Heartless

18584855by Marissa Meyer
YA Fantasy
4 of 5 stars

I’ve read Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass many times, and I can tell Meyer has too. This is a superb, well-written origin story for a beloved/feared villain! Fairy tales have been popular for a couple of years now, but this is one of the most seamless integrations of old and new world-building I’ve encountered. I wouldn’t have thought it possible to take the most famous nonsensical world and create rules behind the madness–this subtlety is probably the best surprise.

Cath is a marquess’ daughter who wants nothing more than to open a bakery in Hearts with her best friend, her maid Mary Ann. She knows it would be the best in the land, and she wants everyone in the kingdom to sample her delicious sweets. But her parents know the King of Hearts wants to make Cath his queen, and they will not be satisfied until that happens. The night that Cath is supposed to accept the king’s proposal, she meets Jest–the new court joker who is mysterious, charming, clever, and handsome. Cath has never been in love before, but she can’t imagine giving up her feelings for the weak and foolish king, even if it comes with a crown. And on top of all this, the fearsome Jabberwock is terrorizing the kingdom unchallenged!

Cath is a perfect balance of admirable and awful. She is our protagonist, but she is far from perfect. Too deferential to her parents, too judgmental of others. Like so many of us, she feels caught in situations that never go as planned because she can’t challenge etiquette or her peers. She is just risk-adverse enough to aggravate herself and those around her. I loved following her journey that felt equally chosen and fated.

Cath is great, but the side characters of Hatta, Cheshire, and Jest make this impossibly magical! Hatta and Cheshire in particular capture the dark whimsy and unpredictable nature of life in Wonderland. Magic is inextricable from life in Hearts, yet there’s also the sense that it can continue evolving outside of the people’s control. This story gives you characters to love and a world that fascinates you at every turn!

Warning: will cause Emotions and hunger pains. Pick this up if you’re ready to be transported!

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, Heartless is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • Cinder by Marissa Meyer – If you enjoyed this retelling, check out this quartet of sci-fi fairy tale adventures! Cinder is a cyborg mechanic in New Beijing just trying to break free from her abusive stepmother’s control. A chance encounter with Prince Kai pulls her into the web of politics between Earth and Luna, and Cinder’s mysterious past might hold the key to Earth’s future. See my review here.
  • A Long, Long Sleep by Anna Sheehan – Rose awakens from her statis tube to learn that 62 years have passed, everyone she has ever known is dead, and she is the sole heir to her parents’ business empire. The current head of the company is not pleased that she was found, and will do anything to keep her from reclaiming her life.
  • Chalice by Robin McKinley – A retelling of Beauty and the Beast with a girl whose gifts lie with honey and the new ruler of the land, a former priest of fire whose touch can reduce anything to ash. See my review here.
  • Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake – Triplet sisters with different abilities are raised in separate realms as they prepare for their 16th birthday, and the duel to the death for the throne. See my review here.
  • The Young Elites by Marie Lu – Adelina is a marked survivor of the blood fever with the ability to weave extraordinary illusions. Determined to avenge herself on those who made her life miserable, she joins other elites like her in the Dagger Society. See my review here.
  • Queen of Hearts by Colleen Oakes – If you want a trilogy based on this famed character, look no further! Dinah is the Princess of Hearts eagerly awaiting her crown, but violent events in her kingdom threaten to destroy her dreams.
  • Alice in Wonderland / Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll – If you haven’t read the source material, I highly recommend it! It is utterly strange and entertaining, and despite its age the prose is easy to read. There are many more bizarre events and eccentric characters that are left out of films and re-tellings, and the wordplay is clever!
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What’s new this month

Happy start to NaNoWriMo, aspiring authors! These are the books coming out this month from people who had the same dream as you:

2686483511/1 – Blood for Blood – by Ryan Graudin

This month starts off with a bang! The sequel to last year’s Wolf by Wolf is FINALLY here! It was one of my favorite (and fastest) reads last fall and I have been anxiously awaiting the conclusion to Yael’s quest for revenge. Yael’s made it to the ball, and even managed to shoot Hitler–but from there nothing has gone as planned. As the government and Yael both race to uncover the truth of what happened, the fate of this alternate 1950’s era world hangs in the balance. The first book was nonstop action and twist after twist, so I can only imagine this book will make me nervous until the last page!

More here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble


2922349511/1 – The Bone Sparrow – by Zana Fraillon

A much-needed heart-wrenching story about refugees, families torn apart, and struggling to survive. Subhi has lived his whole life behind a fence, with only his mother’s stories to give him hope. Then Jimmie arrives on the other side of the fence, a tough girl with a book from her mother that she can’t read. Subhi and Jimmie comfort and strengthen each other with their stories.

More here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble


1858485511/8 – Heartless – by Marissa Meyer

The Queen of Hearts has had a loud voice this year, but this is the most anticipated one for me. Coming off The Lunar Chronicles (retellings of Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, and Snow White) I think Meyer is in top form and ready for one of the wickedest fairy tale villains. Cath is a just a girl who wants to fall in love — unfortunately, she falls for the Court Joker, Jest, instead of the King of Hearts. Fate has other plans for the would-be baker and free spirit. (I just wish the cover was prettier!)

More here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble


2555670911/15 – Scrappy Little Nobody – by Anna Kendrick

One of my favorite funny starlets has decided to impart her life’s story and wisdom to us! Books by comedians aren’t always as funny as they are, but I’m hoping this is one of the good ones. I’m especially interested because small, cutesy women tend to be underestimated, and I’m intrigued by the stories she can probably tell. So if you enjoy her films or her Twitter account, I think this is worth checking out!

More here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble


2516430411/22 – Of Fire and Stars – by Audrey Coulthurst

I was lucky enough to read an ARC a few months ago thanks to my friend Katy! Once I saw the cover and the jacket summary I NEEDED this book! Denna and Mare are princesses from two kingdoms, thrown together when Denna becomes engaged to Mare’s brother for an alliance. The two navigate court intrigue and horse-back riding lessons together–only to realize they might be falling for each other. This story is cute and romantic and wonderful, so be sure to grab yourself a copy!

More here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble

Winter

Winterby Marissa Meyer
YA Fantasy / Science Fiction
5 of 5 stars
Fourth in a quartet

This came out months ago and it took me so long to get to it because of the holidays, and then my insistence on re-reading the series first (which I am so glad I did!). This was worth waiting for! The perfect ending to this fantastic series of fairy tales told with a few science fiction twists.

To be honest, I worried about the size of this book. Once you start creeping over 600 pages I start to wonder if all those words *need* to be there. We’ve all encountered the stories that didn’t need to be that long, right? (Looking at you, Charles Dickens). Cress meandered a bit for me, so I had some anxiety, but it turns out those fears were unfounded! The writing is direct, compelling, and the characters kept surprising me! The pacing and points of view are perfectly balanced. Zero complaints.

Winter becomes one of our POV characters and she is fantastic! Unique from the other three girls and with her own demons to overcome. Through her we see the Lunar court and the damage done by Queen Levana’s regime, while through Cinder and Scarlet we see what life is like on Luna for the average citizen (spoiler: not good). As Cinder and her friends infiltrate the moon right before Levana and Kai’s wedding ceremony, Levana becomes more and more paranoid. When she attempts to have Winter killed for her beauty, all hell breaks loose on the moon. Winter is running out of places to hide, and Cinder is running out of time to claim her throne!

This had so much action and so many deeply emotional scenes–probably the most emotive in the series. Yet there’s still humor mixed in with the continued exploration of what makes us human. I highly recommend this series to anyone who loves fairy tale re-tellings!

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, Winter is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • A Long, Long Sleep by Anna Sheehan – Rose wakes up after 62 years in stasis to find out everyone she knew is dead and she is the missing heiress to the largest company in the world. And not everyone is happy she’s alive.
  • Uprooted by Naomi Novik – A dark and compelling fantasy novel (with humor too!) about a girl taken by the local sorcerer to be his assistant for ten years. This wasn’t her plan at all–and neither is the discovery that she may have her own powers. See my review here.
  • Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas – Aelin returns to Adarlan to dismantle the web of corruption controlling the country, starting with her old master, the King of the Assassins, and ending with the King of Adarlan himself. See my review here.
  • Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo – A band of criminals unites to retrieve a prisoner with the knowledge of how to enhance a person’s magic (with fatal results). They all plan to betray each other eventually, and it’s a question of who will crack first. See my review here.
  • The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey – Echo is a common thief (who happens to be friends with the Avicen, a bird-like race) who decides to steal the Firebird, the only thing that can stop the perpetual war between the Avicen and their dragon enemies. See my review here.

Cress

13206828by Marissa Meyer
YA Fantasy / Science Fiction
3 of 5 stars
Third in a quartet

I feel like the last person to read Winter since it came out…four months ago? But I wanted to re-read the entire series first so I spent all of February doing just that! At first, I debated whether I’d even read Cress again (I know) because I felt so pressed for time and I didn’t remember enjoying it all that much the first time I read it. It felt slower, I didn’t connect to Cress as much as I did with Cinder or Scarlet, and if I skipped its 550 pages I’d be reading Winter that much sooner! But thanks to Erin’s encouragement and Kiwi’s review, I picked up a paperback and gave it a second chance. I’m so glad I did! I actually changed my rating on Goodreads (something I’ve never done before) from 2 stars to 3 stars. It’s still my least favorite in the series so far, but the writing is good and this story has none of the errors warranting 2 stars on my rating scale. Unfair rating – overturned!

Cress has spent the last seven years living on a Lunar satellite spying on Earth (particularly Prince Kai and the Commonwealth) for Queen Levana. And secretly protecting Earth and subverting Luna whenever she could. Her skills with hacking and programming are top-notch, which is great, because Cinder’s team needs to stay hidden. When they rescue Cress from her satellite, she thinks her fairy tale dreams are about to come true—until she and Thorne crash-land in the desert, separated from the rest of the crew.

The break-neck speed of the first two books doesn’t last in this one. The pacing loses any sense of urgency as we meander from satellite to desert to final mission. I understand Cress is experiencing the world for the first time, but her lengthy observations and constant emotional assessments drag the action to a gentle walk. Despite all the time we spend in her head, she never feels as concrete as Cinder, Scarlet, or the rest of the crew. She’s understandably coping with issues from her extreme isolation and abusive upbringing, and although this is realistic and well-done, it means her point of view lacks some focus and depth.

However, there’s still plenty of wry humor, laugh out loud moments, and adventure. Kai and Cinder’s complicated relationship gets more time in this book, and Iko is hilarious. Definitely one of the stronger YA series on the market, and I can’t wait to see how it ends!

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, Cress is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo – I feel like Carswell Thorne and Nikolai would get along famously or tear each other apart. This remains one of my favorite “middle books” in a series due to all the action and the fantastic characters. Alina can’t leave her identity as the Sun Summoner or her past with the Darkling behind no matter how far she runs. New allies, new enemies, more dark magic. Alina must make sacrifices to save her country from the Darkling’s rule.
  • Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas – The second in the series finds King’s Assassin Celaena Sardothien surrounded by potential allies and enemies in the court. A greater destiny is calling her that won’t be put off by her petty attempts to undermine the King’s rule. See my review here.
  • A Long, Long Sleep by Anna Sheehan – Rosalinda Fitzroy awakens from 62 years of statis to find that everyone she loved is dead, and she is the missing heir to her parents’ interplanetary empire. Rose just wants to pick up the pieces of her life, but not everyone is happy to see her again. This is a dark Sleeping Beauty retelling with an amazing character arc.

 

Scarlet

13206760by Marissa Meyer
YA Fantasy / Science Fiction
4 of 5 stars      
Second in a quartet

We left Cinder with the startling realization of her identity and we pick up with Scarlet, an ordinary girl living on her grandmother’s farm in rural France. Scarlet’s grandmother disappeared three weeks earlier, and Scarlet is worried sick about her. But the police have no leads and no interest, and she doesn’t know what to do—until a mysterious street-fighter named Wolf shows up. He is both charmingly naïve and ruthlessly tough, and he has the only lead to her grandmother, if Scarlet can trust him.

I love Scarlet—I know her temper and trusting nature might not endear her to everyone, but I actually felt given the stress of her situation she was pretty grounded. As a follow-up to Cinder’s practical expertise (and snark), Scarlet was an interesting protagonist with her own goals and opinions. There’s a lot of fast-paced adventure and betrayal in this book and although there are still visible nods to the original fairy tale of Red Riding Hood, that doesn’t make the story predictable.

Most of this book takes place over a 48-hour period! While Cinder is escaping prison with the help of fellow fugitive Carswell Thorne, Scarlet is trekking across the French countryside by ship, train, and foot. Of course they are going to meet up—but the journey there provides a surprising amount of time for character development in between shootouts and frenetic chases. When you finish, all you want is the next book!

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, Scarlet is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • A Long, Long Sleep by Anna Sheehan – A sci-fi retelling of Sleeping Beauty. Rose wakes up after 62 years in suspended animation to find that everyone she loved is dead and she is the heiress to the largest company in the world. But not everyone is excited about her return, and she has to find out who her real allies are before someone makes her disappear again.
  • The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey – This feels similar to me in a weird way, just with the combination of magic and intrigue in the real world. It’s a very fun story about Echo the thief who decides to steal something the world wants: the firebird. See my review here.
  • Crystal Singer by Anne McCaffrey – Killashandra isn’t talented enough to be an opera singer, but when the opportunity for a lucrative mining position opens up, she takes it immediately. Mining the valuable crystals requires tuning the tools with her own voice, and Killa may have found something more satisfying than being on stage after all. This is an older sci-fi story that is rather unique.
  • Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo – The second book in this YA fantasy trilogy follows Alina and Mal as they try to escape the Darkling. But Alina’s powers are hard to hide, and she begins to realize that beating the Darkling to the legendary living amplifiers of Grisha power might be the best way to stop him.

What’s new this month

I’m a bit overwhelmed by the February releases this year! Here are the books I’m adding to my list this month:

KR2/2 – Kings Rising – C. S. Pacat

The much-anticipated conclusion in this trilogy centered around political intrigue and the relationship between banished prince Damen, now a slave in enemy territory, and his new master, Laurent, prince of that country. So much drama and (all kinds) of tension! It’s so character-driven, which is unusual in the fantasy genre, so I can’t wait to read more. I devoured the first book and I need to find out how this ends immediately!

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble

 


 

assassin's heart

2/2 – Assassin’s Heart – by Sarah Ahiers

Pitched as The Godfather meets Romeo and Juliet, this story about assassin families and intrigue caught my eye immediately. If anyone has gotten obsessed with the Throne of Glass series, here’s another assassin to keep you on the edge of your seat until September! Lea must avenge her family’s death which probably happened thanks to her secret relationship with Val, an assassin from a rival family. I expect plenty of murder and intrigue!

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble


 

stars above2/2 – Stars Above – by Marissa Meyer

For everyone who just can’t handle the end of The Lunar Chronicles, enjoy this collection of novellas set in the same world with more to love from your favorite characters. As someone who still hasn’t gotten around to the brick that is Winter, I probably won’t read this for a while, but I think it’s timed perfectly for everyone who finished the last book in November. I love that publishers are getting more comfortable with short fiction! (5 new stories are included with 4 previously published tales).

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble


 

abyss surrounds us2/8 – The Abyss Surrounds Us – by Emily Skrutskie

Pirates! Sea monster/dragon creatures! Lesbians! Story, you have my interest – please please please don’t disappoint! The takes the adventure and kick-ass heroines I love and promises some new twists and exciting world-building. This is part one of a duology, so more points for not stringing me along for years. I’ve found this structure tends to cut down on the “middle book” syndrome of stretching out character arcs and events just to fill space. This is the first of several pirate debuts for 2016 –I’ll resist making a pirate joke of some kind.

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble


 

morning star2/9 – Morning Star – by Pierce Brown

I’ll admit, I think I’ve read enough dystopian books to get the gist and I’m kind of over the commoners uprising against the rich ruler types. I admit the Communist leaning of the cover intrigues me. Anyway, I know this has a strong following so to all the existing fans, rejoice, the conclusion is here! Darrow’s long-standing battle to bring justice to his world (no doubt at steep cost) will wrap up in this volume. His plan is to bring down the Golds from the inside, but we all know plans tend to go wrong…

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble


 

blackhearts2/9 – Blackhearts – by Nicole Castroman

The story of Blackbeard before his legendary status as a pirate captain! Edward Drummond is chafing against the restraints of high society. Anne Barrett loses her family fortune and must become a maid—in the Drummond household—when her true dream is to return to her mother’s island. I can’t wait to see how these characters chase their “unconventional” dreams together! I’m also intrigued by pirates used in a slightly historical sense as well.

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble


 

these vicious masks2/9 – These Vicious Masks – by Tarun Shanker

Jane Austen meets X-Men? I’m down for that. A girl searching for her missing sister, Victorian romance, family secrets, London (my favorite city!)…I think this will be a fun little adventure! I’m a bit worried about some of the tropes but if the characters are well-drawn it will be quite fun enough for me. I’m hoping this will be similar to Silver in the Blood but with smoother pacing.

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble


 

girl from everywhere2/16 – The Girl from Everywhere – by Heidi Heilig

Similar to January’s Passenger, we have time-travel and high stakes relationships! Nix has followed her father through time for years and even has an out-of-time love interest on board their ship. But now her father wants to return to Honolulu, Nix’s birthplace—before her mother dies in childbirth. He wants to save her mother. Nix isn’t sure what will happen if her father tries to change time, but his dream could kill her. The relationships and conflicts in this story sound amazing, I can’t wait!

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble


 

A Gathering of Shadows Final2/23 – A Gathering of Shadows – by V.E. Schwab

OK, I haven’t gotten the chance to read the first book yet (A Darker Shade of Magic) but I fell in love with her writing last year and I want to read more of her stuff! Again, set in London and promising tons of addictive mayhem, I want to explore these characters as soon as I can. Time-travel, magic, intrigue—I’m sure it’s amazing! I just need to make room on my shelf. This month has too much awesome stuff coming out!

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble


 

Raven King2/23 – The Raven King – by Maggie Stiefvater

Remember that this gorgeous, epic book was delayed until April 26th! I know it’s the second delay, but it stings less. I have to re-read the books – and all of these amazing February releases – so April will be here before I know it! And at least we have cover art now. 🙂

What’s new this month

The year’s wrapping up! This will be my last 2015 preview. December is quiet (for the genres I watch, anyway) and it’s full of holiday events, friends, and family. Although I’ll still be posting book reviews and a year-in-review summary for December, for now, these are the final recommendations I have for this year! Here are the books I’m looking forward to this November:

11/3 – Hotel Ruby – by Suzanne YoungHotel Ruby

Audrey and her brother arrive at the hotel after their mother’s death and quickly find plenty of distractions. But the biggest distraction becomes a mystery when they can’t get an invite to the evening balls. As Audrey learns more about the hotel’s dark past, she becomes more and more drawn to the handsome Elias and the hotel itself. This strikes me as an atmospheric novel with the potential to be deliciously suspenseful!

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble

Winter11/10 – Winter – by Marissa Meyer

The epic conclusion to the Lunar Chronicles quartet is finally here! This series of steampunk/sci-fi fairy tale retellings has been amazing, and I’m both excited and sad that it ends now. We’ve met Cinder, the cyborg mechanic; Scarlet, a farmer’s granddaughter and skilled pilot; Cress, held captive in a satellite so long her hair takes up most of the room, but she’s a good computer hacker; and now we’ll meet Winter, the scarred and beautiful stepdaughter of the evil Lunar Queen, Levana. I can’t wait to see what happens!

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble

11/10 – Soundless – by Richelle MeadSoundless

Fei has lived her whole life in an isolated, silent village, dependent on the outside world for supplies. But when the delicate balance of her world shifts and villagers begin going blind and facing starvation, Fei knows something must change. When sound shakes her village, she knows it’s time to act. I don’t know what to expect with this story, but it’s based on Chinese folklore and I can’t wait to find out more!

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble

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