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Cinder (Marissa Meyer, The Lunar Chronicles #1)

4.5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
As the title suggests, this is a modern retelling of the classic fairytale Cinderella. Luckily, the story is retold in an exciting, feminist-friendly update to the sexist base of the traditional Cinderella. Cinder takes place in a dystopian future where cyborgs, androids, and hovercraft are part of everyday life and a war is on the horizon with the seemingly magical beings who live on the moon (the Lunars). The character Cinder is a fiesty adopted cyborg who is trying to make enough money as a mechanic to leave her oppressive homelife in Little Beijing. All the characters (including a prince, of course) are written so well you feel as if you have actually met them in real life. Cinder is a strong female character who turns the fairy tale on its head and refuses to be rescued. This is a great book for people of all ages – my sixty-one year old dad adores this series and can’t wait for the next book in the series. It’s definitely a good read for just about anyone!

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Posted in Children's/Young Adult, Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Softly Say Goodbye (KC Sprayberry)

3 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
This novel has a very moving story but occasionally gets a little too didactic for comfort. The story follows a female protagonist, Erin, who is navigating her way through senior year of high school while facing the issue of teenage drinking among her peers, which often results in tragedy. Teenage drinking is the main theme of the book, and Sprayberry makes sure the reader does not forget how damaging it can be to the lives of young people. I haven’t been in high school of over a decade, but the amount of focus and energy given to alcohol at the school of the protagonist seems a bit overblown. However, Sprayberry’s points are well made, and if a little exaggeration is present, it does not undermine the story enough to destroy the enjoyment of the book.

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Jennifer Scales and the Ancient Furnace (Maryjanice Davidson and Anthony Alongi, Jennifer Scales #1)

3 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
Jennifer Scales and the Ancient Furnace is a coming of age contemporary fantasy story of a young teenage girl who discovers that she is a weredragon (like a werewolf with scales and fiery breath). The fact that this is the first of a series of books leads to some compromises that detract a little from the overall quality, but nothing especially egregious. It is probably aimed primarily at younger readers, but I found the earnestness and unapologeticness of the book quite refreshing. The characters aren’t especially sophisticated, but they function fairly well even if they aren’t entrancing with their multitude of fascinating facets and subtleties. The story, similarly, is a little stereotypical for the genre but proceeds along quickly and smoothly, still managing some unexpected twists that keep you entertained. Overall, I was quite surprised that I enjoyed myself and would recommend the book especially to younger readers or those with an aversion to darker themes.

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Insurgent (Veronica Roth)

4 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
This is the second novel in Roth’s dystopian trilogy with rhyming titles (which Lauren Oliver has also done with Delirium/Pandemonium/Requiem, leaving me to wonder both who is copying whom and what the title of the third in this series might possibly be; the best I can come up with is Detergent).  It picks up right where Divergent left off (I’ll save the spoilers for the next section) and continues to follow Tris as she struggles to understand what being Divergent means for her and where she fits in.  This book has some of the same problems as Divergent, namely leads who are less-well characterized than the excellent supporting cast and too much time spent on the trying, repetitively conflictual love story between them.  And like its predecessor, it has a lot of violence, some graphic, and some light teen sexuality (kissing and touching).  It earns a half-star higher review from me because Roth really comes into her own here; unlike her first book, no one could accuse Insurgent of being a The Hunger Games wannabe.  The plot is all hers, and it’s excellent and well-executed.  I can’t wait for the third in this series, whatever the name may be.

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Divergent (Veronica Roth)

3.5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
After the huge success of The Hunger Games, several young adult authors came out with US-set dystopian trilogies with teenage female protagonists; many of these appear to have modeled their first books after the first in that series, before branching away in the remaining novels. This is the first of Veronica Roth’s Divergent series, and she builds an interesting, novel (if not entirely believable), dystopian world. She makes the mistake of missing one of the things which made The Hunger Games so remarkable, which was that romance was the last thing on Katniss Everdeen’s mind — not the case here. Despite this, Roth’s heroine, Tris, is a strong character with a clear identity and agenda outside of chasing her man, and the story is intriguing. However, the relationship between Tris and her love interest is frustrating: they have a misunderstanding, vow that there will never be secrets between them again, immediately begin keeping secrets from each other, lather, rinse, repeat. Further, there’s a lot of violence in this book, some quite graphic, so be warned; there’s also some minimal teen sexual activity, mostly kissing and touching. Overall, it was an engaging concept and story with fleshed-out characters and was quite well executed with the exception of the romantic subplot; I’d recommend it for fans of dystopian stories.

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