03 December 2013

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros #2

When I was little, my dad used to tell me, "Will, you can pick your friends, and you can pick your nose, but you can't pick you friend's nose." This seemed like a reasonably astute observation to me when I was eight, but it turns out to be incorrect on a few levels. To begin with, you cannot possibly pick your friends, or else I never would have ended up with Tiny Cooper.

Tiny Cooper is not the world's gayest person, and he is not the world's largest person, but I believe he may be the world's largest person who is really, really gay and also the world's gayest person who is really, really large.

Truth be told, the first two paragraphs were catchy and witty, and so typically John Green. I've skimmed over the chapters and it turns out that Green writes odd numbered chapters while Levithan writes even numbered chapters. Also, Levithan doesn't use capitalization. It hurts the eyes.

02 December 2013

Review: On The Count Of Tree by Maureen Johnson

On the Count of Three
On the Count of Three by Maureen Johnson

Genres: Young adult, glbt, romance, contemporary, realistic fiction

What happens when your two best friends fall in love...with each other?

"Their friendship went so far back, it bordered on the Biblical -- in the beginning, there was Nina and Avery and Mel." So says high school senior Nina Bermudez about herself and her two best friends, nicknamed "The Bermudez Triangle" by a jealous wannabe back on Nina's eleventh birthday. But the threesome faces their first separation when Nina goes away the summer before their senior year. And in ten short weeks, everything changes.

Nina returns home bursting with stories about Steve, the quirky yet adorable eco-warrior she fell for hard while away. But when she asks her best friends about their summer romances, an awkward silence follows.

Nina soon learns the shocking truth when she sees Mel and Avery...kissing. Their friendship is rocked by what feels like the ultimate challenge. But it's only the beginning of a sometimes painful, sometimes funny, always gripping journey as three girls discover who they are and what they really want.

I've mentioned it in a previous post, but I've been wanting to read a Maureen Johnson book ever since I was introduced to her writing in Let It Snow. Fortunately, On The Count Of Tree (also titled The Bermudez Triangle) did not disappoint. It was not as hilarious as Johnson's short story in Let It Snow, but I liked it just the same. The characters are all realistic and lovable, and the emotional scenes tug at your heartstrings. I actually teared up once. It's unlike some novels which try too hard to make you feel for the characters. This one was a good read and it built up their issues well to the point that you can understand what they're going through. It's got comedy, romance, friendship, and battles with the self. 

Really, my own qualm was that the ending left me wondering, 'that was it?'. Nina, one of the three main characters, suddenly solved her problems and made a major decision without any explanation or build up. There was just mention of it in the last chapter. Just... okay, there could have been more to it. 

 Despite that, I loved the book. Maureen Johnson is now a favorite author. 

 Rating: 4/5

29 November 2013

Stacking The Shelves #3

I bought two YA books from Fully Booked this week. First, I bought Will Grayson, Will Grayson last Thursday and swore that was all I was getting this week. Then I was out yesterday and passed by Fully Booked and... bought Paper Towns. Because it was on sale. So much for that idea.

28 November 2013

What's Next? #2

A coming-of-age tale of fan fiction, family and first love.

Cath is a Simon Snow fan.

Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan . . .

But for Cath, being a fan is her life — and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving.

Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.

Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.

Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words . . . And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.

For Cath, the question is: Can she do this?

Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories?

And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?

Who would have guessed that four minutes could change everything?

Today should be one of the worst days of seventeen-year-old Hadley Sullivan's life. Having missed her flight, she's stuck at JFK airport and late to her father's second wedding, which is taking place in London and involves a soon-to-be stepmother Hadley's never even met. Then she meets the perfect boy in the airport's cramped waiting area. His name is Oliver, he's British, and he's sitting in her row.

A long night on the plane passes in the blink of an eye, and Hadley and Oliver lose track of each other in the airport chaos upon arrival. Can fate intervene to bring them together once more?

Quirks of timing play out in this romantic and cinematic novel about family connections, second chances, and first loves. Set over a twenty-four-hour-period, Hadley and Oliver's story will make you believe that true love finds you when you're least expecting it. 

When her best guy friend falls victim to a vicious hate crime, sixteen-year-old Cat sets out to discover who in her small town did it.

Richly atmospheric, this daring mystery mines the secrets of a tightly knit Southern community and examines the strength of will it takes to go against everyone you know in the name of justice.

Against a backdrop of poverty, clannishness, drugs, and intolerance, Myracle has crafted a harrowing coming-of-age tale couched in a deeply intelligent mystery. Smart, fearless, and compassionate, this is an unforgettable work from a beloved author.

So these are just some more books which are on the back burner. They're all young adult books. I'm leaning towards The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, but that might also be because it just seems too endearing -- and I love those types of novels.

26 November 2013

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros #1

On the Count of Three
On the Count of Three by Maureen Johnson

The host stood at his podium under the pink-and-yellow neon arch and surveyed the three girls who had just come through the door. Avery Dekker stepped forward and gave him a huge smile. 

"Bermudez," she said. "Two o'clock birthday party."

He looked Avery over, taking in her fishing hat and her For Good Luck, Rub My Belly T-shirt. His eyes passed to the two girls standing behind her. First they settled on the petite, pale redhead in a denim skirt and a pink tank top. Then the fell on the tall, cocoa-colored girl in a red summer dress and matching flip-flops. This girl looked around in bafflement.
I actually finished this book the other day but I'm currently 'in-between books' and decided to use On The Count Of Three for this meme. :) Nice book, I enjoyed it a lot.

25 November 2013

Review: Ten Things We Did (and Probably Shouldn't Have) by Sarah Mlynowski

Review: Ten Things We Did (and Probably Shouldn't Have) by Sarah Mlynowski

Genres: Young adult, romance, contemporary, chick lit, realistic fiction

Summary: 2 girls + 3 guys + 1 house - parents = 10 things April and her friends did that they (definitely, maybe, probably) shouldn't have. If given the opportunity, what sixteen-year-old wouldn't jump at the chance to move in with a friend and live parent-free? Although maybe "opportunity" isn't the right word, since April had to tell her dad a tiny little untruth to make it happen (see #1: "Lied to Our Parents"). But she and her housemate Vi are totally responsible and able to take care of themselves. How they ended up "Skipping School" (#3), "Throwing a Crazy Party" (#8), "Buying a Hot Tub" (#4), and, um, "Harboring a Fugitive" (#7) at all is kind of a mystery to them.
This is your average chic lit, young adult (more specifically, teen) book. I found it funny though the plot was not anything extraordinary. What stood out best in the book were the characters... they all seemed very real. Each of them had their own issues and personalities (yay!).

At first, I found it confusing that the author kept going from the present and then showing snippets of the past. It was a lot of back and forth, and it was also quite difficult to remember who's who, because suddenly there's just this myriad of characters in your face. But once that passes, you get into it, and you actually start rooting for someone. What I found nice about it is that I could actually empathize with the characters, though there came a time when it got tiring that all the protagonist did was be depressed and selfish and punishing. And also, oblivious. I do feel for her because it's true that she was going through some tough stuff, but for a reader, it became redundant to read the same musings again and again.

Anyway, I recommend this to people who like slice-of-life books with impressive characters who don't mind a plot that doesn't go that deep.

Rating: 3/5

24 November 2013

23 November 2013

Stacking The Shelves #2

I only got one new book this week... and like the books from last week, it's brand new. I promise to only get secondhand books following this week. I promise... or I'll try my best. Or I'll start using my kindle again. Because, well, I really have to start saving up.

On the Count of Three by Maureen Johnson - I have been wanting to buy a Maureen Johnson book ever since I was introduced to her writing in Let It Snow. I went on a whim and bought this one (also known as the Bermudez triangle). It's about three very good friends. One of them, Nina, leaves town for the summer and comes back to the fact that her two friends have hooked up.

21 November 2013

What's Next? #1

Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami

Kafka on the Shore, a tour de force of metaphysical reality, is powered by two remarkable characters: a teenage boy, Kafka Tamura, who runs away from home either to escape a gruesome oedipal prophecy or to search for his long-missing mother and sister; and an aging simpleton called Nakata, who never recovered from a wartime affliction and now is drawn toward Kafka for reasons that, like the most basic activities of daily life, he cannot fathom.

Lost & Found by Jacqueline Sheehan

A poignant and unforgettable tale of love, loss, and moving on . . . with the help of one not-so-little dog

Rocky's husband Bob was just forty-two when she discovered him lying cold and lifeless on the bathroom floor . . . and Rocky's world changed forever. Quitting her job, chopping off all her hair, she leaves Massachusetts—reinventing her past and taking a job as Animal Control Warden on Peak's Island, a tiny speck off the coast of Maine and a million miles away from everything she's lost. She leaves her career as a psychologist behind, only to find friendship with a woman whose brain misfires in the most wonderful way and a young girl who is trying to disappear. Rocky, a quirky and fallible character, discovers the healing process to be agonizingly slow.

But then she meets Lloyd.

A large black Labrador retriever, Lloyd enters Rocky's world with a primitive arrow sticking out of his shoulder. And so begins a remarkable friendship between a wounded woman and a wounded, lovable beast. As the unraveling mystery of Lloyd's accident and missing owner leads Rocky to an archery instructor who draws her in even as she finds every reason to mistrust him, she discovers the life-altering revelation that grief can be transformed . . . and joy does exist in unexpected places.

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

Richard Mayhew is a plain man with a good heart - and an ordinary life that is changed forever on a day he stops to help a girl he finds bleeding on a London sidewalk. From that moment forward he is propelled into a world he never dreamed existed - a dark subculture flourishing in abandoned subway stations and sewer tunnels below the city - a world far stranger and more dangerous than the only one he has ever known...

Not really sure what I want to read next, though I was kind of hoping for a light read this time around. Unfortunately all the books I have here are thick, with Lost & Found being the shortest (but it's the first in a series, and I don't have the other books!)

17 November 2013

Stacking The Shelves #1

I'm doing my first Stacking The Shelves post! I've seen numerous other blogs doing it, and I always thought it would be fun. It should also serve as a reminder that I've got books that need to be read... since I have such a bad habit of hoarding books.

This week I bought two books. It's been a while since I bought brand new books from Fully Booked, instead of from second hand stores. We got our 13th month pay so I decided to treat myself. ;)

Ten Things We Did (and Probably Shouldn't Have) by Sarah Mlynowski - I bought this one on a whim because I thought the synopsis was interesting. It seems like a light-hearted tale about a girl who's out in the real world for the first time, and going all through the drama that goes hand in hand.

Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami, Philip Gabriel (Translator) - As popular as Haruki Murakami is, I'm ashamed to say I've never actually read an entire book of his. I remember years ago, I borrowed a book from one of my friends and got lucky enough to pick a short story that I ended up loving. It was called "On seeing the 100% perfect girl one beautiful April morning". I always told myself I'd read a book of his, and I'm finally going to do that.

Anyway, because I want to, I'm leaving the short story here. Credits: YMFY

by Haruki Murakami

One beautiful April morning, on a narrow side street in Tokyo’s fashionable Harujuku neighborhood, I walked past the 100% perfect girl.

Tell you the truth, she’s not that good-looking. She doesn’t stand out in any way. Her clothes are nothing special. The back of her hair is still bent out of shape from sleep. She isn’t young, either - must be near thirty, not even close to a “girl,” properly speaking. But still, I know from fifty yards away: She’s the 100% perfect girl for me. The moment I see her, there’s a rumbling in my chest, and my mouth is as dry as a desert.

Maybe you have your own particular favorite type of girl - one with slim ankles, say, or big eyes, or graceful fingers, or you’re drawn for no good reason to girls who take their time with every meal. I have my own preferences, of course. Sometimes in a restaurant I’ll catch myself staring at the girl at the next table to mine because I like the shape of her nose.

But no one can insist that his 100% perfect girl correspond to some preconceived type. Much as I like noses, I can’t recall the shape of hers - or even if she had one. All I can remember for sure is that she was no great beauty. It’s weird.

“Yesterday on the street I passed the 100% girl,” I tell someone.

“Yeah?” he says. “Good-looking?”

“Not really.”

“Your favorite type, then?”

“I don’t know. I can’t seem to remember anything about her - the shape of her eyes or the size of her breasts.”


“Yeah. Strange.”

“So anyhow,” he says, already bored, “what did you do? Talk to her? Follow her?”

“Nah. Just passed her on the street.”

She’s walking east to west, and I west to east. It’s a really nice April morning.

Wish I could talk to her. Half an hour would be plenty: just ask her about herself, tell her about myself, and - what I’d really like to do - explain to her the complexities of fate that have led to our passing each other on a side street in Harajuku on a beautiful April morning in 1981. This was something sure to be crammed full of warm secrets, like an antique clock build when peace filled the world.

After talking, we’d have lunch somewhere, maybe see a Woody Allen movie, stop by a hotel bar for cocktails. With any kind of luck, we might end up in bed.

Potentiality knocks on the door of my heart.

Now the distance between us has narrowed to fifteen yards.

How can I approach her? What should I say?

“Good morning, miss. Do you think you could spare half an hour for a little conversation?”

Ridiculous. I’d sound like an insurance salesman.

“Pardon me, but would you happen to know if there is an all-night cleaners in the neighborhood?”

No, this is just as ridiculous. I’m not carrying any laundry, for one thing. Who’s going to buy a line like that?

Maybe the simple truth would do. “Good morning. You are the 100% perfect girl for me.”

No, she wouldn’t believe it. Or even if she did, she might not want to talk to me. Sorry, she could say, I might be the 100% perfect girl for you, but you’re not the 100% boy for me. It could happen. And if I found myself in that situation, I’d probably go to pieces. I’d never recover from the shock. I’m thirty-two, and that’s what growing older is all about.

We pass in front of a flower shop. A small, warm air mass touches my skin. The asphalt is damp, and I catch the scent of roses. I can’t bring myself to speak to her. She wears a white sweater, and in her right hand she holds a crisp white envelope lacking only a stamp. So: She’s written somebody a letter, maybe spent the whole night writing, to judge from the sleepy look in her eyes. The envelope could contain every secret she’s ever had.

I take a few more strides and turn: She’s lost in the crowd.

Now, of course, I know exactly what I should have said to her. It would have been a long speech, though, far too long for me to have delivered it properly. The ideas I come up with are never very practical.

Oh, well. It would have started “Once upon a time” and ended “A sad story, don’t you think?”

Once upon a time, there lived a boy and a girl. The boy was eighteen and the girl sixteen. He was not unusually handsome, and she was not especially beautiful. They were just an ordinary lonely boy and an ordinary lonely girl, like all the others. But they believed with their whole hearts that somewhere in the world there lived the 100% perfect boy and the 100% perfect girl for them. Yes, they believed in a miracle. And that miracle actually happened.

One day the two came upon each other on the corner of a street.

“This is amazing,” he said. “I’ve been looking for you all my life. You may not believe this, but you’re the 100% perfect girl for me.”

“And you,” she said to him, “are the 100% perfect boy for me, exactly as I’d pictured you in every detail. It’s like a dream.”

They sat on a park bench, held hands, and told each other their stories hour after hour. They were not lonely anymore. They had found and been found by their 100% perfect other. What a wonderful thing it is to find and be found by your 100% perfect other. It’s a miracle, a cosmic miracle.

As they sat and talked, however, a tiny, tiny sliver of doubt took root in their hearts: Was it really all right for one’s dreams to come true so easily?

And so, when there came a momentary lull in their conversation, the boy said to the girl, “Let’s test ourselves - just once. If we really are each other’s 100% perfect lovers, then sometime, somewhere, we will meet again without fail. And when that happens, and we know that we are the 100% perfect ones, we’ll marry then and there. What do you think?”

“Yes,” she said, “that is exactly what we should do.”

And so they parted, she to the east, and he to the west.

The test they had agreed upon, however, was utterly unnecessary. They should never have undertaken it, because they really and truly were each other’s 100% perfect lovers, and it was a miracle that they had ever met. But it was impossible for them to know this, young as they were. The cold, indifferent waves of fate proceeded to toss them unmercifully.

One winter, both the boy and the girl came down with the season’s terrible inluenza, and after drifting for weeks between life and death they lost all memory of their earlier years. When they awoke, their heads were as empty as the young D. H. Lawrence’s piggy bank.

They were two bright, determined young people, however, and through their unremitting efforts they were able to acquire once again the knowledge and feeling that qualified them to return as full-fledged members of society. Heaven be praised, they became truly upstanding citizens who knew how to transfer from one subway line to another, who were fully capable of sending a special-delivery letter at the post office. Indeed, they even experienced love again, sometimes as much as 75% or even 85% love.

Time passed with shocking swiftness, and soon the boy was thirty-two, the girl thirty.

One beautiful April morning, in search of a cup of coffee to start the day, the boy was walking from west to east, while the girl, intending to send a special-delivery letter, was walking from east to west, but along the same narrow street in the Harajuku neighborhood of Tokyo. They passed each other in the very center of the street. The faintest gleam of their lost memories glimmered for the briefest moment in their hearts. Each felt a rumbling in their chest. And they knew:

She is the 100% perfect girl for me.

He is the 100% perfect boy for me.

But the glow of their memories was far too weak, and their thoughts no longer had the clarity of fouteen years earlier. Without a word, they passed each other, disappearing into the crowd. Forever.

A sad story, don’t you think?

Yes, that’s it, that is what I should have said to her.

10 November 2013

Review: Let it Snow: Three Holiday Romances by John Green, Maureen Johnson, Lauren Myracle

Let it Snow: Three Holiday Romances by John Green, Maureen Johnson, Lauren Myracle 

Genres: Young adult, romance, short stories, holiday 

SummaryAn ill-timed storm on Christmas Eve  buries the residents of Gracetown under multiple feet of snow and causes quite a bit of chaos. One brave soul ventures out into the storm from her stranded train and sets off a chain of events that will change quite a few lives. Over the next three days one girl takes a risky shortcut with an adorable stranger, three friends set out to win a race to the Waffle House (and the hash brown spoils), and the fate of a teacup pig falls into the hands of a lovesick barista.

Aside from the famous John Green, I have never (unfortunately) heard of Maureen Johnson and Lauren Myracle before. But I didn't buy this book because of John Green's name, I bought it because it's the holiday seasons and I wanted to read a holiday feel-good book. At least I assumed it was a feel-good book. Also, I was correct.

Let It Snow is a collection of holiday short stories. Each one are interconnected to the other and cameos show up in each story. It's not a new idea as it has been done so many times before, but it was also interesting to see the main characters of one story from the point of view of another.

The first story, written by Maureen Johnson, was my favorite. The lady is hilarious, and I am definitely going to look into her other books. The characters that she wrote were refreshing and it made me root for them. The second story was written by John Green, and was written in his familiar fashion of long monologues by characters who all seem to be too quick-witted. It's funny, but not very believable. It was a mixture of romance and friendship and while the characters were hard to believe, it was still fun to read about them. The last story, written by Lauren Myracle, was also amusing to read but the underdog in all three stories. It was fast-paced and focused more on self-realization than anything else.

All in all, I liked this book. There's no profound plot in here, but the way they executed everything was done in such a nice and humorous way that it's definitely a good read.

Rating: 4/5

04 November 2013

Review: The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen

The Peach Keeper
The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen 

Genres: Romance, magical realism, chick lit, fantasy, mystery, contemporary

Summary: It’s the dubious distinction of thirty-year-old Willa Jackson to hail from a fine old Southern family of means that met with financial ruin generations ago. The Blue Ridge Madam—built by Willa’s great-great-grandfather and once the finest home in Walls of Water, North Carolina—has stood for years as a monument to misfortune and scandal. Willa has lately learned that an old classmate—socialite Paxton Osgood—has restored the house to its former glory, with plans to turn it into a top-flight inn. But when a skeleton is found buried beneath the property’s lone peach tree, long-kept secrets come to light, accompanied by a spate of strange occurrences throughout the town. Thrust together in an unlikely friendship, united by a full-blooded mystery, Willa and Paxton must confront the passions and betrayals that once bound their families—and uncover the truths that have transcended time to touch the hearts of the living.
The Peach Keeper is a book which I had randomly picked out of the shelf at National Bookstore. I thought the cover was nice (I judge books by their covers, so judge me), so I purchased it and put it aside. It had been with me for a few months before I finally started to read it. It's the first book I've read from Sarah Addision Allen, and from what I've read from other reviewers, it's not her best work.

I thought the premise was interesting. It mixed mystery, magic, romance, and friendship. What I didn't like, however, was that it was fast-paced and anti-climactic at the same time. The characters appear to just breeze through their problems, fall in love, make friends, and then the book ends. The whole mystery is summed up in a single chapter (towards the end), and at that point, the only thing I could think of was... who cares? The whole mystery was unnecessarily dragged out that there's no surprise once it's finally 'solved'. The book tried too hard to be deep that it became difficult to relate to the characters.

The book had a certain enchantment to it though, and while the characters were not really that worthwhile, you're still pulled in by the magic and the mystery.

My rating: 3/5