The Reread Factor (3): On the Jellicoe Road

The Reread Factor

The Reread Factor is a semi-regular blog feature that is all about the reread. I pick some of my best reads from the past and reread them to see if I like it as much as as the first time and see if they could be a book for the favorites shelf. :)

Sometime early this year, my book club started selecting books that we will discuss for our monthly discussion. When the YA theme came up, I was excited to see that my one of my favorite books last year, Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta, was included in the short list. Of course that got me campaigning for the book,  because when you love a certain book, you just want a lot of people to read it and hope to be enthralled by it like you were.

The book won by one vote, and I was happy because it gave me the perfect excuse to reread the book. This time around, though, I wanted to try another format, so I got myself an audiobook version of the book and settled in for the ride. :) My mind was ready, but I wasn’t really sure if my heart was. Still, I wanted to know if I would love the book as much as I did the first time around, especially since I know what was going to happen.

On the Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

On the Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
First read in April 2011

How did I describe this book last year? …reading this book was like breaking my heart and then putting it back together again. I know that sounds terribly dramatic, but that was exactly what I felt back when I first read this and I was anticipating the same thing when I listened to it.

Listening to the book was a different experience, mostly because it gave me a bit of room to “read” while doing something else. The audiobook became my companion for my night shift work and at home with my neck pillow, and I was transported to that little stretch of Jellicoe Road every time I turn my player on. I found that I was paying attention to the things more, and that I caught little quotes that I wasn’t sure if I caught before (my print copy has lots of dog-ears — I didn’t exactly take note what I was dog-earing then). I found the parts I love were still well-loved, and found new things to love in the book as well.

One might think that rereading this book known for its confusing start will lessen the thrill of the reading experience because you know what’s going to happen already. I was ready to be a bit less enchanted with the twists, to be less heartbroken when the things happen as I was expecting them…but I wasn’t. Okay, perhaps it’s because I came into the book expecting to love it again, so it was harder for me to find fault. There’s one chapter that still killed me, over and over again, and there were those chapters that made me smile and stop and want to listen to them again, because I forgot about them already. Despite knowing what the story was about, the reading experience was still as enjoyable as the first.

Admittedly, there was a time when I was asked, “What’s the point of all of this again?” But then as I finished listening to the book, I realized that maybe it doesn’t really have to have a point. It’s a story of real life — of Taylor and Jonah and Raffy and Santangelo, of Narnie and Jude and Webb and Tate and Fitz — and it doesn’t really have to make a single and simple point. Like what C.S. Lewis said in Mere Christianity, real things aren’t made to be simple. So maybe, a story about real life and all its complications isn’t supposed to be simple, either.

I can’t relate to Taylor’s family woes, but once again, I’m amazed at how the friendships were forged in this book. This is the kind of friendship that makes you want to keep on fighting, to keep on going back, to keep on trying. If you ever have the chance to run into this kind of friendship, do everything in your power to keep it — these are the kind of friendships that can save your life.

So did I like it as much as I did the first time? There is no other answer to that question but yes. Maybe I will grow out of this in a few years, maybe not. But for now, I still stand by every word I wrote last year, and I am very happy to know of a place “…where they would all belong, or long to be. A place on the Jellicoe Road.” :)

The Reread Factor (2): May Crowning, Mass and Merton: 50 Reasons I Love Being Catholic

The Reread Factor

The Reread Factor is a semi-regular blog feature that is all about the reread. I pick some of my best reads from the past and reread them to see if I like it as much as as the first time and see if they could be a book for the favorites shelf. :)

I realized that I never wrote a review about this book I’m featuring for The Reread Factor, but since it’s a reread and it’s on my favorites shelf, I figure it fits the requirement for this feature. Besides, I need one for this again, since I don’t really have a lot of time doing some rereads lately.

And besides, this book fits Lent and Holy Week well.

May Crowning, Mass and Merton: 50 Reasons I Love Being Catholic by Liz KellyMay Crowning, Mass and Merton: 50 Reasons I Love Being Catholic by Liz Kelly
Publisher: Loyola Press
Number of pages: 288
My copy:
paperback, ordered from Amazon

In May Crowning, Mass, and Merton, Liz Kelly, a thirty-something writer and jazz singer, eagerly shares her ardent love for the Catholic faith. While the beliefs of the church are important to Kelly, her passion is really ignited by the holy people and places, the beloved rituals, and the rich spiritual traditions of this living faith. She celebrates them here, with wit, affection, and candor.

Kelly has realized that “the litany of reasons to love being Catholic is extraordinary.” These include every­thing from the crucifix, kneelers, and Ash Wednesday to Flannery O’Connor, the Swiss Guard, and Tenebrae. Though she writes that, “Mine is not an extraordinary faith, so much as a faith growing a little messy, a little rough and subversive around the edges,” it is a rich, inspiring faith, celebrated by a fresh, young Catholic voice.

* * *

An interesting fact about this book: I got this because of a tweet from one of the Twitter accounts I follow that tweets first lines of books from Amazon. I got this purely because it was a Catholic book and it seemed interesting. I was also trying to learn more about my Catholic faith, and so I thought this book would be a good place to start. I read this first during Holy Week of 2008, and that time I wasn’t exactly at the best place of my faith. I remember loving this book because it made me appreciate being Catholic, although that didn’t necessarily mean that I really got what it means to be one.

Fast forward to three years later, I got to attend my first World Youth Day in Madrid, Spain. Now if there was any way for a young Catholic to celebrate and appreciate their faith, the World Youth Day is that event. Seeing people — Catholics — all over the world coming together in one place to celebrate and learn about their faith (and meet the Pope) is an event that every Catholic should experience, regardless of age. Suffice to say that it was that event that pretty much defined a lot of my searching in the past years since I first read this book. When Lent came around this year, I thought it would be a good time to revisit this book again.

I thought of writing a review for this book with 50 things about the book, but I realized that 50 is a bit of a big number. So instead, let me just write five:

  1. I like that it is Catholic. Maybe I just kind of suck with looking for books written by Catholics, but I remember being very thrilled when I discovered this because I felt that it was written for me. I know it’s not, but it just felt like that. :P
  2. I like that it’s very personal. Liz Kelly wrote the entries in the book with enough personal anecdotes to make it feel like she’s just sharing the stories over coffee, or she’s a speaker for a community event. She gives enough reference to the Bible, related books, history and to the Catechism of the Catholic Church so readers know that she isn’t just pulling things from thin air, but not so much that it overshadows her personality.
  3. I like that it covers the ones we Catholics are asked the most about: the rosary, Mary, the Communion of Saints, Confession, the Eucharist. In a way, it’s almost like an Apologetics session because readers would understand why we do what we do but with less of the feeling that it is one.
  4. I liked discovering new things about Catholicism that I never knew before. May favorite is the Rosary of the Holy Wounds, which I didn’t even know existed before. I only knew of the rosary, but this one is new to me and seems like a good devotion to start. Another example is the chapter on the Hour of Divine Mercy, which has been a staple in the household since I was a kid because of the 3 o’clock prayer shown on TV everyday. I never really understood much of it until it was explained in the simplest form in Liz Kelly’s book.
  5. There were some entries that didn’t feel like I could really and truly relate, perhaps because of our differences in culture. Liz Kelly talks about her reasons to love being Catholic as an American. I’m not one, obviously, so there were some things that she wrote that I couldn’t really relate to and some that I was looking for but didn’t find because they were aspects of Catholicsm that is unique to the Filipinos. However, though, I think the book isn’t really meant to be a guide on what constitutes being a Catholic anyway, but a book that helps us appreciate what we have in this beautiful Universal Church. :)

I think new and old Catholics alike would enjoy May Crowning, Mass and Merton: 50 Reasons I Love Being Catholic, and maybe even some non-Catholics who are simply curious about it. It’s far from preachy, and like I said, it’s very personal so it’s up to you if you’d research more on the subjects Liz Kelly wrote about or if you would just leave it be. Suffice to say that I really liked it still even after the second read. As proof: I ended up marking even more pages now than when I first read it:

To end this review, I thought I’d share my own ten reasons why I love being Catholic (just ten because I don’t think I can get to 50 yet — maybe when I get a little bit older :D). Some may have already appeared in the book, while others are my additions. In no particular order, and no more explanations because it would take a bit of time to write — I’ll post about them soon (promise!) in my personal blog if you are interested. :)

  1. Universal Church.
  2. The Mass.
  3. Mary.
  4. The Rosary.
  5. Pope (Blessed) John Paul II.
  6. The Eucharist.
  7. Ash Wednesday and Holy Week.
  8. Simbang Gabi (Dawn Mass/Advent novena mass)
  9. Confession.
  10. The saints.

I am glad I reread this book and I’m glad I reread it at this time. Still a favorite for sure. :)

Rating:

The Reread Factor (1): Anna and the French Kiss

A few months ago, I posted something about how I named some favorite books in the past after the first read and then when I pick it up again, I realize that I don’t really like them as much as I did during the first read. That post/thoughts made me a bit more careful about how I add some books to my favorites shelf. I wanted to make sure that the ones that make it there are the ones I like even if I read it over and over again. So I decided to start this little feature/challenge for this year: The Reread Factor.

The Reread Factor

The Reread Factor is about that: the reread. I pick some of my best reads from the previous year and reread them, and see if I still like them as much as the first time, and if they could be a book for the favorites shelf. Every now and then, I’ll be posting something about some of the books I found the time to reread, and I’ll talk about if I still liked it or not and what made me still like it or even dislike it after the second (or third) reread.

Note that the initial ratings I may have put on the book may change later on, but the first review will stay. Think of this as a follow-up review of sorts. :)

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
First read in: December 2010

Anna and the French Kiss was one of my favorite reads in 2010, and I pushed this book to everyone who’s ever wanted to read a contemporary YA romance novel. I loved this book so much that I searched for Point Zero in Notre Dame when I was in Paris in August 20111. I loved everything about this book, and I was on a contemporary mood early January so I decided to reread this.

Spoiler warning. If you haven’t read the book yet and you’re still planning to read it, skip towards the end, or just go to my review of Anna and the French Kiss.

Rereading Anna and the French Kiss was an interesting experience. It was familiar, and yet there were some parts I almost kind of forgot. There were some parts that I highlighted that I wasn’t even sure why I highlighted it. I suppose some of them were just really things that struck me, while others…I guess they were supposed to be funny but I’m not exactly sure anymore. Still, even if I knew what was going to happen, I anticipated so many things in the story: the first meeting, the conversations, the gifts and all the little moments that Anna and Etienne had together…and they all still made me smile.

Most of what I wrote back then still rang true on my second read: how easy it was to be immersed in Anna’s world, the side stories about cancer, absent friends and independence, and how the issues were addressed one by one at a given time frame with solutions that weren’t instant or too clean. Okay except maybe for the girlfriend issue, which I felt that maybe it was tied up without anything being heard from the other party. Was she just too tired to fight for it because it’s about to end anyway? Why were there no repercussions to what St. Clair did? Perhaps it would’ve been more realistic if there was one more encounter with Ellie…except that maybe it wouldn’t be as happily ever after if that happened.

On another note, the relate-factor of Anna and the French Kiss is still quite high, surprisingly. I won’t go into detail why (too personal, no need to bore you with that), but man, there were some sorta painful parts to read here when it started hitting too close to home. Interestingly, they weren’t the same parts that I highlighted on the first read. From my reading journal:

Still so good…the relate factor is still totally there, especially when Anna and Etienne were friends, but also not really. And how they kept on going at it without defining anything. WHYYYY.

Uh, yeah, I may have been more affected than I thought. ^^;

So is this book a favorite? Well…probably, but I have to admit that I wasn’t as in love with this as I was during my first read. But somehow, I wasn’t as enchanted with it as I was at the first time. A part of me is kind of wary that maybe a few years down the road, with more experiences under my belt, the book may not mean as much to me then as it does now and as it did in the first read. But that happens, right? However, it is still 100% swoony, and Anna will still be the one of the first books I will recommend to anyone who is looking for a feel-good and well-rounded romantic read.

Finally, I think this book just fueled my need to go back to Paris again to see the places Anna visited and make a proper wish at Point Zero. Someone bring me back there, please.

 

  1. Too bad I wasn’t able to bring my copy of the book so I could have posed with it on my Point Zero photo []

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

Second Helpings

Second Helpings by Megan McCaffertySecond Helpings by Megan McCafferty
(Jessica Darling # 2)
Three Rivers Press, 368 pages

Jessica Darling is up in arms again in this much-anticipated, hilarious sequel to Sloppy Firsts. This time, the hyperobservant, angst-ridden teenager is going through the social and emotional ordeal of her senior year at Pineville High. Not only does the mysterious and oh-so-compelling Marcus Flutie continue to distract Jessica, but her best friend, Hope, still lives in another state, and she can’t seem to escape the clutches of the Clueless Crew, her annoying so-called friends. To top it off, Jessica’s parents won’t get off her butt about choosing a college, and her sister Bethany’s pregnancy is causing a big stir in the Darling household.

With keen intelligence, sardonic wit, and ingenious comedic timing, Megan McCafferty again re-creates the tumultuous world of today’s fast-moving and sophisticated teens. Fans of Sloppy Firsts will be reunited with their favorite characters and also introduced to the fresh new faces that have entered Jess’s life, including the hot creative writing teacher at her summer college prep program and her feisty, tell-it-like-it-is grandmother Gladdie. But most of all, readers will finally have the answers to all of their burgeoning questions, and then some: Will Jessica crack under the pressure of senioritis? Will her unresolved feelings for Marcus wreak havoc on her love life? Will Hope ever come back to Pineville? Fall in love with saucy, irreverent Jessica all over again in this wonderful sequel to a book that critics and readers alike hailed as the best high school novel in years.

When I reread Sloppy Firsts a few months ago, I was surprised at how much I didn’t really like it. I call it a case of growing up and getting over the teenage angst that I probably never had. I enjoyed Jessica’s wit, but I wasn’t a fan of her angst anymore now that I (sort of) know better. That’s why I took my time rereading the next book in the series, Second Helpings. I loved this book back in college — it was one that I remember rereading more than twice and loving it just as much as I used to the first time. I was kind of afraid that I wouldn’t find this one as entertaining as it used to.

Spoiler warning for the first book up ahead! Second Helpings starts shortly after the first book ended, where we find Jessica is back, but not exactly better than ever. Recovering from the events in the first book, Jessica is determined to make some changes in her life, starting with removing all traces of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named aka Marcus Flutie from her life. This is obviously harder than it looks once she starts school, and it’s not the only thing Jessica has to deal with. There’s college, the Clueless Crew (2/3 of it, anyway), the release of poseur Hyacinth Anastasia Wallace’s book based on Pineville, family antics including her wacky grandmother, who also just happens to be friends with Marcus Flutie. I think if Jessica could have bumped her head on her desk repeatedly, she would’ve done so. What’s a girl like her to do?

Like I said, I was kind of scared that Second Helpings would lose its magic on me after a reread now that I kind of know better, but I’m very glad to say that it didn’t. I liked this book as much as I did the first time. Jessica loses some of her angst here, and I found her more engaging this time. Maybe it’s because she’s decided to open up slightly, make choices for herself rather than let other people make choices for her. I found myself laughing a little more here, cheering on Jessica as she steps outside of the box she had created for herself before. It was almost like I was watching someone I know grow out of her shell, you know? :)

But the best part of Second Helpings — and I think most readers would agree! — is He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named Marcus Flutie. Oh wow, wow. I remember developing a huge fictional crush on him right after I finished reading this! Marcus Flutie is not the perfect guy that every girl would want, but he sure knows how to make a girl want him. Hee. He was coy and clever and a player in Sloppy Firsts but he was different in the sequel. Oh, he was still coy at times, and his jokes can definitely make a girl blush, but he knows how to get into a girl’s heart, especially Jessica’s. The prom scene was swoon-worthy, and I can’t believe I actually forgot the YOU. YES. YOU. scene. I’m not really a fan of sex outside of marriage, but the build up in this novel was just…sigh. I will echo the question I and a handful of other friends who’ve read this book have asked back then: Where is my Marcus Flutie?!

So yeah, I liked Second Helpings a lot on the second read. :) Really liked it a lot. Now I can finally move on and read Charmed Thirds. Yay!

Rating:

2011 Challenge Status:
8 of 20 for TwentyEleven Challenge (Back in the Day)

My copy: ebook from Complete Jessica Darling set from Amazon Kindle store

Cover & blurb: Goodreads

Other Reviews:
GReads!