Review: A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab

A Conjuring of Light (Shades of Magic, #3)A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Wow, the greatest character in this series has got to be Holland. I have always liked his character since book 1 despite all those nefarious deeds he committed. He’s just got something deeply flawed but endearing about him, and truly, I’m so happy that Schwab finally gave him the screentime and story that he deserved. What happened to him still leaves a somewhat bittersweet taste in my mouth, but I know it’s necessary to show how he became who he is. For some reason, I’m drawn to broken, fragile people and I really appreciate that Schwab obviously took great care in crafting him. He’s truly the MVP in this book and he was the most memorable character for me.

Now, about the story, I think there were places when the plot obviously lagged. There was a lot of rising action and it took much longer than I expected for it to finally culminate. However, the pacing picked up, and it was very quick and heart-pounding. The author really made those frenetic action scenes worth savoring because when fights happened, they were very good. There was a lot of foreshadowing and I think it worked nicely as subplots. Most readers may foresee these certain events but it’s really more about the unfolding of events rather than the surprise element of plot twists. The plot got very dark, of course, but the love lines in the book really elevated the book’s sweet side and bring a respite from the macabre. Some things worked out better and easier than I would have thought and most of the time, I didn’t feel as connected with secondary characters. I felt much more angst when something minor happens to the main characters compared to something major to these secondary characters. While understandable, I think that will be something Schwab will improve in ample time as she hones her writing craft. Already, I see a great improvement in her writing style from her first adult novel Vicious. In the end, I am satisfied with the ending of this wonderful trilogy. I wish there was more but the way it ended is fitting and does justice to all the characters. I would love to hear more about Holland and White London but I think that those stories are closed for now. However, there’s definitely a set-up for more adventures if Schwab truly wishes to revisit these beloved characters, so we’ll see!

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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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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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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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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.

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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Review: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens AgendaSimon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Becky Albertalli honestly gets kids. She understands us on a deep level and Simon is like my spirit animal. Leah, on the other hand, is my inner fangirl and she’s literally so shameless with her cosplay of Tohru from Fruits Basket and all the anime plushies.


I admit this book is not one I would voluntarily pick up on my own will. The cover doesn’t really scream ‘BUY ME’ and the title is confusing because it gives no hints as to the plott. However, the clothes on the guy is contemporary and that’s a genre I generally steer clear of.

Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against contemporary YA but I think I’m past my prime because it no longer interests me. I’m not in high school anymore and I can’t seem to get immersed in high school YA nowadays. It was never really my cup of tea because I had always enjoyed the fantasy genre more. Besides, I’ve basically read them all: the cliques, tropes, mysterious guy, gossip, and drama all ensconced within a classroom.

So I’m pleasantly surprised by this book because Simon is a refreshing character with his own unique traits. People have pegged him as the theater geek but he knows he is more than that. He is also more than just a gay character. As a teenager, identity crisis is very real and no one knows it better than Simon. He believes that he is always changing and he’s afraid of who he’s becoming because he doesn’t ‘feel’ the same.

It’s not even about me being gay, because I know deep down that my family would be fine with it. We’re not religious. My parents are Democrats. My dad likes to joke around, and it would definitely be awkward, but I guess I’m lucky. I know they’re not going to disown me. And I’m sure some people in school would give me hell, but my friends would be fine. Leah loves gay guys, so she’d probably be freaking thrilled. But I’m tired of coming out. All I ever do is come out. I try not to change, but I keep changing, in all these tiny ways. I get a girlfriend. I have a beer. And every freaking time, I have to reintroduce myself to the universe all over again.

His innate fear of change doesn’t stop him from trying new things aka beer, parties, and making new friends. Simon and his group of friends have the best types of interactions: they’re casual, they talk about everything and nothing, and they bond through their experiences. Ahhh, it reminds me of my happy-go-lucky days.

Since this story takes place in a backwater town in Georgia, Albertalli shines light on relevant issues that exists in such an area. There’s the racism, bigotry, and anti-gay mindset which makes Simon reluctant to reveal his orientation.  Simon has a great support system and he has long come to terms with his sexual preference. He also has a multicultural group of friends. (That’s an A+ in my book for promoting diversity in books!) In that sense, he’s got most of his life figured out but it’s not ideal to come out of the closet in front of his non-progressive town. The plot was character-driven heavily and it was so sweet and cute (YES, IT WAS ADORABLE) to watch Simon grow and experience new things through his snarky, ingenuous perspective. His voice was hilarious and relatable. I really felt like a teenager again.

[Email to Blue:] So, I keep thinking about the idea of secret identities. Do you ever feel locked into yourself? I’m not sure if I’m making sense here. I guess what I mean is that sometimes it seems like everyone knows who I am except me. Okay, I’m glad you mentioned homecoming, because I totally forgot that Spirit Week is this week. Monday is Decades Day, right? I guess I should check online so I can avoid making an ass of myself. Honestly, I can’t believe they schedule Spirit Week right after Halloween. Creekwood really blows its load on costume days all at once. How do you think you’ll dress up for Monday? I know you’re not going to answer that. And I totally figured you’d be ogling the cheerleaders on Friday, because you’re all about the ladies. Me too, Blue. Me too.

Thank you Albertalli for mentioning how hard the job of a teacher is! Yes, teachers get some credit for doing a good job in this book and I’m elated because it gives me hope for positive representation in YA as a future teacher! (Oftentimes, teachers are insignificant and pushed aside in contemporary YA but we want our parts too!) I love the email exchanges between Simon and his secret guy, Blue. They’re very honest and open with each other which is rare because communication is so complicated in the real world right now. People be playing mind games whenever they text each other.

So should you read this book?

LGBTQ is an important topic and I’m glad to read a book that showcases it from a gay teen’s perspective. Sure, you can read books that have gay characters but it’s different when you are involved and reading about a gay main character. So yes, read this book and enjoy it not just as an LGBTQ book but as a book about high school, Oreos, romance, and Oliver! musicals.

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