2013 Book Report

So another year ends, and time for some numbers! How was my 2013 in terms of reading?

Image from we heart it

Image from we heart it

Total books read: 78 + 2 Animorphs reread
Total pages read:
19,298*
Total print books: 46
Total ebooks:
34
Total audiobooks: 0
Total rereads: 5
* Includes 82 pages from History in English Words

Written by male authors: 24
Written by female authors: 56

Reviews written: 54

Ratings:
5 stars – 13
4 stars – 41
3 stars – 23
2 stars – 1
1 star – 0
Did not Finish – 0

2013 Challenges Status:
4 out of 4 books for Chubby Chunkster Challange
1 out of 5 classics for 2013
24 out of 20 books for 20 Filipino Books
27 books for Required Reading

Well, 2013 is definitely lower than 2012, or 2011, I have to say. Life was a little bit busier this year, and again, I seem to have started reading a lot slower now (except maybe for the past few days, but that’s because I’m on vacation). I don’t really mind, because I think I’ve gone past the point that I need to read, read, read so many books in a year just to feel accomplished. I liked that I hardly had low-rated books this year, though — I guess it means I’m learning to choose only the books I would surely like…or I’m just lucky that I read the books I ended up liking.

I read a lot ebooks this year, much thanks to Hannah the Kindle. However, that meant my print TBR pile didn’t budge, and I want to tackle that next year. I love my Kindle, but I do miss reading print books, feeling paper and yeah, dog-earing them, too.

There were many, many bookish events this year but I hardly documented them here…because…well, life. And perhaps I am feeling just a little burned out with book blogging, and I’m sure it’s obvious because I hardly reviewed books compared to last year. I mean, I wrote a lot of them, still, but for the latter part of the year, I was just reading and not reviewing. I gave the blog a new look and a new name, but still, I didn’t review a lot. I still think it’s because of life, and other things, really, but let’s see where this goes. (Don’t worry, I’m not going anywhere. Not yet. :D)

But overall, despite life and all other things that happened in 2013, I still think it’s a pretty good reading year. And there’s just more books to read and maybe review in the next year. Right? :)

I leave you now with my best books of 2013, with some honorable mentions. :D

Honorable mentions:

Happy end of 2013, everyone. :)

Cold Tangerines: Celebrating the Extraordinary Nature of Everyday Life

Cold Tangerines: Celebrating the Extraordinary Nature of Everyday Life  by Shauna NiequistCold Tangerines: Celebrating the Extraordinary Nature of Everyday Life by Shauna Niequist
Publisher: Zondervan
Number of pages: 238
My copy: Kindle edition

Cold Tangerines is a collection of stories that celebrate the extraordinary moments hidden in our everyday lives. It is about God, and about life, and about the thousands of daily ways in which an awareness of God changes and infuses everything. It is about spiritual life, and about all the things that we have called nonspiritual life that might be spiritual after all. It is the snapshots of a young woman making peace with herself and her life, and trying to craft a life that captures the energy and exuberance we long for in the midst of the fear and regret and envy we all carry with us. It is both a voice of challenge and song of comfort, calling us upward to the best possible life, and giving us room to breathe, to rest, to break down and break through. Cold Tangerines offers bright and varied glimpses of hope and redemption, in and among the heartbreak and boredom and broken glass.

* * *

I was shopping for a Christmas present for my mom in Body Shop when I saw that they have new stocks of my favorite body butter scent, tangerine. That scent became my favorite by accident years ago, when I went there to claim my Love Your Body membership birthday gift, and they gave me a small bottle of their tangerine-scented lotion and body wash. I used it for the gym and loved it, and eventually bought more until I got broke and realized that my daily bath stuff are too expensive. So while I was there, buying a Christmas present for my mom, I decided to get a tub of the tangerine body butter, since it’s on sale anyway. Plus, the scent just really cheers me up.

I’d like to believe that the moment I had with that body butter was something that Shauna Niequist was pointing at in her first book, Cold Tangerines. The subtitle alone is an indication of it: Celebrating the extraordinary nature of everyday life. Plus the fact that what I bought was a tangerine scented body butter, it kinda fits the entire thing, right?

Anyway. I loved the first Shauna Niequist book I read, Bittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace, and Learning the Hard Way, so when I saw that her two other books were on sale on Kindle on early December morning, I immediately bought it. I was a little afraid that her books might be those one-hit thing, meaning I won’t really like the others I read because I won’t be able to relate to it, but I shouldn’t have feared anything with her first book because it was exactly what Bittersweet was for me when I first read it: it came at the right time in my life.

Cold Tangerines is exactly about what it says: celebrating the extraordinary nature of everyday life. Here, Shauna Niequist talks about the many little ways that God shows Himself in life, how the natural becomes spiritual, and how the physical things we see and we do are all connected to how we are nourished spiritually. There’s food, friendship, writing, traveling. There’s body issues, vacations, heartbreak, family. Shauna shared stories of her personal life, much like how she also did in Bittersweet, and then points the reader to God, and His faithfulness and His wonder in the ordinary life that she had.

Which means, we too, can see this, the extraordinary in our everyday life. I loved how easy it was to relate to her stories in this book, and whatever stage of life I was in, I would be able to find wisdom and advice in this book. Shauna’s honesty shone in this book, and when I read the part about how hard it was for her to write in this book, I realized how much she must have struggled to put these words on paper. But that struggle was a blessing, at least for me, because I know that struggle, too. I feel that every time I write a post for my personal blog, wrestling with the words in hopes of them being used for something. And then there’s the forgiveness chapter, one of my favorites, which really and truly came at the right time because I was struggling to forgive and ask for forgiveness from someone as well. Like Bittersweet, I think I highlighted almost half of the book — there were just so many quotes to keep — the ones I added below are just a glimpse of it, really.

I don’t plan on using my tangerine-scented body butter everyday because I don’t want to run out of it too fast. But I do take the time to smell it everyday, in a way to remind me that I can choose to see my life as sweet and happy, because it really is. And that is what Shauna Niequist’s Cold Tangerines is — a reminder that there is something super in our natural life. Cold Tangerines is the kind of book I would recommend someone to read especially for the New Year. It’s fresh and honest and funny and inspiring, and I think it would help set the mood for the fresh start that everyone’s looking for in the turn of the year. Or if it’s not the New Year, read this, still. This book is a reminder that there is beauty and hope and redemption in this extraordinary everyday life.

Number of dog-eared page(s) highlighted quotes: 138

Favorite dog-eared quote(s):

God is no match for the wreckage of the world we live in.

The big moments are the daily, tiny moments of courage and forgiveness and hope that we grab on to and extend to one another.

You have stories worth telling, memories worth remembering, dreams worth working toward, a body worth feeding, a soul worth tending, and beyond that, the God of the universe dwells within you, the true culmination of super and natural.

Friendship is about risk. Love is about risk. If we can control it and manage it and manufacture it, then it’s something else, but if it’s really love, really friendship, it’s a little scary around the edges.

I felt so small and anonymous, surrounded by the sounds and smells and sights of a place I’d only read about, and I could go as quickly or as slowly as I wanted to. There are only two things I like to do alone: reading and traveling, and for the same reason. When you travel, and when you read, you are not actually alone, but rather surrounded by other worlds entirely, the footsteps and phrases of whole other lives keeping you company as you go.

Help us to be brave with one another, for these are the days.

Words are the breakdown through which I see all of life, instead of molecules or notes or chords and colors. words in even black and white snakes, back and forth across the page, the portals through which a little girl found a big world, and through which, now, a grown-up girl is trying to pass.

I have never been so clingy and strange, so unmoored and lacking in appropriate small talk, and I am beyond thankful to my friends for sticking around in the worst of it.

When I pray, something freaked-out and dazed inside me finds a place to lay down and rest. When I pray, I don’t feel so alone in the universe. I feel like there is a web, a finely-spun net, holding it all together, keeping it spinning. I feel powerless, and prayer reminds me that I may be powerless, but there is power, and the one who holds the power is good.

It was like a full-time job, forgiving her over and over, with each new angry thought or bad conversation, but it was good work, like how good it feels to shovel snow or rake leaves in the cold air.

It happens when we do the hardest work, the most secret struggle, the most demanding truth telling. In those moments of ferocity and fight, peace is born. Shalom arrives, and everything is new. And when you’ve tasted it, smelled it, fought for it, labored it into life, you’ll give your soul to get a little more, and it is always worth it.

Nothing good ever comes easily. You have to lose things you thought you loved, give up the things you thought you needed. You have to get over yourself, beyond your past, out from under the weight of your future. The good stuff never comes when things are easy.

The sacred mixes in with the daily when you have a conversation with someone you love, or you read a great book, or when you do something courageous.

Rating:

Other reviews:
Wrecked.org
Sierra’s Bookmark

The Final Descent

finaldescentThe Final Descent by Rick Yancey
The Monstrumologist # 4
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Number of pages: 320
My copy: Kindle edition

Will Henry and Dr. Warthrop have encountered many horrors together—but can Will endure a monstrumological terror without his mentor?

Will Henry has been through more that seems possible for a boy of fourteen. He’s been on the brink of death on more than one occasion, he has gazed into hell—and hell has stared back at him, and known his face. But through it all, Dr. Warthrop has been at his side.

When Dr. Warthrop fears that Will’s loyalties may be shifting, he turns on Will with a fury, determined to reclaim his young apprentice’s devotion. And so Will must face one of the most horrific creatures of his monstrumology career—and he must face it alone.

Over the course of one day, Will’s life—and Pellinor Warthrop’s destiny—will lie in balance. In the terrifying depths of the Monstrumarium, they will face a monster more terrible than any they could have imagined—and their fates will be decided.

* * *

I reserved reading the last book in the Monstrumologist series for Halloween, and I promised myself not to read it the way I read the third book — meaning I won’t read it for ages. I was a little bit hesitant to dive into it, actually, because my memory of the third book told me that things have gone down the darker path for Will Henry and Pellinore Warthrop. Not that it hasn’t been dark from the start, but really, I was kind of wary about how things will end, and what we will know of Will Henry and what exactly happened to Pellinore Warthrop.

In The Final Descent, we meet an older Will Henry than the one in the previous books — one just a little older than the Will Henry in The Isle of Blood, and one way older, who returns to Warthrop after a long time of being apart. There’s another monster, one that hatches from an egg and becomes a snake that just grows bigger and bigger as it devours its prey inside out. There’s still the society, Lily Bates and the Monstrumarium and the Abraham Von Helrung, and of course, lots of gore and darkness, just as the first three books had.

The Final Descent is written in a different way, flashing forward and back, that I’m not entirely sure which was the more dominant time in the story. It gets a little confusing at first, but the voices of the younger and older Will Henry were both distinct, and I can’t help but wonder what exactly happened in between that made the older Will Henry like that. It was a far cry from the Will Henry in the first two books, which made me just a little uncomfortable because this wasn’t the Will Henry I’ve known to love. I guess this is an effect of puberty, as well as what happened in the third book, but it didn’t exactly sit well with me, so much that I almost had a hard time reading through the book to get to the end.

The book is all parts ambiguous and it circles around, until it gets to the end and I sort of understand what happened. Except that I’m still not entirely sure, because it really felt like the Will Henry I read in this book was just different. That doesn’t mean I feel a lot satisfied, because I really and truly missed how it was in the earlier books. Oh, the writing was beautiful, I have to give it that. But by the time I got to the end, I was just happy I’m done reading that I can put it behind me. I’m not really wishing for a happy ending, but something a little less…philosophical or existential, I guess?

But then I realize that maybe I started falling a little out of love with the series by the time I started slowing down in reading the third book. Perhaps I was just in this for the adventure, and to get my own dose of gore. I still think that The Monstrumologist series is one of the best out there, but unfortunately, this book is the one I liked the least.

Number of dog-eared page(s): 16

Favorite dog-eared quote(s):

I am the infinite nothing out of which everything flows.

We are vain and arrogant, evolution’s highest achievement and most dismal failure, prisoners of our self-awareness and the illusion that we stand in the center, that there is us and then there is everything else but us.

For true beauty – beauty, as it were, with a capital B – is terrifying; it puts us in our place; it reflects back to us our own ugliness. It is the prize beyond price.

You cannot choose not to fall in love, but you can choose for the sake of love to let love go. Let it go.

Rating:

Reviews of other The Monstrumologist Books:
#1 The Monstrumologist
#2 The Curse of the Wendigo
#3 The Isle of Blood

Other reviews:
Opinions of a Wolf

Tigana

tiganaTigana by Guy Gavriel Kay
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Number of pages: 692
My copy: Kindle edition

Eight of the nine provinces of the Peninsula of the Palm, on a world with two moons, have fallen to the warrior sorcerers Brandin of Ygrath and Alberico of Barbadior. Brandin’s younger son is slain in a battle with the principality of Tigana, which the grief-stricken sorcerer then destroys. After sweeping down and destroying the remnants of their army, burning their books and destroying their architecture and statuary, he makes it so that no one not born in that province can even hear its name. Years later, a small band of survivors, led by Alessan, last prince of Tigana’s royal house, wages psychological warfare, planting seeds for the overthrow of the two tyrants. At the center of these activities are Devin, a gifted young singer; Catriana, a young woman pursued by suspicions of her family’s guilt; and Duke Sandre d’Astibar, a wily resistance leader thought dead. Meanwhile, at Brandin’s court, Dianora, his favorite concubine and–unknown to anyone, another survivor of Tigana–struggles between her growing love for the often gentle tyrant and her desire for vengeance. Gradually the scene is set for both conquerors to destroy each other and free a land.

* * *

I don’t read a lot of high fantasy novels because I’m more of a contemporary romance kind of person. And because of that, it takes me a while to really get into a world, especially one that required maps and had different names of people with powers and such. I noticed that a lot of high fantasy novels often had a lot of characters, too — with odd names to boot — so sometimes I feel like I need to get into a different kind of mindset before I take on a high fantasy novel.

Hah, I feel like I sounded like such a wuss there, especially since two of my closest friends in the book club are fans of high fantasy novels. So when they moderated the high fantasy discussion for our book club in 2013, I can’t not be too whiny about it. Especially since the book was about 800+ long. But I’ve finished Les Misérables this year, and while it’s not a high fantasy novel, it had a lot of characters. This shouldn’t be that hard, right? *cracks knuckles*

Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay is a standalone high fantasy novel set in a place called Peninsula of the Palm. Two people rule eight of the nine provinces in the Palm — Brandin of Ygrath and Alberico of Barbadior. Sometime in the past, Brandin’s younger son is slain in Tigana, and in his grief and anger, he flattened Tigana and cursed everyone to forget that it ever existed, except for those who came from Tigana itself. Some years later, some survivors banded together in hopes of destroying Brandin to get Tigana back, and also to overthrow the other tyrant in the Palm. What follows is a long story of magic, psychological warfare, political intrigue, hidden identities and a story layered with so many complexities that it’s hard to pick just what side you want to win at the end.

First off: Tigana was an easy to read book. Far from, say, Tolkien’s LotR, Tigana had such an accessible language that it wasn’t so hard to get reading. It helped that our moderators provided a guide to their naming conventions and who owns what province because it helped adjusting to the novel a lot easier and listing the characters in the head easier, too. And speaking of characters, I really liked Devin from the start — he seemed like a very interesting character, and I knew, even if I have essentially no idea what was going to happen in the novel (I didn’t read the back cover blurb before I started reading) that he was in for an interesting ride. I liked how he changed from a simple musician to something else, and how he had learned to accept the discovery of his roots and defend it. The other band of people surrounding Devin were so fun to read, too — they played off each other’s characters perfectly, and I liked how they all formed a tight-knit group that were there for each other throughout the story.

But I’m making it sound like it’s all light and fluffy. Truth is, it wasn’t. Tigana is a book filled with so many twists and turns for the characters to get to a certain goal. The interesting part of this is we don’t see just one particular point of view, but several. In Tigana, we also sort of get into the mind of Brandin and Alberico, and the things that surround them. We see their motivations, and how they changed from being this person to another, to the point that it was really kind of hard to choose which side to pick at the end. This gives another layer of depth to the novel, and somehow make it a little more realistic as far as how it parallels real life. Nothing is ever black and white, and even people we have pegged to be a certain kind of person. In a way, I wished there was some sort of happy ending for everyone…but then, you can’t always get what you want.

In the end, Tigana brings about a pretty satisfying ending…and then GGK suddenly brings another thing into the mix, and then it’s over. This is the first time in the longest time that I wished there was a sequel to a novel, and a high fantasy one at that, that I would totally read. I mean, that ending! How can I not want to know what happens next?

Overall, Tigana was a really great read. I think there were just some parts that seemed unnecessarily long, but like what I said in Les Mis, those parts make up for the novel’s background and gives it a richer texture, and I think that’s what makes chunkster novels different from the usual 300-400-page books. While I still think that I’m a contemporary girl at heart, I wouldn’t mind reading more high fantasy + chunkster novels if they’re as good as Tigana.

Number of dog-eared page(s): 21

Favorite dog-eared quote(s):

The beauty we find is shaped, at least in part, by what we know the morning will bring.

He could guess, analyze, play out scenarios in his mind, but he would never know. It was a night-time truth that became a queer, private sorrow for him amid all that came after. A symbol, a displacement of regret. A reminder of what it was to be mortal and so doomed to tread one road only and that one only once, until Morian called the soul away and Eanna’s lights were lost. We can never truly know the path we have not walked.

“My third glass of a night is blue,” Alessan said. “The third glass I drink is always of blue wine. In memory of something lost. Lest on any single night I forget what it is I am alive to do.”

But time was not rewound, neither in the heart nor in the world as they knew it. It moved on, and things changed, for better or for worse; seasons changed, the hours of sunlit day went by, darkness fell and lingered and gave way to light at dawn, years spun after each other one by one, people were born, and lived by the Triad’s grace, and they died.

Words were power, words tried to change you, to shape bridges of longing that no one could ever really cross.

In this world, where we find ourselves, we need compassion more than anything, I think, or we are all alone.

Rating:

Other reviews:
Rabbitin
Angieville

The Scorpio Races

The Scorpio RacesThe Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
Published by: Scholastic
Number of pages: 404
My copy: hardbound, gift from Scholastic Philippines

It happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line. Some riders live. Others die.

At age nineteen, Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. He is a young man of few words, and if he has any fears, he keeps them buried deep, where no one else can see them.

Puck Connolly is different. She never meant to ride in the Scorpio Races. But fate hasn’t given her much of a chance. So she enters the competition — the first girl ever to do so. She is in no way prepared for what is going to happen.

* * *

I’ve had The Scorpio Races on my TBR for a long time now, and I even planned to read it last year but I never got around to it. After a series of non-YA books from the latter part of the year, diving into Maggie Stiefvater’s standalone book felt like a breath of fresh air.

The Scorpio Races is set in the small island of Thisby, in November, when and where Capaill uisce — commonly known as water horses — come out from the ocean and sort of terrorize the town. But the people of Thisby has learned to adapt, and they have the Scorpio Races, where men capture these horses, try to tame them and race them without getting killed or pulled into the water (and still get killed). In this little island is Sean Kendrick, the returning champion who works in the local water horse ranch, whose only real friend is his red capall uisce, Corr. And then there’s Puck Connolly, who never meant to ride the races but ends up doing so, to keep what’s left in her family. She’s the first girl to ever join the race, and it’s ruffled the feathers of the other men…but then again, who says she’s going to survive it?

I remember liking Stiefvater’s Shiver mostly because of the beautiful writing. It was a “mood” read. I was in the mood for something cold because it was December, and that book delivered it perfectly. I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to feel when I picked up The Scorpio Races, but like Shiver, it had a certain mood in it because of the writing: dark, mysterious, dangerous, and probably tinged with a little despair, too, because of Puck’s situation.

The book was a little slow in parts, and it feels like forever before the real show — aka the race — happened. But even so, I liked how the author built it all up. I got to know Puck and her family and her relationship with her younger brother Finn was one of my favorite parts of the book. It was a sad thing, too, because of how each of them were driven to do what they had to do, but you have to admire Puck’s courage to do what she did in the book. And then there’s Sean Kendrick, who seems to be the epitome of the strong, silent type in fictional guys that I’ve read so far. I liked him a lot, and his chapters were really a delight to read. Granted, the fascination with the horses — especially Corr — was a little creepy, but I try to think of it as how some people are very close to their dogs. It’s basically the same, right?

Oh and I must mention the swoon in this book. Oooh, I really liked how that played out. Again, it sort of took forever, but I liked how the two main characters danced around each other that sometimes I wasn’t really sure if there’s really something going on between them that isn’t about their horses. Their growing friendship and the romantic tension were so well-written that I was really happy there weren’t any third parties involved because it would be just too much if there’s still one. They have to race killer horses and figure out a love triangle? Please, no.

I liked The Scorpio Races, but I think I would have liked it better if I was more of a fan of horses. I can see why people would like it, but I’m just a horse person, like how I’m a dog person. Does that make sense? But still, I really enjoyed this book, and I will definitely read another Stiefvater book soon. :)

Number of dog-eared pages: 13

Favorite dog-eared quote(s):

This island runs on courage, not blood. (p. 198)

It’s easy to convince men to love you, Puck. All you have to do is be a mountain they have to climb or a poem they don’t understand. Something that makes them feel strong and clever. It’s why they love the ocean…When you’re too much like them, the mystery’s gone. No point seeking the grail if it looks like your teacup. (p. 252)

“I will not be your weakness, Sean Kendrick.”
“It’s late for that, Puck.” (p. 337)

Rating:

Other reviews:
Chachic’s Book Nook