Hi, guys! In celebration of Rashika's birthday today, we will be giving away three awesome stuff on the blog!
Philippines - a Php300 Fully Booked giftcard
United States - a finished copy of Richelle Mead's THE IMMORTAL CROWN
International - a $10 Amazon Giftcard
Please join and spread the love! Give Rashika your best wishes!
Hi, friends! Faye here! So, I was watching a local channel the other day, and I saw this really intriguing commercial for a local broadcast of the hit Japanese romantic-comedy TV series called Mischievous Kiss: Love in Tokyo. If you're an avid manga reader, then this might sound pretty familiar, and it probably is! It's a live action adaptation of the series Itazura na Kiss, a very cute and emotional shoujo manga that I loved years ago. There's already a Taiwanese and Korean version of it, and I haven't watched them yet, but when I found out there was actually a Japanese one, I instantly decided to host a Monday Marathon on the blog, and I'm inviting all of you to watch with me.
Yes, you. No, you don't have to be a book blogger. Anyone can watch with me. All you need to do is watch an episode a week starting next week, then e-mail me your insights/opinions/reaction.
So how will we do this? Every Monday starting next week, I'll be posting a review/reaction of an episode starting from episode 1. I will also include the reactions/opinions of everyone else (in 3-8 sentences each) in the same post, and you will be linked back. You're free to post your own complete reaction on your blog (and please link back as well if you do so!)
Spread the word! Put this thumbnail into your sidebars and link back to this post. The more people watching, the merrier!
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As you all know, a fiasco regarding a GR user happened last week. This user has been asking for ARCs from bloggers, coercing them into doing something illegal for her gain. After that, some posts have been going around misrepresenting some facts. Not cool, guys.
Read this blog post to know how to write responsibly.
First of all, before I begin my review, let me just thank all the gods and higher deities out there for the fact that I am still alive to see this day.I've waited all year for this book to come out, and while it was a long one that pushed my endurance to the limits, I waited with much eagerness and patience, and I was rewarded accordingly with one hell of a sequel.
M-may I get some tissues, please?
Now that that's over with...
OH HELL TO THE YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEES!!!!
It's no secret that I hold Written in Red close to my heart. I was introduced to the series when I saw Wendy Darling's review. Convinced that I was in for a ride, I got myself the book not too long after, but what I didn't expect was for me to love - no, ADORE - it so much. If you know me, I'm not usually into Paranormal or Urban Fantasy. I mean I read books from these genres, but I pick very selectively and only if the premise is interesting enough to reel me away from my post-apocalyptic and fantasy reads. Written in Red did and blew my socks out of the water and held me in its grasp and I didn't even care. It's that kind of book you'd do anything for. Let me kiss your toes, do your dishes, or wash your dirty laundry. Just please give me my The Others fix.
As for Murder of Crows? It was everything I wanted and more and it only intensified my adoration of the series and the characters I've grown to love. In this installment, the problem that started in Jerzy, the one where humans and Others alike were slaughtered, continues to escalate and has spread to other regions. Crows are being drugged and viciously killed here and there, protests against The Others continue endlessly, and tension between the two parties keeps on rising. Meg is still being hunted, and the Controller sent another one on her way... and things are about to get reaaally ugly.
Here are the things I loved aboutthis book:
Relationship Dynamics Between the Characters
This is effortlessly the best part of Murder of Crows and the series as a whole. I love the relationships between the characters. Even though there are so many of them in this book - Wolves, Crows, Hawks, Coyotes, Vampires, Elementals, Bears, Ponies, Harvesters and many others, all of them dangerous and a force to reckon with - they still felt very personal, like they're my close friends or something. Usually when there are so many of them, you start only connecting and feeling for a few, especially those with more exposure, but in this particular book, even though certain characters had lesser moments their presences could still be largely felt. I think what makes them stand out so much is how they treat and interact with each other.
Example, the dynamics between Meg and the Others... Because of her kindness and her innocent naivety, she softened the hearts of many of the creatures the rest of her brethren deemed highly dangerous. Not many of them received such gentle treatment from the other side of the coin, so it confused them and they eventually accepted her as their own. It was fun seeing them learn from each other and protect one another in their own ways. Another is between the Others and the policemen (Monty, Burke, Debany, Kowalski, Lorenzo etc.). Aside from Meg, Simon and his friends didn't have any reason to trust other humans, but because they police has shown how willing they were to ease the tension and keep the peace, we see the walls that were erected so tightly for centuries slowly crumbling down, to the point that Simon et al would sometimes show their vulnerability without hesitation. Knowing well how these two parties have been at each other's throats since the start of time, this was absolutely fascinating to read, and I'm thirsty for more because I want to see how the development between the two will continue to grow.
PLUS, SIMON AND MEG. Even though romance is hardly the central point of this book (which works well because it's the "we are all family" vibe that is), the continuous development of these two made me giggle like a schoolgirl. I just love how Simon remains to be confused of his feelings for Meg. He knows they're pretty much different - he a Wolf, she a Human/Blood Prophet - but he can't help the human feelings he keeps on getting whenever something concerns her. He placed boundaries ("she's a friend") and yet he himself can't find the courage to follow through them. I found all of this extremely adorable and endearing!If you loved their dynamic in the first book, expect to love it even more in this installment.
"Yes, but as a wolf-shaped Wold," Meg said. "A furry Wold is warm and cuddly. A people-shaped Wolf is... a man."
I know it's pretty shallow, but it was kind of thanks to Twilight and the PNR books that followed its footsteps that I became wary of the genre. I hated how it romanticized these creatures that were meant to be dangerous and to be feared, so I was extremely happy when I found out Written in Red went back to the roots and made the very same paranormal creatures be what they were supposed to be - feral, brutal, merciless, and have moral compasses of their own that are beyond human comprehension.
It was therefore really refreshing to finally see a vampire being feared and being able to kill in a bloody fashion (pun intended); of wolves howling battlecries and ripping your stomach open with one swipe of its paw; of elementals and its disaster-named ponies (Whirlpool, Cyclone, Thunder, Fog etc) wrecking havoc and destroying everything in sight... we've seen a bit of their power in the first book, but you see them once more here and you'll be surprised how brutal they can really get if they really put their minds to it. Even though the chaos were far and few between, you can really feel the insanity of their strengths and capabilities as well as the stupidity of the humans who dared go against them.
Tension. Tension Everywhere.
This book is filled with a lot of tension, especially between the humans and the Others. As we all know, the continent of Thaisia has always been the property of Namid's creatures, and they've only "rented" it to people in exchange for goods and services. However, as the the human population grew, so did their want to expand and get more resources, which is kinda hard to do considering they're only borrowing (at a price) in the first place. But since it has possibly been milleniums since their ancestors made their treaty, they've forgotten this pact and unrest blossomed resulting to an animosity between the two that would sometimes erupt in violence.
To be honest, I kind of loved the uneasiness in the air. I hated the unfairness being given by the humans to the Others in the Couryard, such as refusing to deliver goods to them and saying they're out of stock whenever a paranormal creature would want to buy human merchandises. Because of this, I couldn't help siding with the Others in their plight. Every time I'd see a human overstepping his boundaries, I'd mentally make a snide comment saying, "Dude, are you forgetting your lives are pretty much borrowed right now? You're on their turf, you dimwit! They can turn you inside out before you can even blink!" And every time they're reminded of their place, I can't help but punch the air in victory. Yes, humans, I'm sorry but I'm kinda going to have to side with them. You were being douchebags.
ABSOLUTELY LOVE, LOVE, LOVE ! This was an exciting second book and my only complaint was that I wish it were longer (448 pages only?! This needs another 1000!!). It's kind of a big number to think about it, but frack, man, I was flying through the pages and the next thing I knew I was at the end already. That's a sign of a great book right there, folks - when you can't be bothered to be distracted because you're that engrossed. I loved everything about this book and I am eager to read more. The world-building is awesome, the characters are adorable, the dynamics are refreshing... is there anything else you could possibly ask for?
Actually, there is.
WHEN IS THE NEXT BOOK COMING OUT?!?!?!
So some of you might have heard what went down today on my review for Amulet of Elusion by Katie Lynn Johnson. I am just going to give a quick run down of how I feel about the whole situation.
Katie emailed me a while ago asking if I would review her book. Let's start with that. On my blog it clearly states that I am not accepting self-published books at the moment unless I contact you myself. She decided not to pay any heed to that and emailed me (she got the email from Tangled in Pages and the post was published on The Social Potato) anyway. I was slightly annoyed but the book intrigued me enough to let go of that and tell her I'd be willing to review it. Now, I made no promises to like it and like it I did not. What with the recent BBA occurrences, I was slightly worried about how she would take it so I decided not to link her to the review when I let her know I reviewed the book. Hell I even apologized for not liking it even though I had no obligation to do so. I understand that authors are human beings and have feelings and I am sure it sucks when people don't like your books. She was polite enough when she replied but then she somehow lost her shit and decided to attack a commenter, not me, A COMMENTER who basically expressed her opinions. Here is the original comment.
There was nothing wrong with it but Katie was struck with the wise idea of singling Giselle out and replied with this:
There are many things wrong with that statement never mind the fact that it was extremely childish. For starters I get the feeling she just discounted my opinion by saying that every other reviewer liked this book. Let's move on the other half though, the one where she basically acts like it was Giselle's loss. Xpresso Book Tours is a very successful business and there are waiting lists to get on a tour but for her to act so childish and immature is just ridiculous. And Giselle was commenting as a fellow blogger, not someone who runs a business. Also, what's wrong with Giselle forming an opinion based on my review? Hell if there are things that she clearly does not like that I said were in the book should it not be her right to avoid the book like the plague? Haven't we all done it?
But this wasn't all. She decided to take this all a step further and talk about it on her blog (you know how the BBAs get all riled up and then whine about it to whoever will listen.. uh huh)
LOL. Open minded. LOL. HYPOCRITES. EVERYWHERE
But then she changed her mind. It was no longer unfortunate that I didn't like her book. I became a book basher and a mean human being
Are reviewers not even safe commenting on their fellow reviewers reviews? Are we going to get attacked every where we turn? Is there no end to this bullshit?
I am just fucking pissed. I spend a while writing that review and I spend a shit load of time attempting to finish a book I was not enjoying. I do NOT have a lot of time on my hands. It's my senior year and I've got a fuck load of things to worry about. I have no obligations to like her fucking book and commenters have no obligations to go read it if they don't think they'll like it. She is supposed to be a professional (EVEN IF SHE IS SELF-PUBLISHED) and SHE SHOULD FUCKING ACT LIKE ONE but instead she choses to dig herself further into the hole of her own making.
Having been extremely disappointed by The Fifth Wave early last year, I've become wary of books that get a LOT of hype. I don't like being the black sheep among a sea of five stars since I don't want to be left out, and I don't want people to wonder what the heck is wrong with me ("What? You didn't like it? YOU MUST HAVE MISSED THE POINT!"... believe me, I've gotten a lot of that). But the more I read about this particular book, the more excited I got, and when I got myself a copy, I dropped everything else I was doing and commenced straight away.
Goodness gracious me! I don't think I've ever enjoyed a novel this much for a few months now. This is definitely one of those rare YA books that will be imprinted in your mind for a long while right after reading, that kind where you'll still be thinking about certain aspects of it every now and then just to reenact the scenes in your mind. This is one of those truly scarce YA books where the romance is absolutely swoon-worthy and is able to make your heart go fucking haywire. I mean, I'm not usually a fan of YA romances - many of them are either contrived or just plain silly. But the one in The Winner's Curse?
Well, if I had to put it in little words, it would be this:
But strangely enough, even though I was highly entertained, the different aspects of the books were... kind of mediocre. There were a lot of things that didn't sit well with me and a lot of stuff the heroine did (or did not do x_x) that infuriated me, that my rating of a 4 was kind of a surprise as well. Has that ever happened to you? Where if you break down the components they're lacking, but as a whole, it's an awesome experience? I guess in this case, the entertainment trumped over the logical.
Basically, it's like this:
World-building = /scratches head
Kestrel = FUCK YOU. FUCK YOU VERY MUCH.
Arin = Come to me, meh babeh
Romance = Is it me or is it getting hot in here?
Plot = Eh.
Let me try to discuss these in greater detail...
Despite being coined as a "high fantasy", I found a bit of trouble imagining what the world of The Winner's Curse looks like, as we only have bits and pieces of the whole place. There's the unnamed Herrani-turned-Valorian city where we meet Kestrel and Arin; another unnamed city where the Emperor as well as the rest of the Valorians live, which you can only seemingly access by sea and it's three days of sail away; a mountain pass nearby, and; a land to the east where big bad savages live.
The crowd was thicker now, filled with the golden features of Valorians, hair and skin and eyes ranging from honey tones to light brown. The occasional dark heads belonged to well-dressed house slaves, who had come with their masters and stayed close to their sides.
The Herrani, before they were captured by the Valorians and turned into slaves, were rich and took pride in their music. They were a happy people who loved the seas and navigated the vast blue with ease, a feat that made them impossible to be invaded... at least for a while. Meanwhile, the Valorians were known for their beauty as well for their love of war - the same love that inspired them to find ways to conquer and plunder the Herrani lands and wealth.
Since then, the music-loving people have served Valorian needs left and right, their lives taken for granted, their worth demeaned.
Aside from these though, we don't really get much background information, which disappointed me a little bit because I appreciate it when I can effortlessly immerse myself in the world and visualize myself living in it, breathing the same air, feeling the same emotions. There just wasn't enough to make me really be in it. That's not a bad thing, really... many people have said they think this book has great world-building, so it's really a matter of preference. But having seen really great world-building (at least ones that reached my standards), the one in here just pales in comparison. It's still too vague for me. I'm sure this will change in the succeeding books, so I won't hold this against it. Thankfully, though, this didn't deter me from loving and adoring the other aspects of the novel.
Kestrel. Oh, Kestrel. I have quite a complicated relationship with this heroine, who I extremely disliked the majority of the time. As the daughter of the General who took the Herrani city by military tactics and force, you'd think she'd have enough backbone to carry her through, but wow, she was a complete doormat. She was meek and submissive and allowed everyone else to walk over her, her slave included.
“My god loves you?”
Arin’s gray eyes were narrow. His chest heaved once. Then he screwed his fury down, deep inside him. He held Kestrel’s gaze, and she saw that he was aware he had betrayed exactly how well he knew her language. In a determinedly even voice, Arin asked Jess, “How do you know he loves her?”
Kestrel started to speak, but Arin lifted a hand to stop her.
Shocked, Jess said, “Kestrel?”
“Tell me,” Arin demanded.
“Well . . .” Jess tried to laugh. “He must, mustn’t he? Kestrel sees the truth of things so clearly.”
His mouth went cruel. “I doubt that.”
“Kestrel, he is your property. Aren’t you going to do something?”
Those words, instead of making her act, were paralyzing.
I do not endorse slavery by any means. It's absolutely horrible , and I'm glad it's a distant thing of the past, but putting the context of the book in mind, technically speaking, she owns him. She bought him from the slave market for a hefty price, and yet every time he shows a bit of an attitude, it's like her mind recedes and she becomes a hollow and empty shell of herself. He makes demands, what the heck, give him what he wants without any second thoughts. He talks to you without any ounce of respect (which I would do as well, if I were in his shoes), what the heck, just sit there and let him talk shit (which I wouldn't do, if I were in her shoes). In fact, why don't you let him push you around and give him special privileges while you're at it?
Oh, wait. You did.
Granted, she had moments where she grew some spine, but honestly, they were few and far between and she would unfortunately go back to her being a doormat shortly after. What? You were betrayed? Be angry! Oh, you're angry, good. Anyone would be. That's right, show him who's the boss. What? You had the chance to warn your fellowmen of an attack but you choose to let them die? I mean, you could but you chose not to? FUCK YOU.
For such a self-proclaimed brilliant tactician/strategist, Kestrel does not try to use her brains much. There were times she'd show some initiation to take control of her situation, but then next thing you know, she would be all submissive again.
Her doormat ways aside, she is also terribly bland for a heroine, although I guess this is not a surprise given her undesirable behavior mentioned above. She moves, acts, and speaks as if her life has no meaning sometimes, and because of this, there were moments where it felt like the plot was going nowhere when it was her turn to give her perspective of the story. I don't think she is that bright as she proclaims herself to be. I do appreciate her moments of courage (which can be counted in one hand, to be completely and utterly honest), but overall, I've yet to really see her grow as a character. She needs some balls, man. Like serious balls.
For the meantime, here's a FUCK YOU from yours truly.
The slave was bad goods. He looked, Kestrel thought, like a brute. A deep bruise on the slave’s cheek was evidence of a fight and a promise that he would be difficult to control. His bare arms were muscular, which likely only confirmed the crowd’s belief that he would be best working for someone with a whip in hand. Perhaps in another life he could have been groomed for a house; his hair was brown, light enough to please some Valorians, and while his features couldn’t be discerned from Kestrel’s distance, there was a proud line in the way he stood. But his skin was bronzed from outdoor labor, and surely it was to such work that he would return. He might be purchased by someone who needed a dockworker or a builder of walls.
Arin. Oh, Arin. THAT Arin. I like him a lot. He's a slave, bought by the daughter of the General who took away the life he has known and thrown to another where he is constantly seen as an inferior. As a Herrani, he has a grudge against the Valorians, and it's a kind of grudge that's absolutely justified. He hates 'em, and knowing the pains he and his people has gone through, it's not hard to sympathize with him and share in his plight. He knows what's it like to truly suffer under the hands of your captors, and instead of wallowing in self-pity, he sucks it up and actually tries to do something about it.
He's the kind of guy who I imagine him would think something along these lines: "Wanna spit on me? Do it. Want me to work on hundreds of mundane errands every day just because you can? Gladly. Savor the feeling of superiority, because it'll end, and I'll have the last laugh."
Unfortunately, as much as he can be calm and collected, when it comes to his heritage and dignity as a Herrani, he becomes absolutely and completely sensitive. Like, no shit, he'd be more sensitive than me on my period. And I'm very sensitive at this time of the month. This in turn makes him talk back, glare, and do stupid shit that no one in their sane mind trying to start a revolution would do. Thankfully, his sorry excuse of a master (Kestrel) is an idiot, so he easily gets away with it when he tries to show an attitude, but there is this one time he almost screwed up EVERYTHING he worked for because of a stupid book, and I swear, I wanted to punch him there and then. AND HE HAD THE GALL TO LOOK SHEEPISH ABOUT IT.
Aside from that, I don't really appreciate how the book tries to make him look like a good guy. I mean, he IS a good guy, no doubt about it, but it depends on where you stand. Are you a Herrani? Then of course he's a good guy, he's a hero even, he's a survivor, a brother, a family who fought for our freedom. In the perspective of the Valorians? He's a murderer who poisoned, killed and maimed their families and friends. This is what I liked about this book - that there is no black and white, that there are stuff in between that you need to take into consideration to get the full extent of the context. There is that saying that goes, "History is written by the winners." And truer words have never been spoken. History depends which party you've decided to side with. With that said, there were times the book tried to downplay Arin's doings against the Valorians by making some people close to the heroine survive and have him do everything to make it better for Kestrel. It felt like a lame way to give Kestrel reason to continue liking him despite what he did.
OTHER THAN THAT, YOU PUSH YOUR CAUSE ARIN CAUSE I BELIEVES IN YA
PLOT AND WRITING
The overall plot, good. Herrani, the slaves versus the Valorians, the captors. A fight for freedom. A fight for worth and for dignity. While the general grade is higher than average, the journey to get to the destination was a little... exhausting. There were some moments that I felt meaningless, mostly the gossip parties that Kestrel attended every once in a while. There were times the pacing was kind of slow, odd and out of place. An example the times she would be when she kept on thinking about Arin while she was being held prisoner by the very people her fellowmen oppressed, or those times when she's more concerned about her hands (cause she's a pianist, duh) than the rest of her being (like not wanting to fight hand-to-hand because like how can she play the piano now?!).
The writing, though? No complaints. Absolutely beautiful. Even though a lot of the events were kinda disjointed, Rutkoski had this inherent ability to connect things flawlessly and to make things flow really well. Prose is gorgeous to read and I never felt tired reading everything, even the longer paragraphs.
I'd be flat-out lying if I didn't say I loved the romance. There is no insta-love, but there is the usual "there's just something about him that attracts me to him... I just can't finger what it is..." although to be fair, the real serious emotional stuff happens later on. Even though I'm not the greatest and biggest fan of the heroine, I loved their small moments together that paved the way to the development of their romance, which is safe to say is full of fricking feels. There were so many scenes that showed the tension between the two, and I could feel it seeping from the pages while reading them. My throat would tighten, my heart would go aflutter, my stomach would be doing jumping jacks. SWOON ALL THE WAY BABY.
She imagined how he would sit, lean forward. How he would look in the glow of the carriage lantern.
“Survival isn’t wrong. You can sell your honor in small ways, so long as you guard yourself. You can pour a glass of wine like it’s meant to be poured, and watch a man drink, and plot your revenge.” Perhaps his head tilted slightly at this. “You probably plot even in your sleep.” There was a silence as long as a smile. “Plot away, Kestrel. Survive. If I hadn’t lived, no one would remember my mother, not like I do.”
Kestrel could no longer deny sleep. It pulled her under. “And I would never have met you.”
It didn't help that they were pretty much star-crossed lovers. She was a Valorian. He was a Herrani. History has pretty much automatically made them enemies. It was probably written in the skies. And yet, they loved each other. They cared for each other. And it wasn't a love that simply happened; it was a love that they've both chosen. And it was so bittersweet :'(
Of course he was certain that something was wrong.
Impossible. It was impossible to love a Walorian and also love his people.
Arin was the flaw.
ALL. THOSE. EMOTIONS. MAN.
To summarize, I enjoyed this novel immensely as a whole. I was highly entertained, and the romance made me a giddy schoolgirl who wanted the two to just get it on already. But, breaking it down into separate components, there were many underlying issues that I wasn't comfortable with, and try as I may to overlook them, they were simply too large to ignore and thus I had to rate accordingly. Yes, it was an engrossing book, but it's far from the best I've ever read. I guess it's simply a matter of preference how they will take the heroine and the plot, but my final verdict for this would be a 3.5.
Not a bad book by any means. Highly entertaining though, for sure!
An ARC was provided in exchange for an honest review. This did not alter my thoughts in any way.
As you, I, and many others know, books aimed at the Young Adult demographic are full of female narrators. Heroines who have problems with their crushes, who have been chosen to lead revolutions that would topple governments, and heroines who will one day save the world from the evil, nasty, eternally-laughing villains. That is expected given that the majority of readers in the YA category are female, and that is precisely why I look forward to books with male narrators for once. I want to see how a male would encounter the same problems (oh come on, don't look at me that way. There is hardly any originality anymore!), how romances are viewed in their perspectives, yada yada yada.
That's why I expected a lot. Male narrators are rare (at least I can count the ones I've read with my fingers) so you'd think they would be done nicely, right? Not only the character but the plot as well, right?
For the last few years, Tony and his family has been in the Witness Protection program while also avoiding a notorious mafia leader who his father betrayed. Unfortunately, his dad always gets into trouble with the law in all the cities they've tried to relocate to so they had to move from one place to another, until they get their last chance in the town of Stepton. Here he takes on the identity of Nick Pearson, and he has to make friends all over again. He meets Eli, a gamer who runs a sort-of Journalism club, and his twin sister Reya, as well as a couple of jocks who want nothing but to club his head against the wall. Unknown to them, the danger is bigger than a bunch of football players who flex their muscles...
Nick Pearson (Tony) could have been an interesting character. He's "funny", "intelligent", and "laid-back". He's the mysterious teenager who's had to take on so many identities in the past that he has admitted he sometimes don't know anymore. He's a flawed hero with a tragic past who we're supposed to feel sorry for. Unfortunately, while reading, I found myself not giving any rat's ass about him. We're told he's like this, he's like that, but it was hardly shown due to the very lacking narration. His being "funny" was shown in the dialogue when he's conversing with other people, but I never found myself smiling or chuckling at all - he was flat, boring, as interesting as watching paint dry, and as cringe-worthy as cats in heat (ugh, my ears...). I wish I were kidding, but he just didn't show enough humor to justify this. It would have been cool if it was portrayed in the internal narration, but I never felt the narration was engaging enough. There were times it was cool, but oftentimes it was lackluster.
Me:What's da Urethra Gauntlet?
Eli: Urilium Gauntlet. U got my message.
Me: I got it. What wuz it?
Eli: I'm talkin Finite Universe. An MMORPG
Me: wuz dat a typo?
Eli: Massively multiplayer online role-playing game
Me: Like Warcraft?
Eli: Hellz no. Better. More scifi than fantasy. No weirdo stuff like dwarfs and fairies.
This was one of the times I almost wanted to drop this book. I know text speak has evolved over the years, but I'm surrounded by teenagers all the time, and they never text like this. "U" is acceptable, I suppose. "Da" could be bearable after a little teeth grinding. But "wuz" and "hellz"? WTF. Dude, one message can have as much as 160 characters. USE IT. Goodness, if anything, one version of text speak is shortening the words, not making it longer. So why add a "z" at all? Why use "wuz" when "was" has the same amount of letters? I know I may be accused of being nitpicky, but personally, having been in this phase myself and having texted hundreds of people over the years, rarely do I see this kind of text in real life. It gives me a migraine and teenagers aren't that stupid.
"We're on a date. If anyone asks, that's our cover."
"Right," I said. "Pretending."
She glanced sideways, then back to the road. "People are going to talk when we come in together. We better give them what they ask for. It will make the night go more smoothly."
"Hope I don't miss your rep."
She laughed. "Mess up my rep? Do you own a mirror?"
"What do you mean?"
"De pinga! I can't tell if you're being modest or you're one of those guys who got cute over the summer without realizing it."
Focus, focus, grin, focus...
...is this real life? Am I dreaming? Am I really reading a guy who's supposedly cute and good-looking but didn't know it?!FACEPALM
I... I don't know. I'm sorry. I've read of so many heroines in YA whose beauty were not known to them (let's call Captain Bullshit for this, yes?), and for some reason... a guy doing that... feels...worse. You be the judge.
Aside from that, the book just lacks character development. I didn't love the hero and I couldn't bring myself to care for the side characters, too. We're told he feels this way towards this person and that person, but we're not really shown. Hardly any of his "feelings" were enforced. These things were only told and expected to be seen as facts, but proven? Not sure about that. He says he loves his mom but never once has he shown appreciation for her actions. All he does is talk about himself, despite knowing his mom being unhappy with their current situation. He says he has lost trust with his dad but he has never shown his frustrations with regards to him. He lies and covers for him even (...what for?). Zach and his cronies felt superficial as well. Football guys, macho galore, who would sack the first person who'd approach his ex-girlfriend, Reya *insert yawning here*. It felt like watching a movie with typical and stereotypical characters all over again. I think the only person who had a bit of complexity was the Mayor's son... but even I was able to see through him. No depth in the hero, no depth in the side characters... is it such a surprise I'm rating this a 2?
The romance as well didn't feel believable to me. It started as an instalove and went downhill very fast.
The girl I'd bumped steadied herself, said, "It's okay. I'll live."
I barely heard her, though. Too busy seeing her.
You know how in the movies when a gorgeous girl enters the scene there's music, and slow motion, and fans blowing her hair? None of that happened or anything, but for the first time, the concept didn't seem stupid. She made a gym uniform look good.
In their succeeding scenes, he'd often find himself feeling everything is in slow motion with cheesy music playing every time they see each other. He'd be saying something, she'd pop, and then the things he wanted to say would be forgotten in a snap. Not too long after, they much confessed they like each other, and I was like... "why?" We weren't shown what he saw in her aside from her appearance. We weren't shown how he really felt from her aside from the "everything went into a standstill" comments. There just weren't any substance. At all.
This book's only saving grace at this point was the mystery factor. Unfortunately, that didn't deliver at all. By the end, there were still so many questions lingering in my head, and a lot didn't make sense. I could talk about that here and wonder what the fuck was going on, but that would mean spoilers (if interested though, check out the comments. Stuti and I pondered about it).
Overall, this book was meh to the very core. I was not impressed. Definitely, there were some interesting moments, but majority of the time, I felt empty while reading and only tried to finish it because I needed to give a review. It was fast-paced though, so you can get this one if you want something quick. Otherwise, if you're looking for a good mystery with substance, you can skip this one and sleep easy knowing you didn't miss anything.
OH JUST GREAT NOW WE HAVE AN INSECURE GUY WHO CONVENIENTLY DIDN'T KNOW HE WAS HANDSOME AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH
lol I should've known this random-ass kiss was coming. So the guy says something ingenious in order to get into school property, and when he was about to go all humble since the girl seemed shocked, the love interest suddenly kisses him... tasting like "cinnamon gum".
I don't know why I rolled my eyes. Please tell me I'm not alone with this sentiment.
What I hate so far:
* There is not much internal narration. Heck, I'd go and say there isn't any really. The chapters are so short, we never really get to know Tony. Meh. Some of them are less than 2 pages long... T_T Would make a fast read I guess.
* The hero keeps on losing his ability to speak whenever he sees Reya. I feel like cutting his tongue for him already. Doing you a favor, buddy.
Hero and friend are texting. Here's the transcript:
"Me: What's da Urethra Gauntlet?
Eli: Urilium Gauntlet. U got my message.
Me: I got it. What wuz it?
Me: Like Warcraft?
Eli: Hellz no."
"Wuz"? "Hellz"? I thought text speak was supposed to make things shorter, not longer. Why go for "wuz" when "was" has the same number of letters? Why add a "z" after "hell" at all?
Is this how teens text now????
Glorious. Just fucking glorious. He was about to go off on this shady boy, but here comes the potential love interest, and the hero's mind suddenly becomes blank. OH COME ON DUDE YOU ONLY SAW HER ONCE AND YOU NEVER GOT A REAL CONVERSATION YET. Can't we have a little more... I don't know... build-up for this?
Okay, I admit it. The unimpressive cover aside, Phoenix Island hooked me line and sinker with its blurb that just screams Danger! Conspiracies! Evil governments! Kids running for survival! Underdog Triumphing All! Bootcamp of doom! You see, my insatiable thirst for these themes all started with a particular manga called Deadman Wonderland, where a group of people (some kids) are put into a shady government facility for their crimes. One of these people is a young boy who was falsely accused of murdering his classmates, and when he was placed in this institution, he quickly found out it was also a carnival where people watch prisoners compete in games – games where one wrong move will lead to your impalement or death or being shark food… among many (terrible) others. I know, it sounds pretty horrible, but these are not what I loved this manga for. What I loved about this manga was how a lone young man, who was seen as weak by many, found the courage and the determination to pave a path for himself against a strong current despite all odds. I loved the feeling of rooting for a character and feeling absolute joy when you see him or her succeed the challenges that come their way, that anxiousness when you see them encounter a harder one.
I guess that’s why Phoenix Island resonated with me so much. It may not have games of hell where if you move one inch to the left, that huge axe attached to the ceiling may decapitate you, but like Deadman Wonderland, it features a cast trapped in a government facility with seemingly no means of escape. They only have themselves to rely on. That, and their very resolve.
Carl Freeman, a sixteen-year-old boxer, is considered a delinquent with no home to go back to. He has transferred from foster home to foster home, all because he dared try to help victims from bullies with his fists. When he finally sent a bully to the Emergency Room, the judicial system saw him fit to join other delinquents in a terminal facility called Phoenix Island. When Carl gets there, he quickly realizes that there is more to this facility that what meets the eye – beyond the drills, beyond the soldiers physically, verbally, and psychologically abusing them, and beyond the seemingly simple principles of the leader known as “The Old Man”.
I liked the main character. Carl was far from perfect (short temper, can be carried away by his emotions easily), but you could truly see he’s a good guy at heart. Early in the book, we get to know about his tragic past especially regarding his parents as well as his urges to help those who are weak – acts of justice which at the same time got him in trouble, leading us to feel for and sympathize with him. Many times in the book he was belittled and jeered at by his peers and by certain soldiers, and many times, he willed himself to not react, to take it all in, to endure because the stakes were high, to take the beating so that others won’t. I admit many times I felt frustrated, because come on man, you have the power to cut these bitches apart! … but at the same time I felt proud he stood his ground. He was hot-tempered, that much was true, but when it mattered the most, he knew what to do even if it meant putting his life on the line. I admired his determination and his resolve, and suffice to say, he made the book work for me.
He knew what he had to do.
He had to break his pattern of weakness.
He had to start keeping his promise to his father.
He had to stop fighting the bullies and start helping the victims.
He had to defend, not destroy.
Love, not hate.
The other characters, Ross and Octavia, were interesting, too. Ross, I was especially proud and fond of. He was the real underdog between the three – physically weak, small, and thin, but he probably has the biggest heart. Despite having so many disadvantages and knowing the consequences, he stood up for his friends and fought for them. Octavia, the love interest, was pretty meh to me. She was a strong character, but I felt she could’ve used a little more polishing.
Aside from Carl and Ross, another thing I really liked about this book was the awesome action scenes. Come on, guys, be honest – we don’t see a lot of authors who could write a long action scene and make them bloody good, exciting, and most of all, not repetitive. Thankfully, Dixon delivered and made me shiver in excitement. Man, I’ve lost count of the times I squealed in glee (and trepidation) because all the fighting happening in the book was so good. It was realistic, it was brutal, it was bloody, and you don’t know if the hero and friend will come out alive at all. I think that’s a testament of its greatness.
What I didn’t really appreciate was the one dimensional of some of the antagonists. Sergeant Parker a.k.a. enemy number one, was too simple in his… evilness. Yeah, he made life hell for the protagonists, threw insults that could even make cold-hearted people cry, but damn… he was evil just for the heck of it. Despite being there majority of the time, there was no depth in him and we were never given an explanation why he acts the way he does. Stark, on the other hand… I’m not sure I’d call him complex. He was interesting yet he was kind of boring, too, but only because I’ve seen his kind many times before in other books and video games. “I’m here to purge the world of the weak, for they are the ones that bring us down! We, the strong, shall remain and pave the world towards a new, brighter, better era!” yada yada yada… it was kind of disappointing as I was hoping for something new.
But nevertheless, overall, it was enjoyable. There are a lot of twists and exciting scenes that will surely keep everyone at the edges of their seats! I reckon people who enjoyed Lord of the Flies will also enjoy this one.
4 STARS. AFTER ALL THE RANTING I DID, I AM GIVING IT FOUR FUCKING STARS.
* Nick and Adam were swooon. They made me giggle like a high school girl full of refined sugar.
* I loved the suspense and action. They kept me at the edge of my seat. Why is Kemmerer so talented and I'm not?? T.T
* I loved the drama, even though it drove me batshit insane sometimes. I didn't like Quinn, and I still don't like her, but her character development was better than the others. STILL - THE WORLD DOES NOT REVOLVE YOU HONEY AND IT TOOK ME A LONG ASS TIME TO EVEN LIKE YOU FOR A FRACTION.
* I loved how diverse the personalities of the characters were.
* And that ending... it makes me want to read the fifth book... NOW.
What I did not like?
* I wish we were inside the antagonists' heads even longer. I mean all we had was one measly chapter at the beginning. The Guides' showing up near the end felt... anti-climactic.
* Tyler. FUCKING TYLER. BOOK KEPT TRYING TO SHOVE TO MY FACE HOW HE'S ACTUALLY A GOOD GUY, THAT HE'S ONLY MISGUIDED AND ONLY DID WHAT WAS EXPECTED OF HIM. Book, you can kneel and kiss my feet but my opinion of that chickenshit won't change. He's a maniac, someone who willingly tried to kill other people, who beat up people younger than him, all because, what? No, don't tell me, because that's not important. HE HAS NO EXCUSE FOR THE THINGS HE DID AND JUST BECAUSE WE FIND OUT A LITTLE ABOUT HIM NOW DOESN'T MEAN ALL HIS ACTS WERE REDEEMED. Not in my eyes, anyway. If he's going to keep on reappearing in the next books, I will pretend he does not exist.
* And Quinn... man, she emotionally exhausted me.
Reading Blood Song by Anthony Ryan introduced me to the world of high fantasy literature, where we are given new worlds with cultures and societies of their own which are oftentimes accompanied by magic and warfare. I enjoyed reading that book so much that I vowed to myself to read more from this genre, as I have developed an unsatiable thirst for similar themes. I've tried many, and although I've stumbled upon a lot of gems, not a lot of them measured up to the mark.
Of course, that was before I read The Emperor's Blades.
Not that I am going to compare the two. Blood Song and The Emperor's Blades are highly different from each other, but both made me feel emotions that I notice I rarely get from books now - excitement, anxiousness, trepidation - for fictional characters characters that feel utterly real. Both books have what many others lack - a moving, intricate storyline, complex characterization, beautiful prose and writing, awesome delivery, balanced pacing, among many others.
The Emperor's Blades is told from three point-of-views: Valyn, the youngest, who is undergoing training to be a part of the Kettral, a super elite group of people who use gigantic birds to do their missions; Adare, the only girl among the siblings, who stayed with her father to oversee the politics and other what-have-you in the palace; and we have Kaden, the oldest of the three, his father's successor, currently isolated from the world and training with the monks. Usually, I'm not very keen on reading from more than one perspective, but the characters in this book became so alive and dynamic that I've come to look forward to each and everyone of them. You know that feeling where the characters are just so well-written that despite their not being real, you see them like lifelong friends? That's what happened to me here. I loved Valyn and Kaden and could feel their anxiety and fear of the future seeping from the pages. Be it running away from creatures of dark caves, or enduring hard and long lashes from a seemingly strict and discipline-minded monk, I felt for them every step of the way. Deep in my heart, I wanted them to succeed every challenge that life would throw their way, wanted them to grow and get stronger and better to show their detractors who are the bosses.
While Adare was not given enough screen time, I found her a strong female character - independent with a bit of a rebellious side, intelligent and cautious, although she would sometimes be carried away by her emotions. I honestly found her a breath of fresh air, especially since in this genre, many women are depicted as weak, damsels in distress, or prostitutes. That's why it made me really happy to see an intellectual woman in a harsh world who can ward off greedy and shady politicans and ministers by wit alone. Hopefully in the succeeding books, we will see more of her and what her role is in the grander scheme of things.
As for the plot?
...it's amazing. Honestly, I don't even have enough words for it as I know it is just huge. The first book alone only gave us the tip of the iceberg, more of a laying out of the bigger picture, and I was already blown away. There is a lot of court intrigue, betrayals, evil people lurking in the shadows, and creatures dangerous beyond your wildest dreams... and I'm not even sure that encompasses all of it. Everything is written intricately, like there's significance even in the littlest and simplest of details. There's so much to know and explore, so much depth and richness to unfold, that I am shivering in anticipation.
I want to talk about it, but I can't. I want you all to experience the intricacies of this novel yourselves. When you have, come back here and let's discuss in the comments ;-)
Overall, The Emperor's Blades is a very cool book, an awesome fantasy novel that fans of the genre should get their hands on as soon as it's out. Trust me, you'd want to pick this up. This book = epic happiness.