Review: Cinder by Marissa Meyer (@marissa_meyer)

I’ve had Cinder by Marissa Meyer sitting on my shelf for months. It’s been calling me, but I kept putting off pleasure reading in the name of review books. Then I started getting burned out, and realized that perhaps I needed to read something for me instead of for other people. (Whether you blog for fun or work in publishing professionally, I think this is a pretty universal concept. All obligation-reading and no pleasure-reading makes Jack a dull boy. Or something.) So I went on a tear of pleasure reading while I took my blogging break, and it was fabulous. The last book I read before I plunged back into the blogosphere was Cinder, and it was an excellent one to end on. Fairy tales and CYBORGS! What more could you want in a book?

The Plot (from Goodreads)

Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. . . .

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

My Thoughts

First, I just want to say how much I love the idea of this series. Each book in the futuristic sci-fi Lunar Chronicles is a retelling of a classic fairy tale, and I think that combo is magical. Cinder, obviously, is Cinderella. The sequel, Scarlet, is Little Red Riding Hood. And still to come are Cress (Rapunzel) and Winter (Snow White). Each book will continue the tales of the characters from the prior book while introducing us to new re-imaginings of the fairy tale characters, and while I have no idea how Marissa Meyer is going to pull that off, I’m thrilled about the concept.

Now, talking about the book itself, Cinder was a fun protagonist. She was Cinderella meets Kaylee from Firefly, with robot parts. And I liked that although, like the fairy tale, Cinder’s romance with the Prince was definitely part of the story, her main motivation was not love, it was independence. Cinder was prepared to pull herself up by her mechanical bootstraps, and I appreciated that about her.

Prince Kai wasn’t the most fleshed out of characters, although I liked him well enough. No, I didn’t fully understand what made him so very appealing to Cinder, but he wasn’t unappealing. I just didn’t quite love him. But that’s okay, since as I said, the love story was not actually central to the plot. I’m okay warming up to Kai over several books while I stay invested in the rest of the plot. Even Cinder ends the book not entirely sure about how she feels about him, so it’s all right for me to feel the same way.

I really enjoyed the way the fairy tale elements were woven into the story. There’s still an evil stepmother, and an evil stepsister. There’s a prince, and a ball. And there is the classic running-away-down-the-steps scene, although with a twist.

But at the same time, there’s an evil queen who rules a race of people who live on the moon, with mind control powers. There’s political unrest. There’s a mysterious plague. There’s androids and hovers and cyborgs. So while it is recognizable as the fairy tale that inspired it, it also brings a lot of freshness and imagination that makes it stand out from the crowd.

I will say it’s a bit predictable. I called the big “twist” ending somewhere in the first 50 pages. But it didn’t lessen my enjoyment of the book. I still loved to see how everything unfolded. The thing with fairy tale retellings is that we already know all the bones of the story, so I don’t think a surprise ending is all that important. What matters is the creativity of how the tale is told, and how it differs from the original. The characters and setting and how they can hold my interest, even if I know (more or less) what’s coming. And I think Cinder accomplished that in spades.

If you are looking for a fun, imaginative new series that puts an exciting sci-fi twist on the stories you grew up with, I’d highly recommend Cinder.

Throwback Thursday (February 28) – Fight Club

Throwback Thursday is a weekly meme hosted by The Housework Can Wait and Never Too Fond of Books.

Here’s how it works:
  • Pick any bookish or literary-related media (or non-media item) released more than 5 years ago.
  • Write up a short summary (include the title, author, and cover art, if applicable) and an explanation of why you love it. Make sure to link back to The Housework Can Wait and Never Too Fond of Books in your post.
  • Link up your post at The Housework Can Wait or Never Too Fond of Books.
  • Visit as many blogs as you can, reminisce about books you loved, and discover some “new” books for your TBR list – or some other classic!

Feel free to grab the Throwback Thursday button code from the sidebar to use in your posts.

Thanks for participating, and we look forward to seeing which books you choose to remember!

My Throwback this week is…

Fight Club (1999) starring Brad Pitt, Edward Norton, and Helena Bonham Carter

Based on the novel by Chuck Palahniuk

I had a hard day. This movie seemed appropriate. [Warning: This film is rated R, and contains alllll sorts of mature content – drugs, sex, violence, language. Please consider that when determining whether or not to watch it.]

I remember the first time I saw Fight Club. I was in college, and still trying to figure out exactly what my taste was. I watched chick flicks and action movies and Deep and Serious Films (spoiler: I didn’t wind up too keen on Deep and Serious Films). This movie was different from anything I’d seen. I wasn’t sure how to classify it. All I knew was that I loved it.

Fight Club follows an unnamed narrator (Norton) who starts faking ailments so he can crash various support groups as a cure for his insomnia. At one of these groups, he meets Marla (Bonham Carter), who is also crashing. They agree to stay away from each other. The narrator also crosses paths with Tyler Durden (Pitt), a businessman he met on an airplane, and they become friends. One night, outside a bar, Tyler tells the narrator to hit him. And he does. And they draw a crowd of other men who want to hit and be hit, and thus Fight Club is born. Tyler and the narrator also both develop a complicated relationship with Marla. Meanwhile, fight clubs have been spreading all across the country, and have morphed into an anti-materialist organization called Project Mayhem, whose exploits quickly escalate from misdemeanors into dangerous territory. The narrator has second thoughts, but Tyler is gung-ho, and their differing stances ultimately clash in an explosive and mind-bending final confrontation.

I will admit, I haven’t read the book, although I’ve meant to for years. I think the story is incredible, and honestly, I feel like not a month goes by where neither my husband nor I reference the rules of Fight Club. It’s one of those movies I don’t watch often, but when I do, it blows me away every time. If you’ve never seen it and like mind-bendy violent movies, check it out.*

This is a blog hop! Link up your Throwback Thursday post below!

*With, of course, the stipulation that if you are under 17, this will not cause angst between you and your parents, as it would have with mine if I had watched this as a young teen. I don’t want to be the cause of your family trauma.

Top Ten Tuesday (February 26): Auto-Buy Authors

Welcome to Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish!

Today’s topic is:

Top Ten Authors That I’d Put On My Auto-Buy List*

Basically, this is talking about authors whose books we will buy, no matter what they are. And this one’s tricky, because I recently had to DNF (did-not-finish) The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling. And she would have previously topped this list. (For the record, I do intend to attempt The Casual Vacancy again someday. I just wasn’t able to get into it this first go-around.)

So then what makes an author an auto-buy author? I’m not entirely sure. It’s just kind of a gut thing that I can’t explain. It is what it is.

(These are in no particular order, as all of them are worthy of the same prize – a lifetime of book-buying).

1. Ruta Sepetys. I loved Between Shades of Gray and Out of the Easy, but also, Ruta is just one of the sweetest, most genuine people ever. She has a real passion for what she does, and she speaks so well. I will always want to support her.

2. Victoria Schwab. Not only does Victoria write beautifully (have you picked up The Archived yet? Because you should), but she is also a lovely, kind person who constantly strives to bring more beauty to the world. Victoria is also the author of The Near Witch and the upcoming Vicious.

3. Myra McEntire. I. Love. Myra. Hopefully that doesn’t come across in a creepy way, but she is legitimately one of my absolute favorite people that I’ve met in the past year (and I’ve met many). And her books — I love them. I push them on people in a way that might be considered somewhat extreme, except that no one that reads them ever tells me anything other than “THANK YOU SO MUCH I LOVED THESE,” so I’m assuming it’s all okay. Myra is the author of Hourglass and Timepiece, and the upcoming Infinityglass .

4. Lauren Oliver. I love Before I Fall and the Delirium series (although Requiem is not out yet, so we’ll see how I feel about that one). I haven’t read The Spindlers yet, but I do own it and am looking forward to reading it, eventually. Her writing is lovely and I will always be interested in more of her stories.

5. J.K. Rowling. Okay, okay, I know what I said before, but let’s just assume The Casual Vacancy was a fluke. I’m not sure if I’m talking about the book itself or my experience reading it. But the bottom line is, I do plan to return to it someday. And if she comes out with another book after it, I’ll pick that one up too. *crosses fingers and hopes it’s about wizards*

6. Katie McGarry. She’s only got one book out right now, Pushing the Limits, but I managed to snag an early copy of her upcoming book, Dare You To, and it is just as good if not better. And she’s got two more on the way, spinning off the same characters. I love the first two in a way I pretty much never love contemporary romance, and her writing just has a way of pulling my emotions in every direction imaginable. I will eagerly pick up anything else she puts out.

 7. Suzanne Collins. Which reminds me. I need to pick up the Underland Chronicles. I’ve been meaning to forever, since I love The Hunger Games so much and want to read MORE of her lovely words. I even liked Mockingjay.

8. Michael Crichton. I think this one might be a cheat, as I think — I think — I’ve already read all of his books. Some of them were so long ago that I’d have to re-read them to tell you what they’re about, but that still obviously qualifies him for this list. Sadly, in a fit of insanity, I donated a huge amount of books to Goodwill when I got married, including most of my Crichton novels, so now I have to slowly rebuild my collection. Seriously, I don’t know what I was thinking.

9. Robin HobbEven though the Soldier Son was not the best thing ever (nor was it the worst), and even though I was disappointed by the Rain Wilds Chronicles, I will still check out anything Robin Hobb writes for the rest of forever. Because the Farseer series was honestly. That. Good.

Aaaaaand I’m out, one shy of ten. There’s other authors I would definitely check out anything new they wrote, but I don’t know if I’d pull the book-buying trigger. Their books would definitely warrant a trip to the library, though. These authors include: C.J. Redwine, Sharon Cameron, Beth Revis, Stephanie Perkins, Maggie Stiefvater, Veronica Roth, Julie Kagawa, Marissa Meyer, Rae Carson, Kristin Cashore, James Dashner, John Green, Scott Westerfield, and I’m sure many others. I’m just cheap, and it takes a lot to weasel your way onto my auto-buy list. Truthfully, some of these authors would probably be there already if I’d read more of their already-published books. So it’s probably just a matter of time.

How about you? Whose books saturate your bookshelves, yet you still can’t get enough?

*Just because they’re auto-buy authors doesn’t mean I’ve read all their books yet. It just means I have them, or am planning to acquire them, and intend to read them, someday.

Throwback Thursday (February 21) – Timeline

Throwback Thursday is a weekly meme hosted by The Housework Can Wait and Never Too Fond of Books.

Here’s how it works:
  • Pick any bookish or literary-related media (or non-media item) released more than 5 years ago.
  • Write up a short summary (include the title, author, and cover art, if applicable) and an explanation of why you love it. Make sure to link back to The Housework Can Wait and Never Too Fond of Books in your post.
  • Link up your post at The Housework Can Wait or Never Too Fond of Books.
  • Visit as many blogs as you can, reminisce about books you loved, and discover some “new” books for your TBR list – or some other classic!

Feel free to grab the Throwback Thursday button code from the sidebar to use in your posts.

Thanks for participating, and we look forward to seeing which books you choose to remember!

My Throwback this week is…

Timeline by Michael Crichton

I know I feature Michael Crichton books a lot for Throwback Thursday, and that is for two reasons:

1. They comprise 50% of my reading material in high school and I can’t go back in time and make my past self read a wider variety of authors (the other 50% was John Grisham).

2. Michael Crichton books are awesome, as long as he sticks to hard sci-fi. When he branches out, things get…iffy.

So Timeline is — and I realize I say this a lot — one of my favorite Crichton novels (yes, I have about five different “favorite” Crichton novels. Deal with it). It’s got time travel and castles and medieval swordplay and Frenchmen. The basic premise is a team of modern scientists/archaeologists travel back in time — for science, because actually traveling to 14th-century France is more educational than excavating relics from 14th-century France — and wind up getting stuck there. Oops. And then of course they have to get back, but that is not a simple task, and in the meantime there is INTRIGUE and HORSEBACK RIDING and DID I MENTION THE SWORDPLAY?

It’s action-packed page-turning anachronistic fun, and I love it with my whole heart, or at least the part that loves sci-fi (which is, I’d say, a good 87% of it).

This is a blog hop! Link up your Throwback Thursday post below!

Also, we have a winner for our Throwback Thursday Prize Pack giveaway! If it’s you, check your email. You have 48 hours to respond before another winner will be chosen. Thanks for playing along!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Writerly TV: Friday Night Lights

As part of my new goal to talk about writing a bit on this blog, in addition to reading, I’m going to feature some TV shows I think are helpful to writers, and why I believe that is. It’s kind of ironic, since I actually started blogging in the first place so that I would watch less TV (and it worked — I barely watch any now), but I actually think TV has a lot in common with books. No, I’ll never tell my kids it’s okay to substitute television for English homework, but as far as the storytelling goes, both develop characters gradually, both place heavy emphasis on world-building and dialogue, and the best books and television shows pay attention to things like foreshadowing and detail and developing large overarching plot arcs while wrapping up smaller ones. I find that sometimes I learn different lessons about storytelling from a well-crafted TV show than I will from a well-written book, maybe because I process it with a different part of my brain. Television is a more visceral medium, books a more intellectual one, and so they affect me differently. I honestly feel that each helps me better appreciate another.

Also, while I think reading is so, so important to writing, sometimes I get to a point in my own writing where I can’t properly appreciate other people’s writing. Either I read with Revision Brain (“I would have used a different word here. This sentence is awkward.”) so I can’t get absorbed in it, OR I sink into a funk because what I’m reading is just so good that I can’t see any point in continuing in my own writing, because I will never achieve that level of greatness. Neither one of these attitudes are helpful, and sometimes what I need to snap myself out of it is an episode of a well-written television show.

So this feature is where I will highlight the television shows that inspire me as a writer, and why that is. But if you’re not a writer, don’t worry. These are also just plain good TV, and worth a watch.

Disclaimer: This is not my endorsement to substitute large chunks of television for large chunks of reading. Ever. Stimulate your brain. Read a book. But I think television has a lot of validity and merit as long as you engage in it in moderation. Like dark chocolate.

With that intro out of the way, let me get to the show I want to talk about today.

Friday Night Lights is one of those shows I never, ever planned to watch. I’m not big on TV shows about ordinary life. I like there to be magic, or crime, or espionage. And I honestly kind of hate football. After going to every single football game for my high school and college years (and a bit beyond) due to my involvement in marching band, I never developed even the slightest appreciation for the sport. So an hour-long drama about a high school football team was not appealing to me. Also, it’s set in Texas, and I’m kind of allergic to Texas.

But then I kept hearing how amazing this show was, and I had a friend basically tell me that if my next Netflixed show was anything other than FNL, I would be doing myself a disservice. So I decided to watch the pilot, just to test the waters. And I. Was. Hooked.

This show does character development and relationships better than any other show I’ve ever seen. Even characters I spent the pilot not loving, I adored by the time their run on the show ended. The dialogue was authentic and smart, and the plots were quiet but engaging. This show even managed to swap out the majority of the cast over its five-season run (characters would leave for college…and not come back. The way it works when you graduate high school), which normally doesn’t work. Yet it worked. I wound up loving characters that only appeared for one or two seasons, and they all stayed with me after I watched the final episode.

Why do I think this show is a must-watch for writers? Character development and authenticity. I’ve never seen another show handle it better. There isn’t a single character on FNL who doesn’t screw up royally at one point or another (some more than others), but there also isn’t a character who doesn’t also have moments of greatness. And it’s this show, more than any other, that showed me how sometimes quiet moments and subtle character actions can have the greatest impact. Anyone who wants to write believable, empathetic characters would doing themselves a favor by watching this show.

In addition, FNL has the most realistic depiction of a healthy marriage of any show I’ve seen. I wish more YA novels would have parents like the Taylors. They don’t have drama for drama’s sake, they love each other, they argue but then work through it — and they’re completely, utterly compelling. They’re proof that relationships don’t need to be full of angst and drama for me to be invested in them. This ties back to the character development issue, but I feel is worth a shout-out.

If you’ve been on the fence about this show — maybe, like me, you were pretty sure it just wasn’t up your alley — I’d urge you to try it out. It may not be big and flashy, but it’s got heart.

Watch it on Netflix.

(Also, if you’ve watched the show — this trailer for the series is amazing and makes me cry every time. But there ARE spoilers, so I wouldn’t watch it unless you have either watched the whole series, or don’t care about being spoiled.)