Book Review

Crows Are Not Better than Roses

Lost Crow Conspiracy (Blood Rose Rebellion #2)Lost Crow Conspiracy by Rosalyn Eves

My rating: 3.75 of 5 stars

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

You think because I am a girl, I am weak. Because I speak for those who are given no voice here, my voice should matter less. You are wrong, on both counts. —Anna

Sequels are very unpredictable. You never know if they’re gonna hit the mark or miss it completely. I loved Blood Rose Rebellion when I read more than a year ago, so I was eager to dive into this book, believing that it would be even better. Unfortunately, most of my expectations weren’t met. To be optimistic about it, at least I enjoyed this book enough to give it more than 3 stars.

For the most part, Lost Crow Conspiracy was a very educational read. Just like the first book, it integrated much history into its fantastical plot. I rarely pick up historical fiction, so reading this book was an opportunity to widen my horizons. I enjoyed how the author retold the Austrian-Hungarian War and its global repercussions. She did it in a way that was unique, refreshing, and comprehensible. In other words, it was anything but info-dumpy. I was particularly fascinated by discriminated praetheria because their standpoint in European society was similar to that of the Jews during World War II. I wasn’t sure if this allusion was intentional. Nonetheless, I really appreciated it as someone fond of Christian history.

I also enjoyed Anna’s character development in this book. Anna continued to be underestimated because of her sex, but she didn’t hesitate to address the corruption in her society. Breaking the Binding definitely made her more mature because it pushed her to be a voice for the weak and oppressed. In a world ruled by men, she was one empowered female. Truth be told, the only thing I didn’t like about her was her tendency to lie to her loved ones; her refusal to tell anyone about Matyas’s “death” resulted in much undue stress. xD

As for Matyas, I was surprised that the author decided to keep him. I totally didn’t expect him to be resurrected. I had already become used to the idea of him being dead, so I didn’t care about his story arc. It didn’t help that his chapters were less interesting than Anna’s. In a way, his chapters felt like…fillers or padding. However, in light of his new powers as a shaman, it was clear that he still had much to contribute to the plot. I guess Anna would have had no allies if he hadn’t been there.

This book’s main weakness was its pacing. Oh my, the last 100 or so pages were difficult to get through because I almost fell asleep with boredom. It was weird because the climax was supposed to be the most exciting part of the novel. Anna had a price on her head, and her journey through various forests and villages was a drag. There was hardly any interesting confrontation since all she did was run and hide.

Overall, Lost Crow Conspiracy was intriguing and educational. I loved Anna’s character development and the book’s rich historical content. Still, some parts of the book were utterly boring. I gave the first book a higher rating, so I guess this one suffered from second book syndrome. Hopefully, the third installment will be better. 🙂

Book Review

Best Friend, or Worst Enemy?

All That WasAll That Was by Karen Rivers

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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

There is maybe a fungus that has woven me to Piper. Piper is the fungus, invading my roots. It’s more parasitic than that.

Last night, my brother asked me why I looked so serious while reading this book. I was tempted to laugh, but my contemplative mood prevented me from doing so. All That Was deals with a lot of heavy topics, so don’t mistake it for a typical contemporary novel. Out of the four books I’ve already read this year, it’s actually the most enlightening.

All That Was is the melancholic story of Piper and Sloane, two girls who have been best friends since childhood. Indoctrinated by the Feminist movement, they vow to abstain from boys and any kind of romantic attachment. Surprisingly, Piper snags herself a boyfriend named Philip (a.k.a. Soup), who happens to be Sloane’s long-time crush. When Piper mysteriously dies, Sloane and Soup are stricken with guilt. After all, the last thing Piper saw before her death was the two of them kissing.

I primarily enjoyed this book because it made me reflect upon the complexity and true meaning of friendship. Piper and Sloane were indeed best friends, but they certainly weren’t good for each other. In fact, their relationship was dysfunctional to the point that it bordered on codependency. Honestly, Piper was a terrible, terrible friend. I have three reasons for my opinion.

First, she wanted Sloane to feel ashamed of her purity. Piper practically forced Sloane to give away her virginity to a stranger, claiming that it was Feminist to take charge and objectify boys. Also, Piper believed that her friendship with Sloane would be strained if they didn’t have the same “hymen condition”. Sloane constantly expressed her misgivings, but Piper didn’t listen to her. To make things worse, when Sloane felt like she was raped, Piper said, “You didn’t say no.” In other words, Piper was a fan of rape culture (i.e. blaming the victim).

Second, Piper made a move on Soup even though she knew that Sloane liked him first. With that in mind, the love triangle in this book was stressful because it was born out of betrayal. If my best friend and I happened to like the same girl, I definitely wouldn’t callously court her at the expense of my best friend’s feelings.

Third, Piper was talented at discouraging Sloane. I highlighted the passages where Piper “teasingly” called Sloane boring and criticized her passion for filmmaking. I really couldn’t imagine what possessed Piper to make her so insensitive and mean to her own best friend. It was a wonder that Sloane put up with her for so long.

Hence, I didn’t feel so bad that Piper was dead. I was so annoyed with her that “Good riddance!” popped up in my head every now and then. Piper and Sloane’s friendship wasn’t healthy, especially for Sloane. It sucked that she was willing to sacrifice her happiness in order to avoid losing Piper’s favor. Ugh. I would never want to have a friend whose purpose in life was to make me miserable.

Although I obviously hated Piper, I was glad that she encouraged me to evaluate my own relationships with people. Is there any way you can be sure that all of your friendships are genuine? If any of them is tainted by emotional abuse, it’s probably better to say good-bye. Humans are indeed made for relationships, but we must always remember to choose our friends wisely.

I also enjoyed this book because of its Feminist discourse. Before I read it, I didn’t give much thought to rape culture (I actually had to Google its definition). It’s absurd how rape victims nowadays are sometimes said to be “asking for it”. Those who want to absolve lustful men of guilt are despicable. All That Was made me realize that the world would be a better place if people stopped justifying or trivializing rape.

My sole complaint was the writing style, which was characterized by an abundance of run-on sentences. As someone who works in the ESL industry, it was difficult for me to ignore such a…sin. Hahaha. Since many sentences (independent clauses) were connected by “and,” the clarity of the writing was often compromised. I knew that the writing style was meant to reflect the freedom of human thought, but there were times that my brain couldn’t keep up with the continuous flow of ideas within a single paragraph.

Nevertheless, I genuinely liked All That Was. I highly recommend it because of its well-developed characters and very insightful content. People who aren’t Grammar Nazis will surely enjoy it more than I did. 😀

Author Interview

Q & A with Amanda Hocking

Hi, everyone! As a participant in a blog tour for Between the Blade and the Heart, I was given the opportunity to have a written interview with Amanda Hocking, one of the most popular authors of YA literature. BTBATH was the last book I read in 2017, and you can find my review here. Hopefully, this Q & A will encourage you to check out BTBATH, which comes out today. 😀

(Note: The questions with a red asterisk were submitted by my fellow blog tour participants.)

Cover Between the Blade and the Heart

  1. What or who was the inspiration behind Between the Blade and the Heart

“I have already written several books inspired by Scandinavian folklore, and I was always fascinated by Valkyries. But because I had already done in Scandinavian fantasy, I wanted to come at this one from a different angle. I imagined the Valkyries helping to police a gritty, diverse, cyberpunk metropolis, in a world filled with not just Norse figures but from many mythologies.”

  1. What are the life lessons that you want readers to glean from your book? 

“That love is a strength, not a weakness.”

  1. If you were given the chance to go on a date with one of your characters, who would you choose and what would you do together? 

“Oona. She doesn’t swing that way, but since I’m married anyway, it would be a friendship date. I think it would be fun to go to an apothecary with her and have her show me around the magic. Or maybe just veg out and watch bad movies.”

  1. Would the essence of your novel change if the main protagonist were male?

“Yes, it would be changed dramatically. For one, Valkyries are women. But I also think the book explores the relationships between mothers and daughters, and friendships between young women.”

  1. What is your definition of true love in YA literature? 

“There has to be passion and desire – not necessarily anything physical, but so much of young love is about yearning. But I also think that true love is based on mutual respect and selflessness.”

  1. *What advice would you give to someone who wanted to be an author/start writing?

“My biggest piece of advice is to just write. It’s so easy to get caught up in self-doubt or procrastination. There are lot of great books and blogs about the art of writing, but the most important thing is really to just do it. The best way to get better at writing is by doing it.”

  1. *What cities inspired the urban haven where the Valkyries live?

“I was really obsessed with this idea of an overpopulated metropolis, and so I took a lot of inspiration from some of the biggest cities in the world, particularly Tokyo, Mexico City, Mumbai, and Manila. The city itself is actually a sort of futuristic, alternate reality of Chicago (one of my favorite cities in the world), and I wanted to incorporate that into it as well.”

  1. *How did you name your characters? Are they based on people you know in real life?

“It’s combination of names I like and taking inspiration from the world itself. With Between the Blade and the Heart, the names were inspired both by the mythology they come from – many Valkyries have Norse names like Malin, Teodora, and Freya, for example – and the futuristic setting of the book, so I wanted names that seemed a bit cooler and just slightly different than the ones we use now.”

  1. *Which mythological character is the most like you?

“Demeter, because she’s pretty dramatic – she basically kills all the plants in the world when her daughter goes missing – but she’s also determined, and will stop at nothing to protect those she cares about.”

  1. *You’ve said that pop culture and the paranormal both influence your writing. How do these things intersect for you?

“In a way, I think they’re both about how humans choose to interpret and define the world that surrounds us. So many mythologies come from humans trying to make sense of the seasons and the chaos of existence, and even though we’ve moved past a lot of the scientific questions, pop culture is still tackling our existence. Even when looking at shows made for kids, like Pixar, they handle a lot of difficult concepts, like what it means to love someone else, how to be a good friend, facing your fears, and overcoming loss. These are things that mythologies and stories have been going over for centuries.”

  1. *Your novels and characters are so layered. How do you stay organized while plotting/writing? Do you outline, use post-it notes, make charts, or something else?

“All of the above! This one was the most intensive as far as research and note taking goes, and I also had maps, glossaries, and extensive lists of various mythologies. I think I ended up with thirteen pages of just Places and Things. I do a lot of typed notes, but I also do handwritten scribbles (which can sometimes be confusing to me later on when I try to figure out what they mean. I once left myself a note that just said “What are jelly beans?”) For this one, I really did have to have lots of print outs on hand that I could look to when writing.”

  1. *Was this book always planned as a series or did that develop afterwards?

“It was always planned as a duology. I don’t want to go into too much or risk spoiling the second book, but I had this idea that one book would be above, and the other below.”



About the author:

Amanda Hocking NEW--credit Mariah Paaverud with Chimera Photography

Amanda Hocking is the author of over twenty young adult novels, including the New York Times bestselling Trylle Trilogy and Kanin Chronicles. Her love of pop culture and all things paranormal influence her writing. She spends her time in Minnesota, taking care of her menagerie of pets and working on her next book.

Visit Amanda’s website


Book Review

Between Valkyrie Profile and City of Bones

Between the Blade and the Heart (Valkyrie, #1)Between the Blade and the Heart by Amanda Hocking

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

I reviewed this book as a participant in a blog tour hosted by the publisher. Thank you, Macmillan (Wednesday Books), for sending me an e-galley and a finished copy.

Did I choose to be a Valkyrie, or did it choose me? —Malin

Being a fan of Valkyrie Profile, I was very excited to delve into Between the Blade and the Heart, Amanda Hocking’s new novel about a teenage girl tasked by Odin to gather the souls (kill) of chosen individuals. After reading the first few chapters, I felt like I was devouring a revamped version of City of Bones. The setting was dark and urban, filled with creatures that were divine, diabolic, and something in between. Intrigued by the book’s great premise and familiar world, I was able to fly through each short chapter.

Essentially, this book had a strong beginning but lackluster ending. As a result, I had a hard time sorting through my conflicted feelings. Thankfully, this book had strengths that prevented me from giving it a lower rating. For example, most of the characters were diverse; there were many people of color. Moreover, there was an emphasis on female empowerment; it was impossible for males to be Valkyries. Gender equality obviously wasn’t shown, but it was nice that the female characters deviated from stereotypical weakness. Finally, the author’s application of Norse mythology was concise and excellent. I particularly loved learning about the history of Valkyries and the gods that governed mortals and immortals.

Romance was the thing that nearly ruined my overall enjoyment. The love triangle was unique since it involved a straight dude, a bisexual girl, and a lesbian. After all, queer love triangles are rarely seen in YA. However, I really disliked how Malin always compared Asher and Quinn. Her comparisons made Quinn (who was lesbian) seem inferior to Asher (who was straight). In spite of that, Malin couldn’t make up her mind. She claimed that there were more important issues to deal with than her complicated love life. I understood the urgency of her world’s destruction, but I couldn’t help but wince at her insensitivity. Asher was my favorite character, and I was annoyed that Malin was inadvertently toying with his feelings.

In the end, I decided to give Between the Blade and the Heart 3.5 stars because for the most part, it was fast-paced and entertaining. Its premise made it one of the most unique books in my library. Regardless of its flaws, I look forward to reading more books by Amanda Hocking. ^^

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

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.

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.