Tag Archives: review

Keeping the Moon (Sarah Dessen)

Rating: [rate 4.0]

Keeping the Moon (Sarah Dessen)Colie expects the worst when she’s sent to spend the summer with her eccentric aunt Mira while her mother, queen of the television infomercial, tours Europe. Always an outcast — first for being fat and then for being “easy” — Colie has no friends at home and doesn’t expect to find any in Colby, North Carolina. But then she lands a job at the Last Chance Cafe and meets fellow waitresses Morgan and Isabel, best friends with a loving yet volatile relationship. Wacky yet wise, Morgan and Isabel help Colie see herself in a new way and realize the potential that has been there all along.

After finishing this one, I have read all of Sarah Dessen’s books except for Lock and Key whose paperback version is still not out. So let’s just assume I’ve read everything from this point. :P

Sarah Dessen is here with another great book, Keeping the Moon. I didn’t really understand why that is the title of the book while reading it, until the subject of the moon was brought up. And it tied up pretty nicely with a very nice ring to it. :) Anyway, Dessen has done it once again with a good storyline that is not only fit for young adults but also in those who are past that age but is still worried about impressions and looks. In this book, Colie was a fat kid who used to have a fat mom until her mother (and her) lost weight. Her mother became Kiki Sparks, fitness extraordinaire, and she just became Colie, who was somewhat missing all her flabs. On her mother’s European tour, she gets sent to her aunt, who is somewhat weird (with her outrageous outfits and the notes found on everywhere around her house), and meets a wacky cast of characters – Morgan, Isabel and Norman.

More than the story, it was the characters that drew me in the novel. There’s Mira, Colie’s aunt, who, as mentioned earlier, was kind of eccentric, and did not care one bit about how other people thought about her. There’s Morgan, the overdramatic neighbor who is in love with a baseball player and would make deviled eggs when she’s upset. There’s Isabel, Morgan’s housemate, who scares Colie at first because of her attitude towards her, but turns out she actually has an interesting past. And finally, there’s Norman, the guy who lived in Mira’s apartment, an artist, and a rummage sale freak with all odds and ends found in his room (I bet if he could find a way to squeeze in some automotive lifts in his room, he’d have those too).

As with other Dessen books, this was set over the summer, where a lot of things happen. Colie goes from a reserved girl who hid herself from the crowd because of what people at her school say about her, to a girl who learns to appreciate herself for who she was, and learns that she deserve respect just like every other person does. She draws strength from the people she meets over the summer in her confrontation with a bully, and then finds that she can also give strength to other friends who needs someone to be strong for them.

It’s a really nice story, and I liked reading it because it had a really nice message about perfection, self-respect and self-image. :)

Some of my favorite quotes in the book:

If something doesn’t work exactly right, or maybe needs some special treatment, you don’t just throw it away. Everything can’t be fully operational all the time. Sometimes, we need to have the patience to give something the little nudge it needs. (Mira)

You should never be surprised when someone treats you with respect, you should expect it. (Isabel)

The Fortune Quilt (Lani Diane Rich)

Rating: [rate 4.0]

The Fortune Quilt (Lani Diane Rich)Carly McKay’s life is going just fine until she produces a television piece on psychic quilt maker Brandywine Seaver and receives a quilt with an enigmatic reading telling her that everything is about to change. And it does. She loses her job and her best friend (who proclaims his unrequited love for her). And her mother, who deserted the family seventeen years ago, returns, sending Carly into a serious tilt.

Convinced it’s the quilt’s fault, Carly races down to the small artists’ community of Bilby, Arizona, to confront its maker, and ends up renting a cabin from her. Carly even starts to enjoy her reimagined life, until her old life comes calling. Now Carly has to decide what parts of each world she wants to patchwork in…and how much she’s willing to leave to fate.

I’ve been curious with Lani Diane Rich’s work ever since I learned that she wrote her first novel during NaNoWriMo, so when I finally got a chance to read one of her books, I grabbed it immediately. Look at that cute cover. :P

The Fortune Quilt starts with Carly’s sister’s wedding and with Carly, her younger sister Five and her dad making bets at who will be disturbing Ella’s wedding because of a dream that Five had. Turns out the disturbance was meant for Carly, from her ex Seth, and she was saved by Ella’s ex Will. Then we meet Carly’s best friend Chris, and the quilt maker Brandywine, and now we have the cast of characters complete. You just know something is going to happen right after all that normalcy.

And so it happens. Carly receives a quilt from Brandywine that apparently contains her fortune which Carly scoffs at, and then her world turns upside down. What’s a girl to do then? She runs away, not to any Vegas hotels (which is too far) but back to Brandywine, and into another cast of wacky characters in the town of Bilby.

In a way this book reminds me of The Undomestic Goddess by Sophie Kinsella but with less spaz from the protagonist. There was the same tone of running away from the old life and finding a new one as the character is in the new place. However, Carly is a focused and smart woman who got her life turned upside down by forces that she couldn’t understand, while Samantha in The Undomestic Goddess got to where she was because she was too workaholic. And again, Samantha just feels a bit more of an airhead than Carly was.

The other characters in The Fortune Quilt were also hilarious — from the gay couple with their daughter, Brandy, Janessa, the grumpy man who always buys charcoal from the art store and sexy Will, who becomes Carly’s love interest in the story (you can tell from the first chapter).

This is a very fun read. It had just the right combination of humor and seriousness, and it’s a good way to get myself into Lani Diane Rich’s works. :) I’m definitely reading the other ones she has. :P

Geek High (Piper Banks)

Rating: [rate 3.0]

Geek High (Piper Banks)At this school, everyone’s a geek. And Miranda Bloom still can’t fit in…

Miranda is a math genius with divorced parents, an evil stepmother, and no boyfriend in sight. She can’t even fit in with the other geeks at the Nottingham Independent School for high-IQ students, because they actually have useful talents. Miranda, on the other hand, is known as “The Human Calculator,” which doesn’t amount to much when people have, you know, their own calculators.

Then Miranda gets stuck planning the school’s Snowflake Gala. And as she struggles to find a date and drum up some school spirit at Nottingham-aka “Geek High”-she finds that who you are means more than where you fit in.

I found this book and picked it up because I thought the cover was cute and the premise was interesting. I like geek books, and I was still on my young adult novel mode, so this seemed perfect.

I don’t know if it’s because I just finished reading Robin Palmer’s Cindy Ella recently shortly after I read this, but this one read a lot like that. I liked the story, I liked the characters and the entire thing, but there wasn’t really anything new about it, at least for me. The usual cast of characters were there: Miranda and her two sidekicks/best friends, her evil stepmother (who seems really evil), her stepsister who eventually becomes her friend, the guy she likes, the guy she ends up liking and the huge problem that is set on her because she tries to be different from what everyone expects her to be. It just feels a bit too formulaic and similar with what I’ve read a few books back.

Maybe it’s my own prejudices, but for now this book is just an okay book. Nothing too stellar, just one of those nice young adult books to read. Maybe when I get a copy of the sequel I’ll change my mind.

Dreamland (Sarah Dessen)

Rating: [rate 3.5]

Dreamland (Sarah Dessen)Wake up, Caitlin.

Ever since she started going out with Rogerson Biscoe, Caitlin seems to have fallen into a semiconscious dreamland where nothing is quite real. Rogerson is different from anyone has ever known. He’s magnetic. He’s compelling. He’s dangerous. Being with him makes Caitlin forget about everything else — her missing sister, her withdrawn mother, her lacluster life. But what happens when being with Rogerson becomes a larger problem than being without him?

This is definitely a far more serious Sarah Dessen book that all the others I have read. Dessen’s novels deal with serious issues, but this one feels even more serious than the other ones, from the very cover to everything inside. That level of seriousness kind of made me feel like even I was in dream land, like everything was surreal.

The story’s good, with remarkable characters, especially Cass and Boo. Cass only has a few lines but her disappearance and small reappearance had a huge impact in the entire story that I kind of wish there was more of her. I got annoyed at Caitlin for not standing up for herself but I also felt concern for her the way her family and friends did. However, I feel like there’s a lot more things that could have been uncovered, like why Rogerson did what he did, and what happened to him next. Then again, it was Caitlin’s story, so the focus was more on her, and how she recovered.

It was good, but it’s really not something I’m looking forward to read again and again, unlike The Truth About Forever or Just Listen. It’s also not something I’m going to let someone read when she’s new to Sarah Dessen’s work. Dreamland is good, but I honestly think it’s not as good as the others.

Cindy Ella (Robin Palmer)

Rating: [rate 4.5]

Cindy Ella (Robin Palmer)Prom fever has infected LA—especially Cindy’s two annoying stepsisters, and her overly Botoxed stepmother. Cindy seems to be the only one immune to it all. But her anti-prom letter in the school newspaper does more to turn Cindy into Queen of the Freaks than close the gap between the popular kids and the rest of the students. Everyone thinks she’s committed social suicide, except for her two best friends, the yoga goddess India and John Hughes-worshipping Malcolm, and shockingly, the most popular senior at Castle Heights High and Cindy’s crush, Adam Silver. Suddenly Cindy starts to think that maybe her social life could have a happily ever after. But there’s still the rest of the school to deal with. With a little bit of help from an unexpected source and a fabulous pair of heels, Cindy realizes that she still has a chance at a happily ever after.

I love retellings. Ever since I read about this NaNoWriMo story about putting characters from Greek mythology into one story, I’ve always wanted to write my own retelling of something. I like to see how authors make an old story into something entirely new, but still sticking to the original story.

Cindy Ella is one of those books. I already liked Robin Palmer’s Geek Charming, and I was thrilled when I found Cindy Ella in National Bookstore. It’s obviously a re-telling of Cinderella, set in Castle Heights High, the same setting as in Geek Charming.

Here we draw the similarities with the original fairy tale:

  • Cindy Ella – Cinderella, obviously
  • Clarissa – her stepmother
  • Ashley and Britney – her stepsisters
  • Adam Silver – prince charming
  • Noah and Craig – Cindy’s fairy godmothers
  • Prom – the ball

The only people I can’t put into the original story are India and Malcolm, Cindy’s friends, and her dad.

But who cares, really? Cindy Ella is such a fun book that sometimes you forget that it’s based on the fairy tale. There are a ton of laugh out loud moments, especially with Malcolm and his gay antics, as well as some more “I crush on this guy but he turned out to be gay” quotes. The ending brings us right back to the original fairy tale, which felt a bit anticlimactic for me, but it’s still good with just the right amount of tingles. :)

It’s cute, fun and definitely enchanting. :) I definitely have Robin Palmer in my favorite authors list now. :)

A Most Uncommon Degree of Popularity (Kathleen Gilles Seidel)

Rating: [rate 4.0]

A Most Uncommon Degree of PopularityLydia Meadows, a former lawyer turned full-time mother, is startled to discover that her daughter Erin is one of the popular girls, a tight foursome whose mothers are also great friends. Lydia has always thought of popular girls as ambitious little manipulators who enjoy being cruel. But Erin is kind and well-adjusted. Maybe this popularity thing wont be so bad after all. Then a new student ruthlessly targets Erin to boost her own popularity, and Lydia wonders what to do when her daughters phone stops ringing. And the uneasiness among the girls begins to affect the friendship of the mothers even though they are all grown women who should know better. Has their driven energy, once directed toward their careers, turned into an obsession with the social lives of their daughters?

So I got this on a whim because I thought the cover was cute. :P It took me a while to actually start reading it but once I did, I couldn’t stop.

A Most Uncommon Degree of Popularity is actually a mom-book more than a teen book but in a way, it’s also a teen book. Did that make sense? It’s about a mom who’s so focused in the life of her daughter that her world revolved around her school, her activities and her friends who also have daughters in the same school. Life was controlled and at peace as much as they can tell, until they saw their daughters in matching drawstring skirts and realized that…well, they’re popular.

I couldn’t really relate to the entire popularity thing since I don’t think it’s really such a big deal back when I was studying, but I felt bad for Erin once the new girl came in and took the attention away from her. I identified so much with Lydia and how she felt antagonized by everyone else, even her friends, from what the new girl is doing to her daughter. I also liked how Lydia’s other roles in life were shown and how it meshed with everything else in her life. There were her friendships, her relationship with her husband (who is also a lawyer — not sure if he’s an offshore injury lawyer or something else), and also with herself as a woman who has needs. I also found it very clever that Erin the daughter hardly spoke in the novel and yet I felt her presence because of Lydia’s love for her. Kathleen Gilles Seidel made realistic characters that I felt like I was actually involved in the Alden community, like I was a part of the changes happening there.

The book is also as much as a social commentary as it is a mom/teen book, as it shows how ruthless some people can be to gain popularity, and how much lengths moms of teen girls will go to protect their daughters and to make sure they are not left out.

Overall, this is a good book, with somewhat of a sad yet hopeful ending. No one likes saying goodbye, and Lydia certainly doesn’t, but the final choice she made in the end is ultimately for the good of her children which is a very admirable thing to do. :)

Daring Chloe (Laura Jensen Walker)

Rating: [rate 3.5]

Daring Chloe (Laura Jensen Walker)When Chloe Adam’s fiance dumps her — the night before their wedding — two girlfriends from her book group decide a little adventure is in order for the three of them. After all, why let a perfectly good honeymoon cruise go to waste?

Adventure? Chloe Adams? No way! Chloe’s lived in one town her whole life. The closest she’s ever gotten to actual adventures is reading about them. But her girlfriends won’t take no for an answer.

One good adventure calls for another as Chloe’s friends try to coax her out of her post-dumping funk, and soon she finds herself living ut the adventures in her book club’s latest selections. Hiking. Sailing. River rafting. Traveling to new places and eating exotic food. The play-it-safe Chloe begins to blossom into a new, daring Chloe. A Chloe who just might be ready to take on her biggest adventure of all.

Laura Jensen Walker is one of my favorite authors, hands down. Her book, Dreaming in Black and White was the first Christian chicklit I read and I love reading it until now. She also has a knack for humor in her books, which I can see even in her more serious novels, like Reconstructing Natalie, which talks about breast cancer.

However, this one just didn’t really cut it for me.

The book did not have the same story flow that Reconstructing Natalie or Miss Invisible had that made me kind of not like it as much. The flow of the story was more or less fluid, almost like the Phoebe Grant series. However, the entire plot felt like it was lacking something. The premise was there and it’s really a big conflict but I felt like it wasn’t really delved into. Okay, so romance wasn’t really the main point of the book, but then the some sort of romance between Chloe and the other guy shouldn’t have been hinted.

Don’t get me wrong, the story was nice and it had a pretty nice lesson. It’s all about the great adventure that is life, and I’m still learning that. I just felt like the story lacked an overall conflict that is there in other Laura Jensen Walker novels.

But plus points on mentioning Switchfoot, though. :) And the book list and the mention of yummy food. This book makes me want to go to Paris too.

Apparently, this is a part of a series, and knowing me, I’d most likely get it. Probably. Seeing the blurb of the book from Amazon, I think there just might be more conflict there.

Geek Charming (Robin Palmer)

Rating: [rate 3.5]

Geek Charming (Robin Palmer)Dylan Shoenfield is the princess of L.A.’s posh Castle Heights High. She has the coolest boyfriend, the most popular friends, and a brand-new “it” bag that everyone covets. But when she accidentally tosses her bag into a fountain, this princess comes face-to-face with her own personal frog: selfprofessed film geek Josh Rosen. In return for rescuing Dylan’s bag, Josh convinces Dylan to let him film her for his documentary on high school popularity. Reluctantly, Dylan lets F-list Josh into her A-list world, and is shocked to realize that sometimes nerds can be pretty cool. But when Dylan’s so-called prince charming of a boyfriend dumps her flat, her life — and her social status — comes to a crashing halt. Can Dylan — with Josh’s help — pull the pieces together to create her own happily-ever-after?

Don’t you just love the cover of this book? It screams young adult/chick lit! No wonder I wanted it! Okay, fine, I’m not such a fan of how they cut the head off (at least it’s not at the neck — big no no!), but it’s so pretty, and the actual cover has glitters on it. Talk about whimsical. :P

I’m glad that this book is really good inside too, aside from having a pretty cover. I’m starting to get really fond of re-telling of fairy tales and old stories I know, much like Jasper Fforde‘s Nursery Crime series. Geek Charming is a retelling of The Frog Prince, set in the bright, sunshiney and somewhat materialistic world of Castle Heights High. I don’t know why, but I could somehow imagine the setting even if I haven’t ever been to Hollywood. And then again, I imagined everything just bright and sunshine-y too — maybe it’s a personal stereotype I have.

It’s a really cute and charming story, much like it’s title. Told in alternating point of views between the protagonists, it’s somewhat cliche, but not really. Then again, it’s a re-telling, so what can you expect? Dylan was really annoying at the first few chapters and I really wanted to sock her for being so stuck up. I mean, yeah, you’re rich, and you could probably afford one or more car insurances for your BMW, but do you really have to be so selfish? However, she started becoming more human after some time, and I started sympathizing with her. I liked Josh from the beginning, being the geek that he was, although I kind of felt that his “sickness” is kind of exaggerated.

It’s really more of a friendship/self-discovery story more than a love story, which was refreshing in a way. I liked how Dylan and Josh’s friendship developed throughout the book, and it gave the characters more depth. The other characters were just as amusing, especially Sandy, Josh’s mom.

It’s a quick and light read (I read straight it over the weekend), something that helped me get over the darkness that is Adam. :P It’s cute, but not exactly stellar or life-changing. It’s something I’d recommend someone to read but not really get something really deep, unless if you’re around that age, I guess. But it’s good, just not as good as say, Flipped. I can’t wait to get a copy of Cindy Ella, and all other books that Palmer will come up with. I think I just found myself another author to watch out for. :)

Adam (Ted Dekker)

Rating: [rate 4.0]

Adam (Ted Dekker)Do you believe in evil?

In the mind of FBI behavioral psychologist Daniel Clark, there is no Good and no Evil. All that possesses him is the pursuit of the serial killer known as ‘Eve’. A pursuit that will lead Daniel to his own death.

But he is miraculously resuscitated — twenty-one minutes after flatlining — and it soon becomes clear that the only way to stop Eve is to recover those missing minutes by dying…again.

Daniel’s pursuit of Eve descends deeper and darker than ever before. Soon — in circumstances he could never have imagined — he will find himself re-evaluating everything he ever believed.

It’s been a long time since I have read a Ted Dekker book, and I have been eyeing this one ever since I saw it at National Bookstore. When I saw the smaller print (the one above with the bright green back cover), I immediately snatched it up.

I have read a couple of reviews of this book, and most of them said something about this being Ted Dekker’s darkest work yet, and that some slept with their lights on, so I was kind of wary about this. Somewhere halfway into the book, I started wondering if all those dark stuff is really some kind of hype. Even when I finally finished it (more to the ending later), I wasn’t particularly stunned.

Until last night. I’m not saying something supernatural happened, but I woke up in the middle of the night and the first thing that came into mind was the last scene in the book…and boy was I suddenly terrified. I had to think of other thoughts fast, keeping my eyes closed so I won’t imagine anything in the room.

Talk about haunting.

In a way that’s how this book was — haunting. I described it first as disturbing, but I realized haunting is the better word. The story was flawless, as far as I’m concerned: the story — both the newspaper articles and the actual story — are tightly woven together, and the terminologies seemed authentic as far as my knowledge was concerned. In fact, it kind of felt like I was reading a novelized CSI episode with all the mention of AFIS, CODIS and all the protocol they followed. I even learned some new things that I somehow never picked up in the CSI episodes I’ve watched, like did you know that when they say ventricular fibrillation, it meant heart attack? And that electric shock thing with paddles is called a defibrillator?

But I digress. What I liked about this book was how Dekker managed to connect the physical/scientific world of crime solving with the spiritual aspect. At first I had a hard time trying to connect them when it was finally brought up — perhaps it was my exposure to all those CSI episodes that followed the motivations and the scientific stuff made me numb to thinking about the faith aspect — but after some time, it made sense. I remembered that there’s the body and the soul, and Dekker merges the soul aspect here in a creepy albeit effective way. He manages to tie everything effectively in the first question of the blurb: do you believe in evil? Because evil exists, and it’s not something you can hide from in locked doors or fence installation can keep away.

As always, the ending brought a little twist that I really didn’t expect, so props to that too. Nothing is as surprising as Thr3e‘s ending, though. ;)

My only gripe about this book is how dark it was. Yes, it’s one of the “good” aspects of this one, but it’s definitely not for someone who’s early in his/her Christian walk. It’s not for teens, for sure, because the themes are too heavy and the ending didn’t have a very solid resolution, just the solving of the case. It presents a side of our spiritual life that can be scary to some people if not understood properly.

Don’t get me wrong: it’s a good book. Just make sure you’re ready for its after-effects. :)

You will learn that evil tends to target those who are least suspicious of its power. (Ted Dekker)

Only Uni (Camy Tang)

Rating: [rate 5.0]

Only Uni (Camy Tang)Senior biologist Trish Sakai is ready for a change from her wild, flirtatious behavior. So Trish creates three simple rules from First and Second Corinthians and plans to follow them to the letter. No more looking at men as possible dates, especially non-Christians. Second, tell others about Christ. And third, she will persevere in hardship by relying on God. And just to make sure she behaves, she enlists the help of her three cousins — Lex, Venus and Jennifer — the only Christians in their large extended family.

But Trish’s dangerously tempting ex-boyfriend, Kazuo the artist, keeps popping up at all the wrong moments, and her grandmother, who has her eye on his family money, keeps trying to push the two of them back together again. Then there’s Spenser, the hunky colleague at work who keeps turning Trish’s thoughts in the wrong direction.

It just isn’t fair! She’s trying to hard, but instead of being God’s virtuous woman, she’s going nuts trying to stand firm against two hunky guys. Trish thought following her three rules would be a cinch, but suddenly those simple rules don’t seem so simple at all.

So I finally got my hands onto this book — much thanks to Camy for her e-group contest and the free books! This book is signed too, so I’m definitely keeping this.

Anyway, so I read the Sushi series out of the original order, and it really doesn’t matter, except if you don’t want to know what happened to Trish at the end of this book. Nevertheless, reading Single Sashimi first didn’t spoil me of the details in this book, so it was still a fun read.

If Lex is kind of boyish and Venus stays away from boys, Trish…well, she embraces them. She’s the flirtiest among all the cousins, and it came to a point that she let her cousins down because she chose a guy over them (that was foreshadowed in Sushi for One?). This time, though, she’s determined to turn over a new leaf by making three rules based on the book of Corinthians. She can do this, right?

If only life were so easy, then maybe everyone could make up a set of rules in their life and avoid sin at all times. But life isn’t like that, and Trish had to learn it the hard way. From a roommate who gets her kicked out of her place to finding a new place that is basically a dump (with mutant mold and discount sinks)  to her ex-boyfriend wooing her again to her hunky colleague and to churchmates who couldn’t understand the way she worships (and there’s more, actually), this book is such a fun read, just like the two other books in the Sushi series. There was never a dull moment, and the faith issues were realistic and tackled head on.

The ending was quite surprising (but of course, since I’m already spoiled, it wasn’t that surprising, but I bet other people would think it is surprising for Christian fiction), but it presents a reality of life, where we have to face the consequences of our actions and be responsible for it. It’s something all Christians — be it a new one or one who has been a Christian all his/her life — should remember.

Oh, and to actually get how the ending happened, you’d have to pay attention to the smaller details in the book. I was kind of surprised when it was sprung on to Trish, but reading the past pages showed that Camy left enough clues about it. :P

So far, out of the entire series, my favorite female character is still Venus, but my favorite male character is Spenser, hands down. He’s second to Kevin Novak from the Ashley Stockingdale series. :D

I’m kind of sad that the Sushi Series is over (save for the novella about Jenn which is exclusive for Camy’s e-group — so join now!), but I can’t wait to read the other things that Camy will write! I’m sure they’d just be as awesome. :D