Saint Anything

saintanythingSaint Anything by Sarah Dessen
Publisher: Viking Juvenile
Number of pages: 417
My copy: paperback, ordered from Book Depository

Peyton, Sydney’s charismatic older brother, has always been the star of the family, receiving the lion’s share of their parents’ attention and—lately—concern. When Peyton’s increasingly reckless behavior culminates in an accident, a drunk driving conviction, and a jail sentence, Sydney is cast adrift, searching for her place in the family and the world. When everyone else is so worried about Peyton, is she the only one concerned about the victim of the accident?

Enter the Chathams, a warm, chaotic family who run a pizza parlor, play bluegrass on weekends, and pitch in to care for their mother, who has multiple sclerosis. Here Sydney experiences unquestioning acceptance. And here she meets Mac, gentle, watchful, and protective, who makes Sydney feel seen, really seen, for the first time.

But of course the newest Sarah Dessen will not escape my grubby hands.

Saint Anything is about Sydney, whose life changed when her older brother Peyton was convicted for drunk driving. Everyone loves Peyton, so when he was taken away, it felt as if Sydney’s life went with him, especially with how her family was left coping with the loss. Everyone was so concerned about Peyton, but Sydney couldn’t help but wonder about the his victim – what about him? Then Sydney meets the Chathams, a family that runs a pizza parlor near her school. They befriend Sydney, and soon, she gets into their world of pizza, the perfect fries, and bands. For the first time ever, Sydney feels that people are finally seeing her.

As with every Sarah Dessen I have read, Saint Anything starts out a bit slow, laying the groundwork for the story to come alive. I have read enough Dessen to know that this was her style, so I was patient, knowing it will all pay off in the end. And it did, as I was introduced to the Chathams. They charmed me, they really did. I loved their family dynamic, and how they were all crazy in a good way. I loved the pizza place, and Layla and Mac’s friends from school. The lunch scenes were perfect in so many ways and I looked forward to reading all of that.

Then there’s Sydney’s mom, who, I must admit, was a bit too much with holding Sydney to a certain standard. But again, it’s what mothers do, I think? It wasn’t really so surprising. But the real “villain” here wasn’t her mom, but that creepy guy who keeps on worming into their story. I suppose it was because I knew about him before I started reading, and that made him creepier. But either way, even if you don’t know him before this, I doubt you’d find him less creepy.

In a way, Saint Anything reminds me of my most favorite Sarah Dessen book, The Truth About Forever. There were many similar elements that make it almost a mirror novel, but not too much that they’re too similar. Mac is no Wes, but I still really liked him, and I really liked his slow-burn chemistry with Sydney. Bonus points to the Saint reference. :)

I really enjoyed Saint Anything, and if you’re a Dessen fan, this does not disappoint. I’m still waiting for a book in the POV of a Dessen boy – it’s about time, right? While I’m waiting, I think I’ll go and reread her previous books. :)

Rating: 

Favorite dog-eared quotes:

“There’s no shame in trying to make stuff work. It’s better than just accepting the broken.” I wanted to say he was lucky he even had a choice. That for most of us, once something was busted, it was game over. I would have loved to know how it felt, just for once, to have something fall apart and see options instead of endings.

You weren’t invisible, not to me. Just so you know.

Relationships evolve, just like people do. Just because you know someone doesn’t mean you know everything about them.

When faced with the scariest of things, all you want is to turn away, hide in your own invisible place. But you can’t. That’s why it’s not only important for us to be seen, but to have someone to look for us, as well.

Other reviews:
GReads!
Young Adult Hollywood

The Mysterious Benedict Society

mbsThe Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
The Mysterious Benedict Society #1
Publisher: Little, Brown
Number of pages: 456
My copy: paperback, bought from Powerbooks

Dozens of children respond to this peculiar ad in the newspaper and are then put through a series of mind-bending tests, which readers take along with them. Only four children-two boys and two girls-succeed. Their challenge: to go on a secret mission that only the most intelligent and inventive children could complete. To accomplish it they will have to go undercover at the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened, where the only rule is that there are no rules. But what they’ll find in the hidden underground tunnels of the school is more than your average school supplies. So, if you’re gifted, creative, or happen to know Morse Code, they could probably use your help.

I’ve had The Mysterious Benedict Society in my TBR pile for years, after I bought it when I read reviews about how “smart” this book was. Back then I was still a series completist, so I had to start with the first book and planned to get the rest of the books later on because it was just right, right? But anyway, that didn’t happen, and the book remained in my TBR pile until one day, I decided to pick it up because I wanted something else to read. And I figured it’s about time to get this off there.

An ad in the newspaper appears, looking for smart kids who were willing to go through a series of tests. Out of all who took it, only four children passed: Reynie Muldoon, Sticky Washington, Kate Wetherall, and Constance Contraire. The kids were brought to Mr. Benedict, who tells them of an evil plan that they need to stop and sent them as spies to the Learning Institute of the Very Enlightened, the school where all this evil seems to be coming from. Adventure follows, as well as danger, but there was too much at stake for them to just give up.

They were right. This book was fun and smart, and a lot of it made me think of just how they’d get out of the scrapes they get into. The kids were easy to like, even Constance, who started out so annoying and stubborn but later became endearing just because of those qualities. There was mystery, yes, and as a reader I had to keep on thinking, too, about  just what was happening and how they would ever get out of the messes they got into.

I just think the book was just a tad long. I know all scenes worked out to the ending, but I remember being a bit impatient with this at some point that I was almost skimming. It could just be a case of reader ADD, though, but I can’t deny the relief I felt when I was finally done. To be fair, the ending was pretty heartwarming, and it felt like a reward after reading the length of the book.

The Mysterious Benedict Society is a smart and fun book, and while I was a bit lukewarm about it (Maybe that means I won’t be one of those kids who will take that exam. Or pass it. Heh), I think I’d really like to keep this copy around once my nephew is old enough to read. :)

Rating: 

Favorite dog-eared quotes:

You must remember, family is often born of blood, but it doesn’t depend on blood. Nor is it exclusive of friendship. Family members can be your best friends, you know. And best friends, whether or not they are related to you, can be your family.

Other reviews:
Good Books and Good Wine
The Book Gaga

2015 Half-Year Report

Oops, I didn’t forget this blog again!

I’m not going to make excuses to why I wasn’t able to blog in the past month, though, because really, it’s just going to be the same. I think we’ve (or at least, I) have come to accept that this will be updated when I feel like it, or when there’s a blog tour and all that jazz. Which seems to be a trend nowadays, so let’s sort of not dwell on that anymore.

So instead of dwelling, let me do a little update on what the first half of 2015 has been in terms of books. :)

Screencapped from my 2015 shelf on Goodreads :D

Screencapped from my 2015 shelf on Goodreads :D

I read 24 books in the first half of 2015, and that’s a little bit halfway through the 52-book goal for the year, not counting a couple that I reread that I didn’t add here. Most of these were 4-star reads, which has sort of become my default rating for books for some reason. Haha. I even managed to finish one dare book, so yay.

Best book from this half-year list? It’s a tie between Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen and Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami. They’re very different, but also they somehow evoked the same feel for me as I read them.

It’s been going slow ever since July started, though (but it’s really just what, 7 days in, so what do I know). I have been picking books from my shelf every now and then but for some reason they’re not capturing me. I feel like maybe I should be reading this because my book club is reading it, or I should be reading that because it’s supposed to be next. But sometimes you just have to follow your gut, and just read what you want for the time being.

Especially when work is being kind of stressful and you don’t want to think and you just want to settle into a good book and just read.

Oh, and another new reading thing I’m doing: I’m reading manga. Never thought I’d say that, because I’m not a manga person, but I just finished watching Attack on Titan/Shingeki No Kyojin and I need to know what happens next. So my good friend gave me the links and I binged on them last weekend. 20 chapters to go! (And my heart is not so ready yet.)

So, there. I do think I’ll reach my 52-book goal. But I’m probably going to follow my gut for most of the time and reach for the one that it wants to read. I have a feeling it’ll be time to read another David Mitchell after I finish this St. John Paul II memoir. That sounds about right.

Please Ignore Vera Dietz

veradietzPlease Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King
Publisher: Ember
Number of pages: 326
My copy: paperback, gifted by Maria

Vera’s spent her whole life secretly in love with her best friend, Charlie Kahn. And over the years she’s kept a lot of his secrets. Even after he betrayed her. Even after he ruined everything.

So when Charlie dies in dark circumstances, Vera knows a lot more than anyone—the kids at school, his family, even the police. But will she emerge to clear his name? Does she even want to?

Please Ignore Vera Dietz was a book that I’ve been wanting to read for so long but I never got a copy, until Maria gave me a copy. Of course, it was parked on my shelf up until the book discussion activity by the person who gave me this book.

Vera Dietz has loved her best friend, Charlie Kahn, for so long. But he abandoned her to be with Jenny Flick and the Detentionheads. Now he’s dead, so Vera goes back to her life, working full time at her job and school, trying to ignore the ghost Charlies that haunt her and tell her that she needs to tell the truth to clear his name. Will she do it? Or will Charlie’s abandonment pre-death keep her from doing the right thing?

This is my first A.S. King book, and somehow it reminds me of Courtney Summers and E. Lockhart, with all the issues (from the former) and the mystery (from the latter). There’s a lot that was hinted about the overall story here that makes you just want to read to know what really happened. Vera is a smart kid. Despite her sucky situation – especially now that her best friend is gone – she sees what’s wrong and tries to avoid it. But despite all this show of “strength,” Vera is still ultimately a kid who is facing a whole lot of grief, not just with Charlie, but from her stripper mother and her father who tries to ignore the serious things.

The fun part of the narrative are the multiple POVs from Vera’s dad (and his flowcharts!), Charlie, and even a particular landmark in their town. The writing is very sharp, and very realistic, and at the end of it all, I just want to hug Vera.

We will learn to forgive ourselves in tandem.

I liked this, I really did. :)

Rating: 

Number of dog-eared pages: 15

Favorite dog-eared quotes:

I’m sorry, but I don’t get it. If we’re supposed to ignore everything that’s wrong with our lives, then I can’t see how we’ll ever make things right.

I felt a mix of wanting to kill him and wanting to kiss him at the same time. When I thought of what true love must be like, I figured it must be like this, and not the stupid eighth grade infatuation most girls my age felt. True love includes an equal part of good and bad, but true sticks around and doesn’t run off to Vegas with a podiatrist.

I want to tell her that the only thing you get from walling yourself in is empty.

I reminded myself that the one thing Jenny Flick couldn’t buy, no matter what she used as currency, was a ticket to drive on the high road next to people like me.

EVERYONE deserves to be happy. But no one gets there by freaking out or sulking or running. So. Here’s a tissue. Clean yourself up and start back at the beginning.

I have gone from invisible Vera Dietz to invincible Vera Dietz.

 

Buqo YA 5: Perfect Moments Blog Tour – Interview with Sue Donymko

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It’s the last blog tour for Buqo YA, and today, I am very glad to have Sue Donymko, author of A Moment Like This from Buqo YA 5: Perfect Moments bundle. :) Sue Donymko lives and works in Manila, Philippines. When she’s not writing or working, or working some more, she eats, watches a lot of television, sings — much to the neighbors’ dismay — and reads until she falls asleep. You can subscribe to her blog here and follow her on Twitter here.

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Hi Tina,

Thanks for featuring me on your blog and for the mini interview. I enjoyed answering all the questions. Take care!

1. Who are your favorite YA authors? 

JK Rowling, Eoin Colfer, Gordon Korman, Rick Riordan. I generally like light and funny books, with the exception of JK Rowling’s tear-jerky Harry Potter series, and I know I don’t need to explain why!

2. What was the biggest challenge you had to face in writing your buqoYA story?

My biggest challenge was how to create a story that will capture that perfect moment that can establish something lasting or real between two individuals who only just met. I didn’t want it to be just one magical moment that would fizzle out once they were out of each other’s proximity.

3. Your characters enter the cafeteria – where would they sit?
Kris would either be in a separate table with one or two friends who are as chill and uncaring about popularity like she is. Noel, with his charm and looks, would definitely be with the cool but non-jock crowd.

4. Assuming you didn’t know the end of your story, what advice would you give your main character?
Wow, Tina, what a good question! Communicate. Take risks. You’ll never know until you try. :)

5. What song best describes your story?
Beginning of Something Wonderful by Orange and Lemons!

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6. What can readers expect from you next?
I’m finishing a New Adult novella, and maybe a spy/crime novella later this year!

***

Thanks, Sue! :) Her story, A Moment Like This, is part of the Buqo YA 5: Perfect Moments bundle, together with five other YA stories. You can get it (and the first four bundles!) here!

CoverPERFECT MOMENTS

Sometimes you’ll meet your match: at detention, on the badminton court, in a resort hotel in Davao, at a lab, in a foster home, at an epic party. You’ll never know. But always keep your heart ready for that perfect moment. Read these stories and experience the bliss of first love.

A Moment Like This by Sue Donymko

Kris Mercado and Noel Abad are trapped in a posh resort hotel in Davao City during a particularly bad flood. After spending almost everyday together, they realize that they are undeniably attracted to each other. But reality bites as usual, and they now have to decide whether to chalk their romance up to forced circumstances or to explore what could be the sweetest love they’ve been looking for…

Anything You Want Me To by Audrine Pascal

Oh, Via. Such in a hurry to have a boyfriend. Now look who got dumped on social media, just before the epic party happening tonight.

So why is she hanging out with Franco Castañer? It’s all good – Via’s always been immune to all that yummy goodness, him being her best friend’s brother and all.

But is Franco actually being flirty? Or is she just reading too much into this? How exactly do you decode the species they call boy?

Vodka shot, anyone?

Something Real by Charm Jacinto

Hailey’s principle is heart over mind. It’s Rick or nothing at all. Brett’s scholarship comes first. His, was mind over matters of the heart. A laboratory experiment in Physics brought them together making their lives entangled with each other. From lab partners to having a crossfire of misread signals to friendship. Will they ever find the perfect formula when it comes to the principle of love?

Match Point Mishap by Madelyn Tuviera

“Shit happens to the best of us,” goes a saying, and Lester Torres, a now-starving student-artist, cannot agree more. The family business has reached a steady decline. His parents are distraught. His education is at the risk of being put on hold because tuition’s too expensive, impractical. Something they are no longer able to afford. Unwilling to give up, he tries to apply for an athletic scholarship in the hope of keeping the dream alive. He was in the high school badminton varsity team, after all. Might as well put his dormant skill to good use, right? He aces the first few matches, winning them in a breeze, and thinks that he’s got this scholarship in the bag already. Easy as pie.

Enter a talented player by the name of Wency David, and Lester lands the first missed service of his game.

Someone to Care by Jessica Larsen

After her parents die in an accident, Jennelle is passed around by her relatives. Hindi siya tumatagal ng isang taon sa piling ng mga kamag-anak bago siya itulak ng mga ito patungo sa iba. At fifteen, nalibot na yata niya lahat ng isla sa Pilipinas. Not that she cares, because she has learned from the moment she loses her parents that not getting too involved with anyone will keep her from getting hurt. Subalit nagbago ang lahat ng iyon nang makilala niya si Valentine, ang adopted son ng distant relative niya kung saan siya sunod na titira. Like her, Valentine has been orphaned at a young age, but unlike her, Valentine loves to keep everyone close—except her. And as if sharing a home wasn’t enough of a torture, they would also be attending the same school.

The Offside by KZ Riman

All I wanted was to move on to sophomore year. And, of course, to have Soccer God Mattheus Estevez back into my life, despite my brother’s incessant demands that I stopped dating jocks. What I didn’t count on, though, was to go through detention work with Geovanne Estevez, Mattheus’ identical twin brother, just so I’d realize both. And what I found baffling about it all was how Geovanne seemed to be putting a lot more effort into it than we had all bargained for, making this detention the best one yet.

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