Tag Archives: book review

BOOK REVIEW: The Young Elites Trilogy by Marie Lu

“Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
– John Acton

5 Stars

I started Young Elites expecting a usual no-nonsense Young Adult novel—apparently I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I ended up finishing the entire trilogy in a span of two and a half days.

Finally, something different.

This review covers the entire trilogy so heads-up: Heavy spoilers ahead.

For the first time, the star is not a hero—but an antihero. Adelina stands out among today’s crop of YA heroines because she is exactly what they are not. We’ve seen it a hundred times: A seemingly ordinary girl who eventually becomes the key to the world’s survival or something like that. It’s a tale as told as time, and frankly I’ve grown tired of it. Young Elites is none of that. This is a story of the rise and fall of a villain—and her eventual redemption. In this series, I saw a mirror of our reality: how nations are born, how they are conquered… how one dictator falls only to be replaced by another. It showed problems our society faces constantly each day: How hate begets hate, how it becomes a cycle that gets nurtured until it peaks. It’s dark, it’s mature, and amidst all the powers and monsters: there is truth.

Young Elites started with Adelina as a weak little girl, not knowing her place in the world and how to use her power. I journeyed with her through her torments until she found the first group of people that accepted her. I saw how she fell in love and how she got betrayed over and over. I watched how the bitterness of life slowly took its toll on her. I knew what was happening: How the darkness in her slowly brewed, cultivated by her sufferings and the people who hurt her. I stood witness as her power heightened and slowly corrupted her—how her ambitions and cruelty grew stronger each page. I knew she was no hero—yet I couldn’t bring myself to hate her. Because I knew her story. Nobody here was pure. Each character had darkness in them—even sweet Violetta. In a way, I rooted for the villain. I think that’s what the author wanted. Because in reality, we all have darkness in us. We all want to succeed, to become powerful, to be on top. Adelina was our personal darkness personified.

ms

Honestly, I think the series could’ve stopped at book two and succeeded. I thought that final sentence at the end of Rose Society was perfect on its own. The beginning of Midnight Star felt a little out of place. I found myself doubting the author, “Where is she going with this?” The first two books were so strong and I didn’t want to be disappointed with a weak conclusion. The third book started off weak, yes, but the final chapters were what saved it. That part where Adelina was bargaining for her sister’s life and was contemplating what she has, would, and could become was beautifully written. My heart broke as she pictured her future with Magiano—a future that she’ll never have. It felt like it was also being wrenched away from me. I wanted them to have more time—I wanted them to have a life. The voice in me wanted her to stay. Who cares about Violetta? She’s had an easy life! It was as if I’ve become the dark whispers in Adelina’s delusions. I wanted her to be selfish. I wanted ­her, not Violetta. But then as she wrestled with her thoughts, so did I. She was right. And it was devastating because I knew it was the right choice—the only choice. Still, my heart broke for Magiano. I finished the book with a little hatred for Violetta. Why did she get everything Adelina worked so hard for?Her life has always been easy—and in the end Adelina’s life work was just handed to her on a silver platter. It’s not fair! But then again, life is never fair. I guess, like Magiano, I’ll just have to live with what we are dealt with.

Would I recommend this? Yes. It’s a breath of fresh air among redundant girl-saves-the-world plots in today’s bookshelves. If you liked Mistborn and Graceling then I think you’ll like this. If you’ve read this and liked it, then try those titles I mentioned.

Advertisements

Edition Review: American Gods x Anansi Boys (B&N Collectible Edition 2016)

Processed with VSCO with hb1 preset

The moment I saw this beautiful edition online, I knew I just had to have it. I’m a big Gaiman fan so imagine my excitement when I learned that it’ll be available in my country.

The cover art was designed by Jim Tierney. I love the silver and blue theme. The typography design really stood out against the black leather base. It’s a truly gorgeous piece.

Processed with VSCO with hb2 preset

The exterior theme extends to the inner jacket. The page trims are also coated with silver.

Processed with VSCO with hb2 preset

The paper is smooth and thin, kinda like The Bible. The book also has a ribbon marker, so no need for bookmarks.

Processed with VSCO with hb2 preset

The book is a bit heavy so I don’t recommend it for casual reading. I bought this book with the intent of displaying it so I don’t really mind the weight. Overall, this is a beautiful edition that any Gaiman fan would love. Definitely worth every penny!

Audiobook Review: Secondhand Smoke (Jake Brand, PI #2) by M. Louis

3 Stars

This audiobook was given to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Okay, it’s been a long while since my last blog post and although I’ve been reading books here and there I haven’t really been able to update my site for a while due to my work schedule… so I’ve decided to get my blogging groove back as my New Year’s Resolution!

It’s been decades since my last mystery read. I think my last one was Dan Brown’s Inferno (which was ages ago) so I welcomed this audiobook with open arms.

First and foremost, I haven’t read “Angel’s Devil”, the first book of this series, so I was worried I might have a hard time understanding the plot since this was a sequel. Thankfully, the book was written in a way that it could stand alone. My first reaction while listening to the first few chapters was “This Jake guy has a really unique sense of humor”, lol. I like how the tone wasn’t too serious like most mystery novels. It’s serious, but not too serious. I think the narrator, Colin McCarthy, did a good job with balancing the tone of the audiobook as well. The story started off nicely and gradually picked up as the novel progressed. There were times wherein I had to stay a few minutes longer in the car just to finish a chapter. There were some really intense moments where I questioned if Jake’s crew would make it. Another factor I really liked was the time spent on Jake’s mundane PI moments. It’s nice to see what he normally does as a PI when not getting himself in trouble (kidding).

Overall, I enjoyed this audiobook. I think the gem of this novel was really Jake’s (sometimes awkward) sense of humor, which made him very likable. I might read Angel’s Devil too and see what Jake got himself into there. I think this book would probably make an enjoyable movie due to the numerous action-packed scenes.

P.S. This book made me wanna visit Portland!


See my goodreads review here.
Credit for the graphics: http://mlouisbooks.com/

It’s been a while!

hp-bookmarks-and-stickers

Wow, it’s been four months since my last blog post. I’ve been quite an irresponsible book blogger! But, in case you’re wondering what I’ve been up to… here it is! For the past few months I’ve been busy designing stuff (fan art, typography, prints, etc). I’m an artist by profession and lately I’ve been really motivated to draw and design things that are close to my heart. One of my favorites were these Harry Potter-themed bookmark and sticker sets!

I just thought that there aren’t much decent Potter merchandise available in my country, and I don’t want to buy from random stores who only download and print stuff from the internet when I can design my own. So, here they are!

On other note, have you read The Cursed Child yet? What were your thoughts? Personally, I enjoyed the book (script) for what it was worth. It’s definitely nowhere near the Rowling books, but hey, it’s canon and it’s still Harry Potter. The book felt like fan service more than anything else.I’m sure they could’ve done so much better if they decided to go another direction. Still, I was happy with it. I truly felt that it was a gift for true Potterheads. It was like being reunited with long-lost friends, and I was just so happy to see them again that nothing else mattered.

How about you? Did you love it, or hate it? Were you glad they decided to release an eighth book?

 

P.S. If you’re interested in my bookmarks and stickers, just email me at kaeriart@gmail.com!

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

Processed with VSCOcam with hb2 preset

2 Stars


“In school, we learned about the world before ours, about the angels and gods that lived in the sky, ruling the earth with kind and loving hands. Some say those are just stories, but I don’t believe that.

The gods rule us still, they have come down from the stars. And they are no longer kind.”

Imagine Graceling meets Princess Diaries and you’ll have something like The Red Queen. Mare, the heroine of the story, discovers that she possesses a power she’s not supposed to have. Of course, inevitably, she becomes a key figure in a rebellion against a corrupt and prejudiced system. Basically, in this world, there are two kinds of people: Reds and Silvers. Reds are normal humans bound to serve, while the Silvers are elite humans with special abilities and destined to rule over all. That’s the status quo, has been for centuries, and of course, the rebellion seeks to change that. I won’t say anything more about the plot to avoid spoiling so I’ll just spill my thoughts regarding the substance of the book.

This book had a lot of potential. It started off strong. However, as the world building was set-up, it started to become a little chaotic. First of all, world-building is very important to me. When I read Fantasy, may it be YA or High Fantasy, I expect to be fully immersed and introduced to its world. There has to be consistency and clear visuals in my head. Although the book clearly described Norta, I found a lot of elements to be disjointed and frenzied. Medieval, steampunk and other eras were all mixed in together which made visualizing a clear world a bit difficult.

I also had a problem with Mare. I found her character weak. She didn’t have a very strong conviction. There were times I questioned what she was really fighting for. The love triangle also felt forced and pathetic. I mean, seriously? The characters fell in love with each other without much basis. They barely had any substantial interaction, they barely knew each other, and they’re willing to risk their lives for something so feeble? I’m sorry but just don’t buy it. It felt like a high school infatuation more than anything else. The character development was so weak I didn’t make any connections with any of them. I didn’t feel anything for their suffering, for their deaths, or triumphs. Nothing. It was hard for me to root for Mare because she never showed me enough to make me believe in her.

Overall, this was a very disappointing book. I understand how some people might love it, especially YA readers. But for hardcore Fantasy readers like me, this is way not up to par. I get how some people see similarities between Red Queen and Graceling because of the special powers, but believe me that’s as far as it goes. It’s like comparing freshly brewed Columbian coffee to a hotel’s free 3-in-1 sachet.

Will I read the second book? Probably. But I won’t be running to the bookstore to get it.

 

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

Processed with VSCOcam with hb2 preset

3 Stars

“Life is made of so many moments that mean nothing. Then one day, a single moment comes along to define every second that comes after.”

It was hard for me to rate this book because I really liked it, a lot. My only beef is that I had a small problem with connecting to the characters, hence the three stars.

When I started reading this book, I immediately thought of how similar it was to Legend; only this one was set in medieval fantasy and had the main characters’ genders reversed. As I read further, I saw more similarities, but I also saw how different they were. I don’t want to compare, so I won’t.

Ember is a strong and intense book. It’s brutal, gritty, but also light for a fantasy novel. It’s not as rich or as dark as say A Song of Ice and Fire or as complex as The Stormlight Archive but it has the right amount of action, blood, foreshadowing and tragedy to create good fantasy. In terms of world-building, Ember doesn’t stray too far away from the main setting which is Blackcliff. Other places were mentioned but not really discussed or introduced thoroughly. The book’s map art showed a vast world so I suppose those will be explored in the following books. It was evident that the setting was strongly inspired by Ancient Rome so the way I visualized it somehow resembled that era.

My main issue with this book is the voice of the main characters: Elias and Laia. It was really hard to connect to them and there were times wherein I was confused as to whose POV I was reading. Their chapters weren’t too distinct. I also had trouble rooting for Laia. She was weak and her lack of resolve annoyed me. I felt like she was just a leaf being dragged around by the current. Ironically, the character I liked the best and empathized with the most was Helene, a non-POV character. I love her (I hope she becomes a POV character in the next book). I also thought Laia’s transition from a wimpy slave-girl to a courageous fighter at the closing chapter was too abrupt and not smoothly executed.

Now to the good bits. I love the grit and raw violence in this book. It wasn’t afraid to shed blood and to depict the brutalities of war. My favorite scene in the entire book was the battle at the amphitheater. Although I already expected it to happen, it was still difficult to read through. That was the moment I connected to Elias the most. Not just him but to all the Masks. What the Augurs made them do was brutal, not bloody-brutal but really heart-wrenching brutal. A true test of character. That was an incredible scene.

It’s clear that there’s a bigger picture and a bigger war at hand. One that involved not only the Empire but also the other races: The djinn, the fey, the ifrits, the ghuls. I have a theory, and please do not read any further if you want to avoid spoilers. It’s clear that the Nightbringer is the main antagonist in this story and the Commandant is just one of his pawns. It was mentioned that the djinns were betrayed by the early men which caused their downfall and triggered the Nightbringer’s vengeance . My theory is that the Augurs, who said that they were guilty, were either one of the first men who possessed the learned magic hence their immortality and magical abilities, or they were the fey who gave men the knowledge that caused the djinn’s defeat and they were now trying to make amends by making things right. I’m really curious about this bit of the story. It kinda reminded me of Kingkiller and its Lanre mythology.

Overall I really enjoyed this book and I’m looking forward to the next one. This is a good divergence from the usual young adult dystopian novels that plague the shelves these days. If you like books like Legend and are into fantasy that doesn’t heavily rely on magic then this is the book for you.

Blind Date with a Book: Bookends by Jane Green

Photo 3-6-16, 2 56 04 PM

3 Stars

Ever since I can remember I have loved books. Not just loved, but been passionate about. I regularly spend hours at a time browsing in bookshops, losing track of time, losing myself in another world.

My colleagues and I at work decided to organize a Blind Date with a Book event. This was the book that I got. If you’re curious, the teaser that got me was “How I met Your Mother meets Mean Girls”. I’ve been on a high fantasy reading streak and I figured it would be nice to read some chic lit as a break and I loved both HIMYM and Mean Girls!

Bookends is about a group of late twenty-somethings trying to figure out their lives. As the teaser promised, it did remind me of Friends and HIMYM. There isn’t that much fuss to the story. It’s chic lit and it’s supposed to be a light read, and it was. What I liked the best about the story was the Bookends bit. In the book, Bookends is a bookshop cafe that a couple of the main characters put up. The truth is, one of my dreams in life is to be able to put up my own book café—a place where I can share my love for books and food at the same time. Until now, it’s still a dream. Reading about the characters’ journey in their business venture was bittersweet. A part of me was so happy because they were doing what I’ve been dreaming of doing ever since—and another half of me was jealous because they are actually doing it, even if they are just fictional people.

One day, I tell myself, I will do it. I will fulfill that dream. It’s just that I’m not sure when.

I saw a lot of myself in Cath—too much, even. Somehow the story was more personal because I saw a lot of myself in her. This was a fictional girl living a part of my dream, and it was both sad and sweet. If only real life was easier.

Because isn’t that the thing with fantasies? Fantasies are absolutely safe, as long as you never try to make them a reality. Whether you’re fantasizing about wife-swapping, or café/bookshops, it’s still a truism that they will always be safer when they are kept locked in your head.

I picked this book blindly not knowing what story I was about to get myself into, and it turned out to be more personal than I ever intended it to be. I finish this review still wondering if I’ll ever have the courage to do what Cath did—and it scares me.

Also, thanks to Ann for lending me this, it was a good Blind Date!