ARC Review: Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

Cruel BeautyTitle: Cruel Beauty

Author: Rosamund Hodge

Publication date: January 28, 2014

Publisher: Balzer + Bray

Pages: 352

Source: ARC provided by publisher (Thank you, HarperCollins!)

Purchase the book:  Amazon / Barnes & Noble Book Depository / Fully Booked

Synopsis:

Graceling meets Beauty and the Beast in this sweeping fantasy about one girl’s journey to fulfill her destiny and the monster who gets in her way-by stealing her heart.

Based on the classic fairy tale Beauty and the Beast, Cruel Beauty is a dazzling love story about our deepest desires and their power to change our destiny.

Since birth, Nyx has been betrothed to the evil ruler of her kingdom-all because of a foolish bargain struck by her father. And since birth, she has been in training to kill him.

With no choice but to fulfill her duty, Nyx resents her family for never trying to save her and hates herself for wanting to escape her fate. Still, on her seventeenth birthday, Nyx abandons everything she’s ever known to marry the all-powerful, immortal Ignifex. Her plan? Seduce him, destroy his enchanted castle, and break the nine-hundred-year-old curse he put on her people.

But Ignifex is not at all what Nyx expected. The strangely charming lord beguiles her, and his castle-a shifting maze of magical rooms-enthralls her.

As Nyx searches for a way to free her homeland by uncovering Ignifex’s secrets, she finds herself unwillingly drawn to him. Even if she could bring herself to love her sworn enemy, how can she refuse her duty to kill him? With time running out, Nyx must decide what is more important: the future of her kingdom, or the man she was never supposed to love.

*Photo and synopsis from Goodreads

My review: 

Cruel Beauty is a bewitching retelling of the classic fairy tale, Beauty and the Beast. With a touch of Greek mythology, the story’s original concept provides a fresh insight in giving unique twists to timeless tales and making them brand new.

Rosamund Hodge’s writing thrums with gracefulness and vitality. Her words are lyrical and alive, enchanting readers until the last word. The beginning of the story may be a bit slow. However, it is worth reading because it deals with the backstory of Arcadia, the riveting fictional setting of Cruel Beauty. I’m amazed by the rich and imaginative world-building of this book. Gripping and believable, the history of Arcadia really supported the intricate details of the magical lore it’s enclosed in. It supplies answers to questions that arise as you read along.

Surrounded with a supernatural, mysterious atmosphere, the plot is a wonderful piece of art. Each scene is thoroughly presented and well put together. What I also like about Cruel Beauty is the unpredictability of events. I had no idea what was going to happen next and it really made reading the book a thrilling experience.

The characters are remarkable. Gorgeously flawed, they exhibit realistic traits that help readers understand their nature and way of thinking. Nyx is a complex character, overwhelmed with fury and resentment. But in spite of that, she’s a fearless and compassionate person whom I grew to admire as the story progressed. Nyx’s determination to fulfill her mission of saving Arcadia is the factor that renders her courageous. She could be annoying at times with her thoughts of jealousy and indignation but really, she’s a character worthy of appreciation.

Up next is Shade, who plays a huge role in the unraveling of secrets in the story. He’s an intriguing character and readers are sure to be surprised to discover the truth about him. Last but not the least is Ignifex, the handsome and attractive “Gentle Lord”, whom all of Arcadia is afraid of. His charm has a dark, magnetic, sinister feel that sends electricity traveling through your veins. Yet beneath Ignifex’s mask of glamour lies a tortured soul. Shrouded in darkness, he struggles to break free from a curse that keeps him trapped in a world of evil and suffering. Falling in love with Nyx may be the most amazing thing that happened to him, with high hopes of seeing the light again.

Cruel Beauty is a love story that hypnotizes in cruel yet beautiful ways. This book is too good to be missed!

Rating:

4.5/5 stars

Gayle Forman in Manila!

A dream come true. That’s how I would describe January 18, 2014. I became a fan of Gayle Forman in 2010 when I read If I Stay. Having said this, it was such a delight when I saw National Book Store’s announcement that Gayle Forman is coming to the Philippines! What a great way to start the year!

The bloggers forum was the first event I went to that day. I was so happy to see my fellow book bloggers! I haven’t seen them in a while so it really felt great to catch up with them and talk about BOOKS. Of course. 🙂

Gayle Forman arrived carrying a breeze of euphoria. Her presence brightened up the whole room. She’s so approachable, funny, and very friendly! I learned a lot about her and her writing journey as she honestly answered our questions.

Next event was the book signing at National Book Store Glorietta 1. The place was packed with eager readers who patiently waited for Gayle’s arrival. The long hours of waiting in line to have their books signed did not dampen their thrill of meeting Gayle personally. High-pitched shrieks and cheers intensified the energy inside NBS as Gayle entered. Flashing lights (from cameras) and joyful smiles created a picture of a whole-hearted Filipino welcome to the woman of the hour.

Meeting Gayle in the flesh is really something that I’ll always treasure! It’s not everyday that I get to meet my favorite authors. This event is truly an opportunity I’m glad I didn’t miss. Thank you so much National Book Store, especially to Chad and JB, for the invite! Till next event. 🙂

PICTURES!!!

Gayle Forman collage

New York Times bestselling author Gayle Forman at the bloggers forum

Gayle 3Gayle signing my copy of If I Stay!

With Gayle FormanI’ll always look up to you, Gayle Forman!

photo 2.1 JPG

PH Book Bloggers with THE Gayle Forman!

Selfies with bloggers 1

Selfies with some of my blogger friends!

With Louisse of The Soul Sisters, Kate of The Bookaholic Blurbs, Lyra of Defiantly Deviant, Eunice of Compelled by Books, Kazhy of My Library in the Making, Hazel of Stay Bookish, Dianne of Oops! I Read A Book Again, and Sab of Sab The Book Eater 

*Picture with Kate by Hazel Ureta (Photographer extraordinaire!)

*Picture with Eunice and Kazhy from Eunice

*Picture with Sab from Sab

Signing at NBS Glorietta 1

Signing at National Bookstore Glorietta 1

Signed books collage

Yay signed books!

ARC Review: Unhinged by A.G. Howard

UnhingedTitle: Unhinged (Splintered, #2) by A.G. Howard

Author: A.G. Howard

Publication date: January 7, 2014

Publisher: Amulet Books

Pages: 400

Source: e-ARC / physical ARC provided by publisher (Thanks to Laura of Abrams Kids and Tina of A&C Kids UK!)

Purchase the book:  Amazon / Barnes & Noble Book Depository

Synopsis:

Alyssa Gardner has been down the rabbit hole and faced the bandersnatch. She saved the life of Jeb, the guy she loves, and escaped the machinations of the disturbingly seductive Morpheus and the vindictive Queen Red. Now all she has to do is graduate high school and make it through prom so she can attend the prestigious art school in London she’s always dreamed of.

That would be easier without her mother, freshly released from an asylum, acting overly protective and suspicious. And it would be much simpler if the mysterious Morpheus didn’t show up for school one day to tempt her with another dangerous quest in the dark, challenging Wonderland—where she (partly) belongs.

As prom and graduation creep closer, Alyssa juggles Morpheus’s unsettling presence in her real world with trying to tell Jeb the truth about a past he’s forgotten. Glimpses of Wonderland start to bleed through her art and into her world in very disturbing ways, and Morpheus warns that Queen Red won’t be far behind.

If Alyssa stays in the human realm, she could endanger Jeb, her parents, and everyone she loves. But if she steps through the rabbit hole again, she’ll face a deadly battle that could cost more than just her head.

*Photo and synopsis from Goodreads

My review:

Unhinged is pure magic. Darkness and mystique jump right off every page! The story is constructed beautifully. Events are all lined up in an orderly sequence so the fictional world was easy to navigate and understand. A.G. Howard’s writing took my breath away just like it did in Splintered. It oozed with brilliance, creativity, and life, infusing a magical feeling that lit up every part of me. Through the beautiful and vivid descriptions, I felt that I was in the story too, following Alyssa, Jeb, Morpheus, and the rest of the stellar cast in their thrilling escapades.

In this much-awaited sequel to Splintered, baffling dilemmas tremendously challenge Alyssa’s strength in making the right decisions for herself and for the people she loves. The choices she would make could change her life in ways she never thought of. Then things get further complicated when Wonderland weaves into the mortal world. The plot resembles a puzzle. Every mystery spins readers around until they find the right pieces that connect everything together. It’s an exciting kind of crazy! Oh and I won’t forget the unforeseen twists up ahead! WHOA. Madness tightened its grip on me in Chapter 19! That part! I can’t even. Hints: Alyssa. Future. Chances.

The conflicts in Unhinged magnify Alyssa’s powers and stretch her skills to their greatest potential. Readers will undoubtedly be stunned by what else she can do. Alyssa has more fire in her and I really like this improved version of herself. Alyssa’s boyfriend, Jeb, is as dashing and genuine as he was in Splintered. He loves Alyssa with all his heart and he doesn’t need magic to prove that. His deep love and selfless sacrifices are more than enough for Alyssa to love him just as much. And this time, Alyssa and Jeb’s relationship is more passionate and romantic. The intense and sweet moments between them burn brighter than before. THE FEELS! *flails* I’d read Alyssa and Jeb’s conversations over and over again and never get tired of them!

Then there’s Morpheus, the attractive and sexy moth from Wonderland who is still manipulative. And similar to Splintered, his motives are the fuel that keeps the book intriguing and unputdownable. So thank you, Morpheus, for spicing up things! I remember saying in my Splintered review that I have a feeling Morpheus is so much more than what I perceived him to be. Well, he is. His perseverance to win Alyssa is what made me appreciate him. I’m convinced that he’s clearly in love with the girl and I bet he’d even make several life-magic vows just to get her.

Alyssa’s mother, Alison, plays a huge part in Unhinged. She annoyed me at the beginning of the story but after all the revelations about her and Alyssa’s dad’s past, I have a newfound respect for Alison. I admire her for the sacrifices she did to protect her family. With a heart filled with so much courage, devotion, and love, she is one amazing woman who exemplifies what a mother truly is.

The ending is an absolute cliffhanger and I could only wish for 2015 to come faster! I can’t wait to go to *insert name of parallel dimension of Wonderland* and find out what happens next! Where are you, Ensnared? I need you NOW!

This dark, twisted, breathtaking sequel is tangible proof that magic exists even in reality. Thank you Anita for writing another unforgettable masterpiece. “You are Wonderland.”  🙂

Rating:

5/5 stars

Favorite quotes:

“You’re our happy ending.”

“Is that not the true meaning of sacrifice? Giving more than you ever thought you had, to save the one you love?”

“This is what I want. It’s what I’ve always wanted. A future with you. A life with you, my fairy bride. Forever.”

“I never saw it coming. It was me all along. Me who would betray myself in the worst possible way.”

“You and me? We’re far from over.”

“I am mad, and I embrace it. Madness is part of my heritage.”

Unhinged banner

Book Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

FangirlTitle: Fangirl

Author: Rainbow Rowell

Publication date: September 10, 2013

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Source: Copy provided by the publisher (Thank you, St. Martin’s Press!) / Bought at Fully Booked

Purchase the book:  Amazon / Barnes & Noble Book Depository / Fully Booked / National Bookstore 

Synopsis: 

In Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl, Cath is a Simon Snow fan. Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan, but for Cath, being a fan is her life—and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving.

Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.

Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.
Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words . . . And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.

For Cath, the question is: Can she do this? Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?

*Photo and synopsis from Goodreads

My review:

Fangirl is an extraordinary, funny, and heartwarming story of love, fan fiction, family, and self-discovery. The story’s fresh and exceptional concept sets it apart from other contemporary YA novels I read in 2013. Euphoria vibrated all over my body every time I turned a page. I savored every word of this book, never wanting the story to finish. Rainbow Rowell’s writing is so authentic, honest, smart, and filled with warmth. Her words are alive. Emotions surged from every chapter and carried me away to the land of amazing feels.

The plot is well developed and very engaging. This book thoroughly illustrated what it’s like to be engrossed in a fictional world, and yes, being a fan. My fellow bookworms, you MUST read this book to understand what I’m saying. You have to feel to believe. Reading Fangirl unlocked memories of my grade school days when I wrote fan fiction with my best friend. We both enjoyed writing stories set in the world of the book series we loved. We didn’t want to leave the fictional world and what’s the best way to stay than to write our own stories!

Fangirl may be centered on main character Cath’s love for fan fiction but that’s only the surface. Beneath all the fuzzy feels lie realistic issues that Cath goes through—college life, family problems, social anxiety, and matters of the heart. It’s fascinating how a story can be so much more that what it seems to be. I suppose that’s the magic of reading a Rainbow Rowell book. Readers are surprised in beautiful, unexpected ways.

Cath’s character is so real. Readers are sure to connect with her from the beginning. Although Cath started out as withdrawn and a bit awkward, she evolved into a better version of herself in the course of the story. Moreover, I greatly admire how Cath is such a family-oriented girl. For me, that’s her character’s strongest trait. Her love for her Dad and twin sister, Wren, is precious.

Then there’s Levi, Cath’s love interest. He is an adorable guy who exudes a positive attitude and is very friendly. He is always there for Cath and will do anything for her. Cath and Levi’s romance is charming and genuine. Seeing their friendship blossom into something more is a priceless kind of bliss. My heart melted with Levi’s romantic gestures as well as he and Cath’s swoon-worthy conversations. I have no words. Really, guys. Everything’s just…perfect.

Each of us has a spark inside our being. To make that spark shine brighter, we have to open ourselves to the possibilities around us. Try new things! Be brave to step out of our comfort zone. That’s what this story is about. Once again, Rainbow Rowell crafted a delightful story that certainly altered my perception of a perfect contemporary YA.

Rating:

5/5 stars

Book Review: Blindsided by Natalie Whipple

BlindsidedTitle: Blindsided (Transparent, #2) 

Author: Natalie Whipple 

Publication date: January 2, 2014 

Publisher: Hot Key Books

Pages: 330 

Source: Finished copy provided by publisher (Thank you, Hot Key Books!)

Purchase the book: Amazon / Book Depository / Hot Key Books

Synopsis: 

Three months after Fiona escapes from her father’s syndicate, all seems well in her tiny town of Madison, Arizona. She and Seth are happy together – apart from the teensy fact of Fiona being jealous that Seth can see through her invisibility – and her family and friends are safe. But when the local syndicate and even the Army show up, it’s clear there’s more going on in town than she could ever imagine. It seems like these huge powers are interested in the old Radiasure factory – could they be reproducing the infamous drug that caused mutations? – and everyone suspects Fiona of knowing more than she should. As Fiona and her friends try to cover their tracks, they discover that they do have some dangerous knowledge. Though at first determined to stop anyone from remaking Radiasure, Fiona learns a secret that could change everything, including her invisibility. Torn between her own desires and the greater good, Fiona might be too blindsided to see the real villain coming.

*Photo and synopsis from Goodreads

My review:

After reading the last sentence in Transparent, I strongly felt that there’s a lot more to be explored in its unique world. I was so ecstatic when I learned that there’s going to be a sequel! Blindsided immediately became part of my 2014 TBR list. But waiting to read the sequels of books we love feels like a million years, doesn’t it? So I would like to thank the amazing Hot Key Books for sending me an early copy. 🙂

Blindsided. Wow. Natalie Whipple crafted a thrilling roller coaster ride of a story that amazed me in so many ways. All the intense situations, action-packed scenes, and unexpected twists pushed me to the edge of my seat. My heartbeat skipped along with every gasp that escaped my lips. The mystery and suspense surrounding the story made me feel like I was watching a crime/action movie the whole time I was reading! Each chapter ended with a cliffhanger or a string of questions that prompted my fingers to turn the next page.

In Blindsided, readers are carried back to Madison, Arizona, where main character Fiona and her mother appear to live a normal life. I appreciated Fiona in this book because she truly grew as a character. She is braver and better this time.

The significance of family is one of the things I loved in Transparent. I’m so happy that it still plays a huge part in the sequel. It was good to see Fiona’s mom fulfill the duties of a doting mother—taking care of her children and prioritizing their safety. Fiona’s brothers, Miles and Graham, are totally noteworthy. Miles has been the affectionate and watchful brother since Transparent. He’ll always be one of my favorite fictional brothers! Graham, on the other hand, surprised me a lot. It’s as if his bad reputation burned to the ground and a new Graham emerged from the ashes. I think the Graham portrayed in Blindsided is the real Graham—a devoted and concerned son and brother.

Fiona and her boyfriend Seth are closer than before. There are more sweet scenes between them that will make readers flail and squeal in excitement. Seth is a very charming, kind-hearted, loving, and patient guy. Not to mention overprotective because he fears losing the girl he loves. Oh. My. Heart! What more can Fiona ask for? On top of that, Seth is the only one who fully understands Fiona inside and out. However, Fiona’s issues about her invisibility and physical appearance put their relationship to the test.

Fiona’s friends, also known as The Pack, is back in full force with their all out support, great fighting spirit, and yes, funny antics. I can say that Blindsided is one of the books that best depict genuine friendship. The unity, strength, and faith displayed by the characters made their bond stronger.

A cool, smart, and fearless character whose initials are L and S is also introduced in Blindsided. It was such a delight to meet her! What I loved about L.S. is that her character added rhythm and spark to the story. Readers will definitely find her awesome! 

Blindsided proves that we can find true happiness when we let go of the things that make us feel bad and live life the way it is. 2014 is off to a great start with this remarkable tale of love, friendship, trust, and embracing everything that makes us who we are.

Rating:

4.5/5 stars