Thursday, February 28, 2013

Becky's View: Whispers in Autumn by Trisha Leigh

Whispers in Autumn by Trisha Leigh
♦publisher: CreateSpace
♦release date: July 24th, 2012
♦paperback, 388 pages
♦intended audience: Young adult
♦series: The Last Year, book 1
♦source: from publisher for honest review
In 2015, a race of alien Others conquered Earth. They enslaved humanity not by force, but through an aggressive mind control that turned people into contented, unquestioning robots.

Except sixteen-year-old Althea isn’t content at all, and she doesn’t need the mysterious note inside her locket to tell her she’s Something Else. It also warns her to trust no one, so she hides the pieces that make her different, even though it means being alone.

Then she meets Lucas, everything changes.

Althea and Lucas are immune to the alien mind control, and together they search for the reason why. What they uncover is a stunning truth the Others never anticipated, one with the potential to free the brainwashed human race.

It’s not who they are that makes them special, but what.

And what they are is a threat. One the Others are determined to eliminate for good.

Whispers in Autumn is the start of a great series, definitely one that I plan to continue.  It takes place in a world that has been taken over by a mysterious alien race and humans have been drained of some of their most basic emotions to keep them compliant. In this world, there is one girl who, not only is unaffected by the alien's emotion control, but for reasons yet unknown to her, she jumps seasons and places and it's completely beyond her control.  She goes to bed and it's winter in one town, and wakes to find herself in spring in another town.  She never knows how long she will stay or what triggers the traveling, but it's all she knows and she has learned to pick up where she left off.  But this time it's autumn in Conneticut, and things are starting to change.  She has always known there were others like her, thanks to an enigmatic note hidden in a pendant she has always had that tells her she is a Dissident.  For the first time in her sixteen years, she thinks she might have actually found someone like her.  

The story is told in a voice that has a kind of starkness and fear running that gives us a perfect feel for Althea, a character that has lived with a huge secret all her life among a society where her emotions could easily betray her and put her in mortal danger.  You can feel the constant worry and urgency in her voice as she tries to stay under the radar at school and at home. On top of everything else, she has a strange power over heat and fire when her emotions get out of her control...just another thing she has to hide away.  When she meets Lucas, he seems so much like her, like he is struggling to hide emotions and stay inconspicuous.  And when she finally touches him, she discovers he is cold---so cold he can turn water to ice. She is sure she's found someone like her.  Finally together, not only can they be themselves, but also try to find out who they are, why they travel, a find out exactly what it is the alien Others want from both them and the human race. 

It's an exciting and intense dystopian story that really stood out to me at a time when dystopians are flooding the YA market.  I loved the sincerity of the characters despite being in such extraordinary and dangerous circumstances. I found the plot compelling and intricate and unexpected.  I always tend to be drawn to stories that make me look at basic human nature as something to be thankful for---being able to cry and laugh and even feel loss and pain. This one did a little of that, too. The ending is gutsy and exciting, as danger creeps in all around them and some interesting things get revealed. It definitely leave you craving more!

A truly fantastic story...I can't wait to see what happens next in this series! 

 Find Trisha Leigh online:  Website  •  Twitter  •  Facebook

Purchase Whispers in Autumn:  Amazon  •  •  Indiebound  •  Book Depository

Check out the rest of the series:

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday

"Waiting on Wednesday" is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine. It lets us all gush about what soon-to-be released books we are jumping-up-and-down excited for.

These Broken Stars
by Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner 

hitting shelves December 10, 2013 from Disney-Hyperion

description: It's a night like any other on board the Icarus. Then, catastrophe strikes: the massive luxury spaceliner is yanked out of hyperspace and plummets into the nearest planet. Lilac LaRoux and Tarver Merendsen survive. And they seem to be alone.

Lilac is the daughter of the richest man in the universe. Tarver comes from nothing, a young war hero who learned long ago that girls like Lilac are more trouble than they’re worth. But with only each other to rely on, Lilac and Tarver must work together, making a tortuous journey across the eerie, deserted terrain to seek help.

Then, against all odds, Lilac and Tarver find a strange blessing in the tragedy that has thrown them into each other’s arms. Without the hope of a future together in their own world, they begin to wonder—would they be better off staying here forever?

Everything changes when they uncover the truth behind the chilling whispers that haunt their every step. Lilac and Tarver may find a way off this planet. But they won’t be the same people who landed on it.

The first in a sweeping science fiction trilogy, These Broken Stars is a timeless love story about hope and survival in the face of unthinkable odds

My thoughts: OH this looks good. I can't wait to find out about the "whispers".  The whole concept makes me think of Twilight Zone or Ray Bradbury stories. Which I love. :)

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Sweetness on Sunday: Banana Butterscotch Cupcakes

Yummies for you today! I know, it's been awhile, but unfortunately I haven't been baking much lately.  These are scrumptions and light and fluffy and filled with yummy butterscotch pudding.  I love these two flavors together.  They're are like comfort food cupcakes. :)

Adapted from AllRecipes & the brilliant Oliepants :)

Banana Butterscotch Cupcakes:
Preheat oven to 275 degrees and prepare cupcake tins with liners. 
(Don't forget to double-line if you want your pretty liners to show!) 

For the cupcake:
2 large bananas - nice and speckly and ripe :)
2 tsp lemon juice
3 cups flour
1-1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 butter at room temp
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1-1/2 cups buttermilk (if you are like me and have the hardest time finding buttermilk, you can substitute with regular milk + 1-1/2 tbsp lemon juice.  Mix them together and set aside for about 15 minutes)     
1 box instant butterscotch pudding mix (prepare according to directions and set aside)

Mash your bananas and mix in the lemon juice; set aside.  
Mix together flour, baking soda, & salt.  In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until fluffly. Add in eggs and vanilla.  Add in the flour mixture and buttermilk, alternating between the two and ending with the flour.  Mix until everything is incorporated and smooth.  Fold in the mashed bananas.  Fill cupcake liners about 3/4 full. Bake for 30 minutes.  Cool completely.  

Now grab your butterscotch puddingWith a pastry bag and any large round decorating tip, fill the cupcakes by inserting the tip right into the center and squeezing lightly. Not too much---don't want your cupcakes to explode! :D

For the buttercream:
2/3 cup butterscotch chips
3 tbsp heavy cream
1 cup butter
1 tsp vanilla
2.5-3 cups powdered sugar

In a small saucepan, melt the butterscotch chips with the heavy cream until smooth.  Set aside for a few minutes to cool. 
In a mixer, cream together the butter and vanilla.  Blend in the melted butterscotch.  Add powdered sugar (mixer on low unless you want to be covered in powder!) one cup at a time until the frosting is light and fluffy. 

Now frost those cupcakes and eat and eat and eat! :D  

Til' next time...  

Saturday, February 23, 2013

New Shelf Goodies & The Weekly Nutshell {36}

For New Shelf Goodies, I'll be showing you what lovely books I acquired this week, whether from publishers, or the library, or from whatever half-crazed book-buying binge I happened to go on. :D (Inspired by Alea @ Pop Culture Junkie's This Week in Books & Tynga's Stacking the Shelves) The Weekly Nutshell will be just week here at Stories & Sweeties, in a nutshell. (inspired by Ginger @ GReads and her recaps at the end of the TGIF posts) Note: This is not a meme, but I'll be hopping around to any other book haul-sharing posts I come across!

Just one for me this week through the mailslot! ;D But one I am so incredibly excited to read, so... 
Creepy historical paranormal romance about a girl and her doppleganger from the age of the Black Death...oooo, I can't wait! 

If there was one title that could tempt me back to ebooks, it was this one.  I've already started it and am loving it so far. :)

Thanks to Candlewick and Little Brown BYR for these!
 The Weekly Nutshell: 
Just a few days more to enter my 3 year blogoversary giveaway!! You don't want to miss your chance at one of those lovely stacks of books or an ARC of Born of Illusion, do you?? 
Clickety here if you have entered already! 
Have a great week, everyone! :)

Friday, February 22, 2013

Becky's View: Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger

Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger
♦publisher: Little, Brown BYR
♦release date: February 5th, 2013
♦hardcover, 307 pages
♦intended audience: Young adult
♦series: Finishing School, book 1
♦source: ALA
It's one thing to learn to curtsy properly. It's quite another to learn to curtsy and throw a knife at the same time. Welcome to Finishing School.

Sophronia Temminnick at 14 is a great trial more interested in dismantling clocks and climbing trees than proper manners -- and the family can only hope that company never sees her atrocious curtsy. Her poor mother, desperate for her daughter to become a proper lady, enrolls the lively tomboy in Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality.

But young ladies learn to finish...everything. Certainly, they learn the fine arts of dance, dress, and etiquette, but they also learn to deal out death, diversion, and espionage -- in the politest possible ways, of course. Sophronia and her friends are in for a rousing first year's education.

Review: Etiquette & Espionage was exactly what I went in hoping it would be and even surprised me in a few ways!  Such a fun, incredibly well done steampunk adventure!  You can tell at once that this is what Gail Carriger does, she has taken the skill of creating steampunk worlds and honed it into a perfectly refined artform.   This is my first dip into her fantastic worlds but it absolutely won't be my last---I'll be sticking with this series for as long as it rides out and probably seeking out her adult Steampunk titles as well!

As I did suspect from the description, this one reads fairly young; it almost borderlines between middle grade and young adult. This was fine with me as I love both genres.  While Sophronia is 14, the propriety of Victorian England, her own rambunctious attitude, and her love of adventure and climbing gave her an air of childlike innocence.  As for love, there is more of a hint of shy attraction rather than a full blown romance, but the boy, Soap, is such a charmer---I hope this series sees them into their later teen years to see if anything blossoms between them! All of the characters were such fun to read: the weak-kneed and very girly Dimity, her bookish brother Pillover, the snobby and conniving Monique, small but mighty Vieve, all the wildly interesting teachers at the school, and so many more!

What surprised me the most, because there was no mention of them in the description, was the  vampires and werewolves and other paranormals! It's been a while since I've read any vamps and weres...and even longer since I've enjoyed reading about them so much!  The story itself captures your curiousity from the get-go, full of twists and turns and intrigue as Sophronia races to find out the whereabouts of a mysterious prototype and why exactly everyone is so desperate to get their hands on it.

The curtsy! OH how I wish this would be made into a movie just so I can see Sophronia's horrendous curtsy.  The way every person she curtsied to blanched at the horror of her lack of curtsy skills just made me chuckle every time.  So much great imagery brought this story completely to life, the whimsical floating school, the haughty mechanical servants, the sweet and playful mechanimal that Sophronia adopts, flywaymen and picklemen, and their exciting mid-air attacks.  The girls are just learning the art of "finishing" in this first book, but I can't wait to get more into the intrigue and danger of seeing their skills in action!

I highly recommend this fun and adventurous story!

Find Gail Carriger online: Website  •  Twitter  •  Facebook

Purchase Etiquette & Espionage:  Amazon  •  •  BookDepository  •  Indiebound

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Amy's View: Alice in Zombieland by Gena Showalter

Alice in Zombieland by Gena Showalter
♦publisher: Harlequin Teen
♦release date: September 25th, 2012
♦hardcover, 404 pages
♦intended audience: Young adult
♦series: White Rabbit Chonicles, book 1
♦source: purchased
She won’t rest until she’s sent every walking corpse back to its grave. Forever.

Had anyone told Alice Bell that her entire life would change course between one heartbeat and the next, she would have laughed. From blissful to tragic, innocent to ruined? Please. But that’s all it took. One heartbeat. A blink, a breath, a second, and everything she knew and loved was gone.

Her father was right. The monsters are real….

To avenge her family, Ali must learn to fight the undead. To survive, she must learn to trust the baddest of the bad boys, Cole Holland. But Cole has secrets of his own, and if Ali isn’t careful, those secrets might just prove to be more dangerous than the zombies….

I wish I could go back and do a thousand things differently.
I'd tell my sister no.
I'd never beg my mother to talk to my dad.
I'd zip my lips and swallow those hateful words.
Or, barring all of that, I'd hug my sister, my mom and my dad one last time.
I'd tell them I love them.
I wish... Yeah, I wish.

Review: Out of Wonderland’s chrysalis and into the abyss of Zombieland- A girl named Alice, an ominous rabbit-shaped cloud, and a world that suddenly feels like she fell down the zombie hole. Alice soon realizes she is “living a nightmare of zombie proportions.”  With mere scattered references to the original story of Alice in Wonderland, this book takes off in a new world all of its own. With a creative and different flair Gena Showalter spins you into a new tale of Wonderland, introducing readers to a fresh new perspective of zombies differing from that of the normal stereotype.  

From the amazing cover to the quirky patterned paper on the inside jacket, this book is perfect in every way.  Alice in Wonderland meets zombies is the perfect blending of storybook meets horror, alluring readers with a delightful and often surprising storyline. 

Automatically I went to the cliché, expecting a girl named Alice to stumble upon a rabbit hole and fall into a Wonderland full of zombies, and boy was I wrong. This story takes place in a normal, average city where the horrors of zombies are real but not seen.  Monsters that feed on the goodness of your soul verses that of brains.  Driven by a fear that was bred into her, Ali grew up being taught from her father about the horrors that lie in wait for her outside after dark. She grew up eating dinner before the sun set and never ever going out at night. The days were spent learning how to fight monsters that weren’t even there and missing the normal life that any teenage girl would want. All Ali wants is for one chance to go outside past dark with her family. Little did she know that that one choice would change her life forever!

In the blink of an eye Ali learns monsters are real, and that they can take everything that you have ever loved away from you. Leaving Ali with a new life, a new school, and a new best friend she soon discovers the life that she was meant to live. Immediately, Ali locks eyes with the most mysterious, brooding boy Cole, and at first glance her life changes again. Underhanded, sneaky, and manipulative Cole is the leader of the most secretive group of kids there ever was. But all Ali’s brain can focus on is how gorgeous, memorizing, and alluring he is, resulting in not only a fiery relationship but one with catastrophic proportions.  Through Alice’s perseverance, she discovers with Cole that the monsters her dad warned her about do exist, and that there is a way to fight them. 

Ali soon learns there is a fine balance between hunting the zombies that took her family and protecting those that she loves.  With life constantly hanging in the balance and death by zombies becoming the new acceptance in Ali’s life, it all brings new meaning to “off with their heads.”

A charming read, as well as a “Freakishly Mad Tea Party” for all to enjoy.  A wonderful book with continual twists and a strong plot that was obviously written as a building block for a much anticipated series. Only through the next book will we see the path that is meant to be taken and how that path looks Through the Zombie Glass.


Find Gena Showalter online:  Website  •  Twitter  •  Facebook

Purchase Alice in Zombieland:  Amazon  •  •  BookDepository  •  Indiebound

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday

"Waiting on Wednesday" is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine. It lets us all gush about what soon-to-be released books we are jumping-up-and-down excited for.

Project Cain
by Geoffrey Girard

hitting shelves September 3rd, 2013 from Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

description: Fifteen-year-old Jeff Jacobson had never heard of Jeffrey Dahmer, the infamous serial killer who brutally murdered seventeen people more than twenty years ago. But Jeff’s life changes forever when the man he’d thought was his father hands him a government file telling him he was constructed in a laboratory only seven years ago, part of a top-secret government cloning experiment called ‘Project CAIN’.

There, he was created entirely from Jeffrey Dahmer’s DNA. There are others like Jeff—those genetically engineered directly from the most notorious murderers of all time: The Son of Sam, The Boston Strangler, Ted Bundy . . . even other Jeffrey Dahmer clones. Some raised, like Jeff, in caring family environments; others within homes that mimicked the horrific early lives of the men they were created from.

When the most dangerous boys are set free by the geneticist who created them, the summer of killing begins. Worse, these same teens now hold a secret weapon even more dangerous than the terrible evil they carry within. Only Jeff can help track the clones down before it’s too late. But will he catch the ‘monsters’ before becoming one himself?

My thoughts: I'm  teetering between being completely enthralled and completely freaked out by this premise.  Clones that have been created from the DNA of the world's most infamous killers? This promises to be seriously twisted.  While I'm excited about the idea, I know I'm going to have to be in the right mood to read it or I may chicken out LOL.  But it is a male perspective, definitely a unique idea, and the cover is so cool.  And the guy on the cover? He's wearing glasses and I saw in one early review that he is described as bookish. Kind of love that. :)

Saturday, February 16, 2013

New Shelf Goodies & The Weekly Nutshell {35}

For New Shelf Goodies, I'll be showing you what lovely books I acquired this week, whether from publishers, or the library, or from whatever half-crazed book-buying binge I happened to go on. :D (Inspired by Alea @ Pop Culture Junkie's This Week in Books & Tynga's Stacking the Shelves) The Weekly Nutshell will be just week here at Stories & Sweeties, in a nutshell. (inspired by Ginger @ GReads and her recaps at the end of the TGIF posts) Note: This is not a meme, but I'll be hopping around to any other book haul-sharing posts I come across!

Got some good goodies this week! :D 
For Review:

Gifted/Traded for:

Many thanks to Jamie Ayres, Harper Teen, Amy, & Stephanie for these lovelies!

and now for...
 The Weekly Nutshell: 
(in which I fully admit to slacking this week)

Hope everyone had a  lovely Valentine's...mine involved a head injury (my son, not me---boys, gotta love em').  This week I flew through Etiquette & Espionage---such a fun book, look for my review this week.  And now I'm nearly halfway through Whispers in Autumn and really loving it so far.  So, off I go, back to it!

Happy reading, everyone!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Becky's View: Unravel Me by Tahereh Mafi

Unravel Me by Tahereh Mafi
♦publisher: HarperTeen
♦release date: February 5th, 2013
♦hardcover, 461 pages
♦intended audience: Young adult
♦series: Shatter Me, book 2
              review of book 1
♦source: ALA conference




it's almost

time for war.

Juliette has escaped to Omega Point. It is a place for people like her—people with gifts—and it is also the headquarters of the rebel resistance.

She's finally free from The Reestablishment, free from their plan to use her as a weapon, and free to love Adam. But Juliette will never be free from her lethal touch.

Or from Warner, who wants Juliette more than she ever thought possible.

In this exhilarating sequel to Shatter Me, Juliette has to make life-changing decisions between what she wants and what she thinks is right. Decisions that might involve choosing between her heart—and Adam's life.

Review: So many emotions.  This series continues with the same raw intensity that Tahereh Mafi astonished us with in Shatter Me.  The way she structures her sentences, the strike-throughs (used slightly more sparingly this time around), the repetition---Mafi uses her signature writing style to convey an absolutely palpable intensity and emotion that runs through each page like a pulse. 

The story picks up right where Shatter Me ends, with Juliette trying to settle in to Omega Point, and you can really see her trying to get comfortable enough with herself to let other people in.  Being rejected and feared is all she knows, and it's hard for her to overcome that, especially when her powers are spinning a bit out of control, despite Castle's insistence that she learn how to use them to her (and Omega Point's) advantage.  Her struggle continues on how she feels about her own power and whether she wants anyone, even the good guys, to use it against their enemies. 

 The love story also takes a wild, heartbreaking spin as they discover more about Adam's own power to touch Juliette.  For those who have aversions to love triangles (they don't really bother me if they are well done), there is definitely one here, so be prepared.  It was definitely hard for me in the beginning to even consider Warner a viable love interest---his past actions were just too unforgiveable.   Still, Juliette's compassion for a boy raised by a heartless, cruel hand (much like herself) gets the best of her and she definitely lets her guard down for Warner. His actions this time around soften his character a bit and that definitely gives him some much needed vulnerability, humanity, and interest beyond the cruel leader we saw before. But I definitely reserve judgement on him until the end.  Great, great character development in this one. Some may be Team Adam, some may fall into Team Warner. As for me...I'm Team Kenji, all the way!! Kenji is an outstanding character.  I don't actually remember much about him in book one, but in Unravel Me, I thought he completely stole the show..  Not as a love interest, of course, since it just isn't there for him and Juliette, but best all-around character: courageous, outspoken, brilliant, caring, and absolutely hilarious.  His relationship with Juliet is perfect, showing good friendship, encouragement, and bit of tough love when needed.

The style, I have to mention again is just so distinctive---and while in one or two scenes, it gets to be just too much, just one step over the line into being slightly overdone and overdramatic, for most of this wild ride, it holds the reader completely captive.  With an ending that may very well explode your heart and the promise of one heck of a war on the horizon for these great characters, Unravel Me will leave you dying for the next book in this series.

Find Tahereh Mafi online:  Website  •  Twitter  •  Facebook

Purchase Unravel Me:  Amazon  •  •  BookDepository  •  Indiebound

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday

"Waiting on Wednesday" is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine. It lets us all gush about what soon-to-be released books we are jumping-up-and-down excited for.

by Anna Jarzab

hitting shelves October 8th, 2013 from Delacorte BYR

Everything repeats.
You. Your best friend. Every person you know.
Many worlds. Many lives--infinite possibilities.
Welcome to the multiverse.

Sixteen-year-old Sasha Lawson has only ever known one small, ordinary life. When she was young, she loved her grandfather's stories of parallel worlds inhabited by girls who looked like her but led totally different lives. Sasha never believed such worlds were real--until now, when she finds herself thrust into one against her will.

To prevent imminent war, Sasha must slip into the life of an alternate version of herself, a princess who has vanished on the eve of her arranged marriage. If Sasha succeeds in fooling everyone, she will be returned home; if she fails, she'll be trapped in another girl's life forever. As time runs out, Sasha finds herself torn between two worlds, two lives, and two young men vying for her love--one who knows her secret, and one who thinks she's someone she's not.

The first book in the Many-Worlds Trilogy, Tandem is a riveting saga of love and betrayal set in parallel universes in which nothing--and no one--is what it seems.

My thoughts: I love the sound of this one---parallel universes and an epic fantasy, plus I've always heard really great things about Anna Jarzab's writing.  Gorgeous cover, too!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

New Shelf Goodies, The Weekly Nutshell & ALAMW Favorite Finds!

For New Shelf Goodies, I'll be showing you what lovely books I acquired this week, whether from publishers, or the library, or from whatever half-crazed book-buying binge I happened to go on. :D (Inspired by Alea @ Pop Culture Junkie's This Week in Books & Tynga's Stacking the Shelves) The Weekly Nutshell will be just week here at Stories & Sweeties, in a nutshell. (inspired by Ginger @ GReads and her recaps at the end of the TGIF posts) Note: This is not a meme, but I'll be hopping around to any other book haul-sharing posts I come across!

Wow, so it's been a while since I've done one of these posts! Today I'll be sharing what I got in the past couple of week and spotlighting a few of my favorite finds from ALA Midwinter! 

So here's my last few weeks of mailbox goodies:
For Review:

All of these look incredibly good!  

Huge thanks to HarperTeen, Macmillan, Penguin, and Simon & Schuster for these!!

And now for my Favorite Finds of ALA!  Amy & I were lucky enough to make it to ALA Midwinter in Seattle a few weeks ago, and it was another incredible conference, and also a fun visit to a new city for me.  I got to meet up with so many great people---bloggers, authors, librarians, & publishers.  It's always a great opportunity to chat and find out what upcoming books the publishers are really excited about.  While there were definitely alot less signings than at ALA annual, it was really nice to have time to just take it all in and not spend half the day in signing lines!  We came home with some really great books, but here are a few of my absolute favorite finds:

and now for...
 The Weekly Nutshell: 

In case you missed it, Stories & Sweeties is celebrating 3 years running!! Click on that last link---you don't want to miss my blogoversary giveaway!  Big squishy hugs to everyone who has left such sweet comments and blogoversary wishes!! :D

 Have a great week, and happy reading! ♥