Faves of TwentyEleven: The Scenes

It’s time for another installment of the Faves of TwentyEleven series. This is hosted by Nomes of Inkcrush and it’s all about our reading favorites for the past year. :) If you missed my other posts, here they are:

I’m really a day late from posting this, but Nomes said to have fun and not worry about being on schedule…so there. On to the next list!

Day Three: The Scenes

Note: I can tell from now: this list is really going to make me wish I made notes about the books I read this year. *facepalm* Oh well. :)

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Sweet Valley Confidential: Ten Years Later

Sweet Valley Confidential: Ten Years LaterSweet Valley Confidential: Ten Years Later by Francine Pascal
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Number of pages: 304
My copy: ebook, bought from Amazon Kindle Store

Now with this striking new adult novel from author and creator Francine Pascal, millions of devoted fans can finally return to the idyllic Sweet Valley, home of the phenomenally successful book series and franchise. Iconic and beloved identical twins Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield are back and all grown up, dealing with the complicated adult world of love, careers, betrayal, and sisterhood.

* * *

If there was a book that I could blame for my being a bookworm, it is definitely Francine Pascal’s Sweet Valley. I didn’t start with SVH like most people (and I hardly read them, now that I think about it) — I started with Sweet Valley Kids after I saw my classmate reading it back when I was in 3rd grade. When I grew older, I started on Sweet Valley Twins, and read so much more Sweet Valley after that. I remember even getting random Sweet Valley books from Book Sale whenever I needed a quick read because that’s what Sweet Valley has always been for me: quick, easy and comforting reads. A reminder that somewhere, somehow life can be absolutely perfect (even if it sets a totally bad standard). :)

It’s been years since I last read a Sweet Valley book, so when news of Sweet Valley Confidential came out, I knew it just had to be one of the books I must read this year. No excuses — as a girl who practically grew up in Sweet Valley, there is no way I cannot read this. :-)

So I’ll keep the summary brief to avoid spoilers. It’s roughly 11 years since Sweet Valley High, and Elizabeth is living on her own in New York City, refusing to answer her sister’s calls. She is lonely and angry, and the only person she is willing to talk to from her hometown is conceited rich boy Bruce Patman, who is now her best friend. What happened to Elizabeth? Why is she refusing to answer her sister’s calls? What did Jessica do that made sweet, calm and well-loved Elizabeth Wakefield flee and close her doors? And how did she become best friends with 1BRUCE1, of all people?

When I finished reading the book, I knew I looked like this (thanks, Hyperbole and a Half for the accurate illustration):

Image from Hyperbole and a Half

I know some of my friends and Twitter followers have read my reaction, and I can’t help it. When I finished the last page of the (e)book, I actually sat on the bed and stared into space, wondering what the heck just happened to what I read.

The appeal of this book lies in the nostalgia it brings. I didn’t really read that many SVH books but I was still familiar with the people there — Lila, Ken, Steven, Todd, etc. It was definitely a trip down memory lane and I can’t help but remember all those crazy stories that I read back then. The magic dolls, the numerous beach trips, the people who all wanted the twins dead or at least want to be them. Of course, since the books were written by ghost writers, continuity errors abound, but I can easily forgive that. It was fun seeing the characters and laughing at how silly they all were and are, even after 11 years. Sometimes I want to shake them: Elizabeth, stop being angsty! Jessica, why are you always crying? Todd! Why are you being such a sissy? Caroline, why are you still meddling with your friends? Why haven’t you all moved on from high school?!

It’s not bad. In fact, I found Sweet Valley Confidential very entertaining, and it kept me amused while reading and hours after I finished reading. However, it was very brain-numbing, and it was probably because of the sheer ridiculousness of the plot. The twins are still perfect gorgeous beings that everyone loves no matter how self-absorbed they could be. You’d think that people would have grown up from their high school woes, but no, everyone’s still hung up with old high school issues and hardly anyone has moved out. Come on — I’m hardly in contact with some of my old high school friends. Was Elizabeth the only one brave enough to move away? Wait, scratch that — it’s not even bravery. She ran away from something, and if she were really and truly brave, she would have stayed to face the entire mess. Also, the big reveal of why Elizabeth left? TOTAL DUD. I expected more from you, Francine!

The writing leaves less to be desired, bordering on cheesy at times. The POV and tense switching can get a bit annoying, although I have to give it to Francine Pascal — there were distinct differences in the characters’ voices that made you know who was speaking a few lines in. Sometimes, though, I feel like she was drunk when she wrote some of the parts, or at least, very sleepy. “He heard her and turned to look but almost without recognition, so frantic was he.” (p. 262) “So frantic was he”? Archaic-sounding much?

Now you see why I ended up like this after reading?

Image from Hyperbole and a Half

In the end, this book reminds me of what Jessica said in one of the Sweet Valley Jr. High books (I loved that spin-off — probably my favorite of all the SV series). After she and her sister threw a party and invited their old middle school friends who ditched them when things were going bad at the party, Jessica realized what it means when people say, “You can never go home again.” That is exactly what I felt after finishing Sweet Valley Confidential. I grew up in Sweet Valley, it’s been fun hanging out with all those people, but I don’t think I can ever feel at home with them. I think it’s time to move out.

So. Do I recommend Sweet Valley Confidential? It’s not really that terrible. It’s like reading a trashy romance novel (with trashy love scenes to boot!) or a gossip magazine about your favorite fictional characters. You have to expect that it’s like that so you won’t be annoyed at the time you spent reading this book. If you’re just the curious kind who didn’t really love (or at least like) the books before, I don’t think you’d be able to finish this. But if you were a fan, get ready for a fun, mind-numbing, and slightly ridiculous trip down memory lane. :)

Rating:

Excerpt: Read the first chapter here

Other reviews:
Shannon’s Sweet Valley High Blog
EW.com
Forever Young Adult

10 for 2010: Most Anticipated for 2011

The best thing about being a book blogger this year is I get to find out about all the new titles coming out in the next few months and years. Before, I’d just rely on bookstore releases and sometimes I find out about them late! Thanks to the great blogging community and social networks, I find out about future releases so early! So early that sometimes the waiting time is unbearable. :P

So presenting today’s 10 for 2010: Most Anticipated Books for 2011.

What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen

1. What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen (May 2011) – If you’ve known me for a while now, you’ll know that Sarah Dessen is one of my favorite contemporary YA authors ever. Just Listen got me started on the contemporary YA genre, and I’ve devoured all her books ever since I read that. When I found out that she’s releasing a new book in 2011, I squeed. I absolutely cannot wait for this next novel — in fact, I am already planning a Dessen marathon to prepare myself for this new release. :)

2. Deadline by Mira Grant (May 2011) – Feed was one of my favorite books for this year, and the one year wait for its sequel is already long enough, don’t you think? More zombies, more politics and more blogging must be in Deadline…and maybe even a radio thing? I don’t know. But I am definitely looking forward to this one.

3. Sweet Valley Confidential: Ten Years Later by Francine Pascal (March 2011) – Two words: Sweet. Valley. Need I say more?

4. Bumped by Megan McCafferty (April 2011) – I loved the Jessica Darling series, and I like Megan McCafferty. This dystopian sounds really awesome, and I’ve seen very good reviews about this, too. :)

5. The Dark and Hollow Places by Carrie Ryan (March 2011) – While there are other zombie books that I liked more than Carrie Ryan’s series, I am still in love with her writing. After I’ve read The Forest of Hands and Teeth and The Dead-Tossed Waves, I cannot miss the third one. I hope more questions will be answered by then. :)

One of Our Thursdays is Missing6. One of Our Thursdays is Missing by Jasper Fforde (March 2011) – Just like Sarah Dessen, Jasper Fforde is on my auto-buy list. Thursday Next is one of my favorite heroines, so it’s imperative I get a copy of the sixth book. And maybe refresh myself with the series, too.

7. Magic Slays by Ilona Andrews (May 2011) – I think I’ve professed my love for the Kate Daniels series enough this year? :) If not, I must say it again: I love this series. And like all the other fans I know, I cannot wait o get my hands on the next installment in the series. :)

A Monster Calls8. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness (May 2011) – Okay, so I’ve only really read one book and a novella from him, but I like him already. While I wait for his new book, I will finish the two other books in the Chaos Walking series. Yes, I will.

9. Winter Town by Stephen Emond (Fall 2011) – Happyface is undoubtedly one of my most favorite books in 2010, so knowing that Stephen Emond will release a new book is just exciting. I love the premise too: “…told from two perspectives and accompanied by scrapbook entries and comics, childhood friends grow up, grow apart, and eventually fall in love.” Being the president of his fans club, it is my responsibility to get a copy of this as soon as its released. :P

10. Forbidden by Ted Dekker and Tosca Lee (Summer 2011) – This is my most anticipated collaboration for 2011. Ted Dekker and Tosca Lee, two of the big names in Christian fiction — this is going to be good, I can tell. :)

Runners Up:

  • Allison Hewitt is TrappedAllison Hewitt is Trapped by Madeleine Roux (January 2011) – I saw this book on The Book Smugglers and I loved how it started out as a blog, too. Blogging and zombies again – one of my favorite combination. Must get this one.
  • Sweetly by Jackson Pearce (August 2011) – I love the cover, and I love the Hansel and Gretel retelling idea. I enjoyed Jackson Pearce’s Sisters Red, so I am excited to get my hands on this one, too.
  • Where She Went by Gayle Forman (April 2011) – I loved If I Stay, and the idea of the sequel is just…well, awesome. I can’t wait to know what happened after Mia’s ordeal.

Check out my other 10 for 2010 posts!
10 Favorite Male Characters
10 Favorite Female Characters
10 Favorite Couples
10 Favorite Authors

I’m giving away some of my favorite books in 2010 in my Anniversary Giveaway! Know why Patrick Ness is one of my auto-buy authors now through The Knife of Never Letting Go! 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!

Reading for the fun of it (aka My Ten Teen Reads)

I remember one of the conversations I had with some friends about how some do not review the books they read. Some of them admit that they’re not that good with writing, while other people said that they didn’t want to feel obligated to think about having to write something, and instead just read the book for fun. Now, being a writer and a talkative person, I never felt the burden of writing reviews for the books I read. Yes, sometimes I don’t review a book, but lately I’ve been enjoying writing notes about the books I read so much that it’s never been a burden for me to write.

Taking a cue from Honey’s latest post, though, I like the tag line of this year’s Teen Read Week: read for the fun of it. While I have always been reading for fun, but sometimes I tend to forget and I put too much pressure on myself when I write a review or finish a book. Looking at my TBR mountain, I know I feel pressured to finish most of it, so I tend to read and read and read and worry about how I can make the mountain smaller (and also finish off my challenges).

Which brings me to my Ten Teen Reads! I don’t know how it connects exactly to what I wrote up there, but I thought I’d also list the books I loved to read as a teen. Note that they’re not exclusively YA because I hardly picked up YA fiction, then. I’m not really sure what kinds of books I used to read then actually. Hrm. Anyway.

  1. This Present Darkness and Piercing the Darkness by Frank Peretti. I discovered Frank Peretti through my friend Pau during freshman year in high school. She told me about it, but I only got to read it by junior year. When I finished reading it, I didn’t want to give it back because I loved it so much. I loved the storytelling and the story itself, especially the angels and how they get their strength from the praying people. :) The sequel I read when I finally got my own copy of the book and there is this scene that always always makes me cry. These two books pretty much started my love for Peretti.
  2. Eating Fire and Drinking Water by Arlene Chai. I think I read Chai when some blogger friends (back when blogging was really just journaling online) started recommending her. It’s really one of the first few serious novels I read that’s set in the Philippines. I loved Eating Fire and Drinking Water for reasons I really couldn’t point out. I think I would have to revisit this book again to find out.
  3. Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli. Now this is really YA. I got this book when I was feeling stressed from school, and this one saved me from totally exploding. I loved every bit of this novel — I wanted to be Stargirl! This remains to be one of my comfort reads until now. :)
  4. Flipped by Wendelin Van Draanen. I bought this the same day I got Stargirl. I think I’ve said enough about how much I love this book, and I am really sad that they delayed the showing of the movie here. :(
  5. A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I think I first read this in Grade 5, and that’s really before I hit teens. This is one of the classics that I have re-read more than twice. My review says a lot about it already, and I think I need to find a hardcover version of this book so I can preserve it. :D
  6. Invisible Lissa by Natalie Honeycutt. This little gem I found in Book Sale, and I’ve lost count how many times I read this, too. This is one of the best middle grade books I read when I was in high school. So glad I bought it then. :)
  7. The Nickel Plated Beauty by Patricia Beatty. My mom bought me this book, at first this wasn’t really one of those books that I read. However, when I read it, I couldn’t put it down. I loved how all the kids worked hard to get that “nickel-plated beauty”, and I wanted to write a similar story. :P
  8. Best Bet Gazette by Linda Gondosch. This one tickled all my writing fancies. When I was younger, I used to write “newsletters” for distribution, which of course were never printed. I loved this because it involved writing in a newspaper, and there was a serious part in the book, too. :)
  9. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery. Anne Shirley is one of my heroes. I wished I had as much imagination as she did, but alas. I love all the names she thought of (White Way of Delight!), and all her adventures. Finally, a name: Gilbert Blythe. Swoon.
  10. Animorphs series by K.A. Applegate. I must not forget the only sci-fi series that I grew up with. I learned of this series from my best friend, and at first I thought it was more of a fantasy series. where the kids have extraordinary powers with no real need for it. To my surprise it wasn’t — it was darker and grittier and it had deer-human-scorpion aliens! I remember scouring the bookstores every month for the new books. It’s just sad I kind of lost interest in it so I haven’t collected all the books. Now I’m on the lookout for the books I don’t have.

And plus one, because I can’t not write this:

  • Sweet Valley series by Francine Pascal. When I was in Grade 3, a classmate brought a curious colorful little book to school. It was my first introduction to Sweet Valley, and reading. I never really got to read Sweet Valley High because my mom didn’t want me reading that (long story), but I loved Sweet Valley Twins, The Unicorn Club and Sweet Valley Junior High. If I had to thank an author for getting me started on reading, it would have to be Francine Pascal (and all her ghost writers). :)

And because of this honorable mention, I must also mention this: the cover for the newest Sweet Valley book, Sweet Valley Confidential is out:

Doesn’t this bring back awesome memories? :) Is it too early to beg for ARCs, if they are releasing them? But either way, I will get this book anyway — should be a fun read. :P

I don’t think I’d be the same person today if it weren’t for the books I read when I was young. So to teens out there: read, read, read! Read whatever you get your hands on! Turn off the TV and computers, pick up a book and read! I promise you it’s going to be one of the best decisions you’ll ever make. :)

Waiting on Wednesday: Sweet Valley Confidential

I don’t remember myself as much of a reader when I was really young, up until a classmate brought some colorful little books to school, ones that immediately got me curious. That was the first time I was introduced to Sweet Valley. I started begging my parents to get me those books (back then they cost Php59.75 — a little over a dollar), and they got me one every month. I was enchanted by the adventures of the Wakefield twins, and I seriously wanted to be one of the Wakefields. I decided I want to be a writer after I found out Elizabeth wanted to be one, too. Copy much?

I was more into Sweet Valley Twins and their middle-school/junior high adventures, because my mom didn’t want me to read SVH and anything older than my age. I tend to shy away from them, because of that, so I missed all their other juicy adventures while in high school. When I try to re-read any of my Sweet Valley books now, I wonder why I liked them so much when it’s mostly inconsistent and Jessica and Elizabeth are like the epitome of all Mary Sues in the world.  I guess I can never look back on something that got me to start reading.

So, after the long intro, here’s my Waiting on Wednesday this week! “Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Jill of Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating. Thanks to Trashionista for the heads up!

Sweet Valley Confidential

No official blurb yet, but here’s what I got from Trashionista:

Is Liz a hot young journalist engaged to pro-basketball player Todd Wilkins and planning the sweetest backyard wedding? Is Jess gracing the covers of international fashion magazines and breaking the hearts of wealthy jet-setters? After the perfect childhoods, how will the real world affect the lives of the Wakefield Twins? We’ll find out soon enough.

Squeeeee. Talk about reliving my childhood! This is set ten years after the series ended. Which series, exactly, I’m not sure — probably SVU? I’m also not sure if the Elizabeth in London series is included. I think Francine Pascal is really writing this one. I don’t have to explain why I am excited for this, right?

You can read the first chapter of the book by signing up at the official website. I finished reading it yesterday and I am so curious. I wonder if anyone in the Sweet Valley gang is already shopping for unique baby shower invitations..hmm curious! 2011 can’t come fast enough!