fantasy · retellings · young adult

Review: Forest of a Thousand Lanterns


Author: Julie C. Dao
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult, Retellings
Series: Rise of the Empress

 

Summary from Goodreads:

Eighteen-year-old Xifeng is beautiful. The stars say she is destined for greatness, that she is meant to be Empress of Feng Lu. But only if she embraces the darkness within her. Growing up as a peasant in a forgotten village on the edge of the map, Xifeng longs to fulfill the destiny promised to her by her cruel aunt, the witch Guma, who has read the cards and seen glimmers of Xifeng’s majestic future. But is the price of the throne too high?

Because in order to achieve greatness, she must spurn the young man who loves her and exploit the callous magic that runs through her veins–sorcery fueled by eating the hearts of the recently killed. For the god who has sent her on this journey will not be satisfied until his power is absolute.

Comments:
Finally, finally. I had anticipated its release because East Asian fantasies are my ultimate favorite. I had a couple of chances to read it but life happened (as you can tell by this blog’s shortage on posts by me). But I finally did it! I finished the book! It’s so lovely.

Okay, so before this I read Julie Dao’s “Pumpkin Patch Princess,” which is very cute and fun. FOTL is definitely nothing like PPP but I enjoyed it so much. Even though this is an anti-hero story and therefore, dark, as expected, I could not help but think of just how pretty everything in the Feng Lu universe is. Julie Dao knows how to build her worlds. Her descriptive use of words can evoke vivid images to the reader’s mind. I even enjoyed how she described Xifeng’s little village at the beginning. I could almost smell the different odors haha. Then the descriptions at the Imperial palace reminded me of the Chinese period piece movies I enjoy watching!

This is a retelling of Snow White. FOTL takes us through Xifeng’s journey and development into the Evil Queen. This is brilliantly told because, from the beginning, the reader would root for Xifeng, but might be able to see her budding dark ambition at the same time. She is not evil from the get-go. She is beautiful, knowledgeable, and talented. But she is also at war with herself.
(Also this is random but while reading, in my head, I pictured her looking like the actress Gong Li, who is excellent at portraying both simple country girls and empresses!)

I have to now wait (im)patiently for the sequel this October!

“She knew her own worth. She would seize her destiny with all the strength and spirit within her, and bend them all to her will: every man kneeling and every woman overshadowed.”

My Rating: ★★★★★

2018 Weekly Updates · contemporary · March 2018 · romance · young adult

Weekly Update: March 12-17, 2018

In an effort to keep the posts coming, I’ve decided to do weekly updates of books I’ve finished, started, and probably something that has caught my eye. I am active in Goodreads, but have been putting off creating posts because I’ve just been doing short reviews. Let’s see if this new format will help.

Have Read

03/14 The Start of Me and You

Author: Emery Lord
Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance

Summary from Goodreads:

It’s been a year since it happened—when Paige Hancock’s first boyfriend died in an accident. After shutting out the world for two years, Paige is finally ready for a second chance at high school . . . and she has a plan. First: Get her old crush, Ryan Chase, to date her—the perfect way to convince everyone she’s back to normal. Next: Join a club—simple, it’s high school after all. But when Ryan’s sweet, nerdy cousin, Max, moves to town and recruits Paige for the Quiz Bowl team (of all things!) her perfect plan is thrown for a serious loop. Will Paige be able to face her fears and finally open herself up to the life she was meant to live?

My Rating:   

03/15 The Secret History of Us

Author: Jessi Kirby
Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance

Summary from Goodreads:

A near drowning…a coma for days…and then…

Olivia wakes up to realize she doesn’t remember. Not just the accident—but anything from the last four years. Not high school. Not Matt, the guy who is apparently her boyfriend. Not the reason she and Jules are no longer friends. Nothing.

That’s when it hits her—the accident may not have taken her life, but it took something just as vital: her memory. The harder she tires to remember things, the foggier everything gets, and figuring out who she is feels impossible when everyone keeps telling her who she was.

But then there’s Walker. The guy who saved her. The one who broke her ribs pumping life back into her lungs. The hardened boy who keeps his distance despite Olivia’s attempts to thank him.

With her feelings growing for Walker, tensions rising with Matt, and secrets she can’t help but feel are being kept from her, Olivia must find her place in a life she doesn’t even remember living.

My Rating:   

Currently Reading

 Joyland by Stephen King – After a couple of failed attempts at finishing a Stephen King novel, this might emerge as the first win!

 Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong – To be honest, I had no idea what this book was about. I chose it because its cover fits a description for one of my Goodreads challenge.

 6th Target by James Patterson – The Women’s Murder Club book series are automatically in my lineup.

Other Things

I have realized that I’ve started books from series and really liked them, but was too lazy to look for the next books. To work on this, I’ll be listing some options:

  • Feathered Serpent, Part 1 (Tennis Shoes #3) by Chris Heimerdinger
  • Born of Deception (Born of Illusion #2) by Teri Brown
  • This World We Live In (Last Survivors #3) by Susan Beth Pfeffer

Watch out for my next week’s updates!

 

 

fantasy · romance · series · young adult

Review: Throne of Glass

Author: Sarah J. Maas
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Series: Throne of Glass

Summary from Goodreads:

After serving out a year of hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier for her crimes, 18-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien is dragged before the Crown Prince. Prince Dorian offers her her freedom on one condition: she must act as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin.

Her opponents are men-thieves and assassins and warriors from across the empire, each sponsored by a member of the king’s council. If she beats her opponents in a series of eliminations, she’ll serve the kingdom for four years and then be granted her freedom. Celaena finds her training sessions with the captain of the guard, Westfall, challenging and exhilarating. But she’s bored stiff by court life. Things get a little more interesting when the prince starts to show interest in her … but it’s the gruff Captain Westfall who seems to understand her best.

Then one of the other contestants turns up dead … quickly followed by another. Can Celaena figure out who the killer is before she becomes a victim? As the young assassin investigates, her search leads her to discover a greater destiny than she could possibly have imagined.

Comments:

Okay, okay. Maybe I thought I was going to fizzle out near the beginning because I didn’t read continuously as I could have. I was quick to judge. Suddenly, things got more interesting. A lot of the books I had read recently have a “from extreme hardship to comfort and wealth but there’s something dark and scary in exchange” theme.

This story feels like a Hunger Games, complete with the one obvious rival and of course, a love triangle. HAHA. I love it. (My ship? Chaol/Celaena. ♥)

Celaena Sardothien… I don’t know how I feel about her. She is a feared assassin well-versed in a wide array of weaponry. She is a voracious reader (I’ve never really met an assassin like this). She likes playing the piano. She also loves wearing pretty dresses. She eats A LOT. She’s funnier than the main character in the last book I read but she is so… multi-faceted that I don’t know whether to like her or not.

But I think the way the mystery of the deaths of the Champions unfolds nicely. I was trying to guess who is behind all of that. It’s a tad bit predictable but not-quite-so-expected either. So it was brilliant, I would say.

Well, I hear this series has a lot of novellas and, I think, six (!) main books. I shall see if I can read the entire thing. I will definitely read the next book, because it might reveal more of Celaena’s past.

Oh, also, I should warn you: this is not a book for you if you like eating while reading. Or if you just have a weak stomach like I do.

“When she awoke every morning, she repeated the same words: I will not be afraid.”

My Rating: ★★★☆ (3.5)

fantasy · romance · series · young adult

Review: Shadow and Bone

Author: Leigh Bardugo
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Series: The Grisha

Summary from Goodreads:

Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.

Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.

Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha . . . and the secrets of her heart.

Shadow and Bone is the first installment in Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha Trilogy.

Comments:

I’ve been seeing the hype over the Six of Crows series by Leigh Bardugo, so I’ve been really curious. I was looking around and saw that there was a trilogy before that, though, so I decided to read the previous one first. I was chatting with the librarian at the school I work at and she let me borrow the book. Yay!

I guess, many readers would feel that this is somewhat your clichéd YA with a love triangle and a somewhat Mary Sue main character. But while reading I admit I was thinking, “This is my type of YA: the perfect blend of magic and romance.” To me, the first book in a fantasy series is important because most of the world building would be in it. And it didn’t disappoint: I love all the different kinds of powers the Grisha possessed and the hierarchy that comes with them. I also like the school setting (reminded me a little bit of Bloor’s Academy, and yes, even Hogwarts), though I wish they wrote a bit more about it.

I’m not quite a fan of childhood-friends-turned-into-more-than-friends stories, so when The Darkling started interacting with the main character Alina, I latched onto the ship. Somehow in my head The Darkling resembles Kylo Ren, except with “quartz gray” eyes. And the feels, oh the feels. Perfect.

Bardugo’s writing is great and I absolutely adored the Russian flavor of this universe. The pacing in the narration is a little off, though, so I docked half a star in my rating. Yes, I am going to read the next book, maybe even finish the trilogy before I pick up Six of Crows.

“What is infinite? The universe and the greed of men.”

My Rating: ★★★★☆ (4.5 actually)

contemporary · young adult

The Minnow

Author: Diana Sweeney

Summary from Goodreads:
Tom survived a devastating flood that claimed the lives of her sister and parents. Now she lives with Bill in his old shed by the lake. But it’s time to move out—Tom is pregnant with Bill’s baby.

Jonah lets her move in with him. Mrs Peck gives her the Fishmaster Super Series tackle box. Nana is full of gentle good advice and useful sayings.

And in her longing for what is lost, Tom talks to fish: Oscar the carp in the pet shop, little Sarah catfish who might be her sister, an unhelpful turtle in a tank at the maternity ward. And the minnow.

The Minnow is a moving and powerful coming of age story with a whimsical element that belies the heartbreaking truth of grief and loss. Tom is a character you will never forget.

Comments:

I received a free digital copy from Netgalley in exchange for an honest feedback.

Unlike other reviews on this story, I honestly found it boring and dragging. Although I admit it was a unique story, I wasn’t really sure where it was headed. It mostly was about Tom, pregnant at a young age, lost her family in the flood, talks to animals and the dead. While reading, I was just not getting it. What is it that the writer wants me to know or to learn? Is it about the realities of life? Is it about overcoming difficulties? Is it supposed to be about dealing with grief and loss? If it is one of these, it kind of missed the mark.

One thing that turned me off was the story flow. It seems like there was a situation being played out here, but suddenly inserting another different thought, abruptly ending the previous one, only to be continued later. That made me confused, but ultimately made me bored. I thought using “the Minnow” as a way to call her child was clever, along with the words that Tom learns passed along to the readers. However, those are a few of the things that amused me.

My Rating: ★★ (2)

contemporary · romance · young adult

The DUFF: Designated Ugly Fat Friend

Author: Kody Keplinger

Summary from Goodreads:
Seventeen-year-old Bianca Piper is cynical and loyal, and she doesn’t think she’s the prettiest of her friends by a long shot. She’s also way too smart to fall for the charms of man-slut and slimy school hottie Wesley Rush. In fact, Bianca hates him. And when he nicknames her “the Duff,” she throws her Coke in his face.

But things aren’t so great at home right now, and Bianca is desperate for a distraction. She ends up kissing Wesley. Worse, she likes it. Eager for escape, Bianca throws herself into a closeted enemies-with-benefits relationship with him.
Until it all goes horribly awry. It turns out Wesley isn’t such a bad listener, and his life is pretty screwed up, too. Suddenly Bianca realizes with absolute horror that she’s falling for the guy she thought she hated more than anyone.

Comments:

Okay so I was intrigued with this book because I saw the trailer of the movie coming out next year. I heard a lot of good things about this book too, but with all honesty, it wasn’t much to my liking.

There are a lot of stereotypes in this book – yep typical high school. Main character Bianca was such a hypocrite most of the time but I got to hand it to her for realizing that in the end. She is just so full of contradictions, lies a lot, hates almost everything, makes excuses about needing a distraction, . She has a lot to say about other people, but doesn’t even stop to think about things she’s been doing.

What is exactly honest about this book? What is it trying to say? Probably that teens have a lot of raging hormones.

“And you, darling, are the Duff.”
“Is that even a word?”
“Designated. Ugly. Fat. Friend,” he clarified. “No offense, but that would be you.”

My Rating: ★★ (2)

contemporary · fantasy · young adult

John Dreamer

Author: Elise Celine
Series: John Dreamer #1
Summary from Goodreads:
Andy wasn’t usually sure about much, but she was absolutely certain this was the weirdest day of her life as she stood stranded in the middle of a great white room with six strangers. Well, they were mostly strangers. She could have sworn she’d seen the guy with the green eyes before, and maybe that was why he kept staring at her.

When a man calling himself the Guardian appeared and said they had come to make their deepest dreams come true, they embark on an adventure none of them ever imagined, and the consequences of their actions would change them forever.

“John Dreamer” is the first in a series of books set in the confines of the Great White Room.

Date finished reading: March 10, 2014

Comments:

I received a free digital copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest feedback.

I was disappointed with this book because I initially thought that the story idea had a lot of potential. Seven teenagers just woke up to find themselves in a strange room without any recollection of how they got there. Each was unique in personality, but they soon found out that there were challenges to surpass and lessons to learn in order to achieve their potential.

The characters were underdeveloped. They were described by the narrator based on her opinions but we weren’t given any idea as to who they really were. They were each given an ordeal that they have to undergo and as they successfully face their fears, they disappear. It turned out that they accomplished something great because of these elaborate setups. They were fully aware though that this was imaginary in a way, yet they fall for it every time. Seriously? And then the stories seemed to revolved around Andrea or Andy, who was by far, the most annoying character in the book. She fell in love with John in just 8.5 seconds? I couldn’t believe that her perception of love was that shallow! Her thoughts – I let him take over my heart, my mind, my soul while they were kissing. Holy creepers!

And the other thing that I don’t get was Andrea’s ability to change the past. She was able to go back to her childhood regret and set things right. How lucky for her then! If only all of our regrets could be taken care of the same way.

The ending was so bad that I was shaking my head in frustration. John chose Andy over his father. He’d rather carry that grudge and be led to believe that his father didn’t care about them just so he can be with his dream girl. This whole book feels like a prologue rather than actually starting the story. I hope that the future books would contain more depth, better plot twists, and a better connection to the readers.

My Rating: ★★