Review: Warcross by Marie Lu

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Genre: Young-Adult, Science-Fiction
Pages: 368
Series: Warcross #1
Release Date: September 12, 2017
Publisher: Penguin

Star

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One of my most anticipated reads. It’s written by Marie Lu, who I love, and has a very Ready Player One vibe that I’m digging; minus the bazillion 80s references, most of which I didn’t get because I was born in the 90s in Asia. Basically, it seemed to me like a will-surely-love book and it was.

It’s set in an alternate reality (or maybe the future) in which a majority of the populations spends its time on a virtual reality game called Warcross. The protagonist is Emika Chen. She’s eighteen and has lived on her own ever since her father died and left her with gambling debts to pay off. She’s barely making ends meet with her waitressing job and, on the side, is a bounty hunter who tracks down those who bet on the game illegally. In an attempt to make some quick cash, Emika uses a hack during the opening game of that year’s Warcross tournament being held in Tokyo, only to accidentally glitch herself into the game.

Emika is then flown to Tokyo. But instead of punishment, Emika gets a job locating someone who seems to be messing with the game. She’s entered into the tournament and works undercover. Emika is very determined, but so is her culprit. And soon, things start to become more and more dangerous than a simple game.

The anonymous guy she’s trying to find goes by Zero. He has an agenda but she can’t figure out what that is. She also has to focus on winning the tournament for her team, which consists of four other people. I really liked those people. They were great additions to the novel and came as a surprise because I kinda expected them to just be background people. But they were important and I am totally shipping Roshan with someone (not Emi) and excited to see how that will work out.

Emika was awesome. She’s smart, strong-willed, makes good decisions and refuses to back down. She got a few shocks in this novel and the ending has faced her with a dilemma and, while I’m nervous about she’ll do, I’m also confident that whatever it is, will be right. That’s why I love her.

One characters I haven’t yet mentioned, Hideo. He’s the creator of Warcross and also the love interest (ever since I read The Love Interest that phrase doesn’t sound the same). I don’t wanna say much about him. He’s a reserved guy for reasons we will find out. He comes off as stand-offish at first but grows on you later on. He was all mysterious and a really good character. Also eager to see more of him.

The story was fantastic and had a fast, exciting pace. I loved reading about the tournament and the games; and the world-building was so interesting. Marie Lu really knows how to immerse you in the world. And while it seems like Ready Player One at first, it’s actually quite different. The tone is different and, again, no 80s pop culture references. I was totally in from page one, getting to know Emika and the game. Things were consistently great, no drops in momentum.

I have one complaint. It’s about Zero’s identity. I kinda guessed it early on and that was a bummer. It didn’t take away much from the novel but I can’t ignore it.

Overall, things were swell. I haven’t read this good and refreshing a YA novel in a while. And since I’ve barely been reading thanks to my reading slump, this was new and also like coming home. It made me really happy and I highly recommend it.

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Review: Secret by Kindle Alexander

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Genre: Adult, Romance, Contemporary, LGBT+
Pages: 327
Series: None
Release Date: June 9, 2015 
Publisher: Self-published

3 Stars

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From what I remember, I finished this book almost a month ago (this review is long overdue) and this was during my M/M romance reading phase and was my fourth such book in a row. You may not think this little fact to be relevant, but it is.

The story follows Dylan, who is the creator of a revolutionary social media app called Secret. Its highlighted feature is the it leaves no paper trail. As soon as you log out, all your chat messages are deleted permanently and can’t be used against you in the future. Dylan is look to sell the app. Tristan, the CEO of Wilder-Nation, is looking to buy it. That’s how things between them start, with a business negotiation.

But the budding romance has one big problem. Dylan is very deep in the closet. He’s married, has three kids, and has no intention of coming out until they’ve all gone off to college, which is still a year or two away.

And before you ask, no, there’s no cheating. I went through a few reviews to make sure of that before I picked the book up because I can’t stand it when a person cheats of his/her significant other in order to be with another, irrespective of whether of not they’re protagonists in the book, because in real life, everyone is the main character of their own story. So what’s to say that you won’t easily go from being the girl he cheated for, to being the one he cheated on? It just… it taints the relationship for me when you start it by betraying someone like that. But in this case, no cheating. At all. But I can’t tell you how that is because I’m not sure whether that could be considered a spoiler.

Moving on. The book had an good enough start. I wasn’t a fan of the writing; I found it to be bland. It didn’t make me care much about the characters or their relationship. I liked the story and I felt that Dylan and Tristan has potential chemistry but because of the plain writing, that wasn’t able to shine through very well.

For characters, I liked both Tristan and Dylan’s wife a lot. Tristan is a go-getter and very determined. He works hard and doesn’t give up. He’s also very considerate. Dylan’s wife is fun and really has her life together. That’s something I gotta admire. Dylan himself, who many reviewers seem to be raving about, I didn’t like. I loved how dedicated he was to his family but with Tristan, he was kind of an asshole. He also didn’t as put much effort into the relationship.

Speaking of the relationship, here is where the tidbit I gave in the beginning of the review, comes into play. When you’ve read three romances in a row, you’ve had enough of reading sex scenes, whether it be between three straight couples, or gay couples. And this novel has too many sex scenes even if that weren’t the case.

Seriously, there are like half a dozen of them. Maybe more. Personally, and I’ve said this before, even though I have zero issues with sex scenes, any more than two or three in a novel are a waste of paper. Unless we’re talking erotic romance in which case the reader knows what he/she is getting into and must prepared accordingly. This is supposed to be a contemporary romance. Do we really need to see them going at it every few chapters? Sex ain’t complicated. We get how it works so you don’t need to tell us over and over.

In the end, there were good parts and there were bad parts. Part of my problem was the too much sex while the other was that it wasn’t compelling enough. Don’t recommend it, per se, but if it sounds interesting to you, go for it.

Review: Moonshot by Alessandra Torre

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Genre: New-Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 413
Series: No
Release Date: July 4, 2016
Publisher: EverAfter Romance

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Don’t worry, I didn’t forget to add the rating. There’s a reason it’s not there. It’s because even though I did, technically, finish the book, I still feel like I didn’t. I got as far as 40% before I started skimming. The plan was to see a few chapter ahead (I was at the end of my patience due to some stuff) and then come back and continue. That didn’t happen.

This is a sports romance. The protagonist, Ty, is a baseball fan because of her father, who’s a Yankee player. Chase is the newest addition to the team and has a reputation for intoxication, doing drugs and too much womanizing. He’s pretty much a spoiled bastard and Ty’s father, understandably, wants her to stay the hell away. But she’s a huge fan of his and they have an immediate connection that pulls her toward him. She finds him to be more than what seemed at first. But then things take a complicated turn and they’re driven apart.

The novel is in two parts. The first is when Ty and Chase meet and fall in love, the second is a few years later. The reason I skipped ahead was to see why the time jump occurred (and because Ty had earlier done something monumentally stupid and I needed to know if the book was even worth it).

I didn’t like what I found. I thought it was… cheap. Honestly, the whole arc of what went wrong and why they couldn’t be together, as well as what happened after the time jump, it was all completely wrong. The “complication” was silly and, like I said, cheap, and what took place afterward was something I didn’t approve of. It involved cheating. It seems that some (or many) people were okay with it because it was the protagonists cheating on other people to be together. Because apparently, if two people are the main characters in a book and are “in love”, cheating isn’t as big an issue. Total bullshit, by the way.

Anyway, those weren’t the only reasons for me not liking the novel. You see, this is the kind of book that relies very heavily on intensity. It’s not about how well the two people get along, it’s about how much intensity and passion is between the two. Which leads to most of their romance occurring via really intense stares *cough* Twilight *cough*. It’s all exaggerated and dramatic and so not my cup of tea. The writing, too, was over-dramatic. Some readers eat that shit up like apple crumble pie, I’m not one of them. I have nothing against passion, but when you overdo it, it just ends with me rolling my eyes a lot.

For all of these reasons, I didn’t like the book. But because I skimmed many parts, I don’t feel right rating it. If I had to, based on what I read, it’d be a 1.5 probably, 2 at a stretch. Safe to say, not one I recommend.

Review: Royally Endowed by Emma Chase

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Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 275
Series: Royally #3 (Can be read as standalone)
Release Date: August 14, 2017
Publisher: Emma Chase LLC

This review contains spoilers to the end of Royally Screwed, the first (and best) book of this series. So I recommend reading that one first.

3 Stars

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I though a lot about how I was going to start this review. At first, I wanted to start off by saying how much I hate Manic Pixie Dream Girls’. Then I wanted to start by telling you how, even though this can be read as a standalone, I don’t recommend that at all since the best parts, for me, had to do with characters from previous books, one in particular. Finally, I’ve decided to tell you how terrible an idea I though the prologue was.

In the prologue, we see our male protagonist, Logan, going to meet our female protagonist, Ellie. He’s standing outside her door, apologizing and begging her to open up, while Ellie is being unusually harsh and telling him to fuck off. At first Logan buys it and is about to go away, then he realizes that Ellie is behaving out-of-character and opens the door suddenly, without asking. He’s very surprised by what he sees.

Here’s why this is a problem.

First off, the story is between Ellie, whose sister is married to the prince of Wessco, making her also a princess, and Logan, a royal guard. A third of the way through, we’re introduced to a particular subplot. Taking that new addition and the dynamic between Ellie and Logan into account, it’s painfully obvious what Logan sees when he opens the door. Then there’s the fact that there’s a sub-plot around halfway through which makes it seem as if Ellie has died or might at least be in mortal danger. But we know that’s not true because the prologue, in which Ellie is very much alive, is set after the incident. Which killed all the tension.

Basically, what I’m trying to say is, the prologue should have been removed.

Moving on, another thing that could have been removed, Ellie herself; or at least her Manic Pixie Dream Girl-ness. She’s all giggles, rainbows and puppy dogs the whole time, and so freaking stupid… I actually counted how many moment of brain activity she exhibited. There were two. She was sometimes almost as annoying as Clary was in City of Glass, and that’s a hell of an accomplishment.

And we were expected to believe that she would make a good psychologist, even though everything she described liking about psychology was actually not psychology at all. She was a people-person who wanted to study social interactions and situations. That’s sociology. Psychologists are usually introverts who avoid social situations, like me, and they’re also the head-over-heart kind. Also like me, and the exact opposite of Ellie. Clearly, Miss Chase needs to get her facts straight.

On to a less critical note, I liked Logan. He was level-headed and didn’t make rash decisions. I also understood why he like Ellie (apparently he’s one of those people who actually like the ditzy thing that she’s got going on). He also had a good reason to be wary of pursuing Ellie and even his “screw up” that was hinted at in the prologue, turned out to not be a big deal. He just needed to get his thoughts straight.

Logan made the novel a lot more bearable. As did the fact that Emma Chase is still a good writer and this was a short and funny book. All that was not the best part though. That was Nicholas.

Nicholas is the prince that Ellie’s sister is married to. He’s also Logan’s boss and my favourite characters in the series. I’ve loved him since his own book. He is, like Logan, smart and level-headed. He’s got the prince thing down with his manners and composure. He’s also a really great guy and has a sense of humour. What more could you want? He made this books tons better and I still believe that, had he been more present in book 2, Royally Matched, it wouldn’t have sucked as much.

Overall, if you look past some of my rambling, what I’m saying is that this is a book that could have been better without the prologue. I didn’t like the female protagonist much. But it’s short, fun, has romantic moments and is an easy read. If you don’t have as big an aversion to manic pixie dream girls, you might like it. Royally Screwed is still the best one, though.

Review: Most Valuable Playboy by Lauren Blakely

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Genre: New-Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Humor
Pages: 300
Series: None
Release Date: September 1, 2017
Publisher: Self-published

4 Stars

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I know I’ve been AWOL for a while and the only thing I can say in my defense is that reading slumps are a pain in the ass and this is my worst one by a wide margin. The reviewing has been even worse. That said, let’s see if I still remember how to do this.

Cooper of a football quarterback who, after three years warming the bench, is finally getting to play. He’s sworn to focus only on the game. Meaning no dates or hookups. Every year, some members of the team take part in an auction for a charity, where the highest bidder gets a date. Cooper’s team owner’s doted-on sister has her eye set on him, and it seems that she wants more than just a date. Not wanting to create problems for himself, he asks his childhood friends (and best friend’s sister) to bid on him. She wins, and they somehow end up dating; publicly, of course.

This isn’t something that we haven’t already read. There are tons of books with a similar plot. That’s not to say that this book isn’t good, though.

The chemistry between Cooper and Violet is great. I loved them as friends and when their relationship started to grow. They’re adorable together. The narrative is very funny. It’s from Cooper’s perspective, which is a big plus. The book is well-written, well-paced and enjoyable to read. There’s no excessive drama, which I love, but the plot can be a bit too simple at times.

It’s a story we’ve heard before. And while there were good characters and good writing, and I enjoyed reading it, there isn’t much about it that makes you think that this is a story that needs to be told, one that’s different.

I still really liked it and if you’re look for a quick, light read, this is definitely one that I’d recommend. I just want you to go in knowing what it is, so you won’t be disappointed. You won’t find a lot of angst, excitement or big, dramatic moments. This is a short and sweet novel with an entertaining narrative and likable characters. Nothing bad, but nothing that will blow you mind either.

New Releases: September, 2017

I know I’m late with the post this month but September hasn’t started yet (not everywhere, at least) so I’m not too late. Which is good because September is probably my favourite month of this year, especially after the clusterfuck that has been August. Part of what makes September awesome is that the sun might finally stop trying to roast people alive, but mostly it’s because there so many amazing books coming out, and I can’t wait.

So let’s jump right in, shall we?

 

33515066Most Valuable Playboy by Lauren Blakely – Sept 1

There’s a football player. An auction for a date. And a sister of a best friend who becomes the saving grace by buying him. Then there’s a fake relationship, for the media of course, which slowly becomes less and less fake.
This is written from a male perspective, and by Lauren Blakely. So I’m pumped.

 

33385229They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera – Sept 5

In an alternate reality, people are warned of their death a day prior. Mateo and Rufus get the call, and they meet up through a helpful app called Last Friend, to live a lifetime in a single day.
On one hand, I’m terrified (I don’t deal well with good characters dying), but on the other, it sounds so cool that I have to read it. The fact that Adam Silvera wrote it is just a plus.

 

33785202The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding by Alexandra Bracken – Sept 5

Middle-grade, urban fantasy.
Prosper has a demon living inside him. Turns out Prosper’s great-great-great-great-great-something grandfather made — and then broke — a contract with a malefactor, a demon who exchanges fortune for eternal servitude. And the demon isn’t the forgiving type.

 

29385546Warcross by Marie Lu – Sept 12

Warcross isn’t just a game—it’s a way of life. The obsession started ten years ago and its fan base now spans the globe. Emika Chen, a teenage hacker, needing to make some quick cash, hacks into the opening game of the international Warcross Championships—only to accidentally become an overnight sensation. Emika is shocked when she gets a call from the game’s creator with an offer to become a spy on the inside of this year’s tournament.

 

32991569Jane, Unlimited by Kristin Cashore – Sept 19

Jane has lived an ordinary life, raised by her aunt Magnolia who turned her life into an adventure. But Aunt Magnolia was lost a few months ago and Jane is now alone. She is then swept away by Kiran Thrash—a glamorous, capricious acquaintance who shows up and asks Jane to accompany her to a gala at her family’s island mansion called Tu Reviens, which will offer her choices that can ultimately determine the course of her untethered life.

 

34076952The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo – Sept 26

This is a collection of short stories inspired by myth, fairy tale, and folklore, all set in the Grishaverse. Three of the stories were previously published online, I think, but the other three are brand new. There are full-page illustrations by Sara Kipin. I recommend reading the Grisha Trilogy first though, before you delve into this one.

 

34466922Sleeping Beauties by Stephen King and Owen King – Sept 26

In the near future, something happens and all women go to sleep; they become shrouded in a cocoon-like gauze. If they are awakened or disturbed, the women become feral and spectacularly violent. The men of our world are abandoned, left to their increasingly primal devices. One woman, however, the mysterious Evie, is immune. Is Evie a medical anomaly to be studied, or is she a demon who must be slain?

 

30969741An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson – Sept 26

Isobel is a prodigy portrait artist and highly prized by her clients, the fair folk, who cannot create art without crumbling to dust. But then she paints Rook, the autumn prince, with mortal sorrow in his eyes – a weakness that could cost him his life. Rook spirits her away to the autumn lands to stand trial for her crime. Waylaid by the Wild Hunt, the Alder King, and hideous monsters risen from barrow mounds, Isobel and Rook must depend on one another for survival.

 

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As you can see, all of these books sound amazing—I had to be selective this time. And since I don’t have any specific books planned, I’m actually going to read some of them next month (shocker, I know). I’m really excited. If there’s a specific one from this list that you want me to review, comment below.

Also, which September books are you excited to read?

Review: The Understatement of the Year by Sarina Bowen

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Genre: New-Adult, Contemporary, Romance, LGBT
Pages: 300
Series: The Ivy Years #3 (Can be read as Standalone)
Release Date: September 29, 2014
Publisher: Rennie Road Books

4 Stars

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Graham and Rikker used to be friends, and more than friends. Then something happened that not only estranged them, but also changed them a lot. Now, years later, both are hockey players and Graham has made it his life’s purpose to hide his sexuality. That is until Rikker transfers to his college.

Graham hasn’t really had it easy, and neither has Rikker, but where Rikker has learnt to move on from past experiences, Graham is still stuck. And every time he sees Rikker, he feels as if he’s going to be sick from the panic he’s feeling. Rikker doesn’t get why that is. He never did anything to the guy, so why is he getting so many unwelcoming vibes? It’s a mystery, it’s annoying and it’s hurtful. Not only does Rikker have to deal with being an “out” hockey player and being the new kid, his old friend seems to hate him for some reason.

Graham doesn’t hate him, of course. He feels really bad about what happened in highschool and he’s absolutely terrified of someone finding out he’s gay.

But does that excuse Graham being a total dick toward Rikker and pretending the guy doesn’t exist? Initially, it kinda does. Sure, it’s a cowardly move but Graham is aware of that. I can understand that. After the shit he’s seen happen to people just because they’re gay, he’s allowed to be afraid. But… when things between Graham and Rikker start to grow, when they start to have a somewhat-relationship, and Graham still continues to ignored Rikker’s existence in public? That’s when it stops being okay.

There’s a difference between hiding a relationship and treating someone like a dirty little secret. So even while I understood Graham’s reservations and that he would need time, I low-key hated him for how he was with Rikker.

Speaking of Rikker, that guy needed to grow a pair. Just because you care about someone, doesn’t mean you should let them walk all over you! I really wanted to see Rikker stand up for himself. Though things did turn out really well in the end and I stopped being against (I was only a little bit against it before) the relationship. That’s a plus right. Yes, there were a lot of complications but things ended in a good place. One last complaint, the ending was too abrupt.

End of all negative things. Onto positives.

This is a very serious book and tackles many issues regarding how homosexuality is talked about, how homosexuals are treated and the impact tragic events in our childhood and teenage years can have on us even long after. There’s bullying, isolation, drinking habits, crippling fear, abandonment, PTSD, character development and the realization that all the bullshit people throw a you is not worth hurting yourself or estranging the ones who truly matter to you.

Sarina Bowen has written great novel that addresses some very important issues and I love her for that. This is a very well-written book with a great story and good, albeit problematic, characters. It’s a tad slow but that’s kinda necessary. I think you should check it out.