I first discovered Jessica Darling through my friends in college. I was looking for a new book to get when a cheerful li...moreOriginal post at One More Page
I first discovered Jessica Darling through my friends in college. I was looking for a new book to get when a cheerful lime cover caught my eye. I knew my friends liked this a lot, considering this as one of their favorites, so I was fairly confident that I would like it too. And I was right -- I did. I remember re-reading this a lot because I didn't have a copy of Second Helpings yet, and I wanted to keep a journal the way Jessica Darling did.
I lost my copy of Sloppy Firsts in the flood that Typhoon Ondoy (Ketsana) brought in our country in 2009. It was disappointing, since I also never got to read any of the books beyond Second Helpings. I was planning to get the ebooks one of these days, and it wasn't until Valentine's Day that I saw that the entire Jessica Darling set was only $9.99 on Kindle. Amazing deal, right? I can't not have it.
Jessica Darling is miserable. Her best friend, Hope, moved to Tennessee a few weeks before her 16th birthday, and she has never felt more alone in her life than ever. She hates her friends, she couldn't get along with her mother and her soon-to-be-married sister, and she couldn't talk to her dad about anything other than running. Feeling extremely misunderstood, she sticks to writing in her journal about the people around her and the ever increasing confusion she feels for "Dreg" Marcus Flutie, who is slowly working his way into her heart.
Ah, Jessica Darling. She is your not-so-typical hyper observant smart, slightly anti-social and angsty sixteen year old. It's been a long time since I last read her, but her voice is still familiar, almost like we were never separated. A few pages into the book and I was already laughing and shaking my head at all of her snark. This is the mother of all journal-form novels. Jessica's voice is clear and her wit shines through even in her most emotional moments. And it's not that the secondary characters aren't as witty or exceptional as Jess because they are -- from barbie-like ex-best friend Bridget to gossip-monger Sara and even Jessica's best friend, Hope, had a strong presence in the novel even if we never hear her side of the correspondences. And of course, Marcus. Marcus Flutie. I had a hard time remembering what he looked like and how they got to know each other here, but once the said event has happened, their interactions where unstoppable. Talk about sizzle.
But if I may be perfectly honest this time, I found that I didn't really love Sloppy First this time around. Oh, I loved it during the first few reads, and I still like it now, but I found that I couldn't really take all of Jessica's angst. I like her, and I like that she grows in the novel, but there were so many times that I wanted to shake her and tell her to get a grip, lighten up. It's not the end of the world. It only feels like it's the end of the world, but there's more to life after that. High school is just a small part of your life, don't fret over it too much! There was a little too much angst in Jessica that I realize that if I was in her class right now, I wouldn't want to be friends with her, especially if there's such a cloud of gloom over her all the time. I'm not saying that I am better than her when I was in the same age nor am I belittling her situation -- I know I had the same amount (maybe even more) angst then -- but now that I know that all high school worries will pass, I wished I could tell her that so she can lighten up.
I think my reading experience of Sloppy Firsts is the perfect example of how we won't always love the books that we loved when we were younger, and how our age and experiences and environment influence how we see a book. I still think Sloppy Firsts is a good book and I like the book very much, but I also think that I've outgrown Jessica's angst.
But you know what, I think this just makes me more excited to read the rest of the books. Jessica can't stay that angsty forever, right? :) (less)
I've been trying to think of the best way to review this book, because I feel like the first review I wrote for The Truth About Forever did not do it any justice. The thing is, I don't know how to write a proper review for this book without squealing or "sa-woon"-ing so much. Because believe me, I know I did that so many times when I was rereading this book.
But let me try again. Sarah Dessen's The Truth About Forever is one of my favorite books of all time. It's not my first Dessen, but it's the book that made me love Dessen and made her one of my auto-buy authors. It's one book I've reread multiple times and still get all swoony and happy and wishing for a romance like Macy and Wes did. Yes, even with their drama, because it made the ending so much satisfying in the end.
The Truth About Forever is about Macy Queen, whose life spun out of control when her dad died in front of her. Macy tried to hold it together for the sake of her family, hiding her grief and seeking perfection, thinking that this would help her mother who seeks perfection in everything she does as well, her own way of dealing with loss. The story starts with Macy's boyfriend, Jason, leaving for Brain Camp and Macy facing a long summer with her strict schedule and routine. She's okay, she always thought. Until one day, she meets the Wish Catering crew. One bad afternoon at her summer job, with a bad email to boot, she joins Wish, makes new friends, and meets Wes -- the seemingly perfect guy with his own not-so-clean past, who likes flaws. Things turn interesting for Macy as she gets to know these people, and as she realizes that maybe it's not so bad if her strictly-scheduled life unravels and she lets chaos in bit by bit.
Ah, this book. I think what makes me love this book more than I loved This Lullaby is how much I could relate to Macy. I'm fortunate enough to have my parents here with me so I can't relate to Macy at that front, but the schedules? The need to be as perfect as I can be (sometimes, anyway)? Oh, I've been there. At the next rereads, I found that I wanted to shake Macy so hard -- she needs to cry! She needs to snap out of the illusion that she needs to be perfect to hold things together. She needs to let go and reach for her mom so they could grieve together! Ah Macy, why do you frustrate me so much?
But it served as a good starting point. If there was anything that Sarah Dessen really knows, it's how to write a story that seeps into you and hooks you, pulling you in up until the last page. There's no need for magic or any supernatural creatures -- just plain everyday things magnified, with added significance. The conversations could be just any normal conversation, but somehow they pack a punch. For example:
"Honestly," I said.
"Come on. You have to admit it's sort of ridiculous."
Now that I had to define it, I found myself struggling for the right words. "You know," I said, then figured Kristy had really summed it up best. "The sa-woon."
"Wes, come on," I said. "Are you seriously not aware of how girls stare at you?"
How cute is that?
There's really nothing new with the story, but thanks to the writing and the vivid characters, it becomes a little bit extraordinary. This book is one of the reasons I appreciate characters more, why I believe that even the most common storyline can be interesting when the roles are played by strong, well-developed characters.
And then there's Wes. Dessen boys are well known among readers, and Wes is definitely my favorite. He just seems so...perfect. Strange to see a seemingly perfect guy in a book that tells the main character that perfection isn't everything, don't you think? Believe me, I'm still trying to find some kind of flaw in Wes. But I guess that's what crushes are -- it's so hard to find a flaw in them. I think I'm not that infatuated with Wes that I'd try and look for someone exactly like him (but hey, I wouldn't mind, haha), but I would like to have the same kind of development that Macy and Wes had. Their relationship is one of the most authentic ones I've read -- built on shared experiences and conversations. Now where is that guy I could play a game of Truth with?
So yeah, even on my third reread, I still loved The Truth About Forever. It reminds me of why I started reading YA and why I like the contemporary genre. If you're looking for a good contemporary YA novel you can sink your teeth into, or if you're looking for a good Sarah Dessen novel to start with, I highly recommend The Truth About Forever. Read it and sa-woon. :)(less)
Reread it in preparation for Deadline. I still loved it, it was still as awesome as the first time. But I tell you -- it kind of sucks when you know w...moreReread it in preparation for Deadline. I still loved it, it was still as awesome as the first time. But I tell you -- it kind of sucks when you know what will happen and you can't do anything to stop it. My heart broke again. 3
If you have a copy of this book and you haven't read it yet...well, why haven't you?!READ IT.
It was a normal afternoon at work. My colleagues and I were preparing to attend a required meeting when the boys started discussing their last Left 4 Dead 2 gaming session. I listened to them talk about how hard it was to get through whatever level they were in and how they blasted the zombies in the game, then I interrupted them with a question: “What if a zombie apocalypse actually happens?”
That simple question started a string of discussions about what could happen if zombies actually walk among us, hungry for our brains. We talked about the zombie apocalypse at length and what we would do: where to hide, how to kill zombies effectively, what weapons to use given our location, how to survive, even what to do if one of us were to get infected. Answers drew from sources of zombie wisdom ranging from movies like Zombieland to games like Resident Evil and even Plants vs. Zombies, all discussed with absolute seriousness, as if a zombie invasion was a real possibility.
Spoiler Warning (Nothing major, and the ending remains unspoiled.)
In Mira Grant’s Feed, the first book in the Newsflesh trilogy, zombies have become a part of the normal everyday existence. In 2014, cures for the common cold and for cancer were developed, from modifying strains of rhinovirus and filovirus, respectively. These cures were made to attack the original virus and cells that caused the sickness, and then lie dormant in the system until the illness threatened to come back again. It was a joyful breakthrough in the field of medicine, but the scientists couldn't have known was that the combination of these two cures would form an airborne virus that could raise the dead. No one knew when that first mutation occurred, but the new virus spread quickly and soon everyone had acquired it, the virus waiting to be amplified through death or direct fluid contact with any of the infected.
More than two decades later, the virus, dubbed as Kellis-Amberlee remains a threat. Instead of the virus wiping out the entire human population, humans have managed to push back with help from the bloggers who first spread the news of what they call as “The Rising.” While traditional media were hesitant to warn the people of the threat because of government ties and a general policy of denial, bloggers fearlessly reported the news in all parts of the world, sometimes even risking their lives to get the story, and this helped people survive.
Georgia Mason is one of those bloggers. Together with her brother Shaun, and their friend Buffy, they form the main team of news blog "After the End Times." Georgia is a Newsie, a stick-to-the-facts news reporter who believes that everyone deserves to know the truth and nothing but. Shaun, an Irwin (named after the late Steve Irwin), enjoys poking zombies with sticks and chasing them around on camera, and Buffy is a Fictional, providing poetry and stories for their site while double-hatting as their all-around tech girl. The three were selected to join the young Republican Senator Peter Ryman on his presidential campaign, a first in the history of all campaigns since the Rising. Ryman remembered being betrayed by the news because they didn’t do enough to warn the people of the zombie threat, and so he wanted to give bloggers equal standing in his campaign, as a way to thank them. In a career where ratings are everything, this opportunity was the team’s big break, and Georgia, Shaun, and Buffy became instant celebrities in the blogosphere. Just as they were starting to get used to their newfound popularity, the campaign and the Senator's family are attacked. Georgia and her team digs deeper, and soon realize the scale of the conspiracy behind the attacks. Georgia and her team stick to their guns – literally and figuratively – and vow to let the people know the truth, despite the risks.
Feed first caught my eye because of the RSS logo on the cover, done in blood. When you’ve been blogging for so long, it’s hard to miss it when something so familiar is reimagined. When I found out it was about zombies, I couldn’t help but exclaim, “Oh cool!” I’m not really a fan of horror, but I sort of grew up with zombies--er, figuratively speaking. I can still remember the first time I watched my brother play Resident Evil 1, and the horror I felt when I saw the first zombie sequence in the game. After that, I started to have this weird fascination for zombies, and I couldn’t stop watching my brother play the game. I love playing House of the Dead and Plants vs. Zombies whenever I get the chance, and while I never got to watch Night of the Living Dead or other zombie movies (it’s either I’m too chicken to do so, or I just don’t have the time), I’ve watched all Resident Evil movies at least twice. While I've never had the chance use them in any of my novels because of my chosen genre, zombies are also a popular plot device during National Novel Writing Month, and they always come up during plotting exercises. So when I found out about Feed, I knew I just had to have it -- so much that I got myself a Kindle app in my iPod and bought the book since local bookstores don’t carry it yet. Bloggers, a presidential campaign and zombies? I'm in!
Overall, the novel had a video game/movie feel. It’s told from Georgia’s point of view for most of the novel, with blog entries and quotes in between chapters to show her brother’s point of view. Being a Newsie, Georgia loves the facts, and she tells the facts straight out. The post-apocalyptic zombie world was described in so much detail that I felt like I too lived in their world. The level of detail ensured that there was never a “huh?” moment in the book. While this did result in a certain amount of wordiness, I didn’t mind, but other people may – the actual book is 600 pages long, and that can be intimidating. The author, however, makes use of a lot of pop culture references that make it easy for people from our generation to read it. From the names (George as in Romero, Shaun from Shaun of the Dead and Buffy as in the Vampire Slayer), to references to reality TV, social networking and of course, blogging, my inner geek was overjoyed because I could relate. For non-techie readers, worry not: Georgia doesn't delve too much into the actual technical aspects of their systems, so any technical talk stops before it gets too complicated, but there’s enough for the readers to know that they have really cool equipment.
Wordiness aside, Feed was actually quite...well, awesome. It’s a political thriller written over a horror backdrop, where the presence of the zombies was used to compare how the living can still do more damage than the undead. There were only a handful of zombie encounters in the entire novel, but each of the situations felt so real, that it gave the impression that the zombies were everywhere. Mira Grant allows the readers to think that everything is going fine…and then throws a huge curve ball that changes the game. It’s a thrill ride in 600 pages: I was intrigued, elated, shocked, horrified and most of all heartbroken all throughout the story, and…for me, that's what makes a story awesome.
Georgia, Shaun, Buffy and the rest of the characters were a treat to read. I never had a problem distinguishing one voice from another, and even the minor characters have their own quirks to make them memorable. I liked Georgia and Shaun’s relationship as siblings, having each other's back until the end. My favorite character in this book is Buffy, though, and I liked that their fiction department head was also their all-around tech girl. Who says tech-geeks can’t be writers?
My only peeve in the cast of characters in Feed is the villain. I don’t know if years of watching crime shows has made me sharper at figuring out whodunit, or if the villain was really just a stereotypical bad guy, but it was easy to guess who it was. There was little flair in how the bad guy was defeated, too – it would have been more exciting if there was a bigger showdown at the end.
The conclusion, however, was definitely surprising, and quite heartbreaking. It took awhile for me to shake my sense of disbelief over what happened, and I admit: tears were shed. No major spoilers but let me say this: I have never read a novel that ended in this way.
Feed gives us a glimpse of how people in the media live, whether they work in traditional or new media. We’re no strangers to journalists being killed in the field, and Mira Grant effectively shows us how much these people risk their lives just to give us the truth. The people always have the right to know. After all, the truth can set people free. Georgia hit the nail on the head with this line from her blog:
The truth is only scary when you think part of it might be missing…if we didn’t have to fear the truths we didn’t hear, we’d lose the need to fear the ones we did.
One of my best book discoveries last year was Mira Grant's Feed, the first book in the Newsflesh trilogy. I was so excited about it when I heard it was about zombies AND blogging, and it was my first big Kindle purchase. It remains as one of my favorite books, one that I have given away as gifts and prizes numerous times. I was excited for the next book, Deadline, but I wasn't expecting that much, given that second books are usually so-so compared to the first books in a trilogy. I had a feeling it would be good, but I wasn't expecting it to be as good as its predecessor, you know?
Deadline starts shortly after Feed, where Shaun Mason and the rest of the staff of After the End Times are still reporting the news and making noise in the blogosphere. Shaun, however, is no longer the Irwin that he used to be -- he's tired of it, and he's just running the news organization because he had nowhere else to go and nothing else to do. When a CDC researcher fakes her death and drops by their office with a lot of terrifying and confusing medical research, Shaun and the team find themselves in the middle of a conspiracy connected to the ones they encountered during the campaign. Hungry for the truth, they follow the trail, and find themselves facing an enemy bigger and scarier than the living dead that has become a constant threat in their lives.
I decided to reread Feed shortly after Deadline was delivered to my Kindle to refresh my memory of the Newsflesh world. I was a bit impatient while rereading because I kept on seeing really good reviews for the newest book, but I soldiered on, determined to have the best reading experience for the sequel. It took so much control for me not to read reviews and comments in reviews in full, too, so I won't be spoiled (and believe me, there are spoilers galore in the reviews for this book). I finished the first book, loved it just the same, and then moved on to the next book. Not even 1/4 into the book yet and I was already crying. A little over that, and my heart was breaking. And then, I just can't stop reading it. I finished the book at one in the morning last Sunday and it took all of me to stop myself from swearing. If my mom wasn't fast asleep beside me, I would have yelled many, many expletives that morning.
Mira Grant achieves a great balance between detail and action in Deadline. The previous book was admittedly wordy with all the exposition on the history of the Rising and the Kellis-Amberlee virus. Deadline may be just as wordy, but since the book is told in Shaun's point of view, we are given a bit of time to process the information in the same way as he does. There's less politics here, as it focuses on the virus itself -- lots of science, lots of medical terms, but not so much that it's too hard to follow. It's got good, solid world building, with lots of references to pre-Rising things, the things we have now. I love the references to zombie video games, most especially, and it makes the action scenes easier for me to imagine. There was a time when I was reading a zombie chase scene when something similar to a Resident Evil background music played on the TV. Talk about setting the scene. The story is tight, and it honestly had me totally creeped out as the story progressed. I had the same feeling while rereading Feed, but I dare say Deadlineamplified that feeling. By the end of the book, I was ready to hide under the covers and never go out.
While this is more of Shaun's story to tell, the girls Georgia and Buffy still play a big part in the story. The best part, I think, is how their staff gets to play bigger roles. Mira Grant created excellent characters that you'd want to be on your side when zombies walk with the living. I loved Mahir and Maggie (with her epileptic teacup bulldogs!) the most, but I also liked Dave, Becks and Alaric well enough to get attached to them even if I knew better not to get attached to any of Mira Grant's characters. Lines are blurred and gray areas abound in Deadline: the stereotypical villain in the previous book suddenly had more depth, there's no clear villain in this book, and there really is no one you could trust.
Unlike Feed, Deadline ends in a major cliffhanger, which could have also resulted in many, many expletives if I hadn't finished this book late in the night. And to prove the evil (genius) that Mira Grant really is, a preview of the third book, Blackout, is included in Deadline (A word of advice -- do not read the preview if you're not yet done with the book. YOU WILL REGRET IT IF YOU DO, TRUST ME.). While that's a teensy bit comforting, it still doesn't change the fact that it would not be out until next year. Alas, I wait in agony with the rest of the world. :o
Deadline by Mira Grant definitely exceeded all my expectations. I love it when a book does that. Even if I have to wait for a whole year for the conclusion of this wonderfully terrifying, expletive-inducing trilogy, I have a good feeling the third book will shoot straight up the ceiling with its awesomeness.(less)
Trese is a comic book series about Alexandra Trese, a bar owner who also works as a paranormal detective helping the Manila...moreFull post at One More Page
Trese is a comic book series about Alexandra Trese, a bar owner who also works as a paranormal detective helping the Manila police in solving the weirder crimes that happen in the metro. Each book has a series of shorter stories inside, where we see Trese find the criminal through her contacts in the paranormal world. As it's set in the Philippines, Trese's paranormal contacts are all from the Philippine mythology -- aswang, duwende, tikblang, etc.
I remember reading the first book last year and being impressed -- it was very nice to read about something I know and grew up with given a different twist. Trese was likeable despite her very cold demeanor, and she immediately joins the strong female leads that I have read about in other books. I do find her a little bit too perfect in this though -- perfect in the sense that she knows everything and she does everything right. I would've wanted her to mess up a bit, but that may be too much for me to ask in the first book.
The cases were interesting, and they tread carefully between the line of paranormal and horror (is there a line there? Not sure). I liked how it related to what I know as a Filipino, but not in the classic, dated sense. I liked that the story was set in places in Manila and how they were updated to the current times. No deep dark forests or remote provinces were the creatures normally lurk here, for sure. It's fun, and thankfully not scary enough for me to really freak out, you know?
Yeah, I know, I'm a big chicken. :P
On the international front, I think Trese would be able to hold its own with a bit of limitation. I don't think it's very hard to understand, but I think the mythology would take some time to get used to and would need more research for a non-Filipino reader to understand. It's easy for me to wrap my head around the creepiness of Balete Drive because I live here, but for someone in another country, I'm not sure if the creepiness factor would be the same. Still, I'd like to see how non-Filipino readers would view Trese.(less)
It's no secret that I lovedAnna and the French Kiss last year, and it was one of my favorite reads in 2010. I think I neglected to add the companion novel to Anna in my Most Anticipated Reads for 2011, but soon after the cover and reviews for Lola and the Boy Next Door started popping up in blogs, I was really, really excited to get my grubby hands on it. :D
In Stephanie Perkins' sophomore novel, we meet Lola Nolan, a girl who is always in costume. Lola prides herself not only in her creative fashion sense, but also with her rocker and much older boyfriend Max, who her dads do not approve of. Still, Lola's life is pretty good, until the Bell twins next door moved back. See, Lola had history with the boy next door -- he broke her heart years ago. Swearing not to let Cricket Bell's arrival bother her, Lola tries to carry on with her life, but she's finding it hard when Cricket seems to be everywhere she goes, and it's even harder for her when she realizes that she likes Cricket being there.
Ah Lola. Lola is a fun read, with the signature Perkins banter and characters. Lola's world is very easy to get into, and I loved all the characters in the book, even if some of them got in my nerves. I remember reading the excerpt of this book way before it was released and I was already amused at how Lola had two dads. The characterization is awesome, as usual, and everyone just seemed more colorful here, like they all reflect Lola's costuming personality. Add the fun dialogue to that and I was smiling and chuckling every now and then. :) I like it when the characters' conversations feel authentic. And yes, I like it very much that we see more of Anna and Etienne here, and I still feel myself smiling every time I read about them here. It's nice to see other loved characters showing up in another story -- this is why I like reading spin-offs.
However, I find myself feeling a little bit distant with Lola. Unlike Anna, where I saw myself in some parts of her, I just couldn't relate to Lola. I don't know why, but Lola just seemed...well, different. I liked her voice, and I thought she was genuinely funny and creative, but I thought she was also...I don't know, a tad immature? To be honest, there was a time when I really, really hated her, especially with how she treated Cricket. Not that she was especially mean to him, but she might as well be with how she handled her confusion with him. I liked her growth in the book, though. I'm not one to know, but people say her struggles in this book sound realistic, so I will take their word for it. ;) However, I do think Lola may be a bit too hippie for my taste.
Oh but Cricket. How much do I love him? This geek totally won my heart, just like how other blogger friends I know did. His adorable geekiness and his earnestness in with Lola and his love for his twin...everything just won me over. :) That's why I wonder sometimes why Lola was having such a hard time with Max vs. Cricket -- as if there was ever a contest? Although I must say that after I learned more about Cricket's personality, it felt like Max was suddenly shown in a bad light. I guess there would have been more conflict if Max wasn't shown to be such a bad person as the story went on. I mean, yes Cricket is amazing, but it doesn't mean Max is an absolute bad guy, right?
My "I-can-relate!" factor for Lola is lower than it was for Anna because of my distance with Lola, but I found myself feeling so much for Cricket that sometimes I had to stop reading because I was hurting so much for him. Exaggeration? Maybe. I'll never tell. ;) But I so wanted to give Cricket a hug when he said: "Please don't make this any harder than it already is." </3
I liked Lola and the Boy Next Door, but not as much as I loved Anna and the French Kiss. Still, I think this is a good spin-off, and I will definitely still be one of the first in line to get Stephanie Perkins' next novel. :)(less)
This particular cover for Melina Marchetta's Saving Francesca is a lie. I expected a quirky, funny and light novel, but...moreOriginal post at One More Page
This particular cover for Melina Marchetta's Saving Francesca is a lie. I expected a quirky, funny and light novel, but it didn't give me that. I thought it would be just funny, friends, and I honestly thought I would only be in for a quick and light in-between read, but it wasn't that.
Saving Francesca was funny. Quirky. It was light in some ways, and being less than 250 pages, it was a very quick read indeed. I thought it would be just that. Look at the cover and tell me, wouldn't you expect the same thing? I think I must clarify, though -- it wasn't just what I was expecting if I were to judge it by its cover. It was more. Friends, I was expecting to only like this book. I wasn't expecting to love it.
Francesca's mom, Mia, is a hands-on mom who wants nothing but the best for her daughter. Francesca is used to waking up to her mom giving her pep talks for conquering her day especially after she's moved to the recently co-ed St. Sebastian's. However, one day, Mia just simply doesn't get out of bed. Francesca's days are suddenly plunged into a surprising silence from her Mom and everything she knows suddenly doesn't make sense. Not only is her family falling apart, but she had no friends in St. Sebastian's, and it doesn't help that she's having weird feelings for popular guy William Thrombal. Francesca needs saving -- stat.
I've been meaning to read a Marchetta book for the longest time, as everyone I know who's read them keeps on singing praises to her books. As a fan of contemporary YA, not reading Marchetta's books seem like a crime, so I finally gave in and cracked this book last week. And I was really, really glad I did. :)
Marchetta certainly knows how to make it all realistic. Francesca is such a strong character that even in her weak moments, she shows a unique strength that makes you root for her all the way. My heart broke for her when she finds herself lost, and I rejoiced when I see her slowly rising up. She's one of those heroines that will remain with you and wish to be there for when she needed someone the most.
But then again, as the story goes, you'd realize that maybe Francesca had all that she needs after all. The best part of this book (and I hear most of Marchetta's books) are the relationships. I loved Francesca's family and her friends. None of them were perfect, but it was the kind of relationship that you'd want to have in your life. Her family reminded me of mine -- the father's quiet strength, the mother's louder personality and a close relationship with the brother. I especially loved the Francesca's relationship with her dad -- flawed and very realistic, and it was one of the things that made me shed a tear or two. :)
I especially loved her friends, and the author had their interactions done pat. I loved every bus scene where they'd argue and pretend not to be friends, I loved every time one character would invite himself over to dinner. I found it really nice when the girls would hang out and watch Pride and Prejudice and eat Oreos and Pringles. Like Aaron, I loved that scene in Francesca's bedroom after a particularly emotional moment in the book. Like everyone else, too, I wanted to be a part of that group, to ride the bus with them and see them everyday in school and joke with them and all that.
Hm, you know what? Francesca's friends remind me of my own too. We weren't exactly all friends from school or did we bond over bus rides, but I can't help but think of them as I think about the characters in the book. :) Look at us here:
It must be noted, too, that I was very thrilled when I read about the Filipino character in the book, Eva Rodriguez. And even if she wasn't really a part of the main group, I liked that she was present there every now and then. :)
Saving Francesca is a very, very good book about family, friendships and identity. I loved every bit of it -- as if it wasn't that obvious from all my gushing. :) I cannot wait to read more of Marchetta's books. This is definitely one great contemporary YA novel that I would keep on my shelf and revisit every now and then. :)(less)
A few weeks ago, I found myself stuck at home without Internet, so I tuned in to the TV. I caught this show, If You Really Knew Me, and ended up crying in the middle of watching the episode. I had a pretty happy high school life, so I was a bit distant with the situations of the kids there, but it did not stop me from shedding some tears for the kids featured in the show.
When I read Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers later, I can't help but think that the students from Hallowell High could use a Challenge Day for themselves, especially after how the popular group dealt with our heroine Regina. Regina Afton used to be a part of the Fearsome Fivesome, until she got frozen out after rumors about her and her best friend's boyfriend spread around. What follows is a series of serious bullying, as her ex best friends are out of revenge -- the bloodier, the better. Regina finds herself trying to make amends with loner Michael Hayden, a boy he used to bully. She comes into terms with just how bad she really was, and wonders what makes her different from the girls who are making her life a living hell.
When I finished reading Some Girls Are, I was exhausted. I knew this book is about bullying, but I didn't expect it to be almost bloody. The Fivesome turned Foursome was more than mean -- they're evil. I don't understand how some people can deliberately hurt other people and influence others to do the same, too. Maybe it's because I can't relate that kind of high school life, but...who would want to? The thought of being in that same school is scary, and I don't blame Michael wanting to be alone after everything that happened to him.
This isn't an easy novel to read. It was hard and bloody and sometimes scary -- at one point, I wanted to beg it to stop. I wanted to whisk Regina away to another school and forget what happened to her. I also wanted to bonk Regina in the head for her to do something reasonable, like oh, tell someone? Some Girls Are is very hard to put down. I just have to know what happens next, even if it meant reading how Regina's ex-friends would do something that would hurt her again. This reminds me of those TV shows I watch where I utterly hate the villains. Hate. When someone or some people are as evil as the ones in this book, it's hard to find the good in them, and it's easier to just hate them.
The ending is a tiny bit anticlimactic for my taste, but after all the things that happened in the book, I guess that's a relief. I just wanted it to end, and while I'm not entirely convinced that the bullying has ended there, I think it's the right end for Regina. Don't get me wrong, though -- this novel is very good. I can't say how real it was, but it sounded like it is, and I commend Courtney Summers for this.
There are books that grab you by the collar from the very start and force you to pay attention to what you are reading....moreOriginal post at One More Page
There are books that grab you by the collar from the very start and force you to pay attention to what you are reading. These books are typically the explosive, action-packed ones, ones that plunge you right into the action, leaving you breathless from the start all the way up to the last page. However, there are books that start off quiet, with barely a bang. You're not quite sure what would happen with these books, but you allow yourself to be carried gently with the languid flow of the story. You think it wouldn't really grip you so much as those action-packed books that you can put it down every now and then, reading at your own pace.
And then it proves you wrong. Somewhere in the story, the book grabs you by the hand and pulls you in, refusing to let go unless you get to the very last page, and you're left even more breathless, wondering what just happened in the past pages and chapters.
That, my friends, is the kind of book Never Let Me Goby Kazuo Ishiguro is.
I've been seeing this book for a long time now, but I never thought of picking it up because I often confuse it with other books written by Japanese authors that I am not sure if I want to read. Even my friends reading it in my book club didn't make me read it because by then, I was more into reading YA books, and I never thought it would be something I'd like to read, anyway. When I ran across its ebook on sale on Kindle, I finally surrendered and purchased it. If my other friends liked it, I probably would, too, right?
Never Let Me Gotells the story of friends Kathy H, Tommy D and Ruth, who all met and grew up in Hailsham, a private boarding school somewhere in England. Kathy, now 31 years old, narrates her memories of her life as a child and early teen there, the next years as she, Tommy and Ruth moved to the Cottages after their time in Hailsham and finally her years as a carer where she crosses paths with Tommy and Ruth again. The book is really a collection of Kathy's memories, told almost out of chronological order but in a way of significance, all leading to the readers wondering who Kathy is, why there were in Hailsham and what they are up to in present time.
To say anything more would be a spoiler, so I will leave you at that. I was partially spoiled already as I read the book because of some reviews that I read even if it was clearly marked with a spoiler. However, that didn't lessen the enjoyment of reading this wonderful piece of work. As I mentioned above, Never Let Me Go is a book that starts off very quiet, with hardly any bang. In fact, there isn't really much excitement in the book, yet I never found it boring. Kathy's voice rang clear all throughout the book. It almost felt like I was sitting with her in a shop and she was just telling me her life story, or perhaps I was sitting at the passenger seat of her car as she regaled to me their little misadventures in Hailsham.
Even if it was told in Kathy's point of view, the other characters' voices were distinct, too. Kathy tells her stories about her friends with little bias to herself, which allows us to see and forgive them for their own faults towards the heroine. For example, every time I would feel annoyed at Ruth for being so dominating, Kathy would say something to make me understand her in a way, or would convince me that somehow Kathy was also at fault. Perhaps it was written that way because these are Kathy's recollections and at her age, she definitely knew better than she knew then. Tommy and Ruth felt as real as Kathy was, and I truly felt their importance in Kathy's life.
The strength of the characters didn't really water down the plot, so there is still much satisfaction as the secrets behind their existence and Hailsham were revealed. As these are Kathy's memories, they tend to jump from one scene to another before going back to the original intent. It may take a bit to get used to that kind of narration and it may turn some people off. However, that is almost the same way as some Sarah Dessen novels are, so I'm fairly used to that. Everything is revealed gradually and there seemed to be a quiet acceptance to everything that's happening that even I am convinced that it's really just the way it is and there is no way out.
Perhaps that is the most striking thing about Never Let Me Go. Kathy tells her story as if there was no other alternative, that it is really the only way for her and her friends. There is a quiet resignation in Kathy that she was destined to do what she was made to do, that there was no other choice but that. It makes me wonder what I would have done if I grew up in Hailsham and I knew what I know as I read this book -- would I accept my fate as Kathy did or will I rebel? Or what if I was a guardian -- how can I face those kids everyday for the first thirteen years or so of their life knowing what awaits them sometime in their life? Can my conscience take it, even if it is all in the name of science and the progress of humanity?
A movie version of this book starring Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield and Kiera Knightley came out last year (in all other parts of the world, that is. It hasn't been shown here yet). If you're planning to read this, DO NOT watch the movie trailer if you don't want to be spoiled. I haven't watched the movie yet, so I don't know the difference, but it is always wiser to read the book first before watching the movie. Even if you're not much of a reader, Never Let Me Go is too good of a book to pass up for the movie version. Make it one of the few books that you'd read in your life, if you must.
Never Let Me Go is one book that truly did not let me go (no pun intended). It reeled me in with its simplicity and refused to let me move on long after I finished with the last page. Beautiful and haunting, this is definitely one of my best reads for this year.(less)
I have had Tosca's book on my TBR shelf since 2009, and I meant to read it soon after I finished reading her other novel...moreOriginal post at One More Page
I have had Tosca's book on my TBR shelf since 2009, and I meant to read it soon after I finished reading her other novel, Demon: A Memoir. Somehow, this book got pushed farther and farther down Mt. TBR until I almost forgot about having it. It wasn't until I was thinking of a good book to start 2011 with that I remembered having this one, so I dug it up from my books, and cracked the book open again come 1st of January.
Around October last year, some of my Goodreads friends started a year-long reading challenge to read the Bible in its entirety. I have tried reading the Bible from cover to cover back in college but I failed miserably when I got to Chronicles. When I heard of the challenge in the group, the challenge addict in me jumped in, choosing to read The Message translation of the Bible for easier reading. The thing with reading the Bible is it's so easy to be disenchanted with the stories there, especially if you've heard the stories in it over and over, particularly in Genesis. What else there is to read about Adam and Eve anyway? They were created, they lived in God's presence, then Eve got tempted and got Adam in with her. They were banished from the garden, they had kids, and then the world started with them. Not that interesting, right?
They say familiarity breeds contempt, and I guess that has happened to me in the case of Genesis. Tosca Lee breathes life into the story of creation, particularly with the first woman ever created in Havah.
I have seen paradise and ruin. I have known bliss and terror.
I have walked with God.
And I know that God made the hart the most fragile and resilient of organs, that a lifetime of joy and pain might be encased in one moral chamber.
So it starts. I fell in love with Tosca Lee's writing with Demon, and I knew Havah is going to be just as beautifully written as the former, if not more. This retelling of Eve from the moment of her creation to their fall to their exile and her mortal life was told in Eve's point of view, making the novel feel more personal compared to Demon.
I am not an expert in theology so I can't say how accurate this was or if Tosca missed addressing something in this novel. However, I can say that reading Havah became more than just leisurely reading but almost a personal journey. Eve, christened as Havah by the adam because she "...will live, and all who live will come from [her], and [she] will give birth to hope." (p. 102), spoke to my heart as she told her story. I guess it's because she's a woman, and I sympathized with her struggles and her woes. How I could I not? In a sense, I was also Havah -- I sinned against God so many times that I know I am so far away from Him, but I crave for His presence just as Havah sought Him, too. It was that brokenness that got to me the most. I do not blame her for her act of disobedience and in the fall, because as she said quite eloquently, "If not for our transgression, we would not know redemption."(p. 349) In a sense, Havah really embodied how it is to be a human in this broken world: a constant struggle to find God in our surroundings, in the people and in life, pressing on even if sometimes He seems empty and silent.
Since this was told in her point of view, this will seem like a female-biased novel, but I think (and hope!) that guys will still be able to find themselves in this novel, too. It's hard to describe this novel in its entirety because there is so much beauty and pain and love in this book.
It took me a while to finish reading this, but I know I made the right choice in starting 2011 with this novel. This is still fiction, of course, and this does not replace the parts written in Genesis, but it definitely helped me understand that part of the Bible more. I had no doubt that this would be a good book after enjoying Tosca's first novel, but Havah just totally blew my mind and heart away. And if you decide to pick this one up, I hope it does the same for you too. :)
How mighty, how great the One must be, I thought, to send the heavens careening, and yet hear the cry of a single heart. (p. 28)
You can watch the book trailer here or hear what the author has to say about her second novel here. (less)
There are a lot of firsts in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, the 5th book in the chronology of The Chronicles of Narnia...moreOriginal post at One More Page
There are a lot of firsts in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, the 5th book in the chronology of The Chronicles of Narnia (hm sounds redundant) and the 3rd book I have read in the series. This is the first time Peter and Susan are not a part of the story, the first time Caspian and his crew have set out to sea to look for the seven lords that his uncle Miraz sent away when he stole the throne, the first time they ventured out to the far east and the first time we meet the bully Eustace Scrubb. Finally, this is also the first time I read a Narnia book without watching the movie first. I had planned to watch the movie version of this last year but I didn't catch it in time before the cinemas were filled with our local film festival, and then the movie never came back. Nevertheless, I figured it's time to read a Narnia book first before I go see the movie and see what difference it would make this time around.
I mentioned in a comment in a previous review that I feel like I appreciate The Chronicles of Narnia more now that I'm reading them as an adult compared to reading them as a child. I think if I read these books as a child, I would probably have skimmed some parts that I couldn't understand. Now that I am reading them as an adult (or a young adult, if you may), I guess I understand the books better because I have better comprehension, and I have more experiences that could connect to the spiritual themes of the books.
This observation still rang true as I read The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. If I were younger, I would have disliked Eustace so much more but at my age, I just felt kind of sorry for him because he didn't know the magic of Narnia until he really got to experience it himself. As always, I liked how many times Aslan showed up (which felt more than the times he did in Prince Caspian), and for this book Lewis showed the Aslan who always takes care of his people. Not that he doesn't show that in the previous books, but here we see Aslan save them in different instances.
I also really liked what Aslan told Edmund and Lucy in the end. Slight spoiler warning starts here. To know him by his other name in their world reminds me of how one grows spiritually. I got most of my spiritual nourishment from my Catholic community, but at some point, I felt the need to leave because I needed to know God in the world outside of it. It was easy to believe if you're always immersed in that world, but I believe it takes a lot of maturity to believe in the midst of the humdrum of life, and I think that's what Aslan wanted Lucy and Edmund to learn. End spoiler warning.
However, I think that compared to the first two books I've read in this series, I would have enjoyed The Voyage of the Dawn Treader more if I read it as a kid. It's not one continuous story. There is a goal, yes, but the book is written in chunks -- one adventure after the next, all leading to their final goal in the end, but not necessarily required to get to that goal. This is the type of book that I can put down after reading one adventure and go back to it without feeling too lost upon resuming. A friend and hardcore Lewis fan told me that this seemed to be the book were Lewis had most fun with Narnia, almost like he wrote it in parts just to explain the unexplored regions in the Eastern Islands, and then decided to put it all in one book since all of they were all in the Dawn Treader. I guess it's just the writer in me that wishes for this book to have a more structured plot. I liked the explorations and little adventures in the book, but I think this one didn't really have a real climax. Case in point: I found myself a scratching my head a bit at the part of the Dragon Island and then wishing that part happened somewhere in the end, to build things up a bit.
But that's just me. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is just a bit more exciting than Prince Caspian, but not really as magical or charming as The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. Nevertheless, it is still an enjoyable book, and a good installment to The Chronicles of Narnia. Up next, The Silver Chair! :)(less)
Considered to be the first YA novel ever published, Maureen Daly (1921 - 2006) started writing this when she was 17 and...moreOriginal post at One More Page
Considered to be the first YA novel ever published, Maureen Daly (1921 - 2006) started writing this when she was 17 and finished it when she was in college, and finally published in 1942. Seventeenth Summer is about Angie Morrow's last summer before she goes off to college spent in her hometown in Wisconsin. Angie catches basketball star Jack Uluth's eyes and he asks her out on a date and they fall in love. As summer ends, their inevitable separation looms and they have to decide whether their love is forever or just for that seventeenth summer.
I knew from Chris' short post about this book that it was written in the 1940's, so that kind of prepared me for what this novel would be like. It took me a while to reconcile the setting of the book with the cover which looks a little too modern for how it was written. I had to stop reading the book for a while and start it again so I would have the proper state of mind while reading it (and believe me, Jane Austen's Emma put me right there) and appreciate the novel for what it's worth.
Unlike the modern YA contemporary novels, Seventeenth Summer is quiet. There are hardly any interesting parts, really and to be honest, Angie is kind of dull. She's not like any of the feisty or snarky female heroines that I know. She's shy, almost awkward and plain looking, as she often described herself. Angie spends most of her time doing housework and helping her mom manage the household, and up until Jack's arrival in her life, she tends to shy away from people from her school. The rest of the novel tells us about Angie's dates with Jack and her thoughts about him, how he relates to her family, what she feels and all the questions involved in having a crush to dating someone and figuring out if it's love or not. There are no mean girls to torment Angie, little parental resistance for their going out and it's all really just an account of Angie's summer. Angie and Jack's relationship is also very chaste compared to what comes out nowadays (not that I mind) -- just a few kisses here and there. I was honestly surprised to read the word "necking". How long has it been since I last heard that word?
If you're not into contemporary, you'll probably be bored to death with this novel because like I said, there are no exciting parts. Truth be told, the B-plot with Angie's sister, Lorraine, was more exciting than the actual main plot. However, I find that the beauty of Seventeenth Summer lies not in that, but in how the author captured Angie's emotions with her relationship with Jack. I thought Daly described it perfectly: the first tingles of a simple crush, the recollection in the morning after a nice date, the longing for a phone call, the first kiss, the pain of realizing the first mistake you committed unknowingly and the delicious feeling of seeing everything in rose-colored glasses because of love. Not that I know how it feels exactly, but if I were to fall in love, that would be how I'd want it to feel. I was honestly surprised to find myself noting so many quotes in the book that convey those feelings, such as:
In the brightness of the morning last night didn't seem quite real...I knew in a little while I would be getting up...there would be no more of the exquisite uncertainty of last night, no queer, tingling awe at the newness of the feeling, and no strange, filling satisfaction of being just alive. All that was last night because it was night and because it was the first boy I had really been out with. Not because it was a special boy...but because it was the first one. After a while, maybe after years...I would think of last night and remember it and that breathless loveliness... (p. 26-27)
...there is something so final, so husband- and wifelike about going to church with a boy. Religion is too personal a thing to share promiscuously and the thought of being there with Jack filled me with a kind of awe... (p. 120)
And as each day changed into evening...I didn't even feel like a girl anymore. And all my thoughts turned into little prayers, which I meant so much that it made me ache all over. "Just once," I kept saying. "Let him call just once." (p. 134)
Sometimes, when we sat in the movies, Jack would hold my hand. It wasn't silly. We did it because it was good to sit so close together in the darkness and, somehow, by holding hands you can carry on a conversation without talking. (p. 183)
I'm not sure if I ended up liking this novel because I read it during February and I was really feeling the Valentine's air, or if I'm really just a sap at heart. This is one of those books that you'd rather read as an in-between book and you just want to feel like laying back and enjoying a good, clean summer romance. Seventeenth Summer isn't the most exciting or mind-blowing read, but it has that air of sweetness and simplicity that almost makes it timeless. (less)
The release of Love Your Frenemies by Mina V. Esguerra totally made my Monday morning happier, and it also made me lose sleep because I couldn't put it down. I was so excited to read this that I put all other currently reads down, and the need to write my thoughts on feels more urgent than writing reviews for the two books that I need to review first. I can only think of two reasons why I have this urgency: it's because I really liked this book and I need to share my thoughts ASAP, and because I'm such a Mina fan. ;)
Love Your Frenemies features Kimberly Domingo, a familiar character for those who have read Mina's first book, My Imaginary Ex.For the uninitiated, Kimberly, also known as Kimmy, is the b*tch in her debut novel, the villain in Jasmine and Zack's romance. It's easy to hate her in that book as she was painted completely in black and white. More of a companion novel than a sequel (so you don't have to read My Imaginary Ex to understand this...spoiler warning for that novel, though, if you haven't read it!), this gives us a different picture of Kimmy, one year after she left after being dumped by Zack. Kimmy goes back home for her best friend's wedding, changed from her one year absence. Determined to start over, she slowly faces all the things she left behind -- her family, her Country Club friends, her old job. She's also ready to cut off the people she's declared toxic in her life, namely her bride-to-be best friend, Chesca, and her first love, hunky and charismatic Manolo.
I love spin-off stories featuring other characters, especially the villains, because it gives readers an entirely different perspective. It's also a great character study and a perfect example of how our first impressions of people don't tell us much. I like how Mina built Kimmy's back story here, making her less evil and just another person who had issues to deal with on her own, issues that happened to entangle other people. It shows that people aren't always black and white, but mostly gray.
I also liked that this one focused more on Kimmy's self-discovery and friendships than the romance. Oh sure, Manolo's hot (but I still find Lucas of Fairy Tale Fail hotter, LOL), but Kimmy's relationship with him wasn't the sole focusof the story. Love Your Frenemies isn't really just about love but about, well, frenemies. :) I liked how Mina made the other characters three-dimensional. Like the first Kimmy in My Imaginary Ex, some of them were easy to hate at first, but as the story unfolded, I started to somewhat understand why they did what they did, even if it's not what an ideal friend would do. I found myself feeling somewhat affectionate towards them in the end, and it further proves that people are not what you always believe them to be.
Love Your Frenemies is filled with flawed characters that paints a very accurate picture of how complicated and messy relationships -- family, friendships, and romantic ones -- are. It doesn't have any of those heart-stopping, tingle-inducing romance, but more of the introspection of a woman who's trying to build her life back from the mess that it has been and is determined not to make another mistake. The characters are far from perfect, and honestly I don't think they'd be my crowd, but they're definitely the kind of people that you'd want to be on your side even if they can be a pain in the neck more than half the time.
I think Love Your Frenemies show how much Mina really thinks about what she writes. It's difficult to give a voice to a villain and make her human and deserving of sympathy, but Mina does it almost effortlessly in her newest novel. Kimmy isn't your most lovable character, unlike Jasmine or Ellie or Carla from Mina's previous novels, but she's the type of character that will stay with you long after you've reached the last page, teaching us important lessons on discovering yourself, forgiveness and the ties that bind.
Highly recommended, and don't think I'm saying that only because I'm such a fan. ;)(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)
I did say that when I finished The Queen of Attolia, I cannot not pick up the next book, right? And that is very true -- soon as I finished that book, I immediately picked up The King of Attolia to know what happens next. Because really, after you're done with Queen, how could you not want to know?
Seriously, don't say I didn't warn you if you read on and haven't read the first two books.
So there is a new king in Attolia after years of not having one. But the Attolians aren't rejoicing because they do not believe in the king. The scheming people who want to remove the queen think it's easy to get rid of the king, too, while the loyal ones to the queen believe that the king is a fool. Reminiscent of school bullying, the Attolian court make life for the new king hard with various pranks and mockeries. But those pranks are nothing compared to an assassination attempt at the king. In the middle of all of this is Costis, a simple guard who did the wrong thing to the wrong person at the wrong time. This makes him an unwilling companion to the king, and privy to his personal moments with the queen. His contempt for the king soon fades away, when he realizes what we readers have known or a long time: that the king, Eugenides, the Thief of Eddis, is smarter and more cunning than everyone in the Attolian court combined. That, and he loves the Queen of Attolia and she loves him back.
Again, I must say: Megan Whalen Turner is a genius. Or a GENius, because Eugenides is a genius. After reading the first two books in the series, I already know what Eugenides is capable of, so it felt like I was in on a big secret as I read the book. I felt sorry for Costis, but I was amazed at how the events unfolded. MWT is amazing with hiding things from the reader, and making us wonder about the schemes and secrets of her characters. We know that Eugenides is smart, but why does it feel like he's being beaten? What is the queen doing? Where is Eddis?
But as good as she is with hiding things from the reader, she's also extremely skilled in revealing it bit by bit, and convincing readers of how it was all planned all along when we get to the end. It makes for a very, very satisfying read, and it made me fall in love with the series and the characters as I go on.
The best part of this book, IMHO, was the romance. The romance took me by surprise in The Queen of Attolia, and a part of me had a hard time believing it. In The King of Attolia, this romance was proven. I don't think I fully understood how it came to be, but in the end, I was definitely convinced that these two people really love each other. (view spoiler)[My favorite scene (may be slight spoilery):
After one moment of gripped immobility, the queen bent to kiss the king lightly on one closed eyelid, then on the other. She said, "I love your eyes." She kissed him on either cheek, near the small lobe of his ear. "I love your ears, and I love" -- she paused as she kissed him gently on the lips --"every single one of your ridiculous lies." (p. 218)
I think this is my favorite of all the books so far. The King of Attolia had me snickering, sighing, giggling and sighing again with satisfaction when I was done. I think this may be my favorite book in the series. I can't wait to get my hands on A Conspiracy of Kings. :)
Oh, and you know what? I think this book will also make for very good rereading. I look forward to that, too. :)
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I've had my eye on Mistwood for a long time now, but a part of me has always dismissed it as a paranormal romance novel...moreOriginal post at One More Page
I've had my eye on Mistwood for a long time now, but a part of me has always dismissed it as a paranormal romance novel that I never had that much interest in it. It popped up in my radar last year again, and when I read the reviews, I had to admit my mistake on labeling it as paranormal romance because it's not. Of course, the cheapskate in me then didn't want to buy the hardbound version, so I had it in my wish list hoping someone would get it for me. Thanks to the Book Blogger Holiday Swap, though, I got a copy of this book from Tarie. :)
Mistwood is where the Shifter hails, a creature of legend that is bound by an ancient spell to protect the king of Samorna. When Samorna is peaceful, she goes back to Mistwood, but when she always comes when she is needed. Isabel remembers nothing, not until before Prince Rokan fetches her from Mistwood. She can't remember what happened, what her powers were and she gets glimpses of memories that doesn't make sense. All she knows is she has to protect Rokan, even if she feels that she can't trust him. As Isabel tries to uncover the threats to her prince, she tries to piece together her memories and weave through all sorts of court intrigue. She can't trust anyone, and when she finds out the truth, she wonders if she can trust the person she's sworn to protect.
Mistwood is beautiful, in writing and in the characters. It was easy to slip into the kingdom of Samorna, which made it easier to focus on the characters which really made the story move forward. Like other readers, I was never sure who to trust -- not even Isabel. I wasn't sure who to root for, and I wasn't sure who is telling the truth. I liked how the story tends to defy expectations -- just when you thought you've had it all figured out, the author takes a different turn, keeping you guessing. I have to admit that there was a time when I just wanted to figure everything out once and for all and skip a few pages, but I'm glad I kept on reading.
However, I think this book kind of fell into the "I shouldn't have read this right after reading really awesome books that blew me away" category. I liked Mistwood, but I think I made a mistake of reading it right after I read the first three books of Megan Whalen Turner's The Queen's Thief series. It was kind of hard to shift from Sounis/Eddis/Attolia to Samorna, and I can't help but feel like Gen was going to pop up in a page in Mistwood. That was my mistake -- learn from it!
Still, I liked Mistwood. It's very good fantasy, and if you're looking for a standalone book to get lost into, this is a very good choice. I'm looking forward to reading its companion novel, Nightspell. :) (less)
I'm not a poetry person. When I was younger, I tried my hand at writing some poems because I wanted to be a writer. I st...moreOriginal post at One More Page
I'm not a poetry person. When I was younger, I tried my hand at writing some poems because I wanted to be a writer. I started off with the poems with correct syllables and enough rhymes, and then I graduated to free verse poems which didn't have the same poetic tone that other poems I read do. When I got to college and joined our literary folio, I decided that I am not a poet, and while I appreciate some poems every now and then, I would really rather read prose.
I can't really remember why I joined the Goodreads contest for A Girl Named Mister by Nikki Grimes. I think I was too excited to join giveaways then, and I was just clicking on "enter" whenever I see it's a genre or an author or even a publisher I'd like. I'm not always lucky with giveaways, so color me surprised when I found out I won this book. I got kind of hesitant when I found out that this was a novel in verse, but a free book is still a free book. Of course, the book was sent to my dad (and it kind of took forever to get there), and I wasn't able to get it until he stopped over in the country last weekend before heading to China for a company event.
A Girl Named Mister is a novel in verse about a 14-year-old girl named Mary Rudine, nicknamed "Mister" for her initials. She's your typical Christian teenager who grew up in church: she's a part of the choir, her best friends were from church and she believes in preserving her purity for marriage. Then she meets Trey, whose beautiful eyelashes captured her heart and eventually everything she has. As Mister struggles with her secret guilt and its seed, another Mary's story plays out. This teenage Mary has always been a good Jewish girl, and she was soon to be wed to Joseph. When an angel appears before her and tells her she would be a virgin mother, her world is turned upside down. Mister finds solace in this Mary, and as she gets to know more about her namesake, she finds out just how deep God's love and how big God's plans can be.
I breezed through this book in a night. Being written in verse, it was a quick and easy read, almost like I was reading some kind of Psalm. However, the issues it tackled weren't really easy. The story is as real as it can be, and I know it is happening to other teenage girls everywhere in the world. The good thing about this novel is how the author juxtaposed Mister's story with Mary's story. It was kind of hard to fathom at first how Mister, who bore the weight of her sin with her literally, could relate to Mary the mother of Jesus, whose pregnancy was divinely ordained. I liked how the author showed that even if Mister sinned, He still had a purpose for her and she is not a lost cause. It's easy to put God in a box and think that He cannot do anything about us when we do something bad. But as I've learned -- not only in this book but in real life -- His ways are higher than our ways, and He is bigger than whatever sin we can ever commit in this life. No matter how big the guilt is, His grace is still bigger and stronger and more powerful than that.
I also liked how real Mary came off in this book. It's easy to think that Mary as this sweet, solemn-faced woman who followed God's will without hesitation. In Nikki Grimes' novel, we see Mary's struggles as she accepted God's will, as she told Joseph and her parents about the angel's message and even her struggles as she carried Jesus in her womb. It's always nice to realize that even if Mary was set apart by God to carry His son, she was also still very human. This book helped me see another side of Mama Mary. I thought the author got it spot on with this particular part:
I always thought Mary had it easy, her knowing all along God was the one who wrote her story. Guess I was wrong. Turns out she needed God as bad as me. (p. 171)
A Girl Named Mister is a quick but not exactly an easy read. It made me cry and sigh, but in the end it made me smile as I, with Mister, realize the power of God's forgiveness, the grace of second chances and the depth of His love. :) Highly recommended.(less)
I'm a little bit OC when it comes to my reviewing order, and it's not often that I skip over some books I need to review...moreOriginal post at One More Page
I'm a little bit OC when it comes to my reviewing order, and it's not often that I skip over some books I need to review first to write one for another. Usually doing that means one of the following: I am in a hurry to post a review for the book for a deadline (doesn't usually happen), or I love the book so much that I just have to write a review about it immediately.
Such is Jellicoe Road, my second Melina Marchetta book. Ever since I finished and enjoyed Saving Francesca, I've been itching to read another Marchetta book to experience the goodness of her writing and the realness of her characters. But alas, I know I must pace myself because Jellicoe was the only other book I had of hers -- I still had to buy The Piper's Son and Looking for Alibrandi after Holy Week. After finishing two books from my Required Reading for April, I decided to reward myself with her book.
And man, was it such a good idea. I gobbled up Jellicoe Road so fast that I surprised myself. Jellicoe Road is the story of Taylor Markham, whose mom left her when she was 11, picked up shortly by Hannah. At fourteen, she ran away from her boarding school to look for her mom only to be found and brought back by a stranger. Now, she's almost eighteen, and she is the leader of their school's underground community that is neck deep in a territory war with the kids from Jellicoe town called Townies and a group of kids undergoing military training aptly named Cadets. Then Hannah disappears and it throws Taylor's life out of the loop. If it wasn't enough, the leader of the Cadets turn out to be Jonah Griggs, a guy from Taylor's past that she's trying hard to forget. Taylor's life unravels as she tries to cope with Hannah's disappearance, piecing together clues Hannah left and things her memory is trying to hide from her.
One word: wow. I was warned that this book would be an emotional ride, but I wasn't expecting that. It's really hard to describe the book without putting a spoiler, and the last thing you want to be with this book is to be spoiled. I've been warned that the first 100 pages or so of this book would be confusing, and indeed it was. For some people, this might be enough for them to stop reading and never revisit the book again, but trust me when I say this: don't. Keep on reading, and somewhere a few pages later, you'll find that this book had you in its grip and will refuse to let you go up until the last page.
Just like in Saving Francesca, Marchetta definitely had her way with the characters and how they interact here. I thought the book would just be about the territory wars, which kind of turns me off, but the author made that as interesting as figuring out Taylor's past. I loved the relationships that the characters formed in this book -- they all had history with each other, and even if I have equally awesome friends, this book made me crave the same history that Taylor wanted: "These people have history and I crave history. I crave someone knowing me so well that they can tell what I'm thinking." I loved how they all just formed this friendship without too much effort, and how some characters who come off as annoying at first become even a little bit endearing in the end.
But that plot -- oh that plot. When I got to my first "aha!" moment in the book, I just couldn't stop reading. I wanted to know what happens next and I want it now. At the same time, I also didn't want it to end. I just want to live in Jellicoe Road, if that was possible. I loved how everything tied up together at the end, and how the story kept on surprising me everyday. Even when I thought I had it all figured out, I was still surprised at the end, and I don't think I've ever read a book that did just that. When I was done with the book, I had an extreme desire to reread it all over again, if only to figure out what part I missed now that I knew how everything fits.
While I was going through the first part of the book, I wasn't really sure if I would like it as much as my other bookish friends did. When I closed the last page, I was sure that I had just as much love for this book as they do. Like what I tweeted, reading this book was like breaking my heart and then putting it back together again. It was that awesome. Jellicoe Road reminded me of why I love contemporary YA, and it definitely made me a fan of Melina Marchetta. :)
Read it, read it. Take your time with the start and be amazed at how Marchetta weaves a story so beautiful that it keeps a hold on you long after you have closed the book. ♥(less)
This is a book written in verse. My second one. And I thought it would be a nice writing exercise to write a review the same...moreOriginal post at One More Page
This is a book written in verse. My second one. And I thought it would be a nice writing exercise to write a review the same way.
The Day Before was about a girl named Amber who seemed to have ran away to the beach to spend one day for herself. The circumstances were mysterious, and I was kept in the dark for most of the time. Amber meets Cade. There was attraction. But there was something about Cade that disturbed Amber. Like he had a dark secret. Amber didn't want to destroy their moment, but she also didn't want to lose him.
This book reminds me of several things. A Walk to Remember is one. It had that kind of vibe, and I was ready to scoff. How overused is that story? But I was pleasantly surprised. It wasn't like that.
Amber and Cade had problems of their own. Fears, really. Unusual circumstances that people their age shouldn't deal with. But they had to. The problems and situations were real and scary. But there was hope. And it was beautifully done.
The verse writing made it easier to read. The pop culture references made it fun. Like Amber and Cade, I want to listen to Matt Nathanson on a drive. Although instant attraction is never my thing, The Day Before made it seem almost sweet. Like anything was possible. And I liked that.
The Day Before left me smiling. This review doesn't really do it justice. I'm not even sure if this attempt is the least bit poetic. Lisa Schroeder does it so much better, and I look forward to getting lost in her other worlds of verse. :)(less)
I've been curious about Melody Carlson's True Colors series back when I first saw them during the Manila International B...moreOriginal post at One More Page
I've been curious about Melody Carlson's True Colors series back when I first saw them during the Manila International Book Fair. However, because of my series completion compulsion back then, I never got it. For one thing, there are about 12 books in the series, and another, I couldn't find the first book. Whenever I do find the first book, I feel like maybe I should get the next one too, so I skip on buying it. Until I finally got a copy during one of the sales I went to last year.
The True Colors series is a set of Christian-themed books for teens that tackle issues that teens deal with everyday: family, friendships, drugs, sexuality, body image and more. The stories are ideally written for the Christian market, but it is also supposed to be readable by non-Christians as well. The first book, Dark Blue, talks about friendships, and how Kara Hendricks felt after her best friend Jordan Ferguson joined the cheerleading team and became a part of the popular crowd. Kara starts seeing changes with Jordan and she feels betrayed. Alone and lonely, she finds friends in some of her art class, and ultimately finds her faith amidst this challenge.
So I went into Dark Blue expecting to like it, despite the fact that I am far from my teenage years. Kara and I shared similar experiences about a friend moving on, so I thought I would be able to sympathize with her. The book starts out strong, with Kara introducing Jordan and their friendship, and letting readers understand how they met, what their personalities are and how the cheerleading thing came to be. I really, honestly tried to enjoy it...but I couldn't.
For one thing, Kara was annoying. I know she was left behind and she was angry and sad but she really grated my nerves with all her weepy-ness and whiny-ness. I wanted to shake her and tell her, "Girl, you have to try something and not just wallow in self pity. Jordan isn't the only one who can make you happy!" I never even really got the vibe that Jordan left her behind immediately. Jordan tried to keep Kara as a friend but Kara pushed her away. If Jordan was written with more of a mean girl vibe from the start, then I would have found the succeeding events convincing, especially the end. However, it was always Kara who is avoiding her gaze, or Kara trying to disappear, or Kara crying because Jordan left her without even thinking once.
But okay fine, I can forgive that because it really kind of sucks when your best friend has new friends that you can't fit in with. I can't say much on the Christian aspect but I might have to agree with what this one review said: Kara's change was so sudden that it felt a bit unreal. Like she was holding on to Jesus so much that it came off as using it to slap Jordan in the face -- as in "Hey, who needs you as a friend now that I have Jesus!" I truly believe that Jesus is enough and He is the best friend we could all ever have, but I also think we are built for community and relationships while we're here on earth, and taking that away just felt wrong.
I wish I could say more for the writing, but there was more tell than show, and I was terribly bored with the things Kara did everyday. I mean, it's normal everyday teenage stuff, but why narrate it? It may be to stress her depression, but it didn't make for a very interesting book, at least for me. I was kind of relieved it was short, so at least I don't have to plod on reading it. If it was more than 250 pages, I would've marked this as DNF.
I really wanted to like Dark Blue, but it kind of fell in the same traps that I thought Miss Match by Erynn Mangum did: annoying characters, too-"mountain-top" spiritual themes, and awkward writing. Maybe if I read this when I was younger, I would have liked it more, but now, I just didn't like it.(less)
So I've been hearing about The Queen's Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner for the longest time, and all reviews I've re...moreOriginal post at One More Page
So I've been hearing about The Queen's Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner for the longest time, and all reviews I've read seemed positive. Back then I had a series compulsion, and I refused to start a book series when I know I don't have all books with me. I had a hard time finding a copy of The Thief until someone pointed me to the right direction, and eventually I ended up acquiring the next two books in the series. That should have been enough to get me started on the series ASAP, but I waited a little while more for reasons that I can't really say until I finally made myself read it for this month's Required Reading.
Eugenides, also known a Gen, is a thief, and a loudmouthed one at that. After bragging about his thievery in the wrong wine shop, Gen ends up in the prison of the king of Sounis, where the story opens and he patiently waits for something to happen so he can escape. Before he can, though, the king's magus comes to fetch him and includes him in a mission that requires Gen's talents. He was to steal a hidden treasure that could possibly be just a fairy tale.
To speak more of the plot would spoil it, and the last thing you'd want to be with in this book is spoiled. I was drawn in the story immediately by Gen's voice. I loved him from the moment he opened his mouth and spoke to the magus. Gen is snarky, sarcastic, and he got on everyone's nerves by the way he complained and how he kept on asking for food. But even so, I never felt annoyed with him. Gen is charming in his own way, and I can see why people liked/loved him so much. :) The supporting characters were well-written, too, and I think I have a soft spot for Sophos. I would love to see more of him in the future books.
The plot seemed very simple at first, but when everything unraveled at the end, I had to stop myself from gasping and reading back to the other pages to see what I missed. In a way, this reminds me of how Jellicoe Road was written -- you think you have the whole picture, then the author surprises you with a twist that left me gaping. I love how it took me by surprise and when you think about it, it all makes sense. I liked how everything fell into place without sacrificing any other element in the story.
I can't say I'm a huge fan yet, but I really enjoyed reading this one. It starts a bit slow, but stick to it and you'll be rewarded in the end. :) I am very excited to read The Queen of Attolia now. :)(less)
The main reason I bought The Monstrumologist last year was because of the cover. I thought it had a very good and creepy...moreOriginal post at One More Page
The main reason I bought The Monstrumologist last year was because of the cover. I thought it had a very good and creepy design, and the title's font made it seem like someone was whispering it to you -- "The Monstrumologist". I didn't really know what it was about, but I relied on the Printz medallion on the cover and believed it was good. Every time I see this on my shelf I felt like someone was whispering to me, but I never got around to reading it for so many reasons. When Aaron read it and said it was "...the type of book that should come with a warning: Caution: Not for the faint heart or weak stomach – that sort of thing", I put it down further my TBR, thinking I'll read it when I'm ready because I am so not the one who goes for gore. But alas, I'm pretty easy to bully when it comes to reading, so when my October Required Reading came around, I had no choice but to put this on my reading list.
You'd think The Monstrumologist is a pretty easy-peasy not-so-scary YA novel about monsters. You'd think. Twelve-year-old Will Henry is left orphaned after his parents died in a fire, and he was taken in by his dad's employer, Dr. Pellinore Warthrop. Warthrop is not an ordinary doctor -- he is a monstrumologist. Warthrop is self-absorbed, often buried in his work and has young Will Henry at his beck and call. One night, a grave digger arrives at their doorstep bringing the most curious package: the cold remains of a young girl that is being devoured by a very terrifying and a very dead monster. It was an Anthropophagus: a monster shaped like a human but with no head, mouth on its stomach and black eyes on its shoulders. Anthropophagi feed on human flesh, but that is not the most curious thing that got the doctor wondering. Anthropophagi are native in Africa, so finding one in New Jerusalem was the singular curiosity -- never mind that finding scary man-eating monsters was already the strangest thing for young Will Henry. Now it is up to the doctor and Will Henry (and some "friends" -- and I use the term loosely) to figure out how these man-eating monsters got there, and to stop them before they go on an eating spree.
Aaron's review got me preparing for the worst for this book. Seeing that I'm such a big chicken, I was all set to read this in broad daylight. As luck would had it, I ended up reading this while I was on the Alabat Island trip with my Goodreads friends. Not that it's bad, but because the part of Quezon province we visited wasn't an urban area. While it wasn't completely rural, it was still a quiet place with lots of trees, especially when we were on our way to and back from the beach. And it was dark, very dark at night. Somewhere during those trips there, I realize that it may be a bit of a bad decision to read this book while I was there. The Monstrumologist isn't scary in the way ghost books are scary. It doesn't really give that spine tingling feeling, or the type that makes me want to sleep with the lights on. Instead, The Monstrumologist gave me that creepy look-over-your-shoulder feeling after. While it did not make my spine tingle like how Paranormal Activity 3 did after I watched it, it did make me look over my shoulder a few times. I knew in my heart that this is all fiction, but a little voice at the back of my head was asking, "What if it is real?"
The Monstrumologist is a very vivid and well-written gothic horror novel and I have never been more captivated by a book like this. It was creepy scary all right, but it was so good that I could not stop reading it even if it was in a dark and moving jeep (while everyone was telling scary stories). Despite my misgivings and initial hesitation, I actually ended up loving this book. To say it was well-written is an understatement. It was extremely well written. The story was basically being told in from the point of view of the older Will Henry recalling memories of those scary nights, there was excellent foreshadowing and it made me fear for what could happen to the story. I remember having to stop a couple of times to take a breather or to shudder and squirm at how gory some parts were. But it wasn't just pointless gore -- the story was quite engaging as well. The characters were very fleshed out, and I especially loved the relationship between Will Henry and the doctor. It was strained, but also I think they were just having a hard time showing how important they were to one another. I especially liked the last scene in the book, and if you've read it, I think you will also find it a bit heartwarming.
I think The Monstrumologist would fare very well not just a book but also as a movie. I could clearly imagine the final chase scenes of the book as a motion picture. Like I said, I'm not a fan of anything horror, but The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey may just have made my best of 2011 list. :) And it's so good that I am actually reading the next book in the series (but this is because I got semi-bullied into reading it :P).
One final anecdote: soon after I finished reading this book, the electricity at home went out. I found myself straining to hear the hiss of the Anthropophagus in the silence and total darkness of the night. If that is not an effect of a great novel, than I do not know what is. If you haven't read The Monstrumologist, well, snap to!(less)
If I Stay was one of the books I really loved last year, and news of the sequel made me squee enough to guarantee a post. :) It was a very, very long wait, though, before I could get my grubby hands on them. When reviews of the book start popping up every now and then as it nears the release date, I was even more intrigued. I wanted it, but because of my Lenten book buying fast, I had to wait a bit more.
I remember reading If I Stay in a day -- it was that hard to put down. I remember shedding a few tears over some parts, and that feeling of relief and happiness when the book finished on a positive note. Where She Went brings us three years after Mia's accident, in Adam's point of view. Adam is alone, lonely and jaded amidst all the fame that he and his band, Shooting Star, is getting. Something is missing, and when he almost breaks down on one interview before he goes to London for a sixty-day tour, he finds what it is, or rather, who is missing: Mia.
But the problem is, Mia is unreachable. She just graduated from Julliard and is about to start touring herself. Adam finds himself in one of her shows, and to his utter surprise, she invites him for a walk, after three years of zero contact. Elated, confused and still angry, Adam joins Mia as he finds out what happened, or did not happen between the two of them.
I will agree with everyone: this book is packed with emotion. It may not be as morbid or as tragic as If I Stay, but it's sad in a way that you just want to hug Adam and try to make him feel better. It's kind of sad when you see a guy feel so down and out, and hopeless. Girls are often more emotional, so seeing a guy so broken? It's just hard not to feel sad for him too. And we know that his reasons for being broken is valid...but the thing we want to know is, what exactly happened?
This book kind of reminds me of 500 Days of Summer, where I felt more sympathy with the guy rather than the girl. But Mia isn't Summer because I also understand why she wanted what she wanted. What she did wasn't very nice, but still, she needed it. And sometimes, when we think we do some things so we won't hurt other people, we still end up hurting them more. And that's what happened to Adam.
I liked how the story unfolded in Where She Went, and how it all ties up neatly with If I Stay.The ending scene felt a teensy bit cheesy, but still perfect for Adam and Mia's characters. This book left me with a very satisfied, albeit slightly wrenched, heart. :) It's a very good sequel. :)
Oh, and a funny note. I was reading this book while watching a Blessed John Paul 2 documentary. I can't help but shed tears every time I watch a JP2 documentary (you should see me during his beatification! Crying rivers for no reason!), and this book played on those emotions and made me cry more. I was a sight. :P I will have to try and reread this (and If I Stay) next time without other things that could make me cry to see if it still has that effect. :P
Edited to add: After some thinking, I realized something else. The story arc for these two books could be used as a Filipino movie, the ones I love to watch. No wonder it resonated with me so much. :P(less)
Ah Screwtape. I've heard so much about this book but I never got to buy it because the print copy was just too expensive...moreOriginal post at One More Page
Ah Screwtape. I've heard so much about this book but I never got to buy it because the print copy was just too expensive for something so thin. I remember splurging on the ebook instead a couple of months ago, but true to form, it took me a while to read this. I know a Lewis book is never easy reading. What better time to read this one than during the Lenten season, right?
The Screwtape Letters is an epistolary novella that contains the letters of a demon Screwtape to his nephew Wormwood with detailed advice on how to lead his assignment, a man only named as "the patient" to sin and eventual eternal damnation. In these letters, Screwtape tells Wormwood of particular human weaknesses and how they can exploit it, of religious weaknesses and how to make it their patient's downfall, of how they're just not in it for general mischief but snatching human souls from their Enemy.
I was discussing this book with a friend a few days before I finished reading it, and he told me that while he liked the book, he didn't have the heart to review it because it struck too many familiar chords. I could say the same for me, too. The Screwtape Letters is almost humorous in some ways, especially whenever Screwtape would scold Wormwood for messing up, but it's more chilling in more ways than it is humorous. Screwtape outlined ways on how Wormwood could lead his patient to eternal damnation, and the ways he listed were a little too familiar that it borders on being uncomfortable. I admit that it really made me think of the times when I fell for the same things -- the feeling of "owning" my time that I get mad at any interruption, or worrying too much about tomorrow instead of focusing on today, self-righteous thinking. This book poked a little too much at the parts of my heart that I try to not look at, and helped me see myself for all the ugliness with all the sin that I've fallen into. I remember cringing as I highlighted the parts of the book that struck me the most, like these:
It is funny how mortals always picture us as putting things into their minds; in reality our best work is done by keeping things out. (p. 16)
There is nothing like suspense and anxiety for barricading a human's mind against the Enemy. He wants men to be concerned with what they do; our business is to keep them thinking about what will happen to them. (p. 25)
It does not matter how small the sins are provided that their cumulative effect is to edge the man away from the Light and out into Nothing. Murder is no better than cards if cards can do the trick. Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one -- the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts. (p. 60)
Now you will notice that nothing throws him into a passion so easily as to find a tract of time which he reckoned on having at his own disposal unexpectedly taken from him...They anger him because he regards his time as his and feels that it is being stolen. (p. 112)
It's not that this book is not without hope -- in fact, it ends quite hopefully. But seeing it in the eyes of the "protagonists" it doesn't feel like it. This book is not really for fast reading -- each letter is meant to be read slowly and reflected on, maybe even discussed with other people of faith. Like other Lewis books, I think The Screwtape Letters is one for re-reading, because I'm sure different passages would hit people depending on what is the state of their life when they read this.
Of course, this is still considered as fiction, but like all other Lewis books I've read, it's one that made me think. I can't help but remember Ephesians 6:12 as I read this book: "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." The Screwtape Lettersis a book that definitely needs to be read more than once.(less)
They told me the real fun in The Queen's Thief series starts with the second book. I wasn't sure what to expect when I o...moreOriginal post at One More Page
They told me the real fun in The Queen's Thief series starts with the second book. I wasn't sure what to expect when I opened my copy of The Queen of Attolia, except that it's not told in Eugenides' point of view anymore. I was ready for that, but I wasn't ready for the changes coming to Gen and the kingdoms he moves in.
Spoiler warning for The Thief from this point onward.
At the end of the first book, we find out that Eugenides is not just a simple thief, but the Thief of Eddis. After stealing Hamiathes' Gift under the Queen of Attolia's nose and escaping her clutches, the Queen was out for his blood. It didn't help that Eugenides kept on taunting her by sneaking into her palace. When Eugenides is finally caught, the Queen carries out her revenge which starts a series of events that would change the kingdoms of Attolia, Eddis and Sounis.
I thought I would miss Eugenides' voice here since he's not the narrator anymore, but I was wrong. Eugenides was still as snarky, stubborn and cocky as ever, but he also starts growing up in this novel. I couldn't blame him after what he goes through in the first part of the novel. Then I appreciated the third person switching point of views because it made me understand the story more. It was interesting to be inside the Queens of Eddis and Attolia's minds in addition to Eugenides'. It shows how good Megan Whalen Turner's world and character building is.
The Queen of Attolia is really one part fantasy and two parts political intrigue. The magical aspect doesn't really show up until some time around the end. There were more talks of war and politics between queens and kingdoms, almost akin to how the latter part of the story was in Fire by Kristin Cashore. This makes the story unfurl a bit slowly just like how the previous book was, but I think the highlight of the book isn't really the plot but the character development, specifically Eugenides'. His transition from the cocky young thief to a beaten-up, almost despairing and darker one was interesting and sometimes heartbreaking to read. I lost the number of times I found myself saying "Oh Gen!" -- in amusement or sadness or both -- as I read this book. I definitely loved the thief more in this book.
Oh, and I must not forget the most surprising part of this book: the romance. I knew there was a romance, but even if I was expecting it, it still took me by surprise. I was hoping for a specific pairing up to happen, but it didn't. I had a hard time coming to terms with it after the reveal has happened at first, but the author gave me enough time to get used to it and accept it before the book ended. And while it hasn't really convinced me to believe that just yet, I was curious to how it would be tackled in the next book.
The Queen of Attolia is a pleasure to read. It may be slow, but the gradual unfurling of the plot makes it such a yummy read. It's a very good follow up to The Thief, and by the time you're done reading this, you'll be so invested in Eugenides and his world that you just can't not pick up the next book right after. :)(less)
I may be one of the biggest scaredy-cats in the world, or at least, among my group of friends. I know this doesn't make...moreOriginal post at One More Page
I may be one of the biggest scaredy-cats in the world, or at least, among my group of friends. I know this doesn't make sense when it comes to my love for all things zombie. I like all the shambling, brain-moaning creatures, but when it comes to ghosts and other supernatural stuff? I cower under my covers. When I was a kid I used to like scaring myself silly by watching those Halloween specials that all local TV shows air during those times and no fail, I always end up being too scared to sleep for at least a week after watching those shows. I finally got to the point where I told myself to stop -- no more scary TV shows, no more scary anything, especially if I will lose sleep over it!
So to be totally honest, I was kind of apprehensive with my Required Reading challenge for October, given my state of being a chicken. :P But of course, what is a challenge if you don't challenge yourself, right?
The thing that really got me to buy Breathe by Cliff McNish is the fact that the main character, Jack, has asthma. I'm an asthmatic, too, so reading about characters who have the same condition brings me comfort because I could relate to them ((If you want to know how it is to have an asthma attack, try breathing through a straw. Hard, right? :P)). Jack's asthma attacks seem to be more dangerous than the ones I've been having lately, though, bad enough to almost kill him. It doesn't help that his dad recently passed away. In an effort to stop him from stressing out or getting lonely, Jack and his mom moved out and into an old farmhouse, where they hope to find peace and quiet.
But instead of finding peace and quiet, they find something else. Little did they know that the farmhouse was haunted by four ghosts, all children, whose spirits can't seem to leave the house Jack finds that he has the ability to sense who had lived in the house before, and to the ghost children's surprise, he could actually see them. This makes Jack extremely curious to the point of triggering his asthma, but then he discovers that there is something more sinister living in the house, and only he has the power to save himself and his mother.
Like I said, I'm a big scaredy-cat, so I made it a point to read Breathe in broad daylight. The first few chapters of the book were creepy and the illustrations at the start of each chapter gave my imagination enough fuel to see practically the entire chapter. McNish's writing is very vivid -- it was easy to slip into the world he created and actually see the house and the characters. I admit to being spooked for the first few chapters (but then again, it may be just because I'm easily frightened), but I grew comfortable with it later on. Jack's asthma attacks were also very accurate -- and also really scary, in the actual physical sense because I know I could also experience something like that. The extreme measures he and his mom had to go through just to make sure his lungs would behave is something akin to what my mom used to do when I was younger. I'm really, really hoping my asthma won't escalate to anything similar.
You know now that I think about it, it's not really that scary. However, I think I can attribute that to the fact that the story is really quite linear. Somewhere early into the book, we already know who the real villain is, and a little bit of why. The other reasons and the story were gradually revealed, but by then it feels almost like a typical ghost story. While I'd really rather not read ghost stories, I still want for a twist that will leave my mouth hanging open in the end, at least to thrill the reader in me.
Breathe still manages to have a heart-warming moment somewhere in the end, which earns it more points for me. I liked how the Nightmare Realm (the place where spirits go when they don't go to the "light") is described, and how one of the ghost kids finds some kind of peace there. The actual ending was wrapped nicely and I think it would leave readers with pretty much a good sense of completeness that stand-alone novels can give. (Except if you decide to nitpick, like me. But I can't offer another ending, so I should stop doing that :D)
Breathe by Cliff McNish may not fare so much with people who really love ghost stories (or who take delight in being scared), but for a casual reader (or for someone who doesn't really like getting scared), it's a pretty good novel. The first aid lessons for an asthma attack are a plus, too. This is my first Cliff McNish, but I think it won't be my last. Now, are his other books scary, too? (less)
My first impression on Losing Faithbefore I read the book's summary is it's a paranormal romance novel. Which, based on...moreOriginal post at One More Page
My first impression on Losing Faithbefore I read the book's summary is it's a paranormal romance novel. Which, based on my current reading preferences, is something I kind of avoid. It wasn't until I was going through the YA Contemps releases for 2010 that I found out it was not paranormal romance. When I found out it was a NaNoWriMo novel, it kind of cinched the deal for me and I got a copy of the book.
Losing Faith is a word play on the inciting incident in the book, when Brie's older sister Faith dies from a freak accident. Her good, church-going sister is just gone and Brie struggles to deal with her grief and to adjust to the abrupt change while her parents cope on her own. Until Brie finds out something strange about her sister's death -- some things don't add up, and she starts wondering if Faith's accident is more than what it seems. Together with her new friends, Brie investigates, and finds out something dark about her sister that she never knew she could be involved in.
The thing that really stands out in Losing Faith is the introduction of a really creepy cult, something quite new in contemporary YA. Growing up as a church kid, I was easily immersed in Brie's world, and the familiar terms like worship, youth group and all that were things I could easily understand. I think it may have made the cult factor scarier for me too, because even if I don't really know some religious fanatics, I know how easy it is for one to box themselves inside church and judge even the other people around them. I remember having to close this book when it came to the parts when Brie was snooping around because it got just a bit too creepy for me. I think Denise Jaden did a good job with that without being disrespectful or putting church-goers in a bad light. I also liked how she wrapped it up in the end, with how Brie and her friends chose to deal with the aftermath of their discoveries.
What didn't really shine for me in this book is its tone. I don't know, maybe I was expecting something like Sara Zarr's Once Was Lost, which was also about church and was haunting and emotional. I didn't really feel any connection with Brie. I know nothing about losing a sibling, but I felt that her grief wasn't portrayed as much as it should, except maybe when they were having the service for Faith. I wasn't a fan of how Brie's plans were labeled in headers at different parts of the book, which kind of felt like awkward chapter starts or scene changes. I realize now that it gave the book a NaNoWriMo feel, which isn't necessarily bad. I guess I was just expecting it to have a different tone.
Losing Faith was just okay. I liked the overall storyline, but it didn't really rock my worlds as I thought it would. Nevertheless, I still liked it, and I think it was able to address religion and cults in a very good way. I think I'm going to put Denise Jaden's future works in my radar. I'm curious to see what she comes up with next. :)(less)
I am a city girl, and I am sort of proud of it. Sort of, because I know sometimes I imagine myself living somewhere remo...moreOriginal post at One More Page
I am a city girl, and I am sort of proud of it. Sort of, because I know sometimes I imagine myself living somewhere remote, away from the rush and hustle and pollution of the city. However, I don't think I can stay in the province too long -- I kind of like the rush, and most of my friends live in the city, too, so staying away from them is kind of torture.
I think Janie Gorman from Ten Miles Past Normal would be able to relate to my sentiments pretty well. Fourteen-year-old Janie experiences a withdrawal from the city soon after she steps into high school, five years after she convinced her family to move to their own farm. Nine year old Janie was so excited to live in a farm after one field trip, and to her surprise, her parents agreed and they moved, making Janie the coolest kid in middle school. High school was a different story, though and she knew it the moment she went to school with hay stuck in her hair.
Janie just wants to be normal, but it's hard when everything in her life pushes her to the "different" zone. As if her Farmville-like life wasn't enough, her celebrity blogger mom tries to attempts to bond with her, she joins the Jam Band even if she knows little about singing, and she has to make a project about an influential woman -- something that her best friend knows more than she does. And as if that wasn't enough, her mom has to go and plan a hootenanny. Hoote-what? Exactly. Who's normal? Janie isn't.
The blurb gives away most of the plot, but don't worry, it isn't really spoilery. What makes Ten Miles Past Normal such a fun read is Janie. She's a fun, creative and often cynical girl who just really wants to be normal and be noticed, but not in the way she often is. Janie's far from being an outcast though -- she's just very different, and that difference is what makes other people wary about her. Her voice was absolutely delightful. I love her quips and her observations, and I find myself cheering for her as she discovers more of herself. The book goes from a flashback to the present time every now and then, but the author wrote it so well that you wouldn't get mixed up in it. The other characters were hilarious, too, especially Janie's mom (I kind of wished there was more shown to her blogger side), her new-found Sharpie-tattooed library friend Verbana, ultimate crush Jeremy Fitch and of course, Monster Monroe! Together, they all make a wacky cast of characters that I could picture very well -- I think they'd all work very well on TV, too. :)
The lesson shared by Ten Miles Past Normal isn't really new, but it's nice to be reminded of it every now and then. Sometimes, you find yourself looking for other things you think you can't find at home. But once you go back, you realize that they were just there, and you just couldn't appreciate it in the first place. Ten Miles Past Normal by Frances O'Roark Dowell is a fun, coming-of-age story that is really suited for early teens but will entertain adults my age too.
Oh, and one more thing about me and the city: I just realized that where I live is already considered a rural area in reference to Metro Manila. Goes to show that maybe I'm already where I'm supposed to be. :D(less)
When I first heard that Megan McCafferty of Jessica Darling fame is coming up with a YA dystopia novel, I kind of squee-d. I wasn't sure if I was squee-ing because it's a dystopia novel, or because it was written by Megan McCafferty -- probably both, so it was one of my highly anticipated reads for 2011.
It was the year 2036, and teen girls are the most important people in the world. Girls under the age of 18 and are fertile, that is, after a virus has spread that renders adults incapable of producing offspring. Teen girls -- the ones who allow themselves to be, that is -- are now surrogettes, allowing themselves to get "pregged" for a couple who wants children, at least until before they become infertile, too. Some girls make use of their fertility as a business, prepping themselves up with talents and health just so people would bid on their wombs, and they'd get pregged by top guys who are obviously selling their fertility as well. This is where we find Melody Mayflower, who's 16, a pro-pregg but still waiting for her agent to get the best guy to pregg her for her very picky clients. Melody's life has been planned from early on, until she meets one person she never expected: her twin sister, Harmony.
Now if Harmony had the same viewpoint as Melody, there probably wouldn't be any problems. But she's not. Harmony comes from the Goodside, a little community that believes that pregging for profit is a sin. When Harmony finds out she has a twin, she goes to the Otherside to visit her, and intends to help her twin see the light and bring her to Goodside. That is, if Harmony's own secrets don't chase after her.
Bumpedis fun. I was immediately faced with loud, strong characters who fought for attention from page one, but I never really felt overwhelmed by them. Just like in Jessica Darling, Megan McCafferty had the characters' voices down pat. I actually really liked Harmony, even if I know most people were annoyed by her. I think it's probably because I saw the churchy side of me in her. I never felt lost between the switching POVs, and I found the twins very endearing despite their differences. The supporting characters were quite fun, too, especially Shoko and Zen and even Johndoe, even if I was never really sure about Johndoe's personality. McCafferty definitely knows her characters, and it was a pleasure to read them.
The world that the characters moved in is kind of confusing, so it took a while for me to get fully immersed in it. There were a lot of familiar things but it took me a while to place them, especially the technology that they were using. I don't think this represents the kind of dystopia that people are used to or that people expect, but as far as the world building is concerned, I think it's pretty stellar. You can see that the author really built her world from the ground up, taking care to make sure details fit, and that it all felt real. Take a bit of patience getting yourself familiar with the world, and soon you'd also want to have your own MiNet contacts, or even wonder if anyone has a Stalker app on you. :P
Overall, I found Bumped not only enjoyable, but actually quite relevant especially in the light of all the Reproductive Health Bill issues happening in my country right now. I don't have much opinion over that debate, but I think the story that Bumped tells can be connected with that -- whether for pro or anti, I'm not really sure. I do think this book tackles issues existing today in a thought provoking but funny way, and it would be useful to start good discussions on teen pregnancy, sex, and religion among others.
The ending wasn't really such a big cliffhanger, but I do want more. I'm curious to what will happen to Melody and Harmony. Bumped is another good one from Megan McCafferty, and I think missing this one would is a neggy thing to do. :)(less)
I loved Lauren Oliver's debut novel, Before I Fall, so when I found out that she was coming up with a new dystopian book, I was psyched. I saw this book first from The Book Smugglers and added it to my wish list, eagerly anticipating its release. The premise is intriguing, and as the release date got nearer, reviews are cropping up left and right. The mixed reviews kind of worried me, especially since some of my trusted reviewers were lukewarm on it, but I decided to carry on and find out for myself instead of just scrapping it because of the reviews.
Love is bad. It is a sickness that needs to be cured and you must be protected from it at all costs until you are old enough to get the cure. This is what Lena Halloway grew up with in a society that declares love as a disease - amor deliria nervosa -- one that causes pain, clouds judgment and kills not only the person infected but the people around them. Lena grew up believing this and blaming the sickness for her mother's eventual suicide and she looked forward to receiving her cure. She wanted a normal, safe, and predictable life with a person matched for her, to prove that she is not like her mother and she will not endanger anyone. As Lena counts the days to receiving her cure, something unexpected and totally forbidden happens: she meets Alex, and she falls in love. What follows is a lot of secret meetings and stolen moments and learning about the truth that has been hidden from Lena for almost all her life.
One thing I realized while reading Delirium is that there are two ways to read this novel, and the side you're more fond of will make or break the novel for you. I really liked the premise of the novel, and I was curious to how Oliver will make all of it work out. I'm not an expert in dystopia despite having read a lot of it (not as much as other people, though), so a world without something is already enough for me to classify it as such. I was kind of afraid there would be another love triangle in this, but figuring that this is a book where love is considered forbidden, there's got to be some swoon-worthy and tingly romance in this book that I was willing to take on.
And I was right: the romance between Lena and Alex was surely swoon-worthy. I liked how Lena's feelings were described as she learned of love with Alex. Oliver sure had a way with words and these were reminiscent to how she wrote Before I Fall. I related to Lena in the same sense that I've never been in love -- never felt the rush, the sparks, the exhilaration of knowing that someone thinks you are perfect no matter how plain looking you know you are. The symptoms listed for the disease accurately describes (as much as I know, anyway) how it feels to have a crush and to fall in love if things don't stop. It could be a symbolism of sorts in real life: the disease could be something that people who are afraid of falling in love are avoiding, and cured people are those who have decided never to love again after they have been hurt by love. Lena's innocence about love was pure and kind of sweet, albeit tainted with fear of the deliria. But I guess that's what love is, right? It's scary and beautiful all at the same time, and choosing to live with or without it will kill you either way. The only difference between them is what dies in you if you choose to love or not.
But as far as the dystopia factor is concerned, I didn't feel it. To be honest, I felt like Delirium reads better like a contemporary novel instead of dystopia. I may be biased because I really liked Before I Fall and I think the author is better at contemporary. There were just too many why's that doesn't make sense. Why is love considered a disease? What happened? I would understand if it's too far off into the past that people hardly remember it, but it was only sixty-five years ago, and something that big shouldn't be too easy to forget. What are the instances that made love the bad guy? And in their world that is controlled by the government, the big bad government didn't feel like such a threat. They didn't really strike much fear into me, unlike the Peacekeepers from The Hunger Games. Who led this totalitarian government? And for such a strict one, why can people get away with going to underground parties and breaking curfews. How? Delirium's world feels a bit hazy compared to the other dystopian books I've read. I guess it would be explained more in the next book, but I believe that for dystopian novels -- especially books in series -- to work, the world should be built solidly from the start, not in the next books because that's what readers will be looking out for first. At least, that's what I am looking for.
Overall, Deliriumis kind of a mixed bag for me. I liked the romance, the dystopia was just kind of so-so. I liked it, but not as much as the the author's debut. This is one of those books that people either really loved or really disliked, but I'm kind of in the middle ground. It's just...okay. Read it and decide for yourself if you like it or not.