Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Entwined by Heather Dixon (College Review)

For my first college paper a few weeks ago, we wrote a review, and seeing as I chose Entwined, I decided I'd share it with you guys.  It is, of course, very long - over 1,000 words.  Also, I have previously written a review of Entwined, however it was a really long time ago and I think has about ten words in all in it.

     Even before Entwined was released, I was already looking forward to reading it.  The cover art was beautiful and the summary drew me in with its mentions of my favorite genre.  I admittedly had very high hopes for this book before even picking it up.  Suffice to say, the novel entertained me from start to finish, and left me with a happy memory of my experience long after finishing the book.  Entwined is and entertaining story for all readers, whether they are fans of the fairy tale genre or not.

     The book, which is an adaption of The Worn Out Dancing Slippers or The Twelve Dancing Princesses, follows the twelve sisters of the fairy tale after the death of their mother.  With their already distant father distancing himself even further from the girls, and the traditional mourning period revoking their ability to dance, the sisters turn to a secret passageway for escape.  The passageway leads to a beautiful place filled with dancing and joy, and lets them be away from the worries their impoverished kingdom and saddening home life leaves them with.  Of course, all is not what it appears, and soon enough secrets are unearthed about the hidden passageway that has the characters caught up in an evil thought to be a legend.  While the story has a romantic plot along with a villain to be defeated, the main focus is on the sisters themselves, and their dealing with their mothers passing.  It also largely focuses on the sister’s withdrawn father, and how their relationship grows with him over time.

          The story closely follows the tale it is based on, but is diverse enough from the tale that it is not a carbon copy of the original fairy tale.  It takes the fairy tales limited content and expands upon it, providing details that solidify the stories more unusual aspects, such as the father locking his daughters in their room and the kingdom filled with a forest of gold and silver.  While readers will no doubt recognize the familiar childhood tale in the books content, they will also find new depths to it.  The novel expands upon the fairy tale, adding emotions to the actions of the characters, allowing the reader to experience a new found love for the well-known fairy tale.

     The book is entertaining and fast paced, and though it mainly focuses on the eldest princess, Azalea, several of the other sisters are given their own sub-story, and all twelve of them get a decent amount of time to become familiar to the reader.  The girl’s father, though at first coming off as abrasive and cruel, becomes a more likeable character as the book goes on.  The villain, a charming yet frightening character, will send shivers down the reader’s spine and will shock them with a surprising reveal.  The soldier of the story, along with the other princes who come to solve the mystery of the worn out dancing slippers, are all very likeable – or so unlikeable the reader will enjoy hating them.  With such a large assortment of personalities, Entwined has many intriguing characters that will keep readers invested in their stories and emotions.

    Of course, the many characters not only make the read more enjoyable, but also pose as one of the biggest issues with this novel, as they usually do with other novels based on the same fairy tale.  It makes sense.  Most books only have three or less main characters, a few secondary characters, and background characters.  And while this story does limit itself to one main character and a small amount of secondary characters, there are an enormous amount of background characters.  With twelve sisters, a villain, family, and love interests, at times it seems as though the book is too full with their stories.  However, the author does a good job of keeping the cast independent of themselves.  By giving each character, from the princesses to the background characters, specific details about their background or personalities to remember, when a name is produced you can usually link it to the right character. 

     As with the characters, the excess of plot does make the novel seem a bit packed at times.  Though there is only one main character, there are many sub-plots involved in the story.  It is at times tough to remember each detail of these plots, and some transitions between each plot can be a little rough or sudden.  However, each plot is captivating and enjoyable, both on its own and in the entire scheme of things.  The mysteries laced in the narrative will make the reader intrigued in the novel while the twists to the story that tie into what you have already read will give the reader a surprise.  The reader will be entertained with each sub-plot, and will be left on the edge of their seats to see how each comes to its conclusion. 

     Another issue the novel faces is that of originality.  Most popular fairy tales have already had adaptions written of them before, leaving the author with no choice but to use some already used ideas or points. With a building block already set in place – every night twelve sisters dance until their shoes are worn out, the king decrees whoever finds out where they go can marry one of the sisters, and a soldier is the one who follows them to an underground palace where they dance with princes – it is very hard to vary from the original story while still being in the quota of a fairy tale retelling.  Entwined is no exception, with similar villains and story plots.  Still, the read is fun, and many aspects of the story put itself apart from most retellings of the common fairy tale and leave the reader surprised with the outcome.

     The writing of the story is one of its major strong suits.  Though at times the author loses her consistent tone and the writing becomes a little weak, most of the book is beautifully and eloquently written.  Phrases such as “how daintily the butterfly flits to the spider's lace, entranced by glimm'ring silver strings, entwined with glist'ning grace” will leave the readers with a thrill of excitement at the lyrical tone the writer often uses.  Only once or twice in the book does the writing grow weak and subsequently pull the reader out of the story.  In fact, for the most part, the reader will be so absorbed with the story that the slips in writing will not affect them strongly.                

     Though this book has its faults, the overall impression the reader will be left with is one of satisfaction.  I went into the book with high hopes, and left it satisfied.  This was a book I did not wish to set down until its completion.  The novel is charming and entertaining, with lovely writing, an entrancing story, and unforgettable characters.  Heather Dixon’s debut novel is undoubtedly one of the best books I have read in the fairy-tale retelling genre, and the poignant story and captivating writing will leave the readers with a fond memory of this enchanting book long after they finish it.

Friday, August 23, 2013

The Wells Bequest by Polly Schulman

The Wells Bequest (The Grimm Legacy, #2)
Leo never imagined that time travel might really be possible, or that the objects in H. G. Wells’ science fiction novels might actually exist. And when a miniature time machine appears in Leo’s bedroom, he has no idea who the tiny, beautiful girl is riding it. But in the few moments before it vanishes, returning to wherever—and whenever—it came from, he recognizes the other tiny rider: himself!

His search for the time machine, the girl, and his fate leads him to the New-York Circulating Material Repository, a magical library that lends out objects instead of books. Hidden away in the Repository basement is the Wells Bequest, a secret collection of powerful objects straight out of classic science fiction novels: robots, rockets, submarines, a shrink ray—and one very famous time machine. And when Leo’s adventure of a lifetime suddenly turns deadly, he must attempt a journey to 1895 to warn real-life scientist Nikola Tesla about a dangerous invention. A race for time is on!

In this grand time-travel adventure full of paradoxes and humor, Polly Shulman gives readers a taste of how fascinating science can be, deftly blending classic science fiction elements with the contemporary fantasy world readers fell in love with in The Grimm Legacy
Now, I would be lying if I said I went into this book unbiased.  Seeing as when I reviewed it's companion novel, The Grimm Legacy, ages ago, and I gave it five stars and a great review.  So honestly, it was a little surprising that I had never even heard of this book (even with all the hoping I did for a sequel after I finished the first) until lo and behold, I caught the authors name at the library and nearly jumped for joy.

Unfortunately, the book follows a new set of pages at the repository.  I was obviously disappointed to let go of the pages I loved in the first book, and was also a little sad to see very little mention of them, beyond one quick story, a reference to the first book made by one of the main characters sister, and a quick one-lined cameo by my least favorite of the original characters.  Still, those who loved Jaya in the original book (like me!) will not be disappointed!

The plot was pretty good, though not amazing.  Still, it was fluid and, though a little slow at times, pretty fast-paced, which allowed for a larger feel of the universe the book takes place in.

Really, my biggest complaint about the book, beyond the fact that there were not many mentions of Grimm Legacy's pages, was the main character, Leo.  While by the end of the book I liked him a ton, it took me far to many chapters to get a feel for his character and begin to develop an interest in him. 

While this review makes this book seem full of flaws, I can assure you that it was a fast, fun, and good read!  Especially for fans of the first book!  I feel like a lot of what I loved was the nostalgia for a book I haven't read in a while, but the writing was amazing and I didn't want to put this book down.

Rating: 5/5

Market: YA
Language: None

Violence: Mild
Sensuality: Mild

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Hey guys,

Sorry about the lack of posts!  I had OGT's last week, and have just been lazy/busy this week.  I'll try to at least do the Follow Friday this week!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Follow Friday (34)

Feature and Follow Friday is hosted by Alison Can Read and Parajunkee

Alison Can Read Feature & Follow
Q:  Confess your blogger sins! Is there anything as a newbie blogger that you've done, that as you gained more experience you were like -- oops?
My biggest oops was probably updating this blog everyday for a few weeks and then taking a few month break...
What about you?  Leave links!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Follow Friday (33)

Feature and Follow Friday is hosted by Alison Can Read and Parajunkee

Alison Can Read Feature & Follow
Q: We always talk about books that WE want. Let's turn it on its head. What books have you given other people lately?
Sadly, not many people I know love to read.  I got my dad The Hobbit for Christmas.  Does that count?
What about you?  Leave links!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

Scarlet (Lunar Chronicles, #2)

Cinder returns in the second thrilling installment of the New York Times-bestselling Lunar Chronicles. She’s trying to break out of prison—even though if she succeeds, she’ll be the Commonwealth’s most wanted fugitive.

Halfway around the world, Scarlet Benoit’s grandmother is missing. It turns out there are many things Scarlet doesn’t know about her grandmother and the grave danger she has lived in her whole life. When Scarlet encounters Wolf, a street fighter who may have information as to her grandmother’s whereabouts, she has no choice but to trust him, though he clearly has a few dark secrets of his own.

As Scarlet and Wolf work to unravel one mystery, they find another when they cross paths with Cinder. Together, they must stay one step ahead of the vicious Lunar Queen who will do anything to make Prince Kai her husband, her king, her prisoner.

Marissa Meyer proved how amazing of an author she was with her debut of Cinder last year, and she proves herself yet again in Scarlet

If there was anyone worried that Scarlet wouldn't live up to Cinder, then let me just tell you now:  You have nothing to worry about.  With Cinder's characters and a cast of new ones, plus the amazing plot, it would be hard to leave disappointed.

On the point of characters, the old favorites make a comeback, including Emperor Kai, Iko, Queen Levana, and of course, Cinder.  Along with them, new characters make their debut, the most notable being Wolf, Thorne, and the main character of the book, Scarlet.

At first, I will admit I didn't like Scarlet, due to her temper.  However, it didn't take long to warm up to her, and once I did, I really appreciated her character.  She was a nice balance of Cinder, who, while still being my favorite of the characters, is admittedly quiet.  It also took a little time for Thorne to grow on me, but he supplied a nice comedic character without being annoying or over comedic.  And Wolf was, out of the three new characters, the one I took the most liking to in the beginning.  However, even though I still liked him throughout the entire book, Scarlet soon took first place as the best of the new characters.

Cinder, who I mentioned above as my favorite character, definitely had less time in the book that Scarlet, but what time she did have supplied just the right amount of character growth and a nice look into what she was feeling.  I was very glad to see that Iko was making a re-appearance, as she, just like Thorne, lightens up the book without ruining the feel of it.  Emperor Kai and Queen Levana both each had just enough time in the book to make them still feel like an essential part of the story.

I was very pleased with the way Marissa Meyer handled the multiple POV changes.  You were never left wondering who was narrating the chapter, and she switched the narrator at just the right moments.

The plot still has many traces of Cinder in it, but also introduces new plot points, including Wolf's mysterious old gang, Cinder's escape from prison and her dealing with her new found Lunar abilities, and of course, Scarlet's grand mothers capture and the secrets that led to it.

The fairy tale the book was based around, Little Red Riding Hood, is definitely shown in subtle ways that I realized after the scene took place.  The best of these scene's would have to be the iconic scene with the Big Bad Wolf dressed up like the grandmother.

All in all, Scarlet lived up to my expectations and left me desperately waiting for the next book in the series, Cress.  Definitely get this book if you are a fan of fairy tales, Dystopians, and of course, if you enjoyed the first book in the series, Cinder.

Rating: 5/5

Market: YA
Language: Mild/None

Violence: Moderate
Sensuality: Moderate