Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Book Review: Cress by Marissa Meyer

It's amazing what you can do with a pinch of imagination and a sprinkle or two of creativity. Just take a look at the shelves upon shelves of retellings of classical tales, and you'll realize just how much power authors have. Their ability to take something old, then completely transform it into something of their own is awesome in its own right, and it never ceases to amaze me! Marissa Meyer does just that in the "Lunar Chronicles", reimagining traditional fairytales and giving it a sci-fi spin. "Cress" is the third and latest installment to the series, introducing a twist on the time-old story of Rapunzel (I mean, the hair on the cover is a dead giveaway).

Cress can't let down her hair--or her guard. Trapped in a satellite since childhood with only her computer for company, Cress has become a master hacker, and is determined to escape Thamaturge Sybil's clutches. Her only hope of freedom lies with Cinder and her friends--especially her handsome accomplice, Captain Thorne-- though things aren't exactly easy when Queen Levana orders her to track down the fugitives, fearing that Cinder will destroy her plans to takeover Earth. But when the rescue mission goes awry, the group is separated. With Queen Levana and Emperor Kai's marriage drawing closer and closer, Cress, Cinder and Scarlet know that they may be the only ones who can save Earth--before it's too late.

What I especially love about the "Lunar Chronicles" series is that despite the fact that new characters are constantly being introduced with every book, the old characters still play central roles in the story. Cress is the newest addition to the lively cast of characters as a re-embodiment of Rapunzel. What struck me about Cress is that she seems incredibly young, especially given her petite size (the mass of hair doesn't exactly help her height either). Admittedly, it took me a little while to get used to the idea of Cress being a teenager rather than an eight-year old, but her naivete does make sense given her solitary confinement throughout her entire childhood. In fact, her awkwardness and zeal makes her a pretty adorable character, especially her infatuation with Captain Thorne. Thorne, of course, is as charmingly arrogant and witty as ever, and I was delighted to see him play a larger role in the book. It was really interesting to see their relationship develop, and what made it even more enjoyable to read was the fact that it was developed believably. While we did have Cress already head-over-heels "in love" with the dashing Thorne, Ms. Meyer took their relationship into unexpected directions, away from the gag-worthy insta-love cliche, which added a very realistic dimension to their budding romance.

The rest of the characters in "Cress" were just as exciting to follow in this latest installment to the series. Cinder is, as always, a strong, determined heroine, one who really has developed a lot throughout the series so far, and is still struggling to come to terms with her newfound identity and the responsibilities that come with it. Though Scarlet and Wolf aren't as central to the story as they were in the second book, they are still notably part of the team, and it was endearing to see their relationship in the aftermath of "Scarlet." Kai, Dr. Erland, and the rest of the gang were also present, and it really is like seeing old friends again! Ms. Meyer's decision to have the chapters told from all these different characters' points of view really added dimensions and layers to the story, and gave readers the time to really be with all the characters they've become so familiar with over the course of the series, which I appreciated a great deal.

The plot of "Cress" is exciting and compelling throughout, picking up from right where we left off in the previous book and catapulting through adventures and complications with an appropriately fast pace. The stakes are high from the onset, and the tension remains up and running throughout the entire novel. A lot of things happen in the story, especially the big revelation with Dr. Erland (you'll have to read it to find out what it is for yourself!), and what really strikes me is that I still remember all that's happened, despite the fact that I finished reading the novel about a week ago. And that's when you know you've read a really good book--when it's memorable!

Overall, "Cress" is an intergalactic adventure that is not to be missed. The newest addition to the "Lunar Chronicles" series is jam-packed with a dynamic cast of characters and a stellar storyline. I highly recommend this series for anyone looking for a good read--I already can't wait for the next installment, "Winter" (you're up next, Snow White).

Rating: 5/5

P.S. See my review for the previous book in the "Lunar Chronicles" series, "Scarlet," here!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Book Review: Into the Still Blue by Veronica Rossi

I've put off writing this review for a while, and I just can't place my finger on why. After crossing off busyness (I lolled about watching TV when I had free time this week), sickness (a little runny nose never hindered writing), and laziness (I really did want to write about something, anything), I've come to the conclusion that I didn't really feel like there was much to say about this book. "Into the Still Blue" is the finale to Veronica Rossi's "Under the Never Sky" trilogy, bringing Aria and Perry's journey to an end. But was it as fresh and exciting as its two predecessors? I can't say I know for sure.

The race to the Still Blue has come to an uneasy stalemate. Sable and Hess have taken Cinder, the only person who can control the deadly Aether storms, but to no avail. The Dwellers and Outsiders, who are united only in their fear of their desperate situation, are confined within a cave they are using as their makeshift refuge. With Roar blinded by grief and loss, Perry and Aria know that it's up to them to do something. Out of options, they assemble an unlikely team for an impossible rescue mission, one that will test their loyalties, courage and love. With time running out, can Perry and Aria help those they love--and keep their love for each other intact?

Let me start off with the characters. The entire novel alternates between Aria and Perry's points of view, which I think was a good decision since it gives us a more holistic perspective of what's going on in the story and allows us to make connections as readers. Not to mention it provides ample excitement with lots of potential for dramatic irony! To me, both Aria and Perry are fairly interesting and engaging protagonists to follow throughout the entire trilogy. They come from two very different backgrounds, have different personalities and face different responsibilities. They're both mature at this point in the story, and I really liked the way they worked together as a couple in the face of such enormous responsibilities to lead the Dwellers and Outsiders to a safe haven. But what kept me from becoming really invested in these two characters was that they didn't entirely stand out to me. They kind of lost the "spark" that made them unique individuals in the first two books, though I guess given the great deal of character development in the previous books, it's understandable. This is not to say that they were flat, boring characters--they just weren't as exciting as they were before.

One of the characters I did find exciting, though, was, as always, Roar. What happened in the last book in the trilogy obviously has a huge impact on Roar, and the way he struggled with these feelings of loss and grief was really believable and saddening to read about. Yet what makes Roar, well, Roar, is his ability to still be himself, even if he's lost in anger and thoughts of revenge. Take, for example, his interactions with Sable's son (I can't for the life of me remember what his name is--sorry!). There's some humorous banter going on between the two, which reminds us of Roar's wit and dry humour. And that's what I love about Roar--he's such a three-dimensional character, with layers and layers of thought and emotion to him. I'm sure if you were to read this trilogy, you'd fall for him, too.

What I think ultimately let me down when I was reading "Into the Still Blue" was the plot. I just don't think it's all that memorable. Admittedly, Ms. Rossi does a great job with tying up loose ends and giving us a satisfying ending, but the storyline itself wasn't as compelling as it could've been. Sure, quite a few things happen, but they just didn't excite me as much as they could have. The climax, for example, wasn't as great of a climax as it could've been. From my recollection of the story, it was a lot of running around and shooting people. Don't get me wrong, the story was most definitely not boring nor did it induce yawns out of me--it just wasn't as scintillating, and didn't get me hooked.

Overall, "Into the Still Blue" is a fairly good ending to the "Under the Never Sky" trilogy, though I wouldn't say that it was the most memorable way to end it. I would still give it a read, especially if you've read the first two books, since you may find it more exciting!

Rating: 3/5

Saturday, March 1, 2014

March '14 Releases!

Spring is almost here! With the chilly days and the endless grey slush bordering the sidewalks, winter's becoming a bore. Now I'm yearning for bright, blue skies and sunlight that gently kisses your face--see, I'm getting all poetic now. To make the long days seem just a little bit shorter, we, of course, have the help of new books being released this month. So hibernate the rest of the winter away and snuggle in the warmth and coziness of your bed with a book!

"Panic" by Lauren Oliver
Release date: Mar. 4

"The Winner's Curse" (The Winner's Trilogy #1) by Marie Rutkoski
Release date: Mar. 4

"Words of Radiance" (The Stormlight Archive #2) by Brandon Sanderson
Release date: Mar. 4

"Nil" by Lynne Matson
Release date: Mar. 4

"Half Bad" (Half Life Trilogy #1) by Sally Green
Release date: Mar. 4

"The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender" by Leslye Walton
Release date: Mar. 25