Review: Winter by Marissa Meyer (The Lunar Chronicles, #4)

winter-cover

three-and-a-half-stars

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Princess Winter is admired by the Lunar people for her grace and kindness, and despite the scars that mar her face, her beauty is said to be even more breathtaking than that of her stepmother, Queen Levana.

Winter despises her stepmother, and knows Levana won’t approve of her feelings for her childhood friend—the handsome palace guard, Jacin. But Winter isn’t as weak as Levana believes her to be and she’s been undermining her stepmother’s wishes for years. Together with the cyborg mechanic, Cinder, and her allies, Winter might even have the power to launch a revolution and win a war that’s been raging for far too long.

Can Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Winter defeat Levana and find their happily ever afters?

Winter is the latest and hottest YA finale this year. From Goodreads to Tumblr, Marissa Meyer’s fandom grows more and more each day, inching further into our minds and gripping our brains–just like the Lunar gift.

So. What’s all the hubbub about? Has Meyer written an original swan song to end an epic, heartbreaking series of books? Or has she simply mimicked and repackaged marketable YA concepts? I like to think that the reality lies somewhere in between these two extremes.

Allow me to introduce you to Winter.

The Skinny:

Every book in this series has focused on a new character, and unsurprisingly, this one’s about Levana’s beautiful, slightly unhinged stepdaughter. Because she refuses to use her gift, Winter has developed Lunar Sickness–which causes the mind to deteriorate into madness. Hallucinations, paranoia, the works.

Meanwhile, Cinder and the gang are trying to find a way to invade Luna and dethrone Levana–on a serious time crunch, no less, since the queen is threatening intergalactic war unless she gets her crown AND her man (Kai, mister sassy emperor roll).

Personally, this is how I’d like to imagine Cinder dethroning Levana:

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GET DAT THRONE GURL.

As the final showdown draws closer, our beloved protagonists must dodge execution and betrayal at every turn. Levana grows more dangerous; her thaumaturges get more bloodthirsty by the minute. If Cinder cannot gather an army, then she’s done for. CrazyPants McNutNut will win.

And so…the debacle that is Winter begins.

What I Liked

– Winter the Character –

“I am a girl of ice and snow, and I think I’m very glad to meet you.”

She’s beauty, she’s grace, she sees blood dripping all over your face.

I really, really loved Winter the Character.

We’ve had Cinderella, Red Riding Hood, and the Rapunzel stories covered so far (Cinder, Scarlet, Cress). Winter’s our resident Snow White. The best part: She’s actually black.

Honestly: Winter is probably my favorite character in this entire goddamn series; she’s the realest and the most relatable. See, some readers disagree with me because Winter is so beautiful and beloved by her people. They think that Winter gets a pass on everything due to her beauty and likability. But that’s how the real world works. That happens. All the time.

And emotionally fragile, scarred girls who still have a pure heart after everything that’s happened to them? They’re something special. Winter is a flower among thorns. She’s refreshing.

I love Cinder and Cress, but let’s be real, how many girls are expert mechanic cyborgs or the best programmers in their nation by age 16? How many? I’ll wait. I can’t relate to feisty, snappy Scarlet either. Others say that Scarlet’s bold; I say she’s a bit conceited.

It’s fine to idolize such characters, but make no mistake: When you call Winter weak, you’re showing your blindness to her true power. LOVE.

/thatwasarlylongrantimsorryNOT

– The Jacin x Winter Dynamic –

Of all the relationships force-fed to us by The Lunar Chronicles, Jacin and Winter are by far my favorite couple. Their love and understanding of each other is a fantastic thing in a sea of heartless partners and desperate stage-five clingers. This is the only romantic relationship in the series that I 100 percent approve of. (Don’t hate me. I mean, I’m alright with Kai and Cinder…)

Bonus fanart pic of Jacin and Winter! (Created by Tumblr user taratjah)

jacin-and-winter

They are just the cutest.

– Battle Scenes –

Meyer has a knack for writing action-packed paragraphs. I enjoyed reading about the group’s efforts to rally people to their side, and I glued myself to the pages during Winter’s battle scenes. For the most part, these were well-done and highly developed. I do have a soft spot for battle preparations.

What I Didn’t Like

– Pacing Problems –

Winter (the book) suffers from the same pacing issues that have plagued this series since Scarlet. Literally, the only novel without awful pacing is Cinder, which is strange since that was Meyer’s debut work. Although the writing and world-building became more complex and interesting, the pacing continued to deteriorate as the chronicles went on.

The result is a slow read that sometimes feels like a chore to get through.

– Undeveloped Relationships –

If Meyer didn’t give her characters such stale dialogue in a dull effort to develop romantic relationships, then maybe the pacing wouldn’t be so bad. But as it is, way too much time is dedicated to low-quality banter.

It doesn’t help that I have never rooted for these relationships. They are way too forced and always will be. No amount of convo-stuffing is going to change that.

  • Bad Relationship #1: Cress & Thorne

This is the most undeveloped relationship in the series. So Cress falls in love with Thorne before she even meets him, due to her being a naive teenage girl. Then Thorne & Cress meet, subsequently becoming stranded in a desert. They band together to survive, yadayada. Later, the gang reunites, Thorne starts having real feelings for Cress, and Cress is insecure because Thorne flirts with everything that moves. You get the gist of it.

Unfortunately, their scenes together–particularly their earliest ones–were cringeworthy. Seriously. UGH. It gets a little bit better in Winter, but this ship is still unbelievable. Cress deserves better than Thorne. She’s a genius, for space’s sake; Thorne’s just a flirty criminal with cheap charisma. Cress must have serious self-esteem issues. >.>

  • Bad Relationship #2: Scarlet & Wolf

See, I almost excused this couple from the Bad Relationship Category due to Wolf’s animalistic instincts. That does make him possessive and eager to mate more quickly than the typical human male. But that seems like a shitty excuse. Yeah yeah, Scarlet & Wolf have been around a while, too, much to my annoyance. Book Two (which featured them) was so drawn-out and boring.

Sure, Scarlet & Wolf have chemistry. But love? Nuh-uh. They can be protective of each other; they can want each other; and yet… I don’t see these two being endgame.

I might be slightly biased, as Scarlet is my least favorite character. Oh well.

I’m leaving Cinder & Kai out of this one since their partnership is passable. They’ve been around since Book One, and they’re royalty. Of course they need to end up together for the Earthen-Lunar alliance (and for swooning fans). Kai certainly isn’t the most caring of men. But I’ll let it go because Political Reasons.

cersei-screams-internally

– World-Building –

I don’t necessarily hate the world-building in this series…but it could be better. At first, Luna intrigued me with its gifted populace and privileged classes. But in Winter, it becomes sadly obvious that the author has borrowed a bunch of tired dystopian concepts to describe the Lunar civilization.

Exhibit A: Luna has different sectors (lumber, mining, etc.) that don’t communicate with each other, along with a wealthy capital that gorges on every luxury.

Exhibit B: Everyone in the poorer sectors wears the same utilitarian clothing in dull colors.

Exhibit C: Each sector exists for a different purpose with its entire population working in the same industry. The wealthier sectors make the luxury items for Luna’s aristocratic families.

The Hunger Games, anyone??? Meyer didn’t even try to be original here. Winter could’ve fared far better if the author had taken some time to describe unique facets of Lunar society. I was so excited to finally see Luna culture; sadly, it was a disappointment.

In Fairest–a prequel about Levana–the Lunar capital was described in a fascinating way, erasing any thoughts about cliches before they appeared. The author failed to do this in Winter.

The Verdict

Winter is a moderately entertaining read that suffers from pacing issues and undeveloped character relationships. However, it’s a satisfying finale for those who have stuck with Cinder and her amazing sidekick Iko from the very beginning. This is the epic ending that we’ve all been waiting for–will you join Princess Selene’s rebellion?

A solid 3.5 Stars.

Try The Lunar Chronicles if you enjoy the following literary flavors:

  • futuristic society
  • science fiction/fantasy
  • cyborgs
  • robots/androids
  • magical powers
  • oppressive governments
  • princes and princesses
  • true love
  • the power of beauty
  • intergalactic war

Review: A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

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Rating-Christgau-three-star-honorable-mention

Rating: 3 Stars

A thrilling, seductive new series from New York Times bestselling author Sarah J. Maas, blending Beauty and the Beast with faerie lore.

When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution for it. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she only knows about from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin—one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world.

As she dwells on his estate, her feelings for Tamlin transform from icy hostility into a fiery passion that burns through every lie and warning she’s been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But an ancient, wicked shadow grows over the faerie lands, and Feyre must find a way to stop it… or doom Tamlin—and his world—forever.

I’M BACK, BITCHES–I mean…bloggers. Where have I been, you ask? Working on computer science and eating pounds of fudge while crying, of course. But no need to worry. Since my last post, I have achieved a solid A in all of my courses–all higher than 95 percent. Including my computer science class. *cheers myself on*

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And, in celebration of school ending soon, I’ve decided to slowly get back into the swing of actually reviewing the books that I read.

SO. What better way to kick that off than to review yet another hot book?

A Court of Thorns and Roses. Here we go.


I had high expectations for this book. I’m a rabid fan of Sarah’s other works, and A Court of Thorns and Roses has FAERIES and WICKED SHADOWS and a STUBBORN FEMALE CHARACTER. When mixed together and cooked at exactly the right temperature (with appropriate adjectives and action-packed scenes sprinkled on top), these characteristics almost always equal deliciousness.

But wait, what’s that I taste? Forced romance? Cardboard characterizations? Boring and flowery scenes piled onto more boring and flowery scenes? I never would have thought that Sarah was capable of such mediocrity.

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Review: Aftermath by Chuck Wendig

aftermath-cover-second

2.5Stars

Rating: 2.5 Stars

The second Death Star is destroyed. The Emperor and his powerful enforcer, Darth Vader, are rumored to be dead. The Galactic Empire is in chaos. Across the galaxy, some systems celebrate, while in others Imperial factions tighten their grip. Optimism and fear reign side by side.

And while the Rebel Alliance engages the fractured forces of the Empire, a lone Rebel scout uncovers a secret Imperial meeting…

I didn’t know how to write this review–how to critique part of a universe that comprised the most amazing and beautiful parts of my adolescence.

Aftermath doesn’t live up to its status as a Star Wars product. It doesn’t even stack up if you compare it to other Sci-Fi publications. I wish I were saying something else, anything else, especially since Aftermath is steadily receiving vomit-filled bucketloads of hate from all sides.

This novel may not be the mass cesspool of ignorance and idiocy that some claim it to be, but it is indeed representative of mediocrity–worse, mediocrity that’s practically catapulting off the shelves.

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Review: Silver in the Blood by Jessica Day George

silver-in-the-blood-cover

2.5Stars

Rating: 2.5 Stars

Society girls from New York City circa 1890, Dacia and Lou never desired to know more about their lineage, instead preferring to gossip about the mysterious Romanian family that they barely knew. But upon turning seventeen, the girls must return to their homeland to meet their relatives, find proper husbands, and—most terrifyingly—learn the deep family secrets of The Claw, The Wing, and The Smoke. The Florescus, after all, are shape-shifters, and it is time for Dacia and Lou to fulfill the prophecy that demands their acceptance of this fate… or fight against this cruel inheritance with all their might.

[This Book in One Sentence: In the Victorian era, two high-society girls are taken to their Romanian homeland to learn a shocking family secret that could unravel the very fabric of European society.]

Another book with potential that never even came close to the quality-based finish line.

I was introduced to this novel by the Goodreads new releases page. Silver in the Blood‘s beautiful cover and intriguing synopsis made me take further steps to obtain it–namely, checking it out at the local library! *high-fives the librarian*

Actually, I take that high-five back. Go away, librarian.

….

Silver in the Blood just doesn’t have the literary it factor.

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Review: Everything, Everything by Nicole Yoon

everything-everything-cover

2.5Stars

Rating: 2.5 Stars

My disease is as rare as it is famous. Basically, I’m allergic to the world. I don’t leave my house, have not left my house in seventeen years. The only people I ever see are my mom and my nurse, Carla.

But then one day, a moving truck arrives next door. I look out my window, and I see him. He’s tall, lean and wearing all black—black T-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers, and a black knit cap that covers his hair completely. He catches me looking and stares at me. I stare right back. His name is Olly.

Maybe we can’t predict the future, but we can predict some things. For example, I am certainly going to fall in love with Olly. It’s almost certainly going to be a disaster.

Note: I obtained Everything, Everything from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

[This Book in One Sentence: 18-year-old Madeline has a rare illness that can kill her if she ventures outside, but when she meets her new neighbor, she’s willing to sacrifice everything for a taste of true love.]

The sick teen theme (or trope; depends on how you look at it) is an actual trend in YA, which is understandable; the topic brings needed diversity to a culture that is so often focused on ableism. I did not have any problem with the subject matter. However, the words that come to mind when asked to describe Everything, Everything are “contrived,” “silly,” and “sad.” Not a positive trio for a book about young love against all odds. Not even for a novel about a sick girl who finds herself.

Everything, Everything is another creature entirely–one that’s not snarling and angry, nor cute and sassy, nor even kind and sorrowful. If this story were an animal, it would be a toad that seems shiny when you first notice it puttering around in a damp, dull swamp. But this is a toad with a particularly boring and off-putting personality. The falsely shimmering skin surface is its only interesting component.

And so, I feel no pain in critiquing this new publication. More editing and proofreading should have been done. Too late for that now. Here’s the gist of it.

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Review: Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

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threehalf

RATING: 3 1/2 Stars

“In school, we learned about the world before ours, about the angels and gods that lived in the sky, ruling the earth with kind and loving hands. Some say those are just stories, but I don’t believe that. The gods rule us still. They have come down from the stars. And they are no longer kind.”

[THIS BOOK IN ONE SENTENCE:  A pick-pocketing teenage girl lives as a second-class citizen without the superhuman powers possessed by the ruling Silver nobles, but when she finds her way into the King’s Court, her own unbelievable magic is discovered.]

Let’s explore one of the most hyped-up young adult books of 2015.

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Review: Uprooted by Naomi Novik

uprooted-cover

5 stars

RATING: 5 Stars

“Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life. Her people rely on the cold, ambitious wizard, known only as the Dragon, to keep the wood’s powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman must be handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as being lost to the wood. The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows – everyone knows – that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia – all the things Agnieszka isn’t – and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her. But no one can predict how or why the Dragon chooses a girl. And when he comes, it is not Kasia he will take with him.”

[THIS BOOK IN ONE SENTENCE: 17-year-old Agnieszka is taken by the Dragon – the kingdom’s most powerful and necessary wizard – as a price for his protection against the darkest forces imaginable.]

[WHAT I REALLY WANTED TO SAY: A messy teenage girl with a perfect best friend is taken as tribute by “the Dragon”, otherwise known as Gordon Ramsay in a wizard’s hat.]

I LOVED this book. Uprooted consumed me for three days. I could hardly sleep; I had to finish it. Even hours after reaching the last word of the last page, Agnieszka, the Dragon, and their twisted but beautiful world stayed with me. I still can’t get the characters out of my mind. I feel like they’re my best friends. I just went on an adventure that made me cry, gasp, and sob numerous times, but I still came out of it laughing at the Dragon’s endearing remarks and giving Agnieszka a shoulder to fall back on. Trust me; she needs it.

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Review: The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black

darkest-part-cover

three-and-one-half-stars-rating

 RATING: 3 1/2 STARS

They were in love with him because he was a prince and a faerie and magical and you were supposed to love princes and faeries and magic people. They loved him the way they’d loved Beast the first time he swept Belle around the dance floor in her yellow dress. They loved him as they loved the Eleventh Doctor with his bow tie and his flippy hair and the Tenth Doctor with his mad laugh. They loved him as they loved lead singers of bands and actors in movies, loved him in such a way that their shared love brought them closer together.

[THIS BOOK IN ONE SENTENCE: A brother-sister duo fight evil faeries, catty high school students, and shameful secrets that exist underneath the surface of a cursed town with a strange, sleeping prince.]

Ahh… the young adult (YA) novel. I’m only 21, but I still feel like I’m reverting to a much different “me” with some of these publications. This, well, this is one of those times. I feel like a squealing 15-year-old who’s just discovered the bad boy character trope, reading under her desk because she SO cannot wait to see if the girl and the super-duper-dangerous-guy-with-a-badass-leather-jacket get together. Yeah. That was me. The Darkest Part of the Forest brought the batshit crazy adolescent back. But just because I devoured it doesn’t mean I loved it. I’ll elaborate further.

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Review: Binary Star by Sarah Gerard

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3-star-rating

RATING: 3 STARS

“I read about stars. Miley Cyrus, Victoria Beckham, Lady Gaga, Princess Kate. / I buy magazines at Walgreens. Read the stories, read for class. / If I have Adderall, I read all night, filling myself. / I empty myself. / I fill myself. / I empty myself. / I fill myself. / Again, I’m still empty. / My goal for the night: 85. Amazing! / I don’t need to be full to purge. I’m never full. / I’m able to purge without feeling. / I’m sick.”

[THIS BOOK IN ONE SENTENCE: An anorexic young woman falls deeper into her disease and veganarchism while engaging in a toxic relationship with an unemployed alcoholic.]

As one can see from the quote above, the format of Binary Star is not typical of most novels (excepting Ellen Hopkins of Crank fame and other dare-to-be-different young adult authors). This novel is written in poetic form, but more than that, it’s written as if you’re simply following the narrator’s train of thought. There are no quotations around the dialogue, so I had to figure out for myself if the unnamed young woman was just thinking, talking to someone, or being spoken to throughout the entire book.

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