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

Continue Reading →

Between Here and Forever

Between Here and Forever by Elizabeth ScottBetween Here and Forever by Elizabeth Scott
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Number of pages: 256
My copy: ebook from Galley Grab

Abby accepted that she can’t measure up to her beautiful, magnetic sister Tess a long time ago, and knows exactly what she is: Second best. Invisible.

Until the accident.

Now Tess is in a coma, and Abby’s life is on hold. It may have been hard living with Tess, but it’s nothing compared to living without her.

She’s got a plan to bring Tess back though, involving the gorgeous and mysterious Eli, but then Abby learns something about Tess, something that was always there, but that she’d never seen.

Abby is about to find out that truth isn’t always what you think it is, and that life holds more than she ever thought it could…

* * *

Totally honest moment? This is one book I judged by its cover — the sunflower on the cover called me the moment I laid my eyes on it. I squee over anything with sunflowers and stars (if it’s not obvious with my header image), so the giant sunflower on this cover is a big plus on me. I’m just not sure where this really fits in the story, though.

Between Here and Forever is a story of sisters and family. Abby has always lived under the shadow of her popular sister, Tess. Everyone loves Tess, and Abby never felt like she could measure up to her. So she lives in that way — always putting her sister first, always saying Tess is better, Tess deserves more, even after Tess gets into an accident that puts her in a coma. On a mission to bring back Tess, Abby involves Eli, the mysterious guy she meets in the hospital who visits Tess, the only guy who isn’t wearing nursing scrubs. But as Abby tries her hardest to bring Tess back, she finds out things that she never knew about her sister, the truth that she never even thought was possible for her beautiful sister.

Elizabeth Scott is kind of a hit-or-miss author for me. I really liked Stealing Heaven and Grace, but Perfect You and Bloom were just so-so for me. Unfortunately, Between Here and Forever fell in the “miss” category. It’s not that the story or the writing is bad — I just had a hard time relating to the characters or the story. I did think the characters were all fleshed out, especially Abby. I felt bad at how low her self-esteem was after living in the shadow of her sister, and I felt happy for her when she’s finally standing up for herself. And even in a coma, Tess’ presence was palpable in the entire story – which is the way is should be since the story is all about her too.

But maybe that’s why I had a hard time connecting with this. I only have an older brother, and I never really had close girl cousins that I could almost consider as sister. While I did have some inferiority issues back in high school with some close girl friends, it was never in the way that Abby was with Tess. Maybe it was just that, the lack of common ground that made me a bit distant with this novel.

So if you’ve read this and you have a sister — tell me, did this book feel more real to you? I’d like to know. But even if I didn’t like Elizabeth Scott’s newest release, I’m still going to read her other books. She’s one YA author who has grown on me. :) Did you see her next book? Not only is the cover curious, but the premise sounds very interesting, too.

Thanks to Simon & Schuster Galley Grab for the e-galley of this book. Now where can I find a sunflower that big without going to Baguio again?

Rating:

Other reviews:
Good Books and Good Wine
Lauren’s Crammed Bookshelf

What Happened to Goodbye

What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah DessenWhat Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen
Publisher: Penguin Young Readers
Number of pages:  416
My copy: ebook from Amazon Kindle Store

Another town. Another school. Another Mclean. Ever since her parents’ bitter divorce, Mclean and her father have been fleeing their unhappy past. And Mclean’s become a pro at reinventing herself with each move. But in Lakeview, Mclean finds herself putting down roots and making friends—in part, thanks to Dave, the most real person Mclean’s ever met. Dave just may be falling in love with her, but can he see the person she really is? Does Mclean herself know?

* * *

Sarah Dessen is a comfort read. I learned to love the YA genre through her books, and even if I’ve read other good contemporary YA novels (hello John Green and Melina Marchetta), Sarah Dessen remains as the queen of my YA-novel loving heart. So there was really no question that I’d get her newest book, What Happened to Goodbye, in the blink of an eye. In fact, this is probably the most expensive ebook that I’ve purchased so far (it’s $1 more expensive than the usual ebook price).

Mclean Sweet lived a normal life, until her mother fell in love with the coach of the basketball team that her father loved. After a messy divorce, Mclean joins her dad with his traveling job, jumping from one town to another to improve or close some restaurants. Tired of her old personality, Mclean takes on a different persona and a name for every town she lives in — from a cheerleader, a theater geek to an all around girl, she does it all and disappears without a trace when they need to move. Mclean is prepared to do the same thing when she moves to Lakeview with her dad. That is, until she finds herself not only using her real name, but acting like herself.

Reading a Dessen novel for me is like coming home after a long day’s work and snuggling on my favorite chair with a good, comforting drink. It was so easy to immerse myself in Lakeview, and after reading all her other books, it almost feels like I’m coming home. That’s what reading What Happened to Goodbye feels like, especially for someone who’s loved and read all Sarah Dessen books like me — coming home after a long trip or adventure to faraway lands and finding comfort in all things old and new.

Although, as far as other Sarah Dessen novels are concerned, this book isn’t really all that. While it didn’t really annoy me, there were some things that kind of niggled at me and made this novel less “OMG AWESOME”. For one thing, the premise of this book reminds me of Stealing Heaven by Elizabeth Scott, with the town-jumping and the new personalities but sans the stealing. I think this may be what made it a bit hard for me to accept that Mclean could change personalities like that. I can’t help but think that her dad is a fugitive somewhere and he needs to escape, but he has a good job here, and he obviously cares for his daughter a lot. I just can’t figure out why he just runs off without saying goodbye to people — it’s not like he’s running away from not paying loans, you know? It seemed a little bit weak for me.

I also echo what other people say about the “swoon” (or “sa-woon”, LOL) in this book — it’s almost non-existent. Not completely, because the build-up between Mclean and Dave is agonizingly slow, and there aren’t much swoon-worthy moments here unlike the ones between Macy and Wes or Remy and Dexter. I understand how some people would be disappointed with that, and I am a little bit disappointed. Just a little, because I actually liked it. Sometimes the agonizingly slow stuff makes for good stories in the end, you know?

But on a more positive note, Sarah Dessen still knows her characters, especially the secondary ones! I loved the staff at Luna Blu, and Mclean’s friends, especially Deb! I also loved that giant Easter Egg there. A part of me wishes that Sarah Dessen would write an entire novel about that guy because he’s been in too many of her novels, and I think he deserves his own story. :D I loved Deb, too, but I think my favorite secondary character for What Happened to Goodbye is Opal, the restaurant owner. I spotted the development with her a mile away, but it was a satisfying reveal. :)

What Happened to Goodbye may not be a favorite Dessen, but I think it’s another solid release. As a longtime Dessen fan, I really enjoyed reading this one. However, if you’re new to Dessen, I’d suggest you pick up her older titles, especially The Truth About Forever, This Lullaby, and Just Listen to be introduced to her contemporary YA writing prowess. :)

So what’s next for Dessen? I truly hope she decides to write a book with a male lead this time, just like John Green is writing a book with a female lead. I think it’s high time we read a story of a Dessen boy from his point of view, right?

Rating:

Other reviews:
Forever Young Adult

Steph Su Reads

inkcrush

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!

Freedom in Grace

Grace by Elizabeth ScottGrace by Elizabeth Scott
Dutton, 208 pages

A fable of a terrifying near future by critically acclaimed author Elizabeth Scott.

Grace was raised to be an Angel, a herald of death by suicide bomb. But she refuses to die for the cause, and now Grace is on the run, daring to dream of freedom. In search of a border she may never reach, she travels among malevolent soldiers on a decrepit train crawling through the desert. Accompanied by the mysterious Kerr, Grace struggles to be invisible, but the fear of discovery looms large as she recalls the history and events that delivered her uncertain fate.

Told in spare, powerful prose, this tale of a dystopian near future will haunt readers long after they’ve reached the final page.

I wasn’t sure what to expect with Grace when I got it. Okay, so I posted a WoW post about this because I was curious, even if I’m not (yet) a fan of Elizabeth Scott. So far, out of all Scott’s work, the only book I liked was Stealing Heaven, and I am not so sure if I want to read her other books after that. But I made an exception for this because it is dystopian, and I have been liking that sub-genre a lot lately.

Grace was raised as an Angel, a suicide bomber trained by the People to fight against Keran Berj’s oppression. She was brought to the People by her dad after her mother died, and she knew that she will be herald of death, a girl chosen by the Saints to fight for freedom against Keran Berj’s cruelty against the land. She grew up knowing what an honor it would be to die for the cause, but knowing is not the same as believing. On the day that she was supposed to kill the Minister of Culture, Grace decides not to die and instead escapes. She is joined by a mysterious, seemingly compassionate man named Kerr as they rode the train to a border that they were not sure if they could reach.

The story is simple, both in prose and plot. It’s confusing at first, because the story wasn’t told in a linear manner, but in flashbacks and anecdotes of Grace’s past and the history that she knew of about their land and Keran Berj’s rule. After some time, though, as I got used to the narration, I finally got the hang of it and it was easier from there. The chapters were short, sparse and almost poetic and but it does not lack the emotion or action that would pull the readers in Grace’s bleak world. There is very little hope as what little of Grace’s story unfolds, and I felt afraid for her as she rode the train to the border. This is not a book you would want to read for a quick and easy read because it’s not. However, despite all that, Scott manages to weave a little bit of hope in the story, a little spark in the darkness that Grace had lived in almost all her life. Just like Grace, I was hesitant to believe in that hope, but I wanted her to hold on to it because I wanted to believe that there is still something good in the world she lives in.

This is a depressing book. It reminds me a lot of those war movies and books that I avoid, particularly ones about World War II and the Nazis. I never liked watching those movies because it’s scary, and I hate the idea that it could possibly happen again. I know it’s weird coming from someone who likes dystopian fiction, but there is a certain level of separation between reality and the dystopian books I have read. Grace is different, because there is a definite sense of reality in the story, a question that I can’t help but ask as I read this book. That is the most terrifying thing in this novel. This is not fantasy. There’s no magic, no special high technology, nothing. The lack of out-of-this-world elements in this story makes you wonder if this is really happening somewhere else…and if it is, is there anything we can do to stop it?

Rating:
→ Depressing. Terrifying. Hopeful. Grace is simple but it packs a lot of punch as it paints a part of our world that could be existing right now, and yet, it still manages to give hope.

2010 Challenge Status:
* Book # 98 out of 100 for 2010
* Book # 3 of YA-D2 Reading Challenge

My copy: hardbound from Fully Booked

Cover image & Blurb: Goodreads

Other Reviews:
Persnickety Snark
Chachic’s Book Nook
The Frenetic Reader