Scarlet by Marissa Meyer


Cinder has fled the Eastern Commonwealth into space. She’s supposed to meet Dr. Erland in Africa and talk about next steps regarding Princess Selene, but they need a new power cell for the ship and Cinder needs answers about her past. Answers that might be with the person who took her in when she escaped from Luna: Michelle Benoit.

But halfway around the world, Michelle Benoit is missing and her granddaughter, Scarlet, is desperately searching for her. The police keep telling Scarlet that her grand-mere is crazy and she’ll find her way home soon, but Scarlet knows something is wrong. She meets Wolf, a mysterious man with a strange tattoo and problematic allegiances, who seems to know more about Michelle’s disappearance than he’s sharing. And when Cinder and Scarlet meet, they must work to stay one step ahead of the Lunars out to kill them both.

I liked Scarlet better than Cinder, probably because I like Scarlet as a character better than I liked Cinder. She’s stronger; she’s got a lot of fire to her. A little Mary-Sue-ish, sure, but she’s angry and she’s ready to act. Cinder just wanted to run. I’m not usually a fan of changing characters between books, but Meyer did it so well. She tied the two storylines together really well. I’m looking forward to seeing how Cress will come into play in the next novel.

I also think the coupling in this novel worked better than in Cinder. In Cinder, Kai was uselessly flirting with Cinder and he invited her to the ball. But Cinder spent the whole book pretending to be someone different. She didn’t want him to know she was cyborg, she didn’t want him to know that Adri couldn’t afford nice things, she didn’t want him to know anything about her, really. Scarlet doesn’t have time for that. She’s on a mission and pretending to be someone she’s not would expend energy she just doesn’t have for that. Her determination gives her a genuineness we didn’t see from Cinder. Plus there was some actual romance involved.

It’s frustrating that Cinder chose not to travel to Africa to meet up with Dr. Erland. He’s obviously got answers to her questions, but she’s afraid that he wants to put her on the Lunar throne. Instead she goes looking for answers on her own and almost gets herself killed because of it. I get it, she’s never been autonomous; Adri was always in charge. Now she’s got some freedom and she’s not ready to throw that away. But there are people dying. For her. The least she can do is indulge Dr. Erland’s request that she see him.

Like I said about Cinder; this isn’t the greatest literary work I’ve ever read, but it’s entertaining and it’s fun. Once you pick it up, you’re not going to want to put it down.



Cinder by Marissa Meyer



Years ago, Adri’s husband, Garan, travelled to Europe and brought home a cyborg baby and a case of the plague. Garan died and left Adri with the baby, named Cinder, who grew up to be a gifted mechanic. When Cinder’s sister, Peony is diagnosed with the uncurable plague, Cinder’s guardian donates her to the plague research department, which is usually as much a death sentence as contracting the plague on its own. Upon her enlistment Cinder learns several truths about her heritage and her own past and the relationship between her planet and the Lunar colony on the moon.


Disclaimer: I have read this book before. It’s been a while, and I realized I needed a reread before I got into Winter, the last book in the series. It’s a quick read and it’s fun, so I don’t mind.

Seeing Cinder be so ashamed of being a cyborg is frustrating. It’s understandable because of the level of prejudice she sees due to being a cyborg, but watching her wrestle over telling Kai about it is frustrating. On a similar note, her guardian’s treatment of her is frustrating. I get that Adri blames Cinder for her husband’s death, and I understand that she’s not her child. She doesn’t need to love Cinder, but she does need to treat her like a decent human being. And the fact that laws require even adult cyborgs to have a guardian, to be owned, is degrading.

Despite Adri’s desire for Cinder to live a life of deprivation, Cinder’s cyborg circuitry and programming is remarkable. When she’s delivered to the royal labs for letumosis experimentation, they tell her so. Who decided to give an orphan state-of-the-art hardware? Why didn’t she know she was equipped with that? These are questions we’re left wondering about.

Marissa Meyer has a knack for plot development. She poses the right questions at the right times. She reveals the best twists at the time when it would provide the most impact. She creates tension in a way that doesn’t also create frustration. The characters are compelling enough (especially Iko, the eccentric teeny-bopper android we can all relate to), but Cinder‘s true merit lies in it’s plot development and the correlation between seemingly unrelated plot points.

This book isn’t an all-time favorite of mine, but it is good. It’s fast-paced and a lot of fun to read. I like picking out the parallels between Cinder in her hundreds of years in the future (after the Fourth World War) society, and Cinderella, a fairytale that’s really old, even in the present day. I’m excited to rediscover the Lunar Chronicles and share my thoughts.

Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson


Cassie hasn’t spoken to Lia in months until she calls Lia 33 times in one night. The next day, they news breaks that Cassie died alone in a motel room. She called Lia 33 times. Lia was sent to inpatient before her and Cassie stopped speaking. She was being treated for an eating disorder after she passed out while driving. Lia restricted, Cassie puked. And together they would be the skinniest girls in school. But then Cassie died. She called Lia 33 times.


Laurie Halse Anderson writes as if she’s in Lia’s mind. The thoughts are scattered and rushed. Forbidden concepts are crossed out and written over; still there, but too scary to consider. Lia looks at food, and she sees numbers. She looks at herself and sees a giant, distorted, fat version of her body. She steps on the scale and it reads “NOT GOOD ENOUGH”.

Reading Lia’s thoughts and seeing her compulsions play out is… tough. It’s enabling, it’s triggering, and it’s terrifying. My biggest complaint is that we see these obsessions, we see these thought processes, we see the low self-esteem. But we don’t see how this started or how it developed. Her eating disorder is all-consuming now, but it wasn’t always. We see Lia and how she is, but never how she was.

I was unable to empathize with Lia on any level, and her story felt oh-so familiar. Broken family, with a step-sister she loves more than any other human on the planet. Her family, who usually chooses to ignore her struggles, is suddenly hit with reality when someone close to her and in a similar situation dies. Lia hits rock bottom, nearly dying before she realizes she wants to live. It’s the same anorexia story told time and time again. And Lia’s a flat, paper person who I had a terrible time trying to connect with. The compelling part of this novel should have been Lia and her bottoming out, her development and her growth. Instead the highlight was simply the writing style.



Legend by Marie Lu


Legend (Legend, #1)

June is a wealthy young daughter of the Republic. She scored perfectly on her Trial exam and is being trained, like her parents and her brother to serve the Republic as a member of its military. When her brother is killed by the Republic’s most wanted criminal, she seeks revenge. But on her journey to avenge him, she finds he’s been hiding some of the Republic’s darkest secrets for her to find.


Day is a poor boy from the slums. Or was before he failed his Trails. Instead of being sent to the death camps like the rest of the children the Republic deems unworthy of service or work, Day manages to escape. Now he does his best to stay alive and wreak havoc in the Republic’s cities. When his brother is diagnosed with the plague, one of the many illnesses that ravage the poorest sectors of the city, Day must steal a cure from the hospital, one of the most well-guarded buildings in the city.

I’m a big sucker for the Robin Hood stories. Steal from the rich to give to the poor. They really don’t need the extravagance anyway. I also really like a show-off. Needless to say, I loved Day. He was witty and quick on his feet. Impulsive and protective of his family and his people. He lived by his own rules and his own morals, like many children on the street do.

June is meant to showcase the difference between the two worlds. They are essentially the same person – smart, showy, with extreme physical prowess – but one of them was raised as a legacy, with everything that entails. She inherited her family name and their home in the high rise. She attended their alma mater and earned a coveted spot in well-respected patrol. She was afforded chances that Day was not simply because of her name and status.

Meanwhile, Day comes from the wrong side of the tracks. He’s had none of June’s education and none of her family history to bolster him. As a result, the Republic decides he is unworthy and unusable. He’s sentenced to die and escapes because of his own skill, in the process turning himself into Public Enemy number 1.

The dystopian genre really is my favorite. It gives rise to strong characters; these are heroes that I look up to. They’re entirely normal people until, for whatever reason, they find they can’t be. Reading dystopian gives an insight into a human thirst for power and how it develops, manifests, and makes itself known. As far as dystopian novels go, this book was really enjoyable. Honestly, give me any book with an angsty teenager who hates the government instead of his mom or a young women who is the only one who can spark the rebellion and save the citizens. It’s like my crack.

Was it any more than fun? Not terribly. It’s the same overpowering government using the same control tactics we see in so many other dystopian novels. There was room for improvement in the history and world-building department. The characters’ pasts could have been better fleshed. But for a quick, addictive read, it was fun, and I’m looking forward to reading the sequel.

Fans of Legend should also check and out Metaltown by Kristen Simmons. The two books have similar themes, ideas, and writing style, although Legend is a bit more high-tech and high profile.


The Jewel by Amy Ewing


The royalty of the Lone City live in the center of their small island, in a neighborhood titled the Jewel. The women of the Jewel are infertile, and no one can tell them why. So instead of looking for an answer, they look to the lower class. Any girl of child-bearing age who finds herself capable of performing feats of magic known as Auguries is taken from her home, trained to be a surrogate, and auctioned off to the highest bidder. The talent of your surrogate-slave is indicative of your wealth and power in the hierarchy of the Jewel.


I bought this book because it was cheap and I was drunk (this actually happens more than I care to admit. I like to think it’s my past self looking out for my future self). I also enjoyed the Handmaid’s Tale, both the book and the television series, so another series based on making slaves out of child-bearing individuals seemed timely. For the first time in a long time, I started reading a book with no idea what to expect.

Unfortunately, it fell flat. I found myself wanting more. Violet is nothing to me. She’s superficial and complacent. She blankly wanders through her life, being shepherded by her caretaker or her prep artist or her maid. Her solitary shining moment comes after the doctor has placed the first embryo. Violet was drugged and strapped down while they placed another’s women’s child in her womb, and she feels understandably violated, shell-shocked and mortified.

This is so disappointing because that’s one of my favorite things about dystopian. The character usually finds herself in circumstances that make it clear that complacence is no longer viable. The characters are usually down-trodden teens with a strong moral compass who decides enough is e-fucking-nough. Violet, enslaved as a walking womb, finds none of that strength. She is neither headstrong, nor inspiring.

Because I could care less about anyone in this book, I was fighting giggles in what was meant to be one of the most tense moments in the novel. Violet and her love interest were being chastised for their forbidden love (yes, chastised. Like teenagers who got caught sneaking out in the 21st century), and I’m trying not to laugh, even though somebody could be killed over it.

Ash is just as much a blank slate as any other character, and as a result the romance is sudden, undeveloped, and uninteresting. This relationship developed far too quickly, and it just… happened. There was no build up and no reveal to get excited about. We were told they were in love and we were meant to believe it. In fact, this was true for the whole novel. It felt like the entire book was a summary of what had happened. Nothing ever felt like it was happening in the moment.

This book wasn’t exciting or captivating. It was barely interesting.  It barely even crossed the line into interesting. Will I read the next book? Maybe, if I can check it out from the library.

The Last Star by Rick Yancey



Cassie has reunited with her beloved Sam and he’s forgotten his ABCs. This ultimate loss of childhood reminds Cassie that this world will never be the same after the Others. As long as that terrifying green orb is in the sky, the humans left over will be afraid and alone; and that’s how the Others want it.


This was a terrible ending to a sub-par series. On top of everyone being so annoying, there was a lot of inconsistent characterization and plotting. There’s something to be said for trusting your readers to understand what you’re getting at, but leading them blindly and letting them walk off into the abyss is something else entirely. The plot was… questionable at best. At times, it was so fast I was like WTF is happening? Sometimes entire chapters would pass with nothing interesting happening.

Just a heads up: the conflict of this story boils down to climate change. And how even the the crazy aliens and military men recognize this is happening. This is really a mercy kill; they’ll kill 6 billion people because significantly fewer people can do significantly less damage. The aliens are altruistic; they’re doing us a favor. They get nothing out of it except for feeling philanthropic because they stopped the disaster that was the human race from destroying itself. Thought I’d recap, because it’s not like it’s ever plainly explained. It’s all dramatic allusions and riddles. 

Yancey never did answer why they don’t just kill everyone either. Yes, I get that they want to stop the cooperation of the human race; make it so they can’t trust each other long enough to cooperate and collaborate. So many of the world’s advances come from people working together; if they can end that, they end human advancement. But here’s what I still don’t understand. If they just killed everyone, there’d be no cooperation to worry about. Maybe that’s short-sighted of me. I guess eventually some new life-form would evolve from the ashes of everything the humans left behind. At least with a few paranoid humans left, there would be something there to kill it before it became problematic.

I’ve seen this ending to Cassie’s story before in films like Independence Day and Oblivion. That was the Divergent series ended, and people hated it then. They saw it for what it was; lazy story-writing. There are no loose endings left to worry about. We needn’t be bothered with the pesky emotional impact, because it’s the main character, and the only one who we were ever allowed to get emotionally attached to. With Cassie, this sort of selflessness is not something we’ve seen from her, so it’s not just lazy, it’s also out of character. The ending was overall unfulfilling.

Overall, it’s crappy story writing. Yancey attempted to be as profound as posssible while impersonating a teenage girl. He made Cassie a rambling, babbling, high school bobble head who went through an existential crisis when her existence was threatened. The plot was poorly planned, poorly paced, and poorly executed. The problems that have prevailed through the last two novels returned with a vengeance in this one, culminating in an unsatisfying ending.

I would not recommend this series. Rumor has it Yancey is planning a second trilogy surrounding these same characters and others in this world. I may pick it up from the local public library, but I wouldn’t count on it.



Traitor to the Throne by Alwyn Hamilton

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Amani has crossed the desert with her foreign prince and joined forces with his brother Ahmed, the Rebel Prince. The Rebellion has taken half the desert with the help of the Blue-Eyed Bandit. When a mission to take back a rogue city in the Rebellion’s and a rescue from the capital go sideways, the Mirajin Army find the rebel camp in the oasis and ambush. Amani, hours after reuniting with Jin, is taken to the Mirajin capital of Izman, where the Sultan is paying top dollar for any Demdji.

Have you ever read a sequel that’s as good as the original or even better? Traitor to the Throne is. The plotting done so well. There are plots and sub-plots, intertwining brilliantly to create a fully fleshed story. Faces Amani knew in her old life come back to haunt her; those who were once her friends, help the Sultan keep her down. And someone she never trusted turns into her greatest ally. Once captured, Amani makes herself useful to the Sultan, giving him reason to give her a little more freedom and a little more trust.

Hamilton doesn’t really bother with filler. If a part of the story doesn’t serve a purpose or if we need catching up, we get it in her gorgeous prose, told as a story within a story. And I absolutely love reading the stories. The Mirajin mythologies and legends are all so beautiful and so sad. The last book was heavy on the legend of the Atiyah and Sakhr. This time we keep hearing the love story of Princess Hawa and Atillah. As per usual, the stories are based in truth, and provide valuable lessons that are important to the real events of the book.

I’m a sap. I love reading about love, and this book has a lot of mushy love stories in it. Amani and Jin, Imin and Navid, Madhi and Sayyida. It’s all so swoon-insipiring and sad. The actions of so many of these characters, and the events that occur as a result of them, are done in the name of the person they love. Jin’s a runner; we knew that back in Dustwalk. I just don’t think Amani thought he’d ever run on her. The time they spend apart in this novel only increases the impact when they’re together again.

I still don’t like Ahmed. Is he charismatic and inspiring? Yes, definitely. Would he make a benevolent ruler? Probably. He obviously means well. But, like Amani, I have doubts about his ability to hold a country against the foreigners fighting over Mirajin deserts. He’s having trouble holding half the desert with his forces, and I’m not sure he can do what needs to be done even with the full Mirajin army at his back.

5/5. Would recommend.