March 26, 2014

Review: Scarlet

By: Marissa Meyer
Published: February 2013 by Feiwel & Friends
Format: Hardback, 454 pages
Buy: Barnes & Noble//Books-A-Million//Amazon//Book Depository
Add it on Goodreads

Even in the future, beware of the big, bad wolf.

Cinder, the cyborg mechanic, returns in the second thrilling installment of the bestselling Lunar Chronicles. She's trying to break out of prison--even though if she succeeds, she'll be the Commonwealth's most wanted fugitive. 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, who will do anything for the handsome Prince Kai to become her husband, her king, her prisoner.

Rating: 4.5/5

Well. My biggest worry was hulk-smashed. I haven't read a sequel in a while. If you don't count Harry Potter, I haven't read a sequel in over a year (Indigo Spell by Richelle Mead). Over. A. Year. And before then? Some time in 2012. It's odd, you know, as I used to only read series for a while. Anyway. I was worried because the last few sequels I remember reading weren't as good as the book before, and for me to willingly want to continue with a series, the book has to be at least as good as the previous book or better.

This was just as good as, and in many ways, better than Cinder.

Little Red Riding Hood is one of my favorite fairy tales, so I was stoked that Meyer was weaving her into this story. Like with Cinder, Meyer set us up with the general aspects of the tale but spun a creative twist around it all. I was engaged from the get-go and invested in Scarlet's world and upset about her missing grandmother. Meyer wove her tale in with Cinder's incredibly well, and while I knew they would connect, they read like completely separate stories that met in a perfect center.

I really enjoyed the narrative. Meyer's writing in general is fantastic and smooth. She transports me into the story from page one and no matter what's going on around me, I could see and hear and feel everything going on in the book. That's a magic skill, if you ask me, and not only was her writing strong, but she deals with multiple points of view like nobody's business. I can't remember the last time I read a book--YA especially--when there's been more than two (really, more than one) and I've identified with each. It was never confusing or one-dimensional or unneeded.

As for the characters, the new additions--Scarlet, Wolf, Thorne, and various supporting characters--were great. Thorne was by far my favorite. Totally fell in love with him. Not as a love interest, but just as a character in general. His dialogue and humor were fantastic; I snickered in every scene in appeared in. Wolf was one of those characters that you can't figure out what to think about his intentions, which I always love about a character. I couldn't tell if he was hiding something, or if the secrets he told were the truth, and I thoroughly enjoyed watching his character grow. Scarlet, though, for me, was my least favorite of the three. By no means did I dislike her--I actually did love her most of the book--but once it got to the meat of the story with her and Wolf, her characterization was a be sporadic for me. Reactions and responses sometimes seemed out of character or...annoying (I despise using that word, but I can't think of another). If Meyer sticks with the Scarlet that we're introduced to, I think she'll be fine.

Now, for the story and plot. O. M. G. Loved. Absolutely loved. While I think the ending was a bit rushed, the plot unfolded and collided in such a way that I just couldn't wait to find out what happened next. What was better with Scarlet than in Cinder was the twists. There were quite a few I didn't expect, and I gasped out loud a couple of times. Though I do think the characters are a bit too ignorant to the whole Princess Selene thing; they take a bit too long to connect the dots sometimes. However, that's something I can easily overlook. I guess there are packs of lunar "wolves" hunting them, amongst other major problems, and ain't nobody got time to worry about who Princess Selene is.

I do have to mention one last thing, with the whole love interest thing because, you know, YA series aren't complete without them. (Sarcasm, in case you were wondering.) I both respect and am slightly upset with Meyer over this. In general, I think she shies away from the whole the mc-has-to-have-a-love-interest thing, as Cinder is relatively solo with a male sidekick and/or slight attraction to a prince, and Scarlet was pretty much out of the love interest issue for about half the book. But. Then Meyer brought it along, kicking and screaming, and I didn't care for it. Not a huge fan of Scarlet and Wolf so far. I just happened too fast for me. You've known each other a day, man, why are you kissing. You have a missing grandmother, for crying out loud. I think if Meyer had kept with sexual tension and attraction without all of a sudden having them all, "Oh, I can't let anything happen to you, though I've known you twenty-four hours." Seriously. I was not a fan of that quickness. At least they acknowledge the quickness themselves. I guess that's a plus.

All in all, I loved this. It's left me hungry to open Cress, and even after 24 hours, I'm still thinking about the story and how exciting and creative and amazing it was. If you loved Cinder, you'll love this!

March 22, 2014

Review: Cinder

By: Marissa Meyer
Published: January 2012 by Feiwel & Friends
First read: January 2012
Format: Hardback, 387 pages
Buy: Barnes & Noble//Books-A-Million//Amazon//Book Depository
Add it on Goodreads

She was a cyborg, and she would never go to the ball.

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

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

Rating: 4.5/5

This review is based on a re-read. I'd first read Cinder not too long after it came out and had loved it, but two years have gone by and I couldn't remember much of what happened. I blame my overworked brain, of course. So I relatively jumped into this fresh and new and excited.

I was not let down.

I think I might have loved it more this time around, to be frank. First, I'm a sucker for very creative fairy tale retellings. Though I remember thinking at first I would hate this, as I'm never a huge fan anything to do with science in books. I just can't seem to relate to them usually, but Cinder was a pleasant surprise. The story, the characters, and the writing all came together to create such a fresh, unique story.

Meyer's writing is brilliant. Her flow made this incredibly easy to read without it being too easy or void of necessary description. After starting to write third person, I've gained a new love for it, so that gave Meyer an extra point in my book. I loved that it wasn't in first. God, how I loved it. Really, I didn't realize until this moment just how much I had appreciated it. Not only was it done well, but it gave more insight to the story for me. I liked seeing Cinder through someone else's eyes in places and I liked not being completely in the dark.

Though that is my one major complaint with this. The twists were far too simple for me. It didn't make the story less enjoyable--not by far--but I was slightly disappointed that the hints were dropped so early and that I essentially put together all the pieces of the puzzle without the border, so to say. However, that's my biggest critique. My only other one being I think the bit with comm toward the end (I won't elaborate because spoilers) was a bit rushed and I didn't particularly buy the reactions Cinder had with said person who commed in. It seemed slightly over the top.

But, in regards to Cinder's character, that had to be my only issue with her. I really enjoyed her personality along with her abilities and inabilities. She's a very strong lead with great, believable flaws. As for the rest of the characterization, kudos to Meyer once again. Each character was well-rounded, three-dimensional. She could have easily fell into the one-dimensional trap with many of the characters, like Prince Kai and Adri, Cinder's stepmother, but she didn't. While I'm not falling head over hills in love with Prince Kai, I like how he's not made out to be the typical YA love interest. While I would have liked to have seen more emotion from him, in general he was a very believable young man who just lost his parents to the plague and had to take on the weight of the world on his shoulders in a matter of days.

Now...the storyline. The plot. The freaking originality of this! Bloody brilliant, Marissa Meyer. Can I borrow some of your creative brain sometime? Really, I think just a measly 1/8 of it should suffice. I mean, it really was stunningly creative. She kept the meat of the Cinderella story, the bits that made Cinderella, well, Cinderella. The evil stepmother, the stepsisters, the whole left her shoe (ahem, foot) at the ball ordeal, and other bits that were morphed into fitting with this story. And God Almighty was it fantastic.

I already mentioned my petite beef with the twists, but other than that, the plot unfolds is at a great pace. I couldn't put the book down, and I didn't realize I was almost done until I had to blow my poor allergy-infested nose. It was creative down to each description. Meyer made me love so many aspects of things I usually don't--dramatically different settings, people from other planets (well, the moon, not planets in this case), cyborgs, etc. And I devoured every word of this book.

Hugely recommended for anyone who likes YA. Whether you normally like this kind of thing or not. It's incredibly unique, the creativity is insane, and the great writing is such a breath of fresh air. You won't regret it.

March 17, 2014

Review: Dangerous Girls

By: Abigail Haas (Abby McDonald)
Published: July 2013 by Simon Pulse
Format: Hardback, 388 pages
Buy: Barnes & Noble//Books-A-Million//Amazon//Book Depository
Add it on Goodreads

Spring break. Aruba. It's supposed to be the best time of Anna's life. Perfect.

It's Spring Break of senior year. Anna, her boyfriend Tate, her best friend Elise, and a few other close friends are off to a debaucherous trip to Aruba that promises to be the time of their lives. But when Elise is found brutally murdered, Anna finds herself trapped in a country not her own, fighting against vile and contemptuous accusations.

As Anna sets out to find her friend's killer; she discovers hard truths about her friendships, the slippery nature of truth, and the ache of young love.

As she awaits the judge's decree, it becomes clear that everyone around her thinks she is not just guilty, but dangerous. When the truth comes out, it is more shocking than one could ever imagine...

Rating: 4.5/5


That's was my first thought after finishing this book. My only thought for nearly twenty-four hours.


Somehow void of emotion and full of it at the same time. I can't even. Let me attempt my thoughts. Pardon me if I'm all over the place.

At 8:30 in the evening, I was readying for bed, cuddling under the covers and propping up my pillows like I do every night. Dangerous Girls set by my bedside, unopened and ready for me to dive in. I thought I'd read a couple of chapters and then go to sleep--saying I was exhausted would be an understatement--but let me tell you: My eyes stayed wide awake for another two and a half hours until I finished the whole damn thing. That has not happened in a long, long, long time.

In the beginning, I'll admit I was weary. I enjoyed the opening, as it got me into the emotion quickly, but the initial chapters following were a bit wobbly. I'm never a huge fan of party scenes or introductions of several characters in the amount of ten seconds; it usually turns me off. But once I got through the first couple chapters (very short, in case you're wondering), I was hooked. Completely and utterly hooked.

Haas has a fantastic flow to her writing that makes the story incredibly readable. Despite the fact that no one bothered to tell her that actions are not dialogue tags. (I seriously wanted to punch a few holes in the wall every time I spotted one of those foul mistakes. Christ.) Anyway. Haas spun this story in such a way that I couldn't keep the wheels from turning in my head. She literally twisted all my thoughts into one giant ball, unraveled them, and then tied them up again.

Now, Anna. Our unreliable narrator. Flawed and untrustworthy. And I loved that. I loved that she was created not to be fully likable. Frankly, I didn't like her at all. She was selfish and possessive, and so was everyone else. I loved it. Haas was brave to create a cast of characters in which pretty much all of them were unlikable. While I think there were far too many of them that never seemed to develop past a name and general description, the relationships between Anna and the main characters around her were quite complex and intriguing and interesting, gritty and confusing.

Once I finished the book, I immediately ran through the relationships between Anna/Elise and Anna/Tate, running back and forth over the possibilities and what each word and action meant between them. Her relationship with Elise--whom I've renamed as Elsie because I'm slightly dyslexic and once I mix a word around, I can't change it; it made the nickname "Lise" a bit awkward--was so twisted I still can't make up my mind about what was going on with them. It's the part of the book that truly made the story to me.

This book. How to describe this book. It was...unreal. Throughout we're thrown between before and the present, something that kept me engrossed and thinking. I liked how Haas didn't give us the full details of anything really, though I truly, truly wished for a bit more development with the characters. I think if the supporting cast were more quaint and three-dimensional, that would have made the confusion over what happened and who killed Elise even more dark and twisted.

I was fascinated by the trials. I always love to watch shows covering trials and murder stories. I swear I'm not some crazed serial killer. I swear, I swear. Only thoroughly intrigued. Haas did incredible setting this story up, obviously pulling things from true stories, and showing just how quickly and easily a person can be made to look guilty (or innocent; works both ways). How one picture, one sentence, one gesture can be manipulated to look a certain way. It definitely made me think twice about what I see, read, and think about someone or something.

Now. The ending.

The. Ending.

I still have no idea what I think. On one hand, I hated it. It was expected, wasn't it? Almost like the easy way out. I think Haas could have made it even more shocking by giving more of Anna's thoughts on the murder. Maybe. Or maybe I just wanted a bit more of her thoughts at the end, when she's standing at the grave. Or maybe not. Arghhh, you see my confusion?!

Though that last scene literally had my stomach crawling. Crawling. I just shivered thinking about it. I shut the book and sat there for a moment, and then I flipped through the last several pages and read them again, in disbelief. Ughhhhhh. Ugh ugh ugh. What.

Really, that's all this review boils down to, as I hardly formed my thoughts well. To keep it simple: Read it. It's such a breathe of fresh, gritty air in YA. Something different, that doesn't hold back. This is one of the few YA mysteries I've read that keep me thinking from start to finish, and this story will stay with me for a very long time.