Sunday, January 10, 2016

Wrap-up of Recent Books Read: WURBR*

I'm busy reading the seven books on the Middle Grade Spec-Fic Cybil's shortlist, and I'm not allowed to talk about them until we decide on a winner. So in the meantime, some quick reviews of my holiday reading: light, fun, adventurous YA fantasy.

Winter, by Marissa Meyer. The conclusion to the sci-fi fairy-tale Cinder series has all the rousing escapes and battles and turning tables and stirring speeches and noble sacrifices and facing-off with villains you could possibly want from it. Plus spaceships and androids and mind-control and experiments with wolf-people and weird Moon fashions. And romance. Everything, really. Cinder is Cinderella, of course, (and I still get a kick out of the fact that she left her cyborg foot behind at the ball) Scarlet is Red Riding Hood, with her soldier Wolf, Cress is Rapunzel, rescued from her spy satellite, and now we get to meet Winter, a wonderful, broken but fiercely good Snow White, slowly going mad because she refuses to use her mind manipulation powers. All four kick-ass heroines converge on the Moon to defeat Queen Levana and save Earth from the Lunar armies. It's a little unwieldy to have so many protagonists, but they all get their fist-pumping moments, and the pace is nice and breathless all the way through. Meyer even made me believe in all four romances. (And I liked that everyone's happily-ever-after was more complicated than they had imagined.) I think my favourite character of them all is Iko, the artificial intelligence who gets several different forms through the series. She's just a hoot!

Fairest is a novella that "bridges" between Cress and Winter. It's a character study of Levana, giving interesting insight into her motivations and her relationship with Winter and with Cinder. It's the strength of Meyer's characters that make this whole series work for me. The plot and setting are a little silly (in a very enjoyable way), but the story is grounded by people with real needs and flaws who grow into trusting each other—or not.

Madly, by Amy Alward is a light-hearted adventure/romance in which an alchemist has to save a princess from a love potion. The fun twist is that it's a modern society with cell-phones and airplanes. (Think Harry Potter world except the Muggles know all about magic.) The Talented are the elite, the celebrities, particularly the royal family, of course. But magic screws up potion ingredients, so an alchemist has to be un-Talented. Samantha comes from a famous line of alchemists fallen on hard times, and saving the princess could save their family's fortunes. She has to get ingredients from all over the world (like yeti hair), so there are lots of adventures as she races against the other alchemist families—particularly her family's worst enemy the Asters. Too bad Zain Aster is so good-looking . . . I wasn't actually sold on the romance (it seemed to rely entirely on Zain's good looks, on Sam's side, and Zain was far too nice to be an arch-rival), but I really liked the world, and the focus on alchemy was fun. A fast read; if she writes more in this world I'd read it.

(Amy Alward is the Amy McCulloch who wrote The Oathbreaker's Shadow. And she's Canadian!**)

Jeweled Fire, by Sharon Shinn, is the third book set in the world of Elemental Blessings. Shinn's books are ultimate comfort reads for me. I love her storytelling, and I love this world—everyone is divided into earth, air, water, fire and wood personalities, with their associated magic, and there's an interesting interplay between fate and free will everytime people draw random blessings for themselves.  I really enjoy the way each book so far has explored the world from a different perspective: a water character, an air character, and now a fire character. Corene came across as a bit of a brat in the first two novels, and I liked the way Shinn got her out of Welce so she could recreate herself, figure out how to use her assertiveness and temper to work with people instead of against them. We also get a new kingdom to explore, with lots of intrigue and conspiracy. The romance was predictable, but sweet; the female characters were all strong and interesting, and developed believable friendships with each other. There was less interesting magic in this book; it turned out to be more of a murder mystery. This was an excellent plane read: light and enjoyable.

*So what do you think: WURBR. Is it one of those amazing acronyms that's going to catch on like wildfire? 'Cause that's what I was going for!

**This is my 10th of 13 in this year's challenge. For more awesome Canadian writers (because the world needs more Canada, am I right?), head to John Mutford's patriotic blog.


  1. Wow. You have been busy. Enjoy your seven books!

  2. Much to the sadness of many of the girls I work with, I haven't gotten to Winter yet. I was a little underwhelmed by Cress so I'm almost afraid. Soon.

    1. If it helps you make your decision, I reread Cress and enjoyed it the second time, and I would say the Winter is more of the same, but more interesting because it's set on Luna, and because Winter is a more interesting character than Cress. (I wanted more of Winter than we actually got.)