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.