Saturday, April 26, 2014

The Lunar Chronicles: Scarlet

Title: Scarlet

Series: The Lunar Chronicles (Book #2)

Year: 2013

Author: Marissa Meyer

Summary: 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. (from Goodreads)

Main Characters:
~ Linh Cinder
~ Scarlet Benoit
~ Wolf
~ Queen Levana
~ Emperor Kaito

Review: I was pretty eager to continue Cinder's story from reading Marissa Meyer's first book in this series (Cinder), and I was greatly interested to see how she was going to weave the story of Little Red Riding Hood into the tale that began with Cinderella. Scarlet begins as your typical Little Red Riding Hood character -- she's got red hair, a bit of a temper, and a favorite red jacket. She loves her grandmother, and I liked the way their relationship was portrayed. It's just like the fairy tale you'd expect it to be. And then the book took a very un-fairytale dip. Scarlet's grandmother is kidnapped, and Scarlet is forced to team up with an unlikely partner, an ex-solider from Lunar who seems to be part-wolf. 

The plot keeps you on your toes, and it's the kind of book you really want to read in one sitting, just because it's hard to put down. In addition to following the storyline of Scarlet's actions, the novel also follows the heroine from the first book, Cinder. While the two girls seem so different concerning their respective stories, they tangle together, and it's interesting how Marissa Meyer gets them together in the end. Excitement is high with fights, space ships, break-outs, and a whole lot more. While Scarlet's off to rescue her grandmother, Cinder's breaking out of jail with a certain criminal Captain Thorne. Iko gets a makeover, and Kai makes a decision that throws the whole world in chaos. And yet another cliffhanger ending -- be warned now. You're going to want to have Cress (book #3 of The Lunar Chronicles) beside you to pick up when you finish Scarlet

Personally, I prefered Cinder to Scarlet. While Scarlet was enjoyable, I thought the themes were darker, and the violence level kicked up a notch. I liked reading about the cyborg/mechanic Cinder more than the aggressive Scarlet; for some odd reason Scarlet's story didn't interest me as much as Cinder's did. This has been my least favorite book of the series so far. Not that it's bad, but compared to Cinder, it just seemed rather dark and heavy for Little Red Riding Hood. 

Advisory: A lot of violence; Wolf is a street fighter, and he and Scarlet encounter a lot of enemies, and Marissa Meyer really describes the fights. While I was okay reading them, they could be a bit over the top for other readers. There is also some romance, and some "adult comments" -- nothing extreme, but just something to take note of. 

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Related review: Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles)

Click here to buy Scarlet on Amazon!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Inheritance

Title: The Inheritance

Series: None

Year: 1997 (published posthumously)

Author: Louisa May Alcott

Summary: Here at last is the book 'Jo' wrote. Generations of fans have longed to plumb that first romance, hinted at so captivatingly on the pages of Little Women, Alcott's autobiographical classic. Now after nearly one hundred fifty years spent among archived family documents, Louisa May Alcott's debut novel finally reaches its eager public.

Set in an English country manor, the story follows the turbulent fortunes of Edith Adelon, an impoverished Italian orphan whose loyalty and beauty win her the patronage of wealthy friends until a jealous rival contrives to rob her of her position. In the locket around her neck, she carries a deep secret about her natural birthright. But an even greater truth lies hidden in Edith's heart - her deep reverence for the kind and noble Lord Percy, the only friend who can save her from the deceitful, envious machinations of Lady Ida.

Reminiscent of Jane Austen in its charms, this chaste but stirringly passionate novel affirms the conquering power of both love and courtesy. For the generations who grew up alongside Jo, Meg, Beth, and Amy, a rich literary inheritance is restored at last. (from Goodreads)

Main Characters:
~ Edith Adelon
~ Lord Walter Percy
~ Lady Ida
~ Lord Arlington
~ Arthur Hamilton
~ Amy Hamilton

Review: Although The Inheritance lacked the deep characters that I found in Louisa May Alcott's other books (namely Little Women), it was definitely something sweet to read. It's not extremely long, but the characters stick with you long after you've put the book down. There's just a little bit of everything in this novel to recommend it to everyone: for those who love Alcott's writing, for those who prefer classic romances, for those who want something light and sweet to fritter away an afternoon. The Inheritance is simplistic in its characters, plot, and style as Alcott penned the entire novella at only 17 years of age. The manuscript wasn't published until 1997, years after Alcott had died, when it was discovered accidentally in an old library. I found for a novella written at 17 years old, The Inheritance was an excellent example of Alcott's talent rather than a story that gripped your interest and kept you turning pages like most modern books. Actually, I liked the chance to read something different; it was greatly refreshing.

Edith Adelon is a servant/governess/companion in the Hamilton household, and her goal in life is to serve her mistress and master to the best of her ability. While she comes across at times as being too perfect, Edith is not quite the ideal Mary Sue. She yearns to help those she meets, yet she fears how her life may change in the future. She's quiet, she's meek, and very Cinderella-like in spirit. Lady Ida is the spiteful cousin who is jealous of Edith's beauty and tries to push her out of the picture. The Hamilton siblings are fun to read about, and who can forget the kind-hearted Lord Percy?

For those of you who have seen the 1997 TV film based on The Inheritance, this novella is vastly different. While the majority of the characters and main plot points remain the same, the filmmakers took some liberties to adapt Alcott's tale for modern audiences. For instance, while Edith does ride Selim, he is not a race horse, nor does she train him to be one. In fact, there is no race at all in the novella. Lord Arthur Hamilton, Amy's brother in the book, turns into her father in the film, and even Lord Percy's name changes among other things. I enjoyed both film and novella, but they are so different that I find it awkward to think of them as the same story.

Advisory: None

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Click here to buy The Inheritance on Amazon!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Maelyn (The Nine Princesses Novellas)

Title: Maelyn

Series: The Nine Princesses Novellas

Year: 2012

Author: Anita Valle

Summary: Maelyn was not born a princess. The king found her as a child, the lone survivor of a poor village slaughtered by the Red Fever. Suddenly she became a princess of Runa Realm, the first of nine orphans adopted by the king.

By her eighteenth year, Maelyn rules over Runa and a family of nine sisters. But some call the princesses frauds and imposters, a handful of urchins raised into royalty. Even Uncle Jarrod, the High King of Grunwold, seems determined to prove that Maelyn no longer deserves to be a princess. With a family losing faith in her, and a kingdom growing dangerously hostile, even Maelyn begins to wonder if she is truly a real princess. And if her riches will turn to rags once again... (from Goodreads)

Main Characters:
~ Maelyn
~ Coralina
~ Uncle Jarrod
~ Willow

Review: I found this book for free on the Kindle one dull day, and not thinking a whole lot about it, I got it and stowed it away on the giant list of to-read books. I didn't think of it again until weeks later (yes, I left it alone for that long; I'm so ashamed) when I was having a bad asthma attack and was looking for something light to read on my Kindle. Maelyn caught my attention, and since I enjoy fairy tales/princess tales, I decided to give it a whirl.

I really liked it. Sure, it was short, but it was sweet, and it's the start of a nine novella series (at least, I'm assuming there are nine books as Maelyn is the first of nine princesses)! Maelyn loves reading, and at the beginning of the novella, her biggest problem is running out of books to read. And I can totally relate. Her relationship with her eight sisters is very nice, but I was a little disappointed that you didn't get to see more of them. For that, I'm really looking forward to the next books! I'm actually wishing I could get my hands on a paperback copy to share with my eleven-year-old sister. I know she'd love Maelyn as much as I.

While it was a light princess tale, Anita Valle wove enough suspense and mystery into the plot to keep me hooked. I found myself asking, "What really happened?" "Okay, is someone lying there?" While Maelyn gave us a satisfactory ending, it opened the door for so much as far as the story and characters were concerned. I'm glad that the second novella in the Nine Princesses series (Coralina) is out already, because I really need to read it and find out what happens! For those of you who love stories penned by Gail Carson Levine and Jessica Day George (and similar authors), you'll want to get your hands on Anita Valle's Nine Princesses Novellas!

Please note: I looked up the author's bio pages on Amazon and Goodreads to see what other books she'd written, and discovered that she and I had a lot in common! Anita Valle was homeschooled, loves Charles Dickens and other literary novels, and IS ALLERGIC TO CHOCOLATE! My inspiration for a review of Maelyn may or may not have bounded from that discovery. *ahem* You can choose there.

Advisory: Some light romance leading to a kiss, but it's handled sweetly. A few characters are mentioned getting the Red Fever, but it's never graphic.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Click here to buy Maelyn on Amazon!
It's free on Kindle!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Fly Away Home

Title: Fly Away Home

Series: None

Year: 2014

Author: Rachel Heffington

Summary: Self Preservation has never looked more tempting. 

1952 New York City: Callie Harper is a woman set to make it big in the world of journalism. Liberated from all but her buried and troubled past, Callie craves glamour and the satisfaction she knows it will bring. When one of America's most celebrated journalists, Wade Barnett, calls on Callie to help him with a revolutionary project, Callie finds herself co-pilot to a Christian man whose life and ideas of true greatness run noisily counter to hers on every point. 

The new friendship sparks, the project soars, and a faint suspicion that she is fall for this uncommon man grows in Callie's heart. When the secrets of Callie's past are exhumed and hung over her head as a threat, she is forced to scrutinize Wade Barnett and betray his dirtiest secrets or see her own spilled. 

Here there is space for only one love, one answer: betray Wade Barnett to save her reputation, or sacrifice everything for the sake of the man she loved and the God she fled. The consequences of either decision will define the rest of her life. (from Goodreads)

Main Characters:
~ Calida Harper
~ Wade Barnett
~ Nickleby
~ Jerry Atwood
~ Jules Cameron

Review: When I discovered I'd won a copy of this book in a giveaway on the author's blog, I was so excited. I'd been following Rachel Heffington (The Inkpen Authoress) for some time, and I loved every snippet and post she published about Fly Away Home. Yes, I wanted to read it, but honestly, I don't think I knew what to expect. Fly Away Home is technically a historical romance, a genre I tend to shy away from, yet the novel has the feel of so much more than just a cliche romance. For one thing, the "romance" aspect isn't even the main focus of the novel, nor is it some mushy, physical lust that dominates most of modern literature. To be truthful, Rachel Heffington has given us a jewel. Yes, you must read it.

Calida Harper is a fun heroine, a bit prone to having a fiery temper, but lovable. I love the writing style with which she narrates this story, and there are so many wonderful quotes you can pull from this book. One of my favorites: "Sure, at heart I wanted to be Dickens, but I hated being great on command." Wade Barnett is her new employer, and he's an old-fashioned gentleman with just a hint of mystery about him. Nickleby, Callie's black cat, I thought stole the show, and this is one book, probably the only book, in which I've enjoyed reading about cats. I know, horror. I can't believe I just said that. But Nickleby was marvelous, even for being feline.

The plot progressed nicely, not too fast, but at an excellent speed that keeps you interested in every chapter. Rachel weaves mystery, glamour, blackmail, and forgiveness together in a wonderful way. One thing that greatly impressed me was the fact that God remained a prevalent part of the story. Callie has pretty much given up on Him at the beginning of the novel, yet the situations going on around her force her to reevaluate her standards and beliefs. I really enjoyed reading what I'd deem the "spiritual conversations" and seeing how Callie learned who God is and how much He really does love her. 

Advisory: There is talk of celebrity scandal (i.e. a man trying to take away someone else's wife), but nothing ever comes of it, and it's handled very well. Some language, which is the reason I cannot give this book a full five stars like I'd love to, just so you're aware of that. The antagonist behaves badly toward Callie in a few scenes with a little violence, but nothing gets out of hand.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Click here to buy Fly Away Home on Amazon!

Monday, April 7, 2014


Title: Reapers

Series: The Reapers Trilogy

Year: 2014

Author: Bryan Davis

Summary: Reapers, the first book in The Reapers Trilogy, is a dystopian tale with a supernatural twist. Taking place in a futuristic, urban setting, this first book in a planned trilogy will appeal to readers of The Hunger Games and similar fast-paced stories for young adults.

Along with a blend of real life and imagination, it delivers action, danger, and suspense through the adventures of three teenagers: Phoenix, Singapore, and Shanghai, Reapers who collect the souls of the dying or already dead and transport them to the Gateway where they will travel to their final destination ... or so they are told. (from Goodreads)

Main Characters:
~ Phoenix
~ Singapore
~ Shanghai

Review: I'm finding it rather difficult to organize my thoughts about this book. Mostly because this is one of the first novels I've read in the dystopian genre, and I'm not certain how well I enjoy that particular genre, seeing how new I am to all of it. But... let's see how this review goes.

The action in this book carried each chapter along nicely, and there was never a moment for boredom. The suspense is high, the plot moves quickly, and once you got into the story, it was difficult to put the book down. Phoenix narrates the novel easily, and you can't help but want to see him succeed. The whole idea of the Reapers moving about with mystery and purpose is intriguing. I don't think I can say how muchly I enjoyed following this plot. This is the first in a trilogy, and I was surprised when it ended so suddenly. Not that that's a bad thing, of course; it just made me greatly curious for the second book... which... isn't out yet.

The main antagonist in this book was utterly despicable. I hated her from the start, and everything she did made me hate her more. Yet, I thought that she was a little too predictable, bad and heartless enough to put any other villain to shame, but her actions came as no surprise. If she had acted in a more crafty manner, keeping Phoenix and his friends in a greater suspense, I think I would have enjoyed hating her even more. As it is, she did end the book in high form, so I guess I shouldn't complain there.

And... of course, my favorite character died. *sigh* What's with these authors?

The part that was a little odd for me was the whole theme of the Reapers. They are a special set of people who are assigned to "districts" and are trained how to reap the souls of the civilians after they die. The reaping process I found a bit disturbing, as the novel left the dystopian genre to dabble in elements of the supernatural. Phoenix and the other Reapers reap the dead souls, carry them in special cloaks, and then transport them to the Gateway where the Gatekeeper takes them to the afterlife. Souls between death and the afterlife are ghosts, and it's not uncommon for the Reapers to be around them, often talking to them. While I'll admit the story itself is fascinating, I didn't much care for all the supernatural references in the book, and I was a little uncomfortable reading about it all.

Advisory: A lot of violence; Phoenix and his friends reap souls from dead people, and the descriptions sometimes get graphic. There is also some fighting scenes, mostly hand to hand combat, with a few sonic guns thrown in. Since this novel is about Reapers and their jobs, don't be surprised to see a lot of death. Blood and bruises are a common thing. One character takes the Lord's name in vain, which greatly disappointed me, and there are also a few references to hell, but it is used in proper context.

Also, I found myself a little annoyed with a part of Phoenix's character. I admired how loyal he was to the people in his district, often trying to save their lives instead of letting them die so he could reap their soul, but he dwelled a lot on thoughts of his female friends. No spoilers here, but he is too easily infatuated with those thoughts, and there were times I believed he took the thoughts too far. There is one kiss, nothing more, but I still didn't care much for it. Phoenix was so lost in these emotions that I almost didn't want him to get any of the girls.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

*The author sent me a free copy of this book in return for my honest review. I wasn’t required to review it positively, nor was I recompensed for my review. All opinions are my own. *

Click here to buy Reapers on Amazon!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Michael Vey: The Prisoner of Cell 25

Title: The Prisoner of Cell 25

Series: Michael Vey

Year: 2011

Author: Richard Paul Evans

Summary: To everyone at Meridian High School, Michael Vey is an ordinary fourteen-year-old. In fact, the only thing that seems to set him apart is the fact that he has Tourette’s syndrome. But Michael is anything but ordinary. Michael has special powers. Electric powers.

Michael thinks he's unique until he discovers that a cheerleader named Taylor also has special powers. With the help of Michael’s friend, Ostin, the three of them set out to discover how Michael and Taylor ended up this way, but their investigation brings them to the attention of a powerful group who wants to control the electric children – and through them the world. Michael will have to rely on his wits, powers, and friends if he’s to survive. (from Goodreads)

Main Characters:
~ Michael Vey
~ Taylor Ridley
~ Ostin Liss

Review: When I first picked up this book, I had absolutely no idea what I was getting myself into. Richard Paul Evans, of course... the famous author of The Christmas Box and those other inspirational, cozy tales. Why then, does this book have a picture with a boy covered in electricity? It sparked my interest, and when my dad (a big fan of Evans's stories) got the book, I merely inquired if I could read it when he was done. 

Wow. This book in many ways reminds me of the Percy Jackson series, and yet it doesn't in other ways. It's got the action, fun narrative, lively characters that we all want in a good story, but the whole "atmosphere" of the story is something totally different. Michael tells the tale in first person (with a few chapters being told in third person from another MC's viewpoint), and we learn at once that he's different from other kids - he's electric. He can shock, surge, and pulse (a talent that comes in handy at times, especially when his mom's car battery goes dead). If you like science fiction, anything having to do with electricity, stories with a technological feel, or just something with a good adventure, then this is a good story for you. The villain is despicable, yet crafty, sometimes making you wonder who's really right and who's really wrong, and you're on the edge of your seat rooting for Michael the whole time. While this is the first in the series, I found the ending very satisfying, yet it does end in a cliffhanger. Just so you're warned. You're going to want the second book right away.

While I liked Michael and thought him an excellent hero, some of his best friend's chapters (Taylor) got a little annoying. I read someone else's review of one of the Michael Vey books, and I'd have to agree with his/her (sorry, folks, I don't remember who it was) opinion that the female characters seem a little flat. Nichelle was vicious, but weak and predictable, and McKenna and Abigail really didn't do a whole lot, which I was a bit disappointed in, as I would have liked to see more of them. Tara, I thought, had the most depth to her, and while I won't discuss it further for spoiler reasons, she was one female character that I actually enjoyed reading about. I'm hoping their characters (as well as their character development) go further in the second book, Rise of the Elgen.

Advisory: There is a lot of modern "lingo" as it were as the kids in the story use words such as "hot," "cute," and "make out" that bothered me. Although most of the characters are around fifteen years old, they do some adult stuff (i.e. drink champagne, patronize rock concerts, etc.). A few descriptions included in the book I thought could have been left out, so I'd recommend that this book be for mature readers 15 or over (the bully at school pants-ing another classmate, cheerleaders, etc.). 

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Click here to buy The Prisoner of Cell 25 on Amazon!