ARC Review: Busted by Gina Ciocci {3.5}

Busted.png

 

21825764
Title: Busted
Author: Gina Ciocca
Series: N/A
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Publication Date:  January 1st, 2018
Pages: 288
My Rating: 3.5 Stars

Marisa wasn’t planning to be a snoop for hire—until she accidentally caught her best friend’s boyfriend making out with another girl. Now her reputation for sniffing out cheaters has spread all over school, and Marisa finds herself the reluctant queen of busting two-timing boys.

But when ex-frenemy Kendall asks her to spy on her boyfriend, TJ, Marisa quickly discovers the girl TJ might be falling for is Marisa herself. And worse yet? The feelings are quickly becoming mutual. Now, she’s stuck spying on a “mystery girl” and the spoken-for guy who just might be the love of her life…

It has been a long, loooooong time since I last finished reading a book in one day, and Busted was the one that finally cracked me after a while, even with responsibilities the whole afternoon. Busted was written in such a way that it was addicting and hard to put down, and I couldn’t stop even when my brain nagged at me to do homework. I’m not a fan of mysteries, but the hint of a little mystery in this book was just perfect to make the book addicting.

Busted is a short and quick read, and I loved how invested I was in the story. My absolute favorite things about this book are the friendship and family dynamics. For the friendship, I loved how Marisa and Charlie could talk to each other honestly, to the point that Marisa called out Charlie for being judgemental, and Charlie apologizing instead of getting mad like most people would be. I just loved how they could talk everything out with respect, and not with the tone of blame. For the family, I loved how Charlie could freely talk to her mother about things, and how her brother is actually an accomplice instead of the enemy.

On the other hand, I felt like sometimes the story seemed to lack direction and objective because it was just snaking its way through everything without a clear path. Sometimes it felt like reading in circles. It also dragged on a little bit for some of the parts. I don’t know why I felt this way towards the book, and I really can’t explain it in words, but that was what was on my mind while reading it.

The major issue I have with this book is the lack of connection with any of the characters. This is the reason why, although I enjoyed the book, I couldn’t give it a rating higher than 3.5 stars. I just didn’t feel anything for the characters, and I absolutely dislike the love interest. For me, TJ is sketchy af, and I just didn’t really feel that he liked Charlie honestly. Maybe in the start but then towards the end it seemed like he didn’t care about Charlie, and even supported her flirting with another guy. Shouldn’t he be at least a teeny tiny bit jealous or protective? I don’t know, I just didn’t like him overall.

To wrap things up, I really enjoyed this quick and addicting read, although I couldn’t give it a higher rating because I didn’t really connect with any of the characters.

3.5 couldn’t-connect stars

Dress Up That Cover #82: Gemina


Dress Up That Cover is a new feature where I create an outfit based merely on the cover, not the story nor what the characters would wear. Colors of the outfit will all be taken from the cover design, so the books may be ones that I haven’t read yet. All sets will be created via Polyvore.
Gemina

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: Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson {5.0}

Title: Steelheart
Author: Brandon Sandeson
Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Fantasy
Publisher: Delacorte
Publication Date:  September 24th, 2013
Pages: 386 pages
My Rating: 5 Stars
Ten years ago, Calamity came. It was a burst in the sky that gave ordinary men and women extraordinary powers. The awed public started calling them Epics. But Epics are no friend of man. With incredible gifts came the desire to rule. And to rule man you must crush his will.

Nobody fights the Epics…nobody but the Reckoners. A shadowy group of ordinary humans, they spend their lives studying Epics, finding their weaknesses, and then assassinating them.

And David wants in. He wants Steelheart — the Epic who is said to be invincible. The Epic who killed David’s father. For years, like the Reckoners, David’s been studying, and planning — and he has something they need. Not an object, but an experience.

He’s seen Steelheart bleed. And he wants revenge.
I almost gave up on this book, but thankfully, I didn’t. I have started reading Steelheart numerous times already, but like The Book Thief, I have never gotten past 2-3 chapters until today. And oh my goodness, this book took me by surprise! Why the heck did I not read this book, or any other Brandon Sanderson book sooner?! Ugh, I’m so frustrated with myself, and I just freaking need the next book already!
Steelheart is one of the best fantasy books I’ve ever read. The concept of the book is one of the most unique ones I’ve encountered in YA. I’ve never seen a book about supervillains before, and this immediately caught my attention. In this book, the main character is a human who want to defeat a supervillain with superpowers. Long gone was the time they believed that there would be good Epics rather than bad. 
The excitement and the action in the book was just addicting. This book definitely has that can’t-put-down factor. Tt has been a long time since I have read a book like that, which is why this book is all the more precious to me. As I was reading, my heart was definitely pounding, and I even reacted physically, not just in my head. That, for me, is a great indicator of how amazing a book is because I typically don’t like showing my reactions to other people. And I was reading in public, mind you. 
This book is a paradox for me because while there were a few times that it caught me off guard, it felt kind of predictable to me as well. But I won’t be deducting any stars for that because this book deserves no less than 5 stars. There were tiny moments when this book made me go :O, but mostly I was able to guess things before they even happened. Why couldn’t I deduct a star? Simply because the fact that the book is predictable doesn’t deduct from the excitement. Even though I guessed some of the things that would happen, it still totally made my heart pound with excitement.
Oh my goodness, I have so many questions about this book. I have read the sneak peek for the second book at the end of this book, and I kind of regret it because it just makes me want to read the second book more. There are still a lot of loose ends that would have to be answered throughout the series, and I cannot wait! Whereas the first book took some time for the action to take off, the second book immediately starts with one. Ugh, I need to get my hands on that book! 
Overall, this book is completely amazing! If you guys are tired of the cheesy romances in most YA fantasy novels, try this one for a kickass main character and minor romance. Endless recommendations for this one, seriously. Now I’m off to cry because I still don’t have the next book yet. On the flip side, I have other Brandon Sanderson novels on my bookshelf..

why-the-heck-didn’t-i-read-this-sooner?! stars

Review: Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas {4.0}

Title: Empire of Storms
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Series: Throne of Glass #5
Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Fantasy
Publisher: Bloomsbury Chilren’s Books
Publication Date: September 26th, 2016
Pages: Paperback, 693
My Rating: 4 Stars

KINGDOMS WILL COLLIDE.

The long path to the throne has only just begun for Aelin Galathynius as war looms on the horizon. Loyalties have been broken and bought, friends have been lost and gained, and those who possess magic find themselves at odds with those who don’t.

With her heart sworn to the warrior-prince by her side, and her fealty pledged to the people she is determined to save, Aelin will delve into the depths of her power to protect those she loves. But as monsters emerge from the horrors of the past, and dark forces become poised to claim her world, the only chance for salvation will lie in a desperate quest that may mark the end of everything Aelin holds dear.

In this breathtaking fifth installment of the New York Times bestselling Throne of Glass series, Aelin will have to choose what—and who—to sacrifice if she’s to keep the world of Erilea from breaking apart.

This is actually not the first time I have started Empire of Storms. The first time I started it was immediately after its release, but I found that it couldn’t hold me attention and I couldn’t get past a hundred pages so I put off reading it until now. Honestly, I was scared because I love SJM and this is one of my favorites series of all time, and if I didn’t like this book, that would forever tarnish the series. Thankfully, that didn’t happen; however, I didn’t love this book as much as I loved the rest of the books on the series.

Sarah J. Maas writes the fifth book in her novel with the same excitement and element of surprise as how she wrote the other books in the series. The plot is amazing and intricately woven, the characters are badass, and the events are either blood-pumping or heart-stopping. What this book lacked, however, was the hold of my attention. It took me a long time to finish because it didn’t fully grip me, and there wasn’t much that happened that I loved. But with this book, I came to realize something, and that’s what I’m gonna talk about in this review.

Sarah J. Maas crafts her characters in such a way that they are not perfect. Take Aelin, our main protagonist, for example. She is the main character, yet a lot of people, including myself, think she’s an arrogant b*tch. And yes, she may be that, but I love her nonetheless because she protects those she cares about with all her heart. She shows the world how cruel she is, she keeps a strong facade of arrogance and fearlessness, so her companions wouldn’t have to worry about anything. And yes, she may be arrogant at times, but a protagonist who is perfect is boring. SJM portrays a good balance of good and bad in every single one of the characters, and it just makes them all the more real to me. Because that’s how life is – filled with both positives and negatives.

Aedion, Aelin’s cousin, is not perfect as well. Albeit being an amazing warrior and completely ready to help his cousin, he couldn’t help but doubt her at times. His temper is bad as well. Lysandra is very smart and will follow Aelin to the ends of whatever world, but she has her demons that she has to face. Lorcan is so, so evil that he’s so easy to hate, but he was easy to warm up to as well. Every single one of the characters possess something that made me want to scream at each one of the throughout the novel, and I loved it. Because it makes them human, and it makes them all the more relatable to. This is something that I don’t often see in YA fantasy, and I’m glad that SJM did it.

Overall, I didn’t love this book as much as I loved all the other books from the series, but I did stumble upon an amazing realization that changed the way I viewed the series, as well as each of the characters, as a whole. Of course, even though this isn’ a favorite, I still couldn’t wait to read the next book because oh goodness, there’s still so much to be learned about the world and the plot. I can’t wait for book 6!

a-new-perspective stars

Review: Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo {4.0}

Author: Leigh Bardugo
Series: Six of Crows #2
Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Fantasy
Publisher: Orion Children’s Books
Publication Date: September 26th, 2016
Pages: Paperback, 536
My Rating: 4 Stars

Welcome to the world of the Grisha.

After pulling off a seemingly impossible heist in the notorious Ice Court, criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker feels unstoppable. But life is about to take a dangerous turn—and with friends who are among the deadliest outcasts in Ketterdam city, Kaz is going to need more than luck to survive in this unforgiving underworld.

I don’t even know how to start this review properly because I have such conflicting feelings for this. I usually rate books based on my enjoyment and how it manages to catch my attention. And while I didn’t fully enjoy this one because it just didn’t have that gripping factor that the first book had, I had to give this one points for how many times the plot took me by surprise and caught me off guard.

Crooked Kingdom is the sequel to Six of Crows, a book that completely took me by surprise. I was really excited to read this book, but I have to say that I was kind of disappointed in this one. While a lot more things happen in this book than it did in the last book, this book just didn’t have the excitement of the first book where my heart was pounding and I couldn’t put down the book no matter how hard I tried. With this book, a lot of things happened, and as usual Kaz was clever and surprised me with his schemes, but I just wasn’t as mind blown as I was with the first book.

The plot was definitely well thought out though, so I couldn’t give this book lower than 4 stars. The plot is so intricately woven, and everything has to be planned out and clear right from the start to pull it off. I know that’s a feat that can’t be pulled off by many. There were so many hidden agendas, but they all add up in the end. They just make sense, you know? However, because of the number of times it has happened already, sometimes it felt like too many. I know that I would be surprised by Kaz’ schemes, and while I did not expect what Kaz would do, I expected to be surprised. As a result, I was not that surprised anymore.

Nevertheless, the conclusion of this book is beautiful. Things were still not perfect for the characters, but they were good enough. I love how everyone just knew what they were supposed to do after everything, but at the same time let the tides take them where they may. I don’t know, I just think it was beautiful. But let’s not forget for a minute what happened towards the end, when it made me think that this book is so, so cruel. Ugh, I don’t know why that had to happen? I hope you all know what I’m talking about because I don’t want to put any spoilers.

Overall, I was kind of disappointed by this book, but not by much. I really loved how intricately woven the plot was, and I kind of wish there’s a next book even though the ending was beautiful.

something lacking 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