The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson

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Series: The Remnant Chronicles (Book 1)

Pages: 512

Publisher: Square Fish

Summary:

In a society steeped in tradition, Princess Lia’s life follows a preordained course. As First Daughter, she is expected to have the revered gift of sight–but she doesn’t–and she knows her parents are perpetrating a sham when they arrange her marriage to secure an alliance with a neighboring kingdom–to a prince she has never met.
On the morning of her wedding, Lia flees to a distant village. She settles into a new life, hopeful when two mysterious and handsome strangers arrive–and unaware that one is the jilted prince and the other an assassin sent to kill her. Deception abounds, and Lia finds herself on the brink of unlocking perilous secrets–even as she finds herself falling in love.

Review: 3.5 Stars

The Kiss of Deception was a mixed bag for me. However it began to redeem itself after the middle portion and had a great ending.

The novel opens with Princess Lia being prepped for a wedding she has no intention of taking part in. I enjoyed the narrative, I could visualize and feel a part of the setting easily from the start and this lasted through to the end of the book. After successfully escaping her homeland and wedding, Lia settles down anonymously in a small village working in a pub ... and so commences the very long middle of the novel, which is almost devoid of action. Aside from the drag in the middle one of my main issues with the story was Lia herself. Personally I embrace the fact that monarchs are not like everyone else, they have duties that require them to do things the rest of us may have more of a right to fuss about. Lia doesn’t seem to share this sentiment.

Lia kind of reminds me of Buttercup when she was being snotty.

Lia kind of reminds me of Buttercup when she was being snotty.

My favorite YA heroines tend to be those I wouldn’t automatically know was a teenager from the text without their age being given. If I am supposed to take this young person seriously as a force to be reckoned with then an above-average level of maturity goes a long way to achieving that. Lia didn’t have it … however things did get better as I waded out of the middle portion into the danger and action, as did Lia.

One thing I thought was cool (but may frustrate others) involved the two men who pursue Lia to the seaside town she is hiding in, one of them the assassin sent to kill her and the other her jilted fiancee, the Prince of Dalbrek. There are two POV’s other than Lia’s and they go to these two men -however you will need to read past the first half before you know which one is which. Some of their POV chapters are titled “The Assassin” or “The Prince” while others are titled by the names they gave Lia “Kaden” and “Rafe” but you can’t tell which one is which  for quite some time. At first I was confused thinking I missed something while reading and went back to figure out why I didn’t know who was who. Finally I realized I wasn’t supposed to. *blush*

Eventually I got with the program.

Eventually I got with the program.

I did end up thinking this was fun and clever, but I can also see how some may find the mystery aggravating.

What did I love? The ending! The last chapter completely hooked me into wanting to read the second book in the series. I’ve read a couple YA series where the initial book was just okay but then things really took off in the second and I am hopeful this will prove to be true here. Things are left off in such a way that you can expect a completely different story with different themes and character dynamics. If you love YA fantasy I’d definitely recommend this one despite my issues with the main character … you may not share them and this book has received high reviews in general. Most of all it left off in such a way that I continue to feel invested. Heart of Betrayal (Book 2) will be released in July so it’s a good time to jump in without having to wait long for the story to continue. That said this is a trilogy and won’t be completed until next year.

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Uprooted by Naomi Novik

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Title: Uprooted

Author: Naomi Novik

Pages: 448

Publisher: Del Rey

 

Summary:

“Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley. We hear them sometimes, from travelers passing through. They talk as though we were doing human sacrifice, and he were a real dragon. Of course that’s not true: he may be a wizard and immortal, but he’s still a man, and our fathers would band together and kill him if he wanted to eat one of us every ten years. He protects us against the Wood, and we’re grateful, but not that grateful.”

Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.

Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood.

The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows—everyone knows—that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia, all the things Agnieszka isn’t, and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her.

But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.

 

Review: 5 Stars

Uprooted was scary, fun, and even at times romantic.

It reminded me of Patricia McKillips novels in that it had that pastoral fairy tale feel but with more action and characters that felt less remote than hers often do. There was also more danger, both coming from the nefarious wood and a few key characters.

It’s not really a spoiler to say that the Dragon (an ageless wizard) chooses Agnieszka, the main character, and not her friend Kasia to live with him for the next ten years as the next tribute of sorts. We see that he would have preferred Kasia but becomes aware of something in Agnieszka that forces him to select her instead. We and Agnieszka learn what that is as she slowly begins to study magic under him. I appreciated that she remained a snarly-haired wild thing with dirty clothes through to the end. I’m not the first person to complain how common it’s become to have the main heroine view herself as average all the while every male falls in love with her and her beauty. She is an oddball and this suited the intuitive right-brained style of magic that flowed from her all the while mystifying and infuriating her teacher. Those that do fall under her spell do so in response to her abilities and her loyal tenacious nature, much of this is shown in her devotion to her best friend Kasia who remains a large part of the story.

The Dragon (whose name is Sarkan) is wizardry’s answer to Henry Higgins, though he looks like a young man. No matter how his feelings regarding Agnieszka changed over time he remained grouchy and exasperated and usually still called her a lunatic. This made the scenes where either passion or sudden tenderness was revealed that much better. Agnieszka however is no Galatea and remains the opposite of Sarkan in most ways, he practices a very left-brained precise style of magic with powerful results. He admires both beauty and order. There is very little about Agnieszka that suits his sensibilities, but as they work through various crises with the wood, Kasia, and members of the royal family, a mutually beneficial and stimulating dynamic develops through the embracing and joining of opposites. Novik never allows this to overshadow the larger story and outside a few notable scenes where it surfaces (quickly I think both as a surprise to the reader and the characters) it otherwise simmers notably in the background.

I don’t really want to give away much more. There is a lot of plot involving the threat the wood poses to all and has done down through history that becomes the focus and ties various characters and story threads together. Uprooted was well written with an excellent balance between character driven moments and action as well as many clever combinations of the two and is one of my favorite new releases this year.

 

 Favorite Quotes:

 

I was a glaring blot on the perfection. But I didn’t care: I didn’t feel I owed him beauty.

______

He stared at the spell, turned the book to see the spine as if he didn’t quite believe his own eyes, and then sputtered at me, “You impossible, wretched, nonsensical contradiction, what on earth have you done now?”

_____

 

The Wrath And The Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

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Title: The Wrath and the Dawn (Book 1 of a duology)

Author: Renee Ahdieh

Hardcover: 416 pages

Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers (May 12, 2015)

 

Summary:

A sumptuous and epically told love story inspired by A Thousand and One Nights

Every dawn brings horror to a different family in a land ruled by a killer. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, takes a new bride each night only to have her executed at sunrise. So it is a suspicious surprise when sixteen-year-old Shahrzad volunteers to marry Khalid. But she does so with a clever plan to stay alive and exact revenge on the Caliph for the murder of her best friend and countless other girls. Shazi’s wit and will, indeed, get her through to the dawn that no others have seen, but with a catch . . . she’s falling in love with the very boy who killed her dearest friend.

She discovers that the murderous boy-king is not all that he seems and neither are the deaths of so many girls. Shazi is determined to uncover the reason for the murders and to break the cycle once and for all.

 

Review: 5 Stars

I read The Wrath and the Dawn the day it came out and even though I have a few other books I read before this, I’m starting with this one today because I enjoyed it so.

Before it was released I was intrigued that it was inspired by A Thousand and One Nights. The premise of Sheherazade avoiding death through endless nights of storytelling prowess and eventually capturing the heart of a mistrustful (and alas murderous) king has long appealed to me.  Go storytellers! I loved the way Renee Ahdieh took this and made it her own in this young adult novel. As a fan of retelling’s I also appreciated getting away from the European fairy tale vibe. The ancient Persian setting is sumptuous in its description of silks, scents, and foods.

The story focus’s relatively tightly around Shahrzad and the young king Khalid. Shahrzad is temperamental, mouthy, and angry but as she continues to evade death and her days in the palace are drawn out her footing becomes less sure. Khalid is cold but not cruel and her resolve to kill him weakens as circumstances cause her to question the reason all his former brides were killed.

This book and another fav of mine (Cruel beauty) start out with a girl marrying a boy because she want to kill him...apparently I love this sort of thing.

This book and another favorite of mine (Cruel Beauty) both start out with a girl marrying a boy because she wants to kill him…apparently I love this sort of thing.

Khalid is certainly not blameless in the killings. He could be the evil affecting a few or wash his hands of it and allow evil to affect many. I appreciated the lack of exoneration, I felt something cold and scary should remain of Khalid even after his skeletons aired in order for him to live up to the source inspiration for his character. However he is balanced out by the fact that he is not in fact evil, has deep self-loathing for what has transpired, and a genuine (though unexpressed) concern for his people.

Ahdieh writes some great verbal sword play! Most of this comes from Shazi and makes for some of my favorite scenes… especially dialogue that occurs during a large state dinner of sorts. I also loved the side characters! Each of them were so different and memorable. Here is a run down of a few of my favorites:

Despina: Shazi’s Greek handmaiden. Outspoken. Funny. Voluptuous. Irreverent. Even when I wasn’t sure if she was spying on Shazi for good or ill I wanted to like her. Their personalities were well matched (Shazi would have run over anyone timid) and her presence served an important role for the protagonist since Shahrzads best friend Shiva was dead.

Jalal: Khalid’s cousin and Captain of the Guard. Jalal is one of the only people surrounding Khalid that does not just roll over and accept that the killing of these girls is necessary. He is delighted when Shazi succeeds in staying alive and is one of her biggest supporters. He is also fiercely loyal to Khalid.

Musa Zargoza: A magi of sorts and former tutor of Khalid’s dead mother. He only appears for one scene, but he gifts Shazi with a rather interesting carpet (ahem) and I have no doubt both he and it will feature more heavily in book 2 The Rose and the Dagger.

What I am expecting in Book 2.

What I am expecting in Book 2.

Tariq: Shahrzad’s fierce handsome childhood sweetheart/fiance whose plan to get her out of danger and away from the king is complicated when he realizes her affections have changed. At first disconcerted, he grows increasingly vengeful and embittered as he plans a rebellion against the boy king.

This book is highly quotable! But I don’t want to spoil it by using my absolute favorites…here are some other good ones.

Quote #1

The corners of Despina’s eyes crinkled with a mixture of dry humor and pity. “The caliph is apparently so enamored, he has gifted you a member of his personal bodyguard.”

Shahrzad balled her hands into firsts. “So I necessitate a spy and a ready executioner?”

“More or less.”

Quote #2

“Tell me why you’re here.” It sounded entreating in his low voice.

I’m here to win.

“Promise me you won’t kill me,” she breathed back.

“I can’t do that.”

“Then there’s nothing more to say.”

Quote #3

“Invite all your bannermen to Rey -every last emir. Let them see that you are not your father. You are not the rumors that have been plaguing you of late. You are a king worthy of their allegiance …with a queen full of fire and promise.”

The edges of Khalid’s mouth turned upward, ever so slightly.

 

In Conclusion

There are many many more where those came from and I left the best and most romantic out. I went into this book very unspoiled and I think enjoyed it that much more because of it.

The sequel to The Wrath and the Dawn comes out next spring. This is supposedly a duology which I am so happy about! Why does everything need to be a trilogy? Here’s to not drawing things out. I cannot wait to continue….this book ends on a very dramatic note that would be considered a cliff hanger.

The Winners Crime by Marie Rutkoski

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Title: The Winners Crime

Author: Marie Rutkoski

Series: The Winner’s Trilogy (Book 2)

Hardcover: 416 pages

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Summary:

“Book two of the dazzling Winner’s Trilogy is a fight to the death as Kestrel risks betrayal of country for love.

The engagement of Lady Kestrel to Valoria’s crown prince means one celebration after another. But to Kestrel it means living in a cage of her own making. As the wedding approaches, she aches to tell Arin the truth about her engagement…if she could only trust him. Yet can she even trust herself? For—unknown to Arin—Kestrel is becoming a skilled practitioner of deceit: an anonymous spy passing information to Herran, and close to uncovering a shocking secret.

As Arin enlists dangerous allies in the struggle to keep his country’s freedom, he can’t fight the suspicion that Kestrel knows more than she shows. In the end, it might not be a dagger in the dark that cuts him open, but the truth. And when that happens, Kestrel and Arin learn just how much their crimes will cost them.”

Review: 5 Stars

Note: Contains spoilers for Book 1, The Winners Curse

The Winners Crime picks up a short month after the previous books tense gut wrenching conclusion. Kestrel is now living in the Valorian capital, preparing for her upcoming marriage and unsuccessfully trying to let go of Arin. In The Winners Curse Kestrel came to view her culture through an increasingly clear and unbiased focus, but was not in a position to change things on a grand scale. Now as all parties converge at the capital for a season of prenuptial festivities Kestrel finds herself in a position to affect real change in her society, not only does this come with great risk to her own safety, but has the potential to ruin her most important relationships. Kestrels actions are a complete betrayal to her beloved father, a man whose affections are still paramount in importance to her. She also is compelled to keep her dealings a secret from Arin (for far different reasons) and so finds herself lying to the two most relevant people in her life in order to help atone for the injustices Valoria and it Emperor has committed against its neighbors.

The journey is a cruel one and come the end we see all of Kestrels closest relationships take a dark turn. She is alone and betrayed, the backs of those that matter most turned against her regardless of what side of the conflict they were on. The last six chapters are a fast-paced clusterf*ck of pain and betrayal that ends with a cliff-hanger.

With this book Marie Rutkoski is doing both.

With this book Marie Rutkoski is doing both.

Now that I’ve said all that…I LOVED this!!! Though The Winners Curse was more romantic (which I missed here) and (due to the rebellion plot in the last half) more action packed, I enjoyed that this was a different kind of book. Full of espionage, court intrigue, angst, and impossible choices that cyclone around Kestel and Arin as they bludgeon their own hearts to set their worlds right.

While some thought this ended on a hopeless note, I have to disagree! There was a key thing that needed to happen for Kestrel and Arin to find themselves in the same place again. It happened in this book. I could not be more encouraged or excited for where this sets things up for The Winners Kiss when its released next spring. With full on war about to break out and an inevitable reunion between Arin and Kestrel, I feel confident both action and romance will be back on the menu.

Some favorite quotes:

He saw her honsety with him. She offered it like a cup of clear water that he drank deep.

Her tears glinting in the dark.

Her fierce creature of a mind: sleek and sharp-clawed and utterly unwilling to be caught.

Arin saw Kestrel step between him and punishment as if it meant nothing, instead of everything.

“Arin?” Tensen called through the memories.

______

Kestrel had thought she’d known what her choices had cost her, but when the prince had kissed her she sharply understood that she was going to pay for this for the rest of her life.

______

“You accuse me of wasting lives. I could, Kestrel. I could waste them in the thousands, the tens of thousands. I don’t. I try to minimize enemy casualties.”

“Only so that you can enslave people afterward.”

His mouth thinned. “I think we should finish our game.”

He won.

Fairest by Marissa Meyer

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Title: Fairest

Author: Marissa Meyer

Series: The Lunar Chronicles (Prequel\Book 4)

Pages: 272

Publisher:  Feiwel & Friends

Summary:

Mirror, mirror, on the wall.

Who is the Fairest of them all?

Pure evil has a name, hides behind a mask of deceit, and uses her “glamour” to gain power. But who is Queen Levana? Long before she crossed paths with Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress in The Lunar Chronicles, Levana lived a very different story-a story that has never been told . . . until now.
New York Times -bestselling author Marissa Meyer reveals the story behind her fascinating villain in Fairest, an unforgettable tale about love and war, deceit and death. This extraordinary book includes a special full-color image of Levana’s castle and an excerpt from Winter, the exciting conclusion to The Lunar Chronicles.

Review: 4 Stars (contains spoiler for Cinder, Book 1 of The Lunar Chronicles)

In Fairest we get the back story of The Lunar Chronicles chief villainess Queen Levana…and it was clear from the opening scene at her parents funeral that I did not need to worry about sympathizing with her after reading this book. Her sentiments while mulling over her dead mother solidified her as a terrifying crazy-bag-of-cats from the get go. At least for me!

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I did however sympathize with her desire to be Queen, at least at the start. Her elder sister Queen Channary wasn’t a great monarch. She was also extremely cruel to Levana from a very young age. Channary doesn’t take being queen seriously, whereas Levana finds politics interesting. And while the choices she makes for her subjects over the years are increasingly negative, she truly believes she is doing what is in the highest good of all. The problem is she has no clue about other people think or feel. She is devoid of empathy and uses cold self-serving logic. I think she equated people to packs of animals to be managed.

Interesting parallels arise between Levana and Cinder and this was one of the things I was curious to see revealed here. In The Lunar Chronicles we see Cinder already fears being like Levana. They both lived with the message that their physical form was something to be reviled, that they were less than. As I took on more and more of Levana’s perspective it was obvious that the abusive home environment coupled with her own delusional nature and lack of moral compass resulted in her destructive and desperate approach to life. That and there does seem to be something truly unhealthy about life on Luna. However, we also see that not all Lunars are crazy or amoral. So there’s hope for them as a society.

Her scenes with Sir Evret Hayle are quietly horrifying! Evret is the royal guard whom Levana has one-sided love (obsession) for. Their interactions are painful. The scariest part is that he was not someone she wanted to hurt. This was someone she adored and obsessed over beyond all measure. It was extremely clear these feelings were not returned, but her mind could not allow for it. Just witnessing her inner dialogue and the inappropriate fictions she created about the two of them was disturbing!!! The manner in which she completely usurps his life, the fact that she is clueless to the fear and pain this man is in, her complete and utter misreading of their entire relationship for years…I wanted to cry and hide him in my attic!

Evret Hayle everytime Levana entered a room.

Evret Hayle everytime Levana entered a room.

The entirety of the story takes place on Luna which was another reason I was excited to read it. I wanted to know what kind of place dear Cinder was getting set to tackle (on that note…Cinder baby you might want to groom Winter for this or something? I really don’t think you’re going to like it there). Cinder, Winter, and Jacin all make appearances as their early childhood selves. No matter how challenging Cinders Earthen life has been, Fairest convinced me she was way better off. Seeing Luna drives home how essential her life since coming to Earth is to her character, whoever Princess Selene would have grown to be, good or bad, there is no way Cinder will ever be that. Her path was too dramatically different. And therein lies the saving grace. There are some gob-smacking illustrations of the domed Lunar city inside as well as the first few chapters from the yet-to-be-released Winter! 

In short, this is not an action packed story and one I’d only recommend after having read the first three books of The Lunar Chronicles. Fairest provides insight into Levana and the Lunar Court that I’m glad to have before reading the final book in the series (since the action will return there for a good bit it seems).

The Winners Curse by Marie Rutkoski

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Title: The Winners Curse (The Winners Trilogy Book 1)

Author: Marie Rutkoski

Pages: 384

Publisher: Square Fish

Publishers Summary:

As a general’s daughter in a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers, seventeen-year-old Kestrel has two choices: she can join the military or get married. But Kestrel has other intentions. One day, she is startled to find a kindred spirit in a young slave up for auction. Arin’s eyes seem to defy everything and everyone.

Following her instinct, Kestrel buys him with unexpected consequences. It’s not long before she has to hide her growing love for Arin. But he, too, has a secret, and Kestrel quickly learns that the price she paid for a fellow human is much higher than she ever could have imagined.Set in a richly imagined new world, The Winner’s Curse is a story of deadly games where everything is at stake, and the gamble is whether you will keep your head or lose your heart.

My Review: 5 Stars

Both The Winners Curse and its follow up The Winners Crime are my absolute favorite reads this year so far.

Why I Love It:

  • A  romance that is slow burning, hesitant, and painful in all the best ways. It is also left largely unfulfilled come the last heart breaking pages. No worries…this is a trilogy. Kestrel and Arin’s story isn’t over yet. Though it gets much more painful in the second book.
  • Culture. The Valorians appropriated much of the Herrani culture as the Romans did with the Greeks. The aesthetic comes from the classical world (please check out the authors amazing pinterest board linked below.) One of my favorite things about the movie Gladiator was Lucia’s amazing gowns and enormous earrings. I like being able to picture the characters in these things. I also really felt for the enslaved Herrani. Unlike the Valorians (who were known for little other than warring), the Herrani were the epitome of culture, music, and craft making. I was captured and sympathized with the shock that must have come after they were conquered and enslaved by  the people who once envied them
  • A heroine that avoids the “Swagger, Snark, and Swords” mode so common in YA fantasy lit. Kestrel is not a great fighter, she is a cunning strategist. I also enjoy her maturity. In some books I wouldn’t need to be told the character was a teenager to know that they were. Here none of the characters seem anything but adult, I never felt that I was reading about an angsty confused teen.
  • Watching Arin’s character slowly reveal itself from an angry closed off man to one trying to save his people while also protecting the woman he loves but has lied to and betrayed (though for completely sympathetic reasons.) Arin is the catalyst that inspires Kestrel to question her version of honor vs. her fathers, her cultures beliefs vs. her own. In The Winners Curse she attempts to right things on an individual level, in The Winners Crime she begins to play a much bigger and more dangerous game to right her world.

I feel like this is the worst review I’ve written…honestly I love this books so much that putting together something coherent for someone that hasn’t read them is hard.

Suffice so say they are beautiful, focused around two equally intelligent, good, and courageous people. There is excitement, sadness, and swoon. I couldn’t predict where things were going and how people would react and I loved that!

Marie Rutkoski has a BEAUTIFUL pinterest board for this series that is full of artifacts that really enhanced my feel for the world…ancient coins, pottery, gowns, Greek and Roman artifacts. Its insanely gorgeous and I couldn’t talk about this series without giving a link to it as well: The Winners Curse Pinterest Board

I think I can write a more coherant review for its follow up The Winners Crime soon. 😉

Of Beast and Beauty by Stacey Jay

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Title: Of Beast and Beauty

Author: Stacey Jay

Pages: 402

Publisher: Delacorte Press (July 23, 2013)

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Official Summary

In the beginning was the darkness, and in the darkness was a girl, and in the girl was a secret…

In the domed city of Yuan, the blind Princess Isra, a Smooth Skin, is raised to be a human sacrifice whose death will ensure her city’s vitality. In the desert outside Yuan, Gem, a mutant beast, fights to save his people, the Monstrous, from starvation. Neither dreams that together, they could return balance to both their worlds.

Isra wants to help the city’s Banished people, second-class citizens despised for possessing Monstrous traits. But after she enlists the aid of her prisoner, Gem, who has been captured while trying to steal Yuan’s enchanted roses, she begins to care for him, and to question everything she has been brought up to believe.

As secrets are revealed and Isra’s sight, which vanished during her childhood, returned, Isra will have to choose between duty to her people and the beast she has come to love.

 

 Review: 3.5 Stars

I’m having a hard time figuring out what to say about this. Beauty and the Beast is a favorite fairy tale of mine and the premise and world building for this retelling were creative but ultimately I was disappointed. I had a hard time connecting to the main character Isra and as I go around in my head I’m not certain why. I liked her forwardness and though her naivete regarding those around her was understandable (given her circumstances), I found it frustrating. I did enjoy and sympathize with Gem, who plays Beast to her Beauty. His emotions came off as genuine and I liked his POV chapters quite a bit. The idea that their two separate cultures are enemies and they mistrust each other is not dispensed with too soon and there is no instalove, which is usually a plus. However even after their feelings did start to shift I didn’t feel invested.

The language is very beautiful in parts, especially in the prologue and epilogue and I liked the rewording and use of biblical passages and mythology. The exploration of  prejudice between cultures and the adhering to ancient texts that no longer hold the kind of truths we’ve been told they did are also thematically relevant for today. It didn’t have a high enough level of action or surprise for me until the end when things happened very quickly. The last scene between Isra and Gem was dramatic and moving, but again this is largely from Gem’s perspective.

This has a lot of very good reviews on Goodreads and isn’t the first time I’ve felt a bit of an outlier when it comes to a book, but I’ve learned not to talk myself into loving something that for whatever reason I don’t.

This is the first book of Stacey Jay’s that I have read, however her Princess of Thorns sounds interesting and I may pick it up at some point this year. Hopefully with more enthusiastic results.

~Diane

Cress by Marissa Meyer

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Title: Cress

Author: Marissa Meyer

Pages: 592

Publisher: Square Fish; Reprint edition (January 27, 2015)

Summary

In this third book in the bestselling Lunar Chronicles series, Cinder and Captain Thorne are fugitives on the run, with Scarlet and Wolf in tow. Together, they’re plotting to overthrow Queen Levana and prevent her army from invading Earth.

Their best hope lies with Cress, who has been trapped on a satellite since childhood with only her netscreens as company. All that screen time has made Cress an excellent hacker – unfortunately, she’s being forced to work for Queen Levana, and she’s just received orders to track down Cinder and her handsome accomplice.

When a daring rescue goes awry, the group is splintered. Cress finally has her freedom, but it comes at a higher price than she’d ever expected. Meanwhile, Queen Levana will let nothing prevent her marriage to Emperor Kai, especially the cyborg mechanic. Cress, Scarlet, and Cinder may not have signed up to save the world, but they may be the only hope the world has.    5/5 Stars 

Warning: This review is for book 3 of The Lunar Chronicles. I don’t speak too much about events in the other book but it’s possible something could be a spoiler if you’ve not read Cinder and Scarlet first.

 I love the way Meyers weaved elements from the original story of Rapunzel into this. Wandering through wastelands and the blindness of her “prince” all find their way into Cress. Meyer’s also gave everyone a hint at who Thorne would be paired with via his name, as in the original story Rapunzel’s prince is blinded by thorns (again her thoughtful planning of this series shines). I admit Thorne and Cress did not have the same chemistry for me that the two previous couples do, but this did not diminish my enjoyment to any great extent.

 

MY TOP 5 FAVORITE MOMENTS IN CRESS!

 

5. References to Classic Literature

Someone pulls out their inner Theodore Lawrence by promising the kiss someone else before they die. LOVE IT.

Bonus points for referencing Little Women!

Bonus points for referencing Little Women.

 

4. Meeting the Heroine Of The Next Book “Winter”

Winter is Queen Levana’s stepdaughter and we get a peek into her character towards the end of the book.

 

 

I'll leave it at that.

I’ll leave it at that.

 

3. Kai Being An Awesome Leader

Despite nastiness hitting the proverbial fan from all sides, he is at one point inspired to make a huge and unpopular decision by questioning the justice of at least one practice taking place in the Eastern Commonwealth and putting an end to it.

Well done, sir!

Well done, sir!

2. Wedding Crashers!!!

My only thought at the start of this book was that I better get one hell of a crashed wedding by the end. There are a few parallels to the The Princess Bride here, including the fact that both Levana and Prince Humperdink planned on ridding them selves of their new spouse sooner or later.

Jacin had as much faith in Cinder as Miracle Max did in Wesley.

Jacin had as much faith in Cinder as Miracle Max did in Wesley.

1. The Reunion 

Two of the three couples are separated for much of Cress. By the end one of them is reunited. Tender, awkward, and swoony. It was everything I wanted it to be. Best of all it allows them to start out the next book in the same place!

I approve of this ending.

I approve of this ending.

With Cress this continued to be a fun and winning series and I’m really looking forward to the release of Winter in November 2015.

~Diane

Revisiting the Brothers Grimm

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Book intro's that make you go "hmmm?".

Book intro’s that make you go “hmmm?”

Feeling inspired to revisit and enhance my memory of traditional fairy tales I recently pulled out our household copy of The Annotated Brothers Grimm, edited by Maria Tater.

In her intro, author A.S. Byatt revisits her immersion in fairy tales as a child and grabs my attention by flinging some proverbial poo at Hans Christian Andersen via the below quote (okay, maybe she wasn’t really flinging poo but it felt that way).

“But I learned to distinguish between them and the authored tales of Hans Christian Andersen (and de la Mare and Thackeray). My developing idea of the “real” (authentic) fairy tale centered on the Brothers Grimm. It included also some of the Nordic stories collected by Asbjorsen, some Perrault, and some English tale –“Jack and the Beanstalk,” for instance. These tales might be funny or horrible or weird or abrupt, but they were never disturbing, they never twisted your spirit with sick terror as Andersen so easily did. They had a discreet, salutary flatness.”

A somewhat bemusing sentiment seeing that as a child I adored Hans Christian Andersen and shied away from Grimm. It wasn’t even because of Disney as The Little Mermaid was not released until I was 12. My favorite book of fairy tales was a collection of Andersen with heavenly illustrations (It got ruined in a hurricane when I was a teen. Great sadness!). The endings had not been tampered with and the little mermaid in the tale I so loved did not get her prince. However I never interpreted the ending as unbearably sad. Perhaps being a young child I didn’t have the hormonal awakening necessary to connect with the idea of wanting the prince. But when the little mermaid is given a chance to attain a soul by becoming one of the “daughters of the air” I was entranced. In the illustration they looked like ethereal butterfly women, sylphs. It didn’t sound too bad to me. Of course the Snow Queen and a score of others also have their scary elements, but I’m not certain how they are worse. I have copy of the Annotated Hans Christian Andersen as well and I’ll revisit it after I’m done with Grimm to see if I can grasp just what the hell A.S. Byatt is going on about.

But that was not even my first thought as there was something WAY MORE CRAZY WEIRD about this!! Last night I had a dream that I was sitting at a table with some other faceless individuals as we were collecting fairy tales for some purpose or other. The dream centered on the fact that these people were arguing to me that Andersen’s fairy tales were not genuine or lacking in some way and so could not be included. I was upset and confused on how they could say this and tried to defend him.

Yeah…I dreamed that last night BEFORE encountering the above in my readings today. So that’s my “WTF???” moment of the week. 🙂

Moving on to Taters preface we get into some fun facts on why the Brothers originally began collecting and preserving German oral tales and how, when, and why they chose to either improve or alter them.

An example of this comes in comparing the opening sentences of The Frog King and how they changed in the 1812, 1819, and 1857 editions.

The 1812 first edition:

“Once upon a time there lived a princess. One day she went into the forest and sat down by a cool well. A golden ball was her favorite toy. She loved to amuse herself by throwing it up into the air and catching it when it came back down.”

The 1819 edition:

“Once upon a time there lived a princess who was so bored that she didn’t know what to do. She took a golden ball that she liked to play with and went out into the forest. In the middle of the woods there was a well with clear, cool water. She sat down next to it and threw the ball in the air, then caught it, and that’s how she amused herself.”

The 1857 edition:

“Once upon a time, when wishes still came true, there lived a king who had beautiful daughters. The youngest was so lovely that even the sun, which had seen so many things, was filled with wonder when it shone upon her face.

There was a deep, dark forest near the kings castle, and in that forest, beneath an old linden tree, was a spring. Whenever the weather turned really hot, the kings daughter would go out into the woods and sit down at the edge of the cool spring. And if she was bored, she would take out her golden ball, throw it up in the air, and catch it. That was her favorite plaything.”

I agree, the last one sounds better. 😉

Attention is also given to the removal of sexual elements, including one in Rapunzel I had not heard. However my favorite comes in an early form of Little Red Riding Hood…

“Little Red Riding Hood was not always an innocent who strays from the path. In French peasant tales, she is a seductive young woman who performs a striptease before the wolf —complete with an inventory of each item of clothing she removes”

I'm assuming when she did this she knew the wolf was not her grandmother?

Did she think she was doing this for her grandmother or the wolf?

Tater explores the removal of sexual and/or bawdy elements for the purpose of child readers and then says something I encounter all the time;

“What is less predictable is that the brothers had no reservations whatsoever about preserving, and in some cases intensify, the violence in the tales”

Seems the notion of sex being worse for children than violence has a longer history than I realized. As a parent I encounter it among other parents quite a bit. A common question from mothers when gauging the appropriateness of a film or TV show they are uncertain about is “Does it have any sex in it? Or just violence?” I also saw a post by a young Mormon girl on Goodreads who was sorry she would not be able to read A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas when it comes out because it was said to be a New Adult title and would contain sexual description. However she was a big fan of (and allowed to read) the Throne of Glass series by Maas…which happens to be about a female teen assassin.

I won’t harp on this subject matter, just didn’t realize the phenomena stretches back as far as it does.

Once I finally got to the below I wondered if Tater was trying outright make me not want to read her anthology;

“In the years following the publication of the first edition of the tales, Wilhem Grimm charted a new course for the collection. Openly admitting that he was taking pains to eliminate “any phrase unsuitable for children,’ he was also no longer invested in the notion of literal fidelity to oral sources and aimed to turn the raw narrative energy of folktales into a tamer cooked version, one both safer for children and more attractive for the adults reading to them.”

After all that I have yet to read the first tale, which happens to be The Frog King. I’m looking forward and I liked it when I was little even if I thought it was creepy for the frog to keep asking to sleep in the girls bed (wouldn’t any one?). If anything strikes me as gab worthy during future reads I’ll share. Otherwise I’ll just be happy to more easily recognize the various fairy tale elements in whatever new fiction I pick up.

Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

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♩ ♪ Hey, there Little Red Riding Hood, you sure are looking good...♪ ♩ ♫

 

Title: Scarlet

Author: Marissa Meyer

Pages: 512

Publisher:Feiwel & Friends; Reprint edition (February 5, 2013)

Continuing my review of the Lunar Chronicles series by Marissa Meyer today’s review is for the second installment Scarlet.

WARNING, THIS REVIEW WILL HAVE SPOILERS FOR CINDER.

Official Summary

Cinder returns in the second thrilling installment of the New York Times-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 and 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 has no choice but to trust him, though he clearly has a few dark secrets of his own.

As Scarlet and Wolf work to unravel one mystery, they find another when they cross paths with Cinder. Together, they must stay one step ahead of the vicious Lunar Queen who will do anything to make Prince Kai her husband, her king, her prisoner.

Highlights of What I Loved

Carswell Thorne

His constant insistence that people call him “Captain” (he’s a disgraced cadet from the American Republic) reminded me of Jack Sparrow but in all other ways he was more of a Han Solo. Only less cynical. Vain and self absorbed. A thief and ladies man. He also proves to be loyal and good hearted. Mostly he’s funny. Like all the best lines are his. He and Cinder were an amazing BROTP (and that’s all folks…another plus for this series is its lack of love triangles). Cinder can’t stand him at first but he does bring some assets to her escape attempt…namely he has a stolen spaceship.

Only Iko got it right.

Only Iko got it right.

Scarlet and Wolfs Not So Excellent Adventure in Paris

Fun because it was reminiscent of Luis and Claudia in An Interview with a Vampire and their encounters in the underworld there.

Here we get wolves instead of vampires and some rather creepy goings on in the long abandoned and decrepit Paris Opera House.

Once Wolf and Scarlet’s story line connects with Cinder and Thorne’s I could really see the inspiration Meyer’s got from the TV series Firefly. Sailor Moon was another inspiration of hers, but having never seen it all those references would be flying over my head. I love the rag tag team Cinder is collecting around her and how they all relate and deal with each other. There’s humor, bad tempers, and romantic awkwardness.

Kai

Emperor Charming and Queen Levana continue to face off in the wake of Cinder’s escape. It’s pretty sad and sweet to see Kai sending the entire military in search of Cinder all the while hoping they won’t find her and the reluctant pride that creeps up as his advisers update him on her status . Alas to help quell hostilities he also makes a big (STUPID) decision that sends Cinder into over drive and becomes one of the main driving forces in Cress.

Cinder's reaction to Kai's big announcement.

Cinder’s reaction to Kai’s big announcement.

With its unique and engaging new characters and deepening plot I think I may have enjoyed Scarlet even more than Cinder. It also becomes very clear as the series goes on that Meyer has meticulously plotted and outlined the whole series ahead of time. Events and characters that may be hinted at or vaguely introduced in Cinder become important in Scarlet and Cress. Having read the three chapter sample for Winter I could see it already coming to fruition in that book as well.

Favorite Quotes

“I knew they would kill me when they found out, but…” He struggled for words, releasing a sharp breath. “I think I realized that I would rather die because I betrayed them, than live because I betrayed you.”

_______

“I don’t see that her being cyborg is relevant.”

_______

“Cinder,” Iko said after a few silent minutes of explorations. “I’m enormous.

5/5 STARS