Apr 24, 2014

Graphic Novel of Kingdom Hearts: Final Mix Volume 1

Publisher: Yen Press
Release Date: April 20th, 2014
Pages: 272
Genre: Graphic Novel - Middle Grade
Source: I own a copy via paperback
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Description from Amazon: After a terrible storm shatters the peace of his tropical island home, a young boy named Sora is set adrift from his world and his friends, Riku and Kairi. Meanwhile, Disney Castle is in an uproar when it is discovered that King Mickey has gone missing, leaving it up to Court Wizard Donald and Captain Goofy to find him! When Sora, in search of his friends, and Donald and Goofy, in search of their king, cross paths, their fateful encounter will change the destiny of the universe forever!




Review: I think it is no secret that Kingdom Hearts is my ultimate favorite video game series (Sorry, Metroid and Pokemon).  Even my book moniker, Heartless Lyn, is a homage to the series. I poked around the graphic novels for a bit, but I never really read them until now.
I always find myself a bit miffed at any video game/literacy crossover.  I do like the art, and the storyline keeps the same flow, but I found some minor issues that just didn't sit well with me.

What Works!

The art is lovely.  Some of the action becomes lost in the smaller frames, but I enjoyed the larger layout.

For those who are not into playing a game, then this is a good introduction to the storyline.  It does follow the basic overall arc of the video game.

I like the flow and the voice of the characters.  Riku's tone was different from Sora. The villains kept to their original Disney movie counterparts. Kudos.

This is better than collecting the smaller, first edition volumes.

What Made Me Sad

Final Mix, in Kingdom Hearts speak, means "to go all out." The manga did not hit this mark. If you are going to add those words on a KH product, then make it worth my while.  I am disappointed that the opening scenes were not in color, like the original manga.

Kingdom Hearts is a good balance of serious and silly, but there was just a tad too much goofiness(ahahahaha!) of the characters.

The quality was lacking.  I suppose it reflects more on the company, but, to me, they Yen Press could have tried a little harder! Like I said: FINAL MIX.

Overall

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Even though I find myself disappointed by some of the issues, I did find that this is a great manga to own for video game lovers and manga readers.  It is well worth it if you want something fluffy and sweet that doesn't fear venturing into something much darker.



3/5 Dragons


Purchase the manga from Amazon!

Apr 23, 2014

BEA with Great Imaginations - Part Two: Navigating BEA

BEA is coming, guys!  All three of us will be attending this year and words cannot express how excited we are about this.  Since we know a lot of those who are going will be first-timers, we thought we'd pool our collective resources and give as much info on the conference as we can!

BEA with Great Imaginations is in two in two parts.  Today we're going to talk about how to get around the Javits, and how to get your books home.  Last Wednesday we covered preparing for BEA, including what to pack, and what you might want to have on hand at the conference center.


Navigating BEA

There is going to be a LOT going on the week of BEA, from the conference itself, to publisher parties, to outside events at local bookstores and libraries.  We suggest settling on your plan of attack before you land in New York.
  • BEA will post autographing schedules.  On the BEA website, there will be listings for both the autographing stage and for in-booth signings.  My suggestion is that you figure out which of these you feel you need to get to, and then working the rest of your schedule around them.  There are books available at signings that are not available during the ordinary book drops.
  • Speaking of drops, most publishers will give you a card on Day 1 that details their scheduled book drops throughout the next two days.  
  • Don't forget to schedule in mealtimes.  This totally slipped my mind the last time I went and I ended up scarfing hotdogs from a truck in the five minute downtime between signings.  0/10.  Would never do again.
  • Give yourself some wiggle room.  You might hear of an event or signing that you missed while planning, or maybe you'll meet a few bloggers that you really get along with and want to go to dinner with - basically, you never know what might pop up and sound fun and exciting.  So give yourself some room for spontaneity.
Print a map! I actually think there are BEA apps for this too, but either way, get your hands out the layout of the floor.  I missed out on a lot of book drops and other opportunities because I couldn't freaking find anything.  There are huge banners over publisher booths that will help you locate them, but for smaller presses that may not be an option, so you'll want to be sure you won't miss anything.
I also recommend downloading a subway app to help you get from point A to point B.  
Some conference etiquette to keep in mind:
  • Cutting in line.  It's one thing if 1 or 2 people join a friend in line.  It's an entirely different thing if you take your group of ten and just cut in front of everyone else.  Don't do this.  Especially do not do this in numbered lines.  Some books have limited copies and so the publicists will count out the individuals in line and cut off the excess.  Cutting in these lines means risking the availability of a book for those behind you.  It's fucked up and inconsiderate.
  • Donating.  There are boxes on the author stages for those who wish to donate.  Some people donate $1 per book.  I shoved a $20 in at the beginning of Day 1.  It will be entirely up to you and how much you can afford.
  • Clear the aisles.  There will be a mad rush to get from place to place.  If you feel like walking at a slower pace than those around you, move off to the side so those who are in a hurry can quickly and safely get around you.
  • If you see a blogger you know, don't hesitate to introduce yourself.  Just like you would be excited to be recognized for the work you do on your blog, other bloggers will appreciate the same.  We're a friendly, if shy, bunch, and we won't bite!

Getting Your Books Home

There are quite a few ways to get your books home.  The easiest way is to obviously just take them with you if you are driving, but for a lot of people, that isn't an option.  I'm going to take you through a few options that will definitely work if you live in the US.  I'm sorry to our international followers, but since I live in the US, those are my only readily available resources.

Carry them in your luggage.  I'll most likely be carrying my clothes and things in a backpack, and the majority of my books home in a suitcase.  It's cheaper for me because I'll be traveling Greyhound, and thus will be handling my own luggage.  For those taking planes or even trains, the cost of checking a second bag is minimal, so keep that in mind.

UPS or FedEx.  There will be shipping stations inside the Javits center, where you mark your name on a box, fill it throughout the day, and ship it directly from there.  This will be expensive, and I've heard there are outrageous price markups per box.  But FedEx and UPS are generally reliable (though not where I live, sadly.)

The Post Office.  This will most likely be your cheapest option, since they do offer media mail.  The PO also offers different shipping options, including flat rate boxes.  However, a lot of bloggers had terrible experiences with the PO workers themselves, and then received damaged books when they finally arrived (IF they arrived.)  

Obviously, each method has its own pros and cons, and so choosing which way to ship will be up to each individual.

We hope this helps prepare you a little bit for what to expect, especially if this is your first time going.  Closer to the conference we will be putting up a post about how to recognize us in case we run into each other while in New York.  Again, if you have any questions or anything to add, feel free to do so in the comments!

Apr 22, 2014

Fairy Tale Fortnight Giveaway Hop


I've been following Misty's blog, The Book Rat for a long time now, and one of my favorite features of hers is the Fairy Tale fortnight.  It's two weeks of fairy tales, in case you couldn't tell, and it's awesome!  I always hear of the best retellings through this event and my TBR grows way too much.  I'm so excited to play a small part in all the fun this year by participating in the giveaway hop!

Mine is only one out of a hundred blogs participating, so don't forget to stop by I Am A Reader, The Book Rat, or A Backwards Story to find the rest of the giveaways!



I'm giving away a copy of Cruel Beauty - a retelling of Beauty and the Beast with some awesome Greek mythology elements, a killer heroine, and a mind-blowing ending.

This giveaway is international, as long as the Book Depository ships to you.  If you are from the US, your copy will be purchased from Amazon.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Characters We Can't Stand


Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.
This week's theme:  Characters We Can't Stand.


I was in the mood to rant and snark a bit this week. I haven't written a really negative review in a while because I have been heavily DNFing in an attempt to get caught up with my review books before BEA. It's not exactly working. But I did want to be a little bit negative today (I'll admit it), and so I thought I would channel that negativity into this week's topic: characters I can't stand.

Now, admittedly, there are a lot of those. Characters either make or break a novel for me. Usually. Once in a blue moon I can look past it because the plot is fuckawesome. But that's like a rare occurrence. Most of the characters I chose were from books I read recently, because I didn't want to pick the same characters everyone always picks. So anyway, here is the list:

Kara's Picks:


1. Sing da Navelli from Strange Sweet Song by Adi Rule. Pretty much my most hated protagonist ever. She is rude and condescending to every other character in the book except for the love interest. See my review here. I hated this book. It is my only one star book of 2014 so far.

2. Reagan O'Neill from Open Road Summer by Emery Lord. I realize this is a very controversial pick. But...I hated her. She slut shamed or was catty to every girl that came within 100 feet of the love interest. I DESPISE girl on girl hate in books. While women may be like this in real life, Reagan never learns from it and she never grows. See my review here for a deeper explanation. For the record, I really loved the rest of this book, but Reagan truly hindered my enjoyment of the novel. 

3. Morpheus from Splintered by A.G. Howard. I'll admit it. I don't get it. Why is he a love interest? He's creepy and unsettling. He gives off a stalker vibe. He's a controlling wanker and I hated him in the first book. I didn't continue on with the series because I was grossed out. If it hadn't been for the romance, I might have. But no. Yuck.

4. Lugh from Rebel Heart by Moira Young. Dude, I fucking LOVE this series. You don't even know. But Lugh almost ruins the books for me. I hate him possibly more than any character I have read in a book ever. He is awful. Selfish, rude, bratty. He's ignorant, he bosses his sister around (and she is much smarter than he is), he's verbally abusive and I HATE him. I really hope the author kills him off so I can laugh. See my review here.

5. Mal from Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo. Yeah, this is the other male love interest that I want to beat with a baseball bat. He is incredibly selfish and controlling. I am tired of him guilt-tripping Alina while she is busy trying to save the world that he lives in. If these two end up together in the end, I will throw things and go batshit. I would rather her end up with The Darkling than Mal. See my review here.


Lyn's Picks

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Celaena Sardothien (The Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas) - Everything about her rubs me the wrong way. Self-bloated, shit-talking, and a sorry excuse for a female lead role, I cannot understand the fascination with her by every male character in the book.  I wanted to rip out every golden hair from her empty head by the end of the first novel.

Edward Cullen (The Twilight series by Stephanie Meyer) - This guy ruined vampires, and caused a whole new subculture of asshole boyfriends to pop up in YA fiction. I usually add Bella to my list of more spited characters, but Edward deserves his own spot as well. He is disgusting, end of story.

Tris Prior (The Divergent series by Veronica Roth) - This one was a toss up between Four and Tris.  In the first book, I adored Tris, but the second book wiped out any and all respect for the character.  Martyrs do not score well in my book, and her sneaky, butt-hurt attitude caused me to loathe her by the end of the second book.  My hopes for book 3 are not high.

Alaska Young (Looking for Alaska by John Green) - Oh, I hate this character.  I hate the archetypal female role of "snotty-ass bitch". Girls who play with other's feelings and use the people around her as pawns make me want to froth up blood. I hated her every minute of the book, so the entire novel was lost on me by the end of the book. Good riddance.

Lugh (The Dust Land series by Moira Young) - HAHA KARA! I have a special place for this character on my list. No one, not one single character, has ever matched my utter spiteful raging HATE. The number one spot will always belong to Lugh. I want this character to die the most horrible death ever. I want to see him shredded and burned and then brought back to life to start all over again. Kara's note: Yes!! Let's cut him into little pieces, run him down the garbage disposal, reconstruct him and raise him as a zombie, and kick him in the balls right next to a bonfire so he falls in and dies a fiery death, disintegrating to ash.




Until next week!

Apr 21, 2014

Book Review: Ruins by Dan Wells

Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Release Date: March 11th, 2014
Pages: 464
Genre: Young Adult-Dystopian
Source: I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion.
Series: Partials Sequence #3





Synopsis: Kira, Samm, and Marcus fight to prevent a final war between Partials and humans in the gripping final installment in the Partials Sequence, a series that combines the thrilling action of The Hunger Games with the provocative themes of Blade Runner and The Stand.

There is no avoiding it—the war to decide the fate of both humans and Partials is at hand. Both sides hold in their possession a weapon that could destroy the other, and Kira Walker has precious little time to prevent that from happening. She has one chance to save both species and the world with them, but it will only come at great personal cost.







It's no secret that this trilogy has been one of my favorites for a while now. I really enjoyed Partials, but it wasn't that book but the following, Fragments, that truly hooked me. Don't get me wrong, the first book was great, but the atmosphere and story arc in the second book is what really made me recommend this series to everyone. Now that I have finished the trilogy, I still claim Fragments as my favorite book in the trilogy, but I did enjoy Ruins and do think the series wrapped nicely.

I think, like all books in a series, it's easier to read them one right after the other. As book bloggers, this is rarely an option for us, and don't get me wrong, I adore those early copies, but I do feel like I miss out on stuff sometimes by not being just a reader. I know I would have enjoyed this trilogy more. Especially with Ruins, since it took me some time to get back into it with the characters and remember who everyone is/was. The story is summarized nicely for the reader so you know where everything left off without the narrative being bogged down, but it still took me awhile, regardless.

As a result, I was not nearly as attached to the characters as I could have been. I can tell you that characters I disliked in the beginning of the trilogy developed well and I ended up liking some of them in the end, particularly Marcus. I hated him in the first book. By the third, I was a fan. He just goes through a lot of changes--changes that I approved of. I didn't love how Samm spent much of the book on the other side of the country; to be honest, he really wasn't in the novel much at all. So if you are a Samm fan, prepare to be disappointed. Kira's scenes were fantastic and action packed though. These were perhaps my favorite moments in the book. 

The ending itself was just average for me. It concluded itself nicely but somehow ended up feeling a bit anti-climactic. Maybe everything just came about too easily. It didn't feel like there was much of a struggle for anyone. Expect some death and dismemberment, but thinking back to the end of Ann Aguirre's trilogy and how The final book, Horde, absolutely freaking destroyed me, well, this left me feeling kind of emotionless. Fair warning: I will judge every dystopian series by Horde until something else bowls me over in a similar manner.

Like the other two books in the trilogy, where Ruins excelled was definitely in its world-building and construction. There is just so much science that makes sense, and it feels like every single detail is fleshed out without being boring. I will admit that the beginning of the book was a little info-dumpy and perhaps took too long to get going, but I am always the type of reader to really be invested in information that makes sense and makes me want to find out more. This entire trilogy did that. It is loaded with atmosphere and character interactions/reactions that make sense. If there really was a war between genetically engineered people and humans, it would go down like this. Dan Wells nails it.

So all in all, not a perfect book or a perfect trilogy, but one that is a whole lot of fun and enjoyable for the reader who likes to immerse themselves in a setting that makes absolute sense. Not to mention, super strong female lead that still manages to remain feminine while kicking ass. 








This review checks off the "Starts with S, P, R, I, N, or G" square for Bookish Bingo.


Apr 19, 2014

Stacking the Shelves #85


Stacking the Shelves is hosted by Tynga's Reviews.

It's been a great week in books! I got a couple for review, and I even made a couple purchases. (I shouldn't have.) Wahhh-wahhh. For our regular readers, we will be moving to Wordpress sometime, hopefully, by the end of this month! And a new design will be following shortly after that. So stay tuned. There are some big changes coming up around here! And just in time for BEA too!


For Review:


For a blog tour with TLC. Thank you to HarperCollins! REALLY excited about this one. I am obsessed with Chernobyl.


Thank you to FirstSecond Books! This one is shorter than I thought it would be!

Great by Sara Benincasa

Thank you for the lovely finished copy, HarperCollins! I will be diving into this one shortly!

Purchased:

Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma

This is for an upcoming Forgotten Fridays readalong with Pixie and Jessie. Looking forward to it, girls!


I've wanted this book since I heard about it and saw the cover. It will probably be ages before I can read it, but I am glad I have it!

E-books:

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Midnight Thief by Livia Blackburne
Mortal Danger by Ann Aguirre


Bekka here. :)  I am a little embarrassed by this haul.  I kind of went overboard on the spending and I seriously have to cut down.  This is me declaring an official book-buying ban (excepting pre-orders already made) from today until after BEA.  I need to be held accountable.


For Review
In the Shadows by Kiersten White and Jim Di Bartolo - I took a quick glance at this one and holy crap, you guys, it's absolutely beautiful.
Purchased
I had a Nook gift card, some e-book settlement money, and of course, I blew up my wallet, too.
Gilded Ashes by Rosamund Hodge
Red Rising by Pierce Brown
Beautiful Lies by Jessica Warman
The False Prince by Jennifer Nielsen
Pointe by Brandy Colbert
Ask Me by Kimberly Pauley
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
1984 by George Orwell
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Galing





On the blog this week:

Sunday: A review by Kara of the graphic novel Sailor Twain.
Monday: Bekka reviews We Were Liars by E. Lockhart.
Tuesday: Top ten bookish things that aren't books!
Wednesday: BEA with Great Imaginations: Preparing for the Conference
Thursday: Blog Tour: She is Not Invisible by Marcus Sedgwick
Friday: Lyn Reviews Thorn by Intisar Khanani



Apr 18, 2014

Book Review of Thorn by Intisar Khanani

Publisher:  Self Published
Release Date:  January 13th, 2014
Pages:  249
Genre:  Young Adult Fantasy
Source: I own a copy via.

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Description from Amazon: For Princess Alyrra, choice is a luxury she's never had ... until she's betrayed.

Princess Alyrra has never enjoyed the security or power of her rank. Between her family's cruelty and the court's contempt, she has spent her life in the shadows. Forced to marry a powerful foreign prince, Alyrra embarks on a journey to meet her betrothed with little hope for a better future.

But powerful men have powerful enemies--and now, so does Alyrra. Betrayed during a magical attack, her identity is switched with another woman's, giving Alyrra the first choice she's ever had: to start a new life for herself or fight for a prince she's never met. But Alyrra soon finds that Prince Kestrin is not at all what she expected. While walking away will cost Kestrin his life, returning to the court may cost Alyrra her own. As Alyrra is coming to realize, sometime the hardest choice means learning to trust herself.
Review: When I first saw Thorn featured on another blog, I lightly skimmed over the review and then bought the novel because OMG that cover. I liked some of the aspects of the story.  It seems, however, that missed out on the description.  I had no idea that Thorn was a retelling of The Goose Girl fable until I was well into the book.  Even though I only read one Goose Girl retelling, I was familiar with the elements of the story.  I like fable/fairy tale retools, so I was highly pleased with the surprise. However, the author also took some huge liberties with the story, which tended to put the story in a favorable light.

What worked

• Fairytale retellings are going to get more love from me - no lie.

• I enjoyed Alyrra's seemingly passive personality.  At times, I noticed that meek female protagonist get quite a bit of hate, but they exist, and they can also serve a purpose or stand in as a relatable girl role. Face it - we can't all be Katniss.  Alyrra eventually finds her inner strength, and I find that this archetype should play a role in young adult fiction.

• The love interest (more on that soon) was also likable, and I very much appreciate that paragraphs were not devoted to the god-like good looks of the character.  In passing, we surmise that Kestrin is handsome, but it is his actions, no so much his appearance, that eventually gives the character a backbone and a reason to favor him.

• The romance is entitled to its own section.  I think many of you know how I berate the romance sections.  I tend to frown upon the seemingly needed flings that crops up in 99.9% of books.  However, HOWEVER, here is a romance plot that I gains my approval. Why? Because it is a very shy, budding, and strained romance.  Here is a book that doesn't color a relationship as a sweet reward at the end of the struggle.  For the purpose of preventing spoilers, I'll just stop here and say that it was pleasant to break away from the usual.

• The themes of rape and abuse do come up (trigger warning for our audience).  The reader isn't exposed to anything overly graphic (save for one scene during the climax - very traumatic and horrible).  Instead, the story tends to focus on the result of abuse and neglect.

• The secondary characters become entwined into the story, and adds a new layer of charm to the book.

• The main antagonist of the story has landed on my list of top villains.  The reasons for her actions was chilling and horrifying, yet the reader could sympathize with her and understand her role and her origin.  Creative, stunning, depressing, and welcomed, the Lady really helped this novel set itself apart from the crowd by fleshing out the opposition. Kudos!

• Cover lust. No shame.

What Didn't Work

• Some of the logic failed to win me over. I found it hard to swallow the ending, and the reasoning for some of the twists were just lost on me.  I felt that there was quite a bit that wasn't brought up for the sake of the story, and it bothered me that some of the surprises was just an explanation away from revelation, when there was very little to keep such shocks in the dark.

• Alyrra was maddening in her coldness towards some of the characters.  There is only so many times I can read about one character rejected by another before I find it wearing on my nerves.  Either one side needs to forgive, or the other needs to get the point and back away.  

• The sparring between Alyrra and Kestrin tended to exhaust me.

• The writing felt stiff and unreachable, especially in the beginning.  I read up on the author's background, and it seemed that she was a grant writer, so this one might simply be the style of the author, and no so much a lack of storytelling.  However, I felt out of touch with the characters at the start.

• I wanted a bit more culture in the book.  The commoner lifestyle was described, but when the worldbuilding has potential for a rich diversity, swerving away from the typical Anglo European decent, please run with it!


Overall


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Well done and authentic with real emotions and problems, Thorn is a refreshing twisted fairy tell with a perfect balance of dark and light elements.





4/5 Dragons

Purchase Thorn from Amazon
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