A book with a color in the title: Red Queen

I boughtred queen this book by the lovely Victoria Aveyard impulsively from the bookstore because it has an amazing cover art, an arresting summary, and wonderful reviews from the Fantasy YA community. I am drawn to books of this kind because my main purpose for reading is to escape to another world. (Yes, it seems that I’ve been escaping a lot lately).

The Story:

Mare Barrow’s world is divided into two colors–Red and Silver–the colors of their people’s blood. Red is for the commoners with nothing special about them, like her. Silver is for the Royals, the High Borns, and those with special abilities that the Reds can only dream of having. In one twist of fate Mare discovers that though her blood is red, she can do something that they believed only Silvers can. She is a miracle, a Red and a Silver, and a threat. It doesn’t take long for her to realize that power comes with a price, and that anyone can betray anyone.

My Rating: 3 I-know-it-will-get-better stars

So… there’s a love triangle, and I like both guys but kind of hate the girl. Yes, Mare is strong and brave, but she tends to make selfish decisions. I didn’t like how he used both Cal and Maven to get what she wanted. Well both guys did their own kind of betrayal in the end so double slap for Mare there. I know that it’s because she’s only beginning to learn the game that it seemed that Mare was just playing around the whole time. But I know, I’m positive that she will grow into a great heroine in the next two books.

I loved Cal’s character, and I’m hoping that what happened to him won’t change him. I know that’s impossible though. We can only be kind and compassionate and just for so long.

Maven… despite what he did, I don’t hate him. I actually think that there’s more to him that he’s not revealing to Cal and Mare, and even his mother. I’m betting that at some point he will redeem himself.

Kilorn… I think you’re the right one for Mare.

Will see how the sequels play out.

My Favorite Quotes:

“Anyone can betray anyone.”

“Words can lie. See beyond them.”

“If you know someone’s fear, you know them.”

“He knows I’m sinking fast, a stone dropping through the river. And he wants to drown with me.”

A book a friend recommended: Slammed

slammedMy friend has been wanting me to read SLAMMED since early last year and thanks to this reading challenge, I finally did. I haven’t read any other Colleen Hoover books before this one but I know she’s quite popular. It’s just that last year, I was more inclined to read from the fantasy/sci-fi/dystopian stories.

The Story:

When her father died, Layken moved to Michigan with her mother and 9 year-old brother because their single parented household could not afford to remain in Texas. Her brother, Kell, immediately became best friends with a kid who lived across the street named Caulder. And what do you know, Caulder had a hot older brother–Will. It was love at first sight. And just when Layken finally accepted that their move to Michigan wasn’t such a bad idea, fate played its cruel trick on her. On her first day in her new high school, she found out that Will, the guy she just kissed the night before, was actually her Poetry teacher.

My Rating: 3 everything-is-so-perfect stars

I know this is supposed to be a light love story about taking chances, loving life, and accepting death, but I don’t know why I got a little depressed while and after reading it. So I drank coffee though my doctor said I shouldn’t, went to the cinemas and watched a movie–The Last Five Years, which was also depressing–on my own (as in I was the only one watching it at that time and it was really creepy). And how I was feeling might not be really related to this book, but it was what I was reading at that time so…

Anyway. SLAMMED has an abundance of valuable life lessons. The author tells us that death is inevitable. It’s true that we can never be prepared for this, but if by chance, if we’re lucky enough to receive a warning, then let’s make the best out of it.

Pour your heart out. Let the world hear your words. Push your boundaries. That’s what they’re there for.

My Favorite Slam Poem from the Book:

“The Lake”

I used to love the ocean.

Everything about her.

Her coral reefs, her white caps, her roaring

waves, the rocks they lap, her pirate legends and mermaid tails.

Treasures lost and treasures held…

And ALL

Of her fish

In the sea.

Yes, I used to love the ocean,

Everything about her.

The way she would sing me to sleep as I lay in my bed

then wake me with a force

That I soon came to dread.

Her fables, her lies, her misleading eyes, I’ll drain her dry

If I cared enough to.

I used to love the ocean,

Everything about her.

Her coral reefs, her white caps, her roaring

waves, the rocks they lap, her pirate legends and mermaid tails, treasures lost and treasures

held.

And ALL

Of her fish

In the sea.

Well, if you’ve ever tried navigating your

sailboat through her stormy seas, you would

realize that her white caps are your enemies. If you’ve ever tried swimming ashore when your

leg gets a cramp and you just had a huge meal

of In-n-Out burgers that’s weighing you down, and her roaring waves are knocking the wind

out of you, filling your lungs with water as you

flail your arms, trying to get someone’s

attention, but your friends just

wave

back at you?

And if you’ve ever grown up with dreams in your head about life, and how one of these days you would pirate your own ship and have your

own crew and that all of the mermaids would love

only 

you?

Well, you would realize…

Like I eventually realized…

That all the good things about her?

All the beautiful?

It’s not real.

It’s fake.

So you keep your ocean.

I’ll take the Lake.

A book with magic: Apprentice (The Black Mage #2)

apprenticeGoodreads introduced me last year to Ms. Rachel E. Carter, and I absolutely did not regret reading her first book–The Black Mage: First Year.  I loved it! The book was hard to put down, and I found the author’s approach in learning magic fresh and unique. I fell in love with the main characters, too much that I cried in some of the emotional parts.

I’m really happy that I did not need to wait too long for the second book–The Black Mage: Apprentice–to come out.

The Story: 

The second installment of the series covers Ryiah’s action-packed and very emotional four years as an Apprentice, where she realizes that no matter how hard you try to focus on achieving your goals, you can’t keep your heart from getting in the way. In these four years she learns how to gain control of her power as she comes face to face with life-threatening experiences, falls in and out of love, and discovers the art of letting go. And no matter how brutal those years are, in the end she gets what she’s always wanted–the black robe of Combat and a betrothal.

My Rating: 4 please-give-this-entire-series-a-happy-ending stars

Highly recommended!

Would have given it a 5, but Darren and Ryiah kept changing their minds!!! (Yes, I was really frustrated.) But I’m really happy with how it ended. Totally did not expect that bold gesture from Darren. It was very brilliant of him to arrive at a win-win solution to his dilemma. Now I’m wondering what would happen to those two in the next books. A lot could happen in two books! Guess I need to prepare to be frustrated again.

Will Derrick die? Please don’t kill Derrick, he’s so adorable.

I’m expecting more action and surprises in the next two installments.

My Takeaway: 

Ryiah and Darren are both considered powerful because they can pain cast, which for me makes sense because I believe that pain makes us stronger. The deeper your pain, the stronger and wiser you become. It makes you invincible.

My favorite quotes: 

“I was done with misery. I would not let my learning be squandered by a broken heart.”

“Romance only slows you down.”

“Pain is how we build strength.”

“Each one of us is a hero. The irony, of course, is that most will never receive the title.”

A book of short stories: Stranger Things Happen

strangerthingsI fell in love with Kelly Link’s writing style in “The Lady and the Fox,” one of the 12 short holiday stories included in the My True Love Gave to Me anthology, which was published last year. It made me want to read an entire book of her words.

Stranger Things Happen is the author’s first published collection, and was influenced by Nancy Drew Mystery Stories and The Complete Grimm’s Fairy Tales.

The Stories (and what I think they are about, because believe me, the themes are difficult to decipher):

1. Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose

“There were a lot of things I wish I’d said to you.”

What do you think would happen when you die? Would you wake up as a ghost in a room with the view of the sea? And when that happens, would you have the ability to recall the names of your loved ones? I think Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose is a story of regret–of not having peace after betraying someone you love. And forgetting your promise to that person is like forgetting that person’s name.

2. Water Off a Black Dog’s Back

“Tell me which you could sooner do without, love or water.”

If your life has been defined by a series of loss, would you choose to spend the rest of your life with someone who’s never lost anything in his/her life? Sometimes it takes more than attraction. You can only love someone completely the moment you understand that person’s pain.

3. The Specialist’s Hat

“When you’re Dead…you live in a box, and it’s always dark, but you’re never afraid.”

You can cheat life by playing dead.

4. Flying Lessons

“Have you ever dreamed you could fly, I mean with wings?”

If your lover could fly and travel to hell, would you follow?

5. Travels with the Snow Queen

“Where you are, where you are coming from, it is impossible to read a map made of paper. If it were that easy then everyone would be a traveler. You have heard of other travelers whose maps are breadcrumbs, whose maps are stones, whose maps are four winds, whose maps are yellow bricks laid one after the other. You read your map with your foot, and behind you somewhere there must be another traveler whose map is the bloody footprints that you are leaving behind you.”

This is my favorite piece of the eleven. I’ve always hated my visible and invisible scars. I wished they never existed. I never saw them as Kelly Link does in this story–as maps. When we look at our scars, they tell them where we’ve been, and where we’re going. And the trail of blood that those scars left behind forms another map, not for you, but for those who are traveling behind you.

6. Vanishing Act

“Life is a series of sudden disappearances, leavetakings without proper good-byes. Someday she too might vanish. Some days she looks forward to learning this trick.”

Sometimes you would meet someone who will show you a way to escape the box that confines you.

7. Survivor’s Ball, or, The Donner Party

“Someday, he knew, if he traveled long enough he would eventually come to a wonderful–a magical–place.”

We are all travelers. We are all survivors.

8. Shoe and Marriage

“When you are holding me, I don’t feel homesick at all.”

Shoes play a very significant role in our lives. They define who we are. They define our relationships. They define how we’ve lived our lives.

9. Most of My Friends are Two-Thirds Water

“When I say that some women are blondes, you will realize that I am probably not.”

If you’re not the type that your best friend would fall for (and you want him/her to fall for you) would you change who you are for that person? I tried… but the effects were temporary. So I think that’s never a good idea. Okay?

10. Louise’s Ghost

“Why is she always supposed to give up something? Why can’t other people share?”

Never. steal. your. best. friend’s. man. (You’ll get full custody of her daughter when she dies).

11. The Girl Detective

“No one will ever love you the way that you love them.”

The most confusing story of all. Who is the girl detective? Who is narrating the story? The Girl Detective doesn’t eat food. She eats dreams. (I’m not familiar with Nancy Drew so… sorry.)

My Rating: 2 stars

Kelly Link is a genius. Reading this collection is a bit depressing for readers like me who really take time to analyze events in a story, finding answers, and concluding endings. She finishes her stories without conclusion or solution. There were moments when I found myself asking “What did I just read? What was that about?” So… maybe I’ll read one of her books again… or maybe not. Still too early to tell 🙂

A book your mom loves: Sweet Valley High

svhI remember seeing the Sweet Valley High books in our shelves (and reading one of them) like sixteen years ago, on top of the Danielle Steel collection, and quite a number of Filipino romance pocket books. Yes, my mom used to love reading. She stopped the moment I learned to love it too. I’m not really sure why.

For this challenge, I chose “Double Love,” the first book of Francine Pascal’s Sweet Valley High series. I couldn’t find the old books anymore because we’ve been moving from time to time so I just bought the kindle version.

The Story:

Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield are identical twins with different interests and temperaments. Jess, being the outgoing type, is more concerned with her appearance and reputation than her sister. Liz, the simple and reserved one, is busy fulfulling her dream to become a famous writer. Different as they are, two girls are both attracted to Todd Wilkins– the most popular guy from the basketball team.

My Rating: 2 stars

While I’m sure that I loved that Sweet Valley High book (can’t remember the title) that I’ve read from years back, I can’t help but realize how much YA stories have evolved through time. The story didn’t have enough depth for me to reflect upon. I also didn’t like Jessica’s character, and the stunt that Liz pulled at the end, though it was just for fun. I didn’t like Todd at all. Or maybe I’m just too old to be reading this kind of story. The third person POV is also confusing in some chapters.
Quotes I liked:

“Anybody who would believe things about me without even finding out the truth isn’t anybody I care about.”

Write, she told herself. Keep on writing. Forget everything else.

A book more than 100 years old: Pilgrim’s Progress

pilgrim's progressThe Pilgrim’s Progress from This World to That Which Is to Come; Delivered under the Similitude of a Dream was first published in 1678, and was written during the time when the author, John Bunyan was in prison. This book has been referenced in a lot of my reading materials, so I resolved to read this book in this lifetime. It was fortunate that I found a “modern” version of Bunyan’s work in a bookstore while I was searching the shelves for classics.

This version,Pilgrim’s Progress (in Today’s English), which was retold by James H. Thomas, was first published in 1964.

The Story: 

The Pilgrim’s Progress is an allegory of the Christian life, told in two parts. The main character in the first part was named Christian, who was first called Graceless. He came from the City of Destruction where he lived with his wife, Christiana, and their four sons. After reading the book in his hand, he became aware of his sinful nature that burdened his soul. With the help of Evangelist who encouraged him and showed him the way to the Wicket Gate where he could be free of his burden, he left the City of Destruction despite his wife’s opposition and started his pilgrimage to the Celestial City.

The second part tells the story of Christiana, Christian’s wife, who eventually decided to follow her husband’s footsteps along with her four sons–Matthew, James, Samuel, and Joseph.

My Rating: 5 edifying stars

This book shows how one Christian journey is different from another. Some started strong but are not able to finish well. Some experienced a rough start but was able to get through to the end with an amazing testimony. There are also few who were consistent in their Christian walk. This is true because not one Christian is the same with another. We have our own set of strengths and weaknesses. What we have, others may lack.

That is why it is important to not venture on this journey alone. Christian would not have succeeded in reaching the Celestial City, if it wasn’t for his fellow pilgrims–Faithful and Hopeful–who encouraged and rebuked him along the way. As it is written in the book, “the meeting of believers is like appearing of the moon and stars on a stormy night to mariners.”  

The book also warns Christians of the different types of people that they would meet that could swerve them away from the right path, if not careful. We must always be vigilant, and rooted in the Word of God, so as not to be easily swayed and discouraged when difficulty arises.

My favorite quotes: 

“It happens to us as to all transient humanity. Sometimes we are up and sometimes we are down; we are on the mountain top, then in the valley. Sometimes our way is joyous and easy—filled with sunshine and gladness—then we go through clouds and darkness, and the way is difficult and long. We seldom fare the same for any length of time. The wind is not always in our favor; though we do sometimes ride the tide. We have our battles and our victories. We meet with friends and foes. We have our triumphs, our troubles and tribulations; yet we can truthfully say that the grace of God is sufficient for every type of person in all situations of life if one will only believe.”

“If any pilgrim, when taken by violent hands, will keep his heart and mind fixed on the Lord, he will not die, nor suffer more than he is able to bear, at the hands of the enemy.”

“These troubles and distresses that you go through in these waters are no sign that God has forsaken you. They are sent to call to your mind that which you have received of His goodness, that you may trust Him in your distress.”

A book you own but have never read: Wonder

wonderAnd I’m actually wondering why I didn’t read it sooner! This book had been quietly sitting on my office table for a year, and if it wasn’t for this reading challenge that I’m challenging myself with, I still wouldn’t have touched it. Maybe because I thought I was too old for a middle-school story. Maybe because I thought I wouldn’t relate much with the main character. And surprise, I was so wrong.

The Story:

“Wonder” by R.J. Palacio is about a 10 year-old boy named August who was born with facial deformities. After years of being homeschooled, his parents enrolled him in fifth grade, in a normal school, with normal students, with normal faces. At first he was freaked out with the idea, but then when his parents brought him to the school for a tour, he decided that he wanted to go. He thought he was used to all the attention his face had attracted his entire life. It didn’t take long for August to realize that middle school was not as easy as he thought it would be.

My Rating: 5 inspiring stars

An absolute tearjerker. I love how brave and honest August is about his feelings, and he is actually blessed to have a family who is very proud of him, and loves him deeply despite of who or what other people think he is. I liked how the author told the story in different point of views, letting the reader know not just Auggie’s thoughts, but also what the people around him are thinking, how they are feeling, and what they are going through. This is why though the story is focused on August, you can’t help but relate to and love all those other characters as well.

For me, the most important message of this story is that most of the time, people are not who they appear to be on the outside. A happy face may be trying to hide a hurting heart. There can be a lot of weakness hiding beneath a tough facade. And an ugly face (in the world’s standards) can hide a very beautiful heart. Everyone needs someone who would see beyond what is visible, and say they understand, and that they’re with us, no matter what.

We may not be like Auggie who was born with physical deformities, but there will always be parts of ourselves that we often wish we don’t have. Sometimes we let our insecurities get the best of us, paralyzing us into seclusion. We’re afraid to try new things, because we feel we’re not capable. We choose to hide instead of fight, because losing is just too frightening for us.

What I learned from this book is that we have to be an August. Not perfect, yes, but a fighter.

My favorite quotes:

“I think there should be a rule that everyone in the world should get a standing ovation at least once in their lives.”

“You don’t need your eyes to love, right? You just feel it inside you.”

“I want you to know that you have me looking out for you.”

“The things we do are the most important things of all. They are more important than what we say or what we look like. The things we do outlast our mortality.”