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)
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)
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 ver...moreOne 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. :)(less)
I was never a big fan of historical novels because in my mind, they're equivalent to classics: slow reading and oftentim...moreOriginal 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. :)(less)
Warning: This may not end up as a review, but a very fan-girly love letter to the trilogy. Also, spoiler free.
So normally I would have written a review for this book as soon as I finished it, but with my record of reviewing books lately, I took my time. In all honesty, I can't remember parts of the book anymore, but I remember that sad feeling I got when I finally arrived at the end of this amazing trilogy.
So three years ago, I stumbled upon Feed by accident, and I only really wanted the book because I judged it from its cover the moment I saw it. Little did I know that this would spark a love affair between me and the After the End times staff, with Georgia and Shaun Mason and Buffy and Mahir and Becks and Maggie and Alaric and everyone who's ever been a part of this series. Yes, that includes other fans who I have met and virtually squealed with and liked reading updates and shared speculations with over and over again.
Let me back up a little: for the uninitiated, Blackoutis the third book in the Newsflesh trilogy, where we readers follow the After the End times staff with uncovering a humongous conspiracy that could very well mean the death of human civilization as they know it. With zombies around, it's easy to imagine how it could end, especially with how Deadline ended. But of course, there's more going on without the team's knowledge and when these things finally collided, well...it was pretty explosive. Blackout is one of my most awaited books this year, and I waited a little bit before I actually read it because I just didn't want it to end yet.
Granted, Blackoutis probably the weakest among the three books. But by weak, I don't mean that it sucked -- it was just not as engaging as Feed or as mind-blowing as Deadline was, but there were still so many feelings that came and went at the reading of this book. But here's the thing: I love the characters and the series so much already that I can't not love this book. I can't not love its finale, for all its faults and awesome things, for all the emotions and fist shaking it brought. I felt like I've invested so much in this series that I can't not love even this book.
Oh and maybe the zombie bears had something to do with it! :)
I have fangirled in this review so I'm afraid this review of this particular book may not be as helpful as the others, but if you feel like picking up the series, then consider this review as my own version of pushing it to you. I am very, very happy that I stumbled upon Feed years ago, because somehow it made me feel like I'm a part of this series ever since its first release. I'm not an expert on the genre, but this is definitely one of the best zombie books I've read in a while. It is with a sad heart that I said goodbye to all these characters, and I will miss them all terribly...but I'm pretty happy with how this ended.
We started as a news site. Somewhere along the line, we became a family.
I 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 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'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.
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/fa...moreI 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. :) (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)
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...moreOriginal 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.(less)
When the first of the Lord of the Rings movie came out a little over ten (!!!) years ago, I admit that I only watched it...moreOriginal post at One More Page
When the first of the Lord of the Rings movie came out a little over ten (!!!) years ago, I admit that I only watched it for two reasons: (1) everyone in my senior high school class was watching it; and (2) all the girls in my class who has watched the movie were all raving about Legolas. I didn't care about the book (I can't even remember if I knew of the book back then), but I only watched it because I didn't want to be left out. I was sufficiently amazed by the movie (even if my dad slept halfway through it -- it was our "date"), and I was charmed by Legolas, but I didn't become one of the people who would watch it over and over and over again. In fact, when I tried watching it again while I was alone, I fell asleep! When I learned of the book, I knew that I wouldn't read it anytime soon because I wasn't a fantasy reader and I honestly thought watching the movie was enough.
My stance on not reading the trilogy remained the same even as I was exploring fantasy and as I started blogging about books. I've heard so many things about it -- how it's so hard to read, how it can be boring and how it's not for everyone, so the part of me that gets intimidated by high fantasy decided to leave it alone. Until of course, it became our book of the month for my book club's discussion. Being a co-moderator of the book club, I felt like I had no choice but to read it.
I don't think I need to recap what happened in this book for anyone because I feel that everyone knows about it already. (But if you really need to know it's this: Frodo Baggins inherits an evil ring of power from his uncle Frodo and he has to go to Mount Doom with friends and some people -- who and they eventually form a fellowship -- to destroy the ring before the bad guys get it.) So here's my big surprise with The Fellowship of the Ring: it wasn't such a hard read after all. Maybe if I attempted to read this back in high school or even in college, I wouldn't have liked it as much. But now...I actually found it quite easy to get into. Oh, the prologue is kind of boring, but after that? It was really kind of easy. I suppose I had the proper conditioning too, because I read Brandon Sanderson's Warbreaker the previous month (which is pretty high fantasy too) followed by George R.R. Martin's A Game of Thrones a few weeks later, which I read almost simultaneously with this book. I suppose this put me in the proper fantasy mindset, which perhaps helped it become easier for me to read. Sure, the hobbits and elves sang so many times in the book, and sure, Tolkien described the scenery in so much detail that it can be a bit boring at times...but overall? I thought The Fellowship of the Ring deserved all the praises that it has gotten ever since.
I guess it helped that I already had the visualization of the movie while I read the book, so sometimes I can't help but smile whenever I remember Orlando Bloom as Legolas or Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn. I loved the Council of Elrond scene even if it was the longest chapter of the book, and I was excited to get to the Balrog scene with Gandalf shouting, "You cannot pass!" (the movie version seemed more kick-ass, though!). But overall, I realized how much I liked Frodo and Sam's friendship was written in this book. I never really cared for Sam in the movie (especially after it has been tainted so much because of their seemingly bromantic relationship), but in this book, I thought he was such a darling. Sam's loyalty was the highlight of this book, and I loved how he was so devoted to his friend in his simple minded ways. It totally changed everything for me when I rewatched the movie.
As with A Game of Thrones, I felt a certain kind of accomplishment when I finished reading this book. LOL, I felt like I was such a cooler geek when I was done with this, but apparently, I think I need to read the other LOTR books before I can be certified. :P Which I really intend to do, especially because I really liked The Two Towers and the ending of The Fellowship of the Ring was kind of a cliffhanger.
To sum it up: I get it. I get what makes this series so amazing -- or at least, a part of it, anyway. :) It helps that this appreciation was fueled by our book club's discussion afterwards. Look at us here:
Goodreads - The Filipino Group Face-to-Face Discussion # 6: Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien (photo from Maria)
The Fellowship of the Ring is definitely one of those books that one should read in their lifetime. I'm really glad this won as our book of the month last June. :)(less)
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’ve had this book for ages, but I haven’t reviewed it ever (then again, I hardly review books back when I bought this)....moreOriginal 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.
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 abou...moreFull 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.(less)
If you're still not sure if you want to splurge on Forbidden by Ted Dekker and Tosca Lee, the authors have released a short...moreFull post at One More Page
If you're still not sure if you want to splurge on Forbidden by Ted Dekker and Tosca Lee, the authors have released a short story prequel to it, entitled The Keeper, available for free as an ebook. In this short story, a man named Talus meets two hermit monk brothers who he chooses to share the terrible secret that he has been carrying, to recruit them in helping protect the knowledge that will save humanity. This short story is a very quick read, and if you've read Forbidden before reading this, there's really nothing much to surprise you here. However, I think that it gives those who have yet to read the first Book of Mortals a chance to taste Dekker's world building and Lee's characters. I have a feeling that reading The Keeper will make you want to know more about what this secret is and if Talus ever succeeded with his mission. Also, if you have read the Circle series (Black, Red, White, Green), you will spot a very familiar name in this short story that will probably make you say, "I knew it!" Then the story of Forbidden suddenly makes more sense. :)
The Keeper is short and it's free, and you'll hardly notice the time you'll spend reading this. There's really nothing to lose, so there's no excuse not to get this. :)(less)
I'm a little bit OC when it comes to my reviewing order, and it's not often that I skip over some books I need to review...moreOriginal post at One More Page
I'm a little bit OC when it comes to my reviewing order, and it's not often that I skip over some books I need to review first to write one for another. Usually doing that means one of the following: I am in a hurry to post a review for the book for a deadline (doesn't usually happen), or I love the book so much that I just have to write a review about it immediately.
Such is Jellicoe Road, my second Melina Marchetta book. Ever since I finished and enjoyed Saving Francesca, I've been itching to read another Marchetta book to experience the goodness of her writing and the realness of her characters. But alas, I know I must pace myself because Jellicoe was the only other book I had of hers -- I still had to buy The Piper's Son and Looking for Alibrandi after Holy Week. After finishing two books from my Required Reading for April, I decided to reward myself with her book.
And man, was it such a good idea. I gobbled up Jellicoe Road so fast that I surprised myself. Jellicoe Road is the story of Taylor Markham, whose mom left her when she was 11, picked up shortly by Hannah. At fourteen, she ran away from her boarding school to look for her mom only to be found and brought back by a stranger. Now, she's almost eighteen, and she is the leader of their school's underground community that is neck deep in a territory war with the kids from Jellicoe town called Townies and a group of kids undergoing military training aptly named Cadets. Then Hannah disappears and it throws Taylor's life out of the loop. If it wasn't enough, the leader of the Cadets turn out to be Jonah Griggs, a guy from Taylor's past that she's trying hard to forget. Taylor's life unravels as she tries to cope with Hannah's disappearance, piecing together clues Hannah left and things her memory is trying to hide from her.
One word: wow. I was warned that this book would be an emotional ride, but I wasn't expecting that. It's really hard to describe the book without putting a spoiler, and the last thing you want to be with this book is to be spoiled. I've been warned that the first 100 pages or so of this book would be confusing, and indeed it was. For some people, this might be enough for them to stop reading and never revisit the book again, but trust me when I say this: don't. Keep on reading, and somewhere a few pages later, you'll find that this book had you in its grip and will refuse to let you go up until the last page.
Just like in Saving Francesca, Marchetta definitely had her way with the characters and how they interact here. I thought the book would just be about the territory wars, which kind of turns me off, but the author made that as interesting as figuring out Taylor's past. I loved the relationships that the characters formed in this book -- they all had history with each other, and even if I have equally awesome friends, this book made me crave the same history that Taylor wanted: "These people have history and I crave history. I crave someone knowing me so well that they can tell what I'm thinking." I loved how they all just formed this friendship without too much effort, and how some characters who come off as annoying at first become even a little bit endearing in the end.
But that plot -- oh that plot. When I got to my first "aha!" moment in the book, I just couldn't stop reading. I wanted to know what happens next and I want it now. At the same time, I also didn't want it to end. I just want to live in Jellicoe Road, if that was possible. I loved how everything tied up together at the end, and how the story kept on surprising me everyday. Even when I thought I had it all figured out, I was still surprised at the end, and I don't think I've ever read a book that did just that. When I was done with the book, I had an extreme desire to reread it all over again, if only to figure out what part I missed now that I knew how everything fits.
While I was going through the first part of the book, I wasn't really sure if I would like it as much as my other bookish friends did. When I closed the last page, I was sure that I had just as much love for this book as they do. Like what I tweeted, reading this book was like breaking my heart and then putting it back together again. It was that awesome. Jellicoe Road reminded me of why I love contemporary YA, and it definitely made me a fan of Melina Marchetta. :)
Read it, read it. Take your time with the start and be amazed at how Marchetta weaves a story so beautiful that it keeps a hold on you long after you have closed the book. ♥(less)
If it were any other time, any other season, I probably wouldn't have picked this up from the Kindle store. I wouldn't have looked at this twice, beca...moreIf it were any other time, any other season, I probably wouldn't have picked this up from the Kindle store. I wouldn't have looked at this twice, because I don't think it's for me, or I would be interested. When was the last time I read a non-fiction, self-help book like this? I can't remember. But I know for sure that if it were any other time early this year, or if it were any other season in my life, I wouldn't have decided to get Bittersweetby Shauna Niequist and read it immediately after it loaded on Hannah the Kindle.
Oh, I guess it helped that the ebook was on sale when I saw it, so I bought it. But still, I wouldn't have gotten it and enjoyed it as much as I did if it were any other time of my life.
Bittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace and Learning the Hard Way by Shauna Niequist is about so many things, but mostly, about how life is bittersweet. How life isn't always happy or sweet but we shouldn't let the bitterness of it get to us. There is such a thing as bittersweet, and it's the kind of life that we should appreciate, especially because all the learning and the changes and (most importantly) grace is seen in the bittersweet parts of life. This is a collection of essays and realizations about her life, and what she learned from them -- from her fights with her husband to moving to a new place, from meeting new friends, having parties and serving them food and these friends moving away. From her problems getting pregnant again to broken hearts, family members dying and babies being born. The book is an honest collection of stories that the reader will definitely relate to at some point, and drives the point that life is really bittersweet.
Like I said, if I read this at any other time, I don't think it would have made as much of a big impact as it did now. Bittersweetkept me company during the hard days, and spoke to me over and over and over again about grace and God's faithfulness. I couldn't relate to some of the stories Niequist wrote because I don't have a family, and I haven't moved away yet, but the lessons she talked about were universal, and somehow I felt like she really knew what heartache is, and she can relate to me. Her words served like a balm to my soul, and some passages made me cry several times because it felt like they were exactly what I needed to read.
In a way, it seemed like a promise, too -- that whatever you're going through, whatever your situation is, God knows it, and He will take you through it. It's not easy, but you have a choice to view your situation as bittersweet. And from her words, it seemed like she's healed and moved on from the hard parts of her life and if she can do it, then you definitely can, too. I needed that, and as I read the book more, I realize that maybe it was meant for me to see this book on Amazon, and to see it on sale so I can buy it.
Granted, some of the stories were a little repetitive, like stories at the end had some similarities to the stories at the start, but by the time I got to that, I was far too in love with what I've read for me to really nitpick about it. Despite that repetitiveness, though, the stories in Bittersweetwere honest and heartfelt and real, and it made me feel that I had a friend in Shauna Niequist, even if this is the first book of hers I've read.
I wonder now how I would've reacted to this if I read this on any other time, at any other season. I know I'm being repetitive on this review with that, but I can't help but wonder. Would I even read this at all? If I did, though, I don't think I would've loved it as much as I did now. But whatever -- I'm just really, really glad that this book got to me at the right time. If you're in a tough time, if you're experiencing bitter moments, I definitely recommend this book. Bittersweetmay not make your life better in a snap, but I hope it helps you heal, just like a good book ought to do. :)
My prayer for you is not that you live a life that's only sweet and never bitter, but that even in the bitterest of moments, you will find the comfort of Christ, deep and enduring, powerful beyond all imagination.
Repetitive at some point, but I loved every story in it. So honest and heartfelt and real. :) (less)
Sometime early this year, my book club started selecting books that we will discuss f...moreOriginal 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." :)(less)
If you know me really well or if you've been reading my blog for a while now, you'd know that I tend to gravitate toward...moreOriginal post at One More Page
If you know me really well or if you've been reading my blog for a while now, you'd know that I tend to gravitate towards contemporary fiction books. It's not that I don't like speculative fiction (I do, very much), but I just prefer reading about real life and the real world because it feels easier to understand than a world full of impossibilities.
However, I make an exception for some authors, and Jasper Fforde is one of them. Before I even got to know John Green, Jasper Fforde is the first author that can do no wrong in my book. I fell in love with his world in 2006 when I read Something Rotten (yes, I read the fourth Thursday Next book first. Gasp!) even if it's the most outrageous world I have ever read. I searched for all his books after that and declared him my favorite, making me read more because of all his literary references. He's one of those authors whose books I know I can get lost in easily whenever I need something to escape without the additional mental strain of having to figure out their world every now and then.
So it's really no question that when he released his first YA book, I would be there to get it and gobble it up. You think?
The Last Dragonslayer stars Jennifer Strange, a fifteen (almost sixteen) orphan who manages the Kazam!, a magical agency that provides jobs for magicians and sorcerers. Magic has been on a steady decline for years now, and there were less and less jobs for them. Still Jennifer tries to make do, and for someone who's mature for her age, she does it very well. Up until she hears a premonition about the last dragon dying. Dragons are fierce creatures that are said to eat humans and destroy homes but was contained by the Dragonpact years ago by the Mighty Shandar. Jennifer had no big concerns about the dragon dying until the wizards under her care started experiencing surges in power, but it became more of a problem when the premonition says that the dragon will die in the hands of a dragon slayer, and Jennifer is involved. What's a foundling like Jennifer to do now?
This book had everything I loved about Jasper Fforde. The best thing about his novels is how real they are even in their impossibility. Fforde writes in such a deadpan manner that you just can't help but believe what he writes no matter how outrageous they all seem to be. It takes a while to fully get into the world, but once you've accepted the world his characters move in, you're in for a very, very fun ride. Fforde knows his worlds, and it's amazing because The Last Dragonslayer's world is different from his other works -- is there no end to this guy's imagination?
In addition to the solid world building, the characters are also very real and wacky, with very fun names to boot! Jennifer Strange is a lovely narrator, akin to Thursday Next but with less of the adult jadedness. The villains were annoying all the way to the end, but that doesn't mean they were less hilarious. :P Even the dragon (of course the dragon talks in Fforde's world!) stands on his own, and if there was anything I would wish for this novel, it was more of the dragon.
If you've been a longtime fan of Jasper Fforde, you will not be disappointed by his YA venture, and I bet like me, you'd be clamoring for more! If you're new to Jasper Fforde and his adult novels intimidate you (which you really shouldn't be because they're awesome), The Last Dragonslayer is a good book to get your feet wet. :)
Oh, and one more wish, if I may. I want my own Quarkbeast. :P One of Jennifer's loyal sidekicks, a Quarkbeast is described as:
Often described as one tenth Labrador, six tents velociraptor and three tenths kitchen food blender, the Quarkbeast's razor sharp fangs and hideously frightening demeanour mask a quieter side that rarely, if ever, eats cats.
I don't know why, but whenever the Quarkbeast is mentioned in the novel, I remember Hyperbole and a Half's ALOT.
Does anyone else get the same impression?
More fun information on all things Strange in Jasper Fforde's website. :) I'm not sure if this is a standalone novel or if it would become a series, but I definitely wouldn't mind if this becomes a series. More YA, Fforde! :)
Quick note! I'm giving away a Kindle copy of this book on my blog! Just a leave a comment on this entry and I'll pick one lucky winner on November 18....moreQuick note! I'm giving away a Kindle copy of this book on my blog! Just a leave a comment on this entry and I'll pick one lucky winner on November 18. :)
I'm really all for supporting local authors and content, so when Honey told me that they will be releasing Paolo Chikiamco and Hannah Buena's High Society under their publishing company, I bought it without blinking. Local content for the win, plus I really enjoyed Kataastaasan, so I was excited to read more about this alternate steampunk world.
Thing is, High Society is really the same as the Kataastaasan I read a year back...but also a little bit different. High Society is a stand-alone comic set in Cebu City circa 1770, and tells an alternate history of the Philippines’ struggle for independence from Spain. Here we meet someone called "The Carpenter" telling our main character Rita about the location of a treasure that they need to recover. Rita goes undercover in a party with the Spanish colonizers to retrieve the treasure. Now you'd think Rita is just your normal undercover agent and all, but then she's also not. I won't reveal what the twist is, but I remember I was pleasantly surprised when I found out about it on my first read. Even if I knew about it then, I really liked how it was illustrated and revealed this time, and I think it's the part of the story that hooks the reader the most.
I think the improvement on this one compared to the ARC I read was how Rita was given a more human aspect. There's a hint of romance in the story that made me smile, and it made me want to know more. This version also had a little more background on how Rita came to be as well as why their mission was important. I'm not a big judge on artwork, but I liked how it had that dark and authentic Philippines in Spanish era vibe.
So yeah, I liked this one on the second round as much as I liked it during the first. Too bad it's a stand alone, but I kind of have high hopes with what they mean with the "Wooden War" series. More please? High Society is a creative take in Philippine history, and anyone who's a history buff, or at least interested in alternate histories and steampunk should pick this up. (less)
This particular cover for Melina Marchetta's Saving Francesca is a lie. I expected a quirky, funny and light novel, but...moreOriginal post at One More Page
This particular cover for Melina Marchetta's Saving Francesca is a lie. I expected a quirky, funny and light novel, but it didn't give me that. I thought it would be just funny, friends, and I honestly thought I would only be in for a quick and light in-between read, but it wasn't that.
Saving Francesca was funny. Quirky. It was light in some ways, and being less than 250 pages, it was a very quick read indeed. I thought it would be just that. Look at the cover and tell me, wouldn't you expect the same thing? I think I must clarify, though -- it wasn't just what I was expecting if I were to judge it by its cover. It was more. Friends, I was expecting to only like this book. I wasn't expecting to love it.
Francesca's mom, Mia, is a hands-on mom who wants nothing but the best for her daughter. Francesca is used to waking up to her mom giving her pep talks for conquering her day especially after she's moved to the recently co-ed St. Sebastian's. However, one day, Mia just simply doesn't get out of bed. Francesca's days are suddenly plunged into a surprising silence from her Mom and everything she knows suddenly doesn't make sense. Not only is her family falling apart, but she had no friends in St. Sebastian's, and it doesn't help that she's having weird feelings for popular guy William Thrombal. Francesca needs saving -- stat.
I've been meaning to read a Marchetta book for the longest time, as everyone I know who's read them keeps on singing praises to her books. As a fan of contemporary YA, not reading Marchetta's books seem like a crime, so I finally gave in and cracked this book last week. And I was really, really glad I did. :)
Marchetta certainly knows how to make it all realistic. Francesca is such a strong character that even in her weak moments, she shows a unique strength that makes you root for her all the way. My heart broke for her when she finds herself lost, and I rejoiced when I see her slowly rising up. She's one of those heroines that will remain with you and wish to be there for when she needed someone the most.
But then again, as the story goes, you'd realize that maybe Francesca had all that she needs after all. The best part of this book (and I hear most of Marchetta's books) are the relationships. I loved Francesca's family and her friends. None of them were perfect, but it was the kind of relationship that you'd want to have in your life. Her family reminded me of mine -- the father's quiet strength, the mother's louder personality and a close relationship with the brother. I especially loved the Francesca's relationship with her dad -- flawed and very realistic, and it was one of the things that made me shed a tear or two. :)
I especially loved her friends, and the author had their interactions done pat. I loved every bus scene where they'd argue and pretend not to be friends, I loved every time one character would invite himself over to dinner. I found it really nice when the girls would hang out and watch Pride and Prejudice and eat Oreos and Pringles. Like Aaron, I loved that scene in Francesca's bedroom after a particularly emotional moment in the book. Like everyone else, too, I wanted to be a part of that group, to ride the bus with them and see them everyday in school and joke with them and all that.
Hm, you know what? Francesca's friends remind me of my own too. We weren't exactly all friends from school or did we bond over bus rides, but I can't help but think of them as I think about the characters in the book. :) Look at us here:
It must be noted, too, that I was very thrilled when I read about the Filipino character in the book, Eva Rodriguez. And even if she wasn't really a part of the main group, I liked that she was present there every now and then. :)
Saving Francesca is a very, very good book about family, friendships and identity. I loved every bit of it -- as if it wasn't that obvious from all my gushing. :) I cannot wait to read more of Marchetta's books. This is definitely one great contemporary YA novel that I would keep on my shelf and revisit every now and then. :)(less)