March 21, 2017

Book Review | As Old As Time

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As Old As Time is the third book in the Twisted Tale trilogy by Liz Braswell. Although this is the third book in the series you don’t have to read the other two to read this one. Each one is its own standalone novel exploring different storylines from classic Disney movies. This particular novel focuses on Beauty and the Beast and poses the question: What if Belle’s mother cursed the Beast?

The book is sectioned off into three parts. The first part follows Belle as she is introduced to us in the original 1991 animated feature. She is living a provincial life, reading and dreaming of far off places, daring sword fights, and magic spells until she takes her father’s place as the Beast’s prisoner. She meets the enchanted objects and explores the forbidden West Wing where she touches the enchanted rose, and things go wrong. We are also given chapters in between these familiar scenes that show Belle’s father Maurice meeting and falling in love with Belle’s mother, who turns out to be an enchantress. There is discourse and violence in the kingdom against those who possess these magical abilities, and many magical beings are killed in the process. This is all because of the cold King and Queen who do nothing but sit in their castle. Eventually the plague comes, killing the King and Queen and leaving their son, who is still a young boy, to take the throne. Belle’s family has moved to a new village (the one we see Belle grow up in), but Belle’s mother wants to make sure that the young Prince is not as cold-hearted as his parents. He fails her test and is cursed. The other two parts of the novel focus on Belle trying to break the curse, spending time in the library with Beast and exploring the grounds to find a way for the Beast and the objects to escape with her, as well as Gaston plotting to lock Maurice in the asylum.

The overall tone of this book is similar to the new live action movie starring Emma Watson and Dan Stevens. It’s a little darker than the cartoon, but it expands on Belle and Beast’s friendship before they fall in love.

Also, I’m not sure how canon this book is to the Disney movie from 1991, but it did offer some answers to plot holes in the movie.

Why does no one in the village remember the royal family or the castle? Because the enchantress wiped the memories from people’s minds.

Where/Who is Chip’s dad? Mr. Potts used to work at the castle as the Stable Master and was the Prince’s favorite servant, but one day he went away and never came back.

Why does no one age except the Beast? Inanimate objects don’t age while people and animals do.

Why is the portrait of the Beast older than when he would have supposedly been cursed at age 11? It has a Dorian-Gray-type spell on it where the portrait ages with the Beast and shows him how he would look as a human if he had never been cursed: handsome but with a cold, unfeeling heart and cruel eyes (a fact that Belle notices and seems to frighten her a bit).

 

This was the best of the two Twisted Tale books that I have read. While it did feel a little slow at some spots in the middle, it felt like the author had finally hit her stride with her writing, and was clearly having a ton of fun with this prompt. I give it 3.5 stars out of 5.

Let me know in the comments below if you’ve read this book, what your thoughts were, and what is your favorite Beauty and the Beast retelling!

Thanks for reading!

September 8, 2016

Book Review | Poor Unfortunate Souls

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Hi everyone! I’m here today with a book review of Poor Unfortunate Souls by Serena Valentino.

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For a book that is supposed to be about Ursula, she isn’t in it very much.

I really enjoyed the first books in this trilogy (Fairest of Them All and The Beast Within). Both offered some interesting back stories for Snow White‘s Evil Queen and the Beast from Beauty and the Beast respectively. So when I heard that there would be one for Ursula, I automatically added it to my TBR list.

Ursula is, in my opinion, one of the top three best Disney villains, right up there with Jafar and Maleficent in terms of being the most evil and powerful. I was really excited to read her backstory and learn more about her motivations for dethroning King Triton and becoming ruler of the oceans.

Unfortunately this one was a disappointing read for me. The parts that actually touched on The Little Mermaid characters were great (mostly because they were just dialogue from the movie. Seriously, there is one chapter where it’s pretty much just the lyrics of Poor Unfortunate Souls, but you won’t hear any complaints from me there). The rest…not so much.

The main focus of the story is not on Ursula, but is in fact on the Odd Sisters, three witches who made appearances in the first two books. They interact with Ursula a handful of times, but that’s about it. The rest of the time they are arguing with each other and discussing how to find their other sister. The story also focuses on a princess named Tulip and her Nanny, and also this cat that belongs to both the Odd Sisters and Princess Tulip. It all felt very random. So yeah, this story was lacking what should have been its real main character, and instead focused on these other characters who were really hard care about.

The opening of the book does touch on Ursula’s youth and how she actually grew up living in a village with an adoptive father. She is called to the sea and seems aware that she has some type of magical abilities. However, her adoptive father dies and her real brother Triton emerges from the sea to bring her to her true home. However he convinces people that she is dangerous and she is exiled. I personally found this all very interesting and was waiting for it to be expanded on, to see more scenes of Ursula and her brother interacting, of seeing how the subjects of her kingdom felt about her, of her possibly trying to get her revenge in other ways before deciding to wait for the perfect opportunity to strike again (which would be through using Ariel). But no. It was more time spent with the other characters. When you have the license to write the backstory of one of the most well-known animated villains in the Disney universe and she is given the backseat, you know you have a problem.

Another problem here was that there was more telling than showing, and some things felt like they were being repeated over and over again, almost as if the book knew I might start glossing over things and forget what was happening while I tried to get to the next scene that actually contained elements of the Little Mermaid story-line that I know and love.

Also there was a subplot (I guess?) concerning the Dark Fairy (a.k.a. Maleficent), and the Odd Sisters kept saying, “Fire and Water don’t mix, we can’t tell her we are working with Ursula blah blah blah.” Um, no. A boss battle between Maleficent and Ursula would have been way better than having to deal with all the scenes starring Princess Tulip and her Nanny.

I do like this author’s writing in certain scenes, and I really, really enjoyed her previous books, but sadly, I could not get invested in this. I suggest checking out the other two books in this trilogy if you are a Disney fan and have any interest in re-tellings.

Thanks for reading!

April 5, 2016

Book Review | The Siren

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Hey everyone! Today I wanted to talk to you about The Siren by Kiera Cass.

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The Siren is Kiera Cass’s first novel that she previously self-published and was given the opportunity to re-draft and re-release this year.

The Siren is told from the point of view of Kahlen, a girl who nearly drowned during a cruise with her family, only to be saved by a group of sirens. She agrees to serve the Ocean for the next one hundred years in exchange for her life. We then flash-forward to present day, showing Kahlen while she still has a few decades left of her sentence. Although her siren sisters want to live as much of their life as possible, Kahlen prefers to hide in her room and make scrapbooks of all the victims of the drownings she helped cause as a way to ease her concencious. On one of the rare days she leaves she meets a boy named Akinli, who seems to like Kahlen for more than just the beauty that all the sirens have. He also manages to understand her without a voice (since if she ever spoke it would lead him to the Ocean and he would die). The story mainly focuses on Kahlen and how she isn’t sure if she wants to be a siren anymore, especially after meeting Akinli.

Normally I love Kiera Cass’s writing. With The Selection series I was hooked right away, and even though the main character America Singer was frustrating to read sometimes it still captured my attention and left me wanting more. Unfortunately this story didn’t hold my attention the same way The Selection books did. I just felt like the story lagged in some parts, but maybe that was just because I was busy when I was reading this.

I liked the scenes with Kahlen and Akinli. When they first met at the library. When they baked a cake together. But there was also too much of an Insta-Love vibe for me, especially considering Kahlen left right after their first date and obsessed quietly about him for a couple of months instead of trying to talk to him or whatever.

The relationships between Kahlen and the Ocean and Kahlen and her sisters were interesting. I especially liked how the Ocean was sort of her own person. She could communicate with the sirens as long as they were close to Her, and she was sort of a mother figure to Kahlen, which was sweet.

The last few chapters with the exception of the Epilogue were a little over the top. I’m not going to go too much into it because I want to avoid spoilers, but apparently Insta-love is the cure to any ailment.

I think the prose was great, but the execution just missed the mark for me. I do greatly enjoy Kiera’s work and will continue to support her writing, but unfortunately this one wasn’t totally for me.

3 out of 5 stars on GoodReads.

March 15, 2016

Book Review | The Chaos of Stars

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The Chaos of Stars by Kiersten White follows Isadora, who is the daughter of Egyptian gods, Isis and Osiris. When she was very young Isadora believed that she would become a god just like her parents, only to learn that eventually she would die and her parents would bury her in a tomb in the family home with her brothers and sisters who have already existed. After that day Isadora’s relationship with her parents is strained. The story then shifts to present day, where Isadora is a teenager still living with her parents in their hidden palace in Egypt. The gods learn there is a dark force at play and send Isadora away to live with her brother in California where she will be safe. Isadora spends her time in California working at a museum where relics of her family members are on display. She makes a few friends, as well as meets a cute boy named Ry, and she tries to help figure out what is going on with this darkness that is taking over her dreams and forced her away from home.

First of all, this cover = GORGEOUS! The navy and the gold are just so so so so so beautiful together!

And as for the inside of the book I enjoyed it a lot (3.5 out of 5 stars on Goodreads). So many books are focused on Greek mythology (which I do find very interesting), and it was very refreshing to have an introduction to another type of mythology that up until this point I knew nothing about, apart from the names of Isis, Osiris, and Anubis.

As for characters, I liked Tyler, Isadora’s friend from the museum. She was feisty and funny, and was always there for Isadora.

Speaking of our main character, Isadora was sort of annoying at times. She was not as frustrating a main character as some others I could think of (America Singer in The Selection immediately comes to mind), but she was very closed off and bitter and seemed to have that #FirstWorldProblems mentality when she didn’t get her way from her parents. However, for the most part I liked her. I felt like I understood her behavior toward her parents because she did love them and wanted to be with them forever, but was “cheated” out of that option.

The writing was fast-paced and I managed to read this book in one sitting. I felt like there were a few things that were revealed towards the end of the story that should have been discussed earlier in the book regarding the love interest’s family (or even adding a few more pages to the end to discuss it), but overall I enjoyed the read. If you have any interest in mythology and enjoy books that have similiarities to the Percy Jackson series (or really anything Rick Riordian has written) then I would suggest checking this one out.

March 10, 2016

Book Review | A Little in Love

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Ever since I read The Epic Adventures of Lydia Bennet I’ve been looking for more famous literary stories told from the point of view of the secondary characters. It gives you the chance to see the story from a different angle. So when I was strolling through Books-a-Million and saw an adaptation of Les Miserables told from Eponine’s P.O.V., I automatically picked it up.

Anyone who has seen or read Les Mis knows who Eponine is. She is the daughter of thieves, a girl who is in love with a boy named Marius who is in love with another girl, a girl who Eponine herself grew up with.

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A Little in Love starts when Eponine was young. She talks about living with her parents in Montfermeil, the birth of her sister, and the life of thieving that she is forced into. Unlike her family, Eponine tries to be good. She never wants to steal or to kill. She only wants to do good, and it’s hard to do good when your family insists you do bad. She is teased by her family and scolded for not being as committed to their “family business” as her sister is. Eponine becomes friends with Cosette, a little girl who is brought to Montfermeil to stay until her mother can earn enough money to support the two of them. However, Cosette’s mother never returns, and she becomes the Cinderella of Eponine’s family until Jean Valjean adopts her. Later on we see Eponine meet Marius, whom she falls in love with, as well as see her reconcile with Cosette when they meet again in Paris.

I’ve never read the actual Victor Hugo novel. I, like I’m sure most of the general public, have only seen the movie that came out in 2012. It was my first introduction to the story. One of my favorite songs was “On My Own,” both because Samantha Banks has an amazing voice and because she put so much emotion into her performance. And it was her that popped into my head when I was reading this story.

From what I have heard about the actual Victor Hugo book, Eponine is not that big of a character. She’s just sort of there, but A Little in Love was her chance to shine.

I liked the way Eponine interacted with Cosette and Marius. Even though she knew Marius loved Cosette and not her, she was never spiteful. In fact she was the one who brought them together (don’t think that’s really a spoiler because they showed in the movie that Eponine knew where Cosette and Valjean were staying in Paris). She risked her life to bring Marius a note from Cosette in the barricades, and in my mind, that made her fearless. She didn’t care about the war, she cared about Marius and Cosette and their happiness. She put them before herself.

Overall I greatly enjoyed this. I would recommend this to fans of Les Mis, and really anyone that wants to see a classic story from a different perspective. Even if you know the whole story, you can still find something new from these types of re-imaginings.

Have any of you read this book before? If so, please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below!

Thanks for reading!

 

March 6, 2016

Book Review | Finding Audrey

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Hello everyone!

I’ve been reading some more Sophie Kinsella books lately, and decided to do a review on the first book of hers I read a few months ago: Finding Audrey.

Finding+Audrey+Cover+Jpeg Finding Audrey is Kinsella’s first Young Adult novel, which follows a girl named, you guessed it, Audrey. Prior to the beginning of the book Audrey suffers through an incident that causes her to now have social anxiety, for which she has to go to therapy for. Audrey is too afraid to make eye contact with anyone, including the members of her family, all except for her youngest brother Felix. Because Audrey can’t make eye contact she hides behind a pair of sunglasses, even when indoors. She mostly keeps to herself and watches her mother and her little brother Frank argue about Frank’s obsession with video games. Frank plays with a team for one particular game, and invites his friend Linus over to play with him. Audrey initially freaks out when she sees Linus because he is a new person for her to be around, but she soon develops a crush on him. The two start a romance and Linus pushes Audrey to step out of her little bubble of anxiety by doing little tasks, such as ordering a drink at Starbucks, or going up to a stranger and asking a random question.

Overall this book was cute. Light, quick, fast paced. That said, it was irritating.

What the title should have been was Audrey’s Mother Has Some Major Issues (With Video Games). Because 70% of this story was just reading how Audrey’s mother is “concerned” about her brother constantly playing Land of Conquerors (which in my head was some sort of Call of Duty game). The issues with the mother and Frank take up pretty much the entire book, with little pieces here and there of our actual main character doing some stuff with Linus, or figuring stuff out in her head.

Audrey’s anxiety was confusing to me. Maybe it’s because we never learn what actually happened to her. I don’t know. I think if Finding Audrey had been even thirty pages longer, and it included what happened to Audrey, I might have liked it a bit better. But it’s nice to read about a book addressing social anxiety.

The best character in the book to me was Felix, who is four and adorably clueless about what is going on around him. There’s one scene in the story where Linus has Felix deliver a note to Audrey and when Audrey gives her response to Felix to take it back to Linus, Felix sticks the note in his pocket, saying he wants to keep it as his “pocket paper.”

Like I said before, this book was cute. If you are a big fan of Sophie Kinsella, or are just looking for a quick read for the beach, I recommend you checking this out.

 

*Rating on Goodreads: 3 stars out of 5

 

May 19, 2015

Book Review | The Distance Between Us

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The Distance Between Us by Kasie West is about a sixteen-year-old girl named Caymen who lives with her single mom above the antique doll shop her mother owns. One day Xander, a rich, handsome, and charming boy comes to the shop to pick up something for his grandmother. The two begin talking and start to take an interest in one another. Caymen was taught by her mother at a young age not to trust the rich, and she decides to ignore Xander. But Xander’s persistence convinces Caymen to give him a shot, only to learn that her mother’s warnings of avoiding the rich might be true. In the end Caymen and Xander decide they are willing to work through the obstacles of their different financial backgrounds in order to be together.

This was a cute and quick read, the kind of summer time book you read in one sitting while lying in a hammock with a glass of lemonade. It was quite easy to fly through this story. It was a bit of a cliché story in a way, with the poor girl and the rich guy falling in love despite the protests of everyone around them, but something about the way Kasie West told the story made it new and different (if that makes any sense).

I thought it was cool how they were trying to immerse the other in something completely out of their comfort zone at the beginning of their friendship, although I personally thought Caymen’s choice of visiting a cemetery and digging graves was a little much. But hey, that’s just me.

Regarding the characters, I really liked Caymen. I couldn’t personally relate to her life, but I had no problem getting into her mindset and seeing things the way she saw them. She had such a strong voice that pulled me in, which is always important.

Would I classify The Distance of Us as my absolutely favorite young adult contemporary? No. But I did enjoy it a lot. I think I gave this about a 4 on Goodreads, and I am looking forward to reading some more of Kasie West’s works as I did enjoy her writing

I’d love to hear some other opinions on this story. Feel free to leave me a comment below. I’m curious to know what other contemporary books you enjoy.

Thanks for reading!

April 22, 2015

Book Review | The One

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Hey there Literature Lovers! We have reached the third book in The Selection series, entitled The One.

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I can’t really say too much about this particular book without giving away spoilers so if you haven’t read the first two stories, you should check out my posts here:

http://laurenecox.com/the-selection/

http://laurenecox.com/the-elite/

Definitely check these books out if you haven’t already.

 

– SPOILERS  BELOW –

Let me just tell you, it is a good thing I was home alone while I was reading this because the amount of times I yelled frustratedly at this book was ridiculous and my roommates would have thought I was insane.

I actually found America a bit more bearable in this particular story…but only a bit. She still had her moments where she was being stupid. When she finally realized she loved Maxon, she refused to tell him. She kept going, “Oh, later. I’ll tell him later.” Or when Aspen was trying to tell her something she would brush him off and say, “I can’t handle this right now. Tell me later.” JUST DO IT NOW.

Thank goodness King Clarkson died. He was such a jerk. But America’s dad? And Celeste, who had just had a huge character change? I was not okay with that.

The meeting with the rebels was interesting. I liked August, but I really liked Georgia. She was funny and seemed to genuinely appreciate America. I especially found her amusing at the tea party because no one knew she was a rebel.

Speaking of rebels, I definitely thought Kriss was a Southern rebel for pretty much the entire book. I saw an untagged spoiler on Tumblr regarding one of the girls in the Elite being a rebel. At first Celeste popped into my mind, but it then became obvious that it was Kriss. Then I started thinking that Kriss was planted in the pool for the Selection by the Southerners and she was there to win the crown and when she got it she would kill the royal family and the Southern rebels would take over the country. I was so excited and kept waiting and waiting…and waiting…and waiting…and it never came. Oh well.

The end of the book was great to me. Aspen and Lucy were together, Maxon was now the king, he finally proposed to America, it was all perfect. When it came time for the epilogue, I was preparing myself for a cute little scene with Maxon and America looking out over the kingdom or playing with their kids or something, I don’t know. Instead it was their wedding, and I was like, “Okay, yeah, this is cute.” Until freaking Aspen is the one to walk her down the aisle. I’m sorry, no. I know he was a big part of her life, and he has Lucy and she has Maxon, but in what universe is a guy okay with having his fiancé’s ex-boyfriend walk her down the aisle?

–END OF SPOILERS –

 

I greatly enjoyed this series. This is one of those stories where you are so annoyed the entire time you are reading, but at the same time, you can’t put it down. The characters are hair-ripping frustrating and so easy to invest your time in. I recommend this to anyone who is looking for something light, but not overly fluffy.

I can’t wait to see what The Heir holds in store!

 

 

April 21, 2015

Book Review | The Elite

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Hello everyone! Today I finished reading The Elite, which is book number two in The Selection series. I did a review of the first book last week if you want more information.

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This post is going to be full of spoilers, so if you have not read either the first book or this one then you will probably want to avoid this particular post.

 

– SPOILERS –

America Singer continues to be the most indecisive person ever, who would have guessed it. This is my second time around and I kept rooting for America to do the right thing, to tell Maxon that she was starting to feel something for him, that Aspen was in the palace, anything to redeem herself from the sheer stupidity, and she never did any of it. This girl is more indecisive than Katniss and as reckless as Bella Swan. There were times where I had restrain myself from actually yelling at America.

Aspen continues to get on my last freaking nerve, too! Like, are you kidding me? He is again risking both their lives by sneaking around with her behind Maxon’s back. Maybe you don’t care that much about your own life, but if you truly cared about America, then you wouldn’t put her at risk like that! Geez! And the part where he tells America that Maxon is an actor and that it’s good America learned that now before she ended up married to Maxon…and America just listened! America is the only person, besides Maxon, who actually knows Maxon. Okay, she might not know everything, but she knows him better than all the other girls. Yet she is like, “Aspen obviously knows all about Maxon so I should listen to him.” No. Aspen needs to go.

I will give Aspen one point though because this line was cute: “It’s just the way it is. The sky is blue, the sun is bright, and Aspen endlessly loves America.” That is actually sweet.

The King. Oh my gosh. He is so repulsive. I still don’t understand why he is so cruel to everyone he interacts with. And what I really, really cannot deal with is that he beats his son. That takes things way too far.

I was tearing up having to reread what happens to Marlee. I kept picturing my best friend in her position, and it was really hard to get through those few pages.

–END OF SPOILERS–

I kept getting frustrated with this book, and at times I almost felt like skipping over it because I had already read it and knew what was going to happen, but at the same time, it’s one of those you can fly through in a day. It didn’t feel like I wasted time reading it again, but I was so fed up with America. Then again, maybe she is an allegory for America the country, since we are indecisive and irrational a majority of the time.

This is my least favorite of the three books in the series. The writing is good, the story keeps invested, but it all boils down to how cringey America was in this book.

If you have read the first one and are debating giving this a shot, I say go for it. You will want to throw your book across the room in frustration, but, hey, that’s the sign of a good story.

April 14, 2015

Book Review | The Selection

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In preparation for the new release in The Selection series (written by the wonderful Kiera Cass) that is coming out in early May, I decided to reread the existing books in this series and immerse myself in the glimmering world of .

 

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For those of you who are unaware what this series is about, here is a brief synopsis:

The story is set after the fourth World War. The U.S. was taken over and after  it was newly named Illea.

Making up the population of Illea are the eight castes, with Ones being the nobility and Eights being the most destitute (basically think the Factionless from Divergent or the people of District 12). Whenever a new prince comes of age, there is a competition that allows the “daughters of Illea” (aka the common folk) a chance to win his heart and the crown.

Reviews have labeled this as The Hunger Games meets The Bachelor, though to me it’s a very small comparison.

Our main character is named America Singer. She’s a Five, which means she is a musician. She is in love with a boy named Aspen Leger, who is a Six. Aspen is very poor and has to do a lot of manual labor to support his very large family. They have been dating in secret for two years and always talk about how they are going to get married one day. When the sign-up for The Selection comes around, Aspen tells America to sign up even though she doesn’t want to. She agrees to make him happy, and then he dumps her. Shortly after America is chosen along with thirty-four other girls to go live in the palace and meet Prince Maxon. America makes it clear to Maxon that she doesn’t want to compete for him, but instead she’ll be his friend and be able to help him lower down the candidates for his future wife.

The cover is beautiful, the story is interesting. Even if you aren’t super girly or interested in the whole princess thing, you would probably still enjoy this. There are a lot of fluff moments, but it’s not too overdone. I would talk a bit more about the characters, but I feel like I might start spoiling it. But if you think this is something you would enjoy, definitely check it out.