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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Book Review

Strange the Booknerd

Strange the Dreamer (Strange the Dreamer, #1)Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Laini Taylor is one of my most favorite authors. I really loved her Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy, so I was really excited to read Strange the Dreamer. Since I enjoyed her previous books, I was amazed again by her gift in telling stories. I really loved how she created such wonders with only the use of words. Her descriptions were so vivid, and it was amazing how I could easily imagine the world she created. Her writing style appealed to all of my senses – I could see, hear, smell, feel, and taste like I was a part of the story, and that alone, was magic.

This book is somehow similar to her previous books – full of magic, mystery, and wonder. Laini Taylor yet again created another fantastic world with fascinating people and other creatures. Myths, monsters, magic, gods and goddesses, plot twists and a nerdy protagonist… all that good stuff, you can find it here!

The main character, Lazlo Strange, as the title would say, is a dreamer, but I would call him a booknerd. He loves to read books, and he is obsessed with this mysterious, magical city. As readers, we can all relate to him. We love discovering new worlds hidden in the pages of a book, wishing that they really exist. We devour stories like they are food that we need to survive. At times, stories are escape pods from reality, and as far as I can tell, Lazlo feels the same way.

While I really enjoyed reading this book, there were some parts that I found a little bit slow. If I compare these parts to an electrocardiogram, they would be the flat, horizontal lines. It took me 2 months to finish the book because I often got bored and lost interest when I reached those flat lines.

The last few chapters made up for the slow parts of the book though. The climax was an emotional roller coaster. So much stuff was happening, and it was overwhelming! I couldn’t believe that I felt so many emotions – happiness, excitement, anxiety, sadness, grief, dread, anger – in just a few chapters! I devoured these chapters as fast as I could, always wanting to know what would happen next…until I’ve reached the end, and my heart stopped beating.

I still want to talk more about this book because there are so many things to talk about, but it’s best to dive into this book without knowing a lot to maintain the “mysterious vibes” that it wants the readers to experience. I really enjoyed Strange the Dreamer even though it took me a very long time to finish it. I highly recommend it!

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Book Review

If ACOTAR Were Rewritten

An Enchantment of RavensAn Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson

My rating: 4.75 of 5 stars

Thank you, Simon & Schuster, for giving me an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I have never met anyone more frustrating, or brave, or beautiful. I love you. —Rook

Sasha Alsberg was right when she said that people who loved ACOTAR would enjoy this book. An Enchantment of Ravens has been trending both on Instagram and Goodreads, and I am very pleased to tell you that the hype is legit. Although there really shouldn’t be any competition or comparison between the two (ACOTAR is NA, while AEOR is YA), I thought that this book was way better than ACOTAR (i.e. there wasn’t unnecessary, steamy content).

Essentially, AEOR is a loose retelling of Beauty and the Beast. It follows Isobel, a gifted painter who is popular among the fae. She eventually garners the attention of Rook, the powerful, brooding prince of the autumn court. Unlike her peers, Isobel possesses the unique ability of making her fae subjects look human in their paintings. When she inadvertently creates a masterpiece that reflects Rook’s hidden vulnerability, he becomes enraged and demands that she stand trial in his domain. On their journey to the autumn court, Isobel and Rook gradually come to a mutual understanding. Unfortunately, their relationship may cost them their lives…and more.

For me, AEOR was a meaningful love story. I was already familiar with some of the plot’s aspects, but I didn’t feel bored or jaded because the characters were so delightful and well-developed. I particularly admired Isobel for her desire to stay herself. She genuinely loved Rook, but she refused to become immortal at the expense of her humanity (i.e. her artistry). This side of Isobel’s personality made me grin because it was so “anti-Bella,” if you get my drift. Hahaha. I loved Twilight when I was a teenager, but I was ecstatic to encounter a heroine who wasn’t willing to give up everything just to be with a boy forever. High five to all my empowered female friends!

As for Rook, he was like Disney’s Beast in that there was a lot of depth beneath his glamour (which hid his supposedly frightful appearance). Isobel assured him that he wasn’t the monster that he thought he was, and I completely agreed with her. Rook was definitely the main source of humor in the novel. He was the type who could make people laugh even though he didn’t intend to be funny, at least most of the time. Furthermore, it was fascinating that Rook’s nature as a proud and vain fae made him much more likable. Charming, even. Pride and vanity aren’t traits that I find attractive in real life. However, the author crafted Rook in a manner that made me realize he actually had a right to be that way. Thankfully, these traditionally negative qualities didn’t influence the power relations between Rook and Isobel. In fact, the ending of the book had a surprisingly Feminist tone. 😉

Since Isobel was a painter, art played an important role in this book. As I read it, I couldn’t help but wonder if the author were an artist herself. There were a lot of details about how Isobel used a variety of natural ingredients for her paint, as well as what kinds of paint she used to produce particular portraits. With that in mind, I also enjoyed this book because of its mildly educational content; it was like my very own Painting 101 class.

If you check out other reviews of AEOR, you might notice that most of them have one thing in common: they praise the author’s flowery writing style. Hmm…I myself enjoyed the language in this book, which reminded me of some of my favorite, elegantly written works, like Marie Rutkoski’s The Winner’s Curse and Roshani Chokshi’s The Star-Touched Queen. It was clear that Margaret Rogerson had a talent for painting with words. Still, there were times that the writing became overwhelming. It was good that my Kindle had a built-in dictionary because otherwise I would’ve had a difficult time checking out many unfamiliar, literary words. Of course, this criticism is subjective. You won’t have any problem if you have a super expansive vocabulary. ^^

In the end, AEOR made me bask in complete wonder and happiness. It was like ACOTAR, but so much better. It was basically a glorious painting in literary form. I’m definitely adding this to my shelf of favorite books! ❤ Be prepared to have a happy book hangover. :3

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

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Book Review

Dancing with Master Cuckoo

The Midnight DanceThe Midnight Dance by Nikki Katz

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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

She shouldn’t miss the touch of this man who had done such despicable things, a man who forced people to serve under his control.

After giving meh ratings to two Swoon Reads titles (Kissing Max Holden and Just Friends), I was a little hesitant to read this book. However, as usual, the cover was so attractive that I just had to go beyond the title and copyright pages. Thankfully, I did not regret my decision.

Before you proceed, be warned that this book isn’t a typical YA contemporary novel. It is actually a mild psychological thriller about twelve ballerinas who live in an isolated finishing school owned by a dashing man named Master. Penny, the heroine, is strangely Master’s favorite student. She feels intoxicated in his presence, but a voice in the back of her mind tells her to stay away from him. When Master’s secrets are divulged by the gradual resurfacing of Penny’s lost memories, the Grand Teatro becomes less like a finishing school and more like a creepy dollhouse.

Those of you who are familiar with my reading tastes probably know that I rarely read thrillers. I don’t necessarily dislike them; I just don’t gravitate towards them like I do to fantasy or sci-fi novels. With that in mind, reading The Midnight Dance was somehow a refreshing experience. Even though it wasn’t so scary, Master’s psychopathic behavior triggered a sour taste in my mouth. The things he did to Penny and the other ballerinas were twisted as heck. I often feared for Penny’s safety (and sanity), and I was overwhelmed by the desire to know how and why Master became so…incongruous. He was gorgeous on the outside yet malevolent on the inside. If you’ve read Shadow and Bone, you might compare Master to the ever mysterious Darkling.

Since this book was published by Swoon Reads, I was delightfully surprised that romance wasn’t the highlight of the story. There were no too cheesy scenes nor an abundance of instalove. Penny and Cricket’s relationship did add a touch of sweetness and intrigue, but I liked that the author was more focused on telling about their attempts to escape from Master’s clutches. In this regard, The Midnight Dance is a rare gem among other Swoon Reads titles.

Penny was the most significant catalyst behind my 4-star rating. She was an empowered female in light of her constant craving for the truth. In fact, her mind was so strong that Master couldn’t control it completely. If Penny were thrown into a dystopian world, she would get along with Cassia Reyes (Matched) or America Singer (The Selection), heroines who always take something with a grain of salt.

My main problem with this book was it’s rationale for Master’s mental condition. I simply couldn’t accept that he became a control freak because of his Cinderella-like childhood. Also, I didn’t fully understand Master’s supposedly scientific process of mind control. The latter ideas were very promising, but their execution was unsatisfactory. Hence, by the end of the book, my mind was still shrouded in a mist of confusion.

Nonetheless, I had fun reading The Midnight Dance. I recommend it to booknerds searching for a moderately thrilling book to read this fall. Since I still have some unanswered questions, I hope that a sequel is in the works.

P.S. I read this book with the smart and pretty Brittney (Her Bookish Things). You can check out her review here.

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Book Review

Crown of Redemption

Crown of Midnight (Throne of Glass, #2)Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Last year, I gave Throne of Glass one star. I irrevocably loathed Celaena, and I vowed to never continue the series. However, as my anger gradually faded and peer pressure started to kick in, I decided to make a bookish compromise by listening to a free Audible version of Crown of Midnight. And lo and behold, I found myself enjoying it!

In contrast to its predecessor, Crown of Midnight had a plot that kept me on my toes and outstanding character arcs. In this novel, Celaena finally proved her worth to me and thereby became less unrelatable and annoying. Furthermore, I no longer found any problematic tropes; I actually failed to predict all of the mind-blowing plot twists.

When I come to think of it, the character that really made me enjoy this book was Chaol. I know that many people think that he and Celaena don’t have any chemistry (or significant history), but I instantly became happy whenever he entered a scene. He just had this unique way of making Celaena more realistic and likable. In fact, I only got angry with Celaena whenever she hurt Chaol’s feelings (and body). As an independent character, Chaol was also admirable because of his loyalty, compassion, and wit.

Of course, I also enjoyed Dorian’s character arc. He became much more interesting because of his awakening. I also applauded his willingness to let go of Celaena. I myself would do the same thing if ever my best and I liked the same girl. Finally, I liked Dorian because Chaol would probably be dead without him. 😉

The last thing I liked about this audiobook was the narrator. I loved Elizabeth Evan’s voice, which had a brusque and arrogant tone that was perfect for Celaena’s and Chaol’s chapters. I only felt mildly detached whenever she narrated Dorian’s POV because I always imagined him to have a very sweet and calming cadence.

Overall, I would like to thank the people who encouraged me to give the Throne of Glass series a second chance. This audiobook would have warranted five stars if Celaena did not treat Chaol so badly. I promise to read (or listen to) Heir of Fire when my TBR pile becomes more manageable.

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Book Review

In Love with the Gorgeous Blue

Words in Deep BlueWords in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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

ASDFGHJKL! I LOVE THIS BOOK SO MUCH!

I know that we should judge books by their content, but look at that gorgeous cover! I can stare at it for hours and admire how pretty it is. There were times when I just needed to stop reading for moment to take a look at the cover. I know, I was a little obsessed xD.

As for the story itself, it was wonderful! Jennifer Niven’s blurb pretty much summed up how lovely the book was. She blurbed, “One of the loveliest, most exquisitely beautiful books I’ve read in a very long time. (How beautiful? I highlighted and circled and underlined like mad.) I didn’t just read the pages, I lived in them.” That was so accurate! If you could see the state of my book right now, it’s full of colorful tabs and there are a lot of words written on the margins. There were just so many lines that I really liked.

Okay, so here is are seven reasons why I loved this book so much:

First, I loved this book because it was so bookish. By just looking at the cover, I could tell that books would be a huge part of the story. Henry and his family ran a secondhand bookshop, and I thought that it was one of the best places that I could find in a book. I just wanted to get inside the book and visit that bookshop. The concept of the Letter Library was super cool, too! Basically, it was a section of the bookshop where the books were not for sale, and customers could write on the pages, underline their favorite lines, and leave letters for other people to read. It was a brilliant idea, and it made me want to own a bookshop someday and also have a Letter Library. Haha.

Second, I loved this book because of Henry’s love for secondhand books. According to him, Secondhand books are full of mysteries. I agreed with his sentiment, and reading this book made me appreciate secondhand books more than before. I don’t often buy secondhand books because I hardly find one that I would like to read, but still, I really like visiting secondhand bookshops because the books have stories apart from the stories they contain within the pages. You can’t help but wonder, “How did this book find its way here?”, or “Who was the previous owner of this book?”, and the mystery might be forever unanswered, but you wonder anyway. I was quite sure that Henry and the others also thought of that, which is why I loved this book so much. It made me feel like I was personally involved in the story.

Third, I loved this book because of the letters in between the chapters. They were so cute! Again, it made me want to go inside the book and also leave some letters in the Letter Library for my friends and random people to find.

Fourth, I loved this book because of Cal. He was not physically present in the story, but he somehow shaped most of it. I was really sad that he died because he was really cool! I loved that he was a science nerd. Those theories about time? Super cool! I also loved that he and Rachel treasured the ocean, and it sucked so much that it was the reason for his death.

Fifth, I loved this book because of the characters. Rachel, Henry, George, and Cal were people that I would really like to befriend. I just wish that I could teleport inside the book and say “Hi” to them.

Sixth, I loved this book because of the book recommendations. They talked about lots of books, and now I have a few books to add to my ever-growing TBR pile. Haha.

Finally, I loved this book because it was quite emotional. The last parts of the book made me a little bit teary-eyed. Those what-could-have-been’s…they made me so sad T^T

Overall, I believe that there are still a LOT of reasons why I loved this book so much, and you, yes, YOU just have to read this book to know them! I highly recommend this book to all booknerds out there!

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