Bookworm Judie · Citizen Judie

Review: CRUSHINGLY CLOSE

The blog tour for Stella Torres’ latest book makes a stop here in Citizen Judie!

Crushingly Close - CoverCrushingly Close
Release Date: July 19, 2016
Get the book: Amazon // Goodreads

I got an ARC from the author. This in no way affects my honest review of the book.

About the Book: At twenty-four years old, Agnes Escueta has risen from the ranks to become a producer for Sports Tonight. No one can touch her, it seems—not even crush-worthy anchorman Daniel Ferrer, who she gets to work with every single day. When a road trip to Indonesia throws Agnes and Daniel together, they find themselves working in close quarters. It doesn’t take long before Agnes finds herself being charmed by Daniel, and her defenses start to melt with his touch. With deadlines looming and a big game coming, Agnes must figure out how to let Daniel into her life without risking her professional reputation—and without breaking her own heart.

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When I read the synopsis of CRUSHINGLY CLOSE, I immediately thought, This is just what I need. It interested me because I’ve been missing The Newsroom lately (it has touches of Sports Night, too, right?) and my Timehop is rife with my Azkals adventures in recent years, so imagine how much I can relate to the story even before starting it.

What I liked about CRUSHINGLY CLOSE is that it’s very straightforward. Sometimes you really need not have too much issues and drama to weave a romantic story. The character-building may be short but the people turned out to be likable and more importantly, very relatable.

The attraction between Agnes and Daniel was simply laid out. No crazy long build up and back and forth, and when it happened, it was at the right moment. I liked the element of special things happening when you’re away from your comfort zone (or simply, home). It added to the satisfaction which turned to a momentary confusion when they got back and one of them thought, “What now?”

That, that chunk of time in the story was my favorite part. Things unfolding while away, where even the very few people who knew you there weren’t privy to it, that’s what got me. It may have happened too soon, but to me it was just the right time. The characters are human, and in giving in to emotions, in putting down the barrier, I saw that they’re perfectly normal (and again, human).

I liked how Agnes and Daniel were written. They’re both independent and vulnerable in their own ways and letting their guard down, especially for Agnes, wasn’t something done in an over the top way. Agnes knew what she’s in for and only needed a short time to sort things out and decide what she wanted in her life. In hindsight it did justice to her independent nature as a character. Daniel, on the other hand, was consistent. And we all like our men to be consistent, especially when it’s about going after you and staying true to their feelings for you. Naks.

When I liked a story, after finishing the last page, there’s a sappy me needing a sequel. As for Agnes and Daniel, I would love to read about their new adventures in the newsroom! More banter! More affection! More steamy editing room scenes! Maka-demand naman di ba? 🙂

This is my first book written by Stella Torres and I’m happy I signed up for this blog tour and got to read CRUSHINGLY CLOSE earlier. Off to read her other stories!

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SMT_AuthorPhoto2About the Author:

Stella Torres is the author of Save the Cake and the short story “Be Creative” from Kids These Days: Stories from Luna East Arts Academy (Vol. 1)). She has a bachelor’s degree in English literature and worked briefly in public relations, but has chosen to pursue her post-graduate studies in the field of education. She loves dark chocolate, hates flyaways, and is constantly in search of comfortable shoes.

Connect with the author:

Blog: http://thegreatbigjump.blogspot.com
Facebook: http://facebook.com/StellaTorresAuthor
Twitter: http://twitter.com/TheStellaTorres
Instagram: http://instagram.com/stella_meimei

 

Bookworm Judie

The Humans by Matt Haig

From Goodreads: Our hero, Professor Andrew Martin, is dead before the book even begins. As it turns out, though, he wasn’t a very nice man–as the alien imposter who now occupies his body discovers. Sent to Earth to destroy evidence that Andrew had solved a major mathematical problem, the alien soon finds himself learning more about the professor, his family, and “the humans” than he ever expected. When he begins to fall for his own wife and son–who have no idea he’s not the real Andrew–the alien must choose between completing his mission and returning home or finding a new home right here on Earth.

Format: Trade Paperback
Source: Bought in National Bookstore Harrison Plaza (December 2014)

MY THOUGHTS ON THE BOOK:

I am glad I picked this book one random afternoon before 2014 ended. It turned out to be my best read of the year so far; well, depending on the materials I will get my hands on in the next 7 months.

The book could be dark but it’s hit-the-nail-on-the-head funny most of the time. It had me laughing at the alien protagonist even with his sinister plans (in the beginning) and journeyed with him when he realized that Earth and its underachieving, under-developed habitants have more to them that are worth appreciating. When he slowly learned to embrace Earth’s ironies and imperfections, the gradual transition felt genuine, if only because it also confused him. The narration always comes back to the funny bits. I particularly loved his “97 Advice to Humans.” So quotable, most of them. I love how Matt Haig used beautiful words to come up with such passages. Here is one I shared with my Facebook friends as I was reading it:

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After this, I will gladly welcome another Matt Haig book. I was lucky I chanced on The Radleys in Booksale last month. I may not be able to read it soon but I am sure I’m already going to enjoy it as I learned his writing style with this book.

Bookworm Judie

Review: One Night at the Palace Hotel by Bianca Mori #buqosteamyreads

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Here are five volumes of steamy reads brought to you by buqo. It is an application that’s a bookstore, newsstand, and reader in a single app. It was built to give Pinoys (and Pinoys-at-heart) everywhere a single place to access bestselling Filipino magazines, books, and more. Neat, eh? You can access buqo through the following:

Download the Android app: http://bit.ly/buqodroid
Download the iOS app: http://bit.ly/buqoapple

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We are now on Week 2 of the tour featuring Volume 2, the Seduction bundle! Today I am reviewing One Night at the Palace Hotel by Bianca Mori.

One Night at the Palace HotelIt’s the night before The Palace Hotel opens, and the entire city is abuzz with what everyone is calling a throwback to the Gilded Age. Everyone, that is, except Consuelo De la Red. Faced with a destiny picked out for her and a dream she just can’t forget, she confronts the choices she has made and the man she was forced to reject. When the past comes crashing into the present, will she listen to her duty, or give in to the urging of her heart?

 

My thoughts: For something so short, I was highly entertained and left wanting for more. I guess my penchant for reading about the happily miserable lives of rich people added to the fascination. There’s nothing convoluted in the story, everything is straightforward and if I may say, realistically sweet. It’s beautifully written that frankly, the steamy, passionate scenes were icing on top. But well, a giant icing, for that matter. 😉 The author has a way with words that I find very engaging; not just with the hot ones but in all parts of the story. 😉

Sam, the main guy in the story (who for some reason I picture Sam Milby; maybe because a movie of his was on while I was reading?) is the voice of reason, the guy you root for and wish you’d have for yourself. He’s not swooning and preachy — two things I tend to see in characters bent on proving he loves a woman and that being with him is the most reasonable thing to do…because of love. Sam’s not like that. Moreover, Consuelo/Con/Sue (read it to know why) was more beautifully written. Characters from the upper class to me almost always tread the thin line between believable/likable and outrageous/annoying. She’s the former. She has had bitchy quips and all but she’s likable. I may be doing a very loose comparison, and with my personal bias toward Jen Aniston, but it’s like what happened to Rachel Green’s character on Friends– you know, easily a bait for annoyance, but she turned out lovable and likable.

As short as this story is, it wrapped well. Though of course, if there’s going to be more, I’m not going to say no. I recommend you guys read this! 🙂

If you want to check out other posts this week for the Seduction bundle of #buqosteamyreads, visit this tour schedule.

Better yet, download buqo and get the #steamyreads! Let’s support local authors!

Bookworm Judie

Review: Inappropriate Entanglement by D.R. Lee #buqosteamyreads

BuqoSteamyReadsHeader (1)

Here are five volumes of steamy reads brought to you by buqo. It is an application that’s a bookstore, newsstand, and reader in a single app. It was built to give Pinoys (and Pinoys-at-heart) everywhere a single place to access bestselling Filipino magazines, books, and more. Neat, eh? You can access buqo through the following:

Download the Android app: http://bit.ly/buqodroid
Download the iOS app: http://bit.ly/buqoapple

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We are now on Week 2 of the tour featuring Volume 2, the Seduction bundle! Today I am reviewing Inappropriate Entanglement by D. R. Lee.

Inappropriate EntanglementOn their first meeting, she ordered him to strip.

Kaye is the independent and workaholic creative director of an ad agency. She’s been single for five straight years but she still isn’t so keen on joining the dating pool anytime soon. Unfortunately, Matt, a hunky client she needs to please and appease, has other plans.

On their first meeting, he stripped.

My thoughts: I liked this story but I’m sure those who have read it will agree when I say…it’s so bitin! I want more! Since we are into steamy reads, can I just say, this is the kind which leaves you with the pain in your stomach because of an unquenched desire, hahaha! But there’s hot and sexy times, no worries.

It being short did not mean no space for character movement. There wasn’t much but what was presented were enough to relate (or not, depends on you) to the characters. I have not read that many sexy/steamy books, and I am personally in the middle of an un-posted blog post about sexy stories such as these, but one thing I noticed present in most of them was throwing one’s self with reckless abandon, sloppily so that it becomes forced. I did not find it here. I saw the internal struggle (albeit for a very short time, haha), that to me made the deed satisfying (as a reader *grins*). The plot and the setting are of course nothing new but the author found ways to make it where Kaye and Matt were, and as a reader, I followed.

I could not have said it more bluntly: I am looking forward to the next book! (There’s going to be a next one…and possibly more…right, D?)

If you want to check out other posts this week for the Seduction bundle of #buqosteamyreads, visit this tour schedule.

Better yet, download buqo and get the #steamyreads! Let’s support local authors!

Bookworm Judie

Book Review: IN OVER HER HEAD by Anne Plaza

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It’s a pleasure to be one of the stops of the blog tour of In Over Her Head by Anne Plaza! This blog tour is organized by Dia of Book Junkie Joint in order to showcase and promote books by independent Filipino authors. For a list of past, ongoing, and upcoming blog tours, visit the Book Junkie Blog Tours site!

Title: In Over Her Head
Author: Anne Plaza
Buy the book: AmazonSmashwordsPaperback Order Form

About the book:

All she wants is to get even…

Erika Apostol’s quiet and unassuming life gets disrupted when she learns that Richard Javier, the very same person who broke her heart many years ago, is now back in the country. Her world is turned upside down as old feelings she thought were buried resurface to haunt her once more.

Determined to give Richard a dose of his own medicine, Erika finds herself involved in an outrageous plan devised by her friends. They enlist the help of Jerome Gonzales, an attractive and charismatic DJ (with a playboy reputation), to pose as her significant other.

As the plan goes in full swing, Erika discovers Richard’s jealous side, and that there’s something more to Jerome than meets the eye. Will this grand charade work out the way it should, or will she be left with nothing in the end?

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My Thoughts:

I dig stories with unresolved emotional issues and struggle for closure! This is why I was excited to read this story and see how it would play out. It was pretty much satisfying even though there were some parts where I was thrown off a bit. The build-up of the Jerome/Erika charade was cutely done (for lack of a better, more apt term, and I mean it in a positive way) that I found myself rooting for them more. I almost forgot that there were more things to resolve. Erika was reckless and random at times and I found these instances believable and very human. Richard the character merits more fleshing out earlier than the last chapter of the book. There were parts which are too sappy to be true but then again, when it involves romantic feelings, you can never really tell.

What I enjoyed more while reading this was the friends and family of Erika. The journey stressed the relevance of a support group even though they themselves brought minor chaos along the way. At the end of the day, you really won’t make it alone, no matter how tough you think you are.

Overall, I am satisfied with the narration and how the story folded. It is a feel-good read especially when you are one of those people who silently struggle to appear okay when you are, in truth, not okay. Let me just share two passages I liked, and please remember I tend to gloss over little, might-seem-irrelevant-to-many things:

Now I know what my mother must have felt when I completely go against her expressed wishes telling me a bazillion times not to ‘do this’ or ‘do that’. It’s also the same feeling of buying boatloads of books and then regretting the splurge when I count the remaining bills in my wallet.

I know this feeling. It’s been right there all along, all these years.
[Kilig down the spine, a little bit.]

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About the author:

Anne Plaza has a degree in Psychology, but has actively pursued a career in writing in her previous work as a reporter and online editor. She currently works in the field of marketing communications and spends most of her time writing fiction (while not on the lookout for the nearest cupcake and cronut store). Aside from writing, she loves to read contemporary romance, young adult, fantasy, and historical fiction. She also collects stamps and postcards, and loves everything about cats. Anne is based in Quezon City, Philippines. In Over Her Head is her first published work in English.

You may get in touch with Anne through the following:

Blog – http://thoughtsbrewed.blogspot.com
Twitter – http://twitter.com/anneplaza
Facebook – http://facebook.com/anneplaza2013
Email – anneplaza@gmail.com

On Friday, stay tuned for excerpts from the book and a link to a giveaway! Happy holidays! 🙂

Bookworm Judie

Blog Tour Review + Giveaway: COVER (STORY) GIRL by Chris Mariano

CSGHeader

It’s a pleasure to be one of the stops of the blog tour of Cover (Story) Girl by Chris Mariano!  This blog tour is organized by Dia of Book Junkie Joint in order to showcase and promote books by independent Filipino authors.  For a list of past, ongoing, and upcoming blog tours, visit the Book Junkie Blog Tours site!

Cover Story Girl Book CoverTitle: COVER (STORY) GIRL
Author: Chris Mariano
Date Published: June 2013
Buy the e-book: Amazon / Smashwords

About the book:

1) She has amnesia.
2) She’s on the run from her father’s creditors.
3) She’s enjoying her last days on earth.

Ever since Jang Min Hee walked into Gio’s small museum, she’s given him one excuse after another about why she’s vacationing at scenic Boracay Island. Rarely has Gio’s neat and organized world been shaken like this. Soon he finds himself scrambling over rocks, hiding in dressing rooms, and dragging her out of bars. But how can Gio tell what’s true from what isn’t? Their worlds are getting unraveled — one story at a time.

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My thoughts:

I hardly ever come across contemporary romance reads from a male protagonist’s voice (the ones I have read were all horror/suspense — which is hmm, interesting); if there was, it’s usually just an alternate voice embedded in the chapters of a book. This is why I enjoyed reading this book, first and foremost. Of course, it’s not in great, very accurate detail, but knowing that you are reading about a love story coming from a man’s mindset is refreshing. They are as confused, dramatic, and sappy as us! 🙂

Another thing I like about this book is how it promotes Philippine tourism through Boracay. Sure, we have tons of it already, but reading it from a different angle is fun. I mean, I have not thought about a museum on that side of the islands; its interesting native people, other tidbits of the Aklanon culture that goes beyond the pristine beaches.  It opened a lot of windows for more storytelling which I hope the author would touch in future works.

The protagonists are real and believable. Throughout the story, there was the balance of push-and-pull in dealing with a love affair which developed on the island (keeping in mind the cliche Whatever happens in Boracay, ends and stays in Boracay, no I didn’t make that up). It wasn’t rushed, it was just right.

I felt a bit disappointed toward the end and it’s like it cascaded way too fast — which was good had it not cascaded into the ending of the story.  It became too melo — as in melodramatic; the stuff soapies are made of.  But then, I looked back, and thought of the entire novella, and said to myself, it’s not bad after all.  Probably, I liked the beginning and the middle so much that I could take whichever way it ended, because you know, it has to end sometime, somewhere, and in a fashion that is more or less hinted at throughout the story.

On another note, and this is the spin-off junkie in me talking, the sidestory of former lovers which expressed their feelings through art moved me. I wouldn’t mind reading their own story, although it will be a historical one, which I know entails more research and preparation.

Overall, I liked this book, and frankly it exceeded my expectations, the resolution notwithstanding. 🙂

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About the Author:Author Chris Mariano

Cover (Story) Girl is Chris Mariano’s first published romance work, but her speculative fiction and poetry have appeared in Fully Booked’s Philippine Graphic/Fiction Awards Prose Anthology, Philippine Speculative Fiction Volume 7, TAYO Literary Magazine, and Ideomancer. When she’s not writing, she supports Eskritoryo Pilipinas, an organization that encourages kids to appreciate Filipino literature and culture. She divides her time between Manila and Aklan.

If you wish to get in touch with Chris, you can contact her through:AUTHOR

  • email: christelle.mariano@gmail.com
  • blog: http://ficsation.blogspot.com
  • Twitter: @dementedchris

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Now. for a giveaway!

There will be 3 Swag Bags up for grabs containing a signed paperback copy of CSG, set of postcards and bookmarks, vanilla shampoo/body wash [PHILIPPINES ONLY].

If you want to win one, please go to the Cover (Story) Girl blog Tour Rafflecopter Page! Goodluck! 🙂

 

Bookworm Judie

Blog Tour Review + Giveaway: ALL’S FAIR IN BLOG AND WAR by Chrissie Peria

 All's Fair Blog Tour

It’s a pleasure to be one of the stops of the blog tour of All’s Fair in Blog and War by Chrissie Peria and Well Played by Katrina Ramos Atienza!  This blog tour is organized by Dia of Book Junkie Joint in order to showcase and promote books by independent Filipino authors.  For a list of past, ongoing, and upcoming blog tours, visit the Book Junkie Blog Tours site!

All's Fair CoverTitle: All’s Fair in Blog and War
Author: Chrissie Peria
Date Published: June 2013
Buy the e-book: Amazon / Smashwords

About the book:

Five Cuevas @5travels:

Three guesses to where I’m going next. Starts with an M. Ends with a U. Has a lechon named after it. #travel

Twenty-something travel blogger Five thinks she has hit the jackpot when she gets invited to glittering Macau for an all-expense-paid bloggers tour. Think majestic old churches, sparkling casinos, exhilarating bungee jumps, and the world’s most unforgettable egg tarts. The trip is practically perfect, except for one little glitch. She gets assigned to be travel buddies with Jesse, the world’s most infuriating photo blogger, and it’s definitely war at first sight.

Will Five let Jesse turn her dream vacation into a total nightmare? Or will falling in love be on the itinerary?

My thoughts:

The moment I read what this book’s about I became curious because of the elements it has: blogging, romance, and travel.  It’s also a factor that I just came from Macau two months ago so grabbing an e-copy of it became an easy decision.

It’s a very easy fluid read because it has likable characters. Five, the main protagonist, is very easy to relate to. You have to read it by the way to know where Five came from. Jesse is done just right — he’s depicted as infuriating and stuck-up, but he turned out very tolerable.  I sometimes do not like it when misconstrued arrogant men-boys are made to be over the top annoying — the mellowing down part, showing the “he’s human after all” twist won’t be as believable.  I’m glad the author made him and the other characters “just right”. 🙂

Even though it is only less than 200 pages long, it was able to cover the Macau familiarization tour without feeling that details were crammed in.  It provided ample chances for the characters to share real moments. It made me think of the places I went to in Macau — and spots I was unable to go to! My own trip being so recent made me appreciate the events more (kilig peg counts included). Of course, this being a romance novella, each day of the tour gave glimpses of how the feelings developed. I personally have no concerns with instant, lightning fast romantic feelings (I believe in it kasi, hihihi) so in a way I understood what Five felt, but not the bit about being in love with Jesse already. It’s good she did not ramble on about it but instead she retreated and re-assessed what really transpired, and if there was something to begin with.

We all know how this story ends. But it is worthy to give it a try because we, hopeless romantics, can never really have enough kilig moments in this lifetime. Let me share two of my favorite passages from the book:

Our silence was comfortable, the kind that you develop after years of being someone.

I love it — this comfortable silence. It’s one of my favorite feelings in the world.

Just because I was dealing well doesn’t really mean that I was healing. It was like duct-taping something broken instead of actually fixing it.

Crying did me a world of good. It hurt more once I stopped denying things, but I was familiar with this kind of hurt. This was the kind that heals, not the numbing pain that seems to go on indefinitely.

Aww, Five.  Admission of not being okay in guise of being okay will always be a sign of true courage to me. High five, girl!

Overall, I enjoyed reading this book. If I could ask the author one thing, it would be this: have you considered a spin-off for Megh? The lady was made to be the typical hot but snooty accessory but toward the end, I felt she’s more than that. 😉 If it happens, I would really be happy.

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Chrissie PeriaAbout the author:

Chrissie’s first trip to Macau was in the summer of 2010. Like her main character, she fell in love there. Unlike her main character, she didn’t fall in love with a guy; she fell in love with egg tarts. An advertising copywriter in her past life, she now spends most of her time writing, taking photos, cooking and babysitting. She tweets about food and writerly things as @kitchencow. For thoughts longer than 140 characters, she blogs on http://thewriteside.kingdomcow.net. She still plays with dolls and she thinks that bacon is the answer.

This is her first novella.

Get in touch with Chrissie:

• Blog: http://thewriteside.kingdomcow.net
• Twitter: @kitchencow
• Instagram: @kaoko25

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Now for the giveaway! Here are the prizes up for grabs:

◦ 3 Swag Bags (from Author Katrina Ramos Atienza) containing 1 medium, gray Well Played shirt + 2 Pride & Prejudice Bookmarks + Think Free Bag Tag!

◦ 3 Swag Bags (From Author Chrissie Peria) containing 1 paperback copy of All’s Fair in Blog & War, 1 unique trinket, 1 pocket journal, ebook voucher, postcard and bookmarks!

To enter the contest and get a chance to win the fab giveaways, please go to the All’s Fair + Well Played Blog Tour Rafflecopter Page. Goodluck!

For the complete blog tour schedule, visit the Book Junkie Blog Tour page.

Bookworm Judie

Review: Bloody Horowitz

Here’s another collection of tales of the macabre from one of my favorite horror writers, Anthony Horowitz!  BLOODY HOROWITZ — the title lacks ingenuity, I know, but it doesn’t matter — features fourteen  horror stories, most of which are not for the faint of heart.

Contrary to the title, the stories did not all feature blood and gore, only some of it.  Many of them weren’t even at night — the most convenient setting if you want to scare someone.  That’s what endears me to horror stories — the capability to scare me even when it’s a regular day, under regular circumstances.  This book has many of these things.  The book started and ended with (fictional) takes on publishing horror books for the consumption of children.  It felt a little meta.  The bit at the end is something Horowitz also used in THE COMPLETE HOROWITZ HORROR, a collection which I also loved.

Aside from the seemingly connected first and fourteenth story, you may also expect the following from this book:

  • a frustrated writer who became obsessed with a real-life bestselling author to the point of committing murder (in hindsight, I think it mirrored the travails of publishing houses in dealing with thousands of manuscript submissions),
  • a reality game show where, if you lose, you also lose your life (gruesome, the way they did it)
  • an evil GPS that led bullies to their tragic fate (they kinda deserved it, you know)
  • a teen haunted by a cultural fare he poked fun at (kids, never counter traditions with what you saw in the Discovery Channel, it might bring you doom)
  • a futuristic familial setup which wasn’t really horrific, just a little violent (a robot nanny!)
  • a poem about a child paying for the “sins” of his father
  • an exchange student of sorts who struggled with the supernatural…or was it just psychosis?
  • a young lady auctioned off to bidders aiming to dismember her in different ways, so her parents could recoup their business losses (amazing parents, yay)
  • death by a massage chair
  • a music player sucking life out of you
  • a slow painful death through a power kite (bratty kids, beware)
  • a subway trip to a secret and tragic destination (it’s also in The Complete Horowitz Horror collection)

The stories tell readers that karma is a terrifying bitch,  and that sometimes, even if you thought you escaped the horrors of what’s haunting you, you’re wrong.  Pretty chilling, if you ask me.

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I still get sucked by young adult horror books, and really, some of them go beyond the edge, and it makes me think if they are suitable for young adults in the first place (case in point: THE MONSTRUMOLOGIST series of Rick Yancey).  I just think that young people, young readers at that, are more accepting, tolerant, and resilient, and I’m alright again — okay, back to reading.

I finished this book in one sitting while waiting for the rain to let up this Sunday afternoon.  I hope it’s a sign I’m recovering from the reading slump.  If not, then it’s simply the fact that horror books keep me engaged, reading slump or otherwise.

Bookworm Judie · TV & Movie Buff Judie

Review: World War Z

I discovered that I wrote but did not publish a review of WORLD WAR Z last year.  I watched its film version and I liked it, despite the hesitations I mentioned in my eight-month old review below.  In my opinion, the movie is nothing like the book and it’s the main reason why I enjoyed it.  A movie version needs a protagonist, someone the book clearly doesn’t have, an a plot to go around with, which the book also does not have in a coherent tone, as it only has vignettes of interesting instances.  Anyway, here’s what I thought of the book:

World War ZI read this WORLD WAR Z for eight long months. Yes, you read it right. It was one of my books-in-a-bag and I’ve been changing bags weekly and on weekends, so there [or this sounds like a lame justification for my slow reading pace, so yeah].

So, the book. I liked it a lot. The stories presented a horrific time probably worse than past world wars. The narration made me feel lucky that I wasn’t there to endure it. The survivors-slash-interviewees, though not everyone was likeable, were waxing poetic over their different journeys.

I admit there were parts I did not gloss over as much, mainly those that dealt with actual tactical military operations, complete with ammunition and warcraft terminologies. I am just not into those kind of details. But I tried to understand what happened in each event because the book’s narration has that ability to tie itself back to the entire zombie apocalypse picture regardless of slight deviations. If only for these return-to-the-plot storytelling, I feel I did not lose a lot by not being interested in those matters.

I tried remembering the characters but eight long months did not bode well with this endeavor. There were standouts though – I can say that the most unforgettable stories to me were that of the blind Japanese, another Japanese who escaped building by building, until he got a place of refuge [with the former], and the female Air Force pilot suffering from hallucinations [or not?]. One of the things I cannot forget is an intelligence officer’s account; not so much the character but what they were asked to do: to leave the civilians with the infected ones by blowing up connecting roads so they will be isolated. That was a way out but practically an equivalent of genocide. I stumbled upon a site with a rundown of the characters and brief descriptions for each. Feel free to read if you wish to be spoiled about the book, or have a file to refer to in case you have read the book for a long time and you forgot many stuff you read about *ahem*.

The book touches on social and political matters and how governments are handling tragedies. Some act for the benefit of their people, some for the upper class and high-ranking bureaucrats, some become rogue enough in order to survive. If we take away the zombie element of this book, this will still be ripe with interesting issues, particularly for those who are into war stories and extreme survival tales.

This book will be a film soon courtesy of Brad Pitt’s production company, and will star himself as well. Frankly, I am a little skeptical because putting together a richly narrated story into a film is very ambitious. I’m sure they will weed out some stories, unless they want it to be hours and hours long, so I just hope the adaptation will be justified. I have not watched all book-to-film adaptations, I have not seen anything where I can truly say it stayed true and honored the promise of the book where it was based from. But let’s save it for future discussions. (November 2012)

X  X  X

Bookworm Judie

Review: A Disorder Peculiar to the Country

A Disorder Peculiar to the CountryA Disorder Peculiar to the Country started out full of promise until it fizzled out halfway and became too forced until the very end.

This is a story of Marshall and Joyce Harriman, two people on the brink of a nasty divorce. Each of them thought the other was killed in the 9/11 attacks and both were gravely disappointed when it turned out they’re both alive.

The 9/11 tragedy and its immediate aftermath became the backdrop of this tale about a marriage that started crumbling down years before; there’s so much hate that had it happened in the midst of a different, less catastrophic event, or even with no terrible tragedy at all, it would have been a nasty turn of events between the two of them, regardless.

I was expecting something more but was left wanting — depth-wise, most especially. I understood the hate that developed into a big kind of, well, hate, but I wasn’t treated to even a short narration of why and how. It need not be explained in detail, as some things cannot be explained, sure. However, it’s not easy to buy that two people who has two children, who has satisfactory relationship with each extended family, are gainfully employed, can evolve into two people who hate each other so much. Is it supposed to be that way? Because even Marshall cannot explain why they reached that point, and said this:

If you isolate each of our betrayals and self-indulgences, the mean things we’ve said to each other, the errors in judgment — on their own, they’re quite heinous. Yet neither of us did anything to the other that wasn’t in the context of something else.

Anyway, the story went on relating the events post-9/11 to the Harrimans’ divorce progress. Saddam was executed, a fictional account of bin Laden getting captured happened (this was published in 2006; on the Harrimans’ front, the divorce was finalized, and each started moving on, slowly but gracefully. There are certain parts which I thought should have been fleshed out more thoroughly — I particularly liked the instances where both Marshall and Joyce allowed themselves to let go and spiral down into emotional wreckage by doing things they wouldn’t normally do, then realize just in time they weren’t cut out to be it, or to do it, after all. Thing is, it was scattered in different pages and weren’t tied together. They would have made the characters more worthy of sympathy because really, a marriage who ran its course, hatred flying all over the place, threats of terrorism and bio-chemical warfare, financial meltdown…what’s not to feel bad about? However, as I said, it didn’t happen. Instead, toward the end, it was tied together in a sloppy ribbon to create a more hopeful ending. It felt very contrived. Oh, well.

Bookworm Judie

Review: Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother

Battle Hymn of the Tiger MotherI first came across Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother one summer month in 2011 as an audio book excerpt I downloaded for free from Random House Audio.  That time, I was still into running races in the wee hours of the morning, and unlike people who have lively, upbeat music in their running playlist, I had podcasts and audiobooks to get me through.

Anyway, imagine hearing about a mother who considers placing second a mediocrity, among other grueling expectations of achievement from a child, all while trying — the operative word — to make it alive after running 10 kilometers.  From then on, I stayed away from the book because I thought it’s going to be preachy and self-righteous and smug.  A week ago, I read it from the beginning, and did not feel that way at all.

Sure, it was smug in some places, and I can only be thankful that she is not my mother, but the entire book, if anything, is an entertaining narration from the point of view of perhaps a neurotic mother — and if I can ascribe all the positives in neurosis, I will do it for Ms. Chua.  Anyway, of course, it’s not a concrete depiction of how Chinese (or Asians) and Western parents typically rear their children but if you take it as a simple story of how a Western-bred Chinese mother parented her children (and dogs), you will realize it’s a good read.  I don’t think Ms. Chua wanted to tell everyone this is how to raise excellent children; she told her story, and whatever you want to take from it, go ahead.

What made it more bearable for me is that her efforts were not met without struggle.  In fact, in most chapters, you will see how her daughters Sophia and Lulu (most especially) threw temper tantrums, defied her wishes, and talked back…well, before doing what she wanted them to do.  In some cases she let the daughters “win”, but even if it’s so, it’s hard for her to have something done in one go.

One thing I took from this, which is also available in many books about achieving excellence, is the importance of practice.  One may be born with talent, but it won’t suffice if it’s not honed regularly.  After this, I will look for videos of Sophia playing the piano and Lulu, the violin, in many prestigious concert halls, just to see what they turned into.

The author said the book underwent plenty of revisions since she had her husband, author Jed Rubenfeld, and daughters read her drafts.  So as a family effort, they agreed that even with the kind of extreme parenting she subjected her family to, the bond of mother and daughter is something to be reckoned with.  She mentioned that even her husband found it odd how at one moment she and her daughter Lulu would appear like they want to kill each other over violin practice, then the next cuddle with each other bed and laugh over funny stories.  I liked that the author admitted to getting hurt whenever she hears a biting remark, but taking it in stride because minding it will make them lose their focus.  The author even said, “My goal as a parent is to prepare you for the future, not to make you like me.”  Pretty heartless, but what can we do?  To each his own.  In reality, there are moments when, mainly because of generation gap, we cannot comprehend where our mothers are coming from.  However, down the line, we still love our mothers very much.  This is just like it, only peppered with the author’s extreme preference to succeed in whatever her daughters choose to do.

In the end, the author probably wanted to convey that parents only want the best for their children, and even when it appears children do it because the parents want it, ultimately, it’s really for them.  In this case, the author did it in her own — if I may say — hilarious, trainwreck kind of way, but often with great results.  As a reader, I took pleasure from reading about their lives.  Beats watching any reality show we have today.

Bookworm Judie

Review: Gone Girl

WOW.  I have too many things to say about this book, all in my head; I’m afraid that if I start moving, they will all disappear.  I really enjoyed reading this piece of work.

I recommended this book to friends even when I’m only halfway through.  I deliberately took my sweet time with it the moment I realized that practically each chapter provides a discovery or two; it’s an onion peeling its layers, and it won’t seem to end. Since I started reading on Christmas day, I counted the receipts — of milk tea places, of coffee shops — where I read it in little amounts, and counted seven.  I will leave them there between the pages as remembrance.  Yes, no matter how lame.

Anyway, the story.  Wife Amy disappeared on the day of their fifth anniversary.  Husband Nick was automatically the suspect.  What did he do? What happened to her? Did he really do it? Was she really gone?

If you think this is your run-of-the-mill whodunnit with all the stuff yellow journalism is made of — nope, please reconsider.  This is one of the most (excuse the term) fucked up (love) stories I’ve read ever.  People are generally screwed up, sure, but Amy took it to whole new heights.  Nick, with his insecurities, infidelity, strange concept of emotional connection, suddenly became human and on a certain degree, forgivable with his indiscretions.  But he’s still screwed up.  And what he became at the end of the book is brought by the manipulations brilliantly weaved in the story.

Then there’s Amy.  She’s an extremely colorful and twisted character.  I don’t know if I can categorize her as class A sociopath or psychopath.  Probably both.  I liked, despised, pitied (not pity pity) her.  I’m still very fascinated.  A few times in my head, Reese Witherspoon popped since she’s apparently playing her in the movie version of the book, but while in Parts Two and Three of the book, I started wishing they won’t screw the character up badly (well, chances are, they will).  Amy is a kind of character that’s hard to portray.  I’m now afraid to see the film.

The ending is not what the mystery story lover in me wanted.  However, it’s very satisfying.  It’s like rebuilding their lives but in a very screwed up way.  I conjured alternate endings in my head, and all is neither happy nor not tragic.

I am very satisfied.  As it said, they “complete each other in the nastiest, ugliest possible way.”  This is one of the most beautiful narrations of what is nasty and ugly.

“She is my forever antagonist.  We are one long frightening climax.”,  Nick said at the end.  In hindsight, this overall struggle with coming together, putting your best foot forward, being the person you want to be seen as, keeping the real you, showing what is best versus what you want, screwing each other up, getting back together, deciding to start over = what marriage is all about. At least that’s how I view it (I’m utterly allergic to the concept of marriage but it’s an entirely different story).  Right?  Of course, this only has wickedness and evil sprinkled all over because it’s fiction.  Or what do we know?

Bookworm Judie

Review: The Spellmans Strike Again

The Spellmans Strike AgainOver the course of a lifetime, people change, but not as much as you’d think. Nobody really grows up. At least that’s my theory; you can have your own.

Those words were from Isabel “Izzy” Spellman, the main character in Lisa Lutz’s entertaining The Spellmans series. It pretty much sums up what to expect from her and her zany family.

The Spellmans Strike Back is the fourth installment in The Spellmans series, and many have said this is the funniest one yet. I enjoyed reading it, but to me, the second book, Curse of the Spellmans, is funnier. Anyway, this had me chuckling many a times, so I’m not complaining.

This is the most ‘crowded’ book in the series with multiple goings-on that while I was too engrossed to mind, it still felt a bit full. The family’s business hit a slump because of the economy, and with Izzy finally given the reins, she brought three cases in, with two more on the side. There’s Rick Harkey, their competitor suspected of unpleasant activities, millionaire Frank Winslow’s butler’s disappearance, and some case involving going through trash (garbology!) for what turned out to be a movie script. Then there were cases the Spellman sisters took on in hopes of freeing convicted felons – Schmidt and Merriweather (one got out, one was left in the air). Those were just the cases. If you have read the misadventures and shenanigans of this family, the cases were simply the garnish to the main course.

As a character, I am happy for the development in Izzy’s romantic life. She deserves it. The woman is a walking gag show but she’s hardworking and caring. I enjoyed the blackmail of her mother, Olivia, brought by a picture during her prom night, which led to forced dates with lawyers (specifically). In other plot points, there’s the case of the missing doorknobs from the Spellman house, family news (hint: there’s an additional Spellman by book five!), a terrible character loss (though I somehow saw it coming, I mean this is the 4th book!), and a “Finally!” moment (been a fan of the pair since book 1).

I also have to note that I found Rae Spellman most likable in this book. Sure, she’s precocious, street-smart, manipulative, and wise for her age, but I didn’t really warm up to her from the beginning. She did something here and was punished for it, and she showed a little likability. That’s just me. I hope she becomes more bearable in the books to come.

If asked what this series is about, I can always say it’s a funny book about a family who does detective work and solves mysteries in San Francisco. However, I found between the pages something that will describe it more suitably:

If you’re looking for a standard mystery, with a surprise ending and a villain, a punishment, a wrap-up of events, I can’t give it to you. That’s not how the real world works. Most mysteries I’ve encountered remain unsolved. Most questions I asked are left unanswered.

What can I give you is this: a moment in time when questions hung in the air and lives felt whole and life-altering decisions were made. I can give you that. But that’s all.

Overall, I liked this book and I’m looking forward to reading the fifth book in the series.

Bookworm Judie

Review: Relatively Famous

Relatively Famous

Meet Dani McKinley: A typical teen whose world is rocked when she finds out that her father is a famous Hollywood Action star. Now meet Mark Ocean: A self-serving actor with a floundering career who sees that a daughter is just what he needs to reinvent himself as a family man and get back on track. When the two decide to spend the summer together, they must not only wrangle their own love lives, but try to figure out who they really are to themselves and to each other.

This is surprisingly likable even though it is not an original story.  Reading this was like watching a Lifetime movie with all its feelings. 🙂  I find Dani to be a consistent character, even the time when she did something that can be considered un-Dani.  She’s a teenager who got the biggest surprise of her life and she was immediately propelled into living it.  However, what I found a bit contrived was the sudden turn of Mark’s feelings for his long-lost daughter.  Sure, there were moments (I cannot help but think of The Game Plan scenes right there although they were remotely similar) but Dani doing him a huge favor regarding a movie audition was his turning point. I mean, it was still for his career. His ambitious and overbearing agent Renni won’t surely buy it the way I didn’t.  Also, Dani’s new rich California friends weren’t exactly how I pictured Hollywood spoiled brats.  They were actually nicer and less douchy.  I don’t know, maybe they’re closer depictions and I am just overwhelmed by the reality shows?  But anyway, in the end, the story tied its loose ends the best way possible, and that’s satisfactory for me.

I downloaded this copy for free from Amazon last November. It didn’t occur to me until I was done with it that the author also wrote Flat-Out Love.  It was buzzed about in many book blogs I follow so I bought it middle of last year but as usual, I haven’t touched it yet.  I hope to do so soon.

Bookworm Judie

Review: White Lilies in Autumn

I finished WHITE LILIES IN AUTUMN two hours before we say hello to a new year.  I thought it’s fitting to learn life’s lessons through the author’s journey at this time of year.

This book is a wonderful story of hope, love, resilience, and faith.  Told in alternating past events throughout the author’s life, it weaved a story of how a normal mischievous, (sometimes) whiny, overactive, and accident-prone country kid waded through life and faced challenges head-on.  Grief over losing someone (or even something very vital to you)— it’s something that you can never say you are totally prepared for.  It will take all the strength you (unconsciously)equipped yourself with, new found strength you didn’t know you have, and the unending support of your family and loved ones to go through them.  Even then, there is no firm S.O.P. in dealing with pain and loss.  You have to go through a special “strength box” and pull out which ones will serve you well at a given situation.  I saw all this in the book’s 283 pages, which after turning the last page seemed very short a tale.

I have to specially point out the important role that the author’s mother, whom he fondly calls “Madre”, played in this mostly painful but very educational journey of romantic and family love, winning, losing, and parenthood. That, and the amazing support system formed by the author’s family and friends, made the story very touching.

If you want to read a story of hope after rock bottom experiences, or simply find amazing inspiration through the strength of people, I highly recommend this book.

Bookworm Judie

2012 First Quarter Reads

Three months have passed this year and I am here with my reading report. I pledged to read 100 books this year, and at the rate I am going, I’m not going to achieve that if I don’t step up.  I hope to make up for it this week-long break.

After three months, I am happy to report I was able to read 14 books.  Not a lot [in fact, 10 books behind per my schedule] but it’s a little better than my previous year’s ‘performance’. =D

Out of 14, half was young adult, the rest mostly of the horror genre.  My standouts were first books in a series: The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey and Feed by Mira Grant.  Both young adult; one deals with grotesque monsters, the other, zombies in post-apocalyptic America.

The Monstrumologist had me commenting aloud, “Is this YA?!” precisely because of how gruesome it is.  I loved it because of the same reason.  My book club friend Tata lent me the second book in the series, Curse of the Wendigo, and I intend to dabble into it soon.

Feed, as I mentioned elsewhere, is like a zombie story plus campaign season in The West Wing plus social media spectacle rolled into one.  It’s good that I love all three elements; it made me appreciate Feed and I could not wait to get my hands on its next installment, Deadline.

Goth Girl Rising, Paper Towns, and Will Grayson Will Grayson are angsty young adult books which entertained me.  The last two are from John Green, an author buzzed about by my favorite book bloggers.  I am lining up his other books in my pipeline: Looking For Alaska, An Abundance of Katherines, and The Fault in our Stars.

Killing Mr. Griffin, Altogether One at a Time, and The Lottery were fast reads.  The Woman in Black [as in the book where the Daniel Radcliffe-starrer was based from] and The Man in the Picture, both penned by Susan Hill, were chilling.  Short but chilling. Sure, I was able to catch on the plot but there are things that are still creepy even when you know it’s going to happen anyway.  But yes, there were surprising twists, too.

Zsa Zsa Zaturnnah sa Kalakhang Maynila was not mine but my friend XP’s. He was right; it isn’t as funny as the first Zsa Zsa comic book. There were funny moments, yes, and maybe it’s just setting the tone for its sequels.

I liked Twinkle Twinkle and it’s a little disappointing because with all the build-up, I was expecting to love it. I made a very short review on Goodreads about it. I guess the Haruki Murakami and Natsuo Kirino references created a bar which I shouldn’t have subjected this book on. Still, flowery characters.

Naked Heat is the second Nikki Heat novel by Richard Castle. I won’t go into who is Castle and how it made me giddy and excited but suffice to say, it’s related to the TV show I’m so into now – uh, Castle. =D Anyway, it isn’t extraordinary, but it’s enjoyable. It’s like I’m watching intermeshed episodes of Castle as I was reading it. Surely there were scenes straight out of the show. I will try to read the first and third books in the series when I have time. Lastly, 666 Park Avenue; a Candace Bushnell-type of book with witches and magic. It’s a fluffy read.

There you go, my first quarter reads. I am hoping to up my numbers this next quarter.

And oh, no books bought! So proud of myself! I think I can keep this up until June 30.

So, you, what’s on your Read list?

Bookworm Judie

Review: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

After five long days of reading it whenever I have time, I finished The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson.  I am relieved that it’s over, I’m a little pleased with the way it wrapped itself up, and I still feel it could have been told in a shorter prose.

This post is spoilery.  Proceed with caution. 🙂

When you pick up the book, this is what it says at the back:

Harriet Vanger, scion of one of Sweden’s wealthiest families, disappeared over forty years ago.  All these years later, her aged uncle continues to seek the truth.  He hires Mikael Blomkvist, a crusading journalist recently trapped by a libel conviction, to investigate.  He is aided by the pierced and tattooed punk prodigy Lisbeth Salander.  Together, they tap into a vein of unfathomable iniquity and astonishing corruption.

Naturally, I expected the first few chapters laying out the plot to me and then Blomkvist and Salander get to work.  They each have their own stories to tell, and Blomkvist as a journalist was the book’s B plot, but it took so long to bring them together that one point I almost forgot they’re going to be working together.  There was a point where Blomkvist’s day to day activities were detailed, in a lather, rinse, repeat order. If there were substantial facts uncovered during these days, it didn’t justify the long narration.

The first 300+ pages were a drag and whatever’s in there could be put in half the number of pages.  When Blomkvist and Salander finally worked on the Vanger case, the next 200 pages brought forth all the worthy action.  The last hundred pages were devoted to the resolution of the B plot.  The Vanger case was resolved by then but it’s interesting to know what will happen to Blomkvist and his magazine, Millennium.  After all, I got over the last 500 pages, might as well see how it closes and ties up its ends.

Perhaps it’s from watching too much crime shows and reading a lot of suspense thrillers that even before Blomkvist and Salander met and began working on the case, I already guessed who was behind it, but not a clear picture of why and how.  In addition – and this is a huge spoiler – I also knew that Harriet Vanger was still alive.  I got a hint as early as the prologue. Anyway, the how and why of the Vanger story were played out well. Well-written and fast – the way this book should have been from the beginning.  When you hit the part where Blomkvist and Salander got to work, you cannot put it down for the next 200 pages or so.  This part was the book’s highlight.  There was something sick and disgusting in something that happened in the past that at one point, I had to ask myself if going through the drag was worth it? Well, the book had outstanding moments but I still maintain that it could have been shortened and the essence won’t be lost.

I have the second and third installments in this trilogy and I don’t know if I am ready to pick them up this soon.  I mentioned that  both main characters have stories to tell and Blomkvist’s was told in this first one (among many other issues in his life because this man’s pretty screwed up!) but Salander’s wasn’t.  In the midst of the long plot-building (I can never stress it much), Salander had a very interesting incident and it deserves to be fleshed out.  I believe it’s going to be dealt with in the next book, The Girl Who Played with Fire.

A good number of friends liked this book and an equally good number didn’t.  However, to those who bothered to get through it, they were able to say that the story was strong and interesting.  Thing is, it’s like riding a 3-minute roller coaster ride with the first two minutes spent slowly going through the flat tracks.

My rating for this book is 7/10.

If you read this book, let me know what you think of it.