Friday, February 28, 2014

Review: "Cinder" by Marissa Meyer

Title: Cinder
Series: The Lunar Chronicles #1
Author: Marissa Meyer
Publisher: Puffin
Year: 2012

"Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. . . .

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future."

Well. I feel sort of underwhelmed. This book seems to be quite popular and has been recommended to me numerous times. I guess I just expected more. Not to say that this a bad book, but I feel sort of meh about it. 

First of all, let’s list the things that this book has going for it, because there were a few things that were potentially redeeming qualities.

First of all the book was well written, it was an easy pleasant read. 

Second, the idea was great. I love fairy-tales and have developed quite a liking for all sorts of retellings. So Cinderella crossed with cyborgs sounded like a wicked idea. The other good part was that the Cinderella element was woven in quite well. There were a few times where it was obvious that the reader was meant to think that “Ah, this is the part from Cinderella”, but mostly it was very smoothly linked to the rest of the story, which by the way was intriguing.

Now there were a few things that bothered me. Sort of like a splinter under your skin, but less pleasant. 

The cyborg/android part. Very underwhelming. I was hoping this book would have more of a sci-fi element, but it sounded like someone had read one too many smart-phone manuals. All the robotics parts seemed very hurried and not properly researched. And come on, Cinder fixed up an old-time (which means our time) car and we did not get even one scene where she actually worked on it! 

Cinder. At the beginning of the book, I really liked her. I thought she was witty and fun. But she became one-dimensional very fast. I mean how can it be that she has never been interested in where she came from? Especially if all people carry ID-chips that should give her info, but presumably doesn’t? How can someone be so uninterested in themselves? 

Kai. Well, I’ll give you that, he is like a real prince from the early Disney movies. As in absolutely brain-numbingly boring! I meant he is meant to be a ruler and he sounds like he sort of looks at everything like a bystander and keeps going: ”Aww, that is really not working out for you, is it?” Also, how he keeps saying to Cinder that he doesn’t want special treatment and then goes “Hey, I am a prince, give me special treatment.” Just give me a break. 

And the biggest one. This was the single most predictable big surprise ever. I usually do not mind spoilers, because I am more interested in the story than the climax. But this was obvious from the very beginning and it was very easy to see how it will all work out. I mean try to throw some twists and turns into it. Give a little spice. This felt like walking into the same wall repeatedly and expecting it to turn into a door! It was a good but poorly executed idea.

I do not regret reading this, but I’m quite happy to put it back on my shelf and go find something juicier. Three stars. And that feels kind of generous.   

 This review has been brought to you by your Book Mistress for the day.


Friday, February 21, 2014

Review: "Daughter of Smoke & Bone" By Laini Taylor

Title: Daughter of Smoke & Bone
Series: Daughter of Smoke & Bone #1
Author: Laini Taylor
Publisher: Hodder
Year: 2011

"Errand requiring immediate attention. Come.

The note was on vellum, pierced by the talons of the almost-crow that delivered it. Karou read the message. 'He never says please', she sighed, but she gathered up her things. 

When Brimstone called, she always came. 

In general, Karou has managed to keep her two lives in balance. On the one hand, she's a seventeen-year-old art student in Prague; on the other, errand-girl to a monstrous creature who is the closest thing she has to family. Raised half in our world, half in 'Elsewhere', she has never understood Brimstone's dark work - buying teeth from hunters and murderers - nor how she came into his keeping. She is a secret even to herself, plagued by the sensation that she isn't whole.

Now the doors to Elsewhere are closing, and Karou must choose between the safety of her human life and the dangers of a war-ravaged world that may hold the answers she has always sought."

Well serve up my soul on a platter and call it dinner. How come it took me so long to pick up this book? You know what, I take it back. I am glad I did not read it when it first came out. Now I don’t have to wait for the next book but I can go and raid the local bookstore in 3…2…1… Now!

Now unless this has not been absolutely clear, then I loved this book. 2014 just started but I have a tingly feeling that this might be the book of the year for me.
Let me just describe my thought process when I read this. “Oh this seems like fun, she has blue hair, I like her already. Holy hell, that woman is half snake! Cassiopeia, is that you? Oh no, it is going to be a love of almost-first-something story isn’t it? But I.. Wait… wait! seriously? No.. NO! That did not just happen!” I swear my roommate was this close (imagine a really small space) away from calling the nearest loony bin and have me committed when I finished the book and spent the next 10 minutes bouncing around on my bed mumbling about how this did not just happen.

Okay, down to business. Laini Taylor is great. Her writing style is really smooth and it gripped me immediately. The pacing was also perfect. It gave just enough time to get comfortable with how things were working out and then it jolted you into excitement. I loved it. 

The world. Oh my goodness and the frozen hell. When I try to describe it, it sort of sounds like a children’s tale. You have creatures who are half animal and a girl living with them. Also teeth and wishes of magic are involved. Sounds crazy huh? So it is all the more amazing how Taylor tapped into that childhood familiarity and turned it into something the 20-year old me enjoyed so immensely. The chimera are such a fresh idea to the genre and the story of them is so unique that I do not think it could be done again any time soon, not with such impact. I must admit I am hardly ever a fan of angels, but here they worked, especially next to the chimera. Plus I could visualize those fiery eyes quite well. 

Karou is an amazing heroine. She has a very complicated story, even more so as the story progresses because in her case we do not get a protagonist who has a tragic backstory. We get the journey of her discovering what happened to her. And it really is magic. I have not rooted for someone so hard for a while.
With Akiva I was not sure how I should feel about him. I am not really much into the tortured look. But boy did he have reasons and the way he was some time back (people who have read the book know what I am talking about) was just… When I read that part, I could imagine the impact of it all and… he definitely has my respect and I cannot wait to see what happens to him.
I loved Zuzana, with her tiny frame and scary presence. The best best-friend material ever. I do so hope that she will have a part in the next book. Same goes for Kaz. I really liked his character, he gave the story a necessary spice. Yummy.
The chimera, which were many, were my favourite. Their half-animal bodies really had my imagination running wild. And the diversity of them! But besides that and probably more importantly, they had such character, such personalities. Again, I feel like I should wear two hats so I could take both of them off and salute Taylor double. 

Reading “Daughter of Smoke and Bone” for the first time was an experience of a lifetime and I am sure that it will be something that I will read over and over again. For once I went in with no expectations and I could not have been more pleased. I could not recommend a book more.

I won this book in a goodreads giveaway, but the review is 100% (plus some) honest and my true thoughts. 

This review has been brought to you by your Book Mistress for the day.


Thursday, February 13, 2014

Review: "Winter Queen" by Amber Argyle

Title: Winter Queen
Series: Fairy Queens #1
Author: Amber Argyle
Publisher: Starling
Year: 2013

"Becoming a winter queen will make Ilyenna as cold and cruel and deadly as winter itself, but it might be the only way to save her people from a war they have no hope of winning.

Mortally wounded during a raid, seventeen-year-old Ilyenna is healed by winter fairies who present her with a seductive offer: become one of them and share their power over winter. But that power comes with a price.If she accepts, she will become a force of nature, lose her humanity, and abandon her family. Unwilling to pay such a high price, Ilyenna is enslaved by the one of the invaders, Darrien. 

While in captivity, she learns the attack wasn't just a simple raid but part of a larger plot to overthrow her entire nation. With the enemy stealing over the mountains and Darrien coming to take her to his bed, Ilyenna must decide whether to resurrect the power the fairies left behind. Doing so will allow her to defeat Darrien and the other invaders, but if she embraces winter, she will lose herself to that destroying power-forever."

Holy hell and the seven freaking dwarves. Well. I did not really dare to expect that the contents of the book will be as good as the gorgeous cover-art. If you look at the cover there is just so much expectations to live up to. But I was not disappointed. This was brilliant.

Let me explain to you why. First of all the background. While there are numerous fairy stories and it is fairly popular to divide them into either light and dark or summer and winter (or both), then you do not really get the high fantasy fairy story that often. I loved the way the world was built up. Have you noticed how medieval most of the high fantasy stories are? Women are for breeding and being pretty. Here they fight. Sure there is still segregation between the roles of men and women but women do have a voice. The idea of an influential clan mistress and women who carry knives was great. 

The story was superb. The magic was more of a superstition there and I liked that it was not the most dominant part of the story. The story has a war-like situation between clans, struggle for power and love. No spoilers but it is bloody brilliant. Amber Argyle can really make you feel for her characters. And not only compassion and love but also hate, burning, churning, bubbling hate. I must admit the descriptions were quite graphic, I found myself cringing gleefully a few times.
The only little thing I have to knock on this story is that the big action scenes felt a little hurried. Most of the story was near-perfectly paced, but every time something really monumental went down, it was over in a few pages. After every that kind of sequence I felt myself reading and thinking that wait, wait, wait, this HUGE, ginormous thing just happened? It just started, how on earth is it over? But when I kept reading and the events worked themselves through the rest of the story then I just could not stay mad at this.

Ilyenna was a great heroine. Kick-ass but still finding herself. She was already fairly special in her world but that was nothing compared to the storm that hit when she also managed attract the attention of the fairies. Careful Darrien, this time self-sacrifice comes in a rebellious and prideful package.
On to Darrien. I like that for once we got a villain. Not the kind that redeems themselves with their last act but someone who is despicable to the bone. Darrien was extremely well-written and a scary/nasty character.
Rone. A childhood friend to Ilyenna, he was also a big part of the book. Sort of your regular white knight to the rescue. He couldn’t help but want to always help and always care for all the women, and Ilyenna in particular. While not my favourite, he was still a decent character, once again brought to life by my very eyes by Argyle.
We also get quite a few really awesome side characters, whom I couldn’t possibly all introduce. So these will be left for you to meet because the journey to them is wicked. Trust me on this one.

“Winter Queen” has challenged my favourite faery series to a duel. I cannot wait to see who wins at the end, but for that I will need the next book, which I am so very anxiously waiting. I’m counting the days Amber, I am just saying. But five ice-cold stars to the “Winter Queen”. I shall now resume staring out of the window and waiting for Leto, I mean Summer, to come.

 This review has been brought to you by your Book Mistress for the day.