The Truth About Forever

The Truth About Forever by Sarah DessenThe Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen
Publisher: Puffin
Number of pages:  390
My copy: paperback, bought from Powerbooks

Sixteen-year-old Macy Queen is looking forward to a long, boring summer. Her boyfriend is going away. She’s stuck with a dull-as-dishwater job at the library. And she’ll spend all of her free time studying for the SATs or grieving silently with her mother over her father’s recent unexpected death. But everything changes when Macy is corralled into helping out at one of her mother’s open house events, and she meets the chaotic Wish Catering crew. Before long, Macy joins the Wish team. She loves everything about the work and the people. But the best thing about Wish is Wes—artistic, insightful, and understanding Wes—who gets Macy to look at life in a whole new way, and really start living it.

* * *

I’ve been trying to think of the best way to review this book, because I feel like the first review I wrote for The Truth About Forever did not do it any justice. The thing is, I don’t know how to write a proper review for this book without squealing or “sa-woon”-ing so much. Because believe me, I know I did that so many times when I was rereading this book.

But let me try again. Sarah Dessen’s The Truth About Forever is one of my favorite books of all time. It’s not my first Dessen, but it’s the book that made me love Dessen and made her one of my auto-buy authors. It’s one book I’ve reread multiple times and still get all swoony and happy and wishing for a romance like Macy and Wes did. Yes, even with their drama, because it made the ending so much satisfying in the end.

The Truth About Forever - UK coverThe Truth About Forever is about Macy Queen, whose life spun out of control when her dad died in front of her. Macy tried to hold it together for the sake of her family, hiding her grief and seeking perfection, thinking that this would help her mother who seeks perfection in everything she does as well, her own way of dealing with loss. The story starts with Macy’s boyfriend, Jason, leaving for Brain Camp and Macy facing a long summer with her strict schedule and routine. She’s okay, she always thought. Until one day, she meets the Wish Catering crew. One bad afternoon at her summer job, with a bad email to boot, she joins Wish, makes new friends, and meets Wes — the seemingly perfect guy with his own not-so-clean past, who likes flaws. Things turn interesting for Macy as she gets to know these people, and as she realizes that maybe it’s not so bad if her strictly-scheduled life unravels and she lets chaos in bit by bit.

Ah, this book. I think what makes me love this book more than I loved This Lullaby is how much I could relate to Macy. I’m fortunate enough to have my parents here with me so I can’t relate to Macy at that front, but the schedules? The need to be as perfect as I can be (sometimes, anyway)? Oh, I’ve been there. At the next rereads, I found that I wanted to shake Macy so hard — she needs to cry! She needs to snap out of the illusion that she needs to be perfect to hold things together. She needs to let go and reach for her mom so they could grieve together! Ah Macy, why do you frustrate me so much?

But it served as a good starting point. If there was anything that Sarah Dessen really knows, it’s how to write a story that seeps into you and hooks you, pulling you in up until the last page. There’s no need for magic or any supernatural creatures — just plain everyday things magnified, with added significance. The conversations could be just any normal conversation, but somehow they pack a punch. For example:

“Honestly,” I said.

“What?”

“Come on. You have to admit it’s sort of ridiculous.”

“What is?”

Now that I had to define it, I found myself struggling for the right words. “You know,” I said, then figured Kristy had really summed it up best. “The sa-woon.”

“The what?”

“Wes, come on,” I said. “Are you seriously not aware of how girls stare at you?”

How cute is that?

There’s really nothing new with the story, but thanks to the writing and the vivid characters, it becomes a little bit extraordinary. This book is one of the reasons I appreciate characters more, why I believe that even the most common storyline can be interesting when the roles are played by strong, well-developed characters.

And then there’s Wes. Dessen boys are well known among readers, and Wes is definitely my favorite. He just seems so…perfect. Strange to see a seemingly perfect guy in a book that tells the main character that perfection isn’t everything, don’t you think? Believe me, I’m still trying to find some kind of flaw in Wes. But I guess that’s what crushes are — it’s so hard to find a flaw in them. I think I’m not that infatuated with Wes that I’d try and look for someone exactly like him (but hey, I wouldn’t mind, haha), but I would like to have the same kind of development that Macy and Wes had. Their relationship is one of the most authentic ones I’ve read — built on shared experiences and conversations. Now where is that guy I could play a game of Truth with?

So yeah, even on my third reread, I still loved The Truth About Forever. It reminds me of why I started reading YA and why I like the contemporary genre. If you’re looking for a good contemporary YA novel you can sink your teeth into, or if you’re looking for a good Sarah Dessen novel to start with, I highly recommend The Truth About Forever. Read it and sa-woon. :)

Rating:

Other reviews:
Forever Young Adult

Jellicoe Road

Jellicoe Road by Melina MarchettaJellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
Publisher: Harper Collins
Number of pages: 432
My copy: paperback, bought from National Bookstore

In this lyrical, absorbing, award-winning novel, nothing is as it seems, and every clue leads to more questions.

At age eleven, Taylor Markham was abandoned by her mother. At fourteen, she ran away from boarding school, only to be tracked down and brought back by a mysterious stranger. Now seventeen, Taylor’s the reluctant leader of her school’s underground community, whose annual territory war with the Townies and visiting Cadets has just begun. This year, though, the Cadets are led by Jonah Griggs, and Taylor can’t avoid his intense gaze for long. To make matters worse, Hannah, the one adult Taylor trusts, has disappeared. But if Taylor can piece together the clues Hannah left behind, the truth she uncovers might not just settle her past, but also change her future.

* * *

I’m a little bit OC when it comes to my reviewing order, and it’s not often that I skip over some books I need to review first to write one for another. Usually doing that means one of the following: I am in a hurry to post a review for the book for a deadline (doesn’t usually happen), or I love the book so much that I just have to write a review about it immediately.

Such is Jellicoe Road, my second Melina Marchetta book. Ever since I finished and enjoyed Saving Francesca, I’ve been itching to read another Marchetta book to experience the goodness of her writing and the realness of her characters. But alas, I know I must pace myself because Jellicoe was the only other book I had of hers — I still had to buy The Piper’s Son and Looking for Alibrandi after Holy Week. After finishing two books from my Required Reading for April, I decided to reward myself with her book.

And man, was it such a good idea. I gobbled up Jellicoe Road so fast that I surprised myself. Jellicoe Road is the story of Taylor Markham, whose mom left her when she was 11, picked up shortly by Hannah. At fourteen, she ran away from her boarding school to look for her mom only to be found and brought back by a stranger. Now, she’s almost eighteen, and she is the leader of their school’s underground community that is neck deep in a territory war with the kids from Jellicoe town called Townies and a group of kids undergoing military training aptly named Cadets. Then Hannah disappears and it throws Taylor’s life out of the loop. If it wasn’t enough, the leader of the Cadets turn out to be Jonah Griggs, a guy from Taylor’s past that she’s trying hard to forget. Taylor’s life unravels as she tries to cope with Hannah’s disappearance, piecing together clues Hannah left and things her memory is trying to hide from her.

One word: wow. I was warned that this book would be an emotional ride, but I wasn’t expecting that. It’s really hard to describe the book without putting a spoiler, and the last thing you want to be with this book is to be spoiled. I’ve been warned that the first 100 pages or so of this book would be confusing, and indeed it was. For some people, this might be enough for them to stop reading and never revisit the book again, but trust me when I say this: don’t. Keep on reading, and somewhere a few pages later, you’ll find that this book had you in its grip and will refuse to let you go up until the last page.

Just like in Saving Francesca, Marchetta definitely had her way with the characters and how they interact here. I thought the book would just be about the territory wars, which kind of turns me off, but the author made that as interesting as figuring out Taylor’s past. I loved the relationships that the characters formed in this book — they all had history with each other, and even if I have equally awesome friends, this book made me crave the same history that Taylor wanted: “These people have history and I crave history. I crave someone knowing me so well that they can tell what I’m thinking.” I loved how they all just formed this friendship without too much effort, and how some characters who come off as annoying at first become even a little bit endearing in the end.

But that plot — oh that plot. When I got to my first “aha!” moment in the book, I just couldn’t stop reading. I wanted to know what happens next and I want it now. At the same time, I also didn’t want it to end. I just want to live in Jellicoe Road, if that was possible. I loved how everything tied up together at the end, and how the story kept on surprising me everyday. Even when I thought I had it all figured out, I was still surprised at the end, and I don’t think I’ve ever read a book that did just that. When I was done with the book, I had an extreme desire to reread it all over again, if only to figure out what part I missed now that I knew how everything fits.

While I was going through the first part of the book, I wasn’t really sure if I would like it as much as my other bookish friends did. When I closed the last page, I was sure that I had just as much love for this book as they do. Like what I tweeted, reading this book was like breaking my heart and then putting it back together again. It was that awesome. Jellicoe Road reminded me of why I love contemporary YA, and it definitely made me a fan of Melina Marchetta. :)

Read it, read it. Take your time with the start and be amazed at how Marchetta weaves a story so beautiful that it keeps a hold on you long after you have closed the book. ♥

Rating:

Other reviews:
Chachic’s Book Nook
Book Harbinger
Attack of the Book
Forever Young Adult

The Last Dragonslayer

The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper FfordeThe Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde
Dragonslayer # 1
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Number of pages: 281
My copy: paperback, from Fully Booked

In the good old days, magic was powerful, unregulated by government, and even the largest spell could be woven without filling in the magic release form B1-7g. But somewhere, somehow, the magic started draining away.

Jennifer Strange runs Kazam!, an employment agency for state-registered magicians, soothsayers and sorceresses. But work is drying up. Drain cleaner is cheaper and quicker than a spell. Why trust a cold and drafty magic carpet when jetliners offer a comfy seat and an in-flight movie? And now potions are eligible for VAT…

But then the visions start. The Last Dragon is going to be killed by a Dragonslayer at 12.00 on Sunday. The death will unleash untold devastation on the UnUnited Kingdom, setting principality against dukedom and property developer against homesteader. And all the signs are pointing to Jennifer Strange, and saying”Big Magic is coming!”

The Last Dragonslayer is fizzing with all the creativity and genius Jasper Fforde’s fans delight in, and will appeal as much to the young at heart as to the younger readers for whom it is written.

* * *

If you know me really well or if you’ve been reading my blog for a while now, you’d know that I tend to gravitate towards contemporary fiction books. It’s not that I don’t like speculative fiction (I do, very much), but I just prefer reading about real life and the real world because it feels easier to understand than a world full of impossibilities.

However, I make an exception for some authors, and Jasper Fforde is one of them. Before I even got to know John Green, Jasper Fforde is the first author that can do no wrong in my book. I fell in love with his world in 2006 when I read Something Rotten (yes, I read the fourth Thursday Next book first. Gasp!) even if it’s the most outrageous world I have ever read. I searched for all his books after that and declared him my favorite, making me read more because of all his literary references. He’s one of those authors whose books I know I can get lost in easily whenever I need something to escape without the additional mental strain of having to figure out their world every now and then.

So it’s really no question that when he released his first YA book, I would be there to get it and gobble it up. You think?

The Last Dragonslayer stars Jennifer Strange, a fifteen (almost sixteen) orphan who manages the Kazam!, a magical agency that provides jobs for magicians and sorcerers. Magic has been on a steady decline for years now, and there were less and less jobs for them to use magic. They have gone down to use magic to bring down cats from trees and fix household items like replacing a bathroom faucet with magic just to keep Kazam up and running. Still Jennifer tries to make do, and for someone who’s mature for her age, she does it very well. Up until she hears a premonition about the last dragon dying. Dragons are fierce creatures that are said to eat humans and destroy homes but was contained by the Dragonpact years ago by the Mighty Shandar. Jennifer had no big concerns about the dragon dying until the wizards under her care started experiencing surges in power, but it became more of a problem when the premonition says that the dragon will die in the hands of a dragon slayer, and Jennifer is involved. What’s a foundling like Jennifer to do now?

This book had everything I loved about Jasper Fforde. The best thing about his novels is how real they are even in their impossibility. Fforde writes in such a deadpan manner that you just can’t help but believe what he writes no matter how outrageous they all seem to be. It takes a while to fully get into the world, but once you’ve accepted the world his characters move in, you’re in for a very, very fun ride. Fforde knows his worlds, and it’s amazing because The Last Dragonslayer‘s world is different from his other works — is there no end to this guy’s imagination?

In addition to the solid world building, the characters are also very real and wacky, with very fun names to boot! Jennifer Strange is a lovely narrator, akin to Thursday Next but with less of the adult jadedness. The villains were annoying all the way to the end, but that doesn’t mean they were less hilarious. :P Even the dragon (of course the dragon talks in Fforde’s world!) stands on his own, and if there was anything I would wish for this novel, it was more of the dragon.

If you’ve been a longtime fan of Jasper Fforde, you will not be disappointed by his YA venture, and I bet like me, you’d be clamoring for more! If you’re new to Jasper Fforde and his adult novels intimidate you (which you really shouldn’t be because they’re awesome), The Last Dragonslayer is a good book to get your feet wet. :)

Oh, and one more wish, if I may. I want my own Quarkbeast. :P One of Jennifer’s loyal sidekicks, a Quarkbeast is described as:

Often described as one tenth Labrador, six tents velociraptor and three tenths kitchen food blender, the Quarkbeast’s razor sharp fangs and hideously frightening demeanour mask a quieter side that rarely, if ever, eats cats.

I don’t know why, but whenever the Quarkbeast is mentioned in the novel, I remember Hyperbole and a Half‘s ALOT.

Does anyone else get the same impression?

More fun information on all things Strange in Jasper Fforde’s website. :) I’m not sure if this is a standalone novel or if it would become a series, but I definitely wouldn’t mind if this becomes a series. More YA, Fforde! :)

Quark! :3

Rating:

Other reviews:
Bart’s Bookshelf
Mad Bibliophile
Stories in My Pocket

Havah: The Story of Eve

Havah: The Story of Eve by Tosca Lee
Publisher: B&H Publishing Group
Number of pages: 354
My copy: paperback, ordered from Amazon

A single decision has the power to unravel mankind.

Created, not born.

The world’s first woman, without flaw, until one fateful choice. Now all humanity must pay for the mistake.

From paradise to exile, from immortality to the death of Adam, experience the dawn of mankind through the eyes of Eve — the woman first known as Havah.

* * *

I have had Tosca’s book on my TBR shelf since 2009, and I meant to read it soon after I finished reading her other novel, Demon: A Memoir. Somehow, this book got pushed farther and farther down Mt. TBR until I almost forgot about having it. It wasn’t until I was thinking of a good book to start 2011 with that I remembered having this one, so I dug it up from my books, and cracked the book open again come 1st of January.

Around October last year, some of my Goodreads friends started a year-long reading challenge to read the Bible in its entirety. I have tried reading the Bible from cover to cover back in college but I failed miserably when I got to Chronicles. When I heard of the challenge in the group, the challenge addict in me jumped in, choosing to read The Message translation of the Bible for easier reading. The thing with reading the Bible is it’s so easy to be disenchanted with the stories there, especially if you’ve heard the stories in it over and over, particularly in Genesis. What else there is to read about Adam and Eve anyway? They were created, they lived in God’s presence, then Eve got tempted and got Adam in with her. They were banished from the garden, they had kids, and then the world started with them. Not that interesting, right?

They say familiarity breeds contempt, and I guess that has happened to me in the case of Genesis. Tosca Lee breathes life into the story of creation, particularly with the first woman ever created in Havah.

I have seen paradise and ruin. I have known bliss and terror.

I have walked with God.

And I know that God made the hart the most fragile and resilient of organs, that a lifetime of joy and pain might be encased in one moral chamber.

So it starts. I fell in love with Tosca Lee’s writing with Demon, and I knew Havah is going to be just as beautifully written as the former, if not more. This retelling of Eve from the moment of her creation to their fall to their exile and her mortal life was told in Eve’s point of view, making the novel feel more personal compared to Demon.

I am not an expert in theology so I can’t say how accurate this was or if Tosca missed addressing something in this novel. However, I can say that reading Havah became more than just leisurely reading but almost a personal journey. Eve, christened as Havah by the adam because she “…will live, and all who live will come from [her], and [she] will give birth to hope.” (p. 102), spoke to my heart as she told her story. I guess it’s because she’s a woman, and I sympathized with her struggles and her woes. How I could I not? In a sense, I was also Havah — I sinned against God so many times that I know I am so far away from Him, but I crave for His presence just as Havah sought Him, too. It was that brokenness that got to me the most. I do not blame her for her act of disobedience and in the fall, because as she said quite eloquently, “If not for our transgression, we would not know redemption.” (p. 349) In a sense, Havah really embodied how it is to be a human in this broken world: a constant struggle to find God in our surroundings, in the people and in life, pressing on even if sometimes He seems empty and silent.

Since this was told in her point of view, this will seem like a female-biased novel, but I think (and hope!) that guys will still be able to find themselves in this novel, too. It’s hard to describe this novel in its entirety because there is so much beauty and pain and love in this book.

It took me a while to finish reading this, but I know I made the right choice in starting 2011 with this novel. This is still fiction, of course, and this does not replace the parts written in Genesis, but it definitely helped me understand that part of the Bible more. I had no doubt that this would be a good book after enjoying Tosca’s first novel, but Havah just totally blew my mind and heart away. And if you decide to pick this one up, I hope it does the same for you too. :)

How mighty, how great the One must be, I thought, to send the heavens careening, and yet hear the cry of a single heart. (p. 28)

Rating:

2011 Challenge Status:
1 of 20 in TwentyEleven Challenge (To YA or Not to YA)

Book trailer:

YouTube Preview Image

You can also watch Tosca talk about Havah in this video.

Other reviews:
Emily is Smiling
My Only Vice
Christian Fiction Review

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!