Book Recommendation: The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer

I had seen Cinder on people’s Goodreads shelves and had heard a little bit about it, but every time I read the summary/blurb, I kind of felt meh about the whole thing.  Then I had a friend whose opinion I trust say how much she loved it and I thought I’d give it a try.  What could it hurt?

NOTHING!!!  It turned out to be amazing.  I loved the story of Cinder and Kai.  And Wolf and Scarlet.  And Cress.  And Winter.  And basically everyone.

Here’s the Amazon summary for Cinder:

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.

So here’s a basic rundown:  Cinder follows the basic storyline of Cinderella with a lot of literary license taken.  Scarlet continues the story of Cinder but introduces Scarlet.  Her story is based on Little Red Riding Hood.  Then comes Cress, who plays the part of Rapunzel.  And finally Winter, the story of Snow White.  All these characters are interwoven throughout the stories, so although Cinder’s main introduction is in Cinder, her character is important all the way through to the end.

In between Cress and Winter, Meyer wrote Fairest, which is the story of the evil queen, Levana.  It gives a lot of good background information and maybe a bit of a redemptive aspect to the character.

Within the past week, Meyer released an additional book in the collection, Stars Above, which is a collection of short stories about some of the characters.

I truly did enjoy this series and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys fantasy and fairy tales.  It was very clean and would even be appropriate for younger audiences.  The love stories are great and believable and the characters are complicated and yet sympathetic.

StarsAbove

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Book Recommendation: Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

So, I’ve been gone a long time.  Too long.  In my defense, I have been working on my book.  The draft I finished is now beta read, revised, and completed.  I’ve even queried it.  I’ve had a fantastic response but no agent or publisher yet.  I’m crossing my fingers that I’ll hear something good soon.

But my writing career is not why most of you come to this blog.  It’s really for book recommendations.  Since I may have a bunch of new traffic, let me explain what I do.  I don’t really review books.  I feel like it’s so subjective, and often I can’t exactly put my finger on why I did or didn’t like a book.  I can only tell you which ones I did like and would recommend.

I’ve read A LOT of books over the past year.  Some of them I’ve already posted about.  But one I haven’t (and that really deserves it) is Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas.  LIke a lot of the books I read, it’s a fantasy.  But this one truly is different.  Not so much magic.  A lot of beauty in the world and the culture and society created.

Here’s the blurb from Amazon

After serving out a year of hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier for her crimes, 18-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien is dragged before the Crown Prince.  Prince Dorian offers her freedom on one condition:  she muust act as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin.

Her opponents are men-thieves and assasins and warriors from across the empire, each sponsored by a member of the king’s council.  If she beats her opponents in a series of eliminations, she’ll serve the kingdom for three years and then be granted her freedom.

Celaena finds her training sessions with the captain of the guard, Westfall, challenging and exhilirating.  But she’s bored stiff by court life.  Things get a little more interesting when the prince starts to show interest in her…but it’s the gruff Captain Westfall who seems to understand her the best.

Then one of the other contestants turns up dead…quickly followed by another.  Can Celaena figure out who the killer is before she becomes a victim?  As the young assassin investigates, her search leads her to discover a greater destiny than she could possibly have imagined.

Great, huh?  Well, it gets even better.  Maas wrote four novella prequels to Throne of Glass.  They are:  The Assassin and the Pirate Lord, The  Assassin and the Desert, The Assassin and the Underworld, and The Assassin and the Empire.  And I have to say, I almost enjoyed the novellas more than the actual novel.  Now, you could read the novel completely separate from the novellas, but I think if you read the novellas first, you’ll get a much better understanding of Celaena.  (Plus, they’re awesome!)

Throne of Glass is one of my favorite books of the year.  If you like fantasy, and a bit of a love triangle, I think you’ll really enjoy this one.

Inheritance by Christopher Paolini

I’m not sure what to say here.  I bought the book.  I finished.  And… I don’t know.  I really enjoyed the first two books in this series.  The third one I liked, except that I thought it was too long (yea, I’d cut at least a third).  Still, I loved the story and the characters and the world.  I felt this book had the same problem with wordiness (yes, I skimmed large sections), but like before, I was all into the story.  And then it ended and I was like “what??????”  Maybe it’s just me because I know why he did what he did and I understand it even.  I just didn’t like it.  Especially after investing so much time into such a huge book.  *shrugs*  I don’t know.  If you love fantasy, especially complex world building type fantasy, read it.  You’ll like it.  Just be prepared for a lot of words and an ending that might not be as you expected.

Book Recommendation: The Seven Realms series by Cinda Williams Chima

So, yes, I’ve been gone for a while, but it’s for a good reason.  I’ve been reading, and reading, and reading…oh and writing.  I’m going to try to catch upon all the books I’ve read, but I wanted to start with a series that I really loved.  It’s called The Seven Realms by Cinda Williams Chima.  There are three books so far:  The Demon King, The Exiled Queen, and the Gray Wolf Throne.  A fourth book comes out in Fall 2012.

Here’s a blurb for The Demon King:  Times are hard in the mountain city of Fellsmarch. Reformed thief Han Alister will do almost anything to eke out a living for himself, his mother, and his sister Mari.  Ironically, the only thing of value he has is something he can’t sell.  For as long as Han can remember, he’s worn thick silver cuffs engraved with runes.  They’re clearly magicked—as he grows, they grow, and he’s never been able to get them off.  

While out hunting one day, Han and his Clan friend, Dancer catch three young wizards setting fire to the sacred mountain of Hanalea.   After a confrontation, Han takes an amulet from Micah Bayar, son of the High Wizard, to ensure the boy won’t use it against them.  Han soon learns that the amulet has an evil history—it once belonged to the Demon King, the wizard who nearly destroyed the world a millennium ago.  With a magical piece that powerful at stake, Han knows that the Bayars will stop at nothing to get it back.  

Meanwhile, Raisa ana’Marianna, Princess Heir of the Fells, has her own battles to fight.  She’s just returned to court after three years of relative freedom with her father’s family at Demonai camp – riding, hunting, and working the famous Clan markets.  Although Raisa will become eligible for marriage after her sixteenth name-day, she isn’t looking forward to trading in her common sense and new skills for etiquette tutors and stuffy parties.  

Raisa wants to be more than an ornament in a glittering cage. She aspires to be like Hanalea—the legendary warrior queen who killed the Demon King and saved the world. But it seems like her mother has other plans for her–plans that include a suitor who goes against everything the Queendom stands for.

The Seven Realms will tremble when the lives of Han and Raisa collide in this stunning new page-turner from bestselling author Cinda Williams Chima.

Now, I will admit that the first book took me almost half of the way through to decide I really loved it and wanted to keep reading.  And yes, I am one who will persevere even though it may be a bit slow.  I’m not sure why I didn’t connect immediately.  I just didn’t.  That being said as a warning for anyone who feels like putting the book down early on…DON’T.  It’s well worth it to keep going.

The two main characters are interesting and unique, neither being a carbon copy of something that’s been done before.  Han, especially, is a fascinating character — even more so as the books progress.  Chima also paints a detailed world that is clear but not overly descriptive to the point where I started to skim.  (Another of my bad habits when I’m not invested.)

And most of all, I LOVED the story.  I love good characters, but I’m not a character drive book lover most of the time.  I want a plot driven book that has great characters.  And I got all of that here.  I would recommend this book to anyone who loves fantasy.  If you aren’t a huge fantasy reader but love a good story and are willing to read until you’re hooked, it would be a good fit for you, too.

Oh, I almost forgot…I love these covers.  That alone makes me want to put them up on my bookshelf.

Book Recommendation…”Anna and the French Kiss” by Stephanie Perkins

So, “Anna and the French Kiss.”  This is a book I’d heard a lot about from a group of ladies on a forum I belong to.  Some of them loved it some thought it was just good.  I don’t read a lot of YA contemporary, so I didn’t quite know what I’d think.  However, from the very first page I was hooked.  Here’s a blurb from Amazon before I go any further.

Anna is not happy about spending senior year at a Paris boarding school, away from her Atlanta home, best friend Bridgette, and crush Toph. Adapting isn’t easy, but she soon finds friends and starts enjoying French life, especially its many cinemas; she is an aspiring film critic. Complications arise, though, when she develops feelings for cute—and taken—classmate Etienne, even though she remains interested in Toph. Her return home for the holidays brings both surprises, betrayals, unexpected support, and a new perspective on what matters in life—and love. 

Ok, so girl goes to boarding school, likes guy with girlfriend…in Paris.  Not the most unique premise ever.  BUT, it’s’ hilarious.  The first paragraph of the book talks about all the things she knows about Paris, which is really very little and revolves around pop culture.  It just gets better from there because  Anna’s voice and her outlook is just so enjoyable to read.  I found myself laughing out loud more than once — and one time in particular I was laughing so hard I was crying and my husband was looking at me like I’d lost it.  :).  But the humor isn’t the only thing about the book I enjoyed.  The characters felt real, the intricacies of teenage romance believable, and the misunderstandings relatable.  All in all, one of my few ventures into YA contemporary was very enjoyable.  Maybe I’ll even try again.  🙂

One note:  I know there are some of my blog readers who are more conservative than others.  There is a tiny bit of strong language and sexual reference that might be offensive to some.

 

Book Recommendations…”Matched” by Ally Condie”

Yes, I’ve decided not to call them “book reviews” any longer.  I think it’s better for me to call them book recommendations and then only let you know about the books I would actually tell someone to read.  It’s not that there aren’t books I don’t like, I just don’t want to publicly say bad things about other authors or their work.  Heck, if I’m lucky, I might meet some of them someday.  On Goodreads, I do rate books, and some have higher ratings than others, so take that however you want.

Anyway, I have a list of about seven or eight books I’ve read and haven’t posted here.  I’m going to start today with “Matched” by Ally Condie.  Here’s the blurb from Amazon:

For Cassia, nothing is left to chance–not what she will eat, the job she will have, or the man she will marry. In Matched, the Society Officials have determined optimal outcomes for all aspects of daily life, thereby removing the “burden” of choice. When Cassia’s best friend is identified as her ideal marriage Match it confirms her belief that Society knows best, until she plugs in her Match microchip and a different boy’s face flashes on the screen. This improbable mistake sets Cassia on a dangerous path to the unthinkable–rebelling against the predetermined life Society has in store for her. As author Ally Condie’s unique dystopian Society takes chilling measures to maintain the status quo, Matched reminds readers that freedom of choice is precious, and not without sacrifice.

I really liked this book a lot.  It was written well and kept my interest.  It is very similar to “The Giver” by Lois Lowry if you’ve ever read that.  This felt very realistic, and the world was easy to get into and enjoy.  I also liked the main characters and their interactions and how they dealt with the issues that faced them.  Some really rose above and I found myself really rooting for them.  I’m excited for the second book in the series and would recommend this book to anyone who likes dystopian, and even those who don’t.

If for no other reason, read it just because the cover is absolutely BEAUTIFUL!!!

Book Review (kind of): “Graceling” and “Fire” by Kristin Cashore

For those of you who haven’t read these books yet, you should.  Even if you don’t like the traditional medieval-feeling fantasy.  I’m not going to do a big detailed review here, but I did love these books.  They are especially good if you like strong female characters.  Keep in mind, however, as one of my beta readers pointed out, that they both take a little while to get into.  There is a lot  of set up.  I, personally, didn’t find that a problem.  But I love this kind of book, and I am used to how they are written (there is a certain amount of set up and world building).  I also love that there is a good deal of romance involved.  In my mind, any book without a good romance isn’t as fun to read.  But that might just be me. 🙂

Book Review: “Mockingjay” by Suzanne Collins

So this is a book I’ve been waiting to read for a long time (ever since I finished “Catching Fire).  It didn’t disappoint.  I have loved this series, even though when I describe the premise to people a lot of them are a little taken aback at first.  I mean, a story about choosing children to go compete in a battle to the death isn’t exactly light and fluffy.  But then, I enjoyed reading “The Lord of the Flies” too.

Here is the blurb from the jacket:  Katniss Everdeen, girl on fire, has survived, even though her home has been destroyed.  Gale has escaped.  Katniss’s family is safe.  Peeta has been captured by the Capitol.  District 13 really does exist.  There are rebels.  There are new leaders.  A revolution is unfolding.  It is by design that Katniss was rescued from the arena in teh cruel and haunting Quarter Quell, and it is by design that she has long been part of the revolution without knowing it.  District 13 has come out of the shadows and is plotting to overthrow the Capitol.  Everyone, it seems, has had a hand in the carefully laid plans — except Katniss.  The success of the rebellion hinges on Katniss’s willingness to be a pawn, to accept responsibility for countless lives, adn to change the course of the future of Panem.  To do this, she must put aside her feelings of anger and distrust.  She must become the rebels’ Mockingjay — no matter what the personal cost.

I won’t go into any more detail about the plot because I don’t want to ruin it for anyone who hasn’t read it yet, but I will say I enjoyed how the events played out.  There was a lot I wasn’t expecting, and some I was.  But more than the plot elements, I was enthralled by the characters themselves.  Many of the twists the characters in this book faced were completely unexpected.  I liked watching them grow, understand who they are as people, and make hard decisions.  I liked watching Katniss be Katniss and yet confront even more impossible siutations than before.  I liked watching Gale develop outside of the confines of District 12.  And I loved Peeta and the realizations he is forced to endure (I won’t say any more, but this particular plot element is fantastic).

Ms. Collins has created an elaborate, yet believable, post-apocalyptic-type world where things happen that shouldn’t.  She has created characters that fit in their designated place in that world, but then act in ways no one would believe.  And it is all completely believable.  I get lost in these books.  I love the companionship, bravery, sentiment, friendship, logic, and love.

Perhaps my favorite thing about the book was how it ended.  There was resolution.  I really don’t like when I’ve invested a lot of time and there’s no resolution, when I feel like I’m right back at the beginning.  Now I know that’s just my opinion.  Lots of people love books without much resolution.  I don’t.  With “Mockingjay” I admit to being slightly worried just for a minute.  When I had about ten pages left I was talking with my friend about the book.  She hasn’t read any of them but asked if I liked how the series was going to end.  I told her I honestly hadn’t decided yet.  I had loved the book, loved the characters, loved everything, but even with only ten or so pages left, I wasn’t sure if I was going to get the resolution I wanted.  You’ll understand when you read it.  There were still so many little loose ends I wanted to know about.  Ten pages later, I was convinced.  It was perfect.

And that about sums it up in a nutshell.

Book Review: Aprilynne Pike’s “Spells”

I know this book has been out for a few weeks, but I finally got to read it.  I had read “Wings” which is the first book in this series and had liked it a lot.  I liked “Spells” even better.  I think most of that centered around the fact that there was so much more inner conflict in Laurel’s life, especially on the romance side.  I loved getting to know the two different guys in her life so much better.  I don’t know about the rest of you, but I have an early opinion on who I think Laurel should end up with, but it’s not as set in stone as my opinion regarding “that other series” (you know which one I mean).  And I loved the last scene.  It left me wondering what exactly was going on and how that might affect Laurel’s future decisions.  I would recommend this series to anyone, not just young adults.  It’s a really fun read and leaves you wanting more.

“A Conspiracy of Kings” — Book Review

So I finally got a copy of “A Conspiracy of Kings,” the latest book in Megan Whalen Turner’s “Thief” series.  For any of you who have been here before, you know I love this series.  There’s just something about it. 

Each of the books is written from a different perspective, this one from that of Sounis.  This worked for me because he was a character from the first book who I liked but who we really didn’t know a lot about.  And although Gen is by far my favorite character (one of my favorites ever), there was enough of him in the book that I still felt he was an integral part to the larger story.

While “The King of Attolia” is still my favorite of the series, this one was definitely worth reading.  I’m even hoping Turner writes more of the world of Attolia.