Cinder: A Book Review

“Even in the Future the Story Begins with Once Upon a Time.” 
― Marissa Meyer

Cinder by Melissa Meyer
Published: January 2012
Buy: Amazon or B&N
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library

I picked this one up at the library after first seeing it in a bookstore when it was first released. It sounded decent enough at the time and I figured I’d come back for it in paperback. Then everyone online started reading and reviewing, giving it rather good review, so I grabbed it up (quite a bit behind the review train). I wasn’t over whelmed, but it was good. I think fans of retellings would enjoy this. Though, if it hadn’t been outright stated, I probably would not have seen the Cinderella correlation. I think I could have enjoyed the book a lot more had I not been trying to peg characters to their counterparts in the original tale. It’s seldom good when I compare novels to originals.

As I said above, Cinder is a retelling of the classic Grim tale Cinderella.
Cinder is a 16 year old cyborg living in New Beijing with her adoptive mother, sisters, and a little android name Iko. She is known as the best mechanic in New Beijing, but she is still a second class citizen. Cyborgs are seen a lesser than humans and are used for researching a cure for the plague that has wreaked havoc on the Earth. Cinder hates her life with her step-mother, Adri. Iko and her step-sister Peony are her only friends and even those friendships are at risk of Adri’s tyranny. When Prince Kai, the son of the Emperor of the Eastern Commonwealth, has trouble with his beloved android, he brings it to Cinder with a story of childhood attachment and a joke of “national security.” Despite the joke, Cinder thinks there’s more to the importance of this old robot. In hopes of impressing the Prince, she starts work. But soon her sister Peony is diagnosed with the plague and Cinder is blamed. In her anger Adri “volunteers” Cinder for research, which no one has survived. Once at the research facility, the doctor quickly realizes Cinder is incredibly special.

As for a retelling of Cinderella, I would say this one is decent enough. There was nothing done exceptionally well, but it was interesting. If I had not known the correlation, I think I would have enjoy the book much much more. It seemed to me that Cinder was her own “fairy godmother,” which was equally refreshing and annoying. I’ve always liked the fairy godmother in other versions. (It could be said Iko was the “fairy godmother,” but I don’t feel a strong enough argument to believe it.) I felt like the emphasis on the fact that this is a retelling took a lot away and left me waiting for certain things to happen that did not or were not easily recognizable. I wish I’d never known that aspect of the story.

But I did enjoy the book despite the problems I had with it. I really liked Iko and the doctor at the research lab. Iko was such a fun character throughout the book and I loved loving her. The doctor was also interesting, even if predictable. I liked him a lot and liked the role he played in the story.  As for the obvious unique quality to this book, the cyborg/futuristic world, it was interesting. I liked the challenges and new things it provided for the story.

I thought the writing was really good, but, for me, the plot fell a little flat and short of the original. (Grim Brothers left big shoes to fill!) I would recommend this book to those who like sci-fi or fairy tale retellings. It a wonderfully written, neat not-so-little book and I don’t think many people who find the idea of it interesting will be disappointed. I certainly do intend to read the next books in the series.

Have you read Cinder? What did you think of it? How do you think it did as far as being a retelling?

An Author Interview with Jody Gehrman

Last Friday I posted my review of Audrey’s Guide to Witchcraft by Jody Gehrman. I loved the book and approached Mrs. Gehrman for an interview, and she said yes! I’m so happy So let’s get right into it!

Jody Gehrman
Buy Audrey’s Guide to Witchcraft: E-book or Hard copy
And get the other books on Amazon

Jody Gehrman is the author of seven novels and numerous plays. Audrey’s Guide to Witchcraft is her most recent Young Adult novel. Her other Young Adult novels include Babe in Boyland, Confessions of a Triple Shot Betty, and Triple Shot Bettys in Love, (Penguin’s Dial Books). Babe in Boyland won the International Reading Association Teen Choice Award and has recently been optioned by the Disney Channel. Her adult novels are Notes from the Backseat, Tart, and Summer in the Land of Skin (Red Dress Ink). Her plays have been produced in Ashland, New York, San Francisco, Chicago and L.A. She and her partner David Wolf won the New Generation Playwrights Award for their one-act, Jake Savage, Jungle P.I. She is a professor of English at Mendocino College.

Rae: First, I want to say thank you so much for the opportunity to review your book, Audrey's Guide to Witchcraft. I really enjoyed reading the book, but for my readers have not, would you mind telling us the general idea of Audrey's story?

Jody Gehrman: It’s about a 17-year-old witch-in-training who must hone her newfound magical powers in order to save her mother from an evil necromancer. Oh, and it has magical chocolate cake plus cute boys!

R:What inspired you to write such a neat story?

JG: I’ve always been fascinated with witchcraft. I even dabbled in it a bit in my youth. I started writing it about seven years ago as a book for adults, but I never felt like it was quite working. Then I realized it would be better as a YA novel, so I pulled out the old draft and gave it a radical makeover, including a brand new protagonist and a totally different plot.

R: What about the background love story? Why did you choose to not make the love story the focal point of the novel?

JG: Audrey’s attraction to Julian needs more time to really develop, and while I do see the love story getting fleshed out in the next two books, in this first book she’s got her hands full. Her primary concern here is getting her magical powers up and running so she can save her mom. Still, Julian’s too cute and charming to ignore completely! She feels an irresistible connection with him. I do love romance, when well done, but Audrey’s story isn’t just boy-meets-girl. She’s busy!

R: What would you say was the most difficult part about writing this story?

JG: This book took me longer to write than anything I’ve ever attempted. I had to be patient and wait until the story unfolded. That can be super frustrating, but I do believe you can’t force a book into being–or if you do, anyway, it usually shows.

R: Which of your characters do you feel like you relate most to?

JG: That’s a hard question. I relate in to Sadie, Audrey and Megan in very different ways. I relate to Sadie’s mentoring style, to Audrey’s intensity, and to Megan’s drive to be a rock goddess. Not that I AM a rock goddess, but I’d like to be! I guess all of my characters reflect a different part of my psyche.

R: What lessons or feelings do you hope your reader will take away from the experience of reading your novel?

JG: I hope they’ll see the magic in everyday life. Audrey’s ability to absorb everything around her and channel it does happen all the time on a subtle level; we pull ideas and emotions from our environment and channel it into our work, our art, our interactions. It would be gratifying if readers resonated with that and started to recognize it more. On the other hand, the wonder of being a writer is that readers always see something I never intended to show them. Maybe they recognize reflections of people they know in the characters. Maybe the setting reminds them of someplace they’ve been. In a way, the responses that surprise me are even more delightful than the ones I predicted. It’s the ongoing alchemy that happens when a reader’s imagination encounters the words on a page.

Questions about Life And Other Works

R: Would you like to tell us a little bit more about yourself? What kinds of things do you like to do when you're not working?

JG: Yoga, kickboxing, swimming, theatre, thrift shopping, reading, movies and eating. I’m a big fan of bacon and chocolate, though not necessarily together.

R: I’ve read you’re also a playwright. How does play writing differ from writing a novel? Which do you enjoy most?

JG: Plays are all about dialogue; it’s your only tool. I think writing plays hones my dialogue skills so when I go back to novels the muscle is stronger. Plays are much more communal by nature, too. You usually work with the director and cast; that helps fight the solitude of writing novels. When you see a play performed you get to feel what the audience feels; you know when a joke falls flat, when a kiss or a monologue moves people. With novels, you have a huge space between you and your readers; only through reviews and emails do you know what they’re thinking. But novels help me reach a wider audience, and I get a bigger canvas to paint on. I can delve into setting and pack in all kinds of sensory details. For me it’s ideal moving back and forth between the two forms. I call it “cross-genre pollination.” My work in one form inspires and strengthens my work in the other.

R: So Disney has shown interest in your novel Babe in Boyland. How excited are you to have the opportunity to see your novel in movie form? Will you be working on the script?

JG: Disney has their own distinct style, so they’re hiring a screenwriter. I’m fine with that. I actually think I can learn a lot more this way; I get to see how another writer transforms my story into something that will work on screen. I think it will be fascinating. Since I’ve experienced the “letting go” process plenty in theatre (hanging back as a director makes changes or interprets my play in new ways) I’d like to think I’m not as control freaky as most writers. Who knows, though! I’m just really excited. It’s kind of a dream come true, even getting as far as the option.

Questions About the Writing Process

R: For those of us who are aspiring authors, I can't resist a couple of questions about your experience. What inspired you to become an author?

JG: My first “novel” was really a very long letter sent to my best friend about us riding around on our flying dogs. I was eight. We’d moved to Canada for the year and I missed our imaginary games, so I wrote about them instead. I guess writing for me has always been about delving into imaginary worlds. I still tend to think of each of my novels as long love letters to a place, a time in my life, a person, a feeling.  

In college I discovered playwriting, and after college I freelanced as a journalist. Both of these experiences really confirmed my commitment to writing, in part because they helped with the inherent loneliness that can become an occupational hazard. As a playwright I love working with actors and directors; as a journalist I love doing interviews. These more social aspects of writing balance out the isolation of writing novels.

R: Where do you like to write? Do you have a specific place or time of day that you like to do your work?

JG: I have an office, we call it “the writing room.” It’s my favorite place in the world. I’ll attach a picture. I’m generally a morning writer, though when I’m on a roll I’ll sometimes write all day.

R: What went into your decision to be a self-published author?

JG: Here are some of the reasons I decided to experiment with the independent route after publishing with large, established houses for the past decade:1) TOTAL CREATIVE CONTROL: While authors occasionally get to offer input into book design and marketing strategies, more often we’re sidelined or not included in the process at all. With AUDREY, I hired my own model and sketched out my own vision for the cover. We transformed my writing studio into a photo studio and my husband David went to work. For over a week obsessed over fonts and poured over Photoshop tutorials. We had a blast making it our own. I plan to attack every aspect of marketing with the same gusto. It’s liberating, taking control in this way. 2) MASSIVE INCREASE IN ROYALTIES: I know I’ll have to sell a lot of books to earn anywhere near the advances I got with my book deals. Still, considering that I’ll be going from an average of 10% royalties to a much larger percentage, even a moderate success has the potential to keep me afloat. 3) NO WAITING: Ask any writer and they’ll confirm that the waiting process is endless and creatively draining. You have to wait months for editors and agents to get back to you, your pub date gets delayed, your project is on hold until you can get more feedback. It goes on and on. With this process, publishing happens when I say it does.

4) IT’S FUN: I’ll probably be singing a new tune if my marketing falls flat and I join the fifty percent of self-pubbed writers who earn less than $500 a year at their craft. After living with the disempowering lack of involvement I often felt with traditional publishing, though, there’s a real skydiving-esque thrill to all of this. I’m taking the plunge. The outcome is uncertain. Wish me luck.

R: Do you have any advice to give to me and other aspiring authors?

JG: One: Write on a regular schedule.

Two: Surround yourself with people who support your writing dreams. 

Three: Know that external validation (getting published, getting praise) can only take you so far. You have to love the process itself, savor it every day. That’s where a writer’s true pleasure lives.

I really want to say thanks again for the wonderful opportunities you've given me with both the review and this interview. I wish you the best in your future works and I can't wait for the next installment of Audrey's story!
If you missed my review of Jody's newest YA novel, Audrey's Guide to Witchcraft, Check it out!

Choker: A Book Review

“The Ethan of her dreams had disappeared. He was just another person who was sad. She was kind of glad, actually. Dreams disappeared when you woke up. The real thing was better anyway.”
–Elizabeth Woods

I picked this book up from the library on the sole suggestion of my friend Ariel. She raved about this book, then while at the library returning and rechecking books before going to Colorado, it sat there on the shelf. I snatched it and off I went. I do not regret this decision. I officially trust Ariel, without question, in all that is book related.

Choker is about two best friends, Cara and Zoe, who were separated when Cara, was forced to move by her parents. Several years later, Cara is in high school and feeling rather miserable. She’s not popular in the slightest bit and she feels that she has no friends. She even accumulates the nickname “Choker.” Then, one day, Zoe appears on Cara’s bed after school. She’s run away from a horrible home life and begs Cara for refuge. Cara, of course, agrees, because “What are best friends for?”
This is going to be a very short review because this book is so amazing. I have no complaints what so ever. This book also needs to be read knowing as little about the story as possible. I can’t even properly tell you who I recommend this book for without ruining it! All I can say is this book is though provoking, surprising, and amazing. If you’re interested in good books, Choker is certainly the book for you!

Audrey’s Guide to Witchcraft: A Book Review

 When the author approached me for a review of this book, I was little apprehensive. It sounded like a good idea, but so many books do, in theory. I’m extremely happy to say, I enjoyed this book. I would like to thank Jody Gehrman for the opportunity to review, and love, this book! I eagerly wait the sequel!

Audrey's Guide to Witchcraft (Book 1)
Audrey’s Guide to Witchcraft by Jody Gehrman
Format: E-book
Published: 30 June, 2012
Publisher: Magic Genie Books

This was the very first book I read on my new Nook Color, and I loved that, but this is a book review. This book is quirky, suspenseful, humorous, and exciting! I easily read a few chapters a day for the first couple of days, but once I hit chapter thirteen, I was hooked. I did not put down my Nook for anything more than a moment. I became enthralled background story of a relationship Audrey develops, not to mention the main story line: chasing the bad guy to save Audrey’s mother.

In this book, Audrey Oliver is a 17 year-old girl living an ordinary life. She loves baking, like her pastry chef mother, and chemistry, like her late father. She has a best friend and a talented sister. One day, Audrey just feels that something is terribly wrong. When Sadie, a young estranged cousin, shows up, her suspicions are confirmed. With the story of her mother having to attend to “family business,” the girls continue in their life. But weird things are happening to Audrey. She sees weird visions and seems to make things happen. Finally, she learns that she, and her mother, are witches. After that life shattering news she learns her mother is fighting an evil man and that Audrey may be in danger too. How is Audrey supposed to balance family loyalty, self-preservation, and her new magical abilities, not to mention falling in love? What’s a witch to do?

As far as the story itself, I liked the idea of it. What can I say? Throw some witches onto paper, have them fight evil and fall in love, I’m sold. I also really loved the characters and their development. Sadie was, by far, my favorite character. I love her quirky personality and how lost she is at first in the Oliver home. I also love her menagerie/entourage.  Meg was also an interesting character, being entirely without knowledge of the truth. Then there’s Julian. I love that man. I’m so glad that Ms. Gehrman didn’t make him evil or sketchy like so many authors feel the need to do.

My only real complaints are stylistic. I questioned the use of some metaphors and found, I think, two typos (only one I marked as distracting). My first complaint, though was the vocabulary. I’m an avid reader and English major with, what I consider, an advanced vocabulary, but within the first 10 pages, I had to look up 2 words and noted one as an unnatural word for a high school junior. If she was said to be an extremely intelligent or advanced student, I’d probably over look  these words, but for a Young Adult novel I found them to seem pretentious and unnatural. After page 10, though, the unusual wording stopped or died down enough I forgot to notice.

Overall, I give this book a 4 star rating. I really really enjoyed it, despite my minor, English major-esque, complaints. I really think that anyone who enjoys exciting fantasy novels, novels about witches and magic, or just really good, fast paced reads would really like this book. I, personally, am patiently (or perhaps impatiently) awaiting the sequel!

Check out the e-book, available for $0.99 HERE!
Or get a copy from Amazon for only $9.99

The Espressologist: A Book Review

Honestly, when I picked up this book my hopes were not overly high. One reviewer I have come to generally trust, Claire, gave this book a good 4 “star” rating in her review. Not long after reading Claire’s review, I saw the book displayed in my local library and decided to snatch it up. After Claire’s review, I knew the book was out of my normal style, but the review made it sound like something that would be worth picking up. I was not disappointed, but I was not overly impressed either.

This book is certainly a Young Adult, feminine book. I think it’s a cute, fluffy read, but it certainly doesn’t make you think or invoke much participation on the readers part. It’s a neat story for an afternoon or weekend Summer read.

Jane Turner has been working at Weird Joe’s coffee shop for several months now. As she serves drinks and observes people, she begins to see a pattern: She can tell what kind of person someone is by what drink they order. As she becomes more interested in this phenomenon, she starts to keep notes on what kind of person drinks each drink, and surprisingly, she is spot on every time. Finally more confident in her informal study, she begins matchmaking friends and frequent customers based on their drink orders. Each time the couples are ecstatic. When word gets out, more and more people want to be matched by the “Espressologist.” With all her matches, Jane is happy to see she has helped couples find happiness, but what about her happiness? What about her match?

I really enjoyed this book for the style. Matchmaking is not generally a genre I’d venture into, but I thought it sounded good for a quick summer read. I was certainly right. This is a great book for a quick summer read, but don’t expect it to be well researched, perfectly written, or surprising. I’d say I have very few complaints about this book. I think Ms. Kristina Springer wrote an interesting new take on the YA romance scene. Wonderful debut novel.

But with all the good I have to say, one major thing brought the entire rating down. The Ending. I felt that the book ended suddenly, as if Springer simply tired of her story or her characters and wrote a quick easy ending without thinking it entirely through. I also felt that the ending was extremely unrealistic. Not so much in what happened, but in how Jane and other characters acted in the end. I understand this is fiction, but it’s a realistic fiction about teenagers with teen drama that suddenly drops. I was very disappointed. Before I reached the final few chapters, I thought this book would be a 4 star book, but the ending got me. There were also problems with the writing and phrasing, especially one character’s use of British slang (incorrectly, might I add).

Over all, I thought it was a decent summer read and good for something light and frilly, or should I say frothy. If you’re looking for something a bit romantic, very light, and very quick, you should think about checking this one out.