I've been wanting to get The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making(will be called Fairyland...moreOriginal post at One More Page
I've been wanting to get The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making(will be called Fairyland from here on out) by Catherynne M. Valente ever since I read a review from The Book Smugglers. I was curious because they both gave high ratings for the book, but I was also a bit too stingy to get myself a hardbound copy, and it was quite hard to find one in local bookstores here. But patience is a virtue, because after some waiting, I finally spotted a paperback copy of the book in Fully Booked one time early this year.
Twelve-year-old September is Somewhat Grown and Somewhat Heartless, and when the Green Wind and a Leopard of Little Breezes came and asked to join them into Fairyland, she accepts. What follows is a fun adventure where September gets her courage and wishes washed, befriends the wyvern born from a library, and sets out to Fix Things for Fairyland who has been under a rule of a villainous Marquess.
I read the book for my Required Reading in September, just because the main character's name is also September. I was prepared for a light and joyful fantasy romp, and I was really hoping that I would like it as much as the other reviewers said they did.
And you know what? I liked Fairyland very much! Fairyland is such a smart and fun book -- fun because of all the adventures and characters that our heroine meets along the way, and smart because things were never really explained in detail, but the readers were allowed to figure things out. Everything in the book was so creative and bright and shiny, and I was truly, truly invested in everyone in the boo.
But it's not all bright and happy and joyful all the time -- there was bloodshed, and several dark moments in the book that made me realize that it's not really a children's book after all. But I liked how it balanced off the fun elements and really brings out the point of the story and also makes September and our other characters grow up.
Other than the story, I really loved the writing. Valente's writing is very whimsical and charming, and I was surprised at how many pages I have dog-eared in the book. There were some passages that were just fun (but true), like:
Temperament, you'll find, is highly dependent on time of day, weather, frequency of naps, and whether one has had enough to eat.
Some full of wisdom:
When you are born, your courage is new and clean. You are brave enough for anything: crawling off staircases, saying your first words without fearing that someone will think you are foolish, putting strange things in your mouth. But as you get older, your courage attracts gunk and crusty things and dirt and fear and knowing how bad things can get and what pain feels like. By the time you're half-grown, your courage barely moves at all, it's so grunged up with living. So every once and a while, you have to scrub it and get the works going or else you'll never be brave again...So most people go around with grimy machinery, when all it would take is a bit of spit and polish to make paladins once more, bold knights and true.
While some just squeezed my heart:
I will walk wherever it is I wish to go. I will walk to my grandfather the Municipal Library, and he will praise me for my unselfishness. I have walked my whole life. More will not hurt me.
Fairyland is a fun book, and I like that there's more to look forward to in the next book, which I hear is also very, very good. I'm looking forward to reading more of September's adventures (and finding out about that part near the ending -- Did you see her?) and also reading Cat Valente's other books for her gorgeous writing. :) (less)
I had no idea who Lino Rulli was until I heard him on Lifeteen's Holy Week podcast, which was actually his show with Mark Hart the Bible Geek as guest. I listen to a few Catholic podcasts, but I have never heard of him until then, so I admit that I wasn't really sure what to expect when I started listening to the episode that Good Friday. But a few minutes in, I was already charmed by this funny Catholic guy, which led me to downloading other episodes of The Catholic Guy Show from iTunes. He plugged his book, Sinner, several times in the other episodes, but I wasn't really sure if I want to buy it because I'm picky with books like that. A few more laugh out loud episodes, however (he and his co-host Fr. Rob kept me awake during my night shift work days!), I knew I wanted his book. Then came my friend Monique, bearing good news and new books, and she sent me the ebook version of Sinner as a gift.
That is divine providence, IMHO.
But I digress. I wasn't planning to read this too soon, but when I loaded the book on my Kindle, I found myself starting the book. And reading. Two days later, I am done.
What just happened there, oy?
Sinner by Lino Rulli is exactly what the subtitle says it is: The Catholic Guy's Funny, Feeble Attempts to be a Faithful Catholic. This book had me from the introduction, particularly this line:
I want to be more faithful, but I'm scared. Scared that I'll try and fail. And in some ways, even more scared that I'll succeed.
Lino Rulli is not a reformed Catholic. He's not one who had a bad past and found the light and then turned and had a holy life afterwards. Sinner is not that kind of book where the author talks about the dark days and then the conversion and the days in the light. Sinner is about a guy who was born and raised Catholic, and still had doubts and mishaps while knowing God. It's basically the story of every human who's a part of the Catholic church and is trying (but often failing) to live the way God called them to be.
I can't remember laughing so much while I was reading a book, and a non-fiction Catholic book at that. Lino is as witty and funny on paper as he is on radio/podcast, and I can imagine him really saying these stories on his show. These are confessions that I think some traditional and strictly religious Catholics would shake their heads at, but would touch the hearts of the everyday struggling Catholic and make them smile and be comforted that they aren't alone in their struggles and their journey. Lino's stories range from his dad being an organ grinder to meeting the Pope, to confession (several times), to his mother and his single life woes. I'd like to believe that there's something for every Catholic in this book, but I will let you be the judge of that (which is my not-so-subtle way of saying, Guys, you should really read this book!).
The only thing I wanted after I finished reading this was that there was more, because I really and truly enjoyed this one. Oh, and possibly a story about Fr. Rob. :P This book reminds me of Flashbang by Mark Steele, but possibly a bit better, because hey, it's Catholic! And it's not often I read books about the faith I grew up in. There's nothing like feeling a sense of community while reading about confession (and how hard it is to do) or confirmation or (Blessed) Pope John Paul II in one book. If you're ever the one who tried reading Catholic books but got bored or felt that you can't relate, then I suggest you try this book. It's funny, refreshing, borderline irreverent but definitely easy to relate to, because when it all comes down to it, we are all sinners, period.
Sinner by Lino Rulli may just be one of the most honest books I've read this year, and I think based on this honesty alone, it deserves all the stars I can give. And a spot on my favorites shelf. :)
I wanted to be as honest as possible about my faith, my doubts, and my sins. To let people see my pride, my jealousy, my wrath, my lust. But also see someone who's still trying to fight the good fight of faith. (p.141)
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. ;) (less)
I wasn't planning to read A Monster Calls soon, because I wanted to save it for my slump days. I heard so many good thin...moreOriginal post at One More Page
I wasn't planning to read A Monster Calls soon, because I wanted to save it for my slump days. I heard so many good things about this, but I savored the fact that it was patiently waiting for me on my shelf. But last weekend, after my friend asked if I knew if this book is locally available, I had that urge to pick it up and read it, thinking it shouldn't take me too long. And if my fellow bloggers were right and this would also make me cry, at least I can do it in the privacy of my own home, right?
It's 12:07am. Our main character, Conor, wakes up from the nightmare, the one that's been haunting him ever since his mother had a "talk" with him. He wakes up, thinking someone has called his name, but there was no one in sight, save for that yew tree by the churchyard on a hill near his house. When the yew tree turns out to be a monster, Conor finds himself unafraid, because there were far scarier monsters in his world. The monster is a wild, ancient monster who comes with four stories: three coming from him and the fourth coming from Conor, the truth that he has been hiding for so long.
A Monster Calls is simple, really. It may seem like a paranormal or fantasy book from its title and the blurb and the cover, but it's really a contemporary novel at its core. I haven't read any of Siobhan Dowd's work, and I've only read two of Patrick Ness', but I didn't really have much doubt over how good this book would be. What surprised me, though, is how this book left me biting back the sobs as I finished it during breakfast on Sunday morning. Sure, The Knife of Never Letting Go made me shed some tears, but this! A Monster Calls had me sobbing. How my chest hurt so much with emotion, and how close it hit to my heart even if I am -- thankfully -- not in Conor's position.
But I think that's the thing. Anyone can easily be Conor. Anyone can easily be in his shoes, think his thoughts and find the same nightmare he wrestles with every night. But the thing is, not everyone can have "monsters" to tell us and help us face truths. I think this is why books like these are so important: in the absence of our own yew tree monster, we get this. We may not wake up with a monster calling our name, but we can always turn to a book like this and find important lessons that would give us strength to face some of the hardest parts of life.
Fans of Patrick Ness will undoubtedly love this book. I haven't even read the entire Chaos Walking trilogy yet and I am in awe of his writing prowess. If you were turned off by the any one of his previous novels, I urge you to give him another chance and read A Monster Calls. Patrick Ness is an excellent storyteller, and if that is not enough to convince you, maybe the illustrations by Jim Kay will (and these illustrations make this book worth to own in print):
Suffice to say that this is one of my "This is why I read!" moments. Patrick Ness has successfully made a mess out of my heart once again. There's a line in the book that perfectly fits what this book is:
"Stories are wild creatures...When you let them loose, who knows what havoc they might wreak?"
And what a havoc this story wreaked, my friends. Beautiful and powerful. I definitely recommend A Monster Calls. (less)
One of my best book discoveries last year was Mira Grant's Feed, the first book in the Newsflesh trilogy. I was so excited about it when I heard it was about zombies AND blogging, and it was my first big Kindle purchase. It remains as one of my favorite books, one that I have given away as gifts and prizes numerous times. I was excited for the next book, Deadline, but I wasn't expecting that much, given that second books are usually so-so compared to the first books in a trilogy. I had a feeling it would be good, but I wasn't expecting it to be as good as its predecessor, you know?
Deadline starts shortly after Feed, where Shaun Mason and the rest of the staff of After the End Times are still reporting the news and making noise in the blogosphere. Shaun, however, is no longer the Irwin that he used to be -- he's tired of it, and he's just running the news organization because he had nowhere else to go and nothing else to do. When a CDC researcher fakes her death and drops by their office with a lot of terrifying and confusing medical research, Shaun and the team find themselves in the middle of a conspiracy connected to the ones they encountered during the campaign. Hungry for the truth, they follow the trail, and find themselves facing an enemy bigger and scarier than the living dead that has become a constant threat in their lives.
I decided to reread Feed shortly after Deadline was delivered to my Kindle to refresh my memory of the Newsflesh world. I was a bit impatient while rereading because I kept on seeing really good reviews for the newest book, but I soldiered on, determined to have the best reading experience for the sequel. It took so much control for me not to read reviews and comments in reviews in full, too, so I won't be spoiled (and believe me, there are spoilers galore in the reviews for this book). I finished the first book, loved it just the same, and then moved on to the next book. Not even 1/4 into the book yet and I was already crying. A little over that, and my heart was breaking. And then, I just can't stop reading it. I finished the book at one in the morning last Sunday and it took all of me to stop myself from swearing. If my mom wasn't fast asleep beside me, I would have yelled many, many expletives that morning.
Mira Grant achieves a great balance between detail and action in Deadline. The previous book was admittedly wordy with all the exposition on the history of the Rising and the Kellis-Amberlee virus. Deadline may be just as wordy, but since the book is told in Shaun's point of view, we are given a bit of time to process the information in the same way as he does. There's less politics here, as it focuses on the virus itself -- lots of science, lots of medical terms, but not so much that it's too hard to follow. It's got good, solid world building, with lots of references to pre-Rising things, the things we have now. I love the references to zombie video games, most especially, and it makes the action scenes easier for me to imagine. There was a time when I was reading a zombie chase scene when something similar to a Resident Evil background music played on the TV. Talk about setting the scene. The story is tight, and it honestly had me totally creeped out as the story progressed. I had the same feeling while rereading Feed, but I dare say Deadlineamplified that feeling. By the end of the book, I was ready to hide under the covers and never go out.
While this is more of Shaun's story to tell, the girls Georgia and Buffy still play a big part in the story. The best part, I think, is how their staff gets to play bigger roles. Mira Grant created excellent characters that you'd want to be on your side when zombies walk with the living. I loved Mahir and Maggie (with her epileptic teacup bulldogs!) the most, but I also liked Dave, Becks and Alaric well enough to get attached to them even if I knew better not to get attached to any of Mira Grant's characters. Lines are blurred and gray areas abound in Deadline: the stereotypical villain in the previous book suddenly had more depth, there's no clear villain in this book, and there really is no one you could trust.
Unlike Feed, Deadline ends in a major cliffhanger, which could have also resulted in many, many expletives if I hadn't finished this book late in the night. And to prove the evil (genius) that Mira Grant really is, a preview of the third book, Blackout, is included in Deadline (A word of advice -- do not read the preview if you're not yet done with the book. YOU WILL REGRET IT IF YOU DO, TRUST ME.). While that's a teensy bit comforting, it still doesn't change the fact that it would not be out until next year. Alas, I wait in agony with the rest of the world. :o
Deadline by Mira Grant definitely exceeded all my expectations. I love it when a book does that. Even if I have to wait for a whole year for the conclusion of this wonderfully terrifying, expletive-inducing trilogy, I have a good feeling the third book will shoot straight up the ceiling with its awesomeness.(less)
Everyone I know online and offline who recommends this series has said this already so my saying this doesn't really hav...moreOriginal post at One More Page
Everyone I know online and offline who recommends this series has said this already so my saying this doesn't really have that much bearing but I have to say this: Magic Strikes is the book in the Kate Daniels series. If at Magic Bites and Magic Burns, I only liked and really liked this series, Magic Strikes is the book that made me love it, love Kate and everything else in her fantastic universe.
In Magic Strikes, we finally learn more about Kate, her past and her mission. I love that there wasn't a big dramatic reveal to it, really, but it was written like Kate has decided to trust the reader and tell (almost?) everything. We see Kate growing from the lone warrior to a part of a team, from someone who'd rather not have any attachments to someone who'd die just to make sure all the people she cares for is safe. There's so much character growth for Kate in this book that it's impossible not not to love her even more, and to want to be as awesome as she is especially when she starts kicking butt.
It was also really fun to get to know the secondary characters -- from Jim, Kate's old partner to Andrea, her new best friend and all the way to the Pack's medmage Dr. Doolittle (whose animal counterpart is so cute and fitting :) ). Their relationships and dynamics with one another was also fun to read, particularly the shapeshifters, making them not just a simple pack, but almost like a family. Ilona Andrews knows how to make the supporting characters shine, putting spotlight on them in the right times and giving them little quirks that make them feel real despite their magical abilities.
It's really hard to point out what I really loved about this book because there were so many awesome things about it, but if I were to choose, I'd go with the reason that made me end this book with a huge silly smile on my face: all the Kate and Curran moments. ♥ Ah, I can't remember the last time I was this invested on a fictional (non) couple. Kate and Curran's banter is not just funny but also sweet and yes, sexy. "Baby." I never thought I'd like reading that pet name, ever, until Curran said it.
I know most of this review is just squee-ing, but there's just so much to squee about in Magic Strikes. I love it, and I love this series, and I'm very, very happy that I splurged on these books because it was absolutely worth it. I'm so glad I don't have to wait too long to read the fourth book, Magic Bleeds. In fact, I'm reading it now. :)(less)
The bright yellow cover called me the moment I entered the YA section of Fully Booked Eastwood. It was bright, and the s...moreOriginal post at One More Page
The bright yellow cover called me the moment I entered the YA section of Fully Booked Eastwood. It was bright, and the smiley made an interesting cover, and when I took a peek inside, I saw that it was a book...with drawings!
But what really convinced me to buy is when I removed the half dust jacket and saw this:
This certainly got me very, very curious. How can a book entitled "Happyface" have a sad face inside?
Happyface is the journal of a boy who has been christened Happyface by the girl he likes because of his sense of humor and his happy demeanor. Happyface is a high school sophomore, and a shy, artistic kid who tries to reinvent himself when he moves to a new town. The journal contains the account of the school year, from June to March, as he tries to make friends, ask out the girl he liked and be the happy person that everyone expects him to be.
This isn't exactly a comic book, but it's also not a plain novel. I like reading journal-type novels because I like first person accounts, and I'm a journal keeper myself. The drawings in this book are fascinating and entertaining at the same time. Look:
I'm not big on graphics or photos in a novel -- I like words more. However, Happyface made me appreciate art (simple as they may be sometimes), and the images were not there just to be there, but they really add to the story. I can't draw to save my life, so I am immediately in awe of anyone who can draw something that is more than a stick figure. I do wonder sometimes how Happyface can have the time to draw and write -- writing is hard enough, but drawing them as well? Wow. Of course, again, I'm not an artist, and I can't draw, so I can't exactly say how hard or easy keeping a journal with art is. Perhaps someone can enlighten me?
Happyface may sound and look like a happy book, but I was surprised to find myself sighing and feeling really...well, sad, about Happyface. Like what the dust jacket and cover shows, there is more to Happyface than his smiley face. When I was in college, I used to call myself a sugarcoater. I remember telling my YFC household head to never ask me how I am once -- she needed to ask me twice (and sometimes even more) because I automatically answer "Fine" or "I'm okay" whenever they ask me how I am. Ever since then, people were careful to really ask me that, and conversations usually start like this:
Friend: Hi Tinamats! How are you? Me: Hi! I'm okay. Friend: (pauses) Okay. Again. How are you? Me: (take a deep breath and tries to answer the question again)
It's a defense mechanism, I think. It's not that I'm never okay, or I lie at the first answer, but it's become such an instinct to just answer that I am okay, rather than explain why if I am not. Plus I always felt like if I open up and tell them exactly how I am, it's like I'm laying the burden on them. I figure I'd be of better help to them if I was okay, and I can listen to them better rather than give myself room to rant.
I'm happy to say that I am doing my best not to be that way anymore. Reading Happyface reminded me of those days, and I really empathized for Happyface in his plight. It's easy to think Happyface was just a shy, awkward kid who would rather spend time in front of the computer or at home with his comic books and sketch books. It's easier to think of that because I didn't think he's the kind of guy who has serious problems, because he was so cheerful all the time, even to himself, and this book was supposed to be his journal! But as the story went on, we find out what happened to Happyface and his family, why he moved in the first place and how he really, really felt (with some help from alcohol). It's sad, almost heartbreaking, and now I really understand the presence of the sad face.
Happyface is the dorky boy in school who you would never have a crush on, but would be really good friends with. He's the guy who'd draw stuff for you, join you in shopping and hand you a Christmas gift that he made himself, looking all awkward and blushing. He's the guy you will call when you're dating someone and you need someone to encourage you or tell you that everything will work out -- heck, he may even help you work things out with the guy. Happyface is the guy who is secretly in love with you, and you may never ever know because he's too shy to tell you about it.
Altogether now: awwwww. :(
I also love how refreshing a male point of view is in contemporary YA fiction. I am a girl and I appreciate it if I read a girl's story about life or love or whatever...but let's face it girls: we can be too whiny and we over think a lot. Happyface's voice is refreshing and funny, and it's a relief to read that guys can be awkward and dorky yet be totally sweet all at the same time.
Happyface is a fun yet painfully honest journal, not about self discovery, but realizing that everyone of us hides behind our own happy faces. It may not be like how Happyface hides behind his smiles -- we may hide behind what we wear, what we eat, what we do, who we date, how we act, but we all hide something, that we are afraid of others to see. Happyface the novel and the character teaches us that it's okay to (and I quote) "...allow myself to cry or sit by myself when I need to...and find things to really smile about..." after.
I recommend this book to anyone who's loved The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, or, if you haven't read that yet, those who can appreciate a good, non-paranormal YA story. My friend Aaron says this sounds similar to what John Green writes, and that I have yet to find out. I'm pretty sure girls will like this book (who doesn't like reading about sensitive, awkward and geeky guys? :P), but I'd recommend this book more to guys who may have been a Happyface at one point in their life.
Oh, and my favorite part of Happyface? This drawing. I really think I look like her when I don't dry my hair properly and when I wear my glasses. What do you think? :)
I'm a little bit OC when it comes to my reviewing order, and it's not often that I skip over some books I need to review...moreOriginal post at One More Page
I'm a little bit OC when it comes to my reviewing order, and it's not often that I skip over some books I need to review first to write one for another. Usually doing that means one of the following: I am in a hurry to post a review for the book for a deadline (doesn't usually happen), or I love the book so much that I just have to write a review about it immediately.
Such is Jellicoe Road, my second Melina Marchetta book. Ever since I finished and enjoyed Saving Francesca, I've been itching to read another Marchetta book to experience the goodness of her writing and the realness of her characters. But alas, I know I must pace myself because Jellicoe was the only other book I had of hers -- I still had to buy The Piper's Son and Looking for Alibrandi after Holy Week. After finishing two books from my Required Reading for April, I decided to reward myself with her book.
And man, was it such a good idea. I gobbled up Jellicoe Road so fast that I surprised myself. Jellicoe Road is the story of Taylor Markham, whose mom left her when she was 11, picked up shortly by Hannah. At fourteen, she ran away from her boarding school to look for her mom only to be found and brought back by a stranger. Now, she's almost eighteen, and she is the leader of their school's underground community that is neck deep in a territory war with the kids from Jellicoe town called Townies and a group of kids undergoing military training aptly named Cadets. Then Hannah disappears and it throws Taylor's life out of the loop. If it wasn't enough, the leader of the Cadets turn out to be Jonah Griggs, a guy from Taylor's past that she's trying hard to forget. Taylor's life unravels as she tries to cope with Hannah's disappearance, piecing together clues Hannah left and things her memory is trying to hide from her.
One word: wow. I was warned that this book would be an emotional ride, but I wasn't expecting that. It's really hard to describe the book without putting a spoiler, and the last thing you want to be with this book is to be spoiled. I've been warned that the first 100 pages or so of this book would be confusing, and indeed it was. For some people, this might be enough for them to stop reading and never revisit the book again, but trust me when I say this: don't. Keep on reading, and somewhere a few pages later, you'll find that this book had you in its grip and will refuse to let you go up until the last page.
Just like in Saving Francesca, Marchetta definitely had her way with the characters and how they interact here. I thought the book would just be about the territory wars, which kind of turns me off, but the author made that as interesting as figuring out Taylor's past. I loved the relationships that the characters formed in this book -- they all had history with each other, and even if I have equally awesome friends, this book made me crave the same history that Taylor wanted: "These people have history and I crave history. I crave someone knowing me so well that they can tell what I'm thinking." I loved how they all just formed this friendship without too much effort, and how some characters who come off as annoying at first become even a little bit endearing in the end.
But that plot -- oh that plot. When I got to my first "aha!" moment in the book, I just couldn't stop reading. I wanted to know what happens next and I want it now. At the same time, I also didn't want it to end. I just want to live in Jellicoe Road, if that was possible. I loved how everything tied up together at the end, and how the story kept on surprising me everyday. Even when I thought I had it all figured out, I was still surprised at the end, and I don't think I've ever read a book that did just that. When I was done with the book, I had an extreme desire to reread it all over again, if only to figure out what part I missed now that I knew how everything fits.
While I was going through the first part of the book, I wasn't really sure if I would like it as much as my other bookish friends did. When I closed the last page, I was sure that I had just as much love for this book as they do. Like what I tweeted, reading this book was like breaking my heart and then putting it back together again. It was that awesome. Jellicoe Road reminded me of why I love contemporary YA, and it definitely made me a fan of Melina Marchetta. :)
Read it, read it. Take your time with the start and be amazed at how Marchetta weaves a story so beautiful that it keeps a hold on you long after you have closed the book. ♥(less)
Unwind by Neal Shusterman is one of the books that I never thought I'd get. If I were just book shopping on a normal da...moreOriginal post at One More Page
Unwind by Neal Shusterman is one of the books that I never thought I'd get. If I were just book shopping on a normal day, I don't think I would have picked this book up. But if it wasn't for the Powerbooks sale and the fact that most of a lot of my Goodreads friends recommended (or in our terms, pushed) this book, I wouldn't have gotten it when I saw it.
The book is set some time in the future after the second Civil War, coined as the Heartland War. This war was started by a two opposing groups, the Pro-Life and Pro-Choice, who were only settled after the Bill of Life has been passed. This bill states that:
...human life may not be touched from the moment of conception until the child reaches the age of thirteen.
However, between the ages of thirteen and eighteen, a parent may choose to retroactively "abort a child" ...
...on the condition that the child's life doesn't "technically" end.
The process by which a child is both terminated and yet kept alive is called "unwinding."
I didn't really understand what unwinding was until I was a few pages into the book. Apparently, unwinding is the process where the child's organs and basically every part of him/her (blood, vocal chords, fingers, hands, feet, spine -- name a body part, they have it!) is harvested and stored for other people's use. Once a child reaches the age of 13, the parents have the prerogative to have them unwound. They just fill out a form, submit it and the kids get picked up for harvesting and they never have to see the kid again, and they can go on living their lives.
Except, how could they go on living their lives after doing something like that? I honestly don't know. It's a sick, sick world that our main characters Connor, Risa and Lev lives in. I find myself wrestling with that question and more as I read the novel, and I don't think I even have a final answer to those questions, too. The novel started out slow as the author set the stage for each of the character. For a moment, I was afraid it would be just like The Barcode Tattoobecause of the way it read at first, but I was glad when things started to pick up and the characters started to shine and the plot started moving.
There are a lot of characters in Unwind, but I was never really confused at any point in the story. Perhaps it's because the chapters are clearly labeled with whose point of view we are seeing, but I think it's also because the characters are well-made. There was never a black-and-white character there -- all of them had their different shades of gray. You can't expect the kids featured in the novel to be happy because their choices have just been taken away from them, and it was interesting to see what choices they made given their situations. Out of all characters, I was very interested in Lev's transformation -- from blind faith to darkness and to getting to the path to find his faith once again. I didn't like him at first, but his journey in the story was the one that touched me the most. Connor and Risa were equally interesting as well, and I liked that they were flawed characters that found their own paths and redemption in the end.
The story is also one huge ride. There's a certain realistic feel in the story as they often referred to something that exists in our present time. In a way, you'd think that this novel isn't set far into the future -- it could be set in the next thirty, twenty, ten, maybe even next year! There's a certain timelessness in the novel that I liked, timeless in the sense that even if I read this a couple of years later, I wouldn't feel like the story or the characters or scenes are dated. The author also executed the passing of time quite nicely, without boring the reader with unnecessary details just to show that time was passing.
I think one thing that those who haven't read this will ask about this book is its gore factor. Well there are no gory descriptions. But there is an overall haunting and disturbing feel once the actual harvesting was described, and it sits with you to ponder long after you've read that part. The words used to describe it were simple and not too scientific, and it really doesn't say much about body parts or pain or blood, but the author had a way of writing that scene that would make you imagine every part of it clearly in your head, and leave you wondering how could anyone subject a kid to something that horrific?
I can't imagine myself in their place. Heck, I refuse to imagine myself in their place because it's a horrible fate, no matter how much the law enforcers in the story tells me it's not. Unwind successfully opens the doors to different issues existing now that are hard to discuss without sparking a huge debate. It's not the kind of book you can really read simply for pleasure and to feel good. It lets you escape, sure, but it doesn't leave you with a happy feeling after because of the questions and issues it raises. There's so much that can be discussed after reading this book: pro-life vs. pro-choice, abortion, population control, organ donation, family, acceptance, terrorism and even religion. I don't think one can get everything in this book in just one read. I have a feeling this is one of those books that would leave the reader pondering different issues every re-read.
There are only a few instances when a book has left me speechless when I got to the end, and Unwind just joined its ranks. Good characters, compelling and thought-provoking plot, strong and hopeful ending -- I cannot recommend this enough.(less)
I can't remember the last time I read A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett, but I knew it's been a long time since I did so. It's one of the c...moreI can't remember the last time I read A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett, but I knew it's been a long time since I did so. It's one of the classics that I knew for sure I read multiple times and loved every single time I did. It wasn't until lately that I felt the need to read it again, perhaps to cleanse my palate from all the intense reads I've had lately.
For those unfamiliar, A Little Princess is the story of Sara Crewe (no h in the book), the daughter of rich, doting father, Captain Crewe, who is sent to Miss Minchin's Seminary for Girls to study. Miss Minchin secretly thinks that Sara is spoiled, despite her becoming the favorite pupil and classmate because of her intelligence and imagination. Sara befriends most of the students but becomes especially close to slow and pudgy Ermengarde, crybaby Lottie and scullery maid Becky. Other students call her Princess Sara after news of her father's investment on diamond mines spread, and while this embarrasses her at first, Sara learns to use this to remind herself to be compassionate to others.
Sara's lavish eleventh birthday party was abruptly put to a stop after the news of her father's death, leaving her orphaned and penniless, after his father's friend disappears with all their mone. Miss Minchin is forced to adopt her and she falls from being the show pupil to a drudge, helping Becky out in the kitchen and in various errands around the school. Sara makes use of her imagination, strength and compassion to get through the next three years as a servant, attempting to pretend her cold and hunger away, finding comfort from the few friends she had left, and doing her best to still act like a princess despite being a pauper.
Spoiler warning starts here.
I realize as I re-read this classic that I knew the story almost by heart. I remember all the characters around Sara -- Ermengarde, Lottie, Becky, Miss Minchin, Miss Amelia, Lavinia, even Melchisedec the rat and Emily the doll. My visualization of the characters are still the same as the cartoon, having watched them for years. There were a lot of differences from the cartoon and the book, of course, such as:
1. One of Sara's parties when Lavinia scares her horse 2. Lavinia's birthday party 3. Peter, Sara's horse guy, who becomes a chimney sweep and Sara's attempt at being one 4. Sara spends the night in the stable 5. The stable being on fire because of Lottie upsetting her jack-o-lantern after she was scared by Lavinia 6. Lavinia moving into Sara's old room and requesting her to be her personal maid
It kind of scares me that I remember so much detail in the old cartoon. But anyway, despite not having those juicier scenes, A Little Princess is still a beautiful classic story, one that every girl, no matter how old or young, should read. We could learn a lot from Sara, most especially compassion for others even if they do not deserve it. Her generosity is something to be admired, and the novel shows us that a little generosity can go a long way and can inspire other people to do the same (the particular scene where Sara gave five loaves of bread to a street urchin when she was just as hungry was very heartwarming).
When I was a kid, I used to wish I was Princess Sara because she was a pretty, well-liked girl, who manages to rise above her trials. Now that I'm years older -- and hopefully, wiser -- I still want to be like Princess Sara, but not for the same reasons. I want to be as compassionate, as imaginative, and as resilient as Sara Crewe, and be a princess in the way she thought a girl should be. :)(less)
I really wasn't planning to read this book, because despite the blue eyes that looked out at me on the cover, I felt tha...moreOriginal post at One More Page
I really wasn't planning to read this book, because despite the blue eyes that looked out at me on the cover, I felt that it wasn't something I would be interested in. Maybe it's because I just glaze over the summary, or maybe I thought it would be just like the other contemporary YA romances that I haven't felt like reading, lately. Maybe it reminded me too much of Gayle Forman's If I Stay, which I thought was a really good novel already, and I didn't want to read a book that seemed to be a copycat. Or, shallow as this may seem, I didn't want to read it because it's still in hardcover, and I'm not fond of hardcover books.
Regardless of my initial avoidance, I still ended up getting a sample of it from Amazon, and the sample kind of piqued my interest. Eventually, I got myself a copy and started reading, but I always put it off for some other book. It wasn't until last week that I started to really focus on the book, and even then, I wasn't sure if I would stick with it. The blurb pretty much tells it all: Sam Kingston is one of the popular girls in school, and she pretty much has a perfect life. February 12 is supposed to be one of the best days of her life, but the day goes horribly wrong at the end and Sam dies in a car crash. Although I was curious, it wasn't something I thought I need to read immediately. That changed when I reached the end of the first chapter, and then I knew I just had to read it until the end. Just read Sam's chilling words at the end of that chapter (Note: edited out some spoiler-y parts):
I know some of you are thinking maybe I deserved it...there are probably some of you who think I deserved it... -- because I wasn't going to save myself.
But before you start pointing fingers, let me ask you: is what I did really so bad? So bad I deserved to die? So bad I deserved to die like that?
Is what I did really so much worse than what anybody else does?
Is it really so much worse than what you do?
Think about it.
I had to pause my reading to really absorb that part, re-reading the previous parts to really get the impact of what Sam was asking me, as a reader before I continued to the next pages. You see, I couldn't really empathize with Sam because I never had first hand experience with the high school life and the cliques that this novel (or any other YA novel that is set in high school, for that matter). I studied in a very small high school, and I don't think these kinds of cliques are really present in high schools in my country, especially the small ones. Sure, there were groups -- or barkadas as we call it -- but there was never a "popular clique", the one that everyone fears, hates and worship at some level. That being said, I didn't like Sam and her friends immediately. I guess all those TV shows and novels where the popular clique is synonymous to the meanest people in the school, it was easy for me to put them into that label too. And in the first chapter, they really make it easy. Sam, Lindsay, Elody and Ally are the classic mean, popular girls that we all know. They were mean and self-centered. They picked on people in school that they don't like. They cheat on exams because they can and people are afraid of them. They worry more about their image rather than the other important things in life. They drank and smoked excessively, they didn't follow traffic rules, had sex with various people. They lied, they do things only for their own good, they made up rumors about other students and the others followed suit. They were just nasty people who I know I'd avoid if they studied in my high school.
But does she deserve to die that way? Does anyone deserve to die because they're mean and nasty, because they did something wrong, because they hurt other people, because they're not very likable? Borrowing Sam's words: is what these people did really worse than what anybody else does? Than what I do? Than what you do? Is it?
Needless to say, I gobbled up the book after that part. Sam lives through the same day over and over again for the next six days. Like anyone in caught in that situation, Sam freaked out and wondered if the previous day was a dream, a crazy deja vu. Then this freak out moment gave way to fear, and anger and reckless abandon, until she finally realized that there must be something she could do to change the outcome, to save herself and live in the end. As she learns more about the people around her, she realizes how much power she has, and what she has to do in order to make things right.
There is a particular haunting beauty in how the book was written and constructed. It can seem quite boring to think that the same day is going to be lived out in seven chapters, but Lauren Oliver managed to make each day different, depending on what Sam chooses to do. Even the smallest actions can change what happens in the day and have a different effect at the end -- chaos theory or butterfly effect, in short. I liked how there were so many outcomes in one day even with the smallest action that Sam does or doesn't do. I started to sympathize with Sam after the first chapter, and I had to resist the urge to check the last chapter to see what would happen to her in the end because I wanted to know if she will be able to get out of what seemed to be her personal hell.
Like everyone else who's read this, I didn't like Sam at first. But as I joined her in her journey in the next seven days, I find myself liking her not because she was popular or pretty or perfect, but because she was flawed, and very human. She was mean not because she wanted to be, but she felt she had to be in order to keep up with her image and to keep her friends. It's sad, but in a way I could sympathize with her because deep inside, Sam just felt very lost. It wasn't just Sam that shone in this novel, but her friends as well. Lauren Oliver wrote very credible characters with a heart. Sure, they were bitches, but as each repeating day, she reveals another layer of Sam and her friends, ones that reveal different weaknesses and vulnerabilities, showing that they were also just as imperfect as the people the other people. The author effectively managed to show that even if they are popular, they are really no different from the others who feared, hated or worshiped them. I also liked that the girls were true friends to each other, despite their bitchiness, and it was one of the reasons why I found myself tearing up at the end. They're not the type of girls who'd stab each other in the back, which is my impression of popular cliques -- they really and truly cared for each other, enough to forgive and excuse one another, and yes, even help them keep their own secrets.
This book dares to ask the question: what would you do if you know today is the last day you'll live? I know most of us will say that we'll find time to spend with our friends, families, loved ones and all that. Perhaps some of us may even find a way to be careful, to try to avoid anything that could lead to our death before the day ends. Honestly, I don't know what I'd do, or if I'd even want to know if it is my last day. I don't think I will be able to handle knowing that this is my last day or my last laugh, or last hang out with my friends or last dinner with my family (I'd say last kiss, but then I realized that I haven't even been kissed yet, so thinking about my last day without being kissed feels a bit...well, sad. ^^ But I digress). Will I be able to let go and say goodbye? I agree with what Sam said in the book:
...I'm guessing it's like that for most things in life -- the last kiss, the last laugh, the last cup of coffee, the last sunset, the last time you jump through a sprinkler or eat an ice cream cone, or stick your tongue out to catch a snowflake. You just don't know.
But I think that's a good thing, really, because if you did know, it would be almost impossible to let go. When you do know, it's like being asked to step off the edge of a cliff: all you want to do is to get down on your hands and knees and kiss the solid ground, smell it, hold on to it.
I guess that's what saying goodbye is always like -- like jumping off an edge. The worst part is making the choice to do it. Once you're in the air, there's nothing you can do to let it go.
So what happens to Sam in the end? Did she manage to change everything? Well, I'll leave it up to you to find out.
This is probably one of the hardest reviews I've ever written, because I wanted to give justice to this book that left me thinking and even dreaming about the ending after I finished it. Before I Fall is thought provoking, beautiful, and stunning debut from Lauren Oliver, definitely one of my best reads for 2010.(less)
I've heard a lot of good reviews for this book from various book blogs and book friends, but I never picked it up becaus...moreOriginal post at One More Page
I've heard a lot of good reviews for this book from various book blogs and book friends, but I never picked it up because I wasn't into dystopia back then. In fact, I saw a copy of this book a couple of times in Fully Booked but I always ignored it. No time to read it, I always think.
After some really strong recommendations, I finally got a sample from Amazon and read the first few pages, thinking that if I really want it, I can always get the Kindle edition. But as I read on, I knew only one thing: I MUST HAVE THIS BOOK. Not the ebook, but the actual print book, because there are parts of the book that just looks better in print. Unfortunately, on the day I decided I wanted the book, the only copy in the Fully Booked branch nearest my office was gone. :( My friend Jana, who also wanted the book, got to the last copy first, so I would have to wait. *grumble* Thanks to the wonderful people of Fully Booked, though, for transferring a copy to Eastwood a week after I inquired to them about it. Of course, I wasn't able to read this immediately, and it wasn't until about a month from when I got this that I got to read it.
You can never go wrong with a book that starts with a talking dog, especially one that says, "Poo, poo." The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness starts this way:
The first thing you find out when yer dog learns to talk is that dogs don't got nothing much to say. About anything.
"Need a poo, Todd."
I must do a Russell from Up impression here: "BUT IT'S A TALKING DOG!" :) From that moment on, I knew that even if I didn't like the book in the end, I'd still be fond of the talking dog.
I really wasn't sure what to expect as I read this book because I stayed away from as many spoilers as possible, so I plunged into the book knowing only the basic stuff: Todd is the last boy in Prentisstown, where only men live and everyone can hear the other person's thoughts. Then he discovers a "hole" in the noise, complete silence that is impossible in the world he grew up in. Todd is then made to run far, far away from Prentisstown for reasons he couldn't understand, which leads to a chase to a world outside he thought never existed.
It took me a while to really get into the book, despite the talking dog, because of the way Todd talks. The Knife of Never Letting Go is written in Todd's point of view, and growing up in the New World has given Todd a different way of talking, which may be because of the deterioration of education in Prentisstown since the boys don't go to school nor read. Most of narration becomes Todd's actual thoughts, most of which spill over each other and sometimes goes on and on without periods that I ran out of breath while reading it even if I was doing so silently. The language is reminiscent of The Strawberry Girl by Lois Lenski, but more rough and raw as I wasn't just seeing things happen, but feeling them since I had access to Todd's thoughts (and whoever's Noise he can hear). It took me a while to get the hang of it, but when I did, the book gripped me and refused to let go.
Patrick Ness is one heck of a writer, and I admire him for never being afraid of hurting his characters. As a (wannabe) novelist, I always have problems with hurting my characters because they've grown close to my heart as I write them, and hurting them feels like I'm hurting myself. If you're that type of reader who grows attached to characters they read and hate it when they get hurt...well, be prepared because Ness can be pretty ruthless. I always get a sense of dread whenever Todd would end up content and somewhat happy in one place because I know the author is just preparing to bring out another big gun that would send Todd and his companions running. It's not bad, of course, but rather very effective because it kept me reading, rooting for Todd and wanting him to win it in the very end. The action scenes were satisfying, the running and the panic felt very real, and Ness kept the mystery of Todd's history kept very well up until the revelation point, and he didn't reveal everything so much that all questions were answered.
It's not just senseless action or violence, either. Every action and everything that Todd does has a bearing in the end, one that helped him grow as needed at the climax of the novel. Todd's realizations is not only applicable in his world, but also in our world and in how we strive to get something we want or to be someone we want to be. I find this quote from the book very true (emphasis mine, and don't worry, no spoilers):
"Here's what I think," I say and my voice is stronger and thoughts are coming, thoughts that trickle into my noise like whispers of truth.
"I think maybe everybody falls," I say. "I think maybe we all do. And I don't think that's the asking...I think the asking is whether we get back up again."
The Knife of Never Letting Go truly lives up to its hype. I'm lucky that I read this now because I don't think I could have waited so long to read the next book because the ending is just...well, I'd leave it to you to find out. And I must warn you as well: there may be a part when you'd want to stop reading the book and mull over what happened a bit, and maybe even shed a few tears. I did that. :P
I can't wait to start reading the next book, The Ask and the Answer, which I am reserving for the YA-D2 reading challenge. The Knife of Never Letting Go is a dark, fast-paced and action-packed dystopian novel that will surely have you at the edge of your seat. If you see this in the bookstore, don't think twice: just get it and read. I promise you won't regret it.(less)
Reread it in preparation for Deadline. I still loved it, it was still as awesome as the first time. But I tell you -- it kind of sucks when you know w...moreReread it in preparation for Deadline. I still loved it, it was still as awesome as the first time. But I tell you -- it kind of sucks when you know what will happen and you can't do anything to stop it. My heart broke again. 3
If you have a copy of this book and you haven't read it yet...well, why haven't you?!READ IT.
It was a normal afternoon at work. My colleagues and I were preparing to attend a required meeting when the boys started discussing their last Left 4 Dead 2 gaming session. I listened to them talk about how hard it was to get through whatever level they were in and how they blasted the zombies in the game, then I interrupted them with a question: “What if a zombie apocalypse actually happens?”
That simple question started a string of discussions about what could happen if zombies actually walk among us, hungry for our brains. We talked about the zombie apocalypse at length and what we would do: where to hide, how to kill zombies effectively, what weapons to use given our location, how to survive, even what to do if one of us were to get infected. Answers drew from sources of zombie wisdom ranging from movies like Zombieland to games like Resident Evil and even Plants vs. Zombies, all discussed with absolute seriousness, as if a zombie invasion was a real possibility.
Spoiler Warning (Nothing major, and the ending remains unspoiled.)
In Mira Grant’s Feed, the first book in the Newsflesh trilogy, zombies have become a part of the normal everyday existence. In 2014, cures for the common cold and for cancer were developed, from modifying strains of rhinovirus and filovirus, respectively. These cures were made to attack the original virus and cells that caused the sickness, and then lie dormant in the system until the illness threatened to come back again. It was a joyful breakthrough in the field of medicine, but the scientists couldn't have known was that the combination of these two cures would form an airborne virus that could raise the dead. No one knew when that first mutation occurred, but the new virus spread quickly and soon everyone had acquired it, the virus waiting to be amplified through death or direct fluid contact with any of the infected.
More than two decades later, the virus, dubbed as Kellis-Amberlee remains a threat. Instead of the virus wiping out the entire human population, humans have managed to push back with help from the bloggers who first spread the news of what they call as “The Rising.” While traditional media were hesitant to warn the people of the threat because of government ties and a general policy of denial, bloggers fearlessly reported the news in all parts of the world, sometimes even risking their lives to get the story, and this helped people survive.
Georgia Mason is one of those bloggers. Together with her brother Shaun, and their friend Buffy, they form the main team of news blog "After the End Times." Georgia is a Newsie, a stick-to-the-facts news reporter who believes that everyone deserves to know the truth and nothing but. Shaun, an Irwin (named after the late Steve Irwin), enjoys poking zombies with sticks and chasing them around on camera, and Buffy is a Fictional, providing poetry and stories for their site while double-hatting as their all-around tech girl. The three were selected to join the young Republican Senator Peter Ryman on his presidential campaign, a first in the history of all campaigns since the Rising. Ryman remembered being betrayed by the news because they didn’t do enough to warn the people of the zombie threat, and so he wanted to give bloggers equal standing in his campaign, as a way to thank them. In a career where ratings are everything, this opportunity was the team’s big break, and Georgia, Shaun, and Buffy became instant celebrities in the blogosphere. Just as they were starting to get used to their newfound popularity, the campaign and the Senator's family are attacked. Georgia and her team digs deeper, and soon realize the scale of the conspiracy behind the attacks. Georgia and her team stick to their guns – literally and figuratively – and vow to let the people know the truth, despite the risks.
Feed first caught my eye because of the RSS logo on the cover, done in blood. When you’ve been blogging for so long, it’s hard to miss it when something so familiar is reimagined. When I found out it was about zombies, I couldn’t help but exclaim, “Oh cool!” I’m not really a fan of horror, but I sort of grew up with zombies--er, figuratively speaking. I can still remember the first time I watched my brother play Resident Evil 1, and the horror I felt when I saw the first zombie sequence in the game. After that, I started to have this weird fascination for zombies, and I couldn’t stop watching my brother play the game. I love playing House of the Dead and Plants vs. Zombies whenever I get the chance, and while I never got to watch Night of the Living Dead or other zombie movies (it’s either I’m too chicken to do so, or I just don’t have the time), I’ve watched all Resident Evil movies at least twice. While I've never had the chance use them in any of my novels because of my chosen genre, zombies are also a popular plot device during National Novel Writing Month, and they always come up during plotting exercises. So when I found out about Feed, I knew I just had to have it -- so much that I got myself a Kindle app in my iPod and bought the book since local bookstores don’t carry it yet. Bloggers, a presidential campaign and zombies? I'm in!
Overall, the novel had a video game/movie feel. It’s told from Georgia’s point of view for most of the novel, with blog entries and quotes in between chapters to show her brother’s point of view. Being a Newsie, Georgia loves the facts, and she tells the facts straight out. The post-apocalyptic zombie world was described in so much detail that I felt like I too lived in their world. The level of detail ensured that there was never a “huh?” moment in the book. While this did result in a certain amount of wordiness, I didn’t mind, but other people may – the actual book is 600 pages long, and that can be intimidating. The author, however, makes use of a lot of pop culture references that make it easy for people from our generation to read it. From the names (George as in Romero, Shaun from Shaun of the Dead and Buffy as in the Vampire Slayer), to references to reality TV, social networking and of course, blogging, my inner geek was overjoyed because I could relate. For non-techie readers, worry not: Georgia doesn't delve too much into the actual technical aspects of their systems, so any technical talk stops before it gets too complicated, but there’s enough for the readers to know that they have really cool equipment.
Wordiness aside, Feed was actually quite...well, awesome. It’s a political thriller written over a horror backdrop, where the presence of the zombies was used to compare how the living can still do more damage than the undead. There were only a handful of zombie encounters in the entire novel, but each of the situations felt so real, that it gave the impression that the zombies were everywhere. Mira Grant allows the readers to think that everything is going fine…and then throws a huge curve ball that changes the game. It’s a thrill ride in 600 pages: I was intrigued, elated, shocked, horrified and most of all heartbroken all throughout the story, and…for me, that's what makes a story awesome.
Georgia, Shaun, Buffy and the rest of the characters were a treat to read. I never had a problem distinguishing one voice from another, and even the minor characters have their own quirks to make them memorable. I liked Georgia and Shaun’s relationship as siblings, having each other's back until the end. My favorite character in this book is Buffy, though, and I liked that their fiction department head was also their all-around tech girl. Who says tech-geeks can’t be writers?
My only peeve in the cast of characters in Feed is the villain. I don’t know if years of watching crime shows has made me sharper at figuring out whodunit, or if the villain was really just a stereotypical bad guy, but it was easy to guess who it was. There was little flair in how the bad guy was defeated, too – it would have been more exciting if there was a bigger showdown at the end.
The conclusion, however, was definitely surprising, and quite heartbreaking. It took awhile for me to shake my sense of disbelief over what happened, and I admit: tears were shed. No major spoilers but let me say this: I have never read a novel that ended in this way.
Feed gives us a glimpse of how people in the media live, whether they work in traditional or new media. We’re no strangers to journalists being killed in the field, and Mira Grant effectively shows us how much these people risk their lives just to give us the truth. The people always have the right to know. After all, the truth can set people free. Georgia hit the nail on the head with this line from her blog:
The truth is only scary when you think part of it might be missing…if we didn’t have to fear the truths we didn’t hear, we’d lose the need to fear the ones we did.
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 relate...moreFairy 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. :) (less)
I'm a big reader (obviously), but there are certain books that I can say are my absolute favorites, ones that I would wi...moreOriginal post at One More Page
I'm a big reader (obviously), but there are certain books that I can say are my absolute favorites, ones that I would willingly read over and over again and bring with me to a deserted island, if given a choice. Some of them are This Present Darkness by Frank Peretti, The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen and probably Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.
I'm happy to say that North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley just joined their ranks. :)
In this day and age, media plays a heavy influence in how one views beauty: one must be tall, thin, have straight hair, blemish-free and white skin. If you fail to meet any of these requirements, then sorry, you can't be beautiful. A lot of girls suffer from low self-esteem back then, including me. I never really talked about it and I covered everything with laughter, but deep inside, I didn't feel beautiful at all. Every other girl I know seems to be more beautiful than I am, and I feel like being beautiful is a long shot.
That was how Terra felt, even if she possessed great body and great hair and the smarts to finish high school a year early. Despite all of these, Terra never thought of herself as beautiful because of one flaw: the port-wine birthmark the shape of Bhutan on her face. All she wanted to do was get out of the small town and make her own map at a faraway college -- far away from the people who know her, especially far away from the control of her father, a disgraced cartographer.
Now if you'll think about it, the search for true beauty is not a new story line. Other books might have mentioned it, had a story about it, but I think the beauty of North of Beautiful is that it really tackled the issue head on. Although Terra never called herself ugly outright, she admits to hiding behind a mask and falling under everyone's expectations of her. She craved control, so she set out on a plan to follow her older brother's footsteps and to be finally free of everything in her life. Of course, all her plans change when life throws her all kinds of things -- like getting into a car crash, for instance -- but that is really where her journey started.
This is another book with very strong characters, all of them somehow making a mark in me as I read it. Strong characters are easier to identify with, and could make even the most cliched story somehow work. They all had unique voices, and I can actually imagine them in the small town of Colville: from Terra's dad and his condescending comments to Terra's mom's timidity to Jacob's easy smile and funny quips. I don't think I've ever seen a more effective antagonist who uses words to abuse other people -- I mean seriously, Terra's dad definitely takes the cake. I can't remember how many times I willed for Terra and her family to stand up to their dad on the first parts of the book! The attraction between Terra and Jacob felt real, too, and not rushed. The author certainly took her time in building their relationship, which I really appreciated, and when the fallout came? Oh dear, my heart went out to both and I almost wished that the little complication didn't happen at all. Even Susannah, Terra's aunt, who passed away before the story started, made her presence felt in the story.
A lot of other interesting concepts were discussed too, especially the ones related to cartography, since it was Terra's dad's occupation. Other than Colville and a bit of Seattle, I was also brought to China, making me want to see the sites that they visited there. The concept of geocaching was also explored, which is kind of like a more high-tech type of treasure hunt. Definitely something a geek would like. ;)
And the book's ending? Totally satisfying. :)
North of Beautiful is a wonderful book, and I'm really glad I had the impulse to buy it. :) It's definitely something I recommend, especially for girls, to remind us all of what true beauty is really all about.
I leave you with this quote from the book:
Let the glossy spreads have their heart-stopping, head-turning kind of beauty. Give me the heart-filling beauty instead. Jolie laide, that's what I would choose. Flawed, we're truly interesting, truly memorable, and yes, truly beautiful.
There are certain books that can wait before you actually crack its pages. They’re the types of books that you want, but are in no hurry to read, so they sit pretty on your shelf, waiting to be picked once you’re finished with what you’re reading, or once you feel like reading them. They wait patiently for you, never complaining, never taunting you to read the last few pages to see what would happen in the end, and it can wait for a long time before you actually read it without complaints.
This book wasn’t one of them.
When I read the first book of the It’s All About Us series for the first time, I wasn’t really pleased with it. I liked it, yes, but I didn’t feel like it was a favorite because I couldn’t really relate to it, and all the name and brand dropping kind of got to me. I mean, the characters were Christian; why are they spouting off brands and such? Don’t they have better things to do than concentrate on designer brands or something?
I could have given up on the series then, but I have this obsessive thing on finishing what I started, so when the next few books came out, I got them and read them. Slowly, I started to fall in love with the characters and understand where they were coming from, even if I couldn’t relate too much. I found myself rooting for them, and even if I don’t really wish for the kind of life they have, I wished to find friends like Lissa, Gillian, Carly, Shanni and Mac — friends who would stick by you through and through and pray with you and be there for you like real God-given friends are.
I have to remember that these books were written to cater to a specific kind of group: the Gossip Girl/insert book series name here generation. I like watching Gossip Girl on TV, but I never picked up any of their books because I never felt interested in it. A friend told me they’re good, but they were kind of scandalous, especially for the audience it was written for. The It’s All About Us series counters that, and shows us that girls can love God and still have fun. The books focus on the real important things: friendship, love, family, following God’s will and growing in God’s love. It’s like a breath of fresh air for all young adult books, and it’s something that parents wouldn’t be afraid to let their daughters read. :)
I’m blabbing about that because I’m trying to avoid spoilers for this book. I got this book yesterday, and I was trying to resist reading the book because I told myself I’d finish Persuasion first. I failed miserably, picked the book up last night and read it until way past my bed time, and it was so worth it. I slept with a huge smile on my face knowing that was the ending, and even if I wanted a bit more, I’m okay with how this series ended. I really liked Lissa in this book, much more than I did in the first book. I like how she had matured from the girl who wanted to be popular to a girl who loves her God and her friends and is happy with that. I like the other conflicts in the story, too, and it was nice to see more of Vanessa even if I don’t know what else will happen to her. It was really nice to read more of Kaz, too, and I wouldn’t mind having a best friend like that. :) I just kind of feel off about how Lissa was depicted in the cover — I don’t know if it’s just me, but Lissa there (the blonde) looked a bit too old to be the Lissa I imagined. Carly (I think it’s her, the one on the right), looks gorgeous though. :)
What I love about the entire series is it never really wraps up everything nicely — the consequences of their actions are still there and they can’t turn back from their mistakes. They just have to learn to forgive themselves and others and ask forgiveness and trust that God knows what He’s doing. It doesn’t sugarcoat any of the issues, but instead connects it with practical lessons and teachings that could be applied in everyday life.
If you haven’t read the series yet, I recommend that you start with the first book because it’s really where the story started, and this book concludes the series in a really romantic and satisfying way. :) No regrets in buying this yesterday or staying up late to read this. I’m going to miss the girls, but I’m happy to know I can always visit them on my bookshelf.(less)
I often rely on blog reviews whenever I’m getting a new book from an author that I don’t know. Okay, usually, I rely on covers (shallow, I know), but...moreI often rely on blog reviews whenever I’m getting a new book from an author that I don’t know. Okay, usually, I rely on covers (shallow, I know), but that only works whenever the book is anything in the realistic genre.
So one day, I was browsing through one of the new favorite YA book blog sites I started reading lately, Persnickety Snark, and saw her review for Fire by Kristin Cashore. Back then, I was looking for fantasy books to read to start my fantasy reading resolution, and I added Fire and Graceling (the companion book) to my mental list. That same afternoon, my friends and I found the latter book, but my friend bought it, so I told myself I’d buy it when 2010 comes in.
A few days before Christmas, I was feeling a bit restless and felt the need to buy a new book, regardless of how many other books I still have lying unread at home (we have that day, right? :P ). I wanted to get Graceling, too, but instead found Fire, and went home with it despite my complaining wallet. :)
To put it simply, Fire was one of those books that I’m glad I bought on an impulse. It was one of those books that I couldn’t put down but I don’t want to rush reading simply because I didn’t want to leave the Dells too soon. I started reading this after Christmas and finished up until after New Year, which is already long for a book that I really loved.
So what did I really love about this book? Let’s see:
1. Characters. I’m a sucker for strong characters. I love it when the characters in a book all leave imprints in me, and that their voice are so distinct that I could tell who was speaking even without the identifiers in the text. Fire, as a protagonist, is a well-developed character, with her physical beauty that could make her own anything she wants and her compassion for the people around her that makes her not like a monster. Even her guard Musa was a real person to me, and she was just a minor character. Every character in this book is crafted so carefully and splendidly that I felt that I was inside the story, like I was one of the people who actually got to know Fire as a person and not a monster. 2. Plot. Fire isn’t the type of book that will make you keep on turning the pages. True, the story is captivating, but the story flows steadily, no actual highs or lows or quick action/battle parts that other novels have. It’s not that there’s no climax in this book — not like some other book I know hmph — it had one, but it didn’t consist of pages and pages of descriptions about the climax. The story flowed steadily. Every part of the novel was significant, and after a while, you’ll see the connection with all the little things mentioned in the previous pages. I don’t know about others, but I liked that. Why put a part in the story if it doesn’t have any significance, right? 3. Concept. I mean, human monsters who can make you do anything? Monsters that will eat monsters and if they don’t get that, they can make other creatures with brains go out and convince them to be eaten? How can people come up of these kinds of stories?!
So I’m glad I went on an impulse and bought Fire. It’s the companion book for Graceling, which means I kind of know some of the characters in Graceling already because of that, but it’s okay, I think. :D This is definitely one of the best books I’ve read in 2010.(less)
It took me a while to really get into this book. I admit the first few pages kind of made my head hurt...more**spoiler alert** Original post at One More Page
It took me a while to really get into this book. I admit the first few pages kind of made my head hurt, because I couldn't get into the language. But once Anne Elliot finally showed herself in the book, I started getting comfortable and I actually started liking it. A lot.
I think the thing that really struck me here was Anne Elliot herself. I loved Elizabeth Bennet in P&P, but I realized how much I loved Anne more in this novel. Elizabeth was a feisty and strong-headed woman, someone who you'd want to have as a friend. Anne was someone who I want to be. She's emotionally mature, with the way she deals with her family and her emotions especially with Captain Wentworth. She knows when to speak up and when to let it be. She keeps her appointments despite what other people say, and she has her mind and heart in the right place. It was sad that she's such a social outcast in her family, but I think that gave her the character that made her so lovable.
Who wouldn't want to be her, seriously?
Other than Anne, the story captivated me. This is like, the foundation of all "almost-unrequited-love" stories. I felt Anne's pain when Captain Wentworth was too formal with her and she realized that it was better if he just ignored her, as quoted below:
Once, too, he spoke to her. She had left the instrument on the dancing being over, and he had sat down to try to make out an air which he wished to give the Miss Musgroves an idea of. Unintentionally she returned to that part of the room; he saw her, and, instantly rising, said, with studied politeness—
"I beg your pardon, madam, this is your seat;" and though she immediately drew back with a decided negative, he was not to be induced to sit down again.
Anne did not wish for more of such looks and speeches. His cold politeness, his ceremonious grace, were worse than anything.
I also felt her sadness when she thought that his friends could have been her friends if they had pushed through with the engagement. I felt her slight joy when she saw him give her a glance that wasn't cold. I felt her excitement when she learned that Captain Wentworth was "available". I smiled when he assisted her with Mary's child. I felt surprised when she learned that he was jealous for her attention. And I was smiling like an idiot when I read his letter to her:
I can listen no longer in silence. I must speak to you by such means as are within my reach. You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever. I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own than when you almost broke it, eight years and a half ago. Dare not say that man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you. Unjust I may have been, weak and resentful I have been, but never inconstant. You alone have brought me to Bath. For you alone, I think and plan. Have you not seen this? Can you fail to have understood my wishes? I had not waited even these ten days, could I have read your feelings, as I think you must have penetrated mine. I can hardly write. I am every instant hearing something which overpowers me. You sink your voice, but I can distinguish the tones of that voice when they would be lost on others. Too good, too excellent creature! You do us justice, indeed. You do believe that there is true attachment and constancy among men.
How can you not love this book?
I'm so glad I read this. :) It would take a while for me to get over this, and now I can say that Captain Wentworth is one of my book crushes, along with Wes Baker and Fitzwilliam Darcy. :P(less)
Note: This is a very late review, I know. This was meant to be posted at Pinoy Pop, but because of some events, I'll jus...moreOriginal post at One More Page
Note: This is a very late review, I know. This was meant to be posted at Pinoy Pop, but because of some events, I'll just post it here. Plus I need to have this up before I finally write my Mockingjay review. So...yay, finally this is up. This review is written without much references to Mockingjay so let's assume I don't know how the trilogy ends as you read this review. :)
Whenever the word sequel comes to mind, I know a lot of people often cringe. More often than not, people only have one question about sequels: how will it measure up? Sequels – be it in books or movies – are either a hit-or-miss, usually because of the high expectations set by its predecessor. Will the sequel live up to the fans’ expectations? Will it be everything that we loved in it and more? Or will it just disappoint?
Catching Fireby Suzanne Collins is one of those sequels. Released a year after The Hunger Games, Catching Fire was one of the most anticipated books to be released in 2009. While other fans who got the first book when it was released had to wait a year before they got to read it, I was lucky enough to be able to get a copy of Catching Fire at the same time that I got The Hunger Games. Call me a late bloomer, I guess, but it was a blessing in disguise because even if the first book didn’t end with a huge cliffhanger, the waiting time was reduced and I could just get into the action immediately.
If you haven’t read The Hunger Games, then this spoiler warning is for you. Catching Fire starts with the heroine Katniss Everdeen preparing for the Victory Tour with her fellow tribute Peeta Mellark after winning the 74th Hunger Games. Katniss thought winning the games would bring her life back to normal, but instead, it changed everything: Peeta remains cold to her after he found out that Katniss was just playing their romance for show, and her best friend Gale is aloof with her for reasons he knows why. Unknown to Katniss but revealed soon after, her final act at the Hunger Games that meant to save herself and Peeta has fueled the unrest in the other districts, and these rebels have made Katniss the symbol of their rebellion. Just in time for all this unrest is the 75th Hunger Games that is also the Quarter Quell: the rules of the games are changed, raising the stakes higher to remind Panem – and ultimately, Katniss – that the Capitol still owns them, no matter what.
I really didn’t have much doubt that Collins would deliver a great sequel, especially after some of my bookish friends have praised Catching Fire, but I tried to keep my expectations down as I read the book. I think that might have helped because, personally, I thought Catching Fire was all kinds of awesome. Katniss is back, and she was still as great as she was in the first book, fighting against fear and the people that threatened the safety of her family and friends. I liked Katniss more in The Hunger Games, but the sequel shows us a different side of Katniss now that she is thrown into a situation she did not expect would happen if she won the Games in the last book. Her confusion and fear is palpable, and I liked all the moments when she found strength somewhere in her to protect the ones she loves. It's almost like a maternal instinct, which I wouldn't doubt if it is given that she practically raised her family after her dad died. Katniss is still surly and not too charming here despite how she was being packaged to Panem, but she is still that same protagonist that fans of the first book would definitely root for.
This book also gave us more of a glimpse of the people around Katniss, particularly the two guys in her life, Peeta and Gale. In Hunger Games, there was more screen time for Peeta that people tend to gravitate to him instead of Gale. In the sequel, Peeta still gets more screen time but we get to see more of Gale, as much as Katniss sees him, anyway. Here we see and understand a bit more of Katniss and Gale's relationship, as well how Katniss depends on Gale. It's kind of hard to read Gale here at first, but we get a glimpse of how he has been hardened by what he has went through, and even more after what his best friend (and love, perhaps) has gone through. Peeta, on the other hand, really becomes the golden boy here, by the way he manages the pressure and invisible (at least to him in the early story) threat to Katniss. Later, he becomes the "most" protected, which puts him more on spotlight -- again. No wonder more people liked Peeta. :P These two boys provide good contrast over Katniss’ character in the story, and set the dynamics of their relationships is what set the scene in Catching Fire. These boys aren’t perfect, which is a breath of fresh air from all the seemingly perfect YA male leads.
The Peeta-Katniss-Gale love triangle is also one of the big ones that divided the fans into separate teams, akin to -- yes, I dare mention it -- Stephenie Meyer's Twilight saga. Personally, I didn’t make a choice between the two. I like Peeta, but I’m (always) very partial to the best friend. In the end, though, I didn't really care who Katniss would choose, if she will choose. I felt like Katniss doesn’t feel the need to make a choice here. I don’t think she even really understood the weight of the affections of the two guys had for her, which can be frustrating to read, especially since she kept on swinging from one to another. I agree with Adele: Katniss can very well make a choice, but the thing is, will she? Can she make a choice? Does she have enough strength to choose one and let go of the other? Or will she just let romance go altogether? In a way, I can sort of understand Katniss' indecision. More often than not, it's easier to just not make a decision than decide and think of the what-ifs after the choice has been made. I'm pretty sure that is going on in Katniss' mind, and it didn't help that the Capitol is making it hard for her. Talk about really making it hard for her. Love is already hard, and life in Panem for Katniss just makes it harder. :P
But I think the real star of this novel in my opinion is not Katniss or Peeta or Gale, but the Capitol. All throughout the novel, I was trying to think of a justification why the Hunger Games was happening, specifically, why there was a need for a Quarter Quell. I know it’s already been introduced in the first novel, but the cruelty of the Quarter Quell just seemed too senseless that there has to be some kind of good reason why they had to do it. Perhaps I was just being naïve, but I wanted to find something good in the Capitol, to give some kind of justification for this...horror. But as I continued reading, I am always struck by how evil they really were, how senseless the games really were. This realization made me not only really hate the Capitol (and President Snow as the face of the Capitol) but also understand what The Book Smugglers said about dystopian novels having one unifying factor: the Truly Villainous Government. Think your government is bad? Wait till you live in Panem.
True to its title, Catching Fire is a fiery read. I think this may be the first time that I have loved the sequel more than I loved the first book. Re-reading it in preparation for Mockingjay didn’t change my initial opinions of it – in fact, it was even better the second time around. Catching Fire is truly a heart-pounding, explosive, adrenaline-inducing, page-turning read. Definitely my favorite among the three books. :)(less)
I was never a fan of dystopian or post-apocalyptic literature. The thought of reading a book where the world I know has been d...moreFull review at Pinoy Pop
I was never a fan of dystopian or post-apocalyptic literature. The thought of reading a book where the world I know has been destroyed by natural or human forces (or both), or one ruled over by oppressive totalitarian government is depressing. With all the bad news on TV and in the papers, I don’t need to escape to another reality that pains an even bleaker picture of the future. So when I first heard of The Hunger Gamesby Suzanne Collins from a fellow Filipino book blogger, I just skimmed over her review. Kids killing other kids--dystopia and gore? No, thanks.
Then, at last year's Manila International Book Fair last year, I stopped at the central display of National Bookstore. There was a huge display for The Hunger Games and its sequel, Catching Fire, and a TV interview of Suzanne Collins playing on loop. The lady beside me was so enthusiastic about the books and, not wanting to waste my trip to the fair, I ended up getting both books despite my apprehension. Book-wise, that choice was probably the best I made last year.
The Hunger Games is set in the future in a nation called Panem, formerly known as North America, before a series of disasters decimated the once successful nation. Panem is ruled by the Capitol and divided into thirteen districts, each with a specific industry that sates the Capitol's lavish needs. Seventy-four years ago, the thirteen districts revolted against the Capitol but were defeated. To prevent further uprisings, the surviving 12 districts were punished through the annual Hunger Games: each district provides “tributes” -- a boy and a girl between the age of 12 and 18 -- through a lottery called “reaping.” The tributes, after much pomp and ceremony, are sent to the Hunger Games arena where they are made to fight each other to the death in a televised extravaganza, until only one remains. The last remaining survivor is declared winner, ensuring that his/her family and neighbors will have enough food for the rest of the year.
We meet the heroine, sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, on the morning before the reaping, with her best friend Gale, in the woods outside of District 12. In the course of the first few pages of the book, we learn a lot about her family background, her role as provider for her family, and the fact that her entire existence revolves around keeping her sister, Prim, safe. When Prim's name is drawn in the reaping, Katniss volunteers in her stead, knowing that her decision likely means her death.
Katniss has to compete not only against tributes from the richer districts, many of whom have been training to participate in the Hunger Games all their lives, but with Peeta Mellark, a young man she has a history with. As the Games go on and the tributes fall one by one, Katniss has to draw both on her learned skills and rock-hard determination not only to survive, but to make the hard decisions necessary to make it back to her family.
The premise may seem a bit complicated, but Collins weaves it into the story in a manner that makes it comprehensible and unobtrusive, as readers are plunged right into the action. The first thing readers will notice in The Hunger Games is the solid world building. Panem, the Capitol and its Districts, were described in such a matter-of-fact tone and detail that it felt real. It wasn’t exactly the numerous details that made the world so convincing, but the way that Panem was portrayed not just as a place, but as a living, breathing character in the novel. The contrast between the rich Capitol and poor District 12 was stark, and disturbingly familiar, almost a mirror to the societal division between the rich and the poor here in the Philippines. Click here to read the rest of the review.(less)
I have had Tosca's book on my TBR shelf since 2009, and I meant to read it soon after I finished reading her other novel...moreOriginal post at One More Page
I have had Tosca's book on my TBR shelf since 2009, and I meant to read it soon after I finished reading her other novel, Demon: A Memoir. Somehow, this book got pushed farther and farther down Mt. TBR until I almost forgot about having it. It wasn't until I was thinking of a good book to start 2011 with that I remembered having this one, so I dug it up from my books, and cracked the book open again come 1st of January.
Around October last year, some of my Goodreads friends started a year-long reading challenge to read the Bible in its entirety. I have tried reading the Bible from cover to cover back in college but I failed miserably when I got to Chronicles. When I heard of the challenge in the group, the challenge addict in me jumped in, choosing to read The Message translation of the Bible for easier reading. The thing with reading the Bible is it's so easy to be disenchanted with the stories there, especially if you've heard the stories in it over and over, particularly in Genesis. What else there is to read about Adam and Eve anyway? They were created, they lived in God's presence, then Eve got tempted and got Adam in with her. They were banished from the garden, they had kids, and then the world started with them. Not that interesting, right?
They say familiarity breeds contempt, and I guess that has happened to me in the case of Genesis. Tosca Lee breathes life into the story of creation, particularly with the first woman ever created in Havah.
I have seen paradise and ruin. I have known bliss and terror.
I have walked with God.
And I know that God made the hart the most fragile and resilient of organs, that a lifetime of joy and pain might be encased in one moral chamber.
So it starts. I fell in love with Tosca Lee's writing with Demon, and I knew Havah is going to be just as beautifully written as the former, if not more. This retelling of Eve from the moment of her creation to their fall to their exile and her mortal life was told in Eve's point of view, making the novel feel more personal compared to Demon.
I am not an expert in theology so I can't say how accurate this was or if Tosca missed addressing something in this novel. However, I can say that reading Havah became more than just leisurely reading but almost a personal journey. Eve, christened as Havah by the adam because she "...will live, and all who live will come from [her], and [she] will give birth to hope." (p. 102), spoke to my heart as she told her story. I guess it's because she's a woman, and I sympathized with her struggles and her woes. How I could I not? In a sense, I was also Havah -- I sinned against God so many times that I know I am so far away from Him, but I crave for His presence just as Havah sought Him, too. It was that brokenness that got to me the most. I do not blame her for her act of disobedience and in the fall, because as she said quite eloquently, "If not for our transgression, we would not know redemption."(p. 349) In a sense, Havah really embodied how it is to be a human in this broken world: a constant struggle to find God in our surroundings, in the people and in life, pressing on even if sometimes He seems empty and silent.
Since this was told in her point of view, this will seem like a female-biased novel, but I think (and hope!) that guys will still be able to find themselves in this novel, too. It's hard to describe this novel in its entirety because there is so much beauty and pain and love in this book.
It took me a while to finish reading this, but I know I made the right choice in starting 2011 with this novel. This is still fiction, of course, and this does not replace the parts written in Genesis, but it definitely helped me understand that part of the Bible more. I had no doubt that this would be a good book after enjoying Tosca's first novel, but Havah just totally blew my mind and heart away. And if you decide to pick this one up, I hope it does the same for you too. :)
How mighty, how great the One must be, I thought, to send the heavens careening, and yet hear the cry of a single heart. (p. 28)
You can watch the book trailer here or hear what the author has to say about her second novel here. (less)
I've been trying to think of the best way to review this book, because I feel like the first review I wrote for The Truth About Forever did not do it any justice. The thing is, I don't know how to write a proper review for this book without squealing or "sa-woon"-ing so much. Because believe me, I know I did that so many times when I was rereading this book.
But let me try again. Sarah Dessen's The Truth About Forever is one of my favorite books of all time. It's not my first Dessen, but it's the book that made me love Dessen and made her one of my auto-buy authors. It's one book I've reread multiple times and still get all swoony and happy and wishing for a romance like Macy and Wes did. Yes, even with their drama, because it made the ending so much satisfying in the end.
The Truth About Forever is about Macy Queen, whose life spun out of control when her dad died in front of her. Macy tried to hold it together for the sake of her family, hiding her grief and seeking perfection, thinking that this would help her mother who seeks perfection in everything she does as well, her own way of dealing with loss. The story starts with Macy's boyfriend, Jason, leaving for Brain Camp and Macy facing a long summer with her strict schedule and routine. She's okay, she always thought. Until one day, she meets the Wish Catering crew. One bad afternoon at her summer job, with a bad email to boot, she joins Wish, makes new friends, and meets Wes -- the seemingly perfect guy with his own not-so-clean past, who likes flaws. Things turn interesting for Macy as she gets to know these people, and as she realizes that maybe it's not so bad if her strictly-scheduled life unravels and she lets chaos in bit by bit.
Ah, this book. I think what makes me love this book more than I loved This Lullaby is how much I could relate to Macy. I'm fortunate enough to have my parents here with me so I can't relate to Macy at that front, but the schedules? The need to be as perfect as I can be (sometimes, anyway)? Oh, I've been there. At the next rereads, I found that I wanted to shake Macy so hard -- she needs to cry! She needs to snap out of the illusion that she needs to be perfect to hold things together. She needs to let go and reach for her mom so they could grieve together! Ah Macy, why do you frustrate me so much?
But it served as a good starting point. If there was anything that Sarah Dessen really knows, it's how to write a story that seeps into you and hooks you, pulling you in up until the last page. There's no need for magic or any supernatural creatures -- just plain everyday things magnified, with added significance. The conversations could be just any normal conversation, but somehow they pack a punch. For example:
"Honestly," I said.
"Come on. You have to admit it's sort of ridiculous."
Now that I had to define it, I found myself struggling for the right words. "You know," I said, then figured Kristy had really summed it up best. "The sa-woon."
"Wes, come on," I said. "Are you seriously not aware of how girls stare at you?"
How cute is that?
There's really nothing new with the story, but thanks to the writing and the vivid characters, it becomes a little bit extraordinary. This book is one of the reasons I appreciate characters more, why I believe that even the most common storyline can be interesting when the roles are played by strong, well-developed characters.
And then there's Wes. Dessen boys are well known among readers, and Wes is definitely my favorite. He just seems so...perfect. Strange to see a seemingly perfect guy in a book that tells the main character that perfection isn't everything, don't you think? Believe me, I'm still trying to find some kind of flaw in Wes. But I guess that's what crushes are -- it's so hard to find a flaw in them. I think I'm not that infatuated with Wes that I'd try and look for someone exactly like him (but hey, I wouldn't mind, haha), but I would like to have the same kind of development that Macy and Wes had. Their relationship is one of the most authentic ones I've read -- built on shared experiences and conversations. Now where is that guy I could play a game of Truth with?
So yeah, even on my third reread, I still loved The Truth About Forever. It reminds me of why I started reading YA and why I like the contemporary genre. If you're looking for a good contemporary YA novel you can sink your teeth into, or if you're looking for a good Sarah Dessen novel to start with, I highly recommend The Truth About Forever. Read it and sa-woon. :)(less)