Minis: 2015 reads, so far

So in an effort to revive this blog out of silence, here’s another post! I thought I’d write about the books I read in the first months of 2015, just so I could catch up. Consider this a Minis post, although mini-er, because I’m going to try to sum  up my thoughts for each book I’ve read in 5 sentences, or less. :)

My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories edited by Stephanie Perkins
St. Martin’s Griffin | 320 pages | Ebook

Cute collection of holiday love stories, and it was a very good companion for the Christmas season. Not a super fan of all stories, though,  but I didn’t expect I’ll love all anyway. Favorite stories: Midnights by Rainbow Rowell, Polaris is Where You’ll Find Me by Jenny Han, Welcome to Christmas, CA by Kiersten White (loved the small town setting), and Star of Bethlehem by Ally Carter. :) Best paired with a mug of hot chocolate (as long as the weather is cool enough). :)

I sang because that is what I do when I am happy and when I’m sad. I sang because it is who I am when I am being the best possible version of me. I sang because I wasn’t alone as I held Aunt Mary’s hand. I sang because it was Christmas. (Star of Bethlehem by Ally Carter)

Rating:

* * *

Navigating EarlyNavigating Early by Clare Vanderpool
Delacorte Books for Young Readers | 306 pages | Ebook

TFG’s F2F book for the month for January. Lots of suspension of disbelief in this one, with their adventures. It’s a good read about family and grief and friendship, but

“I got lost.”
“I know, but you found your way back. Finding your way back doesn’t mean you always know where you’re going. It’s knowing how to find your way back home that’s important.”

Rating: 

* * *

Love Walked In by Marisa de los Santos
Dutton | 307 pages | Hardbound

A reread of one of my favorites for TFG’s February discussion. I still loved this as much as I did before, even if I knew what was going to happen. The other opinions of my book club friends did remind me of how some things happened conveniently for Cornelia’s sake. But even so, I loved the writing, and I still have a huge crush on Teo Sandoval. I think the sequel, Belong to Me, is still better than this. :)

Watching Teo ahead of her carrying the bag and turning around to smile, she understood what the difference was, such a simple change: She’d been alone for a long time; she wasn’t alone anymore.

Rating: 

* * *

Better Off Friends by Elizabeth Eulberg 
Point | 276 pages | Paperback, borrowed

Read this as a reference for a writing project, borrowed from my friend Kai. This was cute, in so many ways. Slow in some parts, but still rewarding in the end. :)

Rating: 

* * *

painteddesertsThrough Painted Deserts: Light, God, and Beauty on the Open Road by Donald Miller
Thomas Nelson | 272 pages | Ebook/Audio

I’ve had this on hold for a year, and finally read it again this  year because of some life changes that happened to me. In signature Don Miller style, he talked about a road trip and all the little things that he learned from this, and somehow made it relevant to everyone. I really liked this, and while it didn’t make me want to sell everything and pack up to go to a road trip, it made me more excited to set off on little adventures, figuratively and literally. :)

I think we are supposed to stand in deserts and marvel at how the sun rises. I think we are supposed to sleep in meadows and watch stars dart across space and time. I think we are supposed to love our friends and introduce people to the story, to the peaceful, calming why of life. I think life is spirituality.

Rating: 

* * *

Shine by Candy Gourlay
Anvil | 232 pages | Paperback

This was magical and a bit dark, almost like a Tall Story  grew older and tackled a few more issues. I liked how Candy wrote it all, though, and I was truly invested in Rosa and her family, and I wanted to them to get their happy ending. I really liked the setting, too – always raining? That’s us during July to September. ;)

Rating: 

* * *

tgostThe God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
Random House | 333 pages | Paperback

This is one of those books that I have on my “I-should-read-this-sometime-in-my-lifetime” list, and I’m glad I finally had the chance to read it. This is a story about a family, and Love Laws, and India. Beautifully written, it examines what happens to families who try not to fall apart but still do. It’s a little bit sad, though, but still beautiful, and it helped that we had a really great discussion about this after in the book club. :)

…the secret of Great Stories is that they have no secrets. The Great Stories are the ones you have heard and want to hear again. The ones you can enter anywhere and inhabit comfortably. They don’t deceive you with thrills and trick endings. They don’t surprise you with the unforeseen….In the Great Stories you know who lives, who dies, who finds love, who doesn’t. And yet you want to know again.

Rating: 

* * *

Aaand there! Whew. All of them are 4-star books, huh. Interesting. I hope I can write a full review on my next post.  :)

Champions

championsChampions by Karren Renz Sena
The Lost Chronicles of Eden # 1
Publisher: Shepherd’s Voice Publications
Number of pages: 212
My copy: paperback, bought

IN WAR, HEROES ARE MADE. LEGENDS ARE BORN. CHAMPIONS WILL RISE.

Present day, Cielos, the city closest to heaven. The Sword of Sargatanas has been stolen from the most powerful stronghold in Cielterra. When used at a time when the planets align, the sword has the power to open Gate Pandora and unleash unto the Worlds legions upon legions of monsters and beasts from hell.

Present day, location undisclosed. One clueless Human acquaints himself with the barrel of a gun—belonging to the woman he almost fell in love with, no less—and finds himself kidnapped and whisked to a world standing on the brink of war.

The Worlds—both visible and invisible to us—are in danger. The Towers that guard the Flaming Sword of Eden have chosen the heroes. It just so happened that the heroes aren’t really… hero-material. Not at all.

Seven angry, sarcastic, violent, belligerent, uncaring and uncompassionate young men and women were forced to team up to stop a possible apocalypse from happening. As they journey towards the Far West to retrieve the stolen sword, the seven Champions brave one trial after another (including, but not limited to, falling in love with ill-tempered bullies) and ultimately find out what it means to become a true hero.

* * *

(Well, would you look at that, an actual review from me. At the start of the year. Good job, self!)

I heard of Champions by Karren Renz Sena from a fellow book blogger who was tweeting about the book when she was reading it. I noted it, seeing as it was published by Shepherd’s Voice Publications, a local Catholic publishing house that I used to write for, and it was fiction – something new from them. It took me until after Christmas to get myself a copy, and I decided to read it while I was in the jeepney on the way home, and then I couldn’t stop.

Champions is a story of seven men and women who were put together in a team to help retrieve the Sword of Sargatanas, a powerful weapon that is locked up in Cielterra, the stronghold of Cielos, the city closest to Heaven. This sword, when used on the day that the planets aligned, has the capacity to tear open the boundaries between dimensions, and when used on Gate Pandora, will unleash demons  and monsters from Hell. These seven men and women – called Champions – are the only hope for this to be stopped, and to retrieve the Sword. One of these Champions is a Human called Gabriel, kidnapped from his life in Earth and brought to a battle that he didn’t ask for, but even so, he felt that he somehow belonged. Perhaps this was the link to his past that he has been looking for all along?

Champions was fun. This is your good old fantasy novel with Christian references that is so well-written that I think anyone who just likes fantasy and action will just really sink their teeth into this. Though there were times when it felt like there were too many switches in the POVs as I was placed in the heads of almost all the characters, it was still quite fun, and I think the author did that to lay the foundation for the series. It gave me a bit of insight in every character, but I hope the next books in the series will focus on say, one or two instead of all of them so I’ll be able to understand what makes these characters tick. If I were to pick a favorite, I really like the human Gabriel, followed by Solenn who seemed all fire at first but had a big heart inside of her. I would also love to learn more about Matteo, as I always felt affectionate to any group’s tech guy. Oh, and I loved the judges – Samson, Gideon, and Deborah. Their banter was so fun. :D

As I said, the world building here was good, and I really liked the idea of how Eden was set to be the most protected place, and how Cielos being the city closest to Heaven, is the one in charge of its protection. This book makes the Bible seem more alive, and I love how the names used here were from the Bible – Samson, Gideon, Deborah, Memorare, Ark of the Covenant, Passover, etc etc. The names don’t feel out of place, and even the things that they do – rallying aka worship, prayer and meditation – felt like they just fit right into the story, and not a bit preachy.

I wanted more at the end, especially after the revelations about some characters. I am really glad this is a series, so the next question is: when will the next book be out? Please let it be soon!

Number of dog-eared pages: 5

Favorite dog-eared quotes:

Someday, you kids will realize that heroes  do not need elaborate costumes or superpowers. Sometimes all it takes is a good heart and a strong faith. (p. 38)

“Samson, you are the murderer of my joy,” Gideon said. “I’m severing our friendship as of this moment. May your heart break at the loss of my friendship, and may you live a sad, lonely life for the rest of your days.”

“You have severed it repeatedly over the years,” Samson said. “Forgive me if my heart is used to the loss of your friendship.” (p. 72)

Rating:

Other reviews:
My Book Musings

The Dream Thieves

The Dream Thieves by Maggie StiefvaterThe Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater
The Raven Cycle # 2
Publisher: Scholastic
Number of pages: 439
My copy: paperback ARC, gift from Scholastic Philippines

Now that the ley lines around Cabeswater have been woken, nothing for Ronan, Gansey, Blue, and Adam will be the same.

Ronan, for one, is falling more and more deeply into his dreams, and his dreams are intruding more and more into waking life.

Meanwhile, some very sinister people are looking for some of the same pieces of the Cabeswater puzzle that Gansey is after…

* * *

So soon after I finished reading The Raven Boys, I grabbed The Dream Thieves from my shelf and started reading, so, so thankful that Scholastic sent me a review copy of this last Christmas. I really enjoyed the first book so much that I just have to read the next one. I couldn’t get enough of Blue and Gansey and Adam and Ronan and Noah, and I needed to know what was going to happen next.

The Dream Thieves started with an even more whimsical tone than its predecessor – now with Ronan as the focus. Ronan dropped a bombshell in the last book, which followed that this book would be mostly Ronan’s story. But there’s more than Ronan’s strangeness — there’s Adam dealing with what he did at the end of the first book, and Noah, still silent but moreso than usual. Then there’s Gansey, still with his relentless search for Glendower the sleeping King, and Blue, who finds herself getting more and more entangled with these Aglionby boys.

There are more characters in this book, and all of them somehow shone on their own right. I loved how Maggie Stiefvater characterized Ronan’s siblings, and the villains, particularly the Gray Man. I really love how his story developed, and in the end, I was kind of sure that he’s one of my favorite villains now. Then there’s more of Blue’s family – all the psychic fun stuff, but also her loving relationship with her mom, Maura, who also played a bigger role in the story.

I think I kind of fell in love with Gansey here, but more because of him and Blue. While I was reading the first book, I wasn’t sure which side to pick for Blue, but after this, I am pretty sure I am on Team Gansey. ♥ (I like him so much that I named my phone after him. Heh)

The Dream Thieves start out really slow, probably even slower than The Raven Boys, and I admit that I stopped reading it for a while because real life got in the way. But when I went back to reading, it was easy to slip back into the world of ley lines and sleeping kings, and you have to trust me on this – the build up is so worth it. :)

How soon till the next book comes out?

Number of dog-eared pages: 20

Favorite dog-eared quotes:

In that moment, Blue was a little in love with all of them. Their magic. Their quest. Their awfulness and strangeness. Her raven boys.

Rating:

Other reviews:
The Midnight Garden
The Nocturnal Library

Required Reading: June 2014…or the lack of it

Look at that, May passed by and I say hello to June, but I can still see my Required Reading post from last month!

Really, you have to believe me. I was really all set to get more reading done, to get more books reviewed up here and all that jazz…but life happened. The short version is I applied and got accepted for a new role at work and my relatively relaxed work life went from zero to haywire as I transitioned into the new role. I’ve only been here for almost two weeks and it feels like a month already. How is that?

Oh, and there was also that Japan trip that was all sorts of lovely, and I will blog about it in my other blog…when I get the time. (Hopefully, soon.)

But I did do some reading, mostly at the start of the month. Here are the books I finished:

  • The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater (5/5) – I had to put this on hold sometime late April, but I picked it up again and I loved everything that happened in the end. I can’t wait for the next book! Gansey! ♥
  • We Were Liars by E. Lockhart (4/5) – Finished reading this the night before I left for Japan and I was all: !!!!!!!!!!
  • The Joy of the Gospel (Evangelii Gaudium) by Pope Francis (4/5) – Chunkier compared to The Light of Faith, and had a bit more technicalities when it comes to preaching, but it was still lovely and very practical. :)
  • Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell (3/5) – I read this in the midst of all the craziness at work, because my brain could only handle something light. This wasn’t as light as I thought it would be, but it was still lovely in so many ways.

I am still currently reading the following:

  • Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen – really liking this, and now it makes me wonder why I never read this before. Oh, maybe because it suits me better this time. :))
  • To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf – I marked this as “on hold” on my Goodreads, but I will read this again. As soon as this craziness settles down.
  • Dust City by Robert Paul Weston – I have this on my nightstand, I started reading it, but got distracted by Fangirl.

See, it wasn’t so bad. Except that I’m still getting my footing for my new role and there’s a lot of stuff to do and learn right now that I have put my reading on the backseat. Like on weekends. Or over breakfast. This happens, right?

Required Reading: June 2014

Which brings me to this month’s Required Reading.

Or the lack of it, really.

I was thinking of what books I will read for the month, but then got distracted by the things I needed to do for work. I realized after a while that I’m not sure how much time I will have to read this month because we have major events to focus on at work…so I have decided (and it’s sort of an easy decision, too) to do what I did last March and have no reading list this month.

There. I can’t promise to post updates this month but I will try. Really, I will. Maybe I’ll surprise you guys and myself. But if I don’t…well, don’t worry, I’m just here. :) Here’s to a crazy busy happy June. :)

The Raven Boys

The Raven Boys by Maggie StiefvaterThe Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
The Raven Cycle # 1
Publisher: Scholastic
Number of pages: 409
My copy: paperback, gift from Scholastic Philippines

“There are only two reasons a non-seer would see a spirit on St. Mark’s Eve,” Neeve said. “Either you’re his true love . . . or you killed him.”

It is freezing in the churchyard, even before the dead arrive.

Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue herself never sees them—not until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks directly to her.

His name is Gansey, and Blue soon discovers that he is a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble.

But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can’t entirely explain. He has it all—family money, good looks, devoted friends—but he’s looking for much more than that. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents all the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul who ranges from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher of the four, who notices many things but says very little.

For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She never thought this would be a problem. But now, as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.

* * *

The first time I heard about The Raven Boys, I wasn’t really that curious. I read some of Maggie Stiefvater’s books, but I wasn’t a super duper fan unlike others. I received the book as a gift, but I let it sit in my TBR for a long time, and every time I see it (just like when I see other books on my TBR, actually), I tell myself that I will read it, one day. One day. That day finally came when I realized that I’ve been reading too much on Hannah the Kindle and I wanted to feel pages in my fingers, so I picked a book randomly from my TBR pile. I picked The Raven Boys, scanned through the first chapter and decided to read it.

Blue Sargeant belongs to a family of psychics, but she’s not one. She couldn’t see or hear or predict anything, but she comes along with them because she could amplify their powers. Every year, on St. Mark’s Eve, Blue goes with her mother in the church yard where they watch and get the names of all the soon-to-be-dead as they walk along the corpse road. That night, instead of Blue’s mother, her aunt Neeve comes in her stead, and for the first time ever, Blue sees someone, and this soon-to-be-dead boy speaks to her. The thing is, Blue has always been told that she would kill her true love with a kiss, so seeing this boy and speaking to him made her even more determined to stay far away from him. But her path crosses with this boy, Gansey, warm and alive and also an Aglionby boy, one of the rich ones from the private school nearby. Even if she vowed to stay away, she finds herself drawn to him, and to his three friends Adam, Ronan, and Noah, in their quest to find a magical line and a supposedly long-dead Welsh king.

People told me that the book starts out slow, and I need to be patient, so I thought it was going to be a slow read. Lo and behold, I was finished after two days. It was that good, my friends. (Or, I just really needed a breather from all the “heavier” books I’ve been reading.)

One thing I really loved about Maggie Stiefvater’s books is the writing, in all her beautifully descriptive, mood-setting prose. That is still present in The Raven Boys,but instead of it setting the scene like in The Scorpio Races, most of the words were used to describe the characters, the real stars of the book. I loved how each character came alive soon after they were introduced in the book. Their voices were clear and unique, and you knew exactly who she was referring to and who was speaking in the entire text. I loved how there were more points of view here, and I read how one character saw another — even if most of the POVs switch from Blue to Gansey to Adam. I didn’t exactly feel like I was one of them when I read this; it was more like I was given a chance to see and observe them privately, hovering around the corners and seeing how they interact with one another.

And I loved it. I loved all the characters, from Blue to her family and to the boys and their own complicated lives. I remember not being able to choose between Gansey and Adam, and hardly paying attention to the other two boys but later they grew on me, and I loved them fiercely as Blue did (although she wouldn’t really admit that yet). I liked their friendship – how the boys all look out for each other and are solidly on each other’s side especially when others threatened one of them. I think everyone’s made this comparison already, but the boys really reminded me of the boys in the movie The Covenant, and my friend Kai and I even tried to match each of the Raven Boys to the Witches of Ipswich. :D

I was surprised at how fast I read The Raven Boys, but I wasn’t really surprised with how much I liked it. I think halfway through the book, I was already convinced that I would like it, anyway. And I was so, so glad that I had its sequel, The Dream Thieves, on my TBR when I was done reading. Gimme more, please. :)

Number of dog-eared pages: 16

Favorite dog-eared quotes:

The key, Gansey found, was that you had to believe that they existed; you had to realize that they were a part of something bigger. Some secrets only gave themselves up to those who’d proven themselves worthy.

When Gansey was polite, it made him powerful. When Adam was polite, he was giving power away.

“You’re the table everyone wants at Starbucks,” Gansey mused as he began to walk again.
Blue blinked. “What?”
Over his shoulder, Gansey said, “Next to the wall plug.”

My words are unerring tools of destruction and I’ve come unequipped with the ability to disarm them.

Rating: 

Other reviews:
Angieville
Book Harbinger
Amaterasu Reads