Saturday, April 26, 2014

Book Bingo: Cinder

Cinder by Marissa Meyer is a nominee for the Truman Award for the 2014/15 school year. It is the first book in The Lunar Chronicles. Set in New Beijing, a city in the future Eastern Commonwealth, the story revolves around a teenage, orphan, cyborg mechanic named Cinder who lives with her bitter legal guardian and two adoptive sisters. Left behind with an unwilling mother by the man who adopted her, Cinder is raised as a second-class citizen since she is a cyborg and an orphan, forced to earn money for her family while they focus on ballgowns and shopping. She has bold and elaborate plans to escape someday. But when the handsome, young prince drops his android off at her booth to be fixed and Cinder's younger sister contracts a deadly plague which has been spreading randomly throughout the planet, events are set in motion beyond the mechanic's capable hands.

(picture taken from Goodreads;
book design by Barbara Grzeslo)

First Impression: This is sort of weird--it starts out with Cinder taking off her metal foot! I figure this will lead into the whole losing-her-shoe (or foot) thing later on. That's a twist for you, I guess. Also, someone told me this was steampunk, but it's not. It's futuristic, but not steampunk. I actually like it better this way. If it wasn't for the visiting Lunars, the story would feel somewhat realistic. There's also a clue about the Lunar princess toward the beginning that I suspect will bring an Anastasia-like story to the mix, but we'll see. The story is a little girly for me so far, but I like the unique twists on a traditional fairy tale. It's nice to find someone with new ideas.

Conclusion: I have to say, Meyer puts an interesting perspective on fairy tales. She takes a simple, obvious plot-line and adds a little twist to surprise the reader. The futuristic Cinderella story wasn't complicated, but the author's knack for detail and her extensive culture and medical research was obvious. The romance between Cinder and Prince Kai was a bit cheesy and reminded me quite a bit of the movie Ever After with Drew Barrymore and Dougray Scott. Seen from the main character's perspective, however, the romance is sweet and simple as Cinder tries to find her place after several Earth-shattering self-revelations. And talk about a cliffhanger! I saw most of the plot-line coming, but the drop-off at the end was unexpected. Do not read this book if you don't want to continue the series.

Even though I completed my original goal for the 2014 Book Bingo Challenge, I'm going to keep checking off books as I read them, just to see where I end up. This one will be a "Series" choice for the card! Don't forget to subscribe and comment!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Book Bingo: Wonder

Wonder by R.J. Palacio is about a boy, August (Auggie) Pullman, with a facial deformity (more than one, technically) who is entering fifth grade this year at a private school. Up until the book starts, Auggie has been home-schooled, and the switch proves to be a crucial development in his changing life.

(picture taken from Goodreads;
cover art by Tad Carpenter)

Conclusion: This book was powerful, but not in the way I expected. Honestly, I thought there would be some severe violence or possibly even death as a result of Auggie's switch to a private school. Although now that I think about it, the book was written for middle grade kids, so it probably wasn't allowed to be too violent without being bumped to the YA section. Anyway, I preferred the book without gratuitous violence, although I would have to question the reality of that outcome a little bit if the story were true. Palacio switches the point-of-view from person to person every few chapters. This is where the fact that Wonder is R.J. Palacio's first published book comes the light, because the voice for each of her characters is very similar to every other voice. That being said, you barely notice the voice because Palacio does a fantastic job switching perspective (what each character knows and thinks about, for example). This book means something special to me without bringing me to tears, and it was a fast, easy read.

This is my final choice for the "TBR Pile" box in the 2014 Book Bingo Challenge! I'm probably going to come up with a new plan for this, because I'm having so much fun with it! I guess next year I'll know to set my goals higher from the beginning. Make sure to check back to see what I'm reading next and cross off boxes on book bingo with me!

Update 4/25/14: I forgot to mention that Wonder is a 2014/15 nominee for the Mark Twain Award. Already reading more nominees than last year!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Book Bingo: The Fault in Our Stars

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green is the story of two teenagers: Hazel, who is suffering from a slowed but incurable lung cancer and a cynical view of the world around her, and Augustus, who has one real and one prosthetic leg due to a previous bout with cancer and chooses to hold on to life and romance for all they are worth. From the moment they meet, Augustus changes Hazel's perspective on her life and those around her. And as their relationship and Hazel's cancer progress, she and Augustus must decide how they will confront life's obstacles and what kind of legacies they want to leave behind.

(picture taken from Goodreads;
cover design by Rodrigo Corral)

Conclusion: This book was phenomenal. Hazel and Augustus are sarcastic and funny, emotional and intense as only teenagers can be. They may be sick, but they live their lives to an admirable degree. At the same time, Green's book is honest and straightforward. This is not exactly a book where two beautiful people meet, fall in love, and run away together. This is a book about love, but it is also a book about sickness and how that sickness affects every part of life, in good ways as well as bad. I can't go into too much detail without giving things away, but I can say that I alternately laughed and cried throughout this book. I wish that I could meet Hazel, Augustus, and Isaac, because they seem like people with whom I would love to be friends, flaws and all. The last thing I'll say is read this book! It's amazing.

This book was my fourth "TBR Pile" choice for the 2014 Book Bingo Challenge. I'm nearing the end of my bingo, so stay tuned for my modified plan for this challenge!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Book Club / Book Bingo: The Color of Magic

The Color of Magic is the first book in Terry Pratchett's Discworld series. The book is about Rincewind, who is kind of a wizard, and Twoflower, a tourist who comes to Ankh-Morporhk to experience another side of the Discworld. Through a series of events caused primarily by Twoflower's Luggage and naïveté, the two men are basically thrown into several crazy adventures, one right after another.

You guys are probably wondering why I've been reading so many series books lately even though I completed that portion of my bingo scorecard: I have a ton of series on my To-Be-Read list! I'm focusing a lot this year on just finishing books I've already started and checking off some of those that have been sitting around my house...and so far, it's going fantastically!

(picture taken from Goodreads)

First Impression: This book is vaguely humorous at the beginning, although some of it is lost in explanation, I think. I've heard that Discworld is a really great series, but so far, I'm just confused. Everything is set within a context that I don't understand yet, and I find the world at once intriguing and off-putting. Hopefully this will get better for me. I keep having the feeling that it will be much more enjoyable once I understand the context.

Conclusion: This book was not at all what I expected from the description on the back! I never fully understood the context, for one thing. Pratchett never actually explains Discworld; you learn things only on a "need-to-know" basis. I thought it would be from Twoflower's point-of-view, but it was third-person omniscient with a primary focus on Rincewind. This made a big difference, because Twoflower, as the tourist in the duo, wouldn't have understood a lot of what was happening to and around the characters. Also, people kept describing it to me as humorous before I read it, but it made me muse more than laugh. It seemed...nonchalant, for lack of a better term. But this book was a great mix of realism and fantasy! Okay, it was pretty much all fantasy, but Pratchett did a fantastic job drawing me in and convincing me that Discworld is real! My main complaint is the author's transitions. I'm sure they were there somewhere, but it really felt like the characters just jumped from one thing to the next at breakneck speed. This was the same issue at the end. Pratchett ended an action scene with "The End" and then wrote a quick few pages just to let the reader know whether or not Rincewind died. If the books in this series were longer, I wouldn't dedicate the time to them, but since they're so short, I'll probably read the next one. I've been told Pratchett's writing style changes for the better as he goes on.

This book was my third "TBR Pile" choice for the 2014 Book Bingo Challenge. Join me as I read more books that have been sitting around sad and unread!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Book Bingo: The Darcys of Pemberley

The Darcys of Pemberley by Shannon Winslow is a "sequel" to Pride and Prejudice. I picked this up last year with the intention of reading it during the Pride and Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge. The premise of the book is fairly simple: Elizabeth and Darcy have been married for almost a year, Mr. Collins has died, and Georgiana has come out as a young woman ready to marry.

(picture taken from Goodreads;
cover design by Micah D. Hansen;
original cover artwork by Sharon M. Johnson)

First Impression: I'm a bit bored. So far, Mr. Collins died, Georgiana is conflicted in love, and Elizabeth and Darcy are keeping secrets from each other. That's about it. Elizabeth is keeping secrets for Georgiana (so nothing actually bad), and I'm pretty sure I know what Darcy's secret is (but the book is written in third person, limited to Elizabeth's point-of-view). Oh, and Elizabeth is questioning her decision to marry Darcy? I don't really see that happening with the original character. I like Winslow's writing style well enough, but the book is really slow-moving, and there's not really enough conflict or wit to keep me intrigued. I will finish it, because I hate not finishing books, and maybe Winslow will win me over by the end.

Conclusion: Okay...I definitely wasn't bored by the end of The Darcys of Pemberley. I was, however, disappointed with some changes Winslow made to two characters and the complete turnaround she made in the last quarter of the book. The characters in question? Colonel Fitzwilliam, who has become a more serious presence and lost all of the charm that lent him to be a notable character in the original, and George Wickham, who has become a horrible and violent image of desperation rather than the gold-digging and selfish playboy from Pride and Prejudice. It was the changes made to Wickham that allowed for the author's turn-of-events toward the end of the book, filling the story with action, violence, and a psychic premonition that made little sense with the earlier tone of the novel. And then, as if to bring her work back to where she began, Winslow promptly pairs off and marries all but one single person in the epilogue--even the more minor characters. I'm always hesitant to say that I didn't like a book, especially when I can appreciate the writing style and can tell from the prologue how much the author cares about her book and its inspiration (as is the case with The Darcys of Pemberley), but I did not like this book. Some of you may know from past reviews how hard it is for me to enjoy sequels to my beloved classics, so let me encourage you to take my review with a grain of salt. If you enjoy "sequels" to Pride and Prejudice, read this one! It seems like it might be better from a different perspective.

This is my second "TBR Pile" choice for the 2014 Book Bingo Challenge. I hope you all can forgive such an unhappy review (I always try to be honest with you), and I also hope you are reading lots of lovely books right now! Don't forget to subscribe and check back on my blog for new, hopefully happier reviews in the near future!