I enjoyed readingMaggie Stiefvater'sbooks in the past but it wasn't until I saw glowing reviews from blogging buddies and Goodreads friends that I became really curious about The Scorpio Races. It sounds different from anything else that she's written and Maggie herself said that this is her favorite out of all of her books. How's that for encouragement? I couldn't pass up reading this one and I like that it's a standalone novel.
Sigh, what a lovely, lovely book this turned out to be. It's the best Maggie Stiefvater novel that I've read and if you haven't read any of her books, I recommend that you start with this one. The novel is narrated from alternating points of view - Puck or Kate Connolly's and Sean Kendrick's. Both are entered to compete in the deadly Scorpio Races, the annual event featuring water horses or capaill uisce. These terrifying water horses come out of the ocean only in the island of Thisby and unlike their land counterparts, they live on flesh and blood and love to hunt moving targets. A few islanders can tame them enough to ride them to the races, Sean is the most gifted when it comes to handling the water horses. Puck is the most unusual contestant in the race because she's the first girl to enter and she's riding her regular island pony, Dove, instead of a water horse. It was easy enough to like Puck - she's a prickly character but brave when she needs to be and she'd do anything for her two brothers. She joins the race to discourage her older brother, Gabe, from leaving the island. While I've always lived in the city and can't relate to the small town life in Thisby, I can understand how Puck feels about her homeland. To live in a place that's not easy to love, a crazy place with wild typhoons or storms, a place that friends and family would rather leave so they can find better opportunities somewhere else. Yeah, that sounds pretty familiar. And The Scorpio Races is just as much about Thisby as it is about the water horses. Sean shares the same fondness for their homeland. When asked why he doesn't leave, he answers with, "The sky and the sand and the sea and Corr." Remove the Corr bit (although I wouldn't say no to a magical water horse of my own) and that is exactly why I love the beaches in the Philippines.
I loved how the romance developed in this book, the pacing was perfect. It's the best kind of slow burn, filled with intense, meaningful glances and one-liners that go straight to the heart. I ate it all up and savored all the scenes between Puck and Sean. These two are so very different from each other - one is feisty while the other is a quiet sort of person - but they also have so much in common. They're tied by their love for Thisby and how they both care for their respective horses - the loyal Dove, for Puck and the blood-red, unpredictable water horse, Corr, for Sean. Both of them are orphans and because they've had to fend for themselves, they seem older than their teenage years. But I don't mean to imply that the focus of the story is the romance because it really isn't. Like I said, The Scorpio Races is about the island of Thisby, its people (viewed through the eyes of Puck and Sean) and the horses that they love. I know next to nothing about horses, I think I've only ridden a horse once in my entire life, but that didn't keep me from being fully immersed in this novel. The Scorpio Races may not be for everyone (I've seen mixed reviews) but it makes me happy that it worked out for me. Beautifully written, it sucked me in and didn't let go until I reached the end. One of my favorite books read this year, I recommend it to fans of horse stories and subtle romances.
Here's an excerpt from one of the scenes from Sean's point of view:
“As the sun shines low and red across the water, I wade into the ocean. The water is still high and brown and murky with the memory of the storm, so if there’s something below it, I won’t know it. But that’s part of this, the not knowing. The surrender to the possibilities beneath the surface. It wasn’t the ocean that killed my father, in the end. The water is so cold that my feet go numb almost at once. I stretch my arms out to either side of me and close my eyes. I listen to the sound of water hitting water. The raucous cries of the terns and the guillemots in the rocks of the shore, the piercing, hoarse questions of the gulls above me. I smell seaweed and fish and the dusky scent of the nesting birds onshore. Salt coats my lips, crusts my eyelashes. I feel the cold press against my body. The sand shifts and sucks out from under my feet in the tide. I’m perfectly still. The sun is red behind my eyelids. The ocean will not shift me and the cold will not take me.”
Silver Shark by Ilona Andrews is a romantic science fiction story set in the same world as Silent Blade. I gobble up everything...moreOriginally posted here.
Silver Shark by Ilona Andrews is a romantic science fiction story set in the same world as Silent Blade. I gobble up everything written by Ilona and Gordon, the power couple behind the pseudonym Ilona Andrews. I'm so glad they decided to revisit this world because I thoroughly enjoyed reading Silent Blade and I even reread it a few weeks ago. I've been wanting to read Silver Shark ever since Ilona first posted snippets on their blog. So when she offered review copies on Twitter, I jumped at the chance to read this. In this futuristic setting, kinsmen with enhanced biological abilities are the most influential people and they're grouped by family similar to the mafia. I loved the Hispanic/Italian heritage evident in this world. Kinsmen who can read minds and are mentally capable of attacking other people are called psychers. Claire Shannon is a psycher living in a planet colony torn by war that has been going on since before she was born. She's been trained to fight for something that she doesn't believe in and that has made her weary. When the war ends, she's forced to pretend to have no special skills to live as a civilian on a new planet. She ends up as an admin assistant for Venturo Escana, a powerful psycher and the head of a company that provides cybersecurity.
I'm constantly surprised at how much worldbuilding can be packed in such a short story. I think it was a great idea to write the story from Claire's point of view because we get to see Silent Blade's setting through the eyes of a foreigner and I feel like that added depth to my perception of the world. It was easy to fall into the lush and vibrant setting in this novella because there weren't that many technical ideas to complicate the story. That's one of the reasons why I'm not such a big fan of sci-fi, I usually don't want to get bogged down with stuff that I don't understand. No need to worry about that in this one! Plus, I always enjoy romance in my fiction and Silver Shark is based on the Billionaire and His Secretary trope. Kinsmen are ruthless people but because this is a romantic story, we get to see Claire and Ven's softer side and that's something that I was able to appreciate. Sparks fly the moment the two of them meet but there was enough time for the romance to fully develop. There's mutual admiration between the two main characters based on their working relationship. I also liked that the authors continue to build into the world that they created because psychers weren't even mentioned in Silent Blade and look how fascinating their abilities are.
Silver Shark occurs a few years after Silent Blade and both Meli and Celino appear in this story (loved that scene, by the way) but both novellas can stand well on their own. I was really excited to read this and it lived up to my expectations. I would gladly read anything else set in this world. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that Ilona and Gordon would continue the series because these novellas are satisfying reads and they tide me over until their next book is released. More please? Highly recommended for Ilona Andrews fans or anyone looking for a romantic read, I promise the sci-fi elements are easy to understand even for non-sci fi readers. I keep meaning to read more books like this ever since I discovered Silent Blade so if you have recommendations, feel free to list them in the comments section.(less)
I saw my friend Flannery of The Readventurer reading Flat-out Love on Goodreads and I was intrigued by the premise. I asked her...moreOriginally posted here.
I saw my friend Flannery of The Readventurer reading Flat-out Love on Goodreads and I was intrigued by the premise. I asked her what she thought of the first few chapters and this is what she said, "I'm liking it a ton. If it keeps up like this, I will be reccing it to all of you. It's contemporary YA with a sense of humor." So I'm glad author Jessica Park gave me an electronic copy for review and I read the book as soon as I could.
The cover is an original artwork by Robyn Hyzy and I think it looks great, all bright and happy. I was hoping that the cover would reflect the contents of the book and I wasn't disappointed. It was so easy to read Flat-out Love because there's enough banter between the characters to keep things funny. I read this on my Kindle and there were several hilarious scenes that left me smiling, I'm sure the people around me found it weird that I was amused by a reading device. I really liked that the main character, Julie, is in college because we really need more New Adult or older YA books. I could definitely relate to Julie and everything that she felt about college - how she was excited to start learning new things, how she looked forward to meeting like-minded people and how she was just generally happy about the whole experience. I loved my college years and I felt the same way Julie did. Aside from that, Julie is also deathly afraid of heights and I have the same fear! Well, I don't have it as bad as Julie does. And I've always wanted to try skydiving. I'm jealous of my friends who have tried jumping out of a plane to free fall. The way skydiving was described in this book strengthened my resolve to give it a try, not in the Philippines though because I have a feeling the equipment here won't be as trusty as what's available in other countries.
I admit I guessed the family secret way before it was revealed but that doesn't mean I didn't savor the build-up. As Julie got to know the whole family - Erin and Roger, Finn, Matt and Celeste - I felt like there were enough clues in there to understand what happened to make them so unusual. I really enjoyed seeing Julie develop friendships with the siblings - from her online flirtations with Finn, her day-to-day hang out and study sessions with Matt to her tentative efforts to reach out to Celeste so the little girl can come out of her shell. I think these were the relationships that brought the novel to life. And the romance? It took time to form and is the opposite of instant love. I'm totally on board that kind of romance and character development. I also loved that social networking was such a big part of the novel, there were Facebook status messages all throughout the novel and Julie and Finn chatted on Facebook all the time. What I didn't understand though was why Julie hated Twitter. Oy Julie, Twitter is awesome, it lets me communicate with fellow book bloggers AND authors. AUTHORS! Who are rock stars in my world. I highly recommend this one to readers looking for older than usual contemporary YA characters.
Celeste carries around a cardboard cutout of her oldest brother and calls it Flat Finn. Like I mentioned, I only read an ebook version of this book and I didn't have an actual copy. So I thought it would be a good idea to create a Flat Flat-out Love (FoL). Check out the pictures:
Flat FoL with other contemporary reads, YA on the left and adult on the right.
For some reason, Saving June by Hannah Harrington was released early in Australia. I've seen raving reviews from those who have...moreOriginally posted here.
For some reason, Saving June by Hannah Harrington was released early in Australia. I've seen raving reviews from those who have been lucky enough to get copies of the book and that persuaded me to read it as soon as I can. The ebook can be purchased from Angus & Robertson and Borders Australia. If you want a physical copy, you can order it from Fishpond. Also, Harlequin Teen said on Twitter that Saving June will be available on NetGalley in August.
Harper Scott knows she can never measure up to her perfect, older sister June, so she's never tried. In fact, she's done her best to be the opposite - lukewarm grades, detention as often as she can manage it, basically be the rebel daughter. She's as surprised as everyone when June commits suicide a week before graduation, leaving behind a mess that no one can figure out. When her divorced parents decide to split June's ashes, Harper takes matters into her own hands and embarks on a road trip to California with her best friend Laney and Jake Tolan, a guy who claims to be June's friend. June always yearned to go to California and Harper thinks it's the perfect place to scatter the ashes.
Ah this book, this beautiful book. It deserves all the hype that it's been getting, I can't even stop thinking about it. Right off the bat, I empathized with Harper, with all her pain and confusion and anger - not knowing how to handle living in a world without her big sister to take care of things. The road trip that she plans with her best friend is the perfect way for her to cope and ease that feeling of being suffocated. She doesn't understand why Jake wants to go with them though. Mysterious, classic rock-loving Jake with the piercing green eyes - one moment a douchebag and a knight in shining armor the next. He has his own reasons for being that way and it didn't diminish his appeal in my eyes. I'd love to meet someone like him in person - someone passionate about music who provides anecdotes each time an unfamiliar song plays, who believes that a proper mix CD should have a story to tell just like a book. Harper, armed with her Polaroid, Laney, with her enthusiasm and friendliness and Jake, with his music are the perfect combination for a memorable road trip.
Saving June has everything that I look for in my contemporary reads: believable characters with realistic problems, amazing friends, romance that takes time to form (as opposed to instant love). Some scenes had me smiling and chuckling at the situations Harper, Laney and Jake get into while other scenes had me tearing up and aching for all of them. I love how these three characters are fully fleshed out with their distinct personalities. This is the kind of book that stays with you even after you finish reading it, the kind that makes you want listen to all of the songs mentioned in it. Saving June is about grief and loss but also about life, hope and love. It has earned a spot in my favorites and will definitely be included in my best of 2011. The premise reminded me of The Sky is Everywhere and Sharing Sam while the slow build up of the romance felt similar to Going Too Far. So if you're a fan of those three books, make sure to read this one. I will be on the lookout for Hannah Harrington's other novels.
And because I love so many lines from the book, I can't help but quote Jake:
It's just nice, I guess. Knowing that someone else can put into words what I feel. That there are people who have been through things worse than I have, and they come out on the other side okay. Not only that, but they made some kind of twisted, fucked-up sense of the completely senseless. They made it mean something. These songs tell me I'm not alone. If you look at it at that way, music... music can see you through anything.
I'm not as passionate about music as Jake is but I agree with what he said, more so if you replace "music" with "books". Yeah, books can see you through anything.(less)
Even though I didn't fall in love with Patrick Ness' The Knife of Never Letting Go, I enjoyed it enough to read his other books. I've seen rave reviews of A Monster Calls so I decided to request a copy from NetGalley when it became available there. I finished reading this book weeks ago and I've let a draft of my review rest in my dashboard, hoping that I'll be able to write something substantial while the dust settles. I admit defeat, nothing that I can write will do this book justice.
This book should come with a warning: "Avoid reading this in public places because it will make you cry." I should have known better than to read A Monster Calls in Starbucks while waiting for friends. I figured I was immune to Patrick Ness' emotional punches since I remained tear-free while reading The Knife of Never Letting Go. I was wrong. I don't think I've ever mentioned it here on the blog but back in January 2007, my dad was diagnosed with stage three lung cancer. Five months later, he passed away. I don't talk about it here on the blog because I used to think it's too personal but I want to share why this particular book resonated with me. To say that I could relate to Connor is an understatement. I wanted to go inside the book and hug him to let him know that he isn't alone in his pain. And I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one who felt that way. In a world where cancer is becoming more common, I feel like it has touched the lives of almost everyone - be it through a family member or a friend. I've lost count of the number of wakes and funerals that I've attended because someone lost his or her battle to cancer. I'm thankful that Patrick Ness decided to write this novel because it articulates what so many of us can never put into words - all the anger, the hopelessness, the fear and yes, the denial because accepting the truth is never an easy thing. And that's what the monster wants from Connor: for him to reveal the truth because he can never move on if he can't even admit it to himself.
This a contemporary middle grade or younger YA novel and only the presence of the monster adds a touch of whimsy to the story. You don't have to be a Patrick Ness fan or a middle grade/young adult reader to appreciate this book. What Connor experiences is something that every human being will understand. You know that feeling when a book does a better job of describing how you feel? A Monster Calls is that kind of book. Just thinking about it while writing my review brings to the surface all the emotions that I felt while reading Connor's story. Ever since I started the blog, I've become drawn to well-written, emotional reads that deal with grief and maybe it's because of my own experience, maybe I'm trying to find the words to illustrate how I felt in the books that I read. I'm fond of quoting C.S. Lewis, "We read to know we're not alone" because it's true. A Monster Calls makes me feel that I'm not alone. So thank you, Patrick Ness, I know you already have numerous fans but I just want to say that you've gained another one and I will read everything that you've written and everything else that you will write. I need to buy an actual copy of this book so I can read it over and over again.(less)
Believe me when I tell you that I was really excited to read this book. It's one of my most anticipated releases this year. I h...moreOriginally posted here.
Believe me when I tell you that I was really excited to read this book. It's one of my most anticipated releases this year. I had high expectations because I wanted more of the author's lyrical way with words and I wasn't disappointed. I'm not sure under what genre or category Daughter of Smoke and Bone will fall under but I'm guessing it's either YA urban fantasy or YA paranormal romance and while I usually shy away from those kinds of books, I didn't have to worry about not liking this one. I was torn between wanting to read the book slowly so I can savor the words and devouring the whole thing in one big gulp.
There's a lot of mystery surrounding Karou, her upbringing and the chimaera who brought her up. Chimaera are creatures from another world, with various animal and human features mixed together. Others may call them monsters or demons but they're more whimsical than scary. The novel is partially set in this world, in Prague, where Karou is based, as well as all the other places that she goes to for her errands. The other setting is in a world different from our own, where chimaera have been fighting a war against another kind of supernatural being for as long as anyone can remember. Look at me being vague to avoid spoilers. The worldbuilding in this book is something that I fell in love with - from the everyday descriptions of Karou's life in Prague to the back story of the chimaera and their world. The atmospheric setting made me eager to go to Prague and see for myself if it's really as lovely as the book described. It's the kind of worldbuilding (and prose) that will suck you in and won't let go until you reach the very end. And when you get to that part? It will leave you wanting more.
The romance was totally swoon-worthy. For me, what made the love story work were all the details and intricacies involved. There's a lot of history tied up with the romance and there were valid reasons that made it as complicated as it was. I ate up the last few chapters of this book like they were pieces of chocolate, they were that scrumptious. I kept adding favorite quotes from the book on Goodreads and since I love Laini Taylor's beautiful prose so much, I thought it would be a good idea to give a sample:
"Karou wished she could be the kind of girl who was complete unto herself, comfortable in solitude, serene. But she wasn't. She was lonely, and she feared the missingness within her as if it might expand and... cancel her. She craved a presence beside her, solid. Fingertips light at the nape of her neck and a voice meeting hers in the dark. Someone who would wait with an umbrella to walk her home in the rain, and smile like sunshine when he saw her coming. Who would dance with her on her balcony, keep his promises and know her secrets, and make a tiny world wherever he was, with just her and his arms and his whisper and her trust."
Even before I got my grubby little hands on a copy, I predicted that Daughter of Smoke and Bone will make it to my best of 2011 list and I was right. I truly cannot wait for the sequel to be finished. I have to wait a whole year before it will be released! I need to get my hands on those Faeries of Dreamdark books to tide me over while waiting. If I haven't managed to convince you to read this book by now, I don't know what else I could say. Enthusiastically recommended for fantasy fans, especially those who like the YA variety. I'm predicting that this one will become a hit. (less)
Lips Touch contains three short stories - Goblin Fruit, Spicy Little Curses Such as These and Hatchling - set in different worl...moreOriginally posted here.
Lips Touch contains three short stories - Goblin Fruit, Spicy Little Curses Such as These and Hatchling - set in different worlds. The common theme in these stories is that they're all about kisses. Each story has its own set of lovely artwork done by Jim di Bartolo. I've been wanting to read this for a while now so I sneaked in some reading time in the bookstore and by the time I finished reading the first two stories, I decided that I'd love to own a copy. I was planning to wait for the paperback to be released because it would be cheaper but was worried that it wouldn't include the artwork so I went ahead and got the hardcover instead. I'm not regretting the decision because I ended up loving it. Laini Taylor's writing is lush and lyrical, exactly what I look for in my fantasy reads and her husband's illustrations are the perfect enhancement to these stories.
To keep this review concise, I'm not going to comment on each story but instead share what I think about the book as a whole. I'm a bit surprised at how much I enjoyed reading these stories because the writing is a bit darker and grittier than my usual favorites. The more disturbing aspects of the stories were balanced out by the positive things like love and hope so I never had a problem with them. Also, I'm usually not a fan of YA urban fantasy but these stories had a fairy tale feel to them than I don't even know if I can classify them as such. It was easy to fall into the atmospheric writing. I'm amazed at how much the author was able to accomplish in terms of worldbuilding considering that these are short stories with limited word count and not full-length novels. I felt like they were just the right length and didn't feel that they were rushed. My favorite out of the three is Hatchling and I certainly wouldn't mind reading more about that world. I hear that she's planning to come out with a book with the same setting, can't wait to read that. In the meantime, I'm going to do my best to track down the rest of Laini Taylor's books because Lips Touch left me hungry for more of her writing. Lips Touch is a lovely book that I highly recommend to all fantasy fans out there. It certainly deserves to get more attention.
Since I included a sample of the illustrations found inside the book, I thought it would be fitting to quote the author as well. This is a non-spoilery tidbit from Goblin Fruit:
Kizzy wanted to be a woman who would dive off the prow of a sailboat into the sea, who would fall back in a tangle of sheets, laughing, and who could dance a tango, lazily stroke a leopard with her bare foot, freeze an enemy's blood with her eyes, make promises she couldn't possibly keep, and then shift the world to keep them. She wanted to write memoirs and autograph them at a tiny bookshop in Rome, with a line of admirers snaking down a pink-lit alley. She wanted to make love on a balcony, ruin someone, trade in esoteric knowledge, watch strangers as coolly as a cat. She wanted to be inscrutable, have a drink named after her, a love song written for her, and a handsome adventurer's small airplane, champagne-christened Kizzy, which would vanish one day in a windstorm in Arabia so that she would have to mount a rescue operation involving camels, and wear an indigo veil against the stinging sand, just like the nomads.
Seeing Me Naked by Liza Palmer was a book recommended by Angie of Angieville and my copy was sent as a gift by Nomes of Inkcrus...moreOriginally posted here.
Seeing Me Naked by Liza Palmer was a book recommended by Angie of Angieville and my copy was sent as a gift by Nomes of Inkcrush when I won her giveaway. I was craving for some contemporary romance reads along the lines of Unsticky by Sarra Manning and What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty so I asked Angie for suggestions and this was one of the titles that she mentioned.
I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered that Seeing Me Naked is so much more than its flirty title and cover. I have the UK edition with the white cover but I think I like the US edition with the yellow cover more because it's understated and less smexy. I was expecting a light and fun book crack that will go down just as easily as the milk tea drinks that I'm currently addicted to. What I got was something more complicated. Elisabeth's story deals with some weighty issues tied to her relationships with the people around her - her unusual family, her inconsistent childhood sweetheart and a guy that she just met named Daniel. Added to all that are her problems balancing her hectic schedule as the pastry chef in L.A.'s hottest restaurant. I have a cousin who's a pastry chef in L.A. and I know hard that kind of job is - staying on your feet the whole day while cooking delicious treats, not having holidays because those are actually the busiest days for restaurants and thriving in a highly competitive industry. Elisabeth's situation is no exception. She chose this career path because she wanted to stay away from her father's literary shadow. I'm a huge fan of pastries and desserts in general so that's one of the reasons why I was curious about this book.
I love that while Elisabeth's romance with Daniel is an essential part of the story, it doesn't necessarily take center stage. It's actually more subtle than the other relationships in Elisabeth's life. What she has with Daniel is what keeps Elisabeth calm and steady in an otherwise turbulent existence. It doesn't mean that their relationship is easy because they still had to resolve some issues but it was nice to know that Elisabeth could rely on Daniel. Even though Elisabeth tried to stay away from her father's profession, her whole family still has a huge influence over her. She craves for her dad's approval, she finds comfort in her mother's love and her brother Rascal is actually her closest friend. My favorite scene in the book is actually a pivotal moment for their family. I'm not going to spoil it but let me just say that it was the banquet towards the end of the book and that particular scene had me in tears. Like I said, I didn't expect to get emotional over Seeing Me Naked but I'm glad that it surprised me. For me, the mark of a good book is when it can make you feel like you're right there with the characters. I think it's great when you get to laugh and cry with them. After finishing this, my first thought was that I want to read more books like this. I'm going to look for Liza Palmer's other novels and I'm hoping that they will be just as good as this one. If you have similar suggestions, please let me know. Highly recommended for contemporary romance or women's fiction readers.(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.
Song of the Sparrow is based on Alfred Lord Tennyson's The Lady of Shalott, an Arthurian poem about Elaine of Ascolat. I've nev...moreOriginally posted here.
Song of the Sparrow is based on Alfred Lord Tennyson's The Lady of Shalott, an Arthurian poem about Elaine of Ascolat. I've never read a novel in verse before and I thought it would be a good idea to start with this one because I like the premise. I don't read a lot of Arthurian tales either although I remember reading Le Morte d'Arthur for English back in high school and I love Elizabeth E. Wein's books. When I saw an inexpensive used copy from Julie's Sari-Sari Store, I bought it right away. Thanks to Celina for the heads up on where I could find a copy.
I was swept away by the beautiful writing in Song of the Sparrow. Maybe it's because of the verse format but it felt like I was reading a fairy tale instead of a historical fiction book. I was easily immersed in the story and I knew right from the start that Elaine and I would get along just fine. Elaine is a girl stuck in a world full of men and she can be described as "one of the boys". Her father brought her to Arthur's camp when her mother died and she's been there ever since. Her father and her two brothers fight alongside the knights of Arthur and she has great respect for all of them. As the only lady in their camp, Elaine's sewing and healing skills are in great demand. She doesn't mind because she's friends with most of the men in their camp and she enjoys the freedom that her lifestyle allows. What I loved about Elaine's character in this retelling is that she manages to show her strength without picking up a sword or fighting in a battle like other fantasy heroines (not that I don't love them). Elaine's infatuation with Lancelot is an integral part of the story because that's what she's famous for but I liked how the author provided a background for it - how Lancelot was always there whenever Elaine was lonely as a child and how he comes to the rescue the few times that Elaine needs help. It isn't a tragic kind of love, which was how it was portrayed by other writers.
I don't read much poetry so I was afraid that I wouldn't be able to relate to this one but surprise, surprise, the pages just flew by. To get a feel of the writing, check out the excerpt available in Lisa Ann Sandell's website. The story provided not just a clear picture of Elaine but of other well-known characters like Gwynivere, Lancelot, Tristan and Arthur. I loved seeing how Elaine interacted with all of them, even Gwynivere who is everything Elaine isn't - beautiful, ladylike, cold and cruel. I made an excellent decision when I chose Song of the Sparrow as my first novel in verse because now I'm curious about books written in a similar format. I wonder if other novels in verse are as lovely as this one. I highly recommend this to fans of Arthurian tales, retellings or novels in verse. Or maybe I should just say, read this if you want to fall in love with an exquisite retelling about Elaine of Ascolat, the Lady of Shalott.(less)
I dare you to read Angie's review of Unsticky and not be convinced to read the book as soon as you can. I believe several other bloggers were persuaded to do just that. Ari of Emily and Her Little Pink Notes (who is on a blogging hiatus) has also been recommending Sarra Manning's YA books but I haven't had a chance to read them yet and I thought Unsticky would be a good introduction to the author's work. Thank you so much to the lovely Celina of Celina's Books and Magazines for tracking down a copy of this for me. :D I was so excited when I received the package that I started reading it immediately.
Whenever my girlfriends and I talk about our jobs, there's always a point where we share our frustrations about how hard it is to get a decent salary in a third world country. This is why so many of our friends go abroad to work. There's always one person who concludes the discussion with, "we should just look for a rich boyfriend/husband so we wouldn't have to worry about money anymore." And this is what happened when Grace met Vaughn in Unsticky. He's a rich, older man who needs a female companion to handle the social aspects of his job as an art dealer. She's a fashion assistant with huge amounts of debt and no idea how she's going to pay them off. But both of them are so much more than that. They're two flawed people who don't even know the real meaning of love so they'd rather have an arrangement than risk involving their hearts in the process. Here's a quote from Grace that perfectly describes their relationship:
"We're broken. It's like we have all these jagged edges that scare other people off, but when we're with each other, our jagged edges fit together and we're almost whole."
Grace is a much more believable shopaholic than Becky Bloomwood ever was. You don't ever get to a point where you want to shake her and say, "stop buying stuff!" because her urge to buy something to make herself feel better is understandable. There's not much in her life that makes her feel good. I know I indulge in retail therapy from time to time although I'm not and never will be into designer items. Why would I buy a handbag worth thousands of dollars when I could buy books instead? Grace's problems don't magically go away the moment she strikes a deal with Vaughn. She still had to go through so much and this is probably why the book is so long. I didn't mind though because it kept me absorbed. It was so much fun watching Grace and Vaughn get to know each other. I'm not a big fan of May-December pairings but it just worked with these two. Vaughn's own issues worked well with Grace's and they understood each other. Can I just say that it's so funny that Vaughn has a thing for desserts? Both main characters are far from perfect and I think that's what makes Unsticky so good. Unsticky has made it to my best of 2011 and now has a permanent place in my list of favorites. I'm so glad that I already ordered You Don't Have to Say You Love Me. I'm going to read it as soon as it arrives. (less)
First off, I want to say that I love how simple yet appropriate the cover for this and Mina's other ebook, Fairy Tale Fail, ar...moreOriginally posted here.
First off, I want to say that I love how simple yet appropriate the cover for this and Mina's other ebook, Fairy Tale Fail, are. I like them much better than the covers of My Imaginary Ex and No Strings Attached. I also find it convenient that Mina decided to go with an ebook for this one because it's much easier (and cheaper) to obtain a copy. You can buy it from either Amazon or Smashwords. I know it's a sequel of sorts to one of her other books but I believe it stands well on its own and there's no need to read that one first. It would be a good idea though because you'd get a picture of how other people see Kimmy instead of just being inside her head. Love Your Frenemies is told from alternating past and present situations so you get an idea of what Kimmy was going through during the events of My Imaginary Ex. Kimmy got dumped by her fiancé days before their supposed wedding. He suddenly realized that he's still in love with someone else and that he couldn't go through with the wedding. Harsh, right? But a lot of people believe that Kimmy deserved what she got because she's such a bitch.
I was surprised by how much I liked this book more than My Imaginary Ex. You know the saying that goes, "there's always two sides to every story"? This is Kimmy's side. I can understand why other people find her rude, manipulative and heartless. Kimmy is smart, beautiful and she knows it. She admits that she tends to be overconfident. She doesn't go out of her way to hurt and manipulate other people, it's just that she can't be bothered to be nice. Kimmy has a turbulent relationship with her best gal pal, Chesca, because they're the epitome of mean girls. Kimmy and Chesca ruled their high school - they got to decide who would become members of their clique based on how useful their classmates were. Both girls understand how the other person thinks and that's why they're such good friends and why they also have the worst fights. They know what to say to get the other person riled up. Another person who is one of the major reasons why Kimmy's so messed up is her first love, Manolo. Handsome, charming and witty Manolo. Can I just say that I can't get over his name because it's such an old school Filipino name? I feel like if I knew someone named Manolo, he'd be nicknamed something shorter and more modern like Manny or Nollie. Ever since they were teenagers, Manolo has been blowing hot and cold and Kimmy knows it's stupid to hope for a steady relationship but she can't help it. Kimmy's story isn't centered on the romance but instead focuses on her relationships with the Country Club set of people that she grew up with. It's not surprising that she's not a nice person because of all the drama in her life - it's like a constant soap opera.
What I love about Mina's books is how believable they all are. I may not love all of her books but I can believe that her stories actually happen to other people. It's everything about her work - the familiar places, the situations that you can relate to, the characters that feel like they could be your friends. Maybe it's also because I feel like I'm the target audience of her books - a twenty-something Filipina. This is another enjoyable read from Mina V. Esguerra and as always, I look forward to reading her next one. (less)
I was confused for the first few pages of Clockwork Heart because it took me a while to be fully immersed in the worldbuilding...moreOriginally posted here.
I was confused for the first few pages of Clockwork Heart because it took me a while to be fully immersed in the worldbuilding and to understand the terms that go with it. This steampunk novel is set in a fictional country where there's a strict caste system. Only the icarii, couriers who can fly using metal wings, can move freely across all castes. It's funny because I'm afraid of heights but I would love to try flying using those icarus wings. Taya is an icarus who suddenly gets involved in Ondinium's politics when she rescues the wife and son of one of the country's most powerful leaders. Taya was an easy character to like, she's a no-nonsense type of person who strives to be the best that she can be in her job. She loves to travel, which is fitting since she's an icarus, and longs to be assigned as an envoy in other countries. Another character that I liked right from the start is grouchy, sarcastic Cristof who's the exact opposite of his handsome and charming brother Alister. Cristof is a member of the highest caste in the country but he chose to turn his back on his prestigious lifestyle. He works as a clockwright instead because he's fascinated with the inner workings of clocks and other mechanical devices. I think he's the steampunk equivalent of a nerd and I found him endearing. Cristof's geeky charm trumps Alister's suave moves. Another intriguing aspect of the novel is the relationship between these two brothers and how they do what they can for the other person even though they have such different views in life.
There were some parts of the novel that went way over my head like the mechanics of the icarii's metal wings and the discussions about programming and subroutines. Programs what? But those things didn't pull me out of the story so I didn't really mind them. There's a lot of action, some mystery and political intrigue in Clockwork Heart, which made it such a fun book to read. I guess it shouldn't be a surprise that I enjoyed reading this because I'm a fan of political intrigue in fiction. You really don't have to be into steampunk to like this novel and I have a feeling most fantasy fans would take pleasure in reading Clockwork Heart. I was able to predict one of the plot points and had an "I knew it!" moment but all of the other events were a surprise. It's only the middle of the year but I have a feeling that this book will make it to my best of 2011 list. I really don't understand why it's out of print. I heard that there's a second book in the works and I'd love to read that as soon as it becomes available. Read this if you get the chance, it deserves to get more attention!(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)
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)