One Book, Two Book, Three Book, Four…and Five

I still have about four books left on my backlog of reviews (more to add soon, I think), but because I do not want to bore you all with just those posts, let’s do a combo breaker and answer this meme I got from Chachic, Janice, Angie and Nomes. :)

I should be writing my novel but you know how I love procrastinating sometimes? Maybe next year I should be a NaNoRebel and write a year’s worth of blog posts (or something like that) for NaNoWriMo. Hm.

The Curse of the Wendigo by Rick Yancey     Hallowed by Cynthia Hand     The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler

1. Book I am currently reading:
The Curse of the Wendigo
by Rick Yancey. I was semi-bullied into reading this (haha, hi, Aaron and Tricia!), but if they did not do that, I probably would not have started reading this anytime soon. I really liked The Monstrumologist so jumping in to this one soon enough after reading that was actually a good idea because the characters were still fresh to me. So far this has been creepier than the first book, but also quite funny and sometimes heartwarming.

Also, Hallowed by Cynthia Hand (!!!). :) Got this from Netgalley and I’m reading it slow so I would get all the Tucker goodness. Seriously, if you ever read a paranormal romance novel ever again, pick Unearthly. It’s very, very good.

2. Last book I finished:
The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler. Thanks to Pinoy Book Tours for having this on hand and squeezing me in the tour. :D

Falling Together by Marisa de los Santos     Fury by Shirley Marr    Protection for Hire by Camy Tang

3. Next book I want to read:
Falling Together by Marisa de los Santos. I just got this my TBR, and it’s been calling out to me for a while. Hmm. Although I think I may have to read a classic novel to finish some challenges, but I really want something comforting amidst the novel writing stress. So let’s see. :)

4. Last book I bought:
Fury by Shirley Marr. My friend Katia went to Sydney last October and because we know Australian books are just awesome, I asked if she could get me a copy of this. And she found me one. :) Yay. As expected, it was expensive, but it’s not everyday I get to buy a book from Australia. :)

5. Last book I was given:
Protection for Hire by Camy Tang. Okay this one I got from Netgalley too, but since I am on the author’s street team (you should join it, too), I knew about this way back and was expecting to receive an ebook review for this. :) Plus, I got an email that Zondervan has auto-approved me as a reviewer in Netgalley. I’m not sure if everyone gets that, but it’s nice to get that email. :) I cannot wait to read Camy’s newest book.

Dark Blue: Color Me Lonely

Dark Blue: Color Me Lonely by Melody CarlsonDark Blue by Melody Carlson
True Colors # 1
Publisher: Th1nk / NavPress
Number of pages:  196
My copy: paperback, bought from Bestsellers

Kara Hendricks and Jordan Ferguson have been best friends since kindergarten. That is until Jordan started hanging out with a new “cool” crowd and decided Kara was a popularity liability.

Devastated, Kara feels betrayed and abandoned by everyone—even God. Yet for all the hurt and insecurity, these dark blue days contain a life-changing secret. Kara has the chance to discover something about herself that she never knew before.

* * *

I’ve been curious about Melody Carlson’s True Colors series back when I first saw them during the Manila International Book Fair. However, because of my series completion compulsion back then, I never got it. For one thing, there are about 12 books in the series, and another, I couldn’t find the first book. Whenever I do find the first book, I feel like maybe I should get the next one too, so I skip on buying it. Until I finally got a copy during one of the sales I went to last year.

The True Colors series is a set of Christian-themed books for teens that tackle issues that teens deal with everyday: family, friendships, drugs, sexuality, body image and more. The stories are ideally written for the Christian market, but it is also supposed to be readable by non-Christians as well. The first book, Dark Blue, talks about friendships, and how Kara Hendricks felt after her best friend Jordan Ferguson joined the cheerleading team and became a part of the popular crowd. Kara starts seeing changes with Jordan and she feels betrayed. Alone and lonely, she finds friends in some of her art class, and ultimately finds her faith amidst this challenge.

So I went into Dark Blue expecting to like it, despite the fact that I am far from my teenage years. Kara and I shared similar experiences about a friend moving on, so I thought I would be able to sympathize with her. The book starts out strong, with Kara introducing Jordan and their friendship, and letting readers understand how they met, what their personalities are and how the cheerleading thing came to be. I really, honestly tried to enjoy it…but I couldn’t.

For one thing, Kara was annoying. I know she was left behind and she was angry and sad but she really grated my nerves with all her weepy-ness and whiny-ness. I wanted to shake her and tell her, “Girl, you have to try something and not just wallow in self pity. Jordan isn’t the only one who can make you happy!” I never even really got the vibe that Jordan left her behind immediately. Jordan tried to keep Kara as a friend but Kara pushed her away. If Jordan was written with more of a mean girl vibe from the start, then I would have found the succeeding events convincing, especially the end. However, it was always Kara who is avoiding her gaze, or Kara trying to disappear, or Kara crying because Jordan left her without even thinking once.

But okay fine, I can forgive that because it really kind of sucks when your best friend has new friends that you can’t fit in with. I can’t say much on the Christian aspect but I might have to agree with what this one review said: Kara’s change was so sudden that it felt a bit unreal. Like she was holding on to Jesus so much that it came off as using it to slap Jordan in the face — as in “Hey, who needs you as a friend now that I have Jesus!” I truly believe that Jesus is enough and He is the best friend we could all ever have, but I also think we are built for community and relationships while we’re here on earth, and taking that away just felt wrong.

I wish I could say more for the writing, but there was more tell than show, and I was terribly bored with the things Kara did everyday. I mean, it’s normal everyday teenage stuff, but why narrate it? It may be to stress her depression, but it didn’t make for a very interesting book, at least for me. I was kind of relieved it was short, so at least I don’t have to plod on reading it. If it was more than 250 pages, I would’ve marked this as DNF.

I really wanted to like Dark Blue, but it kind of fell in the same traps that I thought Miss Match by Erynn Mangum did: annoying characters, too-“mountain-top” spiritual themes, and awkward writing. Maybe if I read this when I was younger, I would have liked it more, but now, I just didn’t like it.

Rating: [rating=1]

2011 Challenge Status:
Required Reading – July

Other reviews:
A Peek at My Bookshelf

Weddings and Wasabi

Weddings and Wasabi by Camy TangWeddings and Wasabi by Camy Tang
Sushi Series # 4
Wine Press Publishing
Number of pages: 124
My copy: ebook, review copy from the author (Thank you!)

After finally graduating with a culinary degree, Jennifer Lim is pressured by her family to work at her control-freak aunty’s restaurant. But after a family dispute, Jenn is determined to no longer be a doormat and instead starts her own catering company. Her search for a wine merchant brings John into her life-a tall, dark, handsome biker in form-fitting black leather, who’s Hispanic to boot. It would be wonderfully wild to snag a man like that!

Shy engineer Edward tentatively tries out his birthday present from his winery-owner uncle-a Harley-Davidson complete with the trimmings. Jennifer seems attracted to the rough, aggressive image, but it isn’t his real self. Is she latching onto him just to spite her horrified family? And if this spark between them is real, will showing her the true guy underneath put it out?

And what’s with the goat in the backyard?

* * *

I’ve been a fan of Camy Tang ever since I heard about her and read the first book in her Sushi series, Sushi For One?. I liked that she wrote chick lit with an Asian flavor, and while I’m not Chinese/Japanese like her heroines are, I find that I could relate to the family and growing up woes that the four cousins experienced. And they’re Christian, too, so the stories resonate with my faith.

Unfortunately, Camy’s contract for the Sushi series only covers 3 books, so only Lex’s, Trish’s and Venus’ stories came out in full-length novels. Fortunately, Camy announced a few years back that she would be releasing a novella about Jennifer, the fourth cousin. Imagine my delight when she sent her street team a free copy. :)

Jennifer Lim is the nicest among the cousins, so nice that she knows she can be a doormat sometimes. When she finally graduated from her culinary degree, she finds herself pressured with having to fulfill some family “duties” that her aunts had pressed upon her. After a particularly bad party with an encounter with her ex, Jenn finally stands up for herself and starts a catering company. This starts her adventure that brings Jenn into learning that it takes a lot of courage to follow your dreams and even more to leave those dreams and trust that God will make things happen.

It felt nice reuniting with Camy’s characters again. I love the bond that Lex, Trish, Venus and Jenn had, and how they would always be there for one another no matter what. I also loved and hated their family. I don’t know how Chinese/Japanese families really are, but their Aunty Aikiko really grated my nerves. How can a relative be so manipulating and conniving and just…annoying? Ugh. It almost felt a bit unreal with that aspect, but who knew, right? Maybe people like that do exist.

I like how things came into somewhat of a full circle in this novella. While this could be read as a standalone, like the first three, but I think reading all of them would provide a fuller experience with the story. I always find back stories interesting, so knowing what happened to who in previous books while reading this one helped a lot in appreciating the events in this more. I especially liked how one of their cousins seemed to be friendlier to them now, and how their grandmother played a surprising role too.

The only thing I probably did not like in Weddings and Wasabi was how short it was! I missed the build up in the old novels, especially in the romantic sense, so I was a little detached from the romance here unlike in the others. It did provide for a good, quick and light read, but I was definitely hungry for more. :)

Weddings and Wasabi is available now in print and ebook through WinePress, Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Rating: [rating=4]

2011 Challenge Status:
11 of 20 for TwentyEleven Challenge (Slim Pickings)

BoneMan’s Daughters

BoneMan's DaughtersBoneMan’s Daughters by Ted Dekker
Publisher: Center Street
Number of pages:  410
My copy: paperback, bought from Fully Booked

Would you kill an innocent man to save your daughter?

They call him BoneMan, a serial killer who’s abducted six young women. He’s the perfect father looking for the perfect daughter, and when his victims fail to meet his lofty expectations, he kills them by breaking their bones and leaving them to die.

Intelligence officer Ryan Evans, on the other hand, has lost all hope of ever being the perfect father. His daughter and wife have written him out of their lives.

Everything changes when BoneMan takes Ryan’s estranged daughter, Bethany, as his seventh victim. Ryan goes after BoneMan on his own.

But the FBI sees it differently. New evidence points to the suspicion that Ryan is BoneMan. Now the hunter is the hunted, and in the end, only one father will stand.

* * *

He is called BoneMan and he is a father in search for a perfect daughter. He takes innocent teen girls and tries to make them love him and when they fail to be the daughter he wants, he breaks their bones without breaking their skin (or using a teflon hose). On the other side of the world, Ryan Evans thinks of himself as a failure of a father — after an especially harrowing abduction in the Middle East, Ryan comes home only to find that his wife and daughter had written him out of their lives. Then the BoneMan abducts his daughter, Bethany, and Ryan goes after him. Instead of helping him, though, the FBI finds evidence that points to Ryan as the BoneMan, and he becomes a hunted man. Desperate, Ryan Evans set out to go through hell just to save his daughter.

I’ve been a fan of Ted Dekker since I read Thr3e, which I think is also one of the first books I reviewed on my old blog. I liked the fact that he wrote Christian suspense and back then, I was having a hard time looking for books with the same themes. I meant to read more of his books but he writes and comes out with new books faster than I can get my hands on them and read them. I’ve had BoneMan’s Daughters for a while now but I never got around to reading it. I’m not sure why, maybe it’s because I was concentrating more on YA and chick lit instead of suspense. I did kind of look forward to reading this, thinking that it would be nice to go back to Dekker’s world.

True to form, BoneMan’s Daughters has everything that Dekker offers in his other books. Not that it’s repetitive, but it’s exactly what you’d expect in a Dekker book. There’s the psycho serial killer whose point of view we get a glimpse of every now and then, the father who would do everything to save his daughter, and the police who are willing to help but don’t really know what to do. In a way, it’s almost like reading a CSI episode — I can easily imagine Mac Taylor/Gary Sinise as Ryan Evans. Dekker is also still very descriptive, but not too much that it gets gross — just a tad disturbing, enough to make you look over your shoulder or wonder at the things that bump at night, or develop an aversion to Noxzema, in the case of BoneMan’s Daughters. It’s still very well-written and you know in the end that the good guys will still prevail.

That being said, however, I felt that this wasn’t really at par with the other Dekker novels I’ve read. I thought some parts were a bit repetitive and I wanted to skim some parts that felt a little unimportant to me. The ending wasn’t as satisfying as I thought it would be, either — and I felt that there wasn’t much change in the characters as there should be. The Christian concept wasn’t fully explored, too, IMHO, and you’d need to read the author’s afterword to know why he wrote the novel (that story, I loved). As good as the details were done in the emotional and brutal scenes, the overall story kind of lacked. In the end, I was just happy I finished reading it, not because it was such a good story.

I’m kind of sad that this latest Dekker read is kind of disappointing compared to his other books that I really liked. I will still read his other books, of course, and I’m hoping one of them will be as good (or even better) as Thr3e or the Circle series.

Rating: [rating=2]

Other reviews:
Novel Reviews
Emily is Smiling
My Friend Amy


Save the Date

Save the Date by Jenny B. JonesSave the Date by Jenny B. Jones
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Number of pages: 320
My copy: ebook review copy from Netgalley

When Alex and Lucy pick out wedding invitations, they wonder if they can be printed in vanishing ink.

Former NFL star Alex Sinclair is a man who has it all–except the votes he needs to win his bid for Congress. Despite their mutual dislike, Alex makes Lucy a proposition: pose as his fiancee in return for the money she desperately needs. Bound to a man who isn’t quite what he seems, Lucy will find her heart on the line–and maybe even her life. When God asks Alex and Lucy to scrap their playbook and follow his rules, will they finally say, “I do”?

* * *

I wasn’t sure what to expect with Save the Date by Jenny B. Jones because if I were to judge this book by its cover, it didn’t give me the chick lit vibe. It gave me a romance novel vibe, sure, but not really chick lit. Am I the only one getting that? I want chick lit, but I’m not entirely sure if I wanted a romance novel — if you get what I mean. Nevertheless, I requested this from NetGalley because the blurb seemed interesting despite its familiarity, and I heard good stuff about the author on Twitter.

Maybe it’s the leftover February air that made me start reading this, and once I started reading, I couldn’t stop. Save the Date starts with Lucy Wiltshire dancing around her kitchen, preparing a meal for her boyfriend Matt, expecting a proposal coming very soon. However, she was crushed when Matt says he’s choosing his job over her, and he had to move away, just as when Lucy can’t leave her hometown because she was about to open her foster home for adolescent girls, Saving Grace.

Fast forward two years later, Lucy seems to be doing well, until life decided to throw her a curve ball: she loses funding for her foster home and she needs money, quick. Gold coins don’t grow on trees and Lucy is desperate. Enter old schoolmate and rich boy Alex Sinclair who was running for Congress. A chance encounter between the two gave Alex a good image for the election, so he proposes to Lucy: they would pretend to be a couple and get engaged to boost Alex’s image, and Lucy gets paid to be his fake fiancee, enough to fund Saving Grace for years to come. Left with no choice, Lucy says yes, praying that she wasn’t making a mistake. As they play along with the lie, demons from the past surface and they find out that God’s plans are higher than our plans and He can work His purpose even in our flimsy human plans.

I was pleasantly surprised by this book. This had the same vibe as  A Billion Reasons Why but it has less of the Southern drawl and more of real and sympathetic characters. I liked Lucy from the start — she’s a darling, but she was far from a weakling. She’s been toughened up by the hardships she experienced in her life and even if she suffers from a big inferiority complex, her heart is always in the right place. I admire her passion for the girls she’s caring for and her fierce loyalty to what she believes in, even if sometimes it comes off as stubbornness. While I’m not much taken by Alex’s described good looks and his charisma, I thought he was good for Lucy. He is far from perfect which I really appreciated, and I’m sure his faults and his growth in the story is something that other people have experienced. I liked how their relationship developed and how they saw each other in a better light despite the lie that they have built for their image. I lost count at how many times I sighed and wished that they’d realize that they were perfect for each other, and that one of them would make a move that would break the the pretend relationship they have so they could move into something real. Their banter was refreshing and witty, none of the gooey, over the top exchanges that didn’t feel natural. I liked that even if it seemed like an outrageous story, everything in the story still felt real, like it could happen to anyone.

This modern-day Cinderella/The Princess Diaries-like story by Jenny B. Jones is definitely worth the read. I can’t relate 100% with everything, but Save the Date shares important lessons on love, compassion, forgiveness and allowing God to work in our lives, and I think those concepts are pretty universal, anyway. While there’s nothing really new in the premise, the characters, their voices and the author’s humor shines through in the story, making this a very, very good read. :) I look forward to reading more of Jenny B. Jones’ books.

Rating: [rating=4]

Other reviews:
Michelle’s Book Review Blog
Novel Reviews
Backseat Writer
Bookworm Hollow