The Best Friend and The Other Guy

I finished reading The Iron King by Julie Kagawa last night and found myself surprised at how I enjoyed reading a paranormal romance novel again. I’ve mentioned it many times already that I have started avoiding paranormal romances and some contemporary romances because they always seemed to have the same thing: girl meets guy with a secret, they fall for each other, but girl has a guy friend who is also in love with her and is always the safer choice. Or roles can be switched too — guy meets girl, guy and girl fall in love but there’s a girl best friend who knows the guy better. And yes, I understand, there are other variations, so I’ll let you guys fill that in.

Photo by iann7 – from deviantArt

A bit of a spoiler for The Iron King — the same kind of love triangle is also there, although it wasn’t that pronounced yet in this book. I have a feeling it will be expounded on the next book, though, and right now I already feel sad for one of the guys because I am sure who the heroine would end up with. I realized then as I was reading that for fictional love triangles, I always seem to side with the best friend. I never really declare my “teams”, but I always find myself more sympathetic to the plight of the best friend. Case in point (slight spoiler warning for the books listed):

  • Twilight – I liked Edward in the first book, but when Jacob Black made his presence known, I liked him more. In the end, though, I felt that Bella did not deserve Jacob, so I wasn’t really rooting for Jacob to win in the love triangle but to be able to move on. Still, on the overall love triangle arc, I liked Jacob more.
  • The Hunger Games – I have no problems with Peeta, but I liked Gale more. Sure, Peeta is the golden boy and I liked him as he was, but I honestly thought Katniss and Gale was the better pair. But as I always say whenever people asked me which team I was for in The Hunger Games, I never made a real choice, except that I am just partial to the best friend. Come to think of it, that just meant I’m Team Gale. :P
  • Song of the Lioness QuartetAngela asked me about who I wanted for Alanna while I was reading the books in the series, and I said I was for Jonathan, who ended up as Alanna’s best friend. I liked who she ended up in the end of the quartet, even if I liked Jon more than who she chose.
  • The Mortal Instruments – A bit of difference for this one, since I actually liked Jace for Clary. I did feel a bit triumphant for Simon when Clary paid more attention to him that is not platonic. Although I didn’t root for their love team as much, I don’t think I would have minded if Clary ended up with Simon.
  • Privileged (TV Show) -While my friends and I agree that Will (played by gorgeous Brian Hallisay) is extremely hot, I felt myself gravitating towards Charlie, Megan’s best friend, who has always been in love with her. And true enough, I was heartbroken when Megan told him that he’s just a friend. :( (Note: the book that the TV series based on has no love triangle, so I had to specify the TV show)

And finally, The Iron Fey. Like I said, I don’t know what’s going to happen in The Iron Daughter since I haven’t read it yet, but I have a feeling that the love triangle will be explored more here. And I already feel bad for the best friend.

I don’t really know why I favor the best friend in the fictional love triangles I read/watch, except maybe because I am kind of sympathetic to the best friend plight. I can’t say I have been in an almost similar situation before (maybe, but since I am a girl, I doubt it’s as painful as the ones I have read). Or maybe it’s just because I tend to gravitate to the underdog because I always hope they’d win somehow? Or maybe it’s just because I always thought that a boyfriend who is your also your best friend is a really good thing?

But then again, what do I know about that? I’ve never been in a relationship before. *shrug*

What about you? Do you “fall” for the other guy, or do you find yourself siding with the best friend?

Edited to add: I just realized there was one love triangle that defied my “best friend” example – Brigan, Fire and Archer in Kristin Cashore’s Fire! Although I thought Archer was a pretty sweet and charming guy, I was for Brigan and Fire all the way. :P

Slay Together, Stay Together

Married with ZombiesMarried with Zombies by Jesse Petersen
Living with the Dead # 1
Publisher: Orbit
Number of pages: 244
My copy: paperback, ARC from Janice — thank you!

A heartwarming tale of terror in the middle of the zombie apocalypse.

Meet Sarah and David.

Once upon a time they met and fell in love. But now they’re on the verge of divorce and going to couples’ counseling. On a routine trip to their counselor, they notice a few odd things – the lack of cars on the highway, the missing security guard, and the fact that their counselor, Dr. Kelly, is ripping out her previous client’s throat.

Meet the Zombies.

Now, Sarah and David are fighting for survival in the middle of the zombie apocalypse. But, just because there are zombies, doesn’t mean your other problems go away. If the zombies don’t eat their brains, they might just kill each other.

* * *

So zombies. I think I’ve established enough in this blog that I love zombies. They’re my favorite paranormal creatures, and despite the gore that is normally associated with them, I think they’re a great plot device (hey, look I’m spouting NaNoWriMo terms already!). When I heard about Jesse Petersen’s novel about a married couple who starts slaying zombies, I knew I just had to have it. Zombie + chick lit? Come on, it’s a no-brainer for me. :P

I think the common thing about all the zombie novels I’ve read and reviewed (The Forest of Hands and Teeth, The Dead Tossed Waves, Feed and Z) is they’re all post-apocalyptic novels. The zombie apocalypse has happened, and I’m brought to a setting where I read about how the people coped, is coping and will cope with the reality that zombies are among the people. Some books are set early enough after the apocalypse that the characters still remember why and how the zombies rose, while others are set so far off into the future that no one really knows how the zombies came.

What sets Married with Zombies apart from the other zombie novels (aside from the pink in the cover) is how it’s set during the apocalypse instead of post. Everything was normal for David and Sarah up until their marriage counselor tried to eat them, and from there everything goes haywire. I find this setting quite creative because I’ve never read a zombie book that focused exactly on how people tried to survive as the zombies came. There’s a certain sense of the unknown in this, and I got to see fresh terror and denial from the humans as they wrestled with this new and terrifying fact of life. I found myself rooting for the characters to survive because…well, who else is there to root for?

However, that’s pretty much what I found unique in this book. I think the real selling point of this book is not that it’s a zombie novel, but the romance/chick lit aspect. Yeah, the chick lit aspect is there, but it’s not the same chick lit aspect that I’m looking for in those I read. I think I agree with how other reviewers viewed Sarah — she’s kind of annoying. She did admit she was a Type-A person, but I never really felt much sympathy or connection with her. David seemed too much like the typical guy who turned out to be a hero, but I’m also kind of lukewarm to him. Come to think of it, I don’t think I really connected with most of the characters here. Normally this is an issue for me, and it is kind of one here, but somehow I think the zombies managed to make it up for me.

The love angle is kind of cheesy, really, and there’s nothing too special about it. I am glad that they worked out their marriage even if it took a zombie apocalypse to mend their marriage. Which brings me to the point that a relationship will work out if you have a common goal. I’m not so sure how sound zombie busting is as a common goal will work, but well, I can suspend my disbelief.

I think the most surprising part in this novel — at least for me — is the gore. For some reason, I felt extra queasy with this novel as I read it. There’s so much blood and gore and guts and black sludge (ew) in this novel that I found myself grossed out for the first time in a zombie novel. Remembering it now is still kind of making me queasy. Eh.

Overall, it’s not a bad zombie book. It’s not the best one either, but I’m still willing to give the second book, and maybe the third book a chance. I would love to read David’s point of view, though — I hope we read that in one of the future books?

If you’re a zombie fan and you don’t mind reading something “light” in terms of this literature, go and pick up Married with Zombies. Don’t expect to be wowed, but it could provide some mild entertainment. However, if you’re just starting out in the zombie fad, I would recommend you to get other more established zombie books before moving to this one.

Rating:

Other reviews:
Taking a Break
Janicu’s Book Blog

A reason for those love songs

This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen
Publisher: Puffin
Number of pages:  345
My copy: paperback, bought from Powerbooks

When it comes to relationships, Remy doesn’t mess around. After all, she’s learned all there is to know from her mother, who’s currently working on husband number five. But there’s something about Dexter that seems to defy all of Remy’s rules. He certainly doesn’t seem like Mr. Right. For some reason, however, Remy just can’t seem to shake him. Could it be that Remy’s starting to understand what those love songs are all about?

* * *

Note: Just this once, I’m trying a different way of reviewing. This may get a bit personal, but I hope you’ll ride it out with me — I just really need to try this out. :) A short, yet proper review will be at the end of the post.

Dear Future Tina,

I’m not sure when you’ll read this again, or if you’ll even be able to ever read this again in a few years or decades from now. I don’t know if this blog will still exist, or if this entry will exist because you can always delete and re-write this sometime in the future. But let’s assume that you won’t do any of the two things I said above and you will eventually read this again, with a surprised smile on your face.

Your brother got married exactly a week ago, and that was the very reason why you picked up This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen once again. This was a so-so book during your first read, probably because you read it during the New Year and you weren’t really feeling the characters nor the situation back then. If you need a reminder on why you picked this up, it’s because all the mushiness in the wedding put you in the mood to read something that had a little of romance in it, and not the paranormal kind.

You are not like Remy. You are not like her at all. Okay, maybe in some ways you are, particularly in the way you are both so obsessive-compulsive with everything (but she is more OC than you are)…but in other aspects, you are not. Let’s state the most obvious: Remy is a dating machine. You are definitely not.

I think that’s one of the reasons why you didn’t relate to her when you first read it. You can’t understand how someone can do what Remy does: date a guy for a while, be sweet and all, sleep with him and then when the relationship heads for some semblance of seriousness, break it off. I don’t really understand it either, but I know we know some people who are like that. And I know both of us wonder: how could they do that? How could they jump from one guy to another and not feel exhausted at all the emotional trauma? How could they even attract so many guys when you can’t seem to attract some?

But Remy has her own reasons, of course. I guess when you see your mother get divorced and married for more than five times, you’d think the same thing: love is a joke. It’s not real, and if you fall for it, you lose. Remy said it very well: “The fate of your heart is your choice, and no one else gets a vote…I just think that you have to protect yourself…you can’t just give yourself away.” (p. 265)

You know what’s strange, though? As different as we are to Remy with regards to how you date (or not date), we’re pretty much the same with how you handle your heart. True, Remy has much more experience than us, but we both handle our hearts in the same way: closely guarded, and walls up, and no one could get in close enough to really hurt us. Not that we have been really hurt before (of course I’m not sure about when you read this, but as of this writing, we’re both single since birth and there’s still no one on the horizon — but only God knows what’s in store for the future), but we’ve definitely seen enough people get hurt so much that we don’t want to experience that, ever.

But remember your brother’s wedding? Remember the feeling you had as you watched your brother tear up and how your sister-in-law looked so happy and beautiful? Remember all the love in the air as everyone celebrated their blessed union? I know you know in your heart that you wanted the same thing. I know that despite all the fear of getting hurt, despite everything that you’ve seen, heard and read, that you still want to experience the kind of love that would make you see the reason for all those love songs.

I hope that we both find an ending similar to Remy’s in This Lullaby. There are no guarantees, really, but there is an assurance that everything will be okay. Yeah, it’s fiction, but hey, there’s nothing wrong with hoping, right? If in case you haven’t found our Dexter yet when you read this letter sometime in the future, I hope that we will find him sometime soon. Or he’ll find us, just as he found Remy in the book. :)

Don’t lose hope, my future self. Remember what Dexter said: When it works, love is pretty amazing. :)

Yours (well, you are me, anyway),
Tina

* * *

The proper review:
Suffice to say, I liked this book more the second time around. Perhaps it’s because I understood it a little bit better, and related to it more despite my differences with Remy. Dessen is very good with writing stories that resonate well with the target audience, and as always, I like her strong characters, especially the minor ones who still manage to leave a big mark in the story. I bet Dessen can make even the smallest character who sells affordable car insurance have an leaven a mark in the story.

This isn’t my favorite Dessen, but I see why people love it so much. This book left me witha  goofy grin on my face after, and a hopeful feeling that someday, my own Dexter would come. :”>

Although personally, I still prefer a Wes (Sa-woon!).  ;)

Rating:

Other reviews:
Emily and Her Little Pink Notes
See Michelle Read

Great Books and Fresh Coffee

Half-Deserted Streets

Formula for Danger

Formula for Danger by Camy TangFormula for Danger by Camy Tang
Publisher: Harlequin
Number of pages: 288
My copy: ebook from Amazon Kindle Store

Someone wants dermatologist Rachel Grant’s latest research, and they’ll do anything to get it. Including trashing the plants needed for her breakthrough scar-reducing cream–and trying to run Rachel down. Desperate for help, she turns to Edward Villa, the only man she trusts. But the greenhouse owner knows too much about Rachel’s research, and now he’s a target, too. Break-ins, muggings, murder…the would-be thief is getting desperate–and getting closer. Edward vows to protect Rachel at all costs. Yet with time ticking away, Edward knows they have to uncover the madman shadowing Rachel before their chance for a future is destroyed.

* * *

I’ve been reading a lot of fantasy and dystopia lately so I decided to take a bit of a break and go for a light and fluffy book just to cleanse the palate. I recently got Camy Tang‘s Formula for Danger through my Kindle, and I missed reading Camy’s work, so I thought this would be a perfect in-between book.

Well, I think I may have chosen the wrong book! I’m not saying that because it’s a bad book, but because Formula for Danger is anything but fluffy. Of course, I should have picked up from the title already, but who knew this book would be such a non-stop suspense ride all the way to the end?

Formula for Danger wastes no time with the action as I was dropped immediately in the middle of it right from the start. Rachel Grant, the protagonist, is assaulted just as she goes out of her lab at the family owned Joy Luck Spa. From here bad luck just seemed to follow Rachel, but this luck is not coincidental but planned as someone really wants her dead! Every chapter in Formula for Danger is brimming with suspense and action, and I found myself getting breathless as every threat comes to Rachel’s (and the love interest, Edward’s) life.

It was easy to immerse myself into the Grants’ world again as I’m already familiar with it after reading Deadly Intent, the story of Rachel’s sister, Naomi. This isn’t really a sequel, so you don’t have to read the first book before reading this, although I feel like it may be helpful. Formula for Danger brings in the action quick that there is no time to really get to know and appreciate Rachel’s family with all that’s happening in the novel. Perhaps it was just me, since I haven’t read books in this genre for a while, so I felt like I would be a bit frustrated with reading this and diving right into the action without pausing long enough to know about the surroundings.

The threat in Rachel’s life felt very real, and the suspense in finding out who the culprit was drawn out for so long that I found myself wondering the same thing that the main characters did: when will it end? However, I wasn’t really that surprised when the reveal was made and I’m not sure if it’s because I figured it out beforehand or because it’s really just not that surprising. Compared to Deadly Intent, there seemed to be less red herrings thrown here, so the mystery seemed a bit linear, and the chase to save Rachel’s life took a higher precedence compared to finding out who was behind everything.

I liked the romantic and Christian aspect of the novel, though, more than the suspense. I liked that Camy focused on how Rachel learned that God is in control of everything even in the chaos. I also liked it a lot that Camy gave Edward, the love interest somewhat of a superhero complex and how he was humbled in the end. This is a Christian novel, so expect prayers from the characters and phrases such as “Praise God” and such. I don’t think it’s preachy, but if you’re not used to reading characters do this, well, I’ll leave it up to you if you’d pick it up. Personally, I’d still push this book to others, because the message is good, and well, because I’m a Christian. :D

As a whole, Formula for Danger is a quick and suspenseful read, with a strong Christian foundation. If you would ask me, though, I still liked Deadly Intent better, but it may be because I could relate more to Naomi than Rachel. Nevertheless, this is a good addition to my Camy Tang collection, and I can’t wait to read what she writes next. :)

Rating:

The Elle Word

Love Starts With Elle by Rachel HauckLove Starts with Elle by Rachel Hauck
Thomas Nelson, 320 pages

Elle’s living the dream-but is it her dream or his?

Elle loves life in Beaufort, South Carolina-lazy summer days on the sand bar, coastal bonfires, and dinners with friends sharing a lifetime of memories. And she’s found her niche as the owner of a successful art gallery too. Life is good.

Then the dynamic pastor of her small town church sweeps her off her feet. She’s never known a man like Jeremiah-one who breathes in confidence and exhales all doubt. When he proposes in the setting sunlight, Elle hands him her heart on a silver platter.

But Jeremiah’s just accepted a large pastorate in a different state. If she’s serious about their relationship, Elle will take “the call,” too, leaving behind the people and place she loves so dearly. Elle’s friendship with her new tenant, widower Heath McCord, and his young daughter make things even more complicated.

Is love transferable across the miles? And can you take it with you when you go?

A week ago, some colleagues and I were discussing relationships and romance, and how one must go in choosing a mate. Perhaps “choosing a mate” is not the proper phrase to use (frankly it sounds a bit too bestial for me), but the discussion was about how the other person can be qualified as a potential guy or girl or will they be cast off into the friend zone. It was quite an interesting discussion, and I was surprised at how some of the guys told me that I needed to find someone who I don’t share too many common interests with but someone who is my opposite — someone who complements me, to use their term. That kind of got me confused. I mean, I know people say “Opposites attract” but if you have no common ground, how will you even start talking? Isn’t having something in common — even a little — a prerequisite in building good relationships?

It’s timely that I started reading Love Starts With Elle by Rachel Hauck as I semi-wrestled with these questions. We first meet Elle Garvey in Sweet Caroline, as one of Caroline’s best friends and someone who could not wait to get married. She was so set to find a man in Beaufort that she started Operation Wedding Day in Caroline’s book, where she made a list of men that are qualified for her husband standards and set off to date them, only to find herself disappointed after kissing and dating many frogs that she hoped would be her prince. We see her at the end of Sweet Caroline done with her Operation Wedding Day and still no groom in sight, and yet she was still somewhat happy at the state of her heart.

We meet Elle again, this time a year after the events of Sweet Caroline, happily managing her own gallery and in love with assistant pastor Jeremiah Franklin for the past two months. Elle is at the peak of her career and life, and there was only one thing that would make her happier — a ring. Jeremiah provided that for her immediately at the start of the story, but not without revealing a catch soon after she gives her yes: they would have to move to Dallas because Jeremiah accepted the a pastor job at a big church there. Elle felt torn, and even if there was probably more flowers in Houston TX, she said yes to Jeremiah, all in the name of love (cheesy, but it’s the only way I can describe it).

It’s here we see trouble brewing. Elle tries her best to submit to her husband-to-be’s whims and wishes, but she can’t help but feel stifled with Jeremiah’s passion for ministry and lack of concern for her. Elle loves Jeremiah, but she also loves her life and her dream and her art — one of them will have to give, but which? To make matters even more confusing, Elle becomes friends with her tenant, handsome and gentleman Heath McCord and his daughter, who both just happen to be there when she needed company the most.

Now, there is really nothing new or surprising in this novel, and I think everyone who’s read the blurb will know what will happen in the end. And it is true: there’s really nothing so surprising in how the story unfolded — the storyline is pretty typical. In a way, it reminded me of the local movie Miss You Like Crazy (John Lloyd Cruz and Bea Alonzo), with less angst and more chaste.

So why give it a pretty high rating, if the story’s so typical?

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