In My Mailbox (13): The First Weeks of January

It’s been a while since I did an In My Mailbox post, and it’s not because I went on a book buying ban, but because I was just too lazy to make a post about the stuff I got. I thought I’d be able to make it long into a the new year without buying new books, but alas. Who am I kidding?

So this is a consolidated post for the past three weeks of January, and maybe even some in December. If I can remember what I got back then, of course. :P

In My Mailbox is a weekly book meme hosted by Kristi from The Story Siren, where bloggers post about what books received that week, be it via  mailbox, library or store.

BOUGHT:

  1. White Cat by Holly Black – I only got this because Chachic posted a positive review of the book, and see, I’m still easily swayed. It helps that I got the e-galley of the next book from Simon and Schuster, so when I saw this in Fully Booked, I knew I can’t let it go anymore. :P
  2. Some Girls Are by Courtney SummersHolly reviewed this early this week, and well, consider me sold. I love contemporary and I like reading about high school cliques (sans the scandals, of course), and this one got really good reviews. I’m so glad I spotted this one yesterday when we visited Fully Booked after the FBB/Flippers meet up. :)
  3. Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta – This was actually the first print book I purchased this year. I saw it in Fully Booked Eastwood and didn’t let it go, forgetting that there was a sale that weekend. Pfft. Ah well. :)

GRABBED:

Noli Me Tangere by Jose Rizal, translated by Soledad Lacson-Locsin. At yesterday’s Filipino Book Bloggers/Flips Flipping Pages meet up, someone had this translation of Noli Me Tangere up for book swap. I have been wanting to get my hands on a translated copy of this novel for a long time now, but I wasn’t sure which was the best translation. This one was what Blooey and the Flippers read last year, and is said to be a really good translation. I got it and no one stole it from me, so…yay. Finally!

Now a little backgrounder: Noli Me Tangere is written by the Philippines’ National Hero, Dr. Jose Rizal. This is a required reading in high school, but I never really read the novel in its entirety because our copy in high school was the summarized version (no, it’s not abridged, if you’re thinking that’s the term — it was actual chapter summaries that we had to summarize for another report. Hmph). I figure in my life as a reader, I must read this novel at least once in my life. So yay.

The bookmark is one of the giveaways for the Flippers meet-up. :)

GIFTED/BORROWED:

  1. Captivating by John and Stasi Elredge – this is a Christmas gift from my friend RE. I’ve read this one in college and it was one of those good books for women that I really liked. My mom has my other copy of this and I don’t even know where it is right now. Haha. I don’t know if I will read this anytime soon, but it’s nice to know I have another copy here to refer to when I need it. :)
  2. Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis – this is lent to me by RE, too, and this is the best C.S. Lewis work according to him. This is only a lending copy though. Heh. I have a feeling I’ll like this one, too, and I’ve reserved it for February reading already. Now to find a copy of this one. Hmm.

WON:

Being Jamie Baker by Kelly Oram. I’ve seen this book from Kai‘s blog, and I added it on my wish list for the sheer pink-ness of it. :P I followed the author on Twitter, then on Facebook for her contest and even exchanged tweets with her during NaNoWriMo. I never expected to win because I’m not really lucky with winning, but lo and behold: I was her second winner! :) Thanks, Kelly!

This kind of took its sweet time to arrive at home, and I thought it would be lost in the mail forever, but good thing it arrived just before 2010 ended. :) I love how pink the book really is. :D The book is signed, too:

EBOOKS:

I got too many ebooks since December. Talk about crazy buying binge? Sort of. :P I also got a ton of e-galleys from Simon and Schuster’s Galley Grab. :D

Bought:

  • Miss Match and Match Point by Erynn Mangum
  • Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John – loved this!
  • Flipped by Wendelin Van Draanen – my physical copy is with some friend, so I splurged on an ebook.
  • Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro – loved this, too! Review coming up soon
  • Infinity by Sarah Dessen

For Review:

  • Save as Draft by Cavanaugh Lee
  • Ten Miles Past Normal by Frances O’Roark Dowell
  • Kat, Incorrigible by Stephanie Burgis
  • Red Glove by Holly Black
  • Stay by Deb Caletti
  • Invincible Summer by Hannah Moskowitz

There is probably more, but I forgot about them.

I know I said I won’t be stressing over my TBR, but I really think I should get to reading the other books that are starting to pile up in the apartment, the ones I acquired before 2010 ended. I really should work on that. I should.

Yeah, I always say that. :P I bet most of you guys do too. :P

The Chronicles of Narnia # 4: Prince Caspian

Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis
The Chronicles of Narnia # 4
Publisher: Scholastic
Number of pages: 240
My copy: paperback, bought from Scholastic Book Fair

The four Pevensies help Caspian battle Miraz and ascend his rightful throne.

Narnia…the land between the lamp-post and the caste of Cair Paravel, where animals talk, where magical things happen…and where adventure begins.

Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy are returning to boarding school when they are summoned from the dreary train station (by Susan’s own magic horn) to return to the land of Narnia — the land where they had ruled as kings and queens and where their help is desperately needed.

* * *

When the movie Prince Caspian came out, I watched it without having read the book, so I had zero expectations. All I thought after I watched the movie was it was a little bit long, and I squeed when Aslan showed up. I didn’t really like it as much as the first movie on the first watch but it got better when I watched it for the second and third time. Eventually, Prince Caspian became one of those movies that I like watching over and over again, despite my friends’ complaints of it not being faithful to the book, etc, etc.

But how many times have we learned that movies are never equal to the books, and that Hollywood will always, always change something in the book for reasons we do not know and still get angry about?

Anyway, so I finally read Prince Caspian just before the year ended. From the initial impressions of my friends who read the book before watching the movie, I was prepared to see glaring differences compared to the movie. I wasn’t sure what I’d like more, of course, but I’ve learned to read with an open mind.

I was surprised to find out that there really wasn’t much difference. Well, okay, it is different in terms of how the story flowed, and how the sequences were made and how dark it feels and the romance (yes, it never existed in the book). But I can see why the movie people diverged from the book. Prince Caspian is not really an exciting book. While there was a battle, many struggles for both Caspian and the Pevensies, and even some black magic, the way it was written just doesn’t shine as much as The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. A Lewis fan and friend told me that Caspian is the book he tends to skim over, and while I didn’t really skim through it, it did prove to be very fast reading as I got through 3/4 of it while I was getting my hair done in the salon. Then I stopped so it took me a while to actually finish it.

But I’m not saying that Prince Caspian is a bad book. It just wasn’t exciting as its predecessor.* There were no extravagant rescues, there were no betrayals or resurrections. My favorite part, as always, was when Aslan showed up. It wasn’t quite like how it was done in the movies, but I liked how Lewis wrote it so that the other Pevensies didn’t see Aslan immediately because of the fear that was in their hearts. That’s the same in our faith walk, don’t you think? We can only see God when we let our fears go. And once we see Him, things will never be the same.

There’s this one passage in the book that I really loved, because it sounded so poetic and beautiful:

But all night, Aslan and the Moon gazed upon each other with joyful and unblinking eyes. (p. 213)

Prince Caspian is a good book. Perhaps I’d learn to appreciate it more when I re-read it, but it certainly made me appreciate the movie more. I think it’s time for another re-watch. :)

* NOTE: I must say that I am reading the Narnia books in order of publication, so when I say predecessor, I meant The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and not The Horse and His Boy.

Rating:

Other reviews:
Bookie Woogie

Reviews of Other Narnia Books:
#2: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe

10 for 2010: Favorite Reads

And here is the final 10 for 2010 list for this year, and the hardest one at that. There has just been too many good books in this year that it’s so hard to pick just ten. But I have to choose ten…but that doesn’t mean I can’t have runner ups and honorable mentions. ;) It’s my list, I can do anything I want to. :P

So, the last 10 for 2010, here are 10 of my Favorite Reads in no particular order…and then some. :)

1. Persuasion by Jane Austen – How much do I love this book? I am very glad that I chose this book as my first classic read for this year. I love Anne Elliot, and I want to be her. I don’t have much point of comparison over other Austen books, but this one is really, really good, even better than P&P. :) I cannot recommend this one enough. :)

2. Magic Strikes by Ilona Andrews – I fell in love with the Kate Daniels series this year (thanks again to Chachic and Michelle for pushing!), but among the four books out in the series, Magic Strikes is the best one so far. It’s got action, tension and all the yummy hotness of Kate and Curran in all of it. Plus the ending had me all smiling and giggly and that is always very, very good. :)

2. Feed by Mira Grant – This book wasn’t the one that got me started on zombies this year, but it was the zombie book I loved the most. :) This book had me from the cover, and then with the story. I loved how geeky this book is and how emotional it is at the end. I loved the characters, and I loved the theme of the story…and I just really loved every bit of this book! This is one of the books that I got in Kindle, then got in print because I want to have my own copy. I gave a copy away, then I gave one as a gift, and now I’m (sort of) giving this away, too. I love this book that much.

3. Happyface by Stephen Emond – This is one of the impulse buys that I never regretted. I wasn’t a fan of hardcovers, but I am glad I got this one the moment I saw it because there are no copies of this one here. This is one of my favorite contemporary YA reads of the year. Happyface is such a darling character, and you just can’t help but fall in love with him. The plot is simple, but it’s very surprising and heartwarming at the end. I wish there were more copies of Happyface here so more people can read it…but that’s why I’m giving one away, right? ;) Oh, and I still think I look like Gretchen. ;)

4. North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley – This was another impulse buy, but I’ve been seeing this one way before I got it. I am glad I got it, too, because it has such a beautiful story. The story may sound a bit cheesy with all the beauty talk, but it doesn’t only just talk about inner beauty and self-esteem, but also complications of a family and dreams that never came true. Terra’s transformation was very inspiring, and the ending left me feeling very good about myself, and very beautiful. :) Truly a gem.

6. Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver – I wasn’t planning to read this, and I stopped reading the start for a couple of times, but after I finished the first chapter, I got hooked. Before I Fall is a surprisingly good and powerful novel about life, death, friendship and the choices we make and how they affect people. I finished this book with a wistful smile on my face and tears in my eyes, thankful that I finally gave in and read it.

7. The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness – This is one of the book that I know I would love, only because the people whose book tastes I trust loved this one, too. After reeling from The Hunger Games, Catching Fire and Mockingjay, I needed more dystopia to keep the high going, so I finally read this one. And I loved every bit of it. I know it gets better with the next two books, and I am very excited to read them. :D Soon.

8. Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John – This book wouldn’t have made the list if I didn’t read it on time. If I read it in 2011, this would probably have made it in my 2011 list. :P I love the cover, and the story is just as good as the book. It’s not often you read a YA novel about a band, and it’s even rarer that you read a heroine who was deaf. It’s got diverse characters, a great story and a very rocking ending. :) A book that makes me reconsider my Top 10 is a book that deserves more attention. :D

9. Fairy Tale Fail by Mina V. Esguerra – You know you really love a book when you re-read it and it still gives you the same feeling it did on the first read. You know you love a book when you actually re-read it in the first place, and within the same year, to boot! I re-read Fairy Tale Fail after I finished reading The Maze Runner, and I really needed a pick-me-up after. It definitely picked me up, and it made me wish to have my own Lucas all over again. :)

10. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins – And like every Best of 2010 books out there, I must not forget about Anna and the French Kiss! This book was an absolutely fun read. After a series of not-so-stellar books, this one just kind of blew my mind. :) I realized a lot of things in this book, particularly: I still love contemporary YA the best, and you can tell a completely ordinary story in an extraordinary way. This is also one of the books that I got on Kindle first, then the hardcover when I found out it’s already available here. That much love, people. That much love. :)

Runners-Up:

  • Paper Towns by John Green – I finished the John Green trifecta this year, and out of all books, I have decided that I liked Paper Towns best. While An Abundance of Katherines was the funniest and happiest, I thought Paper Towns had the better plot and would fare better for a re-read. :) Plus Radar + Ben and the road trip? Priceless.
  • Tall Story by Candy Gourlay – I wouldn’t have heard of this one if not for Pao and Chachic, and I am glad I got this one. Tall Story is a charming story about siblings, Filipino folklore and magic. This is a very heartwarming story, and I am glad this book is available internationally so more people can read it. If you haven’t read it, do include it in your 2011 reading list. You won’t regret it. :)
  • Unwind by Neal Shusterman – I wouldn’t have picked this book up if I hadn’t heard good things about it from my Goodreads friends. Perhaps my reaction to this was a bit similar to The Knife of Never Letting Go – I plunged into it ready to love it, and I did. It’s not a very cheerful book being dystopia, but it’s very good and it has a lot of potential for a re-read. :)
  • Once Was Lost by Sara Zarr – I read two of Sara Zarr’s books last year and I loved them, so when I saw she had a new book, I knew I had to read it. Once Was Lost was just as beautiful as her other books, but I think I like this one more because it tackled faith. I loved how simple Zarr’s prose was, and how she tackled sensitive issues with grace. If I may quote my review: “Once Was Lost makes you think, makes you ask, and in the end, makes you believe that no matter what the tragedy is, no matter how hard things are, there will always, always be hope.
  • Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan – I read this one fairly recently, and I really liked it. I don’t know if my moods influenced how much I liked it though…but like I said before: any book that has me smiling like an idiot at the last page deserves a recognition. :)

Honorable Mentions:

See, I told you it was too hard. I’m sorry if I overwhelmed you with too many books in this list! It’s just very, very hard to choose. Maybe next year I’ll be more critical, but I’m glad I read so many good books this year. Looking forward to what 2011 had to offer. :)

Now it’s your turn. What’s your top reads in 2010? :)

Check out my other 10 for 2010 posts!
10 Favorite Male Characters
10 Favorite Female Characters
10 Favorite Couples
10 Favorite Authors
10 Most Anticipated for 2011
10 Blogging and Reading Highlights

I’m giving away some of my favorite books in 2010 in my Anniversary Giveaway! Get to know the awesomeness that is Feed by Mira Grant, the first book in the Newsflesh trilogy! Every comment you leave is one entry — the more comments you leave, the more entries you get! :) Click the image for the mechanics and the list of prizes!

The Chronicles of Narnia # 2: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe

The Lion, the Witch and the WardrobeThe Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
The Chronicles of Narnia # 2
Publisher: Scholastic
Number of pages: 206
My copy: paperback from Scholastic Book Fair

What begins as a simple game of hide-and-seek quickly turns into the adventure of a lifetime when Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy walk through the wardrobe and into the land of Narnia. There they find a cold, snow-covered land frozen into eternal winter by the evil White Witch. All who challenge her rule are turned into stone. Narnia, once filled with all manner of Talking Beasts, Dwarfs, Giants, and Fauns is now a dark, joyless wasteland.

The children can only hope that Aslan, the Great Lion, will return to Narnia and restore beauty and peace to the land. But will the power of Aslan be enough to conquer the dark magic of the White Witch?

* * *

What better book to read during the holidays than C.S. Lewis’ classic, The Chronicles of Narnia? While I was lamenting at how I never read The Giver back in high school, I was also sad that The Chronicles of Narnia were never required reading for school, too. I’ve heard of the series for a long time now, but I never really knew of the story of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe until senior year in college, right before the movie showed. I was already nineteen then! Why was this never a part of my childhood? I am glad that Scholastic had a book fair at my office a couple of years later — I got the entire Narnia boxed set for only Php 500 (around USD 11).

Still, it took me a while to read it, and it wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I decided to go on a Narnia trip for Christmas. Like I said, what better book to read during the holidays, right?

In case you were like me who’s never read this book or watched the movie or even a stage play of this, here’s a quick recap: siblings Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy were sent to stay at a Professor’s house, and during one game of hide and seek, Lucy stumbles upon the land of Narnia through a wardrobe. She makes friends with a faun, Mr. Tumnus, and she finds out that Narnia has been stuck in winter for a long time because of a White Witch Jadis. Later on the siblings end up all going to Narnia, and they find out that they are the fulfillment of a prophecy and the Great Lion Aslan is on his way back to Narnia to restore the land.

I first “read” this book through an audiobook before the movie was shown in the cinemas. I loved the audiobook. Then I watched the movie and I loved it too — not caring if there were any differences from what I “read”. I think I loved it because it was a Christian novel, and I truly related to what Edmund did and what Aslan did for him. Aslan became one of my favorite fictional characters, and I always loved it whenever he shows up on the movies (but that may be because Aslan is voiced by Liam Neeson).

Reading the book for the first time reminded me so much of all the things I loved from the audio book and the movie, and maybe even more. Since the entire Narnia series is written as children’s books, the text is lyrical and there’s a whimsical feel in the story, almost like when I was reading the fairy tale books when I was a kid. I think the only way to describe this book is it’s magical. I don’t know if it’s just Christmas, or if it’s because I’m more receptive to fantasy now than I was a year ago, but I really enjoyed reading The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. I think that if I read this as a kid, I may not have been able to appreciate it as much as I do now, so maybe reading it this late in my life is a good thing. :)

I don’t think I’d have the time to read the rest of the Narnia books before the year ends, but I will finish reading them soon. :) When I have children, I will make sure to have copies of these books at home so they can read it and visit Narnia anytime they want to.

And one more thing: show of hands to anyone who can relate to Edmund? I know I do.

Rating:

Cover and Blurb: Goodreads

Other reviews:
Bookie Woogie
Becky’s Book Reviews

Don’t forget about my ongoing Anniversary Giveaway! Every comment you leave is one entry — the more comments you leave, the more entries you get! :) Click the image for the mechanics and the list of prizes!

Have a blessed Christmas Eve everyone! :) Merry Christmas!

A Grief Observed

A Grief Observed by C.S. LewisA Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis
Harper, 112 pages

Written after his wife’s tragic death as a way of surviving the “mad midnight moment,” A Grief Observed is C.S. Lewis’s honest reflection on the fundamental issues of life, death, and faith in the midst of loss. This work contains his concise, genuine reflections on that period: “Nothing will shake a man — or at any rate a man like me — out of his merely verbal thinking and his merely notional beliefs. He has to be knocked silly before he comes to his senses. Only torture will bring out the truth. Only under torture does he discover it himself.” This is a beautiful and unflinchingly homest record of how even a stalwart believer can lose all sense of meaning in the universe, and how he can gradually regain his bearings.

Just yesterday, I was chatting with one of my best friends who is also my old household head in Youth for Christ (YFC). She was telling me about her latest Kindle purchase (if you’re curious, it’s Cassandra Clare’s Clockwork Angel). I told her about how I was reading A Grief Observed in my Kindle, and added that I wanted to buy other C.S. Lewis books there, too, because I realized that his books are a bit too expensive if I buy it here in full price, and I don’t really have the patience to dig for them in bargain bookstores. My friend laughed (as much as you can online, anyway) and she said she’s not ready for C.S. Lewis, at least not yet now. This is coming from my friend who would spend her spare time watching Hillsong United worship videos, mind you.

Today I realized that I’ve read so many Christian books but I’ve never really read any of C.S. Lewis. It’s not that I don’t have his books, too. I have Mere Christianity and the boxed set of The Chronicles of Narnia but I haven’t finished any of them. Strange? In a way, yes. But thinking about that and my conversation with my friend yesterday, I think it may not be that strange, because I realize that I may have not been ready to read C.S. Lewis’ books back when I first got them.

Truth be told, I wouldn’t have gotten A Grief Observed if it wasn’t one of the books for discussion in our Goodreads group. It’s been a long time since I actually cracked open a non-fiction book, and whenever I do, I never finish them. Another reason why I would not have gotten this by myself is because I can’t relate to grief, at least, not yet.

I am a stranger to grief. Sure, I know some people who have passed away and I have shed tears for them, but I have never really felt the same kind of grief that I know other people have felt. The last closest relative I know who passed away was my maternal grandmother, and that’s ten years ago, and all the other deaths I’ve heard about is not close enough to me for me to actually grieve the way other people do.

But I’m not taking this one lightly. I still feel afraid, because I know that as I grow older, the closer I am and everyone I know and love and care for is to death. It’s a fact of life. And then I remember: it’s not a matter of growing older. Everyone is close to death, myself included. No one can escape it, and the only question we can ask (and will probably never get the answer until we are right there at that moment) is When?

A Grief Observed doesn’t have an answer to any of what I said, unfortunately. I knew C.S. Lewis was a great writer, but this book is not like any book I’ve read before. I can’t empathize because like I said, I haven’t lost anyone very close to me to death just yet (and I’m very grateful for that of course), so I read this as if I was a spectator. It almost feels like I was intruding into something very private, as if I wasn’t supposed to be reading them. These are the thoughts of a man who has lost the love of his life to something he can’t fight. These are the ramblings of a man who has a solid foundation for his faith yet he couldn’t find foothold now that he experienced this big blow. This is a man who is grieving, period.

I don’t think anyone can ever explain how it is to grieve. I believe, like falling in love (yes, I have to connect it to that), everyone has their own process of grieving. Crying, writing, hiding yourself — what works for you. Like death, no one is exempt from grief, but I think we do have a choice on what to believe while we grieve. Do we believe that the other person is already in a better place? Do we believe that he/she is at peace? Do we believe that God has them? Do we believe that death actually exists? What would you believe in?

I’ve written so much, but I think this is one of the hardest reviews I’ve ever written. There’s so much in A Grief Observed that can be said, that can be quoted, that can be criticized, even, but not so much words to write on what it is really about.  It’s unlike any other non-fiction book I read, and maybe this is because it’s raw, and it really comes from the author’s heart. This is probably the first book that I couldn’t really relate to, yet I also could at the same time. Perhaps C.S. Lewis wasn’t just grieving about his wife, but maybe he is also grieving about his faith, and his primitive notions of how he sees God and His love? I’m just speculating. But if that is right, then I also grieve with him for the same reasons.

Kuya Doni is right: this book is heartwrenching. I’m glad I read it.

Rating:

2010 Challenge Status:
* Book # 77 out of 100 for 2010

My copy: Kindle version from Amazon Kindle store

Cover & Blurb: Goodreads