Required Reading: April 2014

You know what? My decision last March not to set any reading lists was actually one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my reading this year. It was actually so nice not to worry about what I will read, or if I will finish anything that I set myself to read. I picked up whatever book I wanted and read at my own pace. That was definitely refreshing.

So here’s what I read last month:

  • Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed (5/5) – Definitely one of my favorite reads so far. So many gems in this one. :)
  • The Reece Malcolm List by Amy Spalding (3/5) – Fun contemporary YA, with theater and musicals and a writer mom.
  • Too Good To Be True by Kristan Higgins (4/5) – Heee so much fun and swoon! You can never go wrong with a Kristan Higgins.
  • Cathedral by Raymond Carver (3/5) – Finally finished this! I wasn’t as in love with this as I was with What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, but I really liked the longer version of Bath, entitled “A Small Good Thing”, here.
  • Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen (3/5) – Still magical and still lovely. I want to go and be lost in Lost Lake, too.
  • 33 Days to Morning Glory by Fr. Michael Gaitley (5/5) – This is a retreat book, so I started this on February and ended on March 25, the Solemnity of the Annunciation. Definitely life-changing. To Jesus, through Mary.
  • Looking for Alaska by John Green (reread) – A reread because I was asked to moderate a book discussion about this. I liked it better the second time around. :)

See, I read a lot last month! (And of course, I wrote zero reviews for them. Haha)

But now it’s April, and it’s sorta back to the reading list reality. Sort of. I have a reading list, which I bet I wouldn’t be able to follow as strictly because I always get distracted by other shiny books nowadays and I am just a slow reader now, so there. :)

Required Reading 2014 - April

Holy Week falls on April, and I’ve always tried to have a Holy Week theme for my books whenever it rolls around because it sets the right mood. I realized that I didn’t have fiction that’s good for Holy Week this time around (I had the last two Narnia books in 2012 and Iscariot in 2013). But now that I seem to be taking a liking to some non-fiction books, and we keep on talking about some of these titles at SFC meetings, so I figured it’s time to actually read things that the Pope wrote. (And Pope Francis is cool.)

rrapril2014

  • If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler by Italo Calvino – our book club’s book of the month. :)
  • The Joy of the Gospel (Evangelii Gaudium) and Lumen Fidei by Pope Francis – because like I said, Pope Francis is cool. And it’s about time I read some encyclicals. And The Joy of the Gospel has joy in it, and it’s my word for 2014. :)
  • Illusion by Frank Peretti – This has been on my TBR for years, and it’s kind of suprising because I love Frank Peretti. I should have started reading this ages ago. :)

I also plan to read Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen, but I didn’t put it here because I’m pretty sure I won’t finish it this month. :P

The Catastrophic History of You and Me

The Catastrophic History of You and Me by Jess RothenbergThe Catastrophic History of You and Me by Jess Rothenberg
Publisher: Penguin
Number of pages: 401
My copy: Kindle edition

Brie is the “biggest, cheesiest, sappiest romantic” who believes that everyone will find their perfect someone, so when Jacob, the love of Brie’s life, tells her he doesn’t love her anymore, the news breaks her heart, literally, and she dies. But now that she’s D&G (dead and gone), Brie revisits the living world to discover that her family has begun to unravel and her best friend has been keeping an intimate secret about her boyfriend. Somehow, Brie must handle all of this while navigating through the five steps of grief with the help of Patrick, her mysterious bomber-jacketed guide to the afterlife. But how is she supposed to face the Ever After with a broken heart and no one to call her own?

* * *

My friend Kai recommended The Catastrophic History of You and Me by Jess Rothenberg to me way back it first came out, but I never got around to reading it for some reason. Then one day, while waiting for some friends to pick me up in a bookstore in a mall that I’ve only been to once, I saw the new cover of the book and read the back blurbs. I don’t know what happened, but I decided to pick it up. Perhaps it finally piqued my interest? I can’t even remember if the words “letting go” were there, but in case they were, then it was probably why I decided to get it.

Brie dies because of heart break, soon after her boyfriend, Jacob, breaks up with her. Impossible, yet it happened, and Brie wakes up in the afterlife, unsure of what exactly she needs to do now. She meets another soul, Patrick, who goes with her when she revisits her old life. Brie realizes the extent of the loss that the people she left felt, and how things were suddenly so far away from what she’s expected: her family’s breaking apart, her best friend “going out” with her ex. Brie being dead meant she couldn’t do anything about it…or could she? How can she move on now, knowing that everything and everyone she left are now so messed up?

I didn’t really expect to love this book so much while I was reading it, but I did. Brie’s voice was fresh and snarky and so fun to read, that even if she was essentially dead, it wasn’t so hard to relate to her. I liked how Brie was such a normal girl, with her family, her dog, her friends and her boyfriend. Everything about her seemed normal, until she died, of course. But even so, Brie’s personality shone throughout, and I laughed with her, felt sad with her and I felt truly, truly happy for her when things started falling into place at the end.

The book isn’t really about death per se — it didn’t answer the mysteries of life or anything — but more about grief, and moving on. I liked how the story was framed around the 5 stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance), which is basically applicable not just to deaths but anything that we ever grieved for. Here, I read about how Brie’s family and friends worked through these stages, and Brie as well…and they didn’t handle it all spectacularly. Which is okay, because they’re humans, and we never really go through all those 5 stages perfectly and not have battle scars in the end. The Catastrophic History of You and Me is really more about letting go, moving on, and forgiving – others and yourself – and that part really resonated with me.

I liked pretty much everything about this, except maybe the other backstory about this other character and the complications of souls was kind of dizzying. I mean, I got it, but a part of me kind of feels like it kind of came out of nowhere, and it was an additional layer that really didn’t need to be there. Except, of course, it provided a better resolution for why things were like that between them, but overall, I could do without it.

I was smiling at the end of this book. It was funny and sad and heartbreaking and hopeful all the same time, and I’m really glad I read The Catastrophic History of You and Me. I almost forgot that this was more of a paranormal romance novel than a contemporary one. :) If you’re grieving, or if you’ve ever had a hard time moving on or letting go, then this book will be a good friend for you. Trust me on this. :)

Number of dog-eared pages: 22

Favorite dog-eared quotes:

Falling in love is pretty much the same thing as being eaten alive by a grizzly bear.

News flash, Bozo. Don’t ever tell a girl to relax. It only makes us madder.

You can obsess and obsess over how things ended – what you did wrong or could have done differently -  but there’s not much of a point. It’s not like it’ll change anything.

It was one thing to leave. But to be left. That had to be even worse.

You’ve got to let go of this desperation. You’ll never have a chance of moving on otherwise.

Maybe all heartbreak is created equal.

The trouble is, sometimes words are like arrows. Once you shoot them, there’s no going back.

May you always have love.

Rating:

Other reviews:
Amaterasu Reads
reading is the ultimate aphrodisiac

Luna East Blog Tour: Interview with Chrissie Peria

Luna East Blog Tour Header

It’s still Luna East week! Can we officially set this as the school fair week, or something? :D I’m so excited for this anthology not only because I was there when it started, but mostly because the contributors in this first volume are my #romanceclass classmates. :) They know how to bring in the feels, my friends, trust me on this. :D

Today, I have Chrissie Peria, author of All’s Fair in Blog and War (the first #romanceclass novella released last year) for an interview! Join us as we tour a bit inside the Luna East halls, particularly the cafeteria. ;)

sittinginatreeSitting in a Tree was so cute! And it was the perfect story to open this anthology, I think. :) What was your inspiration in writing this?

Thank you! Sitting in a Tree came from memories of my own high school’s annual fair. Particularly the one from my senior year, when I had to help man the Marriage Booth. No kissing booths for us, Catholic school and all, so the marriage booth was the closest thing. (Yes, marriage was more acceptable than kissing. Go figure.) We had students whispering requests on who they wanted to be paired with. Kilig for all, and we made money. Perfect, right?

Oh, I totally had my moments at our high school’s marriage booth. :D

If you were a student in Luna East Arts Academy, what kind of student would you be? Would you be a jock, or a writer in the paper, or maybe part of the drama club like Samantha?

 A writer for the paper, definitely, because it’s fun to be one. In fact, I have a half-written Luna East story that draws heavily on my own high school days as a campus journalist (eons ago). Maybe it’ll show up in the second anthology? I’ll cross my fingers for that one.

What do you suppose the food in the Luna East cafeteria is like? Do you think it’s something you’d post about in your food blog?

Art is influenced by things we come in contact with, food included, so I’m sure the school administration will provide a diverse array to ensure that the kids are exposed to a variety of influences. I’m betting that the choices are limitless: hearty comfort food, international fare, healthy and ethical food choices, and everything bacon.

And bacon is always blog-worthy.

You had me at bacon. Mmm.

An All’s Fair in Blog and War question: who do you think would fit in the Luna East crowd better – Five or Jesse? If they were students in Luna East, do you think they would have acknowledged each others’ presence there?

Jesse! He’ll fit in perfectly, in that ironic-hipster-I’m-an-artiste (with an e) way. He was probably stalking the fringes of the student body, taking artsy black and white photos for exhibits.

Five, on the other hand, would’ve been a photographer for the school paper. She was probably in the middle of everything, covering everything from sports events, campus assemblies, to what’s being served in the school cafeteria.

I don’t know if they’ll acknowledge each other’s presence just because, but if circumstances threw them together, I’m sure sparks would’ve flown—and that trip to Macau would’ve been totally different.

Do you plan on writing other stories set in Luna East?

Yes! I currently have two pending stories: the one about the campus journalist and one about Sam’s BFF Trisha, the drama queen. Here’s to hoping they get written!

Chrissie PeriaAbout the author:

Chrissie Peria is the author of All’s Fair in Blog and War, a contemporary romance novella featuring feuding travel bloggers in Macau. When not writing, she serves her tiny overlord Miffy and Miffy’s poodle/minion, Cooper. She also enjoys cooking, taking photos and playing with dolls. Chrissie is currently working on a contemporary YA romance featuring books and boys who like books.

Thanks so much, Chrissie! You can read her Luna East story, Sitting in a Tree, in the first volume of the Luna East Arts Academy Anthology, Kids These Days. And you can meet Chrissie, and the rest of the authors, at the #LunaEast launch and #romanceclass anniversary party on February 8, 2014, 6:00pm at the Ayala Museum. That’s this Saturday! See you there, okay? :)

Luna East Book Launch Details

About the book:

The stories from LUNA EAST ARTS ACADEMY are about love. And also, friends, food, kissing, rumors, mean people, insecurities, birthdays, breakups, making up. We set it in an arts academy because we wanted everyone to have a talent, and know it. Because no one is ordinary, if you know them well enough.

Who are you, at LUNA EAST? Are you a popular kid, a wallflower, a drama club diva, a debate whiz? Visit lunaeastacademy.org to read more stories from #LUNAEAST, and submit your own. For readers 16 and up.

All I Ever Wanted

All I Ever Wanted by Kristan HigginsAll I Ever Wanted by Kristan Higgins
Publisher: Harlequin
Number of pages: 409
My copy: Kindle edition

One Happily-Ever-After Rocking Chair…

…and no sign of any forthcoming babies to rock in ol’ Georgebury, Vermont. For Callie Grey, turning thirty means coming to grips with the fact that her boss (and five-week fling) is way overdue in his marriage proposal. And way off track because Mark has suddenly announced his engagement to the company’s new Miss Perfect. If that isn’t bad enough, her mom decides to throw her a three-oh birthday bash in the family funeral home.

Bad goes to worse when she stirs up a crazy relationship with the town’s not so warm and fuzzy veterinarian, Ian McFarland, in order to flag Mark’s attention. So Ian is more comfortable with animals…. So he’s formal, orderly and just a bit tense. The ever-friendly, fun-loving and spontaneous Callie decides it’s time for Ian to get a personality makeover. But dang, if he doesn’t shock the heck out of her, she might actually fall for Vermont’s unlikeliest eligible bachelor….

* * *

All I ever wanted — at least, at that particular time — was a nice, fluffy novel to sink my teeth into. The last time I read a Kristan Higgins novel was some sort of research for #romanceclass. I had fun, and but it was still partly research and I didn’t really breeze through it when I read it. This time, I just really wanted something fluffy, something that wouldn’t really make me think too much but I would still enjoy. So I scanned my library, picked All I Ever Wanted and settled in.

Then I met Callie Grey, and nothing is ever the same again.

Okay, perhaps that’s a little exaggeration. But Callie is one of the brightest heroines I’ve read in all the Higgins novels I’ve read so far. Callie just turned thirty, and she was coming to terms that maybe her boss Mark wasn’t going to fall for her, especially after he announced that he was dating the newest addition to their small advertising company. Callie tries to move on, and she meets the formal-but-really-kind-of-stiff veterinarian, Ian McFarland. It wasn’t love at first sight, because Ian was a little too formal for Callie’s fun-loving personality, but she gives him a chance with a personality makeover to help his business. Callie wasn’t really interested in him…but he was cute. And single. Why not?

Callie, Callie. I loved her from the start, from her emotional diarrhea to her family to her cheerful outlook in life. I loved her dog Bowie, and her rocking chair, her grandfather and how she has the little town of Georgebury wrapped around her finger with her sunny personality. I’m pretty sure I would have been friends with Callie if I were there, mostly because she’s pretty much everyone’s friend there. But she had me right from the very start, and I knew how exhausting it must be to try to be so happy all the time even if there were people around her that broke her heart. I loved her, maybe because I saw a bit of myself in her, especially with how she talked to herself about moving on from Mark. Her thoughts felt real, and well, sometimes too real that it hurt a little.

I can’t remember having so much fun with a Higgins novel. I can’t find anything not to like in All I Ever Wanted — it was such a fun read with just the right amount of swoon and tension. I liked how Ian and Callie were such opposites but still so seemingly perfect for each other. It’s like Ian gets Callie, even if half the time he seemed to get annoyed at her for being so bubbly and everything. I remember grinning like an idiot at one of their first few “moments” together. I was giggling happily at that turkey scene that led to so many things for the two of them. They balanced each other off quite well — they’re all cute and awkward and sweet, but not too much to make it too cheesy. It was fun reading how the two of them stumbled around each other, like putting together a puzzle where some pieces didn’t seem to fit at first, until you find their perfect place.

I really liked All I Ever Wanted, if it’s not obvious yet. :) I think the trick with reading Higgins novels is that you don’t read one after the other so you get enough time to savor the swoon and enjoy the feels. All I wanted was a nice, fluffy and romantic read, and All I Ever Wanted pretty much nailed it. I’m really glad I picked this one up. :)

Number of dog-eared pages: 19

Favorite dog-eared quotes:

I felt a warm and fuzzy glow in my heart. People were just the best. I loved people. Most people, anyway.

“Look, Callie,” he said quietly, “I didn’t meant o insult you, but it’s clear I did. I meant only that…” His gaze drifted to his dog, then to the bookcase. “You don’t have to try so hard.” He paused, then met my eyes with some difficulty. “Not with me, anyway.”
Oh. Oh.

Then again, I was excellent at misinterpretation.

I’d tried so hard to get him to notice me, and when he finally did, tried so hard to be perfect. Even after he’d put our relationship on pause, I’d tried so hard. Tried to be cheerful, tried to be upbeat, tried to not let my feelings show, not to blame him, not to mind when day after day, week after week, his nonchalance eroded my heart.
Sometimes being an optimist was quite the fucking effort.

You fill up the whole room, sweetheart, to try to fix everyone’s problems, be everyone’s friend. You don’t have to try to hard. We’ll love you just the same.

Rating:

Other reviews:
Angieville
Steph Su Reads

Love & Misadventure

Love & Misadventure by Lang LeavLove & Misadventure by Lang Leav
Publisher: Andrew McMeel
Number of pages: 78
My copy: Kindle edition

Lang Leav is a poet and internationally exhibiting artist. Awarded a coveted Churchill Fellowship, her work expresses the intricacies of love and loss. Beautifully illustrated and thoughtfully conceived, Love and Misadventure will take you on a rollercoaster ride through an ill-fated love affair- from the initial butterflies to the soaring heights- through to the devastating plunge. Lang Leav has an unnerving ability to see inside the hearts and minds of her readers. Her talent for translating complex emotions with astonishing simplicity has won her a cult following of devoted fans from all over the world.

* * *

My friend and I were browsing in Fully Booked sometime before Christmas when I spotted this Lang Leav’s Love & Misadventure and started browsing. I opened to a random page, read it, and cursed. Then I called my friend and we started picking random pages, cursing every now and then at the pages we read, because damn, the stuff we read kinda hurt. That was the time I added this book in my wish list, and hoped someone would give it to me. Because, as I said on my Twitter: “Lang Leav’s Love & Misadventure: <3 </3

Love & Misadventure is a collection of poetry and illustrations by Lang Leav that talks about love, and some misadventures in love. It’s quite melancholic and perhaps a bit painful and bitter at some points. The book is short, and I finished reading it while I was waiting in the bank, and it left my heart just a little tender in some parts after I was done.

Except that it didn’t leave me as wowed as I was when I first read it. Perhaps I was expecting it a little too much, especially after I’ve read several pieces before I finally sat down and read the entire collection. That, or this is another case of “mood reading” – when things I read at first resonated because I can relate to it more compared to when I finally read the entire thing. I also felt that some of the poems felt too…young. Not necessarily juvenile, but just something that felt like it was coming from a very young place. Did that make sense?

I don’t know; maybe I just wasn’t in that mood when I was reading this (granted, I read this right after I finished Brené Brown’s Daring Greatly, so that may have affected my appreciation). That’s not to say that the pieces I first read didn’t resonate with me again — it did, but maybe less because I’ve already read them before. I think Love & Misadventure is good, except maybe my personal hype had already faded from when I randomly read some pages of it.

Or, you know, I just really stopped relating to the poems I liked first. If that’s the case…then that’s good, right? :)

Oh, but if you liked the poems in Love & Misadventure and you want more, then I will direct you to Mindy Nettifee’s The First Time and Filipino author Marla Miniano’s blog. I think you’ll like these, too. :)

Number of dog-eared pages: 8

Favorite dog-eared quotes:

Everyone has one – an inventory of lost things waiting to be found. Yearning to be acknowledged for the worth they once held in your life.

Do you remember the song that was playing the night we met?
No, but I remember every song I have heard since you left.

A Time Capsule

This is where,
I began to care,
where I was befriended.

This is where,
my soul was bared,
where all my rules were bended.

This is where,
a moment we shared,
was stolen and expended.

Now this is where,
this is where,
this is where we’ve ended -

Rating: