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: 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: 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: A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

A Darker Shade of Magic (A Darker Shade of Magic, #1)A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I probably look very stupid right now with a silly grin splitting my face. My feelings are all jumbled up but I can surely tell you I am a happy reader!

First Impressions:
I had really high expectations for V.E. Schwab’s writing and I ended up so caught up in the story that I blew right through it. Her writing is compelling (at least to me) but her quality was not as consistent as I felt it was in Vicious and it certainly was slightly disconcerting to read smoothly because it was a whole new world.
Since we’re talking about worlds, I actually meant 4 3 worlds that she had to describe and give certain characteristics in order to help readers distinguish between them. As most people have read from the blurb, there are three Londons that the story revolves around and I have never gotten confused between them although I understand that others initially might.

The Good-Goodies:
The characters are nicely drawn-out and I really liked their actions because they were deliberately demonstrated to show their personalities and motives that drive their determinations. It certainly built them up as who they are and showed what made them tick. Lila Bard was very troublesome to pin down and I was not sure why she went along with everything and I’m pretty sure she did not know too. I personally think Kell may have a certain type of despairing allure and charm that led her to follow him aside from her thoughts of personal gain of adventure.

“They got to their feet, neither willing to walk away just yet, and Kell looked down at Delilah Bard, a cutthroat and a thief, a valiant partner and a strange, terrifying girl…Magic bent the world. Pulled it into shape. There were fixed points. Most of the time those points were places. But sometimes, rarely, they were people. For someone who never stood still, Lila still felt like a pin in Kell’s world.”

Kell is so lonely because he is a wayward traveler who feels possessed by others and unable to relate to normal people who lead routine lives. However, his feelings of disquiet and dissatisfaction all fade into the background when the acts he commits are sincere and purposeful due to his loyalty. His upbringing is a posh and privileged one filled with love and care and lots of camaraderie with the prince. The brotherhood is just so strong and I love it so much!! There was a lot of foil and juxtaposing Kell against Holland, another traveler who had the same powers as him. It becomes even more fun when they clash face-to-face and fight viciously against each other. Kell simply grew on me and I liked him more and more as the story went on. He obviously goes to strenuous lengths to protect his beloved city and he tries to do the right thing despite killing so many.

Lila was like the sidekick of the badass superhero but she definitely held her own and by all means, won my respect fairly. Sidekick may be a too endearing term to ascribe to Lila because she rather stuck onto Kell persistently and insisted on knowing what the hell was going on. Her courage bordered on foolhardiness since she does not have an affinity to magic and every villain had magic. Either way, she’s a strong character and aside from getting annoyed at her mischievousness in the first dozen pages, I grudgingly still admire her stubbornness.

The storyline is one of the most engrossing ones I’ve read so far and I was so far invested into what was happening. The strongest points in the book are the plot twists which were really minor but brought a lot of fun as it elaborated and exacerbated situations. Everything begins to fall into chaos/place when the author weaved up tiny anecdotes in various parts of Londons to frame a bigger picture of the ominous current that grew to explode in the final part. My heart actually pounded when I read the battle sequences and I was thrilled to see how everyone was going to resolve the problems. This goes on top of the pile as having one of the most unique premises in a book and executing it in an exceedingly clever manner.

Even though the characters had a great development over time, the plot took the forefront and detracted from knowing them better. Schwab certainly didn’t write them so that we loved the characters since the storyline was what mattered.
It wasn’t a psychologically driven book and I almost feel let down because Schwab is well-known for toying with the characters. I felt as if so many people can play a deeper role in the story but I understand that it’s hard to develop characters when there is so much going on.
People seeking court politics would be find the barest minimum of it because magic is what the plot is centered on and it is fantasy so there should be some leeway. The concept of different kinds of magic is merely brushed off and we readers are expected to just accept it.
The ending was tied up too easily in the end but there’s a sequel so I’m not complaining since I still have several questions lingering and left unanswered.
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