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Archive for April 2012

I've Lost the Reading Mojo

It's the end of the Holy Week as I type this. Four straight days of not going to work, and I was stuck at home, a staycation, if you would like to call it like that. What did I do? I read, I went online, and I watched a whole load of telly. Ugh. Not my ideal way to spend four days of free time. I should have just booked a ticket abroad and used the time to discover new places.

I thought I would love the time off, I could have used it to catch up on tv shows that I would have wanted to watch but neveer had time for, or to catch up on my reading. God knows how many books I've bought and haven't even started to read yet which are currently awaiting to be read. Well, I did manage to catch up on a few episodes of programmes I did want to watch though, and I did manage to finish two books and progress a bit on other books I've started to read but this holiday wasn't satisfying enough for me. I've lost the reading mojo.

For me, I am most happy reading when I am just passing the time: either in transit (sitting on a bus, a plane, or a jeepney) or just waiting for the morning after an insomniac night or just trying to pass the time while waiting for the next activity or waiting for something (be that a person or while in a queue).

I lost the ability to just sit down in a quiet corner (except maybe if I was hanging out in a beach, but then again that's also in a new place, right? Not sitting in my bedroom at home, whiling away the weekend hours with a book), and I've also lost the drive to go to a bookstore and pick out something new to read.

Ok, maybe the last part was a bit of a lie. I found myself in National Bookstore quite a few times this month as there is an ongoing 20% off summer sale and I couldn't resist getting some titles that I have already devoured: most of them wishlist books that I would have tried to wait for to come out in BookSale. But still, these are the books that are just tiding me over after work. Just something to do, not a real hobby or anything of that sort.

How can I get the reading mojo back? Or is it just a complete change that came over me? Maybe you only need to have one hobby at a time: books have finally been put on a back seat as travel now takes precedence, perhaps?

[Review] Along for the Ride - Sarah Dessen

Summary from Goodreads:

It’s been so long since Auden slept at night. Ever since her parents’ divorce—or since the fighting started. Now she has the chance to spend a carefree summer with her dad and his new family in the charming beach town where they live. 

A job in a clothes boutique introduces Auden to the world of girls: their talk, their friendship, their crushes. She missed out on all that, too busy being the perfect daughter to her demanding mother. Then she meets Eli, an intriguing loner and a fellow insomniac who becomes her guide to the nocturnal world of the town. Together they embark on parallel quests: for Auden, to experience the carefree teenage life she’s been denied; for Eli, to come to terms with the guilt he feels for the death of a friend. 

This is the first Dessen book I've read, and I know there are a lot of Dessen fans out there. She is one of the most famous young adult writers as she tackles real life situations, and her characters are so relatable and very realistic.

Let me just say: this book completely and utterly blew me away. The book starts off with Auden, a high achieving academic, and who, after the summer before she goes off to university, decides to go and visit her father, stepmother and half sister at a small town called Colby. It was there that she meets Eli, a loner, who helps her experience some of the things she missed out with when she was a child. She then goes on a mini-quest with him, and eventually falls for him.

Very, very cute story. It revolves around Auden trying to be her age and enjoying what life can offer her instead of acting all grown up and engrossing herself into the world of academics and trying to embrace that failure can help make you grow instead of making you feel like well, a failure. I loved Auden. I love the fact that she cannot ride a bicycle (because I can't too) and she learned how to and forced herself to keep on climbing back up the bicycle seat time and time again even though she kept falling.

I also loved the quests she kept on doing with Eli. It also shows how, if you managed to not experience something before, you could always try and make an effort to experience them, regardless of your age. The thing was, you tried, and that's what makes all the difference. At least when the time comes when you're really old, you won't have regrets when you look back and say "I wish I've done this or that, or I wonder what my life would have been like had I..." - There's nothing more sad than a life that was full of what-ifs and regrets.

Well there you go, my new philosophy in life. This book cannot have come at a better time!

Rating 5/5
Book was given by Lenore for review (thanks Lenore! :) )

[Review] The 39 Clues: The Black Book of Buried Secrets

I found my 39 Clues groove back!! And well, ever since I got back from London, I met up with my friend who was more than willing to let me borrow her books again rather than me buying all the books in the series. Ha ha. Plus, the most read article in my blog is about a review of a 39 Clues book so here I am, reviewing the series again.

Summary from Goodreads:

For the past five hundred years, the Cahills have silently dominated the world. Their desperate hunt for the 39 Clues lies behind some of history’s biggest enigmas – the curse of the Hope diamond, the race to summit Mt. Everest, the wild life and death of Harry Houdini. And now – finally – the secrets are out. With an introduction by Rick Riordan, The 39 Clues: The Black Book of Buried Secrets reveals the shocking truth about history’s most notorious family. 
In full, lush color, The 39 Clues: The Black Book of Buried Secrets lays bare each hidden fact, concealed strategy, top agent, lost founder, secret base and hushed-up scandal of the Clue hunt. This complete guide to the Cahills contains information on all five branches, including the notoriously elusive Madrigals. The must-know information includes: 
-Full files on the enigmatic Man in Black. 
-The true purpose of the Madrigal branch. 
-The complete story of the fire that split the original Cahill family. 
-The truth about the night Hope and Arthur Cahill died. 
-Open access to the secrets of the Lucian, Ekaterina, Tomas and Janus branches. 

It’s never too late to join the hunt – especially with The 39 Clues: The Black Book of Buried Secrets to provide complete access to the Cahill’s most deeply-buried secrets. 

So, the Black Book of Buried Secrets is a companion book to the 39 Clues franchise. It features all of the Cahill branches (yes, including the Madrigals), and some information about that branch: what weapons they like to use, where the strongholds are, and who their key members are (and they provide a brief profile of some of their more reputable members). It also features lots of pictures of the places and the members. (Although I was surprised at the supposed photo of Jonah Wizard and Ian Kabra - when I was reading the series, I never expected them to look like the photos depicted in the Black Book).

What I love most about the book? The pages - they are absolutely glossy and shiny, compared to the other books in the series which are just printed on normal paper. Add the strongholds and key character information and it mixes historical figures and places with made up ones.

I like that for such a young reader market, the publishers and writers have thought of mixing history and present: it makes history much more interesting and learning so much more fun. And yes, if I were a kid reading the 39 Clues, I would also want to embark on the adventures of Amy and Dan, thanks very much. I mean, who wouldn't if you were given such bagloads of cash to spend trying to chase after clues all around the world?

Hmmm... the beginning of wanderlust, I would say.

In the near future, these kids reading these books would probably end up blogging about their travels too and I would be stuck reading about them and going green with envy as I read about their adventures.

Nevertheless, this is a good companion book (so much better than the Agent's Handbook) and one I would splurge on to complete the 39 Clues series in the collection!

[Review] Eat, Pray, Love - Elizabeth Gilbert

Summary from Goodreads

In her early thirties, Elizabeth Gilbert had everything a modern American woman was supposed to want--husband, country home, successful career--but instead of feeling happy and fulfilled, she felt consumed by panic and confusion. This wise and rapturous book is the story of how she left behind all these outward marks of success, and of what she found in their place. Following a divorce and a crushing depression, Gilbert set out to examine three different aspects of her nature, set against the backdrop of three different cultures: pleasure in Italy, devotion in India, and on the Indonesian island of Bali, a balance between worldly enjoyment and divine transcendence

It's no big secret that I'm starting to love travelling even more. If you've read a few blog posts of mine recently, you'll find that I have deviated a bit from reviewing books to blogging more about my travels and/or reviewing travel-related stuff.

Which is why I finally picked up this book from my TBR list. I initially bought it from Booksale a few years ago as it was so cheap and just piled it in. I knew I would want to read it but I just didn't know when I'll feel the need to read it. Until a few weeks ago.

A few months ago, I was suffering from post-travel depression - I've just left my favourite city on earth, London, and was back in Manila. And boy, was I depressed. I wanted to travel again but since December is peak season (not to mention Manila traffic is absolutely horrible at the time), I was grounded at home. Frustrated, I wanted to read about travel, and that's when the call to read this book came.

It was an autobiography of Elizabeth Gilbert during her year of travel in Italy, India and Indonesia. She was suffering a massive breakdown after her divorce and she found that she needed time to herself, to enjoy life's pleasures (hence her eat), to get in touch with God (her pray), and find balance (Love - where she eventually found one in Indonesia).

There is a movie out based on this book, and let me just say: the movie is nothing like the book.

In fact, the book, for me, did not give me answers to the questions I was looking for. It did not even inspire me to pack up my bag and leave as soon as possible. I find that there's numerous other travel blogs out there in cyberspace that inspired me more to pick up my bags and leave than this book.

I think it was overhyped, and I have no idea why people liked this book so much (no offense to any of my readers though). Sure, it was about travel, and finding the courage to get up and go but it lacked enough structure about the places she's seen, it's mostly about her, her, and her.

The book for me was like a ranting ground for her craziness and depression. I find myself rolling my eyes at some of the parts about her pining over David, but then again, it's her life, it's her book, and I just picked it up at a bookstore.

I ended up giving it to a friend of mine who was curious about the book as a leaving present for her. Whether it will inspire her or not to travel (although we both think it won't inspire her more since we already have wanderlust in our veins) I'm not sure.

So, just borrow this book from a friend, or watch the movie. I think the movie was much more interesting than reading about the book.

Rating: 2/5
Book was bought from Booksale

[Review] Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

Summary from Goodreads:

Katniss Everdeen, girl on fire, has survived, even though her home has been destroyed. Gale has escaped. Katniss's family is safe. Peeta has been captured by the Capitol. District 13 really does exist. There are rebels. There are new leaders. A revolution is unfolding. 

It is by design that Katniss was rescued from the arena in the cruel and haunting Quarter Quell, and it is by design that she has long been part of the revolution without knowing it. District 13 has come out of the shadows and is plotting to overthrow the Capitol. Everyone, it seems, has had a hand in the carefully laid plains - except Katniss. 

The success of the rebellion hinges on Katniss's willingness to be a pawn, to accept responsibility for countless lives, and to change the course of the future of Panem. To do this, she must put aside her feelings of anger and distrust. She must become the rebels' Mockingjay - no matter what the personal cost

Mockingjay - what can I say. I know other book bloggers have posted their review of this book 2 years ago but since I'm way behind the times and have a huge backlog of reviews and other stuff to do, I only got to finish and review the book now.

I share my thoughts with the other bloggers: I was hugely disappointed with the third book. I honestly felt that it was all over the place, and the prospect of the war between the districts and the Capitol was not entirely enticing for me. The latter part of the book and the conclusion seems written quickly: I felt it had no real structure, leaving gaps and more questions all over the place.

It was disappointing given that it was the final book of the series, I honestly thought there would be more answers, and not more questions (unless another spinoff series would be created that would address those gaps - which I'm not sure if there wold be). *Spoiler* Sure, Peeta and Katniss did end up together eventually but what happened to make Katniss change her mind when she was choosing between Gale and Peeta? Where was the spark that ignited between the two of them from the first two books?

Why kill off so many characters in a span of a few pages without giving much dignity to some of their deaths (like Rue)? Why???

What happened to District 13? And to the other districts after Haymitch, Katniss and Peeta went home? WHat happened to the other characters? I want to know!!

Surely I sound affected by these characters and events as I was reading the third book to the point of exaggeration. I find that it took me much longer to read this book than the first two. Maybe because some parts were extremely dragging, whilst some were just... plain confusing.

So, what did I think?

Rating: 3.5/5 - It was good but not good enough.
Bought from National Bookstore.

Book Review: Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

Summary from Goodreads:

Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark won the annual competition described in Hunger Games, but the aftermath leaves these victors with no sense of triumph. Instead, they have become the poster children for a rebellion that they never planned to lead. That new, unwanted status puts them in the bull's-eye for merciless revenge by The Capitol...

I initially read this book way back in early 2011. It was until I left for London that I had to leave the book behind (I had a hardbound copy) since it was too heavy for me to bring along. I completely forgot that I didn't get to finish the book until later in the year (after I got back) and then I got hooked to the story (again).

I was drawn sooo much to Peeta this time. I love that Katniss and Peeta were doing everything just to save each other. Awwww......

Very fast paced book, I literally could not put the book down at some parts, even if i was meant to be sleeping! The characters blended so well together, and I loved that there are new characters to get to know in this book. It makes it all the more interesting given that I also got to know more about the other districts and how the tributes lived their life there. It adds to the dynamic of the whole tale.

Spoiler - I even thought that Finnick was going to be one of Katniss's admirers. Imagine, three boys all after one girl! (Only to be proven wrong in the latter part of the book. Ha ha).

This was a good build up to the third book, Mockingjay. I've also already finished the third book and wait out for my review of it!

Rating: 4/5
Publisher: Scholastic Books

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