The Lunar Chronicles

I actually remember when I first read Cinder. A friend who had recently been to ALA had picked up a galley and sent it my way because she knew I’d love it. And I did. I am the Cinderella girl after all. Who knew picking a topic for an undergraduate thesis would haunt me so?! But, let’s face it, at this point, I’ve read a LOT of Cinderella re-tellings and Cinder remains one of the more unique and fabulous ones to date.

From the start of the series, what I appreciated was the level of detail that Marissa Meyer was able to bring into the world she was creating and yet not bog her story down with world building. I find this a lot with fantasy and science fiction. The author is so preoccupied in creating the world for her characters that she forgets about her characters. Or her plot. That never happened in the Lunar Chronicles and I think that is because of the strength of the characters Meyer brought to the table.

From Cinder, Meyer moved to Scarlet (Little Red Riding Hood), Cress (Rapunzel) and Winter (Snow White). While I should not have been surprised at how well these fairy tales translated into a futuristic world (one of the main tenets of my thesis after all was how well Cindy does in alternate genres), I was. Each of these tales was cleverly re-imagined for the world that Meyer had built. Scarlet became a farmer whose grandmother goes missing just as a “lone wolf”- type character appears in the local street fighting ring. Cress is a computer genius shut inside a satellite where she can monitor and hack the earth’s systems for the Lunar crown (bonus? her hero ends up blind for awhile – gotta love when they use the old school versions of the fairy tales). Winter is the stepdaughter of the evil Lunar queen, scarred by an attack by her stepmother and yet still more beautiful than her, who is felled by a plague-laced treat.

With each book, the heroines’ tales were woven together until Winter’s story where the Lunar queen (SPOILER) meets her defeat at the hands of them all. I am glossing major details and plot development here mainly because you need to read these books so I don’t want to spoil them too much for you. I adore all 4 heroines and their heroes (check plus to Meyer for also never having a love triangle, square or any other shape) but I will admit to loving Scarlet best which surprised me, she’s not from my favorite fairy tale, but I adored her story and her character as well as her relationship with the other characters especially Winter. She turns into the big sister for the group in a lot of ways and she is never afraid to tell it like it is.

If nothing else, I haven’t seen a series this well edited in a long time. As I work my way through book series this year, I am finding the longer they go, the more they unravel. The author clearly loses sight of where they want to go or they forget their own mythology (BIG pet peeve of mine, not only in books but in TV shows). Meyer never does this and, even though the books grow in page number, they never drag. I can’t think of one chapter, one scene that could be removed. Everything had a purpose towards the final conclusions and that my friends, is very impressive to me. I also must give a slow clap to Meyer for resisting an epilogue. These have not proven to work well (though I kinda like the Harry Potter one even though I know I will go down in people’s estimation for admitting to that) and it wasn’t needed here. Meyer very brilliantly went with “and they lived happily ever after” because, let’s face it, how else do you end a fairy tale? Even one that includes space ships, cyborgs, genetically modified soldiers and trips to the moon.

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Chugging away on the year’s reading goal…

I am enjoying these “drive-by” book reviews though I will probably do an actual post when I finish Winter on the entire Lunar Chronicles series sometime next week. I am also getting back around to some non-fiction reading. It has been on the list forever to work my way through The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People so that’s what I’ve been doing slowly but surely along with my fiction reading.

The Unmapped Sea (The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place #5): I need the next (last – sob!) book now! How could Wood do that to Penelope and Simon and the Incorrigibles?! Putting aside the major cliffhanger, as always, Penelope is one of my favorite unflappable heroines who knows that a hot cup of tea and few minutes of deep thought will find a solution for you every time. This is particularly useful when everyone around you is useless and the not-so-dead evil father of your current employer is trying to kill you and your charges off because of a curse placed on the family four generations, an island and one supernatural wolf ago. Heavens, I love these books! And yes, that all actually makes sense if you read the series and doesn’t actually seem that crazy when you read them. Sadly, I have to wait for the conclusion of this series; the last book is not published yet and doesn’t even have a release date posted anywhere I could find.

Plain Jane (A House for the Season #2): I found this series because the first book was either for free or on sale on Amazon for Kindle and I picked it and thoroughly enjoyed. I especially enjoy the series for its unique connecting factor of the servants and their lives over the ton they serve rather than the aristocratic characters who change with each book. I liked Jane; Fiona (from the first book in the series) was a bit too much at times and while Jane is young, and acts her age most of the time, I felt like I liked her more than Fiona (that I was happy for an update on her of course).

Cress (The Lunar Chronicles #3): This series just keep getting better! Granted, I think I like Scarlet and Cinder more than I like Cress, girl still comes into her own and her romance with the less than heroic Captain Thorne was adorable to watch. Cress is also a first class hacker which has always been a secret dream of mine. I must say Meyer impresses me in how she’s able to keep up a breakneck pace in her book over hundreds of pages. There is not one superfluous moment really so she either has one awesome editor or she just has a very good idea of where she’s going at all times. Which, in my marathon of reading series right now, is clear many authors do not so I appreciate that a lot more right now that I normally would.

A Fatal Grace (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #2): Penny’s second Inspector Gamache novel was just as enjoyable and haunting as the first. I know of few authors who evoke such atmosphere in their writing. This book is set around Christmas and pulls on both the joy of the season and the brutal winters of Quebec. Gamache also continues to be an incredibly complex but likable character. I do not like the storm clouds Penny is building for him and this mysterious Arnot case though. I like when the chaos surrounds him, not when it’s aiming for him.

Reading Updates

I am making good progress on my goal to finish up some series so here’s some drive by reviews:

Children of the Storm (Amelia Peabody #15): This chapter of one of my favorite fictional families seemed to meander a lot. All to a purpose of course but I felt like the last 50 pages of the book were the best of the lot which is a lot of pages to set up the actual action. However, the series seems to be shifting more and more towards the family dynamic and the mystery is just sort of the catalyst to get everyone together. Not necessarily a bad thing, just having to change how I think about the style of the series and what it has been in the past.

Scarlet (Lunar Chronicles #2): I had forgotten how much I adored Cinder when I read it a long time ago. At that time, the rest of the series wasn’t even written yet and lots of other books kept me from re-visiting the series as it was published. Marissa Meyer knows how to tell a fun story with great characters. There was less world building in this installment of the series but I think she packed a lot of backstory in there and that made up for it. I already have Cress from the library so I’ll be finishing this one up quickly this year hopefully!

The Poe Estate (The Grimm Legacy #3): This is my first official series crossed off the list for the challenge. Until of course they add to the series in the future. This book was a little creepier than the last two books but then the repository is collecting haunted houses for the Poe Annex so…it should be. I, as always, enjoyed the new heroes of the tale, Sukie and Cole. I also adored Sukie’s 91 year old cousin Hepzibah who takes everything in stride as the story careens wildly from ghosts to flying broomsticks to haunted houses and ships manned by corpses. Maybe not my favorite of the three stories (horror stories are not my thing) but always fun to check in with the New-York Circulating Materials Repository.

Royal Wedding (The Princess Diaries #11): I was very excited when Meg Cabot announced she was going to write a new chapter in Mia’s story. It was fun to catch up with characters I adored back when I read this series. That said, this book, while enjoyable, fell a little flat for me. Also, the bomb tossed in the last 25% of the book seemed unnecessary as Mia’s life, per usual, was crazy enough and it was also very out of place for me in terms of the narrative and also Mia’s character.

Murder Most Persuasive (Elizabeth Parker Mystery #3): I believe you all know how much I adore me some Austen inspired fiction. This series takes its cues from Austen stories all while having an Austen-addicted heroine with a kooky family and a perchance for stumbling into murder investigations. I liked this chapter of Elizabeth’s story a little less than the last two but I think that is because of her sister Kit who was really annoying and honestly completely unnecessary to the narrative except to annoy Elizabeth and her readers apparently. However, Elizabeth is headed for Bath and the Jane Austen Festival next so it’s going to be good I’m sure.

Rough Start 2016

It’s been a rough start to 2016 for me. We suddenly lost a family member last week and so it was a week of scrambling home in the aftermath of Winter Storm Jonas and being home in sorrow which was very new to me.

I have returned south with a lovely sinus issue (never fails when I go home) but am getting back to my reading goals. I did complete a few more books in my quest to finish series this year though. Reading on the plane is the best:

The Golden One (Amelia Peabody #14). How many ways can I state how much I adore the Emerson-Peabody clan? At least a few more. This adventure sees them yet again in the throes of mystery and intrigue both for their work and for the Great War as it continues around them. I did find this installment slightly disjointed however. But, Sethos is back again so all is right.

The Wells Bequest (The Grimm Legacy #2). This series continues to be delightful. It centers around the New York Circulating-Material Repository which is as cool as it sounds. This installment sees our pages using H.G. Wells’ Time Machine to travel back to 1895 New York and stop one of their own from changing Tesla’s timeline. I think I like this series so much as well because it manages to write pre-teens who don’t consistantly annoy me while reading.

Beastly Bones (Jackaby #2). Just as good as the first. Abigail Rook is like a grownup Charlotte Doyle on land and working for detective R.F. Jackaby (think a cross between the Supernatural brothers and the Doctor with a dash of Sherlock for good measure). This time around, we’re hunting dragons people and it is fantastic.

On deck for my reading is the next book in the Amelia Peabody series, the last currently out for the Grimm Legacy books and Scarlet, book #2 for the Lunar Chronicles (full disclosure: I will need to hit up wikipedia to help me remember what Cinder was about…I do have a vague recollection but it’s very vague). I am starting out with some low hanging fruit it’s true. Trying to ease my way into reading for the year!

 

Remembering Why You Walk Away from a Book Series

So, my reading goal for the year is to go back through and finish all the series I’ve started over the years on my reading list. Well, one of them and the one that will take the most time. The other is to also read those pesky personal development books I keep adding to the list and never reading but that’s a goal for another day.

However, in starting this goal, I am remembering perhaps why I stepped away from the first series on my list.

I am a Disney geek. You know this. I know this. So, it goes without saying that I pounced onto reading the Kingdom Keepers series by Ridley Pearson when it started. Never mind that I am clearly NOT the target audience, it was awesome. The idea that these kids, who were originally simply to be hologram guides for visitors to the parks were also designed to cross over at night and do battle with the Overtakers AKA Disney villains because, people, THEY ARE ALL REAL! The villains, the heroes, they all are real and actually exist in the parks. But, the villains were getting a bit uppity (as they do) and so Imagineers brought in the Kingdom Keepers to fight them.

So, awesome right? And it was, I devoured the first books in the series and then once I was caught up to where they were, added the 5th book to my list and promptly forgot to go back. So now I am 4 books behind and remembering why I perhaps didn’t go running for the 5th book when it was released.

So, I have issues with the middle books in series like this. The kids are around 14-15 years old and they are just well…annoying. Whiny, making stupid decisions, in-fighting with friends they’ve always gotten along with, making drama where none really needs to exists etc. Essentially, I call this the Harry Potter 5th Book Syndrome (tell me you didn’t want to reach in and smack him repeatedly in Order of the Phoenix and I will call you out on it). Now, this doesn’t mean the author is doing anything wrong. In fact, when you can write a believably bratty teenager that the reader is still somehow rooting for, you’re doing something very right. But, it can be annoying to read and the Kingdom Keepers series has FIVE such characters with a few ancillary characters in the same age range. That is a lot of teenage drama to pack into a book that is already packed with other problems coming at the characters.

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Book 5 of the Kingdom Keepers series, Shell Game (from Goodreads)

And that is exactly what I found when I picked up Shell Game (Kingdom Keepers #5). Five characters that are in that awkward 14-15 year range, their relationships with their parents, with their friends, with each other are all changing rapidly and they still have these pesky Overtakers, now on the inaugural voyage of the Disney Dream through the Panama Canal, to deal with on top of all the rest. I think, what bugged me the most about this book is…it dragged. Like, I skimmed a good quarter of it. Pearson is best when he keeps it fast and to the point with his narrative. This one was, I think now that I am halfway through the 6th book, setting up the next book that it really wasn’t much fun to read since nothing was really solved in the end. Also, the book was a bit too much of a commercial for the Disney Cruise Line at times (and as someone who will hop on the DCL at any time if she can, that is saying something), to the point that it dragged the narrative down. I still enjoyed the characters, all five annoying teenagers really in need of a big sister to give some much needed advice, and also the story is still great and I like the idea that the archive is somehow important to the fight (which is headed to the West Coast where the Disney Archive is conveniently located). And hey, the book ended on a massive cliffhanger so no matter how annoyed I was, I still immediately reached for the next book to find out what happened. Mission accomplished for Pearson at that point (and one of the bonuses to being a few books behind in a series, you never had to wait to find out what happens next!)

Book 6 so far has been a better paced book so it’s clear book 5 suffered from having to set the stage and not have a conclusion of its own. I have two more books in this series to go at that point but we’ll see how I’m feeling. One thing I also promised myself was if when I start reading the next book, if I don’t like it then end of line for me and that series. It’s good to be able to make up the rules for a goal as you go!