Scarlet Book Review

scarletTitle: Scarlet
Series: The Lunar Chronicles #2
Author: Marissa Meyer
Publisher: Square Fish
Publication Date: February 5, 2013
Genre: Young Adult – Science Fiction, Retellings
Pages: 452
Format: Purchased Paperback

Cinder is back and trying to break out of prison—even though she’ll be the Commonwealth’s most wanted fugitive if she does—in this second installment from Marissa Meyer.

Halfway around the world, Scarlet Benoit’s grandmother is missing. It turns out there are many things Scarlet doesn’t know about her grandmother, or the grave danger she has lived in her whole life. When Scarlet encounters Wolf, a street fighter who may have information as to her grandmother’s whereabouts, she is loath to trust this stranger, but is inexplicably drawn to him, and he to her. As Scarlet and Wolf unravel one mystery, they encounter another when they meet Cinder. Now, all of them must stay one step ahead of the vicious Lunar Queen Levana.

As this is a sequel there may be spoilers.

Guys. This sequel. I was so enthralled with reading it, needing to turn the page to know what happened next, that I read it in under 12 hours. That’s right: I read it in one sitting. ME. A SLOW READER. HOW. I don’t know. But anyway, that’s not the point of this review. The point of this review is to inform you: I enjoyed this more than Cinder.

When I read the first book of the saga last year I didn’t get the hype. I don’t know what it was, but I ended up putting off this sequel for a long time as a result. And now I regret not picking it up sooner because this sequel was one that drew me in, kept me on the edge of my seat, made me laugh, go “WHAT THE HELL,” and so much more.

I knew that the fairytale retelling element in this book was all about Little Red Riding Hood. I wasn’t sure how the elements of the story were going to be incorporated into this world, but I think Marissa Meyer did a really great job of showing the elements without outright saying what it was! Scarlet (other than her name) had a favorite red hoodie that her Grandmother had given her, and then there was Wolf who had a lot of surprises and secrets of his own. I also loved seeing Cinder in there (she grew on me in this book) and seeing her work at being a mechanic and use her sass and wits in many situations. She wasn’t perfect, which I appreciated. And THORNE. I LOVE HIM.

So let’s talk about some of the things that happened, yeah?

When the book started out with Scarlet in an alleyway delivering produce from her Granny’s farm – and the fact that her Grandmother had been missing – was an instant hook for me. Scarlet had a fierce love and loyalty to her grandmother that I thought was so unseen in many YA novels, so I highly appreciated it. Scarlet has a temper which she tries to control, but sometimes it slips through her fingers and she unleashes her anger on the inanimate things around her (or people, depending on the situation). I thought it was endearing. Scarlet’s resolve to find her grandmother was inspiring, honestly. Her fierce determination was a constant in this book, even when she faced betrayal and imprisonment.

Wolf was a mystery from the start. I couldn’t place my finger on it, but something in me knew that something was going to happen for him to betray Scarlet. He wasn’t anything like the “Big Bad Wolf” that I was expecting – you know, strong, distant, cold, fearless. No, he was much more timid and wary, super cautious. But he was definitely strong, that’s for sure. When circumstances unfolded and it was revealed who and what he was, I was a) shocked, and b) in disbelief. There were so many questions running through my mind and I didn’t know how to place them.

Also, I’m forever shipping Scarlet and Wolf because they’re EFFING ADORABLE, OKAY?

Anywho, then we have Cinder who I don’t remember if I was impressed with or not in the last novel. But in this novel I felt much more attached to her, like what she was fighting for, what she was struggling with and what she wanted to do not only for herself, but for others, was purposeful and I wanted to see her achieve. I loved her sarcasm and wit, and I also liked the fact that she doesn’t have complete control over her powers, that they’re so underused that she doesn’t completely understand how to use them. And that she feels guilty when she does use them. I find that makes her realer than I was expecting. I also just love the mechanic aspect of hers because a) I love female mechanics in stories, and b) I find those scenes extremely fascinating given that she’s a cyborg and can use her own body to do so many things. It’s so cool!

And then we have Captain Carswell Thorne. I love him. That is all.

No, but seriously, he was so hilarious and charming, but he was also strong and smart in his own ways, even if he did act dumb a lot of the time. Does that make sense? Either way, I thought Thorne was kind of like the much needed comedy relief in this story? He had his uses, don’t get me wrong, but a lot of what came out of his mouth was really funny. I highly appreciated him and need more of him, thanks.

Kai was struggling so much in this novel and it makes me wonder what’s going to go down in the next two books now that he’s made a decision about something huge. I’m glad to see that he still cares about Cinder despite everything that happened and despite how much he tries to deny it, even to himself. I think that his role will become greater AND I have a theory about one of his advisors. Hmm.

I was surprised to see a chapter from Queen Levana’s point of view! It was interesting to see how observatory she is and how her mind works, even in that little snippet. I’m interested to see if we’ll see more from her point of view in the next books.

The plot of the book was centrally geared around Scarlet saving her grandmother and Cinder finding Scarlet’s mother for answers. It was fast paced and definitely upped the ante of the book. I thought that the plot of the book and the dangers within them were definitely heightened given that Cinder is now a fugitive, and that the story itself was well done. I did have some questions, though, at some points where I was like, “But why are you doing that?” that had me unsure of what I wanted to rate this. Also how things took place in only a matter of days and a few certain romantic things happened (which I’m totally fine with and was glad that even the characters acknowledged the short time span of things).

I rated this book 4.5/5 stars and highly recommend it!

Alice Book Review

aliceTitle: Alice
Series: The Chronicles of Alice #1
Author: Christina Henry
Publisher: Ace
Publication Date: August 4, 2015
Genre: Adult – Fantasy, Fairytale Retelling, Horror
Pages: 291
Format: Borrowed Paperback from Coworker

In a warren of crumbling buildings and desperate people called the Old City, there stands a hospital with cinderblock walls which echo the screams of the poor souls inside.

In the hospital, there is a woman. Her hair, once blond, hangs in tangles down her back. She doesn’t remember why she’s in such a terrible place. Just a tea party long ago, and long ears, and blood…

Then, one night, a fire at the hospital gives the woman a chance to escape, tumbling out of the hole that imprisoned her, leaving her free to uncover the truth about what happened to her all those years ago.

Only something else has escaped with her. Something dark. Something powerful.

And to find the truth, she will have to track this beast to the very heart of the Old City, where the rabbit waits for his Alice.

This was a different twist on the original tale of Alice in Wonderland for sure. It was dark, twisted, a little creepy, and full of murder and blood. The book did sound interesting, though, and I liked the voice the author had throughout the story.

The book starts with Alice in an insane asylum when she is sixteen years old and quickly passes time to ten years later when she is still there. One day, her friend in the room next to hers, Hatcher, knows that the Jabberwock will be released and they have to get out.

And things are only just beginning when they do. The world of the Old City is much more twisted than that of the New City, because in the Old City there are prostitutes everywhere, as well as people who just take girls to rape them. I honestly think that this was probably the one detail of the story that kept popping up again and again that I could have done without. It made me angry and made my skin crawl just thinking of it.

When we’re first introduced to Alice, she doesn’t understand the world – at least, not as an adult. She only knows what the world was like as a teenager, and can’t remember all of the events that caused her to end up in the asylum other than her ranting about a Rabbit. I thought that she stayed pretty true to the Alice we know, albeit a confused one who doesn’t know what to think of the world and what’s going on. As time progresses, though, she does become fiercer, braver, sharper, and she knows that the only thing in this Old City is to survive and take down the Rabbit.

I thought that her develop gradually increased, but I wasn’t necessarily blown away by her. She was definitely an Alice I was expecting and I’m kind of glad for that. There were a few other things I wish had been fleshed out for her, such as her family life as a child and why she doesn’t remember what happened to her, about her feelings for Hatcher and where they stemmed from, and what about the necklace she is later gifted – what is its significance?

Hatcher, on the other hand, was very interesting to me. It wasn’t until much, much later in the story that I figured out that he’s based off of the Mad Hatter. He’s in the asylum for a much darker reason than Alice, and the reason why becomes clear as they journey through the Old City to find the Rabbit. I thought that his character stayed true throughout the entire novel, which was reassuring. He seemed like he had the mind of someone much younger, but at the same time of someone who understood the world in a much simpler way. Though he was the one who often had to kill people around them to survive, he had a bit of humanity in him that didn’t make him terrifying, but real.

There were secondary characters, like Cheshire, the Caterpillar, the Walrus, and Dor, who were easy to spot their character equivalent of, and I thought that they were pretty true to their personalities from the original tale: Cheshire was smart and witty, but quick with a temper if crossed; the Caterpillar was cunning and cocky, thinking very highly of himself; the Walrus was just kind of a coward and I didn’t care much for him; and Dor was… well, she was only there briefly, so I can’t really say much about her.

The plot continually moved forward, pushing Alice and Hatcher to find the Rabbit and put a stop to things. In fact, I think the two main plots were to take out the Jabberwock and to find the Rabbit. There were a lot of bumps and blood along the way, though, and many revelations for Alice as they continued. Many parts were dark and twisted, and though I wish there had been less of the girls and sex and rape and stuff mentioned in here, I understand that it is a part of this world (but I don’t have to like it just because of that).

Overall I thought that the story was compelling and was definitely leading to something big, but I think that the last fifty or so pages fell kind of flat. I thought that  after so much mention of the Rabbit and his eyes and more would have lead to this epic battle scene or something – even with the Jabberwock – but it wasn’t and I think that’s where my disappointment crept in. The story felt like it was going in one direction and it ended in a completely different way. That’s honestly the saddest part of it all, plus I have a few unanswered questions like, Where did the love between Alice and Hatcher pop up? Was it because they had known each other from the asylum and therefore only knew what to expect from the other? What about the necklace that Alice wore, what was its significance in the end? Do we get to see what happens next?

I mean, there will be a sequel, but I don’t know if I’ll read it given the deflated ending of this one. The book was good, though darker than I anticipated, but I don’t know if these questions will be answered. Plus, there were a lot of typos that I noticed, and misused pronouns of he and she on occasion, so that was kind of annoying.

If you’re looking for a darker fairytale retelling with a creepy air about it, then check out this book.

I rated it 4/5 stars and recommend it.

The Wrath and the Dawn Book Review

thewrathandthedawn

Title: The Wrath and the Dawn
Author: Renee Ahdieh
Series: The Wrath and the Dawn #1
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books
Publication Date: May 12, 2015
Genre: Young Adult – Romance, Fantasy, Retellings
Pages: 388
Format: Purchased Hardcover

“The Wrath and the Dawn” is a retelling of the classic tale of “A Thousand and One Nights” and in this story it tells about a young caliph – a king – who takes a new wife every day and kills her by the next dawn. No one knows why he does it, but they hate him for it. And it also tells about the brave young girl, Shahrzad, who volunteers to be this caliph’s next bride; but she’s determined to make it to the next sunset, and the one after that, and so on. But there’s some darker secrets that are lying behind this tale of romance, and it weaves an interesting story.

I thought this book was both enjoyable and frustrating, but more so enjoyable than frustrating.

Let me talk about the characters:

Shahrzad (aka Shazi), our leading lady, is a stubborn, strong willed, fierce young woman of sixteen who has a silver-tongue and a quick mind. She’s very fiesty in many parts of the book and I really enjoyed that about her personality; that she wouldn’t just sit down and obey whatever was dished out to her. But I also felt like that was a flaw at some points because her stubborn head could possibly get her into trouble or even killed. I did think that her being on a warpath for revenge was kind of annoying at times, but that may be because I sort of knew how the book would progress? I did think that she gave in too easily at the end and that she lost some of her flare (like seriously, I wanted to slap her for just going along with the plan and not putting up more of a fight). She’s still a strong main heroine and I thought as she got to know Khalid more the more she opened up and her personality really started to shine.

Khalid is the caliph of Khorazan, the King of Kings, in this book and I thought he was very… well, interesting. I thought because of his quiet demeanor that he’d be kind of boring, but I found that I was just as entranced by him as Shazi was throughout the book. He was fiercely protective and very quiet, but wise. I thought that he didn’t really overreact in any situation, but I was confused at the end as to what happened and whether or not he knew what was going to happen… I thought that the fact that the relationship between him and Shazi developed in such a strange and tense way was kind of refreshing. I also appreciate that he appreciates honesty above all else given his past.

Despina was a fireball when we saw her and I was surprised she was able to say so much in free reign without being chastised for it. She was the kind of friend who wasn’t afraid to tell you the truth, but would still do anything to protect you from being hurt. I wish we had seen more of her, but I also know that the story was more about the relationship and romance.

Jalal is Khalid’s smooth talking charmer of a cousin who is also Captain of the Guard for the palace. He’s kind of the bad boy of the story, but he’s not mean or anything, just teasing and joking all the time. He can be serious when he needs to be, but sometimes it can be hard to distinguish those moments.

Tariq is Shazi’s first love, and as such I could understand why he wanted to save her and all of that, and I believe he had good intentions at the beginning. But as the story continued to progress and things just kind of escalated over time, I was extremely frustrated with him at the end because he was being a possessive idiot and not letting Shahrzad get in any words. I hope I’m not the only one who felt that way.

Now we met some other characters who I’m sure will play a much larger role in the next book, but as of right now I’m not very fond of those characters because I know there are schemes behind them. Some characters I do like, but others, not so much.

As for the plot, I enjoyed it. I really thought that it was interesting to see a girl go in with this plan for vengeance for her best friend, and discover that she is falling in love with a supposed monster. I couldn’t help but feel for Khalid and how things happened to him and why things are the way they are and just… Oh, he really isn’t that bad. I was annoyed at times with how things progressed or what was thought or said, but I think that was mostly because I knew the other side of the story.

This book included multiple points of view from Shahrzad, Tariq, Khalid, Jahandar (Shazi’s dad), among a couple others. It wasn’t really hard to discern who was speaking because it was often told right from the first word or paragraph of that section.

I enjoyed the progression of the romance and was so happy to see that even though all the hateful feelings Shazi had toward Khalid that she could really sympathize with him and to really just see the progression… well, it was lovely. I honestly don’t even know how it happened, but it did.

I’m anticipating reading the next book because now I need to know a few things and what happens next.

I gave this book a 4/5 stars and highly recommend it.

A Court of Thorns and Roses Book Review

acourtofthornsandroses

Title: A Court of Thorns and Roses
Author: Sarah J Maas
Series: Book #1 in the A Court of Thorns and Roses trilogy
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Publication Date: May 5, 2015
Genres: Young/New Adult – Fantasy, Romance
Pages: 419
Format: Purchased Hardcover

“A Court of Thorns and Roses” by Sarah J Maas is a story about a girl named Feyre (fay-ruh) who is a hunter for her family. It’s the dead of winter and her family is running out of food and she’s the only one brave enough to hunt in the woods that border the Wall that separates the mortal world from the Faerie Lands. One night when she kills a wolf, a Fae barges into her home and demands the treaty signed hundreds of years ago be fulfilled with a life for a life: Feyre took the life of a fae, so she is in turn to stay with this new fae at his home.

But there’s more lurking under the surface as Feyre, who hates Faeries, learns more and more about the world in which they live.

This book was so awesome. It had me wanting to keep reading and keep going from the first chapter. It was sexy, beautiful, dangerous, heartfelt. I loved it.

For those of you who didn’t know, this was a loose retelling of the classic Beauty and the Beast tale and I could definitely see elements within the book that reminded me of the Disney movie version (particularly the dinner scene or anytime compliments were made).

Let me talk about the main characters:

Feyre was a strong heroine, I feel. She starts out starving and hungry with her father (who is a cripple and won’t even try to get a job and help them) and her two sisters, Elain and Nesta. She’s the only one willing to hunt – and she had to learn everything on her own from watching others, by trial and error, or asking for help. She would never beg, though, and I think that helped to make her strong even during those times. And then when Tamlin comes crashing into her house, literally, she admits that she’s the one who killed the faerie and that she’ll go live with him – if only to save her family, who doesn’t seem to care much about her to begin with. When she’s taken by Tamlin, who’s a High Fae, into the Spring Court she still doesn’t trust him or anyone in his court, really, because of the stories she heard as a child and growing up. Over time, though, she learns of how the faeries aren’t all bad, that there’s something happening to them to weaken them, and over the months that she’s there she even grows to love them, to feel for them. I think that she definitely had a few weaknesses throughout the book, because she’s a human in a faerie world, but I loved that she’d always find a light, a source to be able to take her out of the darkness and keep pushing forward.

Tamlin is a High Fae who is dealing with a lot of crap happening in the Spring Court. So when he lashes out verbally to Feyre or his emissary, Lucien, it’s not really his fault because he’s under a lot of stress. He definitely had moments of vulnerability, showing a gentler and softer side to his otherwise hard exterior. You learn that the Spring Court, all of the Spring Court, are wearing masquerade masks that are stuck to their faces due to a blight that is making its way through all the courts of Prythian. So obviously he’s under stress from that, but as he spends more time with Feyre (even though she was really unwilling at the beginning), he opens up more to her and becomes calmer and nicer to her. He’s strong, even though his magic is weakened from the blight, and when he shape-shifts into his beast form, get out of the way because he’s a BAMF. I love him so much because he’s just so… awesome. I don’t even know how to describe it.

Lucien is Tamlin’s emissary and he once belonged to the Autumn Court. He’s snarky and full of sass, and he barely tolerates Feyre at the beginning for killing one of his friends (the Spring Court was under orders to not harm Feyre in any way). In most of the moments we see Lucien we see him either making a snide comment or trying to reason and argue with Tamlin. As the story progresses, though, and he becomes more acquainted with Feyre, he cares for her enough to heal her when needed and to give her warnings where they were needed. I thought he was a great addition to the story, even though for some parts he wasn’t in it or didn’t hold much ground in terms of what was going on around him (for various reasons).

Rhysand (ree-sand) works for the Faerie Queen who lives Under the Mountain (kind of). Now, this queen is technically not supposed to be there (her name is Amarantha), and we don’t really see him much until the last third of the novel, but at first he’s a smooth talking guy who is out for his own means. I thought he was kind of a real jerk a few times, using Feyre to his advantage, but at the same time I understood the reasons why he did those things and everything. He wasn’t necessarily the villain in this novel, but I can see a potential for the future. Maybe.

Amarantha is like Rhys in that she didn’t really show up until the last third of the novel, but she’s cruel and cold and calculating and a master of manipulation. She’s the villain and I just really didn’t like her.

Now as for plot I loved this book. I’ve never read the original tale of Beauty and the Beast, but I love the story of a girl who can’t possibly fall in love with someone or something so vile, but in turn she discovers that he’s not so bad after all and that there’s a secret that can help free him if only she figures it out. I thought this book was great. The plot was driven forward with each chapter and it progressed into a climax that was worth it. Even though I hoped for a different ending, I still am happy with the way it ended. I was just expecting something different – hoped for something different.

Yes, there were some sexy bits in here and oh my gosh I was fanning myself. When you read about the Fire Night, you’ll understand what I’m talking about.

And I solved the riddle half way through reading it, but I understood that there needed to be more plot in order for it to make more sense (the riddle’s not until we meet Amarantha in the last third of the book).

It’s full of redemption and learning to love for what isn’t seen or rumor, but for what really matters. Nothing went unexplained and I thought it was a great wrap-up to the first book. I can’t wait to see where the next two books takes us and which fairy tales they follow.

UPDATED JULY 1, 2015: After much consideration I am downgrading this book from a 5 star to a 4 star because I felt that it was lacking in some aspects and that some things could have been better explained in some parts of the book. This doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it; I just want to give it the rating I think that it deserves.

I give this book a 4/5 stars and highly recommend it.

Accompanying video: A Court of Thorns and Roses Book Review

Cinder Book Review

cinder

Title: Cinder
Author: Marissa Meyer
Series: Book #1 in the Lunar Chronicles
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends – an imprint of MacMillan
Publication Date: January 1, 2012
Genres: Young Adult – Science Fiction, Romance, Dystopian
Pages: 390
Format: Purchased Paperback

“Cinder” by Marissa Meyer is a fairy tale retelling of the Grimm’s classic tale of “Cinderella“. But instead of the Cinderella we’ve come to know, Cinder is, in fact, a cyborg living in a more futuristic world after World War IV. She is not only a cyborg (which not many people know about), but she’s also a mechanic – and a pretty good one, too. When Prince Kai comes to her one day with one of his broken androids, fate twists these two together in a way that no one would see coming. It’s a tale about self-discovery, loss, a fleeting romance, and more.

Overall, I loved the concept of the book. I thought it was definitely unique in the way that Meyer told this version of Cinderella. Yes, there is the wicked stepmother and the two stepsisters, but one of the stepsisters actually likes Cinder (gasp!), which is actually a nice little reprieve from the story we all know. Cyborgs, futuristic, a need to save the human race from a deadly disease… it’s a bit of a great way to retell the story, right?

Cinder, herself, was a likeable character. I felt that I, personally, didn’t attach to her as much as I wanted, but rather I attached to how she acted as a cyborg, how each function worked and how it could overtake her at any moment. I also liked how she was always cautious and aware of what she viewed as her “deformity” by always making sure her gloves covered any metal parts, as well as how she was sometimes missing a foot around the prince. Oops. I did think she was a pretty cool character other than my lack of attachment to her. Not only did Meyer beat a stereotype in making Cinder a mechanic, but she was also a cyborg, making her even more badass (in my opinion, anyway).

Prince Kaito (Kai) was definitely a teenage ruler about to come into power. He knew what his father wanted for him, and respected it greatly, but he also knew what he wanted and upheld those decisions, too. Though we often saw him troubled one way or another throughout a majority of the book, I did think that he was definitely well thought out and I hope to see him in the future novels.

Queen Levana, our main villain, is a Lunar – a person from the moon with “magical” abilities – who is pretty evil down to her core. She hates mirrors, for they show the true beauty of what she is, and she hates “shells,” which are Lunars who have no magic and are able to see past any glamour she might conjure up to try to brainwash any citizens. She definitely makes for a good evil villain and she kind of reminds me of the Evil Queen from Snow White.

A few lesser characters included Iko, the little android servant to Cinder’s stepmother, Adri, but also Cinder’s companion. She has a sassy and fun personality and I loved reading the parts she was in. I wanted to just scoop her up and hug her all day.

Adri, the stepmother, definitely held her role throughout the book and I really just hated her. Good minor villain.

Pearl, the older stepsister, hated Cinder and treated her like crap. I didn’t like her much, but again, good minor villain.

Peony, the younger stepsister, was cheerful and adorable and I liked that she was nice to Cinder. Not so much a villain, but rather a sidekick, I think.

Now one of the plots of the story included a disease that is spreading rapidly around the Eastern Commonwealth, and around the world, called letumosis. Its symptoms do not appear, at first, but once a victim has gone into stage two is when the black and blue blotches start showing up all over the skin and they have to be taken to quarantine. There is no cure and so all of those who get sick with it, die. It’s really sad when one of the characters does die from it because I liked her, but I also liked that she couldn’t be saved in time, making it seem more believable that it could happen.

The other plots included Cinder fixing Kai’s android, Nainsi, for him and discovering a chip inside her that linked to someone on Luna. I have my theory that it might be Cress. Maybe (don’t tell me if you already know).

The ball was fun to read about, imagining Cinder dressed up all haphazardly and all that. I thought the events leading up to it were a bit slow and that the plot could have moved a little faster or maybe more added in, I’m not sure. I did enjoy the little hints that resembled Cinderella: the stepmother & stepsisters, the orange car (the pumpkin carriage), the cyborg foot (the shoe), and more.

Overall, I thought this was a cute read and I hear that the sequels get better. This book was a little slow going for me, but I’m glad I still read it.

I rate this book 4/5 stars.

Accompanying video: Cinder Book Review