Saturday, April 29, 2017

#6

You were never on top. But for some twisted reason, you think you are - at least, you believe you can if you tried. You have this weirdly high standards with everything; but sadly, you can't keep up. And every time you fail to meet your expectations, something inside you caves in. Something breaks. And with time, the damage accumulates.

You started laughing less - choosing indifference rather than feel too deeply. You started to avoid deep conversations - because no matter how you explain it, you feel like they can't understand, not enough.

Slowly, you withdrew from a world that feels too much and too little at the same time. And before you knew it, the light in your eyes started to fade. You can feel it then, can hear it clearly despite the noise: something completely crumbled, forever changed. You can't go back now.
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Just because you let four little words get in your head: "You are not enough." Words? They're wind but they're deadly. They can kill.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Book: Siege and Storm (Grisha, #2) by Leigh Bardugo

I've been in a reading frenzy because of this book series and I'm not even sorry. This is SIEGE AND STORM, the second book of the Grisha Trilogy, by Leigh Bardugo. I cannot promise a spoiler-free review so read at your own risk. *winks*

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Blurb:
Darkness never dies. 
Hunted across the True Sea, haunted by the lives she took on the Fold, Alina must try to make a life with Mal in an unfamiliar land. She finds starting new is not easy while keeping her identity as the Sun Summoner a secret. She can’t outrun her past or her destiny for long. 
The Darkling has emerged from the Shadow Fold with a terrifying new power and a dangerous plan that will test the very boundaries of the natural world. With the help of a notorious privateer, Alina returns to the country she abandoned, determined to fight the forces gathering against Ravka. But as her power grows, Alina slips deeper into the Darkling’s game of forbidden magic, and farther away from Mal. Somehow, she will have to choose between her country, her power, and the love she always thought would guide her--or risk losing everything to the oncoming storm. (via Goodreads)
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We left off from Shadow and Bone with Alina and Mal, on the run and hunted by the Darkling across the True Sea. As with most of contemporary YA series these days, I was worried that it might suffer the "Second Book Syndrome" but no - I was wrong. First chapter down and the action already started  - Leigh Bardugo doesn't even make us breathe.

In Siege and Storm, we get to see a different Alina from what we've seen in the first book. The Sun Summoner who now takes controls of her powers and her life. Pitted against one of the most powerful Grisha that ever lived and tasked with rebuilding an army that is in danger of collapsing, she pushed on and take on the responsibility. "For someone who has no idea what she's doing, I'd say you're managing pretty well." Sometimes, it's hard to imagine that she's just an 18-year old girl that got her life turned upside down because of a power that chose to show itself at the most unexpected time. At Siege and Storm, she grappled at the darkness rooting inside her brought about by the great power that she wield - whilst trying to deal with the visions as a result of a forged connection with the Darkling. She learned how to be a pretty good leader that the Grisha respects and abides. From a scrawny, invisible girl to this - it can't get any better than this.

For some reason, there's not enough
Stormhond fanarts around.
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This book also introduced several other characters that added color and action to the already breathtaking story - notably one that easily stole my heart: STORMHOND! I really did this backwards and I may have been spoiled by Crooked Kingdom with several things - but nevertheless, he was a welcome addition to the bunch! This book was a bit slow compared to the first one, but man was Stormhond the firecracker that he is. He just pops from the pages - a smooth talker, changes personalities at a whim, and has the buckets of confidence and wits that could charm the whole of Ravka and ME! As if having Mal and the Darkling in Alina's life is not enough, Leigh stretches it more and adds another one. Stormhond was a born leader, a political strategist and an innovator through and through. She guided Alina how to navigate safely at court - I felt like I was reading The 48 Laws of Power multiple times - and I've read my fair share of political drama to appreciate this kind of thing.
The less you say, the more weight your words will carry. 
Don't argue. Never deign to deny. Meet insults with laughter. 
Weakness is a guise. Wear it when they need to know you're human, but never when you feel it. 
Don't wish for bricks when you can build from stone. Use whatever or whoever is in front of you. 
Get them to follow the little orders, and they'll follow the big ones. 
"I want to kiss you. But I won't. Not until you're thinking of me instead of trying to forget him." OK THIS ONE = NOT POLITICS
He was funny and each of his remarks provides the light this dark series needed - and everything rang true. I love that he is honest and driven - and he paraded his ambition like it is something necessary and he is right. "I'm not going to apologize for being ambitious. It doesn't change the fact that I'm the best man for the job." God, I love him. His dynamic with Alina was easy and something to look forward to in the pages. And sad as it may, he eclipses Mal in every way I'm not even sorry for fangirling over him.

Another brooding art of the Darkling //
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Speaking of Mal - it was painful to watch Mal and Alina drift apart. I find myself slowly warming up to him and their lovestory, but of course, not enough - not with Stormhond on page LOL. But at least the story drifted out of the ordinary. "I feel you slipping away from me, and I don't know how to stop it." It was realistic, and painful. And I loved it as much as it broke my heart. "Would there be a time when it didn't hurt to look at him?" I can sense some impending doom somewhere and with these things, they usually are there - I just hope that by the end of this series, I can't still clutch my chest and whisper *it's okay* like I mean it.

As for the Darkling, there's still that same old PULL that got me hooked on him from Shadow and Bone. My problem with this book? Too little Darkling scenes. Much of the book had Alina cooped up at court practicing, strategizing with Stormhond - so the chances for confrontations may be a bit low. But alas, Leigh is there to give us what we desire - it seemed our little heroine is seeing things and beginning to think she is going mad. Yes, guys, Darkling apparitions are everywhere. It started off creepy - and like Alina, I slowly got used to it, found it comforting even. It was a different kind of high - the moments he appeared in Alina's sight were surprisingly quiet. I loved every minute of it. You could expect Alina to go berserk when talking to him face-to-face, but since this isn't real, they are conversing normally and the results are just goosebump-inducing.
"Why won't you leave me alone?" I whispered one night as he hovered behind me while I tried to work at my desk. [...] "Then I'd be alone, too," he said, and he stayed the whole night through, till the lamps burned down to nothing.
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For some reason, these fleeting moments are just too fleshed out in my mind that I can even see it when I close my eyes. It may be my imagination - or I am just too biased with my fangirling over the Darkling - but I can sense some real emotion there. It may be the desire to have someone like him on his side, almost a physical ache - what with all the brief vulnerable moments. The intrigue, the mystery, that *misunderstood* vibe - you can't help but be drawn in.


Overall, this a a great follow-up to Shadow and Bone - though the first book is still my favorite. The build up to the final chapters were properly done - and the confrontation was unexpected, surprising as it should. The twist at the last minute was out of the blue, and the sacrifice that was almost made was exciting to say the least. There's a small part of me that wants the Darkling to still be redeemable at the end, but after reading this - I'm not so sure. Scratch that - I think I'm not so sure about anything at all. Leigh Bardugo managed to be anything but predictable, it's amazing. I wonder how she does it. Recommended, still! 
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My Rating: ★★★★☆ (4 out of 5 stars)

If you follow me on Twitter, here's my Siege and Storm Reaction Thread: CLICK HERE.
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Quotable Quotes:

"Fear is a powerful ally," he said. "And loyal."

"Anything worth doing always starts as a bad idea."

"When people say impossible, they usually mean improbable."

"Understatement is overrated."

"We do our best. We try. And sometimes, it makes no difference at all."
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This is the 9th book I've read this year -- and this has been part of my 2017 Reading Challenge. #Bookworm2017

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Novella: The Witch of Duva (Grisha, #0.5) by Leigh Bardugo


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Blurb:
There was a time when the woods near Duva ate girls...or so the story goes. But it’s just possible that the danger may be a little bit closer to home. This story is a companion folk tale to Leigh Bardugo’s debut novel, Shadow and Bone. (via Goodreads)
Unlike other tie-in novellas, this does not involve a backstory of sort or main-novel character POV - but serve to further the world built in the main story, in this case, Ravka. This is a tie-in novella to the Grisha trilogy's Shadow and Bone, and it's recommended to read the latter first before diving to this. But this can still be devoured on its own. :)

This story is told through Nadya's point of view, after her mother died and her brother enlisted to serve in the army, leaving her to live with his father and eventually a step-mom. Little girls are disappearing in her neighborhood and Nadya is being threatened in her own household.

This story is creepy, dark and twisted - reminiscent of the original Grimm stories I came to love. This is a sort of retelling of the classic Hansel and Gretel, and if you're a fan of these stories, you may even find other references here and there. It has an intriguing plot line and interesting narrative and, gaaaaahd, don't even get me started on THAT TWIST! Since this is Leigh Bardugo, I expected some kind of a twist and when it does come - I was speechless. *slow claps* Even in novellas/short stories, Leigh never fell short. She gives readers what they deserve - and more. Props to Leigh Bardugo, I demand more of her!
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My Rating: ★★★★ (5 out of 5 stars)


You can read this for FREE. Click here and enjoy!
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Quotable Quotes:

Dark things have a way of slipping in through narrow spaces.
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This is the 8th book I've read this year -- and this has been part of my 2017 Reading Challenge. #Bookworm2017

Book: Shadow and Bone (Grisha, #1) by Leigh Bardugo

As promised in my last post, I finally started reading Leigh Bardugo's Grisha Series. This is also set in the Grishaverse, the same universe where Six of Crows and it's sequel, Crooked Kingdom, were set. The Grisha series was technically written and published before the Six of Crows duology so note that I really did this backwards. If you are like me who the read SoC first, be careful of Crooked Kingdom for it has several spoilers for this trilogy.

Anyway, back to the main agenda of this post, my thoughts on Leigh Bardugo's Shadow and Bone:

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Blurb:
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 tained 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.
(via Goodreads)

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Leigh Bardugo did it again. I was a fan then (SoC duology) and I am fan still now. The world building is still exquisite. Since I had an introduction to the Grishaverse far earlier (Zoya! Genya! hurrah for familiar faces!) than I should have, it was not really hard to imagine most of it -- but to go deeper into their histories and fabled world is still such a thrill to behold. I read this for the Darkling but now I am sure I am continuing this not just because of him - this book took my breath away.

Leigh presented another badass heroine: Alina Strakov. I keep thinking how beautifully she named her characters and Alina Starkov sounds like someone who would do great things to change the world. Shadow and Bone was told through her point of view, and she took us with her through her journey in discovering this world and herself. She was unsure and insecure for most of the book but even those parts, I enjoyed. Maybe it's the way she presents her stories. She's human, relatable. And certainly interesting.

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Aaaaaand, this post won't ever be complete without me rambling about the Darkling. He was an interesting villain -- and I can see why almost everyone are giving a nod to the Darkling for Red Queen's Maven Calore. The Darkling's presence on page is mesmerizing, for some reason. The first time he appeared on page, I figured I'll be all over him -- and I was not wrong. He was intense and mysterious - plus he could summon the darkness. (I'm not really sure why they didn't even consider him a villain at the onset with that ability but yeah~) When it comes to him, my imagination becomes overly active: I kept imagining every little thing he does - the way he moves, the way he speaks, and even his expressions. His flickering smiles killed me. And everytime he ran his hands through his hair or over his neck, I lose my mind. I can't blame Alina for everything. I know it's wrong but it's hard to resist the PULL.

On the other hand, I can't make myself warm up to Alina's friend and supposedly, the love of her life: Mal. Maybe because their love story is 'normal'? Maybe because it was too predictable? Or maybe I just have a thing with villains. LOL Anyway, I hope I could warm up to him in the coming books because I think what they have will be ship that takes off in the long run.

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Leigh managed to create this unique and magical world, filled with mysteries, intrigues and even politics. Also, this is loosely based in the Imperial Russian setting and that certainly added another twist to the story. I was in a roller coaster of emotion all throughout and this book occupied my thoughts even when I am at work. From all time high, to all time low - Leigh Bardugo managed to get my attention every single chapter. The plot twists were awesome and ones I didn't really expect and, hey, it takes so much to surprise me these days. I am a fan of slow-burns: of chapters teeming with anticipation and promise, those with things that linger in the shadows only to show themselves at the right moment for impact. I really love this book to bits and I should've read this a long time ago. Definitely, definitely recommended!

Read the first chapter here: CLICK HERE.
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My Rating: ★★★★☆ (4 out of 5 stars)

If you follow me on Twitter, here's my Shadow and Bone Reaction Thread: CLICK HERE.
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Quotable Quotes:

"I wonder sometimes how much we really understand our own gifts," he mused.

"There is something more powerful than any army. something strong enough to topple kings and even Darklings. Do you know what that things is?" [...] "Faith," he breathed, his black eyes wild. "Faith."

"There's nothing wrong with being a mapmaker." "Of course not. And there's nothing wrong with being a lizard either. unless you were born to be a hawk."

"Do you think the world cares if you do your best? Do it again and do it right."

"The problem with wanting is that it makes us weak."
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This is the 7th book I've read this year -- and this has been part of my 2017 Reading Challenge. #Bookworm2017

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Book: King's Cage (Red Queen, #3) by Victoria Aveyard

I am back from my hole! Here's another post to share my thoughts about this one book that took over my entire week because of the #feels: Book 3 of the Red Queen series by Victoria Aveyard - KING'S CAGE.

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Book Blurb:
In this breathless third installment to Victoria Aveyard’s bestselling Red Queen series, allegiances are tested on every side. And when the Lightning Girl's spark is gone, who will light the way for the rebellion?
Mare Barrow is a prisoner, powerless without her lightning, tormented by her lethal mistakes. She lives at the mercy of a boy she once loved, a boy made of lies and betrayal. Now a king, Maven Calore continues weaving his dead mother's web in an attempt to maintain control over his country—and his prisoner.
As Mare bears the weight of Silent Stone in the palace, her once-ragtag band of newbloods and Reds continue organizing, training, and expanding. They prepare for war, no longer able to linger in the shadows. And Cal, the exiled prince with his own claim on Mare's heart, will stop at nothing to bring her back.
When blood turns on blood, and ability on ability, there may be no one left to put out the fire—leaving Norta as Mare knows it to burn all the way down. (via Goodreads)
After that explosive Glass Sword ending, I was really looking forward to the release of this follow up. This book follows Mare Barrow in captivity of the current king of Norta, Maven Calore - her former betrothed and the boy he once loved and cared for, until a betrayal changed everything. I dove into this expecting that this book focused more on Maven's and Mare's dynamics and I was not disappointed. So let me tell you my feels. (ಥ,ಥ)

I've read a number of reviews before writing my own and some people found the beginning chapters (i.e., Mare's captivity/imprisonment/psychological torture or whatever you may call it) slow and depressing -- but I totally disagree. I love me some Cal and Mare shipping but who am I kidding? I came here for Maven and Maven alone.

I've yearned for a Maven POV ever since I finished Red Queen and though I didn't exactly get one in King's Cage, Aveyard gave us enough of a peek behind the mask of this unlikely villain through Mare's chapters. I loved the first half of the book. And as far as I am concerned, those chapters provided me much more feels that the rest of the book ever gave me.

I'm sure you've figured it out by now but I am extremely biased with Maven because I like my book characters layered and imperfect and Maven is exactly that. Maven's obsession with Mare was on a different level. It was painful to read but those were the parts that I enjoyed the most. Those brief moments of vulnerability around Mare, the occasional touches. What Maven *feels* for Mare- poisoning them both in each of their own prisons. It killed me a couple of times. Maven and Mare's dynamics in their scenes was EVERYTHING. It was intense, sexy, painful, depressing and full of psychological force all at the same time that I found myself clutching my chest almost all the time because my heart hurts so much. (Apologies to my roommate who have to go through me shouting at my Kindle in the middle of the night.) My feelings are all over the place. Maven's presence in the pages was arresting and the effect he has on Mare was intoxicating to read. I was tempted to skip the pages he's not present in a couple of times but I fought through it.What we have here is a boy, tormented and broken since the day he was born - his mind constantly haunted by paranoia, his ghost of a soul, not knowing what in his thoughts are his own and what's not. What really got me was the fact (spoiler, highlight if you want to read) that he was not a puppet, maneuvered by his mother to do as she please, but that he was conscious of it and accepts it that he continued on even after she was gone. He was too broken, corrupted to the core, that I doubt if there would ever be a redemption fit for him in the next book - but death, oh God, no. He reminds me so much of Soo Won from Akatsuki No Yona, but on a more evil scale - it's so hard to hate him even if I have every reason to. Many reviews compared him to the Darkling from Leigh Bardugo's Grisha Series and I might even read it after this one.

Mare and Maven via Pinterest from charliebowater.tumblr.com
NOTE: THIS FANART IZ PURFECT! (ಥ,ಥ)
As for our main heroine, somehow I like King's-Cage Mare more than Glass-Sword Mare. In Book 2, she was always trying to be strong and proud to the point of deceiving even herself. Her *lightning girl* dialogues irked me off whenever it came on  page - I just can't stand it. I like her in this: I like her pained and afraid. I like her vulnerable - because it's the truth. You can keep lying to everybody and show off an image but you can't lie even in your inner dialogue, you really can't. I have to give applause to Aveyard for portraying PTSD very well with Mare. For me, Mare experienced the most character development in this book than in the previous two. Experience changes people and witnessing how it changed Mare was such a joy (though painful) to watch.

I used to ship Cal and Mare so hard at book one but now I am just bored. Honestly, I have more feelings with  Mare's relationship with  Maven. I guess this confirms that I am really a fan of doomed romances and unrequited loves - but I digress. Somehow, I can't see myself warming up (pun intended) to the first prince. I love how he loves Mare, I swoon at the way he looks at her and care for her but there's something lacking. Like he's just sticking by Mare because he has no one, because it's convenient. He can't make choices, that Mare and Maven already knows, but when he does, I'm questioning them. And don't get me started on that freakin' ending. I can't say that I didn't see that coming, but my heart still shattered to pieces when it came. Gaaad, I can't stand Cal but I must. I need to see this book series till the end.

For some reason, I read this book thinking that this was the last in the series so my expectations about it ending right here and there was pretty weird. I don't usually check my progress when I'm using my Kindle so I didn't really know it was about to end until I saw the word "Epilogue" and so I started panicking. LOL. But all in all, the impact and feelings this third book in the series gave is undeniable. This was Victoria Aveyard in one of her best - I am floored.  Red Queen (book 1) is still my favorite but King's Cage can definitely hold its own. Definitely recommended! 

P.S.
The cover is still as breathtaking as ever.
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My Rating: ★★★★☆ (4 out of 5 stars)

If you follow me on Twitter, here's my King's Cage Reaction ThreadCLICK HERE.

In the meantime, behold this gorgeous King's Cage book trailer as narrated by Maven (I know!):




Quotable Quotes:
hand-lettered by yours truly. :)

It's too cruel to give hope where none should be.

To look powerful is to be powerful.

"You ask how much of it was me," he whispers. "Some. Enough."

"People like us," he scoffs. "We lie to everyone. Especially ourselves."

"Those who know what it's like in the dark will do anything to stay in the light."

Power seduces all, and it makes us blind.

To stand in front of a person who is you world and be told you are not enough. You are not the choice. You are a shadow to the person who is your sun.
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This is the 6th book I've read this year -- and this has been part of my 2017 Reading Challenge. #Bookworm2017

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