Review of ‘Flamecaster (Shattered Realms, #1)’ by Cinda Williams Chima

Flamecaster (Shattered Realms, #1)Flamecaster by Cinda Williams Chima

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

To start off, I have to admit that I hadn’t read the Seven Realms series that proceeded this one, but from what I’ve gathered, it’s still readable without prior knowledge from the former–though I’m sure you’d probably have more ‘A-ha’ moments if you had…
Anyway, even without having read the former series, I have to say that I really enjoyed this book and will likely be delving into the Seven Realms books in the near future.

Flamecaster was everything I could have wanted in a fantasy novel (not that I’ve actually read very many), and I’ll go ahead and list a few reasons why:

1. With my first reason, I’ll say that I can be pretty simple at times, and I think one of those moments came into play with the fact that I could actually read a majority of the characters’ names!! I tend to be a bit put off by so many authors and their inherent need for characters to have the most ridiculous names you can think up, so it was refreshing to read a book where Ash (Adrian) and Jenna were the names of the MCs! Sure, there are names like Taliesin, and Ash’s last name is sul’Han, but they’re still considerably easier to pronounce than some of the names I’ve come across before… Now that I’ve gone off on a tangent about names, let’s move on!

2. This being my first read from Cinda Williams Chima, I have to say that I really loved reading about this world she’d created. It was easy to navigate through, and you end up learning bits and pieces about the different kingdoms as you’re reading, leaving you both curious and excited to learn more as the series continues on. I’m not going to go into detail about what I found to be interesting, because of spoilers, but I will say that it concerns a certain geographic area called the Northern Islands… All in all, I just loved this magical world, and really look forward to learning more about the different realms.

3. MCs that I actually liked! Ash is awesome in his role as an ‘assassin hiding in plain view‘. He’s bent on revenge, but the revenge is extremely hard to follow through with when it’s against a king who is very well-guarded. So of course he must take on a role that can earn the king’s trust–that of a royal healer. He’s very skilled, but it’s his magic that first draws the attention of the king, and though I won’t go into that, I will say that the way he does so is very interesting and I can’t wait to see more from him.
Then we have Jenna. I loved Jenna’s intelligence, and I loved the fact that she knew all sorts of things when it comes to blowing things up! She ends up being imprisoned in the aforementioned king’s castle, and that’s when a lot of the exciting things really start happening!!

*The one thing that I didn’t quite care for:

4. The romance was a little meh. It’s a bit too ‘insta-lovey‘ to me, but since it doesn’t happen till later in the book, it didn’t overwhelm, so I’m able to forgive and move past it. Fingers crossed that it doesn’t end up becoming cringe-worthy in the next book!

In conclusion, besides the meh romance, I really liked this book and would recommend it if you’re looking for a well-written fantasy starring characters with beautifully normal names.

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Review of ‘Caraval (Caraval, #1) by Stephanie Garber

Caraval (Caraval, #1)Caraval by Stephanie Garber

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Though I have several reviews I should be doing before this, I figured since it’s a popular one right now, I’ll go ahead and write one up now.

As I’d already mentioned, popularity-wise, Caraval was a highly anticipated read that seemed to have cropped up everywhere. The ARC seemed to be on everyone’s social media pages.

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In Caraval, Scarlett Dragna – protagonist and protective older sister – is desperate to leave Trisda the island she’s grown up on with her sister Tella, as well as her abusive father, and she’s finally going to be able to, due to an arranged marriage with a Count from another land.
Before this engagement, Scarlett had always dreamed of being able to attend Caraval with her sister. Caraval, run by the mysterious man only known by the name Legend, is known to be a spectacular performance that involves their audience in the play, and this show only happens once a year, making it even more special.
Though Scarlett had written to Legend every year, hoping for him to bring Caraval to Trisda, but there was never a reply, so she eventually concedes to moving on.
But this year, the invitation has finally come, and though Scarlett initially has no plans of going, Tella convinces her to, so with the help of a young sailor named Julian, someone they only recently had become acquainted with, they make their way to the island Caraval is being staged on. Then, not long after arriving, Tella is kidnapped by Legend, and Scarlett finds out that this years performance is centered on Tella, and each participant is tasked with finding her.
Scarlett, though, is just desperate to find her sister, and hopefully be back in time for her wedding. So she begins the search, soon finding out that Caraval, with all its mystery and splendor, is really quite devious, and clues aren’t always what they seem. The dangers she experiences may be real, but then again, they may not be, it’s up to Scarlett to decide for herself.
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I’ll begin with saying that I found this book to be pretty exciting. I enjoyed how fast-paced it was, and how something seemed to happen in every chapter, which definitely helped in keeping me enamored.
I also enjoyed reading about the magical dress that could transform according to one’s mood.
Another thing I liked, was reading about the different performers involved in Caraval, and the different things that made these performers so mysterious, sometimes even scary (not in the ‘BOO’ sense, but in the ‘walking down a dark alley at night with a stranger following you’ type of way).

Now, when it comes to Scarlett, I’m a bit torn. I liked her. I liked that she cared so much for her sister, that she would go ridiculously above and beyond to find/save her. But then again, I also kind of disliked her. I disliked that she cared so much for her sister, that she would go ridiculously above and beyond to find/save her.

Tella is obviously the more impulsive sister, and tends to do things without thinking much of consequences; whereas Scarlett takes more time thinking the matter over, and ends up bailing her sister out of many nasty situations. So, though I said I liked the way Scarlett cared about her sister, it also got to be a bit obnoxious for me. It soon became annoying to hear Scarlett risking so much, including her own chance at happiness, because she had to take care of her little sister. I feel like maybe I should be a bit more apathetic about Scarlett’s feelings, but honestly, I just don’t want to be. I’d rather be annoyed and tell myself I can’t deal with characters being so self-sacrificing for my own selfish reasons.

As I’m closing in on the end of this review, I feel I should mention a little in regards to the romance part of this book.
At times, it was subtle, then at others, it was – boom! – in your face. Now let me remind you that there is still that fiancé of Scarlett’s, so whether anything flourishes or not, I won’t say, you’ll just have to read the book.
And yes, I recommend you do so.

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Review of ‘Vicarious (Vicarious, #1)’ by Paula Stokes

Vicarious (Vicarious, #1)Vicarious by Paula Stokes

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Vicarious was the unfortunate victim of a reading slump, but though it took longer than usual for me to read, I actually did enjoy this book.

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In Vicarious, we have MC Winter Kim (so cool seeing an Asian protagonist!!!!) one of several employed y Gideon to record Virtual Reality (think Samsung VR) experiences for those willing to pay for something they’d likely be unable to, or never do.
Rose, Winter’s carefree sister, disappears one day, and a VR recording shows up with what appears to be her murder. Winter, who survived human trafficking with the strength and aide of Rose, can’t allow Rose’s death to go unanswered, so it only makes sense that she’d want to find justice.
But as she’s discovering different clues, they seem to conflict with each other, and Winter is left to wonder what’s real, and what isn’t.
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Set in a futuristic St. Louis, I like that this was a more realistic dystopian. The VR devices, called ‘Vicarious Sensory Experiences (ViSE) for the fact that your own senses are triggered to make the experiences all the more real.
I feel like it is entirely possible we may see such devices one day, considering there are similar devices already in existence (though not as complex, obviously). I think a lot this realism is what helped me like this book all the more.

Next, I’d like to touch upon how much I loved the diverse characters!!! We have an Asian MC, and a Hispanic love-interest. Jesse Ramirez is also a ViSE recorder, and he happens to very much like Winter, though she doesn’t exactly give off approachable vibes. But considering her past, it’s understandable why she wouldn’t want people getting close. With Jesse, I liked how he was so kind and patient towards Winter. He never tried to pressure her to feel anything for him, though it’s obvious he really really liked her. *Gushing* He’s such a a good guy.

Anyway, in conclusion, Vicarious was a good book, and I’m happy to recommend it.

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Review of ‘Chasing Truth (Eleanor Ames, #1)’ by Julie Cross

Chasing Truth (Eleanor Ames, #1)Chasing Truth by Julie Cross

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you are looking for a suspenseful/contemporary/mystery/romance (check out all those adjectives…), then definitely check out Chasing Truth from Julie Cross!

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In Chasing Truth, Eleanor Ames is attempting to live the normal life of a teen, having left behind her con artist past. But then her best friend Simon(the only real friend she’s ever really had) commits suicide after their school’s homecoming dance, Ellie is sure there’s more to his death.

It’s while she’s doing some investigating that she finds herself repeatedly bumping into Miles Beckett, and though she finds herself annoying attracted to him and his slightly cocky attitude, she’s suspicious of the fact that he also appears to be investigating Simon’s death.

With all her suspicions, Ellie knows it’s not wise to trust Miles, but she also knows that it’s smart to keep him close so she can keep an eye on him, though she may be falling for Simon’s possible murderer.
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I have never read any of Julie Cross‘ books before, but if the humor in this is indicative of what to expect from her other books, I’ll have to check out more from her!

I also have never been shy about my love of characters with quick wits, and Ellie is definitely quick-witted. She’s funny, subtle at times, and not cheesy, since I typically hate cheesy humor. I loved how quick she was with comebacks (a lot of times at Miles’ expense, ha ha), and she was very clever – which you’d sort of expect of someone whose life had revolved around cons – the cleverness being handy whenever she’d needed an out from a situation, or whenever she needed to explain her suspicious actions.
Honestly, I think it’s because I’m jealous of these quick-witted types, and that’s why I tend to like them so much.

I really enjoyed the character of Miles as well. I loved that he was this hot, smart guy who could still get embarrassed or shy when coming up against our clever heroine. His interactions with her were so fun, I loved how she could annoy him with her constant jokes and teasing, but he still wanted to be around her, it was super cute.

Can I also say how much I really liked Ellie’s sister Harper’s secret-service agent boyfriend Aiden?? (Did you get all that?) Aiden was such an awesome guy. He obviously cared a ton for Harper, but it was so nice seeing how much he cared about Ellie and her well-being/safety. He was very protective and played a large part in Ellie’s investigation, though it wasn’t really by choice, but more so because he really was like an older bother to her.

Now, the mystery itself was well done in my opinion, and Ellie being a former con artist really brought two very different worlds together. I mean, whoever thought a con man/woman would ever really care about seeking justice? Sure, you can think it’s because she just wants to make up for her past, redeem herself in a way, but it’s mostly because of how much she had grown to care for Simon, so she couldn’t stand to see his death go down as a suicide, when it just couldn’t have been. The different lessons she’d picked up in the past did help her out, so it did actually work in her favor, giving her an advantage when it came to figuring out clues and a criminal’s mind, making for a more rounded story and explanations as to why a teen would know so much, or be able to even think she could possibly investigate anything.

Anyway, I really liked this book, not enough to ‘five-star it’, but enough that I’ll be sure to check out the next Eleanor Ames book whenever it comes out, and possibly more of Julie Cross‘s books as well.

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Review of ‘This is My Brain on Boys’ by Sarah Strohmeyer

Sorry it’s only taken me about fifteen years to finally post a review! :\

This Is My Brain on BoysThis Is My Brain on Boys by Sarah Strohmeyer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you enjoy the concise – but witty – way that Dr. Temperance Brennan on
Bones
speaks, then you’ll likely enjoy Sarah Strohmeyer‘s version in Addie Emerson.

In This Is My Brain on Boys, our protagonist is the extremely intelligent (as well as blunt) Addie, and she believes she knows the formula to make people fall in love. After months of drafting her very precise method, she is ready to test it on humans, and has devised an experiment using several of her own classmates as the test subjects. If all goes accordingly, the plan is to submit her findings in the hopes of winning a prestigious award that includes a full scholarship to her dream school, Harvard.

But Addie doesn’t count on Kris being the kink in her plans. Kris, the cute boy who not only experienced a death-defying flight with Addie, but also happens to be one of the subjects in her experiment. There’s no way Addie can allow her feelings to derail her hopes of getting into college, even if that means losing out on the chance of falling in love…

Honestly, I think the biggest reason I enjoyed this book so much, and Addie’s role, is seriously because of my love for the aforementioned tv series, Bones. I love the tongue-in-cheek humor of the show, and I really found This Is My Brain on Boys to be very similar in tones of hilarity. I loved that Addie was so literal, that jokes and pop-culture references usually went over her head, causing her to explain something entirely in its literal, painfully obvious sense. But to me, that’s what made her so funny and so endearing.

I really liked Kris, and his part as Addie’s “maybe” love interest. He happens to be a bit of a bleeding heart (for the sake of this being spoiler-free, I won’t go into detail, so READ THE BOOK!!!), but this just serves to emphasize how much of a caring person he is. He does make mistakes (some bigger than others, but again, this is a spoiler-free zone), but also has the sense to regret it and be apologetic, which I liked about him. Overall, I did like his character.

I’m not sure I’ve stressed how much I loved this book (or did I?) and its characters, but I really, really did, so I will definitely recommend this if you’re looking for a fun, cute romance amidst all the dystopian/fantasy reads that seem to be so prevalent these days. (Not that I’m really complaining, since those tend to be my favorite types of books to read, but hey, sometimes we just need a good contemporary, right?)

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Review of ‘Something in Between’ by Melissa de la Cruz

Something in BetweenSomething in Between by Melissa de la Cruz

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I really wanted to read this book because I know many people (including my own parents) who came to America as immigrants and really established their lives here. I can’t imagine what it would be like for any of them if one they were told they could no longer stay in the country they had adopted as home, because they were not considered legal.

This is what happens to Jasmine‘s family; Filipino immigrants, they’ve been living in America for the past ten years (this number is an estimate, since I can’t remember the exact amount of time) and have really made California their home. But when Jasmine – being the high achiever she is – earns the National Scholarship, which could lead to even bigger scholarships from the college of her choice, she is told that she cannot apply for them, because her parent’s work visas have expired, and the family is no longer legal residents.

For the first time, Jasmine has no idea what to do. She wants to find a way to help with her family’s situation, but with the way the laws of the land work, it’s beginning to look impossible.


Then let’s add in a possible romance for good measure.

Royce is the son of a well-known congressman, and is very interested in Jasmine. He does serve as a good distraction during her family’s current situation, but she can’t help but wonder what might happen between them if he was to learn that she is undocumented, especially because of his father’s politics.

So, with romance in the woodworks, an uncertain future pertaining to college, what else can Jasmine do, but to help her parents fight to find a way to keep her family home.

Having grown up with parents who were both originally immigrants to America (my mother is from Japan, and my step-father is originally from Mexico…I know, interesting combo, huh?), I could easily see the need for an immigrant to have legal status, and want for it to be more easily attainable. Then, as someone born in America, I also could see why the government would want to set measures in place – a system – to keep people from being here illegally. But that being said, I wish that the government would give immigrants the opportunity to be able to come to America and after some time, the chance to apply for a green card.

BUT…we are not here for politics, we are here for a book review.

I was really intrigued by Jasmine’s story. To work so hard in school so that she could graduate with honors and possibly have the opportunity to go the college of her choice? She was on the path to an extraordinary future, I can’t imagine what it’d be like to learn that there was a possibility you wouldn’t be able to reap the benefits of what you’d worked so hard to earn, and be sent back to a country you don’t even really know anymore…

I really respected Jasmine’s character and her growth as she developed further into the story. At times though, especially when thinking about Royce, she seemed almost childish and immature with her reactions. But I thought about it, and the way she was raised, she was told by her parents that back in the Philippines, young couples would always be chaperoned when out on dates, and that brides remained “pure” until after marriage. Sure, you could argue that she lives in America with a whole set of cultural differences (I’d like to make mention that Jasmine’s parents are also not a young couple in the Philippines today, so who knows if the same things they were taught are even practiced? They may be, but I – and her parents – couldn’t know for sure, not being there), but Jasmine has pretty much made it clear from the beginning that she thought very highly of her parent’s opinions and approval, therefore she never really allowed herself to get close to any boys, and likely her immaturity can be attributed to that.

Tangent aside, Jasmine’s immaturity was only a small irk for me, I just happen to like to go on tangents sometimes, sorry.

The romance itself was very cute and I really liked Royce because he really liked Jasmine. He was such a romantic and genuine person, and I feel like it’s becoming harder and harder to find a genuine love interest in YA reads anymore…one who isn’t only living for the “now”, but for the future as well.

I also really loved the family dynamic. Jasmine had it good in this department! Though her parents might be overbearing at times, they really loved her and her brothers. They sat down to meals together and honestly, how many families really do that anymore??

I just really enjoyed this book. I really liked Jasmine and Royce, and I loved the way this book flowed all the way to the end.

Enjoyed, liked, loved…could I be any more in love with this book??
(Kudos to those who got my Chandler reference.) 🙂

Obviously I recommend this one!!!

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Monday Edition of #currentreads

I’ve missed my last two Monday updates, had my cousin’s wedding to go in California, and was down there for a few weeks, though I did post at least one book review up on my blog during that time.

Anyway, since it is Monday and I am back home, here are the books I am #currentlyreading:

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Something in Between by Melissa de la Cruz ~ I am only 3% in, having just started this book today. That being said, I still haven’t formed any opinion about this book, but I have been really interested in reading this to see how the author addresses one Filipino family’s illegal immigration status, and how it affects the kids, especially the MC, whose college goals are put in jeopardy when she finds out she’s not legal.

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(Not pictured):

Iron Cast by Destiny Soria (e-arc from Netgalley) ~ 13% in. I have been stuck on that 13% for the last two or three weeks, and I’m going to attempt to work on this some more but it’s been hard because I just can’t seem to find the interest to keep reading it. But, since I want to clear it off of my NetGalley shelf, I’ll probably be putting the work in soon to see whether or not I’ll have to list this one as a DNF.

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So there we are with my #currentreads, and I’d love to know what you’re currently reading and whether or not you’re enjoying it!