It’s my birthday and I’ll smile if I want to

I can’t believe I’m already 25 years old. I feel so old and young at the same time. Old because I always thought I’d have it all figured out by the time I reach this age and young because I haven’t. It’s all good though, I’m thankful for a lot of things. It hasn’t been smooth sailing all throughout but I’d like to think that the good things outweigh the bad. I’m already at work and I don’t have anything special planned for today but I already got to celebrate with my friends and family. Plus, I have new books! 🙂 I really went crazy with the book buying this month and a lot of my friends gave me books. I’m going to list them all down in my March update. I just wanted to make a birthday post today.

Happy March 29, everyone! 🙂

A Conspiracy of Kings

I already mentioned here that I just got a copy of A Conspiracy of Kings and since it’s my most anticipated book in 2010, I dropped the book that I was currently reading and dove right in. I’m done reading it but I still have a book hangover and I think I need to read it again. Just wanted to post my initial thoughts, spoiler-free of course.

Here’s a brief summary from Megan Whalen Turner’s website:

Sophos is the very reluctant heir to the King of Sounis. He would prefer to read poetry, study philosophy, or count the ridges on grasshopper wings. But, what he wants doesn’t matter . . . until the day all his responsibilities are taken away and he has a chance to decide his fate for himself.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again – Megan Whalen Turner (MWT) is awesome! She really is. I don’t think I can ever be disappointed in a book that she’s written. This one was no exception. This is the kind of book that you just inhale the first time you read it and you know that no matter how many times you read it again, it’ll never get old. A Conspiracy of Kings is all about Sophos, last seen as the Magus’ apprentice in The Thief. I did miss Gen’s (otherwise known as Eugenides, the main protagonist in the first three books) presence in the book but he’s still there in the sidelines. As with MWT’s other books, this one is all about political intrigue, internal struggle, plot twists and turns, character development, subtle romance, revelations and everything else that we’ve come to expect and love in her books. If you’re already a fan of the series, by the end of the book, you’ll love Sophos as much as you love Gen. If you aren’t a fan and haven’t read the series, what are you waiting for?

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This book is one of my entries in the Once Upon a Time challenge.

My Precious!

We wants it, we needs it, must have the precious! Now we has it! Yay, I now have a copy of my most anticipated 2010 book, A Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner. It was released in the States last March 23 and I’ve been bugging Fully Booked ever since. I kept calling and asking when they’re going to get copies. It finally paid off when I called last night and they said they just got a shipment from the States. Woohoo! Thankfully, I got one of the three copies that the High Street branch had. I went all the way from my office in Mandaluyong to High Street just to pick it up. The three copies in High Street are all gone – I wonder who else got the others? Hello fellow Filipino Queen’s Thief fans! Please leave a comment if you see this. For the others who want copies, I know Fully Booked ordered a total of 10 books and the other books will go to their other branches. It’s in hardcover and worth P680. My friend tarush1013 went to the High Street branch right after I did and they told her they don’t have any more copies. Don’t lose hope though! You’ll find a copy soon!


Here’s my copy beside my doggie bookmark, all set to be read!

To those who still haven’t read the series, read about it over here.

I’m so excited! I remember when the last Harry Potter book came out, I woke up at around 6am to go to the bookstore. I didn’t even bother to take a shower. Just had a latte then went straight to my room to read the whole day.

Crusieholic

I’ve heard Jennifer Crusie recommended a couple of times but I never got around to reading any of her books. I finally gave her books a try this month. Her books fall under contemporary romance or chic lit, which for me is the literary counterpart of chic flicks. I love romantic comedies because they’re feel good movies. I remember a time when my guy friends broke up with their girlfriends, they started passing around DVDs of rom com movies because they wanted to remain positive about love in spite of their break ups. Anyway, chic lit is like that too. I’ve read a couple of chic lit books in the past but I never loved any of them until I found out about Jennifer Crusie. I quote one of my friends, “Jennifer Crusie is the best chic lit writer in the universe!”

Similar to chic flicks, chic lit is predictable. You watch/read them because you want a pick-me-up. You know that the girl will end up with the guy. So what matters is how the story gets there. Jennifer Crusie has a wonderful way of weaving the story by concentrating on the characters. You can’t help but love her characters, even the secondary ones, because they’re just so full of personality. That’s the problem with other chic lit books, the characters aren’t given enough substance. What I really love about her books though is the humor. Her characters have such witty dialogue that I had a couple of literally laugh out loud moments.

These are the Jennifer Crusie books that I was able to get my hands on just this month:


Is this proof enough that I’ve become a Crusieholic?♥ I bought the books from Julie, Celina, Maricar and local bookstores.

I haven’t read all of the books in the picture above but from the ones that I’ve read, my favorites so far are Bet Me and Welcome to Temptation. If you’re in the mood for a quick read that will just suck you in from start to finish, check out Jennifer Crusie’s books. If only my guy friends read, I’d persuade them to read these books. The only other writer in this genre that I like as much is Julie James.

“Nothing but good times ahead.” — Jennifer Crusie (Welcome to Temptation)

Books vs. Food

If you’ve known me for a while, you know that I love to eat. In my old job, all of my co-workers knew this. Mostly because most of the employees there were workaholics who skip meals because of work or if they bother to eat, they eat in front of their laptops while working. I was different because I always make a point of eating whenever I’m hungry. Plus I’m enthusiastic about the food places that I love so I always tell people about these places and thus encourage them to try the food there. Before I left, they were joking that they should compile a list of the food items that I persuaded people to eat.

I’m writing about this because hakaw has asked me before this question: if I had to choose between good food and books, what would I choose? I said I honestly don’t know. Up to now, I haven’t given her an answer. I remembered it because this topic has been brought up in one of my Goodreads groups. One of my friends there said that she had to make this choice before – there wasn’t any food in the house so she decided to get take out but then she saw a book that she really wanted but she only had enough money for food. She decided to buy the book and just skip dinner.

My top three favorite activities are eating, sleeping and reading (yes I know, those are all activities for the lazy) so it’s really a tough choice for me. But I realize that while I’ve always liked reading, I wasn’t into food when I was younger. I was a really picky eater and I didn’t enjoy good food like I do now. I didn’t even eat Japanese food back then! When I really think about it, I’m more excited about getting a book that I really want than eating at a great restaurant. For example, if I had to choose right now between having a copy of A Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner and eating at a hotel buffet like Heat, I’d choose the book right away. So there, I guess I choose books. hakaw, I finally have an answer! I’m just really thankful that I can afford to buy books and eat out from time to time.

“When I have a little money, I buy books; and if I have any left, I buy food and clothes.”
— Desiderius Erasmus Roterodamus

How about you, what would you pick if you had to make a choice, food or books? Or have you ever had to decide between two favorite things?

Fairy Tale Retelling

I like fairy tale retellings because it’s always interesting how an author can take a well-known story and make it her own. A few years ago, I discovered Simon & Schuster’s Once Upon a Time, which is a series of fairy tale retellings. I think I have most of the books in the series because I collected them before reading them. I stopped collecting after reading the books because I was disappointed. I’ll post what I wrote in Goodreads about two books from the series that a friend gave me recently.

Belle: A Retelling of “Beauty and the Beast” by Cameron Dokey

Summary:
Belle is convinced she has the wrong name, as she lacks her sisters’ awe-inspiring beauty. So she withdraws from society, devoting her time to wood carving. Secretly, Belle longs to find the fabled Heartwood Tree. If carved by the right hands, the Heartwood will reveal the face of one’s true love.

During a fierce storm, Belle’s father stumbles upon the mysterious Heartwood – and encounters a terrifying and lonely Beast. Now Belle must carve the Heartwood to save her father, and learn to see not with the eyes of her mind, but with the eyes of her heart.

My Thoughts:
I love fairy tale retellings and Beauty and the Beast is my favorite fairy tale so I’m always curious about retellings about it. I’ve read most of the books in the Once Upon a Time series but I felt like they weren’t really for me. I don’t know why, maybe because they were trying to keep the books short, I felt like that stories weren’t fully developed. The same was true for this one.

The beginning reminded me of Robin McKinley’s Beauty I love fairy tale retellings and Beauty and the Beast is my favorite fairy tale so I’m always curious about retellings about it. I’ve read most of the books in the Once Upon a Time series but I felt like they weren’t really for me. I don’t know why, maybe because they were trying to keep the books short, I felt like that stories weren’t fully developed. The same was true for this one.

Cameron Dokey deviated from the usual story by coming up with the Heartwood Tree. Instead of a rose, Belle’s father took home a branch from the Heartwood Tree. Overall, the book was just okay for me. I would’ve probably liked it better if the story was more developed. I didn’t really feel that the Beast and Belle connected during the short time that they were together.

The Wild Orchid: A Retelling of “The Ballad of Mulan” by Cameron Dokey

Summary:
Wielding a sword as deftly as an embroidery needle, Mulan is unlike any other girl in China. When the emperor summons a great army, each family must send a male to fight. Tomboyish Mulan is determined to spare her aging father and bring her family honor, so she disguises herself and answers the call. But Mulan never expects to find a friend, let alone a soul mate, in the commander of her division, Prince Jian. For all of Mulan’s courage with a bow and arrow, is she brave enough to share her true identity and feelings with Prince Jian?

My Thoughts:
I enjoyed reading a book about Mulan because I only know her story because of the Disney movie, which I really liked because I love warrior women. I really like the beginning of this book but my usual complaint with the Once Upon a Time series still stands, I think it would’ve been better to add more meat to the bones. I felt like the latter part of the book wasn’t fully developed. The events felt too abrupt. It’s still a light and fun read for those who’re interested in Mulan and those who just enjoy retellings in general.

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

I’ve been looking forward to reading Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver because I’ve seen good reviews about it. The release date for this book was March 2 but as expected, bookstores here only got it last week. I was really excited when I saw that Powerbooks already had it. It’s in hardcover and I got it for P679. When I was in line for the Neil Gaiman book signing, I saw a girl reading it and I asked her if it’s good. She said that she just bought it that day and she started reading it while waiting in line for the book signing and she’s about to finish it already so it’s good. Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

What if you had only one day to live? What would you do? Who would you kiss? And how far would you go to save your own life?

Samantha Kingston has it all—looks, popularity, the perfect boyfriend. Friday, February 12th should be just another day in her charmed life. Instead, it’s her last. The catch: Samantha still wakes up the next morning. In fact, she re-lives the last day of her life seven times, until she realizes that by making even the slightest changes, she may hold more power than she had ever imagined.

Sam is in high school and she’s really popular. Like all popular girls, she’s mean to everyone except her friends. She doesn’t really care about other people. At the start of the book, it’s very easy to dislike Sam. But that’s the beauty of this book – we witness Sam grow as a person as she re-lives February 12 and tries to figure out what she has to do. She learns that her actions have consequences and even the smallest things can have a big impact. This a story about the roller coaster ride full of emotion that we call high school.

I would’ve fallen in love with this book if I read this as a teenager. I still have a book hangover, meaning I can’t stop thinking of the book and I can’t move on to a new one because I’m still replaying scenes in my mind. The last chapter is my favorite, bittersweet and full of emotion. I didn’t know if I should have been happy or sad. This is a beautiful book and I highly recommend it. Excellent debut from Lauren Oliver. I will definitely watch out for more of her books.

Other YA goodies that I got this month and I’m looking forward to reading:


The Sky is Everywhere (Thanks Den for the advanced birthday gift!),Jellicoe Road and Going Too Far

My Bookshelf

My bookshelf isn’t really that big. I’m thinking of buying a bigger one that can span a whole wall of my room but I haven’t found anything that I like. Here are pictures of my bookshelf:

It’s not as organized as I’d like because there isn’t enough room for all of the books so they’re just sort of piled together. Although I do group them by author. There are more books at behind the books in front, I don’t think that can really be seen in the pictures. The rest that can’t fit there are placed in this big box:

The box is starting to get full, I may need to another one soon. Or find a bigger bookshelf that I like. The thing is, I like bookshelves that have sliding glass panels. I don’t want open bookshelves because books get dirtier and turn yellow faster that way. If you find nice bookshelves here, please let me know.

Neil Gaiman Book Signing

So even though I’m not a huge fan, I gave in and purchased P2,000 worth of Neil Gaiman’s books to get a book signing pass. I took half the day off from work to go to Rockwell and have my Stardust graphic novel and The Graveyard Book signed. Those are my favorites out of Neil Gaiman’s books. It was tiring but a lot of fun! 🙂 I bumped into a couple of people and I’m glad I got to meet Celina and Maricar and we talked about books while waiting for the signing to begin. Yay for new book friends! I was telling heaven_spawn that this was like a rock concert for book geeks. I wish we had something similar to the conferences that they have abroad like Worldcon, BEA or Sirens over here.

Anyway, Neil’s a really great guy. He signed the books with drawings! Check out the pictures. And he’s very friendly, he let people hug him and kiss him. I felt bad that I didn’t bring anything for him because other people brought him calamansi juice, dried mangoes, cards, artworks, etc. But maybe I can email him to thank him. Now that I attended the event, I’m a bigger fan! 🙂 And I want to have my Marvel 1602 and Dream Hunters signed.

Click the pictures to enlarge. I posted pictures of his signature in various books so you can see the different illustrations.


This is what he wrote/drew in my Stardust graphic novel.
More pictures under the cut

Once Upon A Time

I’ve never participated in a challenge before. I wanted to participate in the 2010 Author Debut challenge but I’m not sure if the books on that list will become available over here. The Once Upon A Time challenge seems more doable since I read mostly fantasy anyway. It looks like a lot fun! I found out about this from Chelle over at Tempting Persephone. Carl over at Stainless Steel Droppings is hosting the challenge.

The fourth annual Once Upon a Time Challenge officially begins on Sunday, March 21st and ends June 20th. I chose the Quest the First option, which means I need to read at least five books that fit somewhere within the Once Upon a Time IV criteria. They might all be fantasy, or folklore, or fairy tales, or mythology…or a combination from the four genres.

Here are my possibles:

I already have some of the books in this pile of possibles but I’m still waiting for the others to be released. I’m really hoping they become available here.