Book Review: Cinder

Cinder, Marissa Meyer (Square Fish, 2012, The Lunar Chronicles)

A cyborg foot, with metal in place of bones faint behind the skin, and a red high-heeled shoe

Cover art, Cinder

390 pp. At the time of this review (9/17/18), the book holds a 4.6-star review on Amazon with 3,302 Reviews. Current prints include bonus material—Q&A with the author, Short story “Glitches,” and a teaser chapter for Scarlet.

Science Fiction

Book Obtained By: I bought it after a writer friend recommended it.

My Chocolate Rating on Scale of 5: 4.5 Ghirardelli Salty Caramels (just shy of perfection)

From the back cover

“Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. . . .

Sixteen-year-old Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past and is reviled by her stepmother. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future. Because there is something unusual about Cinder, something that others would kill for.”

Spoiler-Free Review

Cinder, Marissa Meyer (Square Fish, 2012, The Lunar Chronicles)

Marissa Meyer’s debut, Cinder, is a deliciously wonderful mashup of sci-fi meets fairytale. It put her on the New York Times Bestseller list. Given that Cinder’s a cyborg, I knew at some point she wouldn’t lose a shoe—she’d have to lose the whole foot. I expected, as a Cinderella story, the big points Meyer had to hit, like Cinderella having no suitable dress for the ball, which she would attend even though her stepmother kept her from it. However, the path that Meyer took to get to those points surprised me every time.

Told from multiple points of view, usually Cinder and Kai, the story hums along like a machine tended by Cinder herself. Full of spunk and longing, Cinder struggles to form a better life for herself. Her younger step-sister, Peony, and her faithful android sidekick, Iko, give her the strength to fight no matter how unfair the odds. Details lock me into Cinder being a cyborg, like this: “Red light pierced her eyelids. Going haywire, her retina display was sending a skein of green gibberish against the backdrop of her lids” (p.121).

Prince Kai, destined to rule, starts out as the flesh and bone reluctant ruler. His daily life stands in stark contrast to Cinder’s. I loved the scenes with him going about his life; his conflict; his needs, and what event caused him to meet Cinder. Meyer escalates the drama because of what’s going on in the royal family.

Meyers builds the new society of the earth, after the Fourth World War, I think it was, and she places Cinder in an Asian nation. The ruler of Luna, Queen Levana, wants to rule Earth as well. Given that Lunars have the power to manipulate humans’ bioelectricity, she and her people have an unfair advantage over Eartherns. That, and they are immune to the plague decimating the earth. The worst of the Lunars, the thaumaturges, mercilessly control Eartherns actions, whether it’s forcing them to harm themselves, or to perceive Lunars as immensely beautiful. Details that Meyers adds, like Lunars and mirrors, prepares the way for another book in the series (Winter).

Because I’ve fallen so far behind in my reviews, I can’t give my usual depth of review. I can say that Meyer built a rich worldfrom her descriptions of where Cinder works, lives, seeks her escapethe world feels futuristic. She works in backstory to help us understand the conflicts, and that peace reigns despite the risk of the Lunars.

The book hooked me from the start and didn’t let go. I cheered for Cinder, I cried for her, and I yelled at her step-mother for her behavior. At the book’s ending, Meyer wrapped up the main storyline, but she left plenty of unanswered questions. The next three books, I knew, would continue the story—bringing in more and more fairytales. Although I usually bounce from one series to the next, slowly making my way through a series, I hungered for the “next” installment and read the four books back-to-back. Even so, I’m reserving my score to 4.5 because of the elements that did draw me out of the story, such as the frequent use of a character seeing something, smelling something, hearing something. The filter of those words interrupts the story for me, where the author could have kept me in Cinder’s point of view with a whirr, a corrupted image, and so on.

Stay tuned for my review of the second book, Scarlet, in another few days.


#1 New York Times- and USA Today-Bestseller

About the Author

Learn more about Marissa Meyer at her website.

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Book Review: The Dragon’s Flame


A bare-chested man, flames burninging in his chest in the shape of a dragon's head

Cover of Dragon’s Flame, book 5 of the Chimera Chronicles

The Dragon’s Flame, Karin Shah (Soul Mate Publishing, 2017 ebook release; book 5 of Chimera Chronicles)

e-pages, 282. At the time of this review (5/22/18), the book holds a 5-star review on Amazon with 2 reviews.

Paranormal romance

eBook Obtained By: ARC from the author, in exchange for an honest review

My Chocolate Rating on Scale of 5

3.5 Reese’s Peanut-Butter Eggs, Hearts, or Trees (stick-to-your-ribs good)—see below, take with a cup of coffee for my reading bias.

From the Amazon Description

“Of her crime there can be no forgiveness …

“Billionaire chimera-shifter Kyle Mara’s hold on his humanity is slipping away. Fortunately, his mate has at last been revealed. Unfortunately, she’s the wicked witch who almost killed one of his brothers.

“Backed into a corner by her father, CJ Bansbach had one job to do: bring back chimera genetic material for cloning and kill the donor. Her failure resulted in a year of imprisonment and torture. Being broken out by a chimera on the verge of going feral, even if he kills her or turns her over to the Ethereal council for judgement, seems like a change for the better. Until he tells her she’s his mate.

“Plunged into a treasure hunt to break the bond, they must race to find the pieces of a mythical sword while pursued by CJ’s former employers and fighting the pure sexual heat that sparks every time they touch, because forgiveness isn’t Kyle’s to grant and his family’s happiness is everything to him.”

Watch the trailer Shah put together.

Spoiler-Free Review

The Dragon’s Flame, Karin Shah (Soul Mate Publishing, 2017 ebook release; book 5 of Chimera Chronicles)

Dragon’s Flame, a paranormal romance by Karin Shah, is the fifth novel in her Chimera Chronicles. It’s Kyle’s story, and the first one where the primary form is dragon rather than lion. As the eldest brother, and in keeping with a dragon’s love of treasure, Kyle has amassed the wealth from his businesses to bankroll a desperate search for his brothers. In each book before, Shah has made no bones about how close Kyle is to going feral—the dangerous stage when an unmated chimera loses himself to the alternate form. In that state, the human mind loses the battle to the animal, and for the sake of all humanity, someone must put the chimera down. Kyle has tasked his best friend, the likeable demon John, with that burden.

Conflict drives the book. Deliciously ironic, Kyle is destined for the villain in a previous brother’s tale, talented (but dark) witch CJ. Their story revolves around a quest to find the artifact pieces needed for Mara family friend, super-talented witch Thalia, to break the mate bond. Both risk their lives to find the artifact, knowing each must be wrong for the other. But the heart wants what the heart wants.

Part of the fun of Shah’s writing is the family dynamics, each “found” brother and his pregnant mate. As the cast grows in what will be a series of seven novel, they become secondary characters in the next tale. How can Ky fall for the very woman who tried to kill Anjali and Jake (In Like a Lion)?

Shah incorporates deeper conflict in that CJ’s father is a higher-up in the brutal “Omega Corp.,” which wants a chimera in its stable. During Ky’s adventures with CJ, we’ll have the insider’s view of what it’s like to work for an evil father, and an evil corporation, and now to be falling for a man whose family she has so wronged.

The reason I give the book middling marks is Shah’s writing style. She adores adjectives and sentences that occasionally lose me in their complexity. My local writing group worked with my on my adjective and adverb addiction, and on the length of my sentences. When I read books where I feel one more editing pass could have tightened, I downgrade my Chocolate rating. A secondary pattern, which may be mitigated in the final version, is mistakes with commas. I’m a former copy editor, so that bugs me, too. Since I’m reading an ARC, it means some readers might call out those mistakes. I’m a notoriously slow reader, so by the time I finish my review, it’s too late. Don’t think the book labors with these patterns—but I do like to call out when a book isn’t as polished as it could be. Here are examples:

  • The rhythmic sound throbbed though the night and the movement sent gusts of wind tugging at the line of tall, straight evergreens hiding the occupants of the property from prying eyes. (page 60)
  • A narrow-faced man raised his hand across the room and beckoned imperiously to the older woman from his position next to a stooped silver-haired senora sporting a breast-bone covered with diamonds. (page 126)
  • Though, she’d known that might be the case, believed she owed them the catharsis, the reality shredded the last remnants of her defenses, bringing her face to face with her own cowardice. (page 215)
  • “The blue dragon whose neck he’d only just had in his jaws, reared back shaking his massive head, as if confused.” (page 62).

Like most of the books, we’ll have that tidbit of where the next brother’s hiding, even if the bother who gets the hit doesn’t pick up on the clue because of the conflict of falling for the woman who’s done such damage to his family.

As I say each book, I enjoy the characters and the plot. I will read the series through its seventh book because I do love Shah’s characters, her plots, and her twists.  C’mon, making a man of honor fall for the witch who tried to kill family members? That’s a crowning jewel in setting characters along a path fraught with conflict.

Follow Karen

A picture of Karin Shah

Karin Shah


Amazon Author Page


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Book Review: Dead Man’s Chest

Dead Man’s Chest, Kerry Greenwood (Poisoned Pen Press, 2017 ebook release)Roaring 20s Phryne in a purple dress, standing along a seashore

e-pages, un-numbered in ARC. At the time of this review (1/9/18), the book holds a 4.5-star review on Amazon with 433 reviews.

Historical Mystery

eBook Obtained By: ARC from NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review

My Chocolate Rating on Scale of 5: 3 Reese’s Peanut-Butter Eggs, Hearts, or Trees (stick-to-your-ribs good)—see below, take with a cup of coffee for my reading bias


From the Amazon description

“Dot unfolded the note. “He says that his married couple will look after the divine Miss Fisher…I’ll leave out a bit…their name is Johnson and they seem very reliable.” Phryne got the door open at last. She stepped into the hall. “I think he was mistaken about that,” she commented.

Traveling at high speed in her beloved Hispano-Suiza accompanied by her maid and trusted companion Dot, her two adoptive daughters Jane and Ruth, and their dog Molly, The Hon. Miss Phryne Fisher is off to Queenscliff. She’d promised everyone a nice holiday by the sea with absolutely no murders, but when they arrive at their rented accommodation that doesn’t seem likely at all.

An empty house, a gang of teenage louts, a fisherboy saved, and the mystery of a missing butler and his wife seem to lead inexorably toward a hunt for buried treasure by the sea. But what information might the curious Surrealists be able to contribute? Phryne knows to what depths people will sink for greed, but with a glass of champagne in one hand and a pearl-handled Beretta in the other, no one is getting past her.”


Dead Man’s Chest, Kerry Greenwood (Poisoned Pen Press, 2017 ebook release)

With its omniscient viewpoint (even from the dog) and slow-paced opening, this book varies from what I usually read. I had jumped at the chance for the ARC (advance reader copy) because I loved the three-season series about the “lady detective” living in Australia in the 1920s but hadn’t yet read any of Greenwood’s books. This sounded like an episode I’d seen, so it would provide a chance to appreciate the author’s original works while I tried to ignore the direction the TV episode took—I looked forward to more subplots, and the book did not disappoint in that regard.

The mystery hits fast, with the holiday home Phryne and company stay at in a shambles, and the husband and wife who should be running the household are missing.  The lazy opening pace surprised me, but I suppose reflects that Phryne is on holiday. With her usual ingenuity, she gets the house humming, then balances holiday with solving the mystery.  The head-hopping took me a good three chapters to get used to. I’d have put the book down by then, but I’d made a commitment as an ARC reader, and even if I was starting it a month later than I should have, I was giving it a chance. I did enjoy the characters. If I hadn’t, I would have given it a DNF.

Somewhere about chapter five I got into the book more, appreciating it as a slice of history (an aspect I love so much about the TV series). I cringe (in a good way) as a stench emanates from a hair salon:  “‘It’s those marcel irons,’ said Phryne. ‘If you want hair like corrugated iron, you need to discipline it very severely.’”

I kept reading because of the characters.  I enjoyed watching Ruth come into her own as she worked towards a dream she had; I already knew book-loving, fast-witted Jane would give as good as she got. Who but a bookworm must admit, about their unconventional bookmark rather than dog-earing a corner, “Nothing seemed available except the lettuce.” And when it comes to Phryne standing up for herself, never needing a man to rescue her, of course Greenwood gave me ample reason to cheer. I can well believe this reaction by one of the bad guys: “She looked just like a Dutch doll, pink lips, bright eyes, white skin, black shiny hair. But she didn’t sound like any doll. Phryne Fisher gave [I’m cutting the name] the willies.”

Greenwood walks into the mystery casually, as Phryne investigates and uses her family and some of the locals a’la Holmes’ Baker Street Irregulars. The cast of characters rounded out nicely, deepening the slice of life as the mystery got going. The new characters had their own arcs, as did the existing characters, deepening the story. The inclusion of a half dozen Surrealists, provided laughable moments, even if they did slow the pace.

At the end of the novel, Greenwood tied together threads of the plot nicely, playing on characters strengths and weaknesses. It’s a book that satisfies.

Take my 3-chocolate rating with a cup of coffee, as I don’t read a lot of mysteries, and I don’t read a lot of omniscient POV.  That head-hopping and all the filtering words “Phryne heard” or “Dot saw” or “Ruth felt” pushed me out of the story regularly. Language wise, Greenwood painted great descriptions.  Phryne, never one to let a wrong go un-righted, says, “ ‘And boys, I’m going to be here for weeks, and if I see any of you so much as look sideways at an innocent man, woman, child or dog, expect retribution to set in with unusual accuracy and force. You hear me?’ ”

If you like mysteries or historicals, give Miss Fisher’s Mysteries a read.

Learn more about Kerry Greenwood

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