5/5 Book Review: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

5 years sitting in my bookshelf; 5 wasteful years when I should’ve enjoyed this sooner.

Series: N/A

Literary Awards: Man Booker Prize Nominee (1986), Nebula Award Nominee for Best Novel (1986), Arthur C. Clarke Award for Best Novel (1987), Audie Award for Fiction (2013), Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Fiction (1986), Governor General’s Literary Awards / Prix littéraires du Gouverneur général for Fiction (1985), Commonwealth Writers’ Prize Nominee for Best Book in Caribbean and Canada (1987), CBC Canada Reads Nominee (2002)

Rating: 5/5

Recommended for: Dystopian lovers

As I contemplate on which book to review next (there are lots of them, waaa), I decided on The Handmaid’s Tale (THT) just because the hashtag for Women’s March in the US has been consistently appearing in my twitter feed. While I have the faintest idea on what that was really all about, I figured why not? THT is one of my best reads last 2016 (but I failed to include it in my 2016 Best Reads post, I know. Boo!). Might as well try to review a book that consumed my womanly insanity. Haha!

I was a sucker for YA dystopian series a few years ago, and now I am very picky. Finishing THT was a harsh wake up call on what I know of dystopian society portrayed in YA. Atwood’s world in the form of Gilead was rigid, stiff, gritty, terrifying. I will not be an Offred, though. I am a Moira!

This is the worst world a woman can get stuck into. Women are not allowed to learn how to read and write. They can go out of the house to do some shopping in the market; they have pictures of food (meat, bread, vegetables), that they can show to communicate with vendors. They go out in twos (Ofrred is paired with Ofglen), and were not allowed to talk to anyone in the streets, especially men. Handmaids like Offred were taken care of, in the possibility of bearing a child, and so there’s a schedule for her and the Commander for sex. It was a transaction, as tasteless as waiting for your receipt after doing your groceries.

More than these traditional (ridiculous) restrictions set upon women, what burned in my mind the most is Offred’s (reliable? unreliable?) memories of her life before Gilead. She feigns ignorance but she can read and write; she blanks out her face during sex with the Commander, but was constantly reminded of her affair with Luke; she refuses to think that she really had a daughter, for what kind of a mother would subject her daughter to that kind of horrible life with a commander and her unfeeling wife?

This is my first Margaret Atwood book, and I am happy to say that I am looking forward to reading more of her work. The writing was so effective in playing with my emotions – being a woman has never been this hurtful or shameful. The late nights with the Commander added a layer of complication during their sex sessions, because what if Serena Joy notices that she’s liking it, because she knows the Commander more so everyday? Offred’s affair with Nick was the element that I can see that made her pause, and think that maybe, what her situation is right now, she does not want to take it lying down anymore. It was heartbreaking, this affair-turned-escape-from-reality. Let the rebels worry about Gilead’s future, she thought. I cannot go back to Luke and my daughter, I know that. But here with Nick? This might be something, at least. Sigh.

The uncertainty of the ending made me think that whatever happened to Offred, I hope she makes it. I really, really hope she makes it.

Sorrowful at most, The Handmaid’s Tale made me ache. It was beautiful in its tragedy.

 

Paperback Edition, 400 pages

Published by Seal Books

 

maria

5/5 Book Review: A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas

I prefer this series over Throne of Glass… by a mile!

17927395Series: A Court of Thorns & Roses | Book 2

Literary Awards: Goodreads Choice Award for Young Adult Fantasy & Science Fiction (2016)

Rating: 5/5

Recommended for: Team Rhysand, and those who lost interest in Throne of Glass series after Heir of Fire

If you are Team Tamlin, this sequel is not for you. You are better off not continuing with the series.

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(I have written off SJM’s Throne of Glass series after Queen of Shadows, because she wrote off Chaol brutally, completely. So now she has this new series, A Court of Thorns and Roses, still about Fae, and I am guessing still with a love triangle, but I still read it. ACoTaR was okay, but after my experience in loving Crown of Midnight after my lukewarm feelings over Throne of Glass, I decided I can still bet on a good story on ACoTaR’s sequel.

I have to admit, when I saw one review saying Rhysand is all over ACoMaF, I perked up. See, there’s this last scene between Feyre and Rhysand in ACoTaR that had me itching, itching to know what the heck Rhys was so freaked about when he saw Feyre. He was a High Lord of the Night Court, so why would he fear a mortal huntress such as Feyre? I want to know about that. So I read ACoMaF.)

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(It’s been a long while since I’ve been consumed day and night by a book.)

Love – love was a balm as much as it was a poison.

I believe that Feyre loved Tamlin, and vice versa. The ending of A Court of Thorns and Roses left Feyre desperate, broken, spent. SJM started A Court of Mist and Fury with a reality check: Tamlin’s love was a promise to protect her, but it only succeeded in isolating her, caging her, leaving her even more vulnerable with her nightmares after her stay Under The Mountain.

I’m thinking that I was a lonely, hopeless person, and I might have fallen in love with the first thing that showed me a hint of kindness and safety.

Tamlin disappearing before I am 20% done is a clear indicator that that ship has sunk. Him entering at the last 1-2 chapters? There’s the nail at Feyre-Tamlin coffin. *fist pump* so I started to hope for Rhysand’s chance. I know it was like Heir of Fire all over again. Fortunately for me, for this series, I was not into Tamlin. SJM veering away from Tam to (maybe) Rhys got my seal of approval. I might even forgive her to what she did to my Captain Chaol.

I was a wolf.

And I bit when cornered.

Feyre‘s road to self-recovery and forgiveness was a harsh terrain. Nightmares, low self-worth, and (the feeling of) betrayal. Not once did I sneer at Feyre, for being weak, or when she let herself be degraded by the Spring Court. It was realistic. When she decided to push back, and shove the darkness that threaten to succumb her, I thought yes, it’s time to be strong now, Feyre. You don’t need another High Lord to protect you. You can protect yourself. and then some.

That I might be a little bit vicious or restless. That I might crave peace, but never a cage of comfort.

(Who run the world? Girls!) Rhys acknowledging a strong woman like Feyre is very crush-worthy.

It’d just been a relief to think that for a moment, he might have been as lonely as me.

Rhysand. He’s climbing up my BBF list way faster than I’d hoped. Sure, I like bad boys, but his back story was so layered, so massively different from what was portrayed in ACoTaR, and yet, it felt justified. It’s like all the hints and misses with Feyre in ACoTaR rightfully led to what was now here, in ACoMaF. And he believes in Feyre. He lets her decide, supports what she wants, and willing to damn himself just to save her. (Unlike *ahem* Tamlin *ahem*)

“Amren and Mor told me that the span of an Illyrian male’s wings says a lot about the size of… other parts.”

“Did they now.”

“They also said Azriel’s wings are the biggest.”

“When we return home, let’s get the measuring stick, shall we?”

The sexy yet purposeful bantering between Feyre and Rhys is a joy to read. Hot and heavy with promise of things to come, it was the chemistry that I was hoping for between Feyre and Tamlin in ACoTaR, but did not happen, that’s why I am Team Rhysand!

Rhys’ inner circle is the next best thing in ACoMaF. My favorite was Amren, she’s an enigma! Mor, Cassian and Azriel are a riot, but knowing the sadistic histories that entangles the three, it’s a surprise that they can even smile and love at all.

The action scenes are even better. The Bone Carver. The Weaver. The watery grave. The Court of Nightmares. The cave attack against the Hybern soldiers. The Attor in Velaris. I was salivating with so much delight on how each of these scenes packed so much punch! I say SJM is a master of writing action-packed scenes.

I waited for the blush, the shyness, to creep in.

But I was beautiful. I was strong.

I cannot remember being hot and bothered with Feyre and Tamlin in ACoTaR. In this sequel, I was anything BUT. Dear me, I think SJM was high when she was writing these, because Feyre and Rhys are consistently setting the pages on fire! Don’t get me wrong. The first half of the book, it was just shameless flirting on Rhys’ part, and Feyre is almost always ready to strangle him. But Rhys staying by Feyre’s side every time she doubts herself, that paved the way for Feyre, that instead of feeling empty, Rhys is making her feel alive… and then hot.. and then really hot and bothered. You’ll probably guess the rest, but isn’t so much better if you read the truth? Haha! (SJM’s repetitive “apex of my thighs” phrase has me rolling my eyes for a bit.)

The throne room scene in Hybern got me cringing, and biting my nails. I have this gut feeling it’s going to end bad, bad, bad. and it did. The ending, though? It promised a completely different story of scheming and plotting. That had me sobbing because I would have to wait a year for Book 3. (I hate you, SJM.)

Should SJM introduce another love interest after Rhysand, I will winnow her into the Court of Nightmares. But until then, I will savor the giddiness of what ACoMaF gave to me: A broken heroine who learned to be a wolf. A love interest who sacrificed his self-worth and happiness to protect what’s his. A fae world so beautifully built, and spectacularly expanded, that for sure, I will be lost in it a few weeks more after I finish (re)reading it.

And then-then I learned your name. Hearing you say it… it was like an answer to a question I’d been asking for five hundred years.

Kindle Edition, 626 pages
Published May 3rd 2016 by Bloomsbury USA Childrens

maria

Official Blog Tour | Book Review: The Girl from the Well by Rin Chupeco

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Young Adult > Paranormal | Horror

You may think me biased, being murdered myself. But my state of being has nothing to do with the curiosity toward my own species, if we can be called such. We do not go gentle, as your poet encourages, into that good night.

A dead girl walks the streets.

She hunts murderers. Child killers, much like the man who threw her body down a well three hundred years ago.

And when a strange boy bearing stranger tattoos moves into the neighborhood so, she discovers, does something else. And soon both will be drawn into the world of eerie doll rituals and dark Shinto exorcisms that will take them from American suburbia to the remote valleys and shrines of Aomori, Japan.

Because the boy has a terrifying secret – one that would just kill to get out.

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All the creeps, man. Horrible, frightening, awesome. 🙂

So I picked up this book from NetGalley out of curiosity. Blurb caught my eye, seemed interesting, so I decided to give it a try. 6 hours later, I was done with The Girl from the Well. I was also done watching horror movies for that month. 😀

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End of Chapter 1 – goosebumps. End of Chapter 2 – double goosebumps.

I closed Illium a couple of times just to pause, you know just like in movies? You cover your eyes when the scare gets too much? Haha, I was horribly scared, but enjoying it the same time. (I’m crazy, aren’t I?)

I love how the story was fast-paced, how the main character has no remorse over her killings, or how detached she was from everything. And it’s how she should be, she’s a vengeful ghost! Then the boy with a dark spirit comes along. And the fun just escalated for me. The scarier, the better. Woohoo!

Ghosts, little girls who can see them, and terrible spirits out for more evil – how can I refuse?

I thought The Girl from the Well was entertaining. There are similarities I saw that are trademarks of some asian horror movies, but I didn’t mind. The serial killers being stalked by this vengeful spirit is too much fun for me.

The climax  was good, although a bit mild. I was expecting more shock or bigger destruction. Still, it was enough for me. But the ending, oh my, I thought it was very well played.

I wish there’s more horror stories like The Girl from the Well out there. Makes me think if I’m missing something worth the scare for a night or two. 🙂

Thank you NetGalley and Sourcebooks Fire for granting my galley request.

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THE GIRL FROM THE WELL by Rin Chupeco

Kindle Edition, 304 pages

Published August 5th 2014 by Sourcebooks Fire

5/5 stars

Book Review: Horde by Ann Aguirre

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Young Adult > Science Fiction | Post Apocalyptic

(Razorland #3)

The horde is coming.

Salvation is surrounded, monsters at the gates, and this time, they’re not going away. When Deuce, Fade, Stalker and Tegan set out, the odds are against them. But the odds have been stacked against Deuce from the moment she was born. She might not be a Huntress anymore, but she doesn’t run. With her knives in hand and her companions at her side, she will not falter, whether fighting for her life or Fade’s love.

Ahead, the battle of a lifetime awaits. Freaks are everywhere, attacking settlements, setting up scouts, perimeters, and patrols. There hasn’t been a war like this in centuries, and humans have forgotten how to stand and fight. Unless Deuce can lead them.

This time, however, more than the fate of a single enclave or outpost hangs in the balance. This time, Deuce carries the banner for the survival of all humanity.

Book 1: Enclave review       Book 2: Outpost review

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Awesome finale, you guys!

*whispers* Thank you, Ann Aguirre. Thank you.

I couldn’t resist pushing, just a little. “So it won’t bother you if I find someone else?”

His jaw clenched, and I saw the muscle move before he got it under control. “I thought you said you’d fight for me.”

“And you said it’s too late.” I offered him a faint smile along with his watch. “So it’s a good thing I don’t intend to listen to you.”

Out all the 2013 final book releases that I’ve read (Reached, Boundless, Champion, Requiem, Allegiant), Horde can actually stake a claim as the best and most amazing finale! It can sing loud and clear: Shine bright like a diamond. This is how a series should be wrapped up, people! The inevitable war (that actually happened!), the bloodshed (of characters I love and hate), and the love that survives (even if one was broken). It is truly an outstanding final book from one of my favorite authors, Ann Aguirre. Woot!

I was hesitant when Deuce was tagged as humanity’s best hope agains the Freaks. I mean, she’s just a teenage girl, a Huntress yes, but still in her teens. But Ann Aguirre laid out the development of her character solidly, that I began to hope. Gone was the Huntress who had nothing but her skills to kill. Now, she is a Huntress who will fight to the death (because of Fade and her new family), and if she was to die, she will take as many Freaks as possible with her. 😉 Deuce was so badass!

Fade is a complicated one, but coming from Outpost, I have to accommodate his insecurities. And here lies Deuce’s strength – for no matter how hard, or how cruel Fade was in pushing her away, she shoves back, with her unrelenting love, unbent faithfulness for him. So many swoon with these two!!! I love how their relationship was built, and forged to withstand the despair of their world. *fist pump*

The war was awful, gory, and with casualties (everything I savor in battles!). My emotions were running high during that part, for fear that Ann Aguirre will break, break my heart. But I approve, Ann Aguirre. What a fantastic way to end Razorland series!

Destruction and desolation, that has always been the theme of Deuce’s world. But amidst the chaos and fear, she learned how to be a friend, a family, a partner. Most of all, she learned to hope.

Deuce and Fade FTW… always. 😀

I get it. You’d rather have him, broken, than me whole. If that didn’t clarify my chances with you, nothing would.

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HORDE by Ann Aguirre

Ebook, 432 pages

Published October 29th 2013 by Feiwel & Friends
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5/5 stars

Book Review: The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

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Young Adult > Post-Apocalyptic > Science Fiction

After the 1st wave, only darkness remains. After the 2nd, only the lucky escape. And after the 3rd, only the unlucky survive. After the 4th wave, only one rule applies: trust no one.

Now, it’s the dawn of the 5th wave, and on a lonely stretch of highway, Cassie runs from Them. The beings who only look human, who roam the countryside killing anyone they see. Who have scattered Earth’s last survivors. To stay alone is to stay alive, Cassie believes, until she meets Evan Walker. Beguiling and mysterious, Evan Walker may be Cassie’s only hope for rescuing her brother—or even saving herself. But Cassie must choose: between trust and despair, between defiance and surrender, between life and death. To give up or to get up.

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From The Monstrumologist to this — Rick Yancey, make me a hard-core fanatic, why don’t you?

If you don’t kill all of us all at once, those who remain will not be weak. You are remaking us.
We are the clay, you are Michaelangelo. And we will be your masterpiece.


I cannot contain my happiness with The 5th Wave. It was a stellar alien book from no less than Rick Yancey!

Cassie is a very magnetic heroine, I cannot help but root for her. The determination and indomitable spirit was such a surprise. (But now that I thought about it, one of Yancey’s strengths as an author is the ability to develop engaging and worship-worthy characters.) The stark contrast of Cassie’s character to the hopeless world she lives in, it makes me want to cheer for her, that she will make it to the end. *fingers crossed*

So the moment that certified I was hooked? Zombie‘s character. When his POV was introduced, I didn’t know who he was. Imagine my ecstasy when his true identity was revealed on his first chapter, I was giddy with excitement! Leave it to Yancey to stir things up in a major way. 😀 Smooth talker, this one – and the inappropriateness of it in a post-apocalyptic world was very funny. Heh.

Evan Walker. Even without his link to Cassie, his character would still shine. The shift between morality and mortality, as Cassie perceived him, was so addictive. Every scene that Evan’s in was sweet, heartbreaking, I just want to capture each moment. *sigh*

Needless to say, the alien plot was gripping, the villain was hateful, the edge-of-your-seat element was electrifying. Woot!

With obvious strength in characters and decisive story flow, The 5th Wave deserves two thumbs up from an existing Rick Yancey fan like me. More alien conspiracy, please!

P.S. Me thinks this book will still be awesome even without the romance angle.

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THE 5TH WAVE by Rick Yancey

Hardcover, 480 pages

Published May 7th 2013 by Putnam Juvenile

5/5 stars

Book Review: The Crimson Crown by Cinda Williams Chima

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Young Adult > Fantasy

(Seven Realms #4)

A thousand years ago, two young lovers were betrayed-Alger Waterlow to his death, and Hanalea, Queen of the Fells, to a life without love. 

Now, once again, the Queendom of the Fells seems likely to shatter apart. For young queen Raisa ana’Marianna, maintaining peace even within her own castle walls is nearly impossible; tension between wizards and Clan has reached a fevered pitch. With surrounding kingdoms seeking to prey on the Fells’ inner turmoil, Raisa’s best hope is to unite her people against a common enemy. But that enemy might be the person with whom she’s falling in love.

Through a complicated web of lies and unholy alliances, former streetlord Han Alister has become a member of the Wizard Council of the Fells. Navigating the cut-throat world of blue blood politics has never been more dangerous, and Han seems to inspire hostility among Clan and wizards alike. His only ally is the queen, and despite the perils involved, Han finds it impossible to ignore his feelings for Raisa. Before long, Han finds himself in possession of a secret believed to be lost to history, a discovery powerful enough to unite the people of the Fells. But will the secret die with him before he can use it? 

A simple, devastating truth concealed by a thousand-year-old lie at last comes to light in this stunning conclusion to the Seven Realms series.

Book 1: The Demon King review

Book 2: The Exiled Queen review

Book 3: The Gray Wolf Throne review

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After closing my copy, I hugged it tight. I had stars in my eyes, the biggest smile in my mouth. My husband stared at me, asking, “What is wrong with you?” and I just murmured (without looking at him) that the ending of The Crimson Crown was sooo beautiful…! Of course, he doesn’t know what I’m saying. I kept on smiling. What a fantastic way to conclude one of the best fantasy series in YA!

I would not have it any other way. 🙂 There are little questions in my head, but I didn’t mind them much. I am delighted with how everything fell into place, whether for better or for worse. I am utterly delighted!

The strength of the Seven Realms series lies in the tremendous amount of development that Cinda Williams Chima put into her characters. Han and Raisa were spectacular, but unbridled praise must also be given to Fire DancerNight Bird, even Micah Bayar! There is no good or bad, just the resolve to prove something or someone that they are worthy – of respect, service, and love. Woot!

The maturity of Raisa as a queen, and as Han’s partner was incredible. She’s out to get what she wants. She thereby complimented Han‘s determination to be the best person he can be. After The Gray Wolf Throne, Han now lives with conviction. He’s no longer a thief, he said. He’s resolute to make things work between him and Raisa, stands up to the challenge, just for the slimmest chance that they can be together. *happy sigh* Han was magnificent! He still have trust issues, and I loved that this is consistent with his character. He struggled with his secrets, and sharing them to people he cared the most.

Dancer‘s transformation was amazing! He was the epitome of the hope between jinxflingers and copperheads. And Night Bird was a pretty surprise. I did not like her in previous books, but now? Wow. Lord Bayar‘s fate was unsatisfying, but neatly done. Averill Lightfoot and Elena Cennestre are two of my least favorite characters. Such sneaky and insensitive Demonai warriors!

More than the superb plot, these character developments drove The Crimson Crown to the top of my favorites list. Han, Han, Han. I don’t think I will ever forget you. Swoon!!!

And that Epilogue? Oh my goodness! So uplifting, and sweet, and undoubtedly kind. =)

Similar to Lumatere Chronicles of Melina Marchetta and The Queen’s Thief series of Megan Whalen Turner in terms of epic love stories and intriguing politics, Seven Realms series is a must read for every fantasy lover. So Read. It. Now!

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THE CRIMSON CROWN by Cinda Williams Chima

Paperback, 624 pages

Published October 1st 2013 by Disney Hyperion
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5/5 stars

Book Review: Sweet Reckoning by Wendy Higgins

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Young Adult > Paranormal > Angels

(The Sweet Trilogy #3)

It’s time.

Evil is running rampant and sweet Anna Whitt is its target. Nobody knows when or how the Dukes will strike, but Anna and her Nephilim allies will do anything necessary to rid the earth of the demons and their oppressive ways.

The stakes are higher than ever, and Anna is determined that the love she feels will be her strength, not a liability. But trying to protect the ones she loves while running for her life and battling demonic forces proves to be perilous—especially as faces are changing and trust is fleeting. When the Duke of Lust sends Anna’s great love, Kaidan Rowe, to work against her, Anna must decide how much she’s prepared to risk.

In the most sensual and fast-paced installment yet, Sweet Reckoning brings all the beloved Neph together one last time to fight for their freedom.

Book 1: Sweet Evil review       Book 2: Sweet Peril review

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This is totally unexpected, but very entertaining! A few tears in the end. Wendy Higgins did good. 😀

Sweet and gorgeous Kaidan Rowe. Strong and bold Anna Whitt. Fans of The Sweet Trilogy will not be disappointed! Obviously, that includes me. I would reread this series just for the romance alone, but the angel theme was not as flimsy as I thought (because you and I know there are few good angel books out there).

Anna is no longer the shy southern belle that Kaidan met in Sweet Evil. Family comes first, and I liked that the importance of that is heavy on this final book. It frustrates Anna that she cannot show affection to Patti, Jay, and Kai because demon whisperers might see them. It frustrates her even more that the love that was making her courageous is threatening to kill them all once found. Anna upped her game as a Neph, and it was nice and neat and hopeful. 🙂

Kaidan was another story. He was the source of everything that I raved about this book. He made my reading super enjoyable! He’s so cute with his relationship with Anna. A different side from the Son of Pharzuph, Duke of Lust. A side that only made him hot, hot, HOTTER in my eyes! Man, what I wouldn’t give to be in Anna’s place. That lucky daughter of Belial. 🙂

So, when the sh*t went down, it went quickly, but that’s fine. I mean, it is good versus evil, why drag it longer than it should? The casualties of war between the Dukes and the Nephilim are few, but I was heartbroken with one death. And another inevitable one at the epilogue. 😦 I’m so sorry, Jay.

I adore Belial, such a cool and doting father. And Blake was just amazingly funny!

Sweet Reckoning checklist: Romance. Sexy Scenes. Ending on a happy note. Check check check.

Thank you Edelweiss and HarperCollins for granting my galley request.

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SWEET RECKONING by Wendy Higgins

Kindle Edition, 464 pages

Published  April 29th 2014 by HarperTeen

5/5 stars

Book Review: Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

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Young Adult > Fantasy

Since birth, Nyx has been betrothed to the evil ruler of her kingdom-all because of a foolish bargain struck by her father. And since birth, she has been in training to kill him.

With no choice but to fulfill her duty, Nyx resents her family for never trying to save her and hates herself for wanting to escape her fate. Still, on her seventeenth birthday, Nyx abandons everything she’s ever known to marry the all-powerful, immortal Ignifex. Her plan? Seduce him, destroy his enchanted castle, and break the nine-hundred-year-old curse he put on her people.

But Ignifex is not at all what Nyx expected. The strangely charming lord beguiles her, and his castle-a shifting maze of magical rooms-enthralls her.

As Nyx searches for a way to free her homeland by uncovering Ignifex’s secrets, she finds herself unwillingly drawn to him. Even if she could bring herself to love her sworn enemy, how can she refuse her duty to kill him? With time running out, Nyx must decide what is more important: the future of her kingdom, or the man she was never supposed to love.

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I think I’m wicked enough to love a demon.

Vicious but oh-so-romantic . My kind of fairy tale. 😀

I want my fairy tales to sweep me off my feet, and Cruel Beauty did just that… marvelously. And if the heroine is not a damsel a distress, but a bold, feisty, and suspicious bride to the demon, then by all means, count me in!

Nyx is not afraid to be hurt (and yeah, hurt in return) and admit her hate. Here is a girl who grew up longing for a father’s approval and love, while dreading the day she got offered as tithe to the demon who is the master of her town.

The story was just incredible, full of love and hate, and the thin line between them was indiscernible. This was not the fairy tale I expected. It was so much more!

The love triangle is easy to neglect, knowing that each chapter, Rosamund Hodge excites me with new bickering brimming with hatred coming from Nyx, towards Ignifex. The demon rises up to Nyx’s spite, and I love it! And when she warms to the idea of Ignifex (and his nature), things starts to get swoony and sweet, and just plain fairy tale-ish. 😀

The kiss-on-the-first-meeting was a tick, but I let that slide. This is supposed to be a fairy tale after all. Other than that, I just glided through the pages.

Nyx and Ignifex’s tale will leave you marvelling with their truly one-of-a-kind love story. The almost-impossible romance between them was darkly funny yet warmly romantic, too. IMO, Cruel Beauty was the perfect valentine read. 🙂

Thank you Edelweiss and HarperCollins / Balzer + Bray for granting my galley request.

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CRUEL BEAUTY by Rosamund Hodge

Kindle edition, 336 pages

Published January 28th 2014 by Balzer + Bray

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5/5 stars

Book Review: The Gray Wolf Throne by Cinda Williams Chima

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Young Adult > Fantasy

(Seven Realms #3)

Han Alister thought he had already lost everyone he loved. But when he finds his friend Rebecca Morley near death in the Spirit Mountains, Han knows that nothing matters more than saving her. The costs of his efforts are steep, but nothing can prepare him for what he soon discovers: the beautiful, mysterious girl he knew as Rebecca is none other than Raisa ana’Marianna, heir to the Queendom of the Fells. Han is hurt and betrayed. He knows he has no future with a blueblood. And, as far as he’s concerned, the princess’s family as good as killed his own mother and sister. But if Han is to fulfill his end of an old bargain, he must do everything in his power to see Raisa crowned queen.

Meanwhile, some people will stop at nothing to prevent Raisa from ascending. With each attempt on her life, she wonders how long it will be before her enemies succeed. Her heart tells her that the thief-turned-wizard Han Alister can be trusted. She wants to believe it—he’s saved her life more than once. But with danger coming at her from every direction, Raisa can only rely on her wits and her iron-hard will to survive—and even that might not be enough.

The Gray Wolf Throne is an epic tale of fierce loyalty, unbearable sacrifice, and the heartless hand of fate.

Book 1: The Demon King review     Book 2: The Exiled Queen review

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I did not think that Han Alister can get any sexier but, oh my. He did. He really did. *happy dance*

The Gray Wolf Throne is my favorite installment so far. Contrary to the first two books, it is fast-paced, brimming with revelations, and progressing with its impressive plot and maturing characters. What’s not to love?!

Raisa’s ascension to the throne has many dangers. There are too many close calls. The most life-threatening sent Han Alister to desperation. But when he realized the deception, his heart was crushed. Han wondered if she’s worth the heartache, worth the trouble with the bluebloods and the clan.

The most arresting element of The Gray Wolf Throne is the positive development of Han’s and Raisa’s characters. I am in awe of Han. Despite the politicking and mistrust with the people around him, he’s undeterred with his decisions. So when he finally decided to take that big step into winning Raisa, I am mad with glee and pride with my boy. I always liked that Han knows what he wants, and finds ways to get it. Now, that trait is magnified, and revealed in marvelous execution. I am so in love with you, Han! *ahem*

Gone is the stubborn princess who ran away from the castle, who despises her mother’s tyranny over her life. Her relationship with Marianna was built with tough love, and I admire that Raisa is mature enough for forgiveness and acceptance. The determination to claim her rightful throne was strong; the courage to love Han (despite his faults) was even stronger. I loved how Raisa grew up and took responsibility for her actions, and her duties as the queen.

I am happy to report that scenes between Raisa and Han are… tender, sexy, and swoon-worthy. Woot!

Dancer’s father was a surprise, but it fell into place neatly. Amon’s betrothal came across as melancholic, with an air of despair. =(

A couple of questions that lingered: What happened to Crow? To Gavan Bayar? Is the Clan’s motive any different from the Wizard’s?

Gray Wolf Throne sets the stage with impossible consequences for all the major players. Will Han fight for his chance with Raisa? Will she choose duty over love?

(I want a HEA, Cinda Williams Chima. Please?)

*stands and picks up The Crimson Crown*

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THE GRAY WOLF THRONE by Cinda Williams Chima

Paperback, 544 pages

Published August 7th 2012 by Disney Hyperion
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5/5 stars

Book Review: The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

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General Fiction > Fantasy

Sussex, England. A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn’t thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she’d claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy.

Literary Awards: Goodreads Choice for Fantasy (2013), Specsavers Book of the Year (2013), Paris Review Best of the Best (2013)

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Neil Gaiman reading experience will always, always be surreal.

“Nothing’s ever the same,” she said. “Be it later or a hundred years. It’s always churning and roiling. And people change as much as oceans.”

There’s no turning back once I picked up The Ocean at the End of the Lane, I just got sucked in. The fantasy that might be too much for a boy, might just be relentless reality for a grown-up man looking for something, something to fill up his tired soul.

The last Neil Gaiman I read is The Graveyard Book, so now I remember the melancholic mood when reading his work.

The Hempstocks. The cleaners. Ursula. Lettie. These characters extracted different emotions from me, just because a boy is praying so hard that his life will go back to what it once was. Can it be that simple?

I adore the Hempstocks. Their secrets, obscurity, and selflessness are entertaining to read. But when one selfless act was made to save another, was it worth it? Will the saved be forever be guilt-tripped into living good so the the other will feel compensated?

A short read, but The Ocean at the End of the Lane reaches deep. The truth about families, about father-son relationship, about unreliable memories – it’s here. and much more.

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THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE by Neil Gaiman

Paperback, 181 pages

Published June 18th 2013 by Harper Collins

5/5 stars