So the news of the fifth installmentof the graphic novel Trese by Budjette Tan and KaJo Baldisimo totally took me by su...moreOriginal post at One More Page
So the news of the fifth installmentof the graphic novel Trese by Budjette Tan and KaJo Baldisimo totally took me by surprise. I wasn't supposed to pass by the Komikon on the last weekend of October because I thought I didn't have anything to go there for. And then I saw the Facebook update from the publisher and that made me adjust my weekend plans, stat.
When weird things happen in the city, the police call Alexandra Trese. However, there seemed to be someone else who's answering these calls before Trese can get to them. Someone who's faster, and who's slowly gaining popularity because of his public antics. Trese gets to the bottom of it quick, and finds that there's more to the surface with this being who's doing her job for her.
I'm making the summary vague on purpose because it's good not to be spoiled with this issue. This is a common storyline, really, where someone else tries to take the job of our hero/heroine and can often do it better than them, which makes our star a less credible hero. But more often than not, this replacement hero/heroine has bad intentions, which our hero/heroine will uncover in the end. Trese #5 followed that pattern and then veered away from it, making it more interesting than it already is.
Midnight Tribunalfollows the same format that Mass Murdersdid, with four interconnected stories instead of independent cases. I loved how old characters showed up again, like the nuno (who is now asking for Kitkat instead of Chocnut) and Maliksi, the young tikbalang bachelor who will definitely play a big part in the later issues. I love, love, love the Kambal, with their funny quips and awesome, awesome lines. They're definitely funnier now than they were before, but they were also just as kick-ass as their boss.
I loved how there was more development in Trese's story arc here, and important characters were introduced in this installment that I am definitely looking forward to reading about in the next! This is definitely one of my favorites in the series, and I am one very, very happy fan. :) I cannot wait to know what happens next!(less)
When was the last time I read a paranormal YA novel? I cannot remember anymore. That was my main hesitation when I was o...moreOriginal post at One More Page
When was the last time I read a paranormal YA novel? I cannot remember anymore. That was my main hesitation when I was offered a review copy of Voices in the Theaterby A.S. Santos. Other than being categorized as paranormal, the story seemed more on the horror side and I also don't do horror stories. So what made me read this, then? A friend telling me she thinks there's a fit. I honestly doubted it, then, but I was craving for more local fiction so I said yes. When I found myself suddenly in a place where I can't open my paperback and just start reading, I found myself starting this book, since it was the only new one in my phone's e-reader.
I was wary about it, being paranormal and having that horror factor and all, but you know what got me really interested? Early in the book, I had a feeling the setting was familiar, and then 11% into it, it was confirmed:
De La Salle University: the place where I felt like a freak...
It's not the freak part that got me, but the school -- this book is set in my alma mater! :D How exciting is that? Talk about anchoring it in real life things.
Voices in the Theater is the first book in A.S. Santos' Student Paranormal Research Group series. We meet Samantha Davidson, a Filipina-American who has a special ability: she can hear people's thoughts. After her grandmother died, she and her family moved to the Philippines and she tried to live a normal life, except she joined the new org in school that dabbled in the paranormal. For their first project, they investigate on the rumored haunting in the school's theater, where Sam hears not just the voices of the dead, but other spirits, too. With these hauntings confirmed, Sam realizes that there was more to it, and there could be someone close to her that these spirits are targeting. Sam has to act fast, but she realizes that there are many supernatural powers at play that knows her past, and she's not sure if she can summon enough faith to do what she needs to do.
I was surprised with how much I enjoyed this book. Well, being set in DLSU is already a big thing for me, so I knew I would like it, but I was really surprised at how much I really liked this! Voices in the Theater reminded me of those ghost stories that my college friends and I talked about around school, the Ghost Hunters TV show with the scientific paraphernalia, that old Spirits TV show where the characters had some kind of supernatural powers, and even a bit of my favorite Peretti novels with the angels and demons talk. I know this is a lot, but they just worked together really well and I didn't feel the least bit bored with the story. The book kept me at the edge of my seat, and there were several times that I had to stop myself from reading because I was seriously getting creeped out. But I still wanted to read because I wanted to know what happens next.
Like I said, my enjoyment factor was upped because of the familiarity, and I was really thrilled when I read my old college org there, too! I liked how Voices in the Theater didn't just deal with the paranormal but also touched a bit on faith, and what role it plays in spiritual warfare. And it's really that -- the meat of this book is spiritual warfare. I wished there was a bit more praying in the characters, but it might be asking too much. But I was glad there were praying characters there.
The only thing that I probably didn't like was the romance aspect. It might just be me, but I was almost begging the book to not have that paranormal romance aspect because...well, because I didn't like it. I even formed my own OTP among the characters (SAM + MIGS FOREVER!). Haha. But seriously, I could do without that romance. Please don't let it go that way? At least it was tastefully written and there's some sort of healthy realism to it. It didn't have that insta-love/I can't live without you type of romance that I've grown to really dislike. Female heroine with sense FTW!
But overall, I thought Voices in the Theaterby A.S. Santos was a really, really good book. Plus points to the ending, where I can really visualize where the final scene was happening. :D And more plus points because there was a certain part of the book that reminded me of the feeling I had right after I finished reading Mina V. Esguerra'sInterim Goddess of Love. I can't describe it exactly, but it's the kind of feeling that makes you want to start telling others about the book you just read. BecauseI am definitely recommending this book to anyone who's looking for good Filipino paranormal YA (and to anyone who studied in DLSU!).
I can't wait to read the next installment in the Student Paranormal Research Group series (what a mouthful!). :) Please come out soon! Thanks to the publisher for the review copy!(less)
Lower Myths got me craving for more of Eliza's stories, so when I found out that Visprint released an anthology of her s...moreOriginal post at One More Page
Lower Myths got me craving for more of Eliza's stories, so when I found out that Visprint released an anthology of her stories, I knew I had to get it. A Bottle of Storm Clouds contains 16 short stories that have appeared in various anthologies, all with the same local fantasy goodness. I was so excited to get this one after the 2nd Filipino ReaderCon (I really, really wanted to win one, but alas, I didn't) -- and I wasn't planning to read it immediately to save me some local fiction goodness, but I couldn't wait, either. And so I read.
A Bottle of Storm Clouds is one of those books that you can't help but keep on reading but you also don't want to end just yet. I tried not to read this book too fast because I wanted to savor each story. There's something interesting and entirely different in each story -- some of them were creepy, most of them sad, but all had really good fantasy elements that stretched my imagination wider than it did before. :) I liked how Eliza hinged most of the stories with real human experiences like grief and sadness, family and friendship and love and even selfishness and life crisis. It's a good balance between magic and reality, and there are certain lines that meld them together nicely, like this one:
Magic. Amanda thought of clear skies and stars, steamed rice and fish, bagoong soaked in vinegar. A cup of coffee in the early morning, the feel of grass, the city lights. Clarissa. Her brother carrying her on his back, her parents dancing on the cool patio as it rained. The ground pounding with life. A poem humming in her head. (Siren Song)
My personal favorites: Ana's Little Pawnshop on Makiling St., Intersections, Sugar Pi, Parallels, Monsters, The Storyteller's Curse, Siren's Song. I think there's a story for each and every reader in this collection, and probably even for every mood. I liked this collection a lot, and if you want to read good, local fantasy with different flavors, get A Bottle of Storm Clouds.I'm sure you'll find a favorite in one of them. :)(less)
If you asked me a year ago if I knew who David Mitchell was and if I have plans of reading any of his books ever, I prob...moreOriginal post at One More Page
If you asked me a year ago if I knew who David Mitchell was and if I have plans of reading any of his books ever, I probably would just give you a blank stare and then shake my head. I had no idea who he was, and his books weren't really my type of books. So when my friend Monique reviewed Cloud Atlas early this year, I liked the review, but I didn't think that I'd go and get it because it felt like a "serious" book and I was still attached to my YA.
Then...I don't know, peer pressure? Word of mouth? Hype? I see more and more of David Mitchell's name on Goodreads, and more and more people raving about him and so I wonder -- what's the deal with him? Is he really that amazing? Will I like him too? Curiosity won me over, so I decided to finally try a Mitchell book. Since Cloud Atlasseemed to be the most popular, and the fact that its movie is coming soon, some book club friends and I set up a reading buddy session with the fans eagerly eavesdropping on our mini-discussion.
Cloud Atlas contains six stories that span across different eras and set in different places all over the world with completely different characters and story lines. At first it seems that each story is independent from one another, until after I finished the first chapter and I was all, "Huh?". As it turns out, the six stories were structured in a way that each is connected to the other despite the differences in settings, characters and genre. Yes, genre. Curious yet?
We start with The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing, a journal of an American notary from Chatham Islands back to California set in 1850. From Adam we meet Robert Forbisher in Letters From Zedelghem, who writes to his friend Rufus Sixsmith about his time as an amanuensis to an old and blind musical genius, Vyvyan Ayrs. Decades later, in Half-Lives: The First Luisa Rey Mystery, there's Rufus Sixsmith again, and he meets journalist Luisa Rey who attempts to blow a conspiracy wide open. After we are left hanging with Luisa Rey, in comes the British Timothy Cavendish, a publisher who gets in all sorts of scrapes which he thinks could form a movie on his life entitled The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish, if he can get out of it alive. Even more years later, in An Orison of Sonmi~451, we are transported into a dystopian world set in a new Korea called Nea So Copros, and clones called fabricants are employed to do all sorts of dirty work for everyone. Sonmi~451 is a clone who is up for execution and she is given the chance to tell her stor before she goes to the Litehouse. Finally, set into the very distant future, there's Zachry and the story of his tribe in Sloosha's Crossin' an' Everythin' After. From there, the story goes back to Sonmi~451, Tim Cavendish, Luisa Rey, Robert Forbisher and finally back to Adam Ewing.
Here's the thing about Cloud Atlas that made me realize that I will like it: it's like a novel of spin-offs stories. And I like spin-offs. I liked how Mitchell surprised me in every story, and I wasn't sure what to expect every time a chapter ends (and more often than not, I'm left wanting more with every chapter because it just ends). I liked how he stretched my imagination with every story, I liked the way he writes and how the novel switches from one genre to another seamlessly. By the third story, I knew I would like the book -- the question is how much I would really like it. As I read the last few chapters, I thought this would just be a four-star book...and then I got to the end. You know how you don't want the book to end, but you want to keep on reading because you want to know what happens? Then when you get to the very final line, the chills just come? And they were awesome chills? Really awesome chills? And then you want to read the book all over again? That's what Cloud Atlas did to me.
I know this review is being a bit vague, but this book is not the kind of book that you'd want to be spoiled when you read it. The structure may seem like a gimmick, but I think for this story, it's an effective way to tell the story and make connections. As a whole, I think Cloud Atlasis a book that deals with connectedness. Each character's story can stand on their own and can be taken as it is, but once you start putting them together, we see that their stories become richer, more meaningful in several ways. It's just like how each of us has our own story and we can live with just that...but once our lives cross with one another and our stories touch...everything changes.
To summarize: I loved Cloud Atlas. I loved it, I loved it. And from how my friends have raved about Mitchell's other books, I am now looking forward to reading the rest of his works. Especially if his other characters make a cameo in his other novels! :) I think that's the best part of this Cloud Atlas reading experience: discovering a new author whose works will make you just want to read more and more and more.
Oh, and I am definitely looking forward to the movie. Have you seen the five-minute trailer? Awesome, awesome chills. :)(less)
I've been wanting to get The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making(will be called Fairyland...moreOriginal post at One More Page
I've been wanting to get The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making(will be called Fairyland from here on out) by Catherynne M. Valente ever since I read a review from The Book Smugglers. I was curious because they both gave high ratings for the book, but I was also a bit too stingy to get myself a hardbound copy, and it was quite hard to find one in local bookstores here. But patience is a virtue, because after some waiting, I finally spotted a paperback copy of the book in Fully Booked one time early this year.
Twelve-year-old September is Somewhat Grown and Somewhat Heartless, and when the Green Wind and a Leopard of Little Breezes came and asked to join them into Fairyland, she accepts. What follows is a fun adventure where September gets her courage and wishes washed, befriends the wyvern born from a library, and sets out to Fix Things for Fairyland who has been under a rule of a villainous Marquess.
I read the book for my Required Reading in September, just because the main character's name is also September. I was prepared for a light and joyful fantasy romp, and I was really hoping that I would like it as much as the other reviewers said they did.
And you know what? I liked Fairyland very much! Fairyland is such a smart and fun book -- fun because of all the adventures and characters that our heroine meets along the way, and smart because things were never really explained in detail, but the readers were allowed to figure things out. Everything in the book was so creative and bright and shiny, and I was truly, truly invested in everyone in the boo.
But it's not all bright and happy and joyful all the time -- there was bloodshed, and several dark moments in the book that made me realize that it's not really a children's book after all. But I liked how it balanced off the fun elements and really brings out the point of the story and also makes September and our other characters grow up.
Other than the story, I really loved the writing. Valente's writing is very whimsical and charming, and I was surprised at how many pages I have dog-eared in the book. There were some passages that were just fun (but true), like:
Temperament, you'll find, is highly dependent on time of day, weather, frequency of naps, and whether one has had enough to eat.
Some full of wisdom:
When you are born, your courage is new and clean. You are brave enough for anything: crawling off staircases, saying your first words without fearing that someone will think you are foolish, putting strange things in your mouth. But as you get older, your courage attracts gunk and crusty things and dirt and fear and knowing how bad things can get and what pain feels like. By the time you're half-grown, your courage barely moves at all, it's so grunged up with living. So every once and a while, you have to scrub it and get the works going or else you'll never be brave again...So most people go around with grimy machinery, when all it would take is a bit of spit and polish to make paladins once more, bold knights and true.
While some just squeezed my heart:
I will walk wherever it is I wish to go. I will walk to my grandfather the Municipal Library, and he will praise me for my unselfishness. I have walked my whole life. More will not hurt me.
Fairyland is a fun book, and I like that there's more to look forward to in the next book, which I hear is also very, very good. I'm looking forward to reading more of September's adventures (and finding out about that part near the ending -- Did you see her?) and also reading Cat Valente's other books for her gorgeous writing. :) (less)
When the first of the Lord of the Rings movie came out a little over ten (!!!) years ago, I admit that I only watched it...moreOriginal post at One More Page
When the first of the Lord of the Rings movie came out a little over ten (!!!) years ago, I admit that I only watched it for two reasons: (1) everyone in my senior high school class was watching it; and (2) all the girls in my class who has watched the movie were all raving about Legolas. I didn't care about the book (I can't even remember if I knew of the book back then), but I only watched it because I didn't want to be left out. I was sufficiently amazed by the movie (even if my dad slept halfway through it -- it was our "date"), and I was charmed by Legolas, but I didn't become one of the people who would watch it over and over and over again. In fact, when I tried watching it again while I was alone, I fell asleep! When I learned of the book, I knew that I wouldn't read it anytime soon because I wasn't a fantasy reader and I honestly thought watching the movie was enough.
My stance on not reading the trilogy remained the same even as I was exploring fantasy and as I started blogging about books. I've heard so many things about it -- how it's so hard to read, how it can be boring and how it's not for everyone, so the part of me that gets intimidated by high fantasy decided to leave it alone. Until of course, it became our book of the month for my book club's discussion. Being a co-moderator of the book club, I felt like I had no choice but to read it.
I don't think I need to recap what happened in this book for anyone because I feel that everyone knows about it already. (But if you really need to know it's this: Frodo Baggins inherits an evil ring of power from his uncle Frodo and he has to go to Mount Doom with friends and some people -- who and they eventually form a fellowship -- to destroy the ring before the bad guys get it.) So here's my big surprise with The Fellowship of the Ring: it wasn't such a hard read after all. Maybe if I attempted to read this back in high school or even in college, I wouldn't have liked it as much. But now...I actually found it quite easy to get into. Oh, the prologue is kind of boring, but after that? It was really kind of easy. I suppose I had the proper conditioning too, because I read Brandon Sanderson's Warbreaker the previous month (which is pretty high fantasy too) followed by George R.R. Martin's A Game of Thrones a few weeks later, which I read almost simultaneously with this book. I suppose this put me in the proper fantasy mindset, which perhaps helped it become easier for me to read. Sure, the hobbits and elves sang so many times in the book, and sure, Tolkien described the scenery in so much detail that it can be a bit boring at times...but overall? I thought The Fellowship of the Ring deserved all the praises that it has gotten ever since.
I guess it helped that I already had the visualization of the movie while I read the book, so sometimes I can't help but smile whenever I remember Orlando Bloom as Legolas or Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn. I loved the Council of Elrond scene even if it was the longest chapter of the book, and I was excited to get to the Balrog scene with Gandalf shouting, "You cannot pass!" (the movie version seemed more kick-ass, though!). But overall, I realized how much I liked Frodo and Sam's friendship was written in this book. I never really cared for Sam in the movie (especially after it has been tainted so much because of their seemingly bromantic relationship), but in this book, I thought he was such a darling. Sam's loyalty was the highlight of this book, and I loved how he was so devoted to his friend in his simple minded ways. It totally changed everything for me when I rewatched the movie.
As with A Game of Thrones, I felt a certain kind of accomplishment when I finished reading this book. LOL, I felt like I was such a cooler geek when I was done with this, but apparently, I think I need to read the other LOTR books before I can be certified. :P Which I really intend to do, especially because I really liked The Two Towers and the ending of The Fellowship of the Ring was kind of a cliffhanger.
To sum it up: I get it. I get what makes this series so amazing -- or at least, a part of it, anyway. :) It helps that this appreciation was fueled by our book club's discussion afterwards. Look at us here:
Goodreads - The Filipino Group Face-to-Face Discussion # 6: Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien (photo from Maria)
The Fellowship of the Ring is definitely one of those books that one should read in their lifetime. I'm really glad this won as our book of the month last June. :)(less)
I had no idea who Lino Rulli was until I heard him on Lifeteen's Holy Week podcast, which was actually his show with Mark Hart the Bible Geek as guest. I listen to a few Catholic podcasts, but I have never heard of him until then, so I admit that I wasn't really sure what to expect when I started listening to the episode that Good Friday. But a few minutes in, I was already charmed by this funny Catholic guy, which led me to downloading other episodes of The Catholic Guy Show from iTunes. He plugged his book, Sinner, several times in the other episodes, but I wasn't really sure if I want to buy it because I'm picky with books like that. A few more laugh out loud episodes, however (he and his co-host Fr. Rob kept me awake during my night shift work days!), I knew I wanted his book. Then came my friend Monique, bearing good news and new books, and she sent me the ebook version of Sinner as a gift.
That is divine providence, IMHO.
But I digress. I wasn't planning to read this too soon, but when I loaded the book on my Kindle, I found myself starting the book. And reading. Two days later, I am done.
What just happened there, oy?
Sinner by Lino Rulli is exactly what the subtitle says it is: The Catholic Guy's Funny, Feeble Attempts to be a Faithful Catholic. This book had me from the introduction, particularly this line:
I want to be more faithful, but I'm scared. Scared that I'll try and fail. And in some ways, even more scared that I'll succeed.
Lino Rulli is not a reformed Catholic. He's not one who had a bad past and found the light and then turned and had a holy life afterwards. Sinner is not that kind of book where the author talks about the dark days and then the conversion and the days in the light. Sinner is about a guy who was born and raised Catholic, and still had doubts and mishaps while knowing God. It's basically the story of every human who's a part of the Catholic church and is trying (but often failing) to live the way God called them to be.
I can't remember laughing so much while I was reading a book, and a non-fiction Catholic book at that. Lino is as witty and funny on paper as he is on radio/podcast, and I can imagine him really saying these stories on his show. These are confessions that I think some traditional and strictly religious Catholics would shake their heads at, but would touch the hearts of the everyday struggling Catholic and make them smile and be comforted that they aren't alone in their struggles and their journey. Lino's stories range from his dad being an organ grinder to meeting the Pope, to confession (several times), to his mother and his single life woes. I'd like to believe that there's something for every Catholic in this book, but I will let you be the judge of that (which is my not-so-subtle way of saying, Guys, you should really read this book!).
The only thing I wanted after I finished reading this was that there was more, because I really and truly enjoyed this one. Oh, and possibly a story about Fr. Rob. :P This book reminds me of Flashbang by Mark Steele, but possibly a bit better, because hey, it's Catholic! And it's not often I read books about the faith I grew up in. There's nothing like feeling a sense of community while reading about confession (and how hard it is to do) or confirmation or (Blessed) Pope John Paul II in one book. If you're ever the one who tried reading Catholic books but got bored or felt that you can't relate, then I suggest you try this book. It's funny, refreshing, borderline irreverent but definitely easy to relate to, because when it all comes down to it, we are all sinners, period.
Sinner by Lino Rulli may just be one of the most honest books I've read this year, and I think based on this honesty alone, it deserves all the stars I can give. And a spot on my favorites shelf. :)
I wanted to be as honest as possible about my faith, my doubts, and my sins. To let people see my pride, my jealousy, my wrath, my lust. But also see someone who's still trying to fight the good fight of faith. (p.141)
There was a time a few years ago when I was hearing mass with my family, and I happened to stand beside this man at chur...moreOriginal post at One More Page
There was a time a few years ago when I was hearing mass with my family, and I happened to stand beside this man at church. The man wasn't dressed the way other people were dressed during Sunday mass. He looked scruffy, almost like he came straight from the streets to the church. He didn't look dangerous, and perhaps he even is nice given that he was in church and all. But what I really noticed were his hands. They were, if I were to be perfectly honest, kind of scary. The memory's vague, but I remember that it looked like he had some kind of skin disease -- lesions, wounds and spots -- the kind that one would refuse to touch in fear of contagion. I was afraid to touch it, knowing especially that at a certain part of the mass, I would have to hold his hand while praying The Lord's Prayer.
I tried, I really did. I was in church, and holding hands with a stranger during a prayer is the thing to do. It was the good thing, the kind thing, the loving thing. It was expected. I told myself that I would do it, that I would hold his hand during The Lord's Prayer and not be scared or repulsed or look for a hand sanitizer after the prayer. I told myself, I prepared myself and I wanted to do it.
But I didn't. When the priest told everyone to "join hands and as one family pray the prayer Jesus had taught us," I chickened out, opened my hand but did not take his, looked ahead and prayed, feeling the guilt grow heavier as the mass went on.
This particular memory may seem insignificant and well, I may be blowing things out of proportion. Perhaps the man never even noticed me at all -- but it struck me because I really wanted to do the kind thing, but I didn't because I was afraid. Just like how the other kids and grown ups in the book reacted to Auggie in Wonder by R.J. Palacio. August Pullman was born with a facial deformity that made him quite special to his family for his need of extra care. He has never attended a normal school, until he agreed with his parents to start attending fifth grade at Beecher Prep. Auggie is a perfect fit for the school, except maybe for his face. Told in Auggie's point of view as well as five more from the people around him, we follow Auggie as he faces one of the most challenging times of his young life.
I was prepared for a barrage of emotions that Wonder could probably give me, after reading several reviews and updates from Goodreads friends about this book. I knew that I was probably going to like it, but what I wasn't prepared for were what kind of emotions it would bring. Being a middle grade book, the writing was pretty simple and easy to read, especially since most of the narrators were kids as well. Wonder is bound to remind readers of their own middle school (or in my case, late elementary years, since we do not have middle school in the Philippines) experiences. It's strange to think of it, but young people can be very mean, even if it's not on purpose, and Wonder shows how it could be. My heart went out for Auggie, especially since he did not ask to look like the way he does. Like his parents, I wanted the best for him too.
The story was told not just in Auggie's point of view, but also with five other kids who surrounded Auggie's life. This made the book a little easier to relate to because let's admit it: most of us don't have what Auggie has. Of all the characters, I identified the most with his friend, Jack. I really wish I could be like Summer, that I could choose to be kind before anything else. I think Jack represents the side of everyone who tries to be good but fails, and then tries again anyway. And I think the trying is the most important part of it all.
There's a lot of buzz with what Wonder teaches, or attempts to teach, but I think maybe we shouldn't over think it too much. Sure, there are some parts that may seem a little simple, that the ending may seem to be a little too nicely wrapped up, almost like how a movie is done and we know real life is never that way. I see it as a simple thing: I see Wonder as a middle grade book that teaches kindness -- to quote, "...to be kinder than necessary." That as human beings, we do not just have "...the capacity to be kind, but the very choice of kindness..." and to choose that even when it's not easy, when it's inconvenient, even when it's uncomfortable.
Even though reading Wonder reminded me of that particular incident I shared at the start of this review which brought back some of the guilty feelings, this book made me feel a lot better after reading it. A little bit more whole, even. With a stronger resolve to be kinder than necessary. I think that a book that can make its readers feel like that is worth a second glance.(less)
I wasn't exactly a Sarah Ockler fan and while so many people raved about her debut, Twenty Boy Summer, I was just pretty lukewarm about it. So I wasn't very interested to read her newest book, Bittersweet until I started reading cute reviews about it from some of my trusted reviewers. Curious, I borrowed a copy from a friend and read the first few pages, and before I knew it, I was halfway through. :D
Bittersweet by Sarah Ockler is about Hudson Avery, whose bright figure skating career is just ahead of her. But that was three years ago, before her father left. Now she's the best cupcake maker in the small town of Watonka, baking and serving luscious desserts in their family. diner. When Hudson receives a letter from her old mentor's foundation for a shot at a scholarship, she starts dreaming again. But with Hudson's family relying on her, she's not sure if she can actually go for her dreams. And don't get her started on Josh Blackthorn, the cute hockey player who's sending her seriously mixed signals.
Okay, here's the thing: I loved Bittersweet the moment I read about Hudson being a figure skater and then later looking for the perfect cupcake "to fix all things." A cupcake should be able to fix most of the things, if not all, don't you think? I don't think I've ever shared in this blog ever so let me share this now: 1) I like to bake and 2) I used to dream of being a figure skater. The only one I only really got to do was the first one and I have long ago abandoned the dream of being a figure skater -- I don't think I have the skills or the body for that. :P However, reading Bittersweet had me living vicariously through Hudson, and I was in a very, very happy world in the next few days of reading the book.
But it's not a completely happy book. Hudson has been burned and she continues to be burned out in the things she's doing. She wants something big, to do something she loves, and I can definitely relate with what she's feeling. That being said, however, Hudson is not so jaded that she's just full of angst. She's a funny and reliable narrator, and I loved being in her head for the story. I loved her passion for both cupcakes and skating, and I really, really wanted the best for her as the story goes on. I also loved the other characters, particularly her past and present best friends Kara and Danielle and I completely adored her little brother Bug! The boys of the hockey team were also a very good addition, and I loved that particular angle in the story.
Bittersweet is also one of those books with the slow burn romance, and a love triangle that isn't so annoying. I really liked how balanced the attention was, and for a moment there I wasn't sure who Hudson would pick (but I was definitely campaigning for one number fifty-six). The love triangle also didn't mean enemies for the two guys concerned, which was also a huge relief because who needs guys beating each other up? I was also glad that she wasn't the kind of heroine who's also fixated with having sex on top of her other problems in the book. The book's ending reminded me a bit of a Disney movie, but I like Disney movies so I think the ending was just perfect. :)
On a final note, here's a warning when reading this book: don't read it hungry! Or, just make sure you have a couple of cupcakes on hand. I didn't, but the moment I finished this I went to the nearest cupcake store near my office and got myself some treats. This book also made me really, really crave a cupcake baking session -- I've never really made any fancy frosted cupcakes, but this book made me feel like maybe I could. And I should. Soon.
Like I said, I wasn't a big fan of Twenty Boy Summer, and I wasn't really interested in reading any other Ockler book after that. But now that I've read Bittersweet, I think I have changed my mind. Bittersweet is a cute, cute contemporary YA book, and I am definitely acquiring my own copy soon. :)
Last: writing this review had me craving for cupcakes again. Like these:
You know a book is good when you go back and reread some most of the book the moment you're done. Sometimes it's just to...moreOriginal post at One More Page
You know a book is good when you go back and reread some most of the book the moment you're done. Sometimes it's just to read your favorite parts, but for others (especially for novellas), it's almost like reading the entire book because you just can't get enough of it and you want to relive the events of the book.
Such is Mina V. Esguerra's newest novel (and her YA debut), Interim Goddess of Love. College sophomore Hannah Maquiling is a scholar in exclusive Ford River College, and she's caught the eye of Joaquin Apolinario, aka Quin, one of the hottest guys in school. But it wasn't in a way that she (or anyone else) expected. She caught Quin's eye because Quin is also the Sun God, and he needs her to be the Interim Goddess of Love. The real Goddess of Love has gone missing, and someone needs to fill in her shoes for a while, and Hannah fits the bill. Hannah accepts (because the Sun God was nice, not to mention cute), and starts using her powers on Kathy Martin, a shy classmate who's all flustered about her secret admirer.
So cute. I've always loved Mina's books, but Interim Goddess of Love had me giggling and grinning when I was done (and when I was rereading some parts), almost like how I was when I was reading Fairy Tale Fail. I admit that I may have already loved Hannah before I read the book -- she had me at this: "She's never even had a boyfriend, but that doesn't stop people from spilling their guts to her, and asking for advice." But I loved her even more as I got to know her. Hannah's voice sounds authentic and different from other YA heroines -- it's nice to read someone who isn't too whiny and who doesn't sound too old for her age, too. She's a very likeable and reliable narrator, and she sounds like someone I would want to be friends with. It was so easy to stick with her and to root for her and hope for a happy ending for her. She's not perfect, but boy did I find her easy to relate to. :P
Speaking of happy endings, there are the boys. As usual, Mina created very crushable guys to go with her heroine, not just as romantic interests. I found it funny that one of the questions that came up while reading this book was "Who's your favorite?" That's because there's not one but three guys in the book, each with their own charm. I am particularly fond of Quin, but mostly because he's the one in spotlight, but the other two guys provide good contrast (and competition) for the god of the sun.
That's another thing to love about this book too: Interim Goddess of Love is not your usual contemporary YA romance because it had elements of Philippine mythology in it. Oh, you thought the gods and goddess reference were just figurative? It's not. It doesn't provide an in-depth discussion on Philippine mythology, but if just a taste of it, then you'll get just that in this book. Then like Hannah, you'd end up wanting to know more because there's just so much more to know. I look forward to reading more about them and how exactly they all relate to each other in the next books. :)
Interim Goddess of Love is another great book from Mina, and I still can't stop grinning when I think of my favorite scenes. My only wish was it was longer because I definitely wanted more when I was done. I am so glad that this is the first book of a planned series and that the next book will be released later this year. I can't wait to read about Hannah's next goddess project (and more Quin moments, hihi :"> ).
I listened to this book months ago, but you know how I have that backlog in reviewing books? Yeah, this is one of them.
I was on the search for an audiobook to listen to after I realized I wanted to listen to more audiobooks because it helps me multitask. I know audiobooks are dependent on the narrator, too, so I didn't want just any audiobook, but something that I would enjoy. And then Aaron told me about My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece by Annabel Pitcher, narrated by David Tennant. Oh I am so in. :)
My Sister Lives on the Mantelpieceis the story of ten-year-old Jamie as he tries to live in the aftermath of his older sister, Rose, dying in a terrorist attack. It has been five years since Rose died and Jamie could hardly remember her, but he could see the effect that this had on his family. This novel deals about loss, grief, hate, family and religion, all told in the eyes of a ten-year-old boy.
It was a pleasure listening to this book, not only because it was narrated by David Tennant, but because it was actually quite charming despite the serious topics it dealt with. The main character, Jamie, reminded me a bit of Auggie from Wonder, and I was immediately drawn to his story. Somehow, this gave the book a more honest point of view, and it gives us a different insight on grieving, especially for someone who you barely know but you should still grieve for.
I really liked Sunya, Jamie's Muslim friend, too. I liked how smart and resilient and friendly she was, and how she changed Jamie's perception of something that his father really hated and blamed for the loss of Rose. Jamie and Sunya's friendship was cute and funny and heartwarming, and that little hint of a young romance was done quite well. But more than this friendship, I really liked Jamie's relationship with his older sister, Jasmine. In a way, Jas lost more than anyone did, because Rose is her twin sister. Their sibling relationship made my heart hurt several times, and I liked how protective Jas was of Jamie even to the point of keeping something from him so he won't get hurt.
This book made me laugh and tear up several times, and when it left me with a nice and hopeful feeling in the end. It's not an easy novel to read, I think, but the author handled all the difficult issues very well. :) I liked My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiecea lot, and I also need to say that I think I liked it more because David Tennant narrated it to me. <3
P.S. I can't help but smile every time David Tennant says "Rose" in the audiobook. He turns into the the Doctor for a few seconds in my head before turning back into just the audiobook's narrator again. :D
When I heard that Courtney Summers was coming out with a zombie novel, I was up to my ears with excitement. Okay fine, w...moreOriginal post at One More Page
When I heard that Courtney Summers was coming out with a zombie novel, I was up to my ears with excitement. Okay fine, when I found out about it, I have only read one Courtney Summers novel (Some Girls Are), but I really liked it and I was looking forward to reading her other books. Then the new one was about zombies? And it had that awesome, awesome cover? Where can I get this?!
I had to go through a lot of lengths to get a galley of this book, and I would like to thank all those who helped me get this from the bottom of my zombie loving heart. :) I feel a bit ashamed that it took me so long to read and review this...but better late than never? ^^
So the world is ending, but Sloane Price doesn't care because as far as she knows, the world has ended ever since her sister left her alone with their abusive father. She just really wants to die, and the apocalypse seemed just timely, until she was saved by several kids she knew from school. Now she is in the school with them, helping seal exits half-heartedly, listening to the incessant pounding of the undead outside who wants to eat their flesh. What follows is a story of human will, of what people will do when the odds are stacked against them, and just how far one would go to survive...or die.
INTENSE. I described Some Girls Are as intense, but it had nothing to the intensity of this book. This is Not a Testis an exhausting book. It has so much character conflict (internal and external), and it's not just because of the zombies. In fact, most of the zombie action didn't happen until in the latter parts of the book, and that's an entirely different kind of intensity. The rest of the book is all about human struggle and the will to survive even if it seems all better to just give up and do nothing.
I can't say I liked many of the characters, especially Sloane because she's different from all the zombie novel heroines I've read. Most of them have the determined will to live, not a will to die. I wanted Sloane to snap out of it, to pick herself up and be thankful that she's still alive and has a good chance of survival. She frustrated me, and the other people she was with kind of frustrated me too, because I wasn't sure what their real motives were. Well fine, they wanted to live, but I guess the entire situation of the apocalypse in the book has also caused me to not just trust anyone. I swung between liking some characters moderately to not liking them at all, but that doesn't mean they're not good characters. They're just...well, not so much likeable. Perhaps it is hard to like some people in a genuine way when zombies are out to get you outside and you're worried if you're going to live another day.
On another note, I think the book has an excellent pacing, and the days they spent inside the school blended into one another quite well that I felt I was with them as well and I didn't know how long it has been when they were inside. There were times when some of the action lagged, and but it quickly picked up with heavy, spine-chilling scenes that really snapped me out of my sleepiness when I was reading this before bed. The last few scenes were creepily scary and quite sad, but it was the kind of zombie action that I was looking for! In the end, I was just really...exhausted, but in a good and satisfying way.
So this pretty much seals my love for Courtney Summers. I am looking forward to getting Fall for Anything to finally read all that she wrote, and I am definitely, definitely going to get everything else she writes from now on. :)(less)
Remember that Paul Bettany movie, Legion? The one where he plays Michael the archangel who goes down the earth in defian...moreOriginal post at One More Page
Remember that Paul Bettany movie, Legion? The one where he plays Michael the archangel who goes down the earth in defiance to God because apparently He has given up on humans and is off to destroy the world using His angels. Michael, however, would have none of it, so he goes to this middle of nowhere town to save this baby that one girl is about to have because that baby will apparently save humanity.
I hated that movie.
I have another blog entry dedicated to why I didn't like that movie, so I won't really write about it here. However, I had to bring it up because Angelfall by Susan Ee reminded me of that movie. The key difference between Legion and Angelfall is how surprisingly good the latter was that I dropped almost everything I read just to finish it.
The world has ended, and all Penryn Young wanted is to keep her family safe. With her dad gone, she was left to take care of Paige, her crippled sister and her paranoid-schizophrenic mother. In normal circumstances, Penryn would have a pretty challenging time doing that on top of her other responsibilities, but now that there are killer angels out to kill humans, it just got a hundred times more difficult. As Penryn leads her family to get somewhere safer, they stumble upon an angel execution. They got caught as an audience, which led to saving the angel but her sister being kidnapped. Penryn teams up with the known enemy to get her sister back, even if it means getting deeper into the messy world of killer angels.
Like I said: Angelfall is a surprise. People I follow on Goodreads gave this book such high ratings but I was wary because the only other angel book I really liked was Cynthia Hand's Unearthly series. Anything else other than that, I approach with caution. But Angelfall started out great, with a sense of danger and urgency that I remember reading and feeling last from The Curse of the Wendigo (Rick Yancey) and The Ask and the Answer (Patrick Ness). I can easily imagine the ruins of the city that they lived in and was trying to escape, the paranoia of the darkness and the fear when the single feather landed on Penryn's sister. There's a certain grit in the story that almost makes me want to close my eyes in fear of knowing what would happen next.
Penryn is a great heroine - determined and loyal, stopping at nothing to save her sister. Yes, it may seem similar to how Katniss was in The Hunger Games but she didn't strike me as her carbon copy (even if their names are kind of odd). Penryn is strong and her combat skills are so cool (why she knew all these self-defense moves was one of the first creep-factors in the novel), too. I don't think she would even need the help of the angel if she knew where she was going after her sister was abducted. And speaking of the angel, Raffe is also a pretty good match for Penryn. He's a pretty secretive fellow but it never really bordered on cliche. I liked how his secrets (some of it, anyway) were revealed in this story, and how his relationship with Penryn developed. Yes, there is some kind of romance in this book, but it was never put on front seat of this novel, thank goodness. Penryn and Raffe were highlighted more as an unlikely team of survivors rather than a couple, which just about sets this book apart. No insta-love here folks!
This book doesn't take an easy way out on the apocalypse and destruction and the horror. There were several times when I was reading it and I jumped when the phone rang, which meant it was engrossing and I was thoroughly creeped out. There were some scenes that were a bit...well, gruesome is the first word that comes into mind. It's not too graphic, but it leaves imprints on the imagination that may tend to stay for a while. It just shows how brutal the world that Penryn and Raffe live in is, and also how darkly creative the author is with Angelfall.
As far as the angel mythology goes, it's pretty sound, even if a part of me is a bit doubtful of how Raffe's beliefs came to be in the story. Perhaps it's just me and my faith that's coming in to disagree, so I'm still (stubbornly) thinking that it just cannot be. But that's just me -- the mythology and theology (I guess you can call it that?) in the story never came close to being offensive for me anyway. The angel politics just raised a bit of questions that I trust will be answered in the next books.
Overall, Angelfall by Susan Ee is a pretty excellent book. Gruesome, creepy and scary but absolutely fun to read. I can't wait for the next book in the series.
I've had Deb Caletti's Wild Roses lying around at home for more than a year now but I never found the time to read it be...moreOriginal post at One More Page
I've had Deb Caletti's Wild Roses lying around at home for more than a year now but I never found the time to read it because I never really thought I would enjoy it. That's me judging a book and an author without any valid basis, and my only defense is that I read from some blogs in my reader how Deb Caletti books didn't work for them. So I figured that I may not like it too.
And then friends started recommending Honey, Baby, Sweetheartto me, so I was mildly curious. Of course it had to be the Deb Caletti book that is the hardest to find -- is it because it's a National Book Award finalist? I don't know. But when I finally found it, I decided not to let it go because I was curious.
Honey, Baby, Sweetheartsounds like your typical YA romance from the title alone, so I was kind of expecting that when I started reading it. Here we meet Ruby McQueen, The Quiet Girl, who finds herself hanging out with gorgeous and mysterious thrill-seeker Travis Becker. With Travis, Ruby felt like a different girl -- someone who isn't quiet, someone who can do the things normal Ruby wouldn't do. But when she discovers some things about Travis that means trouble, she finds herself in over her head. To keep her distracted, her mom brings her to her book club meeting where they discover one of their members is the subject of the love story that they were discussing. Too crazy? Together they embark on a road trip to reunite the lovers, and as with all road trips, Ruby discovers more about herself in the process.
And this is where I eat my words about me probably not liking any Deb Caletti book. I was a third into the book when I felt that tug inside me that told me I will like this book no matter how it ended. I was never the quiet girl but I liked Ruby and I connected with her uncertainties and her attachment with Travis. I could identify with her need to be with him even if she couldn't understand it, even if I'm not the kind of girl who likes bad guys. :P But I liked Ruby, and her voice, and I liked how it was quite easy to understand her and how she couldn't understand that part of her that liked Travis so much. I also liked the supporting characters, especially Ruby's mom and her brother, and the rest of the book club members that she gets to know. It made me realize that I like wacky old people in books -- they're almost always such a hoot.
The book had a distinct summer feel that made me just relax whenever I go back to reading it. It's such a comforting read even if some of the situations in the book were kind of heavy on the emotional side. I guess it's the writing that made it so comforting -- Caletti has a way with words that may seem flowery to some but it hit just the right spot for me. Case in point, one of my favorite parts:
You could see the magic we all had that day. The magic that comes with the force of a mission, lit with a fine and rare energy. The magic of purpose and of love in its purest form. Not television love, with its glare and hollow and sequined glint; not sex and allure, all high shoes and high drama, everything both too small and in too much excess, but just love. Love like rain, like the smell of tangerine, like a surprise found in your pocket. We were all part of that. (p.198)
Sigh. It made me want to be a part of that adventure that they were all about to embark on.
The story is reminiscent of the Letters to Juliet movie, and the road trip isn't really anything like how John Green does it, but there's a pretty satisfying ending that just made me sigh with happiness. I like that this isn't just about romance, but really about love and the ties that bind us together. I especially liked how love was described in the context of books:
We are all a volume on a shelf of a library, a story unto ourselves, never possibly described with one word or even very accurately with thousands. A person is never as quiet or unrestrained as they seem, or as bad or good, as vulnerable or as strong, as sweet or as feisty; we are thickly layered, page upon lying page, behind simple covers. And love - it is not the book itself, but the binding. It can rip us apart or hold us together.
This is definitely the kind of book that I would recommend to any teenage girl who's looking for herself, and the kind that I think my younger self would probably really like (understanding is another thing, though! :P). And this is one of those books that I will probably go back to every now and then when I'm feeling lost.
So, I totally take back what I said/pre-judged about Deb Caletti. I really, really enjoyed Honey, Baby, Sweetheart. It's definitely one of my best reads for this year on the contemporary YA front. :) While I'm not ready to declare my love for the author just yet, I think I'm going to bump Wild Roses up my TBR soon. :)(less)
I've always dubbed March as a special month because of my birthday, and I take advantage of that by meeting up with as m...moreOriginal post at One More Page
I've always dubbed March as a special month because of my birthday, and I take advantage of that by meeting up with as many people that I can, especially those that I haven't seen in a while. It's always the best excuse IMHO: "It's my birthday, let's meet up!" Of course, I often ended up treating the people to coffee, dessert or sometimes even dinner because of that fact, but I never really minded that. In the past month alone, I've been out almost every weekend and two to three times on week nights to meet up with my barkada (my closest friends), college roommates, thesis mates, book club friends, church community friends -- old friends, new friends, people from almost all stages of my life, I took the time to meet them this month. Sometimes I end up traveling farther than I want to, staying out and losing sleep and being so exhausted that I don't have time to read (or blog), but I think all of those times were worth it.
This is one of the reasons why I chose Falling Togetherby Marisa de los Santos as my birthday read. Pen, Cat and Will met in college, and have been the best of friends ever since. Their friendship was so strong that even their romantic relationships took a back seat from their friendship, making them an almost impenetrable circle. But that was the past, and it's been six years since Pen has seen Cat and Will after they walked out of her life. She never stopped missing them, even if they had missed major milestones in her life such as the birth of her daughter, Augusta, or the death of her father. When Pen and Will receive an email from Cat asking them to meet at their college reunion, they couldn't refuse. But when they were faced with the unexpected at the reunion, Pen and Will set off to find their missing friend all across the world in a journey that really changed everything for them.
I love Marisa de los Santos. I can't help but swoon over the way she writes -- there's a certain beauty and elegance in her writing that just makes everything...well, fall together for me. Falling Together is a pretty slow book, one that builds up slowly and flashes back on a lot of memories to tie up the numerous strings spread out around Pen, Will and Cat. Her characters come off feeling like they are also your friends and not just friends with each other, like you're a part of their circle. Pen is reminiscent of Cornelia in Love Walked In and Belong to Me with her observations and her small eccentricities, although I think I would choose to be with Cornelia over her because I find her more of a darling than Pen. Cat is sufficiently made into a mystery, and it made me wonder what her motivations were in doing what she did. Will is almost like Teo Sandoval in Marisa's first two books, but also not quite. Maybe the half-Filipino aspect of Teo made him more attractive to me than Will. Sometimes it feels like these characters are a little too whimsical, or maybe a little too different, or maybe even a little too perfect sounding, but Marisa includes little quirks that make them less of those a-little-too's.
Speaking of Filipino, one of the main reasons why I was so excited to read this book was because a part of it was set in the Philippines. Marisa de los Santos has Filipino roots and I can't help but feel so proud about how she described the Philippines and the Filipinos in this book. Here's an example:
Maybe it was the food or the muted light or the ceiling fan's slow, hypnotic paddling of the air or maybe it was simply that every journey -- and Pen had come to see herself as a person distinctly on a journey [...] -- has its land of the lotus eaters, its drowsy slowdown in momentum. There would be time to winnow out the reasons later, but as she sat in the living room of the house in which Cat's father had grown up, surrounded by someone else's family -- Cat's family, the one she had flown across the world to find -- with a plate of food on a tray in front of her, all Pen knew was that she wanted, with her heart, to become a part of the place, to unpack her bags, hunker down, and stay. (p. 284)
And something about the food:
But there was nothing "nothing special" about it: great piled tangles of noodles rife with bits of vegetables, meat and shrimp; a concoction of eggplant, okra, green beans, squash and bitter melon called pinakbet; banana blossom salad; whole fish, crispy and gleaming with sauce; thin egg rolls called lumpia that Pen could have eaten like popcorn; and, glory of glories, down the center of its own special table, a roasted suckling pig, burnt orange, glistening, dizzyingly fragrant. Pen had a momentary qualm at seeing it whole ... but once dismantled, the sublime combination of hard, crackly skin and nearly white, meltingly tender meat caused such rapture in her mouth that she gave hearty thanks to God that she was not a vegetarian. (p. 286-287)
That last paragraph made me hungry.
The second time, more prepared, she stayed long enough to understand that the coral reef off Balicasag Island packed more gorgeousness per square centimeter than any other place she had ever been. At the same time that it was exactly like something she had seen on a nature show, it was like nothing she had seen on a nature show because everything -- from the imperious butterfly fish trailing their scarves to the brown undulating ribbons that Pen assumed were eels (but might not have been; it frustrated her not to know) to the neon blue coruscations, so penny-small ad quick that they might have been tricks of light -- each thing, every individual scrap of embodied beauty, was palpably, unmistakably, alive.
So were Pen and Augusta, alive and in the thick of it. Pen had expected to look down and see fish, and she did, but when she looked to her side, there they were, too, suspended next to her face or flowing by in iridescent streams, and, when Will swam over to take Augusta to see an anemone clownfish and Pen dove downward, the fish were above her as well. (p. 303)
I'm not being biased here, but that last paragraph is absolutely true. I almost squealed with delight when I found out where exactly they were heading in the Philippines because I was just there a month ago. So much beauty, and it's just one island. :)
A word of warning, though -- if you're expecting them to head to the Philippines early on, well...they won't. I had to adjust my expectations with that because I thought that the characters would spend a longer time in my home country but the travel happened at the last third of the book. But even so I'm not really complaining, and it's not really a wild goose chase for their friend all across the world. When I got to the end, I felt like even if I was made to wait for the part I wanted to read the most, the timing was pretty right and I was so invested in the characters and the story that I want them to find their answers in the place I called home.
I was perfectly, perfectly charmed with this book. Again, I may be pretty biased about it because so far, I've loved every book that Marisa de los Santos wrote. Even if I can't relate to it much (by that I mean nothing like that has ever really happened in my life), there's something in her books that makes me feel that she wrote it just for me -- or someone like me who craves for this kind of life fiction. For this kind of story that talks about love and friendship and family and the ties that bind, and all of those things falling together in one complicated and beautiful mess.
I'm not sure if Falling Together is for everyone, but if you've ever read and liked Marisa de los Santos' other books, then you will probably like this. Just how much is another thing, but as far as I am concerned, Falling Together is the perfect birthday read. And I am definitely keeping this one on my shelf. :)(less)
I love traveling. Granted, I'm not the most traveled person around, but I love being able to go to places. I love seeing...moreOriginal post at One More Page
I love traveling. Granted, I'm not the most traveled person around, but I love being able to go to places. I love seeing new things, I love being (almost) anonymous in a sea of people who may or may not understand me. I love figuring out how a train system goes and how I can go from one place to another. The itch to travel hasn't been that big in me until I got to go to Europe last year, and ever since then, I've been thinking of other places in the world that I must see in this lifetime. There's something about being able to achieve a traveling dream that makes you want to travel again, especially while I still can. I've got a bucket list of places that I want to go to and while a part of me wonders how will I be ever able to afford all those trips, it does not stop me from dreaming.
I guess that's why Wanderlove was such a hit with me. Bria Sandoval wanted to be a global vagabond, especially after her senior year in high school spun out of control and left her lost. She signs up for the Global Vagabonds tour to Central America, thinking that she would be with people her age. But the brochure she read was wrong and she ended up being with a group of tourists that followed a too-rigid schedule for her to actually find time to rediscover herself. Then she runs into a group of backpackers -- real backpackers who go from one place to another with just the clothes and the bags on their backs -- led by dive instructor with a bad boy aura Rowan, and his humanitarian sister Starling. Bria takes the chance and joins them. It's the trip of a lifetime for Bria, and she hopes that somewhere along the way, against the backdrop of Mayan temples and Belizean islands, she finds exactly what she was looking for.
Again, I love traveling. But truth be told, traveling is kind of a cliche interest among people my age, at least from where I come from. Everyone wants to travel, because it's such a good way to spend money and to see something new. But I know that only a few of those people who has put "traveling" in their interests can actually quit their jobs, sell everything and just travel.
I know I am definitely not one of those people.
The backpackers in Wanderlove? They're the real deal.
I wasn't really expecting to love this book so much. I was just expecting to like it, but not really like it. But I was captured from page one. I loved Bria -- her doubts and uncertainties, how she pretends to be a well-seasoned traveler even if that wasn't true. I loved how different she was from the first chapter to the last, and how her fears can translate into something universal, even if I'm not an artsy person. Bria's need to escape is something everyone feels, and something that traveling can quickly fix, even if it's just for a while. I feel you, Bria. I really do.
Also: the romance. This is another one of those slow burn romances that just makes my toes curl with delight. :) While the build up to the romance didn't really span months like how it was in Flat-Out Love, it was still believable with all the time that Rowan and Bria spent together. I loved how they danced around one another, how their conversations can go from disliking each other to having a mutual understanding that led them to protect one another from people who do not understand them. There wasn't too much drama in how their relationship was built up, and I liked how it all ended, especially where it all ended. Wanderlove at its finest. :)
Finally, the setting. I think it helps that the author is also a backpacker, so the experiences and the places that the characters visited felt very real. I have to admit that Central America was never in my bucket list. After reading this book, though, I also wanted to pack my bags and go see the places they saw. Okay fine, I don't think I'll go backpack like they did anytime soon, but I so want to go where they went. Someday, someday. I'll go there. Maybe after I hit South America next year (World Youth Day 2013 is in Rio de Janiero -- wohoo!).
If you're ever one who's loved traveling, or one who's wished to travel but never got to, I recommend Wanderlove by Kristen Hubbard to you. I hope this book fills you with the same kind of love as Bria found and Rowan had, and that somehow, it also helps you find the place(s) in the world that would stick in your heart. :)
I leave you with this quote:
You got to find your own places. The places you get, girl, the ones that stick in your heart. And if you’re lucky, you find people to share them with.
The YA reading world was buzzing with excitement last year when John Green announced that he would have a new book out,...moreOriginal post at One More Page
The YA reading world was buzzing with excitement last year when John Green announced that he would have a new book out, and I was one of them. I was one of the people who was terribly excited when he said he would sign all pre-orders and I pre-ordered mine by December, which kind of made me wait a bit when our local bookstores surprisingly got copies on the day The Fault In Our Stars was released. I had to avoid reading reviews of the book because I was so antsy to read it but I had to wait an entire month to get it. I forgot about that because this greeted me as soon as I opened the book when it finally arrived:
Yay a yeti!
The Fault In Our Stars introduces Green's first female protagonist, Hazel Grace Lancaster, who was diagnosed with a Stage IV thyroid cancer at the age of 12. By a medical miracle, she is now 16, but remains terminal and knows that one day cancer will come back to claim her. During a cancer support group meeting, she meets charismatic Augustus Waters, a cancer survivor who seems to be interested in her. Wary but also mildly curious, she starts spending time with Augustus, inadvertently changing her life as she knows it.
Reading The Fault In Our Stars reminds me of this time a few years ago when some high school friends and I attended a wake of a classmate's sister. The sister's -- let's call her Mary -- death was a shock to all of us. Our high school was small so we pretty much know each other, especially the ones who belong to a certain group of kids, like the achievers. Mary was one of those, and not only was she a smart kid but also a jock, and pretty much an all around nice girl too. She took up Psychology in college and just graduated before cancer took her away from everyone at the age of 20.
We weren't close, but I was good friends with Mary's brother, who was in my batch. We went to the wake, and I remember being nervous at looking at her casket because...well, I was scared to look at someone so young yet dead. I remember bursting into tears when I finally looked at her, and to be perfectly honest, it wasn't only because I was sad she was gone but because it reminded me of something that I was afraid to think of.
It was like I was staring at my own mortality. Back then, I only hear of cancer from people who are aging, from people on TV. It wasn’t a possibility for me or any of my friends before — we’re too young and the world’s so big and there’s so many things to do for us to suffer from a disease like that. But seeing someone even younger than me pass away, not even getting to experience how it is to be outside of school…to imagine someone like her going through chemotherapy treatments…it doesn’t feel right. It’s so unfair.
You know what they'd say about this: but life is never fair. And anyway, everyone will die at some point, it's just that someone left earlier. But that doesn't really make it feel any better, or make losing people to death (and cancer) less painful, right?
Here's a fact: after reading The Fault In Our Stars, I am still pretty much convinced that John Green can do no wrong with writing contemporary YA. His latest novel has all the wit and charm and realness that only he can write. This book is just as charming as An Abundance of Katherines with all the funny dialogue, as well as having the memorable characters and scenes as Paper Towns (Isaac is one of my new favorite sidekicks). The Fault In Our Stars has the comic relief and the seriousness of Looking for Alaska, but definitely less of the unattainable girl because Augustus made himself attainable right from the start. ;) The only thing this book has that the other Green books don't have is the cancer, and John Green tackles that subject with enough sensitivity and seriousness that it makes us who are blessed not to experience that (whether with ourselves or with someone else we care for) somewhat understand a fraction of it. The book is very readable and realistic, despite some of the scenes that felt a little too outrageous and yes, a little too romantic and almost cheesy for my taste. Oh, but don't get me wrong -- this romance is probably the best of all in all of Green's novels. Chasing an unattainable person and deciphering their mysteries can be a bit tiring, don't you think?
Cancer plays a big part in this book, but if I you ask me, I didn't see this as a cancer book. Cliche and cheesy as this may sound, I saw this book as a book for the living, to remind us of some things that people with terminal cases know: that we are all dying. I think if this was a normal contemporary YA story without the sick characters, I would've felt annoyed at Augustus' presumptuous comments to Hazel, and I would tell Hazel to stay far far away from this boy who thinks he's got her all figured out. But I believe Augustus was acting that way because he knew that life is short, and if you don't say what you feel, or at least, if you're not perfectly honest with the people you care about, then one day it might be too late for you to say the things you wanted to say in the first place. It goes both ways too -- learning to receive the care and love and attention that other people offer out of their affection. Sometimes that's even more difficult than giving it, because we think we don't deserve it. There's just as much grace in receiving kindness and love as in giving it. If anything, Hazel and Augustus' love story is about choosing to live our lives despite the fact that we are all dying.
And because comparisons are unavoidable -- here's the order of all John Green books I have read based on how much I like them:
1. Paper Towns 2. The Fault In Our Stars 3. An Abundance of Katherines 4. Looking for Alaska
Paper Towns has the best plot out of all IMHO, but I think The Fault In Our Stars shine just as well as my favorite. So it might have taken me some time to get this book in my hands from its announcement to its release, and some more time to read it but the wait for this book was definitely worth it. :)(less)
It's a bad time for Jill MacSweeny ever since her father died. Always a daddy's girl, Jill feels lost without her dad, b...moreOriginal post at One More Page
It's a bad time for Jill MacSweeny ever since her father died. Always a daddy's girl, Jill feels lost without her dad, but now she just feels angry that her mom had decided to do the unthinkable: adopt a baby. And not just adopt a baby, but let the mother of the baby live with them until the baby is delivered. Mandy Kalinowski is the pregnant girl in question, and she's always known how it feels to be unwanted. Mandy wants a better life for her baby, and she thinks Robin MacSweeny would be able to give just that. She moves in with them as agreed, and she finds Robin to be a very nice person, even if her daughter Jill never liked Mandy. But as her due date grows nearer, she's faced with doubts: can she really let her baby go? And if she does, what happens to her after that?
I was pretty sure I was going to like How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr, but I was surprised at how much I ended up loving it. I'm a big fan of Sara Zarr, not just her books but her posts at the Good Letters blog. She's quickly becoming one of my sources of inspiration online, and I like that her books reflect what she believe in. I wanted to read this as soon as I got it, but I kind of feared that I wasn't ready for the emotional punch that it had, especially after most of the reviews said a lot about tears being shed and all that. But the good reviews gave me something to look forward to, so reading it at the start of 2012 felt like a perfect gift for myself.
Like in Sara Zarr's other books, there is a quiet beauty in how Jill and Mandy's story unfolded. They were two characters from the opposite ends of the spectrum, clashing horribly at first. Honestly, I thought both characters were unlikeable. When I read Jill's parts, I wanted to shake her for being so bitter and out of it. She reminded me a bit of Macy in The Truth About Forever, but also not quite because Macy seemed easier to approach compared to Jill who completely shut everyone out. Mandy, on the other hand, is someone who I would probably steer clear from if I met someone like her in real life. I could understand why Jill would rather avoid her, aside from the fact that she was carrying the baby that Jill never wanted to be a part of their family. Mandy is socially awkward and more often than not, the things she says hit the wrong note in other people who do not know how to be patient with her. I admit to be that kind of person, unfortunately, so sometimes reading Mandy's chapters were a struggle. Oh, but I also ached for her so much, too. The two grew on me as the story went on, and it wasn't even because there were drastic changes to their personality. In fact, the changes that happened to them didn't feel like changes at all -- they were choices. The choice to do something right, to think of others first, the choice to love in spite of and because of things they cannot understand. It all unfolds beautifully in the story, and it filled my heart with so much love for these two girls that I just want the best for them too.
Normally I would ramble on about how the plot was good and how the other characters were equally as good here, but to be perfectly honest, I can't. Not that the other characters weren't good (they were, and they were very fun to read) or the plot was bad (it wasn't, although the predictability factor is high). It's just that the book really concentrates on how Jill and Mandy's lives were changed and saved by the choices that they and the people who loved them made. It all came together so beautifully that I didn't care if I sort of predicted the ending pages ago -- it was still worth getting to it. I was happy that it ended that way. Overall, How to Save a Life is a story of family and love, and how that kind of love can really save a life.
As reluctant as I am to talk about “themes” in my work or to explain it or myself, I can see, after four published novels and three unpublished, that this idea of intentional family, of claiming and being claimed, is one of the themes lurking beneath and hovering around all of my work.
My stories seem to always involve people choosing to love other people, in spite of the pain those people have sometimes brought them, in spite of the way they let each other down, in spite of both their minor imperfections and deep flaws.
In the interviews I've done about How to Save a Life thus far, nine times out of ten I'm asked if I worried that one of the characters, Jill, was unsympathetic or unlikeable. No, I say. I didn't worry about it. My editor did, to an extent, and I worked a little on showing glimpses of Jill's humanity. But not much. Because the point about love, this free will love of the people we call family or true friends, the people we take into our lives, the ones that lead us to claim “you are mine,” is that it doesn't depend on them (or us) being sympathetic characters.
Warning: This may not end up as a review, but a very fan-girly love letter to the trilogy. Also, spoiler free.
So normally I would have written a review for this book as soon as I finished it, but with my record of reviewing books lately, I took my time. In all honesty, I can't remember parts of the book anymore, but I remember that sad feeling I got when I finally arrived at the end of this amazing trilogy.
So three years ago, I stumbled upon Feed by accident, and I only really wanted the book because I judged it from its cover the moment I saw it. Little did I know that this would spark a love affair between me and the After the End times staff, with Georgia and Shaun Mason and Buffy and Mahir and Becks and Maggie and Alaric and everyone who's ever been a part of this series. Yes, that includes other fans who I have met and virtually squealed with and liked reading updates and shared speculations with over and over again.
Let me back up a little: for the uninitiated, Blackoutis the third book in the Newsflesh trilogy, where we readers follow the After the End times staff with uncovering a humongous conspiracy that could very well mean the death of human civilization as they know it. With zombies around, it's easy to imagine how it could end, especially with how Deadline ended. But of course, there's more going on without the team's knowledge and when these things finally collided, well...it was pretty explosive. Blackout is one of my most awaited books this year, and I waited a little bit before I actually read it because I just didn't want it to end yet.
Granted, Blackoutis probably the weakest among the three books. But by weak, I don't mean that it sucked -- it was just not as engaging as Feed or as mind-blowing as Deadline was, but there were still so many feelings that came and went at the reading of this book. But here's the thing: I love the characters and the series so much already that I can't not love this book. I can't not love its finale, for all its faults and awesome things, for all the emotions and fist shaking it brought. I felt like I've invested so much in this series that I can't not love even this book.
Oh and maybe the zombie bears had something to do with it! :)
I have fangirled in this review so I'm afraid this review of this particular book may not be as helpful as the others, but if you feel like picking up the series, then consider this review as my own version of pushing it to you. I am very, very happy that I stumbled upon Feed years ago, because somehow it made me feel like I'm a part of this series ever since its first release. I'm not an expert on the genre, but this is definitely one of the best zombie books I've read in a while. It is with a sad heart that I said goodbye to all these characters, and I will miss them all terribly...but I'm pretty happy with how this ended.
We started as a news site. Somewhere along the line, we became a family.
I've been wanting to get The Reapers are the Angels by Alden Bell during the time I was so crazy for zombies in fiction,...moreOriginal post at One More Page
I've been wanting to get The Reapers are the Angels by Alden Bell during the time I was so crazy for zombies in fiction, and that's one of the reasons why I got this from Book Depository in the first place. I wanted to add every single book that had zombies in it, until it became a little bit too mainstream for my taste. That's probably why I made this book languish in my TBR for a while, almost forgetting that I had this book with me until lately. Because you know, sometimes you have to dig through your TBR just to get some books out and get that number down.
The Reapers are the Angels introduces a world that is full of zombies. There's nothing really new about that, but then here comes Temple, a fifteen year old girl who's turned herself into a vagabond after something happened in her past. She runs into a small community of survivors who take her in, but when she accidentally kills a man who tried to take advantage of her, she is back on the run now that his brother is after her. On her journey, she meets a group of hunters who take on a new way of survival, picks up a mentally challenged man who becomes her unwanted ward, stays with a rich family who refuses to acknowledge the state of the world and gets caught by a horrifically mutated group of people whose loyalty to each other leads them to kill. All this time, Temple fights the evil she thinks is in her while running away from the man who wants to kill her.
Or perhaps running away isn't the right term. As the story goes on, it doesn't really feel that Temple was running away -- perhaps there was something else. It was almost like this chase gave her some kind of purpose, and it was interesting to read about that. Temple is a different girl and we know it right from the start. Why she chose to be alone is a mystery, and how she seemed to unafraid later on as she travels is another question. Her character makes this initially simple and typical zombie story come more alive. The Reapers are the Angels isn't a story of zombies or the fallen world but a story of a person wrestling with her past and trying to atone for this. Temple's brokenness makes her who she is -- the hard, no-nonsense girl with awesome fighting skills -- but it doesn't lessen her compassion for others who need her help, even if she doesn't really want to help at all. (view spoiler)[I found her unlikely "friendship" with Maury, the mentally challenged guy she helps and "adopts", quite endearing and possibly my favorite part in the entire story. (hide spoiler)]
But this book isn't really an easy read. The lush writing helped a lot in making me want to read this, but this is a bleak book -- not quite as hopeless as The Forest of Hands and Teeth and also not quite as action packed as The Enemy, but still pretty, well, not cheerful. There were also lots of philosophical talk, which makes this book really a story of survival and how humanity carries on after an apocalypse. I think what makes this book a little harder for me to read was the gross-out factor -- like I said, I may have gone soft, and there were some scenes in this book that made me stop reading for a bit just so my stomach would stop churning. Oh Tina, what do you expect of a zombie book, anyway? Just...don't read this while eating, especially for some parts.
Even so, I find that I loved The Reapers are the Angels, especially for how it ended. Sigh. --> That will be my one and only clue for you. I think The Reapers are the Angels is a beautifully sad but deep book, and I was a very satisfied reader when I finished the book. It's not at the level of how much I loved Mira Grant's Feed, my favorite zombie book of all time, but Alden Bell's creation has made it into the list of zombie books I will recommend to people who want to read about them. This is a good one, folks -- gross scenes aside, this is a zombie book that lived up to my expectations, and I hope it lives up to yours, too.
See, God is a slick god. He makes it so you don't miss out on nothing you're supposed to witness firsthand.
So everyone who's ever read and loved science fiction has read and loved Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card. My friends w...moreOriginal post at One More Page
So everyone who's ever read and loved science fiction has read and loved Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card. My friends who have read and loved science fiction also were true to their responsibility to push this book to everyone, particularly people who are curious about the said genre. Particularly, me.
But a little commercial first: I've always thought that I never read any science fiction book in my entire reading life. But it turns out, one of my favorite young adult series growing up was science fiction: Animorphs by K.A. Applegate. Five kids and one alien with the power to morph into any animal they touch against an alien race of parasite slugs set to invade the world? If that is not science fiction, I will eat my hat.
And so Ender's Game. It was duly recommended, but for some reason a copy eluded me until my friend Monique found one for me. Of course, as luck would have it, I end up seeing copies of the book everywhere after I got the copy. But anyway! Of course, it takes me another year to read it, but I don't really think it matters now.
The Wiggin children, Peter, Valentine and Andrew aka Ender, were all candidates for the soldier training program in their childhood, but only the youngest, Ender, makes the cut. Ender has always been distant with his family so joining Battle School wasn't much of a difference in his young life. Ender's skills made him a leader in Battle School, admired and hated at the same time by his classmates. But Ender's brilliance in the Battle Room had a price -- isolation, loneliness, and the fear that he is becoming like his older brother who he despises. But there are secrets around Ender's training, secrets that could very well mean the survival of the human race in a war against an alien race for the last hundred years.
Here's one thing about Ender's Game: it's so readable. I'm initially apprehensive of reading science fiction (and high fantasy) novels because I'm afraid of not being able to fully immerse into the world. If it's not very obvious yet, I'm really a contemporary reader and most of the books I read are set in the real world, so reading something set in a different world, or set in the future is quite a challenge for me. Orson Scott Card made Ender's Game very accessible, though, and it was easy enough to understand what was happening in Ender's world. Oh, I didn't really understand much of how the Battle School worked, or the space travel later into the book, but I had a pretty okay grasp with it early in the story, so reading it slowly became a breeze.
I loved the military set-up over the sci-fi aspect. People say this is really more of a military novel, and I kind of agree with that. Reading this reminded me of those Citizen Army Training days back in high school, where we'd practice rifle drills and do other activities during camp, like Search & Destroy and Escape & Evade (I hate the latter, btw). I liked reading about the strategies and the platoon (toon) set up and the promotions. I love reading about the war games in null gravity -- it made me wish that laser tag games here were done in the same environment! I would probably be the first to be frozen in that, but it would be so much fun. It was fascinating to see how Ender came up with strategies to confuse his enemies in the games and wonder at how he was able to see it and make it work. And there isn't just the military thing either. The political aspects of war -- in space and on earth -- were discussed, too, and it makes readers see that some well-placed words said (or written) on a platform can be enough to start a war. A bit of suspension of disbelief might be in order for the part of the novel is needed, but if you can believe that a six year old is the hope of the world against an alien race, then believing that part should be easy enough.
Poor Ender, though. I keep on forgetting that he was just a kid (six years old at the start of the novel) as the story progressed. He always seemed older, especially with all the military school talk. Ender's fighter qualities were admirable and oftentimes scary, but it was hard not to root for him in the story. I sympathized a lot with Valentine, Ender's sister, with how she cared for him because I wanted to take care of Ender too, and keep him a kid longer because he deserved to be one. I also liked Ender's friends, too, especially the ones who were with him at the end. There was this one particular scene that really made my heart swell with happiness for Ender that involved his friends, and it shows that true friends are those people who are with you in your darkest hours.
There is a fair amount of violence in this book, so a fair warning to those who think that this is about some kids who get roped into a "save the world" thing. Even more horrifying is that these are just kids beating each other up. Despite that, Ender's Game is pretty, well, darn good. I know I'm not a credible judge of science fiction since (like I said) I barely read the genre, but I think Ender's Game is science fiction at its simplest and maybe at its finest, too. It's no wonder why people kept on recommending this to me. If you're a newbie to science fiction and you're looking for titles to start with, then listen to everyone who has recommended this book to you because trust me: they are right about it. If it's not enough, then let its awards push you to the right direction. Also, a movie is coming out next year. Enough reasons? Get a copy and remember: the enemy's gate is down! :)(less)
So it took me a while to write a review of this book, for several reasons. First is the usual excuse that I am just busy...moreOriginal post at One More Page
So it took me a while to write a review of this book, for several reasons. First is the usual excuse that I am just busy (I still have a huge review backlog), second is that I don't know how to start the review, and third is because I'm just not sure how to really rate this book.
Monsters of Menby Patrick Ness is the final installment to the Chaos Walking trilogy, and it is all about war. And it's not just the kind of war that we've read in The Hunger Games trilogy, but a bigger, badder and more intense kind of war that kind of exhausted me when I was reading it. Wait, scratch that -- it did not just kind of exhausted me but I really got exhausted.
I'm not sure how to write about the plot of the book because I'm afraid my words won't suffice. Even the summary I posted above doesn't say much about the everything that's happened in the book. It was intense, but I loved the intensity it carried - it starts out with a bang and pauses and then brings it back all over again. The stakes are higher, and there isn't just two sides in this war. You'd find yourself wondering just who really is the bad guy in this, and if the actions of the "good" people would be justified because of their intentions. I felt torn over the motivations of the people, and somehow, reading about them as they were revealed made me sympathize even with the most unlikely characters. Yes, even the Mayor -- I think he had some of the best moments in this book and I can't help but feel a bit sorry for him. He's such a complex villain that it's not easy to simply just hate him for all his supposed evilness.
It's exhausting. But it's also gripping. And as with every Patrick Ness book, I shed tears, because he can do that with how he deals with his characters. The writing is simple and definitely way easier to read compared to the first book, and it's in this simplicity that makes the message shine. War makes monsters of men. Is there ever any way for us to avoid this kind of war that ruins people? Perhaps.
I honestly had a hard time rating this at first because while I thought it was very good, I also felt that maybe I was giving it that rating because of the hype and the good reviews of all the people who has read this before and has read this with me. But now that it's been more than a month since I finished it, I realized that this book deserves no less than my current rating. After all the tears and time I have invested in this series (I read this in the span of 3 years because I had to rest in-between the books!), I must say it is truly one of the best series for young adults out right now. Monsters of Menis an excellent ending to an excellent series and I am so, so glad that I was able to read this. :)(less)