone who has learned from her mistakes, and it's apparent in her character, especially as we're given views into Anna's thoughts and actions before and at the present time. It's a bit heartbreaking to follow her as she has to be treated badly and see the boy she loves give his attentions to someone else. But you can't help but understand Finn's anger. You can't help but want him to see Anna's changes, though, too. Anna's got a great group of friends with a dynamic that really works, and her family situation is one that shows you perhaps why the approval of her friends and peers is so important.

It's so appealing to read a modern adaptation of a story that deals with such universal themes. Every teenager is guilty of wanting to be accepted by their peers, of wanting to be like everyone else, never singled out for being different. Even as you, with your outside view, hate what Anna does, you also understand her motivation, but you probably can't help but admit that it's something you would've done at a time in your life. We're also all guilty of not wanting to forgive people when they've wronged us, even years later, and carrying that hate and anger for so long it hurts us. Again, you understand Finn's hurt, but you know his forgiveness is going to be better for everyone.

There's clearly a lot that I find appealing about this retelling, though you obviously don't need to have any knowledge of Persuasion in order to read The Last Best Kiss. I liked the modernization in that Anna's rejection of Finn comes from her desire to fit in amongst her peers, which is a perfect translation of the story's ideas. I thought the development of the relationship between Anna and Finn was really well done, and actually, there are elements that I thought were more appealing than in Persuasion itself. Not only do we see more of their interaction before the rejection, but there are more real moments between them after that show the true viability of their relationship. This is something not shown much in Persuasion, which isn't a problem necessarily, but it makes the story sweeter. Well done, Ms. LaZebnik!

The Last Best Kiss is an adorable YA contemporary that's got a lot to love. With an appealing romance that delivers on the swoon, laugh out loud moments between friends,  and heartwarming and heartbreaking family moments, you're in distinct danger of reading this book in one sitting like I did.


About the author:

Claire LaZebnik lives in Los Angeles with her TV-writer husband and four children. She has coauthored two books about autism with Dr. Lynn Kern Koegel (Overcoming Autism and Growing Up on the Spectrum). Her previous novels include Knitting Under the Influence, The Smart One and the Pretty One, Families and Other Nonreturnable Gifts, Epic Fail, and The Trouble with Flirting. You can visit her online at www.clairelazebnik.com.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Fiesty, Fierce, Flawed: My Favorite YA Female Heroines

With all the talk about Divergent recently with the movie release, and the inevitable The Hunger Games comparisons, I've had strong heroines on the brain. And in my constant search to talk about different things here, I realized I've never done something like this. I don't participate in Top Ten Tuesday, when I see a lot of lists--and this probably exists with that--I decided to throw in my two cents. :) In no particular order, here are my favorite YA female characters of all time:

I mean, what list of strong female characters could be complete without Elisa? She's got this amazing arc over the series, going from a chubby, insecure eater of bonbons who whines without taking action to badass empress who not only has confidence in her body, abilities, and intelligence, but she wields them all flawlessly to save the people of a country that she wasn't even born in (and who still loves her bonbons, obviously.) What's not to love?

(I tried to put the hyphen in, but it looked crazy. I totally know it's not there.) Persis is seriously the coolest. An aristocrat who moonlights as the Wild Poppy, a rebel who sneaks refugees from her neighboring island country to save them from torture, she spends her days flitting about, hiding her true identity under her frivolous reputation. She's highly intelligent and sacrifices her safety and comfort to help those who need it.

I couldn't decided on a queen, so I picked them both! Even though two of the books are named after the male characters (and I love them too), it's the women than stand out. Isaboe, especially later, is the queen Lumatere needs, ruling firmly but with compassion and a sensitivity to the plight of her people. Quintana is the definition of fierce, snarling and rude, even. She survives in the most adverse of circumstances and rises above them to become stronger.

It's always interesting to see a character thrown into a world completely different from their own, especially one they've been told will kill them--and quickly. Aria begins the series as a scared girl who has just left the only home she's ever known, a pod where most of her time was spent in a digital landscape, and she's thrust into a very real world filled with people she regards as savages and aether storms that threaten to kill her at every turn. But by the end of the series she's a leader who is able not only to help those she grew up loving but her new family as well. She's compassionate and selfless, a character willing to endanger herself to help others, even those she doesn't like.

Now, admittedly, I haven't read Horde yet, but that does not change my opinion on Deuce. Originally solely focused on her role as Huntress in her enclave, through experience above she learns the value of compassion for others and the power of the love of a family. She develops (is developing?) into a character who listens to her guts--though she may act without thinking sometimes--and who finally can understand other's feelings. But she's still tough as nails and can kill you as easily as look at you.

Another series filled with awesome women! All very different but interesting and awesome all the same. Katsa is feared by most because her "Grace" is killing, Fire is reviled because she ensnares people with her beauty, and Bitterblue is the daughter of Leck, a king who ruled with might and cruelty, and now she has to lead a country even though she feels trapped by her responsibilities. Two are physically strong, one is mentally strong.

Can't forget the fairy tale girls! It's been such a joy seeing Cinder become a leader as she learns and comes to accept who she is and what she's destined to do. I almost didn't include Scarlet here, but after what happens to her in Cress, that girl deserves a spot. It's hard to see characters you care about endure such hardship, but she proves her mettle and becomes much more through her unbreakable will. Gotta love a girl who loves her grandmother, anyways. I just love Cress's quiet strength. She's not physically strong and she's inexperienced, but she uses her skills and intelligence to prove herself vital.

In finishing this list, I realize there's no possible way it's exhaustive. I kept finding books with characters I know I loved, but who I can't remember, so I couldn't put them on here. (I could've made this longer, I suppose, but it's taking forever to make all those graphics!) I'm also sure there are plenty I missed. I love that YA has so many strong female characters that I know of too many to feasibly put on this list. So, this is simply a sampling of a few standouts in my mind. :)

Who are your favorite female characters in YA? Are any of mine on your list? 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday: The Only Thing to Fear by Caroline Tung Richmond {37}


Title: The Only Thing to Fear
Author: Caroline Tung Richmond
Release date: September 30, 2014
In a stunning reimagining of history, debut author Caroline Tung Richmond weaves an incredible story of secrets and honor in a world where Hitler won World War II.

It's been nearly 80 years since the Allies lost WWII in a crushing defeat against Hitler's genetically engineered super soldiers. America has been carved up by the victors, and 16-year-old Zara lives a life of oppression in the Eastern America Territories. Under the iron rule of the Nazis, the government strives to maintain a master race, controlling everything from jobs to genetics. Despite her mixed heritage and hopeless social standing, Zara dreams of the free America she's only read about in banned books.

A revolution is growing, and a rogue rebel group is plotting a deadly coup. Zara might hold the key to taking down the F├╝hrer for good, but it also might be the very thing that destroys her. Because what she has to offer the rebels is something she's spent her entire life hiding, under threat of immediate execution by the Nazis. 


In this action-packed, heart-stopping novel of a terrifying reality that could have been, Zara must decide just how far she'll go for freedom.
I saw this last week on someone's Waiting on Wednesday post and it sounded so interesting to me! I don't think I've ever read an alternate history book involving World War II, so it should be quite an experience.

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

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Teaser Tuesday: Steadfast (Spellcaster #2) by Claudia Gray {63}


Title: Steadfast (Spellcaster #2)
Author: Claudia Gray
Release date: March 4, 2014
Pages: 346
Nadia, Mateo, and Verlaine have saved Captive's Sound from the dark Sorceress Elizabeth...or so they thought. Despite their best efforts, a crack opened and a new, greater evil seeped through. With Mateo as her Steadfast, Nadia's magic is magnified and she is more powerful than ever. But there is still so much she doesn't know about the craft, leaving her open and vulnerable to a darker magic...which has begun to call Nadia's name.






My teaser, from p. 11 in the hardcover:
She raised her hand to her bracelet, reading to begin her next spell--

Verlaine screamed. Mateo grabbed Nadia and pulled her back--only moments before her hair stood on end. It was as if lightning struck, but instead of a second's flash of lightning, a column of fire swirled up in front of them, twisting and writhing with its heat.
I really enjoyed Spellcaster so I was so pleased to begin reading this, and I hope it's even better than the first novel! It's certainly starting with a bang. :)

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

Monday, March 24, 2014

Review: Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen

Release date: February 14, 2012
Author info: Website | Twitter | Facebook
Publisher: Walker Childrens
Pages: 292
Format: Ebook
Source: Purchased
Buy the book: Barnes & Noble | Amazon | The Book Depository
Many readers know the tale of Robin Hood, but they will be swept away by this new version full of action, secrets, and romance. 

Posing as one of Robin Hood’s thieves to avoid the wrath of the evil Thief Taker Lord Gisbourne, Scarlet has kept her identity secret from all of Nottinghamshire. Only the Hood and his band know the truth: the agile thief posing as a whip of a boy is actually a fearless young woman with a secret past. Helping the people of Nottingham outwit the corrupt Sheriff of Nottingham could cost Scarlet her life as Gisbourne closes in.

It’s only her fierce loyalty to Robin—whose quick smiles and sharp temper have the rare power to unsettle her—that keeps Scarlet going and makes this fight worth dying for.
The only book about Robin Hood I've read is Robin McKinley's The Outlaws of Sherwood, which was, of course, fantastic to me because it was Robin McKinley, but that was at least ten years ago. I don't have a ton of experience with the legend aside from the very basics, so my expectations coming into Scarlet were kind of vague, only informed by the high ratings most of my Goodreads friends had given the book. And while I can't necessarily rave about it, I definitely enjoyed the novel's twist on the character of Will Scarlet.

Honestly, I wasn't thrilled by the first, oh, 70 percent of the book, if that's not the worst thing to say ever. I mean, it was vaguely interesting, but I didn't feel like there was a whole lot of moving forward. Tax day is coming and all, and the band tries to get money for it while avoiding Gisbourne. That's it, with some love triangle angst thrown in. We're thrown bits and pieces of who Scarlet is, but that's a secret that was immediately obvious, so the clues were useless. It's not until just before tax day that anything terribly interesting--and with actual plot repercussions--happens, and that's at about 70 percent. That last 30 percent, though, is awesome! It had all the intrigue, real romance, action, and hoodwinks (see what I did there?) that I wanted from the entire book, and ultimately saved the book for me.

What keeps Scarlet working throughout all that muck is Scarlet herself, though. She's the reason I kept on. Scarlet is kick-ass and can really take care of herself, but she's reliant on the boys for their love, support, and friendship--not protection, which is awesome. The girl proves herself perfectly adept and capable time and time again. But, she blames herself for the death of someone she loves, and this informs every decision she makes, ultimately trying to atone for that death and hopefully to be acceptable to herself again.

And while I felt like the inclusion of a love triangle was unnecessary and really just a tool to make some conflict where there wasn't anything else, I have to say I found myself really liking Robin. I liked seeing his self doubt and frustration at his inability to protect the people. Robin Hood is a hero, but he's also supposed to be human, and that's what's so fun about new iterations of him, seeing how authors explore his character and what makes him tick, those interpretations and motivations.

Can I just say dialect in books frustrates me? I want to correct it--especially when it's not so much a dialect that it becomes a kind of rhythm in my head, but it's just a wrong verb tense or "ain't" every so often. I get the motivation for Scarlet speaking as such, but Much and John were common and didn't speak as badly as Scarlet.

All in all, Scarlet didn't live up my expectations but it was still a worthwhile read. It's good and I can see why so many people loved it; it just came up short for me personally. If you're like me and late to the bandwagon, I would recommend the book for Robin Hood and historical fiction fans. It may not be perfect, but it's good enough.


About the author:

A.C. Gaughen is a YA writer, secret hotel concierge, occasional freelancer, obsessive reader, total geek, and author of SCARLET, her debut novel.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Stacking the Shelves {60}


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 great! SPRING BREAK IS HERE AND I COULDN'T BE HAPPIER!

For review:


Salvage by Alexandra Duncan


The Last Best Kiss by Claire LaZebnik
Meridian (Arclight #2) by Josin L. McQuein


Dark Metropolis by Jaclyn Dolamore
17 First Kisses by Rachael Allen
How to Meet Boys by Catherine Clark

A big, big thanks to HarperTeen, Greenwillow, Disney-Hyperion, Edelweiss, and Netgalley for these! :)

Purchased: 



Torrent (River of Time #3) by Lisa T. Bergren
Asylum by Madeleine Roux
Taken by Erin Bowman

A recap of the week here on Paper Cuts:
Monday - Review: A Death-Struck Year by Makiia Lucier
Tuesday - Teaser Tuesday: The 57 Lives of Alex Wayfare by M.G. Buehrlen
Wednesday - Waiting on Wednesday: Stitching Snow by R.C. Lewis
Thursday - Review: The 57 Lives of Alex Wayfare by M.G. Buehrlen
Friday - Let's Talk About... Social Media

Books I read this week:
A Death-Struck Year by Makiia Lucier
The 57 Lives of Alex Wayfare by M.G. Buehrlen
The Last Best Kiss by Claire LaZebnik

I'm currently reading:

Scarlet by A.G. Gaughen

So that's been my week! I kind of raided HarperTeen's contemporary releases on Edelweiss, since I've been really craving good contemporary reads lately. I read The Last Best Kiss in one sitting Friday night and really enjoyed it. :) Have a lovely Sunday and a fabulous week!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Let's Talk About... Social Media

I'm the first to admit I'm not especially social media savvy. I've had a Facebook for years but have never found all that much interest in it. If you were to look at my profile, you'd see I don't ever post on it and I only like book pages to keep up to date with bookish news. Normally, I log on and look at what people post without liking or saying a single thing.

But, when I started a blog I knew I needed to maintain a slightly larger profile on social media. So I've got a Twitter, a Facebook page, and everything in between. And while I really try on Twitter to interact with others, some days are better than others for me, and there are still spans of time when I don't tweet anything aside from post announcements for days. The same goes with the Facebook page. I go through spells where I post a lot there, but for the most part it simply acts to display new posts here. The only social network that I really interact on, like, at all, is Goodreads. But there I'm acting less in my blogging identity and more as myself.

Here's why I think I'm not so good at social media: As friendly and effusive as I am in person and in discussion, I'm pretty darn shy. I'm generally not going to walk up to you and strike up a conversation. I'm awful at small talk. And I feel much the same online. It's one thing for me to write a post up for the blog and post it. It's another to tweet at someone I've never talked to before and hope they'll reply. (This is why I love the people who tweet at me first, even just a reply to something I've said. Seriously, y'all make my day and I loveeee you.) So even when I'm reaching out to people in the role of "blogger", I'm still carrying this baggage of being unsure. Even so, I love having conversations with people on Twitter. I love how easy it is and how easily accessible it makes people, especially authors.

The gist: I'm shy and scared to talk to you first, but I love to talk. I even feel awkward commenting on blogs I rarely comment on or have never commented on, but I'm really working on the commenting. :)

How engaged with social media are you? I know many people find it integral to their daily life--is this you? Do you feel awkward in those interactions like I do?

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Review: The 57 Lives of Alex Wayfare by M.G. Buehrlen

Release date: March 4, 2014
Author info: Website | Twitter | Facebook
Publisher: Strange Chemistry
Pages: 416
Format: Egalley
Source: Publisher provided for review
Buy the book: Barnes & Noble | Amazon | The Book Depository
For as long as 17-year-old Alex Wayfare can remember, she has had visions of the past. Visions that make her feel like she’s really on a ship bound for America, living in Jamestown during the Starving Time, or riding the original Ferris wheel at the World’s Fair.

But these brushes with history pull her from her daily life without warning, sometimes leaving her with strange lasting effects and wounds she can’t explain. Trying to excuse away the aftereffects has booked her more time in the principal’s office than in any of her classes and a permanent place at the bottom of the social hierarchy. Alex is desperate to find out what her visions mean and get rid of them.

It isn’t until she meets Porter, a stranger who knows more than should be possible about her, that she learns the truth: Her visions aren’t really visions. Alex is a Descender – capable of traveling back in time by accessing Limbo, the space between Life and Afterlife. Alex is one soul with fifty-six past lives, fifty-six histories.

Fifty-six lifetimes to explore: the prospect is irresistible to Alex, especially when the same mysterious boy with soulful blue eyes keeps showing up in each of them. But the more she descends, the more it becomes apparent that someone doesn’t want Alex to travel again. Ever.

And will stop at nothing to make this life her last.
The 57 Lives of Alex Wayfare is intriguing. I don't know that I've read another YA that tackles reincarnation (aside from David Levithan's Every Day, which I wouldn't say is about reincarnation), and the way Alex Wayfare does this is interesting, inserting the concept into a decades-old corporation run by a man power-hungry semi-maniac. And while it's not a perfect read (Alex engages in some kind of annoying gender stereotypes and there's really not a ton of plot), The 57 Lives of Alex Wayfare is certainly an entertaining and engaging novel that will leave you begging for its sequel (that cliffhanger ending was just kind of cruel!)

Alex Wayfare is a really interesting character. She's quiet and stays away from others, thinking engaging with her peers will only lead to more mockery than she already experiences. With a nickname like "Wayspaz", it's hard not to blame her. Alex never knows when one of her visions will happen and she has a tendency to get back at those who wrong her. Generally, I liked Alex. I thought she was dealt a situation that is hard to cope with, not to mention that she doesn't feel she can really share her problems with her family, since they have enough to deal with. I liked that Alex really comes to like herself throughout the book, as she learns the power she has with her abilities and experiences living differently. It was nice to see her realize, since she's spent a lot of time wishing she could be like everyone else previously.

The only problem with Alex, though, is that she has the tendency to generalize other girls. There are several instances where she says things like she's not "one of those girls" who thinks about dating and boys.... But she does think about those things. And there's nothing wrong with thinking about dating and boys, but it's kind of annoying that she has to spout that. It's so nice seeing Alex really figure herself out and come to really like herself that it's off-putting to see that. There would be no loss in her character to change those lines.

And while there's not necessarily a lot of plot, especially all through the middle of the book, the entire book is still interesting. Instead, we get to see long glimpses of a few of Alex's past lives (which, admittedly, are much more exciting than her real one). The ending, though, is certainly action-packed and leaves you on a cliffhanger that's just cruel. I called the big twist from the beginning, but that didn't bother me.

While The 57 Lives of Alex Wayfare isn't a perfect novel, it's terribly intriguing to follow Alex as she gets to know her abilities and explore her past lives. I will be waiting with bated breath to read the sequel, especially to see a few more of those 56 past lives.


About the author:

When she’s not writing, M.G. moonlights as a web designer and social media/creative director. She’s the current web ninja lurking behind the hugely popular website YABooksCentral.com, a social network for YA (and kids!) book lovers. The 57 Lives of Alex Wayfare is her debut novel. M.G. lives nestled away in Michigan pines, surrounded by good coffee and good books, with her husband and son and their three furbabies.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday: Stitching Snow by R.C. Lewis {36}


Title: Stitching Snow
Author: R.C. Lewis
Release date: October 14, 2014
Princess Snow is missing.

Her home planet is filled with violence and corruption at the hands of King Matthias and his wife as they attempt to punish her captors. The king will stop at nothing to get his beloved daughter back—but that’s assuming she wants to return at all.

Essie has grown used to being cold. Temperatures on the planet Thanda are always sub-zero, and she fills her days with coding and repairs for the seven loyal drones that run the local mines.

When a mysterious young man named Dane crash-lands near her home, Essie agrees to help the pilot repair his ship. But soon she realizes that Dane’s arrival was far from accidental, and she’s pulled into the heart of a war she’s risked everything to avoid. With the galaxy’s future—and her own—in jeopardy, Essie must choose who to trust in a fiery fight for survival.
I. Love. Fairy tale. Retellings. End of story.

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

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Teaser Tuesday: The 57 Lives of Alex Wayfare by M.G. Buehrlen {62}


Title: The 57 Lives of Alex Wayfare
Author: M.G. Buerhlen
Release date: March 4, 2014
Pages: 416
For as long as 17-year-old Alex Wayfare can remember, she has had visions of the past. Visions that make her feel like she’s really on a ship bound for America, living in Jamestown during the Starving Time, or riding the original Ferris wheel at the World’s Fair.

But these brushes with history pull her from her daily life without warning, sometimes leaving her with strange lasting effects and wounds she can’t explain. Trying to excuse away the aftereffects has booked her more time in the principal’s office than in any of her classes and a permanent place at the bottom of the social hierarchy. Alex is desperate to find out what her visions mean and get rid of them.

It isn’t until she meets Porter, a stranger who knows more than should be possible about her, that she learns the truth: Her visions aren’t really visions. Alex is a Descender – capable of traveling back in time by accessing Limbo, the space between Life and Afterlife. Alex is one soul with fifty-six past lives, fifty-six histories.

Fifty-six lifetimes to explore: the prospect is irresistible to Alex, especially when the same mysterious boy with soulful blue eyes keeps showing up in each of them. But the more she descends, the more it becomes apparent that someone doesn’t want Alex to travel again. Ever.

And will stop at nothing to make this life her last.

My teaser, from 35% in the egalley:
"What the hell do you think you're doing?" he says, storming up to me and grabbing me by my coat collar. "Do you think this is some sort of game?"
This is exactly where I am (as of 7:45 last night) and am really enjoying this so far. The concept is verrrrrry interesting. :)

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

Monday, March 17, 2014

Review: A Death-Struck Year by Makiia Lucier

Release date: March 4, 2014
Author info: Website | Facebook | Goodreads
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Pages: 288
Format: Egalley
Source: Publisher provided for review
Buy the book: Barnes & Noble | Amazon | The Book Depository
A deadly pandemic, a budding romance, and the heartache of loss make for a stunning coming-of-age teen debut about the struggle to survive during the 1918 flu.

For Cleo Berry, the people dying of the Spanish Influenza in cities like New York and Philadelphia may as well be in another country--that's how far away they feel from the safety of Portland, Oregon. And then cases start being reported in the Pacific Northwest. Schools, churches, and theaters shut down. The entire city is thrust into survival mode--and into a panic. Headstrong and foolish, seventeen-year-old Cleo is determined to ride out the pandemic in the comfort of her own home, rather than in her quarantined boarding school dorms. But when the Red Cross pleads for volunteers, she can't ignore the call. As Cleo struggles to navigate the world around her, she is surprised by how much she finds herself caring about near-strangers. Strangers like Edmund, a handsome medical student and war vet. Strangers who could be gone tomorrow. And as the bodies begin to pile up, Cleo can't help but wonder: when will her own luck run out?

Riveting and well-researched, A Death-Struck Year is based on the real-life pandemic considered the most devastating in recorded world history. Readers will be captured by the suspenseful storytelling and the lingering questions of: what would I do for a neighbor? At what risk to myself? An afterword explains the Spanish flu phenomenon, placing it within the historical context of the early 20th century. Source notes are extensive and interesting.
A Death-Struck Year is kind of a conundrum for me. While the historical setting and general premise were fascinating and a quick sell for me, the execution was a bit lacking. I immediately (and obviously) thought of In the Shadow of Blackbirds when I originally read the synopsis, but that comparison ultimately doesn't stretch farther than the time period and probably hurt my impression of A Death-Struck Year. While In the Shadow of Blackbirds was emotionally compelling, haunting, and heartbreaking, all I could feel from A Death-Struck Year was a general sense of sadness at the situation, but no lasting feelings for Cleo.

In reading A Death-Struck Year, the amount of research Makiia Lucier did is clear. The details don't overwhelm or detract from the story, but they keep a distinct time and place. But, I think my main problem stems from the same thing that makes the historical detail work. The writing itself is clear and simple, and even though the narration is first-person, I never felt a connection to Cleo or a sense of her motivation. In the bio provided for the author, it says she studied journalism in college. Journalistic writing is different from creative writing; journalists focus on plain language and portraying facts without bias, whereas creative writing allows for inference of feelings. And though the writing is perfectly fine in general, I think the style of A Death-Struck Year is too plain, too straightforward for a story that should be highly emotional.

The tone of the novel also never feels urgent. With the flu killing people in such short spans of time and Cleo even witnessing several deaths, the threat of the flu never feels like a race against death. It never feels like Cleo is truly tempting fate by working in close proximity with so many of those who are ill. This is something that should be felt in every sentence, every scene, never knowing who could fall ill next and if they even have a chance of surviving to make it to the hospital.

All of that being said, I still generally enjoyed reading A Death-Struck Year. There's not necessarily an abundance of plot, but watching Portland head towards breakdown was entertaining and kept me turning pages. And even though I never felt a connection to Cleo, I really liked Edmund. Even without knowing his thoughts, he was a character that I could actually feel something for--even though the romance was a little unnecessary.

While A Death-Struck Year is written competently and researched excellently, it's the lack of a connection that makes it only an okay read. Even so, I certainly don't regret reading the novel and think there will be and are people who enjoy it.


About the author:

Makiia Lucier grew up on the Pacific island of Guam, not too far from the equator. She received a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Oregon and a master's in library studies from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where she studied literature for children. She's had plenty of jobs, mostly in libraries, and currently resides in the small college town of Moscow, Idaho.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Stacking the Shelves {59}


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 great! My mom came to visit, and we had a great time. Spring break is NEXT WEEK and I'm chanting to myself that I just have to get through this one for my freedom. So close, yet so far. :) Anyways...

For review:


The Nightmare Dilemma (Arkwell Academy #2) by Mindee Arnett
Death Sworn by Leah Cypess
Steadfast (Spellcaster #2) by Claudia Gray
(These came a week or two ago but they were at my house. My mom brought them up to school for me.)



The Forever Song (Blood of Eden #3) by Julie Kagawa
The Diamond Thief by Sharon Gosling


The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson
Deep Blue by Jennifer Donnelly

A big, big thanks to Harlequin Teen, Switch Press, Disney Hyperion, Henry Holt and Co., and Netgalley for these! :)

Purchased: 


The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
The Flame in the Mist by Kit Grindstaff


The Shadow Society by Marie Rutkoski

A recap of the week here on Paper Cuts:
Monday - Review: The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski
Tuesday - Teaser Tuesday: Elusion by Claudia Gabel and Cheryl Klam
Wednesday - Waiting on Wednesday: Illusions of Fate by Kiersten White
Thursday - Review: Sing Sweet Nightingale by Erica Cameron
Friday - Blog Tour: Side Effects May Vary {Interview + Review + Giveaway}

Books I read this week:
Sing Sweet Nightingale by Erica Cameron
Translations by Brian Friel
Sweet Tooth, Vol. !: Out of the Deep Woods by Jeff Lemire
The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli
Mandragola by Niccolo Machiavelli
Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy

I'm currently reading:

A Death-Struck Year by Makiia Lucier

So that's been my week! This week, in the "Books I read this week", I decided to put all of the books I read this week. Normally I just put YA books, but I thought y'all might be interested in the volume of reading I have to do some weeks for school. All but the first and last books were for class. This was kind of a heavy week, but I tend to have a lot of those. It's an English major problem and one that really don't mind having. :) Have a lovely Sunday and a fabulous week!