Cinder— a review

Young adult fiction is the best place to look for new ideas, or old ones wearing new garb. Marissa Meyer’s Cinder is the latter, as it is a science fiction version of Cinderella. The reviews were fabulous, so I purchased the eBook version, and promptly pushed it aside. Part of me wants to dislike YA, since I skipped into the adult section at the local library while I was in the seventh grade. Instead of beginning Cinder, I read a nifty self-help book called the $10 Root Cellar: And Other Low-Cost Methods of Growing, Storing, and Using Root Vegetables (Modern Simplicity). Yeah, I know, I can’t quite believe I read that one either. But, hubby and son have been watching a bunch of YouTube vids on how to survive a time WOROL (without rule of law) and/or zombie attacks. And, I don’t know about everyone else, but if I am staying cooped up, I want something to eat!

Okay, okay, I digress. So, having learned all about burying an old fridge to store root veggies in (for that zombie apocalypse), I pulled up Cinder on my iPad. And, almost immediately, I was hooked. The character is amazing; Meyer has so skillfully drawn her, that I can just see her stuffing her grimy gloves in a back pocket. And, yes, there should be little suspense. How many times did my kids watch the Disney version of Cinderella? Not to mention my reading the Golden Books version to my daughter. She used to call the stepsisters, “the uglies.” How cute, right? So, I know the plot.

But, while Meyer’s tale is sorta/kinda true to the traditional tale, there is sufficient deviation to give the reader some suspense. And, the narrative is pretty good, but the characters just about jump off the pages. Especially Cinder, who is a cyborg with a mean stepmom, two flighty “uglies” A/K/A stepsisters, and an android or two for good measure. The queen of Luna is perhaps the best villainess I have read about this year. Maybe this decade.

Others have noted that the Oriental overtones seem to be grafted onto the story, and that is a valid criticism. But, I am not sure that the storyline would have worked at all if the characters had been more realistically Oriental. This yarn is the first in a series, and I am looking forward to revisiting Marissa Meyer’s retelling of traditional stories.

So, even if you don’t get into re-tellings of fairy tales, if you like gritty science fiction, you might just like this story. And, if you do like re-tellings, this one is very good.

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Remember, Remember, the Fifth of November

I’m mostly steering clear of controversial topics on this blog, as it is very much devoted to reading and writing. The main reason I abandoned Pam’s Pages was that some of the posts were deemed controversial by family and so-called friends.

But, as a science-fiction fan, I remember wanting to see V for Vendetta, but not wanting my (then) impressionable children to see it. The film promised violence as well as controversy, as well as Star Wars veteran Natalie Portman in a main role. There were reasons the kids would want to see it, and there were reasons I did not want them there. So, I dropped the kidlets off at school, did a couple of errands, and went to a large mall on the outskirts of Atlanta to see an 11:00 am showing of the film. T’was a surreal experience, and I am not talking about the movie. There were only a couple of other patrons in a very large cinema. And, that was one of the few times I had popcorn for lunch.

Of course, V for Vendetta is a powerful film, but the intimate showing made it even more so. That gi-normous screen held my attention, and there was not so much as a cough or a crunch from a fellow patron to distract me. While I understand that the author, and then the producer, view the graphic novel/film as a reaction to overly conservative government, I see it as a cautionary tale against any sort of totalitarian regime, regardless of whether it swings to the right or the left. As a child, attending public schools in the 1960s, (yes, I am that freakin’ old) our teachers sometimes warned us about propaganda. Those educators saw it as the weapon of choice in the Soviet Union’s means of keeping communism going, and they wanted their pupils to understand the power of media under governmental control. So, from an early age, I was taught to look beyond face value at message, any message, and to search for truth. In V for Vendetta, the message may be a bit heavy handed, but any government can get out of hand, if the people do not maintain control. And, as a youngster, I had few doubts about Walter Cronkite’s version of the “news,” but quite a lot of modern day media tends to make me cringe, and that is on both sides of the American political spectrum.

What to do, then? Well, I am not advocating blowing up anything. Nor do I advocate becoming un-engaged in political discussions. However, it is necessary for people to renew their efforts to evaluate governmental policy, from the local school board to Capitol Hill, not in terms of “what do I get?” but in terms of “is this the best way to rebuild a nation that is in deep trouble?” We must do so without “fact checking” journalists and/or highly paid lobbyists. Only then will the leadership void be filled. Otherwise, historians will look back at our time as the beginning of the end of the United States.

Oh, and this would be a great day to watch V for Vendetta. Actually, any day is a good day to see it. Bring on the popcorn.

Escape from Zulaire

Image This new tale from Veronica Scott is a very good read, but it does share a lot (perhaps too much) with the last really good story by this author that I reviewed a few months back. The heroine is saved by a military trained hero, who is quite heroic, but not arrogant. The setting is far from earth, there are kids, natives, and a bit of spiritualism. There is action aplenty, and thus suspense, with sufficient romance to keep the core audience involved. That summary works for Escape from Zulaire, but it also works for the Wreck of the Nebula Dream.

I read the Kindle version, and it was in pretty good shape for a self published novel. There were only a couple of misspellings and the main character’s name was not capitalized once. Still, I have seen far worse, in books that cost more.

Both books work for me, but if I read this same plot again, I might start getting a bit frustrated. Ms. Scott, I love your writing, but change it up a bit. Please!

Cadets, a space opera entry for young adults

Cadets CoverWhile I prefer more sophisticated military science fiction, readers of all ages should enjoy Cadets, which is an entertaining read. The story follows a group of cadets, who are forced into growing up quickly when a menace from outside the solar system wipes out virtually all of the Earth’s defense force. The characters are not as complex as those readers would find in a space opera by David Weber or Elizabeth Moon, but for the intended audience, this yarn is quite good. The military strategy won’t impress adult readers, either. Still, it is suspenseful, with a bit of Independence Day style peril. A good read, with no worries for the parents.

Freebies via Amazon’s Kindle Store

I’m really amazed at how much content is available for free these days. Since e-publishing began, there has been free (or super cheap) content, but much of it was not worth the storage space on my Palm Pilot.

Now, I read eBooks on my iPad, and I usually shop the Kindle store, although I have content through the Nook service as well. Authors can publish via Kindle direct, with little cost, so some of them are listing older content, or items that contain promotional content, for free. 

My two latest reads were free downloads. One was a full length novel by Lizzy Ford, called Rebel Heart, and it was better than I would have expected for a free read. Not a great book, but I have read worse books that actually cost real money. Rebel Heart is sorta of science fiction, somewhat romantic, with a heavy dose of political thriller thrown in for good measure. The characters, especially the hero, are worth reading about, and while the plot jumps and jerks like a kid learning to drive a stick shift, there was a good amount of originality in the story-line. Many self-published books suffer from problems with grammar, spelling, or punctuation, and there are few issues with those in this book. Instead, the problems are deeper, so Rebel Heart is a 2 star book.

The second freebie was quite well written, but the focus is not what I expected. 
How to Work for Yourself: 100 Ways to Make the Time, Energy and Priorities to Start a Business, Book or Blog by Bryan Cohen is more about time management than how to begin a business, write a book, or write a blog. And, there are some heavy doses of promotional material in the introduction and conclusion, but in a free book, that is quite forgivable. Actually, I really enjoyed this short read. Cohen has some great ideas on finding more time, and some of them are novel. If you want more time for whatever projects you have in mind, this little tome might be very helpful.

Both of these books made me think that Amazon’s free offerings are actually worth a look.

Wreck of the Nebula Dream— a review

Wreck of Nebula Dream coverDo you remember all the obstacles faced by the survivors of the Poseidon Adventure? Did you cringe at the fate of the passengers left to die on the Titanic? Did your skin crawl when reading about the “medical experiments” performed on holocaust victims? I remember those emotions, and they all come into play when reading Veronica Scott’s space opera, the Wreck of the Nebula Dream. This book is one heck of a bargain, and it lacks the usual problems associated with Amazon Digital Services as publisher. The only down side is that something like 60% of the apostrophes are turned the wrong way.

Although not a perfect story, this one is darned close. The hero is, well, heroic, but not arrogant. The heroine is a great side kick. There are kids, a bit of fantasy and magic, and some stock characters, too. The story does take a little while to get going (in media res would have helped this author) but once the disasters start happening, one thing leads to another, and the action is constant. I really liked this novel.

While it is available in print, I read the Kindle version, and I didn’t get much sleep the night I purchased it. That is not a complaint, but I think I need a nap now….