Review: Coraline

Coraline by Neil Gaiman
Series: N/A
Pages: 162
Genre: Fantasy, YA, Horror, Childrens
My Rating: 4/5
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

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“Coraline’s often wondered what’s behind the locked door in the drawing room. It reveals only a brick wall when she finally opens it, but when she tries again later, a passageway mysteriously appears. Coraline is surprised to find a flat decorated exactly like her own, but strangely different. And when she finds her “other” parents in this alternate world, they are much more interesting despite their creepy black button eyes. When they make it clear, however, that they want to make her theirs forever, Coraline begins a nightmarish game to rescue her real parents and three children imprisoned in a mirror. With only a bored-through stone and an aloof cat to help, Coraline confronts this harrowing task of escaping these monstrous creatures.”

* * *

Why did I not know about this book sooner? I’m one of those people that reads a book long before it ever becomes a movie; however, in this case it didn’t work out that way.

In 2009 when the film Coraline came out, you bet I was there to watch it. A Tim Burton-esque atmosphere is what I wanted, and that’s what I got. When I found out there was actually a book, I was ecstatic (yes, it took me a while to realize that)!

I started reading Coraline and in a short period of time, I was finished. All I can say is, “Wow!” What a great little read!  This is one of those books that you can enjoy regardless of your age, and there’s something special about that.

Basically, little Coraline and her family move to a big house that has been converted into different sections so many families can live in it at once. She feels lonely and ignored because her parents are always too busy for her, but have no fear! Coraline is an adventurer! She goes to meet all the people in the house that, quite unkindly, refer to her as Caroline. There’s two women who used to be actresses, and a crazy old man who lives upstairs with performing mice.

The house’s yard is huge and you can tell that it used to be well kept. There’s a large garden, a tennis court, and even an old well. Coraline spends her days exploring the place, seeing if she can find anything interesting. She finds a cat, but he seems utterly uninterested in her.

One day, she thinks she sees something, so she goes into an unused room in her part of the house thinking the thing darted into the door, but not only is it locked, but when it’s opened, all it is is a brick wall. Eventually, weird things start to happen and Coraline finds herself in a seemingly other world, where the people have button eyes.

Again I repeat, “wow.”

The movie was excellent, yes, but this book beats it by a lot (isn’t that usually the case?). I found myself fully immersed into the world, and at certain points, I felt like I was right beside Coraline as her friend, helping her explore and figure things out.  I’m all for going into alternate worlds; the mere thought is completely captivating, though I don’t know how I’d feel about people with button eyes!

My favourite character in this story was the cat. He has no name, he is just the cat, and he is wonderful. Aside from the cat being amazing, Coraline surprises everyone by being brave even when she’s afraid and convinced that home is no longer her own.

I think this would be a wonderful read no matter what age you are; however, I believe that kids in the 6-10 age range would probably enjoy it the most. I know I certainly would have!

Coraline just goes to show that when you care about something enough, the courage to persevere will come out, no matter how small.

Enjoy, and happy reading!

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Review: The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Series: The Hunger Games
Pages: 374
Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian, Fantasy, Sci-fi, Romance
My Rating: 2.5/5
★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆


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“Katniss, 16, takes her sister’s place in the televised annual Hunger Games, competing against Peeta, the boy who gave them bread to survive after their father died. The cruel Capitol forces each of 12 districts to submit a boy and girl 12-18, to fight to the death. Only one can survive and be rewarded. President Snow manipulates behind the scenes.”

* * *

Many people I know have been obsessed with The Hunger Games for a while now, and being me, I didn’t want to jump on the bandwagon… after reading it, I definitely won’t be.

So The Hunger Games is about a 16 year old girl named Katniss (or Catnip to her lovely friend, Gale) who decides she’s going to take her sister’s place in The Hunger Games. Every year, the Capitol forces each district to submit a boy and girl to fight to the death in a strange arena full of deadly traps. Only one can survive.

Katniss’s sister, Prim, is one of the chosen ones from District 12. Katniss, loving Prim too much, decided to take her place. Alongside Katniss, a boy named Peeta was chosen to go to the arena.

For me, the only thing that saved this book was the idea. I loved the idea of children going off to fight to the death. I know that sounds dreadful, but the premise for the book was great. The kids are going to die one way or another, so giving them a chance to bring honour and riches to their families is something at the very least. I hated the Capitol, I thought it was terrible. But it made me think, does such a place really exist?

My favourite character was the girl from District 11 – Rue. She seemed kind enough, small, her songs were wonderful, and it wasn’t fair that she was there… or that anyone was there, for that matter.

Again, the idea was neat.

So now that I’ve given it some good points, I think it’ll be alright to completely tear apart the rest of it.

WHAT IN THE SERIOUS HELL?!

I want to give this 2.5 stars, not 3, but the fact there’s no half star symbol makes it so I can’t or I will go nuts. What in the serious hell did I just read? The writing? What the hell was that? I could write better than that, at a much younger age. Everyone is entitled to their own writing style, I know I have one, but… here’s some tips.

Tip 1. GET AN EDITOR! If I can consistently point out spelling and grammatical errors, you’re doing something seriously wrong! I’m not perfect, nobody is, but I have the tendency to be a grammar Nazi, and reading it hurts my eyes. I had to read some sentences 5 times over because it made absolutely no sense at all.

Tip 2. Okay, so I don’t have a second tip, I just wanted to rant about that.

I watched the movie before I read the book, which didn’t matter much because neither were all that great. I thought to myself, “the book must be better than this.” Well… at least the movie had pictures… and no painful sentences. And that’s coming from someone that ALWAYS reads before watching.

It was a neat idea, don’t get me wrong, but unless you don’t care about terrible writing (or don’t know the difference between good and bad writing), or they re-release an edited version, please don’t bother. It was painful, but I wanted to see what all the hype was about. Do they get better as they go along?

Okay, if you can stand the terrible writing, read it, it was interesting… and at least then you can get it out of the way.

Enjoy, and happy reading!

Review: Kushiel’s Dart

Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey
Series: Kushiel’s Legacy/Phèdre’s Trilogy/Kushiel’s Universe
Pages: 1015
Genre: Epic Fantasy, Adult Fiction, Speculative Fiction
My Rating: 5/5
★ ★ ★ ★ ★

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“The land of Terre d’Ange is a place of unsurpassing beauty and grace. It is said that angels found the land and saw it was good…and the ensuing race that rose from the seed of angels and men live by one simple rule: Love as thou wilt.

Phèdre nó Delaunay is a young woman who was born with a scarlet mote in her left eye. Sold into indentured servitude as a child, her bond is purchased by Anafiel Delaunay, a nobleman with very a special mission…and the first one to recognize who and what she is: one pricked by Kushiel’s Dart, chosen to forever experience pain and pleasure as one.

Phèdre is trained equally in the courtly arts and the talents of the bedchamber, but, above all, the ability to observe, remember, and analyze. Almost as talented a spy as she is courtesan, Phèdre stumbles upon a plot that threatens the very foundations of her homeland. Treachery sets her on her path; love and honor goad her further. And in the doing, it will take her to the edge of despair…and beyond. Hateful friend, loving enemy, beloved assassin; they can all wear the same glittering mask in this world, and Phèdre will get but one chance to save all that she holds dear.

Set in a world of cunning poets, deadly courtiers, heroic traitors, and a truly Machiavellian villainess, this is a novel of grandeur, luxuriance, sacrifice, betrayal, and deeply laid conspiracies. Not since Dune has there been an epic on the scale of Kushiel’s Dart-a massive tale about the violent death of an old age, and the birth of a new”

* * *

As read in the synopsis, this novel is about an anguisette named Phédre who goes on a journey full of pain and pleasure to uncover all there is to learn around her. My friend was nice enough to let me borrow this wonderful read.

Before I get any further into this review, I will say this: This is not a children’s book. There is a lot of sexual content and otherwise disturbing content.

When I first started reading Kushiel’s Dart, I couldn’t get into it. I was in a weird place and the fact that I was reading about sex absolutely terrified me. Luckily, things changed, and I finally was able to continue reading.

Kushiel’s Dart is a wonderfully written book full of detail and words created just to describe things. I am a lover of epic fantasy and this one didn’t disappoint. I’ve read a lot of the other reviews on this book and there is a lot of negativity surrounding it… mostly because of the undeniable BDSM content.

While reading, we go on to learn that Phédre’s parents leave her where they best see fit. They figure that because she has Kushiel’s marking, that she’d be better off there. From a young age, she gets trained to serve her master in a way only those chosen can. When I started reading, I was a bit ignorant, but where she grew up was no less than a whore house, which makes things interesting. She hates being confined though, and tends to run off to visit her friend Hyacinthe, whom I loved. She eventually is bought by Delaunay who teaches her skills that will later come in handy, especially in her line of work. Phédre is constantly being told secrets which she promptly tells to her master.

Many people would argue, saying Phédre was a prostitute, and in some ways she was, but she was an information gatherer. People from the land would pay to have her for a night, to do what they pleased with her… and she liked it. Pleasure in pain. I think reading about her virginity loss was the worst for me though! But gosh, I’m not going to lie, some of those scenes were incredibly hot! Maybe not for someone that isn’t kinky at all, but you could imagine everything… from being strapped to a wooden X, to being caned and whipped… that’s what makes a good author. And it wasn’t just the sex scenes either, the sheer detail of Kushiel’s Dart was absolutely amazing. Whenever there was talk of food, I became intrigued and wanted to eat; whenever a character felt a specific emotion, I felt it too. Some people would argue there was too much detail, but I beg to differ – I LIKE that when I read an epic fantasy!

I don’t want to give too much of this book away, but all of these characters were memorable in some way or another, and the detail is to die for. I really enjoyed Phédre as a character. She was strong and intelligent, even in the darkest of times. All of the main characters have a story to tell and each is moving in its own way. I became attached to many, and despised many others. There was many a time my jaw would gape and I would sit there thinking, “Oh my god, that just happened! That REALLY just happened!” or, “No! N-no!” I almost shed a few tears as well. Almost.

From reading the first book in the series, I’d have to put it up there with Lord of the Rings and A Song of Ice and Fire. It’s just too incredible not to, and that’s saying something.

I think as long as you’re not a prude or uncomfortable with a lot of sex and/or BDSM, and you enjoy epic fantasy, you’ll probably really enjoy Kushiel’s Dart. I read this quite some time ago, so I apologize for my review not being amazing, but it’s here now!

Enjoy, and happy reading!

Review: Cinder

Cinder by Marissa Meyer
Series: Lunar Chronicles
Pages: 387
Genre: Fantasy, Sci-fi, Young Adult, Fairy Tales, Re-telling
My Rating: 4/5
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

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“Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl.

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.”

* * *

From a young age, I was obsessed with fairy tales; now, at 21 years old, I still find something about them to be enchanting. When I first heard about Cinder, I was quite excited, albeit a bit skeptical. I do grow weary when it comes to YA novels, mostly due to the [overused] love triangles. I’m happy that I picked Cinder up though!

As you can read in the description of the book, Cinder is a retelling of Cinderella from a completely new perspective! In this book, Cinder is a cyborg mechanic who works to try and stay on her step-mother’s good side. Her only friend is an out-dated android named Iko that has an attitude all her own! Amidst this seemingly normal world, is a plague that is destroying anyone that comes in contact with it, and there’s only one hope of ever curing anyone! Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like anyone has found a cure… or have they?

Through possible coincidence, Cinder meets the handsome prince Kai. As their world gets intertwined, Cinder’s life becomes more and more complicated, leaving her between a rock and a hard place.

As I stated in the beginning, I do tend to read YA a lot, but I can’t always stomach the romance… Cinder wasn’t full of ridiculous romance. Yes, there’s definitely romance in there, but compared to other YA, it’s quite toned down [thumbs up!]. Meyers did a good job at incorporating the story of Cinderella while keeping the story all her own, because of this, I was glued to the book until I was finished. I must admit, I expected the ending, but it was well-done; in fact, this whole novel was well written.

While it wasn’t perfect – sometimes it seemed too separated from the rest of the story – it was a great short read, and I’m happy I got to read it. I did read this some time ago, but I plan on reading Scarlet (Lunar Chronicles #2) as soon as I get back home! 

If you’re a fan of fairy tales and are looking for something new, definitely check Cinder out.

Enjoy, and happy reading!

Review: Splintered

Splintered by A.G. Howard

Series: Splintered

Pages: 371

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult, Retelling, Romance, Adventure

My Rating: 5/5

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

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“This stunning debut captures the grotesque madness of a mystical under-land, as well as a girl’s pangs of first love and independence. Alyssa Gardner hears the whispers of bugs and flowers—precisely the affliction that landed her mother in a mental hospital years before. This family curse stretches back to her ancestor Alice Liddell, the real-life inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Alyssa might be crazy, but she manages to keep it together. For now.
When her mother’s mental health takes a turn for the worse, Alyssa learns that what she thought was fiction is based in terrifying reality. The real Wonderland is a place far darker and more twisted than Lewis Carroll ever let on. There, Alyssa must pass a series of tests, including draining an ocean of Alice’s tears, waking the slumbering tea party, and subduing a vicious bandersnatch, to fix Alice’s mistakes and save her family. She must also decide whom to trust: Jeb, her gorgeous best friend and secret crush, or the sexy but suspicious Morpheus, her guide through Wonderland, who may have dark motives of his own.”

As most of you know, I’m incredibly stingy when it comes to giving out 5 stars. Very few books I’ve ever reviewed have received a full 5/5 grade.

Splintered is about this girl named Alyssa who has to go to Wonderland so she can have the answers she’s been craving and also to get her mother out of the asylum.

Personally, I’m a huge Alice in Wonderland fan. I liked Disney’s movie, I like the books, the retellings, even the games. If you give me something that’s based around Alice in Wonderland, I will generally fall in love, and Splintered was no exception. I fell for this book almost immediately after reading the first paragraph. It takes you into a new world; one you’re vaguely familiar with, but becomes something wondrous in its own right.

I don’t read things to look smart or show off, I read things that appeal to me, which sometimes means I’m reading children’s books, like The Twits or a Goosebumps book.

Splintered really dragged me into the world of Alyssa and her family. She was a young, courageous, innocent girl that did nothing more than follow her heart. And the writing style was fantastic. It wasn’t written in a “sing-song” way, or a dumbed-down way either, it was just perfect. The imagery within made you feel like you were apart of the story. You could see the stars, feel the ocean, taste the oysters, and smell the decay. All throughout this novel, you were part of the story, you were Alyssa, or Morpheus, or Jeb. You were one of the characters. You felt what they felt, you were there the entire time. A lot of books don’t have the power to drag you in like this one did.

I really liked Alyssa, she reminded me a lot of myself. Innocent and shy with a lot of pent up emotion, just to come out later on as a woman who knows what she wants.

I liked how the characters weren’t solely based off of the Disney movie, nor were they based purely off the book. Howard gave a part of herself when she unleashed her imagination, which was a dark, sometimes grotesque picture. I loved it.

What can I really say about this book? I loved it and if you like Alice in Wonderland, chances are you’ll like it too. I can’t even really complain about the love triangle (that happens in EVERY YA book) because it was interesting. Personally, Morpheus reminded me a lot of M, which sounds weird, but just the way he acted… very protective.

So why did Splintered receive 5/5?

Truth be told, I’m extremely biased. I love Alice in Wonderland and I love reading about other peoples’ interpretations. It’s more of a girly read, but hey! I’m a girl, so it’s okay! And I’d definitely recommend it if you like even the thought of Wonderland and the creatures within. Just keep your mind open, for your own sake.

Enjoy, and happy reading!

Review: House of Leaves

House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski

Pages: 709

Genre: Horror, Mystery, Literature, Speculative Fiction, Adult

My Rating: 4/5

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

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“Years ago, when House of Leaves was first being passed around, it was nothing more than a badly bundled heap of paper, parts of which would occasionally surface on the Internet. No one could have anticipated the small but devoted following this terrifying story would soon command. Starting with an odd assortment of marginalized youth — musicians, tattoo artists, programmers, strippers, environmentalists, and adrenaline junkies — the book eventually made its way into the hands of older generations, who not only found themselves in those strangely arranged pages but also discovered a way back into the lives of their estranged children.

Now, for the first time, this astonishing novel is made available in book form, complete with the original colored words, vertical footnotes, and newly added second and third appendices.

The story remains unchanged, focusing on a young family that moves into a small home on Ash Tree Lane where they discover something is terribly wrong: their house is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside.

Of course, neither Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist Will Navidson nor his companion Karen Green was prepared to face the consequences of that impossibility, until the day their two little children wandered off and their voices eerily began to return another story — of creature darkness, of an ever-growing abyss behind a closet door, and of that unholy growl which soon enough would tear through their walls and consume all their dreams.”

Um, wow.

This was an interesting read, and by no means a fast one. Within this novel (if you’d even call it that) there are probably 4 stories and all of the quotes and references it makes constantly have you flipping through pages to find the next thing. There are pages with one word on it, pages where you have to turn the book upside down or sideways, and to be honest, there were times I didn’t know what was going on. This book really tests your ability to multi-task because there is so much going on and you are constantly flipping from one subject/story to the next, and it isn’t as though it ends before it switches, oh no, no, it will switch right in the middle of a sentence. You have to remember what was said so that 4 pages later, after reading the other part, you can continue with what you first started reading.

Confused yet?

In all honesty, it wasn’t that hard to follow, there was just a lot of information from within. It definitely gives you a lot to think about in regards to how novels are written; it challenges everything you know!

What made me choose this book was the fact it’s about a house that’s bigger on the inside. I’m a Doctor Who fan and it (obviously) made me think of the tardis, though it’s not even close to being similar.

Basically, this guy named Johnny collects papers from Zampano, and puts it all together. Simultaneously, we’re reading about the Navidson record and what’s happening with Navy and Karen.

There’s a family living in this house that (did my font colour change? No, not the blue. I just realized I could change the colour) finds closets pop up out of nowhere and there are hallways that lead, seemingly, to nowhere. The Navidson record is a bunch of photographs and recorded information from when they decided to search this area.

It’s hard to explain, you’d have to read it for yourself.

I was actually quite freaked out while reading this. The growling in the dark really disturbed me (I’m terrified of the dark) and I had to put the book out of sight for a while just because it got to me. I think this book is a real psychological thriller. Not in the way that other novels are, but this makes you think. What is real? What IS reality?

I started questioning my sanity!

Is this house controlled by psychological fear? It seemed that everything that was happening was based on someone’s psychological state. The book, at one point, even states something about the psychological state. Now THAT really made me start thinking!

The ending also got to me. Johnny’s mother was in an asylum. She was constantly writing letters to him, and I don’t know if she was actually insane or not. A lot of the same things had been happening to Johnny (ie. nightmares). His mother seemed more sane than anyone in the book! But it got me thinking… was Johnny real? Early on, I questioned whether Zampano ever existed. Was his mother actually him? Did any of this really happen?

So many questions…

Maybe I misunderstood some stuff (I skimmed some parts), but I don’t know if there’s anything to misunderstand, it seems to be open for interpretation. And I couldn’t imagine how long it took to write, it seemed like a lot of these references were made up! I also didn’t find it “terrifying” like some did. It made you think more than feel like running away.

Anyway, if you’re looking to read something out of the box and different from what you’re used to, I totally suggest this book. It wasn’t the greatest, but it was pretty good. I gave it a 4/5 just because of the sheer insanity within. I’ve never seen a book like this before (besides an I-spy book) where you need a mirror to read pages and do all this other stuff.

This book isn’t a read. It’s an experience.

Enjoy, and happy reading!