Book Review // Cinder

Sixteen-year-old Cinder is considered a technological mistake by most of society and a burden by her stepmother. Being cyborg does have its benefits, though: Cinder’s brain interference has given her an uncanny ability to fix things (robots, hovers, her own malfunctioning parts), making her the best mechanic in New Beijing. This reputation brings Prince Kai himself to her weekly market booth, needing her to repair a broken android before the annual ball. He jokingly calls it “a matter of national security,” but Cinder suspects it’s more serious than he’s letting on.


Although eager to impress the prince, Cinder’s intentions are derailed when her younger stepsister, and only human friend, is infected with the fatal plague that’s been devastating Earth for a decade. Blaming Cinder for her daughter’s illness, Cinder’s stepmother volunteers her body for plague research, an “honor” that no one has survived.


But it doesn’t take long for the scientists to discover something unusual about their new guinea pig. Something others would kill for.

(Via Goodreads)

 

WOW THIS BOOK. Without a doubt, Cinder was one of my favorite books so far this year. I will attempt to stop fangirling for the majority of this review.

Y’all, in general, I do not like science fiction. (Although I enjoy dystopian, and it’s kind of a blend of both…) But this! This!!! I was totally, completely hooked. I mean – it’s a cyborg Cinderella story! Just yesssssss.

I loved Cinder. I loved the concept of her being an orphan, taken in unwillingly by Adri (the wicked stepmother), forced to work as a mechanic for a living. I loved the various themes that stretched through the book and came together SO PERFECTLY.

And Kai! He was such a good, noble character. The romance between him and Cinder seemed real, not forced, and it was so sweet. I wanted them to get together. (SPOILER I still want them to get together! END OF SPOILER)

Iko was so hilarious. I loved her personality.

The worldbuilding in general was fantastic. My disbelief was totally, delightfully suspended.

And Queen Levana. I haaaaaaaaate that woman. Ms. Meyer did a fantastic job of creating a villain that was SO FUN TO HATE.

And at the end! Oh my goodness. Why??! I was not a huge fan of the cliffhanger ending, and thought it could have been a little more resolved.

Warning to parents: there are some graphic descriptions, mostly medical-ish, in here that may disturb younger readers. For example, I would currently NOT allow my highly sensitive younger sister to read it, but I recommended it to my thirteen-year-old brother and he was totally fine with it. Also, there is (SPOILER) a long, 5-paragraph-long kiss. (END OF SPOILER.) I don’t like mushy stuff, so I skimmed over that part.

And those were my only complaints about this book. Seriously, guys. Go read it. SO GOOD. Four and a half stars.

Book Review // Hero

Fourteen-year-old Zach Harriman can feel the changes. The sharpening of his senses. The incredible strength. The speed, as though he can textmessage himself across miles. The confidence and the strange need to patrol Central Park at night. His dad had been a hero, a savior to America and a confidante of the president. Then he died, and the changes began in Zach. What Zach never knew was that his father was no ordinary man-he was a superhero, battling the world’s evil. This is a battle that has been waged for generations and that knows no boundaries.

And now it’s Zach’s turn to take on the fight. It’s Zach’s turn to become a hero.

(Via Goodreads)

There were several character stereotypes in this book that got on my nerves.

  1.  The grieving teenager, investigating his father’s death, discovers he has superpowers
  2. The super-smart, super-pretty girlfriend
  3. The athletic bully
  4. The protective mom, trying to recover from the death of her husband by diving into work
  5. The uncle trying to step into the dad’s place
  6. The wise old-guy mentor
  7. The random, vague, cliché bad guys without motive or personality

None of those things are bad, they’re just overdone. It felt reminiscent of practically every superhero story ever.

Let’s dive into a few of the different characters and why they didn’t work for me.

Zach was just… ehhh. He didn’t grab me, but I didn’t hate him. He’s a typical kid, thrown into a whole new world after his dad’s death when he realizes he has superpowers and HE IS THE CHOSEN ONE AND HE MUST SAVE THE WORLD FROM THE EVIL NAMELESS BAD GUYS.

Kate is so, so, so, so cliché. She’s pretty. She’s smart. She’s determined. She teases Zach all the time and yet is incredibly supportive all the time. Yes, Kate got on my nerves.

Spence. Why must there be a mean, athletic bully every. single. time. I just don’t get it. This part really felt like Spiderman to me.

Elizabeth (Zach’s mom) is fine. She might be the best character in the book.. She’s a pretty typical mom-trying-to-recover-from-husband’s-death-and-take-care-of-her-kid-etc. She was okay.

Uncle John. This guy got on my nerves and I’m not even sure why. I didn’t completely understand what he had against Zach’s dad and Mr. Herbert, but maybe that’s just me.

And here were are at Mr. Herbert, the stereotypical old-dude mentor. (Noooooooo!!!!) He’s cryptic. He disappears and reappears when Zach isn’t expecting it. He drops little bits of wisdom here and there. He trains Zach. He quotes Spiderman. What’s not to like? Ummm… everything?

Now for my personal favorite. The “bad guys”. *FACEPALM* (I’m about to get spoiler-y here, so be warned.)

They (emphasis on THEY) are the Bads. Therefore they must be evil, even though we never. ever. get an introduction to them. Most of the encounters Zach has with “bad guys” are really just SPOILER tests by Mr. Herbert. END OF SPOILER.

The only actual bad guy Zach meets is the SPOILER assassin at Senator Kerrigan’s speech and he doesn’t even meet him properly, he just shoves him out of the way of the bullet. END OF SPOILER. So far we have nameless, faceless bad guys with NO MOTIVES that we’re supposed to believe are huge threats, or bad guys that SPOILER are really just tests by Mr. Herbert END OF SPOILER. Uhhh… no thanks.

Also, the beginning failed to get my attention. He dove straight into a fight scene without making me care about his characters, and therefore I did not care. Instead, I skimmed. Another no-no – he didn’t open his book with his protagonist. He opened with a character that’s dead the entire novel.

All in all, I didn’t like it. It had a lot of potential that, sadly, it didn’t live up to. It really felt like a first draft of a book that could have been good – but just wasn’t edited properly. One star, for the fact that it was a superhero story which I typically love, and that there was practically no violence or objectionable content.

 

 

 

My Writing Story

I started writing seriously when I was ten or eleven. By seriously, I mean: I had a binder. And I wrote in it. How much more serious can you get?

I had written a few stapled-together booklets (that were very heavily drawn from whatever book I was interested in) and illustrated them, but the urge to write – really write – struck at around age eleven.

I think my writing interest had been sparked by a skinny American Girl book called Writing Smarts that appeared from I-don’t-know-where. (It’s out of print. I don’t really recommend it… If you want a good writing book for children, try this one.)

I especially loved the mini character interview.

And it’s funny. Even then, I wasn’t as interested in reports and poetry. The sections of the book I kept coming back to were always about creative story writing.

Anyhow… In about 2013 I started writing in a large, pink patterned notebook/binder/thing. I scribbled my ideas practically anywhere, but that was where I tried to keep everything.

Then the idea for a time-traveling story hit (don’t even ask), and of course I had to have a binder for it. Complete with title. And hand-illustrated cover. And copyright (mostly warning my brother to stay away from my idea). I was obsessed.

I wrote maybe two or three chapters in it and showed them to a friend. Can you believe that me, the super secretive writer, willingly showed a friend her writing? Ha ha, me neither. That’s funny, Zane!

I didn’t keep on with it for very long, because…

I discovered something amazing.

I discovered that I could write on my computer. And it would look like a real book! (Minus the, you know, paragraph breaks.)

That was when I wrote my first story on my computer, in 2014. It was called “Florence” and I worked on it until it was a whopping 1,757 words long. It was heavily inspired by the current fantasy I was obsessed with: The Castle Corona. (Which, strangely, I don’t love anymore…)

I had a pen name. It was so cool. And don’t even get me started on how excited I was over the fonts.

I was in loooove.

And more stories followed, of course. Many, many more. I progressed as a writer. For example, I made the ground-breaking discovery that there are paragraph breaks between lines of dialogue.

I began outlining and researching my stories, if vaguely. By early 2015, I had started at least 37 stories (on my computer) and finished 14.

(I know this because in early 2015 I took a convenient inventory of my stories, marking them complete and incomplete. I’m too lazy to go count all of them now. Therefore, you will not be getting the numbers up through 2016 and this year.)

Sadly, I did show some of those to people. (Namely family and close friends, but still.) Dear, dear, some of them (who am I kidding, ALL of them) are a bit… cringe-worthy?

Let’s just say I didn’t know what editing was.

But… I kept writing. I kept growing. I kept improving, and I can clearly see that through the tangled mess of my abandoned stories my growth. Luckily, it was just a part of me growing as a writer. I had to go through all that to get where I am today.

My writing still needs improvement and I’m far from done growing (I hope). I’ll keep writing. Keep pushing on.

And keep sleeping. No one likes a cranky writer. 😉

 

What are some books that have influenced you in your writing? What’s your writing story?  And does anyone else find it hard to write a blog post when siblings are singing the Mexican Hat Dance in the background? (Yes, this really happened while I was trying to write. Oh well…)

 

 

 

 

 

Beginnings

I’ve decided to do a post of first lines from my numerous stories/story beginnings/story stuff. A few warnings before we start…

  • When I first began writing, I had a “thing” for fairy tale endings, beginnings, and everything in between. “Once upon a time”, “they lived happily ever after”, etc. Later, I had an obsession with high fantasy (C.S. Lewis, Lloyd Alexander, etc.) and heavy accents that I knew nothing about (mostly influenced by Redwall books).
  • Also, I was heavily under the influence of a… um… a writing program that was… less than desirable? And it told me to use lots of modifiers! Lots and lots and lots! And never use the word said! So I didn’t. And my writing suffered.
  • Of course the fact that I was a beginning writer should not be forgotten. But I still shan’t put any of the really bad beginnings.
  • Oh. And I forgot to mention. I didn’t know what “editing” was until circa 2016. So prepare yourself.
  • Most of them technically don’t have names. When that happens, I just use the main character’s name as the document title, so that’s basically what I’ll do here.

These beginnings were written from 2014-2017.

 

 “Once upon a time, there was a small, white cottage by a waterfall, and in it, there lived a girl named Raziela and her large dog, Jock.”

Raziela’s Story, finished, 2014

 

 “Once there was a raindrop. Her name was Rae. She slipped down a window, unaware that she was spoiling some child’s picnic. She slid on, not knowing that two little boys were watching her.”

Raindrop Rae, finished, 2014 

 

“It’s not very pleasant knowing that your grandfather was a deserter from the army.”

Dragon Tales, finished, 2014

 

 “It was midday. As a hammer clanged in the forge, Eliot of Darsville pulled up a bucket of water from the well.”

The Seven Simons, finished, 2015 (this is actually the second version of this story I wrote.)

 

 “My story begins, I suppose, on the day I was born, but since I don’t remember that, I’ll start with my accidental (and unfortunate, I might add) meeting with Prince Wilmet.”

Elwyn and Harlan, finished, 2015, second version (again)

 

 “Calix stumbled over a stone in the rough road.

“Come back ‘ere, you young scoundrel!” A voice echoed through the streets.

 Calix ducked into an alley and watched his pursuers run by. Safe, he thought.”

Calix, unfinished, 2015

 

 “As Ardyth Forsyth raced down the road to Bushra, her skirt whipping around her legs and her braids catching in the wind, she bumped into a man and knocked him over. He was a strange man, his eyes wide, his hair mussed, his clothing disheveled.

 ‘Turn around, little missy,’ he said fearfully. ‘Believe me, you don’t want to go to Bushra, not right now.’

 ‘Why not?” Ardyth asked. ‘I’m on my way to see my aunt.’

 ‘She’s very likely dead,’ said the man, ‘if she lived in Bushra.'”

Ardyth, unfinished, 2015

 

 “Bowan didn’t do anything. To be in jail, I mean. He was just a gawky, ungainly boy, too small for his fifteen years and scrawny as a rabbit in midwinter.”

Bowan and Eliana, unfinished, 2015

 

 “Evian O’Raleigh was running away again. He ducked under a low-hanging branch and leaned against a tree, catching his breath.”

Evian, unfinished, 2015

 

 “Fifteen-year-old Colin Timblin sat underneath the old oak tree whittling and thinking about the rumors around his village. The popular one was that the kingdom was being invaded by cats. He didn’t really care who ruled; to a farm boy, one king was as bad as the other. He and his mother would still live in poverty anyway, so what was the difference?”

Colin, unfinished, 2015

 

 “Skye Ransom envisioned herself hurling a knife and it hitting dead center every time. This was her favorite fantasy, the one she most often hid in during the long, boring classes.”

Taratung, unfinished, 2015

 

 “Sixteen-year-old Jorel Slyte woke up to the sound of gunshots and a pounding on the door.”

Jorel Slyte, unfinished, 2015

 

 “The young girl looked around at her miserable surroundings, and clutched the tiny baby close to her chest. It was Christmas Eve, and nine-year-old Mary Fairfax had no place to spend the night.”

The Perfect Christmas, finished, 2015

 

 “Rosie slipped away from the small crowd of people wearing their Sunday best. She didn’t want to talk to them. She wouldn’t talk to them. Their intentions were surely kind and good, but she wanted to cry, and she didn’t want anyone to see her doing it.”

Unnamed pioneer story, unfinished, 2016

 

 “I slipped into an alley, clutching my satchel. As I knew all too well, the city of Ezei was infested with thieves, beggars, and pickpockets.”

Elle, finished, 2016

 

 “My old violin sang the last notes of “Ave Maria”. I let the sound linger, then put down my bow. It needed an accompaniment, and the notes were twangy, but other than those tiny details, I thought my father’s violin sounded beautiful.”

Imaginary, unfinished, 2016

 

Oswell’s heart sank as he got the report card. The F’s stood out like sore thumbs. In a few of his worst subjects, like Maiden-Scaring and Fire-Breathing, he had F minuses.”

Oswell, finished, 2017

 

 “I stood on the edge of the mountain, hopeless. The smoldering, water-drenched ruins of my once village hurt every particle of my pathetic being.”

Hanna’s Hope, finished, 2017 (coming soon!)

 

“It was my fault entirely, so that’s what I told the police.”

Ryker, unfinished, 2017

 

 Did y’all like them? Which was your favorite? Do you think I’ve progressed in my writing? Tell me in the comments!

And yes… I’m a day late.  On the first week I had a scheduled “publishing date” too. Tsk, tsk. Sorry ’bout that.

What I Think Of Emma Woodhouse

A poem in the style of Doctor Suess // Expressing my righteous indignation at Emma Woodhouse from Jane Austen’s Emma

 

I do not like her in a book

I do not like her in a nook

I do not like her personality

She would not win Miss Congeniality.

 

I do not like her here and there

I do not like her in her lair

If people heard the things she said

Behind their backs, they’d flush red.

 

Perhaps I’d like her with some kindness

Her biggest fault might be her blindness

Her prejudice could be much less

She’s worse than Miss Elizabeth*.

 

I do not like her matchmaking

It leaves my miserable head aching

From the times I’ve banged it against the wall

I do not like her, she makes me bawl.

 

Perhaps later in the story

She’ll fall in a different category

But until time can tell,

I do not like her. All is well.

 

*Bennet

 

I hope you were amused by my mini-poetical-rant. Seriously, am I the only person in the world who doesn’t like Emma Woodhouse? Pride and Prejudice was sooooo much better.

 

 

 

Goodbye March // Monthly Recap

April is here and so is spring! It’s boiling, roasting, scalding, scorching hot outside right now. Which is why I’m quite glad I’m in the nice cool basement right now… (Mom said it wasn’t that hot, but it was pretty hot to me. I like air conditioning. It’s still too hot for April.)

March flew by (but when doesn’t it?). It was a pretty normal month of school, writing, etc.

 Highlights

  • One of our oldest chickens was killed by a hawk.
  • Our power went out briefly after a storm and we sat around the table and drank drinkable yogurt. (Was that redundant? Probably.)
  • Small group (with our church) started.
  • My brother turned thirteen!
  • We visited the Story Shop and it was so beautiful I almost cried. (Well, maybe not cried. But I felt quite exhilarated while I was handling these lovely classics.)
  • St. Patricks Day came and we ate lots and lots of corned beef. Yay!
  • Went on a field trip to Fort Yargo.
  • Aaaand I rearranged my entire bookshelf. Again. It looks quite lovely, please and thank you very much…
  • Went to Stone Mountain to see their new dinosaur exhibit. Half the time I was looking at their dating (this one lived millions and millions of years ago!) and rolling my eyes.
  • Drum roll… WE ONLY HAVE TWO MORE WEEKS OF SCHOOL LEFT!!! Hoorah! I am quite ready for a long, long, long summer vacation and I plan to get lots and lots of things done. (Department of Redundancy, Dpt.

Camp NaNoWriMo started today! I will not be participating because April is crazy… I am kind of hoping to participate in the July one, though. Not formally. Just for fun.

Bookish Things

I read ten books this month – not quite as many as last month but I’m perfectly satisfied!  My Goodreads says I read more, but that was just because I forgot to log a couple of library books until they were due… *whoops*

  

Favorite: Either Son (you can find my review here) or The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom. Son was emotionally gripping, but The Hero’s Guide was hilarious! I’ve already recommended it to my brother.

Least Favorite: Oh… well… Gathering Blue, Messenger, How to Outrun a Crocodile When Your Shoes Are Untied, and the Rising Star of Rusty Nail! Seriously, though… Probably HTOACWYSAU (How To Outrun A Crocodile When Your Shoes Are Untied. It’s such a ridiculously long name).

Currently reading: Emma, by Jane Austen, and Pie, by Sarah Weeks.

Writing

Well-uh. I probably wrote something this month. I know I wrote a few blog posts… In all honesty, I started a new short story that I’m super excited about. I went through a period of writing it where I literally wanted to do nothing but write. (Go away.) I was also completely fangirling over my own character. Is that normal?

And I’m almost done with it!!!! *Squeals and hides in a corner.* But don’t, you know, expect to see it… EVER…

Although you might be surprised. I am a sneaky writing ninja and maybe I’ll get the nerve to post some of my writing someday.

NOT TODAY. SORRY NOT SORRY.

Blogging

I only wrote three blog posts this month. Oh well…

Also, I’m now going to try to release a new post every Saturday, because I am a very scatterbrained person and I forget when and what I posted. So I’m going to proclaim Friday “Blog-Writing Day” and Saturday “Blog-Releasing Day”! I know, I’m strange…

Weird Random Fact:

Colonial Williamsburg is having a dance tonight at seven and another at eight thirty and I just really want to live there and reenact FOREVER because dancing plus historical costumes equals amazing.(That was a really long run-on sentence…) But I’m not even remotely close to Virginia… and certainly not close enough to run up there every Saturday to dance with them! Oh well…

 Is anyone doing Camp NaNo? What have you all been doing lately? Leave anything and everything in the comments!

And also, I was not paid by Colonial Williamsburg to endorse them… Sorry for my fangirling, y’all!

-Zane