Sunday, September 28, 2014

Review: Cress by Marissa Meyer

Fence-sitting ahoy!

One thing I forgot to mention in my "Scalet" review, and which I really should have said straight off the bat - Marissa Meyer sure knows how to spin an interesting story. Where some series may have a pacing issue or ten (especially if they're like the Lunar Chronicles, where every new installment just keeps adding new characters) the action here just keeps coming on fast and strong, and even when there's a lull, I'm sitting on the edge of my seat because new developments are coming from every direction.

Few books can keep me up until late at night, and these ones definitely did.

Like "Cinder" and "Scarlet", "Cress" is a sci-fi retelling of a classical fairy tale. Like "Cinder" and "Scarlet", it subverts some of the original's themes, though to a lesser extent. I won't get into too much details about the plot - because, seriously, spoilers! - but I do want to talk a little bit about characterization and how the romance is portrayed here because... well, it's probably one of the most honest ones I've seen in a novel recently.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Review: Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

It's been nearly three years since I reviewed "Cinder". (Three years? Seriously? Can we take a moment now and go "WHAT?!" please?) Given how much I raved about it when I first got my mitts on the ARC, you'd think I'd be rushing off to read and review the sequels the minute they came out. However, my little blogger heart knew that if I liked the second book as much as the first (and spoiler, I did!) then I might as well hold out and wait for the next book to come out as well and don't suffer too much from the wait.

If only I had the perseverance to wait until November 2015, I wouldn't be living in such suspense right now because Marissa, seriously! I can't handle it!

But let's go slowly.

"Scarlet" and "Cress" are books 2 and 3 of the Lunar Chronicles, respectively. The series follows the adventures of Cinder, a cyborg mechanic, who discovers she's a lot more than she expects, and each book is a sci-fi retelling of a classical fairy tale. In this case, Little Red Riding Hood and Rapunzel. 

"Scarlet" starts off with Cinder escaping the New Beijing prison with the help of another fugitive, Thorne (who is a pain in the arse but has a heart of gold.) She's still awfully confused about the events of the previous book and decides, rather than do what she's told, to learn a little bit more about herself, and decides the answers are in France, where the woman who housed her as a child lives.

However, the woman, Michelle Benoit, is missing, and her granddaughter Scarlet can't get the police to assist. Enter Wolf, a handsome street fighter who may or may not know more about it than he's letting on.

And if anyone has even heard of Little Red Riding Hood, you know Scarlet is headed for some big trouble.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Double whammy: Muse and Fury by Rebecca Lim

The “Mercy” series is to me what “Divergent” by Veronica Roth is doubtless to many people - it started off promising, even exciting, but then it went and devolved into a huge pile of WTF.

I’ve had a sneaky suspicion for a while, that “Mercy” started off as one book and was later broken down into four. There’s something about the surface plots of the individual books and the overarching one that just makes me feel like they were subplots being expanded into larger ones. Sometimes scenes and character development are transferred from one book into the other, and if you don’t read them one right after the other, it can feel choppy and underdeveloped.

Case in point - Muse almost literally cut off mid-scene.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

“Muse” and “Fury” are the final books in Rebecca Lim’s “Mercy” quartet. You can find my reviews of the previous two books on the Lantern, but basically, Mercy is an angel that, for some crime or another, is constantly being put in the lives and bodies of young women. For years and years, she’s been unable to go from one life to the next without losing all her memories and thus she’s been unable to do progress, but in the past few lives, things have started to change. She’s grown more self-aware, and she her faith in “Luc”, her only constant companion throughout everything, starts to weaver. In “Muse”, she’s barely holding onto the last threads of her faith in him. In “Fury”, that faith is lost and Mercy sets out to get her ummmmmmmm-revenge?

Yeah, can you tell that I’ve got problems with the ending?

Spoilers ahead.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Re-read: Before I Die

There comes a time in a book blogger's life when re-reading a book becomes the highest compliment you can ever give. (According to Kat from Cuddlebuggery.) And after my cover comparison post, I went and picked up Before I Die again..

I am so, so glad I did. 

In fact, I kinda hope that TFIOS garners even more accolades, so that people may rediscover this book (and hopefully the movie that goes along) and love it as much as I do.

(It's similar to TFIOS in the same way chips is similar to a potato dauphinoise - it has the same main ingredient, but the prep and delivery are widely different. Also, one is more pretentious than the other. Still...) 

The story is your typical "bucket list" tale - 16-year-old Tess' doctors have declared her terminal after years of her battling cancer. Her father is trying his best to be optimistic and find alternative solutions, but Tess knows better - she knows she's going to die, so why get the most out of life and do 10 things she's never done before? Stuff goes wrong, then it goes right, lessons are learnt, Tess falls in love, and gets her estranged parents together (sort of) and so on, and so forth.

I went on GR hoping to find my old review, so that I could leave a link here and talk to you about what I got from the re-read...

BUUUUT all I found was a note saying I cried my eyes out. Which just goes to show I really was NOT ready to talk about this book three years ago.

Because whether we like it or not, our perspective on a book will change as we grow older and gain more experience. In this case, my own experiences with dealing with sickness and depression have changed me a lot... and have made me appreciate this book a lot more for what it is.

See, Tess is depressed. Not just in a vague way, I mean seriously, gravely, the-world-sucks-and-I-suck-and-there-is-nothing-good-about-life-so-why-bother way. She alternates between bouts of energy and listlessness, she cares deeply for her family and friends, but shuts down often, she thinks of herself as worthless and miserable and often lets her sadness take the best of her...

And I love it because it rings true for me, and the text handles things beautifully. When Tess latches onto her bucket list as a means to extract some meaning from life, her friends and family indulge her to an extent, but each and every last one of them has a moment where they go: "No, stop, this is not right, and I won't help you in this." And they do it because they realize that, in the words of Dianna Wayne Jones, "A tantrum is rarely about the thing it is about." 

Tess is throwing a tantrum, for very good reasons, but the book showcases what is, in my opinion, a healthy attitude towards them. Yes, she's allowed to be sad and miserable, and yes, her loved ones let her have some things she wants, but all is within reasonable boundaries and they do set their boundaries clearly.

Following on the theme of the other characters, one I'd like to talk about particularly is Tess' father (I know in YA we tend to focus on the love interest, but Adam is perfect, so there!) Mr. Scott is his daughter's main caretaker, after his wife left the family, and he's, in some ways, very much the overbearing parent. However, rather than make him a caricature (Fangirl, I'm looking at you right now!) he's portrayed as, again, in my opinion, a parent who's been caring for a sick child for years. 

One of the most difficult things for parents, and adults in general, is admitting that we are wrong, or that we don't have all the answers. And Mr. Scott, faced with the reality of Tess' illness, is equal parts in denial and in depression. His interactions with his daughter are, indeed, the most poignant moments of the book, and lend him a humanity which I'm sad to say I have not encountered in parents in books for a long, long time.

Before I Die is not what you'd call a cheery read, but it's cathartic. And I'm glad I rediscovered it.

Note: Image from BookLikes.