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Legend (Legend #1) by Marie Lu

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4 Stars

I’ve been on a reader’s block for quite a while, and I didn’t know if I still had it in me to be able to read at the same pace like I used to—but it turns out I only needed one good book to wake me up from my reading slumber. I’ve had Legend for a long time now but never really bothered to start it. This afternoon I had an insane attack of boredom so I decided to flip a few pages—only, I wasn’t able to stop. I literally couldn’t stop reading from the moment I started (I was even scolded by my dad to put down the book because I was reading during dinner). It’s been a while since I’ve read a good dystopian book. I mean, there are just so many out there nowadays. The last series that I really liked were Chaos Walking and Partials and both of those have been ages ago. I picked up this trilogy because of the hype, and hype comes with expectations. Fortunately, Legend delivered.

“Each day means a new twenty-four hours. Each day means everything’s possible again. You live in the moment, you die in the moment, you take it all one day at a time. You try to walk in the light.”

Like most books of this genre, Legend has the dystopian staples: A perfect society that’s not so perfect, rebel groups, secrets, and teenage protagonists who are too capable for their age (seriously). The story flows through the POVs of two characters: June and Day. One’s from the system, the other is the rebel—and of course (no-brainer here) they fall in love. What I liked about this book is that even though it follows some YA cliches, it managed to have its own voice and it didn’t feel like I was just reading a rehashed version of Lord of the Flies or 1984. The characters were well-written and likable. The pacing was neither too fast nor too slow and it gave just enough information each chapter to keep you reading. Although, I was able to guess who the “killer” was way too early—blame my history with mystery and thriller novels. Legend uses a “plague” plot device, similar to Matched trilogy—the only difference is that Matched had no direction whatsoever, Legend does. At least, I hope so. I’ve only read the first book but so far so good. I’m looking forward to reading Prodigy and if it’s anything as good as this then I think my reading appetite will be happily satisfied.

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Eight Minutes by Lori Reisenbichler

3 Stars

The publisher has given me a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

What happens when we die?
Where do our souls go?

Does afterlife exist?

These questions may have different answers for everyone. We all have different beliefs, some are skeptics, and some are believers. These are questions that have prodded my mind since I was little—which is why I’ve always been fascinated by real-life stories about near-death experiences and astral projections.

On the night that Shelly Buckner finally became a mother, she very nearly became a widow. Her husband, Eric, seriously injured in a car accident on the way to the hospital, was dead for a full eight minutes before being revived—all while Shelly was in labor. Those eight minutes changed everything Shelly thought was possible.

Three years later, their son, Toby, brings home an imaginary friend. But he’s no ordinary playmate—John Robberson is a fighter pilot and Vietnam vet. As Toby provides unlikely details about John’s life—and Toby’s tantrums increase—Shelly becomes convinced that John was real and now wants something from Toby. But her husband has his doubts, and as Shelly becomes involved, even obsessed, with finding out the truth, their marriage begins to disintegrate. Torn between protecting her child and keeping the peace with her husband, Shelly desperately searches for a way to finally put John Robberson out of their lives.

It’s hard to discuss the book without spoiling too much of the story so I’ll be very vague. The story’s focus is on Shelly and I liked how the author built up her character. You’ll really sympathize with her and feel for her even if she can get a bit crazy at times. All the characters, not just her, were very well-written (although, I didn’t like Eric very much). Personally, I liked how realistic the book portrayed relationships and the impacts one aspect of your life could have to you and the people around you. I was able to put myself in Shelly’s shoes—what if my boyfriend or someone close to me suddenly changes like that? I honestly don’t know how I would deal.

The story can be a little creepy at times but that’s part of its charm. I actually thought this could easily have been a horror story, but don’t worry, it isn’t. I just wish the pacing was a bit faster but overall it was a really good story. If you’re into books like If I Stay or Lovely Bones then you would love this book.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

3 Stars

“People see what they wish to see. And in most cases, what they are told that they see.”

I liked this book, but I didn’t love it. I should, but I didn’t. The Night Circus had a very good story, a solid concept, it sang a distinct sound. I get why some people saw some splashes of Gaiman in this novel. This book is incredibly descriptive and visual, the settings are always described in a way that make them very easy to imagine. I believe this book is a treat for imaginative minds. At first, I truly felt like a kid being thrust into a candy shop for the first time—but too much sugar can harm your teeth—and I think that’s what happened to me here.

“You may tell a tale that takes up residence in someone’s soul, becomes their blood and self and purpose. That tale will move them and drive them and who knows that they might do because of it, because of your words. That is your role, your gift.”

This is probably one of the most visual books I’ve read, and therein lies its greatest strength and weakness. The introduction to the circus was marvelous. In fact, I personally think the Prologue was the strongest chapter in the entire book. The first encounter with the Circus was enchanting. I could smell the caramel, popcorn, warm cider and candied applies in my head. It seemed as if I was literally there at the circus! But as the book went on, it felt forced and redundant. There were moments wherein I felt like the narrator was trying to push how great, grand and magical the circus was every chance he could get, raining the reader with a barrage of adjectives. It became too wordy. It felt like I was being forced to believe it—forced to smell the deliciousness and sweetness of the liquid caramel whose scent wafted through the air as it was drizzled in a slow pour, like maple syrup on a hot plate of pancake, on top of the warm and freshly-popped popcorn with melted buttermilk butter, held inside a fantastic bucket of black and white stripes with a sprinkled print of glittering stars. See what I did there? Too much of a good thing is not always good, and I think that’s why I found it difficult to truly love this book.

The characters were interesting, so varied, and likable in their own right but they felt so far away. Do you get what I mean? I liked them but I never got to invest myself in them. It never became personal, never intimate. At the end of the book, I knew I read a good story but I didn’t feel anything—except perhaps a slight craving for caramel-drizzled popcorn.

Words of Radiance (The Stormlight Archive #2) by Brandon Sanderson

5 Stars

“Power is an illusion of perception.”

Phenomenal. The second book in Brandon Sanderson’s Magnum Opus not only lived up to the expectations of Way of Kings but also exceeded it. Honestly, is Sanderson partly digging his own grave here? Now that he has given us these two marvels, every book he writes after this will be expected to match their quality and that’s no easy feat!

“You will have to see the truth, child, before you can expand upon it. Just as a man should know the law before he breaks it.”

In Words of Radiance, we learn more about the orders of the Knights Radiants, the nature of spren, the Voidbringers, the magic system that binds Roshar and, most importantly, we are given more pieces of the massive puzzle that encompasses all of the Shardworlds’ eventual fate.

In Way of Kings, my favorite characters were Kaladin and Szeth. They still remain to be among my favorites but Adolin and Shallan have been added to that beloved list as well after reading this book.  Shallan reminded me too much of Sansa in WoK but here I got to see her strengths, her wit, her resolve and her weaknesses. Funny how her dark past made me like her more. I hate perfect damsels in fiction and she proved to be far from one. In this book, some of Szeth’s shroud of mystery were dissolved only to be replaced by another of greater and even more exciting proportions. I think I practically squealed from my seat when Nightblood made an appearance. What is Brandon Sanderson playing at here? Not that I’m complaining or anything—this twist will surely make a very interesting third book. If you’ve read Warbreaker then I’m sure you’ll be familiar of what I’m talking about.

The fight scenes in WoR were not as intense as WoK’s battle at the Tower but they were still pretty marvelous. The first half of the book was a bit slow but I didn’t mind. There were a lot of things going on and it was important for the readers to get through them carefully or they might miss some important things. All in all, this was another brilliant book for The Stormlight Archive and the moment I flipped the last page I was already aching for more. Seriously, how long do I have to wait until the third book comes out? You need to read this as soon as possible so that we can wallow in the misery of waiting together! Yes, I’m serious. And yes, you need to grab this book now if you haven’t already. If you do already have it but have yet to start it, why Stormfather, what are you waiting for?! Start flipping those pages! Epics like this aren’t made to wait!

“But the sky and the winds are mine. I claim them, as I now claim your life.”

 

 

My review for The Way of Kings (Stormlight Archive #1)

The Way of Kings (The Stormlight Archive #1) by Brandon Sanderson

“The purpose of a storyteller is not to tell you how to think, but to give you questions to think upon. Too often, we forget that.”

After reading Way of Kings, it’s clear to me that Brandon Sanderson held himself back with great restraint when he did Mistborn. This book, this beginning of a grand, ambitious, luxurious and what shall become an epic fantasy series, is what happens when he lets it all go. This is how fantasy books should be like! There’s a reason why Fantasy has always been my favorite genre. Nothing can pull a reader into a totally different world the same way it does—completely and absolutely, the kind that makes you truly forget where you are and who you are— and Way of Kings most definitely did that to me.

 “A story does not live until it is imagined in someone’s mind.”

This world—this massive world of magic, depth, war, of places and people that can only ever exist in the realm of our minds—has wholly captured me. Sanderson’s magic systems, his world-building, a cosmos so rich and so vast… his stories are like the fantasy books of old. The thing I’ve always admired with Tolkien’s work is the thought and effort put behind it. His Middle Earth has its own history, its own mythology, and its own life apart from the lives of the characters that dwell in it. Sanderson’s books are the same. All of his books are connected, coexisting, intertwined, enclosed inside the same universe—bounded inside one cosmos. Different worlds, Mistborn, Elantris, Warbreaker, and now Way of Kings—each has its own story, its own rules, its own chaos, yet they are all connected by a string that only we readers know of. Sanderson gives us a small piece of the grand puzzle for every book he gives us. I truly applaud Brandon Sanderson for the grandness of the world he has created.

“The prize is not worth the costs. The means by which we achieve victory are as important as the victory itself.”

I noticed I was too overwhelmed by the grand scheme of things that I forgot to actually write about Way of Kings alone. Well all I can say is that this is one hell of a start for an epic fantasy series. It’s fantastical world is filled with colorful cultures and characters that will hook any fantasy fan. The story is told from the point of views of very, very different people with, at first, seemingly urelated lives. One by one their individual stories mesh and I’m sure more of them will collide in the following books. The characters are complex, intriguing, annoying, frustrating, yet fascinating all at the same time. I admit I have my favorites: Kaladin and Szeth. I’m looking forward as to how their stories unfold and clash in the next book. This book started off slow but not in a boring way, but in a controlled pace—a needed control for us to see more into the characters and their histories. The first half of the book was a perfect expository to the pool of action that followed. I swear I was at the edge of my seat while reading the battle at the Tower! I couldn’t sit down at all fearing for the lives of my favorite characters. The book ended in a way that made me want to run to the bookstore and grab Words of Radiance at once.

There are good stories, and then there are great stories. I strongly believe that The Stormlight Archive is one in the making, and I am in for the full ride.

 

My review for Words of Radiance (Stormlight Archive #2)

Flipped by Wendelin Van Draanen

5 Stars

Before Eleanor and Park, there was Juli and Bryce.

I remember the first time I read this book, I think I was around eleven. I was at the sweet age of butterflies and puppy love. This book left an impact because at that time I was only starting to understand what the fuss was all about. Few days ago, I decided to read this book again, wondering how different my perception would be from my eleven year-old self. The funny thing is, I think it still has the same effect as it did many years ago.

“One’s character is set at an early age, son. The choices you make now will affect you for the rest of your life.”

At this point in my life, there are very few books that can make me feel like a little kid again. Flipped is one of them. It’s amazing how this short book is able to bring me back to my childhood, to the time of first loves and first heartaches, no matter how long it’s been. The story’s strength lies on its simplicity and, ironically, therein lies its complexity. Through my second reading, I saw things I think I might’ve missed many years ago. Back then, all I saw was a story of innocent love, of how Bryce reminded me of my crush, but now I know there’s more to this book than meets the eye.

“Some of us get dipped in flat, some in satin, some in gloss. But every once in a while you find someone who’s iridescent, and when you do, nothing will ever compare.”

Materialism, false pretenses, prejudice, superficiality—these are things my eleven year-old self has yet to comprehend. But now I see the big picture. I love how the author was able to create two societies through two families. In a way, they are foils of each other.

“Get beyond his eyes and his smile and the sheen of his hair—look at what’s really there.”

Today, people care too much about appearances that we forget about substance. I think more adults should read and re-read Flipped. It not only brings back the tenderness of childhood but it also reminds us something that we’ve forgotten—something that we should always remember. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Paradigm by Ceri Lowe (Paradigm #1)

3 Stars

“There’s surviving and then there’s living.”

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. First thing’s first, I’m sure many young readers will notice the eerie resemblance between the covers of Divergent and Paradigm, and I really wish they chose a different cover for this one because the two are totally different in theme and in story.

I really liked the idea behind this book. For a young adult dystopian novel, it has a very realistic and mature backbone. For a brief backstory: a devastating Storm hit the Earth around 2015 that nearly submerged everything to nonexistence. Thankfully, Paradigm Industries saw something like this would happen and built a massive underground complex made to withstand years of isolation to ensure survival. The story happens through the eyes of two characters: Alice and Carter. Alice’s story revolves around the beginning of the Storm, right after the world ended, and the new one began. Carter’s, on the other hand, happens generations later—a time wherein the new society has long been established.

“We must want to work together, to live together, to survive together. Or we all die together.”

I must admit, Paradigm hit something close to home. I live in the Philippines and I don’t know if you guys are aware but my country experiences devastating typhoons almost yearly. In fact, it was raining while I was reading this book. And here, when it rains—it pours. Some might think the Storm in the book can’t really happen, but you’re wrong. I’ve seen it happen, although perhaps not as cataclysmic as in the novel. The city I live in has been flooded to more than 10 feet high, submerging houses and buildings, more than once, and not long ago, a part of my country has been massacred by typhoon Haiyan—so yes, I am fully aware of how destructive water can be, which made it so easy for me to visualize Paradigm’s world. It was interesting that the main cause of the apocalypse in this story was the climate. It’s a relevant and more mature theme when compared to its peers. One thing I was not fully satisfied with the Storm was its origin. There wasn’t enough information given to how it came to be. Was it global warming? Was it a government experiment gone awry? I suppose, and hope, more explanation will come from the following books being that this is the first of a trilogy.

Another thing I’m disappointed with was the lack of character development. I liked Alice’s character, but Carter seemed to pale in comparison. I couldn’t connect with him at all. It greatly bothered me how weak his character was—I mean, all his life he was preparing for this one thing, then one day he meets some strangers and a girl who he hasn’t seen in fifteen years, who tell him things and he suddenly bends his beliefs just like that? I believe in the power of curiosity but it was shown from the early chapters how solid his views were. It was as if in a snap he decided to tread another path. It felt so out of character that I couldn’t find a way to root for him afterwards.

Overall, despite some of those misses, this is a promising debut novel. Readers might find some themes of the book in resonance with The Kill Order, Matched, City of Ember, and A Brave New World, but it still offers a fresh story.Will I read the next book? Yes. However, I do hope there will be more backstory and better world-building in the following installments. And I hope Carter finally finds his backbone along the way. After all, he’s the one carrying this story to its future.