Book Review

Divine Neutrality

CirceCirce by Madeline Miller

My rating: 3.75 of 5 stars

Thank you, Hachette Book Group, for giving me a finished copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist.

I finally finished this book after reading it for more than a month. I have seen nothing but praise for Madeline Miller’s books. I genuinely liked this one, but unfortunately, I did not love it.

Circe is essentially a story of female empowerment. It’s the story of an ostracized goddess who gradually finds strength in isolation. Many wayward visitors come to Circe’s island, ranging from malicious humans, to haughty gods, to demigods on the run. Hence, this book has multiple story/character arcs. In a way, Circe is less like a novel and more like a collection of short stories. If you’re a fan of Feminism and Greek mythology, you’ll definitely have an enjoyable reading experience.

When I come to think of it, I probably didn’t love this book simply because it was a far cry from the YA books that I usually devour. Out of the 10 books that I was currently reading, Circe was the only adult book. Hence, reading it felt like going out of my comfort zone; I wasn’t that excited to pick it up.

Objectively speaking, I honestly had a problem with the pacing. It was quite dragging since Circe was stuck on an island for almost the entire novel. Also, some of the characters and events seemed irrelevant or just there for fan service. For example, I didn’t care about Jason and Medea and how they stole the Golden Fleece from Aeëtes. I guess I would have liked this book more if it had less than 400 pages.

To be fair, I did enjoy Circe’s character development. I had fun reading about how she discovered her magical abilities. I was impressed that Circe was able to antagonize Athena just by utilizing the power of various things found in nature. Furthermore, I liked that Circe’s best quality was her humanity. Compared to her divine peers, she was the most sensitive, compassionate, and forgiving.

Another thing I enjoyed was the romance. Circe had many love interests, but I particularly favored Daedalus, Odysseus, and Telemachus because each of them brought out Circe’s redeeming qualities. Even though Circe’s romantic relationships didn’t last for a long time (her lovers weren’t immortal like her), I appreciated that they were very evocative and meaningful.

Overall, I liked Circe enough to give it 3.75 stars. I most likely have an unpopular opinion, but that’s okay. After all, it can also be fun to be a part of the minority. I personally didn’t love this book. Still, in light of its empowering content, I won’t stop anyone from buying a copy.

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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

My Plain Governess

My Plain Jane (The Lady Janies, #2)My Plain Jane by Cynthia Hand

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Thank you, Harper Collins, for giving me an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

For everyone who’s ever fallen for the wrong person, even though we agree that Mr. Darcy looks good on paper…and in a wet shirt.

I absolutely loved My Lady Jane when I read it two years ago. In fact, it was my favorite novel of 2016. Hence, I had nothing but high expectations before delving into My Plain Jane. In totality, it was a very entertaining novel although I wasn’t familiar with the story of Jane Eyre. Still, I couldn’t give it five stars because it was compared to My Lady Jane, it was not that good.

For the most part, My Plain Jane retains the main plot points of Jane Eyre. It follows an orphan girl who becomes a governess and falls in love with her suspicious employer. But in this case, Jane Eyre is a seer, which means that she is able to see and communicate with ghosts. Alexander Blackwood, the star agent of a failing organization called the Society for the Relocation of Wayward Spirits, wants to hire Jane. Unfortunately, she doesn’t want to leave her darling Mr. Rochester. Alexander then enlists the help of Charlotte Bronte (yes, she is a character in this book), a talented writer who has taken it upon herself to write a novel about her best friend (Jane Eyre). To simply put it, this book is both a retelling and an origin story of Jane Eyre.

The Lady Janies sure do know how to make their readers laugh. I really had a good time reading this book, especially when they interrupted the narrative to address me and make me feel that I was a part of the story. The authors utilized this tactic in My Lady Jane, and it worked its magic once again in this book. Another magical thing was the cohesion of the writing. The book was written by three different authors, but I didn’t have the feeling that I was comprehending three different writing styles. In other words, the Lady Janies’ respective literary voices were super compatible.

In retrospect, even though Jane Eyre and the other protagonists weren’t problematic in the truest sense of the word, I didn’t become attached to most of them. I did like them, but they were quite plain compared to the characters in My Lady Jane. Looking on the bright side, at least I was very fond of Helen, Jane Eyre’s other best friend who happened to be a ghost. Helen was the primary source of humor in the story, constantly nagging Jane about things both trivial and important. It was also intriguing to see Charlotte Bronte as a fictional character. My reading experience became more meaningful because I often wondered if her personality was inspired by the real Charlotte Bronte. If the authors had to read biographies or whatnot before writing this book, then I applaud them for doing so. In any case, it was not surprising that I was able to relate to her love for reading and writing.

My Plain Jane actually downplayed the romance between Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester. This wasn’t necessarily bad because I wasn’t expecting to read a cheesy love story. However, Mr. Rochester lacked character development. He was not in Thornfield Hall most of the time, and most of his brief interactions with Jane Eyre made him seem like a villain. The cause of this phenomenon was eventually explained, but it would’ve been better if I had been given the chance to know the “real” Mr. Rochester. 😉 His “fake” personality was more bothersome than interesting.

The last problem I encountered was the inconsistent pacing. The pacing was generally smooth, but it became rushed, especially during the climax of the book. Many significant things happened in succession to the point that my brain found it hard to keep up. For example, the protagonists were caught in a number of problems throughout the novel, and it didn’t take more than a chapter or two to solve them. Sometimes, this caused the characters to be all over the place, as if they could teleport or something.

All things considered, My Plain Jane was an enjoyable and memorable read. If I took my love for My Lady Jane out of the picture, I would probably give this book a higher rating. Still, a four-star rating is high enough. Haha. I can’t wait to read another retelling by the Lady Janies. I wonder who’s gonna be their next inspiration. I’m sure that history has more Janes to write about. xD

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

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Book Review

This Is Not About Animals

The Bear and the NightingaleThe Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

All the ancient classic fairy tales have always been scary and dark.

—Helena Bonham Carter

The Bear and the Nightingale was delightful to read. I’ve always been a fan of fairy tales (and their retellings), so I was more than eager to delve into the story. From the get-go, I want to say that this book is not for everyone, especially for readers who dislike slow story lines. On the other hand, if you love character-driven books, then you would probably enjoy this novel like I did.

I primarily gave this book four stars because it became my personal primer on Russian culture. Before I read it, I practically knew next to nothing about the latter. I was exposed to variety of Russian names that were both fun and difficult to memorize. I was also introduced to the old government and religion of Russia, which confuses (if not intrigues) me until now. Finally, I was thrown into the fascinating world of Russian folklore and its treasury of dark creatures. In totality, The Bear and the Nightingale was very educational, but it was not in a boring, academic way. The author said she isn’t Russian, so I was very impressed that she still knew Russia like the back of her hand.

The plot of this book was quite reminiscent of The Queen of the Tearling. Vasya, a supposedly plain/ugly girl, was given a pendant that would supposedly help her overcome a “great evil.” I actually liked this similarity, because I was once again caught up in solving the mystery of a simple trinket’s power. In retrospect, the pacing was undeniably slow, and it was because of one, major reason: too many POVs.

I am normally fond of books with multiple perspectives. However, my brain can only handle so much. The Bear and the Nightingale had an abundance of characters, and almost all of them were given their own chapters to narrate. This resulted in a broader sense of objectivity because it felt like I wasn’t missing any of the characters’ thoughts and actions. Still, I was more interested in Vasya’s chapters, so I sometimes became frustrated when I did not know what was happening to her anymore. Given her sporadic appearances in the book, one would think she wasn’t the main protagonist. Nevertheless, I applaud the author for the outstanding development of her characters.

Ultimately, The Bear and the Nightingale had more virtues than flaws. I enjoyed it a lot because of its dark yet enlightening content. I’m not sure if this is just a stand-alone novel, but I am highly anticipating a sequel.

*The featured image was 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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Book Review

A Court of Pain and Feels

A Court of Thorns and Roses (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #1)A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I feel like I won’t be able to write a decent and meaningful review without discussing the events of the book in detail, so, WARNING: MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD! Read at your own risk ✌

This is the first book that I’ve read by Sarah J. Maas, and OMG, she didn’t disappoint! I read ACOTAR twice last year, and I’m still amazed by how good she is in telling stories. She doesn’t use fancy and flowery words to describe things. Instead, she relates details in such a way that I can easily transform the words into images in my mind. It almost feels like watching the story rather than reading it.

A Court of Thorns and Roses is a fairy-tale retelling of Beauty and the Beast, and like any other fantasy retelling, it comes with very interesting twists. The protagonist, Feyre, is a huntress. She lives in a land divided into two: the Mortal Lands and the realm of faeries called Prythian. After killing a wolf, Feyre is brought to Prythian to pay for the life of the faerie she killed.

First of all, I really hated Feyre’s sisters in the beginning. Feyre was the youngest of three, but she was the one who had to provide food for their family. The other two girls, Nesta and Elain, just waited for food to come. They couldn’t even chop wood, for goodness’ sake! However, I somehow warmed up to them as I learned more about their personalities and the reasons why they acted that way. It was a little heartwarming when Nesta said that she came looking for Feyre after she was taken to Prythian and nobody couldn’t remember anything except her, and also when Nesta told her not to come back because she knew that Prythian was now Feyre’s home and that she would be happier there.

I really loved the world-building. I found Prythian very interesting with its lands divided into different courts: Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter, Dawn, Day, and Night. The different creatures were also fascinating (and terrible), especially the Suriel. I wonder what I would ask if I ever caught it (and survived the encounter). It was also interesting to find out that there were two types of faeries: the High Fae and Lesser Fae.

Let’s talk about Tamlin, the High Lord of Spring. I am writing this review after reading A Court of Mist and Fury, but since this is only a review for ACOTAR, I’ll reserve my current thoughts for my review of ACOMAF…which is really hard. Haha. Okay, so Tamlin. He was really kind to Feyre, and I really appreciated that he took care of her family when their only provider was brought to Prythian. I also liked that he attempted to talk to her nicely, even though he was kinda awkward about it…which was cute. Also, I liked that he gave her a chance to live her life the way she wanted after years of having no choice but to hunt food for her family and keep her promise to their mother.

I was frustrated when Tamlin sent Feyre away days before the deadline of the curse. It was clear that Feyre would confess her love soon, but what did he do? He sent their only hope of breaking the curse back to the mortal lands! They couldn’t guarantee that she’d be safe there. The Suriel even told Feyre that she just had to stay with the High Lord. It was really stupid to send Feyre away!

My heart broke for Feyre because she had to go through a lot of pain Under the Mountain to save her love and break the curse. I really admired her courage and bravery in accepting Amarantha’s bargain, even though it looked foolish to others. I was frustrated that her inability to read almost killed her and Lucien. Hmmm, come to think of it, it was an interesting turnabout to Beauty and the Beast. While Belle loved to read, Feyre could barely understand written words.

And then, there’s Rhysand, the mysterious High Lord of the Night Court. Again, it’s a struggle to recall what I thought about him before I read ACOMAF. ACOMAF changed everything! Anyway, before reading this book, I had already heard of his name countless of times. He’s famous in the Bookstagram community. I personally didn’t know what to think of him. I didn’t hate him, but I also didn’t like him that much. I was glad that he helped Feyre at times when she badly needed help, but then, he also treated her terribly. Also, when I think about it, it might have been just an act so that Amarantha would not notice anything fishy…I was confused! He was just so mysterious. I didn’t really know what he was thinking and what his agenda was in helping Feyre. But I kinda liked Rhysand when he attacked Amarantha even though he knew that he had no chance in defeating her without his full powers back. He was shouting Feyre’s name and risking his own life, while Tamlin, on the other hand, just remained in his spot, doing nothing. What is wrong with him??! His love was being tortured but he was just watching her die! ASDFGHJKL!!

My favorite character in ACOTAR was Lucien. He was very mischievous, but I could tell that he also cared for Feyre, not just because his High Lord told him to do so. Feyre and Lucien’s playful banter was one my favorite things in this novel. I would’ve shipped them together, were it not for the fact that there were Tamlin and Rhysand to think about. If Lucien was also involved, things would just be more complicated.

To end this lengthy review, I would like to say that I really enjoyed reading this book. It was easy to read, the characters were interesting, the world was fascinating, and everything else was very engrossing. I highly recommend it!

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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.

—Darcy

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.

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