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)
Elizabeth Wein is one of my favorite authors and I was thrilled when I discovered that she's releasing a new book this year, ev...moreOriginally posted here.
Elizabeth Wein is one of my favorite authors and I was thrilled when I discovered that she's releasing a new book this year, even if it's not one of her Aksumite books. Code Name Verity is one of my most anticipated 2012 titles. It's already available from the Book Depository and will be released in the US in May. Before I started reading this, I was warned by the author herself to have a box of tissues within reach. I'm usually not a fan of war novels but since I will read anything that EWein writes, I decided to steel myself and just plunge right into it.
You know that warning about having tissues on hand? Remember that when you read this. Code Name Verity is a wonderful, heartbreaking and riveting story about the friendship between two girls - "Verity" and Maddie. Take a look at that premise and you'd have an idea of why tissues will be needed. There's a pivotal scene in the latter half of the book that had me in tears and I couldn't stop crying until I reached the end. By the time you're through with this book, your heart will ache for both characters and you'd want to squeeze yourself into the story just so you can hug them. I love Verity, she's such a vibrant and sophisticated character, you can't help but like her even when she's clearly out of her element. She makes the best out of the situation and manages to amuse the reader with her anecdotes, enough to lighten the bleak situation. Maddie is also an interesting character - passionate about tinkering with engines and flying planes, she's very different from her friend. They probably wouldn't have met if not for the war, but they work well together and they make a sensational team. I love that the focus of the story is the strong sisterly bond between Verity and Maddie, which is unusual nowadays when most YA novels feature romances. YAY for girlfriends! I know next to nothing about World War II, the Women's Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) or flying airplanes, but that didn't matter. I was wholly invested in Verity and Maddie's story even if I didn't understand all of the details.
I knew the writing would be clever, it is an EWein novel, after all. But Code Name Verity still managed to surprise me. I want to go on and on about how much I loved this novel but I'm afraid to reveal too much because the less you know about the book before you pick it up, the better the reading experience. If you trust my recommendations and feel like we have similar tastes in books, I urge you to read Code Name Verity. Let me know when you're done so we can discuss all the spoilery details in private. If you're a fan of historical fiction or spy stories, then this book is right up your alley. It's the best book that I've read so far in 2012 and will be included in my list of favorites for this year. I would love to reread Code Name Verity but even knowing the events that will unfold, I think my heart needs to recover first. It's not an easy read but definitely worth the effort. It's the kind of novel that can make you feel. I have high hopes for this book because I want more readers to discover how amazing EWein is - her books really deserve to get more attention. (less)
Trish Doller's debut novel, Something Like Normal, is one of my most anticipated releases this year. I read the excerpt and imm...moreOriginally posted here.
Trish Doller's debut novel, Something Like Normal, is one of my most anticipated releases this year. I read the excerpt and immediately wanted to read the book, I probably would have if it was already available at that time. I've also chatted with Trish on Twitter and I keep liking and reblogging her Tumblr posts. I was really excited when I finally got my hands on a copy of her book and I read it as soon as I could.
I love reading older YA or new adult novels and I believe Something Like Normal falls under these categories. Sure, Travis is just 19 but I think being a Marine makes him a more mature character. He's seen and experienced the atrocities of war and is suffering from the loss of his best friend, Charlie. Now I've never been a teenage boy so I don't exactly know how they think. But I do have guy friends and I feel like Travis has a realistic voice for a guy. He's far from being perfect and he makes stupid mistakes throughout the course of the novel but I believe he's a decent guy who genuinely wants to get his act together. It's just that he's messed up from everything that he's been through - failing his father's unreasonable expectations, signing up to be in the military to escape and heading off straight to serve in an unfamiliar country. Also, I know next to nothing about Marines but I found Travis' experiences intriguing.
Trish Doller's debut is something that I wholeheartedly recommend to everyone, even those who don't usually read contemporary YA because I feel like it has crossover appeal for many readers. It's refreshing in the sense that it doesn't focus on a high school setting, isn't just about the romance and is the first novel that I've read with a teen main character in the military. Something Like Normal is very easy to fall into. It's the kind of novel that you read within one day because you can't get enough of Travis and his complicated relationships - his issues with his dad and his brother, how he tries to be a better son to his overly supportive mother, how he interacts with his Marine buddies and how he gets to know the girl he's always had a crush on. While I don't think the romance is the main focus of the novel, there was plenty of swoon that kept me more than satisfied. I like that Travis and Harper have a history that dates back to middle school. Harper is just the person Travis needs in his life - she's smart, fun to be with and knows exactly how to handle him. Here's a spoiler-free snippet from early on:
“Do you need help?” a female voice from behind asks.
I’m about to throw an offended no over my shoulder when Harper comes up alongside me, all green eyes and tousled hair. I could probably look at her forever and not get tired of that face. “If I say yes will you think less of me?”
She shrugs, but I can see a smile at the corner of her mouth. “I already do think less of you.”
Doesn't that make you curious? Like I said, I love Trish's Tumblr so I thought it would be fitting to include some of the images that she's posted in this review. These images actually remind of Travis and Harper. :)
Something Like Normal will be released June 19, 2012 and I know this review is ridiculously early but I couldn't help but spread the word about this novel. I have a feeling a lot of readers will fall in love with Travis' story. Can't wait to see what Trish writes next.(less)
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)
I first noticed Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Mass when several Goodreads friends began reading review copies of the book. It's b...moreOriginally posted here.
I first noticed Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Mass when several Goodreads friends began reading review copies of the book. It's been getting a lot of attention lately and I heard positive things about it so I became curious. My friend Janice generously sent a copy and since I wasn't in the middle of anything when it arrived, I started on it right away.
Well, that didn't turn out as well as I expected. I'm a huge fan of YA epic fantasy when it's done well. Unfortunately, I didn't feel like that was the case with Throne of Glass. The premise had so much promise - I wanted to read about an assassin trying to balance court intrigue with the fierce competition to become the King's Champion. After just a few chapters, I knew I wasn't going to get what I expected. I found it odd that an assassin as notorious as Celaena is more concerned about her looks and her dresses rather than honing her fighting skills. I was surprised by how often the characters focused on physical appearances rather than personalities - even the prince kept noticing how pretty Celaena is when he should be noting how well she fights as his candidate in the competition. Aside from not being fully invested in the characters, I wasn't impressed by the world-building, either. I was initially intrigued by the mystery in the novel - what the country's history was like, why magic has been banned, who was behind the murders - but that eventually fell flat for me. I don't know, it just wasn't as tightly woven (if that makes sense) as I'd like.
I also wasn't a fan of the love triangle in Throne of Glass because I felt like it wasn't necessary and the romance felt under-developed because of it. Sigh, I hate to be so negative in a review but I just wanted to list the reasons why I felt like Throne of Glass didn't work for me. I was even tempted to DNF the book because I found the last hundred pages or so dragging, I just wanted to get it over with. It felt like I was reading paranormal YA (which I try to stay away from as much as possible) instead of epic fantasy. As always, feel free to pick up the book if this looks like the kind of thing you'll enjoy reading, I've seen mixed reviews for it so I guess it really depends on how well you'll be able to connect with the story. I feel like Throne of Glass would work for readers who haven't read the likes of Robin McKinley, Megan Whalen Turner or Kristin Cashore. But if you're like me and you're aware of the awesomeness of other novels, I have a feeling you'll just be disappointed. Throne of Glass will be released August 7, 2012.(less)
I 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.
June 2014 comments: Reread this for YAckers and ended up staying late the other night to finish it even though I already knew what was going to happen...moreJune 2014 comments: Reread this for YAckers and ended up staying late the other night to finish it even though I already knew what was going to happen. It's so comforting to reread an old favorite. I love Katsa and Po! And Leck is such a creepy villain.
Graceling was published back in 2008, a few years before I started the blog and I remember I got the recommendation for it from Sounis. I was so excited to read it but it wasn't initially available in local bookstores so I asked a friend to get a copy for me from the States and I'm glad she said yes. Graceling became one of my favorite discoveries that year. Gracelings are humans who have a highly specialized skilled called a Grace. Graces come in all forms - it can be as simple as being Graced as a cook to as unusual as Katsa's Grace of fighting. All Gracelings have mismatched eyes - Katsa has one green eye and one blue. That's the only way they know a child is a Graceling, through his or her eyes and they never know what the Grace is until it manifests itself in some way. Katsa discovers her Grace when she accidentally kills a man when she was just a young girl.
Katsa is the kind of YA fantasy heroine that I enjoy reading about. Strong female protagonists for the win! Katsa's physically strong, she could probably kill using just her pinky, but she's also an emotionally complex character. She reminds me of characters in books by Robin McKinley, Sherwood Smith and Tamora Pierce. If you're a fan of those three authors and you've never read this book then I highly suggest that you get a copy as soon as you can. Katsa's uncle, King Randa, takes advantage of her fighting skills by employing her as his own personal thug. At the start of the book, Katsa really believes that she's nothing more than a thug even though she hates doing her uncle's dirty work. She doesn't believe she's capable of building relationships so she keeps people at arm's length. As she learns more about herself and her Grace, Katsa also starts to trust other people. I was totally on board the romance as well, I didn't think it was instant love and I liked that they were friends first before they were romantically involved.
I remember that Graceling was pretty hyped the year that it came out. I had high expectations after all the trouble that I went through to get a copy and I wasn't disappointed. Graceling has everything that I look for in my YA fantasy reads: a unique world that I can get lost in, a court setting with political intrigue, characters who change and develop throughout the course of the book and relationships that take time to form. Writing this review has reminded me that I should read more epic fantasy, I think I've been reading more contemporary novels this year. Fire is also an amazing book but in a different way and I'm planning to write a review for that as well. I seriously cannot wait for Bitterblue to be published, I'm going to pre-order that as soon as there's a release date. (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)
July 2014 reread: Amour et Florand made me want to reread The Chocolate Kiss (recently reread The Chocolate Thief too) and it's just as good as I reme...moreJuly 2014 reread: Amour et Florand made me want to reread The Chocolate Kiss (recently reread The Chocolate Thief too) and it's just as good as I remembered. I love the seduction using desserts and hot chocolate.
________________________ April 2013 review: Originally posted here.
The Chocolate Kiss is the second book in Laura Florand's Amour Et Chocolat series. Featuring top chocolatiers in Paris, these books focus on hot guys who make delectable desserts. What's not to like? I loved The Chocolate Thief, the first book in the series, so I dove right into this one after finishing that. The books don't have to be read in order, they're standalone stories since they're about different couples although Cade and Sylvain (the leads in The Chocolate Thief) have cameos in this one. I would like to note that one of my favorite restaurants when I was in college was The Chocolate Kiss Cafe. If I was in Manila, I would have visited the place after reading this book.
In case I haven't mentioned it often enough here on the blog, let me say this again: I love macarons. And the male lead in The Chocolate Kiss makes amazing, world-renowned macarons. Sigh, if only I could grab a bite straight out of the book's pages. Philippe's artistic creations seemed not only beautiful but deliciously mouth-watering as well. Same with Magalie's rich hot chocolate, with wishes stirred in specifically for the person the drink is meant for. Magalie seems to know exactly what a person needs, be it courage to seize the day or strength of spirit to handle life's burdens. With that idea as well as the name of their tea room, La Maison des Sorcieres (The Witches' House), the whole novel has a whimsical touch to it that makes it feel more like magic realism instead of contemporary romance. It reminded me of one of my favorite books, Sarah Addison Allen's Garden Spells. Magalie was a character that I could easily relate to. She loves her little corner of Paris but has a hard time adjusting how the rest of the city makes her feel. So she arms herself with stylish outfits that make her feel stronger about facing the world outside their tea room. Here's a passage that particularly resonated with me, I hope it's not too spoilery to share it:
You couldn't cure loneliness by wallowing in it, up above the world, on an island far removed from everything. She knew that. But she had such a hard time with all the cures. They seemed rough and brusque and brutal, as if they abused her skin with a pot scrubber, things like trying to go out with men she barely knew, or dancing in Paris nightclubs, or hanging out with friends in bars over in that world past the banks of the river.
She had been something of a party creature in her high schools, still was one to dance all night at New Year's celebrations or weddings when she went back to Provence, but there was something harsher about dancing here, forcing herself into a mass of people, stranger among strangers. Occasionally, one of her friends from the university, the longest continuous friendship she had ever had, could talk her into it. But it was much more tempting to curl up with a book under her thick white comforter.
Still, sometimes after she curled up, she regretted her lack of courage and felt bleakly lonely.
It was important to have a really good book.
Yes, it's really important to have a good book. The Chocolate Kiss can definitely be classified as one of those good books. I wouldn't have minded giving up a night out with friends to stay in and read this novel. In fact, I did stay up later than usual to finish reading this, even though I had to get up early for work the next day. I thought the romance between Magalie and Philippe was done very well, there was obvious attraction between them that they kept denying so the tension just built up. I thought it was funny how they kept tempting each other with their specialties - Philippe with his macarons and Magalie with her hot chocolate - and how they both refuse to try and sample each other's work even though everyone else is raving about them. It's a symbol of how they can't let the other person gain the upper hand by admitting that they even want a taste. And when they finally give in? Well, you just have to read the book and find out. Similar to The Chocolate Thief, I really enjoyed reading about the secondary characters in this story. I like how the romance isn't just about the two leads but also about the people important in their lives as well as the work that they're passionate about. Another excellent installment in Laura Florand's romantic chocolate series. I think it's pretty much a given that I'm excited to read The Chocolate Touch. Counting down the weeks until it becomes available.
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)
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)
May 5, 2014 comments: I felt like rereading after I've been to Paris because I wanted to see what it felt like now that I'm more familiar with the set...moreMay 5, 2014 comments: I felt like rereading after I've been to Paris because I wanted to see what it felt like now that I'm more familiar with the setting. The writing is just as good as I remembered and the reading experience is even better because of the little details that I could relate to.
_____________________ March 29, 2013 review: Originally posted here.
I have to thank my good friend Michelle for introducing me to what has become one of my favorite contemporary romance series. I had a feeling that I would enjoy reading Laura Florand's novels after my copies arrived and I saw how pretty they were. I'm pleased to report that I wasn't disappointed.
I LOVE desserts and I'm a big fan of chocolate. Some of my favorites are dark chocolate with nuts, mint chocolate and truffles. I know it's not a healthy habit but I have chocolate almost everyday. I eat chocolate to cheer me up when I'm feeling a little low and I also eat chocolate to celebrate when something good happens. I feel like there's always an excuse for me to indulge in chocolate. So imagine my delight at discovering that both the main characters in The Chocolate Thief are fellow chocolate-lovers. Cade is the heiress of Corey Chocolate, one of the largest chocolate corporations in the world (I think the surname Corey is a nod to Hershey). While Sylvain is one of the top chocolatiers in Paris. I wish I could afford to try chocolates that are as good as Sylvain's masterpieces but I'm afraid they're probably too expensive for me. I did find Sylvain's reasons for choosing to work with chocolates intriguing:
He had been a gangly, awkward adolescent with shaggy hair, so it was a good thing he had discovered very early in his teenage years What Women Wanted.
Chocolat. If you wanted to lure a woman who wouldn't otherwise have looked twice at you, good chocolate was better than a love potion.
Add the fact that the novel is set in Paris, a beautiful, romantic city that I've always wanted to visit and I'm one happy reader. We have here a chocolate-filled take of a love-hate relationship. Both of them love chocolate but in different ways. Cade is proud of her family's heritage and how their products bring happiness to millions of people. She's all about making chocolate more accessible to people. While Sylvain looks down on mass-produced chocolate and believes that creating chocolate is a fine art form. What I loved about these two characters is how passionate they both are about what they do. Cade knows that people rely on her and their company is responsible for providing much-needed jobs. Sylvain pours so much of himself in what he does that he takes total ownership of his creations, to the point that he feels that people are tasting a part of him whenever they devour his chocolates. This is why he takes so much pride in the fact that Cade can't get enough of his work, which she doesn't want to openly admit so she resorts to stealing them. I can certainly appreciate a girl resorting to thieving for the sake of the finest chocolate that she's ever tasted. I like how the reader is given a full understanding of the characters' background, how and why they became who they are when we meet them. I liked Cade and Sylvain's warm interactions with their family and friends. The Chocolate Thief is a deliciously tempting work of fiction, I gobbled it up in just two days. I would have done it in one sitting if I didn't have to go to work. Highly recommended for fans of chocolate, novels set in Paris and contemporary romance. Just make sure you have some chocolate on hand when you read this. I seriously cannot wait for the third book in the series, The Chocolate Touch, to be released in July. It will be about Cade's sister and Sylvain's rival.
On a side note, I'm delighted to put up a post on my birthday about a book that I loved. I wish I could do that every year. Yesterday, my lovely co-workers got me this yummy chocolate cake called Othello:
There were several things that made me curious about Attachments. First is the premise, I had a feeling it would be something t...moreOriginally posted here.
There were several things that made me curious about Attachments. First is the premise, I had a feeling it would be something that I could relate to. Next is the author's name, I thought Rainbow Rowell is a pretty name. The title is also very fitting and a nice play on words - Attachments both in the sense of email attachments and also emotional attachments between individuals. And last but not the least is the gorgeous cover. I'm so glad I was able to get the Orion edition because I think it's perfect for the story. So these are the reasons why I read Attachments as soon as I could.
I think it's pretty common for most people to send personal emails using their work mailbox. I don't do it as often as I used to because I could access my personal mail in the office. But in my previous jobs, when we had restricted access, I would use my work email to send messages to friends and family. Yes, I knew that IT people can track all of my messages but I'm really not worried about it because they're probably busy with so many other things. I could relate to Beth and Jennifer's email exchanges because I've had threads like that with some of my own girlfriends. Although nowadays, we tend to communicate on social networking sites or communication apps on our phones instead of emails. I liked how Beth and Jennifer are the same age but they're at different stages of their lives - Beth feels that her relationship with her once dreamy college boyfriend has plateaued while Jennifer is reluctant to have children even though that's what her husband wants. They're both witty and intelligent women who are experiencing realistic problems. It's no wonder Lincoln is fascinated by their conversation. Here's a little snippet:
Beth to Jennifer: You're right. I love weddings. I hate my sister.
Jennifer to Beth: Why?
Beth to Jennifer: Basically... because she's getting married before me. I'm like the petty older sister in a period drama. "But Papa, she can't get married before me. I'm the eldest."
Jennifer to Beth: Oh, I love period dramas, especially period dramas starring Colin Firth. I'm like Bridget Jones if she were actually fat.
Beth to Jennifer: Oh... Colin Firth. He should only do period dramas. And period dramas should only star Colin Firth. (One star upgrade for Colin Firth. Two stars for Colin Firth in a waistcoat.)
Jennifer to Beth: Keep typing his name, even his name is handsome.
Aren't they cute? Personally, I prefer Richard Armitage (with or without a cravat) over Colin Firth. The narrative switches from conersations between these two women to Lincoln's point of view. I think Lincoln is a great guy - nerdy, plays D&D, reads fantasy novels, still lives with his mother, feels like he's socially awkward but is a real gentleman. I felt bad for Lincoln because he's stuck doing a dreary job that he doesn't really like doing and he's really lonely. The highlight of his work day involves going through emails between Beth and Jennifer. I can understand his situation, office hours are probably boring if you work the night shift and you don't have anyone to talk to. I would probably go crazy if I was in his position (or I'd just end up reading a lot of books while waiting for my shift to end). I really liked how the romance developed. Without mentioning any spoilers, I think it's a quiet kind of love story but also very sweet. I like how the lines are blurred and there's no clear-cut good or bad guy in this book. It's just a bunch of people trying to figure out what they want to do with their lives. All of the characters were well-developed and you can't help but hope that they all get the happiness that they're looking for. I think what added to my enjoyment was the fact that the characters are about the same age as I am. I'm always on the lookout for contemporary romance with more depth than usual and that's what I got with this one. Will definitely be pre-ordering Eleanor and Park closer to its release date. I'm also planning to read Rainbow Rowell's other novel, Fangirl, also out for release this year. (less)
I read Whiskey Road by Karen Siplin along with good friends Janice and Holly. We all finished reading the book a couple of week...moreOriginally posted here.
I read Whiskey Road by Karen Siplin along with good friends Janice and Holly. We all finished reading the book a couple of weeks ago but haven't gotten around to writing reviews of it until now. I'm going to link to their Retro Friday reviews as soon as they're up. I always enjoy doing readalongs because it's fun to discuss details about the book with friends who are reading it at the same time. Although we haven't been lucky with some of our other readalong choices before, we all enjoyed reading this one. Thanks again to Michelle for passing along her copy.
This is the first time I've read a novel with a paparazza as a main character. I found it fascinating that Jimi loves her job, not because of the money, but because of the thrill that she gets out of the chase. She's like a private investigator - hiding in Dumpsters or up in trees just to get the perfect shot. Paparazzi are not always portrayed as nice people, you know? So it's good to get a different kind of perspective, it felt like Jimi justified her reasons for doing what she does throughout the course of the book. When she gets tired of it all, she plans a cross-country trip on her motorcycle on the way to visit her brother. She wanted to see how beautiful the countryside in America is but doesn't expect to get robbed along the way. I was surprised by how big an issue racism is in this novel. Granted, most of it is set in rural America but I had no idea that it was still a problem. I even checked the publication date - 2008 - which is fairly recent. I have a feeling I'll remember this book if I ever get the idea that it would be nice to go on a road trip to explore rural America (hint: probably not a good idea when you're a minority).
While Caleb isn't exactly warm and welcoming, he's a lot friendlier than other people in his town and I liked that about him. Felt like he was seeing Jimi for who she really is, instead of just looking at the color of her skin. I liked how both of them warily circled each other in spite of their attraction. It took time for them to get to know each other before they acted on what they were feeling. Both Caleb and Jimi have problems and neither was looking for a relationship when they first met each other. These two have a quiet kind of love story, focusing on how they're both getting over the difficulties in their lives and how they're reluctantly falling for each other. One of the scenes that stood out to me was when Jimi discovered that Caleb loves motorcycles just as much as she does and they go for a motorcycle ride on Whiskey Road. Note to self: ride a motorcycle someday. Whiskey Road is an under-the-radar novel that I'll recommend to readers who like slow burn, complicated romances. I think I got the original recommendation for this from Angie and I don't think I would have found out about it if not for her review. Feel free to recommend other titles that you think have the same feel as this one.(less)
I was so excited to grab a copy of The Fault in Our Stars by John Green because I knew that he signed all of the first print ed...moreOriginally posted here.
I was so excited to grab a copy of The Fault in Our Stars by John Green because I knew that he signed all of the first print editions. Also, I felt that so many readers all over the world were getting copies once it was released and I wanted to be part of that community of YA readers. When I saw a copy in a local bookstore, I grabbed it and read it as soon as I could. I have to admit that I haven't read all of his books, even though I already have copies of them, but I promise I'll get to them sooner or later.
Based on that premise, I had a feeling that this book will make me cry. I was right. I think I will always have a soft spot for well-written novels that have characters with cancer. I don't talk about it that much because it's a very personal thing for me but I've mentioned it on the blog before - my father passed away in 2007 because of lung cancer. I know other readers have pointed this out already but The Fault in Our Stars reminded me a bit of A Monster Calls in the sense that it's a cancer book but it's not just about the cancer. Both are books that can make you empathize with the characters, they made me feel that I was right there with them. I think John Green did an excellent job of realistically portraying what life must be like for a teenage cancer survivor. Hazel Grace knows she's lucky she got a reprieve but she's reclusive because she wants to minimize the hurt that she'll cause the world when she passes away. She's very matter-of-fact about her cancer. Here's a snippet that I liked, fairly early on so it's not spoilery:
“There will come a time when all of us are dead. All of us. There will come a time when there are no human beings remaining to remember that anyone ever existed or that our species ever did anything. There will be no one left to remember Aristotle or Cleopatra, let alone you. Everything that we did and built and wrote and thought and discovered will be forgotten and all of this will have been for naught. Maybe that time is coming soon and maybe it is millions of years away, but even if we survive the collapse of our sun, we will not survive forever. There was time before organisms experienced consciousness, and there will be time after. And if the inevitability of human oblivion worries you, I encourage you to ignore it. God knows that’s what everyone else does.”
I think Hazel Grace is a quiet sort of person, which is why Augustus' bright and vibrant personality stood out more for me. In any case, that didn't keep me from really enjoying the book. I love how the friendship developed between Hazel and Augustus and eventually blossomed into something more. It's a slow burn relationship between two intelligent characters who bonded over their favorite books, how can I not root for that kind of relationship? And it's the real deal between these two, even their parents could see that. Which brings me to another aspect of the novel that I liked - the supportive parents. We don't get enough of those in YA nowadays. It has taken me a while to come up with this review and I've seen mixed responses from other readers - some truly loved it while others had problems with it. I'm okay with that, I'm just glad The Fault in Our Stars worked for me. It was the first contemporary YA novel that I finished in 2012 so all the other contemporary YA books that I'll read within the year have big shoes to feel. John Green's latest is a beautiful book. Read it if it's something that you think you'll enjoy and tell me what you think when you're done. Okay? Okay.(less)
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.”
I really don't know why I put off reading If I Stay by Gayle Forman for so long. Maybe I felt like there were already too many...moreOriginally posted here.
I really don't know why I put off reading If I Stay by Gayle Forman for so long. Maybe I felt like there were already too many YA novels about grief and death? But I'm a sucker for books like those when they're beautifully written so I knew I'd read this eventually. Because of a certain Twitter conversation, I knew I was going to read If I Stay sooner rather than later.
If I had known how much I'd enjoy reading If I Stay, I wouldn't have waited so long to read it. I think Mia's interactions with the various people in her life - parents, younger brother, grandparents, boyfriend and best friend - were done really well. It was surprising how fully fleshed out the secondary characters were, given that there were so many of them. It felt like I really got to know them as Mia looked back on her significant memories of them. If I Stay is one of those novels that are all about relationships and can make readers feel all kinds of feelings. It's a book filled with heartache - it always is when we're dealing with life and death situations - but I never felt overwhelmed. I admit I found certain sections of the book a bit slow but I didn't mind because I understood that Mia had a difficult decision to make - the kind of decision that involves a lot of introspection. I find it amazing that I haven't seen spoilers about Mia's choice even though I've read so many reviews for this book. I guess the book has such a beautiful ending that people understood it would be a shame to ruin the experience for other readers.
I really liked how close Mia was with her non-traditional parents because it's always nice to see supportive parents in YA. Mia's parents were the opposite of strict and they reminded me a bit of my own parents. I was also a fan of the slow burn romance between Mia and Adam. How they love different kinds of music but it still brought them together - Mia plays the cello and loves classical music while Adam plays the guitar and is a member of a rock band. Their relationship isn't perfect because they both have their issues and they had to work until they found their rhythm. I think what they have is intense and sweet at the same time. I'm not as into music as these two but that didn't keep me from liking their love story. I know I said I liked how things ended in If I Stay and I was okay with leaving things like that but I have a feeling I'll be reading Where She Went soon. I can't resist, knowing that it's written from Adam's point of view. If I Stay is a delightful read in so many ways and is the kind of contemporary YA that I can recommend without hesitation. I'm so glad I gave in and read it. Will now be on the lookout for Gayle Forman's other novels. Going back to the reason why I read this book, do I think Adam and Tom (from The Piper's Son) will be mates if they ever met? Maybe. But I get the feeling Adam would get along better with Jake (from Saving June). Or they could all just form a band and have jam sessions together.(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)
Won a copy of this from MangoJuiced. My review is originally posted here.
Ginny has never been good with people – she doesn’t like strangers and she do...moreWon a copy of this from MangoJuiced. My review is originally posted here.
Ginny has never been good with people – she doesn’t like strangers and she doesn’t like talking to people. She’s not comfortable with physical contact and only allows a handful of people to touch her. She lives with her parents, in the house where she grew up and fills her days with cooking. Food comforts her and that’s what she uses as a coping mechanism. Here’s a sample of the writing and how Ginny uses food to calm herself:
Her hand is close to my arm. My options are limited. I can’t run away. I can’t handle this.
I lose myself in food.
The rich, wet texture of melting chocolate. The way good aged goat cheese coats your tongue. The silky feel of pasta dough when it’s been pressed and rested just enough. How the scent of onions changes, over an hour, from raw to mellow, sharp to sweet, and all that even without tasting. The simplest magic: how heat transforms.
It’s not surprising that when her world is shaken by several events (the death of her parents, the presence of strangers in her home because of the funeral and her sister’s demands), Ginny turns to food. Even though I’m not a good cook like Ginny is, I could relate to how food comforts her. I find food comforting too but my interests lie in consumption rather than production. I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels this way. The Kitchen Daughter is something that I’d recommend to readers who like their fiction with generous helpings of various food items. Just make sure that you have a snack within reach when you decide to pick this up. Each chapter starts with a recipe and this is it how it looks on my Kindle:
I think we’ve established that there are a lot of food references in The Kitchen Daughter but it’s more than just about food – it’s also about Ginny coming to terms with the death of her parents and in the process, learning more about herself and her family. It was interesting being inside Ginny’s head because she’s such a unique character. Right from the start, the reader knows that there’s something different about Ginny. When asked if she has a condition or anything, she says that what she has “is a personality.” I liked that the story is told from her perspective because it gives us an inside look of how she processes everything around her. It makes me realize that I take so many things for granted in my life – that I’m not socially awkward, that I’m not bothered by physical contact, which I think is a big thing when you live in the Philippines because people have no respect for personal space around here (e.g. public transportation). So even if I don’t think I have a lot of things in common with Ginny, I could still sympathize with her.
I feel like The Kitchen Daughter is a quiet sort of novel because it’s mostly about Ginny and her internal struggles – how she copes with everything that happens in her life and how she tentatively reaches out to the secondary characters. It’s a book about relationships between family members and between friends. It’s also about the intricacies of life – how people have different ways of handling grief and sadness. The Kitchen Daughter is a heartwarming read and a well-written debut novel, the kind of book that you read during a weekend afternoon when you want to get cozy. I’m looking forward to seeing what Jael McHenry has in store for us next.(less)
I've had my copy of The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope since 2007 and I only got to read it recently. I don't know why I...moreOriginally posted here.
I've had my copy of The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope since 2007 and I only got to read it recently. I don't know why I kept putting it off but I'm glad I finally picked it up. I've heard such good things about it and I believe I got the original recommendation for this from Sounis. I've been meaning to put up a Retro Friday post for a while and since this is an oldie but goodie, it seemed perfect for the meme.
Kate is a lady's maid to Lady Elizabeth, sister to the Queen Mary. She is exiled to a remote castle called Perilous Gard when her beautiful but clueless sister, Alicia, writes a letter that doesn't sit well with the Queen. Poor Kate, it's not even her fault why she ends up in Perilous Gard. But I guess that it's a good thing because instead of being bored like she expected, she becomes tangled in the doings of the Fairy Folk in the area. I've read a couple of fairy novels this year but The Perilous Gard is different from anything else that I've read. For one thing, it's more historical fiction than fantasy unlike other novels that have fairies in them. In that sense, I felt that the portrayal of the Fairy Folk in the novel was realistic. This is also a Tam Lin retelling and that made things more interesting. It's funny because the ballad of Tam Lin is actually mentioned in the book. The Perilous Gard is a lovely story and is a classic for fans of fairy stories. I think this was the book that I was reading around Halloween and it was perfect because it's a bit dark and eerie. Be sure to pick this up if you're into fairy reads because it's a welcome break from the more modern fairies in urban fantasy novels nowadays.
Kate Sutton is a heroine that I really liked - she's not as pretty as her sister Alicia but she's a lot more intelligent. She's sarcastic, witty and I enjoyed reading the banter between her and Christopher Heron, the younger brother of the owner of the castle. I know a couple of my bookish friends are fans of the romance between these two but for some reason, I didn't feel that Christopher Heron was swoon-worthy. I thought that there was more friendship than romance between these two. So that probably says something about the development of the love story - it's a slow burn kind that forms after countless conversations and the characters have gotten to know each other really well. I didn't understand why I wasn't more into it. Maybe I would have loved it more if I read the book when I was younger. My lukewarm reaction to the romance didn't prevent me from enjoying the book as a whole. Like I said, I recommend this for fans of fairy stories or retellings of Tam Lin.
I was pleasantly surprised by the illustrations included in the novel. As always, I love including pictures of illustrations in my reviews so here are some of them:
I'm so glad I got to publish a Retro Friday post this week! I've been trying to write this for the past couple of weeks but I haven't gotten around to it. Anyway, hope you all have a great weekend and let me know if you've read this book and what you thought of it. And if you have any other recommendations for Tam Lin retellings that I should know about.(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 enjoyed reading Rachel Neumeier’s House of Shadows so I jumped at the chance to read Black Dog when I was offered a review c...moreOriginally posted here.
I enjoyed reading Rachel Neumeier’s House of Shadows so I jumped at the chance to read Black Dog when I was offered a review copy. I was intrigued when I first found out the premise of the book. Also, I wanted to see how Rachel’s writing will translate from epic fantasy to urban fantasy.
It’s been weeks since I finished readingBlack Dog and I still have fond memories of it. I remember staying up late one week night to finish reading this novel. It didn’t take that much effort for me to be immersed in the story and I found myself absorbed until I reached the end. I found the characters intriguing and felt that the worldbuilding was solid. I like how the reader is thrown into the story without lengthy descriptions, you just learn more about the world as you keep reading. The magic in this world can be found in black dogs and the Pure. Black dogs are shapeshifters who can change from their human to black dog forms as needed. While Pure women are able to wield their magic to invoke peace and to protect other people from malicious magic. The calmness that the Pure can provide serves as a counterpoint to the anger and violence that are part of a black dog's nature. Natividad is a Pure, her brother Alejandro is a black dog while her twin Miguel is human. I like how these three siblings each have their own strengths and weaknesses. They each have something to contribute to their family, and eventually the Dimilioc clan. Even Miguel, who has no supernatural abilities, has skills in other areas. Aside from having magical skills, I also found it interesting that these siblings are half-Mexican and half-American. They were brought up in Mexico but had to flee to North America to run away from danger, and to hopefully gain allies in the Dimilioc clan. The Dimilioc black dogs also have a mix of interesting characters and I was curious about them as well.
I like how the point of view shifts from Natividad to Alejandro, giving us a better understanding of what this world is like from both Pure and black dog perspectives. I did wonder if the story would have been richer if we also got Miguel’s POV but it wasn’t a major issue. Black Dog was such an enjoyable read for me. I liked how the story progressed until the climax was reached. So many things happened in a short span of time but I thought the events were paced well. I really wasn’t able to predict how things will go, so I kept turning the pages to find out. It’s a good introduction to the world in this series and it made me want to read the sequel even though it hasn’t even been released. I would be more than interested to find out how the members of the Dimilioc clan will adapt based on recent changes that they’ve implemented. The world is on the cusp of change as they enter a new age where vampires no longer exist. I found that aspect of the story intriguing, as well as the history and culture of black dogs. There’s also a tentative romance in the first book that I’m hoping will be further developed in the sequel. I felt that the love story was barely there and would have loved more scenes between the two characters. I also thought that Black Dog had beautiful writing - here's a non-spoilery snippet to illustrate my point:
"Out there in the cold, mountains rose against the sky, white and gray and black: snow and naked trees and granite and the sky above all... The sky itself was different here, crystalline and transparent, seeming farther away than any Mexican sky. The sun seemed smaller here, too, than the one that burned across the dry mountains of Nuevo Leon: this sun poured out not heat, but a cold brilliant luminiscence that the endless snow reflected back into the sky, until the whole world seemed made of light."
Further proof of how much I enjoyed reading this book was that it reminded a little of the World of the Lupi series by Eileen Wilks, which was one of my favorite discoveries last year. I’m happy to report that I feel like Rachel Neumeier made a successful foray into urban fantasy with Black Dog. Like I said, I look forward to reading the next installment in the series.(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)
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)
I really liked reading If I Stay and actually felt bad that it took me so long to read it. The good thing in that is I don't ha...moreOriginally posted here.
I really liked reading If I Stay and actually felt bad that it took me so long to read it. The good thing in that is I don't have to wait for the companion novel and I got to read it while the story is still fresh in my mind. WARNING: This review contains spoilers for If I Stay, even the summary for Where She Went has spoilers so avert your eyes if you haven't read the first book. Trust me, you don't want to see spoilers. Here's the link to my If I Stay review instead.
I loved where If I Stay ended and I felt like it stood well on its own. Which is why it took me a while to pick up Where She Went even though it's written from Adam's point of view and I thought he's an amazing guy based on the first book. I just couldn't get over the fact that Adam and Mia broke up after everything they've been through. I felt like they had a forever kind of relationship in If I Stay - I thought they had a real connection. I couldn't resist reading this, however, when I received a copy for my birthday. It still took a couple of chapters for me to get over the idea that Mia left Adam. Things made sense from Adam's side of the story - how his band became popular, how he reluctantly started a relationship with a celebrity and how messed up his life has been the past couple of years. It's funny because even though everyone around him and Adam himself thinks that he's a jerk, I believed that he's still the great guy he was in If I Stay - he just has more reason to be emo and angry. I'd love to quote some of the sections that I really liked but they might be spoilery so here are some lyrics from Adam's songs:
"You crossed the water, left me ashore It killed me enough, but you wanted more You blew up the bridge, a mad terrorist Waved from your side, threw me a kiss I started to follow but realized too late There was nothing but air underneath my feet" -Bridge
"I'll be your mess, you be mine That was the deal that we had signed I bought a hazmat suit to clean up your waste Gas masks, gloves, to keep us safe But now I'm alone in an empty room Staring down immaculate doom" - Messy
Oh Adam. Did I enjoy reading Where She Went? Surprisingly yes, in spite of my reservations. I should have known to trust Gayle Forman because she's an excellent storyteller. I enjoyed seeing everything through Adam's eyes. It gave the initial story in If I Stay more depth, while adding in layers provided by the years when Adam and Mia were apart. Although I think it would have been better if we got more insight into Mia and what she was thinking. Don't get me wrong - it did feel like everything fell into place quite nicely - but I kind of felt like there wasn't enough of Mia in this installment. I really liked that Where She Went has New Adult characters because we really need more novels like this. Both If I Stay and Where She Went are contemporary novels that I highly recommend. I feel like I've been lucky in my contemporary reads in 2012, so far. *keeps fingers crossed that will continue for the rest of the year* I look forward to seeing what Gayle Forman has in store for us next - looks like Just One Day and Just One Year will be companion novels too. (less)
One of my goals this year is to do more readalongs because they're a lot of fun. I read Three Wishes by Liane Moriarty along wi...moreOriginally posted here.
One of my goals this year is to do more readalongs because they're a lot of fun. I read Three Wishes by Liane Moriarty along with two good friends, Janice and Holly. I first discovered Liane Moriarty, Australian author of contemporary fiction, when I read What Alice Forgot last year. I enjoyed it so much that I wanted to read the rest of her books.
The cute cupcake cover for Three Wishes is deceiving. I thought I'd be reading a book about quirky triplets, something light and fun. Maybe there would be a couple of problems thrown in but I definitely wasn't expecting the book to feel as emotionally heavy as it did. Also, the synopsis describes the book as a family comedy but I didn't think it was funny. The narrative does change from one Kettle sister to another but I feel like the focus is more on Cat's marriage problems and how her husband cheated on her. As a result, she's a very angry person throughout most of the book and that affects the dynamics with her sisters. It also felt like Cat, Lyn and Gemma weren't as close as they wanted people to think. Sure, they meet regularly and they talk to each other all the time, but it felt like they weren't really there for each other when it mattered. Now I don't want to mention spoilers but it did frustrate me that the sisters kept major life events from each other. Some snippets that I included in Goodreads status updates:
"The bills would keep on coming, no matter what else was happening in your life and that was good because it gave you purpose. You worked so you could pay them. You rested on the weekends and generated more bills. Then you went back to work to pay for them. That was the reason for getting up tomorrow. That was the meaning of life."
"Death was the hot bath you promised yourself while you endured small talk and uncomfortable shoes. You could stop pretending to have a good time when you were dead."
Not very cheerful, right? I'm sorry to say that I didn't enjoy reading Three Wishes as much as I was expecting. I wasn't invested in any of the Kettle sisters and I just wanted to finish the book so I can move on to a better one. It has taken me a while to write this review and I'm already on another readalong with Janice and Holly - we're reading Whiskey Road by Karen Siplin. We haven't been lucky in our readalong choices so far but I'm keeping my fingers crossed. If you're interested in giving Liane Moriarty's writing a try, I suggest that you start with What Alice Forgot. It was a more enjoyable read for me than Three Wishes. Although like I always say, people don't always react the same way even if we do share reading tastes so you might like this book a lot more than I did. I've seen more positive reviews so it may not just be a book for me.(less)
Knife by R.J. Anderson was published as Spell Hunter in the US and is the first book in the Faery Rebels series. I got the UK ed...moreOrinally posted here.
Knife by R.J. Anderson was published as Spell Hunter in the US and is the first book in the Faery Rebels series. I got the UK edition because I think it looks much better than the US one and the UK covers for all the books in the series match. The picture below doesn't do the cover justice because it's a lot nicer in person - the blue stands out against the black and the print is shiny. I've heard a lot of good things about this book, especially from Sounisians because I believe R.J. Anderson is a member of that LJ community.
I know there are a lot of YA faery series out there - I've given several a try but I stopped with just the first book in most of them because I feel like they weren't for me. Knife was different because I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and I'm glad that I already have a copy of Rebel. Ever since Bryony was a young faery, she's had this longing to go outside the Oak to discover what's out there. In this series, fairies are small creatures so they're scared of crows, foxes and even cats and dogs. Humans are viewed as monstrous creatures intent on harming them. However, Bryony doesn't understand why her people aren't brave enough to fight back. She gets the chance to prove herself when she's apprenticed to the Queen's Hunter - the person responsible for protecting the Gatherers who reluctantly leave the Oak to collect food. The Hunter also provides whatever meat, skins and fur that she can acquire. When Bryony takes over the position of Queen's Hunter, she chooses to change her name to Knife.
I really liked the faery world created by R.J. Anderson and I think it's my favorite so far out of all the faery series that I've read. It was interesting to note the similarities and differences in this world and other faery lore. I can't reveal much without mentioning spoilers but I really liked how the faeries' magic worked. Knife is such a feisty heroine. She's inquisitive even as a child and she questions the rules of the Oak. There's a mystery behind that and why her people lost most of their magic and Knife is determined to find out more about it. She's different from all the other fairies because she's not content with the status quo. She's willing to take risks even if it involves endangering herself. It was fun to see everything through Knife's eyes as she tentatively explores the world beyond the Oak and the humans that live in the House. I really liked how the friendship between Knife and Paul, a human teen, developed - initially, they were just curious about how different they are from each other but eventually, they connect and bond over common interests like their fascination with art. I highly recommend Knife to fans of faery stories and MG/YA fantasy readers. Like I said, I'm looking forward to reading Rebel and I have a feeling I'll be purchasing Arrow soon (I've seen it in local bookstores).(less)
The moment I saw my good friend Maggie of Young Adult Anonymous give My Most Excellent Year by Steve Kluger such a glowing revi...moreOriginally posted here.
The moment I saw my good friend Maggie of Young Adult Anonymous give My Most Excellent Year by Steve Kluger such a glowing review, I knew I would want to read it. I went on Goodreads and also realized that another friend, Flannery of The Readventurer, rated it highly. I wanted to grab a copy as soon as I could but since books are expensive here in Singapore, I waited until I was in Manila before buying the paperback. I’ve had my copy since December last year and only felt like reading it recently. I was in the mood for a fun contemporary YA read and thought My Most Excellent Year would fit the bill. It was published in 2009 so I realized it’s the perfect choice for a Retro Friday review.
I am happy to report that My Most Excellent Year lived up to my expectations. It is such a feel good, heartwarming kind of read. I have no idea why it isn’t more well-known. It’s been out for a while now and I think only a handful of my blogging buddies have read it. It’s a good thing I love spreading the word about under-the-radar titles because I need to convince more people to read this. At first glance, I didn’t think My Most Excellent Year was the kind of book that I would enjoy mostly because the story has alternating POVs (T.C., Augie and Alé) and their interests lie in American history and politics, baseball and musicals. While I love seeing musicals, I’m not a die-hard fan who knows all the songs, actors/actresses and notable performances. And I know next to nothing about baseball and American history. In spite of that, I was absorbed by the story because at its core, My Most Excellent Year is about family, friendship and first love. I was charmed by the thought of two boys, T.C. and Augie, deciding to be brothers when they were 6 years old. Not like two best friends who think of each other as brothers, they really act like siblings to the point that even their parents have gotten used to having two sons instead of just one. So they have a Mom, Dad and a Pop. They share their rooms in two households and they have vacations together. I thought it was so sweet how warm and accommodating their families were. This book has such great parents in it, I think it's worthwhile to point that out since we rarely see wonderful parents in YA.
During ninth grade, both T.C. and Augie have to deal with falling in love for the first time. It was so much fun to see them struggling to adjust to what they're feeling (especially Augie, who hasn't even figured out that he likes boys instead of girls). It was sweet how supportive they are of each other, not just in their love lives but also in their interests in general. Like T.C. would watch musicals with Augie even if he doesn't really enjoy them. Being great guys, it's not surprising when T.C. befriends a lonely, deaf six-year-old boy called Hucky and Augie was right there along with him. T.C. wanted to reach out to Hucky because he sees a young Augie in the little boy, while Augie thinks Hucky was exactly like T.C. when they were that age. I hope it doesn't seem too confusing that there are a lot of characters in the book because it was very easy to get to know the characters. I also really liked the format of the book – emails between various characters (I loved how even the parents email each other about their kids), IM messages and diary entries. I could relate to the format because that's also how I communicate with friends and family, especially now that I live away from home. This was such a lovely, immensely readable book, the kind that lets you end on a happy sigh. While younger in tone and feel compared to some of the other contemporary YA novels that I loved, I still highly recommend My Most Excellent Year to anyone who needs an uplifting type of read. I'm mighty curious about the rest of Steve Kluger's back list.
My love affair with Laura Florand's Amour et Chocolat contemporary romance series started with The Chocolate Thief. I was captivated by that first book and I knew I would want to read the rest of the novels as soon as they came out. I have been really curious about The Chocolate Touch ever since I found out who the two main characters are going to be - both Dominique and Jaime were mentioned in the first book. I was lucky enough to get a review copy of this and I read it as soon as I could. I was a bit bummed that The Chocolate Touch's cover didn't follow the design of the first two and I don't think the couple in it is a good representation of the characters. But that's a minor quibble that has nothing to do with the contents of the novel.
A draft of my review for The Chocolate Touch has been sitting on my dashboard for weeks. I don't know why but I just couldn't find the right words to describe what it's like to be immersed in Laura Florand's delectable version of Paris. But let me try. What I love about the Amour et Chocolat books is that even though each book features a French chef or chocolatier, their personalities are so distinct that reading about them never gets boring. Plus I feel like the writing in each has a different tone - The Chocolate Thief is deliciously entertaining, The Chocolate Kiss is whimsical with magic realism feel to it while The Chocolate Touch has such a sweet and endearing romance. This latest installment in the series is filled with warmth that's very comforting, like drinking hot chocolate on a rainy day. Kind of similar to how Jaime visits Dom's chocolaterie everyday, consuming his creations and letting them revive her both physically and emotionally. I liked the contrast between Dom and Jaime - how he initially felt that he's such a brute compared to how delicate she looks and that he has to be careful with how he treats her. But appearances can be deceiving and Jaime has a core of steel that makes her the perfect match for Dom. I had so much fun reading about the tentative nature of how they got to know each other. Both of them have complicated pasts and there's a reason for why they feel like they don't have much to offer (even though they both think the world of the other person). Here's a snippet that I particularly liked:
He didn't talk, but a man who had Paris in the springtime didn't need to talk. Better not. Better just to concentrate on the cool breeze off the river, stirring his shaggy black hair, the bridges that stretched away through the centuries, that fresh young green on the trees along the quays. Evening was falling later and later. The sun was only starting to set now, easy blurred shades of pink and gold and gray through low strips of clouds. The sky above them was blue, clear, but blurring toward gray. Half the world looked in love, couples strolling hand in hand along the Seine. At the edge of that sunset, in the west, far away along the river that simmered with pink and gold, the Eiffel Tower rose, gentled by the low haze.
Lovely writing right there. Laura Florand sure knows how to set a scene. And write mouth-watering descriptions of chocolates, caramels and pastries. Just thinking about them is making me hungry, I may have to hunt down some desserts tomorrow. Another aspect of the book that I really enjoyed is seeing how Dom and Jaime relate to their friends and family. It was nice to see characters from the earlier novels, especially the members of the Corey family. They're just too funny. If you're a contemporary romance reader and you've never read any of Laura Florand's books, then you must give them a try as soon as you can. Highly recommended for fans of chocolates, Paris and romance. It goes without saying that I cannot wait for the next book in this wonderful series. To get a better idea of The Chocolate Touch's setting, check out the author's pictures of the real-life chocolatier who inspired the book.
2011 Review for The Mark of Solomon duology: The Lion Hunter and The Empty Kingdom, originally poste...moreReread this for EWein Special Ops:
2011 Review for The Mark of Solomon duology: The Lion Hunter and The Empty Kingdom, originally posted here.
I think we've safely established that I'm a book pusher and there's nothing I enjoy promoting more than under-the-radar books. I am constantly amazed that so many excellent books don't get the attention that they deserve. I reviewed The Sunbird by Elizabeth E. Wein last year, hoping that more people would read her books but I haven't been that successful because I haven't seen reviews of that book in the past year. Also, it makes me sad that The Sunbird is now out of print. So now I feel like I need to talk about The Mark of Solomon, the duology that comes after The Sunbird, because the blogosphere seriously needs to show more Elizabeth E. Wein love.
I've already dubbed Telemakos as Gen-in-Africa so that should serve as enough encouragement for all Megan Whalen Turner fans out there. I originally found out about these books from Sounis, back when I didn't have a blog and I got most of my recommendations from that community. If you have no idea what I'm talking about (shame on you!), Gen is the main character in the Queen's Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner and he's all kinds of awesome. Telemakos is young but he's wise beyond his years. His upbringing as a half-British, half-Aksumite noble and his innate curiosity has landed him right smack in the middle of political intrigue involving several countries. I find it ironic that he has such a striking physical appearance - cinnamon-colored skin, bright blue eyes and pale hair - and yet he excels in subtlety. A line from page 11 reads: "Oh, the wealth of intrigue you heard when no one imagined you were listening."
Elizabeth E. Wein is not afraid of letting her characters suffer and even though I've known from the start that Telemakos is as brave as they come, my heart goes out to him whenever something terrible happens. *huggles Telemakos* He also kept surprising me with how intelligent his strategies were. Sorry for being vague but he kept being thrown into situations where he had to make the most out of his wits if he wanted to keep himself and everyone he cares for out of harm. Also, the secondary characters in these books? They're all so smart and complex and they keep readers guessing. You never know who's really trustworthy. Which also paves the way for complicated relationships between the characters. I love that you can feel the love and respect that the characters have for each other but their interactions are never simple.
The Lion Hunter and The Empty Kingdom should be read together because the first book ends on a major cliffhanger. I heard that they're actually just one book that was split by the publisher, I have no idea why. The Sunbird is the first book about Telemakos and The Mark of Solomon duology continues with his journey. They're historical fiction books set in Aksum (ancient Ethiopia), Africa but there's a hint of Arthurian legend in them as well. Telemakos is actually the son of Medraut (Mordred) and the grandson of Artos (Arthur). So if you're a fan of historical fiction or Arthurian tales or you just want to read books with excellent worldbuilding, multi-faceted characters and plots riddled with conspiracies then you should pick these up as soon as you can. And spread the word about them when you're done reading.