Declaring What?

Declaring Spinsterhood by Jamie Lynn BrazielDeclaring Spinsterhood by Jamie Lynn Braziel
Publisher: Independent
Number of pages: 286 pages
My copy: ebook from Amazon Kindle Store

What can you do when your family harps on you to get married (already!), when your delicious and alluring ex-boyfriend—cheater to the core—believes that you’ve fallen for another guy and sets out to woo and conquer (again), and when you suddenly realize that you have fallen in love with your best friend, the guy whose shoulder has always been available…but is presently being enjoyed by another woman? In Jamie Lynn Braziel’s riotous first novel, Declaring Spinsterhood, she explores the world of 30-something single women, the pressures they face to tie the knot, and what happens when that knot begins to feel more like a noose. In the world of Emma Bailey, nothing is sacred. Including, and most especially, marriage.

* * *

So I was aimlessly looking around Amazon one day, looking for books to buy within my monthly book budget. I admit to becoming hooked to Kindle stuff, so when I spotted some $0.99 books, I jumped and got one. After all, it’s only $0.99 — less than Php 50! It’s just like buying an app!

Declaring Spinsterhood sounds like one of those chick lit novels that I see almost everyday when I visit the bookstore. The theme is quite common: woman is getting older and still unmarried, family harps on her and tries to match her to everyone. Then there’s the annoying ex that she still somewhat likes, and then a guy best friend who she ends up falling for…but, oh, he’s in love with someone else. It’s typical, but I know that some authors can make some of these story cliches work for them and even make it seem original.

This one…didn’t work.

Emma Bailey seemed like a promising protagonist, with a wacky cast of characters in the background. However, Emma never felt like someone I could relate to. I wasn’t sure which was really moving here, if it’s the plot or the characters. Most of the time, it feels like the story’s forced to come out. I didn’t see much growth for Emma, nor with any other characters. Brian, the best friend, seemed like someone I’d like, but all the “sleeping-together-but-not-having-sex” thing had me turned off. Maybe I expect more for a guy best friend — a real good guy would have enough sense to just sleep in another bed, even if you’re best friends.

And wait. How can Emma and Brian be really close friends if they only met in six months ago?

It’s not that there weren’t any notable characters though. The so-called villains did get me annoyed. The mother didn’t feel realistic — what mom would banish her daughter from their home because she didn’t want to be married? Steve, the ex, was an annoying jerk, and I figured out the connection between him and Brian’s girlfriend by the second time he mentioned Chicago. I liked Kathy, the best friend, and at least she had enough sense to listen to Emma, but not enough sense to drive something into her, and help her grow.

However, I can’t really blame the author for the somewhat poorly developed plot and characters. The book was written as a NaNoWriMo novel, and from what I read, it is a NaNoWriMo novel. The book was self-published, which may explain the lack of polishing in the story. Maybe another round of edits could have made it better?

Declaring Spinsterhood isn’t exactly bad, but it’s not exactly good, either. Could be better. I’m glad I got it for $0.99 only — else I would be absolutely annoyed at an impulse buy again.

Rating:

Dark, but not divine

The Dark Divine by Bree DespainThe Dark Divine by Bree Despain

A prodigal son

A dangerous love

A deadly secret . . .

I stood back and watched his movements. Daniel had that way about him that could shut me down in an instant. . . . I kicked the gravel a couple of times and worked up my courage again. “Tell me . . . I mean . . . why did you come back? Why now, after all this time?”

Grace Divine, daughter of the local pastor, always knew something terrible happened the night Daniel Kalbi disappeared—the night she found her brother Jude collapsed on the porch, covered in blood. But she has no idea what a truly monstrous secret that night really held. And when Daniel returns three years later, Grace can no longer deny her attraction to him, despite promising Jude she’ll stay away.

As Grace gets closer to Daniel, her actions stir the ancient evil Daniel unleashed that horrific night. Grace must discover the truth behind Jude and Daniel’s dark secret . . . and the cure that can save the ones she loves. But she may have to lay down the ultimate sacrifice to do it—her soul.

I was one of the people who loved Twilight at the start of its hype. I’m not really embarrassed to admit it – curiosity got me to check it out after reading a post by a blogger friend raving about the saga. I found it in a bookstore near where I work, bought it, and devoured it over a weekend. I admit to also falling in love with Edward Cullen and the romance, and then falling for Jacob and all his wolfish charms by the second book. I was never a rabid fan, but I liked the saga up until I read the last book. After Breaking Dawn, I turned my back on Stephenie Meyer for making an ending like that.

I won’t go into detail why I stopped liking the saga, but whenever I run into other supernatural romances, I can’t help but compare them to Twilight. Wait, a correction: whenever I come across any supernatural romances with vampires or werewolves, I can’t help but compare them to Twilight, probably because it’s the first book I read on that genre. I also blame it on all the hype the Twilight Saga gets.

So when I came across Bree Despain’s debut work, The Dark Divine, I wondered if it would be another Twilight-like novelclick here to read the rest of the review.

Rating:

2010 Challenge Status:
* Book # 29 out of 100 for 2010
* Book # 13 out of 20 Fantasy books for 2010

→ Get The Dark Divine by Bree Despain from Amazon.com
→ Bree Despain’s website

Wedding Bells in Vegas

Vince's Life: The Wedding by Vince TevesVince’s Life: The Wedding by Vince Teves

Vince thinks his life is over when he loses Cat – the girl who turned his life around after Andrea broke his heart. Then his friend Connie drops the bomb on him telling him she’s pregnant and that she wants him to come to her wedding in America – where Andrea is. His first love. Does this mean Vince and Andrea finally get another chance? Or does Vince land an ending that he never expected?

I never really caught Vince’s Life in Cosmo when it was first published there because I never read Cosmo. Or wait, was it Seventeen? I can’t remember. But I do remember contemplating if I will get the first book of the series a few years back. Back then it was a curious thing for me to read a story with a guy narrator, when almost all the books I read have female narrators.

When a friend told me that the first book was good, I picked it up and read it and liked it. I liked it because Vince was such a character. I don’t know if this is a true story, but I thought Vince was once of the most sensitive guys I’ve ever read about. A sequel came out and I read it immediately, too, and was satisfied with who Vince ended up with (even if I kind of wished otherwise).

I’m the type of person who reads through an entire series, so when a third book came out, I knew I had to read it. It was a quick read — I was done in a couple of hours (and I read it at work, too). Did I squeal in delight in the ending? Did I feel tingles inside me as Vince pursued his girl — again?

Sadly…no.

I don’t really have any expectations for this book, except for a possible surprise in the end as was stated in the blurb. I guess I was hoping for some kind of a twist, something that would not necessarily make me feel excited, but be surprised at the end and say, “Okay, I didn’t see that coming.”

But I didn’t. Don’t get me wrong — it’s a good story, yes, but I felt like it was a typical story — almost like I was reading a teleserye script. I don’t really know what kind of twist I was looking for, but I didn’t exactly jump for joy when I finished reading. Do you get what I mean?

Maybe I had too high expectations with the “ending he never expected”. I still had to hand it to Vince — he really is a sensitive guy. I mean, just read this part:

When it’s right, love isn’t difficult. It’s the easiest thing in the world. All the differences and hardships don’t matter, and there’s only one answer to every question. (p 90-91)

Or how about:

But there was also something else, something so beautiful and so fragile that I almost didn’t dare think about it. (p 129)

Yep, super sensitive guy right there. I think.

But you know what? High expectations aside, this book shows some kind of reality in live overall — life isn’t always exciting, and there aren’t always unexpected endings. Most of the time, life can be boring, and things don’t always happen the way we want them to. We can dream of surprises and twists and turns and stuff, but in the end, life will just give us what is best for us, and we wouldn’t ask for any other ending other than what we have. :)

I guess this is the end of Vince’s Life for us readers, unless a new book comes out with their kids who need to drink their vitamins? I don’t know…but I don’t think that would sell anymore. ;)

Rating:
→ Slightly disappointing, but then again I wasn’t really the biggest fan anyway. Personally, I liked the first two books better.

2010 Challenge Status:

* Book # 12 out of 100 for 2010

* Book # 2 out of 20 for Project 20:10

Hush, Hush

Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick

Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick
Hush, Hush # 1
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Number of pages: 391

For Nora Grey, romance was not part of the plan. She’s never been particularly attracted to the boys at her school, no matter how much her best friend, Vee, pushes them at her. Not until Patch came along. With his easy smile and eyes that seem to see inside her, Nora is drawn to him against her better judgment.

But after a series of terrifying encounters, Nora’s not sure who to trust. Patch seems to be everywhere she is, and to know more about her than her closest friends. She can’t decide whether she should fall into his arms or run and hide. And when she tries to seek some answers, she finds herself near a truth that is way more unsettling than anything Patch makes her feel.

For Nora is right in the middle of an ancient battle between the immortal and those that have fallen – and, when it comes to choosing sides, the wrong choice will cost her life.

* * *

I first learned about this book while I was on the MRT. As the train passed by SM Megamall, I saw a huge billboard with Twilight on one half, and I thought it was just another Vampires vs. Werewolves thing. But instead, it asked, “Are you on Team Vampire or Team Angels?” Then I saw the cover, which, as everyone says, is one of the really good covers of YA books lately.

It only took me until now to actually sit down and read the book, since I’ve been wary of Twilight like novels ever since I finished reading Breaking Dawn (oh the horror), so I’m not too keen on reading stories about a girl who can’t stop being attracted to a guy who she knows is bad for her.

But eventually this book found its way to me, and last weekend got me reading this after I finished reading the last book I read. And what do you know — I finished it within two days.

I guess I really can’t stop comparing this book with Twilight because they have the same elements inside: girl gets attracted to a guy who has a “bad” side, and everyone’s telling them not to get together. Still the girl gets together with the guy, who turns out to be supernatural, and more or less wants to kill the main character. Then there’s the climax, and then more stuff happens and the guy and the girl end up together. It’s basically the same.

Here are the main differences I saw in this novel from Twilight:

  • The main character is not weak, or totally helpless or stupid. Sure, Nora made a lot of wrong moves in the story, but at least she had a personality. Bella Swan irritated me from the start, but Nora Grey had more spunk than Bella. She had her own looks, her own personality and she actually resisted Patch almost all throughout the novel until the end. Plus, Nora had actual, normal friends, who are not another supernatural creature. :P
  • The main guy is not really that attractive. Well, at least for me. I admit to liking Edward Cullen on Twilight…but Patch is different. There is something seemingly sexy about him, but I wasn’t attracted. Of course we know what he is from the start, based from the cover, but that’s it. It’s not that I don’t like him; I just don’t feel him that much. He is kind of stalker-ish, but I really didn’t get to know him that well in the story, except on how Nora described him. But at least he didn’t have “marble arms.”
  • The story had a climax. Well, at least some kind of climax. I found myself holding my breath on the high part of the story. The thing with having a first person story is that when the narrator blacks out, all we can see is what happens after. But at least this one had a lot of action on the climax, which I really appreciated.

It’s actually a lot better than Twilight, although the ending felt a bit anticlimactic. But the concept is good, and I was in the dark until the last part of the story when the reveal is done — I actually thought it was the best friend for a while. It’s not my favorite book, but I’m not sorry I read it. And I’m curious to know what the sequel, Crescendo will be about.

Rating:

Five Things I Can’t Live Without (Holly Shumas)

Five Things I Can't Live Without by Holly ShumasOn paper, Nora’s life looks perfect. She’s moving in with her boyfriend Dan, she has a stable job and a great group of friends. But she’s stuck in what she refers to as “meta-life,” the plight of overthinking and second guessing to the point of self-sabotage. One day at work, Nora decides to thwart her meta-life by following her instincts. In what feels like a moment of revelation, she quits her job. Immediately, her meta-life goes into overdrive: What on earth was she thinking–and what is she going to do now? Fortunately, when a friend asks Nora to rewrite her Internet dating profile, she realizes that not only is she good at it, but she really enjoys it. Billing herself as a Cyrano de Bergerac for the lovelorn, Nora finally begins to find professional success. But soon, Nora’s meta-life has latched onto the question she’s asked so many clients: What are the five things she can’t live without? Is her flourishing business one of them? Is Dan? With each new client and each step she takes in her own relationship, she must confront her biggest demon–her self-sabotaging “meta-life.” But will she be able to slay it forever?

A good chick-lit is always a thrill to read, but finding good chick-lit is a hit-or-miss, at least for me. I never really liked reading chick-lit with too much sex, so I was wary of picking up anything without checking its reviews and such.

The blurb of this book was interesting from the start, which caused me to get this book. I’m a lot like Nora, the main character of this book, who lives in “meta-life” half the time. There was a solid cast of characters behind Nora, not to mention all her “clients”.

It was a fun read really…but it didn’t really work for me.

I don’t know. It was interesting at first, but as I read the book, I started getting disinterested with the book. I wanted to get to the point of the book, and when I read the blurb again, that’s when I realized that the point of the book was for Nora to figure out what were the five things she couldn’t live without. Duh.

But that’s the thing. I didn’t feel the need for Nora to find out those five things. There wasn’t anything pressing in the story for Nora to find that, except that she was asking them to her clients — which didn’t really show in the story, really, except for the profiles. If anything, Nora was more concerned with her boredom with her “work”, and her relationship with Dan. I would have found some interest if Nora struggled with something else like her weight and wonder if she would need to take some weight loss supplements, but there wasn’t much. Nora seemed pretty normal and okay save for her job that it was almost boring…except for some fun with Nora’s friends, especially Larissa.

I liked the ending of the story, though, with all that Nora learned from her overthinking and her experiences. However, it just wasn’t life-changing or earth-shattering for me. It was a sort of enjoyable read, but not exactly something I’d like to re-read.

Rating:
→ A miss, unfortunately. I was hoping to relate to this one, but I didn’t feel too much sympathy for Nora in this story. Might be a good read for others, but not for me.

2010 Challenge Status:
* Book # 9 out of 100 for 2010

→ Get Five Things I Can’t Live Without by Holly Shumas on Amazon.com
→ Holly Shumas’ website