Required Reading: February 2014 + January Recap

Hello, and happy February! How was your January? I hope it was filled with joy and lots of good books. :)

Before I go to the books I read in January, and the books I will read for February, let me talk about some things first. You know, for a change, to shake things up. :D

First off: the Bloggy Birthday Giveaway Winner!

I meant to announce this earlier, but life and work got in the way. Eeps, sorry about that! But thank you to everyone who greeted and left recommendations in my blog’s birthday post. You just made my wish list longer! :) Here are the recommendations:

  • From Goldie: I Want to Go Home by Gordon Korman, Airport by Arthur Hailey, Can You Keep a Secret by Sophie Kinsella, and The Awakening by Kate Chopin
  • From Maria: A Little Wanting Song by Cath Crowley
  • From Louize: The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
  • From Bennard: Self-Help by Lorrie Moore
  • From Monique: Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
  • From Lynai: Hinds’ Feet in High Places by Hannah Hurnard
  • From Tin: Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis
  • From Chris: The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker
  • From Kat: The Devil and Miss Prym by Paolo Coelho

Thanks so much for the recommendations! :) I will find a way to read all of sometime (probably not this year, but I will find a way :P). Thank you so much for the well-wishes for the blog, too.

And now the winner, thanks to random.org:

Chris

Yay, congrats, Chris! I will send you an email about this soon (and figure out what will go in the package :D).

Second: First Book Club Discussion for 2014 + Book Club Feature

Our book club had our first discussion for the year last January 18. We talked about The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman, and we dared each other to read books. It was a fun afternoon, as always, except that my immune system gave in the middle of the discussion, so I started to get sick by the end of it. Massive headache, followed by my voice going away, perhaps as a sign not to speak! ^^;

TFG's F2F25 - Photo c/o Joy

TFG’s F2F25 – Photo c/o Joy

Thanks to everyone who attended, and thanks to The Appraisery in Cubao X for the venue! :)

Speaking of the book club, we were featured in Wanderrgirl! :)

TFG at Wanderrgirl

TFG at Wanderrgirl (And that photo there is so family-ish)

My friend Isa asked if I could write about the book club for Wanderrgirl last December, so of course I said yes. :) It was an absolute surprise to see it posted yesterday. Click here to read the entire post (and yes, I may have gone a bit sappy there :’) )!

Third: January Required Reading Recap

I did say that I read more in January, and true enough, I finished 8 books. 10, if you count the rereads. Of course, two of them were pretty short, but still. :) I was quite surprised that I finished two nonfiction books, too. And wrote a bit more reviews than I did in the past months. :D

  • History in English Words by Owen Barfield (3/5) – My first Barfield was an interesting reading experience. I promised I’d write a review, so I’ll save all other thoughts for that. :)
  • The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman (5/5) – just as lovely as the first time.
  • Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brené Brown (4/5) – So, so powerful. This made me laugh, nod, and cry at so many parts.
  • The Lucy Variations by Sara Zarr (4/5) – I really missed reading contemporary YA, and I’m so glad I had Sara Zarr to fall back on. Really liked this one. :)
  • Gunmetal Magic by Ilona Andrews (3/5) – A fun romp back into Kate Daniels’ world. :)

I’ve managed to get ahead with my quantity reading goal, so I can sort of rest easy for a while. I think. :D

Fourth: February Required Reading

February 2014 Required Reading

And now we go to my February reading list! I used to always go for the love theme for February, but this year I sort of decided not to go too much into it. Oh, there’s still love in some of the books I will read, but I won’t go all sappy and read too many romance novels this time around. Like I said, just to shake things up a little. :)

feb2014books

  • The Zigzag Effect by Lili Wilkinson – I’ve tried to read this before in previous challenges but I never picked it up because I lagged behind from the other books. Oops. :D
  • Cathedral by Raymond Carver – Our book club is reading What We Talk About When We Talk About Love this month, but since I’ve already read that, I thought of picking up this book instead.
  • The History of Love by Nicole Krauss – And there’s my “love” book for February. I’ve heard rave reviews about this book from book club friends, so I’m pretty sure I will be in for a treat.

And there you go. This is quite a long post! I hope you all have a delightful, love-filled February. :)

Gunmetal Magic

Gunmetal Magic by Ilona AndrewsGunmetal Magic by Ilona Andrews
Kate Daniels # 5.5
Publisher: Ace
Number of pages: 326
My copy: mass market paperback, from Book Depository

After being kicked out of the Order of the Knights of Merciful Aid, Andrea’s whole existence is in shambles. She tries to put herself back together by working for Cutting Edge, a small investigative firm owned by her best friend. When several shapeshifters working for Raphael Medrano—the male alpha of the Clan Bouda, and Andrea’s former lover—die unexpectedly at a dig site, Andrea is assigned to investigate. Now she must work with Raphael as her search for the killer leads into the secret underbelly of supernatural Atlanta. And dealing with her feelings for him might have to take a back seat to saving the world…

* * *

I’ve had Gunmetal Magic on my shelf for a long time now, and but I don’t really know why I never picked it up as fast as I ought to, especially since I love the universe this was written in. But I guess I was too busy to pick it up, and I didn’t feel the need to hurry, because the next Kate was far from the release date when I got this, and frankly, I wasn’t really sure if I would like being in Andrea’s head as much I liked being in Kate.

Andrea Nash is Kate Daniels’ best friend, a former member of the Order of the Knights of the Merciful Aid, loves her weapons, and a beastkin. Oh, and she also has a broken heart because her boyfriend, Clan Bouda’s male alpha, Raphael Medrano, left her after a particularly bad fight. So now Andrea tries to pick herself up by working with Kate on their private investigative firm. When shapeshifters were found dead, Andrea takes on the case. Never mind that these shapeshifters were working for her ex-boyfriend, and never mind that Andrea was never over him. She has work to do, and her feelings are just secondary…right?

As with all other Kate Daniels books that I’ve read in the past, this one was fun. It was fun to be back in this version of Atlanta, to watch the magic rise and fall and technology fighting against this. I was more into the world of shapeshifters here, being that Andrea is sort of one, except that others view her as an abomination of sorts. Andrea is a tough girl, and there were a lot of reasons behind this toughness. She’s not just the girl who likes guns — she had reasons why. I liked Andrea from the previous books, and it was interesting to read a story from her POV. She’s just as snarky as Kate, and I guess best friends really rub off on each other because they sort of sound a like at some point.

The story was just what I expected from Ilona Andrews: myths, strange people and lots of crazy other things that all of them had to deal with. It was well thought out again, and there were always a lot of things at stake here, especially for Andrea. I loved that Roman the volhv was back — he’s such a crazy fun (and yeah, quite hot) character, and I wish he’d be in the other books, too. Doolittle was also fun here, especially the headbutt part! Hee.

Gunmetal Magic just felt a tad long at some parts, and I wasn’t completely gripped as I am with other Kate books. I liked Andrea, but after some time, I kind of wished I was back in Kate’s head again. I missed her brand of snark, I guess, plus I liked her sparring with Curran more than I did with Andrea and Raphael. Perhaps it’s different because the latter were both shapeshifters?

Overall, I enjoyed reading Gunmetal Magic. It’s a good addition to the Kate Daniels series, and I guess if I read this the moment I got it, it would have been enough to tide me over while waiting for the next Kate book. But since it took me a while to pick it up, I don’t have to wait too long to read the next Kate book because it’s already waiting for me in my TBR. :)

Number of dog-eared pages: 10

Favorite dog-eared quotes:

“That’s a lesson for you – when you get a chance to be happy, you take it and you treat the other person the way they deserve to be treated. Don’t take things for granted.” (p. 58)

“If it was sharpened and shorter, it might be a variation of a karambit, a curved knife from the Philippines.” (p. 140)

Rating:

rr2014-01

Other reviews:
Book Harbinger
Kirkus Reviews

2014 Reading Plan + January Required Reading

I meant to blog about this earlier, but I got too caught up in reading several books over the weekend that I sorta kinda forgot to blog. But better late than never! First off: HAPPY 2014, EVERYONE!

I’ve always liked New Year’s. One funny and surprising thing this year is I actually finished writing my 2014 goals hours before 2014 rolled around, and I suddenly felt so mature and on track for this year. So right now I’m declaring that 2014 will be a great year for me, for life in general and of course, for reading.

I think this year will be a little but busier than normal because I made some pretty huge commitments, so I will take it a little easier on the goals. Just a little, because I still want to be challenged, but I don’t want to be too challenged that it gets too pressuring. So, here we go, the 2014 reading goals:

52 Books

I set the same goal last year, and then I upped it to 75, and I almost didn’t make it. Oops! This year, I am sticking to 52 even if I reach half of it before July. Like I said, it’s going to be a bit busy this year, and 52 is a pretty manageable number. :)

3 Classics

I used to have a 5 classic books goal every year, but this time I’m trimming it to 3 because I never reach the 5! I mean, I did, but it was sort of cheating because I read children’s classic books. :D I’m going to set lower expectations and go for a lower number so I can read the other classics. I’m thinking it’s time to pick up another Austen (Sense & Sensibility, perhaps?) this year.

20 Filipino Books

I exceeded this goal last year, so this year it shouldn’t be too hard, right? I think I will try branching out from the contemporary romance genre and start reading those books that were assigned for Lit class in school back in college, just so I get to read some of them now without the school vibe over me. :D

I also realized that I hardly touched my print books last year because of Hannah the Kindle! So this year, I’m planning to read more print books and really get working on this TBR. I mean, I know I will still keep acquiring books, but it helps if I read some that I’ve had with me for years before I get more, right? Right? (It’s a good thing I only have like, 5 books that I really, really want to get this year. More on that on a later post. :D)

Other than that, I found that I also want to read a few more non-fiction this year, and (gasp) some financial books. I know, I’m surprised at this myself, but I’m not getting younger, and I realize it’s time to learn more about these grown-up things. :D

Of course Required Reading will still be here, which reminds me…

rr2014-01

I posted my January books on Instagram a few days back, and like I mentioned there, I always read more on January so I added a few books to the list. Of course one of them is a spillover from December and another is a reread, but that just gives me room to read more if I have time, right? :)

Books for January 2014

Books for January 2014

  • History in English Words by Owen Barfield – spillover from December, a book I’m reading as a favor to my good friend JL. 40 pages left!
  • The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman – Rereading this month for our book club’s January discussion
  • Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brené Brown – I loved her TED videos, and I was so thrilled to get a copy of her book. Loving every bit of it so far. :)
  • The Lucy Variations by Sara Zarr – some contemporary YA goodness from one of my favorite contemporary YA authors.
  • Gunmetal Magic by Ilona Andrews – because I missed Kate Daniels’ world and I want some good urban fantasy. It’s been a while since I read one.

And there you go. I’m tempted to make a reading list for the entire year, but I don’t want to be too strict on myself so I will just let myself pick whatever books I want to read every month for the next 12 months. Sounds like a good plan, yes? I can’t wait to discover more good books this year.

Have a happy 2014, friends, and happy reading!

 

 

Discount Armageddon

Discount Armageddon by Seanan McGuireDiscount Armageddon by Seanan McGuire
InCryptid # 1
Publisher: DAW
Number of pages: 352
My copy: paperback, ordered from Book Depository

Ghoulies. Ghosties. Long-legged beasties. Things that go bump in the night… The Price family has spent generations studying the monsters of the world, working to protect them from humanity-and humanity from them. Enter Verity Price. Despite being trained from birth as a cryptozoologist, she’d rather dance a tango than tangle with a demon, and is spending a year in Manhattan while she pursues her career in professional ballroom dance. Sounds pretty simple, right? It would be, if it weren’t for the talking mice, the telepathic mathematicians, the asbestos supermodels, and the trained monster-hunter sent by the Price family’s old enemies, the Covenant of St. George. When a Price girl meets a Covenant boy, high stakes, high heels, and a lot of collateral damage are almost guaranteed. To complicate matters further, local cryptids are disappearing, strange lizard-men are appearing in the sewers, and someone’s spreading rumors about a dragon sleeping underneath the city…

* * *

I’m a fan of Mira Grant, but I have never read any of her other novels that she wrote as Seanan McGuire. Or, rather, I liked Seanan McGuire’s books that she wrote as Mira Grant. But anyway, I haven’t read the October Daye series only because there are already a lot of books in the series and I kind of felt that if I started it and I liked it, I would have that compulsion to complete it, too. So when I heard that she had a new series coming out, I set my sights on it and eventually ordered it from Book Depository.

Verity Price comes from a long line of cryptozoologists, someone who studies and protects various kinds of ghouls, monsters and beasts (aka cryptids) from humanity and protect humanity from them. But all Verity wanted to do was dance. Given her interesting family history, however, she had to make a compromise — she stays in Manhattan to do her job as a Price, and she gets to dance under a completely different persona. It was a good enough deal, until she runs into one of her family’s enemies, a member of the Covenant of St. George. What’s more, local cryptids are starting to disappear, and there’s news of a dragon sleeping somewhere…how will Verity ever dance, now?

From the first page of Discount Armageddon, I knew I was going to have fun. There’s a lot of wit in the books reminiscent of what I read in the Newsflesh universe, but also a bit leveled-up because Verity seems to drip sarcasm all the time. I loved the banter between her and her family, her and her work mates, her and the cryptids in Manhattan and especially with the Covenant boy. I loved the quotes that start off each chapter, because it gives the story more depth and it makes me want to get to know their entire family history, too. Verity is the kind of heroine you’d definitely want to be on your side, and I like how loyal she is to her family and to her causes. She doesn’t have much issues, save for her need to dance, and that makes me like her just as much as I liked Kate Daniels.

The universe is also well-written. I loved all the cryptids that appeared in the book, and how each has their own personalities. It was a little confusing keeping track of them, but since this is the start of a series, it is pretty forgivable. There was just a time when I felt that the story was dragging too long, like the action should have been here but it happened a few pages later. The climax was action-packed and fun. I kind of predicted how things will unfold, but even so, I liked how things were wrapped up.

Discount Armageddon is a fun book, and urban fantasy lovers will get a kick out of this new universe. I’m not quite entirely sure if I want to read the rest of the series just yet, because that means I would have to wait a while to read the next ones. So maybe I should wait. Except that I heard that there’s a manananggal in the second book. Eee.

Oh, and I want my own Aeslin mice. HAIL!

Rating:

Other reviews:
Whimsical.nu
Specfic Romantic

White Cat

White Cat by Holly BlackWhite Cat by Holly Black
Curse Workers # 1
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Number of pages: 320
My copy: hardbound, bought from Fully Booked

Cassel comes from a family of Curse Workers – people who have the power to change your emotions, your memories, your luck, by the slightest touch of their hands. And since curse work is illegal, they’re all criminals. Many become mobsters and con artists. But not Cassel. He hasn’t got magic, so he’s an outsider, the straight kid in a crooked family. You just have to ignore one small detail – he killed his best friend, Lila, three years ago.

Cassel has carefully built up a facade of normalcy, blending into the crowd. But his facade starts to crumble when he finds himself sleepwalking, propelled into the night by terrifying dreams about a white cat that wants to tell him something. He’s noticing other disturbing things too, including the strange behavior of his two brothers. They are keeping secrets from him. As Cassel begins to suspect he’s part of a huge con game, he must unravel his past and his memories. To find out the truth, Cassel will have to out-con the conmen.

* * *

I’ve had White Cat on my TBR shelf for more than a year now, but since it’s hidden somewhere behind some of my figurines on my shelf, I forgot it existed until I was looking for something light but not quite fluffy to cleanse the reading palate and hopefully pull me out of a slump. And then I found this and realized how long it has been languishing on my shelf, so I brought it on my trip with some colleagues to the beach for some light reading.

In some ways, White Cat fulfilled that “light” read because it’s YA urban fantasy so it was quite easy to dive into the story. The hard part is that it’s all about con families that it’s kind of hard to figure out the twists in the story while I was enjoying my time at the beach.

But anyway. Cassel Sharpe comes from a family of Curse Workers — people who can do certain things to certain people by a slight touch of a hand. Cassel doesn’t have much to worry about though, since he’s the only non-Worker in the family. He seems the weirdest, though, with his strange dreams and sleepwalking, and oh, the fact that he killed his best friend, Lila, three years ago. Cassel tried to live as normally as he can — going to school, talking to his mom who’s in jail, helping out at his grandfather’s home by doing all sorts of chores — but things are getting stranger and stranger not just with him but around him, and he starts suspecting that he’s caught in a con game, and the only way to get out is to out-con the conmen.

White Cat was fun. It was easy enough to get into but not too easy to lose its substance and my interest in the world that Holly Black created. I liked the entire concept of Curse Workers, about how people can have certain abilities that can be used for good or bad, and how they’re all oppressed because of these abilities. It’s almost like they’re mutants or something, but I guess with more control? I also liked Cassel’s family, and how I was never really quite sure about which was real in the story. Were his brothers good or bad? Can he trust his grandfather? Is Cassel even trustworthy after everything? White Cat keeps the readers thinking, and I liked how it unfolded in the end.

While there’s romance in the story, there’s not too much romantic angst in it. There’s more teenage angst, but the characters are teenagers anyway, so it’s not a surprise. I liked the entire “mafia” feel of the book, about how family members stick together and basically the entire idea of a con. I loved how Cassel introduced how a con should be made and laughed at how they got through that particular scene to get the cat! White Cat is a smart YA urban fantasy novel with a very engaging unreliable narrator that would keep the readers guessing up until the satisfying end. While it’s not exactly a favorite read this year, I enjoyed reading it and I am willing to see it through the next two books in the series to know how Cassel’s story would play out. :)

Rating:

Other reviews:
Chachic’s Book Nook
Janicu’s Book Blog