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!!!!

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Review: A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab

A Gathering of Shadows (Shades of Magic, #2)A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Everyone, GO READ ANYTHING BY VICTORIA SCHWAB.

A Gathering of Shadows is the second book in the ‘Shades of Magic’ series and I’m beyond ecstatic to know that there’s a third book coming out. Back when A Darker Shade of Magic first came out, I was disappointed to discover that it was a standalone just like her other book Vicious. There was just something about her book that had that extra omph which made me crave more of the writing. Especially the way she ends the story leaves many loose ends and so much to speculation.

Victoria’s writing has always been excellent but her writing just flies off the pages in this novel. Especially with the premise of the Element Games Tournament, the excitement is palpable and I felt entrenched in each match from the beginning to the aftermath.

Lila didn’t try to be a wave, or a door. She simply pushed, not with force, but with will, and the wall of fire shot forward, barreling toward Sar. To Lila, whole thing seemed to take forever. She didn’t understand why Sar was standing still, not until time snapped back into focus, and she realized that the wall’s appearance, its transformation, had been the work of an instant.

A shout out to one of the cutest characters in the book! In the words of Schwab, “T.O.P. inspired a tournament magician named Jinnar, a sexy and adorable wind mage.
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Also a heads up, A Gathering of Shadows continues Schwab’s trademark cliffhanger that is simply unfair to all readers. Basically, everything is left unresolved and now I can’t wait for the third book in 2017!


 

WARNING: MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD

The truth was, Lila understood why Alucard did it. Why he traded safety and boredom for adventure. She didn’t know what it felt like to be safe, and she’d never had the luxury of being bored, but it was like she’d once told Kell. People either stole to stay alive or to feel alive. She had to imagine that they ran away for the same reasons.

 

 

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*SCREAMS INTERNALLY*

Alucard has got to be one of my favorite new characters. Aside from his name spelling Dracula backwards, he’s another enigma with a disreputable past tangled up with Rhy and he’s a hard one to figure out. He’s not very forthcoming but neither was Lila. The author always does a skillful job of writing out intricate characters with dynamic personalities that change over the course of the plot. Although Alucard changes slowly and surely, he retains the same charm and nonchalance throughout. HE SHIP HIM SO HARD WITH RHY. He has a lot of hidden strengths and edges so I look forward to seeing more of him in the next book.

Now, Lila, that girl is just fierce. She continues to surprise me and manages to overcome each new obstacles with her cleverness and quick thinking. Her rise from a street thief to the empowering magician is simply astounding. I relished the journey she went through to get where she is and I loved that she still cared about what Kell thinks. Despite her hardheartedness, she really does like Rhy and Kell. Shes’ a softie underneath that tough exterior. She’s the true MVP in this story. Honestly, she’s grabbed everyone’s attention and is THE main character. (At least for me but I don’t know how Kell would feel about that.)

What are you? Kell had asked her once.
What am I? She wondered now, as the fire rolled across her knuckles like a coin.

I think by now, everyone has a hint of what’s going to happen with Lila, Kell, and Alucard. There are still a few plot twists thrown in so the story is never boring despite the Element Games not taking place until 200 pages in. However, I still think the Tournament was the most exciting part of the book because there’s so much flourishes and it easily goes from mildly amusing to frenetic within a few sentences.

Rensa tav,” answered Kell automatically as his chest hummed with nervous energy. What was he thinking? What was he doing here? This was all a mistake…and yet, his muscles and bones still ached for a fight, and beyond the tunnel, he could hear them calling the name–Kamerov! Kamerov! Kamerov!–and even though it wasn’t his, it still sent a fresh burst of fire through his veins.

Nonetheless, it’s not just all fun and play because a lot of crap really went down in ADSOM and there’s so much trauma in the aftermath of the wreckage. Rhy still suffers a huge amount of guilt and Kell is no longer the way he used to be. Even the king and queen are skirting around and holding grudges.

His voice fell a measure. “I think the king and queen are mad for blaming one son above the other.”
Kell swallowed. “Will they never forgive me?”
“Which would you rather have? Their forgiveness, or Rhy’s life?”
“I shouldn’t have to choose,” he snapped.

This whole compromise is bound to have many costs. Kell is chaffing at his leash and Rhy is resentful towards everything. In a way, they survived but they’re still broken. I love the way Schwab writes these flawed characters beautifully; they elicit such empathy and support from the readers. They’re still resilient and strong despite all the tribulations and Lila is a perfect example of it. Everyone, just be like Lila.

 

 

Major Spoiler:

And that ending!! ((Lila is an Antari. I CALL IT. She’s got one fake eye, that’s a sign that she’s probably had a black eye in the past. Anyways, I ship her so hard with Kell. UGH THE OTPS ARE STRONG IN THIS NOVEL. Rhy and Alucard. YES PLEASE.))

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Review: Morning Star by Pierce Brown

Morning Star (Red Rising, #3)Morning Star by Pierce Brown

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Goodreads Blurb: Darrow would have lived in peace, but his enemies brought him war. The Gold overlords demanded his obedience, hanged his wife, and enslaved his people. But Darrow is determined to fight back. Risking everything to transform himself and breach Gold society, Darrow has battled to survive the cutthroat rivalries that breed Society’s mightiest warriors, climbed the ranks, and waited patiently to unleash the revolution that will tear the hierarchy apart from within. Finally, the time has come. But devotion to honor and hunger for vengeance run deep on both sides. Darrow and his comrades-in-arms face powerful enemies without scruple or mercy. Among them are some Darrow once considered friends. To win, Darrow will need to inspire those shackled in darkness to break their chains, unmake the world their cruel masters have built, and claim a destiny too long denied – and too glorious to surrender.


 

After: I want to cry but I can’t. This was a gritty, bittersweet ending to a wonderful sci-fi series.

Spoiler-free Review:

I have to give props to Pierce Brown for completing this amazing trilogy within 3 years. What an incredible gift it is to churn out this tomes each year for your readers!
Morning Star starts off nine months after the crazy cliffhanger in Golden Son and whereas the previous books started with a bang, this one was rather miserable. Darrow is disillusioned and suffering mentally from replaying all his mistakes in his mind. Even though he reminisced for over a dozen pages, the writing was engrossing and made up for the lack of action. One of the biggest strengths of this book is the eloquence of the writing and mastery of vocabulary with which each word is chosen.

I would have lived in peace. But my enemies brought me war. My name is Darrow of Lykos. You know my story. It is but an echo of your own. They came to my home and killed my wife, not for singing a song but for daring to question their reign. For daring to have a voice. For centuries millions beneath the soil of Mars have been fed lies from cradle to grave…They expect your obedience, ignore your sacrifice, and hoard the prosperity that your hands create. To hold tight to their reign, they forbid our dreams. Saying a person is only as good as the Colors of their eyes, of their Sigils.

In all honesty, it took me much longer to read these 518 pages because I stopped to absorb the complexity of the sentences. Part of this might also have to do with the wide cast of characters and the long list of scientific terminology for the world. Brown graciously provided us readers with a Dramatis Personae and a helpful map that delineated the political boundaries between the Sovereign, Rim, and other planets.

The story line was fast-paced and had me flipping pages like there was no tomorrow. Darrow goes through a tremendous amount of character development from being reckless, arrogant, and insouciant to valuing rationality, seeking mediation, and humility. I liked this new side of him very much because if fans remembered, his downfall in Golden Son was his extreme sense of righteousness. I liked the epic sprawl of battles in which glory beget glory but this book opened with Darrow steeped in defeat. By tracing back to his roots, it was nostalgic of Red Rising (and Golden Son: “Rise so high, in mud you lie.”) but Darrow is no longer confident that he is the right person to lead this revolution. Oftentimes, people forget that leaders have as much insecurity as a normal person and their abilities to bring change lies not only in themselves but with the help of others. Behind Darrow, stands an amazing crew of loyal friends that took care of the logistics and all minor kinks in the plan. Mustang proved herself to be exceedingly intelligent and supportive of Darrow. Without her, the tides would not shift as strongly as they did. Ahh, true love prevails.

“An outlandish promise,” Roque says. “Darrow is only who he is because of who is around him.”
“Agreed,” Mustang says cheerily.
“And I still have everyone around me, Roque. Who do you have?”
“No one,” Mustang answers. “Just dear old Antonia, who has become my brother’s quisling.”

Of course, we can’t forget our precious Victra who suffers from her own disappointments, fears, and the realization of those very fears. It still harbors a vendetta against Antonia which is well-justified so she was sort of a loose cannon. She’s not quite tamed but her wit made for a lot of entertainment.

“My name is Felicia au…” I feint a whip at her face. She brings her blade up, and Victra goes diagonal and impales her at the belly button. I finish her off with a neat decapitation.
“Bye Felicia.” Victra spits, turning to the last Praetorian. “No substance these days. Are you of the same fiber?”

But I have to say  Sevro’s ultimate blunders takes the cake and makes him one of the best characters so far. One of my favorite scenes that officially made me a fan of Sevro was when he tried to hang himself to prove a point. The mob is set to hang Cassius for being a Gold and murderer, but Darrow’s words do not placate the seething crowd. And then Sevro intercepts.

“I am Ares! I am a murderer too!” He puts his hands on his hip. “And what do we do to murderers?”
This time no one answers.
He never expected them to. He grabs the cable from the neck of one of the kneeling Golds, wraps it around his own neck…winks and backflips off the railing.
…Sevro’s rope snaps taut. He kicks, choking beside Cassius. Feet scrambling. Silent and horrible. Face turning red, on its way to purple like Cassius’s.

It’s powerful and effective because what do you think happened next?
I admit, I still haven’t warmed up to Cassius and I think his twisted sense of honor came around to bite him. Roque carried that pride and honor which is the complete opposite of Darrow’s underhanded methods. However, what’s honor worth when you’re under the reins of the Sovereign? Although these were characters that fought on the wrong side, I still retained a remnant of empathy for their misguided notions. Ultimately, I felt sympathy for the Jackal, Aja, and Octavia because I understand why they did the things they did but in no way did it excuse the tragedies they wrought.

Aside from several major character deaths, the book was still relatively gruesome and the casualties were high for the war. I wouldn’t recommend this book to kids under 14 and this borders onto the adult genre. Although there’s a grim outlook on whatever future the solar system will encounter, the last two books gave me immense faith in Darrow’s abilities. He may have been broken many times but he still emerged as the undisputed leader of the Rising. The powerful ending tied up many loose ends but it also spawned a new trilogy (Iron Gold) for 2017. There are ramifications for all that Darrow has committed and he continues to do whatever he must to achieve his means.

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Look at how pretty and color-coded these books are side by side!

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