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!

Follow Friday / Book Blogger Hop (2)

It’s Friday, and I am so glad that it is! Because tomorrow is Saturday, and I am in need of a break (even if I had a break yesterday – holiday, yo!).

Anyway, this week has been relatively easy, even if I still have a ton of things on to-do list. Next week should prove challenging because I would be acting lead for our team, and it may mean I won’t have time to read and post…except maybe for Wednesday, because it’s Mockingjay release day! (It’s Wednesday here because the release in the US is on Tuesday – timezones and stuff) I. Can’t. Wait. Can I have a Mockingjay Leave, please? I can’t not read that book that week, especially since I’ll be joining the Mockingjay Launch Party next Sunday.

I will probably be busy during the weekend, and I’m hoping to post an IMM post on Sunday, but in case I don’t, here’s my second Follow Friday / Book Blogger Hop post! :)

Permit me to copy my friend Amaterasu’s FF post, and list the books reviews I posted this week. I’m actually quite surprised at the number of reviews I churned out this week — goes to show how fast I read and how much I managed to squeeze in my free time this week!

Look who’s a reviewing machine. :P

This week’s featured blogger for Follow Friday is Joy from Edgy Inspirational Romance! Now this is awesome — she writes Christian romance! :) I am definitely a new follower of Joy now. Lots of people joining the FF, too, see all participants of Follow Friday here. :)

Book Blogger Hop

Book Blogger Hop at Crazy for Books time, and this week’s question is: How many blogs do you follow?

My Google Reader has about 1000+ entries everyday, and I hardly read them all. I follow so many blogs, and not all of them are book blogs. I try to trim it down to 3 digits every day just so it doesn’t look overwhelming. One day when I’m really bored, I will get through all those unread feeds, promise! Sometimes I end up marking them as all read without reading them, and I miss about reading other stuff, like 5th wheel insurance…but sometimes I just don’t have the time. :| I’m trying to trim down my feeds by unsubscribing to those I don’t read anymore, and I’ve got a long way to go!

As for book blogs, I follow a lot, but I have about twenty or so that I really read and try to comment on. Sometimes the sheer number is kind of overwhelming…but that’s where multitasking comes in. ;)

Happy Friday, everyone!

Catch a Falling Star

Catch a Falling Star by Cristina Pantoja HidalgoCatch a Falling Star by Cristina Pantoja Hidalgo
Publisher: Anvil
Number of pages: 148
My copy: paperback, bought from National Booksotre

With this collection of stories, Cristina Pantoja Hidalgo departs from the “tale” mode of Tales for a Rainy Night (1993) and Where Only the Moon Rages (1994), and returns to the realistic short story, the mode of her earlier collection, Ballad of a Lost Season (1987). But the simple narrative style and the nostalgic tone of these new stories about the young girl, Patriciang Payatot are reminiscent of the tales as well as of her travel essays, a genre in which she pioneered, and which some critics regard as her best work.

* * *

Okay that blurb won’t tell you anything at all — I just copied that from the back of the book.

I used to believe that writing short stories was easier than writing a novel, mainly because of its length. I mean, short stories are just short. You don’t need to put in so many characters, you don’t need to have complex plot lines, or chapters. But as I wrote, I realized that a short story is equally hard. In a novel, I can afford to ramble, I can afford to insert as many characters as I want, put in all kinds of random devices just to make something happen in the story. In a short story, I am limited because it’s supposed to be short, and a short story has to pack as much punch as a novel. Somehow, the characters have to be more memorable, the plot tighter and the ending more memorable, despite its length.

It’s been a while since I indulged myself in a good short story, so it was just timely that I saw Catch a Falling Star by Cristina Pantoja Hidalgo in National Bookstore for only P150. I know my friend Sam likes her writing (loves?), and I trust her taste, so I figure this one seemed to be a good choice. Plus I like falling stars. ;)

Catch a Falling Star is a collection of short stories about Patricia Soler. Yes, you read that right: all twelve stories in the collection are about a girl named Patricia, or Trissy, her childhood, her school life, and other stories about her family and the places around her. It’s not a novel, and it’s not a series of stories that you have to read in order. According to the author, she wrote these stories after writing her novel, in memoir mode, as if an older woman was recalling stories of her childhood. So Trissy was born, and her stories first appeared in magazines such as the Philippine Free Press and Philippine Graphic before they were published into this book.

Just like the title, I thought the entire book was positively charming. Despite the length of the stories and how I was only offered glimpses of Trissy’s life, I thought she was a real person. The stories were written as if I was with Trissy in a coffee shop and she was telling me of all these stories of her childhood and laughing as she recalled them. The stories here are diverse enough to each pack its own punch — there was a story of the glasses she received for Christmas that she attempted to trade for a hopscotch stone, a story of her afternoons with their laundry woman who other maids thought was witch. There were stories from her conservative Catholic school and her classmates, stories of her befriending the most unpopular girl in school, a story of her being called “Patriciang Payatot” because of her stature, and stories of class reunions discussing one of their old classmates and her sad fate. There were stories about her family, of one summer vacation she spent with an aunt, of a boy that must have been her half-brother, and even a story of a woman who arrived at a wedding but no one knew who she was. And of course, there were stories of crushes, having loved and lost. It all seems very different, but there is a continuity in the stories that helped me keep track on where I am and who was who.

Trissy never lost her charm all through out the book, and the descriptions of her life were clear and imaginative, despite the seemingly simple text. I love how the author just seemed to have the right words to describe whatever Trissy was feeling perfectly, without sounding pretentious or too flowery. Case in point, from the story “Sweets for my Sweet”:

I expected my heart to break. Indeed, I was convinced that it had. I thought I could actually see the bleeding fragments lying about on the floor, waiting to be trampled on and crushed…

…And then I realized that it simply wasn’t true. Since Buddy had never been mine, I could not very well feel that I had lost him. (p. 79)

Even if most of the stories only showed Trissy from her childhood up to sometime during her college years, I didn’t feel cheated at the end of the book. I felt like a friend just simply ended her story, and is waiting for me to tell mine.

Catch a Falling Star is one of those anthologies (that is the correct term, right?) that hits the “I need to read something new but nothing too serious” spot just right. If you’re in need of a palate cleanser in between books, or you just want to indulge yourself in good local literature, pick this up and get ready to be charmed by Patriciang Payatot. :)

Rating: