Required Reading: August

And what do you know — another month has come and gone, and we’re now in August!

Now July. What a reading month it is. I think this is the month I’ve read the most books this year — a whopping 16. Plus this is also the first month in this entire year that I actually finished all of my Required Reading books way ahead of time. :) And that is 5 books to boot. Awesomeness. Now for the recap (reviews are linked to the titles!):

  • The God Box by Alex Sanchez – my first LGBT book, and it was pretty good. I liked how the Christian aspect was tackled, although I had some issues with the flatness of some of the characters.
  • The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart – Oh, I loved this book. Frankie is so smart and witty that I want to be her. Or be friends with her. Definitely one of the good uns. :)
  • Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers – What an intense novel this one is. I liked it, but it’s definitely not for light reading.
  • What My Mother Doesn’t Know by Sonya Sones – Now this one was also nice. I am really starting to like novels in verse, because they’re so quick to read and I feel like such a fast reader after I finish one in a few hours. Of course, who am I really fooling? Still, I will definitely pick up the sequel for this book.
  • Dark Blue by Melody Carlson – Ah, the only disappointment among these books I read. I wanted to like it, but it’s hard to like a book when the main character is so annoying.

I think July just goes to show how much of a contemporary reader I am. I practically breezed through these books, and I was surprised when I realized that I’m almost done and I had a full week ahead of me to read anything else. I will make a post about this in the future, but I think I can conclude that contemporary YA has always been my first love. :)

And now we head for August.

Required Reading: August

August is a very exciting month for me because I’ll be going on a major trip. For the benefit of those who don’t know me in person, or those who don’t follow my Twitter or my personal blog, I will be off to Europe for two weeks at the end of August. I’m joining the World Youth Day 2011 celebration in Madrid, Spain for a week, followed by some mission trips with my Catholic community for another week. It’s the first time I’ll be in Europe, so I figure that the best things to read for this month are those set in Europe as well. :) Like the following:

  1. Before Ever After by Samantha Sotto
  2. Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly
  3. No and Me by Delphine de Vigan

I’m only putting three books in the list this time because I’m quite sure there won’t be much reading time when I’m actually in Europe, except maybe for the flight and train rides. I’m also pretty sure I won’t be able to blog as much in the next weeks, and I’m not sure if I can bring my laptop (or even samsung netbooks) on my trip. Anyway, all three books has an element of Europe in them somewhere — let’s see if it will help me recognize those places in the books. :)

Oh, and I’m bending my rules here a bit — No and Me is also for the TwentyEleven challenge. :P Problem?

Happy August everyone! If you’re joining the challenge, leave a comment so I can include you in the round up! :)


The God Box

The God Box by Alex SanchezThe God Box by Alex Sanchez
Simon and Schuster, 272 pages

How could I choose between my sexuality and my spirituality, two of the most important parts that made me whole?

High school senior Paul has dated Angie since middle school, and they’re good together. They have a lot of the same interests, like singing in their church choir and being active in Bible club. But when Manuel transfers to their school, Paul has to rethink his life. Manuel is the first openly gay teen anyone in their small town has ever met, and yet he says he’s also a committed Christian. Talking to Manuel makes Paul reconsider thoughts he has kept hidden, and listening to Manuel’s interpretation of Biblical passages on homosexuality causes Paul to reevaluate everything he believed. Manuel’s outspokenness triggers dramatic consequences at school, culminating in a terrifying situation that leads Paul to take a stand.

Paul considers himself a perfectly ordinary high school guy, striving to be good in every way he can be. He’s been dating his best friend Angie since middle school, sings for his church choir, and active in his school’s Bible club. Underneath his smooth facade hides his struggles that he keeps on praying for, until he meets Manuel, the first openly gay person he’s met who’s also a committed Christian. Paul tries to deny the attraction he feels for Manuel, believing that it is wrong. But as he spends more time with Manuel, talking about their faith and homosexuality, Paul wonders if maybe he was wrong after all this time.

The God Box by Alex Sanchez is my first LGBT book ever. I tend to steer away from LGBT books because I’m not really that interested in them, until I saw this book and got it because of the Christian aspect. Homosexuality is one of those big issues that could easily spark a fire of debate among Christians and non-Christians alike. I never thought I’d have a hard time about it — I’ve had gay friends, and it didn’t really matter much to me because they were already openly gay when I met them. It’s different when someone comes out to you — the basic things I know about my faith back then tells me that it’s wrong, but another part of me says that discriminating because of that is also just as wrong, maybe even worse. Who am I to judge, anyway?

The God Box spoke a lot to me and reinforced the things I’ve learned years since my friend came out to me, things that I remind myself in my everyday life. I think, as much as this book is about homosexuality, it can also be a book about bullying. Or being different. It’s a book about intolerance and how this can lead to cruelty, especially coming from Christians who interpret the Bible literally and forget the one important thing that God called us to do. The God Box is a message book that tackles the given topic quite nicely, and I think that Alex Sanchez did a good job with the Biblical arguments and how some of the anti-LGBT arguments are just Bible verses interpreted literally to suit an intolerant attitude.

However, as much as The God Box has a good message in its heart, I’m afraid the execution of it leaves little to be desired. I was a little bored with the story and the characters were, if not cliche, very flat. Everyone seemed to be just black and white: you’re either for or against the issue. Manuel, as cool as he is, felt a little bit too perfect and too Mary Sue (or Gary Stu?), with what how everything revolved around him and how blameless he was made to be. More often than not, the story wasn’t showing — it was just telling, and that kept me distant to Paul as a character. I think the only one I really liked and related to was Angie, who played the role of a seemingly perfect tolerant girlfriend.

It wasn’t bad, but it’s not that great either. I think The God Box would be a good book to discuss in book clubs or in church for its message and not its writing. There are a lot of good arguments that was presented in the book, but I think it still has to be read with guidance from open-minded church/community leaders so as to really discuss the issues surrounding homosexuality and the call for Christians to love.

And I think that’s what it is all about really: love. That is the one important thing that we Christians are called to do. A good friend once told me, “It is better to be loving than to be right.” I agree. I liked what Paul’s grandmother had to say about love and the Bible:

“…the Bible was meant to be a bridge, not a wedge…it’s the greatest love story ever told, about God’s enduring and unconditional love for his creation — love beyond all reason. To understand it, you have to read it with love as the standard. Love God. Love your neighbor. Love yourself. Always remember that.” (p. 171)

In the end, that is what I am always going back to: love. Like I said, who am I to judge? And I’d like to believe that the God I believe in is always bigger than the things that I don’t understand, and He just wants me to love the people He brings into my life, regardless of race or age or gender or religion. Maybe if we, regardless of our faith, approached issues with a firm determination to love first above anything else, then maybe (pardon the cheesiness) this will be a better world to live in.

Rating: [rating=3]

2011 Challenge Status:
Required Reading – July

My copy: paperback from Powerbooks

Cover and blurb: Goodreads

Other reviews:
Book Gazing
Helen’s Book Blog
The Black Sheep

Required Reading: July

Everyone’s been saying this now, but of course I will say this again: look, it’s July. It’s the third quarter, it’s the second half of the year. Where is time going?

Anyway now, as opposed to my Required Reading for May challenge, June wasn’t so good. I’m not exactly sure what happened, and to think scaling down to two books will help me finish reading all in a month. But nooo, I ended up reading other things, so Noli Me Tangere and The Book Thief remained just…started. Not exactly untouched. I started on them, but somewhere along the way, I stopped.

I did read many good books this month…so it’s not waste month, of course. I guess this goes to show how I feel about books with more than 500 pages. Heh.

So let’s start anew. Hello again, July!

Required Reading: July

I was consulting my Required Reading list for July that I kept in my planner and saw that there was no set theme again. I was lining up my books again and I realized that if I had a fantasy month, then I should have a contemporary month, right?Celebrate realistic YA with The Contemps!

So here we go:

  1. The God Box by Alex Sanchez
  2. The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart
  3. Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers
  4. What My Mother Doesn’t Know by Sonya Sones
  5. Dark Blue by Melody Carlson

Oh gasp, look — five books? Well I figured this should be easier now, especially since I love contemporary fiction, and one of the books is a book in verse (I’m starting to like them very much now!). I am going to be on night shift for this month, too, so I’m hoping that that would help me read more whenever I find free time.

Or I could just keep on trying, you know. :)

If you’re interested in participating in this challenge, here’s a rule recap:

  • The books should be read within the specified month
  • These books should be in my TBR and not yet to be acquired
  • These books cannot be used for any other reading challenges I am participating in.

Leave a comment so I can put you on the round up! Happy July everyone! :)

Required Reading: July round up!

In My Mailbox (4)

I meant to write an In My Mailbox post last week, but I was too tired from my second 10-km race that I just fell into bed the moment I got home. So this week’s In My Mailbox will cover a two-week period, because I actually have a lot to post about since the last.

You know what that meant, right? I know I said I won’t buy books anymore…but I. Can’t. Resist. Somebody stop me.

In My Mailbox is a weekly book meme hosted by Kristi from The Story Siren, where bloggers post about what books received that week, be it via  mailbox, library or store. I’ve separated the photos on the stash per week, and excuse the slightly crappy quality of the images — used my camera phone and it doesn’t have that good lighting, as compared to if I use proper ones, like Kichler lighting. I’ll make it up next week. :)

So, here’s last week’s stash:

  1. The God Box by Alex Sanchez
    (Powerbooks, P339, less 20%) I’ve been seeing Alex Sanchez’s books for a while now, but I have never picked any up because I think most of his works fall under LGBT. It’s just not really my thing. I got this one because this is a book that dealt with LGBT and religion. This is a very sensitive topic, one that I don’t think I always fully understand, so I thought this book should be an informative one, at least as far as my faith would be concerned.
  2. The Demon’s Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan
    (Fully Booked, P399, less 10%) I remember seeing another version of this book at National Bookstore, but I passed it up. Then I saw a lot of good reviews and I couldn’t find the copy! It wasn’t until I was browsing in Fully Booked Eastwood when I saw it again, but I opted to get the other books first before this. I knew I would absolutely regret it if I don’t get it, so I finally caved in. I wanted to get it at the same time I got The Book Thief, but then I remembered I have a discount at Fully Booked, so I just got it there. Yay.
  3. Unwind by Neal Shusterman
    (Powerbooks, P339, less 20%) I think I heard about this first during the Goodreads meet up, but I didn’t know what it was until I saw the book. Should I even ask why I got it? It was highly recommended. Thank God for the sale.
  4. Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
    (National Bookstore, P315, less 20%) So I wasn’t really planning on getting anything that Sunday, but when I got to National Bookstore, I remembered that it was also sale time! When I saw a paperback copy of this book, I just grabbed it. I’ve read so many good reviews about this that I was curious, and the hardbound is just a bit too expensive to splurge on. The best part is, I used my Laking National card (a loyalty points card in one of the bookstores in the Philippines) and used my accumulated points to get the book. In short, I sort of got this book for free. :)

And here’s this week’s stash!

  1. The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
    (National Bookstore, P99) I already have a copy of this book, but when I saw the hardcover of this book for less than a hundred, I knew I had to get it. I don’t think I’ll be keeping it, though — I think I’ll put it up for giveaway on our next meet up. :)
  2. Press release pack for Table for Two by Marla Miniano from Summit Media
    I think it was Tuesday when I suddenly got called to the reception area at work. Turns out I have something from Summit Media, the press release pack for their newest novel, Table for Two. If I had known I’d be getting a free copy of this book, I would not have bought it! But then it’s okay. This means I can give away my extra copy, too. :)I have a feeling why I got a press package, though. Maybe it’s connected to some belated presents? I think so. Thanks, Ro! :)
  3. Catch a Falling Star by Cristina Pantoja Hidalgo
    (National Bookstore, P150) I wanted to get this other anthology, Stories When We Were Little (Women), I think, by the same author, but it was a bit too expensive for my budget. I wanted to get something local, and this was the cheapest one I found. I’ve heard so much about this author thanks to Sam. :)
  4. The Dead Of Night by John Marsden
    (National Bookstore, P339, less 75%) This isn’t really my kind of book. But I read Aaron‘s review for the first book, and thought I’d give it a try. But this isn’t the first book, so why did I get it? Aside from it being sale (got it for P84! How could I pass that up?), the Mighty Evil Overlord told me he would give me a copy of the first book as a gift. Getting ready for the series, I guess? :)

And that was the past two weeks for me in terms of books. Next week will be a bigger week because of the following: (1) a new toy is coming; and (2) Grace and Jana and I are planning to do a bookstore hopping day on Saturday, since it’s book sale season and it’s payday this week. Watch out for that. :)

What’s in your mailbox this week? I’d love to see your stash — leave a comment with the link so I can drop by. :)