In My Mailbox (13): The First Weeks of January

It’s been a while since I did an In My Mailbox post, and it’s not because I went on a book buying ban, but because I was just too lazy to make a post about the stuff I got. I thought I’d be able to make it long into a the new year without buying new books, but alas. Who am I kidding?

So this is a consolidated post for the past three weeks of January, and maybe even some in December. If I can remember what I got back then, of course. :P

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.

BOUGHT:

  1. White Cat by Holly Black – I only got this because Chachic posted a positive review of the book, and see, I’m still easily swayed. It helps that I got the e-galley of the next book from Simon and Schuster, so when I saw this in Fully Booked, I knew I can’t let it go anymore. :P
  2. Some Girls Are by Courtney SummersHolly reviewed this early this week, and well, consider me sold. I love contemporary and I like reading about high school cliques (sans the scandals, of course), and this one got really good reviews. I’m so glad I spotted this one yesterday when we visited Fully Booked after the FBB/Flippers meet up. :)
  3. Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta – This was actually the first print book I purchased this year. I saw it in Fully Booked Eastwood and didn’t let it go, forgetting that there was a sale that weekend. Pfft. Ah well. :)

GRABBED:

Noli Me Tangere by Jose Rizal, translated by Soledad Lacson-Locsin. At yesterday’s Filipino Book Bloggers/Flips Flipping Pages meet up, someone had this translation of Noli Me Tangere up for book swap. I have been wanting to get my hands on a translated copy of this novel for a long time now, but I wasn’t sure which was the best translation. This one was what Blooey and the Flippers read last year, and is said to be a really good translation. I got it and no one stole it from me, so…yay. Finally!

Now a little backgrounder: Noli Me Tangere is written by the Philippines’ National Hero, Dr. Jose Rizal. This is a required reading in high school, but I never really read the novel in its entirety because our copy in high school was the summarized version (no, it’s not abridged, if you’re thinking that’s the term — it was actual chapter summaries that we had to summarize for another report. Hmph). I figure in my life as a reader, I must read this novel at least once in my life. So yay.

The bookmark is one of the giveaways for the Flippers meet-up. :)

GIFTED/BORROWED:

  1. Captivating by John and Stasi Elredge – this is a Christmas gift from my friend RE. I’ve read this one in college and it was one of those good books for women that I really liked. My mom has my other copy of this and I don’t even know where it is right now. Haha. I don’t know if I will read this anytime soon, but it’s nice to know I have another copy here to refer to when I need it. :)
  2. Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis – this is lent to me by RE, too, and this is the best C.S. Lewis work according to him. This is only a lending copy though. Heh. I have a feeling I’ll like this one, too, and I’ve reserved it for February reading already. Now to find a copy of this one. Hmm.

WON:

Being Jamie Baker by Kelly Oram. I’ve seen this book from Kai‘s blog, and I added it on my wish list for the sheer pink-ness of it. :P I followed the author on Twitter, then on Facebook for her contest and even exchanged tweets with her during NaNoWriMo. I never expected to win because I’m not really lucky with winning, but lo and behold: I was her second winner! :) Thanks, Kelly!

This kind of took its sweet time to arrive at home, and I thought it would be lost in the mail forever, but good thing it arrived just before 2010 ended. :) I love how pink the book really is. :D The book is signed, too:

EBOOKS:

I got too many ebooks since December. Talk about crazy buying binge? Sort of. :P I also got a ton of e-galleys from Simon and Schuster’s Galley Grab. :D

Bought:

  • Miss Match and Match Point by Erynn Mangum
  • Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John – loved this!
  • Flipped by Wendelin Van Draanen – my physical copy is with some friend, so I splurged on an ebook.
  • Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro – loved this, too! Review coming up soon
  • Infinity by Sarah Dessen

For Review:

  • Save as Draft by Cavanaugh Lee
  • Ten Miles Past Normal by Frances O’Roark Dowell
  • Kat, Incorrigible by Stephanie Burgis
  • Red Glove by Holly Black
  • Stay by Deb Caletti
  • Invincible Summer by Hannah Moskowitz

There is probably more, but I forgot about them.

I know I said I won’t be stressing over my TBR, but I really think I should get to reading the other books that are starting to pile up in the apartment, the ones I acquired before 2010 ended. I really should work on that. I should.

Yeah, I always say that. :P I bet most of you guys do too. :P

Want Books: The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde


Want Books? is a weekly meme hosted at Chachic’s Book Nook and features released books that you want but you can’t have for some reason. It can be because it’s not available in your country, in your library or you don’t have the money for it right now.

It’s been a while since I did a Want Books post. I wonder if making posts like this helps in actually finding books that are hard to find here? Or do they somehow get to the people who work in bookstores and make them get the books we want and stock it in their stores? I know it helps me get the books, because somehow I find myself deciding to get the book on my own soon after. I know making posts like these makes other people’s wish lists bigger, too. Hmm…I wonder who else gets influenced?

Anyway, I’m rambling. I thought of posting this book here because it’s been released since November and I still can’t find a copy. RAWR.

The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper FfordeThe Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde

In the good old days, magic was powerful, unregulated by government, and even the largest spell could be woven without filling in the magic release form B1-7g. But somewhere, somehow, the magic started draining away.

Jennifer Strange runs Kazam!, an employment agency for state-registered magicians, soothsayers and sorceresses. But work is drying up. Drain cleaner is cheaper and quicker than a spell. Why trust a cold and drafty magic carpet when jetliners offer a comfy seat and an in-flight movie? And now potions are eligible for VAT…

But then the visions start. The Last Dragon is going to be killed by a Dragonslayer at 12.00 on Sunday. The death will unleash untold devastation on the UnUnited Kingdom, setting principality against dukedom and property developer against homesteader. And all the signs are pointing to Jennifer Strange, and saying”Big Magic is coming!”

The Last Dragonslayer is fizzing with all the creativity and genius Jasper Fforde’s fans delight in, and will appeal as much to the young at heart as to the younger readers for whom it is written.

Two words: Jasper Fforde. The synopsis just sounds so Fforde and so awesome!

I remember asking Fully Booked about this when I found about its release and they said stocks should come in by Christmas…but I haven’t seen a copy of this until now. I also remember rewarding myself with a Kindle sample of this and there were many times when I was thinking of just getting the Kindle version first because it’s Jasper Fforde anyway. However, when I went back to purchase a copy…alas! It was pulled from the US store, since it’s not yet released in the US (I think). Sadness.

I’m thisclose to putting an order for this from Book Depository but I’m holding off because (1) I really want to know how much it would be if/when Fully Booked has stocks and sometimes their price is lower and (2) I’m really not in a hurry to read it anyway.

That, and my birthday is coming up. Hint hint. ;)

On another note, another Fforde book is coming out this year — the next installment of his Thursday Next series. It looks like 2011 will be a Fforde year, yes? :) Brilliant.

Infinity

Infinity by Sarah Dessen
(A Pocket Money Puffin)
ePenguin, 33 pages

Ever felt as if your life is just going round in circles? Sarah Dessen’s thought-provoking short story about moving on will resonate with teens everywhere.

Soon after Sarah Dessen posted the first chapter of her new book up on her blog, I was craving for more Dessen. It’s no secret that I’m a huge, huge Dessen fan, so as I was thinking of picking up one of her books for a reread, I saw Infinity on the Amazon Kindle store. What is this, a Dessen book that I haven’t read? Gasp! I immediately clicked on “Buy with 1-click”, not minding the price. I couldn’t wait to read it.

It turns out, Infinity is a very short story about an unnamed girl who faces two rites of passage in her life: first is driving, where she has to learn how to go through the major roundabout road in town that her mother is afraid of causing her to make all kinds of “shortcuts” around town just to avoid that part of the road. Second is whether or not she would have sex with her boyfriend for six months, Anthony.

The beautiful thing about Sarah Dessen’s works are how introspective they are. She writes in a way that really sounds like what a teenager would think without making it sound too juvenile for those reading it who are way past their teens. As with her other books, the heroine in Infinity has a strong voice that makes you feel like you were the character, or if not, the character is telling you these things in confidence. The symbolism of the roundabout and the choices that the heroine has to make may seem a bit cliche, but I thought it was beautifully executed. All dots were connected smoothly, forming a story that was already satisfying in its 33 pages.

On a personal note, I love the driving reference in this book. One of my 2011 goals is to finally drive on my own. Infinity didn’t really give me tips on how to drive (and trust me, driving in Manila is scary :P), but I found comfort in the words of the unnamed heroine as she said these words:

Even though I’d only been driving for a couple of weeks it already felt more natural. Things that before I’d had to think consciously, like switching gears and working the clutch, now happened automatically as if that part of my mind was handling it, making those decisions for me.

And I liked how that particular part was connected to decisions in real life, too. :P

I think my only gripe for this book, along with others who bought it, is its price. The book is composed of the short story, Infinity, and excerpts from Just Listen and That Summer. While I don’t mind buying an ebook of one of my favorite authors, I felt that $4 is a bit too much for the short story, even if excerpts of the other books were included, especially since I already own and read her other books. However, if you’re new to Sarah Dessen and you want to try something without the pressure of having to read an entire novel, Infinity is the perfect book to get your feet wet. :)

Rating:

My copy: ebook from Amazon Kindle store

Cover: Goodreads
Blurb: Amazon.com

Other reviews:
Goodreads

The Reread Factor

One of the things I learned about myself and my reading habits in the past year is how critical I’ve become when it comes to books. I used to be very easy to please when it comes to books. When I started my book blog, I hardly rated anything below two stars, and I always feel guilty when I give books low ratings. Now the first month of 2011 is barely over and I’ve already decided not to finish a book and gave my first negative review for the year.

This brings me to something I’ve been thinking about for a while now. You know how sometimes you love a book so much on the first read that you’ve elevated it on your most favorite books list? Then a few years later, you decide to pick the novel up again and reread it, and you realize that it wasn’t as good as it was when you first read it. Has that ever happened to you?

I named a lot of books as my favorites last year, but their reread factor kind of worries me. I wonder if I would still love them again if I reread them a few years later? Some of the books that are my absolute favorites have that re-read factor. They’re the ones I consider as timeless books, the ones I know I will re-read every now and then and emerge loving it still. For the others…I’m not quite sure yet. In a way, I’m afraid to reread some of them because I’m afraid to lose my love for them. I know I will never know until I do so, but I guess I don’t want to lose my initial enchantment over them. Is that weird? Maybe it’s a sign of growing up?

Some books that has passed the reread test for me, off the top of my head, are: This Present Darkness and Piercing the Darkness by Frank Peretti, The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen, Fairy Tale Fail and My Imaginary Ex by Mina Esguerra, Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli, Flipped by Wendelin Van Draanen, The Hunger Games and Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins, Invisible Lissa by Natalie Honeycutt and A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett (this is a classic, so I think this shouldn’t count?).

What about you? What books have you reread and still loved? Do you have any books that you ended up not liking on a second read?

Havah: The Story of Eve

Havah: The Story of Eve by Tosca Lee
Publisher: B&H Publishing Group
Number of pages: 354
My copy: paperback, ordered from Amazon

A single decision has the power to unravel mankind.

Created, not born.

The world’s first woman, without flaw, until one fateful choice. Now all humanity must pay for the mistake.

From paradise to exile, from immortality to the death of Adam, experience the dawn of mankind through the eyes of Eve — the woman first known as Havah.

* * *

I have had Tosca’s book on my TBR shelf since 2009, and I meant to read it soon after I finished reading her other novel, Demon: A Memoir. Somehow, this book got pushed farther and farther down Mt. TBR until I almost forgot about having it. It wasn’t until I was thinking of a good book to start 2011 with that I remembered having this one, so I dug it up from my books, and cracked the book open again come 1st of January.

Around October last year, some of my Goodreads friends started a year-long reading challenge to read the Bible in its entirety. I have tried reading the Bible from cover to cover back in college but I failed miserably when I got to Chronicles. When I heard of the challenge in the group, the challenge addict in me jumped in, choosing to read The Message translation of the Bible for easier reading. The thing with reading the Bible is it’s so easy to be disenchanted with the stories there, especially if you’ve heard the stories in it over and over, particularly in Genesis. What else there is to read about Adam and Eve anyway? They were created, they lived in God’s presence, then Eve got tempted and got Adam in with her. They were banished from the garden, they had kids, and then the world started with them. Not that interesting, right?

They say familiarity breeds contempt, and I guess that has happened to me in the case of Genesis. Tosca Lee breathes life into the story of creation, particularly with the first woman ever created in Havah.

I have seen paradise and ruin. I have known bliss and terror.

I have walked with God.

And I know that God made the hart the most fragile and resilient of organs, that a lifetime of joy and pain might be encased in one moral chamber.

So it starts. I fell in love with Tosca Lee’s writing with Demon, and I knew Havah is going to be just as beautifully written as the former, if not more. This retelling of Eve from the moment of her creation to their fall to their exile and her mortal life was told in Eve’s point of view, making the novel feel more personal compared to Demon.

I am not an expert in theology so I can’t say how accurate this was or if Tosca missed addressing something in this novel. However, I can say that reading Havah became more than just leisurely reading but almost a personal journey. Eve, christened as Havah by the adam because she “…will live, and all who live will come from [her], and [she] will give birth to hope.” (p. 102), spoke to my heart as she told her story. I guess it’s because she’s a woman, and I sympathized with her struggles and her woes. How I could I not? In a sense, I was also Havah — I sinned against God so many times that I know I am so far away from Him, but I crave for His presence just as Havah sought Him, too. It was that brokenness that got to me the most. I do not blame her for her act of disobedience and in the fall, because as she said quite eloquently, “If not for our transgression, we would not know redemption.” (p. 349) In a sense, Havah really embodied how it is to be a human in this broken world: a constant struggle to find God in our surroundings, in the people and in life, pressing on even if sometimes He seems empty and silent.

Since this was told in her point of view, this will seem like a female-biased novel, but I think (and hope!) that guys will still be able to find themselves in this novel, too. It’s hard to describe this novel in its entirety because there is so much beauty and pain and love in this book.

It took me a while to finish reading this, but I know I made the right choice in starting 2011 with this novel. This is still fiction, of course, and this does not replace the parts written in Genesis, but it definitely helped me understand that part of the Bible more. I had no doubt that this would be a good book after enjoying Tosca’s first novel, but Havah just totally blew my mind and heart away. And if you decide to pick this one up, I hope it does the same for you too. :)

How mighty, how great the One must be, I thought, to send the heavens careening, and yet hear the cry of a single heart. (p. 28)

Rating:

2011 Challenge Status:
1 of 20 in TwentyEleven Challenge (To YA or Not to YA)

Book trailer:

YouTube Preview Image

You can also watch Tosca talk about Havah in this video.

Other reviews:
Emily is Smiling
My Only Vice
Christian Fiction Review