Minis: Letting Go and Promises

I think my reading slump is over, because I’ve managed to finish 4 books in the last few days. My Jane Eyre book discussion has passed, too, and it really doesn’t give me any more excuses to why I am not blogging. I thought I’d take it easy and write a set of mini reviews first before taking a crack at the longer ones. Just two books this time (and don’t you just love that title?). :)

Artemis Lets Go by Justine Camacho-Tajonera

Artemis Lets Go by Justine Camacho-Tajonera
Publisher: Lulu
Number of pages:  119
My copy: paperback, review copy from author

Follow Artemis Torillo as she learns to let go of her first love, Simon de Guia, and discover herself in the process.

* * *

For a moment there, I thought this was kind of a paranormal thing, because of the name of the main character. It wasn’t — it was really a story of how Artemis, also known as Em, found love in an almost unexpected place and then lost it just as unexpectedly. We follow Em in her college and working years as she struggled to let go, and as the short blurb says, finds herself in the process.

Artemis Lets Go is very readable, and it reminded me of my favorite time in my life — my college days. If I wasn’t mistaken, I would’ve thought the org that Em joined was my old org in college (one I did not stay in for a long time), because everything was just so familiar. The book had a general wistful tone at the start as we get into Em’s story, followed by a hopeful note when things started resolving for her.

That being said, though, I’m afraid I didn’t find much to rave about in the book. It was exactly what the blurb says, and there wasn’t much surprise factor in the book. I appreciated it because it was familiar and it was very easy to read, but I feel that maybe I would be the only one who would appreciate it among my friends, except if they happen to be going through the exact same thing.

Nevertheless, I thought it was pretty okay. Needs a bit more length and plot twists, but overall a quick an easy read.

Rating:
Avatar the Last Airbender Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Promise Part 1 by Gene Luen Yang
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Number of pages:  76
My copy: ebook from Netgalley

The wait is over! Ever since the conclusion of Avatar: The Last Airbender, its millions of fans have been hungry for more–and it’s finally here!

This series of digests rejoins Aang and friends for exciting new adventures, beginning with a faceoff against the Fire Nation that threatens to throw the world into another war, testing all of Aang’s powers and ingenuity!

* The continuation of Airbender and the link to its upcoming sequel, Legend of Korra!

* * *

I never really go to the graphic novels section of NetGalley, but anything Avatar: The Last Airbender related is an automatic pick for me. I loved the series, so reading this was a definite treat.

The graphic novel picks up immediately where the series ended (spoiler warning if you haven’t watched the entire series yet), where Aang and Zuko and the rest of the gang were working on bringing back peace in the world. One of the things they were planning to do was to return the Earth Nation land that the Fire Nation invaded back to its rightful owners, but trouble looms when resistance comes. Zuko experiences a personal crisis and asks Aang to promise something…something that Aang wasn’t sure if he can really fulfill. But a promise is a promise, right?

What. Fun. I loved this graphic novel, and it brought back fond memories of the series I loved. I love that it picked up where it left off, providing excellent continuity. I love that everyone was there too, and honestly, I could imagine the graphic novel all animated and their voices still rang in my head (Dante Basco!). The funny and serious parts were pretty balanced, and the “oogie” moments were hilarious.

It’s also quite apt that I read this a few weeks before I got to watch the first few episodes of Legend of Korra. If you’re a fan of the series, you really shouldn’t miss this. The only thing I wish is that it was longer, or, that I have part 2 with me already! And part 3! Please, NetGalley, please have it in your catalog? :)

Rating:

Confessions of a Serial Kisser

Confessions of a Serial Kisser by Wendelin Van DraanenConfessions of a Serial Kisser by Wendelin Van Draanen
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Number of pages: 304
My copy: hardbound, birthday gift from Aaron

EVANGELINE LOGAN WANTS a kiss. A spectacular, heart-stopping, life changing kiss. Somehow The Crimson Kiss (a romance novel she’s become obsessed with) and Four Steps to Living Your Fantasy (a self-help book she’s reading) have fused in Evangeline’s mind and sent her on a quest for a kiss. But the path to perfection is paved with many bad kisses—the smash mouth, the ear licker, the “misser.” The phrase “I don’t kiss and tell” means nothing to the boys in her school. And worse: someone starts writing her name and number on bathroom walls. And worst of all: the boy she’s just kissed turns out to be her best friend’s new crush. Kissing turns out to be way more complicated than the romance novels would have you believe . . .

* * *

Wendelin Van Draanen is the author of one of my favorite books ever, Flipped. I love Flipped — I have read several times and pushed to several people and even cried while watching the movie. I never really got around to reading the author’s other works, until I got it for a gift. It took me another year to read it (just like my other books in my TBR, heh), and I thought it would be the right book to cleanse my palate over reading something a little bit more serious.

Evangeline Logan is a serial kisser — she knows it, and she justifies this because she wants one thing: a crimson kiss. The kind of kiss she read in the romance novel she found under her mother’s bed, a kiss that will turn her world around. So after a makeover, she goes to school and starts searching for that crimson kiss. How? By kissing boys of course. But it’s not turning out the way she expected it as rumors about her started spreading. As if that’s not enough, her best friend’s too busy and her two-timing dad is making a comeback. And she still hasn’t found her crimson kiss. What’s a serial kisser to do now?

Going into Confessions of a Serial Kisser by Wendelin Van Draanen and expecting it to be like Flipped was kind of a big mistake. I wanted to like this more, but a third into the book I was very annoyed with Evangeline. I’m definitely not the kind of person who would do what she did, but let’s be honest now: who would do such a thing? How could she expect that she’d find that perfect crimson kiss by kissing random boys — by random, I mean strangers too! All because of a romance novel?

Okay, that may be the entire point of the book — that you just can’t find a crimson kiss randomly — but Evangeline not expecting that she’d have a reputation after what she has been doing was just kind of naive. It’s like getting a pair sidi cobra boots: if you keep wearing them long enough, you’ll be known as the person who wears them. Evangeline reminded me a bit of Kelsey in Freshman Year and Other Unnatural Disasters, but I would be a bit more forgiving with Kelsey if she had done what Evangeline did because she’s still pretty young. I had to double check what year Evangeline was already in (junior to senior? There was a mention of emancipation at some point in the book) because I thought her attitude was kind of too young for her age.

The chapters in this book are pretty short and they kind of remind me of my stories back in high school. It didn’t have the same fluid story like Flipped, and there were some plot points that felt a little too stretched out or a little too contrived. The guitar thing for example — where did that come from? Sure, she likes music, but the guitar thing just came out of the blue for me. Evangeline’s issues could have had more depth in it especially since I’m sure there are kids who are in the same situations, but I’m afraid it veered towards the shallow end with how Evangeline reacted with everything. And that boy who really liked her all along? I saw that coming a mile away.

That being said, though, there’s an overall lesson in the book that wasn’t that bad, really. The book touched a bit on communication and forgiveness, which was pretty nicely done in the end. Evangeline’s penance was hard enough, although I wish she wasn’t such a whiny girl about it. How her kissing issues connect with her home issues was also explained, and at least that gives an overall hopeful resolution for them. It’s just sad that by the time those things came, I didn’t care about any of them anymore.

Confessions of a Serial Kisser could have had a good story going for it, but in the end I was just pretty annoyed with the main character and there was too much going on that I was just relieved that it was over when it was over. It was pretty fun (and I use the term lightly) sometimes, but if you’re expecting something like Flipped… well, better lower your expectations.

Rating:

Required Reading: March

Other reviews:
Persnickety Snark
Becky’s Book Reviews

Minis: Felons, Summer and Magic

So I still have a backlog of books that I need to review and want to write about before the year ends. Some of the books I read were kind of short, so I thought why not make mini reviews instead? So here’s my first series of Minis, which I hope to continue in the next year. :)

Felon Blames 1970s Church Architecture for Life of Sin (The Ironic Catholic News) by The Ironic Catholic

Felon Blames 1970s Church Architecture for Life of Sin (The Ironic Catholic News Volume 1) by The Ironic Catholic
My copy: Kindle edition, from author

In the style of The Onion, Stephen Colbert, and occasionally Jonathan Swift, the writer of “The Ironic Catholic” website offers mild satirical takes on the world of Catholic news, focusing on the rich vein of human foibles in living the life of faith. The fake news stories (Attendees of Flannery O’Connor Conference Meet Dire End, Tired Mother Announces ‘Come and See’ Weekend, Re-gifting Chia Pets Not Considered Lenten Sacrifice, etc.) both entertain and teach what it means to be a faithful Catholic in a confused world with a light touch.

* * *

I’ve had this book for a while now (thanks to The Ironic Catholic for the review copy!), and I meant to read it while plane hopping in Europe but other books won me over. I was at the salon two weeks ago, just finished with a women’s fiction novel and I couldn’t really jump into another one just yet, so I decided to choose a slim ebook to cleanse the reading palate before going back to the other book I had in progress.

It turned out to be a very good choice, too. I love The Ironic Catholic’s style — poking fun at the little quirks of the Catholic faith but never disrespectful and still allowing people to learn a little more about the faith than a regular, Sunday mass-going Catholic knows. The news format of the book makes it easy to digest, and sometimes I have to remind myself that it’s fiction because some of them felt like odd stories you read every now online. My favorite story? The World Old Day celebration, which is the senior citizens’ version of World Youth Day. It not only made me laugh, but it brought fond memories of my own experience in WYD.

I just really wish this book was a little bit longer, but then the volume number in the title probably means there will be a volume two…right?

Rating:

One Crazy Summer by Ines Bautista YaoOne Crazy Summer by Ines Bautista Yao
Publisher: Summit Books
Number of pages: 144
My copy: paperback, bought from National Bookstore

 

A Recipe for Disaster?

Ingredients:
1 college junior, fired from summer internship
1 secret crush, the cute and flirty type
1 crush’s best bud, with a secret of his own

1. In large bowl, mix together college junior and secret crush.
2. Gradually add in crush’s best bud.
3. Stir until best bud’s secret is revealed.
4. Let mixture rest in a sleepy provincial town.
5. Bake under the blazing summer sun until golden brown (be careful, batter might burn).

Tania’s summer is more than she can handle! Her cooking career comes to a screeching halt before it can even take off. Then, best friends Rob and Mateo enter the picture. Can she figure out her feelings for them, AND get the internship credits she needs to make it to senior year?

* * *

One Crazy Summer‘s story is the stuff that teen TV shows are made of, and kind of like what happens in Sarah Dessen novels with the infinite possibilities that a summer could bring. The story was cute and there was enough romance, but I never felt a connection with any of the characters. I wanted more background story with Tania and Mateo and Rob, but instead I was just presented with the facts of who likes who and I just had to accept it. I also felt that I never really got to know Tania, and all I have were hints of her personality.

It’s not that it’s a bad novel. I just felt that it lacked something. The setting was very good and I liked the description of the lazy summer town that the characters spent a lot of time in, but I wished there was just more. I wonder how the book would have fared with me if it was a little bit longer, so there was more time to flesh out the characters and dig up their back stories and relationships with one another. It’s still an okay read, and I think the book is worth keeping One Crazy Summer for the recipes that it contains (especially the one with Nutella — mmm. All these food books make it hard to go on a diet, especially with knowing some diet pill numia side effects). :)

Rating:

Magic Gifts by Ilona AndrewsMagic Gifts by Ilona Andrews
Kate Daniels # 5.4
Publisher: Ace Books
Number of pages: 97
My copy: Kindle Edition, free from author

A dinner date after a hard day at work sounds heavenly. Of course, when that date is between the Beast Lord and Kate Daniels, things don’t go as planned. Before you know it, undead are running amok, heads are being chopped off, lawyers are deployed and used with extereme prejudice, and drunk vikings are calling people out.

Read at your own risk.

* * *

Oh Ilona Andrews, did you know how the two of you just made my Christmas so awesome? Thank you so much for this free Kate Daniels novella. :) Magic Gifts is set shortly after Magic Slays, and it starts with a dinner date between the Beast Lord Curran and Kate. Of course, the chance of normalcy is slim as some moments after their date has started, heads started to roll — literally. Soon, Kate and Curran and everyone else is fighting to save a boy’s life, running after vikings and dwarfs while ensuring that the rest of Atlanta will not fall apart with a breakdown of sorts.

General spoiler warning for those who haven’t read any Kate Daniels books yet1. Two words to describe this book: SO. GOOD. I love it, I love it. Even if it is shorter than the other Kate Daniels novels, this book is just as good. Kate and Curran are still as awesome (and romantic) as ever, and how mature their relationship seems. I love it when they spar verbally, and how Kate cares about him and how he cares for her. I also love how we see all the other characters here too besides the two of them: Doolittle, Derek, Jim, Andrea, Ascanio, even Grendel the attack poodle! And I have to say now that my favorite vampires are in Kate Daniels’ world. Or, my favorite necromancers, rather. Gasthek is such a character!

This is a must-read for all fans of the series, and the ebook is still available for download from the author’s website — and I think you only have a week to get it! If you missed it, though, this novella will be available as a bonus in Gunmetal Magic, Andrea’s story, which will be released in August 2012. :)

Rating:

  1. And why haven’t you read any, for the love of all things awesome? []

He’s So Not Worth It

He's So Not Worth It by Kieran ScottHe’s So Not Worth It by Kieran Scott
She’s So/He’s So Trilogy # 2
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Number of pages: 360
My copy: ebook from Galley Grab

Ally Ryan, come on down to the Jersey Shore and forget your troubles!

Have you recently been humiliated in front of your friends and family at your former best friend’s birthday party? Was your almost boyfriend partly responsible for that humiliation by withholding some vital information about where your estranged father is? Did you come home to find said estranged father sitting on your stoop?

If so, then it sounds like you could use a vacation! The Jersey Shore is the place to be. Your mother may be living with her boyfriend of only a few months, but at least the stunt Shannen pulled has put some of your friends back in your court. Even so, you’re still angry and what better way to get over Jake than to blow off some steam with local guy, Cooper? People will hardly recognize your new attitude, but the old one wasn’t getting you anywhere, so who cares!

Jake Graydon, an exciting opportunity is waiting for you in the service industry!

Are your grades so low your parents have grounded you for the summer? Did you the girl you really like unceremoniously leave you behind? Would you rather eat dirt than see your friends again? Then a job at the local coffee shop is just the ticket! Surprisingly, Ally’s father is the new manager so you get to be reminded of her nearly every day. Maybe it’s time to start flirting with your best friend’s ex or even taking school a bit more seriously. Especially when you finally see Ally and she’s hanging around with some loser and it’s couldn’t be more clear that she is over you.

Have a great summer!

* * *

She’s So Dead to Us was one of my favorite reads last year. It was a different kind of contemporary novel, almost like a guilty pleasure because of how I was able to take a peek into rich kids’ lives. But more than that, I was able to sympathize with the characters, and the author made the villains three dimensional that I was curious to know their motivations. They weren’t just plain mean girls and boys — they were doing that because of something, even if it wasn’t fair for Ally. The ending of the last book was such a cliff hanger that I had no idea what could happen next, so I was positively thrilled when I saw that the next book, He’s So Not Worth It was available in Galley Grab.

Spoilers from She’s So Dead to Us up ahead.

Ally’s dad shows up again, exactly after she was embarrassed by Shannen during her birthday party. Ally was hurt, confused and angry, especially at Jake, who knew where her dad was all along. Now Ally is faced with a choice between an entire summer with the Cresties at the beach or with her dad in Orchard Hill (who isn’t being chased by debt collectors, thankfully). Jake is also having a miserable summer, as he not only lost Ally, but he was grounded for the summer. Instead of partying with his friends at the beach, he had to go to college classes and work for Ally’s dad. Ally ends up going to the beach just to avoid Jake, where she meets a cute local guy named Cooper. If only her mom wasn’t being such a pain, then maybe her summer would be at least better than she expected.

He’s So Not Worth It is still enjoyable in the sense that it was fun reading about the Orchard Hill Cresties and Norms. The setting was solid, and I was able to sink back into the world with no problem. I also loved that part of this was set in the beach — I haven’t been able to go to the beach this summer, so reading about beaches is the next best thing, I guess. This makes for a good beach read, with the infinite possibilities of summer for the reader and the characters.

Another thing I really liked in this book is the relationships of the characters. They’re far from perfect, but boy do they feel real. Just like in the previous book, I thought the group had their own personality other than the individuals. I liked how even if they’re not exactly friends anymore, somehow old ties bring them back together, even if it did not mean well for the other characters.

That being said, however, I felt that He’s So Not Worth It is not as gripping as its predecessor. As real as these characters and their dynamics felt, I was frustrated at all the stupid decisions they keep on doing. I know being young allows us to do them, but these kids in this novel just upped it. There is drama everywhere! I was constantly annoyed at Jake for his stupid and rash decisions. Ally was no better, too, and she was actually matching Shannen in the first book for the bitch factor. I think the only character that felt a little bit normal in the book was Annie, if you don’t count her field notes and Crestie- stalking (which was very entertaining, and helped readers see what Jake and Ally weren’t seeing). It almost felt like I was watching a Gossip Girl episode, which is enjoyable, but not in too much doses for me.

While this feels a little bit of a sophomore slump for the series, it did end in another cliffhanger, which makes me wonder what would happen next. I admit that I am still curious, so I will still read the next book. :) He’s So Not Worth It isn’t really disappointing; I just think it’s not as good as She’s So Dead to Us. I wonder how the author will wrap this series up — I sure hope there’s a happy ending somewhere down the road for Jake and Ally and everyone else.

Rating:

Other reviews:
Good Books and Good Wine

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