Monday, October 30, 2017

Novella: Assassin's Blade (Throne of Glass, #0.1 - #0.5) by Sarah J. Maas

So this post evidences my continued existence as a S.J. Maas trash. I previously finished Heir of Fire earlier but still hasn't gotten around my head to review it. I figured I need to let my thoughts out regarding The Assassin's Blade right here, right now because I am about to start Queen of Shadows in a few hours and I might drown in it again. So yeah, here are my useless ramblings at 3 in the morning about this book that totally broke me in a span of less than 500 pages.

source
Blurb:
Celaena Sardothien is Adarlan's most feared assassin. As part of the Assassin's Guild, her allegiance is to her master, Arobynn Hamel, yet Celaena listens to no one and trusts only her fellow killer-for-hire, Sam. In these action-packed novellas - together in one edition for the first time - Celaena embarks on five daring missions. They take her from remote islands to hostile deserts, where she fights to liberate slaves and seeks to avenge the tyrannous. But she is acting against Arobynn's orders and could suffer an unimaginable punishment for such treachery. Will Celaena ever be truly free? Explore the dark underworld of this kick-ass heroine to find out. (via Goodreads)
The Assassin's Blade is a collection of the five published Throne of Glass novellas that served as the prequel of the Book 1 of this amazing series, Throne of Glass. This was Celaena Sardothien - At the height of her career, when she was still dubbed as Adarlan's Assassin. Before Endovier. Before her downfall. When I read Throne of Glass, there was this nagging feeling that something is missing - some missing puzzle piece for me to fully comprehend Celaena. Too much was left to the imagination, too much was left unexplained. But when I finally finished The Assassin's Blade, I understood. This broke my heart into a thousand pieces, particularly the last novella: The Assassin and the Empire. While it was no news that, yes, Sam Cortland is indeed dead -- nothing prepared me for the emotional punch it delivered. It made Throne of Glass ten times more heartbreaking than it already is. I decided to buy and read this on a whim because I felt that I needed to answer some very pressing questions before I start Queen of Shadows -- and I was right. The motivations, how deep the need for revenge is, the pain - it was all clearly etched by the time I closed the last page of this collection.

Sarah managed to inject such character history to Celaena in a span of five novellas -- sides and angles we won't see if not for these stories, a big chunk of her that was repaired and destroyed and will be rebuilt again and again in the subsequent books in this series.

If I have to rank the novellas, it would be:

  1. The Assassin and the Empire, #0.5 (Need I say more? The build up to this ending was insane and heart-wrenching. I am in a puddle of my own making. And it hurt. It physically hurt.)
  2. The Assassin and the Healer, #0.2 (I cried several times, for some reason. Yrene!!!)
  3. The Assassin and the Underworld, #0.4  (Re-introduction of Arobynn Hamel. And that confession scene!)
  4. The Assassin and the Pirate Lord, #0.1 (This is the first and a very bad-ass introduction, that is. Celaena was slightly different here. More arrogant, more spoiled.) 
  5. The Assassin and the Desert, #0.3 (This was generally good, but I just felt a bit detached during some moments in the narrative.)
Honestly, at this point, I am just amazed at how fleshed out Celaena's character is. Yes, she is the kickass beautiful heroine that basically has every hot guy under her mercy -- but she is so much more. She is imperfect and I love how these imperfections are explored and examined, unflinchingly putting each of them under focus. These stories just add up to the epicness that is injected in the series. The amount of references in the subsequent titles from these novellas are insane -- establishing a different sort of continuity and solidity to its narrative. YA writing master class, if you'll ask me. 

As usual, definitely recommended! The whole series, that is. 

(And now, every time I read "I will not be afraid," I think I'll die a little inside. This demands a re-read of Throne of Glass and Crown of Midnight, because Sam. 😭)

______________


My ratings:

0.1 The Assassin and the Pirate Lord - ★★★★☆ (4 out of 5)
0.2 The Assassin and the Healer - ★★★★★ (5 out of 5)
0.3 The Assassin and the Desert - ★★★★☆ (4 out of 5)
0.4 The Assassin and the Underworld - ★★★★☆ (4 out of 5, 0.5 of which is mainly because of Sam Cortland!!!)
0.5 The Assassin and the Empire - ★★★★★ (5 out of 5)

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆ (4.5 out of 5)
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Quotable Quotes:

"Let me give you a bit of advice, [...] from one working girl to another: Life isn't easy, no matter where you are. You'll make choices you think are right, and then suffer for them. [...] So if you're going to be miserable, you might as well go to Antica and be miserable in the shadow of the Torre Cesme."

"If you want something, then take it."

"Tomorrow will be better. It might be only a foot more than today, but it will be a foot longer than you can run."

"Everything has a price..."

"If you can learn to endure pain, you can survive anything."
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Sunday, September 10, 2017

#TheReadingQuest Wrap-Up Post

It's been a good month! And I am so glad that I managed to finish this quest by a hair -- with me finishing the last book in my quest just THIS AFTERNOON. Whew!


I entered this quest as a MAGE, pledging to take on the FIRST DOWN path. As a recap, the following are the books I've read int his challenge (in no particular  order) with corresponding linked reviews:
  1. The First Book in a Series - Shatter Me (Shatter Me, #1) by Tahereh Mafi*
  2. A Book Set in a Different World - Crown of Midnight (Throne of Glass, #2) by Sarah J. Maas
  3. A Book Based on Mythology - The Epic Crush of Genie Lo by F. C. Yee
  4. A Book That Contains Magic - Arctic Incident (Artemis Fowl, #2) by Eoin Colfer
  5. A Book With a One Word Title - Want (Want, #1) by Cindy Pon*
* review/s to follow

Outside the regular struggle of trying to keep up with work, this was really an enjoyable activity. The books I've read in this path are really in my TBR in the first place - it was really a match made in heaven.

Crown of Midnight emerged on top -- because, let's be honest, IT IS A S. J. MAAS BOOK so what would you expect, right? The Epic Crush of Genie Lo was really hilarious and was a joy to read. On the other hand, Want was a revelation. I didn't expect to like it that much, but I did. I liked Arctic Incident better than the first book, and it was really a breeze to read. Maybe if I gotta choose a let down in this group, it would be Shatter Me -- and it was relatively good in the first place, which is saying something.


Category
Title
Pages
HP
EXP
The First Book in a Series Shatter Me
338
33
10
A Book Set in a Different World Crown of Midnight
418
41
10
A Book Based on Mythology The Epic Crush of Genie Lo*
336
33
20
A Book That Contains Magic The Arctic Incident
277
27
10
A Book With a One Word Title Want*
328
32
20
TOTAL

166
70
* double EXP for books written by marginalized authors

Coming across this reading challenge is a happy accident and I'm glad I get to enter and participate. It was fun -- probably the most fun I had not considering my annual challenges. I highly recommend y'guys to participate in these kinds of events -- it was worth it, it was fun + it brings me out of my reading slumps. 😊

Friday, September 1, 2017

Book: The Epic Crush of Genie Lo by F.C. Yee


Blurb:
She annihilates standardized tests and the bad guys. 
Genie Lo is one among droves of Ivy-hopeful overachievers in her sleepy Bay Area suburb. You know, the type who wins. When she’s not crushing it at volleyball or hitting the books, Genie is typically working on how to crack the elusive Harvard entry code. 
But when her hometown comes under siege from hellspawn straight out of Chinese folklore, her priorities are dramatically rearranged. Enter Quentin Sun, a mysterious new kid in class who becomes Genie’s self-appointed guide to battling demons. While Genie knows Quentin only as an attractive transfer student with an oddly formal command of the English language, in another reality he is Sun Wukong, the mythological Monkey King incarnate—right down to the furry tale and penchant for peaches. 
Suddenly, acing the SATs is the least of Genie’s worries. The fates of her friends, family, and the entire Bay Area all depend on her summoning an inner power that Quentin assures her is strong enough to level the very gates of Heaven. But every second Genie spends tapping into the secret of her true nature is a second in which the lives of her loved ones hang in the balance. (via Goodreads)
It was hard to read The Epic Crush of Genie Lo without cracking up. I mean - the wit and sarcasm that F.C. Yee injected in his writing is beyond! That choice of words, I can't even~ 😂 I remember reading this in my usual commute to work and I was fighting a huge grin just to not make me look like a fool sitting there in the jeepney with too many people to notice. This is what it felt like reading this -- THIS BOOK that took my Twitter timeline by storm (God, Book Twitter is the absolute ~best~!). My Twitter friends are freakin' right hyping this book up!
"I've recently discovered that what I am into is having skills," I said. "Skills that no one can deny or take away from me. People can always say I don't look impressive enough, but they can't argue over how strong I am once I punch them in the face."
Genie Lo is ruthless. She is cold, calculating.... but more caring and sensitive than she lets on. Witty and sarcastic -- and funny. Just how I like my female heroines to be. The journey that she made in this book (personal-wise) really hit the nail on the head for me. She is a driven and overachieving young lady -- and the pressure to deliver, the need to remove herself from her sleepy town, the refusal to be told where her place is -- it spoke to me on a very personal level. She must've been striving to get to that college that would make her dreams come true, but I am struggling to maintain my ground and find a place in the corporate world I am insistent on being a part of -- and somehow, one mirrors the other. So yeah, I was really dodging arrows that strike right to heart of the matter because IT WAS SO DAMN RELATABLE. With the current wave of YA lit, Genie's character - the sarcastic, smartass, driven one -- is the kind that I get to frequently read in the books these days, but as a guy. So imagine how groundbreaking it is for me to, finally, have it be a girl standing on that pedestal, and not just any girl -- but an ASIAN GIRL. So yeah, I am really thrilled even for just that.

On the other hand, can I tell you about the ROMANCE? I can talk about Quentin Sun -- how hot and desirable he is, or just how attractive he is despite him being a bit irritating with that cute arrogance and -- but his character won't work if not paired with Genie on the scene. Their characters - like their aura - harmonized for some reason I can't quite point out. The banters were freakin' awesome, the romance not forced and definitely not sappy and cheesy, but instead communicated in the most hilarious of ways. I love these two to bits when they're together.

Plus there's the interesting interpretation of the bodhisattva, Guanyin, the Goddess of Mercy. Trust me. Characters-wise, this book was awesome.

YEAH.

Honestly, I am not really into the demon-y genre of  YA fantasy. People seem to be very overpowered, all the time, in these stories -- and for me, most often than not, that makes it so far removed to reality which I don't like. (My SFF choices are weird, I know.) But what the heck! Genie Lo took me by storm. It was based on Chinese mythology, which I am not really that familiar though -- but it just made the story more awesome I guess, because I am looking at it from fresh eyes. It's plot was action-packed and hilarious at all the right places. It even managed to invoke a tear or two from me -- and that is a feat. My throat bobbed at the most inopportune moments, at most inappropriate ones, and that's when I knew that this book elicited such strong emotions from me. And the laughing -- yeah, NONSTOP. Okay, right, I can't even count how many times I used this word to describe freakin' anything in this book, but I give in: IT WAS HILARIOUS.

This was a light book, and an enjoyable one. And if you ever need a pick-me-up for some reason, you can absolutely pick this one up and let it do what it does best. Honestly, I didn't even realize how frequently I highlighted passages from this book until I quickly revisited it for this review. It was that good.

The ending was a bit of a cliffhanger (in a very good way) - but I am hoping for a sequel. That would be a lot of fun, I bet. Recommended! 

My Rating: ★★★★☆ (4 out of 5) 
_______________

Quotable Quotes:

"Spiritual power isn't just or merciful. It's fair. That's what makes it so dangerous."

"It's maddening to see those you care about get hurt, even if it's their fault."

There's nothing worse than just enough success.

"You have to pick and choose your battles. Fight too much and you'll wear yourself out."

"One should never feel ashamed about their true self."

"Don't let the setbacks mess with your overall progress."

"Focus on becoming stronger, which you can control, over the possible failures, which you can't always."

"What I'm trying to say is that the people we care about make the grind worthwhile. "

Sometimes you just had to accept that you might never change as much as you want to.

AND THIS QUOTE! I cried reading this. Thanks for the reminder, F.C. Yee. 💋
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This is the THIRD book I finished for #TheReadingQuest reading challenge, for "A Book Based on Mythology".


Oh hey! I leveled up! This is a book written by a marginalised author so this gave me twice EXP than normal. 

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Book: Crown of Midnight (Throne of Glass, #2) by Sarah J. Maas

I've yet to make my Throne of Glass (ToG) post so posting about the second book of the series, Crown of Midnight (CoM), may be a bit weird -- but I think I need to do this now or risk making the same mistake I did with the ACOTAR saga (finishing it without posting a single review *shame*). So here it is: my thoughts on Book 2 of the Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas.

source
Blurb:
"A line that should never be crossed is about to be breached.
It puts this entire castle in jeopardy—and the life of your friend."

From the throne of glass rules a king with a fist of iron and a soul as black as pitch. Assassin Celaena Sardothien won a brutal contest to become his Champion. Yet Celaena is far from loyal to the crown. She hides her secret vigilantly; she knows that the man she serves is bent on evil.
Keeping up the deadly charade becomes increasingly difficult when Celaena realizes she is not the only one seeking justice. As she tries to untangle the mysteries buried deep within the glass castle, her closest relationships suffer. It seems no one is above questioning her allegiances—not the Crown Prince Dorian; not Chaol, the Captain of the Guard; not even her best friend, Nehemia, a foreign princess with a rebel heart.
Then one terrible night, the secrets they have all been keeping lead to an unspeakable tragedy. As Celaena's world shatters, she will be forced to give up the very thing most precious to her and decide once and for all where her true loyalties lie... and whom she is ultimately willing to fight for.
(via Goodreads)

Celeana Sardothien // source
ToG ended with Celaena Sardothien winning the royal competition and ultimately becoming the King's Champion. As such, CoM began with our protagonist fulfilling her duties to the crown. I've read a couple of books and series from the time I closed ToG so it took a bit of time adjusting to it.  However, I can't pry The Selection series off my mind while I read the first few parts - maybe it's the castle setting, the court, and how for some reason Maxon kept popping in my head whenever Dorian is on page. But once, I finished the first few chapters, the magic immediately returned.

What can I say about this book? Nothing but love, I guess. This was divided into two parts. The first half mostly tackled the fulfillment of her duty to the King. What followed was a series of manipulations and deceit that had Celaena walking in a tight rope around the leash the King had put on her. We get to see a different Celaena than what we've witnessed in ToG. Here, we see her doing what she does best: killing people, action, fighting, becoming every inch the King's Champion and proving that she became Adarlan's assassin for a reason.

In this part we also get to witness how a friendship formed in the most unlikeliest of circumstances developed into understanding and, not unexpectedly, love. I am not sure if I am spoiling things but I am saying it: Chaolaena is my ship. During ToG, it was always about Dorian with all the outright, romantic scenes... but on the side, brewing, forming in the most natural way... is Chaol's feelings for Celaena. The whole thing felt... natural. Like something inevitable. And when the moment came, when that admission came, God that scene! It was sincere, slow -- welcome. It made my heart soar. It's just too bad it didn't last long. And it broke my heart -- chapter after chapter of ripping my heart to shreds.
Chaol Westfall and Dorian Havilliard // via Tumblr
And then, there's Dorian. Sacrifice is one trope I will never get tired of loving. And gaaaah, Dorian, during the first parts of the book really broke my heart. He can't do anything because it's Celaena's choice and all he can do - all he did do - was watch on the sidelines while the two fall in love. He loved her enough to have someone give her the freedom she so desperately wants. He loves Chaol enough to give him something that, for once, he wants for himself. And he knows that he deserve someone who could love him wholeheartedly. 
The Trio // source
Honestly speaking, this is one of the best love triangles I've read in a while. Most times, it's always the girl that's the common denominator -- but this time around, the two guys involved are best friends, and respect their relationship with each other enough not to make rash decisions that may hurt the other and not immediately grab what they want just because they want it. It was heartbreaking, but certainly one of the more realistic, wonderful parts of this book. For a book that deals so much with magic and the supernatural, human emotions served as the tether to keep this story grounded.

Too much, for my heart.

Anyway, that was what Part 1 gave me. The action picked up, however, when the book crossed it's second half. Everything went fast-paced and things are happening one after the other -- it was insane. Looking back at my tweets, I didn't even get to stop to make a decent commentary because it was just THAT awesome. I might've spoiled myself more than necessary even before reading the first book of this series... but STILL! NO WORDS! Sarah J. Maas is the QUEEN of foreshadowing I can't even fathom how she put everything together, place every detail at the most unexpected places. Honestly, it was a good thing I had ToG near me when I read this because I kept on flipping back just to make sure, and confirm what I missed and how exactly I missed it. As with the case of A Court of Mist and Fury, Sarah J. Maas managed to beat the second-book syndrome that most YA series nowadays suffer from. The last few chapters were anything but boring. And that final revelation! oh, of course I was spoiled enough to know it before hand, the way it was revealed -- IT WAS GLORIOUS.. This book was soooooo worth losing my sleep over. I am just so excited for Heir of Fire. No one writes high fantasy YA like The Queen, Sarah J. Maas.

I can see now how this acquired such a passionate following and an active fandom. The storytelling, the characters, the world building: ONE OF THE BEST. This is not a quick read, oh no -- it won't leave your mind for days. But if you want something engaging, something new, other-wordly awesome: then this is for you. Plus the romance, guys, A++. Nothing but love.

My Rating: ★★★★★ (5 out of 5 stars)

If you follow me on Twitter, here's my Crown of Midnight Reaction/Quotes Thread: CLICK HERE.
_____________________

Quotable Quotes:

The best lies were always mixed with the truth.

"You must learn to ask the right questions before you can receive the right answers."

"Want and need are different things."

____________________

This is the second book I finished for #TheReadingQuest reading challenge, for "A Book Set in a Different World".

Current Standing:

Book: The Arctic Incident (Artemis Fowl, #2) by Eoin Colfer

source

Blurb:
"Artemis rushes from Ireland school to Russia where the Mafiya kidnapped his father. Captain Holly Short of LEPRecon against fairies interrupts him. This time he may have to join the fairies instead of battling them." via Goodreads

Here's the deal: This is the second book of the Artemis Fowl series but for some reason, this is the first time that I got to appreciate it for the easy but thrilling read that each book in this series is.  Maybe it's the timing, the reading conditions, the pressure to finish because of the ongoing challenge  -- but generally speaking, I immensely enjoyed this tons more that the first book. The amount of action is palpable. The transition in the scenes, much like a panning and zooming of a camera, the shift in POVs  -  are all so flawlessly done it's hard not to get carried away.

I haven't drafted my thoughts on the first book but one glaring comment is that it's too hard to imagine Artemis as a mere 12-year old (specially during the beginning parts of the book). But here, Artemis seems so… human. He is indeed more relatable here. The brief moments when his age showed are precious. "He was going to die here alone. He would never be great." and him dubbing the coin toss scene as the "first cool moment of his young life", and oh, that scene when he sobbed so hard out of relief at the end -- my heart honestly swelled… because beneath that deviousness, that genius mind, Artemis is still a child.

The historical moment; a page from the graphic novel version of The Arctic Incident. I. NEED. THIS. NOW. // via source
The continuity was really highlighted in this sequel. New characters were introduced but some of most of the characters that we've grown to love from the first book were brought back. I am honestly resisting the urge to ship Holly and Artemis because yeah that's just how I am -- but we'll see.
 
Honestly speaking, I didn't really expect to be sucked in this world this hard. I mean, the first book was ok (I guess) -- but upon finishing the second book, my love for this series was cemented.  I can't believe I just discovered this series now. I heard this is going to be a movie soon, and if that's the case, I am really excited!  Definitely recommended for a quick read. Eoin Colfer definitely knows how to pack a punch!
 
Rating: ★★★★☆ (4 out 5 stars)
 ______________________

Quotable Quotes:
 
"Sometimes plans don't translate smoothly from paper to real life."
 
But nature always throws something into the mix that can't be anticipated.
 
After all, humans generally saw what they wanted to see.
__________
 
This is the first book I finished as part of #TheReadingQuest reading challenge, under "A Book That Contains Magic".

Current Standing:


Sunday, August 13, 2017

Books: The Selection Series (Books 1 to 3) by Kiera Cass

Book thoughts! Well, this is a first. I normally review each book in a series one post at a time, but I read these books too quickly and I don't think I can even clearly define the borders of the story laid down per book by now. So I guess the smartest thing to do (instead of waiting for everything to settle down and in the end become too lazy to review even one) is to review it straight out -- all in one post. The first 3 books of the series, specifically.

source
For the blurbs, kindly click on the links:

The series revolves around America Singer and how her life changed when she was suddenly selected for the Selection, a tradition in their country in which 35 girls are to be selected across all provinces and all castes to have a chance to be the crown prince's wife -- and, in turn, the future queen. So basically, it's like The Bachelor for the royalty.

Anyway, I read this series one lazy afternoon and in roughly a little less than 24 hours (discounting the hours I dedicated for work), and I quickly finished all three! Which is a feat for me, considering the fact that I am a really sloooow reader. I tend to linger -- but in this case, I just flipped and flipped and flipped and flipped, and before I knew it, I was through. Of course this is somewhat thanks to the way Kiera Cass ended her books -- cliffhangers after cliffhangers, you just can't help but read the next one at once. Honestly, if I read The Selection during its first release and the second book is a year away from being published, I would've been really frustrated. Taking into account everything that happened, I do think the whole 3 books can be squeezed into one giant tome - with some filler scenes and story lines cut, readers wouldn't feel too frustrated with how the books were divided.

But I digress. Basically, this falls under the romance genre -- but there are little injections of political and familial drama, bits of rebellion/revolution that somewhat reminds me of the ones in the Red Queen series, though a bit lighter. America Singer, the protagonist and narrator, had a decent character development through out the 3 books. At first, I have to admit that America was insufferable. It's no secret that I hate female leads who think that love is all that matters and as long as there is love, everything will be alright -- which, to be honest, is a pretty pathetic idea because love can only take you so far (hello, inner cynic), right? Not practical at all. So imagine the horror whenever I read "all I want is to be your wife". It was torture reading the first few chapters but I'm glad I pulled through. As the chapters went by, especially by the time she arrived at the palace, everything became exciting. If I gotta say, Prince Maxon's presence made the pages charged. I mean... *swooooon*. There are some things that are too cliche to be easily believed like how he has absolutely no romantic experience but then goes on and be smooth AF with the ladies - it's a bit too hard to process. Despite this, the chemistry he had with America is undeniable... and the moment he appeared on page, I was already #TeamMaxon. I miss obvious romance -- maybe because I've been reading too much SFF lately, so this is really a welcome change. And I also get to read that famous line of Maxon's that's circulating in Twitter for quite a while now:
"Break my heart. Break it a thousand times if you like. It was only ever yours to break anyway."
Relatively speaking, the characters could have been made a lot more interesting... but despite its flaws, I can see why it became a bestseller too quickly. The story is a bit predictable but I can definitely say that it doesn't lack in the entertainment department. I was always drawn to the pages, that even though I know that America would eventually be chosen in the end (is this even a spoiler at this point?), I was still nervous that she would be eliminated because of many circumstances. The journey of it was a heartwarming one. And even at the very end, Kiera Cass managed to bring that thrilling factor to her scenes. That epic conclusion was a dream - that build up to the ultimate admission (of feelings) was palpable. It made it heartwarming-ly worth it in the end.

And can we talk about the covers? They're breathtaking. Aesthetically speaking, these designs make you just want to grab them and run to the nearest bookstore counter to pay for them and take them home. The gowns are gorgeous, catchy. Book cover master class, indeed.

So to anyone who wants to fall in love while having a quick read at the same time (each book averages to 200+ pages only), this is definitely for you. (You can conveniently stop at Book 3 because the next two books involve a different character and plot.) Entertaining, swoon-worthy. Not the best series I've read, but definitely a decent one to say the least.

My Ratings:
The Selection: ★★★★☆ (4 out of 5 stars)
The Elite: ★★★☆☆ (3 out of 5 stars)
The One: ★★★★☆ (4 out of 5 stars)

The Selection Series (Books 1 to 3): 
★★★☆☆ (3.5 out of 5 stars)

Quotable Quotes:

"The moment you're ready to ask, I'm ready to say yes."

"...true love is usually the most inconvenient kind."

"...but the truth is... there's only you. Maybe I'm not really looking, maybe they aren't right for me. It doesn't matter. I just know I want you. And that terrifies me."

"Because when you're on the bottom, your only choice is to blame the top."

"Mistakes mean it's real."

"You're so pretty when you're a mess."

"The best people all have some kind of scar."

"...this is what it's like; this is how it feels when you fall."

"You are not the world, but you are everything that makes the world good. Without you, my life would still exist, but that's all it would manage to do."

ALL OF MAXON'S LETTERS AND HIS PROPOSAL. BYE. >.<

#TheReadingQuest Sign-Up Post and TBR

Another quest for my reading pleasure! I thoroughly enjoyed the last time I joined a reading challenge for #AsianLitBingo last May 2017. So this month, I am signing up for the #TheReadingQuest! This is a reading challenge based on a video game quest with an interesting 'gameplay' and even more interesting reading prompts. I was really excited when I saw the prompts because it's like a more exciting way of lessening my TBR pile right now - I mean, c'mon, look at the board below:


Anyway, #TheReadingQuest is being hosted by the amazing Aentee of Reading at Midnight which will run from August 13 to September 10, 2017! Last day of sign-ups is until August 13th (today!!!) -- so this is pretty last minute.

Participants will have to select a Character Class and conquer the related quest (path) comprised of several reading prompts in The Quest Board. In my case, I chose to be a MAGE. :)
"As wielders of spells and witchcraft, these players will conjure and summon their way through the First Down path on the quest. Their tomes contain magic and whispers of alternate lands."
And the fun thing about this reading challenge is we can make our own character ID card -- and here's mine:


There are EXP and HP points, level-ups, and treasures that can be gained through this reading challenge so it is really one exciting adventure. :) If you want to know more, head over to #TheReadingQuest Sign-Up post for more information and the detailed mechanics.

And now, for my TBR -- here goes:

THE FIRST BOOK IN A SERIES


Shatter Me (Shatter Me, #1) by Tahereh Mafi  -  I know! I haven't started the series and I thought this is a pretty good opportunity to read it, beginning with Tahereh Mafi's Shatter Me. 

Pages: 338 - 33 HP Points


A BOOK SET IN A DIFFERENT WORLD



Crown of Midnight (Thrones of Glass, #2) by Sarah J. Maas - Continuing on with my S.J. Maas streak is the Throne of Glass series. I haven't made a review for the A Court of Thorns and Roses series + the first book in the Throne of Glass (*hides in shame*) but this is still a good opportunity to continue on the series. (I hope I could post the reviews for these magical books soon!)

Pages: 418 - 41 HP Points


A BOOK BASED ON MYTHOLOGY



The Epic Crush of Genie Lo by F. C. Yee - To the book that took my Twitter timeline by storm! Even before its release, this has been the talk of the town in YA twitter (along with The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue). Super intriguing and I heard it was super good. I am so excited to read this!

Pages: 336 - 33 HP Points


A BOOK THAT CONTAINS MAGIC



The Arctic Incident (Artemis Fowl, #2) by Eoin Colfer - Continuing on with my dear Artemis Fowl. I recently finished the first book and it turns out I can't get enough. Thanks to a friend of mine for recommending this series, and not it's part of this quest. :)

Pages: 277 - 27 HP Points


A BOOK WITH A ONE WORD TITLE


Want (Want, #1) by Cindy Pon - Another one that's been too hyped up in my Twitter timeline (honestly, I love my Twitter folks). It's time to find what it's all about. Also, intriguing cover!

Pages: 328 - 32 HP Points
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So there, there! 4 out 5 of the books in this quest are part of a series, plus they're all YA. My allegiances are pretty obvious, I know. I hope I could finish this on time, considering the pile of work I'm currently in -- but we'll make a way because we make time for the things we love. That's how we can maintain balance in our lives. Looking forward for all the fun! :3

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Book: China Rich Girlfriend (Crazy Rich Asians, #2) by Kevin Kwan

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Blurb:
On the eve of her wedding to Nicholas Young, heir to one of the greatest fortunes in Asia, Rachel should be over the moon. She has a flawless Asscher-cut diamond from JAR, a wedding dress she loves more than anything found in the salons of Paris, and a fiancé willing to sacrifice his entire inheritance in order to marry her. But Rachel still mourns the fact that her birthfather, a man she never knew, won’t be able to walk her down the aisle. Until: a shocking revelation draws Rachel into a world of Shanghai splendor beyond anything she has ever imagined. Here we meet Carlton, a Ferrari-crashing bad boy known for Prince Harry-like antics; Colette, a celebrity girlfriend chased by fevered paparazzi; and the man Rachel has spent her entire life waiting to meet: her father. Meanwhile, Singapore’s It Girl, Astrid Leong, is shocked to discover that there is a downside to having a newly minted tech billionaire husband. A romp through Asia’s most exclusive clubs, auction houses, and estates, China Rich Girlfriend brings us into the elite circles of Mainland China, introducing a captivating cast of characters, and offering an inside glimpse at what it’s like to be gloriously, crazily, China-rich. (via Goodreads)
One word: CRAZY. I knew even before reading this book and finishing the first one that I am signing up for some other-worldly crazy antics of these outrageously privileged people, but I still came out surprised. Color me slightly weirded out that I am still giving out 4s for books in this series knowing that I have this "slight" (what? the term is relative) aversion to shallow and selfish characters -- but you know what, I don't care. It keeps me entertained and I am not any bit sorry for it. Though I loved the first few chapters leading up to Rachel and Nick's eventual marriage (is this even a spoiler?), the couple took a back seat in this story. Instead, it centered on the opulence of the "china-rich" as they may call them. Of course, there is the over-the-top unnecessary drama - but the books in the Crazy Rich Asians series won't be complete without it. Hilarious (and annoying) characters were introduced and re-introduced. Plot lines were picked up. I loved Astrid's story line since Crazy Rich Asians, and this continued on to China Rich Girlfriend. I think I might even like her more than Rachel Chu. As with my comment in the previous book, I wish they made use of some of the more interesting characters - like Sophie Khoo, who mysteriously disappeared from the pages ever since his brother, Collin's, wedding. I found her to be quite the character and I wish she'll have some part in the next book.

Overall, this is a fun read if you need a quick pick-me-up. Heck, I just read it during my daily taxi ride to the client's office and I still finished it in a whim! I never knew I would get hooked to this. Maybe to compensate with the stressful life I've been leading these past few days? This is definitely a fine distraction and a hilarious way to pass time. Recommended!
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My Rating: ★★★☆ (4 out of 5 stars)
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Quotable Quotes:

Beauty fades, but wit will keep you on the invitation lists to all the most exclusive parties.
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This is the 24th book I've read this year and this has been part of my 2017 Reading Challenge#Bookworm2017

Sunday, June 4, 2017

#AsianLitBingo 2017 Wrap-Up Post

And just like that.... we managed to finish the #AsianLitBingo Reading Challenge. Sad I wasn't able to this in the link-up but who says I can't do a wrap-up? 😁


I've pledged to complete the third line in this board and I am so glad I did. As a recap, the following are the books I've read in this challenge (in no particular order), with the corresponding linked reviews:
  1. SFF with Asian MC: The Star Maiden by Roshani Chokshi*
  2. Contemporary with Asian MC: Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han
  3. Free Space: Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan
  4. Retelling with Asian MC: The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury
  5. Historical Fiction with Asian MC: Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai
* The Star Maiden was actually a short story, a part of the Shimmer Zine, but I got it from the list of recommended items from the #AsianLitBingo master post so I guess this qualifies. :)

That was such a roller coaster ride. I participated from May 9 to May 31 and I barely made it -- see, I'm a veeeeery slow reader. Even I surprised myself by finishing this challenge. Besides from the unusual speed (for me, at least), it was also quite surprising that I liked it - I mean, the books I've read are not the usual book I was used to reading. Heck, I may even confess that, without this challenge, there is a high chance that I wouldn't turn my attention to these (maybe except #2 and 3, y'all know how much I love contemporaries). Well, guilty as charged. So it wouldn't be something new if I say that I felt like my reading roster got wider, more diverse, by finishing this reading challenge. 

If I have to pick my favorites and rank them, it would be like this: The Forbidden Wish came out on top, followed by Crazy Rich Asians. Always and Forever, Lara Jean, on the other hand, came in close third. Everything was unexpectedly good! This challenge aimed to raise awareness of books written with representation in mind -- and it totally did that to me. I would definitely add more of these kinds of books to my TBR. I mean, all the things I've read? Definitely recommended. And, oh, this challenge also helped me finish my 2017 Reading Challenge so early in the year -- so, it's all good! x
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Thursday, June 1, 2017

Book: Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai

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Blurb:
For all the ten years of her life, Hà has only known Saigon: the thrills of its markets, the joy of its traditions, and the warmth of her friends close by. But now the Vietnam War has reached her home. Hà and her family are forced to flee as Saigon falls, and they board a ship headed toward hope. In America, Hà discovers the foreign world of Alabama: the coldness of its strangers, the dullness of its food . . . and the strength of her very own family. (via Goodreads)
I must admit that I am extremely biased when it comes to book covers. If it is, in any way, good, then there is a high chance that I'll read it. So I am not exaggerating when I say that the moment I saw Inside Out and Back Again's book cover, I immediately decided to read it -- that, and of course, the high rating on Goodreads. I chose this from the roster of book recommendation for the #AsianLitBingo Reading Challenge and I am so glad I did.

Told through the perspective of , this book is written on a verse-like style that is both breathtaking and easy to read. Thanhha Lai managed to capture that innocent voice of a 10-year old little girl that is both innocent and wise beyond her years. Set in the 1970s - when the Vietnam War broke - this book tells the story of a family displaced by war, the racism and discrimination they encountered when they moved to America, and how, slowly, resolve to adjusting and finally settling down to their new life.

I surprised myself with how fast I finished this - maybe it was the rush of the reading challenge deadline (5/31!) - so I think there were a couple of elements I overlooked. It was a rather short book, given the format, and one that targets younger audiences. Thanhha Lai disclosed that most part of this book is based on her actual experience - and I am really grateful that she decided to relive her formative years and share it through this book.  With increasing number of refugees around the world nowadays, this book can really give so much inspiration and hope for those who need it. There were many heartbreaking moments throughout the book, delivered in the most straightforward way in the perspective of Ha. Those moments, especially during the time when they started living in America, makes me cringe at how immigrants are being treated back in the days - like they are lesser creatures. I sure do hope that it wasn't the case now.

Overall, this read was worth it. I might reread this when I had the time because poignant children's books like this always has a way to reveal something new to you at every turn. Read away!
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My Rating: ★★★☆ (3.5 out of 5 stars)
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Quotable Quotes:

"I love her more for her scars."

"But I know at times, words are just words."

"Not the same but not bad at all."

"The more mistakes you make, the more you'll learn not to."
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This is the 23rd book I've read this year and this has been part of my 2017 Reading Challenge. This is also the 5th book I finished for my #AsianLitBingo Reading Challenge for Historical Fiction with Asian Main Character#Bookworm2017

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Book: The Forbidden Wish (The Forbidden Wish, #1) by Jessica Khoury

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Blurb:
She is the most powerful Jinni of all. He is a boy from the streets. Their love will shake the world... When Aladdin discovers Zahra's jinni lamp, Zahra is thrust back into a world she hasn't seen in hundreds of years—a world where magic is forbidden and Zahra's very existence is illegal. She must disguise herself to stay alive, using ancient shape-shifting magic, until her new master has selected his three wishes.
But when the King of the Jinn offers Zahra a chance to be free of her lamp forever, she seizes the opportunity—only to discover she is falling in love with Aladdin. When saving herself means betraying him, Zahra must decide once and for all: is winning her freedom worth losing her heart?
As time unravels and her enemies close in, Zahra finds herself suspended between danger and desire in this dazzling retelling of Aladdin from acclaimed author Jessica Khoury. (via Goodreads)

Jessica Khoury's The Forbidden Wish is a retelling of Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp from the book of One Thousand and One Nights a.k.a. Arabian Nights - only this time, the jinni is a girl and she falls in love with HIM. Interesting, right? 

I can't really remember the last time I read a retelling so this was really a thrilling experience for me: the familiarity, the references. First few pages, few chapters, and this book already charmed my socks off! I initially picked this in the list of recommendations for the Asian Lit Bingo challenge and I didn't really expect to like this book so much -- but man am I so wrong. This book haunted me even at work (I am a slow reader so it was daysssss) and that left me distracted most of the time. But I am not even the least bit sorry. 

Jessica's writing was immaculate. I can't quite put my finger to it, but it was golden. The Forbidden Wish was written in the perspective of the jinni, Zahra. The voice that felt like having the wisdom of a thousand years and, at the same time, the uncertainty of venturing in unexplored territory, the panic and confusion of falling (romantically) in love for the first time. I honestly don't know how Jessica Khoury did it.
  
"Wishes have a way of twisting themselves, and there is nothing  more dangerous than getting your heart's desire. The question is, are you willing to gamble? How much are you willing to lose? What are you willing to risk everything for?"

Zahra and Aladdin are two lost souls - burdened by pasts they cannot escape, uncertain as to what they really want. The romance was spoiled by the blurb, but I got to shipping them not immediately after the first few pages. It took time - like the dance of Fahradan, it was tension-filled, passionate, a slow-burn. And did I already mention the tension?! For some reason, I am captivated and drawn to this world because the tension in the scenes are through the roofs! Maybe I was just reading the right things at the right moments but the goosebumps it induced in me was amazing.  

But you know what? It feels too wrong to be calling it just another romance YA because there's so much going on in here. For starters, there's Princess Caspida and her Watchmaidens. Roshana the Wise, the greatest Amulen Queen to ever live. This book presented some issues that, even now, are still rampant throughout Asia and, to some extent, outside. That women are not fit to lead. That women need someone, others, to make it and be successful. That women's choices are not entirely her own. This retelling broke many barriers and is very feminist in it's own special way. Zahra is fierce, independent, willing to go to great heights for the ones she loves. Caspida was a destined leader, a queen in her own right. Roshana was a dreamer and a visionary. Even Caspida's Watchmaiden's refuses to take a shit from others. It was great, great.

"Our names are like the meaning behind names, sensations and images rather than words, communicated by thought and not voice."

One unique thing that really caught my attention was how the jinns were named in this book. It was something I haven't encountered before and it proved to be a charming aspect for the book. Like for example, Zahra's jinn name is: Curl-of-the-Tiger's-Tail, Smoke-on-the-Wind, Girl-Who-Gives-the-Stars-Away. There's also Serpent-Scale, Water-Drips-in-Darkness, Echoes in Cave. Zhian's is Sun-Burns-Bright, Scale-of-the-Red-Dragon, He-Who-Makes-the-Earth-to-Shake.  Can't you see how beautiful this thing is? "I am the Girl-Who-Gives-the-Stars-Away." Awesome.
"Wish for her love, and I will deliver it for you."He smiles grimly. "Then it wouldn't be love.""And what do you know of love?""That it must be a choice.""Oh, my naive thief." I pause briefly to meet his gaze. "Love is rarely a choice."
Despite it being a retelling, the plot felt fresh and not forced. The story line was heartwarming and at the same time goosebumps-inducing. I loved the way Zahra narrated the story, telling it to her Habiba. I loved the word, and how it was used in the ending. The story of friendship so dear was highlighted and a sight to behold - making that unexpected reunion near the end of the story heartwarming and heartwrenching-ly good. I loved how the element of time ("Time is the strongest magic.") was used and how it gave the revelation at the end more impact. The ending was majestic and one of the better closures I've read in a while. Personally, I am at awe. Definitely recommended.
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My Rating: ★★★★☆ (4 out of 5 stars)

If you follow me on Twitter, here's my The Forbidden Wish Reaction/Quotes Thread: CLICK HERE.
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Quotable Quotes:

Stories are truth told through lies.

"Being underestimated isn't flattering - but it's an advantage."

You can't choose what happens to you, but you can choose who you become because of it.

"...nothing - nothing - is worth betraying someone you love."

"Loving someone is never wrong. [...] it's not a choice. It just happens, and we're all helpless in it's power."

"If you're not free to love, you're not free at all."
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This is the 22nd book I've read this year and this has been part of my 2017 Reading Challenge. This is also the 4th book I finished for my #AsianLitBingo Reading Challenge for Retelling with Asian Main Character#Bookworm2017



Book: Crazy Rich Asians (Crazy Rich Asians, #1) by Kevin Kwan

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Blurb:
When New Yorker Rachel Chu agrees to spend the summer in Singapore with her boyfriend, Nicholas Young, she envisions a humble family home and quality time with the man she hopes to marry. But Nick has failed to give his girlfriend a few key details. One, that his childhood home looks like a palace; two, that he grew up riding in more private planes than cars; and three, that he just happens to be the country’s most eligible bachelor.

On Nick’s arm, Rachel may as well have a target on her back the second she steps off the plane, and soon, her relaxed vacation turns into an obstacle course of old money, new money, nosy relatives, and scheming social climbers. (via Goodreads)

Few days after I finished reading this, one thought runs over and over on my mind: this is a book (series) I never knew I needed. I've had this book in my shelf for a while now but for some reason, I always always put it off - but now, I know that I've been blindly walking over a gold mine all this time. This book is delicious, light, over-the-top, funny and on-all-marks entertaining. This book was a sleeper hit for me, in a sense that I initially dismissed it as another chick lit that I'm just gonna read for the heck of it -- but then pages and pages after, I was hooked! (I even changed my rating from 3 to 4 after a week!) It was fun AND relatable. I am not crazy rich but being an Asian myself, some of the elements really hit home. The importance of family, class, the speed to which gossip travels among the clan (LOL), unrealistic expectations on children, the sub-class societal expectations for women (psssshhhhh!), the sad prejudices for single parents, and gaaaahd, the parading of wealth I can only glimpse following entertainment blogs and news. This was a crazy good ride.

The book introduced too many characters at once that made it a bit confusing at first. The sudden shift in POVs inside a chapter also presented a challenge and needed some getting used to. There were so many things that were left hanging at that ending. Maybe because it has a sequel (thank God it's already available) but I just wished Kevin Kwan milked out some of it more. There are so many things you can close and work with there that can give this a more decent ending without missing the "wanting" element for a sequel.

But you know what? Despite the obvious flaws, it still achieved what so very few chick lits failed to give me - it kept me wanting, it kept me entertained, it kept me interested. Some reviews remarked that this reminds them of Gossip Girl, but set in Asia - and I can see why. And also, Nick Young? He made it to my book boyfriend list! (Though I seriously think he should've prepared Rachel BEFORE bringing her to SG.)

P.S.
Charlie Wu freakin' broke my heart. *softly cries*
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My Rating: ★★★☆ (4 out of 5 stars)
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Quotable Quotes:

"At some point, we all have to pay the price for our excesses, don't we?"


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This is the 21st book I've read this year and this has been part of my 2017 Reading Challenge. This is also the 3nd book I finished for my #AsianLitBingo Reading Challenge for Free Space#Bookworm2017

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Book: Always and Forever, Lara Jean (To All The Boys I've Loved Before, #3) by Jenny Han

The To All The Boys I've Loved Before series are books that are really close to my heart. I've read the first book and found it really charming, so I moved on to the next, which I read last year, and it made me fall in love even more. I thought Jenny would finish Lara Jean's story right then and there: there was closure, but apparently, not enough. Now we've come to the conclusion of yet another charming series, the 3rd and final book (serious, this time?), this is Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han. No one's complaining, though.

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Blurb:
Lara Jean’s letter-writing days aren’t over in this surprise follow-up to the New York Times bestselling To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and P.S. I Still Love You.
Lara Jean is having the best senior year a girl could ever hope for. She is head over heels in love with her boyfriend, Peter; her dad’s finally getting remarried to their next door neighbor, Ms. Rothschild; and Margot’s coming home for the summer just in time for the wedding.
But change is looming on the horizon. And while Lara Jean is having fun and keeping busy helping plan her father’s wedding, she can’t ignore the big life decisions she has to make. Most pressingly, where she wants to go to college and what that means for her relationship with Peter. She watched her sister Margot go through these growing pains. Now Lara Jean’s the one who’ll be graduating high school and leaving for college and leaving her family—and possibly the boy she loves—behind.
When your heart and your head are saying two different things, which one should you listen to?
 (via Goodreads)
I've been too foolish to not write a review for the previous two books - but I was in a reading frenzy and writing slump back then so it got buried along with other book reviews I've yet to write at that time. That was a grave mistake - so I guess my thoughts on this post will reflect the series as a whole, just highlighting enough things for this one book.

First off: Lara Jean is such a charming main character. She's awkward, nice, all the goody-two-shoes that she was raised to be - but as someone said in her yearbook - "it's always the quiet ones that are the most interesting." We watch her grow up and experience things from that sweet-sixteen Lara Jean to now, this almost-college-girl eighteen-year-old Lara Jean. It was hard to read sometimes, but as a teenager, that was a necessary phase. Her denials, her insecurities, and her love - for her family, for her friends, for Peter. It was such a joy to witness all that. Plus, her style is on point! Pinterest-worthy, even. Jenny Han curated the perfect style that I loved. Lara Jean is, head-to-toe, my aesthetic. Like everything spells like pastel, knee-high socks, cute clothes, girly things. It was all I ever wanted to be when I was that age (and maybe even now? LOL). I find it really cute and alluring since I am really drawn to today's Korean pop culture - and it shows. If I have a comment, I guess I wished for more emphasis on the Korean heritage thing here.

Then again... there's Peter. Hmmmm... what can I say. Reading about all these potential book-boyfriend-list-worthy characters these past few months definitely drowned Peter's existence in my head. Lara Jean and Peter's story wasn't really that gut-wrenching and punch-in-the-stomach inducing compared to others. But it was special because of its sheer simplicity. When I read the first few pages, the spell was immediately back. I forgot how easily it is  for Peter K. to captivate a lost heart. He was adoooorable in this. The braiding, the Fight Club couple costumes, the promposal -- everything. And he was definitely more fleshed out in here than in the previous two books, at least for me - reflecting how he opened up more to Lara Jean compared from before. I love how their relationship made me remember that it's the little things that matter.

And alsooooo, how can I forget? The FAMILY. If there's one thing, besides the cute romance, that I'll take away from this series, it's the lessons about family - specifically the relationship between the Song sisters and the brief glimpses, emotions, towards the memory of their mother. All the mommy-memories are too much for me sometimes - but it was one of the reasons why I fell in love with the series in the first place, so it was a necessary thing to include in this experience. And I guess it was fitting since I read this book when Mother's day was just around the corner.

As someone who lost her mother just recently, this theme really hits home. I remember crying over the brief emotional moments from book 1 and 2 when they are missing their mom - spoiler, no shortage of that either in this book. Their family life served as the foundation of how they interact and how deeply their relationships with each other go. I love the Song Sisters to death, and though Lara Jean is the center of this series, you can't think of her without thinking of the other two, Margot and Kitty, too.

"How crazy, how thrilling that your whole life trajectory can change in just one night. I've always been scared of change, but right now I don't feel that way. I feel excited. I'm seeing now what a privilege it is, to be excited about where I'm going."

This book is about dealing with the inevitable changes that come along with growing up and accepting possibilities that, no matter how uncomfortable they are at the onset, may make all the difference in the life you make for yourself. I love how it doesn't feel like this story just revolves around Peter and Lara Jean's love story - but also about family, friendship and figuring out what she really want to do. Because life is like that - each aspect overlapping one another, all at the same time. This reminded me so much of the time when I was also preparing to leave high school and start college. Too much going on, too many drama. And when I look back, the experience just always leaves a smile on my face.

This was such a bittersweet goodbye to a series that is so close to real life, it's hard not to get attached. Weddings, college, decisions to make, things to leave behind. It's the perfect closure. I can't have it any other way.
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My Rating: ★★★☆☆ (3.5 out of 5 stars)

If you follow me on Twitter, here's my Always and Forever, Lara Jean Reaction Thread: CLICK HERE.
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Quotable Quotes:

"Never say no when you really want to say yes."

"Is this how it goes? You fall in love, and nothing seems truly scary anymore, and life is one big possibility?"

"The thing is, you get used to it. Before you even realize it's happening, you get used to things being different..."

"There's so much to be excited about, if you let yourself be."

"...love is about making brave choices every day."

"It feels good to say a proper goodbye, to have a chance."
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This is the 20th book I've read this year and this has been part of my 2017 Reading Challenge. This is also the 2nd book I finished for my #AsianLitBingo Reading Challenge for Contemporary with Asian Main Character. #Bookworm2017

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