ARC Review: The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco

30095464Title: The Bone Witch

Author : Rin Chupeco

Publisher : Sourcebooks Fire

Release date : March 7th, 2017

Rating : 3.8/5

☯ Synopsis (from Goodreads) :

When Tea accidentally resurrects her brother from the dead, she learns she is different from the other witches in her family. Her gift for necromancy means that she’s a bone witch, a title that makes her feared and ostracized by her community. But Tea finds solace and guidance with an older, wiser bone witch, who takes Tea and her brother to another land for training.

In her new home, Tea puts all her energy into becoming an asha — one who can wield elemental magic. But dark forces are approaching quickly, and in the face of danger, Tea will have to overcome her obstacles…and make a powerful choice.

⚜ Review :

As a lasting impression, the book really wasn’t that bad!

The biggest disappointment would be caused by the lack of “exciting” events, if I may say so. One would say it was too boring. Indeed, when reading the summary, or just solely based on how fantasy YA books usually work, one would expect a profusion of “exciting” events. And The Bone Witch didn’t offer much in that department. There was no sense of real danger, no fear about those ominous “dark forces”.

BUT, luckily for me, I came in without much expectation because… I’d forgotten what the synopsis was. I just opened the ebook and started reading, because I was attracted to the cover *woops*. But it saved me quite a few sighs (disappointment) and burnt up neurons (anger). I’ve got to say, though, that the writing wasn’t exceptional. If the book was any less good, I wouldn’t have survived the entirety of it.

So how did my no-expectation attitude get me to be okay with The Bone Witch? As I didn’t know what to expect, I just gulped down every plot line Chupeco offered. As I read on, I came to understand that it was an intricate tapestry of the asha’s world. I’m the kind of person who loves to learn new things, and in this case, I was learning about a new culture, down to the tiniest details… And I greatly appreciated that. I think Chupeco’s main focus with her first-in-a-trilogy was to set the pieces on the board before making us dive into the next books. Therefore, she teaches us about asha’s mores and traditions, and how their social roles and reputation built their way of living. Asha have a strong resemblance to geisha, in the sense that they are professional entertainers, but in addition to that, they are also trained fighters. So, for an informative book, I think there was enough action.

However, at the beginning, I was confused a few times because there were many new words, so there were a few parts that lost me. Also, Chupeco could have taught us more about the other kingdoms, instead of just mentioning them.

If you think real (too?) hard, you could see a hint of love triangle, but by no means an actual one. I know many people will consider it as such, though, but in my opinion, there was ever only one cute, little crush in the works.

Another aspect I thoroughly enjoyed was the alternating chapters between the past and the present, the still-innocent Tea (Tay-uh, 12-15 years old) and her now bitter, older self (17 years old). It’s very interesting to witness how much she changed because of her new life. We spend more time with the young Tea, who didn’t know anything about her abilities before resurrecting her brother Fox. In her ignorance, she is vulnerable, at a disadvantage and therefore, shy. But despite these circumstances, she tries very hard to learn, she is persistent. And the more she learns, the more she strengthens and asserts herself. I agree she’s a special snowflake, but at least she’s intelligent and capable (most of the time).

Some other characters could have been more developed, some others were purposefully mysterious, but I still believe Chupeco could have done a better job at exploiting her characters. She equally often tried to breach certain social issues, such as discrimination and various ethnicities, but she never lingered much on them, so they all passed under the radar rather easily. The only socially relevant subject she actually succeeded in bringing up was the gender expectations/stereotypes, as in the acceptable social roles of women and men.

 Then perhaps we should carve a world one day where the strength lies in who you are, rather than in what they expect you to be.

**I’d like to thank NetGalley and SOURCEBOOKS Fire for providing me with this ebook, in exchange for an honest review!

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Book Review: When The Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore

28220826Title: When The Moon Was Ours

Author : Anna-Marie McLemore

Publisher : Thomas Dunne

Release date : October 4th, 2016

Rating : 5/5

☯ Synopsis (from Goodreads) :

To everyone who knows them, best friends Miel and Sam are as strange as they are inseparable. Roses grow out of Miel’s wrist, and rumors say that she spilled out of a water tower when she was five. Sam is known for the moons he paints and hangs in the trees, and for how little anyone knows about his life before he and his mother moved to town. But as odd as everyone considers Miel and Sam, even they stay away from the Bonner girls, four beautiful sisters rumored to be witches. Now they want the roses that grow from Miel’s skin, convinced that their scent can make anyone fall in love. And they’re willing to use every secret Miel has fought to protect to make sure she gives them up.

⚜ Review :

When The Moon Was Ours was one of the most enchanting books I’ve ever read. ❤

I didn’t know the term for this genre before, but now I do : magical realism. And it’s possibly one of my favorite genres ever. McLemore’s writing is impeccable, and it contributed to give her novel its own brand of magic. I honestly think her prose is one of the most beautiful I’ve ever read. It’s light as a feather, soft as a breeze. The way she describes places makes me want to live in her world; her imagery is evocative and dream-like, tickling our understanding with metaphors and imaginative comparisons.

I’m not sure what else could I say to highlight the sheer beauty of McLemore’s writing, without using the same words : dreamy, soft, beautiful, magical. The author invites our senses to the reading, evoking them when describing a place or introducing characters:

Aracely had hair as gold as late afternoon, her eyes the deep brown of a wet, fertile field. Miel’s hair was dark as a starless autumn, a night made brown by fall leaves, and her eyes matched the gold of low twin moons. 

Because of the genre itself, it was at times confusing distinguishing between reality and metaphor, but it is an easy obstacle to surmount as the story progresses, and you realize that yes, roses do grow out of a girl’s wrist, and love sickness can be thrown out the window.

All these curiosities abound in the town in which live Miel and Sam. Though at first these two characters seem pretty bland, their worth starts unraveling as the reader is guided through their experiences, their feelings and their numerous struggles. The relationship between the two is amazing and as solid as rock. The certainty of their bond is felt even when they are apart, or even when it is strained by the heartbreaking secrets of their past and those of their close ones.

As much as the protagonists are interesting, the secondary characters deserve as much praise. Everyone has a rich backstory and an equally great plot line, which unravels their nuanced personalities and makes room for both sympathy and resentment.

But what makes the story itself unforgettable is the diversity and the respect of cultures. Here we have a Latina girl, and a half Pakistani boy, Spanish legends, a wide spectrum of gender identities, and everything that comes with it. Questions of body, of name, of how to support someone you love, are all well-handled. I can’t say with certainty that it was perfectly dealt with, as I have never been in this situation, but I think it was a close-to-perfect LGBT novel that everyone should read.

As I came near the ending, I realized that not many non-contemporary books tackle social issues with such sensitivity. Therefore, I thank McLemore for her awareness and generosity. How lucky we are to have such a talented author take the time to address those subjects!

Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with this book, and to Anna-Marie for writing it.

Book Review: The Lovely Reckless by Karmi Garcia

27414434Title: The Lovely Reckless

Author : Kami Garcia

Publisher : Imprint

Release date : October 4th, 2016

Rating : 2.8/5

☯ Synopsis (from Goodreads) :

Seventeen-year-old Frankie Devereux would do anything to forget the past. Haunted by the memory of her boyfriend’s death, she lives her life by one dangerous rule: Nothing matters. At least, that’s what Frankie tells herself after a reckless mistake forces her to leave her privileged life in the Heights to move in with her dad—an undercover cop. She transfers to a public high school in the Downs, where fistfights don’t faze anyone and illegal street racing is more popular than football.

Marco Leone is the fastest street racer in the Downs. Tough, sexy, and hypnotic, he makes it impossible for Frankie to ignore him—and how he makes her feel. But the risks Marco takes for his family could have devastating consequences for them both. When Frankie discovers his secret, she has to make a choice. Will she let the pain of the past determine her future? Or will she risk what little she has left to follow her heart?

⚜ Review :

I should’ve known I was going to be disappointed by this book; I thoroughly disliked Garcia’s Caster Chronicles. BUT, I chose to read it because the author is well-loved and I thought that I just missed the reason why, so I wanted to give her another chance. *sigh* I’ll have to resign myself to the fact that Garcia and I are not compatible.

I’ll start with the good points for this one.

Let’s be honest here: I was totally into it for the street racing. They said Romeo & Juliet/Fast and Furious? HELL YEAH. I learnt quite a few things about this dangerous sport (?) and, although there was not nearly enough of it throughout the story, I enjoyed everything related to it, whether it be the mechanics and the techniques or the races themselves.

I don’t know if Garcia was influenced by the subject of car racing, but I found that the plot was fast paced, almost never having a dull moment. I’m not saying there was action at every turn, but there was always something interesting happening (like a fight or an engaging conversation). Plus, I definitely wanted to know the conclusion of that story, which made it all the more captivating.

Personally, what contributed to the ever-entertaining storyline were the totally awesome, multi-dimensional secondary characters. Sure, they check off the list of “dark past victims” (maybe too much?), but they aren’t the broody, morose type. None of them *yay*! My favorite one is definitely CRUZ. Such a badass, I’m totally in love/want to be best friends/trusted accomplice with her. She knows her worth and is confident, without being arrogant, and so honest and true. WHAT, A, BADASS.

Finally, the most important point is that Karmi Garcia tried and somewhat succeeded in portraying a mental disorder called the Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). You may have heard of it when referring to war veterans; it’s the disorder that keeps them up at night, unable to sleep because of nightmares, that keeps their fingers shaking and their minds wandering. While Frankie doesn’t experience PTSD that exact same way, she does have those mood swings, heightened emotions and isolating habits.

UNFORTUNATELY, I think that’s all I appreciated about Frankie. I understand her situation is miserable; she suffers of PTSD after watching her boyfriend being beat to death (and not doing anything). But after some time, the negativity got boring and old. Let’s remember that this is a book, here? Spending hours and days on a girl who’s constantly negative got on my nerves. And what really triggered me, caused me to hate her, is the way she treats people, especially her dad. He’s not the perfect dad, and his job forces him to be absent often, but he’s trying, he genuinely wants to help her being safe and looks out for her. But she doesn’t see that, she talks to him in an insolent way, with so much venom. I swear I would’ve slapped her a few times if I were in there. She seems to be the spoiled little brat who throws tantrums when she doesn’t get what she wants… reinforced by the fact that she actually IS rich, as Garcia often reminds us. Actually, she’s just the rich girl rebelling.

I’m ending my ranting on this last complaint: INSTA-LOVE. How many times have they talked before they fell head over heels for each other? Um, 4 10-minute conversations? That’s hardly convincing. I can understand insta-lust, but you can’t actually make me believe that Frankie got a total of 40 mins to fall in love with someone. And what’s more, her boyfriend’s got beaten to death 3 months ago. Only 3 months, people, and then Frankie moves somewhere else, meets Marco, and claims to be in love with him. You know what’s worse? Garcia actually used the cheap trick of mentioning that Frankie “didn’t even really love her dead boyfriend anyway, so it’s totally okay for her to love this new guy now, while in mourning for her ex”. This justification of falling for Marco so quickly bothered me so much, I just couldn’t find it in me to ship them. And even their romance was so over-the-top clichés. Nop, not for me.

In conclusion, I wouldn’t recommend this book. The main character and the main romance left to be desired, the only redeeming qualities being the background plotlines and characters. I’m sorry to say this, but Kami Garcia will now have a permanent spot in my blacklist.

Thank you to NetGalley!

Book Review: Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova

22909234Title: The 52nd

Author : Dela

Publisher :Wise Ink Creative Publishing

Release date : October 27th, 2014

Rating : 3/5

☯ Synopsis (from Goodreads) :

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

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

⚜ Review :

Everything about my first impression of this novel attracted me: the synopsis (magic and a strange land? Yes!), the author’s name (a foreign name attached to a foreign culture? YES!) and the cover (the design and the costume? YASSS!!).

But then,… what happened?

It was just, so okay…

I can’t even pinpoint exactly what dropped the book at 3/5. But I could try, though.

I didn’t particularly care for Alex. She started off as a spoiled brat, ignoring her family’s love for her and just acting selfishly, but she got decent by the end of the book. Definitely not love-worthy, but she was okay.

The romance was also completely MEH. There was a love triangle, and Alex was indecisive about who she loved most, and though her bisexuality came as a great surprise, it just felt forced. I couldn’t find chemistry anywhere, nor with Nova, whom she had a lot of banters with, nor with Rishi, who was useless and irrelevant to the plot.

However, I liked the diversity and the culture we encountered. The quotes at the beginning of each chapter were of great interest to me also. I loved how Cordova attempted to bring us to another mythical world. Los Lagos is understandably compared to Wonderland; twists and turns will surprise readers, everything is up for questioning. Unfortunately, I never quite felt the sense of danger and urgency that I was supposed to feel. Alex literally has to save her parents in this strange and hostile world, but… I almost forgot it sometimes, maybe because of the pace the book took, or Nova’s and Alex’s behavior.

The whole concept of the novel was amazing, but it lacked a big something, a Wow Factor, a spark. It wasn’t exotic enough, otherworldly enough, intense enough. It lacked charm and wonder. It’s like wanting to dye your hair a bold red, but it turns out a faded dark pink.

Don’t get me wrong; I read it till the end, I was entertained, but always as a second entertainment, you know? If I had nothing else to do, I’d read it. Sorry for the unpopular opinion.

Thank you to NetGalley!

2016+2017 on TV: What I’m watching (and what you should watch)

Hey, guys!! Wow, it’s been a while! Please forgive me, I have no excuses for my WordPress negligence. It was just life taking over, you know? School, exams, maintaining my social life, discovering foodie gems in my city and, most importantly, the shows I started watching on TV/Netflix/computer.

Something you should know about me: I looove watching movies and series. Maybe just as much as reading! I love being transported into another world, or another life. Somewhere where my troubles don’t matter, where I’m not stuck in my situation. And while movies and books have their advantages, TV series have theirs also, and since they’re a bigger commitment, I like to choose carefully what I watch. I check the synopsis, the reviews, how many episodes have already been out, the hype surrounding it. So, here are my findings, starting by the bad!

The mistakes

  • The OA

Synopsis

Seven years after vanishing from her home, a young woman returns with mysterious new abilities and recruits five strangers for a secret mission.

I have never been more confused by a show in my entire life. The first few episodes brought up more questions than answers, the most prominent one being “What the hell is going on?“. Then, just when I thought I got the answers I needed, it all came crashing back down and I was left, once again, drowning in my confusion. Brit Marling’s acting was great, but her character was kind of annoying at some point. I definitely wouldn’t watch the 2nd season (if there’s one); I’d just read it fast on Wiki.

  • Penny Dreadful

Synopsis

Explorer Sir Malcolm Murray, American gunslinger Ethan Chandler, scientist Victor Frankenstein and medium Vanessa Ives unite to combat supernatural threats in Victorian London.

Ok so I’ll admit it : I only watched a few episodes of the first season. But it was enough to turn me off. I know it had good reviews, and a good cast, and great costumes, but I just think I wasn’t in the right mindset to watch it; it was too dark, too mystery/toned-down/depressing, for me to have liked it or tolerated it. I could very well start again some day, so all is not lost!

  • American Horror Story: Freak Show

Synopsis

A troupe of human curiosities has just arrived in town, coinciding with the strange emergence of a dark entity that savagely threatens the lives of townsfolk and freaks alike. This is the story of the performers and their desperate journey of survival amidst the dying world of the American carny experience.

I’ve really liked AHS so far, but despite the freakiness, the occasional scares and the morbid aspect that I would expect from every season, Freak Show just didn’t cut it. I didn’t particularly like the characters, the setting lacked charm (I don’t mean I want big castles or posh neighbourhoods; they just could’ve done better with the camera work and the lighting) and even my favorite recurrent actors suffered from the poor writing. –> Going straight to Hotel.

The gems

  • Sense8

Synopsis

Eight twentysomethings around the world discover they have an intimate connection to one another with emotional, mental and physical implications.

Can I get a HELL YEAH FOR DIVERSITY (races, genders & sexual orientations)?? This show completely blew my mind because they actually cast and filmed accordingly to the ethnicity of the characters. It might seem weird to hear all of them speak English, though, but that’s just so that we can understand without always reading subtitles. When they talk to each other, they actually speak their own language. The plot is suspenseful and colourful, and the characters are awesome, the locations are wow. There are sexual scenes, though, so don’t watch it with your parents. 🙂

  • A Series of Unfortunate Events

Synopsis

Lemony Snicket tells the story of the three Baudelaire orphans, who face countless obstacles and an evil uncle Count Olaf (Neil Patrick Harris) in their search for the truth behind their parents’ deaths.

I read all the books in this series first, then I watched the movie, was disappointed, but my hope was rekindled when I sat down to spend some time on this TV show. It’s a bit too childish, in my opinion, but I’ll stick to it because of the cinematography, the effects, the characters and the plot!

  • Riverdale

Synopsis

A subversive take on Archie and his friends, exploring small town life, the darkness and weirdness bubbling beneath Riverdale’s wholesome facade.

CHILDHOOD FEELS! Riverdale is the Archie comics for young adults (nop, I don’t mean teenagers, I mean young ADULTS). It’s darker, sexier and a lot more dramatic. I hope you know why I like this, hehe!

  • The Musketeers

Synopsis

Set on the streets of 17th century Paris, series gives a contemporary take on the classic story about a group of highly trained soldiers and bodyguards assigned to protect King and country.

Of course, we all know the story. The show itself is funny, charming, action-packed, has beautiful scenery, and it adds its own touch to the story! Oh and, Doctor Who is in it.

  • Westworld

Synopsis

A Western-themed futuristic theme park, populated with artificial intelligence, allows high-paying guests to live out their fantasies with no consequences or retaliation from the android hosts, until now.

If you’re into TV, I think you’ve heard of this one already. This show is absolutely brilliant! The acting is wow, the cinematography is beautiful, the directing is breathtaking. I particularly like the plot, and the eerie feeling I get everytime we see more of the androids. Definite must watch!

  • Stranger Things

Synopsis

When a young boy disappears, his mother, a police chief, and his friends must confront terrifying forces in order to get him back.

This one also, you’ve heard of, right? Needless to say, the cast is adorable! I could compare this show a little to Supernatural, because of the suspense and the supernatural aspect of it, but the old-ish feeling is completely its own!

The doubts

  • Bates Motel

Synopsis

A contemporary prequel to Psycho, giving a portrayal of how Norman Bates’ psyche unravels through his teenage years, and how deeply intricate his relationship with his mother, Norma, truly is.

Studying in psychology and having liked Psycho, I know I should love this one, but… I don’t. I should’ve expected it, though : I don’t have any sympathy for Norman. I like some aspects of the show, sometimes I’m entertained, but there are other times when I’m just so frustrated! One question: could they stop feeling sorry for themselves and just make a move to fix their problems?

  • Shadowhunters

Synopsis

After her mother is kidnapped, Clary must venture into the dark world of demon hunting.

This one I’m staying solely because I’m loyal to the books. And Simon. And Magnus. For real, though, the acting is generally atrocious, the special effects make me weep, the storyline doesn’t always make sense (because it diverges from the books). But the worst? CLARY FREAKING FAIRCHILD. GO TO HELL.

Book Review: The 52nd by Dela

23255448Title: The 52nd

Author : Dela

Publisher :Wise Ink Creative Publishing

Release date : October 27th, 2014

Rating : 2/5

☯ Synopsis (from Goodreads) :

Not one of the sacrifices chosen over the long history had survived–until now.

On the tip of the Yucatan peninsula, the immortal Castillo family gathers in Tulum. Weary and haunted, they receive the names of fifty-two human sacrifices chosen once every fifty-two years for the Underworld, a tradition thought to have disappeared with the fall of the Aztec and Mayan empires.

Driving home one night, college freshman Zara Moss swerves to avoid hitting a ghastly figure in the road. Lucas Castillo witnesses the car crash, but when it comes time to supervise her abduction from the wreckage, he intervenes. Something is different about Zara: Lucas has been having dreams of her arrival for five hundred years.

As Lucas and Zara come together to put an end to the bloody sacrifices, they discover that the ancient tradition isn’t so easily broken. The gods are angry, and they have until the Winter Solstice to drag Zara to the Underworld.

⚜ Review :

It just didn’t click.

During a time last year, I saw The 52nd a lot in my Instagram feed. And, just as expected, it heightened my enthusiasm toward it, I wanted to read, it couldn’t get in my hands fast enough. So when NetGalley kindly provided me with its e-book, I dove into it…and was fairly disappointed.

First of all, Zara, the main character, was horrible. Wait, maybe I’m being too harsh on her? She’s actually just the typical YA female protagonist. Okay no, I’m not being too harsh on her. No author would like their protagonist to be typical. It shows a lack of creativeness, a laziness on their part to think further. Zara is the “boys like me but I don’t know it” kind of girl. She’s the “I’m too cool to think about trivial things” kind of girl. But, really? Haha boy, I wouldn’t give a cent to date her, if I were interested. I mean, guys, look here: she’s so immature and thoughtless that you wouldn’t believe that she was in college. She doesn’t have the kind of behaviour that you would expect out of a college student, and believe me because I’m a college student myself, surrounded by other college students. And even college has its own flaws, because the author made it seem like high school.

Zara is also incredibly dependent. I mean, I could get it at a certain level: I still live with my parents, therefore I depend on them. But SHE is dependent on Lucas, THE LOVE INTEREST. She almost literally allowed all her actions to be dictated by Lucas. I know, I know, he knows about the danger, he’s lived for a long time and has experience, but she didn’t even question anything. What??? Can you think for yourself for just a second?? Ugh, I guess not.

However, I did like the inclusion of families in this story. Lucas’ and Zara’s families were involved, and that was a breath of fresh air, because you don’t usually see much of a family in YA works. Their plots usually mention families once, and then they’re stored in the background, or the protagonist deliberately shoves them aside because they “don’t understand” or “it would be dangerous for them”. So The 52nd was realistic in that aspect.

Speaking of which, romance was to be expected. But I think Dela could have skipped on her kind of romance. It was a teen angsty, love/hate, irritable relationship, which made me want to close my phone and go watch a movie instead. I didn’t ship them, couldn’t find it in me to be empathetic. So all in all, I really don’t think characters and their interpersonal relationships are Dela’s forte.

What I did like, though, was the cultural richness of the novel. I was so interested in the cultural rituals of the Aztecs that I had to do more research on it. It was really nice to encounter diversity and magical cultural elements in an era when it’s crucial to have representation. I really loved reading the scenes in Mexico; Dela really transported me to another place. However, there were some parts when the author just dumped information on us. It wasn’t well conveyed, it felt artificial. Maybe it was just bad editing, I don’t know.

The story wasn’t fantasy enough, despite the cultural addition. When I read the summary, I thought fantasy would take a great place in the plot, but mostly it revolved around Zara going to school and thinking about Lucas. Even the danger didn’t seem that dangerous. Again, The 52nd felt like a cheap, lazy try at writing good YA fantasy.

I will say this, though: Dela has so much potential as an author. I really hope she’ll start embracing her unique ideas and develop new ones.

Thank you to NetGalley!