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: Melina Marchetta (@MMarchetta1) — Finnikin of the Rock, Froi of the Exiles, Quintana of Charyn, and Jellicoe Road

ImageImageImageImageOk, so that’s a lot of cover photos.  And they’re all Fabulous!  (Well, I haven’t read Quintana yet because it hasn’t been released in the United States, but still…)

The first three (Finnikin, Froi, and Quintana), are part of a series called the Lumatere Chronicles.  They are right up my alley because they’re fantasy and romance all mixed together.  Here’s a blurb for Finnikin from Amazon:

Finnikin, son of the head of the King’s Guard, has been in exile for a decade, after the violent takeover of his birthplace, Lumatere, by a usurper, followed by a curse by a priestess that has effectively shut the kingdom off from the outside world. He meets a mysterious young woman, Evanjalin, who claims that Finnikin’s friend Balthazar, heir to the throne, is alive, and sets in motion a complex and stirring series of events that lead Finnikin to confront his destiny. Evanjalin uses her ability to “walk the sleep” of others, or share in their dreams, as well as her own boldness and sense of purpose, to push events to a climax so that Lumatere can be freed. This novel begins at a slow burn: there are many details to absorb, and the well-drawn maps are a necessity. Then, suddenly, the action turns white-hot and the intricate plot plays out at a pace that keeps readers mesmerized. This is fantasy grounded in a kind of realism seldom seen in the genre.

Froi is one of the more minor characters in Finnikin, but his story is still intertwined with all the main characters in Finnikin.  Froi’s story is both tragic and tender, and the book is wonderful.  Quintana, the other main character in Froi, is the conclusion to the trilogy (as far as I know), and I truly can’t wait to read it.

Jellicoe Road is an entirely different kind of book — at least on the surface.  It’s a contemporary story about high school aged kids that all come together every summer.  Here’s a blurb from Amazon:

Abandoned by her mother on Jellicoe Road when she was eleven, Taylor Markham, now seventeen, is finally being confronted with her past. But as the reluctant leader of her boarding school dorm, there isn’t a lot of time for introspection. And while Hannah, the closest adult Taylor has to family, has disappeared, Jonah Griggs is back in town, moody stares and all.

In this absorbing story by Melina Marchetta, nothing is as it seems and every clue leads to more questions as Taylor tries to work out the connection between her mother dumping her, Hannah finding her then and her sudden departure now, a mysterious stranger who once whispered something in her ear, a boy in her dreams, five kids who lived on Jellicoe Road eighteen years ago, and the maddening and magnetic Jonah Griggs, who knows her better than she thinks he does. If Taylor can put together the pieces of her past, she might just be able to change her future.

Ok, honestly, I’m just impressed they could compress the entire book into those two paragraphs.  But in all honesty, this is an incredible book.  Emotional and heartbreaking.

Now, I said Jellicoe was a completely different kind of book.  And it is, on the outside.  But here’s where Marchetta is just brilliant.  Her books tell stories of people, of human emotions, and despair.  Jellicoe may be more contemporary, and the Lumatere Chronicles more fantastical, but at their heart, they tell stories about people.  You will love the characters, cry with them, and ache for them.  The next chapter you will want to strangle them, to yell at them what they should do — or shouldn’t do.  And you will truly want them to succeed.  Sometimes you will understand why they react a certain way, sometimes you won’t.  But it’s ok because it’s real.  It’s how people are.  It’s how we’re made.  And that’s why I think Marchetta’s books are so popular.  They tell truths.  Sometimes hard truths, sometimes hurtful truths, but truths.

So now that my fan girling is over, I do have a few caveats.   First, with Jellicoe.  I have a number of friends who have given up early.  I totally get that.  The book is very confusing at first.  There are characters from the past and scenes with them, and then there are a group of characters in the present.  Sometimes it’s hard to keep them and their histories all straight.  I kept having to turn back pages to remember who did what.  If I knew someone was picking this book up for the first time, I’d recommend keeping a list of the characters and one thing that will allow you to remember who they are.  If I remember right, during the first part of the book, you don’t even necessarily know which group is past and which is present.  Just write the names down and then add past or present later.  And sort the characters into the two groups they interact in.  It will make it a lot easier.  But my best advice for this book:  perservere!

As for the Lumatere Chronicles, the caveat is for my more conservative readers.  Sex is a theme in both of the books I’ve read.  It’s not that it’s an erotic book or has sex scenes strewn throughout (I think one in each book without a lot of detail), it’s just that sex is a reality in Marchetta’s world.  In Finnikin, it’s a kingdom struggling to go back to their homeland.  They’re exiles.  They’re lost.  They find love where they can.  And the love story in the book is truly magnificent.  In Froi, it’s even more than that.  There, the kingdom of Charyn has been under a curse for 18 years.  No child has been born during that time.  It has been prophesied that Quintana (a last born) will bear the next king and the father will be another one of the last borns.  You can see where that might go.  Added to that, in both of the books, there are characters who were raped or “kept” by the king.  So you can see how sex is a theme.  However, there is nothing too graphic or descriptive.  I just wanted you to know going in.

I love all of these books (enough that I have an actual hard copy of them all).  I think the stories are amazing, the characters are so real it hurts sometimes, and the love stories are beautiful (and hard and fought for).

“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.

Book Review: “The Thief,” “The Queen of Attolia,” and “The King of Attolia,” by Megan Whalen Turner

I know, I know, another book review.  I’ve been enjoying myself lately by reading a lot of books, and these three were ones I really enjoyed.  You know when you finish a book or a series and you can’t stop thinking about the characters?  Well, that’s how this was for me.

The first book (a Newberry Honor book) is about Eugenides, a thief.  It starts with him in prison and where it ends is actually quite surprising and unexpected — and therefore great.  The second book is about Eugenides’ role in a war going on between his kingdom and the neighboring kingdom of Attolia.  I don’t want to say too much more for fear of ruining it for someone.

The last book, and probably my favorite, was really the one that left me thinking about the characters, their motivations, their fears, and their humanity.  It was really good, mixing political intrigue, war, and romance.  The characters acted because of who they were and not becasue Turner wanted a particular result.  Sometimes you wanted to hit them and tell them to get real, suck up, and do what they know they should.  Sometimes you hurt right along with them.  Either way, it was a good book.

Because of the way the third book ends, I assume there is going to be a fourth, and I can’t wait to read that one!

Book Review: “The Ranger’s Apprentice” series by John Flanagan

I’ve read the first four of “The Ranger’s Apprentice” series and I have enjoyed them.  I don’t know that I can say I absolutely LOVED them, but they were definitely good and I didn’t want to put them down.  I think the first and second were the best, but I am excited to read the fifth.

The basis for this story is that a young boy who is too small to be a knight gets chosen to be apprentice to a “Ranger.”  Rangers are a group that serves the king and works more behind the scenes.  The boy finds that being a ranger entails more than he initially thought.  He acquires skills he never would have imagined and becomes good enough to participate and help the kingdom and his friends.

I like the characters here, especially those of Will and Halt — and Horace in the later books.  The stories are creative and the world feels real.  I would recommend it to those who like fantasy.

Book Review: “Brisingr” by Christopher Paolini

I finished “Brisingr” yesterday and thought I’d give my review — just in case anyone out there wants to know whether it’s worth it or not.  There will be a few spoilers, so read at your own risk.

I liked the book a lot.  I liked where Paolini took his characters and I liked how he shaped the events that will lead to the last book (which I hope doesn’t take as long to come out, but have a feeling it will).  I had three things about the book I especially liked.  First, when Arya was in the book, I liked the interaction between her and Eragon better.  There wasn’t that “are we friends, or not” stuff that kept going through “Eldest.”  In my opinion I think she should just admit she’s in love with him and get it over with.  But, I’m not the one writing the story.  Second, I predicted after “Eldest” that Brom was going to be Eragon’s father, not Morzan.  And I was right!!  (I so love being right.)  It just always seemed that it made more sense for Brom to be his father.  And third, I loved the whole search for a sword thing.  I was a little disappointed with how the “find the weapon under the Menoa tree” went (it seemed a little anticlimactic), but then when they made the sword, I liked how it all worked out.  And the name of the sword and what it  does are awesome.

One thing I liked and didn’t like at the same time was the interaction between Nasadua and Roran.  I can kind of see how she handled things (and it does seem in her character and it does make Roran stronger), but I think there would have been other ways of dealing with the siutation.

In conclusion, I really liked the book.  However, as with his other books, sometimes the paragraphs and paragraphs of descriptions (i.e. what it looks like for Saphira and Eragon to stare down at the Jiet river — again, and again, and … well you get the idea), just get monotonous for me.  I want something to happen.  I want a little more action here and there.  In the acknowledgement section at the end, Paolini says that his editor had him cut 200 pages.  I think there might have been a little more to cut,  but that’s just my opinion.  I like to get a feel for the scene, but when I start skimming because there’s just too much description, well…you get the idea.

I really like this series and would recommend it, especially to people who like fantasy.  The story is great and original and the characters are interesting.  It’s definitely worth the read.