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!

The Rose & the Dagger Book Review

theroseandthedaggerTitle: The Rose & the Dagger
Series: The Wrath & the Dawn #2
Author: Renee Ahdieh
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: April 26, 2016
Genre: Young Adult – Fantasy, Romance, Retelling
Pages: 416
Format: Purchased Hardcover

I am surrounded on all sides by a desert. A guest, in a prison of sand and sun. My family is here. And I do not know whom I can trust.

In a land on the brink of war, Shahrzad has been torn from the love of her husband Khalid, the Caliph of Khorasan. She once believed him a monster, but his secrets revealed a man tormented by guilt and a powerful curse—one that might keep them apart forever. Reunited with her family, who have taken refuge with enemies of Khalid, and Tariq, her childhood sweetheart, she should be happy. But Tariq now commands forces set on destroying Khalid’s empire. Shahrzad is almost a prisoner caught between loyalties to people she loves. But she refuses to be a pawn and devises a plan.

While her father, Jahandar, continues to play with magical forces he doesn’t yet understand, Shahrzad tries to uncover powers that may lie dormant within her. With the help of a tattered old carpet and a tempestuous but sage young man, Shahrzad will attempt to break the curse and reunite with her one true love.

As this is a sequel there may be spoilers!

This second book was full of a heightened sense of urgency, of magic, of love, forgiveness, friendship, and more. I honestly enjoyed this sequel more than the first book and I think that it was a really great wrap up to this duology.

The plot starts right after the events of the first book after everything has pretty much gone to hell after a magic storm that Jahandar cooked up in order to “save” Shazi. Everything is in ruin and while Khalid works to restore the city and look for Shazi, she’s in a Badawi encampment being kept there for her own safety as well as Khalid’s. It continues to show more of the magic in this world because we got just the barest glimpse of it in the first book, as well as how Shazi’s magic actually works.

There is a lot of mystery surrounding several of the characters, and plenty of romance to drink in. I thought that, the plot itself, was a solid one, driving each of the characters into the next course of action that needed to be taken in order to break the curse over Khalid and Khorasan, as well as other opposing forces in the story.

I will say, though, that I thought the threat of danger wasn’t as immediate in this book as it was in the first. Yes, there were still threats and still concerns that had to be addressed, but otherwise I thought that it was more of a story of action than of danger. It didn’t take away from the story at all, but there was a difference in tone between the first and second books given the circumstances.

Shahrzad is as strong willed and silver tongued as ever in this book, and I kind of really missed that. I forgot how she can have such witty banter and come up with such awesome insults on the fly:

A rush of blood heated her cheeks. “If I had a fireball, I’d send it straight between your legs. But I worry there would be little to burn.”

OH SNAP. That part made me laugh quite loudly. But aside from that, she still uses her mind and her resources around her to get where she needs to go and do what needs to be done. I thought that her relationship with her sister, though strained at times, was still one that I could see the true love from them in. Shazi really cares for Irsa, even if she doesn’t reveal many things to her because she views Irsa as a child still. Through the many ups and downs and revelations, though, Shazi remains strong and brave. She’s a really amazing heroine, in my opinion.

Khalid is just as temperamental as ever, but we get to see a much more human side of him than we have before. We see him helping to rebuild his city and him trying his best to look out for those around him because he doesn’t want to shed any more unnecessary innocent blood. His love for Shazi is beautiful and I loved reading the moments with them together because they so perfectly reflect one another so well. I thought that he was a strong character, like usual, though he fought with a lot more conviction now that he has something to fight for. And we got to see him with some of his military skills, which was pretty strategic and cool.

Irsa, I think, was a welcome sigh of relief when it came to this story. As Shazi’s younger sister, you would think she would be a little more headstrong and quick to act, but I felt that she was very mature for her age in some of the ways she acted and how she responded in certain situations. She was very knowledgeable on medicinal herbs and her love for her sister was very strong, though she knew that Shazi would lie to her constantly to protect her. Irsa was a welcome surprise and I thought the interactions between her and Rahim were so adorable.

Tariq was just as angry as he was in the last book when it came to him thinking about Khalid, and he acted with a blind heart instead of an open mind on more than one occasion, causing something almost terrible to happen to Shazi. Even though he and Khalid had an altercation, an understanding on Tariq’s part happened and I think that’s when he became a more agreeable character after that. Though he still reacted on pure guts than brains, I thought he did his best in the situations handed to him.

Jahandar, I thought, was trying to do so many things for the wrong reasons and I was so mad he seemed to care more about his book than his daughters. He tricked and lied, and he did it with the best intentions, but I think the gift he gave in the end was fitting and right.

We didn’t have as much Despina or Jalal at all in this book, which made me very sad because they’re two of my favorites, but there was still an interaction with them that made me smile at the end.

There was fighting, blood, worry, curses, magic, and more in this book and I thought that it did very well for a conclusion, for sure. And I just want you to know that I ALMOST CRIED at one part – like, there was a tear and everything – because holy carp was it sad and OH THE FEELS. Renee Ahdieh’s writing is very beautiful, just like the last, and will capture you with lush details and exquisite settings, sprinkled with awesome banter.

I rated this book 4.5/5 stars.

My duology review: 4.25/5 stars

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.