Monday, December 21, 2015

Reviewing Slump, the silence and 2016 + Giveaway!

Hi guys! It's been a while. It's been quiet around here. *looks around nervously* I know that it was a sudden hiatus on my part. I have been drafting reviews and posts several times a week but somehow, I just couldn't finish anything that I write. There's so much going on: work, the novel that I'm working on, and life in general. It didn't help that I was having a bad case of reviewing slump. I read several books these past few weeks - one after another - and yet I couldn't write about them. But today, I managed to finish one of the drafts I started two months ago. I see this as a sign to continue. That, and the fact that I'm organizing a blog event for next year.

Me, reading, anywhere, anytime

My dear friend, Michelle from The Escapist, who officially said goodbye to the blogging world, to focus on something much more important to her, hosted Celebrating Debutantes annually. She passed the blog event to me and I'm more than happy to continue it for her. I typically go for fresh talent, debut novels. So it's logical for me to celebrate debutantes.


It's gonna be my first blog event since the last wave of Dystopian Domination. I'm ecstatic since I will be organizing this with a close friend, Cai from Blackplume. Keep in touch for news on Celebrating Debutantes 2016!

Before you go, I have a surprise for you. Yes, you. I met Jennifer E. Smith, the most amazing contemporary author alive, earlier this year. If you're in the Philippines, if you haven't heard of her, want to read her books, or if you simply must have the signed hardcover of The Statistical Probability at First Sight, then you can join this giveaway. Update: the giveaway prizes are now: signed copy of The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith, The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh and a signed copy of Savor by Kate Evangelista. Open to residents of the Philippines this time around. (Sorry international peeps! I will whip up something for you soon.)

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Sharing the book love,

Monday, October 19, 2015

Review: Illuminae by Amie Kaufman + Jay Kristoff

Book Description:

Hardcover, 608 pages
Published October 20th 2015 by Knopf Books for Young Readers

This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do.

This afternoon, her planet was invaded.

The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to fight their way onto an evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.

But their problems are just getting started. A deadly plague has broken out and is mutating, with terrifying results; the fleet's AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be their enemy; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on. As Kady hacks into a tangled web of data to find the truth, it's clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: the ex-boyfriend she swore she'd never speak to again.

Told through a fascinating dossier of hacked documents—including emails, schematics, military files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more—Illuminae is the first book in a heart-stopping, high-octane trilogy about lives interrupted, the price of truth, and the courage of everyday heroes.

Reviewer's Copy: ARC

Source: Dianne and Pinoybooktours! (Thank you!)

My Thoughts:

Illuminae is hands down the best science fiction novel I have read this year. As I'm writing this review, I find myself grasping, searching and squeezing-my-eyes-shut-thinking of words to describe my reading experience. I found the book most intriguing and incredibly unique. The format of the story was unlike any other, in such a way that it was comprised of various files that were gathered about the incident: chat conversations, official statements, outlines and blueprints of the spacecrafts involved, emails, medical reports, official exchanged between ships, written reports that were narratives of audio and surveillance footage, files and more. I thought that because of the format, I might find the narration limited and cagey. I was wrong on so many levels. The variety in the formats enabled the reader to jump from one perspective to another, while enjoying the story from the back seat. I was able to experience the story in various forms and form a thorough understanding and form healthy guesses based on the information presented.

Kady and Ezra. The two ex-lovers by label, silent lovers by choice. Ezra was a pilot, flying a Cyclone, which was the first line of defense of the Alexander. He was brutally honest and cursed too much for his own good, and yet I found him charming. He could be a representative of the modern guy, with a kind heart and a conscience amidst the darker attributes. Getting a female main character that was a talented hacker was a bonus. Kady was a genius with code. It was amazing to see her at work as she broke through the walls and security systems to get the most hidden and most coveted information about the attack on Kerenza and the chaos that was the travel to Heimdall by Copernicus, Hypatia and Alexander. I admired her perseverance, bravery and guts. She was a modern heroine, unafraid to test the water and to swim hip deep into the unknown. She was a very private person. I saw myself in her silence, in the risks that she took and in the sacrifice that she did. She was the ultimate example of a person on a "no regrets" policy in life. I loved the banter between them, albeit limited. It was one of a kind. They broke up right before their planet was attacked. The sudden separation, emotionally and physically, drew them apart. Through sparse emails and forbidden chat conversations, they reunited. There was spark between them that was easy to spot. Somehow, this satisfied me despite the fact that the novel was primarily focused on action and destruction. I loved reading about these two - how they interacted, worried about one another and eventually tried to save each other while digging for hard truths.

The plot was what I would consider catastrophically epic. When I thought things couldn't get worse, it did. When I thought the cast had suffered enough, they suffered even more. The setting reminded me of Glow by Amy Kathleen Ryan, with two more spacecrafts, more people and more firepower. I enjoyed reading about the specific culture in each vessel. But what really intrigued me the most was the Alexander and its military crew. With the Lincoln, the enemy, hot on their heels, Torrence and his men were breaking under the pressure. They were understaffed, forced to conscript civilians into service and to make things worse, their ship took damage and their artificial intelligence system, AIDAN was going crazy. I enjoyed reading about the military aspect of the book. I've always been fond of military fiction and it was so rare to find a book that goes into full detail about it. The authors were focused on every little detail, and that made me appreciate the story even more.

Another thing that I liked about Illuminae was AIDAN, the out of control AI. It was a fascinating experience to try to understand the point of view of an intelligent yet unliving, incorporeal thing. It was programmed for defense and security, to protect and prioritize the fleet. However, because it has no morals, its decision-making was surprisingly unorthodox and tragically cruel. It was a terrifying exhibit of what might happen with mankind's inventions.

Illuminae is a beautifully chaotic and wild adventure into the unknown. Readers are bound to experience the following symptoms: adrenaline rush, heart stoppage and system restart at suspense and terrifying scenes, heartache due to brutally tragic events, laughing like a crazy person over the humor injected into the story, getting butterlies in your stomach over unexpectedly sweet scenes and lastly, goosebumps over the gorgeousness that is Illuminae. Highly recommended to all human beings alive, especially science fiction enthusiasts!

Rating:


5 Cupids = Eternal book love.
I will never, ever, ever forget this book. I highly recommend this!

Giveaway: Hardcovers of Illuminae
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Sunday, September 20, 2015

Review: The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

Book Description:

Paperback, 404 pages
Published May 12th 2015 by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers

One Life to One Dawn.

In a land ruled by a murderous boy-king, each dawn brings heartache to a new family. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, is a monster. Each night he takes a new bride only to have a silk cord wrapped around her throat come morning. When sixteen-year-old Shahrzad's dearest friend falls victim to Khalid, Shahrzad vows vengeance and volunteers to be his next bride. Shahrzad is determined not only to stay alive, but to end the caliph's reign of terror once and for all.

Night after night, Shahrzad beguiles Khalid, weaving stories that enchant, ensuring her survival, though she knows each dawn could be her last. But something she never expected begins to happen: Khalid is nothing like what she'd imagined him to be. This monster is a boy with a tormented heart. Incredibly, Shahrzad finds herself falling in love. How is this possible? It's an unforgivable betrayal. Still, Shahrzad has come to understand all is not as it seems in this palace of marble and stone. She resolves to uncover whatever secrets lurk and, despite her love, be ready to take Khalid's life as retribution for the many lives he's stolen. Can their love survive this world of stories and secrets?

Inspired by A Thousand and One Nights, The Wrath and the Dawn is a sumptuous and enthralling read from beginning to end.

Reviewer's Copy: Paperback

Source: Bought

My Thoughts:

The Wrath and the Dawn drew me in several months ago, when its book summary was unleashed into the world. I took a copy in my hands and refused to let it go. Its deliberate beauty consumed my being. I have no regrets, other than I would have to wait months stretching into the future for the second book. My heart needs it. My sanity needs it.

Shahrzad, also known as Shazi to her beloved and to her friends, was a strong heroine. She didn't need saving - she handle everything and could save herself. I admired her strength, determination, loyalty and intelligence, and even her imperfections. She wavered and found herself falling in love with the monster caliph, Khalid. Love was mixing into the already troublesome concoction of emotions wrapped between Shahrzad and Khalid. Shahrzad soon found herself trapped in the middle of her revenge, her heart's call and her shame and betrayal. When her first love, Tariq, waltzed into the palace, things were bound to spiral out of control.

Khalid, the murderous boy-king, was not the monster that people, including myself, thought him to be. Underneath the boy of ice and stone, past through his walls and distance, Khalid was a broken boy with a longing heart and a tortured conscience. His suffering and his honor melted my heart. Khalid was a gentleman; he was protective, undeniably sweet and thoughtful and most of all, intelligent. I am fond of intelligent characters and I just found another reason to like Khalid because of this. Seriously, Khalid had everything a reader would look for in a male MC. He was the caliph of Khorasan, the second best swordsman in all of Rey, and possibly the most handsome man in all of Renee Ahdieh's story world. Readers would enjoy reading about him - he's such a complicated character and it was a delight to explore his strengths, weaknesses, motives and hopes. It was also heartbreakingly painful and yet, I love it!

Reading about Shahrzad and Khalid was like watching yourself falling in love with your perfectly imperfect match, sans the deaths and bloody complications, of course. The emotional tension between these two was palpable; you could feel it pulsing through the pages. It was not the straight-out love or love at first sight. It was an unexpected love, the kind that caught you off guard and the kind that made your heart skip a beat because you noticed that you weren't looking at someone in the same manner anymore. While I enjoyed reading about Shahrzad and Khalid's moves in their own little game, I enjoyed seeing the telltale signs that they were falling for one another, from the most obvious ones to the subtlest ones. Each sweet word, each confession was a balm for my heart. Each fight and misunderstanding tore me apart. The emotions evoked in The Wrath and the Dawn could possibly rival those of Clockwork Princess.

The minor characters were also animated and well-developed. I loved Jalal aka Captain Al-Khoury. He was the boy who brought the room to life. His funny and sometimes-sarcastic remarks kept me entertained throughout the book. Despina's loyalty, teasing, sarcasm and attitude complimented that of Jalal's. Together, they injected humor into the emotionally heavy story. Tariq, Shahrzad's first love, was actually the first male character that I noticed. He was undeniably boyish in his ways, albeit a bit judgmental. He was fiercely loyal and so desperately in love with Shahrzad that I couldn't help but feel for him. I would have considered Tariq's presence as the third side of a love triangle but I just found Shahrzad and Khalid's connection too strong to be broken by Tariq.

The writing was gorgeous. It was crisply clipped in some places - sweet and short - and yet it delivered the emotion needed for each scene. I felt it echoing in my own ribcage. The story world, but most importantly, the palace, was well-constructed in the book. I could easily visualize every door and item in my mind. The plot was smooth and nicely done. Renee just left enough breadcrumbs for me to follow, and it eventually led to the prize. The timing of each event was perfection. I am in awe of this woman's writing and I vow to buy all her upcoming novels.

The Wrath and the Dawn is an unputdownable, all-consuming, heartbreakingly beautiful tale with just the right concentration of tragedy, humor, secrets and adrenaline and a generous overdose of love, heartbreak and pain. I was engrossed from page one. The Wrath and the Dawn is a truly, heady blend of everything I love in a book. I highly recommend this to readers of fantasy and romance. And if you're having doubts, just give this a try. You won't regret it.

Rating:


5 Cupids = Eternal book love.
I will never, ever, ever forget this book. I highly recommend this!


Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Review: Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare

Book Description:

Paperback, 608 pages
Published November 11th 2014 by Margaret K. McElderry Books

Danger, betrayal, and enchantment abound in the riveting conclusion to the #1 New York Times bestselling Infernal Devices trilogy.

THE INFERNAL DEVICES WILL NEVER STOP COMING

A net of shadows begins to tighten around the Shadowhunters of the London Institute. Mortmain plans to use his Infernal Devices, an army of pitiless automatons, to destroy the Shadowhunters. He needs only one last item to complete his plan: he needs Tessa Gray.

Charlotte Branwell, head of the London Institute, is desperate to find Mortmain before he strikes. But when Mortmain abducts Tessa, the boys who lay equal claim to her heart, Will and Jem, will do anything to save her. As those who love Tessa rally to rescue her from Mortmain’s clutches, Tessa realizes that the only person who can save her is herself. But can a single girl, even one who can command the power of angels, face down an entire army?

The tangled threads of love and loss intertwine as the Shadowhunters are pushed to the very brink of destruction in the breathtaking conclusion to the Infernal Devices trilogy.

Reviewer's Copy: Paperback

Source: Bought

My Thoughts:

This book has been in my possession for two years. I really don't understand, and frankly I'm quite frustrated with myself. I simply don't know why I waited this long to finish this amazing series. I was not disappointed.

The love triangle. Jem and Tessa were engaged. However, it was a race against time since Jem's life was nearing its end. Jem Carstairs was the perfect gentleman: kind, thoughtful, well-mannered and loving. Jem was burning as brightly as he could for Tessa before his time was up. It was such a weakening thought that someone so beautiful and good as Jem, could not possibly live longer to stay with Tessa. Meanwhile, there was William Herondale, the wild boy who shared Tessa's love for literature and books, who sacrificed so much to keep Jem happy, and who would die protecting the people he loved. He was charming, effortlessly funny and witty. Underneath the sarcastic facade was a fragile heart that continued to break every single day. The three of them were all so honorable, choosing the best possible path and decisions for their loved ones; as a result, each one of them, mostly Tessa and Will, suffered. I was torn along with Tessa, from Clockwork Prince until this book still. And this time around, it hurt twice as hard. I had to stop reading after certain scenes and remind myself that this hurt - this piercing pain - was not actually happening to me but to a fictional character. 

The feels. This book most probably evoked all emotions, in such a way that was effective, intense and long-lasting. I had the feels even after I finished the book. I have become emotionally attached to all the characters at this point, in such a way that no matter who Tessa ended up with, I would suffer the consequences along with her. 

The Magister. The Shadowhunters were tense as the battle with the Magister drew closer. The book crackled with anticipation, danger and inevitable loss. The plans of the Magister were incredibly thorough and downright merciless. It was unusual to see a full blooded human wield so much power over the story world. I liked how Clare showed the entirety of the villain's personality. Mortmain was once a victim before he rose into power.

Magnus Bane. Another character that I enjoyed reading about was Magnus Bane. I've been fond of him since reading about him first in The Mortal Instruments. It satisfied my curiosity to see a younger, less colder version of Magnus. As always, he was a source of entertainment with his humor, sarcasm and quotable quotes.

The minor characters. Another thing that I loved about Clockwork Princess was that the author allowed the minor characters to grow. The Lightwood brothers have become part of the London Institute, becoming part of the London Shadowhunter family. Sophie and Gideon were gradually getting closer, despite Sophie's initial efforts to keep their relationship formal and distant. Cecily's musings were curious and intriguing. She was stubborn and went with her gut and this almost always led to something interesting. Gabriel was also softening under Charlotte's roof and in Cecily's presence. Aside from this, I was most curious about Bridget, the Institute's cook. She spouted and sang depressing songs with bad timing. But what really surprised me was her prowess with blades.

Clockwork Princess is a heart-wrenchingly epic, emotionally charged, tragedy-riddled, adrenaline-infused novel. This book is emotionally raw and will touch the hearts of readers, entertain with its humor, sarcasm, and twists and turns. There is nothing I didn't enjoy in this final installment. It has everything I want in a book. It is so beautifully written that I found myself reading over specific lines. The book was filled with quotable quotes that made my heart skip a beat. I highly recommend this unputdownable novel and the Infernal Devices series to paranormal readers, steampunk readers and most importantly romance readers, especially the ones who delight in well-written love triangles.

Rating:



5 CupidsEternal book love. 
I will never, ever, ever forget this book. I highly recommend this!


Sunday, September 13, 2015

Out + About: Book Signing with Colleen Hoover, Tarryn Fisher and Christine Brae + Giveaway


Out and about is a feature here on Fragments of Life for events and book launches. Today's post is about #CTCinPH - the Manila leg of Colleen Hoover, Tarryn Fisher and Christine Brae's visit to the Philippines.


Tarryn, Colleen and Christine

Today, Sunday, September 13th 2015, I felt like I went to work (on a positive note) because I just spent seven hours with my blogger friends and amazing bestselling authors and brilliant NBS Staff. Remember all those Colleen Hoover (and of course Tarryn Fisher and Christine Brae) books you have stashed on the most secure, most seen spot of your bookshelf? You were probably out today in the area between Toy Kingdom and the Food Court at the lower ground floor of SM Megamall.

The Q & A with the authors was interesting. It was the first time that I interacted with New Adult (NA) authors. I am primarily a YA girl. The questions more or less revolved around the writing and publishing of books. A lot of aspiring writers would find the information valuable. So, here are the things I learned from Colleen, Tarryn and Christine:



Colleen Hoover

  • Colleen could only see herself writing with Tarryn. She thinks that it might not work for all writers. With Tarryn, they kept sending the draft back and forth until it was finished.
  • Her favorite thing about self-publihing is not having boss. Not having a boss means that there is less stress and it feels less lirk. The hard part of it is that there are thousands of books being released every day. There are countless amazing books that go unnoticed. It is hard to break into it when you're a new author.
  • In Colleen's books, there is always a twist. She mentioned that she just waits for inspiration to hit her. She doesn't necessarily google or researrch stuff for her to be inspired.
  • Back in 2011, the emergent "NA" genre still didn't exist. And yet it was this year when Colleen Hoover's book was published. She mentioned that she doesn't necessarily write a genre. She writes story that she wants to write. She only found out about the term "NA" or New Adult six months after the book was published. Colleen mentions that she is very disorganized when it comes to her writing. She tends to be manic, in which she has to allot consecutive days locked away to work on her book. She can't ever end with a sad scene because then she would feel sad. This is the reason why she puts humor into her books.
  • She is actually experiencing writer's block because she doesn't know the name of the female main character. She has to know the name, in order to proceed to write the story. She also mentioned that the name of the male main character should always be unique and unforgettable because this is what readers remember.
  • Writing is crazy. She feels that she lives more in a fantasy world, in her head, and she visits her house every now and then.

Tarryn Fisher
  • For Tarryn, co-writing a story was enjoyable experience, Colleen and her did it for fun. She can't see herself writing with anybody else.
  • Self-publishing is badass. It's a deviant movement because some people say that there is something wrong with their books and that it can't be published. However, based on Tarryn's experience, self-publishing is successful. The hard part of self-publishing is when people don't take you seriously.
  • Tarryn's writing process: Feel something - anger, etc. Write daily, a few hours or so. Be in her character, to make it authentic (this involves reading books and watching movies that is related to her character).
  • She doesn't think too hard about the character names. Whenever she is writing, and she would then need a name, it just drops into her mind.
  • Good writing is a combination of believable characters, a good story and beautiful words. This can also be related to developing a style and reading a lot. She incorporates pieces of what she loves into her style.
  • "Only you can see the world the way you see it."


Christine Brae
  • Christine can't imagine herself co-writing with anybody, due to her busy schedule.
  • Self-publishing entails doing it all on your own. You need to have your own resources, your own readers, etc. The good thing about it is that you can write whatever you want and when you feel that it is ready to be shared, you can share it with the world (aka self-publish).
  • Christine's writing process: She starts from the ending and move backwards. (In fact, whenever she reads a book, she always reads the last line first. Just like I do.)
  • Every character's name has a meaning in Christine's books. She researches the meaning of names before she uses them.


I have to admit that a big chunk of my book pile was written by Colleen Hoover. After reading Ugly Love and Maybe Someday, I have become a fangirl, indeed. There was something about her writing, something good and addictive. All of the books she wrote were superfluous in the narration. The plot and the story itself and the way in which it was told were all seamless. Enough of my babbling, I'm practically typing all this while I'm still high off of it.

Me, the authors, Maricar from Blackplume and signed pretties!


Bloggers :)

I have an extra copy of Never Never, signed by Tarryn and Colleen, for giveaway. This one is only open for Philippine residents. Sorry, my international lovelies, I will have something super nice for you soon!

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Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Review: Hello, Goodbye, and Everything in Between by Jennifer E. Smith + Giveaway

Book Description:

Hardcover, 256 pages
Expected publication: September 1st 2015 by Poppy

On the night before they leave for college, Clare and Aidan only have one thing left to do: figure out whether they should stay together or break up. Over the course of twelve hours, they'll retrace the steps of their relationship, trying to find something in their past that might help them decide what their future should be. The night will lead them to friends and family, familiar landmarks and unexpected places, hard truths and surprising revelations. But as the clock winds down and morning approaches, so does their inevitable goodbye. The question is, will it be goodbye for now or goodbye forever?

This new must-read novel from Jennifer E. Smith, author of The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, explores the difficult choices that must be made when life and love lead in different directions.

Reviewer's Copy: ARC

Source: Dianne and Pinoy Book Tours (Thank you!)

My Thoughts:

From the very first page of Hello, Goodbye, and Everything in Between, I was immediately swept away by Jen E. Smith's trademark writing: superfluous and heart-wrenching. It had a bittersweet feeling all throughout the book and I have to admit that I probably loved that the most about it. This book captures all the ups and downs of loving someone a lot and being on the brink of breaking up with them. This book captures the moment when lovers hold on to what they have shared for a certain length of time; they hold on to the magic so fiercely and desperately and yet, they have already planned to let it go. I broke up with my ex-boyfriend a year ago. I didn't expect to relive the experience again with this book. It was one of the most eye-opening experiences of all, knowing that this experience was universal, so was the hurt, the desperation, the confusion, the dilemma, and the bittersweet tang of it on my tongue.

Clare and Aidan have been together for years, but reality has caught up with them and it's time to part ways as they go to opposite directions in college. I really adored how mature Clare thought. At an early age, she was already predicting the possibilities, taking into consideration the pros and cons and most importantly,taking care of her heart. Aidan was so optimistic and hopeful that it was almost too painful for me. Halfway through the book, I wanted him to convince Clare to stay with him. 

I loved that Hello, Goodbye and Everything in Between also touched various themes such as family dynamics, parent-child expectations when it comes to college, the changes after high school and the nostalgia that grips one as one leaves it behind, truth, lies and trust between family members, couples and peers, and friendships. On the downside, I was expecting something more epic. Though I truly enjoyed the story, there were some things that I wanted more of.

Jen Smith captured the beauty and bittersweet side of love. The book was what I would call a "relatable" book for almost all ages, from young adults to new adults and maybe, even adults. It has a timeless vibe about it, as if it has encapsulated and carefully preserved the little details, the intensity and the rush of young love and firsts. In this sense, it could be a nostalgic novel, a throwback of some sort, that would bring back to people to their own versions of the "old days" of young love. This was a quick read and yet, it was heavier than other Jen Smith's other novels.

Hello, Goodbye and Everything in Between is a moving, nostalgic and heartfelt novel about changes, finding and letting go of love, and figuring out life. Hello, Goodbye and Everything in Between is a bittersweet capsule of memories, love and hope. The writing, as always, was beautiful. I found myself lost in the pages, in a good way. I couldn't let go of the book. I recommend this novel to readers of contemporary romance and readers who like books about post-high school/college period.

Rating:


4 CupidsStrong book love. 
I really enjoyed this. I recommend this!

Giveaway:

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Monday, August 10, 2015

Review: All We Have is Now by Lisa Schroeder

Book Description:

Hardcover, 272 pages
Published July 28th 2015 by Scholastic Inc.

What do you do with your last day on earth?

Just over twenty-four hours are left until an asteroid strikes North America, and for Emerson and everyone else who didn’t leave, the world will end. But Emerson’s world already ended when she ran away from home. Since then, she has lived on the streets, relying on her wits and on her friend Vince to help her find places to sleep and food to eat.

The city’s quieter now that most people are gone, and no one seems to know what to do as the end approaches. But then Emerson and Vince meet Carl, who tells them he has been granting people’s wishes—and gives them his wallet full of money.

Suddenly, this last day seems full of possibility. Emerson and Vince can grant a lot of wishes in one last day—maybe even their own.

Reviewer's Copy: Hardcover

Source: Dianne and Pinoy Book Tours (Thank you!)

My Thoughts:

All We Have is Now was set 24 hours before a meteor was set to land smack dab in the middle of USA. Everyone who had the capacity and the resources to leave the country had already left. Emerson and Vince were on their own. They had no home to go back to and only 24 hours to make the most out of life and the world, as they know it. When the world is ending and you only have a limited time to leave your mark, make other people happy, confess something or maybe, just simply tick off some things off your bucket list, you change and the people around you change. There is something so wistful and beautiful about spending the last few hours before the end of the world - it's the chance, the last glimpse, the last everything that makes it different. Going over all of these lasts was astonishing for me.

Emerson and Vince were intriguing characters. They were best friends for years, looking out for each other and supporting one another. Vince was the guy who made the extra effort, went the extra mile to make the people around him feel remembered and special. Emerson ran away from home when she was younger. She was carrying a lot of emotional baggage on her shoulders. The only person she had left was Vince and she wasn't going to ruin their friendship. Reading about these two characters, made me think of how fate finds ways to make sure that we were with the person we needed throughout life. There were subtle sparks shooting off of their skin. The temptation to delve into something more than just friends, was ever present. As the hours went by, Emerson and Vince came closer and closer to a decision.

When Emerson and Vince met a middle-aged man, Carl, who handed them a wallet filled with cash, this triggered a long line of wishes and wish-granting. The message of the story was one of optimism, making the most out of life and appreciating it and of hope. The people that Vince and Emerson met shared a little piece of themselves with the duo. As a reader, I got to see the different possible situations and reactions of people in the face of the upcoming apocalypse. 

All We Have is Now is a refreshing apocalyptic fiction and a mild wake up call for all readers. If you are into thoughtful fiction, apocalyptic fiction (that is quite contemporary) this might be the book for you.


4 Cupids = Strong book love.
I really enjoyed this. I recommend this!


Sunday, July 26, 2015

Review: The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough

Book Description:

Hardcover, 329 pages
Published April 28th 2015 by Arthur A. Levine Books

Antony and Cleopatra. Helen of Troy and Paris. Romeo and Juliet. And now... Henry and Flora.

For centuries Love and Death have chosen their players. They have set the rules, rolled the dice, and kept close, ready to influence, angling for supremacy. And Death has always won. Always.

Could there ever be one time, one place, one pair whose love would truly tip the balance?

Meet Flora Saudade, an African-American girl who dreams of becoming the next Amelia Earhart by day and sings in the smoky jazz clubs of Seattle by night. Meet Henry Bishop, born a few blocks and a million worlds away, a white boy with his future assured—a wealthy adoptive family in the midst of the Great Depression, a college scholarship, and all the opportunities in the world seemingly available to him.

The players have been chosen. The dice have been rolled. But when human beings make moves of their own, what happens next is anyone’s guess.

Achingly romantic and brilliantly imagined, The Game of Love and Death is a love story you will never forget.

Reviewer's Copy: ARC

Source: Maricar + Pinoy Book Tours (Thank you!)

My Thoughts:

First of all, I loved the premise, because it was promising and had an entire history laid out for the reader. But the beginning of the book was slow and I struggled a bit upon starting The Game of Love and Death. However, as the story progressed and the game started and the stakes kept getting higher and higher, I found myself engrossed.

Henry was the perfect gentleman, the kind of boy who goes out of his way to ensure that you are safe and out of harm's way. He had a knack for writing and editing and was incredibly talented with music. I liked seeing his almost-martyr side, it pleased, pained and disappointed me. It was such a shocking view of the goodness of humanity enclosed in a single boy. The way he reached out to and took care of Flora touched my heart.

Flora reminded me of myself, because she was ambitious, determined and passionate about the things she loves in life. It was refreshing to read about her, such a unique character who didn't easily bow down under the building pressure of social norms and racism. I really liked how it hurt me to see Flora hurt, in any way. I have become emotionally attached to her. I applaud the author for making me feel drawn to the parts about aviation, as I so rarely read anything about this topic, especially in YA.

Love and Death were interesting characters. It was surprising to see the typically gendered roles reversed. Love was a boy and Death was a girl. They have been running the game for centuries, with their own pain, longing and sacrifices. I liked stepping into their minds, and seeing the story unfold from their points of view. As Love and Death wove the story using their own threads and patterns, the level of risk and danger heightened, bringing an all-new high to the book.

Overall, The Game of Love and Death was a romantic and tragic historical romance that sweeps readers off their feet with the right dose of desperation, tragedies and inspiration. The writing was amazing, and it was one of the reasons why I kept on reading. If you're into tragic love stories and stories revolving around the embodiment of timeless things such as Love and Death, and historical novels, then this is for you.

Rating:



4 Cupids = Strong book love.
I really enjoyed this. I recommend this!


Thursday, July 16, 2015

Review: Silence by Deborah Lytton

Book Description:

Hardcover, 320 pages
Published March 2015 by Shadow Mountain

Love is blind, but it's also deaf. Stella was born to sing. Someday Broadway. Even though she's only a sophomore at a new high school, her voice has given her the status as a "cool kid." But everything changes when a tragic accident renders her deaf. She can't hear herself sing not to mention speak. She can't hear anything. Silence. What happens when everything you've dreamed of and hoped for is shattered in a single moment?

Enter Hayden, the boy with blond curls who stutters. He's treated like an outcast because he's not "normal." And, yet, Stella feels an attraction to him that she can't explain. As Hayden reaches out to help Stella discover a world without sound, his own tragic past warns him to keep a distance. But their connection is undeniable. Can the boy who stutters and the girl who's deaf ever find a happily-ever-after? Silence is a story of friendship and hope with a lesson that sometimes it takes a tragedy to help us find and appreciate beauty and love in unexpected place.


Reviewer's Copy: e-ARC

Source: Publisher (Thank you!)

My Thoughts:

Stella was a talented singer and she dreamed of making it to Broadway. However in one accident, she lost her hearing. What good was a singer who couldn't hear? In one single moment, she lost her gift and her dreams. Post-accident, she found a friend in Hayden, the boy who saved her and continued to save her in his own little ways. Stella was a kind spirit. Even before Hayden saved her, he had always seen him not as the stuttering, stammering guy but the guy who made good music, the one who offered nothing but kindness and happiness to her.

Hayden had been lingering in the sidelines of the story. Until the day that Stella fell into a pool, and he dived in to save her. I liked him even more when he proposed to show her how to live life without sound in 17 days. It was a bit movie-like for me - every day that he spent with Stella seemed like something straight out of a movie, sweet and cute and inspiring. I liked Hayden's voice. For me, it was the voice of a teen gentleman: respectful, clean and considerate. It was like stepping into a guy's head and cutting out the profanities, the rude and green stuff. This makes me wonder if there is truly someone out there who thinks the way Hayden does? I just find it so pure and clean, that it's almost surprising. It was refreshing to encounter a fictional character who was flawed in his speech and yet so finesse in his narration. There was redemption in this step, and it also allowed me to comprehend the stark difference in how people see Hayden and how he could be.

Stella and Hayden had a connection and they were able to see through each other's armors. All the worries, anger, pain and sadness wrapped around them like multiple layers, and each of them helped each other peel away the many layers covering them - until finally, they were free of baggage. They helped each other survive and overcome problems. Hayden and Stella developed a friendship that soon turned into something more. I liked how the sparks buzzed off of their skin and how the emotional pull was palpable. I enjoyed reading about them and seeing them fall slowly, inevitably for each other. They had their own way of conveying emotions and thoughts, without making too much of an effort. The ride was like heaven, cute, sweet and romantic.

There were a lot of items tackled in the book, including friendship. Stella and Lily's friendship was beginning to come undone. Lily was self-centered and didn't really consider Stella's situation and thoughts. The family dynamics in the book were explored well, both Hayden and Stella has unorthodox families: Stella's parents were not together, she lived with her mom but was in touch with her dad; Hayden lives with his grandfather, he didn't know his father and his mother was almost always absent in his life. There was also the universal theme on pain, forgiveness, acceptance and letting go.

Silence is a clean, heartfelt and sweet YA contemporary romance. It is not your typical contemporary romance. I encountered two main characters in difficult situations: a singer who lost her hearing and a musician who had trouble with his speech. It was a roller coaster of emotions to see the world using the lens of Stella and Hayden. I admit that I would never see the world in the same way again after this.


Rating:



4 Cupids = Strong book love.
I really enjoyed this. I recommend this!

Follow Deborah:




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Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Out and About: Book Signing with #KMRinPH + Giveaway: Signed Paperback of The Beginning of Everything


Out and about is a feature here on Fragments of Life for events and book launches.

This rainy Sunday morning, I had the opportunity to meet three amazing contemporary authors. Being in the presence of KMR (Katie, Melissa and Robyn) left me buzzing with excitement and sheer book love. As Lyra from Defiantly Deviant says: This is what it feels like to be in YA Contemporary Heaven! So please join me as I recap #KMRinPH.

The Basics
Who: Katie Cotugno, Melissa Kantor and Robyn Schneider
What books: Katie Cotugno: How to Love + 99 Days
Melissa Kantor: Maybe One Day, Better than Perfect and more
Robyn Schneider: The Beginning of Everything + Extraordinary Means

When:July 5th 2015
Where: National Book Store, Glorietta 1

What I learned about Katie, Melissa and Robyn from the Q&A:

 

  • Melissa would like to write historical fiction but she finds the idea of it daunting. Historical fiction entails a lot of research to do. She wants to get the information right.
  • Robyn would like to write horror fantasy, in which there is an element of horror but the heroine still feels like a 'real girl' living in a world that we can relate to.
  • In Katie's books, her characters make mistakes and they are not perfect. This is the kind of story that she wants to write -stories about people who make mistakes. She feels that this makes the story more 'real' and genuine.
  • For Robyn,   
  • The biggest challenge for Melissa was making Zoe (from Maybe One Day) likable. There were things that Zoe said in the book that seemed harmless to Melissa, but it came out as negative/rude for other people. In the original draft, Zoe was much nastier.
  • The authors are drawn to the YA genre for the following reasons: Katie actually wrote How to Love when she was in high school. She mentioned that from the perspective of a teenager, everything feels important and feelings are intense. She thinks that this is a fertile ground for story telling. For Melissa, it would be the fact that every decision seems important. There is intensity in writing about teens. Meanwhile, Robyn likes to write about impactful firsts. She finds it exciting and great to try to remember parts of herself through writing. She also mentioned that teens read to find themselves in the world and this is one of the things that draws her to YA.
  • Melissa outlines before she writes. She mentioned that as a writer, you need to find the process that works for you. When Robyn writes, she gets various inputs from different people. She figures out everything and everyone that influences and is involved with the main character. She gathers her materials, builds the background of her character and when she has these ingredients, she starts to write.
  • All of the leading guys in Robyn's books are patterned after herself. Ezra reflects how she was like in high school while Laine reflects how she was like in college. As for Melissa, one of the leading men in her books was actually inspired by a serious ex-boyfriend named Steve.
  • Melissa commented that the people around you (the writer) tend to attribute names to your characters even though it was unintential at the time of writing.
  • The authors' favorite part of writing YA novels are: (Melissa) romance scenes: seeing him across the room scene and the kissing scene; (Katie) figuring out how you feel about things in the world and; (Robyn) nerdy popculture references/fandom.
  • When Robyn writes, she is basically trying to answer her own questions. She doesn't have a complicated writing style - she just writes really fast, as simple and true as she can be.
  • Katie's next book is set in 1990s Florida, during the time of boybands. It is a popstar book about two not-so-famous popstars.
  • Robyn prefers writing from a male's point of view. For her, it is like writing a fantasy - writing something that is away from her true self. Ezra was so much easier to write. She was drawn to his brokenness.
  • Melissa changed publishers. For her, it was like reinventing herself.
  • If the authors have to write a book about their lives, the titles would be:
    • Melissa: Don't Press Send - she feels that she had said too many things that she shouldn't have via email.
    • Katie: Places I Have Fallen and Injured Myself - she is clumsy. Each chapter would be a specific injury that she had endured.
    • Robyn: #ihatehashtags - she just finds herself angry at the internet culture, especially with #hashtags.
 

Book Signing - up close and personal


Talking to each one of the authors was great - they were all so warm.

Me and Maricar from Blackplume with Katie, Melissa and Robyn.

A signing isn't complete without my lovely bloggers.


The signed pretties!


I can never say thank you enough to National Book Store for the amazing experience!

Ladies and gents, one lucky reader of Fragments of Life will win a signed paperback copy of The Beginning of Everything! Rules: Be a follower + should be a resident of the Philippines (sorry, international readers - but I'm currently running an international giveaway of a Pre-order of Six of Crows!) Enter below.


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Saturday, July 04, 2015

Review: Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Book Description:

Hardcover, 368 pages
Published June 5th 2012 by Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)

Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.

Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.

Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha . . . and the secrets of her heart.

Shadow and Bone is the first installment in Leigh Bardugo's Grisha Trilogy.

Reviewer's Copy: Hardcover

Source: Bought

My Thoughts: (This is where I rave.)

Ravka was incredibly exotic and vivid. I enjoyed reading about the different areas of the story world and perusing the gorgeous map. Bardugo wrote in such a detailed and hypnotic way. The words demanded to be read. It left me intoxicated and wanting for more.

Alina Starkov was an orphan from Keramzin. She was a ghost sliding through day to day life, unnoticed. In a desperate and terrifying moment, this nobody unleashed a power unlike any other in the Unsea, shattering the bubble that has hidden her from the eyes of the public. Alina was flawed and realistic, this made her more human to me despite being the Sun Summoner. She did not believe in her own power in the beginning, and she even flat out denied its existence. She was unwilling to accept her fate so easily, when being Grisha meant that she would be away from the only person who has really cared about her: Malyen Oretsev, longtime best friend and fellow orphan. She had the potential to be a very powerful Grisha and yet she manifested signs of weakness, both physically and emotionally. It was refreshing and surprising at the same time. What really intrigued me further was that Alina had a dark side - the part of her that was Grisha was hungry and longing for power.

The Darkling stole my heart, though I mildly resented him for it, sometimes. With silken onyx hair, gray quartz eyes that examine every inch of your being, a touch that gives you a sense of surety and words that drip with promises and mysteries, I found myself drawn to the Darkling, even more than Alina was. He was an intriguing character, showing multiple facets of his being. He was the Darkling, current leader of the Second Army; Summoner of Darkness; the boy who lived over a hundred years and who was ten steps ahead of everyone and; the boy with longing in his eyes. I loved how he was hard to figure out. There were just too many possible motives, a sea unspoken words and wave after wave of cruelty and violence surrounding him, so much so that the Darkling has become an unsolved equation. The mind and the heart struggle to see through his shell.

Mal, Alina's best friend and secret love, was easy enough to understand. Mal was the exact opposite of the Darkling: down to earth, warm, protective and pure in his intentions. He was the only person who has been there for Alina but now that his best friend was a Grisha, how would he fit into her world? After Alina was taken away, he was dumbstruck to realize that he missed her. As they say, you only know the true worth of something or someone when it is no longer yours. Mal unleashed a lot of heartfelt statements that pierced me through. I liked how the author was able to reach me emotionally, through Mal's character.

Grisha who were discovered stayed at the Little Palace in Os Alta. There were three Grisha orders: Corporalki (The Order of the Living and the Dead): Heartrenders, Healers; Etherealki (The Order of Summoners): Squallers, Inferni and Tidemakers and; Materialki (The Order of Fabrikators): Durasts and Alkemi. After education and sufficient training, some Grisha would be sent to rich, noble families to serve but the best ones were handpicked to be a part of the Second Army, under the Darkling. I loved the entire cast of Grisha, especially Genya and David. They were an eccentric and amusing bunch.

The story itself was enchanting and written with such detail and vibrance, it has rendered me awestruck. The plot and the history reminded me a bit of Seraphina by Rachel Hartman. The books were similar in terms of the religious aspect, the mention and regard given to saints and the history that was tied to them. There were twists and turns that kept me guessing, calculating and predicting events, reasons and outcomes. The pure entertainment would have to be with the power struggle and the fact that Ravka was almost in tatters, with the Shadow Fold cutting the country into two. The dire situation only intensified the race for power and domination. There were political aspects tackled, detailed and broken down for the readers to see and appreciate.

Shadow and Bone was an intoxicating blend of fantasy, with a shot of creeping romance and temptation, a generous dose of epic adventures and battles and a dash of light and darkness. I highly recommend this book to fantasy readers and romance readers alike. If you liked Seraphina by Rachel Hartman and Daughter of Smoke and Bone, you might like this novel as well!

Rating:


5 Cupids = Eternal book love.
I will never, ever, ever forget this book. I highly recommend this!

Giveaway Alert! I'm also giving away a signed paperback of Shadow and Bone (for residents of the Philippines) + a Pre-order of Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo (open internationally) here.


Monday, June 22, 2015

Out and About: Book Signing with Leigh Bardugo + Giveaway: Signed Shadow and Bone + Six of Crows


Out and about is a feature here on Fragments of Life for events, book launches and movie adaptations.

Shadow and Bone has been in my wishlist for a very long time now. I love fantasy, stories set in Russia and light versus darkness theme. I kept delaying getting my hands on the first and book. And when I finally got a copy, I couldn't stop reading. The book basically took hold of me and refused to give me my life back (in a very good way, I assure you.) That was the beginning of my fangirling. This weekend, I was blessed to be able to attend #LeighBardugoInPh.

The Basics
Who: Leigh Bardugo
What books: Shadow and Bone, Siege and Storm, Ruin and Rising + Six of Crows.
When: June 21st 2015
Where: National Book Store, Glorietta 1

What I learned about Leigh Bardugo, her books and her writing style from the Q&A:



Here is my question to Leigh: Exotic languages are featured in your series. Could you tell us if these are inspired by the current languages of the world or if you followed Tolkien’s steps and made your own languages?
Leigh based the languages in the Grisha trilogy on the cultures and languages of the world. Ravkan was Russian. Kerch was based on the language in the Dutch Republic during the 1700s. Fjerdan was her Scandinavian.

If you had to choose one amplifier from the Grisha trilogy, what will it be and why?
Leigh will choose the firebird. She is an animal lover. An amplifier could be an animal or a person, slain, and then pieces of them - usually bones,antlers,etc - are worn by the Grisha. This boosts their power. Leigh had a hard time writing the scenes wherein animals were killed.

With the editing process, I assume you removed some scenes from the manuscript. Are there any scenes (HOPEFULLY A BIT STEAMY OR ROMANCE-HEAVY) that you cut and regret?
No, Leigh writes outlines, so the cutting of scenes is rare. However, she took some action scenes from Siege and Storm and put them into the middle of Ruin and Rising.

Can you make a haiku, right now, to describe Six of Crows?

Six deadly outcasts
One impossible heist, yeah!
You should order it

We heard you're writing a book about Sturmhond. When can we expect to hear all about it? And obviously we all love him, but what was special about writing Sturmhond that he's getting a spin-off?
Sturmhond is a very interesting character. He's a privateer and is always doing risky and adventurous things. While Leigh was writing Siege and Storm, this (Sturmhond) character swaggered his way into the scene and started talking. He wouldn't shut up. Leigh already know how his story is gonna go and who he will end up with. However, Leigh is taking a break from the Grisha trilogy after writing the sequel of Six of Crows. She might (please, please, please) write Sturmhond's story after that.

Your upcoming book, Six of Crows is set in the same world as the Grisha trilogy, what made you decide to continue writing a story in the same world instead of creating a new one?
Kerch is a very interesting setting. It is cosmopolitan, hub of legal and illegal trade.

Supposedly a villain who wants to take over the world but like me, many readers ended up liking The Darkling instead. How hard was it to build The Darkling’s character and was it intentional to make him that kind of character?
Leigh set out to write characters and not love interests. Each character has their own motives, goals, reasons and journey.

Is there any chance we’ll have a novella about Alina’s origins and where her powers came from?
There are many threads about Alina's past and it would be interesting to explore them. Leigh says this is a possibility! Hopefully in the near future.

What was your inspiration for creating The Grisha?
Leigh likes Old World England but she felt that there were too many stories set in England. Leigh wanted to bring readers to another place. She thought of Russia, the era wherein there were two elements at work: rise of modern technology and medieval magic.

Six of Crows is the first book in a new series also set in the Grisha world. How has the experience of conceptualizing and writing this new series been unique from writing the Shadow and Bone books?
In Six of Crows, the whole setting was in place before Leigh wrote it. It has five POVs and flashbacks. Shadow and Bone was a classic chosen one story. Leigh wanted to write a book about the people who aren't chosen.

Aside from high fantasy, what genre do you see yourself writing in the future?
Horror. Leigh's upcoming book is called Slasher Girls and Monster Boys, which comes out in August. Leigh is also going to be contributing a story which is not set in our world, for an anthology called Summer Days & Summer Nights, edited by Stephanie Perkins.

If you were to collaborate with one author on a story, who would it be and what would the story be?
Leigh would like to write with Laini Taylor. Although she noted that they have very different writing styles. While Leigh outlines, Laini writes the entire book, reads it again and edits it, and so on.

How has life changed for you after the success of the Grisha trilogy?
A few years back, Leigh was really broke. Although she worked as a make-up artist in Hollywood, and people perceives this as a glamorous job, her heart wasn't exactly there. A friend of hers drew a picture of her in a book signing, as a gift to her on her 14th birthday. She knew that this scenario was something that she would like to experience and continue experiencing in her life. Leigh is literally has her dream job.





Big thanks to National Book Store for the awesome event! TWO lucky readers of Fragments of Life will win a signed paperback of Shadow and Bone and a pre-order of Six of Crows.

Okay ladies and gents, mechanics of the giveaway. There will be two winners. The winner from the Philippines will win the signed paperback copy and the international winner will win a pre-order of Six of Crows! How does that sound? :) Enter below.


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