Review: The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket

297671

Genre: Children/Middle-Grade, Fantasy
Pages: 176
Series: A Series of Unfortunate Events #1 (Series of 12)
Release Date: September 30, 1999

4 Stars

4c9zr74Ki

The Bad Beginning starts with a letter that acts as both the synopsis and introduction. The letter warns the reader that this book is not a happy one. Here’s the letter:

Dear Reader,

I’m sorry to say that the book you are holding in your hands is extremely unpleasant. It tells an unhappy tale about three very unlucky children. Even though they are charming and clever, the Baudelaire siblings lead lives filled with misery and woe. From the very first page of this book when the children are at the beach and receive terrible news, continuing on through the entire story, disaster lurks at their heels. One might say they are magnets for misfortune.

In this short book alone, the three youngsters encounter a greedy and repulsive villain, itchy clothing, a disastrous fire, a plot to steal their fortune, and cold porridge for breakfast.

It is my sad duty to write down these unpleasant tales, but there is nothing stopping you from putting this book down at once and reading something happy, if you prefer that sort of thing.

With all due respect,
Lemony Snicket

The moment I read the letter, I knew that I was going to love the book, if not for the story, than for the style in which it’s told.

The narrative used by the author, which reminds me of Narnia, is very good. It’s like someone telling a story to a kid. Older than Narnia but younger than Percy Jackson. It’s full of explanations for various saying and words, things to learn, and has simple but interesting characters that kids would want to be like.

It’s a short and simple tale in which the clever protagonists try to use their wit to foil the evil the evil villain’s evil plan. It’s a classic formula, and I don’t know what else to say. I really liked the book and I’m going to be reading the rest of the series as well as giving the Netflix show a try. I think you should check it out as well.

Review: Gilded Cage by Vic James

30258320

Genre: Young-Adult, Urban Fantasy
Pages: 368
Audiobook Duration: 11 Hours, 52 Minutes
Audiobook Narrator: Avita Jay
Series: Dark Gifts #1 (Trilogy)
Release Date: February 14, 2017

4 Stars

4c9zr74Ki

Gilded Cage is set in an alternate UK in which society has been divided into people with magical abilities, Equals, and people without. The ones who don’t have abilities have to give 10 years of their lives to slavery. These years are called the Slave Days.

Eighteen-year-old Abi Hadley, to save her family from the harshness of a slave town, manages to get them all positions as household slaves for an Equal family, the Jardines. She thinks that it will be better for them and will keep them together. But then her 16-year-old brother, Luke, is separated from them and sent to Millmoor, a slave town. And while she’s trying to find a way to bring him back, she starts to realize that she may not have saved them at all. Because the Jardine family is plenty messed up.

The Jardines have three sons: Gaver, Jenner and Silyen. They’re all about a couple of years apart in age with Silyen (sixteen) as the youngest. And the most messed. Seriously, that kid is so smart and so cold. He has an endless amount of evil schemes and he’s very interesting. He was my favourite character to read about. Which kinda sucks because he’s got all the makings of a villain and villains usually end up dead by the end of the series.

Though he’s not ‘the villain’. We don’t exactly have one of those. The thing to defeat is the system and all those who are very bloody determined to maintain it.

The book is told in the third person perspective and we’re usually switching between what’s going on with Abi and her family, and what’s happening with Luke in Millmoor. Luke’s story was quite interesting as he became a part of a rebel group, of sorts. Very small-scale though, just helping people get medicine and stuff. Not something to cause a revolution. A revolution that is very necessary.

I mean, the country is being run by a bunch of entitled bastards with super-powers who think it’s perfectly fair, even generous, that all un-Equals are being forced into slavery. It needs to end. Though I have no idea how, because the Equals are really fucking powerful and other people seem to just have accepted 10 years of slavery. They just wish each other a “quick ten years!” and go on their jolly ways.

Though obviously something will happen. This book was just an introduction to the world (a very good introduction), the characters who will play an important part, and basically setting things up for the big things to happen.

But even though the purpose was to set things up, the book has a great story, a good pace, many good characters, good world building, good writing, and an unexpected ending that’s gotten me very eager to get my hands on the second book. From the events of this novel, I have no idea what’s going to happen.

The narrator did a really good job as well. I loved her Scottish accent which she used for dialogues by the Hadleys but at the same time, I’m not sure why she used it, since the family was from Manchester. Still, I liked her narration and the novel and I highly recommend it, especially to lovers of fantasy, and the dystopian genre.

Review: The Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan

28186

Genre: Fantasy, Middle-Grade, Mythology (Greek)
Pages: 279
Series: Percy Jackson and the Olympians #2
Release Date: April 1, 2006

Disclaimer: This review will container spoilers for the first book of the series, The Lightning Thief.

4 Stars

4c9zr74Ki

Before I start, I wanted to say, like I did before the review of book 1, that I’m sticking to my original rating because this is a reread and I might, therefore, be a tad biased.

That out of the way… I loved this book.

This is another one from Percy’s perspective but here, he’s not a newbie anymore. He knows where he stands and he’s familiar with Camp Half Blood and it’s workings. He can’t wait to get back. Until… everything that he knows is challenged.

Luke (the traitor) is back to his evil shenanigans, guided by the one and only, Kronos. Thanks to the two of them, the the camp is in jeopardy. And if that’s not bad enough, Chiron is being accused of working with Kronos and has been fired, the camp is being run by some crazy dude from the Underworld, Grover may be in trouble, and Percy suddenly has a half-brother, from the godly side.

So much is going on and Percy and Annabeth are looking for a solution. When they find one, it launches them on a quest to the Sea of Monsters. So yeah, two demigods in a sea full of monsters, what could possibly go wrong?

Answer: Everything. But in a way that is so much fun to read. Percy’s narrative is, as usual, hilarious, the book is full of action and never stops for a second, we get to meet even more mythological figures and go on a hell of a ride.

This book is also kind of the real beginning for Percabeth (that’s Percy and Annabeth’s ship name, if you didn’t know) and they’re both so completely awkward about it; it’s adorable. Then there’s the fact that this is Uncle Rick’s first go at an evil cliffhanger. For those of us who are familiar with the Heroes of Olympus series, we know Uncle Rick is an evil (and also a genius). But the ones reading this series for the first time, they’ll know it by the end of the book too.

Overall, this book is interesting, fast-paced, and a lot of fun with great characters and a great storyline.

One thing I want to add, quite a few people, while read this installment, get stuck about halfway through. If that happens to you as well, just push through. I did (the first time ’round, that is), and it was so worth it.

Review: Confess by Colleen Hoover

22609310

Genre: New-Adult, Romance
Pages: 320
Series: None
Release Date: March 10, 2015

4 Stars

4c9zr74Ki

The first time I read this book, it was almost a year ago. And after reading it now and reading my previous review, I find that I disagree with my past self. My past self didn’t like Auburn and saw both her and Owen as weak. She didn’t see their strength but I, my present self, do. I liked the novel better than I did then, something that almost never happens. It makes me feel like I’ve matured in the past year.

Confess is about two people, Auburn and Owen. They both have problems in their lives and they’re both trying to fix things. When Auburn comes across a ‘Help Wanted’ sign posted outside Owen’s art gallery, they both form a connection. But Owen has secrets that may come between Auburn and the life that she’s so desperately trying to have for herself. To be together, they first have to get their lives in order, and they try to help each other do that.

I can’t really tell you about the they help each other with because, in typical Colleen Hoover fashion, they’re a secret. Colleen Hoover loves secrets. I’m pretty sure every book of hers has at least one big one. But that’s beside the point.

The point is, Colleen Hoover is a dramatic writer. With her, it’s all about deliberate glances, little touches, deep breaths, one word said for a hundred words thought. It gives the story intensity. I don’t particularly love or hate it (just stating facts) but it definitely distinguishes her and helps with the romance. Though it can get a bit too dramatic at times. I guess I just want something more out of a love story than “she has a calming presence”. I want to see people get along, communicate using words before they can communicate with stares.

Despite that though, I liked the romance. I liked both the characters as well, unlike the last time. Though Auburn still wasn’t my favourite.

The thing about Auburn, she’s very resilient and has endured a hell of a lot. She’s loving and protective. She just doesn’t do anything. It frustrated me to no end seeing her do nothing and just go with whatever was easy. I know she was in an impossible situation but I hated how she made excuses for why she didn’t act against those who were being dicks. And then seeing her sudden transformation from Helpless Hannah to Daisy Determined… I didn’t entirely buy it. Like, just a pinch.

Owen was great. He was a good and funny guy, he was selfless and not helpless. And I loved that he was past self-hatred. He knew that he was a good guy. There wasn’t a case of “I’m not good enough for her” or “What did I ever do to deserve her?”. He knew he deserved to be happy and that was a breath of fresh air. Though my favourite characters was still Emory, Auburn’s roommate. She’s awesome. You’ll see.

One last things before I conclude; at one point very soon after meeting him, Auburn lets Owen into her apartment. And she says this:

Texas is turning me into a whore.

It bothered me so much. It’s basically slut-shaming, and I don’t like it at all. There were only a couple of instances of it but still, female authors need to be more respectful toward females.

In the end, I noticed and appreciated many thing that I didn’t before (though I did notice the slut-shaming both times) and I liked the novel. If you’re a fan of Colleen Hoover, then you’re probably like this book as well, but even if you’re unfamiliar with her or iffy about her, I still think you should give it a shot. It’s a good read.

Review: Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

15839984

Genre: Young-Adult, Fantasy, Retelling 
Pages: 352
Series: Cruel Beauty Universe #1 (but also a Standalone)
Release Date: January 28, 2014

2.50 Stars

4c9zr74Ki

Initially, Cruel Beauty had many things going for it. It’s a fairytale retelling (a Beauty and the Beast one at that), it’s supposed to be a darker take with less-than-perfect protagonists, it’s well-written, and it’s got Greek mythology, which I’m obsessed with.

With all these elements, it was supposed to be perfect. Why wasn’t it perfect? I’ll get into that. First, a little bit of what the book is about.

The protagonist, Nxy, has been betrothed to marry a demonic lord who rules over her kingdom, since before she was born, due to a bargain that her father made with the lord. The plan is that she will marry him to infiltrate his castle and sacrifice herself to kill him, so that the kingdom can be saved. But the lord is charming and he accepts her for who she is, darkness and all, so can she really find the courage to fulfill her duty?

Not that it matters. The kingdom is full of dumbasses who don’t know shit, and the “duty” might just be guess the people made somehow because it’s not like the magic system was ever explained at all. In fact, it was so vague that I almost forgot to mention it in the review.

And that’s just one of the not-perfect things in this novel. There was also the protagonist and the convoluted plot near the end. But mostly the protagonist.

Nxy had a strange personality. She hated her sister for not being chosen to marry Ignifex (the lord) but felt guilty about her hatred. I understood that. But she kept flip-flopping between hateful anger, guilt, sadness, resentment, relief, so many things. She fell in love with one guy (Ignifex’s Peter-Pan-like shadow, Shade), then she fell for Ingnifex. One moment she was fine, then was miserable; one moment she hated everything and everyone, the next she was happy; one moment she was selfish, then she would go on and on about her duty. She was supposed to be smart, but was ridiculously easy to manipulate. And her motivation for most of her actions was flimsy, at best.

Some might argue that she’s just a complex character. think she needs psychological help. Especially for the “duty” thing. She did something in the name of duty that was very stupid and did nothing but over-complicate things and render any development that took place in the novel as obsolete. All the hints, the build-up, the research, it was all for nothing. And the “reveal” was very predictable.

On top of that, this is being sold as a Beauty and the Beast retelling (or at least based on the fairytale). But it isn’t like that at all. Beauty and the Beast is about a girl who’s peculiar, and wise beyond her years, falling in love with someone’s inner self. It’s about change and looking past a person’s outward appearance, not giving in to your dark side. It’s also not about lust or temptation. And the fact library was shoehorned in there but had no significance other than to fit the book into the mould of the fairytale a little better; I was very disappointed.

Overall, like I said, this is a well-written novel and I liked the main plot. I liked that it had some darkness in it and I loved the addition of Greek mythology. I enjoyed some parts even though it seemed like a lot of things got lost in exploring the castle. The ending was good but so many things didn’t work. It was a bit of a mess, when I think about it. And I, personally, don’t recommend it.

Reading Wrap-up: March, 2017

Last month, I changed my Goodreads reading goal for 2017 from 150 to 200 for some insane reason. And when I did that, it put me 10 books behind schedule. In order to catch up, I was hoping to read 20 books during the month of March, and while I didn’t manage that many, I read 17, which is pretty freaking awesome if you ask me.

And since I read so many, I’m not even gonna try to write mini-reviews for them all (it would take hours and would drive me nuts). I will, however, list all the reads, link the reviews and write the ratings. Here are the books I read in March:

Never Fade by Alexandra Bracken – 3 Stars
Yours by Jasinda Wilder – 4 Stars
Passenger4.5 Stars
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick – 4 Stars
Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg – 3 Stars
Stripped Bare by Heidi McLaughlin – 2.5 Stars
I am Number Four by Pittacus Lore – 2.5 Stars
The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi – 1.5 Stars
Just Listen by Sarah Dessen – 5 Stars
The Archived by Victoria Schwab – 4 Stars
The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman- 4 Stars
The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan – 4 Stars
Midnight Action by Elle Kennedy – 5 Stars
Midnight Lily by Mia Sheridan – 4 Stars
Madly by Ruthie Knox – 4 Stars
Midnight Captive by Elle Kennedy – 3.5 Stars
Bait & Switch by Kendall Ryan – 1.5 Stars

I didn’t include A Shadow Bright and Burning in my count because I didn’t even make it halfway through. And there’s no review for The Sleeper and the Spindle because I haven’t written one yet.

4c9zr74Ki

Out of the ones listed above, here are the five which were the most memorable to me (in no particular order, since it’s hard enough to do it at the end of the year):

 

20983362Passenger by Alexandra Bracken

It’s got pirates and time travel. That, alone, is super cool. Then you add in the danger, the action, the compelling and likable characters, and present them in a well-written novel that’s part of a duology. There are few things that I find more awesome.
Loved this book, and I’m so reading the sequel this month.

 

7082Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick

I can’t tell you enough about how much I love the name of this book. It’s the most brilliant name in the history of naming things. And then there’s the book, which is most peculiar. Set in the future, following a bounty hunter who hunts escaped androids who can only be accurately distinguished from humans by a bone marrow test. And the bounty hunter finds himself wondering what makes androids so different from humans. A very through-provoking read.

 

28187The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

This was a reread and I was basically fangirling the whole time. Meeting 12-year-old Percy, him finding out he’s a Greek demigod, then the quest, the humor, the prophecy, the sass, Annabeth, everything.
But even if I were reading it for the first time, I would still love it because this is a wonderfully written, action-packed book with a great story and an epic narrative. What more could you ask for?

 

51738Just Listen by Sarah Dessen

This is the first book I’ve read by Sarah Dessen and it’s set the bar of expectations quite high for the rest of her books; because despite having many flashbacks (which I usually can’t stand) and a bunch of characters to juggle, this was still a book that flowed brilliantly. I loved the character developments, Owen, the family dynamic, the writing… basically, everything.

 

10929432The Archived by Victoria Schwab

Victoria Schwab (or V.E. Schwab) is one of my favourite authors. She creates very unique and intriguing worlds that suck you right in. Every book that I’ve read by her so far has been great, this one included, and they’re all quite different.
What made this one different was the tone. It had such an eerie quality to it; you could see a horror movie playing in your head. Loved it.

 

4c9zr74Ki

 

And that’s are all for the month of March. Now I can focus on April. Preparing for next month’s exams and reading 20 books… Let’s see if I can do it.

Review: Just Listen by Sarah Dessen

51738

Genre: Young-Adult, contemporary
Pages: 371
Series: None
Release Date: April 6, 2006

5 Stars

4c9zr74Ki

Don’t you hate it when, after reading a book, you take some time to let it settle in your mind and postpone writing the review. And the next thing you know, it’s been a week and the review still hasn’t been written and now you have to think hard to remember half the shit you wanted to write in it? Because I really fucking do. And I do it all the time. Like now.

So, bear with me here. This might be good, or it might be a complete mess.

This novel is the story of a girl named Annabel, whose life has undergone a bad transformation. Her mean-but-exciting best friend, Sophie, dropped her, things at home are no good ever since her older sister became anorexic, and she just doesn’t know what to do or how long she can hold on to things.

The she meets Owen, who seems like a breath of fresh air after all the lying and hiding, and “being nice”. Some might call Owen rude, but the truth is, he’s honest. Always. And maybe he’ll be able to help Annabel deal with her problems, and with what really happened between her and Sophie because, on her own, she might never do anything.

And that’s not to say that Annabel is weak. She kind of is, but also isn’t. She’s not easily hurt, or breakable; she just doesn’t like confrontation. She can’t stand anger, or people being upset because of her. So she pretends that her problems don’t exist and never says anything to anyone, hoping it will all get better on its own. Because that always happens, right? All bad things are going to vanish into pixie dust.

It’s a naive hope and Annabel is a naive girl. But her problem with confrontation is very serious, as we slowly see. She’s terrified and lets that fear control her to the point of it being unhealthy. And her journey to growing up and learning to face her demons was beautiful to read.

She had help from Owen, of course, who I love. Owen is exactly the kind of characters that I like since I hate liars and he’s taken an oath of honestly. He’s also funny, a bit strange and just a really good guy. He and Annabel complement each other very well. He makes her more brave and she calls him out when he’s judge-y or a music snob. I love their interactions and the fact that things started off with them becoming friends. There was no instant attraction or “he was the most handsome guy I’d ever seen” (that shit is getting old) and the relationship moved at a very natural pace.

Overall, this was a very well written book with many compelling characters, all of whom we were acquainted with early on. It wasn’t just about Annabel and Owen. It was also about her mom, her sisters, her friends. All of it beautifully told.

A hell of an introduction to Sarah Dessen, for me. And I highly recommend this book and I’m eager to read more by the author.