Saturday, September 27, 2014

UPDATE: I'm still alive and breathing

I am mad-typing this right now because I can't go without saying anything. I've been out for the past 2 weeks because of technical difficulties(lol). I've since then changed my internet and fixed my laptop. I did try to blog using my Mom's laptop but I just couldn't get inspired or motivated.

I felt so disconnected after all those days I'm without internet. I go on Twitter and I am like, 'Who are all these people?' I don't know how to talk. Even writing this post is a special kind of challenge because I just don't know what to say. THE WORDS, GIVE ME MY WORDS BACK. Somebody dangle a chocolate outside my shell please.

Or a kiss will do. (source)
Anyway, I'm actually in the middle of packing. I'm moving to Manila today in preparation of working again on Monday. Why am I just packing? Ever did something at the last minute because you want to delay doing it as much as possible? I hate packing and just thinking about work on a Monday takes the cake in the mind-torture section.

But I've also corrected my body clock and this was one of the few positive things that happened while I was gone. I now sleep at 9 pm and wake up at 6 am.

I'm fabulous I know (source)
I've also finished all my review books for this month but haven't reviewed them yet so I'm quite behind in that department. Just please bare with me while I get back to the swing of things.

I think I'm forgetting something here but yes, I am back for good. I'll keep you posted on Twitter about how cool (not really) my job is. I'll also try visiting your blogs again tomorrow. I just hope to the internet gods that wherever I'm staying for the rest of this year has internet. Wish me luck?

Annnd there's my Mom shouting in the background again. Gotta run and finish packing. Tata for now.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday (26): Talon

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases we're eagerly anticipating. 

Book: Talon (Talon #1) by Julie Kagawa
Publication Date: October 28, 2014
Publisher: Harlequin Teen

Long ago, dragons were hunted to near extinction by the Order of St. George, a legendary society of dragon slayers. Hiding in human form and growing their numbers in secret, the dragons of Talon have become strong and cunning, and they're positioned to take over the world with humans none the wiser.

Ember and Dante Hill are the only sister and brother known to dragonkind. Trained to infiltrate society, Ember wants to live the teen experience and enjoy a summer of freedom before taking her destined place in Talon. But destiny is a matter of perspective, and a rogue dragon will soon challenge everything Ember has been taught. As Ember struggles to accept her future, she and her brother are hunted by the Order of St. George.

Soldier Garret Xavier Sebastian has a mission to seek and destroy all dragons, and Talon's newest recruits in particular. But he cannot kill unless he is certain he has found his prey: and nothing is certain about Ember Hill. Faced with Ember's bravery, confidence and all-too-human desires, Garret begins to question everything that the Order has ingrained in him: and what he might be willing to give up to find the truth about dragons.

Dragons, dragons, dragons. I just have to see this magic word and I'm all ears. Plus, this is Julie Kagawa we're talking about so I'm expecting greatness and fierceness. 

So what books are you waiting on?

Monday, September 15, 2014

Review: Frostborn by Lou Anders

Read (August 12 - 23, 2014)
Book: Frostborn (Thrones and Bones #1) by Lou Anders
Publication Date: August 5, 2014
Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers
Pages: 352
Genre/s: Middle Grade, Fantasy
Source: Publisher via Netgalley

Meet Karn. He is destined to take over the family farm in Norrøngard. His only problem? He’d rather be playing the board game Thrones and Bones.

Enter Thianna. Half human, half frost giantess. She’s too tall to blend in with other humans but too short to be taken seriously as a giant.

When family intrigues force Karn and Thianna to flee into the wilderness, they have to keep their sense of humor and their wits about them. But survival can be challenging when you’re being chased by a 1,500-year-old dragon, Helltoppr the undead warrior and his undead minions, an evil uncle, wyverns, and an assortment of trolls and giants. — (source)

Karn is the son of a hauld and will one day inherit his father's farm. Owning a farm means responsibilities and Karn is not exactly jumping up and down at this prospect. Also, it's absolutely not as exciting as playing his treasured Thrones and Bones set and maybe traveling the world someday. Thianna is a half-giantess bullied by giants because of her ungiant-like height and skills. No matter how hard she proves herself, it's never enough for these discriminating giants to accept her as one of their own.

One is from Norrøngard, where the humans reside and one is from Ymiria, the frozen land of the giants. Little do they know that their fates are about to intertwine as both of them go on a quest to protect and to save those they hold dear.

Karn and Thianna are likeable. Naive but resourceful and clever when needed. They both started on a separate adventure but the two of them would eventually team up when they met along the way. They are definitely stronger and more productive when together. They have their own set of strengths and what the other lack, the other fulfills.

Anders' storytelling is really clever at parts. As a more mature reader than, say, to whom this book is intended for, I appreciated how parallels were drawn together in the narrative. I am not sure if this is intended so it would appeal to older readers or it's just Anders' writing style. Either way, it's remarkably done. Light and rollicking, Frostborn would ultimately charm its younger readers. Special shoutout to the dragons and wyverns, which are fantastically added and provided sassiness that Thianna and Karn sometimes lack. Frostborn being a tad predictable is quite problematic for me though and it definitely needs work in that department.

Frostborn, at its core, is a story about two young people who felt misplaced in their own world.  Despite it having shortcomings, it is a sensitive coming-of-age adventure that will surely find its niche with the Middle Grade fantasy lovers. This is a kind of series that will only get stronger with each installment, as we spend more time with these characters and explore their Viking-inspired world further.

Cupid's Verdict:
 photo 3cupidsa_zpsed61af78.png
3 Cupids
A copy was provided by the publisher at no cost in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Review: Sweet Unrest by Lisa Maxwell

Read (August 28 - September 2, 2014)
Book: Sweet Unrest by Lisa Maxwell
Publication Date: October 8, 2014
Publisher: Flux
Pages: 336
Genre/s: Young Adult, Paranormal
Source: Publisher via Netgalley

Lucy Aimes has always been practical. But try as she might, she can’t come up with a logical explanation for the recurring dreams that have always haunted her. Dark dreams. Dreams of a long-ago place filled with people she shouldn’t know…but does.

When her family moves to a New Orleans plantation, Lucy’s dreams become more intense, and her search for answers draws her reluctantly into the old city’s world of Voodoo and mysticism. There, Lucy finds Alex, a mysterious boy who behaves as if they’ve known each other forever. Lucy knows Alex is hiding something, and her rational side doesn’t want to be drawn to him. But she is.

As she tries to uncover Alex’s secrets, a killer strikes close to home, and Lucy finds herself ensnared in a century-old vendetta. With the lives of everyone she loves in danger, Lucy will have to unravel the mystery of her dreams before it all comes to a deadly finish. — (source)

I feel like I have so many words but not enough steam to heave them out for this review. Sweet Unrest drained me. My patience is nearly running out and I have just enough to write this review without sounding like a cranky person you're forced to sit with in a public vehicle.

Sweet Unrest is banking on its quiet atmosphere and mystique. Qualities that should inspire readers to turn pages after pages, delving deeper into the mysteries of New Orleans' history and voodooing in search of answers. But instead of it being a relishing experience, it felt like wading through a senseless pile of sludge. I have nothing against sludge-wading if it's worth the effort but it fueled nothing but boredom and apathy. Voodoo shenanigans are tricky enough as it is, but to keep piling frustrating aspects like instalove, lifeless characters, unexciting plot on top of everything? It's like this book is asking what's coming for it.

Lucy, our protagonist, was uprooted from her Chicago life when her parents decided to take a job in New Orleans. She was not happy at all but she's a nice kid and while I applaud her for not being whiny about this sudden change in her life, that's about where her personality started and ended for me. You could argue that she's brave and passionate especially when things started to take a turn for the worst but most of the time she would just spend her days mooning about her past life and a certain Alex Reade Jourdain.
“..When I finally met his eyes again, there was an intensity and fierceness there that gave me hope and that maybe there was an answer to our shared pain. That maybe our love could be more someday than a deep well of regret. That at the very least having himeven like thiscould be enough for both of us.”
Now if any of you were following my reading progress for this one, you'd know that I couldn't stop myself from seeing similarities between this and Ghost House. While Sweet Unrest is infinitely better than Ghost House in almost every respect, it didn't dodge the most horrible trope of all: instalove. In fact, it embraced it wholeheartedly. For a while, I was able to stop grinding my teeth in frustration and to reserve judgment because I haven't yet unravel the past and the book kept shoving cookies at me to pacify me. It went like this (intentionally vague to avoid spoilers):

ME: WTF. You just met him Luce-girl. How come you lurve him already? -___-
BOOK: NO. You see, she had met him before so that should count for something and I'm pretty sure that would dispel any anti-instalove campaign.
ME: Bu-bu-but..
BOOK: Just you wait. I will blow your mind with my revelashun.
~After 10 boring years~
ME: *punches book in the crotch*

It's actually cute how this book tried so hard to justify the instalove, really. Or maybe, I'm the one who tried so hard to justify it because I see no other reason why I endeavored to finish this in the first place. But even when we take into consideration the circumstances from the past, it's still didn't make any sense. Also, this didn't change the fact that Lucy is her own self now, no matter what happened in the past. If I have to suspend disbelief every time Lucy and Alex interact, it won't do anything but alienate me more from the story and its characters.

The plot is so dull and while it's not exactly uninspired, it wouldn't win any award in the riveting section either. I couldn't, for the life of me, make myself care for what's happening. I tried so hard, I swear. It didn't help that the secondary characters were dragged out in the open to serve the plot and they're forgotten immediately afterwards. The villain reveal was so groundbreaking I felt so stupid for not finding out who it was sooner! Spoiler alert: I encountered this "evil" person for like 2x tops before the reveal. The ending tried but inevitably failed to take hold of any emotions except bliss because all I could think about was I'm so close to turning the last page and then freedom!

Sweet Unrest tested how far I would go to finish a book I'm not enjoying. Still, I have to tip my hats off to Lisa Maxwell because without her writing, I would have not finished this book. I would undoubtedly read Lisa Maxwell's future books because I really believe she has potential. If reading about voodoo and ghost boyfriends are something you can see yourself enjoying, then you are welcome to read this one.

Cupid's Verdict:  
 photo 25cupids_zpsa7e8ce25.png
2.5 Cupids
 A copy was provided by the publisher at no cost in exchange for an honest review.
Quote taken from an uncorrected ARC and may change in the final copy.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Review: The Empress Chronicles by Suzy Vitello

Read (August 19-20, 2014)
Book: The Empress Chronicles (The Empress Chronicles #1) by Suzy Vitello
Publication Date: September 4, 2014
Publisher: Diversion Books
Genre/s: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Magical Realism
Source: Publisher via Netgalley

In this dazzling novel from the author of THE MOMENT BEFORE, one courageous girl seeks keys to the past to unlock the future…

When city girl Liz is banished to a rural goat farm on the outskirts of Portland, the 15-year-old feels her life spiraling out of control. She can’t connect to her father or his young girlfriend, and past trauma adds to her sense of upheaval. The only person who seems to keep her sane is a troubled boy who is fighting his own demons. But all of this changes in one historical instant.

One-hundred fifty years earlier, Elisabeth of Bavaria has troubles of her own. Her childhood is coming to a crashing end, and her destiny is written in the form of a soothsaying locket that has the ability to predict true love. But evil is afoot in the form of a wicked enchantress who connives to wield the power of the locket for her own destructive ends.

When Liz finds a time-worn diary, and within it a locket, she discovers the secrets and desires of the young Bavarian princess who will one day grow up to be the legendary Empress of Austria.

It is in the pages of the diary that these two heroines will meet, and it is through their interwoven story that Liz will discover she has the power to rewrite history—including her own...

Readers of books like Rachel Harris’s MY SUPER SWEET SIXTEENTH CENTURY will love THE EMPRESS CHRONICLES.
- (source)
“People think that what kills the soul is failed love. It is not. The real tragedy to one's soul is regret. Regret...leaves its stain for generations.”
This is the hardest review I've ever written to date. I've been staring at my computer's screen for the past couple of hours trying to think how I'd go about reviewing The Empress Chronicles. It's not helping that the more I think about this book, the more bewildered I get.

The charm of this novel is in its narrative execution. It simply begs to be read and as a reader, you have no choice but to keep turning the pages. It's not only a testament to how my love for this genre grows with every historical fiction novel I read, but also because The Empress Chronicles has an entrancing quality that cannot be ignored. I recently read Queen of Someday, and while it falls under the same genre minus the magical elements, The Empress Chronicles is heavier and definitely more complicated.

Its storyline alternates between the contemporary and past timelines of two girls sharing the same name. Liz, from the present time, who is struggling from an anxiety disorder and feelings of social alienation contributed by her illness as well as her father's new life, and Elisabeth or Sisi, from the 19th century Austrian monarchy, who feels trapped by what the court requires of her.

I admit that even after I finished the novel, it was not made clear how these two are connected aside from bearing the same name, possessing a magical diary, and having to face the very same mental illness at some point in their lifetime. It's not surprising that I'm left with a sinking feeling of not having grasp something tangible. In a way, Liz's struggles to overcome her issues was gradually managed and realistically portrayed, and Sisi's acceptance of what she must sacrifice for her one true love was reflective of how she had transitioned from a blithe, indifferent girl to a more mature future queen. I am just having trouble seeing how some of the other details served in the book's overall picture.

So even though this novel's narrative is its main strength, it also acted as a double-edged sword, crippling the story in becoming more substantial and stable. If anything, it felt as if The Empress Chronicles was written with the second installment in mind, which I don't generally have qualms with except that I felt slightly disappointed that nothing significant happened until the latter part of the book.

This is obviously a matter of preference because I'm all for character build-up which Vitello did quite deftly but I find myself more interested in "having the power to rewrite history" aspect. This is not to say that the characters were not interesting because I did eventually warm up to our two different yet seemingly connected Elisabeths. It's just that we barely scratched the surface of what the blurb had promised. Nevertheless, I am excited to know what's in store for us in the next installment. There are so much tangents to be explored. The story really has no direction to go to but forward and the sequel would be hard-pressed to fall in the same pitfalls that were present in this one.

What is the point of having the power to change history, if it might be too late? I don't know. I think I will have words with Vitello and I totally meant that in a non-threatening way. The Empress Chronicles will really have its readers' minds grinding. With that bizarre ending and too many exciting prospects for the sequel to go for, unless you're not into character-driven stories and historical fiction in general, I don't see why you wouldn't pick this up. This would definitely appeal to fans of Philippa Gregory and will serve well for the curious and for those who needs an excuse to dabble more in the history of the world's past sovereigns.

Cupid's Verdict:
3.5 Cupids
A copy was provided by the publisher at no cost in exchange for an honest review. 
Quote taken from an uncorrected ARC and may change in the final copy. 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday (23): The Blood of Olympus

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases we're eagerly anticipating. 

Book: The Blood of Olympus (The Heroes of Olympus #5) by Rick Riordan
Publication Date: October 7, 2014
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Though the Greek and Roman crewmembers of the Argo II have made progress in their many quests, they still seem no closer to defeating the earth mother, Gaea. Her giants have risen—all of them—and they're stronger than ever. They must be stopped before the Feast of Spes, when Gaea plans to have two demigods sacrificed in Athens. She needs their blood—the blood of Olympus—in order to wake.

The demigods are having more frequent visions of a terrible battle at Camp Half-Blood. The Roman legion from Camp Jupiter, led by Octavian, is almost within striking distance. Though it is tempting to take the Athena Parthenos to Athens to use as a secret weapon, the friends know that the huge statue belongs back on Long Island, where it "might" be able to stop a war between the two camps.

The Athena Parthenos will go west; the Argo II will go east. The gods, still suffering from multiple personality disorder, are useless. How can a handful of young demigods hope to persevere against Gaea's army of powerful giants? As dangerous as it is to head to Athens, they have no other option. They have sacrificed too much already. And if Gaea wakes, it is game over.
- (source)

This is the final installment from the Heroes of Olympus series and I am trembling just thinking about how it'd all end. Granted, I've yet to read House of Hades but that's only because Rick Riordan kills me with his cliffhangers every freaking time. So I decided to wait until this is out so I can finally read the last two installments back to back. Definitely one of my best ideas in a long while. 

So what books are you waiting on?

Monday, September 1, 2014

Review: Queen of Someday by Sherry D. Ficklin

Read (July 19-20, 2014)

Book: Queen of Someday (Stolen Empire #1) by Sherry D. Ficklin
Publication Date: October 7, 2014
Publisher: Clean Teen Publishing
Number of Pages: 262
Genre/s: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Romance
Source: Publisher via Netgalley


Before she can become the greatest empress in history, fifteen-year-old Sophie will have to survive her social-climbing mother’s quest to put her on the throne of Russia—at any cost.

Imperial Court holds dangers like nothing Sophie has ever faced before. In the heart of St. Petersburg, surviving means navigating the political, romantic, and religious demands of the bitter Empress Elizabeth and her handsome, but sadistic nephew, Peter. Determined to save her impoverished family—and herself—Sophie vows to do whatever is necessary to thrive in her new surroundings. But an attempt on her life and an unexpected attraction threatens to derail her plans.

Alone in a new and dangerous world, learning who to trust and who to charm may mean the difference between becoming queen and being sent home in shame to marry her lecherous uncle. With traitors and murderers lurking around every corner, her very life hangs in the balance. Betrothed to one man but falling in love with another, Sophie will need to decide how much she’s willing to sacrifice in order to become the empress she is destined to be.

In a battle for the soul of a nation, will love or destiny reign supreme? - (source)

Set in the time of Imperial Russia, the Queen of Someday tells the story of the Russian empress, Catherine the Great or Sophie before her conversion to the Orthodox Church. I've always had a penchant for stories set in this period. It excites me to delve into the world of ball gowns and court intrigues, that's why the blurb of Queen of Someday along with its stunning cover immediately caught my attention.

To be honest, I am not familiar with Catherine the Great nor any monarchial figure, so reading a historical fiction novel depicting them seems like a good excuse as any to learn more about the history of the past great kings and queens. I am aware that this would generally not appeal to anyone except me (heh) and a few others so let me start by saying, Queen of Someday will be enjoyed both by historical fiction readers and any normal people alike.

Ficklin manages quite beautifully to merge fiction and facts into one cohesive whole (I did my research after reading, sorryNOTsorry). It's impressive to see her skillfully interweave her own take at what might have occurred in Catherine's past life as she ascended to the throne. Her narrative made it so easy to get lost in the political intrigue and the romantic entanglements.

Sophie, as a character, is lovely to read about. She's sensible, intelligent and brave. She can handle herself with charm and wits or with a knife if needed. I saw her dramatic change from a naive, impressionable girl to a fierce, unwavering would-be queen. I ached for what she had lost in the process of acquiring a crown, but my heart rejoiced at her strength and resoluteness. She was heartbroken, yes, but she is hopeful that even after the cards she'd been dealt with, she would come to find a little happiness in her situation.
“Because I cannot win, I cannot have what I truly desire—it is beyond my grasp, I realize that now. It's sad really, to think that until I came here, I had no other dreams, no other desires but what my family wanted for me. I discovered my own mind and heart too late ... Fate has offered me an opportunity. A crown in one hand and a husband in the other. Even if I were to throw all that away, it would still not get me what I want. It would only serve to hurt the people I care about. I would be sent back to Germany in disgrace, and my family would lose everything. There is no way to win, but there is certainly a way to lose. My choice, what little choice I have, is not to lose.” 
Ficklin's writing is a marvel to read. The dialogues and secret correspondences were so alluring and exquisite that I highlighted like crazy to note them all. I also fully embraced the romance in this one. It was swoon-worthy, splendid and all-consuming, and like mostly with good things, it was terribly tragic as well.
“I will have what I've always had, myself. And I will have a lifetime worth of sweet memories to keep me warm at night. Don't weep for me, my love. Live your life in joy, and know that if I could have lived it with you, I would have.”  — Cue sobbing. *sobs uncontrollably*
Queen of Someday is an enthralling, romantic historical fiction. I flew by its pages and it was over before I knew it. It left me salivating for more and I truly think that's a mark of an effective historical fiction or any novel, for that matter. If you are a fan of periodic dramas like Reign, you won't really want to miss out on this one.

Cupid's Verdict:
 photo 4cupidsa_zps3b2346ee.png
4 Cupids

A copy was provided by the publisher at no cost in exchange for an honest review.
Quotes are taken from an uncorrected ARC and may change in the final copy.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

2014 Favorite Reads so far + Emoticons

Are you aware that we are entering the ber months already? Because I'm not and it's not fun getting jolted back to reality. How can there be only four more months left until 2015? How could the first 8 months flew by so fast? I guess we'll never know. Time is just sneaky that way. Anyway, today I am going to share my 2014 early favorites (books I've read from Jan 1 to August 29, 2014), in hopes that I can force influence some of you to pick them up and bask in their glory.

 photo 46_zps1d1d190e.gifTo make this post even more special, I included emoticons (source) that best describe my feels while I was reading. This is in line with the Emoji + Books tag by my good friend Meg, blogger extraordinaire at Adrift on Vulcan. I am finally doing it Meg, but I'm breaking all the rules coz' I'm a rebel. Heh.

Without further ado, here are my early 2014 favorites:

The Kiss of Deception
(add to Goodreads)
What? Is that groaning I hear? Well for some reason, this book came just at the right moment and it even made its way onto my favorites shelf. In a different kind of day, this story won’t work for me. The love triangle that I loathe so much was practically mocking me while I was reading. But something clicked and it’s not every day that I get blindsided by character reveals so go you, book!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Review: The Case of the Stolen Sixpence by Holly Webb, Marion Lindsay

Book: The Case of the Stolen Sixpence by Holly Webb, Marion Lindsay
Publication Date: September 2, 2014
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Pages: 176
Genre/s: Middle Grade, Mystery
Source: Publisher via Netgalley

When George, the butcher's boy, is fired for stealing coins from the till, Maisie knows in her heart he is innocent. With her little dog Eddie as the Watson to her Sherlock Holmes, Maisie uses her budding detective skills to solve the mystery of the stolen sixpence, vindicate her old friend, and even help a new friend in need. The first book in a series! - (source)

I've been meaning to read a book in which I could simply lose myself in, and The Case of the Stolen Sixpence came at just the right time. Who would've thought that this observant girl who sweep floors in her Granny's apartment and hates shopping (unless it's an excuse for sleuthing) would whisked me straight to Victorian London?

The huge grin on my face didn't vanish at all from the moment I started reading until I turned the last page. It's like I've tapped into a whimsical story I could see myself enjoying back when I was younger and even now. The illustrations added to the book's engrossment factor and it would surely entice even those kids who are reluctant to open a book.

Courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company

Maisie is very good at spotting things. But having detecting skills are not enough, you need cases to solve and maybe a detective paraphernalia or two to look the part. Can you see the dilemma our aspiring detective is in?

Needless to say, Maisie is a charming character and she has moxie others can only dream of having. As a curious kid, she and Nancy Drew might just become great pals and even Sherlock Holmes would find her greatly amusing. Maisie is a joy to read and her faithful dog assistant is just as cute.

The Case of the Stolen Sixpence is a Middle Grade mystery novel that will tickle the imagination of young ones as well as those who are still in touch with their youthful spirit. It's a delightful, quick read filled with adorable characters I'd surely love to get to know more in future installments.

Cupid's Verdict:
 photo 4cupidsa_zps3b2346ee.png
4 Cupids
A copy was provided by the publisher at no cost in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday (21): Winterkill

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases we're eagerly anticipating. 

Book: Winterkill by Kate A. Boorman
Publication Date: September 9, 2014
Publisher: Amulet Books

Emmeline knows she’s not supposed to explore the woods outside her settlement. The enemy that wiped out half her people lurks there, attacking at night and keeping them isolated in an unfamiliar land with merciless winters. Living with the shame of her grandmother’s insubordination, Emmeline has learned to keep her head down and her quick tongue silent.

When the settlement leader asks for her hand in marriage, it’s an opportunity for Emmeline to wash the family slate clean—even if she has eyes for another. But before she’s forced into an impossible decision, her dreams urge her into the woods, where she uncovers a path she can’t help but follow. The trail leads to a secret that someone in the village will kill to protect. Her grandmother followed the same path and paid the price. If Emmeline isn’t careful, she will be next.
- (source)

What is the secret? What did Emmeline grandmother paid the price for? Oh, the suspense. I already love this book. Let's just hope there's no love triangle or instalove. 

So what books are you waiting on?

Monday, August 25, 2014

Review: Words and their Meanings by Kate Bassett

Read (August 20-21, 2014)
Book: Words and their Meanings by Kate Bassett
Publication Date: September 8, 2014
Publisher: Flux
Number of Pages: 360
Genre/s: Young Adult, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
Source: Publisher

Anna O’Mally doesn’t believe in the five stages of grief. Her way of dealing with death equates to daily bouts of coffin yoga and fake-tattooing Patti Smith quotes onto her arms. Once a talented writer, Anna no longer believes words matter, until shocking discoveries–in the form of origami cranes–force her to redefine family and love.

As Anna goes in search of the truth, she discovers that while every story, every human being, has a last line, it might still be possible to find the words for a new beginning.
- (source)

“It's only been a year and some change since Joe. And now, here I am again, waiting, trying to stop hoping. And drowning in what I could have done to save someone I love. ”
Words and their Meanings is a tough book to read. It's a kind of story that pleads silently for any comforting gesture but lashes out at the slightest of touch. It has sucker punched me in all my vulnerable places and I have no idea how I've survived it. Reading this book trapped me in an awful, depressing bubble that I don't know how to shake away, even now. I feel like doing my own coffin yoga, practice my own blank stare, and will away my existence, even just for a short while, because feeling all these feels is hurting me.
“You can't let emotions consume you. ”
— Ha, book! Are you referring to me?
Grief is the weirdest thing. I've seen it time and again. From people I don't know, from acquaintances, and from people who are close to me. Everyone reacts differently. Coping varies from one person to the next. One thing is a constant though, it never fails to make itself known. It might hit you the way a raindrop casually falls from an oncoming downpour or it might felt like being ran over by a bulldozer. In Words and their Meanings, I've suffered both and I am still not sure how and why.
“What I feel is not in the human vocabulary.”
Its intensity and rawness is unflinching in its pain. Its words carried a weight that begs to be endured and understood and absorbed. I cried—no, I leaked. My unrelenting tears was a direct result of the emotional gutting I've received from this sad, sob-fest of a story. But the most surprising thing was underneath the crushing waves of agony and sorrow, it was punctuated by tiny nuggets of hope and healing for these characters, which comes unexpectedly in hilarious moments. A minor respite but enough to fill me with optimism that they could come back from all these, stronger as a person and tighter as a family than ever.
“How do I say Mateo reminds me of the poem that cut deepest? The one so full of fear that one break in stillness is enough to bring joy and hope and life?

I don't.”
I feel obligated to talk about the characters' humanness, fragility and realness. I feel like I need to discuss the genuineness of the friendship, the family dynamics, and the wonderful portrayal of love and its complexity. I feel like I need a separate section for Mateo alone, or for Joe, or for Anna, or for Anna's parents or her Gramps, or her sister or her bestfriend. But I won't try. I don't have enough in me to try. But I was there for them and I hope that's enough.
“Think about how weird it is to feel broken and mended all at once. Sad and happy. Sappy.”
— Tell me about it, book. *sniffs*
I felt so drained. So emotionally exhausted. So wrung out. This book scared me with its darkness and pain. My head hurt, as what happens, when I cry too much and I don't think I could ever go through this again. But I might, I might just have to, because if every reread is equivalent to a pat on the shoulder, or an embrace, or even a simple nod of understanding, I'd do it all again for these characters and their story.
“Everyone gets one last line. But first lines, stories of love and loss and hope floating on backs of paper cranes? We choose how many of those we get to tell.

All we have to do is breathe deep. Breathe life in.

My eyes slip closed, and I do. I breathe. I breathe. I breathe.”
Cupid's Verdict:
5 Cupids

A copy was provided by the publisher at no cost in exchange for an honest review.
Quotes are taken from an uncorrected ARC and may change in the final copy.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Review: Ghost House by Alexandra Adornetto

Read (August 10-12, 2014)
Book: Ghost House (The Ghost House Saga #1) by Alexandra Adornetto
Publication Date: August 26, 2014
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Number of Pages: 320
Genre/s: Young Adult, Paranormal
Source: ARC provided by publisher via Netgalley

From the New York Times bestselling author of Halo comes the start of a beautiful and powerful new series.

After the loss of her mother, Chloe Kennedy starts seeing the ghosts that haunted her as a young girl again. Spending time at her grandmother's country estate in the south of England is her chance to get away from her grief and the spirits that haunt her. Until she meets a mysterious stranger…

Alexander Reade is 157 years dead, with secrets darker than the lake surrounding Grange Hall and a lifelike presence that draws Chloe more strongly than any ghost before. But the bond between them awakens the vengeful spirit of Alexander's past love, Isobel. And she will stop at nothing to destroy anyone who threatens to take him from her.

To stop Isobel, Chloe must push her developing abilities to their most dangerous limits, even if it means losing Alex forever… and giving the hungry dead a chance to claim her for their own.
- (source)

Ghost House reminded me of The Mediator series by Meg Cabot, in the way the paranormal aspect was incorporated, and I was actually excited for a while until a crushing thought came over me: Ghost House and I are not a good fit. It's like trying to mix gasoline and water together. In hindsight, I should've seen it coming. Still, this was a risk I took, so I have no one to blame but myself and my apparent naivety.

The writing was all over the place. Metaphors and adjectives were used poorly and extensively. I still can't believe I survived it. Jarring and grating, I had to stop reading every now and then because I just wanted to cry in the corner and lament about how awful this reading experience was.
“The sky had changed color to a streaky mauve, scattered with stars like glittering rocks.”

“..the moon still hanging in the sky like a pale sickle, I knew it had to be the early hours of morning..”

“Her skin is the color of moonstones and the nails on her long fingers are polished gems.”

“Inside, dark wooden beams ran across the ceiling. In the stalls stood solemn horses with glossy coats and liquid brown eyes.”
— Are you scratching your eyes yet?
Chloe is one of those MCs you would like to forget immediately after reading. She's inconsistent and supercilious, two qualities that made for a highly aggravating character. She reprimands Alex because he called her friends harlots, but she'd be the first person to throw them under the bus anyway. Her modesty that's supposed to make her endearing, made her unbearable.  
“When our eyes met, the connection was inexplicable, overwhelming and impossible to ignore. It felt like there were currents swirling in the air, binding us together. Although though we barely knew each other and came from opposing dimensions, I felt strangely comfortable with him.”
— Yeah right. *ignores*
Do I even need to talk about the romance? I'm not going to pretend I'm disappointed with the instalove. It's bound to happen. If the over-the-top description won't clue you in while reading, I don't know what will. The attraction didn't make any sense and only served to provide drama and angst. I had to endure reading about a depthless relationship I couldn't even care about. 
“As I drank in the details of his face, I could feel the distance between us closing up. It might be imprudent and it might be irrational, but something was happening here, even if I couldn't find a label for it. Time and space dissolved around me, and I felt like I'd been waiting all my life for Alexander Reade to show up.”
— Please hold my hair while I gag.
Also, what is this thing about perceiving deep sadness just by looking at someone's eyes? WHY IS THIS EVEN A THING?
“...But his eyes were the most startling, the clearest shade of cornflower blue, with just a hint of sadness that couldn't be concealed.”

“He was tall and loose limbed with broad shoulders, the sort of guy who was comfortable in his own skin. I thought I could see a trace of sadness in his eyes, the sort of thing only I picked up when meeting someone for the first time.”
— What made you such a speshul eye-reading snowflake, Chloe?
The narrative was not the worst thing I've ever read, but the absence of any oomph factor was disappointing. It's uninspired and flat. It's such a shame because I do feel that the tragedy behind the ghosts of Grange Hall was actually quite interesting. It also goes without saying that the plot was predictable. Side characters were used if needed and the MC's ability made progress when it's convenient. The Harry Potter references that usually gets me fist-pumping, ended up being tacky and forced. Plus, don't get me started on how her mother's passing was just swept aside and brought up when necessary, the slut-shaming, and how Isobel, being alluringly evil, was the only one to blame for everything.

This novel did not aspire to break the mold and I could live with that. But what really set my teeth on edge was its painful attempt at a cliffhanger. I don't even know how I managed to finish this book and now I have to look forward to more installments? Ugh. I think I need a chocolate or something. 

Cupid's Verdict:
 photo 15cupids_zps44d71469.png
1.5 Cupids

A copy was provided by the publisher at no cost in exchange for an honest review.
Excerpts/quotes are taken from the ARC and may change in the final copy.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday (20): Crown of Ice

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases we're eagerly anticipating. 

Book: Crown of Ice by Vicki L. Weavil
Publication Date: September 9, 2014
Publisher: Month9Books

Thyra Winther's seventeen, the Snow Queen, and immortal, but if she can't reassemble a shattered enchanted mirror by her eighteenth birthday she's doomed to spend eternity as a wraith. Armed with magic granted by a ruthless wizard, Thyra schemes to survive with her mind and body intact. Unencumbered by kindness, she kidnaps local boy Kai Thorsen, whose mathematical skills rival her own. Two logical minds, Thyra calculates, are better than one. With time rapidly melting away she needs all the help she can steal. A cruel lie ensnares Kai in her plan, but three missing mirror shards and Kai's childhood friend, Gerda, present more formidable obstacles. Thyra's willing to do anything – venture into uncharted lands, outwit sorcerers, or battle enchanted beasts -- to reconstruct the mirror, yet her most dangerous adversary lies within her breast. Touched by the warmth of a wolf pup's devotion and the fire of a young man's desire, the thawing of Thyra's frozen heart could be her ultimate undoing. CROWN OF ICE is a YA Fantasy that reinvents Hans Christian Andersen's "The Snow Queen" from the perspective of a young woman who discovers that the greatest threat to her survival may be her own humanity. - (source)

Fairytale retellings are the bestest. Plus, look at that cover and the promise of magic. This book is made for me.
So what books are you waiting on?

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Review: Storm Siren by Mary Weber

Read (August 1-5, 2014)
Book: Storm Siren (Storm Siren #1) by Mary Weber
Publication Date: August 19, 2014
Publisher: Thomas Nelson/HarperCollins
Number of Pages: 320
Genre/s: Young Adult, Fantasy
Source: ARC provided by publisher via Netgalley

“I raise my chin as the buyers stare. Yes. Look. You don’t want me. Because, eventually, accidentally, I will destroy you.”

In a world at war, a slave girl’s lethal curse could become one kingdom’s weapon of salvation. If the curse—and the girl—can be controlled.

As a slave in the war-weary kingdom of Faelen, seventeen-year-old Nym isn’t merely devoid of rights, her Elemental kind are only born male and always killed at birth — meaning, she shouldn’t even exist.

Standing on the auction block beneath smoke-drenched mountains, Nym faces her fifteenth sell. But when her hood is removed and her storm-summoning killing curse revealed, Nym is snatched up by a court advisor and given a choice: be trained as the weapon Faelen needs to win the war, or be killed.

Choosing the former, Nym is unleashed into a world of politics, bizarre parties, and rumors of an evil more sinister than she’s being prepared to fight . . . not to mention the handsome trainer whose dark secrets lie behind a mysterious ability to calm every lightning strike she summons.

But what if she doesn’t want to be the weapon they’ve all been waiting for?

Set in a beautifully eclectic world of suspicion, super abilities, and monsters, Storm Siren is a story of power. And whoever controls that power will win. - (source)

You might want to see my initial animated review. I am told it's hilarious. *straight face* 
“I think some have to fight harder to choose good over evil because the evil's got it out for them. And maybe it's because those're the ones evil knows will become the strongest warriors, recognizing true wickedness when it rears its head ... Maybe the ones who've struggled with true evil are the ones meant to make the biggest difference against it, you know?” - taken from an uncorrected ARC 
In a nutshell, Storm Siren is about an orphan slave girl suddenly thrust in the middle of a long waged war between two kingdoms. She was bought by a batshit crazy slave owner as a pawn and a weapon to end this war once and for all. She must then prove her worth and learn to control her abilities or she would be hanged for the abomination that she is.

Nym is a lost, broken girl plagued by guilt, grief and self-loathing. She sees herself as nothing but a monster cursed at having an ability that could kill anyone that gets too close. Cheeky and cynical, it's equal parts exasperating and empowering to see her come to terms with what and who she is. Is she a monster that brings only havoc and destruction or is she the savior that will ultimately save her kingdom?

Eogan, her ability trainer, is mysterious and frustrating. Hot and cold, his attitude inconsistencies drove me crazy.  But it is not without good reason and glimpses of his true feelings showed that he cares and understands Nym more than he will ever let on. He makes her feel visible and safe, feelings that Nym tried to hide with indifference. I ship these two so hard. It was hard work and I totally have to beg Mary Weber to finally make my ship sail and when it did, it was unfrakingbelievable.
“I stare back, as if to defy him and whatever his problem has been. Except something hungry stirs behind his gaze, and the next thing I know he's taking my heart for a thirsty-leap into green depths, and I'm drinking him in as fast as I can, excruciatingly aware of how parched I am.”
— Goodness. *fans self*
But Eogan is not there merely to make us swoon because he is definitely a character in his own right and plays a bigger role than being Nym's love interest. And guys, Eogan is a person with color! I don't even want to make a big deal out of this because it shouldn't even be a deal in the first place, but he is, and my heart is so happy. And since we're talking about not your usual run-of-the-mill characters, we have here a bald, well-muscled flirty guy and a sassy blind friend. Even Nym has a mishappen hand.

Like I said, the romance was perfection for me. There were gazillion chances for Weber to go for the love triangle route but she didn't. The romance, while one of the best aspects of this novel, is just an excellent backdrop as it was supposed to be, because this story is most importantly about Nym's journey to self-discovery and self-redemption.

But what is a fantasy novel without a solid worldbuilding?

I am greatly delighted to say that the worldbuilding here was off the charts. It's bursting at the seams with its commitment to geography, language and social structure. The steampunk-esque details and magic system were interesting. But what I admire the most was how Weber handled the enslavement aspect. It was not swept aside and used simply as a means to make Nym's history colorful but it was treated as a real problem that needs resolution. I hope in the next installment Weber will give focus on the perverse nature of some men in this novel because they really irked me out.
“...But instead of my power exploding like a thunderstorm, it comes as a gentle tide. A heart surrender. Almost painful in its approach, beckoning tears to my eyes as it renders my defenses nonexistent. And suddenly I can't remember why I ever needed them anyway because the very power I've spent my life cowering from is, at its core, pure.”
The prose was simply lovely. No matter how eager I was to turn pages after pages, I had to pause once in a while so I can reread some passages that were just beautiful. This novel made me come alive with its electric magic and the come down from the high was pretty agonizing. There were plenty of WTF moments, swoon-worthy moments, hair pulling moments, awe-inspiring moments and gasp-inducing moments. The ending was all of these combined and it was brutal. In truth, Mary Weber has a dangerous persona that concerns me, yet I'm beyond excited to read the next installment.

Highly unpredictable, imaginative and vividly woven, this book is the reason why I am reading fantasy novels. Storm Siren rocked my world from the very beginning and left me reeling as I turned the last page. Mary Weber has truly written a wonderful, riveting debut novel and it's definitely one of my best reads this year.

Cupid's Verdict:
4.5 Cupids

A copy was provided by the publisher at no cost
in exchange for an honest review

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Review: The Moment Collector by Jodi Lynn Anderson

Read (July 30 - August 1, 2014)
Book: The Moment Collector by Jodi Lynn Anderson
Publication Date: August 7, 2014
Publisher: Orchard Books
Number of Pages: 256
Genre/s: Young Adult, Contemporary, Mystery, Paranormal
Source: Copy provided by publisher via Netgalley

A haunting mystery, romance in the vein of The Lovely Bones by New York Times bestselling author.

"The yard of this house is a graveyard of moments and everything left behind is a clue. And I am here to dig."

There's a ghost haunting 208 Water Street. She doesn't know who she was, or why she's still here. She does know that she is drawn to Maggie, the new girl in town, and her friends - beautiful, carefree Pauline and Liam, the boy who loves her.

But the ghost isn't all that's lurking in Gill Creek... Someone is killing young girls all across the county. Can the ghost keep these three friends safe? Or does she have another purpose? - (source)

I came into The Moment Collector, also known as The Vanishing Season, knowing that it's subpar compared to Tiger Lily, so it really surprised me how much I ended up loving this novel. Tiger Lily will always be my favorite book from Anderson but The Moment Collector is definitely beautiful in its own right. 
“This is what I think the world is showing me. We are souls at a common cause. We are only here to love. That was my great story all along. We are here to take chances, and fail, and keep trying.
Words are failing me right now. I don't think my review will give this book the justice it deserves, but I'll try my best, and I will start with what everybody should know by now: Anderson is a wonderful writer. I've always loved her writing. It has a languid quality to it that will enfold you and ease you right into the story. I am so glad this book came at the right moment, right when I'm looking for a novel that will leave me an emotional wreck.

The Moment Collector introduces us to Maggie, Liam, Pauline, and the lonely ghost that watches over them. These characters had somehow managed to steal pieces of my heart right under my nose. It seemed impossible at the beginning but something clicked along the way, and I was swept up by the three of them and if I only knew what was coming, I would have kept my heart heavily guarded.

This is not a ghost story nor it is a mystery novel and many will grumble and find themselves disappointed that this novel is marketed as such. If anything, the seemingly misleading blurb became a diversion, cleverly blinding the readers' eyes from the bigger picture. I was intrigued all throughout, trying to find scraps of clues that never came, only to be blindsided by something that never even entered my mind in the first place. The Moment Collector is a character-driven story. It depicts real characters in real situations with real relationships. I am aware that this would not appeal to all readers, but when it does find its rightful reader, it will resonate and leave a mark. I know, because it did for me.
We're like two angels floating over heaven. It's our perfect moment, and it never disappears. Even now, I can see us, even long after the moment is gone. Love can't be taken back once it's given.
I'm actually crying as I'm writing this review, something I haven't done in a long while and I am at a loss as to what to do first: Should I clutch my heart to help ease the pain or should I wipe my tears away because it's blurring my vision? The Door County became my home. Hesitantly at first, but just like Maggie, I felt like I lost something in the end. For a short while, Maggie, Liam and Pauline became my persons and I just know I will read this again, maybe tomorrow, next week, a year after today, and I'd willingly get my heart broken once more.

Nothing ever really happens in The Moment Collector but this could be the best book I will read all year. Without any doubt, Jodi Lynn Anderson has earned a special place in my heart as one of my most favorite authors.

Cupid's Verdict:
 photo 4cupidsa_zps3b2346ee.png
4 Cupids
A copy was provided by the publisher at no cost in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday (19): Salt and Storm

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases we're eagerly anticipating. 

Book: Salt & Storm by Kendall Kulper
Publication Date: September 23, 2014
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

A sweeping historical romance about a witch who foresees her own murder--and the one boy who can help change her future.

Sixteen-year-old Avery Roe wants only to take her rightful place as the witch of Prince Island, making the charms that keep the island's whalers safe at sea, but her mother has forced her into a magic-free world of proper manners and respectability. When Avery dreams she's to be murdered, she knows time is running out to unlock her magic and save herself.

Avery finds an unexpected ally in a tattooed harpoon boy named Tane--a sailor with magic of his own, who moves Avery in ways she never expected. Becoming a witch might stop her murder and save her island from ruin, but Avery discovers her magic requires a sacrifice she never prepared for.
- (source)

Historical fiction? Check. Fantasy? Check. Romance? Check. I'm sold with the book's premise and I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it will deliver.

So what books are you waiting on?

Monday, August 4, 2014

Review: Half A King by Joe Abercrombie

Read (July 13-28, 2014)
Book: Half A King (Shattered Sea #1) by Joe Abercrombie
Publication Date: July 15, 2014
Publisher: Del Rey
Number of Pages: 352
Genre/s: Young Adult, Fantasy
Source: ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley

“I swore an oath to avenge the death of my father. I may be half a man, but I swore a whole oath.”

Prince Yarvi has vowed to regain a throne he never wanted. But first he must survive cruelty, chains, and the bitter waters of the Shattered Sea. And he must do it all with only one good hand.

The deceived will become the deceiver.

Born a weakling in the eyes of his father, Yarvi is alone in a world where a strong arm and a cold heart rule. He cannot grip a shield or swing an axe, so he must sharpen his mind to a deadly edge.

The betrayed will become the betrayer.

Gathering a strange fellowship of the outcast and the lost, he finds they can do more to help him become the man he needs to be than any court of nobles could.

Will the usurped become the usurper?

But even with loyal friends at his side, Yarvi finds his path may end as it began—in twists, and traps, and tragedy. (source

I love fantasy because of its grandiosity in world-building and characters, and although I don't read much from this genre anymore, I always find myself gravitating towards it whenever I felt like embarking on an epic adventure. As my first Joe Abercrombie fantasy novel, I could say Half A King didn't disappoint.

In a way, Half A King is a tricky novel to judge. I do believe my whining is entirely subjective but it deeply correlates with how I rated this book. It is engaging and gripping, yes, but I never got the urge to finish it like I usually get with a fantasy novel. It probably had something to do with me not being completely invested about Yarvi's quest. Now, don't get me wrong. I rooted for Yarvi and I wanted him to be successful in his revenge. It's just that I never really wanted for him to become a king in the first place. I wanted him to be as far away to the Black Chair as possible. It's a little silly, I know.

Yarvi, our main protagonist, loathes himself and his physical handicap. I am positive that Yarvi's character would endear him to anyone that will read about him. He's a boy broken by his father, the King's angry disappointments, his mother, the Queen's coldness,  his brother, the preferred heir's mock-up tolerance and his subject's disregard and contempt for him. He was never good enough for anyone and he had hated himself for the longest time because of this.
“...I spent half my childhood in the shadows. Hiding from my father or my brother. Creeping from one place of solitude to another. Seeing while unseen, and pretending I was a part of what I saw. Making up a life where I wasn't an outcast.” 
Yet, we'll come to know how all these will inevitably shape him as he experienced almost never-ending hardships and sufferings in such a short time span. Betrayed by all those he had come to trust, Yarvi unexpectedly became someone who was more suited for power. From a boy who lacked brute strength, he became a man brimming with deep cunning. His thirst to prove himself and fulfill his oath made me realized which ability is more effective—and by extent—more lethal of the two.
“The fool strikes, ...The wise man smiles, and watches, and learns. Then strikes.”
As with a fantasy novel, Half A King presents an array of characters. Yarvi formed an unlikely fellowship among his group of misfits whose luck are as rotten as his. They build an odd relationship that started simply as a necessity but resulted in trust and genuine attachment in the long run. This is the best relationship arc, in my opinion.
“He had been betrayed by his own family, his own people, and found loyalty among a set of slaves who owed him nothing. He was so pathetically glad of it he wanted to weep. But he had a feeling he would need his tears later.”
There's not much world-building here, which I didn't really mind because Abercrombie made up for it with his wonderful characterization. Abercrombie will make you think of his character's actions, and I really appreciated that no character is ever fully good or bad and that Yarvi is no exception. Abercrombie additionally introduces brilliant female characters that are as cunning and clever as the males in this novel. Also, after the readers have traveled with Yarvi and his crew all around the Shattered Sea, the story had somehow managed to come full circle. I love circles, have I told you?

Overall, Abercrombie achieves to write a novel that is as fierce as the best warrior's sword-fighting skills and is as solid as its dialogues. Half A King would greatly appeal to readers of the fantasy genre, no matter what the age group is.

Cupid's Verdict:
3.5 Cupids
A copy was provided by the publisher at no cost in exchange for an honest review. 
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