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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Pages turned in 2012

Despite being the year with the least books read, 2012 has been a great book year for me. I loved almost every book I read and I’m really hoping that this year will be just as amazing. Although I mentioned in one of my earlier blogs that I will post around five more books before the end of the year, I miserably failed to do so. 😦 I’ve been busy putting on different hats especially in the last quarter of 2012. The hands-on mommy hat and the homemaking hat took most of my time. Reading took a back seat toward the end of the year but the great thing about books is that they’re the most patient friends. They don’t complain when they get neglected. They understand when you need to prioritize other things. They don’t need to talk because they can read between the lines. More importantly, when you go back to them they welcome you with open arms and a great story at hand. 🙂

Having said that, allow me to introduce you to my awesome BFs (book friends) last year. 🙂

Top picks for 2012

Top picks for 2012!

I’ve read a total of 19 books last year but I think “1Q84” and “Clash of Kings” should count for three books because they’re over a thousand pages! Haha! Long novels are challenging to read but they are usually the ones that take you to places you never thought possible. 🙂

More great books!!!

Great reads from amazing authors!

I have to mention that reading Andy Stanley’s “The Grace of God” is one of the best reading decisions I made last year. Learning about God’s grace in its purest and simplest form is very enlightening. You don’t have to believe in God to read this. Just knowing about how grace is shown and experienced will more than compensate the curiosity of any searching soul. 🙂

“When the Elephants Dance” is like a breath of fresh air. Reading a Filipino author after being so used to foreign authors made me appreciate our culture all the more. It inspired me to read more Filipino authors this year! It’s a different reading experience when you know exactly where the places are and what the local nuances mean. 🙂

I fell in love with John Green's books <3

I fell in love with John Green 🙂

John Green knows exactly how a teenager’s mind is wired. His books portray teen protagonists that mirror what almost every young adult experiences. I’m a young mom, eons away from my teenage years, but his books cross different ages and it speaks uniquely to anyone who picks up his books.

Can't get enough of Dystopian novels!

Dystopian novels are too good to resist! 🙂

I’m a dystopian addict. I love how authors can come up with different dystopian plots and how the books I’ve read last year took it a notch higher than the previous ones I’ve read. These are not “Hunger Games” wannabees, mind you. They are compelling, intriguing, and riveting in their own unique way. 🙂

Some light reads from bestselling authors :)

Some light reads from bestselling authors 🙂

Of course, my year wouldn’t be complete without reading the latest books from mainstream bestselling authors. I’m the kind of reader who needs a break from emotionally heavy books that made me hyper focused for days. Thus, I pick up a light read in between. Sophie Kinsella never fails to crack me up! Haha! I have to say that Mitch Albom did a good job with “The Time Keeper.” It’s a lot better than his recent books and it hits closer to home. 🙂

There you have it! My 2012 reading companions in a nutshell 🙂 What does your list look like? 🙂

Divergent: A Different Dystopia

Dystopian novels depict a repressed society controlled by a select group, masking itself as an ideal society. The thing that fascinates me about dystopian novels is the tenacity of man’s free will that cannot be subjugated by anyone. Authors have taken different angles in tackling dystopian societies. To date, “The Giver” remains to be my all-time favorite. However, I must say that “The Hunger Games” trilogy took the dystopian genre to a whole new level.

As I read Veronica Roth’s “Divergent” early this year, I realized that a writer’s skill is not limited by the topic she writes about. True, “Divergent” may be from the same tree but it’s unique and exhilarating in its own way.

Synopsis

Set in dystopian Chicago, Beatrice Prior lives in a society divided into 5 factions— Abnegation (the selfless; where she and her family belong), Amity (the peaceful), Dauntless (the brave), Candor (the honest), and Erudite (the intelligent). At the age of 16, they are made to take aptitude tests to determine which faction they belong to. During the annual Choosing Ceremony they can decide between staying with their family or choosing another faction where they will live for the rest of their lives.

When Beatrice took her test she had an inconclusive result. This made her evaluator worry. She was advised not tell anyone what her result was. When it was time for her to choose which faction she wanted to join, much to her parents surprise she chose Dauntless over Abnegation. During her stay in Dauntless she changed her name to Tris to embrace the new identity of belonging to another faction. Tris faced rigorous and death-defying training. After all, when your faction means bravery you should be able to face anything.  She tried to blend in the background but her ability to get past simulation tests gained her the spotlight all the more. Her budding romance with her elusive trainer named Four also added to her troubles.

Tensions arise when Tris finds herself in a situation that endangered the life of the people she loves. The turn of events will catch you by surprise as Tris struggled with her own identity in a world where trust seems to be as elusive as freedom.

Review

What I love about “Divergent” is that the characters were given a choice from the very beginning. Yes, they were trapped but they get to choose where they’ll be trapped for the rest of their lives. Early on, there’s a nagging variable presented to the reader—divergent. Wanting to know what that means along with its implications drew me deeper (and faster—because I literally read it fast!) to the dystopian world of Beatrice.

There are also very little clues as to where the turn of events will be as you read the novel. Unlike in “Hunger Games” when Katniss volunteered, I knew for sure that this was a fight for survival. With “Divergent” the reader is kept speculating on what the twist will be. I love the character of Tris and her deep sense of loyalty even if it meant putting her life on the line. You may find it ironic that I lauded her loyalty when she changed her faction. You have to read it to see how this one plays out in the novel. Four’s mysterious character got me glued to the pages as well.

The idea of cultivating your strongest virtue for the rest of your life appealed to me because I’ve always believed in leveraging on your strengths more instead of wasting your time trying to improve your weaknesses. In the novel, if you’re smart you go to the Erudite faction where you’ll be a genius by the time you die (well at least that’s my guess). But the curse in this kind of dystopian society is when a person crosses the line from being the best in his/her faction to becoming the worst of its kind.

The Amazing Author

Veronica Roth is 23 years old. Yes, you read it right she’s only 23!!! What was I doing when I was 23?! Haha! Anyway, “Divergent” is her debut novel and the sequel “Insurgent” will be released anytime this month. Yay! I’m excited to see how this trilogy turns out! I don’t expect it to reach the same heights as “Hunger Games” but I hope each book gets even better. I love the book and the concept of the trilogy for what it is. I admire Roth for her engaging prose and her dauntless leap to take on such erudite task of publishing a debut trilogy.