Thursday, June 27, 2013

Cinder (Lunar Chronicles, #1) by Marissa Meyer * * * *

Cinder is a sci-fi retelling of Cinderella. Sort of. What always bothered me about Cinderella's story, and also apparently many of the people who created their own versions of it; was that she doesn't meet him until the ball, doesn't even talk two sentences with him during it, and marries a complete stranger in the end because he's the handsome prince. So this version does correct that as well. It still has the wicked stepmother, and sister. It's also not unheard of that the younger sister is nice to Cinderella. The author also kept some of the elements of the story, like the chores, the sleeping where she works, the leaving of the shoe on the steps. However, this Cinderella doesn't just take it all and hope that her kindness will free her from her sad life. In fact, she doesn't expect it to. She knows that only she can save herself, and she's no pushover. She is her own fairy godmother.

Of course, she still falls in love with the Prince. However, this prince is not the pretty shell we have in the fairy tale. He's a real person with responsibilities and problems. We see the story from both perspectives, and this helps take the story out of just being about a girl in love. Which, by the way, is not a very dominant part of the story. No long, long gazes into each others' eyes page after page, no romantic sappiness. People who have read my reviews before know that I'm not a romantic person, so this was a big plus for me.

Another obvious influence is Sailor Moon. That is incidentally one of my all time favourite anime, so I immediately noticed the parallels between having a kingdom on the Moon, and people with "magic" inhabiting it. Also searching for Princess Serena - sorry, Selena. The story also takes place in New Beiging, so the feel of Asia is everywhere. Evil queens are also very common in the 200 episodes of Sailor Moon.

What is different from both of these stories is the ever-lurking threat of the plague. Without giving too much away, the disease is used well, as something to advance a plot, make a plot, or to just influence people in the background.

The sci-fi elements are not so overwhelming so that only hardcore fans can read it. It's sort of there in the ID chips and hover crafts, Cinder's wiring and limbs, but we don't get long Physics lessons that you need a degree for. It happens in the future, with people who live in the future. Most of them probably know as much about how their android works as we know about our coffee machine.

Overall, it's an interesting and exciting story. I wanted to know what was going to happen to Cinder and the rest of the people in it. I'm also eager to continue. The reason why it gets only 4 stars is because it didn't excite me to the degree that 5 stars would. It wasn't Harry Potter, or something like it. I don't want to read it again, or find fanfiction in the world. However, it was a good story, well written, even though I found one word mistake. The pacing was good, and I am going to read on.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Glitches (Lunar Chronicles, #0.5) by Marissa Meyer * * * *

I started the series unsure of whether I want to read it or not. I love sci-fi, and I'm working on my own story, so I like to read something that can give me inspiration. I turned to this short story hoping to get a taste for the book to follow. It did give me that.

I found the characters interesting even in this piece. They were living in a world that is like and unlike our own. I find it important in a story set in the future to have people still be people. Sometimes in worlds like Star Trek, they seem superhuman. The family in this story was real, with all the hang-ups of real people.
I found Cinder interesting, though a bit out of her element, but that is understandable. She didn't really have a personality at this point, but that can be because of the amnesia.
The twist at the end was good, and made me more interested in this world. I'm sure it'll come up later in the story and it makes me curious as to what will happen.

Overall, as a short story it was interesting, and can be enjoyed as a whole. It also made me want to read more. Therefore, I gave it 4 stars, and hopefully I'll give at least that amount to the actual books as well.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Heat Wave (Nikki Heat, #1) by Richard Castle * * *

This is a crime novel. It has aspects of romance, but not very pronounced.

There is a mystery behind the novel, which is the identity of the original author. While reading it, I noticed that whoever wrote it, has a good knowledge of close combat, less of guns. Is probably male. He's not very good at writing romance though.

That was one problem I found with the novel. The romance is very forced. In the TV series, the romance comes about slowly, and seems like a natural progression of their relationship. Here it seems sudden, and almost like it's not a part of the whole narrative. The famed sex scene was okay, though I'm not a good measure of its quality nowadays.

The crime part was pretty good. A bit slow going at times, but the mystery was interesting, and while you don't realise the solution on the fifth page, it is solvable. The number of deaths is not ridiculously high as in the case with some crime stories. The depiction of the action is good, and understandable for the person not knowledgeable about combat and arms.

Overall, it's not a bad book. It's enjoyable for a quick read. Won't rock your world, or have you reaching for the next instalment right away, but fun. So I'm giving it 3 stars. If the romance was actually hot, I'd give 4. 

Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Taking Of Chelsea 426 by David Llewellyn * * * *

This Doctor Who book was not so original in its storyline, but it gets brownie points for still making it exciting. Seriously, I should some day count how many stories have alien possession in them. However, in this case while it was a major part of the story, it wasn't the only thing going on.

The appearance of the Sontarans was a surprise, since I didn't read the synopsis. It added an interesting twist to the story. Some central characters were Sontarans, and they weren't portrayed in a completely negative light, which was nice. The author captured the species well, though the resolution to the conflict between the leader and his subordinate felt odd and a bit out of place. I suppose the author wanted to add something of Sontaran culture into the whole thing.

Our main positive characters were humans again. The family running the local hotel were well-rounded, not one-dimensional. What I did find strange was the computer thing with Vienna. It just didn't seem like something the Doctor wouldn't know. If he did know it, then it wasn't communicated well. The Doctor's companions sometimes do know things better than he does, but in this didn't seem like something that would fit that. He is often socially challenged, but not computer challenged. The boy's thing did fit.

An interesting character was Mr Smalls. I thought that was a reference to Bill O'Riley. Would he do the same thing? Probably. Hopefully, anyway, if he's not just all talk.

Overall, the book is a good, fast read. It did make me wonder how they were going to resolve the crisis, so that's why I gave it 4 stars. It wasn't completely predictable. But seriously. No more human possessions, please!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Inferno (Robert Langdon, #4) by Dan Brown * * * *

In some ways this is a typical Dan Brown book, and a typical Robert Langdon, but it's also a bit different.

It was typical in that the pace is fast and there is an awful lot of running. The whole thing happens in about 24-30 hours. Robert is again running with a woman around Italy, while being helped along by symbols and the occasional helper. People aren't all that they seem, which is usual as well, but they all seem to be really smart. It seems like Robert can't get your average Jane to tag along, who wouldn't know a thing about anything beyond the latest fashion in shoes. Maybe next time Dan Brown should have someone like that along for the ride, just to keep things interesting.
What is also typical about the book is all the detailed descriptions. They are really nice and it's interesting to get to know the history of the places they are running through, however, there is a point where it gets to much. Almost at the end there's a chase, and there's a bit about the history of the market they are running through. I yelled at the book: "I don't care about the friggin' market!" It really wasn't the place, so I skipped over that part, but I may go back to read it. I get it, it's really old and has interesting history, but not in the middle of a chase. Footnote? Another place where it started to get frustrating was when they were headed towards an important place in the journey, and for about two chapters nothing happened, we just learned about a square. I skipped a few paragraphs at that point.
These typical things are why we enjoy these books, and what we expect. What Dan Brown should be careful about is not going overboard with the description, and not all of it turning to a predictable formula, because that gets boring fast.

What it was different in is the beginning and the end. Without spoiling the story, neither was what I expected, and really surprised me. That's good, I like surprises.

The theme of this book was overpopulation. I was glad of that, because I do also think that it's a huge problem, and we may need to make drastic decisions that may not be nice for everyone, but necessary. I also think that in order to save tomorrow, we may need to do things now that may be hard. We are animals, with instincts to reproduce, but we also have these huge brains designed to overcome those instincts. Once I read that Japanese teenagers said that the greatest threat to society is individualism. That is true in that we have to get over ourselves, and regard the big picture. I won't spoil the book by telling you about what they do about it in the end. I'm just going to say that I agree with what they're doing in China, which is limiting the number of children people can have. Some people dream of having a big family, but we can't always fulfil our dreams, and those dreams may not always be viable. No matter what Americans tell you.

Overall, the book was a good read, I could hardly put it down. Though that was mostly due to the fact that I just wanted to know how it ends. It had some surprises, some predictable things, and sometimes a bit too much history. That is why I gave it four stars.