Friday, March 25, 2016

Novella: Steel Scars (Red Queen, #0.2) by Victoria Aveyard

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 Blurb:
Farley was raised to be strong, but being tasked with planting the seeds of rebellion in Norta is a tougher job than expected. As she travels the land recruiting black market traders, smugglers, and extremists for her first attempt at an attack on the capital, she stumbles upon a connection that may prove to be the key to the entire operation—Mare Barrow. (via Goodreads)
Truth be told, I am much more interested in Silvers than in Reds. Though having a Red POV  is definitely not surprising, my initial reaction was more to the lines of "who needs a Farley POV, really?". I would give the world for a Cal or a Maven POV but this is what we get and sometimes, we gotta scrape with what we've got.

Don't get me wrong, Farley was definitely a great character in Red Queen. Fearless, not to to mention a woman. While I admit that the narrative presented some pretty interesting insights in her background and her life pre-Red Queen, I still don't think this was a necessary book. You could go on and finish reading the whole series and not be bothered if you haven't laid eyes on this story -- unlike with Queen Song. With novellas and in-between-er stories, I'm leaning more into their significance on the whole narrative -- whether it be of value or not. (I'm biased like that.)

There were parts when the narrative felt dragging and honestly speaking, I was really relieved when Shade Barrow appeared as it gave the story line the kick it desperately needs. The piece was well-written, but I just feel like the character deserves more. Or maybe I didn't like Farley as much as I like myself to believe.

My Rating: ★★☆☆☆ (2 out of 5 stars)

Quotable Quotes:
But belief doesn't make it easy to take a bullet. 
"My name is my mother, my sister Madeline, and their graves dug in the frozen ground of a village no one lives in anymore." ~ Captain Farley 
Rise, red as the dawn.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Novella: Queen Song (Red Queen, #0.1) by Victoria Aveyard

I am taking a break from Murakami lit and actually giving other books a chance. Next target is to finish all available books in the Red Queen series and so after I read the Red Queen last year (whose incomplete review is still in the drafts folder), I moved on to the first of the two released novellas in addition to the Red Queen world: Queen Song.
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Plot:
Queen Coriane, first wife of King Tiberias, keeps a secret diary—how else can she ensure that no one at the palace will use her thoughts against her? Coriane recounts her heady courtship with the crown prince, the birth of a new prince, Cal, and the potentially deadly challenges that lay ahead for her in royal life. (via Goodreads)

This novella followed the life of Queen Coriane, the late mother of Prince Cal of Norta, her life before entering the court, the blossoming and later developing relationship with the then Prince Tibe, the unraveling of the queen and her eventual demise.

It was actually pretty nice to finally be given a useful back story as to the mystery that Queen Coriane presented in the Red Queen. Here we bear witness, with her diary entries and undulated thoughts, how someone can be unhappily happy, trying to make do with whatever life has to offer. Actually, Coriane was a pretty good, fleshed out character. Though the fondness to make and tinker things is a bit out of place for my taste, the characterization came out decently. She came out a bit depressing at the start, then strong and witty in the middle, only to go down the drain and waste away as the pages come to an end. It was solid - and the intention clearly expressed, where the instability of the queen highlighted as the pages went on.

Reading through the pages was a breeze,with the prose fluid in its transition.This particular line struck a chord with me:
But there is a difference between a single candle in the darkness and a sunrise.
That was Coriane on the happiness she felt when Tibe finally confessed and asked her to marry him. That was what she felt. Sure she is happy, but there sure is a difference between being happy because you have everything you want in the world versus being happy because you got what you can get and for now that was enough.

The slow unraveling of the queen - the gnawing emptiness, the growing desperation, the increased paranoia - not sure whether it is because of someone or is it because of herself: all captured carefully between its pages.
"It might be a crime to write such things, but I am a queen. I am the queen. I can say and write what I think."
Victoria Aveyard's enthralling writing style is still clearly present in here. And though this short lacks the thrilling fight scenes showcasing Silver abilities compared with the first book in the series, Aveyard still managed to capture the attention of her readers. The narrative was solid, and I wonder how she fit such timeline into too little number of pages. And though the ending was a bit rushed in my opinion, she did what she could given the material and still managed to make it work. This is a pretty short and fast read (roughly 60 pages in my reader) but a pretty thrilling read nonetheless.

All in all, this was such a bittersweet book - following the young queen as she succumbed to madness. But the real question was: is someone behind it? Or is it merely a trick of her own mind?

This book would be such a treat to all the #ScarletGuards out there. Definitely recommended!

My Rating: ★★★☆☆ (3 out of 5 stars)

Quotable Quotes:
There is nothing so terrible as a story untold. 
"There is no greater pain or punishment than memory." ~ Jessamine 
But there is a difference between a single candle in the darkness and a sunrise.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

#TravelDiary: Zamboanga 2016

By the end of January 2016, I got the chance to fly to the south once again~ this time, it's Zamboanga, Asia's Latin City

Well technically, cheap flights allowed me to. Untimely vacation as it may be (the busy season is hanging over everyone's heads by that time), it still felt like a much needed escape to say the least.

It was a three-day thing, but it honestly felt longer. I don't know, but being in an unfamiliar place for the first time really changes one's perspective. I could recount all the things that happened, but frankly, I don't think people would be much interested in it. The thing with experience is that when you tell it to someone -- anyone other than yourself, it loses the full magnitude of its appeal, its colors would seem dimmer that you intend it to be. And I'm not sure I'd want that. 

Maybe this would be more worthy to be shared if it were a life-changing event, but it need not be of that extent for it to be memorable, at least.

I am posting these pictures in order to bookmark this place in exchange for the memories. It may seem a bit dramatic, but I indeed learned something about myself when I was away and melting in its beautiful sunsets.


Sunday, March 13, 2016

Phantom Wound

I dreamt of him again. After so long, this is the first time that I saw his face, close and vivid -- almost the same as the last time I saw him more than 7 years ago. He still looks the same, from the way I remembered him. That playful smile and that sincere look in his eyes, still there.

It was a party I think. With old friends, our histories with each other somehow more significant than the memories I've made and the life I've led in the last 5 years of my life. I was sitting in a corner, trying to be the usual me when I'm with these people and then, suddenly, there he was. I am awkward as awkward can be, and I can't look at other people's eyes for more than 5 seconds but there he appeared and held my gaze. It was a comfortable silence. I could feel my cheeks burning and a smile playing in my lips as I tried to hold it back.

"We need to talk," he said. As if he was so sure that I'd agree, as if after all this time he knows I still can't say no. "Alright," I said after a moment. And we walked, and we talked. That he's not really sure if I've moved on but he's willing to give it a shot. That they broke up, and somehow, when he saw me again, things just clicked and then he knew. He asked if there was even the remotest possibility that I still feel something, anything. That he needed to see for himself, that he needed to try. 

He paused for a moment, murmured "Say something, please." And somehow I was just standing there, unsure what to say. He took it as a hesitation and right then and there, I saw the resignation in his smile.

But I knew why I am unsure and utterly shocked and uncharacteristically disoriented and completely lost for words: because... after all this time, I feel like I could still say "yes" in a heartbeat. That after all this time, I still want to make it work. And just like that, I said "ok".

We smiled. Just looked at each other. He reached for my hands and I held his. And just like that we knew. At least, I knew -- that in that moment, I'm in for something bigger and better and lovelier than the past I've clung unto for most of my formative years. The special and the little moments I've romanticized over and over until they almost seemed too perfect to be reality. That significant chunk of my life that I've never had the courage to appreciate and give the importance it deserved because of my personal issues. And I was just thinking  "here we are again" as he gazed at me and I melt in his eyes.



And then I woke up.

It did not open any wound. But it did remind me of a scar.


Monday, February 29, 2016

Raison d'ĂȘtre

Was it a nightmare? I don't know. At least it's a nightmare I'd like to keep. 

I could forget it, slowly. Until it disappears completely. As if it never happened at all.


I will forget the conversation, that brief glimpse of you - the smile, as well as that apparent grief that crossed your face. It's clear: you wanted to tell me something. And I'm not even sure if I got it right, but what I'm sure is that it stirred something in me. I may forget this meeting, but I am sure as hell that I'll never be able to forget the feeling.

At this moment, I can feel the memory slowly slipping away from me. Like grains of sand I can't quite catch no matter how hard I try. In time, I'll be left with these tiny bits and pieces that, for all I know, are not even enough to make a whole.

But I'll find a way to make sense of you. I swear, I'll always find a way.

-------

"And this is why I write," I thought. To preserve you, to preserve this. There would come a time when I'll try to remember this moment: when I'll try to paint with words but will fail. But when I read this, I'll be able to remember the feeling, or at least try. And for now, it is enough.

Of Random Thoughts and Extra Days

Last day of February. Every four years, we get an extra day. And it made me realize how most times, one day can make such a difference in someone's life. Like, this thing on TV, how someone suddenly died today (it was all over the news). And it reminded me, once again, how dangerously fleeting and short life can be. It's morbid and creepy, I know, but sometimes it takes a hard nudge like that to teach us not to take our time for granted. To make each moment count and not settle on regrets.


Sometimes, the existence of something unusual (like today) magnifies everything around us, intensifies everything in it -- every happening,  every thought, every emotion... and just like that, you're a mess.

And right now, everything is making me melancholic as crazy. Everything:
...like how I am listening to Adele's 25 right not (specifically "When We Were Young" and "All I Ask") which are pretty sad and nostalgic, but comforting all the same. 
...like how I started my day hating the world and everything I am going through at the moment to the point where I took the first half of the day off because I just don't really feel like functioning at the moment
...like how I was given an extra day today (after four freakin' years) and I spent half of it lying in bed like a useless log and the other half shamelessly faking it. 
...like how I realized how so much has passed and so much has happened for the last four years and I am not sure if I came out a better person or worse. 
...like how I realized that maybe four years is not really a very long time even if right now it feels like forever. 
...like how I think that sometimes I am just holding on to feelings long lost maybe because it is better than to just feel outright empty. 
...and how I am in the mood for Murakami novels these days and that means that, most likely,  something is wrong.
But really I just feel like uselessly wasting good ink tonight and maybe I just can't understand my head at the moment but I know it's better to be an incomprehensible mess in paper than to let these things rot and disappear, be swallowed by darkness -- like how some things just disappear but you know deep in your bones that they didn't really go away.

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