Required Reading: March 2014 + February Recap

This post comes a little late, mostly because I was out almost all weekend, and then I got sick with a nasty bout of stomach flu last Monday. And then the blog silence, I really have no excuse other than I was busy for most of February with trips, and reading, and writing. So yeah, I am letting myself off the hook for the blog silence. We all should do that for ourselves, right?

Anyway, so February. If January was such a good month for all the books I said I’d read…on February, I didn’t finish anything.

Well, okay, I finished reading some books, but I didn’t finish the books I said I’d read. (I’m almost done with Raymond Carver’s Cathedral…but you know, I could have finished it earlier, except I didn’t.)

So, instead of wallowing on that fact, I will just list the books I finished reading on February, because I think they’re pretty good:

  • Kids These Days: Stories from the Luna East Arts Academy, Vol 1 by Various Authors (4/5) – Love your own! So proud of this anthology, and I hope I can make it to Volume 2! :)
  • The Catastrophic History of You and Me by Jess Rothenberg (4/5) – Such a sweet, sweet novel about love and life and letting go. May you always have love. :)
  • Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling (3/5) – What a laugh-out-loud read. I want to be friends with Mindy Kaling.
  • Quicksilver by RJ Anderson (4/5) – I really liked Ultraviolet, and I’ve had its sequel in my Kindle for the longest time before I finally got around to reading it. It was a little confusing at first because I forgot the events of the first book, but after a while I got into the groove, and wow, this one was just as explosive as the first one.
  • This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales (4/5) – I picked this up randomly while I was on my trip to Cagayan de Oro. I was surprised that I read through it so fast. It’s good, and I thought it was a light, feel-good novel but it’s not. Not so much, anyway. I think I’m going to really add Leila Sales to my list of must-read contemporary YA authors.

See, it wasn’t a bad reading month. Just that I didn’t follow my reading plan. It happens, right?

Required Reading: March 2014

March is my favorite month, so normally I would pick books that I really want to read — books from favorite authors, books I’ve heard good stuff about but reserved it on my shelf for the reading slump days. I had a partial list of books ready for this month, like The Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen, More Than This by Patrick Ness, and The Woman Who Died A Lot by Jasper Fforde. But when I was composing this post in my head earlier, I realized that if I was enjoying just picking up whatever book I want to read from my TBR pile, even if it’s not the book I said I’d read for the month.

And with that, I decided: I will not have a Required Reading list for March.

Nope. I will read whatever I want this month, whatever I feel like reading, and whenever I want it. And no pressure to finish. :)

My OC tendencies and my need to trim down my TBR pile is kind of complaining, but I dunno. This sounds like a good plan to me. :)

So there. :D I leave you with my new favorite photo of our not-so-little book club, from our book discussion that happened last month:

Photo c/o Ella

Photo c/o Ella

Happy March, everyone! I hope you have a splendid one. :)

The Catastrophic History of You and Me

The Catastrophic History of You and Me by Jess RothenbergThe Catastrophic History of You and Me by Jess Rothenberg
Publisher: Penguin
Number of pages: 401
My copy: Kindle edition

Brie is the “biggest, cheesiest, sappiest romantic” who believes that everyone will find their perfect someone, so when Jacob, the love of Brie’s life, tells her he doesn’t love her anymore, the news breaks her heart, literally, and she dies. But now that she’s D&G (dead and gone), Brie revisits the living world to discover that her family has begun to unravel and her best friend has been keeping an intimate secret about her boyfriend. Somehow, Brie must handle all of this while navigating through the five steps of grief with the help of Patrick, her mysterious bomber-jacketed guide to the afterlife. But how is she supposed to face the Ever After with a broken heart and no one to call her own?

* * *

My friend Kai recommended The Catastrophic History of You and Me by Jess Rothenberg to me way back it first came out, but I never got around to reading it for some reason. Then one day, while waiting for some friends to pick me up in a bookstore in a mall that I’ve only been to once, I saw the new cover of the book and read the back blurbs. I don’t know what happened, but I decided to pick it up. Perhaps it finally piqued my interest? I can’t even remember if the words “letting go” were there, but in case they were, then it was probably why I decided to get it.

Brie dies because of heart break, soon after her boyfriend, Jacob, breaks up with her. Impossible, yet it happened, and Brie wakes up in the afterlife, unsure of what exactly she needs to do now. She meets another soul, Patrick, who goes with her when she revisits her old life. Brie realizes the extent of the loss that the people she left felt, and how things were suddenly so far away from what she’s expected: her family’s breaking apart, her best friend “going out” with her ex. Brie being dead meant she couldn’t do anything about it…or could she? How can she move on now, knowing that everything and everyone she left are now so messed up?

I didn’t really expect to love this book so much while I was reading it, but I did. Brie’s voice was fresh and snarky and so fun to read, that even if she was essentially dead, it wasn’t so hard to relate to her. I liked how Brie was such a normal girl, with her family, her dog, her friends and her boyfriend. Everything about her seemed normal, until she died, of course. But even so, Brie’s personality shone throughout, and I laughed with her, felt sad with her and I felt truly, truly happy for her when things started falling into place at the end.

The book isn’t really about death per se — it didn’t answer the mysteries of life or anything — but more about grief, and moving on. I liked how the story was framed around the 5 stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance), which is basically applicable not just to deaths but anything that we ever grieved for. Here, I read about how Brie’s family and friends worked through these stages, and Brie as well…and they didn’t handle it all spectacularly. Which is okay, because they’re humans, and we never really go through all those 5 stages perfectly and not have battle scars in the end. The Catastrophic History of You and Me is really more about letting go, moving on, and forgiving – others and yourself – and that part really resonated with me.

I liked pretty much everything about this, except maybe the other backstory about this other character and the complications of souls was kind of dizzying. I mean, I got it, but a part of me kind of feels like it kind of came out of nowhere, and it was an additional layer that really didn’t need to be there. Except, of course, it provided a better resolution for why things were like that between them, but overall, I could do without it.

I was smiling at the end of this book. It was funny and sad and heartbreaking and hopeful all the same time, and I’m really glad I read The Catastrophic History of You and Me. I almost forgot that this was more of a paranormal romance novel than a contemporary one. :) If you’re grieving, or if you’ve ever had a hard time moving on or letting go, then this book will be a good friend for you. Trust me on this. :)

Number of dog-eared pages: 22

Favorite dog-eared quotes:

Falling in love is pretty much the same thing as being eaten alive by a grizzly bear.

News flash, Bozo. Don’t ever tell a girl to relax. It only makes us madder.

You can obsess and obsess over how things ended – what you did wrong or could have done differently –  but there’s not much of a point. It’s not like it’ll change anything.

It was one thing to leave. But to be left. That had to be even worse.

You’ve got to let go of this desperation. You’ll never have a chance of moving on otherwise.

Maybe all heartbreak is created equal.

The trouble is, sometimes words are like arrows. Once you shoot them, there’s no going back.

May you always have love.

Rating:

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reading is the ultimate aphrodisiac

Hope Was Here

Hope Was Here by Joan BauerHope Was Here by Joan Bauer
Publisher: Puffin
Number of pages: 186
My copy: borrowed from Louize

When Hope and her aunt move to small-town Wisconsin to take over the local diner, Hope’s not sure what to expect. But what they find is that the owner, G.T., isn’t quite ready to give up yet–in fact, he’s decided to run for mayor against a corrupt candidate. And as Hope starts to make her place at the diner, she also finds herself caught up in G.T.’s campaign–particularly his visions for the future. After all, as G.T. points out, everyone can use a little hope to help get through the tough times . . . even Hope herself.

* * *

The first time I read about this book was from Peter’s blog, and it had me with the words diner, pie, and hope. I’ve seen Joan Bauer’s books in bookstores but I always ignored it until I read Peter’s review of it, and I put it on my radar. When my book club friend Louize brought a copy during our last discussion, I asked if I could borrow it, and immediately started reading it the next day. I had a feeling it was going to be a feel-good book, and I wasn’t wrong.

Hope Yancey’s real name is Tulip, but ever since her mom left her in the care of her aunt, she changed her name to Hope, something that she thought fitted her better. She moved around a lot with her Aunt Addie, who is an excellent cook and a diner manager. When the owner of the last diner they worked in in New York City stole money from them and left them with nothing, Addie and Hope move to Wisconsin to help manage Welcome Stairways, a little diner owned by G.T. Stoop who was sick with leukemia. G.T. got them onboard because he had other plans for their little town – he wanted to run for mayor to beat the corrupt Eli Millstone who’s had the town in his hands for year. Hope and her aunt gets involved in this campaign, but they didn’t know what people desperate to keep power would do to keep people out…but Hope chose her name for a reason, and even if she isn’t feeling particularly hopeful herself, she is finding that there were a lot of reasons to keep the hope in the midst of the hardest time in her life.

I breezed through Hope Was Here, not because it was a super-easy read but because it was really interesting. I realized that I really like reading about small town, diner settings (case in point: Bittersweet by Sarah Ockler, Speechless by Hannah Harrington, and Catch of the Day by Kristan Higgins). I really liked the small family that always forms inside diners, and how it makes working there seem really fun, despite it being hectic come peak hours. Of course I loved the food descriptions (homemade corned beef hash and fried eggs with a big piece of maple corn bread slathered with salted butter…mmm), and how food played a big part in their lives without it becoming too much of a foodie book.

I liked how the book didn’t seem complicated even with several plots — G.T.’s campaign, Hope’s issues with her mom, her search for her dad. I liked how they all played with each other well, all supporting the main theme of having hope and keeping it, even if things don’t feel particularly hopeful. Yes, there’s also romance, and one of them I predicted from when the lead interest appeared, but both of them worked quite well. A part of me felt that the love interests seemed too old for their partners, but I learned to adjust how I imagined them later on. I think I just had a bit of stereotype in my head when I started reading it.

This book reminded me of those books that my mom bought for me when I was in elementary and high school — full of life lessons and utter positivity. I can still remember most of them, and I think the reason why those books stayed with me even after years is because the plot felt real, and the characters were wonderfully flawed and yet they still prevailed in the best way. I bet if my mom had read the blurb of Hope Was Here back when she was still buying books for me, she would have gotten this, too.

I think Hope Was Here accomplished its goal with me: when I finished reading it, it left me with hope. Hope in the good things, hope in the midst of difficulties, and gratitude in knowing that there is always something to be hopeful for. :) I really liked this, and if you’re looking for a feel-good book (for the right reasons, and not just fluff!), then Hope Was Here would not disappoint. If Joan Bauer’s other books were as good as this one, then I would love to go through her entire backlist. :)

Number of hypothetical dog-eared pages: 15

Favorite dog-eared quotes:

I think hope is just about the best thing a person can have. (p. 7)

New places always help us look at life differently. (p. 10)

Then she hugged me with permanence. (p. 12)

She said you’ve got to love yourself with all your shortcomings, and you’ve got to love the world, no matter how bad it gets. (p. 56)

There’s something about diner setup that soothes the soul. Something about making good coffee in a huge urn glistening in fluorescent light, something sweet about filling syrup pitchers and lining them on the back counter like soldiers ready to advance. It gives you courage to face another day. (p. 61)

The thing I hate most about dying is how we deny its existence for as long as we can. Nobody knows how long they’ve got on this earth. And all we need is to live our lives just a little bit like the hearse is outside ready to cart us away – make the days count. That doesn’t mean living in fear, but we don’t have to be dumb bunnies either and take life for granted. (p. 67)

— you don’t know which way a thing will come at you, but you need to welcome it with your whole heart whichever way it arrives. (p. 174)

It’s a complete rush to get what you’ve been hoping for – to get it so full and complete that it fills your senses. (p. 174)

Rating:

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Kyusireader

Kids These Days (Stories from Luna East Arts Academy, Vol. 1)

Luna East Blog Tour Header(See all the other #LunaEast tour stops here!)

luna east vol 1.front.coverKids These Days (Stories from Luna East Arts Academy Vol. 1) by Various Authors
Luna East Arts Academy, Vol. 1
Number of pages: 145 pages
My copy: ebook review copy

The stories from LUNA EAST ARTS ACADEMY are about love. And also, friends, food, kissing, rumors, mean people, insecurities, birthdays, breakups, making up. We set it in an arts academy because we wanted everyone to have a talent, and know it. Because no one is ordinary, if you know them well enough.

Who are you, at LUNA EAST? Are you a popular kid, a wallflower, a drama club diva, a debate whiz? Visit lunaeastacademy.org to read more stories from #LUNAEAST, and submit your own. For readers 16 and up.

* * *

It all started at a #romanceclass meet-up, when Mina mentioned that she dreamed of writing a Sweet Valley-esque type of series, but set in the Philippines. Everyone who attended that class had read Sweet Valley at some point in their lives, so it was a pretty exciting idea. We all started chattering excitedly about it, like where the school would be and the activities, and started calling dibs on characters in the school – the jock, the teachers, and the like. Stories started getting written over the next few months, a website was set up to house the stories, continuity was established, and now, the first volume of the book is out. (Well, almost out, because as of this writing, it’s still a few days before the launch. :D)

The stories in Luna East were cute and fun, and there were no two stories alike. I liked how there were so many eyes to see high school in, and so many people to rub elbows with. Since this is just volume 1, the stories barely scratch the surface of what could be happening inside the school, but it’s a good start to get yourself acquainted with the environment. True enough, it felt like the school was a playground for the imagination, and reading through the stories got me more excited to finish mine, and mention some of the characters who were already in the other stories.

And that’s my favorite part of this, really – the continuity. I’ve always loved it when characters have a cameo appearance in other stories. I loved how one character would even have speaking lines in other stories, giving them more depth. Don’t you love it when authors work with each other and come up with completely original stories? :) (And if you’ve read #romanceclass novels, you’ll probably spot a familiar place used in several stories, too. :D)

I didn’t study in a school like Luna East, but even so, reading this was almost like I was back in high school. In a good way, though, because my high school life was pretty tame and I could use a little excitement. As the summary said, the stories here are mostly about love — you know, the high school kind of love. Crushes, unrequited love, love-hate, unexpected type of love from the popular people to the people who consider themselves nobody inside the halls of Luna East. But more than love, they’re also stories of friendship — from kids who grew up together to kids who just got to know each other. You might see yourself in one of these stories, because even if the setting is completely fictional (and artsy), and even if you never had to wear unnecessary vests, high school is pretty much a universal experience for all of us. You might hate it or like it (or like me, you’re pretty ambivalent about it), but there’s always that one (or two, or three) high school memory that you will always tell the friends you meet post-high school.

But yeah, even as I read this, I found myself shaking my head at times while saying, kids these days. Hmf. Seriously, though, the first volume of Luna East was such a fun read. Come and see what’s inside, and you might just find a spot for yourself. And when you do, perhaps you’d like to write about it? :)

Favorite dog-eared quote:

She was still holding her sword. He touched its tip, fingers walking until they reached her hand. She let them stay here. (Fifty-Two Weeks by Mina V. Esguerra)

Luna East, with its unnecessary vests and unnecessary crest, was where you went in a decent and down-to-earth person and came out a snob. (Yours is the First Face that I Saw by Ronald S. Lim)

Our family helps us become the best versions of ourselves. While with friends, we discover and learn to come to terms with our desires. (The Letter by M. Protacio-de Guzman)

“Maybe it’s about time that we quit this dance.” (Where Do We Go From Here by Jen C. Suguitan)

Rating:

Come join us at the #LunaEast launch on February 8, 2014, 6pm, Ayala Museum! :) It’s also the first year anniversary of #romanceclass, so if you want early feels for February, then join us! Get to meet the authors, mingle with other fans, and have some cookies! We’d love to see you there. :) Go, Wolves!

Luna East Book Launch Details

 

All I Ever Wanted

All I Ever Wanted by Kristan HigginsAll I Ever Wanted by Kristan Higgins
Publisher: Harlequin
Number of pages: 409
My copy: Kindle edition

One Happily-Ever-After Rocking Chair…

…and no sign of any forthcoming babies to rock in ol’ Georgebury, Vermont. For Callie Grey, turning thirty means coming to grips with the fact that her boss (and five-week fling) is way overdue in his marriage proposal. And way off track because Mark has suddenly announced his engagement to the company’s new Miss Perfect. If that isn’t bad enough, her mom decides to throw her a three-oh birthday bash in the family funeral home.

Bad goes to worse when she stirs up a crazy relationship with the town’s not so warm and fuzzy veterinarian, Ian McFarland, in order to flag Mark’s attention. So Ian is more comfortable with animals…. So he’s formal, orderly and just a bit tense. The ever-friendly, fun-loving and spontaneous Callie decides it’s time for Ian to get a personality makeover. But dang, if he doesn’t shock the heck out of her, she might actually fall for Vermont’s unlikeliest eligible bachelor….

* * *

All I ever wanted — at least, at that particular time — was a nice, fluffy novel to sink my teeth into. The last time I read a Kristan Higgins novel was some sort of research for #romanceclass. I had fun, and but it was still partly research and I didn’t really breeze through it when I read it. This time, I just really wanted something fluffy, something that wouldn’t really make me think too much but I would still enjoy. So I scanned my library, picked All I Ever Wanted and settled in.

Then I met Callie Grey, and nothing is ever the same again.

Okay, perhaps that’s a little exaggeration. But Callie is one of the brightest heroines I’ve read in all the Higgins novels I’ve read so far. Callie just turned thirty, and she was coming to terms that maybe her boss Mark wasn’t going to fall for her, especially after he announced that he was dating the newest addition to their small advertising company. Callie tries to move on, and she meets the formal-but-really-kind-of-stiff veterinarian, Ian McFarland. It wasn’t love at first sight, because Ian was a little too formal for Callie’s fun-loving personality, but she gives him a chance with a personality makeover to help his business. Callie wasn’t really interested in him…but he was cute. And single. Why not?

Callie, Callie. I loved her from the start, from her emotional diarrhea to her family to her cheerful outlook in life. I loved her dog Bowie, and her rocking chair, her grandfather and how she has the little town of Georgebury wrapped around her finger with her sunny personality. I’m pretty sure I would have been friends with Callie if I were there, mostly because she’s pretty much everyone’s friend there. But she had me right from the very start, and I knew how exhausting it must be to try to be so happy all the time even if there were people around her that broke her heart. I loved her, maybe because I saw a bit of myself in her, especially with how she talked to herself about moving on from Mark. Her thoughts felt real, and well, sometimes too real that it hurt a little.

I can’t remember having so much fun with a Higgins novel. I can’t find anything not to like in All I Ever Wanted — it was such a fun read with just the right amount of swoon and tension. I liked how Ian and Callie were such opposites but still so seemingly perfect for each other. It’s like Ian gets Callie, even if half the time he seemed to get annoyed at her for being so bubbly and everything. I remember grinning like an idiot at one of their first few “moments” together. I was giggling happily at that turkey scene that led to so many things for the two of them. They balanced each other off quite well — they’re all cute and awkward and sweet, but not too much to make it too cheesy. It was fun reading how the two of them stumbled around each other, like putting together a puzzle where some pieces didn’t seem to fit at first, until you find their perfect place.

I really liked All I Ever Wanted, if it’s not obvious yet. :) I think the trick with reading Higgins novels is that you don’t read one after the other so you get enough time to savor the swoon and enjoy the feels. All I wanted was a nice, fluffy and romantic read, and All I Ever Wanted pretty much nailed it. I’m really glad I picked this one up. :)

Number of dog-eared pages: 19

Favorite dog-eared quotes:

I felt a warm and fuzzy glow in my heart. People were just the best. I loved people. Most people, anyway.

“Look, Callie,” he said quietly, “I didn’t meant o insult you, but it’s clear I did. I meant only that…” His gaze drifted to his dog, then to the bookcase. “You don’t have to try so hard.” He paused, then met my eyes with some difficulty. “Not with me, anyway.”
Oh. Oh.

Then again, I was excellent at misinterpretation.

I’d tried so hard to get him to notice me, and when he finally did, tried so hard to be perfect. Even after he’d put our relationship on pause, I’d tried so hard. Tried to be cheerful, tried to be upbeat, tried to not let my feelings show, not to blame him, not to mind when day after day, week after week, his nonchalance eroded my heart.
Sometimes being an optimist was quite the fucking effort.

You fill up the whole room, sweetheart, to try to fix everyone’s problems, be everyone’s friend. You don’t have to try to hard. We’ll love you just the same.

Rating:

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