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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Book Review

A Moment of Blue Reflection

Words in Deep BlueWords in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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

Henry, if the love of your life is kissing a moron, it’s probably time to reassess whether or not she’s the love of your life.

—Rachel

As someone who devours literature on a daily basis, I always enjoy reading books that feature similarly bookish people. My reading experience becomes more meaningful and memorable whenever I am able to fully connect with characters, as fictional as they are.

Following this train of thought, Words in Deep Blue is a perfect summer read for us lovers of the written word. It follows two booknerds, Rachel and Henry, who live in this rabbit-and-kangaroo-infested place called Australia (not America, for a change). Rachel and Henry have been best friends since they were children, and Rachel eventually decides to confess her feelings by leaving a love letter in his favorite book. Unfortunately, certain circumstances prevent Henry from reading it and cause Rachel to move to another city. Years later, Rachel and Henry work together in his family’s bookshop, but everything between them has changed for the worse. You can probably guess what happens next.

Unsurprisingly, Words in Deep Blue was character-driven. Since I’ve already read tons of contemporary books, I could see the ending from a mile away. Plus, some of the chapters were uneventful although they shed much light on Rachel and Henry’s personalities. Although the plot was indeed predictable, I really enjoyed how this book tackled relevant themes such as grief, forgiveness, and true love. This wonderful aspect of the book more than compensated for its lack of spontaneity.

Among all of the characters, Rachel was the one who touched my heart. I was so sad for her loss, and I understood the numbness or emptiness she felt because of her brother’s death (this is not a spoiler). If I lost either of my brothers, I wouldn’t know what to do with myself besides moping and looking up. Honestly, familial loss in books never fails to tug at my heartstrings.

Reading Cal’s letters to his crush was both enjoyable and saddening. He was a devoted bookworm like the other characters, and he could have lived such a fruitful life if he hadn’t drowned in the stupid ocean (this only deepened my hatred for swimming). In other words, it was painful to think about the happy ending that he could’ve had. Wishful thinking can be so pleasurable, but it sucks when you realize that it’s futile. Cal’s death was already established from the very beginning. Nevertheless, I couldn’t help but stubbornly wish for a shocking plot twist.

Henry was actually my least favorite character. I liked his fondness for poetry and other philosophical literature, but I wasn’t a fan of how he pined for a girl who obviously “loved” him only when it was convenient. I cringed every time he tried to convince Amy to come back to him because it made him look so pathetic, if not hopelessly blinded by puppy love. His redeeming qualities were his sensitivity and optimism. If it weren’t for him, Rachel would have spent a longer time in the cage of depression. Basically, Henry was the type of person who always had a shoulder to cry on.

The side characters in this book were surprisingly well-developed. I didn’t feel that they were just created to function as plot devices. For example, George and Martin had their own unique personalities, and the letters they sent to each other increased the depth and humor of the story. This made me appreciate the book more because it showed how the author was very intentional in her writing.

After all the paragraphs I’ve written in this review, the bottom line is that Words in Deep Blue is a worthy addition to your TBR shelf, especially if you love contemporary novels that are character-driven and emotionally heavy. It doesn’t have the most unique plot, but the book as a whole is something to reflect on.

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Book Review

Let Them Eat Porridge

A Shadow Bright and Burning (Kingdom on Fire, #1)A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I buddy read this book with the bookish king, Solomon, and the empowered fangirls, Cait and Ambs.

I am quite disappointed in myself for delaying this review for one month. I have been in a “reviewing slump” lately, and I want to get out of it as soon as possible. It’s a good thing I still remember the important events that happened in this book. I really enjoyed reading it with my friends, but the book itself did not entirely please me.

A Shadow Bright and Burning is a new take on a beloved (or infamous) trope in YA: the Chosen One. The heroine, Henrietta Howell, is believed to be one who will save England from seven powerful monsters called the Ancients. When she discovers the falsity of her status, she struggles to keep her secret hidden in order to protect herself, as well as her best friend, Rook. Filled with political, magical, and romantic drama, this novel is fun to read, especially if you love fantasy.

This book struck me as fascinating particularly because it enforced a dichotomy between magicians and sorcerers. The former were ostracized tricksters who belonged to the lower classes, while the latter were highly-esteemed masters of the elements who were tasked to eliminate the Ancients. Magicians and sorcerers are generally seen as one and the same in other narratives, so it was intriguing how the author challenged the status quo. 🙂

Furthermore, I appreciated the author’s implementation of diversity. Honestly, I was surprised that Henrietta was a person of color. Whether or not we care to admit it, YA fantasy predominantly revolves around Caucasian protagonists (and colored antagonists). Thus, I liked this book because it is a testament that change is happening in our bookish community. However, I must admit that Henrietta’s skin tone was sometimes subtly made fun of. If the author merely wanted to reflect racism in Victorian England, I am willing to recant this criticism. ^^

Caitlin, Ambs, Solly, and I were not fans of the romance in this book. We already had a hard time memorizing the names of those six or seven boys, so we became more frustrated when Henrietta started to harbor feelings for more than one of them. In anime terms, Henrietta had her own reverse harem. I myself did not have an OTP to ship because she had no real chemistry with any of the love interests. 😦

Perhaps the most controversial thing in this book is Henrietta’s magic staff/wand, Porridge. Yes. She named it FREAKIN’ PORRIDGE. She did it to acknowledge her humble heritage, but my friends and I hated the name nonetheless. The action scenes in the book never failed to become corny and cringe-worthy whenever Henrietta spoke to her infamous weapon. I fervently wish that she would change its name in the sequel. :3

In the end, I enjoyed this book mostly because I read it with my friends. Sharing my thoughts and feelings definitely gave me a better reading experience. Still, the book itself is worth your time because it has strengths in terms of plot and diversity. I’m curious enough to continue the series, so I really hope that book two is much better.

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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

Hi again, Sarah Dessen!

Once and for AllOnce and for All by Sarah Dessen

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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

I’d had no idea I might be where I was now, on the edge of something with the last person I’d ever expect. —Louna

Once and for All was my second encounter with Sarah Dessen, who’s known as the queen of YA contemporary. Now, I already understand why many people love her books so much. Much like Saint Anything, this book is sweet, light, and pleasantly insightful. I really enjoyed it because it gave me epiphanies about the essence of love, family, and friendship.

Like most of the YA community, I was intrigued by the premise of this book. Louna, the only daughter of a successful wedding planner, harbors a cynical attitude towards true love. For reasons temporarily unknown to readers, she doesn’t believe that it lasts forever. Ambrose, a superficially typical playboy, hopes that he can break down her walls. You might already assume that Louna and Ambrose are endgame. However, there are plot points in this novel that will make you think otherwise. You have been warned. ^^

This book actually caught me off guard because it hit me in the feels so many times. Half of the novel is dedicated to recounting the events that made Louna so reserved and cynical. The said events made my stomach churn with a deep feeling of sympathy. These flashbacks were saddening, but I loved them nonetheless because they really helped me connect with Louna.

I also liked how this book explores the world of wedding planning, which is apparently both fun and stressful. Come to think of it, this book is quite satirical, in a sense that it cleverly depicts how people can be so obsessed with having a perfect and ostentatious wedding, as if it would ensure the success of their marriage. Even in real life, there are couples who spend so much money on wedding planning, only to end up divorced, annulled, or separated after a few weeks, months, or years. Such a high price to pay for a ceremony that affirms a potentially shallow relationship. 😦 Told ya this book is insightful! 😀

Ironically, the last strength of this book is its lack of romance. Essentially, Once and for All has some cheesy scenes, but it is more focused on character development. especially Louna’s. It was inspiring to witness her embrace a new outlook on life and love.

Honestly, the only thing I didn’t like about this book was the rather rushed ending. Louna hurt the feelings of a certain character, and she got away with it so easily. I didn’t want her to suffer, exactly, but I expected that she would experience a more serious consequence.

Overall, I can objectively say that Once and for All is not your typical YA contemporary book. I was pleased by its touching story, as well as its flawed yet well-developed characters. Personally, I will always remember this book because it made me reflect upon society’s misconceptions about weddings/marriage.

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Author Interview

Q & A with Rosalyn Eves

Last month, I had the pleasure of reading Blood Rose Rebellion by Rosalyn Eves. It turned out to be one of the most refreshing and enlightening novels I have read this year. If you want to know more about this debut novel, feel free to check out my review. BRB has been on sale since March 28, and I hope that this interview will encourage you to read it. It’s never too late to join this book’s growing fan base! ❤

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1. What do roses signify in your book? Are you particularly attached to them?

“I’ve always loved roses–I blame the fact that my favorite fairy tales as a kid all featured roses prominently (the rose hedge that grew up around Sleeping Beauty’s castle, the roses in Robin McKinley’s Beauty). In my head, roses are connected with folklore and magic. In the book itself, roses serve minor roles–Anna’s older sister Catherine has chosen a rose as her soul sign (an illusion she casts to signify her magic), and roses play a small role in a pivotal scene at the climax of the book. The roses on the cover are a little more significant. Not only do they nod to the title, but my designer choose them as a symbol of feminine strength–the fact that Anna is a strong character while also being a fairly typical Victorian teenager.”

2. What was your inspiration for the intricate magic system in Blood Rose Rebellion

“I’m not sure that I had a specific inspiration, but I really love the magic system in Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse (and also knew I didn’t want to duplicate that!). I spent a lot of time brainstorming possible divisions of magic with my husband and we came up with four and then spent a couple hours with an English-Latin dictionary looking for possible names (magic that manipulates living things–Animanti; magic that manipulates thoughts and dreams–Coremancer; magic that controls elements–Elementalist, formerly Alchemist; and magic that influences forces–Lucifera).”

3. If you were a character in Blood Rose Rebellion, what kind of Luminate would you be (and why)?

“I’d probably be Elementalist simply because that is the most common type–but I’d secretly want to be Lucifera, as they are often the most powerful. If readers are interested in finding out what order they’d belong to, I have a quick quiz on my website: http://www.rosalyneves.com/extras/.”

4. YA Dystopian novels have been relatively low-key nowadays. With that in mind, what made you decide to write one, and what did you do to make your novel stand out?

“This is an interesting question, as I haven’t really thought of my story as dystopian (in my mind, they’re usually present day or futuristic), but I can see how the controlling government in Anna’s world could be seen that way. I’m always interested in the ways that people navigate oppressive governments, how they decide to speak and when to stay silent, and a lot of those themes were playing through my mind as I wrote. As far as standing out, I think the setting in Eastern Europe (specifically, Hungary) with the links to Hungarian folklore is something readers haven’t seen very often.”

5. Blood Rose Rebellion explores the struggle between the upper and lower classes. How do you think can we solve this problem in real life?

“Wow, that’s the million dollar question, isn’t it? I think we see lots of friction around class and socioeconomic divides in today’s world–and I think if the solution was easy someone would have figured it out already. Personally, I think it’s important for there to be social programs in place to help people who are most vulnerable, but I also think that we have to work as individuals to expand our own empathy. Outside of interacting with people who belong to different classes and social groups, I think reading is one of the best ways to do this.”

6. Blood Rose Rebellion is also a very educational novel in light of its historical content. Gleaning upon this, what do you think is the modern significance or relevance of the Austrian-Hungarian War?

“Another great question! One of the parallels that seems striking in light of recent world events is the rise of nationalism in 19th century Europe. While the nationalistic fervor brought on lots of useful reforms (in Hungary, for instance, Latin, not Hungarian, was the language of government until well into the 19th century, and the rise in nationalism encouraged a flowering of Hungarian literature), it also created a lot of tension that (temporarily) fractured the Austria-Hungarian empire and revolutions in lots of surrounding countries. I find it incredibly ironic that even as Hungarian patriots fought for recognition and independence from Austria, they didn’t recognize similar claims within their own borders from Croatians and Romanians living there. I think a certain degree of patriotism is natural, but when it veers into nationalism it can be dangerous as it leads us to ignore voices outside that particular nationality.”

7. If you were given the chance to live in a book, which book would you choose (and why)?
“This is probably not the most original answer, but I would love to live in JK Rowling’s world–I want to go to school at Hogwarts and try all kinds of sweets at Hogsmeade–and while this world was dangerous under Voldemort’s tenure, it seems less likely to kill me than some of my other favorite fictional worlds! (Like the Grishaverse or Middle Earth).”

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About the author:

Rosalyn Eves grew up in the Rocky Mountains, dividing her time between reading books and bossing her siblings into performing her dramatic scripts. As an adult, the telling and reading of stories is still one of her favorite things to do. When she’s not reading or writing, she enjoys spending time with her chemistry professor husband and three children, watching British period pieces, or hiking through the splendid landscape of southern Utah, where she lives. She dislikes housework on principle.

She has a PhD in English from Penn State, which means she also endeavors to inspire college students with a love for the English language. Sometimes it even works.

Visit Rosalyn’s website

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Book Review

Roses, Revolutions, and Royal Problems

Blood Rose Rebellion (Blood Rose Rebellion, #1)Blood Rose Rebellion by Rosalyn Eves

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Thank you, Penguin Random House, for sending me an ARC of this book (all the way from New York) in exchange for an honest review.

I was different. I could choose to see it as a gift. I could embrace my own power. I could change the world. —Anna

I’ve noticed that some readers have been marking this book as DNF, so it’s the perfect time for me to voice my thoughts and opinions on this fantastic start to a trilogy. I hope that my review will persuade you not to expect the worst from this book. Nevertheless, I promise to be objective as I possibly can.

Essentially, Blood Rose Rebellion is about Anna Arden, who is a pariah among the Luminates (the magical elite). Labeled as a Barren in light of her incapability to perform even the simplest of spells, she is hated more for her unique ability to shatter or dispel all kinds of magic. Anna sees her ability as a curse, especially when it results in her exile to Hungary, a country dominated by the Austrian Luminates. There, as Anna desperately searches for a way to overcome her curse, she is thrust into a world teetering on the edge of a revolution.

From a bird’s eye view, Blood Rose Rebellion is similar to most dystopian novels in that it features a society plagued by the struggle between the upper and lower classes. As expected, the rich possess supernatural/magical abilities which they use to subtly oppress the poor. However, this book is refreshing because the story is entirely told from the perspective of someone belonging to the upper class.

With that in mind, I enjoyed this book mainly because it gave me the rare opportunity to see the upper class in a different light. Although the antagonists in the novel were still from the upper class, I was glad to encounter a dystopian work that did not typically portray the bourgeoisie as necessarily evil. Kudos to benevolent royals! xD

I also found this book delightful because of the beautiful complexity of its magic system. In Blood Rose Rebellion, there are four orders of Luminates or spell casters, and each of them has an intriguing set of abilities, such as animal persuasion, truth spells, weather magic, and temporal (time) manipulation. Furthermore, each order’s magic is given and governed by a mysterious and ethereal entity known as the Binding. As an avid fan of RPG games like Final Fantasy, I thankfully had no trouble comprehending (and thereby appreciating) the mechanics of this world.

The last thing I liked about this book was its historical content. As stated in the Author’s Note, Blood Rose Rebellion is actually a loose retelling of the Austrian-Hungarian War, which lasted from 1477 to 1478. Before I read this novel, I did not know anything about Austria. As for Hungary, all I knew was its capital, Budapest. Hahaha. Considering my pitiful ignorance, reading this book was definitely a very enlightening experience. It reminded me of the time I read The Bear and the Nightingale, which became my very own literary primer on Russian culture.

Ultimately, the only problem I had with this book was Anna. I sympathized with her desire for familial and social acceptance, but I particularly disliked her rebellious streak. I honestly cannot remember a time when she willingly obeyed her authorities. Her impulsiveness was also irksome because it often put her loved ones in danger. I am generally not fond of selfish characters, so I couldn’t help but feel detached towards Anna.

To sum up my thoughts and feels, Blood Rose Rebellion is worth your time. I strongly encourage you to give it a shot, especially if you are fond of history, fantasy, and political intrigue. I really enjoyed its refreshing, stimulating, and educational content, so I am more than happy to give it 4 stars.

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