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Life, Law & Libros

White Space by Ilsa J. Bick eARC (3 stars)

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White Space by Ilsa J. Bick was pitched as "The Matrix" meets Inkheart. I think that's a somewhat accurate description, but throw in a little "Inception" and a dash of "Dr. Who." If this sounds like a strange combination, it is. Think suspense thriller mixed with speculative sci-fi/fantasy and a healthy helping of horror. This is the first of Bick's books I've read (though I've been meaning to read Ashes forever), and it was way different from my usual light, fluffy reads; but overall, I think it was pretty good.

This copy was provided through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. Some things may be changed in the final version.
White Space by Ilsa J. Bick
Series: Dark Passages #1
Genres: YA, Suspense, Thriller, Horror, Sci-fi
Published on February 11, 2014
Published by Egmont USA
Final Rating: 3 stars

Synopsis:
In the tradition of Memento and Inception comes a thrilling and scary young adult novel about blurred reality where characters in a story find that a deadly and horrifying world exists in the space between the written lines.

Seventeen-year-old Emma Lindsay has problems: a head full of metal, no parents, a crazy artist for a guardian whom a stroke has turned into a vegetable, and all those times when she blinks away, dropping into other lives so ghostly and surreal it's as if the story of her life bleeds into theirs. But one thing Emma has never doubted is that she's real.

Then she writes "White Space," a story about these kids stranded in a spooky house during a blizzard.

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Top Ten Worlds I'd Never Want To Live In

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Many thanks to The Broke and the Bookish for being the creative force
behind this meme every week!

This week's topic is "Top 10 Worlds I'd Never Want to Live In" OR "Top 10 Characters I'd NEVER Want to Trade Places With." They both sounded fun, so I did five of each. :D

Top Ten Five Worlds I'd Never Want to Live In:
  1. Stephanie Myer's Twilight. I'd love to visit (the real) Washington state someday soon, but for crying out loud! Vampires should NOT sparkle. And what about that wolf imprinting thing? It doesn't sound hygienic.
  2. Brave New World. No individualism, free thinking or choice of any kind (except which warm body of the opposite sex within one's class to sleep with each night and how many happy pills to pop). Nope.
  3. Harry Potter. Having magic would be fun, but this world has too much government oversight. Although, we never did see the United States of Harry's world...>.>

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Updates 1/26/14

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I write everything down. My desk at work is littered with Canary yellow Post-its crammed with tiny, messy scrawls (and one very cute pencil sketch of Doug from "Up"). The more I write down, the easier it is to see what I've done and the less I have to worry about remembering. Cucumber Updates is a new feature combining posts like "Books in the Mail" with updates on my reading schedule, reviews and occasional slices of life.

So, without further ado, updates!

I received two emails on Thursday that made me very, very happy. I'm still smiling! :D I won the No Strings Attached Giveaway Hop at Lori's Reading Corner (a $20 Amazon gift card) and the Blogoversary Giveaway at The Eater of Books (a box of ARC's)! *happy dance* A big thank you to Lori and Alyssa! Feel free to check out their blogs and give them some love!

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Shop Talk: Print v. Digital

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Shop Talk: a reader's weekly ramblings/discussion on the publishing industry, bookstores and/or writing.

As a kind of tie-in to last week's "Bookstores in the Digital Age," today I'm musing over print books versus digital.

I bought a Nook Simple Touch a year or two ago and haven't used it much since, which I've felt kind of guilty about. I hate wasted purchases that just sit and gather dust (even if I did buy it half off). I finally started using it regularly this past month to read eARC's from NetGalley and Edelweiss, but I think the one to two years of disuse bear some thought. Why didn't I dive into digital?

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Princess of Glass by Jessica Day George (3 stars)

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Princess of Glass by Jessica Day George is not the Disney Cinderella you know, and, having read a lot of Cinderella retellings, I'm pleased to say it still brings something new to the table. Poppy is part of a royal study abroad--minus the studying--to make nice with countries whose princes died after failing to break her family's curse. (I spent a semester abroad in Spain and sympathized with the culture shock element.) Poppy quickly finds dark magic at work in the form of a mysterious woman mesmerizing all the men at the balls, and it's decided: Cinderella must die. (Not so much on the dying, but it sounded more dramatic.)

Princess of Glass by Jessica Day George
Series: Princess #2
Genres: YA, Fantasy, Fairy Tale Retelling
Published on May 25, 2010
Published by Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Final Rating: 3 stars

Synopsis:
Hoping to escape the troubles in her kingdom, Princess Poppy reluctantly agrees to take part in a royal exchange program, whereby young princes and princesses travel to each other's countries in the name of better political alliances--and potential marriages. It's got the makings of a fairy tale--until a hapless servant named Eleanor is tricked by a vengeful fairy godmother into competing with Poppy for the eligible prince. Ballgowns, cinders, and enchanted glass slippers fly in this romantic and action-packed happily-ever-after quest from an author with a flair for embroidering tales in her own delightful way.

Review:
What I liked:
  • The protagonist, Poppy. While Rose (in Princess of the Midnight Ball) was a fine protagonist and strong in her own way, she spent much of her story either sick or as a damsel in distress, doing little to try to fix the situation. Poppy, even in danger, is rarely a damsel in distress. She fires a pistol, she is a pistol, and her louder personality and lesser conformity to societal norms resonated more with me. She's also a card shark. ;)

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Top Ten Things on My Reading Wishlist

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Many thanks to The Broke and the Bookish for being the creative force behind this meme every week!

What are the top 10 things (e.g., characters, plot lines, issues, setting, etc.) you would like to read? I was surprised at how hard this was. Normally I have too many opinions to count, but the minute I looked at this topic, I blanked. But, through much perseverance and general silliness, I finally came up with ...

Top 10 Things on My Reading Wishlist
  1. A seven-book series chronicling the events that occur when an unholy union of Big Business and Treehuggers hires a team of juvenile criminal masterminds to destroy the seven (7) Man-Made Wonders of the World. The idea hit me one day and, while crazy, it sounds like so much fun! So, yes, I'd love to see this idea get fleshed out into seven crazy books that I could read and laugh at. I'd also love receiving a portion of the royalties. ;)

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Shop Talk: Bookstores in the Digital Age

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Shop Talk: a reader's weekly ramblings on the publishing industry, bookstores and/or writing.

I'm a book buying addict. I'm also a major cheapskate, and price is often the deciding factor in where and what I buy--which means I buy most of my books used. I have one local used bookstore with a limited selection, so I turn to online stores more often than not. The stats show a lot of consumers are doing the same.

Source
How do brick and mortar bookstores, independent or chain, compete with online vendors? Today's consumers have access to any number of online stores boasting discounted prices, fast shipping and instant gratification with ebooks. With all these incentives drawing readers to screens instead of stores, how can local booksellers bring in business?

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Taran Wanderer by Lloyd Alexander (2 stars)

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I made it through Book 4 of the Chronicles of Prydain. Only one more to go and I can officially discard the shame of having never read one of the most lauded series in children's literature. ;) This book is, as the title suggests, all about Taran ... and the wandering he does. The pacing and plotting felt pretty slow throughout, but I'm hoping this dedicated search for self-worth means the fifth book will have a little more adventure and a little less Assistant Pig-Keeper identity crisis.

Taran Wanderer by Lloyd Alexander
Series: Chronicles of Prydain #4
Genres: Children, MG, Fantasy
Published on May 16, 2006 (first published January 1, 1967)
Published by Square Fish
Final Rating: 2 stars

Synopsis:
Taran, the assistant pig-keeper who wants to be a hero, goes questing for knowledge of his parentage, hoping that his journey will ennoble him in the eyes of Eilonwy, the princess with the red-gold hair. Accompanied by several loyal friends, Taran begins his search when three wily enchantresses of the Marshes of Morva send him to consult the Mirror of Llunet for the answers he is seeking, cryptically promising that the finding takes no more than the looking. During his adventures he meets Craddoc, the shepherd, and the common people of Prydain, whom he comes to respect and admire. With their help, he continues his mission to learn the secret of the Mirror and the truth about himself.

Review:
What I liked:
Oddly enough, the "crafty" sections. I loved the descriptions of smithing in the forge, weaving on the loom and throwing clay on the wheel. There's a certain magic to it, watching something take shape and form. It's a bit of a spoiler (warning), but I also liked the lack of success in Taran's quest. If he had suddenly found an easy answer and rooted his identity in it, all the growth he experienced in the series would have gone down the drain.

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Top Ten 2014 Debuts I'm Excited For

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Many thanks to The Broke and the Bookish for being the creative force behind this meme every week!

We get a new class of debut authors every year. Some of them become international bestsellers. Some barely break into the public eye. I've heard lots of hype on 2014 debut titles, but here are a few that have caught my eye. Fingers crossed they turn out to be good. :)

Top Ten 2014 Debuts I'm Excited For


I've been dying to read Cruel Beauty for a while. I love fairy tale retellings and this sounds like a unique twist on Beauty and the Beast. Illusive was pitched as X-Men meets Ocean's Eleven. Need I say more? And Sekret features psychic spooks in the Cold War. Yes.

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Shop Talk: Editing for Self-Publishers

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Shop Talk: a reader's weekly ramblings on the publishing industry, bookstores and/or writing.


Self-publishing. Digital on-demand services have made it easier and cheaper than ever before, and, with the Internet, the same goes for marketing. But certain stigmas have always accompanied self-published works. According to Natalie Whipple, who recently sold three YA books to traditional publishing houses and is now self-publishing a fourth, those stigmas are alive and well today. She wrote a blog post yesterday called "My Formal Apology To All Self-Published Authors" in which she describes how different things look from the other side.

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Books in the Mail: Christmas Splurge

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I didn't receive many books for Christmas this year, which was probably a good thing considering how many I buy for myself. ;) So, while browsing Better World Books in my holiday free time, my book buying addiction took hold ... Thus, I got mail!

Yesterday, The Princess Curse by Merrie Haskell:

 

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The Castle of Llyr by Lloyd Alexander (2 stars)

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I am still working my way through children's classics I strangely didn't read as a child, and I'm now 3/5 of the way through the Chronicles of Prydain! This wasn't the strongest entry in the series, especially coming off The Book of Three and The Black Cauldron, but it wasn't boring and featured more character development for our adventurous Assistant Pig-Keeper. :)

The Castle of Llyr by Lloyd Alexander
Series: Chronicles of Prydain #3
Genres: Children, MG, Fantasy
Published on May 16, 2006 (first published January 1, 1966)
Published by Square Fish
Final Rating: 2 stars

Synopsis:
Princess Eilonwy has accompanied Taran, Assistant Pig-Keeper, on all his adventures. But a princess needs special skills that can only be learned in a royal household, so she travels to the island of Mona to begin her proper education. As it turns out, court life isn't as boring as it seems to the unwilling princess --- friends and enemies appear in many guises, and danger hides in every corner. When Eilonwy disappears and disturbing rumors about the evil enchantress Achren surface, Taran and his companions undertake an exciting and terrifying mission to rescue their princess. But will Taran battle to save Eilonwy's life only to lose her in the end?

Review:
What I liked:
The conflict. Lloyd Alexander is brilliant about continuously putting Taran in uncomfortable situations that force growth. Bringing back Achren and giving her story some closure was a good move, too.

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Top Ten Goals/Resolutions For 2014

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Many thanks to The Broke and the Bookish for being the creative force behind this meme every week!

They're not all bookish or book-related, but, in no particular order, here are my ...

Top Ten Goals/Resolutions For 2014
  1. Complete one full year of blogging here at No Cucumber Sandwiches. It's my first go at a "real" blog and I look forward to lots of reading and fun posts in 2014!
  2. Daily Bible study. I've been an unbelievable slacker on this for too long.
  3. Read 75 books this year, per my GoodReads challenge. (I fell a little short in 2013, but I have high hopes for the new year.)

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Defy by Sara B. Larson eARC (1 star)

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Defy is Sara B. Larson's debut YA novel and my first eARC from NetGalley. I was a little wary of picking up this title based on the emphasized romance in the synopsis, but I took a chance. I think I can best sum this up as Mulan meets Twilight. Alex is masquerading as a boy in the army/Prince's Guard and there's a magical background and a love triangle. Had the story focused in on the Mulan elements, I think I would have liked it. Unfortunately, it was almost all romance and love triangle.

This copy was provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Some things may be changed in the final version.
Defy by Sara B. Larson
Series: Defy #1
Genres: YA, Fantasy
Published on January 7, 2014
Published by Scholastic Press
Final Rating: 1 star

Synopsis:
Alexa Hollen is a fighter. Forced to disguise herself as a boy and serve in the king's army, Alex uses her quick wit and fierce sword-fighting skills to earn a spot on the elite prince's guard. But when a powerful sorcerer sneaks into the palace in the dead of night, even Alex, who is virtually unbeatable, can't prevent him from abducting her, her fellow guard and friend Rylan, and Prince Damian, taking them through the treacherous wilds of the jungle and deep into enemy territory.

The longer Alex is held captive with both Rylan and the prince, the more she realizes that she is not the only one who has been keeping dangerous secrets. And suddenly, after her own secret is revealed, Alex finds herself confronted with two men vying for her heart: the safe and steady Rylan, who has always cared for her, and the dark, intriguing Damian. With hidden foes lurking around every corner, is Alex strong enough to save herself and the kingdom she's sworn to protect?

Review:
What I liked:
  • I was interested in some of the supporting characters, namely the other members of the Prince's guard; they seemed like fun guys with a lot to bring to the table, and I would have liked to learn more about them.

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Discussion: What Book Editors Do

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A few months ago, I read an interesting opinion piece on Publishers Weekly: "What Ever Happened to Book Editors?: A veteran editor gets back to basics" by Marjorie Braman,  Braman talks about her time as an editor, both in-house and as a freelancer. In short, she said in-house editors have to focus on acquiring over editing and agents have to focus on selling over the same. Which is part of why she became a freelancer, to have the freedom to dedicate more time to actual editing.

It's been a while, but this article left an impression. Being an editor was my dream job growing up. (It kind of still is.) The idea that there might be limited editing for an editor was kind of like telling a kid Santa's not real.

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Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George (3 stars)

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Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George is a retelling of the 12 Dancing Princesses featuring a knitting soldier, a few ancient magic users and, obviously, 12 princesses. It read much like the original tale in that everything went by so fast, but it was still a fun, enjoyable read.


Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George
Series: Princess #1
Genres: YA, Fantasy, Fairy Tale Retelling
Published on January 20, 2009
Published by Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Final Rating: 3 stars

Synopsis:
A tale of twelve princesses doomed to dance until dawn…

Galen is a young soldier returning from war; Rose is one of twelve princesses condemned to dance each night for the King Under Stone. Together Galen and Rose will search for a way to break the curse that forces the princesses to dance at the midnight balls. All they need is one invisibility cloak, a black wool chain knit with enchanted silver needles, and that most critical ingredient of all—true love—to conquer their foes in the dark halls below. But malevolent forces are working against them above ground as well, and as cruel as the King Under Stone has seemed, his wrath is mere irritation compared to the evil that awaits Galen and Rose in the brighter world above.

Review:
What I liked:
This retelling retained many of the original elements of the story; all the original darkness and magic was present. The villain was fairly creepy (would have loved to see more of his world), and the curse(s) made the king's "solution" to his daughters' dancing plausible.

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