BoneMan’s Daughters

BoneMan's DaughtersBoneMan’s Daughters by Ted Dekker
Publisher: Center Street
Number of pages:  410
My copy: paperback, bought from Fully Booked

Would you kill an innocent man to save your daughter?

They call him BoneMan, a serial killer who’s abducted six young women. He’s the perfect father looking for the perfect daughter, and when his victims fail to meet his lofty expectations, he kills them by breaking their bones and leaving them to die.

Intelligence officer Ryan Evans, on the other hand, has lost all hope of ever being the perfect father. His daughter and wife have written him out of their lives.

Everything changes when BoneMan takes Ryan’s estranged daughter, Bethany, as his seventh victim. Ryan goes after BoneMan on his own.

But the FBI sees it differently. New evidence points to the suspicion that Ryan is BoneMan. Now the hunter is the hunted, and in the end, only one father will stand.

* * *

He is called BoneMan and he is a father in search for a perfect daughter. He takes innocent teen girls and tries to make them love him and when they fail to be the daughter he wants, he breaks their bones without breaking their skin (or using a teflon hose). On the other side of the world, Ryan Evans thinks of himself as a failure of a father — after an especially harrowing abduction in the Middle East, Ryan comes home only to find that his wife and daughter had written him out of their lives. Then the BoneMan abducts his daughter, Bethany, and Ryan goes after him. Instead of helping him, though, the FBI finds evidence that points to Ryan as the BoneMan, and he becomes a hunted man. Desperate, Ryan Evans set out to go through hell just to save his daughter.

I’ve been a fan of Ted Dekker since I read Thr3e, which I think is also one of the first books I reviewed on my old blog. I liked the fact that he wrote Christian suspense and back then, I was having a hard time looking for books with the same themes. I meant to read more of his books but he writes and comes out with new books faster than I can get my hands on them and read them. I’ve had BoneMan’s Daughters for a while now but I never got around to reading it. I’m not sure why, maybe it’s because I was concentrating more on YA and chick lit instead of suspense. I did kind of look forward to reading this, thinking that it would be nice to go back to Dekker’s world.

True to form, BoneMan’s Daughters has everything that Dekker offers in his other books. Not that it’s repetitive, but it’s exactly what you’d expect in a Dekker book. There’s the psycho serial killer whose point of view we get a glimpse of every now and then, the father who would do everything to save his daughter, and the police who are willing to help but don’t really know what to do. In a way, it’s almost like reading a CSI episode — I can easily imagine Mac Taylor/Gary Sinise as Ryan Evans. Dekker is also still very descriptive, but not too much that it gets gross — just a tad disturbing, enough to make you look over your shoulder or wonder at the things that bump at night, or develop an aversion to Noxzema, in the case of BoneMan’s Daughters. It’s still very well-written and you know in the end that the good guys will still prevail.

That being said, however, I felt that this wasn’t really at par with the other Dekker novels I’ve read. I thought some parts were a bit repetitive and I wanted to skim some parts that felt a little unimportant to me. The ending wasn’t as satisfying as I thought it would be, either — and I felt that there wasn’t much change in the characters as there should be. The Christian concept wasn’t fully explored, too, IMHO, and you’d need to read the author’s afterword to know why he wrote the novel (that story, I loved). As good as the details were done in the emotional and brutal scenes, the overall story kind of lacked. In the end, I was just happy I finished reading it, not because it was such a good story.

I’m kind of sad that this latest Dekker read is kind of disappointing compared to his other books that I really liked. I will still read his other books, of course, and I’m hoping one of them will be as good (or even better) as Thr3e or the Circle series.

Rating:

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Playing Hurt

Playing HurtPlaying Hurt by Holly Schindler
Publisher: Flux
Number of pages: 312
My copy: paperback, passed on from the Playing Hurt Philippine Blog Tour

Star basketball player Chelsea “Nitro” Keyes had the promise of a full ride to college — and everyone’s admiration in her hometown. But everything changed senior year, when she took a horrible fall during a game. Now a metal plate holds her together and she feels
like a stranger in her own family.

As a graduation present, Chelsea’s dad springs for a three-week summer “boot camp” program at a northern Minnesota lake resort. There, she’s immediately drawn to her trainer, Clint, a nineteen-year-old ex-hockey player who’s haunted by his own traumatic past. As they grow close, Chelsea is torn between her feelings for Clint and her loyalty to her devoted boyfriend back home. Will an unexpected romance just end up causing Chelsea and Clint more pain—or finally heal their heartbreak?

* * *

When my good friend Kai asked me if I wanted to be a part of the Playing Hurt Philippine Blog Tour, I said yes because she told me that the book for the tour is a contemporary YA novel. It’s no secret that my first love for YA is contemporary, so a chance to read a new one from a highly-praised author is something that I won’t say no to.

In Playing Hurt, Chelsea Keyes is a basketball star in Fair Grove High School, up until her last game when a court accident finally made her hip give way, stopping her from playing the rest of the season. Fearful and broken with the metal plate on her hip in mind, she retreated to herself and her family, only relying on her romantic and supportive boyfriend Gabe to make her happy. That summer, her dad hires Clint, an ex-hockey player with ghosts of his own as Chelsea’s personal trainer for their 3-week vacation. Chelsea and Clint feel an instant connection the moment they see each other. As they grow closer, Chelsea and Clint wrestle with their own demons, wondering if their relationship will just cause more pain or heal their heartaches.

I jumped into Playing Hurt expecting to like it a lot, especially since I don’t think I’ve read about a jock for a heroine. I’ve also always liked recovering stories, especially those that deal with fear and yes, maybe a little romance. That’s the good thing about contemporary YA — it deals with real things, and I was looking forward to seeing how Chelsea’s story turns out. However, reading Playing Hurt enforces my new found belief that one shouldn’t read another contemporary YA novel immediately after reading a Melina Marchetta one. This causes a little bit of high expectations for the next novel I read regardless of the author. For that, I apologize in advance.

The novel started out pretty good, with Chelsea reliving her last game before her accident. I liked the smooth transition from the video to real life where instead of playing, we see Chelsea watching the game and wondering where her life has gone (you can read it in the excerpt here). I liked Brandon, Chelsea’s brother, even if I can’t shake the fact that he’s younger than his age, and not a high school sophomore. I also liked Gabe very much, with his sweetness and his concern for Chelsea especially after her accident. The initial set up was very good, and it made me want to know what will happen next.

However, the novel lost me the moment Chelsea and Clint met. I cringed at how they described each other as “perfection”, and how the air zinged when they were in the mere presence of the other. I’m sorry, I just don’t buy that. Maybe it’s possible, who knows, right? I just don’t really buy it — I want history in my fictional couples. I want banter. I want long conversations that do not involve the one person staring at the other and wondering if their knees “…as pink as the wads of cotton candy…” are just as sweet. Sorry, I can’t help but roll my eyes at that. I want the whole shebang — the getting to know stage, the simmering attraction that would eventually lead to the swoon-worthy, tingle-inducing scenes that would make me sigh and doodle hearts in every available space. I think this preference is obvious based on my track record for contemporary novels that I love.

I also wished that Chelsea’s other relationships had more resolution, especially for her father. I thought there was too much focus on the relationship that the other issues weren’t really tackled. I wished there was more conflict between Chelsea, Clint and Gabe, and that Chelsea and her dad had a longer and more heartfelt conversation. I felt kind of bad for the minor characters, particularly Kenzie, whose stories weren’t really explored because of the focus on Clint and Chelsea. It somehow made the main characters come off as selfish, wanting only what they want and nothing else.

I don’t really think Playing Hurt is a bad novel. I’m a minority among those who loved this book — it’s just okay with me. This novel may just not be up my alley, you know? That, and like what I mentioned up there, reading this after a Marchetta novel (especially something as lovely as Jellicoe Road!) tends to up my expectations. I knew I should have read another genre first before jumping into this one! I’m still open to reading Holly Schindler’s other books.

Rating:

Watch out tomorrow for an interview with Holly Schindler as part of the blog tour! Thanks to Kai of Amaterasu Reads for hosting this tour!

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Sweet Valley Confidential: Ten Years Later

Sweet Valley Confidential: Ten Years LaterSweet Valley Confidential: Ten Years Later by Francine Pascal
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Number of pages: 304
My copy: ebook, bought from Amazon Kindle Store

Now with this striking new adult novel from author and creator Francine Pascal, millions of devoted fans can finally return to the idyllic Sweet Valley, home of the phenomenally successful book series and franchise. Iconic and beloved identical twins Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield are back and all grown up, dealing with the complicated adult world of love, careers, betrayal, and sisterhood.

* * *

If there was a book that I could blame for my being a bookworm, it is definitely Francine Pascal’s Sweet Valley. I didn’t start with SVH like most people (and I hardly read them, now that I think about it) — I started with Sweet Valley Kids after I saw my classmate reading it back when I was in 3rd grade. When I grew older, I started on Sweet Valley Twins, and read so much more Sweet Valley after that. I remember even getting random Sweet Valley books from Book Sale whenever I needed a quick read because that’s what Sweet Valley has always been for me: quick, easy and comforting reads. A reminder that somewhere, somehow life can be absolutely perfect (even if it sets a totally bad standard). :)

It’s been years since I last read a Sweet Valley book, so when news of Sweet Valley Confidential came out, I knew it just had to be one of the books I must read this year. No excuses — as a girl who practically grew up in Sweet Valley, there is no way I cannot read this. :-)

So I’ll keep the summary brief to avoid spoilers. It’s roughly 11 years since Sweet Valley High, and Elizabeth is living on her own in New York City, refusing to answer her sister’s calls. She is lonely and angry, and the only person she is willing to talk to from her hometown is conceited rich boy Bruce Patman, who is now her best friend. What happened to Elizabeth? Why is she refusing to answer her sister’s calls? What did Jessica do that made sweet, calm and well-loved Elizabeth Wakefield flee and close her doors? And how did she become best friends with 1BRUCE1, of all people?

When I finished reading the book, I knew I looked like this (thanks, Hyperbole and a Half for the accurate illustration):

Image from Hyperbole and a Half

I know some of my friends and Twitter followers have read my reaction, and I can’t help it. When I finished the last page of the (e)book, I actually sat on the bed and stared into space, wondering what the heck just happened to what I read.

The appeal of this book lies in the nostalgia it brings. I didn’t really read that many SVH books but I was still familiar with the people there — Lila, Ken, Steven, Todd, etc. It was definitely a trip down memory lane and I can’t help but remember all those crazy stories that I read back then. The magic dolls, the numerous beach trips, the people who all wanted the twins dead or at least want to be them. Of course, since the books were written by ghost writers, continuity errors abound, but I can easily forgive that. It was fun seeing the characters and laughing at how silly they all were and are, even after 11 years. Sometimes I want to shake them: Elizabeth, stop being angsty! Jessica, why are you always crying? Todd! Why are you being such a sissy? Caroline, why are you still meddling with your friends? Why haven’t you all moved on from high school?!

It’s not bad. In fact, I found Sweet Valley Confidential very entertaining, and it kept me amused while reading and hours after I finished reading. However, it was very brain-numbing, and it was probably because of the sheer ridiculousness of the plot. The twins are still perfect gorgeous beings that everyone loves no matter how self-absorbed they could be. You’d think that people would have grown up from their high school woes, but no, everyone’s still hung up with old high school issues and hardly anyone has moved out. Come on — I’m hardly in contact with some of my old high school friends. Was Elizabeth the only one brave enough to move away? Wait, scratch that — it’s not even bravery. She ran away from something, and if she were really and truly brave, she would have stayed to face the entire mess. Also, the big reveal of why Elizabeth left? TOTAL DUD. I expected more from you, Francine!

The writing leaves less to be desired, bordering on cheesy at times. The POV and tense switching can get a bit annoying, although I have to give it to Francine Pascal — there were distinct differences in the characters’ voices that made you know who was speaking a few lines in. Sometimes, though, I feel like she was drunk when she wrote some of the parts, or at least, very sleepy. “He heard her and turned to look but almost without recognition, so frantic was he.” (p. 262) “So frantic was he”? Archaic-sounding much?

Now you see why I ended up like this after reading?

Image from Hyperbole and a Half

In the end, this book reminds me of what Jessica said in one of the Sweet Valley Jr. High books (I loved that spin-off — probably my favorite of all the SV series). After she and her sister threw a party and invited their old middle school friends who ditched them when things were going bad at the party, Jessica realized what it means when people say, “You can never go home again.” That is exactly what I felt after finishing Sweet Valley Confidential. I grew up in Sweet Valley, it’s been fun hanging out with all those people, but I don’t think I can ever feel at home with them. I think it’s time to move out.

So. Do I recommend Sweet Valley Confidential? It’s not really that terrible. It’s like reading a trashy romance novel (with trashy love scenes to boot!) or a gossip magazine about your favorite fictional characters. You have to expect that it’s like that so you won’t be annoyed at the time you spent reading this book. If you’re just the curious kind who didn’t really love (or at least like) the books before, I don’t think you’d be able to finish this. But if you were a fan, get ready for a fun, mind-numbing, and slightly ridiculous trip down memory lane. :)

Rating:

Excerpt: Read the first chapter here

Other reviews:
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Wish

Wish by Alexandra BullenWish by Alexandra Bullen
Publisher: Point
Number of pages:  336 pages
My copy: Kindle edition, free

For broken-hearted Olivia Larsen, nothing can change the fact that her twin sister, Violet, is gone… until a mysterious, beautiful gown arrives on her doorstep. The dress doesn’t just look magical; it is magical. It has the power to grant her one wish, and the only thing Olivia wants is her sister back.

With Violet again by her side, both girls get a second chance at life. And as the sisters soon discover, they have two more dresses-and two more wishes left. But magic can’t solve everything, and Olivia is forced to confront her ghosts to learn how to laugh, love, and live again.

* * *

I’ve been seeing this book for a long time, but I wasn’t into investing on hardbound books when I first saw it. I was very glad that I didn’t get it then, because I found that the book was free on Kindle a year later. I never say no to legit free books. :)

Wish tells the story of Olivia Larsen, who moved into a LA shortly after the death of her twin sister, Violet. Olivia fades into the background, feeling that her life would never be as colorful as her sister’s. When forced to attend an event for her mother, Olivia finds a beautiful gown delivered to her with magical wish granting powers…and suddenly, Olivia has her sister back. As it turns out, Olivia is suddenly a part of a “Wish Club”, with two more wishes in two more dresses. With the help of these dresses and her sister, Olivia finds just how much she’s missing and how she can get her life back after the loss that she went through.

This book had so much interesting premise – dealing with grief, magical wishing dresses and sisterhood. The idea, the cover and everything just gave me a vibe that I’d like it, and the stars were a plus. Olivia was truly a sad character, and I couldn’t really empathize with her sadness because I don’t have a sister and I’ve never experienced grief that way. I remember writing a story with a character whose twin passed away in an accident, but I always treated it lightly because I couldn’t really write what she felt. I felt sad for Olivia here, and at the same time I wished she could pick the pieces of her life by not fading into the background. I don’t think her sister would have wanted her to be like that.

The overall plot was okay, and I kind of liked the twist at the end. It’s really pretty cute as far as the premise is concerned…but that’s it. I would’ve liked this book more if it wasn’t so…bland. I don’t know. I never felt enchanted with it even if I felt it was supposed to have that vibe. I never felt any true connection to any of the characters, like I was only watching them from a distance. I found some parts of the book a little cheesy and sometimes trying hard to be witty but failing. I also found the lack of stirring conflict that to make me want to know more about what would happen — I can’t pinpoint a real villain in the story, and even Olivia’s internal struggle wasn’t even much of an antagonist. It just really fell short, and frankly, boring.

It’s not bad, really, but just okay. Nothing to squeal about. Wish worked well as an in-between book to cleanse the palate after reading some deeper books, but it’s far from being mind-blowing.

Rating:

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Ang Mga Kaibigan Ni Mama Susan

Ang Mga Kaibigan ni Mama Susan by Bob Ong
(Visprint, 127 pages)

I’ve been reading Bob Ong’s books since college, ever since a friend brought her copy of his first book, A B N K K B S N P L A Ko (That reads as Aba Nakakabasa Na Pala Ako – literal translation: Wow, I Can Read Now). Bob Ong is one of the popular Filipino writers, who, until now, I am not sure if he is really one person or many contributing to one book. I’ve read almost all of his books ever since then, always looking forward to his funny words of wisdom that pokes and reflects on modern Filipino culture. I remember resorting to his books whenever I needed a pick-me-up, and since then, he’s become one of those authors that I buy even if he isn’t really a favorite. Perhaps this is an addiction?

So when I saw Bob Ong’s latest book in Fully Booked, Ang Mga Kaibigan ni Mama Susan (Translation: Mama Susan’s Friends), I didn’t think twice in getting it. I wasn’t even sure what it was about — I just knew it was Bob Ong, and whatever it is, I would probably like it. Even if I did not, it’s still local fiction, so I figure it’s still a win, right?

Ang Mga Kaibigan ni Mama Susan brings us back to the days of school journals. Everyone must have had a teacher who made them do a journal for school — a small notebook with a recollection of what happened for a certain period of time to be read and graded by a teacher. I don’t really know the purpose of why our teachers made us do this except maybe for my college Literature professor. That wasn’t a particularly hard assignment for me, anyway, as I’ve always been journaling on my own — it was all a matter of filtering what you write for school, you see.

I didn’t know what the book was about when I got it. It wasn’t until I got back to the office to read about the book when I finally saw this trailer:

YouTube Preview Image

The trailer is in Filipino, but you don’t really need to understand it to figure out that this book is horror, especially when you get to the last part of the trailer. That stopped me from reading the book immediately. I was never a fan of horror, and I really go out of my way to avoid anything scary. I’m not a screamer, and I’m usually calm in reading or watching or listening to scary stories but my imagination wrecks havoc in me after.

So when I decided to read the book, I told myself I need to finish it in broad daylight. And so I did. In Mga Kaibigan ni Mama Susan, we meet Galo, who first started writing on a journal for an assignment and ended up keeping it because he did not want to waste his notebook. He chronicles his life in Manila where he lives with his relatives who never made living with them easy for him. He gets fed up with them and leaves to go back to the province to stay with his grandmother who raised him before he left for Manila. Things changed drastically from what he remembers in the province. Instead of finding the town to be just less noisier than Manila but still with improvements from his last visit, he finds that the town went backwards and were rejecting technology (no heated mattress pads, for example). His grandmother’s house grows increasingly creepier with the presence of different statues of saints and the weekly gatherings of her grandmother’s friends in her house. As weirder things start to happen, Galo tries to escape, but finds that there may be powers stronger than he is that are keeping him from doing so.

Talk about creepy. I read this in one bright and sunny afternoon but I couldn’t shake off the creeps especially in the last pages. I think one thing that made it really scary is the fact that it is a journal, and it’s a first person account. I liked how Bob Ong’s words flowed naturally and Galo’s voice rang clear all through out. I found that it wasn’t much different from the voices of his other characters from his previous books but there’s this distinct Bob Ong feel to it that is familiar. There’s also the fun references to some of the things I grew up with as a kid.

While I enjoyed reading it because of Bob Ong, I can’t say I liked it because like I said, I don’t like horror. The story is interesting and the last pages are truly creepy, but as a whole, it’s not my book. My rating isn’t really based on how much the book lacked but really more of a genre preference. If you’re a horror fan, you’ll probably enjoy this, but if you’re a big chicken like me…skip. For your peace of mind, skip it.

To further prove my point: after I finished reading this book, I woke up in the middle of the night from my sleep needing to go to the rest room. I almost decided not to go because it would mean standing up and going there alone, and who knows what I will find when I open my bedroom door? I keep on remembering the face in the trailer and freaked out at the thought of seeing that in the dark corners of our apartment. I got up eventually because I couldn’t hold it in any longer. But I left all doors and lights open, and ran back to the bedroom right after doing my business, all the while my mind remembering the last words of the book in absolute clarity.

Hmph. Big chicken, I am.

Rating:

2011 Challenge Status:
1 of 20 Filipino books in 2011

My copy: Paperback, from Fully Booked

Cover: Goodreads

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