I think it’s pretty clear by now that I’m a Mina V. Esguerra fangirl. I grab copies of her novellas and short stories when they...moreOriginally posted here.
I think it’s pretty clear by now that I’m a Mina V. Esguerra fangirl. I grab copies of her novellas and short stories when they’re released and I try to read and review them as soon as I could. The early chapters of Welcome to Envy Park were uploaded to Wattpad so I was able to sample part of the story. I was really looking forward to reading this particular title because it’s about a Filipino lady in her mid-twenties who worked in Singapore for five years and is now back in Manila, trying to figure out what her next move is. I think Welcome to Envy Park’s cover looks pretty good. I like how bright and happy the colors are. I think it’s a great idea for Mina to partner with Filipino fashion bloggers for her book covers. I think the outfit that the girl is wearing is cute and girly although I don’t really picture Moira wearing something like that.
I’m glad that Mina gave us a character who has lived and worked abroad because that’s such a common occurrence for Filipinos. I’m proof of that. I think half of my friends are currently studying or working abroad and I’m not sure when they’re planning to go home or if they’d rather settle down outside the country. I could totally relate to Moira because of the similarities in our working experience and because we’re about the same age. Her descriptions of what her life was like in Singapore is pretty accurate, although I was hoping it included more details. I would have wanted to know what her hobbies were, where she hung out, what her favorite restaurants or dishes were, etc. But maybe I'm just curious about those things because I'm currently based in Singapore. I feel like I could be friends with Moira, we would have conversations about OFW (Overseas Filipino Worker) life while trying out new restaurants. Once she's back in Manila, it was expected that she’d compare herself to her friends who stayed back home and here’s a section of the book that I really liked:
Maybe it was the tequila buzz, but I really did think that I had come out ahead. Surely the lessons in independence that leaving home provided a person counted for something. Counted for more, at least, in terms of emotional growth, and maturity, because those years were the most difficult and humbling of my life so far.
You got that right, sister. Living independently, away from the support system of family and friends, is definitely good for emotional maturity and growth but it’s damn hard. It’s the second most difficult experience of my life, the first was when my dad passed away. I can't believe that in the five years that she was away, Moira only came home for Christmas visits. I think I wouldn't last here if I didn't get to go home three or four times a year. I liked that Moira was also not sure about her career plans, that she was still trying to decide what to do next. I’m also at that stage in my life and I believe most of my friends are also like that – in the process of understanding in what direction our career should go or figuring out what our calling is. The one big difference between me and Moira is that’s she’s a doer and I’m more of a go with the flow type of person, which makes me more like Ethan in that regard. I didn’t really plan to move to Singapore, the opportunity presented itself and I knew it would be stupid not to take it. Anyway, I liked how Moira and Ethan got to know each other through their gym sessions and food trips. I always enjoy reading Mina's books because of the romance and while I have no complaints about how Moira and Ethan's relationship developed, I would have loved to see more swoon-worthy scenes. That's a minor quibble because I enjoyed it overall. What I really liked was that while Welcome to Envy Park is a light and fun romance, it still makes you think about life choices - why people choose to work abroad and why others would rather stay in the Philippines. I will definitely be recommending this title to my friends because I feel like they would be able to connect with the story, regardless of what their choices are. There's just something about Mina's novellas that make it easy for me to both read and review them. In my dashboard, there are several other drafts of reviews for other books that I've read but here I am talking about Welcome to Envy Park.
After reading The Chocolate Thief, the first book in the Amour et Chocolat series, Laura Florand earned a place in my auto-buy a...moreOriginaly posted here.
After reading The Chocolate Thief, the first book in the Amour et Chocolat series, Laura Florand earned a place in my auto-buy author list. She was generous enough to send me the ebook for the novella Turning Up the Heat. This installment is different from the rest of her books because it's part of another series set in Provence called La Vie en Roses. The Chocolate Rose ties both the Amour et Chocolat and La Vie en Roses series together. Having said that, Turning Up the Heat is still very much about food, a theme that is consistent in all of Laura Florand's books. Daniel is a celebrity chef, one who manages a famous restaurant and has numerous TV engagements, while his wife Lea is his supportive manager. They fell in love as teenagers and got married soon after, the story is set after they've been married for more than ten years. I liked that this novella went in a different direction than usual - instead of giving us a couple about to start a relationship, Laura shows us how difficult marriage can get even though the love is obviously still there. Every marriage has its own problems and when husband and wife both lead busy lives, lack of communication is definitely an issue. After everything they've been through together, I was rooting for Daniel and Lea to figure things out so they can have a happy ending.(less)
Novel Gossip is a new feature that my good friend Michelle and I started a few months ago. Our inaugural post was The Chocolate Rose by Laura Florand....moreNovel Gossip is a new feature that my good friend Michelle and I started a few months ago. Our inaugural post was The Chocolate Rose by Laura Florand. We both loved Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein (my review, Michelle's review) last year so Rose Under Fire was one of our most anticipated reads this year. Since it's a book set in a concentration camp, we were pretty sure that it would be heartbreaking and that it would be a good idea to read this together so we can provide moral support as we go along. Click here to read our thoughts about this historical fiction novel. While we did our best to refrain from putting in spoilers, it's pretty hard to have an in depth discussion without going into some of the things that happened within the book. If you'd rather go into Rose Under Fire without prior knowledge of its contents, then feel free to skip our discussion (although we hope you'd drop by after finishing the book).(less)
Thank you so much to my friend Maggie of Young Adult Anonymous for giving me a signed copy of Amy Spalding's debut novel, The Reece Malcolm List. I kept hearing good things about this contemporary YA novel so I was pretty excited to read it.
I felt like I read this book at just the right time. I just came back from L.A. when I read this more than a month ago and I was able to appreciate all the references to L.A. in the book. I got excited whenever I recognized any of the places or things mentioned - like having a burger from In N Out, which is something that I always make a point of having whenever I visit L.A. I'm a fan of musicals although I'm not as into the whole thing as Devan is - I mean I would like to be but I obviously don't have her talent. I just enjoy watching musicals and I try to watch as many as I can. I wish I was more familiar with Merrily We Roll Along because that was the musical featured in the book. I probably would have appreciated Devan's rehearsals more if I've seen Merrily We Roll Along on stage or if I knew the songs. I also love having karaoke sessions (we call it videoke back home in Manila) with my friends though because I like to sing even if I'm all heart and no talent. So I could totally relate to the karaoke scene in the book, I find it interesting that for a seriously talented singer like Devan, a fun karaoke session lets her unwind.
I liked reading about the characters and how Devan slowly got to know them - her theater friends, her love interests, her mom and even her mom's boyfriend. There were interesting characters and dynamics within the novel. I really, really enjoyed reading this book and I felt like I would have fallen in love with it if it just had a little more emotional depth. I felt like there was enough room to draw upon the characters' feelings - maybe more grief or anger from Devan over all the bad things that have happened in her life. I guess I was expecting something like that since her father passed away and she suddenly has to move in with a mom she has never met. I think that this novel is a very good debut and I'm definitely curious about Amy Spalding's next book - it's just that I wanted more than the overall lighthearted tone presented in The Reece Malcolm List. If you're a fan of contemporary YA, then you should definitely check this one out. I'm not surprised that I've seen so many rave reviews for it because it's a really fun read.(less)
I have been hearing good things about Andrea K. Höst's books for a while now. I’ve been curious about And All the Stars, partic...moreOriginally posted here.
I have been hearing good things about Andrea K. Höst's books for a while now. I’ve been curious about And All the Stars, particularly, because it’s a standalone. My friend Estara was generous enough to send me a Kindle edition as a gift a few months ago and I downloaded it right away. Now I’m not a big fan of science fiction – I rarely venture into that genre and would only do so if a book comes highly recommended by someone I know. I don’t know why but I tend to get confused by the details in sci-fi (while I don't have that kind of problem with fantasy novels). I was in the mood for something different so I decided to give And All the Stars a try last week.
It would be very difficult to talk about And All the Stars without giving away minor spoilers but I’ll do the best that I can. I really enjoyed reading this because of the surprising twists and turns so I wouldn’t want to ruin other readers’ experience by bringing up spoilery details. The story is set in present day (or not too far into the future) Sydney, where strange spires suddenly shoot up in the middle of well-populated cities all over the world. The spires spray an unknown dust-like substance that produces a cloud of haze. No one knows what the effect of the dust is on living things and I was wondering right along with the characters. Thankfully, I didn't have to wait long as the story unfolded quickly. I have to be honest, I did have a hard time getting into And All the Stars at the start - I found it a bit difficult to picture the opening scene. I had to pause and try to figure out what was being portrayed. And that happened several times throughout the book, I would be thrown out of the story for a short while because of difficulties in imagining the scene. I didn't let it bother me all that much and I would like to be clear that I ended up really enjoying the book as a whole. It may be a minor thing but I really liked that Manila was mentioned in this one because that rarely happens:
Other major cities were mentioned as well, emphasizing that what's happening in Sydney is also taking place on a global scale. Aside from that, there's also a pretty diverse set of characters within the story. I could relate to that because of where I live now (Singapore), which can be considered a cultural melting pot. Madeleine is a likable heroine, so devoted to her art that everything else fades away while she's drawing or painting. While I've never had that kind of artistic talent, I enjoyed reading about it. Another aspect of the story that I enjoyed was how at its core, And All the Stars is about friendship and people getting together to help each other in the midst of a crisis. Of course, I'm also a big fan of stories that surprise me and this one did. There was a scene that made me stop and say, "Wait, what?" and then I just wanted to finish reading this as soon as I could. Plus there was a slow burn romance that I could totally root for, one that is much more complicated that I initially expected, making it all the more swoon-worthy. I also liked that this is a short standalone (the paperback edition says it has 204 pages) and is a perfect sample of the author's writing. Can't wait to try the rest of her novels. Highly recommended for fans of unusual YA. Like I said, I'm not a big sci-fi reader so you don't have to be one to appreciate And All the Stars.(less)
I first noticed Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Mass when several Goodreads friends began reading review copies of the book. It's b...moreOriginally posted here.
I first noticed Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Mass when several Goodreads friends began reading review copies of the book. It's been getting a lot of attention lately and I heard positive things about it so I became curious. My friend Janice generously sent a copy and since I wasn't in the middle of anything when it arrived, I started on it right away.
Well, that didn't turn out as well as I expected. I'm a huge fan of YA epic fantasy when it's done well. Unfortunately, I didn't feel like that was the case with Throne of Glass. The premise had so much promise - I wanted to read about an assassin trying to balance court intrigue with the fierce competition to become the King's Champion. After just a few chapters, I knew I wasn't going to get what I expected. I found it odd that an assassin as notorious as Celaena is more concerned about her looks and her dresses rather than honing her fighting skills. I was surprised by how often the characters focused on physical appearances rather than personalities - even the prince kept noticing how pretty Celaena is when he should be noting how well she fights as his candidate in the competition. Aside from not being fully invested in the characters, I wasn't impressed by the world-building, either. I was initially intrigued by the mystery in the novel - what the country's history was like, why magic has been banned, who was behind the murders - but that eventually fell flat for me. I don't know, it just wasn't as tightly woven (if that makes sense) as I'd like.
I also wasn't a fan of the love triangle in Throne of Glass because I felt like it wasn't necessary and the romance felt under-developed because of it. Sigh, I hate to be so negative in a review but I just wanted to list the reasons why I felt like Throne of Glass didn't work for me. I was even tempted to DNF the book because I found the last hundred pages or so dragging, I just wanted to get it over with. It felt like I was reading paranormal YA (which I try to stay away from as much as possible) instead of epic fantasy. As always, feel free to pick up the book if this looks like the kind of thing you'll enjoy reading, I've seen mixed reviews for it so I guess it really depends on how well you'll be able to connect with the story. I feel like Throne of Glass would work for readers who haven't read the likes of Robin McKinley, Megan Whalen Turner or Kristin Cashore. But if you're like me and you're aware of the awesomeness of other novels, I have a feeling you'll just be disappointed. Throne of Glass will be released August 7, 2012.(less)
I won a copy of Mina V. Esguerra's latest, That Kind of Guy, when I joined the contest that she hosted. You can read all about...moreOriginally posted here.
I won a copy of Mina V. Esguerra's latest, That Kind of Guy, when I joined the contest that she hosted. You can read all about it here. I enjoy reading her novels because I can relate to her characters and of course, the local setting.
Manang is a Filipino word that is roughly translated as "older sister" and is usually used as a term of respect. It's hard to define but manang is also used to describe conservative girls. My friends and I say we're manangs when we'd rather stay home on weekends (and in my case, read or blog) instead of go out and party. A girl can be a manang in so many different ways - from the way she dresses (no sleeveless tops or short skirts or dresses) to the way she dates (not willing to be set up on a blind date). Julie is a manang in the sense that she's a good girl. She doesn't do wild parties and she doesn't date random guys. In fact, she's never been in a serious relationship. When a friend suggests that she should loosen up by dating a fun guy, Julie agrees to try things out with Anton. She's just as surprised as everyone else when it becomes apparent that Anton wants to start a serious relationship with her. I was curious about Anton when I first met him as Tonio in No Strings Attached. I wanted to see how Mina would write about a playboy settling down. I wasn't disappointed, Anton turned out to be a really sweet guy in spite of how he was initially portrayed as a wild party boy. Here's a quote from the book that I really liked:
“Before I met him, I wondered how I could possibly fit a relationship into my life. My days felt full, of people, things, and concerns, and I wondered what I'd give up to accommodate someone new. Anton made it seem easy. He didn't take me out of my life; instead, he sort of slid into the empty spaces and made himself comfortable.”
It's funny because even though the book is written from Julie's point of view and I have manang tendencies, I liked Anton's character more than his girlfriend's. His actions and his lifestyle made sense when he explained them. I guess I just couldn't understand why Julie wasn't invested in their relationship but then again, that's something that Julie herself is trying to figure out. What I like about Mina's books is that I still enjoy reading them even if I can't fully relate to her characters. Why? Because I feel like her books are stories that can actually happen to some of my friends. I guess a huge part of that is because of the local setting. I liked watching Julie and Anton's love story unfold. I also think it's nice that they have such different personalities and yet they go well together. I'm already planning to recommend this (andmaybe even buy copies to give as gifts) to my girlfriends. That Kind of Guy is available in local bookstores all over the metro and will be available as an ebook soon. Mina, when will your next book be released? :P(less)
I really liked reading If I Stay and actually felt bad that it took me so long to read it. The good thing in that is I don't ha...moreOriginally posted here.
I really liked reading If I Stay and actually felt bad that it took me so long to read it. The good thing in that is I don't have to wait for the companion novel and I got to read it while the story is still fresh in my mind. WARNING: This review contains spoilers for If I Stay, even the summary for Where She Went has spoilers so avert your eyes if you haven't read the first book. Trust me, you don't want to see spoilers. Here's the link to my If I Stay review instead.
I loved where If I Stay ended and I felt like it stood well on its own. Which is why it took me a while to pick up Where She Went even though it's written from Adam's point of view and I thought he's an amazing guy based on the first book. I just couldn't get over the fact that Adam and Mia broke up after everything they've been through. I felt like they had a forever kind of relationship in If I Stay - I thought they had a real connection. I couldn't resist reading this, however, when I received a copy for my birthday. It still took a couple of chapters for me to get over the idea that Mia left Adam. Things made sense from Adam's side of the story - how his band became popular, how he reluctantly started a relationship with a celebrity and how messed up his life has been the past couple of years. It's funny because even though everyone around him and Adam himself thinks that he's a jerk, I believed that he's still the great guy he was in If I Stay - he just has more reason to be emo and angry. I'd love to quote some of the sections that I really liked but they might be spoilery so here are some lyrics from Adam's songs:
"You crossed the water, left me ashore It killed me enough, but you wanted more You blew up the bridge, a mad terrorist Waved from your side, threw me a kiss I started to follow but realized too late There was nothing but air underneath my feet" -Bridge
"I'll be your mess, you be mine That was the deal that we had signed I bought a hazmat suit to clean up your waste Gas masks, gloves, to keep us safe But now I'm alone in an empty room Staring down immaculate doom" - Messy
Oh Adam. Did I enjoy reading Where She Went? Surprisingly yes, in spite of my reservations. I should have known to trust Gayle Forman because she's an excellent storyteller. I enjoyed seeing everything through Adam's eyes. It gave the initial story in If I Stay more depth, while adding in layers provided by the years when Adam and Mia were apart. Although I think it would have been better if we got more insight into Mia and what she was thinking. Don't get me wrong - it did feel like everything fell into place quite nicely - but I kind of felt like there wasn't enough of Mia in this installment. I really liked that Where She Went has New Adult characters because we really need more novels like this. Both If I Stay and Where She Went are contemporary novels that I highly recommend. I feel like I've been lucky in my contemporary reads in 2012, so far. *keeps fingers crossed that will continue for the rest of the year* I look forward to seeing what Gayle Forman has in store for us next - looks like Just One Day and Just One Year will be companion novels too. (less)
Magic Gifts is a Kate Daniels novella and is Ilona and Gordon's Christmas gift to their fans. It's available as a free download...moreOriginally posted here.
Magic Gifts is a Kate Daniels novella and is Ilona and Gordon's Christmas gift to their fans. It's available as a free download for two weeks after they uploaded it on Christmas day. Hurry and grab a copy if you haven't downloaded it yet! Ilona and Gordon are so generous for giving their fans a freebie like this. I've seen some of the snippets for this novella on their blog and it's great to see all the scenes come together to form a story. Magic Gifts occurs after Magic Slays and at the same as Gunmetal Magic, which is Andrea's book and will be released next year. The Kate Daniels series is my favorite urban fantasy series and this might contain some spoilery bits for the earlier books. Check out my reviews through these links: Magic Bites, Magic Burns, Magic Strikes, Magic Bleeds, Magic Slays
I think I've said it often enough but I have a feeling I will keep saying it over and over again: I will read anything written by Ilona and Gordon. I read this as soon as I downloaded a copy on my Kindle. I love their short stories because they feel like bite size snacks compared to their novels - delicious snacks that readers can gobble up in one sitting. In Magic Gifts, we get a glimpse of how things are between Kate and Curran. I think it's awesome that their relationship keeps on developing. I like how their romance spans the entire series and even when they're already together, the banter between them is still funny and sweet at the same time. And yet this novella isn't just about the two of them. There's a little bit of Andrea, Kate's best friend and business partner, as well as their shapeshifter sidekicks: Derek and Ascanio. I can't wait to read more about Andrea's story and I'm really interested in seeing where things will go for her. There are also a few scenes with Jim, Kate's former colleague in the Mercenary Guild and the head of security of the Pack. I thought Jim and Kate's arguments were hilarious. Aside from the characters, I also like the worldbuilding in the whole series and how each book and novella focuses on a different mythology (and the magic tied to that culture). Magic Gifts is about Norse mythology and Vikings. All in all, a lovely Christmas treat for Kate Daniels fans. Thank you again, Ilona and Gordon!(less)
A.C. Gaughen's Scarlet is a Robin Hood retelling. I found out about it when trustedbook bloggers started giving it positive reviews. I was delighted when this pretty little book showed up in a surprise package that I received a couple of weeks ago. Again, thank you to the lovely ladies - Angie and Holly - for sending me a copy of this. I couldn't resist reading it right away, you guys know how fond I am of thieves in fiction.
I can't get over how gorgeous the cover design for Scarlet is - doesn't that just draw you in? It's the kind of cover that would attract my attention even if I knew nothing about the premise. I think Scarlet's eyes look very expressive and I love that she's disguised as a boy in the cover, because that's how she usually is in the book. Few people know that Will Scarlet is actually a girl. Just in case you didn't know, I also enjoy reading girls in disguise stories. Scarlet is one prickly character. Even though she's been working with Rob, John and Much for the past couple of years, she still doesn't fully trust them. She works with them but she still holds a part of herself back, never explaining her past and where she really came from. Which is funny because these boys want to take care of Scarlet. Can I just say that I found it refreshing that there are only four people in Robin's band in this retelling? It makes it easier to keep track of them and be invested in who they are as characters. Rob is the leader, John the playful charmer and Much is the quiet one. Here's a funny little quote about the band:
“Of a band with three actual boys, why is it that all the maids lust after the fake one?"
My heart went out to this little group - how they do the best that they could to provide for the people and shelter them from the Sheriff's cruelty. As much as Scarlet pretends that she only stays with the band because it's convenient for her, she does it because she cares for the people. Here's another snippet that I really liked:
"I left little packages in front of the doors; the people looked for them in the morning, and I knew, in some bit of a way, it bucked them up.
I did as much as I could, but it weren't like I could get everyone something every night. That seemed like the cruelest part. I tried not to think 'bout the people that woke up and rushed to the door and didn't find nothing; it made my chest hurt."
You got to love a thief with a conscience. She steals not for herself but for the people. It's rare for a sneaky thief as good as Scarlet to be afraid of anything but her comrades quickly discover that there's something about Gisbourne, the Thief Taker, that frightens Scarlet. I liked this air of mystery about her, it made the book a quicker read because I kept going, waiting for Scarlet's past to be revealed. I also liked the slow burn romance although I'm not a fan of the love triangle. It's not surprising that more than one guy is interested in our feisty heroine but I did feel like it was unnecessary for her to have more than one love interest. As expected, Scarlet was a really enjoyable read. Highly recommended for fans of Robin Hood retellings, thieves in fiction and girls in disguise. Will I be checking out A.C. Gaughen's books in the future? Definitely.(less)