Between Here and Forever

Between Here and Forever by Elizabeth ScottBetween Here and Forever by Elizabeth Scott
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Number of pages: 256
My copy: ebook from Galley Grab

Abby accepted that she can’t measure up to her beautiful, magnetic sister Tess a long time ago, and knows exactly what she is: Second best. Invisible.

Until the accident.

Now Tess is in a coma, and Abby’s life is on hold. It may have been hard living with Tess, but it’s nothing compared to living without her.

She’s got a plan to bring Tess back though, involving the gorgeous and mysterious Eli, but then Abby learns something about Tess, something that was always there, but that she’d never seen.

Abby is about to find out that truth isn’t always what you think it is, and that life holds more than she ever thought it could…

* * *

Totally honest moment? This is one book I judged by its cover — the sunflower on the cover called me the moment I laid my eyes on it. I squee over anything with sunflowers and stars (if it’s not obvious with my header image), so the giant sunflower on this cover is a big plus on me. I’m just not sure where this really fits in the story, though.

Between Here and Forever is a story of sisters and family. Abby has always lived under the shadow of her popular sister, Tess. Everyone loves Tess, and Abby never felt like she could measure up to her. So she lives in that way — always putting her sister first, always saying Tess is better, Tess deserves more, even after Tess gets into an accident that puts her in a coma. On a mission to bring back Tess, Abby involves Eli, the mysterious guy she meets in the hospital who visits Tess, the only guy who isn’t wearing nursing scrubs. But as Abby tries her hardest to bring Tess back, she finds out things that she never knew about her sister, the truth that she never even thought was possible for her beautiful sister.

Elizabeth Scott is kind of a hit-or-miss author for me. I really liked Stealing Heaven and Grace, but Perfect You and Bloom were just so-so for me. Unfortunately, Between Here and Forever fell in the “miss” category. It’s not that the story or the writing is bad — I just had a hard time relating to the characters or the story. I did think the characters were all fleshed out, especially Abby. I felt bad at how low her self-esteem was after living in the shadow of her sister, and I felt happy for her when she’s finally standing up for herself. And even in a coma, Tess’ presence was palpable in the entire story – which is the way is should be since the story is all about her too.

But maybe that’s why I had a hard time connecting with this. I only have an older brother, and I never really had close girl cousins that I could almost consider as sister. While I did have some inferiority issues back in high school with some close girl friends, it was never in the way that Abby was with Tess. Maybe it was just that, the lack of common ground that made me a bit distant with this novel.

So if you’ve read this and you have a sister — tell me, did this book feel more real to you? I’d like to know. But even if I didn’t like Elizabeth Scott’s newest release, I’m still going to read her other books. She’s one YA author who has grown on me. :) Did you see her next book? Not only is the cover curious, but the premise sounds very interesting, too.

Thanks to Simon & Schuster Galley Grab for the e-galley of this book. Now where can I find a sunflower that big without going to Baguio again?

Rating:

Other reviews:
Good Books and Good Wine
Lauren’s Crammed Bookshelf

The Queen of Attolia

Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen TurnerThe Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner
The Queen’s Thief # 2
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Number of pages: 362
My copy: paperback, bought from Fully Booked

Revenge
When Eugenides (yoo-JEN-ə-deez), the Thief of Eddis, stole Hamiathes’s Gift, the Queen of Attolia lost more than a mythical relic. She lost face. Everyone knew that Eugenides had outwitted and escaped her. To restore her reputation and reassert her power, the Queen of Attolia will go to any length and accept any help that is offered…she will risk her country to execute the perfect revenge.
…but
Eugenides can steal anything. And he taunts the Queen of Attolia, moving through her strongholds seemingly at will. So Attolia waits, secure in the knowledge that the Thief will slip, that he will haunt her palace one too many times.
…at what price?
When Eugenides finds his small mountain country at war with Attolia, he must steal a man, he must steal a queen, he must steal peace. But his greatest triumph, and his greatest loss, comes in capturing something that the Queen of Attolia thought she had sacrificed long ago…

* * *

They told me the real fun in The Queen’s Thief series starts with the second book. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I opened my copy of The Queen of Attolia, except that it’s not told in Eugenides’ point of view anymore. I was ready for that, but I wasn’t ready for the changes coming to Gen and the kingdoms he moves in.

Spoiler warning for The Thief from this point onward.

At the end of the first book, we find out that Eugenides is not just a simple thief, but the Thief of Eddis. After stealing Hamiathes’ Gift under the Queen of Attolia’s nose and escaping her clutches, the Queen was out for his blood. It didn’t help that Eugenides kept on taunting her by sneaking into her palace. When Eugenides is finally caught, the Queen carries out her revenge which starts a series of events that would change the kingdoms of Attolia, Eddis and Sounis.

I thought I would miss Eugenides’ voice here since he’s not the narrator anymore, but I was wrong. Eugenides was still as snarky, stubborn and cocky as ever, but he also starts growing up in this novel. I couldn’t blame him after what he goes through in the first part of the novel. Then I appreciated the third person switching point of views because it made me understand the story more. It was interesting to be inside the Queens of Eddis and Attolia’s minds in addition to Eugenides’. It shows how good Megan Whalen Turner’s world and character building is.

The Queen of Attolia is really one part fantasy and two parts political intrigue. The magical aspect doesn’t really show up until some time around the end. There were more talks of war and politics between queens and kingdoms, almost akin to how the latter part of the story was in Fire by Kristin Cashore. This makes the story unfurl a bit slowly just like how the previous book was, but I think the highlight of the book isn’t really the plot but the character development, specifically Eugenides’. His transition from the cocky young thief to a beaten-up, almost despairing and darker one was interesting and sometimes heartbreaking to read. I lost the number of times I found myself saying “Oh Gen!” — in amusement or sadness or both — as I read this book. I definitely loved the thief more in this book.

Oh, and I must not forget the most surprising part of this book: the romance. I knew there was a romance, but even if I was expecting it, it still took me by surprise. I was hoping for a specific pairing up to happen, but it didn’t. I had a hard time coming to terms with it after the reveal has happened at first, but the author gave me enough time to get used to it and accept it before the book ended. And while it hasn’t really convinced me to believe that just yet, I was curious to how it would be tackled in the next book.

The Queen of Attolia is a pleasure to read. It may be slow, but the gradual unfurling of the plot makes it such a yummy read. It’s a very good follow up to The Thief, and by the time you’re done reading this, you’ll be so invested in Eugenides and his world that you just can’t not pick up the next book right after. :)

Rating:

2011 Challenge Status:
Required Reading – May

Other reviews:
Janicu’s Book Blog
Book Harbinger
Angieville

Reviews for other Queen’s Thief books:
#1 The Thief

Want Books: The Lover’s Dictionary by David Levithan

 


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 long time since I did a Want Books post because most of the books I want (particularly the 2011 releases I’ve been waiting for) were pre-ordered in my Kindle, so in some sense, I already have it. The other books were spur-of-the-moment buys, or at least planned buys after I didn’t buy books for all of Lent.

That, and I’m really trying to avoid buying too many books when I still have so much to read (don’t we all?).

So this book has been on my radar for a long time now, but I almost forgot about it until I saw it in Fully Booked‘s weekly e-zine. Which meant, the book is already available here.

The Lover's Dictionary by David LevithanThe Lover’s Dictionary by David Levithan

A sweet and touching modern love story, told through dictionary entries.

basis, n.
There has to be a moment at the beginning when you wonder whether you’re in love with the person or in love with the feeling of love itself.

If the moment doesn’t pass, that’s it—you’re done. And if the moment does pass, it never goes that far. It stands in the distance, ready for whenever you want it back. Sometimes it’s even there when you thought you were searching for something else, like an escape route, or your lover’s face.

How does one talk about love? Do we even have the right words to describe something that can be both utterly mundane and completely transcendent, pulling us out of our everyday lives and making us feel a part of something greater than ourselves? Taking a unique approach to this problem, the nameless narrator of David Levithan’s The Lover’s Dictionary has constructed the story of his relationship as a dictionary. Through these short entries, he provides an intimate window into the great events and quotidian trifles of being within a couple, giving us an indelible and deeply moving portrait of love in our time.

I read the Kindle sample of this book and I was drawn in by how it was written. When I heard the story of how he wrote it from the Amazon.com exclusive Q&A, I was sold:

Two years ago, I hit February 1st and I hadn’t started writing my Valentine’s Day story. I had a few ideas, but none were kicking in. I sat down at my desk to thing something up, and right by an elbow was a book I’d recently recovered from my parents’ basement–a book of “words you need to know” that I’d been given as a gift (probably for my high school graduation). I thought it might be interesting to take random words from that book, in alphabetical order, and tell the story of a relationship through those words, in dictionary form. I didn’t plan any of it out–I let the words tell the story. And two weeks later, I had the story version of The Lover’s Dictionary.

How creative is that? This feels like just the kind of book I’d read. I also love the Lover’s Dictionary twitter, where the tweets aren’t really from the book but based from it. I think this is one book that is fit for people who love words. :)

It’s kind of a good thing I didn’t find a copy of this last night while perusing the shelves of Fully Booked. Heh. As much as I want this, I don’t think I’ll be able to read it immediately. Maybe someday…preferably during a sale. Or, I could just order it from Book Depository, since it’s cheaper there. :D

What Happened to Goodbye

What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah DessenWhat Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen
Publisher: Penguin Young Readers
Number of pages:  416
My copy: ebook from Amazon Kindle Store

Another town. Another school. Another Mclean. Ever since her parents’ bitter divorce, Mclean and her father have been fleeing their unhappy past. And Mclean’s become a pro at reinventing herself with each move. But in Lakeview, Mclean finds herself putting down roots and making friends—in part, thanks to Dave, the most real person Mclean’s ever met. Dave just may be falling in love with her, but can he see the person she really is? Does Mclean herself know?

* * *

Sarah Dessen is a comfort read. I learned to love the YA genre through her books, and even if I’ve read other good contemporary YA novels (hello John Green and Melina Marchetta), Sarah Dessen remains as the queen of my YA-novel loving heart. So there was really no question that I’d get her newest book, What Happened to Goodbye, in the blink of an eye. In fact, this is probably the most expensive ebook that I’ve purchased so far (it’s $1 more expensive than the usual ebook price).

Mclean Sweet lived a normal life, until her mother fell in love with the coach of the basketball team that her father loved. After a messy divorce, Mclean joins her dad with his traveling job, jumping from one town to another to improve or close some restaurants. Tired of her old personality, Mclean takes on a different persona and a name for every town she lives in — from a cheerleader, a theater geek to an all around girl, she does it all and disappears without a trace when they need to move. Mclean is prepared to do the same thing when she moves to Lakeview with her dad. That is, until she finds herself not only using her real name, but acting like herself.

Reading a Dessen novel for me is like coming home after a long day’s work and snuggling on my favorite chair with a good, comforting drink. It was so easy to immerse myself in Lakeview, and after reading all her other books, it almost feels like I’m coming home. That’s what reading What Happened to Goodbye feels like, especially for someone who’s loved and read all Sarah Dessen books like me — coming home after a long trip or adventure to faraway lands and finding comfort in all things old and new.

Although, as far as other Sarah Dessen novels are concerned, this book isn’t really all that. While it didn’t really annoy me, there were some things that kind of niggled at me and made this novel less “OMG AWESOME”. For one thing, the premise of this book reminds me of Stealing Heaven by Elizabeth Scott, with the town-jumping and the new personalities but sans the stealing. I think this may be what made it a bit hard for me to accept that Mclean could change personalities like that. I can’t help but think that her dad is a fugitive somewhere and he needs to escape, but he has a good job here, and he obviously cares for his daughter a lot. I just can’t figure out why he just runs off without saying goodbye to people — it’s not like he’s running away from not paying check city payday loans, you know? It seemed a little bit weak for me.

I also echo what other people say about the “swoon” (or “sa-woon”, LOL) in this book — it’s almost non-existent. Not completely, because the build-up between Mclean and Dave is agonizingly slow, and there aren’t much swoon-worthy moments here unlike the ones between Macy and Wes or Remy and Dexter. I understand how some people would be disappointed with that, and I am a little bit disappointed. Just a little, because I actually liked it. Sometimes the agonizingly slow stuff makes for good stories in the end, you know?

But on a more positive note, Sarah Dessen still knows her characters, especially the secondary ones! I loved the staff at Luna Blu, and Mclean’s friends, especially Deb! I also loved that giant Easter Egg there. A part of me wishes that Sarah Dessen would write an entire novel about that guy because he’s been in too many of her novels, and I think he deserves his own story. :D I loved Deb, too, but I think my favorite secondary character for What Happened to Goodbye is Opal, the restaurant owner. I spotted the development with her a mile away, but it was a satisfying reveal. :)

What Happened to Goodbye may not be a favorite Dessen, but I think it’s another solid release. As a longtime Dessen fan, I really enjoyed reading this one. However, if you’re new to Dessen, I’d suggest you pick up her older titles, especially The Truth About Forever, This Lullaby, and Just Listen to be introduced to her contemporary YA writing prowess. :)

So what’s next for Dessen? I truly hope she decides to write a book with a male lead this time, just like John Green is writing a book with a female lead. I think it’s high time we read a story of a Dessen boy from his point of view, right?

Rating:

Other reviews:
Forever Young Adult

Steph Su Reads

inkcrush

Armchair BEA 2011: Nurturing and Blogging

Armchair BEASo last night and early this morning, I was able to join my first Twitter party, and what do you know, it made me stay an extra hour at work, and it made me wake up earlier the next day to attend the second Twitter party. I would not have done all that if it weren’t for Armchair BEA.

When I started my blog, I was pretty much of a lurker. I used to keep to myself and only read specific blogs and hardly leave comments, because it’s never really been a habit of mine, back even when I had my personal blog. It’s a strange thing, especially since I’ve been blogging for years, and the fact that very talkative in real life. :P

I think I tend to lurk because of two things: I’m not really someone who ask questions, and I kind of suck at keeping in touch with people that I hardly see in real life. I’m trying to work on those two things, and it extends to the book blogging world, too.

I guess for me, that’s how I’d nurture my relationships with other book bloggers. You just can’t take and take and wait and wait for people to come to you. You’d need to be able to reach out, too — you know, reply to comments, visit other people’s blogs, converse in Twitter, join in online events like Armchair BEA. I mean, what can you lose, right? As long as you’re respectful, I don’t think there’d be any problems. :)

And if there are online gatherings, offline, face to face gatherings are the just thing to seal the deal in nurturing relationships. I’ve always enjoyed the Filipino Book Bloggers meet-ups because it’s not often I get to talk to like-minded people. I found that book bloggers are a very nice and friendly bunch, whether online or offline. :)

First Filipino Book Bloggers Meet-Up

Like I said, what’s to lose? Who knows, these blogging friends could be not just that but true friends, people who you can talk to even if it’s not about books (like movies, make-up, and sometimes even english horse tacks, no matter how strange it sounds). :) I know I found some of those because of my blog, and I’m excited to find more. :)

* * *

Now, let’s go to blogging. I won’t ramble too much here now because I rambled above. :P In my almost 10 years (gasp!) of blogging, here are some things I learned and try to live/blog by:

  • Be respectful. Respect goes a long, long way. Remember, the blogs you read are run by people, too, and everyone deserves respect.
  • Unless you blog for a living, don’t be pressured to blog. Remember why you started your blog for the first time — because it’s fun. If you feel like burning out, take a break.
  • Readable fonts. Nice, clean layout. It makes people want to visit your blog more.
  • Content is king. Memes are fun, but don’t make a blog just full of memes. When writing reviews, don’t just write raves or rants without saying why you’re raving or ranting. Personally speaking, I like going back to a book blog when it contains good content, and I can rely on the blogger to have a review that I would like to read. Content is what makes people come back to a blog. :)
  • But speaking of content: never steal content. Always give credit where it’s due. Always.
  • Don’t make it hard for the people to subscribe or comment. Personally, if there are too many word verification thingamajigs, I skip commenting.
  • Interact! Don’t lurk! Trust me — it’s fun to de-lurk and say hi to people. :)
  • Finally, don’t be afraid to be honest. I admire bloggers who write what they think, even if their opinion is a minority. I think being honest in a review is the best thing a book blogger can give to the community and maybe even to the industry. Honesty with a lot of tact is very valuable in a place where opinions are given in every post. :)

So it’s been a fun week. :) This has definitely refreshed my book blogging mojo. I look forward to visiting and checking out the new blogs that I’m following, as well as interacting with the new-found friends I met from the entire week and yesterday’s Twitter party. I’m proud to be a part of this great community. :) Thanks so much to the organizers of Armchair BEA — you guys are more than awesome! Till the next!