Review: Fangirl

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Title: Fangirl
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary Romance
Publication Date: September 10, 2013
Publisher: St. Martin's Press

Synopsis from Goodreads:
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? Writing her own stories?

And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?

My Thoughts

When I first tried to read Fangirl, I got bored. I don’t remember how many times I reread the first few pages of this book; for some reason, it never really seemed to click with me. It was only recently, largely due to boredom, that I thought to give it another try, and I couldn’t be more glad that I did. I don’t know what changed, but before I knew it, I was hooked.

The novel centers around Cath, a rather quiet girl who prefers to bury herself in writing fan fiction than, well, pretty much anything. When she and her twin Wren go off to college, they find themselves in an environment they are not used to, and while Wren takes it as a chance to enjoy herself, Cath can’t seem to adapt quite as well. But soon enough, she finds herself making friends with some of the most unlikely people who make her feel like maybe change doesn’t always have to be a bad thing.

One of the things that makes Fangirl different from other novels is its realness, both in terms of its plot and its characters. The experiences and people are easy to relate to, as having just finished my first year of college myself, I couldn’t help but see myself in the situations that Cath and Wren (well, maybe not so much Wren) were in, making me all the more interested in how everything would turn out. The pacing is good too; I like how the relationships (specifically Cath and Levi’s) aren't rushed. They are allowed the space to grow, which in turn gives so much more meaning to the time each of these people spend with each other, as you actually feel invested in their relationship because of it.

Of all the characters, I am most drawn to Cath because she is most like me—an introvert who is socially  awkward and prefers to keep to herself. I love her relationship with Wren; even though their personalities are different, their bond remains so strong. They support and build each other up, and you just know that they will always have each other’s backs. Reagan, Cath’s roommate, is the kind of person I sometimes wish I could be—straightforward and honest with no care about what anyone thinks of her, yet still a caring and loyal friend. Lastly, we have Levi, the lovable guy who you can’t help but like in spite of all his shortcomings. All of them are so different, yet somehow they all fit together so well. They are real people, people with their own strengths and weaknesses, people who you can actually relate to at one point or another.

Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl offers a simple story told in an unexpectedly touching, meaningful, and overall beautiful way. If you haven’t already read this one, I strongly suggest that you do (as if that wasn’t already obvious from the review)!

My Rating

Typography Tuesday #8: Along for the Ride

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Typography Tuesday is a new feature where I will post my lettering works of book quotes. Works will usually be black and white, but there may be at times that colored ones will be posted. All works are scanned but created by hand through markers and fine liners.
I got to attend a lettering workshop last Saturday, yay! It was totally amazing and I got to learn a lot of new stuff <3 This one's my output from that workshop, teehee. I just wanted to put this quote out from Sarah Dessen's Along for the Ride to remind people not to be afraid to fail because it's perfectly natural. So, go, dream big and take the plunge! :D Well, actually, this is sort of a note to myself also. =))

Review: A Thousand Pieces of You

Monday, April 27, 2015

Title: A Thousand Pieces of You
Author: Claudia Gray
Genres: Young Adult, Science Fiction
Publication Date: November 4, 2014
Publisher: Harper Teen

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Every Day meets Cloud Atlas in this heart-racing, space- and time-bending, epic new trilogy from New York Times bestselling author Claudia Gray.

Marguerite Caine’s physicist parents are known for their radical scientific achievements. Their most astonishing invention: the Firebird, which allows users to jump into parallel universes, some vastly altered from our own. But when Marguerite’s father is murdered, the killer—her parent’s handsome and enigmatic assistant Paul—escapes into another dimension before the law can touch him.

Marguerite can’t let the man who destroyed her family go free, and she races after Paul through different universes, where their lives entangle in increasingly familiar ways. With each encounter she begins to question Paul’s guilt—and her own heart. Soon she discovers the truth behind her father’s death is more sinister than she ever could have imagined.

A Thousand Pieces of You explores a reality where we witness the countless other lives we might lead in an amazingly intricate multiverse, and ask whether, amid infinite possibilities, one love can endure.

My Thoughts

I have to admit that one of the things that really drew me to A Thousand Pieces of You was its gorgeous cover! I was hoping that there would be an equally interesting story to match it, and I was not let down. The fact that it deals with parallel worlds was something new to me; I couldn’t help but wonder how the Claudia Gray was going to go about in explaining everything. I had high expectations for this one.

Maybe that’s why I was kind of disappointed when I actually read it. I don’t know if it’s just the part of me that is always looking for a deep explanation for everything, but I feel like there are areas of the plot that just aren’t convincing enough, like there are still so many blurry points of interworldly (?) travel that are never really tackled. I thought this was going to have a prominently sci-fi plot, but it turned out to be more of a romance novel than anything. Besides that, though, I think that the different worlds are designed quite nicely and creatively. The plot is pretty good; there are some revelations that already seem obvious early on, but I like that there is always this suspense to find out what will happen next.

I’m not too sure how I feel about Marguerite. She starts off okay, but I learned to like her a bit more by the end because of the independence and strength that she develops. I love her relationship with her family and how she would do anything to protect and save them. Theo and Paul are alright I guess, but I don’t really find myself all that connected to them. Honestly, I’m kind of against the whole love triangle between these three characters; there are scenes that just come out fairly cheesy and cliche for my taste. For me, they just somehow seem more like older brothers than love interests, and I would probably like it better that way.

So okay, this novel didn’t exactly blow me away like I thought it would, but I feel like the potential of the idea of parallel worlds is enough to make me want to read more of it. Despite its shortcomings, A Thousand Pieces of You remains a unique read that’s worth trying out.

My Rating

Real Rating: 3.5

Typography Tuesday #7: After Hello

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Typography Tuesday is a new feature where I will post my lettering works of book quotes. Works will usually be black and white, but there may be at times that colored ones will be posted. All works are scanned but created by hand through markers and fine liners.

This is my first time to do a digital work (huhu I suck at it so much) but yeah. I'd have to say that this quote from Lisa Mangum's After Hello really helped me a lot this year. Okay, most especially this semester. I had to write an essay about rote life, and stagnancy, and a lot of those stuff, and I can't help but remember this one. After Hello is a great book about life and advices, and it's a must-read! <3

Review: On the Fence

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Title: On the Fence
Author: Kasie West
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary Romance
Published Date: July 1, 2014
Publisher: HarperTeen

Synopsis from Goodreads:
For sixteen-year-old Charlotte Reynolds, aka Charlie, being raised by a single dad and three older brothers has its perks. She can outrun, outscore, and outwit every boy she knows—including her longtime neighbor and honorary fourth brother, Braden. But when it comes to being a girl, Charlie doesn't know the first thing about anything. So when she starts working at chichi boutique to pay off a speeding ticket, she finds herself in a strange new world of makeup, lacy skirts, and BeDazzlers. Even stranger, she's spending time with a boy who has never seen her tear it up in a pickup game.

To cope with the stress of faking her way through this new reality, Charlie seeks late-night refuge in her backyard, talking out her problems with Braden by the fence that separates them. But their Fence Chats can't solve Charlie's biggest problem: she's falling for Braden. Hard. She knows what it means to go for the win, but if spilling her secret means losing him for good, the stakes just got too high.

My Thoughts

Having only read Kasie West’s The Distance Between Us, I thought I was in for another easy and light read. Going through the first few chapters of the book, I thought it was pretty boring. Nothing much was happening, and I was tempted to do something else, or perhaps, pick up another book. This is one of the few reasons on why I couldn’t just give On the Fence a four star rating. That, and it didn’t really leave a major impact.

On the Fence may be a story with a cliche plot - having Charlie, the female protagonist, be one of the boys. True, it may be cliche, but Charlie was a relatable character. She was a teenage girl who is starting to learn a lot of things, and it was when her world started to move. In a way, I guess, it was her journey to find the real Charlie. The way this novel was written made it very easy to go with the flow, and I loved the character and plot development. True, at first, I was complaining that nothing much happened, but it was in that that gave a strong foundation for the characterization of not only Charlie, but also her brothers, and Braden. It was endearing to see the growth of Charlie, as she comes to terms with femininity and her mother’s death. All throughout, I felt like a cheerleader, who wanted to support and cheer at her like crazy, because the way she realizes things was incredible. To see her struggle as she looks for her own identity, while standing strong amidst all hardships, was really amazing. I am also glad that family plays a big role in this story, as her brothers are adorably protective of Charlie.

Watching the relationship between Braden and Charlie grow was also endearing. Having late night conversations from the opposite sides of the fence teleported them into an alternative reality of their own. I love how this alternative gave strength to each of them and helped them become a stronger individual than they were yesterday. In a way, I suppose, it helped them deal with their problems more, and seeing them find the courage to do so was truly amazing. Besides, I can’t help but support the two of them, especially when I see Braden so caring, sweet and kind. Can I have a Braden for myself, please? 

Above all else, On the Fence just got me hooked up so hard that I couldn’t put the book down. I was drawn to their world, as I felt their emotions, whether they be happiness, sadness, awkwardness, pain, or whatever emotion there can possibly exist. Not to mention that I’m really a sucker for plots with family. Admittedly, being so engrossed in the story, I didn’t even realize that I got teary-eyed already (HUHU, ALL THE FEELS, I tell you.) Before I knew it, I was done reading the book. Just like that, finished within a couple of hours.

Truly, as Kasie West mixes humor and problems together, it clearly depicts what life is really all about. There can be no rainbow without a little rain, after all. On the Fence is story about a teenager’s journey in finding one’s identity, and expanding connections despite differences, that can truly pull you in their world. Don’t underestimate this novel: it might be quite short, easy to read, and cliche, but it can definitely pull you in for a roller coaster ride with all its feels. I would definitely recommend it to people who are looking for an amazing romantic and cute read!

My Rating

Typography Tuesday #6: Ugly Love

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Typography Tuesday is a new feature where I will post my lettering works of book quotes. Works will usually be black and white, but there may be at times that colored ones will be posted. All works are scanned but created by hand through markers and fine liners.

Since it's summer time, it's also the revival of my Typography Tuesday! Yehey! But since I just came off from school + vacation (OMG I went to London, it's so pretty there huhu I don't even want to come home), I haven't made a new typography for a book quote. I made this one last year, which is from Colleen Hoover's Ugly Love. I'd have to say that I didn't like it that much at first, but when I reread it, I cried. Lots. Now, I love it! So, go, go, go, read it! :D

Review: The Beginning of Everything

Monday, April 13, 2015
Title: The Beginning of Everything
Author: Robyn Schneider
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary Romance
Release Date: August 27, 2013

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Golden boy Ezra Faulkner believes everyone has a tragedy waiting for them—a single encounter after which everything that really matters will happen. His particular tragedy waited until he was primed to lose it all: in one spectacular night, a reckless driver shatters Ezra’s knee, his athletic career, and his social life.

No longer a front-runner for Homecoming King, Ezra finds himself at the table of misfits, where he encounters new girl Cassidy Thorpe. Cassidy is unlike anyone Ezra’s ever met, achingly effortless, fiercely intelligent, and determined to bring Ezra along on her endless adventures.

But as Ezra dives into his new studies, new friendships, and new love, he learns that some people, like books, are easy to misread. And now he must consider: if one’s singular tragedy has already hit and everything after it has mattered quite a bit, what happens when more misfortune strikes?

Robyn Schneider’s The Beginning of Everything is a lyrical, witty, and heart-wrenching novel about how difficult it is to play the part that people expect, and how new beginnings can stem from abrupt and tragic endings.

My Thoughts

My return from my reading slump started with Robyn Schneider’s The Beginning of Everything. It narrates the story of Ezra Faulkner, former star tennis player and golden boy, whose life changes when he gets into a car accident that renders him injured and unable to play. Suddenly, he doesn't know where he belongs anymore. Is he really still part of the cool kids? Or is he better off with his former best friend Toby, the debate team, and even Cassidy Thorpe, the strange, quirky new girl with a tragedy of her own?

Ezra is, if anything, a really admirable character. I felt for him, how devastating it must have been to just lose everything that you’ve been working for in one night, and it’s great that he survived, but what’s even greater is how he used what he faced as an avenue to really find himself and not just let other people’s expectations control how he lives his life. I love that he made something positive of what he experienced, that he actually started questioning his life and making changes for his own happiness.

He fits well with Cassidy, who I like for her quirkiness and her general lack of care for what other people think. It's hard to trust her because it becomes pretty obvious that she’s hiding something, but despite that, I still felt really bad for her in the end. I guess that’s the thing about her—even without meaning to, you find yourself caring about her more than you thought you could.

The rest of the characters are stereotypical—the jocks, the geeks, all that stuff—but I have to say that I really adore Toby and how he is so accepting of Ezra even long after they grew apart. He’s that friend who’s always got your back, and I’m glad that Ezra has someone like that.

I don’t think the plot is exactly new, but Schneider’s good writing pulled me right in anyway. I enjoyed hearing the story in Ezra’s voice; it’s surprisingly believable, and the puns every once in a while are fun, too. I was expecting that Cassidy would have this big revelation of her secret, but I admit that her tragedy still took me by surprise. What really stuck with me, though, is the ending. Some may find it a bit disappointing or even sad, but I personally love it—its message is different from other books I’ve read (or at least I think so), and it’s what makes me like this novel so much more.

The Beginning of Everything isn’t perfect, but it’s worth the read. It talks about life, loss, and the idea that even the worst of tragedies might just help bring out the best in us.

My Rating

Blitz+Excerpt: Twisted

Saturday, April 11, 2015
Title: Twisted
Author: Lola Smirnova
Genre: New Adult
Publication Date: January 26, 2014

Purchase from Amazon: ebook || paperback

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Inspired by real life events, Twisted is a fascinating story of vulnerability, courage and the art of making a living in the sex trade...

Back in the 90's, the corrupt post-Soviet Ukraine with its faltering economy, is thrown into a devastating depression. Times are hard. Opportunities are scarce. Three young and eager sisters - Natalia, Lena and Julia - dream of a better life and weigh their options: do they stay and struggle like their parents, or join scores of their compatriots in the sex trade in glittering western European cities, who earn in a night what they'd take several months to earn at home? Naive and tempted by the allure of 'quick' money, the girls set off on an adventure that changes their lives forever...

For sensible, resilient and calculating Lena and Natalia, the transition to the underworld of Luxembourg's deceptive champagne bars is eye-opening, but smooth. But for fragile, brittle Julia, haunted by a childhood assault, the change is more than just vocational. Struggling to adapt, she turns to alcohol and drugs, exposing herself to increasing danger and depravity; and, ultimately, betrayal, when a deceitful client, who claims to love her, drugs her and cleans her out.

Despite her sisters' best efforts to intervene, she finds herself in Istanbul - culturally a world apart - in an attempt to make back the money and self-respect she's lost. Vulnerable without the protection of Luxembourg's champagne bars, she descends into a hell of drugs and high-risk sex until, at the novel's terrible climax, a kidnapping, brutal assault and one-sided justice system lead to her imprisonment and a threat of deportation.

How will Natalia and Lena save Julia?

*Twisted is the first book in the trilogy. The second book Craved will be released soon.


"A gripping and mature story deftly woven by Lola Smirnova, "Twisted" is the kind of suspense novel that will linger in the mind and imagination long after it is finished and set back upon the shelf... "Twisted" introduces an extraordinarily gifted author to an appreciative readership looking eagerly toward her next literary effort." - Midwest Book Review

"Charged with some disturbing sexual scenes (including rape), the book manages a steady, readable flow as it shines a light on the multifaceted world of the European sex trade."
 - Kirkus Reviews

"Smirnova takes us on a philosophical and pseudo-psychological pilgrimage through the sexual underworld as Julia, in first person narrative, describes her struggling introduction into a profession where she can ply the only skills currently marketable." - 5 star review from Readers' Favorite

"I highly recommend 'Twisted' to open-minded readers who aren't afraid of a little blood, sweat and semen. It's sure to shock and surprise you, with both its storyline and its literary value." - 5 star review from Red City Review

"In the meantime, Smirnova hopes that Twisted will raise awareness to the problems of the sex industry... Kudos to Smirnova for an outstanding job achieving that goal!" - 5 star review from Pacific Book Review

"While the subject matter does not make for a light read, a breezy writing style and Julia's willingness to fully and shamelessly lift the veil on her controversial lifestyle makes an irresistible combination."

Excerpt from Chapter 1

‘Sag es!’ he screams at me.

The heavy motorcycle helmet is so tightly strapped to my head that I can hear the blood rushing through my ears. The smell of stale sweat reeks from the worn padding inside it. I struggle to swallow. A drop of spit runs down the ball gag that has been shoved into my mouth, then down my chin, and drips onto the couch beneath my knees. My shoulders are screaming from the pull of the handcuffs, which force my hands together behind my back.

He stands in the middle of the small and gloomy room and I can see the outline of his large body. Two bloodshot eyes are firmly fixed on my exposed nipples. A fleshy tongue slides backwards and forwards through the gap in his teeth. He licks the sweat off his lips, moans, and starts rubbing his groin, rocking his wide hips back and forth. He increases the pace, while his moans get louder and louder. Next, he stops abruptly, moving his eyes from my chest to my face, scowls, and takes a few menacing steps towards me. I shrink instinctively, tensing my body …

‘I know him. Don’t be scared Jul. He’s a bit strange, but a harmless motherfucker.’ That is what my sister, Natalia, managed to whisper in my ear half an hour ago, before I followed this freak, with the brain bucket in his hand, upstairs.

Natalia and I were sitting at the bar counter when he walked in. He didn’t even have a drink; just stepped in the door, looked around, stopped his stare at me, and mumbled, ‘I want you. Let’s go.’

‘It’s time to work!’ teased Natalia. Her naughty look followed us all the way up the stairs.

‘Sag es!’ the crack-head screams again, which I think means ‘say it’ in Luxembourgish or German.

He grunts, and with a wild thrust shoves his hips right into my face. He doesn’t even bother to take his jeans off. A quick unzip and he pulls out a flaccid penis, puts one foot up on the couch and starts violently pumping it, so close that his clenched palm is punching the helmet. Lucky for me the visor is shut.

I sigh deeply and try to shift on the couch to get rid of the cramps, which start crawling up my legs and back.

A bit strange? Come on, Natalia! You could call him anything – cracked, insane, alien on Earth – but hardly ‘a bit strange’!

I glance at the half-empty bottle of champagne seductively chilling in the ice bucket. If I’d known what Natalia had meant by ‘a bit strange’, I would have finished it before he handcuffed me and shoved the damn ball into my jaws.
‘Sag es!’ brings me out of my thoughts again.

I peep at his red face … What the hell does this crack-head think he is doing? I wouldn’t even call it masturbation! He tortures his penis in a spasmodic exertion. The awful tongue tossing in his distorted mouth, the dark brown hair stuck to the film of sweat on his broad brow, and the whimpering noises coming out of his fat body make a disgusting spectacle.

‘Sag es!’

According to the instructions he gave me before we started this session, I was supposed to say ‘I love you, I forgive you’ through the gag.

I wonder what my seventh-grade teacher would say if she walked in the door right now? She always believed in me and encouraged: ‘You are going to come out on top, Julia …’ Good shot, Anna Ivanovna. You were pretty close!

He shuts his eyes and wrinkles his forehead in concentration. Frustrated, he drops his limp penis and squats next to the small table in the centre of the room. He pauses only to wipe the trickle of sweat from his forehead. Then he quickly snorts the line of blow on the glass table, and doesn’t get up for a while, staring deadpan at the wall.

Hey, fat boy, get on with it so we can have some together after this. I think I deserve a little pick-me-up for my efforts here.

I wonder what could possibly have happened to turn his grey matter inside out like this. A few hours later, when I kick my ‘labour hour’ around with the girls, they will tell me some rumours about him having had a motorbike accident. Apparently, he was riding ‘under the influence’ with his fiancĂ©e in tow. She died there on the street, in his arms, in a puddle of mud. With the last beats of her heart, he stared at her wide-open eyes, full of terror, and at her bleeding lips that breathed in agony: ‘Please, baby, I don’t want to die.’

I shudder. I don’t know if he was injured in the accident, but after this short time we’ve spent together I can assure you that his brain was nowhere to be found after that crash.

‘Sag es!’

Yeah, whatever …

He finally comes back to the couch, pulling and beating his poor half-dead cock in front of my plastic shield. I try to say what he demands – anything to get this over and done with, and me out of here – but ‘I love you’, that forms beautifully in my throat, dissolves into an incoherent mumble as it hits the ball.

His small eyes devour every inch of my naked body, which is truly just skin and bone with boyish nipples where there are supposed to be breasts. The only reason why any man would choose to fuck me (aside from being a paedophile, of course) would be my big blue eyes and long blonde hair.

‘Sag es!’

His whole face is scrunched up in an ugly leer and his bottom lip is quivering as he makes a weird whining noise.

Oh please! Don’t tell me you are going to cry now! Pathetic, sick, even disturbing, but not just ‘a bit strange’, Natalia?!

He keeps on yanking and jerking and thrusting like a maniac – harder and harder. He’s going to pull that thing off if he doesn’t stop!

‘Sag es! Sag es!’ he whines over and over, then forcefully flips the visor up and pulls the bottom of the helmet so close that his soft crotch hits my face. I shut my eyes a second before the first squirt of semen hits them.

‘It’s over’ slips with warmth and ease into my head, then streams down through my body, echoing the semen on my face. My eyes are closed but I can still hear him sobbing, sniffling and mumbling.

I can’t believe this fucker just ruined my make-up!

All I’ve got from this pathetic episode is an experience I will never be able to share with my grandchildren and €60 with no promise of a tip.

About the Author

Aspiring author from Ukraine, Lola Smirnova loves twisting a suspenseful tale through the dark lens of realism around the sexual underworld, so clocked in secrecy and shame. Lola’s work is inspired by real-life events and is meant for the open-minded readers who are not afraid of a little blood, sweat and semen.

Her debut novel Twisted was released in 2014. The book placed as Honorable Mention in General Fiction Category of The 2014 London Book Festival’s Annual Competition.

Whether you prefer to slide your finger across a touchscreen or turn a paper page, Lola’s thrilling tales will surely shock and surprise you, with both its storyline and its literary value.

Now living in South Africa, Lola is about to release her second novel – a sequel to Twisted – Craved, which proves just how many fascinating stories she has to share about the ordinary women in the global sex industry. 

Connect with Lola on:

Review+Excerpt: Raising the Stakes

Wednesday, April 8, 2015
25086499Title: Raising the Stakes
Author: Karen Rock
Publisher: Harlequin
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: April 1, 2015

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Hiding from the world… 

Tucking herself away in the Adirondack woods was supposed to keep Vivienne Harris safe. From dark memories of the Bronx, from danger, from entanglements. But when an orphaned bear cub raids her pantry and conservation officer Liam Walsh appears with news of poachers nearby, her private, peaceful world is turned upside down! 

Suddenly two forces are drawing her out—Button, the cub who needs her help, and Liam, the man who's dead set against her rehabilitating the bear. If she can just win Liam's support, Vivie knows she can give Button a good life. And maybe find the courage to embrace a future with Liam…


Liam kissed his mother’s damp cheek and eased his guitar from her grip. Her clear-eyed happiness soothed the deep burning inside. Vivie had a point. His music did make a difference. If it made his mother feel better, smoothed over this bump in the reception, then it was worth reliving the past. And maybe the past was something he needed to face, as Vivie had last night.

When he and Vivie approached the band area there was brief applause followed by an attentive hush.

He plucked two notes and felt the audience lean toward them. He touched a string and began to tune the instrument. It was not the finest guitar. He hadn’t been able to afford a better one at the time. Its neck was nicked. One of the pegs was loose and prone to going out of tune, he recalled.

He brushed a soft chord and tipped his ear to the strings. As he glanced up, he glimpsed Vivie’s face, clear as the moon. She smiled excitedly and the soft light in her eyes made his heart squeeze.

He touched the loose peg gently, running his hands over the warm wood. The varnish was scraped and scuffed in places, but that didn’t make it less precious to him.

So, yes. It had flaws, but what did that matter when it came to things you treasured? Vivie had called herself damaged goods and he could say the same about himself. Yet, did that mean they couldn’t be loved…find love…together?

Anyone could love someone perfect. Whole. That was easy. But to love someone scarred. Wounded. To know the flaws and love them too. That was rare and pure and perfect. Could he and Vivie share that?

He adjusted another string and pictured his old bunkmate, Roger, asking him for some Bon Jovi, Pete wanting more Journey. How both of them, and the rest of his unit, had sung along or closed their eyes, remembered better times. He had brought them peace at the end and the thought soothed a jagged part of him that had scraped his heart raw.

At last, he moved a finger and the chord went minor in a way that sounded a bit sad. He moved his hands again and this time two chords sang with each other. Then, without a plan, he began to play.

The strings felt foreign to his fingers, like old friends meeting up again. He played soft and slow, sending notes to the edge of the circle gathered around them. Fingers and strings worked together carefully, as if this tender bond might be broken at any moment.

Then he felt something inside him open and music poured into the quiet. His fingers danced, intricate and quick. The music moved like a maple key spinning to the forest floor, dandelion fluff floating on a summer breeze. It felt as if it carried his time in Kunar with it, along with the anguished waiting, the heart-stopping fear, the despair that he’d never make it out.

At last, he slipped into a familiar tune, a love song Mary Ann had played endlessly when they’d grown up. Her eyes smiled at him and Vivie joined him in a duet. Her voice was honey-smooth, a light soprano that complemented his baritone perfectly. They sang as though they’d done so together forever, each one taking turns weaving harmonic lines, supporting the melody and sometimes carrying it for the other. The moment was the sharpest, sweetest, he’d ever known.

He felt the heat of her beside him. Breathed in the summer rain and meadow-flower scent of her. Listened to the tender fluttering of her voice. It was beautiful. His eyes kept returning to her as she sat on a stool, arms hugging her knees.

At last the song ended, the final chord ringing in the silence, and after a bit, it slowly began to dawn on Liam that he’d been staring at Vivie for an awkward amount of time. But she didn’t seem offended or amused. She studied his face, as if she was waiting.

He wanted to take her somewhere private. Brush her cheek with his fingertips. Tell her that she was the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen. That the sight of her was enough to drive the breath from him. How sometimes he missed out on what she said for the soft lilt of her voice. He wanted to say that if she were with him then nothing could ever be wrong in his world again.

In that moment, he considered asking her to come with him to Yellowstone. He felt the question boiling up in his chest. He drew in air, then hesitated. What could he say? Come with me? Leave your work, your friends, home, everything you know and love?


Sudden certainty tightened in his chest. He couldn’t promise her anything. He closed his mouth and smiled instead at the applauding crowd and his beaming mother.

Whatever he said couldn’t guarantee her permanence or stability, and after all she’d been through she deserved at least that.

My Thoughts

Hello everyone! We're back!

Whoa, after 3 long months, I'm finally free from my endless piling school load!!!! Yahoo! And what's a better way for celebration but to read books? ;) So here I am!

I actually had a hard time choosing which book to read since I wanted my first one after my hibernation to be a good one in order to set my pace, and to bring me out of my reading slump. There were a lot of books that I wanted to read, and it was really hard. In the end, I decided to give Karen Rock's Raising the Stakes a try. I figured I wouldn't be disappointed since out of the three books of hers that I've read, I loved them all. I was certain that this fourth book wouldn't be any different.

And I was right. To say it was beautiful is an understatement. It was amazingly astounding. Holy crap. I had my reserves for this since it involved animals. Seeing that I'm not a great fan of them (sorry!! I'm just so scared of them huhu), I thought I'd have a hard time connecting with Vivie, an animal lover. I was wrong.

Vivie is more than an animal lover. In fact, I love everything about her: her character is just so realistic as her fear and anxiety are weaved into her strength and determination. Her ability to follow what she thinks is right is truly admirable. Right from the start of the novel, I figured that there was something about her past. To know what happened in her past surprised me because despite everything else, she is one of the strongest people I've ever met (even if she's just fictional). Even though I am not an animal lover, to say at the very least, I was able to connect to her in the way that I could feel her worries for Button, the orphaned bear cub she rescued.

Meet Liam, the animal conservation officer for Button. But he is more than an animal conservation officer. At first, I hated him because of the way he treated Button and Vivie. He seemed inhumane. But I guess, judging someone is really bad, since by the end of the book, I loved him. Although he had his own problems to deal with, he was there. He knew when to push, and when to pull back. There were times that he had crossed the line, but that's what made everything realistic. He makes and says some stupid things, the wrong things, but it's okay. It was exactly what life is.

Putting the two of them together seemed impossible. Both were broken and unable to move on from the past. Both had conflicting choices and decisions. They were contradictory in many possible ways. But the one thing that made me believe in their love is that they helped each other grew. Unconsciously. And that's what made the romance so beautiful.

The entire time I was reading this one, I couldn't put it down. I read this in one sitting, because before I knew it, I was done. From the middle of the book until the end, I could just feel my heart pounding for them, aching for them, and sympathizing with them. It was a roller coaster ride for me. As I read their thoughts, I couldn't help but have an aching heart. Not to mention, I couldn't help but to get teary-eyed too.

I was with them their entire journey, and it was beautiful. Despite the pain and tears, it was truly heartwarming, as all Karen Rock's books are. Reading this has allowed me to reflect on some of my decisions and will-be choices. Despite the cover looking like a National Geographic scene (Karen's words, not mine! haha), Raising the Stakes is an ultra, mega, hyper awesome story that I absolutely recommend! A story about love, setting oneself free and putting up the stakes in order to be able to trust, love and live that I am glad I had this as my first legit book this year. ❤️

My Rating