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

More Than What You Expect

One of Us Is LyingOne of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Thank you so much, Penguin Random House, for sending me a finished copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

According to the description, if this book is an equation, it would be: The Breakfast Club + Pretty Liars = One of Us is Lying. I personally love TBC and PLL, and I completely agree with this equation.

Similar to the movie, The Breakfast Club, One of Us is Lying is about five high school students who walk into detention one afternoon: Bronwyn, the brain; Addy, the beauty; Nate, the criminal; Cooper, the athlete; and Simon, the outcast and the creator of Bayview High’s notorious gossip app. What made this book have the Pretty Little Liars vibe (if you can call it that), is that before the end of detention, Simon dies, and it turns out that his death is not an accident. He was planning to reveal the most-kept secrets of his four classmates, which makes them prime suspects of Simon’s murder. The question is, who really killed Simon? Is it one of them? All of them? Or maybe, an entirely different person?

First of all, Simon is a terrible person. He would probably make it to the list of most-hated YA characters. He is a social climber who is obsessed and hungry for attention and fame. What really irked me the most was his gossip app. His posts could ruin friendships, relationships, reputations, dignity, and so much more. Why couldn’t he just mind his own business? It would not be a surprise if people hated him to the point of hurting or killing him. He was really asking for it.

Before reading this book, I was expecting that the story would be full of mystery and secrets, just like PLL. As expected, there was an element of mystery surrounding the plot, but I was mildly surprised that it also dealt with different issues, which reminded me a lot of TBC. The plot contained topics like parental expectations, misuse of drugs, injustice, toxic relationships, friendship, mental illness, and others that I don’t want to mention because they might be potential spoilers. Trust me, you’ll know what I mean when you read the book. There was this part that I didn’t see coming, and I was quite gobsmacked when I read it. Which brings me to another point: social constructs and stereotyping. As you might have noticed in the book description (or by watching TBC), the characters represented different stereotypes. Each of them were expected to behave in a certain way, but as the plot goes on, you’ll notice that there’s more to their stories other than the label that they were given. I failed to notice this in the first part of the book, which is why I was getting a little bit bored in the beginning. But when I realized what the author really wanted to impart besides the mystery of Simon’s death, it made my reading experience more fun and remarkable.

Going back to the mystery of Simon’s death, I had a few guesses about his killer. I made myself aware of each of the character’s actions, looking for clues that might lead to the killer (I felt like Sherlock Holmes lol), then this vital hint came, and I didn’t know if the author did it on purpose, or she made a mistake of spilling too much beans before the big reveal, but it made the ending quite predictable. I was enjoying the fuzzy blur of not really knowing who the killer was, which made me want to read more of the book. But after I read that clue, my interest deflated a little because I could longer have fun making theories about Simon’s death. But even though I already had an idea about how Simon died, I was still surprised because I could have never guessed the second half of that mystery. I was pleased that the plot still had something up its sleeve when I thought that I had completely figured it out.

To sum it all up, One of Us is Lying is a very interesting read. It’s a great reminder about how a story (or a person) has a lot more to offer than what you expect it (or them) to give. Fans of The Breakfast Club and Pretty Little Liars, you’ll definitely like this!

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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 take on Feminism/gender politics. It definitely uplifted the standpoint of colored 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

There’s Conflict in Your Heart

There's Someone Inside Your HouseThere’s Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Thank you, Penguin Random House, for sending me an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I found it hard to decide how many stars I should give this book because I’m not entirely sure whether I liked it or not. It’s written by Stephanie Perkins, and since I really liked the Anna and the French Kiss trilogy, I’m a little biased xD.

Like other readers, I was really surprised that the genre of Perkins’ new book is so different from her fluffy, feel-good books. It was one of the reasons why I was so excited to read it. I’m not really fond of horror novels; in fact, this was the first time that I’ve read one.

I don’t know if it’s just because I’m a rookie when it comes to horror/thriller novels, but the horrifying scenes from this book really got to me. The gory scenes were very hard for me to read. As an avid reader, I’m so used to imagining the stuff I read as vividly as possible, so when I read those parts, it was horrifying. I wanted to skip those scenes, but I’m also used to not missing any details from a story, so I just had to read them (I never knew that these habits could possibly backfire!).

I was mildly thrilled that the book made me nervous every moment when I knew that a character was going to die, and I wanted to yell, “THERE’S SOMEONE INSIDE YOUR HOUSE!” But obviously, they couldn’t hear me. My heart was beating fast every time the victims noticed weird things around their house – an open drawer, a missing object… tell-tale signs that the killer was toying with them. Those scenes always kept me at the edge of my seat.

I think that the killer was revealed too early for my taste. I was expecting more suspense – that both the characters of the book and the readers would become more suspicious; that when the killer would be revealed, it would be really shocking because you didn’t see it coming…and you couldn’t help but exclaim, “IT CAN’T BE!” Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.

Also, the genre of the book might be different from the previous books of the author, but underlying all the horrifying scenes and the suspense, was a swoon-worthy romantic story that Stephanie Perkins’ readers are familiar with…or at least, that was what I was expecting. Unfortunately, there are times when expectations will lead to disappointment, which was the case for this book. I couldn’t help but find the romance a little bit cheesy and out of place. It was quite infuriating that Makani and Ollie couldn’t seem to control their sexual desire for each other when a serial killer was at large! I also didn’t find any swoon-worthy scenes, which I was kinda looking for, because…it’s Stephanie Perkins!

And then there was the last part of the book, which was a big WHAT THE HECK! It was really stupid. Like, why would they do that, when they knew that it was so dangerous. We all love those fantasy books where YA peeps were the ones who save the day, but in a horror/thriller contemporary book, it’s a big NO! The best thing to do is to just leave it to the police.

Okay, so this review has more negative comments than positive ones, so it’s obvious that I didn’t love the book, but there’s still a part of me that really enjoyed reading it. And as I’ve said before, it’s a Stephanie Perkins’ book, so I’m a little biased, and it feels like a betrayal to say it outright that I didn’t like the book (I know, I can be weirdly loyal sometimes xD).

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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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