ARC Review: The Crown’s Game by Evelyn Skye {2.0}

Title: The Crown’s Game
Author: Evelyn Skye
Series: The Crown’s Game #1
Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Fantasy
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Publication Date: May 17th, 2016
Pages: 399
My Rating: 2 Stars

Vika Andreyeva can summon the snow and turn ash into gold. Nikolai Karimov can see through walls and conjure bridges out of thin air. They are enchanters—the only two in Russia—and with the Ottoman Empire and the Kazakhs threatening, the tsar needs a powerful enchanter by his side.

And so he initiates the Crown’s Game, an ancient duel of magical skill—the greatest test an enchanter will ever know. The victor becomes the Imperial Enchanter and the tsar’s most respected adviser. The defeated is sentenced to death.

Raised on tiny Ovchinin Island her whole life, Vika is eager for the chance to show off her talent in the grand capital of Saint Petersburg. But can she kill another enchanter—even when his magic calls to her like nothing else ever has?

For Nikolai, an orphan, the Crown’s Game is the chance of a lifetime. But his deadly opponent is a force to be reckoned with—beautiful, whip-smart, imaginative—and he can’t stop thinking about her.

And when Pasha, Nikolai’s best friend and heir to the throne, also starts to fall for the mysterious enchantress, Nikolai must defeat the girl they both love…or be killed himself.

As long-buried secrets emerge, threatening the future of the empire, it becomes dangerously clear—the Crown’s Game is not one to lose.

I had a hard time deciding what rating to give this book because while I didn’t really enjoy it, I didn’t really hate it either. However, upon thinking about it, I realized that I have no desire to read the next book, so I decided to just give this book 2 stars. I know a lot of people loved this book, and I really wanted to love this book because of the amazing concept, but it turns out that I am yet again the black sheep.

What I Liked:
1. The premise of this book is very interesting: Set in Russia, the two enchanters born of that time (1800’s) were to enter in the Crown’s Game to duel each other until one dies and the other becomes the Grand Enchanter of Russia. I mean, it has magic and it’s set in Russia! I really was interested in that plot, and I felt like it would be a really unique book.

2. The vivid descriptions: In the game, the enchanters were tasked to please Pasha for his birthday celebration, so the enchanters created a lot of beautiful things such as fountains, magical boxes that would create masquerade gowns, islands, etc. The author did a really great job of describing these, and I felt like I was able to see those things clearly.

3. The writing: Not that it was anything special, but I felt like the writing was good. I had no problems with the pacing and choice of words. And as mentioned above, the author is really good in descriptions without being too overbearing with words.

What I Didn’t Like:
1. Multiple POVs: I don’t usually have problems with multiple POVs, especially when the book is in the third person perspective, but I was just annoyed in the execution of it in this book. At first I thought there was already this set amount of narrators, but throughout the book, new ones just keep popping out. I would prefer it if from the start, I knew which people would get to narrate the novel, because I was just confused at times why there were new ones popping out, even neat the end of the book.

2. Love Square?: I don’t really like love triangles, but this novel has a love square! It was infuriating because I was really looking forward to the magic element of the novel, but at some point the focus became the romance. And can I just say how predictable it is that Vika and Nikolai would fall in love with each other? I think I would have preferred it if it became Vika + Pasha and Nikolai + Renata, just for the sake of being different for once.

3. Bland: I don’t know, this book just wasn’t interesting enough for me. I was really looking forward to reading this book the longest times, but it fell short of my expectations. In my opinion, it lacks the excitement that I wanted it to have, so I didn’t really mind if I was interrupted or anything.

bland-bland-bland stars

Review: This is My Brain on Boys by Sarah Strohmeyer {2.0}

Title: This is My Brain on Boys
Author: Sarah Strohmeyer
Series: N/A, Standalone
Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Contemporary
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Publication Date: May 10th, 2016
Pages: 342
My Rating: 2 Stars

Addie Emerson doesn’t believe in love. Not for herself, anyway. With one year left of high school, she’s more interested in snagging a full scholarship to Harvard than a full-time boyfriend.

That doesn’t mean she’s oblivious to the ways of the heart. Or, rather, the head. Because after months of research, Addie has discovered how to make anyone fall in love. All you need is the secret formula.

But will her discovery be enough to win the coveted Athenian Award and all its perks? (See above, full scholarship to Harvard.) Or will she be undone by Dexter, her backstabbing lab partner, who is determined to deep-six her experiments at their exclusive private school?

Those are the least of her problems now that she’s survived a death-defying flight with a mysterious, dark-haired boy, who has delicious chocolate-brown eyes and a few secrets of his own.

With an experiment to mastermind, an infatuated exchange student on her hands, and at least one great white shark (more on that later), can Addie’s prefrontal cortex outwit her heart? Or will she have to give in to her amygdala and find out, once and for all, if this thing called love is more than just her brain on drugs?

This Is My Brain on Boys is an unusual book in that the manner in which the main character speaks reminds me of Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory, and I’m not sure if that works for written novels. 
What I didn’t like:
1. The three robots: There are 3 people in this book who speak like Sheldon – Addie, Dex and Mrs. Brooks. I mean, I think it would have been understandable if Addie was the only one who was like that, but no, there are three of them. That made it unrealistic. 
2. Tess and Addie’s friendship is pretty weird: I think I would have liked it if there was an explanation as to how these two became friends because I don’t think it’s realistic. Addie is Addie, while Tess is more of the popular girl kind – wears makeup, worries about her boyfriend, etc. 
3. Kara and Kris’ relationship: Kris is a jerk because he went on kissing another girl while he is still in a relationship with Kara. Granted, Kara is a bitch and threatened him with whatever, but he still should have broken up with her nonetheless.
4. The ending: What is up with the ending? I expected some kind of reaction with Kris, but there wasn’t any explanation in the end. The ending felt like a nice close to the book, but I am not satisfied with it. 
What I Liked:
1. The experiment: The experiment is very interesting for me, and I liked it because we discussed a similar concept in my Social Psychology class last term. I like the fact that the author didn’t just invent something up, but chose something that actually has basis. Being subject to scary situation indeed increases our heart beat and we tend to associated this to attraction.
2. It’s an entertaining novel: Despite the fact that I didn’t like many aspects from this novel, I have this strange fascination with it. I didn’t just want to leave the novel as a DNF because I felt this need to finish it. 
hard-to-get-through stars

Mini ARC Review: Winning by Lara Deloza

Title: Winning
Author: Lara Deloza
Series: N/A, Standalone
Genre: Young Adult, Romance, LGBT, Contemporary
Publisher: HarperTeen
Publication Date: June 28th, 2016
Pages: 336
My Rating: 2 Stars

Whoever said being nice would get you to the top?

Certainly not Alexandra Miles. She isn’t nice, but she’s more than skilled at playing the part. She floats through the halls of Spencer High, effortlessly orchestrating the actions of everyone around her, making people bend to her whim without even noticing they’re doing it. She is the queen of Spencer High—and it’s time to make it official.

Alexandra has a goal, you see—Homecoming Queen. Her ambitions are far grander than her small town will allow, but homecoming is just the first step to achieving total domination. So when peppy, popular Erin Hewett moves to town and seems to have a real shot at the crown, Alexandra has to take action.

With the help of her trusted friend Sam, she devises her most devious plot yet. She’ll introduce an unexpected third competitor in the mix, one whose meteoric rise—and devastating fall—will destroy Erin’s chances once and for all. Alexandra can run a scheme like this in her sleep. What could possibly go wrong?

  I was given an ARC by the publisher through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. 

I consider Wining to be a pretty unique book. It’s hard to come across books with the supposed “villain” as the main character, but it’s even hard to find books where that “villain” is unapologetic. It was interesting for me to see all the scheming and ruthlessness done just to achieve the results that the school’s “queen” wants.

However, the thing is, I wasn’t really able to enjoy this book that much. At first it was entertaining and refreshing, but as the story went on, it just became dragging. I felt like rolling my eyes and I didn’t really see a point anymore. I wanted to put this book down, but I couldn’t because I always have a hard time DNF-ing books. As a result, I read this for a week, which for me is really, really slow.

I’d like to say that I enjoyed this book but I really did not. I’m only giving this book 2 stars because I think it was unique and kinda entertaining at first. It’s also hard to make a contemporary character who is “evil” through and through and who would stop at nothing to get what she wants.

dragging stars

ARC Review: And I Darken by Kiersten White

Title: And I Darken
Author: Kiersten White
Series: The Conquerors Saga #1
Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Fantasy, Historical Fiction
Publisher: Corgi Childrens
Publication Date: July 7th, 2016
Pages: 496
My Rating: 2 Stars

No one expects a princess to be brutal. And Lada Dragwyla likes it that way.

Ever since she and her brother were abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman sultan’s courts, Lada has known that ruthlessness is the key to survival. For the lineage that makes her and her brother special also makes them targets.

Lada hones her skills as a warrior as she nurtures plans to wreak revenge on the empire that holds her captive. Then she and Radu meet the sultan’s son, Mehmed, and everything changes. Now Mehmed unwittingly stands between Lada and Radu as they transform from siblings to rivals, and the ties of love and loyalty that bind them together are stretched to breaking point.

The first of an epic new trilogy starring the ultimate anti-princess who does not have a gentle heart. Lada knows how to wield a sword, and she’ll stop at nothing to keep herself and her brother alive.

  I was given an ARC by the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. 

This book is totally not what I expected at all. And I Darken is shelved under fantasy and historical fiction in Goodreads, and I expected more from the fantasy than the historical aspect of it. However, it turns out that this has a more historical fiction feel, even if it doesn’t follow historical events.

And I Darken features an anti-princess that you would just love to hate. Lada is cruel, ruthless and cunning, even when it comes to the ones she holds dear. She would fight anyone in her way, even if it means hurting the ones she love. But beneath all that hard exterior, what Lada wants most of all is to return home to Wallachia, and finally claim what is hers (or so she thinks).

For the first 50% of this book, I was so bored that I almost gave up on it. The narrative was overbearing most of the time, but written in such a way that you can’t risk not reading it because there would be information there. I only convinced myself to finish this book because so many had liked it, and I so badly wanted to like it myself. It’s a good thing that after the first 50% of the book, it picked up and became a little bit more interesting. It wasn’t exciting or anything, but just a little bit interesting so reading it wouldn’t be a torture.

I think because that because of what I expected from this book, I became really disappointed by it. I truly thought that there would be a touch of fantasy in the sense of powers or something, but there wasn’t anything. And I would have been fine with that if this was an interesting book, but no, no, no; not at all. I also expected the plot to be on a much larger scale than what I got. I think the plot didn’t do the characters and the world – if I can call it that – justice.

I tried so hard to like this, but to no avail. I am deeply disappointed because it was one of my highly anticipated releases, and I was so glad when I got approved. However, it just didn’t live up to my expectations.

2 what-a-bore stars

ARC Review: The Rest of Us Just Live Here

Title: The Rest of Us Just Live Here
Author: Patrick Ness
Series: N/A, Standalone
Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Fantasy
Publisher: Walker Books
Publication Date: August 27th, 2015
Pages: 352
My Rating: 2 Stars

What if you aren’t the Chosen One?

The one who’s supposed to fight the zombies, or the soul-eating ghosts, or whatever the heck this new thing is, with the blue lights and the death?

What if you’re like Mikey? Who just wants to graduate and go to prom and maybe finally work up the courage to ask Henna out before someone goes and blows up the high school. Again.

Because sometimes there are problems bigger than this week’s end of the world, and sometimes you just have to find the extraordinary in your ordinary life.

Even if your best friend is worshiped by mountain lions.

Award-winning writer Patrick Ness’s bold and irreverent novel powerfully reminds us that there are many different types of remarkable.

  I was given an ARC by the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. 

 The Rest of Us Just Live Here is my first Patrick Ness book, but I must say, I was not impressed. I get the point that Ness was trying to prove with this book – how despite not being the Chosen Ones or the main characters, each of us have our own problems and challenges to get through. I get that, and I admire him for writing a book like this. But the the thing is, I didn’t like how it was executed.

 The Rest of Us Just Live Here is written in a way that the first paragraph or two is telling us what is going on with the “indie kids,” or the main characters in this book. Then it proceeds on to the narration of our main character, Mike. This kind of writing style made the book more of a contemporary book with random bouts of fantasy in it. I didn’t like that about the book because there’s no cohesion. I also didn’t like how the book started because it felt like the book just jumped into the middle of something that was already happening beforehand. 

 This was a really weird book for me. Until the end, I still didn’t get what was going on. It also felt weird how Mike and his friends don’t really care about what going on around them in a way that they were quick to dismiss them and relying on the indie kids to fix things for them. Also, I still don’t get why they call those kids “indie kids.” I felt like it was a discrimination against them and it’s like Mike and his friends are actually blaming those kids for the weird things that were going on.

 I wasn’t able to connect with the characters in this book. Normally when I read a book, I can connect to some part of it, no matter how small. But with this book? Not at all. Also, normally there’s some parts of a book that I like, but I think I only liked about 2% of this book. I just don’t get all the buzz and fuss surrounding this book.

 I don’t know if I should read more Patrick Ness books after this. What do you guys think?

very disappointing stars

Review: Rainfall

Title: Rainfall
Author: Melissa Delport
Series: N/A, Standalone
Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Contemporary
Publisher: –
Publication Date: June 26th, 2013
Pages: 263
My Rating: 2 Stars

Paige’s father has Alzheimers, and her fiancé is shot and killed in an armed robbery. Paige fights her depression and pulls herself out of the dark place that she has succumbed to, with monumental effort and a new-found determination to live her life to the fullest, doing things that both terrify and exhilarate her.

When Paige meets Adam, the attraction is instantaneous. Adam grew up in an orphanage and has no recollection of his life before the age of six. Paige falls head over heels in love and embraces a happiness she never dreamed possible. Until the day she finds Adam in bed with another woman.

Wanting nothing more to do with him, Paige cuts Adam out of her life, until she receives a mysterious visitor, who reveals secrets about Adam’s past that shock Paige to her very core.

Determined to fight for the man that she loves, Paige finds herself on a journey that will change her life forever.

  I was given an ARC by the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. 

Rainfall is a book that I really wanted to like, but sadly, that was not what happened. When I read the book, it felt like there were too many things crammed in the first 10% of the book that I wondered what would be left to tell. And since it was full of narration, it was like everything was just being “told” and not “shown.”

The romance progressed too fast for my taste in this book. In the first 10% of the book, they were pretty much in love already, which I hated. I wouldn’t have continued with this book were it not about Dissociative Identity Disorder. The only reason I had to continue was because I wanted to soak up every information I could about the disorder because I felt like it was really interesting and informative.

I think I liked the story alright, but I didn’t like the writing style. I liked the plot and where the book was going, but I just didn’t feel connected to the characters. There were also some transitions that didn’t have chapter breaks, and I had a problem with those.

I started liking the book at around the last 5% or 10% of the book. Before that I yell and shake some sense into the main character at times. (view spoiler)

I’ve seen other people’s reviews of this book and many of them seemed to like it. It’s still worth giving a shot for that reason and for the great plot. I guess I’m just the bad sheep in this one.

what-the-fuck stars

ARC Review: Magonia

Title: Magonia
Author: Maria Headley
Series: Magonia #1
Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Fantasy
Publication Date: April 28th, 2015
My Rating: 2 Stars

Aza Ray is drowning in thin air.

Since she was a baby, Aza has suffered from a mysterious lung disease that makes it ever harder for her to breathe, to speak—to live.

So when Aza catches a glimpse of a ship in the sky, her family chalks it up to a cruel side effect of her medication. But Aza doesn’t think this is a hallucination. She can hear someone on the ship calling her name.

Only her best friend, Jason, listens. Jason, who’s always been there. Jason, for whom she might have more-than-friendly feelings. But before Aza can consider that thrilling idea, something goes terribly wrong. Aza is lost to our world—and found, by another. Magonia.

Above the clouds, in a land of trading ships, Aza is not the weak and dying thing she was. In Magonia, she can breathe for the first time. Better, she has immense power—and as she navigates her new life, she discovers that war is coming. Magonia and Earth are on the cusp of a reckoning. And in Aza’s hands lies the fate of the whole of humanity—including the boy who loves her. Where do her loyalties lie?

  I was given an ARC by the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. 

  Aza was diagnosed with a lung diseased that made it hard for her to breathe ever since she was a baby. The symptoms are so weird that what she has has been named after her. Lately, she has been hearing her name being called, and seeing a ship in the clouds. One day, she wakes up on Magonia, the ship in the clouds, and finds that she can breathe normally up there.

  Magonia was a really weird read for me. Yes, the concept and plot was very unique, but I found myself confused for the most part of the book. What I really hated about it was that I was already halfway through the book, yet I didn’t know a thing about the Magonian world yet. It was like all the information was pushed into the latter half of the book, and even then I felt like there were still things which I didn’t know.

  The world building was not that good for me. As I said a while ago, I was confused most of the time and the information I have regarding Magonia was really few. Maybe it’s because I’m not used to Fantasy, maybe it’s because I’ve never read a book like this before, but I was really weirded out by the bird creatures.

  Another thing is that Aza’s tone was really weird for me. In the beginning and near the end of the book, Aza talked in that kind of sarcastic, but not-so-sarcastic tone which were chopped off in between sentences. In the middle, she talked normally. I really didn’t like the chopped off sentences, and I didn’t like the inconsistency. Also, Jason talked in that chopped off manner too, making them sound like one character instead of two.

  The book didn’t really hold my attention. Originally, right after reading this book, I gave it 3 stars. But now that I’ve had time to think about it, I’ve decided to give it 2 stars instead. I realized that the only thing that I liked about this book was it’s originality. Other than that, I didn’t really enjoy the story very much.

  Is there something wrong with me for not liking this book as much as everyone did? *sigh*

2 sigh-worthy stars

ARC Review: 99 Day

Title: 99 Days
Author: Katie Cotugno
Series: N/A, Standalone
Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Contemporary
Publication Date: April 21st, 2015
My Rating: 2.5 Stars

  Day 1: Julia Donnelly eggs my house my first night back in Star Lake, and that’s how I know everyone still remembers everything—how I destroyed my relationship with Patrick the night everything happened with his brother, Gabe. How I wrecked their whole family. Now I’m serving out my summer like a jail sentence: Just ninety-nine days till I can leave for college, and be done.

  Day 4: A nasty note on my windshield makes it clear Julia isn’t finished. I’m expecting a fight when someone taps me on the shoulder, but it’s just Gabe, home from college and actually happy to see me. “For what it’s worth, Molly Barlow,” he says, “I’m really glad you’re back.”

  Day 12: Gabe got me to come to this party, and I’m actually having fun. I think he’s about to kiss me—and that’s when I see Patrick. My Patrick, who’s supposed to be clear across the country. My Patrick, who’s never going to forgive me.

  This book was ‘meh’ for me. I was really conflicted on what rating to give it at first because some parts I loved, some parts I just hated. After much consideration though, I guess the good almost equals the bad, thus I gave it 2.5 stars.

  This book was not what I expected at all. I expected this book to be a journey of resolving the conflict in the synopsis, namely the cheating with her boyfriend’s brother. However, when I read the book, I found it to be just the same thing again, only now with the other brother. She cheated again, and because of that I found the book somehow.. pointless. I was really disappointed because I didn’t see the growth or journey of the character. The whole story went against morals and I didn’t like the ending, but I guess these are my problem, not the author’s.

  On the positive side, there were many instances when I felt connected to the character, and it tugged on my heartstrings, especially the cruelties she endured. It’s not to say that I experienced those things, but I really felt connected. Another thing is that this book was really realistic, and after all that, I still really enjoyed some of the parts, so there you go. This book was just not for me.

Mini Review #1: "3 books: Making Liars Fall"

Mini reviews are for books which I have read and want to share my thoughts on, but couldn’t write a fully review on mostly either because I loved it too much and whatever I say won’t do it justice or I felt nothing towards the book and have not much to say.  Mini reviews are reviews which just consists of 1-2 paragraphs for each book. For every mini review post, there will be 2-3 books featured.

  Today, I will be posting my thoughts on Making Faces by Amy Harmon, We Were Liars by E. Lockheart, and Deeper We Fall by Chelsea Cameron. These reviews were from 2014 but only posted now as I only decided to have this feature this year.

Making Faces by Amy Harmon: 5
Making Faces was an exceptional read. Although the first chapters were kind of slow for me, it did not stop this book from being one of my favorite books of all time. The characters were amazing and I loved how the three main characters, namely Fern, Ambrose and Bailey were heroes in their own ways. The story was very realistic, enjoyable and relatable, and there were a lot of really amazing quotes from it.

“Everybody is a main character for someone.”

Oh, the hype. Half the time I’m reading this, I didn’t know what was going on. I wanted to know what happened of course, but I had to convince myself to read the whole thing rather than just jump to the last pages to find out. This book is crazy, and I didn’t like it at all. Please don’t kill me for saying that!

“Do not accept and evil you can change.”

Deeper We Fall, for me, is a novel that should be very good and is very good, but I just don’t feel it. I think it’s just a bit above normal. There were moments that I liked, yet there were also moments that I hated and was annoyed at. It was interesting, but not interesting enough to hold my attention. I kept putting it down, and it took me several days to finish it. I wanted to like this more, I really do, but I just don’t know why I don’t. There were some really great lines from this novel that highlighted, but aside from that, I read through this novel being on the neutral side of things instead of hating it or loving it.

“No sense in worrying about the past. It’s not going to worry about you.”

Review: Will the Real Abi Saunders Please Stand Up?

Title: Will the Real Abi Saunders Please Stand Up?
Author: Sara Hantz
Series: N/A, Standalone
Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Contemporary
Publication Date: May 6th, 2014
My Rating: 5 Stars

  Abi Saunders might be a kickboxing champion, but when it comes to being the center of attention, she’d rather take a roundhouse kick to the solar plexus any day. So when her trainer convinces her to audition to be the stunt double for hot teen starlet Tilly Watson, Abi is shocked—and a little freaked out—when she gets the job.

  Being a stunt double is overwhelming, but once the wig and makeup are on, Abi feels like a different person. Tilly Watson, to be exact. And when Tilly’s gorgeous boyfriend, Jon, mistakes Abi for the real star, Abi’s completely smitten. In fact, she’s so in love with her new life, it isn’t long before she doesn’t have time for her old one.

  But when the cameras are turned off, will she discover running with the Hollywood A-list isn’t quite the glamorous existence she thought it was?

  When kickboxer Abi Saunders was offered to be the stunt double for her idol Tilly Watson, she was surprised and scared to do it, especially because of her stutter. But when everyone encouraged her to do it, she finally agreed. As time passed by, Abi learned to have confidence in herself and also, who her true friends are.

  Will the Read Abi Saunders Stand Up was a book that seemed exciting at first, but was a huge disappointment. The manner of speaking and the tone of the whole book felt tense and unnatural. Abi was whiny and bitchy, and for being 18, she sure acts like she’s around 14 or so. Abi was, simply put, an ungrateful bitch for most of the book, not caring about anyone but herself.

  The only that I liked about this book was how supportive her friends and family were, and how everything came together with Tilly in the end. Aside from those, I didn’t think there were anything to like.

  I felt like the book had a lot of potential when I first read the synopsis, but the book was not able to live up to it. The book didn’t capture my attention, and I found myself skimming over the book rather than reading everything. For most parts during the end, I didn’t feel like reading anything but the conversations. This book was not for me, and I had a hard time convincing myself to finish it.

“You can dress up and pretend to be someone else, but you’ll never be able to hide who you are from me. Because you shine through everything. Forget the glitz and glamour. Just be yourself. No one can compete with that.”