My Heartbeat by Garret Freymann-Weyr

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.

Bloggiesta has started because it’s already Friday in our part of the world. I thought I’d start the weekend with a review. My Heartbeat by Garret Freymann-Weyr is a book that comes highly recommended by Angie of Angieville. She mentioned it as one of her contemporary YA favorites when she did a We Love YA post here on the blog. Since Angie has excellent taste when it comes to books, I decided to give this one a try. And since it’s not very well-known, I thought I should do a Retro Friday review of it.

Here’s the summary at the back of the book:

Ellen loves Link and James. Her older brother and his best friend are the only company she ever wants. She knows they fight, but she makes it a policy never to take sides. She loves her brother, the math genius and track star. She is totally, madly in love with James, his long eyelashes and hidden smiles. “When you grow out of it,” James teases her, “you will break my heart.”

Then someone at school asks if Link and James might be in love with each other. A simple question. But the answer is far from simple, and its repercussions affect their entire lives.

Would you look at that cover? I seriously have no idea what’s going on with that design. It’s like someone got excited with clip arts and decided to use that instead of looking for better options. The cover is probably one of the reasons why only a handful of people have read this book, which is a shame because it’s such a good read. It only has 160 pages so I was able to finish it in one sitting but I’m amazed at the insightful and weighty issues discussed in those few pages. My Heartbeat deals with different kinds of relationships – platonic, romantic and family relationships – and all the confusion and complications that come with those. Sexual identity is also a big topic in this one. Ellen’s two favorite people in the world are her brother Link and his best friend, James. She loves spending time with both of them and although she understands that she doesn’t know everything about them, she doesn’t really mind. Everything changes when Ellen goes to high school with them and discovers that other people view James and Link’s relationship differently.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this slim novel because it tackles topics that aren’t usually discussed in contemporary YA novels. Ellen strives to learn and understand so much in just a short span of time. She’s very naive and innocent at the start of the novel and as the story progresses, she learns to see so many different things. I remember being Ellen’s age and how I was filled with wonder at the things that I learned and discovered. Aside from the cover, the title isn’t very encouraging either, is it? So here’s an explanation of what the heartbeat is all about:

“Not that there’s anything wrong with geeky,” Link says before Dad has a chance to. Geeky is one of Dad’s favorite words, and I listen with glee to my brother’s imitation of our father: “Geeky people often have that which is most valuable in this life.” Link pauses here for effect, so that James and I can join in, shouting Dad’s favorite phrase, “A mind with its own heartbeat.”

I love that line, a mind with its own heartbeat, makes me wonder what my mind is beating for. I hope that’s enough proof to convince you to read this unique novel if you haven’t read it yet because it has all sorts of goodness inside.

Other reviews: (manually generated)
Book Harbinger
Angieville
The Zen Leaf
DPL Teen Reading Raves

Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares by David Levithan and Rachel Cohn

Since I really enjoyed David Levithan and Rachel Cohn’s book, Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, I looked forward to reading their latest collaboration. I also thought that Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares would be a good holiday read since the events of the book happen during Christmastime. This was even one of my Want Books picks last November. The cover pictured below is the Aussie cover and sadly, it’s not available over here. But I like it better than the US hardcover design so that’s what I used.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

“I’ve left some clues for you.
If you want them, turn the page.
If you don’t, put the book back on the shelf, please.”

So begins the latest whirlwind romance from the New York Times bestselling authors of Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist. Lily has left a red notebook full of challenges on a favorite bookstore shelf, waiting for just the right guy to come along and accept its dares. But is Dash that right guy? Or are Dash and Lily only destined to trade dares, dreams, and desires in the notebook they pass back and forth at locations across New York? Could their in-person selves possibly connect as well as their notebook versions? Or will they be a comic mismatch of disastrous proportions?

Ahhh, The Strand. It sounds like a book geek’s heaven. I’d love to be able to go there someday to explore the miles and miles of bookshelves that they have. That is where the story starts, when Dash encounters a red Moleskine notebook in one of the shelves of his favorite bookstore. Throughout the holiday, Dash and Lily send the notebook back and forth together with a set of dares that the other should follow. Lily’s great-aunt calls the situation an “epistolary flirtation” and I think it’s a very apt description. Dash and Lily have very different personalities but they connect easily and are able to share their innermost thoughts through the red notebook. Dash is often described by other people as snarly and he’s an introspective teenage boy who has a remarkable love of words. Lily, on the other hand, is an optimistic, Christmas-loving kind of girl. She’s the baby of the family and that’s probably one of the reasons why she’s so positive about everything. They’re pretty much opposites but they get along well as anonymous correspondents.

I had so much fun reading this book especially during the holidays. I love reading Christmas-themed books during this time even if the book occurs in a totally different setting. I’ve never experienced snow during Christmas and I’ve also never been to New York. I always end up liking so many quotes in a David Levithan-Rachel Cohn collaboration. One of my favorites in this book is this:

“The important people in our lives leave imprints. They may stay or go in the physical realm, but they are always there in your heart, because they helped form your heart. There’s no getting over that.”

That one just resonated with me since I was feeling sort of melancholy the past few days as I realized that I’ve drifted apart from a couple of close friends. It doesn’t matter that we’re not as close as we used to be because what matters is that they were a part of my life and they helped shape who I am today. There are so many other amazing lines from this book (you can browse some of them here), which goes to show how good the writing is. I believe this is the kind of book that you can recommend to just about anyone, regardless of reading preferences. It’s very easy to fall into and you start rooting for Dash and Lily to end up together right from the start. There’s also a set of quirky secondary characters that help both Dash and Lily with their dares. This is a really good Christmas read and I hope some of you will give it a whirl. Now, I’m thinking of getting a red Moleskine notebook for myself.

Other reviews: (manually generated)
One More Page
Steph Su Reads
My Girl Friday
Chick Lit Reviews

The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen

The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen was my Want Books pick a couple of months ago. I picked up Garden Spells first and enjoyed it so much that I decided to read this right after.

Here’s the summary from Sarah Addison Allen’s website:

Josey Cirinni is sure of three things: winter is her favorite season, she’s a sorry excuse for a Southern belle, and her passion for the man she loves is best kept a secret, even from him. Josey has grudgingly settled into an uneventful life in her mother’s house, but her one consolation is the secret stockpile of sugary treats and paperback romances she keeps in her closet. One morning, she opens her closet for a sweet, but finds Della Lee Baker hiding there instead. Della Lee is a local waitress on the run who is one part nemesis — and two parts fairy godmother. Under Della Lee’s guidance, Josey is soon living in a world where the color red has startling powers, and passion is so real it can make eggs fry in their cartons. And that’s just for starters.

When I first started reading this book, I only meant to read a couple of chapters. I ended up finishing it until 3am, leaving me with only two and a half hours of sleep. There’s something about Sarah Addison Allen’s writing that makes you just want to gobble up her words. Twenty-seven-year-old Josey is stuck living with her domineering mother who constantly reminds her that she will never be beautiful. Josey longs to leave her North Carolina town but stays out of a sense of obligation to her mother. Instead, she comforts herself with a secret stash of paperback romances, travel magazines and lots and lots of candy hidden in her closet. Can totally relate to Josey on this one because I LOVE sweets although my fondness extends to more than just candy. Obviously, I also love books but not exactly romances. Josey’s life takes a turn for the better when she finds rough and wild Della Lee in her closet. Della Lee encourages her to come out of her shell and befriend a heartbroken woman named Chloe. This book is a story of friendship between these women and it also deals with their unfortunate love lives. Della Lee accurately describes them when she says, “Girls like us, when we love, it takes everything we have.”

The Sugar Queen is just as enchanting as Sarah Addison Allen’s debut novel, Garden Spells although I found myself liking the latter more. Both Josey and Chloe slowly come to their own and become more independent as the story develops. I think I liked Garden Spells more mostly because I couldn’t get past what Jake did to Chloe. I know he’s really a good guy and he loves her but I really can’t understand why he was able to do that and I sympathized with Chloe and what she was going through. I think it’s a good thing that throughout her life, Chloe was comforted by books. Books would magically appear whenever she needed them. What an amazing kind of magic, isn’t it? I would love to have something like that. Here’s a lovely bit that I’d like to quote:

“Books can be possessive, can’t they? You’re walking around in a bookstore and a certain one will jump out at you, like it had moved there on its own, just to get your attention. Sometimes what’s inside will change your life, but sometimes you don’t even have to read it. Sometimes it’s a comfort just to have a book around. Many of these books haven’t even had their spines cracked. ‘Why do you buy books you don’t even read?’ our daughter asks us. That’s like asking someone who lives alone why they bought a cat. For company, of course.”

Sarah Addison Allen has been added to my auto-buy list after I finished reading Garden Spells and I really enjoyed reading this one even though I had some problems with it. I loved that this is set in autumn/winter and that Josey loves snow because I’ve never seen or experienced snow. The setting made the book a good read for December. Can’t wait to get my copy of The Girl Who Chased the Moon, I ordered it from the Book Depository two weeks ago and it still hasn’t arrived.

Other reviews: (manually generated)
Random Musings of a Bibliophile
Angieville
write meg!
Blogging for a Good Book

Retro Friday: Jane Eyre

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.

So I finished reading Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte this week and I thought that a review of this classic piece would be perfect for Retro Friday. I realized that I’ve never read Jane Eyre when I saw reviews of Jane by April Lindner popping up in the blogosphere. The retelling got very positive reviews so I was curious. I decided to read the original before I picked up Jane. I actually don’t know why I never read Jane Eyre. I know I had a classics phase back in college but I missed this one. One of my good friends made me read The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde (she told me I didn’t need to read the original to enjoy it) so I already had an idea of what occurs in the original story. Still, I believe I would’ve liked The Eyre Affair if I read Jane Eyre beforehand.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

Charlotte Bronte’s impassioned novel is the love story of Jane Eyre, a plain yet spirited governess, and her arrogant, brooding Mr. Rochester. Published in 1847, under the pseudonym of Currer Bell, the book heralded a new kind of heroine – one whose virtuous integrity, keen intellect and tireless perseverance broke through class barriers to win equal stature with the man she loved.

Images from: We Heart It

The novel starts with Jane Eyre as a child. She’s an orphan so she was raised by her aunt-in-law, Mrs. Reed, who never really liked her. The book was a little slow for me during this part but I did admire Jane for standing up against the bullying of her cousin. The book briefly touches on her school years at Lowood and then moves on to her late teenage years, when she becomes restless and decides to go out in the world. Jane ends up as a governess to Adele, the young, half-French ward of Mr. Rochester. There begins the romantic aspect of the story. However, Jane and Mr. Rochester go through a lot of obstacles before they finally end up together.

Jane Eyre is a dark and brooding novel. Even the thoughts and dreams of the characters tend to be gloomy and melancholy. I wouldn’t describe it as a feel good book and yet I didn’t feel sad while reading it and I could understand why so many people love this literary piece. The writing is beautiful and I feel like it just reels you in. I like how the narrative occasionally addresses the reader because it makes us part of the story. Here’s a sample of the writing, a section which I really liked:

“Do you think I am an automaton? — a machine without feelings? and can bear to have my morsel of bread snatched from my lips, and my drop of living water dashed from my cup? Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain, and little, I am soulless and heartless? You think wrong! — I have as much soul as you — and full as much heart! And if God had gifted me with some beauty and much wealth, I should have made it as hard for you to leave me, as it is now for me to leave you.”

While Jane Eyre didn’t top my favorite romantic classic, Pride and Prejudice, I still think it’s a very good read. Jane is a competent character – she’s smart and isn’t afraid to speak her mind, she’s reasonable and practical and she sticks to hear beliefs even when they go against what she wants. She’s the epitome of the inside being more important that the outside because she’s not really beautiful. She’s a vibrant person and so is Mr. Rochester. For me, the highlights of the novel are the interactions between the two – how they verbally spar and how they eventually develop affections for each other. I’m out of my element when it comes to reviewing classics because I don’t think I can do them justice. If you’ve read this (like so many of you have probably done), please let me know what you think. If you haven’t, I encourage you to give it a try.

Between Dinner and the Morning After by Tara FT Sering

Between Dinner and the Morning After by Tara FT Sering is one of the local chick lit books that I collected back when I was in college. It was published in 2005 and I believed it’s now out of print because I haven’t seen it around local bookstores. I bought a copy of Amazing Grace by the same author recently and I thought it would be good to re-read this one before I read Amazing Grace. If anyone knows where I could but brand new copies of this book, please let me know!

Here’s the summary from Goodreads (which is the first page that I created as a librarian, yay):

Although it’s taking her eccentric boss forever to give Abi a break, its fine — at least she’s got a job. It pays the shopping bills and keeps her busy.

Although she’s no longer happy with her boyfriend, it’s cool — he’s perfect for her mother and her friends.

That is, until someone she was in love with eight years ago returns to the picture.

Suddenly, it all boils down to the past vs. the present: Current okay life or the possibility of something better?

She has overnight to decide.

Abigail Cortes is 29 and she’s stuck in a rut. She’s working for the number one furniture designer in the country but she’s stuck as a minion with tasks such as grocery shopping for her boss’ dogs. She’s in a two-year relationship with a guy that a lot of people would consider quite a catch but she feels like the relationship has lost its spark. Her prospects brighten up when she receives a random email from a guy she met in Dumaguete eight years ago. Juno isn’t quite Abi’s ex-boyfriend because they only spent a few days together but those days were memorable. So when Juno suggests that they meet for New Year’s Eve in San Francisco, Abi has to decide whether she’s willing to leave everything behind for a chance at true love.

I really couldn’t remember anything about the story, which is a good thing in this case because it felt like I was reading the book for the first time. This goes to show how a book never changes but your perception of it does. I probably couldn’t relate to the characters five years ago so the story didn’t stick in my mind. I’m happy to announce that that is no longer the case now because I enjoyed reading about Abi and the trials and tribulations of her life. The story jumps back in time several times but it never gets confusing. Throughout the book, Abi interacts with a bunch of quirky characters that add depth to her story. Here’s my favorite line from the book:

“If he was meant for you, you will be brought together, and you should expect the world from that. You cannot wish for something without conviction.”

The ending left me smiling, I can’t say any more than that for fear of spoilers. If you get a chance to grab a copy of this book then I encourage you to do so because out of all the local chick lit books out there, I think this is one of the better ones. Sorry international readers but I don’t think this is available outside the Philippines.

Other reviews: (manually generated)
Book of Days – warning, this one has spoilers
Gladax Judai

Honey, Baby, Sweetheart by Deb Caletti

I featured this book as my Want Books pick back in July. I can’t remember where I first found out about this book but I know that it was Holly’s review that REALLY made me want to pick it up. I hunted for a copy in all the local bookstores and sadly, they didn’t have stocks of it. Lo and behold, I found a used copy in good condition in Book Sale. Yay for lucky finds!

Here’s the summary from Deb Caletti’s website:

Ruby McQueen is a sixteen-year-old high school student with the name, she thinks, of a rodeo cowgirl porn star, or, maybe worse, a Texas beauty queen runner-up. Ruby, ordinarily dubbed the Quiet Girl, finds herself hanging out with gorgeous, rich, thrill-seeking Travis Becker. With Travis, Ruby can be someone she’s never been before: Fearless. Powerful. But Ruby is in over her head, and finds herself risking more and more…

Based on the summary above, you’d think that this is just a contemporary YA novel with a love story. While the romance is a huge aspect of the novel, Honey, Baby, Sweetheart contains much more. This is a story about a teenage girl finding herself. She believes she’s in love with a bad boy when in fact, she’s more in love with the idea of falling in love. I could totally relate to Ruby even though she’s known as The Quiet Girl and I’ve never been the shy type. In fact, I’m the opposite because I’m outgoing and really talkative. But Ruby’s experiences in this book are universal. I also enjoyed reading about the secondary characters. Ruby’s relationship with her librarian mother is pretty interesting and I like her closeness to her offbeat brother. The Casserole Queens, the book club for old people that Ruby’s mother handles, also has a fascinating set of members. Each geriatric person has a unique personality and they’re all so quirky. From time to time, they also spout out some sort of wisdom, probably the kind that comes with old age. The road trip orchestrated by the Casserole Queens is one of the highlights of the book. Old people rock!

There are so many good lines in this book, I wanted to pause every time I found one so I could mark it. Good thing Goodreads has a feature where you can add your favorite quotes in a book. Here’s one of my favorites:

“A man’s identity is complete through action, a woman’s, when she has a man. Through him. We fall off our high heels into the narrow crevasse of what it means to be female. Let me tell you. You fall in love and you think you’re finding yourself. But too often you’re looking inside him for you, and that’s a fact. There’s only one place you can find yourself.” She patted her chest.

This quote goes out to all my single girl friends out there! I know I keep saying this about well-written YA books that I discover nowadays but I really wish I could have read this when I was a teenager. It’s a beautiful book that tackles a topic that probably every teenager has experienced – how you try to change yourself because of other people. I know I went through that phase. This doesn’t mean that the book doesn’t have its share of humor because it does. Ruby is pretty funny and I found myself chuckling in certain scenes of the book. Plus like I mentioned earlier, the book has a great set of characters. I even liked the guy who owns the whale van even though he had such a small role in the book! I highly recommend this one and I hope more people get to read it. This is the first Deb Caletti book that I’ve read but if her other books are as good as this, then I’m excited to read the rest of them.

Other reviews: (manually generated)
Book Harbinger
Laughing Stars
The Ravenous Reader
I LOVE to ReaD

Bayou Moon by Ilona Andrews

You all know I’m a huge fan of the Kate Daniels series. I’ve talked about those books several times here on the blog. I love the power couple Ilona Andrews so much that I plan to read all of the books and novellas that they’ve written (and will write in the future). Bayou Moon is a book in the Edge series and the sequel to On the Edge, which I read and loved a few weeks ago. I love that we can now watch out for books from two different series written by these wonderful authors. So glad I was able to grab a copy from Fully Booked for P315 after I called a couple of times to inquire about the book.

Here’s the summary from Ilona Andrews’ website, and you can even read an excerpt there:

The Edge lies between worlds, on the border between the Broken, where people shop at Wal-Mart and magic is a fairytale – and the Weird, where blueblood aristocrats rule, changelings roam, and the strength of your magic can change your destiny…

Cerise Mar and her unruly clan are cash poor but land rich, claiming a large swathe of the Mire, the Edge swamplands between the state of Louisiana and the Weird. When her parents vanish, her clan’s long-time rivals are suspect number one.

But all is not as it seems. Two nations of the Weird are waging a cold war fought by feint and espionage, and their conflict is about to spill over into the Edge — and Cerise’s life. William, a changeling soldier who left behind the politics of the Weird, has been forced back into service to track down a rival nation’s spymaster.

When William’s and Cerise’s missions lead them to cross paths, sparks fly — but they’ll have to work together if they want to succeed… and survive.

William was a pretty interesting secondary character back in On the Edge so I think it’s great that he got to have his own story. At 447 pages, this one is a lot meatier that its predecessor. The first one focused more on the romance while this one is a little darker and a bit grittier. The worldbuilding is just as creative and I like how we’re presented with a different area of the Edge – the Mire. Clans fight in feuds to determine supremacy in a grim and swampy land where they have to eke out their living. Here’s an excerpt early on:

“That had to be the craziest thing he’d heard. At some point they must’ve looked around and said, “Hey, what do we have a shitload of?”
“Mud! It’s cold and wet. I know, let’s burn it!”
“Well, it ain’t good for nothing else.”
What the hell? He supposed if fish could have legs, then mud could burn. Spider or no Spider, if their cats started flying, he would be out of here like a rocket.”

As you can see, there’s plenty of wit and humor in the book. I love how William and Cerise banter and how they enjoy teasing each other. William spent most of his life as a soldier. Because of his nature as a changeling, he was trained from his early years to become a lethal fighting machine. As a result, he has to constantly keep himself in check. Also, he’s been lonely most of his life because he doesn’t have a family. Lo and behold, he meets Cerise and becomes tied up in her family’s business. The Mars are a pretty crazy bunch of people. As evidenced by the cover, Cerise is an excellent swordswoman. She fuses her magic with her sword so she has a unique fighting ability. She’s also smart and funny, definitely my kind of female protagonist! I had a lot of fun reading this book and even though it was pretty thick, the pages just flew by. As expected, there’s nonstop action and adventure for the two main characters. The story is layered with intrigue as William pursues his quest against the creepy spymaster of a rival nation. Spider is a pretty scary villain not just because he’s evil but because he believes he’s doing the best that he could to serve his country.

Another awesome urban fantasy novel from Ilona Andrews – espionage set in an interesting swampy landscape with broken but lovable main characters and distinct secondary characters in the form of the Mars – highly recommended to all fans of the genre. According to the authors’ blog, the next Edge book will be about Kaldar. I’m really looking forward to that because I loved Kaldar’s character in Bayou Moon. Most of you know I’m a fan of reprobates and thieves. 🙂

Other reviews: (manually generated)
Angieville
Janicu’s Book Blog
See Michelle Read
Dear Author
For What It’s Worth

I Do by Elizabeth Chandler

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’m going old school this week by featuring one of my absolute favorites back when I was in high school – I Do by Elizabeth Chandler. Teens are so lucky nowadays because they have so many YA books to read. When I was a teenager, there weren’t a lot of choices in terms of reading material. I remember collecting as many books as I could in the Love Stories series published by Bantam Books because those were the only YA romance books that I knew about. My favorite books out of that series were the ones written by Elizabeth Chandler. It’s funny because Angie was just talking about “make me feel better books” and this book is a comfort read for me.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

Weddings are the perfect place to fall in love…

Jane is not looking forward to being the maid of honor in her cousin Stacy’s wedding. To make matters worse, Adam, the biggest jerk at Tilson High, is going to be the best man! The last thing Jane wants to do is walk down the aisle with him. But the more Jane gets to know Adam, the more she realizes that he’s actually a very cool guy. And now she finds herself wishing that the wedding would last forever…

Based on the summary, you can totally tell that it’s a love-hate relationship, right? I’m such a sucker for those when it’s done well. Jane is a sports writer in the school newspaper and her snark is in full force when she writes about the male varsity lacrosse team. She’s frustrated that the team isn’t maximizing its full potential and she doesn’t understand why. Enter the team captain, Adam. He proves that he isn’t a dumb jock by writing a letter to the editor in response to Jane’s articles. Needless to say, these two don’t get along. The fun starts when Jane suddenly gets drafted to become her cousin’s maid of honor and it turns out that Adam the is best man. Sparks fly, swoon-worthy scenes turn up and there’s even a one-on-one lacrosse match between these two. I also liked the secondary characters in this book, which is saying something considering that it’s such a slim book and there’s not a lot of room for development. Here’s a conversation between Jane and her grandpa that I really liked:

“Things change when someone special comes into your life. Both sides have to give up things. The one thing you don’t give up in a good relationship is you – whatever makes you most you.”

“It’s been my experience,” he continued, “that when you’re with the right people, you feel more like yourself than ever. There’s a happiness, and a feeling of coming alive to yourself and the other person, that’s like nothing else.”

I don’t know if I’m biased because I read this when I was younger and it’s been a favorite ever since but I really love this book. While reading this, I didn’t even know what lacrosse was. Well, I know it’s a sport played in the States but I’ve never seen a game. I’ve reread my copy so many times that it’s not just yellowed with age, it has become battered. I want to get a better copy but sadly, the book is out of print and it’s not that easy to find copies. I tried to look for reviews from other book blogs but it looks like no one else has reviewed this. If any of you get a chance to read this, please let me know because I’d love to know what other people think of this book. Oh and if you’ve read this, did you like it as much as I did? 🙂

Retro Friday: Howl’s Moving Castle

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 haven’t done a Retro Friday post in a while because I’ve been busy putting up We Love YA features every Friday. I don’t have a feature ready for today so I decided to write a review from one of my favoritesHowl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones. I know I’ve mentioned this book several times here on the blog but I realized that I don’t have a review of it up. I’ve successfully recommended this book to several friends and they’ve all enjoyed reading it.

Here’s the summary from Diana Wynne Jones’ website:

Sophie has the great misfortune of being the eldest of three daughters, destined to fail miserably should she ever leave home to seek her fate. But when she unwittingly attracts the ire of the Witch of the Waste, Sophie finds herself under a horrid spell that transforms her into an old lady. Her only chance at breaking it lies in the ever-moving castle in the hills: the Wizard Howl’s castle. To untangle the enchantment, Sophie must handle the heartless Howl, strike a bargain with a fire demon, and meet the Witch of the Waste head-on. Along the way, she discovers that there’s far more to Howl — and herself — than first meets the eye.

I don’t know why but I’ve always had a soft spot for books with magic in it. So when I saw the premise of this one, I knew I had to give it a try and I’m so glad I did. I loved reading about Sophie and how she slowly came to her own. At first, you’d think that Sophie is a quiet type of girl, destined to a life of boredom making hats. Without meaning to, she sets in motion events that are full of humor and enchantment. Throw in an eccentric fire demon and a self-absorbed, flamboyant wizard and you’re in for a good time. Howl is such a character! You can’t help but like him even though it seems like all he thinks about is how he looks and how famous he is. Here’s a passage that I really liked, Calcifer is Howl’s resident fire demon:

“Go to bed, you fool,” Calcifer said sleepily. “You’re drunk.”
“Who, me?” said Howl. “I assure you, my friends, I am cone sold sober.” He got up and stalked upstairs, feeling for the wall as if he thought it might escape him unless he kept in touch with it. His bedroom door did escape him. “What a lie that was!” Howl remarked as he walked into the wall. “My shining dishonesty will be the salvation of me.” He walked into the wall several times more, in several different places, before he discovered his bedroom door and crashed his way through it. Sophie could hear him falling about, saying that his bed was dodging.

This was the first ever DWJ book that I ever read. Later on, I learned that it was DWJ who gave MWT (Megan Whalen Turner) a leg up in the publishing world so we have her to thank for the wonderful Queen’s Thief series. Maybe that’s why both Howl and Gen are so awesome? As proven by the fact that they were the last two standing in the recently concluded YA Fantasy Showdown. I already have several other DWJ books in my TBR and I know I’ll enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed Howl’s story. I’ve seen the Hayao Miyazaki film version and although it’s very different from the book, I also liked it.

Other reviews: (manually generated)
Tempting Persephone
Squeaky Books
Mother Daughter Book Club
Random Musings of a Bibliphile

An Abundance of Katherines by John Green

I’ve been hearing a lot of good things about John Green so I decided to read one of his books. I decided to start with An Abundance of Katherines because I like the premise and I’ve heard that it’s pretty funny. This book is available in Fully Booked for P360.

Here’s the summary from John Green’s website:

When it comes to relationships, everyone has a type. Colin Singleton’s type is girls named Katherine. He has dated – and been dumped by – 19 Katherines. In the wake of The K-19 Debacle, Colin – an anagram-obsessed washed-up child prodigy – heads out on a road trip with his overweight, Judge Judy-loving friend Hassan. With 10,000 dollars in his pocket and a feral hog on his trail, Colin is on a mission to prove a mathematical theorem he hopes will predict the future of any relationship (and conceivably win the girl).

Colin is obsessed with becoming a genius and doing something remarkable that will make him matter in the world. When the latest Katherine dumps him, his best (and only) friend, Hassan, decides that they should go on a road trip. They end up in Gutshot, Tennessee, where they meet an eclectic bunch of secondary characters. Once they’ve decided to settle there for a while, Colin starts to work on a formula that will predict every relationship based on the patterns of Dumpees (the ones being dumped) and Dumpers (the ones doing the dumping).

Colin is a total geek. So the novel is filled with a lot of graphs which try to prove his theorem:

Also some equations:

I wasn’t able to take a picture but there are also a lot of footnotes about random facts that Colin finds interesting. I know it isn’t obvious based on my blog but I love math and science. Seriously, I do. It’s just that they don’t love me back. If they did, I wouldn’t have such a hard time understanding them. The nerd in me thoroughly enjoyed reading about Colin and his thought processes. I think this is a perfect book to give to geeky friends who are trying to interpret the intricacies of love in math form. Can you imagine the hilarity involved in this kind of endeavor? So it’s no surprise that I laughed several times while reading this book. As if Colin isn’t eccentric enough, his best friend Hassan is also quirky in a different way. Seriously, the dialogue between those two? Fugging humor personified (if you’ve read the book, you’ll get the reference).

This is totally random but I really liked this line:

“Books are the ultimate Dumpees: put them down and they’ll wait for you forever; pay attention to them and they always love you back.”

What’s good about this book is that you don’t have to be a nerd to enjoy it. You can ignore Colin and his calculations because I’m not even sure if they make mathematical sense. Aside from getting over being dumped, Colin also comes to terms with his Katherine fixation and his need to become remarkable. If there was such a thing as guy lit (the guy version of chick lit) then I think this book would fall under that classification. If John Green is this witty in all of his other novels, then I look forward to reading all of them.

Other reviews: (manually generated)
Book Harbinger
The Book Smugglers
Bookshelves of Doom
Things Mean a Lot
Fyrefly’s Book Blog