I've heard so much about this novel, and I hated that it cost P700+ when I first saw it in Fully Booked Eastwood. When I saw cheaper verOne word: wow.
I've heard so much about this novel, and I hated that it cost P700+ when I first saw it in Fully Booked Eastwood. When I saw cheaper versions of it in Fully Booked Fort, I got it. Two weeks later, I read it in a day, and I finished with tears in my eyes and a heart that felt like bursting.
When I was a kid, I used to watch TV shows whose storyline involve a the main character losing his/her parents because of an accident and their parents leaving a favorite toy, book or an item that would be a remembrance of the parents. After watching so many things like that, I started to become fearful of my parents' well-being while they were out and I wasn't with them. Cellphones are not the in thing then, so I have no way of getting in touch with them as I wait for them to arrive. Oftentimes, I'd end up crying with worry, calling their friends to know where they are and...well, generally making a fool of myself because of my fear.
I felt the same kind of fear while I was reading If I Stay. It's hard to write what I felt while I was reading it, but there were so many questions racing through my head, questions that I wonder about in real life as well. Like, do people who are close to dying know that they are about to say goodbye? What would I do if I was in Mia's place? Can I choose to stay if I know I have lost a lot?
If I Stay doesn't have the answers to those questions, but rather presses them on to the reader. The story starts off happy and carefree, and then Forman quickly plunges the readers into the heat of the action. As a reader, I felt Mia's pain and confusion, and I learned to care for her deeply as I got to know her through her flashbacks. She's not the most remarkable character once you got to know her past (not counting her cello talent), but her pain and her choice makes her a strong character, one that resonates deeply with the readers even long after the book was finished.
It's not a comforting book, mind you, so don't read it if you're feeling down. Despite its slightly morbid theme of death, it is also a book of hope, one that encourage the reader to face life despite all its sadness and loss.
If I Stay is a beautiful, thought-provoking book about life, death and love, and it is definitely one of my favorite reads this year. :)...more
Everyone I know online and offline who recommends this series has said this already so my saying this doesn't really havOriginal 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. :)...more
I'm not a poetry person. When I was younger, I tried my hand at writing some poems because I wanted to be a writer. I stOriginal post at One More Page
I'm not a poetry person. When I was younger, I tried my hand at writing some poems because I wanted to be a writer. I started off with the poems with correct syllables and enough rhymes, and then I graduated to free verse poems which didn't have the same poetic tone that other poems I read do. When I got to college and joined our literary folio, I decided that I am not a poet, and while I appreciate some poems every now and then, I would really rather read prose.
I can't really remember why I joined the Goodreads contest for A Girl Named Mister by Nikki Grimes. I think I was too excited to join giveaways then, and I was just clicking on "enter" whenever I see it's a genre or an author or even a publisher I'd like. I'm not always lucky with giveaways, so color me surprised when I found out I won this book. I got kind of hesitant when I found out that this was a novel in verse, but a free book is still a free book. Of course, the book was sent to my dad (and it kind of took forever to get there), and I wasn't able to get it until he stopped over in the country last weekend before heading to China for a company event.
A Girl Named Mister is a novel in verse about a 14-year-old girl named Mary Rudine, nicknamed "Mister" for her initials. She's your typical Christian teenager who grew up in church: she's a part of the choir, her best friends were from church and she believes in preserving her purity for marriage. Then she meets Trey, whose beautiful eyelashes captured her heart and eventually everything she has. As Mister struggles with her secret guilt and its seed, another Mary's story plays out. This teenage Mary has always been a good Jewish girl, and she was soon to be wed to Joseph. When an angel appears before her and tells her she would be a virgin mother, her world is turned upside down. Mister finds solace in this Mary, and as she gets to know more about her namesake, she finds out just how deep God's love and how big God's plans can be.
I breezed through this book in a night. Being written in verse, it was a quick and easy read, almost like I was reading some kind of Psalm. However, the issues it tackled weren't really easy. The story is as real as it can be, and I know it is happening to other teenage girls everywhere in the world. The good thing about this novel is how the author juxtaposed Mister's story with Mary's story. It was kind of hard to fathom at first how Mister, who bore the weight of her sin with her literally, could relate to Mary the mother of Jesus, whose pregnancy was divinely ordained. I liked how the author showed that even if Mister sinned, He still had a purpose for her and she is not a lost cause. It's easy to put God in a box and think that He cannot do anything about us when we do something bad. But as I've learned -- not only in this book but in real life -- His ways are higher than our ways, and He is bigger than whatever sin we can ever commit in this life. No matter how big the guilt is, His grace is still bigger and stronger and more powerful than that.
I also liked how real Mary came off in this book. It's easy to think that Mary as this sweet, solemn-faced woman who followed God's will without hesitation. In Nikki Grimes' novel, we see Mary's struggles as she accepted God's will, as she told Joseph and her parents about the angel's message and even her struggles as she carried Jesus in her womb. It's always nice to realize that even if Mary was set apart by God to carry His son, she was also still very human. This book helped me see another side of Mama Mary. I thought the author got it spot on with this particular part:
I always thought Mary had it easy, her knowing all along God was the one who wrote her story. Guess I was wrong. Turns out she needed God as bad as me. (p. 171)
A Girl Named Mister is a quick but not exactly an easy read. It made me cry and sigh, but in the end it made me smile as I, with Mister, realize the power of God's forgiveness, the grace of second chances and the depth of His love. :) Highly recommended....more
One of my best book discoveries last year was Mira Grant's Feed, the first book in the Newsflesh trilogy. I was so exciOriginal post at One More Page
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....more
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 novelOriginal 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. ...more
What do you get when you cross the niece of the head of the Japanese mafia with a Southern belle in need of protection aOriginal post at One More Page
What do you get when you cross the niece of the head of the Japanese mafia with a Southern belle in need of protection and a straight-edge lawyer who hates the said mafia? Tessa Lancaster is the niece of Teruo Ota, the head of the San Francisco yakuza. Left by her dad when she was young and living with a difficult relationship with her mom and sister, she becomes some sort of mercenary to her uncle's mafia, working as an enforcer for her mafia cousins. She was doing fine just like that until she decided to take the fall for her cousin Fred's careless murder of his girlfriend, landing her in prison. Seven years later, Tessa is out, and she's turning over a new leaf, after meeting Christ in prison. But her reputation precedes her that everyone's still afraid of her, making it hard for her to live a normal life. Until she meets Elizabeth St. Amant with her three-year-old son on the run from her husband who's trying to kill her. Elizabeth hires Tessa to be her bodyguard, which would be a fine job if not for Elizabeth's lawyer, Charles Britton. Unbeknownst to Tessa, Charles was the reason why Tessa served extra years in prison, and Charles does not trust her...but he can't deny the attraction that he feels for her. Throw in Tessa's Uncle wanting her to work for him again, her mom, her sister and her new found faith, and...well, God only knows what could happen.
I'm not just saying this because Camy is one of my favorite authors, but really, Protection for Hire was such a fun book. This book is reminiscent of her Sushi series with all the wackiness and hijinks that the characters get into. But because Tessa had such a shady past and a heavy responsibility on her shoulders, there were more risks involved for Tessa. Tessa reminds me a bit of Venus, my favorite Sushi sister, but a bit more vulnerable especially since she's been trying to live her faith. Her vulnerability is what made Tessa so endearing, and I rooted for her from the start up to the end.
The other characters surrounding Tessa were a hoot, too. Camy's characters are one of my favorite things to read in her novels. They always feel so real, and I felt like I could easily be friends with them. In Protection for Hire, I loved Charles' family, especially his mom and his brother! Such a darling family, and I don't care if Charles' mom cooks all the random food. Plus, she was a breath of fresh air from Tessa's annoying (yet, well meaning...most of the time, anyway) mother. As always, there's the heroine's crazy family, which seemed to be a staple in Camy's stories. I thought Tessa's immediate family would be similar to the Sushi sisters' clans, but I was glad that it turned out to be different, and dare I say, more entertaining to read. The Japanese mafia aspect was very interesting too. It was the first time I've read about the yakuza, and while it wasn't really discussed in detail here, I liked the overall mafia/The Godfather-like feel that the story had.
Now, I wouldn't have liked this so much if the plot wasn't as good as the characters. There's lots of action, funny moments and yes, romance, in Protection for Hire, enough to keep me glued to the pages. There were moments of shock, too -- the good kind, the one that made me sigh and smile with delight when it happened. :) There was enough suspense in the story to have me guessing about what exactly were they up against. It almost came to a point where I was a bit overwhelmed with all the plot twists but in the end, I think it still paid off well. The wrap up at the end felt just a teensy bit rushed for me, but I guess it was still in character given Tessa's family.
Protection for Hire is a fun, action-packed and romantic book that will definitely satisfy those who crave for that kind of stuff. If you're wary of the faith aspect of the novel (being that it is a Christian novel), don't worry -- it's never preachy or in-your-face. If you've ever been one who has tried to move on and make up from past mistakes and yet still find yourself under a microscope and slapped with your mistakes on the face over and over again, then you will be able to relate to Tessa. Throw in the a cast of hilarious, gripping plot and good writing, and...well, you have yourself a really awesome book. :)...more
I was never a big fan of historical novels because in my mind, they're equivalent to classics: slow reading and oftentimOriginal post at One More Page
I was never a big fan of historical novels because in my mind, they're equivalent to classics: slow reading and oftentimes, hard to read. I tend to shy away from any novel set in any part of history that isn't a classic because...well, classics are classics for a reason that's why I feel the need to read them. Historicals are just that, and it doesn't really call my name.
That's just me being a book snob, excuse me there.
But the good reviews of Jennifer Donnelly's books got me curious, so I had her books somewhere in my wish list, for possible future acquiring and reading. Fortunately, I didn't have to buy any because I got her two YA novels as gifts last Christmas. Knowing myself, however, I was kind of sure those books would sit on my TBR pile for a while before I get to go through them. If I wasn't crazy enough to set a mini-challenge for myself every month, I don't think I would have picked up and discovered the beauty that is A Northern Light.
Mattie Gokey is working at Glenmore when the body of Grace Brown was found in the river. She remembers Grace very well -- after all, she had asked Mattie to burn some letters for her just a few hours before she was found dead. Unable to sleep that night, Mattie decides to read the letters and finds that there was more to Grace Brown's death than it looks.
At the same time that was happening, another story is told that accounts how Mattie got to the Glenmore in the first place. Sixteen-year-old Mattie Gokey is a smart young lady who has big dreams of being a writer but is losing hope of them coming true. After their mother died and her older brother ran away, Mattie is left to help manage the Gokey household with her sullen father and three younger sisters. A lover of books and the written word, Mattie dreams of writing her own, too, but poverty, her family and a possible romance all comes to her, forcing her to decide if she should follow her dreams or stay and fulfill her promise to her dead mother.
The summaries I wrote there is not enough to do justice to the beauty of this book. A Northern Light turned out to be an easy read despite it being set in a time so far from what I know. The setting was vivid, and it reminded me of one of my favorite childhood reads, The Nickel-Plated Beauty by Patricia Beatty. I could just imagine the sprawling farm lands, the cows that they need to milk, the hotel, the Gokey home. Adding to the vivid scenery are the wonderfully drawn characters. Mattie's voice rang clear and true, and all the people around her shone like little stars, too, shedding more light in the mystery and the story. Even the unnamed guests in the hotel felt like real people, and I can almost hear the noise of the guests eating as Mattie and her co-workers in Glenmore rush to and from the kitchen, picking up plates and serving dishes. The writing was simple yet poetic, immediately pulling me in without having to adjust to any odd language. Overall, the book just worked for me and it read almost like a contemporary YA novel, which I really liked.
The best part of the novel, the one that tickled my fancy so much, is the fact that Mattie loved words. My bookish self found a kindred spirit in Mattie and in her fascination with books. It was almost like A Northern Light was also a book for appreciating books and the power of words. I could definitely relate to Mattie in this particular scene when she saw her teacher's massive library:
What I saw next stopped me dead in my tracks. Books. Not just one or two dozen, but hundreds of them. In crates. In piles on the floor. In bookcases that stretched from floor to ceiling and lined the entire room. I turned around and around in a slow circle, feeling as if I'd just stumbled into Ali Baba's cave. I was breathless, close to tears, and positively dizzy with greed.
I get the exact same reaction when I'm in a bookstore. ;)
I also always loved those scenes when Mattie and her best friend Weaver would have a word duel, where they'd "shoot" each other with synonyms of a word that they set at the start of the game, and the one who fails to give the answer "dies". This book gave importance to even the simplest of words, and to further stress that, chapters that narrate Mattie's past before she got to Glenmore had headings of Mattie's word of the day that somehow made its way into the story.
A Northern Light is a ultimately a story about following your dreams, but it also gracefully tackles other issues such as sex and racism. Sometime during reading this book, I got the good chills, and that just confirmed that how good this book was. I loved it, and I think people who appreciate the written word would like this book very much, too. I'm still not a big fan of historical fiction, but I will definitely read Jennifer Donnelly’s other books. :)...more
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), butI 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....more
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 jusOriginal 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. :)...more
I'm a big reader (obviously), but there are certain books that I can say are my absolute favorites, ones that I would wiOriginal 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.
I am in awe of authors like Kristin Cashore who could think of things like this. I am sorely deficient (at least, I think I am) in the supernatural/faI am in awe of authors like Kristin Cashore who could think of things like this. I am sorely deficient (at least, I think I am) in the supernatural/fantasy realm, so I am always in awe of people who can think of awesome story concepts like these. Don’t you think?
To those unfamiliar, here’s the basic premise of Graceling: Gracelings are humans who are born with an extraordinary skill. These skills don’t manifest until sometime later in the human’s life, and the clue to see if a human is a Graced is if they have two different colored eyes. Graces can range from the most useless — like reciting things backward or staying underwater for a long time — or useful, like sensing storms or like Katsa’s Grace, killing.
If a Grace is found useful, the Graceling will be acquired by the King to serve his court. This is what Katsa grew up in ever since she accidentally killed her cousin who tried to touch her during a party when she was young. Convinced that her Grace was killing, Katsa was trained to be a killer so she can serve her uncle, King Randa’s court. Simply put, Katsa was a thug, who threatens and kills people who the King of Middluns feel like punishing.
But Katsa soon grew tired of this life, and she secretly started a Council. Together with some of her closest companions — they weren’t friends because Katsa never considered them friends — they helped other people secretly. They arrested bandits, protected people and saved Prince Tealiff of Lienid, who was kidnapped and hidden in Murgon.
On the rescue mission, Katsa meets Po, another seemingly Graced fighter. Pretty soon, Po becomes a part of Katsa’s life, and thus started Katsa’s personal struggles. She soon learns to face her rage, stand up for herself, find love and realize an important thing about her Grace that she never thought was even possible.
If you think the summary I posted there was already good, well I tell you, the book is really way better than that. I loved every bit of the book. I thought I’d find some parts of it slow, like what a friend told me, but I never thought it was slow at any part. I was surprised with the discoveries that Katsa made about Po and herself. I felt that I was really in the story, like I was with Katsa and Po in their travels and fights to find out who was behind Po’s grandfather’s kidnapping.
Now, I don’t know if I would have had an entirely different reading experience with Graceling if I didn’t read Fire first. I was slightly spoiled about who King Leck really was and what he can do because of what I read in Fire. There were no other mentions of Gracelings in Fire so I don’t think it’s a really big effect in my reading experience, but I wonder if I would have been more surprised with what Leck could do in the novel.
Oh, but just thinking of Leck makes me think of a creepy man. Ugh.
Kristin Cashore is writing a third book, which is Bitterblue, who also appeared in this novel. I wonder if Kristin will somehow bring back the monsters from The Dells in this third book — that would be really interesting, I think.
Graceling is definitely one of the best YA fantasy books that I read this year. Awesome story, strong characters and a very satisfying ending. :) ...more
I was one of those kids who believed in wishing on stars. My earliest memory of making a wish was when my brother told me abouFull review at Pinoy Pop
I was one of those kids who believed in wishing on stars. My earliest memory of making a wish was when my brother told me about the North Star, and I wished that I'd dream about Cinderella that night (I was pretty young then). Years later, my friends and I would wait for the first star to appear so we could make a wish before going home, but as time went by, I found it harder and harder to make a simple wish. I'd end up using my wishes (even birthday wishes) for some beauty pageant greater good, you know, like world peace. It's a part of growing up I guess, or a fear that I'd wish for the wrong thing and then it would come true. I needed to be sure that if my wish did come true, it would be one I wouldn't regret.
Sixteen-year-old Viola faces the same problem in Jackson Pearce’s novel, As You Wish. Viola has been feeling invisible ever since her best friend and boyfriend, Lawrence, broke up with her after confessing he was gay. His coming out of the closet catapulted him to popularity, and Viola’s heartbreak pushed her to the sidelines. For the next seven months, she spends most of her days observing the people around her, trying to figure out how they belong to their own groups and wishing that she could simply belong, like they did. Viola’s desperate wish summons a young and handsome genie with no name, bearing (what else?) three wishes. The genie is anxious to return to his home world (he ages in the human world) but the only way for him to go back is for his master to use up her wishes. However, Viola is terrified of making the wrong wish, so she asks for time, much to the genie’s chagrin. Refusing to treat the genie as a slave, Viola gives him a name, Jinn, and forces him to call her by her name instead of Master. And that's when things get complicated…Click here to read the rest of the review....more
When the first of the Lord of the Rings movie came out a little over ten (!!!) years ago, I admit that I only watched itOriginal post at One More Page
When the first of the Lord of the Rings movie came out a little over ten (!!!) years ago, I admit that I only watched it for two reasons: (1) everyone in my senior high school class was watching it; and (2) all the girls in my class who has watched the movie were all raving about Legolas. I didn't care about the book (I can't even remember if I knew of the book back then), but I only watched it because I didn't want to be left out. I was sufficiently amazed by the movie (even if my dad slept halfway through it -- it was our "date"), and I was charmed by Legolas, but I didn't become one of the people who would watch it over and over and over again. In fact, when I tried watching it again while I was alone, I fell asleep! When I learned of the book, I knew that I wouldn't read it anytime soon because I wasn't a fantasy reader and I honestly thought watching the movie was enough.
My stance on not reading the trilogy remained the same even as I was exploring fantasy and as I started blogging about books. I've heard so many things about it -- how it's so hard to read, how it can be boring and how it's not for everyone, so the part of me that gets intimidated by high fantasy decided to leave it alone. Until of course, it became our book of the month for my book club's discussion. Being a co-moderator of the book club, I felt like I had no choice but to read it.
I don't think I need to recap what happened in this book for anyone because I feel that everyone knows about it already. (But if you really need to know it's this: Frodo Baggins inherits an evil ring of power from his uncle Frodo and he has to go to Mount Doom with friends and some people -- who and they eventually form a fellowship -- to destroy the ring before the bad guys get it.) So here's my big surprise with The Fellowship of the Ring: it wasn't such a hard read after all. Maybe if I attempted to read this back in high school or even in college, I wouldn't have liked it as much. But now...I actually found it quite easy to get into. Oh, the prologue is kind of boring, but after that? It was really kind of easy. I suppose I had the proper conditioning too, because I read Brandon Sanderson's Warbreaker the previous month (which is pretty high fantasy too) followed by George R.R. Martin's A Game of Thrones a few weeks later, which I read almost simultaneously with this book. I suppose this put me in the proper fantasy mindset, which perhaps helped it become easier for me to read. Sure, the hobbits and elves sang so many times in the book, and sure, Tolkien described the scenery in so much detail that it can be a bit boring at times...but overall? I thought The Fellowship of the Ring deserved all the praises that it has gotten ever since.
I guess it helped that I already had the visualization of the movie while I read the book, so sometimes I can't help but smile whenever I remember Orlando Bloom as Legolas or Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn. I loved the Council of Elrond scene even if it was the longest chapter of the book, and I was excited to get to the Balrog scene with Gandalf shouting, "You cannot pass!" (the movie version seemed more kick-ass, though!). But overall, I realized how much I liked Frodo and Sam's friendship was written in this book. I never really cared for Sam in the movie (especially after it has been tainted so much because of their seemingly bromantic relationship), but in this book, I thought he was such a darling. Sam's loyalty was the highlight of this book, and I loved how he was so devoted to his friend in his simple minded ways. It totally changed everything for me when I rewatched the movie.
As with A Game of Thrones, I felt a certain kind of accomplishment when I finished reading this book. LOL, I felt like I was such a cooler geek when I was done with this, but apparently, I think I need to read the other LOTR books before I can be certified. :P Which I really intend to do, especially because I really liked The Two Towers and the ending of The Fellowship of the Ring was kind of a cliffhanger.
To sum it up: I get it. I get what makes this series so amazing -- or at least, a part of it, anyway. :) It helps that this appreciation was fueled by our book club's discussion afterwards. Look at us here:
Goodreads - The Filipino Group Face-to-Face Discussion # 6: Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien (photo from Maria)
The Fellowship of the Ring is definitely one of those books that one should read in their lifetime. I'm really glad this won as our book of the month last June. :)...more
I’ve had this book for ages, but I haven’t reviewed it ever (then again, I hardly review books back when I bought this).Original post at One More Page
I’ve had this book for ages, but I haven’t reviewed it ever (then again, I hardly review books back when I bought this). This, along with Stargirl is one of my favorite young adult books. I bought this on a whim, and ever since I first read it, I’ve loved the story. Julianna, especially, is a very memorable character that I wish a lot of times that I carry the same wonder and sparkle she has. :)
When Bryce Loski moves into the neighborhood, Julianna Baker was mostly interested in having a playmate than a boyfriend. But when she saw his blue eyes, she flipped. Bryce wasn’t interested in the Juli, mostly because she scared him. He spent the next few years running away from her — from avoiding her when she’d visit to play, to asking someone out so she’d stop chasing him (backfired big time), to throwing the gifts she gives him, and every thing he could manage to do. As they grow up, Juli realizes that Bryce isn’t really the guy she thought he is, and Bryce realizes that he really didn’t take the time to know Juli and started seeing her in a new light.
This is a cute he-said/she-said story, which talks about childhood crushes, seeing beneath the surface, being a man, growing up and second chances. It’s quite deep for a YA novel, but the way Ms. Van Draanen wrote the story made it easy to understand; and it sounds so realistic that you’d believe there are situations like this.
What’s funny was, when I re-read it yesterday, I realized I understood it better now than when I bought it first. Let’s say…I was in a situation back when I bought this book, which made it a bit harder to understand and put myself in the place of the female protagonist. ;) All I liked back then was then Bryce finally realized what he’s missing, but the other things didn’t really strike me. This time around, however, I finally understood and related to the major parts of the story, such as:
* How Bryce realized that he was running away from Julianna for no reason at all. True, he had an effective strategy to avoid conflict – diving under – but it’s not really much of a strategy seeing that he carried it over to how he acts with things he should take responsibility for. Bryce is an example of someone who succumbed to easily to peer pressure and a guy who wouldn’t be accountable for his actions until it bites him back. I’m glad he managed to redeem himself in the end. :D
* How one shouldn’t be attracted to someone only with the looks. In a way Mrs. Loski seemed like a future Julianna, that is, if Juli didn’t realize what she realized in the end.
* And the major lesson of the story, IMHO, is that how one must not let shallow things such as the color of the eyes and how they used to act as kids in choosing someone as a lifetime partner, or at least, a boyfriend. I related so much to Juli because I was — and sometimes still — like her: easily swayed by the things a guy does, and excusing everything he does even if it is offensive and disrespectful, until it finally hits back. And there’s also the disappointment of the guy not being able to live up to the expectations set to him, as well as “getting over” the guy at some point and feeling relapses when he’s suddenly within proximity or when he does something. It’s a wonder I didn’t see this immediately. Then again, when I bought this, I was in a middle of something like this too. ;)
Flipped will always be one of my favorite books, no matter how old I get. I’d recommend this to everyone, especially the teens. The language is safe, the story is cute but not too cute, and it teaches both guys and girls some valuable lessons that I think they could definitely use as they grow up.
This is actually one of the last books I read for 2011, and I got this because I'm such a loyal reader of Mira Grant andOriginal post at One More Page
This is actually one of the last books I read for 2011, and I got this because I'm such a loyal reader of Mira Grant and her Newsflesh universe. Countdown is the a prequel to her story and it narrates just how the Rising happened through the different perspectives involved in the story. I liked how the story wasn't really as simple as how it seemed when Georgia talked about it in Feed. There were so many people involved, some that were already known such as the developers of the cure, and also some unknown people like the activists that caused the virus to go out. It had just enough detail without being too scientific or too political, and the growing terror of what just might happen because of the chain of events was very well conveyed. The slow unveiling of the effects of the new virus strain was horrifying at its best and you just know that it's too late when it all comes down.
While there's no Georgia or Shaun in this book yet, we get a glimpse of their parents and how they got involved and what happened that could have led them to adopting the two. It wasn't really narrated as a whole, but when the book is done, it's easier to connect the dots.
This isn't a required reading to fully understand the series, but for fans who are itching to read the last book in the trilogy, Countdown is a good pick to satiate this hunger....more
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 reviewOriginal 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. ♥...more
Fairy Tale Fail really is a cute book, one that has the right amount of fluff and life lessons for the everyday working girl. It’s very easy to relateFairy Tale Fail really is a cute book, one that has the right amount of fluff and life lessons for the everyday working girl. It’s very easy to relate to Ellie, the protagonist, with her fairy tale whims and romanticism. While I never had a Prince Charming like her, I knew the feeling of wanting to have a fairy tale romance, one where I have a set guide for who Prince Charming should be. I know about obsessing about a guy, and I sort of know how it feels to restoring yourself when experiencing a loss.
I have to admit that like Ellie, I think I’d also prefer to have a guy like Don, but I would find someone like Lucas intriguing. Out of my league, but very intriguing. Lucas and Ellie’s development was done gradually, and it was nice to see that it wasn’t a rushed romance — nothing is more disappointing than a rushed romance in a chick lit novel, I swear. Lucas seemed sexy, yet he had a good heart, even if he seemed a bit hard to see. I kind of wish I got to know more of him through the story, but since the story was told in Ellie’s point of view, we only know as much as she does.
Here’s my favorite part (a spoiler, so if you’re reading/planning to read this, skip this!):
“You think you’re funny,” I said ruefully. “I have no idea what my life is going to be like now.”
…”You told me that your life wasn’t all about work. That you had a lot of things you looked forward to when you got out of the office…Then that’s exactly what your life is going to be. You’ve still got your family, your hobbies, your friends, and none of that will change…And I’m probably going to, you know, start calling. Driving you home. Taking you to movies you hate…And then you’ll probably want to introduce me to your mom. Your nephew Dylan will love me because kids like me, and I’ll tell him about my brother’s job and our pirate story, and he’ll just be so attached to me. And then you’ll want me to go to church again, and we’ll probably discuss that at length. But I probably will go to church with you at least once, and it will be in your college church, to erase the memory of what that douche did there.”
Ah Lucas. Where can I find someone like you? ♥ Fairy Tale Fail is a fresh and cute story that’s sure to make you sigh and be kilig. :) ...more
Sometime early this year, my book club started selecting books that we will discuss fOriginal post at One More Page First read and reviewed: April 2011
Sometime early this year, my book club started selecting books that we will discuss for our monthly discussion. When the YA theme came up, I was excited to see that my one of my favorite books last year, Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta, was included in the short list. Of course that got me campaigning for the book, because when you love a certain book, you just want a lot of people to read it and hope to be enthralled by it like you were.
The book won by one vote, and I was happy because it gave me the perfect excuse to reread the book. This time around, though, I wanted to try another format, so I got myself an audiobook version of the book and settled in for the ride. :) My mind was ready, but I wasn't really sure if my heart was. Still, I wanted to know if I would love the book as much as I did the first time around, especially since I know what was going to happen.
How did I describe this book last year? ...reading this book was like breaking my heart and then putting it back together again. I know that sounds terribly dramatic, but that was exactly what I felt back when I first read this and I was anticipating the same thing when I listened to it.
Listening to the book was a different experience, mostly because it gave me a bit of room to "read" while doing something else. The audiobook became my companion for my night shift work, and I was transported to that little stretch of Jellicoe Road every time I turn my player on. I found that I was paying attention to the things more, and that I caught little quotes that I wasn't sure if I caught before (my print copy has lots of dog-ears -- I didn't exactly take note what I was dog-earing then). I found the parts I love were still well-loved, and found new things to love in the book as well.
One might think that rereading this book known for its confusing start will lessen the thrill of the reading experience because you know what's going to happen already. I was ready to be a bit less enchanted with the twists, to be less heartbroken when the things happen as I was expecting them...but I wasn't. Okay, perhaps it's because I came into the book expecting to love it again, so it was harder for me to find fault. There's one chapter that still killed me, over and over again, and there were those chapters that made me smile and stop and want to listen to them again, because I forgot about them already. Despite knowing what the story was about, the reading experience was still as enjoyable as the first.
Admittedly, there was a time when I was asked, "What's the point of all of this again?" But then as I finished listening to the book, I realized that maybe it doesn't really have to have a point. It's a story of real life -- of Taylor and Jonah and Raffy and Santangelo, of Narnie and Jude and Webb and Tate and Fitz -- and it doesn't really have to make a single and simple point. Like what C.S. Lewis said in Mere Christianity, real things aren't made to be simple. So maybe, a story about real life and all its complications isn't supposed to be simple, either.
I can't relate to Taylor's family woes, but once again, I'm amazed at how the friendships were forged in this book. This is the kind of friendship that makes you want to keep on fighting, to keep on going back, to keep on trying. If you ever have the chance to run into this kind of friendship, do everything in your power to keep it -- these are the kind of friendships that can save your life.
So did I like it as much as I did the first time? There is no other answer to that question but yes. Maybe I will grow out of this in a few years, maybe not. But for now, I still stand by every word I wrote last year, and I am very happy to know of a place "...where they would all belong, or long to be. A place on the Jellicoe Road." :)...more
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)
I've been wanting to get The Reapers are the Angels by Alden Bell during the time I was so crazy for zombies in fiction,Original post at One More Page
I've been wanting to get The Reapers are the Angels by Alden Bell during the time I was so crazy for zombies in fiction, and that's one of the reasons why I got this from Book Depository in the first place. I wanted to add every single book that had zombies in it, until it became a little bit too mainstream for my taste. That's probably why I made this book languish in my TBR for a while, almost forgetting that I had this book with me until lately. Because you know, sometimes you have to dig through your TBR just to get some books out and get that number down.
The Reapers are the Angels introduces a world that is full of zombies. There's nothing really new about that, but then here comes Temple, a fifteen year old girl who's turned herself into a vagabond after something happened in her past. She runs into a small community of survivors who take her in, but when she accidentally kills a man who tried to take advantage of her, she is back on the run now that his brother is after her. On her journey, she meets a group of hunters who take on a new way of survival, picks up a mentally challenged man who becomes her unwanted ward, stays with a rich family who refuses to acknowledge the state of the world and gets caught by a horrifically mutated group of people whose loyalty to each other leads them to kill. All this time, Temple fights the evil she thinks is in her while running away from the man who wants to kill her.
Or perhaps running away isn't the right term. As the story goes on, it doesn't really feel that Temple was running away -- perhaps there was something else. It was almost like this chase gave her some kind of purpose, and it was interesting to read about that. Temple is a different girl and we know it right from the start. Why she chose to be alone is a mystery, and how she seemed to unafraid later on as she travels is another question. Her character makes this initially simple and typical zombie story come more alive. The Reapers are the Angels isn't a story of zombies or the fallen world but a story of a person wrestling with her past and trying to atone for this. Temple's brokenness makes her who she is -- the hard, no-nonsense girl with awesome fighting skills -- but it doesn't lessen her compassion for others who need her help, even if she doesn't really want to help at all. (view spoiler)[I found her unlikely "friendship" with Maury, the mentally challenged guy she helps and "adopts", quite endearing and possibly my favorite part in the entire story. (hide spoiler)]
But this book isn't really an easy read. The lush writing helped a lot in making me want to read this, but this is a bleak book -- not quite as hopeless as The Forest of Hands and Teeth and also not quite as action packed as The Enemy, but still pretty, well, not cheerful. There were also lots of philosophical talk, which makes this book really a story of survival and how humanity carries on after an apocalypse. I think what makes this book a little harder for me to read was the gross-out factor -- like I said, I may have gone soft, and there were some scenes in this book that made me stop reading for a bit just so my stomach would stop churning. Oh Tina, what do you expect of a zombie book, anyway? Just...don't read this while eating, especially for some parts.
Even so, I find that I loved The Reapers are the Angels, especially for how it ended. Sigh. --> That will be my one and only clue for you. I think The Reapers are the Angels is a beautifully sad but deep book, and I was a very satisfied reader when I finished the book. It's not at the level of how much I loved Mira Grant's Feed, my favorite zombie book of all time, but Alden Bell's creation has made it into the list of zombie books I will recommend to people who want to read about them. This is a good one, folks -- gross scenes aside, this is a zombie book that lived up to my expectations, and I hope it lives up to yours, too.
See, God is a slick god. He makes it so you don't miss out on nothing you're supposed to witness firsthand.
It's a bad time for Jill MacSweeny ever since her father died. Always a daddy's girl, Jill feels lost without her dad, bOriginal post at One More Page
It's a bad time for Jill MacSweeny ever since her father died. Always a daddy's girl, Jill feels lost without her dad, but now she just feels angry that her mom had decided to do the unthinkable: adopt a baby. And not just adopt a baby, but let the mother of the baby live with them until the baby is delivered. Mandy Kalinowski is the pregnant girl in question, and she's always known how it feels to be unwanted. Mandy wants a better life for her baby, and she thinks Robin MacSweeny would be able to give just that. She moves in with them as agreed, and she finds Robin to be a very nice person, even if her daughter Jill never liked Mandy. But as her due date grows nearer, she's faced with doubts: can she really let her baby go? And if she does, what happens to her after that?
I was pretty sure I was going to like How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr, but I was surprised at how much I ended up loving it. I'm a big fan of Sara Zarr, not just her books but her posts at the Good Letters blog. She's quickly becoming one of my sources of inspiration online, and I like that her books reflect what she believe in. I wanted to read this as soon as I got it, but I kind of feared that I wasn't ready for the emotional punch that it had, especially after most of the reviews said a lot about tears being shed and all that. But the good reviews gave me something to look forward to, so reading it at the start of 2012 felt like a perfect gift for myself.
Like in Sara Zarr's other books, there is a quiet beauty in how Jill and Mandy's story unfolded. They were two characters from the opposite ends of the spectrum, clashing horribly at first. Honestly, I thought both characters were unlikeable. When I read Jill's parts, I wanted to shake her for being so bitter and out of it. She reminded me a bit of Macy in The Truth About Forever, but also not quite because Macy seemed easier to approach compared to Jill who completely shut everyone out. Mandy, on the other hand, is someone who I would probably steer clear from if I met someone like her in real life. I could understand why Jill would rather avoid her, aside from the fact that she was carrying the baby that Jill never wanted to be a part of their family. Mandy is socially awkward and more often than not, the things she says hit the wrong note in other people who do not know how to be patient with her. I admit to be that kind of person, unfortunately, so sometimes reading Mandy's chapters were a struggle. Oh, but I also ached for her so much, too. The two grew on me as the story went on, and it wasn't even because there were drastic changes to their personality. In fact, the changes that happened to them didn't feel like changes at all -- they were choices. The choice to do something right, to think of others first, the choice to love in spite of and because of things they cannot understand. It all unfolds beautifully in the story, and it filled my heart with so much love for these two girls that I just want the best for them too.
Normally I would ramble on about how the plot was good and how the other characters were equally as good here, but to be perfectly honest, I can't. Not that the other characters weren't good (they were, and they were very fun to read) or the plot was bad (it wasn't, although the predictability factor is high). It's just that the book really concentrates on how Jill and Mandy's lives were changed and saved by the choices that they and the people who loved them made. It all came together so beautifully that I didn't care if I sort of predicted the ending pages ago -- it was still worth getting to it. I was happy that it ended that way. Overall, How to Save a Life is a story of family and love, and how that kind of love can really save a life.
As reluctant as I am to talk about “themes” in my work or to explain it or myself, I can see, after four published novels and three unpublished, that this idea of intentional family, of claiming and being claimed, is one of the themes lurking beneath and hovering around all of my work.
My stories seem to always involve people choosing to love other people, in spite of the pain those people have sometimes brought them, in spite of the way they let each other down, in spite of both their minor imperfections and deep flaws.
In the interviews I've done about How to Save a Life thus far, nine times out of ten I'm asked if I worried that one of the characters, Jill, was unsympathetic or unlikeable. No, I say. I didn't worry about it. My editor did, to an extent, and I worked a little on showing glimpses of Jill's humanity. But not much. Because the point about love, this free will love of the people we call family or true friends, the people we take into our lives, the ones that lead us to claim “you are mine,” is that it doesn't depend on them (or us) being sympathetic characters.
The bright yellow cover called me the moment I entered the YA section of Fully Booked Eastwood. It was bright, and the sOriginal 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? :)