Book Review

Soon to Be a Satisfactory YA Contemporary

Now a Major Motion PictureNow a Major Motion Picture by Cori McCarthy

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Thank you, Sourcebooks Fire, for giving me an e-galley of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I’d read her story and began drowning in a loss I’d never known was mine. My grandmother was a brilliant author—and I’d never read her books.

Now a Major Motion Picture is marketed as something that fans of Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl will enjoy. It’s been a few years since I read the latter book, but I can say that the blurb is true to an extent. NAMMP, like Fangirl, features excerpts from a completely original fantasy novel. However, NAMMP is less impactful and more focused on fan culture, particularly in regards to book to movie adaptations. With that in mind, remember to take everything with a grain of salt. Otherwise, you might feel a little disappointed.

The premise of NAMMP is actually unique compared to most of the YA contemporary novels I’ve read this year. It follows Iris Thorne, a girl who wants nothing to do with her late grandmother’s popular book series. Despite her protests, Iris is sent to Ireland for the film adaptation of Elementia. She yearns for the film to become a commercial failure, but the possibility of finding love, friendship, and her musical identity gradually shakes her resolve. By the end of the film’s production, she might have to say good-bye to her “Jaded Iris” title.

The first thing I liked about this book was its depiction of fan culture. It was easy for me to relate to how the hardcore fans of Elementia feared that the film would deviate too much from the book series. It is an undeniable fact that although we bookworms love to see our beloved characters come to life on screen, we are rarely pleased by book to movie adaptations. We just can’t help but see the creative license of the film industry as a catalyst for bookish sacrilege. xD

It was also fascinating that NAMMP explored the “dark side” of fandom: it can cause people to emotionally or physically harm others. Iris did have a lot issues about Elementia, but the underlying reason for her hatred was justified. Her life would have been less complicated if a delusional fan hadn’t terrorized her baby brother.

Another thing I enjoyed was the book’s enlightening discussion of sexism in the film industry. Cate, the director of Elementia, was underestimated because of her sex. Her production company was very patriarchal, so it was more than willing to cut her budget or cancel the film (which was supposedly a Feminist take on Lord of the Rings). Thankfully, Cate refused to back down, determined to prove that women were a force to be reckoned with in both film and literature.

My problem with NAMMP was something that I had already encountered in many contemporary books: the Bad Parent(s) trope. Iris’s dad was a complete jerk, while her mom was almost nonexistent. Iris’s dad was practically the antagonist in the story because he was a fountain of stress and resentment. In light of his undignified attitude, I wasn’t surprised that Iris and Ryder treated him like he was anything but their parent. Personally, I really dislike it when contemporary books portray parents as the bad guys because it doesn’t promote a healthy understanding of family life. Some people may say that this trope simply reflects reality because there are many bad parents in the world. Still, what’s the point of further discouraging readers?

In totality, I gave NAMMP 3.5 stars because it was both fun and enlightening to read. If you are interested in literary discussions on fan culture and Feminism, you should give this book a shot. Just tread carefully if you are triggered by the Bad Parent(s) trope.

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Book Review

A Booknerd Bored and Ranting

A Poison Dark and Drowning (Kingdom on Fire, #2)A Poison Dark and Drowning by Jessica Cluess

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

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

People do what they think is right, but that does not make it good.

I can’t believe that it took me almost three months to finish this book. I did not have high expectations because I gave the first book 3 stars. Still, I couldn’t help but be disappointed by…a lot of things. I’ll try not to be too salty, but just know that this book was…meh.

A Poison Dark and Drowning resumes the story of Henrietta Howel, the not-so Chosen One of Victorian England. After visiting the home of one of the founding fathers of “magicianhood,” she discovers a set of mysterious weapons that can help her defeat the Ancients once and for all. Meanwhile, Rook’s transformation into a monster is accelerating, and everyone seems to think that he’s a lost cause. Of course, Henrietta fiercely disagrees. In this lackluster sequel to A Shadow Bright and Burning, readers follow Henrietta as she struggles to save both the world and her first love.

My first problem with this book was its lack of originality. For example, I knew that the author was a fan of Harry Potter (like most people), but I was bothered that one of the places in the book felt like a replica of Diagon Alley. Considering all of the tropes utilized in the first book, I expected the sequel to be a little more refreshing.

My second problem was the predictable content. One of the plot twists in this book was so unsurprising. I could see it coming from a mile away, and instead of feeling a sense of accomplishment, I was overwhelmed by jadedness. You really don’t need to think hard if you wanna figure out the identity of Henrietta’s father.

The last straw was the chaotic romance, which resulted in a lot of corny dialogue. I couldn’t understand how Henrietta could attract nearly all of her male peers. Indeed, she was powerful and resourceful, but she also made a lot of stupid decisions that caused a lot of collateral damage. My fondness for her was diminished every time Henrietta acknowledged her own flaws and engaged in self-pity. Hence, I really didn’t care about her relationship with Rook, Blackwood, or Magnus.

I don’t want this review to be a complete rant, so let’s look at the bright side, shall we? I stopped myself from giving this book 1 star because I was a fan of the deep friendship between Henrietta and Maria. They were practically like sisters even though they came from different backgrounds. Their interactions were somehow my lifeline while reading this mostly boring novel. Also, I gave a few additional points to the diversity of characters. I really appreciate that many YA books nowadays aren’t whitewashed.

With all that said, I’m not sure if I’m still invested in this series/trilogy. I pushed myself to finish it just because the publisher sent me a galley. Nevertheless, if you’re interested in reading it, I won’t stop you. Who knows? You might end up enjoying it.

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Book Review

Choose Your Side

Renegades (Renegades, #1)Renegades by Marissa Meyer

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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

Hero or villain, all prodigies were powerful. All prodigies were dangerous.

Renegades is actually the first book I’ve read about superheroes and villains. Novels about such characters (e.g. Batman and Wonder Woman) have been trendy nowadays, but I never bothered to add them to my TBR because the film industry has already made me so familiar with the Marvel/DC universe. With that in mind, I probably wouldn’t have requested this book from the publisher if it wasn’t penned by one of my favorite authors. Marissa Meyer never fails to make me happy, so it should go without question that I’ll read anything written by her.

In her brand new novel, Marissa Meyer deconstructs the notions we have about heroes and villains. Logic dictates that heroes are “good” and villains are “evil”. However, after reading Renegades, you’ll most likely find yourself questioning the validity of such reasoning. There are two organizations in this book: the Renagades (heroes) and the Anarchists (villains). In spite of their many differences, they have one thing in common: the desire to make the world a better place. Nova Artino, the female lead, is an Anarchist who justifiably yearns for the destruction of the Renegades. Adrian Everheart, the male lead, is a Renegade who only wants to solve the mystery of his mother’s demise. When the paths of these two teenagers converge, you’ll have a difficult time choosing your side.

While reading Renegades, I found myself partial to the Anarchists, who were supposedly or strictly malevolent. Most of the book was told from Nova’s POV, and her musings about the Renegades were surprisingly accurate and thought-provoking. For instance, her main complaint against the Renegades was that they were making ordinary people so lazy or passive. Since the Renegades were there to solve everyone’s problems (they were just a call away), people became unwilling to help others and even themselves. Nova couldn’t help but see this psychological phenomenon (diffusion of responsibility) as a disadvantage, and I totally agreed with her. In fact, one of my favorite sayings is “God helps those who help themselves.” The Renegades were inadvertently weakening the agency of ordinary people, so I sympathized with Nova’s desire to stop them. Maybe Nova’s childhood would have been happier if the people around her weren’t so passive.

I also sided with the Anarchists because there were Renegades who didn’t deserve to be called “heroes,” in the truest sense of the word. Some Renegades abused their privileges and saw themselves as superior to Nova and the other Anarchists. Of course, as their name implies, the Anarchists weren’t totally innocent. Still, they didn’t deserve to be treated inhumanely. Also, if I were to focus on Nova alone, I would say that she was the one who deserved to be called a Renegade. She belonged to a villainous group, but many of her actions reflected heroism.

It was no surprise that Adrian made me think twice about my loyalty. He wasn’t one of those narcissistic Renegades. As much as he wanted to attain justice, he wasn’t willing to compromise his integrity. Furthermore, even though he was the son of the founders of the Renegades, Adrian wasn’t smug or complacent. He treated his peers with warmth and respect, and he even managed to be compassionate to his enemies. The best thing I liked about him was his willingness to listen to other people’s opinions or suggestions. Despite his elevated rank as a Renegade, he didn’t believe that the Renegades and their policies were perfect. In retrospect, his only flaw was his gullibility. :3 All in all, Adrian was a perfect example of what a Renegade should be like. And let me tell you, Nova acknowledged this fact.

Putting Nova and Adrian side by side, it was utterly difficult for me to stay loyal. I deeply sympathized with Nova, but I didn’t want her to succeed at the expense of Adrian’s happiness. With that in mind, I really loved this book because it gave me moments of deep, philosophical introspection. Marissa Meyer wrote Renegades in such a way that categorizing characters into heroes and villains wasn’t as easy as pie. I had so much fun practicing my critical thinking skills.

Honestly, I couldn’t find major flaws to discuss in this review, but for objectivity’s sake, I felt a bit jaded about one of the plot twists because it was reminiscent of Pierce Brown’s Red Rising.

In conclusion, Renegades is one of the most thought-provoking books YA has to offer. Anyway, you’re probably a silly person if you expect me to give a Marissa Meyer book less than 5 stars. HAHAHA. Even though it didn’t exactly reach the bar set by The Lunar Chronicles, I can say that I genuinely loved this book. If you’ve read it, too, please don’t hesitate to fanboy/fangirl with me! 😀

P.S. Other noteworthy virtues of Renegades include:

1. Diversity (i.e. Nova is half Filipino <3)
2. An almost romance-free plot
3. A mind-blowing ending that more than compensated for the mentioned “flaw”.

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Book Review

Make Way for Odin

Berserker (Berserker #1)Berserker by Emmy Laybourne

My rating: 3.75 of 5 stars

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

Embrace the Nytte. Open your heart to it, or it will be the ruin of you. —Aud

Filled with intriguing elements of Norse mythology and American history, Berserker is one of the most unique and surprising books I’ve ever read. I would’ve finished it sooner had I not been in a terrible reading slump caused by Korean dramas and K-pop music. xD

Berserker is basically a heartwarming story about four teenagers with powers bestowed by the old Norse gods. Hanne, the female lead, is a Berserker, which means that she flies into a killing state whenever her loved ones are threatened. Unable to control her murderous abilities, Hanne is eventually forced to leave her homeland (Norway) in search for her uncle, who is supposedly the only person who can help her. With the help of a handsome cowboy named Owen, Hanne and her siblings forge their way through 19th century America. Little do they know that many life-threatening experiences await them in such a “great” country.

For me, the best thing about Berserker was its emphasis on the special bond between siblings. In spite of their many differences (that caused a number of entertaining arguments), Hanne, Stieg, Knut, and Sissel did everything in their power to keep each other safe. Furthermore, each of them had a distinct personality that made me want to meet them in real life. Hanne was the ever protective sister who loved to cook. Stieg was a bookworm who was the voice of reason in the midst of chaos. Knut was a gentle giant who could be unexpectedly profound. As for Sissel, she was a brat who could disclose an ugly truth without flinching. I really enjoyed getting to know these unique and fascinating characters.

Another virtue of Berserker was its application of Norse mythology. Greek/Roman mythology has been a popular theme in literature (and other forms of media) for years; you must be living in a cave if you aren’t familiar with the stories of Zeus, Poseidon, and other iconic deities. With that in mind, this book was like a breath of fresh air because it deviated from the status quo. Although I was already quite familiar with Norse mythology, it was fun to catch a glimpse of Odin, Freya, and the Vikings (who were apparently good at poetry).

I will probably always remember Berserker because of its shockingly detailed fighting scenes. Hanne was a force to be reckoned with when her powers were triggered; she could kill/decapitate people without batting an eye. The same could be said about the villain, who never failed to creep me out. I didn’t exactly enjoy the violence in this book, but I liked that the author didn’t make a sugarcoated YA novel.

The last virtue of Berserker was its historical content. Hanne and her siblings were only a few of the Europeans who migrated to America with the goal of having a “better” life. It could be said that they were victims of the American dream. As a Filipino, I found this to be very entertaining. It is an undeniable fact that many people in “Third World” Asia still believe that complete happiness can be found in America. Gleaning upon all of the trials the protagonists faced in Montana, I couldn’t help but scoff at the latter belief. If anything, Berserker reminded me that our happiness is determined by our choices, not by our current location in the world.

In all honesty, the only disappointing thing about this book was its similarity to Disney’s Frozen. The quote at the beginning of my review can probably speak for itself. This trope made the ending predictable and quite…er, corny. Since the majority of the book was cool and badass, I expected the resolution to be the same.

Nevertheless, I had a lot of fun reading Berserker, and I’m confident that many people will enjoy it, too. If you’re looking for a fun, educational, and action-packed novel, you should definitely add it to your TBR shelf.

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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

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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