Review: Of Dreams and Rust

17558151Of Dreams and Rust
by Sarah Fine

★★★★☆

Of Dreams and Rust is the incredibly bittersweet, fast-paced sequel to Of Metal and Wishes. It picks up a year after the end of the last novel. Wen is now working in Gochan 2, the war machine factory, and overhears a rumour that leads her to believe Melik’s life is in danger and so she leaves the safety and familiarity of her father and Bo to warn him. When they finally reunite however, he’s not the same person she knew a year ago and she begins to question betraying her own people for the sake of his.

It is not a happy realization. It does not bring me any pleasure, not even the savage, animal kind. I thought my own people were the villains, but now I see the truth: all of us are villains. The Noor are just as bad, just as bloodthirsty, just as willing to cause suffering and death. If they had war machines, they would use them. When they have the ability to hurt, they do.”

Never fear however! Despite all the obstacles keeping them apart, Melik and Wen’s relationship is just as heartwarming as ever, if not more! Although I couldn’t blame Wen at the beginning for believing the worst of Melik – I mean come on, if someone threw down decapitated pinkies at my feet, I’d probably have good reason to think he had killed them too! But of course Melik proves his love to be loyal and true, using his super intense gazes that just melt me from across the pages and an ultra-protective but not overbearing attitude that I seriously could not get enough of – I find that often in YA and NA we get a lot of alpha-male personas that are swoony on paper but whom I’d never want to have a relationship with in real life, but Melik is a whole ‘nother story. He would be protective of Wen but he respected her as a person who was capable of actually making a change. (Wen, you lucky, lucky duck.)

‘I am not Itanyai, Ghost. I am Noor and we value our women for what they can do.’ He gestures to the group that will journey into the hills, some of whom are female. ‘We do not shackle them the way you do. They may not fight at the front line, but they are strong, and they do fight.’ “

I also love that Fine didn’t shy away from the grittiness of war and its profound effects on character development. Melik did whatever he had to in order to survive and fight for his people, even if it came at the cost of his conscience. I think I respected him a lot more because of the actions he took and how the war forced him, and Sinan as well, to grow beyond their years. So clearly, nothing but love for the Red One!

As the novel progressed however, I found myself missing that intense social division that Fine wove into Of Metal and Wishes. It seemed to me that this book was just so focused on the romance that it lost some of the intensity of the plot being carried over from the first novel in the series. (Not that I can complain too much, Melik and Wen did have me swooning left, right and centre after all…) The end especially left me without a sense of closure – years and years of social oppression ended with a single battle and a treaty? Where was the political strife? The glaring tensions between the Itanyai and the Noor? Not only did I find it a little unlikely that the Itanyai would even propose this but I WANTED MORE. I wanted dirty, gritty politics, I wanted a face-off between the leaders of the Noor and the Itanyai. I wanted all the Noor to unify and rise up as a whole against the injustices they’ve faced. The final battle felt like a triumph for Wen, Melik and the village of Dagchocuk when I wanted it to belong to an entire people.

Overall though, I have nothing but love for this series. It’s been a wild rollercoaster of emotions, with both tears and laughter alike. Fine has this raw, emotional writing style and wonderfully complex characters that never fail to hook me in and never let me go, even long after I’ve read the last words.

sheryl

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Review: P.S. I Still Love You

P.S. I Still Love You
by Jenny Han

★★★☆☆

This book was the highly anticipated sequel to Jenny Han’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and continues with Laura Jean’s relationship with her now “real” boyfriend Peter K.

As much as I enjoyed Peter and Laura Jean together, I was pretty frustrated that the author decided to make them “that couple”; the ones that have petty fights and don’t talk things out with each other or apologize. I could see the conflict brewing from ten miles away. There was an unnecessary love triangle/square in the book that was also super annoying because John was actually such a sweet guy! The conflict got “resolved” (if you can call it a resolution even) so quickly, and then bam, the book was over just like that. (where are my cheesy epilogues at??) And let me just say, there were moments where I liked Peter.. but most of the time I honestly thought he was a bit of a douchebag.

But, in a sense, their rocky relationship was also a likeable point from this book since they were portrayed realistically and they weren’t those super lovey –dovey couples in novels that have no arguments what so ever. Their problems and arguments were things that go on in the teenage world today (e.g. sex, the power of social media/online bullying, labels [being called a slut and being gay], popularity, etc.), and I was glad the author addressed these issues. I also loved how she incorporated Laura Jean’s Korean heritage and culture in the book, as you don’t typically see diversity in YA books.
Even though there were quite a few parts of this book where I felt frustrated, this was still a loveable book because it was realistic, and Laura Jean is a main character that you just can connect to, from her inquisitive attitude and worries to her love and care for her family and friends.

“Lara Jean, I think you half-fall in love with every person you meet. It’s part of your charm. You’re in love with love.
This may be true. Perhaps I am in love with love! That doesn’t seem like such a bad way to be.”

She’s a character that grows so much in this book and you just feel so proud of her when she overcomes obstacles and reacts to situations in a new, better light. There are some profound and heartwarming moments in this book where Laura Jean discovers more about herself and who she is, and learns about love.

“People come in and out of your life. For a time they are your world; they are everything. And then one day they’re not. There’s no telling how long you will have them near.”

Also can I just say I love the Song family; their honesty and love for each other was so genuine, and I just really felt their family situation since it is so similar to mine. Those little moments when Laura Jean misses her mom… yeah me too girl, me too. I love how there are moments when Laura Jean has real talks with her dad, as well with her older sister Margo, who’s living in another country. Also, Kitty is an adorable, badass little sister who can always get a laugh out of me.

Although I love reading in first person because I find that it helps me connect to the characters better, there were times where I found the writing a little childish – which is understandable since it is the voice of Laura Jean.

This book was full of emotions, from my cringing moments of second-hand embarrassment, the tears forming in my eyes from Laura Jean’s troubles, to the wide smiles from cute couple moments, this book still leaves me conflicted with my emotions… I’m happy with the novel overall but at the same time I’m not fully satisfied.

priscilla

Review: Crimson Bound

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Crimson Bound
by Rosamund Hodge
★★★ ½

I really, really wanted to love this book. I’m actually kind of angry at myself for not liking it as much as I wanted to. There were so many incredible elements of this novel – from the powerful writing, to the sheer emotion and the tingling eeriness that I’ve come to expect from Hodge – but in the end, while I definitely enjoyed it, I didn’t feel as utterly captivated as I did while reading Cruel Beauty.

I think most of this lack of engrossment came from my inability to connect with the main characters. For me, if I have difficulty connecting with the main characters right off the bat, I’m unable to really get into and appreciate the rest of the novel. Which is one of the reasons why I’m so upset – honestly, I think if I loved Rachelle and Armand as much as I did Nyx and Ignifex, this book would’ve been an out-of-this-world favourite for me. But it’s not as if Hodge didn’t give me enough opportunities to connect with Rachelle –

Every day for the last three years, she had thought she deserved to die. She still didn’t want to. She wanted to live with every filthy desperate scrap of her heart.”

 She’s utterly complex, both viciously dark and haunted by her past yet still unbroken and fighting to save the people she loves. However, in the end, I just couldn’t get past the bitter self-hatred and self-pity that she puts herself through. I understood it and my heart went out to her for the horrific things she experienced but I just couldn’t read it over so many times.

Armand was also a character I had difficulty liking. There was nothing wrong with him necessarily – other than being a bit predictable, but I couldn’t find anything spectacular about him either.

The writing on the other hand, was absolutely dazzling. The descriptions of the Château de Lune made me swoon with giddy delight while the Great Forest made me sit up straighter and hold my book tighter with anticipation every time it came into play. The back story with Zisa and Tyr was enthralling, both bone chilling and heartbreaking, a combination that Hodge employs perfectly. Usually I’m not a huge fan of a story within a story but I couldn’t get enough of this one!

“Zisa would have gladly lost hands and feet and eyes and tongue for her brother. But she knew that if she waited for him to pick up the sword, he would refuse and die beside her, and his death was the one thing she could not endure. So she picked up the sword and cut off his right hand.”

All in all, I enjoyed reading Crimson Bound and loved the darkness it lent to the beloved Little Red Riding Hood fairy tale but I just wanted something more out of the characters!

sheryl

Review: Of Metal and Wishes

Of Metal and Wishes 
by Sarah Fine

★★★★☆

Of Metal and Wishes is a profoundly poignant, bittersweet retelling of The Phantom of the Opera that I suspect will stay on my mind for many, many nights to come (or until the sequel, Of Dreams and Rust releases for which I am counting down the days!).

I found that the main character Wen, was not terribly remarkable. She’s likeable for sure and I found her brave and defiant but in contrast, her relationships with the people around her, namely Melik, Bo and her father, are absolutely dazzling.

I’m a sucker for forbidden romances – especially those between different classes, and Fine executed this one gorgeously. It was more than just cute, it was raw and vulnerable and reading it, I felt stripped down to my bones with sorrow and despair and quiet, poignant moments of joy. The kind of love that can transcend years and years of cultural prejudice, that stands upright against everything society  dictates – that’s the kind of romance in this novel and I loved everything about it.

I am so tired right now, and the chill has crept into my bones and made them ache. But I will not fall asleep; no, I will sit here with this boy who does not know his place, and I will be with him until our time runs out.”

Bo is perhaps the most captivating character of the novel. He’s a perfect, terrifying blend of childlike cruelness and utter loneliness but so absolutely lost that I just wanted to cry reading about his tragic past, how he feels for Wen and how absolutely fervently he dreams for the future. Seriously, I can’t help but want to give him the biggest hug ever.

I do wish however, that there could’ve been a stronger female-female relationship and a more positive portrayal of women.  I feel as if Wen gave up on her relationship with Jima far too easily, especially when she realized that Jima had been forced into prostitution after losing her job at the factory. Society and Wen’s earlier perceptions that prostitution is shameful was a bit irritating to read – especially when it was implied several times over in the novel. Similarly, I thought that Wen could’ve put more effort into her relationship with Vie.  She says that they had been friends since childhood, going to the First Holiday together every year but she never truly tries to explain her actions to Vie or to convince her that the Noor are not what they have been propagandised to be.

The writing is beautiful – as expected when the story is set in a slaughterhouse, there is a lot of gore but Fine has this way of describing it that makes the carnage more chilling than grisly or bloody which vastly heightens the atmosphere. Normally, I’m not a fan of horror or thriller  by any means but in this case,  I couldn’t get enough of the eeriness it lent to the words. I definitely recommend this book to anyone and everyone looking for their next spectacular read!

sheryl

Review: The Stars Never Rise

The Stars Never Rise
by Rachel Vincent

★★★★☆

I could read this book for breakfast, lunch, dinner…and then reread it for dessert. It was action-packed (seriously, this one is a real page-turner!), had a kick-ass heroine and a cute romance that didn’t detract from the wicked world-building. I mean, what more could you ask for out of a book??

Not much, would be the correct answer! Nina Kane, sixteen-year-old heroine, lends a genuine, honest voice to the novel – I literally got chills down my back a few times while reading. I admire her tenacity in the face of overwhelming odds, both with her mother and at school. She’s willing to sacrifice everything she has for her family, even deciding to pledge herself to the Church to give her and her sister the best possible chance for survival.

Having a sister of my own, strong sibling relationships are one of my favourite things to read about. Nina and Mellie have a sweet, genuine relationship that really gave strength to the novel. When Mellie’s secret is revealed and when Nina’s mother reveals that Nina uses her body to help her family, there is zero judgement between the sisters, just the need to help each other and lean on each other’s strength.

I like that Nina’s strength doesn’t necessarily come through in her physicality, (becoming an exorcist definitely didn’t come easy to her – she didn’t magically become a super-star exorcist overnight but had to struggle, sweat and bleed to exorcise the demons she encountered) but through her tenacity and grit.

..they could come at me with scalpels and sutures and sever my bloodline along with my fallopian tubes, but they could never cut out my thoughts, and they could only kill my dreams if I let them. I still had worth. I still had hope. My future was whatever I wanted to make of it.”

Having been oppressed by the Church her whole life, sterilized at fifteen for having allergies, flat feet and mild myopia, it’s commendable that she hasn’t broken down and is still fighting for the people she loves and the values she believes in. It was really refreshing and engaging to read about a heroine that was so steadfast and resolute throughout the entirety of the novel.

The romance gave off a few instalove vibes and took me by surprise. It’s mentioned a few times from the members of the Anathema that Finn really likes Nina but why?? Sure, he admires her strength, but I wish there was just a little more relationship development. Nevertheless, the quick romance was definitely offset by how much I loved Nina and Finn. They were just so darn adorable that the romance actually turned out to be a huge plus for me – especially after the fascinating plot twist with Finn.

I’m a sucker for green eyes and cutesy smiles just as much as the next girl but even I will admit that the “green eye” description felt like beating a dead horse for the first third of the novel, although the reasoning for this did become clear eventually! Finn is absolutely charming and undeniably, an easy character to love. Although his situation sucks – it must be so emotionally tolling and difficult to live how he does and to finally meet a girl he likes but be unable to offer her the things a normal person could! I just feel so horrible for him – but he never comes across as bitter but is instead hopeful and spirited. A totally swoon-worthy character.

Although it was most definitely a page-turner, I can’t help but wish that even more stuff had happened. I want more Nina, more Finn, more time to get to know the rest of the Anathema (especially Reese and Maddox – whom I found a little harder to connect to, the main reason probably being that they had to share their screen time with someone else) and more relationship and character development! I’m beyond excited to read the next novel in the series and will be anxiously awaiting its arrival!

sheryl