Review: My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me

2 May

My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me

edited by: kate bernheimer

pages : [paperback] 576

summary :

The fairy tale lives again in this book of forty new stories by some of the biggest names in contemporary fiction.

Neil Gaiman, “Orange”

Aimee Bender, “The Color Master”

Joyce Carol Oates, “Blue-bearded Lover”

Michael Cunningham, “The Wild Swans”

These and more than thirty other stories by Francine Prose, Kelly Link, Jim Shepard, Lydia Millet, and many other extraordinary writers make up this thrilling celebration of fairy tales—the ultimate literary costume party.

Spinning houses and talking birds. Whispered secrets and borrowed hope. Here are new stories sewn from old skins, gathered by visionary editor Kate Bernheimer and inspired by everything from Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen” and “The Little Match Girl” to Charles Perrault’s “Bluebeard” and “Cinderella” to the Brothers Grimm’s “Hansel and Gretel” and “Rumpelstiltskin” to fairy tales by Goethe and Calvino and from China, Japan, Vietnam, Russia, Norway, and Mexico.

Fairy tales are our oldest literary tradition, and yet they chart the imaginative frontiers of the twenty-first century as powerfully as they evoke our earliest encounters with literature. This exhilarating collection restores their place in the literary canon.

review :

This collection of fairy tales fully consumed me as I read through the book.

With a plethora of contemporary authors adding their retold fairy tales to this anthology, there’s definitely a story in here for anyone. While I’m not sure that all will enjoy every story (that’s a rare thing, to really love every installment in a collection like this) there are so many different styles present and takes on the well-known tales that there’s a good thing for anyone here.

I particularly enjoyed (and expected to love) Neil Gaiman’s ‘Orange’. He’s one of the few authors I immediately recognized by name from the list of those who contributed to this work–for others, I know their stories better than their names.

Because I had to read this for school, I didn’t have as much time to sit and think on each story as I would have preferred to do, should I have read this collection in my free time. I could spend hours on each one, to be frank, going on about what did or didn’t work for me, what I loved about the individual writing styles and what I detested about the fairy tales chosen to be retold. Unfortunately, not having the time for that kind of involvement, I was left instead with vague impressions of the stories I’d read one after the other. So if you happen to read this anthology, I would recommend taking the time to enjoy it, rather than speeding through it. Not only is it a fairly hefty volume, the text inside is so dense with wonder and symbolism that you simply need to focus on it rather than the end goal of finishing the book.

I loved how some of these stories are influenced by more remote and less well-known tales, some more gruesome or heartbreaking than others. While I do love my Americanized classics, there are still so many folk tales and mythologies out there left to be explored and understood by the masses so I was ecstatic (though not particularly surprised, judging by the fabulous array of authors) to see the variety there!

I would highly recommend this collection to anyone interested in fairy tales, modern writing, and short stories. I think that this is something I’ll return to again, to reread favorite stories and linger over those I still need to puzzle out.

4/5 stars

Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman

15 Apr

Challenger Deep 

author : neal shusterman

pages : [hardcover] 320

favorite character : caden

summary :

Caden Bosch is on a ship that’s headed for the deepest point on Earth: Challenger Deep, the southern part of the Marianas Trench.

Caden Bosch is a brilliant high school student whose friends are starting to notice his odd behavior.

Caden Bosch is designated the ship’s artist in residence, to document the journey with images.

Caden Bosch pretends to join the school track team but spends his days walking for miles, absorbed by the thoughts in his head.

Caden Bosch is split between his allegiance to the captain and the allure of mutiny.

Caden Bosch is torn.

A captivating and powerful novel that lingers long beyond the last page, Challenger Deep is a heartfelt tour de force by one of today’s most admired writers for teens.

review :

Neal Shusterman’s Challenger Deep is everything I wanted in a book and more. To be honest, when I requested it I didn’t know much about the premise. That’s how deeply I trust Shusterman as an author: I know that whatever he writes, whatever the genre, his writing will be so wonderful that I’ll be sure to enjoy it. This latest novel is no exception and is as emotionally packed–and draining–as his other books I’ve read.

Challenger Deep is more grounded in reality than other books I’ve enjoyed by him, like the Skinjacker trilogy and Unwind dystology. And yet, because Caden can no longer tell the difference between what is real and what is only in his head, this book ended up feeling more surreal than actual fantasy books. I think that Shusterman did a fantastic job in writing about mental illness. Though I’ve never experienced something like this myself, I was touched even more when I found out that he’d based his characters around the real-life experiences people close to him have had. WhileI didn’t think he’d approach such a topic lightly, it was another blow to think that a situation like this isn’t just a great story to some people. Instead it’s a depiction of the daily struggle they go through.

To me, mental illness can seem more terrifying than any sea monster or treacherous ship captain. It’s something most people prefer not to speak of and there are so many stigmas attached to labels of illness. Shusterman wrote about that, too. There were so many major issues that he managed to thread into this novel without throwing his messages in the reader’s face, which I think is yet another thing that made this novel so beautiful.

It’s one that I’m definitely going to reread and I need to buy a physical copy of it to add to my collection. I think anyone could learn something from Challenger Deep–and enjoy reading it while they’re at it. Even though it can get dark, there’s Caden’s humor to light the way, and you’ll find yourself rooting for him through every step.

5/5 stars

All These Things I’ve Done by Gabrielle Zevin

9 Apr

All These Things I’ve Done

author : gabrielle zevin

Pages : [hardcover] 354

memorable quote I did learn something about insanity while I was down there. People go crazy, not because they are crazy, but because it’s the best available option at the time.

summary :

In 2083, chocolate and coffee are illegal, paper is hard to find, water is carefully rationed, and New York City is rife with crime and poverty. And yet, for Anya Balanchine, the sixteen-year-old daughter of the city’s most notorious (and dead) crime boss, life is fairly routine. It consists of going to school, taking care of her siblings and her dying grandmother, trying to avoid falling in love with the new assistant D.A.’s son, and avoiding her loser ex-boyfriend. That is until her ex is accidently poisoned by the chocolate her family manufactures and the police think she’s to blame. Suddenly, Anya finds herself thrust unwillingly into the spotlight–at school, in the news, and most importantly, within her mafia family.

Engrossing and suspenseful, All These Things I’ve Done is an utterly unique, unputdownable read that blends both the familiar and the fantastic.

review:

I love Gabrielle Zevin and I’ve been waiting so long to start this new series. It finally came out as an ebook for a good deal so of course I had to get it to try it out. I was a little unsure about the concept of the novel, not the least because to me it seems incredibly unbelievable. Chocolate could not ever be banned. Can you imagine the revolts that would happen? A revolution I would totally take part in because chocolate is way too good to let it go forever!

My opinion of this book oscillated a few times throughout the novel. Most of the writing was disappointing, verging to extremely corny in some moments. For example, at one point in the book Win calls Annie “lass” for no particular reason (and this repeats a few other times throughout the book) when he’s not Scottish, which to me would be the only justification for it. Maybe a Scottish grandfather, seeing as they’re in America. His reasoning for it was something like saying it felt like the word fit her. No, it just ended up sounding condescending and like a bad attempt to get a cute pet name for her.

Then there would be surprisingly badass plot points that would pick up my interest again and kept me reading the entire novel. I’m not sure if that’s enough to keep me through the whole series; if anything, I’ll borrow the next book from a library, not purchase it myself. Or I’ll find someone who’s already read it to tell me all about it.

While there are a few loose ends I’m curious about, I’m not invested enough in the novel or characters to recommend this to anyone. Now I’m realizing why I waited so long to try out this series.

3/5 stars

Fairy Tale to Film: Cinderella

5 Apr

I have to admit that when I first heard about a live-action version of Cinderella being produced, I wasn’t too excited, except for the fact that practically anything Disney will be great. Not as excited as I was when I heard they’re making a live-action Mulan. I was honestly going to wait until the DVD release to finally watch this. But hearing everyone raving over the film (coupled with my chance to watch a Disney movie in Downtown Disney!) convinced me to buy a theater ticket.

Even though it isn’t my favorite Disney film (animation or live action, as Tangled will always have my heart) it was still completely magical to watch. And I’ve already bought some of the soundtrack for myself.

While I heard this version made people cry, I only teared up a few times. Once of sadness, once when Ella looked incredibly happy and the cinematography was so great that I couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed with emotion.

Everyone knows the Cinderella story so it isn’t like it can be spoiled and most would assume that the live action film covers the ground laid out by the animation. There you’d be wrong. As I’d hoped, Cinderella combines more, previously unused elements of the original fairy tale as well as cherished portions of the animation. Definitely worth a watch, if you’ve been afraid they only copied themselves. Disney never does the same thing twice–they redo it bigger and better than before.

This movie is just beautiful. I could rewatch it just to get a chance to appreciate more of the details in the scenes. I also need to look out for hidden Mickeys and Easter Eggs!

Of course, I loved Helena Bonham Carter’s scene-stealing moments and wish that she’d been in the movie a little more. Cinderella herself wasn’t exactly as I’d pictured her to be, but that’s what comes of turning an animated princess into a real-life lady. Still, she was fantastic at presenting the kind of silent strength Cinderella has to have.

Overall, I really loved this adaptation when I hadn’t expected to like it very much. I’ll recommend this to other people and I’d even say give it a chance in theaters. It’s worth the ticket!

What’s your favorite Disney movie? What do you think of this adaptation?

Vesper by Jeff Sampson

26 Mar

Vesper

author : jeff sampson

pages : [hardcover] 288

memorable quote My idea of a fun night was diving into a massive pile of To Be Read pile of books stacked near my dresser… I was the girl who loved everything geeky.

summary :

Emily Webb is a geek. And she’s happy that way. Content hiding under hoodies and curling up to watch old horror flicks, she’s never been the kind of girl who sneaks out for midnight parties. And she’s definitely not the kind of girl who starts fights or flirts with other girls’ boyfriends. Until one night Emily finds herself doing exactly that . . . the same night one of her classmates—also named Emily—is found mysteriously murdered.

The thing is, Emily doesn’t know why she’s doing any of this. By day, she’s the same old boring Emily, but by night, she turns into a thrill seeker. With every nightfall, Emily gets wilder until it’s no longer just her personality that changes. Her body can do things it never could before: Emily is now strong, fast, and utterly fearless. And soon Emily realizes that she’s not just coming out of her shell . . . there’s something much bigger going on. Is she bewitched by the soul of the other, murdered Emily? Or is Emily Webb becoming something else entirely—something not human?

As Emily hunts for answers, she finds out that she’s not the only one this is happening to—some of her classmates are changing as well. Who is turning these teens into monsters—and how many people will they kill to get what they want?

review :

I’ve had this ebook on my TBR shelf for a long while after winning it in a contest–not because I was always putting it off, but because there are always other books for me to read. Well, I finally got around to reading Vesper–not realizing that it was the beginning of what I think is a series, possibly a trilogy–and didn’t enjoy this novel enough to consider reading further into these books.

Honestly, I feel like there was a potentially awesome concept, but one that I didn’t see until possibly the last ten pages of the book. The rest dragged on to a conclusion that would have been thrilling if I’d been excited for it. Instead, throughout most of the book, I was confused. Emily was haunted by her alter ego who wants to dress revealingly and party every night, for some reason. It was kind of a terrifying concept to me, because what would you do if every night you became a different person and had to deal with those consequences in the morning? I feel like that could have been more fully explored. Again, her parents seem to be mostly absent in this, and completely mindless of her breaking the rules every night. We really only consistently see her best friend reacting to Emily’s changes . . . and even then she has a different response each night, and not in an evolving/maturing way, either, only in a sporadic mess.

I gave this book one star for the interesting conclusion and the chance that future books could be much more intriguing and action-packed, though I don’t have enough time to invest more in this series on the chance that it could thrive. Another star because there was just enough intrigue to keep me going through the book. But I didn’t find the characters very interesting–Emily, when she was supposedly ‘geeky’, simply seemed like a ‘geeky’ stereotype, and then the stereotype of a party girl when her alter ego came out–nor were they particularly memorable. I’d suggest giving this book a pass.

2/5 stars

Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead

24 Mar

Vampire Academy

author : richelle mead

pages : [paperback] 332

memorable quote Only a true best friend can protect you from your immortal enemies.

favorite character : rose

summary :

St. Vladimir’s Academy isn’t just any boarding school—it’s a hidden place where vampires are educated in the ways of magic and half-human teens train to protect them. Rose Hathaway is a Dhampir, a bodyguard for her best friend Lissa, a Moroi Vampire Princess. They’ve been on the run, but now they’re being dragged back to St. Vladimir’s—the very place where they’re most in danger. . . .

Rose and Lissa become enmeshed in forbidden romance, the Academy’s ruthless social scene, and unspeakable nighttime rituals. But they must be careful lest the Strigoi—the world’s fiercest and most dangerous vampires—make Lissa one of them forever.

review :

I started reading Vampire Academy because I’ve been hearing a lot about this series, there’s now a movie about it, and also the library I visited was the smallest thing in the world and didn’t have a large selection. I figured now was the time I needed to give it a go, because I always wanted to give it a shot–even though if I ended up really loving the series, that meant there’d be a LOT of other books for me to read because it’s a long one and now there are spin-off books, too. Well, unfortunately, Vampire Academy just didn’t make the cut for me, like I’d feared it would.

First of all, I did like and appreciate how snarky Rose could be and following her adventures was mildly enjoyable. Still, the writing didn’t leave much of an impression to me because to my taste it was fairly bland with no exciting descriptions, no hint of intrigue. Instead halfway through the book I still wasn’t certain of what the plot would be. Shouldn’t each book, even in a series, have its own little plot? Basically I think that this first book is being used to set up something in the rest of the books. Much of it was fairly predictable. I don’t know if there’s going to be some big reveal later on that would shock me, but I don’t want to slosh through more books to find out.

Honestly, I can see why some people might enjoy these books. They’re definitely not hard to read and if you’re into vampires, the take they have on those creatures is pretty interesting. But for me, I was a little bored. I wanted more action, adventure, cool vampire moments–not endless, repetitive school and training days and then predictable little plot twists.

I don’t think I’ll be recommending this book or this series to anyone–and it already has enough followers that it won’t matter in the least. I’ll just say to anyone hanging on the edge like I was, thinking they should at least read the first book to see what it’s all about–maybe pick up something else instead.

2/5 stars

Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson

13 Mar

Since You’ve Been Gone

author : morgan matson

pages : [hardcover] 449

memorable quote I somehow knew that the particulars didn’t matter. She was my heart, she was half of me, and nothing, certainly not a few measly hundred miles, was ever going to change that.

favorite character : frank

summary :

The Pre-Sloane Emily didn’t go to parties, she barely talked to guys, she didn’t do anything crazy. Enter Sloane, social tornado and the best kind of best friend—the one who yanks you out of your shell.

But right before what should have been an epic summer, Sloane just… disappears. No note. No calls. No texts. No Sloane. There’s just a random to-do list. On it, thirteen Sloane-selected-definitely-bizarre-tasks that Emily would never try… unless they could lead back to her best friend.

Apple Picking at Night? Okay, easy enough.

Dance until Dawn? Sure. Why not?

Kiss a Stranger? Um…

Getting through Sloane’s list would mean a lot of firsts. But Emily has this whole unexpected summer ahead of her, and the help of Frank Porter (totally unexpected) to check things off. Who knows what she’ll find?

Go Skinny Dipping? Wait … what?

review :

I was really looking forward to this novel not only because I’ve heard great things about it but also because I had the privilege to meet Morgan Matson at BookCon last May! She was so sweet and inviting that I knew I had to give her work a try. While I really did enjoy reading this novel and will definitely pick up more of her work, to me this was more of a feel-good read than an all=time favorite.

Since You’ve Been Gone is filled with many convenient coincidences which make the novel quirky and interesting. Honestly, if I only had one friend and she abandoned me spontaneously, not only would I be too depressed by that but I know I’d end up spending that summer alone because people who’ve known me my entire life but never paid any attention to me wouldn’t spontaneously become my best friends. And I know that’s because I’m a shy person and don’t go outside of my element. But Emily’s whole characterization is based around her shyness and unwillingness to go outside of herself more than she absolutely has to, or unless there’s an extrovert like Sloane around to draw her out of her shell. Honestly, most of the time Emily didn’t seem shy to me at all, just a little awkward and very afraid of horses.

The romance was sweet. At first I didn’t think I was going to like it at all but in the end it really grew on me. I think it was well-done, and wasn’t pushed to the forefront of the story which was really refreshing to see in a YA contemporary novel. The bulk of the story was about Sloan and Emily, like it should have been, and it was great to read about their friendship–even though if someone pulled a Sloan and up and left on me I’m not sure I’d take it as well as Emily did.

If you like YA books that are summer-y, full of fun adventures, and are a quick read, this is definitely a book for you. It’s a good story with some heart thrown into it and this will definitely keep your interest while you read it. While it might not be the best book you’ve read, it’s a good book to reach for when you’re feeling low, are on vacation, or need a break between emotionally draining novels.

3/5 stars

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