Thursday, June 30, 2016

Triple Review: Illuminae - Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff 
Series: The Illuminae Files, #1
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Romance, Action
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Thanks to Penguin Random House for the ARC I received at BEA!

Last year at BEA, I got one of those gorgeous Illuminae ARCs they were giving out but never got around to reading it. Going into Illuminae, I knew very little about it. I knew that it was written as a dossier, that it was supposedly really good, and that it was MASSIVE. After reading Illuminae, I am so happy that I did because it was absolutely incredible!

Illuminae follows Kady Grant and Ezra Mason the lives they know are torn apart. Their home has been attacked, there's something strange going on, and a heavily armed ship is coming to kill them. To say the stakes are high would be an understatement. 

The dossier style of Illuminae made the book go by a lot faster than I anticipated based on looking at it. With the plot broken up into these smaller documents, it made the "just one more chapter" complex even greater with "just one more file," and I just could not stop reading - I ended up finishing this book in a little over 24 hours. When going into this book, I think it's definitely necessary to give it a good, solid chunk of straight reading to get into the way the story is told and the plot, but once I was hooked, I couldn't stop.

Speaking of the style of Illuminae, I've heard that the audiobook narration is really great and I'm sure the ebook is fine as well; however, I think the visual element of this book is absolutely wonderful. From the layout to the different artwork, I don't think my reading experience would have been the same without the full experience of reading the physical book (which is not something I would usually say since I generally prefer to read ebooks).

Getting back to the book itself, I absolutely loved the characters. Kady is so cool, and Ezra is so sweet. I also really enjoyed a lot of the supporting characters, including Byron and Syra. I also really enjoyed AIDAN, who becomes a huge part of this book as it goes on (and it's kind of insane and will blow your mind like BOOM).

All in all, I have no complaints about Illuminae. I absolutely LOVED it, and I'm so happy that I was able to get an ARC of Gemina at BEA this year, although the wait for book three is going to be agonizingly long. Illuminae is an incredible science fiction story filled with humor, romance, humor, action, and did I mention it's funny? Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff absolutely nailed it with balancing all the elements in this story, and it's definitely a must read!

- Kiersten

Noor's Review of Illuminae
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Never have I seen such poetry in a dossier (except maybe in the word dossier, which happens to be my favorite word, but that's not what I meant).

When I picked up Illuminae at BEA 2015 I was really intimidated. It's a huge book and I'm not necessarily opposed to huge books but it was a huge ~sci-fi dossier book~ and I was really not sure what to expect, especially since I often find many science fiction books a bit much (wondering if taking a Science Fiction class next semester will make me hate the genre completely or appreciate it more...we shall see).

Anyway, like Kiersten mentioned in her review, the dossier format made the book a much faster read than I assumed it would be, and also had a nice rhythm of longer, more textual documents vs short ones you could flip through quickly. It made the pacing very unique because there would be parts where it was mostly instant messages and emails back and forth from characters and you were just getting info, figuring out what was going on, nothing too heart-racing, but then something big would happen and there would be short bursts of pages with like small sentence fragments on them and it really contributed to the sense of either urgency or safety.

Also, keeping with the discussion of the length, many longer books tend to slowly pace themselves because there's a lot of space for things to happen, and sometimes this can be a little boring, but I didn't think Illuminae was slowly paced at all. I agree with Kiersten in that I think you have to power through a chunk of it all at once in order to really get into the world and find yourself enraptured by the story. I actually tried to read this months ago but I was busy with life things so I would read one file and then hours later read another and then a day later read three more and I didn't get into it so I decided to just read it later. This time though, I read it in huge chunks (I'm pretty sure I read half in one sitting and half in another) and I felt like the book flew by. Every scene either someone was attacking or someone was learning secret ship information or someone was dying. It was a heart-racing book, truly.

I really loved all of the characterization and how even though the book wasn't traditionally written, you still learn so much about the people on the ships. Kady had the most focus and I thought her attitude was brilliant. She was the right amount of ~I'm gonna do what I want and not comply with your rules because screw that~ without becoming a shallow has-no-flaws Badass Girl Who Saves the World Despite Having No Talents. Kady is a total genius, but we know she can learn more because Byron (another computer hacker on board, like Kady) treats her like his protege. She's tough and sarcastic but also frazzled and vulnerable. She's a great character who I can't wait to explore in Gemina.

And on the flip side of Kady's antisocial computer-genius pink-haired glory is her ex, Ezra. Ezra was the sweetest, drawing hearts and roses through text for Kady via email, and teasing (and getting teased by) his fellow pilots, and just being so good-hearted and funny. The most interesting character, though, had to be AIDAN, the artificial intelligence running things on one of the ships. I know it's weird to treat an AI like a character, but we delved so much into AIDAN, and those parts were my favorite to read. I wanna go back and reread it just to experience the AIDAN parts again.

So the characters are great, the story is exciting, and one last thing: the writing was so wonderful. While I thought the book would probably be enjoyable because so many people were raving about it, I didn't expect eloquence from a dossier. I figured the book was good because of the content, not as much the way the content was relayed. However, there are documents where characters write things like incident reports and surveillance summaries and even journal entries, and some of the internal monologue is so gorgeously written it makes me wanna cry. Also, everything involving AIDAN was so spectacularly written I had to slow down and savor it. One of my favorite quotes in the book is actually from an IM conversation, so it's not even like only the more narrative-style documents are well-written: "You have me. Until every last star in the galaxy dies. You have me."

Anyway, as you can see, I thought the book was absolutely phenomenal and I'm still in my mourning period (I believe it's been two weeks) so hopefully I stop mourning sometime before Gemina comes out so I can experience the sequel in its glory.

- Noor

Amrutha's Review of Illuminae
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Wow guys, I've had this book sitting in my house since BEA LAST YEAR but I only read it this week. I don't even need to tell you guys how much I regret that choice because Illuminae is one of the books of the year. Decade. Whatever. The fact that this is a series with action and romance and everything means it has a really good shot at being famous world wide and I'm honestly really excited for when that happens, because Illuminae is the real deal. When they were giving it out last year they had hyped this book SO MUCH and literally we had gotten so many copies of this book that I thought it would be alright at best because why would they hype it up so much? Wrong. Like Noor said too, I was a little put off by the size of the book (I'm not like, afraid of reading large books) but the format and the Sci-Fi (which isn't really my style) seemed a little scary. If you're dumb like me, just put everything aside and go get this book. Okay now I'll stop rambling and actually talk about the story:

Noor & Kiersten both touched upon this so I won't spend too much time on it, but the dossier format was honestly really really cool and made the book go by a lot faster. I agree with Kiersten and Noor that you've got to commit to the book for a little bit so you can see how the book is constructed and really commit to it. But if I really enjoy a book I won't put it down and will read it in one shot, so that's what I did for this -- took me a good few hours even with the format being spaced with messages and designs and smaller documents.

Ya'll know I'm really character driven, and so is this book -- you wouldn't think it would be, seeing as it's in a file format, but honestly, it is. The construction of Kady and Byron and Ezra. I've griped so many times about how the female leads of books like this have to end up being basically perfect or a total bitch in order to accomplish whatever it is they need (there aren't many but that seems to be a flaw in a lot of them): NOT KADY THOUGH. Kady, like Noor said, doesn't seem to have any ~special~ talents or anything. She's written as an honest to goodness badass who is both really cool and really smart (REALLY REALLY SMART) but also like lowkey vulnerable. Byron and Ezra were really cool to read too what with Byron's knowledge and Ezra's romantic interest. AIDAN is an AI "character"? Don't know if it's appropriate to acknowledge AIDAN as one but totally agree with Noor that his parts were some of the best to read. Nothing beats a ballsy female protagonist for me though. I saw a different review talking about how so many of the people in charge in this novel are women, and how it took her a moment to notice that they were women because their voices weren't written differently. I just want to acknowledge how cool that is, and how I didn't notice how I also assumed the women in charge were men until I kept reading.

This is a story about corporations and love and computers and a virus and humor and is set in 2575 so there is ~all the technology~. This book didn't really seem like it was for me, but you might not necessarily think it's for you either. FORGET THAT and read this. I have an ARC of Gemina waiting for me and if I had known how much I loved Illuminae I'd have been all over it already. Look forward to a review of that soon.

- Amrutha

Have you ever read a book written as a file?
Let us know in the comments!

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Review: And I Darken - Kiersten White

And I Darken
Kiersten White
Series: The Conquerers Saga, #1
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Romance
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

When I first saw the book on Kiersten's spreadsheet of books she got at BEA for us, I wasn't too interested in reading it and marked it as "not that interested but would read." It sounded like too much of a political historical fiction book for me to be feeling it (not that I automatically hate anything with that feel, I just didn't think it would be for me). However, I heard some good things about it from people on the ~internet~ and it sounded more interesting after reading the description again, and Kiersten ended up sending it to me with a few other BEA books -- a decision I'm glad she made because I ended up liking it a lot more than I thought I would.

And I Darken is a gender-bent Vlad the Impaler book but you don't need to know anything about Vlad the Impaler to enjoy it. I actually didn't even realize the connection until after I finished reading the book and I stumbled upon an interview where she mentioned it. I myself don't really know much about him other than he was a mean dude who impaled his enemies. Our Vlad is Lada, a ruthless, brutal girl who loves nothing but her country, Wallachia. In contrast, her brother Radu is weak and sensitive.

Something I liked about the book was that it covered a very large time frame. It started out with the births of Lada and Radu (one year apart) and ended when they were around 17/18 (ish...I don't remember exactly because I don't think it was explicitly mentioned but around that age definitely). You might think this would make the book go slower but it was written in a cohesive way that made it a pretty fast read. They would be an age, and then a Thing would happen, and then we'd skip the unimportant years of them being boring, and then the next chapter they're a few years older, ready for more Things (this makes it sound formulaic but I promise it was not).

Writing the book this way really allows us as readers to immerse ourselves in the characters and the situations and understand more of what's going on, so when it gets politics-heavy or relies on the background knowledge of their universe, we can follow along without being bored. Also, it gave a whole new dimension to Lada, who I love with all my heart and would totally go to war for.

Lada is brutal. She's blunt, ferocious, aggressive, vindictive, scathing, and most of the other synonyms for those words you can find. And yet, you root for her (well, I did). We see her birth, see her grow up, see her ruthlessness diffused through the ages, and see her reasoning for her actions inside her head. I didn't think she was cruel or monstrous as I read the book, I thought she was so strong and maybe a little misguided at times, but she was 12 for like half the book so I'm willing to let it go. I loved that she made the hard choices and made them quietly and assuredly -- she didn't need to justify her decisions or make sure she was still liked, she just needed to get her goal accomplished. Like, in one scene, she lets Radu get physically punished because she won't answer her tutor's question. She knows if she shows any hint of this affecting her, he'll be used against her always, so she has to sit quietly and continue to disobey, so it seems that punishing Radu over her is ineffective, and it stops after this incident. Radu, of course, doesn't get it, and spends a lot of time contemplating why she let him get hit.

I went really back-and-forth with liking Radu, but eventually I did. I didn't like him when he was a kid and all he did was talk about how he wanted his nurse and how he cried about literally everything (even though I cry all the time too but not as insufferably as him). However, as he grew older, he became a lot more cunning and a lot less spineless. I appreciated his type of cunning -- mostly ~ends justifies the means~ stuff -- and how even though he wasn't a warrior he wasn't just a useless little boy with too many feelings. Also I'm intrigued as to where his romantic angle will go, which was a part of the story I really liked. It took a while for me to warm up to him but Radu is definitely a character I care about.

You know who I really don't like though? Mehmed. I know he's supposed to be the ~cute, main love interest wow~ but he just annoyed me. I actually liked him earlier on in the book and thought he was pretty chill, but he just kept growing more obsessive and annoying and insufferable. Also, I feel like all he did was create a rift between what could have been the most powerful pair of siblings, and involve them in his dirty politics.

Even though they were like 12 for so much of the book, they came across as so much older. They spoke like adults, planned like adults, were given thrones for adults. It was a little unnerving but nothing I couldn't get past.

Speaking of thrones, a lot of the book's driving force was about nobility and who would be the king of the Ottomans and the Prince of Wallachia and who would invade who. All these political alliances and battles set the stage for why the characters were doing what they were doing. It wasn't really historical fiction as much as it was alternate history. I found it really interesting and I'll admit I could have used slightly less Ottoman war politics from 1400, but it were a good aspect in the book.

Overall, this book was a pretty short read, which I wasn't expecting because it seemed like it would be really heavy and I'd have to take a week to get into it. I didn't like the love element and felt like it was unnecessary, especially because I don't ship the couple and feel like she is way too good for him. I thought some of the war and politics and history stuff was a bit dense at times and a lot of info at once, which sometimes made it tiresome to read. I did like the side characters and their purposes in the book, like Bogdan, Mara, and Mehmed's mom (I can't remember her name oops). I didn't think the book was perfect but I liked it enough that I definitely want to continue the series.

Also, on an end note, here is a fun quote from Lada.

“On our wedding night,” she said, “I will cut out your tongue and swallow it. Then both tongues that spoke our marriage vows will belong to me, and I will be wed only to myself. You will most likely choke to death on your own blood, which will be unfortunate, but I will be both husband and wife and therefore not a widow to be pitied.”

- Noor

Ruthlessness or cunning?
Let us know in the comments!

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Kiersten's Powerpoint Slides

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Here at We Live and Breathe Books, two of us choose five books each week. This weeks topic is...

Top Ten Kiersten Powerpoint Slides
(This week was a freebie and we chose this topic because Kiersten makes extremely thorough, detailed powerpoints for basically everything ever (because she doesn't believe we can handle ourselves on our own) (which is a lil true) so we thought we'd let you behind the scenes and share some cool slides)

Noor's Picks

Preface: Why The Powerpoint is Crucial 

If our blog was a religious movement, the Powerpoints would be the scripture. They contain Everything: all knowledge, all potential knowledge, all the information you did not ask for but probably needed anyway. However, there are some who are blind to the ways of the Powerpoint, who create situations that would be very clearly avoidable if the Powerpoint had been read. This is a different category from ~reading the Powerpoint, understanding it, and choosing to ignore it~ (which I myself occasionally have done, as you will see). This is pure ignorance. So, before we start I thought I would share with you what happens when you don't read the Powerpoint like you're supposed to. 

Scene: 2014. City of Heavenly Fire book signing event, NYC. Kiersten has graciously made us a Powerpoint detailing location, transportation, and event hours. Enter: Marlon's girlfriend, who is living with him because she didn't look for an apartment before moving to NY. She has not read the Powerpoint, clearly, and the following conversation ensues. (Marlon's phone was either broken or lost, which is why she had to contact me)


I don't really know why she got super defensive and rude, because I was making a very legitimate suggestion: read an informative Powerpoint already open on a computer in a room you are in rather than keep messaging me while I am trying to pay attention to the event that is going on, but I didn't care enough about her to fight her. I think I was very gracious, tbh. Anyway, I know this is a little long for a preface and I promise I'll keep it concise when I talk about the slides, but I just wanted to include this as a warning about situations that can occur if you don't peruse the Powerpoints. Moving on to my actual Top Five Slides:


So, this is from the BEA 2015 Powerpoint, which is 49 slides of pure gold. This is one of my favorite mostly because, the previous year, I overslept for BEA 2014 in the worst form of karmic retribution. We'd been catching really early trains and I was SO SO stressed that Amrutha and Marlon wouldn't wake up. I kept annoying them over and over again to set alarms, ask for wake-up calls, make sure they were awake. It was eating at me that they weren't gonna wake up. And THEN, on the final day, guess what happened. I. Overslept. I woke up to Kiersten ringing my doorbell and calling me over and over because they were outside my house. I honestly was going to tell them to leave and take a later train but that was the day we planned to wear our WLABB shirts so I didn't need much outfit planning, so I literally got dressed in two minutes (it usually takes me 1.5 hrs) and bolted out the door. It was wild. When I saw this slide on the BEA 2015 Powerpoint, I knew I could not take it lightly. It was a mandate from the God of the Blog herself. 


This is also from the 2015 Powerpoint, but here's another story. In 2013, when we went for Power Reader Day (now BookCon) and not BEA itself, there was talk of hydrating on the Powerpoint as well as a suggestion to bring a snack. I did neither. I was never all that big on hydration -- I currently drink like one (or fewer) glass of water a day because I believe I can get my hydration from coffee and ice chips -- but my body was slightly less deteriorated in 2013 than it is now so when I ignored that section of the Powerpoint, and we had to walk to Penn Station from Javits with our tote bags full of books in the June heat (also I wore a black dress and a blazer so I wasn't helping my case), it was not a good experience. I didn't pass out, which was cool, but it would've been a very very thin line to cross before I did. I'm used to walking in the city, so I wasn't expecting to feel myself die of heatstroke and dehydration, but there we were. After that, food became mandatory. 

Note from Kiersten: Actually, Noor kind of did pass out. I mean, not full on unconscious pass out, but she was about to give up and lay down on the sidewalk prepared to die. Of course, this being our first year at BEA, we didn't bring suitcases and were carrying countless tote bags of books. At this point, I force fed Noor my extra bottle of water and snack and then proceeded to carry 80+ books in tote bags to the train station while shouting inspiration to get her moving. I stand by this powerpoint slide, and honestly it's probably not even the most Aggressive one about eating in the Powerpoint.


I love this slide because it really shows who Kiersten is as a person. Not only did she plan each one of our schedules for us, but decided we needed two copies of them, one that we printed and one that she printed because honestly I don't think she had enough faith in us to trust we would know how to work a printer. I'm amazed at the thoroughness of this planning honestly. If I had been planning this on my own, I would have just screwed the schedule and winged it, but this was much more efficient. 

Note from Kiersten: I'd like to point out that on one of the days Marlon actually did forget to print out his schedule.


This, similar to the last slide, shows off how thorough Kiersten is: we cannot even be trusted to properly pick our clothes without an informative Powerpoint slide. My favorite part is the last bullet point, because even though we can wear whatever we want, our sweatshirt MUST match our outfit. Like, what if I wanna mix it up, Kiersten!!!!! You aren't the boss of me!!!! (Untrue. Kiersten is the boss of everyone.) Also, I'm not sure what kind of shoes qualify as "comfortable" but I don't think any of the ones I own fit the bill. I don't believe in wearing sneakers unless you are being physically active, and I'm definitely not an athletic person, so I only own one pair. Other than that, all my shoes are purely aesthetic-based. I don't remember what shoes I wore, but to my credit, I didn't show up in like 8-inch Lady Gaga heels. Although, next year, I definitely am wearing heels because I enjoy towering over people and feeling like the Alpha, and honestly I've worn heels to conventions before and pulled through. I'm a very ~ignore the pain and power through~ person (probably in a really unhealthy way) so I don't have a problem walking long distances or many hours in most of my shoes, which is why I like to ignore this part of the Powerpoint.


This is from BEA 2015 and there was a slide for #WLABBtakesBEA and a slide for #WLABBtakesBookCon but they say the same thing so I just included one. I like the idea of an aggressive twitter campaign because the words give me a mental image of me holding someone up against a wall, demanding they favorite my tweet. I like that this slide includes "look like you're having fun." Like, just in case we secretly hate BEA/BookCon and only go to torture ourselves, we need to pretend to be having fun. For the social media. I think next year, I'm gonna look solemn and on the verge of tears in every picture. Maybe I'll even pre-run my mascara, for a nice just-finished-crying effect. Look out for Kiersten's next Powerpoint telling me why I should not do this.

Amrutha's Picks

Preface: Cont. 

Kiersten rules everything we do. If we did not have the powerpoints, we probably wouldn't still be here.

1. On the Train (For Amrutha) -- Book Expo America - A Powerpoint 2013, Kiersten Kozbial

Ah, 2013 - Our very first Book Expo America. If you're wondering why I have my very own train slide, it's because I had to take the SATs the day of BEA. Of course I took them and came to the day at like 2pm when all the books were basically gone. Anyway, mind you, I was taking the SATs so I was like, almost 17 at this point. Old enough to know how a train works. Old enough at least, to know to sit next to someone that seems mildly friendly. But regardless, our girl Kiersten was kind enough to give me some advice as to where I could find seats or if I was forced to sit next to someone, how to find someone who wasn't a serial killer to sit next to.

2. When on the Train -- BEA Ppt. 2015, Kiersten Kozbial

More train powerpoint slides, helpfully brought to us and now, the general public, by Kiersten. Two years later, having been on trains with us multiple times, Kiersten still needed to tell us not to be loud or disruptive on a train at literally 5am. Shout out to Kiersten for keeping the world safe from us. However, if you've never been on a train before, these slides could honestly be really helpful to you. Take notes. **Special favorite because of the sticker usage. I also really love this though, because now, looking back on all these critiques I have made, we might have actually been loud on the train had Kiersten not chastised us in advance. Also, we all brought books to read on our way to getting more books because of this slide. Thank you, Kiersten.

Note from Kiersten: Amrutha may not know this because she was taking the SATs that morning, but the morning of BEA 2013, aka our first time there as Power Readers, Marlon and Noor were so loud on the train that everyone kept glaring at us and I almost killed them both. Given that we were leaving even earlier in 2015 than we did in 2013, it was a Necessary precaution.

3. Then We Leave -- BEA Ppt. 2015, Kiersten Kozbial

"This was self explanatory," she says, with 4 bullet points below it to explain further. This is one of my favorites because while it's in the 2015 powerpoint, it's also in powerpoints before it. Kiersten never forgot to command us to get ready for awesome and print the schedules and hash out exactly what leaving will be like. Noor mentions the schedules and printing in another slide, but can I just say the very first day we had schedules I printed my own and a copy for everyone else and Kiersten had already made a small stack for us??? Like I tried to be prepared one time and she was just so much more prepared that since then I realized it is best to follow the directions exactly as given in the powerpoint.

4. Talk to People! -- BEA Ppt. 2014, Kiersten Kozbial

Here we have another beloved "just use logic," slide -- "just use logic" is mentioned many a time throughout the course of the BEA & BookCon powerpoints, but never once does it not have at least 4 bullets thoroughly explaining what it is exactly our logic should look like. In my opinion, this is the most Kiersten of all the Kiersten moves. She tries to trust us but then, she realizes, she can't. So instead she tries to be nice about it and let us believe we're doing this on our own through our own logic while subtly giving us the advice and skills we need for the future. Thanks, mom. 

5. HAVE FUN! -- BEA Ppt. 2015, Kiersten Kozbial

I honestly think this unicorn sticker speaks for itself. Quick side story: once upon a time, when Noor and Marlon and Kiersten were friends and I was just a lame junior in their AP Lang class, I was sad about a thing. Kiersten was quick to make up the rainbow unicorn coalition, an imaginary club with a lot of real heart. The rainbow unicorn has since become a small reminder of when we all became tight (we all started sitting together and lunch and then planned BEA 2013 and the blog and everything blossomed from there) so it makes me laugh especially to see it on the have fun page. Also, I hope you found this post informative of what goes on behind the scenes here at WLABB -- basically Kiersten does all of the staging and informative preparation necessary for us to even be humans, much less have a blog.

Note from Kiersten: The Rainbow Unicorn Society isn't an imaginary club. We have letterhead.

Which slide was your favorite?
Let us know in the comments!

Monday, June 27, 2016

Recap: B-Fest 2016 / Ivory and Bone Launch

For the first time this year, Barnes and Noble did a nationwide weekend long event called B-Fest Teen Book Festival. I was instantly intrigued by this when I found out about it because it meant that there would be a bookish event nearby. I ended up going to the first event at my local BN and then I went about an hour away to go to the location that was having the Ivory and Bone launch party as part of B-Fest day two.

Since there really isn't much to talk about for day one (there was a quiz), I'll talk more about day two! The first thing that happened that day was a sampler giveaway, which was cool if you like samplers (I personally don't). While the plan was to go to this particular BN because of the Ivory and Bone launch, an added bonus was that they had an additional panel of authors earlier in the day that featured Claire LeGrand, Megan McCafferty, and Leanna Hieber.

I ended up really enjoying this panel a lot! Not only were the authors really fun, but it was cool to hear their writing and publishing journeys. Since B-Fest is, in part, targeted towards young writers, I think it was particularly fitting and helpful for the young writers in the crowd. Also, listening to the panel made me even more interested in these authors' books - had to add a few more to my already lengthy TBR!

After the panel, there was a spelling bee, but I can't spell, so I skipped out on that one. Instead, Sloth was up to his usual shenanigans around the store...

Shortly after that was the Ivory and Bone launch party with Sarah J. Maas as a special guest!

It turns out that Sarah J. Maas and Julie Eshbaugh have been friends for a while, and the panel was so much fun. I always love panels with Sarah J. Maas, but her rapport with Julie Eshbaugh was particularly amusing and fun. I didn't know much about Ivory and Bone before going to the event, but I'm really interested in checking it out now!

Overall, I really enjoyed B-Fest! I feel like not everyone would be able to have the same experience I had since the authors/events at each location differed - maybe staggering the weekends for different locations would allow more author events at all the different stores - but I think the idea behind it was great and I hope that Barnes and Noble continues it next year.

- Kiersten

Did you go to B-Fest? What did you think?
Let us know in the comments!

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Review: Did I Mention I Love You - Estelle Maskame

Did I Mention I Love You?
Erin Morgenstern
Series: The DIMILY Trilogy #1
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Publisher: Black & White Publishing
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

I honestly picked this up thinking it'd be a kind of trashy, fun, pick me up kind of romance. I was so pleasantly surprised when I didn't hate it as much as previously expected?

So Eden Munro, our main character, is, like in many YA novels, visiting her dad for the summer in a different state (it's all very Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants). What isn't very Sisterhood though, is that she meets Tyler, her stepbrother. As you might be able to tell just from these opening sentences, some ~stuff~ happens with her and her step brother. If you're not about stuff like that, I highly suggest avoiding this book right off the bat. So basically Eden is expecting a bitchy stepmom and three little kid siblings, while instead theyre all like 11+ and Tyler is a year older than her. The other two siblings are literally mentioned like 3 times in the book so they're not too important. Eden uses her family insecurities to go to parties at all hours of the night with Tyler and his friends.

So Eden makes friends with this crew and is surprised to find out that Tyler is in it. Everybody in the group seems cool but honestly the fact they all had like one major character point was a downer, they all seemed interesting and I'd have loved to know more of their backstories. Tyler is exactly like you imagine though, think of an angsty teen boy who does all the illegal things and talks back to his mom and is generally just a prick. Yeah? You got him? That's who Eden falls for, the forbidden fruit or whatever.

Honestly, I thought Eden and Tyler weren't really sketched out enough for main characters at all. Every character seems to stick to a trope in this book and that honestly was the most disappointing thing, especially because the writing wasn't half bad and I know with character improvements the quality of the next books will go way way up. What I mean by these tropes are: stepmom is overly sensitive, dad is overly protective, Tyler is overly angsty, side character is overly a petty bitch, Eden is overly rebellious teenage girl. They all have one mention of a redeeming thing from these tropes, where they defy what is stereotypically expected of them. In my opinion that's a step in the right direction, but not exactly straying from static. I'd like to see them more developed in the next books!

The cool thing about this book though is that the plot doesn't go where you would necessarily expect it to, and there are going to be two other books in this series and I'm going to read them, because the second half of this book was a lot better than the first. I honestly got a JLA vibe from this, and I'm honestly hoping it'll go uphill just like that JLA series I've been reviewing does. Not a huge fan of this book but I have high hopes for the author, because the writing was interesting enough to make me finish the book in one sitting, it was really just the characters that need work!

- Amrutha

What's your opinion on step-sibling relationships?
Let us know in the comments!

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Recap: BEA + BookCon 2016

Hi, everyone! At the title of this post implies, I'm finally doing my BookExpo America and BookCon 2016 recap post! This year, BEA and BookCon were in Chicago rather than New York City and were earlier in the month than usual. This presented many problems for myself and my co-bloggers - NYC is less than an hour from where I live via the train, and with the date change, it was very close to when we were all taking finals. Traveling to Chicago instead made BEA more of a vacation than several day trips into the city.

BEA Day One

I actually had to take a final exam the day before BEA Day One, so I ended up taking an early flight that morning - I woke up at 4 a.m. and I was not a happy camper. I had been so tired from working on final projects, taking final exams, and planning for BEA, so it was a bit of a struggle - but I was headed to BEA, one of my favorite parts of the year.

Once I got there, I headed to the hotel for a little while before meeting my mom at the convention center. It was a strange feeling to get there because I'm so used to being able to walk a few blocks to Javits from Penn Station and then knowing how to get around the building. McCormick Place wasn't so different from Javits - it definitely had a similar look - but it took a second to get my bearings and figure out where I needed to go.

The layout of the show floor wasn't much different from the layout in New York - I had actually looked over the map beforehand, so I had a decent understanding of where things were - and it looked so much like Javits once we entered.

The biggest difference between BEA in Chicago and New York is that Chicago definitely had a calmer vibe from most of the people there. There were definitely less people on the show floor, and I couldn't help but notice that the people generally walked a lot slower than in New York, especially since I tend to be a pretty destination-oriented walker at BEA.

Day One ended up being a really successful day for books! I decided not to go to the Blogger's Conference this year because I had to fly into Chicago that morning, but I managed to make it to a ton of drops, particularly at HarperCollins.

BEA Day Two

It was nice going into Day Two because I was familiar with the show floor, and I had a more clear picture of what books I needed to get that day. Since I had gotten most of the Harper drops on Day One, I only had to make it to the very first one that morning to get Replica and some other gems.

The most intense part of this day was definitely getting signing tickets for Macmillan, also known as the MacMob (possibly only to me, but I will continue to use this name for this event because it is Accurate). If you've never been to BEA, the thing you have to understand about people is that they will wait hours to get a book they really want. Unfortunately, the location of Macmillan's booth didn't really allow for accommodating a line for hours before they handed out signing tickets. The tickets up for grabs were for some highly anticipated books: You Know Me Well, Vassa in the Night, 738 Days, and, arguably the biggest attraction for people, Heartless. I really wanted to get all of these books, so I was there pretty early, just "hanging out" until they started the line. Unfortunately, instead of just starting an official line early, a mob formed. It was chaos. There were 3 "lines", going in all different directions, blocking other books and the entire walkway near Macmillan's booth. People were getting so edgy and it was just all around Bad.
At the MacMob

I really think there should be "I Survived the MacMob at BEA 2016" t-shirts. It really did feel like an accomplishment. And not everyone survived. I mean, no one died, but the faint of heart gave up once the stampede began.

You might be wondering what I mean by stampede. Well, when Macmillan eventually made the official line (it was well over two hours after people started lining up), it was a stampede. Somehow, I ended up at the very front of that line - I'm still not entirely sure how that happened. At this point, I was super excited - I would get All The Books! Haha, no. Because of Fairness, everyone could only get up to two signing tickets. I'd like to just put in right here that I totally respected the rule, I just wish I had known earlier because I would have had my mother on line with me. So at this point, I had to make some Choices about which books I wanted to get. Given that Heartless was going to be available again on Day Three, I figured I could just get it then, so I opted for Vassa in the Night and You Know Me Well, which my mom really wanted to get because she wanted to see David Levithan. I'd be lying if I said I didn't think about just getting a third ticket for Heartless as well, but knowing how there were people in line who probably wouldn't get any tickets, I decided to opt for good karma. This was the start of my path to not getting Heartless at BEA.

Overall, Day Two was super successful - by the end of it, I had very few books I still needed to pick up on Day Three.

BEA Day Three

Now, I shall continue my path to not getting Heartless at BEA. In New York, the WLABBers always went early to Javits to get on the line for autograph area signing tickets, and we always got the tickets we wanted. So I went early (granted, not as early as other people because we were relying on the BEA shuttle from the hotel) and got on the line. Little did I know, they, evidently, only had three Heartless tickets to give out. Three. It was extremely frustrating, especially because they always had way more to give out the day of the event in New York.

So Day Three was off to a disappointing start, but the rest of the day was very calm. I found myself just hanging out and wandering around most of the time, which was pretty nice. Most of my day was actually spent waiting on line for the Gemina drop at Penguin Random House.

On a side note, I'd like to take a moment to praise Penguin Random House - out of all the publishers at BEA this year, they definitely had the best set up and location to manage lines. They had a wonderful system going on. It was amazing.

Anyway, the Gemina line started about 3-4 hours ahead of time, but it was so calm. Everyone was just sitting down, hanging out, being calm. It was so refreshing in comparison to some of the other lines I had waited on the other days. I think it was partially due to how much space there was for us to have our line, but people were also a lot more calm since it was the end of the last day of BEA.

All in all, BEA 2016 was a success - I got almost every thing I wanted (insert sobs about Heartless here), and I had a great time!


As always, BookCon was more disorganized than BEA. When I got to the convention center, there was a line wrapped throughout the entire convention center. Having purchased VIP passes, we were confused about there only being one line. Apparently, you had to wait on the line to get your bag checked so that you could get autographing wristbands. I was not about that. So we just chilled in the general area of the entrance to the show floor, and ended up in the VIP first access line.

From there, we headed over to the First in Line Red Carpet event because why not. After that, we mostly just went to panels, which was a lot of fun.

The first panel was with Melissa de la Cruz, Sabaa Tahir, Lauren Oliver, and Veronica Roth. It was weird at first because it was past when the panel should have started but the authors weren't coming out yet. Then, I saw on Twitter that Lauren Oliver's Uber driver actually got lost and couldn't find the convention center. Once she got there, the panel was really cool and all about good and evil in books.

Some other panels we went to were Friendship is Magic with Sarah J. Maas, Alexandra Bracken, Susan Dennard, and Victoria Aveyard, Reality Bites with David Levithan, Jennifer Niven, Nicola Yoon, David Arnold, and John Corey Whaley, and The Simon & Schuster Sisters with Siobhan Vivian, Jenny Han, and Morgan Matson.

The last, and most fun, panel we went to was #IReadYA Presents Book Besties with Maggie Stiefvater, Jeffery Self, Aimee Friedman, and Francisco X. Stork, moderated by David Levithan. Maggie Stiefvater is just so fun, and David Levithan did an amazing job of steering all the conversations in exciting directions, which is something some of the other panels missed due to lack of a moderator.

Overall, I was disappointed by BookCon in Chicago. Not only was it one day instead of two, it felt like there weren't as many big things to go to this year as in the past. Additionally, I was very disappointed by the "privileges" of the VIP pass - it kind of felt like I paid way more than everyone else for no reason. It was still fun, but I'm happy BEA and BookCon will be back in New York in 2017!

Sloth's Adventures

You were wondering about the lack of Sloth above, weren't you? Well, here are some of the fun photos Sloth took while adventuring at BEA and BookCon!

If you want to check out more of Sloth's adventures, you can follow him on Twitter: @SlothGoesPlaces!

- Kiersten

Did you go to BEA or BookCon this year?
Let us know in the comments!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday: You Know Me Well - Nina LaCour & David Levithan

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 You Know Me Well by Nina LaCour and David Levithan!

You Know Me Well
Nina LaCour & David Levithan
Release Date: June 7, 2016
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Waited on by: Amrutha

Who knows you well? Your best friend? Your boyfriend or girlfriend? A stranger you meet on a crazy night? No one, really?

Mark and Kate have sat next to each other for an entire year, but have never spoken. For whatever reason, their paths outside of class have never crossed.

That is, until Kate spots Mark miles away from home, out in the city for a wild, unexpected night. Kate is lost, having just run away from a chance to finally meet the girl she has been in love with from afar. Mark, meanwhile, is in love with his best friend Ryan, who may or may not feel the same way.

When Kate and Mark meet up, little do they know how important they will become to each other—and how, in a very short time, they will know each other better than any of the people who are supposed to know them more.

Told in alternating points of view by Nina LaCour and David Levithan, You Know Me Well is a story about navigating the joys and heartaches of first love, one truth at a time.

This honestly sounds really interesting, and while I've never read anything by Nina LaCour, David Levithan is straight up YA royalty so there's no way I can really be disappointed with this book. I can't wait to read it (it just recently came out but it's on wow this week because I'm waiting on getting a copy)!

- Amrutha

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

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: 2016 Releases We Promise to Read Soon

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Here at We Live and Breathe Books, two of us choose five books each week. This weeks topic is...

2016 Releases We Promise to Read Soon!
(The topic was supposed to be Favorite 2016 Releases but we made a slight adjustment after Noor realized she'd barely read any books from the current year...)

Kiersten's Picks

Lady Midnight
Cassandra Clare
The Dark Artifices, #1

As you might have noticed through looking through some of our old posts, the WLABBers are huge Cassandra Clare fans. Despite this, I have not read Lady Midnight yet. (Insert shock and awe here). Since I own so many books, I've been on a sort of book buying ban, so I was waiting for Lady Midnight to be on the elibrary. And now it is! Hopefully by the end of the summer I will get to read it.

Glass Sword
Victoria Aveyard 
Red Queen, #2

While I never ended up writing a review for Red Queen (I'm the worst), I really loved it! I've been waiting on line for Glass Sword on the elibrary probably since the book came out, and I'll probably be waiting for a while longer. But it's ok. Good things are worth the wait, right? (sobs quietly)

The Hidden Oracle
Rick Riordan
The Trials of Apollo, #1

Ok, so The Hidden Oracle. I really have no idea how this happened but I had absolutely no idea this book was going to be a thing until it was released. How did I miss this??? I have no idea, but I do know that I really want to read this. Not only does it revisit some friends from The Heroes of Olympus (I'm looking at you, Nico), but anything centered around Apollo is bound to be a riot, and I've heard all the chapters start with haikus. What more could you ask for?

The Shadow Queen
C.J. Redwine
Ravenspire, #1

I first heard about The Shadow Queen at UtopYA last summer at a panel that included C.J. Redwine. As soon as she started talking about this book, the world, the concept, etc., I knew I wanted to read it. Of course, time passed and it was shoved off my radar by school work, but hopefully I'll get to read it soon!

Exit, Pursued by a Bear
E.K. Johnston

While I wasn't a fan of A Thousand Nights, I have a feeling that the things that bored me in that book will not be a problem in Exit, Pursued by a Bear. Honestly, I didn't know what this book was about when I first wanted to read it, but with a cover like that and a title like Exit, Pursued by a Bear, it peaked my interest. I've heard a lot of good things about this one, so I definitely need to check it out.

Noor's Picks

A Court of Mist and Fury
Sarah J. Maas
A Court of Thorns and Roses, #2

I recently reviewed A Court of Thorns and Roses, which came out last year, but still haven't had a chance to read the sequel. Luckily, Kiersten is the bomb dot com and got a copy for me when she went to a Sarah J. Maas signing event so I'll probably be reading this soon. I'm hella excited, my two favorite things are faeries and retellings and these books have them both! (Note from Kiersten: I also want to read this, which is good because I have it. Yay!)

Alexandra Bracken
Passenger, #1

Not gonna lie, I thought this book came out late 2015 and I honestly cannot tell you why but I saw it on a list of 2016 releases and I was like "wow look another book I should read but I still have not!!" Anyway, everything about this book sounds cool: oceans are cool, time travel is cool, boats are cool, violins are cool. I hope I can read this in a fairly timely manner (ie before the year ends)

You Know Me Well
Nina LaCour and David Levithan

This one just came out two weeks ago so I feel like I have a bit of an excuse for not having read it yet, but I love love love David Levithan's work so I'm mentally beating myself up for not even getting a copy yet. I actually hope I can read it this week when I'm getting my brain mapped and have not much else to do besides read. If any of you have read Will Grayson, Will Grayson, it's told in a similar way where one author writes one POV and the other author writes the other POV and I assume they eventually connect. I know I love David Levithan's writing and while I'm not familiar with Nina LaCour, I still think the book sounds awesome!

This is Where it Ends
Marieke Nijkamp

I put this on my June TBR in our last Previously post but I still haven't actually obtained a copy of the book yet...I keep seeing it pop up on Instagram mostly and it has a nice cover and a nice premise and I think if I can convince my dad to take me to B&N sometime this week I'll probably pick this up, along with the other books on this list.

Salt to the Sea
Ruta Sepetys

I've had like an on/off thing with wanting to read this book -- I first heard the name and saw the cover and was totally drawn in, but then I pulled away a little because historical fiction isn't really my thing and even though it sounded interesting enough I wasn't sure how much I would enjoy it personally, but now after seeing so many positive reviews I'm back on board and hopefully read this sooner rather than later.

What 2016 releases are you planning to read?
Let us know in the comments!

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Stuffed Animal Saturday - Vanishing Girls - Lauren Oliver

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!

Jeremy and I just started Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver, after having it on our shelves forever and realizing we needed to step our game up and read it before Replica comes out this fall.

So far: So we technically started this book on Thursday, but by started I just mean "decided to read" because on Thursday I was on a post-Illuminae mourning period and only read a few pages and Friday I had a migraine all day and didn't read at all, and now it's Saturday. Jeremy read ahead a little while I was popping Excederin and he thinks, from what he's read, the writing is pretty strong and Lauren Oliver's unique style comes through pretty quickly, but he doesn't have an opinion on the story just yet.

Sneak peek: Partially because I don't have the book physically with me right this second (but, Noor, you have a photo of it, you say. But consider this: time is not real) and partially because I'm not that far in, I'm going to share the blurb off Goodreads.

New York Times bestselling author Lauren Oliver delivers a gripping story about two sisters inexorably altered by a terrible accident. 
Dara and Nick used to be inseparable, but that was before the accident that left Dara's beautiful face scarred and the two sisters totally estranged. When Dara vanishes on her birthday, Nick thinks Dara is just playing around. But another girl, nine-year-old Madeline Snow, has vanished, too, and Nick becomes increasingly convinced that the two disappearances are linked. Now Nick has to find her sister, before it's too late.  
In this edgy and compelling novel, Lauren Oliver creates a world of intrigue, loss, and suspicion as two sisters search to find themselves, and each other. 

Jeremy and I can't wait to explore the mystery! If you have any thoughts on the book, let me know in the comments!


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

Friday, June 17, 2016

Review: The Night Circus - Erin Morgenstern

The Night Circus
Erin Morgenstern
Series: N/A
Genre: Young Adult, Magical Realism
Publisher: Doubleday
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I've literally had a copy of The Night Circus sitting on my shelves for almost three years and I didn't read it until last month. I remember buying it when like three people recommended it to me within a really short timespan, and I figured I'd see what was up, but I just never got around to reading it? Lame. (Me, not the book)

There was a Lot more to this book than I was expecting.

First, the writing. The actual words on the page, ignoring plot or character or any of that (for now). It was remarkable. No matter what form the words took -- a second-person exploration into the circus tents, a POV shift to a character who seems unimportant, a description of an illusion -- they were so beautifully crafted. I could give 5 stars to just the diction and the writing. Sometimes it's long descriptions, haunting and elegant, sometimes it's the chilling quality of the phrases being used to describe characters and their actions. I could drink the words up and keep drinking and keep drinking and keep drinking. The words and detail provide this aura and atmosphere to nestle the rest of the book in.

Moving on, the back cover is an inaccurate summation of the book. It isn't entirely wrong in the same way my brother thinks he's not wrong when he says he watched all of One Tree Hill because "it's about basketball" even though they stop mentioning it after one season. The back references the actual Night Circus and a deadly competition between two magical young adults who screw up the rules by falling in love.

Now, the book is very much about the Night Circus -- a circus that arrives unannounced, leaves unannounced, and is much different from an average three-ring circus, decorated in all blacks and whites and greys, with different tents and tunnels, a maze of an attraction with a little magical help to aid in its enchantment. And yes, it features Celia and Marco, who have been raised with the notion of some all-important challenge that they would get the details of when the time came, but it doesn't paint this narrative as the heart-stopping forefront of the novel. I actually was cool with the amount they were featured but I wish their competition had been more high stakes or unpredictable or threatening. Not for the sake of adding action but because it was a really cool concept and I think it could have been delivered on with a little more flair, especially since I've seen how well Erin Morgenstern can write the types of scenes that would make it so. And the love is not quite a deep, passionate, seductive, dangerous love. In fact, if you're looking for a book with a strong romance aspect, this isn't it. The love is quietly explored, background noise that occasionally becomes loud enough to look at, then quiets down again.

So if the book isn't about their competition and it isn't about their love, what is it about, really? A lot. Told by an omniscient third person narrator, we follow quite a few points of view; I didn't count but definitely more than 10. At first it's not apparent why we keep going back to each person. We'll meet a few kids and think they serve only to describe the circus, and then a few chapters later, here they are again talking about farming, and then further into the book you remember the girl being described is definitely the one who met the farm kid, and you aren't sure what you're piecing together, only that something seems to be happening. Also, the book jumps around with the years and locations quite a bit. It stays within the late 1800's (dips into 1901 I think a little) but doesn't tell the story in order. Sometimes, this is confusing, (honestly I stopped paying attention to the dates bc I have no grasp on conceptualizing time) but by the end, when everything ties together, the whole story makes sense, each and every point of view is accounted for.

It takes a while to get there though. The pacing of this book is definitely very slow. For me, this was generally okay because it felt like such a unique book and I was so enamored by her writing style that I was drawn in regardless of what was actually happening. For others, this might be a deal breaker. I think the book is trying to shroud itself in an air of mystery and not reveal anything too big about the plot until the very end, which is why it moves so slowly, just threading every story together until it finally becomes a knot. There isn't a lot of action or clear ~here is a conflict let's go resolve it~ and it's definitely a book you need to invest in.

I, personally, am totally glad I finally made the choice to read it because it did not disappoint. From the intriguing characters to the beautiful writing to the way the book just felt like it had its own distinct aura, it was a breathtaking experience.

Side note: I didn't realize until I was pulling up the Goodreads link to put in this review, but apparently Marlon reviewed this like three years ago, so if you want his opinion check it out here.

- Noor

If you could do one kind of illusion, what would it be?
Let us know in the comments!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Review: Not If I See You First - Eric Lindstorm

Not If I See You First
Eric Lindstorm
Series: N/A
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Publisher: Poppy
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Ya'll, I told you I'd be back with a good review, and this one is the real deal. Not If I See You First is SO good!!! Not only is this the first book I've read with a blind protagonist, but this book is diverse without shoving it in your face, and honestly does the unlikeable-protagonist thing damn well. Lets talk specifics:

Parker Grant is in high school and her voice is snarky and unlikeable and honestly, just like an actual teenager which is so hard to find anywhere. I loved how brusque she was, I genuinely don't like when characters or perfect or come with just one overwhelming hamartia. Parker's voice feels so real to me - as a snarky teenage girl myself I can attest that the writing of not only her voice, but all the characters voices was on key to what you'd find in any high school.

Now that you know that about the protagonist, and you've also found out that she is blind, let's talk a little more about the plot: Parker was blinded 10 years ago in a car accident and lost her mother, and at the very beginning of this book loses her father. She lives now with some of her relatives who she's not a fan of -- she's kind of a jerk to them but honestly given the circumstances of her father just dying and them not obeying "the rules" (to be discussed later) I really liked how her relationship with them was portrayed.

All the supporting characters were pretty fleshed out too, but in a way that shows them from Parker's point of view. So much of the book is about Parker's journey without seeming overly melodramatic -- the plot is simple and doesn't cover an extremely long period of time and covers a lot of character development. I'm not really sure how else to say this other than just /read/ /the/ /book/. READ IT. I'm sorry this review is so short but it's really hard for me to talk about this without spoiling literally everything. Read the book. It's fantastic. Can't wait to read more from Eric Lindstrom!

- Amrutha

What's a rule you have about your life?
Let us know in the comments!