Thursday, July 30, 2009

Goose Girl

She can whisper to horses and communicate with birds, but the crown princess Ani has a difficult time finding her place in the royal family and measuring up to her imperial mother. When she is shipped off to a neighboring kingdom as a bride, her scheming entourage mounts a bloody mutiny to replace her with a jealous lady-in-waiting, Selia, and to allow an inner circle of guards more power in the new land. Barely escaping with her life, Ani disguises herself as a goose girl and wanders on the royal estate. Does she have the pluck to reclaim her rightful place? Get ready for a fine adventure tale full of danger, suspense, surprising twists, and a satisfying conclusion.
Beth says 5 stars...
I love fairy tales. I've loved princesses since I was a young girl watching Disney movies. However, the princesses that I like now are a bit different. They're strong, independent, and don't let their heritage define them. This book was about one of those princesses. I though Ani was fantastic. She was very easy to connect with and brought the story to life. I also loved all of the other characters. Enna was so amazing and the geese made we smile. What I really felt made the books so great was the writing. Every word jumped off of the page and wrapped me in a new world. The plot was original with many unexpected twists and turns. Fortunately, these didn't take anything away from the flow and beauty of the story. Everything just made this book better; nothing was out of place. I can't wait to read the rest of this series! This is a book that everyone should read.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

It all comes down to this - a final faceoff between good and evil. You plan to pull out all the stops, but every time you solve one mystery, three more evolve. Do you stay the course you started, despite your lack of progress? Do you detour and follow a new lead that may not help? Do you listen to your instincts, or your friends?

Lord Voldemort is preparing for battle and so must Harry. With Ron and Hermione at his side, he's trying to hunt down Voldemort's Horcruxes, escape danger at every turn, and find a way to defeat evil once and for all. How does it all end?
Nathan says 5 stars...
So I was standing there at midnight...a massive cheer goes up...a press of bodies...a blur of geektastic people...and was in my hand. I couldn't believe it. The final Harry Potter novel was clutched in my greedy hands. Sitting with friends at 12:25 AM, July 26, 2007, I sat in the grassy median of a Barnes & Noble, and started reading the beginning of the end. I eventually left that grassy patch and continued home and in the next 18 hours finished the most anticipated novel in history. I've experienced Deathly Hallows a few times since, and some thoughts stick with me each time I read it. The first thought is how incredibly dark the book is, I mean lots of death. As Beth put it, it's a bloodbath. Many beloved characters make an appearance, and they are as engaging and original as ever. The story is up to Rowling's high standards; however, it does hit a lull towards the middle. Looking for excitement? The final battle for Hogwarts is one of the most epic things to ever take place in the fictional world. My biggest issue with the book is the fact that a certain someone doesn't um...ieday (pig Latin to avoid spoilers). That ending would have fit with the tone of the book, but I suppose I shouldn't complain. Anyway you look at it, it's a must read.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Adoration of Jenna Fox

Seventeen-year-old Jenna Fox awakens after more than a year in a coma to find herself in a life—and a body—that she doesn't quite recognize. Her parents tell her that she's been in an accident, but much of her past identity and current situation remain a mystery to her: Why has her family abruptly moved from Boston to California, leaving all of her personal belongings behind? Why does her grandmother react to her with such antipathy? Why have her parents instructed her to make sure not to tell anyone about the circumstances of their move? And why can Jenna recite whole passages of Thoreau's Walden, but remember next to nothing of her own past? As she watches family videos of her childhood, strange memories begin to surface, and she slowly realizes that a terrible secret is being kept from her.
Beth says 4.5 stars...
This book confused me at the beginning. I wasn't exactly sure what was going on, but then neither was Jenna, the main character. This book definitely made me think. It wasn't afraid to ask what makes us human. It also questions the future of medicine and the extent we play God. It thoughtfully posed these questions through the story of Jenna. Jenna was very well developed and had many layers. Her journey, though a bid discombobulated, was striking. The plot moved along beautifully and remained interesting. I was pulled into the book and couldn't get out. The relationships and emotions were well done, but a bit extreme. The exremity was warranted occasionally, but it still made the book feel a bit less realistic. This book made me think, and brought issues to the front of my mind. Overall, beautifully written, and something everyone should read.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Waiting on Wednesday

There were no surprises in Gatlin County
We were pretty much the epicenter of the middle of nowhere.
At least, that’s what I thought.
Turns out, I couldn’t have been more wrong.

There was a curse.
There was a girl.
And in the end, there was a grave.

Lena Duchannes is unlike anyone the small Southern town of Gatlin has ever seen, and she’s struggling to conceal her power, and a curse that has haunted her family for generations. But even within the overgrown gardens, murky swamps, and crumbling graveyards of the forgotten South, a secret cannot stay hidden forever.

Ethan Wate, who has been counting the months until he can escape from Gatlin, is haunted by dreams of a beautiful girl he has never met. When Lena moves into the town’s oldest and most infamous plantation, Ethan is inexplicably drawn to her and determined to uncover the connection between them.

In a town with no surprises, one secret could change everything.

It's more WordNinja fun! We have loved all of the WordNinja books thus far, and we plan to keep loving them with Beautiful Creatures. It looks fantastic and spooky. It's coming out in December (yes, we're excited enough to post about it now). Start buzzing about this one, because it looks earth-shatteringly good.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Something, Maybe

Everyone thinks their parents are embarrassing, but Hannah knows she's got them all beat. Her dad made a fortune showcasing photos of pretty girls and his party lifestyle all over the Internet, and her mom was once one of her dad's girlfriends and is now the star of her own website. After getting the wrong kind of attention for way too long, Hannah has mastered the art of staying under the radar . . . and that's just how she likes it.
Of course, that doesn't help her get noticed by her crush. Hannah's sure that gorgeous, sensitive Josh is her soul mate. But trying to get him to notice her; wondering why she suddenly can't stop thinking about another guy, Finn; and dealing with her parents make Hannah feel like she's going crazy. Yet she's determined to make things work out the way she wants - only what she wants may not be what she needs. . . .
Once again, Elizabeth Scott has created a world so painfully funny and a cast of characters so heartbreakingly real that you'll love being a part of it from unexpected start to triumphant finish.

Beth says 4 stars...
Sometimes I think that I have the most embarrassing parents in the world. Then I read a book like this and count my blessings. This books was so funny and fresh. The characters were fantastic. I'm not sure who I liked more; the Hugh Hefner-oid father or the Internet-stripper mother. These character were also more than just caricatures, they had surprising depth to them. Watching Hannah try to be normal was so interesting. I found her to be fairly easy to relate to, bust she didn't completely leap of the page and become very real. The plot was just okay. At points it just felt like it was aimlessly wandering. It felt slow, and I really wanted it to just get going. The thing about it was that the characters were so fantastic that they made up for all of the shortcomings of the plot. This is a fresh and laugh-out-loud look at life that will make teens appreciate the parents they have.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Hary Potter and the Half-Blood Prince + Movie Comments

Before we begin, we have a few housekeeping matters to attend to. Beth left Wednesday to visit her family in Finland. She's going to be gone for three weeks, but she has left plenty of reviews for me (Nathan) to post. Some of you may have noticed the random garble of letters and symbols posted on Tuesday. That was supposed to be a mobile post of this review and some things we wanted to see in the film adaptation. It obviously didn't work. I apologize profusely. Unfortunately Beth is the punctual member of the team, so anyone that reads this blog please hold me accountable for lateness! I do promise to try my best. That's quite enough of my ramblings-onto the fun stuff!

The war against Voldemort is not going well; even Muggle governments are noticing. Ron scans the obituary pages of the Daily Prophet, looking for familiar names. Dumbledore is absent from Hogwarts for long stretches of time, and the Order of the Phoenix has already suffered losses.

And yet...

As in all wars, life goes on. Sixth-year students learn to Apparate -- and lose a few eyebrows in the process. The Weasley twins expand their business. Teenagers flirt and fight and fall in love. Classes are never straightforward, though Harry receives some extraordinary help from the mysterious Half-Blood Prince.


Nathan says 5 stars...

After the angst-fest that is Order of the Phoenix, Half-Blood Prince is so refreshing. This was the first point that I truly realized that Harry's story (at least in print) was almost done. The end seemed nigh, and in accordance with the series, everything deepened and darkened. Well, that's not totally true- much of this book focuses on dating and relationships, which is a happier turn for Harry and cohorts. The core of the story lies really with Dumbeldore and Harry's lessons, in which the Headmaster hopes to reveal clues to Voldemort's past so that Harry can understand what he faces. It's another fantastic addition to this amazing series. Check below for movie comments.

As most Harry Potter readers (really readers in general) will tell you, the book is always better than the movie. A few things really bothered me, and a few things impressed me.

The addition of scenes was incredibly frustrating. It wastes time that could otherwise be used for subplots that are actually in the book. In the same vein, the deletion of an awesome scene towards the end ruins all climactic feeling.

This film moved fast-really fast. If you haven't read the series, many things will not be explained in full. It's all pretty easy to figure out, but your hand will not be held.

There is even more stylized cinematography in this one. The almost black and white footage in the cave was so impressive and appropriate.

The highlight of the film by far...Helena Bonham Carter. Her interpretation of Bellatrix is genius and her crazy laugh is spine-tingling. I'm seriously considering getting a shirt that says "I <3 Bella(trix)!"

Everyone go watch for yourself and post your opinions. Happy reading!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

The fifth book in J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series follows the darkest year yet for our young wizard, who finds himself knocked down a peg or three after the events of last year. Somehow, over the summer, gossip (usually traced back to the magic world's newspaper, the Daily Prophet) has turned Harry's tragic and heroic encounter with Voldemort at the Triwizard Tournament into an excuse to ridicule and discount the teen. Even Professor Dumbledore, headmaster of the school, has come under scrutiny by the Ministry of Magic, which refuses to officially acknowledge the terrifying truth that Voldemort is back. Enter a particularly loathsome new character: the toadlike and simpering ("hem, hem") Dolores Umbridge, senior undersecretary to the Minister of Magic, who takes over the vacant position of Defense Against Dark Arts teacher--and in no time manages to become the High Inquisitor of Hogwarts, as well. Life isn't getting any easier for Harry Potter. With an overwhelming course load as the fifth years prepare for their Ordinary Wizarding Levels examinations (O.W.Ls), devastating changes in the Gryffindor Quidditch team lineup, vivid dreams about long hallways and closed doors, and increasing pain in his lightning-shaped scar, Harry's resilience is sorely tested.
Nathan says 4 stars...
In my opinion, we have arrived at the only non-five star book in the Harry Potter series. After seeing Voldemort's return, one may ask what Harry should do. His answer-mope. I realize that a certain degree of petulance is necessary in a good coming-of-age tale, but I seriously wanted to use an Unforgivable Curse on Harry myself by the middle of the book. The rest of the series is so excellently crafted, and seems to flow so effortlessly; somehow Order of the Phoenix got past Rowling's writing skills and into print. When reading this one I have to wipe my hand every few minutes because the angst is just dripping off the page. I think everyone understands at this point that Harry's combination of attitude and inaction drive me insane. However, the supporting cast is still good and most of the writing is nice. The plot is sort of thin, which is unfortunate for the longest book in the series. I do love the finale of the book, without that redeeming feature it would almost be a total bomb. So, I'm getting very excited for Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince film which come out...tomorrow! I'm going to review the book and include a list of things we'd like to see in the movie. I'm getting pretty pumped!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Harry Potter is midway through his training as a wizard and his coming of age. Harry wants to get away from the pernicious Dursleys and go to the International Quidditch Cup. He wants to find out about the mysterious event that's supposed to take place at Hogwarts this year, an event involving two other rival schools of magic, and a competition that hasn't happened for a hundred years. He wants to be a normal, fourteen-year-old wizard. But unfortunately for Harry Potter, he's not normal - even by wizarding standards. And in his case, different can be deadly.

Nathan says 5 stars...
It's books like these that remind me why I love reading so much. Goblet of Fire may very well be my favorite Harry Potter novel: it's just that good. The Tri-Wizard tournament has been reinstated, and Hogwarts is playing host. Students from Beauxbatons and Durmstrang are pouring in, and suddenly, the Wizarding World seems even larger. The school is in a jovial mood, until Harry is inexplicably chosen as the fourth champion in the tournament, even though he never entered. Now Harry must deal with public dissaproval and the ardous tasks of the Tri-Wizard tournament, which obviously makes for a great plot. I do have one quibble with the book- Harry and Ron's feud stretches seemingly stretches for ages. I really hated it, but the rest of the book is perfect. Its tone, character development, and plot are genius. I also particularly enjoyed the Rita Skeeter subplot, her vicious (and vile) writing are pretty entertaining. All-in-all, another must read for J.K. Rowling.

(Note: I'm aware that these reviews are getting rather boring, but tonight I'll be posting the review for Order of the Phoenix, which should have a significant bit of snark. Stay tuned.)

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Our young wizard-in-training has returned for his third year at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry -- and more exciting, magical adventures. This time, a dangerous escaped convict is on the loose -- a reputed madman with a mysterious tie to Harry's past. Harry's life is in danger, and his sorcery skills are tested to the limit. Can he catch the criminal and discover the truth?
Nathan says 5 stars...
ABC Family is running non-stop promos about our most beloved wizard, and the whole geek community is revving their fan engines for the movie premiere of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. The Prisoner of Azkaban is the third installment in this groundbreaking series, and yet again Rowling throws her readers into a tailspin. For me, the most important thing about the entire book is the introduction of Sirius. His appearance marks a deeper delve into Harry's past, which is greatly interesting to we hardcore fans of Harry and crew. I'm going to keep this short- Azkaban is yet another genius addition to Rowling's series.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Waiting on Wednesday

Forget everything you ever knew about unicorns…

The sparkly, innocent creatures of lore are a myth. Real unicorns are venomous, man-eating monsters with huge fangs and razor-sharp horns. And they can only be killed by virgin descendants of Alexander the Great.

Fortunately, unicorns have been extinct for a hundred and fifty years.

Or not.

Astrid Llewelyn has always scoffed ather eccentric mother’s stories about killer unicorns. But when one of the monsters attacks her boyfriend in the woods – thereby ruining any chance of him taking her to prom – Astrid learns that unicorns are real and dangerous, and she has a family legacy to uphold. Her mother packs her off to Rome to train as a unicorn hunter at the ancient cloisters the hunters have used for centuries.

However, at the cloisters, all is not what is seems. Outside, the unicorns wait to attack. And within, Astrid faces other, unexpected threats: from crumbling, bone-covered walls that vibrate with a terrible power to the hidden agendas of her fellow hunters to – perhaps most dangerously of all – her growing attraction to a handsome art student… and a relationship that could jeopardize everything.


We only have one thing to say about why this book looks so awesome: killer unicorns. Beth's old school mascot was the unicorn, so there's a special connection there. The concept is really interesting, and something that we haven't really seen. Plus, we just keep hearing amazing stuff about this one. We still have over another month. Sigh.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Harry Potter returns for his second year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry after surviving a dreadful summer with his muggle/human relatives the Dursleys. Harry, along with his friends Ron and Hermione, confronts another mystery involving an evil force emanating from a chamber of secrets below the school. Clues include a flying car, a book written in invisible ink that takes Harry into the past, and a ghost in a bathroom. To solve the mystery and save the school from closure and Hagrid from jail, Harry must confront his long feared nemesis Voldemort.
Nathan says 5 stars...
My countdown until the movie continues with a look at the second book in the awe-inspiring Harry Potter series. By now, Rowling has given us (and Harry) an introduction to the world of wizardry. We have a basic understanding, and now, well, Rowling has decided to push us further into Hogwarts and its history. When I first read this book, I'm going to be totally honest, this book terrified me. I was so scared of the creepy voice-I mean, deeply, deeply frightened. The characters were still engaging and wonderful. Harry and crew were still out there solving magical mysteries, while remaining their lovely selves. The plot is fresh and fast, and has twists that are very satisfying. In Chamber of Secrets there is a distinct darkening of tone when compared to the first book, which is continued throughout the entire series. In the end, it's another fantastic addition to the world of Harry Potter.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Eyes Like Stars

All her world's a stage.
Beatrice Shakespeare Smith is not an actress, yet she lives in a theater.
She's not an orphan, but she has no parents.
She knows every part, but she has no lines of her own.
Until now.

Welcome to the Theatre Illuminata, where the characters of every play ever written can be found behind the curtain. They were born to play their parts, and are bound to the Theatre by The Book--an ancient and magical tome of scripts. Bertie is not one of them, but they are her family--and she is about to lose them all and the only home she has ever known.

Beth says 5 Stars...
I'm going to try to keep the gushing to a minimum, or at least make it sound intelligent. This book is absolutely amazing. I loved every minute of reading it, and wish that it had taken me longer. Bloggers often throw around the words unique and unusual, but this book absolutely deserves them. I've never read anything like it, and am so glad that I finally have. The plot was so fresh that it immediately captured my attention, and so interesting that it held it. Manchev's writing was absolutely magical; it captured the vibrancy of the theatre honestly, and blended it seamlessly with fantasy elements. Bertie was strong, interesting, and simply jumped off of the page. I want to sit and have coffee with her. All of the other characters also felt deep and realistic in their personalities. I loved how many familiar characters from Shakespeare were given new lives and personalities. I particularly enjoyed the antics of the fairies. They cracked me up constantly. Something else that I found interesting was that there are quite a few lines that the characters say that are from Shakespeare, either the same or slight variations. It was fun to try to find them and figure out what shows they were from. This book is perfect for anyone, but especially those who love theatre and/or Shakespeare. This is the best debut novel I've read in a long time, and can't wait for the rest of the trilogy. This is one that you should just go out and buy as soon as you can because not only is it amazing, but the cover is stunning. A fantastic first novel from an extraordinarily talented and imaginative author.

Nathan says 5 stars...
For me, books need interesting characters, original plots, and great writing to be considered a work of art. Eyes Like Stars needs to be in the Louvre (and not just because of the awe-inspiring cover). We've been anxiously waiting to post this review until closer to the release date, and now I just have a lot of bottled-up love trying to escape. The book absolutely sucked me into the Theatre, and refused to set me down until the final curtain call; however, I can't say that I minded. Original, fresh, and unique don't even begin to cover the world Mantchev has so lovingly and skillfully created. I'm so excited to see what the rest of the series will reveal after such an explosive and charismatic debut.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Waiting on Wednesday

An ancient prophecy divides two sisters-

One good...

One evil...

Who will prevail?

Twin sisters Lia and Alice Milthorpe have just become orphans. They have also become enemies. As they discover their roles in a prophecy that has turned generations of sisters against each other, the girls find themselves entangled in a mystery that involves a tattoo-like mark, their parents' deaths, a boy, a book, and a lifetime of secrets.

Lia and Alice don't know whom they can trust.

They just know they can't trust each other.

This book looks amazing. Michelle is one of our super-awesome Word Ninjas authors, and we haven't read a single book of theirs that is bad. Besides, who doesn't love a creepy prophecy?