Life updates and (another) hiatus

Hello friends!

Sorry for the lack of post last week. I was in reading slump and did not have any idea on what else to post. As a matter of fact, I’ve been struggling to keep my one post a week promise lately. It was going great when I just started on implementing the idea of shorter reviews. However, as the months passed I have come to another realization. I just could not read fast enough to post one book review every week. And in the near future, I will have even less time to read. The reasons for this are both bad and good. On the good side, I just got a new job – with better benefits and (hopefully) career path. On the downside, as I begin to start the new job next month, I fully expect longer working hours and even less time to read and blog.

Then there was a problem of me being a moody reader and haven’t been in the mood to read lately. The best way to illustrate this is by showing you my currently-reading shelf on goodreads.currently reading

As you can see, I’ve been reading Timekeeper for nearly a year and Genie Lo (my most anticipated read this month) for nearly 3 weeks. And both of them are books I actually enjoy reading.

So, those are the reasons why I’m taking another hiatus. I will be back once I’m settled in my new workplace, hopefully by October or November. In the mean time, I might be slow to response to comments and emails, but if you need me I’ll be on twitter. Take care!

REVIEW: Three Dark Crowns

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Book Review: Three Dark Crowns
 book cover Book title Three Dark Crowns
Series/standalone Three Dark Crowns #1
Author Kendare Blake
Pages 398
Year published 2016
Category | Genre High Fantasy
Rating 2.5 stars

Official Summary

When kingdom come, there will be one.

In every generation on the island of Fennbirn, a set of triplets is born—three queens, all equal heirs to the crown and each possessor of a coveted magic. Mirabella is a fierce elemental, able to spark hungry flames or vicious storms at the snap of her fingers. Katharine is a poisoner, one who can ingest the deadliest poisons without so much as a stomachache. Arsinoe, a naturalist, is said to have the ability to bloom the reddest rose and control the fiercest of lions.

But becoming the Queen Crowned isn’t solely a matter of royal birth. Each sister has to fight for it. And it’s not just a game of win or lose…it’s life or death. The night the sisters turn sixteen, the battle begins.

The last queen standing gets the crown.

Review

In A Nutshell

Three Dark Crowns came short of the promised complex siblings rivalry.

Highlights

  • The cunning ploys and all the political intrigue. If there’s a thing I enjoyed the most about Three Dark Crowns is that all of the adults have their own agenda. Make no mistake, some of them are truly despicable – but still I got to admire the thoroughness Blake puts into each and every character to make me despise them. On the downside, the sisters were merely tools for these adults who want to reign the island.
  • The premise. Is it a good or a bad thing that a book has a really good premise, but doesn’t deliver? One might opt to classify this as a bad thing, but what I see is that there’s hope that this series will get better because with a premise that good, surely you have a way to go there. It’ll be quite a long and bumpy journey, but I still think that Three Dark Crowns (series) has the potential.

Things I Wish Were Different

  • Love trianglesss. For the record, I do not mind love triangles if it’s necessary and well-written. The love triangles – and actually all the romance – in Three Dark Crowns were just exhausting to read and in some cases, infuriating. I do not like any of the love interests, and the way the three sisters behave when it comes to romance. This book was supposed to be about the battle between the three sisters, and yet it was filled with scenes of them went all googly-eyes on the guys.
  • More diversity please. Surely, surely with three protagonists and the numbers of side characters in the book, the author could throw in some LGBTQIA+ reps but it was all cishet romance and there was an awful lot of them. As far as I can tell, there was also no POC and disability representation, and yes, I am disappointed in this regard too.
  • Unrealistic plot and plot holes everywhere. Just because it’s a fantasy, doesn’t mean you can wave your hand and make plot holes go away. Three Dark Crowns, sadly, is riddled with them.
  • Slow, slow pace. This book took forever to build up and I’m not even sure it eventually reaches a good pace. It’s like going all turtle pace up till the end then it suddenly “FIRE!” “EXPLOSION” “CHAOS EVERYWHERE”.

Final Score

2.5 stars
2.5 stars (out of 5 stars)

Verdict

This book was one of my most anticipated reads last year so I really was disappointed when I found it didn’t deliver the promised conflict, nor did it deliver the complex siblings relationships. I think the biggest reason why I was very disappointed is that the synopsis promised me an epic battle and instead it gave me romance storylines I didn’t enjoy, uninspired secondary characters, and plot holes while going on a snail pace.

REVIEW: A Conjuring of Light

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Book Review: A Conjuring of Light
 book cover Book title A Conjuring of Light
Series/standalone Shades of Magic #3
Author  V.E. Schwab
Pages 624
Year published 2017
Category | Genre High Fantasy
Rating 3.5 stars

Official Summary

Witness the fate of beloved heroes – and enemies.

THE BALANCE OF POWER HAS FINALLY TIPPED…
The precarious equilibrium among four Londons has reached its breaking point. Once brimming with the red vivacity of magic, darkness casts a shadow over the Maresh Empire, leaving a space for another London to rise.

WHO WILL CRUMBLE?
Kell – once assumed to be the last surviving Antari – begins to waver under the pressure of competing loyalties. And in the wake of tragedy, can Arnes survive?

WHO WILL RISE?
Lila Bard, once a commonplace – but never common – thief, has survived and flourished through a series of magical trials. But now she must learn to control the magic, before it bleeds her dry. Meanwhile, the disgraced Captain Alucard Emery of the Night Spire collects his crew, attempting a race against time to acquire the impossible.

WHO WILL TAKE CONTROL?
And an ancient enemy returns to claim a crown while a fallen hero tries to save a world in decay.

Review

In A Nutshell

The finale of the Shades of Magic offers the readers closure despite leaving questions unanswered.

WARNING: This review is for the third book in a series and may contain spoilers for the first two books. If you haven’t read the first two books, beware of spoilers or jump straight to verdict at the bottom of this post.

Highlights

  • Characters’ growth. Having read many series, I tend to cling to the characters, not wanting to let them go. Strangely enough, I found it easy enough to let go of Kell and Lila and Rhy. Sure, I’ll miss them, but I don’t feel like requesting more books about these characters. Why? I suspect this is related to how Schwab ended the series. She gave us closure, this is it, the story ends, and I could now let go and get back to my life (or.. you know to worry about other characters). The biggest problem with A Darker Shade of Magic was the lack of character growth, something that’s been fixed in A Gathering of Shadows and continue to be evident here. It’s bittersweet watching them grow up, but the satisfaction of seeing how the story ends made it worth.
  • Friendship, family, and romantic relationships all put to test. Schwab, the queen of slow burn romance, included some really hot sexytimes as a gift to the readers for being so patient (just kidding, maybe). There are both cishet romance and m/m romance as to be expected if you’ve been following the series. On the other hand, Kell and Rhy bromance will always be one of my favorite sibling relationship ever, but even their close bond is put to test in this finale of the Shades of Magic. 

Things I Wish Were Different

  • The villain. It’s a shame that this book has one of the weaker villain compared to other books in the series. One would think that a series’ finale will have the most epic villain – but sadly that’s not true here. The villain is actually really strong in term of magic (since after all this is a series about magic), but there’s nothing underneath that smoke. No complexity, no genius evil planning, just complete evil. Perhaps, it’s intended to be so, but I cannot help but think that this book will fare even better with a good villain.
  • Way too many secondary and tertiary characters. I read this book months ago (because I’m the queen of procrastinating on backlog) and now when I’m writing this book I cannot tell you the name of a single memorable character that is not part of the main clique. Cannot even tell you the name of the queen, sorry. And perhaps that’s my terrible memory or lack of attention but surely there is a limit on how many characters you can dump into the book before it make the readers dizzy.
  • Mystery that remains mystery. I am actually not sure whether this is a good thing or a bad thing. Right after I finished reading the book, I wrote in Goodreads that despite some questions remain unanswered, I am strangely okay with that. Well, after months have passed and I have more time to contemplate, I realize that I am after all WANT those answers. We all know that in life, there are mysteries and questions that will never be answered and some that are better left as they are. However, I, as a reader, want to know these things, have been waiting for the answers since Book 1 (check out my A Darker Shade of Magic re-read if you’re curious what the questions are – WARNING: they are filled with SPOILERS), and to know that these questions might never be answered is kind of painful.

Final Score

3.5 stars
3.5 stars (out of 5 stars)

Verdict

If you’ve read A Darker Shade of Magic and A Gathering of Shadows and you demand answers, then this finale will leave you somewhat unsatisfied. If you’ve read both books and all you want is more Kell and Rhy and Lila and Alucard and more bromance and romance, then this book more than delivered. The weak villain and the bulk cause by too many secondary characters (and side stories) made this book felt dragging at some points. As it stands, A Gathering of Shadows remained my favorite book of the series, but A Conjuring of Light is a respectable finale.

Now, for those who haven’t started the series, you might have questions too. If you haven’t read the first two books, should you read them? Should you invest your time in this series? Well, after reading all three books, I can honestly say that if you’re a fan of fantasy novels, this series is well worth your time. It offers great character arc, well-written magic system, competent worldbuilding, diverse cast, gay reps, and complex characters and relationships. I will give the whole series a 4-stars rating.

REVIEW: Labyrinth Lost

Book Review: Labyrinth Lost
 book cover Book title Labyrinth Lost
Series/standalone Brooklyn Brujas #1
Author  Zoraida Córdova
Pages 324
Year published 2016
Category | Genre Young Adult | Fantasy
Rating 4 star

Official Summary

Nothing says Happy Birthday like summoning the spirits of your dead relatives.

Alex is a bruja, the most powerful witch in a generation…and she hates magic. At her Deathday celebration, Alex performs a spell to rid herself of her power. But it backfires. Her whole family vanishes into thin air, leaving her alone with Nova, a brujo boy she can’t trust. A boy whose intentions are as dark as the strange marks on his skin.

The only way to get her family back is to travel with Nova to Los Lagos, a land in-between, as dark as Limbo and as strange as Wonderland…

Review

In A Nutshell

Magical coming-of-age fantasy influenced by Latin American culture.

Highlights

  • Everyone has their own motives. I really liked this about Labyrinth Lost. Having read books where many characters, friends and comrades alike, throwing their life for the main character without any clear reason, it’s refreshing to see that everyone in Labyrinth Lost has something to gain, a secret or in some case not-so- secret motive, from helping the MC. Of course, at the end of the day, it was all for the greater good, but it’s always nice to get something extra.
  • The romance. It’s slow-burning and progressing very well. I adored the love interest and I hope you will too.
  • Family first! This book captured sibling relationship perfectly. That catfight, the envious feeling on your more beautiful and capable sister, the annoyance when they’re taking too long to do anything. Her family is not perfect, but the MC loves them anyway. Sure, she did some selfish things, but that made her more relatable.
  • The diverse cast and the Latin American culture and influence. So, by now, you might have heard that this book is an ownvoices and as such it did not disappoint. The heavy influence of Latin American culture was on display throughout the book and I truly enjoyed learning about brujas and brujos. It was probably the first fantasy book I ever read based on Latin American culture and it made me want to learn more. The magical world, Los Lagos, was not less captivating compared to the ‘real world’ as it’s filled with interesting characters and formidable villain.
    In term of representations, Labyrinth Lost has bisexual and lesbian reps and most of the characters are Latinx, except Rishi who is (I think – can anyone confirm this?) Indian.
  • Character growth. Alex was a flawed character who secretly didn’t want to be a bruja (a witch). Her character arc was quite a strong one and we definitely watched her growing up throughout the story.

Things I Wish Were Different

  • This book needs more layer on the secondary characters. I just didn’t feel too much character depth especially in the secondary characters. I still root for them, but I want to know more about them. It seems that what given to us is just the topmost layer of these characters. Rishi was portrayed as a bad-ass bestfriend that always stood up for Alex. Nova was a cynical that kept reminding Alex that he’s doing this for his own benefit. But what’s hidden beneath this layer? I want to know more about Nova’s background, Rishi’s family, and others!

Final Score

4 star
4 stars (out of 5 stars)

Verdict

Labyrinth Lost is a great blend of urban fantasy and high fantasy. Siblings and friends relationships, an adorable romance, and great character arc were the highlights for me. A lush world-building in form of Los Lagos with its magical creatures made the book even more enjoyable. Meanwhile, it also offers us a glimpse of the life of Brooklyn brujas and brujos that left me wanting to learn more of the Latin American culture.

REVIEW: My Lady Jane

Book Review: My Lady Jane
book cover Book title My Lady Jane
Series/standalone The Lady Janies #1
Author Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, Jodi Meadows
Pages 512
Year published 2016
Category | Genre Young Adult | Historical | Fantasy
Rating 3.5 stars

Official Summary

The comical, fantastical, romantical, (not) entirely true story of Lady Jane Grey. In My Lady Jane, coauthors Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows have created a one-of-a-kind fantasy in the tradition of The Princess Bride, featuring a reluctant king, an even more reluctant queen, a noble steed, and only a passing resemblance to actual history—because sometimes history needs a little help.

At sixteen, Lady Jane Grey is about to be married off to a stranger and caught up in a conspiracy to rob her cousin, King Edward, of his throne. But those trifling problems aren’t for Jane to worry about. Jane is about to become the Queen of England.

Review

In A Nutshell

A fun (and probably inaccurate) retelling of the life of Lady Jane Grey.

Highlights

  • The best thing about My Lady Jane is that it didn’t take itself seriously. The absurdity of the story, the crazy scenario, the ridiculousness of the situation that made readers go “whaat?” were all combined into one novel. The result is a book that’s light-hearted and entertaining. You can just tell that the three authors (who called themselves The Lady Janies) were having so much fun writing this book and it clearly shows.
  • The premise. I really liked the idea the authors bring to My Lady Jane. What if there were people who can turn into animals? This concept in itself is not new, there were many examples of it. We have seen JK Rowling in Harry Potter explored the concept as “magical gift” in form of animagus. KA Applegate’s Animorphs series spins it as a superhero ability. And those were just two out of hundreds ways to utilize it. In My Lady Jane, however, the authors use it as a tool to show something else. The Eðians – people who can turn into animals – and Verities – those who cannot – were representations of social castes and through them the authors explore racism, discrimination, and injustice.

Things I Wish Were Different

  • The characters. I am sorry friends, but I really don’t get all the fuss about Jane. Sure, she loves books, and yes, that gives her instant 10 extra points from me. Apart from that, Jane and G and Edward and pretty much everyone else in the cast just didn’t get me invested enough in their story. I read the book because it was fun and it was a page-turner. I don’t really care about the characters and it probably has something to do with the second point.
  • At no point, did I feel the characters were in actual danger – which was weird because according to the story there was so much at stake. The problem is the stake didn’t feel real. I think that the authors sacrificed too much to make the story as fun as possible, but as a result the story felt inconsequential. Turned out, having too much fun could be bad for you.

Final Score

3.5 stars
3.5 stars (out of 5 stars)

Verdict

I read My Lady Jane on Kindle so I didn’t know how many pages it actually have in physical version until I looked it up on Amazon. The number that I found surprised me. 512. Believe me, it didn’t feel even half that long. This book is the very definition of light reading and page-turner, and many readers will find it entertaining. For some, however, the characters and the lack of actual stake could impact their enjoyment of reading.

REVIEW: Want

Book Review: Want
book cover Book title Want
Series/standalone Want #1
Author Cindy Pon
Pages 336
Year published 2017
Category | Genre Young Adult | Sci-Fi | Dystopia
Rating

Official Summary

Jason Zhou survives in a divided society where the elite use their wealth to buy longer lives. The rich wear special suits that protect them from the pollution and viruses that plague the city, while those without suffer illness and early deaths. Frustrated by his city’s corruption and still grieving the loss of his mother, who died as a result of it, Zhou is determined to change things, no matter the cost.

With the help of his friends, Zhou infiltrates the lives of the wealthy in hopes of destroying the international Jin Corporation from within. Jin Corp not only manufactures the special suits the rich rely on, but they may also be manufacturing the pollution that makes them necessary.

Yet the deeper Zhou delves into this new world of excess and wealth, the more muddled his plans become. And against his better judgment, Zhou finds himself falling for Daiyu, the daughter of Jin Corp’s CEO. Can Zhou save his city without compromising who he is or destroying his own heart?

Review

In A Nutshell

A group of teens trying to pull off dangerous mission in this futuristic dystopian YA sets in Taiwan.

Highlights

  • An authentic Taiwan setting. Want is an #ownvoices book and as such, it’s to be expected that this book has a rich cultural background, including language, literature, and history. I was pleasantly surprised to find multiple references to “Dream of the Red Chamber”, one of the most famous Chinese literature from the 1800s. Despite it being sets in the future, you can still feel the vibes and the influence from the current Taipei in Want.
  • Diverse cast of characters. Even though it’s set in Taiwan, the author made sure to include other Asian characters in the main cast. While Zhou (the lead) is Taiwanese, Victor is Filipino, Arun is Indian, while Lingyi is Chinese. There are also bisexual and lesbian main characters in the book, and this made my heart so happy. The best thing about these characters was that they were not just best friends, they’re a family and I am a sucker for this kind of relationship (six of crows anyone?)
  • The action scenes. Want was my first Cindy Pon’s book and I was truly impressed by what I found. Cindy’s action scenes were well-written and exciting. The story climax was executed well although not as adrenaline pumping as I originally thought it would be.

Things I Wish Were Different

  • My only minor complaint about Want is the sometimes uneven pace. There were times when I felt the story skipped ahead too far, and some scenes were rushed. It’s only for a small part of the book, though, and the overall plot was still delivered nicely.

Final Score


4.5 stars (out of 5 stars)

Verdict

Want is an exciting, well-executed dystopian novel. Moreover, it is an ownvoices with a diverse cast of characters and an authentic Taiwan setting. What else could I ask for?

Quarterly Recap and Mini-reviews

Hello everyone!

It’s definitely been a while since the last time I’ve done this kind of post. If you’ve been following my blog for a while, say.. 2 years, you might remember that I used to do monthly recaps. However, time flies – including my free time 😛 – and I no longer read or blog as much as I used to. I do still want to do a recap to talk about stuff I enjoy and books I read that haven’t been covered in my review posts… just not monthly. Hence, I decided to do quarterly recap instead! So, let’s get to it before I bore you with my intro.

Reviews posted

These Shallow Graves | LINK
The Weeping Books of Blinney Lane | LINK
Dreadnought | LINK
Every Heart A Doorway | LINK
Unearthly Things | LINK
The Love Interest | LINK
The Evaporation of Sofi Snow | LINK
Flame in the Mist | LINK

Other books I read

Dreamer (Brandon Sanderson) 

I got this short story from a charity book bundle alongside his other short works and an audiobook. Dreamer has typical Sanderson world-building but not characters. It might, however, surprise you, especially if you’ve been reading a lot of his other works.

The Hate U Give (Angie Thomas) 

THUG – the book everyone told you to read – and well, please just read it. This is probably my favorite read so far this year. It’s an important book, for sure, with it being born with the background of Black Lives Matter movement, but if you worry about the writing, then don’t. Angie is a gifted writer and the story flows effortlessly with great characters, especially the leading lady. I actually outlined a review for this book a while ago, but never get around to post it what with the changes happening in dip-into-books. Maybe, I’ll break my own rules and post it anyway. :p

The Black Prism (Brent Weeks) 3.5 stars

Slow and solid world-building, okay character arc, but it reads like your usual epic fantasy. Honestly, I’ve heard so many great things about this series that I had high expectation coming to this book. That’s probably why it sort of fell short of my expectation.

The Trespasser (Tana French) 

The trespasser is French’s return to form after the rather poorly executed The Secret Place. Antoinette Conway, whom we met in the 5th book – The Secret Place – is the narrator of this book, and my – how I liked her spunk. French writing is atmospheric as always and the story offers enough surprise and twist to keep me on my toe.

White Sand (Brandon Sanderson) 

The White Sand I mentioned here is the unpolished draft and not the graphic novel version. Brandon being Brandon, he sent this manuscript as a free download to everyone who subscribed to his newsletter despite it’s currently being adapted into graphic novels. In fact, I’ve reviewed the first volume of the graphic novel so I’ll edit that post and put my thought in that post instead of here. For now, all I’m going to say is that the graphic novel doesn’t do Khrissalla justice.

Binti (Nnedi Okorafor) 3.5 stars

This is the case of it’s not you, it’s me. Binti is a unique science fiction novella with original idea and a Himba protagonist. I liked Binti a lot, but I couldn’t get into the story. However, a lot of people seem to enjoy it, including the critics. Just look at the 4+ star average rating on Goodreads and the fact that it won a Nebula.

Stuff I Enjoy

Mobile gaming. I don’t have much time to play game, but I am still a gamer at heart. The solution? Mobile games, of course! I’ve been playing some clicker games for the past month, notably Politicats and Magikarp Jump (because who doesn’t like Magikarp?!). I liked clicker game because they’re just so addictive and don’t require too much time investment. On the opposite side, I’ve been playing Mobius Final Fantasy – a game known as being very grindy – since September. Oh well, you need balance in everything, right? I don’t play Mobius FF as much lately, but I emerge once in a while to compete in tower and to play multiplayer.

Bullet Journal. I might have mention bu-jo in passing a couple of months ago, and I am glad to report that this habit is still going strong. I switched planners about a half dozen times during the past 2 years, but with bullet journal, I think I finally found one that works. Its simplicity and flexibility makes bullet journal a huge help to increase my productivity.

And that’s it for now! Let me know if you’ve been reading the same book or play the same game as me. I’d also like to remind you that dip-into-books now has calendar containing release date of books I plan to get as well as my upcoming review schedule. The July looks rather empty right now because I haven’t started on my reading… BUT I’ll get to it SOON.

REVIEW: Flame in the Mist

Book Review: Flame in the Mist
book cover Book title Flame in the Mist
Series/standalone Flame in the Mist #1
Author Renee Ahdieh
Pages 393
Year published 2017
Category | Genre Young Adult | Fantasy | Romance
Rating 3.5 stars

Official Summary

The only daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has always known she’d been raised for one purpose and one purpose only: to marry. Never mind her cunning, which rivals that of her twin brother, Kenshin, or her skills as an accomplished alchemist. Since Mariko was not born a boy, her fate was sealed the moment she drew her first breath.

So, at just seventeen years old, Mariko is sent to the imperial palace to meet her betrothed, a man she did not choose, for the very first time. But the journey is cut short when Mariko’s convoy is viciously attacked by the Black Clan, a dangerous group of bandits who’ve been hired to kill Mariko before she reaches the palace.

The lone survivor, Mariko narrowly escapes to the woods, where she plots her revenge. Dressed as a peasant boy, she sets out to infiltrate the Black Clan and hunt down those responsible for the target on her back. Once she’s within their ranks, though, Mariko finds for the first time she’s appreciated for her intellect and abilities. She even finds herself falling in love—a love that will force her to question everything she’s ever known about her family, her purpose, and her deepest desires.

Review

In A Nutshell

A tale of political intrigue, betrayal, and romance with the backdrop of feudal Japan.

Highlights

  • The beautiful prose. Ahdieh has a gift for writing gorgeous prose and it’s getting even better here. In ‘The Wrath and the Dawn”, I found her writing to be coming too close from being purple prose at times, although admittedly still beautiful. In Flame in the Mist, Ahdieh has stepped up her writing even more. Her words are gorgeous, but not flowery, vivid without being excessively descriptive.
  • Worldbuilding. The author surely knows how to paint a world with words, filled with imagery that could transport her readers back in time. Although at times, it feels a little too gimmicky, the combination of history and mythology was balanced nicely. Ahdieh’s attention to details when describing a building or a scene contributes well to this book’s great worldbuilding.
  • The moral dilemma. I was absolutely delighted with the way the characters were written so that no one is inherently bad nor good. Nothing and no one was morally black and white.The moral dilemma faced by Mariko was one I could sympathize with and she’s an earnest character capable of making readers invested in her arc.

Things I Wish Were Different

  • The romance. Oh my, I truly want to like the romance. After how TWATD (The Wrath and the Dawn) melted my heart despite me not liking Shazi that much, I was fully prepared to ship the main pairing in this book. After all, I liked Mariko better. Unfortunately, it felt forced and I have no idea where it came from. It was not an insta-love, but I didn’t see the chemistry developing between them so it baffled me. There is, however, less of romantic scenes in this book than in TWATD.
  • Logical fallacy and unconvincing explanation. The first part of the book left me in a state of disbelief. The unconvincing explanation, such as how Mariko – the naive and sheltered girl – could fool all of those people into believing that she is a boy. It was partially explained near the end of the book, but I still cannot buy it 100%. She also made several decisions that were quite out of characters and yet she conveniently escaped the consequences of her poor decisions.
  • More times for secondary characters, please. I know it’s not their story, but Yumi and Amaya were some of the characters I wish to know better.

Final Score

3.5 stars
3.5 stars (out of 5 stars)

Verdict

Ahdieh’s gorgeous writing and lush worldbuilding could capture my attention and enchant me throughout the book despite some issues in the narrative. I will be reading the second book for sure.

REVIEW: The Evaporation of Sofi Snow

Book Review: The Evaporation of Sofi Snow
book cover Book title The Evaporation of Sofi Snow
Series/standalone The Evaporation of Sofi Snow #1
Author Mary Weber
Pages 352
Year published 2017
Category | Genre Young Adult | Fantasy | Dystopia | Alien| Sci-Fi
Rating 2.5 stars

Official Summary

Ever since the Delonese ice-planet arrived eleven years ago, Sofi’s dreams have been vivid. Alien. In a system where Earth’s corporations rule in place of governments and the humanoid race orbiting the moon are allies, her only constant has been her younger brother, Shilo. As an online gamer, Sofi battles behind the scenes of Earth’s Fantasy Fighting arena where Shilo is forced to compete in a mix of real and virtual blood sport. But when a bomb takes out a quarter of the arena, Sofi’s the only one who believes Shilo survived. She has dreams of him. And she’s convinced he’s been taken to the ice-planet.

Except no one but ambassadors are allowed there.

For Miguel, Earth’s charming young playboy, the games are of a different sort. As Ambassador to the Delonese, his career has been built on trading secrets and seduction. Until the Fantasy Fight’s bomb goes off. Now the tables have turned and he’s a target for blackmail. The game is simple: Help the blackmailers, or lose more than anyone can fathom, or Earth can afford.

Review

I received an electronic galley from the publisher in exchange of an honest review.

In A Nutshell

A political alien dystopian story exploring human relationship and social issues.

Highlights

  • The first part of the book was about the game (aka the part that caught my attention). The protagonist of this series, Sofi Snow, was a gamer/hacker, and her brother, Shilo, acted as her avatar in the arena. You might think that you have read way too many dystopian-influenced competition (The Hunger Games being the most famous example), but Weber – for once – took us to the backstage and not to the bright light of the arena and it was a welcomed change. Sofi’s job, alongside her team, the triplets called the three Ns, and Heller, was to send codes to program her brother’s armor, weapons, and tools. It was a fun take as we were shown the team’s banter and strategy.
  • Diverse cast of characters. The protagonist, Sofi, is Native American, the the other lead, Miguel, is Hispanic. Now, the only time Weber touched on Sofi’s cultural background was when describing her owl necklace and her appearance. As this book is not an ownvoice, I respect Weber’s decision to not getting too deep into the Native American belief and culture. As for Miguel, he did talk in Spanish quite frequently, but his background was not described in details.
  • Political and social issues. There were some social issues explored in ‘Sofi Snow’, the most prominent one were human trafficking and technology advancement at the expense of human right. I won’t get into details here as I’m trying to avoid giving out major spoilers. Politics also played a big part in this book since Miguel, the lead, worked as an ambassador.

Things I Wish Were Different

  • Is there such thing as too many plots? Because this book sure has a lot of it. One minute, it was about curing diseases, the next it tried to be all political, and then it went all alien sci-fi on me. Considering how short it was, there were just not enough space to explore each in sufficient depth. The results is a jumbled mess of plots, none of which got adequately explored.
  • The character arc. It shouldn’t be difficult to sell me on Sofi. Seriously. A gamer? Check. Hacker? Check. Sassy? Check. She loved her brother and knew what she want. All of these should make me like her a lot. The problem is I don’t find anything in her personality to make me want to root for her. She is okay, but she didn’t make me fully invested in her cause. On top of that, I don’t see a lot of character growth throughout the book. There were some revelations, yes, but not a lot of growth.
  • Speaking of Sofi, is there anything she cannot do? I understand the need to give your lead at least a sprinkle of special snowflake syndrome. However, in the evaporation of Sofi Snow, everything came to easy for Sofi and Miguel. *MINOR SPOILER WARNING* “Oh, you need a top-secret chip that is nearly impossible to get? Here you go!” “Need a living and talking alien to help you crack a code? What a coincidence, we have one just in tow.” *END OF SPOILER* Furthermore, I like to see my protagonists fight their way instead of being handed solutions in silver platter.
  • The ending. There’s cliff-hanger, then there’s the ending of ‘Sofi Snow’. That may be too harsh, but when I read a book I expected some sort of resolutions of at least a couple of major plots. After that, feel free to drop a plot twist on me and throw me a cliffhanger. I don’t mind (okay, maybe a bit). Everything about the ‘ending’ of Sofi Snow screams sequel and it definitely cannot be read as a stand-alone. I was reading this book on my Kindle when the pages just suddenly ended. I even had to double check whether my e-ARC has missing pages or did they just send me 90% of the book.

Final Score

2.5star
2.5 stars (out of 5 stars)

Verdict

I have mixed feelings about this book. At one end, it certainly has the potential with its concept, political and social themes, and cast of characters. On the other end, it tried to be so many things that it ultimately failed to deliver a single coherent story. There is also the factor that it’s set as a duology and cannot be read as a stand-alone, which means if you read the evaporation of Sofi Snow, you’d need to be ready to invest your resources on two books, instead of just one.

REVIEW: The Love Interest

the love interest header
Book Review: The Love Interest
book cover Book title The Love Interest
Series/standalone standalone
Author Cale Dietrich
Pages 384
Year published 2017
Category | Genre Young Adult | Sci-fi | Contemporary
Rating 2.5star

Official Summary

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 who is dangerously handsome. The girl they are competing for is important to the organization, and each boy will pursue her. Will she choose the 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.

Review

In A Nutshell

A book aiming to subvert tropes in YA fiction, but eventually suffers from lack of worldbuilding and poor execution.

Highlights

  • Let’s start with the positives. This book aimed to subvert YA tropes, specifically the love triangle trope. In that regards, I’d say that Dietrich largely succeeded. Even though I never felt the potential of a love triangle brewing at any point in the book, it’s refreshing to see a protagonist who didn’t ultimately fall in love with their chosen one.
  • The blurb. The premise. The concept. The marketing of the book. The Love Interest has this great concept, that behind every great person, there is a spy reporting their every move to a secret organization. I really liked the concept and it’s actually could be made believable. It was, I believe, what made most people read The Love Interest. Well, that and the promise of gay romance.

Things I Wish Were Different

  • Plot holes and poor worldbuilding. The Love Interest was supposed to be a blend between contemporary and SFF. Unfortunately, as science fiction, it failed to deliver due to inconsistency, unexplained plot holes, and convenient timings of things to cover those holes. I could go on and on listing things, but I’d just give some examples to avoid giving out major spoilers.
    One, there was a teenager building dangerous weapons (I’m talking about Avengers-grade weapons, here) in her shed at home, and no one – authority or bad guys – was getting concerned?! At no point in the book, Juliet’s inventions were shown to be kept top secret – she talked freely to Caden about them – yet no one attempted to recruit or kidnap or end her? I found that hard to believe.
    Two. Kaylee was supposedly monitoring Caden’s every move. However, she was conveniently ‘not listening’ at crucial moments. Also, the implant, there were problems with that too.
    Those were just a few things I noticed. Overall, the tech was also not explained very well in term of how they work, which is a let down for me.
  • Awkward dialogues and lack of chemistry. When it comes to romance in SFF books, I have mixed feelings. I am okay with them most of the time, as long as they’re not taking over the story and turned the protagonist into a blabbering mess around their love interest. The dialogue in The Love Interest, though, brings awkward to another level. And it’s not just the interaction between Caden-Dylan or Caden-Juliet either, it’s the whole thing, the whole book. This book is Dietrich’s debut and it certainly feels like one. I do think his writing has potential so here’s hoping for better written dialogue in the future.
    Speaking of chemistry, there was just nothing between Caden-Juliet or Dylan-Juliet that showed us that they have something special so it’s truly surprising to me that Juliet bought it. But then again, this book is a satire, so maybe that is intentional?

Final Score

2.5star
2.5 stars (out of 5 stars)

Verdict

The Love Interest was an attempt to subvert tropes, and as such Dietrich’s effort is appreciated. Ultimately, however, it was a disappointment due to plot inconsistency, plot holes, thin worldbuilding, and awkward dialogues.