Book Review

An Elite Misunderstanding

The Elite (The Selection, #2)The Elite by Kiera Cass

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Warning: Major Spoilers Ahead

In this sequel to the beloved (or hated) The Selection, America became quite an annoying character. I’ve been team Maxerica from the start, so I despised how she kept on using Aspen as her safety net. Her love for both boys evolved into something dependent on her moods; her happy days were spent with Maxon, while her bad days were spent with Aspen. Gah, this entire novel was practically about America’s outstanding indecisiveness. I wanted to throw a book at her every time she insisted that she simply needed MORE TIME. Seriously, the perfect choice was right in front of her, but she just couldn’t see it!

America’s “major” misunderstanding with Maxon was kinda irrational. I thought that it was unfair for her to blame him for Marlee’s caning. After all, Maxon wasn’t the one who made all of those misogynistic rules about the Selected “cheating” on him. Ha, it was also ironic how America got angry at Maxon for using Celeste, when she herself was similarly using Aspen. Oh man, the drama in this book was so shallow, but I admit that reading about it was such a guilty pleasure. LOL

For me, the last straw was America’s impulsive (and resentful) proposal to demolish the caste system. I admired her sudden political empowerment; she seemed to be the only Selected girl who cared about Ilea’s social problems. However, her proposal was made at the WRONG TIME. It was basically a stupid and childish move because she only did it to spite Maxon for refusing to let her go home. To make things worse, Maxon was horribly punished because of her ignorance. Maxon was my favorite character, so I was angry at America for inadvertently causing him pain.

Ultimately, my regard for America flopped in The Elite. I still love the entire Selection ex-trilogy, but this book is definitely my least favorite.

*The featured image was contributed by Dessa Mae Jacobe (@dessatopia)

Book Review

5 Utterances of “Meh” per Chapter

5 Centimeters per Second (5 Centimeters per Second, #1-2)5 Centimeters per Second by Makoto Shinkai

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Without ever opening my heart, I’ve devoured goodwill to fill my loneliness. I’ve lost everything. I’ll try to accept that about myself, so that next time, I’ll truly be able to let someone in. —Tohno

Have you ever watched a TV show or read a book about people who simply cannot forget their first love? And because of their failure to let go, they end up using other people as convenient rebounds? If so, then you won’t have a hard time understanding why I gave this manga a low rating.

I actually had high expectations for this manga, given how its author was also the one who penned the famous Kimi No Na Wa. I haven’t watched the latter movie, but many of my peers have assured me of its beautiful and emotional story. Thus, I chose to read 5 Centimeters per Second as a hopeful introduction to Makoto Shinkai’s work. Unfortunately, I now berate myself for making such an ignorant decision.

I had no qualms whatsoever in regards to the artwork. The drawings were very modern and detailed, making me feel like I was watching an actual anime. I am honestly not good at drawing, so I am quite easy to please in regards to aesthetics. However, what I disliked about this manga was its horrible and boring plot. Nothing much happened aside from Tohno trying to get over Akari, while a third-party girl named Kanae suffered from unrequited love. Tohno was the primary cause of my frustration because of his pathetic characterization. To simply put it, he was downright whiny and ironically insensitive. I wouldn’t want to be friends with a person like him with such toxic emotions.

Surprisingly, even though Akari had significantly less chapters or screen time than Tohno, her characterization was more substantial and fulfilling. Because unlike Tohno, she had much less trouble moving on. It’s no wonder she found peace and contentment early on. I’m not sure if this phenomenon could be interpreted as Feminist, so it’s up to you to decide.

As I continue to peruse my thoughts, I guess I did enjoy one thing about this manga: its exploration of LDRs, or long-distance relationships. Tohno and Akari were really close when they were in middle school, but they eventually grew apart because of geographical separation. Snail mail was the popular medium of communication during this time, so they promised to send each other letters to somehow mend the distance between them. Aww…sweet, right! LOL.

Despite its cheesy and overrated nature, I liked this aspect of the story because I was able to relate to it. How so? Well, I am currently living far away from my close friends (and even my best friend). I chose to leave my hometown in search for a career in writing/editing, which I now have. After staying here for nine months, I constantly realize how fragile human relationships can be. Like many other pieces of literature, 5 Centimeters per Second illustrated that relationships need maintenance—a rejuvenating concoction of time and physical presence. Written or virtual communication does help, but I believe that it can never fully help you retain your intimacy with others.

To sum up my thoughts and feels, I am sad to say that this manga failed to meet my expectations. I probably shouldn’t have let the hype surrounding Kimi No Na Wa influence me. Still, I acknowledge the beauty of the artwork, as well as its poignant content which made me nostalgic. Only God knows if I would enjoy the other works of Makoto Shinkai.

Book Review

A List of Literary Praise

A List of CagesA List of Cages by Robin Roe

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

People heal a whole lot faster when they’re with someone who loves them. —Delores

A List of Cages is my first favorite book of 2017. I’ve been hearing nothing but positive things about it, particularly from people in the BookTube community. I used to think that the praise was quite exaggerated, but now I understand why this book has garnered so much hype.

Essentially, A List of Cages is similar to Jennifer L. Armentrout’s The Problem with Forever, in that it also explores the mechanics of foster care and its occasional, traumatic consequences. Furthermore, this book also features troubled characters who eventually find healing in each other’s company. The protagonists, Adam and Julian, both have psychological problems. The former has ADHD, while the latter has a much more serious “illness” that is unraveled throughout the novel. Regardless of their four-year age gap, Adam and Julian are able to form a very platonic and meaningful friendship. As Julian’s secrets are gradually brought to light, Adam becomes determined to protect him at all cost. That being said, A List of Cages is inevitably an emotional piece of literature.

Honestly, A List of Cages made me tearful so many times. I felt quite stupid because I kinda expected it to give me positive feels only because it was published by Disney, which is famous for its love for happy endings. Believe me when I say that this book trumps Colleen Hoover’s It Ends with Us in the popular list of Cry Worthy Books. Not-so-sincere apologies to Lily Bloom and Ryle Kincaid. If Adam and Julian won’t make you cry (or at least tearful), then you need to have a doctor heal your stone cold heart!

With that in mind, the best thing I liked about this book was its character-driven story. Given her background in psychology, I wasn’t surprised that Robin Roe really did an effort to create such impactful and inspiring characters. As flawed as they were, Adam and Julian’s personalities felt so authentic. And since the novel was written in dual perspectives, I loved getting to know them in a deeper and virtually personal way. Adam’s chapters were fun and lighthearted, while Julian’s chapters were generally morose and tear-jerking. This seesaw of alternating voices definitely messed with my emotions, thereby giving me a wonderful and memorable reading experience.

Overall, A List of Cages is YA contemporary fiction at its finest. It’s a short novel that surprisingly has super substantial content. For the sake of objectivity, the only thing I did not like was its tendency to be shockingly graphic. I sincerely enjoyed this novel, and I would happily recommend it to all of my bookish friends. I just might reread it by listening to its audiobook version. 🙂

Book Review

My Crown of Jadedness

The Crown's Game (The Crown's Game, #1)The Crown’s Game by Evelyn Skye

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Actual Rating: 3.5 stars

Imagine and it shall be. There are no limits. —Nikolai

I would be a hypocrite if I say I didn’t buy this book because of its gorgeous cover. The moment I saw it featured on one of Jesse the Reader’s videos, my heart throbbed with the desire to add this book to my collection. I think my non-bookish brothers are the only ones who don’t like the cover. :p

Anyway, I admit that I delayed writing this review because I was somehow afraid of displeasing my friends who actually loved this book. However, the fact remains that we cannot force our opinions on others. Rest assured, I did not dislike nor hate The Crown’s Game. Overall, it just did not amaze me. The characters were pleasant but occasionally flat; the magic system was entertaining but unfathomably boundless; and the plot was delightfully fast-paced but somehow predictable.

I probably would’ve liked The Crown’s Game more if I hadn’t already been exposed to a lot of YA fantasy books with themes/tropes of deadly competitions, complicated relationships (i.e. love triangles), and forbidden romance. In other words, 15-year-old neophyte booknerd Josh would have adored this book. Unfortunately, jadedness hampered my enjoyment of the story.

Nevertheless, I want to end my review on a positive note. Personally, the most memorable virtue of this book was its historical background and setting. Being an avid fan of My Lady Jane, I loved how the author tweaked with Russian history and thereby make it her own. Also, the names of the featured food and landmarks were definitely hard to pronounce, but I had fun Googling them and adding them to my limited knowledge of Russian culture.

Ultimately, though The Crown’s Game did not strike me as an excellent or outstanding novel, I look forward to reading its sequel. Until now, I cannot get over that frustrating cliffhanger.