Monthly Archives: October 2013

About a Girl by Lindsey Kelk

When Natalie @ The Book Geek Wears Pajamas hosted a giveaway on Twitter, I immediately grabbed the opportunity to join the contest in the hopes of being one of the lucky winners. Thankfully, I was among those who won. The winners were then given a list of e-book chic-lit titles and from the list, we will pick one book. There were so many choices to choose from, but after much deliberation, I decided to pick About a Girl by Lindsey Kelk. The premise of the story just sparked my interest.

Here’s the plot description from Goodreads:

About A Girl coverI’d lost my job. I’d lost the love of my life. My mum wasn’t talking to me. My best friend was epically pissed off. And my flatmate probably had a hit out on me by now. I never meant for things to get so out of hand…

Tess Brookes has always been a Girl with a Plan. But when her carefully constructed Plan goes belly up, she’s forced to reconsider.

After accidently answering her flatmate Vanessa’s phone, she decides that since being Tess isn’t going so well, why shouldn’t she try out being Vanessa? With nothing left to lose, she accepts Vanessa’s photography assignment to Hawaii – she used to be an amateur snapper, how hard can it be? Right?

But Tess is soon in big trouble – she isn’t a photographer, she isn’t Vanessa, and the gorgeous journalist on the shoot with her, who is making it very clear he’d like to get into her pants, is an egotistical monster.

Far from home and in someone else’s shoes, Tess must decide whether to fight on through, or ‘fess up and run…

At the beginning of the story, Tess Brookes already has a life planned out for herself. A workaholic, she dedicates her time to her job in order to attain the promotion she dreams of getting. But then, with just a snap of a finger, everything evaporates into thin air. Imagine to have experienced what Tess is going through – a disaster, that’s what I’ll say. Moreover, the relationship she has with her long-time crush and best friend turns out to be unrequited love. What more hapless moments could happen?

With no hope and determination left, Tess decides to do something outside her comfort zone – that is, to pretend being her flatmate Vanessa and a photographer. At a glance, her spontaneous move is a bit risky since she is not a professional photographer. On the other hand, I guess her decision to “change her identity” is her way of escape from stress and all the disappointments that just happened to her. Plus, who would reject an invitation to do a photo shoot in Hawaii? I know I wouldn’t!

I don’t have expertise in photography or in advertising, but I love how Lindsey Kelk gives the readers a little bit of background of the said careers. Lindsey Kelk is able to portray the job descriptions in photography and advertising through her narration. I can easily imagine how people work behind those professions. Not only that, the author also includes a bit about journalism and this is shown through her characterization of Nick Miller.

Lindsey Kelk definitely pulled off this story. Although I may not completely relate to the characters, I still feel empathy towards them. The main characters are so dynamic and unique that their personalities have been made apparent, especially Tess’. It is evident that the moment she becomes unemployed, she begins to have a conflict with herself. She suddenly doesn’t see herself for who she really is and doesn’t know who she wants to be anymore. Everything just falls apart. But as the story progresses, unbeknownst to her consciousness, readers could slowly see what Tess is capable of. And then there’s Nick, an overconfident journalist, who remains unpredictable and confuses Tess’ heart. But these are not the only reasons that make this book interesting. I also come to love the friendship and conversations Tess has with Amy, as well as with Paige, Al, and Kekipi.

Overall, About a Girl definitely kept me entertained from beginning until the end. I never expected to like this book so much. There are moments when I even find myself smiling and laughing quietly at the humor Lindsey Kelk creates out of that story. It’s fun, enjoyable, yet emotional and also swoon-worthy. More so, her scenic descriptions of Hawaii trigger my desire to visit Hawaii again. It’s just that by merely reading this book, any reader could tell that Hawaii is a must-see place to visit.

As I am nearing the end with all the revelations and realizations disclosed, I keep turning page after page, eager to find out what will happen to Tess and which path she decides to traverse. And then, BOOM! Lindsey Kelk leaves me hanging. I almost shouted! I thought there’s an error in the copy, but after turning more pages, I found out that Lindsey Kelk did it on purpose as there’s a sequel to the story. Now I just have to tolerate my agony of waiting. At least the clock is ticking.


Young and Scambitious (A Short Story) by Mina V. Esguerra

When Mina V. Esguerra tweeted that her latest short story will be free of charge for a limited period of time on Amazon (in Kindle format), I immediately grabbed the opportunity to download a copy. Here’s the summary taken from Goodreads:

Young and Scambitious coverWho is Elizabeth Madrid, exactly? She’s Manila’s latest It Girl–stylish, staple of the club scene, new best friend of famous-for-being-famous Chrysalis Magnolia. She’s also a jewelry clan heiress, a former model, an Ivy Leaguer… except no one actually knew of her until last year. Shouldn’t her new society friends be more suspicious? Especially “BFF” Chrysalis, who reportedly already lost an expensive ring to a friend who turned out to be a thief?

I am a bit intrigued with the title – it’s like the main character is doing something sinister. This is definitely not the usual goody-two-shoes protagonist we often read about in most books. The title itself already gives the readers a bit of an idea of what the story is about. I especially love the creativeness of the author’s word play, specifically the usage of scambitious, which describes the totality of the main character’s job.

Young and Scambitious is different from the other short stories I read. It revolves around jewelries and how people would go to great lengths, no matter how risky and illegal they would be, to achieve instant high earnings. Mina V. Esguerra certainly provides us a glimpse of how jewelry scam works. After reading this, I think I become more cautious with the authentication of jewelries I might encounter in the future. It’s really funny how everything seems to fall into place. When I was reading this, I hear people I know are getting engaged or getting married soon. Talk about coincidence. LOL.

To be honest, I am a bit confused with the story at first. I’m not exactly sure what’s happening, but as the story progresses, the plotline begins to unravel itself and soon, I find myself getting more interested about what’s going to happen. Who would’ve thought that the characters’ lives are intertwined with one another?

Overall, Young and Scambitious is a quick read. Anyone can read it in one sitting. However, since it’s only a short story, some questions that emerged while reading it are left unanswered. It’s also a bit of a cliffhanger. If this is made into a novel-length story, I’m sure this will turn out to be a better work.

The Humming Room by Ellen Potter

So this is the last book I intend to read that’s meant for the Classics Retold project. By far, The Humming Room is the only retelling of The Secret Garden I know. I’ve read reviews of this book and seeing the positive reactions it received, I confidently believe that I would feel the same way.

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

The Humming Room coverHiding is Roo Fanshaw’s special skill. Living in a frighteningly unstable family, she often needs to disappear at a moment’s notice. When her parents are murdered, it’s her special hiding place under the trailer that saves her life.

As it turns out, Roo, much to her surprise, has a wealthy if eccentric uncle, who has agreed to take her into his home on Cough Rock Island. Once a tuberculosis sanitarium for children of the rich, the strange house is teeming with ghost stories and secrets. Roo doesn’t believe in ghosts or fairy tales, but what are those eerie noises she keeps hearing? And who is that strange wild boy who lives on the river? People are lying to her, and Roo becomes determined to find the truth.

Despite the best efforts of her uncle’s assistants, Roo discovers the house’s hidden room—a garden with a tragic secret. A secret that must never be known.

By just looking at the cover, readers would immediately conclude that it’s a middle-grade novel. Despite so, I find the cover attractive. It’s cartoonish yet at the same time, drawn in detail. The artist perfectly portrays the young girl’s facial expression of surprise as she discovers something that’s meant to be a secret. Moreover, the font of the book suits the title and the content of the story. I also love how the colors complement one another. The cover is just so eye-catching that it makes me want to grab the book instantly.

Similar to the classic, the book introduces us to Roo’s life at the time she’s about to become an orphan. The story is set in modern period, but the author still maintains distance from settings where technologies are prominent. The places mentioned in the book are quite imaginative and impressive. While Cough Rock Island casts a spooky feeling, it still holds some beauty in it. If there’s such thing as that place, I would want to visit it.

Right at the beginning, I’m already drawn to Roo’s characterization. There’s something mysterious about her that makes me want to know more about her. Her quietness sparks my curiosity with regards to her thoughts and feelings. I guess in some way I can also relate to her. Same as Roo, I prefer being alone and doing my own thing rather than interacting with people. While we’re both introverts, I don’t think I’m as good with plants as her. Roo’s ability to feel the earth’s breathing is just remarkable. This is one of the things she differs from Mary Lennox and I like her for that. Her dynamism certainly allows the readers to see the changes in her personality.

Without a doubt, The Humming Room is a perfect retelling of The Secret Garden. It remains faithful to the core of the classic. The other characters are also at parallel to the original story. But what make this book so unique are the back stories and myths Ellen Potter creates, mixing in some ghost stories and supernatural creatures as it brings the novel to a whole new level of excitement. Even the garden itself is a wishful sight to see. Ellen Potter’s writing style has certainly kept me turning page after page, wanting to find out what happens next. The simplicity of the story does not stop me from enjoying the book. If only this was made longer, I would’ve wanted to read a more in-depth narrative about the old tuberculosis sanitarium for children, Roo’s early life, as well as Jack’s story. Overall, this classic-inspired novel definitely deserves a space in our shelves. You won’t regret it.

The Aviary by Kathleen O’Dell

This book was initially intended for the Classics Retold project. However, it evidently didn’t go as planned. A lot of things had happened in the past month that I wasn’t able to finish the book on time. Even so, I still plan on reviewing the remaining books left for the project.

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

The Aviary coverTwelve-year-old Clara Dooley has spent her whole life in the crumbling Glendoveer mansion, home to a magician’s widow, a cage full of exotic birds, and a decades-old mystery. Clara loves old Mrs. Glendoveer, but the birds in the aviary frighten her—they always seem to screech and squall whenever she’s near. And then one day, the mynah bird speaks, and a mystery starts to unravel.

Clara discovers dark secrets about the family, and about her own past. Somehow the birds in the aviary seem to be at the center of it all, and Clara can’t shake the feeling that they are trying to tell her something. . .

The premise of the story already projects a mysterious feeling to the readers. I’m not exactly fond of mystery stories, but I still chose this book to see how it’s connected to The Secret Garden. Just by the title itself, although I highly doubt that the book will center its major plot on the classic, I’m still curious how the author incorporates a little element of The Secret Garden to her story.

I can see some resemblance in the lives of Clara Dooley and Mary Lennox. I guess the only difference is that Clara is primarily thought to be sickly and is being encouraged to stay indoors, while Mary is being told the opposite. Despite so, these high-spirited girls would go extra miles to ease their curiosities. And it is because of their persistence that pushes them to seek answers behind the mysteries going on around the house.

As what the title suggests, The Aviary has mainly to do with birds. These birds have been around since time could tell, living longer than any ordinary birds we know. And how these aviaries connect to Mr. Glendoveer remains a mystery as they are more than just animals trained for magic shows. And then there’s the rumor about missing children which happens to be the children of Mr. and Mrs. Glendoveer. It’s only when one of the birds has spoken to Clara that the mystery begins to unravel and slowly reveal itself to Clara. Then it’s up to her to figure out the whole story.

The story is told in Clara’s point of view and I can say that Kathleen O’Dell successfully captures the mind of a twelve-year-old girl. How she would react to certain situations and how she would think have been perfectly portrayed by the author. Being a single child living in a huge house makes Clara long to have a companion, just as what Mary Lennox experiences when she lives in the Misselthwaite Manor. And just like Mary Lennox, Clara soon befriends someone whom she can share secrets with.

The book starts out slow at first. I’m not immediately hooked at the beginning, but once I get the hang of it, I begin to gradually enjoy the book. As I turn each page, I am also eager to find out the mysteries happening in the book. I almost want to spoil myself, but at the same time, I immediately restrain from the temptation and instead, I just allow myself to be devoured by the magic that the book evokes.

Overall, this book is quite a surprise for me. It’s a bit dark and mysterious, and yet it’s an easy read. I never would have imagined it to be a children’s book. The Aviary proves to be more than just about magic and birds, as it explores some concepts that up until this moment, they still cannot be explained easily. Certainly, those who love books under this genre would enjoy this one as well. If this is meant for older readers, I’m sure the character development of other characters would be explored more in depth. Either way, this is a fun read.