Monthly Archives: June 2014

Fighting Ruben Wolfe by Markus Zusak

signed Fighting Ruben WolfeHow I got my hands on this copy was quite a memorable story to tell. After reading The Book Thief and I Am the Messenger, I knew right then that I became a Markus Zusak fan. I even followed his Twitter account for up-to-date news of his upcoming book and some other things he wants to share to his followers. What I like about him is that he mostly responds to Twitter conversations. Then there came a period when he decided to write back to those who sent him postcards via mail. Of course I didn’t want to pass up this opportunity, so for the first time in my life, I sent a postcard to him along with a message at the back. And lo and behold, I received a response from him with a personalized signed copy of Fighting Ruben Wolfe!

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

Fighting Ruben Wolfe coverI say, ‘Don’t lose your heart, Rube.’ And very clearly, without moving, my brother answers me. He says, ‘I’m not tryin’ to lose it, Cam. I’m tryin’ to find it.’

The Wolfe brothers know how to fight. They’ve been fighting all their lives. Now there’s something more at stake than just winning.

Isn’t it amazing? Up to this moment, despite months passed, I’m still feeling overwhelmed and extremely happy about what I got! It’s a rare treasure I’d truly cherish until the end. Plus, it’s an addition to my growing collection of signed books.

Anyway, moving on to the book, the book cover and title already depict what the story would be about. To be honest, I dislike boxing and by the looks of the book at first glance, I’m anxious that I might end up disliking the story as well. I’m afraid that I won’t be able to connect with the characters, knowing that fighting centers the plot.

But of course, I’m glad I have given this book the benefit of the doubt. And since it’s written by Markus Zusak, it has given me more confidence that I’ll enjoy this book and that this is more than just about literal fighting. Who would’ve thought that I end up liking this book? Although not as much as The Book Thief and I Am the Messenger, but enough for the story to stay with me and gain meaningful insights from it.

Fighting Ruben Wolfe centers on the lives of two brothers – Cameron and Ruben – and how they cope with everything that’s happening in their family. I love the dynamism in their characterization. Cameron’s perceptiveness allows him to empathize with others. It’s also amazing how Markus Zusak portrays him as a seemingly weak person physically, and yet, still possessing strength in terms of his whole character. Ruben, on the other hand, is being described as the alpha. His bravery and toughness prove him to be a good fighter. I’m impressed that despite their differences, Cameron and Ruben stand side by side each other. The relationship they have as brothers demonstrates their value in keeping the family together more than anything else.

Once again, Markus Zusak wowed me in this book. The story’s simple and short, but knowing Markus Zusak, there’s depth and meaning. He writes metaphorically which adds substance to the story and this is more than enough to push me to read. Even though this is the second book of the series, it can still be read as a stand-alone. Fighting Ruben Wolfe is not a disappointment.

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Playing Grace by Hazel Osmond

Ever since I’ve read Who’s Afraid of Mr. Wolfe? by Hazel Osmond, I decided to never want to miss any of her succeeding books. There came The First Time I Saw Your Face and now it’s Playing Grace. I bought this copy from The Book Depository.

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

Playing Grace coverGrace Surtees has everything carefully under control – her work life, her home life and her love life – especially her love life.

But then her boss hires Tate Saunders, a brash American, to spice up the gallery tours his company provides. Messy and fond of breaking rules, Tate explodes into her tidy existence like a paintball, and Grace hates everything about him…

…doesn’t she?

Because, for Grace, the alternative would be simply too terrifying to contemplate: to love Tate rather than hate him would mean leaping out of her comfort zone, and Grace’s devotion to order hides some long-kept secrets… secrets she’s sure someone like Tate Saunders could never accept or understand.

The striking synopsis definitely adds to the mysterious characterization of Grace. From the moment I began reading, I would never have doubted her. Hazel Osmond’s portrayal of Grace comes out as someone who is reliable and trustworthy. Her organizational skills and control are also exceptional. Moreover, her enthusiasm towards the traditional arts is evident, but what catches my attention most is her attachment to an icon in the gallery. Everything falls right where Grace wants things to be, but here comes Tate to practically ruin everything for her. Who knew that the Grace we’ve come to know is just a façade – concealing the real person she is deep inside.

With the help of Tate’s persistence, sneakiness, openness, and stubbornness, Grace slowly reveals her true self unexpectedly. The growing chemistry is something not to be ignored that easily as readers could immediately see this beyond the prevalent arguments going on between the two characters. I’m actually impressed with their characterizations and the process of how Hazel Osmond shows their real personalities in relation to the development of the storyline. The revelations toward the end are quite a surprise and catch me off guard. The questions that emerge during the span of my reading are gladly answered.

But it’s not just about Grace and Tate’s stories that had me entertained. Hazel Osmond manages to capture the essence of the other characters as well. These complicated characters significantly contribute to the complex story. They are imperfect and flawed, which makes the book more realistic to read. The characters I encountered in this book are not those that I often see in other books. Plus, utilizing the switching points of views of characters helps in getting to know them better, instead of being misunderstood. What’s more surprising is the wrong impression I thought was true throughout the story.

Playing Grace offers a more different narration from Hazel Osmond’s previous books. It explores the world of art ranging from traditional to modern. I may not be an avid fan of art, but as a frustrated painter, I find myself still at awe with Hazel Osmond’s expertise in that aspect. Her detailed descriptions about the arts affirm Grace’s passion towards them. Readers will be able to witness how some paintings eventually connect to Grace’s life. Overall, I enjoyed reading this book, but not as much as I expected to. Somehow, it lacks the connection I would have wanted with the characters. Story wise, Playing Grace is a unique, complicated story. Just like a painting, there’s more to it than what is being shown.