Thursday, October 30, 2014

Review: Follow Me Through Darkness - Danielle Ellison

Follow Me Through Darkness
Danielle Ellison 
Series: The Boundless Trilogy
Genre: Young Adult, Dystopia
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Word Rating: Very Original
Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

I picked up Follow Me Through Darkness at BEA and was instantly intrigued by the premise -- Elders choosing paths of life for members of society? Sign me up. Neely, the main character, figures out that basically all of the government is a lie -- as usual -- and her search for the truth snowballs into something huge.

The concept was not only something I found to be very original (my description doesn't do it justice, read the blurb and you'll see what I mean) but carried out very well and I commend Danielle Ellison for not turning this book into something very typical and generic as it would have been easy to do in this style of writing.

I enjoyed the story a lot and thought it was done well. I wish there had been more focus on world-building because I feel like at some points things were kinda vague or not really explained and I really hope they're elaborated on in the next book. There were also a few instances where there would be info-dumping about a particular subject before they were about to encounter it -- not a lot but enough where the world-building aspect is one I hope to see improved on in the next book.

The characters were definitely well-developed. I liked Neely a lot and the way we get to know her. I honestly really enjoyed her personality, especially that she didn't really like to deal with other people's bullshit and wasn't exactly the most sensitive person. I think that might be off-putting to some people and I can totally understand why people would have problems with her character but I think my own ways of thinking just made me appreciate her a lot. Also, she faced some tough choices and was pretty indecisive and I can feel that because making decisions is really hard whether it's what kind of chocolate you want to purchase or life or death decisions that could bring down a government (I think they're on the same level tbh) so I think Neely is pretty rad. Other characters include Thorne and Xenith. I liked the way they were both done as well and hope to see them expanded upon in the second book. There was definitely the beginning of a love triangle here but it wasn't heavily focused on here and while it'll probably become more apparent later on, I was appreciative of the way it was introduced.

The plot itself was also very compelling and I was really entertained by the whole story and was kept interested by everything that went on. The beginning a little show but once it picked up the pace it didn't slow down and was definitely a good read. The story alternated in between flashbacks and the present and as it went on we learned a lot about Neely, which was cool, and also about their world and the Elders and everything. Some of it involves a countdown which builds suspense. Overall, it was just a good story and definitely worth reading, and I'm hopeful that the second book will be even better and I can't wait to see what happens after the cliffhanger this book left the readers with!

- Noor

What's a refreshing dystopian novel you've read lately?
Let us know in the comments!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Review: The Immortal Rules - Julie Kagawa

The Immortal Rules
Julie Kagawa
Series: Blood of Eden
Genre: asdf
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Word Rating: Gritty
Goodreads | Amazon  | Book Depository

Yes! YES. YES.

I love the premise of this book, the characters, the writing -- just about everything.

If you don't know yet, this book is about a girl named Allison Sekemoto, who lives in a community of humans owned by vampires. She struggles to survive and eventually, while scavenging outside of the community's walls, she dies. And is brought back as her nightmare. She trains with the vampire who turned her and then runs off, meeting a group of humans and chasing the legend of a cure. Beautiful premise. So beautiful, it sets Kagawa up to explore both dystopian and fantasy aspects of contemporary literature, while criticising and enhance the tropes throughout her book.

The characters stood out to me the most. They were all so fleshed out. Allison's character stuck to me the most -- she was harsh, realistic, and determined to survive. I loved that there were no compromises with her.Allison is selfish. Full stop. There's no heart of gold to redeem this character, and as such I expect her to act like a person rather than a superhero. It's fairly rare and really refreshing to see a character that honestly represents people in fantastic and extreme settings. Even when she dies for Stick, it's more or less circumstantial.

Speaking of Stick, I hate him. It's hard for me to straightforwardly hate a character, so thank you Julie Kagawa, for creating such a weak, pining, worthless individual. He can never do anything for himself, and he abandons Allison immediately after she becomes a vampire. However, I loved hating him, because he's realistic as well. Stick is what most people would turn into. Scared, introverted, and terribly dependent.

I loved that Kanin's role wasn't overemphasised, both as Allison's mentor and as a love interest. His heart is in the right place yet there is danger about him, which is maintained throughout the book. I contrast this to Zeke, who is completely out in the open about himself and his love for Allison and being a leader. Their romance was devoid of the insta-love that often plagues both paranormal vampire and dystopian books.And there was no nonsensical love triangle formed out of the fact that Kanin turned her. He doesn't own Allison, he is her mentor. It's weird that this is so revolutionary. I think this contrast really highlights Kagawa's ability to form characters who fit in her setting properly and not to put pressure on something that is external to her message (i.e., not making a big deal out of the romance when the characters are being hunted constantly).

On that notion, Kagawa certainly has a great grip on world-building. From the wilds and the Vampire Principalities to the gleaming towers and the museum and the rest, there is so much packed into the world. The governing and social systems as well are very clear, and it's not hard to grasp why Allison, an Unregistered human being, is so oppressed.

The writing itself is beautiful, in form and diction, as usual for Kagawa, and the plot twists and turns with her welling tension throughout. There was quite a natural pace to the story and nothing feels quite forced.

All in all, read it!

- Marlon

Are Vampires still a thing for you? Or is the trend dead?
Let us know in the comments!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Double Review: Leaving Time - Jodi Picoult

Leaving Time
Jodi Picoult
Series: N/A
Genre: Adult Fiction, Contemporary
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Word Rating: Wild From Start to Finish (see what I did there?)
Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

I love Jodi Picoult books. I've loved Jodi Picoult books for years and I don't think I'll ever get enough of them. When I found out she was signing at BEA, I needed to get an ARC of her newest book signed by her and meet the woman herself. She was lovely, by the way. And this new book definitely hits its mark.

The book centers around a 13 year old girl, Jenna Metcalf, and her search to find her mother -- who disappeared 10 years ago when she was admitted into a hospital after being found unconscious at the site of an elephant trampling and then regaining consciousness, leaving the hospital, and never being heard from again. The elephant trampling thing isn't totally weird and out of nowhere. Alice -- the mother -- worked with elephants and dedicated her life to researching them, particularly patterns of grief among elephants.

Anyway, it's been ten years and Jenna is trying to find out why her mother disappeared and whether she's out there somewhere with the answers to all of Jenna's questions -- and she has a lot of questions. And who does she enlist for help? A psychic, Serenity Jones, who used to specialize in missing persons cases with astounding accuracy and a private investigator, Virgil Stanhope, who was a police officer on the trampling case 10 years ago.

There is a lot about elephants in this book. I appreciate that because I consider elephants to be my favorite animal and this book incorporated them so well. If you aren't really all about elephants or animals or any of that stuff, don't fret, because this book is still for you. A lot of the elephant stuff isn't even about the elephants, it's about the humans. And the stuff that is about the elephants is not obnoxiously so -- things like behavior patterns and memory are discussed, usually with anecdotes, and it's very well dispersed. There is a lot of Alice's point of view and she just talks about things she's learned in her time spent working with and observing elephants from all different places. It's really quite interesting and I loved how it was done and how the lessons we learned about the behavior of the elephants were so connected with the behaviors of the humans in the book.

I also loved all the characterization. First, we have Jenna, who sounds both extraordinarily not 13 but at the same time sounds painfully 13. It's hard to explain, but I liked her as a protagonist. She had drive and determination that is honestly only ever found in anyone her age, and I really liked the way her willpower and demeanor was juxtaposed with Serenity and Virgil, the two main adults she has trying to help her with this case. Both of these adults are jaded, untrusting, exhausted by the world and everything its thrown at them. If people were photographs, they would be really worn and faded and bent around the edges, while Jenna would be new and bright and crisp but a little bent out of shape. I enjoyed reading about them all and the way their dynamics were with Jenna and the dialogue between the pair was great. Serenity and Virgil had chapters in their own points of view and they delved into their past and it really helped add dimensions to these characters you never would have expected to be so complex. Also, Serenity is a psychic and that's a pretty atypical character to have in this type of book, but she is executed extremely well and I think it's a great aspect of the book to have such a different cast of characters. There are also the whole slew of other people -- Jenna's father, the caretakers of the elephants, and all the people she meets in her journey.

The book took me by surprise more than a few times (there were also a few times when it was supposed to take the reader by surprise but I kind of knew where it was going, but that honestly didn't detract from the impact of the events) and I knew it was all leading up to a big reveal at the end, or some big twist and as I was reading I was really excited to learn what it was. I won't give anything away but I liked the direction the story went a lot.

It's so clear that Jodi Picoult put a lot of time and effort into research for this book -- obviously about the elephants, which is impressive in itself, but also about a lot of other aspects of human nature and what a real psychic is and tons of other things you'd never guess she had to research before going in because they're so well integrated into the story.

With such an engaging plot and well-written characters, I devoured this book and highly recommend anyone who comes across it to add it to his or her bookshelf, because it's a wonderful read by an author who is nothing short of amazing.

- Noor

Amrutha's Review of Leaving Time
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars
Word Rating:  Stellar

I want to start this with the preface that I love all things Jodi Picoult. Over the years I have read pretty much everything she has ever written and believe me when I say she is literally one of the only people (forget authors), who can make me cry very consistently, and if I don't cry (either happy or sad tears), I usually form a very strong emotional attachment to the characters, and Leaving Time did not disappoint.

When Noor and I stood in an hour long wait for this book and to meet Jodi Picoult, I was so excited to pick this up, and boy, were my instincts on par. Side note: Picoult was so nice, Noor and I both loved her, so its just a plus that her writing is awesome as well.

Let's talk about Jenna: she's young and fiery and really determined, which I think really makes me love her as a protagonist. As a young girl who is both 1) coming into her own and 2) has been through a whole lot more than someone her age should've, seeing her as her mom kind of just up and vanished. Jenna was interesting and a great character and was fleshed out well for a prepubescent girl in and adult novel, but Serenity was the real star of the show for me. She is a psychic in the novel, and no matter how much I discount psychics in real life and in fiction, Serenity really captured my heart. Virgil, our washed out, private detective/ex-cop was interesting as well: there isn't a lot for me to say about Serenity, Virgil, Jenna, and even Alice, Jenna's mother, as they are all characterized in the same way that they are in every Jodi Picoult book: as the book goes on, we find out more and more plot-twisty back story, and it added dimension to every character. Picoult never writes static characters and she did not begin now.

The only part of the novel that really lost points with me was the constant inclusion of information about elephants. Like, we get it, elephants are important to the overall plot of the story, but the random inclusions about elephants got to be a little uninteresting for me, and I skimmed through those parts. I guess, however, that I should've expected it: every Picoult novel centers around a researched topic or court scenes or both.

What impresses me so much about Jodi Picoult's writing is that she is so incredibly predictable, but pulls everyone in at the same time. All of her books have the same set up: multiple characters tell the story, there are interconnected point of views, we find out more and more about characters' backstories as the book develops, and everything culminates in a plot twist no one can see coming, all centered around some researched topic of Picoult's, whether it be leukemia (My Sister's Keeper) or elephants. This same set up persists in this novel, and I highly suggest you read it, along with everything else Picoult has ever written.

- Amrutha

Have you ever lost something or someone?
Let us know in the comments!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Double Review - Black Ice - Becca Fitzpatrick

Black Ice
Becca Fitzpatrick
Series: N/A
Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Thriller
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 Stars
Word Rating: Entertaining Enough
Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

I picked up an ARC of this from BEA and now that I've read it, I realize that figuring out how I felt about this book took a little time because I didn't immediately feel one way or another as to whether or not I liked it. The premise -- a girl getting lost in the mountains with potential serial killers -- was oh so promising and there was quite a bit that went on the book, some good, some bad, that made it a lot more than just that basic summary.

 Right from the beginning, I didn't really like Britt, the main character. There was a scene at a gas station in the very beginning that I believe said a lot about her character. She refused to pump her own gas and pretended not to know how because she thinks she's a princess and doesn't want her hands to smell like gas (girl you're going backpacking, if you can't handle a little gasoline, you got problems) and then kept drinking excess Slurpee like it was her job and then made up a fake boyfriend to get back at her ex and had the most disgusting display of verbal affection with that fake conversation that I wanted to puke a little bit. I honestly thought at first Britt would be serious and tough or at least not as annoying as she is, but I was wrong. And then she hates on her "best friend" Korbie all the time for stupid things that she also does. You're not any better than her (not that Korbie is really all that bad, Britt just gets really annoyed by everything she does for some reason. That is not a healthy best-friendship. Walk away from that, one of you).

Calvin is Britt's main thought throughout the book and he honestly isn't even a great person. We see all these flashbacks, which were actually pretty entertaining and I enjoyed, but they just solidified the fact that he wasn't good to her, and there's no reason she should be thinking of him stranded in a cabin in the middle of the mountains. She also should not be romantically thinking about her captors -- one of them, at least.

The Stockholm syndrome vibes weren't so much as weird as they were poor judgement on her part. Like, come on girl, I know the guy is cute, but the whole thing had such a creepy feel to it the whole time that if I was there I probably would have been terrified, not flirting with the enemy.

Although, I did like that she tried to guide them out to help save herself, that was one of the few good choices she made throughout the book. And actually reading about her strandedness and adventure was definitely entertaining, although Britt's dialogue always annoyed me.

Even though I didn't particularly like the characters, I still found myself wondering if she would become another one of the teenage girls found dead, if she would become like the girl in the opening scene. I personally thought she would make it out alive because she's the main character and most authors don't do that, but that doesn't mean I wasn't thinking about the hundreds of other things that could happen to her besides that.

The plot itself of the book wasn't super unguessable but it definitely was engaging, enough so to keep me reading after I already decided the characters were a bit too much for me. Overall, I didn't totally love it, and there were a bunch of things I had issues with, but it won't deter me from trying out Becca Fitzpatrick books in the future.

- Noor

Marlon's Review of Black Ice
Rating: 2 our of 5 Stars
Word Rating:  Mediocre

Did you like Hush Hush? If so, you're going to like this book. Fitzpatrick's diction and storytelling have certainly become more polished, but the writing is very similar, the characters are just as contentious and the 'romance' is just as ramped up.

If you didn't like Hush Hush, then chances are, you're with me: Black Ice is mediocre. It has a strong premise and a lot of potential -- right from the prologue the raw themes that should be capitalized on -- escapism versus being captured, lust versus murderous intent, intoxicated (and so altered) states of mind. The blurbs all promise a fast-pace ride about Britt, the main character, being captured and stranded with probable killers, and having to navigate her way out to save herself.

That's all well and nice, of course, if the introduction didn't make Britt so hateable. Was the point of all the tension about the camping in the beginning, coupled with seeing her ex, supposed to make us relate to Britt? Because it didn't come off that way. Instead, Britt's character seems annoying, petty, and arrogant. (See Noor's review for a fuller criticism.)

And I would be completely fine hating Britt in the beginning but learning to love her as the fear of death showed her character's insides to be something more redeeming . . . but no. In basically every situation, Britt cannot help but relate everything to Calvin. This is fine, I can totally understand seeing someone you love in everything you do . . . but in a novel like this, those flashbacks only detract from the central plot -- of which Calvin has pretty much no influence past the first chapter -- and make me want to slap Britt to get over someone who made cheated on her while they were in a committed relationship, manipulated her to have sex with him, and generally was a total bag of faecal matter. What was the point of this? To make Mason, her captor, look more appealing to Britt? It doesn't. It just makes Britt's taste in lovers all the more disconcerting.

Godamnit, I want to talk about other characters but Britt is such a huge part of why this novel caves in on itself so hard. Every single thing about her makes me wish she just died in the mountains and Korbie just treks out of there exhausted but free. For example, throughout the book, Britt is treated poorly by most of the men. When this happens, she blames herself, she thinks they have beautiful souls and what have you. But the second her "best" friend does something wrong . . . the second Britt's sexual desires become apparent, Korbie could be dead to her and she wouldn't notice. What kind of message does this send?

There is literally a scene where one of the men is telling Britt that she "[has] the complete package", while Korbie is just an idiot. What does Britt say to this? "His response could not have been more perfect."

What the hell? What the hell!?

The saving grace of the book is probably the unwinding of the plot. I found that while I knew the general direction of things (not really that Big of a Reveal at the end), I couldn't really predict at all what certain characters would do since most of the events were based purely on circumstance. I found this really fascinating, especially in trying to get in the heads of the captors.

In the end, though, it was not an enjoyable journey, though I see how it could have been.

- Marlon

Have you ever been stuck anywhere?
Let us know in the comments!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday: Ignite - Sara B. Larson

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week I'm waiting on Ignite by Sara B. Larson!

Sara B. Larson
Series: Defy, #2
Release Date: January 6, 2015
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Waited on by: Kiersten

Murder, abductions, and forbidden romance abound in this thrilling sequel to Sara B. Larson's acclaimed YA debut, DEFY.

Alexa remains by the newly crowned King Damian’s side as his guard, ever committed to helping him rebuild Antion and reclaim the hope of Antion's people, despite continuing to harbor a secret love for him. However, when another threat to Damian and his kingdom emerges, and blame is cast on their newly forged allies from Blevon, Alexa knows things are not what they seem. With the fate of her nation hanging in the balance once again, will Alexa be able to protect her king and uncover the true enemy -- before it's too late?

There were a lot of mixed reviews for Defy, but I'm one of the people who absolutely loved it. I was pulled in right from the beginning and I loved the characters. I absolutely cannot wait to get my hands on the sequel in January! This release cannot come soon enough!

- Kiersten

What are YOU waiting on?
Let us know in the comments!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Cover Cosmetics: The Blood of Olympus - Rick Riordan

Today is the day - The Blood of Olympus, the final book in the Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordan, has been released! For the past three days, We Live and Breathe Books has been counting down to this glorious day, starting with a Stuffed Animal Saturday from Amrutha, then a playlist inspired by the Percy Jackson series from Noor, then some of Marlon's favorite fanart. Now today, in honor of the release, I decided to do this Cover Cosmetics!

The cover:

The makeup:

I really liked doing an abstract look when I did my Cover Cosmetics for Unmade, so I decided to do another abstract makeup look for The Blood of Olympus! For the makeup, I focused mostly on the sky. I really liked the way the clouds looked, so I tried to replicate that. From the darker clouds, I transitioned to lighter clouds and then to the lighting from Jason's sword.

Even though I won't be able to read The Blood of Olympus for a while, I'm so excited that the wait is over. Here's to hoping there won't be a cliffhanger... Happy reading to all the half-bloods out there!

- Kiersten

Do you like more wearable or more creative makeup looks?
Let us know in the comments!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Countdown to Blood of Olympus: 1 Day



First, and this is going to be obvious to anyone in on tumblr, is Viria.
To me, Viria is the literal queen of Percy Jackson-related fanart. 

I mean just look at this:

Viria's deviant art. Go. Visit. Click link
above. Now.
How can you not look at this and be crying. Leo Valdez has been my favorite character of the Heroes of Olympus books since it began. He's charmingly messy, temperamental, witty, hilarious, loyal -- he's fantastic. I chose this fanart because it showcases to me one of Leo's most amazing qualities -- determination. He'll work himself near to death out of not just curiosity, but of a need to protect and help his friends as he's shown time and time and time again with Festus, the Argo II, and so on. Leo does not stop, he's a fire (excuse the obvious metaphor) that burns the midnight oil. And might I say he's got damn good fashion sense in this piece of art.



Since I don't want to make this a Viria-fest, I must tear myself away. But really, just go. She adds so much to the characters simply by drawing them -- like adding a charmander shirt to Leo because he's obviously a pokemon nerd. 

This is a Piper fanart from Neaveria

Most of Neaveria's work speaks for itself. It's so striking and beautiful, especially the eyes. It's almost as if Piper is staring off into the world. It reminds me quite well of Piper's ability to charm, and though one would think to show Piper's mouth to highlight that quality, I think it shows rather well in her gaze.

Finally, the perfect fanart for this scene by Taratjah:

Next to the Calypsleo and Jaco subplots in the last novel, this is one of my favorite scenes of the series:
Annabeth grabbed his wrist and flipped him over her shoulder. He slammed into the stone pavement. Romans cried out. Some surged forward, but Reyna shouted, “Hold! Stand down!”

Annabeth put her knee on Percy’s chest. She pushed her forearm against his throat. She didn’t care what the Romans thought. A white-hot lump of anger expanded in her chest—a tumor of worry and bitterness that she’d been carrying around since last autumn. 
“If you ever leave me again,” she said, her eyes stinging, “I swear to all the gods—” 
Percy had the nerve to laugh. Suddenly the lump of heated emotions melted inside Annabeth. 
“Consider me warned,” Percy said. “I missed you, too.”
I think the rawness of this scene is really captured in the harshness of Anabeth's features, the sharpness of her nose and elbow, her knee juts right into Percy yet he's so happy to see her. I can't help but sob recklessly when I read those lines or see images like this one, because it reminds me how damn hard these two have worked not only to save the world exhaustively, but how much they've worked to be with and save each other. It's one of the greatest friendships/romances I've ever had the pleasure to read and this scene captures it so perfectly.

- Marlon

What's your favorite Heroes of Olympus fanart?
Let us know in the comments!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Countdown to The Blood of Olympus: 2 Days

Hello, there. I would just like to start off this post by letting you know that I am trash. No. I am not just trash. I am garbage disposal. I am a garbage truck emoji next to a poop emoji next to a fire emoji. And the poop emoji isn't even smiling. Why am I so awful, you ask? It's because I haven't actually read any of Heroes of Olympus yet. I know. Blasphemous. It's on my list, along with a million other books. I have read the Percy Jackson books (and also The Kane Chronicles if that makes me any less irrelevant) so this post will focus on the parts of Percy and company's lives I've been around for.

You may or may not recall a while ago, we did countdown posts to City of Heavenly Fire by Cassandra Clare. One post I did was a playlist inspired by the contents of one of the books, which can be found here

I thought I would make another one in preparation for Blood of Olympus, focusing my song choices on all the Percy Jackson and the Olympian novels and characters, of course. 


1. Go the Distance - Roger Bart

I'm sorry. This is why I'm trash. I really had to put Go the Distance as the first song because I'm so lame. Anyway, I guess I'm going to be even lamer and explain the choice even though I'm sure anyone reading this understands the lameness right off the bat. First off, the fact that it's from Hercules, a movie about the son of Zeus. Totally great, right, because Percy Jackson is built all around Greek mythology and Percy himself is Poseidon's son? I also like it because the whole song is about literally "going the distance" and doing what seems impossible and unachievable, which is a big theme in the Percy Jackson books. In the first book, I feel like it's the most prominent, because that's when he's just a boy who hasn't been claimed by any god and he's trying to do this huge impossible quest with a satyr who's failed bigtime before and a girl who might be super smart, but IS just a 12 year old. I think it might seem like a cliche choice but it really is apt to describe the essence of their journeys. 

2. Battle Scars - Paradise Fears 

I think this is another song that really embodies everyone's journeys throughout the multiple books rather than identifying a specific book or character or scene. With lyrics like "This is a call to the soldiers, the fighters / the young, the innocent, the righteous / we've got a little room to grow / better days are near / hope is so much stronger than fear" and "no you're not alone / keep marching on / this is worth fighting for / you know we've all got battle scars" this song resonates well with what Percy and his ever-rotating crew of companions are going through. 

3. I Will Follow You Into The Dark - Death Cab For Cutie 

You knew a Percabeth song was coming up. Don't lie. I think this is a really good one because there are a lot of popular cheesy love songs used as Percabeth songs and I think this one is a little mellower and less harsh synth pop sounds and shrill voices and more depth, which isn't to say that none of those songs are any good, just that Percabeth is a relationship that has developed over a long time and a lot of books and has gone through a lot of ups and downs and I'm sure a lot has happened with it in the books I haven't yet read so I really think a song of this tone is good for describing them. The reiterating line is the title line, and they really WOULD follow each other into the dark, but definitely not blindly, and the song comes with a lot of emotion and packs a punch, which is why I feel it's so fitting. 

4. DESTROYA - My Chemical Romance 

Well, this is kindof taking things a little literally but I wanted something for the villains and I feel that whenever things happen, they happen with a bang, or a lot of bangs, and kindof go down in a huge show with lots of things getting destroyed in the wake. Even when the good guys are trying to accomplish something, they end up doing things like setting off volcanoes on the way. In the chorus of the song, the word "Destroya" is repeated with much enthusiasm and I just picture the villains using this as an anthem as they figure out a way to wreak havoc and make everything go to hell in a handbasket. 

5. I'm Just a Kid - Simple Plan

Everything considered, they're mostly just kids. I mean, Thalia's never hitting 16, so she's REALLY just a kid. Percy and Annabeth are 12 when the books start and even though years pass, they're still kids who haven't had normal childhoods, and now things are about to get HELLA weird and nothing ever really gets easier and so they're just kids but their lives really are nightmares and a lot of good comes with it and they get their happiness eventually but man is it tough being a demigod. 

I uploaded the playlist to Spotify here, so check it out and let me know how you feel about my song choices!  
- Noor

What songs remind you of Rick Riordan books?
Let us know in the comments!

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Stuffed Animal Saturday - The Blood of Olympus Countdown Edition

Stuffed Animal Saturday is a meme that we post here at We Live and Breathe Books to showcase the book we're currently reading with one of our favorite stuffed animals and discuss our stuffed animal's opinion (well, it's really our opinion, but that's besides the point). We hope you enjoy our quirky feature as much as we enjoy writing it!

Hi guys! This is my friend Teddy, who has actually been with my dorm-neighbor, Brianna, for a very long time. Because I left all of my stuffed friends at home when I moved into school, I needed a buddy to go over some of my favorite parts of the Percy Jackson series with before the big release of The Blood of Olympus in THREE DAYS!

So I began to reminisce with Teddy, and turns out, he was a big Rick Riordan fan himself!

So far: So far in the world of Percy, Annabeth, demigods, and more, a lot of craziness has happened. Teddy and I felt the inclusion of characters like Leo, Frank, Hazel, Jason, and Piper, only added to the insanity that is this series. It added more romantic complications and familial issues, and the bigger the group traveling is, the more accommodations that must be made. For those of you who haven't gotten on the latest book in this series yet, we don't want to give away any spoilers, but we STRONGLY SUGGEST you read it as soon as possible. You can read my liveblog of House of Hades with the rest of my fellow bloggers on our site here!

Sneak Peak:

Though the Greek and Roman crewmembers of the Argo II have made progress in their many quests, they still seem no closer to defeating the earth mother, Gaea. Her giants have risen—all of them—and they're stronger than ever. They must be stopped before the Feast of Spes, when Gaea plans to have two demigods sacrificed in Athens. She needs their blood—the blood of Olympus—in order to wake.

The demigods are having more frequent visions of a terrible battle at Camp Half-Blood. The Roman legion from Camp Jupiter, led by Octavian, is almost within striking distance. Though it is tempting to take the Athena Parthenos to Athens to use as a secret weapon, the friends know that the huge statue belongs back on Long Island, where it "might" be able to stop a war between the two camps.

The Athena Parthenos will go west; the Argo II will go east. The gods, still suffering from multiple personality disorder, are useless. How can a handful of young demigods hope to persevere against Gaea's army of powerful giants? As dangerous as it is to head to Athens, they have no other option. They have sacrificed too much already. And if Gaea wakes, it is game over.

But this is what we know. We know that this is the last book in the series and we know that so many things to be resolved, like JASON AND REYNA NEED TO BE A THING LIKE OK PIPER IS COOL BUT REYNA IS WHERE ITS AT. And also Percabeth needs to happen and the camps need to figure their shit out and an awesome finale and also more books. Teddy and I can't wait for The Blood of Olympus, get ready to hear from us very soon!

- Amrutha

Are you and your stuffed animal reading anything interesting? 
Let us know in your own Stuffed Animal Saturday!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Review: The Truth About Alice - Jennifer Mathieu

The Truth About Alice
Jennifer Mathieu 
Series: N/A
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Word Rating: An important story
Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

I received an eARC of The Truth About Alice on Netgalley a few months ago when I went on a really crazy read-now and requesting binge (which was a big mistake since I didn’t have time to read and of the books). I found the cover very intriguing and beautiful, and it definitely does a good job reflecting the story.

Right after I finished The Truth About Alice I didn’t fully appreciate the story that it told, because it is an important story being told. At the start of the story, it’s clear that there are a lot of rumors circulating about Alice Franklin, and they are less than complimentary. The big ones: Alice Franklin slept with two different guys at one party and she caused the death of beloved quarterback, Brandon. Throughout the book, the reader learns exactly what the title suggests – the truth about Alice.

The story is told through shifting points of view of characters that know Alice: a jock, an ex-best friend, a popular girl, and a nerd who has a crush on Alice. It’s cool how the story unfolds and the reader starts to understand what the truth about Alice actually is. The writing style – the sort of stream of consciousness from the narrators – makes the story read very quickly.

I wasn’t especially enthralled by any of the characters but I thought Jennifer Mathieu did a good job getting into the heads of the people who bullied Alice. It’s very clear throughout the story that these characters don’t necessarily want to bully Alice but rather that they are guilty or bad or self conscious about something and they project their problems onto Alice – they use Alice as a scapegoat from their troubles to make them feel better. These characters, particularly Kelsie and Josh, know that what they’re doing is wrong but they care more about what’s easy. It was easy to blame Alice for bad things that happened to Kelsie that summer. It was easy for Josh to let Alice take the blame for his best friend’s death. These characters could not deal with their problems and they made Alice deal instead – and the worst part about it is that a large part of each of them still feels bad because they know it’s wrong.

While the ex-best friend and the jock are the most to blame for Alice’s misfortune, the popular girl, Elaine, and the nerd, Kurt, still hold some responsibility. Elaine is more of a bystander – she doesn’t necessarily start any of the rumors about Alice but she adds fuel to the fire, helping the rumors spread. Kurt is a bit of a different case. He’s always been an outsider, so he can’t really step in and stop the rumors. However, he does attempt to befriend Alice and helps her to feel better about the past.

My biggest complaint about the story is that it just wasn’t as emotional as I wanted it to be for the subject matter. Sure, they all had their dramatic stories, but I just didn’t feel very emotionally attached to any of the characters.

Overall, I think The Truth About Alice is an important story, one that peaks into the minds of bullies and bystanders. The story does a great job of showing how petty and dramatic people can be and how they don’t see the full consequence of their actions. The characters didn’t necessarily want to hurt Alice, but they didn’t think through all the things they said about her – they just wanted to feel better. It’s a good read but it would definitely have been more enjoyable for me had I felt more emotionally attached to the characters.

- Kiersten

What do you think of books about bullying?
Let us know in the comments!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Review: Say What You Will - Cammie McGovern

Say What You Will 
Cammie McGovern
Series: N/A
Genre: Romance, Young Adult
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Word Rating: Stunning
Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

What. Okay, instructions on how to read and enjoy this book: read the first half and then ditch it. Say sayonara because while the first half of Say What You Will is clever and brilliant and absolutely charming, the second half will make you want to cry with how poorly the plot progressed.

First, before I get into my critique of the book, I would just like to applaud Cammie McGovern for writing a book about teenagers with disabilities that is both accessible and forthright. Besides that, it is a book that is written with honesty and has an interesting concept (although the book has a central focus on disability, it was a unique enough concept that rather than becoming a heavy plot point, it forced the characters to progress). I thought it was a marvelous idea and McGovern is a great author, with a very unique voice.

That being, the disappointment factor with this book is absolutely insane. The book opens with a set of email exchanges between Amy and Matthew, which leave enough to be desired that I wanted to continue. Amy has cerebral palsy, and Matthew is an extremely honest and a little awkward kid who calls Amy's bullshit about being super grateful for her disabled body. Then, Amy convinces her mom to get rid of her school aid and instead hire five teenagers to be her aids for each day. Matthew, as you might imagine, is one of these teenagers. Basically, this book progresses into a book about the relationship between Amy and Matthew, from aid to friend to romantic interest.

I won't give away any more of the plot, but I will say this. For half the book, I was absolutely in love with the characters and the story and the voice that McGovern provided for me (despite the third person, I feel as though this book would've been much better in the point of view of Amy or even Matthew or even alternating PoVs (I think McGovern is a good enough writer  to pull that kind of thing off). I feel as though the characters developed beautifully, and for the most part, so did Matthew, even towards the end. However, after the half way mark in this book, everything goes down hill (other than the writing, which is good all the way through). The plot, the character development, the overall tone of the piece: all of these things are lost at a certain point, and I so wish that wasn't the case. McGovern had the writing chops to make this one a home run, and really kill it with a fantastic ending, and she didn't. That disappoints me a little, although I feel like another book from McGovern might yield a better product (given that the keeps the flow throughout her novel).

Another thing I want to discuss is McGovern's ability to faithfully write teenager's dialogue. Honestly, that's what got this book up to the star rating that it got. Although the teenagers in question are not considered "socially normal" within the context on the novel, the writing translates the humor of a sassy teenager and a bossy friend and a concerned date. Strong writing chops like this are hard to find, and I hope McGovern comes out with something soon which has a stronger ending. Cannot wait to read the next thing she writes, with high hopes that it will be awesome all the way through next time.

- Amrutha

Who are your favorite authors for teen dialogue?
Let us know in the comments!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday: The Red Winter - Henry H. Neff

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week I'm waiting on The Red Winter by Henry H. Neff!

The Red Winter
Henry H. Neff
Series: The Tapestry, #5
Release Date: November 25, 2014
Publisher: Random House
Waited on by: Marlon
Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

An inventive and action-packed mix of fantasy, science fiction, and mythology, all in a realistic contemporary setting.

Rowan has won a battle, but not the war. With proper allies, Rowan’s armies could storm the demon stronghold, capture its ruler, and end the reign of demonkind. But while nations clash, a greater struggle lies elsewhere. In his desperate pursuit of Astaroth, Elias Bram scours the world for clues to the fiend’s true origins, identity, and purpose. His horrifying discoveries hint that not only is humanity at risk, but the earth itself. Its fate may depend upon three children. With their unmatchable skills, it’s up to Max McDaniels, David Menlo, and little Mina to tip the balance!In the Tapestry’s final volume, Henry H. Neff concludes an unforgettable series in which magic can live, gods can die, and the highest stakes require the greatest sacrifice.

I don't like waiting for things. I really absolutely hate it. But I've been waiting on these books, year after year (in this case two years) ever since I began reading YA. The Hound of Rowan - the first book in this series - was one of the first I ever picked up. I read it all the way through, and then waited a couple of months for the second one, and devoured it. It was a new feeling for me. Reading for pleasure really started somewhere around these books. I even wrote sort-of fan fiction for this wonderful world.

I don't know many people who know of The Tapestry, so basically it's these wonderfully penned fantasy books about a boy named Max McDaniels, who finds himself in a magical world, changed by it over and over as he learns the secrets of his origin. Max's story, which I absolutely love, is not unlike others -- Percy, Harry -- in that it's a young boy growing into the fantasy around him and accepting his duties. So you'll feel at home in the first two books. But it diverges thematically with strong emphasis on the darker side of being a hero. Max does some pretty messed up things later on, and he's painted as a detached hero, saving the world and forgetting totally about his identity. Anyway, I could talk for hours about how long I've spent thinking about the deep, exceptionally realistic mythology Neff paints, or the mad amounts of feels I get at around chapter five of the fourth book. You know?

I'm getting really sentimental and tearing up so like I'ma just end it here. I'm still waiting godamnit.

- Marlon

What are YOU waiting on?
Let us know in the comments!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Cover Cosmetics: Unmade - Sarah Rees Brennan

In the past week I have posted a Cover Cosmetics for Unspoken (here) and for Untold (here) in anticipation of the final book in the Lynburn Legacy. Today, Unmade has been released! In celebration of this glorious day, I have done a Cover Cosmetics for Unmade by Sarah Rees Brennan! (Even though school won't allow me to read this book now. Sob.)

The cover:

The makeup:

Normally I do more wearable makeup, but for Unmade I decided to get a little more creative! I used the orange and yellow to mimic the colors of the sky on the cover. One thing I wanted to explore with this was that if you really look at the cover, about half of it is black but the orange pops out to the eye. I decided to do black cut crease to copy the sharp silhouettes on the cover and I drew the tree branches on to copy the tree branches (you definitely needed me to tell you that).

I hope everyone starting Unmade today has tissues near - I'm sure this one will be as heartbreaking as the other two!

- Kiersten

Do you like more wearable or more creative makeup looks?
Let us know in the comments!

Monday, September 22, 2014

ARC Review: Afterworlds - Scott Westerfeld

Scott Westerfeld
Series: N/A
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Release Date: September 23rd, 2014
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars
Word Rating: Well.
Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

I'll spare you the primal, guttural affections I have for Midnighters, Leviathan, and Westerfeld's other works. Suffice it to say that he's a significant part of my introduction into YA. I'll spare you how much I loved meeting him at BEA, where I got a copy of this book.

Let's get to it, then.

Afterworlds is a pair of books that are laced together into one. The first follows, Darcy, a lucky writer learning the ins and outs of the publishing industry and of being independent. She's written a novel called Afterworlds about Lizzie, a girl who's also growing up, but in a different world, full of death and alienation. While these worlds are wildly different at first, they begin to reflect and respond to each other as the protagonists realize the truth behind their worlds and themselves.

As is obvious from the reviews that have already piled up behind this book, this one's pretty contentious. From the layman reader to the average YA lover to those nitpicking literary critics, those who’ve read Afterworlds seem either to love or hate it, for some combination of several reasons. (For a description/analysis of these reasons, scroll down to Noor's review). For a full-on, guns-ablazing break down of the major and minor "pitfalls" that other reviewers often cite, head over to this review.
Anyhow, enough of that.

I love love love love love this book.

The greatest thing about Westerfeld, I think, is his flexibility and the depth of his literary understanding. Take an honest once-over at Uglies versus Leviathan versus Afterworlds. Have they anything conceptually in common? Barely scraps — they may well have been penned by entirely different authors, yet all of them have been well-received. This aspect of his writing makes itself quite clear in this novel, where one novel had to seem entirely realistic and the other had to seem as if it were penned by a debut author, and Westerfeld definitely succeedes.

For example, Westerfeld's wit, his humor, and his gorgeous language is portrayed in two very different ways. One is highly polished - the language in Darcy's world is totally realistic. I've seen a lot of reviews point out that that people don't really speak in the profane manner that the characters do in Darcy's world, and to those people I say - have you ever talked to anyone . . . ever? Even novelists, who some reviewers seem to hold on this pedestal where they can only speak in the intelligent cadence of veteran lit-crits, are human and speak with a societal tongue. Then there's Lizzie's world, where really florid language is perfect and having a guy kiss you while you're in the throes of trauma is totally cool. I think such a contrast is so hard to do unless you're just really freaking good at writing, because you have to understand what naive writing is and what polished writing is and be able to write both. Westerfeld's is a dizzying kind of genius.
I loved watching Darcy plummet down the rabbit hole, through her first real relationship, through her re-writes, through her education on the publishing world - it's amazing watching something unfold when you're so interested in it. In addition, Lizzie's story, while falling rather flat (which is exactly what it’s supposed to do) content-wise, serves to showcase Darcy's growth and what she considers growth versus what she had initially envisioned in Lizzie's growth.

Unlike most people, I took to Lizzie's world, because it's so good sometimes, and sometimes so bad. For example, when Lizzie first wakes up in the afterworld, after having watched hundreds of people die and almost die herself, she is in a mist and believes she might be in heaven, which is a fascinating insight into the character . . . and then a few lines later she thinks to kiss the hot death lord she meets. This instance is an exaggeration, of course, of YA romance trends, and Westerfeld employs this unrealistic storytelling quite well. What’s even better is watching Darcy struggle with the problems in Lizzie’s emulating the struggle most writers have - between tropes and trends and individuality, for example.

I think readers often get caught up in the image of an author being totally solitary and working in the dark until finally - aha! - they've finished a piece of work. Westerfeld shows us, through Darcy, that most authors must be dreadfully aware of the current literary trends, everyone's viewpoints, his/her own voice, and a billion other anxiety-inducing things. As an experienced writer, Westerfeld masterfully gives us first a world that examines the pitfalls of an industry and an art form that Westerfeld has been part of for many years. He is highly critical, revealing the condescension of some writers in Darcy's world - they call Darcy's work "better than the average YA" for example -along with the many pitfalls of Lizzie's story.

I did have a few problems with the book, but they were mostly personal and did not really change my literary appreciation. These problems include wanting less Lizzie because I was more interested in Darcy's story but also finding Darcy rather unrelatable. I like Darcy's character, don't get me wrong. Westerfeld paints a very natural picture of a young aspiring artist: Darcy's anxiety manifests itself constantly - there must be a thousand references to that "fluke" she wrote "last November"; her sexuality is not a platform or a stage, but rather it is just a part of her, just a fact, the same way her brown skin and her not-so-Indian culture are just facts about her. (I've seen so many people complain that Darcy is just "too white" despite being Indian. These people completely miss the point that "white" does not mean "American" or "western" and that Westerfeld satirizes this problem by having Darcy get away with cultural appropriation even though she's Indian. Damn . . . it's hard to stay away from the contentious parts of this book.). Anyway, I love Darcy, but because I desire to be a successful published writer, I am jealous of Darcy's problems and I tend to trivialize them. For example, when she complains about not being able to eat out every night, all I can think of is that she lives in a $3000/month apartment in NY and has picked up a $300000 contract on a book she still thinks she fluked. I definitely understand the need to make Darcy special - it's hard for most readers to read about "normal" characters. At least, that's what I'm told. In any case, I found myself only really caring when Darcy was in deep ish.

So buy the book! Or mug someone with a copy? Either way, enjoy!

- Marlon
Noor's Afterworlds Review
Rating:  4.5 out of 5 stars
Word Rating: Can you spell meta?

I love Scott Westerfeld. A lot. I have loved him a lot for a long time and he was one of the first YA authors I read. We go way back. So when I had the chance to get a signed ARC of this book at BEA and meet him, I was ecstatic and wanted to read the book the second I got it. Of course, I also got a buttload of other books so I didn't read it until now. So after a few months of anticipation, I am so happy to say Afterworlds was definitely worth the wait. 

I think the book is hit-or-miss and you either love it or you hate it. I clearly fall into the love category but those that fall into the latter are either those who don't like ghosts/paranormal things, or those who didn't fully understand how meta the book was. 

Seriously, it was like meta on top of meta with a layer of meta icing. Which I loved, of course. The book contained two stories, each told in alternating chapters. The first was about Darcy Patel, Indian-American high school student who wrote a novel during NaNoWriMo and is now getting it published and moving to New York. The other story is the book she wrote, titled Afterworlds, and about a girl, Lizzie, who falls in love with the Hindu god of death. Now, I read some other reviews of the book and a lot of people are commenting on how they didn't think the story with Lizzie was all that great and that it fell short and was too typical paranormal, with all the tropes and cliches that made them drop stars like flies. Except, in my opinion, the whole point is for the story to be just that. This is supposed to be Darcy's first novel, one she wrote in a month, no less, and not even the final published version, but the first draft. She's also an 18 year old girl, and I'm not saying that 18 year old girls are inherently cliche writers, because I don't believe that at all (I mean, I am an 18 year old girl and I have seen many who are phenomenal writers). I am just saying that the whole point of the book is that this is the book Darcy Patel wrote, not a book Scott Westerfeld wrote. The first time she meets the death god, Yamaraj, he kisses Lizzie. She spends her whole interaction with him focusing on his looks and his slight accent and his hair. For her, it is insta-love -- well, closer to insta-attraction, but you get the gist. And that's the whole point, or at least the point that I saw. It's supposed to be flawed and Lizzie is supposed to be a little annoying and not fleshed out enough and basically the story is supposed to be a very typical YA paranormal romance, even though all throughout the beginning we see it marketed as better than average and so atypical because woo death god and culture. I mean, just look at who's doing that marketing: her agent, the one who gets paid to make her book sell and say things about it that might not necessarily be accurate. I think the people who didn't like the Afterworlds novel part of the story saw it as a separate entity that Scott Westerfeld used his own ideas and writing skills to write, rather than as something he wrote through the lens of this young, naive protagonist. See what I mean about meta?

The stuff about it being trope-y and cliche being said, I actually liked that half of the book a lot. I thought it was a cute story and I loved seeing the way it intertwined with Darcy's own life and how she'd mention things about writing it or certain scenes and aspects in the real world and then we'd get to see how it played out in the story. It was really cool seeing the author of the book go through the whole process with the book, and made me appreciate the story a lot more, especially the little things I wouldn't have known without Darcy's part to accent it. It made me wonder how often, when I'm reading, certain phrases or passages are essentially an inside joke the author made with him/herself. But going back to the point about the story, I thought it was enjoyable and entertaining and something I wanted to read, not something I made myself get through.

And then we have Darcy's story, which revolves around her time in New York and how getting a book published is not as east as mailing them a manuscript and then having the rest done for you. Of course, she does have a lot of fun in New York, but it's also a lot of work, and she often makes bad decisions or messes up. A lot of people think the way the whole publishing aspect and industry are shown is too far-fetched, but as an 18-year old girl who has not published anything reading a book by a successful author who has published many books (a lot more than zero), I think Scott Westerfeld is a lot more qualified to write about the publishing industry than I am to comment on it. I honestly really liked that it was a little over-the-top, because who wants to read about sitting at a desk and editing the same paragraph for an hour and then emailing a bunch of people and then more emailing and yay, paperwork (Is that what it's really like? That doesn't seem like it'd be too off base). If you can read a series about a wizarding school or a book about a girl narrating from heaven and utilize enough suspension of disbelief to go along with whatever is happening in the story, you can get over the fact that Darcy went to a bunch of parties and met a few eccentric people while getting her book published. 

Not only do I love how self-aware this book is, but also how Scott Westerfeld uses his narrative to point out a lot of things problematic with authors and media in general. For example, even though Darcy is Indian, she grew up as an average American teenager, and refers to Hinduism as "her parent's religion." In her novel, she takes some of the mythology from the Scriptures and then alters it to fit her plot. She even changes some of the fundamental aspects of Yamaraj himself. At one point, she's called out on altering a religious text for "purposes of YA hotness." She feels uneasy about this and the person she's talking to points out that it's okay because she's Indian and it's her own text she's altering. The reader is meant to understand that this is a flimsy excuse and to consider Darcy's identity and question whether or not the idea really is problematic or not. She also comments on how Yamaraj is centuries old and wonders if it's weird, to which a fellow author tells her that it's all fine as long as he looks like a teenager. This is something commonly seen in YA books that Westerfeld pokes fun at and that I really liked. There's also the fact that Darcy explains how she made Lizzie white so anyone reading could fill themselves in her shoes and that it wouldn't be her fantasy (her as in Darcy) but that it could be anyone's. I just really enjoyed all the sly commentary Westerfeld provided in just these scene of dialogue and interacting with other authors. Westerfeld himself, by publishing this book, is releasing a book with a nonwhite, nonheterosexual protagonist which is pretty cool and rad. 

So, to recap: Scott Westerfeld writes beautifully, his book is hella fab, and it's so meta that it hurts a little. Read it, please. It'll rock your socks. 


What's your favorite paranormal being to read about?
Let us know in the comments!