First Post of 2018…(& Since A Year Ago LOL)

I admit, I’ve been SUPER negligent about blogging and 2017 has been a tumultuous year filled with heavy workload. At the time of my last review, I was student teaching and in a a perpetual state of anxiety. It was not good. My daily commute to the school I was teaching at took 45 minutes and I would spend the entirety of the drive filled with dread and anxiety over what I had to do. To be quite honest, I never really got over those feelings but they definitely lessened and morphed into slight nervousness as I gained confidence in my abilities. Despite these morning jitters, I made some wonderful memories student teaching and also gained powerful learning experiences within the classroom.

In the meantime, I returned to this blog not for the sake of book blogging because frankly, I longer can no longer afford the time and commitment to reading and reviewing books at the pace I used to. Instead, I wish to transition this blog into more personal territories. That said, I will still use this space to voice my thoughts on books I’ve read but since I have not really read anything recently, (unless you count the pedagogical articles that I read for my education courses) those book review posts will be scarce. I hope to expand my writing to my other interests and hobbies. I have started to read more manga and also watched a few anime shows during my breaks. I even surprise myself sometimes with the lengths I’m willing to go just to procrastinate. So I’ve fallen down the anime/manga rabbit hole. And not to mention that rabbit hole called BTS. 2017, it’s been a helluva year.

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Review: A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab

A Conjuring of Light (Shades of Magic, #3)A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Wow, the greatest character in this series has got to be Holland. I have always liked his character since book 1 despite all those nefarious deeds he committed. He’s just got something deeply flawed but endearing about him, and truly, I’m so happy that Schwab finally gave him the screentime and story that he deserved. What happened to him still leaves a somewhat bittersweet taste in my mouth, but I know it’s necessary to show how he became who he is. For some reason, I’m drawn to broken, fragile people and I really appreciate that Schwab obviously took great care in crafting him. He’s truly the MVP in this book and he was the most memorable character for me.

Now, about the story, I think there were places when the plot obviously lagged. There was a lot of rising action and it took much longer than I expected for it to finally culminate. However, the pacing picked up, and it was very quick and heart-pounding. The author really made those frenetic action scenes worth savoring because when fights happened, they were very good. There was a lot of foreshadowing and I think it worked nicely as subplots. Most readers may foresee these certain events but it’s really more about the unfolding of events rather than the surprise element of plot twists. The plot got very dark, of course, but the love lines in the book really elevated the book’s sweet side and bring a respite from the macabre. Some things worked out better and easier than I would have thought and most of the time, I didn’t feel as connected with secondary characters. I felt much more angst when something minor happens to the main characters compared to something major to these secondary characters. While understandable, I think that will be something Schwab will improve in ample time as she hones her writing craft. Already, I see a great improvement in her writing style from her first adult novel Vicious. In the end, I am satisfied with the ending of this wonderful trilogy. I wish there was more but the way it ended is fitting and does justice to all the characters. I would love to hear more about Holland and White London but I think that those stories are closed for now. However, there’s definitely a set-up for more adventures if Schwab truly wishes to revisit these beloved characters, so we’ll see!

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Review: The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas by Ursula K. Le Guin

The Ones Who Walk Away from OmelasThe Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas by Ursula K. Le Guin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ll say it. I read it because my favorite music group (BTS) released a music video referencing this book. (Everyone, go watch this profound, aesthetic MV: BTS ‘봄날 (Spring Day)’) To be honest, I just love it when art, music, and literature make cross-overs because it is so fun to explore the connections made between them. This story was fairly short but difficult for me to read because the idea of happiness in Omelas is so genuine when I considered that one piece of misery left in the midst. I think the theme has evaded many readers but to me, the notion that the people of Omelas derive happiness from the one root of sadness is actually possible. Without awareness of someone’s pain and suffering, we ourselves cannot seek happiness because it is only through the existence of misery that we can truly understand what happiness is. This way, citizens of Omelas choose to use this misery as a reason to be kind and live happy lives. Essentially, this is a story about the necessity of evil in order to bring about immense good. I personally cannot reconcile this despite knowing it, and that is why I understand fully why Guin writes about those who walk away from Omelas. Ultimately, it does not matter where they walk towards but only that they walk away from Omelas.

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ARC Review: Blood Rose Rebellion by Rosalyn Eves

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

My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

Expected Release Date: March 28, 2017

Oh my goodness I can’t believe I got sucked in by the cover. Like would you just look at that gorgeous cover?? Blood Rose Rebellions was not profoundly bad but it also was not as good as I wanted it to be because I kept expecting something exceptional to happen. The blurb raised my hopes up (maybe too high) with talks of Hungarian history, spell breaking, and a fat lot of rebellions. Of course it misled me. To be honest, the title was not even remotely mentioned within the book and I have NO IDEA what the analogy of the blood rose has to do with the whole story. That should have been a red flag for me from the start.

Indeed, the book title irritated me but as the trooper that I am, that did not lower my rating. So why only 2.5 stars? The plot and characters. I can’t say that I connected with Anna and although it is a first-person narration, the feelings are rather shallow. It’s not that I can’t stand her, but instead, I was apathetic. Moreover, the writing is not the best especially since there are barely any action scenes. Which would not mattered if things happened. It took me much longer than expected to complete this book although I finished it in one sitting (I had a snow day today by the way). The plot has a whole lot of nothing happening; the entire length of this book could’ve been shortened so much. I felt that many scenes were useless and there were some supposedly “iconic” scenes that could’ve been better executed if crafted with more care. There were a few moments where Anna has creepy encounters but they’re all written with lackluster. I did not feel invested in the story until 80% into the book and by that time, everything else that came before made it anticlimactic.

The historical element of the story is its strongest suit and I really enjoyed learning about Hungary. I confess that I am quite ignorant of European history so I was really excited to learn more about Budapest during 1848. One of my favorite movies is The Grand Budapest Hotel so a couple stills from the movie cropped up while I was reading. Sad to say, I would still prefer watching the movie over reading Blood Rose Rebellion. I do have to say though, the book had more depth and fantasy than I initially assumed; the rich blend of Hungarian folklore could’ve been explained more to the readers. Instead of throwing out these random names of Hungarian legends, I would like more background about them. There was a twist that I did not see coming near the climax but the ending seemed to slump afterwards. I am almost certain there is no sequel since there was such a finality to the end but I did not feel resolved to it. Overall, the book was underwhelming, and the only character I liked was Mátyás and which was only due to a deed he committed. By all means, readers interested in historical fantasy genre should add this to their starter pack, but those looking for intricate plotting and complex writing may be disappointed. I’m going to shelve this under “could have been better” because I really do enjoy the premise but the execution fell flat.

I’d like to thank Netgalley and the publisher for providing me a copy in exchange for an honest review.

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ARC Review: A List of Cages by Robin Roe

A List of CagesA List of Cages by Robin Roe

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Don’t let the blurb mislead you.
It makes it sound like the main character is Adam, and he is, but Julian is also the main character. The book follows two points of views but it starts out with Julian’s voice in the first chapter. His personality and voice was easily distinguishable because it is Adam’s foil. They are polar opposites in dispositions, mannerisms, and thought processes. It was at first distracting but I nevertheless powered through because I wanted to see how Julian’s story would unfold. It was quite devastating, to be honest. Events in his life stunted his character development severely and I empathized with his feelings of insecurity, shyness, and fears. So when Adam was introduced, his optimism and all the things that were going well in his life felt like a slap to my face. It was almost like the author was saying ‘How could someone be suffering but elsewhere, others are living carefree lives?’ This made me dislike Adam’s group of friends because they felt contrived solely to represent Adam’s popularity and contentment; was Adam was only friends with them out of convenience? It did not help that the author did not fully flesh out his friend group or provide more insight about their personalities. Aside from Emerald and Charlie, it seemed they were just there because it added numbers to his friends list. Side note: Charlie is practically the MVP of this book, I’m kind of proud but I wish there was more background information about him. He played a pivotal role and I wished he had more screen time since he’s actually important.

“I used to think struggle was what aged you, but if that were the case, Julian should’ve been a hundred years old. Now I wonder if the opposite if true. Maybe instead of accelerating your age, pain won’t let you grow.”

Additionally, this book should come with a trigger warning just in case because I cried a lot. The tears did not come until the last quarter of the book. I was eating dinner while reading and tears were streaming down as I crammed food into my mouth. I SWEAR I’M NOT AN EMOTIONAL EATER. But wow, things escalated quickly and I liked that it was not all fully resolved by the end. The story Roe wants to tell is one that cannot be tied together neatly with a bow. In a way, the story ends with a marked change within Adam and Julian; this is a good place to leave off because they’re still hurt and broken, but they now have each other to lean on and heal together. Although the genre indicates many tragic incidents, this is ultimately a story about courage, support, and friendship.

I would like to thank NetGalley for providing me a copy of this book for my honest opinion.

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ARC Review: Gilded Cage by Vic James

Gilded Cage (Dark Gifts, #1)Gilded Cage by Vic James

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I don’t know where to begin as I feel bewildered and conflicted about the ending.
The only genres tagged for this book right now is ‘fantasy’ and ‘young adult’ but it is more complex than that. The story takes places in an alternate world where there are people who are Skilled (aka they have magic powers) and those that are unskilled who are all forced to do slavedays for 10 years of their lives. The premise is quite flimsy but it does raise a lot of interest because it is a difficult one to execute.
The plot meandered and took a while to pick up and I had to stop reading after events at the end of Chapter 3. Although I am used to reading gritty, dark themes, the scene in Chapter 3 was seared in my mind and I was slightly traumatized by what I read. Personally, this book toes the lines of the young adult genre and I would not recommend it to adolescent readers. I wouldn’t necessary place a trigger warning on it but there are mature themes dealt with throughout the book.

What I Liked:
-The descriptive writing and subtle humor
-Different point of views
-They talked about C-pop
-There were different settings
-Many plot twists
-Unique characterizations
-Multiple subplots

The first half of the book was boring for me and it spent a lot of time on developing the world and introducing characters. But if you can get past all of the trimmings and enter the latter half of the book, it picks up the pace and starts fleshing out the plot. The book’s biggest strength is the complexity of each character and their motives that drive their actions. The book’s biggest weaknesses is also the reader’s lack of connection with the characters. I don’t particularly care for the romance subplot, and I was somewhat apathetic to any character plights. Nevertheless, the wide cast of characters were fascinating, and I would still like to read about them even though I do not particularly like them. I still cannot pinpoint Silyen’s motives so he was the most interesting for me to read about. The villains are not clear-cut and neither are the heroes even though there is a central conflict to fight for. As the book ends on a disastrous note for many characters, I will be looking forward to the sequel. I was ultimately captivated by this dark, twisted story, and I really like it when the ending is left open-ended with many things gone wrong.

I received an ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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2016 in Review: List of Favorites

Now that 2016 has come to an end, I would like to sum up the books that I have read this year. This year was by far the most stressful and busiest which meant my book list was at an all-time low. I only read 25 books this year…I’M CRI. 2016 was still enjoyable so I will list some of my favorite things that happened or I encountered this year.
But academically speaking, only my bookworm life suffered and my social life and GPA flourished. Sure, I would love to have put aside more time for reading rather than obsessing over BTS or memes (LOL) but 2016 has passed with minimal regrets.
As I’m looking over my list, it is quite ironic that I started the year with reading a manga and I also ended with a manga. Back in high school, I used to be really into anime and manga but I quit due to my lack of free time. This year, I started watching anime and reading manga on my free time and it brought back so much nostalgia. Now, I am on the lookout for a good series to watch or start reading!  


Favorite Last Book in Series: The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater
Although I finished the book with a bittersweet taste in my mouth, I was fully satisfied with the ending. I never thought that I would come to love the series as much as I did because I was so mehh about the first book (Raven Boys) and I did not like Blue’s personality.
Most Surprising Favorite Book: Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo
I didn’t know that I would come to love this book so much although I had thoroughly anticipated reading it. All the elements in the book somehow hit the right spots and this book automatically clicked with me. I have not read Bardugo’s Grisha trilogy so I was completely blown away by her brilliant writing and inventiveness.
Favorite Meme: Arthur Memes
ARTHUR IS MY SPIRIT ANIMAL. Enough said.
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Favorite Trend/Challenge: Bottle Flip
Okay, this year has been ridiculous from the Running Man challenge to the Mannequin. I It’s been a year filled with dabbing, Juju-ing on that Beat, You Name It. Although the Mannequin challenge far outstrips the others in terms of ingenuity and popularity, I have taken a liking to the Bottle Flip challenge because there’s something so satisfying about it. Majority of the people who attempt the other listed trends tend to fail and do not do it justice. I recall myself hysterically laughing at a snapchat story thread of a friend flipping all sorts of bottles found in the fridge onto the kitchen counter. Milk, orange juice, pancake syrup, water bottles. But I’m also low-key happy that this trend is over. 2017, I’m looking forward to the next trend!
Favorite Anime: Haikyu!
Let me say this first. I DON’T EVEN LIKE SPORTS. This is a show about volleyball but I was hooked within the first few episodes. I ended up binge-watching all the seasons that were out and went on to read the manga. I stayed for the compelling plotline, intense scenes, and amazing character developments and interactions. Even for people who have never watched anime, this is well worth the time investment because it encompasses all the goodness that the world of anime offers and so much more.
Favorite Movie: Kubo and the Two Strings
I’m just an emotional wreck at the end and I am amazed by the production and plot for an animated movie.

Year in Books

Food Wars!, Vol. 1 by Yuto TsukudaThe Book Whisperer by Donalyn MillerStars Above by Marissa Meyer
Morning Star by Pierce BrownA Gathering of Shadows by V.E. SchwabCaptive Prince by C.S. Pacat
Captive Prince by C.S. PacatKings Rising by C.S. PacatSimon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue ParkDreams of Distant Shores by Patricia A. McKillipAnd I Darken by Kiersten White
The Winner's Kiss by Marie RutkoskiIn My Hands by Irene Gut OpdykeThe Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi
A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. MaasThe Raven King by Maggie StiefvaterThe Rose & the Dagger by Renee Ahdieh
Demian. Die Geschichte von Emil Sinclairs Jugend by Hermann HesseThe Sandman, Vol. 1 by Neil GaimanCrooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo
Gilded Cage by Vic  JamesA List of Cages by Robin RoeThe Grift of the Magi by Ally Carterハイキュー!! 1 [High Kyuu!! 1] by Haruichi Furudate

New Year’s Resolutions:

  1.  Visit Japan and China this summer!
  2. Read 30 books this year.
  3. Have a 4.0 spring semester.
  4. Learn how to adequately cook economically.
  5. Average at least 6-7 hours of sleep daily.
  6. Start substitute teaching.

Happy New Year!!!!

Retellings of Beauty and the Beast

IT’S FINALLY OUT. I’ve been waiting for the trailer ever since the first movie teaser was released! Beauty and the Beast is by far my all-time favorite fairy tale and I am ecstatic that it is finally getting a live action film. I also want to gush about all the recent book retellings of BatB so I will be listing several of my favorites below the trailer.


They are listed from my least to most favorite retellings:

7. Stolen Songbird by Danielle L Jensen (Review here)

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6. Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

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5. Beauty by Robin McKinley

4. East by Edith Pattou

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3. Heart’s Blood by Juliet Marillier

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2. A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

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1. Uprooted by Naomi Novik (Check out my review here)

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Review: Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardguo

I’m finally back (for now lol)!!! And this time, with a review!! I finally found time to read and this was one of my most anticipated sequels for this year and let me tell, IT DID NOT DISAPPOINT. **No spoilers**


Crooked Kingdom (Six of Crows, #2)Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Crooked Kingdom was everything that I did not know that I wanted. Those subtle hints in the first book where readers shipped some people together…they have sailed. Bardugo knows how to pack a tense, action-filled adventure and I loved how the plot was almost like a mystery where small hints are dropped throughout the story and then a full-blown reveal occurs near the end. Typical, I know, but it is quite alluring and ingenious when it is done right. I’m so enamored by the writing because it has the right amount of detail, wit, and complexity. Half of the battle I have with reading is whether I enjoy the writing style.

And the characters. The book is told from different perspectives and it was easy to distinguish each voice as each character is so unique. We get a lot more background information and there were a few flashbacks that helped me understand the context of the current situation. They felt seamlessly written into the plot and I really enjoyed getting to know each character. I was frequently reminded that the cast were predominantly teenagers and it sort of changed my view on them. They were cynical but not to the point that it was unrealistic. They didn’t act like adults even if they sometimes planned like one. This made them much more tangible to me as genuine people. The antihero theme is now cropping up everywhere in literature and I really liked how the book portrayed its cast. There were delineations of exactly who the bad guys were but the good guys weren’t exactly cookie-cutter perfect. Kaz makes a lot of difficult choices and tries to change for the better, but his scars run deep and he lets no one close. I would love to have a spin-off about Kaz’s future because he has so much potential impact that’s tied with Ketterdam’s fate.

The story line was flawlessly intertwined with subplots and small snippets of anecdotes scattered throughout. The world-building has been impeccable from the start so there was an obvious shift in focus onto character development and Ketterdam. I would categorize the book into scenes of confrontations, conning, and scheming. Even on the downtime when plans were coming into play, I was heavily invested and engrossed by the interactions. The plans were very meticulous that I felt muddled sometimes because I would lose track of which roles each character would take. However, that is something an author must sacrifice in order to accommodate a wide range of characters. Honestly, this book would be so fun to read again just to watch how events unfold.

Shout out to Henry Holt for the pre-order gift! Slice and dicee

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The Return of Kakistocracy: The Results of Last Night

 

This morning, I woke up in a country ruled by kakistocracy. Yesterday, we were a democratic republic and we exercised that right by voting for our presidential candidates. We, the people, had the power to vote and I am so disappointed to say that this will probably go down as one of the poorest decisions the U.S. citizens have ever made. The extent of the damage we will incur doesn’t just stop at Donald Trump. In case you forget, Mike Pence will be elected into office too. This isn’t just limited to our nation. This affects the world. Look at how South Korea’s stock market just crashed in light of last night’s events. People have been trying to justify their support for Trump but in the end, I just pity them for their lack of information, ignorance, and blindness. Just because he promises to ‘make America great again’ doesn’t mean he will go through with it. However, we already have proof of his bigotry, racism, sexism, and classism. He is corrupt in the truest sense of the word and yet people continue to praise him higher than Clinton. Clinton has her own pitfalls but they are not powered by hate. We see proof of the aforementioned aggressions and white privilege, and yet we continue to allow it to fester. Today, hate prevailed. Where underlying tensions and oppressions were subtle to say the least, they are now fully exposed. We, America, are truly a divided country.

I truly hope those who voted for Trump understand the full ramifications upon the lives of people of different backgrounds, ethnicities, and orientations. I can only speak this as a second-generation Chinese-American female millennial and future educator, someone who will be deeply impacted by his values and future actions. My parents and grandparents did not immigrate here with the expectation of institutionalized hate crimes, racism, sexism, and bigotry hurled at them. We thought this country was progressive. We thought we changed but instead, we traveled back in time. This is the result but I ardently hope this will encourage political discussions with peers, families, and friends because it is relevant. The history we learn in class is necessary, and it is all the more reason for civics to be deeply integrated into the educational curriculum. For the next 4 years and on, please educate each other and stay informed, so that rather than a precedent, this election will serve as a cautionary tale for young generations as they emerge into their own respective beings.

 

Unexpected Hiatus

Hello everyone!!

So I have been neglecting the blog ever since the end of finals in May (AGH IT’S ALREADY NOVEMBER) and it doesn’t seem like I will return anytime soon. I can’t believe it has been half a year since my last entry! I’ll be lurking around but this semester is super hectic as I am taking four STEM courses. In addition, leading a life group (some people call it a bible study group), heavy involvement with the dance team, cultural club, tutoring, and part-time job has all but exhausted me. This semester has marked new changes in my life as I read less and less, and spent more time glued to my textbooks. In short, education has truly taken over my life and it is quite overwhelming to say the least.On a side note, the biology and math courses are different from the typical pedagogy classes I took in previous semesters, but they are highly engaging and interesting. Biology presents a different sort of challenge as I discover how to apply concepts, write lab reports, and create examples to supplement graphs and equations. The enjoyment of learning and participating in these classes has surprisingly reassured me that I am in the right major. For those who do not know, I am first and foremost an elementary educator major, and I recently picked a specialization in biology for my second major in STEM. The course workload is difficult but I enjoy how profound and complex life systems can be. The enjoyment of learning itself is such a blessing which almost invalidates the grade I receive for it.

I hope to return to reading and writing routinely but chances are slim for now. Since I am so preoccupied with my academic studies, I will attempt to pen anecdotes and ruminations about my current life in lieu of the book reviews. To be honest, I don’t remember the last time I actually sat down and journalled. I have a strong feeling that I will most likely ‘word vomit’ and say whatever comes into my mind. Already, I feel like this post is a train wreck…I admit, I am so out of practice that my writing skills has downgraded to the level of a high schooler. Which is all the more reason that I should start writing again!

P.S. Here, have a picture of me by the lake! (I am the one on the left.)

Review: The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi

The Star-Touched QueenThe Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Star-Touched Queen is heavily infused with Indian mythology and purple prose. The lyrical metaphors and lush descriptions really makes this book stand out from the plethora of books that are released this year. It is definitely a book to savor and it is not made to rush through as many would with the  typical straightforward writing in YA.

I admit the premise intrigued me and I’ve always been interested in the Persephone and Hades mythology. There’s some sort of allure that defines that myth and it’s interesting how it plays out although it does technically center around Stockholm Syndrome. Of course, there are ways to play around that particular sore spot and that is exactly what the book does. However, nothing is what it seems and Amar is never portrayed as a villain. The circumstances of Maya’s position in society makes her an expendable pawn in the game of kings. Thus, when Amar and Maya meet, it’s not the ideal situation but Amar does not commit any nefarious deeds. There’s a lot of mystery shrouded around his character so there is a shaky ground of trust that forms their relationship. I think the dynamic between the two is a weak part in the story because they barely know each other. A strong relationship, as Maya has mentioned, requires trust and no secrets. Although secrets are interwoven as a necessity in the plot, it is the root of conflict and it could have been better portrayed without making it seem like a redundant obstacle. I did not feel like the chemistry and Amar’s character was not as fleshed-out as it can be. In short, his background felt lacking and could have been expanded on to make him a viable love interest.

The strongest point of the plot is the ethnic culture and the wealth of vocabulary that enriched the story. The worldbuilding was well-written which makes sense because a lot of it was taken out of the history books. I can definitely see that the author did her research and the fashion, specific vocabulary, and labels for certain items all fit to create a rich realistic storyline. I don’t have extensive knowledge of Indian culture and history but I felt immersed into the world and the glossary in the back of the story definitely helped me get more acquainted. The mythology is interesting and I loved the passages when Maya told a myth. They were relevant to the plot and added more depth into understanding how her life can be fitted around these myths. Chokshi weaves a simple but elegant story that mixes eloquent prose to create a tremendously powerful book. It is a retelling and thus people who know the tale may not be impressed. And this is where the writer’s strength shines the most because she takes this type of retelling and maximizes the charm of each part through her descriptive writing. If it was any other author, I am not sure she/he would be able to pull off the same effect that Chokshi’s writing did. I anticipate the next book she writes.

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Waiting on Wednesday: Ruined

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating.

Ruined (Ruined, #1)Ruined by Amy Tintera

Publication Date: May 3rd, 2015

Publisher: HarperTeen

Goodreads: Emelina Flores has nothing. Her home in Ruina has been ravaged by war. She lacks the powers of her fellow Ruined. Worst of all, she witnessed her parents’ brutal murders and watched helplessly as her sister, Olivia, was kidnapped.

But because Em has nothing, she has nothing to lose. Driven by a blind desire for revenge, Em sets off on a dangerous journey to the enemy kingdom of Lera. Somewhere within Lera’s borders, Em hopes to find Olivia. But in order to find her, Em must infiltrate the royal family.

In a brilliant, elaborate plan of deception and murder, Em marries Prince Casimir, next in line to take Lera’s throne. If anyone in Lera discovers Em is not Casimir’s true betrothed, Em will be executed on the spot. But it’s the only way to salvage Em’s kingdom and what is left of her family.

Em is determined to succeed, but the closer she gets to the prince, the more she questions her mission. Em’s rage-filled heart begins to soften. But with her life—and her family—on the line, love could be Em’s deadliest mistake.


That sounds like a lot of revenge and I kind of like it.

 

Dragon’s Loyalty Award

dragon

Hello!~ It’s actually been a while since I got nominated for an award so it’s going to be fun fun fun! Thank you, Summer from xingsings for nominating me for the Dragon’s Loyalty Award. I saw that she used a customized thumbnail for the award so I googled the original picture for the award. Erm…yes, so I’m going to also use a different picture because the original tag is not that appealing.

1. I am part of a traditional Chinese dance team that goes by a name with ‘Dragon’ in it.

2. I used to be a psychology and elementary ed major but I switched my psych major to iSTEM with a bio specialization so I will be graduating a semester late.

3. I think Zootopia is better than Frozen.

4. I don’t really watch any TV shows (believe me, I’ve tried) and I don’t have Netflix.

5. I love orange juice (not from concentrate). And 2% milk. Skim milk is so sickly-looking.

6. I rarely wear makeup. I’m just honestly lazy and even if I do, I just wear eyeliner.

7. I’m afraid of heights but I still go on roller coasters and ropes courses for the thrill of it.


 

~THE RULES~

Visit and thank the blogger who nominated you.
Acknowledge that blogger on your blog and a link back.
You must share seven things other bloggers may not know about you.
Nominate up to fifteen bloggers for Dragon’s Loyalty Award, provide a link to their blogs in your post, and notify them on their blogs.
Copy and paste the award somewhere on your blog.


 

Blogger Nominations:

I’m nominating my new followers because I hope to converse with you more and get to know you better through this!

thebookllama at thebookllama.wordpress.com

Lola @ Hit or Miss Books

thebookishfae

jamnesreen at Heartscent Reads

Anna at https://spacecatsandbooks.wordpress.com

 

Review: The Winner’s Kiss by Marie Rutkoski

The Winner's Kiss (The Winner's Trilogy, #3)The Winner’s Kiss by Marie Rutkoski

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Fantasy books rarely close on such a sweet note. I’m unused to a happy, hopeful ending. (Oh, you authors have broken my heart time over time with all your shenanigans.)

The Winner’s Crime ended on such a grim note that I wondered how the situation could resolve itself. Realistically speaking, war can only hold off imperialism for so long and the odds are not in Arin’s quaint colony’s favor. So even if he wins this spat, Valoria will return one day to conquer this nation again. However, brute force and guerilla warfare may leave scars that will desist Valoria from stepping on their land for a while. That doesn’t leave many choices. However, Arin and Kestrel are a force to be reckoned with and they are the perfect couple and tag team to tackled this dilemma. Arin is smart. Kestrel is smarter. With these limited resources at hand, the author really made them work hard for a happy ending.

“What formation would the general use,” Roshar had asked her, “for a march along a road of that width?”
Kestrel had paused, fingers on the worn map.
“She can’t know for certain,” Arin said.
“Here’s what I would do if I were him,” she said…

At the start of the book, Arin is return to his home heartbroken but not without a measure of hope to move on and deal with the looming war at hand. He struck me as a resilient character and this is such an apt description because he talked a lot about learning from his mistakes. He began to harden his heart to war’s brutality and although he bounced back from all these mishaps, he changed cynically. He’s determined and resourceful, but the author shows that he is merciful towards Valorian female warriors. In one scene, he hesitates in a moment of weakness which causes him to sustain an injury from a random Valorian female soldier. I liked that he still retains that core of decency and I don’t question his actions because this is wartime.

“But this was your true self,” he said. “Intelligent, brave, manipulative. Kind. You made no effort to hide who you were. Then I found that I wanted you to hide it. This was the luxury of your position, wasn’t it, that you didn’t have to hide? It was the doomed nature of mine, that I did. And that’s true. Sometimes a truth squeezes you so tightly you can’t breathe. It was like that. But it also wasn’t, because there was another reason it hurt to look at you. You were too likable. To me.”

Kestrel is worse off than she was in the previous books. I really felt for her pain and misery, and I understood why it was better to forget rather than torment herself with memories of her past. In all honesty, she is the better for her experience because her fundamental self is unchanged. She has been strong, tactical, and persistently independent with what she has to work with. As a general’s daughter, she lives up to her name and continues to play wargames despite her mental hardships. Arin coddles her with his protectiveness so it’s interesting seeing the dynamics between the two. True, Kestrel deeply cares about Arin but she is not as easily swayed by emotions. She does not let emotion color her decisions. However, she is by no means an ice queen. She is deeply traumatized by her recent experiences and suffers through a huge identity crisis. Much of it is internal and she does not express much of it physically.

She remembered how she’d wanted to explain to him that it had rattled her to try to slip into her father’s mind, to know that the general’s mind and her own felt upsettingly similar. She’d wanted to put her fear inside a white box and give it to Arin.
You, too, she would tell him. I fear for you. I fear for me if I lost you.
War is no place for fear, said the memory of her father’s voice.
“Take care,” she’d told Arin.
He’d smiled.

Arin, on the other hand, is irrational when it comes to Kestrel. I kept waiting throughout the book for it to come back to bite him in the rear but it seems that there were no severe consequences. Sure, there are some grave risks taken and several heartrending moment in which they suffered grievous wounds. However, they survived relatively unscathed. I think I should feel happy, right? I guess I’m so used to being tricked and handed bittersweet endings that The Winner’s Kiss almost seems like a miracle. But a gift is a gift and I’LL TAKE IT.

Thanks, Marie Rutkoski for writing a wonderful book filled with sweet moments, tender declarations of love, and gory descriptions of appendages lopped off.

Waiting on Wednesday: 3/23/16

“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating.


 

The Star-Touched QueenThe Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi

Hardcover, 352 pages
Expected publication: April 26th 2016
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin

Cursed with a horoscope that promises a marriage of Death and Destruction, sixteen-year-old Maya has only earned the scorn and fear of her father’s kingdom. Content to follow more scholarly pursuits, her world is upheaved when her father, the Raja, arranges a wedding of political convenience to quell outside rebellions. But when her wedding takes a fatal turn, Maya becomes the queen of Akaran and wife of Amar. Yet neither roles are what she expected. As Akaran’s queen, she finds her voice and power. As Amar’s wife, she finds friendship and warmth.

But Akaran has its own secrets – thousands of locked doors, gardens of glass, and a tree that bears memories instead of fruit. Beneath Akaran’s magic, Maya begins to suspect her life is in danger. When she ignores Amar’s plea for patience, her discoveries put more than new love at risk – it threatens the balance of all realms, human and Otherworldly.

Now, Maya must confront a secret that spans reincarnated lives and fight her way through the dangerous underbelly of the Otherworld if she wants to protect the people she loves.
Inspired by Indian mythology.


I’m seriously so excited for this one. It previously went by the title of The Bride of Dusk and Glass, and I’m happy they changed it because the current one sounds good and looks great on the cover.

 

ARC Review: And I Darken by Kiersten White

Disclaimer: Thank you to NetGalley and Random House (Delacorte Press) for providing me with an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.

And I Darken (The Darken Trilogy, #1)And I Darken by Kiersten White

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Hardcover, 475 pages
Expected publication: June 28th 2016 by Delacorte Press
Summary: NO ONE EXPECTS A PRINCESS TO BE BRUTAL. And Lada Dragwlya likes it that way. Ever since she and her gentle younger brother, Radu, were wrenched from their homeland of Wallachia and abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman courts, Lada has known that being ruthless is the key to survival. She and Radu are doomed to act as pawns in a vicious game, an unseen sword hovering over their every move. For the lineage that makes them special also makes them targets.
Lada despises the Ottomans and bides her time, planning her vengeance for the day when she can return to Wallachia and claim her birthright. Radu longs only for a place where he feels safe. And when they meet Mehmed, the defiant and lonely son of the sultan, who’s expected to rule a nation, Radu feels that he’s made a true friend—and Lada wonders if she’s finally found someone worthy of her passion.

But Mehmed is heir to the very empire that Lada has sworn to fight against—and that Radu now considers home. Together, Lada, Radu, and Mehmed form a toxic triangle that strains the bonds of love and loyalty to the breaking point.

The entire book was way too long for my liking. It spanned the birth of Lada up to her teenage years.


They watched as the head gardener slit an opening into each man and then, with practiced efficiency, inserted the long, thick wooden stakes. The men were lifted into the air, and the stakes planted into the holes in the ground. Lada saw how the men’s own weight would slowly pull them down, forcing the stakes higher and higher along their spines until they finally exited through the throat.

 

The history and culture of the Ottoman Empire is richly told and I was greatly immersed in that time period. The writing wasn’t bad but my eyes glazed over several times during the passages. For some reasons, it doesn’t flow that well but I can see that it is indeed well-thought out. Each sentence had impact and conveyed the proper mood.

“You cannot lose something you do not own. Take me with you.”
With a frustrated growl, he tore the veil from her hair and threw it to the ground. “You look ridiculous. Armor suits you far more than silk.”
Lada put a hand to his check. His skin was soft and hot, always hot, as though he burned brighter than a normal person. Her voice came out a low purr, so like Huma’s she startled herself. “Take me with you, and I will wear armor the whole time.”

There was a lot of focus on building characters’ flaws and amplifying its fallacies. Mehmed is obsessed with Constantinople and his rabid desire to conquer it does not bode well.

Lada laughed. “Then do not try, little sheep. Ted to your flock. Patrol your borders. No one ever said you had to take Constantinople. It is only a dream.”
Mehmed’s eyes burned when he looked up at her. “It is not simply my dream.”
She rolled her eyes. “Yes, I know all about your precious prophet’s dream.”

He seems like a future villain although growing up, he’s been made out to be a have a lot of potential to fulfill his duties as the future sultan. His weakness is his confidence that has no basis because he is still untried and ignorant of court politics. Radu went through the most complicated development because his dexterity with words should have favored him with friends in his childhood. Weak in strength, he relies much on his sister, Lada, for protection but he learns quickly on that she won’t cut him some slack. Lada, the protagonist, is vicious and temperamental; she is quite the foil for Radu. Whereas his long lashes and large doe eyes can charm the hell out of everyone, people tend to skirt around Lada and avoid any interaction with her. She is clumsy with words and always lashes out when she is angry, embarrassed, and/or hurt. I’m rather disappointed that she’s not the brightest but she more than makes up for it with her brawn. She does have extensive knowledge and skill with tactics and strategy but she’s often blindsided by emotion in personal relationships.

Radu and Lada are Mehmed’s rocks that have stayed throughout his childhood up to his emerging adulthood. With such steadiness for years, change is bound to rock this foundation of friendship by the end of the book. There were many things that I predicted would happen and White foreshadowed the future through the trio’s thoughts. I wished that she had left much of unsaid and kept the reader in the dark to give a better reading experience. The long years that White documented gave her a lot of freedom with dredging up momentous events that impacted each character severely. In a way, reading the first hundred pages was a laborious task that I had to force myself to go through. I felt that much of it was page-filler and made for an unnecessarily longer book.

The politics is interesting but nothing too complex. Now that we have most of the worldbuilding out of the way, I hope that the focus in the sequel will be on events that propels Lada to acquire the name Vlad the Impaler. Yes, we never did get to that part in the first book. This novel encompasses a wide span of years from 1435 in Transylvania to the 1450’s. By the time the book ends, Lada and Radu are around 16 and 15 years old, respectively. I, on the other hand, aged an approximate 5 hours finishing this book.

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