Book Review: The Crown of Embers by Rae Carson

Book Review: The Crown of Embers by Rae CarsonThe Crown of Embers by Rae Carson
Series: Fire and Thorns #2
Published: September 18, 2012
410 pages
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Source: Purchased

The Short, Sweet, and Spoiler-Free Blurb:

Elisa is a hero.

Her enemies come at her like ghosts in a dream, from foreign realms and even from within her own court. And her destiny as the chosen one has not yet been fulfilled.

To conquer the power she bears, once and for all, Elisa must follow a trial of long-forgotten—and forbidden—clues, from the deep, hidden catacombs of her own city to the treacherous seas. With her go a one-eyed spy, a traitor, and the man whom—despite everything—she is falling in love with.

If she's lucky, she will return from this journey. But there will be a cost.
5 Stars

Spoiler free even if you haven’t read the first book in this series. 

The Crown of Embers reminded me a lot of Indiana Jones.  There was a religious quest, skeletons turning to dust, and hidden artifacts. We get to journey through the ocean this time instead of the desert and it was a lot of fun.  This was a great second novel in a series.

In the last book, we saw Elisa grow as a person who gained confidence in herself.  Elisa continues to grow as a character but this time it’s about finding the power from within herself.  I liked watching her learn that just because she is young, she shouldn’t let people walk all over her or dismiss her.  She has to learn one of the biggest lessons we all learn when we grow up – that we have to decide what is best for our own future instead of letting people decide for us.

She has not always wanted what is best for me. She has always wanted what she thinks is best for me. And she has never hesitated to work around me or anyone else to accomplish it.

- Rae Carson, The Crown of Embers  (Kindle Locations 4037-4039).

Religion continues as a theme in this book.  Elisa is slightly irked when she constantly meets people telling her what “God’s will” is which I found amusing but also very truthful.  Religion is part of the clash of the different cultures in the story.  How do you end a war that’s been going on forever between cultures that don’t understand each other? I thought that was such a relevant question and I enjoyed the exploration of the answer to that and what part ignorance can play.

I have a theory.  I don’t think it’s a spoiler since it’s never answered and it’s left up to your imagination.  Elisa’s people were supposedly brought from a dying world into the world where Crown of Embers is set.  I couldn’t help but think that maybe the dying world referred to was actually our world.  I have one quote to support this theory.  The quote sounds very similar to the bible which is what spawned this theory in the first place.

“I swear my life and service unto you. I swear to protect you and to honor you. I am yours to command in all things. For as long as I live, your people shall be my people, your ways my ways, your God my God.”

-Rae Carson, The Crown of Embers (Kindle Locations 3653-3655)

What do you think? Did you have any theories about this book?

Overall, it was a great adventure novel about a girl who learns to find power within herself that I couldn’t put down.

Content Rating: Medium, for a mildly detailed scene of a girl observing herself naked.

This post contains affiliate links and I receive a small percentage of sales made through these links. 

About Rae Carson

Rae Carson

I write books about teens who must do brave things. I'm originally from California, but I moved to Ohio to marry my husband, who is the smartest and therefore sexiest man I know. We live in Columbus with my teenaged stepsons, who are awesome. My books tend to contain lots of adventure, a little magic and romance, and smart girls who make (mostly) smart choices. I especially love to write about questions I don't know the answers to.

Book Review: Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson

Book Review: Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson

Book Review: Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett JohnsonHarold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson
Series: Harold #1
Published: 1955
64 pages
Genres: Childrens
Source: Library

The Short, Sweet, and Spoiler-Free Blurb:

"One night, after thinking it over for some time, Harold decided to go for a walk in the moonlight." So begins this gentle story that shows just how far your imagination can take you. Armed only with an oversized purple crayon, young Harold draws himself a landscape full of beauty and excitement. But this is no hare-brained, impulsive flight of fantasy. Cherubic, round-headed Harold conducts his adventure with the utmost prudence, letting his imagination run free, but keeping his wits about him all the while.
5 Stars

I’m trying to read more books from my to-read list and I happened to see Harold and the Purple Crayon at the library.  It was on my to-read list only because it was mentioned on Gilmore Girls.  But my 4 year-old son saw it and wanted to read it with me.  So we read it together and he enjoyed it a lot.  Which of course means we read it about 5 more times.  It is an adorable, creative book with a cute message about imagination and finding home.  My review is probably longer than the book itself, but I really wanted to feature it on my blog because the day after I read this book to my son, I found a huge stack of drawings, all in purple, and they are clearly inspired by the book.  It was touching to me that a book would stick with him that much.  So I decided to share all the drawings he did that I could find.  You’ll notice in a lot of the drawings that there are two people.  The other person is his older brother who he considers his best friend.

Click images to view them larger.


Content Rating: None. Clean read.

This post contains affiliate links and I receive a small percentage of sales made through these links.  

About Crockett Johnson

Crockett Johnson

Crockett Johnson (1906-1975) was the writer and/or illustrator of over 20 books for children, including his beloved classic HAROLD AND THE PURPLE CRAYON (Harper, 1955), as well as seven subsequent adventures starring Harold, and THE CARROT SEED, written by his wife, Ruth Krauss (Harper, 1945). He was also the creator of "Barnaby," one of the most popular comic-strips of the Twentieth Century. (A Barnaby selection appears in LITTLE LIT: STRANGE STORIES FOR STRANGE KIDS, Harper, 2001.)

Mr. Johnson received his art training at New York University and Cooper Union, and in his later years exhibited a series of geometric paintings, which were well-received by both the mathematical and artistic communities.

Book Review: The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

Book Review: The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae CarsonThe Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson
Series: Fire and Thorns #1
Published: September 20, 2011
423 pages
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Source: Won

The Short, Sweet, and Spoiler-Free Blurb:

Once a century, one person is chosen for greatness.
Elisa is the chosen one. 

But she is also the younger of two princesses, the one who has never done anything remarkable. She can't see how she ever will. 

Now, on her sixteenth birthday, she has become the secret wife of a handsome and worldly king—a king whose country is in turmoil. A king who needs the chosen one, not a failure of a princess.

And he's not the only one who seeks her. Savage enemies seething with dark magic are hunting her. A daring, determined revolutionary thinks she could be his people's savior. And he looks at her in a way that no man has ever looked at her before. Soon it is not just her life, but her very heart that is at stake.

Elisa could be everything to those who need her most. If the prophecy is fulfilled. If she finds the power deep within herself. If she doesn’t die young.

Most of the chosen do.
5 Stars

 The Girl of Fire and Thorns was a beautiful, bittersweet, and refreshing fantasy novel.  I found the plot, world, and characters to be far from cliche.  The story was bold and I could tell that the author, Rae Carson, didn’t shy away from doing what the story needed.  I only give five stars to books that keep me guessing and wow me with the ending and Girl of Fire and Thorns definitely did that.  It had a great story arc and a nice, satisfying ending.  The setting was beautiful.  It was like someone put the languages of Spanish and French in a jar and mixed it up for the naming things and then set it all in a beautiful Middle Eastern location.

The plot had lots of intrigue. I had a tons of questions, lots of theories, but no obvious answers. Just the way I like it.  As soon as I had a few theories of what I thought was going to happen, the plot would go in a new, interesting direction and I would, of course, be totally wrong.  It’s just so much fun to read a book like that!  More young adult novels should have a love story like this one.  I found it to be realistic.  There was no obvious love interest or instant chemistry.  The pacing of the events in the novel were perfect.  It never felt rushed or dragged to me.

Elisa was a unique main character.  She deals with sexism, a forced marriage, being judged because she is overweight, and being hunted because she is the “chosen one”.  She goes through quite the emotional and physical transformation because of the difficult and sad things that she experiences.  Elisa was such an appealing main character because I could see her potential and I couldn’t wait to see if she ever realized it.

A theme throughout the book was faith and religion.  One of Elisa’s strengths is her faith in God and in herself.  I liked how the author showed that religion can bring strength to people, can be used to manipulate others, and can be twisted to fit people’s own ideas of how the world should be.  It was thought provoking to me on how religion is viewed and used in our own lives.

I just have to talk to someone about the ending, so if you’ve read it already click the spoiler link.  It’s a major spoiler though so don’t click if you’re going to read it. View Spoiler »

Overall, it was intriguing, beautiful, unpredictable fantasy novel with a beautiful setting and a main character that I was rooting for.

Content Rating: Medium, for some violence and a few swear words.

This post contains affiliate links and I receive a small percentage of sales made through these links. 

About Rae Carson

Rae Carson

I write books about teens who must do brave things. I'm originally from California, but I moved to Ohio to marry my husband, who is the smartest and therefore sexiest man I know. We live in Columbus with my teenaged stepsons, who are awesome. My books tend to contain lots of adventure, a little magic and romance, and smart girls who make (mostly) smart choices. I especially love to write about questions I don't know the answers to.

Audiobook Review: Proof of Heaven by Eben Alexander

Audiobook Review: Proof of Heaven by Eben AlexanderProof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon's Journey into the Afterlife by Eben Alexander
Published: October 23, 2012
Narrator: Eben Alexander
Audiobook Length: 6 hrs and 14 mins
Genres: Audiobook, Memoir, Non-fiction
Source: Purchased

The Short, Sweet, and Spoiler-Free Blurb:

Near-death experiences, or NDEs, are controversial. Thousands of people have had them, but many in the scientific community have argued that they are impossible. Dr. Eben Alexander was one of those people.
A highly trained neurosurgeon who had operated on thousands of brains in the course of his career, Alexander knew that what people of faith call the “soul” is really a product of brain chemistry. NDEs, he would have been the first to explain, might feel real to the people having them, but in truth they are simply fantasies produced by brains under extreme stress.

Then came the day when Dr. Alexander’s own brain was attacked by an extremely rare illness. The part of the brain that controls thought and emotion—and in essence makes us human— shut down completely. For seven days Alexander lay in a hospital bed in a deep coma. Then, as his doctors weighed the possibility of stopping treatment, Alexander’s eyes popped open. He had come back.

Alexander’s recovery is by all accounts a medical miracle. But the real miracle of his story lies elsewhere. While his body lay in coma, Alexander journeyed beyond this world and encountered an angelic being who guided him into the deepest realms of super-physical existence. There he met, and spoke with, the Divine source of the universe itself.

This story sounds like the wild and wonderful imaginings of a skilled fantasy writer. But it is not fantasy. Before Alexander underwent his journey, he could not reconcile his knowledge of neuroscience with any belief in heaven, God, or the soul. That difficulty with belief created an empty space that no professional triumph could erase. Today he is a doctor who believes that true health can be achieved only when we realize that God and the soul are real and that death is not the end of personal existence but only a transition.
3 Stars

Proof of Heaven is not the kind of book I usually read.  I’m not a fan of reading near death experiences since they seem very personal to me and I have a hard time connecting with them.  I wasn’t a huge fan of the descriptions of Eben Alexander’s near death experience because they felt a little weird to me, but overall I actually liked this book.  Proof of Heaven talks about his family life before his experience and the things he personally learned during his experience which was enjoyable to read.

My favorite part of the book was Eben learning about his past.  He was adopted and felt loved by his adopted family, but as he grew older and had kids he started to wonder if his biological parents ever loved him.  He compares not knowing if he was loved by his biological parents and how it made him unhappy to not knowing if we are loved before we came to this Earth by God can make you depressed and unhappy. Until he went into a coma he didn’t believe God loved him.  It was beautiful to read about how learning that God loved him brought a lot of joy and happiness into his life.

There were a few life-changing things he learned that really resonated with me.  Evil is necessary for free will and free will is so important in our mortal life.  He learned that God is human and personal.  One of the unique things about Eben’s experience was the fact that he was a brain surgeon before this experience and he realized that you don’t have to sacrifice science to believe in the spiritual.  If we as a society continue to pursue science without also pursuing the spiritual then we will be “relatively bereft in the realm of meaning and joy, and of knowing how our lives fit into the grand scheme… (pg 152).”

Eben had such an interesting view on the brain and how it relates to consciousness.  I had never thought about it like that before, but it made sense to me.

The brain itself does not produce consciousness.  That it is, instead, a kind of reducing valve or filter, shifting the larger, nonphysical consciousness that we possess in the nonphysical worlds down into a more limited capacity for the duration of our mortal lives.

- Eben Alexander, Proof of Heaven pg 81

Narrator Rating: ★★★★

 This was a great audiobook.  It was read by the author which always seems to help clarify what exactly they meant when they wrote it just based on how they read it.  He had a mellow, southern voice and read at a nice pace.  There’s also an afterword in the audiobook that was not in the print version.  He blended the ideas of East and West religions and clarified why he chose the words he did in the book which was interesting to listen to.

Overall, even if you are skeptical of near death experience memoirs I think you should still give this one a try since I found his scientific perspective unique and enjoyed the spiritual learning that he did.

Content Rating: Everyone. Clean read.

This post contains affiliate links and I receive a small percentage of sales made through these links.  

About Eben Alexander

Eben Alexander

Dr. Eben Alexander III has been an academic neurosurgeon for the last 25 years, including 15 years at the Brigham & Women's and the Children's Hospitals and Harvard Medical School in Boston. Over his academic career he authored or co-authored over 150 chapters and papers in peer reviewed journals, and made over 200 presentations at conferences and medical centers around the world.

Book Review: Elusion by Claudia Gabel and Cheryl Klam

Book Review: Elusion by Claudia Gabel and Cheryl KlamElusion by Cheryl Klam, Claudia Gabel
Published: March 18, 2014
400 pages
Genres: Dystopian, Fantasy, Romance, Science Fiction, Young Adult
Source: For Review

The Short, Sweet, and Spoiler-Free Blurb:

Soon, Elusion® will change the world and life as we know it.

A new technology called Elusion is sweeping the country. An app, visor and wristband will virtually transport you to an exotic destination where adventure can be pursued without the complications—or consequences—of real life.

Regan is an Elusion insider. Or at least she used to be...

Suspense, thrills, and romance fuel this near-future story about the seductive nature of a perfect virtual world, and how far one girl will go to uncover the truth behind the illusions.
3 Stars

Elusion was a fun adventure but it felt like an introduction to a longer novel instead of the first book in a series.  I liked that it took the time to set up the world and characters, but I don’t like it when the first book in a series doesn’t resolve anything at all.  I didn’t see any story arc that was just for this book. I read this on my kindle and I was expecting to turn the page and see “Part 2″ or something like that.   I was shocked that it was over in the “That’s it?” kind of way.  There is a plot twist at the end but I kind of saw it coming. Part of my disappointment of the abrupt ending was that I felt like things had just gotten started and suddenly the book was over.

The world in this novel is very interesting, especially the virtual reality element.   It was easy to imagine the “Elusion” or the virtual reality world.  It was vivid, interesting, and almost magical.  I liked the blending or illusion and reality and the crazy, unexpected things that happened because of it.  Virtual reality was presented in a way that I haven’t read before.  It discussed having technology connected directly to your brain and brought up the themes of addiction.  What if technology is physically addicting? At what point does technology start making our life worse rather than better?

The characters were confusing to me.  Regan is the main character and she has two “friends” name Josh and Patrick (I say “friends” because they are guys and this is a YA novel so….yeah. I think you know what happens as well as I do).  On the one hand, I liked how distinct Josh and Patrick’s personalities were.  But on the other hand I didn’t like that both of them did some majorly untrustworthy things for kind of lame or even unexplained reasons.  I liked Regan.  She was a sweet, sad, and likable girl though I don’t understand how she saw either of the boys as remotely trustworthy.

Overall, it was a fun adventure set in a interesting and magical virtual world but I felt like it was more of an introduction to a longer story than a novel.

Content Rating: Medium, for mild swearing and a few make out scenes

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 Cheryl Klam

Cheryl Klam

Cheryl Klam is the author (along with Claudia Gabel) of the young adult futuristic thriller, ELUSION. She is also the bestselling author of several other novels for adults and teens, including THE PRETTY ONE, which was nominated for an Isinglass Teen Read Award. Her work has been published in more than a dozen different languages. She grew up in the suburbs of Detroit, Michigan and graduated from the University of Michigan. When she was a teenager she starred in Sam Raimi's first short horror movie, later appearing as a "fake shemp" in Raimi's cult classic: THE EVIL DEAD.

About Claudia Gabel

Claudia Gabel

Claudia Gabel was born in Roanoke, VA, raised in Binghamton, NY, and moved to Manhattan after studying abroad in London during her senior year in college. She received her Masters of Arts degree in English and American Literature from Hofstra University, and planned to pursue her doctorate, until a side-job as an editorial assistant at a large book publisher permanently redirected her career course. Claudia worked as an editor in the adult divisions of several major publishing houses, then made the move to children's books, where she hoped to inspire, educate, and entertain young readers. Along the way, she began writing novels of her own. Her first series, IN OR OUT, was based on her experiences as a freshman in high school. She wrote her mash-up novel, ROMEO & JULIET & VAMPIRES, for readers who were looking to indulge in a fun twist on William Shakespeare. And her latest novel, ELUSION, co-written with fellow author Cheryl Klam, is a glimpse into the near-future, where a girl discovers that a popular alternate reality app is not exactly what it seems. Claudia lives in New York City with her husband Ben.