Friday, July 29, 2016

Review: The Wrath & the Dawn

The Wrath & the Dawn The Wrath & the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After being recommended this book from various friends and online sources, I finally decided to read it on my Kindle. Let me tell you, this story was thrilling! I love the plot, the strong female protagonist, and the unexpected romance. Ahdieh had a way of telling the story that just had me hanging on to every word.

Why this book is incredible:
1. The character interaction was hilarious and very realistic (something many YA novels I have read has a problem with). Shahrzad is a strong female lead that stands for what she believes. (view spoiler)

2. For the most part, I loved this retelling. A Thousand and One Nights has always been one of my favorite fairy tale growing up and I think Ahdieh did an amazing job spinning it into her own tale.

Why this book didn't get 5 stars from me:
My final rating for this book is 4.5 stars and unfortunately, I cannot round it up to 5. Everything about this story and the characters are great...but the ending was so anticlimactic! I mean, I understand that there is a sequel, but (view spoiler) Upon reaching the final pages, I suddenly found myself losing interest in the book, and that's something that should never occur in an outstanding novel.

Overall, I would recommend this book to all of my friends. It's a short, fun, and romantic read.

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Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Review: The Casual Vacancy

The Casual Vacancy The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Despite all the negative reviews I have heard about this book, I really enjoyed this J. K. Rowling novel. Growing up with the Harry Potter series, I tried to focus on not having any preconceived notions before reading this book...and the story really wowed me.

Three things:
1. Rowling is an outstanding story-teller. I had the hardest time keeping track of all the families and characters introduced throughout the first couple of chapters, but I really enjoyed learning how all of the characters eventually linked together (even if it is just the tiny little details). The depth broached by her writing abilities was absolutely incredible. I didn't even know that small city council elections can become so heinous (and exciting) behind the scenes. I like to write short stories in my own time, but I feel like I will never be able to manipulate words and phrases the same way as Rowling.

2. Surprisingly, I really liked all the characters despite their faults. (view spoiler) But she does this to paint the message that we are all human despite our portrayed countenance. This message becomes incredibly moving throughout the complex plot twists in the novel.

3. The ending. This is one of the few novels where I basically couldn't put the book down for the last 60 pages or so. Even though this is a contemporary piece of work, the ending was thrilling and satisfying. I hate endings that are anticlimactic or impractical and this one definitely exceeded my expectation for the plot of the book.

Overall, I would really recommend this book to everyone to read with an open mind towards Rowling's works. The Harry Potter series was targetted for a fantasy-loving, young adult audience. This work is profane and darkly humorous, but nevertheless brilliantly written.

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Thursday, July 21, 2016

Review: The Fault in Our Stars

The Fault in Our Stars The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I was so excited when my little brother got this book for me for my birthday. Multiple friends have recommended this book to me and even warned me to read it with a tissue box. Unfortunately, the story did not live up to the hype...or even its movie adaptation for that matter. I didn't end up crying and I barely laughed at the "funny, little awkward moments". If it wasn't for the 'okay' ending, I would have probably ended up giving this disappointment 2 stars.

(view spoiler)

Overall, this was a short and quick read, but it wasn't for me. I liked the concepts and themes presented by the author, but the interactions between the characters really killed it for me.

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Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Review: The Host

The Host The Host by Stephenie Meyer
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

So this book wasn't as bad as I had expected compared to New Moon and Eclipse. When I first started reading it, I thought the plot was really interesting and that Stephenie Meyer created a unique science fictional universe where parasitic souls take control of humans to use their host bodies. This is where Meyer hit her first cliff: Melanie and Jared's ridiculously sappy and unrealistic relationship. They are both super attractive and apparently some of the last remaining people in the human resistance against the invading souls. The depth of their relationship is never explicitly mentioned in the books but it seems that their attraction is based solely off of the fact that the two help each other and Melanie's younger brother Jamie survive. But never did this story mention any real understanding or love between these two. It almost seemed like they were "in love" for the sake of the story.

The middle of the book was surprisingly really good. I liked reading about how Wanda became adapted to the cave lifestyle and made friends among the human survivors. And then the second cliff hit: Jared is a complete ass and Wanda is a spineless idiot. I understand Jared's anger and frustration in losing his true love and whatnot, but that does not justify some of his actions towards Wanda/Mel. The humans were desperate and paranoid, but Jared's actions make me question "Mel's love" for him even more. Like serious, you like this guy because he kisses you and looks good? Please. Wanda honestly wasn't any better. Her entire attitude toward her situation annoyed me: if you want to hit me, that's okay; if you want to kill me, that's okay; I just want to love Jared and Jaime unconditionally. Ugh...

The only characters I actually liked in the story were Jaime, because of his devotion and innocence, and Ian, who is sensible and compassionate. Ian and Wanda's interactions while Jared went on his raid helped me understand their relationship and sympathize with their internal struggles (probably why I didn't end up giving this story two stars).

Overall, this was an enjoyable quick romantic read, but it didn't blow my mind enough to receive four stars. I would recommend this to any Stephenie Meyer fans and those who are looking for a dark sci-fi romance.

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Friday, July 15, 2016

Review: Persuasion

Persuasion Persuasion by Jane Austen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book has been on my "Jane Austen to-read" list for quite some time now and I am glad I finally got a chance to finish it. Compared to Austen's other works, this was second in enjoyability only compared to Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility. It follows the story of Anne Elliot eight and a half years after she rejects a marriage proposal from Fredrick Wentworth due to the influence of Lady Russell. Throughout their interactions, Anne acknowledges the regret in her decision and realizes that she is still in love with Wentworth.

This was a very short story compared to some of Austen's other works and the plot is very simplistic. Anne is also much older and mature (ripe age of 27 lol), same as Eleanor from Sense and Sensibility. But behind the simple love story, there are many layers of themes that deserve to be analyzed: whether societal hierarchy can be used to judge the character of people, whether or not to take the advice of friends, and whether or not jealousy should be utilized to regain an ex's attention. These social questions still occur in our daily interactions and are addressed throughout this novel.

Regardless if the reader's intended purpose of reading is for enjoyment or sophisticated analysis, I recommend this book for everyone to read at least once in their lifetime.

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Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Review: Me Before You

Me Before You Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I finished this book about 20 minutes ago and I'm still in tears. Wow! When I first started reading this (Sam Claflin and Emilia Clarke are in this movie...#mustread!), I already knew it was going to be a tragic love story. But I never expected it to be emotionally inspiring and heartbreakingly hilarious at the same time. Both Will and Lou were extremely lovable and relatable characters that make you laugh in the middle of even the worst situations.

Aside from the unprecedented love story that developed through Will and Lou's interactions, I really appreciated the ultimate message that translated the story: make your own decisions and live your life with no regrets. Though Will ultimately (view spoiler)

Another thing I really enjoyed from this book is how realistic the characters are portrayed. In some of the recent books that I have completed earlier in the year, the characters and their emotions just all seemed so fake (or maybe it's preference of a certain writing style). Lou and Will will make you laugh even in situations when you feel like it's not acceptable or it's too awkward to laugh. And despite the fact that they grew up from different backgrounds, it is obvious from their interactions that they were really perfect for each other.

Even though I know there is a second book, I don't plan on reading it because I think this is as conclusive as it will get for me (plus, New Moon totally ruined Twilight for me). I would definitely recommend this book to everyone who need another inspirational voice in their lives.

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Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Review: Divergent

Divergent Divergent by Veronica Roth
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book has definitely been one of my favorite dystopian novels I've read so far this year. The plot follows Tris, who is born into Abnegation and later chooses to join the Dauntless faction. A majority of the story follows her through her initiate training and discovering dark secrets about the world in which she resides. To make things more complicated, romance begins to bud between her and her instructor Four.

What I liked about this book:
1. This book is incredibly fun to read. I mean, I could bearly put it down from page 1. Every single chapter is jam packed with action that propels me to keep reading! If you start it, just be prepared to dedicate the next couple of hours in your life reading.

2. This book doesn't entirely focus on the romantic aspect between Tris and Four. I absolutely HATE it when love interests push characters to make irrational and stupid decisions. Good job, Roth!

3. I liked Tris. She's a realistic and relatable character. However, I did notice that she got a lot of "protagonist treatment" though. It was almost as if everyone automatically loved her and it was just so easy for her love interest to return her affections.

What I didn't like about this book:
1. The story was phenomenal, but the writing quality wasn't great. In some chapters, the plot was extremely rushed and there was a ridiculous lack of sentence fluency.

2. Super cliche. This book was basically a crazy mixture between Harry Potter, Hunger Games, Twilight, and whatever other popular young adult SF/fantasy novels. But it seems as if this is the current trend for authors because this is basically what everyone has been publishing. I want something original and insightful.

3. How the heck is everyone NOT divergent? Sure Tris is special, but some of her friends also displayed qualities from other factions. This also confuses me because shouldn't Amity and Abnegation be somewhat the same thing? (Minor thing: the definition abnegation is one of the worst to associate with selfless...isn't there a better word in the thesaurus or something?)

Even though this hasn't been my favorite book ever, I still think that it was really entertaining to read. I would recommend this to young adult and science fiction fans.

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Monday, July 11, 2016

Review: The Diary of a Young Girl

The Diary of a Young Girl The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow! In the first 50 pages or so, I thought this was going to be another one of those books that are way overhyped. Anne starts off as an immature pre-adolescent girl who writes about the little nothings that occur every day in the Secret Annex and brags about her former popularity among male students at her school. To be frank (haha, get it?), I was really annoyed at her immaturity. At the turn of the year in 1944, I began to notice a different side of her: she became analytical in her emotions and questioned the essence of humanity. It was honestly one of the most incredible things I've ever read. We are so constantly flooded with busy work nowadays that we never take the time to reflect upon our own emotional and mental maturity, something Anne was given plenty of time to do. She writes:
"Go outside, to the fields, enjoy nature and the sunshine, go out and try to recapture happiness in yourself and God. Think of all the beauty that's still left in and around you and be happy."
Even though I am not a religious individual, her words are unbelievably inspiring, telling us that we cannot take life for granted.

Throughout the early months of 1944, Anne also became involved with Peter, a boy who also lived in the Secret Annex. She finds herself immersed in her first love and her first kiss. The entries she produced almost made me feel like I was reliving my teenage years...except that she was able to take her emotions and put them so concisely into words. Even though she had a crush on the boy of her dreams, she was able to take a step back and take a good look at the current state of their relationship.

In a way, this work reminded me of Man's Search for Meaning where Frankl discovered the purpose and meaning of life after living through the atrocities of the concentration camps. In Anne's case, she was able to find a higher ideal throughout her time in the Annex.

I would highly recommend for everyone to read this book at least once in their lifetime.

I end with my favorite quote from the book (days before Anne's capture):
"It's really a wonder that I haven't dropped all my ideals, because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out. Yet I keep them, because in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart. I simply can't build upon my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery, and death. I see the world gradually being turned into a wilderness, I hear the ever approaching thunder, which will destroy us too, I can feel the suffering of millions and yet, if I look up into the heavens, I think that it will all come right, that this cruelty too will end, and that peace and tranquility will return again."

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Thursday, July 7, 2016

Review: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change by Stephen R. Covey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So many of my friends have recommended this book to me so I finally decided to buy and read it. The 7 habits introduced were divided into personal and interpersonal behaviors:

(view spoiler)

...and that's the gist of the entire book. Even though it honestly provided me with incredibly insightful personal and interpersonal skills that I plan to later apply to my life, the book was 200 pages longer than it actually needed to be. For example, chapter 6 could have been integrated through the other chapters and the introduction to the concepts were completely unnecessary. When the book hit a major interest point, I would take notes and annotate the passage. However, there were paragraphs where I aloof.

Overall, I liked how the author delivered the message to encourage a change in mentality for future generations of businesses and individuals alike. I would definitely recommend for everyone to read this at least once in their lifetime.

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Review: Palace of Stone

Palace of Stone Palace of Stone by Shannon Hale
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When I saw this book at the library, I decided to read it even though I read the first Princess Academy book almost 10 years ago! This book focuses on Miri and the other Academy girls going to Asland to prepare for Britta's wedding to the prince. At the beginning, it was really hard for me to engage myself (again) with the characters and the plot of the story; but as the pace began to pick up, I found myself really appreciating the intellect and maturity of the characters.

My major complaints:
1. The whole concept of quarry-speech became distorted in this book. It was very practical and realistic from what I remembered in the first book, but now it just seems like a new superpower.
2. I actually really liked Timon. I liked this personality and his approach to life, and I felt like his story was incomplete. It seemed as if the author wrote a couple of pages in the end about him for the purpose of ending the story.
3. There were certain chapters where Miri really annoyed me. In the first book, I remember her being a very smart and capable girl. But she seems so stupid in this one, being constantly duped over and over again.

Overall, it was a nice and quick read. I would recommend it to anyone who is a fan of Hale's previous works.

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