Book Review

After 552 Mornings

Morning Star (Red Rising, #3)Morning Star by Pierce Brown

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When I first stepped through the gates of the Institute, I wore the weight of the world on my shoulders. It crushed me. Broke me, but my friends have pieced me together.

After almost two years, I finally finished Morning Star. Don’t get me wrong. This book is not dragging or boring. The reason for my procrastination is beautiful in its simplicity (or stupidity): the hardcover edition is so heavy. I often stopped reading just because my left wrist was painful. Hence, I put the book on hold, picked it up after a few months, and then put it on hold for a year. Now, the fifth book in the series is coming out soon. Hahaha. To be fair, back when Red Rising was only a trilogy, I was so afraid to finish Morning Star because I did not want to say good-bye to the world and characters that I had grown to love. After I received an ARC of Iron Gold last December, I motivated myself and reread the first 200 pages of Morning Star. But the wrist problem kept on happening, and I found myself gravitating to other lighter books. It was only last week that I overcame my laziness and got the Audible version. Then, my problem was solved. xD

In a nutshell, Morning Star blew my mind like its predecessor, Golden Son. Pierce Brown is probably the most talented male author I know, and I’ll never get tired of bragging about his gift of crafting epic, evocative, and unforgettable plot twists. I’m telling you, one of the plot twists in this book almost made me cry. And to think that I wasn’t even that fond of this certain character! The last chapter that revealed Mustang’s secret was another tearjerker. Give me a high five if you also didn’t see it coming. Hahaha. With the exception of the dissolution of the corrupt Society, this book is practically unpredictable.

Pierce Brown is also great at creating platonic or romantic relationships. Protagonists at one point can turn out to be antagonists, and vice versa. Darrow was merciful to a fault, but if I were in his shoes, I would probably make the same decisions regarding Cassius, the Jackal, and the other fishy characters. Speaking of Cassius, he was the most intriguing character in Morning Star. I used to dislike him a lot, but now…hahaha. I hope that he will still be a major presence in the following books. Fingers crossed he stays…honorable.

Morning Star was supposed to be a concluding novel, and I loved that the ending was realistic; it wasn’t your typical happily ever after. I was sad that some characters had to die, but I knew that that was the truth about war: it will always have casualties. The same could be said about the demolished Society. I was glad that Pierce Brown emphasized that even though the Sovereign was defeated, there were still more problems to address.

To sum up my thoughts, reading Morning Star was a slow yet worthwhile experience. I loved the unique characters and the unpredictable events that molded them. I wish that I finished this book sooner, but there’s no point crying over spilled milk. May the odds be in my favor when I pick up Iron Gold.

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Book Review

Who Cares about Game of Thrones?

Falling Kingdoms (Falling Kingdoms, #1)Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Magic will find those with pure hearts, even when all seems lost.

Fantasy has always been one of my favorite genres, especially when it features a cast of problematic, vengeful, and power-hungry royals. Thus, when Sasha Alsberg (my crush) recommended this phenomenal book on her channel, I did not hesitate to get my hands on it.

The story monopolized my attention from start to finish. I’ve been a devoted fan of Final Fantasy, so I easily became familiar with the book’s elemental magic system, medieval setting, and multifaceted characters. Honestly, reading this was like playing a video game because it was just so hard to put down, even for valid reasons like eating and sleeping. In other words, I loved Falling Kingdoms because it made me bookishly stoned.

I have not read nor watched Game of Thrones, so I have no qualms regarding the book’s originality. In fact, I found it to be very refreshing because of its unpredictable, fast-paced plot. Although I did encounter some tropes along the way, they were rendered insignificant by the countless moments of oooohs, aaaahs, and awwwws. And when that ending came…I was utterly and beautifully mind-blown.

Overall, you may call me unbelievably subjective in this review, but I really have nothing but praise for this novel. I’m currently reading its sequel, and I’m confident that it won’t disappoint.

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Book Review

Under Love-tainted Skies

Under Rose-Tainted SkiesUnder Rose-Tainted Skies by Louise Gornall

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When people say weird, what they really mean is different. And difference has never been a bad thing. —Luke

I resolved to finally pick up Under Rose-Tainted Skies because it had been on my TBR since 2017 and the pages had turned murky yellow. Hahaha. Also, someone told me that the story was similar to a book that I felt meh about: Everything, Everything. Basically, my expectations were kinda low, but everything worked out well at the end because this book took me by surprise. Out of the 20 books I’ve read this year, it’s the third one to get a perfect rating.

Plot-wise, Under Rose-Tainted Skies is indeed similar to Everything, Everything, in that it also features a female protagonist who cannot leave her home because of agoraphobia (and other mental complications). Furthermore, just like in Everything, Everything, the protagonist’s life “changes” when a handsome and inquisitive dude moves next door. Thankfully, that’s where the similarities end. For one thing, the mental illness in this book doesn’t turn out to be fabricated. AHEM, AHEM. Ugh, I need to stop before this review turns out to be a rant about another book.

One reason why I loved Under Rose-Tainted Skies was that it was surprisingly funny. It was weird because Norah’s mental health was anything but funny. In addition to agoraphobia, she had OCD and anxiety disorder. Her symptoms included an obsession with patterns and even numbers, panic attacks, self-harm, and more; she obviously didn’t have an easy life. Still, the author managed to discuss or explore these symptoms in a way that was simultaneously serious and lighthearted. The author’s writing style, combined with Norah’s sarcastic humor, made me laugh with fondness, not malice. I hope that makes sense. I will always remember how Norah antagonized the blackbird outside her window for singing too loudly. xD

Another reason for my rating was Norah herself. Since the book was written in first person, I was able to connect with her on a deep emotional level even though our thought processes were super different. I could understand her tendency to criticize herself as well as her fear of the great unknown. Just because she had anxiety disorder didn’t meant that all of her fears were irrational. I myself know what it’s like to be my own enemy. Just like Norah, I sometimes put myself down and look at the future with negativity. And just like Norah, I feel better when I hear the voice of reason. I genuinely loved this book because it taught me that no one on Earth has a completely “rational” or “benevolent” mind. Everyone has bouts of “crazy” once in a while.

Finally, I loved this book because of Norah’s support group, Luke in particular. As far as his treatment of Norah was concerned, he was the epitome of kindness. He sometimes triggered Norah, but it was only out of ignorance. He was a gentleman from the very beginning, and when he learned about Norah’s mental health, he became even more admirable. He respected Norah’s personal space, he taught her how to dream, and he was basically the sunlight to the darkness of her thoughts. Honestly, I had never encountered such an angelic male protagonist. I guess you can call him a great role model.

To be objective, I would have enjoyed this book more if the author had given more information about Norah’s jerk of a father. I just couldn’t fathom how he could abandon his family just like that. Oh well, that’s probably the point: some people simply care more about themselves than their family.

With all that said, it’s been quite a while since I gave a book 5 stars. Norah is a such a thorny but beautiful rose, while Luke is probably the nicest guy in the fictional world. And I must say, the book’s thriller of an ending is nothing short of perfection. This #OwnVoices novel really deepened my understanding of the complexities of mental illness, so I would be more than happy to reread it someday. ❤

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Book Review

Matters of the Heart

HeartlessHeartless by Marissa Meyer

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Keep love in your heart. A life without it is like a sunless garden when the flowers are dead. — Oscar Wilde

Heartless is such an emotional masterpiece. If The Lunar Chronicles gave you a lot of feels, then this book will give you tons more. I cannot go into detail in fear of spoiling anyone. However, trust me when I say that this book won’t make you think about rainbows, unicorns, cotton candy, and the like. After all, it’s about the early life on an anti-hero.

Since Heartless is a prequel to Alice in Wonderland, it inevitably gave me a Tim Burton vibe. The world was very whimsical, fantastical, and sometimes dark or creepy. Hence, thoughts of Helena Bonham Carter and Johnny Depp often came into my mind. But of course I did my best to imagine them in their younger years. Haha.

Gleaning upon her previous works, Marissa Meyer has always been good at crafting unique, captivating, and well-rounded characters. Thus, I was happy to find new fictional beings to like, love, and hate in this book.

Catherine was unsurprisingly my favorite protagonist. My heart now bleeds for her, out of both pity and understanding. All she really wanted in life was to be a successful baker and possibly marry for love, but her royal parents blindly forced her into a life/fate they sincerely believed would make her happy. I really felt so emotional seeing her evolve from a hopeful lass to a heartless queen. Even though her story was heartbreaking, it was beautiful and unforgettable nonetheless.

As for Jest, he reminded me a lot of Rhysand of A Court of Mist and Fury. He was delightfully mysterious and somehow omnipresent. It was strange how he managed to be there for Cath every time she was in major distress. Furthermore, Jest’s intentions were often questionable. He didn’t seem malicious in any way, but there was something about him that conveyed a fondness for secrets. In totality, he was a very attractive character (not only physically speaking).

The antagonists in this book were downright despicable, but it was in the best possible way. I absolutely loved to hate them, Cath’s parents in particular. Ugh, they were so dense and presumptuous that I could hardly contain my temper every time they appeared in a scene. I also disliked a few more antagonists, but disclosing their names would make this review spoilery. Just know that they will surely tick you off, as the author probably intended them to do. 😉

What I admired most about Heartless was the intricacy of its plot. Whilst I was quite annoyed that I managed to predict some events or outcomes, I loved how Marissa Meyer was able to flawlessly connect all the circumstances leading to Cath’s imminent transformation into the Queen of Hearts. Overall, I honestly did not detect any plot hole whatsoever.

In conclusion, I sincerely believe that Heartless is worthy of all the hype it’s receiving. Yes, it shattered my heart, but I still enjoyed it because it made me realize that authors aren’t necessarily obliged to make their readers happy. When I come to think of it, sadness has a beauty of its own.

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

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Book Review

Thank God I Got Carried Away

Caraval (Caraval, #1)Caraval by Stephanie Garber

My rating: 4.75 of 5 stars

In many ways, loving Tella was a source of constant pain.

The latter quote perfectly describes what Caraval is about: a girl who goes through a lot of suffering because of her sister. In a way, this book is another tribute to Frozen. The plot mainly revolves around Scarlett desperately trying to find Tella, who is kidnapped by the mysterious Caraval Master Legend. With the help of another secretive man named Julian, Scarlett follows the ever winding trail towards her sister. In this magical, carnivalesque world, only three things are for certain: love, deception, and sacrifice.

When I finished this book, I did not know what to do with myself. I was on the verge of having a book hangover because the story just took my breath away. I am strongly tempted to start a gush fest now, but I shall restrain myself and simply tell you three reasons why I loved Caraval.

1. The Epic Sisterly Love

Scarlett and Tella’s relationship rekindled my ardent desire to have a sister (whom I could turn into a bookworm like me). Although it often seemed that they did not love each other equally, I admired how they strove to protect each other from a particularly diabolic character. Just like Elsa and Anna of Frozen, Scarlett and Tella proved that nothing could sever the bond between sisters.

2. The Beautiful Writing

Although it took me a month to finish Caraval, it introduced me to the satisfying pleasure of speed reading. I was able to read the second half of the book in one sitting because the writing was flowery yet comprehensible. Every scene was vividly described, and the language had this unique, conversational tone that sped up my relatively slow reading pace. It felt like my best friend was telling me a story, and I could not get enough of it. Finally, this might sound irrelevant, but I was also amused by the author’s fondness for “spidery” metaphors.

3. The Phenomenal Plot Twists

When she enters Caraval, Scarlett is warned that she shouldn’t get too carried away by her experiences. After all, everything that happens in Caraval is supposedly just a game. In retrospect, I really should have listened to the warning myself, because the plot twists in this book left me astounded. GAAAAAH! I CANNOT GET OVER THEM UNTIL NOW! I applaud the author for successfully blurring the distinction between literary fantasy and reality. I am usually able to predict plot twists in YA novels, so I loved how Caraval defied all of my suspicions and expectations. With that in mind, this book is perfect for buddy reading because it will surely make you want to share a lot of feels!


Even though I loved this book, I was bothered by how it reinforced the “Bad Parent” trope in YA. Seriously, I’m exasperated whenever I read books featuring parents who are unworthy of their title (and authority). I admit that there are parents in real life who get in the way of their children’s happiness. Nevertheless, I do not appreciate this trope because it can be interpreted as a pessimistic view of parenting or family life.

All things considered, Caraval is one of the best books I’ve ever read. I’m so thankful that it didn’t turn out to be overhyped. In light of its wonderful and breathtaking content, I’m amazed that this is Stephanie Garber’s debut novel.

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Book Review

My Lady Bookworm

My Lady Jane (The Lady Janies, #1)My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The past is malleable and flexible, changing as our recollection interprets and re-explains what has happened.

—Peter L. Berger

I happily give My Lady Jane five, heavenly stars. This is possibly my most favorite book of 2016. As I write this review, I am overwhelmed by this bittersweet feeling because I am very satisfied with how the story turned out, but I am very sad to say good-bye to such a wonderful historical retelling.

I loved this book primarily because it featured characters who were nothing but priceless. Jane, Gifford (G), and Edward are henceforth my literary baes. Even though My Lady Jane is nearly 500 pages long, I kinda wished it would never end because I wanted to spend more time with these pseudo-fictional characters.

Jane was unforgettably relatable. I adored her unwavering love for books, Hermione-like intellect, and ability to stand up for herself in a very sexist/patriarchal environment. She really wasn’t a girl whom people (especially men) could mess with. Yes, she was occasionally quite mean and stubborn, but I couldn’t help but think of her as every male bookworm’s dream girl.

Gifford (G) was charmingly bookish in his own way. He had a knack for poetry, which I found to be impressive and downright romantic. The “historical twist” to his talent with words also made him a very intriguing character. 😉 What really made him special in my eyes was his positive attitude towards femininity. Instead of being intimidated by the opinionated Jane, he did his best to understand, protect, and treat her as his equal.

As for Edward, he was the protagonist who made me laugh the most. It was interesting how his sexist comments sounded both annoying and endearing. Furthermore, his subtle advances towards a certain girl were hilarious. He was admittedly inexperienced in romance, but he was surprisingly good at it. I especially liked him because of his outstanding character development.

One of the best things I liked about this novel was it’s lively, quirky, and magical approach to history, which I humbly admit was not my favorite subject in school because it was often quite…tedious. There were lots of historical elements in this book, and although they were indeed altered according to the authors’ liking, I loved how they still retained essential bits of truth.

To be more precise, I particularly enjoyed relearning the familial troubles of the Tudors, the violent tension between the Catholics and Protestants, and the political alliance of France and Scotland (against England). I’ve been a fan of similar historical retellings like Reign and The Other Boleyn Girl, so I had a lot of fanboy moments while reading My Lady Jane.

In the end, I applaud the Lady Janies for a job well done. In light of all its virtues, I am sure that this book will go down in history as one of the best works YA literature has to offer. I do hope to read it again someday. 😀

*Featured image contributed by Dessa Mae Jacobe (@dessatopia)

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Book Review

To Take a Heart

To Kill a KingdomTo Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo

My rating: 4.75 of 5 stars

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

How strange that instead of taking his heart, I’m hoping he takes mine.

Someone please give me another book by dear Alexandra Christo because I absolutely enjoyed this one! Next to The Cruel Prince, it’s the most captivating book I have read this year. Anyone who loves fairy tale retellings will devour this book in a day. However, since it’s such a good book, I recommend savoring it for as long as possible!

To Kill a Kingdom is a dark reimagining of The Little Mermaid. Lira, also known as the Prince’s Bane, is a siren infamous for literally stealing the hearts of more than a dozen male royals. After Lira is forced to kill one of her own, the tyrannical Sea Queen turns her into a human and commands her to redeem herself by killing Prince Elian, the heir to the most powerful kingdom in the world. Interestingly, he also happens to be a talented hunter of sirens. Despite their divergent backgrounds and loyalties, Lira and Elian might be the key to ending the war between the land and sea.

Before I requested this book from the publisher, I already had a feeling that I was going to love it. Reviewers whom I trust had given it five stars, so I was all the more excited to delve into the story. To my delight, all of my expectations were met; the characters were compelling, the plot was perfectly fast-paced, and the writing was beautiful in its simplicity. I really wanted to savor this book, but I just couldn’t put it down (even in the workplace).

Lira had excellent character development. Her brutality at the beginning of the novel made it clear that she was a force to be reckoned with and that she deserved her title as the Prince’s Bane. In fact, she was so empowered that her mother, the Sea Queen, unwillingly saw her as a threat. As the story progressed, Lira’s humanity began to show itself. It was fascinating to see her grapple with her conflicting desires. Killing Elian would prove that she was worthy to be queen someday, but it would also mean that she wasn’t any different from her heartless mother. I was so happy that Lira was able to make the right decision in the end by following both her heart and brain. In totality, she more than did justice to Disney’s Ariel.

Prince Elian was similarly fleshed out. In spite of his stereotypical daddy issues, I liked him a lot because he did not allow revenge to overcome his moral compass. He was indeed talented in killing sirens, but he didn’t necessarily enjoy it. And when he discovered Lira’s betrayal, he still had the willingness to love and forgive her. If I were in his shoes, I would be angrier at Lyra for a longer time. Haha. Nevertheless, I admired Elian because it took guts to give a second chance to an ex-murderer.

Like I mentioned before, it was hard for me to take a break from this book. It came to a point that it consumed my breaks at work. Each chapter was relatively short and ended with a cliffhanger, so it took much effort not to neglect my professional responsibilities. It didn’t matter that I already had an idea about how the book would end; I was 100% invested in Lira and Elian’s journey to lasting happiness. The fast pace could be also attributed to the author’s penchant for amusing dialogue. Lira and Elian’s conversations never failed to make me laugh. I couldn’t get enough of their banter!

The world-building was the last thing I liked about this book. I was surprised that the author established a difference between sirens and mermaids. Sirens, like Lira, were powerful stealers of human hearts. Mermaids, on the other hand, were weaker and didn’t always kill humans. I found this dichotomy refreshing and memorable because sirens and mermaids are typically one and the same in books and other forms of media.

Yes, I loved this book enough to give it a high rating. But I would’ve loved it more if it didn’t use the bad parent trope. I hated the Sea Queen as much as the characters did, but I wasn’t happy that she didn’t seem to have any redeeming qualities; she was just a horrible mother. As for Elian’s father, he was a bad parent in that he was a source of pressure and undue stress. In fact, he was one of the reasons why Elian didn’t want to go home to Midas. Can’t we have more good parents in YA, please? xD

All in all, I highly recommend To Kill a Kingdom. You don’t have to doubt the hype because it’s completely justified. Given how great of a retelling it is, I wouldn’t be surprised if it were adapted into a film someday.

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