Thursday, March 29, 2012

Book Review: Cinder

Cinder (Lunar Chronicles, #1)  *****
by Marissa Meyer

What if...Cinderella was a Cyborg. I can honestly say I've never asked myself that question. But Marissa Meyer did, and I'm so glad! Meyer takes the classic fairy tale and puts it in a futuristic, sort-of post-apocalyptic world, and manages to keep it fresh and new, yet familiar. I read more fantasy than sci-fi, and this was my first venture into a Cyborg story, but I really enjoyed the journey.

The new and fresh: Cinder lives in New Beijing, over one hundred years after the 4th World War, and the world is unrecognizable. Here, a person will become a cyborg when they've been badly injured and surgeons will add robotic parts and advanced computer technology to take the place of body parts too damaged to work. Cinder has a robotic leg and arm, can access the Net with a thought, and see news and data literally out of the corner of her eye. While these operations save lives, the newly created cyborgs are considered less-than-human and are reviled in society.

Another new aspect to the story is that some time in the book's past, people from Earth colonized the moon, but the moon changed them. They (the Lunars) are able to influence the bioelectrical something-or-others and basically control the thoughts and actions of others, including making themselves appear beautiful and making someone else kill themself. And now they're trying to take over Earth.

The other major plot point is a plague that has been decimating Earth, one that is highly contagious and kills quickly. Through a series of events, Cinder becomes a test subject in the search to find a cure (becoming a test subject is certain death in this world) and discovers that she is somehow immune.

The familiar: despite the fact that we're dealing with cyborgs and Lunars and plagues, there's still a ball, an evil step-mother, and two step-sisters (though only one is evil).

Will Cinder make it to the ball? Will she escape her step-mother? Will the prince return her foot???

Audio Book Review: Chime

Chime  *****
Author: Franny Billingsley
Narration: Susan Duerden

Please pardon the tone of this review; I'm still in the moody mental state this story created.

This book sucked me in, but I'm not entirely sure why. It wasn't necessarily action packed or fraught with danger or suspense, romance or excitement. I think it may have been the mood of the story. I listened to the audio book, and it felt like listening to a folktale by firelight. It was a puzzle I tried to put together as I listened. I managed to match up a few of the pieces on my own, but it wasn't until the end that everything clicked; Franny Billingsley gave just enough clues that when all was revealed, the reader wasn't left wondering at how everything fit.

The audio reader had an elegant voice that made listening a pleasure. I wonder how I would have liked it if I read the story from the page rather than listening to it, how that would have changed my response. I'm honestly not sure.

One last thought: I'm not certain the cover of the book matched the style of the story. I think the cover art is lovely, but it gives the expectation of something edgier. If I'd had my druthers, I would have gone for a moodier, more whimsical cover art, something with flowing hair or mysterious landscape.

Audio Book Review: Throne of Fire

The Throne of Fire (Kane Chronicles #2)  *****
Author: Rick Riordan
Narration: Kevin Free, Katherine Kellgren

This is such a great series! I completely love the adventure story Riordan has created. It's like Indiana Jones for kids. The Kane siblings are on another quest to save the world, this time from Chaos (aka Apophis). Again, the story alternates between Sadie and Carter's narration. The book is is supposed to be a transcript of a recording, which is why the audio version is so great. Plus the readers are fantastic! (A good reader makes all the difference.)

Fun story, fun series. I highly recommend it!

Book Review: Sorcery & Cecelia: Or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot

Sorcery & Cecelia: Or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot  *****
By Patricia Wrede and Caroline Stevermer

I admit, I picked up this book strictly for the title, and I'm glad I did. Sorcery and Cecelia is totes adorbs (yes, I just said that). The story follows two young women in 1800s London where magic is common and the Season is in full swing. The book is written as correspondence between two cousins, Kate and Cecelia. Kate is in London for the Season and Cecelia is stuck at home, and yet the two wind up having adventures that are strangely tied together. Though the story is told through letters (and by two authors), it feels very cohesive and natural; the letters didn't feel like they were overdoing it with exposition and the story itself remained fluid.

While this book was originally written in 1988, it still holds up, and I would recommend it to any teen (or teen-reading adult) who is in the mood for a light and fun read. I'm definitely going to read the next in the series, The Grand Tour.

Update: I received an email from Open Road Media letting me know that the titles in the Sorcery and Cecelia series are being re-released as e-books and that they have brand-spankin-new covers! So if you read this post prior to 5/17/2012, yes, the cover art in this blog has been changed :) And I have to say, I really like it!

Check out the new artwork for the other two books in the series:

Book Review: Uncommon Criminals

Uncommon Criminals (Heist Society #2)  *****
by Ally Carter

Ally Carter does a great job of writing teenage girls who are above-average-awesome and capable of anything. In her Gallagher Girl series, her girls are spies-in-training at an exclusive all-girls spy boarding school. In the Heist Society series, the heroine is a born and bred uber-thief. Kat has been on the grift since she was 3 years old, and now at the age of 15, she and her teenage crew have already accomplished one impossible heist (see Heist Society, book #1), and now are planning another; both are heists that the older, more experienced generation claim are impossible. But Kat isn't stealing for the money or glory, she's returning stolen treasures to their rightful owners. This book opens on Kat stealing back Nazi loot for this purpose when she's called to another mission of mercy; one that goes very, very wrong.

The Heist Society series is a light, fun read. While Carter may be writing an Ocean's 11-style heist, it doesn't read like an intensive glimpse into the life of master thieves. It's more of a romp with a little added teenage angst. Kat may be a master thief, but she's still a teenage girl. I think Carter gets a bit deeper with the Gallagher Girl series, and I like that one a smidge better, but I think these are both great series and I highly recommend them.