Angels Among Us

Coffeehouse Angel by Suzanne SelforsCoffeehouse Angel by Suzanne Selfors

When Katrina spots a homeless guy sleeping in the alley behind her grandmother’s coffee shop, she decides to leave him a cup of coffee, a bag of chocolate-covered coffee beans, and some pastries to tide him over. Little does she know that this random act of kindness is about to turn her life upside down.  Because this adorable vagrant, Malcolm, is really a guardian angel on a break between missions. And he won’t leave until he can reward Katrina’s selflessness by fulfilling her deepest desire. Now if only she could decide what that might be . . .

Katrina lived most of her life in her grandmother’s coffee shop, helping her maintain the place with another friend Irmgaard, who has been helping them out without a word because of her vow of silence. Business for their coffee shop was dying because of the next door coffee shop Java Heaven, which is more modern than theirs, and naturally attracts more customers. Katrina generally keeps to herself, happy with her two best friends Vincent and Elizabeth, but deep inside, she’s sad because she doesn’t know what she’s good at, unlike them.

One day, Katrina chances upon a homeless guy sleeping in the alley, and despite her fears about him, she leaves him some food to tide his hunger over. Little did she know that this little act will change her life.

In this time of teen girls falling in love with boys who have supernatural roots, it’s easy to get jaded over the entire concept already. That’s because everything pretty much has the same storyline: girl meets mysterious guy, tries to stay away but is very attracted, ends up spending time with him, learning his dangerous secret, but still falling in love regardless of the possible consequences. It gets tiring, really, and one can only use so many creatures to fall in love with.

Coffeehouse Angel was a fresh twist on that storyline. In a way, it may not even be the same storyline because the romance part wasn’t the sole focus of this novel, but mainly Katrina, and finding out what she is passionate about. Malcolm, the angel, was more of a catalyst than a main character or a love interest, for that matter. I had fun reading this because all the characters were well developed, from the old men who hang out at Katrina’s coffee shop to Ratcatcher the cat. The conflict felt real, and I felt especially sympathetic to Katrina when she started to lose Vincent when he started dating someone.

The story wasn’t shallow either — a lot of things were revealed as the story progressed, and I would never have guessed why Irmgaard was quiet all the time, or why Heidi, Katrina’s “rival” was doing what she was doing. Important lessons were imparted in the book as well, such as being the better person by not blackmailing your enemy, living life, finding your passion and forgiveness.

The only thing that didn’t really sit well on me was, surprisingly, the love angle. I didn’t really feel that much chemistry between Katrina and Malcolm, except that she was annoyed at him first, but as they got to know each other, he just had this “warm” aura that everybody loves. It was clear that they liked each other, but it was kind of hard for me to really believe it. I probably would have believed it more if Katrina fell for Vincent or something like that. Nevertheless, the ending was quite good, too, and it didn’t mean losing one’s mortality, or going totally crazy over each other that they lose their identity.

It’s a good story, one of substance, and one that I would definitely recommend over the other YA supernatural romance novels out there. :)

I end this review with this quote from the book.:

Was I really going to the Solstice Festival with an angel? How do you wrap your head  around something like that? There are so many stories about girls dating vampires and fairy kings but those are dark stories, dangerous where the simple act of falling puts the girl’s life at risk. Malcolm didn’t seem one bit dangerous. Angels are supposed to be pure and sinless, so it would be a pure and sinless date. I didn’t have a problem with that. It was kind of a relief that I wouldn’t have to fend off blood-sucking or an enchantment on our first date.

Hm. Could this be pointing to what I think it’s pointing? ;)

Rating:

2010 Challenge Status:
* Book # 17 out of 100 for 2010

→ Get Coffeehouse Angel by Suzanne Selfors from Amazon.com
→ Suzanne Selfors’ website

Stealing Heaven (Elizabeth Scott)

Stealing Heaven (Elizabeth Scott)My name is Danielle. I’m eighteen. I’ve been stealing things for as long as I can remember.

Dani has been trained as a thief by the best–her mother. Together, they move from town to town, targeting wealthy homes and making a living by stealing antique silver. They never stay in one place long enough to make real connections, real friends–a real life

In the beach town of Heaven, though, everything changes. For the first time, Dani starts to feel at home. She’s making friends and has even met a guy. But these people can never know the real Dani–because of who she is. When it turns out that her new friend lives in the house they’ve targeted for their next job and the cute guy is a cop, Dani must question where her loyalties lie: with the life she’s always known–or the one she’s always wanted.

I am not exactly an Elizabeth Scott fan. I bought two of her books on an impulse sometime last year (Bloom and Perfect You) and I didn’t like them. Since then, I wasn’t really keen on reading another Elizabeth Scott book, fearing that it might just end up like the ones I read.

I don’t know what made me give her another chance in this book — maybe it was the cover, maybe I was just bored so I picked this up.

I’m glad I did.

If I was disappointed with the first two Elizabeth Scott books I read, Stealing Heaven changes all those first and second impressions. The premise alone was interesting: here was Danielle, who has been stealing things since she could remember, and she felt that it would be what she’d be doing all the rest of her life. She’s never had a real ID in her life and she has a lot of fake names for as long as she could remember. Danielle has no friends, knows more about houses and security systems and getting information, even if she didn’t go to school. She’s loyal to her mom and she loves her, even if she seems to be the adult one in the family. However, when Danielle and her mom get to a small town named Heaven, things change for her.

Stealing Heaven was way different from Bloom and Perfect You. Somehow I felt it was more serious, and the story flow was smoother and somehow easier to read. It reminded me a lot of a Dessen book, which is probably one of the reasons why I liked it so much. There were strong characters all over — characters I can’t help but like. One such character is Greg, the cop who befriends Danielle and cared more about her than his being a cop. I thought Greg was a very nice contrast to Danielle — Danielle is a crook, to put it simply, while Greg is the one who puts crooks to jail. He had a very interesting back story, and he felt genuine enough for me to believe that he did care for the protagonist. He was witty, and he didn’t give up on being nice to Danielle even if she was always putting him off. In a way, Greg reminded me of Dexter from This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen, but less of a goof (and that reminds me — I want to re-read that book).

What I also really liked about this book is how everything wasn’t really wrapped up nicely in the end. I mean, there was a proper ending, but the author didn’t fix everything in favor of the protagonist so everyone’s happy. With Danielle’s situation, there were some things that she could not undo which made her lose a friend she could have had, there’s her mom who she knew will go back to their old lifestyle, and there’s her, standing up and living the life she always wanted on her own. This is the type of ending where you know that the protagonist grew/will grow into a better person, and somehow that leaves me, the reader, with some kind of hope, and know that things will be okay for this fictional character that I’ve learned to love while reading the book. :)

I liked this book so much that I’m willing to give the first two Elizabeth Scott books I read another chance and read them again. Maybe this time, I’ll learn to like her books better. But even if I don’t, I still think that Stealing Heaven is one gem of a book. :)

And before I end, here’s a little line in the book that I really liked:

The sculpture I saw looked like nothing from far away, just a lump of rock, but up close you could see it was a figure pushing up out of the ground and reaching toward the sky. There was a little plaque under it. It said “Stealing Heaven.” …

My mother taught me to believe in silver, to believe in things, but I think it’s more important to believe in me.

Rating:
→ The first Elizabeth Scott book that I liked! If you would read Scott, this is a good place to start.

2010 Challenge Status:

* Book # 15 out of 100 for 2010

→ Get Stealing Heaven by Elizabeth Scott on Amazon.com

→ Elizabeth Scott’s website

Here comes the Unconsecrated

The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie RyanThe Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan
The Forest of Hands and Teeth # 1
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Number of pages: 308
My copy: ebook from Amazon Kindle Store

In Mary’s world there are simple truths. The Sisterhood always knows best. The Guardians will protect and serve. The Unconsecrated will never relent. And you must always mind the fence that surrounds the village; the fence that protects the village from the Forest of Hands and Teeth. But, slowly, Mary’s truths are failing her. She’s learning things she never wanted to know about the Sisterhood and its secrets, and the Guardians and their power, and about the Unconsecrated and their relentlessness. When the fence is breached and her world is thrown into chaos, she must choose between her village and her future—between the one she loves and the one who loves her. And she must face the truth about the Forest of Hands and Teeth. Could there be life outside a world surrounded in so much death?

* * *

Altogether now: FINALLY. I finally got to read this book.

I’ve been trying to think of how I should dive into reviewing The Forest of Hands and Teeth, because I really have no idea how. I guess I’ll jump into it?

I’ve read a lot of reviews about this book and all of them told me to waste no time and read it. I was curious because I’ve never really read a book with zombies in it. Zombies are kind of a joke to us, you see, for several reasons: friends from NaNoWriMo use zombies (together with ninjas) to propel our plot forward when we have run out of things to write for our 50,000 word novels, and Plants vs. Zombies. I’ve never really thought that there’s a zombie book out there, and YA, no less. I’m curious.

Interestingly, the word “zombie” was never used in this book. In Mary’s world, the zombies are known as the Unconsecrated. There was little explanation on how their world became that, so the reader would just have to accept the truths that was presented in the context of the book. You can’t go near the fence. The Unconsecrated thirst for blood. The Sisterhood protects the village. You have to follow or else you’re dead.

But after Mary’s mom falls to the hands of the Unconsecrated and everyone leaves her behind, Mary starts questioning these “truths”. She wonders of the outside world, if there was an outside world at all. When things fall, she and her friends had no choice but to get out of the village and try to see if they can survive outside.

This book had a generally depressing mood, so it’s not a  book I’d recommend to be read when you’re already down. There’s a feeling of doom in the story, and you just know that not all of them will make it out alive. Even so, I couldn’t help but be sucked into the story and hope for more revelations about why the world came to that, and hope for the best for the main characters.

I had mixed feelings after I finished reading this — it was really good, but it was also very depressing that I don’t really know if I really like it — after all, I choose fluff over anything. :P But it is one of the best books I’ve read this year for sure. I’m not sure if I’d like to re-read it as often as I do for the other books I like. Did that make sense?

Oh, and the sequel to this book, entitled Dead Tossed Waves is coming on March 9, and I can’t wait to get to read that, too. I hope it sheds more light on the other unanswered questions in the first book. In the meantime, stay within the fences. :P

Rating:

Percy and Harry

ALTERNATE TITLE: How I tried to separate Percy Jackson from Harry Potter ;)

PThe Lightning Thiefercy Jackson is about to be kicked out of boarding school…again. And that’s the least of his troubles. Lately, mythological monsters and the gods of Mount Olympus seem to be walking straight out of the pages of Percy’s Greek mythology textbook and into his life. And worse, he’s angered a few of them. Zeus’s master lightning bolt has been stolen, and Percy is the prime suspect.

Now Percy and his friends have just ten days to find and return Zeus’s stolen property and bring peace to a warring Mount Olympus. But to succeed on his quest, Percy will have to do more than catch the true thief: he must come to terms with the father who abandoned him; solve the riddle of the Oracle, which warns him of betrayal by a friend; and unravel a treachery more powerful than the gods themselves.

One of my favorite topics in Science when I was a kid were the planets. I love naming all the planets and describing each of them and their properties. If you think that’s geeky, wait until you hear this: I was so enamored by them that I cracked the encyclopedias open to read about Greek and Roman mythology.

See, geeky. :-B

I didn’t really pick up the Percy Jackson series immediately as soon as they came out. I had no idea they were out, anyway, until a friend told me about it. I wasn’t interested in it until I saw the trailer of the movie. Children of gods and goddesses? Okay, I’m in!

The only problem? I couldn’t find a copy of the first book anywhere. There’s always book # 2, 3, 4 and 5, but never book # 1. Oh dear. Where to find Percy now?

Well, I already wrote the story of how I found the book, so now let’s go to the actual review.

So let me get it out now: Percy Jackson reminded me a lot of Harry Potter.

Let me count the ways:

  • Protagonist are both males
  • Both have dark hair and green eyes
  • Both found out that they were “special” and had to go through some weird stuff before they arrive at a place they can be safe
  • Both had to go through some kind of quest or else things will fall apart and there will be chaos all over
  • Both had two friends — a smart girl and a sort of bumbling guy — to support him and help him during his adventure
  • The story of the first book both had to deal with three-headed dogs.

I think I may have forgotten some similarities, but yes, they are quite similar. I’m not saying that Percy copied Harry all the way, but there’s just the similarities in the main character and in the story. Of course, anyone who hasn’t read Harry Potter will not think of that, so maybe it is just me.

But don’t get me wrong — the first book of Percy Jackson was a very good read. :) The story was written in first person, so it was fun being inside Percy’s head. I personally think Annabeth is more feisty and stronger than Hermione, and Grover is not exactly human. It was fun reading through the story and trying to figure out whose son or daughter was who, and getting to know the gods and goddesses as they were portrayed in the book.

I like the Harry Potter series a lot, but I was able to absorb Percy Jackson far easier than the latter, most probably because of my interest in mythology. :) I can’t wait to read the rest of the series (so I hope the fifth book’s paperback version would be released soon!).

Rating:
→ Pretty fun and interesting take on Greek mythology. Has a bit of similarities to HP, but not so much that it’s a rip-off. Can’t wait to read the rest of the series. :)

2010 Challenge Status:
* Book # 5 out of 100 for 2010
* Book # 3 out of 20 Fantasy books for 2010

→ Get The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 1) by Rick Riordan on Amazon.com
→ Percy Jackson and the Olympians website
→ Rick Riordan’s website

Deadly Intent (Camy Tang)

Deadly Intent by Camy TangSCENE OF THE CRIME

The Grant family’s exclusive Sonoma spa is a place for rest and relaxation—not murder! Then Naomi Grant finds her client Jessica Ortiz bleeding to death in her massage room, and everything falls apart. The salon’s reputation is at stake…and so is Naomi’s freedom when she discovers that she is one of the main suspects! Her only solace is found with the other suspect—Dr. Devon Knightley, the victim’s ex-husband. But Devon is hiding secrets of his own. When they come to light, where can Naomi turn…and whom can she trust?

Camy comes back with a new book, this time not with sushi but with a spa, a new spa owner, a handsome doctor and a murder! It’s no secret that I love Camy’s books (see the reviews here, here and here) and having a chance to read this book is really exciting. :D

In this book, Naomi is taking over their family spa, and is not expecting it to be an easy job, but she also never expected that she would have to deal with the murder of her client! Naomi wonders what God has in store for her and if he really wanted her to be where she was. Not only that, but there’s also handsome Dr. Devon Knightley who always seems to be around ever since the murder…and it’s making Naomi not so comfortable because of her crush on Devon. I think Naomi definitely wouldn’t mind giving away wedding invitations with their names on it, but not at this time, when they’re both accused of murder!

This is a fun and quick read — just the right amount of mystery, suspense and dead bodies and it kept me hanging until the end. I was actually quite surprised to find out who the culprit was, and kind of sad to know why she did all those things. Naomi is a strong protagonist though, and I found myself rooting for her all through out the novel. The faith aspect is nicely tied in as well, and it never felt like it was too preachy — everything felt natural.

Another great book by Camy! :D

Rating:

My copy: Paperback, free review copy from the author

Cover & blurb: From the author

→ Camy Tang’s website

Note: Review originally posted at Refine Me