Book Review: The Fairest of Them All

The Fairest of Them All by Carolyn Turgeon

I am completely at fault for not reviewing this earlier even though I’ve had it on my shelf and received it from the publisher for review. To that extent, I would like to apologize to the publisher and the author. I would also like to say that even though I got this book for free, my opinions are my own and in no way are they influenced by anyone involved in the for-profit ventures of this book.

The preface to this book is great and while the idea is not all the original to smash a few different fairytales together, this is one of the only ones which puts two ‘princesses’ into conflict. There are some crazy jumps in reason, but don’t all fairytales have that? For example, Rapunzel follows Mathena and believes everything that Mathena says until Rapunzel falls in love with the prince and suddenly Rapunzel isn’t the obedient daughter anymore, she will go against all that Mathena says. Mathena gives magical herbs to induce magical amnesia is another one that I couldn’t wrap my head around. Lastly, the utter idiocy of Rapunzel in the first few years of her life is just headache inducing.

Despite all these weird starts, the author does an amazing job growing Rapunzel as a character. You could really tell that Rapunzel struggles after marrying the prince, now king. Subtly the book speaks a lot of how society can ruin even the most pure and innocent of hearts when they’re under enough pressure.

This was not a retelling of Rapunzel and Snow White to the tee. That is good! You can tell that the author put a lot of thought into how these two female characters would mesh into each other lives and each others’ fairytales. It may not be the light fairytale that you were hoping for, but it is certainly an intriguing story and one for the adults who have grown up, but still want to revisit all those stories from when they were young.

Stung by Bethany Wiggins

Stung (Stung, #1)Stung by Bethany Wiggins

My rating: 4 of 5 stars on Goodreads

Real rating: 3.5 stars

I started this book on a plane. Even though I landed at midnight after twelve hours of traveling, I knew that I had to finish it. With Thursday looming on the horizon, I stayed up until 4AM anyway and finished the book. I feel accomplished, but incredibly jet lagged and tired. Ha!

Stung is a really interesting concept and it really sits right on par with other great books besides the fact that the beginning is plain confusing. That is partly attributed to the fact that this book has a TON of ‘secrets.’ The plot twists and turns cannot be guessed. That’s great! Fair warning: In the beginning of the book, you will be very confused and none of that confusion is going to resolve itself very soon. The author has enough intelligence not to make everything too revealing. Just when you feel like you’ve decoded the plot… you really haven’t. Trust me.

At the same time it makes me wonder if its kind of cheating, sort of like pulling out half-assed explanations from a black hole with no logic behind it besides the fact that, “it is just the way things are” (it doesn’t read like that, but the thought only comes to mind as I am writing this review and it is because of this that I am taking off half a star). Stung is an interesting concept, if you can get past being left in the dark for more than half the book then it is worth a read.

Warning: The book will allude to the rape of women though it is not explicitly stated. If you have certain triggers or get turned away by the mention of the abuse of women then this book isn’t for you.

This book was provided for me to evaluate by the publisher. I suspect it was to evaluate the success of its instructiveness on underwater basket-weaving. That being said, I am not getting paid for writing this review. Darn.

Gorgeous by Paul Rudnick (A Fantastic Find)

GorgeousGorgeous by Paul Rudnick

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

At first I wasn’t quite sure what to think about Gorgeous. It was a very interesting story that pulled me into it from the get-go. Rebecca (Becky) is a clear underdog and I want to cheer for her, but her circumstances are so fantastical and odd that I felt like I’ve fallen into a rabbit hole. Rabbit hole. What I mean is that Paul Rudnick will describe in length something that will anchor you to reality, but then two pages later he’ll describe about something so crazy that it would only be possible in a modern-fantasy.

At times I thought that this book is exactly what the cover advertises. A girl who is average looking seeking to become gorgeous and by some miracle she is extended that chance. She meets her idols, drags her best friend along for the ride, and then finds her one true love. I thought this book was going to be like all the others. What can it teach me? What is its purpose? It plagued me through the first few chapters. Though I had my incessant questions, I wasn’t bored or put off. The subject matter is interesting and Becky is so lovable and undeniably human that I couldn’t help but want to hear more of her story. The more I read, the more I realized that something larger was at play. The mystery just kept getting bigger and bigger.

So, was I satisfied? Yes. I am. It was an amazing read. The main character grows so much. You really learn to lover her and the various other supporting characters. You even learn to love the ones you used to hate.

Paul Rudnick is an amazing craftsman and storyteller. However, I do warn those who do not have a perchance for fashion, celebrities, or the ultimate fairytale: this might not be your cup of tea. For those who want a fairytale, this will leave you pleasantly surprised. This book was a lot of things, but it’s not another Cinderella remake (at least it doesn’t read like one).

Would I read this again? Yes, I would, but it was such a dizzying novel (with a lot of stuff packed into it) that I’ll have to take a break before I lay my eyes on it again. Aside from that, I only have nice things to say about this book. Bravo!

This book was given to me by NetGalley and Scholastic, Inc. for review purposes, but everything is of my own, honest, opinion.

Review: Geek Girl by Holly Smale

Geek GirlGeek Girl by Holly Smale

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Geek Girl is about 15-year-old Harriet. She is a geek, she is bullied, and she probably comes from one of the oddest families ever. Her mother is actually her step-mother and Harriet’s father acts more like a kid than she does. She has her own stalker. Her best friend Nat is a self-proclaimed future model. However, this all changes when Harriet is talent spotted at a clothing showcase. She instantly feels like she has stolen her best friend’s dream. However, she also badly wants this because she wants to change how others in her school perceive her.

More than anything, Geek Girl, is a coming-of-age novel with lots of humor. It’s about learning to stay yourself and finding your passions (even if it turns out that being a rocket scientist isn’t the only awesome thing in life). It’s about having new experiences. Most of all it’s about learning the truth about love. Not just romantically, but also learning about how others love you.

I fell in love with Harriet. At times she seemed like an adult stuck in a child’s body, but then we get flashes of her life where we see that she isn’t full-grown and that she still has a lot to learn. She’s believable as a 15-year-old in some ways and in other ways not. But who doesn’t think that they’re a lot older than they really are? We go through early life thinking we are the adults that we haven’t quite grown to be. However, Harriet takes it all into stride. She shows us that she has faults, but she’s also unabashedly herself.

Despite being a YA novel aimed more at younger audiences, I still found it a very enjoyable read. Is it the most epic thing ever? Maybe not, but it doesn’t need to be. Geek Girl is perfect the way it is and speaks what it needed to say.

12.21: A Novel by Dustin Thomason

12.21: A Novel12.21: A Novel by Dustin Thomason

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I received an ARC to read and review. Holy crap, I’m so glad that I was able to experience this.

To be honest, if it wasn’t for my recent fascination for end of the world stories I probably wouldn’t have spared a glance at this. There’s too much 12-21-2012 stuff going on and this has been something that has been used to death. My sort of apocalyptic story involves nuclear wars, strange natural disasters, and devastating diseases, but one glance at the title just made me feel as if this was going to be another one of those terrible stories where superstition kills everyone or where everyone decides to commit suicide. Now after reading the book I really regret not reading it before the release date and waiting until now (ARCs are supposed to be for advanced reviews after all). Truthfully it’s not all my fault. My life seemed to have decided to take away all my extra reading time. I spent most of the last month trying to play catchup with all the stuff that higher education entails.

Can I say that my mind was absolutely blown? I got hooked on the first chapter. The story is not at all what I expected it to be and it is very carefully researched. Of course, Mr. Thomason might have taken some liberties, but since I’m a biology major I absolutely know when good research has been used (after reading the afterword I realized that Mr. Thomason had gone to medical school, but of course he did since the material is way too vivid for a random person to have researched all by himself). I also loved being able to connect my various bits of knowledge about ancient central American cultures to what was presented about the Mayans in the book. The book posed a lot of interesting tidbits and you almost spend as much time learning and you do being drawn into this fantasy world.

I would like to take the time to say that I misjudged the book and it is not about everyone committing suicide even though the book does make a nod toward 12-21 fanatics. It’s about FFI, a protein disease (you can read more about it in the book). It starts spreading through the world and through a series of coincidences (or is it fate?) our main characters meet and get swept around trying to race against the fatal prion disease. Phew. There’s plenty of action and mystery for everyone. It even goes all meta on me and did one of those things about: it’s about you, it’s about me, it’s about all of us. Quite clever and not annoying at all like some authors who try to do meta tend to be.

Spoiler: Someone wrote something about how the book was awesome until the cannibalism popped up. Oh please, your’e talking about an apocalyptic book and you’re squeamish about that? I feel like it’s what made this book really distinctive! However, I understand that some of the more confusing and scientific parts of the book might put people off. Especially those who might not have taken upper level biology. I encourage everyone to just trudge through it if you don’t like that stuff because the rest of the story is really excellent. Sometimes I thought I had everything figured out, but then I really didn’t. Love it.

On the Island by Tracey Garvis-Graves

On the IslandOn the Island by Tracey Garvis-Graves

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I received this book for review and I am so glad that I got to read it. I’m usually pretty picky about what I read and my opinions are no way influenced by the fact that I received this for review. (I’m sure you can read the book blurb by yourself, so I won’t summarize the book.)

What I liked about the book was that it was fast-moving. It had a fast pace. The story wasn’t just all about Anna and T.J.’s time on the island, it was also about their rescue, and their life after the island. I especially liked that last touch. It was interesting seeing how the author decided to deal with their psychological changes after their rescue and how their friends and the media decided to deal with their story.

However, at times I felt like there was a lot of telling. She did this. He did that. This is what happened. Though it moved the book along, I could see some missed opportunities where the author could have really exercised her imagery and style.

I absolutely fell in love with Anna and T.J. They had wants and needs. They had dreams. They were tangible and relatable. They weren’t perfect people and on the island they had real challenges. Sometimes I felt like they got by a little bit too easily (spoiler: a suitcase with items washes up), but hey, we can’t have the characters dying on us halfway through the book.

Even better, the author did a great job exploring the older-woman-with-younger-man relationships. She made it believable, but it was also cute and romantic. I don’t think the author did anything that made me feel uncomfortable with their intimacy or their romantic actions toward each other. More so, T.J. had real male needs and Anna had her womanly needs. Awesome. The author didn’t just push it aside and ignore it. That gives her major kudos.

Overall, it was an enjoyable book. I probably wouldn’t hand it to young children or the kids in high school (even though it’s not graphic), but it’s definitely something that young adults can pick up and read. I think I would read this book again. It definitely seems like something I could pick up again in a year or so (another kudos for the book).