Shiver

Shiver by Maggie StiefvaterShiver by Maggie Stiefvater
The Wolves of Mercy Falls # 1
Publisher: Scholastic
Number of pages: 390
My copy: paperback, review copy from Scholastic

the cold.
Grace has spent years watching the wolves in the woods behind her house. One yellow-eyed wolf—her wolf—watches back. He feels deeply familiar to her, but she doesn’t know why.

the heat.
Sam has lived two lives. As a wolf, he keeps the silent company of the girl he loves. And then, for a short time each year, he is human, never daring to talk to Grace…until now.

the shiver.
For Grace and Sam, love has always been kept at a distance. But once it’s spoken, it cannot be denied. Sam must fight to stay human—and Grace must fight to keep him—even if it means taking on the scars of the past, the fragility of the present, and the impossibility of the future.

* * *

I decided to finally pick Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater from my TBR pile because of recommendations of some book bloggers who said that this book is a good Christmas winter read. Fine, winter isn’t really a thing here in the Philippines, but it’s been strangely hot lately when the weather is supposed to be cool, and I wanted something that would make me feel a little bit cooler, even if it is just fiction.

When Grace was 11 years old, she was one of the victims of a wolf attack. How she survived was one thing, and this should have made her wary of the wolves that lived by the woods in their back yard, but instead this has pushed her into an obsession. She can’t stop thinking about the yellow-eyed wolf, the wolf that “saved” her. Sam lives two lives, but he’s never stopped observing Grace, the girl he loves. He never talked to her, until one shooting accident somehow changes him back to human and Grace had to save her. Now that they have talked, and spent some time together, they cannot deny the attraction. But Sam feels that this may be his last time being human, and he and Grace have to fight for their love even if it meant opening up ghosts of their past and dealing with the things that threaten to tear them apart in the present.

I was surprised with Shiver. I don’t read a lot of paranormal romance books anymore, much less books about werewolves. I could read about vampires and angels but werewolves aren’t my thing — the last time I read an exclusively werewolf book was in 2010, and I didn’t really like it.  I thought Shiver would be sort of like mindless reading that isn’t really fluff and I felt that I needed that during the holidays. However…I was pretty surprised at how much I ended up liking it. This is my first Stiefvater book, so I wasn’t really sure what to expect. My friends have said that she has this way of writing that’s very atmospheric, and they were right. There is an ease in her words that make it so easy to sink into, making it easy to accept the world of Mercy Falls and mingle with the different characters. Shiver‘s prose is both sad and lyrical, which makes some room for some very nice quotable parts. For example, I thought this description of the insides of the bookstore they went to was lovely:

As the hours crept by, the afternoon sunlight bleached all the books on the shelves to pale, gilded versions of themselves and warmed the paper and ink inside the covers so that the smell of unread words hung in the air.

The romance factor was pretty sweet and a lot intense, and I’m not sure if I should classify this as instalove. It seems like it, but also it doesn’t feel like it is, if that makes sense. I liked how it unfolded though, with all the shivering romantic tension and kisses and moments spent together. Of course I’m not particularly fond of how they were always left alone, although I liked how they noticed the absence of Grace’s parents in the narrative, even if I wished there was some change to that in the end. The he said/she said form was a good move IMHO, and I really liked reading about Sam’s struggle between his wolf and human self.

There’s an overall sad tone in the book that makes it not really fit for Christmas. It was kind of a slow read, too. Part of it was my savoring of the words, but the other part just kind of made me wonder where the story was going, because there’s no real sense of immediate danger for Sam and Grace, just the sense of an ending for what they just started having. I almost gave up on it somewhere when I was 2/3 in, but I’m glad I didn’t because I really liked how it ended. I’d like to think of my own possibilities at where their story is going after the last page. But since I have a copy of Linger on my TBR, I may as well read it sometime. But if you ask me, I thought the ending was really enough.

So yeah, I was pleasantly surprised with Shiver. I liked it. I’m going to let Linger …well, linger on my shelf a little longer, and I will also try to acquire a copy of The Scorpio Races since all my blogger friends have raved about it. But one thing is for sure: this won’t be my last Stiefvater book. :)

Rating:

Other reviews:
Chachic’s Book Nook
Good Books and Good Wine
Book Harbinger
The Book Smugglers
Angieville

One Book, Two Book, Three Book, Four…and Five

I still have about four books left on my backlog of reviews (more to add soon, I think), but because I do not want to bore you all with just those posts, let’s do a combo breaker and answer this meme I got from Chachic, Janice, Angie and Nomes. :)

I should be writing my novel but you know how I love procrastinating sometimes? Maybe next year I should be a NaNoRebel and write a year’s worth of blog posts (or something like that) for NaNoWriMo. Hm.

The Curse of the Wendigo by Rick Yancey     Hallowed by Cynthia Hand     The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler

1. Book I am currently reading:
The Curse of the Wendigo
by Rick Yancey. I was semi-bullied into reading this (haha, hi, Aaron and Tricia!), but if they did not do that, I probably would not have started reading this anytime soon. I really liked The Monstrumologist so jumping in to this one soon enough after reading that was actually a good idea because the characters were still fresh to me. So far this has been creepier than the first book, but also quite funny and sometimes heartwarming.

Also, Hallowed by Cynthia Hand (!!!). :) Got this from Netgalley and I’m reading it slow so I would get all the Tucker goodness. Seriously, if you ever read a paranormal romance novel ever again, pick Unearthly. It’s very, very good.

2. Last book I finished:
The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler. Thanks to Pinoy Book Tours for having this on hand and squeezing me in the tour. :D

Falling Together by Marisa de los Santos     Fury by Shirley Marr    Protection for Hire by Camy Tang

3. Next book I want to read:
Falling Together by Marisa de los Santos. I just got this my TBR, and it’s been calling out to me for a while. Hmm. Although I think I may have to read a classic novel to finish some challenges, but I really want something comforting amidst the novel writing stress. So let’s see. :)

4. Last book I bought:
Fury by Shirley Marr. My friend Katia went to Sydney last October and because we know Australian books are just awesome, I asked if she could get me a copy of this. And she found me one. :) Yay. As expected, it was expensive, but it’s not everyday I get to buy a book from Australia. :)

5. Last book I was given:
Protection for Hire by Camy Tang. Okay this one I got from Netgalley too, but since I am on the author’s street team (you should join it, too), I knew about this way back and was expecting to receive an ebook review for this. :) Plus, I got an email that Zondervan has auto-approved me as a reviewer in Netgalley. I’m not sure if everyone gets that, but it’s nice to get that email. :) I cannot wait to read Camy’s newest book.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini TaylorDaughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
Daughter of Smoke and Bone # 1
Publisher: Hachette
Number of pages: 420
My copy: hardbound, bought from Fully Booked

Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil’s supply of human teeth grown dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war.

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she’s prone to disappearing on mysterious “errands”; she speaks many languages–not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out.

When one of the strangers–beautiful, haunted Akiva–fixes his fire-colored eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?

* * *

It’s hard to turn your back on a book when people everywhere seem to be raving about it. I’ve been hearing lots of really good stuff about Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor from practically all the blogs I’ve been following, so I put the book on my radar with full intention of just borrowing and not buying. But the lure of books is stronger when more people rave about it, so when I saw a lone hardcover copy in Fully Booked, I knew I had to leave the store with it. And start it immediately as soon as I finished my last read.

Karou is an eccentric girl by normal people’s standards, but in a city like Prague, they don’t really mind. Her art student friends dismiss her blue hair, her random disappearances to run errands and her knowledge of many language to see her sketchbooks and stories of monsters that are supposedly real. No one knows who Karou really is, even herself. All she knows is that her only family are the chimaera who lives in Brimstone’s shop, who collect teeth in exchange for wishes. Karou cannot escape the emptiness she feels, until she meets Akiva, a stranger with fire-colored eyes, who almost just about killed her…until he didn’t. What follows is a gradual unveiling of Karou’s hidden past, one that that bears repercussions and choices that could result to her losing everything she has ever known.

I’ve read lots of praises for Laini Taylor’s writing, and I saw just what they meant in this book. What beautiful writing. I remember reading the first page of the book the day I bought it and not wanting to stop (but I had to, because if I don’t, I would never have finished Breathe). I lost count at how many times I wanted to dive into her prose and wish to write the way she does — lyrical and flowery but never veering towards purple. Very vivid, too, because I never had a hard time imagining the things she was describing. Passages like this broke a bit of my heart:

With the infinite patience of one who has learned to live broken, he awaited her return.

But there were also parts like these that made me chuckle:

“Hey! My body may be small, but my soul is large. It’s why I wear platforms. So I can reach the top of my soul.”

And:

“I don’t know many rules to live by,’ he’d said. ‘But here’s one. It’s simple. Don’t put anything unnecessary into yourself. No poisons or chemicals, no fumes or smoke or alcohol, no sharp objects, no inessential needles–drug or tattoo–and…no inessential penises either.’

‘Inessential penises?’ Karou had repeated, delighted with the phrase in spite of her grief. ‘Is there any such thing as an essential one?’

‘When an essential one comes along, you’ll know,’ he’d replied.”

And there were some that just made me sigh:

Happiness. It was the place where passion, with all its dazzle and drumbeat, met something softer: homecoming and safety and pure sunbeam comfort. It was all those things, intertwined with the heat and the thrill, and it was as bright within her as a swallowed star.

It was because of this writing that I forgave and even liked the paranormal romance aspect. I’m not a fan of anything insta-love, so I was kind of wary, but the writing! It’s just too beautiful for me to pass up. It’s not that the romance was the typical ones that have been ravaging the bookstore shelves lately — in fact, it actually has a very good story to it. It may be a bit dramatic for some, but it’s still a very good read, and it’s not the I-would-die-without-you-my-life-is-incomplete-without-you romance.

And again, the writing. I mean, more, read this:

…and for that moment, her hand in his, Karou felt as powerless as starlight tugged toward the sun in the huge, strange warp of space.

I can’t remember the last time I read the word “starlight” used as a figure of speech without making it sound cheesy. Can you?

One of the other things I really, really liked about this book was the setting. Days after I was back from my Europe trip, I was talking to one of my friends who was still there and she was up to ears with excitement about their trip to Prague. I have heard of Prague before, but just like Geneva, it wasn’t really up high in my bucket list. Their pictures, however, made me want to bump it up my bucket list — what a beautiful place it seemed to be! Reading Daughter of Smoke and Bone made me want to go there even more. The other places that Karou visited were also described vividly (I felt a little thrill when she started talking about the metro in Paris), but I think Prague was the perfect stage for the first part of the story (the second part was in an entirely another world, described just as vividly as the one in the real world). As it was described:

The streets of Prague were a fantasia scarcely touched by the twenty-first century—or the twentieth or nineteenth, for that matter. It was a city of alchemists and dreamers, its medieval cobbles once trod by golems, mystics, invading armies. Tall houses glowed goldenrod and carmine and eggshell blue, embellished with Rococo plasterwork and capped in roofs of uniform red. Baroque cupolas were the soft green of antique copper, and Gothic steeples stood ready to impale fallen angels. The wind carried the memory of magic, revolution, violins, and the cobbled lanes meandered like creeks. Thugs wore Mozart wigs and pushed chamber music on street corners, and marionettes hung in windows, making the whole city seem like a theater with unseen puppeteers crouched behind velvet.

Match that description with these photos like these and who would not want to go to Prague?1

Yep. I’m making sure to go to Prague next time I get to go to Europe.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor is a must-read book for this year, whether you like paranormal romance or not. :) I’d read every book Laini Taylor writes if only to soak in her gorgeous, gorgeous writing. Sigh.

Rating:

Other reviews:
Chachic’s Book Nook
The Girl Who Read
The Book Smugglers
Book Harbinger
Janicu’s Book Blog
Ficsation

  1. Photos from my friend, Ate Sheh, taken last September :) []

Unearthly

Unearthly by Cynthia HandUnearthly by Cynthia Hand
Unearthly # 1
Publisher: HarperTeen
Number of pages: 435
My copy: ebook review copy from Netgalley

In the beginning, there’s a boy standing in the trees . . . .

Clara Gardner has recently learned that she’s part angel. Having angel blood run through her veins not only makes her smarter, stronger, and faster than humans (a word, she realizes, that no longer applies to her), but it means she has a purpose, something she was put on this earth to do. Figuring out what that is, though, isn’t easy.

Her visions of a raging forest fire and an alluring stranger lead her to a new school in a new town. When she meets Christian, who turns out to be the boy of her dreams (literally), everything seems to fall into place—and out of place at the same time. Because there’s another guy, Tucker, who appeals to Clara’s less angelic side.

As Clara tries to find her way in a world she no longer understands, she encounters unseen dangers and choices she never thought she’d have to make—between honesty and deceit, love and duty, good and evil. When the fire from her vision finally ignites, will Clara be ready to face her destiny?

Unearthly is a moving tale of love and fate, and the struggle between following the rules and following your heart.

* * *

I can’t remember the last time I willingly read a paranormal romance novel. I really can’t anymore. I am not denying that I used to like the genre, but after finding out that there seemed to be nothing new there, I just wandered off to other genres. So when rave reviews of Unearthly by Cynthia Hand popped up among book bloggers, I didn’t pay attention. To me, it’s just another angel novel that I will probably wonder why I even bothered after I finish.

And then even people who I know don’t really read much paranormal started giving it glowing reviews. This got my attention. I only pay attention to some people when it comes to paranormal romances, so when they give a good review on a book that I normally wouldn’t read and I know they normally wouldn’t read either, I know I’d have to keep an eye on it. After reading one contemporary novel after the other last month, I gave myself a break from real life stuff and finally picked up Unearthly, wondering if I will like it as much as the others did.

Clara Gardner has angel blood — she’s 3/4 human, 1/4 angel, but that 1/4 makes all the difference in her world. She’s different, and she has a purpose in this world. This purpose makes her and her family move to a new town after a series of visions. There she meets Christian Prescott, the boy in her visions that she somehow has to save. Clara and Christian had an instant connection and Clara wonders if it’s not just her angel side that’s attracted. But there’s a catch: Christian has a girlfriend. And there’s another catch: Clara also seems to be attracted to her best friend’s twin, Tucker. Torn between her angel side and her human side, Clara has to make a choice between what she wants and her destiny as an angel.

Unearthly AU cover – pretty, right?

It sounds like your everyday paranormal romance novel, right? I thought so too. But friends, believe me when I tell you this: it is so much more. I was very surprised with how good Unearthly is. Normally, I hate instant connections, I dislike love triangles, and I don’t like supernatural creatures falling in love with humans, but this one is different. Clara is a believable heroine despite her powers. She’s angel, all right, but even if she’s angelic, she’s also very human (I’m betting she doesn’t need to look for best blackhead remover, though) . I liked that there was a balance between her human and angel side and she’s *gasp!* not a Mary Sue! She’s awkward, she gets shy, she rebels from her mom and even if she’s an angel, she has no idea what to do with her life. She’s a refreshing heroine from all that I can remember of the paranormal romance genre, and I liked it.

The boys? Well, there’s really no question who I’m rooting for, right? :) I found Christian a little too perfect, but it was actually in all good reason once you get to the end. Tucker, oh Tucker. I loved him. :) I loved how his character developed, I loved how he got into Clara’s life. I liked that he wasn’t perfect, and I liked that he’s just…well, human. The description in the blurb says he appeals to Clara’s non-angelic side, and it’s easy to think that he’s, well, evil, but he’s not. The more accurate description should be, he appeals to Clara’s human side, and that made him very adorable for me. The romance in Unearthly is *another gasp!* quite healthy, too. Lots of banter, conversations and time spent together — none of those “I saw him and fell in love” thing. Yes, even the instant connection with Christian was toned down with conversations and whatnot. And it was definitely refreshing.

The angel mythology was probably my favorite of all in this book — very well done, not too religious and not blasphemous, too. I liked how it seemed respectful of how angels are known, and it seemed very well-researched. I loved the idea of Glory, or the wing color, and how angels were given a purpose. This played very well within the story, and it also opened up a very, very surprising twist in the end that really shocked me. And that ending? OMG THAT ENDING! It’s not really a big cliffhanger but it would definitely leave you wanting for more. More, I tell you. WANT! But the next book, Hallowed, isn’t coming out until 2012. Long wait is long! :(

So, if it isn’t obvious, I really liked Unearthly. Definitely one of those books that I am glad I picked up, and one of those books that I am considering getting in print form since my copy is an e-galley (it helps that the cover is very pretty, too) just so I can go back to it again when the next book is out. If you’re planning to pick up a paranormal romance novel soon, or if you want something to surprise you, then definitely get this book. Take it from someone who’s given up on paranormal romance — this is one of the good ones. ;)

Rating:

Other reviews:
inkcrush
Amaterasu Reads
Attack of the Book

The Best Friend and The Other Guy

I finished reading The Iron King by Julie Kagawa last night and found myself surprised at how I enjoyed reading a paranormal romance novel again. I’ve mentioned it many times already that I have started avoiding paranormal romances and some contemporary romances because they always seemed to have the same thing: girl meets guy with a secret, they fall for each other, but girl has a guy friend who is also in love with her and is always the safer choice. Or roles can be switched too — guy meets girl, guy and girl fall in love but there’s a girl best friend who knows the guy better. And yes, I understand, there are other variations, so I’ll let you guys fill that in.

Photo by iann7 – from deviantArt

A bit of a spoiler for The Iron King — the same kind of love triangle is also there, although it wasn’t that pronounced yet in this book. I have a feeling it will be expounded on the next book, though, and right now I already feel sad for one of the guys because I am sure who the heroine would end up with. I realized then as I was reading that for fictional love triangles, I always seem to side with the best friend. I never really declare my “teams”, but I always find myself more sympathetic to the plight of the best friend. Case in point (slight spoiler warning for the books listed):

  • Twilight – I liked Edward in the first book, but when Jacob Black made his presence known, I liked him more. In the end, though, I felt that Bella did not deserve Jacob, so I wasn’t really rooting for Jacob to win in the love triangle but to be able to move on. Still, on the overall love triangle arc, I liked Jacob more.
  • The Hunger Games – I have no problems with Peeta, but I liked Gale more. Sure, Peeta is the golden boy and I liked him as he was, but I honestly thought Katniss and Gale was the better pair. But as I always say whenever people asked me which team I was for in The Hunger Games, I never made a real choice, except that I am just partial to the best friend. Come to think of it, that just meant I’m Team Gale. :P
  • Song of the Lioness QuartetAngela asked me about who I wanted for Alanna while I was reading the books in the series, and I said I was for Jonathan, who ended up as Alanna’s best friend. I liked who she ended up in the end of the quartet, even if I liked Jon more than who she chose.
  • The Mortal Instruments – A bit of difference for this one, since I actually liked Jace for Clary. I did feel a bit triumphant for Simon when Clary paid more attention to him that is not platonic. Although I didn’t root for their love team as much, I don’t think I would have minded if Clary ended up with Simon.
  • Privileged (TV Show) -While my friends and I agree that Will (played by gorgeous Brian Hallisay) is extremely hot, I felt myself gravitating towards Charlie, Megan’s best friend, who has always been in love with her. And true enough, I was heartbroken when Megan told him that he’s just a friend. :( (Note: the book that the TV series based on has no love triangle, so I had to specify the TV show)

And finally, The Iron Fey. Like I said, I don’t know what’s going to happen in The Iron Daughter since I haven’t read it yet, but I have a feeling that the love triangle will be explored more here. And I already feel bad for the best friend.

I don’t really know why I favor the best friend in the fictional love triangles I read/watch, except maybe because I am kind of sympathetic to the best friend plight. I can’t say I have been in an almost similar situation before (maybe, but since I am a girl, I doubt it’s as painful as the ones I have read). Or maybe it’s just because I tend to gravitate to the underdog because I always hope they’d win somehow? Or maybe it’s just because I always thought that a boyfriend who is your also your best friend is a really good thing?

But then again, what do I know about that? I’ve never been in a relationship before. *shrug*

What about you? Do you “fall” for the other guy, or do you find yourself siding with the best friend?

Edited to add: I just realized there was one love triangle that defied my “best friend” example – Brigan, Fire and Archer in Kristin Cashore’s Fire! Although I thought Archer was a pretty sweet and charming guy, I was for Brigan and Fire all the way. :P