BOOK REVIEW: Emperor Mage by Tamora Pierce

Book Review

Author: Tamora Pierce
Genre: Middle Grade/Fantasy
Series: Book 3 of Quartet (Complete)

Emperor Mage: ★★★★.5/5

Summary: Sent to Carthak as part of the Tortallan peace delegation, Daine finds herself in the middle of a sticky political situation. She doesn’t like the Carthaki practice of keeping slaves, but it’s not her place to say anything — she’s just there to heal the emperor’s birds. It’s extremely frustrating! What’s more, her power has grown in a mysterious way. As the peace talks stall, Daine puzzles over Carthak’s two-faced Emperor Ozorne. How can he be so caring with his birds and so cruel to his people? Daine is sure he’s planning something. Daine must fight the powerful Emperor Mage, knowing that the safety and peace of the realm depend on stopping Ozorne’s power-hungry schemes.

In this third book, I was reminded that Daine is still a young child compared to her company. Though she does hold herself more mature than most children, there did seem to be a separation when peace talks were taking place and the emphasis on her behavior. Necessary, but just a small reminder.

DAINE: She begins to get frustrated with a new power bestowed upon her from one of the gods as she’s used as a vessel for this god’s deed. Daine also becomes closer to Prince Kaddar as she spends most of her time with him during this book. I did wish there was a bigger romance conflict with the both of them and Numair. (There was one little one). You also discover more about Daine’s parents.

NUMAIR: I just love how clever this fellow is. You end up meeting one of Numair’s former lovers, which irks Daine (a little). But even throughout this book, Numair continues to show his feelings for her when he goes to Prince Kaddar and has a little “talk” with him. That part made me smile. heh

PRINCE KADDAR: The prince is an honorable and sweet young teen. He feels open and vulnerable around Daine (as most people/animals tend to feel) and readers will come to enjoy his presence.

KING OZORNE (EMPEROR MAGE): Readers finally meet the villain in person, the Emperor Mage. Daine is torn between his two faces–the animal lover and the evil ruler. He hates Numair and has an ulterior motive against him. He is evil. Hate the guy.

The conflict really gets a kick start in this third book. You find out that the workings in the mortal world are causing a drift even in the immortal realms. And there is a foreshadowing that this problem is bigger than anyone can even imagine. Also, this huge event happens at the end that makes Daine go ballistic, it’s merited of course. I won’t spoil it, BUT I do think that the effect would have been better if Pierce really emphasized it a bit more.

BUY IT ON AMAZON

BOOK REVIEW: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han (#1)

Book Review

Author: Jenny Han
Genre: Young Adult/Contemporary Romance
Series: Duology (Complete)

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before: ★★★★★/5

SUMMARY: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is the story of Lara Jean, who has never openly admitted her crushes, but instead wrote each boy a letter about how she felt, sealed it, and hid it in a box under her bed. But one day Lara Jean discovers that somehow her secret box of letters has been mailed, causing all her crushes from her past to confront her about the letters: her first kiss, the boy from summer camp, even her sister’s ex-boyfriend, Josh. As she learns to deal with her past loves face to face, Lara Jean discovers that something good may come out of these letters after all.

First off, let me tell you something about me as a reader before you read my review. I typically dislike fiction contemporary romance books. I’m a complete addict when it comes to a good fantasy book though, but I usually don’t read contemporary romance books. It’s hard for me to get into a fiction book because I love everything fantastical. That being said, I absolutely LOVED this book! (I may be subjective, and you’ll see why in a moment).

I’m not only a Korean-American, but I’m also the middle child of three sisters! HAH Hi, my name is Lara Jean. Jk. Lara Jean’s and my personality are actually really different, but I still enjoyed reading her POV. However, writing letters to past loves is SO something I would do. Of course, if someone sent said letters out, I would beat the culprit up, unlike Lara Jean. Moving on to my actual review now!

I love romance stories, so typically I look for a good romance in every book I read. The thing that made this book enjoyable was that I felt the romance was very believable. I watch a lot of Korean dramas and this book is somewhere along those lines. (I’m sure Jenny Han binge watches a lot of K-Dramas on her spare time~) I’m glad the “letter sending” scandal started pretty early on. For some reason, I thought it was going to happen at the end, but now that I think about that assumption now, it doesn’t make sense. Han wove each letter into the story perfectly; every time I felt I needed something more, I got it. I couldn’t stop reading and that’s why I ended up having to force myself to sleep at 4AM, only after I finished this book and moved on to the finish a quarter of the next, P.S. I Still Love You.

I’m going to spend most of my review on character analysis. So here goes it!

LARA JEAN: She’s a somewhat timid girl trying to fill the big shoes (literally, HAH) left by her older sister, Margot, who left for college in Scotland. At first, she’s a train wreck, but as the story progresses she begins to step up and become the older sister to Kitty she wants to be. I was glad that Lara Jean wasn’t annoying. I hate when a female protagonist is hopeless and weak, but Lara Jean owned it well. You see glimpses of her “quirky” personality and it’s something you grow to love. She reacts like any normal teenager would in the situations she’s thrown in, and handles it pretty well. She looks up to Margot as her example and has complete loyalty to her family, which is quite endearing.

KATHERINE aka KITTY: Kitty is the sassy youngest sibling. She watches HBO shows and has some lip to her. Nothing gets past Kitty’s eyes; she’s a bit snoopy but also very observant in her respect. Even if she does something bad, you can’t really dislike her because her character is so cute. I love how friendly she is with the boys and seems older than she actually is. I think Han did a great job of making her the little sister who grows up just a bit quicker because she has two older sisters, but still possesses a youthful heart and mind.

MARGOT: Margot is the reliable eldest sibling. She is on top of everything, the responsible big sister you know you can go to when you’re in trouble. She’s strict and at times judgmental, but it’s all from love and not from spite, which is portrayed through the way she says things and comforts her sisters. I do like how you find something out that makes her “not-so-perfect.” She’s the idol to her younger sisters and it was healthy to see how the sisters react once they find out something they never imagined Margot would be capable of. It shows the true essence of sisterhood, and the bond that can never be broken.

PETER K.: KAVINSKY! He’s the hot, everyone-wants-to-date, athlete, high school boy, and one of Lara Jean’s past crushes, her first to be exact. I think I fell in love with Peter the same time Lara Jean did. His character is one that just grows on you the more you read about him. He comes out as an ass in the beginning, but then you realize that’s his charm. I loved the fact he noticed more than Lara Jean gave him credit for. It’s always nice to know when boys see the small things, it shows they actually care about a person. I’m excited to see what the next book has in store for him. I hope he steps up because I have big hopes for him.

JOSH: The boy next door, literally. He’s one of Lara Jean’s past crushes as well as Margot’s first boyfriend and ex-boyfriend. I loved Josh’s character. He’s got that older brother vibe because he cares for the Song sisters and wants what is best for them. He’s not the macho boy at school, and not your typical crush. He’s the nothing-physically-special nerd at school. But then you see his true qualities that draw you in to ride the Josh Train. His character pokes in here and there, and every time it did, I loved what I discovered about him. I’m rooting for him and hope things look up in the latter part of the series.

The plot was great. There wasn’t quite a plot twist, but I feel that’s a bit more difficult to do in a contemporary romance because it has to be believable. I already had my suspicions of who sent Lara Jean’s love letters, so it wasn’t a surprise. I’m not sure if other readers were surprised by it. (If you were, let me know!) Each character had a unique personality that brought them to life on the pages and the writing was simple, yet engaging. Not sure what the expect from P.S. I Still Love You, but I’m glad I gave this book a shot, because even though it’s out of my comfort zone, I loved it.

If I had been left with just this first book and waiting for the second, I think I might have lost my mind a little. The way the first book ends, you literally HAVE to reach for the second one. So make sure you have both books before starting!!

BUY IT ON AMAZON

FATE OF ASH Soundtrack

The Phoenix Ashes Trilogy

Music plays a huge role in my writing process–I always have to be listening to it. The most exciting thing is when I stumble upon a song that fits perfectly to what I’m trying to convey in my writing. I usually try to stay away from the mainstream songs because they tend to be overplayed over the radio, but there are a few that I loved so much that I just couldn’t. I know this is long overdue, but this is the soundtrack I had on repeat while I wrote Karnage. (In no particular order)

ARTICLE POST: The Rippling Effect of Reading

article

I’ve decided I’ll write articles once a week about bookish things, whether it’s trends, publishing information, or just things I’ve noticed through my own personal experiences. This is my first, so thanks for taking the time to read it and maybe it’ll help you somehow, someway. (Warning it is a bit lengthy!)

I’ve noticed the startling decline of young adults who read for pleasure. Most are too busy for reading because they’re out YOLO-ing (You Only Live Once). At the high school I work at, if you asked 10 students what they’re reading, only 1 would answer with a non-academic novel; that to me is extremely sad. I’ve been out of high school for 7 years, but I’m positive it hasn’t changed much. So I do understand that in high school you’re busy with academics, athletics, clubs, and trying to not make a fool out of yourself, but I was there at one point but I still made time for hobby reading. And I’m not saying they’re not out there, but these individuals are an endangered species.

The magic of the written word is dying out like a burning candle as generations pass. And the new light that’s taking its place: strobe lights, iPhone screens, video games on the computer, reality shows on television–all these artificial things that are making this generation of high school students grow up way faster than they should be, informing them of things that aren’t really of any importance. Seriously, why is it important what the Kardashians had for dinner on Wednesday?

It’s an epidemic.

I grew up with Harry Potter and am extremely grateful for J.K. Rowling’s amazing contribution to the literary world. It was an amazing experience to grow up reading one of the best fantasy book series out there. There is so much that books provide. They transport you to a magical place where no airplane, car, or boat can take you. I’m obsessed with fantasy books, have and always will be, no matter how old I get. Your mind is working, your imagination is growing, your knowledge is widening, and you’re experiencing life through a few cleverly, well-thought out plots and fanciful order of words. It’s as simple as that. Those who read are experiencing more of life than those who are not–I’m pro-traveling and to me reading a book is just as beneficial as going to a different country. Travel to a country and read a book and you’ll really be experiencing life. (I hope to do be able to do this one day)

When I was a child, I always read books. I’ve always loved it and it had a lot to do with the way I was raised and my elementary school experiences. First, my mother was and still is a third grade teacher, while I was attending elementary school. Yes, there were the not so fun parts of it–like getting workbooks and having assignments during summer breaks–but there was one thing that she did that I think that every parent should do: she took me to the public library once a week. We were told to borrow one book and would be expected to finish it and write a report on it before our next visit. (This could backfire on many children, but in my case it went well, because it was my favorite part of the summer assignments she gave me). To me, reading the book I chose was a nice break from all the workbooks pages I had to complete. Second, at my elementary school we had a school-wide program called Young Authors–each child was given a blank book and we would write a story and go through the manuscript/draft, editing, and illustrating process. It was fantastic and it was what I looked forward to every year. I still have the books I wrote and illustrated 14+ years ago. It really starts at home and at an early age. If parents are proactive in their child’s literary growth they may find themselves surprised later on.

Fast-forward to middle school, I continued to read and even entered a book poster contest. (I won 2nd place with my poster representation of Wild Magic by Tamora Pierce. I still remember what it looked like! It hung on the wall in the library for the entire year.)

Then, high school came along. I made the volleyball team and found a lot of my time devoted to practices and games and weekend tournaments, along with the homework that was becoming increasingly more difficult. But, that still didn’t stop me. I continued to read and would go to local bookstores to buy books instead of clothes. (Tell that to a high schooler now and they’d probably look at you as if there were marbles falling out of your ears). When volleyball was off-season and I was in 12th grade, I got released after 4th period, roughly around 12:30pm everyday. I had a car, but with a shallow wallet and friends still in school, there really wasn’t much to do, so I went home. I finished what little homework I had and found I had hours upon hours of free time–I watched the entire Bones series, then I read, read, and then read some more. Until something horrible happened, I ran out of books to read. I’m an avid fantasy romance genre reader. I’m not proud to say it, but I very rarely stray from this genre because it is my absolute favorite and I’ve never read a book outside of this genre that I ever truly loved and enjoyed (even to this day!)

So, what is a book lover to do when she runs out of all the fantasy romance books to read because she’s read every single one that interests her and has searched far and wide for more to read but came out empty handed?

She writes.

Yes, this is when I started to write. In my second semester of my senior year in high school, I wrote for fun. I tell this to my friends some times, because they ask me how I even wrote a book, and when I mention that I wrote because I was bored, they looked at me like I was crazy. I didn’t write intending to actually finish a book or to self-publish (a whole entirely different article entry). I just wrote because I wanted to write a story I could read, since I had run out of them. I didn’t have a special writing process; I just wrote what came into my head–most of these ideas are unfinished, juvenile ideas saved as a .doc on my laptop. Whenever I hit a writer’s block, I just moved on to a new .doc, a new story, a new start. No big deal because I didn’t have any emotional connection to the stories. I was just writing to pass time.

However, one day I started a story, a story about a girl named Selena with a special power to control electricity in a world where these people with special powers could get an egg, a physical extraction of a portion of their power, that could hatch into these fantastical creatures! This was the first story that I started that just kept on going and going and going. Before I knew it, I had written 500 pages. 500 pages of completely raw and terrible literature, but a story nonetheless. I still have this first manuscript that should be burned because of how bad it is, but I keep it as a reminder to see how far I’ve come and how far the story has developed. (I swore that I would never let anyone read it!) The entire plot since has been torn apart and rewritten, but the bones of the story and the characters still remained true, and that’s what I found important because it showed me how real the world and the characters were to me–their journey may have changed, but they still remained themselves.

Reading has a rippling effect on people. Yours may not be the same as mine. But, nobody can deny that reading will benefit you in someway or another, whether it’s in a couple years or a decade or two. It’s important for parents to encourage their children to read and show them how truly wonderful books are, because you never know, they may be the next J.K. Rowling!

Flash Reveal! – Kalcyon Prologue

The Phoenix Ashes Trilogy

So, it’s been awhile since I’ve posted anything about Kalcyon, the second book of The Phoenix Ashes trilogy. Today, I decided I’m going to release the prologue! I can’t wait to release this book, because I’m loving it even more than Karnage (I didn’t even know that it would be possible)

 

Prologue

“WOULD YOU PLEASE come down from there?” I fidgeted, absentminded I kicked a small rock on the ground. Alythea always had a mind of her own and there was nobody who could stop her from doing the crazy things she did. It was a God-given gift that she hadn’t died yet, and sometimes I really believed that she never would.

            Her Phersu was a beautiful creature. Its wings were smooth opaque chimes that released the most musically hypnotic sound making you feel lost in a never-ending dream. It was an impossibly majestic bird, frighteningly enchanting with a daunting prowess—they always said Phersus took after their owners.

            Alythea was one of the first and only students to have a hatched Phersu. There were rumors of one other student who had one before her, but we had never seen him attend a class in the time we had been there.

            “Care to join me?” she teased with a wide grin. I rolled my eyes and placed my hands on my hips as I glared up at her. She knew exactly why I refused to join her in the obscenely tall tree in the first place.

            I was deathly afraid of heights. I preferred to remain grounded; I didn’t trust anything that I couldn’t feel or see. Alythea on the other hand, loved everything about the sky; she reached for it as if she would one day be able to grab hold of it, and the impossibility only kept her from giving up. It was the ephemeral reveries that tickled her mind that had her asking for more, demanding for something beyond ordinary. And, she was anything but ordinary. It was fitting that her Phersu had hatched to be a bird.

            Sometimes, I wondered how we were such good friends when we were so different. Maybe it was because I secretly wanted to be like her: hopelessly free, uninhibited, and boldly daring. They were qualities that indisputably sparked my curiosity but crept like a haunting trance that threatened to overpower me.

            I heard the jingle of her Phersu’s feathers. It never got old. The tickle in my ears left a light and pleasurable feeling inside and smoothed my wrinkled frustrations with Alythea away. A soft thud on the bouncy grass blowing in the breeze told me she had finally decided to come down and join me.

            “One day, I’ll get you to come up the tree with me,” she vowed. Despite their lack of color, her steely eyes had more depth than anyone I had ever known. It played with the lights and reflected any vibrancy it took in.

            “I insist you stop trying,” I negated. “I really love it here on the ground. Always have and always will.”

            “The world is a whole new place up there.” She admired the endless blue sky. We took a moment to soak in the warm inviting rays of sunlight that escaped through the whimsical thicket of the leaves as it kissed the goosebumps on our skin away. It was amazing that only a decade had past. Celestria was beautiful and at peace once again.

            It was a time of healing and rejuvenation for Valkryns was on the rise. In Celestria, Valkryns had always been reveled and honored. Greatness was Valkryns. Only when the Night of the Phoenix had devastated Celestria had fear ever been connected with the Valkryn name. Nonetheless, somehow the Founders managed to restore Celestria’s trust in Valkryns and the wish to possess a Ceres was once more, the most desired gift. I guess it was a blessing in disguise, because we were now given the opportunity to receive proper training at Vanderwald.

            A crack of a twig and the crunching of the earthy ground caught our attention. As usual, against my better judgment, I had followed Alythea here even though I knew we were deeper in the forest than students were instructed to go.

            Then I saw him. His black hair was brushed to the side as he walked with an assertive and strong gaze locked on us. My heart skipped a beat for the first time and something inside me ignited. The sensation pulsed and a strong pull struggled to break free. His eyes flickered to mine as if he sensed the power struggling inside of me; I was immediately drawn in by his dangerously ash gray eyes soaked with calamity.

            This was the moment that changed everything. There was no way I could’ve known what was in store for me. Little did I know, I had been born for this single minute; the wheels of fate had begun to turn in the cruelest possible way. The three of us stood in the forest staring at each other for what felt like an eternity; this moment would be forever etched in my memory; and, it was the last thing I saw when I died.

            It all began the day I met Logan Bray.

-Kalcyon