Monday, June 19, 2017

Review: Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley

Words in Deep Blue
by Cath Crowley

Years ago, Rachel had a crush on Henry Jones. The day before she moved away, she tucked a love letter into his favorite book in his family’s bookshop. She waited. But Henry never came.

Now Rachel has returned to the city—and to the bookshop—to work alongside the boy she’d rather not see, if at all possible, for the rest of her life. But Rachel needs the distraction. Her brother drowned months ago, and she can’t feel anything anymore.

As Henry and Rachel work side by side—surrounded by books, watching love stories unfold, exchanging letters between the pages—they find hope in each other. Because life may be uncontrollable, even unbearable sometimes. But it’s possible that words, and love, and second chances are enough.

(cover image and synopsis lifted from Goodreads)

Series: Standalone
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Publication date:  June 6th 2017 (first published August 30th 2016)
Source/Format: eARC via Netgalley
Purchase links: Amazon Barnes&Noble

My Thoughts:

“Words in Deep Blue” is not much about whether Rachel and Henry belong to each other even after years of distance and falling out. The book never puts a doubt to the answer to that. The two of them were close since childhood, bestfriends in fact. Right from the first page we see Rachel’s three-year old love letter to Henry. Rachel’s been away but in the first chapter, she’s about to go back to her childhood town. Then the next chapter began with Henry’s girlfriend, Amy, breaking up with him. It’s perfect timing. The stars have aligned for Rachel and Henry to be together again.

One of the book’s pleasure comes with discovering how Rachel and Henry would finally catch on with their real feelings for each other. The book is in first person dual points of view, alternating between Rachel’s and Henry’s narration. Some same scenes in this book are seen from both their eyes, like when Henry confronted Rachel about her love letter. It’s a nice touch how the same sequences differ depending on who is telling them. The twist and turns of their love story involves the making up of their friendship, comforting each other’s grief and heartbreak, saving Henry from the bullies, an exchange of letters, saving a bookshop from being sold out and a handful of lovable supporting characters.

I love the Joneses, Henry’s family, warmth, complications and all. I want to sit with them in one of their traditional Friday family dinner solely dedicated to dumplings and book discussions. I want to visit and shop at the Howling Books, a secondhand bookstore owned by Henry’s parents. I am partial of course to Henry’s dad, Michael, and his sentimentality towards the bookstore and his favorite book, Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. But I also understand Henry’s mom, Sophie, who argues for the practical side of things.  Henry’s younger sister, George, is the source of a few laughs with her snarky comments to Henry’s misery. Plus they have a bookshop cat named after an author, Ray Bradbury! You might already know that I want to be a bookshop cat or a library cat in my next life so yeah, I think I’ve seen a glimpse of my good life ahead, slinking through books and people thru Ray Bradbury. I love Rachel’s and Henry’s third bestfriend, Lola, who makes her own music with bandmate, Hiroko. I love Howling Books’ patrons, especially the sage septuagenarian Frederick. And oddly enough, my favorite character of all is Cal, Rachel’s dead brother. Cal is not just someone mentioned in passing for Rachel to mourn for. He felt so real to me. I got to know him so well – his interest on time theories, his favorite things, his letters, his hopes and dreams for the future – that I can’t help but feel for Rachel’s loss.

“Words in Deep Blue” heavily referenced a lot of books and authors. It covered a wide spectrum of genre from classics to contemporary YA, from John Steinbeck to John Green. I am honestly not familiar with every literary citations but I mildly obsessed about the idea of maybe checking them out later that I took notes and made a list of all the books mentioned in the book. The plot is not that extraordinary but the writing is exquisite. There’s this beautiful mental picture that Rachel thought while lying on the floor next to Henry holding a book over their heads: “The words could rain on us, I think. I have a strange image of us drinking them.” There are many mentions of the color blue all throughout: the blue velvet couch in Howling Books’s fiction section, bluestone walls of the reading garden, Frederick’s deep-blue ties, Rachel’s 1990 dark blue Volvo, George’s dark hair with a blue stripe running down on one side, Rachel’s blue bathing suit, Rachel’s blue eyes, and even Amy wore a blue dress on one occasion. Blue, being the color of sadness maybe? I will not dwell much on the significance of the imagery but still, nice mental pictures. Sandwiched between each chapter are notes and letters in the Letter Library. These extra parts added a whole lot of charm and character to the book. The Letter Library is a special section of Howling Books, where customers are allowed to circle words and highlight the lines that they love. They may write notes in the margins or leave letters between the pages of the books. Patrons may write to anyone (to authors, to their ex-lovers, to strangers) and anyone can also write back.

“Words in Deep Blue” will surely make a bookworm’s heart flutter. The book puts the written words as the central figure that has a great effect on its characters. One character, Frederick, said that books, words, music, and art are lights that reappear in a broken universe. When we come to think of it, these things are artificial. Man-made. Words are only strings of letters. Words are mundane, we use them everyday. They are just that, words. But most times when put together, they become stories or poems or songs. They become magic that conjures feelings and inspirations. They can hurt, but more importantly, can also heal and give us hope. And when written, as Rachel observed, they’ll always exist. With these thoughts in mind, I suddenly feel that we owe a lot of gratitude to all the people who put themselves out there and write. It’s thanks to their writings that words get to be shared or spoken or sung, again and again, across generations, to people who might need it the most at the moment. This is what exactly makes “Words in Deep Blue” beautiful. It’s a book about books and more. It’s a sort of tribute to written words: with all the books in Howling Boooks, to Henry’s favorite poems he recites to Rachel and to the lyrics of Lola’s and Hiroko’s songs.

Diversity Watch:
The existence of this part of my review is thoroughly discussed in this post. The formula is basically this: list of characters + explicit race and gender description in the text = overall look of how diverse the book is.

Those with no mention of race and gender beside their names are racially indeterminate and/or gender non specific characters.
  • Rachel Sweetie – soft dust of freckles, blond that she later bleached, looks like Audrey Hepburn if she’s a surfer
  • Henry Jones – racially indeterminate
  • Cal – Rachel’s brother. Tall, skinny guy with a cloud of brown hair
  • Rose – Rachel’s and Cal’s aunt
  • Tim Hooper  – Cal’s friend in school
  • Amy – long red hair, grren eyes, fair skin
  • Aaliyah – Amy’s friend
  • Ewan – Amy’s ex
  • Lola – Rachel’s and Henry’s third bestfriend, openly gay, short and curvy, long brown hair and olive skin
  • Hiroko – Lola’s bandmate
  • George Jones – (17yo) Henry’s sister long straight black hair w/ a blue stripe down the left side
  • Frank – owner of bakery next door
  • Frederick – 70-yr old customer of Howling Books
  • Frieda – another customer, plays Scrabble w/ Frederick
  • Al, James, Aaron, Inez, Jett – Howling Books customers
  • Gus – Rachel’s grief counselor
  • Joel Winter – Rachel’s ex-boyfriend
  • Greg Smith – resident idiot in Henry’s life, supernaturally white teeth, perfect hair
  • Mai Li – her family owns Shainghai Dumplings, where the Joneses hold their Friday nights family dinner tradition
  • Stacy – George’s classmate who is giving her a hard time at school
  • Katia – Henry’s classmate whom he is tutoring in English
  • Emily, Aziza, and Beth – classmates of Rachel and Henry
  • Sophia and Michael – Henry’s parents
  • Martin Gamble – another part-timer in Howling Books
  • Justin – some guy who threw a party at his house
  • Ray Bradbury – Howling Books’ resident cat
  • Woof – Cal’s black Labrador dog

My Rating:


Monday, May 1, 2017

Stacking the Shelves (STS #8)

Image: Kaboompics

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews. It's all about sharing the books added to our shelves, may it be physical or virtual.

Heya! It's been a while since I posted a book haul. Today I share my new eBooks I have obtained from the last few weeks. As I've shared in this post, I recently discovered a way to purchase from Amazon without using a credit card and we all know where that would lead, right? Yes, you guessed it right: adding more books to my TBR.

Also, I won an eBook from the Facebook Launch Party for Promdi Heart, an anthology of Filipino hometown love stories. And downloaded a freebie book from Ines Bautista-Yao.

So see below all my shiny new digital acquisitions! Cover images are linked to Goodreaads.









Ahaha, I am extremely pleased with my haul. What about you, fellow book wanderers? Any new books acquired lately? Share it with me in the comments section. Or link me up to your book haul post, I'd like to go and see your new books. :)

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Love at First Sight: Chi Yu Rodriguez (Author Interview)

Photo: Dan Whale/Unsplash

Welcome and step right up to Love at First Spark, a blog event featuring #SparkNA authors! Get a bit intimate and learn more about the awesome people behind your next favorite romance reads. Check out the blog event schedule and the list of participating authors here.

Today, author Chi Yu Rodriguez is behind the wheel of this blog. Enjoy the ride as she talks about her new book, "The Art of Shifting Gears".

Questions and Answers

  1. What is your inspiration in writing “The Art of Shifting Gears”?
    It was actually an old story... fan fiction, specifically. I wrote it I think in 2008 but I never got past 2 chapters. When SparkNA came around, it was the first story that came to mind. So I decided to write it again. That being said, it's turned into something completely different. What inspired this version of that little story I started years ago was SparkNA's required theme: "Be brave." It turned into something extremely personal. Though not a mirror image of actual events, what Rae goes through is a reflection of the same feelings I felt  when I was in college and trying to survive life.

  2. How is your writing process like? Do you have any quirks in your writing process?
    I have a very stressful writing process. At least I think people will probably find it stressful? Because most people I know write in increments... 500 words today, another 500 tomorrow, maybe 300 after that or a thousand, something like that. But in my case I write in bulk. For example, I wrote The Art of Shifting Gears mostly in Starbucks. I set aside one day in the weekend when I would arrive at Starbucks at 8am, set up shop at my favorite table, and go home at 8pm or sometimes even 9pm if my muses are feeling particularly loud. I bust out 3000-7000 words per I go through two orders of coffee every single time (with some tv series or movies in between to give myself time to breathe). I take down two orders of coffee, and maybe some cake too if I'm proud of myself. I did that weekend, after weekend, after weekend until a few days before final manuscript submissions.

  3. If you will be given a minute of face to face encounter with any of your book characters, who would you want it to be with and what would you say to him or her?
    I'll just pick one from The Art of Shifting Gears too because I've actually thought about this a lot...

    I would've wanted to talk to Rae after her parents died and they moved to Pampanga. I would've tried to talk her out of shutting her friends out of her life completely. Though she dealt with the blows the way she thought would be best for her, I as a friend would've tried to tell her that she didn't have to leave her life behind too along with the city.

  4. Do you believe in love at first sight? Why or why not?
    Love at first sight, no. The seed of love being planted after meeting a person for the first time... yes.

    I just think that love itself is not something you can quantify, and especially not with a single glance. Love, as most of us know it, takes time to become real I think. Yes? No?

  5. Give us your best banat or pick-up line.
    I am single and have been single for the better part of three decades... that should explain why I have absolutely no answer to this question. :p

  6. Finally, use “spark” in a sentence.
    All it takes is a little spark to start a raging fire.

About Chi Yu

Chi Yu Rodriguez has many feelings. Sometimes these feelings find their way to paper in the form of short stories and fiction online. Sometimes they don't come out at all and end up as unresolved sexual tension or terrible internal angst.

She prefers making imaginary people go through these feelings for her pleasure. Her muses hate her for it, and they repay her by being forever fickle.

She wrestles with them in her head everyday.

Find more about Chi Yu: Blog | WattpadTwitter | Goodreads

About The Art of Shifting Gears

Rae de los Santos was en route to a perfect adult life. She knew what to major in, she knew what career path she was going to pursue, and she knew who she was going to be with all the way to the realization of her dreams—until her seamless journey made a turn for the unimaginable and skidded to a stop.

All of a sudden she was facing every roadblock possible, and the people she held dear ended up running over her heart.

For a year, she distracted herself with hot lead and burnt rubber, using karting as a lifeline until she was strong enough to face the world that shunned her.

But during Rae’s junior year in college, she was again blindsided by signs that weren’t supposed to be there. Will Rae go full speed ahead? Or will the seduction of the past slow her down?

Series: Standalone
Publisher: Spark Books, an imprint of Anvil Publishing
ISBN: 9786214201037
Year Published: 2017
Number of Pages: 120
The Art of Shifting Gears is available at National Book Store and Powerbooks branches or order online here: Amazon | Anvil
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