Malin’s #CBR5 Review #67: Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

Ella lives in a fairytale world, where there are ogres, giants, fairies and magic. When she is born, poor Ella is given the gift of obedience by a very misguided fairy, who refuses to take it back, even after the appalled pleading of Ella’s mother and fairy godmother. Lucinda the Fairy is of the opinion that this is a wonderful gift to bestow on a child, and so Ella grows up having to obey any direct order given to her, and knowing that if someone were to ask her to chop off her own head, she’d have to obey. Luckily, the only ones who actually know the truth about Ella’s “gift” are her mother, and the loyal cook. Ella also learns to be creative in the ways in which she obeys any orders. If asked to fetch something, she might throw it at the person, or when asked to hold something, she might march around with the object, forcing the other person to follow her around in order to get to it.

I foolishly didn’t read this book for years and years, basing my opinion of the story on the film, starring Anne Hathaway. I was very dumb to do so. Read the rest of my review on my blog.

Petalfrog’s #CBR5 Review #8: Cinderella’s Secret Diary (Book 1: Lost) by Ron Vitale

Disclaimer: I received this book for free through the Cannonball Read. I must give thanks to the author for being kind enough to share his work with us.

Unfortunately, despite my disclaimer and appreciation of the author, I have little to nothing good to say about this book. I’ll get my one good thing out the way – the premise is pretty decent. The book takes place a few years after Cinderella’s “happily ever after.” She has escaped the clutches of her evil stepmother and stepsisters, and is now a princess. However, she remains fairly miserable and unfulfilled as the prince neglects her for long periods of time and she cannot produce an heir. She has a volatile (at best) relationship with the queen. She convinces the queen to send her and Clarissa to France, ostensibly to meet with a witch who may help her with her fertility issues. Her two solaces are her best friend, Clarissa, and writing in her diary to her fairy godmother.

The latter is what makes up the narrative basis of the story. Each chapter is written as a diary entry to Cinderella’s fairy godmother. The only break from this is when FG writes back to Cinderella. Cinderella is imploring FG to come and rescue her from her bland existence, to bring joy to her life again. Unfortunately, this narrative device results in a lot of “telling” and not “showing” (as a fellow CBR reviewer pointed out). Everything that is told to us, is Cinderella’s memory of what happened. We only ever know her side, and even that is removed. As a result, we never feel in the moment of what’s going on and are only given Cinderella to side with.

This is another major problem with this book. Cinderella is a character we all know and love, but here she is weak, simpering, bratty at times, and very difficult to root for. She is constantly going for walks at night (I have no idea to what end) and has long reflections on her difficulties, yet these are written in such a vague fashion there is no connection with her as a character. At one point she reflects upon her relationship with her father and stepmother,

I had grown beyond that and needed to think about my own future and not my past. The past was the past and so it is.

Not only is this totally trite writing, but at no point do we get to see her grow past this. Rather, she goes and visits her father and this is shoe-horned in. It would be so much more effective if Cinderella actually had a confrontation with her stepmother, and we saw growth from this. In another example, we are told that Cinderella is in training for (I assume) being a witch, but we learn nothing of this training (perhaps Vitale ran out of ideas?).

There are also numerous instances of plain bad plotting that should have been caught by any decent editor. Early on, it is established that the queen dislikes Cinderella, yet seemingly out of nowhere this little gem is included,

The queen allowed both meetings to take place with minimal protection from the guard. Her continued support I cherished.

Once FG was revealed to Cinderella she continued to write, this time to her in-utero daughter (yes, she gets pregnant, and also somehow knows she’s having a girl). Not only does she write extensively about her love affair which I would consider inappropriate for her child to one day read, but her writings include lots of blah blah about powers, and long discussions with her witch-mentor, Renee. Suddenly, we’re supposed to buy into Cinderella being a witch, despite nothing in her mythology (that I know of) to indicate such. At this point, Vitale really seems to be writing whatever he wants and is using the Cinderella thing as a way to just get people reading… there is no connection any longer to her original story.

The writing itself is also pretty awful. The book is set in England and France, during Napoleon’s rising, so I understand the need for a more particular and proper style of writing (especially when the characters are speaking), but that does not excuse some of the most poorly constructed sentences and dialogue I’ve read in a while. In reference to her pregnancy:

“I feel not as nauseous today as I have on this journey.” Loud bangs on a drum distracted me for a moment, and then I continued. “I am more comfortable today.”

We also get this word smash-up, that I literally had to read several time to decipher what was going on,

Renee has shared with me how the sisterhood can help thwart Napoleon will also be discussed.

Finally, this book is supposed to be a Young Adult book, but quite frankly I can’t see this appealing to anyone except maybe the stereotypical sad, middle-aged cat lady. There is nothing youthful or fun in this book, despite the amount of fantasy. Vitale’s attempt to sell a feminist message and present a strong female characters falls flat. He also seems to lack connection with a female character, in general. Granted, it may be quite difficult for a male author to truly understand and embrace their female characters, but I’ve seen it done. Alas, this was not the case here.

While I did not like this book, I truly appreciate Vitale’s graciousness (and courage, knowing we are not obligated to write kind reviews for the CBR) in sharing his book with us.

Read more of my reviews at my blog!

loopyker’s #CBR5 Review #01: Cinderella’s Secret Diary: Lost (Book 1) by Ron Vitale

Cinderellas Secret Diary Book1

Disclaimer: This was given as a free e-book to interested CBR5 readers. This in no way influences the outcome of my review.

I was excited to accept the free e-book of Cinderella’s Secret Diary: Lost since both young adult fantasy and the retelling of fairy tales are amongst my favourite genres and I’m always happy to discover more. This story also includes a little taste of historical fiction – another of my favourites.

As the title suggests, this book is written in first person from the viewpoint of Cinderella’s diary a few years after her marriage to the Prince. They are very far from living “happily ever after” at this time and Cinderella is very unhappy with her marriage and her whole life in the castle where she is under great pressure to produce an heir for the Royal family. She is dealing with big decisions about her life, marriage and motherhood. Hints of political intrigue around England and Napoleon are also entwined with the magical elements of fairies and witches.

It all sounds great to me in theory, but fell short of my hopes in practice.

Read the rest of my review at Loopy Ker’s Life.

Malin’s #CBR5 Review #8: Cinderella’s Secret Diary: Lost by Ron Vitale

We all know the story of Cinderella, right? Stepmother, evil step-sisters, forced to work as a lowly servant, Fairy Godmother, magical shoes and dress, meets the Prince at the ball, falls in insta-love, loses shoe, Prince finds her again thanks to magical shoe only fitting her of all the girls in all the land, and then they live happily ever after. Like that…or possibly not.

What if some years into their marriage, the Prince is more interested in hunting, carousing, flirting with other ladies and sowing his wild oats? The Queen, his mother is unhappy about the lack of heirs being conceived  and while Cinderella (actually name Sophia) is a princess, she is constantly lonely and frequently reminded of her lowly background. She dreams of re-kindling that first spark of love with her husband, and also wants to go to Paris and see the world.

Id’s #CBR5, #1 – Cinder by Marissa Meyer


(This review is of the audiobook version.)

I’m a middle-aged white guy, I don’t fall for these things.  Really.

Of course, we all know that’s a load of fei hua, especially when you have kids involved, especially daughters with vivid imaginations.  Before we know it, we’ve been sucked into worlds alarmingly overshaded in pink, & hidden princesses are on every corner and they don’t have negotiable affections.  If you’re geek like me, Cinder is about as far as you’re going to nudge your darling child toward worlds and characters that don’t have an automatic Disney surcharge.

Meyer’s Cinderella is a 17 year-old mechanic that’s first introduced to us replacing her foot.  Cinder is cyborg – her left leg and hand are mechanical following an accident & a childhood she doesn’t remember.  Her prosthetics define her in status in a rebuilt post-world war city of New Bejing, because cyborgs have no human rights.  Cyborgs all have caretaker guardians; and it’s from here we begin to see how the Cinderella fairy tale is woven into a semi-dark science fiction world.  Throw in a world pandemic & lunar humans with a mental telepathy mutation, and you got a romping science fantasy.

Meyer’s gifts in Cinder are her easy prose and world-building, but not necessarily her plot and characters. Weaker plot and character are not a surprise – this is one of the exponentially growing number of ‘young adult’ books being marketed right now. It’s a post-modern rewriting of a fairytale, so the story was thin to begin with, but I rarely see the plot chapters in advance when reading. Meyer very broadly telegraphs her destinations. Ms. Meyer’s strongest plot element is addressing the rights of posthumans, but doesn’t develop it beyond ‘they are this, oppression is bad.’  Cinder, the heroine, is very teenaged – obsessing over issues of identity and anger, so if you hated those long ghastly passages in The Order of the Phoenix, you’re going to find your patience tested again.  The real reward is in the characters of the over-the-top pure sociopathic & racist behavior of the EVIL QUEEN Levanna (She’s so dramatic, she has to be written in CAPS!) and the mostly-wicked step-mother Lihn Adri.

There’s just enough detail that readers can fill in the images and feel the surface of a much different world, but not be overwhelmed. Meyer has obviously done her research on far eastern cultures, but she doesn’t spend her time detailing those differences.  Which is probably my greatest criticism — this book could have been really, really good, not just fun, if the author had the talent or drive to create a much more detailed culture and characters.  Yeah, I know, ‘young adult”, ages 12 & up, yadda yadda . . and I really miss the creative cursing in mandarin, ta ma de. The final chapter of the book is exceptionally frustrating as the story ends without resolution of the immediate problem.

This is of course a serialized novel plan called the Lunar Chronicles, with 3 other announced books to follow. The following books, Scarlet, Cress & Winter, will also add Rapunzel, Red Riding Hood, and Snow White to the continuing story of Cinder. (Rapunzel makes a cameo appearance in this book, and Snow White is mentioned several times.)

Our reader, Rebecca Soler, is capable, doesn’t get in front of the story and keeps it interesting.

Recommended for pre-teen & teen readers, or anyone looking for a lazy day book. Not recommended for serious adult science fiction readers who can’t turn off.