Book Review

Thank God for Sequels

Ever the Brave (A Clash of Kingdoms #2)Ever the Brave by Erin Summerill

My rating: 4.75 of 5 stars

Thank you, HMH Teen, for sending me an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Loving yourself, and believing you are good and capable, is a journey. —Britta

Ever the Hunted ended with such a teeth-grinding cliffhanger, so it was good that I was able to read the sequel ASAP. And let me tell you, this book was so much better than the first one! I especially loved the second half, which was packed with exciting fighting scenes, meaningful drama, and satisfying revelations.

Ever the Brave follows the perspectives of three characters: Britta, Cohen, and Aodren. Aside from being thrust into a love triangle, they have to deal with the threat of war. Channelers have been mysteriously disappearing, resulting to a more strained relationship between the kingdoms of Malam and Shaerdan. Britta, Cohen, and Aodren work together to bring the culprit to justice, their hearts burdened by problems both romantic and political in nature. Rest assured, the book ends with another cliffhanger. xD

The protagonists in this book underwent a lot experiences that made them very likable and inspiring. For example, Britta came to terms with her identity, Aodren faced trials that developed his kingship, and Cohen gradually overcame his tendency to be insecure and overprotective. All in all, I was happy to see their stellar character development. I only had issues with Aodren because he was too stubborn to acknowledge the intimacy between Britta and Cohen. He was getting in the middle of my OTP, so there were times when I wanted to magically extract him from the book and mash my knuckles on his hard head. I didn’t ship Aodren and Britta, so the love triangle in this book was mainly a source or irritation.

Another thing I enjoyed was the family dynamics between Cohen and Finn. Unlike most siblings in reality, they were not ashamed to express how much they cared about each other. I laughed when Finn gave Cohen a piece of romantic advice. Despite his young age, Finn was already aware that men should not restrict women’s freedom of choice. With that in mind, it could be said that Finn was one of the catalysts behind Cohen’s maturity in the novel.

I loved how this book explored the theme of falling far from the tree. One of the reasons behind Britta and Aodren’s connection was their mutual desire to be better than their parents, who weren’t necessarily principled or honorable. I was invested in this aspect of the story because it reinforced my belief that there is no such thing as a perfect parent. We should treat our parents with respect, but it wouldn’t be wise to evaluate our worth according to their choices, flaws, or virtues.

With all that said, it must be obvious that I really enjoyed Ever the Brave. Its character-and-thematic virtues more than compensated for its frustrating love triangle. This is definitely a sequel that you shouldn’t miss.

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Book Review

When Power Is Thicker than Blood

Dividing Eden (Dividing Eden, #1)Dividing Eden by Joelle Charbonneau

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Warning: Major Spoilers Ahead

She needed him now. She’d trusted he would be here for her so they could grieve together and so he could help her as she had just helped him. And he had chosen to be with someone else.

As someone who has two brothers, I believe that having siblings can be such a blessing in life. I honestly have a very small circle of friends, but it doesn’t matter because I always have my big bros to keep me company. Yes, we sometimes have disagreements. Still, reconciliation is practically inevitable since we’re family. Brotherly love always subdues anger, resentment, and even pride. Gleaning upon my latter thoughts, this book sadly shows that I can’t speak for everyone.

Dividing Eden is the first book in a fantasy duology about Carys and Andreus, royal twins who supposedly know each other better than they know themselves. Initially, they are as thick as thieves. They watch each other’s backs with a devotion that could rival that between couples. Unfortunately, their relationship is destroyed when the King and Crown Prince are assassinated. The Queen suddenly becomes too crazy to ascend the throne, and the serpentine Elders in court force Carys and Andreus to compete for the crown.

I finished this book a few days ago, but I still feel both sad and indignant. I really did not expect Andreus to be so coldhearted after all the sacrifices Carys made for him. I was so invested in their relationship as siblings to the point that I didn’t even care about their respective love interests.

I yearned for Andreus and Carys to be reconciled, but any hope of that was thwarted by a vile priestess named Imogen. It wouldn’t be enough to say that I disliked her because I FREAKIN LOATHED HER AND WISHED FOR HER DEMISE. I nearly clapped and laughed in hysterics when Carys finally vanquished that insufferable *****!

However, my satisfaction was short-lived. Andreus, in his brainwashed state, tried to kill Carys, and I was like…WHAT THE HECK?!!! I just couldn’t accept that his love (it was more like lust) for Imogen turned him into an despicable anti-hero. I already didn’t like him from the very beginning because of his playboy attitude, so reading about his murderous intentions towards his own flesh and blood pushed me over the edge. Thank God Carys unknowingly used her wind magic to save herself.

Speaking of magic, I was surprised that this book had a magic system at all. I knew that the setting was fantastical, but the characters generally didn’t exhibit any sign of supernatural abilities. Imogen supposedly could see the future, but it was also hinted that she was a fraud. So when Carys suddenly controlled the wind, it felt like something snapped in my brain. I just couldn’t process the revelation that she was set apart from Andreus and the rest of “ordinary” Eden. Come to think of it, Andreus’s strange sickness might be a sign of his own kind of magic.

Obviously (if not logically), Carys was my favorite character. It would be unfair to end this review without giving her an affectionate shout out. She was smart, strong, and loving. I particularly admired her for her unswerving loyalty for Andreus, her traitorous twin. If I were in her shoes (if my brothers wanted me dead), I’m not sure I would handle it as well as she did. Sometimes, forgiving others is easier said than done. I fervently hope that Carys will have a happy ending. I have three wishes for her:

1. I wish that she would be reunited with Andreus (after knocking some sense into him)
2. I wish that she would overcome her drug addiction
3. I wish that she would end up with Errik (the mysterious dignitary aka Trade Master)

Overall, this book has so many secrets. I have so many unanswered questions. Hence, I feel so frustrated. Still, I cannot deny that I enjoyed this book. The author clearly made the antagonists unlikable. Loathsome, even. The good news is, Dividing Eden is only a duology. I look forward to a very enlightening conclusion.

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Book Review

Ever the Gorgeous

Ever the Hunted (Clash of Kingdoms, #1)Ever the Hunted by Erin Summerill

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

 

If I were ever the hunted, you’d find me.    —Cohen

The moment I saw Ever the Hunted online, my stomach churned with the desire to buy it. We really should applaud the cover designer for doing a fantastic job. I actually had to buy this book on Amazon because it wasn’t available in my country when it came out last year. So when it arrived at my doorstep after 12 days of waiting, I couldn’t contain my happiness.

Ever the Hunted is about an empowered girl named Britta Flannery, whose father has recently died. To worsen her already difficult life, people ostracize Britta for her magical heritage and her status as an “illegitimate child”. Eventually, Britta becomes destitute, and she is arrested for illegal poaching in the king’s land. She is then given two choices: die through the noose or attain clemency by hunting her father’s murderer. Britta jumps at the chance to survive, but her heart breaks when she learns the supposed identity of her target: Cohen Mackay, her father’s former apprentice.

Although I immediately knew the direction of the story, I had lots of fun reading this book since the content lived up to the gorgeousness of the cover. The writing style, setting, and magic system were beautiful in their simplicity and efficiency. In this regard, Ever the Hunted is the perfect book for readers who are new to the fantasy genre. Please do not go into this book expecting elements of a high fantasy novel. Otherwise, you’re gonna be underwhelmed.

I particularly loved the characters in Ever the Hunted because they were relatable and well-developed. Britta was admirable in that she was hardly a damsel in distress. In fact, she was so independent to the point that she hated it when people (boys) tried to shield her from danger. She reminded me of Katniss Everdeen, who was also self-sufficient and great at archery. As for Cohen, he was unsurprisingly handsome and eligible. His overprotective nature sometimes got on my nerves even though it turned out to be justified. The best thing about him was his loyalty to his kingdom and loved ones. In totality, he was someone whose integrity couldn’t be questioned.

I have another piece of good news: there wasn’t instalove in this book. Britta and Cohen were childhood friends who knew each other from head to toe. Their romance was built on a foundation of deep familiarity, so I had no qualms about shipping them. Kudos to authentic love! Hahaha. Of course, Britta and Cohen weren’t immune to misunderstandings; the miscommunication between them was both cute and frustrating.

I decided not to give this book 5 stars because I didn’t like the deception among Britta and her family. I feel weird complaining about a dead character, but Britta’s father was such a liar. Yes, he had his reasons, but Britta’s life would have been easier if he had been honest with her about her legacy as a Channeler. Oh well, may he rest in peace despite the consequences of his lies. :l

In the end, Ever the Hunted is a satisfying start to a promising series. You don’t have to feel guilty if you bought it only because of the cover. Once you start reading the book, you’ll realize with a smile that you didn’t waste your money.

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Book Review

The Boring Side of Beauty

Wild BeautyWild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore

My rating: 2.25 of 5 stars

Thank you, Macmillan, for sending me an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

There were two kinds of Nomeolvides hearts, ones broken by the vanishings, and one who counted themselves lucky to have seen the back of their lovers as they left.

Cheers, dear Brittney (Reverie and Ink)! We finally finished this tedious journey! I had fun exchanging thoughts about our love-hate relationship with this book. xD

I cannot believe how accomplished I feel after finishing such a dragging novel. I practically forced myself to do so because it was kindly sent by a publisher and I also do not DNF books. Wild Beauty‘s Feminist content was cool, but I cannot honestly say that I recommend the book. Beautiful cover, utterly boring story.

Essentially, Wild Beauty is a magical realism novel that follows five girls from the Nomeolvides family: Estrella, Dalia, Gloria, Calla, and Azalea. All of them are both gifted and cursed. They can make flowers bloom literally anywhere, but it is impossible for them to leave La Pradera, the estate gardens that have been their family’s home/prison for generations. To make things worse, it is said that the lovers of each Nomeolvides woman are fated to disappear. When a boy suddenly appears in the gardens, dangerous secrets are uncovered and freedom starts to loom just over the horizon.

Like most people, I was beguiled by the beautiful cover and premise of this book. I started the first chapter with an excited smile on my face, ready to have the time of my life. Little did I know that Wild Beauty would be my own literary lullaby. I blamed the writing, which was too…lyrical for my taste. I usually have no problem with flowery writing, but in the case of this book, there were more vivid descriptions than lively dialogue. Plus, I was so confused because there were so many characters to get to know. I couldn’t even pronounce their family name, Nomeolvides, for crying out loud! NO-MEEYO-VEE-DES??? I asked Brittney, but she also had no idea. Hahaha. xD

Examining the plot, I found it to be uneventful. The pacing didn’t pick up until around 80% of the book, and the conflict was bland and easily resolved. I had fun learning about the truth behind La Pradera and the Nomeolvides curse, but that wasn’t enough to captivate my interest. Only God knows how many times I yawned and blinked away tears of drowsiness. 😦

The last catalyst behind my low rating had something to to with religion. Estrella and her family prayed and read the Bible, so I was disturbed when they sardonically questioned the character of God, particularly His ability to forgive people for their sins. In light of my personal beliefs, I admit that this complaint is very subjective. Hence, I wouldn’t be surprised if you ignored it.

Despite it’s flaws, I couldn’t bring myself to give Wild Beauty 1 star because of its excellent take on Feminism/gender politics. It definitely uplifted the standpoint of gay, lesbian, and bisexual people. Furthermore, it was my first time to encounter bisexual/lesbian romance in literature. The “love hexagon” in this book took me by surprise; Estrella and her cousins were in love with one girl. Thankfully, it wasn’t emphasized to the point of creating unnecessary drama. The “central” romance was the one between Estrella and the mysterious boy named Fel. Their relationship was interesting in that Estrella seemed to be the one taking the lead and Fel didn’t feel emasculated or undermined. Also, I was glad that what they had wasn’t instalove. 🙂

It might sound strange that my favorite character was La Pradera. The gardens were indeed the setting of the story, but they were actually depicted to be sentient. In retrospect, La Pradera was somehow one of the antagonists, deliberately causing pain and heartbreak in the Nomeolvides family. I really liked how La Pradera delineated the paradox of Mother Nature; she can give life, but she can also take it away.

To sum up my thoughts, Wild Beauty did have virtues in regards to its empowering content. Nevertheless, for the most part, it was utterly slow. It nearly gave me a reading slump every time I picked it up. Who knew beauty could be boring?

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Book Review

Broken but Just Fine

The Love Letters of Abelard and LilyThe Love Letters of Abelard and Lily by Laura Creedle

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Thank you, HMH Teen, for giving me an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Love is about being broken beyond repair in the eyes of the world and finding someone who thinks you’re just fine.

I’m glad that I’ve found another meaningful contemporary novel that deals with mental health. I honestly didn’t have high expectations when I requested this book from the publisher, so I was delightfully surprised by its enlightening and philosophical content. If you’re looking for an Own Voices novel that is worth your time (and money), go ahead and pick this up on December.

The Love Letters of Abelard and Lily is the story of two “broken” teenagers. Abelard has Asperger syndrome, while Lily has ADHD (like the author). They’ve known each other since childhood, but they only become real friends when they are both detained for “innocently” destroying school property. Since Abelard finds it extremely difficult to talk face-to-face, he and Lily start a connection through texting. They have both love The Letters of Abélard and Héloïse, and they cleverly exchange passages to express their thoughts and emotions.

Unsurprisingly, this book had a character-driven story. Lily was the sole narrator, and her inner musings ranged from dark, to cynical, to downright hilarious. She was a very interesting character because she was caught in a quandary every day in school; even though she had ADHD, her peers and teachers seemed to be oblivious to her special needs and treated her like she was like an ordinary teenager. It was sad and ironic that Lily, one of the brightest students, was mistaken for a truant. I totally understood why Lily hated going to school since it was practically her own version of hell.

One of the lessons that I gleaned from this book is that sensitivity and consideration should never be out of fashion, especially towards people with mental conditions. We shouldn’t look down on them or treat them with condescension in the academe because they can actually have the capacity to be better or smarter than other “normal” students. For example, Abelard was indeed a social hermit because of Asperger’s, but his love for mathematics and science enabled him to participate in regional robotics competitions. Of course, this happened in a work of fiction. Nevertheless, I think that it can happen in real life.

Another great thing about this book was that unlike some of its peers in the YA market, it didn’t depict love as the cure-all for mental illness. Abelard and Lily were head over heels for each other. They made each other happy and secure, but they still had to struggle with their respective mental conditions. In the end, one of them sought the help of science in order to have a shot at “normalcy.”

I nearly forgot to mention how impressed I was by the author’s creativity. It was amazing how she managed to integrate specific, evocative quotes from The Letters of Abélard and Héloïse into Lily and Abelard’s conversations, which were always smooth and coherent. Logically, the quotes weren’t just chosen at random. Otherwise, the book would have been so disorganized and confusing. xD

This book was generally enjoyable and insightful, but there was one thing that I really disliked: Lily and Abelard acted like jerks toward their parents. It was good that family dynamics were included or explored. Lily’s mom in particular was a prominent figure in the novel as she tried her best to meet Lily’s needs. However, I was annoyed that Lily often treated her mother with disrespect. She even had the audacity to say the f word, for crying out loud! Abelard wasn’t as bad as Lily, but his behavior around his parents could be described as…cold. I had already encountered the same problem in Eliza and Her Monsters, another mental health novel I recently finished. With that in mind, I really dislike it when such books seem to use mental illness as a convenient excuse for characters to be so rude or ungrateful.

All things considered, The Love Letters of Abelard and Lily was fun to read. It didn’t please me entirely, but I would recommend it because of it’s enlightening content. Thus, I am excited to read more books by Laura Creedle. 🙂

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Book Review

Please Don’t Crucify Me

Warcross (Warcross, #1)Warcross by Marie Lu

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I read this book as a participant in a blog tour hosted by The Royal Polar Bear Reads. Special thanks to the publisher for giving me pre-approved access to an e-galley of this book on Edelweiss.

Everything is science fiction until someone makes it science fact. —Hideo

I already had the chance to read Warcross last May, but the immense hype surrounding it rendered me hesitant. For four freakin months. Eventually, what pushed me to read it was my lingering fondness for Legend, one of the author’s previous works. I had also been wanting to rekindle my interest in sci-fi, so reading this book seemed like a good way to reach my goal. And now that I’ve finished it, I cannot help but feel disappointed. Oh well, it’s good to be a part of the minority every now and then.

Even before its publication, people have already been comparing Warcross to Sword Art Online, a very beloved anime series. Plot-wise, the comparison is somehow justified. Warcross also follows a diverse cast of characters who live in a nearly utopian world that prizes virtual reality. Furthermore, like SAO, the plot of this book contains equal portions of action, mystery, and romance. Emika Chen, the heroine, works as a bounty hunter for Hideo Tanaka, the ingenious creator of a revolutionary video game called Warcross. The latter is being hacked by an unknown, malevolent figure, and Emika tries to catch the villain whenever she isn’t busy falling for Hideo.

I loved the first half of Warcross because it was practically popcorn for me, the bookish gamer. In a way, it seemed that I was rereading Morgan Rhodes’s Falling Kingdoms because once again, I felt like I was playing a JRPG. The virtual battles were very exciting and deliciously tactical, and I could vividly imagine the various places where they were held. When Final Fantasy was briefly mentioned in the book, I grinned from ear to ear. Marie Lu used to work in the gaming industry, so I was so happy to see her apply that “nerdiness” in her book. In retrospect, it effectively showed that video games and literature are not worlds apart. After all, video games, especially RPGs, are stories in and of themselves.

I wasn’t on the lookout for “triggering content” such as racism, sexism, or ableism. However, I was intrigued by the diversity in this book. The characters came from different corners of the world: Europe, Asia, Africa, and America. One of the protagonists was paraplegic, and then it was implied that two of them weren’t straight. I wanted to give Marie Lu a pat on the back for heeding the YA community’s plea for more diversity.

Unfortunately, my buzz was killed by Emika and Hideo’s relationship. I was not thrilled because the emotional connection that started it all was so overrated, I barely stopped myself from rolling my eyes. I did not like that Emika and Hideo fell for each other simply because both of them understood what it felt like to lose a loved one. Their mutual physical attraction wasn’t a plausible factor, either. It reeked of instalove, and I wasn’t there for it. Huhu. Let us all fall in love with Hideo, the sexy, tortured soul. The heck. I would’ve enjoyed this book so much more without the romance. Love can be so unnecessary sometimes, particularly in YA. If you don’t want me to blame the book, then I’ll blame the genre. LOL. But seriously, as far as I’m concerned, Emika and Hideo aren’t a match made in Heaven. In fact, in light of the book’s ending, I suppose the author would agree with me. Wahahaha!

The second catalyst behind my relatively low rating was the book’s predictable content. I totally knew the identity of the villain chapters before it was disclosed! If I could attach a selfie of me sticking out my tongue, I would. I wonder what I could’ve done to prevent myself from being so…jaded? Oh, I want to make an “educated prediction” before the sequel comes out someday: Emika is gonna end up with Zero. If I’m wrong, I’ll give the sequel a high rating! Hahaha plus points for defied expectations. To be fair, I was a little surprised by the second plot twist, which had a dystopian undertone. I wasn’t a fan of this certain character, but my feelings might change in the future.

In its totality, Warcross was entertaining at its best and disappointing at its worst. I loved the fantastic and creative world-building, but the characters and plot points were generally lackluster; they weren’t anything that I hadn’t seen before. Now, I really want to reread the Legend trilogy just to see if I would love it as much as I did when I was in college. If you haven’t read Warcross, I guess you’re not missing half of your life. Please don’t let the hype get to you. Heck, don’t judge any book by the hype surrounding it.

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Author Interview

Q & A with Margaret Rogerson

Thank God it’s Friday! Before I go back to my hometown for my mom’s birthday, I’d like to express my fondness for my new favorite book, An Enchantment of Ravens. Many people have been raving about it on Goodreads and Instagram, and I’m glad to say that the hype is legit. All of my though can be read in my review. Margaret has the gift of painting with words and creating such intriguing characters. If you love enthralling fantasy books, you should grab a copy of AEOR when it comes out on September 26, 2017. 😀 I’m very thankful for the opportunity to get to know Margaret through this brief interview. ❤

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1. How was the plot and world of your book conceived? Who or what inspired you to write a love story between a human and fae?

“I came up with Enchantment while I was in the shower one morning, and there was really no rhyme or reason to it—it was like getting struck by idea lightning. But I was definitely inspired by a few things, including my fondness for traditional folklore, and a couple of books: Beauty by Robin McKinley, and Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke. I knew I wanted to write a fairy tale romance with a capable Robin McKinley-esque heroine, and I also wanted the story to involve fairies in a Regency era setting, like JS & MN.”

2. If you were a gifted maker of Craft like Isobel, would you paint Rook in the same way she did? (i.e. Would you pick a different emotion?)

“That’s a very good question! My actions would depend upon how much I knew about the fair folk and the consequences of painting sorrow in a fair one’s eyes. If I knew it would get me in trouble, I wouldn’t do it! In Isobel’s shoes, however, I would have painted him the same way she did, because she wasn’t aware of what would happen.”

3. If you had an immortal boyfriend/husband, would you find a way to be with him forever at the expense of something very important to you?

“This might sound terrible, but no! I think the events of the book speak to what I believe myself, which is that life and love and art are meaningful because of their impermanence. Spending eternity with a loved one seems great in theory, but I imagine that much like one of the fair folk’s enchantments, the choice would eventually turn
sour—especially if you’ve given up a key part of your identity, or even your humanity, to achieve it.”

4. How do you react when you see readers comparing/contrasting your work to other popular YA novels (i.e. ACOTAR)?

“For the most part, I’m incredibly flattered. I’ve heard great things about Sarah J. Maas and the ACOTAR series, and she has such a huge, passionate, talented fan community. Seeing that outpouring of love for her work has been awe-inspiring and I’m grateful to have been touched by it. I also believe I owe most of the buzz surrounding Enchantment
to the ACOTAR fanbase, which I appreciate so much. If I ever meet Sarah in person, I owe her a lifetime supply of chocolate.

“On the other hand, as anyone can probably imagine, it’s rough to have your debut novel constantly compared to another book. I began writing An Enchantment of Ravens before ACOTAR came out (the road to publishing a debut novel takes years), and I vividly remember seeing an announcement about ACOTAR and thinking, “My god, this looks really similar to what I’m working on right now.” That happens a lot in publishing and it can be a crushing experience. As the buzz started mounting, I kept thinking to myself: Sarah J. Maas is a beloved pro author with several bestselling novels under her belt—how can my first book possibly live up to her fans’ expectations?

“Fortunately, I think the similarities are mostly on the surface, and while I haven’t read ACOTAR yet, based on what I’ve heard the books are really quite different. But that does come back to bite me occasionally, because I think a lot of readers have already gone into An Enchantment of Ravens expecting it to be a very different kind of book than what it is.”

5. Gleaning upon Gadfly’s morally gray personality (I’m not sure if I could call him an antagonist), what is your take on “the end justifies the means”?

“Personally I don’t believe the end justifies the means, except when I’m plotting a novel and planning to do awful things to my characters. But I do have to put myself inside the heads of characters whose philosophies oppose mine, and I have to admit, Gadfly certainly did get results.

“I wish I could say more about Gadfly without venturing into spoiler territory. I loved writing him in all his manipulative, pastry-obsessed glory.”

6. How do you create your fictional characters? Do you consider particular archetypes (or reader expectations) before writing, or do your characters come to you in a natural, free-flowing way?

“I think it’s a combination of both. I start out with archetypes and they come alive on the page as I write them. For example, I wasn’t expecting Rook to turn into so much of a cinnamon roll, as readers have been calling him (or a pumpkin roll in some cases, which is delightful). I do begin writing with a clear idea of how I want the dynamics between the characters to feel, though.”

7. If someone mysteriously “mauled” all of the copies of AEOR, what chapter or portion of the book would you salvage?

“I love this question! It would have to be the scene with the teapot.

“Thank you so much for hosting me on your blog, Josh!”

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About the author:

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Margaret writes fantasy for young adult readers. Her books draw inspiration from old fairy tales, because she loves stories in which the beautiful and the unsettling are sometimes indistinguishable. She lives near Cincinnati, Ohio, and when she’s not reading or writing she enjoys drawing, watching documentaries, making pudding, gaming, and exploring the outdoors in search of toads and mushrooms.

Visit Margaret’s website

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