Book Review: Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

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To Mare Barrow, a 17-year-old Red girl from The Stilts, it looks like nothing will ever change.

Mare finds herself working in the Silver Palace, at the centre of
those she hates the most. She quickly discovers that, despite her red blood, she possesses a deadly power of her own. One that threatens to destroy Silver control.

But power is a dangerous game. And in this world divided by blood, who will win?

Release Date: February 10, 2015

When I first heard about this book, I had a distinct feeling that it would be a big deal.  Granted, I also thought it was going to have something to do with Alice in Wonderland, but that was just wishful thinking.  Either way, I can’t imagine how Red Queen cannot be hugely popular.  Not only did Aveyard sign a three book deal and the movie rights were purchased by Universal before the book has even been released, but the narrative is filled with all the aspects that are super popular in young adult literature right now: futuristic, paranormal, and filled with social injustice. So yes, Red Queen is going to be a big deal.

redqueentweetAveyard has created an excellent story world that pits blood against blood: Silver and powerful versus the Red and weak.  It is set up very much like the standard ideal of the bourgeoisie and proletariat, just like this quote from Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto, “Society as a whole is more and more splitting up into two great hostile camps, into two great classes directly facing each other — bourgeoisie and proletariat.” I admire that the narrative reflects such adept use of political theory in this notion, whether it was intentional or not.

I also really liked Aveyard’s stress on how important the family unit is throughout this narrative, and how Mare, no matter what, was constantly thinking about those she cared about at home and what she could do to help.  Whether it was thievery or sacrificing her identity to provide for her family and bring her brothers home from war.  Again, the way that Aveyard has the Red blood’s society set up is that children are either apprenticed and in training to make money and a livelihood by serving the Silvers or they are forced to serve in the army, which also serves the Silvers.  I love it because this too can be interpreted using Marxist literary theory, “The bourgeoisie has torn away from the family its sentimental veil, and has reduced the family relation to a mere money relation.” Reds are forced to work to provide for Silvers and their families = money relation. So many kudos to Aveyard for this.

redqueenprisonOverall the story building in Red Queen was phenomenal. Aveyard set up enough of the background to make the story-world feel complete, but that there is still a lot of information that the readers don’t know yet.  There is a love story, but it most definitely takes a back seat to the political, familial, and court intrigue aspects of this novel, which is a breath of fresh air. Also, I kept imagining Mare looking a bit like the Red Queen from Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, mostly because they shared a similar rags to riches story, and let’s face it, Emma Rigby is gorgeous.  I cannot express to you how much I enjoyed this novel and how excited I am to see where this story goes in the subsequent installments.

I leave you with this quote by Karl Marx:

“Let the ruling classes (silvers)  tremble at a […] revolution. The proletarians (reds) have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win.”

5 Bards.

fivebards

 

*Disclaimer*
The use of Karl Marx’s works in this review serve to apply as literary theory.

Waiting on Wednesday

waiting on wednesday

Every week Breaking the Spine hosts the bookish meme for book bloggers to share what books they are waiting on to be released!  This week I’m waiting on:

Release Date: February 3, 2015

After the Red Allies turn New York City into a POW camp, two sisters must decipher the past in order to protect the future in this action-packed thriller with a dual narrative.

It’s been nearly two decades since the Red Allies first attacked New York, and Manhattan is now a prisoner-of-war camp, ruled by Rolladin and her brutal, impulsive warlords. For Skyler Miller, Manhattan is a cage that keeps her from the world beyond the city’s borders. But for Sky’s younger sister, Phee, the POW camp is a dangerous playground of possibility, and the only home she’d ever want.

When Sky and Phee discover their mom’s hidden journal from the war’s outbreak, they both realize there’s more to Manhattan—and their mother—than either of them had ever imagined. And after a group of strangers arrives at the annual POW census, the girls begin to uncover the island’s long-kept secrets. The strangers hail from England, a country supposedly destroyed by the Red Allies, and Rolladin’s lies about Manhattan’s captivity begin to unravel.

Hungry for the truth, the sisters set a series of events in motion that end in the death of one of Rolladin’s guards. Now they’re outlaws, forced to join the strange Englishmen on an escape mission through Manhattan. Their flight takes them into subways haunted by cannibals, into the arms of a sadistic cult in the city’s Meatpacking District and, through the pages of their mom’s old journal, into the island’s dark and shocking past.

Book Review: Cress by Marissa Meyer

In this third book in the Lunar Chronicles, Cinder and Captain Thorne are fugitives on the run, now with Scarlet and Wolf in tow. Together, they’re plotting to overthrow Queen Levana and her army.

Their best hope lies with Cress, a girl imprisoned on a satellite since childhood who’s only ever had her netscreens as company. All that screen time has made Cress an excellent hacker. Unfortunately, she’s just received orders from Levana to track down Cinder and her handsome accomplice.

When a daring rescue of Cress goes awry, the group is separated. Cress finally has her freedom, but it comes at a high price. Meanwhile, Queen Levana will let nothing prevent her marriage to Emperor Kai. Cress, Scarlet, and Cinder may not have signed up to save the world, but they may be the only hope the world has.

I am having a serious love affair with Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles, and I think that this gif speaks for itself:

Anyway, my whirlwind experience with this series is one that on one hand, I really wish I had discovered these books sooner, but on the other hand, I am super grateful that I didn’t start reading these novels until after three of the books were released so I could have the pleasure of binge reading them.  Plus, Fairest now comes out tomorrow so I have Levana’s story to hold me over until Winter comes out in November (so far away!).

Back to the actual review:
I will say that at first I wasn’t sure I was going to like Cress a whole lot as a character and narrator.  Why? Well, her voice was not nearly as strong as Cinder’s or Scarlet’s, but as I continued through the first few chapters, I began to realize that this was purposefully done by Meyer in a way to illustrate just how, no matter the age of a person, being kept in almost complete isolation can really change your perspective on the outside world and your ability to socialize, etc.  Although Cress adapts extremely well to her circumstances, and the friendship that blossoms between a thinker like Cress and a vain do-er like Thorne was a lot of fun to read. cressgif

As for the rest of the Lunar Chronicles crew: there is some heartbreaking scenes that involve Wolf and Cinder that really just felt like a big punch in the gut.  It is so wonderful that Meyer continues to follow her own mythology of the half lunar/half wolf hybrid, especially the human and animal aspects of mating/love.  This novel definitely follows more of the “journey” trope than the other two novels, where two characters literally trudge across a desert, and cross the area of space between Luna and Earth a few times.  Either way, Cress really blew the entire Lunar Chronicles world wide open.

I cannot praise Meyer’s storybuilding enough.  When I start reading her novels it really is like I’m there completely and I, too, am in the Rampion, in the Sahara, or New Bejiing Palace.  It takes a lot to really draw me in like that, especially with fantasy, but I really think that she is at the top of her game, and my heart is absolutely broken by the fact that this series is almost over.

Who all was excited by the ending?  I WAS. So ready for Winter!

5 Bards.

fivebards

 

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This Week in History & YA Lit

guillotineThis week in history, January 21, 1793 to be exact, was the anniversary of King Louis XVI’s beheading via guillotine in Paris, France.  Now, unlike historical events in the 19th and 20th century, there aren’t nearly as many young adult novels that feature events during the 1700s, but I’m going to do a few that were influenced by the French Revolution.  While, Louis XVI was beheaded on January 21, his wife, the infamous Marie Antoinette was beheaded later in the same year.  It was Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette’s son, Louis-Charles that also mysteriously died not long after his parents.

Marie Antoinette is arguably most popular historical figure to come out of the French Revolution, likely due to her apparent love for fashion and the inaccurate claim that she said “Let them eat cake.”

I really wish there was more YA lit that focused on the events of the French Revolution, as there were a lot of teens that were involved in the fighting at the time, and there are tons of stories that can be told.  Here are a few good YA novels that were inspired by this time period:

Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly

BROOKLYN: Andi Alpers is on the edge. She’s angry at her father for leaving, angry at her mother for not being able to cope, and heartbroken by the loss of her younger brother, Truman. Rage and grief are destroying her. And she’s about to be expelled from Brooklyn Heights’ most prestigious private school when her father intervenes. Now Andi must accompany him to Paris for winter break.
 
PARIS: Alexandrine Paradis lived over two centuries ago. She dreamed of making her mark on the Paris stage, but a fateful encounter with a doomed prince of France cast her in a tragic role she didn’t want—and couldn’t escape.
 
Two girls, two centuries apart. One never knowing the other. But when Andi finds Alexandrine’s diary, she recognizes something in her words and is moved to the point of obsession. There’s comfort and distraction for Andi in the journal’s antique pages—until, on a midnight journey through the catacombs of Paris, Alexandrine’s words transcend paper and time, and the past becomes suddenly, terrifyingly present.

The Young Royals series by Carolyn Meyer
The Bad Queen: Rules and Instructions for Marie-Antionette

History paints her as a shallow party girl, a spoiled fashionista, a callous ruler. Perhaps no other royal has been so maligned— and so misunderstood— as Marie-Antoinette.

From the moment she was betrothed to the dauphin of France at age fourteen, perfection was demanded of Marie-Antoinette. She tried to please everyone: courtiers, her young husband, the king, the French people, but often fell short of their expectations. Desperate for affection and subjected to constant scrutiny, this spirited young woman can’t help but want to let loose with elaborate parties, scandalous fashions, and unimaginable luxuries. But as Marie-Antoinette’s lifestyle gets ever-more recklessly extravagant, the peasants of France are suffering from increasing poverty, and becoming outraged. They want to make the queen pay.

Do you have any other books from this time period to share? Let me know!

 

MMSAI Tours Presents: Memory of Water by Emmi Itaränta

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A Midsummer Night’s Read is proud to be a (sudden) part of the Me, My Shelf and I’s blog tour for the award winning debut novel from HarperCollins, Memory of Water by Emmi Itaränta!

About the Novel: 

memoryofwater

The award-winning speculative debut novel, now in English for the first time!

In the far north of the Scandinavian Union, now occupied by the power state of New Qian, seventeen-year-old Noria Kaitio studies to become a tea master like her father. It is a position that holds great responsibility and a dangerous secret. Tea masters alone know the location of hidden water sources, including the natural spring that once provided water for her whole village. When Noria’s father dies, the secret of the spring reaches the new military commander . . . and the power of the army is vast indeed. But the precious water reserve is not the only forbidden knowledge Noria possesses, and resistance is a fine line.

Threatened with imprisonment, and with her life at stake, Noria must make an excruciating, dangerous choice between knowledge and freedom.

Praise for Memory of Water: 

  • “Where Itäranta shines is in her rejection of conventional plots and in her understated but compelling characters. The work is a deceptively tranquil examination of a world of dust and ashes where the tenacious weed of hope still survives.”
    — Publishers Weekly (starred review)
  • “Poetic and melancholy” –The Guardian, Best Science Fiction of 2014
  • “Memory of Water is a wonderful young adult novel that captures both the helplessness and hopefulness of youth, juxtaposed with the harsh realities of an all too plausible future. In a quirk, Itäranta wrote the same novel independently in Finnish and English rather than translating it.”—Tor.com (Reviewers’ Choice: The Best Books of 2014)

Today’s stop on the tour features an interview with the Author, Emmi Itaränta!

 

1) One of the main plot points of Memory of Water is Global Warming. How much research did you do before writing the novel? What new information did you learn from your research?

My research focused mainly on the impact of climate change on freshwater resources, which includes things like sea-level rise and changes in rainfall patterns. I had not realised, for instance, that sea-level rise would probably contaminate a lot of freshwater resources that are currently near the shores. I also now know more or less what the world would look like in the extreme scenario of sea levels rising by 50-60 meters – basically, a lot of the ground we now live on would be underwater – and I have a long list a drought-resistant crops somewhere.

2) What was the inspiration behind the tea master, an occupation that holds great value in Memory of Water?

The Book of Tea by Kakuzo Okakura was a major source of inspiration. It discusses the Japanese chadō, or Way of Tea, which is a life-long path of learning the art of tea-making. Okakura’s book talks about tea masters, choosing the right water for the tea and the connections between Asian tea cultures, Zen Buddhism and Taoism. I created a fictional version of tea masters and the tea ceremony in order to emphasise the importance of water, but Okakura’s book provided some great insights into the subject.

3) Were any of the characters, settings and/or scenes in your book drawn from real-life experiences?

I’m worried that if I say yes, my friends and family will start looking for themselves in the book! So I’ll opt for saying that I think most authors use real-life material to some extent, sometimes unaware they are doing so. If any scenes in Memory of Water were inspired by real-life experiences, they appear in such highly fictionalised form that they may as well be a product of my imagination.

4) Do you think that the political aspect of Memory of Water, mainly China ruling over Europe, is possible in the future? What made you include this in your book?

I don’t know how probable it is, but I do think it’s possible. I wanted to create a fictional world that is fairly far in the future, yet credible. It made sense to me that cultures would have blended into something different from what we know today. Noria’s home village is a mixture of Nordic and Asian influences. This happened organically, because I envisioned a family of tea masters who relocated from Japan to northern Finland and did their best to retain their culture while inevitably also adapting to the new locale. In terms of world-building, everything in the book grew from the premise: if I had a tea master in northern Finland, then northern Finland must have some Asian influence, and if there was an Asian superpower, China – or some imaginary future version of it – was the most likely candidate.

5) What weird or quirky writing habits do you have? For example, you can’t write when the moon is full.

I’m not sure if this counts as quirky, but I usually want to write in complete silence. Any noise or music, even music I like, is a huge distraction.

6) Which of the characters in Memory of Water would you say is like you the most?

Noria. She spends a lot of time inside her head, is quite idealistic and seeks knowledge, which are things I recognise in myself. She is not intended as a self-portrait, but I had to get inside her skin while writing the book, and I think something of my own personality filtered into her.

RANDOM ROUND

1) Fictional boyfriend/girlfriend:

Can I pick one of each? Agent Cooper from Twin Peaks and Kaylee from Firefly.

2) Which country would you like to live in and why:

All of them, for a little while. I enjoy new languages and cultures, and there’s nothing like staying in a foreign country to give you perspective on your own background. Living in England for seven years has made me look at Finland in a different light, in good and bad both.

3) How you take your coffee:

I’m more of a tea person – green, no sugar.

4) Least favorite holiday jingle:

I could live without most of them, to be honest.

5) Last thing you read:

All The Truth That’s In Me by Julie Berry, which I found original and gorgeously written.


Emmi Itaranta ap1_thumb[1]About the Author:

Emmi Itaränta leads a double life, working mornings in an office at the University of Kent in the UK, and spending her with fictional characters in imaginary worlds.
Web: www.emmiitaranta.com/
Twitter: @emmi_elina

And now…a Giveaway! 

1 Winner will get a copy of Memory of Water + a $25.00 Gift Card to the eTailor of their choice!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Book Review: Killer Instinct by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Seventeen-year-old Cassie Hobbes has a gift for profiling people. Her talent has landed her a spot in an elite FBI program for teens with innate crime-solving abilities, and into some harrowing situations. After barely escaping a confrontation with an unbalanced killer obsessed with her mother’s murder, Cassie hopes she and the rest of the team can stick to solving cold cases from a distance.

But when victims of a brutal new serial killer start turning up, the Naturals are pulled into an active case that strikes too close to home: the killer is a perfect copycat of Dean’s incarcerated father—a man he’d do anything to forget. Forced deeper into a murderer’s psyche than ever before, will the Naturals be able to outsmart the enigmatic killer’s brutal mind games before this copycat twists them into his web for good?

This book was an unexpected pick up at Book Expo America this year, and I did major fangirl flailing when I got my hands on a copy of it, because The Naturals was one of my favorite reads from early 2014 (click on the title to see my review!).

It was absolutely wonderful to get back into the lives of the kids in the special FBI program, and it was a little bit harrowing as well (I wouldn’t have it any other way).  Cassie is still reeling from the betrayal of their previous FBI handler, when a new character is introduced and is going to be taking over the training and responsibility of these talented teens.  Now, when this happens, it irritated not only the characters, but also me as a reader.  Why? Well, she basically limits any of the cool story aspects for the characters to do in the first few chapters before the narrative really picks up.  While I do appreciate that she is determined that the kids need to finish high school, is there really any way that these characters WOULDN’T immediately get a job at the FBI once they are 18?  I mean they already have clearance, work experience, natural talent…. but anyway.

Once the story really gets going the novel is hard to put down.  I wouldn’t go so far as to say that it was better than the first installment, but it is definitely close.  There is a large amount of suspense and misdirection that happens when the teens get too caught up in the case, and there is definitely some scary moments where some lives are held in the balance. I can’t imagine how painful this novel would have been had the narrator been Dean instead of Cassie, but again, he isn’t a character who would really provide a lot of clarity in narration, as he tends to be a little hard to crack.

The love triangle, of course, makes an appearance–but I honestly don’t know who I would want Cassie to choose between Dean and Mike.  They both have a lot of flaws and emotional baggage, not to mention Cassie’s own issues with what happened to her in the first novel and how she was raised.  I think this is one of the reasons I love these characters and their story so much, because they are flawed and realistic.  Also: that twist! (I can’t say anymore!)

4 Bards!

fourbards

Waiting on Wednesday

waiting on wednesday

Every week Breaking the Spine hosts the bookish meme for book bloggers to share what books they are waiting on to be released!  This week I’m waiting on:

Release Date: February 17, 2015

Ever since the night of the incident with Luke Willis, the preacher’s son, sophomore Hallelujah Calhoun has been silent. When the rumors swirled around school, she was silent. When her parents grounded her, she was silent. When her friends abandoned her … silent.

Now, six months later, on a youth group retreat in the Smoky Mountains, Hallie still can’t find a voice to answer the taunting. Shame and embarrassment haunt her, while Luke keeps coming up with new ways to humiliate her. Not even meeting Rachel, an outgoing newcomer who isn’t aware of her past, can pull Hallie out of her shell. Being on the defensive for so long has left her raw, and she doesn’t know who to trust.

On a group hike, the incessant bullying pushes Hallie to her limit. When Hallie, Rachel, and Hallie’s former friend Jonah get separated from the rest of the group, the situation quickly turns dire. Stranded in the wilderness, the three have no choice but to band together.

With past betrayals and harrowing obstacles in their way, Hallie fears they’ll never reach safety. Could speaking up about the night that changed everything close the distance between being lost and found? Or has she traveled too far to come back?

Book Review: Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

Cinder, the cyborg mechanic, returns in the second thrilling installment of the bestselling Lunar Chronicles. She’s trying to break out of prison–even though if she succeeds, she’ll be the Commonwealth’s most wanted fugitive. Halfway around the world, Scarlet Benoit’s grandmother is missing. It turns out there are many things Scarlet doesn’t know about her grandmother or the grave danger she has lived in her whole life. When Scarlet encounters Wolf, a street fighter who may have information as to her grandmother’s whereabouts, she is loath to trust this stranger, but is inexplicably drawn to him, and he to her. As Scarlet and Wolf unravel one mystery, they encounter another when they meet Cinder. Now, all of them must stay one step ahead of the vicious Lunar Queen Levana, who will do anything for the handsome Prince Kai to become her husband, her king, her prisoner.

I was only two chapters into Cinder when I immediately went out and purchased Scarlet and Cress.  I knew I’d really like the rest of the story from that early on, and it is a testiment to how well-written and plotted (that is an unfortunate sounding word) Meyer’s book is.

The synopsis is a bit misleading, as it says that Cinder is back (which she is) but it makes it seem like she will be the main focus of the novel (which she is not).  Again, Meyer does an excellent job of starting Scarlet’s story off very narrow and this is even exemplified by the fact that she lives and works in a very small and rural town in France.  However, Scarlet’s story is peppered with references to Cinder that eventually brings them together. I would be remiss to not include that we do get some of Cinder’s point of view in this story, and we are introduced to another male character named Thorne who is the right mixture of handsome and delightfully daft.  In addition, we glimpse (and when I say glimpse I mean literally just few pages throughout) what is happening in Emperor Kai’s life after Cinder’s prinson escape too.

scarletScarlet has some similarities to Cinder, but while Cinder has some serious self esteem issues stemming from her childhood and growing up as a cyborg “abberation,” Scarlet has a very distinct confidence and determination about her that is refreshing.  Sure, she has her issues from childhood as well, but she was loved and cared for by her Grandmother (who was a kickass pilot during the fourth World War).

Overall the focus of this novel is Scarlet’s journey to discovering who has taken her Grandmother, why, and how her story is part of a much bigger story.  Again, Meyer and her talent for expanding this universe in such a specific and well written way is just delightful.

Queen Levana’s involvement in this novel is much more prevalent, as readers get a much more in depth look at her plans to take over Earth and what kind of atrocities she and others of Luna are capable of.  Wolf, the other male lead character that is introduced in Scarlet, is a very interesting character.  He comes off as rather simple toward the beginning of the novel, when he is fascinated by tomatoes and the scenery of rural France, but his complexity snowballs quickly once it is shown that he has some layers beneath the street fighter exterior.

While I didn’t love this installment as much as I loved Cinder, it was still really well done and I’m looking forward to Cress!

4 Bards!

fourbards

This Week in History & YA Lit

Today is the anniversary of the 18th amendment taking effect.  What was the 18th amendment? Well, I’m glad you asked.  This amendment created a wealth of story fodder for all of literature, and there are a number of Young Adult novels that are set during this 13 year time period.

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Pouring Alcohol Out

On January 16, 1919 Prohibition went into effect.  This resulted in 13 years of alcohol being completely illegal in the United States.  While this amendment really caused some issues throughout the nation, it also helped inspire some fascinating cultural happenings: speakeasies, underground illegal bars, and bootlegging.

Section 1 of the 18th Amendment: “…the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors within, the importation thereof into, or the exportation thereof from the United States and all territory subject to the jurisdiction thereof for beverage purposes is hereby prohibited.”

Here are a few of my favorite YA Novels set during this time period:

 

 

The Flappers trilogy by Jillian Larkin
Synopsis of the first novel: Vixen

Jazz… Booze… Boys… It’s a dangerous combination.
Every girl wants what she can’t have. Seventeen-year-old Gloria Carmody wants the flapper lifestyle–and the bobbed hair, cigarettes, and music-filled nights that go with it. Now that she’s engaged to Sebastian Grey, scion of one of Chicago’s most powerful families, Gloria’s party days are over before they’ve even begun… or are they?

Clara Knowles, Gloria’s goody-two-shoes cousin, has arrived to make sure the high-society wedding comes off without a hitch–but Clara isn’t as lily-white as she appears. Seems she has some dirty little secrets of her own that she’ll do anything to keep hidden…

Lorraine Dyer, Gloria’s social-climbing best friend, is tired of living in Gloria’s shadow. When Lorraine’s envy spills over into desperate spite, no one is safe. And someone’s going to be very sorry…

The Bright Young Things trilogy by Anna Godbersen
Synopsis of the first novel: Bright Young Things

Letty Larkspur and Cordelia Grey escaped their small Midwestern town for New York’s glittering metropolis. All Letty wants is to see her name in lights, but she quickly discovers Manhattan is filled with pretty girls who will do anything to be a star….

Cordelia is searching for the father she’s never known, a man as infamous for his wild parties as he is for his shadowy schemes. Overnight, she enters a world more thrilling and glamorous than she ever could have imagined — and more dangerous. It’s a life anyone would kill for…and someone will.

The only person Cordelia can trust is ­Astrid Donal, a flapper who seems to have it all: money, looks, and the love of Cordelia’s brother, Charlie. But Astrid’s perfect veneer hides a score of family secrets.

Across the vast lawns of Long Island, in the ­illicit speakeasies of Manhattan, and on the blindingly lit stages of Broadway, the three girls’ fortunes will rise and fall — together and apart.

What are some of your favorite books set in the Roaring 20s?

BONUS: Crossroads by Robert Johnson…Blues/Jazz performer during this time period

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