Book Review

Worth the Wait (and Stress)

The Winner's Kiss (The Winner's Trilogy, #3)The Winner’s Kiss by Marie Rutkoski

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Warning: Major Spoilers Ahead

As Kestrel smiled at him from her seat on Javelin, a pink petal clinging to her cheek, it occurred to him that he might have to grow comfortable with happiness, because it might not abandon him this time.

Joyful. Thankful. Ecstatic. Wistful. Any of these words can be used to describe what I’m feeling right now, minutes after reading that fabulous ending. It was like witnessing a dream come true, right before my very eyes. I’ve waited so long for Arin and Kestrel to find the happiness they deserved, and after going through hell and back, they finally did! All the stress The Winner’s Crime gave me was not pointless after all!

Out of all the three books, this one is surely my favorite. It was evocative, gripping, and hands-down wonderful. I kinda wish the book had 1,000 more pages because I still want more of Arin and Kestrel. A glimpse into their married life won’t hurt. Hahaha. Although the ending mostly wraps up the major issues or conflicts in the trilogy, one question remains unanswered: Who will take the Valorian throne? If Marie Rutkoski were a capitalist author, she could probably write a fourth book just to provide readers with complete closure. Nevertheless, I am very happy and satisfied with how things turned out.

Other than the happy ending, I also adored the character arcs in this book. Kestrel in particular became very complex after what had happened to her in the sulfur mines. It truly pained me when she lost her memory. At first, it was like I was getting to know a doppelganger of Kestrel. Because she didn’t remember everything she and Arin went through, I initially felt detached towards her. However, my feelings changed for the better as she gradually regained the pieces of her past and established a stronger identity. She was back in the game of royal war, and it was stunning to see her take down the emperor with a mere game of Bite & Sting.

As for Arin, he became much more likable. I mildly hated him in The Winner’s Crime because of his inferiority complex that rendered him so blind. Thankfully, just like Kestrel, he matured so much in this book, particularly in regards to his emotional intelligence. I really admired his talent for leadership, his devotion to Kestrel, and his determination to learn from his past mistakes. Personally, there was no competition between Arin and Kestrel. I liked them equally, and it was simply because their respective virtues and flaws complemented each other.

For objectivity’s sake, the only thing I didn’t like about this book was the author’s occasional (and deliberate) use of sentence fragments. I understand that creative writers have the liberty to use sentence fragments to produce a certain effect (like what I did in the introduction of this review). However, as an editor, I couldn’t help but to wince whenever it was done repetitively. I hope that you will pardon my grammar Nazi feels. ^^ Rest assured that my love for Marie Rutkoski’s elegant writing style remains unscathed.

In the end, this is a bittersweet goodbye to an amazing, moving, and unforgettable trilogy. Special thanks to Brittney and Cheska for inspiring me to read it.

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Book Review

An Elite Misunderstanding

The Elite (The Selection, #2)The Elite by Kiera Cass

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Warning: Major Spoilers Ahead

In this sequel to the beloved (or hated) The Selection, America became quite an annoying character. I’ve been team Maxerica from the start, so I despised how she kept on using Aspen as her safety net. Her love for both boys evolved into something dependent on her moods; her happy days were spent with Maxon, while her bad days were spent with Aspen. Gah, this entire novel was practically about America’s outstanding indecisiveness. I wanted to throw a book at her every time she insisted that she simply needed MORE TIME. Seriously, the perfect choice was right in front of her, but she just couldn’t see it!

America’s “major” misunderstanding with Maxon was kinda irrational. I thought that it was unfair for her to blame him for Marlee’s caning. After all, Maxon wasn’t the one who made all of those misogynistic rules about the Selected “cheating” on him. Ha, it was also ironic how America got angry at Maxon for using Celeste, when she herself was similarly using Aspen. Oh man, the drama in this book was so shallow, but I admit that reading about it was such a guilty pleasure. LOL

For me, the last straw was America’s impulsive (and resentful) proposal to demolish the caste system. I admired her sudden political empowerment; she seemed to be the only Selected girl who cared about Ilea’s social problems. However, her proposal was made at the WRONG TIME. It was basically a stupid and childish move because she only did it to spite Maxon for refusing to let her go home. To make things worse, Maxon was horribly punished because of her ignorance. Maxon was my favorite character, so I was angry at America for inadvertently causing him pain.

Ultimately, my regard for America flopped in The Elite. I still love the entire Selection ex-trilogy, but this book is definitely my least favorite.

*The featured image was contributed by Dessa Mae Jacobe (@dessatopia)

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Book Review

A Literary Primer on Russian Folklore

The Bear and the NightingaleThe Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Thank you, Ebury Publishing, for sending me an ARC of this book (via NetGalley) in exchange for an honest review.

All the ancient classic fairy tales have always been scary and dark. —Helena Bonham Carter

The Bear and the Nightingale was delightful to read. I’ve always been a fan of fairy tales (and their retellings), so I was more than eager to delve into the story. From the get-go, I want to say that this book is not for everyone, especially for readers who dislike slow story lines. On the other hand, if you love character-driven books, then you would probably enjoy this novel like I did.

I primarily gave this book four stars because it became my personal primer on Russian culture. Before I read it, I practically knew next to nothing about the latter. I was exposed to variety of Russian names that were both fun and difficult to memorize. I was also introduced to the old government and religion of Russia, which confuses (if not intrigues) me until now. Finally, I was thrown into the fascinating world of Russian folklore and its treasury of dark creatures. In totality, The Bear and the Nightingale was very educational, but it was not in a boring, academic way. The author said she isn’t Russian, so I was very impressed that she still knew Russia like the back of her hand.

The plot of this book was quite reminiscent of The Queen of the Tearling. Vasya, a supposedly plain/ugly girl, was given a pendant that would supposedly help her overcome a “great evil.” I actually liked this similarity, because I was once again caught up in solving the mystery of a simple trinket’s power. In retrospect, the pacing was undeniably slow, and it was because of one, major reason: too many POVs.

I am normally fond of books with multiple perspectives. However, my brain can only handle so much. The Bear and the Nightingale had an abundance of characters, and almost all of them were given their own chapters to narrate. This resulted in a broader sense of objectivity because it felt like I wasn’t missing any of the characters’ thoughts and actions. Still, I was more interested in Vasya’s chapters, so I sometimes became frustrated when I did not know what was happening to her anymore. Given her sporadic appearances in the book, one would think she wasn’t the main protagonist. Nevertheless, I applaud the author for the outstanding development of her characters.

Ultimately, The Bear and the Nightingale had more virtues than flaws. I enjoyed it a lot because of its dark yet enlightening content. I’m not sure if this is just a stand-alone novel, but I am highly anticipating a sequel.

*The featured image was contributed by Dessa Mae Jacobe (@dessatopia)

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Book Review

Liar, Liar Gown on Fire

The Winner's Crime (The Winner's Trilogy, #2)The Winner’s Crime by Marie Rutkoski

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Warning: Mild Spoilers Ahead

Were all her lies to Arin worth it, if she couldn’t see the truth? Kestrel had thought she’d known what was best for Arin. Perhaps her greatest lies were the ones she’d told to herself.

This is the most achingly frustrating novel I have read in my entire bookish life! I’m literally bursting with angst right now. Gah, I know it’s stupid to say this, but I wish Kestrel and Arin had smartphones! That way, no one could have intercepted that carelessly written letter, and the collateral damage would have been much less! Ugh. This is the first time I’m excessively using exclamation points in my review. Why oh why did Kestrel have to be such a talented liar? And why did Arin have to be so gullible? I need a copy of The Winner’s Kiss ASAP. Like right now!

I basically had a love-hate relationship with this book. I was once again enthralled by Marie Rutkoski’s elegant writing style, particularly by her otherworldly use of metaphors. Also, I loved the expansion of the world/setting. I do hope I get to see more of the mysterious Eastern Empire in the next book. However, it was the characters that inevitably drew out my hatred. I really didn’t know whom I should blame for what had happened. Kestrel was logically at fault. But so was Arin. Gah, and let’s not forget that darn “minister of agriculture.” GRRRRRRR! Everything perfectly came together to make such a beautiful yet painful ending.

Ultimately, The Winner’s Crime is a gut wrenching novel about the inevitable consequences of lying. The misunderstandings between Kestrel and Arin will stay in my brain for a very long time. Kudos to the author for giving me an abundance of feels, as unhealthy as they are.

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Book Review

5 Utterances of “Meh” per Chapter

5 Centimeters per Second (5 Centimeters per Second, #1-2)5 Centimeters per Second by Makoto Shinkai

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Without ever opening my heart, I’ve devoured goodwill to fill my loneliness. I’ve lost everything. I’ll try to accept that about myself, so that next time, I’ll truly be able to let someone in. —Tohno

Have you ever watched a TV show or read a book about people who simply cannot forget their first love? And because of their failure to let go, they end up using other people as convenient rebounds? If so, then you won’t have a hard time understanding why I gave this manga a low rating.

I actually had high expectations for this manga, given how its author was also the one who penned the famous Kimi No Na Wa. I haven’t watched the latter movie, but many of my peers have assured me of its beautiful and emotional story. Thus, I chose to read 5 Centimeters per Second as a hopeful introduction to Makoto Shinkai’s work. Unfortunately, I now berate myself for making such an ignorant decision.

I had no qualms whatsoever in regards to the artwork. The drawings were very modern and detailed, making me feel like I was watching an actual anime. I am honestly not good at drawing, so I am quite easy to please in regards to aesthetics. However, what I disliked about this manga was its horrible and boring plot. Nothing much happened aside from Tohno trying to get over Akari, while a third-party girl named Kanae suffered from unrequited love. Tohno was the primary cause of my frustration because of his pathetic characterization. To simply put it, he was downright whiny and ironically insensitive. I wouldn’t want to be friends with a person like him with such toxic emotions.

Surprisingly, even though Akari had significantly less chapters or screen time than Tohno, her characterization was more substantial and fulfilling. Because unlike Tohno, she had much less trouble moving on. It’s no wonder she found peace and contentment early on. I’m not sure if this phenomenon could be interpreted as Feminist, so it’s up to you to decide.

As I continue to peruse my thoughts, I guess I did enjoy one thing about this manga: its exploration of LDRs, or long-distance relationships. Tohno and Akari were really close when they were in middle school, but they eventually grew apart because of geographical separation. Snail mail was the popular medium of communication during this time, so they promised to send each other letters to somehow mend the distance between them. Aww…sweet, right! LOL.

Despite its cheesy and overrated nature, I liked this aspect of the story because I was able to relate to it. How so? Well, I am currently living far away from my close friends (and even my best friend). I chose to leave my hometown in search for a career in writing/editing, which I now have. After staying here for nine months, I constantly realize how fragile human relationships can be. Like many other pieces of literature, 5 Centimeters per Second illustrated that relationships need maintenance—a rejuvenating concoction of time and physical presence. Written or virtual communication does help, but I believe that it can never fully help you retain your intimacy with others.

To sum up my thoughts and feels, I am sad to say that this manga failed to meet my expectations. I probably shouldn’t have let the hype surrounding Kimi No Na Wa influence me. Still, I acknowledge the beauty of the artwork, as well as its poignant content which made me nostalgic. Only God knows if I would enjoy the other works of Makoto Shinkai.

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Book Review

Death Begets Death

Rebel Spring (Falling Kingdoms, #2)Rebel Spring by Morgan Rhodes

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Blood is essential in all of this. It must continue to spill. Many will die; many must die for us to succeed. —Melenia

FIVE DEATHS. I’ve never encountered characters with incredibly short life spans. I’m amazed by Morgan Rhodes’s audacity; she is really good at catching her readers off guard. However, I am quite bothered by this utter lack of mercy. Huhu.

It was very easy to read Rebel Spring because of its fast-paced plot and intriguing characters. The world of Mytica was enriched with more political intrigue, magic, and…human blood. Seriously, if I were given the chance to be a fictional character, I would avoid The Falling Kingdoms series like the plague! I value my life too much. xD Speaking of spilled blood, only heaven knows how much I loathed King Gaius. His bloodlust was insatiable! My hatred for him was so strong that it negatively affected my feelings for his children, Magnus and Lucia. Ugh. The Damora family was clearly in dire need of counseling.

Given the abundance of characters, it was only natural that romance would be finally highlighted in this novel. Man, there were so many potential OTPs! Among them, I liked Cleo and Magnus the most. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the budding relationship between Nic and…a particular character. Hush, hush. I do not want to spoil anyone. 😉

To sum up my thoughts and feels, Rebel Spring was such a shocking, delightful, and captivating read. I only wish that the author would tone down the urge to eliminate her dear characters. LOL.

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Book Review

A List of Literary Praise

A List of CagesA List of Cages by Robin Roe

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

People heal a whole lot faster when they’re with someone who loves them. —Delores

A List of Cages is my first favorite book of 2017. I’ve been hearing nothing but positive things about it, particularly from people in the BookTube community. I used to think that the praise was quite exaggerated, but now I understand why this book has garnered so much hype.

Essentially, A List of Cages is similar to Jennifer L. Armentrout’s The Problem with Forever, in that it also explores the mechanics of foster care and its occasional, traumatic consequences. Furthermore, this book also features troubled characters who eventually find healing in each other’s company. The protagonists, Adam and Julian, both have psychological problems. The former has ADHD, while the latter has a much more serious “illness” that is unraveled throughout the novel. Regardless of their four-year age gap, Adam and Julian are able to form a very platonic and meaningful friendship. As Julian’s secrets are gradually brought to light, Adam becomes determined to protect him at all cost. That being said, A List of Cages is inevitably an emotional piece of literature.

Honestly, A List of Cages made me tearful so many times. I felt quite stupid because I kinda expected it to give me positive feels only because it was published by Disney, which is famous for its love for happy endings. Believe me when I say that this book trumps Colleen Hoover’s It Ends with Us in the popular list of Cry Worthy Books. Not-so-sincere apologies to Lily Bloom and Ryle Kincaid. If Adam and Julian won’t make you cry (or at least tearful), then you need to have a doctor heal your stone cold heart!

With that in mind, the best thing I liked about this book was its character-driven story. Given her background in psychology, I wasn’t surprised that Robin Roe really did an effort to create such impactful and inspiring characters. As flawed as they were, Adam and Julian’s personalities felt so authentic. And since the novel was written in dual perspectives, I loved getting to know them in a deeper and virtually personal way. Adam’s chapters were fun and lighthearted, while Julian’s chapters were generally morose and tear-jerking. This seesaw of alternating voices definitely messed with my emotions, thereby giving me a wonderful and memorable reading experience.

Overall, A List of Cages is YA contemporary fiction at its finest. It’s a short novel that surprisingly has super substantial content. For the sake of objectivity, the only thing I did not like was its tendency to be shockingly graphic. I sincerely enjoyed this novel, and I would happily recommend it to all of my bookish friends. I just might reread it by listening to its audiobook version. 🙂

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