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

Continue Reading →

The Enemy

The Enemy by Charlie HigsonThe Enemy by Charlie Higson
The Enemy # 1
Publisher: Hyperion Books
Number of pages: 448
My copy: hardbound, borrowed from Aaron

In the wake of a devastating disease, everyone sixteen and older is either dead or a decomposing, brainless creature with a ravenous appetite for flesh. Teens have barricaded themselves in buildings throughout London and venture outside only when they need to scavenge for food. The group of kids living a Waitrose supermarket is beginning to run out of options. When a mysterious traveler arrives and offers them safe haven at Buckingham Palace, they begin a harrowing journey across London. But their fight is far from over–the threat from within the palace is as real as the one outside it.

* * *

It’s been a long time since I last read a zombie book, so I knew I was in for a bit of an adjustment when I decided to read my stocked zombie books for my February challenge. The Enemy by Charlie Higson has been languishing on my shelf since 2010, after my friend Aaron lent it to me for my YA-D2 challenge for that year. Obviously I never read it for that, and I don’t think I would have unearthed this now if I didn’t choose to read it for this month.

Besides, a borrowed book on my shelf for a year feels wrong.

In The Enemy, all people aged sixteen and above have succumbed to a disease that turns them into flesh-eating monsters. Only the children are left and several have made it into some safehouses, banding together using their own abilities to survive in a bleak world. One of these groups of kids were the Waitrose kids, led by Arran and Maxie, who has lived in an abandoned grocery in the last few months. Food and important resources are already scarce, and the kids are already losing hope. Until one day, a kid in a colorful coat (made from contemporary fabrics and the like) comes and invites them to join him to Buckingham Palace, where another group of kids are living and are successful in creating a new life for themselves. The kids decided to go with him, but will their lives really change for the better once they get to the palace?

The Enemy starts of with action and doesn’t really leave that kind of mode until the end. Which is good, because it kept me on my toes and had me biting my fingernails for whatever else could happen to these kids. Other people warned me not to get attached to any of the characters in the book because the author kills them — and it is true. Boy how true is that. This makes for a very gripping read because you just never know who would die and how, and you never know who are the bad guys really are.

I also really liked Small Sam’s story — I think I was rooting for him the most! I like how his story paralleled the others, and where he got to. The subway (or to be appropriate, the tube) scene in the dark reminded me of a similar scene in The Dark and Hollow Places, and it truly got me worried for him and how he would get out of it. There’s also a hint of cannibalism in the story and I have to admit that it got my stomach churning uncomfortably there.

With all these positive things, though, I have to admit that I wasn’t that invested in the story. That, and I was partly grossed out for some reason. Maybe I’ve turned soft and my stomach isn’t as adept as handling zombie gore anymore. There were several times I felt like gagging while reading the book, and I couldn’t handle reading it while eating. With that, I didn’t really feel like I was glued to the pages. True, the story had all sorts of action and it made me fear for the characters, but my overall feeling in the end was, “Okay, finally that was done.” I only really wanted to see how it ended, but I didn’t care that much as compared to the other zombie novels I read and loved. My friends who have read this all sang praises to this…but I’m afraid I’m more on the lukewarm side.

Now that I think about it…maybe I have turned soft. :O

Nevertheless, The Enemy is still one of the better written zombie novels out there, and it’s a good read especially for those who like more gore than the usual. If you want to read a book about survival, a bit of politics and the undead, then his Higson book is for you. What’s more: its sequel, The Dead, is already out so you won’t have to wait too long to know what Charlie Higson had in mind when he thought of a post-apocalyptic world.

Rating:

Required Reading: FebruaryMy copy: borrowed from Aaron

Other reviews:
The Book Smugglers
I Am Pinoy Peter Pan
Attack of the Book

1984

1984 by George Orwell1984 by George Orwell
Signet Classics, 298 pages

Written in 1948, 1984 was George Orwell’s chilling prophecy about the future. And while 1984 has come and gone, Orwell’s narrative is timelier than ever. 1984 presents a startling and haunting vision of the world, so powerful that it is completely convincing from start to finish. No one can deny the power of this novel, its hold on the imaginations of multiple generations of readers, or the resiliency of its admonitions a legacy that seems only to grow with the passage of time.

It’s the year 1984, and the world people live in isn’t the same as the world we know today. In this version of the world, everyone lives under close scrutiny of Big Brother — or at least representatives of Big Brother in the form of the Inner Party and the Thought Police. Here we meet Winston, a simple Party guy who is slowly realizing that maybe, there is something else other than the life he is living. Maybe the Party and Big Brother isn’t always right. Maybe, just maybe, the truth that he’s known all his life isn’t the truth at all. What follows is Winston’s “quest” to find out the real truth and perhaps even bring down Big Brother. But is Winston a big enough force to be reckoned with?

Totally honest moment: I would not have read 1984 if it wasn’t our book club’s book discussion book for January 2012. Perhaps I would have read it someday later, but not anytime soon. As much as I like dystopian novels (although not as much as I used to), I just didn’t have enough interest in this book as my other friends did. But like I said, I should read it because I’m a moderator of the book club and it feels like I should read it.

During our book discussion, we were asked to give a word to describe the book, and my chosen word was challenging. It was challenging for me not because I couldn’t grasp the story but because it took me an entire month to read the book. And it was a pretty short book too, if you think about it and I read pretty fast, so taking that long to read a certain book is really a new thing. But the truth is, I just wasn’t that invested in it. You know how there are some books that reel you right in and would make you want to lose sleep while reading it? Well, 1984 didn’t give me that impression. It’s not that I didn’t like it — I did, but I just wasn’t that invested in it to keep on reading it continuously. I think I may have read 10 books while reading this book — if that isn’t proof enough, then I don’t know already. :P

1984 is a good novel, but I feel like my reading is slightly tainted by all the similarly themed YA dystopia books I have read. You know how the main characters often prevailed, or at least almost prevailed in all the YA dystopia books? Well, it isn’t exactly the case here. I liked how the first part of the book started, but the second and third parts weren’t exactly my cup of tea. Oh sure, they were brutal, they were unexpected, but like I said, I was used to reading characters who go against all the odds and somehow win even against a TOTALLY EVIL GOVERNMENT. Perhaps it’s a YA thing, and this book was written way before the ones I know, so it has a really different approach.

The thing about 1984 though, is how it could have been real. Granted, I had myself pulled away form the narrative so much that I couldn’t imagine it being real in the current society and all, but some points during our discussion got me thinking that yeah, maybe it could be possible. Just take social networking for example — how many people can truly say they have their own privacy when they have a Facebook profile or update Twitter every minute or so? Or do we even really know how much information we put out online and how it affects us? It’s a lot to think about.

Even so, there’s a certain separation for me and 1984. Again, it’s not that I didn’t like it, but I also did not really love it as much as other people do. It’s definitely one of those books that should be read if only to get a real grasp of how a dystopian society could look like. Honestly, I don’t think a reader can be a true dystopian fan unless you have read 1984 (and Lois Lowry’s The Giver). You haven’t really seen a big bad evil government until you’ve read the classics, IMHO.

On a related note, though, I think having a real and intelligent book discussion on this book helped me understand and appreciate it more than I would have. It just goes to show that reading isn’t always a solitary activity, and it’s nice to be with like-minded people often with differing opinions to discuss a piece of literature. :)

Rating:

My copy: Kindle edition

Other reviews:
Bookish Little Me
Reading is the Ultimate Aphrodisiac

Angelfall

Angelfall by Susan EeAngelfall by Susan Ee
Penryn and the End of Days # 1
Publisher: Feral Dream
Number of pages:  255
My copy: ebook, from Amazon Kindle Store

It’s been six weeks since angels of the apocalypse descended to demolish the modern world. Street gangs rule the day while fear and superstition rule the night. When warrior angels fly away with a helpless little girl, her seventeen-year-old sister Penryn will do anything to get her back.

Anything, including making a deal with an enemy angel.

Raffe is a warrior who lies broken and wingless on the street. After eons of fighting his own battles, he finds himself being rescued from a desperate situation by a half-starved teenage girl.

Traveling through a dark and twisted Northern California, they have only each other to rely on for survival. Together, they journey toward the angels’ stronghold in San Francisco where she’ll risk everything to rescue her sister and he’ll put himself at the mercy of his greatest enemies for the chance to be made whole again.

* * *

Remember that Paul Bettany movie, Legion? The one where he plays Michael the archangel who goes down the earth in defiance to God because apparently He has given up on humans and is off to destroy the world using His angels. Michael, however, would have none of it, so he goes to this middle of nowhere town to save this baby that one girl is about to have because that baby will apparently save humanity.

I hated that movie.

I have another blog entry dedicated to why I didn’t like that movie, so I won’t really write about it here. However, I had to bring it up because Angelfall by Susan Ee reminded me of that movie. The key difference between Legion and Angelfall is how surprisingly good the latter was that I dropped almost everything I read just to finish it.

The world has ended, and all Penryn Young wanted is to keep her family safe. With her dad gone, she was left to take care of Paige, her crippled sister and her paranoid-schizophrenic mother. In normal circumstances, Penryn would have a pretty challenging time doing that on top of her other responsibilities, but now that there are killer angels out to kill humans, it just got a hundred times more difficult. As Penryn leads her family to get somewhere safer, they stumble upon an angel execution. They got caught as an audience, which led to saving the angel but her sister being kidnapped. Penryn teams up with the known enemy to get her sister back, even if it means getting deeper into the messy world of killer angels.

Like I said: Angelfall is a surprise. People I follow on Goodreads gave this book such high ratings but I was wary because the only other angel book I really liked was Cynthia Hand’s Unearthly series. Anything else other than that, I approach with caution. But Angelfall started out great, with a sense of danger and urgency that I remember reading and feeling last from The Curse of the Wendigo (Rick Yancey) and The Ask and the Answer (Patrick Ness). I can easily imagine the ruins of the city that they lived in and was trying to escape, the paranoia of the darkness and the fear when the single feather landed on Penryn’s sister. There’s a certain grit in the story that almost makes me want to close my eyes in fear of knowing what would happen next.

Penryn is a great heroine – determined and loyal, stopping at nothing to save her sister. Yes, it may seem similar to how Katniss was in The Hunger Games but she didn’t strike me as her carbon copy (even if their names are kind of odd). Penryn is strong and her combat skills are so cool (why she knew all these self-defense moves was one of the first creep-factors in the novel), too. I don’t think she would even need the help of the angel if she knew where she was going after her sister was abducted. And speaking of the angel, Raffe is also a pretty good match for Penryn. He’s a pretty secretive fellow but it never really bordered on cliche. I liked how his secrets (some of it, anyway) were revealed in this story, and how his relationship with Penryn developed. Yes, there is some kind of romance in this book, but it was never put on front seat of this novel, thank goodness. Penryn and Raffe were highlighted more as an unlikely team of survivors rather than a couple, which just about sets this book apart. No insta-love here folks!

This book doesn’t take an easy way out on the apocalypse and destruction and the horror. There were several times when I was reading it and I jumped when the phone rang, which meant it was engrossing and I was thoroughly creeped out. There were some scenes that were a bit…well, gruesome is the first word that comes into mind. It’s not too graphic, but it leaves imprints on the imagination that may tend to stay for a while. It just shows how brutal the world that Penryn and Raffe live in is, and also how darkly creative the author is with Angelfall.

As far as the angel mythology goes, it’s pretty sound, even if a part of me is a bit doubtful of how Raffe’s beliefs came to be in the story. Perhaps it’s just me and my faith that’s coming in to disagree, so I’m still (stubbornly) thinking that it just cannot be. But that’s just me — the mythology and theology (I guess you can call it that?) in the story never came close to being offensive for me anyway. The angel politics just raised a bit of questions that I trust will be answered in the next books.

Overall, Angelfall by Susan Ee is a pretty excellent book. Gruesome, creepy and scary but absolutely fun to read. I can’t wait for the next book in the series.

Also, I’m going to recycle a line from a previous review: did I tell you this book is indie? Yes it is. And that it’s also a finalist for the 2012 Cybils Best of Fantasy & Sci-Fi award? :)

Rating:

Other reviews:
reading is the ultimate aphrodisiac
The Midnight Garden

NaNo Update!

First off, the winner of my High Society giveaway is:

Monique

Congratulations! Expect an email from me soon! :)

* * *

Next, time for a NaNoWriMo update, I think? :)

So it’s Day 19 of National Novel Writing Month, and so far, this has been the strangest NaNoWriMo for me, ever. Just look at my graph:

NaNoWriMo 2011 update

I tried to keep up with the daily word count quota of 1667 words per day starting November 1, but by November 5, I started to fail. Why? Well, by first write-in, I realized that my original idea is not heading anywhere. So during the first write-in (Day 5), I decided to start again with the same story idea but pushed it back a few decades so instead of my story being set post-apocalypse (yeah, I was trying to write a dytopia novel :P), it was set during the apocalypse.

I kept my first 6,000 words in first because I figured that since they’re the same idea, it should still count. However, 5,000 words later, I realized that I don’t know where my story was going again. It was forming to be a chick lit / dystopia / conspiracy novel, but I had no idea how to write a conspiracy novel. I thought I’d have better luck writing about rv repairs instead. *headdesk*

So by the second write-in (Day 7), I was at a loss. I knew if I continued writing my novel, I would hate it and I would end up slaving over it and I would never, ever want to see it again. I needed to do something about it, but I’m not sure if I could still stick with the story.

I was also toying with the idea of writing what I know, particularly, what I read. Not fanfiction, of course, but you know, writing a genre that also want to read. By the night of Day 7, I was toying with the idea of starting my novel from scratch and going for a genre that I have been reading all year: young adult. I mean, the reason I wrote chick lit a few years ago was because I kept on reading them. So why wasn’t I reading a young adult novel this year when practically all that I have read last year was young adult?

Love Books? Write One!So by Day 8, I decided to try writing the start of a contemporary young adult novel I have been toying with since last year. And…I decided to stick with it. I started my word count from zero and worked from there. That’s why there was a sudden decline in my word count — I couldn’t really include the ones I’ve written for that other novel in this novel because I didn’t think it was fair. So with a new word count quota (2300 words a day), I set to work.

The new novel is easier to write and definitely more fun. I guess reading all those contemporary YA novels really helped because it was so easy to get into the world now (especially since I have set the story in my college alma mater — will change that during edits, but for now this should work). It was easier to write that I managed to get 9,000+ words in a day (Day 12-13), and by Day 17, I finally passed daily word count quota.

This is the first time in my eight years (!!!) of doing NaNoWriMo that I changed stories within the month. It was still early when I did that, so it didn’t really make that much of a difference, and I am confident that I will get to 50k words this month. Of course, my story would be far from finished by then, but still, at least that’s a NaNo win. Let’s also hope that I actually finish this novel too, yes?

So that’s basically what made my NaNoWriMo interesting. :D This is me taking Chris Baty‘s words seriously for this year:

“What should I write about?” is a hard question. “What would I like to read about?” is easier. The answers will be the same for both.

Yep, I’m doing exactly that. :) I am at 32,000+ words as of today. See you at the finish line!