Pink cakes, pink ponies and gumballs

You Wish by Mandy HubbardYou Wish by Mandy Hubbard
Publisher: Razorbill
Number of pages: 272
My copy: paperback, bought from Fully Booked

What if all your wishes really came true?

Kayla McHenry’s sweet sixteen sucks! Her dad left, her grades dropped, and her BFF is dating the boy Kayla’s secretly loved for years. Blowing out her candles, Kayla thinks: I wish my birthday wishes actually
came true. Because they never freakin’ do.

Kayla wakes the next day to a life-sized, bright pink My Little Pony outside her window. Then a year’s supply of gumballs arrives. A boy named Ken with a disturbing resemblance to the doll of the same name stalks her. As the ghosts of Kayla’s wishes-past appear, they take her on a wild ride . . . but they MUST STOP. Because when she was fifteen? She wished Ben Mackenzie would kiss her. And Ben is her best friend’s boyfriend.

* * *

Totally honest moment: I know I said I hardly buy books because of their cover, but the main reason why I wanted to have this book when I saw it is because of the pink. This is probably the brightest book in my shelf right now, and I’m pretty sure my guy friends would not get this book because of that cover (unless you believe that real men wear…er, read pink-covered books?). But I just love it. The pink, the cupcake, the pony — it’s like a little girl’s dream birthday cake on a book! :)

But Kayla McHenry, You Wish‘s protagonist hated the pink. She hated everything during her sixteenth birthday party where her mom used it more as an event to market herself as an event organizer for the sweet sixteen birthday market, and her best friend ditched her for a date with her boyfriend, who incidentally, Kayla has been in love with for the past three years. (Okay that sentence was mouthful) It was a truly sucky birthday, and I couldn’t blame Kayla for acting that way, and wishing that wish that changed everything.

And wishes. I’ve written about how I used to make wishes with my review of Jackson Pearce’s As You Wish, but Mandy Hubbard’s newest novel literally takes the cake at wish fulfillment. You Wish is a sweet, sort of coming of age story with lots of fun, toys and lessons learned for girls who are growing up. The entire story kind of reminds me of 13 Going on 30, but perhaps it may just be because of the pink and yes, the wish. For the next two weeks after Kayla’s disaster of a sixteenth birthday, one wish from her past birthdays come true, with hilarious results. It wouldn’t have been a big deal if Kayla wished for mere toys as she grew up (like what kids would wish for birthday gifts or Christmas gifts at, but she had to wish for more outrageous things. A real pink My Little Pony? Raggedy Ann Doll coming to life? A shower of gumballs? Become a mermaid? Have bigger breasts? Practically everything that a little girl and a teenager would wish for as she grows old came true for Kayla, and it wasn’t fun at all. Not to mention that Kayla’s best friend is slowly drifting apart from her, and she feels more and more attracted to Ben…Kayla had to find a way to undo the wish, and fast, before her last wish for Ben to kiss her comes true.

I haven’t been reading much contemporary YA lately because I feel like almost everything has been overdone. Come to think of it, I think this may pass as speculative fiction given the magical elements, so yeah, I guess I still stayed away from them! But I digress. I love how the author tackled the story without magic overpowering everything. True, having all those wishes coming true at that extent is unbelievable, but at some point in the story, I started to believe that those things were actually happening to Kayla. The magic wasn’t a way to escape, too, but to show Kayla how much she’s changed, and how much things are changing around her. However, these wishes also taught her that she also had the power to change herself and somehow effect the same change around her if she really wanted it.

Kayla’s character development was painful to read for me, because I know how it feels like to “lose” a good friend because she suddenly had a boyfriend. I wasn’t in love with her boyfriend, mind you, but she was so in love with him that our friendship was…well, discarded. Thinking about it still kind of stings until now, and unlike Kayla, I haven’t had the chance to repair that discarded friendship because the other party doesn’t seem to want to (or maybe she’s kind of oblivious). I wanted to reach inside the book and comfort Kayla in her lonely moments, but I was glad at how the author handled that in the story, by not pointing the blame at a single person. Friendship issues are never uncomplicated, because as the saying says it takes two to tango. Kayla and Nicole’s friendship in the book was at the stage where they could choose to grow in it or just leave it, and Ms. Hubbard resolved it beautifully.

As for the romance aspect, I liked it. Ben wasn’t my type of guy, but I thought his chemistry with Kayla felt real. It didn’t make me all tingly all over, but it was a pretty cute high school romance. :)

I’d totally recommend Mandy Hubbard’s You Wish to all girls and girls at heart (and yes, even boys, too, if they can stomach the pink!). You Wish is a thoughtful novel about friendship, family, body issues, conformity, clean slates, and yes, wishes. Be careful what you wish for, because you never know when another wish could make them come true! :)


My copy: paperback, from Fully Booked

Cover & Blurb: Goodreads

Sibling love and a little magic

Tall Story by Candy GourlayTall Story by Candy Gourlay
Cacho Publishing House, 233 pages

Andi is short. And she has lots of wishes. She wishes she could play on the school basketball team, she wishes for her own bedroom, but most of all she wishes that her long lost half brother, Bernardo, could come and live in London, where he belongs. Then Andi’s biggest wish comes true and she’s minutes away from becoming someone’s little sister. As she waits anxiously for Bernardo to arrive from the Philippines, she hopes he’ll turn out to be tall and just as mad as she is about basketball. When he finally arrives, he’s tall all right. But he’s not just tall …he’s a GIANT. In a novel packed with humour and quirkiness, Gourlay explores a touching sibling relationship and the clash of two very different cultures.

My brother doesn’t know this, but I consider him to be one of my best friends. He’s four years older than me, and like every other sibling pair, we used to have our share of screaming matches when we were kids. We only started having serious conversations as we grew up, thanks to the long rides from school to our house during college, when he’d pick me up. My relationship with him gave me a soft spot for stories about brothers and sisters, so it was no surprise that I couldn’t wait to read the recently released Tall Story by Candy Gourlay.

Tall Story chronicles the tale of half-siblings Bernardo and Andi, from the day they meet for the first time. Bernardo grew up in the Philippines under the care of his aunt and uncle, after his mom, a nurse, relocated to the United Kingdom to work. Bernardo grew up waiting for his papers to get approved by UK Immigration, so that he could live in London with his family. Andi is a small girl who loves basketball and barely knows her older brother, save for a few letters and phone calls. All that Andi knows is that her brother is tall, as her mom often stresses, and she wants him in London so they can play basketball together–but when he finally arrives, Andi is in for a shock. Bernardo is not just tall–he’s an eight-foot giant! As Bernardo and Andi get to know each other, Andi is pulled into Bernardo’s “magical” world and Bernardo learns how it feels to have a family.

If I could use one word to describe this novel, it would be “heartwarming.” I was thoroughly charmed by the entire book, and not just because it’s a brother-sister story. I knew I’d like Andi from her first line: Rush hour. So many armpits, so little deodorant. What Andi lacks in height, she makes up with ferocity and her can’t-miss basketball skills. Bernardo, on the other hand, is literally a gentle giant – he’s huge but not aggressive, sometimes rash and forgetful, but always bearing good intentions.  Bernardo and Andi’s voices are distinct, and they play very well off each other, giving readers a chance to understand and sympathize with both points of view. I ached for the two main characters to be friends, and rejoiced when they grew closer as the book went on. Click here to read the rest of the review.


2010 Challenge Status:
* Book # 60 out of 100 for 2010
* Book # 9 out of 20 for Project 20:10

My copy: Philippine edition paperback, Php 275 from Powerbooks

Cover image: Original photo of actual book I own
Blurb: Goodreads

If I Stay

If I Stay by Gayle Forman

If I Stay by Gayle Forman
If I Stay # 1
Publisher: Speak
Number of pages: 262
My copy: paperback, from Fully Booked

On a day that started like any other…

Mia had everything: a loving family a gorgeous, adoring boyfriend, and a bright future full of music and full of choices. Then, in an instant, almost all of that is taken from her. Caught between life and death, between a happy past and an unknowable future, Mia spends one critical day contemplating the only decision she has left — the most important decision she’ll ever make.

Simultaneously tragic and hopeful, this is a romantic, riveting, and ultimately uplifitng story, about memory, music, living, dying, loving.

* * *

One word: wow.

I’ve heard so much about this novel, and I hated that it cost P700+ when I first saw it in Fully Booked Eastwood. When I saw cheaper versions of it in Fully Booked Fort, I knew I had to have it more than I wanted dip stations. Two weeks later, I read it in a day, and I finished with tears in my eyes and a heart that felt like bursting.

When I was a kid, I used to watch TV shows whose storyline involve a the main character losing his/her parents because of an accident and their parents leaving a favorite toy, book or an item that would be a remembrance of the parents. After watching so many things like that, I started to become fearful of my parents’ well-being while they were out and I wasn’t with them. Cellphones are not the in thing then, so I have no way of getting in touch with them as I wait for them to arrive. Oftentimes, I’d end up crying with worry, calling their friends to know where they are and…well, generally making a fool of myself because of my fear.

I felt the same kind of fear while I was reading If I Stay. It’s hard to write what I felt while I was reading it, but there were so many questions racing through my head, questions that I wonder about in real life as well. Like, do people who are close to dying know that they are about to say goodbye? What would I do if I was in Mia’s place? Can I choose to stay if I know I have lost a lot?

If I Stay doesn’t have the answers to those questions, but rather presses them on to the reader. The story starts off happy and carefree, and then Forman quickly plunges the readers into the heat of the action. As a reader, I felt Mia’s pain and confusion, and I learned to care for her deeply as I got to know her through her flashbacks. She’s not the most remarkable character once you got to know her past, save for her cello playing talent, but her pain and her choice makes her a strong character, one that resonates deeply with the readers even long after the book was finished.

It’s not a comforting book, mind you, so don’t read it if you’re feeling down. Despite its slightly morbid theme of death, it is also a book of hope, one that encourage the reader to face life despite all its sadness and loss.

If I Stay is a beautiful, thought-provoking book about life, death and love, and it is definitely one of my favorite reads this year. :)

I leave you with the part of the book that made me cry — skip this part if you don’t want to be spoiled because it may be a bit spoiler-y.

“It’s okay,” he tells me. “If you want to go. Everyone wants you to stay. I want you to stay more than I’ve ever wanted anything in my life.’ His voice cracks with emotion. He stops, clears his throat, takes a breath, and continues. ‘But that’s what I want and I could see why it might not be what you want. So I just wanted to tell you that I understand if you go. It’s okay if you have to leave us. It’s okay if you want to stop fighting.”


The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee BenderThe Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing
Number of pages: 292
My copy: ebook from Kindle store

The wondrous Aimee Bender conjures the lush and moving story of a girl whose magical gift is really a devastating curse.

On the eve of her ninth birthday, unassuming Rose Edelstein, a girl at the periphery of schoolyard games and her distracted parents’ attention, bites into her mother’s homemade lemon-chocolate cake and discovers she has a magical gift: she can taste her mother’s emotions in the cake. She discovers this gift to her horror, for her mother—her cheerful, good-with-crafts, can-do mother—tastes of despair and desperation. Suddenly, and for the rest of her life, food becomes a peril and a threat to Rose.

The curse her gift has bestowed is the secret knowledge all families keep hidden—her mother’s life outside the home, her father’s detachment, her brother’s clash with the world. Yet as Rose grows up she learns to harness her gift and becomes aware that there are secrets even her taste buds cannot discern.

I wasn’t aware of the ride I was in for the moment I cracked this book open. I just liked the blurb when I saw it, and got it, thinking it will be a somewhat humorous read, with all the references to food. I was expecting for a short discovery of Rose’s “talent” as a kid, then fast forward to her grown up years where she has grown up gracefully using her skills. I guess I was expecting a little bit of Pushing Daisies with a dash of Love the One You’re With and maybe even a bit of Twenties Girl wrapped in a delightful cover of a lemon cake slice.

But if there was anything I learned in life, it’s this: expectations are almost always never fulfilled. Most of the time, I’d get disappointed when that happens, but for this book, I’m glad my expectations were set aside, because The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake is a beautiful book. :)

Rose Edelstein is nobody special, at least not until the eve of her ninth birthday. When her mom baked her a lemon cake, and she tasted it, her world opened up in a way that she couldn’t understand why or how. Somehow, she can taste what the person who prepared the food felt while preparing the food. It’s a strange talent, which quickly became a curse for her because she knew she wouldn’t be able to escape knowing what other people felt, even if they don’t tell her. She felt the emptiness of her mom, the distraction of her dad and the slight anger of her brother. She felt the rush of the baker from the cookie shop, she felt the desperation of the baker’s girlfriend in the sandwich she tasted. Rose felt the love that her friend Emma’s family had for her. She also felt even what the people who prepared the raw ingredient of the food felt like: the thirst of the grape pickers from the raisins, the rudeness of the parsley farmer. She could taste where the food came from, how far it traveled, how fresh it was and the metallic, blessedly blank taste of factory-prepared food. Rose is a food genius, in a way, but it would have only been a blessing if Rose asked for it.

But Rose didn’t. In The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, we get to see Rose’s journey from the innocent kid to the girl wary of food and scared of eating what others prepared. It’s not easy to summarize this book because there were so many layers into it. It wasn’t just about the food, but it was also about Rose. Then it wasn’t always about Rose but about her family. Within her family, there were little secrets and stories too — her mom and dad’s history, her mother’s emptiness, her dad’s routine with everyday life including insurance quotes and her brother’s strangeness. There was even a hint of love with her brother’s friend George, but then it also wasn’t. This book is complicated, yet simple. Charming, yet haunting. Sad, but hopeful, too.

I can’t say anything more without spoiling anything, but I hope you take my word for it: The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake is a beautiful read. Rose is a memorable character, one that I found myself rooting for and loving up until the end. Please, if you decide to read this, look past the lack of quotation marks (it kind of drove me crazy at first but I got used to it), and stick to it up to the end. Some parts may not make sense, but I guess it mirrors Rose’s predicament: we’ll never be able to make sense why she does what she does, but what’s important is she chose to live despite the “curse” her gift brings.



Angels Among Us

Coffeehouse Angel by Suzanne SelforsCoffeehouse Angel by Suzanne Selfors

When Katrina spots a homeless guy sleeping in the alley behind her grandmother’s coffee shop, she decides to leave him a cup of coffee, a bag of chocolate-covered coffee beans, and some pastries to tide him over. Little does she know that this random act of kindness is about to turn her life upside down.  Because this adorable vagrant, Malcolm, is really a guardian angel on a break between missions. And he won’t leave until he can reward Katrina’s selflessness by fulfilling her deepest desire. Now if only she could decide what that might be . . .

Katrina lived most of her life in her grandmother’s coffee shop, helping her maintain the place with another friend Irmgaard, who has been helping them out without a word because of her vow of silence. Business for their coffee shop was dying because of the next door coffee shop Java Heaven, which is more modern than theirs, and naturally attracts more customers. Katrina generally keeps to herself, happy with her two best friends Vincent and Elizabeth, but deep inside, she’s sad because she doesn’t know what she’s good at, unlike them.

One day, Katrina chances upon a homeless guy sleeping in the alley, and despite her fears about him, she leaves him some food to tide his hunger over. Little did she know that this little act will change her life.

In this time of teen girls falling in love with boys who have supernatural roots, it’s easy to get jaded over the entire concept already. That’s because everything pretty much has the same storyline: girl meets mysterious guy, tries to stay away but is very attracted, ends up spending time with him, learning his dangerous secret, but still falling in love regardless of the possible consequences. It gets tiring, really, and one can only use so many creatures to fall in love with.

Coffeehouse Angel was a fresh twist on that storyline. In a way, it may not even be the same storyline because the romance part wasn’t the sole focus of this novel, but mainly Katrina, and finding out what she is passionate about. Malcolm, the angel, was more of a catalyst than a main character or a love interest, for that matter. I had fun reading this because all the characters were well developed, from the old men who hang out at Katrina’s coffee shop to Ratcatcher the cat. The conflict felt real, and I felt especially sympathetic to Katrina when she started to lose Vincent when he started dating someone.

The story wasn’t shallow either — a lot of things were revealed as the story progressed, and I would never have guessed why Irmgaard was quiet all the time, or why Heidi, Katrina’s “rival” was doing what she was doing. Important lessons were imparted in the book as well, such as being the better person by not blackmailing your enemy, living life, finding your passion and forgiveness.

The only thing that didn’t really sit well on me was, surprisingly, the love angle. I didn’t really feel that much chemistry between Katrina and Malcolm, except that she was annoyed at him first, but as they got to know each other, he just had this “warm” aura that everybody loves. It was clear that they liked each other, but it was kind of hard for me to really believe it. I probably would have believed it more if Katrina fell for Vincent or something like that. Nevertheless, the ending was quite good, too, and it didn’t mean losing one’s mortality, or going totally crazy over each other that they lose their identity.

It’s a good story, one of substance, and one that I would definitely recommend over the other YA supernatural romance novels out there. :)

I end this review with this quote from the book.:

Was I really going to the Solstice Festival with an angel? How do you wrap your head  around something like that? There are so many stories about girls dating vampires and fairy kings but those are dark stories, dangerous where the simple act of falling puts the girl’s life at risk. Malcolm didn’t seem one bit dangerous. Angels are supposed to be pure and sinless, so it would be a pure and sinless date. I didn’t have a problem with that. It was kind of a relief that I wouldn’t have to fend off blood-sucking or an enchantment on our first date.

Hm. Could this be pointing to what I think it’s pointing? ;)


2010 Challenge Status:
* Book # 17 out of 100 for 2010

→ Get Coffeehouse Angel by Suzanne Selfors from
→ Suzanne Selfors’ website