Monday, July 27, 2015

Book Review: The Wrath & the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

Actual rating: 4.85 stars (-0.15 stars because the first 1/5th of the book was ehhh)
Here's the synopsis of the novel from Goodreads:
Every dawn brings horror to a different family in a land ruled by a killer. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, takes a new bride each night only to have her executed at sunrise. So it is a suspicious surprise when sixteen-year-old Shahrzad volunteers to marry Khalid. But she does so with a clever plan to stay alive and exact revenge on the Caliph for the murder of her best friend and countless other girls. Shazi's wit and will, indeed, get her through to the dawn that no others have seen, but with a catch . . . she’s falling in love with the very boy who killed her dearest friend. 
She discovers that the murderous boy-king is not all that he seems and neither are the deaths of so many girls. Shazi is determined to uncover the reason for the murders and to break the cycle once and for all.

I cannot explain my happiness that I picked this book up. I’ve seen so much praise for The Wrath & The Dawn, as well as some negative reviews. Naturally, when I started reading, I was skeptical. The plot continuously intrigued me, but some of the choices the main characters made in the first 1/5th of the book didn't make much logical sense to me. However, as I got further into the book, pieces of the mystery slowly began fitting together. I fell more and more in love with the characters and the story. If you didn't know, the novel is inspired by A Thousand and One Nights and I thoroughly enjoyed the retelling.
The characters’ feelings were so raw and I couldn’t help but feel for them, even if I didn’t fully understand what was going on. There was emotional tension and unexplained answers for a majority of the book, but it was executed nicely. Shahrzad is a strong, caring soul and Khalid is definitely not who he seems to be (don’t worry, I won’t spoil anything).  Needless to say, I got completely lost in the romance; it was just so beautifully written. Some scenes brought me Mount Everest-sized amounts of joy to read, that I felt I was going a bit crazy. There were some exceptional quotes in Shazi and Khalid’s conversations that absolutely melted my heart. I grew to love the minor characters, Despina and Jalal, so much too.
While the entire book was written in third person perspective, the book would sometimes follow different characters and their thoughts. Most of the time, it was Shazi’s POV, which was great because I appreciate reading gradual character developments in books. I also really liked the occasional Khalid POV, though I didn’t care much for Tariq’s or Shazi’s father’s perspectives.
I couldn’t stop reading and finished in six/seven consecutive hours. The scenes with lots of dialogue, romance, action, and/or humor were my favorite. The cliffhanger ending makes me cringe because I know I’ll have to wait many more months (possibly even a year) for the sequel to come out--though I am really glad that this is a duology because I couldn’t stand it if the story was not finished in one more book. 
A shortened version of my thoughts:

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Book Review: A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

Here's the synopsis of the novel from Goodreads:
When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution for it. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she only knows about from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin—one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world.
As she dwells on his estate, her feelings for Tamlin transform from icy hostility into a fiery passion that burns through every lie and warning she's been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But an ancient, wicked shadow grows over the faerie lands, and Feyre must find a way to stop it . . . or doom Tamlin—and his world—forever.

I really wanted to love this and it was extremely enjoyable and entertaining, but it wasn’t as good as other books I’ve been reading recently. If you didn’t know, A Court of Thorns and Roses is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, so it was fascinating to see how the concepts of the fairytale tied into the fantasy plot. The writing is easy to follow and quick to read. I wish there were more specific details when Maas described certain settings because while I could visualize scenes in my head, there were certain small details that I felt were missing.
Overall, there was a diverse character cast: Feyre is a caring and courageous leading woman in the story and I appreciated reading about her determination through hard events in her life. However, I didn’t like how she would sometimes make decisions that people had previously warned her against. Tamlin is a fascinating character, and I kind of wish that there were chapters written in his perspective to get a stronger hold on his emotions. There’s also Lucien (who reminds me of Kenji from Shatter Me because they’re both awesome, but different at the same time) and Rhys (interesting is a good word to describe him and the choices he makes).
The last 100 pages was full of action, which wrapped everything up nicely. I’m absolutely terrible at riddles (I’ve never been able to solve one on my own without hints), but I was able to successfully guess a huge part of the ending. It was a slight disappointment. There was a slight cliffhanger at the end, but not a huge one. Now onto some of my rambly thoughts towards the possibility of a love triangle in the next book- I REALLY hope there isn’t one because then everything that happened in this book would seem like a complete waste of time/effort. Romance drama in the next book would just make me feel sad. To think that the two main characters went through so much for the love interest to change...that would definitely change my positive feelings towards the characters and these books in general. In that sense, I kind of wish that this was a standalone novel, so I can get immediate closure. I wonder if this series will turn out like the Lunar Chronicles with different fairytale retellings in each novel. It would be cool to see them featuring more than one character’s point of view and include new characters/romance plot lines (but NOT for the two main characters).

A shortened version of my thoughts:

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Book Review: Dream A Little Dream by Kerstin Grier

Actual rating: 3.75 stars
Here's the synopsis from Goodreads:
Mysterious doors with lizard-head knobs. Talking stone statues. A crazy girl with a hatchet. Yes, Liv's dreams have been pretty weird lately. Especially the one where she's in a graveyard at night, watching four boys conduct dark magic rituals.
The strangest part is that Liv recognizes the boys in her dream. They're classmates from her new school in London, the school where she's starting over because her mom has moved them to a new country (again). But what's really scaring Liv is that the dream boys seem to know things about her in real life, things they couldn't possibly know--unless they actually arein her dreams? Luckily, Liv never could resist a good mystery, and all four of those boys are pretty cute...

Dream A Little Dream was a fun and fast paced read. I was looking for something light and this was definitely it. As a part-time lucid dreamer, I found the plot original and very interesting. In a tiny way, it reminded me of The Archived by Victoria Schwab. The main character, Liv, is smart and loves a good mystery to solve, but she irritated me at times. She would constantly describe her appearance (“My dark-blue shirt had a low neckline, and the new jeans that I’d bought fitted perfectly. I was also wearing lip gloss, mascara, Mom’s concealer…”) and the appearance of others, specifically the four main boys. She has an annoying habit of agreeing to do things without really thinking about how it might affect the people around her. While I felt the book was a little immature for my taste at times, since the main character is only 15 (soon 16) years old, but it was entertaining to read.
At first I thought this was going to be some sort of a love pentagon (with four boys), but the romance was simple, so I liked that. Interesting turn of events towards the end of the book, but it didn’t fully make sense to me. So far this trilogy is less complex compared to Kerstin Gier's Ruby Red trilogy, but I have a feeling that the second and third book will dig deeper into some of the characters' pasts, where some problems between relationships may possibly rise. That should be interesting!
Side note: I really like the cover and the metallic silver theme. Also, Liv’s mom is embarrassing and irritating.

A shortened version of my thoughts:

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Book Reviews: The Winner's Curse & The Winner's Crime

Actual rating: 3.95 stars
Here's the synopsis of the novel from Goodreads:
As a general’s daughter in a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers, seventeen-year-old Kestrel has two choices: she can join the military or get married. But Kestrel has other intentions. 
      One day, she is startled to find a kindred spirit in a young slave up for auction. Arin’s eyes seem to defy everything and everyone. Following her instinct, Kestrel buys him—with unexpected consequences. It’s not long before she has to hide her growing love for Arin. 
     But he, too, has a secret, and Kestrel quickly learns that the price she paid for a fellow human is much higher than she ever could have imagined. 
     Set in a richly imagined new world, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski is a story of deadly games where everything is at stake, and the gamble is whether you will keep your head or lose your heart.

I was really excited to get into The Winner’s Curse because I’ve heard many great things about it (and also the cover is just gorgeous). It was different from what I expected, which was a heavy but sweet romance. Instead, I got that but 100x more complicated and lots of politics. The main character Kestrel boosted my overall feelings for the novel as a whole. She's strong, smart, and courageous, making strategic decisions while using her heart. She is a consistently good character. I also enjoyed the extensive world building that built up the fantasy world. There was complexity weaved throughout the plot that was fascinating to think about.
While I liked this book a lot, my feelings were conflicted for most of it. There was something about how the romance first started that didn’t settle with me; it just seemed like Arin was mad a lot, which annoyed me. But I will for sure continue reading this trilogy because I thoroughly enjoyed the ending of the book. Kudos to the author for creating such a unique book when there are so many young adult novels similar to each other.

Actual rating: 3.75 stars (No Goodreads synopsis because that contain's spoilers and this is a no spoiler zone)

I felt like most of the book was just build up for the last book in the trilogy; there was only slow progress to figuring out a misunderstanding and moving on from there. There was a lot of inner conflict in both of the main characters’ minds, as well as, emotional conflict between the characters. I was hooked from the beginning because I had no idea what was going to happen, but by the last 1/3rd of the book, I felt that the problem in the plot had dragged out too long. I felt for Kestrel because she faced tough situations in her life; her actions and decisions made me respect her. Like the first book, the details describing the setting and people were vivid and well written. Overall, The Winner’s Crime had so much angst, which definitely made me think. I’m looking forward to see how Marie Rutkoski ties everything together in the last book of the trilogy and provide well-needed closure (which I’m really hoping happens). Sadly, it’s going to get published in March 2016.  

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Book Reviews: Never Never Part 1 & 2

Actual rating: 4.25 stars
Here's the mysterious synopsis of the novel from Goodreads:

Best friends since they could walk. In love since the age of fourteen. 
Complete strangers since this morning. 
He'll do anything to remember. She'll do anything to forget. 

That. Was. So. Good. -0.75 stars because Never Never was way too short (there really could have been more packed into this book), but the good thing is that Part 2 is already out. The plot is a teeny tiny bit similar to a movie that I've watched before, but most of it was extremely original, which I loved so much. The mystery captivated me to no end. I feel the phrase, “He'll do anything to remember. She'll do anything to forget.”, on Goodreads is misleading because that wasn’t the case in the book; the description makes it seem like the two people have different goals, but that really isn’t the case. The characters were realistically written in that they acted how I would assume people would act when they don’t know their own identities. I was rooting for Charlie (a tough, smart girl) and Silas (a kindhearted, responsible guy) since the beginning because their chemistry is undeniable. The writing from the two authors mingles well and is easy to understand. I wasn’t sure what I was expecting from Never Never when I started, but the thrilling mystery and character relationships were spectacular.  The novel was a definite page turner.

Now onto my quick thoughts regarding Part Two:
There was a lot of redundant information in the beginning that could’ve been left out if all three parts of Never Never were in one book. However, it was still interesting to read how the plot developed. The pieces and clues are starting to fit together, though many things still have to be explained. The few plot twists and new discoveries were unexpected and I enjoyed the surprise they gave me. I cannot wait to see how the mystery unravels in Part Three.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Book Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Actual rating: 4.25 stars
Here's the synopsis of the novel from Goodreads:
      CATH IS A SIMON SNOW FAN. Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan... But for Cath, being a fan is her life--and she's really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it's what got them through their mother leaving.
      Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fanfiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere. 
      Cath's sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can't let go. She doesn't want to. 
      Now that they're going to college, Wren has told Cath that she doesn't want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She's got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend; a fiction-writing professor who thinks fanfiction is the end of the civilized world; a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words...and she can't stop worrying about her dad, who's loving and fragile and has never really been alone
      For Cath, the question is: Can she do this? Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?

When I first started reading this book, it was 9 months ago in September. I had begun reading, stopped, and then finished reading it all in one day during this month (and I’m so glad I did). The beginning of Fangirl was extremely slow for me because I couldn’t relate to Cath, which I really like to do with a book’s main character; she frustrated me with her ceaseless dislike for change. However, I really enjoyed the second half of the novel because that’s where she started developing as an individual. It was wonderful seeing her interact with different people, her dad, Wren, Reagan, Levi, and Laura, in various situations. She became more realistic as a multidimensional character, someone who is a home-body and anxious for the future, but also caring and willing to do anything for the ones she loves. The romance was super adorable and sweet, as I had expected. Levi was supportive, cheerful, and sweet all the time, but it just seemed like that one side of him was the only side. It would be fascinating to see Cath meet his family and visit the farm to see a different side of his character to make him more realistic. Also, further plot regarding Laura would be really interesting. She was mentioned continuously throughout the novel, but there was no further development with that plot line. Additionally, I would appreciate an epilogue for the romance because I love the relationship so much (and that would’ve provided more closure than the actual ending of the novel). Overall, I’m pleased to say that I ended up liking Fangirl much more than I had expected when I first picked this book up. Rainbow Rowell’s writing and characters grew on me and I’m so glad that I decided to pick this back up this summer.

A shortened version of my thoughts on this book: