Faves of TwentyEleven: The Scenes

It’s time for another installment of the Faves of TwentyEleven series. This is hosted by Nomes of Inkcrush and it’s all about our reading favorites for the past year. :) If you missed my other posts, here they are:

I’m really a day late from posting this, but Nomes said to have fun and not worry about being on schedule…so there. On to the next list!

Day Three: The Scenes

Note: I can tell from now: this list is really going to make me wish I made notes about the books I read this year. *facepalm* Oh well. :)

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Faves of TwentyEleven: The Books

I remember making my own set of best-of lists for last year, but this year I don’t have that same gimmick, so I’ll ride on other bloggers’ gimmicks instead. Ha. Here’s my first post for the Faves of Twenty Eleven hosted by Nomes of inkcrush! :)

Day One: The Books

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Forbidden

Forbidden by Ted Dekker and Tosca Lee

Forbidden by Ted Dekker by Tosca Lee
The Books of Mortals # 1
Publisher: Center Street
Number of pages:  384
My copy: ebook, review copy from Netgalley

A terrible truth has been revealed to one man: the entire human race has been drained of every emotion except one– fear. To bring life back to the world, Rom must embark on a journey that will end either in his own demise or a reawkening of humanity.  But to bring love and passion back into existence will also threaten the powers of the world with the revolution and anarchy that had nearly destroyed them previously.

After happening upon a journal through strange circumstance,  Rom’s world is shattered. He learns that humanity long ago ceased to “live,” that it exists today in a living death of emotions. In a terrible risk, Rom exposes himself to the vial of blood folded into the old leather of the journal. His change is fearful and fraught with mind-bending emotion. A once-pious observer of the Order’s passionless statues, he is filled with uncontrollable impulses. He is filled with love.

He is undone, terrified, and alone in the desolate world.

My supply of Christian fiction has sort of run low ever since I started reading more YA books, so new books from my favorite Christian authors are always exciting and squee-worthy. One of the dream team-ups I had ever since last year when the news went out was Ted Dekker and Tosca Lee, and I have waited with anticipation over this book, Forbidden. Imagine my excitement when I saw that the book was available in Netgalley.

In the year 2005, geneticists discovered that there is a certain gene in our DNA that controlled the emotion of fear, further leading to the discovery of other genes that control other kinds of emotions. After a war that devastated the world, humanity vowed to destroy everything that led to that war, particularly the emotions that come with it — love, joy, passion, anger, hatred, sorrow. Out of all emotions, only fear was allowed to survive. And because of this, peace reigned.

480 years later, we meet Rom Sebastian, a simple, ordinary man who sings songs for the dead. On his way home from a funeral, he meets an old man who tells him of an Order called Keepers and leaves a vial of blood wrapped in a vellum with strange symbols. Citadel Guards caught up with them and to Rom’s horror, they killed the man. Soon Rom is on the run from the guards with his childhood friend Avra, confused and scared to why they were running away. When he decides to drink some of the blood in the vial he carried, long-forgotten emotion surface within him together with the fear that he has been so used to feeling: sorrow. Anger. Passion. And most of all, love.

Early into the first pages of Forbidden, I couldn’t help but compare this book with Delirium by Lauren Oliver. Both books have the same premise and almost the same environment. But where Delirium lacks, Forbidden totally makes up. The world building in this book is solid, so real, and contains the signature Dekker that I have known and loved. I found that the world building here makes the idea of a world operated by fear because of genetic means more plausible as compared to that where “love is illegal and I’d have to cut a vague area under your ear to get that love out”. This book had touches of Dekker’s Circle series, with the countries and royalties and guards and the people. The composition of the world contains both ancient and modern elements that somehow mesh together really well — from advanced alchemy to the hierarchy order of the Brahmin. This somehow gives the readers a clue that while it is set in the future, it doesn’t mean that it is actually advanced. Maybe the truth is, the world is going backwards because of the fear that the people were kept in.

Add to the world building, we have the fleshed out characters, which I think is Tosca Lee’s expertise. I liked how different and conflicted the characters were — Rom with his good heart, Avra’s loyalty, Neah’s hesitation, Triphon’s bravery. Feyn’s wisdom, Sarric’s greed, Jonathan’s innocence. These all seem like typical character traits, and I have to admit that some of the characters’ actions were predictable, but I think they were able to give life to them. People may be a bit turned off with the jubilant exaltation of emotions that some characters did in the book, but I thought it was forgivable as they’ve never experienced emotion like that before. Taking the reactions of the characters in this context, it wouldn’t seem exaggerated but just right. These characters were also involved in the right amount of action that it made me cringe and be surprised a couple of times. There was a particular part in the book that got me shaking my fist, but knowing I was in the hands of good writers, I know well enough to trust them.

Forbidden is very, very good. So what’s keeping me from giving it five stars? Well, it may be just me, but I cannot shake off the similarity of this with the Circle series. Also, this book feels just a tad like a prequel rather than the real first book. While there is action, I felt the climax and the ending was just a little anticlimactic. Perhaps I was expecting more…erm, bloodshed there? Not that there wasn’t enough bloodshed earlier, but I just thought there would be more there. However, that may be just because Dekker and Lee are preparing us for the next book in the trilogy. And the ending really did leave a lot of loose ends that I’m sure will be picked up and played with in the next book.

The Keeper by Ted Dekker and Tosca LeeIf you’re still not sure if you want to splurge on this, the authors have released a short story prequel to Forbidden, entitled The Keeper, available for free as an ebook. In this short story, a man named Talus meets two hermit monk brothers who he chooses to share the terrible secret that he has been carrying, to recruit them in helping protect the knowledge that will save humanity. This short story is a very quick read, and if you’ve read Forbidden before reading this, there’s really nothing much to surprise you here. However, I think that it gives those who have yet to read the first Book of Mortals a chance to taste Dekker’s world building and Lee’s characters. I have a feeling that reading The Keeper will make you want to know more about what this secret is and if Talus ever succeeded with his mission. Also, if you have read the Circle series (Black, Red, White, Green), you will spot a very familiar name in this short story that will probably make you say, “I knew it!” Then the story of Forbidden suddenly makes more sense.

I will finish this review with a quote from the book that pretty much sums up the message of this book:

This is the mystery of it. Life is lived on the ragged edge of the cliff. Fall off and you might die, but run from it and you are already dead!

Forbidden by Ted Dekker and Tosca Lee is now out in paperback and hardbound in all stores. In the Philippines, I saw some trade paperback copies of it in Fully Booked. Must. Get. Finished. Copy!
Rating:
Forbidden –
The Keeper

My copy:
Forbidden – e-ARC from Netgalley
The Keeper –
ebook from Amazon Kindle store

Other reviews:
The Violet Hour
Unveiled
Birth of a New Witch

In My Mailbox (17): Goodreads Meet-Up

A day and a year ago, I met some of my now favorite people, the Filipino Group from Goodreads. Back then, we were just 12 in the meet-up:

gr-filipinosYesterday was the 5th meet-up of the group, and it was…well, monumental. I mean, compare the number last year to this year (thanks to Book Elf for the photo):

Class picture? :P

It was loads of fun, as usual, and like all other meet-ups, we were all crazy talking to each other and grabbing books everywhere. I was a zombie that day because I just came from night shift, but that didn’t mean it was less fun. I was just a bit lot loopy while it was all happening. :P We ended up staying until closing time in SM Megamall, and then some more walking after that before I finally crashed at my brother’s place to sleep and prepare for the 10k race the next day. See why I’m so sleepy now? :D

But I digress. As with all Goodreads meet-ups I’ve been to, there is always a rainshower of books. I don’t have a picture of the stash, but it was huge, to the point that some people don’t want to take the remaining ones anymore. And to those who got so many were all complaining of heavy baggage. :P

Anyway, I really liked my book stash yesterday. All of them were books that I really wanted to read:

  • What is Goodbye by Nikki Grimes – thanks Kuya Doni!
  • Song of the Sparrow by Lisa Ann Sandell – I don’t know who put this in the book pile, but thank you! I was already eying this one during the interview with the guests, and when our team won in the literary quiz, this was the first book I grabbed. :D
  • The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro – I don’t know who put this in the pile either, but I didn’t see it. Monique saw it, though, and she was kind enough to grab it for me. :)
  • Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock – thanks again to Monique! :) She saw this in Book Sale just as I put it on my wish list and got it for me.
  • The Year of Secret Assignments by Jaclyn Moriarty – from Aaron. He was putting this up for swap, I think? I used my “charms” to get it from him instead. LOL.
  • Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley – borrowed from Chachic. I cannot wait to read this. :)
  • Pink by Lili Wilkinson – borrowed from Celina. Yay Aussie YA. :)

I also finally got to meet Mina V. Esguerra in person, as well as Samantha Sotto, who will launch her debut, Before Ever After, this week. I got my copy of My Imaginary Ex signed by Mina (someone has a picture of us somewhere, so I’ll get that when they post it :D), and while I wasn’t able to get a book signed by Samantha, I’m definitely picking it up soon. :)

Oh, I also got some ebooks this week, and again, they’re books I am really excited about:

Forbidden by Ted Dekker and Tosca LeeSaving June by Hannah Harrington

  • Forbidden by Ted Dekker and Tosca Lee
  • Saving June by Hannah Harrington

I still badly need sleep now, but this weekend is definitely one for the books — literally, and figuratively. ;)

I hope you all had an awesome weekend! Have a great week everybody! :)

Armchair BEA 2011: Best Reads (So Far)

Armchair BEAHappy second day of Armchair BEA! :) It was fun blog hopping through the intro posts yesterday, and I’m not yet done checking them out. Talk about busy!

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to prepare a giveaway today, so instead, I’ll be writing about some of my best reads in 2011. Not all of them were published in 2011, though — some of these books here have been in TBR pile since God-knows-when. It feels nice when you pick a book there and you come out loving it in the end, right? :)

Here are five of my best reads in 2011:

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo IshiguroAh this is one of those books that I never thought I’d enjoy reading, but was totally, absolutely blown away when I was done. I loved how simple and haunting it was, and how it leaves you with lingering thoughts on the characters life and how it all ended. The movie was also just as good (and depressing!), but go for the book first. If you haven’t read this one, I suggest you put it in one of your books.

Never Let Me Go is one book that truly did not let me go (no pun intended). It reeled me in with its simplicity and refused to let me move on long after I finished with the last page.

Havah: The Story of Eve by Tosca Lee

Havah: The Story of Eve by Tosca LeeI’ve had this book since forever, but it kind of slipped under my TBR pile until I unearthed it late last year. Since Tosca Lee is coming up with a new book this year (with Ted Dekker!) and another one next year, I figured it’s about time to read this. Oh, and it was such a beautiful adventure. Havah is definitely one book that spoke to my heart.

I can say that reading Havah became more than just leisurely reading but almost a personal journey. Eve, christened as Havah by the adam because she “…will live, and all who live will come from [her], and [she] will give birth to hope.” (p. 102), spoke to my heart as she told her story.

Unearthly by Cynthia Hand

Unearthly by Cynthia HandI rarely read YA paranormal romance because honestly, I’ve gotten tired of the genre. If it wasn’t for the good reviews of blogger friends who also don’t read much paranormal romance, I would never have picked this up. Unearthly had a good set of characters, solid mythology and a healthy romance, and the story’s very engaging, too. :)

If you’re planning to pick up a paranormal romance novel soon, or if you want something to surprise you, then definitely get this book. Take it from someone who’s given up on paranormal romance — this is one of the good ones. ;)

The Last DragonSlayer by Jasper Fforde
The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper FfordeJasper Fforde has been one of my favorite, favorite writers of all time. When news came out that he was coming out with a YA book, I was thrilled. I was lucky enough to snag a copy of this as soon as Fully Booked had it, and this book seriously saved me from a slump. If you love Fforde, you’ll enjoy this one. If you’re new to Fforde, The Last Dragonslayer is the best book to get your feet wet. :) Quark! :3

This book had everything I loved about Jasper Fforde. The best thing about his novels is how real they are even in their impossibility. Fforde writes in such a deadpan manner that you just can’t help but believe what he writes no matter how outrageous they all seem to be.

Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

Jellicoe Road by Melina MarchettaI love contemporary YA, but I’ve surprisingly never read any Marchetta. My first Marchetta was actually Saving Francesca, and I loved it. But when I read Jellicoe Road, I was blown away. This is one book that you’d want to reread immediately after finishing it. This book made me love the contemporary YA genre more, and it made Melina Marchetta my auto-buy authors.

While I was going through the first part of the book, I wasn’t really sure if I would like it as much as my other bookish friends did. When I closed the last page, I was sure that I had just as much love for this book as they do…reading this book was like breaking my heart and then putting it back together again.

I’ve learned that I’ve become a bit more critical with my book reviewing this time around. Back when I first started my blog, I used to give five-star ratings for many books and I was hesitant to give lower ratings even if I didn’t really like the book. But after some time, I’ve become…I don’t know how you call it, braver? Have you experienced that, too?

These are just five of the best books I’ve read in 2011. I have a separate shelf in my Goodreads account so I can keep track of them and list-making is easier by the end of the year. :) And even if I can’t be physically present in BEA this year, I know I’ll still be able to get copies of the books they’ll be featuring there some day, and I look forward to reading more good books this year. :)