Sunday, June 26, 2016

The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You by Lily Anderson

"This was so much bigger than the monkey bars. This was the Rebels versus the Empire. This was the Doctor versus the Daleks. This was Ripley versus the Xenomorphs.
This was a real, true, full-scale war..."

The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You ended up surprising me. At first, it sort of annoyed me. It's based on Much Ado About Nothing, and the Beatrice (Here, she goes by Trixie) and Benedick (Ben) characters are savage. Every interaction explodes into a fight. In my opinion, it's mostly Trixie's fault. She takes every little comment as an insult and shoots back twice as hard, often going for very personal stuff (His mom leaving his family, his friends turning on him). I'm not saying that Ben is innocent in all this. He keeps up his side of the fight. They just can't seem to get along, they are too different...or too similar.

The kids in the story attend a school for geniuses called Messina Prep, or the Mess. It's highly competitive to the point that the school posts rankings every week. Ben's best friend Cornell is number one, Trixie's best friend Harper is two, Ben is three, and Trixie is four. She vows to change that by the end of the year so that she graduates in third place and can rub her victory in Ben's face. Their rivalry started when he pushed her off the monkey bars and broke her arm, and Trixie will not rest until she wins. 

Things start to change when Harper and Cornell finally get together. They have been dancing around each other for a long time, and he finally asked her to the Harvest Festival. The only thing in the way of their adorable, nerdy love is Ben and Trixie's inability to get along.

At the festival, Harper and Cornell are having such a good time that they end up forgetting about Trixie. She ends up alone in the surprisingly scary haunted house and has a panic attack. Thankfully, a kindly axe-wielding clown escorts her to safety. She actually became attached to her rescuer, to the point that she considers seeking him out as a possible romantic prospect. Imagine her surprise when she finds out that the clown was Ben, and she had been insulting him to his masked face. After that, Ben and Trixie no longer fight. He just ignores her, and vice versa.

In a moment of Shakesperian hijinks, Trixie overhears Harper and their other friend Meg discussing her. They lament how tragic it is that some poor young man is in love with her. There is no way she would ever return the sentiments, she would likely end up mocking him. It could be tragic...he might even kill himself! Who is this poor, lovelorn young man? None other than Ben!

Before, Ben couldn't say a word to Trixie without getting his head ripped off, but now she is civil, even nice. She lets him share her Spiderman umbrella when they walk to class in the rain. She lends him her Buffy comics and he introduces her to Saga. When they were arguing, they got on my nerves, but they made me squee a bit with geek cuteness.

Trixie still isn't ready to tell her friends, or, God forbid, her parents, about her new friendship. Ben buys her a ticket to the Winter Ball and it seems like they might actually be a couple. She buys a new dress, geeks it up, then all hell breaks loose.

Throughout the year, students have been put on academic probation for cheating. It was a couple of athletes and a D&D kid, nobody that they knew well. The Mess is a demanding school, so it's not too surprising. When Jack, twin brother of the class president, is suspended, everyone starts to pay attention. At the dance, Trixie finds out that everything was pinned on Harper. It looks like she framed her classmates for cheating. She is expelled, and Cornell doesn't stand up for her. (This is definitely a better scenario than the one from the play, which involved the Harper character being framed for having sex with a guy who wasn't her fiance. An update was definitely required.) It lands on Trixie to solve the mystery and clear Harper's good name.

Like I said, the book grated me at first, like an episode of  The Big Bang Theory. It's all smart people, Doctor Who, comic books, banter, blah. After I really got into the book, and Trixie and Ben chilled a little, I really loved the story. There were full on smiles and giggles on my end and, of course, happy tears. It's really cute and funny and led to me binge-reading the Saga graphic novels. I highly recommend it!

I received my copy of The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You through the Goodreads First Reads program in exchange for an honest review. It's available for purchase now.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Stars Above by Marissa Meyer

Stars Above was the final title in my Lunar Chronicles marathon...kind of. I read about half the stories along the way, then finished my project with the remaining stories. The book is a bunch of short stories that don't have a lot of effect on the main series. They're fun, but not strictly necessary.

The stories are:

1. The Little Android
This is a retelling of The Little Mermaid where an android falls in love with a human after saving his life. There is a short appearance by Cinder. This was previously released online.
2. Glitches
We see Cinder first arriving at her new home. I would have liked to have seen more of this, honestly. This story was in the back of my paperback copy of Cinder.
3. The Queen's Army
This one shows Wolf taken from his family to train for Levana's army. The story was in the back of my paperback copy of Scarlet.
4. Carswell's Guide to Being Lucky
Cress asked him about this story, where a young Carswell defends a girl being picked on at school. She thought it showed how good he truly is, but he had ulterior motives. You could get the story by subscribing to Marissa Meyer's newsletter.
5. The Keeper
A new story that shows a little of Scarlet's grandmother, Michelle Benoit, and how she became Cinder's guardian.
6. After Sunshine Passes By
Another new story, it shows a little of Cress' time with the other shells before she is placed on her satellite. 
7. The Princess and the Guard
New, we get to see Winter and Jacin growing up together. We also get to see the sad events that made Winter decide not to use her gifts anymore.
8. The Mechanic
New, it shows Cinder and Kai meeting from Kai's perspective. It's tragically short.
9. Something Old, Something New
A brand-new story that shows a little of what happens after Winter. Someone's getting married!

With this book, the Lunar Chronicles is complete. I really do like these books, and I enjoyed spending a couple months reading them all. 

Winter by Marissa Meyer

“And they all lived happily to the end of their days...”

Finally, we come to the end (Other than Stars Above). You can read the rest of the series here: Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Fairest.

Winter is Levana's stepdaughter, cousin to Cinder/Princess Selene. Many Lunars believe that she is the legitimate heir to the throne, and the people love her, so Levana hates her. Winter doesn't use her Lunar gift so she is slowly going mad. In order to get her to break, Levana manipulated her into cutting her face. Winter didn't break, and she still has the scars on her face.

Winter is in love with her childhood friend Jacin Clay. He joined Team Cinder last book, betrayed them at the end, but is kinda on their side anyways. His true allegiance lies with Winter. Winter asks for Scarlet as a pet, and gets to keep the poor girl. They form a strange friendship.

Meanwhile, Team Cinder decides to return Kai. Their new plan is to change the wedding venue to Luna. They will then sneak onto the planet and rally the poor, working class Lunars into fighting Levana. What they don't count on is an outbreak of Letumosis, which we just found out in Cress can infect Lunars now.

So the whole gang is on Luna, reuniting as the story goes. There's some angsty stuff about how far you can go before becoming like your enemy, how much you should sacrifice for the greater good, all that good stuff. We do have a lot of characters at the end, and a lot of plotlines to cover, but I think they are handled well. It was a satisfying conclusion for me, and I'll miss the characters I've come to know.

Fairest by Marissa Meyer

Continuing my Lunar Chronicles marathon, I read Fairest. It tells Queen Levana's origin story. We knew about most of the events in the book, we just get to read about them happening first hand.

The book starts just after Levana's parents died and her older sister, Channery, became Queen. Channery was cruel and spiteful. She used her Lunar gifts to hurt others, including her younger sister. Levana always uses a glamor to cover up her appearance, which is covered in scars from a childhood accident. Her sister mocks her, exposes her true self, is generally a bitch.

Levana is still a teenager when she falls in love with a guard. Unfortunately, he is married and his wife is about to have his baby. She dies after childbirth, and Levana uses her gifts to get the guard to fall in love with her. They marry, and his daughter becomes hers.

Not to be outdone, Channery becomes pregnant and gives birth to a girl named Selene, who we come to know as Cinder. Selene and Levana's stepdaughter Winter grow up together. Channery dies from a mysterious illness, leaving Luna for Selene to rule when she is old enough. Levana serves as regent and starts to think that maybe it would be for the best if she was Queen permanently. There's only the problem of her pesky niece in the way...

I hope that Fairest wasn't supposed to make me feel sympathy for Levana, because I didn't. A lot of terrible things were done to her by her sister, but she ended up doing just as many terrible things, if not more. The book did make me wonder about the Lunar powers. Levana saw herself as good, as knowing what's best for those around her. What if she wasn't just controlling those around her, but was also manipulating herself to act worse and worse, to believe that the horrible things were all for the best? I don't know if this has any basis, it just intrigued me.

Cress by Marissa Meyer

At the end of 2015, I challenged myself to read the entire Lunar Chronicles series, according to Marissa Meyer's recommendations. I had hoped to finish the series by the end of the year, but came a little short. I reread Cinder and Scarlet, as well as the novellas in between the books, and managed to finish Cress just after the new year.

You can read my reviews of Cinder and Scarlet through the links. I am somewhat ashamed that it took me so long to read Cress, but that's the way books are: too many titles, too little time.

The Lunar Chronicles is a fairy tale-science fiction mash-up. Cinderella is part cyborg and Red Riding Hood is in love with a genetically modified super soldier. The earth is being decimated by plague and the only salvation is from Lunar (As in from the moon) Queen Levana, who is evil. In the third installment, we meet our Rapunzel, Cress.

Cress is a Lunar, but she doesn't have any powers. (Normally, Lunars can control other people with their minds.) Since Cress can't control or be controlled, she is labelled a shell. Shells are traditionally rounded up and killed, but Cress ended up being sent to live on a satellite. She has all kinds of technological training and hacking skills and she does lots of secret work for her Mistress, Sybil, the head Thaumaturge/bodyguard for Levana.

All Cress thinks about is the world outside her tiny satellite. She watches videos, looks at pictures, and listens to music from earth, dreaming that she might experience earth firsthand. She also develops a huge crush on Carswell Thorne, the cocky criminal who escaped from prison with Cinder. She read about his various crimes through the years and considers him to be misunderstood.

Thorne, Cinder, Scarlet, and Wolf are all traveling on his (stolen) ship the Rampion when they contact Cress to get some hard evidence of Levana's plans (At the end of the first book, Cress had been the girl in the android's file who warned Cinder about Levana's bad intentions towards earth). They decide to rescue the stranded girl, but are interrupted by Sybil. Team Cinder escapes, but Sybil captures Scarlet and takes her back to Luna. They also end up with Jacin Clay, Sybil's pilot. Unfortunately, Sybil sends the satellite plummeting to earth...with Thorne and Cress still on board!

Fortunately, Cress was able to slow their landing, and the pair end up wandering through the desert. Thorne can't see because of the crash, and they have a terrible time between the hunger, thirst, and foot pain. They eventually come across a caravan of helpful people who escort them to a city. Thorne ends up disappointing Cress by gambling and flirting with an android escort, which gives their rescuers the chance to kidnap Cress and sell her to someone buying Lunars.

Meanwhile, the Rampion crew heads to Africa to meet up with Dr. Erland, the secret Lunar. Erland ends up being the guy buying Lunars, and he is also Cress' father. Team Cinder decides to stop the wedding and save earth by kidnapping Kai. There's some minor betrayal, but it all goes off without a hitch otherwise.

I remember the first time that I read Scarlet, it was sometimes hard to follow the story because I had trouble keeping track of whether the narrator was Scarlet or Cinder. It was easier the second read, but I have a bit more trouble with Cinder/Cress here. I am still a fan of Cress and Carswell Thorne is fantastic, so I love this book. We even get a glimpse of Miss Winter towards the end to gear us up for the last book.


Monday, May 23, 2016

The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman

I know it is hard to accept, but there are agencies other than human in our cities, and they require certain special abilities to contain. Our abilities. For centuries Reclaimers had worked alone, but Mr. Fielding drew our kind into one group: the Dark Days Club..."

Lady Helen starts The Dark Days Club preparing for her presentation before Queen Charlotte. Her parents both died ten years earlier, so she lives under the care of her aunt and uncle. Her aunt is nice, but overbearing. Her uncle sucks. Seriously, he tells her that if the Queen asks about her mother, who everyone believes to have been a traitor to the British government, to say that her mother's death was for the best. His intimidation actually spurs Helen to bring a miniature (A little portrait, if you didn't know) of her mother to the presentation attached to her fan.

Helen is surprised to encounter the notorious Lord Carlston at the palace. Carlston is rumored to have murdered his wife, then suspiciously vanished from society. He is also distantly related to Helen. After a strange encounter, Helen is upset to realize that Carlston stole her miniature. To add to the peculiarity, the Queen does ask after her mother, then tells her, "Don't believe everything you hear."

To get her mother's portrait back, Helen arranges for a visit from Carlston. She is incredibly surprised when he ends up forcefully throwing it at her...and she catches it. Her newly discovered reflexes are bad enough, but one day at the park she nearly ruins her prospects with a potential suitor by starting to chase a runaway horse. The odd part was that she somehow knew exactly what the horse would do before it did it. Carlston eventually reveals the truth: she is a Reclaimer, like her mother before her.

Reclaimers seek out Deceivers, demonic creatures in human form, which they can see through a special lens but only after the Deceiver has fed. There are several different types of Deceivers, all of which feed on sin and vice. The Dark Days Club is the collective group of Reclaimers in England, of which there are very few compared to the thousands of Deceivers. Carlston wants to train Helen to fight the Deceivers after she gains her Receiver strength. Yet there are things he keeps from her, important revelations about her mother that Helen ends up finding out for herself. So she ends up with a big decision on whether to become a Reclaimer or to give up her legacy and possibly herself.

I really liked the regency era setting of the book. It's like Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets Pride and Prejudice. Everything was way more difficult for Helen given that she had to adhere to such strict rules of conduct as an upper class and unmarried young lady. The story did get weighed down a bit by exposition, but I understand how that can happen with a first book. I'm still looking forward to reading more of the Lady Helen series to see how her story unfolds after the big changes at the end of this book.  

Monday, April 25, 2016

Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard

"Newbloods, silverbloods, redbloods, it's all the same, all over again. Some who are special, some who are better than the rest, and the ones who still have nothing at all..."

You can read my review of the first book in the series, Red Queen, here.

Red Queen introduced us to a world separated by blood. Those with silver blood have incredible abilities and rule over the ordinary people with red blood. Mare was an ordinary Red who ended up having powers. Because of this, the royal family forces her to pretend to be Silver, dealing with all the intrigue and betrayals of palace life. Meanwhile, Mare joins the Red Guard, an army of Reds who are fighting against Silver rule.

Glass Sword takes place right after the events at the end of Red Queen. Highlight for spoilers: Maven betrayed Mare and is super evil and the Queen made Prince Cal kill his father, and they blamed it all on Mare. 

So, Mare and Cal were on the run with the Red Guard. Among them was Mare's (presumed) dead brother, who also has abilities. They make their way to a stronghold on an island. Soon, a new leader arrives. He and Mare don't agree on the future direction of the Red Guard. She ends up leaving to hunt the Reds with powers of Silvers like her, or New Bloods as they call them. 

 The problem is that Maven also has the list, and Maven is also fudging nutso. He plays a cat and mouse game with Mare, almost always a step ahead of her. She finds notes from him trying to get her to give up, saying that he will stop killing New Bloods if she will return to his side. I was very sad in Red Queen because I liked Maven, and he seemed nice and sweet. I still hoped he might be redeemable, but now he's going around killing babies. 

I really tried to lighten up a bit on Mare this book. In the first book, she seemed like some sort of Katniss retread. Here, she was a little annoying with her constant reminders that she is special and more important than everyone else. I decided that I wasn't being completely fair. Overall, I liked Mare and this book better once it got going. There was a heck of an ending, so I'm interested in seeing what happens next.