Review: Cress by Marissa Meyer

cress by marissa meyerFormat read: print book borrowed from the Library
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genre: young adult science fiction
Series: The Lunar Chronicles #3
Length: 550 pages
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Date Released: February 4, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

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

Their best hope lies with Cress, a girl imprisoned on a satellite since childhood who’s only ever had her netscreens as company. All that screen time has made Cress an excellent hacker. Unfortunately, she’s just received orders from Levana to track down Cinder and her handsome accomplice.

When a daring rescue of Cress goes awry, the group is separated. Cress finally has her freedom, but it comes at a high price. Meanwhile, Queen Levana will let nothing prevent her marriage to Emperor Kai. Cress, Scarlet, and Cinder may not have signed up to save the world, but they may be the only hope the world has.

My Review:

The Lunar Chronicles are marvelous and suspenseful fractured fairy tales; taking the stories that we all know and love and transporting them into a brave new future with considerably altered versions of the heroines (and heroes).

Scarlet by Marissa MeyerCinder was, of course, all about Cinderella, complete with wicked stepmother and footwear difficulties. Scarlet’s version of Little Red Riding Hoodie was considerably more kick-ass than the original (see review). But Cress takes Rapunzel to new heights–her tower is a satellite orbiting the Earth! She’s so lonely that she programmed a younger version of herself into her computer systems as a companion.

Cress’ purpose on that satellite is both deadly and heartbreaking. It’s Cress’ programming skills that keep the Earthen governments from detecting Lunar ships in orbit. It’s Cress’ hacking skills that let her read the camera feeds from surveillance on all the Earthen officials.

And it’s Cress who was so desperate for approval from her keeper that she allowed the infiltration of Earth by Lunar special operatives who murdered 16,000 people, all to show that the Lunars were unstoppable.

But Cress has been left alone for much too long with only the entertainment and news feeds from Earth to keep her amused, or perhaps that to help her keep her hold on her sanity. She has come to identify with the Earthens, and to see Linh Cinder and her crew of misfits as the only hope for preventing Lunar Queen Levana’s terrifying reign.

And she’s fallen in love with the daring Captain involved in Cinder’s rescue, even though Cress and Carswell Thorne have never met. So Cress uses her programming skills to contact Cinder, to aid and abet Cinder’s continued evasion of the security forces, and to arrange for her own, much needed, rescue.

The rescue turns into a SNAFU of epic proportions. Cress’ evil keeper swoops in at the last moment, and everything goes to hell in a handcart. When the dust settles, Thorne and Cress are left on Cress’ satellite in a dying orbit, Wolf is seriously wounded, and Scarlet is captured. Only Cinder remains relatively unscathed, but it becomes her energy-sapping task to keep Wolf from going on a killing rampage at the loss of his alpha Scarlet.

Cinder still has to stop the wedding of Queen Levana to the unwilling Emperor Kai before she is crowned Empress, while the security forces of every Earthen military and all of Luna are out to find her.

First she rescues Thorne and Cress, then she musters all her available allies for one last chance to save the Emperor, knowing that she will start a war. Leaving Scarlet in the clutches of the Lunars to face a fate that might be much, much worse than death.
As the clock ticks down to doomsday, Cinder takes up the mantle of leadership that she was born to wear.

cinder by marissa meyerEscape Rating B+: While this is Cress’ story, the arc of The Lunar Chronicles series means that it is always Cinder’s story, no matter what else is going on. Cinder has grown a lot from the young, scared, insecure cyborg mechanic we met in Cinder (reviewed here).

It feels important that Cinder is planning to rescue her prince, and not the other way around. This is a story where the females don’t just have agency, but are generally stronger than the males. Cinder rescues Kai, Scarlet is Wolf’s alpha, and Cress, in spite of her awkwardness, is a gutsier person than Thorne.

Not many people would have kept any semblance of sanity under the conditions that were forced on Cress. She managed to keep herself together, and shake off the Stockholm Syndrome of bonding with her jailor and only contact. Her social awkwardness can be overcome, but integrity is forever.

As the story is told, the perspective frequently jumps from one part of the scattered crew to another, from Cinder to Cress to Scarlet and back again. The narrative switches can feel a bit disruptive during the sections where they are all far apart. As the action coalesces into the final plan, the fast changes add to the breathlessness of anticipation.

Poor Scarlet’s fate is still up in the air (or on Luna) but we know where the rest of the crew of leading, even if we have no idea how they’ll make it. We’re left on pins and needles waiting for the final installment, Winter.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: Halo by Frankie Rose

HaloFormat read: eARC from Netgalley
Formats available: ebook, POD
Genre: YA Dystopian
Series: Blood & Fire #1
Length: 354 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace
Date Released: January 10, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s WebsiteGoodreads, Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble.

She has no name.

She has her knives; her training; her halo.

The first and second give her the tools and the skill to defeat the opponents she is pitched against each month. The third frees her from pain and fear. From any kind of emotion at all. Everything is as it should be. Everything is as it should be, until…



When a newly-named Kit escapes the Sanctuary after killing her best friend, the last thing she needs is another knife in her hand. Or Ryka, the damaged, beautiful blonde boy, who she refuses to let save her. Still learning how to process the onslaught of her new feelings, the sights and sounds of Freetown are overwhelming and strange. There are a hundred differences between her old home and her new one, but one thing remains starkly similar: the matches. Yet where the blood in the Sanctuary landed only on the colosseum floor, Kit will quickly learn that a river of red runs through Freetown’s very streets.

Freed from the oppression of a society who stole her right to feel, the true horror of her old life leaves Kit wondering if she really has been freed at all. Would she be better off without the crippling horror of all the blood on her hands, or is the love of one boy worth living through all the pain?

Raksha is the call of the dead. The rumbling chant for fresh blood from the other side, the demand for sacrifice. The colosseum is behind Kit. The fighting pits await.

My Thoughts:

Following the massive success of The Hunger Games, it is only to be expected that pale imitations will crop up in a blatant attempt to ride those multi-million dollar coattails. This has led to a absolute flurry of Dytopian YA publishing. And let me just say how excited I am to see Dystopian YA edging out all the Twi-lites and Twi-harders. You cannot write a Dystopian YA that I am not going to read.

As with any imploding subgenre, there are fantastic additions (Shatter Me), middle of the pack reads that quickly blur together (Divergent), and non-sensical piles of shit that completely miss the point of the entire goddamn genre.

Guess where on the scale Halo falls?

Halo has an extremely promising start. I greatly enjoyed the Hunger Games meets the Roman Colosseum vibe. In this rigidly class-divided world, you are born and bred for a specific station. Our protagonist is one of the Falin (fighters), whose entire purpose in life is to fight, kill, and die for the entertainment of the bloodthirsty masses. The upperclass “Trues” are socialized to see the Falin as contemptible subhuman animals, thus preventing any niggling morality issues with the monthly child slaughter, while the Falin are drugged and brainwashed into emotionless automatons. This keeps the Falin from uniting to kill their captors.

(This tactic comes highly recommended by Eric Northman.)

Ahem. Back to the Dystopian.

The problems with Halo come once Kit escapes from the walled and isolated Sanctuary.

People outside Sanctuary are spread out in cities and towns across the country. Kit stumbles into the nearby Freetown, where she is immediately introduced to a society without the rigid class structures she is accustomed too. However, this so-called “free” town has ridiculously oppressive laws/customs against women.

Kit quickly learns that women are required to wear skirts covered in freaking bells. (A noise burka!) When she notes this would prevent her from, say, quietly moving around town, defending herself from attack, or even outright running away from danger,  she learns this is a non-issue! Because women are forbidden from fighting, being educated in any kind of physical art, or carrying anything that could be construed as a weapon. If Kit doesn’t want to be attacked, sexually assaulted, and/or raped, she has to make herself utterly defenseless. Those obsessive woman-hating child-beating murdering rapists never attack teenage girls! (Aw, shucks grandpa, thanks for ‘splaining things.)

I don’t think I have ever read a book where it was so perfectly clear where it all went wrong. After an attempted gang (implied) rape, Kit is on the verge of being forced to give up her knives for her own, ahem, protection. (I’m serious, that’s their bullshit justification. That she brought the assault on herself, and one day, would totally be raped, and it would be all her fault. For daring to know how to use a knife in self-defense.) Kit beautifully acknowledges the laws of Freetown, and states that she will respect them. By leaving.

Fuck yeah! Kiss these misogynist assholes goodbye, and let their so-called enlightened abolitionist leaders take a hard look at the bullshit laws that send the newly emancipated slave out into the world looking for actual freedom. Kit could go Free Town shopping! Roam the countryside spreading enlightenment and self-defense lessons while dodging bounty hunters from Sanctuary….

Of course that didn’t happen. Instead, Kit gets special dispensation to keep her knives, and a cute teenage boy bodyguard. Because he’ll be able to keep her safe. As opposed to her training and weapons.

Then she has the privilege of spending the rest of the series fighting on behalf of the misogynist shiteaters who keep trying to kill, main, or rape her. Sit back everyone, and watch this train derail.

The point of a YA Dystopian is freedom from oppression, and coming into your own power. Not exchanging one form of slavery for another.  Or being dependent on someone else to protect you when you’re 150% capable to taking care of yourself. I always tell my clients that shack up with a new man right after we’ve kicked the abusive husband to the curb to “Trade Up.”

Kit did not trade up.


Beyond the blatant and unchallenged misogyny rampant in the book (though there is a super-special woman-hater who keeps whining about all the misandry, and how men just don’t have enough power), you’ll need to be prepared to ignore some bizarrely inept world-building.

A particularly pathetic example pops up when Freetown discusses their trading practices with Sanctuary. Apparently the high-tech walled-off city ships mass quantities of grain and other food out to the country towns in exchange for high-quality weapons produced by artisans out in the sticks.

No really, it makes sense! So long as you don’t know how industry and farming work, but do accept any and all points of plot convenience. (There are many more, this is the just the most blatantly moronic of them.)

Halo was originally published in May of 2013 as Raksha. I prefer the original cover. Kit looks a bit more like the ass-kicking knife-master she is, and less like an indecisive girl wandering aimlessly through a poorly depicted world. Oh, wait…..

Escape Rating: D- for the extreme douchebaggery of taking a goddamn champion gladiator and forcing her to defend a deeply misogynist city. Take a hint from your revamped cover Kit, and walk the fuck away.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: Countdown by Michelle Rowen (f/k/a Michelle Maddox)

CountdownFormat Read: eARC from Netgalley
Format Available: paperback, ebook
Genre: YA, SFR
Length: 336
Publisher: Harelquin Teen
Date Released: September 24, 2013
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Book Depository, IndieBound.

3 seconds left to live. Once the countdown starts, it cannot be stopped.

2 pawns thrown into a brutal underground reality game. Kira Jordan survived her family’s murder and months on plague-devastated city streets with hard-won savvy and a low-level psi ability. She figures she can handle anything. Until she wakes up in a barren room, chained next to the notorious Rogan Ellis.

1 reason Kira will never, ever trust Rogan. Even though both their lives depend on it. Their every move is controlled and televised for a vicious exclusive audience. And as Kira’s psi skill unexpectedly grows and Rogan’s secrets prove evermore deadly, Kira’s only chance of survival is to risk trusting him as much as her instincts. Even if that means running head-on into the one trap she can’t escape.


My Review: Countdown was originally published in 2008, under the nom de plume “Michelle Maddox,” as a fun adult science fiction romance romp. Unfortunately, I was not aware of the provenance of this book when I started reading. It simply began with an air of uncanny familiarity….

Countdown 2.0 was one of those books I grabbed on a whim from Netgalley. Who doesn’t love a scathing critique of Reality TV coupled with murder and mayhem? I chalked my unerring ability to predict dialogue and plot twists up to simple proof that YA had finally devoured itself to the point of unintentional self-parody.

Countdown 1.0It wasn’t until we built up to the obvious sex scene that I noticed something off. YA = no sex. Why am I so damn convinced this will lead to sex? More importantly, why isn’t it leading to sex? This is clearly supposed to be a sex scene. Nobody gives a shit about teens kissing.

At which point I became convinced this was some seriously ballsy plagiarism, and had to frantically search out the original version so I could warn the poor author of the complete disregard for her intellectual property. Imagine my surprise when I learned Michelle Rowen and Michelle Maddox were the same person.

**Countdown (2013) is a rewritten and revamped Young Adult version of Countdown (2008), which I wrote under the pen name Michelle Maddox**

So much for my abortive career as a Crusader for First Amendment Rights.

Michelle was being quite generous when describing Countdown 2.0 as “rewritten.” In a blatant attempt to ride The Hunger Games wave, her editor must’ve told her to turn the protagonists into teens, take out the sex, and they’d rebrand. Easy Money!

Which is quite literally all that was done.

Armed with this knowledge, Countdown 2.0 makes much more sense. In the opening chapters of Countdown 2.0, Rogan, all of 17, is scornful of Kira’s inclusion in the game. She’s just so “young, fresh, and sweet.” Because there is just a world of experience between 16 and 17. That 17th birthday is such a dark transition from innocent smiling child to jaded dead-eyed malefactor. Amiright?

Then the whole build-up to, and fall-out from, the “Reward Room” was absolute and utter bullshit. Teenagers have sex Michelle. Accept it. Own it. Depict it. If you’re too squeamish to depict realistic teen sex, then don’t write the scene.

Escape Rating D/B-: Countdown was a fun read back in 2008. It held up well, and had the advantage of being released before The Hunger Games. Michelle thought of it first! (She also had the decency to introduce a romance without the now obligatory love-triangle of stabbing eye pains.) Take that multi-millionaire author Suzanne Collins!

Countdown 2.0, however, was pretty terrible. You cannot transfer the decisions, dialogue,  relationships, and characterizations of two adult whole cloth to two teenagers. Teens do not talk or act in the same way as their mature counterparts. By lowering the ages of the protagonists and making no other substantive changes (a brother becomes a father, citizenship papers become full-ride scholarship – it’s all cosmetic) you destroy the credibility of your world. If you want me to buy these kids as, well, kids, you have to change everything about them. Write Kira as she would have been as 16. Not as 26-year-old Kira pretending to be 16. Consistency is extremely important in scifi. We need to be able to relate to the characters to accept the future being depicted.

The cognitive dissonance is jarring throughout, particularly for anyone who read the original Countdown, and has the superior version floating around in their brain.

Verdict: Go pick up a copy of Countdown. Skip Countdown 2.0. There is plenty of YA Dystopian out there critiquing the media, video games, and violence in our youth. Most of them even do it better.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: Treecat Wars by David Weber and Jane Lindskold

Treecat Wars by David Weber and Jane LindskoldFormat read: ebook provided by NetGalley
Formats available: ebook, hardcover
Genre: YA science fiction
Series: Honorverse: Stephanie Harrington, #3
Length: 288 pages
Publisher: Baen
Date Released: October 1, 2013
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository

The fires are out, but the trouble’s just beginning for the treecats

On pioneer planet Sphinx, ruined lands and the approach of winter force the now Landless Clan to seek new territory. They have one big problem—there’s nowhere to go. Worse, their efforts to find a new home awaken the enmity of the closest treecat clan—a stronger group who’s not giving up a single branch without a fight

Stephanie Harrington, the treecats’ greatest advocate, is off to Manticore for extensive training—and up to her ears in challenges there. That leaves only Stephanie’s best friends, Jessica and Anders, to save the treecats from themselves. And now a group of xenoanthropologists is once again after the great secret of the treecats—that they are intelligent, empathic telepaths—and their agenda will lead to nothing less that treecat exploitation.

Finally, Jessica and Anders face problems of their own, including their growing attraction to one another. It is an attraction that seems a betrayal of Stephanie Harrington, the best friend either of them have ever had.

My Review:

Stephanie Harrington may be a bit too close to perfect, but the treecats finally reveal themselves as being all too human in this third book of the YA spinoff of David Weber’s Honor Harrington series.

Beautiful Friendship by David WeberIn A Beautiful Friendship, the first book in the series, Stephanie Harrington is the 11-year-old who not only outsmarts her parents and all the other adults on Sphinx, but also manages to out-clever the fully sentient native treecat species that has successfully evaded humans for a couple of centuries by the time that Stephanie comes along.

Fire Season continues the theme of the treecats and the teenagers both being a bit too good to be true, and anyone who underestimates one or the other getting their comeuppance by way of a planet that is still way more frontier than settled.

In Treecat Wars, while the theme of human political machinations being evil definitely gets played to the hilt, we see the full range of treecat intelligence. They are every bit as intelligent as we are. The problem with having a high level of intelligence is that they are also capable of low-cunning and of going insane, just like us.

The treecats in this series who are point-of-view characters, Climbs Quickly and Dirt Grubber, call themselves “The People”, and refer to individuals as “Persons”. Individual “Persons” can lose their way, and when they are Elders, they can lead a whole clan astray. After a fire season, when food is scarce, treecats compete for resources, just as humans do. In this unsettled time, one treecat murders another, and starts a misguided war.

Meanwhile, humans are attempting to control how the universe at large perceived the treecats. They are sentient. But are they as intelligent as humans? Should they be protected? If so, in what way? History shows that protected native species and tribes do not fare well. Are the treecats dangerous? They are economically dangerous to those who believed that Sphinx was uninhabited.

Some people will stop at nothing to eliminate any threat to their supposed superiority. If they can’t find a way to portray the treecats and their partners negatively, they may resort to something more permanent.

Escape Rating B+: I read through the entire series at warp speed. Stephanie is a bit of a Mary Sue, and there is a bit too much teenage angst at the end, but overall, it’s just too much fun reading about the treecats. I could have skipped the humans and just read about the cats and been perfectly happy.

There were a ton of hints that there was a vast conspiracy of anti-cat humans who were just plain evil, but all we got were hints. The ones we saw were either one-dimensional or very easily converted. I suspect another book.

The treecat characters were more multi-dimensional than any of the human characters, and that was just fine. More treecats!

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: Dark Triumph by Robin LaFevers

Dark Triumph by Robin LaFeversFormat read: print book borrowed from the library
Formats available: ebook, hardcover
Genre: YA historical fiction
Series: His Fair Assassin, #2
Length: 405 pages
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
Date Released: April 2, 2013
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

Sybella’s duty as Death’s assassin in 15th-century France forces her return home to the personal hell that she had finally escaped. Love and romance, history and magic, vengeance and salvation converge in this thrilling sequel to Grave Mercy.

Sybella arrives at the convent’s doorstep half mad with grief and despair. Those that serve Death are only too happy to offer her refuge—but at a price. The convent views Sybella, naturally skilled in the arts of both death and seduction, as one of their most dangerous weapons. But those assassin’s skills are little comfort when the convent returns her to a life that nearly drove her mad. And while Sybella is a weapon of justice wrought by the god of Death himself, He must give her a reason to live. When she discovers an unexpected ally imprisoned in the dungeons, will a daughter of Death find something other than vengeance to live for?

My Review:

“Teenage ninja assassin nuns!” It’s still a concept that screams epic fantasy, isn’t it?

crouching tiger hidden dragonWhile Robin LaFevers’ series His Fair Assassin may read like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon set in medieval Brittany, there’s still no magic. It’s still historical fiction. Unless you count the heroine’s dreams of visitations from her god-saint, Mortain, as magic.

On the other hand, contemporaneous stories from the same period abound with people who thought they had spoken with either God or one of his saints. Why not a nun from the convent of death?

Death is a saint, Mortain, in this only very slightly alternate Middle Ages. The series opens with the truly awesome Grave Mercy (reviewed here) and like many readers, I have been eagerly awaiting the second installment.

grave mercy by Robin LaFeversGrave Mercy made the political machinations of late 15th century France and Brittany personal by making the reader see them through the eyes of the Mortain-trained assassin Ismae. She provided a compelling perspective on events that happened historically.

Dark Triumph illuminates what happened next, but the events that unfold are from a blank spot in the history. Anne of Brittany, the important personage, had fled the scene. History does not record much of what happened to the places and people she left behind.

Into this gap walks another of Mortain’s disciples. All of the assassins are women who would otherwise not have much agency in the medieval world, and it’s part of what makes them so fascinating to watch.

Sybella is the daughter of Anne’s greatest enemy, Alain d’Albret. In Dark Triumph, Sybella’s father is the person who has betrayed Anne, and is the person from whom she flees. He is also a precursor of Bluebeard, a man who has murdered all of his previous wives. (The man makes Henry VIII look positively benevolent!) One of the fascinations of this series is where the real history overlaps (and doesn’t) the fictional.

The abbess of Mortain’s convent has sent Sybella back to her father to spy out his secrets. She’s done this knowing that Sybella’s father abused her before, and will do so again the moment she returns. Sybella goes with the promise that she will get to assassinate her father when the time is right.

The abbess has lied to her. It is not the first time.

Instead, Sybella receives word that she is to free a prisoner in her father’s dungeon. This prisoner, the Beast of Warnoch, will rally troops for Anne of Brittany, if she can save him.

Of course, if she does manage to save him, her position as a spy will be revealed. Sybella decides that she will kill her father or die trying. She would rather be dead than let herself be tortured again.

Instead, the Beast kidnaps her. He ruins her plans. He saves her. And he keeps doing it, over and over again. Even after he discovers that she is the one responsible for his sister’s death.

Escape Rating B+: The freshness of the entire concept was so amazing in Grave Mercy that I was absolutely blown away. Dark Triumph still tells a good story, but it is an incredibly dark one.

One of the weaknesses of the first-person perspective is that the reader only knows what the heroine either tells another character, or chooses to reveal in self-talk. Sybella, the heroine of Dark Triumph, has learned the trick of making sure that her face and even her thoughts reveal nothing of her inner turmoil. It’s the only way she has been able to survive her horrific childhood.

But it makes her secret-keeping very murky, because she keeps a lot of things secret from herself–most of what she has endured is too painful to think about. Her past is shrouded in mists and pain. We know that it was awful, but we lose some of the ability to empathize, and we also miss some details in the backstory.

Sybella’s story is so full of drama, and the potential for tragedy, or triumph, that it is impossible to stop turning pages.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

Scarlet by Marissa MeyerFormat read: print book borrowed from the Library
Formats available: ebook, hardcover, paperback, audiobook
Genre: Young adult science fiction
Series: The Lunar Chronicles, #2
Length: 464 pages
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Date Released: February 5, 2013
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

Cinder, the cyborg mechanic, returns in the second thrilling installment of the 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 or 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 is loath to trust this stranger, but is inexplicably drawn to him, and he to her. As Scarlet and Wolf unravel one mystery, they encounter another when they meet Cinder. Now, all of them must stay one step ahead of the vicious Lunar Queen Levana, who will do anything for the handsome Prince Kai to become her husband, her king, her prisoner.

My Review:

Scarlet could be called the cybernetic fairy tales, part two. This is the second book in Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles, so if you haven’t read book one, her dystopian re-telling of Cinderella (Cinder, reviewed here), stop now. Book two is Red Riding-Hood’s turn. In this futuristic turn, make that hood a red hoodie.

Everything else has been transmuted as well. Red’s–oops, I meant Scarlet’s–beloved grandmother has not, well not exactly, been eaten by a wolf. When the story starts, Scarlet Benoit’s beloved grand-mere has disappeared. The officials are calling it a voluntary disappearance. After all, everyone knew that Michelle Benoit was crazy.

Except her granddaughter, who just wouldn’t let it go. And that’s where the story begins. Scarlet, refusing to believe that her grandmother just left her behind, blows her red-headed temper up while delivering vegetables from their farm to a customer. Being discovered by a day-laborer, and night-time bare-knuckles fighter named, of course, Wolf, who has never eaten a fresh tomato before.

Scarlet spends most of the story trying to figure out whether big, powerful Wolf is one of the good guys or one of the bad guys who has been trying to fool her all along. And she’s right to be suspicious. Because Wolf isn’t any too sure himself.

But all the while that Scarlet and Wolf are hunting for Scarlet’s grandmother, Cinder is on the run trying to find that very same Michelle Benoit. Because Cinder has discovered that Michelle Benoit, once upon a time, was one of the Earth officers that may have been part of saving her from Lunar when she was a baby. And part of her adoption by Garan Linh so many years later.

Meanwhile, Queen Levana is hunting all of them. And Emperor Kai’s time, and the Earth’s, is running out.

Escape Rating B+: The three stories are interwoven so tightly that the reading flows from one to another seamlessly, even before Cinder and Scarlet inevitably meet.

Cinder by Marissa MeyerCinder spends a lot of the story hoping that there is a way out. She wants to be free, but she’s smart enough to know that being Queen or even leading a Rebel Alliance is about as far from freedom as a person, or cyborg, can get.

Scarlet and Wolf’s love story hinges on a concept that has been used before in paranormal romance, the idea that cross-breeding with wolf genetics will accidentally build in the conditioning that wolves mate for life. Just because it’s been used before doesn’t mean it can’t be used effectively again or that it wasn’t effective here.

I have a question about Queen Levana. A big question. Why is she doing all this? Why go through all these machinations to take over the Earth? She seems to have more than enough power and military might, as well as magical charisma to just charm everyone into submission. There’s something I’m simply not seeing about her motives. And she’s just too bwahaha evil to make sense.

As very fractured fairy tales, The Lunar Chronicles are great fun. But there are, as they say, wheels within wheels within wheels. I hope that Queen Levana’s deeper motives are in one of those wheels we haven’t seen yet.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Guest Review: Stung by Bethany Wiggins

[Cover of Stung by Bethany Wiggins]Format read: ARC provided by publisher
Formats available: hardcover
Genre: Young adult science fiction
Length: 304 pages
Publisher: Walker and Company
Date Released: April 2, 2013
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository

Fiona doesn’t remember going to sleep. But when she opens her eyes, she discovers her entire world has been altered–her house is abandoned and broken, and the entire neighborhood is barren and dead. Even stranger is the tattoo on her right wrist–a black oval with five marks on either side–that she doesn’t remember getting but somehow knows she must cover at any cost. And she’s right. When the honeybee population collapsed, a worldwide pandemic occurred and the government tried to bio-engineer a cure. Only the solution was deadlier than the original problem–the vaccination turned people into ferocious, deadly beasts who were branded as a warning to un-vaccinated survivors. Key people needed to rebuild society are protected from disease and beasts inside a fortress-like wall. But Fiona has awakened branded, alone-and on the wrong side of the wall…

Fiona Tarsis goes to sleep in a world much like our own, just with fewer bees.  When she wakes up, she’s immediately faced with what that world has turned into, and she is taken on a wild ride.

The decline in bee populations is a real problem; losing major pollinator species means fewer plants and crops, which in turn could have a significant ripple effect on human society.  In Stung, however, attempts to solve that problem have backfired spectacularly: people who received a bee-flu vaccination turned into the equivalent of werewolves–with no way to return to normal.  (How does one get from bees disappearing to bee flu?  Let’s just say that it’s not a good idea to short-circuit the scientific peer review process.  It’s also not a good idea to keep digging, once you’ve found yourself in a hole.)

Fiona wakes up knowing only that she must hide her tattoo and that she’s still thirteen.  The latter “fact” is quickly proven false–four years have passed since the culmination of the disaster–and she must survive long enough to figure out what’s going on.  Fortunately, she soon runs into a young militiaman named Bowen, and with his help starts to learn more about herself and her world.

Escape Rating B-:  At the exhibits hall of any American Library Association conference, advance reading copies are generally easy to pick up.  In this case, it was particularly easy: the ARC was literally thrust upon me.

It’s easy to see why the the publicist in the booth was collaring passers-by.  Stung is a fast-paced, engaging read.  The author does a good job dropping Fiona and the reader into an uncertain situation and providing enough information to keep the pages turning while not giving the game away too soon.  In fact, Wiggins has written one of the better amnesiac openings I’ve read in some time.

Fiona is a sympathetic viewpoint character.  Although her upbringing was middle-class and sheltered, she’s not completely helpless in the rough circumstances that face her.  She can shoot quite well (a legacy from her father’s training), she’s smart, and she eventually finds out that the vaccination has given her some advantages in tight spots.

In Bowen she finds a connection to the pre-apocalyptic world and a source of romantic tension.  As it turns out, if you go to sleep at 13 and wake up at 17… you don’t still don’t get to skip puberty.

Unfortunately, for all her general competence, Fiona still needs rescuing at the end.  While Fiona herself is not unhappy with how things turn out–and Bowen serves nicely as a rescuing knight–I finished the book wishing that Fiona had had a little more control by the end.  Also, the main villain had a little too much cardboard in his makeup for my test.

The last page of the book leaves the door open to a sequel; if one is written, I hope that Fiona avoids the trap of becoming little more than a symbol of better days to come.  That said, I do hope that Wiggins continues the tale.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: Losing It by Cora Carmack

Format read: ebook provided by the publisher
Formats available: ebook
Genre: Contemporary Romance, New Adult Romance
Series: Losing It #1
Length: 204 pages
Publisher: William Morrow
Date Released: December 5, 2012
Purchasing Info:Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble


Bliss Edwards is about to graduate from college and still has hers. Sick of being the only virgin among her friends, she decides the best way to deal with the problem is to lose it as quickly and simply as possible– a one-night stand. But her plan turns out to be anything but simple when she freaks out and leaves a gorgeous guy alone and naked in her bed with an excuse that no one with half-a-brain would ever believe. And as if if that weren’t embarrassing enough, when she arrives for her first class of her last college semester, she recognizes her new theatre professor. She’d left him naked in her bed about 8 hours earlier.

Meet cute turns into awkward morning after, compounded with a dose of “when I kissed the teacher” that manages to be sappy rather than squicky, which is difficult. Add in a dose of long-time friend wishing he could make this a triangle, but that just isn’t happening.

Then add in the heroine’s desire to finally get rid of her virginity, as if it’s an out-of-date pair of shoes. Or something like that. Except every time she screws up her courage (no pun intended), or girds her loins (pun definitely intended) she panics.

Bliss is 22, so she is an adult in this story. Awkward about it, but an adult. Also about to graduate college. It’s time for her to spread her wings. She just hasn’t found any guy she wants to spread them for. She overthinks everything. And she likes to be in control.

Sex is all about losing control, and Bliss doesn’t do that very well. At all.

Until she meets this cute guy with a British accent in a bar, and he’s reading Shakespeare. She finally discovers what all the love songs are about. Or at least the lust songs. She takes him home, intending to finally do the deed.

She can’t go through with it. She can’t stop thinking of all the things she might do wrong. All the ways it might become awkward. She runs away, leaving him naked in her bed. She pretends she has an emergency.

The next morning she finds out he’s her new theatre professor. He’s a temp for the final semester. He also lives in the next building over from her. They can’t escape each other. They also can’t escape how they feel about each other.

Because in spite of the really awkward start (epically awkward), they have pretty amazing chemistry together. Yes, on a physical level, but also in every other way. They like each other, they don’t just lust after each other.

Garrett may be her professor, but his days in college aren’t that far behind him. He just finished his MFA, so he’s probably four or at the most five years older than Bliss. But the gap between student and teacher is huge in other ways. Relationships are often forbidden because the teacher has power over the student. Power to give grades, to give easy, or difficult assignments, etc.

So when Garrett and Bliss can’t keep away from each other, they have to keep it a secret. For a whole semester. Which brings an entire roller coaster full of emotions into play.

And in the meantime, Bliss is still a virgin, and has an incredibly difficult time telling Garrett. I did mention she was a theatre student, right? Dramatics all around. Dramatic misunderstandings abound.

And in the middle of it all, the senior class puts on a play. And they all get mono. The course of true love definitely does not run smooth, but it absolutely does manage to run on.

Escape Rating B: Bliss is an endearing heroine in her awkwardness. The opening scene where she runs out on a naked Garrick is hilarious, but also sad.  You want her to be happy, and you’re not too sure at that point whether she’s going to make it past her own insecurities.

Garrick has the patience of a saint. He’s a little, maybe a lot, too perfect. I’m not sure how many real men would have the patience that he does. Not just to wait through the long sexual drought, but to do it without knowing why Bliss wants to go so slow, and to put up with her jumping to so many wrong conclusions in so many different directions. They don’t talk about where their relationship is going, Bliss always assumes the worst. And Garrick patiently puts up with it.

Then there’s poor Cade, Bliss’ best friend at the beginning of the story. Cade is a stock character in so many stories, the best friend who loves the oblivious main character, only to lose out when the main character finds true love. Cade’s purpose in Losing It is to lose his best friend, so that he can be the main character of a future book.


***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: Few are Chosen by Storm Grant

Format Read: ebook provided by the publisher
Number of Pages: 43 pages
Release Date: February 18, 2012
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Genre: Young Adult M/M Urban Fantasy
Formats Available: ebook
Purchasing Info: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Author’s Website | Publisher’s Website

Book Blurb:

Sparks fly between virgin teenage demon hunters when the Chosen One turns out to be the Chosen . . . Two?

Apprentice warrior Blake St. Blake is the Chosen One, raised by an ancient order to defend the world against evil. Well, maybe not the whole world, but at least his neighborhood in downtown Detroit. When a dreaded reflux demon is sighted in a local cemetery, Blake is sent off to his very first battle, armed with his sword, his super-senses, his black leather duster, and a few well-rehearsed one-liners.

But another Chosen One gets in Blake’s way—an apprentice wizard named Shadow. While the boys argue about who’s the more chosen of the two, the demon escapes.

Blake wants to be angry, but it turns out he and Shadow have a lot in common. Besides, Shadow’s pretty cute, and Blake can’t help but think that the wizard’s skills (and hands and lips and other bits) might make the perfect complement to his. Blake and Shadow are brave enough to challenge the reflux demon in a second battle, but will they have the courage to tell each other how they feel?

My Thoughts:

This was originally posted at Book Lovers Inc.

I read this right after I finished Jim Butcher’s latest entry in the Dresden Files, Cold Days. Blake, the apprentice swordsman, goes through the story wearing a black leather duster, because he thinks it’s what a cool “Chosen One” should be wearing. This is in spite of the fact that Harry Dresden does NOT fight with a sword, and that it’s way too hot in Detroit in the summer (or Harry’s Chicago for that matter) for a leather duster to be reasonable fighting gear.

The kid is so self-conscious about the duster. But I was laughing too hard at the demon. Really. Reflux demon! As in acid-reflux? (And yes, it is the acid-reflux demon. Or an acid-reflux demon. And it’s meant to be funny.

Poor Blake, he keeps trying to talk like the dialog in the Lord of the Rings movies, which he’s seen way too many times.

Then there’s the wizard apprentice, Shadow. Who unfortunately only saw the movie about halfway through, and named himself Shadowfax, not realizing that was Gandalf’s horse, and not the wizard himself. Oops.

Their relationship almost never recovers from Blake’s laughter.

But in between the geeky-nerdy pop-culture references, it’s easy to see why these two need each other. Only Blake is under the mistake impression that there’s only supposed to be one “Chosen One”. Shadow knows there are several. What they both are is orphans, raised by their “orders” to fight evil in the world.

Actually, that does sound kind of like Harry Dresden, doesn’t it? The difference is that the orders that found these kids are trying their best by them. And training them with kindness and decency.

Both Shadow and Blake are apprentices. They are also teenage boys. Neither of them wants to admit they need help fighting that reflux demon they aren’t actually supposed to fight.

Neither of them wants to admit that they are interested in the other one, period. Or that they don’t have a clue how to proceed, either with the demon, or with each other.

Figuring out how to become partners could either be fun, or a complete disaster. Or both.

Verdict: For a short story, there was a terrific amount of story packed in. The set up of the apprenticeships, the orders, the demon, how the boys got recruited, everything was all laid out quickly and surprisingly thoroughly.

I thought the author did a great job with the mentors understanding the psychology of the young men needing to get to the next step of their journey as “Chosen Ones”, and figuring out a way to move them forward without pushing them. Or by pushing them the opposite of the way they wanted, knowing it would make them go the way they really wanted.

All of the urban fantasy and pop culture references were fun, and funny. Harry’s duster, the Star Wars lightsaber, and Shadowfax. The story was a smile a minute.

The love story part of it was sweet. These two are both virgin heroes, so this was a beginning discovery, and the scene was just right. The comment about tighty-whiteys not being superhero underwear was hilarious!

I happily give Few are Chosen 4 laughing stars.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Stacking the Shelves (22)

My book-filled cup runneth over. The publishers are putting their end-of-the year titles out, and the lists are getting pretty awesome.

Three authors are in here that I’ve always wanted to read, Lisa Marie Rice, Cassandra Clarke and Carolyn Crane, but I didn’t want to jump into the middle of established series. They are all starting new series, so a chance for me to get in at the beginning.

I also want to give a very big shout-out to Tor Books. They approved my request for Three Parts Dead on NetGalley after they’d archived the title, so they sent me out a non-ARC print copy. This is one I really want to read, so I’m very happy.

Did you get anything special this week?

For Review:
The Black Stiletto: Stars & Stripes by Raymond Benson
Chasers (Alone #1) by James Phelan (print)
The Escape Diaries by Juliet Rosetti
Fortune’s Hero (Soldiers of Fortune #1) by Jenna Bennett
Heart of Danger (Ghost Ops #1) by Lisa Marie Rice
Lady Alexandra’s Excellent Adventure (Summersby #1) by Sophie Barnes (print)
The Mad Scientist’s Daughter by Cassandra Rose Clarke
The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen by Syrie James
A Most Scandalous Proposal by Ashlyn Macnamara
Mr. Real (Code of Shadows #1) by Carolyn Crane
The Red Wolf Conspiracy (Chathrand Voyages #1) by Robert V.S. Redick
The Second Rule of Ten (Tenzing Norbu #2) by Gay Hendricks and Tinker Lindsay
Seducing Mr. Knightly (The Writing Girls #4) by Maya Rodale
Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone (print)

Backstage Pass (Sinners on Tour #1) by Olivia Cunning
Desperately Seeking Shapeshifter (Midnight Liaisons #2) by Jessica Sims
A Groom of One’s Own (The Writing Girls #1) by Maya Rodale (99 cent sale)
Rock Hard (Sinners on Tour #2) by Olivia Cunning
A Tale of Two Lovers (The Writing Girls #2) by Maya Rodale (99 cent sale)
The Tattooed Duke (The Writing Girls #3) by Maya Rodale (99 cent sale)
Three Schemes and a Scandal (The Writing Girls #3.5) by Maya Rodale