Hey you, do you want to write a guest review?

Dear [your name here],

Amanda and I quite enjoy talking about and writing about books. And we know that some of our readers have book blogs of your own, but some of you read this blog because (a) you like to read about books, (b) you like us, or (c) you accidentally got subscribed and can’t figure out how to turn off our emails. Oops.

Anyway, if you’re an (a) or a (b), we think YOU should write a post about your favorite read or something amazing you’ve read recently, or something where you just don’t understand what the hype is all about. I mean, only if you want to and you think this would be fun. This is not mandatory, (except for a couple of you!).

After our successful round of book-pushing The Lumatere Chronicles, my friend who I shall not name called to tell me what she thinks so far after reading Finnikin of the Rock and Froi of Lumatere. She said, and I quote, “I was going to text you, but then I was afraid my text would end up on a blog somewhere.”

Too true, eh? So we invite you ______, dear reader, to take control over your own words posted on Gun In Act One, so that we don’t just steal your texts and turn them into blog posts.

This is an open invitation with no real date or rules. Just holler if you want to write a guest review!

Happy reading!

Gun In Act One

 

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Review: The Quick

The Quick, Lauren Owen

Amanda

18050175

Published June 17th 2014 by Random House

Hardcover, 544 pages

From Goodreads…

London, 1892: James Norbury, a shy would-be poet newly down from Oxford, finds lodging with a charming young aristocrat. Through this new friendship, he is introduced to the drawing-rooms of high society, and finds love in an unexpected quarter. Then, suddenly, he vanishes without a trace. Unnerved, his sister, Charlotte, sets out from their crumbling country estate determined to find him. In the sinister, labyrinthine city that greets her, she uncovers a secret world at the margins populated by unforgettable characters: a female rope walker turned vigilante, a street urchin with a deadly secret, and the chilling “Doctor Knife.” But the answer to her brother’s disappearance ultimately lies within the doors of one of the country’s preeminent and mysterious institutions: The Aegolius Club, whose members include the most ambitious, and most dangerous, men in England.

The Quick struck me as a really lonely book.  We meet James and Charlotte when they’re children with little supervision on their family estate.  Their mother has died and their father is absent.  A divide forms between the siblings and while they do love each other, they seem to never really connect again.  They both just seemed to be such solitary and kind of angsty people.  James doesn’t have true friends that we know of and Charlotte is stuck living with their elderly aunt.  We flash forward to James as an adult and he’s found a way to be happy and is trying to live his life as a writer and then

bam

Twist.  We’ll just say this is no longer the sleepy gothic tale of 2 siblings but more of a horror story.  We meet Dr. Knife, some terrifying street children and the above mentioned rope walker.  I don’t want to say too much and give this away, but it was quite a twist.  We get the story from then on in many perspectives which was a good change from being in just James and Charlotte’s heads.  But still-all of these characters felt lonesome to me! They had some companionship, but very little affection or true connections between them.  

The Quick seems to be a book that reviewers are sharply divided over and I almost wish I fell on one side of the debate.  This was an okay read for me.  This was definitely a well written book, but it felt really long and in the end I felt like it was too obvious what was going to happen to each of the characters we’d met.  It seemed like the plot change in the middle took all the surprise out for me and I couldn’t stay invested after that.  Despite all that I didn’t dislike the ending! That was definitely where I pictured the book going.  While I definitely didn’t like all the new characters, I did like getting the full story.  I also felt better that some of that sense of loneliness was dispelled in the end.

But this seems to be a 5 star read for a lot of reviewers so maybe I’m just missing something.  Anyone else with an opinion on this one?

3 stars

Thank you Random House and NetGalley for this advance read copy in exchange for an honest opinion.

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Books We’re Unsure Of or Object To

Today we’re hooking up with the Broke and the Bookish for their Top Ten Tuesday and here are our picks of 5 books that Amanda’s unsure of and Holly mostly just isn’t going to read.

 Amanda- These are 5 Books I will read, but I’m dragging my feet on.

1. The Truth About Alice.  I really do want to read this, but then I think I’m going to wrap my daughter in a bubble and never let her go to school. Or out of my sight if I can help it. The ARC is haunting me on my kindle.

2. Wonder.  I don’t quite get the hype so I’m being stubborn.  I’m sure at some point I’ll read it.  

3. The Glass Castle-has been on my shelf for something like 3 years.  Why don’t I ever pick it up?

4. Anything else by John Green.  I really did love the Fault in Our Stars.  I probably will try something else someday, but I feel the need to wait it out as long as I can until the hype is less.

5. Shatter Me trilogy-Does the 3rd one suck?  I can’t take anymore bad trilogies.  Decide for me!!

Holly – 5 Books I definitely won’t read, and 1 I’m on the fence about:

(After not being sure about this topic, I created this list in 6 seconds and sent it to Amanda in gchat. #quickestblogpostever)

#1-3. Fifty Shades of Grey

#4 that snowglobe book you reviewed.

#5 that terrible imagery book you reviewed.

#6 jen lancaster’s fiction (just not sure I can do it after this one)  there. I’m done. you can quote me.

Review: Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands

Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands, Chris Bohjalian

Amanda

Published July 8th 2014 by Doubleday

Hardcover, 288 pages

From Goodreads…

Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands is the story of Emily Shepard, a homeless girl living in an igloo made of garbage bags in Burlington. Nearly a year ago, a power plant in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont had a meltdown, and both of Emily’s parents were killed. Devastatingly, her father was in charge of the plant, and the meltdown may have been his fault—was he drunk when it happened? Thousands of people are forced to leave their homes in the Kingdom; rivers and forests are destroyed; and Emily feels certain that as the daughter of the most hated man in America, she is in danger. So instead of following the social workers and her classmates after the meltdown, Emily takes off on her own for Burlington, where she survives by stealing, sleeping on the floor of a drug dealer’s house, inventing a new identity for herself, and befriending a young homeless kid named Cameron. But Emily can’t outrun her past, can’t escape her grief, can’t hide forever-and so she comes up with the only plan that she can.

This book made my heart hurt.  I was gripped right off the bat as Emily begins by telling the reader about building her trashbag igloo.  Emily is not a character that will give you warm fuzzy feelings.  She’s become a street kid doing what she has to do to survive.  She lies and steals, she’s dirty and she makes some very poor choices; but she just tugs at your heart because she should not have ended up in the places she’s been.  By fleeing the Northwest Kingdom she ends up in a destructive spiral of drugs and self-injury to numb herself from the not only the death of her parents, but knowing her parents are being vilified as the cause of the nuclear plant meltdown.

Emily tells her story in a totally random manner, flashing from the present, to the day of the plant explosion, to her igloo days and then back to the past.  This perspective made me feel like I was even more in her head so I really enjoyed it, but I know this kind of storytelling doesn’t work for everyone. I found it built my anticipation because Emily would hint about events to come and I really wanted all the details right away.   I don’t skip to the end of books-EVER-but I was tempted to here because I just wanted to know if Emily would be okay!

I was totally lost in Emily’s story and I’m still amazed at Chris Bohjalian’s ability to tell this story from the perspective of a 16 year-old girl.  You can feel her post-traumatic stress coming through the page.  You’ll want to reach into the book and offer help and a hug to Emily and the other homeless kids that she crosses paths with.  You will also cringe from the raw pain and desperation in this story.  Despite the pain and the sadness I still ended this book feeling hopeful for Emily because you can also feel the love in this story -for Emily’s lost parents, for her dog and for her friends.  This is one that is going to stick with me for a while.

4.5 stars!

Thank you Doubleday and edelweiss for this advance read copy in exchange for an honest opinion.

Review: The House of the Four Winds

The House of the Four Winds (One Dozen Daughters #1), Mercedes Lackey, James Mallory

Amanda

Published August 5th 2014 by Tor Books

Hardcover, 304 pages

From Goodreads…

The rulers of tiny, impoverished Swansgaard have twelve daughters and one son. While the prince’s future is assured, his twelve sisters must find their own fortunes.

Disguising herself as Clarence, a sailor, Princess Clarice intends to work her way to the New World. When the crew rebels, Clarice/Clarence, an expert with rapier and dagger, sides with the handsome navigator, Dominick, and kills the cruel captain.

Dominick leads the now-outlawed crew in search of treasure in the secret pirate haven known as The House of Four Winds. They encounter the sorceress Shamal, who claims Dominick for her own—but Clarice has fallen hard for Dominick and won’t give him up without a fight.

 This was a fun and really cute read. It had an almost Disney movie feel to it-not a complicated story, sweet romance, light magic and a good happy ever after.  The ruling family of the tiny country of Swansgaard have 12 daughters and one infant son.  Each daughter must choose her own path to support herself when she turns 18.   Princess Clarice is a gifted swordswoman and wants to instruct others, but knows she must first build her reputation beyond the classroom.  Given a royal stipend Clarice transforms herself into Clarence Swann and sets out to find adventure.  I loved Clarice! Loved having a princess who set out to the heroine of her own story.  She has no bad feelings about her brother inheriting the kingdom, as she doesn’t want the responsibility, and off she goes into the sunset.

Clarice realizes to really have that adventure she needs to set sail for far away lands and so she signs on as a passenger on a merchant vessel.  While on-board Clarice/Clarence becomes friends with the ship’s navigator Dominick.  These two “young men” were kindred spirits and Clarice is having a wonderful time at first learning the ways of the sea from her new friend.  Mutiny happens on board and Clarice finds herself helping Dominick to find a safe port for a ship of unintentional pirates in somewhat desperate conditions.  She also finds herself falling in love with her friend just as she cannot confess her real identity.

From this point on is where I would have liked more description.  They’re in a harbor of Pirates! How cool could this be?  I definitely would have liked more of the back story of the House of the Four Winds and the sorceress in charge of it. Unfortunately for me Clarice and Dominick had to sail off from the House of the Four Winds with the story.   I really did like where the book went ultimately though it seemed over too soon-I just would have taken more pirates happily.  I mean

Pirates!

Anyway, I will add that this was not a sexy romance, this was a sweet romance.  No smoldering Johnny Depp I’m afraid.  This book could easily be YA with the PG-13 love affair between Clarice and Dominick.  I’m not complaining-they were adorable! But I was a bit surprised that this was an adult book.   In the end I really did like enjoy the House of the Four Winds and I’m intrigued to see where the series goes with Sister #2.   I think Swansgaard will turn out some really fun women to follow.

3.5 stars!

Thank you Tor Books and NetGalley for this advance copy in exchange for an honest review.

Blogging, ARCs, and Obligations

Holly:

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, and you are the observant type (unlike me), you might have noticed that Amanda posts a lot more reviews than me. That is because she reads faster than a speeding bullet. She also receives and reviews a lot more ARCs (that’s Advance Reader Copies) and other books directly from publishers.

I have, since we started blogging, requested exactly one book through Netgalley (a site where bloggers and reviews can request books to read before they are published). It was a Civil War novel called Neverhome and I did not get it. I have, since we started blogging, received exactly one book from a publisher, Dorothy Must Die, because I saw Amanda emailing with the publisher, and I said, “oooh, ask if they’ll send me one too, and we can review it together!” She obliged, and they obliged.

Anyway, I haven’t been too motivated to seek review copies – I have a lot of books on my (small) bookshelf, or downloaded for my Kindle, or available at the library, and I just am not that inspired to keep up with what’s not even out yet. I don’t want deadlines, self-imposed or otherwise, on my reading.

But, I don’t think that’s how Amanda sees it at all, so I thought we should discuss. I started by sending Amanda a link to this blog post where Kim @ Sophisticated Dorkiness argues that blogging “for” books has negative connotations, and calls for bloggers to start thinking of reviews differently – less about reviews “in exchange for” books, and more as “for review consideration.

So, sister, discuss:

Amanda:

I admit it. I read quickly.  I can’t help it.  Reading is also my first choice for entertainment 90% of the time.  I’d rather sit on the couch with a book than watch tv.  Its not always high brow reading and that’s fine!  As a result I’m always looking for my next book.  I have my library hold list maintenance down to a science.  I love knowing what books are coming out soon and stalking my favorite authors for more.  I love hearing what friends are reading and I love talking about books.  So when I realized how many book blogs are out there and that I could really do this myself-with my sister of course-requesting ARCs became part of that.  

I won’t deny that part of the appeal of setting up a book blog was free books-not only that, free books before they’re published.  But I love connecting with people who read even more than me and that read the same random variety that I do.  My goodreads shelf that I’m currently reading now contains chick-lit, fantasy, feminist essays, and historical fiction-both YA and adult.  I will try almost any book you put in front of me and I love finding others like that.

Holly:

Hmm, but does free mean in exchange for a review, or does free mean, review and talk about this book if you really love it? Because some of the books you’ve received do not sound very good – and I’m not sure that those reviews are very helpful to the publishers – uh, I guess unless people are into that sort of stuff…

So are you obligated to review, or not?

Holly again:

Amanda’s response has been to send more more links to read!

A thoughtful response on On Starships and Dragonwings, weighing in on “exchange” and “consideration” and another from There Were Books Involved.

Hmmm, both of these are pretty much in agreement with the first link I sent Amanda, that maybe the sentence “I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review” is not entirely accurate or appropriate.

So maybe Amanda agrees too? And will change her mind about phrasing her reviews? I’m waiting to find out. [Taps foot. I’d whistle too but I am not capable of whistling. #truth]

Amanda:

I guess my basic thought is-why would a publisher give me a book FOR FREE if I wasn’t going to give some kind of opinion on it to the world at large to see?  Why would I ASK for a book if I wasn’t willing to do that?  Yes, there have been some books that I requested and read that either a) weren’t well written or b) insane and icky–but that doesn’t mean they won’t work for someone else.  There are people out there, sister, that consider Twilight high-fiction.  Who said there’s no such thing as bad publicity?  That’s a quote right?  Maybe that’s true in the book business?

Maybe I’d feel differently if I had authors beating down my door trying to give me books I don’t want to read.  Aside from spammy twitter attempts I haven’t really had that happen.  Really the lack of payment exchange is what sums it up for me.  If I want to read something without giving a review and without paying for it I will go to the amazing Chicago Public Library.  If they don’t have it I’ll try Paperbackswap.com.  If they don’t have it I’ll either suck it up and buy or go without.  But if I ask for something to read for free from a publisher I have no problem with their being an expectation for a review or some kind of feedback submitted.

Holly:

You know, I definitely don’t have authors beating down my door trying to give me books I don’t want to read. But you know what I do have? A sister always trying to demand I read more of the books. Sigh.

Amanda:

But come on! Have I been wrong?  Go back and read Quintana and then sigh at me sister.

Iyc3B7J

Whatever. Smooches.

Review: Alpha Goddess

Alpha Goddess, Amalie Howard

Amanda

Published March 18th 2014 by Sky Pony Press

Hardcover, 384 pages

From Goodreads

In Serjana Caelum’s world, gods exist. So do goddesses. Sera knows this because she is one of them. A secret long concealed by her parents, Sera is Lakshmi reborn, the human avatar of an immortal Indian goddess rumored to control all the planes of existence. Marked by the sigils of both heaven and hell, Sera’s avatar is meant to bring balance to the mortal world, but all she creates is chaos. A chaos that Azrath, the Asura Lord of Death, hopes to use to unleash hell on earth.

Torn between reconciling her past and present, Sera must figure out how to stop Azrath before the Mortal Realm is destroyed. But trust doesn’t come easy in a world fissured by lies and betrayal. Her best friend Kyle is hiding his own dark secrets, and her mysterious new neighbor, Devendra, seems to know a lot more than he’s telling. Struggling between her opposing halves and her attraction to the boys tied to each of them, Sera must become the goddess she was meant to be, or risk failing, which means sacrificing the world she was born to protect.

Alpha Goddess had so much potential!  I was totally sucked into the idea of the story and that gorgeous cover.   I’m don’t know a lot about Hindu mythology, but I find the little I have read so interesting.  I was really excited to read a story that brought Indian gods and goddesses to present life.  Unfortunately there was just way too much going on.  I could barely keep all the parties straight and at one point I realized I just didn’t care to try anymore.

I liked Sera in the beginning.  She’s having terrifying dreams as she turned 16-bloody kisses and monsters and is hiding them from her parents.  She comes to learn that she is a goddess reborn -awesome right?  She kind of sulks about this and proceeds to act basically like a petulant child.  She also finds out she’s not just an average looking teen-her beauty is so much it had to be hidden away and its painful for a mere mortal to gaze upon.  Really?  That seems like a great message.  I won’t even get into the love triangle she gets herself into-because she’s not just Sera anymore now. She’s now remembering her past lives and loves-and they’re still part of her life.  It was all too much to keep straight.

The end explodes into a major battle between gods and demons, but even that couldn’t keep my attention.  Sera stopped to chat way too many times it seemed when she could have been saving the world.  She was way too consumed with her love options.  The concept of this book was fantastic, but the execution was really lacking.

So sadly I’m still on the lookout for a book about Hindu mythology.  Any recommendations?

1 star

Thank you Sky Pony Press and NetGalley for this advance copy in exchange for an honest review.