I found this third installment in the series more enjoyable than the second one even though the conflict in both books were kind of similar (the MCs t...moreI found this third installment in the series more enjoyable than the second one even though the conflict in both books were kind of similar (the MCs trying to figure out career choices while considering whether they should make room for a significant other in their lives). I really liked the Greek island setting with descriptions like this:
"They ate from the picnic table in the courtyard, with the cottage nestled into the hillside behind them and the sea spread out before them like a promise."
"There was a world of difference between life on a sleepy Greek island and the vibrant energy that came with being in the middle of a major city. People moved faster, talked louder, dressed smarter and for the most part looked a whole lot tenser."
I found the small town setting charming and the antics of the older generation funny when they try to protect Serena from Pete. I love Greek food and the ones mentioned here made me hungry. I also enjoyed the secondary romance and was rooting for those characters to get their happy ending. (less)
I liked that DJ is Filipino-American - I found it hilarious that his nickname is Lechon and he listens to Pinoy hiphop. I did find it a bit weird that...moreI liked that DJ is Filipino-American - I found it hilarious that his nickname is Lechon and he listens to Pinoy hiphop. I did find it a bit weird that he calls his mom "Nanay" but he doesn't call his grandma "Lola". It was interesting how different DJ's personality is from his best friend Roy. He's much more outgoing and playful than Roy. It was also interesting to see a different perspective to the same war experiences that Roy had in the first book. DJ is the perfect match for Echo, who has tried to distance herself from emotions after losing her sisters. It was fun to watch them get to know each other and form a friendship. For some reason, I thought this was going to be a standalone and was surprised to find out that it's the first book in DJ and Echo's trilogy. (less)
The Winner’s Curse came to my attention when my good friend Nomes mentioned that it’s one of her favorite reads for this year....moreOriginally posted here.
The Winner’s Curse came to my attention when my good friend Nomes mentioned that it’s one of her favorite reads for this year. For some reason, this title flew under my radar when it first came out. I think the cover doesn’t really represent the story very well and might be one of the reasons why I wasn’t initially curious about The Winner’s Curse. I tried reading a couple of chapters just to see if it’s something that I would be interested in and I was fully absorbed. I was surprised at how easy it was to get into the story.
The Winner's Curse is set in a make-believe world but has no magic or mythical creatures in it so it has more of a historical fantasy feel to it. Kestrel is the daughter of a well-known general, which is a pretty big deal since their society holds the military and warfare in high regard. The Valorian empire is already huge and yet it still continues to extend its reach and enslave the nations it conquers. The story is set several years after the Valorians have conquered the Herrani people. While Kestrel loves her people and she knows that slavery is part of their culture and their way of life, she doesn't really approve of it. When she unexpectedly buys a slave at an auction, she has no idea what to with him. But she recognizes Arin's strength of spirit and admires that. A friendship slowly develops between the two of them. Kestrel is bound by the constraints of the Valorian society - she only has two choices when she comes of age: to join the military or to get married, neither of which are very appealing to her. She's not a good soldier even if she keeps training and she's not interested enough in any guy to marry him. She's great at military strategy, which is why her father keeps pushing her to enlist, but she's not passionate about that kind of thing. What she loves is music, something which Valorians believe shouldn't be taken seriously. A snippet to show how Kestrel feels when she plays the piano:
"Music made her feel as if she were holding a lamp that cast a halo of light around her, and while she knew there were people and responsibilities in the darkness beyond it, she couldn't see them. The flame of what she felt when she played made her deliciously blind."
I wish I felt that strongly about music but I don't have the skill or talent for it. Instead, I will liken Kestrel's passion to how I sometimes feel when I read - entirely focused in the world created by the author, paying no attention to other tasks that need to be done. Which is exactly what happened while I was reading The Winner's Curse. To be honest, I have a hard time pinpointing why I enjoyed this book so much. I suppose it's mostly because I like Kestrel, I like Arin and I like how their friendship developed. They're both intelligent characters who slowly learn to respect and trust each other, in spite of their differences and the enmity between their nations. I also liked the setting and the contrast between the Valorian and Herrani cultures. How one was all about gaining power by expanding its borders, and one was a more peaceful culture centered around the arts. I was engrossed by The Winner's Curse and yet I also feel like it could have been a stronger book. Let's put it this way, this is a good introduction to the series and the story arc wraps up nicely but I feel like by the time the sequel comes out (maybe next year?), I would have forgotten most of the details in this one. It wasn't mind-blowing but it was a pleasant and enjoyable read which I recommend to YA fans, even those who don't usually read fantasy.(less)
I bought a copy of this because it has short stories by Ruthie Knox and Mary Ann Rivers, both of which I really enjoyed reading. I've read a couple of...moreI bought a copy of this because it has short stories by Ruthie Knox and Mary Ann Rivers, both of which I really enjoyed reading. I've read a couple of the other stories in the anthology but wasn't really impressed so I'm not sure if I'll read the rest.(less)
I’ve been meaning to read E. Lockhart’s novels for a while now. There has been a lot of buzz surrounding the release of We Were...moreOriginally posted here.
I’ve been meaning to read E. Lockhart’s novels for a while now. There has been a lot of buzz surrounding the release of We Were Liars and since it’s a standalone novel, I thought it would be a good introduction to the author’s work.
We Were Liars is a quick read. It starts off strong, with a description of the Sinclairs as a proud, old money type of family. The Sinclairs own an island where they all spend their summers together, living in their own private little world. I couldn't really relate to the Sinclair's wealthy lifestyle but I liked Cady well enough. My favorite thing about her is that she loves to read. I thought it was pretty cool that she's a fan of both Diana Wynne Jones and Jaclyn Moriarty, seeing those authors' names in there reminded me that I also need to read more of their books. I read a couple of chapters of We Were Liars one night and then finished the whole thing the night after that. I know the format will probably not work for all readers - some sections make it feel like a novel in verse and there are several fairy tales included here and there. I liked how unique it was and I thought E. Lockhart’s writing was beautiful. A snippet that I really liked:
"It was love, and it hit me so hard I leaned against the screen door that still stood between us, just to stay vertical. I wanted to touch him like he was a bunny, a kitten, something so special and soft your fingertips can't leave it alone. The universe was good because he was in it."
This is the type of story where it’s better to go into it without knowing anything about the book. If you haven’t read the book, I suggest skipping reviews. It’s the type of story that shouldn’t be spoiled because it would ruin the reading experience. I wasn’t spoiled but prior to going into the book, I saw people talking about the ending and how surprising and unexpected it was. I felt like that influenced my experience because I went in expecting something to happen. I could see where the story was going fairly early on and was not the least bit surprised towards the end of the book. This is where I think the divide will be in terms of reader reactions, those who figured out what was going on will probably be indifferent while others will be amazed by the turn of events. Even though I didn’t love We Were Liars, I think it’s a good book. It's a story about family, friendships and first love. It made me curious about E. Lockhart’s other novels.(less)
I was so surprised when Laura Florand first posted a snippet of this on her blog - I love how she chose to tie up Snow-Kissed with the Amour et Chocol...moreI was so surprised when Laura Florand first posted a snippet of this on her blog - I love how she chose to tie up Snow-Kissed with the Amour et Chocolat series. I didn't even know that Mack and Anne knew each other! This was a lovely romance between an older couple (parents of the main characters in other books). I think it's great that we got to know both Anne and Mack better, beyond the perspectives of their children. Theirs is a sweet romance that has a strong foundation based on 20 years of friendship. I liked that family is a strong theme in this story, given how important their kids are to Anne and Mack. I also loved seeing glimpses of all the other couples in Laura's books, I found Mack's description of Dom's chef frenemies hilarious. It's good to see all those other characters happy and doing well! Also good for Anne and Mack to get their own happy ending because they deserve it after everything they've been through. If Grandpa Jack also has his own romance, I would be more than happy to read it.(less)
At the beginning of the month, I was working on my monthly recap for April when I realized that I only finished reading one nov...moreOriginally posted here.
At the beginning of the month, I was working on my monthly recap for April when I realized that I only finished reading one novel for the whole month. Instead of doing a recap, I thought I might as well just write a review for Thorn by Intisar Khanani. Thorn is one of those titles that I would never have discovered if it hadn’t been recommended through the blog. I was immediately curious when I found out about the premise of this book since it’s a retelling of The Goose Girl fairy tale. The only retelling of The Goose Girl that I’ve read prior to this one was Shannon Hale’s which is one of my favorite books so of course, I wanted to find something similar.
I read Thorn in bits and pieces, while traveling from one place to another. I can’t tell if it was because of this that I didn’t enjoy Thorn as much as I was expecting. I wonder if I would have liked the book better if I was able to read it in one go. I thought the writing was beautiful, I felt that it had a fairy tale feel to it. I also liked Thorn as a character and I was curious about her and what would happen after she loses her place as a princess. In spite of that, I felt that I wasn’t as invested in the story as much as I would have wanted. None of the other characters, except maybe for Falada the talking Horse, stood out for me. I would have wanted to care more for the prince and maybe even the king. I definitely wanted more of the thief Red Hawk. Maybe there were too many characters in the story, which made me feel that there wasn't enough character development for most of them. The tone of the book is also a bit bleak and dark, with several characters having to endure so much but I was fine with that since the original story isn’t exactly a light and fun read. I just felt that some of the problems weren't properly addressed towards the end of the novel. Maybe I’ll have a more positive reaction if I get to reread Thorn. I'm glad I gave it a try since The Goose Girl retellings are hard to come by. I would still be interested in checking out the author’s other books.(less)
I have seen several rave reviews about Emery Lord’s debut novel Open Road Summer. Based on what I’ve heard, it seemed like a YA...moreOriginally posted here.
I have seen several rave reviews about Emery Lord’s debut novel Open Road Summer. Based on what I’ve heard, it seemed like a YA contemp with a sweet summer romance. It is eternally summer here in Singapore (and also in Manila) so I felt like I could read Open Road Summer anytime I was in the mood for it.
Reading Open Road Summer was a case of the right book at the right time for me. I made the mistake of starting it late at night and stayed up until 2am to reach the halfway mark. I wanted to go on but I had to get some sleep to avoid being a zombie at work the next day. What I loved about this book is that it is in equal parts a story about two best friends who have supported and loved each other for years, and also a sweet summer romance. I loved how strong the friendship is between Reagan and Dee, they've been there for each other throughout all the problems that they've had. They also don't let their relationships come between their friendship. It just feels like such an honest and true friendship between the two of them. They planned Dee's summer tour as the ultimate road trip which will let them spend as much time together and hopefully will heal their broken hearts. Their friendship reminded me of how thankful I am to have good friends in my life. I may not have a specific best friend like Dee and Reagan but I have girl friends who help keep me sane.
Another aspect of Open Road Summer that I really enjoyed was the romance. Oh boy, such a good slow burn romance! Sparks flew the moment Reagan and Matt meet but they couldn’t act on the attraction for reasons that you will find out when you read the book. Given how much they’re thrown together because they’re traveling on the same tour, they try to get to know each other as friends instead. Reagan has made some bad decisions in her life but she’s choosing to follow a better path. Over the years, she’s learned to develop a prickly nature as a defense mechanism for all the issues that she's faced. Matt is quite the opposite in the sense that he’s an easygoing, friendly guy who has had the support and love of his family his whole life. Reagan and Matt have led such different lives and yet they feel a connection right after they meet – not just attraction but the recognition that someone understands life the same way you do. Because they both have experiences with loss and grief and just had different ways of coping. Because of this, it felt like the author highlighted how important it is to have friendship as the foundation of a relationship.
The tour reminded me of summers back home in the Philippines, which usually means road trips and beach trips with friends. Taking it easy, hanging out with friends and doing what you love. For Dee and Matt, that means focusing on their music - performing and writing songs. While for Reagan, it's photography and capturing moments using her camera. A little detail that I liked was that Reagan has a Diana camera, yay for lomo! I'm always a fan of characters who are passionate about the things that they love so I think it's great that these three characters are actively pursuing their goals and dreams. As with any book where music is a big part, I wish there was a way to hear the songs included in the story. I think it would have been perfect if there was a playlist at the end of the book, like similar songs to the ones featured within it. Open Road Summer was such a good read for me, I've added it to my best of 2014 list. Recommended for fans of Saving June by Hannah Harrington, Such a Rush and Going Too Far by Jennifer Echols.(less)
Recommended by Sherwood Smith and Estara. I wasn't blown away by Laura's Wolf but it's an interesting read. I liked both Laura, the ex-con artist, and...moreRecommended by Sherwood Smith and Estara. I wasn't blown away by Laura's Wolf but it's an interesting read. I liked both Laura, the ex-con artist, and Roy, the veteran Marine. I thought they were a good match. There's a lot of action in the book but a huge chunk of it also focuses on PTSD and how it affected Laura and Roy and their relationship. I would have liked for the book to have included more worldbuilding when it comes to the werewolf lore, like more history about werewolves in this world and how they came to be. Maybe the next book will have more about that? I'm curious about it because of I want to know more about Roy's Filipino American best friend DJ and his family.(less)