4 star review

Book Review: Cress by Marissa Meyer Lunar Chronicles 3 (audio)

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I just finished up Cress, third installment in the Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer, and it was perfect. The series is still being performed by the same voice actress, Rebecca Soler and she does such a fantastic job creating different personalities for each character in the story.  Consistency in audiobooks is something that I appreciate. Having done several other series, by various authors, it makes a huge difference in the quality of the storyline when the narrator is changed in the middle of the series.

I love trends! Keeping up with the fairy tale theme, Cress is Meyer’s version of Rapunzel. Some silimaries include a young women stowed away from childhood in a remote location, with hair longer than imaginable and who is resued by her prince charming. 

So far in this series it seems that with the introduction of a new kick-butt chick, an equally charming and troubled guy is added to the mix. Cinder has Kai, Scarlet has Wolf and now we meet Cress and Thorn. Okay, well Thorn was introduced in Scarlet, but he meets his girl and gets his story told in this book.

By now we have learned that Cinder is likely the long-lost Lunar Princess Selene, but that hasn’t made her quest any easier. If anything, her path is getting progressively more difficult with the addition of new facts and foes. In Scarlet, Cinder escaped from prison, made her way to the Benoit farm, discovered a portion of her past and got in touch with a minor character originally seen in Book 1 (Cinder).

At that time this character wasn’t named, but if we recall, a D-Comm was found by Cinder in Kai’s android assistant, Naincy. Cinder was able to make contact with the person at the other end of the Comm and found a young girl who specialized in computer hacking and programming. This mystery character was able to provide information that was vital to interrupting the nuptials between Kai and Levana, before that nonsense gets as far as we saw back in Scarlet. But as we now know, Cinder wasn’t completely successful in her attempt and had forgotten all about the D-Comm…until now. 

Reaching out with the Comm, Cinder, Scarlet, Wolf and Thorn reconnect with the master hacker and we learn that her name is Cress. Cress is a Lunar shell being held hostage on an orbiting satellite high above Earth. She had been in this confinement for 7 years, under the care of a thaumaturge in service to Queen Levana. The team puts together a plan to free Cress from her prison, and as is their luck, it backfires in more ways than one.

In short, Cress and Thorn get stranded in the African Sahara and find out that there may be more going on in the world than they could have ever imagined. Not to mention that Thorn is battling his own personal dilemma during his trek. Scarlet is feared to be lost forever and Wolf is suffering in her absence. Cinder is still trying to prove her innocence and secure her place with Kai, as a friend or maybe something more. Kai is stuck between doing what is best for his people and his conscience. Each character is progressing nicely and the lines are skillfully woven together to create a very coherent plot. There are several evils that the team is facing, but they all seem to center around Levana. Is her role so great that the entire story hinges on her defeat? I hope that the history of Luna is explored a bit in future installments so that I can start to get a feel for the bigger picture.


Why is there a plague that is affecting Earthens? Why does Luna hold the only cure? Why is Levana such a witch? SO many questions…so few answers.

Now that I am more than half way through the series I can tell where some areas are starting to wind down and wrap up. I can only hope that book four is as good as these three have been, but once a series gets this far along it can be hit or miss.

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4 star review, Miscellaneous

Book Review: Scarlet by Marissa Meyer Lunar Chronicles 2 (audio)

 

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Here is another multi-faceted installment in Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles and it is just as entertaining as the first. Similar in structure to Cinder, Scarlet covers the ongoing story-lines of Lihn Cinder, Emperor Kaito, Lunar Queen Levana, and seamlessly introduces Scarlet Benoit, Wolf (Ze’ev) and Thorne to the mix. Each chapter in the novel flips between the primary story-lines showing how they are beginning to intertwine and overlap as the overall plot takes shape.

Scarlet is Meyer’s take on Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf, with just enough similarity to make the connection, but not so much as to alter the overall path of the series. Some commonalities include the Wolf (of course), a missing grandmother and the red hooded girl. This tale picks up around the same time Cinder ends, with the newsreels of Cinder’s fall down the stairs at the coronation.  

Scarlet Benoit lives in the rural town of Rieux, France with her grandmother Michelle Benoit, retired military pilot turned farmer. We learn early on that Michelle has been missing for approximately 2 weeks and that local law enforcement has closed the case due to lack of evidence. Scarlet is certain that her grandmother was taken unwillingly, primarily because of their close relationship and the fact that Michelle’s ID chip was left behind. Those chips are only removed when you want to fall off the grid or if you want to ensure that someone isn’t found. Scar won’t rest until her grandmother is found, and she will do everything in her power to succeed.  

Wolf is a little rough around the edges and gives off a predatory vibe that causes most people to take wide leave of him. Wolf starts off as a pretty shady creeper out to harm Scarlet, but he turns into something so much more. Originally, Scarlet met Wolf in passing during her produce deliveries, but she ran into him again at her home. After recovering from the shock of finding a stranger on her farm, Scar and Wolf create a tentative agreement to find Grandmere Michelle Benoit and take down a Lunar organization called LSO. Can she trust a man like Wolf? She knows nothing about him or his past, but she is putting her life in his paws..I mean hands…or do I?

Catching up with the Cinder-Crew worked in well considering that Scarlet isn’t truly a sequel to the first installment, but rather a parallel timeline that slightly overlaps where we left off in book 1. Scarlet isn’t the only who meets a new man, Cinder stumbles across a guy too….while she was breaking out of prison. The discovery of her Lunar heritage and the events surrounding the coronation landed her in jail until Levana could deal with her, as dictated by an older Earthen/Lunar agreement which prevents the harboring of Lunars on earth. With the help of fellow inmate, Carswell Thorne and Dr. Erland, Cinder begins a journey to find answers about her past.

So many things happened book 2 that I couldn’t summarize every aspect without rewriting an entire novel, but one major event was an act of world-war treacherously ordered by Queen Levana in the middle of the night. To take her stand against Cinder, Kai and the perceived injustices of the Commonwealth, the Lunar Queen uses an army of super-soldiers to slaughter thousands of Earthens on each continent. Kai offers to make the ultimate sacrifice to end the world-wide siege, and nearly breaks Cinder’s heart in the process.  

This series is so addicting that I had to ensure that book 3 was downloaded before Scarlet was even over! It’s interesting to see how the original characters interact and grow alongside the newbies. While some things are expected, like people falling in love or disagreeing, other topics are nice surprises. The depth of each character isn’t sacrificed to ensure that each has their story told individually. I think it helps that they are all around the same general age, have experienced hardships and disappointments, and have a desire to see a better Earth free from the Lunar Queen.

 

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4.5 star review, Books By Rating

Book Review: Cinder by Marissa Meyer Lunar Chronicles 1(audio)

 

Hello hello! It has been a long time since I’ve had something to write about, but I figured tonight’s the night. I’ve been extremely busy wrapping up my final semester of grad school and time to read an actual book is scarce. I have picked up the habit of listening to audiobooks during my commute and I think I’m hooked. As an avid reader I can’t honestly say that I have read no books, but there hasn’t been anything new or fresh on my reading list. If anybody’s interested in my recent go-to picks, the “Carpathian” series by Christine Feehan is always a good choice and I am never disappointed. There are so many different family lines, story lines, and just a good variety in each book that she writes. Each title that I have read has had enough romance and sensuality in it to make it interesting, but not enough to make it smut.

Now on to the audio books! My current digital bookshelf is full of the “Lunar Chronicles” by Marissa Meyer. It’s a 5 part series (so far) based on several different fairy tales and I’ve just finished up the first in the series. I’m not going to lie, I have already began on the 2nd installment and it is great!  The narrator plays a huge role, in my option, in how well the book comes across in an audio format. Rebecca Soler is fantastic! She is so very talented in giving each character their own voice and personality in this very busy novel. It becomes easy to distinguish each character based on Soler’s voice characteristics and accents. I am excited to hear more by this narrator in the future.

Cinder is a post-World War IV story , very loosely following the classic tale of Cinderella and her wicked stepmother. The main similarities include the stepmother and step-sisters, a ball, peculiar transportation and the attention of a prince.

The year is 126 TE (Tech Era), in the New Beijing area of the Eastern Commonwealth on Earth. Linh Cinder is the most highly recommended mechanic in the city, and her services are even sought out by the Prince. What the community doesn’t know is that Cinder is actually a cyborg, part human and part machine. More than 30% of her body was upgraded with computer sensors, auditory and visual interfaces, as well as a bionic hand and foot. Cinder’s intellect and wit has to be more than a feature of programming. She is fully wired with instant access to the web and receives her comms with audio and visual relay scrolling right before her eyes. Because of her enhancements, Cinder is able to fix most any machine she comes across, including an antique automobile hidden in the depths of a junkyard. As odd as it may seem, Cinder is pretty much like any other teenage girl…who is under the control of a selfish stepmother, Linh Adri.

Adri cares more about gowns & kimonos than an outcast ward she never wanted to take in. Her fashionable lifestyle is funded by Cinder’s repair business and little else. She treats Cinder more like an android or burden than one of her children. Adri’s husband was the one who adopted Cinder soon after the accident that killed her parents, he died soon after taking her in.

 The step-sisters are only half bad, with Pearl who is much like her mother and Peony, Cinder’s darling little sister. Pearl has high hopes of catching the eye of the eligible bachelor Prince/Emperor Kai at the coronation ball, but little does she know, Kai has already invited Cinder to be his date. Poor little Peony was Cinder’s best friend and ally, but she fell ill and passed away fairly early in the story. 

As the story is told, Cinder’s birth family was killed in a horrific car accident that left the small child’s body battered, broken and bruised when she was only eleven years old. Because of the significant damage to her body, scientists performed a procedure to save her life that included converting some of her body systems to robotic replacements. But as things unfold, and many subplots start to take place, the thought arises that Cinder could actually the long-lost Princess Selene, from the Lunar Kingdom based on the Earth’s moon.

The Lunars were originally Humans that fled Earth to colonize the Moon many centuries ago. They have since evolved into a mythical race that uses magic and mind control to maintain the security and culture surrounding the Queen, Levana. Levana is a monster bent on conquest and destruction, with the goal of controlling Earth by force. She uses her “glamour” powers to portray her self as an untouchable beauty, when in realty she is brutal and heartless. She has a small party of protectors that carry out her viscous punishments and tortures to prove her superiority over the Earthens she wishes to rule.

In an attempt to gain further control, she blackmailed and manipulated the new Emperor of the Commonwealth, nearly into marriage. Kai, as he’s called by friends and family, is a young ruler who recently gained the crown when his father died from the highly contagious and incurable plague, Letumosis. Kai’s heart holds the well-being and care of his people, but his brain is being bombarded with the political responsibilities of the crown. He can see through Levana’s mask, but she makes offers that are hard to refuse, especially in the area of medical research and treatment. Levana claims to hold to cure to the plague, but will only release the secret if a marriage agreement is arranged. Kai knows the weight of the Commonwealth is on his shoulders, but can he take the bait and commit himself to a marriage with a monster?

I could write about this book forever. Covering the main points, the subplots, the character development… every little detail of the book, but I won’t. I have to leave something for you to read on your own! One thing I did want to touch on is the relationship between Cinder and Kai. I really thought they had a bit of a budding romance but I guess it just wasn’t meant to be. They seemed like they would have been so right for each other. Maybe they can overcome their differences in the other installments, and I can’t wait to find out.

 

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4 star review

Review – Way of the Serpent by Donna Birdwell

Way of the Serpent

I received a copy of this book from the author, this does not affect my opinion of this book or the content of my review. In the interests of full disclosure, I’m acquainted with this author as she is a former professor of mine. This fact may indeed be influencing my opinions and the content of this review, however, if that is so, it would be to make me harsher than usual. Tough classes breed tough critics, and who has never wanted to be the one to critique their teacher’s works?

When Jenda Swain – youthful and vigorous at the age of 111 – encounters an incongruously old woman at an out-of-the-way café, her life veers in a new direction amid unsettling questions about her own identity and her role in the corporation-dominated culture of 2125. Her journey takes her into the arms of a Latino artist, who has a quest of his own. Answers come together as their world falls apart.

So starts the beginning of what I am told is to be a series, the next one which may be coming out Spring 2016.

So what happens when everyone can live for practically ever? In literature it is almost always a cautionary tale, because there simply must be a trade off of some sort. Somehow I feel that when we get to that point in our medical revolution we will race forwarded with no real thoughts to the outcomes, just as people in this world have done.

Jenda Swain lives in a post-apocalyptic world, though few know that this is so, as the end of all they knew came gently and everything seemed for the good. The trade off for longevity and eternal health doesn’t seem so dire. Merely your memories, but that isn’t so bad, because technology once more evolved to rescue them. Imagine if Facedbook was where you went to store all your memories, imagine then that with all this power, government and governance was a mere shadow and corporations are the real power. That last part doesn’t seem so far fetched at the moment, to be honest.

But this is the world Jenda lives and works in. She is a cog in the machine of exomemories, until that chance encounter mentioned in the blurb sends her spiraling off her pre-planned and narrowly defined life.

So what did I think of this book? It was very interesting. I enjoyed the wheels within wheels conspiracies and the intricate ways different plot threads were woven together to form a rich albeit care worn and oft mended tapestry. And Jenda’s emotional turmoil at discovering the lie that is her life,  that was believable and engaging, as was her relationship with Luis. What I struggled with was how the story was told, with much telling and less showing, and much of that in Jenda’s head, and she seemed so removed from many of the events. This puts the reader at a slight remove, watching the events of the story unfold instead of feeling immersive. But the way the author blended components of a morality play with a mystery and a thriller was all but riveting. The sum of the whole was greater than its parts, much like human memory, so while the way the story was written may have not have been to my preferences, the story itself absolutely was and was what kept me racing through it.

In retrospect, I suspect the stylistic choices were purposeful and were likely a mirror and commentary on the events of the story itself. It just wasn’t, as I said, my preference. But that ending though was amazing and emotional. I almost wish I had waited to read this until the sequel comes out early 2016 so that I can binge read and find out what happens next.

Fortunately dear readers, I did not and am able to tell you about it while this book is currently on sale for the holidays so check it out.

Way of the Serpent
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3.5 star review

Review – The Forbidden Zone by Victoria Zagar

The Forbidden Zone

I received an ARC of this book from the Publisher, via Netgalley, this does not affect my opinion of this book or the content of my review.

When Julian’s mentor urges him to accept an invitation to study the dying sand of Valeria, all he sees is another assignment. Valeria’s ban on romantic and sexual unions seems a trivial price to pay in the name of scientific progress; even the constant supervision by the Sisters, the advanced A.I. that runs Valeria, seems a negligible point.

When the situation proves to be more difficult than anticipated, Julian finds a lifeline in Saidin, a warm, emotional individual who has somehow survived a world of passive expression and uniformity. As they work together to try and solve Valeria’s degradation problem, they learn the Sisters had a much more sinister reason for inviting Julian to Valeria, and the two of them may not be able to save themselves, let alone an entire planet…

I picked this one up because it sounded interesting, and I already had some success with Less Than Three Press.

This is the saddest loneliest book I’ve read all year. It is also well written, lyrical, and deeply introspective. We spend a great deal of time in Julien’s head, and while I can’t say I precisely enjoyed it as there was too much misery in the events, but I found myself deeply empathizing with this character. Saidin was much more of a cipher, as we are never in his head and only learn of him from Julien’s perceptions, but he provided an appropriate foil.

As for the plot itself? Wowzers, I was totally not expecting that. A complete surprise. At times the themes and morals were presnted a bit heavily handed. But overall it was an interesting and lovely melancholy love story. And the ending was quite positive and the culmination of dramatic character growth.

I liked it much better than the first chapter lead me to believe I would. The story is getting 3.5 stars from me and a solid recommendation to anyone (but particularly fans of m/m) who likes a good sad love story where redemption is found in the end.

On a related note, if the two Less Than Three Press books I’ve read are any indicate of quality, this is a publisher I will continue to watch. While I can enjoy stories that may not be so well edited, it is much easier if they are.

The Forbidden Zone

 

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