Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Raven Review: Kill Me Softly by Sarah Cross

All reviews in October that have a "Halloween" feel are labeled Raven Reviews 

Kill Me Softly by Sarah Cross

Raven Review by Lauren

Source: personal copy; all opinions are my own

Official Summary: Mirabelle’s past is shrouded in secrecy, from her parents’ tragic deaths to her guardians’ half-truths about why she can’t return to her birthplace, Beau Rivage. Desperate to see the town, Mira runs away a week before her sixteenth birthday—and discovers a world she never could have imagined.

In Beau Rivage, nothing is what it seems—the strangely pale girl with a morbid interest in apples, the obnoxious playboy who’s a beast to everyone he meets, and the chivalrous guy who has a thing for damsels in distress. Here, fairy tales come to life, curses are awakened, and ancient stories are played out again and again.

But fairy tales aren’t pretty things, and they don’t always end in happily ever after. Mira has a role to play, a fairy-tale destiny to embrace or resist. As she struggles to take control of her fate, Mira is drawn into the lives of two brothers with fairy-tale curses of their own ... brothers who share a dark secret. And she’ll find that love, just like fairy tales, can have sharp edges and hidden thorns.

Review: First off, I really liked this book and I thought it was a quick, imaginative read. At the same time, I can see people getting frustrated with Mira. I know I did. She is thrust into this new world where fairy tales are real, and they aren't always beautiful, so she's understandably confused and seeking answers. However, she also ignores a lot of well-meaning advice, even when proof is shown to her that she is doing the wrong thing. I just wanted to shake her and tell her to wake up before you get hurt! I guess it wouldn't be much of a journey if Mira always did the right thing though.

I loved how Mira met a variety of people who are fated to play out fairy tale roles. Some of them are excited about it, like a boy named Freddie, while others are afraid, like a girl named Viv. I won't tell you the curses these teenagers are afflicted with because figuring it out is half the fun. As is probably obvious, Mira belongs among this group. I think her fairy tale curse is a bit obvious, but again, I'll let you learn that on your own!

That what we want - what we're willing to fight for - matters as much as, or more than, our curse."
p. 167

As for the two brothers mentioned in the summary, that would be Blue and Felix. Both of them share the same curse, except Blue seems unwilling to give into his and is desperate for Mira to stay away from his brother. The aforementioned annoyance with Mira definitely occurs during these encounters. In time, though, Mira's eyes are opened to the true reality she now lives in, but is it too late for her and those she loves?

The book is in third-person point of view, following Mira, with a few moments of Blue's perspective. I think this worked well. Mira might be in the dark about a lot of things, but some of it are things you can still try and work out on your own. As for Blue, his moments show you more of his curse and how it affected him, which also helps you understand Felix in a way.

Kill Me Softly is a great book for this time of year, but it's also great for anyone fascinated by the dark side of fairy tales.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Cover Reveal: Vitamins and Death by Medeia Sharif


YA Contemporary, Prizm Books

Release Date December 10, 2014

Deidra Battle wants nothing more than to be invisible. After her mother, a public school teacher, engages in an embarrassing teacher-student affair at Lincoln High, they relocate to a different neighborhood and school. Being her mother’s briefcase, Deidra joins her mother at her new workplace, Hodge High.

Since her mother has reverted to her maiden name and changed her appearance, Deidra thinks no one will figure out they’re the Battles from recent news and that they’re safe. Neither of them is. Hodge brings a fresh set of bullies who discover details about the scandal that changed her life.

Feeling trapped at home with an emotionally abusive, pill-addicted mother and at school with hostile classmates who attempt to assault and blackmail her, Deidra yearns for freedom, even if she has to act out of character and hurt others in the process. Freedom comes at a price.

Find Medeia

Monday, October 20, 2014

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

Review by Lauren

Source: library copy; all opinions are my own

Official Summary: At birth, Ella is inadvertently cursed by an imprudent young fairy named Lucinda, who bestows on her the "gift" of obedience. Anything anyone tells her to do, Ella must obey. Another girl might have been cowed by this affliction, but not feisty Ella: "Instead of making me docile, Lucinda's curse made a rebel of me. Or perhaps I was that way naturally." When her beloved mother dies, leaving her in the care of a mostly absent and avaricious father, and later, a loathsome stepmother and two treacherous stepsisters, Ella's life and well-being seem to be in grave peril. But her intelligence and saucy nature keep her in good stead as she sets out on a quest for freedom and self-discovery as she tries to track down Lucinda to undo the curse, fending off ogres, befriending elves, and falling in love with a prince along the way.

Review: I read Ella Enchanted for my children's literature course when we focused on fairy tales. Levine's novel is a different take on the Cinderella story. While there are many similarities between this book and the Cinderella you know from the Disney version, Ella is more feisty and capable of taking care of herself. She does eventually fall for a prince but they do get to know each other beforehand. They see the good and bad within each other.

Ella's circumstances are not fun. She is cursed her whole life with obedience, meaning she must do whatever people tell her to do. Most are not aware of the curse, but when the knowledge enters the wrong hands, it adds even more trouble to Ella's life. More than anything she wants to find Lucinda, the fairy who cursed her, so that she can gain control of her life instead of being pushed around by her absent father and new step-family.

This book is full of magical creatures, curses, fairies, and ultimately, the blessing of true love. Levine has created a version of Cinderella that truly celebrates being true to oneself.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Swapoween Blog Reveal!!!

Chaotic Goddess' Swapoween has ended, and I am here to share the lovely items that I got from my new blog friend. I was paired with Jennifer from Innerworkings of the Female Mind. As I post this, she hasn't posted what I got her yet, but here is what she got me!

Jennifer told me that she really loved decorations, so we ended up getting some similar items for each other. I also sent her some fun Halloween decorations and a koozie! My fun koozie (Witches Brew) even glows in the dark, as does one of my sticker sets.

I have the felt pumpkins on my fire place right now, and the wooden pumpkin set in the back (they are connected) is in my dining room. As for the Halloween bag, I currently have that in the kitchen. The candle next to it is a cookie scent. I'm not using it yet, but I will be! I also have some fun stickers, a grow your own pumpkin kit, and a Halloween Scare in Washington book since that is where Jennifer is from. I love the book; it's so cute and such a nice touch!

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo

The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo 

Review by Lauren

Source: library copy; all opinions are my own

Official Summary: Welcome to the story of Despereaux Tilling, a mouse who is in love with music, stories, and a princess named Pea. It is also the story of a rat called Roscuro, who lives in the darkness and covets a world filled with light. And it is the story of Miggery Sow, a slow-witted serving girl who harbors a simple, impossible wish. These three characters are about to embark on a journey that will lead them down into a horrible dungeon, up into a glittering castle, and, ultimately, into each other's lives. What happens then? As Kate DiCamillo would say: Reader, it is your destiny to find out.

Review: This was another novel that I was assigned for my children's literature course. I saw the movie back when it was released, but I had never read the book. I'm glad to finally have had the chance to do so, though, because the story is really cute. It follows a few different points of view to give an overall fairy-tale like story.

Throughout the book there are some black and white drawings depicting certain scenes, which was a nice touch. This would be a great book to read aloud as DiCamillo often addresses the readers. She asks them questions and tells them to imagine moments. It's a nice way to get them involved and further interested in the story.

I love that DiCamillo explains the emotions of the characters in the book. Even if they do not always behave well, she helps the readers understand where they are coming from.

A cute book overall!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Raven Review: Horns by Joe Hill

During the month of October, I am calling all "Halloween" type books Raven Reviews.

Raven Review: Horns by Joe Hill

Review by Lauren

Source: copy from library; all opinions are my own 

Official Summary: At first Ig thought the horns were a hallucination, the product of a mind damaged by rage and grief. He had spent the last year in a lonely, private purgatory, following the death of his beloved, Merrin Williams, who was raped and murdered under inexplicable circumstances. A mental breakdown would have been the most natural thing in the world. But there was nothing natural about the horns, which were all too real.

Once the righteous Ig had enjoyed the life of the blessed: born into privilege, the second son of a renowned musician and younger brother of a rising late-night TV star, he had security, wealth, and a place in his community. Ig had it all, and more—he had Merrin and a love founded on shared daydreams, mutual daring, and unlikely midsummer magic.

But Merrin's death damned all that. The only suspect in the crime, Ig was never charged or tried. And he was never cleared. In the court of public opinion in Gideon, New Hampshire, Ig is and always will be guilty because his rich and connected parents pulled strings to make the investigation go away. Nothing Ig can do, nothing he can say, matters. Everyone, it seems, including God, has abandoned him. Everyone, that is, but the devil inside. . . .

Now Ig is possessed of a terrible new power to go with his terrible new look—a macabre talent he intends to use to find the monster who killed Merrin and destroyed his life. Being good and praying for the best got him nowhere. It's time for a little revenge. . . . It's time the devil had his due. . .

Review: The official summary for this book is quite long, so I will try not to waste a lot of time describing actual moments from the book. Instead, I just want you all to know that I absolutely loved this book. I've been wanting to read something by Joe Hill for awhile now (I even own Heart-Shaped Box) but it took realizing that the movie adaptation is fast approaching for me to grab a copy of Horns from the library. I'm a huge fan of Dan Radcliffe and I try and see anything he is in, so I was excited to learn he would be playing the title character, Ig, in the movie. After reading the book, I know it will be quite a departure for him but he looks great in the trailers!

Ig (Dan Radcliffe) and Merrin (Juno Temple) 
Anyway, back to the novel. Horns follows the third-person point of view of Ig Perrish whose girlfriend was raped and killed. Ig was was never charged, but most of the people where he lives seems to believe he did it. When Ig develops the horns, he finds that touching people will show him terrible things they have done, and he can often persuade people to do bad or dark things. In all, though, Ig is not a bad guy. It's interesting to see him manifest physically into the devil because there are still so many aspects of his personality that do not match up. Yes, he is capable of bad things. Yes, he does carry out some of these wishes. At the same time, he cares about people. He gets his feelings hurt, especially learning people's dark secrets concerning him.

Ig (Dan Radcliffe) and Terry Perrish (Joe Anderson) 
Horns allows you to see back in time, to learn how Ig grew up, how he and Merrin met and fell in love. It also gives you background information about other characters that is very much necessary for the story. Horns is difficult to talk about because everyone has a secret. I will tell you that the mystery of Merrin's death does not remain a secret for too long; at least concerning who killed her that night. From there, it is a dark path that Ig takes in terms of learning the truth and figuring out just what he wants to do with that power.

Finally, for those that are not aware, Joe Hill is the son of Stephen King. I tell you this in case you are a fan of King's and it helps you become more interested in Joe Hill's work. As of now, I have read one book by each of these men, and to be honest, I'm far more interested in reading more by Hill at the moment than King.

And now, for those who are interested, here is one of the Horns trailers. Horns is released in theaters on Halloween (Oct. 31).

Monday, October 13, 2014

Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

Review by Lauren

Source: personal copy; all opinions are my own

Official Summary: Hopeless romantic Isla has had a crush on introspective cartoonist Josh since their first year at the School of America in Paris. And after a chance encounter in Manhattan over the summer, romance might be closer than Isla imagined. But as they begin their senior year back in France, Isla and Josh are forced to confront the challenges every young couple must face, including family drama, uncertainty about their college futures, and the very real possibility of being apart.

Review: This is the last book in what I dub the "Anna trilogy" only because Anna and the French Kiss came first. These are all companion novels instead of straight sequels, though I would suggest reading the girl's stories in order (Anna, Lola, and Isla). I think the title of this book is perfect because it's a 'happily ever after' in all different ways. It's for the characters, for the readers, and for the author too, I hope!

Out of these three books, I think Isla is one of my favorites. It's hard to say no to Anna because she was the first, but Isla is definitely above Lola. I love all three girls and their stories, but I think I relate to Isla the most. I know what it's like to be scared of new things. I know what it's like to fall for someone but you can only watch them from afar. Of course, my crushes don't really lead where Isla's does, but if the book followed my life, it would be quiet a dull story indeed!

I also really loved the locations in this book since it spans three different countries. You get NYC, New York; Paris, France; and Barcelona, Spain. These are all places that both Isla and Josh visit together, and we get to journey with them, learning little details that have me dying to travel.

While Isla and the rest of the books might focus on a romance, they are more than that. For Isla, it's
 also about growing up and deciding where she wants to go and who she wants to be. It's about Josh allowing himself to be free of familial expectations, yet also take advantage of his own talents and goals. I love that Josh can draw and that he loves comics. I love that he's smart, yet pretends not to be. These two aren't always easy on each other, but they are meant to be. Just like these books and me were meant to be.

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