Turn The Page: February Book Reviews Part 1

Since I ended up reading a total of six books last month, I’m breaking up my February book reviews into two parts so this won’t be an even longer post, especially as I tend to ramble when writing reviews. Let’s dive in with my first book, which was the NovelTea Book Club pick for February.

February book reviews Big Magic

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert

Overall rating:
enjoyable rating

Whether we are looking to write a book, make art, find new ways to address challenges in our work,  embark on a dream long deferred, or simply infuse our everyday lives with more mindfulness and passion, Big Magic cracks open a world of wonder and joy.” – via Goodreads

I was split pretty much down the middle on what I thought of this book. There were many sections that resonated with me, most notably her chapter on fear and also the idea that we are allowed to enjoy the process and result of what we create. I completely agree with her that the idea of being a ‘tortured artist’ is so over-romanticized, and in many cases a harmful school of thought. However, there was also a lot that I completely didn’t agree with. Her entire line of thinking when it comes to inspiration, while unique, is very different from my own. And while that is completely fine, and more power to her for being true to what she believes, it does make it hard to get anything out of a large portion of this book since it’s all based on that idea.

I also found I didn’t really like the tone of this book. And I can’t really put my finger on why. A lot of it just felt contradictory. Mainly because there is a particular point in this book where she goes on to basically bash self-help books…within a self-help book SHE wrote. Oh yes, she tries to say that Big Magic ISN’T a self-help book, just a book she wrote because she ‘truly enjoys thinking about the subject of creativity.’ And I could have maybe bought that…until the next chapter which talks exclusively about how if you’re someone who is considering a creative living career perhaps you should skip college and avoid crippling debt. I’m sorry, there is no discussion there. She is just simply doling out advice (as she does a ton in this book) and it’s advice that is entirely inapplicable to her since she already HAS attended college and has a degree in writing. And doling out advice is great! But I feel like she refuses to acknowledge that Big Magic IS a self-help book and it’s annoying. I feel like it makes her come off as pretentious, and occasionally condescending.

So while there was a lot I didn’t agree with, there was a lot I liked about it, and it was a quick easy read which is why it earned the three star ‘Enjoyable’ rating. It was enjoyable, at least more so than it wasn’t.

february book reviews Cinder

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Overall rating:
really like it rating

Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl.” – via Goodreads

This was a re-read and I found that I actually enjoyed it more the second time around! The first time I remember liking it, but finding it predictable, and obviously that element is removed when reading it for a second time.

I really enjoy the character of Cinder. She is well fleshed out, consistent in her decisions and choices, and most importantly, feels real (no cyborg pun intended). Her character goes through dilemmas and crisis of conscience, and puts rational thought into her decisions. I really appreciate this, especially when it comes to the her love interest, Prince Kai. Even when she finally admits to herself that she has a crush on him, and may even be in love with him, it doesn’t suddenly overwhelm her and cause her to make ridiculous decisions. She still thinks rationally and does what she thinks is best, even if it’s to her own detriment.

As for the world, I really enjoy the futuristic world Marissa Meyer has created. Despite the fact that it’s not exactly realistic (meaning I can’t see our future ever heading in that direction) I like what she has come up with in terms of class discrimination between cyborgs and humans, and of course, the Lunars. I like Queen Levana as a villain because she is unsympathetically evil. I’m so sick of the sympathetic villain…give me a good old fashioned villain who just wants power and I’m happy. Queen Levana seems to have that going on for now! However, I do think her ‘plan’ to dominate Earth is extremely, well, silly. I mean, if her powers of mind control work as well as they do on the masses in the book, there is really no reason for her not to come down and just take over. I don’t see why she’d have the desire to go about it ‘legally’ by marrying Prince Kai, especially since her plan after marriage was to go against her word and just take over anyway. Just do it! Though that would put a damper on the rest of the plot/book.

Overall, a thoroughly enjoyable retelling of Cinderella. It’s a quick read, with good characters and a fun world to jump into!

february book reviews scarlet

Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

Overall rating:
not good not great rating

“Cinder, the cyborg mechanic, returns in the second thrilling installment of the bestselling Lunar Chronicles. She’s trying to break out of prison—even though if she succeeds, she’ll be the Commonwealth’s most wanted fugitive.” – via Goodreads

This was such a hard book to rate, because I honestly did like about 50% of it. So why only two stars? Because this book suffers from a trope that I can no longer tolerate. Apparently I’m getting grouchier as I approach my 30s but I just can not stand InstaLove. Two characters falling in love not only at lightspeed, but also for no apparent reason. I just can’t take it.

Scarlet introduces us to two new main characters to follow: Scarlet herself, a red headed gal living on a farm with her Granny (who has gone missing, and is also the most important person in Scarlet’s life), and Wolf, a mysterious boy who we learn escaped from a cult-like gang. At first, I was really annoyed by his name being ‘Wolf’. I mean, I know, you’re playing off of Little Red Riding here, but really, just Wolf? Be a little creative about it. Anywho, I actually really liked Wolf’s backstory – the idea of the ‘wolves’ being a gang/cult and so on. That was nifty. But as you learn more, or I should say, as Scarlet learns more, it’s looking more and more like Wolf has something to do with Grandma’s disappearance. And eventually you learn that yup, Wolf absolutely knows where her Grandma is the whole time. And yet somehow, she is inexplicably drawn to him, and they fall in love. In a matter of days.

Are you kidding me?! First off, there is no basis for attraction between these two other than looks. And I get that…initial physical attraction is pretty much a necessity for beginning any relationship. But other than his muscular appearance, all Scarlet knows about Wolf is that he’s freaking scary (she sees him almost kill someone in a fist fight) and that he is potentially involved in her Grandmother’s disappearance. Ah, now that’s a recipe for romance. Listen, I don’t care if Stephen Amell has kidnapped my Grandma; he doesn’t get a goddamn free pass just because he’s built like Adonis. This trope frustrates me so much, because except for this one (huge) thing, Scarlet is a good, smart character. But this really ruined such a huge part of the book for me. I just wanted to smack her upside the head and scream WHY ARE YOU FALLING FOR A GUY WHOM YOU KNOW NOTHING ABOUT AND YOU DO KNOW HELPED KIDNAP YOUR GRANNY?!?! Ugh.

Anywho, now that that’s out of my system, let’s get on to what I did like. Which was the plot line that followed Cinder. She ends up arrested at the end of the first book, and this book entails her breaking out of prison, coming to terms with her true identity, and in general figuring out what the hell she’s going to do about saving the planet from Queen Levana. She’s got a lot going on. I think I appreciated Cinder’s character even more in this book as even though she is still completely in love with (now Emporer) Kai, that isn’t her priority. Or even really on the table at all. She knows it can’t be, and it certainly can’t be her focus. More important things are at stake. Thank you, character with brains. Please give Scarlet a talking to. I didn’t really enjoy Cinder’s sidekick (whose name I have honestly forgotten); I didn’t find his personality amusing at all and felt he really brought nothing to the table in this book.

I do want to read Cress because I really am loving Cinder’s storyline, and I know that the character of Cress is intimately involved in that, and I must see how it progresses. Hopefully, it will be a better installment than I found this to be!

This post contains affiliate links. Any money earned through these links goes towards covering the cost of running this blog.

A round of applause for you if you made it to the end of this! Like I said, I ramble on when it comes to talking about books (or movies, or shows. I’m a rambler.) Part two of February book reviews is coming next week!

Have you read any of these? What did you think? Let me know in the comments! And if not, what did you read in February?

 

  • I think the same thing about Big Magic and I gave it 3 starts too. I’m glad to see someone else not thinking it was a revolutionary amazing book like I keep seeing around the internet.

    I still have to read the other two books 🙂

    • Kay

      Yeah, I definitely didn’t find Big Magic too special! Glad I’m not the only one either!

  • Emma

    I completely get what your saying (in your second review) – where have all the pure evil characters gone!? Everyone seems to have a conscious now, I want a bitch who knows she’s a bitch and doesn’t care. Regina in Once Upon a Time was promising – have you ever watched that? – but yeah, now she’s being all nice and, it’s just not the same. Both of the last two stories sound like something I’d like to have a go at. I do love a good fairy-tale retelling, though I feel like I’ve been a bit spoiled with the Fables series.

    • Kay

      It’s so true that Fables has spoiled me on fairy tale retellings. I blame Fables for me not being able to get into OUAT. I’ve tried watching that show twice now and I just can not get into it. And yes, why is it so hard to have flat out bad people be bad guys?! They definitely exist in real life, so you’ve got a lot to reference haha.

    • I LOVE villains, I could talk about them all day. I think sympathetic villains are a way to make villains more real and actually scary? Because when a villain is so purely evil it is almost too hard to believe and actually feel anything. Need a bit of depth. Doesn’t have to be full on story, but just a bit of depth.

  • Oh we are totally on the same page re: The Lunar Chronicles! I really enjoyed Cinder but I couldn’t care less about Scarlet. Luckily Cress comes next which is my favorite in the series so you’ll probably really love that one too!

    • Kay

      I’m still so excited to read Cress! If Scarlet & Wolf hadn’t ended up a thing, I would have liked the book so much more, but I just can’t take that trope anymore!

  • Glad to hear I didn’t miss anything spectacular with Big Magic, hahah. I wanted to get back into book club, but Elizabeth Gilbert leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I just find her so self indulgent and totally unable to recognize her privilege (which I think is something REALLY IMPORTANT if you’re trying to give advice to OTHER people not in your situation). Awhile back I remember reading an article on Eat Pray Love, titled “Eat Pray Love is an insult to women with real problems.” Lol sorry to be such a hater XD

    • Kay

      This was my first exposure to her (never read/cared about Eat Pray Love), but I completely agree that she doesn’t recognize her privilege. You see that constantly in Big Magic. I don’t think you would have enjoyed this book at all, so you definitely didn’t miss anything!

      • I wonder what you two would think of Amanda Palmer’s The Art of Asking. It had very similar reviews re: privilege and kind of clueless “advice.”

        • Kay

          @Hadas – I absolutely adored The Art of Asking. I thought it was so beautiful. I think the fact that I am so shy and reserved when it comes to interacting with people (at least in real life; I’m getting better on the internet haha) but I found her experiences and interactions with people to be so moving. I wrote a mini-review on it in this post if you want to check it out! I found the book less to be doling out advice and more of a memoir…experiences she’s had when she took chances with human beings.
          http://www.myopensketchbook.com/2016/01/11/december-book-reviews-my-2015-year-in-books/

  • If I get a girl dog next – I’m naming her Cinder. Word. I love those book so much, but totally agree about Scarlet lol!!! Have you read the Trylle series by Amanda Hocking? Its the same genre, but honestly, I believed they were so much better even though the Lunar Chronicles got more hype. Just today I started reading the Kanin Chronicles by Hocking – its in the same universe as the Trylle but a different community. #pumped. Also. I’m also reading Yes, Please and maybe its’ cause I’m too excitd to read the Kanin Chronicles but totally not feeling it….

    • Kay

      I’ll have to add the Trylle series to my list; I haven’t heard of it before! Thanks! And I really liked Yes, Please…I’m kind of a sucker for memoirs, plus I love Amy Poehler, and I really enjoyed how honest it was. But it’s definitely not for everybody! Memoirs can really be hit or miss.

  • So. Glad. I. Read. This.
    I was going to buy big magic until I read your review. Unless it magically falls in my lap, I won’t be dishing out the money. THANK GOD. Thank you Kayly.
    Do you ever do book clubs? I totally would love to join in. After hitting up Girl Boss, Felicia Day’s and The Nerdist I’m looking for new reads and friends to chat with about them.

    • Kay

      I’m currently only in the NovelTea Book Club (that’s the link for FB group, though they are on Goodreads as well) – join up if you like! I don’t always participate every month; I’m trying to be good with the budget and not buy so many books. But also, if you ever just want to chat about books I am ALWAYS down. Email/tweet me anytime! Though as you can see, I get rambly haha. 😀

      And yeah, I can definitely say that skipping Big Magic isn’t a bad thing. I’m not sorry I read it, but certainly didn’t get much out of it.

  • I have one blog friend who LOVED big magic, and now you sorta-liked-it/sorta-didn’t like it, so of course now I want to read it even more to see which side I fall on lol I do love the book cover haha it’s sooo pretty! I’m reading Wild right now by Cheryl Strayed and I like it. when I’m done with this I’ll probably buy big magic and then I keep seeing that Cinder book (beautiful cover!) so I’ll have to check it out

    • Kay

      Big Magic definitely is pretty haha! And I was so curious about Wild. I may still check it out sometime. Cinder is definitely a fun read!

  • I keep hearing mixed things about Cinder. I read “Everything I Learned about Zombies I learned in Kindergarten” And The Redemption of Eråth.

    • Kay

      I really liked Cinder, but Scarlet was a let down. I hope Cress picks up again! I just looked up The Redemption of Erath on Goodreads – sounds intriguing!

  • Danielle Knapp

    I’ve been wanting to read Cinder. I do want to check out Big Magic as well.

    • Kay

      I really like Cinder, and I hope Cress picks up again after being let down by Scarlet. Like I said, I did enjoy Big Magic, despite disagreeing with a lot of her thinking and not really enjoying the tone. Lots of people are raving about it, so hopefully you’ll love it if you pick it up!

  • I’ve definitely been wanting to read the Lunar Chronicles, but what a bummer that the second book has that silly hang-up:/ I read A LOT of YA books so I definitely know what you’re talking about, and that trope tends to bug me too when I come across it in otherwise decent books. I’ll probably find myself rolling my eyes a lot when I finally do read that one, haha! Thanks for sharing these reviews, I really enjoyed them!

    • Kay

      Thanks for reading, I’m glad you liked them! I used to be able to kind of just shrug off the InstaLove trope, but I’ve seen SO MUCH of it that I’m entirely over it now haha. It bugs me to no end! YA does tend to get a bit trope-y and more often than not, I can overlook them. But sometimes they drive me banana sandwich.

  • I want to read Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, I just need some more free time xDDD I read your review on GoodReads, and I was like: hmmm hmmm I need it, I need it. Now, reading this post is more like: okay, I need to give it a shot LOL

    • Kay

      It’s interesting for sure, but a lot of it just didn’t mesh with my thinking. Cool to see her perspective though. I hope you enjoy it if you give it a read!

      • Yup, but I like reading different perspectives 😉 That’s how I learn more 😀

        • Kay

          Very true!

  • I’m sorry that you didn’t like Scarlet! I tend to roll my eyes at instalove, too, but I chalked this one up to the wolfy nature of Wolf. 🙂 Cress is definitely awesome, however, so I hope that you continue with the series.

    • Kay

      I definitely will! I really like Cinder’s storyline and I’m so curious about Cress and how it all ties together. I’ve got it right now; it’s what I’m starting after I finish up Six of Crows!

      • AH. Six of Crows! I hope you’re enjoying it.

        • Kay

          I’m about halfway through and loving it so far! I haven’t read the Grisha trilogy though…when I got this book I didn’t realize it had any connection, but then I had heard you don’t HAVE to read those for this to make sense, so I wanted to read it and see what it was like before reading the Grisha trilogy. But I definitely want to read those this year!

          • I read the Grisha trilogy first, so I’m a little biased in thinking that they’re good background for the larger universe that Six of Crows takes place in. I actually like the story in Six of Crows better, however; I loved the Grisha trilogy, but I LOVE Six of Crows, haha.

            I’ll be curious to see what you think, having gone the opposite way.

          • I tried so hard to read Six of Crows and just wasn’t feeling it. Will have to try again another time. LOVED the Grisha trilogy though.

          • Interesting! What didn’t you like about it? (Not judging, just curious. :))

          • Of course. I’m not sure! Maybe because we weren’t back with the characters we knew and loved? I want to try again!

          • Makes sense!

  • I’m really glad you felt the same way about Scarlet. I was really let down by it and I still haven’t continued the series because of it despite owning all the books 🙁 Also I definitely accidentally skipped Big Magic last month because of my slump. Whoops! Still anxious to read it.

    • Kay

      I’m curious what you end up thinking of Big Magic! I’m currently borrowing Cress to read after I finish Six of Crows because I really want to find out what happens with Cinder’s story. However, if Cress isn’t an improvement, I think I’m done! I’ve heard a few people say that they didn’t like Scarlet at all but Cress was much better so I’m hopeful that I’ll enjoy it!

      • I read the entire series, Fairest, and Stars Below (I think that’s what it’s called). They are such fun, light, and quick reads, I wasn’t really bothered by storytelling ability.

        I did really enjoy Fairest and wonder what you’d think of it Kay!

        • Kay

          I’m just starting Cress now and I definitely want to finish the series! I’ll let you know!