Book Review

Fantastical Divergence

The Queen's RisingThe Queen’s Rising by Rebecca Ross

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Thank you, HarperCollins, for giving me an e-galley of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I had descended from selfish, ambitious blood. And I was Norah Kavanagh’s vengeance. I would redeem myself.

The Queen’s Rising saved me from another frustrating reading slump. I already had high expectations because of the positive reviews written by reliable people on Goodreads, and I am happy to say that this book deserves all of the hype. In fact, it was satisfying enough that it could function as a standalone.

The Queen’s Rising is like a fantastical version of Divergent, in that its first half focuses on how a teenage girl struggles to belong to one of the five factions a.k.a. “passions”. After failing to be succeed in the domains of art, music, dramatics, wit, Brienna is desperate to be a passion of knowledge. Like Tris, Brienna seems incapable of belonging to merely one faction. Before she realizes her true place in the world, she is whisked away to a different kingdom where she is implored to help defeat an infamous tyrant. Filled with lots of girl power and political intrigue, this book will captivate many fans of YA fantasy.

It was easy for me to like The Queen’s Rising because it was reminiscent of The Queen of the Tearling, which is one of my favorite books. Its female protagonists were also empowered, and the magic system included a pendant that everyone wanted to use, hide, or destroy. I admit that the latter similarities made me quite jaded. However, for the most part, it enriched my understanding of the world and characters. It would be unreasonable to completely dislike a book for reminding me of something that made me happy.

Unlike most YA fantasy novels, The Queen’s Rising didn’t use romance to speed up the plot. Brienna had more important issues to deal with than with her drama with her master. I actually wasn’t a fan of the love story in this book since teacher-student relationships generally make me uncomfortable. Still, I appreciated the “innocent” or “genuine” connection between Brienna and Cartier.

Family and female friendship were some of the significant themes in The Queen’s Rising. Brienna had healthy relationships with her sisters/schoolmates in Magnalia House. This helped her overcome various obstacles and cope with the absence of her parents (and her nearly nonexistent grandfather). Brienna’s journey of self-discovery was memorable because it delineated the importance of forgiveness, humility, and falling far from the tree.

Overall, I am very satisfied with how this book ended, so I kinda wish that it were a standalone. It’s been a long time since I’ve read such a pleasing and well-written fantasy novel . 🙂 The only thing that bothered my was the repetitive adjectives or descriptions (e.g. ruddy, mellow, etc.) I’m just a grammar Nazi, so I’m sure other readers will find the latter complaint as negligible.

Book Review

Don’t Mess with the Jews

The Librarian of AuschwitzThe Librarian of Auschwitz by Antonio Iturbe

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

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

In Auschwitz, human life has so little value that no one is shot anymore; a bullet is more valuable than a human being.

This review is way overdue. I was having another reading slump when I picked up this book two months ago, and though I was very intrigued by its rich, historical content, my reading speed was utterly slow. To simply put it, reading The Librarian of Auschwitz was like trying to push through a hefty textbook. I felt like nerdy Hermione Granger as I highlighted numerous lines and passages that captured the essence of the Holocaust. I was determined to learn as much as I could, especially because my Christian upbringing and education had made me sympathetic toward the Jews, God’s chosen people. With that in mind, it could be said that I was reading for enlightenment, not for mere pleasure or entertainment. I wish that I were able to finish this book quickly, but I’m glad that I somehow managed to reach the finish line.

As the title implies, The Librarian of Auschwitz has a very bookish plot. Just like Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief, it is a historical novel about a young girl who protects literature during World War 2. Based on the experience of a real-life Auschwitz prisoner named Dita Krau, this book is a powerful story that can make you so thankful for Hiter’s demise. If you already hate Hitler, be prepared to loathe him even more.

From the get-go, you should know that this book is very slow-paced. I recommend taking breaks in between chapters just to give your brain a chance to take in all the historical information. In other words, be prepared to encounter a lot of characters, places, and dates. For the most part, I enjoyed the book’s attention to detail; it was obvious that the author really did his research. However, I couldn’t help but feel sleepy during the info-dumpy parts. Come to think of it, it wouldn’t be fair to criticize the pacing of this book because “speeding it up” would probably require deviating too much from history. For instance, if the author had added a lot of action or romance to the plot, the book would have felt less authentic or meaningful.

The chapters about German violence were the ones that kept me wide awake. The descriptions of murder and torture were hardly filtered, painting vivid pictures of the Nazi’s “creativity.” I was both disgusted and amazed by their talent for killing the Jews. Hundreds of Jews were exterminated every day to the point that the incinerators were running out of space. I nearly cried when the book described what really happened in the infamous gas chambers a.k.a “bathrooms.” The Jews did nothing to deserve such treatment, so it pained me to vicariously witness them being slaughtered like a bunch of animals.

Thankfully, there were German soldiers who actually had a conscience. I found it very interesting that some of them even had romantic feelings for their prisoners. I felt a little conflicted about love blooming in such a dreadful setting. Still, I was glad that the book was objective. I would have hated all of the German characters otherwise. One of the things that I loved about this book was how it made me realize that not all Nazis deserved to go to hell; some of them might have been forced to join Hitler’s cause. Who would have thought that the Nazis deserved the benefit of the doubt?

Even though this book was focused on the past, I found it very relatable. Dita and I were generations apart, yet we were united in our love for books. Both of us saw books as priceless gateways to knowledge and a myriad of worlds. I found myself nodding my head vigorously whenever she said something about the importance of literature. In a way, this book is a tribute to all bookworms. ❤

Ultimately, I gave The Librarian of Auschwitz 4.5 stars because it gave me a deeper understanding of the Holocaust. This book effectively illustrates that we shouldn’t be foolish enough to mess with the Jews. I never want to be detached from such a significant part of Christian history, so I can definitely see myself rereading this book in the future. (Hopefully, its slow pacing won’t induce another reading slump.)

Book Review

Soon to Be a Satisfactory YA Contemporary

Now a Major Motion PictureNow a Major Motion Picture by Cori McCarthy

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Thank you, Sourcebooks Fire, for giving me an e-galley of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I’d read her story and began drowning in a loss I’d never known was mine. My grandmother was a brilliant author—and I’d never read her books.

Now a Major Motion Picture is marketed as something that fans of Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl will enjoy. It’s been a few years since I read the latter book, but I can say that the blurb is true to an extent. NAMMP, like Fangirl, features excerpts from a completely original fantasy novel. However, NAMMP is less impactful and more focused on fan culture, particularly in regards to book to movie adaptations. With that in mind, remember to take everything with a grain of salt. Otherwise, you might feel a little disappointed.

The premise of NAMMP is actually unique compared to most of the YA contemporary novels I’ve read this year. It follows Iris Thorne, a girl who wants nothing to do with her late grandmother’s popular book series. Despite her protests, Iris is sent to Ireland for the film adaptation of Elementia. She yearns for the film to become a commercial failure, but the possibility of finding love, friendship, and her musical identity gradually shakes her resolve. By the end of the film’s production, she might have to say good-bye to her “Jaded Iris” title.

The first thing I liked about this book was its depiction of fan culture. It was easy for me to relate to how the hardcore fans of Elementia feared that the film would deviate too much from the book series. It is an undeniable fact that although we bookworms love to see our beloved characters come to life on screen, we are rarely pleased by book to movie adaptations. We just can’t help but see the creative license of the film industry as a catalyst for bookish sacrilege. xD

It was also fascinating that NAMMP explored the “dark side” of fandom: it can cause people to emotionally or physically harm others. Iris did have a lot issues about Elementia, but the underlying reason for her hatred was justified. Her life would have been less complicated if a delusional fan hadn’t terrorized her baby brother.

Another thing I enjoyed was the book’s enlightening discussion of sexism in the film industry. Cate, the director of Elementia, was underestimated because of her sex. Her production company was very patriarchal, so it was more than willing to cut her budget or cancel the film (which was supposedly a Feminist take on Lord of the Rings). Thankfully, Cate refused to back down, determined to prove that women were a force to be reckoned with in both film and literature.

My problem with NAMMP was something that I had already encountered in many contemporary books: the Bad Parent(s) trope. Iris’s dad was a complete jerk, while her mom was almost nonexistent. Iris’s dad was practically the antagonist in the story because he was a fountain of stress and resentment. In light of his undignified attitude, I wasn’t surprised that Iris and Ryder treated him like he was anything but their parent. Personally, I really dislike it when contemporary books portray parents as the bad guys because it doesn’t promote a healthy understanding of family life. Some people may say that this trope simply reflects reality because there are many bad parents in the world. Still, what’s the point of further discouraging readers?

In totality, I gave NAMMP 3.5 stars because it was both fun and enlightening to read. If you are interested in literary discussions on fan culture and Feminism, you should give this book a shot. Just tread carefully if you are triggered by the Bad Parent(s) trope.