Top 5 Wednesday: Second Book is Best

This week’s Top 5 Wednesday (check out the Good Reads group) is: Second Book is BestWe’ve talked about series that went downhill, and series that are worth it, but which series were best in the middle?

18966819

1. Golden Son (Red Rising #2) by Pierce Brown. The first book was great, but this second book in the Red Rising series just blew me away. One of my all time favorite books.

13206760  13206828

2. Scarlet & Cress (The Lunar Chronicles #2 & #3) by Marissa Meyer. (Since there are 4 books in this series I’m counting the middle two books as one.) I remember not being all that impressed with Cinder, but the books just kept getting better after that.

8288246

3. Red Glove (Curse Workers #2) by Holly Black. With all the 5 star reviews I saw of the first book I ended up being a little disappointed. But then I read Red Glove and it was everything I expected the first book to be. I loved it.

27276194

4. For Better or Worse (The Wedding Belles #2) by Lauren Layne. Even though I ended up reading this series in reverse order, it was still the second book I read and my favorite of the whole series.

22544025

5. New Uses for Old Boyfriends (Black Dog Bay #2) by Beth Kendrick. This was actually the first book in the series I read, but I thought it (and the following books in the series) was a big improvement over the first book.

What are some of your picks for Second Book is Best?

Advertisements

My Life in Books Tag

I was quite determined to get up early today and get some shopping and errands done. I was even considering driving down to my hometown for their annual festival for some Swiss Cheese on a Stick and fry pies. But when I woke up it was in the 40s and raining, so I went back to sleep and now I’m in pajamas, drinking coffee, and watching Notting Hill on tv. What better time to do a tag? I was tagged for My Life in Books Tag by #LoveBooks (go check out her blog!).

1) Find A Book For Each Of Your Initials:

13206760

22465605

2) Count Your Age Along Your Book Shelf: What Book Is It?

31 (*sigh*) = …

16074758

3) Pick a book that represents a destination you would like to travel to?

The Greek island of Corfu. Yes please.

25369773

4) Pick A Book That Is Your Favourite Color

9680718

5) Which book do you have the fondest memory of?

453989

I absolutely loved the Wayside School books as a kid. They were a very particular kind of humor and it just so happened to be my sense of humor. I’ve looked and looked for these books, but I think they got tossed in one of our many moves. I’m going to have to buy them some day.

6) Which book did you have the most difficulty reading?

12190308

I really thought I was going to love this book and I just ended up hating it. I read it before I could DNF books so I powered through it and just hated it.

7) Which book in your TBR pile will you give you the biggest sense of achievement?

10964

It’s the longest book on my TBR and I find it very intimidating. I generally don’t read books over 400 pages (Nook length. The paging is always really different on my Nook than the hard copy), and usually they’re around 300 or less.

Feel free to consider yourself tagged if you would like

Reviewing the Unreviewed: September 2015

Stephanies Book Reviews Header

I read a lot of books that I don’t end up reviewing for whatever reason. Some because I wasn’t impressed. Some because I didn’t have the time. Some I just wasn’t feeling it on whatever particular day I finished. I thought I’d start doing a post once a month  with just the couple thoughts I shared on Good Reads

Pop Goes the Weasel: A Detective Helen Grace Thriller

Pop Goes the Weasel (Helen Grace #2) by M.J. Arlidge. Read August 29-September 1. 3.5 stars.

My review for this will actually come out in a couple weeks, closer to it’s release date. While I didn’t find it quite as good as the first book in the series, I still found it compulsively readable.

18527496

Catch a Falling Star by Kim Culbertson. Read September 21-23. 4 stars.

This book was pretty adorable. I liked the main character and her friends and her relationship with her parents. I liked that she was from a small town and liked it. I liked how her relationship with Adam developed. I even liked some of the star metaphors, though some of them seem a little contrived. It dealt with some heavier topics, but I felt it was balanced well the adorableness.

Sweet Temptation (The Sweet Trilogy, #4)

Sweet Temptation (Sweet Triology #4) by Wending Higgins. Read September 9-27. 3 stars.

Unless you’re a super fan of this series, I would highly suggest re-reading the trilogy before giving this book a go. The narrative relies on the reader already knowing what is going on and it skims over big explanations and a lot of details. Since it’s been awhile since I read the series – especially the first two books – I didn’t remember a lot of details. Because of this it took me a little while to get into the book, but I eventually did and really enjoyed getting Kaiden’s point of view. Some of it was a little repetitive at times, but his inner voice was pretty different than Anna’s and it added to the overall series experience. I would recommend this to fans of the series, especially to those Super Fans.

*************************************************************************

RE-READS

Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles, #1)  Scarlet (The Lunar Chronicles, #2)  Cress (The Lunar Chronicles, #3)

Cinder, Scarlet, Cress – The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer

I decided to do a re-read of the series before Winter comes out in a couple months. It pretty much reinforced all my original feelings on the series. Each book gets better. I love the characters and the romance and the action. Meyer does a phenomenal job of juggling multiple perspectives. This is probably one of the best done YA series out there and if you haven’t started it, I highly recommend it. (And I love those covers! Especially Cress!)

 

Review: Cress (Lunar Chronicles #3) by Marissa Meyer

Cress (Lunar Chronicles, #3)

Synopsis from Good Reads:

Rapunzel’s tower is a satellite. She can’t let down her hair—or her guard.

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

Their best hope lies with Cress, who has been trapped on a satellite since childhood with only 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 goes awry, the group is separated. Cress finally has her freedom, but it comes at a high price. Meanwhile, Queen Levana will let nothing stop her marriage to Emperor Kai. Cress, Scarlet, and Cinder may not have signed up to save the world, but they may be the only ones who can.

Every book in this series is even better than the one before it. Marissa Meyer just keeps getting better!

There are a lot of characters to focus on in Cress and Meyer juggles them brilliantly. Each character is developed. Each character has their own unique voice. Each character has their own subplot going on, while still being central to the group and their plan to stop Queen Levana. I don’t know how she manages it, but Meyer weaves all these characters together into a well-paced, actiony, emotion-packed adventure.

Our newest heroine is Cress, a skilled hacker who has been living alone in a satellite for seven years. She’s been working for The Queen’s minion, Sybil, to spy on Earth and protect their ships from detection. She’s the one who first alerts Cinder to Levana’s plan to marry and then get rid of Emperor Kai. Cress is obviously a little on the socially awkward side and a little immature, but her growth throughout the book is great and she became a very likable character. I like how Thorne is with her and their friendship.

I also liked the addition of Jacin, a Lunar guard who “joins” Cinder. Through him we get to learn a little more about the Lunars and get our first bit of information about the next book’s namesake, Winter.

As always, Cinder is still my favorite character. Though she’s Lunar and a Cyborg she’s a very human character. She’s smart and determined and brave, while also showing her vulnerability and fear. She struggles with the ethical implications of her growing Lunar powers and how she may need to use them to carry our their plan. And finally – finally – *SPOILER* we get to see Cinder and Kai together again!

Overall, I really enjoyed Cress. The story was well-paced and the character development was great. There were some twists and surprises and heartache. My only real complaint is that we didn’t get enough Scarlet. I would definitely recommend this book to those who have started the series and if you haven’t read this series – start it now!

Rating (out of 5)
Plot: 4
Characters: 4.75
Readability: 4.5
Enjoyability: 4.5
Overall Average: 4.44 stars

Top Ten Tuesday: Best Sequels Ever

This week’s Top Ten, sponsored by The Broke and the Bookish, is about the best sequels ever. My picks aren’t necessarily sequels that I liked better than the first, but ones that were just as enjoyable. (Click on the cover for synopsis.)

1. Circles of Time: A Novel
Circles of Time by Phillip Rock, the follow up to The Passing Bells. This book is a little more like what I thought the first book would be. And there is lots of Martin Rilke, one of my favorite literary characters ever.

2. Unravel Me (Shatter Me Series #2)
Unravel Me by Tahereh Mafi, the second book in the Shatter Me series.

3. Scarlet
Scarlet by Marissa Meyer, the second book in The Lunar Chronicles. I actually enjoyed this book more than I did, Cinder.

4. Onyx (Lux Series #2)
Onyx by Jennifer Armentrout, the second book in the Lux series. As I’ve said many times, I love this series.

5. Insurgent (Divergent Series #2)
Insurgent by Vernoica Roth, follow up to Divergent. This book ramped up the action, the romance, and the “mythology”.

6. Catching Fire (Hunger Games Series #2)
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins, follow up to The Hunger Games. The first book in the series will always be my favorite, but this series is one of my all time favorites and Catching Fire did not disappoint.

7. Pray for Silence (Kate Burkholder Series #2)
Pray for Silence by Linda Castillo, the second book in the Kate Burkholder series. I think this one might actually be my favorite storyline of the series.

Ok, so I only have a top 7 because I can’t really think of any more. I’m sure as soon as I post this or read through some other’s lists I’ll come up with some more. What sequels do you think are the best ever?

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Secondary Characters

Today’s Top Ten Tuesday hosted by the Broke and the Bookish is about your favorite secondary characters.

1. Finnick  from the Catching Fire and Mockingjay. He starts out as just charming and funny and conceited and turns into a really complex, wonderful character.

2. Boggs from Mockingjay. He’s not in the book for long, but in the short time he was, he became one of my favorites. Mostly for this line: “Well don’t expect us to be too impressed. We just saw Finnick Odair in his underwear.”

3. Mary Musgrove from Persuasion. She has no filter. No self-awareness. No tact. I love her.

4. Simon from The Mortal Instruments series. He’s sarcastic and wonderful.

5. “Captain” Thorne from Scarlet. He’s narcissistic, but in a totally amusing, lovable way. He provided a great counterpart to Cinder and was my favorite new character added to the series in this book.

6. Park’s dad from Eleanor and Park. Yes I am too lazy to look up his actual name right now. Though he has flaws, he’s a great husband and a great father. And he gets Eleanor and her situation.

7. Glock from the Kate Burkholder series. He’s everything a good cop should be and is always there for Kate.

8. Penryn’s mom from Angelfall. (I’m still too lazy to look up her actual name). She’s crazy, but she knows it. And she owns it.

9. Chris from Ashes. Pretty much everyone wants to use him for some purpose or another and he tries to please everybody. I think he’s really more complex than what he first appears.

10. Adrian from The Vampire Academy series. I didn’t like his character at first, but he totally grew on me. He’s charming and sarcastic and tortured and a little crazy. He’s the reason I have to read the spinoff series because he was completely shafted at the end of this series.

What are your favorite secondary characters?

Cress Cover Reveal and Excerpt

MEYER CRESS BOOKS

Cress by Marissa Meyer is the third book in the Lunar Chronicles series (see my review of Scarlet here). USA Today revealed the cover today. I don’t usually go crazy for covers, but I love this one! If you haven’t figured it out, Cress will be based on Rapunzel.

See the full article with interview with Meyer here. Read the excerpt from the article below!

Excerpt from Cress (Book 3 in The Lunar Chronicles) by Marissa Meyer:

“SCREEN FOUR,” SAID CRESS, SQUINTING AT THE GRID OF ICONS.

“High Jack to . . . D5.”

Without waiting for the animated jester to cartwheel to his new space, she shifted her attention to the next game. “Screen five. Claim rubies and daggers. Discard crowns.”

The screen sparkled, but she had already moved on.

“Screen six.” She paused, chewing on the tips of her hair. Twelve rows of numbers filled up the screen, some slots left blank, some tinted with colors and patterns. After her brain twisted around an equation she wasn’t sure she could have done a second time, the puzzle lit up before her, the solution as clear as a moonrise over Earth. “3A, insert yellow 4.7B is black 16. 9G is black 20.” The grid melted away, replaced with a second era singer swooning into a microphone, the audience swelling with applause.

“Congratulations, Big Sister,” said Little Cress. “You won!”

Cress’s victory was short- lived. She rolled onto her side and reassessed the first game. Seeing the move that Little Cress had made since her last turn squelched her pride. She’d backed herself into a corner. “Screen one,” she murmured, swooping her hair over one shoulder and mindlessly knotting the dampened ends around her fingers. Five knots later and her victory on screen six was forgotten. Little Cress was going to win this one.

She sighed and made the best move she could, but it was immediately followed by Little Cress’s king moving to the center of the holographic labyrinth and claiming the golden chalice. A laughing jester appeared, gobbling down the rest of the game board.

Cress groaned and pulled her hair off her neck, waiting for whatever task her younger self would randomly select for her.

“I won!” said Little Cress, once the holograph had disappeared back into the screen. The other games automatically locked themselves. “You now owe me ten minutes of country- western line dancing, as guided by the following video, followed by thirty jump- squats. Let’s begin!”

Cress rolled her eyes, wishing she hadn’t been quite so perky when she’d recorded the voice. But she did as she was told, sliding off the bed as a mustached man in a large hat appeared on the screens, thumbs hooked into his belt loops.

A couple years ago, upon realizing that her living accommodations offered few opportunities to be active, Cress had gone on a fitness kick. She’d installed all the games with a program that chose from a variety of fitness activities, which she would be required to perform from every time she lost. Though she’d often regretted the program, it did help keep her from becoming cemented to her chair, and she kind of enjoyed the dancing and yoga routines. Although she was not looking forward to those jump- squats.

Just as the twang of a guitar announced the start of the dance, a loud chime delayed the inevitable. Thumbs locked into her pretend- belt loops, Cress glanced around at the screens.

“Little Cress, what—”

“We have received a direct communication link request from Unknown User: Mechanic.”

Her insides spun as if she’d just done a back flip.

Mechanic.

With a cry, she half stumbled, half fell toward the smallest screen, hastily tapped in the fitness- routine override code, checked the firewall and privacy settings, and saw it. A D-COMM request, and the most innocent of questions.

A C C E P T ?

Mouth dry, Cress smoothed both palms over her hair. “Yes! Accept!”

The window faded away, replaced with blackness, and then—

And then—

There he was.

Carswell Thorne.

He was tilted back in a chair, the heels of his boots propped up in front of the screen. Three people stood close behind him, but all Cress could see were the blue eyes staring back at her, directly back at her, beginning to fill with the same breathless awe she felt.

The same wonder.

The same enchantment.

Though they were separated by two screens and vast amounts of empty space, she could feel the link being forged between them in that look. A bond that couldn’t be broken. Their eyes had met for the first time, and by the look of pure amazement on his face, she knew he felt it too.

Heat crept up into her cheeks. Her hands began to shake.

“Aces,” Carswell Thorne murmured. Dropping his feet to the ground, he leaned forward to inspect her closer. “Is that all hair?”

The bond snapped, the fantasy of one perfect true- love moment disintegrating around her.

Sudden, overwhelming panic clawed up Cress’s throat. With a squeak, she ducked out of view of the camera and scrambled beneath the desk. Her back struck the wall with a thud that rattled her teeth. She crouched there, skin burning hot and pulse thundering as she took in the room before her— the room that he was now seeing too, with the rumpled bedcovers and the mustached man on all the screens telling her to grab her imaginary partner and swing them around.

“Wha—where’d she go?” Thorne’s voice came to her through the screen.

“Honestly, Thorne.” A girl. Linh Cinder? “Do you ever think before you speak?”

“What? What did I say?”

” ‘Is that all hair?’ ”

“Did you see it? It was like a cross between a magpie nest and ball of yarn after it’s been mauled by a cheetah.”

A beat. Then, “A cheetah?”

“It was the first big cat that came to mind.”

Cress hurriedly tried to finger- comb the tangles around her ears. Her hair hadn’t been cut since she’d been put into the satellite and now hung past her knees, but Sybil didn’t bring sharp objects into the satellite and Cress had long ago stopped worrying about keeping it neatly braided. After all, who was going to see her?

Oh, to have styled her hair that morning. To have worn the dress that didn’t have a hole in the collar. Had she even brushed her teeth since she’d eaten breakfast? She couldn’t remember, and now she was sure that she had bits of spinach from her freeze- dried eggs Florentine stuck between them.

“Here, let me speak to her.”

Shuffling from the screen.

“Hello?” A girl again. “I know you can hear me. I’m sorry my friend is such a wing nut. You can just ignore him.”

“That’s usually what we do,” said the other feminine voice.

Cress searched hastily for a mirror or anything that could pass for one.

“We need to talk to you. I’m . . . This is Cinder. The mechanic who fixed the android?”

The back of Cress’s hand smacked into her clothes hamper. It collided with her wheeled chair, which was launched halfway across the room where it hit the far desk and sent a half- full cup of water tipping and wobbling. Cress froze, her eyes going wide as the glass teetered toward the memory drive that housed Little Cress.

“Um, hello? Is this a good time?”

The cup came to rest straight and still once more, not a drop having spilled.

Cress slowly exhaled.

This was not how this meeting was supposed to go. This was not the fantasy she’d dreamed up a hundred times. What had she said in all those dreams? How had she acted? Who had that person been?

All she could think of was the burning mortification of the country- western dancer (now face your partner and do- si- do!) and her magpie- nest hair, her sweating palms and her deafening pulse.

She squeezed her eyes shut and forced herself to focus, to think.

She was not a silly little girl hiding beneath her desk. She was— she was—

An actress.

A gorgeous, poised, talented actress. And she was wearing a sequined dress that sparkled like stars, one that would mesmerize anyone who saw her. She was not one to question her own power to charm those around her, any more than a thaumaturge would question her ability to manipulate a crowd. She was breathtaking. She was—

Still hiding under the desk.

“Are you there?”

A snort. “Yeah, this is going really well.” Carswell Thorne.

Cress flinched, but her breaths were becoming less sporadic as she cocooned herself in the fantasy. “This is a drama set,” she whispered, quiet enough that they couldn’t hear her. She forced it into her imagination. This was not her bedroom, her sanctuary, her prison. This was a drama set, with cameras and lights and dozens of directors and producers and android- assistants milling about.

And she was an actress.

“Little Cress, pause fitness programming.”

The screens halted, the room going silent, and Cress crawled out from beneath the desk.

Cinder was sitting before the screen now, with Carswell Thorne hovering over her shoulder. Cress glanced at him long enough to catch a smile that was perhaps meant to be apologetic, but only served to make her heart skitter.

“Hi,” said Linh Cinder. “Sorry to surprise you like that. Do you remember me? We spoke a couple weeks ago, on the day of the coronation and—”

“Y-yes, of course,” she stammered. Her knees started to shake as she surreptitiously dragged her chair back toward her and sat down. “I’m glad you’re all right.” She forced herself to focus on Linh Cinder. Not on Carswell Thorne. If she only refrained from meeting his gaze again, she would manage. She would not fall apart.

And yet the temptation to fi x her eyes on him was still there, tugging at her.

“Oh, thanks,” said Cinder. “I wasn’t sure . . . I mean, do you follow Earthen news? Do you know what’s been happening since—”

“I know everything.”

Cinder paused.

Cress realized her words had come out all mushed together, and she reminded herself to enunciate when she was playing such a sophisticated role. She forced herself to sit up a bit straighter.

“I follow all the newsfeeds,” she clarified. “I knew you were spotted in France, and I’ve been tracking your ship, so I knew it hadn’t been destroyed, but I still didn’t know whether you’d been injured, or what had happened, and I’ve been trying to establish the D-COMM link but you never responded.” She deflated a little, her fingers tying knots into her hair. “But I am glad to see that you’re all right.”

“Yes, yes, she’s fi ne, we’re fi ne, everybody’s fi ne,” said Thorne, perching an elbow on Cinder’s shoulder and leaning toward the screen with furrowed brows. Meeting his eyes was unavoidable, and an involuntary squeak slipped past her lips— a sound she’d never heard herself make before. “Did you just say you’ve been tracking our ship?”

She opened her mouth, but shut it a moment later when no sound followed. Finally, she managed a brittle nod.

Thorne squinted at her as if trying to figure out if she were lying. Or merely an idiot.

She longed to crawl back beneath the desk.

“Really,” he drawled. “And who do you work for again?”

You are an actress. An actress!

“Mistress,” she said, forcing the word. “Mistress Sybil. She ordered me to find you, but I haven’t told her anything— and I won’t, you don’t have to worry about that. I— I’ve been jamming the radar signals, making sure surveillance satellites are faced the other way when you pass, that sort of thing. So no one else could find you.” She hesitated, realizing that four faces were gaping at her as if all her hair had just fallen out. “You must have noticed that you haven’t been caught yet?”

Lifting an eyebrow, Cinder slid her gaze over to Thorne, who let out a sudden laugh.

“All this time we thought Cinder was casting some witchy spell on the other ships and it’s been you?”

Cinder frowned, but Cress couldn’t tell who her annoyance was directed at. “I guess we owe you a huge thanks.”

Cress’s shoulders jerked into an uncomfortable shrug. “It wasn’t that difficult. Finding you was the hardest part, but anyone could have figured it out. And sneaking ships around the galaxy is something Lunars have been doing for years.”

“I have a price on my head large enough to buy the Province of Japan,” said Cinder. “If anyone could have figured it out, they would have by now. So, really, thank you.”

A blush crept down her neck.

Thorne jabbed Cinder in the arm. “Soften her up with flattery. Good strategy.”

Cinder rolled her eyes. “Look. The reason we’re contacting you is because we need your help. Evidently more than I realized.”

“Yes,” Cress said emphatically, unwrapping the hair from her wrists. “Yes. Whatever you need.”

Thorne beamed. “See? Why can’t you all be this agreeable?”

The second girl smacked him on the shoulder. “She doesn’t even know what we want her to do yet.” Cress really looked at her for the first time. She had curly red hair, a collection of freckles over her nose, and curves that were unfairly exaggerated next to Cinder, who was all angles in comparison. The man beside her dwarfed them both and had brown hair that stuck up in every direction, faded scars that hinted at more than his share of scuffles, and a recent bruise on his jaw.

Cress tried her best to look confident. “What do you need help with?”

“When I talked to you before, on the day of the ball, you told me that you’ve been spying on Earth’s leaders and reporting back to Queen Levana. And you also knew that once Levana became empress, she planned on having Kai assassinated so she could have total control of the Commonwealth and use that power to launch a full- scale attack on the other Earthen countries.”

Cress nodded, perhaps too vigorously.

“Well, we need the people of Earth to know what lengths she’s willing to go to in order to stake claim to Earth, not just the Commonwealth. If the other leaders knew that she’s been spying on them all this time, and that she has every intention of invading their countries the first chance she gets, there’s no way they would condone this wedding. They wouldn’t accept her as a world leader, the wedding would be canceled, and . . . with any luck, that’ll give us a chance to . . . er. Well, the ultimate goal is to dethrone her entirely.”

Cress licked her lips. “So . . . what do you want me to do?”

“Evidence. I need evidence of what Levana’s planning, of what’s she’s been doing.”

Pondering, Cress sank back in her chair. “I have copies of all the video surveillance from over the years. It would be easy to pull up some of the most incriminating vids and send them to you over this link.”

“That’s perfect!”

“It’s circumstantial, though. It would only prove that Levana is interested in what the other leaders are doing, not necessarily that she plans on invading them, and I don’t think I have any documentation about her wanting to murder His Majesty, either. It’s largely my own suspicions, and speculation on the things my mistress has said.”

“That’s fine, we’ll take whatever you have. Levana already attacked us once. I don’t think Earthens will take much convincing that she would do it again.”

Cress nodded, but her enthusiasm had waned. She cleared her throat. “My mistress will recognize the footage. She’ll know it was me who gave it to you.”

Cinder’s smile began to fade, and Cress knew she didn’t need to clarify her point. She would be killed for her betrayal.