Chachic's Book Nook


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Retro Friday: Fire by Kristin Cashore

Retro Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Angie over at Angieville and focuses on reviewing books from the past. This can be an old favorite, an under-the-radar book you think deserves more attention, something woefully out of print, etc.

I read both Graceling and Fire by Kristin Cashore when they first came out. That was a few years ago, back when I didn’t have a book blog. I recently reread them for a discussion with my online book club YAckers. I loved rereading both and realized that I have never written a review for Fire. It’s a good thing I refreshed my memory by rereading it recently because that gave me the perfect opportunity to talk about one of my absolute favorite epic fantasy novels.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

FireIt is not a peaceful time in the Dells. The young King Nash clings to his throne while rebel lords in the north and south build armies to unseat him. The mountains and forests are filled with spies and thieves and lawless men.

This is where Fire lives. With a wild, irresistible appearance and hair the color of flame, Fire is the last remaining human monster. Equally hated and adored, she has the unique ability to control minds, but she guards her power, unwilling to steal the secrets of innocent people. Especially when she has so many of her own.

Then Prince Brigan comes to bring her to King City, the royal family needs her help to uncover the plot against the king. Far away from home, Fire begins to realize there’s more to her power than she ever dreamed. Her power could save the kingdom.

If only she weren’t afraid of becoming the monster her father was.

Fire is such an achingly beautiful novel. It is wonderfully written with engaging characters, set in a dazzlingly colorful world. Fire is a human monster, an amazingly beautiful person who can read minds and manipulate people through her powers – either with just the way she looks or by compelling them to say or do things. Having seen what her cruel father Cansrel was able to do with his own monstrous powers, Fire is very cautious with hers. She has no intention of manipulating people and doesn’t even want to be involved in court politics. But the kingdom is on the brink of civil war and Fire has a role to play in all of this.

I loved Fire’s character. It was a pleasure to see her stretch as she opens herself up to possibilities. It’s understandable that she’s afraid of what she’s capable of but she has such a good heart that she doesn’t really have to worry about it. Aside from Fire, there are also plenty of fully fleshed out secondary characters to love in this novel. Can I just take a moment to say how much I love Brigan? Remarkable character and brilliant in so many different ways. I loved how Kristin Cashore portrayed the relationships in this book – they’re very messy and complicated but work so well in the context of the story. I liked seeing the dynamics of different types of relationships – romantic, platonic and within families – in the story. There’s a lot of love in there but also has some sadness and violence mixed in. Here’s a snippet that illustrates this:

“She had thought she’d already reached her capacity for pain and had no room inside her for more. But she remembered having told Archer once that you could not measure love on a scale of degrees, and now she understood that it was the same with pain. Pain might escalate upwards, and, just when you’d thought you’d reached your limit, begin to spread sideways, and spill out, and touch other people, and mix with their pain. And grow larger, but somehow less oppressive. She had thought herself trapped in a place outside the ordinary feeling lives of other people; she had not noticed how many other people were trapped in that place with her.”

Fire just has everything that I look for in my epic fantasy reads. Great characters, solid worldbuilding, a slow burn romance that I can root for and complex relationships that feel realistic. I cannot recommend it enough. It makes me happy that Fire stood up to a reread and I loved it just as much as when I was first introduced to it. In fact, I had to wait a couple of days for the story to fade from my mind before I could move on to another book. After rereading both Graceling and Fire, I am now craving for a new Kristin Cashore novel. I will be eagerly waiting for news about what she will publish next.


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One Less Lonely Person

blogging August 15 2014

The other day, my friends and I were talking about how it’s very difficult to adjust to living in another country, away from family and friends. Most Filipinos have very strong ties to family and friends so when we do move abroad to explore better job opportunities, more often than not, we get lonely and homesick. At least it’s easier to keep in touch because of messaging and calling apps nowadays. But we also talked about how important it is to have hobbies to keep ourselves busy. Of course, I brought up reading and blogging. My friends said it’s good that I’m able to do something that I love and I absolutely agree. I would be pretty lonely if I didn’t have reading and blogging to keep me busy.

In a blog post three years ago, I discussed how much reading is a part of my life so I won’t expand on that. I have also talked about how I love the book blogging community, how I think people are so warm and friendly and I feel like I’ve made some good friends over the years. I don’t mind talking about it again though. It may not seem obvious at this point in time because I’m not blogging as often as I want to and I don’t get as many comments as before but I still feel like reading and blogging are a big part of my life. It’s more than a hobby, in terms of how much thought, time and effort I put into it. It’s more like a lifestyle because I’m in constant conversation (through comments, Twitter, emails or even messaging apps) with blog friends about books. It’s not even as lucrative as other forms of blogging, like fashion or food where other bloggers can get sponsors through ads, but we keep doing it out of love for the written word.

Sometimes, my enthusiasm (or frustration) spills over to real life and I influence my friends to read the books that I love (or stay away from the ones I didn’t think were any good). I also have several friends who ask me for recommendations for themselves or for other people when they need ideas for giving books as gifts. My mom doesn’t really read my blog but it’s funny how she tells her friends that I’m a book blogger. There was also one time when I was telling her that I spend so much money buying books and she said that’s not really a bad thing, it’s better to spend money on books rather than harmful addictions.

I have to be honest and say that I really had a hard time adjusting to living in Singapore when I first moved two years ago. Actually, there are times when I feel like I’m working in Singapore but still living in Manila just because the latter is still home. But I’m very thankful with how reading and blogging has helped me. Reading affects my mood and I’m a lot happier when I just finished an amazing book. Same thing goes when something positive happens that is blog-related, like when I get a response from an author or when I win a giveaway. When I’ve had a bad day or when I’m worrying about something, I’ve said it before and I will keep saying it, I want to keep my blog a happy place. This is why I try to stay away from blog drama whenever possible. I’m an outgoing person but I also enjoy having alone time and I like how reading and blogging lets me do both. I can read by myself and then engage other readers in discussions whenever I feel like it. I can do that whenever and wherever I want to. Both are hobbies that have flexibility in that sense.

I just wanted to share these thoughts and also to thank everyone who has been part of my reading and blogging life so far. Maraming salamat!


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Interview at Pinay.com

Pinay.com is a website that focuses on Filipino women. They have a feature that highlights female Filipino bloggers all over the world. Here’s a brief description:

Blog Count is a series of conversations with Pinays all over the world. We like to share with your our conversations because we think these Pinays sparkle and shine.

I have an interview over there if anyone cares to drop by and find out more about my reading and blogging life.

Pinay feature


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Magic Breaks by Ilona Andrews

The Kate Daniels series by Ilona and Gordon is my favorite adult urban fantasy (UF) series. That may not be saying much since I currently only follow two adult UF series: Kate Daniels and World of the Lupi by Eileen Wilks. I have, however, tried other series but didn’t feel compelled to continue beyond the first few books. I read more epic fantasy than UF prior to falling in love with the Kate Daniels novels but I’ve been more willing to try UF after that. I can still remember when I was first introduced to the series, there were only four books out at that time. I’ve been eagerly anticipating each new novel every year since then. If you feel like we have similar tastes in books, I think you should give this series a try. Also, see my blog banner with the huge lion and the warrior girl? That was totally inspired by Kate and Curran.

Here’s the reading order:
Magic BitesMagic BurnsMagic StrikesMagic BleedsMagic SlaysGunmetal MagicMagic Rises

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

Magic Breaks by Ilona AndrewsAs the mate of the Beast Lord, Curran, former mercenary Kate Daniels has more responsibilities than it seems possible to juggle. Not only is she still struggling to keep her investigative business afloat, she must now deal with the affairs of the pack, including preparing her people for attack from Roland, a cruel ancient being with god-like powers. Since Kate’s connection to Roland has come out into the open, no one is safe — especially those closest to Kate.

As Roland’s long shadow looms ever nearer, Kate is called to attend the Conclave, a gathering of the leaders from the various supernatural factions in Atlanta. When one of the Masters of the Dead is found murdered there, apparently at the hands of a shapeshifter, Kate is given only twenty-four hours to hunt down the killer. And this time, if she fails, she’ll find herself embroiled in a war which could destroy everything she holds dear…

It’s always such a comfort to dive into a new installment of a favorite series, books that are set in a familiar world and have characters who feel like old friends. Magic Breaks was one of my most anticipated releases for this year and I was super excited to read it. The authors also announced that this book will conclude the main arc and conflict that has been building up in all the previous books. So I was also a bit nervous going in because I had no idea what would happen. I shouldn’t have worried. Ilona and Gordon are great storytellers and I had so much fun reading Magic Breaks. The humor that I’ve come to love in the series is present in this one. Certain scenes with back and forth banter cracked me up.

I also like seeing how much Kate has changed and matured since the series started. She’s a much better leader now and is more level-headed. I like her development as a character, the way she started as a lone wolf (figuratively speaking since she’s not a shapeshifter) to someone who is now in charge of a huge shapeshifter Pack and has a handful of people she trusts. She’s willing to go through so much to keep these people safe and they are willing to do the same for her. I also liked seeing the growth and transformation of secondary characters – this far into a series, we’re all bound to have our own favorites. Some of the ones I really like are Andrea, Raphael, Jim, Derek, Ascanio and Dolittle. Even the villains have such interesting personalities that it’s hard not to like them even if I know they’re evil, they come in shades of gray and we see the motivations behind the things that they do. I missed seeing certain characters but then it’s expected that not all of them will get page time in each novel. I have always been a big fan of the slow burn romance in the series and I love seeing Kate and Curran’s relationship develop over time. Even after they got together, it wasn’t always smooth sailing for them. As both of them continue to grow, so does their relationship. I’m happy to announce that their romance is on much better footing in Magic Breaks compared to Magic Rises.

It’s difficult to discuss how much I enjoyed Magic Breaks without going into details and spoilers. Let me be vague and just say that I was satisfied with how the main arc was resolved because I found it believable. I was thinking that if it went in a different direction, I might not have felt that it was realistic for the characters. Magic Breaks just really worked for me and I loved it. The Kate Daniels series remains my favorite urban fantasy series and I can’t wait to find out what the last few books will have for its fans. I felt a bit lost after finishing Magic Breaks and kept discussing it with friends who have read the book. I had a book hangover and some of my favorite scenes from the series kept running through my mind. It took a few days for me to start another novel (which is rare for me unless I’m in a slump) since I wasn’t in the mood to leave the series behind. It’s a good thing the authors have another book scheduled for release this year, Burn For Me, so I still have something to look forward to.

Other reviews:
Fantasy Cafe
The Nocturnal Library
Smexy Books


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July 2014 Recap

Fully Booked July 2014

I went home to Manila for a long weekend at the end of the July. This was a shot taken in Fully Booked’s Fort branch.

Hello everyone! I recently read one of my most anticipated titles this year – Magic Breaks by Ilona Andrews, the newest installment in the Kate Daniels series – and I’ve been meaning to write a review but haven’t found the time to sit down and work on it. I know I’ll get to it eventually because I loved the book and I want to promote the series but in the meantime, here’s a recap of books I read last month:

The Cracks in the Kingdom by Jaclyn Moriarty – I liked this sequel about as much as I liked the first book. Found the first half a bit slow but the pace picked up towards the end. I’m still not in love with the series but curious about the final book.

Open Road Summer by Emery Lord – One of my favorite books this year. Review can be found here.

Wildlife by Fiona Wood – Another favorite for this year. Review can be found here.

Laura’s Wolf by Lia Silver – Some thoughts I posted on Goodreads: Recommended by Sherwood Smith and Estara. I wasn’t blown away by Laura’s Wolf but it’s an interesting read. I liked both Laura, the ex-con artist, and Roy, the veteran Marine. I thought they were a good match. There’s a lot of action in the book but a huge chunk of it also focuses on PTSD and how it affected Laura and Roy and their relationship. I would have liked for the book to have included more worldbuilding when it comes to the werewolf lore, like more history about werewolves in this world and how they came to be. Maybe the next book will have more about that? I’m curious about it because of I want to know more about Roy’s Filipino American best friend DJ and his family.

Prisoner by Lia Silver – Some thoughts I posted on Goodreads: I liked that DJ is Filipino-American – I found it hilarious that his nickname is Lechon and he listens to Pinoy hiphop. I did find it a bit weird that he calls his mom “Nanay” but he doesn’t call his grandma “Lola”. It was interesting how different DJ’s personality is from his best friend Roy. He’s much more outgoing and playful than Roy. It was also interesting to see a different perspective to the same war experiences that Roy had in the first book. DJ is the perfect match for Echo, who has tried to distance herself from emotions after losing her sisters. It was fun to watch them get to know each other and form a friendship. For some reason, I thought this was going to be a standalone and was surprised to find out that it’s the first book in DJ and Echo’s trilogy.

Sweet Filthy Boy by Christina Lauren – The premise of this looked so interesting. A guy and a girl meet in Vegas and they hook up. The girl follows the guy to Paris for some soul searching. I felt like this book had so much potential but unfortunately, I didn’t think it was executed well.

The Real Score by Kesh Tanglao – Some thoughts I posted on Goodreads: Very easy to read and fall into (finished it in a span of one day) but a little too much angst for a best friend turned lovers story. I find it hard to believe that they’ve been best friends for several years without having a DTR (Define the Relationship) type of conversation. I’ve had that kind of talk with a few of my close guy friends over the years, like “Dude, you know I love you but not in THAT way.” or “My friends think we should date, we both know that will never happen.” or “I will smack some sense into you if you ever think you’ve fallen in love with me.” Also, I felt that I was being told about their friendship instead of being shown. Like the drunk calls and long-distance calls/text messages were just mentioned in passing instead of being actual scenes in the book. I would have been more convinced of their friendship if I saw more concrete examples of how it formed. I don’t know if the length is a factor for the Romance Class that produced this book, maybe it had to keep to a novella-length?

The Beacon at Alexandria by Gillian Bradshaw – This book came highly recommended by Rachel Neumeier (thanks again for sending me a copy, Rachel!) and it’s my first Gillian Bradshaw. It was a bit intense and serious in terms of political situations I’m not familiar with but I enjoyed reading it overall because I liked how Charis loved the art of healing and how determined she was to be a doctor. It’s also more believable for her to pass herself off as a eunuch rather than a man.

As a reading month, I think July started off really strong since I found two books to love – Open Road Summer and Wildlife. I’m keeping my fingers crossed I’ll discover some good ones this August. I also had a lot of fun organizing and hosting Amour et Florand, which was a celebration of Laura Florand’s lovely writing. For those of you who have read Laura’s books, I hope you enjoy the posts. And for those of you who haven’t had a chance to try her novels, I hope the event has convinced you to check them out!

Antoinette macarons

Of course I had to have macarons while Amour et Florand was running on the blog. These were from Antoinette, I really liked their early grey macaron.

That’s it for me this July. How about the rest of you, what are the books that you read last month? Any good ones that stood out?

Recap of previous months:
January
February
March
May
June


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Amour et Florand: A Strong Sense of Place

Amour et Florand

Thank you to everyone who participated in Amour et Florand, through guest posts, posts in your own blogs or comments. Merci beaucoup! The past few days have been pretty hectic for me so I still need to catch up on replying to comments. I know the blog event is finished but I had this post in mind and I couldn’t let it go, I hope the rest of you don’t mind that I’m posting it a few days late.

There are many reasons to love Laura Florand’s novels. Some of them have been discussed in detail in the other Amour et Florand guest posts. You can’t really go wrong with the combination of France, chocolate and hot guys, right? For this post, I want to focus on the strong sense of place in her writing. In her guest post for last year’s EWein Special Ops, Elizabeth Wein talked about how she loves books that have a strong sense of place. Here’s a snippet of what she said:

The world almost becomes a character in the novel itself. Setting shouldn’t just be there as a backdrop; a good sense of place will make a setting, fictionally speaking, into a living, breathing organism like our own planet, and the author’s love for and familiarity with the world of his or her creation guides us through the unfamiliar landscape like a virtual map.

EWein was actually talking about fantasy worlds when she wrote that bit but I think it’s applicable to the settings in Laura’s books: Paris for her Amour et Chocolat novels and Grasse for her La Vie en Roses series. Laura vividly describes these places to the point where you feel like you had a mini-vacation in France after reading her books. The sights, the scents and the sounds – all of these just pop out of the page to make the reader feel like you’re right there with the characters. I love how she describes the cobblestone streets, the old buildings and the bridges of Paris as well as the fountains and plazas or public squares in Provence. I know that she travels to France on a regular basis but even just by reading her books, I could tell that she’s done her research. In fact, she knows her stuff so well that you can use her books as guides when you travel to France. I knew France was famous for its pastries and desserts but I don’t think I would have known that chocolate was such a big deal there if I hadn’t read the Amour et Florand books. I was also not aware that Grasse is the perfume capital of the world until it was described as such in Laura’s writing. For someone who loves both chocolate and perfumes, I feel like I know a little more about these because of Laura’s novels.

One of my favorite quotes from The Chocolate Touch is this:

“Paris was a good place to fight your demons. The streets were so tempting to explore, the gritty realism of their dirt and crowds tempered by that element of fairytale inherent to the city.”

Because I like how Laura describes Paris and Grasse as places that are beautiful and charming, sometimes even magical, but she balances that with realism. We see it in the way her heroines feel intimidated by the city, and in how they become homesick or lonely but are too scared to go out and explore unknown places by themselves. Cade feels like this and is also annoyed with how sleazy men keep trying to hit on her because she’s a woman walking around by herself. Magalie feels smaller and less like herself the farther she ventures out of her island, even though she armors herself with fashionable clothes. Allegra falls in love with Grasse when she first encounters it but then becomes miserable as winter sets in and she doesn’t have the warmth of her family to wrap herself in. Summer hates Paris, especially the Eiffel Tower, and wouldn’t even visit the city if she wasn’t being forced by her parents. I feel like these descriptions and situations make the setting feel even more authentic because even the most beautiful place will still have its imperfections.

I’m very grateful that I got to go to France last April (first ever trip to Europe!) and I hope everyone who has ever dreamed of going there will get the chance to visit. I have shared pictures from my recent trip in my Snapshot From a Book posts here and here but to wrap up Amour et Florand, I want to share more shots that made me think of Laura’s books.

In my first few hours in Paris, I was able to visit a chocolatier:
Chachic in front of Paris chocolatier chocolatier in Paris

Laduree has branches in Singapore but not in Manila so we still dropped by their Paris store:
Laduree in Paris

I saw the Meilleur Ouvrier de France sign and told my friends we should go in because according to the Amour et Chocolat books, this shop will have excellent products. I thought their macarons were better than Laduree’s:
Georges Larnicol Georges Larnicol macarons

Not quite like Magalie’s but this a chocolat chaud that I ordered from one of the restaurants in Paris (no, I didn’t feel any different after drinking it):
chocolat chaud

The Eiffel Tower, of course:
Paris - Eiffel1 Paris - Eiffel2

Cobblestone streets of Montmartre:
Lomo - Montmartre

Gare de Lyon, the train station where Magalie meets her mother, who is traveling from Ithaca, New York back to Provence:
Gare de Lyon lomo

We visited Aix-en-Provence in the South of France and we really wanted to visit Grasse from there but unfortunately, we weren’t able to do so. The way Laura describes Grasse in her La Vie en Roses books reminded me a bit of Aix so I thought I would share some of my Aix pictures.

Fountains in Aix:
Lomo Aix Rotonde
Aix-en-Provence - four dolphins fountain Aix-en-Provence - fountain at night

Santons, terracotta nativity scene figurines, which were mentioned in A Rose in Winter:
Aix-en-Provence - santons

Lavender and roses:
Aix-en-Provence - lavender Aix-en-Provence - roses

Artisan perfumes made in Grasse:
Aix - perfumes from Grasse

Hope you all have fun browsing through these pictures!

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Links to Amour et Florand posts:
How did you discover Laura’s books?
Guest post from Michelle of See Michelle Read: Super Scholarly Thesis on The Addictive Properties of The Amour et Chocolat Series
Guest post from Holly of Book Harbinger: The Chocolat Awards
Guest post from Rachel Neumeier: Making Great Characterization Look Easy
Guest post from Angie of Angieville
Guest post from Laura Florand
Guest post from Brandy of Random Musings of a Bibliophile: My Gateway to Contemporary Romance
Guest post from Maureen of By Singing Light
Guest post from Mandi of Smexy Books
Guest post from Nalini Singh: My first Laura Florand book (or how Laura Florand ate my weekend)

Amour et Florand posts in other blogs:
Genre Hopping: Five Things I love About Laura Florand’s Books
Pakwanstripes: Laura and the Five Senses
Pakwanstripes: Learning from Turning Up The Heat
Girl meets Books: 10 Things I Love About Laura Florand’s Books


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Amour et Florand: My first Laura Florand book (or how Laura Florand ate my weekend)

Nalini Singh is a bestselling author of numerous paranormal romance novels. Can I just say how awesome it was that Nalini agreed to do a guest post for Amour et Florand? I was ecstatic when I received her reply.

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Nalini to Amour et Florand!

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My first Laura Florand book (or how Laura Florand ate my weekend) by Nalini Singh

NaliniSinghI’m not sure who first mentioned Laura’s books to me—I just know that I received multiple recommendations all at once. Twitter peeps started saying I needed to read Laura’s books, then I went to brunch with my writing buds and one of them basically ordered me to read the books.

I usually don’t read too much while I’m deep into writing a story. Instead, I keep a running list of what I want to read, and then once I hand in my manuscript, I have a “reading vacation” for two or three days, in which I happily inhale books.

Generally, my auto-buy authors top the list, as I catch up on their newest releases. New-to-me authors tend to be lower down on the list. But that day, I decided to pick up a Laura Florand book – mostly so I could tell my friend I’d read it!

Three hours and many contorted body positions on my couch later, I turned the final page and immediately fired up my e-reader to buy the next. And so it continued. Two and a half days later, I’d read everything Laura had written to that point (and it was a fair few books, since I only discovered her last year), and was haunting her website trying to find the release date of my next fix. (I also bought all the books in print, because one copy wasn’t enough ;-)).

What do I love about Laura’s books? Everything.

I love that these are unashamed love stories, raw with emotion and hot with passion. I love that the characters are imperfect and yet perfect for one another. I love that we get to see Paris and other parts of France through their eyes.

And of course, I love the chocolate… and the macarons… and the roses.

I visited Paris for the first time earlier this year, and though it was an unfamiliar city, it felt familiar to me because of Laura’s books. Late on our first night in Paris, I suddenly dragged my sister out to the balcony and into the freezing wind. She thought I’d lost it… but that room had a view of the Eiffel Tower, and a minute after I dragged her out, it ticked over to eleven at night and the Eiffel Tower began to sparkle in a shower of light.

I knew it would because of Laura’s books, and now that moment on that windy balcony is one of my favorite memories of Paris.

Not long after that first visit to Paris, I was lucky enough to have lunch with Laura. Her warmth and sweetness just put the final seal on my love for her work. (And she brought chocolate!!)

I can’t wait to read the next Laura Florand story and the next and the next. So write like the wind, Laura!

_________________________

Merci, Nalini! I visited Paris for the first time this year too and I kept talking about Laura’s books while I was there.

Amour et Florand

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