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I’m Off to Experience Life as Karou

Minus the star-crossed love story and the magical world. In April last year, I said I was off to experience life as a Laura Florand heroine by going to Paris and Aix-en-Provence. It was my first time in Europe and I had an awesome time! You can check up my write-ups of the cities we visited in these posts: Paris, Barcelona (ala Isla and the Happily Ever After), Aix-en-Provence and Milan.

This year, I’m going along a more Daughter of Smoke and Bone path by visiting the fairytale city of Prague with fellow Filipino book blogger Kim. I reread Daughter of Smoke and Bone because of this upcoming trip and took the chance to refresh my memory before picking up Days of Blood and Starlight and Dreams of Gods and Monsters. After Prague, we will be visiting Munich. The only book I know that’s set near Munich is The Book Thief by Markus Zusak *cries buckets of tears*. As you can see, I really enjoy reading books set in places that I visit so feel free to recommend some titles if you have any ideas.

We will be flying off this weekend and we’ll be away for two weeks. I won’t be bringing my laptop so no blog posts until I get back. Similar to what I did last year, I’ll do a write-up of the places we visit once I’m back. In the meantime, I’ll be posting pictures on Instagram. :) I’m also bringing my lomo cam but I wouldn’t have those shots processed until a few weeks after I’m back. I will also be bringing my Kindle along with me and I’m hoping I’ll get more reading than done last year. Even though there was a lot of opportunity to read, with the flights and train travel, I only managed to finish one book. I don’t know if it was just because I couldn’t really get into what I was reading or I was distracted and couldn’t focus. Keeping my fingers crossed that I can maximize reading time for this trip.

That’s it for now, see you all when I get back!


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Days of Blood and Starlight and Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor

I read and loved Daughter of Smoke and Bone the year it came out. I can’t believe it’s been four years since then! I don’t know why I put off reading its sequels, I think I wanted to wait until the trilogy is finished so I can read all three books together. I was in the mood to read about Prague and also to immerse myself in a good fantasy world so I picked up Daughter of Smoke and Bone to reread and dove right into the second and third books. There are unavoidable spoilers for the first book in this combined review.

Days of Blood and Starlight
Days of Blood and StarlightVastly different from the first book in the series, Days of Blood and Starlight is all about the cycle of violence and vengeance involved in the never-ending war between the seraph and chimaera. Karou and Akiva are on opposite sides of the war and both are struggling to make the most out of their current situation, to find a way to atone for everything that they’ve done previously. The peace and tranquility of Karou’s human life in Prague gives a nice contrast to the war-torn world of Eretz. If Daughter of Smoke and Bone was about an epic love, its sequel is about soul-crushing heartbreak. Heartbreak not just for Karou and Akiva but also for all their people, for everyone who has only ever known war. I can’t say that I loved twists and turns that the story took but I have to admit that it’s a compelling read. Laini Taylor has a beautiful writing style. I wanted to keep reading but also didn’t want to continue because I didn’t want the characters to go through more pain. While it’s not easy to read, I did appreciate the empathy that this kind of story invokes in the reader. I really just want things to get better for everyone (well not the villains, of course). I started the third book right after finishing this one because I couldn’t wait to find out what’s going to happen.

Dreams of Gods and Monsters
Dreams of Gods and MonstersYou know how some series just keep getting better as it progresses? For me, this series was the opposite of that. I loved Daughter of Smoke and Bone and thought it was a beautiful story. I wasn’t as emotionally invested in the second book but I still found it an absorbing read. With Dreams of Gods and Monsters, I kept thinking more along the lines of, “What? What is going on here?” While Karou and Akiva’s storyline continues, other threads featuring new characters (Eliza and Scarab) are introduced. I wasn’t really invested in Eliza’s story and even skimmed some of the sections that were devoted to her. Scarab was more interesting but it might have been better if there was more than a hint about her people in the earlier books. At the end of the book, the varying threads of the story are pulled together but it didn’t feel seamless to me. I got the feeling that Laini Taylor was trying to tie loose ends and create an epic mythology encompassing Eretz and Earth but it felt a bit all over the place for me. From the start, the trilogy was focused on Karou, Akiva and the war between their people. The new elements in this last installment made the main focus of the trilogy feel smaller and less significant. I think there really was just one thing that I liked in Dreams of Gods and Monsters, which was the sweet secondary romance. Aside from that, I kept reading only because I wanted to see how the story would end. And even that wasn’t as satisfying as I would like. The end felt more like the beginning of the end – raising more questions than settling answers. It really makes me sad that I didn’t love the whole trilogy since it started really strong for me.


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Ten Authors I REALLY Want to Meet

Top Ten Tuesday2

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Living in Southeast Asia means there aren’t a lot of opportunities for me to meet authors in person. There aren’t that many authors who travel to this part of the world but I was given the chance, there are certain authors I would love to meet in person.

Favorite authors I’ve hosted blog events for:

Megan Whalen Turner (Queen’s Thief Week) – Hands down one of my favorite authors of all time, I would just want to bask in her brilliant presence. No need to even speak or anything like that.

Elizabeth Wein (EWein Special Ops) – I have been an EWein fan since I discovered her Lion Hunters series (years before Code Name Verity came out) and I’ve exchanged emails with her from time to time. She is such an awesome person, I think it would be wonderful to have a face to face conversation with her.

Laura Florand (Amour et Florand) – I don’t know how she does it but Laura is so friendly and responsive to her fans! She’s another favorite author of mine whom I’ve had the good fortune of connecting with online. It would be great to chat with her in person and ask questions about her books and the research that goes into her writing (e.g. traveling to Paris and Grasse and meeting artisan chocolatiers and perfumers).

Melina Marchetta (Marchetta Madness) – Of course I would love to meet the Queen of Aussie YA! Jellicoe Road opened my eyes to the wonderful world of contemporary YA novels, it was the book that convinced me to try more from this genre.

Friendly authors I’ve interacted with through social media and would love to see face to face:
Rachel Neumeier
Andrea K. Host

Authors I would love to attend signings or book events of (they have no idea I exist so I’d be happy with seeing them from afar or getting a book signed):
Robin McKinley
Kristin Cashore
Ilona Andrews
Liza Palmer

Authors I Would Love to Meet

In relation to this topic, I also wanted to enumerate ten bloggers I would be delighted to meet in person:
Holly of Book Harbinger
Angie of Angieville
Nomes of Inkcrush
Janice of Specfic Romantic
Brandy of Random Musings of a Bibliophile
Maureen of By Singing Light
Shae of Shae Has Left the Room
Sandy of Pirate Penguin Reads
Heidi of Bunbury in the Stacks
Flannery of The Readventurer

What about you, who are the authors or bloggers you’d love to meet in person?


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Mini Review: Girl in the Arena by Lise Haines

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

Girl in the ArenaLyn is a neo-gladiator’s daughter, through and through. Her mother has made a career out of marrying into the high-profile world of televised blood sport, and the rules of the Gladiator Sports Association are second nature to their family.

Always lend ineffable confidence to the gladiator. Remind him constantly of his victories. And most importantly: Never leave the stadium when your father is dying.

The rules help the family survive, but rules — and the GSA — can also turn against you. When a gifted young fighter kills Lyn’s seventh father, he also captures Lyn’s dowry bracelet, which means she must marry him…

I can’t even remember when I bought my paperback copy of Girl in the Arena. I do know that I picked it up because it came highly recommended by my good friend Angie. It’s been sitting in my TBR pile for YEARS and I’ve carried it from Manila to Singapore when I moved but haven’t had a chance to read it until recently. I’m trying to make more of an effort to read the physical copies in my TBR pile instead of always just reading ebooks. So, I don’t usually like dystopian novels but Girl in the Arena was a really good one. I read it in a span of one day because it kept me absorbed. I found the neo-Gladiator culture and history interesting – like how it all started and why it has such a strong following. I liked Lyn right from the start and I thought her interactions with all of the other characters – her mom, her brother, her best friend Mark and her enemy / potential husband – were great. I really wish Lyn and Uber had more interaction though. I loved the few scenes that they had together but didn’t feel like there was enough of them. There’s a lot that happened in this novel and I kind of felt like the story was spread a little too thin. Maybe if it was a little longer, we could have gotten more depth from the story and also more character development. Like I wanted more information on Lyn’s previous dads and what were her mom’s reasons for marrying them specifically. It wasn’t even mentioned which of the gladiator dads was her brother’s father. So I did enjoy the book overall but just wanted more from it. Surprisingly, Girl in the Arena lingered in my mind days after I finished reading it so the story must have made more of an impression that I initially thought. Recommended for fans of dystopian YA or those who like fiction featuring reality TV.

Other reviews:
Angieville
See Michelle Read


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Books are my constant

A good friend of mine has told me more than once that it’s so easy to buy gifts for me because I like so many things. It is obviously true and you can see evidence of this if you follow my Instagram account because I randomly post about things that I like. For example, I like sending and receiving postcards. I also like washi tape because there are so many pretty designs out there – I have quite a collection now because I can’t resist buying rolls. I’m a foodie so I enjoy visiting new-to-me restaurants that have been recommended by friends and I have a special fondness for chocolates and desserts. I also like good coffee and tea, which is why I enjoy café hopping in Singapore. While I’m not a fashionista, I also like buying clothes and shoes that I find cute especially when I find stuff that are book-related. I wouldn’t really describe myself as a photographer but I do enjoy taking Instagram and lomography pictures. And of course I love reading and I love books.

lomo reading Anawangin

Reading at Anawangin Cove in the Philippines

I tend to be a bit obsessive when I like something so it becomes kind of my focus for a while (e.g. I have moments when I want to go shopping for clothes or I want to buy ALL the washi tape I can afford) but that always tapers off, which I’m totally fine with. I will think to myself that I’ve spent enough on that one thing and maybe I shouldn’t buy more because I don’t really need them. I can live with what I already have. So while I am interested in a lot of things, my level of interest in them tends to be inconsistent. Except for books, which have always been my constant. Thanks to my parents’ influence, I have always enjoyed reading. I may not have been as into reading as I am now (having a book blog enables me to focus on it more) but it has always been a hobby. I mentioned before that being an active reader and a book blogger makes reading more than just a hobby, but more of a lifestyle and I think that’s still true. Aside from eating and sleeping, reading is my default activity. I read whatever mood I’m in – bored, sad, frustrated, happy. I read even when I should be doing something else like catching up on chores. Sometimes, I feel annoyed that I have to meet up with other people or run an errand when I’m in the middle of a good book that I want to finish. Aside from reading, I also talk about books as much as I can – with blogging buddies, with authors and even with real life friends. Books are such an important part of my life and I know that it will be like that for as long as I’m able to read. I know that I wouldn’t be able to keep up with maintaining a blog forever but even if I stop blogging, I will keep reading. It’s just a statement of fact that I wanted to make here since it’s appropriate: books are and will always be my constant. I wonder if any of you feel the same way?


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Ten Books I Will Probably Never Read

Top Ten Tuesday2

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. I don’t want to be really close-minded and say that I will never read these books… If I was stuck in an island and these were the only books available, I’d probably make do with what I have. So I’ll just say it is unlikely that I will read them given that I already have an ever-expanding TBR pile of books that I’m interested in. Life is too short to read books you don’t like.

Some titles that real life friends sometimes assume that I’ve read just because they know I’m a reader, but I’m not really interested in picking them up:

A Game of Thrones Fifty Shades of Grey Gone Girl The Casual Vacancy The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

There are also cases where I’m disappointed by the first book in a series so I have no plans to read the sequels, such as:

Red Seas Under Red Skies Monsters of Men Crown of Midnight Insurgent Dragonfly in Amber

What about you, what are some books that you will unlikely read?


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I’ll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios

I heard a lot of buzz about I’ll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios months before it came out. Bloggers who have read early review copies were raving about how good it is. I was pretty excited to read it and started on it when I was in the mood for a contemporary YA novel. It’s been a few months since I finished reading this and I feel bad that I haven’t posted a review of this wonderful book until now but I’m trying to do my best to catch up on blog stuff, especially on reviews for books that I loved. I made the mistake of starting this book on a Sunday, which led to me staying up all night to finish reading it and I was a zombie at work the next day.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

I'll Meet You ThereIf seventeen-year-old Skylar Evans were a typical Creek View girl, her future would involve a double-wide trailer, a baby on her hip, and the graveyard shift at Taco Bell. But after graduation, the only thing standing between straightedge Skylar and art school are three minimum-wage months of summer. Skylar can taste the freedom—that is, until her mother loses her job and everything starts coming apart. Torn between her dreams and the people she loves, Skylar realizes everything she’s ever worked for is on the line.

Nineteen-year-old Josh Mitchell had a different ticket out of Creek View: the Marines. But after his leg is blown off in Afghanistan, he returns home, a shell of the cocksure boy he used to be. What brings Skylar and Josh together is working at the Paradise—a quirky motel off California’s dusty Highway 99. Despite their differences, their shared isolation turns into an unexpected friendship and soon, something deeper.

Wow, this is the first book by Heather Demetrios that I’ve read but it definitely won’t be the last! I’ll Meet You There is beautifully written and captures a slice of California that most people won’t be familiar with. For someone like me who has countless friends and relatives who have migrated to the US because it gives people better opportunities than the Philippines, it’s interesting to read about Americans who struggle to attain what others take for granted. Yes, it’s true that most Filipinos who move to the States do get an improved quality of life than what they’d get back home (actually that’s true for me as well – I’m in Singapore for the same reasons) but the US is huge and there are places like Creek View where the inhabitants are in pretty bleak situations. The small town setting and the daily struggles of the characters in I’ll Meet You There all felt unapologetically real. The kind of life that Sky, Josh and their friends lead make your heart ache for them. I could see why Sky and her best friend Chris have always had this dream and vision of going beyond the confines of their small town, to go to places where they would have better lives. The book describes the setting as “the armpit of California” and I think it’s such a fitting description. It’s no wonder that Josh escapes from Creek View by joining the Marines but his military career is unexpectedly cut short by a life-changing injury and he has no choice but to go back to the town he desperately wanted to leave. While I know next to nothing about situations similar to what Josh went through, I felt that his experience is portrayed realistically.

“In my essay for San Fran, I’d written about how I’d always felt like there was something magical about taking bits and pieces of the world around me and creating something whole. It gave me hope: if you could make a beautiful piece of art from discarded newspapers and old matchbooks, then it meant that everything had potential. And maybe people were like collages – no matter how broken or useless we felt, we were an essential part of the whole. We mattered.”

What I loved about I’ll Meet You There is that even though there’s a lot of sadness and emotional weight in the story, it never becomes overwhelming. I loved the balance between despair and hope, something which only the very best of authors are able to create. There’s a strong and beautiful friendship between Sky, Chris and Dylan – they understand each other so well and do their best to support each other even if they don’t always agree with what the other person is thinking or feeling. They have their way of coping with their problems like reminding each other of the vision, getting crazy on the dance floor or focusing on art by doing collages. Sky also finds refuge in her job at the Paradise Hotel where she has a great boss who is like a second mother to her. I think it’s pretty obvious from the book’s description that there’s a romance in this one. It was a very swoon-worthy, slow burn romance which I gobbled right up. So good! There was a point that had me worried for the two lovebirds, because I had no idea how things will unfold – I didn’t want the story to go in a direction where I wouldn’t be able to forgive one of the characters. But I’m happy to say that I was more than satisfied with what happened. A realistic YA novel reminiscent of Something Like Normal by Trish Doller and Such a Rush by Jennifer Echols, I’ll Meet You There was worth all the hype that it generated.

Other reviews:
Random Musings of a Bibliophile
Pirate Penguin Reads
Alexa Loves Books
Perpetual Page Turner

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