Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Book Review: Across the Universe

Amy is a cryogenically frozen passenger aboard the vast spaceship Godspeed. She expects to awaken on a new planet, 300 years in the future. But fifty years before Godspeed's scheduled landing, Amy's cryo chamber is unplugged, and she is nearly killed.

Now, Amy is caught inside an enclosed world where nothing makes sense. Godspeed's passengers have forfeited all control to Eldest, a tyrannical and frightening leader, and Elder, his rebellious and brilliant teenage heir.

Amy desperately wants to trust Elder. But should she? All she knows is that she must race to unlock Godspeed's hidden secrets before whoever woke her tries to kill again.

This is the very best kind of book, and that's the kind of book that makes you think! I've been thinking so much, yet I can't describe it's awesomeness. 
It's such a freaky concept, being cryogenically frozen for 300 years just so you can go live on a new planet. I know I could never do it! I'm a wimp!
The whole universe within Godspeed was so strange. It seems so close, and yet so far from what we know of Earth today. It had all the same things we have here, but they've evolved away from the rest of humanity into something utterly unique and kind of creepy. 
This whole book seemed kind of reminiscent of Pixar's WALL-E. All these people take off on a spaceship for a planned amount of time, hoping for a better life, but as time goes on, there is less thought of what lays behind or ahead of them, leaving the ship and it's inhabitants in a dangerous state.
I was on the edge of my seat basically the whole way through. New mysteries kept popping up, trying to puzzle me. Each time another secret was revealed I was in shock every bit as much as the characters, although I must say I suspected the crook right from the start. 
The writing was powerful. It was there to tell a story; to get a point across. Beth certainly knows how to tell her story in such a manner that it grabs the attention of all the readers, and takes them on an unforgettable journey.

So basically, they have a mating season every 20 years where everyone mates. And, it isn't this passionate and private thing, it's very aggressive and empty of emotion, and is done casually in very public places. It's purely hormone driven, with no love involved.  
There is attempted rape. It starts somewhere on page 220 and goes to the end of the chapter. 
I really don't like any of this kind of stuff in my books, but I don't mind it as much in this book because it's important to the plot, not just thrown in there casually trying to attract more readers with unattractive behavior.  
Also, tons of made up curse words which, in my opinion, are just as bad as real ones.  

Read as part of the Read Dystopia Challenge, hosted by Book Journey

Have you signed up for the Fairy Tales Retold Challenge?

Friday, January 27, 2012

Picture Book Reviews!

Picture Books Read in January: 
  • The Three Pigs by David Wiesner
  • The Berenstain Bears: The Bike Lesson by Stan and Jan Berenstain
  • The Berenstain Bears: The Bears' Picnic by Stan and Jan Berenstain
  • The Berenstain Bears: The Bears' Vacation by Stan and Jan Berenstain
  • The Berenstain Bears: Bears in the Night by Stan and Jan Berenstain  
  • Pickle-Chiffon Pie by Jolly Roger Bradfield 

The Three Pigs by David Wiesner
This is such an epic book. Have you seen it? It starts off looking like just another picture book, but once you get past the first couple pages it transforms from a boring book with decent pictures, to a stunning adventure! It definitely deserves that Caldecott Medal!

The Berenstain Bears by Stan and Jan Berenstain
I grew up with these books. My mom would buy them from the thrift store, we'd check them out from the library, and my grandma would have most of them when we visited. And then there were the TV shows when I was older. The point is, I loved the Berenstain Bears.
The Bears' Picnic has always been my favorite. I remember reading it over and over again as a kid, and it was so much fun to read it to my sister who's the same age I was when I first fell in love with the bears.

Pickle-Chiffon Pie  by Jolly Roger Bradfield
I get so sad when I tell people about this book, and they've never heard of it! It's a fully original fairy tale of sorts. It involves a princess, 3 suitors, a contest, a juggling lion, painting mice, and some Pickle-Chiffon Pie! And that's just the beginning! Wait until you see the illustrations! They capture the whimsical nature of the story perfectly! (You can tell I like something when all the sentences end in exclamation points!!!)

Have you read any of these? What are your thoughts? Any recommendations for next months picture books?

These reviews are part of the 2012 Picture Book Reading Challenge, hosted by An Abundance of Books

Have you signed up for the Fairy Tales Retold Challenge?

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Book Review: Kat, Incorrigible

Katherine Ann Stephenson has just discovered that she's inherited her mother's magical talents, and despite Stepmama's stern objections, she's determined to learn how to use them. But with her eldest sister Elissa's intended fiancé, the sinister Sir Neville, showing a dangerous interest in Kat's magical potential; her other sister, Angeline, wreaking romantic havoc with her own witchcraft; and a highwayman lurking in the forest, even Kat's reckless heroism will be tested to the upmost. If she can learn to control her new powers, will Kat be able to rescue her family and win her sisters their true love?

This book is a mash-up of Harry Potter, Cinderella, and Jane Austen! Doesn't that just sound exciting?!?!?!?!

This was such a lovely book. It was charming and elegant, and full of spunk! Kat isn't your average 12 year old girl from Regency England. She's the most epic 12 year old girl from Regency England that the world's ever seen!
Kat, along with her sisters, were completely lovely to read about. They each had their own personalities, talents, and quirks that made them so enjoyable. I loved that I could relate to them, being in the middle of a bunch of sisters. With that being said, I could see myself in Angeline, with bits of Elissa and Kat thrown in there.
The plot was kind of predictable, but I didn't expect it to have a complex plot. I expected it to be a fun, simple read and it more than lived up to that.
I was kind of confused about the whole Guardian thing. It wasn't explained very well and left me wondering. Hopefully things will be explained more thoroughly in book #2.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Fairy Tale Review Link-Up

The end of January is approaching, and you know what that means... it's time to link-up reviews!
Just leave the name of your blog and the book you reviewed

The Evolution of Fairy Tales

When you hear the words "fairy tale", you probably associate them with names like The Brothers Grimm, Han Christian Andersen, or Charles Perrault. They're some of the best-known writers of fairy tales. But fairy tales have been around probably since before the beginning of time. Fairy tales are timeless! 

Ancient Fairy Tales
The earliest version of Cinderella that anyone has found is called Rhodopis and dates back to 1 BC in Greece. There's also Ye Xian which dates back to 860 China. I could probably spend hours going on and on about dozens of different fairy tales and how old they are, but honestly, I'm too lazy (but if you want to know, go to Wikipedia. It knows everything.) The point is that fairy tales have always been around. 

Charles Perrault (1628-1703)
Charles Perrault is kind of known for introducing fairy tales as we know them today, but even most of his stuff is derived from folk tales, other fairy tales and such. He wrote quite a few of the "big ones" like Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty. As you can see above, there were already many versions of Cinderella floating around. As for Sleeping Beauty, there was already an Italian tale called Sun, Moon, and Talia which Perrault used as his inspiration. These stories have always been around, but he's known for writing them the way we know and love them. In addition to these, he also wrote Puss in Boots, Little Red Riding Hood, Bluebeard, Toads and Diamonds and many more. 

The Brothers Grimm (1785-1863 & 1786-1859)
By now, fairy tales were growing more common, thanks to Charles Perrault. Fairy tales were everywhere, and the Brothers Grimm decided that they were going to collect all these fairy tales and publish them in a book. They started collecting fairy and folk tales around 1806, and published their book in 1812. It included 210 tales, including Rapunzel, Rumpelstiltskin, The Frog Prince, Hansel and Gretel, The Six Swans, The Goose Girl, Snow White, and so many more. They also included their own versions of Perrault's tales. Thanks to that book, Grimm is a household name.

Hans Christian Andersen (1805-1875)
He is one of my favorite fairy tale writers, and that's because he actually wrote his own fairy tales, instead of just retelling someone elses. His are unique. He wrote many stories, but his most memorable ones will always be the fairy tales.  Among them are The Little Mermaid, The Snow Queen, Thumbelina, The Ugly Ducking, The Princess and the Pea, and so many more! 

Andrew Lang (1844-1912)
Andrew Lang kind of did the same thing as the Brothers Grimm, but on a larger scale. He started with the Blue Fairy Book, which contains some of the most well known and beloved fairy tales. It was soon followed by 11 additional volumes containing fairy tales from around the world. This, once again, increased popularity in fairy tales. 

Walt Disney Company
Everyone knows Disney. If you haven't seen a Disney movie, then you must've been living under a pretty big rock. Disney is probably known best for their princess movies. It all started with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 1937. This movie made history. It was the first full-length animated movie ever! And it was a fairy tale! After that basically every movie they made was based on some kind of story, most frequently fairy tales. 
Everyone complains that Disney sucks because they turn fairy tales into sappy, sparkly movies and cut out all the gruesome details of the original fairy tales, but I still love the Disney movies. They're simply another interpretation of the fairy tale made to appeal to a different audience. Plus, the originals don't have musical numbers! HA!

Separation From Fantasy
Up until whenever, there weren't really a whole lot of genres. It was real life stuff, and fairy tales. Not much in between. But when fantasy such as Narnia and Lord of the Rings became popular, it grew into the fantasy genre that we’re more familiar with today, with fairy tales earning their own spot among them.

Now it’s time for the best part! Retellings! Retellings come in all shapes and sizes. I think the first real retelling was Beauty by Robin McKinley. That isn’t to say that they weren’t around before—they’ve always been around. I just think this was the first solid retelling that really was the model for the rest of the retellings we have today.
Since then, and especially in the past decade, fairy tale retellings have become super popular. Now there are hundreds that readers everywhere love. That’s the magic of fairy tales. They really are timeless. Every time a fairy tale is retold it adds new depth to the original. 

Have you signed up for the Fairy Tales Retold Challenge?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Book Review: The Smile

Hers is the most famous portrait in the world. Here, in prose as rich as the high Renaissance, is Mona Lisa's tale; a story of passion, intrigue, loss, and, most of all, love. Elisabetta longs for romance, though she thinks she is too plain. Then, on a fateful visit to glittering Florence, she catches the eye of the great Leonardo da Vinci, and falls for a boy named Giuliano de Medici. It is a dangerous time to be or be involved with a Medici. As tragedy and chaos threaten their happiness, Elisabetta faces the bittersweet truth of love.

I've been to the Louvre and seen the painting in person. It's pretty small, and it was hard to see because we had to stand 10 feet away with a hundred other people. The moral of my story is that it looks a lot cooler on a computer screen.

On to the book!
I personally felt it didn't live up to my expectations.
The whole story was very depressing. I kept having hope that something happy would happen, but then something more depressing would pop up. The ending was very frustrating, and I wished it wasn't. It would've been so simple to mend things, but I guess the author was trying to keep it realistic or something? I don't know.
I found the historical aspect very interesting. I honestly know very little history. I love history, I just don't get the chance to study it very often because the rest of my life gets in the way. It started out as very intriguing, but by somewhere near the end of the middle, I was getting pretty sick of it. I can't remember exactly when in the book it was, but there would be long chapters of just explaining about these wars and political issues that would be much more interesting to read about on Wikipedia.
Don't get me wrong. It was still an okay book, I just have issues. If you like historical fiction that has a LOT of history in it, and don't mind frustrating endings, then have fun!

There's lots of talk about marriage, and some of the things that come with marriage. I don't remember anything actually happening, though. Probably 13+

Monday, January 23, 2012

Book Review: Tuesdays at the Castle

Tuesdays at Castle Glower are Princess Celie's favorite days. That's because on Tuesdays the castle adds a new room, a turret, or sometimes even an entire wing. No one ever knows what the castle will do next, and no one-other than Celie, that is-takes the time to map out the new additions. But when King and Queen Glower are ambushed and their fate is unknown, it's up to Celie, with her secret knowledge of the castle's never-ending twists and turns, to protect their home and save their kingdom. This delightful book from a fan- and bookseller-favorite kicks off a brand-new series sure to become a modern classic.

The first time I heard about this book I was clicking around on Jessica's blog. Bloomsbury described it as a combination of Home Alone and the Room of Requirement. That's exactly what the castle felt like! When the bad guys showed up, the castle provided everything Celie and her family needed to fight back!

There was such a wonderful cast of characters. The villains were villainous, and the heroes were heroic. Although this story is told from Celie's point of view, it isn't just Celie's story. It's the story of how she, her family, and her friends work together to save the castle and the kingdom.

The writing was fantastic (as always). The words flowed so clearly and wove together a wonderful adventure that's completely unforgettable.

You could definitely tell Tuesdays is aimed at a younger audience, but it's the kind of story that anybody can enjoy. You could be 5 or 19 or 72 or anywhere in between!

If I had to come up with one complaint, it would be that I wish it was longer because I wanted to spend more time with all the lovely characters. Luckily, I heard there are 2 more books coming. Until then, I'll just have to wait.

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

I know I said at the beginning of the year that there would be no memes on this blog, but I don't consider this a meme. I consider it the best way to organize my reading week and motivate me to keep reading (since I'm falling way behind)

Finished This Week
Possession by Elana Johnson

Currently Reading
Inkheart by Cornelia Funke
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare

To Read
Delirium by Lauren Oliver
The Giver by Lois Lowry

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Book Review: Winter's Child

Free-spirited Grace and serious Kai are the best of friends. They grew up together listening to magical tales spun by Kai's grandmother and sharing in each other's secrets. But when they turn sixteen and Kai declares his love for Grace, everything changes. Grace yearns for freedom and slowly begins to push Kai - and their friendship - away.

Dejected Kai dreams of a dazzling Snow Queen, who entices him to leave home and wander to faraway lands. When Grace discovers Kai is gone, she learns how much she has lost and sets out on a mystical journey to find Kai...and discover herself.

 Quickly, I want to point out that the description from Goodreads has several flaws. First, it's Grace's grandmother who tells the stories, not Kai's. Second, when Kai is enticed to leave, it isn't a dream, He's wide awake and willing follows the actual Winter Child, which leads me to the third problem: Diedre is never referred to as the "Snow Queen", only the Winter Child. 

I wasn't super familiar with the story of The Snow Queen when I read this. I had read parts of it, but never got a chance to read it as a whole.
This was okay. I enjoyed the writing, but the story seemed kind of lost. There were moments when I had no clue what was going on, and at others it just seemed weird. I thought the idea of how Diedre became a Winter Child was interesting.
The relationships didn't seem realistic. The story could've ended realistically with Grace and Kai getting married before Diedre is even introduced, but instead they act irrationally just so the story is more then 50 pages long. Then at the end everyone is married to someone they hardly knew in person.
I wish it had been longer and better planned out. I think the Snow Queen has a lot of potential when it comes to retellings, and I don't think this lived up to that potential.
Still, it was an okay, quick read.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Book Review: A Tale Dark and Grimm

In this mischievous and utterly original debut, Hansel and Gretel walk out of their own story and into eight other classic Grimm-inspired tales. As readers follow the siblings through a forest brimming with menacing foes, they learn the true story behind (and beyond) the bread crumbs, edible houses, and outwitted witches.

Fairy tales have never been more irreverent or subversive as Hansel and Gretel learn to take charge of their destinies and become the clever architects of their own happily ever after.

I thought this was such a creative tale. It takes 8 fairy tales, most unfamiliar, and weaves them together into a wonderfully original plot.
I love how the author slightly manipulated the fairy tales so that they all fit together. He sought out to put together this puzzle that no one else bothered to mess with. All he had to do was bend a few pieces!
My favorite part of this book were the interruptions made my the narrator. Some were just to throw in a sarcastic joke, and some were to explain how illogical and gruesome these fairy tales are.
This is the kind of book I want to throw at all those people who talk about Happily Ever After and fairy tales like they're all fluffy goodness, to say that "No, you only know the Disney version. If you read any real fairy tales, you'd be so grossed out, you'd never say 'I wish I lived in a fairy tale' ever again!" That's not to say that I don't like the Disney version, I just don't like people who don't know what they're talking about when it comes to fairy tales.

Book Review: Zel

High in the mountains, Zel lives with her mother, who insists they have all they need -- for they have each other. Zel's life is peaceful and protected -- until a chance encounter changes everything. When she meets a beautiful young prince at the market one day, she is profoundly moved by new emotions. But Zel's mother sees the future unfolding -- and she will do the unspeakable to prevent Zel from leaving her...

This was a very interesting read. I found the writing pleasant, although I don't usually enjoy present tense, but besides that there wasn't much I liked. 
It's told from 3 different points of view: Zel, Mother, and Konrad. Zel and Konrad's parts were both told in 3rd person, but Mother's part was told in 1st person. I have no clue why. It irritates me that there is no explanation. The last chapter was especially confusing as each paragraph was told from a different perspective.
About 2/3 of the way through I really just wanted a bomb to drop on all the characters. They were all so irritating and irrational. Mother is a control freak, Zel has nearly every mental disorder known to man, and Konrad is obsessive and desperate. It only got worse as the story progressed, and by the last 15 pages I was just so mad at all the characters that the only think that kept me reading was hope that everyone would end up miserable and dead. I don't usually wish for those kinds of endings to books.
The 'romance' was kind of weird. They meet for 5 minutes at the beginning of the story, then spend the rest of the book obsessing over each other. I do not use that term lightly. They spend nearly every moment of their lives thinking about each other, chasing after each other, and hallucinating about each other.

This book was rather misleading. The cover and length and description all make it seem like a middle grade novel, but it most certainly wasn't. It contains some pretty mature stuff like selling your soul and immorality and other creepy stuff I don't particularly enjoy reading about. It says 8+ but I'd say 13+

Friday, January 6, 2012

Book Review: Book of a Thousand Days

When Dashti, a maid, and Lady Saren, her mistress, are shut in a tower for seven years for Saren’s refusal to marry a man she despises, the two prepare for a very long and dark imprisonment.
As food runs low and the days go from broiling hot to freezing cold, it is all Dashti can do to keep them fed and comfortable. But the arrival outside the tower of Saren’s two suitors—one welcome, and the other decidedly less so—brings both hope and great danger, and Dashti must make the desperate choices of a girl whose life is worth more than she knows.
With Shannon Hale’s lyrical language, this forgotten but classic fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm is reimagined and reset on the central Asian steppes; it is a completely unique retelling filled with adventure and romance, drama and disguise.

This is such a stunning novel. It tells a classic fairy tale in such a unique, original way. 
The beginning is extremely slow. The first time I read it, I found it boring. The second time around, it became my favorite part. It was boring, because there isn't much to write about when you're locked up in a stuffy old tower! I still enjoyed hearing about all the little problems they were facing. Those are the things you'd never think about while reading the original Maid Maleen
I think this book has the most beautiful writing out of all of Shannon Hale's books. It's a simple journal of a simple girl who went through so many hardships, yet stood strong throughout them all. 


A Week of Cinderella

A Backwards Story
Guess what! Bonnie at A Backwards Story is holding a Week of Cinder(ella) to celebrate the release of Cinder by Marissa Meyer!
The week will feature guest posts, author visits (because, after all, Marissa isn't the ONLY author with a kick-ass Cinderella to celebrate!), giveaways, reviews, and culminate with a blog tour stop for CINDER! 
How cool does that sound? It's a week of celebrating Cinderella!
Go check it out and spread the word around!
(And keep your eye out for something from yours truly...)

I'm now a tweeter!

This morning I thought I'd be kind of crazy, so guess what I did. I started a twitter account! I have no clue how to use it (yet), but I will eventually! In the mean time, I'd love it if you'd follow me @DebzBookshelf! Please and thank you!

Book Review: Briar Rose

Ever since she was a child, Rebecca has been enchanted by her grandmother Gemma's stories about Briar Rose. But a promise Rebecca makes to her dying grandmother will lead her on a remarkable journey to uncover the truth of Gemma's astonishing claim: I am Briar Rose. A journey that will lead her to unspeakable brutality and horror. But also to redemption and hope.

When I started this book, I had no clue how the Holocaust could be tied to Sleeping Beauty, and now I want to smack myself for not realizing it before! Jane Yolen certainly knew what she was doing!
I really felt this book belonged on the "Adult" shelf. It isn't that it was horribly inappropriate or overly complex, but it's about an adult learning about adult things. She goes on a journey trying to discover the dark past of her grandmother.
Her journey involves many things. Speaking with many different people and traveling to many different places. This aspect reminded me of the TV show "Who Do You Think You Are" where celebrities learn about their family history.  

The last 3/4 of the book, when the mysteries are being revealed and the whole story is falling into place, is told from the point of view of a homosexual, who spends some of the story talking about his past relationship, and the things he did. I don't recall it being too graphic, but that's because I kind if skimmed over those bits. I understand that homosexuals were treated horribly back then, and don't deserve to be judged, but I prefer not to hear all about their private life. 
I believe it says on the back cover 13+, but I'd say at least 15+

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Book Review: Crossed

In search of a future that may not exist and faced with the decision of who to share it with, Cassia journeys to the Outer Provinces in pursuit of Ky - taken by the Society to his certain death - only to find that he has escaped, leaving a series of clues in his wake.

Cassia's quest leads her to question much of what she holds dear, even as she finds glimmers of a different life across the border. But as Cassia nears resolve and certainty about her future with Ky, an invitation for rebellion, an unexpected betrayal, and a surprise visit from Xander - who may hold the key to the uprising and, still, to Cassia's heart - change the game once again. Nothing is as expected on the edge of Society, where crosses and double crosses make the path more twisted than ever.

This book was really slow paced, but it fit the story well. I just wish it hadn't been so slow paced so I would've finished it faster. I fell in love with the whole new cast of characters, and I fell into a whole new kind of love with the old characters. All their relationships with one another were complex and realistic.
The setting was stunning. I could picture everything so clearly in my mind. Every detail added another brush stroke to the picture I was painting in my mind.
Of course the writing was perfect. Ally Condie is a writing genius. I cannot praise her enough. Her writing is so lovely that I can't get enough of it! Hand me book 3 please!

Book Review: Princess of Glass

Hoping to escape the troubles in her kingdom, Princess Poppy reluctantly agrees to take part in a royal exchange program, whereby young princes and princesses travel to each other's countries in the name of better political alliances--and potential marriages. It's got the makings of a fairy tale--until a hapless servant named Eleanor is tricked by a vengeful fairy godmother into competing with Poppy for the eligible prince. Ballgowns, cinders, and enchanted glass slippers fly in this romantic and action-packed happily-ever-after quest from an author with a flair for embroidering tales in her own delightful way.

I think this book may have been even better than Princess of the Midnight Ball! This one is a more indirect retelling if that makes sense. It tells the story of Cinderella from an outsiders perspective. It took the story of Poppy and intermingled it with the story of Cinderella, or in this case, Ellen the maid. 
The friendship between Poppy and Christian was sweet. Neither of them were really looking for someone to possibly marry, but they did happened to find a good friend within the other. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Fairy Tales Retold Challenge Part 3

I'm so excited for the Fairy Tales Retold challenge to officially begin! 
Time to start talking about discussion posts. I've decided that each month we'll either do a normal discussion post, or a fun guest post/author interview/giveaway type thing.
If you're interested in doing a guest post, email me at debzbookshelf@gmail.com

Each discussion post will have a topic. (Love, Riddles, Magic, Appearance, etc...) At the beginning of each month I'm planning on us doing a discussion, I'll have a form up for you to share any of your ideas and questions. Sometime near the middle/end of that month, I'll post the discussion and then please feel free to comment away, or even write your own post on the subject and link to it in your comment. Whether or not you're participating in the challenge, you can participate in the discussions and other cool stuff.
This month (January) we won't be doing a discussion, because I'm too scatterbrained. We'll have something cool, though!

I will keep a master schedule here in case you want to see (but it's mostly for my own sanity):

FEBRUARY: Discussion Post
MARCH: Coolness
APRIL: Discussion Post
MAY: Coolness
JUNE: Discussion Post
JULY: Coolness
AUGUST: Discussion Post
OCTOBER: Discussion Post
NOVEMBER: Coolness
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