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I recently opened up an Instagram to document some of my artwork. It’s @peachypaintin, so I hope you’ll check it out ūüôā

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Once and For All: Sarah Dessen

Like I’ve mentioned before I don’t really enjoy romance novels, but I’ve always had a soft spot for Miss Sarah Dessen. I started reading her books in eighth grade under recommendation from my English teacher, and I like that her books are female-centric: they focus on character development on the protagonist’s end, rather than building a steamy relationship between the two main characters. Love is a way for the protagonist to come to terms with a large problem in their life: in this case, the issue of tragedy. Louna Barrett’s last relationship ended badly, and she’s been hesitant to move on.

We follow Louna as she meets Ambrose, a really relaxed and personable dude who happens to also be a serial-dater. Ambrose is never not flirting with someone, never not going out with someone, and Louna is tentatively amused by his antics. He, on the other hand, is enraptured by her discipline and no-nonsense personality, which she’s cultivated from years of working at her mother’s wedding planning business.

Another large part of the book is said Wedding Planning Business. It’s a fantastically interesting career and it gave the book so much depth; though there are several established stories in which the protagonist is a cynic working in a romance-based industry, Louna is hopeful in romance but not quite sure what to believe, especially after the end of her previous relationship. Natalie Barrett and William, Natalie’s business partner and Louna’s godfather, are charming characters and loving guardians for Louna. The two of them are huge in the wedding industry and as essential to each other as Yin and Yang. Natalie is the brains of the operation, while William is the heart. It’s very warming.

The only reason I gave this four stars on Goodreads is because the ending is kind of anticlimactic. Since it was a book, I was sort of hoping for a little drama, but it wraps itself up rather peacefully– which is good for the characters, though not for my own selfish desire to see things implode.

This review is kind of short but there’s not much more to say without giving major spoilers, which I’m pretty loathe to do for this novel in particular. I’d definitely recommend giving it a go, especially if you’re a fan of books like¬†To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han.

Avenged: Amy Tintera

I managed to take a quick break over the weekend and finished up¬†Avenged,¬†sequel to¬†Ruined,¬†by Amy Tintera. The last book ended with Olivia Flores being freed, King Casimir’s parents being slaughtered, and a whole lot of bad shiz going down. It picks up a while after this situation; Em and Olivia have escaped and are looking to establish a camp for the Ruined somewhere, considering how Ruina has become a wasteland. Meanwhile, as is locked in his fortress, depressed by his circumstances.

One thing I liked about¬†Ruined¬†was how powerful and logical Emelina presents herself to be; she’s incredibly witty, tough as nails, and strategic to boot. She faces difficult situations with diplomacy rather than charging in, guns ablaze.
Unfortunately, Olivia is her foil. Olivia deals with problems with fists and fury, murdering anyone who stands in her way. After a year of being tortured by the Lerians, she’s less than forgiving towards their people and her goal seems to be to kill as many of them as she possibly can. Olivia is also powerful, but her methods rely on her Ruined markings, while Emelina really only has herself to depend on.

We are introduced to Violet, the new governor of the Southern Provinces after the death of her father during the events of the previous story. Violet becomes Cas’s right-hand woman, the only person other than Galo and Mateo whom he can trust. His cousin Jovita is making a play for the throne and ~someone~ poisons Cas, so there’s a lot of stuff going down in the fortress. Cas undergoes some hard-core character development due to his circumstances and a few revelations, and it’s good to see him graduate from a prince to a king. Also, back to Violet: she’s seriously cool. Very level-headed, unafraid to call Cas out when he’s throwing a tantrum, and very aware of the situation.
I’m still a bit suspicious of her because Jovita was like “Cas, I didn’t poison you!” and I kind of believe her. But we never find out who poisoned Cas… I hope it wasn’t V, since she’s really cool.

We see more of Iria and Aren, who are as cute as ever. Aren’s wrapped up in this “Rise of the Ruined,” and realizes pretty early on in the book that Olivia intends to marry him one day. Olivia scares him, so this is not the best of news. Aren and Iria struggle with their relationship because they’re from opposing sides of a war; Olso and its warriors have turned on the Ruined, and also Aren struggles to understand what it is that he feels towards Iria in the first place. It’s a budding relationship and it’s cute, I enjoyed reading about their drama. The pacing is appropriate for the setting of the story. There’s also more Em/Casimir, and they’re also cute, but it’s more tragic-love in this setting because they’re starting to realize that they may not be able to be together. But do they vanquish their obstacles and end up in each other’s arms? You’ll have to read to find out.

This book kept me feeling tense and frustrated, but my frustration was borne out of ire raised by Jovita and the Olso Royal Family, rather than by the writing or the plot. So it was the good kind of frustration. I really enjoyed it– I find myself liking these high-fantasy political thrillers, and also most of the characters are very likable. I think that the writing matches the tone of the story the author is trying to tell: no frills or fluff, it’s all very forthright.

I can’t end this review without talking about my favorite part. This is more spoilery than the rest of the review so don’t read any further if you haven’t read the book, although you really shouldn’t be reading my reviews unless you’ve already read the book because, again, they’re very spoilery. Anyways, fav part: Em telling August and the rest of the royals over and over again that they should let her go because Olivia is going to slaughter all of them, and the royals laughing in her face and King Lucio dismissing her concerns like whatevs, Em, and then Emelina waking up to people screaming and blood everywhere and broken bodies because¬†Olivia showed up and slaughtered everyone.¬†She literally told them that this was exactly what would happen but their pride was their downfall.

Okay. So I was really happy with this sequel, and fans of¬†Ruined¬†don’t have to worry. I hope you pick up the book and give it a go!

Rebel of the Sands: Alwyn Hamilton

Rebel of the Sands¬†is the first of a trilogy by debut author Alwyn Hamilton. Well, I guess she’s not really a debut author anymore but this was her first book. It came out a while ago, amidst all the djinns-and-the-Middle-East-and-India fervor; the one that resulted in books like¬†The Forbidden Wish¬†by Jessica Khoury,¬†The Wrath and the Dawn¬†by Renee Ahdieh, and¬†The Star Touched Queen¬†by Roshani Chokshi. I think I was overwhelmed by the similarities in the setting of all of these stories, so I ignored them in favor of other books. Then one day I was at the library, and¬†Rebel of the Sands¬†was sitting guilelessly upon the shelf, shimmering gold and black and blue, so I figured I should check it out at least for the sake of the cover.

I enjoyed this read! It was a welcome change after the start of a series of bad books, so here’s to hoping that I broke the curse.¬†Rebel of the Sands¬†follows a young woman named Amani Al’Hiza, “more gunpowder than girl”, desperate for a way out of her unwelcoming home. She’s a Cinderella of sorts; her aunt’s family hates her, she’s a bit of the chore-child, and her prince comes in the form of a reckless young foreigner named Jin. Amani, unlike Cinderella, isn’t looking for a man– only for a way out. Jin and Amani endure several misadventures before finally making it to their destination, or, well, Jin’s, and Amani finds herself wrapped up in a plot to overthrow the tyrannical Sultan and bring about¬†“a new desert, a new dawn.”

I actually don’t feel too strongly about the first half of the book. It’s a lot of build-up to justify the relationship between Jin and Amani, which is good, because the author took her time to clarify Amani’s goals and give the reader more time to connect with her. Jin and Amani fall in love even though neither of them says it outright; honestly, I don’t think I’m a huge romantic so I was kind of (rolls eyes) at those parts, but it wasn’t overwhelming or anything. I found it — funny? Considering how harsh and cold Amani tries to be, but how she melts whenever Jin’s around, and she knows this and hates it.

I was more interested in the latter half, after Amani and Jin reach the secret kingdom where the rebels are all hiding away, plotting at capturing the throne for the rightful Prince Ahmed. During the entirety of the first part of the novel, I expected Jin to turn out to be “the Rebel Prince” that everyone seemed to be obsessing over, supposedly this huge legend and slowly making his way to the capital and the Sultan. It turns out that the Rebel Prince is his brother. Ms. Hamilton presents a lot of red herrings in this way, where she reveals stuff at the last minute or introduces new aspects of familiar characters that we wouldn’t have otherwise thought of. I really liked this about¬†Rebel of the Sands. After reading so much YA literature, you get a little jaded and find yourself thinking, “I know what’s going to happen.” But I actually didn’t with this book.

I liked how Amani was not the quintessential good-girl hero trope that we see a lot. She leaves behind her best friend, Tamin, perhaps to die. She abandons a young prisoner despite the boy’s pleas for her to help. There’s another instance of this, but it would be¬†too much¬†of a spoiler, believe it or not. Amani debates with herself, sure, but in the end she always saves herself when faced with the choice– unless the person in danger is Jin or one of her other rebel friends. Usually you get protagonists who are very much “no, I have to save everyone, I’m the Chosen one,” or whatever, but Amani is self-serving and that makes her interesting.

The lore that comes into play during the latter half was really interesting as well. We get introduced to a whole cast of secondary characters who make more of an impact in like one hundred pages than Jin did in the entire book. Not that Jin is bad; I liked him, but he seemed a little bland to me. I don’t want to say more on that because I’d have to dissect his character, and I’d rather let you guys make the decision for yourselves.

Anyways, if you’re looking for a gun-toting, folklore-quoting, scapegoats and gold-coated beaut of a book, you’re in luck.
Do you know how long it took me to rhyme that? I’m not even sure it made sense.
Anyways, yeah, give Rebel of the Sands a try!

Update

I’m going to be taking an extended break in order to study for exams. Might still be updating but very infrequently! Thanks for sticking around ‚̧