Required Reading: December

I didn’t do a Required Reading post/challenge last November on purpose because I was too busy with NaNoWriMo to really stress over what I wanted to read for November. I guess I wasn’t able to explain that — so apologies to those who were looking for one!

Anyway, so let’s so a little recap for October first before anything else, yes?

  • Breathe by Cliff McNish – I finished this early, actually, although I wasn’t able to review it until late. Anyway, I liked it, and I admit to being a bit scared with this for a while. It was an interesting experience with a McNish book. I’m not sure if I will read more, but I’m open to it.
  • The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey – Oh this book. This totally gave me the creeps while I was reading it (but that may be because I was reading this while I was in a rural area), but this is probably one of the best books I read this year. I loved it so much that I ended up reading its sequel soon after and I loved it even more. :)

There’s a certain thrill with scaring myself in a month, but I don’t think I’m up to doing it every month. :D Still, it was kind of fun.

Now onto December!

Required Reading - December

So since December means it’s the end of the year, I thought I’d use this month to catch up on my challenges. I just checked the status of my challenges and I seem to be failing miserably on some of them. So now, even in the midst of all the busyness of the holiday season, I’m going to try and catch up. So now I declare the last Required Reading for the year 2011 as Challenge Accepted. :D

I have been wanting to use a meme image for a long time now. :D

(This technically breaks the rule for this challenge because I’m supposed to not include books that are not included in other challenges…but like I said, I can bend the rules a little. So there :P)

  • Angelica’s Daughters by Various Authors – for my Filipino books reading challenge
  • The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett – for my classics challenge
  • Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster – for my classics challenge
  • Rage by Jackie Morse Kessler – for my TwentyEleven challenge
  • A Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner – another for my Twenty Eleven Challenge

I should also probably finish Come Be My Light by Brian Kolodiejchuk and Mother Teresa, because it’s been on my currently reading list since this March.

Should be fun! I hope I can actually live up to the challenge! December’s upon us, ahoy! Time for some best-of lists soon, yes? :)

Breathe

Breathe by Cliff McNishBreathe by Cliff McNish
McArthur & Co, 232 pages

Jack is used to danger. His asthma has nearly killed him more than once. But his new home has a danger he’s never known before — the spirits of the dead.

The can’t breathe.

But in Jack’s house, they can chase, hide, scream.

Only Jack can see them. Only he can hear them. And only he can learn their secrets in time to save his mother — and himself…

I may be one of the biggest scaredy-cats in the world, or at least, among my group of friends. I know this doesn’t make sense when it comes to my love for all things zombie. I like all the shambling, brain-moaning creatures, but when it comes to ghosts and other supernatural stuff? I cower under my covers. When I was a kid I used to like scaring myself silly by watching those Halloween specials that all local TV shows air during those times and no fail, I always end up being too scared to sleep for at least a week after watching those shows. I finally got to the point where I told myself to stop — no more scary TV shows, no more scary anything, especially if I will lose sleep over it!

So to be totally honest, I was kind of apprehensive with my Required Reading challenge for October, given my state of being a chicken. :P But of course, what is a challenge if you don’t challenge yourself, right?

The thing that really got me to buy Breathe by Cliff McNish is the fact that the main character, Jack, has asthma. I’m an asthmatic, too, so reading about characters who have the same condition brings me comfort because I could relate to them1. Jack’s asthma attacks seem to be more dangerous than the ones I’ve been having lately, though, bad enough to almost kill him. It doesn’t help that his dad recently passed away. In an effort to stop him from stressing out or getting lonely, Jack and his mom moved out and into an old farmhouse, where they hope to find peace and quiet.

But instead of finding peace and quiet, they find something else. Little did they know that the farmhouse was haunted by four ghosts, all children, whose spirits can’t seem to leave the house Jack finds that he has the ability to sense who had lived in the house before, and to the ghost children’s surprise, he could actually see them. This makes Jack extremely curious to the point of triggering his asthma, but then he discovers that there is something more sinister living in the house, and only he has the power to save himself and his mother.

Like I said, I’m a big scaredy-cat, so I made it a point to read Breathe in broad daylight. The first few chapters of the book were creepy and the illustrations at the start of each chapter gave my imagination enough fuel to see practically the entire chapter. McNish’s writing is very vivid — it was easy to slip into the world he created and actually see the house and the characters. I admit to being spooked for the first few chapters (but then again, it may be just because I’m easily frightened), but I grew comfortable with it later on. Jack’s asthma attacks were also very accurate — and also really scary, in the actual physical sense because I know I could also experience something like that. The extreme measures he and his mom had to go through just to make sure his lungs would behave is something akin to what my mom used to do when I was younger. I’m really, really hoping my asthma won’t escalate to anything similar.

You know now that I think about it, it’s not really that scary. However, I think I can attribute that to the fact that the story is really quite linear. Somewhere early into the book, we already know who the real villain is, and a little bit of why. The other reasons and the story were gradually revealed, but by then it feels almost like a typical ghost story. While I’d really rather not read ghost stories, I still want for a twist that will leave my mouth hanging open in the end, at least to thrill the reader in me.

Breathe still manages to have a heart-warming moment somewhere in the end, which earns it more points for me. I liked how the Nightmare Realm (the place where spirits go when they don’t go to the “light”) is described, and how one of the ghost kids finds some kind of peace there. The actual ending was wrapped nicely and I think it would leave readers with pretty much a good sense of completeness that stand-alone novels can give. (Except if you decide to nitpick, like me. But I can’t offer another ending, so I should stop doing that :D)

Breathe by Cliff McNish may not fare so much with people who really love ghost stories (or who take delight in being scared), but for a casual reader (or for someone who doesn’t really like getting scared), it’s a pretty good novel. The first aid lessons for an asthma attack are a plus, too. This is my first Cliff McNish, but I think it won’t be my last. Now, are his other books scary, too?

Rating:

2011 Challenge Status:
Required Reading – October

My copy: paperback, bought from Bestsellers Galleria

Other reviews:
Goodreads

  1. If you want to know how it is to have an asthma attack, try breathing through a straw. Hard, right? :P []

Required Reading: October

So another month passes us by. I think I had a grand time reading my Required Reading books for September, because they were all so good. Don’t you like it when you have a good reading month? Here’s a recap:

  • The Sea of Monsters (Percy Jackson and the Olympians # 2) by Rick Riordan – One word: Tyson! :) I loved his character, and this book reminded me of how fun the first book was.
  • The Ask and the Answer (Chaos Walking # 2) by Patrick Ness – Ah, this book. I thought The Knife of Never Letting Go was more emotional, but this one was just as good. And intense! And dark! It has that Mockingjay vibe and it makes me wonder: if the second book was already intense, what more for the third?
  • The Piper’s Son by Melina Marchetta – I wanted to give Tom Mackee a big hug, just like everyone else who’s read this wants to. It’s so nice to get back to reading these characters I loved in Saving Francesca.

Required Reading: OctoberSo October. This means one thing: Halloween. And because of that, this means there is only one theme I can choose for this month: horror.

I’m not a fan of horror, and my friends can attest to that. I’m a big scaredy-cat. Of course, that doesn’t stop me from telling ghost stories sometimes…but anyway. There was this time when I used to watch some local news program’s Halloween special, and I always get terribly scared after that. :-s As in can’t sleep with the lights off scared. And running back to bed from the bathroom when I need to pee in the middle of the night scared.

But sometimes it’s fun to be deliciously scared… so I will dare to read horror stuff this month. Not as hardcore as my other friends, of course. :D

I have a feeling I’m going to regret this at some point during this month, though.

But on to the list!

  • The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey
  • Breathe by Cliff McNish (yay for asthmatic characters!)
  • The Reapers are the Angels by Alden Bell (optional)

I know the word “optional” defies the “required” aspect of this challenge, but I am putting that there because I will also attempt to read the A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin this month, and have you seen how thick that book is? So I’ll see if I can still squeeze in Alden Bell’s book in my readings this month. :)

In My Mailbox (10): Hodge-Podge

It’s been a while since I did an In My Mailbox post, and I’ve been meaning to do one for the past weeks but life has been a little bit hectic lately. So I apologize. Like I mentioned in one of my last posts, we moved to an apartment down the street because our house is being renovated. Moving is a pain when you have so many books, and I realized as I was packing that I do have a lot of books. More than I thought I owned!

This next picture is rather depressing, but I promised my books they’d have a better home once the house is finished by early next year (my parents promised me a bigger shelf in my room). I am planning to let go of some of my books though, but I’ll sort them out soon, probably after NaNoWriMo.

So, my books. In 9 huge plastic bags:

I’m pretty sure my favorite ones won’t be dented in those plastics.

Anyway, so the moving thing kind of stopped me from acquiring books since I really have no place to put it. But…does that stop me? Of course not. Especially when there are ebooks to get and read! And I’m using books as a reward for me to get to certain word counts in NaNoWriMo!

But now you also know why my word count is way behind. Shiny books = procrastination. :P

Anyway, here are the books I got for the past few weeks for today’s In My Mailbox post! 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.

I guess I should start with the books in picture, first. :)

  1. Storm Front by Jim Butcher (Fully Booked). I gave in to curiosity because I know a lot of people like this and recommend this. The only reason I’m hesitant to jump in this series is because it has 11 books — too much investment, IMHO. But let’s see. Got this as a reward for myself in reaching 12,000 words last week. :P
  2. The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley (Libreria). I’ve been eying Robin McKinley books in Fully Booked ever since I’ve heard praises about her from Chachic, so I was really planning to buy Sunshine first (the sparkly vampire book LOL). But I never got around to it, then Chachic reviewed her latest book, Pegasus, and she said that she recommends reading other McKinleys first before reading that, especially Beauty and The Blue Sword. Just my luck, I got to visit Libreria earlier with some Filipino Book Bloggers (more detailed accounts of that in Jason‘s and Blooey‘s blogs), there was a copy of The Blue Sword. :) I call that fate. :P
  3. Seventeenth Summer by Maureen Daly (Fully Booked). This one is an impulse buy, really. I don’t know why I got it, except I know it’s really a reprint of a YA book published in 1942. I guess I was feeling the need to read some contemporary books, and this one just jumped out at me. I know Chris from Ficsation liked this one, so I thought it was worth a try. :)
  4. Skin by Ted Dekker (Book Sale). I’ve been wanting to buy more Dekker books, but some of them are just too expensive. I saw the hardcover of Skin in Booksale, and well…I didn’t let it go. :)

Not in picture:

  • The Reapers are the Angels by Alden Bell (Book Depository). My first Book Depository order is a zombie book. Not surprising, of course. I’ve been looking for this book for ages but I can’t find it here, so I got it online. And I think I love Book Depository already, especially for hard to find books. :) There’s a more detailed post on how to order in Book Depository in Ariel’s blog if you’re curious.

Ebooks (no more background stories for this one, since I’m a bit tired of writing…plus I don’t think I should explain why I got free ebooks, right? :P):

  • Awaken by Kate Kacvinsky (NetGalley)
  • Cryer’s Cross by Lisa McMann (Simon and Schuster Galley Grab)
  • The Vespertine by Saundra Mitchell (NetGalley)
  • Savannah Grey by Cliff McNish (NetGalley)
  • Deceit by Brandilyn Collins (Amazon)

Pretty hefty mailbox. Of course, I have no idea when I’ll be able to read this, but I think that’s a given already. Mt. TBR, hello!

So, what’s in your mailbox this week? :)