Book Review: Tall Story by Candy Gourlay

tallstoryStarStarStarStarStar

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)

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…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)

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TALL STORY by Candy Gourlay

Paperback, 233 pages

Published May 2010 by PCacho Publishing House

5/5 stars

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Book Review: Flyte by Angie Sage

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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

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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.

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FLYTE by Angie Sage

Audiobook

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: The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

RATING: StarStarStar

Genre: Children’s > Fantasy

Challenge: Goodreads – The Filipino Group 100 Favorite Books (February read)

A pilot forced to land in the Sahara meets a little prince. The wise and enchanting stories the prince tells of his own planet with its three volcanoes and a haughty flower are unforgettable.

*****

I remembered i read this way back in high school but i could not i remember what it is all about. Memory can be weird like that. Anyway, The Little Prince did not charmed me like i thought it would. Still, there are bits and pieces there that got a smile from me. 

The scene that i really liked is when the little prince encountered the Lightsman (i hope i got that right). The logic behind the lightsman’s action is sound enough, and perhaps real enough compared to everyone else’s that the prince met. 

The ending is where I curled my lip in confusion. In my opinion, it was not fitting for a children’s book. Yes, in my mind, i saw the word suicide. Oh, well. I just tell myself not to read too much on The Little Prince

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?”

RIDICULOUSLY FUNNY.

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

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.: 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.

MAGNIFICENT. IMMACULATE. GOLDEN.

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

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.: maria :.

“giving up is the ultimate tragedy.”

Book Review: Fablehaven by Brandon Mull

RATING: StarStarStar

(Fablehaven #1)

For centuries mystical creatures of all description were gathered into a hidden refuge called Fablehaven to prevent their extinction. The sanctuary survives today as one of the last strongholds of true magic. Enchanting? Absolutely. Exciting? You bet. Safe? Well, actually, quite the opposite.

Kendra and her brother, Seth, have no idea that their grandfather is the current caretaker of Fablehaven. Inside the gated woods, ancient laws keep relative order among greedy trolls, mischievous satyrs, plotting witches, spiteful imps, and jealous fairies. However, when the rules get broken — Seth is a bit too curious and reckless for his own good — powerful forces of evil are unleashed, and Kendra and her brother face the greatest challenge of their lives. To save their family, Fablehaven, and perhaps even the world, Kendra and Seth must find the courage to do what they fear most.

Literary Award: 2011 Rebecca Caudill Young Reader’s Book Award Nominee

*****

FASCINATING.

I’ve always been a fantasy lover – there’s just something that makes the escape to these books so blissful. Fablehaven is a good quirky read despite my constant irritation for Seth’s character.

The story is easy to follow, the characters are easy to like or dislike, and the twists are suprising but not rave-worthy.

Seth is probably the most stubborn boy i have ever read. He does exactly the opposite when it comes to rules. He challenges everyone & everything. Although i liked how he composes himself in times of distress (compared to Kendra), and his sense of family ties is touching.

Kendra is the smart, goody-two shoe sister of Seth who is very perceptive especially to magical stuff. Her quick thinking and bold heart helped her into saving her family from the malicious witch & demon.

The magical elements are enchanting. From fairies to imps, golem to naiads, trolls to centaurs. The little stories woven by Mull for each of them is very entertaining. I love the words of wisdom that Grandpa, Grandma, Lena and Dale constantly give to Seth & Kendra. It was simple and completely understandable for their age, yet full of depth.

I like Fablehaven but i don’t think i’ll be reading the sequel anytime soon. The magic of the preserve and its inhabitants are not enough for me, i guess.


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.: maria :.

“giving up is the ultimate tragedy.”

Book Review: The Queen’s Thief #4: A Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner

Rating: StarStarStarStar

(The Queen’s Thief #4)

Sophos, under the guidance of yet another tutor, practices his swordplay and strategizes escape scenarios should his father’s villa come under attack. How would he save his mother? His sisters? Himself? Could he reach the horses in time? Where would he go? But nothing prepares him for the day armed men, silent as thieves, swarm the villa courtyard ready to kill, to capture, to kidnap. Sophos, the heir to the throne of Sounis, disappears without a trace.
In Attolia, Eugenides, the new and unlikely king, has never stopped wondering what happened to Sophos. Nor has the Queen of Eddis. They send spies. They pay informants. They appeal to the gods. But as time goes by, it becomes less and less certain that they will ever see their friend alive again.
Across the small peninsula battles are fought, bribes are offered, and conspiracies are set in motion. Darkening the horizon, the Mede Empire threatens, always, from across the sea. And Sophos, anonymous and alone, bides his time. Sophos, drawing on his memories of Gen, Pol, the Magus and Eddis, sets out on an adventure that will change all of their lives forever.

The Thief review | The Queen of Attolia review | The King of Attolia review

***** ***** *****

If I couldn’t be Eddis, I would be Attolia. If they needed to see my uncle in me, then I would show him to them. And I would take Attolia’s advice because if I identified my enemy and destroyed him, Sounis would be safe.

An heir to the throne who lost his mother & sisters, got kidnapped and sold to slavery, grew up to the king he didn’t want to be. Oh, Sophos! you are stronger than i thought.

The author has a strange sense of humor, i’d tell you that.

Sophos is now the narrator of the story. From being exiled to Letnos, to being a slave to an unknowing rebel baron, to being a pawn in the dangerous politics in Attolia, to being ‘imprisoned’ (again) in his own land, and finally, to rising up as the new king of Sounis.

The slavery part is boring, although i symphatized with Sophos’ wonderings – he was content to being a slave. No expections from his father, no breathing down his neck from his uncle. He was not happy but content.

My favorite part would have to be the moment Sophos will be voted for as king by the barons. I was kinda expecting it, but I was surprised Sophos can be so brutal. And i admired that, applauded him even! That is the only action I got from the book, but it was just right.

I miss Eugenides! He was shown being an idiot to Sophos (and i hate him for it) but as usual, Gen has something up his sleeve. The intricate plotting between Gen, Attolia, Eddis and the magus for the upcoming war was brilliant.

Megan Whalen Turner weaves a story that is mysterious, intriguing, and romantic (at times). I have to be on my toes while I was reading her series, because I’ll be lost in understanding all the politics and strategies that made her story worth reading, and rereading.

Sounis had been thinking of Ambiades. “He would have been a better man under different circumstances.”

Gen looked at him. “True enough,” he said. “But does a good man let his circumstances determine his character?”

#2 Off-the-Shelf Reading Challenge 2011

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.: maria :.

“giving up is the ultimate tragedy.”