What I Read (3): Maria

What I Read

What I Read is a semi-regular guest feature in One More Page allows them to talk about what the title says: what they read. I believe that every reader has a unique reading preference and no reader is exactly the same. What I Read explores that idea, where I let the guests talk about their favorite, genre preferences, pet peeves and everything else in between. :)

So…it’s been a while since my last What I Read post. Apologies — it’s been…well, slow, and busy and quite honestly, I forgot about this feature for a while. I meant to have one a month for this, but alas, I’ve missed two months. Oh well. I did say this is a semi-regular feature, right?

Now that the apology is out of the way, it’s time to catch up! For the third installment of the What I Read feature, I have one of my book club friends with me here once again. A year ago, she sent me an email for an interview in her blog during Armchair BEA week. I don’t think we’ve met in person back then — I just knew her from Goodreads and her blog. I got to know her better during one of our book club trips, and we have pretty similar tastes in genres (but not necessarily books). :D I thought of featuring her this month too because she’s the moderator for our Fellowship of the Ring face to face discussion next week.

So without further ado, let’s give it up for Maria! :)

Maria and Jane Eyre

In ten words or less, what kind of books do you usually read?

Books that are adventurous, mysterious, suspenseful, and yes, a little romantic. :D

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Faves of TwentyEleven: The Random

I’m a few days late to this part of my Faves of TwentyEleven post — sorry! Christmas got me a little too busy, so yeah. Too much food and time with friends will do that do you. But anyway, I have a few more days left of 2011 (Can you believe it!) and so I still have time to do this. :)

Faves of TwentyEleven is hosted by Nomes of inkcrush. And in case you’re interested, here are my other Faves of TwentyEleven posts:

Day Four: The Random

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The Dark and Hollow Places

The Dark and Hollow Places by Carrie RyanThe Dark and Hollow Places by Carrie Ryan
The Forest of Hands and Teeth # 3
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Number of pages: 384
My copy: ebook from Amazon Kindle Store

There are many things that Annah would like to forget: the look on her sister’s face before Annah left her behind in the Forest of Hands and Teeth, her first glimpse of the Horde as they swarmed the Dark City, the sear of the barbed wire that would scar her for life. But most of all, Annah would like to forget the morning Elias left her for the Recruiters.

Annah’s world stopped that day, and she’s been waiting for Elias to come home ever since. Somehow, without him, her life doesn’t feel much different than the dead that roam the wasted city around her. Until she meets Catcher, and everything feels alive again.

But Catcher has his own secrets. Dark, terrifying truths that link him to a past Annah has longed to forget, and to a future too deadly to consider. And now it’s up to Annah: can she continue to live in a world covered in the blood of the living? Or is death the only escape from the Return’s destruction?

* * *

One of the first zombie books that I really wanted to read last year was Carrie Ryan‘s The Forest of Hands and Teeth. I remember reading a review of it in Persnickety Snark, and after some hesitation (after all, the title felt a little too gloomy for my taste), I decided to get it to see what it was about. Suffice to say that it rekindled my love for zombies that I first had during days of playing Resident Evil with my brother, and introduced me to the sad and hopeless world of the Unconsecrated.

It’s hard to believe that a little over a year later after blogging about the first two books, I read and finished the third book in the trilogy. I’ve always been a fan of Carrie Ryan’s work. There’s a certain beauty in the way she writes despite the somber and hopeless mood, and I cannot helped but be sucked into the world of the Unconsecrated, where the living count the days before they turn into one of the shuffling mass of undead, hungry for human flesh. They aren’t exactly the best zombie books I’ve read, but they are very good novels IMO, living up to the zombie folklore and dystopia theme.

Spoiler warning: Spoilers from the first and second book will be in this review. Read with caution.

The final book in the trilogy, The Dark and Hollow Places picks up shortly where The Dead-Tossed Waves ended. However, instead of Gabry, Mary’s adopted daughter, we meet Annah, her lost twin, waiting for Elias to come back. To recap, Elias had left to join the Recruiters so he could earn money for him and Annah to get by in the Dark City. He also did this to find Abigail, now known as Gabry, to make up for his guilt in leaving her behind in the Forest of Hands and Teeth years ago, taking Annah with her. Annah has lived with not only that guilt but also tried her best to be invisible after suffering from an accident, leaving her entire left side scarred for life.

Annah has been waiting for Elias to return for three years and on the day she decides to leave the Dark City to look for him, she sees a surprise: her sister. As she searches for her sister in the city, she meets Catcher who saves her. Mysterious Catcher who is immune to the Unconsecrated and knows about her past. It is with him that Annah is forced to face the ghosts of her past that she longed to forget, and decide if there is still hope in a world that has been pretty much dead for a long time.

What a ride The Dark and Hollow Places was. One thing that kept on going through my mind as I was reading this was: This is it. This is what I missed with all the “dystopia” novels I’ve been reading. As with the first two books, the world building was fantastic. I figured out where in the world the Dark City was based, and that just made everything more real to me. I loved how it was so easy to be immersed in the world and feel the same emotions that the characters were feeling. There was no need to explain why or how things happened, and you just believed in what the book says: the world is dead. The people are dying. The Unconsecrated will not stop until they get their fill of flesh. Perhaps it’s because it’s set so many years into the future, or maybe because the author used zombies. Still, reading this was a breath of fresh air amongst all the books that try but fail to be dystopia. It reminded me of why I fell in love with this sub-genre in the first place.

Other than the world building, I found the characters in this novel just as awesome. I think Annah is my favorite among all of Carrie Ryan’s heroines. She’s tough and broken at the same time, and the growth of her character in this book was a pleasure to read. She’s hardly whiny and she’s brave — probably even braver than Gabry or Mary. I also liked that the relationships Annah had with Elias, Gabry and Catcher were very developed. The romance was just right, and both characters have justifiable angst that made them hesitate with their feelings, making their coming together even more satisfying to read.

Despite some possibly dragging moments (just a little, really), The Dark and Hollow Places had me at the edge of my seat, especially in the last few pages. The ending, just like the first two novels, was kind of bleak, but still full of hope, leaving the readers wishing the characters well. This book delves into the idea that all of us are going to die eventually, with or without the Unconsecrated, and given this fact, what are we doing about it? Are we choosing to simply survive day by day, or are we choosing to live?

I know some of my bookish friends didn’t like the first book in this trilogy, and it kind of makes me sad that they wouldn’t want to read up to this book given their impression on The Forest of Hands and Teeth. The Dark and Hollow Places is probably my favorite of all three, and it is a very satisfying end to a beautiful zombie trilogy. I am definitely looking forward to what Carrie Ryan comes up with next. :)

Rating:

Other reviews:
Good Books and Good Wine

Reviews of other The Forest of Hands and Teeth Books:
The Forest of Hands and Teeth
The Dead-Tossed Waves

Wither

Wither by Lauren DeStefano
Chemical Garden Trilogy # 1
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Number of pages:  345
My copy: ebook from Galley Grab

What if you knew exactly when you would die?

Thanks to modern science, every human being has become a ticking genetic time bomb—males only live to age twenty-five, and females only live to age twenty. In this bleak landscape, young girls are kidnapped and forced into polygamous marriages to keep the population from dying out.

When sixteen-year-old Rhine Ellery is taken by the Gatherers to become a bride, she enters a world of wealth and privilege. Despite her husband Linden’s genuine love for her, and a tenuous trust among her sister wives, Rhine has one purpose: to escape—to find her twin brother and go home.

But Rhine has more to contend with than losing her freedom. Linden’s eccentric father is bent on finding an antidote to the genetic virus that is getting closer to taking his son, even if it means collecting corpses in order to test his experiments. With the help of Gabriel, a servant Rhine is growing dangerously attracted to, Rhine attempts to break free, in the limited time she has left.

* * *

Wither is one of those books that the book bloggers have been abuzz with ever since the cover came out. And who wouldn’t be mesmerized by such a beautiful cover? I wasn’t much of a cover person then, but I knew that I took a mental note of this book and was thrilled to see it as one of the e-galleys available in Simon & Schuster’s Galley Grab.

This is the first book in the Chemical Garden trilogy, and it tells a dystopian world sometime into a future where diseases are removed through genetic experiments, producing a first generation of almost immortal human beings who can live their lives in full health. However, as soon as this first generation started to reproduce, they found a fatal flaw: the offspring of the first generation die before they reach their thirties. Specifically, males live up to twenty five while females pass away as they reach twenty. To keep the population growing, young girls are forced into polygamous marriages and some of their offspring were tested to find an antidote to to stop their children from dying.

Rhine Ellery is 16 and was captured by the Gatherers in a fake job interview and she was bought as a wife for Linden Ashby by his father, Housemaster Vaughn. Rhine gets married and becomes an Ashby by name but swears to find a way out and be reunited with her twin brother. However, as she tries to find a way to escape, she discovers disturbing things about the Ashby household, finds herself softening towards her husband and sister-wives and falls in love.

If I were asked to choose a word to describe Wither, it’s interesting. My initial attraction to the book came from it being classified under dystopia, and we all know how I’ve grown to love that sub-genre in the past year. I liked Rhine right at the start. Her voice is strong and clear and she was tough but not without being compassionate. She knows she’s doomed to die in four years but I liked that she still seemed to have little hopes and dreams, one that helped her survive her ordeal. Reading the story in Rhine’s point of view kind of reminded me of The Hunger Games, without the thundering background music and the immediate need to survive. Rhine’s background music would fall a bit on a classical piece that starts out as calm and languid at first then builds up to a crescendo as we get to the exciting parts. Rhine isn’t a Katniss, but there were some similarities in their personalities — particularly their resiliency — that reminded me of Suzanne Collins’ beloved character. Oh and I also found it really cool that Rhine had differently colored eyes — heterochromia, as they call it. I couldn’t help but shriek, “Graceling!” when I read that part. :)

However, as far as the dystopian aspect of Wither goes, I found it a bit lacking. I’m no expert in how dystopia should be unlike some people I know, but I wasn’t very satisfied with how Rhine’s world came to be. Sure, I understand there would be mass panic when they find out the flaw in their genetic experiments, but how could there be so much destruction that all the other continents were wiped out except for North America? I understand the population woes, so why kill the girls then? Why are there so many orphans? There were so many why’s and how’s that I found the world building a bit faulty, despite it being vivid. Perhaps my questions would be answered in the next two books?

I also have a tiny beef with the ending, but it’s just me nitpicking. It’s not a cliffhanger, but I really wish there was more. I guess I was looking for more action in the ending? I kind of wanted something bigger, something more explosive to happen in the end. It may just be me and my expectations for dystopian novels. The ending for Wither felt a little too much…I don’t know, dreamy? That isn’t bad, but just kind of threw me off the loop. I was expecting  a little bit more action, and I wanted to know what happened to the other characters, too. But again, I guess that is why this is part of a trilogy. It’s kind of like how Carrie Ryan ended her zombie books — if you don’t know that there will be a next book in the series, you’d feel like you were cheated from an ending with closure.

Despite its faults and my nitpicks, Wither is still a good read, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. If dystopian novels had genders, this would definitely be a female — no battle scenes or gory deaths here, boys. :) It’s bleak and disturbing yet still romantic, emotional and somewhat hopeful. If you’re not into reading bleak and hardcore dystopian novels, then Wither may be the book for you.

Rating:

Other reviews:
bibliochic
Rex Robot Reviews
Bookalicious

10 for 2010: Most Anticipated for 2011

The best thing about being a book blogger this year is I get to find out about all the new titles coming out in the next few months and years. Before, I’d just rely on bookstore releases and sometimes I find out about them late! Thanks to the great blogging community and social networks, I find out about future releases so early! So early that sometimes the waiting time is unbearable. :P

So presenting today’s 10 for 2010: Most Anticipated Books for 2011.

What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen

1. What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen (May 2011) – If you’ve known me for a while now, you’ll know that Sarah Dessen is one of my favorite contemporary YA authors ever. Just Listen got me started on the contemporary YA genre, and I’ve devoured all her books ever since I read that. When I found out that she’s releasing a new book in 2011, I squeed. I absolutely cannot wait for this next novel — in fact, I am already planning a Dessen marathon to prepare myself for this new release. :)

2. Deadline by Mira Grant (May 2011) – Feed was one of my favorite books for this year, and the one year wait for its sequel is already long enough, don’t you think? More zombies, more politics and more blogging must be in Deadline…and maybe even a radio thing? I don’t know. But I am definitely looking forward to this one.

3. Sweet Valley Confidential: Ten Years Later by Francine Pascal (March 2011) – Two words: Sweet. Valley. Need I say more?

4. Bumped by Megan McCafferty (April 2011) – I loved the Jessica Darling series, and I like Megan McCafferty. This dystopian sounds really awesome, and I’ve seen very good reviews about this, too. :)

5. The Dark and Hollow Places by Carrie Ryan (March 2011) – While there are other zombie books that I liked more than Carrie Ryan’s series, I am still in love with her writing. After I’ve read The Forest of Hands and Teeth and The Dead-Tossed Waves, I cannot miss the third one. I hope more questions will be answered by then. :)

One of Our Thursdays is Missing6. One of Our Thursdays is Missing by Jasper Fforde (March 2011) – Just like Sarah Dessen, Jasper Fforde is on my auto-buy list. Thursday Next is one of my favorite heroines, so it’s imperative I get a copy of the sixth book. And maybe refresh myself with the series, too.

7. Magic Slays by Ilona Andrews (May 2011) – I think I’ve professed my love for the Kate Daniels series enough this year? :) If not, I must say it again: I love this series. And like all the other fans I know, I cannot wait o get my hands on the next installment in the series. :)

A Monster Calls8. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness (May 2011) – Okay, so I’ve only really read one book and a novella from him, but I like him already. While I wait for his new book, I will finish the two other books in the Chaos Walking series. Yes, I will.

9. Winter Town by Stephen Emond (Fall 2011) – Happyface is undoubtedly one of my most favorite books in 2010, so knowing that Stephen Emond will release a new book is just exciting. I love the premise too: “…told from two perspectives and accompanied by scrapbook entries and comics, childhood friends grow up, grow apart, and eventually fall in love.” Being the president of his fans club, it is my responsibility to get a copy of this as soon as its released. :P

10. Forbidden by Ted Dekker and Tosca Lee (Summer 2011) – This is my most anticipated collaboration for 2011. Ted Dekker and Tosca Lee, two of the big names in Christian fiction — this is going to be good, I can tell. :)

Runners Up:

  • Allison Hewitt is TrappedAllison Hewitt is Trapped by Madeleine Roux (January 2011) – I saw this book on The Book Smugglers and I loved how it started out as a blog, too. Blogging and zombies again – one of my favorite combination. Must get this one.
  • Sweetly by Jackson Pearce (August 2011) – I love the cover, and I love the Hansel and Gretel retelling idea. I enjoyed Jackson Pearce’s Sisters Red, so I am excited to get my hands on this one, too.
  • Where She Went by Gayle Forman (April 2011) – I loved If I Stay, and the idea of the sequel is just…well, awesome. I can’t wait to know what happened after Mia’s ordeal.

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

I’m giving away some of my favorite books in 2010 in my Anniversary Giveaway! Know why Patrick Ness is one of my auto-buy authors now through The Knife of Never Letting Go! 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!