Wednesday, 25 January 2012

A-tissue, a-tissue, we all fall down!

 Book review for Cinder by Marissa Meyer
 A forbidden Romance. 
A deadly Plague. 
Earth's fate hinges on one girl.

Cinder, a gifted mechanic in New Beijing is also a cyborg. She's reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister's sudden illness. But when her life becomes entwined with the handsome Prince Kai's she finds herself at the centre of a violent struggle between the desires of an evil queen - and a dangerous temptation.
Cinder is caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal. Now she must uncover secrets about her mysterious past in order to protect the Earth's future.
This is not the fairytale you remember. 
But it's one you won't forget.

When I first heard about Cinder, I immediately thought it was going to be another gimmick. There are so many books out there that claim to rewrite fairytales in a ‘new and different way’. Yeah. Nine times out of ten, I can’t get past the first chapter.

 This is that other time.

 Now, as a general rule, I go into reading a book with a lot of skepticism. This may not be the best way to enter someone else’s fantasy world but when a book manages to get past that tough outlook, I know it’s going to be a keeper.
 And man, is Cinder a keeper.

I am well aware this book came out a few months ago but as a lover of Grimm’s fairytales (and dare I say this, even Disney’s Cinderella doesn’t quite reach the mark), I have very high standards on any and all adaptations. I hadn’t even planned to buy it in the near future so I think this is the first time I’ve been thankful Charlestown Square didn’t have the book I wanted – and trust me when I say only time. If they’d had The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, I still wouldn’t have read this book. 

My review:

At face value: I love the cover. Stars above, I love it. The red shoe is actually like a pair I have.

Immediate Reaction: OMFG Give ME the Next One Now! It’s finished? OMIGOD Noooooo! Evil, twisted universe, ARGH! (Can you tell I kind of liked it?)

High Five: Very, very close. Oh, so close. Four and a half and that’s purely because I’m a picky bitch.

Favourite Quote: Had to include this one. Out of context, probably doesn’t have the same effect but trust me; my heart broke.

“She was just a mechanic, and he was the prince with all the charms she pretended to be immune to. And he was there, before her, while she tottered on a single foot and tried to calm her rapidly beating heart. How she could barely meet his gaze. How he leaned forward, forced her to see him, smiled.
That moment. That smile.
Again and again and again.”

Cinder is based on the brother’s Grimm fairytale (duh!) and was a seriously awesome read. I wasn’t looking forward to all the parallels but thank God Meyer (Marissa, not Stephanie) didn’t overdo it. I think that’s what I was most worried about. Each time something cropped up to remind me of the fairytale it was like a little hug as opposed to a punch in the face. It was subtle, artistic, and the little quotes from the original story were a nice touch. 

The first few pages really made me step back a little from the book – our main character is a cyborg? – I didn’t know if I could get past that one. But as soon as that thought entered my mind, Meyer distracted me with a very pretty, very shiny object. And no I don’t mean Cinder’s new foot. I mean Kai, of course. Prince Kai. His Imperial Highness. His Imperial Swoonworthy, ‘I’m so hot I’m about to burn through these pages’ Kai. 

The first chapter impressed me, the next, say, four were ‘okay’, but once I picked the book up again from that little break I couldn’t put it down. I finally finished the book last night and couldn’t believe it was 2am. The last time I stayed up for a book was my overnight read of Frostbite/Shadow Kiss. That was about three years ago.

Let’s talk about Cinder, our awesome main character. This is a girl with no idea where she came from, no idea how to fit in with the humans around her, and no idea how to please her ‘evil stepmother’. Cinder goes through a massive period of self-discovery and I actually cared about the results. Plus, the girl is a mechanic. Umm, hello? I love, love, love that she is so bloody smart at this and so dang clueless about everything else. She isn’t one of those obnoxious characters that seem to know everything.

Now, I suppose I should mention here a little thing called the Letumosis plague that is tearing through New Beijing. It’s a pretty big part of the plot and kind of pushes it along. I should also probably mention a character who is so deliciously evil and twisted and SO NOT 2-DIMENSIONAL that I fell in love with her and hated her all at the same time. Queen Levana gets under my skin as much as the characters' and as far as antagonists go, I only hope one day I can write one just as convincingly. 

As Cinder and Kai gradually (key word here) fall in love, as the odds are stacked up against them, as things become almost impossibly impossible I tore through this book. I could feel the pages shrinking beneath my fingers and as desperately as I didn’t want it to end, I didn’t want to stop reading. Cinder reeled me in hook, line, and stinky, slimy sinker. The emotions seeped into me in a very real way and as the ending approached I went through the same desperation that Cinder did, and I’m pretty sure my heart broke with hers.

So why didn’t Cinder get a high five, you ask? 

My main problems with this book (and they are incredibly insignificant) are firstly, the dialogue between Cinder, her stepmother, Adri, and one of her stepsisters, Pearl. There’s little-to-no emotion in these conversations and I really hope Adri and Pearl don’t make it into the next book. Can I get a sword blade for these two please?

Secondly, there are two key parts in this book and for the sake of spoilers; I’m going to call them ‘Peony’s resolution’ and ‘THE BIG SCENE’. Now, Peony’s resolution and THE BIG SCENE really should have been emotional on so many different levels (and planets) however, at these key moments, the writing became unclear. I had to reread Peony’s part to work out what had actually happened and THE BIG SCENE, I couldn’t quite follow for a couple of lines so I made it up in my head. Also, I was so friggen into what was happening, I didn’t want to jump back and reread.

Lastly, and this is not so much a complaint but a side note, the massive cliffhanger OMIGOD moment, really wasn’t so unexpected. I think just before the halfway point I picked up on what was coming and just past the halfway point I was 99.9% positive it was coming. But with that said, the ending was amazingly awesome.
And the last lines… perfect way to end a book.

I am officially a Marissa Meyer fan girl, and now I’m off to buy Cinder in Spanish. Because that cover is WAY TOO cool. Just like Kai ;)

Friday, 20 January 2012

Work/Very-Little-Life Balance

From what I assume, this is something every writer struggles with; I sure as hell do. It’s hard enough holding a full-time job and keeping up with your mates but when you throw writing a book on top of that – let alone uni – crap gets complicated.

And that’s the predicament I’m in.

Currently, I am fiercely battling two rivals over the control of a kingdom, ahem, store. This means a minimum of ten-hour shifts and extreme CONSTANT VIGILANCE. My diet consists of inhaled coffee and whatever is within reaching distance and fits into my mouth in a single bite. I have also been given a task to complete outside of work that I have no idea how to start and my boss’s instructions are, ‘I’m not sure what I want, but I need you to do it’. Yeah… thanks.

I have a month and a half until I start uni part time, which is going to halve my free time at the very least. By then I will hopefully be running my own store, which will have my stress to the maximum already.

I have Jenna to write and edit, her query to attempt (and attempt, and attempt), and then I need to research any and all literary agents that might, on the off chance, potentially consider her story. Maybe.

I have a wedding to plan. My thirteen months has shrunk to ten and I’m freaking just a little bit. The full-steam-ahead attitude has slowly trickled away to nothing but a bunch of dreams that are scaring the procrastination out of me.

So because I don’t have enough to do I am writing this blog. I am nothing, if not a queen, of prioritizing. I just happen to place a higher importance on the things I shouldn’t.

I think I have reached a pretty significant time of change. I seriously need to work out this whole ‘time management’ thing that everyone keeps telling me about. But sticking to a plan, for me, is way too constrictive. And there’s also the whole needing time to make a plan thing that seems to defeat the purpose.

My organisational skills are lacking, my room looks like the slums of a dystopian novel, I haven’t washed my brand new car since I bought it and my eyes feel like cotton balls from severe sleep deprivation. And all this is going to get worse?

Currently I have a 2012 calendar on the door to my room so it’s staring me in the fricken face. I have set deadlines for the things I want to achieve and certain benchmarks I need to get to. I have, not so much resolutions as goals, that I’m aiming for this year but I’m one of those people that demands perfection in everything I do. I know I need to let up the reins a little and take that tight band out of my goddamn hair but it’s really friggen hard. And the days I don’t write, I feel like my brain is going to implode.

So I ask you, for the sake of my sanity, how do you do it? What techniques have you found that work/don’t work? What outside factors are you up against?

Help me. Please. Because although I like reading about fantasy characters, I’m not interested in becoming a zombie. There’s just something about the whole ‘rotting skin’ thing that doesn’t do it for me…

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Legen-wait for it-dary!

Book review for Legend by Marie Lu

Once known as the western coast of the United States, the Republic is now a nation perpetually at war with its neighbors, the Colonies.
Born into an elite family in one of the Republic's wealthiest districts, fifteen-year-old June is a military prodigy. Obedient, passionate, and committed to her country, she is being groomed for success in the Republic's highest circles.
Born into the slums of the Republic's Lake Sector, fifteen-year-old Day is the country's most wanted criminal. But his motivations may not be as malicious as they seem.
From very different worlds, June and Day have no reason to cross paths - until the day June's brother, Metias, is murdered, and Day becomes the prime suspect. Now, caught in the ultimate game of cat and mouse, Day is in a race for his family's survival, while June tries desperately to avenge Metias's death.
But in a shocking turn of events, the two uncover the truth of what has really brought them together, and the sinister lengths to which their country will go to keep its secrets.
So by now if you haven't heard of this book, you're pretty much living with your head shoved in the sand. Or in the cloud of a dust bomb. Way before the paperback even hit the shelves, there was so much hype I have no idea how Marie Lu is still sane (obviously based on the assumption she is). The movies rights have already been sold to CBS (one of the top ranking television networks), and Penguin had practically sold the SHIZ out of this book already.
And to be honest, when a book has this much hype, I'm determined to hate it. I don't know why but when someone recommends a book to me saying 'this book is the ultimate awesomeness' and 'I've never laughed/cried/loved/*insert adjective here* a book as much as this one', and worse still 'you have to buy this' (cue shoving in hands and nudging towards the registers), I do everything in my power to avoid the damn thing. I get this certain stubborn streak that IS GOOD FOR NOTHING, but I just can't help it. So, with all this in mind, I dragged my feet through BIG W, feeling as though everyone was waiting for me to pick up the book so they could point, judge, laugh at me, and bought it. 
On release day.
And... I didn't hate it.
My Review...

At Face Value: I probably would've picked it up based on the cover alone, but it would have ended up unread, on my shelf with countless others. 

Immediate Reaction: Like most 'first' books, the ending wrapped up nicely. But it didn't leave me wanting more. I can wait for the next book.

High Five: First half, a four. Second, a three.

 Let me start off by saying this book's premise is no where near original; it was inspired by Les Miserables and contains a very Romeo and Juliet love story. That said, no story is original these days and Lu develops her characters and world to a height that makes Legend stand alone.

 Legend is told from the perspectives of both main characters, June and Day in alternating chapters but instead of letting her character's voice come through, either Lu or Razorbill decided to give them different fonts. This helps simplify who's who but was bloody annoying to begin with (mainly because I'm just a little picky and seriously didn't like Day's font. It made me want to punch him for looking like a Goosebumps novel). 
June is tough, stoic, and at times, annoyed me with her 'I'm so much smarter than everyone else' mentality that the Republic has basically stamped her with. But she becomes more emotionally driven towards the end. And she kicks arse. Day is a 'rebel' but to be honest, the crimes everyone is in a tizzy about are pretty underwhelming. At first, I didn't understand why they were so crazed to catch a fifteen-year-old that had gone a little wild with the spray paint but Lu makes it work. And suddenly there is a REASON I can go with.
 As I was reading this book, I put it down a couple of times for ridiculous things like work, food, coffee but where ever I went the characters followed me so I have to give Lu kudos for that. It's not often another author's characters push my own out of the way but the struggles June and Day are put through (I love when authors don't baby their characters), were enough to keep me wondering. There was emotional connection with the characters which I haven't found in a few books I've read lately and I fell in love with Metias (June's wicked cool big brother) who literally existed for all of about one chapter. DEVASTATED. MUCH.

I loved Day's break in to the hospital, I loved little Tess (can I have a baby sister like her, please?) and I loved Kaede whose vine tattoo sounds seriously awesome. I think Thomas could have been developed more and I well and truly loathed Commander Jameson (which was pretty much the point); really though, someone needs to sword-blade that woman's eye. The idea of the Elector Primo was also awesome and his son, mentioned way briefly was actually someone I remembered and hope will play a bigger part in the sequel.

 My main complaint though, and the reason the book didn't get a high five (especially in the second half), was things seemed a little too coincidental. Now, I get that there are coincidences in all books - mostly they're the catalyst or a way for the plot to move forward - but some of the things were a little too easy. Like, I can buy into how Day was at the same Skiz fight June was, but I don't buy into the 'numbers' he finds in places he's been at a gazillion times before. My first thought was "some high-risk criminal, his observation skills clearly need work" and I'm pretty sure that wasn't the reaction Lu intended. I can also buy into June being some super-smart freak of a girl, but I don't care how many times I read it, her figuring out the anagram that leads her to a super secret website will never make sense to me. NEVER.

 Overall, if you can get past these little nuances that my picky brain just won't move on from, and you like Dystopian novels, you'll love the shiz out of Legend. It's crazy-fast paced, has some hotter than hot characters and gives the sense of danger in just about every choice. Throw in some OMG shocks, a little bit of loving, and someone getting their head blasted off and I'm pretty sure it covers all bases. 

 It also makes me really want to write a Dystopian novel.

Friday, 13 January 2012

Black Friday

 It's the first Black Friday in a long time. So I'm using this 'first' to get off my butt and actually start writing my first post. I've been told a lot that you never know what your blog is going to be about until you write the darn thing so I guess I have to start eventually.

 To be honest, I've never been a 'blogger'. Maintaining two Facebook pages (personal and author) is hard work enough. Then there's the books on top of that. Seems like a whole lot of words to me. But I'm determined, some day down that long and treacherous road, to be published. And not self-published either because I don't care what people say, that kind of feels like cheating to me.

 I guess, if you're reading this, you may want to know a little about me. Then again, maybe not, but I'm going to tell you anyway. Because this is my blog. So ner.

 Firstly, I'm a nerd. No, I don't wear glasses (I kind of wish I did), but I read a hell of a lot and always have. I love the classics, I love fantasy, I love dystopian and I love chick lit so I guess I'll probably try my hand at some reviews. I don't love cook books unless they have some way of cooking the food for you. In my mind, they are just a tease.

I guess second, I should probably tell you now, I will talk about my books a lot. So don't say you haven't been warned. I love my characters, I love their settings, I love to write all the time. I don't love to torture my protags and kill off my characters but I do it anyway. Because it has to be done.

If I get the opportunity to travel, I am out of here. I can't think of any exception to that statement. I have a fiancee, he works with trains. I also have a kitten Maxi (who likes to use me as a scratching post) and a Shit-zu x Maltese called Stella. She is an angel. Except when she won't stop barking at four am FOR NO FRIGGEN REASON. Same goes for any hour past midnight and before eight.

Gossip Girls episodes will also be ripped apart on here I'm sure. Unless Chuck and Blair finally get back together. Then they will be praised above all else and I will not hear a bad word about them.

I'm well aware a blog takes a LONG-arse time to get off the ground but if you are anything like me (or completely opposite), let's be friends.

Because that's the last thing you need to know about me; I'm a good friend to have.