Well Played

Well Played by Katrina Ramos AtienzaWell Played by Katrina Ramos Atienza
Publisher: KRAtienza
Number of pages: 121
My copy: Kindle edition

Patrice Reyes is starting her junior year at the University and she’s convinced it’s going to be the best semester ever. For starters, it looks like this is the year her team will win the regional football (soccer, for you Yanks) championships. Her subjects are looking good, and there’s even a chance she might finally get somewhere with her rock star crush. But a new classmate—arrogant, cold math nerd—is seriously throwing off her groove. Will she ever get rid of him and have the awesome semester she deserves? Or is there truth to never judging (math) books by their cover?

* * *

I’m a fan of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice, although perhaps not as much of a big fan as other friends (I’m still very partial to Persuasion, because hello, Captain Wentworth and that letter!), but I like reading books and watching adaptations of Pride & Prejudice because it’s my first Austen and you don’t forget your first. :) When I heard of Katrina Ramos Atienza’s retelling of P&P set in the Los Banos, I knew I had to read it. Even if I’m not a huge fan of football.

Patrice Reyes is an incoming junior and she believes that it will be her best semester ever. She’s sure her team will win the regional football championships, her grades look good, she has good friends at the dorm, and oh look, there’s a crush. But when cold and arrogant math guy Paul becomes her partner in one of her major subjects, her days are thrown off course. How will she get rid of him to get her perfect semester back? Does she even really want to get rid of him?

I had a lot of fun with Well Played, mostly because it was so much fun matching the characters to the original. Almost everyone had a match, save for a few, which would have complicated the plot a little. I appreciate that the plot wasn’t that complicated, though, because it made the story easier to read, with just enough drama to make me hang on. I liked Patrice and her wit, her loyalty to her friends and her fierceness and her passion for her sport. I wasn’t always fond of her, to be honest, but she made for a great Filipino Lizzie Bennett. :) I also really liked Gia (the equivalent of Jane) and and Deenie, although I can’t decide if Deenie is less or more annoying than Lydia. I really liked Migs (Bingley) too, and he seems like such a nice guy. Paul is such a true Darcy, with the angst and the grumpiness, and all the hidden layers that makes him a Darcy.

My favorite part of the book is the setting, most definitely. I loved how the setting just worked for the story. The setting was based on University of the Philippines in Los Banos, Laguna. I didn’t study there, and the last time I was there was in 2003, but even if I can barely remember anything there, the setting in this book felt so real. I liked the dorm setting and how the setting seemed to be a character in itself. I liked it so much that it was so easy to imagine everything there, and I don’t even have to suspend any kind of disbelief.

I think the only thing that niggled at me was how sometimes the characters didn’t sound like they’re Filipinos at all. They seemed just a tad too foreign when I read their dialogue, like they’re all foreign exchange students. But other than that, I liked Well Played a lot, and I think it’s a pretty faithful and entertaining Filipino adaptation of P&P. Oh, and even if I still don’t really understand (or even watch) football, I must mention that I liked how the sport played a role in the story, too. And that really cute ending after that football game? Oh, I definitely approve. :)

Number of dog-eared pages: 5

Favorite dog-eared quote(s):

When it came down to it, she mused philosophically, there were girls like Deenie to whom romantic attachments come easy; they followed their hearts, got into sticky situations and got up to pursue other adventures. More power to them, but Patrice wasn’t like that. She had too many responsibilities and, to be honest, she was much too afraid of being hurt to fling her heart open the way Deenie did.

“How can there be any hard feelings when there weren’t any feelings to start with?”

Rating: [rating=4]

Other reviews:
Sab the Book Eater
Book Junkie Joint

Tiger Lily

Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn AndersonTiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson
Publisher: HarperCollins
Number of pages: 292
My copy: ebook

Before Peter Pan belonged to Wendy, he belonged to the girl with the crow feather in her hair. . . .

Fifteen-year-old Tiger Lily doesn’t believe in love stories or happy endings. Then she meets the alluring teenage Peter Pan in the forbidden woods of Neverland and immediately falls under his spell.

Peter is unlike anyone she’s ever known. Impetuous and brave, he both scares and enthralls her. As the leader of the Lost Boys, the most fearsome of Neverland’s inhabitants, Peter is an unthinkable match for Tiger Lily. Soon, she is risking everything—her family, her future—to be with him. When she is faced with marriage to a terrible man in her own tribe, she must choose between the life she’s always known and running away to an uncertain future with Peter.

With enemies threatening to tear them apart, the lovers seem doomed. But it’s the arrival of Wendy Darling, an English girl who’s everything Tiger Lily is not, that leads Tiger Lily to discover that the most dangerous enemies can live inside even the most loyal and loving heart.

From the New York Times bestselling author of Peaches comes a magical and bewitching story of the romance between a fearless heroine and the boy who wouldn’t grow up.

* * *

When I was in elementary, we used to have these character books, where we write the names of all the characters of the cartoon shows we watch, and we match them with the people in our class. I almost never get the “lead roles” because there’s always someone else for them, even in my own notebook (but I don’t put myself in the lead roles there because as a rule, everyone can read that notebook, and I didn’t want to be thought of as conceited or something), so I usually I put myself in the secondary roles — the ones that still matter, but not really the star of the show. So for the pages based on the Peter Pan anime that we all grew up with, I am usually Tiger Lily.

I’ve seen Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson in other blogs for a long time now, but I’m not that much of a fan of Peter Pan and its retellings, so I didn’t really care for it. I’ve heard good things about it, though, but I didn’t think it would be my thing, you know? Then I ran into it again, while I was looking for other books to read in my Kindle, when the books I was currently reading weren’t doing just what I want for me. But I was kind of wary, too, especially since I knew this was a love story, and not a happy one at that. We all know that, right? I mean, Peter Pan is with Wendy, and even Tinkerbell knows that. But what happened before Wendy arrived in Neverland? Did Peter ever belong to someone else?

Jodi Lynn Anderson’s Tiger Lily explored that. We meet fifteen year old Tiger Lily, a loner among her Sky Eaters tribe. She’s often quiet and usually fierce, and most people in her tribe are afraid of her, save for her adopted father, Tik Tok, a small guy named Pine Sap, another girl named Moon Eye and finally, the little fairy who started following her, Tinkerbell. We follow Tiger Lily’s story through Tinkerbell’s eyes, with how she saved a man, and how she was set for marriage, and how meets Peter Pan and the Lost Boys. Soon, quiet Tiger Lily is entranced by the childish yet charismatic Peter, and she starts sneaking out just to be with him. But when she is called to do her duty for her family and her tribe, she must make a choice. With the pirates looming around the boys and someone trying to change the way her tribe works, Tiger Lily is dealing with a lot, but it’s Wendy Darling who ends up threatening her the most.

Oh, my heart. I knew this isn’t a happy story, I really did. But I didn’t expect how much this will make me sigh and kind of wreck havoc over my heart. :( Tiger Lily held me captive, and I couldn’t stop reading it when I started. A lot of what the readability had to do with the writing — there was simple yet beautiful prose in the story, and it perfectly fits the almost somber and whimsical mood of the story. The quotes I included below are a proof of that. It’s like the author chose her words very carefully, so it would really sound like how Tinkerbell would see it, and say it.

If you’re a purist for Peter Pan’s stories though, you might get a little disappointed with how there were some things lacking in Anderson’s depiction of Neverland. Save for the fairies, there’s no magic. Neverland is a place that is somewhere in the Atlantic, and not “Second star to the right and straight on till morning”. The boys don’t fly, and Tinkerbell doesn’t spread fairy dust so they can think happy thoughts. There were some seemingly magical elements, but they weren’t blatant, and they’re still sort of believable and I didn’t mind it. It made the story a little easier to get into (except that I kept on expecting the boys to fly. Heh).

The story isn’t fluff, though. Tiger Lily is also quite brutal in some scenes, and the complicated relationships add to this brutality. But can a book this brutal be beautiful, too? I think so, I really do. Because oh, my heart. My heart broke so much for Tiger Lily and Peter, and how their story has been doomed for the start. Knowing that it was doomed didn’t make me want to stop reading, because I wanted to know how it all played out. Maybe I was wishing it wouldn’t end the way I was already expecting it. Or maybe, I just want to see how it ends, because it couldn’t possibly have an absolutely ugly ending, right?

I’m pretty sure it was the latter, because when I got to the end, I sighed. My heart sighed, several times, and Tiger Lily left me with a little ache there — it hurt, but it was also beautiful, and I know that I couldn’t ask for anything more.

I’m glad I read Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson now. I think I read it at the right time, just as when I needed something like this. Oh, my heart.

Number of dog-eared pages: 40

Favorite dog-eared quote(s):

There was a beast in there. But there was also a girl who was afraid of being a beast, and who wondered if other people had beasts in their hearts too. There was strength, and there was also just the determination to look strong. She guarded herself like a secret. (p.18)

I liked the way they stood together. They both kept one ear on each other, and one on the forest around them. And yet, there was something almost peaceful about them standing there. Maybe the way he seemed to vibrate made her stillness seem less glaring, and Peter seemed calmer. (p.62)

A faerie heart is different from a human heart. Human hearts are elastic. They have room for all sorts of passions, and they can break and heal and love again and again. Faerie hearts are evolutionarily less sophisticated. They are small and hard, like tiny grains of sand. Our hearts are too small to love more than one person in a lifetime. (p.76)

She was fierce, to be sure, but she had a girl’s heart, after all. As she walked home that night, she was shaking from the largeness of it. I didn’t know why she seemed so sad and happy at the same time. To love someone was not what she had expected. It was like falling from somewhere high up and breaking in half, and only one person having the secret to the puzzle of putting her back together. (p.119)

Sometimes, I think that maybe we are just stories. Like we may be words on a page, because we’re only what we’ve done and what we are going to do. (p.193)

Every kind of love, it seems, is the only one. It doesn’t happen twice. And I never expected that you could have a broken heart and love with it too, so much that it doesn’t seem broken at all. (p.199)

Rating: [rating=5]

Other reviews:
Book Harbinger
reading is the ultimate aphrodisiac

Till We Have Faces

Till We Have Faces by C.S. LewisTill We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Number of pages: 324
My copy: paperback, borrowed from RE

In this timeless tale of two mortal princesses- one beautiful and one unattractive- C.S. Lewis reworks the classical myth of Cupid and Psyche into an enduring piece of contemporary fiction. This is the story of Orual, Psyche’s embittered and ugly older sister, who posessively and harmfully loves Psyche. Much to Orual’s frustration, Psyche is loved by Cupid, the god of love himself, setting the troubled Orual on a path of moral development.

Set against the backdrop of Glome, a barbaric, pre-Christian world, the struggles between sacred and profane love are illuminated as Orual learns that we cannot understand the intent of the gods “till we have faces” and sincerity in our souls and selves.

* * *

One of my favorite (and probably the most popular) Bible verses other than John 3:16 and the multitude of verses that I’ve highlighted in my Bible is 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. I’m pretty sure you’ve read these verses at one point in your life, too:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

These verses reminds me of those days in my Catholic community, as well as days of reading and re-reading Nicholas Sparks’ A Walk to Remember and crying as Landon read these passages to Jamie. I’ve heard them said so many times during wedding videos that my brother makes, and quoted so many times in blogs and posts about love. These verses have the power to make me feel all tingly and good inside as well as convict me of the times when I’m not as loving as I should be.

I remember during one of my heads in my Catholic community tell us that these verses on love sets the standard on what love really and truly is, and if I can replace “love” with my name, that means I am somehow living this. I’ve never really tried that because halfway through, I’d feel guilty because I know I’m not what love is. I’m not always patient, I’m not always kind. I am proud, I envy, I boast, I am self-seeking, I am easily angered, I keep records of wrong. As much as I’d like to believe that I can be what these verses say, I am only human and I fail way too many times.

It took me a while to write a review for C.S. Lewis’ Till We Have Faces because I wasn’t sure what to write about it. I had to mull it over for two weeks until I remember what Paul said to the Corinthians and realized that this is what the novel is all about. Till We Have Faces is told by Princess Orual of Glome, the unattractive daughter of a tyrannical king, who loved her half-sister Psyche so much that she couldn’t see past her love that she thought was the only thing right. It was a bad time in Glome when Orual was at her highest, loving and caring for Psyche not just as a sister but as a mother that they never had. Orual’s world is shattered when the priests of the goddess Ungit tells their father that they need to offer Psyche as a sacrifice to the fearsome ShadowBrute to appease the goddess. Orual thought it would be the end of Psyche, but to her surprise, she finds that a god has fallen in love with Psyche and made her his wife. As Orual wrestles with the turn of events, her heart and the gods themselves, she finds that there was more to love that she needed to learn and unlearn for her to truly understand what love really is.

This is unlike any other C.S. Lewis novel I’ve read, but I’m no authority since I haven’t really read them all. I probably wouldn’t have heard of this book if it weren’t for my friend RE, and I wouldn’t know that this is known to be C.S. Lewis’ best work. Till We Have Faces is rough, almost brutal, but there is a beauty in the story that satiated my need for very good fantasy. It’s deep, but not so much that you wouldn’t understand the story or the writing as you read it. It almost didn’t feel like it was a Lewis novel, with all the gods and goddesses and pagan practices in it. But Till We Have Faces creeps up on you slowly, taking over your mind as you try and mull over the ideas and thoughts it presented. Well, that’s what it did to me, anyway. It was hard to review the book because I didn’t know how to approach it. I wasn’t sure which character I related to, and I didn’t know how to discuss the story without giving away or missing the important points. I enjoyed reading it, but I think this is the type of book that needs re-reading every now and then to fully understand it all.

I’m not saying that I didn’t enjoy it — I did, very much. It’s just…deep. And like I said, its depth forced me to think and to see how similar I am to Orual. I wonder what Orual would have thought of what Paul wrote to the Corinthians about love. I wonder if I would act the same way as she did when she found out about Psyche being a wife of a god that I cannot comprehend, of how the person I loved the most longed for something else and how my love cannot satisfy her. I wonder if the love I give is as possessive as Orual’s, and if this would eventually cause the death of the people and the relationships around me. I wonder if I will ever be able to know and see love as Psyche did, and if my name would ever be worthy enough to replace that word in Paul’s epistle.

I think that’s the real strength of C.S. Lewis’ works: not only do they entertain, but they make the readers really think. Till We Have Faces is a beautiful novel, definitely one that needs to be present in a reader’s collection and revisited every now and then. I’m buying my own copy after Lent for sure.

I end this review with the last line of the book — not a spoiler, don’t worry, but definitely one of the best last lines I’ve ever read:

I know now, Lord, why you utter no answer. You are yourself the answer. Before your face questions die away. What other answer would suffice?

Rating: [rating=5]

Other reviews:
Awake in the Pages of an Endless Library
Claw of the Conciliator

Into the Wardrobe – a C.S. Lewis Site

Required Reading: February

Sometime around January, I was thinking of what books I would have lined up for February seeing that it was Valentine’s month and it’s sort of the right month to pick up romance novels and such. How cliche of me to do that, but I liked having themed reads. I like reading certain books at a certain time of the year because the month’s celebrations call for it. I think that makes it more fun (albeit masochistic, especially in February, if you know my stories :P).

Anyway, as I was choosing books from my Mt. TBR, I wondered if I could do a theme for every month. Which led to me thinking that maybe I can have kind of direction for the books I read in this year, instead of just choosing randomly. I would be able to conquer my TBR a bit for the entire year but without the big pressure of reading them all, you know?

So I came up with my own, sort of TBR challenge for 2011, where:

  • I would pick 4 books from my TBR pile that I should read within the month that sort of fits one kind of theme.
  • These books should not be included in other 2011 challenges.

This doesn’t mean that I would only read the books I listed within the month. These are just the books that I should read within the month, but I can read other books, too, in the pace that I want to. Call it required reading, I guess.

WAIT. Okay that’s the name of this “challenge”. Required Reading. :D

I have constructed a list in my planner which is still subject to change. I will share them every start of the month, of course, but for now, my February line up!

Thanks, we heart it!Well it’s obvious the theme is love. Like I said, it may be a bit masochistic for me because of the current state of my love life (or lack thereof — but I will not post that here. If you want more of that, it will be posted in the personal blog :P)…but hey, everyone loves a good love story, right? With all it’s red and pink magic. :)

So from my TBR, here are my February Required Reading!

  • Seventeenth Summer by Maureen Daly
  • Delirium by Lauren Oliver
  • Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin
  • Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis

There’s a book on summer love, a dystopian novel about love being a disease, a novel about a wedding, and finally a retelling of a Roman myth with the god of love. I even feel like throwing in a few more romance novels in the mix here. Let it be a month full of books on love, yes? :)

Havah: The Story of Eve

Havah: The Story of Eve by Tosca Lee
Publisher: B&H Publishing Group
Number of pages: 354
My copy: paperback, ordered from Amazon

A single decision has the power to unravel mankind.

Created, not born.

The world’s first woman, without flaw, until one fateful choice. Now all humanity must pay for the mistake.

From paradise to exile, from immortality to the death of Adam, experience the dawn of mankind through the eyes of Eve — the woman first known as Havah.

* * *

I have had Tosca’s book on my TBR shelf since 2009, and I meant to read it soon after I finished reading her other novel, Demon: A Memoir. Somehow, this book got pushed farther and farther down Mt. TBR until I almost forgot about having it. It wasn’t until I was thinking of a good book to start 2011 with that I remembered having this one, so I dug it up from my books, and cracked the book open again come 1st of January.

Around October last year, some of my Goodreads friends started a year-long reading challenge to read the Bible in its entirety. I have tried reading the Bible from cover to cover back in college but I failed miserably when I got to Chronicles. When I heard of the challenge in the group, the challenge addict in me jumped in, choosing to read The Message translation of the Bible for easier reading. The thing with reading the Bible is it’s so easy to be disenchanted with the stories there, especially if you’ve heard the stories in it over and over, particularly in Genesis. What else there is to read about Adam and Eve anyway? They were created, they lived in God’s presence, then Eve got tempted and got Adam in with her. They were banished from the garden, they had kids, and then the world started with them. Not that interesting, right?

They say familiarity breeds contempt, and I guess that has happened to me in the case of Genesis. Tosca Lee breathes life into the story of creation, particularly with the first woman ever created in Havah.

I have seen paradise and ruin. I have known bliss and terror.

I have walked with God.

And I know that God made the hart the most fragile and resilient of organs, that a lifetime of joy and pain might be encased in one moral chamber.

So it starts. I fell in love with Tosca Lee’s writing with Demon, and I knew Havah is going to be just as beautifully written as the former, if not more. This retelling of Eve from the moment of her creation to their fall to their exile and her mortal life was told in Eve’s point of view, making the novel feel more personal compared to Demon.

I am not an expert in theology so I can’t say how accurate this was or if Tosca missed addressing something in this novel. However, 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. I guess it’s because she’s a woman, and I sympathized with her struggles and her woes. How I could I not? In a sense, I was also Havah — I sinned against God so many times that I know I am so far away from Him, but I crave for His presence just as Havah sought Him, too. It was that brokenness that got to me the most. I do not blame her for her act of disobedience and in the fall, because as she said quite eloquently, “If not for our transgression, we would not know redemption.” (p. 349) In a sense, Havah really embodied how it is to be a human in this broken world: a constant struggle to find God in our surroundings, in the people and in life, pressing on even if sometimes He seems empty and silent.

Since this was told in her point of view, this will seem like a female-biased novel, but I think (and hope!) that guys will still be able to find themselves in this novel, too. It’s hard to describe this novel in its entirety because there is so much beauty and pain and love in this book.

It took me a while to finish reading this, but I know I made the right choice in starting 2011 with this novel. This is still fiction, of course, and this does not replace the parts written in Genesis, but it definitely helped me understand that part of the Bible more. I had no doubt that this would be a good book after enjoying Tosca’s first novel, but Havah just totally blew my mind and heart away. And if you decide to pick this one up, I hope it does the same for you too. :)

How mighty, how great the One must be, I thought, to send the heavens careening, and yet hear the cry of a single heart. (p. 28)

Rating: [rating=5]

2011 Challenge Status:
1 of 20 in TwentyEleven Challenge (To YA or Not to YA)

Book trailer:

[youtube jQYoC8XLkEc]

You can also watch Tosca talk about Havah in this video.

Other reviews:
Emily is Smiling
My Only Vice
Christian Fiction Review