Monthly Archives: February 2014

The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay

Several months ago, I encountered this title being raved about by people in the blogosphere. It had been the talk of the town for quite some time. Even the reviews I’ve read had high ratings for this book, so it sparked my curiosity more. I wanted to find out if The Sea of Tranquility is, indeed, a good book. Therefore, after much deliberation, I finally decided to buy a copy for myself from one of our local bookstores.

Here’s the plot description from the back cover of the book:

The Sea of Tranquility coverI live in a world without magic or miracles. A place where there are no clairvoyants or shapeshifters, no angels or superhuman boys to save you. A place where people die and music disintegrates and things suck. I am pressed so hard against the earth by the weight of reality that some days I wonder how I am still able to lift my feet to walk.

Two and a half years after an unspeakable tragedy left her a shadow of the girl she once was, Nastya Kashnikov moves to a new town determined to keep her dark past hidden and hold everyone at a distance. But her plans only last so long before she finds herself inexplicably drawn to the one person as isolated as herself: Josh Bennett.

Josh’s story is no secret. Every person he loves has been taken from his life until, at seventeen years old, there is no one left. When your name is synonymous with death, everyone tends to give you your space. Everyone except Nastya who won’t go away until she’s insinuated herself into every aspect of his life. But as the undeniable pull between them intensifies, he starts to wonder if he will ever learn the secrets she’s been hiding—or if he even wants to.

The Sea of Tranquility is a rich, intense, and brilliantly imagined story about a lonely boy, an emotionally fragile girl, and the mira­cle of second chances.

Yes, I know, I bought this book sometime last year, but it only took me until this time to read it. To be honest, I wanted to be in the right mood before I pick up the book. I’m scared that I might end up hating it, while a lot of people loved it. Certain standards have actually already been set before I began reading The Sea of Tranquility. But despite my expectations, I still don’t want to force myself into liking it. I’d rather have my own judgment and trust it, rather than follow the majority. However, at the end of the day, I still wonder if this book has the same effect on me as it has to those who enjoyed it.

Reading The Sea of Tranquility has been an emotional journey for me. I don’t know how Katja Millay manages to put all types of emotions into one whole story and still make it as one of the best books I’ve read so far. I’m not so sure if I’ll be able to compress all the feelings I’ve felt about the book here, but I’ll try my best to make my review justifiable to what the story tries to convey to its readers.

To start off, I’d like to talk about the book cover first. It’s rare to see a book cover design as unique as The Sea of Tranquility. The cover has some sort of an optical illusion, letting people see two kinds of pictures if they look at it from two different perspectives. As all book cover designs do, this cover design certainly relates to the plot. And how they connect to the story is up to us to find out. What’s more surprising for me is that once I finished the book, I’ll never look at this cover design the same way again. In a good way, of course.

Moving on, the moment I opened the book, I’m already drawn into the story. I’m just a few pages in and I already find myself loving the characters of Josh and Nastya. They’re two different people, but it’s evident that both of them deal with something heavy and dark in their lives. It’s quite amazing to see how they are drawn to one another and their attraction for each other has also been made apparent. People may have judged Nastya with the way she dresses, yet with the way the story is written, there’s no preconceived notion from me about her. Josh, on the other hand, is being avoided by the crowd and it doesn’t even bother him. These two mysterious characters catch my attention just enough that the more I turn the page, the more I want to get to know them.

I’m glad that Katja Millay writes the story in Josh and Nastya’s point of views. This way, the readers will easily know the things and feelings going on in their minds as well as empathize with them. It makes me want to become friends with them. And as I go further through the book, I’m able to witness how different they react to their surroundings as compared to other teenagers – Josh and Nastya prove to act more maturely. I’ve also certainly become invested in their growing relationship with each other that I can’t stop myself from silently rooting for them. It’s a slow process, but that’s what I love in relationships. Josh and Nastya are definitely two dynamic characters I won’t forget. What’s more impressive is that aside from them, the other characters, such as Drew, Clay, and Sarah, have also changed towards the end of the story. It cannot be ignored that they have played a major role in Josh and Nastya’s lives as well.

For me, the best analogy I can give for this story is that it’s like a jigsaw puzzle. As I begin reading the book, I’m somehow presented with hundreds of scrambled puzzle pieces, waiting to be completed. There’s already a mystery at the beginning and my mind wouldn’t be at peace if I can’t find out and know everything. This strategy alone keeps me so engrossed into the story that I literally can’t put the book down. The more I read, the more I could put pieces together until I can finally see the bigger picture in the end. Katja Millay’s writing style is so addictive which pushes me further into getting lost in Josh and Nastya’s world. She successfully narrates the story in detail, but still leaves room for mystery and this got me hooked more. Katja Millay even manages to approach and solve the conflicts and issues realistically; thus, making it easier for the readers to relate to the characters better.

Overall, The Sea of Tranquility does not disappoint. From the plot to character development, writing style and conflicts and resolution, I couldn’t ask for a better story than this. It’s almost as if I’ve also felt all kinds of emotions in one package – I’m happy and laughing at one point and then I’m sad and heartbroken the next. But all these are worth it! The only thing I regret is that I should’ve read this book sooner! I would totally recommend this book to everyone. The Sea of Tranquility will surely capture the hearts of the readers, just like what it did to me.


The Longest Holiday by Paige Toon

As soon as I finished Pictures of Lily, which I enjoyed reading, I immediately grabbed The Longest Holiday off my shelf. I was quite excited to read this book because of the positive feedbacks this book is getting from its readers. I just hope it will have the same effect on me. (P.S. This may contain spoilers.)

Here’s the plot description from the back cover of the book:

The Longest Holiday cover‘Don’t wait for the storm to pass; learn to dance in the rain…’

Laura has been married to the man of her dreams for seven months. But a week before the wedding, Matthew made a terrible mistake.

Escaping the humiliation that is now her marriage, Laura is whisked off to Florida’s Key West by her best friend Marty. A carefree holiday full of cocktails and fun, surrounded by gorgeous, tanned men, is exactly what the doctor ordered.

Distraction comes in the form of sexy Cuban scuba diver Leo. Laura’s instant attraction to him knocks her flying, and she falls hard.

As the end of the holiday approaches, Laura doesn’t want to go home. Is it time to face the music? Or is there more to Key West than a holiday romance?

There seems to be a recurring theme in Paige Toon’s books I’ve read so far. The heroine is presented with a conflict which puts her in a situation of struggling to choose between two men she loves. It isn’t always an easy choice for the protagonists. There would be pros and cons and it will leave readers guessing who the protagonists will choose in the end. And evidently, this is also what happens in The Longest Holiday.

The blurb doesn’t mention about the cause of the conflict in specific, only that Matthew has made a mistake. This alone sparks my curiosity to find out what the mistake is that pushes Laura to take some time off with her friend to Key West. Knowing Laura’s decision to do that somehow gives me an idea that the mistake isn’t something shallow or something to be forgotten that easily. The beginning of the story doesn’t immediately reveal this mistake and the suspense is killing me! I’m itching to find out about it, so once it’s revealed to me after turning a few more pages, the detail shocks me just as it surprises Laura.

I totally understand how Laura feels after discovering the news. If I were in her position, I would’ve reacted the same way. But maybe instead of taking some time off to have some space, I would face the problem the soonest possible. On the other hand, if Laura does this, there wouldn’t be any story arc this good as The Longest Holiday. From England and Australia, the story now sets in America. It’s like I’ve toured around the world without ever having to leave my seat! Amazing, right? Even the way Paige Toon described Key West projects a calm, relaxing scenery – a great place to escape from any stress in life. Moreover, Paige Toon also succeeds in familiarizing the subject about diving. I may not be a fan of any water-related type of hobby or sport, but Paige Toon manages to make diving a memorable experience to those who simply want to try. This might even convince the readers to learn diving.

I’m really amazed with Laura’s immediate attraction to Leo. It’s evident in the way she confidently shows her interest in him through her actions and thoughts. I can’t quite actually understand her strong adoration because since the beginning, Leo seems distant and unapproachable. Her aggressiveness in a sense that she often takes the initiative to strike a conversation with Leo deems as borderline desperation for me. There are also times when I think Laura is being childish. But these don’t necessarily make the book less interesting to me. I’m glad that Paige Toon isn’t biased as she is able to portray Matthew as someone who can be likeable to the readers as well.

Overall, I did not expect to like this book so much! Paige Toon manages to solve the controversial issues she brought up in the book without any sugarcoating or so and I couldn’t ask for a better ending. The last portion of the book is what catches me off guard. I’m shocked when there’s been a change in the point of view from Laura. This definitely changes my impression on Leo. It’s like this change symbolizes Leo’s willingness and openness to let readers hear his thoughts and feelings, as well as his decision to finally allow the people important to him to enter his life. I truly had fun reading this book. I can’t wait for Thirteen Weddings!

Pictures of Lily by Paige Toon

I bought this book together with Lucy in the Sky and The Longest Holiday at The Book Depository. I decided to have a mini-Paige Toon marathon, so after reading Lucy in the Sky, I immediately moved on to Pictures of Lily, hoping that it will be as good as the previous book I’ve read.

Here’s the plot description from the back cover of the book:

Pictures of Lily cover‘Will you marry me?’

I think of you, then. I think of you every day. But usually in the quietest part of the morning, or the darkest part of the night. Not when my boyfriend of two years has just proposed. I look up at Richard with his hopeful eyes. ‘Lily?’ he prompts. It’s been ten years, but it feels like only yesterday that you left. How can I say yes to Richard with all my heart when most of it has always belonged to you? I take a deep breath and will myself to speak…

Ten years ago when Lily was just sixteen, she fell in love with someone she really shouldn’t have fallen in love with. Now, living in Sydney and engaged to another man, she can’t forget the one that got away. Then her past comes back to haunt her, and she has to make a decision that will break her heart – and the heart of at least one of the men who love her.

The storyline has been made apparent by the premise of the book. In a way, we are already presented with an idea of what the protagonist is struggling with in her life – specifically, her love life. What I’m more curious is how pictures, based on the title, would fit into the story. I’m not exactly sure if photography will play a major role in it, but more or less, I’m guessing it would.

For a change, the story now sets in Australia. Paige Toon surely never misses out in including the infamous kangaroos and koalas Australia is known for. But she doesn’t limit herself to just that. Her vivid descriptions of the strikingly beautiful places Lily visits somehow deepened my longing to go on a trip to Australia once again. Moreover, I’m also able to witness the difference in the British language and Australian language. It’s fun to read how people use different terms for a specific object. Now what lacks are the actual accents. LOL.

I’m actually happy that I made the right decision to read Lucy in the Sky first before Pictures of Lily. Because apparently, some of the characters I met in the previous book appear in this one. Readers will be able to recognize familiar names and get a glimpse of what happened in their lives after the book. Lucy in the Sky is still fresh in my memory, so it’s nice to see how life turned out for Sam, Molly, Nathan, and Lucy. I guess, in literal terms, lives of characters don’t necessarily end even after closing the book. They continue to live on not just in the imaginations of readers, but in the lives of other characters of other books, too.

Despite the connection they have with Lily, the story still centers on her. The book is divided into two parts – the time when she was still sixteen and her life at the present. As the story unfolds her past, readers get to understand the strong feelings Lily feels for Ben. It’s evident that the bond they share is something not to be ignored easily. Even I become invested in their friendship. I find myself looking forward to the scenes of them spending time together. But of course, a story won’t be a story without a conflict. And this conflict has forced them to walk different paths.

The second part, the present, happens ten years after. Here, we find Lily being asked by Richard (yes, the Richard we know from Lucy in the Sky) for a hand in marriage. Although she said yes, she still can’t seem to move on from Ben. Stuck in the past, Lily tries to avoid anything that would remind her of him. And then she’s put in a situation that catches her off guard. Now more confused, Lily needs to solve her dilemma as soon as possible.

Once again, Paige Toon offers realistic characters and situations that would easily relate to the readers. The dynamism in Lily’s character makes this book more enjoyable to read. She has her flaws and the challenges she faces justify her actions. I may not totally relate to her situation, but Paige Toon’s narration helps me understand Lily more. Right from the beginning, her passions in caring for animals and photography have shaped her personality. Readers could see her grow into a more mature person and how her views in some aspects of life alter as she grows older.

They say that when it comes to love, age doesn’t matter. People will surely have different opinions – some would react positively, while some wouldn’t. Here, Paige Toon demonstrates both and surprisingly, she is still able to deliver the story well. Pictures of Lily is definitely one of the memorable stories I’ve read. I am so engrossed in it that I couldn’t put the book down. As I read through it, I can’t help but root for one man over the other. Evidently, this book is for the keeps. Can’t wait to read The Longest Holiday next.

Lucy in the Sky by Paige Toon

To be honest, I have never heard of Paige Toon before. It was quite a funny experience on how I was introduced to the works of Paige Toon. I just happened to stumble upon a tweet of one blogger named Emma Louise talking about one of her favorite authors, namely Nicholas Sparks. And as a fan of his novels, I didn’t hesitate to join in the conversation and Emma immediately recommended Paige Toon, her favorite UK romance author. Hence, trusting her word, I looked up Paige Toon’s works in The Book Depository and ordered some of her books. So, I started with Lucy in the Sky.

Here’s the plot description from the back cover of the book:

Lucy in the Sky coverA lawyer. A surfer. A 24-hour flight. The frequent liar points are clocking up and Lucy’s got choices to make…

It’s been nine years since Lucy left Australia. Nine years since she’s seen her best friend Molly, and Sam, the one-time love of her life. Now her two friends are getting married. To each other. And Lucy is on her way to Sydney for their wedding.

Life for Lucy has moved on. She’s happily settled with James, her gorgeous lawyer boyfriend, with their flat in London and her glamorous job in PR. Surely there’s no reason to expect this two-week holiday in the sun will be anything out of the ordinary?

But just before take-off, Lucy receives a text from James’ mobile. She can’t resist taking a look… and, in one push of a button, her world comes crashing down…

If you’ll notice, the book I ordered is the latest edition released by the publisher with the redesigned cover. While I adore the old cover, I like the new one better as it is more attractive and neater to look at. I guess the publisher changed the covers of Paige Toon’s previous books in order to match the new cover design of her latest chick-lit novel, The Longest Holiday.

Moving on, I seldom pay too much attention to book descriptions printed at the back cover of books (in some cases, the jacket cover if it’s in hardcover). But here, I find myself at awe with this book’s premise. The plot description doesn’t reveal too many details that would give away the whole content or plotline of the story. It provides a right amount of intrigue and mystery which would push readers to pick up the book and read it. And as I begin reading, I realize that the premise somehow serves as the introduction to the main story. Cool, isn’t it?

I rarely find books with this kind of strategic premise. The curiosity is there and I couldn’t stop myself from wanting to find out what this “text message” would be. Readers will find Lucy on her way to Australia to attend her childhood friends’ wedding and then she suddenly receives this disturbing message. Yes, surely her world comes crushing down. Was the message merely sent at the wrong place and wrong time or did someone send it to her intentionally? Either way, the message undeniably haunts her all the way to Australia and the uneasiness she feels definitely affects her mood. Anyone who’s in Lucy’s position would want to find out if the message is true or not. Despite the assurance of James that the message is fake, doubt still lingers in Lucy’s mind.

One of the things I enjoy reading this book is the realistic characterization of the characters. Paige Toon does not limit herself to just a handful of characters, but to as many characters as she could. Lucy might have been the center of the plot, but other characters also play a significant role in the story. All of them have distinct characteristics and personalities and I find myself admiring some while hating some. I couldn’t imagine the characters being close to my age and having to experience those things. Perhaps it’s a common thing in today’s generation and culture, but coming from a conservative family, it would’ve been a culture shock for me. LOL.

Paige Toon’s writing style makes it easier for me to empathize with Lucy and understand what she’s going through. As confused as she is with herself with regards to her feelings, her peers aren’t always that much helpful, which makes it even more confusing. I’m amazed by how Paige Toon manages to portray a convincing character, showing the image that this person is trying to convey of himself, when it’s the opposite of what this person really is deep inside. I also have my doubts right at the beginning, but I often change my mind when everything becomes better. I guess this is a perfect situation of a saying about following your gut feeling. At the end of the story, I’m glad to witness Lucy deciding what she thinks is best for her. I love how she weighs in the options and eventually coming up with a good decision. I, on the other hand, have been distantly rooting and supporting her from outside the book. I just love how everything turns out as I close the book.

Overall, Lucy in the Sky is a fun book. It’s a light read and will certainly keep readers entertained throughout the span of the story. Paige Toon succeeds in narrating the story with emotions, as well as in describing the wonderful, picturesque views of some places in London and Australia. Is the grass really greener on the other side? After reading this book, my answer to this question is that at the end of the day, it actually depends on the person you’re with. For a debut novel, Lucy in the Sky does not disappoint. I couldn’t actually put the book down. This will certainly not be my last Paige Toon book to read (of course, since I’ve already bought her other books). I’m off to her next book!