Book Review

The Way You Disappoint Me

The Way You Make Me FeelThe Way You Make Me Feel by Maurene Goo

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

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

People who would be there for you even when you messed up and behaved like a jerk? They were the good stuff.

I’m sure that I’m not the only one who has noticed that people of color (e.g. Koreans, Filipinos, and more) are becoming popular in literature nowadays. Readers continue to crave for more diverse books, whether it be in regards to race, religion, and more. With that in mind, books like this are nice because they can make all kinds of readers feel represented.

By looking at the pretty cover, one can easily deduce that The Way You Make Me Feel is about an Asian girl. It follows Clara Shin, who is both Korean and Brazilian. She is particularly famous (or infamous) for her ability to cause mayhem and piss people off. After Clara gets into a catfight with her African-American nemesis named Rose Carver, both of them are obliged to spend the whole summer working on Clara’s dad’s food truck, the KoBra. They continue to get on each other’s nerves but eventually realize that it is possible for them to be friends. To make things more interesting, Hamlet, a hunky, Chinese barista nearby, seems to be crushing on Clara. Get ready to be entertained by a story of family, love, and friendship.

For the most part, this book was a fun read. I gave 3.5 stars to I Believe in a Thing Called Love last year, so I expected to have a similar reading experience. Unsurprisingly, I encountered the same virtues: diverse characters, beautifully simple writing, and touching family dynamics. I also didn’t have a hard time finishing this book because the content was very easy to process or take in.

I particularly loved the close relationship between Clara and her dad, Adrian. Adrian practically raised Clara on his own. Jules was an Instagram celebrity who couldn’t stay in one country, so she wasn’t very involved in raising Clara. Hence, it was interesting that Clara seemed to favor her mom, who clearly didn’t prioritize the right things. There wasn’t supposed to be any competition, but I was on Adrian’s side all the way because he never made Clara feel neglected. He was a permissive parent at the beginning of the book, but thankfully, he became wiser and stricter. At the end, Clara couldn’t have asked for a better dad.

Clara and Rose’s hate-to-love relationship was also fascinating. I was surprised that even worst enemies could become best friends. After spending much time together, they learned to understand and accept each other. I didn’t feel sad at all that Clara decided to “ditch” her old “friends” who only brought out the worst in her.

As for the romance between Clara and Hamlet, it was sweet but instalovey. Even Rose thought so! Haha. She was shocked to learn that Clara and Hamlet became a couple after just one date. LOL. Looking on the bright side, it was nice that Hamlet did not pressure Clara to confess her love for him. According to Hamlet, they would follow “Clara Time,” not “Hamlet Time”. That was such a cute and feminist thing to say.

The only problem I had with this book was…Clara. She was super annoying, especially at the beginning of the book. In fact, she was the one who made me understand the concept of girl hate because she had nothing but derogatory things to say about the females she encountered. And she had a public altercation with Rose, for crying out loud. Clara wasn’t this mean or aggressive to any of the male characters, so I couldn’t help but describe her attitude as a manifestation of girl hate. With that in mind, it was a miracle that she was able to make a best friend out of Rose.

Furthermore, it bugged me that Clara kept on comparing Hamlet to a dog. Chinese people are kinda known for their willingness to eat dogs, so go figure. 😦 I’m not sure if this counts as racism. Thus, please correct me if I’m wrong. Is it okay for Asians to be racist to fellow Asians? Ugh. Whatever.

Overall, I liked reading The Way You Make Me Feel mainly because of its emphasis on family dynamics. Still, in retrospect, some of its themes/aspects were contradictory (e.g. female friendship and girl hate, racial diversity and racism). If you loved I Believe in a Thing Called Love, you might be disappointed in this book. I hope that you’ll enjoy it more than I did.

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.

Book Review

The Woods of Unmet Expectations

The Hazel Wood (The Hazel Wood, #1)The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Warning: Spoilers Ahead

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

It’s hard, isn’t it, to find you’re not at all the thing you thought you were? —Althea

The Hazel Wood is one of those books that you can see everywhere. It’s the most requested title on NetGalley, people have been raving about it on Instagram and BookTube since 2017, and apparently, Sony Pictures has purchased the film rights. I myself was affected by all the hype to the point that I persistently asked the publisher to give me a copy. When it finally arrived last Christmas, I was surprised by all the spectacular blurbs in the book. Popular authors, such as Stephanie Garber, Jennifer Niven, and Kristin Cashore loved it, so my already high expectations were intensified. Unfortunately, now that I’ve finished the book, I can’t help but wonder if it deserves a film adaptation.

The Hazel Wood is the story of Alice Proserpine, a girl who seems to never run out of bad luck. She and her mother (Ella) have spent most of their lives on the road in order to prevent misfortune from befalling others and themselves. Their circumstances become worse when Ella is kidnapped by someone who claims to come from the Hinterland, the fantastical world where Alice’s grandmother’s fairy tales are set. To save her mother, Alice must venture to the Hazel Wood, her grandmother’s mysterious estate.

Reading this book was similar to watching an episode or a season of Once Upon a Time. Alice’s world (New York?) was like Storybrooke, while the Hinterland was like the Enchanted Forest. Characters from the Hinterland were “breaching the barrier” and causing mayhem in the real world, and like OUAT’s Emma, Alice was the hero who belonged in both worlds. As a fan of OUAT, it was super easy for me to comprehend the world-building in The Hazel Wood. The similarities between the TV show and the book made my reading experience nostalgic and more interesting. However, since the book has been receiving much buzz, I expected it to be more original.

It must also be noted that The Hazel Wood had some tropes that were reminiscent of Frozen and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. For example, Alice had emotionally triggered ice magic like Elsa, and she suffered from gradual petrification like Anna. Moreover, just like Harry Potter, Alice could hurt beings from the Hinterland by merely touching them (i.e. their faces). I didn’t understand what exactly caused the latter phenomenon, but at least it wasn’t related to maternal sacrifice or whatnot. xD

One of the major plot twists in this book was utterly ineffective. You can call me jaded, but I didn’t believe for a second that Finch was dead. I also refused to accept that the author would dare to eliminate a colored protagonist, of all people. Anyway, Finch’s supposed death felt like an excuse to discontinue his character development in favor of Alice’s.

As for the side characters, most of them were underdeveloped. Hence, I could hardly connect with them or appreciate their significance. For instance, the villains, such as the “stalker boy” and Twice-Killed Katherine, seemed to be mere plot devices. After attempting to force Alice to commit suicide, they suddenly disappeared from the story as if the author had forgotten them. It was disappointing because they were actually very intriguing characters. I would have loved to learn more about them. 😦

Looking at the glass half-full, Alice was an admirable heroine. I liked that she stayed devoted to her mother even after she learned about her true identity. Alice also possessed a lot of inner strength, which helped her overcome emotional turmoil. The idea of losing Ella nearly crippled her, yet she always found her way back to the path toward her happy ending.

Furthermore, it was nice that this book featured a colored protagonist. Finch’s characterization provided an opportunity to reflect on the Black Lives Matter movement. Because of the color of his skin, Finch was afraid that pale-skinned police officers would treat him unfairly. To my delight, Finch ended up being Alice’s savior. Without him, she might’ve been stuck in the Hinterland and forever separated from Ella. Racism is still present in society nowadays, so I liked that The Hazel Wood did something to address the issue (and turn the tables). Who said colored characters couldn’t be heroes?

The last thing that I liked about The Hazel Wood was its dark and fantastic fairy tales: Alice-Three-Times and The Door That Wasn’t There. These stories were very enjoyable in spite of their not-so-happy endings. If the author published a collection of fairy tales someday, I would definitely buy it.

To conclude, I did like The Hazel Wood, but it didn’t live up to the hype. This just goes to show that blurbs are not always good; they can make you have expectations that are likely not going to be met. You’ll probably enjoy this book a lot more if you go into it blind.

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. 😀

Book Review

The Song of Shadowy Disappointment

Shadowsong (Wintersong, #2)Shadowsong by S. Jae-Jones

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

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

For your music was the first and only thing in this world that kept me human, the first and last thing I give back to you. —Josef

This year, it seems that I’m becoming familiar with the disappointment that comes with unmet expectations. I loved Wintersong because of its lush, musical content, so I was super excited to get my hands on Shadowsong. I am sorry to say that this is my second 2-star read of 2018.

Objectively speaking, I think that many people will cherish or resonate with this book, especially those who struggle with grief, loss, or depression. The author disclosed that like herself, Liesl suffers from bipolar disorder. S. Jae-Jones didn’t say anything about Josef, but he overtly struggles with depression and self-harm. “Shadowsong” is the perfect title for this #OwnVoices novel; it is as dark as a shadow and as lyrical as a song. I was saddened by the character arcs, but at the same time, I was amazed by the eloquent writing. It was actually my first time to read such an introspective and melancholic piece of YA literature. And for that alone, I can’t say that I completely disliked it.

Nonetheless, it must be noted that Shadowsong made me yawn so many times. It felt like I was rereading Anna-Marie McLemore’s Wild Beauty, which was my own literary lullaby. A lot of chapters were dedicated to developing the characters, but the pacing was utterly monotonous. It didn’t help that I was negatively affected by Liesl and Josef’s constant squabbles. Jealousy, guilt, and resentment were forcing them apart, and reconciliation seemed almost impossible. Combined with the hopelessness evoked by their respective internal monologues, the stress I felt tempted me to give up on the book.

Ultimately, I decided to give Shadowsong 2 stars because it overwhelmed me with a sense of alienation. I wanted to cheer for the characters as they endeavored to defeat their inner demons, yet I just couldn’t connect with them. Although I’ve read a fair number of mental health novels, it was still hard for me to comprehend the catalyst(s) behind most of their decisions and actions. Does mental illness give fictional characters the right to be jerks to their family? I would’ve liked this book more if Josef hadn’t been so mean to Liesl.

Looking at the bright side, Shadowsong nicely tied up loose ends. Also, it was great that my fondness for the mysterious Goblin King didn’t waver even though he was barely in the story. In a way, this book was less about romantic love and more about brotherly/sisterly love.

With all that said, the fact remains that Shadowsong was not my cup of tea. Unlike the first book, it was slow-paced and downright stressful. Oh well, at least I was able to find closure after the heartbreaking ending of Wintersong.

Book Review

The Book That Forgot How to Be Original

The Forgotten BookThe Forgotten Book by Mechthild Gläser

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

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

I’ve been desperately trying not to think about you all the time. But it’s no good.


Ever since I watched the 2005 film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth have been one of my favorite couples to root for. It even came to a point that I watched it after every exam week in college as a means of refreshing myself. Basically, Pride and Prejudice holds a special place in my heart, so I am wary about reading its modern retellings.

Unfortunately, when I requested this book from the publisher, I didn’t know expect it to be an actual retelling of Pride and Prejudice. (The name of the male protagonist should’ve been a red flag.) I previously enjoyed The Book Jumper, so I was excited to enjoy another unique and wonderful novel. Little did I know that I would be burdened by jadedness after each chapter of The Forgotten Book; it was frustratingly easy to predict the plot, particularly the outcome of Emma and Darcy’s relationship and the identity of the villain.

To be fair, this book was not a complete replica of Pride and Prejudice in that its main conflict revolved around a magical book/diary that supposedly made Darcy’s beloved sister disappear without a trace. Also, the German setting was vivid, endearing, and quite reminiscent of Hogwarts. I bet it would be so much fun to study in a castle surrounded by such beautiful nature.

I didn’t care a lot about the characters in The Forgotten Book. In retrospect, Darcy and Emma paled in comparison to the original Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet. The miscommunication between them was kinda shallow, and their romance blossomed instantaneously. I honestly wouldn’t have minded if Darcy and Emma had hated each other throughout the book because their “love” was so unconvincing. All in all, the “recycled” plot points in The Forgotten Book were unsuccessful because they didn’t evoke the giddy feelings that I had had when I watched/read Pride and Prejudice.

I’m sorry, but it’s hard not to make comparisons because this book is indeed a retelling. Looking at the bright side, I guess people who haven’t read nor watched Pride and Prejudice would find this book enjoyable (and hard to predict). Also, it’s whimsical plot and writing style might appeal to fans of middle-grade fiction.

To conclude, 15-year-old me (who couldn’t understand Pride and Prejudice) would have given The Forgotten Book a higher rating. I wish that it had done justice to dear Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet, but it’s futile to cry over spilled milk. I wouldn’t be surprised if this book became literally forgotten someday.

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. ^^