Review: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas {5.0}

 

Title: The Hate U Give
Author: Angie Thomas
Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Contemporary
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Publication Date: February 28, 2017
Pages: 464 pages
My Rating: 5 Stars

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

The Hate U Give is one of the most amazing books I’ve ever read, and I wanna beat myself up for not reading this when it came out but I just got really scared of the hype. With hyped books, it’s usually a hit or miss for me, and I didn’t want people to hate me if I didn’t like this one. But oh boy, I was so wrong because I love this book with all my heart. In fact, this is my first 5-star book of the year.

I actually just watched the trailer for this one the other day, and I had goosebumps the entire time. The Hate U Give is a book that everyone must either read, or watch at least once in their lives. It’s an amazing story about a young girl finding her voice, having solace in her family, standing up for herself, living through grief, learning to love, learning the reality of Black violence, along with all the things that come from being a teenager.

The story is beautifully written, and I definitely felt so much while reading it. It’s amazing how Angie Thomas was able to weave all these things together into one beautiful novel. The Hate U Give encompasses so much, and my heart truly connected with the characters in this one. They all felt very real to me, and I just had this urge to give Starr a big hug. Ugh, definitely a must-read!

eye-opening-and-life-changing stars
Angie Thomas

Review: Loveboat, Taipei by Abigail Hing Wen {4.0}

 

Title: Loveboat, Taipei
Author: Abigail Hing Wen
Series: N/A
Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Contemporary
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Publication Date: April 4th, 2017
Pages: 414
My Rating: 4 Stars

When eighteen-year-old Ever Wong’s parents send her from Ohio to Taiwan to study Mandarin for the summer, she finds herself thrust among the very over-achieving kids her parents have always wanted her to be, including Rick Woo, the Yale-bound prodigy profiled in the Chinese newspapers since they were nine—and her parents’ yardstick for her never-measuring-up life.

Unbeknownst to her parents, however, the program is actually an infamous teen meet-market nicknamed Loveboat, where the kids are more into clubbing than calligraphy and drinking snake-blood sake than touring sacred shrines.

Free for the first time, Ever sets out to break all her parents’ uber-strict rules—but how far can she go before she breaks her own heart?

As a daughter of immigrant Chinese parents myself, I relate to this book in so many levels. When I was in high school, I also got sent to Taiwan for a study tour. The main difference was that I went willingly and with my friends, as opposed to Ever who didn’t like the idea. Being born in a different country and growing up with various influences, I also failed to love the part of me that is Chinese at a young age. Seeing Ever’s struggles, especially with her parents, I know that those are genuine because I have experienced the same things myself.

Loveboat, Taipei was an easy and cute read, but filled with so much substance and meaning. I loved all the friendships that formed within the novel, the easiness with which they all kind of related to each other. I really loved how I enjoyed even the minor characters, especially the boys who took Asian stereotypes into their own hands. I also loved the accurate Mandarin sentences in the novel, and I’m kind of proud that I understood them. (Take that, 13 years of Mandarin lessons!)

I really enjoyed reading this book, but I would have liked it better if it explored the culture and country more. I really wanted more details about tradition and a better description of the night markets and the amazing food because this book was in the position to do so. It had so much potential to educate others about our culture and it failed a little bit in that aspect for me. But then again, it might be a personal bias, because the main story was really well-written and relatable not only for those of Chinese descent, but for every teenager out there.

4 culturally-relatable stars

Review: My Plain Jane by Cynthia Hand, Jodi Meadows & Brodi Ashton {2.5}

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Title: My Plain Jane
Author: Cynthia Hand, Jodi Meadows, Brodi Ashton
Series: The Lady Janies #2
Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Fantasy, Mythology
Publisher: HarperTeen
Publication Date: June 26th, 2016
Pages: 464
My Rating: 2.5 Stars

You may think you know the story. After a miserable childhood, penniless orphan Jane Eyre embarks on a new life as a governess at Thornfield Hall. There, she meets one dark, brooding Mr. Rochester. Despite their significant age gap (!) and his uneven temper (!!), they fall in love—and, Reader, she marries him. (!!!)

Or does she?

Prepare for an adventure of Gothic proportions, in which all is not as it seems, a certain gentleman is hiding more than skeletons in his closets, and one orphan Jane Eyre, aspiring author Charlotte Brontë, and supernatural investigator Alexander Blackwood are about to be drawn together on the most epic ghost hunt this side of Wuthering Heights.

 

When I read My Lade Jane as an ARC way before it came out, I loved it so much that I said I would read anything that these three authors come up with. And because of that, I didn’t even read the synopsis for My Plain Jane before requesting it and diving into it. Maybe it’s because of that, or maybe it’s because of my high expectations, but I found My Plain Jane to be lackluster and boring.

My Plain Jane is sort of a retelling of Jane Eyre, except in this story, we see that Charlotte Brontë and Jane Eyre are actually friends. It also showed how Charlotte came to write the book, and how things did not exactly happen as how Charlotte told it.

There were some things here and there that piqued my interest, but compared to the whole story arc, these are only bits and pieces. For the most part, I didn’t really feel that invested in the story. I couldn’t make up my mind as to whether the bringing in of ghosts made the story interesting or feel a bit juvenile. I really just felt kind of meh about the whole thing. I will still read the next book, but I just didn’t like this.

2.5 dragging and disappointing stars

Review: Catwoman: Soulstealer by Sarah J. Maas {4.0}

 

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Title:
 Catwoman: Soulstealer
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance, Retelling
Publisher: Random House Books for young Readers
Publication Date:  August 7th, 2018
Pages: 384 pages
My Rating: 4 Stars

When the Bat’s away, the Cat will play. It’s time to see how many lives this cat really has. . . .

Two years after escaping Gotham City’s slums, Selina Kyle returns as the mysterious and wealthy Holly Vanderhees. She quickly discovers that with Batman off on a vital mission, Batwing is left to hold back the tide of notorious criminals. Gotham City is ripe for the taking.

Meanwhile, Luke Fox wants to prove he has what it takes to help people in his role as Batwing. He targets a new thief on the prowl who seems cleverer than most. She has teamed up with Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn, and together they are wreaking havoc. This Catwoman may be Batwing’s undoing.

Catwoman: Soulstealer is the first book I finished in 2019, and I take a lot of pleasure in that fact. Sarah J. Maas has always been one of my favorite authors and I long ago vowed to read any book she publishes. I also read Batman: Nightwalker, which is why I was super excited about this one.

If you guys know me, you would probably know that I did not grow up with superheroes. In fact, I don’t know much about them. And then I read Batman: Nightwalker, and I started getting interested, until I binge-watched the entire Marvel universe movies. I still don’t know a lot about DC, so I don’t know back stories and all that. So fair warning, this review is from the perspective of a person who doesn’t know anything at all, and may or may not have pestered her brother to inform her about such things.

When I first picked up Catwoman: Soulstealer, I didn’t know if I would like it or not. I had such high expectations because of Batman: Nightwalker but this one was slow in the beginning. I enjoyed being transported into the world, but not much exciting was happening yet. And then I got to about 50% and things started become so exciting that I forgot to put the book down. Towards the end, I was wiping tears from my eyes and my heart felt full.

Catwoman: Soulstealer centers on Selina Kyle, who disguised herself as socialite Holly Vanderhees. She goes to Gotham to wreak havoc, while Luke Fox – Batwing – tries to anticipate and stop her. I like how this novel centered on Catwoman being a villain instead of the superhero portion. I like how this story gave dimension to her character and how she formed amazing bonds within the novel. It’s amazing how human villains can be when we look into their backstories. I really liked the way everything tied together and unfolded.

Catwoman: Soulstealer is not a fast-paced action novel in my opinion, which was what I was expecting. This novel gave just the right amount of action, but it focuses more on the humanizing part, as well as the wit. It was also humorous in some parts, and I may or may not have been caught grinning like a fool on the airplane. This novel is well-rounded and exciting, and I really enjoyed it.

Review: Sadie by Courtney Summers {4.0}

 

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Title:
 Sadie
Author: Courtney Summers
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Mystery
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Publication Date:  September 8th, 2018
Pages: 311 pages
My Rating: 4 Stars

A missing girl on a journey of revenge. A Serial―like podcast following the clues she’s left behind. And an ending you won’t be able to stop talking about.

Sadie hasn’t had an easy life. Growing up on her own, she’s been raising her sister Mattie in an isolated small town, trying her best to provide a normal life and keep their heads above water.

But when Mattie is found dead, Sadie’s entire world crumbles. After a somewhat botched police investigation, Sadie is determined to bring her sister’s killer to justice and hits the road following a few meager clues to find him.

When West McCray―a radio personality working on a segment about small, forgotten towns in America―overhears Sadie’s story at a local gas station, he becomes obsessed with finding the missing girl. He starts his own podcast as he tracks Sadie’s journey, trying to figure out what happened, hoping to find her before it’s too late.

Courtney Summers has written the breakout book of her career. Sadie is propulsive and harrowing and will keep you riveted until the last page.

If you know me, you probably know that this is not my type of read. I don’t like reading about crime, gory stuff, or things that make me overly uncomfortable. However, curiosity got the better of me with this one as it was hyped so much that I just had to know what everyone was talking about. It did make me uncomfortable, it did make me read about things I don’t normally like reading about, but it also made me understand all the hype surrounding it.

Booktubers recommended to listen to the audiobook of this instead of reading the paperback, so I did. I learned that it has a cast of about 30 voice actors, and that just validated how amazing it could be. And it was. While I did not love this book as much as other people did, I still liked it.

This book is not one to be enjoyed. This book is to be understood and put to heart. Sadie is not a fun book to read, but it is an important and necessary one. It fucked me up and it bothered me, but it opened up my eyes. Sadie is one of the most infuriating characters ever, but she’s one of the realest ones as well.

I honestly don’t know how to give a proper review of this book because I still can’t wrap my head around the story until now so this is my best attempt. All I can say is if you can, listen to it on audiobook, and get ready to be mind fucked. Oh, and the hype is totally worth it!

Furyborn by Claire Legrand {3.0}

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Title: Furyborn
Author: Claire Legrand
Series: Empirium #1
Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Fantasy
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Publication Date: May 22nd, 2018
Pages: Kindle, 512 pages
My Rating: 3 Stars

Follows two fiercely independent young women, centuries apart, who hold the power to save their world…or doom it.

When assassins ambush her best friend, the crown prince, Rielle Dardenne risks everything to save him, exposing her ability to perform all seven kinds of elemental magic. The only people who should possess this extraordinary power are a pair of prophesied queens: a queen of light and salvation and a queen of blood and destruction. To prove she is the Sun Queen, Rielle must endure seven trials to test her magic. If she fails, she will be executed…unless the trials kill her first.

A thousand years later, the legend of Queen Rielle is a mere fairy tale to bounty hunter Eliana Ferracora. When the Undying Empire conquered her kingdom, she embraced violence to keep her family alive. Now, she believes herself untouchable–until her mother vanishes without a trace, along with countless other women in their city. To find her, Eliana joins a rebel captain on a dangerous mission and discovers that the evil at the heart of the empire is more terrible than she ever imagined.

As Rielle and Eliana fight in a cosmic war that spans millennia, their stories intersect, and the shocking connections between them ultimately determine the fate of their world–and of each other.

I first heard about Furyborn while watching a book haul on Youtube, and once I heard what it was about, I knew that I had to read it immediately. Once I got a copy, I immediately started reading, and I must say, the first chapter was so captivating that I knew this was going to be a great novel. However, I had some issues with reading this book, and although I really am interested in the story, I couldn’t give it more than 3 stars because of those issues.

 

What I Didn’t Like:
1. The long, excessive narratives: As I said, I really like the story that this novel tells, but I just found the narratives to be quite boring. I often found myself skimming the pages until conversations would come up because the book is a long one. I still want to read the next book, but I just hope that the 2nd book would be more concise so it would be less boring.
2. The main characters: The main characters were both insufferable, although I must say I grew to like Eliana more towards the end of the novel. I couldn’t say the same thing for Rielle though. She’s so arrogant and prideful, and sometimes I just want to shake her awake because dude, can you see the situation you are in? Do you think this is the time to boast around your skills just because you have them? Gosh! And with Eliana, at first I couldn’t get a grip on her personality because she switches from one decision to another completely opposite decision, without thinking of how it will affect others, and within a few pages. She was confusing as heck, and it was hard to keep up with her.
3. The alternating POVs: I really, really hated the way in which the chapters ended. I feel like it just takes me out of the story, instead of deepen my interest in it. The chapters cut the POV right as I was getting interested, and because of that I kind of forgot my interest after the next chapter. It was also confusing at first, because it was hard to keep up with what was going on. I kind of wished that this was two separate books instead of one.
4. It was confusing despite the number of pages: Speaking of confusion, this book was confusing as heck! So many things happened, and yet I have no answers. I just read a 500-page novel, and I only have the tiniest clue about what this really is about. Although this book did a good job in setting the tone for the following novels, I just felt like there were still far too many questions left unanswered.

 

What I Liked:
1. The side characters: I really enjoyed the characters of Remy and Ludivine. They add a nice element to the story, and the innocence coming from them both is really just something else. I always like it whenever they appear in the story. Sometimes I like Audric and Navi as well, although other times I just want to knock Audric in the head because he can be so clueless at times.
2. The story: Although I complain about how slow the plot moves, I really am interested and invested in how the story will go. I’m genuinely interested because it seems like such a unique story. Even though I did not love this one, I see myself still continuing on with the series because I just feel the potential. I mean, angels are bad in this novel, and there are prophecies, kingdoms to save, and so many secrets yet to uncover. I honestly can’t wait for the next book!
3. The gripping start: Honestly, the first chapter was what really drew me in. I loved how action-packed and ominous it was. It’s what got me excited for this book, and it’s also what’s still hooking me to the series, even though I didn’t love it. If we’re basing it on Rielle’s chapters, the first one was actually in the future, after everything has already happened. Honestly, I’m more interested in the after of that first chapter than the before, so I just want to find out more about what happened.

 

Overall, this book is a unique story that I truly am interested in, but I just couldn’t rate it higher because the plot was moving too slow for me, it was confusing at times, and I felt like there are still so many questions left unanswered. That said, I still can’t wait for the second book because I just want to find out more about this world!
interesting-but-slow stars

 

Review: When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon {5.0}


Title: When Dimple Met Rishi
Author: Sandhya Menon
Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Contemporary
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication Date:  May 30thth, 2017
Pages: 380 pages
My Rating: 5 Stars

Dimple Shah has it all figured out. With graduation behind her, she’s more than ready for a break from her family, from Mamma’s inexplicable obsession with her finding the “Ideal Indian Husband.” Ugh. Dimple knows they must respect her principles on some level, though. If they truly believed she needed a husband right now, they wouldn’t have paid for her to attend a summer program for aspiring web developers…right?

Rishi Patel is a hopeless romantic. So when his parents tell him that his future wife will be attending the same summer program as him—wherein he’ll have to woo her—he’s totally on board. Because as silly as it sounds to most people in his life, Rishi wants to be arranged, believes in the power of tradition, stability, and being a part of something much bigger than himself.

The Shahs and Patels didn’t mean to start turning the wheels on this “suggested arrangement” so early in their children’s lives, but when they noticed them both gravitate toward the same summer program, they figured, Why not?

Dimple and Rishi may think they have each other figured out. But when opposites clash, love works hard to prove itself in the most unexpected ways.

When I first read the synopsis for When Dimple Met Rishi, I immediately wanted to read it. Fake and arranged relationships that turn into love are guilty pleasures of mine when it comes to romance novels. When I learned that this also features Indian characters, I just needed it in my hands! However, I was kind of put off because of the low Goodreads rating. Speaking of, how can such an amazing book not even have 4 stars?! How appalling! Anyway, I’ve read both positive and negative reviews on this one, and I kept them in mind while reading the novel. I mostly remembered the negative ones, but I couldn’t help but disagree with those because I just loved When Dimple Met Rishi so much!
I saw so much of myself in all the characters – Dimple, Rishi, Ashish, and Celia – and I just couldn’t help but fall in love with each of the characters. Being born of immigrant parents myself (Chinese in the Philippines) I sometimes feel like I don’t belong anywhere as well (Dimple) and how I still want to uphold the traditions of my ancestors (Rishi), at least those that I know of. Most of the time, I do things I’m uncomfortable with as well so as not to break the status quo and be branded as overreacting (Celia), and always have a defensive stance and not let people see me hurt or sad (Ashish). Sometimes I also don’t have the courage to speak up for what I know is right (Isabelle) and just like the parents of Dimple and Rishi, I often don’t know how to show love, understanding and acceptance in a way people would understand.
When Dimple and Rishi is a very dynamic book that encompasses so much. It showed Dimple’s relationship with her family, as well as Rishi’s relationship with his family. Here, it was seen that there were a lot of misunderstandings and ultimately, all our parents want for us at the end of the day is what would be best for us. Sometimes they don’t understand that what makes us happy may be the best things for us, but we to do our parts as well and make them understand. I also really loved how the relationship of Ashish and Rishi took a turn for the better after they talked to each other, although it still wasn’t perfect in the end.
I also loved how it featured aspects of Indian culture because it’s books like this that make people more open minded about the different cultures in the world. I had some issues because there were no translations for the Indian words in the novel, but that’s a minor issue for me. The aspects of respect towards elders and having to call relatives confusing titles is something similar with our culture as well, and I’m glad that I learned new things about Indian culture.
My favorite aspect is the journey that Dimple’s character took. She was very headstrong and stubborn at first, but towards the end of the book I believe that she has learned a lot. She often criticizes herself, but she’s also very adamant when it comes to her goals. Some people might find her character annoying, but I find her character to be full of potential. My favorite is probably when she learned to listen to her heart and learned to speak up for herself when it comes to her parents.
More than just about feels and romance, When Dimple Met Rishi is about culture, family, self-discovery, personal growth, gaining courage, learning to break the mold, and most of all, learning to listen to your heart and following it despite the criticisms of others, and most especially yourself. This book made me so happy and made me feel so many different things. I loved it to bits and pieces, and I wish everyone could appreciate it as much as I did. This is definitely a must-read!
5 dynamic stars