Monthly Archives: March 2012

Fairy Tale Fail by Mina V. Esguerra

While I was still on the hunt for searching Mina V. Esguerra’s My Imaginary Ex, I decided to read her other works first. There are a few of her books that are not available in local bookstores, and since I prefer to read from actual books, I ordered directly from Mina despite the books’ availability in Amazon in e-book format. I’m humbly grateful that Mina mailed the books to me. Eager to read the book, I began with Fairy Tale Fail. Here’s the summary from the back cover of the book:

Of all the twenty-something women who are hopeless romantics, Ellie Manuel is more “hopeless” than “romantic.”

Even after her Prince Charming broke up with her, she just won’t give up … because fairy tale heroines don’t live “happily ever after” right away, silly, they’re tested first!

Determined to pass the test, she spends the next year restoring herself to the girl Prince Charming had fallen in love with in the first place.

Until she discovers that life without him might not be so bad after all: her career is taking off, her confidence is back, and the cute guy at work is no longer a stranger.

So when is it okay to quit on a fairy tale?

Given the book’s description about Don, it is evident that he is perceived as the perfect guy – handsome, someone who is mature, responsible, and who doesn’t drink and smoke. Who wouldn’t want that, right? A girl would already feel secure and wouldn’t worry about the future anymore. However, there’s always a downside – he’s not as perfect as what he seems to be.

Ellie, on the other hand, collides with Don’s personality. She has a free spirit in a sense that she independently follows where the wind blows and makes the most out of the things life presents to her. This strong point of Ellie becomes the problem in her relationship with Don. Readers might hate Don for being a jerk, but Ellie doesn’t see that. She hopes to attain her fairy tale dream with Don, overlooking his imperfections.

With this said, Ellie seems to depend on Don. She becomes stuck in her past which prevents her from moving on. She also establishes this “Prince Charming template”, making her ignore what’s more important in her life. And then comes the charismatic Lucas, the Rock Star – as what the employees call him in Ellie’s work building. The more Ellie spends time with Lucas, the more I like her to end up with him rather than Don. And I’m sure readers will swoon over Lucas, too.

As I read through this novella, this somehow encourages me to contemplate on the true meaning of love. This also makes me remember the lessons I learned before from one of my Theology classes in college. I agree with Ellie that a relationship should begin with friendship, but a love that isn’t reciprocated will become a problem. The “love” Don shows for Ellie isn’t love at all. He merely projects his expectations and wants to Ellie; thus, if this isn’t fulfilled, he will immediately break up with her. It is a relief that Ellie comes to this realization, and therefore, she begins to stand up for herself with confidence and reflect that with love, a person will accept the other for who he or she really is.

Overall, this novella is an enjoyable and easy read. I can feel the characters and sympathize with them. Mina is able to provide an avenue where readers can compare who between the two guys is better and more worthy to win Ellie’s heart. Although the story is just short, Mina does not fail to write an interesting story that’s hard to put down. I would definitely want to read more about Lucas and the reason behind Don’s high expectations of the girls he’s in a relationship with.


The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

I’ve been seeing The Book Thief included in The New York Times top ten best seller’s list whenever I browse through the newspaper’s online website. At first, the book didn’t catch much of my attention because it’s not the usual genre I read. Several months later, however, after much deliberation, I was finally able to convince myself to grab a copy and read it.

Here’s the summary from the back cover of the book:

By her brother’s graveside, Liesel Meminger’s life is changed when she picks up a single object, partially hidden in the snow. It is The Gravedigger’s Handbook, left there by accident, and it is her first act of book thievery. So begins a love affair with books and words, as Liesel, with the help of her accordion-playing foster father, learns to read. Soon she is stealing books from Nazi book-burnings, the mayor’s wife’s library, wherever there are books to be found.

But these are dangerous times. When Liesel’s foster family hides a Jew in their basement, Liesel’s world is both opened up and closed down.

While reading The Book Thief, it somehow reminds me of Number the Stars. Evidently, the book is set during the period of Hitler’s reign in Germany, his cruelty and selfishness, and the emergence of World War. As we all know from history, Hitler hated the Jews and this book flawlessly describes just how much he despised them. The mood of the story is just right to let the readers get a taste and glimpse of what it’s like to live during those times. And trust me, you would never want to be born in that era. I could never imagine myself to be in that position, too.

Moving on, I like how Markus Zusak molds the characters to make them become more realistic in any reader’s eyes. A word shaker she is, Liesel has the most complex characteristic of all. She may just be a child which justifies/explains her ignorance, but she shows to have the biggest heart of all. She becomes a changed person as she grows older and her willingness to learn definitely influences her maturity. Moreover, her foster parents, Hans and Rosa, may not be the perfect parents anyone would dream of having, but their love for Liesel is immeasurable. Rudy, on the other hand, is courageous – someone who would go an extra mile just for a friend and is never afraid to be himself. And finally, Max is a Jew who dreams of being free someday. As the story progresses, readers will come to a conclusion that Max and Liesel actually share some similarities more than they imagined and their lives are surprisingly altered by one another with words.

The Book Thief is such a unique book as it is written beautifully and creatively in a descriptive narrative from the point of view of death. It’s quite amusing that the color it symbolically uses clearly depicts the mood of the story. Markus Zusak did not fail to capture each moment in writing perfectly. Readers could actually reach into the hearts of the characters and empathize with them. I also love the author’s writing style. The way he has written and organized the story pushes me to turn one page after another, never wanting to put the book down.

It’s really nice to read something different once in a while. One would expect that the story might be boring since death is the one narrating, but I come to enjoy every bit of the story and it has certainly, without a doubt, captured and touched my heart. This may be hard to admit, but yes, reading this book makes me agree that even death has a heart.

By just the title itself, one cannot overlook the fact that the book centers on a theme about reading, that it consummates the soul by giving life and hope to the reader which enables him to be transported into a world he’s never been to. In Liesel’s case, reading is her way to reconnect with her loved ones – seeking comfort and security despite the harsh world playing in reality. Liesel’s hunger for words and her indulgence in it become her sole reason to steal books.

With this said, Markus Zusak definitely succeeds in his purpose of conveying a message that words mean everything. While Hitler uses words to destroy people, Liesel, on the other hand, tries to steal them back and somehow bring salvation and beauty from it. Words can certainly be as powerful and sharp as a sword and it’s really up to the beholder to use them for good or for evil, to hurt or to heal, to bring courage and hope or fear to the people.

Hands down to this book. I just love everything about it. It vastly exceeds my expectations. Markus Zusak is able to weave a beautiful and inspiring story that no words can express how impressed I am by it. The storyline, character development, theme, setting and mood, the depth of the message it tries to convey – the combination of all these elements makes this book just perfect. It’s certainly hard to come across this kind of book and I don’t regret to have bought it. The book has given me a new perspective about reading and life. No one is too old or too young to read The Book Thief. And I can confidently say that after reading this book, not only does it inspire me, but it leaves me hungry for more.

The 39 Clues: Cahills VS Vespers, Book Three: The Dead of Night by Peter Lerangis

The chase and hunt is on again. I’ve been anticipating the release of this book ever since I’ve finished reading the second book. It’s a good thing that local bookstores released the book in line with the internationally-advertised release date. Of course, I didn’t waste my time leaving the book unread – it’s begging to be read right after I bought a copy! So, without further ado, here’s the plot description from the back cover of the book:

A life on the line.

When seven members of his family were kidnapped by the Vespers, thirteen-year-old Dan Cahill knew he was in for the fight of his life. He knew he was up against an impossibly powerful enemy. And Dan knew the odds were that some of his family members wouldn’t make it.

But even as Dan steels himself to accept these facts, the unthinkable happens. The Vespers capture a blameless bystander – Dan’s best friend Atticus. With an innocent life on the line, Dan kicks off a frantic hunt that will take him from the back alleys of Prague to the rock caves of Turkey. But Dan better find Atticus fast. If he doesn’t, his best friend will surely die.

The story just keeps getting more and more interesting as it progresses. Atticus has been kidnapped by the Vespers, and the Cahills just have to find a way to get him back. At the same time, Amy and Dan are given a task to find an object requested by Vesper One within a limited time. Otherwise, one of the hostages will be killed. In this book, readers will begin to notice that the Rosenbloom brothers are given a bigger role as compared to the previous ones. How significant, exactly, are the brothers in relation to the Cahills? And why is Atticus called the Guardian? No certain answers have been made yet, but I’m sure they will slowly be revealed in the next books.

I’m impressed that the book retains its educational aspect, including historical information which makes the book more enjoyable to read. It’s kind of disappointing, though, that there are fewer thought-provoking puzzles to be solved by Amy and Dan. I guess the book’s more focused on the hostages, the kidnapping of Atticus, and on the Vespers. Moreover, Dan has become more distant from his surroundings than ever. He’s not the usual Dan I know from the first series. This act alone evidently shows that he changed.

All in all, this book did not fail to amaze me. Despite the various authors writing the books in the series, coherency in the story is still maintained. Plus, I’m beginning to like the Rosenbloom brothers, too. Atticus is smart even at such a young age and Jake, on the other hand, proves to be a protective and caring brother. After reading this book, I can confidently say that I’m happily rooting for Jake and Amy’s budding relationship. Although Amy has Evan as her current boyfriend, there’s something about Evan that I’m not comfortable with. To be honest, there’s a part in the book which I felt that Evan might be one of the Vespers. I may be wrong, but who knows, there’s still this possibility that I’m right.

In addition to this, major questions formulated boils down to this: Is Arthur Josiah Trent (Amy and Dan’s father) really Vesper One? What is the deeper meaning behind AJT’s message to Dan to suspend judgment, that the whole story is always more complex than its parts and asks Dan to wait? Is AJT the initial of Amy and Dan’s father? These are the questions that are still left unsolved. I can’t wait for the next book! I hope I can find the answers soon!

Not To Us by Katherine Clare Owen

Immediately after reading Katherine Clare Owen’s debut novel entitled Seeing Julia, I asked a local online bookseller to order the next two books for me. The person in charge of ordering told me that the estimated time of arrival (ETA) of the books would be around mid-March. Given that there are still books left unread on my bookshelf, I went through with the order. Besides, I can still wait.

Surprisingly, during the month of January, S.M. Boyce hosted a month-long giveaway on her blog and one of Katherine Owen’s works, Not To Us, was included in her 31 Days of Giveaways. Plus, the said title was an international giveaway! I did not hesitate to join and waited eagerly until the Not To Us giveaway was over.

Then, after coming home from work one day, I checked my email and was utterly shocked to receive a message from S.M. Boyce, stating that I won a SIGNED COPY of Not To Us! I was squealing inside because it was the first time I won from a giveaway. I gave her my home address and after two weeks, I got a note from the post office that a parcel had arrived for me and that I should claim it immediately. Yes, it’s the book Katherine Owen herself sent to me. And yes, she signed it! So happy! Of course, I began reading it once I got hold of it.

Here’s the plot description from the back cover of the book:

“There are all kinds of ways for a relationship to be tested, even broken, irrevocably; it’s the endings that we’re unprepared for. My life has become a roller coaster ride mixed with equal amounts of pure joy and exposed fear; and, sometimes, this unfathomable incredulity. This arrives in spurts, like adrenalin or injected heroin; well, how I imagine injected heroin would feel. That’s when I consider that change—change, its inevitability—is coming. And, I can’t stop it.”

This is how the roller coaster ride of Ellen Kay “Ellie” Bradford’s story begins. Ellie—a successful editor, a doting mother, and a loving wife—discovers her perfect world has been rocked by her best friend Carrie’s betrayal with her husband Robert. Since college, it’s been the two couples: Robert and Ellie; and, Michael and Carrie. Ellie’s world unravels even further when she learns she has breast cancer from Michael, the brilliant surgeon determined to save her. With an unexpected pregnancy further complicating Ellie’s cancer treatment, Michael and Ellie marry, both intent on building another perfect life together with their blended families. But soon after, their extraordinary bond is tested like never before. Not To Us is an insightful look into one woman’s personal journey in discovering the only way to keep her one and only wish is to trust the ones that count, beginning with herself.

At the beginning, the conflict of the story slowly begins to unfold which greatly affects Ellie’s decision in life. With her breast cancer diagnosis and at the same time, the discovery of her husband’s, Robert, infidelity with her best friend Carrie, Ellie tries to deal with it by wishing to just stop the time and go back to the moments where life seems perfect. Mixture of emotions starts to overflow from within her which leads her to become unsure of herself – confused with what she really wants in her life.

A lot of things have happened in Ellie’s life which make the situation and the characters more realistic to read. It is, indeed, a roller coaster ride for Ellie and as I read the book, it’s as if I am also on a roller coaster ride. There are parts where I can’t seem to handle what Ellie is going through that I have to hesitantly put down the book for a while. The feeling I felt for Ellie is just so heavy. While I empathize with her, I can’t imagine myself to be in her situation as well. Nevertheless, throughout the story, readers will surely come to love Ellie as she evidently becomes a stronger person. I may be disappointed on some parts where she seems to neglect her children, but I am also happy to know that her children are understanding enough not to make the situation harder for Ellie.

Moving on, both Michael and Court possess charismatic personalities which justify Ellie’s confusion on who to really choose between the two. Her relationship with Court proves her yearning to escape the reality and live with a fictitious, fantasy life she unconsciously dreams of having. However, at the end of the day, it will still make readers weigh how different Michael and Court are from one another and later on conclude who is better than the other. Who would it be, you might ask? Read the book! You’ll never regret it.

Katherine Owen truly has her way of making the book more interesting to read. On one hand, her writing style and choice of words can make readers reach into the hearts of the characters. On the other hand, what makes this book more enjoyable is when I discover Kimberley Powers appears in it! You see, she’s one of the characters in Seeing Julia. And she still projects this strong and powerful personality which brings out the real her, just as how I imagined her to be in Seeing Julia.

Overall, what Ellie went through thoughtfully brings one to reevaluate life again – emphasizing the importance to be confident in oneself and to trust people even in the worst times. The key to immeasurable bliss is to maybe just enjoy the moment with the love ones and not to take them for granted. Not To Us is really a story about loss, love, and life – a story about embracing and accepting the things that life presents to us.