Saturday, October 29, 2011

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

At last, we have the book that asks the question we didn't know we wanted answered: What if Cinderella was a cyborg? The answer makes for a pretty solid young adult novel.

Once upon a time, there was a girl named Cinder who was part human and part machine. She was adopted by a kindly man who later died of Letumosis, a contagious plague that is killing the population of earth en masse. She is treated as a servant by her adopted mother, and as a second class citizen by the rest of the world.

Cinder works as a mechanic by trade, and one day is tasked with fixing a robot for the royal prince. Kai is taken with Cinder, though she is a lowly mechanic. He has no idea that she is also a cyborg, and though Cinder finds herself falling for him, she is afraid of how he will react when he discovers the truth.

In the meantime, Cinder's sister Peony, the nicer sister, falls ill with Letumosis. Their mother sends Cinder away for plague research, but instead of ending up dead, Cinder learns about who, and what, she actually is.

Finally, in yet another plot, the earth is also on the cusp of war with the Lunars. Lunars are powerful people from the moon and they are ready to go to war unless Prince Kai marries their Queen Levana. There are stories that Levana had the rightful Lunar heir, Princess Selene, killed. Nobody ever found the child's body, and there are rumors that she was smuggled to earth and adopted. The Prince has been doing research on Princess Selene, secret research that could mean trouble with the Lunars if Levana were to find out.

I very much enjoyed this retelling of Cinderella. Cinder was a great character, admirably strong and determined no matter how much adversity she faces (Which is a lot). I loved the romance between Cinder and Kai, and Kai made me laugh out loud several times. The whole Princess Selene subplot was incredibly predictable (It's obvious from the very beginning), but thankfully it doesn't detract from the story. All the elements of Cinder add up to a great read, and I for one am anticipating great things for the rest of the Lunar Chronicles.

I received my copy of Cinder from Netgalley. It will be released on January 3rd, 2012.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Snuff by Terry Pratchett

Terry Pratchett's Discworld series and I go way back. I was just a young college kid looking for something to read when I saw a flyer at the library recommending science fiction titles, and the rest is history. Over the years, I've read a good portion of the books. The ones featuring Commander Samuel Vimes and the Ankh-Morpork City Watch are definitely my favorites. Therefore, I was excited to read the newest book, Snuff.

We start with Lady Sybil and the Patrician Lord Vetinari forcing Vimes to take a vacation in the country. Just dragging the Commander away from the city and his duties should be the hardest part. The country is nothing but relaxation, fishing, spending time with Young Sam, and enjoying the family estate. They never expected...murder.

(I always wanted to write something like that.)

Vimes discovers the mutilated body of a goblin woman. Discworld contains populations of humans, trolls, dwarfs, and vampires, among other species. Times have been changing in Ankh-Morpork, as other species have been given more rights. The Watch now contains members of every species. Goblins, unfortunately, are still treated as vermin. Nobody would demand justice for the slaughter of vermin, nobody except Sam Vimes. Vimes is a believer in justice for all, and that small crimes lead to big crimes. Whoever mercilessly killed that goblin will probably do far worse, and it's up to the Commander to stop him.

Snuff wasn't quite as plot-filled as other Discworld novels. I'm used to having a couple different plots going on and then tying into each other, but this book just had Vimes in the country and then a plot with one of the officers falling ill back in the city. Still, I enjoyed the story. I love Sam Vimes as a character, how he is still uncomfortable with being a wealthy Lord and basically the second most powerful man in the city, and all the darkness that he has to suppress so that he doesn't become the murderer himself. I love the manservant Willikins, how he can go from proper butler to hardcore gangster in the blink of an eye. I love a story that involves making people rethink their prejudices, and in conclusion, I love anytime Lord Vetinari gets involved, even though it was for a very brief time here.

A few years back, I learned that Terry Pratchett was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's Disease. This was very shocking to me, as my grandmother suffered from the disease before her death. I'm glad to see that he is still writing, and that the quality of his books isn't effected. I sincerely hope that Terry Pratchett gets to continue his series for years to come.

My copies of Snuff came from Netgalley and from an Advanced Copy sent to my bookstore. The book is now available for purchase.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Ingenue by Jillian Larkin

The Playful flapper here we see,
The fairest of the fair.
She's not what grandma used to be-
You might say, au contraire.
Her girlish ways may make a stir,
Her manners cause a scene,
But there is no more harm in her
Than in a submarine. -Dorothy Parker

My review for the first Flappers book can be found here. I'm going to be talking about some of those events, so be warned.

Vixen told the story of three teenage girls in 1920s Chicago. In the second installment, all the action moves from Chicago to New York. The first book was full of drama, romance, and vintage fashion. Thankfully, Ingenue definitely lives up to its predecessor.

Gloria had been the perfect young lady, engaged to the perfect, rich, powerful man. Then she became a singer at a speakeasy. Then she fell in love with the black piano player, Jerome. Then she shot the man sent to kill Jerome. The couple fled to New York for protection, but they have trouble landing a job. It starts to put stress on their relationship. It seemed so easy to just love each other, but then their races add complications, her getting a job before him adds complications. I didn't enjoy their bad luck, but it seemed realistic.

Clara was exiled to Chicago for past misdeeds. She worked to appear as a proper young lady, but it was revealed that Clara had once lived as a flapper in New York. Through nights of wild partying, she started a relationship with an engaged man and became pregnant. Despite having her past exposed, Clara manages to win Marcus' heart. In New York, Clara gets offered a journalism job. She must reenter her old flapper life in order to write scathing exposes on the parties. Clara doesn't think that she will slip back into her old ways, but Marcus has issues with her job anyways. I loved those two together, so this was particularly upsetting. On the one hand, Marcus made some good points, but on the other, he was unreasonable and he made ultimatums, and it seemed out of character from the Marcus we saw in Vixen.

Lorraine was the jealous bitch. She was jealous of Gloria, she was jealous of Clara. Lorraine was the one who revealed Clara's past, at Gloria's engagement party no less! At the end of Vixen, the mob boss' son offered Lorraine a job in New York. All she has to do is lure Gloria and Jerome into her speakeasy, and the mob will teach them a lesson. She never expects to fall in love with the new bartender, or that he might love her back. It's difficult to like Lorraine, but I do sympathize with her sometimes. She is always so worried about besting everyone and getting everyone to see how beautiful and accomplished she is. Her clothes do sound really cute, at least. She needs some sort of perspective, some healthier self esteem so she doesn't see the world as a giant competition.

Vera, Jerome's sister, only had one chapter in the last book, where it was revealed that she betrayed Jerome and Gloria (Everyone thought Lorraine did it). Now, she travels to New York to warn her brother. In Chicago, Vera witnessed a woman shooting Gloria's fiancee. The assassin will be targeting Jerome and Gloria next. Other than trying to find her brother, Vera starts to fall in love with Evan, Jerome's bandmate. Honestly, we don't get much of Vera. She mostly lurked in the background in the first book, though she was entertainingly mean to Gloria. Here, we see more of the bold, feisty Vera.

In the end, our little flappers don't have the best of times in New York. They learn that even true love can require sacrifices, and sometimes the sacrifices are too great. They attend parties and sing at speakeasies and crash lunch dates with gangsters. There is a hitwoman, I cannot emphasize that enough. It's as fun as Gossip Girl, only with (slightly) more literary cred due to its historical setting. This is definitely a series worth reading, and I will be watching out for Diva, the next installment.