Saturday, November 30, 2013

GUEST POST: Isabel's Review of Cinder -- a #GiftofCinder post

Posted by Ellie at 10:13 AM 0 comments
I love Cinder. Period.
Alright, Cinder was suggested to me by my older sister. I wasn't exactly interested in it, as I was quite pre-occupied with my two other favorite book series, Harry Potter and Percy Jackson. Nevertheless, she lent her copy to me and I gulped the entire book down within one night. May I just say, this it the best stinking book ever. I question myself as to why I thought it was weird. I mean, what's weird about a cyborg Cinderella living in futuristic Beijing?

Anyways, it is my kind of book. It's fast pace, and had me half squealing, half crying over every sentence. Every character was well written, most easy to love, others easy to hate *cough* Levana *cough*. The chemistry between Cinder and Kai was amazing. Them together is like a pizza with extra cheese.
 I was distraught over Peony's death, as she was one of my favorite characters, and the bond between her and Cinder was so sweet. Iko is adorable, Adri was revolting, and Dr. Erland was hilarious at times.

Would I recommend this book? YESSSS!!!!! It is my favorite book of all time and I hope every fairytale loving person gets to read Cinder! Thanks to my sister and Marissa Meyer for lending and writing it!

Why I Lent Cinder to My Sister -- a #GiftofCinder post

Posted by Ellie at 10:11 AM 0 comments
Cinder (and Scarlet, alas, irrelevance doesn't prevail today) was the best book I read this year to infinity and beyond. The Lunar Chronicles has easily worked its way to the top of my mental list of "FAVORITE BOOK SERIES TO EVER BE WRITTEN EVER" list. So naturally, when it comes to choosing a victim friend of my Scifi-Fairytale-Retelling Obsession, I chose my younger sister, Isabel.

Isabel and I are homeschooled, a fancy colloquialism meaning: to wear pajama pants all day and spend lots of time with your siblings. Though she's a good four and a half years younger than me, at thirteen, I believe she is ready to begin her epic slog through that aforementioned list of mine. In April I lent her my copies of Percy Jackson and the Olympians, and in August we got her a box set of Harry Potter for her birthday. Needless to say, she has excellent taste (it shows in the couples she ships and the characters she cries over).

Cinder is an excellent book. There is an amazing, intricate plot line, which is an obvious plus. Not to mention kickass girls with friendships and skills and flaws and their own unique personalities. I am very particular about introducing my younger sister to books that contain good female role models that are also realistic. Marissa Meyer exceeds all standards and expectations in this area, which makes The Lunar Chronicles the best candidate for her next series to read. Also, there is understated and believable (not to mention adorable) romance and family bonds. I seriously love this book-- I could go on for days about all the positives, but when it comes down to it, they are just plain brilliant. The end.

I lent her Cinder a week ago and she has just informed me that she finished! Her review will be up soon. I lent her Scarlet the moment she finished and I know she will love it just as much, if not more!

(Update: she loves it more. And she says if Kai doesn't find out Cinder is Selene in Cress, she will
flip a table.)

Before I wrap this up, I'd love to take a few lines and say thank you to Mac Teen Books for hosting this contest and to Marissa Meyer for hosting so many contests this year and, obviously, for writing the fabulous Lunar Chron. Her books have made my life as a total fairytale nut. They have brought me so much comfort and joy an given me something to look forward to in a dark time of my life. I entered this contest knowing that if Isabel loved the series, I could have a chance to share Cress with her before the release date. It would make such an awesome Christmas present for her. I don't hope to win, but I am grateful for the chance. Just thought I would say that. Besides, it's Thanksgiving! This is definitely one of the things I'm thankful for.

Her review will be up in a bit!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Hero by Alethea Kontis

Posted by Ellie at 5:52 PM 0 comments
Hero by Alethea Kontis
304 pages

I won my copy of Hero from Goodreads and the lovely folks at Houghton-Mifflin!

Hero is the second book in the Woodcutter Sisters books by Alethea Kontis. It stars Saturday Woodcutter, the sixth of seven sisters. Saturday is the only normal sister in a family of fey-blessed children-- and she's rather insecure about it. Until she conjures an ocean and goes on a whirlwind adventure.

Our story brings us from her sister Thursday's pirate ship to the Top of the World, a mountain that houses a blind old Lorelei witch. It is here Saturday is being held captive after being mistaken for her eldest and presumed dead brother, Jack Woodcutter. Also held as prisoner is Peregrine, a boy whose been there for countless years after being cursed by the witch's daughter Leila. Completing the motley crew is a chimera named Betwixt, who shines brightly throughout the novel with his wit and amazing shape shifting.

Starting with the good is always a nice way to begins things, so I'll list the things I liked best. Saturday is a very interesting and unique character with her own quirks and failings. She is probably the most drastically different from the rest of her sisters, more like her older brother Peter. As a girl who grew up wearing trousers and working in the Wood rather than doing other typically girlish things it's not surprising! She is loud and brash and competitive and easily worked up. I liked all that about her, but I especially like when it all falls away and she is more vulnerable.

Peregrine, too, I really loved throughout the book, even more than Saturday. He was witty and charming and can really work a skirt. Without revealing spoilers, his story really broke my heart and at the end of the book when he -- well, no spoilers!

Unfortunately, as with all things, there were some things about Hero that disappointed me. It's not really a spoiler as you're told almost immediately in the book, but I never understood why Peregrine was having visions of Saturday. Seriously, I really can't think of any reason why.

Also, the romance felt odd and stilted. Peregrine was in love with Saturday under the illusion that she was Elodie, his betrothed, based from his visions, and Saturday was pretty much taken with him after she nearly killed him. Long story. It wasn't till the end that I actually enjoyed reading their romance, when it felt a little less convoluted and a little more real, but it still wasn't my favorite.

However, one thing I did really like about this book was the complete upheaval of gender identities. Peregrine is a man cursed to take the place of a woman, skirts and all, and Saturday is a woman built like a man. He takes the place of Leila and Saturday takes the place of Jack. I thought it was a great aspect to integrate into the story.

I had a so-so reaction to Enchanted, Hero's predecessor that I was also troubled by the romance in, but I thought to give Ms. Kontis another try. I think I may prefer Enchanted a bit more, but Hero was really cute and I liked it a lot!

- Ellie at Raven and Writing Desk Reviews

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Looking for Alaska by John Green

Posted by Ellie at 1:10 PM 0 comments
Looking for Alaska by John Green
231 pages

Just gonna get right to it. I really didn't like this book. I suppose it's not all that weird, I've only read one other book of his, and even though I adored it, you're bound to not always love everything someone's written... Right? Well, either way, I couldn't stand Looking for Alaska.

Relatively short, less than 250 pages, Looking for Alaska is about some kid named Miles whose obsessed with dying words and is looking for his "great perhaps". So he decides to attend this boarding school in Alabama his dad had attended in his teenage years. From there he befriends his roommate "The Colonel" and his group of friends: Takumi, some Russian-or-Ukrainian-or-wherever-they-have-an-Eastern-European-accent (is it sad that I've already forgotten?) chick, and most importantly: Alaska. Who is the biggest problem of this novel. And it's a short novel, so if your title character is the biggest problem, then you're in for it.

Looking for Alaska is shallow, vapid, dirty, and depressing. I read it in one sitting, but I still had trouble stomaching it at times. That's mostly personal preference, though, because I hate gratuitous pervertedness in books. I can handle depressing books. If I'm attached, I will cry. A lot. If not, I will probably cry anyway just because of the injustice against humanity. I didn't shed one tear, or even tear up at all while reading LfA, and, though I'd like to avoid spoilers, it deals with some very heavy and sad subject matter.

Anyway, the book's biggest problem (as stated previously) is Alaska. It's not so much a problem with her, but more about her. You see, she's not a person. Yes, I know she's fictional and therefore not real, but I mean she is literally the defining image of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope. She is not a fleshed out person, she's an ideal. She's so mysterious, she's so intriguing. She's sexy, funny, crazy, spontaneous, moody, alluring. But here's the thing: she's not. She has all these traits, but isn't any of them: they are her. Alaska isn't a person, she's a trope. And maybe that's the point, maybe Alaska isn't meant to be seen as a person but a metaphor. Alaska is very obviously stated by Miles as his "great perhaps", and is not treated by him like he would treat another person, but as he would treat a goal. But that's my problem. You can't write a novel about PEOPLE and make one of the people nothing more than a metaphor. I mean, you can, nobody is stopping you, but that doesn't mean I, personally, will enjoy it.

Miles is another big problem in the book, perhaps bigger. He's an ass. And maybe all teenage boys are, but I don't want to read about normal teenage boys. I want to read about people who are more than. People who have life in them, who think and feel and know and dream and believe and try and care. I don't want to read about normal, pretentious, shallow asshats who just know that they're better than those old boring people who he used to be sort-of friends with. I don't. Maybe it adds "realism" to the book. Maybe it doesn't. Doesn't mean it's anymore enjoyable to read about.

Miles didn't see Alaska as a person, he saw her as an object. To be coveted after, lusted after. He was mystified by her, seduced by her. Do you really think, for one measly second, that if Alaska had been ugly ANYONE would have even put up with her batshit moodswings and reckless behavior? Much less found her the pinnacle of all female beauty. Everyone was in love with Alaska, but no one loved her. Everyone wanted her, but no one cared about her. I suppose it's fitting. How can you care about a metaphor?

I suppose the ending is supposed to signify Miles's growth, but I really couldn't see it. For a novel with what is supposedly such a deep and powerful meaning, it didn't feel any different for me than your average contemp YA fare.

I liked some things about the book. I liked Colonel and his mom. I liked Takumi up until he admitted he too was in love with Alaska, just like everybody else. The writing is excellent, and it really does draw you in and makes sure you don't want to put it down. I love John Green a lot and I love nerdfighteria, so I don't want this review to make it seem like I'm just hating on it needlessly. I know a lot of people are enamored with this book, so if you like it, great! I'm glad you enjoy it, really. I just don't think it was the book for me. Maybe this book's meaning just went over my head. If you have anymore insight on it, leave a comment and I will be glad to listen to different opinions! I'm still going to keep trying with John Green's other books, as I loved TFiOS too much to give up just yet. 

Thanks for reading and stopping by! I hope I was able to offer some useful input.

~ Ellie

Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

Posted by Ellie at 11:52 AM 0 comments
Scarlet by Marissa Meyer
Feiwel & Friends
454 pages

If you've read my review of Cinder, you know it took me a while to read these books. And you also know that I regret that with every fiber of my being. As I finished Cinder, I made it my mission to own Scarlet. After two unsuccessful trips to Barnes and Noble, one online order, and three agonizingly long weeks after my initial reading of Cinder, I finally had my copy. And may I just say — wow. I thought Cinder was good? Well. In the immortal words of Cadet Captain Thorne, “Hello, Scarlet.”

It’s safe to say that Scarlet blew me away. One moment I was cracking up and the next I was a sniveling mess of tears and ugh. Seriously, if you have any misgivings that it won’t live up to its predecessor or that you’ll find yourself not liking the new heroine as much, rest assured. Marissa Meyer is an expert at her craft.

Scarlet takes place right where Cinder left off; Cinder breaking out of jail the day after the catastrophe that was Prince Kai’s coronation. We’re also introduced to the book’s namesake, Scarlet Benoit, who is arguably the most badass fairy tale incarnation ever to grace the pages of literature. In her first appearance, she’s just been informed by comm that the police have stopped the search to find her grandmother — Scarlet’s beloved guardian who has been missing for weeks. From here on you experience the fight with these two awesome girls that take action to save themselves and the people they love. They meet new friends and are reunited with old ones, all allied in hopes to bring down the horrific Queen Levana. MM seamlessly integrates their stories together, along with glimpses of Emperor Kai and Queen Levana herself.

There are several new characters in Book 2, such as Wolf, the mysterious street fighter who embarks on the journey with Scarlet to rescue her Grand-mére (he’s my favorite precious darling, next to Scarlet, of course), Cadet Carswell Thorne, a sleazy American thief and army deserter who worms his way into your heart and by the end of the book, definitely deserves the title of ‘Captain’.

The character interactions in this book were gold, and I found myself appropriately squealing, dying, screaming, and in some cases, screeching, at most chapters.

Definitely towards the end there were some twists I was NOT expecting (which, for the sake of being a spoiler-free review, I won’t mention). I was constantly on my toes because holy crap who do you trust omg who are you who is that WHAT IS HAPPENING?!!??!

MM’s prose is fantastic and vivid. I loved the settings and how they were described, the Benoits’ farm being my favorite location of both the books together. just as I loved the choice of Beijing for Cinder, I loved Rieux for Scarlet.

I just really love these books. I love everything about them so much AahHhH I am trying to sound like a smart adult with good things to say but my emotions are taking over and omG I love them so much!!! The Lunar Chronicles is absolutely 100% one of my favorite book series ever; up there with Harry Potter and Percy Jackson and The Hunger Games. Is there a movie deal yet? Why is there no movie?

I CANNOT wait for Cress. Rapunzel is probably my favorite fairy tale (I think it’s the hair, I’ve got a thing for crazy hair) and Cress is such a clever name. Watercress = Cress? And perhaps Cress is short for Crescent Moon? AHH Marissa Meyer you are killing me with these possibilities!!!! How am I ever going to survive till February? Seriously. If you have an ARC and you don't want it or are just very generous coULD YOU PLEASE LET ME BORROW IT? PLeASE. (Okay that sounds creepy I know, but I'm kind of distraught and very incredibly emotionally invested in this series.)

~ Ellie

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Posted by Ellie at 12:53 PM 0 comments
Cinder by Marissa Meyer
Feiwel & Friends
387 pages

originally saw Cinder sitting on a shelf at Barnes and Noble, and while the story sounded interesting, I was so burnt out on fairy tales at the time (so many corny movie adaptions — ugh) I ended up passing. Big mistake. Fast forward about a year, I’m browsing B&N online and I see a book called Scarlet. Apparently it’s the second book to that one scifi-Cinderella novel I skipped last year and there are two more books coming out in ‘14 and ‘15, respectively. Over the span of that year, I had rekindled my love for fairy tales (thanks, Tangled) so I decided to give the series a try.

My first thought after finishing Cinder was that I was going to build a time machine. Not only for the purpose of meeting Charles Dickens and pushing Hilter off a cliff, but also to push myself off a cliff because I wrongly judged this book. VERY wrongly. It was easily one of the best books I’ve read in a long time.

Our story takes place in futuristic Beijing, 126 years after the fourth World War. Cinder, main character extraordinaire, is New Beijing's most renowned mechanic and near slave to her greedy adoptive mother. But there is something about Cinder that makes her different. She has no memories of her life after she was in a horrific accident at age eleven, leaving her to be an amputee saved by modern science and cyborg prosthesis. Unfortunately, the world Cinder lives in is very prejudiced towards cyborgs, so she must always hide herself. 

On top of all that, there is a raging epidemic of letumosis, the mysterious and seemingly incurable fatal disease, a charming prince in need of Cinder's mechanical genius, an annual festival Cinder isn't allowed to attend, and a murderous queen from the moon determined to make Earth her domain.

Cinder is SUCH a great character. She's so relatable. I was rooting for her all the way through! She was witty with such dry humor and a good heart. I felt so horrible for her with all of the trials she had to endure throughout the book. Her almost-romance with Prince Kai was refreshing and infuriating and adorable and heartbreaking and -- !! Okay, I won't spoil, but really! They were so cute together, and this book is completely void of insta-love, which makes me a very happy camper. Those last chapters though. THAT END. WHYYYYY??,??!!! OKay, okay, no spoilers. Right.

All of the side characters and villains were very well-developed as well, with Adri as the almost-pitiable step-mother, and sweet Peony, and bratty Pearl, and the awful, awful Lunar Queen Levana, the batty Dr. Erland... Everyone was so interesting to read about. Ms. Meyer is amazing at writing interesting and unique characters.

One thing I adored about Cinder was the setting. Love the nod to the roots of Cinderella. New Beijing is such a cool place, I love the mix of western influence and old traditional Chinese. It really feels like how it would be in the future, with cultures meshing together after so long of segregation.

Be warned though, Cinder has something of a cliff-hanger (and a heart-wrenching one at that), but the second book Scarlet is already out! I've already read it, and I LOVE it. So please, PLEASE check out this series if you think it sounds interesting. Definitely one of the best books I've read this year, and one of my favorite series of all time.

~ Ellie

Friday, August 2, 2013

The Newborn

Posted by Ellie at 6:25 PM 0 comments
I have crossed the divide, the river of no return. I am now a blogger.

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