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: 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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Review: All the Truth That’s in Me by Julie Berry

All the Truth That's in MeAll the Truth That’s in Me by Julie Berry

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A lot rides on the shoulders of the book description which totes it as a mysterious town which shunned a girl who came back after 2 years of disappearance. In truth, Judith was abducted and it’s pretty obvious from the start because she returns with her tongue cut out. However, the blurb is extremely misleading and there are crucial details left out which forms the basis of the story and thus, I dove in confused with the setting. However, I’m still satisfied by the results and the mystery drove me on so curiously. Judith’s voice is compelling and her actions are reasonable and so well-understood within the boundaries of the flawed society she lives in.

There were so many strikes against this book and I should not have been able to enjoy it but I certainly did. Patricia McCormick’s Cut was told in second-person perspective in which the main character is talking or referring to someone else as ‘you’. This book, also does the same but it somehow did not annoy me as it did with Cut. It’s also split into short chapters numbered by Roman numerals and short (1-3 page) chapters are one of my pet peeves. However, Julie Berry’s writing is evocative and the ‘chapters’ actually flow well together and often stay on the current situation. In Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys, the choppy writing and the 2-page chapters pissed me off some much despite how unique and tragic the story was. Needless to say, that book about Lithuanians and their harrowing experience in the Siberian concentration camps sadly did not stick in my mind. The Book Thief was far superior not because the plot was more tragic (because it’s not), but it was all thanks to the excellent writing. Okay, back to Berry’s book. I had all these pet peeves that somehow didn’t matter anymore when I cracked open this book and began reading furiously. Frankly, I read this whole book in one sitting and I even missed a planning meeting to cosponsor a multicultural festival.(Shhh!)

Pros:

I was really skeptical about Judith narrating this book as if she’s retelling it to the boy she’s in love with. Seriously? The girl doesn’t know enough about Lucas to be pouring out her thoughts to him. However, I got used to the reference ‘you’ instead of Lucas. Well, it was actually sweet and I ended up liking Lucas a lot because he’s such a noble character who stood out against the backdrop of a judgmental community. Yes, this is a romance but there’s a more important story to tell and Judith is slowly healing and picking up the courage to speak out and tell the truth about what happened to her best friend and the past two years of her life.

I predicted the plot twist halfway through the story but there were ambiguous parts of it that I only vaguely dismissed in light of the general picture. I loved the details that eventually matched up the mystery with why Judith chose to remain mute. It’s still a heartbreaking story but I felt so much hope emanating from Judith. She was an obedient daughter to her mother and brother despite their cavalier treatment and yet, she remained diligent and was determined to make the best of her situation. Her kindness to others and her lack of bitterness towards her lot in life was a bit far-fetched but I could perceive it as her being resigned to her position. I liked that Judith acted many times out of love for others and her selflessness is truly remarkable. The thrilling aspects of Judith being stalked by someone unknown and hostility from others kept me on my toes and I sometimes didn’t know which direction the plot would steer towards.

Cons:

The religion does not take centerpiece but a lot of the way religion is preached makes it out to be something twisted and manipulated for the church’s convenience. The community is quick to blame and shun girls for their indecent behavior and Judith’s mutism is seen as a seen of God’s punishment or divine retribution. Despite her faultlessness, many townspeople are not so open-minded and the church would call her a pariah and ignore her. I didn’t realize for a while that there are repercussions (castigation) if people don’t attend church regularly. I understand that the ultimate intention was the illustrate a puritanical society dominated by patriarchy but religion played too strong a force that it detracted from the central plot.


There is a lot of originality and the mixture of different settings and writing implements were strangely alluring. This was a memorable read and people who like mysteries or romantics would enjoy it.

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Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin: Review

Where the Mountain Meets the MoonWhere the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is gorgeous, no doubt about that. The full-color illustrations may not be the best or most artistic but I’ve got to give some credit to the author for rendering simple but picturesque embellishments.

Far away from here, following the Jade River, there was once a black mountain that cut into the sky like a jagged piece of rough metal. The villagers called it Fruitless Mountain because nothing grew on it and birds and animals did not rest there.

Don’t let the cover fool you because it looks so laughingly childish that all adults within a 10-feet radius avoid it. For people who have daughters or sons in 3-5th grade, now is the time to pick up Where the Mountain Meets the Moon. The writing still retains its poetic quality even though many sentences are grouped choppily to make it easy for readers to follow along. Lin is dexterous with metaphors and some of these similes forced me to go back and reread the sentence for the sheer description.

The streets were crowded and bustling; the city seemed to be bustling with people like boiling rice.

I had a jolly fun time reading this book because I recognized some of the legendary figures and myths from my childhood or other tales that I read from. The unpredictability certainly helps because children will eat this story up so quickly. For those unfamiliar with Chinese myths, the interspersed legends will be lots of fun and wow readers with cleverness. I tend to always enjoy books that have perfected the art of “metaphor-ing” so it’s no wonder that Markus Zusak pleased me immensely with The Book Thief and I Am the Messenger. Grace Lin also mixes this rare talent with her storytelling charisma to form a tale that is both savory and innovative to engage young readers.

The moon’s reflection fastened onto the water’s surface, and Minli saw why the pavilion was called Clasping the Moon. The image of the moon lay protected in the water like a glowing pearl…

Like the stone dust that the wind blew, thoughts kept circling in her head.

Aside from introducing the myths that surround China, the book paints a mural of values and teaches thankfulness, themes of love, and faith. Although Minli is off on a quest, there’s also a guardian who worries and wishes her to be safe.This makes the book more realistic in my eyes and also gives a fresh perspective on parents and emphasizes their love. I can definitely see why this book won the Newbery Honor Award and I’m glad this cultural text is available from nearly every library. The main character is a girl but she’s independent and very thoughtful of everyone. Without being fierce or feisty, she manages to befriend others and win over people with her determination. Do you see the positive impact this book can make on little girls and boys? Not more of those annoying or naive girls like Junie B. Jones, Judy Moody, or Harriet the Spy. Hooray for Minli, Matilda, and Winnie Foster!

He seemed to dance in the air, and his happiness made her feel as light as the clouds around her.

Aside from seeing illustrations gracing each chapter title, the pages are thick and texts are sometimes in color. I don’t know, I may be biased because I like seeing color and I also love flipping thick pages and that’s why I hate mass market paperbacks which just suck in general. Anyways, I recommend this book to people still in primary/secondary school but old people like me are welcome to read it. I thoroughly enjoyed every moment.