REVIEW: 'Breaking Dawn' by Stephenie Meyer

After four books full of romantic sighing, teenage angst, and trick-or-treat-type thrills, I still have no idea why I became so addicted to the Twilight saga.  The only thing I can think of is the dialogue: Meyer has somewhat of a gift for keeping her story moving.  There's always a conversation happening, whether it's between Bella and the vampires, Bella and her own thoughts, Jacob and Edward, Jacob and the other werewolves...  The events of the book, particularly the day to day activities (example: much of Breaking Dawn involves Bella and the Cullens waiting for Alice's visions to come true), don't do much to keep the writing interesting.  It's the internal monologues, and the dialogues (both internal and external) that help drive the plot forward.  However, I did notice that when the events in the book falter, the dialogue seems to struggle too, becoming like filler -- just something to get you through that scene until the more important things take place.

I must say, though, Breaking Dawn was my favorite of the four Twilight books next to New Moon because the characters could finally break down their walls and resolve their differences.  This brought out their true, honorable personalities.  All the distractions of the drama and fighting were gone.  Bella's transformation also allowed Edward to stop fawning over her like a mother still attached to her child's umbilical cord.  He felt like a real boyfriend for her, not just a...well, I envisioned him as an ironclad cage around her, stripping her of her freedoms, until this book.  In this book, he and Bella had a real relationship, which I appreciated.

I don't want to say much of anything else in this review because there are just so many spoilers and I feel like I've already given some things away.  And being the fourth and final book in the series...well, it's hard to review just one piece of a puzzle.

The Twilight books are either books you can't get into, or books you can't put down.  I am glad I gave them a chance, because I ended up in the category of Can't Put Down.  They may be targeted towards young adults, but you read them and (this is going to sound NUTS, but if you're a fan, you'll know what I mean) you realize that you were there, too, once, even if your boyfriend wasn't a vampire and your best friend wasn't a werewolf.  You were there, too, with those same (un-amplified) problems.  So maybe that's why Meyer is such a success.  Her books make you feel lucky and successful yourself.  Happy reading, vamps.

(And for reviews I've written for Twilight and New Moon, visit my Shelfari page. )

UP NEXT:  The Red Wyvern by Katharine Kerr.  This book is number...ten? in Kerr's Deverry series.  I've been reading them since high school.  If you're a fantasy fan, this next review's for you!

Book It

So, I've wanted to join a book club FOREVER, but my being out of school for so long, paired with the large amount of books I already have sitting on my shelf (some of them still waiting to be opened after 5+ years), has prevented me from doing so.

Are any of you in a book club?  What would you recommend for the someone like me who is craving bookish socialization, but who also likes to follow her own reading agenda?

If this one has like a "beginner level," I think I could get into it  -- I think I've even brought it up before...

Anybody out there in Lakewood who wants to do this with me (pending, of course, that my work schedule can be rearranged on Tuesdays)?

Lemme know!  :)

REVIEW: 'Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister' by Gregory Maguire

I bought this book to read for three reasons:  
  1. I love the story of Cinderella (so much so that when I was young I wrote my own version of the fairy tale, entitled the 90s).
  2. My best friend, who knows how much I love Cinderella, and who also knows that I'd enjoyed Wicked when I read it, recommended it to me. 
  3. My best friend enjoyed this book herself.  I know she has very particular taste when it comes to books. When she makes a recommendation, I know it's for real.
So, was Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister by Gregory Maguire for real?

Yes and no, I guess.  It was an extremely non-traditional telling of the Cinderella story, and I don't just mean the fact that it was told from Iris's (the ugly stepsister's) point of view.  You know how when you see movie previews, the film is always touted as "either based on the true story" or "inspired by the true story"?  I understand "based on" to mean the story is closely linked to actual events.  "Inspired by," therefore, suggests to me that the story is more loosely formed from certain parts of the actual events.  And this Cinderella story was definitely inspired by.

Which doesn't make it dull.  It wasn't a book that I couldn't tear myself away from, but it had its strong points.  There were some great motifs running through the whole thing -- painting, colors, tulips, and senses -- which all served as nice foils to the continued reminders of Iris's ugliness.

The historical references made for interesting reading, too.  Maguire's research of 17th century Holland forms a great backdrop for the tale of the cinder girl.

The cinder girl herself, though (Clara)?  The character seemed awkward and incomplete, and maybe it was because she was out of her classic element.  Her involuntarily-forced-into-servitude element, that is.  Clara's willingness to sweep the hearth and live in solitude was a bit jarring for a long-time Cinderella lover like me.  I'm sure this is what makes this particular version of Cinderella so revolutionary, maybe even sort of feminist -- but I guess I'm more traditional that way.  This may be literary blasphemy, but I prefer strong, sarcastic Cinderellas who turn lemons into lemonade -- like the character of Danielle de Barbarac in the movie Ever After.  In Confessions, Maguire creates a Cinderella who is somewhat of a temperamental hermit.  Her good deeds of caring for the family are based in selfishness, though she struggles to do what is right for herself and her father.  This contrasts more common versions, where Cinderella is justified in running off with her handsome prince and leaving her step-family to suffer; it's a different kind of selfish.  Also in Maguire's version, there is a mystical, mythological element to Clara, but it's never completely explained...which bothers me.

And was the ball supposed to be the climax of this book like it is in other versions?  To me it seemed like a misplaced setting, a mandatory scene that didn't quite fit with the rest...which led to an even more out of place ending.

If you're looking for something different and dark to read, Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister may be for you.  But if you're rooted in comparisons to the more watered-down, Disney-esque versions of this fairy tale (as I found out I am), just be aware that you might feel indifferent by the end.  I don't regret reading this book, and I'll never say a book was better left on the shelf.  I'll merely say that -- unlike Cinderella and her prince -- Confessions and I will only be living passably ever after.

UP NEXT: Breaking Dawn, by Stephenie Meyer.  The last Twilight Saga book, y'all!