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Perfect (Flawed #2) by Cecelia Ahern

“A weed is just a flower growing in the wrong place.”

Celestine North is Flawed.

Ever since Judge Crevan declared her the number one threat to the public, she has been a ghost, on the run with Carrick, the only person she can trust.

But Celestine has a secret—one that could bring the entire Flawed system crumbling to the ground. A secret that has already caused countless people to go missing.

Judge Crevan is gaining the upper hand, and time is running out for Celestine. With tensions building, Celestine must make a choice: save just herself or risk her life to save all Flawed people.

Book Links: Amazon | B&N | BD | Goodreads | Publisher

Personal Thoughts:

Perfect, much like its prequel Flawed, is a thrilling and action-packed read that gives readers a view of a plausible vision of a society that is lost in someone else standards.

Celestine North is on the run, hiding from The Guild, more specifically from her ex-boyfriend’s father, Judge Crevan. Crevan will do anything to find Celestine, as he believe that she holds something that will destroy not only his reputation, but also the entire flawed system that his family built. Together with other flawed, Celestine need to outrun and outsmart an entire system to earn not only her freedom but the freedom the whole nation.

What I really like in reading dystopian fiction like this one, is that they make me asked questions about the humanity and the possibilities stored in our future. In this series, Cecelia Ahern create a morality court where authorities use their position and power to control an entire society. They put label on people, branding them as flawed and outcast them for one single mistake they made. And the worst part, sometimes even the right thing is classified as wrong. People are living in the standards of someone else, which reminds me of our current society. We may not have an actual morality court like The Guild in the story, but we are also judged by others’ standards.

Lets take for example the standard created by social medias. Most of us post photos on instagram and facebook that project perfections, happiness, and richness. We edit photos to look beautiful or great. We filter them to be the best, as if they really represent our real lives and real status. As if there is an imaginary law or rules that tell us not to share the raw and unfiltered version of ourselves. It is so easy to fall on these invisible standards without noticing the effect on us – not just as individual but also as society.

Aside from creating standards that brands people, The Guild also shows how people easily put blame to others. They chastised others for their mistake without giving second chances. Where in fact, they also makes mistakes. And mistakes are important to us, without it we won’t learn. Mistakes teach us something, like powerful lessons we can use for future decisions. It makes us better, wiser, and more humble.

“Mistakes are nothing to be ashamed of. Mistakes teach us to take responsibility. They teach us what works and what doesn’t. We learn what we would do differently the next time, how we will be different, better, and wiser in the future. We are not just waking mistakes, we are human.”

Another thing I like in the story is the family dynamics that the North family showed. There are really some growth in there. From the first book, Flawed, we see Celestine’s Mom as someone who is superficial; her sister, Juniper as someone against on everything and just love to antagonize Celestine. There’s also her brother’s reaction during their dinner after Celestine got branded flawed, which makes me want to smack the kid. But in this installment, those things changed. Celestine’s mother alone plays an important role in the story. She stand firm for her daughter. She fight along with Celestine though and through. And Juniper has her own share of sacrifices too. She not only help Art and Celestine but also fight for what she believe in.

Overall, Perfect is provocative and satisfying conclusion to Cecelia Ahern’s first young adult series, Flawed. She certainly weaved a strong and intriguing post-apocalyptic world that will not only make readers question our own society but also humanity in general. It celebrates imperfections by showing the importance of learning from our own mistakes.

* This review is based on an advance readers copy I received courtesy of the publisher, Feiwel & Friends an imprint of Macmillan International in exchange of honest opinion.

 

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The Ship Beyond Time (The Girl from Everywhere #2) by Heidi Heilig

“…whenever you try to change something, you sacrifice something else.”

Nix has spent her whole life journeying to places both real and imagined aboard her time-traveling father’s ship. And now it’s finally time for her to take the helm. Her father has given up his obsession to save her mother—and possibly erase Nix’s existence—and Nix’s future lies bright before her. Until she learns that she is destined to lose the one she loves. But her relationship with Kash—best friend, thief, charmer extraordinaire—is only just beginning. How can she bear to lose him? How can she bear to become as adrift and alone as her father?

Desperate to change her fate, Nix takes her crew to a mythical utopia to meet another Navigator who promises to teach her how to manipulate time. But everything in this utopia is constantly changing, and nothing is what it seems—not even her relationship with Kash. Nix must grapple with whether anyone can escape her destiny, her history, her choices. Heidi Heilig weaves fantasy, history, and romance together to tackle questions of free will, fate, and what it means to love another person. But at the center of this adventure are the extraordinary, multifaceted, and multicultural characters that leap off the page, and an intricate, recognizable world that has no bounds. The sequel—and conclusion—to the indie darling The Girl from Everywhere will be devoured by fans of Rachel Hartman and Maggie Stiefvater. Includes black-and-white maps.

Book Links: Amazon | B&N | BD | Goodreads | Publisher

Personal Thoughts:

Heidi Heilig sailed once again in this sequel of her time travel series, The Girl from Everywhere. Amira/Nix and her crew are back in The Ship Beyond Time for more journey, searching for the biggest question of time travel about changing history and fate – Do we decide our own fate or is it simply a predetermined path?

Can Amira change her destiny to save someone she love?

I come aboard reading this sequel with less expectations especially with all the issues I have from the first book. If not for Kashmir and the hope to get answers or explanations to at least few of my questions from the The Girl from Everywhere I’m not sure I’ll be coming back for more. But my curiosity win as usual.

The best part of this book (aside from Kashmir and his point of view) is how all the events are interconnected. Sometimes I view those events as circle or loop which are all linked to each other in some way. And analyzing them just form lots of questions (more on that later) than answers. The events are all interconnected, every decisions counts, and they are all part of a grander plot. Which makes me appreciate the intricacy of all these connections. Heidi Heilig must have done lots of research and outlining, not only weaving the imaginary world to the real ones but also interlacing each events.

Remember the main conflict from the first book? About the possibility or erasing Amira’s very own existence if his dad tried and save her mom. Well, that conflict doesn’t really work for me because of Kashmir – an imaginary character from mythical land who exist as real and living boy in the story. (Check my explanations from my review of the first book here for more details.) I did wait for some explanations for that in this second installment, and Kash actually have some thoughts about it but there was never a clear answer. Just one of the many unanswered questions I have from this series.

“If you can create a myth, why not a man? Am I merely a figment of some cartographer’s imagination? Or did you make me up when you arrived?”

Then there’s also the time traveling part. I won’t go into details about the rules of time traveling. I cover more than enough of those from my review of the first book, The Girl from Everywhere. Instead, let’s discuss the classic question I mentioned above, about fate and destiny. Are we the masters of our own fate? Amira travel the length of mythical land looking for answers about changing her destiny with the belief of saving Kashmir. She cannot accept a future where she will lose Kash, to the point of losing the time she was supposed to enjoy with him.

“That’s why you want to know you can change things before you commit.”
“You watched your father chase your mother for years, and you wished he didn’t love her. What will you do to my memory when I’m gone? Will you chase it like a dragon? Or will you banish it like smoke?”

Amira dreaded the future that she forgot to enjoy the present. Unlike Kash who even doubting his very own existence manage to appreciate what he has.

“I won’t let fear of tomorrow steal joy form today.”

Heidi Heilig challenged her characters about the cause and effect of our choices, the ramification of our actions, and how destiny play a huge role in all of these. Amira went to this mythical utopia to find answers in saving Kash, but in doing so she actually triggered the events that led to her loss. Which is just one part of the connections I mentioned above. If only I can enumerate all them here without spoiling. But trust me, those parts are the best, especially in the end where everything is laid out.

“Every choice has a cost, Miss Song. The real question is whether or not one is willing to pay it.”
“No, Blake. The real question is whether it’s worth the price.”

So, Amira doesn’t actually changed her destiny. In the end she still lose someone she love. Which means destiny cannot be altered. If that’s the case, then it brings conflict to Kashmir and Blake’s dream. During their stay in the mythical utopia, there are events that explain Kashmir and Blake’s dream which are actually altered reality – something that happened but was altered somehow. And only navigators remembers what really happened in those events. Those parts are contradicting. They bring more conflicts than answers. Which means we are back to square one. Is fate can really be altered or are we just treading the same line where our destiny ends? Unfortunately, The Ship Beyond Time cannot answer that question. I guess, it’s really up to the  readers what they want to believe.

Back to Amira and Kash. These two went through a lot. Their internal struggles, relationship issues, and overall character development is really the heart of The Ship Beyond Time. Though I missed the other characters who all take a few steps backward in this last adventure, I still enjoyed Kash and Amira’s story. Surprisingly, there’s no love-triangle involved. Blake is not much of a competition as I expected him to be, especially with how the first book ended. So we only have Amira and Kash trying to navigate their own sea of issues both as a couple and individual. Kashmir is questioning his own purpose and existence. While Amira is struggling not only with her destiny of losing someone she love, but also becoming like her father. She is afraid of losing control, of giving in to love and end up like her father – whom we see from the first book as someone obsess in getting her wife back.

Overall, The Ship Beyond Time is imaginative, exciting and entertaining read. Not everything is explained, but that matters very little especially when you are lost enjoying sailing with characters like Amira and her diverse crew aboard the time-traveling ship, Temptation.

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Hear The Wolves by Victoria Scott

“The circle of life isn’t a circle at all. It’s a straight line, with hunters on one end, and prey on the other.”

Sloan is a hunter.

So she shouldn’t be afraid of anything. But ever since her mom left the family and she lost hearing in one ear in a blizzard, it’s been hard to talk to people, and near-impossible to go anywhere or do anything without her dad or big sister within eyesight — it makes her too scared to be on her own.

When they leave her home alone for what should only be two nights, she’s already panicked. Then the snow starts falling and doesn’t stop. One of her neighbors is hurt in an accident. And the few people still left in Rusic need to make it to the river and the boat that’s tied there — their only way to get to a doctor from their isolated Alaska town.

But the woods are icy cold, and the wolves are hungry. Sloan and her group are running out of food, out of energy, and out of time. That’s when the wolves start hunting them . . .

Book Links: Amazon | B&N | BD | Goodreads | Publisher

Personal Thoughts:

Victoria Scott new novel, Hear the Wolves follows a young girl in a richly drawn small town Rusic Alaska, trying to survive the wild and the cold snowstorm.

Twelve year-old Sloan Reilly knows a thing or two about hunting. She’s pretty good with guns. When her dad and sister left her alone to vote on keeping the township separate, Sloan find herself in the middle of blizzard trying to help a terribly injured neighbor, Ms. Wade. Together with other five people, Sloan brave crossing the river to Bernon with wolves surrounding them. They don’t have enough supply for the journey, and not much enough choice either. Will they all survive the cold and the hungry wolves?

Sloan as the main character is both strong and vulnerable. A combination that makes her and her narration captivating. Her fears and struggles both internal and external were very well drawn. Creating an emotionally intense story for readers to get lost into.

The wolves are frigthening making the reading experience on the edge. But more than being the hunters or villain in the story, the wolves remind readers that they too are victims. Like Sloan and her gang, the wolves are just trying to survive. They need food, and since the people of Rusic eliminate their source of food they have to get something else to survive. Most of the times, our actions affect someone or something else. There’s a law of nature, a inevitable process we all part of, and we need to be aware of how we as a humanity contribute to it. We can’t always think of ourselves as superior being as if the earth owe as something. We have parts to do too and other living and non-living things to consider.

Overall, Hear the Wolves is a pleasant surprise. It has an intense and realistic plot that delivers a powerful punch. Readers will surely find Sloan’s story not only inspiring but also unrelenting. A survival story of both physical and emotional that won’t leave readers for awhile.

* This review is based on a copy I received courtesy of the publisher, Scholastic Press Philippines in exchange for an honest opinion.

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Jorie and the Magic Stones by A.H. Richardson

“Sometimes we need more than magic words to make a situation better. Many times we carry our own magic within us, an inner magic that takes many forms, such as love, friendship, courage and tolerance.”

When Marjorie went to live with her frosty maiden aunt, she couldn’t imagine the adventures she would have with dragons — good and bad — and all the strange creatures that live in a mysterious land beneath the Tarn. The spunky 9-year-old redhead forges an unlikely friendship with an insecure young boy named Rufus who lives with his crusty grandfather next door. When Jorie — for that is what she prefers to be called — finds a dusty ancient book about dragons, she learns four strange words that will send the two of them into a mysterious land beneath the Tarn, riddled with enchantment and danger. Hungry for adventure, the children take the plunge, quite literally, and find themselves in the magic land of Cabrynthius. 

Upon meeting the good dragon, the Great Grootmonya, Jorie and Rufus are given a quest to find the three Stones of Maalog — stones of enormous power — and return them to their rightful place in Cabrynthius. Their mission is neither easy nor safe, and is peppered with perils in the form of the evil black half-dragon who rules the shadowy side of the land. They have to deal with a wicked and greedy professor, the tragic daughter of the bad dragon, caves of fire, rocky mountainous climbs, and a deadly poisonous butterfly.

Jorie must rely on her wits and courage to win the day? Can she do this? Can she find all three Stones? Can she save Rufus when disaster befalls him? Can she emerge victorious? She and Rufus have some hair-raising challenges, in which they learn valuable lessons about loyalty, bravery, and friendship.

Book Links: AmazonGoodreads

Personal Thoughts:

Jorie and the Magic Stones is a delightful and entertaining read that offers wonderful messages for middle grade readers.

Marjorie Beatrice Weaver who prefer to be called Jorie is an orphan who just moved in with her Aunt. While there she found an old and mysterious book under the bed. Being the ever curious and adventurous that she is, Jorie explore all the possibilities suggested on the pages of the book. With her new friend Rufus, Jorie discover new world and experience an adventure she never thought possible.

Jorie as the main character is so much fun to follow. She is a witty, curious, smart and imaginative kid who can easily charm her way. Her adventure to the land of Cabrynthius will not only entertain readers but also leave some important messages to ponder and carry even after the last page is closed.

Richardson easily weaved an imaginative world in this new fantasy adventure tale. With simple and straightforward narrative, middle-grade readers will surely find Jorie and the Magic Stones a quick and fast-paced read.

I’m not sure yet if the book is a part of a series but the ending promise a wonderful follow up and exciting adventure for the characters. I think Richardson can expand Jorie’s adventure and the magical land of Cabrynthius.

Overall, Jorie and the Magic Stones is quick and fun read. It is a tale of adventure, courage, and friendship that young readers will surely enjoy.

* This review is based on an a copy I received courtesy of Book Publicty Services.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

A. H. Richardson was born in London England and is the daughter of famous pianist and composer Clive Richardson. She studied drama and acting at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. She was an actress, a musician, a painter and sculptor, and now an Author.

She published her debut novel Jorie and the Magic Stones in December 2014. At the request of those who loved the first ‘Jorie’ story, Richardson has written a sequel titled Jorie and the Gold Key, and she is currently working on the third book in the series.

She is also the author of Murder in Little Shendon, a thriller murder mystery which takes place in a quaint little village in England after World War Two, and introduces two sleuths, Sir Victor Hazlitt and his sidekick,  Beresford Brandon, a noted Shakespearian actor. She has more ‘who-dun-its’ planned for this clever and interesting duo… watch for them!

A. H. Richardson lives happily in East Tennessee, her adopted state, and has three sons, three grandchildren, and two pugs. She speaks four languages and loves to do voiceovers. She plans on writing many more books and hopes to delight her readers further with her British twist, which all her books have.

Find A. H. Richardson

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads


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Hunted by Meagan Spooner

“She wept because she did not know what she wanted, and because she wanted everything.”

Beauty knows the Beast’s forest in her bones—and in her blood. Though she grew up with the city’s highest aristocrats, far from her father’s old lodge, she knows that the forest holds secrets and that her father is the only hunter who’s ever come close to discovering them.

So when her father loses his fortune and moves Yeva and her sisters back to the outskirts of town, Yeva is secretly relieved. Out in the wilderness, there’s no pressure to make idle chatter with vapid baronessas…or to submit to marrying a wealthy gentleman. But Yeva’s father’s misfortune may have cost him his mind, and when he goes missing in the woods, Yeva sets her sights on one prey: the creature he’d been obsessively tracking just before his disappearance.

Deaf to her sisters’ protests, Yeva hunts this strange Beast back into his own territory—a cursed valley, a ruined castle, and a world of creatures that Yeva’s only heard about in fairy tales. A world that can bring her ruin or salvation. Who will survive: the Beauty, or the Beast?

Book Links: Amazon | B&N | BD | Goodreads | Publisher

Personal Thoughts:

Hunted is a neat and vivid fairy tale retelling of a tale-as-old-as-time with a touch of Russian folklore that every readers will surely enjoy immensely.

Being marketed as a Beauty and the Beast retelling, Hunted automatically make it to the top of my reading list of 2017. As I have mentioned before from my other review, Beauty and the Beast is part of my childhood, it is my all-time favorite fairy tale, and I love experiencing every interesting version of it available for me. Hunted is no exception.

For a retelling, Hunted felt very much an original. It has its own appeal and surprises that keeps me guessing as I read. Meagan Spooner not only took the Beauty and the Beast plot line but also cleverly stitch Russian tales into it. Weaving a beautiful and new tapestry that makes me adore this retelling even more.

Though I haven’t read most of those Russian tales, the stories still feel familiar to me. Some of them are closely related with our own local tales. Tales that are parts of my bed time stories growing up which somehow transported me to my past. A lovely experience reminding me of my Dad telling stories before bedtime.

“She moves like beauty, she whispers to us of wind and forest—and she tells us stories, such stories that we wake in the night, dreaming dreams of a life long past. she reminds us of what we used to be.
She reminds us of what we could be.”

Yeva our protagonist is nothing like the Disney version of Beauty and the Beast. Though both are well read, the similarity ends there. Instead of a sweet young lady, we have Yeva as a Hunter, a would-be assassin for the Beast who she hopes to kill in revenge for her father’s death. She is tough, ambitious and caring.

The Beast like the one from the animated version is not at all menacing. But uniquely portrayed by Meagan Spooner as two different souls trap into one body. Beast constant battle between his human and beast side is well drawn. Making him very much intriguing and pulling readers to sympathize with him. The short narratives from his perspective before each chapters will surely entice readers for more of his thoughts.

Meagan Spooner did a wonderful job in re-imagining the tale of Beauty and the Beast. She took established characters and gave them a new wonderful story without removing the sense of nostalgia to readers like me who grew up with the tale-as-old-as-time.

Overall, Hunted is imaginative, captivating and gorgeousness re-imagining of the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale.

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Blog Tour: A Crown of Wishes by Roshani Chokshi (Author Interview)

I am super excited to be part of A Crown of Wishes Blog Tour. This is the second book of The Star-Touched Queen series which is like a companion novel to the first book, The Star-Touched Queen. Both books can be read as stand-alone, so no worries if you haven’t read the first one yet before reading A Crown of Wishes. Though I suggest pick up both, and experience Roshani Chokshi luscious writing and intricate world building.

Following the interview are some information about the author, Roshani Chokshi along with places where to find her online, A Crown of Wishes description, where to get copies of the book, and a short audio clip of an excerpt of A Crown of Wishes. So don’t forget to pre-order your copies now before the book hit shelves in few days.

Have fun reading the interview.

Interview with Roshani Choksi

1. I’m fascinated with the deep and dynamic fantasy settings of The Star-Touched Queen and A Crown of Wishes. What were some of the difficulties did you encounter in building such a complex world?

As with any worldbuilding, there’s always the danger of getting caught up in the mechanics and losing sight of the story. I think some of the best worldbuilding feels seamless because there’s so much heavylifting done in the sentence-level details. It also helps leave the world open for more nuances later. I think if I over-explained the TSTQ universe, Gauri’s story would’ve been a lot more difficult.

2. The witty banters between Vikram and Gauri is just adorable. Did you put a lot of thoughts into how to show their intensity, or did this unusual pair just pop straight from your head and flow along with the story?

They were intense right off the bat. In fact, it was hard to get them to stop fighting so we could actually get to the story…but I loved every second I got to spend with them.

3. And If Vikram and Gauri could both ask you one question each about why you wrote their story the way you did, what do you think would they most want to know?

a. I think Gauri would want to know why I put her through the wringer and whether or not I have a death wish.

b. I think Vikram would say “Fox prince? You couldn’t give me a cooler animal? Rude.”

4. If you will be part of the Tournament of Wishes and you can choose your partner either real or fictional character, who will you pick to join you in Alaka? And what will you wish if ever you win the game?

I would wish for no need of wishes, with the condition that I’m not killed or incapacitated. And as for partner, I would choose Agnieska from UPROOTED because she’s powerful, hilarious and would probably not mind taking frequent snack breaks…

5. You clearly do a great deal of research in order to write this Indian-inflected fantasy world of Star-Touched Queen series. I adored every detail of myth and magics with your lush and intricate world building. What’s the weirdest thing you’ve typed into search engine while you’re doing your research? Or share any memorable or interesting thing you’ve discover while writing your books.

Well…The Star-Touched Queen and A Crown of Wishes have a lot of flesh-eating beings. And so at one point I had to imagine a conversation between a man-eating raksha and Gauri, and so I ended up researching what, exactly, would be considered the most edible and yummy part of a human. (spoiler: parts around the spine)

Thanks so much Roshani for answering all my questions above and for creating the Star-Touched world. I’m looking forward for more books from you in the future.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Roshani Chokshi is the New York Times bestselling author of THE STAR-TOUCHED QUEEN. Her work has appeared in Strange Horizons, Shimmer, and Book Smugglers. Her short story, “The Star Maiden,” was longlisted for the British Fantasy Science Award.

Find Roshani

WebsiteTwitter | Instagram| Goodreads


ABOUT THE BOOK

Book Details:

Title: A Crown of Wishes
Author: Roshani Chokshi
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Publication Date: March 28, 2017
Pages: 384
Format: Hardcover, paperback, Ebook, Audio

Roshani Chokshi proved herself an author to watch with her young adult fantasy debut last spring, The Star-Touched Queen. Debuting at #4 on the New York Times bestseller list, the novel received rave reviews from fans and critics alike and appeared on the most buzzed about lists of 2016. Chokshi once again writes a beautifully crafted story of adventure, love, and magic set in the Star-Touched world with her sophomore novel A CROWN OF WISHES (St. Martin’s Griffin; 3/28/17). Building on her intricate setting based on ancient India and Greek mythology, her follow-up is a novel spun from enchantment with a strong female heroine and a swoony worthy prince who team up to win back the thrones of their kingdoms.

Gauri, the princess of Bharata, has been taken as a prisoner of war by her kingdom’s enemies. Faced with a future of exile and scorn, Gauri has nothing left to lose. Hope unexpectedly comes in the form of Vikram, the cunning prince of aneighboring land and her sworn enemy kingdom. Unsatisfied with becoming a mere puppet king, Vikram offers Gauri a chance to win back her kingdom in exchange for her battle prowess. Together, they’ll have to set aside their differences and team up to win the Tournament of Wishes – a competition held in a mythical city where the Lord of Wealth promises a wish to the victor.

Reaching the tournament is just the beginning. Once they arrive, danger takes on new shapes: poisonous courtesans and mischievous story birds, a feast of fears and twisted fairy revels. Every which way they turn new trials will test their witand strength. But what Gauri and Vikram will soon discover is that there’s nothing more dangerous than what they most desire.

Early reviews have all agreed that Chokshi has improved on her exquisite writing and lush narrative in her sophomore novel. With an ending that will make even the most cynical New Yorker heart believe in true love, A CROWN OF WISHES takes Chokshi’s talent to all new heights.

Book Links:

Amazon | B&NBook Depository | Goodreads

Listen to an excerpt of A CROWN OF WISHES audiobook, read by Priya Ayyar from MacmillanAudio

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