Book Review: Cress

First thought (warning this has nothing to do with the book…) I need to start thinking up better titles for my posts.

With all the dystopian and sci-fi books that are out there, I feel that some really amazing ones tend to fall in-between the cracks. The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer should not be among those types of books. The most recent of the books in this series is Cress – a dystopian retelling of the “Rapunzel” fairy tale.

Short version: Read Cress. If you haven’t read Cinder or Scarlet then you need to read those first. But seriously. These books are worth your time.
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Long version: I kind-of adore this series. With all the political intrigue, sci-fi elements, and Whedon-esque characters, I think it could be a series that a lot of reluctant readers might like. Granted, while they are fairy tale retellings and there is romance, the romance is not what drives the plot. (Side-bar: I would LOVE Joss Whedon to bring these books to the screen. He would do a great job with them.)

What amazes me about the books, including Cress, (apart from the amazing world building, the concept, the characters) is that each of the books in the series, so far, are her NaNoWriMo novel (National Novel Writing Month aka write an entire book in November) projects. That’s right. The rough draft for all of these books she did in a month. That’s just stellar.

Now, moving on to this book in the series.

Here’s what goodreads has to say about Cress:

Rapunzel’s tower is a satellite. She can’t let down her hair—or her guard.

In this third book in the bestselling Lunar Chronicles series, Cinder and Captain Thorne are fugitives on the run, with Scarlet and Wolf in tow. Together, they’re plotting to overthrow Queen Levana and her army.

Their best hope lies with Cress, who has been trapped on a satellite since childhood with only her netscreens as company. All that screen time has made Cress an excellent hacker—unfortunately, she’s just received orders from Levana to track down Cinder and her handsome accomplice.

When a daring rescue goes awry, the group is separated. Cress finally has her freedom, but it comes at a high price. Meanwhile, Queen Levana will let nothing stop her marriage to Emperor Kai. Cress, Scarlet, and Cinder may not have signed up to save the world, but they may be the only ones who can.

This was not my favorite of the Lunar books thus far, and I think it really had to do with the main character. Marissa did (and always does) an amazing job with making all of her characters so real and so different from one another. I’m in awe. I mean, they have me laughing out loud sometimes. So, me not liking the title character (Cress) has more to do with her personality overall as opposed to Marissa’s writing ability.

Marissa does a brilliant job of creating a character who has lived in almost total isolation for the last seven years. Cress hasn’t had to deal with people. She hasn’t really had to ever leave her comfort zone. A figurative and literal comfort zone I might add. So taking all this into account, the character of Cress is incredibly brave and strong. She has to overcome so much in this novel that you can only be in awe of her.

And yet… And yet she still kind-a annoys me. I think it’s because whereas Cinder and Scarlet are girls and have their girly moments, they aren’t really super girly. And Cress was a bit too girly for me. I understand her and how she pulls comfort and strength by imagining herself in rolls so that she can cope with what she has to face in reality, but they were just such girly fantasies that I got a bit tired of them.

Granted, that’s it. That’s my biggest criticism of the novel.

Really, I could go on for days about how much I admire Marissa’s writing. However, this time I’m going to focus on her romance.

I wish I could write romance like she does. The romantic love that builds for each girl (Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress) is just so different and so great. I love the complexity of Kai and Cinder’s love. I adore the strength that Wolf has for Scarlet. And Cress…. well spoilers. I want my characters to have that.

If you haven’t started this series, then you need to. There’s humor, heartbreak, and fairy tale cyborgs. How can you say no to that?

Eleanor and Park Review

Eleanor and ParkI’ve been out of the reading loop for a few months now. It was like, at one point there were all these books that I wanted to read, and a I read them. Then, suddenly, there was nothing that really grabbed my attention.

So, when goodreads and the Google Play Book Store kept mentioning this Eleanor and Park (by Rainbow Rowell) book I thought, “Hey, this looks like it could be awesome.” John Green (who I love as a writer) had a comment on the book or in the comments somewhere that said something along the lines of how you’d remember what it was like it fall in love for the first time and what it was like to fall in love with a book again.

Here’s what goodreads has to say about it:

Set over the course of one school year in 1986, ELEANOR AND PARK is the story of two star-crossed misfits – smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try. When Eleanor meets Park, you’ll remember your own first love – and just how hard it pulled you under.

Maybe my expectations were too high. I mean, I was just expecting it to be something like Looking for Alaska or Anna and the French Kiss.

Not going to lie. I was a bit disappointed. There wasn’t really anything that really made this book stand out for me. The prose was good. The dialogue was fine. Even the plot was mediocre.

I will say this, I do think that the book did a good job hitting on some real-life problems. Park comes from a “perfect family” but he and his Dad still clash and don’t understand one another. I think that  for lots of people, that can be something that readers (and teens) can really relate to. Also, Eleanor doesn’t have an ideal home-life and is bullied fairly relentlessly at school. I think that Rainbow Rowell covers these subjects in a very organic and real way. I like that these issues are in the book and influence the characters, but it’s not a book about bullying, or family-issues, it’s a book about two teenagers who happen to have these problems.

Granted, that was about as much of the book that I really liked.

I do know people who have called it “perfection.” I’m just not one of them.

Also, I mean, it’s cool that it was set in 80’s, but on some level I just found that distracting. When writing I believe that every decision needs a purpose. I’m sure the author knows the purpose of setting the novel in the 80’s, but I sure as hell don’t. To me, it felt like it was set there just for the hell of it. It didn’t really influence the plot or even the characters that much.

I will say this though, don’t judge this book just by what I have to say about it. Like I said, others have loved it. Just not me.

Let me know what you think.

Book Review: Paper Valentine

I did it! I’m so very proud of myself. I read one of my books on my Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Debuts 2013 and Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books I Want to Read in 2013 lists. 

And now, now I’m going to review it.

Why I do book reviews, I really have no idea. They aren’t really anything in-depth. If I was an outsider reading it, I’m not sure it would sway me one way or the other to read the actual book… but here I go anyway.

So, Paper Valentine. I had pretty high hopes for it. It promised super natural elements (Hannah the main character is being haunted by her dead best friend), romance, and suspense (someone is going around killing girls – of course our narrator is going to get mixed up in it). 

Buuuut, I found this book oddly disappointing. The little blurb on the book jacket made it sound so fun. There was even an intense heat wave and some weird disease going around killing birds — that could totally be awesome if it lead back into the overall plot. But it didn’t. So, I feel like I was set up to be disappointed. I mean, why put that in the hook if it really doesn’t relate back to the plot at all? Sure, it sets the scene. But it’s not like the weather is influencing the killer. 

And then there’s Hannah’s best friend that’s a ghost. I mean, it was weird, and the relationship that the two of them had (when Lillian was alive) was pretty complicated, but Lillian’s death doesn’t really relate back to the killer at all. (Not much of a spoiler – you find out pretty early on what happened to her). And, I don’t know, that just rubbed me the wrong way. I mean, the way that she died, and her death, are important to the development of Hannah’s character, but not the driving force behind her growth. Again, I felt like I was set up a bit.

What I did really like about this book though was how it was written. The main reason that I kept reading it was to observe the character dynamics (they are very similar to the ones I’m trying to produce in my thesis/novel) and just the flow of her writing. It was pretty amazing, in describing lover boy Finny Boone’s hair we get a memory of the day he first died it that also correspondes with a big moment in Hannah’s life. Also, in this memory, we get character insight into more than one main character. So, I found the way that she interwove her backstory and details and whatnot all together pretty fascinating. 

Also, she did a really great job of incorporating all the senses in her scenes. Another thing that I’m trying to work on – thus I noticed it. She did it so well, that I think, only if you were looking for it, you would notice that in some cases she weaves all 5 senses onto one page without throwing it in your face. 

So… yes, that was a bit better than I’ve given before… I think. Anyway, I don’t think I would recommend this book. I mean, the aspects that I enjoyed in it were all craft related and mostly things I wanted to do better that she did well. If I hadn’t been looking for those things and found them in this book, I would’ve returned it to the library before I finished it. Just saying. 

However, this is all a matter of personal taste. Lot’s of people on GoodReads loved it – so you can check out reviews there, but this wasn’t a favorite of mine. You win some, you loose some.

BUT! Please, if you’ve read the book and disagree or agree let me know. Or, you know, other thoughts are welcome. Leave a comment and if you hit me up with a link to you’re blog I’ll try and comment back. 

Book Review: The Raven Boys

 This is the first book I have ever read by Maggie Stiefvatier and I’m kind of beating myself up thinking, “Why? Why haven’t you read anything from her before?” I have no answer to that…

But, this post is all about her newest book, The Raven Boys. (Click the link to go to the book’s webpage)
Holy crap. I loved it.
Usually I gobble books up. I let myself get lost in them and the world could be ending around me, and I wouldn’t notice. 
I didn’t let that happen with this book. Like The Night Circus, I wanted to savor this book. But not just that. I didn’t want it to end. I told my husband last night, “I’m so conflicted. I don’t want to keep reading, because I don’t want the book to end. BUT I DO want to keep reading because I want to know what happens next.” To which he replied, “Well, you don’t have to read anymore tonight. Let’s watch a movie.”

Why I loved this book:
  • First and foremost, the characters. They just feel so real. So, easy to relate to. One of the things I love most about John Green is his ability to write characters that I feel I could be friends with. Maggie has done the same thing in this book. I think one of the hallmarks of a fantastic writer is that the characters in the books become more than imagined people, they become your friends in a weird way. 
  • The magic. The magic in this book comes to the reader slowly. It isn’t like “BAM!” There are little hints and then more and more come until it’s totally okay if otherworldly things start happening. I mean, the characters still react believably, but Maggie does an awesome job at suspending the disbelief of the reader. 
There are so many more reasons why I loved this book (and can’t wait for the next in the cycle – there’s supposed to be four books total), but I can’t tell you any of them without spoiling the book for you. Therefore, you must read.

Things I didn’t like about the book:
  • Every so often (and this happens with every writer) I come across a bit of dialogue that I don’t understand. I sit there and reread it. Reread the paragraph and try and puzzle it out. Now, that doesn’t happen very often in this book. Really, to me it was just the last line of the book. I’m not sure what was meant by it and felt a tiny bit cheated.
  • Also, when the main characters discover something of importance regarding one of their teachers at school (I don’t think this is a spoiler…) they seem to accept it a bit too easily for me. Just saying.
But that’s it. I kinda adore this book and would seriously start rereading it right now if there wasn’t a small colony of unread books on my bookshelf. 
I highly recommend this book. And if you want to purchase a hard copy of it go here. It’s an independent bookstore that works closely with Maggie. So much so that you can order signed copies of her books for the same price that you would pay at Barnes and Nobel or Amazon. SIGNED COPY! And, you’d be supporting an independent bookstore. So, why would you not get it from there?
Lastly, here is the book trailer that Maggie made herself. That’s right. She did the art. She did the music. She pretty much did it all. She’s pretty much some kind of writing superhero… Anyway, to finish up this post, I’m going to go on record and say that she has now filled out my TOP FIVE FAVORITE AUTHORS – and I plan on reading everything she’s ever written.

   

Book Review: Daughter of Smoke and Bone

My friend LHughes practically forced me to read this book she loved it so much. Not that I wouldn’t have read it on my own (eventually), but she sped the process up. While we were at school, she drove me to the bookstore, marched me in, and bought the paperback version of Daughter of Smoke and Bone before shoving it into my hands.

It wasn’t that I didn’t want to read it right away, I did, but I was in the middle of The Night Circus and couldn’t put that down.

Well, I finally read this book.

And I am so glad that I did! It was so beautifully written. Her description is so vivid and unique. I almost wanted to go through as I was reading and take notes on the way she described things in new ways so that I could use it in my own writing. Not like, copy and paste what she said, but hopefully be influenced by it.

The novel takes place, mostly, in Prague. And while it’s an amazing setting and Taylor uses it well, it’s not overwhelming. I am lucky enough to have spent some time in Prague (just a few days) and I think that she does a fantastic job of setting the piece in a foreign city, but not making the reader feel left out if they’ve never been there themselves.

Okay, so what is it about? I can’t tell you too much without spoiling the entire book, but I will tell you what I can. Karou is the main character of the novel. She is a mystery even to her self. She has been raised by a (for lack of a better phrase) family of monsters, but has no real knowledge of where she comes from. Who her parents are. Or where she got these unique eye tattoos on the palm of her hands. She exists between two words, the word of her monsters shop where they trade wishes for teeth, and the human world of Prague. Suddenly, black handprints are burned into doors all over the world, and Karou’s family is threatened.

Taylor does an amazing job of world building here. Not only does she make the places in the human world so real and vibrant I’m convinced that she’s spent many a vacation in both Prague and Morocco (a place where she runs errands for Brimstone, her foster father/ Wishmonger) AND this “Elsewhere” she’s created.

So there was only two things that bothered me.

  1.  And this would totally ruin everything for you so I’ll be vague, is when you discover who Karou really is. I felt it was just a bit easy at first. Not the discovery, but who she is. 
  2.  Sometimes Taylor’s sentence structure bothered me. I’m not usually one that pay attention to that sort of thing, but after about 2/3s of the book it was really popping out at me. She has this habit of doing this: Original thought, side note on something that pertains to the first part of the sentence but goes on for a bit, return to original thought. The only reason this bothered me was that I found myself forgetting how the sentence started and had to go back and reread the first half to figure out what the last bit what saying. 

Now, here’s the fun part. The sequel, Days of Blood and Starlight, comes out November 6th. So you totally have time to get out there and buy Daughter of Smoke and Bone and read it. Which you should do. Don’t trust me? Check out LHughes’ review here.  



Book Review: The Night Circus

I fell in love with this book. If you are looking for something to read go out and buy this book. Right now.

Okay, maybe not right now, finish reading my blog post and then go and get it. Or download it.

I found this book to be such a delight. There are some books, The Hunger Games series comes to mind, where you can’t put the book down. You gobble the books up one after another. You would rather read than sleep. It consumes you. Some people think that that talent of making the reader turn the page again and again is a quality of a great writer. And it is. As a writer you want the reader to keep going. But I don’t think that that makes a good book. You want the readers to savor the book as well.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern is a book worth savoring. Morgenstern has created a world that is so real and vibrant that you just want the circus to be real. If you are of the Harry Potter persuasion, it’s like that desire to open your mailbox one day and find your letter from Hogwarts. You want to wander through the black and white striped tents and experience it all.

I would recommend this book for older YA, adult readers, and adult readers that enjoy YA. The main characters are in their upper teens and early twenties. The romance is intense and tastefully done. Yes, there is a sex scene, but if you ask me Breaking Dawn is more pornographic than this.

One thing that I didn’t really like about this book was how each chapter started with a date and a place. Usually I don’t mind these place markers in books, and they are needed  in this book as well, but it got me too focused on the year and how old the characters are. So, if you do go read this book (which you need to) just be aware of the two different timelines. There is the one with Marco and Celia and then there is Bailey and his plot line. Just be aware to keep those two plot lines straight and the other dates don’t really matter.


So all in all. This is a MUST READ! Highly recommend! So, why are you just sitting there? Go! BUY IT NOW! 

Book Review! Black Heart

It’s here. Black Heart. Well, it’s been here actually, but I just finished reading it. The final book in the Curse Worker series by Holly Black (check out the series webpage by clicking the link). If you haven’t read this series, but are familiair with Black’s other work (the modern faerie tales and The Spiderwick Chronicles) this is in a different vein. Yes, there it magic. But there aren’t any faeries.


This series is still dark and grungy, like the modern faerie tales (TitheValiant and Ironside) but this series focuses on crime families and how certain people are workers.


What’s a worker? It’s someone who is gifted with a different kind of magic. There are emotion, luck, physical, memory, dream, death and transformation workers. With a touch of a hand against bare skin one of these people can manipulate you in various ways.


Okay, I’m going to stop there with all the background information. I’m not trying to review the entire series, just the last book. However, I will give my feelings on the previous two books. White Cat, the first book, I loved it. It’s a retelling of a not-so-well-known fairy tale by the same name. I thought that the retelling was so awesome and imaginative. Then Red Glove, the second book, kind of let me down. It was good, but I didn’t love it. This last book however, made the series.


I remember starting this book thinking that there’s no way that this book will have both a satisfactory ending and end happy. I won’t give anything away, but I was wrong. Sure, there are some loose strings at the end of the book, but life never ties up in a happy little bow so why should a book?


I love the narrator, Cassel Sharpe. He is so kind, clever, and criminal. He’s been raised in a family of criminals and con artists. He’s such a strong character. He always wants to do the right thing, but that tends to be the illegal thing. He’s stuck between choosing his family or the feds. His brother’s have screwed him over time and time again, but they are family. Also, he’s in love the the head of a crime family’s daughter. What’s a poor boy to do? Who are the good guys and who are the bad guys? In the course of this book Cassel discovers that life isn’t as black and white as he thought it was. There’s a lot more grey area. 


I also love all of the crime family stuff that Black has worked into this book. It’s obvious that she did a lot of research (or you know, was raised in a crime family but I’m pretty sure it’s just research). However, the great thing is that you don’t get lots of info dumps. She weaves the research in so it really seems like its second nature.


One thing I didn’t like about this book was that there was a secondary plot involving a student at Cassel’s school and blackmail. It just seemed a bit unnecessary and while it didn’t really take away from the overall plot, I felt that it didn’t really enhance it.  


I feel as if this book got me to love this series again. If you like dark magic, love, cons, and moral dilemmas. I would totally recommend this book.