The Song of the Lioness (Tamora Pierce)

The Song of the Lioness

The Song of the Lioness Quartet by Tamora Pierce

I wasn’t much of a fantasy reader when I was young. My love affair with reading started with one of the Sweet Valley Kids books. Early on, I never strayed from the Sweet Valley, Nancy Drew and Babysitters Club shelves during bookstore visits, ignoring all the other books and genres in the process. When I grew up, I was more likely to pick up “fluffy” books than fantasy or scifi. I can answer a question about high school cliques in a heartbeat, but anything about magic or supernatural creatures or lands that only exist in the imagination, and my brain shuts down. It wasn’t until last year, when I set a personal goal to read more fantasy books, that I wandered over to other shelves. However, given the great variety of fantasy titles, it’s easy for a fantasy newbie like me to be overwhelmed.

Enter Tamora Pierce and The Song of the Lioness series. Spoiler Warning from here on out.

Published from 1983 to 1988, The Song of the Lioness was originally written as a single book for adults, but was rejected by the publisher. Pierce cut up the manuscript and revised it into four books for teenagers. These four books feature Alanna of Trebond, and chronicle her journey into knighthood and her adventures as a knight. In Alanna: The First Adventure, we meet Alanna and her twin brother Thom, who switches places with her to go to the City of the Gods so Alanna could fulfill her dream to be a lady knight. She disguises herself as a boy, names herself Alan, and starts her knight training at the royal court.  Alanna makes friends along the way like Crown Prince Jonathan, King of Thieves George Cooper, and her teacher, Sir Myles of Olau, as well as enemies like Ralon of Malven and the man who becomes Alanna’s nemesis, Duke Roger of Conte. In the next book, In the Hands of the Goddess, Alanna continues her training, now as Jonathan’s squire and good friend, and adopts a strange purple-eyed cat she named Faithful. She joins her first war and tries to find proof that Roger is responsible for the mess that the kingdom finds itself in. Alanna becomes known as The Woman Who Rides Like a Man, which is also the title of the third book, where she leaves Tortall after revealing her identity, killing Roger and becoming a knight. She finds herself joining a Bahzir tribe where she becomes a shaman, and learns how to use and be less afraid of her power. The quartet ends with Lioness Rampant, where Alanna searches for the legendary Dominion Jewel, and returns home to help her friends to fight a war and protect both the soon-to-be-crowned King Jonathan and all of Tortall. Click here to read the rest of the review.

Alanna: The First Adventure
In the Hand of the Goddess
Woman Who Rides Like a Man
Lioness Rampant

2010 Challenge Status:
* Book # 30-33 out of 100 for 2010
* Book # 14-17 out of 20 Fantasy books for 2010

→ Tamora Piece’s website

Exes and Fairy Tales

Here’s one thing you should know about me: I can never resist a good chick lit story.

Before I got into YA (contemporary and fantasy), I was all for the pink covered books with glamorous women and all that. Although I don’t really grab every chick lit on the shelf — I’m quite choosy, but that’s for another post — I’d pick a fluffy chick lit read over other books if I was given a choice. The difference with chick lit and fantasy is I know what to expect in chick lit. I know there’s a girl, there’s definitely a guy and some kind of self-actualization problem somewhere there, all wrapped up in fluff, and done in a modern or at least, familiar setting. Fantasy books can surprise me a bit too often, leaving my brain trying to catch up as I try to visualize everything. Chick lit books leave me less mental stress.

I’m glad to say that local chick lit is kind of catching up with foreign ones, and they really are getting better. Ask me for a good local chick lit author? Let me introduce you to Mina V. Esguerra. :)

I “met” Mina when I got her first book, My Imaginary Ex, sometime last year, to pass time while I was at the mall. I had a vague idea of the plot, but I wasn’t really a fan of local chick lit yet, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I got it, read it, liked it and asked Mina to give a pep talk to the Pinoywrimos that November for National Novel Writing Month. I even gave away a copy of her book during the Thank God It’s Over party (and the prize when to a boy, how cute), and I was glad that there’s someone to represent the chick lit writers when it comes to inspirations for the Wrimos.

Fast forward to a couple of months later, I got an email from Mina about her second book, Fairy Tale Fail, which was available in Amazon as an ebook. Because of that, I ended up learning how to buy books from Amazon Kindle to my iPod, and yes, I got her book…and read it in a day because it was so awesome.

Fairy Tale Fail

Fairy Tale Fail by Mina V. Esguerra
Publisher: Independent
Number of pages: 110
My copy: ebook from Amazon Kindle Store

Of all the twenty-something women who are hopeless romantics, Ellie Manuel is more “hopeless” than “romantic.”

Even after her Prince Charming broke up with her, she just won’t give up … because fairy tale heroines don’t live “happily ever after” right away, silly, they’re tested first!

Determined to pass the test, she spends the next year restoring herself to the girl Prince Charming had fallen in love with in the first place.

Until she discovers that life without him might not be so bad after all: her career is taking off, her confidence is back, and the cute guy at work is no longer a stranger.

So when is it okay to quit on a fairy tale?

* * *

I’m not being biased because I sort of know Mina. Fairy Tale Fail really is a cute book, one that has the right amount of fluff and life lessons for the everyday working girl. It’s very easy to relate to Ellie, the protagonist, with her fairy tale whims and romanticism. While I never had a Prince Charming like her, I knew the feeling of wanting to have a fairy tale romance, one where I have a set guide for who Prince Charming should be. I know about obsessing about a guy, and I sort of know how it feels to restoring yourself when experiencing a loss.

I have to admit that like Ellie, I think I’d also prefer to have a guy like Don, but I would find someone like Lucas intriguing. Out of my league, but very intriguing. Lucas and Ellie’s development was done gradually, and it was nice to see that it wasn’t a rushed romance — nothing is more disappointing than a rushed romance in a chick lit novel, I swear. Lucas seemed sexy, yet he had a good heart, even if he seemed a bit hard to see. I kind of wish I got to know more of him through the story, but since the story was told in Ellie’s point of view, we only know as much as she does.

Here’s my favorite part (a spoiler, so if you’re reading/planning to read this, skip this!):

“You think you’re funny,” I said ruefully. “I have no idea what my life is going to be like now.”

…”You told me that your life wasn’t all about work. That you had a lot of things you looked forward to when you got out of the office…Then that’s exactly what your life is going to be. You’ve still got your family, your hobbies, your friends, and none of that will change…And I’m probably going to, you know, start calling. Driving you home. Taking you to movies you hate…And then you’ll probably want to introduce me to your mom. Your nephew Dylan will love me because kids like me, and I’ll tell him about my brother’s job and our pirate story, and he’ll just be so attached to me. And then you’ll want me to go to church again, and we’ll probably discuss that at length. But I probably will go to church with you at least once, and it will be in your college church, to erase the memory of what that douche did there.”

Ah Lucas. Where can I find someone like you? ♥ Fairy Tale Fail is a fresh and cute story that’s sure to make you sigh and be kilig. :)

I loved Fairy Tale Fail so much, that it made me pick up My Imaginary Ex again, for a re-read. And here’s the requisite book image and blurb!

My Imaginary Ex

My Imaginary Ex by Mina V. Esguerra
Publisher: Summit Books
Number of pages: 144
My copy: paperback, from National Bookstore

Here’s what happens when you play pretend.

When Zack asks Jasmine to pretend to be his ex-girlfriend, she gamely agrees, thinking it would be fun. A few years later, she still has to keep convincing people that they were never together! Then one day, she finds out he’s getting married—to someone she’d just met once! All of a sudden, things aren’t so clear-cut anymore. Can Jasmine sort out her feelings (sometimes, she can’t even tell real from pretend when it comes to her and Zack) before it’s too late?

* * *

Now this one is quite different. Just like in Fairy Tale Fail, the characters in this novel were strong and unique, each of them having a different voice, even if it’s just a minor character. The supporting characters, Lena and Marjorie, were fun, and convincing, while Kimmy, the main antagonist, was just as hateful. The story was painted over a setting that was very believable, and I could actually imagine where they went at this party or

I think the strength of My Imaginary Ex is not just in its characters, but in how the story was told. The jumps back in time is enough to show us how Jasmine and Zack’s friendship grew, and how he met his exes and how things changed. The transitions between the past and present were straightforward so it wouldn’t leave you wondering where you are in the novel’s time line. And I absolutely loved it when Jasmine came to an epiphany — I felt like I was with Lena and Marjorie, heaving a sigh of relief when Jasmine finally agreed to their plan.

My Imaginary Ex is the type of story where you’ll find yourself rooting for the characters to get together in the end, because if they don’t…well, what’s the use? While I didn’t really liked a particular scene in the book (sorry, I’m just conservative, I guess), the ending was still very satisfying, and would make you want a Zack of your own. I know I did.

So if you’re ever deciding to pick up some good local chick lit, go look for Mina’s books. I promise you won’t regret it. :)

Fairy Tale Fail
My Imaginary Ex

Pulling a Job on Jane

The Book of Jane by Anne Dayton and May VanderbiltThe Book of Jane by Anne Dayton and May Vanderbilt
Publisher: Broadway Books
Number of pages:  304
My copy: paperback, ordered from Amazon

Jane Williams is the happiest woman in New York. She has a dream job, a perfect Manhattan apartment, and a man she wants to marry. Her whole life is mapped out to the finest detail, and things just can’t get any better. But in a New York minute, everything changes. After an evening on the town with a hot Hollywood actor her PR firm is wooing, she wakes up to a day filled with strange occurrences—a weird mark on her face and a red-haired woman who seems to be following her every move. This bizarre day turns increasingly horrible, and over the course of it, Jane loses her boyfriend, her best friend, her job, her home, maybe even her dog. Unsure of why she’s being tested, Jane struggles to hold herself together while her world falls apart. Has God forgotten her?

* * *

It’s a bit hard finding good Christian fiction in the Philippines because truth be told, not many bookstores carry it. Sure, there’s OMF Literature, but the last time I saw Christian fiction on their shelves that isn’t by Frank Peretti (not that I mind, except that I have a lot of Peretti’s already) or Ted Dekker was almost four years ago. I’m glad that I can find some good YA Christian fiction in Fully Booked, but as for chick lit or non-suspense Christian fiction…well, it’s hard. That’s why I result to getting books online instead, because there’s a bigger selection of them there, obviously.

So yes, I ordered this online, and I got it from a sale, which is even more awesome. I’m a fan of Anne and May’s Miracle Girls series (which I will review as a whole once I get the last book in the series, which I hope gets to Fully Booked soon!), but I’ve always been curious about their previous books. When I heard that The Book of Jane was included in Chicklit Club’s Ultimate 100 Chicklit Collection, I decided to put it in my Amazon purchases before my dad went home.

Enough of the story on how I got the book, and let’s get to the actual book. The Book of Jane is a retelling of the story of Job, told in a woman’s perspective and in New York City. We all know the story of Job, right? It’s about a man who’s been blessed by God all his life, and then God allows the devil to wreak havoc in his life (provided he doesn’t harm Job) so they could see if Job would still be faithful to God even if he gets all these misfortunes (I mean come on, his entire family dying? Getting boils all over his body? I experienced the flood and it’s enough to drive me nuts — to experience all that might drive me over the edge). It’s about Jane Williams, who has the perfect apartment, perfect job, perfect friends, perfect boyfriend and perfect family…until everything turns out to be not perfect, and she’s left scrambling for meaning and her faith.

I liked the novel, although I think the similarities to Job ended right there. Okay, I admit to not having read the entire book of Job yet so I can’t make perfect comparisons, but I do know that the book of Job had all these poems about Job’s friends who talk to him about his misfortunes and his faith. Jane seemed alone during her low points, except when she met up with Coates, but for the rest of the time, she had friends and she had things to remind her of her fortune despite the things that happened to her.

Not that it’s bad — it’s actually a pretty good lesson on perspectives. I don’t know what I’m wishing for here, really, except maybe I guess I felt that it was too tame, that Jane didn’t really have it that hard. Maybe I was expecting something more in Jane’s misfortunes, or something. Maybe I’m just a harsh reader? ;)

But the story is quite delightful, and it touches a lot of subjects — faith (obviously), relationships, friendships and even death. I loved Jane’s friend Lee, although I kind of had a feeling he was in the closet. I don’t know, he just had that vibe? I figured who Coates would be in Jane’s life early enough, but their relationship was kind of nice to see that there was more to Coates’ arrogant exterior.

Overall, it’s a good read. The basic idea of Job was there, and although I kind of wish for more, it’s a nice refreshing clean chick-lit that packs a lot of valuable life lessons. :)


Double that Lincoln

Shades of Grey by Jasper FfordeShades of Grey by Jasper Fforde
Shades of Grey # 1
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Number of pages: 434
My copy: trade paperback, from Fully Booked

Part social satire, part romance, part revolutionary thriller, Shades of Grey tells of a battle against overwhelming odds. In a society where the ability to see the higher end of the color spectrum denotes a better social standing, Eddie Russet belongs to the low-level House of Red and can see his own color—but no other. The sky, the grass, and everything in between are all just shades of grey, and must be colorized by artificial means.

Eddie’s world wasn’t always like this. There’s evidence of a never-discussed disaster and now, many years later, technology is poor, news sporadic, the notion of change abhorrent, and nighttime is terrifying: no one can see in the dark. Everyone abides by a bizarre regime of rules and regulations, a system of merits and demerits, where punishment can result in permanent expulsion.

Eddie, who works for the Color Control Agency, might well have lived out his rose-tinted life without a hitch. But that changes when he becomes smitten with Jane, a Grey Nightseer from the dark, unlit side of the village. She shows Eddie that all is not well with the world he thinks is just and good. Together, they engage in dangerous revolutionary talk.

Stunningly imaginative, very funny, tightly plotted, and with sly satirical digs at our own society, this novel is for those who loved Thursday Next but want to be transported somewhere equally wild, only darker; a world where the black and white of moral standpoints have been reduced to shades of grey.

* * *

Jasper Fforde is back with a whole new story and a whole new world with lots of color — or sometimes, a lack of it. From Thursday Next, Jurisfiction and SpecOps to Jack Spratt and the Nursery Crime Department, we meet Eddie Russett from Jade-Under-Lime, who’s heading to East Carmine with his father for some Useful Work because he Needs Humility. Yes, all those are capitalized because in Eddie’s world, these things are proper nouns and are a part of their rules, as written in the Word of Munsell.

Eddie just wanted a simple life — he need to earn as much merits as he can, get a good mark on his Ishihara and marry an Oxblood and maybe even become a prefect. But all this changes on the day he and his father, the new Swatchman for East Carmine, saw a Grey parading as a Purple in a paint shop in Vermillion, and he meets Jane, a spunky Grey that he is quickly smitten with.

A lot more things happen after this, and we get to meet a whole lot of new characters that it was almost kind of dizzying. Eddie’s inquisitiveness gets him into a lot more trouble than he thought it would, and before he knew it, he was way beyond the path that he intended to go for, and there’s a lot more to lose now than ever.

Since this was a Jasper Fforde book, I was expecting a very fun read, and it did not disappoint. I loved the little funny quips, the outrageous characters, and the new world that he built up, the one that exists after Something Happened. It was an awesome read, even if it did make me dizzy for a while, and it made me slow down reading — almost like I was reading a classic. It’s just that the world is so new, so different and sometimes so odd that I couldn’t rush reading through it. Unlike Thursday Next’s and Jack Spratt’s whose worlds were almost normal save for the little quirks, this one seemed to operate in an entirely new level. Colourtocracy? Chromogencia (did I get that right)? Pookas? Perpetulite? Attacking swans? Shortage of spoons? Say what?!

I liked it a lot, but I think there was so much world building that was done that I finished the book with a whole lot of questions in the story. But that’s why it’s a trilogy — I’m guessing more will be written about Eddie and Jane and their plans in the next book. Oh, and don’t get me wrong — the book is funny but it touches a lot of political and social issues, all done in satire. There’s the corrupt and power hungry Prefects, racism by colors, and the lack of choices based on how the people were classified. It’s funny, interesting, but it’s also kind of sad to see that they have to live that way: Greys are workers while Purples are honored so much that it’s almost crazy.

The characters did not disappoint, too. Eddie’s a sweet protagonist who’s somewhat confused at first but has a lot of courage inside him. Jane is an excellent female protagonist, and I can’t wait to read more of her. :) There’s also the scheming Tommo who’d bargain anything for you, the cunning Courtland who is such a bully that I wanted to beat him up, and the Apocryphal Man, who is invisible most of the time but will give you answers in exchange for loganberry jam. You’d also get to learn a whole lot of names for the different colors — some of them I didn’t even know existed! — like Gamboge, Cinnabar, Ochre. :)

I can’t wait to see what happens next, but there’s no news on when that will be out, so it might take a while. ;)



The Dead-Tossed Waves (Carrie Ryan)

The Dead-Tossed Waves by Carrie Ryan
The Forest of Hands and Teeth #2
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Number of pages: 404
My copy: ebook from Amazon Kindle Store

Gabry lives a quiet life. As safe a life as is possible in a town trapped between a forest and the ocean, in a world teeming with the dead, who constantly hunger for those still living. She’s content on her side of the Barrier, happy to let her friends dream of the Dark City up the coast while she watches from the top of her lighthouse. But there are threats the Barrier cannot hold back. Threats like the secrets Gabry’s mother thought she left behind when she escaped from the Sisterhood and the Forest of Hands and Teeth. Like the cult of religious zealots who worship the dead. Like the stranger from the forest who seems to know Gabry. And suddenly, everything is changing. One reckless moment, and half of Gabry’s generation is dead, the other half imprisoned. Now Gabry only knows one thing: she must face the forest of her mother’s past in order to save herself and the one she loves.

* * *

The Unconsecrated make a comeback, but this time they are known as Mudo, and the story is told in the eyes of Gabry, Mary’s daughter. Gabry has lived a safe and sheltered life, behind the barriers of Vista, and she’d like to keep it that way. She lived with her mother at the light house, helping her mom decapitate Mudo whenever some of wash ashore from the incoming tide. She knew her mother was not a local, and she was stranger than what the other people in the village, but she was used to it, being that her mother was from The Forest of Hands and Teeth. Gabry wasn’t one to question anything in her life — as long as she’s safe and her family and friends are, too, she’s okay.

But one night, she tagged along with some of her friends and the boy she likes to go outside of the barrier — and it was the mistake that changed Gabry’s life forever. In an instant, she saw her friends turn into zombies, and the guy she loves, Catcher, runs away into the forest after having been bitten. Gabry manages to run back to the safety of her own home, but not without repercussions of her actions.

The Dead Tossed Waves is a different kind of zombie novel, at least, very different from its prequel. Gabry was very different from Mary — while Mary was headstrong and dreamed big, Gabry was contented with where she was. She was afraid almost half the time. Mary acted with a purpose, while Gabry acted more out of impulse, out of need. Gabry was reactive, doing things because she had to, not because she wanted to, at least up until the last part.

We also see a few characters from the previous novel and even visit Mary’s old village again. There are a lot of new additions in the world of the Unconsecrated/Mudo: a cult, Breakers, and Recruiters, and the Dark City, which I think we’ll see more of in the next book. We get a lot more answers in this book, too, although they weren’t that clear, it’s enough to give an idea why there were fenced villages and why Mary’s village was shut off on its own with the Sisterhood.

This book kept me reading and guessing almost all the time. Just when I thought things were over, it’s not. I hated the part when Gabry comes to realize her feelings but then the guy (I’m not revealing who :P) is suddenly pulled from her grasp. My jaw was hanging open at that time! There was an overall depressing tone in this book’s prequel and this one is a lot better in terms of delivering hope in such a dire situation. It made me root for the protagonists more, and hope that they will come out of this alive and they will all see each other again.

Overall, I liked this book. It has a lot more romance in it as compared to its predecessor, but it wasn’t cheesy or annoying unlike other novels. Gabry wasn’t the best protagonist ever, but she has a lot of room to grow, and I look forward to reading about it in the next book (if there is a next one). :D