Minis: 2015 reads, so far

So in an effort to revive this blog out of silence, here’s another post! I thought I’d write about the books I read in the first months of 2015, just so I could catch up. Consider this a Minis post, although mini-er, because I’m going to try to sum  up my thoughts for each book I’ve read in 5 sentences, or less. :)

My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories edited by Stephanie Perkins
St. Martin’s Griffin | 320 pages | Ebook

Cute collection of holiday love stories, and it was a very good companion for the Christmas season. Not a super fan of all stories, though,  but I didn’t expect I’ll love all anyway. Favorite stories: Midnights by Rainbow Rowell, Polaris is Where You’ll Find Me by Jenny Han, Welcome to Christmas, CA by Kiersten White (loved the small town setting), and Star of Bethlehem by Ally Carter. :) Best paired with a mug of hot chocolate (as long as the weather is cool enough). :)

I sang because that is what I do when I am happy and when I’m sad. I sang because it is who I am when I am being the best possible version of me. I sang because I wasn’t alone as I held Aunt Mary’s hand. I sang because it was Christmas. (Star of Bethlehem by Ally Carter)

Rating:

* * *

Navigating EarlyNavigating Early by Clare Vanderpool
Delacorte Books for Young Readers | 306 pages | Ebook

TFG’s F2F book for the month for January. Lots of suspension of disbelief in this one, with their adventures. It’s a good read about family and grief and friendship, but

“I got lost.”
“I know, but you found your way back. Finding your way back doesn’t mean you always know where you’re going. It’s knowing how to find your way back home that’s important.”

Rating: 

* * *

Love Walked In by Marisa de los Santos
Dutton | 307 pages | Hardbound

A reread of one of my favorites for TFG’s February discussion. I still loved this as much as I did before, even if I knew what was going to happen. The other opinions of my book club friends did remind me of how some things happened conveniently for Cornelia’s sake. But even so, I loved the writing, and I still have a huge crush on Teo Sandoval. I think the sequel, Belong to Me, is still better than this. :)

Watching Teo ahead of her carrying the bag and turning around to smile, she understood what the difference was, such a simple change: She’d been alone for a long time; she wasn’t alone anymore.

Rating: 

* * *

Better Off Friends by Elizabeth Eulberg 
Point | 276 pages | Paperback, borrowed

Read this as a reference for a writing project, borrowed from my friend Kai. This was cute, in so many ways. Slow in some parts, but still rewarding in the end. :)

Rating: 

* * *

painteddesertsThrough Painted Deserts: Light, God, and Beauty on the Open Road by Donald Miller
Thomas Nelson | 272 pages | Ebook/Audio

I’ve had this on hold for a year, and finally read it again this  year because of some life changes that happened to me. In signature Don Miller style, he talked about a road trip and all the little things that he learned from this, and somehow made it relevant to everyone. I really liked this, and while it didn’t make me want to sell everything and pack up to go to a road trip, it made me more excited to set off on little adventures, figuratively and literally. :)

I think we are supposed to stand in deserts and marvel at how the sun rises. I think we are supposed to sleep in meadows and watch stars dart across space and time. I think we are supposed to love our friends and introduce people to the story, to the peaceful, calming why of life. I think life is spirituality.

Rating: 

* * *

Shine by Candy Gourlay
Anvil | 232 pages | Paperback

This was magical and a bit dark, almost like a Tall Story  grew older and tackled a few more issues. I liked how Candy wrote it all, though, and I was truly invested in Rosa and her family, and I wanted to them to get their happy ending. I really liked the setting, too – always raining? That’s us during July to September. ;)

Rating: 

* * *

tgostThe God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
Random House | 333 pages | Paperback

This is one of those books that I have on my “I-should-read-this-sometime-in-my-lifetime” list, and I’m glad I finally had the chance to read it. This is a story about a family, and Love Laws, and India. Beautifully written, it examines what happens to families who try not to fall apart but still do. It’s a little bit sad, though, but still beautiful, and it helped that we had a really great discussion about this after in the book club. :)

…the secret of Great Stories is that they have no secrets. The Great Stories are the ones you have heard and want to hear again. The ones you can enter anywhere and inhabit comfortably. They don’t deceive you with thrills and trick endings. They don’t surprise you with the unforeseen….In the Great Stories you know who lives, who dies, who finds love, who doesn’t. And yet you want to know again.

Rating: 

* * *

Aaand there! Whew. All of them are 4-star books, huh. Interesting. I hope I can write a full review on my next post.  :)

Required Reading: December 2013

I thought I missed writing a Required Reading post for November, but it turned out I just put it together with another post. Oops. :)

Anyway, November has come and gone and the blog is silent again. I’m sorry about that. It was a busy month, a month where I actually kind of hardly read books, too. Sometimes all I want to do when I go home is lie down and sleep, especially when my weekends are filled with all-nighters and sleeping at five in the morning when you woke up at six the previous day. I am really getting too old for this.

But here, a report for November! I managed to finish both books I set out to read so it wasn’t really so bad. Reviewing them is another matter, though. :D

  • The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater (3/5) – I enjoyed this book for the lush setting and the writing and the entire idea of the killer horses and Sean Kendrick. :3 I enjoyed it, but I’m not really much of a horse fan for this to be a 4. But I realize how relaxing it is to read a Maggie Stiefvater novel. Good thing I have two more on my TBR. :)
  • The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster (4/5) – Okay this one just…befuddled me. It’s a good book, but also quite confusing and a lot mind-bending. Haha! I finished it hours before our book discussion, and even after the discussion there were still some parts of the book that aren’t clear. But perhaps it was meant that way.

And now we go to December. But wait — can you believe it’s already the last month of the year? Wasn’t it just January yesterday???

rr2013-12

Just two books again this month, even if I am 9 books behind on my reading challenge. December is going to be really busy again, with the new ReaderCon date and the parties and all that. I will still try to reach the 75 books after all the festivities have ended, though.

Anyway, for December, I’m reading something philosophical and something about a philosopher’s stone:

rrdecember

  1. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by JK Rowling – a reread! For our book club’s discussion this month and for the Christmas party! :D We’ve got a lively start to the online discussion — care to join us? :)
  2. History in English Words by Owen Barfield – Back in June, we gave one of our good friends, JL, favors that he can claim from us for the entire year as a birthday gift. One of the favors I gave him was that I’d read anything he lends me, write notes (and now a review) and we’d discuss it (over coffee and lemon squares, I think). He has come to claim this favor and lent me this book. This isn’t something I would normally read, really, but since it is a favor. I’ve finished Chapter 1 today and it’s interesting, so far. Must not forget to write notes.

Wait. 9 books before this year ends. HUH. Crazy…but maybe doable. Maybe. I can do that. Time to bring out those short books and comics. :P

Have a happy December everyone!

Required Reading: December

Well November was quite a dismal reading month. Not because I was having a slump, but because I was just so, so, so busy. :/ Ugh. Most of the time, I just wanted to go home and sleep, instead of stay up and read. And did you see how many times I blogged last month? Even more sad.

I only finished one book for my November reading list, and it was a spillover from October. (Speaking of, can you believe I still have a spillover from my October reading list? I’m so sorry Will Henry!)

  • The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova (3/5) – I liked it, but perhaps not enough. I will write a review. Someday.

But it’s a new month, and while I can’t guarantee that I would not be busy, I will promise to catch up with stuff before 2012 ends. I will find a way to get rid of all the review backlogs even if it’s been months since I read them. Good luck to me.

On to December! Can you believe it’s the last month of the 2012?!

Required Reading: December

I will take it easy for December, because I don’t want anything too heavy, and because I did say I was going to catch up on my backlog, right? I don’t want to pressure myself with all the reading, so I will just stick to these two light ones. :)

Required Reading: December 2012

  1. Let It Snow by John Green, Maureen Johnson and Lauren Myracle – I’ve been wanting to get this book for ages, but I never got around to it because it doesn’t feel right if I get it when it’s not December. Plus I always seem to run out. Thank goodness they came out with this pretty copy, so now is the time to read it! :)
  2. The Complete Adventures of Charlie and Mr. Willy Wonka by Roald Dahl – This is a spillover from last month, and I’m really just supposed to read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, but I got the book with the two stories anyway. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is our book club’s December book, and we’re discussing it on the day of our Christmas party too. I’m so excited! Our moderator asked us to choose a name for our discussion, and I am Tinaweena Peanutbutterina, the girl who makes magic with peanut butter. :)

There you go. If I don’t get to read these books, I don’t know what’s up with me. o_o If only it’s possible to go on vacation and read while I bundle up patagonia downtown loft somewhere cold this month…but alas. I cannot. I might squeeze The Hobbit in since the movie is showing soon, but I really hope I find the time. Hee. Or maybe I should just watch the movie without reading the book first, since I did do it for the three LotR books, anyway. :)

And that’s it! Again, can you believe that it’s the last month of 2012? Wow. Happy December, everyone! :)

My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece

My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece by Annabel PitcherMy Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece by Annabel Pitcher
Audiobook, read by David Tennant

My sister Rose lives on the mantelpiece.
Well, some of her does.
A collarbone, two ribs, a bit of skull, and a little toe.

To ten-year-old Jamie, his family has fallen apart because of the loss of someone he barely remembers: his sister Rose, who died five years ago in a terrorist bombing. To his father, life is impossible to make sense of when he lives in a world that could so cruelly take away a ten-year-old girl. To Rose’s surviving fifteen year old twin, Jas, everyday she lives in Rose’s ever present shadow, forever feeling the loss like a limb, but unable to be seen for herself alone.

Told with warmth and humor, this powerful novel is a sophisticated take on one family’s struggle to make sense of the loss that’s torn them apart… and their discovery of what it means to stay together.

* * *

I listened to this book months ago, but you know how I have that backlog in reviewing books? Yeah, this is one of them.

I was on the search for an audiobook to listen to after I realized I wanted to listen to more audiobooks because it helps me multitask. I know audiobooks are dependent on the narrator, too, so I didn’t want just any audiobook, but something that I would enjoy. And then Aaron told me about My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece by Annabel Pitcher, narrated by David Tennant. Oh, I am so in. :)

My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece is the story of ten-year-old Jamie as he tries to live in the aftermath of his older sister, Rose, dying in a terrorist attack. It has been five years since Rose died and Jamie could hardly remember her, but he could see the effect that this had on his family. This novel deals about loss, grief, hate, family and religion, all told in the eyes of a ten-year-old boy.

It was a pleasure listening to this book, not only because it was narrated by David Tennant, but because it was actually quite charming despite the serious topics it dealt with. The main character, Jamie, reminded me a bit of Auggie from Wonder, and I was immediately drawn to his story. Somehow, this gave the book a more honest point of view, and it gives us a different insight on grieving, especially for someone who you barely know but you should still grieve for.

I really liked Sunya, Jamie’s Muslim friend, too. I liked how smart and resilient and friendly she was, and how she changed Jamie’s perception of something that his father really hated and blamed for the loss of Rose. Jamie and Sunya’s friendship was cute and funny and heartwarming, and that little hint of a young romance was done quite well. But more than this friendship, I really liked Jamie’s relationship with his older sister, Jasmine. In a way, Jas lost more than anyone did, because Rose is her twin sister. Their sibling relationship made my heart hurt several times, and I liked how protective Jas was of Jamie even to the point of keeping something from him so he won’t get hurt.

This book made me laugh and tear up several times, and when it left me with a nice and hopeful feeling in the end. It’s not an easy novel to read, I think, but the author handled all the difficult issues very well. :) I liked My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece a lot, and I also need to say that I think I liked it more because David Tennant narrated it to me. <3

P.S. I can’t help but smile every time David Tennant says “Rose” in the audiobook. He turns into the the Doctor for a few seconds in my head before turning back into just the audiobook’s narrator again. :D

Rating:

Other reviews:
Young Adult Anonymous

The Chronicles of Narnia # 7: The Last Battle

The Last Battle by C.S. LewisThe Last Battle by C.S. Lewis
The Chronicles of Narnia # 7
Publisher: Scholastic
Number of pages: 224
My copy: paperback, bought from Scholastic Book Fair

The conclusion of the saga that began with The Magician’s Nephew.

NARNIA…where you must say good-bye…and where the adventure begin again.

The Unicorn says that humans are brought to Narnia when Narnia is stirred and upset. And Narnia is in trouble now: A false Aslan roams the land. Narnia’s only hope is that Eustace and Jill, old friends to Narnia, will be able to find the true Aslan and restore peace to the land. Their task is a difficult one because, as the Centaur says, “The stars never lie, but Men and Beasts do.” Who is the real Aslan and who is the imposter?

* * *

So right after reading The Magician’s Nephew, I jumped straight to the last book of The Chronicles of Narnia. Given the choice, I wouldn’t really have done that just yet — I tend to let the last book of any series linger a bit longer on my shelf, because I need a certain mindset before I say goodbye to any series I have loved, or at least, invested in. But I was on a little time pressure here — I was determined to read this book for Holy Week, and it just so happened that my reading The Last Battle was also on Good Friday.

Perfect timing, you think?

In The Last Battle, there is trouble in Narnia. As a reader, I was immediately introduced to this trouble, and I already know that the Aslan parading around Narnia is false one. I think C.S. Lewis did that on purpose instead of putting the readers in a state of the unknown like the other Narnians. For the first time since reading the series, I was really and truly scared for Narnia. How could they believe that this Aslan is the real one they know? How can they believe that so easily? How can they lose all that hope so easily, too? With all this trouble, Eustace and Jill came tumbling down Narnia, to help out and save them — but the question is, do they even want to be saved?

Like I said, it was the first time I was truly scared for the things happening in Narnia. I don’t know if this is investment in the series, or I was just…well, scared. Aslan is hands down one of my favorite characters, and possibly one of my favorite representations of God in literature, so seeing someone parade as a false one is scary. But in a way I can’t blame the people for acting that way. I’m not saying it’s right, but it just wasn’t surprising. Aslan being gone for a long time and with only his believers passing the belief down from generation to generation is bound to make some people question him at some point. I can’t help but think of how it is here in the real world — how people can just believe anyone and anything, and how, when disappointed by that, can make them not believe the one who should be believed in in the first place. It’s a messy, messy, thing. The Last Battle reminds me a bit of Prince Caspian, where the characters’ faith in Aslan was challenged so much that it was almost too late before they finally realized that they were wrong.

The Last Battle has a darker tone compared to the other books, and perhaps it also has the most bloodshed too. There were a bit too many battle scenes in this book that I can hardly think that this is a book for kids anymore. Reading The Magician’s Nephew before this was a good idea, I think, because there were a lot of details mentioned there that was mentioned in this book. The final scenes were a bit confusing but I liked how they brought all the characters back together.

I wasn’t planning to mention Susan in this review, but I guess I kind of have to. I think the Susan aspect is what makes The Last Battle a little dated. I mean, I understand what C.S. Lewis meant about it, and I guess it just so happened that Susan is that character who didn’t go the way the others chose to. It might not sit comfortably with other people, though, especially with how it was explained. I think readers should be careful to remember the time when this book was written to put the Susan thing in the proper context.

Nevertheless, I think The Last Battle was a pretty good ending for a beloved series, even if it is one that can spur new questions, not about the book but about what the author intends for it to represent in real life. If anything, I think The Last Battle is the Narnia book that dealt the most about faith and its nature, and how it is really a matter of choosing to stand up for what you believe and for who you believe in, even if everyone and everything else around you is saying otherwise.

So long, Narnia. It’s been a wonderful ride. One thing is for sure — wherever I go live in the future, there will always, always be a copy of the seven books of The Chronicles of Narnia. :)

But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at least they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.

Rating:

Required Reading: April

Other reviews:
Dark Chest of Wonders

Reviews of other Narnia books:
#1 The Magician’s Nephew
#2 The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
#3 The Horse and His Boy
#4 Prince Caspian
#5 Voyage of the Dawn Treader
#6 The Silver Chair