Book Review: Tall Story by Candy Gourlay


Young Adult > Contemporary > Filipino

Andi hasn’t seen her brother for eight years and when he steps off the plane from the Philippines, she cannot believe her eyes. He’s tall. EIGHT FOOT TALL. But Bernardo is not what he seems. Bernardo is a hero, Bernardo works miracles, and Bernardo has an amazing story to tell.

Literary Awards: Filipino Readers’ Choice Award Nominee for Novel in English (2012)


…Oh, wow. What a heartwarming, feel-good book 🙂

Family is very, very important. Would you agree? The sole reason that I do not want to work abroad is that, I do not want to be separated from my better half, my toddler son, and my “senior citizen” parents. I want to be with my best friend as we grow together in our married life. I want to be here when my son grows up. I want to be here for whatever number of years my parents have left before they retire to the afterlife. And so, Tall Story having centered on a Filipino family, here and abroad, pricked me, and that made it so dear to me.

I understood Nardo. Longing for a mom who’s halfway around the world with his little sister. Constantly anxious over the townspeople’s belief that he is their hero. Awkward over his gigantism. When his immigration papers came, suddenly living in London with his family is not a far-fetched idea. But the people of San Andres will not let him go, for fear of catastrophe hitting them once their hero leaves. And so Nardo’s blackouts began.

I understood Andi, too. The jealousy over a brother that her mom probably loved more than her. The determination to own something for herself through her basketball skills. and the incredulity of how being a girl limits her from reaching her dreams.

How Candy Gourlay reflected Filipino family virtues through the characters was really nice. Andi’s disdain for his brother was not prolonged, and so did Nardo’s despair. The common destroyers (sibling rivalry, parent-child separation, overworked parents) of a family was kept at a minimum, thereby keeping the lightness of the story intact.

I love Jabby (well, minus the freak show incident). And that scene where he’s calling for help? Creepy. Because I know that happens, like all the time.

I did not like Nardo’s mom, though. What kind of a mother discourages her daughter’s dreams because of her height, or thinks there is something wrong about her son, and be ashamed about it? Grrr.

Tall Story is a favorite. Something about it is hopeful, and it has a certain degree of kindness we can all benefit from, once in a while.

Goodreads – The Filipino Group Book of the Month (August)


TALL STORY by Candy Gourlay

Paperback, 233 pages

Published May 2010 by PCacho Publishing House

5/5 stars

Book Review: Flyte by Angie Sage


Young Adult > Fantasy

(Septimus Heap #2)

It’s been a year since septimus heap discovered his real family and true calling to be a wizard. As Apprentice to Extra Ordinary Wizard Marcia Overstrand, he is learning the fine arts of Conjurations, Charms, and other Magyk, while Jenna is adapting to life as the Princess and enjoying the freedom of the Castle.

But there is something sinister at work. Marcia is constantly trailed by a menacing Darke Shadow, and Septimus’s brother Simon seems bent on a revenge no one understands. Why is the Darke Magyk still lingering?

Bringing fantasy to new heights, Angie Sage continues the journey of Septimus Heap with her trademark humor and all of the clever details readers have come to love.

Book 1: Magyk review


Flyte is a fun sequel. The emphasis on the importance of family is what I liked the most in here. See, Septimus‘ oldest brother Simon is the villain. Even if Simon tried to “indirectly” kill him a few times, Septimus chose to spare his brother’s life in the end. Now, isn’t that nice?

I got a lot of laughs while listening to the audiobook. Nico‘s the most entertaining character! Besides Septimus, his rants and banters are the most enjoyable. And the spells are delightful, especially the chocolate spell! I would love to get my hands on that.

Marcia was the typical adult character who does not listen to the complaints and accusations of a child, and in this case, Septimus (who is her apprentice). Sometimes, you just want to knock these kind of adults out, yes? 😀

I found a loose end with the Dragon Boat, but overall Flyte made me want to continue reading this series. It was simply hilarious and just downright entertaining for fantasy readers like me.


FLYTE by Angie Sage


Published January 1st 2006 by Recorded Books LLC

3/5 stars

Book Review: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

Rating: StarStarStarStar

Genre: Children’s Book > Fantasy

charlieandthechocolatefactoryThe gates of Willy Wonka’s famous chocolate factory are opening at last — and only five children will be allowed inside.


Yay, that was fun! I didn’t expect to like this book, but it was entertaining, really. I love Grandpa Joe and that’s a fact. =)

Charlie‘s family is poor. They are usually cold and hungry. Imagine his delight when he got a golden ticket to enter Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory! *me looking for something chocolatey to munch on while reviewing*

I haven’t finished the movie adaptation starring Johnny Depp. Was it the same with the book? I read Charlie’s story 2-3 hours before GR-TFG Face-to-Face book discussion. Yes, I was pressured, but I made it a point to read every single Ooompa Looompa song. =) See, I did not cheat.

So… would I let my son read Charlie’s adventure? I say, why not. Because there was a discussion in our book club that debated the reward system versus punishment system (that was portrayed in the book). My stand is this: if ever my kid questions the punishment done to the children, I can always explain clearly that it was not meant to scare him, only to discipline. Tough love, that’s what. 🙂

I enjoyed Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Now I’m wishing I can have a golden ticket too, say, to a Ferrero Rocher factory? 😉 YUM!

Book Review: Brightest by Johann de Venecia and Joanne Crisner

Rating: StarStarStar

Genre: Filipino Fiction > Children’s book > Fantasy

Author: Josephine Litonjua (author), Johann de Venecia (artist and coauthor), Joanne Crisner (coauthor)

A story about a lost firefly catcher, trying to find his way home… and a broken firefly that had long lost himself. And how friendship and being there for each other made a difference in their lives.

(An actual copy was given to me by the author in exchange for an honest review.)


 I like the illustrations. Even more so when my toddler son keeps on pointing at the star in almost every page when we are reading Brightest. But the story… seemed incomplete. There’s no rise and fall. Was there a conflict? Oh, when the firefly ignored the firefly catcher – that’s it, I think. I wonder: why did the firefly never called on the firefly catcher because he’s capturing fireflies?

If not for the written message by the author (when the story ended), I wouldn’t understand the message behind the tale at all.

Brightest could’ve been better. Something’s missing that I know is essential to building the firefly catcher’s story. It’s like a sentence without a verb. Makes sense?

But, if for the illustrations alone, kids will love this book. My son enjoyed it, and that’s enough for me to like Brightest as well.

After all, Brightest is intended for children. 🙂

Thank you Josephine Litonjua for the free copy!

Book Review: Liesl & Po by Lauren Oliver

Rating: StarStarStar

Genre: Young Adult| Children’s > Fantasy

Liesl lives in a tiny attic bedroom, locked away by her cruel stepmother. Her only friends are the shadows and the mice—until one night a ghost appears from the darkness. It is Po, who comes from the Other Side. Both Liesl and Po are lonely, but together they are less alone.

That same night, an alchemist’s apprentice, Will, bungles an important delivery. He accidentally switches a box containing the most powerful magic in the world with one containing something decidedly less remarkable.

Will’s mistake has tremendous consequences for Liesl and Po, and it draws the three of them together on an extraordinary journey.


This rating is very hard to give to Liesl & Po. First, i am obsessed with Oliver’s beautiful writing. Second, she wrote it to cope with a dear friend’s death (i hope i got that right, it was written in the acknowledgements page). Third, it’s just hard because Lauren Oliver is a nice person in real life. But i want to be honest. there was nothing in it for me. There was no surge of emotions on my part. I might as well have been reading a newspaper because it was so monotonous.

I only liked the part where Po remembered his own name in the end. 🙂 And of course, i like Mo. He’s a sweet, dumb guy i want to be friends with. and yeah, the relation between the thief and that old bat of a woman was quite funny, too.

There was nothing special with the story. It was just okay for me. I am not looking for action scenes (Oliver’s books seemed to lack them), but the characters just doesn’t seem alive. they don’t jump out of the pages like i expected from a fantasy children’s book!

You need little imagination if you are to read Liesl & Po. I would gladly give away this book, but it was a christmas gift. a granted wish list. So i’ll keep it. Perhaps my niece will like the illustrations. 🙂


Book Review: Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Rating: StarStarStarStar

Genre: Young Adult | Children’s > Realistic Fiction

I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.

August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a facial deformity that prevented him from going to a mainstream school—until now. He’s about to start 5th grade at Beecher Prep, and if you’ve ever been the new kid then you know how hard that can be. The thing is Auggie’s just an ordinary kid, with an extraordinary face. But can he convince his new classmates that he’s just like them, despite appearances?


For parents who are expecting a child (whether their first or not), normally what would they fear at that stage?

Me? When I was pregnant, my big worry is that my baby will be abnormal. deformed. I did not wish for a beautiful child, I only wish that he will be healthy when he’s born. When I saw my son, not only is he perfectly healthy, but he is beautiful. whole. normal. so much more than the things i prayed for.

Auggie’s parents were not so lucky. But despite his facial deformity, Auggie is as normal as it gets. he’s smart, witty, and hilarious. I love Auggie! His personality just leapt from the pages and tickled my fancy. I thought this is a depressing story. It’s not. Just a lot of reflections from a boy who just want to be remembered (and loved) but not because of his horrible-looking face.

I want to embrace his Dad! The most striking scene he has with Auggie is this. In two years, Auggie wore a helmet and never took it off. one day, the helmet has gone missing.

Oh, Auggie, don’t be mad. I’m sorry. I just couldn’t stand see you wear that thing on your head anymore, you know? i didn’t think it was good for you.

Come on, Auggie, please try to understand, you were wearing that helmet all the time. and the real, real, real truth is: I missed seeing your face, Auggie. I know you don’t always love it, but you have to understand… I love it. I love this face of yours, Auggie, completely and passionately. And it broke my heart that you were always covering it up.

What a WONDERful father. 🙂

You’re gonna love all the characters here (well, except Julian, maybe). Wonder is heartwarming, heart-wrenching, heart-everything!

People can be cruel to Auggie almost every time. But he found comfort, love and triumph in his family, and his new friends. He never expected the universe will be kind to him. but it did.

Publisher: Random House Children’s Books

Imprint: Alfred A. Knopf BFYR

Pub Date: 02/14/2012

Thank you NetGalley and Random House for granting my galley request.

Book Review: Lips Touch: Three Times by Laini Taylor

Rating: StarStarStarStar

Genre: Young Adult > Fantasy

Three tales of supernatural love, each pivoting on a kiss that is no mere kiss, but an action with profound consequences for the kissers’ souls:
Goblin Fruit: In Victorian times, goblin men had only to offer young girls sumptuous fruits to tempt them to sell their souls. But what does it take to tempt today’s savvy girls?
Spicy Little Curses: A demon and the ambassador to Hell tussle over the soul of a beautiful English girl in India. Matters become complicated when she falls in love and decides to test her curse.
Hatchling: Six days before Esme’s fourteenth birthday, her left eye turns from brown to blue. She little suspects what the change heralds, but her small safe life begins to unravel at once. What does the beautiful, fanged man want with her, and how is her fate connected to a mysterious race of demons?

Literary Awards: National Book Award Nominee for Young People’s Literature (2009), Cybils Award Nominee for Young Adult Fantasy & Science Fiction (2009), ALA’s Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults (2010)


Three girls. Three stories. One thing in common: one kiss that seemed to change everything. but not always for the better. *evil grin*

Lips Touch: Three Times is one magical book. the stories are lush, rich, and very evocative! Add that to Taylor’s magnificent storytelling, and I’m hooked from day one of reading.

I want to give individual ratings for each story:

Goblin Fruit, 3 stars

Spicy Little Curses such as These, 5 stars

Hatchling, 4 stars

Every story is mesmerizing, tantalizing to my imagination. They were really good! I just don’t like the ending of Goblin Fruit (and i thought the female lead too shallow for my taste), and Hatchling reminded me of Daughter of Smoke and Bone‘s storyline. There are similarities, so Hatchling doesn’t sound as unique as it should be. Still, the lore was fascinating!

If you want to be immersed in not-your-usual magical myths and tales, try Lips Touch: Three Times. But I’m not promising you happy endings. =P

Book Review: A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

Rating: StarStarStarStar

Genre: Young Adult > Fantasy | Horror

At seven minutes past midnight, thirteen-year-old Conor wakes to find a monster outside his bedroom window. But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting — he’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the nightmare he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments. 

The monster in his backyard is different. It’s ancient. And wild. And it wants something from Conor. Something terrible and dangerous. It wants the truth. 

From the final idea of award-winning author Siobhan Dowd — whose premature death from cancer prevented her from writing it herself — Patrick Ness has spun a haunting and darkly funny novel of mischief, loss, and monsters both real and imagined.

Literary Awards: Galaxy British Book Awards for Children’s Book of the Year (2011),Los Angeles Times Book Prize Nominee for Young Adult Literature (2011), Red House Children’s Book Award (2012), ALA Teens’ Top Ten Nominee (2012)


I read A Monster Calls late at night, while my (almost) two-year-old son was sleeping in my arms. Somehow i held my son a little closer, a little tighter to me. Often times, Patrick Ness can really scare the living sh*t out of me.

I can emphatize with Conor. Whatever he went through, and his reactions for such, it was understandable. i enjoyed his banters with the monster. It was unexpected to encounter humor in those scenes, but it worked! Even the monster couldn’t stifle his laugh.

The twist is simple yet it left a scorching mark in my heart. Maybe I, too, am guilty of the same truth that Conor is terrified of (if I were in his shoes).

A Monster Calls challenges you to face the truth. But what’s more challenging for me is letting go. and moving on.

Book Review: The Heroes of Olympus #2: The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan

RATING: StarStarStarStarStar

(The Heroes of Olympus #2)

Percy is confused. When he awoke from his long sleep, he didn’t know much more than his name. His brain fuzz is lingering, even after the wolf Lupa tol him he is a demigod and trained him to fight with the pen/sword in his pocket. Somehow Percy manages to make it to a camp for half-bloods, despite the fact that he has to keep killing monsters along the way. But the camp doesn’t ring and bells with him. The only thing he can recall from his past is another name: Annabeth 

Hazel is supposed to be dead. When she lived before, she didn’t do a very good job of it. Sure, she was an obedient daughter, even when her mother was possessed by greed. But that was the problem – when the Voice took over he mother and commanded Hazel to use her “gift” for and evil purpose, Hazel couldn’t say no. Now because of her mistake, the future of the world is at risk. Hazel wished she could ride away from it all on the stallion that appears in her dreams. 

Frank is a klutz. His grandmother says he is descended from heroes and can be anything he wants to be, but he doesn’t see it. He doesn’t even know who his father is. He keeps hoping Apollo will claim him, because the only thing he is good at is archery – although not good enough to win camp war games. His bulky physique makes him feel like an ox, especially infront of Hazel, his closest friend at camp. He trusts her completely – enough to share the secret he holds close to his heart. 


Percy frowned. “You hold a feast for tuna?”


The Son of Neptune first captivated me with that oh-so-cool cover (Percy is so bad-ass!), then i started reading… and man, i really miss Percy Jackson!!! He now thinks before he speaks, he became perceptive, and he is more powerful than before. Rick Riordan, thank you for making Percy Jackson grow up. I love him now more than ever. =)

Percy is in Camp Jupiter, gaining new friends like Hazel and Frank, and enemies as well, like Octavian. They embarked on a quest that will push them to discover their potentials as they become the demigods included in the Prophecy of Seven. Riordan took a story pattern similar to The Lost Hero but this sequel is hands down more fun and engaging! I admit that i can’t wait to read those chapters with Percy’s POV (Hazel’s & Frank’s are not as entertaining as Percy’s), so imagine my glee every time I read his chapters – loads and loads of humor! Despite Percy’s memorable deadpans, it is obvious that here is a demigod who has the wits and the moves that can topple down any monster or giant Gaea will throw at him. I will say this again: Percy is a (demi)GOD!

Although there are few inconsistencies that i found, I did not mind them much. I enjoyed the The Son of Neptune because it is such a feel-good book! Riordan got me laughing and laughing all throughout. I really like Mars far more than Ares. Arion is one indignant horse, err, stallion. LOL

Are you a fan of Percy Jackson? If yes, then better grab a copy now! You would want to know how Terminus (the boundary god) had me LMAO every single minute! If no, well then, it’s about time you meet the greatest demigod there ever is. After all, he is the son of Poseidon (or Neptune, whatever).

#18 Off-the-Shelf Reading Challenge 2011



.: maria :.

“giving up is the ultimate tragedy.”

Book Review: Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

RATING: StarStarStarStarStar

(Ender’s Saga #1)

In order to develop a secure defense against a hostile alien race’s next attack, government agencies breed child geniuses and train them as soldiers. A brilliant young boy, Andrew “Ender” Wiggin lives with his kind but distant parents, his sadistic brother Peter, and the person he loves more than anyone else, his sister Valentine. Peter and Valentine were candidates for the soldier-training program but didn’t make the cut–young Ender is the Wiggin drafted to the orbiting Battle School for rigorous military training.

Ender’s skills make him a leader in school and respected in the Battle Room, where children play at mock battles in zero gravity. Yet growing up in an artificial community of young soldiers Ender suffers greatly from isolation, rivalry from his peers, pressure from the adult teachers, and an unsettling fear of the alien invaders. His psychological battles include loneliness, fear that he is becoming like the cruel brother he remembers, and fanning the flames of devotion to his beloved sister. 

Is Ender the general Earth needs? But Ender is not the only result of the genetic experiments. The war with the Buggers has been raging for a hundred years, and the quest for the perfect general has been underway for almost as long. Ender’s two older siblings are every bit as unusual as he is, but in very different ways. Between the three of them lie the abilities to remake a world. If, that is, the world survives.

Literary Awards: Hugo Award for Best Novel (1986), Nebula Award for Best Novel (1985)


I don’t care if I pass your test, I don’t care if I follow your rules. If you can cheat, so can I. I won’t let you beat me unfairly – I’ll beat you unfairly first.


Ender’s Game is un-FREAKIN’-believable. My review may not do justice to its pure awesomeness, but I will sure try to convert sci-fi non-readers into Ender believers ‘coz for sure it converted a non-sci-fi chick like me. =)

I sometimes forget that Ender is only six when he got recruited to Battle School and he is eleven or thirteen (I’m not sure) when the Third Invasion happened. The complexity of a child’s mind when pushed to isolation and fear was scary, but in Ender’s case, it was terrifyingly heartbreaking. I don’t like bullies, so I applaud Ender for defending himself whatever the cost. I love Ender for everything he is, and everything he doesn’t want to be. The contrasts of Ender’s traits is remarkably worked out by Card. Ender is afraid before he is brave. Ender adores his sister but hated her when she coaxed him to move on with his training. Ender doesn’t believe in violence but once he dwells in it, he’s cunning and ruthless. But beneath Ender’s brilliance in leadership and battle lies a boy who doesn’t want power… but acceptance. And friends. And love.

I like that the sci-fi element of this book is simple, easy to imagine and understand. No fancy names, just simple terms that I can easily adapt. Dr. Device, anyone? =) I love the Battle School part the most; it is where Ender developed into the promising fleet commander worth worshipping for. Hail, Ender Wiggin, Hail! The ending was bittersweet, but nonetheless satisfying.

Ender’s Game is simply excellent. Finally, I found a book that I thought deserved all the literary awards it got. So don’t wait too long to pick this up and read. Else, the buggers get you. LOL. Always remember: the Enemy Gate is Down!

I think it’s impossible to really understand somebody, what they want, what they believe, and not love them the way they love themselves.

#17 Off-the-Shelf Reading Challenge 2011



.: maria :.

“giving up is the ultimate tragedy.”