More than just a pretty face

Pretty Face by Mary HoganPretty Face by Mary Hogan
Publisher: HarperTeen
Number of pages: 213
My copy: borrowed

That’s what I am. A funny girl. A friend. Nobody’s girlfriend. The girl with the pretty face.

Hayley wishes she could love living in Santa Monica, blocks from the beach, where every day—and everybody—is beautiful and sunny. But she just doesn’t fit in with all the blond, superskinny Southern California girls who have their plastic surgeons on speed dial. Hayley is smart and witty and has such a pretty . . . face. Translation: Don’t even think about putting on a bikini, much less dating superhot Drew Wyler. A bikini will never be flattering, and Drew will never think of her as more than a friend.

Just when Hayley feels doomed to live her life in the fat lane, her parents decide to send her to Italy for the summer—not for school, not for fat camp, just for fun. It’s there, under the Italian sun, that Hayley’s vision of herself starts to change. She’s curvy, not fat. Pizza isn’t evil. And life is so much more than one-size-fits-all. Who knows? Once Hayley sees herself in a new light, maybe the girl with the pretty face will finally find true amore.

* * *

I used to be fat. I won’t sugarcoat it: I was fat. I wasn’t obese, but I was about 40 lbs overweight. See for yourself:

I tried not to mind my being overweight, and try to follow those “love yourself” mantras to make me feel good about myself. No one exactly called me fat to my face, but people joked about it at times, and I often laughed it off. But I knew for myself that I wasn’t thin, and I hated shopping for clothes because I knew I would always have to ask for Large or Extra Large and not all the clothes I want look good on me. I didn’t hate myself for it, but I hated that I wasn’t doing anything about it, at least up until July 2009. That was when I joined the gym, paid a lot for my training fees, and finally started to lose weight properly, through diet, exercise and reading about health stuff (including how to reduce belly fat, which I am still struggling with).

The weight and self-esteem angle was one reason why I picked up Pretty Face. I always liked books that helped protagonists discover their true beauty, just like North of Beautiful. I thought Pretty Face would be like this, but I was kind of disappointed.

People always say Hayley had a pretty face, but it was all they tell her. Hayley knew she was fat, and it didn’t help that her mother kept on giving her grief about her weight after losing much of her own. It also didn’t help that she found out who her crush Drew Wyler really liked and it wasn’t her. After one bad day joining her mother at a weight-loss specialist (?) office, her parents told her that they’d be sending her to Italy for the summer to have some time off. In Italy, Hayley finds an entirely different lifestyle that she gets used to, and she finds herself loving food, herself and even finding a guy who loves her for who she is.

I really wanted to like this novel, but I ended up having too many issues with the story, and how Hayley’s insecurities were dealt with. Spoiler warning starts here.

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Sibling love and a little magic

Tall Story by Candy GourlayTall Story by Candy Gourlay
Cacho Publishing House, 233 pages

Andi is short. And she has lots of wishes. She wishes she could play on the school basketball team, she wishes for her own bedroom, but most of all she wishes that her long lost half brother, Bernardo, could come and live in London, where he belongs. Then Andi’s biggest wish comes true and she’s minutes away from becoming someone’s little sister. As she waits anxiously for Bernardo to arrive from the Philippines, she hopes he’ll turn out to be tall and just as mad as she is about basketball. When he finally arrives, he’s tall all right. But he’s not just tall …he’s a GIANT. In a novel packed with humour and quirkiness, Gourlay explores a touching sibling relationship and the clash of two very different cultures.

My brother doesn’t know this, but I consider him to be one of my best friends. He’s four years older than me, and like every other sibling pair, we used to have our share of screaming matches when we were kids. We only started having serious conversations as we grew up, thanks to the long rides from school to our house during college, when he’d pick me up. My relationship with him gave me a soft spot for stories about brothers and sisters, so it was no surprise that I couldn’t wait to read the recently released Tall Story by Candy Gourlay.

Tall Story chronicles the tale of half-siblings Bernardo and Andi, from the day they meet for the first time. Bernardo grew up in the Philippines under the care of his aunt and uncle, after his mom, a nurse, relocated to the United Kingdom to work. Bernardo grew up waiting for his papers to get approved by UK Immigration, so that he could live in London with his family. Andi is a small girl who loves basketball and barely knows her older brother, save for a few letters and phone calls. All that Andi knows is that her brother is tall, as her mom often stresses, and she wants him in London so they can play basketball together–but when he finally arrives, Andi is in for a shock. Bernardo is not just tall–he’s an eight-foot giant! As Bernardo and Andi get to know each other, Andi is pulled into Bernardo’s “magical” world and Bernardo learns how it feels to have a family.

If I could use one word to describe this novel, it would be “heartwarming.” I was thoroughly charmed by the entire book, and not just because it’s a brother-sister story. I knew I’d like Andi from her first line: Rush hour. So many armpits, so little deodorant. What Andi lacks in height, she makes up with ferocity and her can’t-miss basketball skills. Bernardo, on the other hand, is literally a gentle giant – he’s huge but not aggressive, sometimes rash and forgetful, but always bearing good intentions.  Bernardo and Andi’s voices are distinct, and they play very well off each other, giving readers a chance to understand and sympathize with both points of view. I ached for the two main characters to be friends, and rejoiced when they grew closer as the book went on. Click here to read the rest of the review.


2010 Challenge Status:
* Book # 60 out of 100 for 2010
* Book # 9 out of 20 for Project 20:10

My copy: Philippine edition paperback, Php 275 from Powerbooks

Cover image: Original photo of actual book I own
Blurb: Goodreads

Princess Sara

Do you remember this cartoon character from those morning cartoons in ABS-CBN?

In case you’re from an younger generation, the cartoon character is Sarah Crewe, from the 1985 Japanese anime produced by Nippon Animation, based on Frances Hodgson Burnett’s novel, A Little Princess (Wikipedia). This was shown in ABS-CBN in the 90’s, during 10:00am, and various movies have been made based on this series as well. This is undoubtedly one of my favorite cartoons, and it led me to search the novel and read it. I remember wishing so bad to be Princess Sarah, and having her beautiful room and her dolls and clothes, and even going through the same struggles, content in knowing that there is a brighter tomorrow in store for her.

I can’t remember the last time I read A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett, but I knew it’s been a long time since I did so. It’s one of the classics that I knew for sure I read multiple times and loved every single time I did. It wasn’t until lately that I felt the need to read it again, perhaps to cleanse my palate from all the intense reads I’ve had lately.

For those unfamiliar, A Little Princess is the story of Sara Crewe (no h in the book), the daughter of rich, doting father, Captain Crewe, who is sent to Miss Minchin’s Seminary for Girls to study. Miss Minchin secretly thinks that Sara is spoiled, despite her becoming the favorite pupil and classmate because of her intelligence and imagination. Sara befriends most of the students but becomes especially close to slow and pudgy Ermengarde, crybaby Lottie and scullery maid Becky. Other students call her Princess Sara after news of her father’s investment on diamond mines spread, and while this embarrasses her at first, Sara learns to use this to remind herself to be compassionate to others.

Sara’s lavish eleventh birthday party was abruptly put to a stop after the news of her father’s death, leaving her orphaned and penniless, after his father’s friend disappears with all their mone. Miss Minchin is forced to adopt her and she falls from being the show pupil to a drudge, helping Becky out in the kitchen and in various errands around the school. Sara makes use of her imagination, strength and compassion to get through the next three years as a servant, attempting to pretend her cold and hunger away, finding comfort from the few friends she had left, and doing her best to still act like a princess despite being a pauper.

Spoiler warning starts here.

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When Book Lovers Meet

That sounded like a title for a love story.

But it’s not. Okay, there were “lovers”, but not in the romantic sense. More like a group of people who love one thing, and would stay talking for almost nine hours just talking about that thing.

Wait, let me backtrack.

A few months ago, after I started posting more in this blog, I also started to posting in the Filipino groups in Goodreads. I have to admit that I only started posting because I saw Chachic was active, and I was curious with the local group. So I started posting. And posting. And posting.

Then I got an invite for the second meet up. I really wasn’t planning to attend because the venue wasn’t where I usually go to. But when I learned that the invites were for selected people only (and there was free lunch)…I can’t not go, right? So I said yes.

Fast forward to a few weeks later, after lots of excited posts in the Goodreads group, it was time for the meet up. I realized as I made my way to the far away restaurant that I have no idea who these people were, and I’m putting blind faith into the posts I read in Goodreads. I’d have to assume they’re nice people because there wouldn’t be a second meet-up if the first one wasn’t fun and they didn’t get along, right?

And besides, how violent can a group of book-lovers be?

Apparently, for this particular book, they can be pretty violent. ;)

Thirteen Days to Midnight by Patrick Carman

How many people were fighting for this book again?

But I’m getting ahead of myself again. They were really nice people, and I felt at home with them after just a few minutes of talk. They reminded me so much of my Wrimos, only with more passion for books than writing. I mean, the PinoyWrimos obviously love books, too, but whenever we meet, all we talk about are plots, word counts, novels, Chuck Norris and how bad Twilight is. With the Goodreads people (how do we call ourselves? Goodreaders?), there’s lots of book talk, and…well, discussions on how bad Twilight is. Heh.

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In My Mailbox (3)

And…it’s another week is with good stash! Strangely enough, my wallet isn’t screaming bloody murder at me for buying so many books this week — maybe it’s because I got some extra funds from my freelance work. It’s not enough to get myself custom laptops, but it’s enough to get new books! :) That, and I got myself a Fully Booked discount card, so yay!

In My Mailbox is a weekly book meme hosted by Kristi from The Story Siren, where bloggers post about what books received that week, be it via  mailbox, library or store. Here’s what I got this week:

The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness

Fleeing before a relentless army, Todd has carried a desperately wounded Viola right into the hands of their worst enemy, Mayor Prentiss. Immediately separated from Viola and imprisoned, Todd is forced to learn the ways of the Mayor’s new order. But what secrets are hiding just outside of town? And where is Viola? Is she even still alive? And who are the mysterious Answer? And then, one day, the bombs begin to explode…”The Ask and the Answer” is a tense, shocking and deeply moving novel of resistance under the most extreme pressure.

I wasn’t planning to buy any book this week, but Fully Booked sent me a message and told me my book is there…so I couldn’t just not get it. I also got my discount card that day, so I got another 5% off from the book. Awesomeness.

Audrey, Wait! by Robin BenwayAudrey, Wait! by Robin Benway

California high school student Audrey Cuttler dumps self-involved Evan, the lead singer of a little band called The Do-Gooders. Evan writes, “Audrey, Wait!,” a break-up song that’s so good it rockets up the billboard charts. And Audrey is suddenly famous!

Now rabid fans are invading her school. People is running articles about her arm-warmers. The lead singer of the Lolitas wants her as his muse. (And the Internet is documenting her every move!) Audrey can’t hang out with her best friend or get with her new crush without being mobbed by fans and paparazzi.

Take a wild ride with Audrey as she makes headlines, has outrageous amounts of fun, confronts her ex on MTV, and gets the chance to show the world who she really is.

The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey

These are the secrets I have kept. This is the trust I never betrayed.But he is dead now and has been for more than forty years, the one who gave me his trust, the one for whom I kept these secrets.

The one who saved me…and the one who cursed me.

So begins the journal of Will Henry, orphaned assistant to Dr. Pellinore Warthrop, a man with a most unusual specialty: monstrumology, the study of monsters. In his time with the doctor, Will has met many a mysterious late-night visitor, and seen things he never imagined were real. But when a grave robber comes calling in the middle of the night with a gruesome find, he brings with him their most deadly case yet.

Critically acclaimed author Rick Yancey has written a gothic tour de force that explores the darkest heart of man and monster and asks the question: When does a man become the very thing he hunts?

The day after I got my freelance pay, I had this weird urge to go to the bookstore. Okay, it’s not weird, but there’s the urge. I really just intended to browse, but then I saw Audrey, Wait! and I know there were good reviews for that, then I saw The Monstrumologist and remembered it was posted on the Fully Booked newsletter. Looked promising. I had to debate between that and The Demon’s Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan, but the cheaper book won.

Tall Story by Candy Gourlay

Andi is short. And she has lots of wishes. She wishes she could play on the school basketball team, she wishes for her own bedroom, but most of all she wishes that her long lost half brother, Bernardo, could come and live in London, where he belongs. Then Andi’s biggest wish comes true and she’s minutes away from becoming someone’s little sister. As she waits anxiously for Bernardo to arrive from the Philippines, she hopes he’ll turn out to be tall and just as mad as she is about basketball. When he finally arrives, he’s tall all right. But he’s not just tall …he’s a GIANT. In a novel packed with humour and quirkiness, Gourlay explores a touching sibling relationship and the clash of two very different cultures.

I found out about this one from Chachic and Tarie, and I was interested but I planned on waiting for it, but my editor asked me to review it. I got a copy of the book in Powerbooks Trinoma, after the Goodreads Filipino group meetup (will post about that later! :) ). I finished this one today and…well, expect a review, soon. :D

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

It’s just a small story really, about among other things: a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist-fighter, and quite a lot of thievery. . . .

Set during World War II in Germany, Markus Zusak’s groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a foster girl living outside of Munich. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement before he is marched to Dachau.

This is an unforgettable story about the ability of books to feed the soul.

And my last purchase for the week. Highly recommended by…well, everyone, actually, so I thought it’s about time I got myself a copy. Plus I liked the sample, and the idea that the book is narrated by Death. I also have a feeling I’m going to cry in this novel — maybe it’s because of the WWII references? This is my second WWII novel (first one being The Last Time I Saw Mother by Arlene Chai, but I’m not sure if that counts).

And that’s it for this week. I think I’m going to curb my book buying after this…okay, maybe after I finally get that copy of  The Demon’s Lexicon in Fully Booked Eastwood. After that, I promise to stop! :)