2021 First Wrap Up

It was once again confirmed that more often than not my reading progress rockets significantly every time I have important errands to complete. I'm now in the midst of finishing up my undergraduate thesis while at the same time arranging my office's annual financial statement dan tax reportsthe pressure is supposed to throw me off guard or at least busy me with thoughts of deadlines but so far I have managed to finish 11 books this month.

Following the story of an orphanage called Alina Starkov, Shadow and Bone sets in the world where Ravka is now torn in two by the Shadow Fold which in it nest dangerous creatures named Volcra. When Alina and her regiment are attacked and her only best friend Mal comes very close to dying, something deep inside her reveals itself in a form of blinding light. Alina turns out to be a Sun Summoner, a very rare Grisha that allegedly could bring their country to freedom. With this knowledge on hand, she is brought by force to the royal court to be trained alongside other Grisha. Also known as the Second Army, Grisha is a group of magical elite led by the handsome and mysterious Darkling.

Overall, I enjoyed the first book of The Shadow and Bone trilogy very much hence I really couldn't wait to get into the next installment soon. This could be an unpopular opinion also, but I did find the first half of this book interesting albeit a bit slow. One of my favorite tropes in the fantasy genre is when the main character who sometimes feels like an outcast goes into an academy after discovering her hidden power. Even though it's a bit cliché, I always find it engaging if properly executed. In this case, the court was the academy, Alina was the witty main character I was rooting for the whole time, while her bond with Genya almost reached my standard for adorable fictional friendship; so all in all they were all done pretty well.

(Please skip this part if you haven't read The Wraith & The Dawn)
Following where we left off in the first installment, The Rose & The Dagger starts when Shahrzad is no longer living in Rey. She is now reunited with her Baba Jahandar, her sister Irsa, and also her first love Tariq who surprisingly have found refuge in the desert after a powerful storm battered the city. With everyone around her thirsting for revenge, Shahrzad realizes that she needs to do something to break Khalid's curse and save the entire kingdom immediately.

Some scenes in this book might bore me a little but all in all, The Rose & The Dagger was such a beautiful read for me. Even when the edition I picked up was the translated one, I could still grasp how poetic the writing style was. As a sequel, I would say that this book is a success. The story was touching and I obviously enjoyed it more than the first book.

(It's a local book so I'm gonna write the review in Bahasa)
Winter in Tokyo bercerita tentang Ishida Keiko, gadis blasteran Indonesia-Jepang yang saat ini tinggal di Tokyo dan bekerja sebagai seorang pustakawan. Apartemen 201 di seberang ruangan yang Keiko tempati sudah cukup lama kosong sehingga ketika ada orang baru yang menyewanya, berita tersebut pun langsung menyebar dengan cepat di seantero gedung kecil tersebut. Si penyewa baru ternyata bernama Nishimura Kazuto, datang jauh-jauh dari New York dengan dalih mencari suasana baru. Seiring berjalannya waktu, Keiko dan Kazuto pun semakin dekat. Namun, suatu kecelakaan menimpa salah seorang dari mereka, menyebabkan hilangnya ingatan mengenai satu bulan terakhir yang telah keduanya lewati bersama.

Overall, saya sangat menikmati perjalanan saya menyusuri Tokyo bersama Keiko dan Kazuto. Kedua karakter utama di buku ini memiliki daya tarik sendiri yang membuat saya bisa merasa empati dan suka sama mereka. Sayangnya, twist kecil di akhir cerita yang sewaktu SMA dulu saya pikir cute sekarang saya anggaplagi-lagiterlalu kebetulan. Tapi apa mau dikata, saya memang suka banget dengan manisnya buku-buku Ilana Tan, jadi ya buat saya segala kebetulan itu sudah tertebus. Kalau disuguhkan pertanyaan yang sama: apa saya bakal mengulang buku ini suatu hari nanti, jawaban saya pun gak berubah.

(Please skip this part if you haven't read Shadow and Bone)
Following where we left off in the first book, Siege and Storm tells the story of the now-runaway Alina and Mal. While trying to keep Alina's true identity hidden, the two decide to go across the True Sea to avoid running into the Darkling or any Grisha army, but soon enough they are discovered and besieged. In the meantime, the Darkling, who has successfully emerged from the Shadow Fold, has become more powerful and dangerous. Right before he can force Alina to do his evil plan though, another party has joined the commotion, and Alina finds herself being paraded back to Os Alta to save the entire kingdom from darkness.

Overall, this book was a very enjoyable read and so I considered it a great sequel. Siege and Storm felt like a necessary collection of events that bridged the conflict introduction in the first book and hopefully the satisfying resolution in the third one. I'm now very much looking forward to uncovering what the last installment has to offer while also can't wait for another chance to meet Nikolai Lantsov, so my goal is to finish it before the month changes.

Pride and Prejudice follows the story of Elizabeth Bennet, the second daughter from the Bennet family who lives in Longbourn House in Hertfordshire. Upon hearing the news about the arrival of a wealthy man in town, Mrs. Bennet tries to convince his husband to go greet the new neighbor who has just rented a place in Netherfield with the hope that he will marry either one of their five daughters one day. Thankfully the new neighbor, Mr. Bingley, turns out to be the perfect gentleman and much to their mother liking, he seems to take an interest in Bennet's oldest daughter, Jane. Unfortunately, the same impression can't be applied to Bingley's best friend, Mr. Darcy. Contrary to the upper class' great opinions about him, Lizzy sees Mr. Darcy as a proud and disagreeable man and she can't quite figure out why a good man like Mr. Bingley can befriend someone like him.

There's no other word to describe this book except that I loved it so much. My second impression about it was that it's brilliantly written and progressed. Even though Lizzy hated Darcy so much at first, rather than seeing it as a hate-to-love relationship I considered it more as a beautiful happy-ending love story with great development and awesome characters. I would certainly recommend it to everyone who likes classic and romance books in general.

(Please skip this part if you haven't read Shadow and Bone and Siege and Storm)
Following where we left off in Siege and Storm, Ruin and Rising starts with the Darkling ruling over Ravka behind his shadow throne. Being oddly protected by the Apparat and surrounded by the zealots who worship her as a Saint, Alina can't do anything while she feels more and more helpless as the days have passed. She still believes that in order to defeat the Darkling, she needs to claim the last amplifier and silently hopes that Nikolai is still alive out there. Alina then bit by bit uncovers the secret of Morozova's journal and the Darkling. She gradually understands the source of the power they both possess and also the bond between them. Finally, Alina comes to realize that claiming the firebird and saving Ravka might cost her her own future.

All in all, Ruin and Rising was such a great last installment and I know I couldn't think of a better way to end this trilogy withmy only objection was probably my own desperate need to see more of the Darkling and his past. What a ride this last installment had brought me through. As for the man Alina ended up with, I could understand her decision as I would most likely make the same choice if I were her, but there's no denying that I was a tad bit disappointed with the sailed ship for I liked the other ones more as individuals.

Emma follows the story of a handsome, clever, and rich young woman who bears the same name as the title of this book. Living in Hartfield in the village of Highbury with her father, Emma Woodhouse determines not to get married unless she falls very much in love with someone. When her governess, Miss Taylor, gets married, both Emma and her father suffer the same loss of a very good old friend. Even though she feels rather lonely now, Emma senses that she should take the credit for the successful matchmaking between the newlywed Mr. and Mrs. Weston. Despite the disapproval of her neighbor and best friend Mr. Knightley, Emma fixes her decision to play matchmaker for the young Harriet Smith. However, her attempt to bring about a marriage between the clueless Harriet and some men turns out to be totally misguided.

I considered Emma quite an entertaining read with good storytelling and rather amusing characters (even if I had laughed more while reading Pride and Prejudice last week). It's also important to point out that this book reminded me that it's okay to feel ashamed of one's mistake and try to mend it sincerely. I'm now extremely excited to watch the 2020 movie and undergo the experience of reading other Austen's books.

(It's a local book so I'm gonna write the review in Bahasa)
Buku ini dimulai dengan kisah masa kecil Nesya dan Vino yang sempat tinggal di kompleks perumahan yang sama. Meski sering terluka saat main sama Eca kecil, Pino gak pernah kapok seperti anak lainnya. Keduanya masih sering bermain bersama di taman kompleks mereka setiap sore. Namun suatu hari, ketika lagi asyik bermain petak umpat, Vino yang sedang mencari Nesya keburu ditarik pulang oleh pengasuhnya karena mereka besok mau pindah rumah, alhasil Nesya yang ketakutan ditinggal sendirian saat hari mulai gelap pun hanya bisa menangis hingga seorang anak laki-laki bernama Mike datang dan mengantarnya pulang. Cerita pun berlanjut sepuluh tahun kemudian. Nesya dan Kiara, sahabatnya, akan memulai hari baru sebagai siswi di SMA Pelita. Tak disangka, Nesya bertemu lagi dengan sosok Vino yang tak dapat diingatnya sama sekali. Pasalnya, Nesya baru saja mengalami kecelakaan lalu lintas dengan Mike dua bulan lalu dan mengalami amnesia. Hal itu pun tentu saja mengagetkan Vino yang sama sekali gak tahu kalau Nesya ini merupakan pacar orang yang dulu sangat dikaguminya.

Secara keseluruhan, saya merasa masih dapat menikmati buku ini meski bukan lagi jadi favorit saya. Perihal apakah saya tertarik untuk mengulangnya suatu hari nanti, saya juga belum tahu, tapi gak ada yang gak mungkin kan? Meski begitu, saya akan tetap merekomendasi buku ini untuk teman-teman yang suka buku teenlit dan masih remaja. Gak bisa dipungkiri buku ini sempat masuk ke kategori bagus banget saat saya masih kecil dulu.

This book is a collection of seven short stories all take place during Christmas days: A Faraway Smell of Lemon, The Marriage Manual, Christmas at the Airport, The Boxing Day Ball, A Snow Garden, I’ll Be Home for Christmas, and Trees. Even if the stories are entwined around a few characters knowing each other, they are individually focused on different aspects while also bearing a similar topic: family.

I was wondering what my mind hoped to say the loudest the entire time. The stories had the potential to be amazing if they were more explored, but still I appreciated the idea behind each of them especially the one with Binny in it. Christmas always entertains me with the idea of that cosy, warm feeling thus having to face depressing stories without satisfying resolutions (which I believe could represent the harsh reality) somehow felt like a letdown.

House of Earth and Blood follows the story of a half-fae, half-human Bryce Quinlan who lives with her best friend Danika in Crescent City. However, an incident happens one day when Bryce is away with her other two friends. Danika is murdered brutally and Bryce has to see the proof before her own eyes. Two years later, the still-traumatized Bryce finds out that the supposed culprit behind the bar is actually blameless in this matter when another similar murder happens. Being the only suspect in the prior incident, the Governor asks Bryce to investigate the crime with the help of a notorious fallen angel called Hunt Athalar. But when the two try to dig into the mysterious secret behind this case, they find out that things are even more complicated than they seem to be whilst also finding each other in the process.

In conclusion, House of Earth and Blood was such an amazing read, worth the hype, and thus exceeded my expectation. I've seen a lot of reviews to be able to make a point that while this book is widely loved, others may not feel the same way as they think it's too similar with ACOTAR and TOG to their liking. For me though, I sense a little ACOTAR's vibe combined with Cassie Clare's, so I'd totally recommend it to everyone who likes both authors and adult high-fantasy books.

Managed to squeeze in another book! Edited on 31/01/21:
Six of Crows follows the story of a criminal prodigy called Kaz Brekker who lives in Ketterdam with his crew, The Dregs. One day, he gets an offer to do something very dangerous, a heist with too great of a reward to pass but in order to pull this off he needs to recruit five people with totally different motives: Inej, a spy who's widely known as the Wraith; Jesper, a sharpshooter who likes to gamble; Nina, a Grisha who uses her magic to survive in Kerch; Matthias, a convict who has a thirst for revenge; and Wylan, a runaway with mysterious past.

The aspect I appreciated so much, besides the plot which was dynamically progressed, was without doubt the characters. I loved Kaz Brekker and his crew deeply. Each of them had a well-composed backstory that I didn't know which one touched me the most. In conclusion, I'm seriously at a loss for words right now, nothing could be said that feels enough, but trust me that if you haven't read Six of Crows yet you're probably missing out a lot.