Original Post

The Liebster Award Part 2

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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

Ari @ thestarlightbooks

Helen @ allbookloves

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

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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.

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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

Books, Original Post

Blogger Recognition Award

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What’s up, guys? Apparently we’ve been nominated for the Blogger Recognition Award by Betty at bettybookreviews, so thank you Betty! You can find her original post right here.

The Rules: 

  1. Thank the blogger who nominated you and provide a link to their blog.
  2. Write a post to show your award.
  3. Give a brief story of how your blog started.
  4. Talk about the meaning behind your blog’s name.
  5. Give two pieces of advice to new bloggers.
  6. Select other bloggers you want to give this award to.
  7. Comment on each blog and let them know you have nominated them and provide the link to the post you created.

The M&B backstory:

Haven: The bare, bare bones of M&B were created when Aliza gave me a call on our weekly conversations on Friday. She had brought up the idea of a blog on WordPress, and didn’t even suggest I be a part of it before I jumped on her ass like the overexcited little kid I was. I still don’t know to this day if she wanted to co-blog with me (lmao I’m just being dramatic … right Liz?), but it just took on from there. She was the one who showed me how to operate all these controls and do shit on this site in general, and I would have been lost without her since I’m a regular dumbass. Thank you, Liz. 🙂

Aliza: Aw, I love ya too :). Haven covered it all, I just called her one day and suggested we do a blog together. We’d both started writing reviews on GR, so I figured putting it on a website would be a fun thing to do. And yes, Haven. I really wanted you to co-blog with me. You had written more reviews than I had, and I know I’d need someone to help me out with the blog (and I was right). It’s been a blast, though, and that was over two years ago 😉

Meaning behind the name:

Aliza: I though Books & Musings was an awesome name that totally reflected what we planned to do, so I was super excited to start a blog with that name… until I found out it was already taken. So then I just switched around the order of the words, and voila! Musings & Books was born.

Haven: Aliza was the one who suggested the name, and it sounded cool to me so, yeah. Since we discuss books and reflect on the reading community in general, it makes sense.

Our advice to newbies:

Haven: My advice would be to be friendly and interact lots with the blogging community. I made the mistake of being extremely shy by not following or talking to anyone in the beginning, and I definitely wish I interacted more.

Aliza: Reread your work. Typos are unprofessional and annoying, so no matter how lazy you are, reread before posting anything.

Our nominees: 

Stephanie @ Igniting Pages

Sophia @ la belle bibliophile

thestarlightbooks

Thank you guys for reading!

-Liz + Haven

 

 

Books, Reviews, YA Fiction

Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy | a unique take on the cancer concept in YA

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What if you’d been living your life as if you were dying—only to find out that you had your whole future ahead of you?

When sixteen-year-old Alice is diagnosed with leukemia, her prognosis is grim. To maximize the time she does have, she vows to spend her final months righting wrongs—however she sees fit. She convinces her friend Harvey, who she knows has always had feelings for her, to help her with a crazy bucket list that’s as much about revenge (humiliating her ex-boyfriend and getting back at her archnemesis) as it is about hope (doing something unexpectedly kind for a stranger). But just when Alice’s scores are settled, she goes into remission.

Now Alice is forced to face the consequences of all that she’s said and done, as well as her true feelings for Harvey. But has she caused irreparable damage to the people around her—and to the one person who matters most?

Julie Murphy’s Side Effects May Vary is a fearless and moving tour de force about love, life, and facing your own mortality.

Side Effects May Vary hops on the cancer/tragedy/tearjerker train and decides to formulate a story around it, except it doesn’t. In fact, it’s not a tearjerker or tragic story, there aren’t so many blunt, ‘sad’ moments at all. It’s one of the most unique takes on this concept, and while I’ve got my problems with it, I have to commend it for that aspect.

Side Effects May Vary takes place in two ‘time periods’, ‘then’ and ‘now’. ‘Then’ refers to the news of Alice’s diagnosis, her chemo sessions, and her master plan for revenge with Harvey. ‘Now’ is representative of Alice’s life after being in remission and how she copes with Harvey, her family, and all the relationships she has drastically changed. It’s not so much of a tragedy, but rather facing all the shit you’ve caused, who you truly are, and who you want to be around you. It’s a difficult story, and it’s difficult to read it as well.

The emotion and uniqueness behind the concept: Obviously after finding out about her remission, Alice is broken emotionally because, for the past year, she’s lived her life with absolutely no consequences. Her diagnosis was seen as terrible but also as an opportunity for her to live freely and love freely. Well, she actually has trouble with the latter for majority of the book, but we’ll discuss that later. Most of the book is actually psychological, as Alice struggles to live by the rules and begin her life all over again, after being so ready to just … die. The sadness of it surrounds learning to live again after being told you are going to die, instead of the dying itself. It’s different and conveyed so subtly.

The characters that I (unsurprisingly) had issues with: I don’t hate Alice and Harvey, and I can acknowledge the fact that they are realistic and raw to an extent, but they are the prime reason I couldn’t enjoy this book fully. I actually liked Alice more than I thought I would, many readers stated that they thought she was a bitch. Which she is, obviously. Everything about her is so unfiltered, and she is truly angry, saddened, and frustrated with her life after discovering she is in remission. She never takes into account the feelings of others and treats people however she wants. However, I felt for her because the thoughts she had in the past were so understandable, and her psyche must be deeply affected by the events coming afterward. Her vulnerability and frustration caused her to behave in outlandish yet Alice-esque ways, in which there were no rules and nobody to please or change herself for. I totally understood this, but my liking for her fluctuated so many times throughout the novel. It was easy to accept she was a realistic and unfiltered character, but it was extremely difficult to actually like her, and I felt as though her feelings toward Harvey and herself were just not told in a poignant enough way. She always had me very unsettled and uncomfortable in her actions and thoughts, and it was hard to recover from that due to the writing. That’s a personal thing, though. Disliking Harvey was a personal thing too. He’s constantly used and treated as lapdog by Alice, and can never get over his male hormones and come to his senses about her. There are moments, but he always subjects himself to the same terrible treatment by Alice and I can’t pity him or feel sad for him. He leaves me with a similar unsettling feeling.

The very complicated relationship between Alice and Harvey: Alice and Harvey’s relationship is the most angsty, complex, and irritating relationship you can imagine. Alice is clearly not nice to Harvey, she treats him like a servant, never considers his feelings, and expects his utmost loyalty to her when she treats him like shit. The funny thing is, Harvey falls for it every time and never really realizes that he doesn’t deserve her nasty treatment when he has been so devoted and respectful. There are times when they both snap, but they always go back to their half-friend half-romantic relationship. Alice claims she doesn’t see Harvey in that way, but she won’t let him move on. Harvey tries to move on, but is hooked on Alice and truly believes in her ‘good’. It’s inconsistent and messy but I liked it. The writing complimented their feelings well, and while Harvey is still bothersome, I could understand Alice’s fear of commitment and accepting how she feels on Harvey. I just wish it wasn’t so back-and-forth, and I can’t spoil things for y’all, but their inconsistency is one of the reasons I disliked the lack of resolve in the ending.

I would recommend this to anyone looking for a frustrating yet real viewpoint at a complex relationship, and those who are unafraid of hard to handle/love characters. Most of all, I would suggest it to anyone in search of a unique take on surviving with cancer and learning to live your life, because that is what this book does best.

-Haven

Books, Reviews, YA Fiction

Anna and The French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins | a fluffy romance that contemporary fans will devour

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Can Anna find love in the City of Light?
Anna is happy in Atlanta. She has a loyal best friend and a crush on her coworker at the movie theater, who is just starting to return her affection. So she’s less than thrilled when her father decides to send her to a boarding school in Paris for her senior year.
But despite not speaking a word of French, Anna meets some cool new people, including the handsome Étienne St. Clair, who quickly becomes her best friend. Unfortunately, he’s taken —and Anna might be, too. Will a year of romantic near misses end with the French kiss she’s waiting for?

We essentially had a free period in my last class a few days ago, so I decided to get lit and read Anna And The French Kiss. I had already read nearly a quarter of it throughout the day, and guess what happened? I finished it about 10 minutes after I got home from school. BOOM. I read a whole book in a single day. That might sound commonplace to some readers, but is a big deal for me, who has to take certain breaks whilst reading because I just can’t focus that long on one thing. And that serves as proof that Anna And The French Kiss is immensely engrossing and difficult to put down. I may have my problems with it here and there, but it definitely brightened up my (very boring) day with its never-ending fluffiness.

A beautiful setting and just the right amount of depth: This book is set in Paris, which is unusual for a YA novel, but I enjoyed it. There were many descriptions of the local settings and museums and art that Anna explored, and it definitely made me want to explore France and travel abroad in general. The descriptions were a little simplistic, somewhat typical for a chick-lit novel, and I do wish Perkins took it a little further, but I enjoyed reading about the day-to-day life in France, Anna’s new life. The overall atmosphere of the book might seem to be a bit sunny and happy most of the time, but there are themes such as belonging and learning to navigate life on your own, which are relatable for teenagers. Not to mention there was much commentary on relationships, intimacy, and unrequited love as well. Etienne has a girlfriend, Rashmi and Josh (Anna’s new buddies) have their issues, and Mer (Anna’s first ‘friend’ in Paris) is in love with Etienne. Lots of relationship drama which may get annoying at a point, but I liked how subtly realistic it was when it came to being alone, falling in love, and how it can change you. Again, I do wish it was explored a bit deeper, however for a chick-lit book, these themes were expanded enough to entertain the reader and provide insight.

The frustrating yet likable main characters: The characters were a problematic point to an extent, it’s hard to like them and hard to hate them, simultaneously. Anna tends be a bit irritating throughout, mostly due to her actions and words and even thoughts. She comes off as a little dumb towards the beginning, pretty much representing the stereotype of an ignorant American. Her rambling when it came to conversing with Etienne (not all the time though, thank god) was cringey and got me feeling second-hand embarrassment. Fortunately, she changes as the plot moves on, and while she keeps that giggly persona of hers, there is also her struggle with love and all the relationship angst. She notably changes in her overall nature during the period in which she is angry and disappointed in Etienne and how he continues to stay with his girlfriend, Elise, when Anna and him have clearly shown feelings for each other. She turns into a restless, confused, bitchy person and lashes out at several people in her head, atypical for her. This aspect might be annoying most of the time, but I thought it was pretty realistic actually. I mean, when I’m frustrated and confused for a prolonged period of time, I tend to be more on edge than usual. I really don’t see all the hype around Etienne though, which caused problems for me considering everyone was constantly kissing his British/French/American ass. He’s cute and funny at times, but I just can’t seem to love him fully.

Even more conflicting side characters: There are a multitude of side characters that mostly land on the extreme ends of the spectrum. Rashmi and Josh, two of Anna’s new friends in Paris, I liked. Rashmi didn’t give a shit but also had a softer side and Josh was really funny and relatable. Both of them also had their relationship issues, which was well tied into to the initial theme of loneliness and intimacy. Mer, who Anna meets almost immediately after moving to Paris, I wasn’t a big fan of on the other hand. Not her fault, her character was just way too centered around her infatuation with Etienne and I would have liked to see more of a presence from her. Another character, Amanda, was also largely centered around her obsession with Etienne (dude gets way too much hype) and defined the term ‘bitchy’ perfectly. She was wholly one-dimensional and was made to look impure next to Anna, considering Anna slut-shames her continually throughout the book. Elise, Etienne’s girlfriend, was also slut-shamed and wasted as a character. I actually would have liked to know more about her, but her story was obviously not meant to be expanded on.

That confusing yet cute romance: Regardless of my indifference to Etienne and slight irritation of Anna throughout, there was a part of me that wanted them to be together. And how could you not? They aren’t lacking in chemistry and while their conversations aren’t as witty as I wanted them to be, they are cute together. Unfortunately, there are many elements  inhibiting them from properly starting a romantic relationship. Etienne has a girlfriend, Anna has a boy that she likes back in Atlanta, but they both are attracted to each other. They both have their issues with needing people and being alone that cause rifts in their friendship itself. I honestly don’t understand Etienne’s deal with Elise still (his ‘fear of lonliness’ wasn’t properly explored) and his whole relationship with Anna was borderline cheating. But, as much as I hated this aspect, the relationship angst definitely captured me. It made their ‘fairytale’ like relationship so much more realistic and likable even.

Overall, Anna And The French Kiss was a flighty romance that surprisingly and subtly incorporated real-life teenage drama in its story. Not everyone’s going to like it, but I’d suggest it to anyone who loves contemporaries in general.

-Haven

Books, Reviews, YA Fiction

The Black Key by Amy Ewing | a safe but solid conclusion to the Lone City trilogy

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Synopsis: For too long, Violet and the people of the outer circles of the Lone City have lived in service to the royalty of the Jewel. But now the secret society known as the Black Key is preparing to seize power. And while Violet knows she is at the center of this rebellion, she has a more personal stake in it—her sister, Hazel, has been taken by the Duchess of the Lake. Now, after fighting so hard to escape the Jewel, Violet must do everything in her power to return to save not only Hazel, but the future of the Lone City.

Since I reviewed the previous books in The Lone City trilogy, I’m sort of obligated to review the conclusion, The Black Key. The Lone City series aren’t the type of books from which I would expect a knock-out, twisted, action-packed conclusion from, which is why The Black Key is simply average to me in terms of an ending. But, Ewing tried many new things in this one, making it arguably the best book of the series.

The Black Key picks up where it left off, with the announcement that Hazel, Violet’s sister, in the hands of the cruel Duchess. After meetings with the Black Key society, formulating of plans by the White Rose residents, and spreading the knowledge of the royalty’s cruelty to the current surrogates, Violet decides to pick up the pace on her sister’s condition by traveling to Duchess’s mansion herself in a disguise. As she gets entangled in secrets and promises, Violet searches for her sister and vows to keep her safe whilst making plans with the Black Key, who are becoming less and less subtle with their demands. The Duchess, Lucien, and even Carnelian come out with secrets of their own as death and lies engulf the Jewel. Violet must harness the power she has, along with the surrogates, to finally end the battle.

A staggering but addictive story: Much like the rest of series, the plotting of this book is slow and more drama-oriented, than action-oriented. Many of the events that took place in the book were fairly entertaining, revealing, and the most shocking. With such a concept paired with an inevitable ending, one would expect the utmost emotion out of this book, and it did fall flat to an extent. There were a few moments that touched me, mostly toward the end, but due to the very simplistic writing style, many of the elements in this series tend to be blase, which is shame considering the emotional potential this concept could have. It was a very fast read though, and held my attention easily.

A predictable and unpredictable Violet Lasting: Violet is a very typical YA heroine. Many readers name her a Mary-Sue, but more than anything, it was the quietness and blandness of her personality that bothered me the most. She is still, unfortunately, boring as hell, but I loved her leadership role in collecting the surrogates and fighting until the end. Violet did some risky shit in this book, and she had to get her hands dirty while doing it. Heroines going through significant pain for something they believe in is what makes them real, and I hate how the writing just regresses Violet’s character. She had such a large role in this book, by showing off her Paladin heritage and strength, especially as a female, in such a sexist and demeaning world. She could have been a special character if only the writing gave her character, and all the secondary characters in fact, a large push by actually having some life in it. Either way, Violet was cool in this novel and left me with an okay feeling at the end.

The side characters I (finally) learned more about: The twists and turns concerning the Duchess and her past were unsurprising but interesting, as I’ve always been fascinated by the Duchess. I do think her character was wasted on the superficiality of her drive, but it was entertaining nonetheless. Ash actually did some shit in this book, and I am supremely glad for that because he was essentially useless throughout this series. Lucien and Garnet, I grew to love in this one. I’ve always adored Garnet, and I liked how his emotional side was brought out in this book. Lucien was always a bit boring to me, but his character took major leaps in this one, and I began to somewhat feel for him. Even the petty Carnelian and lowkey childish Coral had me in my feelings, and I wish this book wasn’t so damn short and concise. All of these side characters have the tendency to disappear right off the map after the proof that they aren’t as one-dimensional as they used to be. Their full potentials as characters aren’t explored in the least, but I should have expected it.

The Black Key is a safe but solid conclusion to The Lone City trilogy, and it sucks that I couldn’t love it more. While this series as a total was typical, trope-y, and cliche in a lot of moments, it was addictive, easy to read, and shocking in many ways through its unique concept. It’s not something I will miss, but I enjoyed it well enough.

-Haven

Books, Original Post, Tag, YA Fiction

The Candy Book Tag

Hey guys! So, we were recently tagged by Betty at bettybookreviews to do the Candy Book Tag. It’s been a while since we’ve done a tag and this is a nice change from the usual posts we do. Thank you Betty! You can find her tag here.

Haven:

Apples – Ah. Healthy food. It’s deep, meaningful and probably won a lot of awards but, um, it really isn’t your thing.

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This book remains to be hyped ever since its publication and has been awarded several times, but I honestly was not feeling it. WW2 stories are usually very emotional, and I was expecting to be moved somehow yet I never was. You can actually find my review of it here.

Milk Chocolate – This is a book you’d recommend to absolutely EVERYONE.

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Most of my friends often ran away when I recommended this book to them, but I am and have always been insistant nonetheless, and I’m sure Liz has been too. Words can’t explain how amazing and eye-opening this book is. Liz actually met Neal Shusterman somewhat recently, and documented her experience in an updated review of Unwind. You can find it here.

Black Jellybeans – Why do these exist??

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I honestly despised this book after finishing it, but I rated it 2 stars because I was afraid of rating books 1 star back then (don’t ask). I need to have words with whoever published this though, for real.

Chocolate Kisses – Awww this novel had the best romance

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There are a plethora of romances that I adore, and if I chose to narrow down my favorites out of a bunch of contemporaries, I would get nowhere. Heartless is a book I had read and reviewed recently, and I loved the romance so much. Peep my review here for more of my thoughts.

Gummy Spiders – Eek! You made sure to check under your bed every night for a week after reading this scary one.

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I haven’t read many horror-inspired YA books, and this is the only one I can think of. It’s a great book, though! I can’t say it scared me so much, but it does have a mysterious and creepy atmosphere (if you couldn’t tell already from that cover).

Jumbo Lollipop – This took you forever to get through, but hey! You did it!

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The Bone Witch took me a damn century to get through, and while I’m still not completely sold on it, there were a lot of redeeming qualities. Check out my review here.

Cotton Candy – Admit it, you loved this when you were younger (you probably still do). Think children’s or MG fiction.

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Don’t judge me guys, but The Clique series was my favorite thing ever back in the day. It was perfectly petty in my opinion, and made for great entertainment. I would probably hate it if I read it now, but it’s still special to me.

Aliza: 

Apples – Ah. Healthy food. It’s deep, meaningful and probably won a lot of awards but, um, it really isn’t your thing.

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Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock has been acclaimed by famous Goodreads reviewers, and I expected to cry a lot while reading it, but overall thought the experience while reading it was just meh. This was one of my first ever reviews, and I don’t remember it that much, but hey, it wasn’t my cup of tea.

Milk Chocolate – This is a book you’d recommend to absolutely EVERYONE.

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Haven is going to sigh from a lack of surprise, but Six of Crows. Duh. I love this book more than anything at the moment, because it has awesome world-building, awesome characters, feminism, and the best anti-hero for a lead character. Ever.

Black Jellybeans – Why do these exist??

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Hey, I like the black licorice-flavored jellybeans (but am apparently the only one). I seriously agree with Haven’s pick for this tag, but my book is Twisted Fate. Man, is it terrible. Plot holes galore, pointlessness, it was the whole package of bad.

Chocolate Kisses – Awww this novel had the best romance

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I read way too many cheesy romance novels (more than I care to admit) and These Broken Stars, despite being as cliche a romance as it can get, made its way onto my “favorites” shelf. I love these star-crossed lovers so much. ❤

Gummy Spiders – Eek! You made sure to check under your bed every night for a week after reading this scary one.

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I Hunt Killers is one of the very few YA horror books I’ve read, but it was great – the complexity of characters made this a standout. The creepiness of this books lies in the way Barry Lyga does not shy away from gruesome descriptions and deep delving into the minds of the serial killers.

Jumbo Lollipop – This took you forever to get through, but hey! You did it!

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The Outsiders was a required-reading book in 7th grade, but I never read it because I moved that year. My sister read it this year though, and after her incessant pushing, I finally picked it up. I get that it’s a classic and all, and also a very short book, but it just took me wayyy too long to get through it.

Cotton Candy – Admit it, you loved this when you were younger (you probably still do). Think children’s or MG fiction.

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Agh, I’m a cliche. I just didn’t read many uncommon book series’ when I was younger, but Percy Jackson holds a special place in my heart. (Even though I quit on the Camp Half Blood Books lately because there were WAY too many of them).

We Tag:

Book Princess Reviews

The Book Cover Girls

Thanks for reading, guys! 🙂