Pages turned in 2013

My reading year was composed of an interesting mix of sequels, new releases, and classic reads. Some moved me to tears while others got me smiling for quite a while. I fell in love with many characters and I also wanted to strangle some of them. Haha! I didn’t reach my reading target for last year but I read 3 more books compared to 2012. Here are my 2013 reading escapades:

THE SEQUELS:

Mark of Athena and House of Hades by Rick Riordan

I intentionally held off reading “Mark of Athena” so that when “House of Hades” was released I wouldn’t have to wait so long. More than getting a refresher on Greek and Roman mythology, what I love about Rick Riordan’s novels are his characters: Leo and his awkward humor, Athena and her quick wit, Piper and her amazing charmspeak, and the heroics of Percy and Jason. And then there’s the array of quirky but lovable creatures like Coach Hedge, Tyson, Calypso, and Bob. 🙂

Allegiant by Veronica Roth

I can’t believe it ended that way. I was too shocked to be sad. But I like that this dystopian novel is closer to home, meaning the cities are real and existing. There were parts that were a bit confusing so I had to slow down my reading but it all made sense in the end. I look forward to watching “Divergent” this year!

sequels

Angelopolis by Danielle Trussoni

Another cliff hanger though not as good as the first one. I expected more from Evangeline in terms of character development. I hope Trussoni redeems herself on the third book. I mean it’s still entertaining but not that engaging.

City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

I was pleasantly surprised that this book is a good one! I didn’t get to watch the movie but curiosity really pushed me to reading the first instalment of the Mortal Instruments series. I definitely look forward to finishing the next two! That plot twist in the end caught me by surprise. I like the fact that it’s unpredictable to the very end.

THE BESTSELLERS:

And the Mountains Echoed by Khaleed Hosseini and Inferno by Dan Brown

These two were so good that I made a thorough review on them. 🙂 You can read them here and here. 🙂

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

This creepy but crazy good novel gave the mystery genre the overdue spotlight it needs. You can read my review here. 🙂

bestsellers

Revenge Wears Prada by Lauren Weiserberg

It’s not as vengeful as the title implies. It’s your typical chic lit though it fails to come through as a worthy sequel to the “Devil Wears Prada” and its blockbuster movie. Ten years of waiting should’ve been 15 if the result will be a better sequel. Picture Meryl Streep getting a few minutes of screen time and it’s all Anne Hathaway throughout the movie. It’s that unbalanced.

House Rules by Jodi Picoult

Jodi Picoult is the queen of tension and gray areas. She is so good at putting readers in a position where they will question their morals, loyalty, and beliefs. This novel does exactly the same thing. It’s the story of Jacob, an 18-year-old boy with Asperger’s syndrome being accused of murder. Picoult will keep you guessing that by the time you’re done with the novel you’ll still find yourself mulling over a handful of questions.

Bloodline by James Rollins and Judas Strain by James Rollins

James Rollins is my go-to guy for page-turning thrillers. He is my comfort author, so to speak. That is not to say that his books are an easy read. Despite the many details in his novels, he keeps you engaged and glued in. Bloodline by far is his best novel I’ve read to date. Judas Strain is good, too! I like that he researches a lot and takes his time to explain fact from fiction.

bestsellers2

THE LITERARY:

Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

After reading this, all I could think of was “What happened to Lettie Hempstock???” I’ve fallen in love with her character. She’s a brave young girl who would do anything to save a friend. I think everybody needs a friend like her. See? I’m still attached!

Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Highly recommended by a good friend, I now understand why he was raving about this book. I have yet to write a full review about it because it’s just too good not to dissect. Haha! It’s more than just a magician’s tale. It’s a historical fantasy infused with suspense and mystery.  Marco and Celia are pitted against each other by two powerful magicians. It gets more dangerous when they discover that they are drawn together by some strong force which can destroy one of them. It’s probably the best debut novel I’ve read to date.

literary

Every day by David Leviathan

This novel gives a new twist to fantasy by making it as real as it gets. A is the protagonist who wakes up in different bodies every single day. He can’t control it. Sometimes he wakes up to a male body and other times he ends up being in a female body. Things get complicated when he fell in love and tried to explain his unpredictable situation. A is one of the characters I admire deeply. He made sacrifices despite his transient state. It’s the novel that truly captures the statement “carpe diem.”

THE RANDOM GEMS:

Heaven is For Real by Todd Burpo

This true story is about the journey of 4-year-old Colton to heaven and back. Narrated by his father Todd, this book details the honest, straight forward account of Colton’s experience in heaven. Colton revealed specific information that he could not have possibly known. It’s a book that gives hope to people who are wondering if there’s more to life here on earth. Set to be shown on the big screen, I’m excited to see who will play the adorable Colton! I still plan on doing a more thorough review of this one. 🙂

randomgems

Hacked Off (author to follow) and Miracle Child by James Wilcox

I do book reviews for Reader’s Favorite. I get the privilege of reading newly released titles and soon-to-be published ones. As reviewers, we are also allowed to send a message directly to the author! Two good books I reviewed are “Hacked Off” (I forgot the author’s name!!!!) and “Miracle Child” by James Wilcox. One of my comments on “Hacked Off” was an improvement on the title because it was a dead giveaway on what the book is all about. It already has a few reviews on Amazon and Barnes and Noble when I picked it up. I can’t find it now when I was trying to look for the author. I’m assuming they probably changed the title. “Hacked Off” is the story of a girl hacker along the lines of “The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo.” It’s a page-turner with smooth plot development. I am actually looking forward to a sequel! Meanwhile, “Miracle Child” hits close to home because my son also went through a lot from his premature birth to hernia operation and everything else in between. Wilcox’s son faced a lot health challenges from the time he was born. Some of which were life-threatening. It’s a great story of how trials brought families and communities together to save the life of a brave little child.

Now What? By Gary Chapman

This short book is about how married couple can adjust to life after the baby. Although I read it when my son was around 26 months already, it still helped me get my priorities straight. Marriage usually takes a back seat when the baby comes. This book is a great reminder on how this can be avoided and how you can prioritize your spouse despite the demanding toddler in the background. 🙂

THE CLASSICS:

classics

Gathering Blue, Messenger, and Son by Lois Lowry

“The Giver” is one of my favorite books of all time. Last year I finally had the chance to finish the rest of the quartet! 🙂 Lois Lowry created a dystopian world with touches of fantasy and mystery. He masterfully created characters that grew in the story as the series developed.

In “The Giver” you’ll meet Jonas who meets the Giver and was passed on memories that moved him to leave the utopian community he grew up in. In “Gathering Blue” you’ll meet the lovely Kira who not only weaves beautiful tapestry but also foresees the future through it. Despite the beautiful colors she’s able to make, she doesn’t have blue. Her friend Matty helped her gather blue from a valley. Matty returns with somebody that alters Kira’s life for good. Matty becomes the lead character in “Messenger.” From being an out of control little boy in the previous book, Matty becomes a responsible young man who breathes new life to the Village he moved into.

The quartet comes full circle with “Son.” Claire is the mother of Gabriel, the baby that Jonas brought with him when he left their community. The book is divided into three parts: Before (The Giver timeline), Between (Claire’s life), and Beyond (Claire’s travel to the Village where she sees Gabe all grown up.) The conclusion to the quartet is about redemption and new beginnings. Lowry masterfully created a world where love and courage cannot be undermined. His characters and their story lines were seamlessly weaved together. Their connections are strengthened over time. It’s the most beautiful and poignant series I’ve ever read.

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There you have it—my 2013 in books. 🙂 I look forward to reaching my 100-book target this year. It seems impossible but we’ll see! Cheers to more pages turned this 2014! 🙂

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Unlocked: Faith in Fiction

Karen Kingsbury specializes in life-changing fiction. She is known as America’s favorite inspirational novelist. I’ve been seeing her books in different bookshops and every time I pass by them my reader conscience nags me to pick up one. Giving in to my fiction weakness, I decided to enter into the world of Holden Harris in “Unlocked”.

Locked in his own world

Holden Harris was diagnosed with autism when he was three years old. He spent the next 15 years of his life locked in a world that only he could understand. Holden went to a high school that offered classes for students with special needs. With his noticeable quirks and odd movements, it was no surprise that Holden was a common victim of bullying. This did not stop him from going to school and trying to live his “normal” life.

Holden’s condition took a toll on his parents’ marriage as well. His dad had to spend months away from them—fishing—so he could provide for his therapy and other needs. His mom spent each day hoping that at some point, in the midst of his routine he would make eye contact or reconnect with her in some miraculous way. Little did they know that a miracle was about to happen.

The key

During the rehearsal of their high school play “Beauty and the Beast”, Holden stopped and listened to the music. His classmates went ahead of him while he stayed at the entrance of the theatre mesmerized by the song. Lead actress and head cheerleader Lauren Reynolds noticed him and saw how Holden was connecting to the music. In good faith, she asked his teacher to allow him to watch their rehearsal but she didn’t tell her that she felt unexplainably drawn to him. Days went by and Holden started to show more response to Lauren. Her mom even saw significant improvements in his behavior.

As Lauren knew more about Holden, she also knew more about herself. One day as she was rummaging through some stuff she saw a scrapbook of their family. In there she saw a boy who looked very familiar—Holden. They had pictures playing, laughing, and having a great time with their family. This was the time before Holden had autism. She eventually found out that her parents were best friends with Holden’s. Sadly, his condition severed the ties between their families.

Breakthrough after breakthrough happened as Holden got more immersed in the play. The music and his friendship with Lauren unlocked him from the world that took him away from his family. It was Holden’s sickness that created a chasm between his parents and Lauren’s; but it was also his condition that moved them to bridge the silence and indifference they built over the years.

Faith in fiction

Seeing the world through Holden’s eyes was seeing faith in a whole different level. Holden would pray for almost everyone even those who bullied him. He saw the good in people. He didn’t judge them. He had pure childlike faith that nobody saw. Seeing his mom’s faith moved me to tears. Being a mom myself, I couldn’t imagine losing that connection with my son. Holden’s mom patiently waited and hoped that one day God would bring Holden back—the son she could hug and talk to without fearing that he might move back or pull away. Lauren’s faith in Holden was unwavering. She believed in him when everybody else doubted him. She saw light coming from Holden’s locked world and knew that there was so much more to discover inside of it.

Now I know why Karen Kingsbury is America’s favorite inspirational author. She creates stories that uplift the spirit of her readers. She is not talking religion but reality. She shows that despite the frailty of the human spirit, it still triumphs in the midst of difficulty. I haven’t felt refreshed in a long while after reading a novel. “Unlocked” gave me that experience again. Reading faith in fiction is like bathing in renewed hope and wanting to stay there for a long time. 🙂

Pages turned in 2011

I started looking at my book pile around June of last year. For the first half of the year, reading took a back seat as I spent most of my time taking care of my newborn baby. 🙂 Being a mom rearranged my priorities, schedule, and yes, even my leisure time. I took a break from my recluse reading routine and shifted to interactive mode by reading board books to my baby! It’s unbelievably fun and I really enjoy reading to my little man. 🙂 When he became more manageable—specifically his sleeping habits—I began flipping through my books again.

So here are the books I managed to squeeze into my wifey-mommy schedule last year 🙂

*Note: Those with review links (and pending reviews) are the books that really wowed me as a reader. 🙂 I highly recommend them. For the rest of the books, I’ll just share my thoughts/praise/critique on them. I really liked some of the books while the others merely stained my eyes. 😛

1. Angelology by Danielle Trussoni

2. The Fall by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan – This is the sequel to “The Strain”. It’s vampire-meets-science-meets-pandemic. I had high expectations on this one but it sort of fell flat on my reader radar. I hope that the last part of the trilogy will redeem the series.

3. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro (click here to read my review)

4. Lost Hero by Rick Riordan – This is book one of the Heroes of Olympus series—a spin-off from Percy Jackson and the Olympians. It started quite slow for me but when it picked up midway through I couldn’t put it down anymore. 🙂

5-7 Shiver, Linger, and Forever by Maggie Stiefvater (click here to read my review)

8. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum – I wanted to read more classics and I picked this one last year because I already forgot its magical story. I enjoyed my journey with Dorothy and wished that I had my own silver shoes, too. 🙂

9. Before Ever After by Samantha Sotto (click here to read my review)

10. The Rising by Tim Lahaye – This is the first in the trilogy from the “Left Behind” prequel. It’s about how the Antichrist came to be—from conception to adulthood. It’s disturbing to read how as a kid the Antichrist manipulated his parents, teachers, and classmates. It’s a must read for “Left Behind” followers. 🙂

11. Everybody’s Normal Till You Get to Know Them by John Ortberg (click here to read my review)

12. Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan (click here to read my review)

13. Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin (click here to read my review)

14. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot (review to follow) – One of the best non-fiction books I’ve read so far. Amazing story! I have more to say on my review. 🙂

15. Ms. Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs (review to follow) – Unique and intriguing, this book will not give you peace until you finish it. 🙂 More tidbits in my review.

16. Curse of the Spellmans by Liza Lutz – The Spellman series is wit and humor combined. I didn’t realize that fiction can really be entertaining without being trashy. Haha! The Spellmans is a family of private investigators. Imagine your parents doing a background check on the guys/girls you date or doing a surveillance on you. Now, that’s wicked funny. 🙂 This is her second book. I suggest your read “Spellman Files” (1st book) to be familiar with the quirky characters. When I want to relax, I pick up Liza Lutz’s books to enjoy a good mystery with a good laugh.

17. The Devil Colony by James Rollins – This James Rollins thriller is about the Native American Indians and their secret technology that has immense consequences if it falls into the wrong hands. Rollins has written better novels than this one but this is nonetheless interesting still.

18. The Best of Me by Nicholas Sparks – I haven’t read any Nicholas Sparks novel for the longest time. When he came here to visit I decided to read his latest book. I must say, this novel is a far cry from his previous novels. I mean this in a good way. His writing improved a lot, the characters have more depth, and the plot is not linear anymore. There are back stories behind the lives of the characters that blend into one as the book ended. Yes, it’s a tragedy again (but a good one) from the king of great love and broken hearts. 🙂

19. The Skeleton Key by James Rollins – This is a prequel to the “The Devil Colony”. This 100-plus page short story is a lot better than the novel. Everything about it was gripping and intense—the main things you look for in a thriller.

20. Unlocked by Karen Kingsbury (review to follow) – It’s my first time to read Karen Kingsbury and boy is she good! 🙂 It’s like reading Jodi Picoult only this time it’s Christian fiction. The story is about how music unlocked an autistic boy from his own world. I’m excited to write more about this in detail! 🙂

I can’t believe this is my first book blog for the year and January is almost over! Blogging fail! Oh well, at least I finished one! Haha! Here’s to more page turning this 2012! Cheers, bibliophiles! 🙂