Lost Lake

Lost LakeLost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Number of pages: 304
My copy: Kindle edition

Suley, Georgia, is home to Lost Lake Cottages and not much else. Which is why it’s the perfect place for newly-widowed Kate and her eccentric eight-year-old daughter Devin to heal. Kate spent one memorable childhood summer at Lost Lake, had her first almost-kiss at Lost Lake, and met a boy named Wes at Lost Lake. It was a place for dreaming. But Kate doesn’t believe in dreams anymore, and her Aunt Eby, Lost Lake’s owner, wants to sell the place and move on. Lost Lake’s magic is gone. As Kate discovers that time has a way of standing still at Lost Lake can she bring the cottages—and her heart—back to life? Because sometimes the things you love have a funny way of turning up again. And sometimes you never even know they were lost . . . until they are found.

* * *

Sarah Addison Allen is one of my go-to authors for comfort reads. I think everyone who’s ever read any of her books know this. There’s something about her words, the magic realism in her novels that just hits the right spot. So I was very excited when Lost Lake came out, and I couldn’t wait to get lost in this new, magical world crafted by her SAA’s words.

A year after her husband’s death, Kate Pherris wakes up. Her mother-in-law, Cricket, plans to move her and her daughter Devin with her, but Kate didn’t want anything to do with it anymore. When Devin finds a postcard from her Kate’s Aunt Eby from Lost Lake, the mother and daughter drive off to Lost Lake. Eby Pim knew Lost Lake is going bankrupt, and with a heavy heart, she finally decides to sell it. When this news comes out, Eby’s old friends started coming back, to spend one last time in the lake. Eby thinks she made the right decision, but something doesn’t sit well with her. Lost Lake is a place where lost people find themselves, so what happens when they lose it?

I got lost in Lost Lake a few pages in, and I mean that in a good way. There’s the usual magic and beauty in this book. It’s not quite the same as Garden Spells, a bit more similar to The Girl Who Chased the Moon, but still unique in its own way. I really liked the setting. Most of my vacations by the water involve the beach – sun, sand and whatnot. Lakes aren’t too common here in the Philippines (at least, there’s not much of them that I know), so a lake vacation is interesting to me. I loved the old cabins, the lake that seemed like magic, and all the other memories that the cast of characters had in the lake. The history gave the place a lot more personality, and it was so nice to dip into all of it and see how much the place meant to everyone in Suley. I wanted to be there in Lost Lake, too, to witness the magic of the place first hand.

But in a way, I guess I was there, too. True to form, SAA’s words brought me there, too, and it was such a pleasure to be there. Reading this felt like a vacation, the one where I made new friends in the form of the characters in the story. I loved Eby and Kate and Devin, but the people who really shone here were the secondary characters – Lisette, Selma, Buhladeen (I love her name), Wes, the alligator. I loved them in their signature quirkiness, their whimsy and the little magic that they call carried in their own. The thing with SAA novels is that even if there is a little bit of magic, somehow you’d still believe that they were just normal, everyday things. That’s what I love the most about magic realism – how magic is not new, and how it’s all so subtle but it leaves a big mark in the character’s lives.

Lost Lake was good, except maybe compared to the other SAA books, it had a little of a lost quality to it, too. I don’t mean it in a bad way; perhaps there was just too many things to love that I couldn’t really settle into any of them to love them fully. I suppose this isn’t bad, but I had a lot of books for comparison and Lost Lakepales just a little bit in comparison to the others. If you’re new to SAA and you want to dip your toes into her stories, then this may be a good one to start with, and then I would recommend you read her others, too, because trust me: it gets better from there.

Number of dog-eared pages: 37

Favorite dog-eared quotes:

There was so much happiness in the world. It was everywhere. It was free. Eby never understood why some people, people like her family, simply refused to take it.

Magic is what we invent when we want something we think we can’t have.

All the women in their family had sturdy frames. They weren’t meant to break, but most of them did anyway, blown down by that perfect storm called love.

If we measured life in the things that almost happened, we wouldn’t get anywhere.

We are conduits for happiness. Remember that.

You can’t change where you came from, but you can change where you go from here. Just like a book. If you don’t like the ending, you make up a new one.

When your cup is empty, you do not mourn what is gone. Because if you do, you will miss the opportunity to fill it again.

Sometimes, the best endings are the one that surprise you. Sometimes, the best are the ones that have everything happening exactly how you want it to happen. But the absolute perfect endings are when you get a little of both.

Rating:

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Dear Author

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling
Publisher: Three Rivers Press
Number of pages: 242
My copy: Kindle edition

Comedy’s fastest-rising star takes to the page in a book of essays, personal anecdotes, and impassioned pleas.

Multi-hyphenate Mindy Kaling is an Emmy-nominated writer, the actress famous for playing the beloved Kelly Kapoor on The Office, and the author of one of Twitter’s most popular and quoted feeds.  She is a keen and witty observer of life, romance, and pop culture, whom the New York Times recently called “an entirely original and of-the-moment” performer and Entertainment Weekly deemed “one of the ten funniest actresses in Hollywood.”

In Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, Mindy shares her observations, fears, and opinions about a wide-ranging list of the topics she thinks about the most: from her favorite types of guys (including Sherlock Holmes, NBA players, Aaron Sorkin characters, and 19th-century fictional hunks) to life in the Office writers’ room to her leisure pursuit of dieting (“I don’t travel, speak other languages, do crafts, or enjoy sports, but I love reading about new diets”) and how much she loves romantic comedies.  Loaded with personal stories and laugh-out-loud philosophies, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? is a must-read by one of the most original comedic voices working today.

* * *

I’ve seen Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling on blogs since last year, I think, but I didn’t pick it up because I wasn’t a huge fan of memoirs. Plus, I didn’t really know who Mindy Kaling was. I only watched a few episodes of The Office, and not enough about her, and there was only one episode of The Mindy Project that I watched for #romanceclass. For some reason, I started reading more non-fiction books and memoirs this year, and after reading a comment from a friend on Facebook about this book, I finally decided to pick it up. I wasn’t planning to read it immediately, but then I decided to scan through the first pages…then I started laughing. And I was hooked.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? talks about Mindy’s experiences and observations about life — and by that, I meant she talked about a lot of things: from friendships to her parents, to her ethnicity, school, fashion, weight, and her work as a writer. There’s also a bit about romance, Irish exits (so that’s what this means!), and comedies. Not knowing much about Mindy, I thought I’d get bored with it, but I wasn’t even halfway through the book and I couldn’t stop laughing. Her observations and comments were spot-on, and I found myself relating to some of it. Cliche as this may be, reading this book felt like I was just hanging out with Mindy somewhere and I was listening to all her stories about her life so far. Also, laughing very hard, because I imagine she’s a great storyteller and she’d definitely hold the room’s attention. :D

There were just some chapters in the book that I kind of spaced out on, particularly the parts about comedies because I’m not a huge fan of those. But I really liked reading her behind the scenes commentaries on The Office, particularly the bit about Steve Carell. Who would’ve thought? It made me kind of want to watch a bit of The Office, as well as The Mindy Project, if only to get more quotable quotes from her.

And this is me being silly, but a teeny part of me feels ashamed that I didn’t read her books within two days (because she said “This book will take you two days to read. Did you even see the cover? It’s mostly pink.”)…but she would understand, right? Heh. :D Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? is a funny and refreshing read, a good in-between books for when you read too much fiction or when you have too much drama in your life, or when you just want to laugh, period. Definitely keeping this on my shelf. :)

Number of dog-eared pages: 37

Favorite dog-eared quotes:

For instance, they say the best revenge is living well. I say it’s acid in the face — who will love them now?

But writing about my struggles was actually really fun. Besides, who wants to read about success, anyway? Successful serial murderers, maybe.

Haley and I would talk for hours about which member of ‘N Sync we’d want to marry. After long deliberation, the answer was always J.C. Chasez. Joey Fatone’s last name was going to be “Fat One” no matter how great he was, and even though they didn’t know at their age that Lance Bass was gay outright, they sensed he’d make a better good friend and confidante. As for Justin Timberlake, well, JT was the coolest and hottest, but too flashy, so we couldn’t trust him to be faithful. J.C. Chasez was the smart compromise.

If you’re going to punch someone in the face, your best bet is to punch your best friend.

I simply regard romantic comedies as a subgenre of sci-fi, in which the world created therein has different rules than my regular human world.

When you think a girl looks pretty, say it.

…We are magic to you: you have no idea how we got to look as good as we do.

I think when men hear that women want a commitment, they think it means commitment to a romantic relationship, but that’s not it. It’s a commitment to not floating around anymore. I want a guy who is entrenched in his own life. Entrenched is awesome.

In real life, shouldn’t a wedding be an awesome party you throw with your great pal, in the presence of a bunch of your other friends? A great day, sure, but not the beginning and certainly not the end of your friendship with a person you can’t wait to talk about gardening with for the next forty years.

Rating:

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In Lesbians with Books

The Lucy Variations

The Lucy Variations by Sara ZarrThe Lucy Variations by Sara Zarr
Publisher: Little, Brown
Number of pages:
309

My copy: hardbound, ordered from Book Depository

Lucy Beck-Moreau once had a promising future as a concert pianist. The right people knew her name, her performances were booked months in advance, and her future seemed certain.

That was all before she turned fourteen.

Now, at sixteen, it’s over. A death, and a betrayal, led her to walk away. That leaves her talented ten-year-old brother, Gus, to shoulder the full weight of the Beck-Moreau family expectations. Then Gus gets a new piano teacher who is young, kind, and interested in helping Lucy rekindle her love of piano — on her own terms. But when you’re used to performing for sold-out audiences and world-famous critics, can you ever learn to play just for yourself?

* * *

I used to play the piano when I was a kid. I’ve dreamed of having a small piano at home, but my parents settled for a keyboard instead (which was, in the end, a good choice, because [1] I didn’t really play piano for long; and [2] having a piano during the Ondoy/Ketsana flood of 2009 would just be horrible), and I took several lessons on it. I liked it a lot, and I always thought the piano was a lovely instrument and I wanted to be able to play it more. Unfortunately, by fifth grade, I realized that I didn’t really have that much of a musical aptitude. I mean, I can play, I can read notes, but I didn’t really develop that ear for listening to music and being able to play it without sheets. (But wait, does that even exist?)

But either way, even if I don’t play the piano now, I still like it. And I really like reading books with musicians in them, whether they’re bands, or singers (or girlfriends of singers), or a band manager, even. Plus, The Lucy Variations is a Sara Zarr novel, and I love Sara Zarr.

Lucy Beck-Moreau is a piano-playing prodigy, the next great concert pianist that everyone’s buzzing about. Or was, until she walked out on a major recital after learning of a death in the family. After she walked out, the piano playing was left to her younger brother, Gus, to fulfill the family’s expectations. When her brother gets a new piano teacher who not just teaches him but encourages Lucy to try again, she wonders if it’s worth it, and if she could ever escape what her family — most especially her grandfather — would think if she decides to go back and play again.

The Lucy Variations felt just a little different from the other Sara Zarr novels I’ve read, what with Lucy being a bit of a more quiet, organized little musical genius who just wanted to be normal. At first, it was hard getting to know Lucy because she felt so closed off, even if I was basically in her head all the time. But eventually, she started showing more of herself, to understand how it is to be where she was, and how suffocated she felt with the pressure of her family in playing the piano. Lucy felt real — despite being a little detached — and I eventually started caring for what she cared about in the book, most especially her brother. I liked how she struggled not to play and when she played, she got lost in it, and I could see that she really loved it. Piano, the music, and making music. I think the only thing that really niggled me in Lucy is her attraction to older men — way older men, which was really something because she’s just sixteen. But perhaps it wasn’t really that kind of attraction, but more of seeking attention. She never had the chance to be around boys her age, at least ones who didn’t see her as competition.

The overall story was quiet, and maybe because of the music aspect, I felt like there was an accompanying background music to all of this while I was reading it. I liked The Lucy Variations, overall. Perhaps not as much as I liked Once Was Lost or How to Save a Life, but still good enough. I sort of called what happened near the end a few pages before it, and when it happened, I was secretly glad because I always felt there was something fishy about that character. And I liked how Lucy saw it later on, how she saw past the hurt and what had come out from it. I guess that is the best example of what “daring greatly” meant, as one of my favorite bloggers said in one blog post, how in the end, Lucy dared again, and it was what mattered: Because when was the last time she gave her whole heart to something? (p.291)

Number of dog-eared pages: 24

Favorite dog-eared quotes:

Sometimes, you should be allowed a tiny bit of joy that would stay with you for more than five minutes. That wasn’t too much to ask. To have a moment like this, and be able to hold onto it. (p. 78)

Adulthood is a perpetual state of confusion. (p. 182)

But what they’d done together, what had been opened by becoming so close, she could still love that. She could love their conversations and their hours at the piano and the results of their work. She could even love the way it hurt right now, because when was the last time she gave her whole heart to something? (p. 291)

That, all of it, belonged to her. She didn’t have to let Will take it away, the way she’s let her grandfather, the business, herself, take her love for music. She would hold on to what was her. Let go of what wasn’t. (p. 291)

Rating:

Required Reading: January

Other reviews:
Book Harbinger

Love & Misadventure

Love & Misadventure by Lang LeavLove & Misadventure by Lang Leav
Publisher: Andrew McMeel
Number of pages: 78
My copy: Kindle edition

Lang Leav is a poet and internationally exhibiting artist. Awarded a coveted Churchill Fellowship, her work expresses the intricacies of love and loss. Beautifully illustrated and thoughtfully conceived, Love and Misadventure will take you on a rollercoaster ride through an ill-fated love affair- from the initial butterflies to the soaring heights- through to the devastating plunge. Lang Leav has an unnerving ability to see inside the hearts and minds of her readers. Her talent for translating complex emotions with astonishing simplicity has won her a cult following of devoted fans from all over the world.

* * *

My friend and I were browsing in Fully Booked sometime before Christmas when I spotted this Lang Leav’s Love & Misadventure and started browsing. I opened to a random page, read it, and cursed. Then I called my friend and we started picking random pages, cursing every now and then at the pages we read, because damn, the stuff we read kinda hurt. That was the time I added this book in my wish list, and hoped someone would give it to me. Because, as I said on my Twitter: “Lang Leav’s Love & Misadventure: <3 </3

Love & Misadventure is a collection of poetry and illustrations by Lang Leav that talks about love, and some misadventures in love. It’s quite melancholic and perhaps a bit painful and bitter at some points. The book is short, and I finished reading it while I was waiting in the bank, and it left my heart just a little tender in some parts after I was done.

Except that it didn’t leave me as wowed as I was when I first read it. Perhaps I was expecting it a little too much, especially after I’ve read several pieces before I finally sat down and read the entire collection. That, or this is another case of “mood reading” – when things I read at first resonated because I can relate to it more compared to when I finally read the entire thing. I also felt that some of the poems felt too…young. Not necessarily juvenile, but just something that felt like it was coming from a very young place. Did that make sense?

I don’t know; maybe I just wasn’t in that mood when I was reading this (granted, I read this right after I finished Brené Brown’s Daring Greatly, so that may have affected my appreciation). That’s not to say that the pieces I first read didn’t resonate with me again — it did, but maybe less because I’ve already read them before. I think Love & Misadventure is good, except maybe my personal hype had already faded from when I randomly read some pages of it.

Or, you know, I just really stopped relating to the poems I liked first. If that’s the case…then that’s good, right? :)

Oh, but if you liked the poems in Love & Misadventure and you want more, then I will direct you to Mindy Nettifee’s The First Time and Filipino author Marla Miniano’s blog. I think you’ll like these, too. :)

Number of dog-eared pages: 8

Favorite dog-eared quotes:

Everyone has one – an inventory of lost things waiting to be found. Yearning to be acknowledged for the worth they once held in your life.

Do you remember the song that was playing the night we met?
No, but I remember every song I have heard since you left.

A Time Capsule

This is where,
I began to care,
where I was befriended.

This is where,
my soul was bared,
where all my rules were bended.

This is where,
a moment we shared,
was stolen and expended.

Now this is where,
this is where,
this is where we’ve ended -

Rating:

Gunmetal Magic

Gunmetal Magic by Ilona AndrewsGunmetal Magic by Ilona Andrews
Kate Daniels # 5.5
Publisher: Ace
Number of pages: 326
My copy: mass market paperback, from Book Depository

After being kicked out of the Order of the Knights of Merciful Aid, Andrea’s whole existence is in shambles. She tries to put herself back together by working for Cutting Edge, a small investigative firm owned by her best friend. When several shapeshifters working for Raphael Medrano—the male alpha of the Clan Bouda, and Andrea’s former lover—die unexpectedly at a dig site, Andrea is assigned to investigate. Now she must work with Raphael as her search for the killer leads into the secret underbelly of supernatural Atlanta. And dealing with her feelings for him might have to take a back seat to saving the world…

* * *

I’ve had Gunmetal Magic on my shelf for a long time now, and but I don’t really know why I never picked it up as fast as I ought to, especially since I love the universe this was written in. But I guess I was too busy to pick it up, and I didn’t feel the need to hurry, because the next Kate was far from the release date when I got this, and frankly, I wasn’t really sure if I would like being in Andrea’s head as much I liked being in Kate.

Andrea Nash is Kate Daniels’ best friend, a former member of the Order of the Knights of the Merciful Aid, loves her weapons, and a beastkin. Oh, and she also has a broken heart because her boyfriend, Clan Bouda’s male alpha, Raphael Medrano, left her after a particularly bad fight. So now Andrea tries to pick herself up by working with Kate on their private investigative firm. When shapeshifters were found dead, Andrea takes on the case. Never mind that these shapeshifters were working for her ex-boyfriend, and never mind that Andrea was never over him. She has work to do, and her feelings are just secondary…right?

As with all other Kate Daniels books that I’ve read in the past, this one was fun. It was fun to be back in this version of Atlanta, to watch the magic rise and fall and technology fighting against this. I was more into the world of shapeshifters here, being that Andrea is sort of one, except that others view her as an abomination of sorts. Andrea is a tough girl, and there were a lot of reasons behind this toughness. She’s not just the girl who likes guns — she had reasons why. I liked Andrea from the previous books, and it was interesting to read a story from her POV. She’s just as snarky as Kate, and I guess best friends really rub off on each other because they sort of sound a like at some point.

The story was just what I expected from Ilona Andrews: myths, strange people and lots of crazy other things that all of them had to deal with. It was well thought out again, and there were always a lot of things at stake here, especially for Andrea. I loved that Roman the volhv was back — he’s such a crazy fun (and yeah, quite hot) character, and I wish he’d be in the other books, too. Doolittle was also fun here, especially the headbutt part! Hee.

Gunmetal Magic just felt a tad long at some parts, and I wasn’t completely gripped as I am with other Kate books. I liked Andrea, but after some time, I kind of wished I was back in Kate’s head again. I missed her brand of snark, I guess, plus I liked her sparring with Curran more than I did with Andrea and Raphael. Perhaps it’s different because the latter were both shapeshifters?

Overall, I enjoyed reading Gunmetal Magic. It’s a good addition to the Kate Daniels series, and I guess if I read this the moment I got it, it would have been enough to tide me over while waiting for the next Kate book. But since it took me a while to pick it up, I don’t have to wait too long to read the next Kate book because it’s already waiting for me in my TBR. :)

Number of dog-eared pages: 10

Favorite dog-eared quotes:

“That’s a lesson for you – when you get a chance to be happy, you take it and you treat the other person the way they deserve to be treated. Don’t take things for granted.” (p. 58)

“If it was sharpened and shorter, it might be a variation of a karambit, a curved knife from the Philippines.” (p. 140)

Rating:

rr2014-01

Other reviews:
Book Harbinger
Kirkus Reviews