About Esther H.

i am, as the poets say, a mess.

Renegades by Marissa Meyer

Fresh out of futuristically twisted fairy tales embedded with machinery and metals and lights surges a new novel series by bestselling author Marissa Meyer. The debut novel in the series, Renegades, diverges from Meyer’s earlier works like the Lunar Chronicles and Heartless in nature – instead of exploring the illustrious what-ifs of princesses and queens, it encompasses the adventures of superheroes.

Bear with me here – this isn’t your average comic book. Meyer takes a turn from the conventional and places her two protagonists on opposite sides of the good/evil spectrum. Nova, bitter and brimming with vengeance, marks herself as a villain. Adrian, the spawn of righteousness and leader of a pack of do-gooders, is a hero to his core. It is this tension and star-crossed drama that creates an air of edge-on-your-seat, an aura of suspense.

It’s a fun concept to play around with, the syzygy of right and wrong coupled with the punch and action of prodigies and superheroes. There’s a clandestine nature of Nova’s job as a spy that makes it secretive, and a lightness of Adrian’s good that brings sunshine to the novel. Add the fact that every character you meet is eccentric and unique, and you surely have the recipe for a good novel.

Execution, however, is another story. Meyer’s writing lacks a flow and poetry that I love to read, perhaps due to the fight-and-flight air of the storyline, and some of the characters land on the verge of strange. Yet, altogether, Renegades is a fun little read – it doesn’t have too much substance and is full of cute little cliches – and so if you’re looking for a good way to fill in gaps of free time, this is your perfect book.

-Esther H.

Renegades by Marissa Meyer is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Red Clocks by Leni Zumas

In the wake of the unrelenting movements spanning across the globe on gender equality, an achingly honest account on the female experience rises from contemporary beginnings. Leni Zumas masterfully crafts together a mosaic of triumph and misery through the lives of five women:

  • A desperate list-making biographer whose anguish feeds her fire
  • A student brighter than the sun, knee-deep in an undesirable predicament
  • An exhausted wife/mother, carrying in her hands her breaking marriage
  • An arrested mystic guided by her own lunacy
  • And finally, an unacknowledged polar explorer of the nineteenth century.

In brash, burning, and heartrending prose, Zumas teaches us the interconnectedness of one life to another and the vibrancy of hope in tumultuous times. Set in a United States where abortion is banned and IVF illegal, Red Clocks is a novel of forward thinking and revolution. It’s witty and full of relatable quips – a reflection of life’s pitfalls and mountains and written with the hand of a skilled writer.

Zumas writes inside the heads of her characters – each sentence a gunshot ringing clear in the minds of the protagonists. Each woman wielding her own flaws, dreams, and faulty beauty, the reader gains a true and sometimes alarming insight into their lives. The novel is incandescent with the fire of the strange, sparking with the light of life.

Ultimately, through pain and reward, the women of Red Clocks learn their own lessons in the novel’s revelation. While its mature themes are not for everyone, there are countless aspects to love in Zumas’ political, hilarious, and gorgeous testimony to the horrors and beauty of a woman’s life.

-Esther H.

Red Clocks by Leni Zumas is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Want by Cindy Pon

Vividly conjured from bestselling author Cindy Pon’s colorful imagination comes an alluringly dark society set in near-future Taipei, where sickness and pollution plague its inhabitants. A thriller spun into sci-fi, the book depicts a story about a group of teens who try their hand at changing their society for the better by toppling the empire of the rich minority.

With stunning prose dripping with imagery so powerful it induces incredibly lifelike images, Pon does a brilliant job highlighting the stark contrast between the privilege of the rich and the scraps the poor pick up behind them, illuminated by its futuristic setting. It’s a story about division, unity, and vigilante justice, highlighted with an ever-so-sweet touch of friendship and romance. The novel does a brilliant job of conveying a message that today in society we like to turn a blind eye to: the manipulating and unorthodox methods used in business to make money. Creating a problem to sell a solution. Eradicating those who try to stand in the way. It’s the harsh truth we always knew existed.

There are so many reasons this novel stands distinctly apart from others for me. For one, it hits close to home: the Taiwanese heritage runs in my veins as potently as it does in the novel, with its allusions to language and culture exposing the often overlooked traditions of the Taiwanese. And then, of course, the characters, so different from one another and yet sharing both a powerful bond and a common goal, become comrades on the way along the journey.

Finally, Zhou, the main character, has a voice that stays with you long after the turn of the last page. “I was going to become what I wanted to destroy,” he says bitterly, of trading his street-rat identity for esteemed upper-class socialite.

Ultimately, Want reflects, in its intrinsic essence, humanity’s inevitable tendency to divide itself, whether by wealth, race, gender, religion, sexuality, or pure hate. It’s a powerful message to recognize those who cannot speak for themselves because we do not listen.

Here’s to hoping that that message is amplified throughout the world, throughout time, and proclaimed as a lasting testament to human nature, so that we ourselves can be bettered.

-Esther H.

Want by Cindy Pon is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also free for download from Overdrive