Gathering Frost [by Kaitlyn Davis]

img_0263

The fascinating story of two worlds coming together, Gathering Frost introduces a world full of characters under the curse of a Queen that results in the complete and total loss of their emotions and the rebels from our world who continue to fight for the restoration of the freedom and emotions of those under the Queen’s curse. 

I really wanted to like this book. The synopsis left me intrigued and I was genuinely excited to read it. Unfortunately, the execution of the novel itself was not as good as I had hoped for. The beginning of Davis’ book left me desperate for more, and the plot itself was new and exciting. Where Davis falls short, however, is with her characters and the various plot holes that exist in the story she tries to tell. 

This is the sort of book that starts off really well, and slowly just falls apart until it ends. I found it incredibly cheesy, particularly in the very last two chapters. I was horribly unimpressed with the ending and the rather unfortunate choice of cliffhanger leading to the sequel. 

The main character I liked. She was well developed and interesting. However, at times the author alludes to emotions in her supposedly emotionless character, even going so far as to introduce these themes far too quickly. For a character who has had all her emotions taken away, Jade seems to have far too many of them and incredibly early on. Had the author’s intent been to imply that the emotionless characters never truly lost all their emotions, but rather had them repressed I feel as though I would have seen this as less of an issue. And halfway through the book she became irritating.

The character of Maddy and her role in the novel annoyed me as well, considering the way in which she was introduced in relation to her personality in particular. It seems rather idiotic and unlikely to me that the person to escort the brilliant fighter who is now prisoner to the baths would be a young, somewhat timid girl with absolutely no fighting experience. In this, I will say I was extremely unimpressed with Davis’ choice. 

Interestingly enough, the cursed Queen was a character I found fascinating as well. That is, she was an enigma I was curious about until paltry aspects of her personality were revealed in the last couple of chapters. Additionally, the Prince was unrealistic and annoying throughout the vast majority of the book. I was genuinely at a point where I believed I could not have disliked him more, and then Davis inserted her cliffhanger intending to connect this fairytale retelling to another. 

I think Davis had potential with this book. And I will not go so far as to say it is terrible, as I do believe this is the sort of book may will (and have) enjoyed. It just wasn’t for me. 

*Plot holes.
*Points of unrealism.
*Annoying love interest.
*Various mistakes in the novel overall were hard to look past.
*Great idea.
*Would not read again.
*2/5

Top Ten Reads of 2016

Out of the 92 books that found their way into my hands last year, there were a number of books that managed to find a special place in my heart. Here are my top ten reads for the year 2016:

1. Winter by Marissa Meyer    
The amazing finale of the Lunar Chronicles, Meyer’s series of fairytale retellings beginning with Cinderella and ending with Snow White, Winter tells a thoroughly engaging story that will keep readers on their feet through all four books. The depth with which I love Meyer’s characters and storytelling is immeasurable and of anything I would suggest this book series to every single person I’ve ever met.

2. The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski    
A beautifully written, captivating love story filled with politics and an intriguing degree of trials to face. This is legitimately one of the best love stories I have read in my entire life, the characters are so amazingly and fascinatingly developed, and the plot itself will leave readers thoroughly impressed. I have nothing but praise for Rutkoski’s impressive narrative works.

3. The Winner’s Crime by Marie Rutkoski
The second novel in Rutkoski’s Winner’s trilogy, just as striking and impressive as the first. It leaves readers on the edge of their seats, desperate to find out more. One remains in love with the characters and feels for their plights. Heartbreaking and beautiful, the utter realism and amazing depth in the plot will forever keep this novel at the top of my favorites list.

4. The Winner’s Kiss
The final novel in Rutkoski’s Winner’s triology brings readers both more heartbreak and happiness. Ultimately, I could never have asked for a better ending. The Winner’s Kiss deserves every ounce of praise it receives.

5. Heartless by Marissa Meyer
I have an incredible soft spot for Marissa Meyer’s ever impressive writing. She is brilliant at world building, character development, and plots. I was weary of reading another Alice in Wonderland related book, as I’ve never really been a fan of those, but this went above and beyond my expectations and impressions. Once again I find myself in awe of Meyer and her skills.

6. Me Before You by JoJo Moyes
The story of the year, Me Before You broke many hearts long before it even hit theaters. A tale about love and accepting the importance of allowing people what they feel they need rather than forcing them into existences they have determined for themselves is more harmful, Me Before You touches on the harsh subjects of life and death and how much control a person in pain should be allowed over their decisions. I’ve loved Me Before You from the beginning and I have a deep respect for Moyes and her show of deep respect for people’s choices.

7. The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey
I originally thought this was a Zombie story. Going into it, I expected to be unimpressed. Instead, I found myself thoroughly enjoying the whole book. The characters and the ways in which they connected were incredibly impressive. The story itself was wonderfully told and amazing. I eagerly devoured this book.

8. Passenger by Alexandra Bracken
This was an odd story to get into at first. I didn’t know how to feel about it and there were admittedly times where the writing seemed somewhat supurfluious. Those aspects aside, however, Bracken’s novel was one with a brilliant story. I loved her characters, loved her plot, and found a number of quotes I couldn’t help underlining. A further review on this will come as I am re-reading it now with the arrival of its long awaited sequel.

9. You by Caroline Kepnes
Intriguing and dark, Kepnes provides a thoroughly fascinating account of a deeply disturbed man who’d developed an incredibly strong infatuation with a girl he barely knew. This novel truly does give an interesting account of the thoughts of a stalker and my reading of Kepnes very well developed character, I found myself both disgusted and enthralled through the whole thing. It’s definitely a book worth reading.

10. My Name is Memory by Ann Brashares
This book was nothing short of amazing…right up until the end. I loved so much about this book and the story. The characters threw me off a bit at first, but once it got going and the past portions mixed with the present portions a bit more I instantly fell in love. I finished this book in one day, and were it not for the fact that there was and never will be a sequel, I would have put this much higher on my list of loved books. You know those endings that feel like cliffhangers and you just need the rest of the story? This was like that. Only there’s nothing more to the story. And for that, I think, I will always be a little bitter.

http://cauldronsandcupcakes.com/2017/01/07/join-my-2017-book-reading-challenge/

img_0251-1

Just something I happened upon earlier today and I think it’s a great idea. I always enjoy encouraging others to read and it warms my heart when I see other people do it.

In honor of this challenge (and reading challenges in general) at the end of the year I will purchase a book under $15 from Barnes and Noble for one person so long as they’re willing to give me their address.

A Whole New World (A Twisted Tale) [by Liz Braswell]

img_0250-1

The other day in Barnes and Noble (my home away from home) while I was looking for something to happily blow all of my Christmas money on, I happened upon a display labeled Disney Villains with a smattering of books featuring many of the ?darkest of meanies from various Disney films from my childhood. I’d seen Poor Unfortunate Soul by Serena Valentino before, having found myself curious but never curious enough to buy it. Of course, since I have a rather large weak spot for the story of Aladdin (as noted by the lovely shirt I own from seeing the broadway play only two years ago), the second I noticed this particular book I immediately plucked it up. 

I was admittedly rather weary of this novel, partially due to it’s obvious place in the younger of genres and because rebelling are often incredibly hard to do well. This is not to say that books for younger children aren’t worth reading–there have been many I’ve picked up with my brother in mind and read myself simply because I am a sucker for any good story, be it meant for 10-12 or those categorized as young adult and I’ll give just about anything a chance if it has piqued my curiosity. 

Braswell’s reimagining of the story of Aladdin as though Jafar had actually gotten hold of the lamp was, as far as I’m concerned, well worth the read. It was interesting and showed a take on that particular branch of alternate universe in a way I personally never could have predicted. In this, it had its goods and bads and very strong ones at that. I enjoyed reading it, but would by no means call this an amazing story. I admire Braswell’s boldness as well as her tenacity and while I do intend to read the two other Disney twisted reselling she has written, there are many things I would change about her Aladdin retelling. 

It was surprisingly dark, at times, and brought into play plot ideas that I didn’t particularly care for, particularly with Jafar’s army which I found idiotic and somewhat demeaning to the story and Jafar’s character. Iago’s role in the retelling also deeply upset me, again in regards to Braswell’s portrayal of Jafar’s character. More often than I would have liked, I found myself feeling as though the characters were not themselves, and it is here that I think Braswell hit her largest snag. She simply did not have a great grasp of the original characters and struggled at times to write them in a way that remained true to their nature in the Disney version. I was most disappointed in Jafar, followed closely by Jamie and the Genie. Aladdin, however, was rather impressive, even if he had moments–albeit small–where he didn’t quite fit himself. 

Now, as this is a retelling, it is perfectly reasonable to accept these change in characters. I don’t fault Braswell entirely for her choices and the differences that existed among the characters. But I did not enjoy what I did notice. I was horribly unimpressed with the way in which she chose to free the Genie and had admittedly hoped that at some point the deep friendship between Aladdin and Genie would be addressed, and felt the loss of that friendship greatly throughout the course of the story. I do, however, find less fault in this than in the changes made to Jafar’s character in particular. 

On another note, I believe Braswell did a fantastic job in capturing the world of Agrabah. Other additives, such as Aladdin’s mother and relationships connecting characters I otherwise would never have connected in that way were enjoyable. Overall, it was a wonderful story with various things I can’t help nitpicking at. 

Had this been an original story, without my previous love for the Disney movie, I may have been less critical of some things. I do believe the romance was a bit awkward, however I was willing to overlook that due to my previous experiences with the story of Aladdin. This book was not better than the movie. It did not impress me like the broadway play did. But it was good, in its own way. 

I hope Braswell improves with her other retellings, as this was her very first. 

*Curiosity makes it worth reading.
*Not the most amazing story.
*Chance to seriously hate it, depending on your love for Aladdin.
*Promising author and promising work.
*3.5/5

I’m Judging You (the Do Better Manual)


(by Luvvie Ajayi)

Writer and blogger, Luvvie Ajayi is a well spoken and intelligent human being who understands sides of this country and this world that many would never see in their lifetime unless they worked incredibly hard to find it. I picked up this book from an airport bookshop, mainly due to the fact that it addresses crucial issues our society faces and I wanted to drop it off for my mother who I was visiting for Christmas. 

What I found in Luvvie’s words was a woman determined to improve the world by getting important information out to those who need it. I have nothing but respect for this book. It’s well written, informative, and touches base on very important subjects and issues this world faces including racsism, sexism, homophobia, beauty standards, and more. 

I’d like to note that this is not an end all to being informed on some of the issues this world and the people in it face. If you want to be informed and beneficial to society, reading Luvvie’s book and nothing else isn’t enough. But it’s a great place to start. I gave this book to my thirteen year old brother in the hopes of enlightening him on issues that our parents failed wholly on instilling in me. 

I had vaguely minor irritations on the repetition of the phrase “I’m judging…(etc.)” and Luvvie’s tendency to write colloquially using her own made up words to represent what I assume is an accent slang. I’ve never been a fan of that sort of thing in writing and tend to dislike books for doing that. Luvvie keeps it to a minimum, however, and does explain each of the slang terms she introduces. 

In the end this is truly a do better manual. And if you were ever looking for a way to become a more informed, good human being, read her book. She’ll set you on the right path to start. 

*Great book.
*Need to read.
*5/5

Academy 7

5711714

(by Anne Osterlund)

Academy 7 is by no means one of the best books I’ve ever read. In fact, it does become somewhat forgettable after you’ve read it and moved on to other books. That aside, the world and story Osterlund guides her readers through is thoroughly captivating. This is the sort of book that engages its readers for an extended period of time. You consistently want to know what happens next or to learn more about the characters, specifically the two main ones, Dane and Aerin.

In a world where citizens of various planets have come together to form The Alliance, a governing system in which the politics are vastly explored, all teenagers take an entrance exam in order to determine which school they will be going to. Only the top 50 scorers are granted admission into Academy 7 and even less remain there after the first year. The bulk of this story takes place at the Academy, where the students interact in various classes and showcase their abilities in areas such as debate (regarding the fascinating politics of the planetary system), combat, and science (which includes majorly the technology Osterlund has provided this world with).

The main characters, Aerin and Dane come from two very different worlds, their early life experiences shaping them in ways that eventually bring them together. Aerin has lived much of her life with a vast array of difficulties culminating in living her life after her father’s death on a rather poor planet ridden with illegal activities, such as the slave trade. Dane, on the other hand, was raised in luxury, but even that has not promised him a pleasant life. Readers will find themselves on the edge of their seats to learn the details of the secrets these two characters keep about their lives.

One of the most impressive things about Osterlund’s Academy 7 is the true depth you’ll find in both her characters and the relationship they eventually build together. I genuinely felt myself loving these characters and grew incredibly attached to their plights. It’s certainly a book worth reading.

Of course, as I said, it’s not the best book in the world. Upon finishing it, I immediately wanted to read the sequel, which unfortunately has yet to have been written as Osterlund focuses on finishing her other, less interesting, series. But, at the same time, the ending felt rushed and perhaps revealed a bit more than it should have to the characters about the secret that connects them. The ultimate plot does feel a bit anti-climactic and overdone, and while I look forward to how Osterlund will approach the rest of the story later on, I will admit that this part was somewhat of a disappointment.

*Definitely worth reading.
*Small complaints.
*Incredibly engaging.
*Possible long wait for the sequel.
*4/5

 

Let’s Talk About Writing

What motivates you? What inspires you? What do you do when you’ve hit a block? Do you write every day? How do you bring yourself to write every day? What is your writing schedule?

One thing I’ve consistently noticed throughout my time as a writer is that motivation is a key factor. Having something to write about is almost equally as important, but it’s motivation that usually drags a writer down. The authors that make it, the writers who actually get published always seem to treat writing as a job. It’s something they do every single day, or at least something they work at on a schedule.

Some authors publish only one book a year. Some publish their books several years apart. Impressively there are authors out there who type out and publish two to three books a year. In my experience, the authors who manage to publish more than one lengthy book a year have been romance authors, a genre that is unfortunately not to my taste. But I do have a lot of respect for the fact that they manage to write so much.

Here’s the thing I think about, though. Writing something every day is important. You won’t necessarily write amazing things every day of your life, but what this is doing for you is developing a habit. Habits are not easy to break, though they are difficult to start on occasion.

The important thing to remember with this is that a habit of writing is something that will ultimately improve your skills. If you get an idea, write about it. If you don’t get an idea, write about your day. Journaling is such an underrated thing sometimes.

One thing I personally believe does not get enough respect in the writing communities is fanfiction, even the bad kind. It is impressive beyond belief that we have people in this world who dedicate so much of their time to writing free material for others to have readily available to read. And fanfiction is one of the most interesting ways to improve one’s writing. I’ve dabbled in it myself, in the past.

My motivator suggestion today, for all you writers out there, is that if you ever read a book and find the author has written something you have a better idea for–something you think could have been written better or you could have improved upon–I challenge you to re-write it. Write it how you wish it had been written.

I think you might be surprised at not only how fun it is, but also how much of a help it can be for you as a writer in the future.

Freak of Nature (IFICS, #1)

41m4nnbzrtl

(by Julia Crane)

Now just look at that cover. It’s not any wonder, I think, that I was drawn to this book. With my love and forever repeated praise of Cinder by Marissa Meyer, naturally a book like this would draw me in. Even the synopsys, detailing a girl who’d given her body to science and was now meant to be more robot than human and how she deals with the emotions she knows she is not supposed to have was incredibly intriguing.

In the past, I have made no secret of my absolute hatred and disgust of the novel Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James. I’ve described it as a pathetic piece of writing with utterly abhorrent, unrealistic, and useless (not to mention one abusive) characters, an incredibly disturbing and stupid plot that made absolutely no sense and honestly shames the world of literature. I never in my life believed I would ever read anything worse, at least in terms of literary merit.

Then again, at least Crane’s book had a decent editor and a sincere lack of grammatical errors.

And yet, here I am, with this book by Julia Crane and I find myself utterly astounded at how awful it was from the very beginning. To be quite honest, I’m not even sure where to begin. Is it the downward spiral of any potential the book had of having an interesting plot? Is it the potential the author flippantly threw away without a second thought? Is it the absolute pathetic nature of the main love interest, Lucas? Or how about the disturbing lack of feeling for anything other than an insane lust vomiting itself disgustingly all over any possible personality the author could have given her main character, Kaitlyn.

Now, I understand that the main character is supposed to have had her emotions programmed out of her, but the author took the most idiotic route in her decision to give her character feelings. The desire to search for her past is wholly expressed by Kaitlyn’s friend, Quess, not Kaitlyn herself.

Crane doesn’t even bother to input her main character with any true empty feelings–regarding her missing life–or any genuine desire to learn about what was stolen from her. Anything Kaitlyn feels in that aspect was wholly fabricated by her interactions with Quess. And, really, I might have been able to take this story a little more seriously and perhaps even respected it a bit if that hadn’t been the case and Kaitlyn actually did have some sort of emotion in that department.

But, instead, the author goes out of her way to state that Kaitlyn doesn’t have those feelings, explicitly mentioning that she had a notion in the back of her mind that she should hate Professor Adams and the man in charge for taking away her feelings, but that she actually had no ability to feel anything toward them at all. So then all we’re left with is her ridiculous fawning over Lucas? It’s an absolute insult. If I wanted to read sub-par love stories, I’d dabble in poorly written romance novels or sup-par fanfiction, not a book that was supposed to have an actual plot.

Seriously. What is this?

Author Julia Crane had no interest in writing a novel with any real plot or meaning, but instead was too preoccupied with her unrealistic love expectations to bother. She utterly trashed a brilliant idea with insane amounts of potential to have her silly fantasy of extremely impossible ideas of human characteristics. Her characters are dull, and static. They have no real depth to them. They are driven by lust portrayed as love.

I don’t think anything could have saved this book after the disaster her characters turned out to be. In the end, if you find yourself thinking you want to read this book, I can only say, don’t even bother–I can’t believe I did.

It’s no wonder Crane’s kindle version of the book was offered for free on amazon. It’s too disastrous to waste money on.

*Would not recommend.
*Disastrous read.
*Ugh characters.
*Bad characters=bad book.
*Wasted potential.
*Maybe try again, Julia.
*0.5/5

How Much Do You (the Reader) Owe a Book?

IMG_4765.JPG

I’ve always found this to be a rather interesting question.

As a reader, when you pick up a book you generally have every intention of finishing it. Very rarely does a book-lover think when they start reading that this will be the book they do not finish. In my life, there have only been three books I did not finish, all three due to poor writing. Only one because it disgusted me to the point of near vomit.

There have been numerous others that I powered through, disliking the entire time I read them. Of these books, I’ve found I occasionally wish I could get the time I spent reading them back. It’s the closest I’ve come to regretting spending time on a book. And generally, unless a book does something horrendously unforgivable I will, eventually (though some have taken me years), finish it.

I will never label a book DNF unless I have every intention of never picking it up again.

I do wonder: what is it that makes us, as readers, decide a book is not worth our time? What makes us decide a book is not worth considering as a gestalt (whole) when we look back on the experience. There have been several books I’ve read that genuinely changed my mind regarding the poor quality I believed it had as I read further. So what is it about some books that bring us to a point where we ultimately give up on them?

I’ve always been of the mind that I will give every book a fair chance to impress me, a fair chance to receive a reasonably well thought out rating and review. I believe I have done a relatively good job with that goal.

If I do not finish a book, it automatically gets a 1 star rating on Goodreads, though possibly a 0 star rating in my heart. I try to treat my decision to not finish a book as an important one, and while many may think that it’s just a book and it isn’t a big decision to decide not to finish one, my desire to respect the authors and the numerous other people who have put their time into making a book, whatever the quality, available for me to read propels me to reject not finishing a book. I may leave a scathing review, I may choose not to read an sequels or other books by that author, but it is rare that I will not at least give them one chance.

To date, the only books I have not finished due to their poor writing and possibly otherwise disturbing themes that removes my respect for the novel and author are Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. JamesAwake by Natasha Preston, and The Game by Terry Schott. No doubt at some point in the future I will update my reviews for those books and explain my reasons for not finishing them here.

So now, I leave with this: what books have you decided not to finish in the past? Why? What do you think we owe the books we pick up and the authors who have written them, if anything at all?

I think about this a lot, and I’ve given my reasons currently for why I’ve read the way I have. The rest, as Lauren Oliver once wrote in her novel Before I Fall (which is a book I deeply adore), you have to figure out for yourself. 

Fairest (The Lunar Chronicles 3.5 [prequel])

22489107

(by Marissa Meyer)

Here’s the thing–

Giving a backstory to an evil character is hard. There are so many things that you have to account for in order to have one that makes sense, and that alone is difficult. You not only need a credible story, but you also need a little something more. Typically, when one writes the story of their villain, I don’t expect a whole lot. Too many times writers tend to go with the cliche that makes you suddenly feel terrible for the villain and suddenly you start loving them. If the author has come up with something I can accept as reasonable, they’ve got my attention, but I don’t hold high hopes for anything too impressive.

This novel went well above and beyond any reasonable expectation I had.

Once again I find myself astounded and impressed by Meyer’s work, and really, at this point I should just stop thinking her books will disappoint because they never have.

The idea that a writer must have a reason for a character to be evil has been so overdone that it’s gotten to the point where most books have the most obvious, cliche, and ridiculous explanation imaginable. With Fairest, Marissa Meyer took a character who grew up in a manner which held her to a certain predisposition to become the person she did. Nothing about what Meyer wrote for Levana was “typical.” Nothing about Levana was overdone or cliche.

Readers weren’t introduced to a woman who had one bad experience that shaped her cruel and harsh nature. Readers weren’t given one simple explanation for Levana’s cruelty. The personality of the Lunar Chronicles’ villain was corrupted from a very early age and as she grew into her life, she experienced more and more to shape who she would become. But let me be clear; Levana was selfish from the start. She may have acted in ways which she believed were nice, but her own personality told us better. With or without the trauma she experienced, Levana was always going to be someone ruled by her own clouded beliefs.

She was a girl born of privilege to a family where cruelty was second nature. Levana was not someone who could have truly been wholly good in any circumstance as her personality alone led her to be greedy and entirely in possession of the ability to take what she wanted and needed when the time came for it. All it takes is one look at the ways in which she was jealous of Solstice and how she responds to the situation of taking over her appearance. Levana, ultimately, was damaged psychologically into believing that she was something she was not, that people felt things for her that they did not.

And in the most fascinating way, that was the most beautiful and captivating part of the story. She was intelligent enough to believe she knew better ways of ruling the moon than her sister. She was able to grow confident enough to take everything she needed and wanted and even managed to delude herself into believing things were different than they actually were. She made choices and sacrifices that no person who could have truly grown up to be especially moral and good could have made.

And in an ultimate statement of her character, Levana was never truly capable of standing up to her sister. She bit back her hatred–a feeling which was always somehow veiled over by her fear and an incredibly small speck of familial feelings–and in no way would have been capable of killing her sister. But her sister’s child? That was much easier. And while she grappled with the decision in her attempt to be someone whom she felt deserved love only to push past that and truly accept and approve of who she was through her delusion in order to allow herself to believe that her actions were exactly what should be done. She thought, by doing the wrong thing, she was doing the right thing. And this delusion existed for her throughout her entire life.

Levana is the villain who believes with every speck of her being that she is doing the best and the right thing–she deludes herself into this constantly. With her actions regarding Solstice, Winter, and Evret–Levana was brilliant in how she convinced herself that he really did love her, regardless of how many times he repeatedly informed her that he did not, that she was confusing him and hurting him. She manipulated him into a situation which he did not want to be a part of and yet she loved him, believing without question that the world was as she perceived it–or wanted to perceive it–as.

I am nothing if not exceedingly impressed with what Marissa Meyer has done with Levana and even as I try to explain why in this review, I find myself failing to find the proper words and descriptions. What I have written is only scratching the surface in a dismal way of describing how brilliant it was.

Meyer did not simply give an overly simple reason for Levana’s evil nature nor did she shove too many bad experiences into the reader’s faces. She gave us a flawed character from the beginning with a cruel sister and a horrible childhood experience that only exacerbated who she was and who she would become when the time came for her to make choices based on what she wanted out of her life.

And I am so impressed that it baffles me that the rating of this book isn’t even higher.

Levana is beautifully just that sort of villain that you LOVE to hate. 

*Marissa Meyer continues to impress.
*Unquestionably love her writing.
*5/5