Book Review: Stray by Elissa Sussman

Book Review: Stray by Elissa SussmanStray by Elissa Sussman
Series: Four Sisters #1
Published: October 7, 2014
384 pages
Genres: Fairy Tale, Romance, Young Adult
Source: For Review

 
The Short, Sweet, and Spoiler-Free Blurb:

Princess Aislynn has long dreamed about attending her Introduction Ball, about dancing with the handsome suitors her adviser has chosen for her, about meeting her true love and starting her happily ever after.

When the night of the ball finally arrives and Nerine Academy is awash with roses and royalty, Aislynn wants nothing more than to dance the night away, dutifully following the Path that has been laid out for her. She does not intend to stray.

But try as she might, Aislynn has never quite managed to control the magic that burns within her-magic brought on by wicked, terrible desires that threaten the Path she has vowed to take.

After all, it is wrong to want what you do not need. Isn’t it?
3 Stars

After reading the acknowledgements by the author, I could see the Into the Woods inspiration.  Stray follows the sappy fairy tale stereotype and gives it a darker undertone especially about it’s control towards women. If you kept Cinderella almost the same but made it slightly darker with forbidden magic you might have something like Stray.

This fairy tale was all about controlling women and how they aren’t valued in this world even though they are technically powerful.  I know it was supposed to be a satire but sometimes it was difficult to read about the extreme rules for them all towards the goal of getting married.  The girls act ridiculous and when one of them eats before going to a ball I couldn’t get the image of Scarlet O’Hara reluctantly stuffing her face and wondering why you have to be so ridiculous just to catch a husband.

The world building just wasn’t very strong.  While I liked the plot, it felt hard to imagine the world because it was a little confusing.  The biggest problem for me, though, was the question of why these girls would even put up with all these crazy restrictions or where they came from in the first place.  That thought pulled me out of the story a lot because it was never really answered very well.

The writing was ok for the most part.  A few cheesy lines here and there with the cliche “breath she didn’t know she was holding.”  I’m so glad she figured it out in time or she might have died.  And my favorite “Suddenly” was in there more than I prefer. But it had some good writing too.  Just not terribly consistent.  I liked the characters and their relationships. The villain gives speeches about having fun with the poor, powerless protagonist and it made me roll my eyes.

I didn’t like the beginning.  It throws me into an action scene right away but I’m not sure why I should care yet.  I’m not a fan of when authors do that.

And to be very, very nitpicky – she doesn’t use the term “artless” like I’m used to Jane Austen using it and it irked me.

Overall, it was a different take on fairy tales that had an interesting plot but the world building wasn’t my favorite.

Content Rating: Medium, for some violence.  The language was pretty mild if there was any.  It’s been a while since I read it so I don’t remember for sure.

This post contains affiliate links and I receive a small percentage of sales made through these links.  I received this book for review from the publisher, Harper Collins, in exchange for an honest review. I was not told what to say, I was not paid to write this review and all the opinions expressed are my own.  I read an Advanced Reading Copy for this review.  

About Elissa Sussman

Elissa Sussman

Elissa Sussman is a writer, a reader and a pumpkin pie eater.

Her debut novel, STRAY (Greenwillow Books/HarperCollins), is a YA fantasy about fairy godmothers, magic and food. She received her BA from Sarah Lawrence College and in a previous life managed animators and organized spreadsheets at some of the best animation studios in the world, including Nickelodeon, Disney, Dreamworks and Sony Imageworks. You can see her name in the credits of THE CROODS, HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA, THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG and TANGLED.

She currently lives in Los Angeles with her boyfriend and their rescue mutt, Basil.

Reading Challenges 2015

I’m feeling a little stressed right now and I thought, “Don’t put the burden of reading challenges on yourself.  Just read what you want!” And I agreed with myself.  Thought it was a good idea.  So I’m going to only sign up for the essential ones.  Maybe one or two.  But when I got looking at them all I realized I like knowing how many ebooks I read so I have to do that one.  And hey this mythology one looks cool! I need to read more mythology! And before you know it …. well see for yourself.

eBook Challenge 2015

eBook Challenge 2015

Host: Annette's Book Spot
My Summary Post
Progress: 0/25 (0%)
1 January, 2015 — 31 December, 2015
In Progress

0%

Mythology Challenge 2015

Mythology Challenge 2015

Host: Lili Lost in a Book
My Summary Post
Progress: 0/3 (0%)
1 January, 2015 — 31 December, 2015
In Progress

0%

Audiobook Challenge 2015

Audiobook Challenge 2015

Host: The Book Nympho
My Summary Post
Progress: 0/6 (0%)
1 January, 2015 — 31 December, 2015
In Progress

0%

Diversity on the Shelf 2015

Diversity on the Shelf 2015

Host: My Little Pocketbooks
My Summary Post
Progress: 0/3 (0%)
1 January, 2015 — 31 December, 2015
In Progress

0%

TBR Pile 2015

TBR Pile 2015

Host: Bookish
My Summary Post
Progress: 0/10 (0%)
1 January, 2015 — 31 December, 2015
In Progress

0%

Prequel and Sequel Challenge 2015

Prequel and Sequel Challenge 2015

Host: Novel Heartbeat
My Summary Post
Progress: 0/10 (0%)
1 January, 2015 — 31 December, 2015
In Progress

0%

Classics Club

Classics Club

Host: Classics Club
My Summary Post
Progress: 5/50 (10%)
1 January, 2014 — 1 January, 2019
In Progress

10%

Things On My Mind Right Now: Mold, Sleep Deprivation, and Best Friends

Things On My Mind Right Now: Mold, Sleep Deprivation, and Best Friends

The biggest thing on my mind right now is my bed.  It has a broken spring and a broken bed frame.  I hate spending money but I’ve reached the point where I will give anything  – all chocolate forever, all my books, and the $10.56 in my purse –  to not wake up with a back ache and a head ache.  I tried taking a nap yesterday.  I never quite fell all the way asleep on my stupid bed and I felt worse afterwards.  Martin Luther King Day is coming up which means furniture is on sale! What a great way to celebrate the assassination of an American leader! My husband wants to make sure we shop around enough to get a good mattress.  I’m going to have hold myself back from buying the first thing I see.  Whatever it takes, I’m getting a new mattress this weekend.

I said I want a MAAAATTTTRESSSSSS!!!!

I said I want a MAAAATTTTRESSSSSS!!!!

This sleep deprivation has seriously affected my reading.  I am so tired all the time that I can’t stay awake while reading for longer than 30 minutes no matter what time it is.  The other day I was sitting on my couch with my feet up and kept doing that head jerk thing where you nod off and then jolt awake when your head tilts in an unnatural position that cuts of breathing.  I kept accidentally leaving my finger on my kindle so it would flip like 3 pages ahead and my head was so fuzzy I couldn’t remember what I was reading anyway.  It took me almost four weeks to read a 300 page book.  I usually finish a book like that in one week.

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I pulled out the old booster seat/high chair thingy a few days ago to start feeding my baby some baby food that I’m pretty sure he’ll hate.  I was going to take pictures of his disgusted face.  It was going to be so cute.  I got out my Clorox wipes to clean the old booster seat and as I lifted up the cloth cover, the bottom was entirely covered in mold.  Black, evil mold from the very pits of Mordor.  My first thought was annoyance that we hauled this thing around for 5 years for the next kid and I could have gotten rid of it so much sooner.  I bought the exact same one on Amazon and it came today.  Sometimes I wish I could buy everything on Amazon.  All my groceries.  All my clothes.  I wonder if someday grocery shopping will become an online thing.  What if my local store stocked things really close like a warehouse and trained people where things were.  I put in an order online and pick everything up whenever it’s done.  It’s basically paying someone to shop for me.  Can this please be a thing?  I hate shopping.

Why can't Ryan Gosling shop for me? Why why why why why

Why can’t Ryan Gosling shop for me? Why why why why why

I’m starting to get into a routine again.  I’ve fit everything I need to in my schedule and I’m feeling a lot less stress….except when it comes to my blog.  I have two hours of free time a day that I’m trying desperately to split between reading, networking with other blogs and actually writing blog posts.  My best friend said I shouldn’t hold myself to the standard I was blogging at before.  I should just do what makes me happy and not worry about the rest.  I’m going to do my best at that.  My reading might have to slide which immediately makes me feel like this:

elf-no

But I can only do so much.  If I can only write one blog post a week and read two books a month so be it. *weeps uncontrollably*

Whenever I watched Harry Potter, I wanted to go to Hogwarts like everyone else.  I thought it would be cool.  But there was something else I wanted more.  I wanted friends like Harry had.  Best friends that talk all the time, that know everything that is going on in your life, that you can just hang out with and be yourself.  You, my dear, know who you are.  And yes you can call me every day about anything.  I’m sorry if this is cheesy.  Take comfort in the fact that no one reads my blog.  Probably.

Events

I’m not going to do the events posts anymore.  But I still want to talk a little about any events I might go to in these new wrap-up posts.

The only event I want to go to is actually next month.   It’s Ransom Riggs who wrote Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and his wife, Tahereh Mafi who is also a young adult author.

Wrap-up

In case you missed any of my posts from December, here they are:

Book Reviews

Other Posts

Books I Abandoned in 2014

Books I Abandoned in 2014

I made a commitment last year to quit books if I wasn’t enjoying them. I still wanted to talk about those books a little because even though I didn’t like them, you might.  And if you loved a book I abandoned feel free to tell me what I missed out on!

The Other Normals by Ned Vizzini

The Other Normals

by Ned Vizzini

Release Date: September 25, 2012

Given the chance, fifteen-year-old Peregrine “Perry” Eckert would dedicate every waking moment to Creatures & Caverns, an epic role-playing game rich with magical creatures, spell casting, and deadly weapons. The world of C&C is where he feels most comfortable in his own skin. But that isn’t happening–not if his parents have anything to do with it. Concerned their son lacks social skills, they ship him off to summer camp to become a man. They want him to be outdoors playing with kids his own age and meeting girls–rather than indoors alone, with only his gaming alter ego for company. Perry knows he’s in for the worst summer of his life.

Everything changes, however, when Perry gets to camp and stumbles into the World of the Other Normals. There he meets Mortin Enaw, one of the creators of C&C, and other mythical creatures from the game, including the alluring Ada Ember, whom Perry finds more beautiful than any human girl he’s ever met. Perry’s new otherworldly friends need his help to save their princess and prevent mass violence. As they embark on their quest, Perry realizes that his nerdy childhood has uniquely prepared him to be a great warrior in this world, and maybe even a hero. But to save the princess, Perry will have to learn how to make real connections in the human world as well.

Bestselling author Ned Vizzini delivers a compulsively readable and wildly original story about the winding and often hilarious path to manhood.

Why I abandoned it: I made it to page 77 which is when the conflict started to show up and it just didn’t interest me. Kiss the girl to save the world wasn’t enough to pull me in. Having a role playing game come to life was an interesting idea. I like how it ties in the role playing game to change his real life but…I was bored since I’m not into role playing games.  I just felt disconnected from the story.  As far as content there were a few f-words and some crude sexual references.

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World's Strongest Librarian

The World’s Strongest Librarian: A Memoir of Tourette’s, Faith, Strength, and the Power of Family

by Josh Hanagarne

Release Date: May 2, 2013

The World’s Strongest Librarian illuminates the mysteries of this little-understood disorder, as well as the very different worlds of strongman training and modern libraries. With humor and candor, this unlikely hero traces his journey to overcome his disability — and navigate his wavering Mormon faith — to find love and create a life worth living.

Why I abandoned it: I stopped reading at 62%. I really enjoyed the beginning of this book. His childhood was so interesting to read about. He talks about growing up Mormon, his family whom he loved a lot, and the struggles he had with bullying. When there were about 3 hours left in the 8 hour audiobook, I just didn’t feel like reading anymore. There had been a lot of f-words which I don’t enjoy but the main reason I put this one down was because when he gets to his adult life, he goes in this vicious circle of going to school, quitting school, getting a job, quitting a job because it was hard for him to do these things with Tourrettes. I liked his honesty about his life but at the same time I didn’t see why I should continue listening to the audiobook. At the beginning of each chapter he talks about experiences he has at the library he works at in Salt Lake City so I know he becomes a librarian. I just didn’t see why it would take three more hours to get to that point.  This is a nice way of me saying that I got bored. I feel like I learned a lot from what I did read. I have more empathy and understanding of what Tourettes is. I think if you aren’t Mormon and want to learn more about Mormon culture in a funny and bluntly honest way, then this book might be for you (if you don’t mind the strong language). I didn’t think this was a terrible book in any way but I feel like it’s time for me to move on.

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The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

The Ocean at the End of the Lane

by Neil Gaiman

Release Date: June 18, 2013

Sussex, England. A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn’t thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she’d claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy.

Forty years earlier, a man committed suicide in a stolen car at this farm at the end of the road. Like a fuse on a firework, his death lit a touchpaper and resonated in unimaginable ways. The darkness was unleashed, something scary and thoroughly incomprehensible to a little boy. And Lettie—magical, comforting, wise beyond her years—promised to protect him, no matter what.

A groundbreaking work from a master, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is told with a rare understanding of all that makes us human, and shows the power of stories to reveal and shelter us from the darkness inside and out. It is a stirring, terrifying, and elegiac fable as delicate as a butterfly’s wing and as menacing as a knife in the dark.

Why I abandoned it: I stopped reading at 39%. Wow. Horror is just not for me. I can’t handle graphic and disturbing.  I was invested in the story and the writing was good so I went to wiki and read the plot summary to see how things work out.  In short, things do not work out.  It’s horror. That’s how it goes.  I’m glad I tried it.  Horror is one of the only genres I list as one I won’t read and it feels nice to have that confirmed.  The fact that I hated it says that this was excellent horror for any horror fans out there.

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The Unhappening of Genesis Lee

The Unhappening of Genesis Lee

by Shallee McArthur

Release Date: November 18, 2014

Seventeen-year-old Genesis Lee has never forgotten anything. As one of the Mementi—a small group of genetically-enhanced humans—Gena remembers everything with the help of her Link bracelets, which preserve memories perfectly. But Links can be stolen, and six people have already lost their lives to a memory thief, including Gena’s best friend.

Anyone could be next. Which is why Gena is less than pleased to meet a strange but charming boy named Kalan who claims that they’ve not only met, but that Gena knows who the thief is.

The problem is, Gena doesn’t remember Kalan, she doesn’t remember seeing the thief, and she doesn’t know why she’s forgetting things— or how much else she might forget. As growing tensions between Mementi and ordinary humans drive the city of Havendale into chaos, Gena and Kalan team up to search for the thief. And as Gena loses more memories, they realize they have to solve the mystery fast.

Because Gena’s life is unhappening around her.

Why I abandoned it: I stopped reading at 26%. The writing was good but I just couldn’t get into the story. I didn’t care that much about the memories being stolen.  Since memories being stolen was the whole point of the book, I didn’t see it working out between us.  It’s not you book – it’s me.  Well, not really.  I felt like the conflict needed to developed a little more.  But the world building is unique and if you’re looking for something new, give it a try. If you care by a quarter of the way through this might be a good match for you.

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New Years Resolutions 2015

New Years Resolutions 2015

I want to focus on my kids more this year. They are getting older and I’m starting to feel like they are growing up too fast and I’m missing it! I’ve been obsessed with cleaning my house because clutter stresses me out, but switching to a new schedule where I only clean at night when they are in bed has helped me focus on them more.  I also like cleaning at night because it gives me some alone time with audiobooks.  I’ll be honest though.  A long day with kids drains me and I’m struggling with finding the energy to clean from 9-10 pm.  Hopefully the audiobooks will help motivate me :) I do look forward to them.  Here are the things I want to do with my kids this year:

  • Read books to them – I want to focus on chapter books that I didn’t get to read as a child or ones that I loved as a kid.  I didn’t read a lot of Roald Dahl as a kid but I think my kids are at the perfect age to read his books.  The first book I want to pass on to my kids that I loved was Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks.  I really hope to pass on my love of reading to them with fun books and also so I don’t have to read anymore of those Beast Quest books (they are quite terrible).
  • Create more traditions – even for the small holidays. I don’t want to go too crazy here because I’m lazy.  That’s also why I want to make an effort to at least acknowledge holidays and do something simple and fun so I can make memories with my kids and help make it special and have some fun too.
  • Play more! I want to do fun things with them during the day.  I want to be remembered as a good mom and I have turned into an old stick in the mud who doesn’t do anything.  I would love to teach them card games, board games, and do art projects.  I would also like to go places with them like the museum, the park, the planetarium etc.
  • Just say yes.  I saw this on My Life and Kids and she says that it’s the best parenting tip she’s ever gotten.  My kids ask me all day to do things like: play basketball, help them find tape, build something with legos, play monopoly.  I don’t have to make much of an effort to have fun with them if I just say yes to the things they already want to do.
  • Do chores with them. Having a cleaner house will help reduce my stress and it would be a great way to teach my kids and spend time with them.  I also like trying to come up with fun games to get them to do chores.  Laundry basketball where we throw the clothes into the washer machine and hampers is a big hit.
  • Reading Parties.  Ally Condie said at one of her book signings that as a kid her family would go to the book store and buy books then get treats and they would all read together.  It sounds like a blast and I want to try it.
  • Write in my journal.  I love writing in my journal.  I’m only a few months behind so this is just a habit I want to keep up.
  • Read my scriptures.   Still in the Old Testament but I’m really enjoying it.
  • Catch up on recording family memories.  I need to put home movies on DVD, make photo albums, finish the kids baby books and the last scrapbook I’m ever doing ever. I hate scrapbooking.  Only for my kids as babies.
  • Reduce stress. I don’t think I’ve ever had a goal in my life to relax more.  My goals usually involve doing more stuff and making more lists.  I want to have less clutter in my house, have more reading time, less debt, less commitments, and less grocery shopping.  I bought shelves so I can stock up on things and not go every stupid week!
  • Do yoga with my son.  This is part of relaxing.  I really like yoga.  I don’t have exercise in my routine yet, but I think strength training with yoga will help.
  • Get a new, comfy mattress and bed frame.  When I’m not having nightmares about dinosaurs, I dream of having a mattress that isn’t broken and a bed frame that doesn’t sag.
  • Read a 1000+ page book.  I have done this for years.  I did it last year and I’m excited to do it again! I even made of list of 100 page books that I have read in the past and ones I still want to read.
  • Read all my book club books.  I might do a post about my book club in more detail (the books we are reading, organization etc) but I really want to make sure I read every single book club book this year.
  • Stay within my budget.  I have an app that tells me how much money I have left.  I should really just check it.
  • Go clothes shopping every month. I have money set aside for clothes but oh how I hate clothes shopping.  I was going to do this last year but then I had a baby and that threw a wrench in my plans.  I need everything.  Most of my clothes are years and years old, don’t fit and are faded/torn/stained etc.  I have made a little progress so far. I have new boots so I don’t have to wear open flats in the snow! I also got two new pairs of jeans.
  • Fix my search page. I want it to have a header that says “Search results for x…” but I haven’t quite been able to figure it out.  I might have to write some php or something but I think I can do it.
  • Manage social media. I want to be better and a little more organized at cross posting my new blog posts on Google+, Facebook and Twitter.
  • Maybe have a paper planner for my blog. I just got a Passion Planner to organize my daily life.  Even though they are back ordered through February, you can print it and use it now.  After a week I’m already loving it.  I feel less stress and I remember my goals and to do lists much better.  Having a digital planner with a red number that always said “34” was so stressful to me.  I stopped looking at it all together and I often forgot important things.  I’m wondering if I should get a paper planner for  my blog.  Possibly the one that Parajunkee makes for book bloggers. 
  • Make new, trendy social media buttons.  I made the social media buttons for my friends blog and I like that they are just the logo and they change color! So cool!
  • Find a new way to read and keep track of blogs.  The biggest thing on my wish list is finding something that allows to read AND comment on blogs from my phone.  I haven’t found anything I like yet but I want to keep looking.  Do you have any great tips or apps that you use to read blogs? I’d love to hear them!

What are your New Year’s Resolutions this year?

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