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

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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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

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

I’ll Make a Woman out of You

Flame in the Mist (Flame in the Mist, #1)Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I buddy read this baby with the bookish beauties, Cait and Ambs

The only power a man has over you is the power you give him. —Okami

I actually forgot most of the events in Mulan, since I watched it around eleven years ago. Still, I was very excited to read Flame in the Mist because Mulan is markedly empowered compared to other Disney princesses. I’ve always been attracted to both Feminist literature and Japanese culture, and I am glad to say that this book met most of my expectations. I can’t wait for the rest of the YA community to devour it like I did.

Flame in the Mist tells the story of Mariko, who is practically forced to marry the emperor’s bastard son. Resigned to her fate of domesticity, she travels to the city of her betrothed. Along the way, a group of unidentified men attacks her caravan. In the aftermath, Mariko promises to unveil the truth behind her failed assassination and thereby prove her feminine worth.

I found this book to be better than The Wrath & the Dawn duology, particularly in regards to character development. Mariko was not exactly a femme fatale, but I quickly perceived her inner and outer strength. The men around her treated her horribly, but she did not let them quench the fire in her heart. Mariko’s ability to invent deadly bombs out of scratch also made her a force to be reckoned with. In other words, she was anything but a damsel in distress.

In one of my reading updates, I expressed how I despised the men in this book. Generally, they were arrogant, insensitive, and downright insufferable. I liked to think of them as literally cocky. :p Mariko’s love interest was not an exception. I won’t divulge his name because I don’t want to spoil anyone. For now, let’s just call him X. I honestly did not expect Mariko to fall in love with him because of his douche bag behavior. I understood that X treated Mariko like he would a fellow man, but I was annoyed nonetheless. I only managed to like him by the end of the book, when Mariko’s secret was revealed. He suddenly acted like a Feminist, so he finally won me over. I SHIPPED THEM SO HARD!

The only boy whom I liked from start to finish was Kenshin, Mariko’s twin brother. I was attached to him because of his “emasculating” humility; it was so easy for him to acknowledge Mariko’s intellectual superiority. Furthermore, his confidence in his sister’s tenacity made me smile a lot. Essentially, Kenshin and Mariko’s relationship was very heartwarming in that it rekindled my desire to have a sister. I already have two lovable bros, but…you get the point. Hahaha.

The otaku side of me affected my appreciation of this book. Only God and my brothers know how much I love anything that has to do with Japan: anime, music, books, you name it! Hence, I had a lot of fun immersing myself in the harsh yet intriguing world of feudal Japan.

Ironically, the main problem I encountered in this book was the elusive glossary. There were many unfamiliar Japanese terms throughout the novel, and I was too lazy to check them out online. I also did not bother to navigate to the end of the e-book (100%), which was the location of the said glossary. Huhu. It was too late; I wish I could undo my confusion.

Overall, Flame in the Mist is an excellent retelling of Mulan. It is a testament to Renee Ahdieh’s growth as a writer. With that in mind, I can only imagine what else she has in store for us.

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Book Review

A Love That Is Anything but Twisted

HuntedHunted by Meagan Spooner

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Warning: Minor Spoilers Ahead

There’s no such thing as living happily ever after—there’s only living. We make the choice to do it happily.

—Meagan Spooner

This was my third buddy read with my admirable friend, Bentley (Book Bastion). I’m still not over the live action film of Beauty and the Beast, so this book was a pleasure to read.

Essentially, Hunted is a super Feminist retelling of BatB. Set in the rich and mythical world of Russia, this book is also reminiscent of Katherine Arden’s The Bear and the Nightingale. Most of the plot stays loyal to Disney’s BatB, but Meagan Spooner also made some changes in order to make her story one of the best fairy tale retellings YA has to offer.

For me, the best feature of this book was its lack of instalove. Enraged by the death of her father, Yeva was determined to exact vengeance on the Beast. Consequently, nearly 50% of the book was about Yeva honing her archery skills and plotting to kill the Beast. I admit that this made the plot relatively slow-paced, but it was for the best because Yeva and the Beast’s relationship felt more authentic.

To my surprise, Meagan Spooner also explored Stokholm Syndrome in her novel. Since Yeva was temporarily a prisoner in the Beast’s castle, her sisters were bewildered to discover that she developed romantic feelings for him. However, Yeva clearly stated that her reasons for falling in love were anything but twisted. It is also important to note that Yeva realized her affection for the Beast after she plunged a knife into his throat. In light of her very active agency, it would be ridiculous to describe Yeva as a victim of Stokholm Syndrome.

I enjoyed Yeva’s character arc, but the Beast was actually my favorite character because of his intriguing complexity. He always referred to himself as “we” (because of his dual nature as man and beast), he was very secretive, and he was adorably bookish like Yeva. Furthermore, I savored the poetic voice of his chapters, which unfortunately were only 2 to 3 pages long.

In addition to Yeva and the Beast, Hunted also featured a memorable cast of side characters. Among them, Solmir was the one who piqued my interest the most. He was basically a new version of BatB’s Gaston, so I immediately expected him to be a charming villain. Surprisingly, I found myself shipping him with Yeva because of his generous and respectful attitude. Overall, I liked him because he had a talent of defying my negative expectations.

With all that said, I genuinely enjoyed Hunted. The only weakness I found was its relatively slow pacing; some of the chapters made me sleepy because they were uneventful. Nevertheless, I am glad to have read it because it is unquestionably an outstanding retelling of Beauty and the Beast. I will never forget its confusing yet utterly beautiful ending.

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