The Queen of Oz by Danielle Paige

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The Queen of Oz (Dorothy Must Die #0.9)

Danielle Paige

Rate: 2

The Queen of Oz tells the story of how Pete came to be. Let me save you about 80 pages of reading: Mombi is entrusted with the task of protecting and hiding baby Ozma so she decides to perform a transformation spell that goes wrong and turns Ozma into a boy, Pete. I don’t know why this detail couldn’t be added to the main story, but I guess since writing is a business, when you have the opportunity to write more and make more money, you do it, right?

The main thing I learned from The Queen of Oz isn’t even Dorothy Must Die specific: adults and teenagers need better lines of communication. Ozma wouldn’t have wound up in Glinda’s clutches if Mombi had been more open with Pete and Pete hadn’t succumbed to his “woe is me” hormones. Mombi didn’t have to immediately tell Pete his true identity, but she could have made it clear that there was danger. She also could have told him more about Oz and its political and social structure. I also think it would have been less suspicious to the general public if Mombi had let Pete out more instead of hiding him away. I think Pete would have helped the situation if instead of jumping to the conclusion that Mombi hated and resented him, he was more reasonable. There could be plenty of reasons why Mombi kept Pete isolated, but Pete figures that she wants free labor. Also, instead of trying to communicate with Mombi, Pete decides to run away, like how predictable. All over some chance encounter with a guy, how boring. This all shows that adults have to be more open with teenagers and teenagers can’t behave like the children they don’t want to be mistaken for.

Anyway, back to the novella. Unless your in the mood for an interlude of teen angst, don’t bother.

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Fairy Tale Retelling: Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

 

Throne of Glass book cover

Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass Series #1)

Sarah J. Maas

Rate: 3

Ok, so this review isn’t going to be as good as my other reviews for two reasons:

  1. It’s been so long since I read Throne of Glass.
  2. I binge read all the books (currently) in the series so they’re kind of blurring together in my mind.

But I’m going to write this review anyway because Throne of Glass is part of my Fairy Tale Retelling series.

My Likes and Dislikes

The Main Thing I Liked About Throne of Glass

  • Celaena: Celaena is the strong, sarcastic heroine I want in a YA novel. She has her moments when she can be annoying and gets caught up in romance, but for the most part, her focus is on obtaining her freedom, at any cost. I also liked Celaena’s girly moments when she’s dressing up and building her friendship with Nehemia. Who says a person can’t be an assassin and still like shiny, girly things?

The Main Thing I Disliked About Throne of Glass

  • Romance: I’ll be honest here; after reading the other books in the Throne of Glass series, I can barely remember Celaena and Dorian’s relationship. All I know is that deep in my gut I didn’t like the two of them together. I can’t remember if I didn’t like it because it felt forced or the whole romance was unnecessary, but I didn’t like it. And if Maas had to include a romance, shouldn’t the assassin be with someone better than the weak prince?

Connection to Cinderella

Similar to previous retelling posts, Throne of Glass will be compared to the Disney version of the fairy tale.

Disney's Cinderella book cover

However, Throne of Glass was a bust as a fairy tale retelling, especially Cinderella. There was no evil stepmother, no evil stepsisters, no identifying the girl with a piece of clothing, and no happily ever after with the prince. The closest Throne of Glass got to Cinderella was when Celaena’s handmaid helped her get ready for the ball and said she felt like a fairy god mother. If you have to explicitly state your connection to a fairy tale, then you’re doing something wrong? If you’re looking for a Cinderella retelling, then you should skip this series because it’s not going to satisfy you. Try Gilded Ashes by Rosamund Hodge instead. However, if you’re looking for a fantasy story, then try Throne of Glass. The first book (this one I’m reviewing) isn’t great, but the series definitely picks up.

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Order of the Wicked – Danielle Paige

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Order of the Wicked (Dorothy Must Die #0.7)

Danielle Paige

Rate: 2

This novella might have been more interesting if it hadn’t been so long since I read a Dorothy Must Die novella or novel. Coming into the story fresh, it was hard for me to decipher who was important and who was not. Namely, I couldn’t figure out if there was a point to me reading Lanadel’s POV – I don’t remember her from the other books. Nox, Mombi, Gert, and Glamora are present, but no new information is given about them to say their stories are fleshed out. No new information is given about the Order either since everything “has to be” shrouded in mystery and secrecy to ensure nothing can be revealed if Dorothy happens to capture and torture an Order member.

If this sounds like a waste of a novella, it is.

Even if Lanadel is an important character, we don’t learn much about her: She joins the Order to avenge her family – Dorothy’s army murdered her parents and her two brothers – but she’s lying to herself as much as the Order is lying to her. Lanadel refuses to admit that her family is dead because, once peaceful, Ozians are turning on one another without being poisoned by Dorothy’s magic. Also, Lanadel refuses to see that she responds to Nox so negatively because he receives affection from the girl she has a thing for. (Lanadel may be gay, but I can’t be 100% sure because she never allows herself to explore her feelings.)

The whole novella becomes moot at the end when Lanadel states that she’s grateful for the training she’s received, but she’s no longer going to work for the Order. This makes all her whining needless because she’s not even going to work with the people she’s been bitching about the whole book. Lanadel claims she’s leaving because of the Order’s secrets, but really she’s leaving because Melindra is being sent to spy on Dorothy’s palace, where her death is almost certain, and Lanadel doesn’t have the courage to tell Melindra how she really feels.

Poetry: The Last Time I’ll Write About You

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The Last Time I’ll Write About You

Dawn Lanuza

Rate: 3

The Last Time I’ll Write About You follows the rise and fall of a relationship from the perspective of a person who has already reached the end of the relationship so even from the very beginning the poems foreshadow the relationship’s demise. Like with any poetry collection, you can’t expect to like every poem in the collection. This is true when it comes to The Last Time I’ll Write About You. There were lines I liked here and there and some poems were better than others, but, for me, the collection wasn’t great poem after great poem. The following are a few lines I enjoyed from The Last Time I’ll Write About You:

“And you ask the world,

Why doesn’t it happen

To someone like you? …

You knew the answer:

It’s because you don’t let it.”

 

“When we parted

I’ve always wondered

How everyone else

Reminded me of you”

 

“Was I a secret not worth sharing

Or

Was I fact not worth telling?”

Ruler of Beasts – Danielle Paige

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Ruler of Beasts (Dorothy Must Die #0.6)

Danielle Paige

Rate: 2.5

This novella almost got three stars but then the ending happened. But let me go back and start from the beginning.

Ruler of Beasts isn’t as informative as the previous two novellas. Meaning, unlike with Tin and Scarecrow, there is no explicit point where Lion goes from good to wicked. Yes, Glinda uses evil magic on him, but Lion was so bored with “ruling” the Forest of the Beasts that he would have done her bidding without magic. After the interaction with Glinda, Lion spends most of his time eating and sleeping at the Emerald Palace until Ozma invites him on a journey. (Tin, Scarecrow, and Lion are journey/quest/battle junkies since meeting Dorothy.) I actually start to like Lion during this mission, but that doesn’t last long. During the mission, Lion finally starts to show his courage and to think about someone other than himself. However, at the end when Ozma learns Lion is working for Glinda, instead of accepting responsibility for his actions and admitting he is wrong, Lion mentally rants about how Ozma is a terrible person because she won’t accept the good he did do even if it was wrapped in bad. I really dislike people who instead of admitting their faults and mistakes, will blame the other person for not viewing the situation in a way that benefits them. This is how Lion reacts when Ozma, rightfully, stops trusting him because of his betrayal. For me, Lion goes from decent to terrible because of this behavior.

Overall, Rule of Beasts isn’t a novella I wish I had skipped, but it wasn’t very interesting. The novella made me dislike Lion and not in a way where I empathize with him like I did with Tin.

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The Straw King – Danielle Paige

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The Straw King (Dorothy Must Die #0.5)

Danielle Paige

Rate: 3

The Straw King tells the story of how Scarecrow stopped being the King of Oz. From other books in the series, we learn that Scarecrow stops being king because Ozma shows up and since she is the rightful ruler of Oz, Scarecrow renounces the throne to her. The Straw King takes a long-winded, dramatic journey to show how Ozma ended up with the throne. What really irked me about this novella is how some of the details seemed to contradict each other, but the contradictions were ignored for the sake of drama. For example, the characters repeatedly say that no one has ever tried to usurp the throne and yet Scarecrow is able to consult a book on despots. A book that’s so current it tells Scarecrow that Jinjur, the general of the attackers, has always wanted the throne and has never liked the Wizard, Scarecrow, Lion, or Tin. Isn’t that a bit too convenient and unusual? Jinjur can’t express to Scarecrow why he is an unfit ruler, but there’s a whole book “explaining” her motives and the motives of people like her, yet this has never happened before. Plus Jinjur and her army have guns and a moped. I never knew Oz had such weapons and if there are vehicles in Oz, why does everyone walk (sometimes fly) places? Why not just buy/rent a vehicle and get places faster?

Another discrepancy that bothered me is when Scarecrow is on his way to the Forest of Beasts and interacts with a Munchkin girl, Hibiscus Lemon. Hibiscus mentions that she doesn’t mind if the Wizard, Scarecrow, or Ozma rule Oz, but at this point in the story, Hibiscus should not think there is a possibility of Ozma ruling. She should still think that Ozma was killed when she was young. This isn’t a significant detail but it still bothered me.

Nonetheless, it is still interesting to see Glinda’s plan unfold.

“… the trick isn’t to be on the throne- it’s to be behind it…. Kings and queens come and go, but power stays with the powerful. You don’t have to be the King of Oz to rule it.” – Glinda

For those who watch Scandal, Glinda is the Cyrus of the Dorothy Must Die series; she’s willing to do whatever it takes to have power and control the throne (Oz’s oval office).

Overall, The Straw King isn’t much better than Heart of Tin. It’s less sappy, but Scarecrow has his own annoying characteristic (his need to be reassured that he is clever).

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Heart of Tin – Danielle Paige

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Heart of Tin (Dorothy Must Die #0.4)

Danielle Paige

Rate: 2

Even though this is a novella, parts of the tale can be interpreted as an ode about Dorothy written by the Tin Woodman. If you’re not into mushy romance or someone confessing his/her love for another every other sentence or so, then you should skip this novella. You don’t learn much about Tin’s role in bad Oz other than he loves Dorothy a lot and is willing to do anything for her to the point where someone can manipulate Tin by claiming that a particular action will benefit Dorothy and make her happy. For the most part, I pitied Tin. All he wants is to love and be loved but he is in an environment where love is a weakness and that weakness can be manipulated.

The only part I truly enjoyed about the novella- talk of love and devotion became tiresome quickly – was the power structure among the characters. At this point at least, it is clear that Glinda is at the top. She is influencing everyone’s behavior using some sort of dark magic. On the other end of the spectrum is Tin Woodman. He is clearly a pawn. Somewhere in between is Scarecrow. It’s clear that he’s not on the same level as Tin, but from this novella alone, it is difficult to interpret how much Glinda may be controlling Scarecrow. It’s also difficult to interpret how much Dorothy is being controlled but she clearly isn’t herself. However, other than this bit of analysis, Heart of Tin is mostly a journal entry of Tin’s (unreciprocated) love for Dorothy.

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From Apocalyptic SciFi to Teen Romance: The Downfall of Cured by Bethany Wiggins

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Cured (Stung #2)

Bethany Wiggins

Rate: 2.5

Stung was by no means perfect, but Cured was doomed to fail when Wiggins decided the protagonist of Cured would be a tertiary (if not lesser) character from Stung. Cured focuses on Jacqui’s experience in the Stung universe after the cure is revealed at the end of the first book. If you don’t remember Jacqui, that’s okay. She was only present in the first book for, at most, five minutes. Let me jog your memory. Jacqui is the person that gave Fiona peanut butter crackers in Stung. Yes, that person got a whole book in her point of view. If that sounds ridiculous, it’s because it is. The synopsis makes it seem as if we’re following Fiona, Jonah, and Bowen as they set out to find Fiona’s mother, who should be dead but whatever, with the subplot of them handing out the cure along the way. The synopsis makes it seem as if Jacqui and Kevin are new characters the trio meets along their journey and helps steer them in the right direction. I don’t know if the synopsis is simply bad or the story is just bad, but that’s not what happens.

The story stems from Jacqui’s suicide mission to find her brother, who left one day to help someone and hasn’t been heard from since (at least to Jacqui’s knowledge). She enlists the help of Fiona and Bowen, who only agree to it in the hopes of finding Fiona’s mom and distributing the cure. Jonah is dragged along to be a bodyguard for both Fiona and the cure and to be a pack mule for the cure. (Yes, you should feel bad for Jonah. He isn’t being treated like the human being he supposedly is now.)

Kevin is a new-ish character. He’s been stalking Jacqui for longer than I feel comfortable with and only reveals himself after realizing that he can’t remain on the sidelines and keep Jacqui safe.

The story quickly disintegrates from a find and rescue/reunite story into a romance as Jacqui becomes more consumed by her feelings for Kevin. Thoughts of her brother take a backseat to her internal dialogue about whether Kevin has feelings for her and if they could ever have a future together, especially since she’s supposed to be pretending to be a boy but she’s not doing that well anyway. What’s worse is that during this long ass journey (No I’m not going to excuse my language) they only give the cure to ONE FUCKING PERSON (again not sorry). This story quickly becomes a pile of failures as the romance takes over and nothing gets done. The story ends in HEA though if you’re into that.

Honestly, I would have preferred if the story had focused on Jonah even if it wasn’t from his POV. It would have been interesting to read his feelings on going from human to beast to human again and if he could ever imagine himself opening his heart to love. It wouldn’t have been appropriate for him to just enter a relationship and “fall in love” but that level of self-reflection would have been interesting.

Anyway, Cured shouldn’t exist. It’s not an adequate sequel to Stung. I think just the premise of the story threw the whole thing off. A super minor character shouldn’t get his/her own book unless s/he can prove his/her worth.

Fairy Tale Retelling: Beauty and the Beast #2 of 2

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Stung (Stung #1)

Bethany Wiggins

Rate: 3.5

 

Stung captured and held my attention from the very first scene. There wasn’t a time when I wanted to put the book down because the story was terrible. Wiggins does a great job of hooking the reader’s attention and keeping it to the very end. Her descriptions aren’t flowery or purple prose but they fully immerse you into the Stung universe. Wiggins describes sights, smells, tastes, etc so it feels as if you’re taking this journey with Fiona and aren’t simply a bystander. Wiggins gives a lot of details so you are sucked into the book using your imagination and all your senses.

 

The plot itself was good. Nothing for which to be overjoyed, but it wasn’t super simplistic and annoying either. In other words, it was pretty predictable, but still enticing.

 

If you’ve read my review on Nirvana, then you know I coined it as a post-apocalyptic dystopia due to bee extinction. Stung is the apocalypse that occurs between our world and Nirvana‘s.

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Virtual Reality Story or Dystopian

Nirvana (Nirvana #1)

JR Stewart

Rate: 2.5

This book sent me on a rollercoaster. Not an emotional rollercoaster, but a what-is-this-why-am-I-still-reading rollercoaster. The first few pages/chapters were hard to get into because the writing was a bit jumpy and awkward, but that cleared up after a while. Once the writing cleared up, what began to bother me, and the reason I repeatedly questioned why I was still reading, was the protagonist Kenders. In the beginning, Kenders was the grieving “widow” who moved to action once she received a hint that her fiancé Andrew might still be alive. During this time, Kenders was strong and was putting herself in danger to solve clues in the hope they would lead her to Andrew. I, briefly, admired this Kenders. I was impressed by what Kenders was willing to do, albeit recklessly, to reunite with her love.

However, this Kenders did not last. The next Kenders began my descent into “End now! How did her personality change so quick?” Kenders’ personality changed from strong but reckless to dependent and unconfident when Serge entered the picture. All of a sudden, it was as if the old Kenders never existed. But I kept reading because I wanted to know if Kenders ever found Andrew.

And yet, this wasn’t the last Kenders that was introduced. The last Kenders was a reincarnation of Bella from Twilight. She never really loved Serge but she couldn’t live without him but she also couldn’t live without Andrew and when she lost Serge, she “realized” that she always loved him and would always love him but not the same way she loved Andrew. The end of the book was the most annoying part of the story.

However, while Kenders vast personality changes should’ve been my breaking point, what really pissed me off about Nirvana was finding out at the end that Kenders put herself in all that danger for nothing. Most of the people she had been keeping secrets from knew where Andrew was from the very beginning and were in physical contact with him so they could have gotten him the discs and information he needed without Hexagon knowing or hunting Kenders. All the trials she went through were for nothing. What a waste of reading time.

If you like stories of super corrupt corporations/groups taking over after the government has fallen and a random person (a girl) becoming the face and savior of a revolution she didn’t ask to be a part of, then Nirvana might be for you. Mostly I would avoid it, but maybe it’s good for you. I probably won’t read the rest of the series because the ending seems very predictable unless it goes the way of Allegiant.

 *This review is of the published version of Nirvana and not the arc.