Sunday, February 24, 2013

Review: Scarlet

Synopsis: Cinder returns in the second thrilling installment of the New York Times-bestselling Lunar Chronicles. She’s trying to break out of prison—even though if she succeeds, she’ll be the Commonwealth’s most wanted fugitive.

Halfway around the world, Scarlet Benoit’s grandmother is missing. It turns out there are many things Scarlet doesn’t know about her grandmother and the grave danger she has lived in her whole life. When Scarlet encounters Wolf, a street fighter who may have information as to her grandmother’s whereabouts, she has no choice but to trust him, though he clearly has a few dark secrets of his own.

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

My Review: I have been dying for this ever since I finished Cinder.  It was such a fresh retelling of Cinderella (and believe me I've read quite a few) and yet it is so utterly different and such a story unto itself you can't help but fall in love with it. And of course it's not just a retelling of Cinderella, it's Little Red Riding Hood as well.  I have to say I was originally kind of shocked to know that there would be more fairytales incorporated into the story as well.  I was worried that Cinder's story would get lost and we wouldn't see it as prevalently in the story anymore.  Which is always a legitimate fear when brand new characters and plots are introduced, but Miss Meyer blended the stories beautifully.

In this new installment of the Lunar Chronicles of course we have our beloved Cinder, the cyborg-mechanic-lunar princess, back in action.  She's managed to escape prison and picked up another prisoner along the way.  But her escape comes with a heavy price, mainly for Emperor Kai and the looming threats of war from the Lunar Queen.  And of course our new heroine, Scarlet has problems of her own to deal with.  The criminal cyborg lunar girl that is always on TV is hardly her concern.  Her grandmother has been missing for two weeks, and the authorities have closed the case since there were no signs of foul play.  She knows that her grandmother didn't just leave, someone took her, and the mysterious young street fighter named Wolf just may be able to help her find the culprits.

When I first started in and was introduced to Scarlet I couldn't help but wonder how the hell Meyer was going to connect these two story lines.  The common denominator between the two plots quickly emerged.  (It's been a while since I read Cinder, it took me a while to remember the connection) Meyer switches POV's from Cinder to Scarlet and even occasionally Kai and Wolf.  Switching POV's with more than two characters can sometimes get sloppy, but Meyer executes it perfectly.  There's merit to everyone's point of view and I didn't find myself wishing for the POV to switch like I normally do in some stories.

Scarlet and Cinder were so alike and yet so different all at the same time.  Both have such an unwavering loyalty to those they love.  They're willing to sacrifice themselves if that means saving someone they care about.  It's an admirable trait in both of them.  While Cinder is more cautious and analyzes every decision, weighting the pros and cons, Scarlet is all bold action.  She goes on her gut instinct and is angry and stubborn if someone doesn't go along with her plans.  Scarlet is just as fierce and fiery as her hair suggests.  And it's that fire that really captures Wolf's attention.

I really loved Wolf.  He's definitely one of those awkward character's that doesn't seem to get what's going on sometimes, and then turns deadly on the flip of a dime.  When he fights, it's all animalistic grace and deadly ability.  He is fiercely protective of Scarlet, and despite his actions in certain areas, ultimately he just wants to keep her safe.  He'd never hurt her, and sacrifices everything for her.  I usually hate those couples who fall in love in a matter of days. I didn't mind this time.  It was just too perfect for me to nit pick. And what has become of Cinder and Kai? Well obviously Cinder is still head over heels for him, and despite her big revelation Kai seems to still have feelings for her and finds himself defending her more often than not when he should be hunting her down.

The Lunars just get nastier and nastier as this story goes on.  Okay, well not the Lunars in general.  It's not their fault they have a psycho queen that controls everyone.  But the Queen should definitely be afraid of Cinder.  She may be new to her abilities, but she's already a force to be reckoned with.  And Cinder is no longer hiding.  She plans to fight back, and take down the Queen by any means necessary.

A fabulous addition to this new series.  Scarlet keeps you riveted and I'm just as eager for the third book as I was for this one.  Will there be a third fairytale added to the mix? I hope so.  I have to admit I kind of love that about this story.  Meyer astounded me with an incredible novel yet again.  Can't wait for the  next installment.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Review: The Rules

Synopsis:1. Never trust anyone 2. Remember they are always searching 3. Don’t get involved 4. Keep your head down 5. Don’t fall in love. Five simple rules. Ariane Tucker has followed them since the night she escaped from the genetics lab where she was created, the result of combining human and extraterrestrial DNA. Ariane’s survival—and that of her adoptive father—depends on her ability to blend in among the full-blooded humans in a small Wisconsin town, to hide in plain sight at her high school from those who seek to recover their lost (and expensive) “project.”

But when a cruel prank at school goes awry, it puts her in the path of Zane Bradshaw, the police chief’s son and someone who sees too much. Someone who really sees her. After years of trying to be invisible, Ariane finds the attention frightening—and utterly intoxicating. Suddenly, nothing is simple anymore, especially not the rules…

  My Review: I've loved Stacey Kade's books since she first put out the Ghost and the Goth, so naturally I jumped at the chance to read this.  I definitely was not disappointed.  Kade's really branched out from her kind of peppy genre with sassy characters.  The Rules definitely had a more serious tone, and I absolutely loved it.

Ariane's one goal in life is to blend in.  To hide her almost white hair, her small frame, her unusually sharp cheekbones, and her near pitch black eyes.  The Rules help her do just that.  She stays inconspicuous, out of the lime light.  She only has one friend and even that's hard to maintain, because what's truly important is to not slip up.  Ariane is hiding in plain sight and her life is a charade, because she's not entirely human.  Ariane has lived by the rules for ten years.  Ten years of managing to slip under the radar, right under the noses of those who want her captured.  That is until the day that Ariane can't reign in her feelings any longer.  Daring to stand up to the most popular and intimidating girl at school in defense of her friend, Ariane isn't so invisible any more.  She comes to the attention of Zane, part of the popular crowd, and despite how hard she tries, she can't help but relish in the attention he is suddenly giving her.

I really loved Ariane.  She may play the meek and quiet girl, but in reality she is a fierce individual who will not stand for people picking on others who are weaker than them.  She's quick witted, stubborn, and truly a fiery personality.  She just doesn't take bull shit and calls others out on it. What truly made me love Ariane was her willingness to take a chance and open herself up to others.  She was kept in a lab until she was six years old, basically poked and prodded like a lab rat every single day.  She tends to shy away from people because of it, and avoids physical contact at all costs.  And yet when she and Zane start their rocky friendship, she opens herself up and trusts him to not hurt her.  She's gone through incredible trauma, but she doesn't let it dictate her life.  That really made her a strong character in my eyes.

I really loved Zane as well. Both Zane and Ariane are broken to some degree, hurt by people in their lives that should have protected them.  While Zane used to sit back and let his friends mock and tease others, he's changed.  He's sickened by their childish actions and really starts to stand up for himself.  He can't help but be fascinated with Ariane, the only person who has ever dared stand up to his friend Rachel.  Soon curiosity turns into outright infatuation, and Zane isn't the only one who's falling fast. He really was a great guy, and I enjoyed his narrative just as much as Ariane's.

I really enjoyed the plot for this as well.  It definitely threw me for some loops.  While a few things caught me off guard, I got back on my feet quickly. One in particular was pretty devastating to think of the implications.  Both Zane and Ariane received some nasty surprises, but in the end things worked out for the better.  It was well paced and the length was just right in my opinion.  The story happens in a relatively short amount of time, but I wasn't left dying for more pages.  Perfectly paced.

I'm really excited to see where this series goes.  I really enjoy Kade's writing, and I've pretty much fallen in love with Ariane and her story.  I'm sure the sequels will be just as fantastic.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Review: Dualed

Synopsis: The city of Kersh is a safe haven, but the price of safety is high. Everyone has a genetic Alternate—a twin raised by another family—and citizens must prove their worth by eliminating their Alts before their twentieth birthday. Survival means advanced schooling, a good job, marriage—life.

Fifteen-year-old West Grayer has trained as a fighter, preparing for the day when her assignment arrives and she will have one month to hunt down and kill her Alt. But then a tragic misstep shakes West’s confidence. Stricken with grief and guilt, she’s no longer certain that she’s the best version of herself, the version worthy of a future. If she is to have any chance of winning, she must stop running not only from her Alt, but also from love . . . though both have the power to destroy her.

Elsie Chapman's suspenseful YA debut weaves unexpected romance into a novel full of fast-paced action and thought-provoking philosophy. When the story ends, discussions will begin about this future society where every adult is a murderer and every child knows there is another out there who just might be better.

My Review: Going into this novel based on the synopsis I was expecting a plot line that was completely different from what it actually ended up being. I had this expectation in my mind of how this story was going to play out, and I have to say I was completely off. Not that this was a bad thing, but I definitely had different expectations going into this novel. 

In a semi- post apocalyptic setting where medical advances, or rather blunders, have made humanity infertile, geneticists are able to artificially create life. Since life is such a precious commodity societies views have drastically shifted. You only get to live if you deserve it. Each person is created with a genetic duplicate, a virtual twin, that between the ages of 10-20, one of them has to prove their worth and kill their doppelganger.

West has lost all of her family over the years. She's only 15 and the only person she has left in the world is her brother. The harsh realities of her life were sometimes difficult but she faced every heartbreak and problem with a brave face and a stubborn attitude. That is until her brother dies. West's world is crumbling down around her, and the only thing she can do to keep her head above water is to turn to illegal means. West becomes a Striker, basically a hired assassin that kills others duplicates for them. If the government finds out she'll be killed, and she's ostracized by the rest of the population because she essentially helps people cheat their way to living. West even comes to enjoy her job to a certain extent. There's a certain level of pride to being an assassin. That is until she gets activated herself and is suddenly a target for her own doppelganger.  Suddenly West is thrown in the world that up until that point, she's only been an observer to.  Now she is the one on the run, being hunted, with only 30 days to kill or be killed.  
I have to say that the one thing that truly astonished me about this novel was the lack of moral confliction with West.  Yes, this is a kill or be killed world, but she's not just out to survive herself, she is killing others for money.  And she doesn't feel an ounce of guilt or confliction over her actions.  The most reflection we get on the matter is "that was a sloppy kill, I should have hit my mark on the first shot." She doesn't revel in killing people, to her, it is a job.  Nothing more. And death is so ingrained into this society it's rather disturbing to think about.  The whole "survival of the fittest" Mathus attitude towards life is really taken to a new extreme in this world.  But what really got me was that I wanted West to feel conflicted because I felt that she SHOULD be, ya know? But when it got right down to it, you are rooting for her to just kill her duplicate already.  And that's just the thing.  Every single character in this novel who is not a "complete" has another version of themselves out there.  Yet the author not once mentions these alternates' names.  They are faceless lurking presences in all of the character's minds, who will one day try and come and kill them.  Despite that they are both put in this situation and they're being manipulated, the character's "other" self is always viewed as the bad guy.   It was just interesting to read and was rather thought provoking to view society in that manner.

As far as plotting went, the pace of this novel wasn't your typical fare.  I still enjoyed the pace of the story, but I felt like it had some major time jumps that took you a while to get used to.  And like I said before, my initial thoughts on how this story was going to play out were completely wrong.  But it was a good twist.  The story kept you on your toys and you never really knew what to expect next.  The one thing I will say constructively about this novel is that the world building could really use some work.  A vague medical condition causing infertility.  A faceless evil government that is making the population kill each other for a place in a perfect world.  A briefly mentioned war and a small section of the US closing itself off to the rest of the world.  And altogether in the end, I'd say that nothing was resolved on a grand scale.  I got done with the book and I was like, okay well that went nowhere.  The story had no deeper level of meaning.  I just wanted MORE.  More thought, more detail, more information. 

Will there be a sequel? I have no idea.  Honestly I don't know what could possibly constitute the requirment to continue on with that story. Yet at the same time, I just feel like so many things were unresolved. Do I really care? Not really.  If there is more to come with this story then I probably won't continue to read it.  Good idea, some pretty thought provoking philosophical concepts, and yet can't say that I wasn't too enthralled by the story.