Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Cinder by Marissa Meyer is one of those books that everyone raves about but I’ve never read…until now.  I was pleasantly surprised.

11235712Humans 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.

I love fairy tales but I’ve never been a fan of retellings. I think it’s because I know what’s going to happen and I’m concerned about the plot holding my attention. However, in the past year, I’ve fell in love with a few novels, such as A Court of Thorns and Roses and The Wrath and The Dawn, which were both retellings, but they were still their own unique story, where the retelling part was more of an inspiration than a plot road map.

I’m happy to report that Cinder is now one of those retellings I enjoyed because it retains the core material from the Cinderella fairy tale but reshapes it into a new story, where the young girl saves the prince and actually has a sense of self-worth.

Cinder was a kick-ass female protagonist. Her mechanic skills, relentless compassion and determination made for a heroine worth rooting for. I loved the fact that she could take care of herself and others, while doing the hard work necessary to get herself out of her own desperate situation. I loved that she worked to save her stepsister and risked everything to save the prince.

One can’t read Cinder without becoming completely immersed in the unique setting. It has this dystopia/Sci-fi feel that was wonderfully built and I fell through the lunar rabbit hole head first, joyfully tumbling through the world Meyer created. From the Lunar Queen to the plague infrastructure to the secret princess everyone was looking for, I was completely invested in Cinder’s story.

The interactions between Cinder and the Prince were surprisingly refreshing. It was the romantic connection that I expected but it was also incredibly playful and sarcastic. I loved it. I was also in love with Iko, the opinionated robot with spunk. She was hilarious.

I can finally see why everyone is so obsessed with this series and I’ll continue this journey through Meyer’s wonderland as I devour the rest of the series.

STARS: 5 out of 5

Truthwitch by Susan Dennard

I received Truthwitch by Susan Dennard via the monthly book subscription Uppercase Box. To say I was excited to have a signed copy in my possession is an understatement. I couldn’t wait to dive in.

21414439 (1)In a continent on the edge of war, two witches hold its fate in their hands.

Young witches Safiya and Iseult have a habit of finding trouble. After clashing with a powerful Guildmaster and his ruthless Bloodwitch bodyguard, the friends are forced to flee their home.

Safi must avoid capture at all costs as she’s a rare Truthwitch, able to discern truth from lies. Many would kill for her magic, so Safi must keep it hidden – lest she be used in the struggle between empires. And Iseult’s true powers are hidden even from herself.

In a chance encounter at Court, Safi meets Prince Merik and makes him a reluctant ally. However, his help may not slow down the Bloodwitch now hot on the girls’ heels. All Safi and Iseult want is their freedom, but danger lies ahead. With war coming, treaties breaking and a magical contagion sweeping the land, the friends will have to fight emperors and mercenaries alike. For some will stop at nothing to get their hands on a Truthwitch.

First, the author appears to be besties with my favorite author Sarah J. Maas, which is the reason I was anticipating this title (the fact it was YA Fantasy helped too) because she recommended it during a signing I attended, and boy was it worth it.

This novel opens up a world filled with different types of witchery, or powers, as well as a complex social system that impacts the life of the two main characters and threadsisters, Safi and Iseult. I loved their relationship. The dynamic between Iseult’s calm strategic mind and Safi’s fiery impulsion made for an exciting duo in a story filled with adventure and danger. The focus on their friendship was heartwarming and I loved their dedication to each other.  Their friendship seemed a bit too perfect so I am hoping to see how Iseault and Safi deal with conflict with each other in the next book.

Safi was my favorite character, hands down. I’m a sucker for a compulsive, foul-mouthed badass heroine and Safi is just that. Furthermore, Safi is evenly matched in love interest, prince and wind witch, Merik. Their relationship had the slow burn from dislike to falling for each other but I loved how they had more important things to concentrate on. For Merik, it was saving his people and for Safi, it was finding herself and exploring her loyalties. The progress between them was slow but the payoff was like hurricane-force winds. I’m still swooning over that epic kiss.

Another intriguing part of this story is the dangerous blood witch, whose loyalty is up in the air, and the idea that Safi and Iseult might be the prophesied pair that will save the witchlands. There was a satisfying ending but there were a lot of loose ends to tie that I’m hoping we’ll see in the sequel.

STARS: 4.5 out of 5

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah was a book club pick that was such a moving story.

21853621In love we find out who we want to be.
In war we find out who we are.

FRANCE, 1939

In the quiet village of Carriveau, Vianne Mauriac says goodbye to her husband, Antoine, as he heads for the Front. She doesn’t believe that the Nazis will invade France…but invade they do, in droves of marching soldiers, in caravans of trucks and tanks, in planes that fill the skies and drop bombs upon the innocent. When France is overrun, Vianne is forced to take an enemy into her house, and suddenly her every move is watched; her life and her child’s life is at constant risk. Without food or money or hope, as danger escalates around her, she must make one terrible choice after another.

Vianne’s sister, Isabelle, is a rebellious eighteen-year-old girl, searching for purpose with all the reckless passion of youth. While thousands of Parisians march into the unknown terrors of war, she meets the compelling and mysterious Gäetan, a partisan who believes the French can fight the Nazis from within France, and she falls in love as only the young can…completely. When he betrays her, Isabelle races headlong into danger and joins the Resistance, never looking back or giving a thought to the real–and deadly–consequences.

With courage, grace and powerful insight, bestselling author Kristin Hannah takes her talented pen to the epic panorama of WWII and illuminates an intimate part of history seldom seen: the women’s war. The Nightingale tells the stories of two sisters, separated by years and experience, by ideals, passion and circumstance, each embarking on her own dangerous path toward survival, love, and freedom in German-occupied, war-torn France–a heartbreakingly beautiful novel that celebrates the resilience of the human spirit and the durability of women. It is a novel for everyone, a novel for a lifetime.

I knew The Nightingale was going to be good because it was a Goodreads choice winner and it has a staggering amount of five star ratings with an average rating of 4.53 (which is really high). However, I was still floored with how much I enjoyed it. From the very first chapter, I was intrigued about the old woman’s story, which transports the reader back to World War II France.

I loved how this story shed light on the women’s side of the war. I went through a holocaust phase when I was younger where I read anything and everything about that awful time in history, but I’ve never read a story quite like this, where it’s focused not on the men on the front lines, or the jews in concentration camps, but the French men and women living in a war torn country.

This story of two very different sisters, Vianne and Isabelle, was compelling, historically accurate and heart-wrenching. I couldn’t put it down as the stakes were raised higher and higher as France became a nazi-occupied nation. I cheered, I cried, I laughed, I gasped in surprise. This story was a whole range of emotions.

I read the last chapter with tears running down my face. It was too much. I’ve never felt such hope and despair at the same time, such hurt but acceptance. The ending had a truly unique twist that filled my heart to bursting. I’d recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical fiction but be prepared for waterworks in the end.

This book was truly beautiful and deserves all five stars.

STARS: 5 out of 5