How My Reviews Work

Welcome to Red Raven Reads, and thanks so much for taking the time to check out my blog!

I wanted to use this first post to describe how I will be formatting my reviews. I will start with the first sentence of the book itself, then the title and author, and the rest of the review I’ve broken down into 5 separate pieces:

THE STORY – A brief summary of what the book is about

THE GOOD – The positive qualities about the book

THE BAD – The negative qualities about the book

THE CONSENSUS – A summary of my personal opinion about the book

THE RATING – A rating out of 5 stars, with 1 being “This was horrendous” and 5 being “I want to marry this book and have its children”

I aim to provide a blend of humor, brutal honesty, entertainment, information for the consumer, and credit given to the author. I give my objective review, not my personal review. I will rate books 5 stars even if I hated them and I will rate books 1 star even if I loved them– if the rating fits!

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Review: “Everything, Everything” by Nicola Yoon

“I’ve read many more books than you. It doesn’t matter how many you’ve read. I’ve read more. Believe me. I’ve had the time.”

A Red Raven Reads Review of “Everything, Everything” by Nicola Yoon

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www.redravenreads.wordpress.com // www.booksarefood.wordpress.com

THE STORY:

Alright, so think “The Boy in the Plastic Bubble” meets literally any other YA romance where a sexy new guy moves in next door. I think? Maddy has the whole John Travolta deal going on. And Olly has that… uh… tragically bland YA hero deal going on. So that’s the gist.

THE GOOD:

The little sketches and artifacts enclosed in the book, drawn/created by the author’s husband, really make this book. And even though the majority of the content itself is boring, Yoon writes it in an interesting way. I’m reminded a lot of John Green as well, which is ALWAYS a good thing. AL-WAYS. Plus, Maddy isn’t white, which is like, FINALLLYYYYYY.

THE BAD:

Olly sucks ass. He’s super lame and boring and there’s nothing interesting about him. Maddy’s pretty bland as well. Like… the characterization? Not good. The romance isn’t even very good, and to be honest, it’s upsetting. I feel like most YA romance novels, as lame as they usually are, at least have some semblance of romantic or sexual tension. There’s nothing here. It’s sort of like reading about those mashed potatoes you make from a little packet of powder.

THE CONSENSUS:

I know what you’re thinking—this book totally sucks, right? Well… Sort of? But not really. Objectively, I don’t think it’s a great book by any means. But it’s a fun, quick read, it’s pretty cute, and I enjoyed it. Plus, PLOT TWISTS. BUM-BUM-BUMMMMM.

THE RATING:

“Everything, Everything” gets a rating of 3 out of 5 stars.

My Top 5 Books On Writing

In honor of NaNoWriMo, I’ve been reading and writing a lot about, well, writing. How better to celebrate than with a countdown of some of my favorite books on writing?

  1. “Writing the Breakout Novel” by Donald Maass

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Maass has a phenomenal understanding of writing and story, and it shows in WTBN. This book covers all aspects of writing a “breakout” novel—an exceptional first novel that catapults into the book world at full force. Maass is clear, concise, and a phenomenal source for aspiring and published writers alike.

  1. “The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers” by Christopher Vogler

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Vogler’s book builds off of Joseph Campbell’s “The Hero’s Journey,” which describes the phases of a protagonist’s path as it relates to plot. Vogler’s work modernizes this journey and puts it into layman’s terms. This book is phenomenal for writers who would like to learn more about plot and structure.

  1. “Bird by Bird” by Anne Lamott

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Lamott’s work is essential featured reading in most college creative writing classes, and understandably so. Through a lens of humor and faith, Lamott takes the reader on a step-by-step guide through their first novel. Lamott is a motherly teaching figure and her book is a necessary book for the writing shelf.

  1. “On Writing” by Stephen King

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I wouldn’t be able to call myself a writer if I didn’t put this book on the list. In his timeless bestseller, part memoir and part instruction, King reveals why he’s one of the most successful writers in the world. More than instruction, this book is a beautiful representation of the craft and an inspiration to writers and readers alike.

  1. “Story: Style, Structure, Substance, and the Principles of Screenwriting” by Robert McKee

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McKee’s “Story” is hands down my favorite book on writing. At nearly 500 pages long, this monstrous brick of sheer knowledge is a necessity, in my opinion, for every writer’s bookshelf. Though it’s a book created specifically for screenwriters, its insights on crafting a compelling story are groundbreaking and a precious tool for writers of all genres and mediums.

The Beauty of NaNoWriMo

30 days. 50,000 words. 351,489 participants. 40,423 winners.

That’s 12%.

Is it worth it?

I’d like to respond with a resounding, overwhelming yes. NaNo is so precious to me as a writer, and a person. When I was younger I heard stories of the miraculous word-trek and the few survivors of its challenges. Someday I knew I wanted to finish it, and I hope this year will be the year.

But my personal connection to NaNo is beside the point. What I’d like to address here is why NaNoWriMo is so important to the writing community—and those who may not yet be affiliated with it.

NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, gives hundreds of thousands of writers across the globe the opportunity to write a novel—in 30 days. A monumental feat by any measure, certainly, but here is my core philosophy: everybody has a book within them. What better opportunity than a contest, a great event, to bring out that novel?

It’s equal parts terrifying and inviting to newcomers and veterans alike. It forces writers to take that time necessary to work their magic. It encourages community in an activity that is inherently performed solo. Most importantly, it encourages writing, one of the most beautiful art forms in the world.

I simply can’t imagine anything more magical than hundreds and thousands of writers making their literary dreams come true all at the same time. The bonds that are formed are tremendously precious, the art that is created divine in the sense that it is written so quickly that every emotion is forced onto the page and left black and wet by candlelight.

People from all walks of life, all shades of skin, all genders and sexualities can participate, assuring it’s never to early nor late to follow your dreams. And with over 10% of writers completing the task, this devoted community also proves that it’s very, very possible to achieve these dreams. And that’s what writing is: a dream.

Writing brings story into the world, and story is the cerebral foundation of mankind. Everything around us is story, if we’re able to acknowledge it. What is more beautiful than begetting more life to life? What is more beautiful than changing perceptions, creating worlds, changing lives, with language?

This is the basis of NaNoWriMo. It’s so much more than a challenge—it’s a dream come true.

Review: “All the Bright Places” by Jennifer Niven

“Is today a good day to die?”

A Red Raven Reads Review of “All the Bright Places” by Jennifer Niven

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www.redravenreads.wordpress.com/www.booksarefood.wordpress.com

THE STORY:

One fateful day, Theodore Finch meets Violet Markey atop the school bell tower. Whether either of them intend to jump, no one can say. Yet, this chance meeting creates the beginning of a relationship that is truly magical. We follow Finch and Violet throughout their romance and tragedies and are led to a final, earth-shattering conclusion.

THE GOOD:

This was truly a great read. I found myself laughing and crying right alongside the characters, both of whom felt impossibly real. The writing is sound, the plotting is good, and the pacing is excellent. I finished 75% of the book in one sitting, once I’d gotten into it. This book was whimsical, touching, and oh so very important in a day and age where suicide is a growing threat to teens.

THE BAD:

There really wasn’t much “bad” to contend with in this story. However, at some parts the conclusions felt rushed or unnecessary, or even unrealistic. Though this is my personal view and not the view of everybody, it did sour the book a bit for me.

THE CONSENSUS:

ATBP is a great read, and one I would recommend in a heartbeat to fans of YA contemporary. However, throughout the book, it felt like there was something namelessly missing. What it is I cannot say, but it felt as though there was a lack of “flesh” to grab on to.

THE RATING:

Objectively, this is a fantastic book that easily deserves its rating of 4 stars.

6 Ways That Young Adult Ruins Romance

Time and time again, I pick up a young adult novel expecting a good romance that will sweep me off of my feet. And time and time again, I am really freaking disappointed.

Why?

Well. I’ve compiled a list of 6 ways that YA ruins romance here for you today.

  1. Insta-Love

Okay, so can we all just agree that insta-love is the worst, most awful thing in existence? IT DOESN’T MAKE ANY SENSE. You can’t just have two characters see each other and immediately fall in love, unless at the end they die, because I suppose that’s what they get for being pansies. Thanks Shakespeare. You the real MVP.

  1. The Most Trope-Ish Couple Ever

I hate this so much. I don’t want perfect, gorgeous characters. I don’t give a damn about the captain of the football team and the head cheerleader, nor am I any more affectionate concerning the top jock and the goth girl who’s actually super beautiful and funny and perfect (but of course SHE doesn’t know it). CAN WE STOP WITH THESE TROPES?! What ever happened to creativity?? I want unique, realistic characters with quirks and flaws and interesting histories.

  1. A Lack of Realism

This obviously piggy-backs off of the idea of insta-love, but let’s examine this a little bit. I just read a book where the girl was supposed to die about fifty different times, and didn’t, because her prince rescued her. In fact, she failed to die SO MANY TIMES that I actually wanted her to just freaking die already. THIS PERFECT TIMING IS IMPOSSIBLE. More impossible things, shall we? -insert funky list music- Having “him” in every class, the underdog prevailing over the jock in a fight, the heroine having a miraculous makeover and stunning everyone at prom in a sexy red dress, the clumsy heroine suddenly becoming a badass, cheating death (over and over again)—I could go on forever, but I’ll save you the cringe-fest.

  1. The “Perfect” Competition

Usually there’s some competition for the hero or heroine in YA romance, but here’s my problem: these characters are frequently there for the sole purpose of being bitchy and otherwise perfect. They’re not real; they’re barely even characters. Y DO U EXIST?! These characters may be necessary, but at least give them a personality. Please. I’m begging you.

  1. The Kiss That Makes Everything Okay

Situation: Protagonist and boyfriend. Fighting. Fervently fighting. He called her a dirty hoe. But then he kisses her and everything’s okay.

Okay, so maybe “dirty hoe” is a stretch. But so is that kiss that shows up in almost every YA Romance I’ve ever read. The kiss that makes it all better. Does it happen in real life? Yes, with horribly stupid and shallow people who divorce after being married for a whopping year and a half. Please, let’s make young adult characters realistic, intelligent individuals who are not sated with physical touch as an apology for a horrific act of cowardice, selfishness, or cruelty.

  1. Same. Freaking. Guy.

You know who he is. Crooked smile, eyes that are the bluest blue, that muscular but not-too-muscular physique, a terrible past that controls his current actions. Yep, that’s right- that guy whose name changes when he shows up in most YA romances. Dear Mister Guy: you’re cute, we all like you, and you obviously work. But maybe, just for a while, go away? Sincerely, Me.


 

This concludes the list, though a lot of ideas were omitted. I hope you enjoyed reading my word vomit. So, do you have any pet peeves about YA romance? Tell me in the comments! I hope you read a romance that doesn’t suck today.

-Avery

Review: “The Wrath and the Dawn” by Renee Ahdieh

“It would not be a welcome dawn.”

A Red Raven Reads Review of “The Wrath and the Dawn” by Renee Ahdieh

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www.redravenreads.wordpress.com // www.booksarefood.wordpress.com

THE STORY:

This novel is basically a retelling of the “One Thousand and One Nights” story, Scheherazade. Read: girl miraculously survives death through telling stories to her captor each night, even though he’s killed every girl before you. Hundreds. Thousands. Already Ahdieh has set Shahrzad up to be an unlikeable character, and boy, did she deliver.

THE GOOD:

Ahdieh obviously has a good understanding of language and description. Her writing is lavish and quite beautiful at times. And that’s about where my compliments end.

THE BAD:

I never set out to write a scathing review. It’s just not in me. But this book is everything that’s wrong with the Young Adult genre, encapsulated in a single novel. While the descriptions are beautiful, I find everything else to be poorly written. The sheer concept that Shahrzad is the one to survive, seemingly for being beautiful, enrages me. SHE. SHOULD. HAVE. DIED. Further, she seems to have minimal character development. She’s about as interesting as Bella Swan. Oh, and of course. Let’s make her the FREAKING QUEEN OF THE KINGDOM SO WE CAN HEAR MORE OF HER STORIES?! READ A GODDAMN BOOK, BRO!

Needless to say, I hated this book with a fervent passion. I don’t want to. I wanted to love it like everyone else. But I didn’t.

THE CONSENSUS:

I have yet to understand the hype about this book. I think it’s horrid and it makes me sad to know that I am in such a minority of people who see flaws with this novel. Nevertheless, it is my job to be honest with my opinions, and honest I will be.

THE RATING:

I am disappointed and thoroughly upset to have to do this, but I give this book 1 out of 5 stars.

Pokemon Go Book Tag!

Pokemon-Go-Book-Tag

I. Cannot. Believe. This. Exists.

For those of you who don’t know, I am a HUGEEEE Pokemon geek, so I freaked out when I saw this tag and I’m so excited to share my answers with you guys!!

Pokemon-Tag-01Starters

So this is a weird one, but my favorite book when I was a kid was “The Call of the Wild” by Jack London. I read it so many times and I still have the horribly damaged copy. Like no joke, that book looks like it got in a fight with a mongoose and lost. (I don’t really know what a mongoose is but I feel like it’s the right animal for the job, in my heart.)

Pokemon-Tag02Pikachu

I don’t have a Pika in game yet and it makes me curl into fetal position and sob at night. HOWEVER. To answer the question, I will always always always LOVE “Jane Eyre” by Charlotte Bronte. It was the book that introduced me to the classics and renewed my love of reading at the time.

Pokemon-Tag-03-Zubat

Definitely “The Twilight Saga” by Stephenie Meyer for me. As terribly written as those books are, I still found the first one to be super addicting. I probably would’ve finished the series if not for the twi-splosion.

Also, an open letter to Zubats: go away.

Pokemon-Tag-04-Ditto

One of my favorite series of all time is the “Shatter Me” series by Tahereh Mafi but it was soooo similar plotwise to everything else at the time. BUT IT WAS SO. WELL. WRITTEN! Love love love love love. Love. Love some more.

Pokemon-Tag-05-Snorlax

I’ve really been wanting to read “The Bronze Horseman” series by Paullina Simons, but supposedly they’re bricks, and I’m terrified. Momma didn’t raise no coward, but… 800 pages in the first book alone?? *shivers*

Pokemon-Tag06-Gengar

“Looking for Alaska” by John Green wins this one easily. I could not stop thinking about it for AGES. I would flip back and forth with the characters speaking to me in my head while I tried to sleep. WHY JOHN GREEN. WHY YOU GOTTA PLAY A GIRL LIKE THAT.

Pokemon-Tag07-NidokingQueen

Oh jeez, so manyyyy. I think my vote is for America x Maxon from the “Selection” series by Kiera Cass. (Which is a fantastic series, by the way!) Ugh, my heart. *swoons*

Pokemon-Tag08-Rapidash

“The Monster at the End of This Book.” HAVE YOU READ THAT THING? THAT THING IS INTENSE. You can’t deny it.

Pokemon-Tag09-Eevee

Okay, so… I really don’t like series, as you may know. But does anyone else want more of “The Hunger Games?” Because I sure do. PLEASE MS. COLLINS, I BESEECH YOU!

Pokemon-Tag14-Magikarp

I expected literally nothing when I started “The Summoning” series by Kelley Armstrong, and I ended up being blown away. I thought the plot, writing, and character development were incredible. Those books are pretty darn close to perfect.

Pokemon-Tag12-Legendary

So, I have sinned. I haven’t read past book one of the “Mortal Instruments” series. *ducks tomatoes* BUT! BUT! I’m planning on it! I am very excited to read more of that series even though you probably would overfill the ocean with all of the hype and fangirling over it.

Pokemon-Tag15Mew-MewTwo

I don’t care much for collector’s editions; however, I would loveeee a signed copy of “Angelfall” by Susan Ee. That book was the bomb dot com. (Look at my hipness. LOOK AT IT.)

Pokemon-Tag10-Egg

“My Heart and Other Black Holes” by Jasmine Warga looks phenomenal. I can’t wait to smell it– er, read it, I mean read it! That’s what readers do! No smelling involved. …Okay maybe a little smelling involved.

Pokemon-Tag11-Lure-Module

Lauren DeStefano and I are soulmates, she just doesn’t know it yet. She is so boss. I love her creativity, writing style, premises, and execution. Rarely does Lauren let me down.

Pokemon-Tag13-Server-Down

In all honesty, I haven’t been waiting on anything that’s not already out or won’t be out within the next few months, so I’m going to go with a book that may or may not exist: I want somebody to write Romeo and Juliet x Fire Emblem: Awakening. Andddd go! (I beg you please write it ;-;)


Thank you guys so much for checking out this tag! I hope you enjoyed! I’d like to tag anybody who wants to take this tag on, because everyone deserves to have as much fun as I just did writing this.

Thanks guys! Read on!

 

 

July Book Haul!

So… things got a little crazy in July.

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First there was Leviosa Con, and then there was a super awesome sale at Barnes and Noble, and then I found a bunch of awesome books at Goodwill…

Send help.

I spent ALL the money. All of it. BUT GUYS LOOK AT MY NEW CHILDREN OMG.

book2book1This set of twelve was from the Barnes and Noble sale. I got them, all hardcovers, for less than $10 each PLUS an additional 30% off. Them deals tho. THENNNN…

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14 books, all signed by their authors and personalized to me, from Leviosa Con!!!! I will treasure these forever. Finally…

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I got Fablehaven and Cinder from Barnes and Noble at regular price and got the rest at Goodwill, “on the cheap,” as the young, hip children would say nowadays.

I would give little descriptions of all of these but there’s like… um… *counts*

A lot.

So I’m not gonna. BUT. I hope you enjoy the eye candy as much as I do!! ❤

Review: “The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett” by Chelsea Sedoti

The first thing that happened was Lizzie Lovett disappeared and everyone was all, “How can someone like Lizzie be missing?” and I was like, “Who cares?”

A Red Raven Reads Review of “The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett” by Chelsea Sedoti

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www.redravenreads.wordpress.com // www.booksarefood.wordpress.com

-I received this ARC in exchange for an honest review.-

THE STORY (Goodreads):

A teenage misfit named Hawthorn Creely inserts herself in the investigation of missing person Lizzie Lovett, who disappeared mysteriously while camping with her boyfriend. Hawthorn doesn’t mean to interfere, but she has a pretty crazy theory about what happened to Lizzie. In order to prove it, she decides to immerse herself in Lizzie’s life. That includes taking her job… and her boyfriend. It’s a huge risk — but it’s just what Hawthorn needs to find her own place in the world.

THE GOOD:

I freaking loved this book. I was laughing, crying, and curled-into-a-ball-ugly-crying. (Lots of crying—happy and sad.) The author definitely wrote in a way that teenagers can resonate with (ignoring the beginning which made me kinda mad. Deets later.) It was funny, sparky, witty, and fresh. I enjoyed every moment and finished the book in one sitting. My lovely, precious lil book. WHO’S THE CUTEST LIL BOOK. YOU ARE. And Hawthorn. Kicks. Ass. I stood up and danced around at one point. I feel also that the book had important commentary to share concerning the world, expertly shielded behind a fantastic story.

THE BAD:

I really couldn’t get into the book until about the 20 percent mark, because the beginning sort of… flopped. It was super expositional and seemed to dredge along without offering much activity of interest. When it got going, it certainly got going, but I’m obligated to take this into account. The formatting and typos were difficult to deal with as well. But guys, real talk, the worst part was that this book couldn’t go on forever. I love Hawthorn so freaking much and I wanna hear every freaking detail about her wonderful freaking life. Loveeeeee. (I know this is the “bad” section but OMIGOD THIS BOOOOOOOOK GUYS)

THE CONSENSUS:

The second this book comes out, buy it. It was so flipping incredible. I literally want to cuddle with it like it’s a stuffed animal but it’s on my kindle. Plus, dang thing won’t hug me back for some reason. I DON’T NEED YOU ANYWAY, BOOK. I’m sorry baby I didn’t mean it like that, you know I love you.

BABY COME BACK. YOU CAN BLAME IT ALL ON MEEEE

THE RATING

5 stars. “Maybe. Probably.”

Musings: Dear Author, Write Fantasy

I saw a post the other day that really made me think. It was from an independent author who was contemplating writing erotica instead of fantasy because nobody was reading fantasy anymore. To you, dear author, I must ask: do not stop writing fantasy.

Why?

A simple question.

Fantasy has been a celebration of the underdog since the beginning. Fantasy concerns a normal person who becomes special in some way—due to being chosen or destined for some greater feat than existing in monotony. Fantasy thus becomes the greatest escape. Never have I been more sucked into a book than with fantasy—never have I felt more at home than when I’m among unicorns and dragons and fairies and elves.

Fantasy is for dreamers. Normal people have often scoffed at the visions that fantasy presents, discouraging make-believe and creativity for the sake of practicality and logic. In fantasy, these people are the villains of the story. Imagination and creativity and innovation become the key to existence in these magical worlds, these worlds far worse and far better than our own.

Fantasy is strength. It’s taking the demons of the world and defeating them through kindness and justice, intelligence and bravery. Fantasy is the power of good in the face of evil.

Fantasy is LOVE. It is a labor of CREATION and REFLECTION, a combination of SOUL and SPIRIT, a RAGING TRIUMPH, a RALLYING CALL, a FEAT UNLIKE ANY OTHER.

Fantasy is the inspiration of children and children-at-heart, the bane of evil, the bonds of the earth that keep us together, and the hope of millions.

But I must ask, dear author, if you no longer feel in love with the magic that you create: stop.

It has ceased to become magic the moment you doubt its importance and existence.

If you are writing for popularity, money, or fame: stop.

It has ceased to be magic the moment you ask it to furnish your home or feed your stomach with anything but the joy that it is.

However.

If you aren’t writing what you love… start.

And if you’re writing fantasy and you love what you do: never, ever stop.

It is the work you are doing that saves and enriches lives, it is the spell YOU are casting that makes people fall in love with literature, it is the wonder you weave that makes life a little less normal.

To you, dear authors, I must ask: do not stop.