Required Reading: June 2014…or the lack of it

Look at that, May passed by and I say hello to June, but I can still see my Required Reading post from last month!

Really, you have to believe me. I was really all set to get more reading done, to get more books reviewed up here and all that jazz…but life happened. The short version is I applied and got accepted for a new role at work and my relatively relaxed work life went from zero to haywire as I transitioned into the new role. I’ve only been here for almost two weeks and it feels like a month already. How is that?

Oh, and there was also that Japan trip that was all sorts of lovely, and I will blog about it in my other blog…when I get the time. (Hopefully, soon.)

But I did do some reading, mostly at the start of the month. Here are the books I finished:

  • The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater (5/5) – I had to put this on hold sometime late April, but I picked it up again and I loved everything that happened in the end. I can’t wait for the next book! Gansey! ♥
  • We Were Liars by E. Lockhart (4/5) – Finished reading this the night before I left for Japan and I was all: !!!!!!!!!!
  • The Joy of the Gospel (Evangelii Gaudium) by Pope Francis (4/5) – Chunkier compared to The Light of Faith, and had a bit more technicalities when it comes to preaching, but it was still lovely and very practical. :)
  • Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell (3/5) – I read this in the midst of all the craziness at work, because my brain could only handle something light. This wasn’t as light as I thought it would be, but it was still lovely in so many ways.

I am still currently reading the following:

  • Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen – really liking this, and now it makes me wonder why I never read this before. Oh, maybe because it suits me better this time. :))
  • To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf – I marked this as “on hold” on my Goodreads, but I will read this again. As soon as this craziness settles down.
  • Dust City by Robert Paul Weston – I have this on my nightstand, I started reading it, but got distracted by Fangirl.

See, it wasn’t so bad. Except that I’m still getting my footing for my new role and there’s a lot of stuff to do and learn right now that I have put my reading on the backseat. Like on weekends. Or over breakfast. This happens, right?

Required Reading: June 2014

Which brings me to this month’s Required Reading.

Or the lack of it, really.

I was thinking of what books I will read for the month, but then got distracted by the things I needed to do for work. I realized after a while that I’m not sure how much time I will have to read this month because we have major events to focus on at work…so I have decided (and it’s sort of an easy decision, too) to do what I did last March and have no reading list this month.

There. I can’t promise to post updates this month but I will try. Really, I will. Maybe I’ll surprise you guys and myself. But if I don’t…well, don’t worry, I’m just here. :) Here’s to a crazy busy happy June. :)

Required Reading: May 2014 + April Recap

Why is it already May? Why is it already the fifth month of the year? Why.

April was interesting, because there were so many holidays and I had a lot of reading done. I actually spent a lot of quality time with Hannah the Kindle that I felt like my print books were all screaming out at me to read them, read them! But fear not, I did make a dent in my print TBR. (Of course, I didn’t blog that much again, but why are we even surprised about that?)

Here are the books I finished for April:

  • The Alienist by Caleb Carr (3/5) – Mystery, murder, and psychology. This reminds me of Smaller and Smaller Circles by FH Batacan, but set in historical New York. It was fun, but after some time I got a little impatient to get to the end. I love the psychology there, though. It reminded me of those days when I wanted to study Psych in college. Also reminded me of Criminal Minds. :D
  • The Best Man by Kristan Higgins (4/5) – Love love love Kristan Higgins. I enjoyed this one so much. :D
  • The History of Love by Nicole Krauss (4/5) – So much beautiful writing, but quite sad. But really so beautiful.
  • The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater (4/5) – I picked this randomly on my shelf and finished it within three days. I was surprised at how readable this is, and how much I loved the Aglionby boys and Blue. I liked this so much that I immediately started reading the next one.
  • The Light of Faith (Lumen Fidei) by Pope Francis (5/5) – Read this during the Holy Week, and I loved it. Simple language, deep stuff, and a lot of light. This made me want to read all the previous encyclicals by Pope Benedict XVI and Pope St. John Paul II. :)
  • Blast From Two Pasts by Kristel Villar (3/5) – #romanceclass’s latest! I read this in a day and enjoyed the light romance between Cara and Lucas. The fulfillment of childhood crushes, hihi.
  • The Perfect Match by Kristan Higgins (3/5) – My second Kristan Higgins in a month, and the second in the Blue Heron series (first book being The Best Man). I liked this, except not so much as the first book, or the other Higgins books I read. I don’t know, I just didn’t feel this as much as I did the others. Too bad, because the lead interest is British.
  • If On a Winter’s Night a Traveler by Italo Calvino (2/5) – Our book club’s book of the month, and it was an interesting read. And confusing, too, because by the middle of it, I was tempted to trash it. Funny how I finished reading it about ten minutes into the discussion. Haha. The discussion proper was fun, though. :D

See, that’s 8 books. That’s a lot. I am currently 12 books ahead of my reading goal this year, and I’m tempted to up it to 75 again, but I realized that if I do that, I will probably slow down and try to catch up with the rest by the end of the year. So…no. Maybe I’ll go reach 52 first. :D

Required Reading: May 2014

For this month, I realized that I might have made a mistake with some reading plans. I called for a buddy read for a classic, forgetting that our book of the month for May is a difficult book. But oh well. No turning back, I guess. To counter that, I picked two YA titles off my shelf, just so I won’t get lost in the stream of consciousness in one of the books I will be reading. :D

That is, you know, if I don’t become terribly busy with other life stuff this month.

rr-may2014

  • Something new and borrowed: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart – borrowed from Kai. She had a WTF moment after reading this, and I told her that it wasn’t surprising because that’s E. Lockhart, and her books are really smart. And also because of her WTF moment, I borrowed the book. :D
  • Something old and bought: Dust City by Robert Paul Weston I bought this book on a whim in 2010. That’s four years ago. It’s been on my shelf since then, and I wanted to read something that I bought from years ago, and this jumped out at me.
  • Something even older, and free: Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen – I said I’d read an Austen every year, but I didn’t read any last year, so now I’m picking it up again. This is a buddy read with some book club friends, which we started before April ended. I am surprised at how readable this is — see how far along I am in the dots? I wonder if this is really just more readable, or maybe I’ve adjusted with reading Austen? But anyway, I like this so far, and I can’t wait to read more. :)
  • Something even older, and free (also, difficult): To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf – Well several lists said this is a difficult book. Our book club’s book of the month, and I have no idea how I will go about in reading this. But I will try, and if/when I finish this, I will consider it as 2014’s major reading achievement. ;)

There you go. I have a trip coming up this month, and possible job changes so I won’t pressure myself to read all this (except maybe To The Lighthouse). Then again, my upcoming trip has long bus rides there, so yeah, more reading time (as long as I don’t fall asleep).

Oh, and April is also our book club’s 4th year of existence. We started the month with a (wickedly fun — although some might say it’s just wicked :D) April Fools’ Joke, and ended it with a discussion + Amazing Race. Fun times. :)

#TFGat4 (Photo from Ella)

#TFGat4 (Photo from Ella)

See those lovelies? I missed them a lot. :)

Minis: YA Contemporaries

Time to catch up on some reviews! I’ve read some of these books months ago, but I never got around to reviewing them around that time. Here we go! :D

Amelia O'Donohue is So Not a Virgin
Amelia O’Donohue is So Not a Virgin by Helen Fitzgerald
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Number of pages: 217

 

At this boarding school, even the wildest rumors don’t measure up to what’s really going on…

Rachel Ross is asthmatic and “more bottled up than ketchup,” but that’s fine. Nothing will prevent her from graduating at the top of her exclusive new boarding school and getting into Oxford.

Rachel refuses to be distracted by the present until she uncovers a shocking secret on campus. She realizes that someone is in desperate need of help and that she actually has something to share-and more friends than she knew.

With an utterly original, hilarious, and honest voice, Amelia O’Donohue delivers a sexy new boarding school tale with true heart-and a surprise ending you won’t forget.

* * *

This book had me at “asthma”. Being an asthmatic myself, I like reading about characters who deal with the same thing. Amelia O’Donohue Is So Not a Virgin sounds like a fun book from the title alone. Rachel Ross (sidenote: Friends reference, anyone? :D) is uptight…but that’s okay, because her parents finally allowed her to go to the boarding school she wanted, so she can go to Oxford. She works hard to be the best in class, until she discovers a secret that could totally change the life of someone in school…if only she can figure out who it is.

Did I say fun? Oh yes, it was, and I found myself smiling at several parts of the book. I realized, though, that Rachel is really uptight, and sometimes it gets tiring to be in her place. Loosen up a little, girl! I found myself getting annoyed at her for not even trying to reach out…until the mystery is uncovered. When the secret was revealed, I had a teeny tiny suspicion about who owned that secret, but I wasn’t sure. I mean, there were no clues! Until I got to the end, and I had to flip through some of the previous parts to look for proof. Talk about mind games, Helen Fitzgerald. Well played.

Amelia O’Donohue is So Not a Virgin is a fun and smart book that talks about friends and family and a lot of mystery that can only happen in a boarding school. It’s a quick escape, and I enjoyed reading it. Oh, and this is not about Amelia O’Donohue. ;)

Rating:

The Treasure Map of Boys by E. LockhartThe Treasure Map of Boys by E. Lockhart
Ruby Oliver # 3
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Number of pages: 244
My copy: paperback, bought from Fully Booked

Ruby is back at Tate Prep, and it’s her thirty-seventh week in the state of Noboyfriend. Her panic attacks are bad, her love life is even worse, and what’s more:

·        Noel is writing her notes,
·        Jackson is giving her frogs,
·        Gideon is helping her cook,
·        and Finn is making her brownies.
·        Rumors are flying, and Ruby’s already sucky reputation is heading downhill.

Not only that, she’s also:

·        running a bake sale,
·        learning the secrets of heavy metal therapy,
·        encountering some seriously smelly feet,
·        defending the rights of pygmy goats,
·        and bodyguarding Noel from unwanted advances.

Ruby struggles to secure some sort of mental health, to understand what constitutes a real friendship, and—if such a thing exists—to find true love.

* * *

I liked the first two Ruby Oliver books I read, and I wasn’t planning to buy The Treasure Map of Boys, until one day I was left waiting somewhere without a book. So I finally got this so I would know what happened to Ruby and her state of Noboyfriend. In this book, Ruby seems like she’s back to square one, but this time there’s Noel. And Hutch. And Jackson again. And there’s lots of baking, and Nora and friendship that may or may not be ruined because of boys.

Oh poor Ruby. It was nice going back into the Tate Prep world, but I really, really want Ruby to have her happy ending. But I’m not even sure if her happy ending should involve a boy, because I think she should find a way to be happy by herself first before going out of the state of Noboyfriend. Not that I personally know, of course, but I wanted to give Ruby a hug every time she gets a nervous breakdown in this book! She becomes a bit more mature here, but even so there were wise and stupid decisions made. In a way, I think there’s a little Ruby Oliver in all of us.

As always, I liked how real Ruby’s voice was here, and funnily enough, her thoughts are not just thoughts of teenage girls but also sometimes, thoughts of someone who’s way past that age. Ehem. :p I loved the other characters, too, especially Ruby’s friends. I didn’t like how she treated some of them…but high school, oh high school. The pettiness makes me cringe, but I can’t say I didn’t go through the same incidents  Oh, Ruby, you are not alone! I’m looking forward to reading the last book in the series, and I really, really hope that she gets the ending she really and truly deserves.

Rating:

Amplified by Tara KellyAmplified by Tara Kelly
Amplified # 1
Publisher: Henry, Holt and Co
Number of pages: 293
My copy: hardbound, gift from Celina

When privileged 17-year-old Jasmine gets kicked out of her house, she takes what is left of her savings and flees to Santa Cruz to pursue her dream of becoming a musician. Jasmine finds the ideal room in an oceanfront house, but she needs to convince the three guys living there that she’s the perfect roommate and lead guitarist for their band, C-Side. Too bad she has major stage fright and the cute bassist doesn’t think a spoiled girl from over the hill can hack it. . .

* * *

I like music, but I can hardly play any instrument or even really sing (except in karaoke sessions), but for some reason, I love books about music. Or books with characters who are in a band. I don’t know why — perhaps it’s because I secretly dreamed of being in a band? Or is it because one of my dream jobs is to become a band’s manager? But I love reading books with them, so I’ve been wanting Amplified by Tara Kelly for a while now. Thanks to Celina for giving me a copy!

Amplified is about 17-year old Jasmine Kiss, who was kicked out of her home after saying she wanted to defer college so she can become a musician. She goes to Santa Cruz to find a place to stay and stumbles upon C-Side, an industrial rock band looking for a new guitarist ASAP and offering a room to rent, as well. Jasmine tries out, even if the band wants a male guitarist, and she has no idea what she will do with her stage fright when they told her they need the new guitarist for an upcoming show.

Just like the other books with a band that I have read, Amplified is full of rocking fun. I liked Jasmine, even if she was a little too uptight. She stuck to what she believed in, and she was so out of her comfort zone in her new place that I almost wished she’d give up and go back home because some of the things they tell her were painful. I also liked the other band members, especially Veta and Felix, who were both darlings. The romance was also well-developed, and there was good enough tension and slow enough development that made it believable — and Sean very crushable. ;) I liked their band dynamic, although I wished I could’ve seen a bit more of what makes the other characters tick — like more conversations between them, instead of just Bryn being almost as uptight as Jasmine or you know, having too many band practices.

But overall, Amplified is a novel full of rocking band fun and music. I still wish I could hear some of the songs they sing, though, just for the fuller experience of reading something like this. The author is writing a companion novel for Amplified entitled Encore. Sign me up, please — I want more of C-Side!

Rating:

The Boy Book

The Boy Book by E. LockhartThe Boy Book: A Study of Habits and Behaviors, Plus Techniques for Taming Them by E. Lockhart
Ruby Oliver # 2
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Number of pages: 224
My copy: paperback, gift from Tricia

Here is how things stand at the beginning of newly-licensed driver Ruby Oliver’s junior year at Tate Prep:

* Kim: Not speaking. But far away in Tokyo.
* Cricket: Not speaking.
* Nora: Speaking—sort of. Chatted a couple times this summer when they bumped into each other outside of school—once shopping in the U District, and once in the Elliot Bay Bookstore. But she hadn’t called Ruby, or anything.
* Noel: Didn’t care what anyone thinks.
* Meghan: Didn’t have any other friends.
* Dr. Z: Speaking.
* And Jackson. The big one. Not speaking.

But, by Winter Break, a new job, an unlikely but satisfying friend combo, additional entries to The Boy Book and many difficult decisions help Ruby to see that there is, indeed, life outside the Tate Universe.

* * *

Spoiler warning: Possible spoilers from the first book in this review.

In the second book of the Ruby Oliver series, The Boy Book: A Study of Habits and Behaviors, Plus Techniques for Taming Them by E. Lockhart, we meet Roo again fresh from the throes of her (mis)adventures in the first book. This time, though, the rumors about her had settled down but it doesn’t make her less of a social leper. On the up side, her ex-best friend, Kim, who stole her ex-boyfriend from her is not in school for an exchange program. On the downside, Jackson the ex-boyfriend is still there, and he is sending her notes all of sudden, despite the current attachment to Ruby’s ex-best friend. And then there’s Noel, who’s been hanging around her but only because he doesn’t care what anyone else thinks. Or does he? With even more friendship issues and entries from a notebook called The Boy Book, will Roo find out that there is life other than what she knows?

A little story first, before I talk about the book. When I was in Grade 5, my best friend then and I had a notebook dedicated for our current crushes. Okay, the notebook idea wasn’t entirely original since another group of girls had their own (fancier) notebook, and we just wanted one of our own, too, since we can’t join their group anymore.1 So I got one of the many spare notebooks at home, made some (not-so) fancy artwork on the cover, fashioned a “lock” and made it our crush notebook. There we wrote letters, stories and all sorts of mushy stuff directed to our crushes, the things we can’t bear to say to them in person.2 The notebook pretty much died soon after my current best friend told me to share the notebook with one of her close friends and I wasn’t comfortable with it, also with the fact that I couldn’t keep the notebook at home because people liked to snoop in my room an read my diaries and that crush notebook was sacred and cannot be seen by anyone else, ever!

I have long burned that notebook (my pages of it, anyway) because I’ve learned that owning a notebook like that with observations and letters about other people (boys in particular) is kind of dangerous, and not really a wise thing to do especially if someone who knows those boys reads it. Think Harriet the Spy. So the existence of The Boy Book in the book with the same name was kind of impressive, especially with the wealth of information Roo and her friends have written there. At her age, I have never even thought of trying anything that was accounted for there.

That’s the thing about The Boy Book: it’s so high school. Not even my kind of high school experiences, too. But not that it’s a bad thing — as usual, E. Lockhart excels in making the characters’ voices authentic and funny. There’s not so much external issues in this book as in the first one. The Boy Book had more of Roo trying to get her feet back under her again after the chaos that is The Boyfriend List, and also finding out just who her real friends are and that there is a world outside of her high school life. I wasn’t a fan of Roo’s choices in the first half of the book, but she grows is a more obvious way later on. Granted, they still revolve around high school, but she showed the first signs of maturity in the book even if she herself said that it wasn’t what she really wanted. But it was the right thing to do. While I liked The Boyfriend List just a little bit more than this, The Boy Book ended in such a way that I immediately wanted to get the next book on my hands and read what happens to Roo and her friends.

The high school tone of this book makes me think that this may be too high school for some older readers, though. Roo’s choices and predicaments a bit shallow compared to the “real life” problems like work and taxes and all that. But then again…that’s high school, you know? Admit it — at one point or another, we all thought that the world revolves around the things we worry about when we were at that age, and if things don’t go our way or if things go out of our control, it feels like the world is ending. Ruby’s story reminds me of my own experiences at that age, and it also makes me sigh with relief that I am already done with that stage of my life.

Now if only I could say the same about taxes.

Rating:

Reviews of other Ruby Oliver books:
#1 The Boyfriend List

Other reviews:
The Screaming Nitpicker

 

  1. They even have a fancy, name-combined group name. Or wait, it was a group name after the combined names of all their crushes []
  2. Or, can’t. Because one of my major crushes back then was Nick Carter from the Backstreet Boys, wohoo []

Faves of TwentyEleven: The Covers

And we’re at the last installment of the Faves of TwentyEleven series, hosted by Nomes of inkcrush! In case you missed the others, here are the other posts in my Faves of TwentyEleven series:

I had so much fun coming up with this list, and this last one is the first time I’m doing this. I’m not much of a cover person, as I have stressed in several posts before this, but I’m also one who can still appreciate nice covers. I think my opinion of covers is just a little better than my opinion about other things…like say, basement tiles. So now, here are some of my favorite covers for the books I read in 2011.

Day Five: The Covers

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