Books, Reviews, YA Fiction

The Dream Thieves (Raven Boys #2), by Maggie Stiefvater || an engaging sequel with lots and lots of Ronan (YES to this)

20257177If you could steal things from dreams, what would you take?

Ronan Lynch has secrets. Some he keeps from others. Some he keeps from himself.

One secret: Ronan can bring things out of his dreams.

And sometimes he’s not the only one who wants those things.
Ronan is one of the raven boys – a group of friends, practically brothers, searching for a dead king named Glendower, who they think is hidden somewhere in the hills by their elite private school, Aglionby Academy. The path to Glendower has long lived as an undercurrent beneath town. But now, like Ronan’s secrets, it is beginning to rise to the surface – changing everything in its wake.

I was initially worried about reading this sequel, because of the amount of time that passed between now and when I read The Raven Boys. I always try to continue a series at a consistent rate, because I tend to forget the story told in each previous book when I move onto the next after a long time, but it doesn’t always work out. This is the reason why getting into The Dream Thieves took a few chapters, but after sinking into the characters and settings I knew, it was such a fun, interesting read. Steifvater upgraded literally everything in this book; the writing, the atmosphere, the character arcs. It only gets better and better as it goes on.

The elevated atmosphere and Stiefvater’s effortless prose: Stiefvater’s writing in this book is effortless. I use that word in every damn review, but when I say that, it means the emotions expressed in the words are so easily understandable. I enjoyed the writing in The Raven Boys but The Dream Thieves contains some of the most beautifully stringed words ever, and the flow is absolutely perfect. This elevated nearly everything in the story, from further developing established characters (Adam and Ronan and everybody actually) and newly introduced characters (The Gray Man, Joseph Kavinsky). The homey yet mysterious vibes of the Virginia suburbs echoed throughout the events of the story, and I’ve come to love Henrietta even more.

A mix of thriller and fantasy with newer themes: This book also introduces a new fantasy aspect to add to the spirits concept … dreams. As we all know, Ronan has the mysterious ability to reach into his dreams and bring things out of it. The history of his ability and how far it can go is expanded on largely in this book, and while I thought it was a bit vague at times, most of this new information is made pretty entertaining due to some awesome characterization, which we’ll get to later. I also loved the mysterious Gray Man subplot going on, and I thought it was perfectly interpolated with the fantasy elements.

Them characters throughhhhh: I really like how Steifvater is doing this thing where each of her books focus on a specific character. While all the characters were greatly written, The Raven Boys was clearly dominated by Gansey and Adam, and this time around it’s Ronan and I couldn’t be happier about it. I stated before in my Raven Boys review that I understood that Ronan was complex, but I found him to be a tad underdeveloped regardless. Well, that’s changed. Ronan is crafted into difficult, angsty, complex, and all the way vulnerable person with a number of secrets throughout this book, and I definitely gained a whole new perspective on him. The Raven Boys only gave us a glimpse of Ronan, and The Dream Thieves tries to take us all the way. In fact, Steifvater’s character writing is so improved, I feel as though she can take Ronan’s persona to an even more complex level.

Despite the focus on Ronan, Gansey and Adam are also incredibly defined and present throughout this book. Adam is just starting to come to terms with his act of awakening the ley line in the previous installment, and has troubles with his relationship with Gansey, and newly, Blue. Gansey himself is struggling to deal with Adam, and in this book, we see the adventurous and ambitious side of him, as well as the broken and bleak side. Noah flashes in and out, can’t say much about him. Joseph Kavinsky and I carry a complicated relationship, and I can’t say much about him because spoilers. But, watch out for this dude. He’s way more important than you think. The Gray Man is another new character, and I absolutely love him. The way he’s introduced and maintained throughout the story is very anonymous and quiet, but after discovering more and more of his true nature and past, he becomes a very interesting character.

I’m still lost on Blue and I don’t know why. Her issues are definitely more defined in this one, she’s struggling with her identity and purpose, as well as her relationship with Adam and Gansey. And, of course, there’s that no-kiss deal. Yeah, she’s got problems, but I really can’t understand them and dive into her personality. I still like her jabbing, sarcastic remarks, but she seems very unnecessarily irritable throughout, and I just don’t get it. It’s probably just me though, because every other character in this series so far is wonderfully written.

The Raven Cycle is turning out to be a pretty kickass series, and I can’t wait to read the next installment, which is apparently focused on Blue. Hopefully it turns around my opinion on her and keeps up with the greatness The Raven Boys and The Dream Thieves have delivered so far.

-Haven

Books, Reviews, YA Fiction

History Is All You Left Me, by Adam Silvera || an emotional rollercoaster ride of love and finding oneself

25014114When Griffin’s first love and ex-boyfriend, Theo, dies in a drowning accident, his universe implodes. Even though Theo had moved to California for college and started seeing Jackson, Griffin never doubted Theo would come back to him when the time was right. But now, the future he’s been imagining for himself has gone far off course.

To make things worse, the only person who truly understands his heartache is Jackson. But no matter how much they open up to each other, Griffin’s downward spiral continues. He’s losing himself in his obsessive compulsions and destructive choices, and the secrets he’s been keeping are tearing him apart.

If Griffin is ever to rebuild his future, he must first confront his history, every last heartbreaking piece in the puzzle of his life.

Just wanted to let y’all know that my AP exams are finally over, and I can freely get back to blogging now. While I’ve been away from M&B, I have indeed been reading, even if it’s slower than usual. Finding time to read during exam weeks may or may not be a good thing, but that’s beside the point. I’m back and I couldn’t have chosen a more difficult book to review. *sighs*

History Is All You Left Me is one of the most heartbreaking, intense, and dramatic books I’ve ever read. I can’t say it was a book perfectly fit for me, I struggled slightly with the writing throughout the novel. But, it is still an incredibly real and emotional read that not many can pull off. Adam Silvera is very, very talented. Speaking of Silvera, I’ve actually seen him in real life when I went to a book convention back in March with a friend, and he was openly speaking about his struggle with OCD in the mental health panel, which clearly connects to History Is All You Left Me. He seemed like a really nice guy, and I wish I had read this book back then, or at least his debut novel. Anyway, a little story time for you guys, since I rarely talk about my personal life lmao.

Let’s go into detail.

The beautiful writing that has me in a bind of sorts: The writing has me in a terrible bind. I struggled at first, because while Silvera conveys emotion effortlessly there is also a large paragraph following the major point which is overridden with details and repetition. There are a few gems of writing in these, but it’s unnecessary most of the time and quite boring. It actually reminded me of my own writing, which tends to dissect every little characteristic of a character or setting and repeat those dissections in different manners (which will probably happen soon in this review if it isn’t happening right now). But, the writing is gorgeous, really. It’s very consistent in its portrayals of heartbreak and confusion and sadness and every other feeling that is explored within the pages of this book. I found myself falling for Theo, dwelling in the aftermath of his death, and dealing with all the pain that came with it along with Griffin in this book, and it’s amazing how the effortlessness of the writing pulls you in so easily. There are anecdotes and musings and statements scattered all over this book that rip you apart with its honesty and rawness, and I do wish Silvera just stuck to keeping these throughout and not expanding on every little thing. Thankfully, while this aspect has me conflicted, it’s not too conflicted to make a large impact on the emotional capacity of the book.

Flawed, relatable, and heartbreaking character arcs: The book mainly follows four boys: Griffin, Theo, Jackson, and Wade. The all have different amounts of page time (obviously), but they have to be the most well-defined characters in the novel. The books is told from two time periods: one in the present during the aftermath of Theo’s death and the other detailing Griffin’s life when Theo was alive. I really like this aspect and it wasn’t confusing at all. It actually revealed much more about the characters in the story and had a huge influence on the amount of emotion explored in the book. The details of the complex relationships are slowly revealed over time and this makes the book that much more impactful. Surprisingly, while these boys all have their own flaws, drama, and frustration spilled over the pages, I loved all of them. I loved reading about Griffin’s recovery process and his painful path to finding out the truths about the people he loves. I could understand Jackson and Wade’s pain with coming to terms about themselves and the things they have experienced. Theo was only there half the time in the flashback period, but I could totally feel his essence and his personality without it being blown out of proportion or sensationalized in the present. These boys have gone through something most of us haven’t and will never want to go through, but I could so feel their grief and confusion over something so tragic they had never would have predicted.

The complicated yet honest relationships: There are so many relationships in this book, oh my god. It doesn’t seem that way initially, but as the details are revealed over time, it just blows you mind on how interconnected these boys are. Fortunately, while this relationship drama does create more entertainment and makes the story more engaging, it’s not solely characterized as ‘drama’ and actually has a purpose and reasoning behind it. Griffin and Theo’s love and friendship was so heartwarming and real, and Griffin and Jackson’s reluctant yet necessary meetings were so genuine and honest. Even Griffin and Wade were complicated in the best ways, and while I did think some of the events that took place were a little extra, I enjoyed it nonetheless.

History Is All You Left Me is one of those books that takes you a while to get into, but once you get into it, you are sucked into a universe that is melancholy and raw yet strangely enlightening. It’s not a book everyone will like, but if anyone’s looking for a powerful and honest LGBTQ story, look no further.

-Haven

Books, Reviews, YA Fiction

Learning to Swear in America, by Katie Kennedy

4 Stars

Brimming with humor and one-of-a-kind characters, this end-of-the world novel will grab hold of Andrew Smith and Rainbow Rowell fans.

An asteroid is hurtling toward Earth. A big, bad one. Yuri, a physicist prodigy from Russia, has been called to NASA as they calculate a plan to avoid disaster. He knows how to stop the asteroid: his research in antimatter will probably win him a Nobel prize–if there’s ever another Nobel prize awarded. But Yuri’s 17, and having a hard time making older, stodgy physicists listen to him. Then he meets Dovie, who lives like a normal teenager, oblivious to the impending doom. Being with her, on the adventures she plans when he’s not at NASA, Yuri catches a glimpse of what it means to save the world and save a life worth living.

Prepare to laugh, cry, cringe, and have your mind burst open with questions of the universe.

This book got me out of my reading slump, which I think gives it an automatic high rating. No seriously, I hadn’t read anything in weeks, and I zipped through this in two days, which is the rate at which I used to read things before this dreaded slump. So, here is the miracle book that is, in all actuality, a genuinely adorable book.
Learning to Swear in America follows the story of Yuri, a Russian physics prodigy called to America to help NASA stop an asteroid en route to California. Although the whole “asteroid-impending-doom” premise has been done before, usually it’s from the perspective of teenagers who want to do as many crazy things as possible before the world ends. This time, however, it’s from a more scientific perspective, and the asteroid actually ends up being more important to plot of this novel than I’ve seen before.

The majority of my rating for this book is because of Yuri. Yuri is a Russian physics genius, and his voice absolutely sounds like it, despite the third person narrative. I absolutely loved how well his accent came across in the dialogue, and loved even more how cute his character was. Being a visitor from another country for whom English is not a first language, Yuri was adorably socially awkward, misunderstanding American slang and idioms in ways that were totally realistic and affection-inciting. After evaluating how adorable Yuri was, I realized that more books should have characters from other countries. 🙂

The side characters were rather meh, however. It’s been a week or so since I read this book, and I can’t even remember the main love interest’s name, she was that forgettable. I understand the role they had in Yuri’s stay in America, but still, they were your standard “quirky friends that bring the main character out of his shell” cliche. One of the friends, Lennon was actually pretty entertaining (and gets diversity points for being in a wheelchair) so I wish he got more page time than the girl did (still can’t remember her name).

I liked the science aspect of the book and appreciated the amount of research Kennedy put into it. Although most of everything about antimatter went way over my head (if it wasn’t obvious, I’m not exactly a physicist) I still enjoyed the pro-NASA pro-science view that seems far too lacking in today’s America.

Overall, this was a super adorable book that was enjoyable, but its flaws and cliches keep it just short of becoming great.

-Aliza

Books, Reviews, YA Fiction

We Are Okay, by Nina LaCour | a quiet and careful read on love and loss

28243032You go through life thinking there’s so much you need…

Until you leave with only your phone, your wallet, and a picture of your mother.

Marin hasn’t spoken to anyone from her old life since the day she left everything behind. No one knows the truth about those final weeks. Not even her best friend, Mabel. But even thousands of miles away from the California coast, at college in New York, Marin still feels the pull of the life and tragedy she’s tried to outrun. Now, months later, alone in an emptied dorm for winter break, Marin waits. Mabel is coming to visit, and Marin will be forced to face everything that’s been left unsaid and finally confront the loneliness that has made a home in her heart.

I found out about We Are Okay a bit later than most, but it quickly became one my most anticipated releases of the first half of this year. I love emotional books, which many people don’t understand, but books that depress me and urge me to think about myself and the world are my favorites. I expected that from We Are Okay, yet it managed to deliver an emotional capacity in a much quieter and softer way. I wouldn’t say it was incredibly effective to me, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

We Are Okay follows Marin, a girl who had moved to New York City from her home in California for college on an impulse after an unspoken tragedy. She hasn’t looked back since, until her past best friend Mabel says she is dropping by. Mabel has the motive to bring Marin home and face everything she has left behind, but Marin doesn’t know if she is ready for breaking out of the isolation she has been in for the past year. However, as she begins to assess the people she had loved and her relationship with Mabel, Marin realizes she must confront her scarred past before she loses herself forever to the sadness.

The quiet and cautious atmosphere created: I am very conflicted with how LaCour decided to structure this book, because the atmosphere the writing created was so depressing and miserable, it was hard to focus, yet it was that aspect that made me like it as well. Marin lives in her NYC dorm alone during Christmas break, as everyone else has traveled, and this along with the empty yet sorrowful writing painted such a lonely, melancholy picture. It was difficult not to fall into the same despair that Marin carried, and I was impressed with the way LaCour managed to do this easily. Unfortunately, the writing might scare some readers away because it tends to be a bit melodramatic at times without the proper context to influence it. Marin’s story is kept hidden from us for most of the book, and while the flashbacks slowly ease us into the mystery of her escape, there isn’t much that goes on in the present other than washing the dishes and making ramen noodles. I was constantly in the wait for something interesting to actually happen, but the situations presented were so dry and broody without anything major actually going on to impact that atmosphere. This is where the plot runs a bit thin, because the book can be so focused on creating an emotional atmosphere that the story doesn’t really go anywhere in a certain direction.

Fortunately, the writing cues us to uncover Marin’s story, as it fluctuates in its emotional capacity in different moments. Marin could be closed off and isolated, and the reader can understand Marin’s emptiness, and when Marin is closer to revealing the memories she has repressed, the writing grows more intense and passionate. I would say this was one of the few aspects that kept me interested in the book, because We Are Okay tends to deliver its messages really quietly and reluctantly instead of being outright, and I don’t enjoy this type of delivery typically. However, the fluctuations in the writing every once in a while improved the character of the book and gave an idea in which direction it was headed.

The depressing but relatable characters: There aren’t many characters in this book, as most of the focus is on Marin and Mabel. Marin can be equally likable and frustrating. I’m sure everyone can relate to her loneliness and sadness at some point, and I could definitely understand her empty yet sorrowful persona that she exhibits most of the time. While I haven’t experienced the same tragedies that Marin went through, I could still connect to her struggle with wanting to close herself off and reluctantly needing to reach out to someone. She’s constantly filled with thoughts of misery, hopelessness, and anger towards herself and the past. But, that is all she is. Thoughts. Marin is so depressed throughout this book, that we never clearly see who she truly is beneath all the repression. While I could feel her pain, I couldn’t fully empathize with her because she is so angsty and … sad. I’m not left with the hollow feeling I usually get after reading an emotional book because I couldn’t connect to Marin’s vague ‘change’ from who she was to the broken person she is now. Her character is so cloudy and can be dramatic at times too, and while different people deal differently with grief, the way Marin was written was not my thing. Mabel was even more uninteresting, but I did enjoy when she and Marin were together. It felt as thought Marin was the most passionate, good or bad, around her, and I could finally reach out and touch their history together through their interactions.

A diverse romance with a surprising amount of depth: There is an LGBTQ romance between Marin and Mabel, one of the aspects of the novel which I enjoyed more. I could definitely sense how close they used to be and how much they loved each other, first non-romantically and then romantically. The flashbacks that involved the two of them allowed me to finally connect with their relationship and their characters more than other elements of the book. The strain and divide that Marin’s move had put on their closeness popped out of the page, and was one of the times where the emotion conveyed was real and raw, unlike the cloudiness present throughout the rest of the book. The novel is not romance focused at all, but the many shades to their love for each other contained the right amount of depth to add meaning beyond Marin’s sole issues and make the book more interesting.

To me, We Are Okay is where elements that I love and hate pertaining to emotional contemporary novels, collide, and form something that I can’t help but to be torn on. I would recommend this book to those who enjoy more subdued and quiet contemporaries, rather then straightforward and rawer ones.

-Haven

Books, New Releases, YA Fiction

New Releases in YA for May 2017

comingsoonbanner

Another month, more books. May is one of my favorite months (after AP testing, of course) so I expect I’ll have some time to read. I’ve been receiving a lot of ARCs lately, so I know that there’s some good stuff coming out this month 🙂

1. Lord of Shadows (The Dark Artifices #2), by Cassandra Clare

Sunny Los Angeles can be a dark place indeed in Cassandra Clare’s Lord of Shadows, the sequel to the #1 New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling Lady Midnight.

Emma Carstairs has finally avenged her parents. She thought she’d be at peace. But she is anything but calm. Torn between her desire for her parabatai Julian and her desire to protect him from the brutal consequences of parabatai relationships, she has begun dating his brother, Mark. But Mark has spent the past five years trapped in Faerie; can he ever truly be a Shadowhunter again?

And the faerie courts are not silent. The Unseelie King is tired of the Cold Peace, and will no longer concede to the Shadowhunters’ demands. Caught between the demands of faerie and the laws of the Clave, Emma, Julian, and Mark must find a way to come together to defend everything they hold dear—before it’s too late.
Cassandra Clare fans (me!) here’s your annual fix of Shadowhunters. I haven’t read Lady Midnight yet, but I’m so excited to see my favorite babies from TID return 🙂

2. A Court of Wings and Ruin (A Court of Thorns and Roses #3), by Sarah J. Maas

Looming war threatens all Feyre holds dear in the third volume of the #1 New York Times bestselling A Court of Thorns and Roses series.

Feyre has returned to the Spring Court, determined to gather information on Tamlin’s maneuverings and the invading king threatening to bring Prythian to its knees. But to do so she must play a deadly game of deceit-and one slip may spell doom not only for Feyre, but for her world as well.

As war bears down upon them all, Feyre must decide who to trust amongst the dazzling and lethal High Lords-and hunt for allies in unexpected places.

In this thrilling third book in the #1 New York Times bestselling series from Sarah J. Maas, the earth will be painted red as mighty armies grapple for power over the one thing that could destroy them all.

There are quite a few sequels coming out this month! This one is hugely popular, so I hope Mass does not disappoint.

 

3. Flame in the Mist (Flame in the Mist #1), by Renee Ahdieh

The daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has long known her place—she may be an accomplished alchemist, whose cunning rivals that of her brother Kenshin, but because she is not a boy, her future has always been out of her hands. At just seventeen years old, Mariko is promised to Minamoto Raiden, the son of the emperor’s favorite consort—a political marriage that will elevate her family’s standing. But en route to the imperial city of Inako, Mariko narrowly escapes a bloody ambush by a dangerous gang of bandits known as the Black Clan, who she learns has been hired to kill her before she reaches the palace.

Dressed as a peasant boy, Mariko sets out to infiltrate the ranks of the Black Clan, determined to track down the person responsible for the target on her back. But she’s quickly captured and taken to the Black Clan’s secret hideout, where she meets their leader, the rebel ronin Takeda Ranmaru, and his second-in-command, his best friend Okami. Still believing her to be a boy, Ranmaru and Okami eventually warm to Mariko, impressed by her intellect and ingenuity. As Mariko gets closer to the Black Clan, she uncovers a dark history of secrets, of betrayal and murder, which will force her to question everything she’s ever known.

I should be getting an ARC of this any day now (*cough* Hurry up Penguin *cough*) but I already have a feeling this book is going to be an amazing fantasy.

4. The Love Interest, by Cale Dietrich

There is a secret organization that cultivates teenage spies. The agents are called Love Interests because getting close to people destined for great power means getting valuable secrets.

Caden is a Nice: The boy next door, sculpted to physical perfection. Dylan is a Bad: The brooding, dark-souled guy, and dangerously handsome. The girl they are competing for is important to the organization, and each boy will pursue her. Will she choose a Nice or the Bad?

Both Caden and Dylan are living in the outside world for the first time. They are well-trained and at the top of their games. They have to be – whoever the girl doesn’t choose will die.

What the boys don’t expect are feelings that are outside of their training. Feelings that could kill them both.

I know what you’re thinking. That sounds like literally the most stereotypical thing I have ever read. Well, don’t scroll away just yet. Because this book sets up a cookie-cutter love triangle + super typical patterns, and HAS THE BOYS FALL FOR EACH OTHER INSTEAD. A YA book that makes fun of all the tropes? SIGN ME UP.

5. The Dark Prophecy (The Trials of Apollo #2), by Rick Riordan

Zeus has punished his son Apollo—god of the sun, music, archery, poetry, and more—by casting him down to earth in the form of a gawky, acne-covered sixteen-year-old mortal named Lester. The only way Apollo can reclaim his rightful place on Mount Olympus is by restoring several Oracles that have gone dark. What is affecting the Oracles, and how can Apollo do anything about them without his powers?

After experiencing a series of dangerous—and frankly, humiliating—trials at Camp Half-Blood, Apollo must now leave the relative safety of the demigod training ground and embark on a hair-raising journey across North America. Fortunately, what he lacks in godly graces he’s gaining in new friendships—with heroes who will be very familiar to fans of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians and Heroes of Olympus series. Come along for what promises to be a harrowing, hilarious, and haiku-filled ride. . . .

Yay, we return to Camp Half Blood! The first book of this series was actually pretty good, so I hope us nostalgia fans will be satisfied.

That’s it for now, guys! There are SO many sequels and overall awesome books coming out this month, so be extra sure to read!

~Liz

Original Post

The Liebster Award Part 2

Image result for liebster award

What’s up, guys? Turns out we’ve been nominated for the Liebster Award (our second!), so thank you to Sophia at la belle bibliophileThis is her original post and make sure to check out the rest of her blog!

The rules are as follows: 

  1. acknowledge the blogger who nominated you
  2. answer the questions that person has given you
  3. come up with your original set of 11 questions
  4. nominate 11 other people and let them know (possibly through commenting)

1. What is your favorite part of the day?

Haven: My favorite part of the day would have to be around the evening, like 7:00 or 8:00. I usually like it around ‘twilight’ time when the sun is about to set.

Aliza: I’d say I’m a fan of the late-eveningish time, as that’s when I relax and give up on homework until the next day. It’s also peak reading time! 🙂

2. Are you an early bird, or a night owl?

Haven: Definitely a night owl. I feel like I have more energy and drive towards the end of the day, probably because I’ve gotten most of my homework or whatever I have to do out the way by the time.

Aliza: Early bird. I have sister who’s super organized and hates it when my family goes to bed late, so I’ve kind of gotten used to it and now I cannot stay awake past 11 PM even if I try.

3. Why do you have a blog?

Haven: That’s a very difficult but necessary question, and I would say I have a blog because I genuinely enjoy interacting and sharing my thoughts about books and anything else that interests me. I’ve always communicated better when it isn’t face to face, through words and description. I feel as though I can express myself the best while writing, and this blog seems to have amplified whatever I had going on with Goodreads.

Aliza: I remember starting this blog because I’ve always wanted to write a book (with the so many I read, I was hoping I’d know a thing or two) and this seemed a great way to start writing. Now I do it because I love books and want to share my love with the world of the Internet.

4. What country are you from, and do you speak the country’s native language?

Haven: I’m from south India, specifically from a state called Andhra Pradesh. There are over 20 languages situated in India, and my native language is called ‘Telugu’. I don’t actively speak it at home, but I obviously can understand and speak it if I wanted to since I’ve been hearing it my whole life. Lowkey, I suck at it because my accent is bad and I mostly know the language through slang, so my words are somewhat slurred and not that clear.

Aliza: I was born in the US, but family is from South India as well, and yes, I visit my family often in India. My native language is Tamil (not Hindi – that’s a common misconception about India) and I speak it relatively well, but I was never formally taught it and don’t know how to read or write well (I really just know the alphabet) so I wouldn’t consider myself an expert.

5. Chocolate or cake?

Haven: Cake for me. Chocolate is overrated y’all, please don’t hate me. 😀

Aliza: Chocolate. Dark chocolate. Sorry, Haven, I’m afraid we differ greatly on this matter of import 😛

6. What is one aspect of your life that you love?

Haven: Damn, I don’t know. I love how I have a caring family, good music to listen to, and a nearby library filled with hella books. Life is good.

Aliza: My sister. She’s super organized and all, like I said, but she is honestly the best sister I could ever ask for, and my best friend. I know that’s a boring answer, but it’s the truth 🙂

7. Could you survive without a phone for a day?

Haven: Probably. The only apps I use profusely is Goodreads and some education apps, and while I have social media, I don’t have those apps on my phone because they take up too much space. I’ll survive.

Aliza: When I have my phone with me it feels impossible to leave it, but I’d honestly be just fine; I may be a teenager, but a phone is not so essential that I need it with me every moment of the day.

8. What do you hate most about summer?

Haven: I’m sooooooo bored. I want to be productive, and while I am to an extent, I just have so much extra time. There are obviously new things I can learn and explore, but most of the time I’m too lazy, haha.

Aliza: How lazy I become. I’m about 10% as productive during the summer as I am during the school year, and one of these days, I’m going to realize that I need to do something with my life over the summer. Plus, it’s super hot out.

9. Most inspiring book you’ve ever read?

Haven: That’s difficult! I’ve read many sad and emotional books, and while they seem really depressing most of the time, I would say those books are the most inspirational. Books like Please Ignore Vera Dietz and All The Rage open up our eyes and reassure us that everything passes and to stay strong in difficult times, even when everything seems to be going awry in the books.

Aliza: I have been dreading this question since the beginning of this post because I’m really not sure. Most books have something inspiring about them, but Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell (it’s nonfiction, sorry) really inspired me to get off my butt and do something with my life. 🙂

10. What is your dream job?

Haven: If I could review books for the rest of my life, I would do it, haha. Actually writing commentary on any sort of entertainment would be a dream side job. I’ve always enjoyed film, music, and fashion along with books and I’d love to take it to the next level. Working for Complex or The Fader specifically would be a dream come true.

Aliza: Ehh, I keep this pretty close to my heart, but Pixar. I mentioned that I wanted to tell stories one day, and combining my passions of drawing and writing and coding is absolute dream job for me. (It’s super impossible to get in, though, so I’ll probably have to settle for something else)

11. What is something that you love about yourself?

Haven: I’m chill. I can keep calm about a lot of situations and adapt well to different environments. I tend to be pretty cold and unemotional most times because that is just my personality, but I like that aspect of me because it’s not extreme or too passionate. I can go either way on many things without complaints.

Aliza: I’m a loyal person. I’ve been super unreliable with this blog, so don’t count that, but if someone tells me something in confidence, I won’t repeat it to anyone else, and I’ll always defend people even when they’re not around. I would say I have it together, but I procrastinate too much for that to be true. 😉

Our nominations:

11 is a lot, so we’re cutting it down to 6 lmao.

Sofia @ Bookish Wanderess

Sandra @ Lady Grey Reads

Stephanie @ Igniting Pages

Betty @ bettybookreviews

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Questions:

  1. What is your favorite device to blog on?
  2. What is your favorite part about blogging?
  3. Do you prefer writing original material or reviewing existing material?
  4. Which book characters would you want to be best friends with?
  5. What are some of your favorite book to movie/tv show adaptations?
  6. What fantasy world would you want to live in?
  7. What is your favorite classic book?
  8. What is the one book that has affected you the most emotionally?
  9. Who are your book boyfriends?
  10. Top 3 authors you would want to meet?
  11. What is it about reading that attracts you to it?

Thank you guys for reading! 🙂

-Haven and Aliza

Books, Reviews, YA Fiction

The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski (reread + re-review) | an utter disappointment this time around

17756559Winning what you want may cost you everything you love.

As a general’s daughter in a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers, seventeen-year-old Kestrel has two choices: she can join the military or get married. But Kestrel has other intentions. One day, she is startled to find a kindred spirit in a young slave up for auction.

Arin’s eyes seem to defy everything and everyone. Following her instinct, Kestrel buys him—with unexpected consequences. It’s not long before she has to hide her growing love for Arin. But he, too, has a secret, and Kestrel quickly learns that the price she paid for a fellow human is much higher than she ever could have imagined.

Set in a richly imagined new world, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski is a story of deadly games where everything is at stake, and the gamble is whether you will keep your head or lose your heart.

I read The Winner’s Curse for the first time approximately 2 years ago (interestingly, in April too 0.0), and I rated it 4 stars. I also put it in my ‘awesomeness’ shelf on Goodreads, yet never happened to fully review it. Why, I decided not to review it, will always be mysterious to me, perhaps I didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought it did and was going along with the extensive hype it had during the time. I’ll never know, but after this re-read (originally in preparation for the sequel I had pretty much ignored), my opinions have changed drastically. I don’t know what my original opinions were, but I’ve noticed so many aspects that are lacking, faulty, or underdeveloped in this book and I can only attribute it to my changed tastes and possible iffiness on the book initially.

The underdeveloped world-building and flat atmosphere: The Winner’s Curse is extremely lacking in world-building. Glaringly lacking. The only elements that display a semblance of a setting, are the facts that we already know from the summary: the Herrani have been enslaved under the Valorians for a good amount of time and Valorians are masterful warriors. Valorian culture itself is hardly touched upon in the book, and there are only about 2-3 paragraphs in the entire that explain how they conquered the Herrani in minor detail. The Herrani were supposed to be a cultured and highly advanced country, however none of that richness is touched upon at all. I have no sense of the Herrani traditions, religion, and social norms, or the Valorians’ culture besides their obvious military power. Arin and other Herrani mention things like, ‘the god of lies’ or ‘the god of madness’ but who are these gods?? Why are they mentioned? What significance do they carry to the Valorians and Herrani themselves? Kestrel goes to many parties and functions throughout the course of this book, yet I have no idea how society works and what the atmosphere of the aristocrats is. There isn’t even an atmosphere at all, actually. While the writing is quite nice and even beautiful at times, it is severely lacking in detail when it comes to description. Most of the time I do not know what anything looks like, such as the governor’s palace or the market place that are briefly mentioned yet not described at all. I don’t know what the aesthetic is, and by this I’m not talking about tumblr or some shit. I’m saying that I do not know what to picture as the story goes on, because there is no sense of setting at all.

What is even worse, is the fact that I cannot muster any feelings for the Valorians or Herrani slaves because I know absolutely nothing about them. We are only told that the Herrani are treated terribly, but there are hardly any examples of this treatment. There are only vague references to murder and mistreatment, but we never get to hear any stories or see any of this. In fact, this book’s concept of slavery is not even fully executed. The book shies away from everything that makes enslavement a brutal, terrible thing and covers it up with Kestrel and Arin’s vague and unexplored thoughts about whatever. So how am I supposed to sympathize with the Herrani? How do I make myself root for them or want for them to succeed and acquire the justice they supposedly deserve? Telling is most certainly not showing, and this book is almost all telling. The Valorians are just as flat, and I’m honestly confused if I am supposed to hate them or like them, or feel anything for them really. They are all talk and no show, the Valorians are only deemed ‘cruel’ do to their capture of the Herrani, yet I cannot believe in that cruelty because are hardly any places in the book in which a Valorian even interacts with a slave. I have no idea what the dynamic between a Valorian and Herrani is, and it is embarrassingly clear that the slavery concept was partially created for the sake of star-crossed lovers and an angsty romance.

Dear god, I am ripping this book apart.

Image result for staring blankly gif

The equally boring characters (except for Kestrel, thank god): There are a majority of characters in this book that are nameless, which is unfortunate since they could have added to the emotional aspect of this book, but the characters that do have names are so useless and drab, they might as well have been nameless. Arin doesn’t have much of a personality, he is monotone and emotionless throughout, and while that might just be his ‘character’, I was really waiting for him to blow up and show some emotion. It doesn’t have to be explosive, I just need to know he’s alive every now and then, because this man has barely any presence. Kestrel’s social circle, Jess, Ronan, Benix, and Irex are equally pointless and somewhat one-dimensional characters that are only meant to up Kestrel’s angst and give her more to think about other than Arin. Kestrel herself is a great character, I love her shrewd, cunning nature and how she is constantly plotting something. She’s smart, but is not met with surprise and unnecessary praise whenever she shows it off. My only problem with her rests in her thoughts for Arin, leading us into the dreaded romance section.

A confusing, and dare I say it, baseless love story: I honestly have no idea where the hell the romance between Arin and Kestrel came from. In the very beginning of the story, Kestrel buys Arin for practically no reason (she lowkey states this) just to move the plot along, and they barely interact throughout, because um, he’s a slave! Most of their ‘interactions’ are both of them staring at each other across the room at parties Kestrel attends, and these instances end up in one of them choosing to leave. The only time where they actually spend some time together is when they play Bite And Sting (a card game) together. I don’t understand what made Arin fall in love with Kestrel and what Kestrel saw in Arin. Kestrel never even sympathizes or tries to understand Arin’s struggle with slavery, and whatever motivates her to worry about or think about him is clearly not expanded on in the least. Arin is equally vague and superficial with his feelings for Kestrel. He doesn’t show any signs of attraction toward Kestrel and is pretty indifferent to her outings throughout the book. They are both separate in terms of interest and class but suddenly, a romance! Attraction! Angst! How did this happen? Someone enlighten me, I’m serious.

Putting aside my disdain and disappointment in everything listed above, I can recognize some positive aspects of the book. The writing is beautiful, and while it isn’t so special to absolutely blow you away, many of the ideas communicated are not forceful and said well-enough to make me feel something or another. I appreciated the effort to explore military tactics and overall strategic and political nature of the last few chapters. One thing this book does do right, is that it actually talks of more serious elements existing in fantasy worlds, politics and military and war. Unsurprisingly, this side of the book is only brought out in the last few chapters, and also unsurprisingly, I didn’t care enough by that time to read these strategies fully. But, they are well-thought out and some discussion I enjoyed.

This review is absolutely brutal and a complete 180 from what I thought it would be, but I’m glad I finally got my feelings down. I am still going to read the second book regardless of my indifference for this one, in hopes of it being better. Pray for me.

-Haven