On Reading

"When you read a book, you don't just read, you journey. This is why at first, one is always regretful upon nearing the last page, thinking that it all ends there. But it is when we look into our minds after reading that we find the new world we discovered and with dawning realization see the truth of the matter:
...that the journey never ends."

Friday, February 7, 2014

Review: Ignite Me by Tahereh Mafi

I have never attempted to organize my thoughts when I'm writing a review fresh after finishing a book, and I won't attempt it now. So you'll forgive me, if this all turns out to be a jumbled mess in the end. I also can't promise to not spill anything, I'll probably be spilling my entire head into this, but I'll still do my best, of course, these books deserve it--and more.

First off, can we all just stand up and give Tahereh Mafi a huge standing ovation and a round of applause? I'm serious. Get out of your seats and start clapping all around the place. This woman is one heck of an author, who is relentless in reaching out to her fans, whom she knows love the books as much as she does. Some authors write to relay the story of the characters in their heads, some to please readers. Often, only one of these scenarios happens. But Tahereh manages to do both so incredibly well. I've read in one tumblr post that it's still unbelievable that Ignite Me isn't just 'class A fan fiction' because it caters to the readers' wishes through and through. It's like she's read all of our minds and grants every wish, all the while still staying true to the characters' personalities. Granted I would've loved it more if there was some kind of a face-off between father and all of three sons, or some conversation with Anderson, just so it doesn't seem easy, but onto the books!

Now, I would have to admit that the strikethroughs in Shatter Me drew me in and caused me great interest, but surprisingly, I don't miss them in Ignite Me. I loved how Juliette isn't ashamed of her thoughts anymore, as she was in the previous books. I guess being shot at and surviving really just changes you for good. But Tahereh's writing style goes way beyond just the eye-catching strikethroughs; it's really with the elegant poetry in prose form that she manages to capture you. It's riveting, actually, how I find myself almost running to catch up with Juliette's thoughts because sometimes they're just too striking, too powerful, and so painfully accurate I have to back up and internalize. It's virtually impossible to read these books, really read them, and not find yourself, at one point or another, reflecting and relating it to your own life. As a quote collector and enthusiast, these books, were of course, heaven to me. However it's also a dangerous thing; to live and drown the book in quotes would undoubtedly impact the plot. But Tahereh manages this unique balance of having you go through the plot in your head and at the same time have you teetering on the edge of just about philosophizing everything around you with her writing. Her writing, I believe, is the most important component of this series, the main factor that sets her books apart from all the other dystopias out there, next to her amazing characters. There's nothing quite like it, or at least quite as striking--if you'll forgive the pun.

I said that aside from the writing, the characters also set these books apart from others. This is because her characters are so incredibly complex and twisted (make no mistake, I mean this in a good way) that you really just marvel at what they all accomplish throughout the course of the series. They develop, all right, some in the most unpredictable of ways. Adam, for example, who I could never have thought was capable of such anger, like Juliette, probably because we saw him in our heads with Juliette's perception--that is, kind and sweet, caring and protective. I marvel at how in Shatter Me, all these attributes made him endearing, and I of course rooted for him. How my feelings for Adam developed in the same way that Juliette's did. That's pretty amazing to me, because then it means in my head I understood Juliette, that she was written in so real a manner I actually thought her thoughts (although I could never be that lyrical and poetic, not in a million years, my thoughts are usually just a mumbo jumbo of anxieties and joys and worries), and felt her feelings. I admit that in Unravel Me, it became a bit too much and even to me, she was annoying. But don't worry guys, she makes up for it in Ignite Me, and she makes up for it good.

Kenji is so deeply endeared to me, simply because I think he was there as a representative of all of us. Guys guys he was so fangirling over OTPs and interfering like we would and prying and listening and taking care of our babies and keeping things together and making fun and he has our sense of humor and he's a great best friend and wow, I totally lost it there. So much for keeping it together. But yeah, you get the general picture of how I see him. Kenji. Wow I'll miss you.

And of course, Aaron Warner Anderson. Who's so strong, firm, admirable, disciplined, vulnerable and passionate all at the same time. Who was as vital to Juliette's growth as Juliette was to his own. I'm laughing at myself because I'm attempting to describe him in this book, in the entire series, actually, and I'm not sure if there's even a way; if it's even possible. I have never, I'm surprised to say, disliked him in Shatter Me. I mean sure, there were some moments there when I wouldn't mind if he loosened up a bit and showed a bit more emotion, but I had for him a kind of fascination that wanted to make sense of his actions, because there is no way someone could accomplish such acts if he didn't firmly believe in them, and everything they stood for. I wanted to know how he justified his actions, his motivations. It was confounding. He knows himself and he doesn't, he's both capable and incapable, calculating and ruthless and so in tune with his emotions he doesn't even know it. You just, you feel for this guy. It's impossible not to. After reading the novella, Destroy Me, I knew I was screwed. I was ashamed because I knew then that secretly, in Shatter Me, I wanted her to want him. Because I like this guy. And Juliette doesn't. And I was bound to get my heart broken, blah blah, what's new? I'm a reader, this is basically my life. And so it's just so relieving, to have him be given a piece of happiness in Ignite Me, after having been through so much. But just to clear it all up, I have come to a surprising realization during the course of reading Ignite Me. It's that Warner has been a gamble, a bet, an investment. His existence as a character was a risk Tahereh took in the beginning of the series. With his revelations only happening in the third book, it was entirely possible for people to overlook him, to ignore his importance. But he was the key; the ace, if you will. Tahereh gambled, and to me, she won.

I'll most probably be reading the series again, because I'm sure with this new knowledge of how it all goes down in the end, I'd see more of the subtle hints and cues to the characters' personalities that I may have overlooked, on purpose or not, for the sake of keeping my heart safe. I'll be reading again for the sake of shedding light to the purpose behind these characters' actions, with a totally different perspective. I'll be reading them again, and I can't wait.

I read Shatter Me and Unravel Me by borrowing them from the library, and I'd given myself the stipulation that if Warner and Juliette end up together, I'll buy the entire series. But I realized I wasn't willing to wait for my library to get a copy of the book, that I wanted to know what happens, good or bad, and it's this feeling that made me realize that if I feel so strongly about a book, so concerned for the characters, then this series must mean a lot to me. And so I bought them all, right after Ignite Me came out, not knowing what will happen but bracing myself, with fear and excitement. I gambled, and I won, and I can't be happier. Thank you, Tahereh, for the Shatter Me trilogy.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Review: Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo

I have always had reservations every time I start a book I know would be of the high fantasy genre. Maybe it's just me, but I like to devote my time and effort into being able to understand and picture the world in my head, not having myself be confused at every mention of a foreign word and unusual character name. This was primarily the main reason why I kept putting off reading Siege and Storm, I wanted to wait for the right time, when I was in the right mood, because that's what I did with Shadow and Bone. And when I manage to do this, boy what an experience reading is. This is when it gets--and I kid you not--magical.

Siege and Storm picks up where we left off with Shadow and Bone, with Mal and Alina on the run from the Darkling. However, the Darkling (because he is awesome) eventually manages to find them and leads them aboard Sturmhond's ship for a mission that none of us would have ever seen coming. New alliances are formed, alliances that are of the utmost importance especially now when everything is not as it seems. Alina drifts further away from the things she holds dear, falling deeper into the Darkling's thirst for power, and more dangerous still, even her own.


While there are a lot of things to love about this new installment to the Grisha series, I do feel like much of what made this book so enjoyable to read was Sturmhond. He's an incredibly complex character who maintains his hilarious but honorable personality throughout the story. How he manages to be perfectly sarcastic one moment, and yet there are times when we're given these rare glimpses into this young man who's only trying to do right by his country. He, along with Tolya and Tamar, were a great addition to the list of characters in these series, and they had no qualms about endearing themselves to me in just one book. 

Now, while I wasn't particularly fond of Mal in the first book, he finally grows on me in this second book, probably because I was able to witness more of him in Siege and Storm. I'll admit there were moments when I wouldn't have minded strangling him and personally dragging him over to Alina so they could talk it out, but even then, I understood him. Alina was purposely keeping him out, and of course given their childhood and past, where they were practically inseparable, that must have been tough.

It's no secret that I've loved the Darkling from the start, not only because he's undeniably attractive and mysterious (although that certainly doesn't hurt), but because I'm actually rooting for him. Call me naïve, but I want to believe there's still hope for him. Someone needs to go and pull him out from that pit of destruction he's so far into.

Alina is as real and fearless as ever, and I'm actually confused as to whether I should be immensely proud of her as she asserts what she knows she wants, or afraid because that's the exact thing that's starting to change her. Honestly, I'm leaning towards the first option. 

Make no mistake, just because I talk relentlessly about the characters doesn't mean I had no appreciation of the plot. I did. I do. Like I said before, there were road bumps I honestly didn't see coming until I was already stumbling over them, and to me, that's endlessly amazing. The volcras' apparent humanity, the nichevo'ya and their creepiness, the weird priest, Morozova's craziness, those reflective dishes, and Genya (dear, dear Genya), just wow. Also, it's almost disconcerting how Leigh Bardugo manages to, in this book, make me want three ships to sail. Three, you hear me? That right there just sets you up for inevitable heartbreak. And here I thought I was used to it. But see that's what's so great about being a reader. You get your heart broken, quite willingly, even, and watch it, sometimes reluctantly, be put back together again.

I was wishing for more Darkling-Alina moments, just because I find the dynamics of their relationship riveting. But that's just me. They just belong together in my head. Sorry not sorry.

Siege and Storm proves how truly dangerous and addictive power can be, which is especially important in our time. As my Psych professor says, we're the generation that's undergoing the current and radical changes in society today, that we're on the verge of going up or downhill, and it's up to us to decide precisely what kind of world we'd like to see in the future. Siege and Storm shows not only that temptation exists, but also the reality that at times, we fall prey to them. Acknowledgment of this is an acknowledgment of humanity, of our sometimes flawed personalities, but also of the greatness within all of us that desires to ameliorate, much like Alina. Wake me up when Ruin and Rising is in my hands. That is all.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Review: Prodigy by Marie Lu

I considered myself lucky because I discovered Legend at a time when the sequel, Prodigy, would be out soon. I thought, "thank heavens I don’t have to wait that long". And I didn’t. I read and devoured every page of Prodigy so quickly that before I knew it, I was done. Guess what? I think I’m not so lucky anymore. I mean, Legend’s ending was bearable, as it was open-ended and there were so many possible plot lines going through my mind. Prodigy, however, is another case entirely. It left me unable to think around one plot line. I mean, I still have no idea where Marie Lu would be taking the story, but I now know one thing. But that’s basically it. After that, I have no idea what’s in store for all of us in Champion.

I liked Legend a lot and so much, that I didn’t think it would be possible for me to go beyond that with this series. But cookies and bananas, I did. I loved Prodigy. It kept up with the hype in Legend and it doesn’t disappoint when it comes to the story line and the developments in the book. Early on in the book we’re given new stuff and details on our plates, so you’re really thrown back into the action as early as the first chapters. This, I loved. Along with the blue font color for Day. Oh, blue, blue. I’m starting to think publishers know of my blue fetish and have started going for it now. It was one of the many things I loved, but it’s not really something to linger on. The font color could’ve been purple or peach or whatever other color and I still would’ve loved the story and the book. At first, when the plan with the Patriots was revealed, I was a bit skeptical as to how the whole book would revolve around it, because it seemed so simple when Razor laid it out. Reading on, however, I realized that so much could happen, so much could go wrong, so much could twist and go another way, in such a short time. A thing, I guess, that Marie Lu manages to do so well in these books. Legend and Prodigy literally give the word—okay, maybe it’s not a word, not really—unputdownable another meaning altogether. It was a bit past noon when I started reading and I just immediately knew I couldn’t—and wouldn’t—sleep until I finished Prodigy. And so I did. I was as awake as ever in the wee hours of the morning, on the edge of my seat, waiting to know what happens next. 

And, like in Legend, what I loved most about this book were the characters. Old and new alike. Old characters were developed and given more depth and new characters gave the plot new and unexpected twists. One thing was different for me though. If Tess was okay for me in the first book, I didn’t particularly like her here in the second. It may have been the time spent away from Day, it could’ve been the influence of the Patriots, but her jealous streak and the way she just blamed June for everything, (granted, she may be blamed IN PART) killed her gentle side. Gentle, nice Tess I could handle, but jealous, bitter, obvious third point of the love triangle Tess was on my wrong side. We’re given Anden too, the new Elector, whom I loved because of his beliefs and because of his determination to change things for the better. He knows it won’t be easy, he knows there’re a lot of people against him, but the fact that he’s trying and trusts June counts for a lot in my book. It was totally believable too, how, despite his attraction to June, his wanting to believe her, there’s this lingering wariness, which of course he couldn’t help. Baxter, Pascao, Kaede. Kaede was just so awesome in this book, flying that jet, landing it and fighting for the good of the Republic. Villains return, new villains arise, and I was surprised yet again by how things turned out. 

Turning to the main characters, June and Day, Day and June. *dramatic sigh* It’s just how I am whenever I think about these two. They’re simply awesome characters who grow and develop so well in Prodigy and take note, Marie Lu manages to keep it going even when they’re apart! They’re apart for the most part of the book, and I didn’t mind because that time apart just further established their personalities, their strengths and weaknesses as individuals, and of course, it just makes the reunion all the more better. (Of course, you’d think that the reunion after a long time should be sweet and teary, but no.) And can we talk about the trust that these two have for each other for a second? The weight and gravity of how they trust each other is just inspiring. You’d think, how could these two 15-year olds, given what they’ve experienced in life, still manage to find someone to trust?

What’s amazing about Prodigy is that it doesn’t only match the standards of Legend, it manages to get better and surpasses it. I mean, hands down, no doubt, I loved Prodigy more than I loved Legend, but a huge part of why I loved it was because of so many factors perfected in Legend. I think the overarching lesson that this book managed to relay, deeper than nothing is what it seems, is that decisions and choices in life aren’t always so stiff. There are other ways, other paths to take, and how we must be open to that, as Day and June were, if we have any hope of surviving in this constantly changing world.

And now that that’s done, excuse me while I crawl into a hole. I’ll come out when Champion gets released. Or maybe in March, with Clockwork Princess. Or April, with The Elite. Or maybe really just February, when school starts again. Who knows?

Review: Legend by Marie Lu

See, once in a while there comes a book that will keep you up at night, that will invade your dreams, that will keep you thinking even in your waking hours until you finish it and tell the world what you thought of it. And this has been my relationship with the Legend series. 

Now that that’s out of the way, I have to admit that one of my favorite things is being pleasantly surprised about how good a book is. I picked up Legend from the library thinking it’ll probably be stiff and technical, given that it’s filed under dystopian/sci fiction. And boy, was I wrong. Given how taken I am with this book and the series, do forgive me if this’ll probably look a bit different from how I usually review books. (I’m thinking this’ll probably look more like an essay of random thoughts than a review, but oh well.) Okay, enough with my ranting and onto the good stuff. 

Legend is one of the best series in YA fiction that I’ve read in a while. Granted, the themes of dystopia are recurring, the oppression of the people and the tight hold of the ruling power, these were all shown in Legend, as in many other dystopian novels. However, what set this book apart is the characters’ switching perspectives in every chapter, which was done elegantly and believably. I mean, I could really tell who was speaking just through the words used in the chapter. (And I know, I know, the chapter starts with the character’s name on top and the font colors alternate as well, but really. Even without those, I’m sure I could’ve still identified whose chapter it was.) And as in some other books, the font colors and faces switch as well, which helps in distinguishing one chapter from the other. (I’m a big fan of books with other font colors besides black so that was an immediate plus for me.)

The plot. Oh my gosh, the plot. Some people say that what’s bad about this book is that it’s predictable and not really different from the plot lines of other dystopian novels. Well, I don’t know if I just haven’t read enough of these dystopian books or what, but this was not the case for me. Like I said, the themes were recurrent, yes, but the plot line was definitely not predictable. I mean, whoa. This book was explosive. I’m going to say that this explosiveness is associated with the fast pacing of the book. So much stuff was tightly packed in 300 or so pages and all these happenings were thrown around me and I couldn’t stop reading for fear that if I close the book things would still happen without me knowing it. You know one thing, and then it turns out they’re all lies and fantasies after a few chapters. This book just seriously kept punching you in the gut with happenings. 

You’d think that would be all. But no, what endeared this book to me the most were the characters, who were relatable and lovable and unforgettable altogether. And I mean, all of them, even Commander Jameson. I mean, you don’t particularly like them, but they’re such believable and evil villains who help the plot go along so you can’t really wish them gone. And while I know in myself that I’m someone who loathes the person who might be the potential third point to a love triangle, I surprised myself by not hating Tess. It wasn’t anything on her own, really, I mean yeah, she’s gentle and nice, but it has more to do with how I sympathize for Day. I was just really glad that he had someone in those years to look out for him when he had no one and was alone in looking out for his family. 

As for the two main protagonists, can I just say that I love them both to their cores? Because I do, really. I’m amazed because I started off with this book not knowing that the main characters were going to be a boy and a girl, I thought they would both be boys who fight side by side and have these awesome action scenes. Turns out they’re boy and girl, and I surprised myself by realizing that even if there wasn’t any romance between them, I still would’ve loved the book. But Marie Lu gives it to me as a bonus, and so now I am gushing and rolling on the floor thinking about this book. And what was so great about these two, was that they meet each other only at like, the half of the book, and I was perfectly okay with that, because by then they were so distinguished in my head as two separate and awesome characters in their own rights. Day, being the most wanted criminal in the Republic (which may not be something to be proud of, but you have to admit, for him to be that famous at 15, that’s just something else. And come on, scaling buildings in short seconds? Jumping from two, three story buildings and surviving? Day is cool. End of discussion.) and June being the darling prodigy of the Republic. I admit I had quite an issue with Day having long hair, and their age seemed a bit unreasonable to me, but hey, it’s the future right? (Maybe teenagers there get forced to mature early due to circumstances. *shrugs*) But aside from that, these two characters just, complement and strengthen each other. They each had their own share of sufferings, and both didn’t have it easy, and I admire their strengths despite everything. June, who is just an absolute genius and who may have been stiff in the beginning, has developed into a kinder, gentler person who’s open-minded and not easily strayed. Day, who has been hardened by the circumstances he’s had in life, but develops the kind of unwavering strength one needs to survive. Apart, they’re amazing, but together they’re unstoppable and greatness combined. 

Legend surprised me by how much managed to happen in such a short span of time. In 300 or so pages, there’s action, there’re awesome character developments, there’s romance that’s just right and not overpowering, there’s an amazing plot line, there’re painful deaths, and there’re lessons learned. Needless to say, the Legend series has become one of my favorite books of all time.

Review: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Great Gatsby is a book that’s been familiar to me for quite a while now. I either hear about it in English class, being mentioned as someone’s favorite book, or read its title in another book, too, as a mandatory read in the characters’ school life. Either way, it’s a book that I’ve always been curious about. I’ve always wondered about it, and the title isn’t anything to go by (unless you read the book), really. So when it turned out to be the next book on my reading list, I was pleased, thinking that after so many contemporary books, finally, I’m going back to an old friend—historical fiction.

Set in 1922, Nicholas ‘Nick’ Carraway is the main narrator in The Great Gatsby. He moves to the East, New York in particular, coming from the Midwest. Living in West Egg, he finds himself a neighbor—a man named Jay Gatsby, who proves to be mysterious. However, unlike Nick, he’s also extremely rich and holds elaborate and fancy parties at his large home. Daisy Buchanan, a cousin of Nick’s, along with her husband Tom and their friend Jordan Baker, gets tangled up into the story in a surprising manner and together they all show the circumstances of living at that particular time.


The Great Gatsby surprised me, partly because I didn’t suspect at all what the novel was about. So the entire book sort of came as a surprise to me. Another reason would be because it’s only now, as I’m recalling and reflecting on it, do I begin to understand the little details and events that happened in the book. And I always love being pleasantly surprised, so to me that was an immediate plus. Granted, I already had an inkling that I’d like it, because of the setting and because I knew it’s considered to be a literary classic for a reason. I also loved that it showed each character in a realistic light, with all of their flaws and strengths, and that they were written in a manner wherein you understood their characters. Each character was really defined in my head, maybe not based on their physical appearances, but because of their traits and attitudes that were all clearly described in the book not only through the author’s words, but also by the actions of the characters. These characters all come together into the story, and they strengthen each other in the plot. I loved the fact that there were so many things I highlighted, words that were often used back then and not so much now, and lines and phrases that made me think and reflect. Lastly, I admired Nick because in the end, he still saw Gatsby as a great man, although he didn’t necessarily like or admire him. Despite Gatsby’s flaws, Nick managed to see the ambitious man who did all that he could to make the most out of the hand that life dealt him.


Although it was a short book and I didn’t mind all that much, there were still parts of it that I felt weren’t needed. Like that part wherein Nick listed all the people who came to Gatsby’s party one night, all names and small descriptions about them. There were so many names, and I knew it was to give the impression that the people who came to Gatsby’s parties were many and diverse, but I felt like I didn’t really need the list of all of them, I felt as though the author could’ve made me realize that in a manner that's less lengthy and seemingly boring, and it would still have the same intended effect.

Going back on it now, I’ve come to the realization that The Great Gatsby isn’t so much about the characters, as it is about the society and the circumstances at the time that surrounded and impacted the characters' actions and decisions, their developments and views towards life. It managed to make me see how different and yet still similar life is then and now, there’re still the same underlying factors that influence humanity: ambition, reputation and power. People can sometimes have the purest intentions in the start, but the desire to make something more of themselves can get so overwhelming they’d be willing to use whatever means to reach their ends. But The Great Gatsby goes further and teaches us that in the end, it would be good to remember that we’re all flawed, that there’s always something good in everyone, and at least in that, if not in status and class, we’re all the same.

Review: Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles

I was really excited for this book. I mean, who wouldn’t, after reading that blurb from the back cover? It had a nice cover, a nice title, and so I had high expectations for it. Perhaps that was my issue with this book, hence the 3-star rating. I enjoyed it, but not to the point where I was singing about it and longing for it after it was done. 

Perfect Chemistry is quite literal and true to its title. Alex Fuentes, known gang member and Brittany Ellis, the school’s Ms. Perfect are forced to be lab partners in a Chemistry class. At first there’s tension, with both of them firmly believing that it won’t work, what with all their differences according to society, but as they spend time together, they find out that there may be more chemistry to them than they first thought.


The three stars I gave Perfect Chemistry, I have to admit, were for three good points that I found in the book. The first and major reason why I liked it was because of the book’s underlying theme: being able to break the stereotypes that plague our society these days and proving that despite outer appearances, some of us may be more similar on the inside than we think. I liked the fact that Brittany was able to be true to herself, that she took risks and chances, and that as she went along, she found out that she doesn’t really care about what other people think. Going from Ms. Popular to that, I think her character was developed really well. Second, well of course I liked Alex. His desire to stand up for Brittany, his own change of heart, his love for Paco and his family, his sacrifices, he was really sweet. He tries really hard to show everyone the stereotypical gang member that everyone has pictured in their mind, but his intelligence, kind heart and dedication to the people he loves always shows. Lastly, the third star was for Shelley. She might seem an insignificant character, but to me, she was a major driving force in this book. She was really important to Brittany, and she impacted Brittany’s college choices. And come on, isn’t she just adorable with her checker-playing and hair-pulling? I loved her. 


It’s not that I didn’t like the plot, for me it was just, typical. It didn’t really have me thinking about what was going to happen next, because I always had an idea. It’s simple, with resolved conflicts and a happy ending, but I just didn’t enjoy it all too much. There were even times in the middle when I got bored, and wanted it to end. *shudders* I know, I know. It was weird and awful for me too, because I was all, “What? Me, bored with a YA book? Me, wanting to just finish it?” It just doesn’t happen all the time. 

So maybe my issues with this book were completely personal. Maybe I just read too much books enough to know what happens next, I don’t know. But in any case, at least I finished it. That counts for something, because at least I was intrigued enough to see how they’d end up together, because I already knew that they would, eventually. 

Review: When It Happens by Susane Colasanti

I’ve heard good things about Susane Colasanti’s works from a friend of mine who’s read some of her books; he said it’s like Sarah Dessen, for middle-schoolers. So going into When It Happens, I was expecting middle-school issues, a maybe-broken-maybe-not kind of guy, and a main character with stuff to resolve within her. It turns out, it wasn’t what I expected at all, and I mean that in a good way.

When It Happens is told from the alternating perspectives of Sara and Tobey, both seniors who have totally different priorities. Sara, whose aim is to get into NYU and experience being in the spotlight in her last year in high school, has set her eyes on Dave, who she sees in her head as the ideal boyfriend and has everything all planned out. Tobey, on the other hand, a slacker yet talented musician who doesn’t worry about college at all, is focused on one thing alone for his senior year: getting Sara. Both are in for surprises when they find out there’s a lot more in store for them than they planned.


This book made me laugh. Seriously. Two chapters into the book and I was already laughing. It’s just that Colasanti has a way of making things seem realistic and totally relatable, despite the fact that it’s a fiction book. It’s as though she was a teenager herself when she was writing this, if only because you understand the characters’ issues well yourself. The issue of college was an issue of mine too, a year ago. I know the pressure Sara and the others went through, which is why it’s so refreshing to have Tobey’s point of view, which was laid back and carefree. It was fun reading how Tobey saw things and going ‘Ohhh, so that’s how it feels like to not care…’ And the immediate ‘Awwww’ when he decided to turn things around and get into all the college hype for Sara and for himself, too. Tobey’s unwavering dedication and perseverance was admirable, and I can only imagine those wide, blue eyes that are talked about in this book so much. Sara’s view of things was nice to read too, I just enjoyed Tobey’s more. But her courage to choose what would make her happier, made her strong in my eyes. I mean, I know it was an easy choice, considering she had a lot in common with Tobey and none with Dave, but still, the decision to act on that choice, despite the consequences, was truly a feat on her part. 


The one thing that didn’t sit well with me happened in the middle part of the book, when Sara and Tobey finally got together. There wasn’t as much excitement as there was in the beginning with the chase. I just missed the action and the problems. That’s weird, but hey, sadist here. 

When It Happens wasn’t what I expected because it turned out to be a fun read that still had depth. It still managed to address certain teen issues that are still prevalent these days. With all the things begging for our attention in life, and yes, that includes us teens, it’s just hard to find the balance that we all need, and the characters in the book undergo that kind of conflict. They learn, and we learn along with them, that everything can be managed if taken one thing at a time.

Review: Sweet Evil by Wendy Higgins

Admittedly, I was wary upon reading Sweet Evil. I mean, I know the cover is gorgeous, I know the synopsis at the back caught my attention, my issue was just, I’ve read about Nephilim before in Cassandra Clare’s The Mortal Instruments and The Infernal Devices. I loved her depiction of the Nephilim, and I had a pretty solid idea in my head because I’ve read a lot of her works, so I was a bit hesistant with Sweet Evil. I thought that perhaps the whole thing wouldn’t register in my mind because of my preconceived notions. But reading on, I found that the two were so easily different from one another that I had no trouble liking Higgins’ take on the Nephilim fantasy at all.

Anna Whitt is the school’s Miss Good Girl and the main protagonist in Sweet Evil. She may seem like an average girl, except she has special abilities that set her apart from everyone. Being able to see people’s emotions and auras as colors, having extensive olfactory and auditory senses, as it turns out, are all part of a Nephilim’s traits. The Nephilim are the children of demons with humans, and when Anna learns she’s one—although not entirely—because of Kaidan Rowe, she’s faced with a huge responsibility from the heavens that she has to fulfill. It sounds easy, but only if she manages to keep the demon part of her at bay.


One of the main reasons why I didn’t have trouble adjusting to Higgins’ story about angels and demons, is because it’s so originally fresh and new. You hear about girls learning they’re part angel, or full, but in Sweet Evil, Anna learns she’s both and the struggle within her to do good and the occasional times when she let loose were balanced and realistic. There were even times, where I’m not sure I would’ve had the guts to do what she did, to choose what she chose, and for that I really admire her. And need I talk about Kaidan Rowe here? Let’s see, drummer, gorgeous, English accent, not to mention dangerous and bad news? *sighs* I won’t elaborate, but let’s just say you’re not going to read through this book without him making you go weak in the knees. I liked Jay too, because he was a loyal best friend through and through. With Anna, he’s this protective, caring and loyal best friend who looks out for Anna, even if Anna’s the one who’s supposedly part angel. In general, I liked the originality of the story. It takes on a well known angel-demon theme, but everything else about it is new you’d have trouble guessing what happens next—sometimes you can’t even guess, you just absolutely have no idea—and to me that’s always good.


Although I have to admit that I love Kaidan and Anna’s team up, I think it revolved more around the two of them than it did around the plot. Granted, it’s the first book in a series, but I guess I would’ve appreciated more scenes regarding the plot itself. I’m not saying I didn’t love all of Kaidan and Anna’s parts in the book, I’m not saying I want them removed, I just wish there was more elaboration regarding the heavens’ plan for Anna. Also, was it just me or was Kaidan's name a bit hard to pronounce? I kept saying "Kayden" in my head but it turns out it's supposedly read as "Kyden". Just me? Yep, thought so.

Sweet Evil surprised me in the fact that I actually liked it, and in that I wasn’t expecting the happenings in the book. To a person who’s read a lot of YA books that more or less have the same themes, it’s important to capture that sense of originality, because an author doesn’t want her book to get into the pool of all books that are seemingly similar, the author wants hers to float, to stand out. And in a time where angel-demon YA books are all over the place, Sweet Evil definitely did.

Review: It's Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini

One of the praises said about this book is that “it’s important.” And after reading it, I can say that it definitely is. It’s a book that reminds you of the things in life that are important. With so much going on for everyone, our priorities at times get jumbled up. The thing is, we think we know what we want, we know what we have to do to get there, and we’re all fine on our own. But in reality, we all need people who want to be there for us, who remind us that sometimes, what we want is not exactly what we need, and Ned Vizzini tells that story creatively. 

It’s Kind of A Funny Story revolves around Craig Gilner, a fifteen-year old who has depression. Legit depression, which is ironic considering he got into the school he wanted and really worked for. He takes medicines for it, and has a hard time keeping anything he eats down. When one night he almost kills himself, Craig admits himself to a mental hospital, and the people he meets there all teach him some things about life that he seems to have forgotten.


There’s only a handful of books and authors that address real-life issues with creativity and wit, and I thank Vizzini for being brave to do so. It’s not easy, given that it’s a sensitive topic, but Vizzini, who got admitted to a mental hospital himself, understands it’s necessary and needed. I salute his ability to take something so practical and saddening, and make it into a funny story that still goes deep and teaches real-life lessons. Behind the facades of everyone who claim to be alright, there are a lot of people who need help, and I say this book is for them. With so much crazy in this world, it’s hard to stay sane and functional, and for Craig, the mental hospital proved to be a sanctuary, which would be hard to believe considering his companions there have their own issues too. But no, it’s probably because of that—the fact that his neighbors there have their own issues—that Craig realizes the important things in life. Which brings me to Six North. I loved Six North, and the people there, too. Often I found myself wondering why they were there, because it seems as though people outside are more problematic than they are. Little things such as their art classes, music classes, and watching the movie Blade endeared this book to me. It was also very realistic, because it showed that some people get better, and some people don’t. However, that doesn’t lessen the fact that every person has his own story and that there’s always something to learn from someone. And, of course, it goes without saying that Craig deserves a round of applause for this book. Despite his claims of being sad enough to kill himself, despite the army man inside him, despite bad influences in friends, I loved him for holding on to life for his family and for himself, for his heart that kept on insisting he live.


The only thing that could’ve improved this book, for me, is if Vizzini developed some of the characters further. I would’ve loved to read about their stories, like how Charles became Jessica, what Solomon’s deal is, how it came to Jimmy, and such. We were given glimpses into their lives, and I wanted to know more. Then again, this is Craig's story.

Books like this are books that prove to be worthwhile, not only because it’s realistic and it reaches out to everyone—because come on, let’s face it, we all have issues—but also because it teaches you lessons that should be remembered and taken into heart. Living, in general, isn’t a bed of roses, but as Craig soon realizes in Six North, often, the good outweighs the bad if you know how to change your perspective, if you know how to focus your lens on the things that matter. When it all proves to be too much, It’s Kind of A Funny Story teaches us to pause and take things one by one, living in—and for—the moment. 

Review: Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

Despite the explosion of werewolf themes in the YA category a few years ago, I have to admit that I wasn’t particularly drawn to the idea of werewolves. I mean, sure, I’ve read books about vampires every now and then, and then there’s Jacob in Twilight, too, but Shiver is the first werewolf and Stiefvater book that I’ve read. Naturally, I was wary at first, and I thought Stiefvater had a particular similarity with Stephenie Meyer's writing style, but as I read on, I found myself flying through the pages and learning that there's something about Stiefvater's writing style that's distinctly hers.

Shiver is told from the perspectives of Sam--a werewolf in the cold and just a normal guy when it's hot--and Grace, a girl who had an encounter with the wolves of Mercy Falls when she was younger, and who's always been fascinated by them, especially by the yellow-eyed wolf who has always watched her.


Okay, so I have to admit that part of why I enjoyed the book was due to the fact that the font is—Blue! And heaven knows I love blue, so seeing that on every page definitely gave me a positive attitude while I was reading. Besides, it’s not every day that you get to read a book that doesn’t have black for a font color, so it was something new for me. I think it’s clever too, since a huge factor in the book is the cold, and the color blue fits right in with the theme. I don’t know about you guys, but for me, little things like that separate the book from a lot of other books. I also liked the switching perspectives, because for me it widened the plot. See, there’s only so much you could say from one perspective if the plot is simple, but when you add another character’s point of view, then the story goes deeper. Of course, I loved Sam. A huge part of it may be attributed to the fact that he loves poetry, he has all these lyrics in his head, he’s deep, and did I mention he loves poetry? And lastly, I loved the last few chapters. The pain, the questions, the anticipation, those last few pages kept me asking, “What now?”


Probably the only thing that didn’t sit well with me in this book was the plot. Granted, conflicts were resolved and the characters were likeable, but I guess I found it really simple, and it didn’t really have me thinking a lot about what was going to happen next. Well, except for that little part in the end, of course. Also, Grace’s issue with her parents? I don’t think it was addressed too well in this book. But maybe it goes on to the next, so we’ll have to see. 

In the end, I understand why Shiver is called Shiver. It’s ultimately a book you’d love to read curled up on the couch with a blanket, preferably with a hot chocolate by your side too. It’s laid back, and nice. The whole book asks the reader, “Why is it that only when we know time is limited, do we value it?” 

Review: Abandon by Meg Cabot

To be honest, I was putting off Abandon until the last possible minute. Like Sweet Evil, I was wary on starting it when I had solid preconceived notions in my head. It’s a reimagination of the Persephone myth, and I’ve recently just read something quite similar, The Goddess Test and Goddess Interrupted by Aimee Carter which were both lovely and were still stuck in my head. Unlike what happened with Sweet Evil, however, Abandon wasn’t completely different with the previous two books I’ve mentioned. Sure, there were some elements that set it apart, but to me John Hayden resembled Henry’s broken personality a bit too much, and it was just hard to go on from there without mistaking one book for the other.

Abandon is the story of Pierce Oliviera, who moves to Isla Huesos with her mom for a new start. Pierce has quite a hard time doing so, however, because Pierce has died and escaped death only by a narrow margin. As it turns out, the place they’re moving to—her mom’s hometown—has a cemetery that serves as a doorway to the Underworld where John Hayden, the guardian and keeper of that particular gate resides. From the moment Pierce comes back from the dead she’s haunted by Furies who are determined to hurt John through her.


I know Meg Cabot from her Princess Diaries works, which I haven’t read but I have, however, watched. Basing from how those went according to the movie, I was curious to see how Cabot could make a dark fantasy work, which was so different from her staple teen realistic fiction for which she is well known. And I was glad to see that she COULD make it work. She was able to formulate a plot that sounds familiar, that makes sense and is interesting. I also liked the way she starts her chapters, opening them with excerpts from Dante Alighieri’s Inferno and I was excited to find out how the particular excerpt comes into the chapter. See, there are some authors who have a way of making the ending of a chapter a cliffhanger, and that would encourage you to read onto the next, but Cabot’s writing style was a bit disorienting in that she ends the chapters without necessarily a cliffhanger, but she starts her chapters so well you just want to keep reading on. You know sometimes, when you finish a chapter and go, ‘Oh I’ll just take a look at this next chapter and stop’? The thing with Abandon is, I constantly found myself starting another chapter which was weird considering the last one’s ending didn’t leave me hanging anyway. Lastly, I thought Pierce’s character was refreshing and new in that she isn’t like other YA heroines who doesn’t have qualms going to places as long as the boy they like is with them. With Pierce, it isn’t like that. She fights John head-on, not wanting to go with him to the Underworld for the sake of her family her friends and herself. I thought that strength showed that she wasn’t about to give up everything in her life for a boy, and I’m really grateful to see that there’s someone in YA books who still actually does that.


Aside from the issue I had with Abandon not standing out all that much, I have to say that although the chapters start with interesting scenes, it just dies down from that. There are scenes which seemed a bit draggy to me, and it doesn’t help that the writing style is wordy, too. Granted, it gives you a pretty well-described scenario, but I think parts of the plot were sacrificed for that. It’s a short book, and there could’ve been so much that was going on, and instead we get all these lengthy descriptions about the weather and the hurricane that seems to me has no connection with John or the story. I think all it did was give the book a darker and gloomier feel, which is good, but it didn’t have to come with very detailed explanations. I felt like it wasn’t needed. Also, some characters, like Uncle Chris and her mom, were underdeveloped. I think there was more to them than what was actually explained, and I kept waiting for the developments that unfortunately didn’t come.

Overall, Abandon still worked for me, because for some reason I like dark fantasies these days, and because the plot is actually interesting. I just felt that maybe Cabot could’ve gone deeper and given us more about it. It’s quite different from the Persephone myth and there were elements that were strictly its own, which, I realized, is why it’s considered a reimagination and not a retelling of it.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Review: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

When I first saw The Raven Boys in the bookstore, I immediately wanted to get my hands on it. I saw The Raven Boys before I even read Shiver, and the synopsis on the dust jacket had me wondering and desperate to read the book. When I finally did, I swear it was like Stiefvater knew what I thought about Shiver and rectified all those things I pointed out on The Dark Side. 

The Raven Boys is the story of Blue Sargent, who’s always been told that she would be responsible for the death of her true love. Belonging to a family of psychics, Blue is a bit different, and could only amplify the powers of others. That’s how she comes to the lives of four Aglionby boys, who are in search for a lost Welsh king. Together they embark on a quest that puts their lives in danger, because it turns out, they’re not the only ones looking.


One of the things I liked about Shiver was the blue text of the book. And now, Stiefvater seems to know this fascination of mine on all things blue, because lo and behold, the main character’s name is Blue! And Blue is an interesting character, not only because of her abilities, but because she’s headstrong and brave. Her mother tells her never to see the Aglionby boys again, she sneaks out and embarks on a quest with them. Helps them, too. I think that really endeared Blue to me, because it’s realistic. She’s a teenager, surrounded by a family who wants to keep her in the dark about things. It’s only natural that she goes out of her way to prove herself to everyone, including to herself. It’s natural that she wants to feel useful, too. On the subject of characters, I have to say that the best part of this book was Gansey. I LOVED Gansey. Granted, he hurts people sometimes with his nonchalance about money and its value, but everyone knows it’s unintentional, and that he doesn’t mean it. He knows this too, so he always strives to choose his words carefully, and although that doesn’t work out all the time, hey, give the guy a break, because at least, he tries. I love that he’s someone who genuinely cares for those around him, especially the other 3 boys. His concern for his friends and how he looks out for them is just amazing in a character. And before I end this rant about Gansey, I have to say that I love his dedication and passion. When he sets out to do something, he’ll really go out of his way to see it done. He has no qualms about sharing, and he’s set on giving back to the world that gave him what he has now. Stiefvater also does better in this book with the third-person perspective. Plot-wise, if Shiver was simple for me, now The Raven Boys, is definitely complex and deep. It has a wider range of topics, the story goes beyond the characters although it centers on them, and every main character is given equal attention and layers. The surprises in this book, really, were just plain mindboggling and mystifying.


My main issue about The Raven Boys, like many others, would probably be the complexity of the first chapters. The moment you read it, you’re just immediately plunged into this world of descriptions. You aren’t given the chance to take it all in first, to adjust and enter their world gradually, it’s an immediate plunge. Given that this is a fantasy book, that there were a lot of characters, that the plot was complex, and that it was told from the third-person’s point of view, it’s easy to see why a lot of people would see it as boring and draggy. I’ll admit that the first few chapters were a struggle for me too, but it was easily corrected when I started getting into the story along the middle chapters. There were a lot of unanswered questions, a lot of unresolved conflicts, but I’d like to think that it’s Stiefvater’s way of keeping the series suspenseful and thrilling. 

I think The Raven Boys, for a first book in a series, is in its entirety, a stepping stone. There’s so much that was being built up throughout the book, and instead of getting answers to questions there are now only more questions, and the promise of so much more to come is overwhelming. This leads me to expect much from the second book, and I just hope it delivers.

Review: Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks

Safe Haven tells the story of Katie, a young woman who seems to have a past that she's running from, and Alex, a widowed father of two who's desperately trying to keep things together for his kids. 


There are many things I loved about this book. One would probably be the unexpected suspense that Sparks hints at from the very beginning. Like Alex said, Katie was a very mysterious woman, and the glimpses into Kevin's world in the later chapters kept me on the edge of my seat too. Another would be the character development, which Sparks always manages to detail quite well. I loved how in the beginning Katie was this sort of guarded person who put up walls around her and gradually begins to let them down as she starts to realize that the person she was before isn't who she is now. And Alex too, who at the start wanted to do everything himself, admitted that he couldn't, and that he could use some help too. It's kind of disturbing how in a twisted way, I get Kevin's way of thinking. I don't agree with him, of course, but Sparks writes him in a way that tells me he clearly believes what he thinks is true, and he's so convinced of it you too wonder if it really is. Lastly, of course I loved Jo. How could I not love her? [SPOILER: I knew there was something about her, that there was more to her than Sparks was letting on in the first chapters. I had the suspicion that she was really Carly when Katie dreamed of her. And it was her letter to both Katie and Alex that made me admire her, that showed just how much she loved Alex and the kids and wanted to make them happy.]

... (Okay. That's just plain ominous.)

While I loved this book, I still found myself wondering whether some parts were really needed. Some parts of the story were put there, I think, to further develop the characters but to me it didn't really feel necessary. To me the characters were already well established by the middle of the book and the entirety of it won't be affected if those parts were removed. Then again, it probably would not be the same without those small details, and make it the lovely book that it is. 

Admittedly, I didn't feel compelled to read through the entire book immediately. I didn't stay up late to read it because I couldn't get enough of it, probably because it was laid back for the most part, before the build up to the climax. It took a long time for me to get into it and there were times when I'd wonder why I kept coming back to it. But then I realized, that's just it. Even though it was often sitting on the desk, (because I read it with a lot of breaks in between), I still found myself coming back to read what happens next. I think it's purpose wasn't to keep you on the edge of your seat, desperate and frantic to see what happens next, rather, it's to be something that's always there, a constant you'd like to go back to, a safe haven.