Tuesday, August 30, 2016

My Love is Blue by Rosemary Danielis | A Book Review

I never thought there could be a thousand things to describe and name the color blue. Rosemary Danielis' writing is so descriptive and vivid. I love the names of the colors. I never thought they could be so lengthy yet charming like red iron oxide. It seems like being a painter is so cool because you can call colors and shades fancily.

My Love is Blue is the story of Emma, a painter, who is having a hard time getting over the death of his beloved Julian. She suffers through depression and pain, and painting is the only way she knows to get through each day. One day, her mother introduced her to Grayson, a New York police officer who wants to learn how to paint. And to get her mother off her back, Emma decides to take on Grayson as a her first art student. Because of Grayson, Emma learns a lot about herself, of Julian and the truth why she's struggling to make a living out of her painting.

Since, this story is about art and paintings, it should follow that it's aptly very descriptive. It is indeed! A lot of metaphors and figures of speech that I definitely would want to highlight. If only my copy was in paperback, the pages would be glowing in orange, or in an artist language, cadmium. They were so abundant that I was so in awe where the author got them. I thought, if I would like to read a book full of figures of speech, this would be it. They were used so appropriately that I can't help but wonder if the writer was an artist herself. One who plays skillfully with distinctive words to leave an impression. If the book were a painting, it would have been a hodgepodge of all the colors of the color wheel and the rainbow because of the lavish figures of speech. Those were I guess, the best parts of this experience.

The story is well-paced, not too dragging or too fast. Though, I was very impatient to get to the part where everything will be revealed to Emma. It was realistic. With no frills and straight to the point. I've figured out the bad guy before it became too obvious, as there were already hints as to the identity of the person. I like how the character of Emma developed. It was done in a really subtle way that even she didn't realize it. Even though, the story started as dark and painful, it ended with hope and a lot of love. 

There was a scene on the edge of cliff that made me think about how it would feel like to plunge into the bottom of frigid ocean. Would my survival instincts kick in and fight to stay afloat or will I just hold my breath until my lungs give out? Don't worry, these are just musings. Yes, I know, musings of a lunatic. But I am far from mad. It just that when life crushes you too hard, you wonder how would it be like, if all the pain would just suddenly go away. I too, feel like I am at the edge of a cliff. Contemplating on making a jump. With the cliff scene,  I came to a realization that I do not have anything that inspires me. I am currently, honestly, devoid of inspiration because I still haven't figured out what I really want to do with my existing situation. I am feeling lost because I seem to lack a reason for getting up in the mornings. But on the bright side, I have lost the urge to just sleep the day off and not wake up. I don't feel awful waking up in the mornings anymore. That's an improvement, right? And I am thankful for all the free books I am getting, that I at least have them everyday to focus my energy on. This blogging and writing reviews for the books I read is my way of expressing and unloading. My outlet. One day at a time. Just like Emma. One book after another. Hoping for some revelation will somehow be gleaned from the pages. 
Maybe, I could come up with an idea to make a living out of my love for books? A novel and lucrative idea. One that has not been thought out before.

I give it three rainbows. It was a good read though there were few typo errors which can be easily ignored. I liked it because it made me think of possibilities and circumstances. It is introspective without it really being harsh. As I said, it's subtle. You won't immediately recognize that it's asking you to think of your situation and how you came to the current point in your life. That was what this book did to me.

With our fingertips, we trace each other's faces as if our features were written in Braille.
- Rosemary Danielis, My Love is Blue -

Thank you Kathy for this book. For those who want free ebooks in exchange for an honest review, go to ebooksforreview.com.

Sealed Up (The Course of Fate #1) by Steve Dunn Hanson | A Book Review

Sealed Up (The Course of Fate #1) by Steve Dunn Hanson Book Review
I always love historical thrillers. So, when I read the synopsis of Sealed Up, I immediately signed up to review it for free.

Sealed Up is a story about an archaeological find that will change history and will prove one of the world's religious book to be true accounts of events. The story is set in the regions of the Mayans in Mexico and Guatemala. Complete with the involvement of the head honchos of the drug cartels and a religious fanatic obsessed with finding an object of power.

Steve Dunn Hanson is on the rise to be in the same league as the famous historical thriller writers like Clive Cussler, Steve Berry and Dan Brown (All three are my favorites).Though, not quite as intense yet as the writings of three mentioned, but pointing to be in that direction. The plot is very fascinating. It has all the premise of an engaging and astounding archaeological search. A find that will prove a lot of legends to be true. These are the kind of books I live for. With disaster and mishaps lurking in the edges, enough to make you root for the protagonist to keep his eyes peeled for danger. Not one, but two really selfish and self-righteous villains. One driven by a mad search for a self-fulfilled prophecy. The other a evangelical fanatic obsessed with artifacts that is supposedly a source of power. Add in an ambiguous character, one who does good deeds with his right hand while the left hand is immersed in the drug trade. it's a story of multiple facets, with really interesting characters bound to make you wonder how they will culminate in one event.

This book is very well-written. Enough suspense that will make you hang on and itch with anticipation as to the next chapters. You will want to read this book in one sitting for you don't want to miss what happens next. I enjoyed this adventure and this has fortified my wish to visit the Mayan ruins. 

It is obvious that a lot of effort is done on the research of the historical aspect of the novel which makes it more believable. I give this novel four gold bars. It has almost all the aspects of an engrossing read. I enjoyed it and would love to read more historical thrillers from Steve Dunn Hanson. I would like to find out if he is the next historical adventure writer to watch out for. This is my favorite genre so I am always on the lookout for very talented writers who have a gift for making historical events as alive as the early morning news. I am looking forward to the next book of The Course of Fate series. Hopefully, I get to have the copy for free also. The same way I got this e-book for review.

Animal Farm by George Orwell

I have always been fond of fables since I was a kid. It's good to know that there are fables even for grown-ups.  One of these fables with adult themes is the Animal Farm by George Orwell.

Animal Farm by George Orwell book review
This controversial book is a satirical story about Russia and Stalin's dictatorship. In the Freedom of the Press, which served as a preface to the novella, Orwell narrates how Great Britain censored the news that is printed in the papers and broadcast in the radio. How important incidents like what was going on in Russia during that time was not shown in the papers. How journalists and writers were banned from writing articles that may strain the relationship with Russia or anything that does not say well of Russia. Orwell, being a reformists wanted the English people to know that Freedom of the Press is being suppressed.

Animal Farm is about the animals in Manor Farm who rebelled against Mr. Jones, the owner of the farm.  The idea of a revolution against the human enemies was started by the old boar, Old Major. Their concern was that they shouldn't be working hard for the benefits of the humans. So, they drove the Jones' out of the farm and renamed the farm Animal Farm. Since, the old boar has died, they were lead by the two pigs Squealer and Napoleon. The pigs were considered to be intellectually better than the rest of the animals. They created commandments to govern themselves. As the days and years go on, the other animals realized that one by one, the commandments were being violated and changed to fit the interests of the pigs. Then, they realize that the idea of equality among all animals was only a far-off dream.

Being fond of animals being made into heroes and villains, I found this book right on the mark. Human traits, frailties and self-absorption has been properly depicted and represented in this tale. I was truly entertained, at the same time the purpose and the message of the tale was not lost on me. I think, it being a fable serves to drive its purpose with more force than it would if the characters were humans. Having the characters represented by beasts makes the message clearer and more understandable without any illusions. It was very brave of Orwell to actually published this work but all the efforts has been worth it. Though, this work may not have been appreciated by many during his time, he can rejoice in heaven, or wherever he is, that his work is still widely read and still making an impact. Animal Farm will remind the world of the mad effects and destruction to society dictatorship has wrought. Even in this modern day and age, some countries are still struggling to totally wipe out its menace.

Animal Farm is still relevant, especially with what is happening now in the Philippines. The president wanting to bury a dictator for two decades in the Libingan ng mga Bayani (Heroes Cemetery). A lot of people do not agree to this, primarily the human rights victims of the Martial Law regime. Burying Marcos in the Heroes Cemetery will not bring healing and unity to the Filipino nation. Instead, it will cause more chaos and disregard for the lives and martyrdom of those people who fought hard against the martial rule. What's more sad is a  lot of people are ignorant of what really happened during the rule of Marcos. They thought it was the glory days of the Philippines. A lot of infrastructure were built. They do not realize that the money used to build those bridges, buildings and roads were loaned from other countries and the World Bank. Today, Filipinos are still paying for it because the Marcoses have stolen the money. Many do not realize that we, the Filipinos, are the ones paying for the lavish lifestyle of the dictator's family. And we are going to keep paying for it until probably 2030 when the loan is fully paid.

Like the animals in the story, a lot us are living blind. We just accept things as status quo instead of asking questions and asserting our rights. A lot of organizations and rights advocates have been trying hard to educate the ignoramus of what Martial Law really meant and how it has crippled our nation for so long. It has been hell for a lot of people and some of us can count ourselves lucky because our parents, grandparents and relatives did not have their bodies used as ashtrays or have water pumped into them, or get electrocuted just because they stood up for the injustices of those in power. If I were older during those times (I was born in 1980), I would have joined those crusaders and fought for a free nation. I am not sure if I will be able to injure the torture but I would die well knowing I had lead my life in the service of my country and my fellowmen. I would rather die a thousand deaths than be subjected by a dictator. Even his family, to this day, refused to acknowledge the injustices and crimes they have done. And worst of all, they are still holding positions in the government. It is really sad. How come we Filipinos, don't ever learn? 

Sorry, for the ramblings. I just find it fitting to express my opinion on the current happenings of my country. On a lighter note, this book has touched a nerve and that is what makes it a good read. I give this book four stars. I should have read this book sooner. For those who have not read Animal Farm, you should read it. It's an eye-opener. It does not only relate to rulers of nations but also of how we treat other people in our daily lives. It defects what leaders should not be and what followers should do, to not encourage abuse of power and oppression of those who are less fortunate.

Friday, August 26, 2016

One Small Chance by Lucinda Whitney | A Book Review

One Small Chance by Lucinda Whitney Book Review
One Small Chance is a charming story of two pen pals. The story took me to Portugal. 

Isabelle, from Portugal, was assigned a boy named Elliot from England. Isabelle's teacher had a friend there so their teachers decided their classes swap letters. They started writing when they were in ninth grade. They have kept in touch until they were older and now working on their careers. By some work of fate, these two would meet in Lisbon through an accident. And from there, that's where the story gets interesting.

I can totally relate to the pen pal writing days. Back in Grade 6, it was our class Christmas party, the whole class was asked to huddle together for a picture. Our picture will be sent out to Netherlands. A class there wanted to exchange letters with pupils from the Philippines and we were the chosen ones. A few months after, some kids got their letters. Unfortunately, not all of us got an envelope.   I, for one didn't. The Dutch kids were asked to choose who they want to correspond with based on our class picture that was sent over to them. Later, in High School, as part of our Girl Scouts requirement, I asked a classmate of mine, who got a letter from one of the Dutch students, if I could send a letter to her friend. She agreed and I sent out my letter. I got a postcard in return with a monkey on it saying "Wish you were here". I don't know what to make of it. I appreciated that she took the time to send me a postcard but I don't know if I should be offended with the monkey. Of all the postcards she could send, it would be a picture of a monkey she chose. The caption was at least nice enough to not make me think about the monkey too much. And I guess, I took it as not to bother her again. I did thank her for responding to my first letter.

I think the story is cute. One where in two individuals started at first to not agree with each other and then later become really close. The story has its unique qualities. For one, it was set in Portugal. I don't think I've read a lot of stories where the backdrop is Portugal. I get to at least imagine myself in Lisbon while Isabelle described her favorite places. Then, you have the old school letter-writing factor which in this modern day and age seems so ancient. I liked it. I can't exactly remember the last time I wrote and mailed a hand-written letter. I used to send birthday cards and letters to my best friend in Grade School after we went to different high schools. She was so touched and it so happened that she was having a hard time. Her parents' marriage was rocky and my letters at least comforted her in a way. When I saw her again in College, she profoundly thank me and apologized for not having been the best friend that she could be. That's the greatest thing about manually writing letters. You can feel the sincerity, the concern and the love of the person writing it. You at least feel that a part of that person is sealed in that letter. Not to mention the effort put to writing the letter. It just means that that person cares about you more than you ever know. It's so personal which makes email and messaging a totally different story. Sometimes you can never tell if the person is being truthful or not. 

The best thing about the story is they used pen names. They do not know what's the real identity of the person they are writing to which adds to the thrill and suspense. One other thing I adore about the story is Isabelle's shirt collection. I would love to have her shirts with their cute and unique descriptions on them like I cook: what's your super power? I was thinking, one day, I'd probably have shirts printed with my favorite quotes from books I read or just anything as long as it was taken from the books. 

I would like to say, the story is straight forward. Not a lot of twists and turns but it gets you curious enough to go on. Not a lot of fuss but it makes you want to find out what happens next. It is not the usual mushy love story you encounter but it's one where you wished that you could also have someone like Simon in your life. Someone who's going to make a way to be just closer to you.

I definitely agree with how it ends. Just fitting. It's always good to be rewarded for trying so hard to do what your heart wants to accomplish. I also admire that Isabelle gets to do the one other thing she loves most. It's a good life lesson. Just because you are doing good in your current career, doesn't mean you should stop pursuing your other passion. This makes me contemplate about my own life too.  And I think this is what most authors would like to let all their readers know - that in one way they would be able to impart to their readers a lesson that could be used in real life. Thumbs up for Whitney for this one.

I give the book three stars. I enjoyed the story but it just that it's not so memorable. Reading the title, I would have to try hard and recall what the story was. It's probably because, I quite read a few books the last few days and I was trying to remember from the top of my head what the story was. I wished the title was a little more obvious so I can easily recall the story. Other than that, I had a good experience with Isabelle and Simon. I would like to read more of Lucinda Whitney and find out where would she take me next. Where in Europe or some other destination that is not usually talked about.

Have you noticed how memories are a two-edged sword? On one side, you're comforted by the happier times, and on the other side, it grieves your heart when you can no longer live those times again.
- Lucinda Whitney, One Small Chance -

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover | A Raving

It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover A Raving book review
A lot of reviews have been posted all over social media about It Ends With Us. I read some of them and they were all raving reactions. My curiosity got the better of me and I wanted to find out for myself if I too will get the same dizzying reaction as what most readers have experienced so far.

And here I am, I have read the book. Let me just do this. 


That is me shouting. I just wanted to get that out. I actually finished the book about three days ago but I only got the urge to write about it now. Before I read the book, I decided to clear my mind of all the reviews I read. I wanted to be objective so I will get a genuine reaction to the book. I was afraid I might be influenced by what I have read and might mistake it as my own. So, I took a few deep breaths and told myself that I don't even know what the book is about. So, it would be more like I would be walking blind. I did not read any synopsis which is a good thing, right? I never once in my life fussed and got myself so flustered before reading a book. 

While reading, my chest started to get tight. I was afraid I might get asthma like one of the readers who was rushed to the hospital because she had an attack after all the heightened emotions Colleen Hoover gave her. Again, I pause to calm my breathing before getting on with my reading. Well, it just got worse and by then, I was deciding if I should get my inhaler, more of a preventive measure to not really go into an asthma attack. Fortunately, I didn't and I finished the book around early dawn, 3AM. Unfortunately, my chest remained tight. Like I have costochondritis again. I could not go to sleep. I just laid still. My mind was blank. I think all my thoughts were wiped out. My brain decided to take a break after that emotionally and mentally distressing affair. I think I was still in shock after all the incredible experience I had. It was like I had a brain-freeze. Like after you get a sip of that frozen drink from 7-Eleven, only I didn't. I was so involved in the story. I did not in any way think I was Lily but I was so affected by what she was going through. I had similar experiences before with other books but not this intense. This is way too much for me. In fact, I only cried once during the whole read. What brought me to weeping was the author's note. I would have preferred to wail if I were alone and if it was not in the wee hours where everyone was deeply asleep.  The story was so raw and outrageously honest. I salute Colleen for being so BOLD for sharing to the whole universe her very personal existence. It was like letting us see her soul. The story was very personal and authentic. I guess that's probably why everyone who has read the book is caught in turmoil and agony because it could happen to anyone.

Of course, the book deserves no less than five gold medals in the Olympics. Well, all of the 23 gold medals won by Michael Phelps in all the Olympics he ever competed in. Hoover can have Phelps as well if she wants. That's how phenomenal this book is. This is probably the most disturbed I am after reading a book which I really really really love. I don't know if there are stories that could command the same violent reactions from me after this. Yes, I think for all those who have read It Ends With Us, we are all ruined, as in emotionally ruined. We may not experience the same intensely incredible disturbing emotions again when reading because this happens only once. A once in a lifetime thing. I don't think there is anything that could get any better than this. I would be glad to be proven wrong but I doubt it. 

So, if you haven't read this book yet, you are a loser. You should read this. Your life is incomplete if you have not read It Ends With Us. I dare you! And you can tell me I am wrong if this book fails to touch you from the split ends of your hair to the dirt on your toenails.

One more thing, I think this book should come with a warning. People with heart ailments, asthma, hypertension and those that are advised by their doctors to avoid undue emotional stress, should take necessary precautions before reading this book, if not, be sure to have your doctors on call.

Photo from Google.

Other reviews of Colleen Hoover books:
Finding Cinderella
Losing Hope
Ugly Love

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Three of A Kind - James Herriot: 2/3 All Things Bright and Beautiful

All Things Bright and Beautiful is the sequel to the All Creatures Great and Small. This time James Herriot is in his third year as a vet in Yorkshire and now married to Helen. Here he talks about how different his married life is from being single. New characters are introduced here both humans and furry creatures. As expected, you will never go bored. It is as funny as the first book. A lot more of his misadventures with the creatures he is called upon to see. Animals who have a mind of their own, apart from the quirks of their owners.

In here, he wished veterinary medicine were advanced and vaccines could have been discovered during those times, it would have done him a lot of good and also saved the poor farmers. A lot of lambing. Herriot's experiences of ewes giving birth. Cute, adorable and feisty canine characters are also included. Of animals that surely have been dead but have miraculously came back to life due to Herriot's accidental discovery of a cure.

Three of A Kind - James Herriot: 2/3 All Things Bright and Beautiful

Like all James Herriot books, this is a very relaxing read. Just like lounging in a hammock by the beach and the feel of the fresh breeze blowing in your face. Need I say more? Read the book. I have a lot of laughs while reading this and no wonder, James Herriot is for me the best comedy writer of all time. I am sure he is surrounded by people laughing at his stories in heaven.

The ewe's life had been saved not by the medicinal therapy but simply by stopping her pain and allowing nature to do its own job of healing.
...that animals confronted with severe continuous pain and the terror and shock that goes with it will often retreat even into death, and if  you can remove that pain amazing things can happen.
-James Herriot, All Things Bright and Beautiful -

1/3 All Creatures Great and Small
3/3 All Things Wise and Wonderful

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J. K. Rowling

The 8th book of the widely-acclaimed Harry Potter series. 

The story picks up nineteen years after Voldemort's defeat. Harry Potter is now a married man, a husband to Ginny Weasley. A dad to James Sirius, Albus and Lily Luna and the Head of Magical Law Enforcement.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J. K. Rowling book review

Albus Severus Potter is the second child of Harry and Ginny. He seems like the entire opposite of what his popular and amazing father is. He seems to be having a hard time and worst of all he felt like he is sorted to the wrong house in Hogwarts. Albus Potter became friends with the son of Harry's worst enemy - Scorpius Malfroy, the only son of the bully Draco Malfroy. These two find an uncanny kinship with each other and they are bound to either prove the world that they are like their fathers or not.

I lurve the book. It gives me the same feeling when deeply involved in a Harry Potter adventure. The anticipation is  a killer and I did not mind being sleepless over this just so I could get to the end and see what happens. If good still vanquishes evil?

It has more new characters that add to the thrill and to the new problems Harry has to solve. Only this time, his family has gone bigger and he has more people who have his back. This time, the story does not just focus on Harry but on his son Albus and his son's best friend Scorpius. I think this two make a very good pair. They are right for each other, like peanut butter and jelly. They may seem like not the right mix but they are just what each other needs.

Ah, I can't say more. I am afraid I might totally spoil the book for those who have not read it. I guarantee, like all the Harry Potter books, this is a must-read. You will definitely miss a quarter of your life if you won't read this. It is just what all Harry Potter fans have been waiting for. The next chapter of Harry's life and even more fascinating challenges. I am going to shut up now as I may just really ruin it for you.

I give the book four elder wands. I would have liked it completely if it were not in a form of a script of a play. I agree with one of the reviews, if it were done in an old-fashioned novel, like all the other previous books it would have been perfect. 

Be Careful What You Wish For by Alexandra Potter

Be Careful What You Wish For by Alexandra Potter book review
Be careful what you wish for
'Cause you might just get it all.
You might just get it all, 
And  then some you don't want.

Says Chris Daughtry in his song Home and this is absolutely what the book is about.

Heather Hamilton likes to make wishes. She makes them as easy as breathing. She wishes for random things and makes them a dozen times a day without batting an eyelash. She wishes she could get a seat on the tube, that there was no cue at the coffee shop, that there is no traffic and all other really trivial things. Then one night, under the pouring rain, a gypsy woman approached her and offered her a white heather that would change his luck and make all her wishes come true. And they did come true, only she realized that they are not what she actually need or could make her happy.

I liked the concept of this modern day fairy tale. The fairy god-mother comes in the form of a old gypsy woman and the magical object is the white heather. And just like Heather, we all make wishes and hope that they do come true. In a way, we are all like her. But for me, instead of wishing I pray. I pray that I would get a ride right away, I pray that I won't be late, etc. Little prayers. And it would be so amazing if in real life I would also get a lucky heather and wish on it. I could actually use it badly right now. Like desperately, I need my prayers to be answered. But unlike Heather, I am a realistic and  a practical person. I know that you get things because you work for them. You take action, not just wishing on a lucky heather sitting on your bum. And if I do get to wish on a magic heather, a genie on a bottle or on a falling star, I would wish for something big and would make a really big impact on my life. Something that would not only benefit me but everyone else I care about. Maybe world peace? Lower income taxes? 

This is one of those books that I felt I need not hurry. There was no sense prodding me to finish it right away and find out how it would end. It was not as engaging. I was not worried at all if I finish it in two or three days. There was just no urgency. Also, I was kind of irritated with Heather. True enough, just as she is described in the story, she is irresponsible, careless and does not even think for a second. I wished she were more adorable so I would feel sorry for her but I just read through as the rest of the story unfolds. I did not offer little prayers for Heather. I really hated her when she gave up that dream job because she thought she got it for the wrong reasons. That was really a dumb move. Good thing, the story ended with her realizing the faults in her character and took action. 

I give this three white heathers. It was entertaining but I was not really hooked. I liked the idea and the story but I just didn't like Heather. She's just one of those main characters that I wish were someone else entirely.

... but in the same way that "You can't buy love, I've learned you can't wish for it either.
- Alexandra Potter, Be Careful What You Wish For - 

Alexandra Potter's stories are like modern day fairy tales. I like how she come up with these really interesting ideas. Makes me want to borrow her mind and see what else she have for her next books. I like her. Go girl!

Also by Alexandra Potter:  Who's That Girl

Hear the Wind Sing (Rat #1) by Haruki Murakami

Hear the Wind Sing (Rat #1) by Haruki Murakami book review
This is my first time to read a book by Haruki Murakami. It so happens also that Hear the Wind Sing is his first book and first in the Rat series. Rat is one of the characters in the story. Rat is his nickname and the story did not expound as to its origin. What prompted me to read Murakami is the fact that a lot of people seem to be reading his books, so I joined the bandwagon. I was curious. One other reason is I love finding authors who are not Americans or English or whose mother tongue is anything other than English. Just like Khaled Hosseini, Amy Tan, Paulo Coelho and Gabriel Garcia-Marquez. There is just some unique quality about their works that makes me curious. Probably, it has something to do with their culture and because I love to travel, reading is one way for me to travel without having to spend for accommodations and air fare. And reading their books has been a really great cultural immersion for me.

I thought this book will take me to some deep and amazing journey with the backdrop of Japanese culture, hot springs or the majestic Mount Fuji but sadly it didn't. I am disappointed. I was set to be blown away but it never happened. I wished the story was cohesive enough but it failed to convey to me whatever it wished to say. I failed to comprehend what it was trying to tell me. It did not make sense at all to me. It felt like just random ramblings though there were a lot of things about life and on writing a story  that are right on the bull's eye. 

But, telling a story honestly is extremely difficult. As much as I try to be honest, the words I'm looking for always seem to sink into the dark depths.
- Haruki Murakami, Hear the Wind Sing -

I am sorry to say I give this book one star. I definitely failed to hear the song in the wind. All I hear is whoosh and whist, there was no melody or rhythm.  I can't even come up with a short summary of the story. It felt like it was scattered all over  the place. Being so, I would still want to read his other works. Maybe they will make sense to me.

Monday, August 8, 2016

That Thing Formerly Known as My Life by Sally Johnson | A Book Review

That Thing Formerly Known as My Life by Sally Johnson Book Review
This is the second ebook I got to officially review. I am so thankful and I am looking forward to more free books to be enjoyed and reviewed. 

Sally Johnson's That Thing Formerly Known as My Life is set in a high school in Rhode Island. About a girl who is trying to fit in, in a new school, in a new place and far from everything familiar and comfortable to her. Even her parents have become too busy with their pizza business that they have no time for her anymore. 

In her first period PE class, McKinley Everest is the only one without a partner. It's because she's the newest girl in school and to everyone else, she does not belong to the popular crowd. Then, one day, all that changed. She is no longer the new kid, a new guy just joined her PE class and has no choice but be her partner. This guy seems to have nothing in common with her. He's good looking and seems to belong to the cool crowd. He seems to be athletic also and he drives a white Camaro. Would this guy become McKinley's friend or he would stop talking to her right after he becomes friends with the jocks and the cheerleaders? What McKinley doesn't know is that Nick has his own secrets. 

At first, this seemed like one of those high school nerdy-girl-meets-cool-guy type of stories. It is, until you get to the part where the real identity of Nick is revealed. I am in for a surprise. It was like an unanticipated punch in the gut. It momentarily stunned me. I really thought he was one of the bad guys. It was a nice twist. I did not expect it until it was too obvious. It reminds me of the American Series Faking It. This is one of the subjects that they tackled. 

That Thing Formerly Known as My Life by Sally Johnson Book Review 2
The book explores the life of a teenager dealing with the issues of high school life along with problems with parents and the changes she has to cope with that came with moving to a new place. Add to the fact that she has to make an effort to make new friends which is not easy as 1,2,3 because she is not as cool as the others. A lot of people can relate to this, not just teens but everyone who had gone through high school. High school, the best part of being a teenager but could also be hell.

I relished the part where McKinley was able to prove to everyone, especially to her tormentors, that she can be better. That she can surpass them all without being obvious about it and when they least expect it. 

I give the book three stars for the very startling twist at the end of story. If not for it, this book would just be another new-girl-in-high-school story. I would like to read Sally Johnson's other books to get to know more of her writing style. I love books that surprise me. I want to find out if Johnson can keep this up. Keep surprising her readers without them ever suspecting.

It would be nice if we could have a say in how our life is going, wouldn't it?
- Sally Johnson, That Thing Formerly Know as My Life - 

For free ebooks for review, visit ebooksforreview.com.

Slave Queen by H.B. Moore | ARC | A Book Review

Slave Queen by H.B. Moore. My first thought was why the title? It did not give me a clue in the first few chapters so I got so curious and antsy. I can't wait to find out.

Slave Queen by H.B. Moore Book Review

The story is set in the modern times in Turkey. Our hero is Omar Zagouri. An Israeli operative. Born from a Jewish mother and a Muslim father. One night, he got a call from his father that his mother is sick. Based on the tone of his father, he suspected it was not just an ordinary sickness. There is something more and his father implies that he is needed. He then flew to Morocco with his girlfriend, Mia. When he reached his parents' house, his suspicions were confirmed. His mother was brutally assaulted in her office. And to add to his worries, the person who did it was trying to get information about Omar.

Omar has to find out why someone was trying to find him? Aside from his job, which he makes sure does not involve his parents, what could the reason be? He suspected, it was something else. Something more sinister and ancient. As old as 450 years ago, involving the Ottoman Empire and the wives and heirs of Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent. 

Slave Queen by H.B. Moore Review

This is the type of genre I really love to read. Stories that delve into intrigues and scandals of ancient families and history. Age-old stories and legends that are still influencing current situations and politics. So, obviously I enjoyed this book. I liked the plot and since I am not familiar with Turkish history, this is another tidbit of learning. I liked how the chapters were written. Very organized. And even if it involved three different settings, I did not have a hard time following the story. I had this urge to finish the story in one setting and I can't wait to find out why the title was Slave Queen. This was written in a very straightforward way with just enough suspense that will keep you engrossed. I can imagine myself being transported to Old Poland, to the Ottoman-era Istanbul, to modern Izmir, Casablanca and Istanbul of today. I can vividly see the minarets, the lavish Muslim edifices and the bloody battle scenes.

Aside from the exotic settings of the story, I also praised the mention of mixed marriages among different religions. A Muslim becoming Jewish then marrying a Muslim. A Christian converting to Muslim because of loyalty to a Muslim friend or falling in love with a Muslim. This is a peek into a world where religion could no longer be a barrier for cooperation and understanding. Hopefully, this concept would also become as commonly accepted as saying a prayer. 

I felt like the new girl in the harem as I was also introduced into the harem world. It was like a grand tour of the ins and outs of the Ottoman Empire's harem. The do's and don'ts. How to rise up to the top and become a wife of the Sultan. It was like an in-depth history lesson of the politics and the intricacies of the Ottoman era, when royal families are still the law and trend.

I enjoyed the book and would love to read more of H.B. Moore as this is just one of the Omar Zagouri books she had written. I just wish that there were more in some scenes, particularly the escape from the island and how the older Mr. Bata was caught. I think they were too easy. The escape from the island was not so elaborate and it was like they were just let loose. The plan to capture Mr. Bata was so simple also. It was like he just delivered himself into the hands of the authorities. There was not a lot of suspense and resistance. I wish there could have been more. 

I give the book three and a half stars because I thought it could have been better. It is captivating as it is but if the two scenes mentioned were amplified, there could be more power to the punch. I think H.B. Moore is almost in the league of my favorite authors of this genre, such as Clive Cussler, Steve Berry and Dan Brown. I would need to read her other works to be sure.

Why does anyone fight? Does the earth not have enough room for us all?
- H.B. Moore, Slave Queen -

I was browsing through my Goodreads account when I came upon ebooks for review. It's a site for new books that need an honest review. I was thrilled having stumbled upon this and immediately signed up to review three books which are what I would like to read based on the synopsis. About a week later, to my surprise, I got two emails with the ebook copies and asking me to give my review in 60 days. I was so elated because I got two ebooks for free and I would meet new authors. And most of all, this would me my first official review. I have done book reviews before but not because I was asked to do it. So, tada! I am now officially a book reviewer. This feels like a milestone for me. After about 6 months when I first started blogging and now I get to do an official review in exchange for a free book copy. Thank you Kathy of ebooksforreview for the opportunity. For those who want to do reviews in exchange for free ebooks, you can visit ebooksforreview.com. 

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

If I Stay and Where She Went by Gayle Forman

If I Stay

A movie adaptation has been made on this story. I watched the movie about 2 years ago and had enjoyed it, especially the soundtrack. The song Today by the Smashing Pumpkins has become one of my favorite songs right after watching the movie.

If I Stay by Gayle Forman book review
If I Stay by Gayle Forman is a tragedy. It is about coping and accepting. Of finding the reason if it is still worth living after losing your entire family. Of knowing, if life is still worth it after all the hurt that would never go away, even if you have cried your heart out. Of finding the strength to move on, even if you would rather the earth swallow you whole.  

Mia is an exceptionally talented cello player. She grew up with music at home. Her father used to be in a band. And her mom is the coolest mom ever. Actually, her parents are the coolest.                                                                      
She also have a rock star for a boyfriend - Adam. The vocalist of a rising band Shooting Star. Mia's life is fine, if not perfect. Until one day, the first day of snow. The family decided to visit the grandparents. Mia's dad's parents. That day, everything in Mia's life will be forever changed by a road accident.

This is a very heart-wrenching story. It felt like my heart was crushed and pounded into pulp. I would not imagine going through this tragic experience. I don't think there is ever anything more heartbreaking than what happened to Mia. I would not want to be in her shoes. I pray to God. I would rather be the one to leave first than the one being left. It is always the hardest being the one left behind. But as they say, love conquers all. Love can survive everything, even the most traumatic events in life. Love will give us the energy and the strength to forge on, no matter how excruciating the pain is. Love will sustain us. And true enough, love made Mia stay. Love made her go on, even with her heart in tatters from the great loss. Love nourishes the human spirit and makes it withstand even the loneliest void.

I cried a lot reading this, even though I already know what's going to happen, though not exactly like in the movie. It's dismal but I keep rooting for Mia to hold on and for Adam to keep Mia from leaving.

Absolutely, absolutely, a great story even though a few people died. It is one of those stories that you would love to read over and over again, even if  you will end up with puffy eyes and runny nose. 

I give If I Stay four stars.

Sleeping without dreams...sleep of the dead. Is that what death would feel like? The nicest, warmest, heaviest never-ending nap? If that's what it's like, I wouldn't mind. If that's what dying is like, I wouldn't mind that at all.
 - Gayle Forman, If I Stay -

Where She Went

Where She Went is a sequel to If I Stay. It talks about Mia and Adam's lives after the accident in the point of view of Adam. How they have to cope with the pain of loss and how they tried to live their lives knowing it would never be the same ever.

Mia went to Julliard in New York to study and Adam and his band became famous. Shooting Star got signed by a big label and is busy with concert tours promoting their album.

Where She went by Gayle Forman book review

It may seem like all their dreams are coming true, that everything seems to be working out according to planned. But nothing is as it seems. Mia is trying to deal with the loss of her parents and her brother and the only way she knows of making the grief bearable is to leave everyone behind in Oregon, including Adam.

Where She Went is Adam asking and wondering what went wrong between him and Mia.

What I love about this story is that it is very realistic. No pads and no helmets. The rawest and realest possible reaction to a loss and death is exposed here. It speaks of the ordeal and suffering, hearts and minds go through after a terrible loss. In the first book, love saved Mia and in here, she had to keep feeding on that love but still find it lacking. Love alone is not enough to survive and put herself back together. She had to feed on hate, accept and let go.

I feel Adam. I can precisely understand what he is going through. How hard it is waking up to another day when you feel like there is no reason for getting up in the morning. How difficult and trying it is to get through another day. To go crazy looking for places where to draw strength from just to get through. That nothing seems to make sense, even if you have everything you could ask for, but not the one thing you need most. That all you want to do is sleep and hope that you'll wake up in the next century or never wake up at all.

Like Adam, I talk to myself. Come up with a mantra to just keep my head above the water, to keep myself from breaking. I know exactly how it feels like to lose something or somebody. What's more tormenting is knowing that he is just there, somewhere, just out of reach. And he has no idea that you're barely breathing.

I cried harder reading this. And I am glad to know that love and forgiveness, in whatever form, still conquers all. Love resolves all and heals all. No matter how massive the destruction it has wrought, love and forgiveness will make you whole again. 

This is a story of hope and forgiveness, of second chances and of letting go. No matter how popular and rich you are, it will never make you sleep better at night if your heart is not where it wants to be. I love how it ended and for Mia and Adam to finally find a way back to each other. Music heals also. Music detoxifies and frees the spirit of its shackles and chains. Music is freedom. 

I give Where She Went, four and a half rocking stars. I love this more than the first one.

A day might be just twenty-four hours but sometimes getting through just one seems as impossible as scaling Everest.
                                 - Gayle Forman, Where She Went -

An Abundance of Katherines by John Green

An Abundance of Katherines by John Green book review
Who is Katherine the XIX? Is she a former Queen of England, France or maybe Scotland? And why the 19th? What happened to the Katherine I to XVIII? 

Colin Singleton is a prodigy who loves anagrams and has fallen in love with nineteen Katherines. Yes, nineteen different Katherines with different personalities and last names. Katherine with a capital K. And he had had his heart broken the same number of times. 

In order to make sense of his fascination with Katherines and why their relationships never worked out, Colin developed a mathematical formula. A formula that could help him understand why the Katherines always dump him.

In order to get over his latest Katherine breakup, Colin and his best friend 

Hassan, went on a trip with no specific place of destination. Their plan was just to drive around. That was the original plan until they spotted a sign leading to the tomb of Archduke Francis Ferdinand. This sign will lead Colin to a strange place and discover more things about himself.

This is a story of self-discovery and realization. Everyone has to go through this, even prodigies and geniuses. No one is exempted. Everyone has to have his heart broken or get dumped at least once in his lifetime.

I am sure, this could not happen in real life. To fall in love nineteen times with persons with the same name. It seems like a recipe for disaster, if not, a person who has a propensity for self-destruction or a masochist to say the least. If you have been dumped by a person once and had your heart  broken, why would you choose to fall in love with the next one with the same name. Seems like hitting your head with a hammer with your own hand. Or adding insult to injury. Yes, I know, same names but different personalities. I think this is some kind of obsession with the name. There are billions of other people, why not stay away from Katherines, right? There must be something wrong with the person. Just saying.

I met one person who told me that he has nothing against me but it was just that my name reminds him of not so good memories. I didn't feel offended. I was glad the person was honest with me. In fact, I don't really love my name. It was given to me so I had no choice, but if it were up to me, I would have chosen something else for the reason that my name is too common. Each one is unique thus, should deserve a singular name. Anyway, back to Colin, isn't the same thing supposed to happen to Colin to? Probably, after the fifth Katherine, he would have feared the sound of that name alone. There must have been some kind of trauma attached to that name. It would seem like cursed or jinxed. Me, I would not want to hear that same name ever again. I'd cut off my ears, if need be. 

It was fun reading. It is one of those unique and unlikely stories that just need to be written. It is literally fiction and that's the fun part. Nothing could go wrong because in fiction anything works. Anything could happen. It is a good story. I praise John Green's creativity for coming up with this one.

I give the book 3 stars. I think some things could have been better I just don't know what specifically. 

Granting that this story has given us a look into a mind of a prodigy, I could say that the saying, you can't have everything, is really true. Even prodigies have weaknesses - emotional intelligence, I guess. I am not saying that all prodigies are emotionally handicapped but just that God has a way of equalizing everyone. Strengths and weaknesses. Everyone has his own worries. The only people who have no problems are the dead.

Prodigies can very quickly learn what other people have already figured out; geniuses discover that which no one has ever previously discovered. Prodigies learn; geniuses do.
 - John Green, An Abundance of Katherines -