A Book With Everything I Wanted: A Review on WANT

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Title: WANT

Author: Cindy Pon

Publisher: Simon & Schuster/Simon Pulse

Release date: June 2017

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Wow. This book blew me away beyond the blurb and cover. Definitely worth the wait and hype. WANT follows Jason Zhou who infiltrates the elite you to destroy the source of their luxurious lives and the miserable lives of meis like Jason – Jin Corp and its creator Jin himself.

From beginning to end, the plot with refreshing twists to sci-fi dystopian tropes, the characters and writing hooked me in. So did the food mentioned every now and then. God, this book made me hungry.

Just when I thought I was tired of tattooed male characters, Jason Zhou made me feel all warm and fuzzy. He can be dangerous but he’s such a softie and loyal to his late mother and friends. Speaking of his friends, they’re squad goals. Despite the banter and arguments, they stay together and fight through obstacles, not to mention that they’re diverse Asians with different strengths and flaws. My only complaint: not enough of Lingyu, Iris, Victor and Arun. Hopefully they have more page time in the sequel.

Daiyu can be sweet, naïve and have all the traits of a you, but she’s full of surprises. She’s not a damsel in distress or just a love interest or pawn in Jason’s mission. Meanwhile her dad is a villain who really boils up my blood. He’s a man in a suit who knows his power and twists a tragedy to benefit himself. I can’t wait for his downfall.

Anyway, make WANT your number one read this year.

Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

June Wrap Up

June is over and we’re in the last half of the year. Are you freaking out? I am [laughing with tears face emoji]. Here’s a rundown on my June:

Monthly TBR

My Top reads

The One Who Ascended the Throne: Our Dark Duet (VE Schwab)

The Runner Up, the Heir: Always and Forever, Lara Jean (Jenny Han)

The Third is a Charming Mediator: Milk and Honey (Rupi Kaur)

The Noble Fourth Who Deserves the Praise and Loyalty from the People: The Crown’s Fate (Evelyn Skye)

The Bonus Fifth because I Read Several Good Books This Month: Four Sisters (Helen Rappaport) – if you’re a Romanov/Russian imperial family fan like me, you would like this

Mini Reviews

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Our Dark Duet is a satisfying end to the Monsters of Verity series. It’s an easy and quick read that hooks you in…and cry.

Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟

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The Barrier is an interesting disease-caused post-apocalyptic book with a twist – religion and mythology, in particular Hindu, plays a part in it. However, I wasn’t drawn to the characters and I’m tired of white saviours and poc characters having stereotypical roles – the token friend, the one who sacrifices themselves, the villains or terrorist suspect. Seeing Sri Lankan characters being subservient to the white characters made me uncomfortable. Asia and Africa being ground zero for disasters and pandemics is also annoyingly overused. Maybe it would’ve been better if the protagonist was poc. I have enough of white protagonists overcoming their prejudices and learning how racist their society or company are.

Rating: 🌟🌟🌟

Writing

I participated in some Twitter pitch contests in June and in one of them, my pitches were liked by agents. So I’m in the waiting stage, sweating, worrying and tearing up a little [dying laughter]. Buttttt I’ve been busying myself with a new WIP.

In case you missed it, I’ve opened up beta reading and sensitivity reading services. Click here if you need another pair of eyes for your manuscript.

July Anticipated Reads

I’m looking forward to reading WANT by Cindy Pon and The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzie Lee (both are already out)!

Til next time,

Natalia xoxo

Happily Ever After: A Review on Always and Forever, Lara Jean

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Title: Always and Forever, Lara Jean

Author: Jenny Han

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Release date: May 2017

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Why is so hard to write a good review? I’m struggling to say anything beyond “OMG I LOVE THIS BOOK!” about  Always and Forever, Lara Jean. The conclusion to the To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before series follows up with Lara Jean Song Covey in the days leading up to her high school graduation. She faces problems and anxiety over her future, e.g. colleges, the changes in her relationships and there’s Peter, her boyfriend.

I was sucked back into Lara Jean’s world and that feeling of life wrecking your plans for the future and changes in relationships was so relatable. I’m in that place, even after university/college and getting a job in my dream field. It really doesn’t go away, to be honest.

The Song Covey family continues to bring warmth into my heart, though I didn’t like Ms Rothschild much. I found her detached and just…I didn’t care about her. And of course, I didn’t want the family to lose their connection to Korean culture, considering that the book has some glimpses of that culture and, to be honest, a majority of white characters. Glad Lara Jean and the family acknowledged that. I need more scenes with their Korean grandmother by the way. She’s too awesome to be a side character.

Lara Jean and Peter K. What can I say? I was worried about them breaking up. If you ask me what was one thing that made me stay reading the book, I would say them and the unknown future threatening to separate them. They HAVE to stay together and wow, did they put me on a roller coaster of feels. Even though it was relatable (Lara Jean being an introvert and close to her family like me), I did think that Lara Jean’s views on relationships are her mother and sister Margo’s views (which effected her relationship with Peter), but she eventually makes her own decisions.

Lara Jean baking is another thing that hooked me. I swear this book makes me hungry. I’m still sad that the cover doesn’t have cookies or cake or any food!

Always and Forever, Lara Jean finished with a nice and romantic ending that made me feel nostalgic and hopeful for the future.

Rating:

An Enchanting End: Review on The Crown’s Fate and a Mini Spotlight on Russia

 

 

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Title: The Crown’s Fate

Author: Evelyn Skye

Publisher: Balzer + Bray

Release date: May 2017

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Привет (privet)! Enchanting to the end, The Crown’s Fate follows up on Vika who continues her duty as Imperial Enchanter and Nikolai, who is dealing with the aftermath of his death. He manages to leave limbo and return to the world but as a shadow. In order to take solid form and set his revenge on his best friend and future Tsar Pasha (who ended the Game in the first book which led to Vika’s almost death and Nikolai’s), Nikolai absorbs heaps of energy even dark energy to become powerful.

Nikolai becomes a dangerous threat to Pasha and the empire, and Vika has to stop him. But she faces a tough decision: should she save Nikolai or kill him?

From the beautiful writing to the character development, I enjoyed everything from this book. It wastes no time in building up the plot and stakes. The only things I disliked were: the final battle which was short and even though I loved the inclusion of Russian folklore creatures, their presence was limited (I get that would interfere with the plot). I hope there’s some spin-off or short story where Vika and Nikolai deal with these creatures’ threats.

Russian fairytale character: Vasilisa the Beautiful

There were also references to The Nutcracker which I went all heart eyes at. The magic was hauntingly beautiful and did give off a Russian vibe – and something to be scared of.

Having Nikolai as the villain, twisted by dark magic and his undead mother, hooked me in. Despite the trope, I found it refreshing and a little worrying since Nikolai is the only poc character besides his mother. I was hoping for a redeeming resolution.

The relationship between Nikolai and Vika tore me apart. I liked how they both wanted each other but their goals/duty came first. I found Pasha kind of useless and annoying, but I did eventually warm up to him. Towards the end.

The ending was satisfying and I cried that it was all over. Duologies don’t really suit me, but The Crown’s Fate is a шедевр, a masterpiece.

Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟


A Mini Spotlight on Russia

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Romanov Faberge Imperial Egg

 

Since I was little, I have a special spot for Russia and its culture. I love how diverse the culture and people are – something most people don’t know about. Traces of European and Asian cultures are fused together. The Russian language is beautiful, but challenging. I only know the basics. The clothes and the Romanovs remain fascinating subjects for me.

I love that The Crown’s Game duology explores Russia and its culture beyond what we westerners already know. Ethnic groups, in particular the Kazakhs (Nikolai is one) have a presence. The books don’t sugarcoat the tension or the oppression these people face and that shapes Nikolai’s character. Russia being an Eurasian country and home to many ethnic groups including non-Slavic ones is one of my interests, so I’m glad that the books acknowledge these people – though I wish there were more underrepresented groups besides the Kazakhs.

Russian folklore has always enchanted me with its haunting-ness and beautiful, mesmerising scenes. It’s quite different from the fairytales and mythologies I grew up with. My favourites include Vasilisa the Beautiful, The Three Kingdoms, Golden, Silver and Copper and of course every tale that has the Firebird.

 

Books I recommend

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If you love or interested in reading Russian books, I recommend War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy. It’s a lengthy and popular one but worth the read. There’s also Eugene Onegin by Alexander Pushkin and The Slynx by Tatyana Tolstaya.

If you’re looking for a Russian fairytale retelling, I recommend Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter. It’s a modern Vasilisa and Baba Yaga retelling filled with beautiful weirdness and an evil talking doll as the main character’s companion. There’s also Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha series which is set in a Russian-inspired world and has several mythical elements including the Firebird.

Спасибо за прочтение!

Mini Reviews on The Dark Prophecy and One of Us is Lying

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The Trials of Apollo: The Dark Prophecy

The sequel to The Trials of Apollo series was worth the wait and hype. It follows up with Apollo on his quest to find his demigod friend/master Meg, fulfill a prophecy, and uncover the identities of the rest of the evil Triumvirate.

From the start, I was completely hooked because 1) Apollo is my favourite Greek god 2) the voice is pretty good 3) Apollo makes me laugh while struggling to overcome his selfishness to save his friends and other mortals 4) Calypso is awesome 5) Emmie and Josephine are former Hunters of Artemis and are a loving couple 5) The Throne of Memory is intriguing.

While the book ended with a very dark prophecy and the return of a Percy Jackson character, the ending felt anticlimactic for a cliffhanger, compared to the first book.

Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟


One of Us is Lying

[spoilers ahead]

The Breakfast Club meets Gossip Girl meets Cluedo. Five students end up in detention but one (Simon) dies, leading to a murder investigation and the remaining four (Bronwyn, Cooper, Addy and Nate) become suspects. They all have secrets. Secrets that Simon knows and was about to reveal to the world through his notorious gossip app About That before his death. So who killed him to keep theirs?

My eyes and hands were glued to the book. I couldn’t put it down. The characters are high school stereotypes (jock, princess, geek, bad boy and outsider) but they’re much deeper than that. The book has an interesting plot twist but I didn’t like the “outsider/depressed kid is the killer” trope. It’s not refreshing and is insulting. Not every social outcast wants revenge nor are depressed people dangerous. It sucks even more when the ones who hate or drove the outsider to commit something dangerous aren’t punished or don’t learn from their actions.

I want a story where the mastermind isn’t an outsider or someone who just wants to fit in or have mental health issues.

The ending of the book felt like a contemporary romance with the characters not shown how effected they were by the situation they were in. It was like nothing happened. Like a different book just started. While I enjoyed the romance blossoming between Nate and Bronwyn, it felt out of place in the epilogue.

Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟