Chachic's Book Nook


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Black Dog by Rachel Neumeier

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.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

Black DogNatividad is Pure, one of the rare girls born able to wield magic. Pure magic can protect humans against the supernatural evils they only half-acknowledge – the blood kin or the black dogs. In rare cases – like for Natividad’s father and older brother – Pure magic can help black dogs find the strength to control their dark powers.

But before Natividad’s mother can finish teaching her magic their enemies find them. Their entire village in the remote hills of Mexico is slaughtered by black dogs. Their parents die protecting them. Natividad and her brothers must flee across a strange country to the only possible shelter: the infamous black dogs of Dimilioc, who have sworn to protect the Pure.

In the snowy forests of Vermont they are discovered by Ezekiel Korte, despite his youth the strongest black dog at Dimilioc and the appointed pack executioner. Intrigued by Natividad he takes them to Dimilioc instead of killing them.

Now they must pass the tests of the Dimilioc Master. Alejandro must prove he can learn loyalty and control even without his sister’s Pure magic. Natividad’s twin Miguel must prove that an ordinary human can be more than a burden to be protected. And even at Dimilioc a Pure girl like Natividad cannot remain unclaimed to cause fighting and distraction. If she is to stay she must choose a black dog mate.

But, first, they must all survive the looming battle

It’s been weeks since I finished reading Black 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.

Other reviews:
Random Musings of a Bibliphile
By Singing Light
Charlotte’s Library


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Touchstone Trilogy by Andrea K. Höst

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.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

Touchstone TrilogyOn her last day of high school, Cassandra Devlin walked out of exams and into a forest. Surrounded by the wrong sort of trees, and animals never featured in any nature documentary, Cass is only sure of one thing: alone, she will be lucky to survive.

The sprawl of abandoned blockish buildings Cass discovers offers her only more puzzles. Where are the people? What is the intoxicating mist which drifts off the buildings in the moonlight? And why does she feel like she’s being watched?

Increasingly unnerved, Cass is overjoyed at the arrival of the formidable Setari. Whisked to a world as technologically advanced as the first was primitive, where nanotech computers are grown inside people’s skulls, and few have any interest in venturing outside the enormous whitestone cities, Cass finds herself processed as a ‘stray’, a refugee displaced by the gates torn between worlds. Struggling with an unfamiliar language and culture, she must adapt to virtual classrooms, friends who can teleport, and the ingrained attitude that strays are backward and slow.

Can Cass ever find her way home? And after the people of her new world discover her unexpected value, will they be willing to let her leave?

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.

Touchstone and hot choco

“All these planets, and none of them have chocolate. Severe oversight in world creation.”

Other reviews:
Me and My Books (contains spoilers)
The Book Smugglers – Stray, Lab Rat One, Caszandra


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Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

I’ve been meaning to read another book written by Rainbow Rowell because I really enjoyed Attachments. But you all know how it goes, so many other books in the TBR pile kept me from doing this. I finally decided to try Fangirl when my friends Angie and Michelle recently gave it such glowing reviews. I just had to know more about Cath and Levi and see whether I’ll like them just as much.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

FangirlCath is a Simon Snow fan.

Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan . . .

But for Cath, being a fan is her life — and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving.

Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.

Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.

Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words . . . And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.

For Cath, the question is: Can she do this?

Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories?

And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?

I don’t really read, let alone write, fan fiction. The main reason for this is because I feel like I’ll get confused between the events of canon vs. fanfic. It’s funny because I’m not big on fanfic and my college experience was very different from Cath’s, yet I could still relate to her. I think every person who is a fangirl or fanboy of fictional worlds will be able to relate to Cath. I love her definition of what a nerd is:

“To really be a nerd, she’d decided, you had to prefer fictional worlds to the real one. Cath would move into the World of Mages in a heartbeat.”

Using that definition, I’m definitely a book nerd. I wouldn’t even be able to choose what fictional world I would want to live in. There are so many fantasy settings that I would love to visit and book characters I would love to meet. I also understood how plugged into the online world Cath was because I’m like that as well – I could stay holed up in my room for hours just browsing, staring or typing into my laptop. Aside from being able to relate to Cath’s nerdiness, I also really liked how the book focused on Cath’s relationships with various people in her life – her twin sister Wren, her dad and mom, her roommate Reagan and of course, Levi. These relationships are all complicated, with dialogue and banter that I really enjoyed reading about. I liked that I was able to get most of the references that they used. I feel like I keep saying this but I adore slow burn romances and oh boy, Fangirl had a really good thing going on in that department. I also liked the Nebraska college setting because otherwise, I wouldn’t have found out that there were courses related to farming. I thought it was great that their school also offered writing and young adult literature classes, I certainly wouldn’t have minded taking up those courses if those were available in my own school. One thing that I love about of Rainbow Rowell’s books is that they are all standalones. As much as I enjoy reading books in a series, there are times when I’m in the mood to read something that is wrapped up nicely in one installment. I am now definitely a Rainbow Rowell fan and I look forward to reading Eleanor and Park, I already have the hardcover waiting on my bookshelf.

Just a note on the cover, I feel like Rainbow Rowell has been really lucky when it comes to the cover design of her books. Fangirl’s cover is such a good fit for the story. I also like the artist’s style, here’s another Noelle Stevenson artwork that I think matches Cath’s personality well:

The Upside of Being an Introvert

Other reviews:
See Michelle Read
Angieville
Book Harbinger
Random Musings of a Bibliophile


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Retro Friday: My Most Excellent Year by Steve Kluger

Retro Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Angie over at Angieville and focuses on reviewing books from the past. This can be an old favorite, an under-the-radar book you think deserves more attention, something woefully out of print, etc.

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.

My Most Excellent Year outdoors

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

Best friends and unofficial brothers since they were six, ninth-graders T.C. and Augie have got the world figured out. But that all changes when both friends fall in love for the first time. Enter Alé. She’s pretty, sassy, and on her way to Harvard. T.C. falls hard, but Alé‚ is playing hard to get. Meanwhile, Augie realizes that he’s got a crush on a boy. It’s not so clear to him, but to his family and friends, it’s totally obvious! Told in alternating perspectives, this is the hilarious and touching story of their most excellent year, where these three friends discover love, themselves, and how a little magic and Mary Poppins can go a long way.

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.

My Most Excellent Year - headings

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 Most Excellent Year - Augie

Other reviews:
Young Adult Anonymous
The Readventurer
The Book Smugglers
Book Nut


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The Distance Between Us by Kasie West

I became aware of The Distance Between Us when my good friend Nomes posted a glowing review of it on her blog Inkcrush. I always look forward to reading good contemporary YA novels, which is why this one got bumped up the TBR pile. I had other titles lined up but then I tried a sample of this and just couldn’t stop reading after that.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

The Distance Between UsSeventeen-year-old Caymen Meyers studies the rich like her own personal science experiment, and after years of observation she’s pretty sure they’re only good for one thing—spending money on useless stuff, like the porcelain dolls in her mother’s shop.

So when Xander Spence walks into the store to pick up a doll for his grandmother, it only takes one glance for Caymen to figure out he’s oozing rich. Despite his charming ways and that he’s one of the first people who actually gets her, she’s smart enough to know his interest won’t last. Because if there’s one thing she’s learned from her mother’s warnings, it’s that the rich have a short attention span. But Xander keeps coming around, despite her best efforts to scare him off. And much to her dismay, she’s beginning to enjoy his company.

She knows her mom can’t find out — she wouldn’t approve. She’d much rather Caymen hang out with the local rocker who hasn’t been raised by money. But just when Xander’s attention and loyalty are about to convince Caymen that being rich isn’t a character flaw, she finds out that money is a much bigger part of their relationship than she’d ever realized. And that Xander’s not the only one she should’ve been worried about.

You might think that The Distance Between Us is a classic love story of rich guy meets girl from the wrong side of the tracks, and you would be right but only up to a certain extent. I feel like how the story was executed made it enjoyable and unique in its own way. What drew me to this book was Caymen and the idea that she grew up helping her mom run a doll store, catering to the wealthy people who lived in their area. I imagine that doll store as a quirky establishment located in a quaint street. Caymen’s mom got pregnant as a teenager, was abandoned by her dad and disowned by her grandparents so the store became their primary source of income. It sounds like Gilmore Girls, if Lorelei opened a doll store instead of an inn and Rory had to help out in selling dolls instead of concentrating on her Ivy League goals. And Caymen’s sarcasm is also reminiscent of the Gilmore Girls banter that I’m such a big fan of. The romance is definitely a focus in this book but I like how it took time to form – how Caymen and Xander got to know each other better through breakfast that consisted of blueberry muffins and hot chocolate (a dietary choice that I approve of). The attraction was there but they refused to acknowledge it, leading to tension and uncertainty that made the book hard to put down. Check out this sample:

“His grandma says something that makes him smile. The smile. What is it about that smile anyway? Maybe it’s his perfectly straight and white teeth that make it so amazing. But it’s more than that. It’s a little crooked, one side going up more than the other. And once in a while his top teeth bite his bottom lip. It’s a very unguarded smile, unlike the rest of his appearance, which is a fortress.”

I really enjoyed reading details like that, seeing the little things that one character notices about another. One other section that I liked was this:

“Two doors down from our doll store is a dance studio, and I’m surprised to see the lights all on this late at night. wide-open windows on a dark night make everything inside as clear as on a movie screen. There is a girl inside, probably my age, dancing in front of a wall of mirrors. The graceful movements of her body prove she’s been studying for years. I wonder why some people seem to be born knowing what they want to do with their lives and others – mostly me – have no idea.”

Figuring out what they want to do with their lives become a theme for Caymen and Xander and they spend “career days” together instead of calling them dates. It’s funny how I’ve been out of high school for YEARS but I could still relate to the feeling that you’re not sure what it is that you’re meant to do with your life. If I could talk to Caymen and Xander, I’d tell them that it takes a lot of time to get to a point in your career (or even your life) when you feel like you’re headed in the right direction. As much as I liked the swoon-worthy moments between the two MCs when they’re by themselves, I think it was nice that I got a clearer picture of what they’re like through how they interacted with family and friends. For both Caymen and Xander, their personalities are largely influenced by their relationships with their relatives. I had so much fun reading this one, as evidenced by the fact that I gobbled it up in one day. Recommended for fans of contemporary YA, it reminded me a little of The Reece Malcolm List and The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight.

Other reviews:
Inkcrush
The Nocturnal Library
Anna Reads
GReads


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All I Ever Wanted by Vikki Wakefield

I’ve said it before and I will probably say it again in the future: I love Aussie YA. I can’t help it, there are just so many great authors in the land down under. So it’s no surprise that I’ve been curious about All I Eve Wanted by Vikki Wakefield since I first heard about it, when glowing reviews from Aussie bloggers started popping up all over the blogosphere. I knew I was in for a treat when I finally got the chance to read this one.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

All I Ever WantedMim knows what she wants, and where she wants to go — anywhere but home, stuck in the suburbs with her mother who won’t get off the couch, and two brothers in prison. She’s set herself rules to live by, but she’s starting to break them.

Now Mim has to retrieve a lost package for her mother.

Does this make her a drug runner?

Why is a monster dog called Gargoyle hidden in the back shed?

And Jordan, the boy she sent Valentines to for years, why is he now suddenly a creep?

How come there’s a huge gap between her and her best friend, Tahnee?

And who is the mysterious girl next door who moans at night?

Over the nine days before her seventeenth birthday, Mim’s life turns upside down. She has problems, and she’s determined to solve them herself. But in the end, she works out who her people are, and the same things look entirely different.

I kept being surprised by how beautiful the writing is in Vikki Wakefield’s debut novel. It’s the kind of writing that jumps out of the page, grabs you and makes you pause because you just want to savor the words. All Mim ever wanted was a way out of her life. She’s done her best to be a good girl by staying away from illegal activities that her mom and brothers engage in, mostly because that’s what they know how to do and that’s what brings food to the table. Mim has her own set of rules that she hopes will lead her in a different direction from that kind of life. She dreams of traveling and visiting places that she’s only read about in books. For someone like me, who grew up in the Philippines, reading about what poverty is like in a first world country like Australia is enlightening. I know that so many people back home dream about a better life in another country. Some of my own friends even aspire to live in Australia, specifically (and I have to admit that I wouldn’t mind doing that either if it means I’d have access to so many wonderful novels). In this sense, All I Ever Wanted reminded me of one of my favorite reads last year, Such a Rush by Jennifer Echols. The same kind of yearning to move beyond the current reality is present in both books. I loved so many passages and I want to highlight a sample:

“God, who lives like this? There must be families who eat together and speak to each other with respect. There must be couples who love each other but don’t have sex. There must be friends who can have a disagreement without screaming at each other and breaking up. Friends who don’t change overnight and turn into complete opposites of each other.

It’s almost funny. My rules are clacking over like dominoes but I’ve never felt so alive. I want to cry and scream in the middle of the street, just like Mum when she loses it. I want to smash things with a golf club. I want to spin my life like a bottle and see where I end up because any place would be better than here.”

Isn’t that just lovely? Certain passages in this book just made me sigh in happiness. As much as I love romance in the stories that I read, I was able to appreciate that All I Ever Wanted was light in that aspect. It focused more on friendship, family and what happens when you let your guard down and let people in. Mim may feel like her life is bleak but I never felt burdened by her story. I felt like the book had the right balance of hope and despair. Highly recommended for fans of contemporary YA, I’ve marked this title as one of best ones that I’ve read this year. Vikki Wakefield is an author worth watching out for. I cannot wait to read her second novel, Friday Brown. All I Ever Wanted and Friday Brown can be purchased through Text Publishing or Fishpond, both of which have free international delivery.

Other reviews:
Inkcrush
Young Adult Anonymous
My Girl Friday
The Tales Compendium


10 Comments

Icon of the Indecisive by Mina V. Esguerra

Icon of the Indecisive by Mina V. Esguerra is the third book in the Interim Goddess of Love trilogy. The first two books in the series are Interim Goddess of Love and Queen of the Clueless. Do you need to read the books in order? Yes, unless you want to get really confused. They’re all tied together, with Hannah as the main character, tasked with helping college students with their love problems. Mina compared the series to a TV show, with the first two books as different episodes and Icon of the Indecisive as the season finale. I received an advanced review copy of this for the audio commentary that Mina organized with several other bloggers. Here’s my account of that experience and feel free to download the file over at Mina’s website.

Here’s the summary from Mina’s website:

Icon of the IndecisiveCollege student Hannah Maquiling, also temporarily working as the Goddess of Love, has had enough of everyone asking for her help when it comes to relationships. It’s her turn to find romance! She deserves it, after serving as matchmaker and confidant to everyone else in Ford River College for the past year. She’s had a crush on handsome senior (and God of the Sun) Quin forever, but he’s destined to fall in love with an extraordinary mortal woman, so she’s figured her chances with him have pretty much dropped to zero.

It’s not like she doesn’t have any options for a classic college romance though. There’s Diego, God of the Sea and Quin’s best friend/enemy. And regular guy Robbie is stepping up, making sure she knows how he feels about her. How hard can it be for a goddess to find someone to love, and be loved in return?

It was nice to be back in Ford River College, a setting that I enjoyed reading about because it reminded me of my own college experience. I feel like I keep saying this but since I had fun in college (in spite of not loving my major), I take pleasure in reading anything that takes me back to those years. Even though Hannah and the other characters in the series weren’t ordinary college students, because they had abilities as gods and goddesses, I could still relate to them. To be honest, I was a little worried about Icon of the Indecisive. I felt like we were left hanging at the end of the second book and there were too many questions that needed to be answered in the final book. I shouldn’t have worried because the whole trilogy was wrapped up quite nicely in this installment. In the first two books, readers were able to see glimpses of Hannah’s own love story interspersed with the cases that she needed to solve as interim goddess. I was rooting for Hannah to get her own happy ending – I felt like she deserves to have her own beautiful romance after going through the trouble of comforting and supporting other people through their love-related difficulties. I had no idea where things would go when it came to Hannah’s leading man and I liked not being able to predict what would happen. While I didn’t think the ending was perfect because I thought it could have gone in a different direction, I still found it quite satisfying.

The Interim Goddess of Love trilogy is different from Mina’s usual contemporary romance with main characters in their mid-twenties. The series is young adult, set in college and has a mythology aspect to it. Granted, it’s light on the mythology and doesn’t have as much worldbuilding as other fantasy novels that I’m used to. Still, I think it’s a good idea for an author to branch out and try writing something different. In this case, I think it worked well because romance is still a big element of this series, something that it has in common with the author’s previous work. Like all of Mina’s other books, Icon of the Indecisive was a quick read for me. Thank goodness it didn’t take long for this one to get published so the story was still quite fresh in my mind and I didn’t have to reread the first two. You’re pretty lucky if you haven’t started on the series and you’re curious about it, because now you can read all of them in one go. Recommended for fans of romantic novellas, readers who want something light and fun, and anyone interested in giving Filipino fiction a try.

It’s funny how Interim Goddess of Love has several cover designs. I just wanted to mention that I really like that it got redesigned and now all three installments have matching covers:

Interim Goddess of Love_digital coverQueen of the CluelessIcon of the Indecisive

All three covers were designed by Tania Arpa using photographer/blogger Rhea Bue’s photos. Aren’t they lovely? I like that the covers feature a Filipino fashion blogger and how all the photos give off a college vibe that represent the series well.

Other reviews:
The Girl Who Read and Other Stories
One More Page


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The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith

I’ve been aware for a while that The Statistical Probably of Love at First Sight is a good book. I don’t know why I kept putting it off, maybe I just wasn’t in the right kind of mood for it. So I waited and I finally felt like reading it on my flight from Singapore to the States back in March. I thought it would be a very fitting read because I was also on my way to attend a wedding (although unlike Hadley, I was excited for the wedding that I was going to). It was fun to read a book about a character who was experiencing something similar to what I was going through.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

The Statistical Probability of Love at First SightToday should be one of the worst days of seventeen-year-old Hadley Sullivan’s life. Having missed her flight, she’s stuck at JFK airport and late to her father’s second wedding, which is taking place in London and involves a soon-to-be stepmother Hadley’s never even met. Then she meets the perfect boy in the airport’s cramped waiting area. His name is Oliver, he’s British, and he’s sitting in her row.

A long night on the plane passes in the blink of an eye, and Hadley and Oliver lose track of each other in the airport chaos upon arrival. Can fate intervene to bring them together once more?

Quirks of timing play out in this romantic and cinematic novel about family connections, second chances, and first loves. Set over a twenty-four-hour-period, Hadley and Oliver’s story will make you believe that true love finds you when you’re least expecting it.

A draft for this review has been sitting in my dashboard for a while now. I don’t know why I’ve been having a hard time trying to capture how I felt about this book so let me keep it short and concise. I found it a little funny that I was traveling by myself and I was reading a book about a girl who meets a guy while traveling by herself. I mean how likely is that, right? Now that I’m based abroad, I mostly fly on my own whenever I travel and I’ve never had an experience like that. In spite of that, I think this is the perfect book while waiting to board a plane or during the flight itself. It’s a quick and fun read with just enough emotional depth to make things interesting. I liked the family dynamics in story, how complicated Hadley’s life is because her dad is about to marry the woman responsible for her parents’ divorce. Hadley’s reluctance to attend the wedding is understandable. But it’s a good thing she did because one flight becomes a turning point in her life. I really liked this passage about Hadley’s dad giving her books:

“It wasn’t that she was meant to read them all. Maybe someday she would, but for now, it was more the gesture itself. He was giving her the most important thing he could, the only way he knew how. He was a professor, a lover of stories, and he was building her a library in the same way other men might build their daughters houses.”

Every book lover will be able to appreciate the sentiment. Who wouldn’t want to receive books to slowly build a library? And it’s a great feeling to share a mutual love of books with someone that’s a huge part of your life. It’s nice that even though the title, the cover and the premise all suggest that this is a love story, it really is more than that. This is a short and sweet novel, recommended for fans of first loves, meet cutes and family interactions. Looking forward to Jennifer E. Smith’s next novel, This Is What Happy Looks Like.


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The Reece Malcolm List by Amy Spalding

Thank you so much to my friend Maggie of Young Adult Anonymous for giving me a signed copy of Amy Spalding’s debut novel, The Reece Malcolm List. I kept hearing good things about this contemporary YA novel so I was pretty excited to read it.

The Reece Malcolm List Signed

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

The Reece Malcolm ListThings I know about Reece Malcolm:

1. She graduated from New York University.
2. She lives in or near Los Angeles.
3. Since her first novel was released, she’s been on the New York Times bestseller list every week.
4. She likes strong coffee and bourbon.
5. She’s my mother.

Devan knows very little about Reece Malcolm, until the day her father dies and she’s shipped off to live with the mother she’s never met. All she has is a list of notebook entries that doesn’t add up to much.

L.A. offers a whole new world to Devan—a performing arts school allows her to pursue her passion for show choir and musicals, a new circle of friends helps to draw her out of her shell, and an intriguing boy opens up possibilities for her first love.

But then the Reece Malcolm list gets a surprising new entry. Now that Devan is so close to having it all, can she handle the possibility of losing everything?

I felt like I read this book at just the right time. I just came back from L.A. when I read this more than a month ago and I was able to appreciate all the references to L.A. in the book. I got excited whenever I recognized any of the places or things mentioned – like having a burger from In N Out, which is something that I always make a point of having whenever I visit L.A. I’m a fan of musicals although I’m not as into the whole thing as Devan is – I mean I would like to be but I obviously don’t have her talent. I just enjoy watching musicals and I try to watch as many as I can. I wish I was more familiar with Merrily We Roll Along because that was the musical featured in the book. I probably would have appreciated Devan’s rehearsals more if I’ve seen Merrily We Roll Along on stage or if I knew the songs. I also love having karaoke sessions (we call it videoke back home in Manila) with my friends though because I like to sing even if I’m all heart and no talent. So I could totally relate to the karaoke scene in the book, I find it interesting that for a seriously talented singer like Devan, a fun karaoke session lets her unwind.

I liked reading about the characters and how Devan slowly got to know them – her theater friends, her love interests, her mom and even her mom’s boyfriend. There were interesting characters and dynamics within the novel. I really, really enjoyed reading this book and I felt like I would have fallen in love with it if it just had a little more emotional depth. I felt like there was enough room to draw upon the characters’ feelings – maybe more grief or anger from Devan over all the bad things that have happened in her life. I guess I was expecting something like that since her father passed away and she suddenly has to move in with a mom she has never met. I think that this novel is a very good debut and I’m definitely curious about Amy Spalding’s next book – it’s just that I wanted more than the overall lighthearted tone presented in The Reece Malcolm List. If you’re a fan of contemporary YA, then you should definitely check this one out. I’m not surprised that I’ve seen so many rave reviews for it because it’s a really fun read.

Other reviews:
Young Adult Anonymous
Good Books and Good Wine
The Allure of Books


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A Face Like Glass by Frances Hardinge

I remember being fascinated by The Lost Conspiracy a few years ago and I’ve been meaning to read more of Frances Hardinge’s novels since then. But you know how it goes, you get distracted by other books in the TBR pile and you forget your intentions to read books by a certain author. Fortunately, I was attracted by the pretty cover of A Face Like Glass when I saw it in one of the bookstores here. I’ve been hearing good things about this book so I was pretty excited to read it.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

A Face Like GlassIn the underground city of Caverna the world’s most skilled craftsmen toil in the darkness to create delicacies beyond compare – wines that can remove memories, cheeses that can make you hallucinate and perfumes that convince you to trust the wearer, even as they slit your throat. The people of Caverna are more ordinary, but for one thing: their faces are as blank as untouched snow. Expressions must be learned, and only the famous Facesmiths can teach a person to show (or fake) joy, despair or fear – at a price.

Into this dark and distrustful world comes Neverfell, a little girl with no memory of her past and a face so terrifying to those around her that she must wear a mask at all times. For Neverfell’s emotions are as obvious on her face as those of the most skilled Facesmiths, though entirely genuine. And that makes her very dangerous indeed…

At a little less than 500 pages, A Face Like Glass is quite lengthy compared to some of the other YA novels that I’ve been reading lately. Which is why it kept me captivated for several days. Towards the end of the book, I decided to stay up late one night to finish it, I was so curious about where the story would go. I can’t even remember the last time I did that, probably not since I moved from Manila to Singapore last year. I found A Face Like Glass engaging for several reasons:

- I found the idea of wearing Faces like most people wear clothes intriguing. You can never know what a person is feeling based on just the expression that they’re wearing because they can choose which Face to use at any given moment. I’m fascinated by characters who are unreadable because they can surprise you in so many ways. In this book, most of the characters are like that because you can’t even use facial expressions to gauge what they’re thinking of.

- I enjoy reading about how complicated court intrigue is. I love how subtle court movements are and how the smallest of things can be significant because everything means something. There are complicated rules that courtiers follow and it requires a highly intelligent person to navigate the tricky waters of court. I liked how the craftsmen are divided into mafia-like families that compete against each other.

“It is terribly bad form to admit to being terrified for one’s life, but nobody in their right mind would go to a Court banquet without making preparations. One must have the right costume, the right Faces, and at least eighty-two ways of avoiding assassination.”

- I’m a big fan of cheese so I found Neverfell’s apprenticeship with Cheesemaster Grandible interesting. I can’t imagine what it must be like to have to take care of cheese that has its own personality – they can explode and harm people if not handled properly. The same goes for wine and everything else that Caverna excels at making, here’s a passage that I really liked:

“They were masters of memory, its loss and recovery. They could brew Wine that would make you remember the face of your dead love so clearly you could count her eyelashes, or that would make you forget specific chapters of a book so that you could read them again with pleasure.”

- The underground setting because I’ve lived in tropical countries all my life and I can’t imagine living in a dreary world below ground with no sunlight. I would probably feel claustrophobic and suffocated most of the time. It was interesting how Caverna’s inhabitants functioned underground and how they were willing to suffer the consequences just to keep the secrets of their craftsmen.

- There’s a mysterious thief in this novel called the Kleptomancer. As you well know, sneaky thieves in fiction have a special place in my heart. So when bits and pieces about the Kleptomancer started showing up in this book, I was immediately curious. I wanted to know more about him and his reasons for stealing.

- Of course, Neverfell is also another intriguing character. She’s a bright and curious individual and has such a good heart. She genuinely cares for other people, even if she had an isolated childhood. She’s always interested in helping out whenever she can.

With all the reasons listed, I think it’s pretty obvious that I loved reading A Face Like Glass. This beautiful book will definitely make it to my best of 2013 list. Highly recommended for MG/YA fans of fantasy, political intrigue, class conflict and unique world-building. I look forward to reading the rest of Frances Hardinge’s books, I have a copy of Fly By Night waiting for me back home in Manila.

A Face Like Glass paperback

Other reviews:
The Book Smugglers
The Readventurer

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