Ah, marriage. And engagement. Two things that I never really thought much about up until my brother got married. Now it feels like everyone around me is getting engaged or married. How many old female high school friends have changed their surnames (or at least, added their husband's surnames to their names? How many friends in high school and college have I seen change their status from "In a Relationship" to "Engaged"? Sometimes they take me totally by surprise, too, only because they seemed so timid and shy back when I know them and now they're getting married and starting their own families. It doesn't make me want to get married yet (well, maybe a teensy part of me wonders -- just a small part, because hello, I don't even have a boyfriend yet), but it makes me realize that maybe I am at that particular season of my life where everyone around me is getting married and I'm...not.
Talk about a chick lit novel. I knew my life can be qualified as a chick lit novel.
That may be one of the reasons I decided to read Kristin Billerbeck's newest novel for Valentine's weekend. Kristin Billerbeck wrote the Ashley Stockingdale series, one of my favorite Christian novel series, and I was thrilled to be able to request a copy of her newest book, A Billion Reasons Why, from Booksneeze.
Katie McKenna has been burned. Badly. She loved Luc DeForges with all her heart eight years ago, but he rejected her publicly, causing her to run away to build herself up again, even going to California shortly after her father died. Katie has found a new life in California with her best friend, teaching special kids. She was also about to be engaged to Dexter Hastings, a simple and stable man who wants to settle down and have a family like she does -- basically everything that Luc is not. However, in comes Luc again, now a multimillionaire and still with an oozing charisma that Katie could not resist, asking her to sing for his brother's wedding.
Truth be told, this felt a little bit harder to read to me compared to Ashley Stockingdale. The Ashley novels read a lot like Sophie Kinsella's Shopaholic series but with a geeky and Christian flavor. A Billion Reasons Why brought me into the world of New Orleans and 40's music and movies, things that I am not too entirely familiar or fond with. This definitely had the author's style, though -- the over thinking heroine, the hot guy who knew the right words, the other, somewhat boring guy, the in-your-face best friend and the somewhat crazy mothers. I had a hard time following the story and though, because I was plunged right into the action from the start. I spent almost half of the book wondering what exactly Luc did that embarrassed Katie? It also felt that some characters were quite inconsistent with their affections, like Eileen, Katie's best friend. She would rag on Luc then rag on Dexter, and she was really getting annoying at some point. Sometimes some of the characters felt a bit one-dimensional, particularly the one touted as the antagonist. It was an automatic dislike for the character from the very start. I think from the blurb alone, you know what's going to happen and who Katie is going to choose, and it really didn't give me much of a thrill when things unfolded in the book.
I wasn't quite sure if I liked the book when I finished it because the entire story didn't gel with me too much. I didn't feel much of a deep connection with any of the characters, and the story, while cute and interesting, didn't really give me too many "awww" or "aha" moments unlike the Ashley novels. Interestingly enough, I found that the book made much more sense a few days after I read it. I don't know if it's just me, but I think Luc's pursuit of Katie is the point. She was almost content with being someone she had to learn to love eventually than with someone she was in love and has loved ever since. Luc pursued her relentlessly despite all the people against him, not because he was afraid of losing her but because he knew what he wanted her. That makes all the difference in the world. He loved Katie and he wanted Katie, and he would do anything just to win her heart all over again to make up for the past mistakes. I especially liked what Katie's Mam told her, which is a pretty good advice for everyone, IMHO:
You know, Katie, you can plan so nothing goes wrong in life. But something will, and it won't be what you expected to go wrong. So make sure you're with someone who will help you bail the water out of the boat, not someone who will blame you for the hole. (p. 188)
Love isn't safe. And whoever you love will hurt you. It's part of the human experience. No one is perfect...people make mistakes. The secret is to focus on what they do right and decide what quirks you can live with. (p. 284)
Stability and good faith in a relationship is good, but without love, what's the use? And I don't think you can call it true love without the commitment and stability and faith.
A Billion Reasons Why isn't my favorite novel from Kristin Billerbeck, but it's a good book that talks about the complications of relationships and love and makes you think of your own convictions in that life aspect. It didn't make me want to get married anytime soon (heh), but it does make me want to go and pick up all the other Billerbeck novels I've missed. :) ...more
It's no secret that I lovedAnna and the French Kiss last year, and it was one of my favorite reads in 2010. I think I neglected to add the companion novel to Anna in my Most Anticipated Reads for 2011, but soon after the cover and reviews for Lola and the Boy Next Door started popping up in blogs, I was really, really excited to get my grubby hands on it. :D
In Stephanie Perkins' sophomore novel, we meet Lola Nolan, a girl who is always in costume. Lola prides herself not only in her creative fashion sense, but also with her rocker and much older boyfriend Max, who her dads do not approve of. Still, Lola's life is pretty good, until the Bell twins next door moved back. See, Lola had history with the boy next door -- he broke her heart years ago. Swearing not to let Cricket Bell's arrival bother her, Lola tries to carry on with her life, but she's finding it hard when Cricket seems to be everywhere she goes, and it's even harder for her when she realizes that she likes Cricket being there.
Ah Lola. Lola is a fun read, with the signature Perkins banter and characters. Lola's world is very easy to get into, and I loved all the characters in the book, even if some of them got in my nerves. I remember reading the excerpt of this book way before it was released and I was already amused at how Lola had two dads. The characterization is awesome, as usual, and everyone just seemed more colorful here, like they all reflect Lola's costuming personality. Add the fun dialogue to that and I was smiling and chuckling every now and then. :) I like it when the characters' conversations feel authentic. And yes, I like it very much that we see more of Anna and Etienne here, and I still feel myself smiling every time I read about them here. It's nice to see other loved characters showing up in another story -- this is why I like reading spin-offs.
However, I find myself feeling a little bit distant with Lola. Unlike Anna, where I saw myself in some parts of her, I just couldn't relate to Lola. I don't know why, but Lola just seemed...well, different. I liked her voice, and I thought she was genuinely funny and creative, but I thought she was also...I don't know, a tad immature? To be honest, there was a time when I really, really hated her, especially with how she treated Cricket. Not that she was especially mean to him, but she might as well be with how she handled her confusion with him. I liked her growth in the book, though. I'm not one to know, but people say her struggles in this book sound realistic, so I will take their word for it. ;) However, I do think Lola may be a bit too hippie for my taste.
Oh but Cricket. How much do I love him? This geek totally won my heart, just like how other blogger friends I know did. His adorable geekiness and his earnestness in with Lola and his love for his twin...everything just won me over. :) That's why I wonder sometimes why Lola was having such a hard time with Max vs. Cricket -- as if there was ever a contest? Although I must say that after I learned more about Cricket's personality, it felt like Max was suddenly shown in a bad light. I guess there would have been more conflict if Max wasn't shown to be such a bad person as the story went on. I mean, yes Cricket is amazing, but it doesn't mean Max is an absolute bad guy, right?
My "I-can-relate!" factor for Lola is lower than it was for Anna because of my distance with Lola, but I found myself feeling so much for Cricket that sometimes I had to stop reading because I was hurting so much for him. Exaggeration? Maybe. I'll never tell. ;) But I so wanted to give Cricket a hug when he said: "Please don't make this any harder than it already is." </3
I liked Lola and the Boy Next Door, but not as much as I loved Anna and the French Kiss. Still, I think this is a good spin-off, and I will definitely still be one of the first in line to get Stephanie Perkins' next novel. :)...more
One time during junior year in high school, my friends and I started scribbling on spare pieces of notebook paper. It waOriginal post at One More Page
One time during junior year in high school, my friends and I started scribbling on spare pieces of notebook paper. It was a story about a group of friends that we started passing around our group, leaving a part hanging so the next person could continue the story. We never finished the story, but I remember we had a colorful cast of characters, and I ended up continuing the story and posting a snippet of it somewhere that I cannot remember for the life of me. Anyway, we also had the same kind of exercise during my college literary folio days -- one would start a story and then another would pick it up. I adopted that exercise for our NaNoWriMo group, and although it never really flew, it was a fun project.
So that's really one of the reasons why I was curious about Angelica's Daughters. This book is a collaborative "dugtungan" novel by five authors: Cecilia Manguerra Brainard, Susan Evangelista, Veronica Montes, Nadine Sarreal, Erma M. Cuizon. They are all writers on their own but their friendship (and writing classes) led them to collaborate on different short stories. One day they decided to upgrade into writing a novel, passing on an idea and a chapter to one another, until they came up with the story of Angelica.
Angelica's Daughters revolved around three female descendants of Angelica de los Santos. First was Tess, whose 8 years of marriage dissolved after she found out her husband Tonio was dating a younger woman. She flies home to the Philippines to gather her thoughts and herself and spends time with her Lola Josefina. Josefina had secrets of her own, one that she wasn't sure that her granddaughter (or anyone else in the family would understand). In the course of Tess' stay, a cousin gives her a bundle of letters from their Angelica, a distant grandmother who was the subject of many of her childhood stories. They were never really sure if all those stories about Angelica were real or not -- like how a guy killed himself when Angelica refused to give him her love, or how wives were often jealous of her because of her beauty. Through the letters, Tess got to know her better but there were holes in the story that she longed to be filled. On the annual Tayabas fiesta, Tess meets her younger cousin, Dina, who carries a darker secret that is eating her alive.
As I was thinking of how I was going to review this book, I realized one thing: Angelica's Daughters could pass as a perfect comfort read. It's like the local version of a Sarah Addison Allen novel, but maybe even a bit better because it hits closer to home for me. There's a certain grace and lyricism in the prose that makes me immediately sink into it, and marvel at the familiar feelings it evoked. There's really something about a well-written Filipino work that just hits the right spot, like how a perfectly cooked dish can satisfy the strongest craving. Case in point, this particular line:
She served herself generously from the garlic fried rice and daing. She took her first bite and closed her eyes with pleasure.
I totally started salivating for garlic fried rice and daing (dried salted fish, for my non-Filipino friends) after I read this line. :) The entire novel had that feel of home that made it such a good comfort read.
Besides that, the book also had an interesting angle of history. This kind of reminds me a bit of old history readings in school, or watching movies based on Philippine history. Note that it didn't really have the "required reading for school" feel, but it provided a sense of nostalgia for the early Spanish era in Philippine history. Angelica's letters to her aunt and her stories were vivid and she felt very much alive in those letters. She may not be the nicest or the most honest character, but she is a well-formed character that it's hard not to be curious about her as the book goes on.
I had a few nitpicks though. For one thing, I felt that Lola Josefina's angle wasn't really that explored, up until she admitted her secret to Tess. I wasn't even aware that she was the third person in the story until I finally figured it out. Also, I thought Dina was introduced a little too late in the story, almost like she was an afterthought, like she was only there to be the receiver of Tess' wrath.
Also, there was the dreaded insta-love. I wished there wasn't an insta-love thing between Tess and Luis -- I could accept Tess liking/lusting after him during the first time she met him and danced with him in the disco, but the idea of her falling in love with him felt a little too quick for me. I was never a fan of insta-love, anyway, and personally, I would've been fine if Tess ended up not having a love life in the end. After all, she still had to find herself after her marriage disintegrated.
Nevertheless, I thought Angelica's Daughters was a well-written and enjoyable novel that deals with family, love and moving on from past mistakes. It's chick lit, but it's not really hardcore fluffy chick lit that I think even guys will like to read this. Plus that recipe for Angelica's special tsokolate-espeso is a must-try. This is one of the good ones in Filipino fiction, and I hope more Filipinos get to read this book. :)...more
Because I enjoyed the novel so much, I thought of writing a review for it in the way the novel is written. It might get a tad personal and long (just as how I tried to review This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen), but I hope you keep on reading. :P
================================== from: Tina < hello @ tinamats.com> to: Achieving Friends :) date: Mon, Jan 10, 2011 at 7:19 PM subject: Save as Draft, and all sorts of thoughts
This may be a very surprising email for you guys to get because...well, do we really communicate using emails now? There's Facebook and Twitter, and well, there are other ways we can communicate...but indulge me for a while. Sometimes a book can make you do silly stuff. ;)
So I just finished reading this book, Save as Draft by Cavanaugh Lee. It's this book filled with emails and text messages from this girl, Izzy, to her friends and her guys. It starts with Izzy in 2008, where she joins an online dating website and meets Marty, a nice and sweet guy who seems to be very interesting. However, even after a great first date, Izzy tells Marty that she has decided to exclusively date her best friend, Peter and she was sorry. Then we are brought back to 2006, where Izzy first meets Peter, and how their relationship started from best friends to lovers.
I'm going to stop there so I won't spoil you. I thought Save as Draft would be one of those typical chick lit romance novels with only a difference in format being an "electro-epistolary" novel, but I was wrong. I was very pleasantly surprised with this, and you may have seen my tweets during the weekend about this book -- I was literally laughing out loud at home while I was reading this because Izzy reminded me SO much of myself. I love Izzy - her over thinking, her flirting, even her depressing moments remind me so much of the times I felt the same thing! Girls, I think we'll all see some of ourselves in Izzy, or even her friends. The way they exchange emails and all that feels like they were actually exchanging dialogues instead of mere emails, and it's just like how we tweet each other sometimes, haha. I think we will definitely see some of the guys we know in Peter and Marty, too.
The book is littered with so many funny exchanges that's the stuff you can see in modern sitcoms but also things you can see in real life. Of course, I'm no judge for that with my still single since birth status, but these are the things we usually talk about, you know?
I think the biggest "lesson" I picked up with Save as Draft is how relationships are never black and white. I've talked to some of you about this before, and again, given my single status, I know I'm highly idealistic. That's why I like books like this -- they show a side of reality that I have not yet experienced and give me a bit of a warning, if you may. Something to remind me that things will never turn exactly the way I like it. Remember how I used to say that I wanted a guy who had no issues or hang ups in life just so things won't be complicated? Well, if I keep on thinking like that, then I know I would never ever settle down with anyone because a guy (or a girl, for that matter) without issues or hang ups does not exist.I think the author was very good at showing that relationships can be messy. There's no perfect relationship just as there is no perfect person. Even if the person seemed perfect at the start, you'd realize eventually that he's a workaholic, or he has issues with fat people (this really kind of grated my nerves there) or he's too presumptuous (haha this reminds me of someone!). It's all gray and there is never a clear thing, and sometimes you just really have to follow your heart, you know?
And excuse me for being emo there. These are the things we usually talk about when we're drinking.
I think this is the first time that I was confused at who I wanted the heroine to end up with. I mean, even my Best Friend vs. the Other Guy thing couldn't decide: Izzy fell for her best friend, but there was also this other perfectly nice guy there that I liked for her...is real life really like this?!
It's a very, very good book, and I won't spoil you anymore because I'm going to make you guys read this! I was entertained all throughout, and I bet you guys will, too. Save as Draft is not a relationship manual, but it's given me a little insight on what I must remember when the day comes that I enter a relationship: (1) never substitute face to face communication with emails/tweets/chats/texts/what-have-you and (2) never let anyone dim my sparkle.
Oh, and never ever do anything you'll regret when you're drunk. ;)
Rambling off. Can't wait to see you guys again -- this weekend?
P.S. I just thought of a perfect Valentine's Gift. I just hope this book gets to the Philippine shores on time. :)
If you're looking for a quick, fun yet meaningful read about relationships and how messy it can be, do get this book. Save as Draftby Cavanaugh Lee will be out in hardcover on February 1 under Simon & Schuster. ...more
I attended my godsister's wedding yesterday, the second wedding I attended this year. I came out of my brother's weddingOriginal post at One More Page
I attended my godsister's wedding yesterday, the second wedding I attended this year. I came out of my brother's wedding last October relatively unscathed with questions about my own wedding, but this time around, I wasn't so safe. For one thing, I was called for the bouquet toss even if I was trying to make myself scarce at that point (my godsister called me out). Then as we were saying goodbye to the newly weds and my godsister's parents, they were all saying to me, "Don't forget to invite us to your wedding."
Sigh. Sure I won't forget. I figure it would be less exasperating question if I was actually nearing the altar, but alas, I'm not.
That is probably what Carla in Mina V. Esguerra's latest novel, No Strings Attached, felt, especially when her friends started getting married and having a life very different from her own. It doesn't help that the only remaining single in her group of friends was Tonio, the guy who likes to play the field. Carla is tired of being set up with stable banker types that she doesn't really like, and at the same time, she doesn't like how Tonio does it. Then she meets Dante, and things go from cold to sizzling hot between the two of them. The only catch is Dante is five years younger. Does she stay or does she go?
I've been hounding the bookstores ever since Mina announced in Twitter that her new book would be out soon, and I was giddy when I finally got my hands on it (boo on Eastwood stores for not having them in stock as fast as the other branches). This is another light and quick read from Mina, albeit a little different from her first two novels, My Imaginary Exand Fairy Tale Fail. I can't really pinpoint if it's more serious or not, but it is certainly different. Like what Chachic said, the story focused not on how the love story unfolded, but on the complications of the relationships, especially to the people around Carla and Dante.
Mina shows how chick lit does not always have to deal with heroines finding their soul mates or wanting to get married. Sure, it has romance and there is the set-ups and talks of weddings, but No Strings Attached has a different kind of romance. It's one that we don't really get to see on movies or TV or read in any other books. I liked how No Strings Attached tackles a different kind of love story, one that I am pretty sure some Filipinas experience as well. I liked how Carla seemed like a very real person, and her friends offer enough contrast to her for the readers to see the different sides of the story without telling it to them in a long monologue of sorts from the heroine.
I can't really relate to Carla's predicament, but I do know I see myself in her best friend, Mary's shoes. I don't necessarily set my friends up with stable banker types, but I'd probably react the same way she did if I find out that some of my close friends are in a relationship similar to Carla's. I'm not proud of it, but the good thing about books is some characters act as a mirror, and it helps me to realize or remember things about myself that I need to keep in check (or sometimes even get rid of) in order to be a loving friend.
It's not my favorite Mina book (that slot still belongs to Fairy Tale Fail), but it's another good local chick lit to be lost in for a couple of hours (or days, if you're not a fast reader). I guess I don't have to say that I am her fan now, but if it needs saying: if there's a Mina Esguerra fans club, I am definitely in. ;)
Oh, an in case you were wondering, I didn't catch the bouquet. :P...more
Undercover Tai Tai is my first Maya O. Calica book, and I bought a copy as a thank you to her for giving us a pep talkOriginal post at One More Page
Undercover Tai Tai is my first Maya O. Calica book, and I bought a copy as a thank you to her for giving us a pep talk for National Novel Writing Month. I have been wanting to read another one of the Asian chick lit novels republished by Anvil in the Philippines after I read Amazing Grace, so I thought it was just timely to get this, too.
Amanda Tay is a small, quiet girl who hates her job and her roommates, does capioera and dreams of something exciting to happen in her life. Her prayers get answered when she accidentally knocks CID Agent Brian out, and soon she finds herself as a new undercover agent mingling with Singapore's rich and famous socialites to find out what really happened to tai tai Jasmine Kwong.
Undercover Tai Taiis a fun and surprising novel. Surprising, because I was expecting to read one of those typical chick lit stories where the heroine goes through one mishap after another to find herself, but instead I found something a little deviant of the usual chick lit formula. I like watching undercover movies and shows, so this book was a real treat for me because it appealed to the adventurous part of me that liked espionage. It's fun, because even if the plot is highly unbelievable and requires suspension of disbelief, I thought it was well written and the mystery part of the story was kept well under wraps up until the end. The cast of characters added to the fun of it all, too. I am particularly fond of Agent Omni, who works on Amanda's gadgets and doubles as her personal stylist as she goes undercover. Oh and let's not forget Alexis, the crime fighting chihuahua. Gotta love it when there's a dog involved in the story. ;)
Like I said, it's a fun novel, and it was a good and quick in-between read. While I don't hold it in the same regard as the other chick lit novels I liked this year, I thought it was still pretty good. If you're looking for a usual chick lit novel you may want to skip this, but if you're in for something a little bit different, then I suggest you pick this up and enjoy the ride. I am pretty sure Maya wrote this as her NaNoWriMo novel because Chris Baty, NaNoWriMo's founder, is cited in the acknowledgments, and that explains all the craziness that happened in the story and, of course, the crime-fighting dog. :)...more
I wasn't very impressed with Claire Betita de Guzman's first novel, No Boyfriend Since Birth. It was my first local chick lit read as a research for my 2008 NaNoWriMo novel, and I ended up getting irritated at the heroine and the story because none of it felt real to me. When I saw that the same author has a new book out, I wasn't sure if I wanted to read it because of her debut. The excerpt seemed pretty interesting, but I didn't know if it was a justifiable impulse buy.
I eventually gave in and bought it last weekend using some expiring National Bookstore GCs and read the book in a couple of hours. Girl Meets World is the story of Mia Tupas, a homebody who writes brochures for a local tourism company and is perfectly content with her routine life. One day, she meets her colleague's friend, Leo, and they have an instant connection. Egged on by a fortune teller, homebody Mia decides to go to Bangkok to visit Leo to see if he is indeed The One, and finds herself on a sudden trip to Southeast Asia, following the guy who may or may not be The One.
Altogether now: what is wrong with that picture?
The moment Mia decides that she's going to Bangkok to visit Leo in the story, I immediately wanted to shake her. Okay, the going to Bangkok was forgivable, and no matter how much she denies it, I know she knows that her goal there was to talk to Leo...but when she goes to Bali, well...I wanted to smack her. The Mia from the excerpt was interesting, but as the story went on, I found her too romantic. Perhaps it's my pride talking, but I think anyone would know that Mia running after a guy she only really bonded over through chat is not a good idea.
Girl Meets World is a typical chick lit with love as the main goal, and while it is better than No Boyfriend Since Birth, I feel that it still lacked on what other good chick lit stories have. Mia's growth and realizations about herself felt unnatural and flat, almost like she was reading it off some book. The supporting characters were interesting, but their exposure was too little that I couldn't really connect with them. I'm willing to suspend by belief over the sudden change of course in traveling, but the different situations Mia encountered in the different places she went to felt too forced that I can't buy it. I know chick lit is supposed to be fluff and this one has a lot of it...but I think chick lit must also be substantial, and I think the book kind of failed in that aspect.
This book had a lot of similarities with Amazing Grace by Tara FT Sering, which I really liked, so maybe that's why I did not like how this book turned out so much. That, and maybe because I kind of have too high standards sometime. ^^ Girl Meets World isn't a total waste of a read, so if you want to read something really light and fluffy, give this a try. Otherwise, go for something from Tara FT Sering, Marla Miniano or Mina Esguerra....more
One day early this year (way before I met the Goodreads people) I was going around Fully Booked in Eastwood when I suddenly had this little fantasy. I wondered: what if, as I was looking for books to get, I meet a guy who has the same taste in books as I do? A straight, single guy, near my age, who reads for fun? And let's make him cute, too.
It was a little fantasy that my friends and I entertained often, and it almost became a topic of a story for my fiction blog (one day I will write that). It was definitely something my single bookish friends and I thought would be very nice but may be rare, as we know few guys who are willing to read the same books we do, and most of the people we see in the bookstore near our office is filled with girls (that is, until I met the Goodreads people, again).
So it's no wonder why Dash and Lily's Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan would call to me. Okay, I didn't really pay attention to it first because I wasn't really a fan of Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist by the same authors, until I read a review. I checked the sample and fell in love with it on the first few pages, particularly on the opening scene. Dash finds a red notebook amidst the books in the Strand, and inside were a bunch of clues left by a girl named Lily. He figures out the clues and thus starts the passing of the red Moleskine notebook back and forth between the two. Dash and Lily accomplish dares all around New York City from each other and bare their innermost thoughts to the other through the red notebook, all the while wondering if the words represent the persons behind them.
The story happens during the holidays, so I figured Christmas should be the right time to read it (thanks again to Ace for giving me a copy during the Goodreads Christmas party). And I was right. I am so glad I read it at this time of the year. :) Like I said, I wasn't very enamored by Nick and Norah, but Dash and Lily really made me fall in love. There's so many things to love. Maybe it was the bookstore? Maybe it's the Moleskine notebook (which I love, by the way)? Maybe it's how the story unfolded despite it being slightly hard to believe?
Dash and Lily are two very interesting characters. They're not the angsty teenagers that we read in contemporary YA but they're very smart and witty teens who are very different yet they speak to each other in ways only they can understand. While I didn't find Dash particularly dashing, I thought he was very well-adjusted for his age. Perhaps it was all the reading that he does that makes him a gentler version of the male gender? I don't know, but I'd like to think so. Lily, on the other hand, is probably the most optimistic female character I've ever read so far. She reminds me of myself in so many ways: she bakes, she likes animals, her positive outlook, and in how she's never had a boyfriend. Lily is such a delight to read because I feel like I'm reading some things I write, almost like I was reading my journal.
And just as the characters, the story was very charming. It tried to tackle more than the usual boy-meets-girl-and-they-fall-in-love story and that's good, but sometimes the connections and issues feel a bit too messy and hard to follow. The entire interaction may seem a bit far-fetched too, and I don't think this will be very effective here in Manila, but I can forgive that for the sake of fiction (and that's why it happened in New York and not here, LOL). Despite that, though, I thought the plot was well-executed, and I found myself hanging on to every word all the way up to the end.
My copy of Dash and Lily's Book of Dares has so many dog-ears too because of the quotable quotes! For example:
Prayer or not, I want to believe that, despite all evidence to the contrary, it is possible for anyone to find that special person. That person to spend Christmas with or grow old with or just take a nice silly walk in Central Park with. (Lily, p. 75)
I wish I could remember the moment when I was a kid and I discovered that the letters linked into words, and that the words linked to real things. What a revelation that must have been. We don't have the words for it, since we hadn't yet learned the words. It must have been astonishing, to be given the key to the kingdom and see it turn in our hands so easily. (Dash, p. 87)
You think fairy tales are only for girls? Here's a hint -- ask yourself who wrote them. I assure you, it wasn't just the women. It's the great male fantasy -- all it takes is one dance to know that she's the one. All it takes is the sound of her song from the tower, or a look at her sleeping face. And right away you know -- this is the girl in your head, sleeping or dancing or singing in front of you. Yes, girls want their princes, but boys want their princesses just as much. And they don't want a very long courtship. They want to know immediately. (p. 131)
And my favorite (and is very applicable for the coming year):
There are just lots of possibilities in the world...I need to keep my mind open for what could happen and not decide that the world is hopeless if what I want to happen doesn't happen. Because something else great might happen in between. (p. 227)
The blurb was right. Dash and Lily's Book of Dares is a feel good book that would make you want to start "...perusing bookstore shelves, looking and longing for a love (and a red notebook) of their own." It doesn't have to be Christmas when you read it, but the holidays add to the ambiance. It's the kind of book that will surely leave you smiling long after you have read the last word. :)
I'm not about to start looking for a red notebook in Fully Booked...but as for leaving one? I'll never tell. ;) ...more
I pretty much became a squealing fan of Ilona Andrews after I finished the first four books of their Kate Daniels series. Who wouldn't? By the time I finished the fourth book, there was a long lull before the fifth book comes out but I wanted more Ilona Andrews. Good thing they also had another series going set in an entirely different world and I won the first two books of that series in a giveaway, so I had more Ilona Andrews in stock. Of course, I took my own sweet time before reading it...but that's really expected of me.
Rose Drayton lives on the Edge, the land between the magical Weird and the normal Broken. She lives and is fiercely protective with her two younger brothers, necromancer Georgie and changeling Jack. Rose is somewhat of a social pariah among the Edge because of her unusual power: the ability to flash white, something that no Edger has ever done. This has made her a target for bluebloods from the Weird, if not as a wife to produce white-flashing powerful babies, but for slave merchants to sell to the highest bid. It's no surprise that Rose is closed off to anyone, and it doesn't help that her family is also very poor and she works everyday to make the ends meet. Then comes Declan Camarine, an Earl from the Weird, who is intent at having her. Rose is not about to let anyone get her and leave her brothers behind. When weird things start showing up in the Edge and threatens everyone she knows, she had to team up with Declan to find a way to destroy it and keep the Edge safe.
On the Edge is very different from the Kate Daniels series. It's more romance than urban fantasy, but the world is grittier and somewhat more primitive than what Kate lives in. By primitive, I don't mean it's less powerful, but just different. Most of the magic discussed in this book was elemental, back to the basics, unlike in Kate where there is more of the weird and seemingly more complex magic all around. Not that I know much, of course, but this one had a different feel from the other, which I kind of had to get used to first before I fully immersed.
But as always, the world building in this book is flawless. That's one of the many things I admire with Ilona Andrews novels -- the world seemed so real with all its quirks and intricate rules and details. Even if everything is highly unbelievable, I couldn't help but accept that what was written in the book was real, and that the world is divided in three. This alone could make the book a pleasure to read already, and I think that's really want I'm looking for in fantasy novels: good world building. I know I can't write a good fantasy world (not yet, anyway), so I'll stick to reading them instead.
And like with Kate, Rose is also as fierce as her. I liked Rose because of her strong attachment to her family. Sometimes she gets too attached, but as the story went on, she grew to understand that she can't baby her brothers all the time. Rose is strong and admirable, and it makes one understand why Declan would like her. I like Declan too, but I did get kind of annoyed at how many times he was described as "perfect" in the book. Too many mentions of his well-defined muscles, glittery eyes and skin is a bit too much. My favorite characters in the book, however, are Jack and Georgie -- gotta love those two boys. They captured my heart from the start. I also liked Declan's family, but too bad they didn't have much exposure time.
Since this is more of a romance novel, there was more focus on the relationship than in the action in the book, so the climax part was kind of expected. I wasn't as invested in Rose and Declan's relationship as I was in Kate and Curran, but the latter had more build up than this one, so I guess that's a normal reaction. I guess the key here is to really stop comparing from the other series because they fall on sort of different sub-genres.
On the Edge is a good, fun and sizzling (yes, I actually used that term) fantasy/romance novel from Ilona Andrews, and it's a good read whether you're new to them or you're a fan. While I'm not about to declare my love for this series yet, I am looking forward to read the other books about The Edge. :)...more
The Philippines celebrates the longest Christmas season ever, with Christmas unofficially starting once the -ber monthsOriginal post at One More Page
The Philippines celebrates the longest Christmas season ever, with Christmas unofficially starting once the -ber months come along, and all the way to mid-January, as indicated in the Catholic Church's Liturgical Calendar. I think it's because we just really like celebrating Christmas here -- and that's also why I am posting this review weeks after Christmas season is over (but really, I was just too busy so I only got to write this review now).
I've been meaning to read Let It Snowfor a while now, but every time I intended to get it, it was always out of stock. When the new version was released, I got my copy, and told myself I'll make it my holiday read for 2012. I mean, when is the perfect time to read this but you know, Christmas? Let It Snowis a book with three holiday romances, with each story intersecting a little bit with the next. The first story, The Jubilee Express by Maureen Johnson, had main character Jubilee in a train on her way to her grandparents in Florida after her parents were jailed for a Flobie Village Convention riot. The train was traveling in the middle of a snowstorm which causes them to stop and get stranded in Gracetown, where she meets Stuart who gives her a home for the night. In John Green's A Cheertastic Christmas Miracle, Tobin, the Duke and JP were summoned from Tobin's house to a race to the Waffle House in the middle of a snowstorm, and it involved a game of Twister, lots of snow, twins and lots of running to get to the finish line. And finally, we meet Addie in The Patron Saint of Pigs by Lauren Myracle, who's deep in her own drama on Christmas after she gets ditched by her ex-boyfriend on their make-up date. When her friends called her self-absorbed, she tries to prove them wrong by volunteering to pick up a teacup-sized pig for her best friend, which led to meeting the person responsible for her break-up, a pig buyer, as well as Jubilee and Tobin, where it all goes down in Gracetown's local Starbucks.
Let It Snow was fun, if only because of the romantic Christmas-y vibe. I've read/listened to just one Maureen Johnson and I liked it enough, so I was expecting to fairly enjoy her story in the book. I did, except maybe I didn't really buy how fast Jubilee "fell". And I couldn't help but think of what happens next for them after the story. But it was fun, and I liked Jubilee and the quirkiness of the family and the good back story each character had. John Green's story was the highlight of the book, with the most quotable lines in all. It gave me the warm fuzzies that I expected, and I loved the entire adventure in the snow at night, the craziness and the conversations and how it all unfolded in the end. I saw what would happen in the end way before I got there, but even if it was a bit predictable in that sense, I still liked how it all unfolded and it left me smiling for the "happy middles" when I finished it. I've never read any Lauren Myracle, so I have no benchmark for this story. I liked it okay enough, although it didn't have the same warm fuzzies that the first two stories had. I honestly felt sorry for Addie, but I also saw her friends' points when they were talking to her. I liked it when the characters from the other stories finally showed up at the end, although I thought it fell a bit flat, like the characters from the other stories were not the same ones I've read earlier. The last story could have been stronger, I guess, or maybe it just paled in comparison because the first two stories were good.
So, Let It Snowwasn't exactly the most amazing holiday read, but I enjoyed reading it. It wasn't as fun and engaging as Dash & Lily's Book of Dares (which I reread after reading this one), but Let It Snow was light and fun enough to read during the busyness of the holiday season. :)...more
I was one of those kids who believed in wishing on stars. My earliest memory of making a wish was when my brother told me abouFull review at Pinoy Pop
I was one of those kids who believed in wishing on stars. My earliest memory of making a wish was when my brother told me about the North Star, and I wished that I'd dream about Cinderella that night (I was pretty young then). Years later, my friends and I would wait for the first star to appear so we could make a wish before going home, but as time went by, I found it harder and harder to make a simple wish. I'd end up using my wishes (even birthday wishes) for some beauty pageant greater good, you know, like world peace. It's a part of growing up I guess, or a fear that I'd wish for the wrong thing and then it would come true. I needed to be sure that if my wish did come true, it would be one I wouldn't regret.
Sixteen-year-old Viola faces the same problem in Jackson Pearce’s novel, As You Wish. Viola has been feeling invisible ever since her best friend and boyfriend, Lawrence, broke up with her after confessing he was gay. His coming out of the closet catapulted him to popularity, and Viola’s heartbreak pushed her to the sidelines. For the next seven months, she spends most of her days observing the people around her, trying to figure out how they belong to their own groups and wishing that she could simply belong, like they did. Viola’s desperate wish summons a young and handsome genie with no name, bearing (what else?) three wishes. The genie is anxious to return to his home world (he ages in the human world) but the only way for him to go back is for his master to use up her wishes. However, Viola is terrified of making the wrong wish, so she asks for time, much to the genie’s chagrin. Refusing to treat the genie as a slave, Viola gives him a name, Jinn, and forces him to call her by her name instead of Master. And that's when things get complicated…Click here to read the rest of the review....more
Considered to be the first YA novel ever published, Maureen Daly (1921 - 2006) started writing this when she was 17 andOriginal post at One More Page
Considered to be the first YA novel ever published, Maureen Daly (1921 - 2006) started writing this when she was 17 and finished it when she was in college, and finally published in 1942. Seventeenth Summer is about Angie Morrow's last summer before she goes off to college spent in her hometown in Wisconsin. Angie catches basketball star Jack Uluth's eyes and he asks her out on a date and they fall in love. As summer ends, their inevitable separation looms and they have to decide whether their love is forever or just for that seventeenth summer.
I knew from Chris' short post about this book that it was written in the 1940's, so that kind of prepared me for what this novel would be like. It took me a while to reconcile the setting of the book with the cover which looks a little too modern for how it was written. I had to stop reading the book for a while and start it again so I would have the proper state of mind while reading it (and believe me, Jane Austen's Emma put me right there) and appreciate the novel for what it's worth.
Unlike the modern YA contemporary novels, Seventeenth Summer is quiet. There are hardly any interesting parts, really and to be honest, Angie is kind of dull. She's not like any of the feisty or snarky female heroines that I know. She's shy, almost awkward and plain looking, as she often described herself. Angie spends most of her time doing housework and helping her mom manage the household, and up until Jack's arrival in her life, she tends to shy away from people from her school. The rest of the novel tells us about Angie's dates with Jack and her thoughts about him, how he relates to her family, what she feels and all the questions involved in having a crush to dating someone and figuring out if it's love or not. There are no mean girls to torment Angie, little parental resistance for their going out and it's all really just an account of Angie's summer. Angie and Jack's relationship is also very chaste compared to what comes out nowadays (not that I mind) -- just a few kisses here and there. I was honestly surprised to read the word "necking". How long has it been since I last heard that word?
If you're not into contemporary, you'll probably be bored to death with this novel because like I said, there are no exciting parts. Truth be told, the B-plot with Angie's sister, Lorraine, was more exciting than the actual main plot. However, I find that the beauty of Seventeenth Summer lies not in that, but in how the author captured Angie's emotions with her relationship with Jack. I thought Daly described it perfectly: the first tingles of a simple crush, the recollection in the morning after a nice date, the longing for a phone call, the first kiss, the pain of realizing the first mistake you committed unknowingly and the delicious feeling of seeing everything in rose-colored glasses because of love. Not that I know how it feels exactly, but if I were to fall in love, that would be how I'd want it to feel. I was honestly surprised to find myself noting so many quotes in the book that convey those feelings, such as:
In the brightness of the morning last night didn't seem quite real...I knew in a little while I would be getting up...there would be no more of the exquisite uncertainty of last night, no queer, tingling awe at the newness of the feeling, and no strange, filling satisfaction of being just alive. All that was last night because it was night and because it was the first boy I had really been out with. Not because it was a special boy...but because it was the first one. After a while, maybe after years...I would think of last night and remember it and that breathless loveliness... (p. 26-27)
...there is something so final, so husband- and wifelike about going to church with a boy. Religion is too personal a thing to share promiscuously and the thought of being there with Jack filled me with a kind of awe... (p. 120)
And as each day changed into evening...I didn't even feel like a girl anymore. And all my thoughts turned into little prayers, which I meant so much that it made me ache all over. "Just once," I kept saying. "Let him call just once." (p. 134)
Sometimes, when we sat in the movies, Jack would hold my hand. It wasn't silly. We did it because it was good to sit so close together in the darkness and, somehow, by holding hands you can carry on a conversation without talking. (p. 183)
I'm not sure if I ended up liking this novel because I read it during February and I was really feeling the Valentine's air, or if I'm really just a sap at heart. This is one of those books that you'd rather read as an in-between book and you just want to feel like laying back and enjoying a good, clean summer romance. Seventeenth Summer isn't the most exciting or mind-blowing read, but it has that air of sweetness and simplicity that almost makes it timeless. ...more
If there was a book that I could blame for my being a bookworm, it is definitely Francine Pascal's Sweet Valley. I didn'Original post at One More Page
If there was a book that I could blame for my being a bookworm, it is definitely Francine Pascal's Sweet Valley. I didn't start with SVH like most people (and I hardly read them, now that I think about it) -- I started with Sweet Valley Kids after I saw my classmate reading it back when I was in 3rd grade. When I grew older, I started on Sweet Valley Twins, and read so much more Sweet Valley after that. I remember even getting random Sweet Valley books from Book Sale whenever I needed a quick read because that's what Sweet Valley has always been for me: quick, easy and comforting reads. A reminder that somewhere, somehow life can be absolutely perfect (even if it sets a totally bad standard). :)
It's been years since I last read a Sweet Valley book, so when news of Sweet Valley Confidential came out, I knew it just had to be one of the books I must read this year. No excuses -- as a girl who practically grew up in Sweet Valley, there is no way I cannot read this. :-)
So I'll keep the summary brief to avoid spoilers. It's roughly 11 years since Sweet Valley High, and Elizabeth is living on her own in New York City, refusing to answer her sister's calls. She is lonely and angry, and the only person she is willing to talk to from her hometown is conceited rich boy Bruce Patman, who is now her best friend. What happened to Elizabeth? Why is she refusing to answer her sister's calls? What did Jessica do that made sweet, calm and well-loved Elizabeth Wakefield flee and close her doors? And how did she become best friends with 1BRUCE1, of all people?
When I finished reading the book, I knew I looked like this (thanks, Hyperbole and a Half for the accurate illustration):
I know some of my friends and Twitter followers have read my reaction, and I can't help it. When I finished the last page of the (e)book, I actually sat on the bed and stared into space, wondering what the heck just happened to what I read.
The appeal of this book lies in the nostalgia it brings. I didn't really read that many SVH books but I was still familiar with the people there -- Lila, Ken, Steven, Todd, etc. It was definitely a trip down memory lane and I can't help but remember all those crazy stories that I read back then. The magic dolls, the numerous beach trips, the people who all wanted the twins dead or at least want to be them. Of course, since the books were written by ghost writers, continuity errors abound, but I can easily forgive that. It was fun seeing the characters and laughing at how silly they all were and are, even after 11 years. Sometimes I want to shake them: Elizabeth, stop being angsty! Jessica why are you always crying? Todd! Caroline, why are you still meddling with your friends? Why haven't you all moved on from high school?!
It's not bad. In fact, I found Sweet Valley Confidential very entertaining, and it kept me amused while reading and hours after I finished reading. However, it was very brain-numbing, and it was probably because of the sheer ridiculousness of the plot. The twins are still perfect gorgeous beings that everyone loves no matter how self-absorbed they could be. You'd think that people would have grown up from their high school woes, but no, everyone's still hung up with old high school issues and hardly anyone has moved out. Come on -- I'm hardly in contact with some of my old high school friends. Was Elizabeth the only one brave enough to move away? Wait, scratch that -- it's not even bravery. She ran away from something, and if she were really and truly brave, she would have stayed to face the entire mess. Also, the big reveal of why Elizabeth left? TOTAL DUD. I expected more from you, Francine!
The writing leaves less to be desired, bordering on cheesy at times. The POV and tense switching can get a bit annoying, although I have to give it to Francine Pascal -- there were distinct differences in the characters' voices that made you know who was speaking a few lines in. Sometimes, though, I feel like she was drunk when she wrote some of the parts, or at least, very sleepy. "He heard her and turned to look but almost without recognition, so frantic was he." (p. 262) "So frantic was he"? Archaic-sounding much?
Now you see why I ended up like this after reading?
In the end, this book reminds me of what Jessica said in one of the Sweet Valley Jr. High books (I loved that spin-off -- probably my favorite of all the SV series). After she and her sister threw a party and invited their old middle school friends who ditched them when things were going bad at the party, Jessica realized what it means when people say, "You can never go home again." That is exactly what I felt after finishing Sweet Valley Confidential. I grew up in Sweet Valley, it's been fun hanging out with all those people, but I don't think I can ever feel at home with them. I think it's time to move out.
So. Do I recommend Sweet Valley Confidential? It's not really that terrible. It's like reading a trashy romance novel (with trashy love scenes to boot!) or a gossip magazine about your favorite fictional characters. You have to expect that it's like that so you won't be annoyed at the time you spent reading this book. If you're just the curious kind who didn't really love (or at least like) the books before, I don't think you'd be able to finish this. But if you were a fan, get ready for a fun, mind-numbing and slightly ridiculous trip down memory lane. :) ...more
When I first heard about David Levithan's latest book, The Lover's Dictionary, I wanted to read it only because of theOriginal post at One More Page
When I first heard about David Levithan's latest book, The Lover's Dictionary, I wanted to read it only because of the clever idea behind the book. I love anything that involves wordplay. I loved the idea that this book is told using dictionary words, and for some reason, this gives me the feeling that this book has a universal feel to it, like anyone could relate to an entry here at one point. I ordered a copy off Book Depository a few weeks ago after I realized that it's cheaper there, and when it finally arrived, I actually dropped the books I was reading to devour this one.
The Lover's Dictionary is quite easy to devour given its short, dictionary-like format. This book, as mentioned in the blurb, tells the story of an unnamed couple, written using different words from a dictionary. The narrator, who is a guy based on the entries, is a writer while the girl seemed like a wild, whimsical character who seems to have enchanted our narrator. But as their relationship goes on, it gets harder for the both of them, and we readers are left wondering if the they decide to stay together or part.
The entries weren't written in chronological order so the timeline tends to jump from one anecdote to another, while others just seem like a sharing, or a comment on how the relationship is or how each has changed because of the relationship. It's equal parts sad and happy, a lot mushy and it tends to leave the readers pondering on what makes a relationship tick. There's something about finding common ground, which I really liked:
I noticed on your profile that you said you said you loved Charlotte's Web. So it was something we talked about on that first date, about how much the world radiant sealed it for ach of us, and how the most heartbreaking moment isn't when Charlotte dies, but when it looks like all of her children will leave Wilbur, too.
In the long view, did it matter that we shared this? Did it matter that we both drank coffee at night and both happened to go to Barcelona the summer after our senior year? In the long view, was it such a revelation that we were both ticklish and that we both liked dogs more than cats? Really, weren't these facts just placeholders until the long view could truly assert itself?
We were paining by numbers, starting with the greens. Because that happened to be our favorite color. And this, we figured, had to mean something.
Or this, about being intimidated by one another:
Really, we should use this more as a verb. You daunted me, and I daunted you. Or would it be that I was daunted by you and you were daunted by me? That sounds better. it daunted me that you were so beautiful, that you were so ate ease in social situations, as if every room was heliotropic, with you at the center. And I guess it daunted you that I had so many more friends than you, that I could put words together like this, on paper, and could sometimes conjure a certain sense out of things.
The key is to never recognize these imbalances. To not let the dauntingness daunt us.
I'm pretty sure the story the authors intended for the characters here is not the same for everyone, but I think everyone who's ever loved will find that they are able to relate to one or two or more entries in The Lover's Dictionary. This makes the book very rereadable, especially in random -- just pick it up, open to a page and read. This book also makes me wonder: if I were to make a dictionary of my own love life, what words would I use?
But alas, my own love life is still nonexistent. That fact made me a bit distant to the novel, because I can't relate. Not yet, anyway. However, The Lover's Dictionary affirms things that I know, based from stories, reading and yes, even experiences (the proper place to elaborate on this is on my personal blog :P): relationships are messy, it takes a lot of work and it would hurt both parties a lot...but allow me to believe that even so, relationships can be beautiful at the same time. :)
Whether you're a romantic or not, I recommend The Lover's Dictionary by David Levithan. I'm sure you'll find a bit of yourself in one of the entries in this dictionary....more
I'm still fairly new to the urban fantasy genre, and I am still avoiding paranormal romance (maybe I should make a postOriginal Post at One More Page
I'm still fairly new to the urban fantasy genre, and I am still avoiding paranormal romance (maybe I should make a post about that sometime) so when I received a review request from HP Mallory for her books, I was kind of hesitant to accept it. But I'm not really one to say no to free books, so I thought, why not?
I finally found the time to read To Kill a Warlock when we started moving a week ago. I figured after reading about zombies, I need to take a break from the gore so this should be a perfect read. And since we were moving, all my books were packed, so all the reading I could do was in my Kindle.
So Dulcie is a fairy and one of the best Regulators from the Association of Netherworld Creatures (ANC) in California. As a Regulator, she monitors the activities of the different paranormal creatures in her area and makes sure they act in accordance to the laws. But after her Regulator job is finished, Dulcie hides in her house and works on her novel, which she hoped to published so she can be rid of her Regulator job. Her more or less regular Regulator (ha, sorry, I can't resist!) job is disturbed when a warlock dies and she was the last one who saw him. The story follows Dulcie as she tries to figure out who killed the warlock, work on her novel and figure out her relationships with the different men in her life which included a vampire, a demon, an elf and a Loki.
To Kill a Warlock is generally a fun read, with a spunky heroine who's had a broken heart and dreams of being a published writer. The story is pretty tight, with a good -- although not really unique -- concept about a group that regulates paranormal creatures among humans, and of course, lots of romance for Dulcie. That being said, however...I don't think To Kill a Warlock really worked for me. :( I hate it when this happens, especially since it seemed like many readers liked the book and the characters (and that I got this book for review). I did not hate any of them, really, but they just failed to make an big impression on me that I just didn't care about them as much as I normally would. As the story got to the climax, I found myself just flipping to the next pages, eager to finish because I was getting tired of how they seemed to be going in circles. When the major action has finished and everything has settled, I thought it was over, but it wasn't...and it led me wondering, "What else could happen after all that?" I didn't feel very satisfied at the ending because I felt like it was a bit of a cop out -- everyone sort of at peace with each other, with Dulcie having three guys going after her. In the end I was just confused.
It's not that it's a bad book. I have to give some merit to the author because I enjoyed myself in some parts of the book, but as a whole, I was underwhelmed. I think I can put the blame on Ilona Andrews and their Kate Daniels series with how I viewed To Kill a Warlock. The Kate Daniels series is my first time to read adult urban fantasy and I loved every bit of it, so I got kind of spoiled with their world building and character development in those books. So much so that my expectations were a bit too high when I read To Kill a Warlock. Perhaps if I read this first before any of the Kate Daniels books, I'd think otherwise....more
I've been reading a lot of fantasy and dystopia lately so I decided to take a bit of a break and go for a light and flufOriginal post at One More Page
I've been reading a lot of fantasy and dystopia lately so I decided to take a bit of a break and go for a light and fluffy book just to cleanse the palate. I recently got Camy Tang's Formula for Danger through my Kindle, and I missed reading Camy's work, so I thought this would be a perfect in-between book.
Well, I think I may have chosen the wrong book! I'm not saying that because it's a bad book, but because Formula for Danger is anything but fluffy. Of course, I should have picked up from the title already, but who knew this book would be such a non-stop suspense ride all the way to the end?
Formula for Danger wastes no time with the action as I was dropped immediately in the middle of it right from the start. Rachel Grant, the protagonist, is assaulted just as she goes out of her lab at the family owned Joy Luck Spa. From here bad luck just seemed to follow Rachel, but this luck is not coincidental but planned as someone really wants her dead! Every chapter in Formula for Danger is brimming with suspense and action, and I found myself getting breathless as every threat comes to Rachel's (and the love interest, Edward's) life.
It was easy to immerse myself into the Grants' world again as I'm already familiar with it after reading Deadly Intent, the story of Rachel's sister, Naomi. This isn't really a sequel, so you don't have to read the first book before reading this, although I feel like it may be helpful. Formula for Danger brings in the action quick that there is no time to really get to know and appreciate Rachel's family with all that's happening in the novel. Perhaps it was just me, since I haven't read books in this genre for a while, so I felt like I would be a bit frustrated with reading this and diving right into the action without pausing long enough to know about the surroundings.
The threat in Rachel's life felt very real, and the suspense in finding out who the culprit was drawn out for so long that I found myself wondering the same thing that the main characters did: when will it end? However, I wasn't really that surprised when the reveal was made and I'm not sure if it's because I figured it out beforehand or because it's really just not that surprising. Compared to Deadly Intent, there seemed to be less red herrings thrown here, so the mystery seemed a bit linear, and the chase to save Rachel's life took a higher precedence compared to finding out who was behind everything.
I liked the romantic and Christian aspect of the novel, though, more than the suspense. I liked that Camy focused on how Rachel learned that God is in control of everything even in the chaos. I also liked it a lot that Camy gave Edward, the love interest somewhat of a superhero complex and how he was humbled in the end. This is a Christian novel, so expect prayers from the characters and phrases such as "Praise God" and such. I don't think it's preachy, but if you're not used to reading characters do this, well, I'll leave it up to you if you'd pick it up. Personally, I'd still push this book to others, because the message is good, and well, because I'm a Christian. :D
As a whole, Formula for Danger is a quick and suspenseful read, with a strong Christian foundation. If you would ask me, though, I still liked Deadly Intent better, but it may be because I could relate more to Naomi than Rachel. Nevertheless, this is a good addition to my Camy Tang collection, and I can't wait to read what she writes next. :)...more
If I Stay was one of the books I really loved last year, and news of the sequel made me squee enough to guarantee a posOriginal post One More Page
If I Stay was one of the books I really loved last year, and news of the sequel made me squee enough to guarantee a post. :) It was a very, very long wait, though, before I could get my grubby hands on them. When reviews of the book start popping up every now and then as it nears the release date, I was even more intrigued. I wanted it, but because of my Lenten book buying fast, I had to wait a bit more.
I remember reading If I Stay in a day -- it was that hard to put down. I remember shedding a few tears over some parts, and that feeling of relief and happiness when the book finished on a positive note. Where She Went brings us three years after Mia's accident, in Adam's point of view. Adam is alone, lonely and jaded amidst all the fame that he and his band, Shooting Star, is getting. Something is missing, and when he almost breaks down on one interview before he goes to London for a sixty-day tour, he finds what it is, or rather, who is missing: Mia.
But the problem is, Mia is unreachable. She just graduated from Julliard and is about to start touring herself. Adam finds himself in one of her shows, and to his utter surprise, she invites him for a walk, after three years of zero contact. Elated, confused and still angry, Adam joins Mia as he finds out what happened, or did not happen between the two of them.
I will agree with everyone: this book is packed with emotion. It may not be as morbid or as tragic as If I Stay, but it's sad in a way that you just want to hug Adam and try to make him feel better. It's kind of sad when you see a guy feel so down and out, and hopeless. Girls are often more emotional, so seeing a guy so broken? It's just hard not to feel sad for him too. And we know that his reasons for being broken is valid...but the thing we want to know is, what exactly happened?
This book kind of reminds me of 500 Days of Summer, where I felt more sympathy with the guy rather than the girl. But Mia isn't Summer because I also understand why she wanted what she wanted. What she did wasn't very nice, but still, she needed it. And sometimes, when we think we do some things so we won't hurt other people, we still end up hurting them more. And that's what happened to Adam.
I liked how the story unfolded in Where She Went, and how it all ties up neatly with If I Stay.The ending scene felt a teensy bit cheesy, but still perfect for Adam and Mia's characters. This book left me with a very satisfied, albeit slightly wrenched, heart. :) It's a very good sequel. :)
Oh, and a funny note. I was reading this book while watching a Blessed John Paul 2 documentary. I can't help but shed tears every time I watch a JP2 documentary (you should see me during his beatification! Crying rivers for no reason!), and this book played on those emotions and made me cry more. I was a sight. :P I will have to try and reread this (and If I Stay) next time without other things that could make me cry to see if it still has that effect. :P
Edited to add: After some thinking, I realized something else. The story arc for these two books could be used as a Filipino movie, the ones I love to watch. No wonder it resonated with me so much. :P...more
I had a realization when I was reading this book: I like foodie books. I don't mean books about food like cookbooks or aOriginal post at One More Page
I had a realization when I was reading this book: I like foodie books. I don't mean books about food like cookbooks or anything that talks about food. I mean fiction with food as one of its major elements. I've read two in the past year (The Crepe Makers' Bond and Always the Baker, Never the Bride) and although I was pretty lukewarm about them, I enjoyed the cooking aspect of both books and how food played a part in the story.
Dining with Joy by Rachel Hauck is no different. I enjoyed reading her two other Lowcountry romances, Sweet Caroline and Love Starts with Elle, so I was thrilled to find out that she wrote another one that was set in Beaufort. I was excited to find out Joy's story, and see the old characters in the previous novels pop up every now and then in the book.
Joy is a paradox: she's a cooking show host who can't cook. It's a weird thing, but she's pulled it off for three seasons, ever since she's taken over her dad's show after he passed away. The combination of good editing, a supportive staff in on her secret and lots of humor and entertainment from Joy that she has survived for three seasons, but after her producer sold off the show to a bigger network, things are bound to change. Then Joy meets Luke Redmond, the new assistant chef at the Frogmore Cafe, who becomes her co-host, and she sees him as a way out. But as she prepares for the fourth season of Dining with Joy and she gets closer to Luke, Joy digs a deeper and deeper hole for herself and it seems like it would take a miracle -- or at least, something divine to get her out of it.
Dining with Joycarries the same sweetness and charm that the first two Lowcountry romances did. I love reading about Beaufort and their little idiosyncrasies. I love the seemingly relaxed nature that everyone has, how everyone's about sweet tea, or food, or Bubba's biscuits from the Frogmore Cafe. I love how close-knit the community seems, and it reminds me a bit of our own neighborhood, particularly our street. It's one of those settings that you wouldn't mind visiting over and over again, not because it is really that interesting but because it's very peaceful.
Joy is definitely a different character from her friends Caroline and Elle. Whereas Caroline seems soft-spoken and Elle is gentle, Joy is feisty and stubborn, borne out of a seemingly absent father. Joy is strong and independent, which is needed especially since she's works in the show business. However, her pride became her weakness especially when she decided to work things out on her own, particularly with her secret and her growing affections to Luke Redmond. Luke, on the other hand, carried almost the same characteristics as the other heroes in the other books, Mitch and Heath. In a way, he almost seems too perfect, but I liked how the author still gave him some flaws.
Out of all three books, this seemed like the book that had less "God" moments, but I think it also contained the best nugget of God-wisdom of all: God is good and God is love. I do wish that message was given more focus. Dining with Joy felt like it had too many things going on at once that some of them ran together too much and it didn't give as big as an impact as it should have. At times the story seemed too slow, although things did wrap up nicely in the end.
This is probably the best "foodie" novel I've read so far this year, but compared to the two other Lowcountry Romances, I liked them better than this one. Nevertheless, Rachel Hauck did a great job with Dining with Joy, and I cannot wait to try to recipes at the end of the book. :) Banana bread, anyone?...more
I loved Lauren Oliver's debut novel, Before I Fall, so when I found out that she was coming up with a new dystopian boOriginal post at One More Page
I loved Lauren Oliver's debut novel, Before I Fall, so when I found out that she was coming up with a new dystopian book, I was psyched. I saw this book first from The Book Smugglers and added it to my wish list, eagerly anticipating its release. The premise is intriguing, and as the release date got nearer, reviews are cropping up left and right. The mixed reviews kind of worried me, especially since some of my trusted reviewers were lukewarm on it, but I decided to carry on and find out for myself instead of just scrapping it because of the reviews.
Love is bad. It is a sickness that needs to be cured and you must be protected from it at all costs until you are old enough to get the cure. This is what Lena Halloway grew up with in a society that declares love as a disease - amor deliria nervosa -- one that causes pain, clouds judgment and kills not only the person infected but the people around them. Lena grew up believing this and blaming the sickness for her mother's eventual suicide and she looked forward to receiving her cure. She wanted a normal, safe, and predictable life with a person matched for her, to prove that she is not like her mother and she will not endanger anyone. As Lena counts the days to receiving her cure, something unexpected and totally forbidden happens: she meets Alex, and she falls in love. What follows is a lot of secret meetings and stolen moments and learning about the truth that has been hidden from Lena for almost all her life.
One thing I realized while reading Delirium is that there are two ways to read this novel, and the side you're more fond of will make or break the novel for you. I really liked the premise of the novel, and I was curious to how Oliver will make all of it work out. I'm not an expert in dystopia despite having read a lot of it (not as much as other people, though), so a world without something is already enough for me to classify it as such. I was kind of afraid there would be another love triangle in this, but figuring that this is a book where love is considered forbidden, there's got to be some swoon-worthy and tingly romance in this book that I was willing to take on.
And I was right: the romance between Lena and Alex was surely swoon-worthy. I liked how Lena's feelings were described as she learned of love with Alex. Oliver sure had a way with words and these were reminiscent to how she wrote Before I Fall. I related to Lena in the same sense that I've never been in love -- never felt the rush, the sparks, the exhilaration of knowing that someone thinks you are perfect no matter how plain looking you know you are. The symptoms listed for the disease accurately describes (as much as I know, anyway) how it feels to have a crush and to fall in love if things don't stop. It could be a symbolism of sorts in real life: the disease could be something that people who are afraid of falling in love are avoiding, and cured people are those who have decided never to love again after they have been hurt by love. Lena's innocence about love was pure and kind of sweet, albeit tainted with fear of the deliria. But I guess that's what love is, right? It's scary and beautiful all at the same time, and choosing to live with or without it will kill you either way. The only difference between them is what dies in you if you choose to love or not.
But as far as the dystopia factor is concerned, I didn't feel it. To be honest, I felt like Delirium reads better like a contemporary novel instead of dystopia. I may be biased because I really liked Before I Fall and I think the author is better at contemporary. There were just too many why's that doesn't make sense. Why is love considered a disease? What happened? I would understand if it's too far off into the past that people hardly remember it, but it was only sixty-five years ago, and something that big shouldn't be too easy to forget. What are the instances that made love the bad guy? And in their world that is controlled by the government, the big bad government didn't feel like such a threat. They didn't really strike much fear into me, unlike the Peacekeepers from The Hunger Games. Who led this totalitarian government? And for such a strict one, why can people get away with going to underground parties and breaking curfews. How? Delirium's world feels a bit hazy compared to the other dystopian books I've read. I guess it would be explained more in the next book, but I believe that for dystopian novels -- especially books in series -- to work, the world should be built solidly from the start, not in the next books because that's what readers will be looking out for first. At least, that's what I am looking for.
Overall, Deliriumis kind of a mixed bag for me. I liked the romance, the dystopia was just kind of so-so. I liked it, but not as much as the the author's debut. This is one of those books that people either really loved or really disliked, but I'm kind of in the middle ground. It's just...okay. Read it and decide for yourself if you like it or not.
**spoiler alert** Marla Miniano is back with a new book, this time telling the story of four people who happen to hang out in the same coffee shop, an**spoiler alert** Marla Miniano is back with a new book, this time telling the story of four people who happen to hang out in the same coffee shop, and sometimes even at the same table. Table for Two is a collection of five stories of people from all walks of life, choosing a coffee shop to witness the changes in their lives, and ultimately connecting them in one way or another.
A bit of a spoiler warning starts here, but there's nothing major. Just be forewarned. :)
Table for Two starts out with Fresh, a story of the end of the relationship of a long-time couple when they realized that after graduation, they need to go their separate ways. Timeout is about Jill, a teacher, who follows her brother's advice to stop dating for two months to stop herself from dating losers. All the Best is about best friends Carl and Blake, and Carl's attempt at stopping Blake from marrying Vicky out of concern for his best friend but failing to recognize that he was in more need of relationship advice. This Closure is about Lucas who never really got over Bettina and their shared kiss. The last story, Table for Two brings us to a full circle with Mandy and her independence and her penchant for romance novels.
This book reminds me so much of Para Kay B by Ricky Lee, with all these stories of different people about love that connects them to each other somewhat. I liked Para Kay B but I liked this more because I saw a bit of myself at every story. True, I've never been in a relationship, and I've never broken up with anyone or been broken up with, but there's a part of each of the character that resonated with me. I believe other readers will be able to identify with the characters somehow, too, and this makes Marla's novel a good one for the older audience as compared to the Girl's Guide series.
I think out of all stories, my favorite is the last, Table for Two. One thing notable thing about this book -- particularly this story -- is there were so many quotable quotes! For example:
"...falling in love and trying to make someone fall in love with you and working to stay in love and forcing yourself to fall out of love with someone who will never love you back is much, much more exhausting than being alone." (p. 120)
"It's the little things she needs someone for, like someone to hold her hand at the end of a long day, or someone to watch stupid comedies with, or someone to curl up with on the couch on a lazy Sunday morning as she reads the newspaper and eats her cereal. Which probably means she doesn't 'need' someone in the strictest sense, although at the end of a long day, or while watching a stupid comedy, or on a lazy Sunday morning, having someone would be very much appreciated." (p. 133)
The only thing I could have wished for in this book is stronger connections between the stories. I was very curious to see the connections of the story, almost making me want to skip all the way to the ending, and when I got to the end, I got just a teensy bit disappointed. But it's still a very, very good read. Wonderful prose, good stories, and perfect reading companion on a rainy day with a mug of coffee or hot chocolate. It doesn't have to be in a coffee shop between the Korean grocery and appliance store -- an over-commercialized Starbucks would probably do. :P...more
So I was aimlessly looking around Amazon one day, looking for books to buy within my monthly book budget. I admit to becOriginal post at One More Page
So I was aimlessly looking around Amazon one day, looking for books to buy within my monthly book budget. I admit to becoming hooked to Kindle stuff, so when I spotted some $0.99 books, I jumped and got one. After all, it's only $0.99 -- less than Php 50! It's just like buying an app!
Declaring Spinsterhood sounds like one of those chick lit novels that I see almost everyday when I visit the bookstore. The theme is quite common: woman is getting older and still unmarried, family harps on her and tries to match her to everyone. Then there's the annoying ex that she still somewhat likes, and then a guy best friend who she ends up falling for...but, oh, he's in love with someone else. It's typical, but I know that some authors can make some of these story cliches work for them and even make it seem original.
This one...didn't work.
Emma Bailey seemed like a promising protagonist, with a wacky cast of characters in the background. However, Emma never felt like someone I could relate to. I wasn't sure which was really moving here, if it's the plot or the characters. Most of the time, it feels like the story's forced to come out. I didn't see much growth for Emma, nor with any other characters. Brian, the best friend, seemed like someone I'd like, but all the "sleeping-together-but-not-having-sex" thing had me turned off. Maybe I expect more for a guy best friend -- a real good guy would have enough sense to just sleep in another bed, even if you're best friends.
And wait. How can Emma and Brian be really close friends and know so many things about each other if they only met six months ago?
It's not that there weren't any notable characters though. The so-called villains did get me annoyed. The mother didn't feel realistic -- what mom would banish her daughter from their home because she didn't want to be married? Steve, the ex, was an annoying jerk, and I figured out the connection between him and Brian's girlfriend by the second time he mentioned Chicago. I liked Kathy, the best friend, and at least she had enough sense to listen to Emma, but not enough sense to drive something into her, and help her grow.
However, I can't really blame the author for the somewhat poorly developed plot and characters. The book was written as a NaNoWriMo novel, and from what I read, it is a NaNoWriMo novel. The book was self-published, which may explain the lack of polishing in the story. Maybe another round of edits could have made it better?
Declaring Spinsterhood isn't exactly bad, but it's not exactly good, either. Could be better. I'm glad I got it for $0.99 only -- else I would be absolutely annoyed at an impulse buy again....more
I was one of the people who loved Twilight at the start of its hype. I’m not really embarrassed to admit it**spoiler alert** Full review at Pinoy Pop
I was one of the people who loved Twilight at the start of its hype. I’m not really embarrassed to admit it – curiosity got me to check it out after reading a post by a blogger friend raving about the saga. I found it in a bookstore near where I work, bought it, and devoured it over a weekend. I admit to also falling in love with Edward Cullen and the romance, and then falling for Jacob and all his wolfish charms by the second book. I was never a rabid fan, but I liked the saga up until I read the last book. After Breaking Dawn, I turned my back on Stephenie Meyer for making an ending like that.
I won’t go into detail why I stopped liking the saga, but whenever I run into other supernatural romances, I can’t help but compare them to Twilight. Wait, a correction: whenever I come across any supernatural romances with vampires or werewolves, I can’t help but compare them to Twilight, probably because it’s the first book I read on that genre. I also blame it on all the hype the Twilight Saga gets.
So when I came across Bree Despain’s debut work, The Dark Divine, I wondered if it would be another Twilight-like novel.
Grace Divine is the daughter of the local pastor, and by default, she is considered one of the town’s perfect girls, blessed with a perfect family. But Grace’s family hides a secret that even she doesn’t know: something terrible happened the night Daniel Kalbi disappeared, the same night they found her brother Jude covered in his own blood on their porch. No one in their family talks about Daniel, not until he suddenly comes back into Grace’s life three years later. Grace promises to stay away for the sake of her brother, but she can’t deny that she finds Daniel and that strange hungry glint in his eye irresistible. Despite her promise, she gets closer to Daniel, and this unleashes a chain of events that only she can undo.
Let’s see. Pretty and dark cover – check. Ordinary girl and a guy with a secret – check. Danger and love all at the same time – you got it. So is it the same?
Not entirely. First of all, The Dark Divine has quite an unusual – albeit imperfect – cast of characters. Grace Divine is not exactly the best or most sympathetic protagonist I’ve ever seen, with inconsistent intentions almost all throughout the novel. Being a pastor’s daughter, she’s expected to be the nice girl. Daniel’s presence in the story gives her the conflict that she needs in her life, with her family being the opposition. Unfortunately, in her struggle between Daniel’s affections and her family’s rules, she comes off as self-righteous and selfish. Click here to read the rest of the review....more
Fairy Tale Fail really is a cute book, one that has the right amount of fluff and life lessons for the everyday working girl. It’s very easy to relateFairy Tale Fail really is a cute book, one that has the right amount of fluff and life lessons for the everyday working girl. It’s very easy to relate to Ellie, the protagonist, with her fairy tale whims and romanticism. While I never had a Prince Charming like her, I knew the feeling of wanting to have a fairy tale romance, one where I have a set guide for who Prince Charming should be. I know about obsessing about a guy, and I sort of know how it feels to restoring yourself when experiencing a loss.
I have to admit that like Ellie, I think I’d also prefer to have a guy like Don, but I would find someone like Lucas intriguing. Out of my league, but very intriguing. Lucas and Ellie’s development was done gradually, and it was nice to see that it wasn’t a rushed romance — nothing is more disappointing than a rushed romance in a chick lit novel, I swear. Lucas seemed sexy, yet he had a good heart, even if he seemed a bit hard to see. I kind of wish I got to know more of him through the story, but since the story was told in Ellie’s point of view, we only know as much as she does.
Here’s my favorite part (a spoiler, so if you’re reading/planning to read this, skip this!):
“You think you’re funny,” I said ruefully. “I have no idea what my life is going to be like now.”
…”You told me that your life wasn’t all about work. That you had a lot of things you looked forward to when you got out of the office…Then that’s exactly what your life is going to be. You’ve still got your family, your hobbies, your friends, and none of that will change…And I’m probably going to, you know, start calling. Driving you home. Taking you to movies you hate…And then you’ll probably want to introduce me to your mom. Your nephew Dylan will love me because kids like me, and I’ll tell him about my brother’s job and our pirate story, and he’ll just be so attached to me. And then you’ll want me to go to church again, and we’ll probably discuss that at length. But I probably will go to church with you at least once, and it will be in your college church, to erase the memory of what that douche did there.”
Ah Lucas. Where can I find someone like you? ♥ Fairy Tale Fail is a fresh and cute story that’s sure to make you sigh and be kilig. :) ...more
In a group of friends, there are always roles. There’s the witty one, there’s the nice one, and there’s the popular one, the one who likes to party, dIn a group of friends, there are always roles. There’s the witty one, there’s the nice one, and there’s the popular one, the one who likes to party, drink and gets into flings all the time.
That is Rickie.
Rickie is the “bad girl” friend of Anna and Chrissy, from the Every Girl’s Guide series by Marla Miniano. Rickie is surrounded by good girls — from Anna and Chrissy to her older sister, Lexi, who she thinks is perfect. Rickie fits into her role pretty well, doing exactly what other people expect of her: to party, drink and hook up with cute boys she meets in these parties.
Then Rickie meets Jaime again, who, incidentally, is Anna’s ex. Thinking he’s already a free-zone, especially after she learns he’s broken up with his girlfriend, Olivia, she goes after him, using his friend Diego to make him jealous, who also incidentally, falls in love with Rickie.
I knew from the moment when the guy who Rickie ends up with shows up that she will end up with him, but it was actually quite nice to see how she grows from the party girl to learning to accept the things that other people think of her to be. As I mentioned, Rickie lives up to the expectations of her — people expect her to be the party girl, the one who always goes out, the one who has flings and never falls in love. But her friends and her sister think more of her, and at first she couldn’t live up to it. When things fall apart, Rickie takes a step back, and tries to see herself for what her friends and her sister and a new found friend see in her.
I found this book a lot interesting, and quite a satisfying end to the Girl’s Guide series. It was nice to get into Rickie’s perspective, and I sympathized with her when she said that she was just included in Anna and Chrissy’s group, even if she felt that Anna didn’t like her too much. While I couldn’t relate to Rickie’s life, I could somehow relate to her figuring out that relationships need work, and that she doesn’t need to be afraid when people fall in love with her.
I liked it, and if I had teenage sister/niece/cousin/friend, I’d recommend this series to her. ...more
The story seemed simple at first, and I half-expected it to be another story about a girl who can’t let go of the guy, who’d meet a new guy and she’dThe story seemed simple at first, and I half-expected it to be another story about a girl who can’t let go of the guy, who’d meet a new guy and she’d realize that she had the best guy all along. It wasn’t that — there wasn’t even another guy. There was a gay friend, another girl, and a whole lot of personal issues with Grace, and even a bit with AJ. It was a bit hard to really get into the story immediately, because the story wasn’t written in a chronological order. The story tends to jump from one time frame to another, but I think it’s quite effective because it gives us a view of how Grace thinks.
Grace definitely had issues, and while I didn’t agree on how she finally got over them (sort of), I thought AJ was a very nice male protagonist. AJ seems like a bad boyfriend at first, but he redeemed himself at the end very well, and he may just be the right person to offset Grace’s neurotic tendencies.
Overall, it’s a nice novel, one you’d like to lose yourself in for a couple of hours. 12 Steps to Quitting AJ reminded me that love isn’t really a step-by-step formula, it requires a lot of honesty for a relationship to work and loving someone is ultimately a decision to stick with them through thick and thin. ...more
A week ago, some colleagues and I were discussing relationships and romance, and how one must go in choosing a mate. PerOriginal post at One More Page
A week ago, some colleagues and I were discussing relationships and romance, and how one must go in choosing a mate. Perhaps "choosing a mate" is not the proper phrase to use (frankly it sounds a bit too bestial for me), but the discussion was about how the other person can be qualified as a potential guy or girl or will they be cast off into the friend zone. It was quite an interesting discussion, and I was surprised at how some of the guys told me that I needed to find someone who I don't share too many common interests with but someone who is my opposite -- someone who complements me, to use their term. That kind of got me confused. I mean, I know people say "Opposites attract" but if you have no common ground, how will you even start talking? Isn't having something in common -- even a little -- a prerequisite in building good relationships?
It's timely that I started reading Love Starts With Elle by Rachel Hauck as I semi-wrestled with these questions. We first meet Elle Garvey in Sweet Caroline, as one of Caroline's best friends and someone who could not wait to get married. She was so set to find a man in Beaufort that she started Operation Wedding Day in Caroline's book, where she made a list of men that are qualified for her husband standards and set off to date them, only to find herself disappointed after kissing and dating many frogs that she hoped would be her prince. We see her at the end of Sweet Caroline done with her Operation Wedding Day and still no groom in sight, and yet she was still somewhat happy at the state of her heart.
We meet Elle again, this time a year after the events of Sweet Caroline, happily managing her own gallery and in love with assistant pastor Jeremiah Franklin for the past two months. Elle is at the peak of her career and life, and there was only one thing that would make her happier -- a ring. Jeremiah provided that for her immediately at the start of the story, but not without revealing a catch soon after she gives her yes: they would have to move to Dallas because Jeremiah accepted the a pastor job at a big church there. Elle felt torn, but she said yes, all in the name of love (cheesy, but it's the only way I can describe it).
It's here we see trouble brewing. Elle tries her best to submit to her husband-to-be's whims and wishes, but she can't help but feel stifled with Jeremiah's passion for ministry and lack of concern for her. Elle loves Jeremiah, but she also loves her life and her dream and her art -- one of them will have to give, but which? To make matters even more confusing, Elle becomes friends with her tenant, handsome and gentleman Heath McCord and his daughter, who both just happen to be there when she needed company the most.
Now, there is really nothing new or surprising in this novel, and I think everyone who's read the blurb will know what will happen in the end. And it is true: there's really nothing so surprising in how the story unfolded -- the storyline is pretty typical. In a way, it reminded me of the local movie Miss You Like Crazy (John Lloyd Cruz and Bea Alonzo), with less angst and more chaste.
So why give it a pretty high rating, if the story's so typical?
First reason: Love Starts With Elle is a breath of fresh air. I am really not a romance reader, but I like my share of chick lit. I love how everything in this book is still chick lit, yet it's also not your typical chick lit. Of course, it's Christian, so you won't expect to read any sex scenes in the book, but it doesn't sugarcoat the consequences of the actions of the characters. Case in point: Elle's younger sister, Julianne, had a child out of wedlock, and she had to deal with knowing who the dad was in the novel. Another example: Elle wasn't immune to the charms of Jeremiah, and she had to struggle with physical intimacy with him, and she knows that if she wasn't careful, she wouldn't be able to stop herself. I liked how the author wrote a very realistic setting and cast, which is kind of hard to do when writing Christian fiction. I think it's a common misconception that Christians/Catholics/religious people are if not too religious and always in church, are happy all the time. That is far from the truth, because we also get hurt, angry, sad and all that. The only difference is we believe that there's Someone who's willing to share (if not take) the burden from us, and that there is a bigger purpose for all the trials, one that we may not see or understand now, but will in the future. I think Hauck was able to convey that effectively in her novel, especially when Elle and Heath were both struggling with their own brokenness in the story. Elle's divine affirmations in the story felt a bit over the top for me at first, but I have to remind myself that God communicates to us differently, and who am I to say that He won't communicate in the way He did with Elle, even if she was fictional?
Second reason: the characters. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I am very particular to characters in a book. The Beaufort people shone so much in this novel that I really believed they existed. I loved their little quirks, the Southern charm and the townspeople who were far from perfect, yet still lovable. Furthermore, Elle Garvey is a well-written protagonist, and she was very human. Human in the sense that she wasn't perfect -- she got angry, was lazy, she felt far away from God, she was tempted. I could relate very much to her because like Elle, I grew up in a Catholic family and I grew up knowing God. People expect me to be always connected to Him, to always do good and all that stuff, but I'm not. Heath, on the other hand, is a pretty good male lead. His brokenness and grief was beautifully written, and while I can't empathize, I felt his pain in losing his wife and his confusion in raising a girl on his own. Heath is the awkward father and the handsome protector rolled into one, and even if he seemed a tad too perfect for me, I liked his character.
Compared to Sweet Caroline, this book actually has a semblance of villains! Spoiler warning starts here. Jeremiah Franklin is probably the most stuck-up guy I have ever read in Christian fiction, ever. I knew he wasn't good for Elle, and I remember mentally chiding Elle for sticking with him. I swear, I couldn't stand him. He reminded me of my friend's ex who we all disliked too, after he broke up with her. He was ambitious, self-centered, and unreasonable -- and he was supposed to be a pastor! For a character in Christian fiction to elicit this much dislike from me is something new, and I have to commend Rachel Hauck for that! His ending with Elle was kind of too clean, and I felt that he should have gotten more spite than he did...but then again, we must forgive. :P Spoiler warning ends here. Julianne, Elle's sister, is also a tough nut to crack, and I found myself getting annoyed at her a lot, too, but she managed to have her own redemption in the end.
So did I get my answer to my questions about complements and similarities and potential partners? In a way...yes. I learned, from Elle's story, that having something in common isn't really a prerequisite and neither is being opposites. Sure, it's nice to have something to talk about, and it's also nice to find someone who complements your personality. But if we're talking about forever and with bigger issues in life (ex. faith, family matters, direction in life), there has to be balance: you can't be too similar the other because there would be no growth, and you can't be too different, too, because you won't go anywhere. Each person must be willing to meet each other halfway (and sometimes, even more) to make the relationship work.
Of course, that is coming from someone who has never been in a relationship before -- so feel free to correct me. ;)
Overall, Love Starts With Elle is a pretty good book. Despite the typical storyline, strong characters and a pretty vivid setting is worth it enough for me to give this book a high rating. It definitely satiated my need for tingles and good, clean, fictional romance. ;) I am inviting males who are willing to read romance/chick lit to read this book -- I am very curious to know what you think about Elle and Jeremiah's relationship drama. :)...more
I had reservations with Rachel Hauck's other novels because my reaction to her first novel, Lost in N**spoiler alert** Original post at One More Page
I had reservations with Rachel Hauck's other novels because my reaction to her first novel, Lost in Nashvegas was just lukewarm. I liked it, but it didn't amaze me or blow me away and I haven't picked it up again since I read it the last time. I read Sweet Caroline with low expectations, just so I won't be disappointed with this buy.
I'm kind of glad that I didn't have much expectations, because I was really pleasantly surprised by this novel. Sweet Caroline is quite...well, sweet, for the lack of better words. Everything in this novel is just sweet and charming, from Caroline to the Frogmore Cafe staff to the other secondary characters to the town itself. This is one of the few times I really appreciated the setting of a novel, and it's in a Southern town again. I love the quirkiness of the town, the Frogmore Cafe and everyone else in the story, as it provided me with a very warm feeling, almost like I was one of the Beaufort residents. It was almost like the book was welcoming me into its arms, inviting me to join them in their different town adventures.
Caroline is definitely a character, one I'd love to be friends with myself. In a way, I think a lot of women in their 20's could relate to her, because I definitely did. She's far from perfect, and most of the times, she had no idea where to go or what to do. But when extraordinary opportunities come knocking, she felt overwhelmed, and she didn't know what to do. Don't we all have that same reaction? She had a big heart, one that learned to forgive as she got to know the God of forgiveness. I loved how she came to know God, how she got to know God and how she learned to believe that God loved her so much. It was something out of the ordinary, yes, and I guess some people won't believe those things happen anymore...but then who knows? I've heard more drastic stories, and if God wanted to get someone's attention, then I bet He'd go all out on it. It almost felt like the words uttered to Caroline were for me -- and maybe they were? I'd like to believe that they were lessons for me, too. For example, I could replace Caroline's name with mine in this line, and relate to it almost 100%:
"You are so blessed, Caroline...I mean this: God is looking out for you." (p 195)
Despite its sparse prose, the novel was still well-written, and easy to understand. There were no complicated words or long descriptions, and most of the lines were funny and crazy. I especially loved Caroline's Head and Heart conversations:
Head: Interesting development. Heart: For once, I agree with you. Head: What do you think he's up to? And, we've agreed before. Heart: Do we risk it? Head: No. Stay in neutral, heart. Heart: But he's changed. Really. Head: Don't make me come down there. (p.225)
These conversations were just right for Caroline because for other characters, I don't think it would work. :P
The romance factor is also very, very juicy. This is a little bit of a spoiler, but I can't not share this:
As the house lights dim for the second half of the performance to begin, Mitch offers his hand. "May I hold your hand, Caroline?" Gulp. I nod. His hand is firm and broad; his fingers lock perfectly with mine. "Mitch," I say, barely above a whisper. "I'm afraid of falling." He presses his lips to my ear. "Don't worry, I'll catch you." (p. 235)
I practically swooned when I read that part! :) Heeee. But if you think it will end up the way it seemed from that part...well, there were still more surprises down the end, and those made the novel stand apart from others. It's not really just a love story between two people. It's a love story between a woman and her God, and a story of how a woman found herself through the love of Someone who loves her more.
Sweet Caroline is sweet, from the first page up to the last. I laughed, cried, and felt like I lost a friend when I closed the book. Good thing Rachel Hauck gives us another chance to visit Beaufort with a companion novel for Sweet Caroline, Love Starts with Elle. And it's good that I have a copy of that. :P
I'm glad I read this novel, and I'm glad I gave Rachel Hauck another try. :) Sweet Caroline is a light, thought-provoking read, and in some instances, the title would make you break out into song, too. :) ...more