Heartless: Book Review

Heartless by Marissa Meyer

I need to preface this book review by admitting that I am an OG Marissa Meyer fan, meaning I have been reading her stuff since she was a writer on www.fanfiction.net, writing Sailor Moon fanfiction. I absolutely adore her and watching her achieve her dreams has been an absolute joy as a fan. She deserves every good thing to happen to her, and I will most likely never dislike anything she writes. I think this stems more from how insanely talented she is as a writer and a storyteller rather than any kind of bias or sense of nostalgia. She has been a standout writer since the beginning, and her success was inevitable in my eyes.

Anyway, back to the review.

This. Book. Broke. Me.

Oh man, I knew that an origin story of the infamous “Off with his head!” Red Queen would not end all roses and…well, there are roses, but I knew it wouldn’t end happily in conventional terms. But Marissa turned this story on its head and took complete ownership of the characters she borrowed from Lewis Carroll. Really, she did him an excellent service by humanizing this character and added so much depth to the universe of Wonderland.

This book is beautifully crafted. It starts out with a light-hearted, dreaming version of the Red Queen named Lady Catherine Pinkerton, daughter of the Marques of Rock Turtle Cove. All she wants to do with her life is bake. When we meet her, she is covered in flour, working tirelessly over a lemon tart around which her entire universe seems to center.

The character development of the Red Queen is just so masterfully done in my opinion. The description above of Catherine when we first meet her is so far removed from the image we came to the story with, the red-faced, buxom, mad Queen. But of course, we have to link that soft, version of the Queen with what she must inevitably become and that is quite a journey for a character to embark on. To transform one version of this character to the other, the author could have dived into some severe melodrama territory, but the change was gradual, logical, and heartbreaking. I never felt like she changed the character in an unbelievable way.

And Jest. Can we all just take a moment to mourn one of the most beautiful men in YA lit?

Okay, I will never get over his death, but I can fully sympathize with Catherine’s transformation after her extraordinarily tumultuous and star-crossed relationship with the Court Joker.

Also, I want to insert here that we NEED a prequel featuring Jest and Hatta and their lives in Chess. Please, Marissa?!

Jest was such a profound character, and I really appreciate the slow reveal of his personality and motives, so I felt like I was falling in love with him right along with Catherine, further aligning my sympathies with her in the end.

Should you read Alice in Wonderland before reading this book?

My advice is that you don’t have to have read the book Marissa based her story and characters on. She did an excellent job of creating this stand-alone novel that readers can appreciate all on its own. But really if you have any or no foreknowledge of the Red Queen from any of the Disney movies (animated or Tim Burton), etc. you can read and enjoy this book.

She succeeded in making me view the Red Queen in a whole new light.

4/5 Stars

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The Fiery Cross: Book Review

I have been listening to the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon on Audible for nearly a year now. I began listening to the audiobooks when I started my new job to fill my long commute time. The audiobooks are long, 30-50+ hours each and the books are enormous. Each one, at least so far, is narrated by Davina Porter, who won an award for her reading of Outlander Book 6: A Breath of Snow and Ashes and has many audiobooks readings under her belt. She is a pro.

I enjoyed the first two books in the Outlander series immensely, and I have held the belief, which gets stronger with each subsequent novel after Book 3, that Diana Gabaldon probably should have ended the story of Jamie and Claire at the end of Book 2. But I am a sucker for a happy ending, and I feel like the longer we go, the higher the chance of a final tragic end for the lovers. However, this is an older series, the first book was published in 1991 which makes it 27 years old and there are eight books in the series to this point with a ninth one in progress, so I am a little behind. But I was born a year before the first book came out so I can be excused for at least the first thirteen or so years of the existence of the series, probably longer as the content is mature.

Regardless of this belief, I have committed myself to this series. Listening to the story of Jamie and Claire and their family nearly every day for a year has fully invested me in their stories, however, they eventually end.

I will say that I felt a personal connection to Claire and Jamie’s story because my husband was deployed when I first listened to this series and when they are separated before the Battle of Culloden, I felt Claire and Jamie’s pain very acutely. I think that connection also keeps me reading the series even though the height of Jamie and Claire’s romantic drama seems to have ended.

That is my segue into the actual review of Outlander Book 5: The Fiery Cross. I adore Jamie and Claire and their dynamic in this book. They are still in love, but they are finally able to be comfortable in their love and settle into a capital “R” Relationship. There are many real-life benefits to settling into this stage as a couple but far less drama which makes for less compelling reading. Ms. Gabaldon introduced Claire and Jamie’s daughter, Brianna’s relationship and all the excitement that comes with young love. Not that I don’t like Brianna or Roger Wakefield (Mackenzie)’s characters, but I started the series for the Jamie/Claire action and inevitably as they age that is winding down. They are sweet, but their love story is no longer front and center plot-wise.

To compensate for the lapse in romance, the author introduces mystery, action, and paranormal activity. And other romantic storylines but frankly since Brianna gave birth to Jemmy, her and Roger’s love story is not super impressive either. We all love the drama and excitement of new love, I guess, even as voyeurs. The mystery/action/paranormal activity has kept me on the edge of my seat, hands gripping my steering wheel many times through this book, notably the hanging and near death of Roger. I swore that if she killed Roger off, I was done with the series I was so into this scene. It was so dramatic, the author pushed me as a reader as far as I could go into hopelessness, Roger was definitely dead, I saw the corpse hanging from the tree, she pushed then pulled me bodily back from the precipice. It was terrifying to see what power she had over me as a reader.

There is no doubt she has a mastery of writing. And her settings and historical details seem to be spot on. I haven’t heard anything that pulled me out of the story and made me think that wasn’t possible for that character in that time. She has spent thousands of pages building her world, so I was already well established in the setting before starting The Fiery Cross which is the benefit of series, you can really dig deep into worldbuilding which is fun as a writer without sacrificing story and character development.

I guess my overall impression is that I love these characters she has created, and I am invested in their destinies, but for the sake of plot quality, I think this story, and its intentions as it began, has peaked. Every book after Book 3 just feels like a completely different type of book, if that makes sense.

I would very much like to read a different story by this author.

3/5 Stars

TBR Additions: March

I feel like I have very little time in my day for recreational reading but as my previous post stated, self-care is essential. Reading is one of my favorite forms of accomplishing self-care. So, I want to not only read more day to day but also expand my TBR pile and give myself the incentive to read those TBR titles.
What better way than public pressure and shame?
J/K, I am not looking to take away the enjoyment I get from reading when I am able to do so or put pressure on myself with more deadlines, but I thought I might share the titles that pique my interest enough for me to pursue the time to read them.
Here are my March additions to my TBR. All tags are from Goodreads.

Tags: fantasy, young adult, fiction

Tags: nonfiction, biography, biography-memoir, mystery>crime, European literature>British literature, mystery, adult, biography>autobiography

Tags: young adult, science fiction, science fiction>dystopia, romance, space, fiction, young adult>teen, young adult>young adult science fiction, fantasy, science fiction fantasy

Tags: young adult, magical realism, contemporary, fiction

Tags: fantasy, young adult, mythology>mermaids, retellings, fantasy>mythology, romance, young adult>young adult fantasy, adventure>pirates, fantasy>fairy tales, fiction

Tags: fiction, cultural>india, literary fiction, contemporary, adult, feminism, cultural, adult fiction, novels, literature>Asian literature

Tags, fiction, contemporary, literary fiction

Tags: fiction, fantasy, contemporary

What are your March TBR additions? Give me your book recs in the comments!
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