Saturday, January 4, 2014

Review: Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

Title: Scarlet
Author: Marissa Meyer
Page #: 452
Name and # of Series: Book 2 in The Lunar Chronicles
Rating: 
Book Blurb: 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.

Review:

Scarlet is so amazing that I'm finding it hard to even find the words to describe my love for this book and the whole series in general. Just when I was basically convinced that the whole YA genre was succumbing to a bunch of stale, overused tropes this series comes along and changes everything.

First I can't get enough of the premise of The Lunar chronicles. It manages to splice together the fairytale and dystopian genres in a way that is so refreshing and interesting to read. While the first book was solely focused on Cinder, in Scarlet the story revolves around the titular character who doubles as the red riding-hood character who falls in love with the Wolf. The wonderful thing about this book is that is also continues to follow Cinder and her escape from prison. For those who read my review of The Fiery Heart you will probably remember that I talked about how to successfully pull off multiple points of view. Meyer manages to do just that in this book in a way that is not jarring or awkward, but perfectly crafted. Readers aren't forced to endure ridiculous recaps of events in the story from other characters' perspectives and get the chance to follow along with two engaging points of view.

Which brings me to my next point. Both of the female protagonists are so dynamic, intelligent, and strong that I can't help but love them. So many YA protagonists lately have been one dimensional and continuously stuck in love triangles that a change from that formula is wonderful. I love Cinder's further character development as she struggles to come to grips with her new identity and Lunar powers. As much as I liked her relationship with Kai, I'm glad it doesn't play a significant part in this book. Had it been in Scarlet I think it would have detracted from Cinder's personal growth. 

Scarlet's story was also just as intriguing to read and I appreciated how she came into her own strength on the quest to save her grandmother. My only complaint of this book is that readers really don't get enough of her perspective. I want to know more about her backstory and I wish we could have had a scene or two of Scarlet and her Grandmother interacting before she was kidnapped. I also felt like Scarlet's relationship with Wolf was a bit of an insta-romance. There just wasn't enough interaction between the two of them to make their relationship believable. Hopefully their romance will develop completely in the next book.

The ending of the book was enough of a cliffhanger to make me desperately want to read the next book in the series. If you are one of the people who hasn't got around to reading The Lunar Chronicles I highly suggest that you pick up Cinder and Scarlet immediately. You really will not regret it. 

Friday, January 3, 2014

Review: The Fiery Heart by Richelle Mead

Title: The Fiery Heart
Author: Richelle Mead
Page #: 420
Name and # of Series: Book 4 in Bloodlines Series
Rating:

Book Blurb: Sydney Sage is an Alchemist, one of a group of humans who dabble in magic and serve to bridge the worlds of humans and vampires. They protect vampire secrets - and human lives.

In The Indigo Spell, Sydney was torn between the Alchemist way of life and what her heart and gut were telling her to do. And in one breathtaking moment that Richelle Mead fans will never forget, she made a decision that shocked even her. . . .

But the struggle isn't over for Sydney. As she navigates the aftermath of her life-changing decision, she still finds herself pulled in too many directions at once. Her sister Zoe has arrived, and while Sydney longs to grow closer to her, there's still so much she must keep secret. Working with Marcus has changed the way she views the Alchemists, and Sydney must tread a careful path as she harnesses her profound magical ability to undermine the way of life she was raised to defend. Consumed by passion and vengeance, Sydney struggles to keep her secret life under wraps as the threat of exposure — and re-education — looms larger than ever.

Pulses will race throughout this smoldering fourth installment in the New York Times bestselling Bloodlines series, where no secret is safe.

Review: 

Yes you saw that right sigh 3.5 stars. I had so many expectations for this book and was so determined to love it, but sadly so many parts just fell flat for me. It was like somebody pulled a switch and exchanged the dynamic story Mead actually wrote for typical YA drivel. I know that is a rather bold statement which I plan to wholly explain, but I would just like to say that I still enjoyed this book and I won't be ignoring the positive aspects of this new installment in the Bloodlines Series.

Before I discuss why I had to rate this book so low I would just like to take some time to discuss this cover. Is it just me or are the covers for this series really quite awful. While I applaud them for using the same models I just don't like it when covers use models because it forces an image of the characters into the readers' minds. Not to mention these two models, which I assume are meant to be Sydney and Adrian, have the worst facial expressions. I love the designs that they incorporate around the title. I kinda wish that unique graphic design could be the entire cover. Additionally the cover that I bought has that awful sticker advertising the release of the movie adaption of The Vampire Academy. No matter how many times I've tried I can never successfully get those stickers off.

Now that I've done that little bit of complaining it's time to point out the flaws in this book that prevented me from fully enjoying it. Some are a little bit nitpicky and others are significant. First, there was far too much back story in the opening chapters. While I really appreciate incorporating important plot details from the previous book (particularly since I read so many books that my memory can get a little fuzzy), the details provided here cover basic aspects of the world that Mead's stories take place in. We are now reading the 4th book in a spin off series that originated out of a 6 book series. I'm 100 percent positive I remember the differences between Moroi, Dhampirs, and Alchemists.

I know some people will hate me for saying this, but I wasn't sold on Adrian's point of view. While I've always loved Adrian as a character, his voice just wasn't interesting enough and didn't have a real purpose. Adrian does go through some substantial character growth in the book, which I appreciated, but I honestly believe that it would have had a stronger effect coming from Sydney's point of view. Another huge problem with having two points of view is that readers get to experience an important event in the plot from one perspective and then we are forced to go over the same events all over again from the other character's point of view. I was consistently frustrated when Sydney would experience something and then from Adrian's perspective we had to hear about it all over again. Those moments could have been used for more plot or character development. Alternative points of view only work when the characters are in two different places with two distinct experiences plotwise.

My last point of contention has to be the complete lack of a dynamic plot and the importance placed on Adrian and Sydney's romance. Since the beginning of this series I've been waiting for Sydney and Adrian to finally get involved, but I didn't realize it would result in about 150 pages of pure fluffy, melodramatic romantic crap about how the two of them love each other so much and can't stand to be separated. Sydney becomes one of those ridiculous YA heroines that doesn't care for herself or the significant events going on around her and instead focuses on her romantic love interest. Oh and let's not forget that ridiculous "The Center Will Hold" crap. What an awful romantic tagline. There is no way you can spin an altered line from Yeats' The Second Coming which refers to the antichrist, the apocalypse, and his theories about gyres to be romantic and swoon-worthy. I'm just so disappointed because Rose and Dimitri's relationship was so unique and I wanted Sydney and Adrian's to be just as interesting to read about.

This repetitive and contrived romance dominated the book so much that there was barely any plot. Most of the action is crammed into the last 40 or so pages and everything that happened was predictable. The actual plot functioned as an extended cliffhanger. The silver lining to this sad grey cloud is that the next book should be action-packed and have a discernible plotline. (fingers crossed).

That being said The Fiery Heart was still an entertaining and quick read. I found Sydney's interactions with her sister to be one of the better parts of this book and helped to further develop her character. Her relationship with Ms. Terwilliger was also one of the highlights of this book and the entire series in general. While I am being rather negative towards this book I'm too invested in the characters and Mead's world to give up on the series just yet. I can only hope that the sequel will make up for all of the above shortcomings.