Booknotized

A place to think, reflect, and talk (mostly to myself) about books I love…and a few that I don't.

Book Review: Cinder by Marissa Meyer January 9, 2012

 
Publisher: Macmillan
Series: Lunar Chronicles (Book 1)
Age Group: YA (totally clean)
Release Date: January 3, 2012
Pages: 400
Source: NetGalley and Giveaway from Amanda at Diary of a Book Addict
Genre: Scifi + Post-Apocalyptic
Rating Breakdown: Idea 5+★; Execution 3+★
 

★★★★

Cinder is a cyborg—which in her society means barely human. Somewhere in a past she can’t remember, there was an accident that left her parentless and a surgery that gave her a foot and a hand she doesn’t want, but can’t live without. Her one glimmer of hope came in the form of a scientist from the Eastern commonwealth—a conglomerate of countries united by the emperor sometime after the devastating WW4—but was dashed before she even know about him, when he died of the Letumosis epidemic.
 
Now, stuck with a stepmother who hates her, working as a mechanic to pay bills that aren’t her own, in a country swept by plague and threatened by war from the psychotic Lunar queen, Cinder only dreams of escape.
 
And, then the Prince walks in.
 
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First off, you must read this book. It’s great. You’ll enjoy it, I guarantee. It’s overall tightly written, fast paced, and unique. I was drawn to the cover at first sight and couldn’t put it down!
 
But, as a connoisseur (hah!) I am truly on the fence about it. As a reviewer, I feel compelled to tell the whole truth and nothing but. So, while on the one hand it was a thrilling read, it has its flaws.
 
I love the concept—very original. Instead of a technologically backwards future of the sort we’re used to seeing in today’s post-apocalyptic or dystopian novels, this one is very techno-savvy. Reminded me of Westerfeld’s The Uglies in its tenor. Hover cars are all the rage, and human beings survive historically fatal or utterly disfiguring injuries because of extreme advances in surgical prosthetics.
 
Fairly logically-advanced versions of the internet, computers, and televisions are the main form of communication and entertainment, which helps tie nicely into the present-day world.
 
The commonwealth, and its emperor are situated in Asia, in a city called New Beijing, making this the second book to allude to fears of China’s rise to world power. However, unlike some, this book doesn’t see that as a bad thing. The Emperor and his family are just, fair rulers, and peacefully cohabitate with other ruling bodies—except those on the moon (yup!).
 
Instead of climate change, and/or oil shortage being the cause of the apocalypse (both of which have been almost overdone these days…), it’s international conflict that spawned both destruction and peace between Earthen countries. Unchecked greed and power hunger is the reason for the latest threat from the mutated inhabitants of the moon—and their mind-controlling queen.
 
Up until that point, everything was great. But, the mind control was where the book started to get under my skin. I found it to be too convenient, cheesy, inconsistently implemented, and ineffective.
 
Similarly, though I appreciated the attempt to align this with the original Cinderella story, a few of the plot elements at the end were too forced. This is a problem I have with a lot of fairytale re-imaginings: they don’t seem to realize you can pick and choose which elements to include—and even then, you can bend them a little to fit your setting. This book tried too hard to get them all in…and didn’t bend or wield them skillfully enough to fit. For one, the “carriage” (an old rusted out automobile) was a potentially really intriguing twist that just didn’t deliver and faded out as abruptly as it appeared. More importantly, however, the ball was just totally out of place, in my mind. Not only was it a virtual impossibility (all the citizens of one major city invited at once?), but then, why such an outdated ritual in full 17th century style was the one tradition that held over from the old to such a futuristic world wasn’t explained. It wasn’t the right scene for the confrontation, and as a result, the final scenes were just not cathartic enough.
 
As for characters, the evil queen wasn’t very believable—her dialogue made me chuckle at some points. And, last but not least, Cinder just wasn’t a decisive or confident enough character for my taste. Why she waited so long to work on the Prince’s robot—meanwhile the dropped hints and reminders of its import were abundant—I just couldn’t figure out. And her two obsessions—her own imperfection and escape—were overdone to the point of threatening the story not only plot-wise, but overall by making her slightly annoying.
 
That said, however, I really enjoyed the concept and the world, and will definitely be looking out for book 2—which I hope will benefit from its freedom from the original story and license to do fantastic things with a fantastic concept.

 

Working With the 100: An Epic Adventure

 
Now, I know how it looks. I’ve been fairly quiet over the last two months.
 
But that’s only because I’ve been consulting on what was probably the most exciting project ever: Scholastic Parent & Child Magazine’s 100 Greatest Books for Kids feature.

I knew when I took the job that it might mean I had to stay quiet on the blogging front for a little while, but, I mean, who could turn it down?
 
For several solid months, I got to spend my nights and weekends reading, thinking and writing about my absolute favorite topic—books for young people (which I would have been doing anyway…shhh!)—as I worked to curate the list with the expert contributors and amazing editorial team at P&C.
 
In short, I had a blast.
 
While this took up most of my extracurricular reading time, I also couldn’t really post about it: it was TOP secret. Well, at least until the website went live! (At which point I collapsed into a heap and was transported unconsciously to the land of turkey and gift wrap.) Hence my (unusually) un-loquacious state.
 
Despite my tardiness in posting, however, I couldn’t be prouder of the final product. Not only does it cover 100 of the best books written and in print for Ages 0-12 (culled from a list of over 500 titles suggested by literacy experts, Scholastic editors, and parents!), but the website is a TON of fun to play with!
 

Check out the interactive website where 10 books will be revealed every week in the countdown to the mysterious #1!

Be sure to investigate all the widgets and enter for a chance to win a copy of 1 of the titles every week.

 

 
 
You can sort by Fiction/Nonfiction (and fiction type), Age Group, Award Winners, and more. Once you have your list, click on the book covers to find out more about each individual title.
 

 
As an added treat, the magazine editors and I chose 10 books throughout the list that grabbed our attention for various reasons, such as “Best Bedtime Book,” “Most Exciting Ending,” and “Favorite Fantastic Setting.”
 
Click here to find out more about the 100 Greatest Books for Kids feature: why we did it, how we did it, what’s up next, and more.
 
Then, be sure to subscribe to P&C asap if you want to receive a print copy of the March issue that will contain all of this and more.
 
 

~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * GIVEAWAY! * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~

 
Now, I want to hear from you. Let me know: what books would YOU have put on the list? What would have been your number one? Be sure to include your email address with your answer! (Or leave a comment on this post.) One lucky winner will get a copy of one of the books from the list in their age group of choice. (Book to be supplied by moi, and this giveaway is in no way affiliated with Parent & Child.)
 

 

 

 

Official #HungerGames Movie Trailer…WOW! November 14, 2011

I. have. chills.

 

Book Review: Paranormalcy by Kiersten White October 18, 2011

Publisher: Harper Teen
Release date: August 31, 2010
335 pages
Age Group:
solid YA +
(some slightly sexual innuendo, references to language, though not actual)

★★★★

The Center is being attacked, and paranormals everywhere are dying inexplicably. She’s supposed to be protecting them, but Evie can only think of one thing to do: run.

Ever since she was a child, and the IPCA (International Paranormal Containment Agency) discovered that she could see through (thus identify) paranormals’ glamours, Evie has been living at the medicinally white-walled Center, working the whenever-they-need-her shift, capturing and tagging vampires, werewolves, hags, and more with ankle bracelets that prevent their wreaking any more havoc. It’s not much of a home, but it’s better than bouncing through foster care like the abandoned child she was. Besides, life is fairly normal…she finds out all she needs to know about “real” teenhood from her favorite high school TV drama, Easton Heights. And she shops. Oh, and that weapon she uses to subdue the paranorms? It’s called Tasey. And it’s pink, like her stiletto boots.

So, it’s no biggie that she is intrigued by the (seemingly) teenage guy—whose face is like water, and whose eyes are utterly unforgettable—that they’ve captured downstairs.

So what if she’s not supposed to see him? So what if he’s classified? So what if he’s the only person she’s able to save when everyone else is in danger? So what if her life is suddenly and completely turned upside down?

So what…now?

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Evie’s story is a captivating one, not necessarily because it’s terribly unique content-wise (young person with strong personality and an inexplicable power vs. paranormal creatures gone awry), but because of the endearing, fun, and spunky style in which it’s told. Evie is a unique personality, and her story glows with her spirit and humor. The action is consistant throughout the book, and the love interest, truly interesting. There’s no triangle (TG!), and the world—as limited as it is by Evie’s infrequent exoduses from the Center—is well-represented.

I really enjoyed the book, particularly its uniquely positive overtone. When I first heard “pink heels” and “perky,” I moaned internally, but take my word for it: it’s expertly infused with cheek and irony in a way that makes it fun instead of groanilicious. (My totally manly husband is actually the one who recommended it to me.) I’m very much looking forward to reading the sequel Supernaturally (which came out this July) and, based on this, all things Kiersten White.

 

#LainiLove – Smoke & Bone UK Book Trailers September 2, 2011

 

Enter elsewhere, the world of Karou,

girl with the lapis blue hair…

 

 

…and meet Brimstone,

the one who holds all of her secrets.

 

 
 

Read the Book Review

 

 

From Across the Pond: UK Cover for Daughter of Smoke and Bone August 9, 2011

As if it could have gotten any deeper, more alluring, more mysterious…smoldered any more than it already does…

Meet the amazing UK cover for Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor.

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(Click images for original source and here for my review.)

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Major props to the people at Hoddor & Stoughton, who created this amazing work of art.

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It’s absolutely gorgeous! I mean, the font (yes, font) is perfect…beyond perfect? The sheen of the feathers is just Karou’s essence. The scene on the back is exactly what I pictured in my mind while reading. Whoever designed this cover knew this book superbly well (or just has mad crazy skills…or both…).

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Listen to me prattling on.

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I think I have collector’s fever! This is one I’m definitely going to have to get my hands on…

 

Book Review: Fever Crumb by Philip Reeve June 20, 2011

Original Release Date: May 4, 2009
Publisher: Scholastic

★★★★

Natural disasters, civilization-searing wars, a tumult of regime changes, and a host of other catastrophes have resulted in the loss of much of mankind’s technical knowledge. With glaciers slowly moving south, what was once Great Britain is now a host of nomadic tribes, subsisting on plunder as they move from place to place in land barges coupled together from recycled machines of the past.

The people of London (perhaps the greatest remnant of what once was), however, have managed to recreate something of the old world. Salvaging, studying, sometimes reinvigorating, but never reproducing the ancient technologies that lie beneath their streets – computers, engines, ‘lectric lamps, scraps of plastics – they are entirely post-pre-industrial. In the midst of it all, lives young Fever, an orphan (or so she’s told). Brought up by the very rational old engineer, Dr. Crumb, beautiful young Fever shaves her head (hair is non-necessary), spurns emotion, and is always, always reasonable – whatever the situation. After all, it is up to her to prove to the stoic Order of Engineers that female minds are capable of rational thought.

But, when archaeologist Kit Solent appears, requesting her help (an honor she accepts with what a non-rational mind might call “excitement”), more than petty emotions are dredged up: Fever begins to recall an entire existence that she knows is not her own – one filled with grisly experiments; a strangely beautiful, oddly familiar face; perfumes; genetic anomalies; and scenes from London’s most recent regime change, the bloody Skinner riots. Before she knows it, Fever is herself branded a traitor in a battle of old against new, humans and Skinners vs. genetically anomalous Scriven (self-dubbed “homo superior”), and must work to unlock the secrets lodged inside her head – or risk losing herself entirely to someone else’s design.
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In keeping with the style of his Carnegie Medal-winning Here Lies Arthur, Reeve delivers a strikingly dark and different, yet enveloping and fully realized world in this prequel to his Mortal Engines Quartet. Expertly repurposing current-day pop culture with a sly and satiric humor (“That’s a load of blog,” shouted Ted Swiney…”Cheesers Crice!”), Reeve fuses signature steampunk (technomancers who create Stalker armies of ‘lectric and wirework-brained corpses, gingerbread man-type armies made of paper, land barges and fuel-guzzling mono-wheeled vehicles), with what author Scott Westerfeld calls “old-fashioned derring-do,” to create a sometimes-light, sometimes-heavy, always fast-paced tale full of as many twists and turns as the Victorianesque London streets through which it runs.

Suitable for a younger audience (9-12), this book will also appeal to older steampunk, action-adventure, and perhaps even historical fiction/historical scifi fans. A fully-realized, strong female protagonist, Fever’s strength and resourcefulness, coupled with the story’s shying away from the usual romantic angle and touch of raucous battles, will make it a satisfying read for boys and girls alike.

Sequel A Web of Air coming October 1, 2011.

 

 
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