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!

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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.


a Rafflecopter giveaway



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.