In My Mailbox (15): Where I Go “Squee!”

It’s still a pretty slow blog week and reading week, too. No slumps, I hope, just terribly slow reading because I always find something else to do whenever I find some free time. Next week seems to be a very exciting week in the book world (hee, Thursday Next reference!) since it’s time for Book Expo America, and about half of the bloggers I follow are going there. Unfortunately, I’m all the way on the other side of the world, so I can only “watch” people squee for the entire event and all. Don’t worry, one day, I’ll be there, too.

I did have my own squeeing moments the past week because of the good books I got. It’s was very good mailbox week. :)

SQUEE-WORTHY. :)

  1. Divergent by Veronica Roth (Fully Booked). I got this one last week, really, and I know this is a splurge because it’s a debut, but enough good reviews around tell me I may like it. Plus it was sale in Fully Booked Eastwood last week, so I decided to make use of that to get 20% off on a hardcover. I love how fiery the cover is, don’t you think? :)
  2. The Piper’s Son by Melina Marchetta (Book Depository). Okay let me squee! I wasn’t expecting this to arrive until next week, so seeing this package really excited me! I cannot wait to read this.
  3. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness (Book Depository). And another squee! This one I wasn’t expecting to arrive until first week of June, so I was even more surprised when I got it this week. It is very pretty in person, and again, I can’t believe I got this for less than $10. :) I love that the pages are glossy, and you should see the illustrations:
    Now, I should probably read the two other books in the Chaos Walking trilogy soon. Hee.

My Book Depository package also arrived with cute bookmarks! The Piper’s Son came with a music-themed bookmark, one side showing basic piano chords (some I still vaguely remember, LOL) and the other side showing basic guitar chords. A Monster Calls came with a colorful calendar bookmark. I don’t know how that fits the theme of the book, but who cares? A reader can never have too many bookmarks. :)

Bookmarks from Book Depository

I also got some ebooks, which arrived last week:

  • What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah DessenWhat Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen (Amazon Kindle store). Apparently, the print copy of this book won’t be here until June, so an ebook sufficed for now. I don’t mind buying a print copy since it is Sarah Dessen anyway. I’ve finished this book last week, but I’m kind of having a hard time writing a review.
  • Love Story by Jennifer Echols(Simon and Schuster Galley Grab). I wouldn’t have seen this if Kai hadn’t tweeted about it. It was hidden in the adult e-galleys in the Galley grab newsletter, so easy to miss. :) I have no idea when I’ll be able to read this, though.

See, pretty squee-worthy, right? I’ll be reserving some of these books for possible slump days — nothing like an awesome book to snap you out of a slump.

Oh, and there should be more posts in this blog next week. I just remembered — I’m participating in Armchair BEA! :) Now I just hope I don’t forget about it…

Have a great Sunday, everyone! :)

Kat, Incorrigible

Kat, IncorrigibleKat, Incorrigible by Stephanie Burgis
The Unladylike Adventures of Kat Stephenson # 1
Also known as “A Most Improper Magick”
Publisher: Atheneum
Number of pages:   304
My copy: ebook ARC from Galley Grab

Twelve-year-old Kat Stephenson may be the despair of her social-climbing Step-Mama, but she was born to be a magical Guardian and protector of Society–if she can ever find true acceptance in the secret Order that expelled her own mother. She’s ready to turn the hidebound Order of the Guardians inside-out, whether the older members like it or not. And in a society where magic is the greatest scandal of all, Kat is determined to use all her powers to help her three older siblings–saintly Elissa, practicing-witch Angeline, and hopelessly foolish Charles–find their own true loves, even if she has to turn highwayman, battle wild magic, and confront real ghosts along the way!

* * *

Truth be told, I picked up Kat, Incorrigible from Simon & Schuster’s Galley Grab not because of the blurb but because I thought the cover was utterly charming. The girl’s mischievous smile is enough to make me curious about this book, so I picked it up from the selection, excited to know what really made Kat incorrigible.

Katherine is the youngest Stephenson family, and she’s also the least ladylike of all the Stephenson sisters, much to the despair of her stepmother. Her biological mother passed away shortly after Kat was born, and she has never agreed with what her stepmother wanted for her, which earns her not only her lectures but also her sisters, Elissa and Angeline. When Kat hears that Elissa is set to marry the horrible sounding Mr. Neville, she cuts her hair short and plans to run away to save her sister, but not before she gets caught. She thought it was kind of strange that her sister Angeline would practice witchcraft from their mother’s magic books, but she was in for a surprise when she finds out that she is her mother’s successor as a Guardian in the Order, with magic more powerful than her sister, if harnessed and trained properly.

I’m the youngest in the family, but seeing that there’s only two of us, there isn’t much mischief I could get into. And to be perfectly honest, I’m not really a kid full of mischief — I’m really the nicer kid at home. Okay, I’m not the most proper kid and God knows how many times my mom and I argued about the mess of my room, but I’d like to think I’m a pretty good kid.

Now, Kat is far more mischievous than I was obviously, and even if she had the best intentions, it doesn’t always guarantee that things will go smoothly or as planned. Kat is such a fun heroine that I keep on forgetting that this novel is partly historical. She reminds me of Anne Shirley from Anne of Green Gables, with a hint of magic. Kat’s voice is clear and easy to relate with despite her age. Kat really and truly loved her family, and that’s a characteristic that would make anyone love her too. Kat’s sisters are a hoot, too, and I liked how even if they were supposed to be “proper ladies”, they were still funny and quirky in their own way. I especially liked how Elissa started acting out like the heroines in her gothic novels and how Angeline and Kat made fun of her because of that. I never had sisters, so I can only read about these relationships, but I think the author totally nailed their sisterhood.

The plot is fun and adventurous, and like the characters, it made me forget that this is partly historical. It wasn’t as gripping as I’d thought it would be, but that doesn’t mean the plot is bad or boring. It’s quite the opposite, really — although sometimes it may seem a little bit too outrageous already. Despite its magical elements, I liked how there is more stress on family and love prevailing over evil forces than just plain magic. This gives the story a bit more depth and it definitely made the ending so much more satisfying. I think this is a very good start to a series, and it’s a fun read for kids the same age as Kat, or people who sometimes wish to be kids again, like me. :)

Kat, Incorrigible was also published as A Most Improper Magick by Templar Publishing last August 2010. This edition will be out April 5, 2011 under Atheneum. Thanks to Simon and Schuster for the e-galley!

Rating:

Other reviews:
My Love Affair With Books
Baffled Books

Ten Miles Past Normal

Ten Miles Past Normal by Frances O'Roark DowellTen Miles Past Normal by Frances O’Roark Dowell
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Number of pages:  256
My copy: ebook from Galley Grab

Janie Gorman wants to be normal. The problem with that: she’s not. She’s smart and creative and a little bit funky. She’s also an unwilling player in her parents’ modern-hippy, let’s-live-on-a-goat-farm experiment (regretfully, instigated by a younger, much more enthusiastic Janie). This, to put it simply, is not helping Janie reach that “normal target.” She has to milk goats every day…and endure her mother’s pseudo celebrity in the homemade-life, crunchy mom blogosphere. Goodbye the days of frozen lasagna and suburban living, hello crazy long bus ride to high school and total isolation–and hovering embarrassments of all kinds. The fresh baked bread is good…the threat of homemade jeans, not so much.

It would be nice to go back to that old suburban life…or some grown up, high school version of it, complete with nice, normal boyfriends who wear crew neck sweaters and like social studies. So, what’s wrong with normal? Well, kind of everything. She knows that, of course, why else would she learn bass and join Jam Band, how else would she know to idolize infamous wild-child and high school senior Emma (her best friend Sarah’s older sister), why else would she get arrested while doing a school project on a local freedom school (jail was not part of the assignment). And, why else would she kind of be falling in “like” with a boy named Monster—yes, that is his real name. Janie was going for normal, but she missed her mark by about ten miles…and we mean that as a compliment.

* * *

I am a city girl, and I am sort of proud of it. Sort of, because I know sometimes I imagine myself living somewhere remote, away from the rush and hustle and pollution of the city. However, I don’t think I can stay in the province too long — I kind of like the rush, and most of my friends live in the city, too, so staying away from them is kind of torture.

I think Janie Gorman from Ten Miles Past Normal would be able to relate to my sentiments pretty well. Fourteen-year-old Janie experiences a withdrawal from the city soon after she steps into high school, five years after she convinced her family to move to their own farm. Nine year old Janie was so excited to live in a farm after one field trip, and to her surprise, her parents agreed and they moved, making Janie the coolest kid in middle school. High school was a different story, though and she knew it the moment she went to school with hay stuck in her hair.

Janie just wants to be normal, but it’s hard when everything in her life pushes her to the “different” zone. As if her Farmville-like life wasn’t enough, her celebrity blogger mom tries to attempts to bond with her, she joins the Jam Band even if she knows little about singing, and she has to make a project about an influential woman — something that her best friend knows more than she does. And as if that wasn’t enough, her mom has to go and plan a hootenanny. Hoote-what? Exactly. Who’s normal? Janie isn’t.

The blurb gives away most of the plot, but don’t worry, it isn’t really spoilery. What makes Ten Miles Past Normal such a fun read is Janie. She’s a fun, creative and often cynical girl who just really wants to be normal and be noticed, but not in the way she often is. Janie’s far from being an outcast though — she’s just very different, and that difference is what makes other people wary about her. Her voice was absolutely delightful. I love her quips and her observations, and I find myself cheering for her as she discovers more of herself. The book goes from a flashback to the present time every now and then, but the author wrote it so well that you wouldn’t get mixed up in it. The other characters were hilarious, too, especially Janie’s mom (I kind of wished there was more shown to her blogger side), her new-found Sharpie-tattooed library friend Verbana, ultimate crush Jeremy Fitch and of course, Monster Monroe! Together, they all make a wacky cast of characters that I could picture very well — I think they’d all work very well on TV, too. :)

The lesson shared by Ten Miles Past Normal isn’t really new, but it’s nice to be reminded of it every now and then. Sometimes, you find yourself looking for other things you think you can’t find at home. But once you go back, you realize that they were just there, and you just couldn’t appreciate it in the first place. Ten Miles Past Normal by Frances O’Roark Dowell is a fun, coming-of-age story that is really suited for early teens but will entertain adults my age too.

Oh, and one more thing about me and the city: I just realized that where I live is already considered a rural area in reference to Metro Manila. Goes to show that maybe I’m already where I’m supposed to be. :D

Rating:

Other Reviews:
Novel Novice
The Book Scout
Paparazzi Hags
Girl About Books

Wither

Wither by Lauren DeStefano
Chemical Garden Trilogy # 1
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Number of pages:  345
My copy: ebook from Galley Grab

What if you knew exactly when you would die?

Thanks to modern science, every human being has become a ticking genetic time bomb—males only live to age twenty-five, and females only live to age twenty. In this bleak landscape, young girls are kidnapped and forced into polygamous marriages to keep the population from dying out.

When sixteen-year-old Rhine Ellery is taken by the Gatherers to become a bride, she enters a world of wealth and privilege. Despite her husband Linden’s genuine love for her, and a tenuous trust among her sister wives, Rhine has one purpose: to escape—to find her twin brother and go home.

But Rhine has more to contend with than losing her freedom. Linden’s eccentric father is bent on finding an antidote to the genetic virus that is getting closer to taking his son, even if it means collecting corpses in order to test his experiments. With the help of Gabriel, a servant Rhine is growing dangerously attracted to, Rhine attempts to break free, in the limited time she has left.

* * *

Wither is one of those books that the book bloggers have been abuzz with ever since the cover came out. And who wouldn’t be mesmerized by such a beautiful cover? I wasn’t much of a cover person then, but I knew that I took a mental note of this book and was thrilled to see it as one of the e-galleys available in Simon & Schuster’s Galley Grab.

This is the first book in the Chemical Garden trilogy, and it tells a dystopian world sometime into a future where diseases are removed through genetic experiments, producing a first generation of almost immortal human beings who can live their lives in full health. However, as soon as this first generation started to reproduce, they found a fatal flaw: the offspring of the first generation die before they reach their thirties. Specifically, males live up to twenty five while females pass away as they reach twenty. To keep the population growing, young girls are forced into polygamous marriages and some of their offspring were tested to find an antidote to to stop their children from dying.

Rhine Ellery is 16 and was captured by the Gatherers in a fake job interview and she was bought as a wife for Linden Ashby by his father, Housemaster Vaughn. Rhine gets married and becomes an Ashby by name but swears to find a way out and be reunited with her twin brother. However, as she tries to find a way to escape, she discovers disturbing things about the Ashby household, finds herself softening towards her husband and sister-wives and falls in love.

If I were asked to choose a word to describe Wither, it’s interesting. My initial attraction to the book came from it being classified under dystopia, and we all know how I’ve grown to love that sub-genre in the past year. I liked Rhine right at the start. Her voice is strong and clear and she was tough but not without being compassionate. She knows she’s doomed to die in four years but I liked that she still seemed to have little hopes and dreams, one that helped her survive her ordeal. Reading the story in Rhine’s point of view kind of reminded me of The Hunger Games, without the thundering background music and the immediate need to survive. Rhine’s background music would fall a bit on a classical piece that starts out as calm and languid at first then builds up to a crescendo as we get to the exciting parts. Rhine isn’t a Katniss, but there were some similarities in their personalities — particularly their resiliency — that reminded me of Suzanne Collins’ beloved character. Oh and I also found it really cool that Rhine had differently colored eyes — heterochromia, as they call it. I couldn’t help but shriek, “Graceling!” when I read that part. :)

However, as far as the dystopian aspect of Wither goes, I found it a bit lacking. I’m no expert in how dystopia should be unlike some people I know, but I wasn’t very satisfied with how Rhine’s world came to be. Sure, I understand there would be mass panic when they find out the flaw in their genetic experiments, but how could there be so much destruction that all the other continents were wiped out except for North America? I understand the population woes, so why kill the girls then? Why are there so many orphans? There were so many why’s and how’s that I found the world building a bit faulty, despite it being vivid. Perhaps my questions would be answered in the next two books?

I also have a tiny beef with the ending, but it’s just me nitpicking. It’s not a cliffhanger, but I really wish there was more. I guess I was looking for more action in the ending? I kind of wanted something bigger, something more explosive to happen in the end. It may just be me and my expectations for dystopian novels. The ending for Wither felt a little too much…I don’t know, dreamy? That isn’t bad, but just kind of threw me off the loop. I was expecting  a little bit more action, and I wanted to know what happened to the other characters, too. But again, I guess that is why this is part of a trilogy. It’s kind of like how Carrie Ryan ended her zombie books — if you don’t know that there will be a next book in the series, you’d feel like you were cheated from an ending with closure.

Despite its faults and my nitpicks, Wither is still a good read, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. If dystopian novels had genders, this would definitely be a female — no battle scenes or gory deaths here, boys. :) It’s bleak and disturbing yet still romantic, emotional and somewhat hopeful. If you’re not into reading bleak and hardcore dystopian novels, then Wither may be the book for you.

Rating:

Other reviews:
bibliochic
Rex Robot Reviews
Bookalicious

Save as Draft

Save as Draft by Cavanaugh Lee
Simon and Schuster, 256 pages

A broken engagement, a broken heart, and endless drafts of unsent emails. A love triangle unfolding in the electronic age illustrates all that can go wrong (and right) by this new form of miscommunication. Told in “electro-epistolary” form, the novel unfolds entirely through emails and text messages. What do these tools of technology mean for love? What happens when age-old courtship rituals fall prey to the ever-changing sensibilities of how we share not only information, but our own hearts?

I was thrilled to see that Save as Draft was included in Simon & Schuster‘s latest galley grab as I’ve had my eye on it ever since Jill of Breaking the Spine featured this book in a Waiting on Wednesday post. I’m a big sucker for epistolary novels, and I love it even more when they use technology in the story too (case in point: Tweet Heart by Elizabeth Rudnick).

Because I enjoyed the novel so much, I thought of writing a review for it in the way the novel is written. It might get a tad personal and long (just as how I tried to review This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen), but I hope you keep on reading. :P

==================================
from: Tina <hello @ tinamats.com>
to: Achieving Friends :)
date: Mon, Jan 10, 2011 at 7:19 PM
subject: Save as Draft, and all sorts of thoughts

Hello friends!

This may be a very surprising email for you guys to get because…well, do we really communicate using emails now? There’s Facebook and Twitter, and well, there are other ways we can communicate…but indulge me for a while. Sometimes a book can make you do silly stuff. ;)

So I just finished reading this book, Save as Draft by Cavanaugh Lee. It’s this book filled with emails and text messages from this girl, Izzy (a lawyer, but I don’t think she’s the Offshore Injury one), to her friends and her guys. It starts with Izzy in 2008, where she joins an online dating website and meets Marty, a nice and sweet guy who seems to be very interesting. However, even after a great first date, Izzy tells Marty that she has decided to exclusively date her best friend, Peter and she was sorry. Then we are brought back to 2006, where Izzy first meets Peter, and how their relationship started from best friends to lovers.

I’m going to stop there so I won’t spoil you. I thought Save as Draft would be one of those typical chick lit romance novels with only a difference in format being an “electro-epistolary” novel, but I was wrong. I was very pleasantly surprised with this, and you may have seen my tweets during the weekend about this book — I was literally laughing out loud at home while I was reading this because Izzy reminded me SO much of myself. I love Izzy – her over thinking, her flirting, even her depressing moments remind me so much of the times I felt the same thing! Girls, I think we’ll all see some of ourselves in Izzy, or even her friends. The way they exchange emails and all that feels like they were actually exchanging dialogues instead of mere emails, and it’s just like how we tweet each other sometimes, haha. I think we will definitely see some of the guys we know in Peter and Marty, too.

The book is littered with so many funny exchanges that’s the stuff you can see in modern sitcoms but also things you can see in real life. Of course, I’m no judge for that with my still single since birth status, but these are the things we usually talk about, you know?

I think the biggest “lesson” I picked up with Save as Draft is how relationships are never black and white. I’ve talked to some of you about this before, and again, given my single status, I know I’m highly idealistic. That’s why I like books like this — they show a side of reality that I have not yet experienced and give me a bit of a warning, if you may. Something to remind me that things will never turn exactly the way I like it. Remember how I used to say that I wanted a guy who had no issues or hang ups in life just so things won’t be complicated? Well, if I keep on thinking like that, then I know I would never ever settle down with anyone because a guy (or a girl, for that matter) without issues or hang ups does not exist. I think the author was very good at showing that relationships can be messy. There’s no perfect relationship just as there is no perfect person. Even if the person seemed perfect at the start, you’d realize eventually that he’s a workaholic, or he has issues with fat people (this really kind of grated my nerves there) or he’s too presumptuous (haha this reminds me of someone!). It’s all gray and there is never a clear thing, and sometimes you just really have to follow your heart, you know?

And excuse me for being emo there. These are the things we usually talk about when we’re drinking.

I think this is the first time that I was confused at who I wanted the heroine to end up with. I mean, even my Best Friend vs. the Other Guy thing couldn’t decide: Izzy fell for her best friend, but there was also this other perfectly nice guy there that I liked for her…is real life really like this?!

It’s a very, very good book, and I won’t spoil you anymore because I’m going to make you guys read this! I was entertained all throughout, and I bet you guys will, too. Save as Draft is not a relationship manual, but it’s given me a little insight on what I must remember when the day comes that I enter a relationship: (1) never substitute face to face communication with emails/tweets/chats/texts/what-have-you and (2) never let anyone dim my sparkle.

Oh, and never ever do anything you’ll regret when you’re drunk. ;)

Rambling off. Can’t wait to see you guys again — this weekend?

xoxo,
Tina

P.S. I just thought of a perfect Valentine’s Gift. I just hope this book gets to the Philippine shores on time. :)

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If you’re looking for a quick, fun yet meaningful read about relationships and how messy it can be, do get this book. Save as Draft by Cavanaugh Lee will be out in hardcover on February 1 under Simon & Schuster. Cavanaugh talks more about the book in an interview in Building My Life.

Rating:

My copy: ebook ARC from Simon & Schuster Galley Grab

Cover: cavanaughlee.com
Blurb: Goodreads

Other reviews:
Goodreads