Little Women

I find it hard to read classics, because there’s a big chance you already know what happens in the story and so many people before you have already read it and probably said everything there is to say. Despite that there is something interesting in reading a book that is so well-known and loved and to share something with so many people. Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women is one of those novels that I’ve been think of reading for some time now but haven’t gotten around to until now. It’s a very special story and I had great hopes for it but was ultimately disappointed.

We meet four little women at the start of the book. Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy who are no younger than twelve but no older than sixteen. The Civil War has taken their father away from them to join the fight and the girls live together with their mother and their help Hannah in a modest but sweet little home. The girls have high hopes for their futures and are dutiful girls who learns, or try to learn, how to grow into being lovely women. After befriending their neighbor, Laurie, the girls have small adventures with him and slowly the years pass and the girls transform into a more mature version of themselves, but they never stop caring for each other.

The story stretches over nearly fifteen years and the readers get to follow the four girls when they move into womanhood and all that comes with it. It’s a very sweet story and I thought it was fun to see how they all changed and what ultimately became of them. I can definitely see why it’s so beloved, although at times I had a hard time putting my finger on what made it so special. It isn’t action-packed and filled to the brim with exiting adventures that explode from the page, but rather normal, ordinary moments and problems and things I so easily could relate to, even though the novel is nearly 150 years old by now. Maybe that’s the thing that makes it so easy to like – because it’s so easy to see yourself in it.

I don’t know if many boys and men read this novel but I suspect it’s mostly a book that attracts women. However, I do think it would be interesting for a man to read it because Alcott writes in a very special way making the story extraordinary despite it being rather plain. It’s just a tale about four sisters and their attempts at trying to find their way in the world, which mostly consists of trying to find a suitable husband. I got very invested in the four little women and had moments when I found the novel very hard to put down.

Despite this I felt disappointed when I finished it. I was almost halfway through when I thought it was one of the best book I’ve read for some time, but when I had something like a hundred or so pages left it went downhill and everything that came after only annoyed me. I tried to keep an open mind but didn’t succeed and when I was a chapter or two away from reaching the finish line I was so irritated by what had happened that I almost considered not even reading the last part. I did, in the end, but was none the better for it.

The four girls all have very strong personalities setting themselves apart. Meg is the oldest and a lovely young woman who works hard but wishes she had more money and a nice husband to lean on. Jo comes after and she is extremely strong-headed, has a temper and has said that she won’t marry at all. After her comes fragile and shy Beth, who mostly stays at home and helps minding the house. Amy is the youngest, she’s sweet and adorable and dreams of a place in society and a marriage to a rich man.

Every one of the girls stands out in her own way but I took a liking to Jo very fast. She has such a strong will and works so hard but doesn’t get much off it. She was the one who fought the hardest and never seemed to get a reward and seeing her struggles made my heart soften for her. But the biggest reason that I like her is not because of that but rather that she was independent and always did what she wanted and said what she thought without a care in the world for what was proper and she never tried to be good just to get people to like her for something she wasn’t. I found her a role model and she must’ve been that to many girls and women over the years, especially since she lived in a day and age when women weren’t supposed to raise their voices and do what they pleased.

Beth and Meg were lovely in their own way. Beth was someone I liked more for while Meg annoyed me at times, Beth was always sweet and gentle in a most wonderful way. The fourth and last sister, Amy, is the one I truly disliked. I never really liked her because, though coming from a poor family, she always seemed to try and be better and make herself more until she almost forgot herself. But after she burned Jo’s manuscript out of sheer spite quite early in the book I turned my back on her and despised her throughout the rest of the novel. She was portrayed to be extremely beautiful, very graceful and quite talented in art. Her goodness was constantly shoved down my throat and the better she looked on page, the more everyone loved her, the more I hated her. She was too good and nothing bad seemed ever to happen to her. She got everything she wanted and yet whined when something didn’t go her way, like when she was sent away to live with her aunt when Beth got sick and they just wanted to protect Amy from not falling ill. I can barely remember when I last was so annoyed by a character as I was with Amy and for a long time she was the sole reason why the novel wasn’t one of the best I’ve ever read.

The other reason why I wasn’t happy after finishing was Jo’s fate. I don’t want to spoil anything, though many might already know what happens to her, but I will say that I wasn’t happy with where she ended up. She was such a strong and powerful character for the bigger part of the novel and to see her go from that to who she became in the end was like a slap in the face. I realize this book was written a long time ago but that does not lessen my disappointment.

I also noticed that there were some things that were repeated a fair amount of time which also bothered me, but not as much as the previously mentioned reasons. There was also one specific part of the book that made me so very angry but that the characters didn’t seem to think odd at all. They were all so sweet and gentle and forgiving and that got me even more riled up.

Overall it was a good book, but not a great one. I would’ve liked to see a much different ending, and altogether a much different last hundred pages. It was fun to read it, however, and I might come back to it later, but for now Little Women shall rest on my shelf until I’ve come to terms with what happened and at least try to swallow some of my annoyance of Amy. I do think this is a novel worth reading and do recommend, to both man and woman.

The Essence

There have been moments when I’ve finished a novel in a series and have decided not to continue it only to pick up the next installment a year or so later. The same thing happened here, when I read Kimberly Derting’s The Pledge during fall last year and decided not continue the series only to change my mind a year later. My hopes for The Essence was not high but I still wanted it to be better than its predecessor. I simply loved the idea for The Pledge and was disappointed with how it turned out. Unfortunately, The Essence would turn out to be something bad getting even worse.


At the end of The Pledge, Charlie defeats the old, evil queen, Sabara, who’s ruling their country, Ludania, with an iron fist. Charlie, of royal descent herself, takes Sabara’s place as queen and is now to be called Queen Charlaina of Ludania. But while everyone else is happy that Sabara finally is gone, Charlie carries a heavy secret. Sabara’s body may be dead and there might not be a visible trace of her, but her soul, her essence, is still around. More accurately, it’s inside Charlie herself. On the outside, everything is perfect, but on the inside Charlie is fighting a monster. All this happens while Charlie tries to find her footing as queen, when she battles terrorists who are unhappy about the changes she’s making in Ludania and while assassins are hidden in every corner trying to take her off the board game all together.

I’m not really sure were to start with this because the entire novel was 380 pages of nothing much interesting happening. Without spoiling anything I’ll say that Charlie wants upgrades for her queendom, both in the form of transportation and technology. She intends to visit an annual gathering of queens in a queendom some ways from her own to get what she needs, which means that she has to go out on a long trip while at the same time leaving her queendom in a time of need. Charlie has made a lot of changes since she took the throne, the most notable that she erased the way her people were divided by class – through language. Now everyone speaks the same language and everyone has the same rights. For some this is a good change but others liked the way it used to be and are violently voicing their disagreement. Terrorist are at work and innocent lives are taken but Charlie is certain she wants to go to the summit and meet the queens. To try and keep her country calm, Charlie therefore leaves her adviser, former prince and boyfriend, Max in charge.

This is what created the lack of interest in the story. Charlie leaves to go on this long trip, were some people try to kill her but fails, were she meets some queens and people try to kill her again and then she leaves and then people try to kill her again. She spends the bigger part of the story traveling and nothing much happens, except that people try to kill her and keep failing. Her love story with Max is nonexistent for the bigger part of the novel since they’re apart and because of these two reasons the book falls flat. The times Charlie and Max are together are fleeting and feels hollow. The constant traveling was boring and the lack of actual action was even more so. Don’t get me wrong – things do happen. Charlie is almost killed about five times but it’s not very exciting and there wasn’t a single moment when I actually feared for her life. But the entire book is basically about getting from point A to point B to point C and it’s boring. The Essence is definitely a novel suffering from second-book syndrome, just a transportation between the first novel, where everything is new and exciting, and the third, where everything is resolved.

The storyline is boring, but something that bothered me even more was the characters. There wasn’t one that I loved and few I even liked. The biggest characters are Charlie, her friends Brooklynn and Aron, her boyfriend Max, her sister Angelina, Sabara, her guard Zafir, a girl that appears later on in the novel and a foreign ambassador named Niko.

First off, Charlie is seventeen and crowned queen. This is nothing unusual in the fantastic world of YA. But Charlie is too childish to be a queen and even less a good queen. She dislikes her “queen lessons” and does what she can to either avoid them or just simply not listen during them. She thinks it’s a good idea to change her entire country in one move directly as she takes the throne, which a child could figure out would be an awful idea. She appoints Brooklynn, eighteen, as the commander of her army. Her only adviser is her twenty year old boyfriend, who was a prince just a few months ago, before his grandmother was killed, it’s true, but he’s still only twenty. On top of this, Charlie gets so very annoyed when her guard won’t just call her by her nickname, when he’s always by her side and refuses to leave her alone at times, despite the fact that he saves her from numerous assassination attempts. She doesn't quite seem to know what a guard is for and despite the attempts to kill her she seems oblivious to the fact that Zafir is actually protecting her and that he certainly has a reason to.

There is not one part of Charlie that I liked. She was naïve in everything and tried too hard to get the reader to like her which only made me dislike her even more. An important member of the terrorist group is Brooklynn’s father and Charlie can’t even deal with that. He gets to roam around and do whatever he wants, which often consists of killing a lot of innocent people. That neither Charlie nor Brooklynn tries to stop him speaks volume. Brooklynn, who used to go to school with Charlie, something they both still should do, is now the commander of an entire army without having any experience and little training. I want to make it clear that I’m not bothered by the fact that the commander is a girl but rather that she so clearly is not prepared for the job. It was obvious that Derting wanted Brooklynn to be a badass, but she too fell flat. Like Charlie she tried too hard without really accomplishing anything.

The only other character that takes up space is Zafir and that’s only because his job is to trail behind Charlie and protect her. Angelina is not there for most part of the story and neither is Max. Aron is there the entire time but is not mentioned very much. The only time he’s around is when the weak and extremely obvious love story between him and Brooklynn appears. To the contrary, Sabara is a constant presences inside Charlie and Charlie is very afraid of losing herself and letting the old queen take her over. It doesn’t help when Niko appear and it turns out that he and Sabara not only knew each other when she still had a body – he also recognize her inside Charlie now.

This is something of a spoiler, so if you don’t want that, skip to the next paragraph. At the end of the novel, Charlie has a fall-out with Max and I thought it could be something really great. There is a third novel and to keep their relationship a question would’ve been perfect to get readers to keep reading the next installment. But instead, after a not-really fight it’s all resolved in about a half page and then the novel ends. So much more could’ve been done here to keep a momentum going into the last part of the trilogy, but no. It’s just another thing to throw on the ever-growing pile of things I didn’t like with this novel.

As if all this wasn’t enough, the character development is nonexistent and the writing is nothing out of the ordinary. The cover was not that pretty and the title wasn’t alluring at all. I have a hard time even finding something I liked about this story and I certainly won’t recommend it to anyone. However, there is a slight possibility that I will pick up the last installment to see how it finishes, but my hopes aren’t high so I'm not sure. The Essence, however, won’t get a reread from me. 

Winter

I stumbled upon Marissa Meyer’s The Lunar Chronicles about a year and a half ago and devoured the first two novels, Cinder and Scarlet, quickly. Luckily, I only had to wait for about a month or so for the third book to be published; Cress. But then came a long wait for Winter, which was originally supposed to be out during fall 2014 but was pushed back a year to make way for an additional book, Fairest, published in January this year. And so I had to wait and wait and wait some more and then finally, finally, November 2015 came and with it came Winter.


After disrupting not only the Eastern Commonwealth but also Luna and the entire Earth and quite possibly the rest of the galaxy as well, Linh Cinder is currently floating around in space in Carswell Thorne’s stolen Rampion. There, Cinder and her friends, Thorne, Wolf, Cress and Iko along with the emperor of the Eastern Commonwealth, Kai, is planning how to overthrow the evil Lunar queen, Levana, and rightfully let Cinder, also known as the long-lost Princess Selene, claim her throne and her kingdom. But they all know that a revolution is far from easy and may just end up with them all dead. It also requires that emperor Kai returns to Earth and does his best to get into Levana’s good graces again, so that they can get married and she can be crowned empress. Because if a revolution is to succeed, it has to take place on the planet where Cinder was born and is made to rule. On Luna. And what better way to revolt but during a royal wedding?

I’ve been waiting so long for this and despite knowing that Winter was over 800 pages long I still felt surprised holding it in my hand a few weeks back. It has taken me some time to finish it, both because of its length but also because I knew this was the last book in the series and I wanted to hold on to it for a moment longer. I feel a little sad now that it’s over, but I’m also happy and content, which is a good thing after the high anticipation I've had.

Winter
is full of drama and action. 824 pages is a testament to that. It starts of aboard the Rampion, which is a place that I’ve by now started to think of fondly and of something like a home. After that we move over to Luna, where Cinder’s revolution is supposed to be. After a great deal of planing, things turn out quite differently than they were supposed to but after having lived under Queen Levana’s torment rule for a long time, the citizens of Luna more than welcomes Cinder and her claims of being the lost heir to the throne. But the road to the royal palace in the capital of Artemisia is long and more often than not crowded with unspeakable danger.

The thing Meyer has done in her five books in this series is to create five female characters, choose four famous fairytales and retell them with one girl to fit into each book. Cinder, the first novel, is based on Cinderella and Scarlet, the second, on The Little Red Riding Hood. Cress is based on Rapunzel while Winter and Fairest tells two sides of Snow White. This, for me, is unique. I have read fairytale retellings before, but lever quite like this. They are separate girls with their own story but they’re all twisted up in one another’s life. It is actually quite amazing, both the storytelling and the imagination of Meyer.

This book is the story about Winter, the beautiful Lunar princess who is only made even more beautiful by the three scars covering half her face – something her stepmother, the queen, forced her into doing to destroy her own beauty. But the people still lover her, to Levana’s great annoyance, and she sees Winter as nothing more than something she got on her neck after her first husband died. Winter, with no royal blood of her own, just wants to get away from her stepmother and live as peaceful life as possible, hopefully with her guard and childhood friend Jacin, whom she has always loved. But the gift and curse of the Lunar people are their ability to manipulate other people’s bioelectricity which comes in handy when you need someone to do something they don’t want to do, or to force them to kill themselves or hurt people in their surroundings. But for someone who doesn’t use their abilities, the gift soon turn into a curse since they start to become mentally ill. Many who does this ends up killing themselves and Winter, who has refused to use her gift in years, is rushing down that same path. It won’t be long before she is killed, either by the hand of her illness, or by her stepmother.

Cinder has teamed up with people she’s met along the road of these books and it has been so much fun, not only to meet new characters, but also to follow the main characters developments. Cinder starts of as a mechanic in the Eastern Commonwealth, Scarlet is a girl living and working on a farm in France, Cress as a hacker and data genius in a satellite and Winter is a crazy princess on Luna. The four guys that makes appearances, Kai, Thorne, Wolf and Jacin, also goes through their fair share of changes, Jacin possibly the least, but even so, by the end of the story all of the characters have evolved enormously and changed remarkably. To get to follow along on this ride, sometimes funny, sometimes sweet but more often than not, downright horrifying and terrible, has been very interesting and I have loved seeing how the characters reacts to certain situations and how they chose to deal with the particular problem at present hand. It has been one heck of a ride and I have loved every minute of it.

Meyer is great at writing and does so with a swift flourish but also a fun edge. She can make tense situations light and sweet moments horrible with just a few words. It is, at the bottom, a story about a girl who was almost murdered as a child and now has found out her true identity and is ready to claim what rightfully belongs to her. But interspersed with that is four separate love stories and a lot of friendship. The characters have great chemistry and there were many moments of laughter while reading. I love the way Meyer writes and enjoy her stories immensely.

Something I very much appreciated was that Meyer didn’t just blindly kill off characters right and left. So many authors seems to think that the way to get a book to go from good to great is to kill off an important character. I despise this and while I do see why some characters have to be killed, I often ponder why that or that character had to die when it was unnecessary to the story. Meyer doesn’t do this and it made me both happy and relieved. You don’t have to kill important characters for no other reason than killing.

If there is something slightly negative to say about Winter, then it really is the length of the novel. I was very excited at first, because I’ve waited for a long time and the longer the book, the better, I thought. Somewhere around the middle or a bit further I started to get tired and wondered if the novel would ever end. It was still good, but it was so long and though it contained a lot of action, it still felt like it dragged out. I believe it could’ve been shorter, there were parts not quite necessary, but all the same, I enjoyed reading them.

You can see my conflicting emotions here. When I neared the end I regretted my thoughts of 300 pages previously and wished for the novel to be even longer. It took some time for things to really hit the fan, which I understand, but when it finally did it felt like it was over quite quickly. After the big climax the story jumped ahead about three days and the last fifty pages was all a wind-down to sum it all up, basically. This is something I’m happy for, because I hate it when novels end almost right after Everything Has Happened and you're left to wonder for yourself what the hell happened afterwards. Meyer took care of that – to some extent.

She did settle pretty much everything but I was still left with the feeling that the story was unfinished. It felt like she rushed through the end just to wrap it up and skipped a lot of days and a lot of moments which I would’ve liked to be a part of. This book centers so much around Cinder and the revolution, despite being Winter’s book, and it felt like everything and everyone else ended up in shadows, which was a bit disappointing. You still get to follow the other characters, but it was all about that revolution and a lot of other things got less attention than I would’ve liked.

Meyer didn’t leave that many questions hanging in the end, which again was something I liked, but part of me felt like I had the earth removed from under me when I put the book down. It was a nice wrap-up, but after five books and 800 pages in the last one, I would’ve liked just a little bit more. So that I could follow up with the characters and get to say good-bye a little better and maybe, just maybe, have some more tangible indications as to what happened in the future.

Overall, it is a great book and a good finish to a wonderful series. I will truly miss it but I take comfort in the fact that all five is now on my shelf and that I can revisit Cinder, Scarlet, Cress and Winter whenever I feel like it. That being said, I will miss waiting for new material from Meyer and The Lunar Chronicles, though for you who wants to read more about them, there is a short story collection coming out in February 2016. I guess this is a good-bye, but not really since I know without a doubt that I will reread these novels many times in the future. However, I feel a bit melancholy now, but I can’t wait to hear more about Meyer’s future projects and read them as well. She is a terrific writer with great imagination and I recommend this series to whoever wants a ride or two around the moon.