Friday, 19 September 2014

The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski


Book Summary : Winning what you want may cost you everything you love.

As a general’s daughter in a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers, seventeen-year-old Kestrel has two choices: she can join the military or get married. But Kestrel has other intentions. One day, she is startled to find a kindred spirit in a young slave up for auction.

Arin’s eyes seem to defy everything and everyone. Following her instinct, Kestrel buys him—with unexpected consequences. It’s not long before she has to hide her growing love for Arin. But he, too, has a secret, and Kestrel quickly learns that the price she paid for a fellow human is much higher than she ever could have imagined.

Set in a richly imagined new world, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski is a story of deadly games where everything is at stake, and the gamble is whether you will keep your head or lose your heart.

My Rating : 5 of 5 stars

My Thoughts : It was probably the most beautifully written book I've read in this year. Lyrical. Poetic. A sweeping, original story set in a high fantasy world inspired by Greco-Roman world, and without any unnecessary interference of magic.

Kestrel, the only daughter of Valorian general, impulsively buys a slave up for auction, and pays an intrinsic value. But Arin has his own plans. Kestrel soon learns that the price she paid for a slave is much steeper than she ever could have imagined.

Arin was defying for a slave. He didn't even behave like one, and his proximity to Kestrel could be unbelievable and bothersome to many, but it was something impressing as well. He was devoted to his cause, but without hurting Kestrel, adding so much depth and understanding to his character. His strength wasn't only physical, but in his determination to persevere for his enslaved country and for his love as well. Arin’s character was meant to be bold, blatant by how he spoke, but at the same time, it wasn't hard for me to see what Kestrel saw in him.

And for Kestrel, her character development was fantastic. I was impressed to see how selfish, and flawed she were, yet how selflessly she made decisions when time came. She was strong, but the strength wasn't necessarily physical. It was her intelligence. And this is the type of heroine that is much more interesting to read than sword-wielding ones.

I immediately was rooting for Kestrel and Arin as a couple. Their relationship wasn't your typical romance, it was a slow-burning complex love that thrived on power play, both manipulation and trust. I didn't found then swooning over each other, but I certainly felt a strange passion igniting between them, a bond that gradually grew stronger with each encounter.

The world building was artfully captured in words--the Valorian culture, the banquets and balls, the society that lived on gossip, where fascinating costumes were complemented with jeweled daggers.

For fans who like romance as a sub-plot in a fantasy-lite, this is you your perfect read. It will squeeze you heart and poke your lungs with intimate pleasure of reading until you will feel the desperate need for air.





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Thursday, 11 September 2014

Winterkill by Kate A. Boorman


Book Summary : Where Emmeline lives, you cannot love and you cannot leave...

The Council's rules are strict, but they're for the good of the settlement in which Emmeline lives. Everyone knows there is nothing but danger the other side of the Wall, and the community must prepare for the freezing winterkill that comes every year.

But Emmeline struggles to be obedient under the Council's suffocating embrace - especially when she discovers that a Council leader intends to snatch her hand in marriage.

Then Emmeline begins to hear the call of the trees beyond the Wall...

My Rating : 3 of 5 stars

My Thoughts : "They are isolated....but not alone..."

Winterkill is basically a rip-off of the movie “The Village.”

Let me tell you the resemblances.

Both, the book and the movie, were set in a walled village/town in middle of nowhere, surrounded by deep forest where mysterious creature roams; the beings are called here “malmaci” and in The Village they were called "Those We Don't Speak Of."

Aside from the similarities with the movie, the Setting is vague. A very little history behind how the village came to existence is given. Two types of groups were told to survive from the old-world; the people who speak French and those who speak English, which led me to question, what happened to other democracies? How the Old World Kingdom (world as we know it now), met its end?

Sadly no explanation.

Speaking of the Characters, Emmeline, our protagonist is a Strained who bears the shame of her grandmother’s insubordination. She is also a cripple, pushed on an axe at a very young age by the villagers and broke her leg. Although, given her situation, I found her frail traits quite believable, but at times her reticence to speak up and wussy nature annoyed me. I liked her eagerness for knowledge and curiosity to discover the mystery outside village walls. Which ultimately led to her family history and secrets she never thought could exist.

Adding further to the list of similarities with The Village, a triangle between the MC, Kane—the boy she had a crush on and the village leader is introduced in the book.

However, the Romance between Em and Kane were sweet and well-developed. Kane was understanding and gorgeous and despite he lied to Em, given the reason behind it, he was easily forgivable. Gabriel, the mysterious young village most women swoon over, suddenly began showing interest in Em for no apparent reason. I have to admit I was misled by his sincerity and his impression of love. That loving someone doesn't mean the person you love will love you back. I liked the way Gabriel’s character was crafted, layer by layer, complex and psychotic.

For the Writing, had it been any other story I would've called the writing choppy (though not as choppy as Half Bad), but considering the MC is illiterate, and so are most of the people in the town, her voice felt absolutely suitable for her persona, somehow reminded me of Willo from After the Snow.

As final verdict, I’d say: Readers, give this book a chance. If not anything, I found it engaging. Though I already guessed the big reveal from a half book away, I kept reading and honestly one or two twist near the end I didn't see coming. Trust me, despite its flaws and holes, Winterkill is truly not a terrible book by any means.



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Saturday, 6 September 2014

Blog Tour : The Girl from the Well by Rin Chupeco


Book Summary : A dead girl walks the streets.

She hunts murderers. Child killers, much like the man who threw her body down a well three hundred years ago.

And when a strange boy bearing stranger tattoos moves into the neighborhood so, she discovers, does something else. And soon both will be drawn into the world of eerie doll rituals and dark Shinto exorcisms that will take them from American suburbia to the remote valleys and shrines of Aomori, Japan.

Because the boy has a terrifying secret - one that would just kill to get out.

The Girl from the Well is A YA Horror novel pitched as "Dexter" meets "The Grudge", based on a well-loved Japanese ghost story.

My Rating : 3.5 of 5 stars

My Thoughts : “I am where dead children go.”

For a book that stars with such line, it is sure as hell creepy, if not creepier like The Ring or Shutter, as the blurb promised us. Nonetheless, the book was dark and enjoyable. There were violence, gory and gritty enough for a YA standards.

The book starts with Okiku, a soul floating in dreamless trance, constantly watching over lives and other spirits like her. She sees a man carrying a weight of the girl he murdered, unaware of her decaying existence on his shoulders. But Okiku notices how her thin bony arms clasped about his neck and her legs balanced against his back, silently acknowledging presence of another nonentity just like her.

She also notices Tarquin a.k.a Tark from afar, a tortured young man. She senses having something malevolent in him and developed likeness, which at first was bit difficult for me to accept, however, I slowly grown to like their bond for was a bit slower to become likable but, once everything he went through is known, you can't help but feel for him. Both were characters I could easily sympathize with.

The Writing: Where some lines boasted their own beauty, gorgeous even, as a whole the writing felt inconsistent. Maybe because the sudden switching between first person narratives to third person narratives.

“You may think me biased, being murdered myself. But my state of being has nothing to do with the curiosity toward my own species, if we can be called such. We do not go gentle, as your poet encourages, into that good night.”

Also,

The tattooed boy is still sleeping on the cot, unmoving. His feet are
shackled, and his face is worn. Neither the girl nor the Smiling Man
crushkillcrushkillKILLKILL
sees the small blanket of black that rises around his form, though
in the small trickle of light it seems larger somehow, like it gains its
strength from places such as these.


And,

Something else blocks his vision.
The Smiling Man finds himself looking at a
woman
on the ceiling. The glow of candlelight catches only her face,
her long hair hanging down, and her bright black eyes. She is only
inches away, and she
gurgles.
It is the Smiling Man’s turn to scream, and the brief light is
suddenly extinguished.


Overall, The Girl from The Well, inspired by Japanese folktale Banchō Sarayashiki,
is a haunting and atmospheric novel. Recommended for the fans of a good ghost story.


About The Author :
Despite an unsettling resemblance to Japanese revenants, Rin always maintains her sense of hummus. Born and raised in Manila, Philippines, she keeps four pets: a dog, two birds, and a husband. Dances like the neighbors are watching.

Her work, The Girl from the Well, is a YA psychological horror novel due out in Fall 2014, pitched as "Dexter" meets "The Grudge". She is represented by Nicole LaBombard and Rebecca Podos of the Helen Rees Agency.

You can visit her on her website.

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Monday, 25 August 2014

Messenger of Fear by Michael Grant


Book Summary : I remembered my name – Mara. But, standing in that ghostly place, faced with the solemn young man in the black coat with silver skulls for buttons, I could recall nothing else about myself.

And then the games began.

The Messenger sees the darkness in young hearts, and the damage it inflicts upon the world. If they go unpunished, he offers the wicked a game. Win, and they can go free. Lose, and they will live out their greatest fear.

But what does any of this have to do with Mara? She is about to find out .

My Rating : 3 of 5 stars


My Thoughts : Many readers might get shocked to know this is my first Michael Grant book. Yup, I haven’t yet read Gone series. However, I must accept, my first impression and experience was neither good, nor bad. Messenger of Fear is quite different PNR from its cousins where the genre is concerned. It was blended with gothic horror and a spoonful of mythology, finally garnished with adolescent drama.

The story begins with our protagonist, Mara, waking up in limbo sort of field, engulfed by strange mist pressing close to her. And from the mist appears a mysterious figure, who calls himself the messenger of fear. Mara, as she doesn't remember who she is (except her name, of course) and why she's here, follows the messenger in a game—the price of which she has yet to understand.

As for the story, it was flat, moved at snail’s pace and bored the living shit out of me. Almost nothing happened throughout the story, except the MC witnessing lives and their untold stories, and watched the Messenger deliver penance for their crimes. I understand if the first installment is meant to be the set up for the next ones. So, despite having thought about DNF-ing, I reined my frail penitent from disintegrating into dust and kept reading, only to end up giving it three stars. I think that makes it pretty decent read for me.

The book deals with good amount of social issues teenagers often face; how one moment of mistake can turn their life upside down, how one small action can cost consequence beyond imagination. The book delivered us the definition between right and wrong, myths of warring gods, and the balance that must be kept at any price.

The best thing about the book was its writing. The prose was refined and philosophical in many places, further reinforced the story. The gritty details, and violence described, are still aglow in my mind even after a week of finishing the book.

As for the characters, Mara was rather a flat one with a mature voice of narration. Although I don’t blame her for being so boring, because she was written in such way and was put in situations where she could do nothing but to observe and be horrified at the inexorable images of various lives unfolding before her. At first I was intrigued by her character, but as the book progressed, I started guessing the big twist and my interest lessened.

Messenger of Fear, on the other hand, was a silent and seductive creature thousand times better than his other YA counterparts, trust me. He bears pain of those he inflicted punishments upon, and despite stripped from his humanity, he still longs for his lost love. To me, he was a paradox. A puzzle better remain unsolved till the next installment.

And blessedly, there was no romance.

So, Yay folks, go an pick the book up if you’re in the mood for no lluurrrvvv and want something gory to satisfy your appetite.



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Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Blog Tour : The Ghost Bride

Character Spotlight: Ox-headed Demon

Thank you so much for having me! My book, THE GHOST BRIDE, is a historical fantasy set in 1890s colonial Malaya (the old name for Malaysia where I come from) and is about a young Chinese woman who receives a marriage proposal for the son of the wealthiest family in town. The only problem is, he’s dead.

I had a lot of fun writing this book, based as it is on the blurred borderline between spirits and humans. In fact, there's strong Chinese literary tradition of strange tales set in the shadowy, elaborate Chinese ghost world, where nothing is as it seems and beautiful women turn out to be foxes. I enjoyed reading a lot of these stories when I was young, and I also heard many odd stories about ghosts while I was growing up in Malaysia.

When I was writing the second half of THE GHOST BRIDE, when the main character Li Lan ventures into the world of the dead, it seemed natural to populate it with all the colourful and peculiar creatures of Chinese folk beliefs. The animal-headed demons, along with the withered hungry ghosts of those who died with no funeral offerings, tree and plant spirits, dragons, and women with backwards pointing feet. It is a world filled with spirits and ghosts, where the horses, houses, and servants are all made of burned paper funeral offerings.

Structurally, the Chinese Afterlife is often conceived as a bureaucratic version of Imperial China, complete with bribable officials and various Hells where souls are tormented before being reincarnated. In all these stories, there were often references to 牛头马面 - the ox-headed and horse-faced demons of Hell. These were almost exactly as their names describe - animal-headed demons whose jobs were to escort the dead and also act as jailers. You see them also in Japanese depictions of the underworld. Growing up, I often thought it was such a bizarre, yet strangely frightening idea. In real life, oxen and horses are herbivores and to think of them wielding cutlasses and saws was quite disturbing!

In my book, the ox-headed demons appear as general foot soldiers. I debated whether to add the horse-faced demons, but decided that one type of animal was enough. If I ever write a sequel, however, I might have to feature them too. :)

Thank you so much for having me - it’s been a pleasure!

Author Bio: Yangsze Choo is a fourth generation Chinese from Malaysia. After graduating from Harvard, she worked in various corporate jobs while secretly writing fiction between financial spreadsheets. Now a stay-at-home-mum, she writes late at night when her kids have (finally!) gone to sleep. Yangsze eats and reads too much and often does both at her blog http://yschoo.com/



About The Book : Oprah.com’s Book of the Week, a Carnegie Medal nominee, and Goodreads 2013 Best Fantasy finalist. THE GHOST BRIDE is a historical fantasy.

“One evening, my father asked me if I would like to become a ghost bride…”

Li Lan, a young Chinese woman, lives in 1890s colonial Malaya with her quietly ruined father, who returns one evening with a proposition — the fabulously wealthy Lim family want Li Lan to marry their dead son. After a fateful visit to the opulent Lim mansion, Li Lan finds herself haunted not only by her ghostly would-be suitor, but also by her desire for the Lim’s handsome new heir, Tian Bai. Night after night, she is drawn into the shadowy parallel world of the Chinese afterlife, with its ghost cities, paper funeral offerings, vengeful spirits and monstrous bureaucracy. Li Lan must uncover the Lim family’s darkest secrets, before she is trapped in this ghostly world forever.

Now The Giveaway Time.

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Don't Forget To Visit Other Tour Stops

Aug 4th Guest Blog @ Fire & Ice
5th Character Spotlight @ Pages From My Thoughts
6th Author Interview @ The Mod Podge Bookshelf
7th Recipe Reveal @ Pieces of Whimsy
8th Character Spotlight @ Gobs and Gobs of Books
11th Guest Blog @ A Dream Within A Dream
12th Recipe Reveal @ Bookish Things and More
13th Author Interview @ Bibliophelia, Please
14th Recipe Reveal @ Fantasy's Ink
15th Character Spotlight @ Addicted Readers