Friday, November 22, 2013

Becky's View: A Spark Unseen by Sharon Cameron + Giveaway

A Spark Unseen by Sharon Cameron
♦publisher: Scholastic Press
♦release date: September 24, 2013
♦hardcover, 352 pages
♦intended audience: Young adult
♦series:The Dark Unwinding, book 2
  review of book 1
♦source: from publisher for honest review
The thrilling sequel to Sharon Cameron's blockbuster gothic steampunk romance, THE DARK UNWINDING, will captivate readers anew with mystery and intrigue aplenty.

When Katharine Tulman wakes in the middle of the night and accidentally foils a kidnapping attempt on her uncle, she realizes Stranwyne Keep is no longer safe for Uncle Tully and his genius inventions. She flees to Paris, where she hopes to remain undetected and also find the mysterious and handsome Lane, who is suspected to be dead.

But the search for Lane is not easy, and Katharine soon finds herself embroiled in a labyrinth of political intrigue. And with unexpected enemies and allies at every turn, Katharine will have to figure out whom she can trust--if anyone--to protect her uncle from danger once and for all.

Filled with deadly twists, whispering romance, and heart-stopping suspense, this sequel to THE DARK UNWINDING whisks readers off on another thrilling adventure.

The Dark Unwinding was one of my favorites last year; I loved the steampunk Victorian London setting, loved the heroine Katherine Tulman’s spark, loved the sweet relationships that slowly built between her and Uncle Tully, Lane, Mrs. Cooper, Mary and the other people of Stranwyne.  I was so happy to come back to this world to see what would happen next, and I was not disappointed at all. 

A Spark Unseen sweeps us back into Katherine’s world and her plight to keep Uncle Tully safe.  A race to rule the seas is setting France and England against eachother and shady characters from both sides will do anything to get their hands on Uncle Tully’s creation, a clockwork “fish” that is said to be able to take down an enemy’s iron ships.   Katherine decides the only way to keep him safe is to fake his death and secretly hide him away in her grandmother’s house in France.  With Uncle Tully’s tantrums as volatile as ever, getting him across the sea is a feat in itself.

Once again, Katherine faces challenge after challenge with a brave face and determination.  She is constantly driven by her protectiveness of her uncle and her solid belief that Lane Moreau is still alive somewhere in France, and she searches for him tirelessly despite everyone’s insistence that he is long gone.  Unfortunately, she isn’t as well hidden as she thinks and the line between who she can trust and who she can’t seems to constantly blur.  Her quest gets her mixed up in all manner of political intrigue and takes her everywhere from the morbid catacombs beneath France and into the dangerous company of Napoleon himself.  

Cameron’s storytelling delights with a few great twists, surprises, and triumphs that make this story worthy of its predecessor.  I can only hope there will be more adventures with Katherine, Mary,  Lane, and Uncle Tully to come!
Find Sharon Cameron online:  Website  •  Facebook  •  Twitter

 Purchase A Spark Unseen:  Amazon  •  BookDepository  •  Indiebound

I have an extra copy of A Spark Unseen and I want to pass it on to YOU!! 
Enter below to win an ARC!

•US mailing addresses only
•Must be 13 or older
•Ends 12/6/13
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, November 20, 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 Christina Lauren

hitting shelves 2014 from Simon & Schuster

Sublime is the story of two teens, Lucy and Colin, who fall in love, but the the problem is … Lucy's a ghost.

Slowly, she begins to remember more about her life and death as daredevil Colin take himself to the edge of death where their realities overlap so he can be physically closer to Lucy.

Lucy starts to wonder if she's Colin's salvation or the means of his demise.

My thoughts: Not much yet on this one, aside from a gorgeous cover and a very short and vague description.  Still can't wait!  I love a good ghostly love story. I'm always curious to see how the writer will make it work.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Old Books, New Looks {8}

Time again for another round of Old Books, New Looks, where I feature the covers of books that have already been released and their redesigned paperback counterpart! :) Sometimes I like the new better, sometimes I like the old. Here's a few that I've come across lately:


First up, a full-on change: cover, model, even title.  Same book, though.  I really actually like both.
APPLAUSE!! Love this change, second one is so pretty. 

I'm on the fence with this one.  Kind of like both, love the mischievous glare from the original, love the dresses on the new, but I kind of don't care for the stark "photograph" feel of the new one.

Hm...not sure about this one.  The new one looks kind of like an old 80s after school special cover. But didn't really care the first cover either.

This one, I like the original better; she just looks too computer generated in the new one. She kind of does in both, actually, but the new one looks like lower quality cgi video game.  Plus, it's so similar, why did they even bother redesigning?

Now, these last two....

Why did they change this one? Why? I loved the original cover!! Now it looks washed out and just ordinary.

And for the grande finale>>>

Are you kidding me?  I literally didn't know what to say when I found this one. Granted, her wings are a bit odd and disproportionate in the original, but the new one? What is going on there? This has to be one of the worst cover changes I've seen...ever.

Weigh in on what you think of these!  I'd love to hear what your thoughts!!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

New Shelf Goodies & The Weekly Nutshell {69}

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 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)

Just one new goodie for me this week! Gah, can't wait to see how this series ends!!

The Weekly Nutshell: 
This week I attended a signing with Gail Carriger for Curtsies and Conspiracies!  She is such a fun author to meet.  Check back later this week for a recap and giveaway of signed copies of the first two books in the series! :)

Happy reading this week, everyone! 

Friday, November 15, 2013

Becky's View: When the Stars Threw Down Their Spears by Kersten Hamilton

When the Stars Threw Down Their Spears by Kersten Hamilton
♦publisher: Clarion Books
♦release date: August 6th, 2013
♦hardcover, 400 pages
♦intended audience: Young adult
♦series: The Goblin Wars, book 3
  book 1: Tyger, Tyger (review)
  book 2: In the Forests of the Night (review)
♦source: ALA midwinter 2013
“People will die.”

Locked doors are opening, and uncanny creatures are tumbling through mysterious portals from Mag Mell, the world-between-worlds, into the streets of Chicago. The Dark Man has marked Aiden with a new song that’s scared him badly, and a frightening new group of sídhe is lurking nearby.

Teagan knows this is war, and she must protect her family. She leaves her flesh and bones behind to join Finn in hunting the evil beings across the city. Meanwhile, their relationship is heating up—almost faster than they can control. But he is still bound to fight goblins his entire life . . . and by blood she is one of them now.

Then the gateway to Mag Mell cracks open again, and the Wylltsons find themselves caught in a trap. As her loved ones begin to die, Teagan realizes that she must destroy the Dark Man and his minions once and for all in order to save those who remain . . .

. . . before it is too late.

Review: Bringing one of my favorite recent series to a close, When the Stars Threw Down Their Spears picks up right where the last book left off and finds Teagan, Finn, Aiden and the rest of the massive cast of characters preparing for their next move to take down Mab, Fear Doirich, and save the magical land of Mag Mell.  

While admittedly, this was my least favorite of the three, it was still great fun to be back with these incredible characters.  There are so many---sometimes it was tough to remember who was who with all the unusual names (and species!), especially after being away from this world for a year.  I would definitely recommend rereading the first two for a refresher, or better yet if you haven’t started the series to read them all at once!  The first 100 or so pages did feel a bit slow, most of it taking place in and around Teagan’s house as the group speculates on new and old dilemmas and prepares for the building danger and their plan of attack.  

 Despite the danger getting more and more severe, you’ll still find the same great humor and heart throughout the story, with Teagan reaching out to help even the nastiest of creatures, Finn fighting back his fate to be who and what he wants despite his legacy, Lucy and Aiden in all kinds of mischief,…even Mrs. Santini, the nosy neighbor from across the street, has her great shining moments this time around.  There are a few new faces, some not so welcome, and some that will help save them all in the end.  With the climactic onset of the war, there are some shockingly heartbreaking moments of betrayal and some very heavy losses.  Hamilton definitely doesn’t patronize us with a sappy happy ending, but gives us the gritty, heart-wrenching, and hard-won triumph that this fantastic adventure deserves.  

Find Kersten Hamilton online: Website  •  Twitter 

Purchase the book:  Amazon  •  Book Depository  •  Indiebound

Wednesday, November 13, 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 Kiersten White & Jim Di Bartolo
hitting shelves April 29, 2014
from Scholastic Press
From the remarkable imagination of acclaimed artist Jim Di Bartolo and the exquisite pen of bestselling author Kiersten White comes a spellbinding story of love, mystery, and dark conspiracy, told in an alternating narrative of words and pictures.

Cora and Minnie are sisters living in a small, stifling town where strange and mysterious things occur. Their mother runs the local boarding house. Their father is gone. The woman up the hill may or may not be a witch.

Thomas and Charles are brothers who've been exiled to the boarding house so Thomas can tame his ways and Charles can fight an illness that is killing him with increasing speed. Their family history is one of sorrow and guilt. They think they can escape from it . . . but they can't.

Arthur is also new to the boarding house. His fate is tied to that of Cora, Minnie, Thomas, and Charles. He knows what darkness circles them, but can't say why, and doesn't even know if they can be saved.

Sinister forces are working in the shadows, manipulating fates and crafting conspiracies. The closer Cora, Minnie, Arthur, Thomas, and Charles get to the truth, the closer they get to harm. But the threat is much bigger than they can see. It is strangling the world.

Until one of the boys decides he wants to save it.

Told in an astonishing mix of art and words, IN THE SHADOWS collides past against future, love against evil, and hope against fear. The result is both a mystery and a masterpiece.

My thoughts: I am a 100% sucker for books like this.  I can only imagine what an amazing story comes from these two working together.  Told alternately through White's storytelling and Di Bartolo's awesome illustrations.  In Kiersten's own words: it's Hugo Cabret meets Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children.  That sounds amazing.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Top Ten Books I'd Love to Redesign

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  I usually don't participate in this one, but when I saw this week's topic I couldn't resist! :D


I did like how this one matched the first, but I don't know, she just looks wierd and overly-photoshopped to me.  With the content of these stories, it would have been neat to see something more steampunkish as well!

Sort of the same problem with this one. The first cover was pretty, then it got to this one and she just looked so fake and slightly distorted. And a little too much with the swirls.

This was a pretty cool story and while the cover encompasses what it's about, it looks kind of cartoony and self-published to me. 

I love these books to death--but the covers, all three of them: Not so much. Both characters look like snotty super models posing awkwardly for the camera.

This one just feels lazy to me.  Stock photo of girl. Stock photo of fence. Slap them together with a boring-fonted title and we're good to go?  No.

Loved the first cover of this series. SO pretty. This one is a bit cheesy though. It's something about her top hat and the pose.

Again, loved the first cover of this series.  But this guy just looks so corny to me. Still love the title design, though.

You know, I acually love this cover, but I'd also love to see how this series could be redesigned to make it look less like an MG series. 
Yeah this series is pretty, BUT it always bothered me that in the book Clara was either very blond or had dyed orange hair.  Why the brunette on all the covers?  I love the Aussie cover for exactly that reason.

With so many gorgeous covers out there getting redesigned unnecessarily, WHY on earth have the cheesy VA covers never been touched??  This series wins for my absolute #1 set of covers that seriously needs a cheese-free makeover. :D

Sunday, November 10, 2013

New Shelf Goodies & The Weekly Nutshell {68}

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 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)

Here's what I got this week in my mailbox! The four at the end were duplicate copies, so look out for those in upcoming giveaways! :D
For Review:
Beauty & the Beast retelling! Always up for that! :)
 Near death experiences and psychological creepiness---sounds awesome!
Fairies & Royals!! The "Royals" song goes through my head every time I look at it. :D
I'll need to check out the first book in this series soon!

Many thanks to Harper Collins, St. Martin's Griffin, & Sky Pony Press for these!

The Weekly Nutshell: 

 Guys I have been reading so slooooow lately! I don't know what my problem is, I'm so easily distracted by just everything.  Help!  What do you do when this happens? 

On a better note:  I have to take a moment to direct you all to my favorite blog post of the week. It is so brilliant and I love it so much. Lookie here!

Have a great week, everyone! 

Friday, November 8, 2013

Cover Story

Lots of new covers lately---all gorgeous and diverse in style!! 

A Breath of Frost 
by Alexandra Harvey
Walker, January 7, 2014

by April Henry
Henry Holt & Co, June 17, 2014

Broken Hearts, Fences, and Other Things to Mend
by Katie Finn
Feiwel & Friends, May 13, 2014

by Barbara Stuber
Margaret K. Mcelderry Books, May 13, 2014

by H.A. Swain
Feiwel & Friends, June 3, 2014

by Alison Rattle
Hot Key Books, March 6, 2014

Second  Star
by Alyssa B. Sheinmel
Farrar, Straus, & Giroux, May 13, 2014

by Joshua McCune
Greenwillow Books, April 22, 2014

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Waiting on Wednesay

"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.
Forget Me 
by K.A. Harrington
hitting shelves August 14, 2014 from Penguin

Two names. One face. A dangerous secret exposed.

Morgan never minded her boyfriend Flynn’s dark and private nature. She found it mysterious and alluring. But now he’s dead, and she can’t move forward. On the three-month anniversary of Flynn’s death, Morgan uploads her only photo of him to the social media site FriendShare to get some closure, but she’s shocked when the facial recognition software suggests she tag him as Evan Murphy. She’s never heard of Evan, but a quick search tells her that he lives in a nearby town and looks exactly like Flynn. Same eyes, nose, jawline. Only this boy is very much alive.

Digging through layers of secrets, Morgan questions everything she thought she knew about her town, her boyfriend, and even her parents’ involvement in this massive web of lies. K. A. Harrington’s superb plotting and breakneck pacing will keep readers turning each tension-filled page in a race to the stunning conclusion.

My thoughts:  This does sound like a fun mysterious plot, but really the main reason I will read this is because it's Kim Harrington...I've never been disappointed with her stories! :)

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Becky's View: Perfect Ruin by Lauren Destefano

Perfect Ruin by Lauren DeStefano
♦publisher: Simon & Schuster
♦release date: October 1st, 2013
♦hardcover, 356 pages
♦intended audience: Young adult
♦series: The Internment Chronicles, book 1
♦source: from publisher for honest review
On Internment, the floating island in the clouds where 16-year-old Morgan Stockhour lives, getting too close to the edge can lead to madness. Even though Morgan's older brother, Lex, was a Jumper, Morgan vows never to end up like him. She tries her best not to mind that her life is orderly and boring, and if she ever wonders about the ground, and why it is forbidden, she takes solace in best friend Pen and her betrothed, Basil.

Then a murder, the first in a generation, rocks the city. With whispers swirling and fear on the wind, Morgan can no longer stop herself from investigating, especially when she meets Judas. He is the boy being blamed for the murder — betrothed to the victim — but Morgan is convinced of his innocence. Secrets lay at the heart of Internment, but nothing can prepare Morgan for what she will find — or who she will lose.

Review: Perfect Ruin marks the start of another exceptional series from Lauren Destefano.  This time around, she's given us something more mystical and a lot less gritty than her Wither series.  The city of Internment has it's own myths and legends, and it's ruled by its beliefs and by its seemingly respectable king.  The people revere the Sky God who legend says put them in the sky. They know that if they try to get to the ground below, there is the hefty price to pay.

Morgan leads a quiet life, going to school and spending time with her friend, Pen, and the boy she is betrothed to, Basil.  Her family life is marred by the fact that her brother, Lex, is a "Jumper", someone who got too close to the edge of Internment.  He was left blind and seemingly close to madness.  Still, Morgan is close to him and his wife, Alice.   Morgan is constantly worried about her own thoughts of the edge and fears turning out like her brother.  When a student is murdered and strange documents with the student's  unconventional, some would say traitorous, views on Internment and it's beliefs pop up around the city, Morgan begins to question her world even more.

Ok, in full disclosure, I almost didn't finish this one. I raced enthusiastically through the first 100 pages, and then somehow it lost me. I actually put it aside for awhile. Then, by chance, I ended up alone with this book and decided to pick it up again. I couldn't be happier that I did.  This story and characters dug into my brain and from then on I was completely enthralled by it through the fantastic, climactic end. 

All the characters rang so true to people living in a falsely ideal society.  I loved Basil's sturdiness and sincerity, Pen's strong, sometimes misguided belief and optimism, Thomas and his snarkiness and persistence and devotion to Pen despite being put off.  Even Morgan's parents, though they seemed kind of there, but withdrawn---you get a pretty strong inkling that there is something else going on with them.  Lex and his wife Alice have an intensity to their love that spells out just how much they've both been through.  Then there is Judas and Amy and even some great characters that drop in right near the end of the story---the whole cast is well written and all do their part to touch the reader.

The love story is beautifully done.  Morgan and Basil are betrothed through the laws of Internment, but they've grown to really love each other.  It was pure and strong and unquestioning.  I really enjoy when a love story doesn't take over the plot, but provides a constant source of support for the main character.  Basil was amazing in that way.   When the rest of Morgan's world seems to be falling to pieces and she's worried she's losing her mind, he's there to stand by her and reassure her.  And while I was worried for a while with the appearance of Judas that it was going to take an ugly turn into a love triangle, I was so grateful that it didn't go there. Thank you, Lauren Destefano!

Love this quote from just after Morgan admits to Basil that she has thoughts of the edge:
He knows that I'm not like the other girls---the normal ones---that a part of me is slipping off this floating city, and he doesn't care. He doesn't care.  

Maybe we're both beyond saving.

The ending was so exciting!  Full of suspense and uncertainty, and it has an almost whimsical "down the rabbit hole" kind of feel to it. My heart was literally pounding with anticipation!  It's definitely a cliffhanger so prepare yourselves to be left dying for book 2, as I am!

Find Lauren Destefano online:  Website  •  Twitter  •  Facebook

Purchase Perfect Ruin: Amazon  •  BookDepository  •  Indiebound