Having previously loved Andrea K. Höst's sci-fi novels And All the Stars and the Touchstone trilogy, I picked up her Medair duology when I needed to be fully absorbed by a good novel. It's funny because out of all of her books, I wanted to read this epic fantasy duology first but I didn't get the chance to read them until recently. Once again, I would like to thank the author for providing a review copy of the omnibus edition which contains both The Silence of Medair and Voice of the Lost. I feel that both books have to be read together so I'm glad I got them in one edition.
I was completely immersed in Medair's world right from the start. I read the whole thing in just one weekend because I couldn't get enough of the story and just had to reach the end as soon as I could. I wanted to be swept away into a wonderful world filled with magic and adventure and I'm happy to report that Medair lived up to my expectations. Having had prior experience reading Andrea K. Höst's other novels, I knew there would be surprising twists and turns in both The Silence of Medair and Voice of the Lost and I was right. I was immediately intrigued by the premise - Medair is a Herald of her kingdom, tasked with finding a powerful magical object that will help her people win the war. She succeeded in finding what she was looking for, but she stopped to rest in a place outside of time and when she woke up, she discovered that 500 years have passed. Not surprisingly, Medair feels lost, with no idea how to move forward. A large part of the reader's enjoyment of Medair would depend on whether one will be able to sympathize with her and the issues that she faces. Her narration is very introspective, going back and forth from the past to the present, and trying to reconcile the differences between them. There's a lot of reflection on her part as she reluctantly becomes involved in making decisions that would irrevocably change the world she found herself in. I loved Medair's character, I understood her hesitations, her feelings and her worries. She's an intelligent and resourceful woman, loyal to her liege and her country, and inherently a good person. But completely at a loss with how much has been altered in her world. I do admit that there could have been less of her thoughts going around in circles, even Medair was self-aware enough to realize that she keeps doing that, but I wasn't really bothered by it. I can see why the narration wouldn't work for everyone but I'm delighted that I was completely engrossed by it. Aside from Medair, I was also invested in several other characters in the story and I loved seeing her interact with them even as she tries to keep a distance.
There's a whole lot of history and political intrigue intertwined with the story, partly because of the invasion centuries ago, and also because of the alliances of the various governing bodies around the region. I enjoyed these aspects and how magic was also involved in all of it. I like that there weren't any lengthy explanations on how the magic works but it never got confusing for me. I felt that it was seamlessly woven into the story. I believe that this review wouldn't be complete if I didn't talk about the romance in these two books. While I could see it coming, it was how the characters got there that mattered. In keeping with her personality and the situation she's in, Medair doesn't take her attraction to a certain someone lightly. As a result, there's tension and ambiguity. I really had no idea how things would unfold between them. Andrea K. Höst has consistently surprised me with how she builds and develops relationships in her books. While I wasn't exactly able to predict how things would end, I can say that there was a nice build up and I couldn't see Medair's story ending any other way. Similar to the Touchstone trilogy, I can see the Medair duology will be a very good reread. I look forward to finding the time for it. In the meantime, I need to work on convincing more readers to pick up her books because I seriously find it surprising that they're not as well-known as they should be. I had a book hangover after reading these two books and the only solution I could think of was to start on another Andrea K. Höst title.(less)
I really liked Andrea K. Host’s And All the Stars last year and even included it in my best of 2013 list. I have been meaning to read the rest of her books since then. I know that several friends (namely Rachel, Estara and Li) have loved the Touchstone trilogy so I requested a review copy from the author and started reading it as soon as I was in the mood for sci-fi. I used to say that I’m not much of a sci-fi reader but given how much I enjoy reading Andrea K. Höst’s novels, it seems like I should read more from that genre. I read the omnibus version of the trilogy so this is a review for all three books - Stray, Lab Rat One and Caszandra - although I wouldn't be mentioning any spoilers.
Aussie teen Cass tells her story in diary format, so a big factor of the reader’s enjoyment of the Touchstone trilogy is based on how well you can relate and connect with her character. At first I thought it wasn’t going to work for me since I’m not a big fan of stories where the main character is stranded somewhere by herself. However, I found it easy to like Cass and the pace picked up considerably once she was rescued and brought to the alien planet Tare. Cass is smart, funny and has realistic reactions to finding herself suddenly stuck in an unfamiliar world. I know from personal experience how difficult it is to adjust to living in a foreign country, finding yourself in another planet with a drastically different civilization and language is probably a thousand times worse. I could definitely understand her homesickness and loneliness. I also feel like Cass handles herself quite well in spite of the physical and emotional obstacles in her path. Plus, I always think it's a good thing when the main character of any novel is a book lover. Some excerpts:
"I've spent my life with stories of people who don't walk away, who go back for their friends, who make that last stand. I've been brainwashed by Samwise Gamgee."
"I've spent my whole life reading books. I vaguely remember Mum reading to me in our own bedtime sessions, and our house is practically a library. The way I think, the way I act, most of that's because of the books I've read."
How can I not like someone who says things like that? I was also fascinated with the technologically advanced world that Andrea K. Höst created - with nanotechnology and tiny computer interface that can be injected in human brains. You can do all sorts of amazing things with the interface like record what you're seeing, watch movies, read books and play interactive games. In this world, there are also psychic space ninjas called Setari who are specially trained military personnel tasked with keeping the known planets and the space around them safe. Setari have special talents like telekinesis and enhanced sight/senses. Due to certain developments, Cass spends most of her time with the Setari and even befriends some of them. To be honest, I was a little confused with the number of Setari and their talents but I didn't let that bother me and just kept reading.
One of the aspects of the story that I truly loved was the romance. I kept reading because I wanted to find out what will happen with Cass having such a big crush on someone. I thought she was destined to have “On My Own” as her theme song but fortunately, that wasn't the case. Slowest burn romance that I’ve read in a while! It reminded me a little of the romance in Crown Duel, with a male character who’s all stoic and unreadable, skilled in combat and also a great leader. I was so absorbed by this series that I kept squeezing in time to read it even though I was supposed to do other things - like pack for a trip home or get some sleep. I even read bits and pieces of this in the car, which I don't normally do because it makes me dizzy. I hope that gives the rest of you an idea of how engrossed I was. The story lingered in my mind days after I finished reading it, giving me one heck of a book hangover. I devoured the Gratuitous Epilogue, which features the events after the trilogy, right after I finished the three books. What's interesting is that I think Touchstone will even be better as a reread because I wouldn't be confused by some of the things that initially bugged me and can pay attention to other details instead. I can now safely say that I've become an Andrea K. Höst fangirl. Seriously, more of my reader friends should be introduced to her work. If you haven't read any of her books, consider this a push in the right direction. I already have Medair in my Kindle and I'm looking forward to reading it.
"All these planets, and none of them have chocolate. Severe oversight in world creation."(less)
Reread this for Marchetta Madness, I think I was able to appreciate it more as a reread. :) Now looking forward to rereading about Tom in The Piper's...moreReread this for Marchetta Madness, I think I was able to appreciate it more as a reread. :) Now looking forward to rereading about Tom in The Piper's Son.
I loved that Francesca was sent to study in a previously all-boys Catholic school and she's clearly out of her element. None of her friends from her former school are with her and the school is still adjusting to having girls studying there. Added to that are Francesca's problems at home. Her formerly vibrant and super active mother suddenly just stopped getting out of bed and this affects the whole tight-knit family. But as Francesca adjusts to her environment and learns how to deal with her situation, she slowly comes to her own and her true self shines forth. She realizes that her friends from her old school held her back and that it's okay to be a show off, to be crazy wonderful, unpredictable and fun, which of course, greatly confuses logical Will Trombal. Oh Will Trombal with the intense gaze, always trying to follow a plan. I love how frustrated he is that he can't control what he's feeling and he can't always control where his life goes. Add to that the eclectic mix of Sebastian friends, all of whom have unique personalities, that Francesca collects along the way. This is a heartwarming story of finding (and saving) yourself. That is not to say that it doesn't have its fair amount of humor. There's enough witty banter in the novel to make it lighthearted.
And because I'm Filipino, I have to mention the Filipino reference in the book, we tend to notice these kinds of things. It was said in the book that Eva Rodriguez' parents came from the Philippines and she's described as having "the usual Spanish-and-Filipino mix of caramelized skin and almond-shaped eyes." Sounds alluring and beautiful, I wish I looked like that. Another thing I envy about her is that she can hip hop! I'm a frustrated dancer with no skills whatsoever. Okay, enough with the Eva envy. Just wanted to get that out of my system.
To those who've read and enjoyed Jellicoe Road, I highly recommend this one as well. It's different but just as lovely. I have a feeling that Melina Marchetta's other books will be good also and I can't wait to read them.(less)
I've been neglecting the Aussie YA Challenge the past few months because I still have the rest of the year to finish it and I o...moreOriginally posted here.
I've been neglecting the Aussie YA Challenge the past few months because I still have the rest of the year to finish it and I only need two more books. But when my good friend Celina offered to let me borrow her copy of Pink by Lili Wilkinson, I decided to go ahead and read it. I've been hearing good things about this book. Also, that's one less book for me to buy. Thanks again, Celina, for lending your copy. :)
Pink is a delightful, contemporary Aussie read. It's all about how the main character, Ava, is confused about a lot of things in her life. She thinks her girlfriend Chloe is awesome and she feels lucky to be in a relationship but she also wants to explore and discover other things about herself. She's tired of always wearing black and trying not to care about school because that's what Chloe wants. So she transfers to Billy Hughes so she can wear pink, act all girly and maybe even date a guy. Ava just didn't realize that things aren't so simple. It's hard to form friendships when she's hiding so much about herself. She doesn't even know when she's just pretending and when she's being real. I think Pink's storyline is something that most teenagers will be able to relate to. I can remember being confused about so many things in my life back when I was that age so I could definitely understand where Ava is coming from. As Ava finds out for herself, it takes time for things to fall into place. You can't just magically be somebody else even when you transfer schools.
As with most novels set in high school, the characters are divided into the popular and unpopular groups - in this case, the actors vs. the stage crew. I've always liked theater settings in novels because there's so much that happens in preparation for a play or a musical (and also because I like watching theater productions in real life). The characters get to bond over rehearsals or while building sets. I've said this before and I'll say it again, Aussie YA rocks. Why can't Filipino YA be the same? :P Pink is funny and very easy to read. Ava is one smart girl but some of the things that she gets herself into are hilarious. I felt embarrassed for her several times. But I was always rooting for her, I wanted her to make sense of everything that was confusing in her life. Ava makes mistakes along the way but that's part of growing up. I think she did the best that she could and that's all that we can ever ask of anyone. I recommend this for fans of contemporary fiction and international readers should take advantage of the fact that this has been printed in the US so it's more accessible than other Aussie titles. I'm already looking forward to reading Lili Wilkinson's A Pocketful of Things. (less)
I've experienced a case of the right book at the right time with What Alice Forgot and I loved it. For some reason, I was in th...moreOriginally posted here.
I've experienced a case of the right book at the right time with What Alice Forgot and I loved it. For some reason, I was in the mood to read something just like this and Liane Moriarty is now on my auto-buy list. The plot of this book is similar to the TV show, Samantha Who, which I enjoyed watching a couple of years ago. After she bumped her head in a step-aerobics class, Alice thinks she's twenty-nine instead of thirty-nine. She doesn't understand why she's drifted apart from her loved ones and why she's in the middle of a nasty divorce with her husband, Nick. She doesn't even remember giving birth to her three kids. The first part started out a bit slow for me, Alice kept on relating details about her life ten years ago. I already know that she lost her memory, I wanted the story to move forward at a faster pace. Nevertheless, I was hooked by Liane Moriarty's writing and I knew I was going to enjoy reading about Alice coming to terms with the changes in her life. I also thought it was a great idea that the perspective changes from Alice's point of view to her sister Elizabeth's, who writes in a journal as homework for a therapist, and Frannie's, their grandmother who has a personal blog about the family. Elizabeth's journal entries about infertility are more serious in contrast to Frannie's hilarious anecdotes.
I highly recommend this to fans of women's fiction and readers who like their chick lit with more depth and with a lot of heart. What Alice Forgot portrays how hard it is to work on relationships - between siblings, between husband and wife and even between a parent and their child. If only we could all go back in time and say "let's start with a clean slate because of memory loss" each time there's a problem that feels insurmountable. This book made me reflect about my own life and how different things were for me ten years ago and I think this is something that we would all be able to relate to. I wouldn't want to go back but I do think it's a shame that I lost some close friends along the way. In spite of handling some serious topics, What Alice Forgot also has its share of humor. Alice's thoughts as she tries to figure out everything in her life were amusing. It's not surprising that I liked the younger, less-bitter Alice than her older counterpart and I kept wondering if her memory would come back or not. While reading this, I was thinking that the book would make a great movie and lo and behold, I saw in the author's website that the film rights have been bought. Definitely looking forward to watching that! What Alice Forgot will be released in the US on June 2 so all you readers over there will be able to purchase this from your favorite bookstore while I will be waiting patiently to get my copies of Liane's other books: Three Wishes and The Last Anniversary.
I can't remember where I got the original recommendation for Good Oil by Laura Buzo but I've heard such good things about it. I...moreOriginally posted here.
I can't remember where I got the original recommendation for Good Oil by Laura Buzo but I've heard such good things about it. I've put off reading it because after this, I'll be out of Aussie YA books to read. But I wanted to include it in this year's Aussie YA Reading Challenge so I went ahead and picked it up. I finished reading this a couple of weeks ago but real life got in the way of things so I haven't posted my review until now.
Good Oil was published in 2010 but I get the feeling that it's set earlier because the characters use landlines instead of mobile phones to contact each other and there's no mention of the internet. I just noticed that little thing but I certainly didn't mind because it reminded me of how things were like when I was in high school. What I really liked about Good Oil is we get alternating perspectives from both Amelia and Chris. I could relate to fifteen-year-old Amelia, still in high school and nursing the biggest of crushes even though she knows there's no hope. If you've ever had a crush on someone unattainable, then you'd really like Amelia. She's also smart and passionate about the things that she believes in. And a bonus point for all of us readers: she loves to read as well. A quote from the book from Chris' POV: "She even takes the goings-on of fictitious characters personally." Umm Chris, why is that surprising? I do that all the time! I could also relate to Chris, who's older but not necessarily wiser. Funny, charming Chris who studies in college while working in Woolsworth, or what he calls the Land of Dreams. He's heartbroken and dulls his pain by consuming as much alcohol as he can. Endless drinking sessions in college? Been there, done that. If you've ever been lonely and heartbroken, you'll be able to sympathize with Chris too. I felt like his voice was very realistic for a guy in his early twenties.
I'm beginning to think there really is something in the water that Australian authors drink. How else can we explain the number of well-written YA novels that keep popping up? Good Oil is no exception. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about the interactions between the two main characters - how Amelia looks up to Chris and wants to spend more time with him even if nothing romantic develops between them and how Chris calls Amelia youngster but starts to think of her as maybe something more (although he also knows there couldn't be anything between them because of the age difference). I liked the tension and the friendship between these two, their conversations are intriguing and fun to observe. It also made me realize how vastly different high school and college students behave. Good Oil is something that I'd recommend to all fans of contemporary YA, I just wish it was a lot easier to acquire. I think this is the last Aussie YA title that I will review for this year but I'm looking forward to reading more of these in 2012! I definitely had a lot of fun completing the Aussie YA Reading Challenge for this year.(less)
2012 NOTE: I first read this March last year and just reread it because of Marchetta Madness. Funny that I finished rereading this one the same day I...more2012 NOTE: I first read this March last year and just reread it because of Marchetta Madness. Funny that I finished rereading this one the same day I posted a review last year. :P Maybe I should make it a yearly tradition? Glad I now have the Aussie edition because it's even more beautiful in person. And yep, the book itself is just as amazing as I remembered (it still made me cry).
Today's my birthday and I'm glad that I get to post a review of what has become one of my favorite reads this year. The Piper's Son by Melina Marchetta is a companion novel to Saving Francesca, which I enjoyed reading last year. I think both books stand well on their own so there's no need to read one before the other. I can't even remember the details in Saving Francesca while I was reading The Piper's Son (which I regret. I will reread both books consecutively in the future). I love Melina Marchetta and Jellicoe Road is actually one of the books that encouraged me to read more contemporary YA.
How about that Aussie cover? I think it's lovely and I wanted to get a copy of it. I feel like the US edition is marketed for a younger audience when The Piper's Son doesn't read like a YA novel. Unfortunately, I couldn't find a way to get it so I went ahead and ordered the US edition because I've been waiting to read this for a while now. Let me just say that it was totally worth the wait! There's something about Melina Marchetta's books and her writing that makes the characters come alive and it makes you want to squeeze yourself into each close-knit group and beg to be included. That's how I felt when I read Jellicoe Road and again when I finished The Piper's Son. I wanted to become a part of their world, I wanted to feel all that love and yes, even the heartbreak and the pain that go with it. I can't get over how amazing Melina Marchetta is as a writer because she can really make you feel. Her books can make you laugh and cry and care about her characters to the point that you become fully invested in them. You feel like you're experiencing everything that her characters are going through and even when they're mostly difficult situations, you'll still love every minute of it. The Piper's Son is an achingly beautiful book that manages to do just that.
Tom is such a broken person at the start of the book and you just hurt for him and his family. The point of view changes from Tom to his aunt Georgie and the reader gets a clearer picture of each family member and most of their friends because of this. The Piper's Son is about grief and the slow healing process that goes with it. The characters were fully fleshed out, even the secondary ones, and Melina Marchetta shows how a person's actions and feelings affect the people around him or her. It reminds me of ripples in water and how they spread out to bigger areas. In my opinion, this book perfectly describes how complicated different kinds of relationships are. Family, friendships and romantic relationships - all of these are highlighted and illustrated in this book. Even if there's a lot of love involved, people are bound to make mistakes that they'll regret and it's a matter of knowing when something is worth fighting for and when someone deserves to be forgiven. Music is also a huge aspect of this book because a lot of the characters are into it. I've never been a big music geek but this book made me want to make a playlist and look up all of the songs mentioned in it. If it isn't obvious yet, I loved this book to bits. It's all kinds of wonderful. If you haven't had a chance to pick this up, I urge you to READ IT. After finishing this book, I couldn't stop thinking about it and I had one of those "THIS is why I read!" moments.
Side note: Does anyone know if Ben the Violinist in this one is the same Ben from Jellicoe Road? If yes, then that's awesome.(less)
Carly dropped out of university (they call it uni in Australia and we call it college over here) because she doesn't see the point in it. Her father cuts her off and throws her out of the family house so Carly moves to Sydney where she can surf all she wants while maintaining a night shift job in a cafe. I've never tried to surf even though I know that it's possible here in the Philippines. And I've never been to Australia either but I didn't find Raw Blue confusing. Mostly because it's about Carly and her way of trying to cope with her past by focusing on doing something that she loves, which I believe is a universal thing. I liked how Carly was so passionate about surfing, even going against her parents' wishes to do what she loves best. She isn't irresponsible because she's supporting herself with her job. She's not much of a social person but without her planning to, she befriends her quirky Dutch neighbor, Hannah, and fifteen-year-old Danny, who's also a surfer and has a condition called synesthesia. Basically, Danny sees colors in relation to people and things. Such an interesting trait, right? Another person that suddenly just pops into Carly's life is Ryan, a surfer who manages to be intense and laid back at the same time. I found the way that Ryan speaks, with "mate" thrown into a lot of his sentences, charming.
I am loving the Aussie YA books that have been released recently and I know I'm not the only one. I see people on Twitter asking why some of the Aussie YA books that they want to read aren't available internationally. I know I keep saying this but I want the same thing for Filipino YA - why can't local authors produce books like this? This is a book about surfing, yes, but it's also a contemporary YA novel that has a unique premise. It doesn't occur in a school setting like other YA novels and the characters are older than usual. Carly is nineteen and Ryan is twenty-six (yay for YA characters in their mid-twenties). Raw Blue is full of emotion but I was never overwhelmed because it's not all pointless teenage angst. You can feel Carly trying to hold everything together and how hard it is for her when things fall apart. She tries to channel everything that she feels through surfing because that's her outlet. There aren't any major changes that happen in Carly's life throughout the book but Raw Blue is about dealing with the past and moving forward. Highly recommended for fans of contemporary YA and surfing. I'm now curious about Kirsty Eagar's other book, Saltwater Vampires.(less)
Six Impossible Things is a loose Cinderella retelling, written from a guy's perspective. I don't think I read enough male POV b...moreOriginally posted here.
Six Impossible Things is a loose Cinderella retelling, written from a guy's perspective. I don't think I read enough male POV books and I enjoy reading retellings. As if that isn't enough to convince me to read this, Aussie book bloggers have been raving about this book in their reviews. Dan feels like his life has fallen apart when his parents split because his gay dad suddenly decides to come out of the closet and admit that the family business is also bankrupt. Dan even wants to say "Guys, please, one life-changing shock at a time." out loud because of all the changes in his life. The only positive thing is he now lives next door to the unattainable one, Estelle. He even transfers to her school. Dan is determined to change his image at his new school, he doesn't want to be known as geeky and smart anymore and he wants to hang out with the cool crowd. Things don't go exactly as he planned.
This is such a quirky and fun novel to read, the writing is beautiful and the characters are so distinct. Dan is utterly charming in an offbeat and nerdy way. He's smart, sensitive and tries to be as honest and good as he can be. Yay for good guys! It was interesting being inside Dan's head because like I said, I don't get to read enough books with male protagonists narrating the story. He's also an introspective type so he's more quiet than outgoing. I loved that the book showed his weaknesses like fainting whenever he sees or imagines something gross like raw eggs. Instead of being unfavorable, those vulnerabilities actually added to his charm. Even though things don't work out the way he wanted them to, he did gain a couple of friends along the way and they're all unique and original, even Howard the dog. The book isn't all about the romance even if Dan has a major crush on Estelle. This delightful book is about growing up and changing as you learn how to cope and adapt with the problems that life throws your way. I've heard that this book already has a US publisher but there's no set date on when it's going to be published. If you can order a book from Australia or have someone buy it for you then I highly recommend that you get this one. It's a great contemporary YA debut and I can't wait to read more of Fiona Wood's work. I just have to worry about how I'll get it when the time comes.(less)
I knew from the first few lines of the book that it was going to be a good one. The glowing reviews that I've seen from Aussie...moreOriginally posted here.
I knew from the first few lines of the book that it was going to be a good one. The glowing reviews that I've seen from Aussie book bloggers about Graffiti Moon probably has something to do with it too. Told from the alternating points of view of Lucy and Ed, and interspersed with poems from Leo, the whole book occurs in just one night. It gives off the same vibe as Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist but while that one focused on music, this one is about art. I admit that I don't know much about art but that didn't lessen my appreciation of the book because both Lucy and Ed are quirky, funny and smart in their own way and very easy to relate to. Also, Shadow's art was described in such an intriguing way to the point that I wanted to see images of his work instead of just visualizing the descriptions. Lucy dreams of meeting Shadow, the graffiti artist, because she admires his work and she feels like she knows him through his art. She has a feeling that he's nothing like the immature guys that she knows from school. She definitely doesn't want to celebrate the last night of Year 12 with Ed because they have history and not a very good one at that. They had one disaster of a date that ended with a broken nose, tears and vomit. Not exactly promising, right? Little do they know that they have much more in common than what could be seen on the surface. The secondary characters - their friends Leo, Dylan, Jazz and Daisy - are also fully fleshed out and add interesting and sometimes hilarious situations to the story.
This was a good book to start the new year with. It's the first book that I finished reading in 2011 and if all of the books that I read within the year are as good as this one, then it'd be an awesome reading year for me. I like how the story unfolded in the span of one incredible night because there really are nights like those - nights when you don't get any sleep and one crazy thing happens after another. I like how everything came together and how things just made sense. I was rooting for Ed and Lucy right from the start and I wanted them both to have what they wanted. This is the kind of contemporary YA that makes me want to read more from the genre. It's a lovely story about the lives of young adults on the brink of life-changing situations. Also, would you look at that cover? I think it's very appropriate to the story. Yay, my Aussie YA reading challenge is off to a good start! I'm sorry that this book isn't available worldwide because it deserves to be read by more people. I've heard that it already has a US publisher but the publication date hasn't been announced. I'm hoping that Cath Crowley's other books will also become internationally available because I'm curious about them.(less)
This one is different from the other two because it doesn't concentrate on the "Joy of the Envelope" letter exchange program be...moreOriginally posted here.
This one is different from the other two because it doesn't concentrate on the "Joy of the Envelope" letter exchange program between the two schools, Ashbury and Brookefield. Instead, the story is told from Bindy's point of view through her diary entries, reports about her Friendship and Development (FAD) sessions and her random musings. Bindy is the type of character that you'd either really love or really hate. At the start of the book, she's pretty easy to dislike because she's so full of herself. However, I found her funny because she's such a character! If you don't take her seriously, I think you'll see that she's hilarious. She's puzzled most of the time because she doesn't understand other people. She lacks social skills so she doesn't have friends and she's totally focused on school work. The first part was pretty slow for me but things started to pick up in the second half of the book and by the time I reached the last few chapters, I knew I had to stick with it until the end - meaning I had to stay up until past 1am even though I wake up at 5am for work.
As with the other two Jaclyn Moriartys that I've read, this one is about friendship. I like how the three books deal with different kinds of friendship. In Feeling Sorry for Celia, it was all about best friends. In The Year of Secret Assignments, it was about the loyalty of a small group of three friends. In this one, it's about forming friendships with a whole group. Like I said, Bindy doesn't really have any friends and she thinks the FAD sessions are a waste of valuable time because she'd rather study. This book is all about Bindy and how she learns more about herself by reaching out to her fellow classmates. Another humorous installment in Jaclyn Moriarty's Ashbury series. What's good about this one is that it gives glimpses of the main characters in the first two books - Elizabeth from Feeling Sorry for Celia and Emily from The Year of Secret Assignments.(less)
After reading The Year of Secret Assignments, I knew that all of Jaclyn Moriarty's other novels would be just as funny and I wa...moreOriginally posted here.
After reading The Year of Secret Assignments, I knew that all of Jaclyn Moriarty's other novels would be just as funny and I wasn't disappointed with Feeling Sorry for Celia. This book is written entirely through letters. Epistolary novels are such fun! More so if the characters lead such unusual lives. Actually, both Elizabeth and Christina are trying to live normal lives as Aussie teenagers. Their best friends, Celia and Maddie, are the outrageously wild ones. Both of them keep running away from home without leaving word of where they'll go. Also, Elizabeth's parents are pretty zany too. Her mother talks to her mostly in notes left on the fridge. Her dad, who left them when she was a baby, suddenly appears and wants to make it up to her by taking her out to dinner in fancy restaurants and making her smell and drink wine (which she doesn't like).
I was happy for both Elizabeth and Christina when they were assigned to exchange letters because they understand each other so well. Like The Year of Secret Assignments, this book focuses on friendship and the romance aspect of the novel takes a backseat. The book deals with Elizabeth and Christina's teenage trials and tribulations and how they can both relate to each other even though they only communicate through letters. It was amazing to watch a friendship bloom based on letter-writing because in this day and age, it isn't that common anymore. And to think that they were only writing letters because it's a requirement for English class.
I wish I had a high school teacher who wanted to resurrect the "Joy of the Envelope" because I think I would've loved to have a pen friend. Although when I was in high school, email was still a pretty new thing so people still wrote a lot of letters. Recommended for fans of epistolary novels and anyone up for a funny YA contemporary read. It's no surprise that several book bloggers have been talking about Jaclyn Moriarty lately.(less)
I think this is the second book in Jaclyn Moriarty's series and I was worried that I'll be lost because I haven't read the firs...moreOriginally posted here.
I think this is the second book in Jaclyn Moriarty's series and I was worried that I'll be lost because I haven't read the first one but it seems like they're all just loosely connected and you can start with any of her books. The Year of Secret Assignments is written in a variety of formats, it's like a scrapbook of sorts. The story unfolds through notebook and diary entries and the exchanged letters of three Ashbury students and three Brookefield students. At first, it was a bit confusing because you have to deal with so many points of view but I didn't mind because there were a lot of hilarious moments even early on. Plus, I love writing and receiving letters. When we were in high school, my friends and I exchanged letters all the time. I don't even know why we did that because we could have just talked in person. I still have most of those letters in shoe boxes stored in one of my cabinets.
This book was a lot of fun to read! The characters were so quirky, each crazy in his or her own way and I loved them. In Mr. Botherit's intention to resurrect "The Joy of the Envelope," these characters' personalities shine forth through their letters. I must say that Cassie is my favorite character in this one because although she's not as exuberant as Emily or Lydia, her personality is just as distinct. She's funny in her own subtle way. There's a bit of romance it this book but overall, I think it's refreshing to read a YA book that's more about friendship than anything else - the kind of friendship that starts in primary school and would probably last for a lifetime and those unexpected ones that bloom through letter-writing, secret assignments, tutorials about how to date girls and whatnot. Cass, Em and Lyd are so very different from each other but they are steadfast and loyal when it comes to helping out one another.
If you're interested in something light and funny with a dash of insanity thrown in for good measure, then I recommend this book. I was laughing out loud in several sections of this book and I can't wait to read Jaclyn Moriarty's other books. I'm especially curious about Bindy because of her incredible typing skills. She has only one scene in the book but I think that's one of my favorites.
Similar to the main character in Saving Francesca, Josie Alibrandi lives in Australia, surrounded by her Italian relati...moreOriginally posted in WordPress.
Similar to the main character in Saving Francesca, Josie Alibrandi lives in Australia, surrounded by her Italian relatives. Josie's Italian descent is a huge factor in the novel as Josie deals with other people's pre-conceived notions about her roots and her family. Josie is a very emotional and melodramatic person and she blames her Italian blood for that. Her mom never married so Josie was brought up by her mom. As a result, Josie respects and loves her mother and both of them are very involved in each other's lives. Josie never knew her dad until he suddenly shows up and both of them reluctantly try to get to know one another. As if her final year at high school isn't hard enough, two guys from different schools also start to show an interest in Josie: Jacob Coote, the handsome bad boy school captain of a public school, and John Barton, the very intelligent and polished school captain of a male Catholic private school.
I'm starting to think that Italians are very similar to Filipinos. Strong family values, strict Catholics and all that. Josie's Nonna Katia actually reminded me of my own Lola. My Lola is very old-fashioned and she loves to lecture her grandchildren on how to live properly. Sometimes, when my mom just wants a good laugh, she'd tell my Lola that I was out drinking with friends or some other tidbit of information that she'll know will set off my Lola.
While not as witty as Saving Francesca nor as well-written as Jellicoe Road, Looking for Alibrandi is still a highly enjoyable read with lovable characters. I recommend this for people who've read Melina Marchetta's other books.(less)
I have one word to describe this book: intense. Everything about this book, from the characters to how they relate to each other to the emotions, is i...moreI have one word to describe this book: intense. Everything about this book, from the characters to how they relate to each other to the emotions, is intense. I finished reading this a couple of days ago and I still can't stop thinking about it. Book hangover alert! This is such a beautiful book about love, friendship and family. The characters went through so much that you can't help but empathize and feel for them.
Taylor was abandoned in a 7-eleven store by her mom when she was 11. One of her boarding school's house mothers, Hannah, picked her up and watched out for her ever since. When Hannah suddenly disappears without an explanation, Taylor realizes that her past is somewhat tied to Hannah's and she has to uncover mysteries to learn more about herself.
I admit that I was lost and confused by the first few chapters of the book. Taylor narrates but interspersed in her story are pages from Hannah's manuscript about the incredible friendship of five kids who used to live in that area. Hannah's story occured more than twenty years ago so basically you're following two story arcs as you read. I think this is also the first time that I've read a novel set in Australia so some of the terms used and the school structure were a bit confusing for me. Just keep reading and by the time you get to the middle, I'm sure you won't be able to stop. Each revelation will make you want to know more. I love the characters in this book - Taylor, Jonah, Raffy, Chaz and also the kids in the manuscript: Narnie, Webb, Tate, Jude and Fitz. They're all a part of this amazing story. And the sizzling connection between Taylor and Jonah has fed my YA romance hunger.
I highly recommend this to fellow YA fans or even those who aren't into YA. I wonder if Melina Marchetta's other books are just as good? I'd love to read them if they are but I haven't seen them around.(less)
Let me just say that I love the US cover in the edition that I have, showing a girl standing in front of a mirror in a library....moreOriginally posted here.
Let me just say that I love the US cover in the edition that I have, showing a girl standing in front of a mirror in a library. The library and mirrors play major roles in the story so it's an appropriate cover design. Heart's Blood is a haunting retelling of Beauty and the Beast. I was surprised by how different the whole atmosphere in this one was compared to the Sevenwaters series. This one is much darker with a mysterious curse surrounding the chieftain of Whistling Tor, Anluan. Caitrin discovers the place while she's running away from her own problems. Desperate to be employed as a scribe, she willingly works for Anluan transcribing family documents. This is a perfect professional set-up for both - Caitrin knows not a lot of people will employ a female scribe and most people are afraid to visit Whistling Tor, let alone live and work there. As she learns the secrets of the area, Caitrin becomes determined to find a way to break the curse. I liked that Caitrin is a scribe, she was trained by her father who had the same profession, which is unusual in a world where women focus on domestic duties. I also liked that Caitrin has a complicated past and in the course of getting to know Anluan, she learns how to deal with her own troubles. This is retelling where Beauty does not just help the Beast but has to overcome other difficulties in her own life. The secondary characters were also well-developed and I liked how they had their own stories but they're united by their loyalty to Anluan.
I was able to predict part of the outcome of the story and as a result, I wasn't wowed by this story like I was expecting. I'm a fan of unexpected events that blow me away. I also would have loved the interactions between Caitrin and Anluan to have more depth - I felt like the two of them didn't have enough scenes together and I wasn't as invested in their love story as I would've liked. Though darker than her other books, Juliet Marillier's writing in Heart's Blood retains its standard beautiful and lyrical flow. While this book didn't displace my favorite Beauty and the Beast retelling from its position (the title belongs to Beauty by Robin McKinley), I still enjoyed reading this and I hope that Juliet Marillier will continue to write retellings for other fairy tales. She already has retellings for The Six Swans (Daughter of the Forest) and Twelve Dancing Princesses (Wildwood Dancing) but I'd love to read more. I guess I'm just glad that I still have a couple of books from her backlist to go through. I fell in love with her writing in the Sevenwaters series and I can't get enough of it, even if I don't end up loving her other books. Recommended for fans of fairy tale retellings or readers of dark, haunting fantasy.
PS: Wasn't able to take a picture of the back cover but I loved that The Book Smugglers has a quote on it. Yay Ana and Thea!(less)
I'm a Melina Marchetta fan girl. I love love love both Jellicoe Road and The Piper's Son and I've read the rest of her contempo...moreOriginally posted here.
I'm a Melina Marchetta fan girl. I love love love both Jellicoe Road and The Piper's Son and I've read the rest of her contemporary novels. I recently got a copy of her first epic fantasy novel, Finnikin of the Rock, and thought that it would be a good idea to read it along with two blogging buddies - Holly and Janice. I had a lot of fun going through the novel with these two. We would comment on each other's Goodreads update status and discuss how we felt about the novel as we moved along. I wasn't surprised that I kept agreeing with everything that they said. Click here to see Janice's review.
I knew going in that this wouldn't be an easy read. Melina Marchetta is one of those authors who can perfectly balance pain and suffering with hope and redemption in their novels. The characters go through so much in the course of the book that readers can't help but feel for them. Finnikin of the Rock is a classic Marchetta in that sense. Sadly, I didn't feel like there was a perfect balance of light and dark in this novel. Early in the novel, it was said that Lumatere's salvation is paved in blood and IT REALLY IS. Sigh, it felt like every character in the novel went through his or her own personal version of hell. It was a wonder that hoped still burned within their hearts. I just wish there was a little bit more love and laughter to lighten things up - an unexpected kindness here and there or a happy situation for some of the characters. As a reader, I felt bogged down by the heaviness of the book's theme.
The first few chapters were a bit confusing because I felt that I just got thrown into the world and I kept checking the maps to pinpoint the places mentioned. The worldbuilding and the writing weren't as smooth as I was expecting, it felt uneven in some parts and there were bits that pulled me out of the story. It was a little frustrating that I felt this way because I wanted to love Finnikin of the Rock just as much as Melina Marchetta's contemporary novels. Having said that, I still cared enough for the characters to want all of them to have a happy ending so I didn't have a hard time reading until the end. I even read ahead of the assigned chapters for our read along because I was curious where the story would lead. So I think the strength of this fantasy novel lies in the characters and how readers will sympathize with them. Both Finnikin and Evanjalin are strong characters - they had to be to endure everything that they had to go through. There were some parts where I got frustrated by their relationship because both are really stubborn but I guess that's just part of who they are. I liked that the secondary characters were fully fleshed out and the focus wasn't just on Finnikin and Evanjalin. My favorite relationship in this book is probably the one between Finnikin and his father.
Finnikin of the Rock is not an easy read. I'm not even sure if it's classified under young adult because for me, it reads like an adult epic fantasy novel. It's definitely a worthwhile read if you're an epic fantasy reader or a Melina Marchetta fan but it's the kind of book that would make you pick up something light and fun afterwards (well, that's what happened with me). I think it's great the author decided to write a novel in a different genre. I have nothing but respect for authors who move away from what they're known for to see what they're capable of. I may not have loved this one as much as her other novels but she's still an auto-read author for me and I actually just started on Froi of the Exiles because I got the galley from NetGalley. Melina Marchetta is still the queen of Aussie YA for me.
Pictures of the Aussie edition because I think it's pretty: