Saturday, July 19, 2014

Review: Dark Triumph by Robin LaFevers

Title: Dark Triumph (His Fair Assassin #2)
Author: Robin LaFevers
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for Children
Publication date: April 2nd 2013
Source: Purchased from Fully Booked
Buy the book: Amazon / Barnes and Noble

When Sybella arrived at the doorstep of St Mortain half mad with grief and despair the convent were only too happy to offer her refuge - but at a price. The sisters of this convent serve Death, and with Sybella naturally skilled in both the arts of death and seduction, she could become one of their most dangerous weapons.

But her assassin's skills are little comfort when the convent returns her to the life that nearly drove her mad. Her father's rage and brutality are terrifying, and her brother's love is equally monstrous. But when Sybella discovers an unexpected ally she discovers that a daughter of Death may find something other than vengeance to live for...
(Image and summary taken from Goodreads.)


I literally marathoned the whole His Fair Assassin series and yes, I have read Mortal Heart but my review will be posted at a later date (spoiler: I loved it!). When I finished Grave Mercy a few days ago, I gave a huge sigh of relief and did a happy dance knowing that I already had a copy of Dark Triumph on hand. When I found out that the story would center on Sybella, I was more than a little excited to read it. When Sybella was introduced in Grave Mercy she was wild and crazed but as she trained, the darkness that she kept inside of her dimmed and she was sent out on her fourth assignment but has not yet returned (even after a really long time). And Dark Triumph explains what happened to Sybella and pretty much her backstory in general. Also, Dark Triumph begins a few chapters into Grave Mercy meaning they sort of overlap so you can choose to reread the very latter part of Grave Mercy, if you want to.

Okay, it's super hard to do this review without revealing too much so I'll do my best to be as objective and vague but still informative as possible.

A few chapters into Dark Triumph (the operative word being "few"), you will immediately find out who Sybella's family is and let me tell you, her fam-fam is craaaay. They were the reason why Sybella got all kinds of messed up and was scarred for life. Reading about her fear and vulnerability broke my heart because even though Sybella seemed fragile and teetering on the edge of sanity, she was actually really strong. More physically than emotionally/psychologically, though. Having trained in the St. Mortain's convent and being one of his handmaidens helped her regain some of her light back but being sent out by the abbess to investigate/spy on her family brought back the memories of all the horrors that happened to her at the hands of her family (I used the collective term because it really wasn't just one person who wronged her). And oh gosh, reading about her love for her sisters and her desperation to protect them made me want to ugly cry. Sybella really was a contradiction, she was immensely powerful but also very weak, she was cold but emotional and was afraid but insanely brave as well. I was in awe of her.

Sybella is always described as beautiful, cunning, aloof and well-educated in the art of seduction so when I found out who her "love" interest would be, I was shocked, amused and really giddy. To answer your question, the guy in Dark Triumph is Beast. Beast is the opposite of Sybella; he is big, ugly (he is literally described to be the ugliest man Ismae has seen in Grave Mercy) and gives of scary fluffy teddy bear vibes. I loved Beast, even in Grave Mercy he is such a great person. His loyalty to the duchess and willingness to fight never failed to amaze me. The way you will see him through Sybella's eyes will leave you stunned. Beast's determination and will was just... wow.

Most people would wonder how the two would come to be since it was like Beauty and the Beast all over again. Well, it kind of was but not in the way you're thinking... however, it may have involved someone getting punched and kidnapping but that's all I am going to say. Haha! But seriously speaking, the romance between Beast and Sybella transcended beyond physical appearances and aesthetic appeal, it was all about personality and who was more stubborn between the two. Even though it seemed like they were giving I-don't-like-you vibes to each other, you can easily see the bond forming between them. They understood each other but they also rallied against the other, they just balanced each other so perfectly. I especially love the scenes when Beast was recovering and he kept wanting to rescue people, ever the hero that man. Sybella tried to hide it but I knew she was smiling on the inside, haha! Beast and Sybella made for a very formidable but sweet couple, it may sound cheesy, but they completed and complemented each other.

Dark Triumph was very action-y compared to Grave Mercy which was more about politics and the state of the duchess and her affairs. Robin LaFevers did not spare any details when it came to the action scenes in this book, the fights were quick, calculated but also managed to feed my thirst for violence. And the thing is, even Sybella enjoyed it. The feel of steel slicing through flesh and the ringing sound that accompanies the unsheathing of a blade. Although Sybella was conflicted about it and questioned her morality, it all came to play in the end.

Dark Triumph was dark, way darker than I expected it to be but I ate it all up anyway. The secrets that were uncovered and the things that were revealed will shock you to your very core. And the thing is, you will not be able to stop reading. You will just find yourself flipping through the pages trying to absorb as much as you can and then when you get to the end, you will definitely be begging for more. It's not to say that Dark Triumph had an unsatisfying ending because in my opinion, the book ended beautifully but you will want more of Robin LaFevers and her crazy amazing writing.

To say that I loved Dark Triumph would be the biggest understatement ever. It was haunting but managed to be so beautiful that my heart hurt because of all the feels inside. I keep asking myself why it took me so long to read this series but I can not find an excuse, hey, better late than never! Haha! Robin LaFevers did not just write a stunning sequel to an already beautiful first book, she managed to morph and transform a tarnished, deformed hunk of metal into a shining, powerful blade because that is exactly what Dark Triumph was, a weapon. One that was used to slay fears, enemies but also brought new beginnings to its characters. It was magic. 


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Review: To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han

Title: To All the Boys I've Loved Before (To All the Boys I've Loved Before #1)
Author: Jenny Han
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Publication date: April 15th 2013
Source: Purchased from National Book Store
Buy the book: Amazon / Barnes and Noble

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is the story of Lara Jean, who has never openly admitted her crushes, but instead wrote each boy a letter about how she felt, sealed it, and hid it in a box under her bed. But one day Lara Jean discovers that somehow her secret box of letters has been mailed, causing all her crushes from her past to confront her about the letters: her first kiss, the boy from summer camp, even her sister's ex-boyfriend, Josh. As she learns to deal with her past loves face to face, Lara Jean discovers that something good may come out of these letters after all.
(Image and summary taken from Goodreads.)


I am going to be honest and say that I am not a fan of Jenny Han. Yes, it's true; but before you Hanny Badgers start throwing tree barks at me, you'll be glad to know that I actually enjoyed TATBILB. Really, really enjoyed it. I was really surprised by the revelation but was impressed as well because after years of being a non-believer, Jenny Han has finally turned me into a believer. (Funnily enough, my mom super loves her Summer series, lol.)

When I first heard about TATBILB, I was immediately interested (I disregarded the fact that I had a history with Han's books). And after seeing the book cover, I knew that I needed it to be mine; because seriously, that is one gorgeous cover. I decided to read TATBILB as a pick me up after my dog passed away because I needed to feel better and I was glad that I chose it as my read.

The concept of Lara Jean's letters and what they symbolize was what really made the book interesting, plus they were the catalyst for the events the ended up transpiring. Her letters aren't complicated or written elegantly, they're very contemporary and what you'll expect from a grade/high-schooler. But I think that's what makes them so interesting, the fact that Lara Jean's letters are very real and doesn't disillusion you into thinking a high schooler normally writes super complicated and elaborate letter, they're just normal and quite cute. I love that Lara Jean's letters are a way for her to self-reflect and sort of act as a journal for her as well.

Lara Jean is a likable character but there's also nothing particularly distinct about her that makes her interesting. She's very normal. A bit too nice actually. Unfortunately, while she seems quite cool, her immaturity shines through Jenny Han's writing. Lara Jean's voice is very young even though she is a teenager, it gets kind of annoying. You'll understand if you've read the book or plan to, you'll just get that kind of vibe from her. I don't understand if it was Jenny Han's intention to portray her that way or it ended up like that but that's how Lara Jean came off as.

Of all the boys Lara Jean loved before, Peter Kavinsky is the one you'll get the know the most. Other than this other guy whose name starts with a "J". The whole Peter/Lara Jean romance starts with a plan to make two other people jealous and then BAM sparks start to fly. I love the easy banter between Lara Jean and Peter, they start off with a love/hate relationship because even though they used to run in the same social circle, they drifted apart as they grew older and found their place in the world. So yes, Peter is the popular good looking boy while Lara Jean is the shy kinda awkward girl. And that's what makes them so entertaining, the fact that they used to not like each other but then start to, begrudgingly, develop feelings for one other. Too cute!

I still don't know what to feel towards Lara Jean's relationship with her sisters, Margot and Kitty. Margot was nice enough but towards the end, she seemed vindictive towards Lara Jean when she got back from Scotland (I think). It was obvious that she was jealous because it seemed as if Lara Jean was taking her place. Well, girl, you shouldn't have left then. SMH. And Kitty? OMG. She's a super brat. Seriously. No other words to say other than that.

All in all, it was a pretty good book. I enjoyed it more than I thought I would and I am definitely looking forward to reading the second book, especially with the way Jenny Han ended things. I need more Peter Kavinsky. Also, yes, Peter, I will bake those fruitcake cookies for you. *wink wink nudge nudge*


Saturday, July 12, 2014

Event Recap + Giveaway: Stephanie Perkins Bloggers' Forum + Book Signing

When Tahereh Mafi accidentally spilled the beans by telling us that Stephanie Perkins would be doing a book signing here in the Philippines, I almost peed myself. And spontaneously combusted because if there is one thing I know, it's that Stephanie Perkins is the Queen of Swoon. (I have been a long time fan of Stephanie, I read Anna immediately when it came out and loved it.) All her books will literally turn your insides into mush and reduce you into a swooning fangirl. Just like the ladies below:

So when I got an invite for the Bloggers' Forum held for Stephanie Perkins, I actually peed myself (just a little bit... TMI?). I kept counting the days of when the event would finally come and when July 6th finally arrived, the world pretty much died of awesomeness. (She actually signed books at Cebu first and the pictures that were posted made me all kinds of excited! I totally stalked the #StephaniePerkinsInPH hashtag.)

As in the norm with the forums, we're always up early so yes, I was awake by 7 AM just to get ready. And so began Ge and I's trek to the forum location. Upon arrival, we met up with a few of our fellow bloggers and of course, snapped a pic. (courtesy of Kuya Guard).

Wind effect like yeah.

Finally, after what seemed like us waiting forever, the guards let us into the mall. We met up with other book bloggers, snapped pics and did our usual shenanigans. So when Chad, our always gorgeous host, entered the premises, we knew things were about to go down.

Chad looking fab, as always. 
Stephanie entering the premises.
Stephanie answering some questions.
And so without further ado, the Q&A portion began. Here are a few things we learned:
  • Etienne was based on two actors, whom Stephanie did not specify because she feels that it'll ruin the youth's image of who Etienne is since most girls like to pretend he's Harry Styles. The two actors are older and one of them is short, like Etienne. Very confident in his sexuality and his height, lol. Most of the personalities of the three guys, Josh, Etienne and Cricket, are reflective of her husband, Jarrod. But Cricket is the most similar to her husband (I love Cricket, he's my fave!)
  • Amongst the three, the best kisser (in general) is Josh. That's all I'm telling you. Hehe.
  • If any of Stephanie's characters were to enter the bookstore, Etienne would most likely head for the History section but Steph feels that Etienne just orders online (lol). Isla and Josh would go to the comic book section and read with each other, they're apparently very private and quiet people. You'd have to sneak up on them to hear what they're saying.
  • Yes, Steph has been French kissed.
  • Stephanie started on Anna and the French Kiss during NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) but it took her seven years to finish writing it! It takes her quite a bit to write books.
  • She absolutely loves writing companion novels and if she could, she'd write a book for all her characters. The reason she enjoys writing them is because she feels that no matter how minor a character may seem, they still have a story to tell. She wants to be able to focus on them and give life to their stories. (Seriously, aww!)
  • Stephanie has two new books coming out, one is an anthology (which she edited) entitled "My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories" (with a super awesome author line up!) and an upcoming Horror set to be released in 2015. (Still Untitled on Goodreads). Steph is actually a huge Horror junkie and for her, writing this book is a way for her to release her "dark side". She loves Stephen King's books, by the way. (Watch out for her news books, okay?)
Well, that's it for the interview! Scroll down for fun pictures and more exciting things!

Stephanie talking about Harry Styles.

Pinoy Book Bloggers with JB!

Me with Jarrod Perkins! He is sooo awesome.


Ge with her Crotchet book. Soon, bb.

Steph and I looking awesome holding ISLA.

In a JB/Chad sandwich.

Stephanie Perkins being super cute! 

Photobombing JB!
Third wheeling on Stephanie and Kayla's hug.

Pinoy Book Bloggers with Chad!

Ge photobombing Stephanie Perkins.

Jarrod Perkins knows what it means! lol
Pinoy Book Bloggers with Stephanie Perkins!
Ge and I looking badass with ISLA.
And so after all that excitement, we stuffed ourselves in Michelle's car and headed to Glorietta for the actual book signing event.

Stephanie's stage.

The book signing crowd, 660+ people strong! (So crazy.)

Smoochy smoochy.

We were told that there were seven people who arrived at super crazy times the day before just to camp outside the mall to meet Stephanie Perkins. Stephanie and Jarrod being the awesomely sweet couple there are, visited them at midnight to greet and take pictures with them. Seriously so nice of them to! The seven overnighters also got ARCs of ISLA and tote bags! Yay for them.

Seven people who slept outside the mall to wait to Stephanie.
THAT's what you call dedication.
Alas, that is where all the excitement ends. I was super exhausted when I got home and since it was a Sunday, I had Monday to face. Sigh. But it was absolutely worth it because meeting Stephanie Perkins was a crazy amazing experience. That was probably the best book signing event I have ever attended, really.

Signed books and mah Polaroid pics!
My copy of ISLA. *dies*
Thank you soooo much to the amazing National Book Store Team for inviting us to the forum! I am looking at you JB and Chad! You two never fail to make these events super fun. And thanks to Ms. Xandra and Sir Miguel, as well. And to Mr. Ariel for helping bring Stephanie Perkins here. And OF COURSE, to the awesome Stephanie and Jarrod Perkins for agreeing to come to the Philippines and sign our books. And to Penguin Teen for the gorgeous ISLA ARCs!! Seriously, thank you. You all rock!! And last but not the least, my parents for letting me attend the event. lol (Some pictures courtesy of Kayla from The Bookish Owl, Jesselle from The Lifelong Bookworm and Kate from The Bookaholic Blurbs! Thanks, pretty ladies!)

See you all at the next event!

So we hosted a giveaway on our Facebook page but none of the winners replied to us (we really don't know why) so we've decided to just move the giveaway here! Yay! So just fill out the form and you're good! Note: This giveaway is only open to residents of the Philippines.

A pretty signed copy for YOU.

Good luck and thank you for reading!