Minis: 2015 reads, so far

So in an effort to revive this blog out of silence, here’s another post! I thought I’d write about the books I read in the first months of 2015, just so I could catch up. Consider this a Minis post, although mini-er, because I’m going to try to sum  up my thoughts for each book I’ve read in 5 sentences, or less. :)

My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories edited by Stephanie Perkins
St. Martin’s Griffin | 320 pages | Ebook

Cute collection of holiday love stories, and it was a very good companion for the Christmas season. Not a super fan of all stories, though,  but I didn’t expect I’ll love all anyway. Favorite stories: Midnights by Rainbow Rowell, Polaris is Where You’ll Find Me by Jenny Han, Welcome to Christmas, CA by Kiersten White (loved the small town setting), and Star of Bethlehem by Ally Carter. :) Best paired with a mug of hot chocolate (as long as the weather is cool enough). :)

I sang because that is what I do when I am happy and when I’m sad. I sang because it is who I am when I am being the best possible version of me. I sang because I wasn’t alone as I held Aunt Mary’s hand. I sang because it was Christmas. (Star of Bethlehem by Ally Carter)

Rating:

* * *

Navigating EarlyNavigating Early by Clare Vanderpool
Delacorte Books for Young Readers | 306 pages | Ebook

TFG’s F2F book for the month for January. Lots of suspension of disbelief in this one, with their adventures. It’s a good read about family and grief and friendship, but

“I got lost.”
“I know, but you found your way back. Finding your way back doesn’t mean you always know where you’re going. It’s knowing how to find your way back home that’s important.”

Rating: 

* * *

Love Walked In by Marisa de los Santos
Dutton | 307 pages | Hardbound

A reread of one of my favorites for TFG’s February discussion. I still loved this as much as I did before, even if I knew what was going to happen. The other opinions of my book club friends did remind me of how some things happened conveniently for Cornelia’s sake. But even so, I loved the writing, and I still have a huge crush on Teo Sandoval. I think the sequel, Belong to Me, is still better than this. :)

Watching Teo ahead of her carrying the bag and turning around to smile, she understood what the difference was, such a simple change: She’d been alone for a long time; she wasn’t alone anymore.

Rating: 

* * *

Better Off Friends by Elizabeth Eulberg 
Point | 276 pages | Paperback, borrowed

Read this as a reference for a writing project, borrowed from my friend Kai. This was cute, in so many ways. Slow in some parts, but still rewarding in the end. :)

Rating: 

* * *

painteddesertsThrough Painted Deserts: Light, God, and Beauty on the Open Road by Donald Miller
Thomas Nelson | 272 pages | Ebook/Audio

I’ve had this on hold for a year, and finally read it again this  year because of some life changes that happened to me. In signature Don Miller style, he talked about a road trip and all the little things that he learned from this, and somehow made it relevant to everyone. I really liked this, and while it didn’t make me want to sell everything and pack up to go to a road trip, it made me more excited to set off on little adventures, figuratively and literally. :)

I think we are supposed to stand in deserts and marvel at how the sun rises. I think we are supposed to sleep in meadows and watch stars dart across space and time. I think we are supposed to love our friends and introduce people to the story, to the peaceful, calming why of life. I think life is spirituality.

Rating: 

* * *

Shine by Candy Gourlay
Anvil | 232 pages | Paperback

This was magical and a bit dark, almost like a Tall Story  grew older and tackled a few more issues. I liked how Candy wrote it all, though, and I was truly invested in Rosa and her family, and I wanted to them to get their happy ending. I really liked the setting, too – always raining? That’s us during July to September. ;)

Rating: 

* * *

tgostThe God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
Random House | 333 pages | Paperback

This is one of those books that I have on my “I-should-read-this-sometime-in-my-lifetime” list, and I’m glad I finally had the chance to read it. This is a story about a family, and Love Laws, and India. Beautifully written, it examines what happens to families who try not to fall apart but still do. It’s a little bit sad, though, but still beautiful, and it helped that we had a really great discussion about this after in the book club. :)

…the secret of Great Stories is that they have no secrets. The Great Stories are the ones you have heard and want to hear again. The ones you can enter anywhere and inhabit comfortably. They don’t deceive you with thrills and trick endings. They don’t surprise you with the unforeseen….In the Great Stories you know who lives, who dies, who finds love, who doesn’t. And yet you want to know again.

Rating: 

* * *

Aaand there! Whew. All of them are 4-star books, huh. Interesting. I hope I can write a full review on my next post.  :)

Required Reading 2013: August

Well July was interesting, and long. Don’t you think so?

And of course, I rarely blogged again, except I wrote one more extra entry in July than I did in June, so that’s something. It’s not like I have a lot of books to review, anyway, because I haven’t been a fast reader recently.

So here’s what I finished for July from my Required Reading list:

  • The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen (4/5) – I really liked this – all that I expected of Dessen, which was very comforting because it felt like I was coming home (or at least, going to a very familiar summer vacation place).
  • Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (3/5) – I was a buzzer beater in finishing this for our discussion. It was good — I loved the writing, but I’m not exactly a huge fan of the story. Still a good start for GGM for me. Not entirely convinced I’d read all his other books, but I’m open to it in the future.

I totally slacked off on A Clash of Kings, and I feel really bad because my buddies are pretty much on track while I’m still on the fourth chapter. Ooops. I guess I just wasn’t in the mood yet? I’ll keep on reading, though — don’t worry about me, buddies! :)Required Reading: August 2013

But anyway, August. I call August a blank slate month, because it feels like I’m starting anew with so many things. This month’s book selections are a bit of a mix, and I honestly just grabbed some books off my shelf without thinking too much about it. :D

August 2013 books!

  • Reread: Tall Story by Candy Gourlay – TFG’s book of the month. I read this in 2010, and I’m looking forward to reading this heartwarming story again. :)
  • Spillover: A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin – I’m not giving up on this! I hope to finish this by mid-August. :)
  • Borrowed: No One Belongs Here More Than You by Miranda July – borrowed this from Bennard, after I saw him give this 4 stars. I love the title, and the simple cover, and this one passage from the first story, The Shared Patio:

    Do you have doubts about life? Are you unsure if it’s worth the trouble? Look at the sky: that is for you. Look at each person’s face as you pass on the street: those faces are for you. And the street itself, and the ground under the street and the ball of fire underneath the ground: all these things are for you. They are as much for you as they are for other people. Remember this when you wake up in the morning and think you have nothing. Stand up and face the east. Now praise the sky and praise the light within each person under the sky. It’s okay to be unsure. But praise, praise, praise.

    Sigh.

  • Beloved: The Woman Who Died a Lot by Jasper Fforde – I think it’s about time I read the latest Thursday Next novel. :)

I have a feeling GRRM will take up most of my time and I will probably not finish one of these books on time, but I can always hope. :) Just keep reading, just keep reading!

Oh and because it’s also Buwan ng Wika (Language Month) in the Philippines for August, I will be throwing in local stuff in the mix, at least, the light ones that will help me cleanse the palate every now and then. :) I will also hold some giveaways for new books released by my classmates in #romanceclass, so wait for those posts! (Promise, I’ll post about them :D)

I hope you have a fine reading August, friends. :)

Favorite Books as Gifts

The other weekend was the first Filipino Book Bloggers meet-up for the year 2011, which was also the first Flips Flipping Pages meet-up for the year, and the first one I attended with them. It’s always fun to spend time with fellow book-lovers discussing books and I liked that we discussed our best and worst reads for 2010. It just goes to show how different everyone’s choices are.

Anyway, there was a book swap after the discussion, and we were advised to bring our best or worst book for swapping with other people. Since my worst book is an electronic copy, I decided to bring a brand new copy of my best book (one of them, anyway — Feed by Mira Grant) so other people can read it. I figure if a blogger gets it, then a book about blogging (and zombies) should be in good hands, right?

I realized then that I’ve been giving books as gifts ever since I can remember. I don’t always receive books as gifts (with the exception of last Christmas and my 18th birthday — bags of books there), but I know that I always go to books whenever I’m giving gifts way back. I think that was before I really knew about the concept of gift certificates (sorry, I was way younger then and I never thought of GCs), and I always found it difficult to get clothes for someone else. If the recipient of the gift isn’t a reader, then I would resolve to getting her* pillows, stuffed toys or candles.

I find it kind of funny that I tend to give specific books as gifts, especially for people who don’t have wish lists. You know how when you spot a copy of one of your favorite books in the store, and for some reason you want to buy another copy even if you already have a copy (or multiple copies of it). It’s like, you want to buy that copy and give it to someone who you know will appreciate the book in the same way as you did. Like you’re saving the book or something. That’s how I feel, anyway. :D It’s almost like getting a pet for someone who you know will take care of that pet the way you would. Did that make sense?

I’ve been keeping count of the books that I loved and gifted/gave away to other people. So far, they are:

  • Feed by Mira Grant – 3 copies bought (1 gift and 2 for give away)
  • Paper Towns by John Green – 2 copies bought (1 gift and 1 for give away)
  • The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen – 1 copy as gift
  • Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins – 2 copies bought for give away
  • The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde – 1 copy as gift
  • Naermyth by Karen Francisco – 3 copies bought (1 gift, 2 give away)
  • The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness – 1 copy bought for give away
  • Tall Story by Candy Gourlay – 1 copy as gift
  • Piercing the Darkness by Frank Peretti – 1 copy as gift

Most of those books are my favorites, or if they aren’t in my list, they’re books with good reviews. I find it funny that I have bought so many copies of Feed and Naermyth and Paper Towns — promoting much?

What about you? Do you have specific books that you give as a default gift? How many copies of your favorite books have you bought as gifts for friends or for giveaway?

* I say “her” because it’s very hard to shop for some guy friends who are not readers. It’s not like you can give them something generic like bathroom faucets or something. Anyone who agree with this, say aye!

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!

10 for 2010: Favorite Female Characters

For all the male characters yesterday, I must not forget about the females. :) I love reading about kick-ass heroines, especially after reading about so many weak, Mary Sue-ish heroines in other books who cannot live without their guy. That doesn’t mean they can’t be weak or cry or what — they do. They are weak at times, but in this weakness they find their strengths, too.

I had a hard time writing this list because I met so many awesome female characters this year. But that just goes to show how girls rock, doesn’t it? :) Today’s 10 for 2010 is my Favorite Female Characters.

1. Kate Daniels (Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews) – If there’s ever a most kick-ass heroine I’ve “met” this year, it has got to be Kate. Kate is strong, stubborn and powerful, and yet she’s also very compassionate. Kate is like Thursday Next in an urban fantasy setting, and maybe even more. I might still need to re-read Thursday Next, but if it comes to combat, I think Kate will win. Sorry Thursday, but don’t worry, I still love you! :)

2. Alanna of Trebond (Song of the Lioness quartet by Tamora Pierce) – I must pay homage to the mother of all kick-ass female characters in the YA fantasy genre (correct me if I am wrong though): Alanna of Trebond. Alanna is the heroine that went against all odds just so she can be what she wants but normally cannot be: a knight. I loved Alanna from the moment she decided to become a knight up to when she finally settled down. But is there really any settling down for her? :) After reading the Song of the Lioness quartet, I now understand why girls consider Alanna as their hero. :)

3. Katsa (Graceling by Kristin Cashore) – Katsa is awesome not only because she’s Graced, but because she stood up to free herself from the people who want to take her in. And just like the first two girls, she also kicked serious ass in her book. :D What’s not to love about her?

4. Fire (Fire by Kristin Cashore) – Fire is a monster with a heart. I loved that description, and I loved her development from being a woman afraid of her beauty to someone who learned to use her beauty to help others.

5. Terra Cooper (North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley) – Terra is hard to understand at first. I envied her for her sheer willpower to exercise and be “perfect” physically, but I also felt sorry for her because she was trapped in a cage that her father built for her and her mom. But as the story went on, I saw Terra’s growth, and I wanted her to win. Like Terra, I want to remember and hold on to what true beauty is all about: Let the glossy spreads have their heart-stopping, head-turning kind of beauty. Give me the heart-filling beauty instead. Jolie laide, that’s what I would choose. Flawed, we’re truly interesting, truly memorable, and yes, truly beautiful.

6. Georgia Mason (Feed by Mira Grant) – I love that Georgia is a blogger, but I think what most readers would really love about her is her integrity. She really embodies what a journalist is supposed to be. You would have to kill her to stop her from telling the truth, and yet, even so, I bet she will still be able to get the truth out. I bet Georgia would have made a great politician, too. ;)

7. Anne Elliot (Persuasion by Jane Austen) – Ah Anne. Okay, so I’ve only “met” Elizabeth Bennett among all Austen heroines. I know I have no point of comparison over the other heroines because I have yet to read them, but Anne Elliot is someone that I really want to be. She’s smart, she’s mature, she’s gracious, and she always has her heart in the right place. Definitely the epitome of great female characters. :)

8. Samantha Kingston (Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver) – Samantha is not someone I’d be friends with if we were in the same school. I wouldn’t really like her much, either, given the way she treats other people. But Samantha’s story taught me that there is always more underneath a person other than our first impressions on them. Sam started out as a bitch, but I ended up loving her as a friend as she repeated the last day of her life, and wanting her to succeed in whatever life is teaching her on her last day. Definitely memorable.

9. Margo Roth Spiegelman (Paper Towns by John Green) – I know a lot of people who’s read Paper Towns dislike her, but I didn’t. I liked her for the strength that she had in choosing what she felt she needed to do. She doesn’t know if it’s the right choice, and sure, she made other people suffer, but she was brave enough to do what she wanted to do. If I may quote Aaron (who’s a very big fan of the book): Hating Margo is like hating everyone in the world that chose, once and for all, to be themselves.

10. Caroline Sweeney (Sweet Caroline by Rachel Hauck) – Of all these characters, Caroline might be the most silent one. If she were placed in a room with all the other girls in this story, I bet she would have remained unnoticed, until someone suddenly needs help, and she would be there in a flash. I admired Caroline for her gentle and helpful heart, one that found that being faithful in the small things means you will also be faithful with the bigger ones. :)

Runner-Up:

  • Andi (Tall Story by Candy Gourlay) – I honestly almost forgot about Andi when I was writing my list. I could relate to Andi because she’s also a younger sister. I felt for her when her life was literally shaken when her brother Bernardo came into the picture, and I liked that instead of pushing him away, she embraced him and looked out for him even if he was practically a stranger to her. That’s what being a sister is all about, I guess?
  • Ellie Manuel (Fairy Tale Fail by Mina V. Esguerra) – I liked Ellie because I can relate to her, not in the relationship sense, but in the way she thinks. Ellie’s voice is so fresh and friendly that I cannot help but like her from the moment I started reading Fairy Tale Fail. I also liked how she grew into an independent character at the end of the story. :)

Check out my other 10 for 2010 posts!
10 Favorite Male Characters

Oh, and you do know I’m giving away some of my favorite books in 2010 in my Anniversary Giveaway, right? Get a chance to win Fire by Kristin Cashore and find out why Fire is such an awesome heroine. 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!