My Review of The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

⭐⭐⭐

I started reading this book with much enthusiasm, after reading the first chapter and being immediately hooked. But unfortunately, the more I got inside the world of this book, the less my enthusiasm ran, until I had to drag myself through the last ten to twelve chapters. I’m sighing in relief that this book is a standalone and left wondering how on earth it became a NYT bestseller. I’m not saying it’s a bad book with clichéd plot and stereotypical characters.

To be honest, I still find this book a puzzle, a puzzle I do not want to venture into or solve. The beginning of the book gave me vibes of The Spiderwick Chronicles, which I’m a huge fan of (the movie, not yet read the book) and I thought it’s gonna be a fascinating tale like that. A lot of people suggested it has atmospheric spooky feel in it and so I went plummeting into it.

Little did I know I’d get lost in the book and not in a good way. I still can’t understand many parts of the story now that I’ve dragged myself to finish it. Previously, The Cruel Beauty by Rosamond Hodge made me feel this way. I think when it comes to standalone books, their plot shouldn’t be too obscure and intricate. It only ruins the tale and makes the author rush the ending.

Anyway, the story is about Alice Crews, aka Alice Prosperine, whose grandmother is the elusive enigmatic fairy tale writer, Althea Prosperine. Despite being a celebrity, Althea coops up in her upstate New York estate, The Hazel Wood, from where she never really goes out. However, the plot begins with Alice telling us how her mother, Ella, has been on the road with her for all of Alice’s lifespan, being chased by strange events caused by bad luck. When Ella goes missing, kidnapped by two strange characters from Althea’s eerie fairy tale book, Alice seeks help from a classmate, Ellery Finch, who is a fan of Althea’s book, to find her mother. Strange events begin to happen, slowly unravelling the terrifying mystery behind Althea’s book and its world, the Hinterland.

While I loved reading the first ten to twelve chapters, I slowly began to find the plot and its events somewhat loose and not interconnected. As if the events just happened to spook Alice and Finch, not to advance the plot anyhow. What made me more disappointed in the book was the unsatisfying ending, not tying up most of the loose ends.

Overall, I gave it three stars since the plot’s concept was interesting and its beginning was very intriguing, surprisingly fresh and hooking.

Still, if you don’t like muddied plot and loose ending, I’ll not suggest this book to you.

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My Review of Catwoman: Soulstealer (DC Icon #3) by Sarah J. Maas

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

I’ve never been a fan of comics, though I enjoyed a lot of films based on them. However, hearing Sarah J. Maas, one of my favorite YA writer, is penning a DC icon book, I had to check it out. Also, because Catwoman is set in modern day urban setting while SJM is a writer whose books are always set in second world fae settings.

Anyway, my expectations were met to the fullest. I LOVE this book so so much. Reading this book affirmed SJM can write books set in modern days as well (Guess what it means? I’ll be picking up Crescent City, SJM’s upcoming adult urban fantasy as well!). But this book made me so so happy while reading. Most of Sarah’s previous notorious traits were unseen here (maybe one or two but not much).

I’m so, so glad SJM is trying to make her books more diverse (though something that made me a bit upset was she still hadn’t relinquished her “kill the PoC” trope much. I hope she will improve on it in her later books.)

But what impressed me most about this book are:

01) Really Amazing Plot:

Seriously, it is!!! Before I picked up this book, I went to check out its GR reviews and some were very upfront about how the plot is slow and clichéd. I was a bit wary. But then I began and got instantly hooked in the first two chapters of the lengthy prologue. Selina’s story is oh so good. Her struggles are shown very humanely. I mean, I know Catwoman aka Selina Kyle grew up amidst poverty even in the comics and the Dark Knight trilogy movies. But Sarah showed it here so poignantly. Selina’s struggle to keep her sister (who is suffering from cystic fibrosis and thus has very little time to live) well-fed, out of any trouble from an abusive mother and an absentee father, from heinous social workers and even from dying too. I loved the tightly knitted plot and the seamless pacing as well. What made me most happy is how SJM, who is an expert in excellent foreshadowing, kept her flare in this book, something that made me her fan in the first place. The surprises and the “click in the place” moments were too good!

02) Characters:

Selina Kyle aka Catwoman aka Holly Vanderhees:

I loved Selina. I’ve never read much about Catwoman and saw very little movies featuring her. I loved how SJM showed her story minus Batman, whose story often shadowed Selina’s own.

Anyway, Selina is one of my favorite YA heroines now. She is badass, fierce, calm and calculated, but also has a soft, human side and a gray moral side. She yearns to be loved and kissed and held romantically when she sees two prominent characters being lovey dovey to each other. She has PTSD from years of having an abusive mother and then the abusive training at the hands of the al-Ghūl sisters. Her trauma is also shown poignantly and touched me in a lot places within the story. But mostly what I loved about her was her fierce love and protectiveness toward her sister, Maggie. When it comes to Maggie (alongside Luke of course), Selina is the most vulnerable.

One thing I noticed is SJM kept mentioning how Selina was a white girl and tbh, I liked it. Contrast to her love interest, Luke Fox, who is a black man, SJM showed us how despite being poor, she has white privilege and thus shows us what white privilege truly is and how it doesn’t matter what financial background you come from.

Luke Fox:

I kept imagining Michael B. Jordan as Luke Fox *giggles*. I LOVEEEEEE Luke. He is so cute and amazingly awesome. I loved reading his POV and his side of the story. I loved every time his ass got kicked by Selina and his sulking afterwards. I loved his tight knit family and his close and adorable relationship with his parents, who are amazing as well. I loved his friendship with his two best friends. But his life is not sunshine and rainbow. His conscience often suffers from PTSD from being served in the Marine overseas. His pain is raw and makes him often vulnerable. His affections toward Selina, whether as Catwoman or Holly Vanderhees or even as Selina Kyle in the latter portion of the book made my heart warm. He is such a cinnamon roll.

Especially in this scene where *spoiler alert* he is heartbroken over Selina dying temporarily:

Luke peered down at the lifeless face, gently closing Selina’s eyes as a panel slid up to reveal the lower half of his face. He leaned in, brushing a kiss over her mouth before he murmured into her ear, “Please.”

Also this post climactic scene:

She cut him a glare. “If that is a new nickname—”
Luke grabbed her face in his hands and kissed her.
The light changed, and the car behind them began honking, but Luke didn’t move, didn’t really care about anything as her mouth opened to him and her hands slid around his neck.
When he pulled back, her breathing was just as uneven as his. Luke brushed his mouth over hers. Once, twice. Unable to stop himself.
“Let me take you out—a real date.”
The words slipped from him before he could think.

Me as a fangirl:

Truly!!! I love Luke more than I’ll ever love Rhysand tbh.

What I also loved about his portrayal was how SJM showed us racism, though not much, from his POV. SJM showed how some of the corrupt Gotham police nab and plant teen black kids and use their skin color to enforce their power. How despite being so rich, Luke is still stopped by cops while driving and only let go because of his social status and financial powers.

Looks like SJM is learning 😉

Poison Ivy:

I loved her character!! She is one of the sweetest villains I’ve ever read about. Tbh, she doesn’t sound like a villain at all. Though she is an eco-terrorist, she is very much sympathetic, empathetic and kind. She even supports Selina even after she hurts her and Harley. My heart breaks knowing her love for Harley is unrequited and despite knowing that, Ivy carries a torch for Harley. Ivy is my favorite character after Luke and Selina in this book.

Harley Quinn:

OMG she’s a treat. Prone of extreme mood swing and mercurial nature, Harley is one ticking bomb to be careful of (pun intended). I can sense she loves Ivy somewhat but not as much as Ivy loves her. Her vulnerable obsession with the Joker is too creepy. But SJM makes her somewhat human too by showing her vulnerability toward her mother, how her mom is her kryptonite.

03) Sexy yet tender romance:

Sexy but not the way ACOTAR was shown. Rather in fun bantering and bickering, Selina and Luke trying to one-up each other, in tender moments and even more tender kisses, and Luke being an adorable cinnamon roll gentleman to Selina are just heart popping cute romance I’m gonna ship forever 😍😍😍

Even Harley and Ivy got their adorable moments, especially when one gets protective of the other (mostly Harley over Ivy but Ivy gets protective too 😁😁😁).

SJM is an expert in romance like these, completely slow-burn.

So overall, you can see how much this book won me over. I loved it so so much, I might read it again in near future. And FYI, I devoured this book in a day, two days before my midterm exams. So y’all can tell how much I loved it.

My Review of The Queen’s Wing (The Queen’s Wing #1) by Jessica Thorne

⭐⭐⭐

I began this ARC only 3 days before my midterm exams and I am happy to have picked it up. It was a delightful read, a refreshing setting and an equally interesting plot. Set in a Star Wars-esque world, the Queen’s Wing seems to be Red Queen meets The Selection series, though the second half of the book resembles The Mocking Jay and The Insurgent books more likely, and the romance eerily alike the one between Katniss, Peeta and Gale.

The plot starts in a stroll, in the planet Vairia, with the protagonist, Belengria, aka Bel, who loves to fly her Wasp, a flying vessel of sorts, and a boy named Shae. However, her peaceful world quickly turns upside down when her royal distant cousins are assassinated via bombs and her family are crowned as the new royal family. Bel, being the only princess, is arranged in a political marriage with the ruler of a distant planet, Anatheus, before we even reach chapter 4. The quick pace was not dizzyingly quick, but good enough to help us settle in and find grounds.

Then we are whisked away to Anatheus, where the new environment and rules overwhelm Bel as she navigates between her new life and new romantic interest in her future husband, the widower Anatheum, Conleith (or Con).

What I found obvious in this plot is that it takes old wine and present it in a new bottle. The love triangle (whose clichéd familiarity somewhat irritated me), the rebellion, an MC who likes flying and fighting instead of dresses and courts, two dashing love interests, even a masked ball.

As for the characters, I loved the protagonist, Bel, who, though isn’t a fan of dresses and make-up, unlike lots of sarcastic YA MCs, do not belittle them. She expresses her anger and reluctance without scorning femininity. She embraces her new role the way any teenagers would, first rebellion followed by confusion and reluctant embracing.

As for the love interest, I found Con very interesting, who strongly resembled Peeta Mellark while the other, Shae, who resembled Gale, I couldn’t like much. Though unlike Gale, Shae turns out to be surprisingly caring and soft.

Something I also noticed in this ARC is the mentions of three things that are found in our world, but should not be found in this story’s world. At one point, Bel compares a spaceship with Leviathan, who is a creature from the Abrahamic religions. Further into the book, Bel spots, in a luxurious dining space, damask silk tablecloths and fine China crockery; things that cannot exist in such a world as in this book. I hope the publishers will take note and correct those mistakes.

Overall, the book was good enough. But the way it restored old wine in new bottles was tad boring. I enjoyed it at most, especially the later romance between Con and Bel, but the plot and the voice were somewhat unoriginal.

Thank you, NetGalley and Bookouture for providing me with an eARC for an honest review of the book.

My Review of Kulti by Mariana Zapata

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

I love this book so much!!!!

Honestly, hearing from GR reviews how amazing this book was, I had skyscraper expectations from this book and it did not disappoint me at all.

This book is so mature (opposite of childish, not the other meaning) in romance, so adorable and realistic in its portrayal of its characters and the story. I was left wanting for more.

The story is about Salomé Casillas, 27yrs old professional soccer player who, since age seven, worshipped Reiner Kulti, a 39yrs retired international soccer player with a status similar to contemporary Messi and Ronaldo. The story begins when Kulti comes to coach Sal’s regional women’s soccer team and slowly, slowly, friendship followed by love blossoms between the two.

The uniqueness about this book is not just the sports setting and premise. The book shines on its realistic portrayal of the characters and the plot, the humorous voice of the narrator, Sal, and how much the romance is slow burning and smoldering.

I was left wanting for more truly. I’m not a big romance reader and I pick them up once in a blue moon. But after reading some really good romance books recently, the genre is getting my interest. And this book increased my interest in romance books even more. I’m so in love with this book. It was somewhat long to be honest, but the slow burn was worth it. Unlike some erotica and romance novels where the characters have insta-love and spend 70% of the book ogling at each other’s body, this book explores a healthy love built on friendship, support and trust. The characters explored so much hardship and obstacles and the ending was worth it. I’m not gonna go into dissecting the elements I usually do but that doesn’t mean I don’t love it. I absolutely adore it and it’ll go to my GR shelf of favorite books. But I got my finals to cram for so I’m gonna leave with some quotes from the book.

Hope this review will encourage you to pick it up. I’ll strongly strongly recommend it.

My Review of The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

This book was a required read for my 404 course of American Literature and I had to do some background reading for it first on Wikipedia to gain some prereading knowledge.

Suffice to say this book broke me. It not just touched me but also moved me, as Ms. Morrison intended Pecola’s story to be. At first, I was tad put off by the Jane and Dick prologue and wondered if this book will drag me for the syllabus.

I was thoroughly proven wrong. I was slow at first in the book, and then finished it in two hours since it was such a short novel (a novella maybe). And this book tore my heart by the realistic yet gruesome portrayal of an innocent girl’s life and the subsequent leading to insanity.

Pecola Breedlove was repeatedly called an ugly girl throughout the book, by the writer-narrator, by the only first person narrator, Claudia, and by the surrounding characters. This book was written in a simple language with easy diction yet it was no easy read. Everybody here was hankering after beauty including Pecola. In their pursuit of beauty, they turned ugly; sometimes by themselves, sometimes by others, the rest by circumstances.

This book is about racial inferiority complex and how beauty is an ugliness in itself. Everybody wanted beauty and in the process, smeared themselves and everything beautiful in their lives with ugliness that could not be cleansed. They destroyed their own lives and were not much hesitant or repentant afterwards about destroying other’s lives either.

Pecola was the only one in the book who never destroyed anybody’s life for beauty knowingly. She was the only one who felt guilt, repentance, and suffered from them. Her innocence was marred and ruined by others repeatedly yet she never avenged it, rather let them ruin her. She was the only true beauty in this book. Only true innocence. And yet, and yet she was used, abused and thrown away after use. She was the only innocent beauty in this ugly world so obviously this ugly world, jealous of her beauty, marred it beyond healing.

The characters, the rest of them, were protagonists of their own lives, both right and wrong in their disgusting and disastrous pursuits of beauty. Mrs. Breedlove let her alcoholic husband succumb further into alcoholism and thus secondarily destroyed her daughter’s life, all as a revenge for everything beautiful everyone took from her. Mr. Breedlove was a victim like Pecola and yet also an abuser. Soaphead Church was a victim and yet an abuser. China, Marie and one other prostitute living above Pecola’s flat were beautifying themselves yet knew those were false, fading beauty. Geraldine kept everything in her life in a neatly order yet was a broken hollow shell in life. Her son, Junior, also failing in pursuit of the beauty of friendship, enjoyed torturing and bullying everyone else. Claudia and Freida were mostly bystanders as they watched everyone in the story self-destruct themselves.

They all bore a symbolic and thematic meaning. Hankering after materialistic beauty drained away all their inner beauties. But they were not always at fault for that. And that is the greatest ugliness of life. And they were all ensnared in the traps of beauty’s elusive web.

My Review of The Cruel Prince (The Folk of the Air #1) by Holly Black

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

(Disclaimer: this review contains spoilers)

OMG what I have read???

Okay, so this review was pending for two days and I just gotten to it after processing my thoughts about this book.

You guys are in for a treat 😍😍😍

This book is so addictive and hypnotic. I started in the morning and finished it in the same evening. It was so bloody good! I was left reeling from the ending. The twists and turns, the punch-in-the-gut foreshadowing, the characterization, the intensity of the subplot romance, the court politics.

I was left breathless.

This is my first book by Holly Black. I’ve watched the Spiderwick Chronicles movie and I loved it back in 2008. I never knew it was by the same author and now I’m thrilled for her other books. OMG she’s super amazing.

Okay, now on to the review:

01. Plot:

Though it centered around faeries, it was a parallel universe to modern human world, opposite to SJM’s universe. Both series have the same faerie based fantasy and court intrigue. But while SJM was mostly about romance, this series focused on the protagonist and power and greed and politics. From the get go, the plot reeled me in like a fish with a bait. And I was totally hooked. I loved every chapter, every scheming and foreshadows, every plot twists and all. Loved every moment of it.

02. Characters:

Jude Duarte:

She is the protagonist and a human whisked to the faerieland with her sisters by her faerie stepfather after he killed her parents. She is brought up among the faeries and she longs to be like them. Her desire for power and beauty is so relatable. Her reactions and thoughts are likeable and make me adore her. She is no damsel in distress despite being a human in a faerieland. Just pute respect and love for her.

Prince Cardan:

He was half like Rhysand but also different from him. He’s a spoiled brat and a bully and yet harbors desire and attraction toward Jude which he suppresses. His characterization, unfortunately compared to Jude, fell slightly flat for me. Maybe in the next books he can shine.

Taryn:

Jude’s twin sister and a goody two shoes. From the get go I disliked her attitude. Yes, there were some goody two shoes sisters in other books (e.g. Elain to Feyre, Prim to Katniss, etc.) But something about Taryn rubbed me off and it is only after a plot twist did I realize my instincts were so right to hate her.

Madoc:

Jude’s stepfather and a ruthless faerie general. He murdered her parents and whisked Jude and her sisters to the faerieland.

Spoiler: he is an antagonist.

Vivienne:

Jude’s half sister and a faerie, she’s Madoc’s biological daughter but hates her father to the core. She was the true best sister for Jude and I loved her spunk and sass. She yearns to return to the human world, unlike Jude and Taryn

Minor characters:

There were other minor characters with their own goals and stakes. I loved Jude’s stepmom later in the story, though hated her in the beginning. I also hated Prince Cardan’s group of bullies. Cardan’s siblings were so so.

03. Court politics:

This is what made me love this book to the core. Other faerie books had court politics but this book surpassed them all. It was this book that made me realize how much fun the scheming and backstabbing can be.

All the twists and turns made me giddy with fangirling emotions.

04. Angsty romance:

Oh yeah. There was romance. There was plenty of angst. The intense battle of one-upping each other between Jude and Prince Cardan was mindbogglingly good. I loved how he wanted her badly yet also hated that he wanted her so badly. That one kissing scene between them was so swoonworthy! 😍😍😍

Some content warning:

This book was overall free of problematic aspects (as far as I could see) except for one. In one scene, there was two suicides back to back which may make you uncomfortable and/or trigger any trauma. It was during the coronation scene of Prince Dain, and if you are uncomfortable with such contents, skip it since there were references to what happened on that scene later.

So overall, I’ve become a huge fan of this book. It gave me a hangover still lasting. I’m dying to get my hands on The Wicked King (2019) and then Queen of Nothing (2020).

I’d recommend to all fans of SJM.

My Review of The Hating Game by Sally Thorne

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Five glorious stars!

Truth be told I’m not a romance reader. I’m more into young adult fantasy and SciFi. But lately I’m branching out as a reader and this book I heard about so much I had to read it.

And everyone was so right. I may not be a romance reader but this book even made me swallow it and squeal in delight from it. I finished it in one day and I savored every page.

It’s a hilarious lighthearted romance full of hilarious witty banter and steamy sexual tension in abundance. And since I am a huge fan of ACOTAR series, you bet I enjoyed every banter.

Now, the analysis of the book:

01. Plot:

The plot is super funny and adorable and pretty much like any other typical office romances. Two rival colleagues falling for each other. But the simplification of the plot mustn’t throw you off. I loved every thing about this plot. It wasn’t clichéd or corny. The plot moved without making any cringe worthy moments and dialogues.

So the plot is the romance between the assistants of the two CEOs of a merged publishing house. They start off as arch nemeses and you know I love a good enemies to lovers romance. The plot goes seamlessly and I loved how there was no problematic aspects of this relationship. Nobody does any abusive or manipulative stuff. The guy, though big and rough and all, isn’t an asshole to the heroine so I was relieved.

Sally Thorne created a healthy portrayal of a healthy relationship.

02. Characters:

Lucy Hutton:

She’s the narrator and protagonist of the book. She’s your typical girl next door librarian type who’s sweet with a smart mouth. She’s not ashamed of her sexual feelings for her arch nemesis and I applaud the author for creating a heroine who is confident in her desire for someone she’s not supposed to like. I felt mostly akin to her for her height and fiery personality since I got both. Like her, I’m also 5’0″ and I got a bit of temper when I’m pissed lol.

Josh Templeman:

He’s the love interest. He’s everything Lucy isn’t. He’s almost 6’4″ and big bodied, he’s all muscles and very clinical and uber professional in the office. He too has a bit of temper and keeps everyone scared of him except for his bosses and Lucy. He later turns out of be super adorable and in the end, he does several super adorable and devotional things for the love interest that makes me go awww.

Helene:

She’s the only significant enough character I found apart from Lucy and Josh. Everyone else kind of vanishes in the background to me. She’s the kind of boss you’d want as your boss and she’s super friendly and nice to her assistant, Lucy.

So one last thing before I end this review. Although this book is very good with the romance and character development and the establishment of healthy romance, there was one line that made me uncomfortable. It’s a scene where Lucy goes to Josh’s apartment one day as a guest and compared to his spring clean flat, she finds her own “a Calcutta slum”. This made me very uncomfortable and slightly angry. America has tons of alleys and slum-like places on its own. She should not have made such a narrow minded comparison that only India and this subcontinent has such nasty slums. Also, Calcutta? Not Kolkata? How updated is she?

Anyway, I’ll leave on a positive note aside from that one part. This book is really good and made me giggle, chuckle, squeal and squirm (for good reasons) and I’m not a romance reader at all. But I enjoyed it thoroughly. If you are a fan of witty banters ending toward sweet romance, this is the book for you.