Chachic's Book Nook


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The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente is one of those books that make an impact the moment you hear the title. You immediately wonder what it’s all about. I saw this one pop up in several Best of 2011 lists end of last year so I’ve been planning to read it for a while now. The perfect opportunity arrived when read-along buddies Janice and Holly agreed that this would be our next pick.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

Twelve-year-old September lives in Omaha, and used to have an ordinary life, until her father went to war and her mother went to work. One day, September is met at her kitchen window by a Green Wind (taking the form of a gentleman in a green jacket), who invites her on an adventure, implying that her help is needed in Fairyland. The new Marquess is unpredictable and fickle, and also not much older than September. Only September can retrieve a talisman the Marquess wants from the enchanted woods, and if she doesn’t… then the Marquess will make life impossible for the inhabitants of Fairyland. September is already making new friends, including a book-loving Wyvern and a mysterious boy named Saturday.

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland is a delightful read. If I was the type of reader who highlighted books then my copy would have colorful pages. I wanted to take note of so many of the passages that I liked. This is the type of novel that has lyrical writing that just sweeps you away. I’m definitely a fan of that kind of writing but there were times when it felt a bit much. There were moments when I had to read this in bits and pieces instead of swallowing everything in one big gulp because I felt like I could use a break. In a way, I wasn’t as engrossed in the story as I wanted to be. I still enjoyed reading about September’s adventures in Fairyland though. September is a pretty easy character to like – a reader craving to be part of something bigger than what she feels like is a very ordinary life. I guess my expectations were just a bit high after everything that I’ve heard about the book. Since I loved how unique the writing is, I thought it would be a good idea to give non-spoilery samples:

“Stories have a way of changing faces. They are unruly things, undisciplined, given to delinquency and the throwing of erasers. This is why we must close them up into thick, solid books, so they cannot get out and cause trouble.”

*nods head* Here’s another one I really liked:

“For the wishes of one’s old life wither and shrivel like old leaves if they are not replaced with new wishes when the world changes. And the world always changes. Wishes get slimy, and their colors fade, and soon they are just mud, like all the rest of the mud, and not wishes at all, but regrets.”

Wishes that become regrets, I think that’s beautiful. Last but not the least:

“Temperament, you’ll find, is highly dependent on time of day, weather, frequency of naps, and whether one has had enough to eat.”

Love that last bit because that is so me. My mood is dependent on whether I’ve had enough food and sleep. Also, if I’m reading a good book or not. The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland is reminiscent of the Narnia books, Alice in Wonderland and other books that follow the same format – a human child gets whisked off to a magical land, where he or she has to go on a quest although September’s story has its own twists and turns. This book is also September’s coming-of-age story, how she learns to view the world in a different light as she matures. While I did find Fairyland fascinating, I was hoping that the story would have something different to surprise me and I was starting to think that it wasn’t going to happen until revelations near the end resulted in events that I didn’t expect. I apologize for being vague but I finished reading the book on a high note and I’m really looking forward to reading the sequel. If it was available in the library or any of the bookstores that I’ve visited, I would have grabbed a copy of it already. Even though this one didn’t make it to my list of favorites for this year, I very much enjoyed reading it and I get the feeling that most fantasy readers will feel the same way about it. I feel like we made a good choice when we picked this to read together.

Fairyland chapter illustration

One of the chapter illustrations in the hardcover edition

Reviews by readalong buddies:
Book Harbinger
Janicu’s Book Blog


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Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan

I know I’ve said this before but I love how hilarious Sarah Rees Brennan is. I follow her on her blog and Twitter and I think she’s really funny. I also know she has excellent taste in books, as proven by her Queen’s Thief Week guest post and by the number of recommendations that I’ve gotten from her. I’ve also enjoyed reading the first two Demon’s Lexicon novels (I know, I know, really need to pick up the third). So I was mighty curious when I first heard about Unspoken’s premise. I read this before leaving Manila a few weeks ago but because I’ve been having a reviewing slump, I haven’t gotten the chance to talk about it. Since it’s being released soon, I thought it’s high time I write a post about it.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

Kami Glass loves someone she’s never met . . . a boy she’s talked to in her head ever since she was born. She wasn’t silent about her imaginary friend during her childhood, and is thus a bit of an outsider in her sleepy English town of Sorry-in-the-Vale. Still, Kami hasn’t suffered too much from not fitting in. She has a best friend, runs the school newspaper, and is only occasionally caught talking to herself. Her life is in order, just the way she likes it, despite the voice in her head.

But all that changes when the Lynburns return.

The Lynburn family has owned the spectacular and sinister manor that overlooks Sorry-in-the-Vale for centuries. The mysterious twin sisters who abandoned their ancestral home a generation ago are back, along with their teenage sons, Jared and Ash, one of whom is eerily familiar to Kami. Kami is not one to shy away from the unknown — in fact, she’s determined to find answers for all the questions Sorry-in-the-Vale is suddenly posing. Who is responsible for the bloody deeds in the depths of the woods? What is her own mother hiding? And now that her imaginary friend has become a real boy, does she still love him? Does she hate him? Can she trust him?

Kami lives in a quiet little town called Sorry-in-the-Vale. She has a pretty unusual life for a teenage girl – she has a quirky family and a best friend who’s beautiful but anti-social. Add the fact that she keeps talking to someone in her mind and it’s not surprising that her classmates find her a bit weird. Here’s a nice little snippet early on that illustrates this:

“Kami had been hearing a voice in her head all her life. When she was eight, people had thought it was cute that she had an imaginary friend. It was very different now that she was seventeen. Kami was accustomed to people thinking she was crazy.”

I liked Kami right from the start – she’s smart, petite, partly Asian, dreams of becoming an investigative reporter and has a unique fashion sense that I envy. I feel like we’d get along if we ever met in person. She’s like a modern-day Nancy Drew or a Mary Stewart heroine. The connection between Kami and Jared just added to my curiosity – I wanted to know what was behind their ability to silently communicate with each other even if they’ve never met in person.

“If I wasn’t going to be a world-famous journalist and if I didn’t have such respect for truth and justice, I could be an amazing master criminal.”

Kami, as illustrated by Jasmin Darnell

I thoroughly enjoyed reading about Kami and her interactions with Jared, as well as the rest of the characters in the books. I liked that we get to know the secondary characters really well even though the focus of the story is Kami and Jared’s relationship. There was a lot of banter in the novel, which I expected since it’s written by Sarah Rees Brennan. I’m usually not a fan of love triangles but I didn’t mind that Unspoken sort of had something like that. Just a heads up though, there’s a cliffhanger ending so if you’re the type of reader who doesn’t like that, it might be better if you wait for the sequel. Can’t wait to find out what happens next to both Kami and Jared! Unspoken is a really good read, I liked it even better than the two Demon’s Lexicon novels that I’ve read. Highly recommended so go and grab a copy when it comes out on September 11. As an added bonus, Sarah Rees Brennan released this prequel short story called The Summer Before I Met You.

Other reviews:
Book Harbinger
Random Musings of a Bibliophile
Cuddlebuggery Book Blog


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Back to Back Great Reads: Seraphina and Such A Rush

I miss blogging! I think this is the longest that I’ve gone without a post. Hopefully, I’ll have more time to blog once things have settled down – I’m still trying to get used to so many aspects of the move. Anyway, I read and loved two titles recently: Seraphina by Rachel Hartman and Such A Rush by Jennifer Echols. Since I wasn’t sure if I could write a full review for both anytime soon, I thought it would be a good idea to talk about both titles in one post.

Here’s the summary of Seraphina from Goodreads:

Four decades of peace have done little to ease the mistrust between humans and dragons in the kingdom of Goredd. Folding themselves into human shape, dragons attend court as ambassadors, and lend their rational, mathematical minds to universities as scholars and teachers. As the treaty’s anniversary draws near, however, tensions are high.

Seraphina Dombegh has reason to fear both sides. An unusually gifted musician, she joins the court just as a member of the royal family is murdered—in suspiciously draconian fashion. Seraphina is drawn into the investigation, partnering with the captain of the Queen’s Guard, the dangerously perceptive Prince Lucian Kiggs. While they begin to uncover hints of a sinister plot to destroy the peace, Seraphina struggles to protect her own secret, the secret behind her musical gift, one so terrible that its discovery could mean her very life.

Seraphina is a lovely book. I remember rushing to a bookstore in Manila to grab a copy of this on its release day because I’ve heard such good things about it and I couldn’t wait to read it. I was disappointed in the books that I read before Seraphina so it was a pleasant surprise that I found a YA fantasy that I could really sink my teeth into. Seraphina is exactly the kind of character that I love, one who possesses admirable inner strength. I’m also a fan of the world that Rachel Hartman created, where there’s a tenuous peace between humans and dragons. I liked how distinctly different humans and dragons are – the latter sees the former as a weaker race, prone to emotional decisions that aren’t always logical whereas dragons are more detached and analytical. And I found it intriguing that dragons can take human form. I really liked how subtle the romance was, it wasn’t the focus of the story and they started out as friends. There were so many details to love in this novel and I’m looking forward to reading the sequel – I wonder how long do I have to wait to read it? Here’s a quote from the book that I loved:

“The world inside myself is vaster and richer than this paltry plane, peopled with mere galaxies and gods.”

From fantasy, let’s move on to contemporary. It has never been my dream to become a pilot. I was briefly interested for a time but then I found out that there’s a height requirement and I wouldn’t make it. I have the utmost respect for pilots though – I think what they do is amazing. And I’m a big fan of strong women so I think lady pilots are awesome. It’s funny because I wasn’t actively seeking to read novels that feature women as pilots but I’ve ended up loving two such titles this year: Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein and now Such a Rush by Jennifer Echols.

Here’s the summary of Such a Rush from Goodreads:

High school senior Leah Jones loves nothing more than flying. While she’s in the air, it’s easy to forget life with her absentee mother at the low-rent end of a South Carolina beach town. When her flight instructor, Mr. Hall, hires her to fly for his banner advertising business, she sees it as her ticket out of the trailer park. And when he dies suddenly, she’s afraid her flying career is gone forever.

But Mr. Hall’s teenage sons, golden boy Alec and adrenaline junkie Grayson, are determined to keep the banner planes flying. Though Leah has crushed on Grayson for years, she’s leery of getting involved in what now seems like a doomed business — until Grayson betrays her by digging up her most damning secret. Holding it over her head, he forces her to fly for secret reasons of his own, reasons involving Alec. Now Leah finds herself drawn into a battle between brothers — and the consequences could be deadly.

Jennifer Echols’ Going Too Far was one of the first contemporary YA novels that I fell in love with. I’ve read the rest of her books after that, hoping that they’d be just as good but they didn’t live up to Going Too Far. Until Such A Rush came along. Now I have another Jennifer Echols novel that I can enthusiastically recommend. I felt so bad for Leah – her story made me realize that not everyone who lives in a first world country has a good life. It made me sad that she didn’t have access to so many things that we all take for granted – internet, cellphones, buying groceries and take out whenever we need to. I’m amazed at how she took control of her own life because she doesn’t want to be stuck in a trailer park her whole life. I also loved the tension between Leah and Grayson, with all the ambiguity of their relationship. Jennifer Echols sure knows how to build up a slow burn romance. I was rooting for the two of them to get together even if they had to work through so many issues. Highly recommended for fans of swoon-worthy contemporary YA.

What about the rest of you, have you read and loved any books lately?


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Retro Friday: I Capture the Caste by Dodie Smith

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.

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith is a favorite of so many readers. It’s been on my radar ever since I read The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets by Eva Rice a few years ago and heard that the two books are very similar. I have no idea why it has taken me so long to pick up I Capture the Castle but you know what it’s like, you have to be in certain mood to read some books. I finally felt like reading this a few days ago and I’m glad I did.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

I Capture the Castle tells the story of seventeen-year-old Cassandra and her family, who live in not-so-genteel poverty in a ramshackle old English castle. Here she strives, over six turbulent months, to hone her writing skills. She fills three notebooks with sharply funny yet poignant entries. Her journals candidly chronicle the great changes that take place within the castle’s walls, and her own first descent into love. By the time she pens her final entry, she has “captured the castle” – and the heart of the reader – in one of literature’s most enchanting entertainments.

I write this sitting in the office chair in front of the computer at home. Ha, thought I’d just try that out since I Capture the Castle starts with “I write this sitting in the kitchen sink.” Dodie Smith’s writing reminded me a bit of Eva Ibbotson’s young adult titles in the sense that it has a fairy tale feel even if it’s a historical fiction novel. And since I love Eva Ibbotson’s books, it’s no surprise that I enjoyed reading this one. What can be more whimsical than living in an old castle? Of course, it’s not as dreamy as one would expect when the Mortmain family can’t even afford to buy necessities. It presents a good contrast: living in a beautiful and majestic place but trying to make ends meet. I liked how Cassandra didn’t let that bother her – she loves living in the castle and she’s more tolerant of their reduced circumstances than her sister older sister Rose. Cassandra is a reader and a dreamer and she’s able to appreciate the beauty around her in spite of her family’s problems. Sure, she worries but she’s never bitter about their situation. I wanted to highlight so many of the passages that she wrote but I’m choosing to quote this one because I can relate to it:

“When I read a book, I put in all the imagination I can, so that it is almost like writing the book as well as reading it – or rather, it is like living it. It makes reading so much more exciting, but I don’t suppose many people try to do it.”

Cassandra is obviously a girl I can be friends with. The rest of the characters are also quirky and they come alive through Cassandra’s descriptions. I love that she starts a journal because she wants to improve her writing. Also, writing by candlelight or moonlight adds to the atmospheric feel of the novel. In the months while she’s writing, Cassandra really grows as a character. I like how she falls in love and learns to evaluate herself by examining her own feelings. I wasn’t into the romance as much as I’d like but I appreciate how it contributed to Cassandra’s character development. After all, I think that’s what the novel is all about – the life of a young woman set in 1930s England. I have a used copy of the edition that has the movie cover and I must say that I’m not a fan of its design. I’m itching to watch the movie though and see if it’s just as good as the book. Maybe I can post about it here on the blog as well. I Capture the Castle is a delightful read, I feel like this is the kind of book that you can read even if you’re about to experience a reading slump. Highly recommended for historical fiction readers and fans of Eva Ibbotson’s YA novels (note that those titles were originally published for adults and only repackaged as YA a few years ago). I wouldn’t mind reading more books similar to this one.

Other reviews:
Book Snob
Thoughts On My Bookshelf
The Reading and Life of a Bookworm
She Reads Novels


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Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard

I’ve been curious about Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard ever since it first came out and I saw positive reviews popping up all over the blogosphere. I have no idea why I put off reading it though. I was able to borrow a copy from my good friend Celina and I decided to read it right after my Hong Kong trip because I still had a vacation hangover. I figured I’d enjoy reading a YA book that focuses on traveling while I was in that kind of mood – I was right.

Here’s the summary from Kirsten Hubbard’s website:

It all begins with a stupid question:

Are you a Global Vagabond?

No, but 18-year-old Bria Sandoval wants to be. In a quest for independence, her neglected art, and no-strings-attached hookups, she signs up for a guided tour of Central America — the wrong one. Middle-aged tourists with fanny packs are hardly the key to self-rediscovery. When Bria meets Rowan, devoted backpacker and dive instructor, and his outspokenly humanitarian sister Starling, she seizes the chance to ditch her group and join them off the beaten path.

Bria’s a good girl trying to go bad. Rowan’s a bad boy trying to stay good. As they travel across a panorama of Mayan villages, remote Belizean islands, and hostels plagued with jungle beasties, they discover what they’ve got in common: both seek to leave behind the old versions of themselves. And the secret to escaping the past, Rowan’s found, is to keep moving forward.

But Bria comes to realize she can’t run forever, no matter what Rowan says. If she ever wants the courage to fall for someone worthwhile, she has to start looking back.

I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed reading Wanderlove. At the start of the novel, I was a bit annoyed at Bria because she’s never gone out of the country and she makes an impulsive decision to join a tour group, without even researching the details of the trip. I mean, how hard can it be to Google the destinations? But that was a passing thing because I quickly learned to like her as the story progressed. She has her own reasons for trying to move forward without looking back at the past. I’m all for budget flights and cheap accommodations when traveling but I don’t think I have what it takes to be a backpacker. So it was a lot of fun for me to read Bria’s adventures with backpacking experts Starling and Rowan. There are certain aspects of Latin America that reminded me of the Philippines – third world countries, beautiful beaches and diving sites – so I feel like that’s another thing that added to my enjoyment of the story. Here’s a nice little passage that highlights this (Rowan is the one speaking):

“What everyone forgets – even me – is the people who actually live here. In places like Central America, I mean. Southeast Asia. India. Africa. Millions, even billions, of people, who live out their whole lives in these places – the places so many people like us fear. Think about it: they ride chicken buses to work every day. Their clothes are always damp. Their whole lives, they never escape the dust and the heat. But they deal with all these discomforts. They have to.

So why can’t travelers? If we’ve got the means to get here, we owe it to the country we’re visiting not to treat it like an amusement park, sanitized for our comfort. It’s insulting to the people who live here. People just trying to have the best lives they can, with the hands they’ve been dealt.”

My clothes aren’t always damp but yes, it’s pretty humid over here. I wonder if there are backpackers all over the Philippines? I always see a lot of foreigners whenever I go to popular tourist destinations here but I have no idea if some of them are backpackers. Anyway, back to the story, Bria is an artist and there are several sketches (drawn by the author herself, I believe) included all throughout the story. Sample artwork from Kirsten Hubbard’s Goodreads review:

Wanderlove_Bria

I’m a big fan of slow burn romance and Wanderlove definitely has that. Even though the book spans only a couple of weeks, I still felt like the romance took time to form. The characters really got to know each other before deciding that they want to pursue a relationship. I just wish the ending was a bit longer so I could have read more scenes between them. Even if I don’t think the male lead is my type of guy, how can you not swoon a little bit for someone who is an avid reader? Always squeezing in reading time in hammocks instead of partying like crazy with the rest of the secondary characters. If you’re a fan of that kind of romance or contemporary YA novels about traveling, then Wanderlove is the book for you. I’d love to read more novels like this so feel free to recommend similar titles.

Some underwater Coron pictures that seem appropriate for the book:

Other reviews:
The Nocturnal Library
Inkcrush
Young Adult Anonymous
Good Books and Good Wine
One More Page


12 Comments

That Kind of Guy by Mina V. Esguerra

I won a copy of Mina V. Esguerra’s latest, That Kind of Guy, when I joined the contest that she hosted. You can read all about it here. I enjoy reading her novels because I can relate to her characters and of course, the local setting.

signed copy of That Kind of Guy

Thanks again for my copy, Mina! Here’s the summary from Mina’s website:

Good girl Julie never expected her hot former-player boyfriend to propose marriage. But when he did, she turned him down for reasons even she couldn’t figure out. Will she settle for a nice, safe guy instead? Or will she let him find his way back into her carefully guarded heart?

Manang is a Filipino word that is roughly translated as “older sister” and is usually used as a term of respect. It’s hard to define but manang is also used to describe conservative girls. My friends and I say we’re manangs when we’d rather stay home on weekends (and in my case, read or blog) instead of go out and party. A girl can be a manang in so many different ways – from the way she dresses (no sleeveless tops or short skirts or dresses) to the way she dates (not willing to be set up on a blind date). Julie is a manang in the sense that she’s a good girl. She doesn’t do wild parties and she doesn’t date random guys. In fact, she’s never been in a serious relationship. When a friend suggests that she should loosen up by dating a fun guy, Julie agrees to try things out with Anton. She’s just as surprised as everyone else when it becomes apparent that Anton wants to start a serious relationship with her. I was curious about Anton when I first met him as Tonio in No Strings Attached. I wanted to see how Mina would write about a playboy settling down. I wasn’t disappointed, Anton turned out to be a really sweet guy in spite of how he was initially portrayed as a wild party boy. Here’s a quote from the book that I really liked:

“Before I met him, I wondered how I could possibly fit a relationship into my life. My days felt full, of people, things, and concerns, and I wondered what I’d give up to accommodate someone new. Anton made it seem easy. He didn’t take me out of my life; instead, he sort of slid into the empty spaces and made himself comfortable.”

It’s funny because even though the book is written from Julie’s point of view and I have manang tendencies, I liked Anton’s character more than his girlfriend’s. His actions and his lifestyle made sense when he explained them. I guess I just couldn’t understand why Julie wasn’t invested in their relationship but then again, that’s something that Julie herself is trying to figure out. What I like about Mina’s books is that I still enjoy reading them even if I can’t fully relate to her characters. Why? Because I feel like her books are stories that can actually happen to some of my friends. I guess a huge part of that is because of the local setting. I liked watching Julie and Anton’s love story unfold. I also think it’s nice that they have such different personalities and yet they go well together. I’m already planning to recommend this (andmaybe even buy copies to give as gifts) to my girlfriends. That Kind of Guy is available in local bookstores all over the metro and will be available as an ebook soon. Mina, when will your next book be released? :P

Other reviews:
One More Page
Perfect Nostalgia
Girl Next Cubicle


2 Comments

Retro Friday: Life Without Friends by Ellen Emerson White

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.

It seems fitting to review an Ellen Emerson White title for Retro Friday because it was Angie who first introduced me to this author. Life Without Friends is a sequel to Friends for Life. I believe both titles are out of print and sadly, I wasn’t able to get a used copy of Friends for Life. I don’t think it matters though because I enjoyed reading Life Without Friends even if I haven’t read its companion novel. I hope those titles aren’t too confusing!

Here’s the summary from Ellen Emerson White’s website:

A lot of bad things happened to Beverly last year. Now she’s living a life without friends. It’s a lot easier that way. Then Derek comes into her life, just by chance. Bit by bit, Beverly opens up to Derek, and begins to trust him. She can tell him anything. Or almost anything.

There’s just last year standing between Beverly and Derek — the one thing he said he couldn’t forgive. Maybe it will ruin everything if she talks about it. And maybe it will ruin everything if she doesn’t.

Beverly has been through so much – she dated a guy who was involved in a lot of drugs and was part of the wrong crowd in school. To cope with the horror of the past year, Beverly has decided that it’s better for her to avoid everyone and keep to herself. Her father requires her to attend weekly psychiatrist sessions but even during those private moments, Beverly is afraid to open up. Poor Beverly! I really felt bad for her at the start of the novel. The title of the book – Life Without Friends – seemed really appropriate for her because she didn’t have any friends that she could turn to. I can’t imagine what that must have been like for her. Here’s a fairly spoiler-free snippet from early on:

“Alone again, Beverly relaxed somewhat. It was hard to believe that life could get any worse than this. More than once lately, she had thought about killing herself, erasing the fact that she had ever existed. It would be so easy, so—except that she wouldn’t. She didn’t respect people who committed suicide.”

It’s a good thing Derek unexpectedly appears in Beverly’s life and he’s determined to be friends with her. I think Derek is really a great guy – he’s thoughtful, friendly and does his best to make Beverly laugh. A tentative kind of relationship forms between these two. Derek is hesitant because he’s worried that he’s not good enough for Beverly, while Beverly doesn’t want Derek to know the horrible things that happened in her school. This book reminded me a bit of the Love Stories series published by Bantam Books and I devoured those when I was a teen. I think the romance in this novel is really sweet but Life Without Friends is more than just a love story. It’s about Beverly coming to terms with everything bad that happened in her life – from her mother passing away five years before to her getting involved with the worst kind of guy. I also enjoyed watching Beverly interact with the people in her life – her father, her stepmother, her younger brother and even her psychiatrist. I found the conversations during her weekly psych sessions funny. Sometimes, it’s nice to read something like this and remember a time when we didn’t have cellphones or the internet. Beverly reminded me so much of Meg from the same author’s President’s Daughter series – both of them intelligent young women experiencing difficult times in their lives. I kind of wish they got to meet in the last Long May She Reign. I’m hoping that Ellen Emerson White will release another book soon, I’d love to check it out if that happens.

Other reviews:
Angieville
See Michelle Read


21 Comments

Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen

A.C. Gaughen’s Scarlet is a Robin Hood retelling. I found out about it when trusted book bloggers started giving it positive reviews. I was delighted when this pretty little book showed up in a surprise package that I received a couple of weeks ago. Again, thank you to the lovely ladies – Angie and Holly – for sending me a copy of this. I couldn’t resist reading it right away, you guys know how fond I am of thieves in fiction.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

Posing as one of Robin Hood’s thieves to avoid the wrath of the evil Thief Taker Lord Gisbourne, Scarlet has kept her identity secret from all of Nottinghamshire. Only the Hood and his band know the truth: the agile thief posing as a whip of a boy is actually a fearless young woman with a secret past. Helping the people of Nottingham outwit the corrupt Sheriff of Nottingham could cost Scarlet her life as Gisbourne closes in.

I can’t get over how gorgeous the cover design for Scarlet is – doesn’t that just draw you in? It’s the kind of cover that would attract my attention even if I knew nothing about the premise. I think Scarlet’s eyes look very expressive and I love that she’s disguised as a boy in the cover, because that’s how she usually is in the book. Few people know that Will Scarlet is actually a girl. Just in case you didn’t know, I also enjoy reading girls in disguise stories. Scarlet is one prickly character. Even though she’s been working with Rob, John and Much for the past couple of years, she still doesn’t fully trust them. She works with them but she still holds a part of herself back, never explaining her past and where she really came from. Which is funny because these boys want to take care of Scarlet. Can I just say that I found it refreshing that there are only four people in Robin’s band in this retelling? It makes it easier to keep track of them and be invested in who they are as characters. Rob is the leader, John the playful charmer and Much is the quiet one. Here’s a funny little quote about the band:

“Of a band with three actual boys, why is it that all the maids lust after the fake one?”

My heart went out to this little group – how they do the best that they could to provide for the people and shelter them from the Sheriff’s cruelty. As much as Scarlet pretends that she only stays with the band because it’s convenient for her, she does it because she cares for the people. Here’s another snippet that I really liked:

“I left little packages in front of the doors; the people looked for them in the morning, and I knew, in some bit of a way, it bucked them up.

I did as much as I could, but it weren’t like I could get everyone something every night. That seemed like the cruelest part. I tried not to think ’bout the people that woke up and rushed to the door and didn’t find nothing; it made my chest hurt.”

You got to love a thief with a conscience. She steals not for herself but for the people. It’s rare for a sneaky thief as good as Scarlet to be afraid of anything but her comrades quickly discover that there’s something about Gisbourne, the Thief Taker, that frightens Scarlet. I liked this air of mystery about her, it made the book a quicker read because I kept going, waiting for Scarlet’s past to be revealed. I also liked the slow burn romance although I’m not a fan of the love triangle. It’s not surprising that more than one guy is interested in our feisty heroine but I did feel like it was unnecessary for her to have more than one love interest. As expected, Scarlet was a really enjoyable read. Highly recommended for fans of Robin Hood retellings, thieves in fiction and girls in disguise. Will I be checking out A.C. Gaughen’s books in the future? Definitely.

Other reviews:
Angieville
Book Harbinger
Bunbury in the Stacks
Emily’s Reading Room
Steph Su Reads


33 Comments

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

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.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

Diagnosed with Stage IV thyroid cancer at 12, Hazel was prepared to die until, at 14, a medical miracle shrunk the tumours in her lungs… for now.

Two years post-miracle, sixteen-year-old Hazel is post-everything else, too; post-high school, post-friends and post-normalcy. And even though she could live for a long time (whatever that means), Hazel lives tethered to an oxygen tank, the tumours tenuously kept at bay with a constant chemical assault.

Enter Augustus Waters. A match made at cancer kid support group, Augustus is gorgeous, in remission, and shockingly to her, interested in Hazel. Being with Augustus is both an unexpected destination and a long-needed journey, pushing Hazel to re-examine how sickness and health, life and death, will define her and the legacy that everyone leaves behind.

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.

Other reviews:
Book Harbinger
The Book Smugglers
Random Musings of a Bibliophile
The Allure of Books


4 Comments

Of Swine and Roses by Ilona Andrews

Of Swine and Rose by Ilona Andrews is now available in Amazon. I read it back when it was available as free fiction on their site as Days of Swine and Roses. Now that it has a new cover and is available for purchase, I thought I’d spread the word by sharing my thoughts about this short story.

Here’s the description from the authors’ blog:

A young adult short story about a girl, a pig, some magic, and the worst date ever.

Chad Thurman is a thug, who carries brass knuckles in both pockets and lays magic traps for intruders into “his” neighborhood. The last thing Alena Koronov wants to do is to go on the date with him. But when her family pressures her, she can’t say no. Now the ice-cream is absent, the pig is running for its life, and we won’t even mention the dead guy…

I love the cover for this one – I like how the reds stand out against the black background. I don’t have much experience reviewing short stories because I’m afraid of saying too much that I give away the story. Also, I feel like I’m a bit biased when it comes to Ilona and Gordon’s writing because I’d read anything that they come up with. I’m continually amazed at how they can create (and keep track of) different fiction worlds. In Of Swine and Roses, magical families claim certain territories as their own and they also go into business ventures that utilize their magical abilities. Alena Koronov doesn’t want to go on a date with Chad Thurman, who she believes is a thug. Her family was never rich to begin with and they need to be in good terms with the Thurmans for their business so she’s persuaded to go out with him. So Alena reluctantly says yes and a disaster of a date takes place. Based on the title, you know that there are roses and a pig in this one. I really enjoyed reading this one and would gladly read more stories from this world. I even have a favorite quote from Alena’s mother:

Do you know what separates adults from children? Self-discipline. We don’t want to go to work, we don’t want to do our chores, and we don’t want to make unpleasant decisions, but we do all those things because we’re aware of the consequences which will follow if we don’t.

If you’re an Ilona Andrews fan, then I know it won’t take more convincing for you to read this. If you’ve never read their work, I think it would be a good idea to start with their short fiction to get an idea of whether you’d like the books in their series. I’m not much of an urban fantasy fan but I love both the Kate Daniels and the Edge series.

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