Ostensibly and really, unless you think about it, Just Ella is a re-telling of the Cinderella. However, as one of my fellow seminar participants pointOstensibly and really, unless you think about it, Just Ella is a re-telling of the Cinderella. However, as one of my fellow seminar participants pointed out, when a tale has done away with everything that has to do with fairies and all other things that make up a fairy tale (for reference purposes, consult Propp's Fairy Tale morphology) does it still remain a fairy tale? Or has it somehow transcended mediums to become just a tale. Just Ella.
We read this after we read Ella Enchanted so there were comparisons between the two.
This is not really a review but more of a discussion so please bear with me.
We had problems with Ella. One of the students pointed out that she doesn't really give the culture, the world a chance and instead rebels against every single thing. She doesn't have a dream of her own. She has no passion - except for the prince and that soon dies out. She is whiny, judgmental and...well, very much like a teenager. Which is all very good except that she is referred to as a woman instead of a fifteen year old as she truly is.
I realize that the book is written meant for teens and of course it will be scissored to suit the market but what is up with the prince? I understand that the author is probably trying to make a point but I believe, as a reader, that this point would have been more effectively made if he had not been portrayed as this psychopathic person who has no thoughts and no personality of his own. Even if he were portrayed as a villain or more interestingly as someone Ella ended up being friends with but had no passion for - I believe those scenarios had so much more potential than what we got.
Jedd. The Priest-To-Be who less Charming than Prince Charming. The guy encourages Ella to talk to the prince in the hopes of ingratiating himself in the prince's good books (and as his wallet) - he encourages Ella to sweet talk him in bed. I wonder if this is before or after he falls in love - no, this must be after because he does say that he falls in love at first sight. I would have much rather have Ella end up single and wiser than end up with Jed.
The book perpetuates the standards of beauty that, as a society, we should be wary of. Is that the message we want to send to our kids? Being thin is in and being fat makes you ugly? Unhealthy yes, but ugly? And someone else pointed out that Ella's unwillingness to accept her beauty encourages girls who should really take compliments with a confident smile to think that all compliments are lies and not really meant. I thought that was poorly done.
On the whole (because I'm getting tired) Just Ella took Cinderella and tried to tell it from a modern perspective, infusing the narrative with thoughts and ideas prevalent today. However, because it is such a cynical reinterpretation, instead of representing magic in a different way, all it does is rain on the parade. There are attempts - such as the obvious theme of "girl power" but these do fall short when in the end it is Jed who is doing something to end the war while Ella is away in some refugee camp waiting for him to come back to her....more
Out of all the Austen novels I have read (and I’ve read them all excepting Mansfield Park which was too painful), I believe I like this one best. It iOut of all the Austen novels I have read (and I’ve read them all excepting Mansfield Park which was too painful), I believe I like this one best. It is fairly straightforward and there’s an elegance in Austen’s prose that makes the story flow much better than say in Mansfield Park. I feel a bit ridiculous talking about Austen’s writing since she’s easily one of the most revered writers out there but I, as you may know, prefer Charlotte Bronte over Austen. Anyway, Persuasion is a pastoral story about second chances and (tepid) true love. It’s rather didactic – actually, it is really didactic and Anne’s goodness is rather grating. But that’s just me being a modern reader.
The thing about all of Austen’s novels is the incessant dialogues/discussions which, I suppose, aim to further her “scathing commentary on society and its philistine ways” but honestly? It just makes me wish she’d get on with the story.
Don’t watch the movie. The latest one. It ruins the novel. Takes away certain parts that are quite important to the narrative as a whole and turns the story into a (bad) retelling. My personal opinion? Persuasion is the most palatable of all Austen’s novels so if Mr. Darcy turns you off, read Persuasion....more
Let me start off by saying that I loved Cate Tiernan’s Sweep series. I must have read them more than a dozen times. Okay, I loved them all except forLet me start off by saying that I loved Cate Tiernan’s Sweep series. I must have read them more than a dozen times. Okay, I loved them all except for the last book where the main character gets old. Afraid of my mortality? Who me? No, of course not. But anyway, point is, I like Cate Tiernan’s writing. I like her characterizations and, most of all, I like her plotting. Suffice it to say that she’s mostly brilliant in my opinion. So when I found out that there was a new book coming out by her, I was excited. Because, hello, awesome books will make for awesome reading. Okay, potentially awesome. I didn’t get to read it until some months after it was released but before that I read some reviews and they were mostly of the mixed variety. I was not really perturbed. Reading is so subjective. But I finally did read it and let me say this: It was awesome.
I love, love, love flawed characters. I know they walk a thin line where they can easily become unlikeable but I felt Tiernan created Nastasya with just the right mix of spunk and irreverence. What she has been through, what she has experienced and seen does justify her attitudes. And she is irreverent, even caustic at times, very bratty but the reader senses early on that this attitude is a front she has nailed into place so that she is not vulnerable to the world and it’s many ways of hurting her. Is she annoying? I certainly didn’t think so. Her voice is fresh and compelling and her unwilling acceptance of her own imperfections are paired with just the right amount of disgruntlement that you can’t help but be won over.
Tiernan has proved herself a master of weaving mythology through her narrative flawlessly. As she did with the Sweep series, she does so again with Immortal Beloved. The “immortals” are becoming a popular trope in both adult and YA paranormal novels and, like every other thing that is regurgitated endlessly, there is a potential for this theme to be overused. However, I like how Tiernan does not gloss over the negative side of what it means to live forever. She doesn’t romanticize the whole issue either. I won’t go so far as to say that it was wholly realistic, it is a YA paranormal novel after all, but I will say that it was tinged with a lot more realism than many books dealing with the same things. Nastasya has been married, she has been a mother, a widow – she has had multiple lifetimes and these things are bound to change a person’s perceptions of the world – I am not sure you can even call her a YA heroine. However, she does retain a sharp wit, an understanding of her own self and that vulnerability that is so reminiscent of the teenage years.
On to the love interest. Reyn. There is no, “he is perfect, I want to knit him woolly scarves” kind of vibe here. There’s attraction, of course. Lots and lots of attraction. The kind that will have you fanning yourself or choking back a laugh at one of Nastasya’s wry remarks. But the attraction is tempered by many other issues which are remain important despite being historical. I like Reyn. Nastasya likes…well, I wouldn’t say she likes him but she does uh…like him. Yes. Anyway, he is an intriguing love interest.
Other characters. Nastasya’s “friends” remain interesting though largely absent in the story. I am sort of glad about that because they seem like people beings I wouldn’t want to have contact with. Obviously Nastasya is going to need to confront them, perhaps in the next book but until then, they remain psychotic. Other characters at the “rehab” station that Nastasya ends up at are interesting. They are shadowy though and ambiguous but since the story is told in first person, I am not too concerned about it. Nastasya’s voice is loud enough.
Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I loved the idea of a rehab for immortal beings, being brought back to nature, trying to find value in time again when they have so much of it. I like Nastasya’s prickly composition and Reyn’s dense stoic self. The mythology is well constructed and the setting is detailed. I think you should give this book a chance if you haven’t done so already. If nothing else, you’ll enjoy a laugh or two or many. I know I can’t wait for the next one in the trilogy....more
So, as is my wont, I’ve been reading some of the more negative reviews on the book over at Goodreads and I must say that I disagree with them. All ofSo, as is my wont, I’ve been reading some of the more negative reviews on the book over at Goodreads and I must say that I disagree with them. All of them. Because I totally loved the book. People have called the book (amongst other things) “boring” and claimed that they have stopped reading after page two. You know, if you can’t manage to finish at least half the book, you have no right to “review” it because the word suggests that you have read the book enough to synthesize a well informed opinion on it that is justified. Sorry for the tangent, it just annoys me so much when people don’t read the entire book and presume to know everything about it. I mean, I’ve given up halfway through for some books and I have reviewed them because I figure if the book cannot reel me in by the time it’s done halfway, it never will. Anyway. Moving on.
This book was awesome in so many ways. I liked how the story starts off slow but gains momentum gradually until things are happening and they are happening fast. While I liked Sydelle a lot, the main attraction for me was North. He was a real person instead of a collection of stereotypes in a nice sparkly shell. He had his flaws, oh did he ever, but he was so damned endearing that you can’t help but accept him, warts and all. And no, there never was a moment where you get a prickly conflicted sense which signals that while the romantic stupid girl in you is kinda touched, the woman in you is pissed off. Thank God for that.Very often, I have noticed in my readings that the heroes, or the love interests in the YA novels I usually read are not really people. I mean, they are perfect projections of people but not real in the sense that you may recognize them instantly as that annoying but cute boy who sits beside you in Korean. That’s why North was such a pleasure to read. Being real and all.
I thought the story was well constructed. The author knew the exact amount of detail to put in so that envisioning the surroundings and the settings was easy without being overwhelming about the colour of the sky for instance (it’s blue but not a big blue, a small blue, like the little forget me nots early in the morning). The side characters were well created and the ending was satisfying. I just wish it was the first one in a series but unfortunately, it’s not. Unless, hopefully, maybe, the author changes her mind. Anyway, if you haven’t read this, don’t pay any attention to the negative reviews and read it. Make up your own mind because they’ll tell you no and I’m telling you that you’d be a fool not to....more
I was recommended this novel by a blogging friend and she told me that this laid the foundation for the urban fantasy genre that is so popular today.I was recommended this novel by a blogging friend and she told me that this laid the foundation for the urban fantasy genre that is so popular today. And let me tell you guys, this book? It’s still relevant today. The protagonists and other characters in the novel are slightly older than the usual high school leads of the normal YA genre but this just gives the book a whole new dimension (and more freedom) to develop and explore.
Eddi is an interesting character. She’s layered and complex enough to sustain the narrative and keep it strong without falling into cliches (like being the good girl) or (misunderstood but totally lovable). The mythology is well developed and thought out so that it convinces the reader of its existence. The atmosphere created in the book is tense and anticipatory with periods that are almost startling at their lack of tension. The dialogue is snappy and the dynamics between the characters fun.
There is a love triangle and it’s a very interesting one with the end pairing being one that is very unexpected but very welcome. I don’t have much to say about this book except that it sets high standards for all the books in the genre. In other words, it’s awesome sauce and you should read what started this whole teenage frenzy (no, it wasn’t Twilight)....more
So. Before we continue with this, let me insert a disclaimer to any publishers/authors who might be sniffing around my blog. I want to take this momenSo. Before we continue with this, let me insert a disclaimer to any publishers/authors who might be sniffing around my blog. I want to take this moment to insist that I, despite evidence to the contrary, am not a hater. I love YA novels, particularly paranormal YA (though I am developing a love for contemp YA as the paranormal stuff is becoming regurgitated versions of twilight and other prominent novels) but I like well written books. If I see a problem with a novel, I am going to speak out about it. You are welcome to disagree with me and even say so in a comment. In fact, I welcome a comment. I just hope that you will not mistake my reviews as a vendetta against YA and YA writers or anything of that sort.
Okay. Now that I have inserted that warning and hopefully set the tone of the review, let’s talk about Shadow Hills. I had been looking forward to reading the book for a long while so when I saw it on the shelves at the library, I was excited.
When I started reading and read the character’s name, I immediately stiffened. “Persephone” reminded me of Abandonment and after that debacle, I’m not touching a Greek retelling for a long, long time. But fortune must have been on my side because there was no mention of Hades. Or, well, there was but not John/Henry are not characters in the novel. (Zach is but more on him later.)
Let me talk about the good stuff before I talk about the bad, lest you think I’m too critical. I thought the mythology/paranormality (it’s a new word, I made it up just now) was interesting. It is not entirely original but there is a freshness to it that is refreshing. Especially the insertion of science to explain something that is supernatural. I like that. Works for the logic glutton in me. I also liked the dynamics between the friends. It was well written and I appreciated that pretty girls were friends instead of catfights waiting to home. Of course, there were pretty girls who were horrible but there wasn’t much emphasis on it. If the author had focused more on them than I would have liked the book better but alas, that was not to be.
Persephone is fifteen years old. Her sister died and her parents are too busy being Californians to give a damn about their daughter. (They did pay for the shrinks she had to see after her sister’s death so they’re not that heartless.) (And they are also paying for the fancy boarding school Phe (as she prefers to be called) so that’s saying something too. Not quite heartless.) But anyway, Phe following her dead sister’s mail and dream journal gets herself to Shadow Hills. On the way there, she has a dream about a beautiful boy.
Are you thinking what I’m thinking, Pinky?
OH YES. Insta-love!! Just add girl. And a boy. (Sparkles not mandatory. But really awesomesauce if present.)
Persephone is fifteen years old. She lost her virginity while drunk to a less than nice boy. She was perhaps fourteen when that happened. And that’s okay. Who am I to judge the sexual life of a teenager? See, the problem I have with Persephone is that she acts in ways that, while not as idiotically as others in her cohort, is stupid enough to make a person question her sanity. She gets a call from her teacher to meet him at the back of some building and she goes charging off without telling anyone. Even though she knows it’s not entirely harmless.
There’s also the relationship between Zach and Phe. Yes, I get it. They are teenagers and spilling over with hormones. But this is a novel and I am not reading the story to read them constantly “kissing tenderly” (it’s called a thesaurus, there must be other ways to describe kissing then “tenderly” which was used more than three times to describe the activity in the novel). I understand they are full of passion and all other smexy things towards each other but they act more like they are in their twenties than teenagers. The relationship does not ring true. In fact, it seems rather contrived.
Zach is not much of a character, honestly. Apart from being the Edward to Phe’s Bella, he does nothing but look pretty and try to be a good sidekick to Phe, the Wonder Breaking In and Entering-Er. Because that’s what she does. Sneaks into places to look for evidence…to what I’m not exactly sure. She gets away with it too because she’s a spunky wench like that.
The plot is all over the place. We get told that Phe is this super-special-person who is meant for amazing things. In fact, she is “The One.” I wonder if anyone else got the soundtrack of Matrix playing in their heads when they read that. Anyway, the whole build up to her being The One is all for naught as we are left with no answers about her special powers or the reason her sister was pulled towards Shadow Hills. We don’t even get to meet one of the Banished. They are present as the bogeymen during childhood.
So, in case you haven’t realized it yet, I didn’t like the novel. There were things about it that I liked (like the banter between the side characters) but as a whole, the novel was entirely underwhelming and totally aggravating. The world building and the paranormality could have been developed to be much more interesting than it was and well. Yeah. I won’t be reading the next one in the series. ...more
The Mark was…interesting. I didn’t hate it. I know, I know, it’s not a good sign when all I can say about a book is that I didn’t hate it but honestlyThe Mark was…interesting. I didn’t hate it. I know, I know, it’s not a good sign when all I can say about a book is that I didn’t hate it but honestly, I found the book interesting but at the same time, it wasn’t what I was expecting. The cover leads me to believe that the novel is going to be focused on the supernatural aspect of the story and that is anything but the case. Cassandra can see a glow around people who are going to die. Of course, this is very traumatic as she is living with her grandmother, her parents having been killed in a car accident when she is a baby.
So when her grandmother, too, passes away, Cassandra becomes an orphan totally. Until she finds out that she has an aunt she didn’t know about. With me so far? Okay, good. Cassandra travels to stay with her aunt for about four months or however long until her next birthday and she can claim her inheritance. There she meets this boy who teaches her about well, a lot of thing. I understood that Cassandra was going through a lot of things and I appreciated the difficulty of the question she grapples with: “Should I tell the people that they are going to die?” The boy who becomes her boyfriend fairly quickly is all for it and in fact pushes her to so without seeming to care about the trauma that Cassandra undergoes every time she does so.
He’s a real prince, that guy. I seriously didn’t understand how she could so easily fall into bed with the guy. A Mistake is what he is and well, yes. The book is more about Cassandra dealing with herself, her loss and her discoveries about her mother than “the Mark.” However, there’s a certain weight to the words, a certain melancholy in the prose that will keep you reading even though your forehead will scrunch up and you will wish Cassandra would just not do the stuff she does.
I am going to read the new series but I read the synopsis and there’s another new guy who seems to be yet another mistake. One wonders how many mistakes she will make. ...more
Franny Billingsley has magic in her fingers. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that she has magic in her mind. There are conventional ways tFranny Billingsley has magic in her fingers. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that she has magic in her mind. There are conventional ways to create characters and then there's the Franny B. way. Her protagonists (I've read three of her books so I know what I'm talking about) have this certain quality of otherness. This, how do I say it, unearthliness to them that make all of them just so fascinating to read.
Corinna is no different. The story is told in the first person and from the very beginning, the reader has to take a breath to adapt to the curious manner in which Corinna thinks. You have to sift through her words, through her actions to find the daily-normal life explanations. Some people will find Corinna difficult to relate to. I know I did. Some will find her a bit too honest. But there's something that everyone (albeit unwillingly) will agree to: Corinna is compelling. She is an intriguing character and because she is intriguing, you will read through the book, experiencing (in a slightly diluted manner) the events that lead to the book's conclusion.
I also adore (and I don't use the word often so you know I mean it) the romance in the book. It is mush-free and just sneaks up on you with a subtlety and a delicacy that is a testament to Billingsley's skill. The book, though slim, offers a lot within its pages. The story it tells is, in no way, simple. The complexity is disguised by the enigma of Corinna and the reveal at the end will elicit understanding.
If it wasn't clear before now, I enjoyed this novel. And if you like something different, something other than mush and the run of the mill tortured romance, you should read this. ...more