Thursday, September 29, 2011

Everyone Was Kung-Fu Fighting . . .

Guest Judged by the incomparable JODI MEADOWS. We're kind of in awe of her.

No, I mean, seriously.

Prize B. We'll also be including a copy of Cindy Pon's novel, Silver Phoenix.
This prize includes: Two book prints by artist Phoenix Lu, a Fury of the Phoenix bookmark, tattoos from Angel Burn by L.A. Weatherly, and Suzanne Collins's Mockingjay, and a small "Trust me, I'm a ninja' Flair.

Silver Phoenix, the story of Ai Ling, a young Asian woman who discovered supernatural powers within herself when dangers from without threatened life as she knew it, as well as imperiling her future.

THEME: Harrowing Heroine

What do you do with it? That's up to you. We want you to interpret the theme in whatever medium you prefer, the usual obscenity disclaimers aside. Haiku, spaghetti sculpture, cake decor, bring it.

Now, remember my pretties, you have from this second to 11:59 P.M. Friday night, October 6th, 2011 to come up with something so creative it knocks off Mish!'s and my socks. Link back to your entry and include a  contact email address within the comments of THIS post!!!

We encourage mannerly discussion of the entries within the comments, but anything resembling icky conduct gets a contestant disqualified immediately.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Across the Universe

I have heard a lot of gushing over quite a swath of time about Beth Revis's novel, Across the Universe. I mean, a lot.

I heard it's a gorgeous blend of mystery and science fiction. I heard it's heart-rending. I heard the potential love story hits hard. I heard the world-building came through both lush and realistic (for a futuristic spaceship).

I don't think it was good for me, hearing all that ahead of reading the book for myself. I found the mystery mediocre, and disappointingly easy to figure out far ahead of the characters. Maybe I was meant to, I don't know. The descriptions of the ship were good, and somewhat disgusting, in a way I appreciated (though if I'd read the word "relish" in any of its forms again, I could have growled). The love story appealed to me more from Elder's viewpoint than Amy's, but I suppose that also makes more sense, as Elder was far more into it, not being in the midst of a familial crises the same sort as Amy's.

All-in-all, I think I'd just expected too much from the book and when I concluded it was only "pretty decent", I felt let down. It annoys me I have to make an excuse for my opinion. It annoys me I have to review it on a curve, so to speak.

Some people will love this book. It will be everything they want. It, unfortunately, was not for me. Read the cover blurb, read a couple of pages in the middle, then decide for yourself if it's worth a Buy or a Borrow.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Let the Wild Rumpus Start!

Prize A
This Prize includes an ARC of Steampunk! An Anthology of Fantastically Rich and Strange Stories, which features stories by Cassandra Clare, Holly Black, Libba Bray, Garth Nix, Cory Doctorow and several other authors; a preview pamphlet, dual-sided, with samples from Cassandra Clare's upcoming Infernal Devices novel, Clockwork Prince, and Holly Black's third Curse Workers series, Black Heart; various bookmarks, a Mockingjay tat, and two Flair buttons.

THEME: Alternative

What would you do if you had something old with which to do something new?

Competition FOR PRIZE A runs from right this second to 11:59 P.M. on Friday, September 30th, 2011. Link back to your entry and include a  contact email address within the comments for THIS post!!!

We encourage mannerly discussion of the entries within the comments, but anything resembling icky conduct gets a contestant disqualified immediately.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Oh . . . HI THERE!!!!

Free Stuff! Stuff! That's Free!
Including our opinions, but nothing's perfect, right?

Introducing Libri Ago: Book Lives, a website run by two chicks who have just enough in common (and just enough out of it) to be interesting; who are well-read enough to know what they're talking about; well-connected enough to host Grand Opening contests wherein the prizes are AWESOME-SAUCE book-related stuff.
(And some random-esque Flair, but everyone needs more Flair)

We're celebrating our fiftieth review by going public and giving away bookish goodies to owners of watchful eyes!

First up, the awesome-sauce swag all together and chummy.

Plus, the bracelets, which Amethyst modeled personally.
(matrimonial jewelry and incredible marriage not included)

Prize A
This Prize includes an ARC of Steampunk! An Anthology of Fantastically Rich and Strange Stories, which features stories by Cassandra Clare, Holly Black, Libba Bray, Garth Nix, Cory Doctorow and several other authors; a preview pamphlet, dual-sided, with samples from Cassandra Clare's upcoming Infernal Devices novel, Clockwork Prince, and Holly Black's third Curse Workers series, Black Heart; various bookmarks, a Mockingjay tat, and two Flair buttons.

This here is most of Prize B. We'll also be including a copy of Cindy Pon's novel, Silver Phoenix.
This prize includes: Two book prints by artist Phoenix Lu, a Fury of the Phoenix bookmark, tattoos from Angel Burn by L.A. Weatherly, and Suzanne Collins's Mockingjay, and a small "Trust me, I'm a ninja' Flair.

Silver Phoenix, the story of Ai Ling, a young Asian woman who discovered supernatural powers within herself when dangers from without threatened life as she knows it, as well as imperiling her future.

Prize C
NOTE: We ask participants competing for Prize C be sixteen years of age or older, as part of the prize includes more mature materials.
Will include Black Magic Sanction by Kim Harrison, an Alcatraz cell key from that novel, The Body Snatcher bracelet,  signed post card for  Julie Particka's Pretty Souls, Angel Burn and HP7 tats, three Flair buttons, and a bookmark.

Grand Prize!
This prize includes: Signed copy of Lisa Yee's Absolutely Maybe, signed book card from Mary E. Pearson's The Miles Between, You Are What You Read: Pass It On bracelet, Vampire Academy and Mockingjay tats, mini bio Lisa Yee bookmark, Clockwork Prince/Black Heart excerpt pamphlet, The Pull of Gravity by Gae Polisner Flair, and two random Flair.

So, how does one go about winning one of these enviable prizes? I'm glad you ask.

For the next four weeks Michelle and I (Amethyst) will put up one of the four prizes, each having its own theme. Contestants will have the week following the post to represent the related theme in any way, any medium (with the normal provisos discouraging offensive content). Go forth and interpret with your personal creative vision, be it plushie, illustration, video clip, original song lyrics, or even cake ddecor; what have you.

So what's the theme for Prize A?
You'll just have to bookmark the site and come back tomorrow, when we'll announce it.

So, to sum up, contest FOR PRIZE A starts tomorrow at 9:00 A.M and entries will be accepted and considered through 11:59 P.M. of next Friday,  September 29th, 2011. Entries will need to be placed or linked-to in the comments of each relevant post and need to include contestant info and contact email.

Good luck, and may the Force be with you!

In the meantime, you can look look to the right where you have the option to "Like" Libri Ago on Facebook, share about us on Twitter, and add Libri Ago posts and reviews to your Blogger or RSS feed.  Doing so won't get you any closer to winning the contest, but it'd really put us in a fantastic mood.  We're small, and cute, and we look really good wearing good moods.

Thanks in advance!
Mish! and Ames

Sunday, September 18, 2011


I absolutely adore the cover of Myra McEntire's debut novel, Hourglass. Not only does it have lovely, smooth lines, but for a little while it fools you into thinking the model is being sucked into something . . . and then you realize it's actually a girl, standing on the wall, with gravity obeying its natural course. Go 'head, turn it on the side, and then try to decide what photo magic they used to pull that one off. Photoshop? Wires? Giant wind machine? TIME TRAVEL?

Oh, right; that's what the book's about. Or more accurately, things of the past visiting a quite present Emerson Cole. Or maybe they're ghosts? Maybe Em's psychic and sees dead people? Whatever the answer, the situation is trippy.

Enter the uber-hot Michael (such a popular name for uber-hot characters). Tell us what he wants, what he really, really wants. What's he need, that Michael boy? History rewritten, that's what. Also? Em, because they are science-fictionally two halves of one whole. But do they belong together? Maybe. Maybe not. Because, you see, there's someone else in Emerson's future . . . 

The cover blurbs suggest the book induces all sorts of mood swings in the reader, and this is true, especially in the final fifty pages. Even I, a "first hero met should get the girl" loyalist, don't completely root for one boy over the other by much. Even I can see the wisdom and merit of a specific someone else winning that war, other than Michael. McEntire has done a fantastic job forcing me to consider the alternative, without embittering me toward it. That takes some mad skills, to sway a girl like me. I can only admire it and hope to learn from it.

I say this with a bit of a admission: Hourglass is a book . . . how to put this? Well, sometimes I felt myself reading a scene or a bit of narrative and feeling either proud or a little wary, because it's written so much like I myself would have written it. So that may mean I'm biased when I say I think either a Buy or Borrow appropriate.  The book isn't the most prime example of fantastic writing ever known to man, but it's entertaining, an emotional rush, and leaves you thinking about it hours later, which means it delivers on exactly what it promises.

Friday, September 16, 2011


Being a book reviewer, sometimes, even with books I enjoy, there comes the trouble of pleasure being too much work. This time, I'm rather lucky to have avoided that in reading Gail Carriger's first Alexia Tarabotti novel, Soulless

Stay with me, because we're going to meander a bit.

First, I'm not sure why I thought Soulless a young adult novel (it isn't billed as such, so the fault lies totally with my assumption, not the marketing department), but I did. It isn't. Granted, it isn't any more sexually graphic than many current teen novels, but the I tend to view any book with an adult protagonist and and adult sexual prospects as being an adult book. Just wanted to throw that out there.

Secondly, The cover? Kind of brilliant. Beautiful and creative, and just plain fun. It's also completely accurate of what's inside the book. Alexia Tarabotti is a wonderful character. Picture, if you will, a demonic Mary Poppins (okay, with apologies to the angelic Dame Julie Andrews, some of us have always considered Mary Poppins a little demonic already): perfectly perfect, and perfectly preternatural, or in other words, "soulless".

It's been a while since a book kept me up late, not due to suspense or mystery, but just because I got such a giggle from reading it, so I have a couple of faint dark spots under my eyes for which to thank Soulless, but it was totally worth it.

Truly feisty--not the gimmicky, sub-par, not-fully-formed version so often seen in novels lately--Miss Tarabotti handles the Alpha wolf, flamboyant *cough*gay*cough* vampire best bud, and her strangely subservient spinster status within her alternate "paranomals are everywhere and accepted" Victorian history with considerable aplomb, graciousness, honestly, and a completely KICK ASS parasol.

I'm probably going to go out and BUY this book, and likely it's sequels in one fell swoop. I feel totally justified in recommending readers do the same.


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Beyond the Grave

Beyond the Grave by Mara Purnhagen

This will be a rather short review because I've already gushed enough about this series previously. When I slip into these books, I lose track of time and get fully immersed in the story.

Needless to say, I enjoyed Beyond the Grave, though not quite as much as the first two. Still, this is an excellent series and one I heartily recommend. 

If what I heard is correct, this is the final book in the series. If I have any influence, I would say "Keep on keepin' on" with the series. I'm not nearly tired of reading about Charlotte and her family yet.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for a review copy of the book.

Shop Indie Bookstores

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Goddess Test


The Goddess Test by Aimée Carter

I'm a huge fan of mythology. All of them. I really am, so when I see a book that has an interesting take on classic myths, I'm very interested.

In The Goddess Test, we get a modern girl who is thrust into the Persephone situation: six months in the mortal world, six months in the underworld to save her mother from dying of cancer. But the spin Carter places on these gods takes them from an essentially Greek mythology to a more universal one. (By that, I mean that these gods are portrayed as more overarching than for just the Greek world, the same but with different names in different cultures.)

It's a rather light, enjoyable read, and the fact that I stayed up until 3 am reading this in one sitting should say something. Also, I figured out most of the twist at the end, but some of it still surprised me. While it's not high literature, it's a fun way to spend an afternoon (or evening until early morning, like I did).

PS I love the cover of the sequel. The retro-70s vibe is awesome. The first cover is gorgeous, but I'm really digging the next.

Thanks to NetGalley and Harlequin Teen for an advance copy of the book.

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Friday, September 9, 2011

My Boyfriend is a Monster #04, Under His Spell

Today we here at Libri Ago: Book Lives will be tackling a first for us (review-wise), the graphic novel. Namely, My Boyfriend is a Monster #4: Under His Spell, written by Marie P. Croall and illustrated by Hyeondo Park.

Firstly, this title is clearly marked "Juvenile", which my mind equates with "tween"--that set of budding adolescents that haven't quite attained the true horror of teen-dom. Like anywhere between ages ten and thirteen.

Taking this into consideration, as well as the edition I had my eyes on being an Advance Reader Copy, and not available for sale until October 1st, I'd say the paperback purchase price of ten bucks is pretty fair for either newbie comic readers (in particular of the female persuasion), or reluctant readers of any sort. The narrative and plotline are so straightforward as to be no brainers, which in this case, I consider that a plus. Gotta consider target audiences.

While I enjoy graphic novels, I admit I don't have a ton of experience with them, other than supporting what I consider to be talented acquaintances--both pro and non--but I did enjoy the swoopy action, pop-out quality of several of Park's frames. Let me tell you from experience, shin bones do not bend that way, but it was a very cool style to see them do so anyway.

So, short version: If you happen to be a hard-core, long-time comic/graphic novel fan, maybe this isn't the best choice you could make for yourself, but then again, if you have a geek-in-training (I have three!) around the house, might as well give this one a go. You never know within what fandoms a future geek will major.

My Boyfriend's a Monster, #4: Under His Spell is available for purchase as of October 1st, 2011.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Saving Juliet

Have you ever seen the movie Lost in Austen, about the girl who falls though this crack in her bathroom wall into Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice only to swap places with main character, Elizabeth Bennet? No? Well, make sure you do. It's lengthy, but worth it.

If you have seen the movie, you know things in fictional P&P Land start tripping up the moment Amanda steps a toe in it, and everything goes wonky.

Suzanne Selfors's Saving Juliet gives Shakespeare's classic Romeo and Juliet the same sort of treatment, and with thoroughly fastasmagoric results.

Seventeen year old Mimi, scion of the late, great theatre goddess Adelaide Wallingford and last hope for the historic Wallingford Theater hates acting, despite her pedigree and promise on the stage. As any teen faced with but one choice of futures, Mimi chafes against the strictures, plans, and outright momentum of her mother, who--from Mimi's viewpoint, only wants to live out her own failed dreams through her daughter. Complete with a stuck-up Surfer boy pop-star (for the ratings,dear) co-star in the form of one Troy Summer, avaricious understudies, and an heretofore unexperienced case of stage fright, Mimi does her best to play Juliet Capulet until she can escape for a few weeks in a planned vacation with her Doctors Without Borders-esque aunt.

Enter some very realistic and intuitive descriptions of Mimi's pre-cue panic attacks--which just keep getting worse, her inital crush on and being crushed by Troy Summer, and finally a magic charm which send Mimi and Troy both either back in time, or arguably, into an alternate universe wherein the feud between Montague and Capulet is alive and thriving.

Reading this book is a bit like seeing all the different charcters on days other than those Shakespeare chose to write about. Selfors gives great back-story about how the feud began, manages to humanize Juliet as a real thirteen-year-old girl, no matter the era, makes the reader totally buy Paris as a pervy old man, keeps Romeo from sounding like the most fickle guy alive, and eventually even makes heroes of many unheroic characters, and while the "script" often strays from Shakespeare's narrative (Romeo and Juliet never fall in love at all, at least possibly until after the book), and the language stays mostly contemporary, the book is all the better for these choices. Elizabethan English--as genius as Will's abilities were--would only have cluttered the alternate plot points and would have seemed almost gaudy in comparison to the very real and very ageless way Selfors handles the story.

This is definitely a book in which the cover does the story a disservice. While Mimi is very much a modern teenager, she isn't flippant or blase, which is what that pink bubble-gum bubble and kitten shades say to me. Mimi has heart, just like her (normally) fictional counterparts, and that should be shown, too.

I got a kick out of this book with it's nimble narrative and ultimate happy ending. I engaged with it, and if I hadn't gotten it from my library in the first place, I'd have been happy with my choice to BUY it.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Fablehaven Four: Secrets of the Dragon Sanctuary

Brandon Mull has always given me consistently good reading experiences, but I gotta say, with the fourth installment of his Fablehaven series, Secrets of the Dragon Sanctuary Brandon Mull takes the art of misdirection and makes it his lapdog, complete with sissy rhinestone-studded collar.

I pride myself in being able to tag two-faced characters a good 85 per cent of the time, and I won't lie and say I didn't expect a particular character a little of being a double agent, but Mull did such a good job of endearing me to that character I desperately wanted to be wrong, and then when I wasn't, I felt just as crushed as the characters Two-Faced had betrayed so utterly.

Meanwhile, Mull craftily sets up a "replacement" for the role, so that without knowing it, and despite the upset of moments before, we're already rooting for the new character, envisioning the way the role can be chanced, stretched, made even better.

MG or not, it's a keeper. BUY it.

Thursday, September 1, 2011


Wildefire by Karsten Knight


Dude. No, Seriously. Dude. In case you wonder if I'm one of the "several people" mentioned below in Michelle's review who disliked the level of violence, rest easy. I'm cool enough with that. The GD-bomb being dropped on the first page I wasn't exactly happy about, or with the following profusion of profanity, but that wasn't what burned me on the first 135 pages of Knight's first novel.

In a nutshell, the whole thing up to that point seemed to scream at me, "Trying WAY too hard". Trying too hard to sound like an authentic teen, trying too hard to be "edgy", trying too hard to make the reader empathize with the main character. For the first 135 pages I just kept thinking, "No," and mentally shaking my head. Between the over-compensation and the wealth of passive voice (a personal peeve), I got knocked out of the story more often than I got pulled into it.

And then something changed. Suddenly the writing grew more confident, more comfortable with itself, and the story--which is very cool--began to shine through. Sure, there were still some features that felt contrived, but all in all, once Knight hit his stride, it was all downhill, baby. Easy. And intriguing. And curiouser and curiouser (even if I tagged the villian the second he/she showed . . . assuming the character is the real enemy (oooo!).

That's fantastic.

I will admit the copy I read was an ARC, an uncorrected proof, so my version may not have been the final say in how the book came out. Perhaps Knight tightens up those first several pages. Perhaps he fixes that confusing time-frame/flashback sequence at the end, and for goodness' sake, let's hope he learns to love a closing comma, because the phrasing suffers without it, but mostly, Wildefire has potential. You'd probably be pretty safe BUYING it, or BORROWING it, either way.

P.S. Gorgeous cover.



I found Karsten Knight's Wildefire a refreshing take on paranormal romance since it deals more with plot and characters than many of the I-loved-you-before-I-even-saw-you books out now.

There were some things I thought the author did well with his debut, and others that were poorly done or that I really didn't like. But the story is compelling, especially since it incorporated gods and mythology from across the globe.

The plot itself—reincarnated gods meeting each other at a private school in the California redwoods—might seem like a rather popular recent middle grade series *cough*Percy Jackson*cough* but this one is completely different in tone and target audience. There is little chance that these two would be mistaken for each other.

The opening sequence is somewhat violent, and though it didn't bother me too much, I've heard from several others who really didn't like it. I saw it as setting up the characters for the rest of the story. The first few chapters are basically back story, there to establish what got Ash to the boarding school, so the subsequent actions seem fitting with the beginning. 

I wouldn't say to necessarily let the first chapter dissuade you from reading the rest of the book, but there is (perhaps worse) violence later on, so it's definitely something to consider.

My biggest peeve, however, was that Ash often sounded masculine throughout the book. I'd originally thought she was a jock tomboy from her actions and dialogue, but later she's described as girly and cute, and those two didn't mesh for me. 

While I enjoyed most of the book, I really struggled with the climax of the story. It felt a bit overblown, like so much was happening that the characters got lost in the action.

I'm hoping the sequel is better because I love the revelation near the end that one character is actually my favorite god in all of human mythology. There are so many ways to have fun with that character.