Book Review

A Game of Tentative Hatred

The Hating GameThe Hating Game by Sally Thorne

My rating: 3.75 of 5 stars

Every game you’ve ever played has been to engage with him. Talk to him. Feel his eyes on you. To try to make him notice you.

When I first saw this book in one of my local bookstores, I was immediately attracted to the following things:

1. The cute cover
2. The unique title
3. The protagonist who also happened to be named Josh (#Biased)

However, the price kept on pushing me away. I did not want to pay 15 dollars for a paperback. I was finally persuaded to read The Hating Game after I watched Sophia’s review on BookTube. She compared the novel to the popular works of Stephanie Perkins and Rainbow Rowell, so I wanted to validate such generous praise. Little did I know that I would be savoring this book like candy.

From the get-go, I want to emphasize that The Hating Game is not the best contemporary novel out there. In fact, it’s full of cliches that normally render me jaded. You don’t even have to read the entire book to know how it ends. Plot-wise, I’m sorry to say that this book is downright predictable.

So what makes The Hating Game special and worthwhile? It’s the characters. The hilarious, adorable, and “shippable” Lucy Hutton and Joshua Templeman. If you’re fond of sarcastic, witty, and well-developed characters, then this OTP will brighten your day. Lucy has a tendency to be pathetic and annoying, but her playful and intuitive personality will eventually grow on you. As for Josh, I somehow understand why female readers claim him as their fictional boyfriend. He’s practically described to be the epitome of masculine perfection, so good luck finding your own Doctor Josh in real life.

In the end, I assure you that my 15 dollars did not go to waste. Lucy and Josh’s story isn’t that original, but it will fill you to the brim with happy feels. Given this book’s giggle-inducing content, I suggest reading it in private. Otherwise, you might suffer in humiliation as people question your sanity.

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Book Review

Make Way for Odin

Berserker (Berserker #1)Berserker by Emmy Laybourne

My rating: 3.75 of 5 stars

Thank you, Macmillan, for sending me an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Embrace the Nytte. Open your heart to it, or it will be the ruin of you. —Aud

Filled with intriguing elements of Norse mythology and American history, Berserker is one of the most unique and surprising books I’ve ever read. I would’ve finished it sooner had I not been in a terrible reading slump caused by Korean dramas and K-pop music. xD

Berserker is basically a heartwarming story about four teenagers with powers bestowed by the old Norse gods. Hanne, the female lead, is a Berserker, which means that she flies into a killing state whenever her loved ones are threatened. Unable to control her murderous abilities, Hanne is eventually forced to leave her homeland (Norway) in search for her uncle, who is supposedly the only person who can help her. With the help of a handsome cowboy named Owen, Hanne and her siblings forge their way through 19th century America. Little do they know that many life-threatening experiences await them in such a “great” country.

For me, the best thing about Berserker was its emphasis on the special bond between siblings. In spite of their many differences (that caused a number of entertaining arguments), Hanne, Stieg, Knut, and Sissel did everything in their power to keep each other safe. Furthermore, each of them had a distinct personality that made me want to meet them in real life. Hanne was the ever protective sister who loved to cook. Stieg was a bookworm who was the voice of reason in the midst of chaos. Knut was a gentle giant who could be unexpectedly profound. As for Sissel, she was a brat who could disclose an ugly truth without flinching. I really enjoyed getting to know these unique and fascinating characters.

Another virtue of Berserker was its application of Norse mythology. Greek/Roman mythology has been a popular theme in literature (and other forms of media) for years; you must be living in a cave if you aren’t familiar with the stories of Zeus, Poseidon, and other iconic deities. With that in mind, this book was like a breath of fresh air because it deviated from the status quo. Although I was already quite familiar with Norse mythology, it was fun to catch a glimpse of Odin, Freya, and the Vikings (who were apparently good at poetry).

I will probably always remember Berserker because of its shockingly detailed fighting scenes. Hanne was a force to be reckoned with when her powers were triggered; she could kill/decapitate people without batting an eye. The same could be said about the villain, who never failed to creep me out. I didn’t exactly enjoy the violence in this book, but I liked that the author didn’t make a sugarcoated YA novel.

The last virtue of Berserker was its historical content. Hanne and her siblings were only a few of the Europeans who migrated to America with the goal of having a “better” life. It could be said that they were victims of the American dream. As a Filipino, I found this to be very entertaining. It is an undeniable fact that many people in “Third World” Asia still believe that complete happiness can be found in America. Gleaning upon all of the trials the protagonists faced in Montana, I couldn’t help but scoff at the latter belief. If anything, Berserker reminded me that our happiness is determined by our choices, not by our current location in the world.

In all honesty, the only disappointing thing about this book was its similarity to Disney’s Frozen. The quote at the beginning of my review can probably speak for itself. This trope made the ending predictable and quite…er, corny. Since the majority of the book was cool and badass, I expected the resolution to be the same.

Nevertheless, I had a lot of fun reading Berserker, and I’m confident that many people will enjoy it, too. If you’re looking for a fun, educational, and action-packed novel, you should definitely add it to your TBR shelf.

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Book Review

#meh

#famous#famous by Jilly Gagnon

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

You know exactly what you want. Exactly who you are. You don’t care what anyone thinks about you. —Kyle

I was so excited to get my hands on this book when it came out. I literally hunted for it in my local bookstores. The catalyst behind my excitement was most likely the cute cover. Plus, I was in the mood for a fluffy yet meaningful YA contemporary.

#famous primarily explores how love can blossom in a typical high school setting wherein popularity is everything that matters. Unsurprisingly, the mean jocks and cheerleaders are at the top of the social hierarchy, while the plain-looking nerds are at the bottom. You don’t have to guess where Kyle and Rachel belong. Regardless of its lack of originality, I suppose this book was intriguing because it was inspired by a real human phenomenon: Alex of Target, an ordinary boy who suddenly became popular when a girl published a cute photo of him online.

It is easy for me to enumerate the things I liked about #famous. I enjoyed the simplistic writing, the short chapters, the dynamics within Rachel’s family, as well as the insightful depiction of social media. I honestly think that this book can be used as an effective cure for a reading slump; it’s possible to read it in just one sitting.

However, it is much easier for me to rant about this book’s shortcomings. The romance was lackluster and even instalovey; Rachel was annoyingly insecure, Kyle was frustratingly insensitive (or naive?), and the author had this weird way of using colons every now and then. Most importantly, this book disappointed me because I found it hard to relate to the protagonists, who kept on making small problems big. Come to think of it, most of the drama in this book was actually pointless.

Taking all of these in consideration, I felt moderately happy about this book. It was cute, entertaining, and quite insightful. However, overall, it was not on par with my favorite contemporary novels. I probably would have loved this book during my early bookworm days. I, therefore, give #famous solid 3 stars.

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Book Review

Thank God for Sequels

Ever the Brave (A Clash of Kingdoms #2)Ever the Brave by Erin Summerill

My rating: 4.75 of 5 stars

Thank you, HMH Teen, for sending me an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Loving yourself, and believing you are good and capable, is a journey. —Britta

Ever the Hunted ended with such a teeth-grinding cliffhanger, so it was good that I was able to read the sequel ASAP. And let me tell you, this book was so much better than the first one! I especially loved the second half, which was packed with exciting fighting scenes, meaningful drama, and satisfying revelations.

Ever the Brave follows the perspectives of three characters: Britta, Cohen, and Aodren. Aside from being thrust into a love triangle, they have to deal with the threat of war. Channelers have been mysteriously disappearing, resulting to a more strained relationship between the kingdoms of Malam and Shaerdan. Britta, Cohen, and Aodren work together to bring the culprit to justice, their hearts burdened by problems both romantic and political in nature. Rest assured, the book ends with another cliffhanger. xD

The protagonists in this book underwent a lot experiences that made them very likable and inspiring. For example, Britta came to terms with her identity, Aodren faced trials that developed his kingship, and Cohen gradually overcame his tendency to be insecure and overprotective. All in all, I was happy to see their stellar character development. I only had issues with Aodren because he was too stubborn to acknowledge the intimacy between Britta and Cohen. He was getting in the middle of my OTP, so there were times when I wanted to magically extract him from the book and mash my knuckles on his hard head. I didn’t ship Aodren and Britta, so the love triangle in this book was mainly a source or irritation.

Another thing I enjoyed was the family dynamics between Cohen and Finn. Unlike most siblings in reality, they were not ashamed to express how much they cared about each other. I laughed when Finn gave Cohen a piece of romantic advice. Despite his young age, Finn was already aware that men should not restrict women’s freedom of choice. With that in mind, it could be said that Finn was one of the catalysts behind Cohen’s maturity in the novel.

I loved how this book explored the theme of falling far from the tree. One of the reasons behind Britta and Aodren’s connection was their mutual desire to be better than their parents, who weren’t necessarily principled or honorable. I was invested in this aspect of the story because it reinforced my belief that there is no such thing as a perfect parent. We should treat our parents with respect, but it wouldn’t be wise to evaluate our worth according to their choices, flaws, or virtues.

With all that said, it must be obvious that I really enjoyed Ever the Brave. Its character-and-thematic virtues more than compensated for its frustrating love triangle. This is definitely a sequel that you shouldn’t miss.

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Book Review

When Power Is Thicker than Blood

Dividing Eden (Dividing Eden, #1)Dividing Eden by Joelle Charbonneau

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Warning: Major Spoilers Ahead

She needed him now. She’d trusted he would be here for her so they could grieve together and so he could help her as she had just helped him. And he had chosen to be with someone else.

As someone who has two brothers, I believe that having siblings can be such a blessing in life. I honestly have a very small circle of friends, but it doesn’t matter because I always have my big bros to keep me company. Yes, we sometimes have disagreements. Still, reconciliation is practically inevitable since we’re family. Brotherly love always subdues anger, resentment, and even pride. Gleaning upon my latter thoughts, this book sadly shows that I can’t speak for everyone.

Dividing Eden is the first book in a fantasy duology about Carys and Andreus, royal twins who supposedly know each other better than they know themselves. Initially, they are as thick as thieves. They watch each other’s backs with a devotion that could rival that between couples. Unfortunately, their relationship is destroyed when the King and Crown Prince are assassinated. The Queen suddenly becomes too crazy to ascend the throne, and the serpentine Elders in court force Carys and Andreus to compete for the crown.

I finished this book a few days ago, but I still feel both sad and indignant. I really did not expect Andreus to be so coldhearted after all the sacrifices Carys made for him. I was so invested in their relationship as siblings to the point that I didn’t even care about their respective love interests.

I yearned for Andreus and Carys to be reconciled, but any hope of that was thwarted by a vile priestess named Imogen. It wouldn’t be enough to say that I disliked her because I FREAKIN LOATHED HER AND WISHED FOR HER DEMISE. I nearly clapped and laughed in hysterics when Carys finally vanquished that insufferable *****!

However, my satisfaction was short-lived. Andreus, in his brainwashed state, tried to kill Carys, and I was like…WHAT THE HECK?!!! I just couldn’t accept that his love (it was more like lust) for Imogen turned him into an despicable anti-hero. I already didn’t like him from the very beginning because of his playboy attitude, so reading about his murderous intentions towards his own flesh and blood pushed me over the edge. Thank God Carys unknowingly used her wind magic to save herself.

Speaking of magic, I was surprised that this book had a magic system at all. I knew that the setting was fantastical, but the characters generally didn’t exhibit any sign of supernatural abilities. Imogen supposedly could see the future, but it was also hinted that she was a fraud. So when Carys suddenly controlled the wind, it felt like something snapped in my brain. I just couldn’t process the revelation that she was set apart from Andreus and the rest of “ordinary” Eden. Come to think of it, Andreus’s strange sickness might be a sign of his own kind of magic.

Obviously (if not logically), Carys was my favorite character. It would be unfair to end this review without giving her an affectionate shout out. She was smart, strong, and loving. I particularly admired her for her unswerving loyalty for Andreus, her traitorous twin. If I were in her shoes (if my brothers wanted me dead), I’m not sure I would handle it as well as she did. Sometimes, forgiving others is easier said than done. I fervently hope that Carys will have a happy ending. I have three wishes for her:

1. I wish that she would be reunited with Andreus (after knocking some sense into him)
2. I wish that she would overcome her drug addiction
3. I wish that she would end up with Errik (the mysterious dignitary aka Trade Master)

Overall, this book has so many secrets. I have so many unanswered questions. Hence, I feel so frustrated. Still, I cannot deny that I enjoyed this book. The author clearly made the antagonists unlikable. Loathsome, even. The good news is, Dividing Eden is only a duology. I look forward to a very enlightening conclusion.

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Book Review

Ever the Gorgeous

Ever the Hunted (Clash of Kingdoms, #1)Ever the Hunted by Erin Summerill

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

 

If I were ever the hunted, you’d find me.    —Cohen

The moment I saw Ever the Hunted online, my stomach churned with the desire to buy it. We really should applaud the cover designer for doing a fantastic job. I actually had to buy this book on Amazon because it wasn’t available in my country when it came out last year. So when it arrived at my doorstep after 12 days of waiting, I couldn’t contain my happiness.

Ever the Hunted is about an empowered girl named Britta Flannery, whose father has recently died. To worsen her already difficult life, people ostracize Britta for her magical heritage and her status as an “illegitimate child”. Eventually, Britta becomes destitute, and she is arrested for illegal poaching in the king’s land. She is then given two choices: die through the noose or attain clemency by hunting her father’s murderer. Britta jumps at the chance to survive, but her heart breaks when she learns the supposed identity of her target: Cohen Mackay, her father’s former apprentice.

Although I immediately knew the direction of the story, I had lots of fun reading this book since the content lived up to the gorgeousness of the cover. The writing style, setting, and magic system were beautiful in their simplicity and efficiency. In this regard, Ever the Hunted is the perfect book for readers who are new to the fantasy genre. Please do not go into this book expecting elements of a high fantasy novel. Otherwise, you’re gonna be underwhelmed.

I particularly loved the characters in Ever the Hunted because they were relatable and well-developed. Britta was admirable in that she was hardly a damsel in distress. In fact, she was so independent to the point that she hated it when people (boys) tried to shield her from danger. She reminded me of Katniss Everdeen, who was also self-sufficient and great at archery. As for Cohen, he was unsurprisingly handsome and eligible. His overprotective nature sometimes got on my nerves even though it turned out to be justified. The best thing about him was his loyalty to his kingdom and loved ones. In totality, he was someone whose integrity couldn’t be questioned.

I have another piece of good news: there wasn’t instalove in this book. Britta and Cohen were childhood friends who knew each other from head to toe. Their romance was built on a foundation of deep familiarity, so I had no qualms about shipping them. Kudos to authentic love! Hahaha. Of course, Britta and Cohen weren’t immune to misunderstandings; the miscommunication between them was both cute and frustrating.

I decided not to give this book 5 stars because I didn’t like the deception among Britta and her family. I feel weird complaining about a dead character, but Britta’s father was such a liar. Yes, he had his reasons, but Britta’s life would have been easier if he had been honest with her about her legacy as a Channeler. Oh well, may he rest in peace despite the consequences of his lies. :l

In the end, Ever the Hunted is a satisfying start to a promising series. You don’t have to feel guilty if you bought it only because of the cover. Once you start reading the book, you’ll realize with a smile that you didn’t waste your money.

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