Book Review: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (5/5)

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The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Rating: 5 Stars Continue reading

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Book Review: The Wicked Girls by Alex Marwood (4/5)

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The Wicked Girls is the story of two 11-year-old English girls who made a mistake one summer day. Annabel Oldacre and Jade Walker met that one day and killed a four-year-old girl. For the next 25 years, they lose contact and face the consequences of that mistake.

This thriller builds on a very gripping premise — it’s bold, fresh and shattering. Rehabilitated, hated and tortured, Annabel and Jade grow up into different lives. One becomes Amber, a cleaning manager who is something of a pushover with her employees and her boyfriend, Vic. The other becomes Kristy, a successful journalist with a caring husband and two kids. When Kristy the journalist comes to Amber’s town to investigate a string of murders, the two women’s lives collide.

And they know then how fragile these new identities they’ve created are. How the media could shatter and break everything they’ve tried to rebuild. How they can never run from their past.

To say the least, The Wicked Girls is gripping and emotional. Readers feel a great deal of sympathy for these two women. At the same time, I wish there had been more exploration of their emotions — it would have made the book even more deeper and heart-wrenching. I feel like a couple serious issues may have slipped away in the pacing of the thriller/mystery. The mystery, for me, was not really a mystery. I guessed/hunched right away at the twist.

This novel is something new and ventures thoughts onto a road not taken… It raises questions about children who commit crimes. Obviously Amber and Kristy are searching for redemption; in the end, I think they receive it, albeit in a different and bittersweet form. Life is never as sweet as fairy tales.

***ARC provided by Netgalley in exchange for my review

 

Book Review: The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron (4/5)

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Set in Victorian times, The Dark Unwinding opens with a gothic atmosphere. Our main character, Katherine Tulman, is a penniless orphan who must obey the commands of her tyrannous Aunt Alice. So when Aunt Alice sends her to the countryside to proclaim her uncle mentally insane, Katherine resigns herself to do so.

Little does she know, she falls in love with the world her uncle lives in. Her uncle is (I think) a savant. He’s marvelously talented at numbers and inventions, yet mentally a child. At his estate, a whole community of people flourishes – can Katherine really destroy everything they have? Can she commit her childlike uncle to an asylum?

I really liked the gothic, almost steampunk-like feel of the setting and atmosphere. The characters all have very distinct personalities and voices – Davy, the mute little boy with the hare, is particularly lovable. And then, the classic love interest, Lane, is stereotypically tall, moody, dark and annoying (to me).

For some reason, I think I liked the ideas more than the actual book. There is definitely skill, novelty and risk-taking in Sharon Cameron’s writing and plot…but I can’t help but feel like The Dark Unwinding could have been something deeper, something more emotionally entangling.

***book provided by Creative Kids Magazine for review

 

Book Review: The Books of Elsewhere #1: The Shadows by Jacqueline West (4.5/5)

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The Books of Elsewhere is absolutely amazing. I’m afraid I have to compare it to Harry Potter. It’s just as brilliant as Harry Potter, only with more of an appeal towards the middle grade audience. Jacqueline West has infused her words with wry humor, chock-full-of-personality characters (especially the talking cats), a suspenseful plot, imagination and strong underlying messages.

Here’s the premise: 11-year-old Olive is the only child of two mathematicians. Thing is, she’s not good at math at all! Instead, she has something of a wild imagination. When her family moves into an abandoned house on Linden street, she’s the only one who senses something strange and spooky. The paintings, the cats, the rumors. But Olive only finds out how strange and spooky when she discovers the secret – the paintings are portals to a place called Elsewhere. And someone in the house wants to get rid of her family….

From the first line of The Books of Elsewhere, I knew I’d love this book. West has a very original writing style that’s both down-to-earth and amusing. But that’s not all – there’s a wonderful plot and very real characters. I imagine elementary school kids, middle school kids and anyone older will greatly enjoy The Books of Elsewhere. Speaking of which, my nine-year-old brother just ran off with my copy of the book…

***copy provided by Creative Kids Magazine

Read more of my reviews here on my blog: http://rememberingwonderland.wordpress.com

Book Review: Cinder by Marissa Meyer (4/5)

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I bought Cinder from B/N on a book store haul a while ago. I’d been trying to get my hands on a copy of the book for a while, and I knew it was a book I’d have to own. I had been told that a novel I’m working on currently (a retelling of Rumpelstiltskin in a futuristic world) sounded like Cinder — Check out its blurb on my writing blog: Tangled Inkspills.

The premise of Cinder is basically this: Cinder is a 16-year-old mechanic working in the city of New Beijing. She’s talented, hardworking and self-sacrificing — She singlehandedly supports her stepmother and two stepsisters. But Cinder happens to be a cyborg and therefore a second-class citizen. (She’s often reminded of that by her stepmother.)

Pros:

  • The futuristic Eastern setting brings a fresh twist to the timeless Cinderella tale.
  • The house robot, Iko, has a very unique, quirky and girly personality. It’s impossible not to love her. She adds flavor to the dialogue.
  • Cinder is a mechanic and a relatively strong female protagonist.
  • The story is very well-paced.

Cons:

  • Prince Kai is a very stereotypical love interest, and all throughout the novel (evil me) I was screaming, “Don’t fall for him, Cinder! Don’t fall for him!”
  • Cinder is kinda self-deprecating…She doesn’t see her own value and often refuses to believe things…
  • The plot twist is quite predictable.
  • Deep themes are not fully exposed.

Overall, Cinder is a nice action-packed story for teenage boys and girls alike. I can’t imagine this spreading into the adult market since it’s somewhat limited in the scope of “deep themes.” I feel like there are themes/issues that are only briefly touched on…But that’s ok. I liked Cinder anyways. It was a very fun, well-written and well-paced read.

I’m actually extremely happy that this is a quartet of books. I know I will definitely be reading the next 3 just to see how Marissa Meyer works 3 retellings of different fairytales into Cinder’s world.

Bookstore Haul

I have some 40+ books on my to-read list…but I just had to get more from B/N on Saturday. I had some gift cards accumulated from writing contests. 

Books for me:

1) Tuesdays at the Castle (a children’s book that seems really good, I’d love to write MG of this premise)

2) Grimm’s Complete Fairy Tales (read “The Little Peasant” to my brother last night. It was quite dark, satirical and funny. A whole village commits suicide…)

3) Cinder (I have been told that the novel I’m working on for NaNoWriMo seems to have elements inspired by this book)

Books my little brother picked:

1) Warriors book (I used to love this series)

2) How to Train Your Dragon #2

3) Ship in a Bottle Building Kit (his fourth choice of kit, which I finally approved of…)

Book for the parental units:

1) How to Make Sushi Kit (I love sushi and want to eat sushi. 😛 So I suppose it’s really for me…)

Book Review: Parallel Heart by J.L. Robinson (1/5)

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From page 1, I did not get along well with Parallel Heart. The prose contained glaring grammatical errors and the voice  just seemed off. It felt stilted and dense — as though it was trying too hard to be witty, descriptive and aloof. I would know. I wrote similarly (although in a more child-like tone) several years ago, toying around with big words and awkward sentence structure. Writing needs to flow, and when it flows well enough, it will make the reader comfortable enough to stay for about 50,000 words in the novel’s world.

Parallel Heart could not make me stay. It had a potentially very interesting premise — an unhappily married man longs to escape into a parallel world with a lover who may or may not be real. I thought, “This is interesting,” in my head when I read that the novel is based on the author’s love of quantum mechanics and explores the concept of parallel dimensions and blurred realities. All of this sounded new, fresh and different.

But I just couldn’t get into it. I tried very hard…the voice (as well as plot, characters and developed) just came off as stale. I’m sure Parallel Heart, given a liberal editor, time and a different direction, could’ve been something real special. But it just wasn’t for me… Again, all this is my own opinion. Perhaps you will think differently!

Leave me a comment below and tell me what you think of this review/book.

Update: ALL the books on my list

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Netgalley Titles

  1. Thin Space
  2. The People in the Trees
  3. Peregrine Harker and the Black Death
  4. Parallel Heart
  5. The Boy Who Could See Demons
  6. Aimless Love
  7. For the Good of Mankind
  8. Born to Blog
  9. Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself
  10. The Heart of the Matter
  11. Unexplained Fevers
  12. Gene Keys
  13. Sons of Liberty
  14. Amandine
  15. The Goddess in Every Girl
  16. Eat Move Sleep
  17. The Best of Connie Willis
  18. PS – You’re Invited

Creative Kids

  1. The Books of Elsewhere #1
  2. The Dark Unwinding

Leisure Books (Not Obligated to Review)

  1. Timeless (won from Figment contest)
  2. Timekeeper (won from Figment contest)
  3. Change Anything (library book)
  4. Dragon Slippers (library book)
  5. Leviathan #1 (library book)
  6. How to Find an Agent (library book)
  7. Violet Raines Almost Got Struck by Lightning (ordered from Amazon)
  8. Reckless (ordered from Amazon)
  9. another library book…I forgot the title of…
  10. The Tragedy Paper (won from Figment contest)
  11. The Wind in the Willows (recommended by a friend)
  12. Angels and Demons (recommended by a friend)
  13. The Da Vinci Code (recommended by a friend)
  14. The Lost Symbol (recommended by a friend)
  15. Inferno (recommended by a friend)

Update: Last Batch of Books from Creative Kids

As July rounds the corner, my term on the Creative Kids National Magazine editorial staff is coming to an end… Over these four years, as an Advisory Board member (2009-2011) and senior contributor (2011-2013), I have greatly enjoyed the experience of reviewing books, submitting creative works and collaborating with the other advisory board members. If you haven’t heard of CK, look it up! And if you’re a kid, submit something! Creative Kids National Magazine is unique in that it’s the nation’s largest completely by-kids-for-kids magazine.

The end of this experience also correlates to a turning point in my life (turning 18). I hope this is when my writing transitions successfully from children’s/teen’s into adult anthologies.

But before my term ends, I have a batch of MG/YA books to review. They just arrived in the mail today. I’m always so excited to get books in the mail. Yeah, yeah, eBooks are good and economical and all, but…paper…shiny new cover…real ink… I’m devoting a blog post to this!

1. The Books of Elsewhere (MG, fantasy) <– I have great hopes that my little brother will enjoy this

2. The Dark Unwinding (YA, steampunk) <– I’ve only dipped my toes into steampunk and I really, really hope that steampunk will prove awesome and unconventional. Maybe I might try my hand at steampunk!

Thank you, Creative Kids! I have appreciated the extraordinary opportunity and hope Creative Kids will continue inspiring creative kids! Goodbye and best wishes.

Book Review: Carniepunk

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Carniepunk consists of 14 short stories in a steampunk anthology with the theme of…wait for it…surprise, surprise…carnivals! My opinion is somewhat scattered along the spectrum, since the stories were written by 14 different authors. To make things simpler, I’ll be rating each story separately.

Overall, I feel like the themes are disjointed — too loosely connected in terms of the type of reader they’d appeal to. I don’t know how the stories were chosen and I’m sure it’s a very tough process, but I feel like the styles and moods decline in quality until a belated spike at the very end. But that’s just my opinion.

Painted Love by Robyn Urman (4/5)

  • very lyrical, bitingly beautiful writing style
  • balance between the harshness of reality and the wonder of moments
  • very interesting characters
  • striking plot twist makes you double back and think
  • psychological references
  • surreal time and place

The Three Lives of Lydia by Delilah S. Dawson (4/5)

  • breathtakingly magical writing style: astounding word choices, heart-shattering imagery, descriptions interwoven with striking emotions
  • delightfully surreal mood
  • dark and wonderful setting — this is probably my favorite “carnival” of the whole anthology
  • also a nice slice of psychology
  • interesting and sad twist
  • my one complaint is the instalove — the instalove with Charlie just made the whole story shallower! It could have been a 5 but instalove peels back the story’s merits.

The Demon Barker of Wheat Street by Kevin Hearne (1/5)

  • I couldn’t get into it. Maybe because it’s part of a series
  • the conversations with the dog are amusing

The Sweeter the Juice by Mark Henry (2/5)

  • zombie apocalypse…typical stuff
  • nice and gory details
  • tries to be deep, somehow, but misses the point
  • redeeming try at being new — the main character is transsexual

The Werewife by Jaye Wells (2/5)

  • interesting, holds on to your attention till the end
  • entertaining with a hint of satire
  • not really extraordinary
  • lacking in thematic element
  • cliches

The Cold Girl by Roxanne Longstreet Conrad (1/5)

  • I remember reading about another reviewer describe it as  too “teenage”. Yes, it’s too typical. That annoying stock teenage girl voice, the abuse, the vampires…
  • It was trying too hard to be interesting
  • Cliches

A Duet with Darkness by Allison Pang (3/5)

  • interesting writing style, characters and premise
  • but just wasn’t presented in the right way; there was something off about the buildup and resolution
  • imbalance in climax

Recession of the Divine by Hillary Jacques (1/5)

  • could not get into it
  • confusing writing style

Parlor Tricks by Jennifer Estep (1/5)

  • could not get into it
  • feel like it was part of a story that already exists and if you haven’t read it, you won’t get it

Freak House by Kelly Meding (1/5)

  • couldn’t get into it
  • perhaps a bit too plot-heavy for a short story

The Inside Man by Nicole Peeler (1/5)

  • couldn’t get into it
  • might have a good plotline, but not for me

A Chance in Hell by Jackie Kessler (1/5)

  • couldn’t get into it
  • original, of sorts, I suppose, but not compelling for me

Hell’s Menagerie by Kelly Gay (1/5)

  • maybe it was a story meant for kids?
  • the emotions of it didn’t feel real for some reason, didn’t rise off the page and project themselves onto the reader

Daughter of the Midway, the Mermaid and the Open, Lonely Sea (4/5) by Seanan McGuire

  • the writing was nice stuff, sprinkled with bits of striking imagery and the personality of the protagonist
  • intriguing premise
  • could have been something more mystical, more of the surreal, saltwater feel
  • emotions mixed in nicely
  • and the title is just wonderful

**eBook provided by Netgalley.com in exchange for my honest review