I think I mentioned it before that sometimes, you need to be in a certain mood to appreciate some books. Sometimes, no matter how other people like a...moreI think I mentioned it before that sometimes, you need to be in a certain mood to appreciate some books. Sometimes, no matter how other people like a book, if you're in not in that kind of mood, you won't be able to relate to any of the characters no matter what you do, or you won't be able to feel what the book wants you to feel. (Of course, there are some books that are just really hard to get into, even if you are in that same mood, but that's another story.)
So, Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler (and illustrated by Maira Kalman). I've seen this book and wanted this book when it was published, but I think I saw a not so good review of it somewhere, so I stopped wanting it. I have to admit that this is the kind of book that is right up my alley, especially since I was all about embracing your inner romantic last year. Then the book fell out of my radar, until it came back again and a friend lent me her copy because I figured it was time to read it.
Then I tried. I read the first few chapters, and then had the extreme desire to throw the book away so I stopped. I didn't want to throw the book away because it was bad, no. I wanted to throw the book away because it was getting too close for comfort. And the truth comes out. :P Suffice to say, maybe I was in the mood for this book, but it was too hard to read it because I was too much in that mood. Did that make sense? Anyway, months later, I decided to try reading this book again because some girls in our book club was reading this. I figured, why not join them? It could be some sort of release, as a good friend told me when I mentioned it. So I put my brave face on and started again.
Why We Broke Up is a break-up story, a long letter from Min Green to Ed Slaterton, her ex-boyfriend, telling their story from her side based on the items in the box that she was returning to him. These items (the illustrated parts of the book) were remnants of their short-lived relationship: bottle caps, a box of matches, movie tickets, a protractor, a note, a book, among other things. Take it, it's yours. This is why we broke up. Either you have the feeling or you don’t, Min writes, and we are left to wonder what exactly happened that led to Min and Ed's break-up.
Warning: this is a book full of drama. Every page is dripping of Min's bitterness and anger and heartbreak, and...well, it was kind of expected because of the title alone. The hard part of it, I think, is that I was kept in the dark why they broke up. I just know they broke up, but I didn't know why, and Min just kept on repeating "this is why, this is why" with every item she wrote about. It wasn't until the very, very end that we know, but the entire time, she just rambles on and tells their love story without a hint of the real reason why. And it's hard to see, too, especially since Ed seems a perfectly good guy from the start. Okay, perhaps he's not perfect -- he seems secretive, he has this thing about saying "no offense" and he seems judgmental about some guys who aren't into sports and labels them "gay", but he seemed to really like Min, so why is Min being so damn dramatic about everything?
Since I was reading the story from Min's POV, it was easy to pin the blame on her. You know how when a friend tell us a love problem, the first thing we often do is to try to find what our friend is doing wrong because it's something we can fix, because we know our friend better than the other party? It's that kind of thing. I read everything from Min's POV, so it was easier to try to find something that she did wrong...until I found out the real reason why they broke up and then, damn it. Ed, you're an asshole. I understood why Min is so angry. Granted, she wasn't perfect, either -- she shouldn't have jumped right in ahead in the relationship, she should have took her time, she should have seen the signs from the start...but well she's a teenager. This is young love. We have all been there. And I guess even if we have the wisdom of the years with us, things like this still hurt just the same.
The best part of the book, though, is Min's friends. I loved Al and Lauren (there was another name, but I forgot, eep), and to some extent, Jillian, that girl that Ed dated before Min. I loved them, and what they did for Min in the end. They didn't do anything so special, really, but they did what good friends do in times like this. I reread the last parts of the book because of them, and I was glad that Min had them with her in the fallout.
I've never been in a relationship, so it follows that I've never been in a break-up...but there were some times in my life where it seemed like the pain I was feeling is something akin to a break-up -- at least, based on what I read and saw on TV. And maybe that's why I ended up liking this book, because in some ways, I have been there. I know at least a fraction of what Min felt. Whether it's a relationship ending, or an almost-relationship that never became one, there's still pain there, and it hurts just the same. But the good thing I got out of all of this is...well, reading Why We Broke Up was strangely cathartic. Huh, my friend was right. Reading this book at the end of the year was a surprising release of feels. ;)
So yeah, I liked Why Why Broke Up. Perhaps if I read this last year, or any other time later, I wouldn't have liked it as much. But I liked it, and I am glad I read it, despite all the drama. (Because trust me, I've had enough of drama in the past year. :P)
Either you have the feeling or you don’t.
P.S. The illustrations were a good touch. :)
P.P.S. And no, I don't think I'm the "return all things" type person. I think I'm more of the "throw things away" one. ;)
I spotted this book on another blog, really, and didn't really think of it until my friend posted about it on his blog. I was curious, only because of...more I spotted this book on another blog, really, and didn't really think of it until my friend posted about it on his blog. I was curious, only because of the first post I saw, and when I had a chance to borrow it from my friend, I jumped on the chance. I like short story collections, and ever since I read my first Carver, I felt like it was the kind of book I can manage back then. I wasn't in the mood for a lot of books, so maybe something like this would shock me out of the slump. Or at least, the bright yellow cover would, somehow.
No One Belongs Here More Than You is a collection of stories from Miranda July, who...I really have no idea who she is. I don't even know what the stories were about, so I really, really just took a chance on this book. This book contains stories of women, mostly, stories of ordinary things. People who do things, who are in search for things, who lost things. These are stories of the seemingly ordinary things that become extraordinary with the way the words were woven and how these simple things came about in each story.
I liked this well enough. I liked the ordinariness of it all -- the quiet and the commonplace things in the stories, and how they all translate into something that made me think and wonder if the story was real, or perhaps just the imagination of the character. I guess a little mistake I made when I first started to read this was to compare it to Carver. They're very different -- Carver's stories (from the one collection I read, anyway) left my heart in a bit of disquiet, like there are questions you want to ask but are kind of afraid of asking. July's stories, while some of them have the same effect as Carver, are different in the way she tackled things and left me thinking about how her stories just end, and there are no questions that I don't want to ask.
Here's the thing: everyone seemed to be so sad in this story. Not the heartbreaking sadness, but just a tinge of it, like these characters need a little hug or something. Sometimes, I feel like I need a hug after I read some of the stories, because I wished I could say something to the characters to ease them of things.
Did the title of the collection mean something? I guess so. It is what it is, I think: No one belongs here more than you. I may be over thinking it, but maybe these stories are really just about belonging, and how we long for that. I don't think all the characters in the stories found a place to belong, but as a reader, I hoped that they would still somehow find it, or that it would somehow found them, in their own fictional worlds.
Okay, I'm rambling. There were several stories that I wasn't fond of, but the interesting thing was the first and the last few were the ones I really liked. I started this on a high, then the excitement lulled, and just as when I was already resisting the urge to skim, I got to the last stories and found that I really, really liked them. My favorite, of all, is Birthmark,a story about a woman who had her port-wine stain removed from her face and her husband who didn't know anything about it, and how this birthmark affected them. It left me with very fond thoughts with the book after.
Miranda July's No One Belongs Here More Than You is a good read, especially for people who are fond of short story collections. It's not exactly my favorite, but I would read another July book again, given the chance. Plus that yellow cover and simple text is just something I would want to have printed and framed to remind myself that yes, no one belongs here more than you.
My friend JL lent this book to me because he wanted me to read one story, The Art of Understatement. But when I saw th...moreOriginal post from One More Page
My friend JL lent this book to me because he wanted me to read one story, The Art of Understatement. But when I saw that this is a Cristina Pantoja Hidalgo collection, I decided to read it, anyway, since I really liked the author's other collection, Catch a Falling Star.
It's been a while since I finished reading this collection, and I am honestly struggling a little to remember what I liked about this. I liked what my friend recommended to me - The Art of Understatement left me feeling wistful, and wondering about my own writing. There were some familiar stories from Patriciang Payatot, which is the content of Catch a Falling Star. Several favorites, though, other than The Art of Understatement:The Warrior, which tells the story of two estranged friends who see each other one last time before one of them dies; The Tale of the Spinster and Peter Pan, a woman whose routine is disrupted by a young man in a rock band; The Ghost of La Casa Grande, an interesting take on a family history and how a mother tries to help her daughter get her happiness; and The Painting, a kind of story that seemed fit to be told around the campfire.
I am still quite partial towards Patriciang Payatot stories in Catch a Falling Star, but Sky Blue After the Rain is a good short story collection from Cristina Pantoja Hidalgo, and is worth the read. It's the kind you'd want to go back to every now and then to get your fix of a well-written short story with lots of Filipino flavor. :)(less)
Here's a little fact: I love snail mail. I love letters, specifically. I think it started when our third grade teacher...moreOriginal post from One More Page
Here's a little fact: I love snail mail. I love letters, specifically. I think it started when our third grade teacher taught us about letter writing, and we had to pick pen pals within the class. I loved getting letters in the mail, but since my classmates and I live close to each other, it's not really that practical to be pen pals with them. When I was in sixth grade, though, my best friend from elementary school moved to the United States. We didn't have much contact when she left, until I happened to get her mailing address from a common friend and I sent her my first snail mail letter. This had us sending letters back and forth for the next two years, until email came and we switched to that.
Reading 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff is almost like a trip back to memory lane on those days when I would spend so much time writing letters to my best friend who lived in the other side of the world. This thin volume is a collection of letters from Helene Hanff, a screenwriter in New York search of second hand books to a bookstore in 84, Charing Cross Road in London. This sparked the friendship between Helene and the staff of the bookstore, one that consisted of letters, books and gifts and spanned for decades.
84, Charing Cross Road is a little gem of a book for book lovers, and it's most appropriate that the copy I read is a shared copy from our book club. We call it our own traveling book, and it's gone through several readers before it landed in my hands. It's a quick and funny read, and I finished it in a few hours -- smiling, laughing, and then sighing at the end. Helene's letters were witty and sarcastic most of the time, and Frank Doel of the book shop were always formal and proper, yet still filled with warmth. Pretty soon, the rest of the staff were writing letters to Helene, too. I find myself checking the dates in the letters every now and then, and I can't imagine the time that pass before the letters get to the recipients. My own mail takes two to three weeks before it arrives, but some of them span months in the book. I guess it meant that they were more patient back then, whereas I get so miffed sometimes when I don't get a reply to my email or my text message within the day. But true friendship transcends time and distance, right?
This book is very reminiscent of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, with the letters shared between book lovers. I love that 84, Charing Cross Roadhas that same warmth I got from the other book, even if the ending was slightly different. But I liked the latter more because it's a true story. I think that's the reason why I added one more star in my rating -- there's something about knowing how all of this is real that makes it even more charming. It's too bad that the actual bookstore doesn't exist anymore, but I would love to see where the building stood and imagine what the people inside were doing, and how excited they were every time they received Helene's letters and packages. And maybe, even do what Helene asked her friend to do:
If you happen to pass by 84 Charing Cross Road, kiss it for me? I owe it so much.
Now if you'll excuse me, I think I'll stock up on my stationery so I can go write some letters again. Anyone want one? :)(less)
I attended the wedding of my brother's best friend last week. I like weddings. It may be something that runs in the family since my brother is a weddi...moreI attended the wedding of my brother's best friend last week. I like weddings. It may be something that runs in the family since my brother is a wedding videographer. But I really, really like attending weddings, because it's such a happy, happy day. Plus, I really like hearing wedding vows.
Anyway, my wedding weekend read was Raymond Carver's What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, which I borrowed from Angus when I got the chance to check out his bookshelf. This is my first Carver, and the first time I have heard about him also because of Angus' rave review. This is a collection of short stories about people who talk about, well, love. I figure it may be a fitting book to bring since it's a wedding and all. What do people talk about when they talk about love in weddings?
Before I go to the proper review, let me tell you what people talk about when they talk about love in a wedding. Weddings are happy, happy days, not only for the couple but also for everyone who came to celebrate with them. It's funny, though, how people often look forward to the wedding and see it as a "happily ever after", when it is really just the start of something new. The priest gave this lovely homily during my brother's best friend's wedding that had all of us laughing and me thinking really hard. He talked about good memories and bad memories, and how ten, twenty years down the road, the couple will lose a lot of things: their youth, their health, their money. And when people lose these things, when life gets difficult, sometimes it's harder to hold on and remember your commitment. And then he reminds them that they're not the boss of each other, and getting married in the church - in front of God and in front of the people - is their promise of giving up the right to give up on each other, no matter how hard life gets. Then they said their vows, and...it was so real and so beautiful.
Then, I spent time with my parents over the weekend, and I took the time to observe how they treat and interact with each other. My parents have been married for 30+ years, and sometimes I think I take that for granted. That weekend, I saw how they act around each other, and I realized how their love is that quiet, enduring love that I also want for myself. There are some things that my mom would say or do that, if I were my dad, would rub me the wrong way and I would say something back in defiance...but my dad does nothing. Instead, he smiles, and just takes it and does something. My dad would do something, or say something that, if I were my mom, would feel like it lacks emotion or affection, but I see that my mom doesn't see that. I see how they're around each other and how they support each other and how they love us so much, and my heart just swells because I see a glimpse of what the priest said, and I see what kind of love I want, and the one that I wish I would be able to give, too. Imperfect, yet strong and enduring.
What We Talk About When We Talk About Love isn't too romantic -- in fact, sometimes I think it's not romantic at all. It's not like the romance books I usually read, with fluff and cheese andswoon and kilig that makes them so fun to read. No, Carver's collection of short stories about love is about love in many forms, but it dealt with love after all the kilig and swoon and cheese and fluff are gone. Most of the stories are melancholic in its nature, and for a moment, it didn't seem like the right thing to read on a wedding weekend. But it seems perfect, too, because this book somehow set my thoughts straight -- or at least, gave me a different perspective, after the reception is over and the wedding fuzzies have started to fade.
Most of the stories in this collection are stories of lonely people, or people seeing lonely people, or people talking about old experiences of loneliness that is related to love. The realness in these stories is what got to me: this is what could happen, days, months or years after the wedding day. These stories can happen, but it doesn't mean that it is the only ending. Love doesn't mean mistakes won't happen, or your loved ones will always be healthy or you will never fight. It's a little bit more complicated than that. The stories were short and the writing was simple, and sometimes I get surprised when a story is over and I wasn't exactly sure what it was supposed to tell me. But as I read on, I realize that these stories are fragments of love in its everyday form, during the hard parts, and also, in some of the happy parts, too.
I liked most of the stories, but three stories stood out: After the Denim ("He'd tell them what to expect! He'd set those floozies straight! He'd tell them what was waiting for you after the denim and the earrings, after touching each other and cheating at games."), Everything Stuck to Him ("Things change. I don't know how they do. But they do without realizing it or wanting them to [...] he stays by the window, remembering. They had laughed. They had leaned on each other and laughed until the tears had come, while everything else - the cold, and where he'd go in it - was outside, for a while anyway.") and the title story, What We Talk About When We Talk About Love ("I'm telling you, the man's heart was breaking because he couldn't turn his goddamn head and see his goddamn wife."). When I was done, I found myself rereading parts of some of my favorite stories (especially the last one), and then sitting down at home and thinking about love.
Because really, what do people talk about when they talk about love? My friends and I do this a lot, and while we all have these ideas and dreams and everything, I don't think we will ever grasp what love really is about. The best we can do, I think, is try.
Let's have a toast. I want to propose a toast. A toast to love. To true love. (p.141)
This is my first Carver, and I don't think this will be my last. :)
The first time I read about this book was from Peter's blog, and it had me with the words diner, pie, and hope. I've seen Joan Bauer's books in bookst...moreThe first time I read about this book was from Peter's blog, and it had me with the words diner, pie, and hope. I've seen Joan Bauer's books in bookstores but I always ignored it until I read Peter's review of it, and I put it on my radar. When my book club friend Louize brought a copy during our last discussion, I asked if I could borrow it, and immediately started reading it the next day. I had a feeling it was going to be a feel-good book, and I wasn't wrong.
Hope Yancey's real name is Tulip, but ever since her mom left her in the care of her aunt, she changed her name to Hope, something that she thought fitted her better. She moved around a lot with her Aunt Addie, who is an excellent cook and a diner manager. When the owner of the last diner they worked in in New York City stole money from them and left them with nothing, Addie and Hope move to Wisconsin to help manage Welcome Stairways, a little diner owned by G.T. Stoop who was sick with leukemia. G.T. got them onboard because he had other plans for their little town - he wanted to run for mayor to beat the corrupt Eli Millstone who's had the town in his hands for year. Hope and her aunt gets involved in this campaign, but they didn't know what people desperate to keep power would do to keep people out...but Hope chose her name for a reason, and even if she isn't feeling particularly hopeful herself, she is finding that there were a lot of reasons to keep the hope in the midst of the hardest time in her life.
I breezed through Hope Was Here, not because it was a super-easy read but because it was really interesting. I realized that I really like reading about small town, diner settings (case in point: Bittersweet by Sarah Ockler, Speechless by Hannah Harrington, and Catch of the Day by Kristan Higgins). I really liked the small family that always forms inside diners, and how it makes working there seem really fun, despite it being hectic come peak hours. Of course I loved the food descriptions (homemade corned beef hash and fried eggs with a big piece of maple corn bread slathered with salted butter...mmm), and how food played a big part in their lives without it becoming too much of a foodie book.
I liked how the book didn't seem complicated even with several plots -- G.T.'s campaign, Hope's issues with her mom, her search for her dad. I liked how they all played with each other well, all supporting the main theme of having hope and keeping it, even if things don't feel particularly hopeful. Yes, there's also romance, and one of them I predicted from when the lead interest appeared, but both of them worked quite well. A part of me felt that the love interests seemed too old for their partners, but I learned to adjust how I imagined them later on. I think I just had a bit of stereotype in my head when I started reading it.
This book reminded me of those books that my mom bought for me when I was in elementary and high school -- full of life lessons and utter positivity. I can still remember most of them, and I think the reason why those books stayed with me even after years is because the plot felt real, and the characters were wonderfully flawed and yet they still prevailed in the best way. I bet if my mom had read the blurb of Hope Was Here back when she was still buying books for me, she would have gotten this, too.
I think Hope Was Here accomplished its goal with me: when I finished reading it, it left me with hope. Hope in the good things, hope in the midst of difficulties, and gratitude in knowing that there is always something to be hopeful for. :) I really liked this, and if you're looking for a feel-good book (for the right reasons, and not just fluff!), then Hope Was Here would not disappoint. If Joan Bauer's other books were as good as this one, then I would love to go through her entire backlist. :)
Series finales are a tricky thing, I think. A finale can make or break a series, especially in the paranormal romance...moreOriginal post from One More Page
Series finales are a tricky thing, I think. A finale can make or break a series, especially in the paranormal romance genre, and ones with love triangles. Not that I know a lot, except for those that I've already read, but there were several finales that just sucked that I wished I never read them because it ruined the entire series for me. However, I had faith in Cynthia Hand, that she would end the only angel series I liked well, and when good reviews started popping up Goodreads as the release date neared, I couldn't wait to get my hands on the book.
Many things have happened since the end of Hallowed,including the things that happened in Radiant.Now Clara is a college student in Stanford, with no clear direction except that she wanted to protect Tucker from the dangers of her angel life, even if it means breaking both their hearts. Clara tries to make a home in Stanford, but it's not so easy: she finds Samjeeza, the Black Wing, following her everywhere, her visions are still bleak and scary, and her dad has come to prepare her and Christian for an upcoming battle. Christian remains to be the perfect gentleman that he is and one of her closest friends, but Clara can't help but think of Tucker even if she knew she made the right decision. With all this happening in her life, is Clara ready to face the the things she's been seeing in her vision? And why is Angela acting so weird again?
So, Boundless. I went in this book, ready to get my heart broken for some reason, and for tears to come. Interestingly enough, I didn't get much of those two expectations, but there were so many things in this book that I had a hard time putting it down. I liked how the story revolved a lot around Clara's growth in Stanford -- her classes, her friendship with Angela and Christian and the new people she meets in college -- and not just the angel stuff. We see Clara (and Angela and Christian) grow more in this book, face their choices and follow through. I liked that they don't always have to face their choices alone, and how they all managed to pull through for each other up to the very end. There's also so much family in this book, both in the good and bad side, and I liked how they were weaved together (even if some of them felt a little bit too convenient in the end). I liked how they never let go of that concept and how it all tied them together.
The book felt just a little bit long somewhere in the middle, and I kept wanting to get to the action, to get to the battle and to finally find out who Clara would choose (of course, we all want to know that, right?). I was honestly a bit teary-eyed at a certain point, and then...things happened. I liked how things were handled, although I'm not quite sure until now how I feel about that last part which changed things for one character. (I am trying to be as cryptic as I can, promise!)
Overall, though, Boundlessis a very satisfying ending for a fan of the series like me. I'm quite happy with the ending and this is one of those books where I am pretty happy with everything and I can close the book without needing any more answers or wishing that things were different. I'm quite happy that I decided to take a chance on Unearthlyyears ago, because if I hadn't, I wouldn't have discovered one of the two (the other is Angelfall, but the second book won't be out until late this year) angel series that I really, really like. :)(less)
I wasn't exactly a Sarah Ockler fan and while so many people raved about her debut, Twenty Boy Summer, I was just pretty lukewarm about it. So I wasn't very interested to read her newest book, Bittersweet until I started reading cute reviews about it from some of my trusted reviewers. Curious, I borrowed a copy from a friend and read the first few pages, and before I knew it, I was halfway through. :D
Bittersweet by Sarah Ockler is about Hudson Avery, whose bright figure skating career is just ahead of her. But that was three years ago, before her father left. Now she's the best cupcake maker in the small town of Watonka, baking and serving luscious desserts in their family. diner. When Hudson receives a letter from her old mentor's foundation for a shot at a scholarship, she starts dreaming again. But with Hudson's family relying on her, she's not sure if she can actually go for her dreams. And don't get her started on Josh Blackthorn, the cute hockey player who's sending her seriously mixed signals.
Okay, here's the thing: I loved Bittersweet the moment I read about Hudson being a figure skater and then later looking for the perfect cupcake "to fix all things." A cupcake should be able to fix most of the things, if not all, don't you think? I don't think I've ever shared in this blog ever so let me share this now: 1) I like to bake and 2) I used to dream of being a figure skater. The only one I only really got to do was the first one and I have long ago abandoned the dream of being a figure skater -- I don't think I have the skills or the body for that. :P However, reading Bittersweet had me living vicariously through Hudson, and I was in a very, very happy world in the next few days of reading the book.
But it's not a completely happy book. Hudson has been burned and she continues to be burned out in the things she's doing. She wants something big, to do something she loves, and I can definitely relate with what she's feeling. That being said, however, Hudson is not so jaded that she's just full of angst. She's a funny and reliable narrator, and I loved being in her head for the story. I loved her passion for both cupcakes and skating, and I really, really wanted the best for her as the story goes on. I also loved the other characters, particularly her past and present best friends Kara and Danielle and I completely adored her little brother Bug! The boys of the hockey team were also a very good addition, and I loved that particular angle in the story.
Bittersweet is also one of those books with the slow burn romance, and a love triangle that isn't so annoying. I really liked how balanced the attention was, and for a moment there I wasn't sure who Hudson would pick (but I was definitely campaigning for one number fifty-six). The love triangle also didn't mean enemies for the two guys concerned, which was also a huge relief because who needs guys beating each other up? I was also glad that she wasn't the kind of heroine who's also fixated with having sex on top of her other problems in the book. The book's ending reminded me a bit of a Disney movie, but I like Disney movies so I think the ending was just perfect. :)
On a final note, here's a warning when reading this book: don't read it hungry! Or, just make sure you have a couple of cupcakes on hand. I didn't, but the moment I finished this I went to the nearest cupcake store near my office and got myself some treats. This book also made me really, really crave a cupcake baking session -- I've never really made any fancy frosted cupcakes, but this book made me feel like maybe I could. And I should. Soon.
Like I said, I wasn't a big fan of Twenty Boy Summer, and I wasn't really interested in reading any other Ockler book after that. But now that I've read Bittersweet, I think I have changed my mind. Bittersweet is a cute, cute contemporary YA book, and I am definitely acquiring my own copy soon. :)
Last: writing this review had me craving for cupcakes again. Like these:
The longest flight I have ever been in before my Europe trip was when I went to Saipan to visit my dad, and it was only a four hour flight. On the way home, I had already watched an in flight movie, read a little and we were still about an hour away from Manila. My brother and I were so restless that when we finally saw the Manila city lights, we were so excited that we almost started jumping up and down in our seats. I couldn't imagine how I could manage a flight longer than that until I flew to Europe last August. My flight from Manila to Europe was almost 16 hours long, with a stopover at Amsterdam to switch planes to get to Madrid. The Manila to Amsterdam was a killer with almost 12 hours of being up in the air. You can see how antsy that entire flight made me. I managed to watched four movies, read a lot and slept a lot, and still, the flight is not yet over. It almost drove me nuts, if I wasn't so excited to get to Europe.
I guess I would have been less antsy if I was seated with my friends on the flight, but as luck would have it, I was given another seat a few rows back from them ((And it happened with almost all my flights in Europe. What is up with that?)). I shared a row with a guy that I did not end up talking to at all, save for the occasional "Excuse me" when I had to squeeze in to get to the rest room.
I remembered that particular time while I was reading The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith that I borrowed from Pinoy Book Tours. They say people who meet at airports and share flights together have higher chances of falling in love with each other. I don't really know why -- maybe it's because of the enclosed space, the length of the flight, the novelty of meeting someone new in a sea of people who is also heading your way. Perhaps it's the idea that meeting the love of your life on the plane is a cute story to share in the future. I don't know really, except that that obviously did not happen to me. ;) Jennifer E. Smith explores this idea in her debut novel with Hadley who missed her flight to London to attend her father's wedding. As she waits for her next flight anxiously, she meets Oliver, who is also heading to London and who becomes her seatmate. Hadley and Oliver had no idea that the missed flight, this chance encounter and the next twenty four hours will change their lives.
This novel is both cute and sad in a lot of ways, and I was really surprised with the sadness aspect that it had. I was really expecting it to be just cute because of the premise, but I was pleasantly surprised at the depth of the issues that Hadley and Oliver had. Hadley was angry at her dad for leaving them without any notice, for breaking their family and for having the nerve to invite her to the wedding. Oliver's own issues somewhat mirrored Hadley's, but being a guy, he wasn't one to share about it. The two main characters share an easy friendship at first, going through a typical getting to know phase albeit a bit condensed. They never felt too old for their age, even if their concerns were a little more serious than the normal teen had. Their conversations were witty and full of poignant things, and it's actually also the kind of conversation that I would like to have if I meet someone at the airport and end up sitting next to them in the next, oh, twelve hours.
I liked the author's writing here: simple but still filled with meaning and never really going into cliche territory. Some quotes I really liked:
In the end, it's not the changes that will break your heart; it's that tug of familiarity. (p.19)
Oliver's cheeks redden, and the smile she catches as he ducks his head is maddeningly cryptic; it is, Hadley decides, a smile with two meanings. The bigger part of her worries that it must be charitable, designed to make her feel less awkward about both the question and the coming answer, but something else keeps her wondering all the same: maybe -- just maybe -- it's something even kinder than that, something full of understanding, a seal on the unspoken agreement between them that something is happening here, that this just might be a kind of beginning. (p. 73)
But Hadley understood. It wasn't that she was meant to read them all. Maybe one day she would, but for now, it was more the gesture itself. He was giving her the most important thing he could, the only way he knew how. He was a lover of stories, and he was building her a library in the same way other men might build their daughters houses. (p. 139-140)
I finished reading this book in a day and it did leave me with a silly smile on my face, wondering about the possibilities of where Oliver and Hadley's relationship was heading after that. Of course, the realist in me started asking, "So what happens next? Do you think they're really in love? What happens when they go back? Will they be able to sustain whatever they built in the span of twenty four hours -- which isn't really enough time to fall in love and you know that."
I know, I know, how pessimistic. But don't worry, I managed to shut that side of me for a while if only to enjoy the happy and satisfied feeling of this book left me. Even if I don't really believe in love at first sight. :P
The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith will be out by January 2, 2012. Thanks to Pinoy Book Tours for the ARC!
Everyone who knows me in real life (and even online) know that I am a great big chicken. I don't like anything scary, bo...moreOriginal post at One More Page
Everyone who knows me in real life (and even online) know that I am a great big chicken. I don't like anything scary, both in movies, TV or books. Oh, I used to like them when I was younger, but I always, always scare myself silly that I end up not being able to sleep peacefully or go to the comfort room for a week or so because my imagination kept bringing up all the scary things I heard/read/talked about. I know there's a delicious feeling to being scared, but when you keep on running in and out of the comfort room to pee for a week, it's not fun.
That's one of the reasons why I delayed reading Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake until know. I borrowed this from Maria after our Quezon trip with other Goodreads friends but I never picked it up. I always put it off because I said I had no time, and then I said I won't read it yet because it's Christmas and I don't want to be scared, and then I said I won't read it yet because I don't have any company at home and God knows what happens when I'm scared at night and alone. This week, though, I got my brave face and finally, finally picked it up, hoping that my parents' presence at home would make me less frightened.
Like I said: I'm a big chicken.
Cas Lowood is a ghost hunter -- not the ones you see on TV but someone who puts ghosts who harm living people to sleep. When his father died, he took over the "business" with his white witch mom and their pet cat, and they moved from one place to another, killing these ghosts. Cas and his mom arrives in a town where the famous ghost called Anna Dressed in Blood haunts a house. Anna was killed fifty years ago, her throat cut open spilling over the white of her dress, making her look like she was dressed in actual blood. Cas was just expecting to kill her and move on, but he finds it extremely difficult to do so -- Anna was not an ordinary ghost, and for someone who's full of rage and kills anyone who enters her house, she shows mercy and spares Cas' life.
Anna Dressed in Blood was one of those books that made it to many people's Best of 2011 lists, too, and I promise, if it wasn't a scary novel, I would have read it earlier. I managed to read the book in broad daylight most of the time and I realized soon after that it wasn't as scary as it was. It was scary, but it wasn't like Paranormal Activity 3 scary because the setting was very different from where I live and stay. I had a general impression of watching a Supernatural episode while I was reading Anna, but with less of the hot brothers. ;) It stopped being that scary after that particular part at the first visit to Anna's house, and then everything just felt like a big mystery until the twist comes. I had to breathe a sigh of relief when I felt more comfortable with the story without having the need to close the book and get my nerves together. :D
It's a surprisingly fast read and I found myself devouring the story. At its core, Anna Dressed in Blood is more of a paranomal novel than horror, but it isn't the usual one with a whiny heroine and a brooding hero. True, Cas has some kind of arrogance with the way he does his work but he grew on me, and his brooding periods didn't really have that much screen time. Anna was a mystery even up to the end, and I feel like there is still more to her than what was revealed in the story. Their relationship was...well, kind of cute, and I know how odd that sounds in a horror story. Let's just say it was one of those pairings that was very interesting to read.
I love the supporting cast in this one: Thomas, Carmel, Cas' mom and especially the cat, Tybalt. Novels with animals are a huge plus for me. I like Thomas' stubbornness and Carmel's courage in the face of the unknown. Cas' mom reminds me of someone who would offer tea and cookies to her son's friends and amaze them with stories. Anna Dressed in Blood's characters feel like a well-rounded sort of bunch, and it was a pleasure to read them.
Reading Anna Dressed in Blood felt like I was watching a Supernatural episode, sans the brothers and the car and the shooting. I really enjoyed reading this book. This book didn't change my aversion to anything scary, and I still won't go read the real horror novels or go watch scary movies anytime soon (maybe ever). But I think I am most definitely reading the sequel, Girl of Nightmares, when it comes out this year.
But I will probably read it in broad daylight again.(less)
Six Impossible Things by Fiona Wood is a loose retelling of the Cinderella fairy tale with a guy as the main character....moreOriginal post at One More Page
Six Impossible Things by Fiona Wood is a loose retelling of the Cinderella fairy tale with a guy as the main character. Dan Cereill's life just kind of fell apart. His parents split after his dad came out, they lost their family fortune, he moved to a new-old house and transferred to a new school and his mom opened a wedding cake business that was doomed to fail from the start. And then there's his neighbor, Estelle, who's caught his eye and his heart from the moment he saw her, but had absolutely no idea that he exists.
Oh what a cute, cute book this was. Despite the dreary set-up of Dan's new life, his voice was quite the contrary. Dan was sarcastic yet real, and he dealt with his problems with the best way a fourteen-year-old can. The humorous approach makes the entire situation just hilarious instead of pitiful, and at the back of my mind, I just thought that they would eventually get through this. As for how, that was the thing I was supposed to find out in the story. Since this is kind of a retelling of Cinderella, I liked figuring out what character was equivalent to that character in the fairy tale, even if it took me a while to figure out who was who. But even if you know how Cinderella turns out, the events in this story still took me pleasantly by surprise that, well, you just end up sighing happily by the last page. :)
The writing in Six Impossible Things was fresh and light and so readable that I never had a hard time connecting with Dan. Dan is awkward and dorky but still so lovable that I wanted to adopt him as my little brother or something. I think his may be the first time I will use it but if there was any character that fits the word "adorkable", it's Dan. Even if his crush on Estelle kind of qualified as "insta-love", at least on his side, it was still quite realistically done. Come on, don't tell me you've never had a "crush at first sight" moment with someone! :P Major plus points on how Dan and Estelle's relationship was developed -- it was about ten parts awkward most of the time, but about a hundred parts cute and "aww" inducing.
The other characters surrounding Dan and Estelle were a hoot too. I loved Dan's mom, in all her Radiohead singing glory (although I'm not really a fan of the band). I loved their friends and the guy who lived in the house behind Dan's new house and the bully. But most especially, I loved the presence of Howard the dog. Dogs in stories always wins my heart.
Let me repeat what I first said about this book: Six Impossible Things is a cute, cute book. This is a perfect book to read when you want to relax and laugh and feel the feeling of wanting to hug a book when you get to the end. Because that is really what you'd end up wanting to do when you're done with this. :) (less)
Ava is sixteen, and she has a secret. No, her secret is not that she's gay and that she has a girlfriend. Her secret is...moreOriginal post at One More Page
Ava is sixteen, and she has a secret. No, her secret is not that she's gay and that she has a girlfriend. Her secret is this: she wants to be a normal girl. Ava is 16, and she has very liberal parents and she has an ultra-radical, ultra-feminist and ultra-cool girlfriend, Chloe, who she knows she loves. But Ava is tired of being ultra-cool and always wearing black. She wants to care about school. She wants to study. She wants to fit in. She wants to even try dating a guy. And, she wants to wear pink. So Ava works her butt off so she can get a scholarship to Billy Hughes School for Academic Excellence, so she can try to have a normal life without the knowledge of her girlfriend or her parents. She gets in, and she immediately wants to be a part of the popular crowd up until it was time for the audition for the school musical. Ava tried out for a part, but fails miserably, and ends up joining the stage crew, a group of "losers" according to the popular group. However, as Ava spends more time with her new friends -- she is not even sure who are the real friends, if it's with the stage crew or the popular kids -- she finds it harder and harder to keep her secrets.
I have this weird compulsion to acquire pink things. Some people I know in real life are often amused at the number of pink things I own. Would you believe that even in acquiring a gadget, the availability of the color pink is a factor in my decision? :p I used to deny that my favorite color is pink because I thought it was too girly, but as I grew older I cannot deny the fact that I kept on gravitating towards that color. But that's really not the reason why I wanted to read Pink by Lili Wilkinson. I borrowed this from my friend Celina after Chachic was done with it because I was curious with all the positive reviews that this book has been getting from other bloggers I know. That, and it was written by an Australian author, and based on experience, Australian YA books are always good reads. And so here we go.
I have to agree with almost everyone else that Pink was loads of fun. This book had all the ingredients of a typical contemporary novel: somewhat outrageous premise, popular and unpopular kids, parties and secrets, but I liked how the author made these elements more interesting with other details, such as the theater set up! I loved reading about Ava's experiences as part of the stage crew. Back in high school, we used to produce stage plays for one class and I have always loved that time of the year when we had to do rehearsals, find costume and music and then stay up late in school to set up our stage and props and fix the music. I've never been one to want to be onstage -- I tend to avoid that as much as possible. I love working backstage more. My favorite scenes in the book would have to be the ones when they were busy setting up the lights and their first run (their dress rehearsal, I think?), where Sam was in the main control room giving orders to everyone through their headsets. Our high school didn't have that, but we had a main control room for the sounds, and I can remember how cool I felt when I wore a headset for a production for my church community with that scene.
I generally liked all of the characters, although I felt a bit lost with Ava. Ava was definitely confused, and I have to be patient with her at times because I have to remember she's young and some stupid decisions are made when we do not know better. Some of her mistakes were not just stupid but downright mean, and I felt like sometimes I was just waiting for a car crash to happen. It's not that I had a hard time connecting with Ava . I just wished she would not keep on swinging everywhere to please people and just try to look at what she wants. I also thought some of the characters felt a little bit cardboard, although they did gain more dimension in the end. And I know I was supposed to be on the Ava-Chloe team but Chloe really annoyed me with all her feminist/liberal/I'm-too-cool-for-these-things talk. Seriously? I had to sympathize with Ava there -- it must be exhausting to keep up that kind of image if it does not come to you naturally.
I liked that the author did not go for a 100% happily ever after ending, although I felt like Ava did not really resolve all her own issues there. She seemed less confused in the end, but I'm afraid she ended up as one of those female protagonists that I would remember for that and not for her strength.
I also loved all the geeky Wikipedia talk, and the random facts that Sam blurts out in the conversations. I would definitely insert a character like that in my next novel. :P Despite my misgivings with some of the main character, I still thought Pink was still pretty entertaining read. And I'm not just saying that because my favorite color is pink. :)(less)
The good thing about having book-lovers as friends here in the Philippines is despite the lack of availability, when som...moreOriginal post at One More Page
The good thing about having book-lovers as friends here in the Philippines is despite the lack of availability, when someone manages to acquire it, it's easier to borrow instead of finding a way to buy it. That's what my book friends and I are doing now, especially for hard to find/buy books such as Aussie YA books. :) Thanks so much to Chachic for letting her copy of Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley (and her other Aussie YA books) go around.
In Graffiti Moon we meet Lucy, who's about to graduate high school. We find her rushing after she receives a message from her instructor, rushing to meet Shadow, the mysterious graffiti artist whose paintings have touched Lucy's heart and made her feel an instant connection. Then her paths cross with Ed, the last person she wants to see because of their unfortunate shared past -- but he knows Shadow. And he can bring her to him. What follows is a long night full of heart-to-heart conversations, graffiti art viewing and a possible breaking-in and stealing. Lucy realizes that Ed isn't so bad and their shared past may just be a misunderstanding...but if she finds out who Ed really is, will she still think the same?
People often compare Graffiti Moon with Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, and it is an accurate comparison. What music is to Nick and Norah is art in this novel. I am not an artist, so it was kind of hard for me to imagine how Shadow's graffiti pieces look (seriously, I can only imagine them as crudely drawn images because they're from spray paint cans, but I'm pretty sure they all look better than what I can imagine). However, I liked that this book was relatable enough even without much art knowledge. I like it when a story makes use of a magical night for two people -- magical in the sense that they end up spending it together and realize that their preconceived notions about each other were all wrong, or at least, inaccurate. I liked that there was a lot of conversations done in this book that made the characters get to know each other, and it wasn't just love/crush at first sight and then followed by intimacy the next second.
Personally, I didn't like Lucy at first. I found her fascination of Shadow and her belief that she will fall in love with this person because of his art kind of annoying and unrealistic. Color me jaded, I guess. Or maybe just...eh, unromantic? Maybe it's the teenage idealism of love that got to me. I ended up liking her after some time, though, especially after she had more conversations with Ed. Even if it was all in the span of a night, it was still filled with conversations and shared adventures, and not just eye-contact and an "amazing" kiss that would make them declare their love for each other "forever and ever".
But as much as I liked Ed and Lucy in this book, my real favorites are Leo and Jazz, Ed's and Lucy's best friends. I guess it shows how much I am more of a sucker for words than for art, seeing that Leo is a poet. My favorite piece from all of his works in the book:
Your jokes kind of make me laugh And your hair is faintly close to being cute Your smile isn't half bad, either You know, I almost, almost kind of like you
The dress you're wearing is short and sweet And your boots are kind of cool You're not, not turning me on You know I almost, almost kind of like you
The way you dance definitely isn't stupid I could maybe get used to the way you move I'm not saying I've made up my mind But you know, I almost, almost kind of like you (p 164-165)
I swear, Leo and Jazz are practically begging for a spin-off. Can I request for one, please?
Graffiti Moon will be released in the US by February 2012, but an e-galley of the book is available in NetGalley, so if you can't wait, sign up and get it! I still like the Australian cover of the book, though. And speaking of covers, look what I spotted in Madrid while I was bookstore hopping:
It took me a while to translate the book title, and if I hadn't seen the insides with Lucy/Ed/Poet headings, I wouldn't have recognized it. :)
Graffiti Moon is charming. It's one of those books that would leave the reader smiling, not because of a neatly-wrapped ending, but because of an ending full of possibilities. And possibilities are always good, right? :) (less)
I've never read a Jay Asher or a Carolyn Mackler book, but The Future of Us popped into my radar soon after I heard peo...moreOriginal post at One More Page
I've never read a Jay Asher or a Carolyn Mackler book, but The Future of Us popped into my radar soon after I heard people getting copies of it during BEA. I was intrigued by the premise, and I like reading books that include social media in its story. So when I heard that this was going to be a part of Pinoy Book Tours, I thought, why not sign up?
The Future of Us is set in 1996, where our two main characters, Josh and Emma, are juniors in high school. Emma just got a computer, and Josh gives her an AOL CD that has free hours that she could use. Emma signs up for an email account, and when she logs in, she is surprised to find herself looking at something called "Facebook". They discover their profiles 15 years into the future. Confused, Josh and Emma find themselves digging more information, and realizing that the little actions they do today could ripple into their future.
Don't you just love the 90's? I was born in the late 80's so I barely had memories of that decade, so I am really a 90's kid. loved that this book brought us back to that time period. I love the pop culture references then, and how not everyone have cellphones, how they listens to Green Day and Dave Matthews and Wayne's World was the funniest movie. I love that connecting to the Internet required them to dial up, and how they had to disconnect when someone needs to use the phone -- those were the days! I had to take a while to get adjusted to the time frame (in 1996, I was in 4th grade!), but once I did, it was easy to read. The 90's is the time of my generation, so going back in time is a fun trip indeed.
Josh and Emma are pretty good characters too. I assume that Josh was written by Jay Asher and Emma was written by Carolyn Mackler? Their voices were pretty distinct, and I thought Josh was kind of adorable, if not a little trying hard. Emma was a bit harder to get into as she seemed like a very popular girl, but I liked how her character grows as the story progressed, especially when she said this:
I've always protected myself when it comes to love. And maybe that's the problem. By not letting myself get hurt now, it ripples into much bigger pain later.
The Future of Us is a creative, yet somehow straightforward way of showing how even our smallest actions could ripple into the future. It's creative, because it showed a bit of the "time machine" aspect, but again, straightforward because you pretty much get it early on in the story that Josh and Emma can do things to change their future and see it immediately on Facebook. That actually leaves little room for imagination, except maybe with wondering what could possibly happen if Emma decides to spill water on her carpet. That being said, however, I think the story still gives a pretty valuable lesson on how our actions now would affect not only our future but everyone else around us, and how we should live our real lives instead of living it online. The ending, although kind of expected, was very sweet and I found myself with a silly smile at one of the tender moments there. :)
This is a sweet and creative book that would surely tickle the fancy of contemporary fans and those from my generation. :) The Future of Us comes out on November 21.(less)
I'm not well-versed with graphic novels. Truth be told, in my mind, it's graphic novel = comics. Isn't it? I'm not sure,...moreOriginal post at One More Page
I'm not well-versed with graphic novels. Truth be told, in my mind, it's graphic novel = comics. Isn't it? I'm not sure, actually, but as far as I'm concerned, they're one and the same. Correct me if I'm wrong, of course.
Anyway, in the spirit of buddy reads and exploring other genres and book format, I picked up Kingdom Come by Mark Waid, illustrated by Alex Ross, through the push of my friend, fellow book blogger and graphic novel fan, Ariel. Kingdom Come is set in the DC Universe, several years into the future. Superman has gone into hiding after he was disappointed at how a superhero was acquitted for committing the murder of a villain. The other heroes had gone into hiding, too, disheartened by Superman's and the people's actions. Without them, their moral compass has gone astray, and the metahumans have become aggressive, blurring the lines between who are the heroes and the villains. Ten years later, we meet the story's narrator, a minister named Norman McCay. He started getting dreams and visions of an apocalypse shortly after his friend Wesley Dodds (who is Sandman, according to Wikipedia), passed away. Soon, the Spectre shows up to him and recruits him as a witness to help him judge who are the good from the wicked in the impending superhuman apocalypse.
Kingdom Come reminds me a bit of the movie The Incredibles, sans the kiddie concept. This is definitely (and obviously) way darker, and discusses a lot of deeper moral themes, such as the real meaning of justice (if killing people who did wrong is justified just because they are evil and they killed other people too), humanity (are they still humans just because they're super?) and morality (is it ever justifiable to allow some people to be killed if it saves more people?). I guess I shouldn't be surprised at all, with the title and everything, right? I liked how these things were tackled in the superhero universe, making it not just your normal superhero-saves-the-day story but something that discusses the things we readers most probably ponder about everyday.
What really surprised me in reading Kingdom Come, though, was how familiar I was with this. I mean, I don't know half of the heroes mentioned here since I never opened a DC comic book in my entire life until now (my brother wouldn't let me touch his collection back when we were kids). However, I guess growing up with a brother who loves these things and watching movies and cartoons with these characters enforced familiarity. Although I had to consult Wikipedia every now and then to see who's who, I was more or less comfortable with navigating this universe on my own.
There was a lot of deep talk in this that had me rereading some parts of it again, but it was all wrapped up nicely in the end. And speaking of that ending: it was a nice, heartfelt one that had me chuckling. If you've read this, you probably know what I mean. :) I enjoyed reading this one, and it served as a good companion to those slow night shifts at work.(less)
When my good friend Kai asked me if I wanted to be a part of the Playing Hurt Philippine Blog Tour, I said yes because s...moreOriginal post at One More Page
When my good friend Kai asked me if I wanted to be a part of the Playing Hurt Philippine Blog Tour, I said yes because she told me that the book for the tour is a contemporary YA novel. It's no secret that my first love for YA is contemporary, so a chance to read a new one from a highly-praised author is something that I won't say no to.
In Playing Hurt, Chelsea Keyes is a basketball star in Fair Grove High School, up until her last game when a court accident finally made her hip give way, stopping her from playing the rest of the season. Fearful and broken with the metal plate on her hip in mind, she retreated to herself and her family, only relying on her romantic and supportive boyfriend Gabe to make her happy. That summer, her dad hires Clint, an ex-hockey player with ghosts of his own as Chelsea's personal trainer for their 3-week vacation. Chelsea and Clint feel an instant connection the moment they see each other. As they grow closer, Chelsea and Clint wrestle with their own demons, wondering if their relationship will just cause more pain or heal their heartaches.
I jumped into Playing Hurt expecting to like it a lot, especially since I don't think I've read about a jock for a heroine. I've also always liked recovering stories, especially those that deal with fear and yes, maybe a little romance. That's the good thing about contemporary YA -- it deals with real things, and I was looking forward to seeing how Chelsea's story turns out. However, reading Playing Hurt enforces my new found belief that one shouldn't read another contemporary YA novel immediately after reading a Melina Marchetta one. This causes a little bit of high expectations for the next novel I read regardless of the author. For that, I apologize in advance.
The novel started out pretty good, with Chelsea reliving her last game before her accident. I liked the smooth transition from the video to real life where instead of playing, we see Chelsea watching the game and wondering where her life has gone (you can read it in the excerpt here). I liked Brandon, Chelsea's brother, even if I can't shake the fact that he's younger than his age, and not a high school sophomore. I also liked Gabe very much, with his sweetness and his concern for Chelsea especially after her accident. The initial set up was very good, and it made me want to know what will happen next.
However, the novel lost me the moment Chelsea and Clint met. I cringed at how they described each other as "perfection", and how the air zinged when they were in the mere presence of the other. I'm sorry, I just don't buy that. Maybe it's possible, who knows, right? I just don't really buy it -- I want history in my fictional couples. I want banter. I want long conversations that do not involve the one person staring at the other and wondering if their knees "...as pink as the wads of cotton candy..." are just as sweet. Sorry, I can't help but roll my eyes at that. I want the whole shebang -- the getting to know stage, the simmering attraction that would eventually lead to the swoon-worthy, tingle-inducing scenes that would make me sigh and doodle hearts in every available space. I think this preference is obvious based on my track record for contemporarynovelsthat Ilove.
I also wished that Chelsea's other relationships had more resolution, especially for her father. I thought there was too much focus on the relationship that the other issues weren't really tackled. I wished there was more conflict between Chelsea, Clint and Gabe, and that Chelsea and her dad had a longer and more heartfelt conversation. I felt kind of bad for the minor characters, particularly Kenzie, whose stories weren't really explored because of the focus on Clint and Chelsea. It somehow made the main characters come off as selfish, wanting only what they want and nothing else.
I don't really think Playing Hurt is a bad novel. I'm a minority among those who loved this book -- it's just okay with me. This novel may just not be up my alley, you know? That, and like what I mentioned up there, reading this after a Marchetta novel (especially something as lovely as Jellicoe Road!) tends to up my expectations. I knew I should have read another genre first before jumping into this one! I'm still open to reading Holly Schindler's other books.(less)
I missed my zombies. The last time I read a full-length zombie novel was back in November, Married with Zombies, and it wasn't really an awesome read at that. I think I got a bit grossed out with the surprising gore part in that novel that's why I took a break from reading zombie novels. Then the holidays came and I didn't want to read about the living dead so I just let them wait a bit more. John Green's Zombicorns whetted my appetite for zombies again, so I got the closest one from my TBR and devoured it last weekend.
Devour. A funny term to use for a zombie novel, but that is exactly what I did for Rot & Ruinby Jonathan Maberry. I was in the middle of reading Emma then, and I wasn't going anywhere with it, so I decided to take a break with the classic and start this one. Rot & Ruintells the story of Benny Imura, a fifteen-year-old boy who lives in one of the villages in a post-apocalyptic America. It has been 13 years since the First Night, the night when the dead rose and infected the living. Benny lives with his older half-brother, Tom, a famous bounty hunter who prefers to be called a closure specialist. Benny hates his brother because he thought him as a coward from his first memory of his parents getting infected during the First Night. As part of their village's rules, Benny has to find a part time job when he turns fifteen, and because of the lack of choices, he ends up being an apprentice under his brother. A day in the Rot and Ruin changes Benny's life, and he finds that maybe all the things he knew and believed about his brother may be wrong. The question is, will Benny be able to live up to what his brother stands for when it's really needed?
When I asked Aaron which I should read first when I was choosing between this and Charlie Higson's The Enemy, he told me to pick Rot & Ruin if I wanted heart over gore. And he's true: this is a zombie novel with a heart. I liked how Maberry showed the human aspect of the zombies, weird as that may sound. But if you really think about it, zombies are from humans. I'm not saying they are humans, but they were -- they're a brother, sister, father, mother, lover, friend. Video games and movies show that zombies are mindless monsters in search for human brains that need to be killed to stop the infection, but the human side, the loss, is not often discussed. The author did a very good job in showing us these emotions, and showing us that even in the midst of a world where zombies are a curse, there's a humane way in treating them and making them (and the loved ones they left behind) move on in peace.
Rot & Ruin's world was very believable, and I liked how Maberry created Benny's village. There's a stifling, almost oppressive aura in the village, one that pressed on the characters until they have no choice but to leave. I liked how the author used this to make the characters move from their sheltered homes to the outside world. In a way, Benny's village could be any place in the present world, minus the zoms -- anywhere where people are happy with how they live even if it means turning a blind eye to injustices happening around them is the same as Benny's world, and maybe even worse. Rot & Ruin is not just about killing zombies, but a book about humanity and family.
This is probably one of the other zombie novels I've read that has almost lived up to the love I have for Feed by Mira Grant. I think I may just be partial to Feed more because I could relate to the characters better since they're bloggers (and Georgia is just so awesome, too). Nevertheless, I highly recommend Rot & Ruinfor those who want to read a very good book with zombies in it. I am looking forward to Benny's return in Dust & Decay this year.(less)
It's been a long time since I last read a zombie book, so I knew I was in for a bit of an adjustment when I decided to r...moreOriginal post at One More Page
It's been a long time since I last read a zombie book, so I knew I was in for a bit of an adjustment when I decided to read my stocked zombie books for my February challenge. The Enemy by Charlie Higson has been languishing on my shelf since 2010, after my friend Aaron lent it to me for my YA-D2 challenge for that year. Obviously I never read it for that, and I don't think I would have unearthed this now if I didn't choose to read it for this month.
Besides, a borrowed book on my shelf for a year feels wrong.
In The Enemy, all people aged sixteen and above have succumbed to a disease that turns them into flesh-eating monsters. Only the children are left and several have made it into some safehouses, banding together using their own abilities to survive in a bleak world. One of these groups of kids were the Waitrose kids, led by Arran and Maxie, who has lived in an abandoned grocery in the last few months. Food and resources are scarce, and the kids are already losing hope. Until one day, a kid in a colorful coat comes and invites them to join him to Buckingham Palace, where another group of kids are living and are successful in creating a new life for themselves. The kids decided to go with him, but will their lives really change for the better once they get to the palace?
The Enemy starts of with action and doesn't really leave that kind of mode until the end. Which is good, because it kept me on my toes and had me biting my fingernails for whatever else could happen to these kids. Other people warned me not to get attached to any of the characters in the book because the author kills them -- and it is true. Boy how true is that. This makes for a very gripping read because you just never know who would die and how, and you never know who are the bad guys really are.
I also really liked Small Sam's story -- I think I was rooting for him the most! I like how his story paralleled the others, and where he got to. The subway (or to be appropriate, the tube) scene in the dark reminded me of a similar scene in The Dark and Hollow Places, and it truly got me worried for him and how he would get out of it. There's also a hint of cannibalism in the story and I have to admit that it got my stomach churning uncomfortably there.
With all these positive things, though, I have to admit that I wasn't that invested in the story. That, and I was partly grossed out for some reason. Maybe I've turned soft and my stomach isn't as adept as handling zombie gore anymore. There were several times I felt like gagging while reading the book, and I couldn't handle reading it while eating. With that, I didn't really feel like I was glued to the pages. True, the story had all sorts of action and it made me fear for the characters, but my overall feeling in the end was, "Okay, finally that was done." I only really wanted to see how it ended, but I didn't care that much as compared to the other zombie novels I read and loved. My friends who have read this all sang praises to this...but I'm afraid I'm more on the lukewarm side.
Now that I think about it...maybe I have turned soft. :O
Nevertheless, The Enemy is still one of the better written zombie novels out there, and it's a good read especially for those who like more gore than the usual. If you want to read a book about survival, a bit of politics and the undead, then his Higson book is for you. What's more: its sequel, The Dead, is already out so you won't have to wait too long to know what Charlie Higson had in mind when he thought of a post-apocalyptic world. (less)