Book Preview – The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

bear and the nightingaleI am incredibly happy to be starting a new year of reviews with this book because it was a fantastic book to be reading as this last year came to an end. After finishing it I went back and reread the initial description that inspired me to put it on my preview request list—having forgotten everything about that description in the months between submitting my request and reading the book. I had to laugh because usually, those descriptions feel strategically written with an eye towards marketing—which, of course, they are—but in this case I found completely accurate. Katherine Arden’s upcoming The Bear and the Nightingale reminded me of Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane and is also “recommended” for fans of Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus (which I just got a personal copy of for Christmas so I can read and enjoy it all over again).

It is some years after Pyotr Vladimirovich’s beloved wife Marina died following the birth of their youngest daughter, Vasilisa (called Vasya), but he finally admits that the time has come for him to remarry—mostly so there is another woman around to help with Vasya who appears to take her nurse’s fairy tales a little too literally. Journeying with his two oldest sons to Moscow, Pyotr returns with a devout new wife and a gift for Vasya from an odd stranger. Vasya can do nothing right in the eyes of her new stepmother but it isn’t until a new priest arrives in the village (determined to bring the fear of God to the northern people and save their souls) that more devastating effects threaten the village as the people begin neglecting the protective household spirits of old.

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Book Review – Cress by Marissa Meyer

9781250007223_p0_v4_s192x300While I enjoy young adult series for the most part, in the wake of The Hunger Games I’ve had a hard time finding one that felt as carefully plotted and well-executed. I thought the Divergent trilogy would fit the bill but the final installment was such a tremendous disappointment in execution that I’ve been a bit disheartened. I thought Cinder, the first installment of the Lunar Chronicles, was promising but Scarlet (the second book) left me wary. Having finally gotten up the courage to read Cress (Book 3), I’m completely excited to pre-order my copy of Winter (Book 4 due out this November).

Scarlet saw Cinder break out of prison along with fellow-inmate Carswell Thorne before eventually meeting up with Scarlet Benoit and the genetically enhanced ex-Lunar operative, Wolf. With all of them aboard Thorne’s ship, the Earthen Union stands on the brink of war with Queen Levana so Emperor Kai agrees to marry her. Cress picks up right where Scarlet left off with the formal introduction of Cress, the hacker Cinder spoke with briefly in the first book. Adding Rapunzel to the litany of fairy tales The Lunar Chronicles tackles, Cress has been kept imprisoned in a satellite orbiting Earth for the last seven years. Her only visitor is one of Queen Levana’s closest henchwomen, Thaumaturge Mira, who has had Cress hacking, programming, and infiltrating every Earthen system to glean information while protecting Lunar interests; along the way, Cress has developed a sympathy for Earth and in fact has been covertly aiding Cinder in her escape. When Cinder reaches out to Cress once more, Cress immediately agrees to help if Cinder and her crew will free her from her satellite. The rescue plan – and the larger plans for preventing Levana from taking over Earth – hit a snag when Thaumaturge Mira arrives at Cress’ satellite minutes before Cinder. Continue reading

Book Review – Stardust by Neil Gaiman

18280911Since the film came out, Stardust has been one of those movies I can’t pass up watching whenever I find it on television. I already knew I liked Neil Gaiman’s writing from having read American Gods and The Ocean at the End of the Lane, so it seemed inevitable that I would get around to reading Stardust at some point. The last time I caught the movie on SyFy, I went ahead and bought the ebook. Gaiman’s level of detail, even in so short a work as Stardust is, continues to amaze me and the places and ways the film and novel differ speak volumes of their own.

In England there is a town called Wall where the border of our world and Faerie meet. Once every nine years for one day, people are allowed to cross between the two. Tristran Thorn is unique being a child born of parents on either side of the Wall. When he and the girl he adores watch a star fall from the sky and land somewhere in Faerie, he promises her to fetch it for her, embarking on an adventure grander than any to be had in Wall. But he is not the only one searching for the star. A witch and her sisters want to claim the youth that can be found in the star’s heart while several fratricidal princes search for the jewel that knocked the star from the sky in the first place.

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Book Review – Cinder by Marissa Meyer

9781250007209_p0_v3_s260x420So after a decent break from YA science fiction/dystopic fiction, I finally took the plunge on a new series by reading Cinder by Marissa Meyer (it took a lot to resist the urge to just reread the Hunger Games especially with the first Mockingjay movie coming out later this week). But I found Cinder to be a promising start to the Lunar Chronicles series and will definitely put the second and third installments on my To Read list. More science fiction than most of the YA series I’ve read in recent years, it appeals to another of my favorite trends: twists on fairy tales.

Cinder is the best mechanic in New Beijing in the Eastern Commonwealth. She’s also a cyborg and, even if cyborgs weren’t looked down upon, her stepmother/guardian would be sure to make her feel that way. Cinder is understandably shocked when the crown prince, Kai, shows up to ask her to fix his personal android. But she doesn’t have long to enjoy the moment because her younger stepsister falls ill with the same plague that threatens the lives of everyone on earth including New Beijing’s dying emperor. Cinder is thrust into the mission to find a cure for the disease as the loathed and lethal Queen Levana from the colonized moon, Luna, holds the Commonwealth and all of Earth on the edge of war, threatening to enslave them as she has her own people, the Lunars.

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