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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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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ARC Review: Dreams of Distant Shores by Patricia A. McKillip

Dreams of Distant ShoresDreams of Distant Shores by Patricia A. McKillip

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Anticipated release date: June 14, 2016

The series of stories were each unique and contained within different settings. The continuous transition from one story to the next was extremely jarring and I felt like a fish flailing on land. There was so much detail and the characters were all so diverse that I felt overwhelmed…in a good way. The tales were simply bewitching and bewildering. I’m a new reader to Patricia McKillip but I loved the prose and the way the writing immediately sucked me in. I liked some stories better than most and each has something that snags my attention, but I favored The Gorgon in the Cupboard. There’s just something about it that fits and connects with me since I’ve always had a fascination for the Victorian era. I left that story (and many others) wishing to know more.

Weird (4 stars)

This was the shortest of the stories and thus does away with the formalities of introducing the characters’ names, the settings, and the conflict. It utilizes a common TV trope -in media res- with a man asking a woman what’s the weirdest thing that’s happened in her life. There are no contexts and in short, we are given no explanations. It’s a clever hook and I loved how things were left open-ended.

Mer (3.5 stars)

Witches and goddesses are given a new meaning in this story.
Note: By the time I started in on this story, I think I got the hang of ‘magic’ in McKillip’s mind. It’s a difficult concept to write about because it’s elusive and overridden with so many cliches. In a book, magic oftentimes must be explained and made sense of in order for readers to understand how it’s usually used to create a power struggle. However, McKillip does not manipulate the ‘magical element’ to exert power on characters. As readers, we simply observe the effects it has on people and how they react to it.

The Gorgon in the Cupboard (5 stars)

The moral of this story was very realistic and the fantasy element is kept to a bare minimum. I liked the combination of Greek mythology that played into the inspirations of Victorian artists. It’s a story rife with beauty and had much more character development than any of the stories. The characters had despair, fear, and hunger who was captured so well that it’s not hard to see why it’s my favorite. Character development is always a +1 for me along with a lesson well-learned at the end.

Which Witch (3.5 stars)

Witches in the modern-day world have animal familiars. I can’t say much about this because they live rather mundane lives as band members playing for a club. The writing is exceptional but I didn’t derive much enjoyment out of this story.

Edith and Henry Go Motoring (5 stars)

I’m not sure if there was a typo because Harry, not Henry, went motoring with Edith. This seemingly innocuous trip led to a visit inside an ‘abandoned’ house. Edith and Henry appear to be fanciful people prone to a little bit of adventuring so I’m pleasantly surprised that the author delves into the multi-layered nature of a person’s life.

Alien (3 stars)

Rational relatives deal with their old mother who they believe is going cuckoo because she’s spouting some ridiculous nonsense about aliens abducting her at some point in her life. A story steeped in reality, I can’t say that it goes hand in hand with the fantasy/sci-fi genre. These relatives take everything with a healthy dose of skepticism but in a while, they question it. The multitude of names being thrown around irritated me because many of them were never mentioned again.

Something Rich and Strange (4 stars)

Taking place in a touristy beach town, the story starts out with a couple who are content with living by the sea and indulging in their hobbies. One of them loves discovering fossils while the other loves drawing the sea and everything underwater. A string of mysterious incidents and visitors leads to some turbulent upheavals in their lives. The longest of the stories, Something Rich and Strange places a heavy emphasis on the ecological effects of humans on the sea. It’s a very insightful writing piece and I thought the subject was handled very well along with the involvement of mermaids that played into it. The two main characters were rather lackluster but they weren’t meant to be drawn out as magnificent protagonists. It rather underlined the moral of the story through ordinary people who share an affinity for the sea.

Thank you to Tachyon Publications and to NetGalley for providing me with an advanced copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

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ARC Review: Uprooted by Naomi Novik

UprootedUprooted by Naomi Novik

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is chock-full of fantastic fun and lots of magic! I love love loved the world building and the ideology behind The Wood. While I was reading it, I felt particularly haunted and especially thrilled. To be cliche, I was on the edge of the seat and I couldn’t stop reading until 4am.


There is a wizard called Sarkan who is better known as the Dragon who protects the villages from the malicious power of the Wood and its creatures. He chooses a girl to take every ten years only as a servant/companion but she always comes back more worldly and restless for better things in the city.

From the blurb, you can already tell that Agnieszka is the one who’s going to be taken this time around. Sure, it’s sad that he takes a servant but the thing is, there’s a good motive to it. Her irrational fear of the Dragon all stems from the folk songs and rumors which is reasonable since that’s all she’s been taught to know.

So imagine her dismay and misery when she gets taken to live in the tower all alone with Sarkan. The interactions between Agnieszka and Sarkan are at first that of a puppy who is constantly scolded by the grumpy master. The reader and protagonist at some point, begin to realize how harmless the wizard is despite his mighty power. I never felt bored and there were new discoveries being made that fit a good picture of the state of the world, politics, and danger the Wood posed. The story is written through a first-person narrative which means we get up close and personal about Ag’s feelings and her naivety. She’s not stupid but only unaware of the scope of human nature since she’s been limited to interactions in the village and her kind family. She is capable of suspicion but she’s not craft or cunning because she never had to be.

And oh, Sarkan. Man, is he the epitome of a cranky, irritable old man even though he appears barely aged past his twenties. He warms up to you after a while, let’s put it at that. Despite how Sarkan berates Agnieszka all the time, he still shows that he cares through his actions.

I don’t want to spoil the adventure for people who wish to read what happens so I’m unsure how to describe my love for the plot. The themes and certain topics are more mature than usually seen in young adult (and today’s YA is getting darker as it is). There’s no ickiness so no need to worry but I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this to middle graders. I was infinitesimally unsettled while reading the story and I was completely sucked in by the effects of the Wood and its breadth of influence and methods in corruption. I’m impressed that a simple concept of witches and wizards can be written so well that I have no cause for complaints. There were also original ideas of mythology too so that definitely helped enhance the story. This is a book where everything wholly satisfied my inner fangirl for magic, adventure, and creativity.

Thank you to the publisher Del Rey/Random House for providing this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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ARC Review: Inside the O’Briens by Lisa Genova

Inside the O'BriensInside the O’Briens by Lisa Genova

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Lisa Genova is an excellent writer and if I did not read Still Alice, I would not have known how much style she was able to incorporate into each word. Whereas Still Alice was clean-cut, highly intelligent and talks about a smart upper middle-class family, the O’Briens are old-gen Irish working/middle class. They’re not educated and it just cuts deeper when they are hit heavily by Huntington’s Disease. They’re not as aware of the consequences since they learn about it so late so relations do not go smoothly and many are unable to cope with the fear.

The O’Briens hit rough patches occasionally but this new one that hits Joe, the father, is a make-it-or-break-it kind. It’s something that’s irreparable and I loved watching the intricate emotions that bind each of the family members to each other. Joe has two daughters, Katie and Megan and two sons, JJ and Patrick. They all have a 50/50 chance of getting Huntington’s. It’s truly sad to see how knowing or not knowing if they have it can wreck havoc on their minds and affect their careers. In case you didn’t know, Huntington’s messes with coordination, causes involuntary movements, and slowly causes the victim to lose control of the body over the course of a decade or more. This means the person will be eventually be rendered speechless and helpless to do anything.

It took me a while to realize that Katie was the second protagonist and her life was center focus aside from Joe’s. She needed to make decisions that for her, seemed insurmountably hard to choose between. Once the narrators switched, I felt aggravated by Katie and her indecisiveness which is a major trait that has defined her whole life. I understood the reasons and why Katie is the way she is but it’s just difficult for a reader to sympathize with someone so unlikable. However, the writing was top-notch and the story compelling. The message is clear: this disease causes stages of grief and can break a family down unless they stay resilient and support each other. There were so many great things about the book and it ultimately succeeded in making me care without manipulating my feelings.

Joe is very unique and the style of writing greatly conveys what kind of man he is. He’s caring and deeply loves his wife and children so it’s all the more devastating when he lashes out irrationally (because of the disease) at everyone. It’s a stark portrayal of ‘Life After’ which is can never be the same again. However, I loved that some changes became positive because this family decided to bond and become stronger than they’ve ever been. They took control of their lives and decided to take healthy risks to do what they’ve always wanted to do. Katie stops being an indecisive dumbass and does something good for once. Patrick is still a mess but at least he’s communicating with his family. JJ is finally going to start his family. And Megan is just a strong character that becomes stronger and lives by the motto YOLO.

Of course, I did not miss how detailed and well-informed the author was when she started describing the Boston Red Sox games and also went through Joe’s police officer day regime and routine. She manages to integrate these details and make them essential in the storytelling and normalize it as a part of the O’Brien’s everyday life. I loved that the conflict was different for each character despite the fact that they were linked together. The disease was not overblown and used to manipulate our emotions. Things still happen outside of that spectrum and in short, life goes on whether or not you want it to.

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for providing me with an e-ARC of Inside the O’Briens in exchange for an honest review.

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