Review: Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Review: Cinder by Marissa MeyerCinder by Marissa Meyer
Series: Lunar Chronicles #1
Published by Feiwel & Friends
Pages: 400
Genres: Fairytale Re-tellings, Science Fiction YA, Young Adult
Source: Received for review from publishers
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Also in this series: Scarlet, Cress

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.

Things I liked about Cinder:
  • It was only loosely based on Cinderella. Cinder wasn’t a “sit back and wait for my fairy godmother” character and actively rebelled against her family.
  • The universe had fantastic potential. It was very futuristic – complete with cyborgs, flying vehicles, and aliens on the moon – and yet it also seemed quite historic – with a royal family, a hideous plague, and terrible human rights.
  • Prince Kai. I have never been one to swoon over a prince, but this prince? He was everything you could possibly want from a monarch: reluctant to rule but feels obligated to do the best job he can, genuinely cares about his subjects, and has no real prejudices towards people of lower classes. I wholeheartedly approve.

Things that made me roll my eyes:

  • The big “mystery”. Mystery… hah! Within about 10 pages I had worked out the book’s big secret – so I spent the rest of the book hoping that someone would wise up and just say it out loud before I killed them all for their stupidity. Unfortunately, is wasn’t revealed until the end of the book – and revealed with dramatic flair it did not deserve.
  • Cinder. While she did have quite a bit of gumption, I found her self-loathing for her cyborg nature to be extremely tiresome. I wanted to just slap her and say “I get it, you’ve had a hard knock life, but just accept the fact that you don’t deserve it and DO something about it!” In a way, it was rather like a slave believing that they are property… something I cannot possibly accept in a protagonist, although I am sure it is possible in real life.
  • The lunar queen. If one-dimensional were a country, she would be its queen. And, hell, I think she’d enjoy it. Queen Levana was a simple “Big Bad” and absolutely nothing else. Instead of finding her scary, I found her rather cartoonish.
  • And, again, the “mystery”. Seriously, this really bugged me. I mean, I get that this book was aimed at teenagers but it wasn’t aimed at oblivious idiots. I mean, c’mon…

In short, Cinder is good. Quite good indeed. But it isn’t the miraculous novel that some reviews have made it out to be. It has significant flaws and is clearly a debut novel. I just hope that Meyer does a better job with the sequel…

Bottom line? Cinder is an enjoyable sci-fi novel with a well-incorporated fairy-tale at its heart. But is it the best thing since sliced bread? No, it is not.

Review: 13 to Life by Shannon Delany

Review: 13 to Life by Shannon Delany13 to Life by Shannon Delany
Series: 13 to Life #1
Published by St. Martin's Griffin
Pages: 308
Genres: Paranormal YA, Young Adult
Source: Purchased myself
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Everything about Jessie Gillmansen's life changed when her mother died. Now even her hometown of Junction is changing. Mysterious dark things are happening. All Jessie wants is to avoid more change. But showing a hot new guy around Junction High, she's about to discover a whole new type of change. Pietr Rusakova is more than good looks and a fascinating accent—he's a guy with a dangerous secret. And his very existence is sure to bring big trouble to Jessie's small town. It seems change is the one thing Jessie can't avoid...

Thoughts: This book is… odd. Very odd. It is basically a book of disjointed scenes, held together by the fact that they all feature the same characters. The first half of this book is your typical teenage he-loves-she-loves love triangle saga – complete with a football game, a bizarre homecoming, a girl-fight, history classes, and a sweet best friend. And then, about half way through, that book ends. Now it is a book about the main character’s epic tragedy, her best friend’s evil under layer, and the hot new boy’s mafioso family… Needless to say, I liked the “second book” better.

Besides the two-book divide, there are all sorts of bizarre plot holes in 13 to Life. For starters, the protagonist Jessie is supposed to be smart. And yet, when presented with extraordinary evidence proving that her crush is a serious ass, she remains in love with him. Huh? I can understand nursing a hopeless crush, but when said crush uses you to get back together with his girlfriend? Well, it’s time to let it go. That Jessie doesn’t “let it go” isn’t really her fault, Shannon Delany just wanted to keep her and Pietr (the aforementioned hot new boy) from getting together for a little while longer.

Except it gets worse. Once I’ve accepted the fact that Jessie is stupidly in love with I-can’t-even-remember-his-name, she promptly forgets about him. Oh, and starts making out with Pietr, who is now her creepy best friend’s boyfriend. Huh? What? She pushes the guy she likes into the arms of another girl, only to turn him into a cheater? WTF?

The only vaguely reassuring thing about this love-square mess is that Shannon Delany is aware of how needlessly crazy she’s made everything. And I quote:

“I was so stupid. As a writer, I knew if I’d been a character in a novel a good editor would have scrawled TSTL (Too Stupid To Live) on the manuscript pages. Well, maybe not too stupid to live, but definitely too stupid to date.”
Chapter 14, 13 to Life by Shannon Delany

So even though I could overlook the bizarre romance business going on – despite it being the only thing going on for the first half of the book – there was one thing I could not overlook: the dogs. Or more specifically, how Jessie treats her dogs. She screams at them to shut up and calls them stupid. And in another event, where a German Shepherd acts out due to Pietr being a bloody werewolf, she screams about how the dog is crazy. When the dog clearly clearly isn’t. Her behaviour, for me, was borderline animal abuse – if she had started hitting one of the dogs, I wouldn’t have been surprised. I didn’t like it one little bit and I couldn’t help but think that Maya (from The Gathering) would never have treated her hounds that way.

So, by now you’re thinking: why on Earth should I read this book? Excellent question. While there were times when I really wanted to take a red pen to the text, it did keep me engaged and entertained for 5 solid hours. Mostly due to Pietr and his brilliant Russian werewolf mafioso family. Pietr is a mix between Edward (Twilight) and Dmitri (Vampire Academy) – in other words, he’s engaging, mysterious, and has an accent to die for. And his family? They are the werewolf version of the Cullens. I want to know more about them… I want to know everything about them! Even by the end of the book, we know next to nothing about Pietr’s background. That might be enough for me to pick up the next novel.

That, and to see if Jessie grows a brain.

Bottom line? 13 to Life has decent writing, a needless complicated plot, and supremely frustrating characters. But there are Russians in it, so…

Review: Moloka’i by Alan Brennert

Review: Moloka’i by Alan BrennertMoloka'i by Alan Brennert
Published by St. Martin's Griffin on 2004-10-04
Pages: 384
Genres: Literary Fiction
Source: Purchased myself
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This richly imagined novel, set in Hawai'i more than a century ago, is an extraordinary epic of a little-known time and place—-and a deeply moving testament to the resiliency of the human spirit.

Rachel Kalama, a spirited seven-year-old Hawaiian girl, dreams of visiting far-off lands like her father, a merchant seaman. Then one day a rose-colored mark appears on her skin, and those dreams are stolen from her. Taken from her home and family, Rachel is sent to Kalaupapa, the quarantined leprosy settlement on the island of Moloka'i. Here her life is supposed to end—-but instead she discovers it is only just beginning.

With a vibrant cast of vividly realized characters, Moloka'i is the true-to-life chronicle of a people who embraced life in the face of death.

Thoughts: Way back in 2007, Wendy’s (Musings of a Bookish Kitty) review of this novel put Moloka’i on my radar. My mother had long-ago told me about her trip to Moloka’i when she was in her twenties – she spoke about the extraordinary beauty of the island and meeting the “lepers” (or, as I discovered in this book, sufferers of Hassen’s disease) who continued to live even after their imprisonment came to an end. Her story, Wendy’s review, and my long-love of the Hawaii islands, made me want to read this book.

Sometimes you read a book and think “this book came at the right time”. Almost as though your life led up to a point which required you to read a certain book. Moloka’i was one of those books. I went on holiday to Honolulu this Christmas, and left with a deep appreciation for the islands and its people. Not just for their friendliness and charm, but for the vast suffering they had to endure. From death, disease, and a loss of a kingdom – all of it, I would argue, at the hands of European Americans. Haoles.

So, on to the book. I can’t work out if this book is brilliant because Alan Brennert is a genius – or if he is just a decent writer working with amazing material. Is it a colour-by-numbers of the Sistine Chapel, or a Rembrandt masterpiece of a garbage dump?  I don’t know, and frankly, I don’t care.  What I do know is that this is one hell of an epic, and I absolutely adored it all.

Don’t let the depressing premise put you off.  Sure, it starts off with a young girl being sent to a leper colony to die – but Moloka’i is much more than a tragedy, and it’s about so much more than a disease.  If anything, the book proves how life continues on in the most unlikely conditions.  Rachel – our protagonist – lives through an extraordinary chunk of Hawaiian history: from the loss of its kingdom, the bombings at Pearly Harbour, to becoming a US State.  In that time she grows up, and learns to live and love despite the odds.  A lot of it is heartbreaking – I cannot recall how many times I cried – but a lot of it is also beautiful or silly or sexy or thrilling.

This is a book about life, not death.  So think of it, instead, as the life and times of a talented young surfer named Rachel.  I am certain there was a girl like her on Moloka’i – she’d be about my age now, plus or minus a century – and she deserves to be remembered.

Bottom line?  I loved this absolutely book.  Although written by a haole (and been reviewed by a haole) I think most Hawaiians would agree that Alan Brennert perfectly captures the aloha spirit.

And, in case this review left you wondering, here’s a Hawaii Five-O gif to describe my feelings for this book:

Review: Enclave by Ann Aguirre

Review: Enclave by Ann AguirreEnclave by Ann Aguirre
Series: Razorland #1
Published by Feiwel & Friends
Pages: 259
Genres: Dystopian YA
Source: Received for review from publishers
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Also in this series: Outpost, Horde

In Deuce's world, people earn the right to a name only if they survive their first fifteen years. By that point, each unnamed 'brat' has trained into one of three groups-Breeders, Builders, or Hunters, identifiable by the number of scars they bear on their arms.

Deuce has wanted to be a Huntress for as long as she can remember. As a Huntress, her purpose is clear--to brave the dangerous tunnels outside the enclave and bring back meat to feed the group while evading ferocious monsters known as Freaks. She's worked toward this goal her whole life, and nothing's going to stop her, not even a beautiful, brooding Hunter named Fade.

When the mysterious boy becomes her partner, Deuce's troubles are just beginning. Down below, deviation from the rules is punished swiftly and harshly, and Fade doesn't like following orders. At first she thinks he's crazy, but as death stalks their sanctuary, and it becomes clear the elders don't always know best, Deuce wonders if Fade might be telling the truth.

Thoughts: Some authors are just born better than others. Call it a natural selection or literary Darwinism, but I have found it to be one of those undeniable facts. They sit a cut above their piers, and make you glad to be a reader. Enclave is the third Ann Aguirre book I’ve read, and it confirmed what I suspected: she is one of those authors.

In case you were wondering, Enclave is a zombie apocalypse book. There are a lot of dead bodies, a few crazy!backwards!gangs, and people who will try to eat you. But that being said, it is a very different take on the whole thing. In fact, I could probably go into a whole spoiler-filled debate about whether or not Enclave should be called a zombie apocalypse book… but you’ll have to read it to see what I mean.

Okay, so on to the goodness. I absolutely adored the two main characters – Deuce and Fade. For starters, both of the characters are basically adults.  Life has made them grow up fast, and there’s little time to sulk about it.  A century ago, it was completely normal to raise children at the age of 15 – so it’s only logical that we’d fall back into the habit post-apocalypse. Both Deuce and Fade have embraced their responsibilities and are all the stronger for it.  Deuce rather reminds me of Rose from the Vampire Academy series (only about 15 years more mature) in the sense that she puts protecting others first. It’s inspiring to read and I hope more YA authors (*cough* and adult authors *cough*) consider writing more responsible!mature!characters. As Enclave proves, they can be just as entertaining.

Even though there is some romantic tension between Deuce and Fade, there are many more important things that take precedent (like survival, and whatnot). Not to mention the fact that, despite being hardcore warriors in their own right, they are pretty innocent when it comes to the whole romance business. It’s a different world, and that kind of intimacy is something that couldn’t stay alive. As readers, of course we know what to look out for, but seeing characters who do not even know what a family is… well, watching them start to develop one on their own is amazing.

Aguirre also hits on a few issues that I think some people will really be… um… shocked by? That’s not the right word… let’s just say she includes a few plot twists later in the book that may have you up in arms. We have all gotten rather accustomed to some things being labeled as badbadbad – unforgivable under any circumstance. But sometimes self-preservation is more important than justice – occasionally a person can do evil things for an apparently good reason.

I’ll leave you to ponder that one.

Bottom line? Ann Aguirre will rock the YA world. She absorbs you into her novels and pulls twists out of places you didn’t even know existed. I’ll be buying the hardcover.

Review: Tempted by P.C. and Kristin Cast

Review: Tempted by P.C. and Kristin CastTempted by Kristin Cast, P.C. Cast
Series: House of Night #6
Published by ATOM, St. Martin's Griffin
Pages: 336
Genres: Paranormal YA, Young Adult
Source: Purchased myself
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Also in this series: Marked, Betrayed, Chosen

Zoey needs a break after some serious excitement. Sadly, the House of Night school for vampyres doesn't feature breaks on its curriculum - even for a High Priestess in training and her gang. Plus juggling three guys is no stress reliever, especially when one is a sexy Warrior so into protecting Zoey that he's sensing her emotions. Wider stresses lurk too, and the dark force in Tulsa's tunnels is spreading. Could Stevie Rae be responsible for more than a group of misfit fledglings? And Aphrodite's visions warn Zoey to stay away from the immortal Kalona and his dark allure - but they also show that only Zoey can stop him. She's not exactly keen to meet up, but if Zoey doesn't go to Kalona he'll exact a fiery vengeance on those closest to her. She just has to find the courage to do what's necessary, or everything that's important to her will be destroyed.

Thoughts: Tempted was terrible.

Okay, so I don’t usually expect all that much from the HoN series.  As a general rule, I find the writing pretty terrible, the characters kinda one-dimensional, and some of the plot ideas seemingly written by somebody high on E.  So why do I keep reading?  Well, I like the universe and – prior to this book – I used to like some of the characters.  Now I’m down to the universe.

Tempted was just all over the place.  We hear from 4 POVs, an unfortunate first for the series.  The Casts jump back and forth from character to character with no discernible pattern.  For example, we get a single chapter from Aphrodite (which was probably the best in the book) about half way through, and then… nothing.  That’s it!  Just the one chapter.

Huh?

The Casts also successfully destroyed two of the characters I liked: Stark and Stevie Ray.  I hate it when characters lose their character because of some insane plot point.  If you have to make a character do a complete 180 to move the story along, try something else!  *shakes fist*

I’ll be reading on the next book – which comes out tomorrow in the USA. But I’m definitely going to wait for the paperback.

Bottom line?  Do the world a favour, and don’t let a teenager within a 100 feet of this book.  The last thing we need is for actual teens to be more like HoN!teens.

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