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Saturday, April 30, 2011

Books I Reviewed

A picture collage of the books I reviewed in March and April of 2011

**"The Legend of Sleep Hollow"  actually belongs to the Jan/Feb pciture collage.

Favorites in this group:
  • Clarity by Kim Harrington
  • Tall Story by Candy Gourlay
  • The Princess of Las Pulgas by C. Lee McKenzie

"The Mistress's Daughter"

by A.M. Homes, non-fiction, 2007, 238p, rating=2.5

The acclaimed writer A.M. Homes was given up for adoption before she was born.  Her biological mother was twenty-two-year-old single woman who was having an affair with a much older married man who had a family of his own.  The Mistress's Daughter is Homes's ruthlessly honest account of what happened when, thirty years later, her birth parents came looking for her.  Digging through each of her family histories, Homes delivers a twenty-first-century electronic search for self.  Daring, heartbreaking, and startlingly funny, this is a brave and profoundly moving consideration of identity and family.  (book's blurb)
I stumbled into this book and once I saw the cover, well, that face ...cute but threatening!  You can't tell from the picture much, but those piercing blue eyes promised to hurt me if I didn't pick-up the book.  So I did. 

It was a quick and unlabored read for a memoir.  A big plus in my book.  But, I sensed a spiteful tone under the sarcasms ... even some whining.  Maybe understandably due to her identity struggles but it made for a depressing read in that light.  However, I did enjoy reading about her quest to dig into genealogy work.  It was a great example of some wonders one might find about his ancestors and the many man hours it takes.  Oh, the chapter "Like an Episode of L.A. Law" was an interesting way to sum up the millions of questions she had.  I also found promise of acceptance in her voice when she talked about her grandmother's influence at the end of the book.  Hence, testing the waters of motherhood herself.  I think that retrospect reminded her to see where the essence of family truly lies.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Sign-up for a Giveaway Hop

Head on over to Family Literacy and You and sign-up to host a book giveaway in honor of Children's Book Week.  Today's the last day to sign-up, so hurry!  :)

"The Lotus Eaters"

by Tatjana Soli, AF, 2010, 389p, rating=3.5

On a stifling day in 1975, the North Vietnamese army is poised to roll into Saigon. As the fall of the city begins, two lovers make their way through the streets to escape to a new life. Helen Adams, an American photojournalist, must take leave of a war she is addicted to and a devastated country she has come to love. Linh, the Vietnamese man who loves her, must grapple with his own conflicted loyalties of heart and homeland. As they race to leave, they play out a drama of devotion and betrayal that spins them back through twelve war-torn years, beginning in the splendor of Angkor Wat, with their mentor, larger-than-life war correspondent Sam Darrow, once Helen's infuriating love and fiercest competitor, and Linh's secret keeper, boss and truest friend. Tatjana Soli paints a searing portrait of an American woman’s struggle and triumph in Vietnam, a stirring canvas contrasting the wrenching horror of war and the treacherous narcotic of obsession with the redemptive power of love. Readers will be transfixed by this stunning novel of passion, duty and ambition among the ruins of war. (book's blurb)
This is an investment kind of book.  You invest the time and heart and it will pay off.  A technically tedious read for me but the perseverance to finish the book was worth it.  A superb debut by Ms Soli.  She captured a searing perspective of a historical event by telling the story through the fictional lens of a camera and heart of outsiders. 

In this novel fashion, humanity amidst a war was played out through Helen's point of view that span a decade.  I got a taste of the character of the people of Vietnam.  I learned a bit of the colonizing history by the French.  I was sickened by the horror of war.  I got a wake-up call of a love story.  This book was intense!  In that way, it was its strength and flaw for me.  I got enough to be aware of its amazing quality but it had depth as with poetry ... and you know that I'm a dunce when it comes to poetry. :(

An overall all good read that will leave you counting your blessings.  Thank you Book Quoter for putting this on my radar.  Always a treat to visit your neck of the woods because you have an amazing list of Best Books ...which I consider my TBR list. :)

BTW, this is what I'm doing to kill time waiting for the Royal Wedding! None other than Prince William and Kate Middleton.  Aaaahhhhh!!  I'm caught up with all the excitement!  Bye, it's time!!!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Hoppy Easter Eggstravaganza Hop Winner

Thank you thank you to those of you who entered my Hoppy Easter Eggstravaganza Hop contest.  I appreciate the follows here and at my Facebook Page.  You are awesome!!  Hope you all had a very Hoppy Easter!  :)

Using the services of,
goes to : Lydia M.
Her choice of $20 to or Book Depository

Ms. Lydia has been sent an e-mail informing her of winning the contest.  She will have 72hrs to reply or the prize will go to the runner-up.

**Don't forget to check your Spam folder, just in case my e-mail went there**

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Pondering the Scriptures Sunday #24

"He is not here, but is risen..." Luke 24:6
It is Easter today and I am remembering our Lord Jesus Christ. This day designating a remembrance of the day He arose from the dead. Simply put, His resurrection gives us all the opportunity to live again after we die. Moreover, the atonement that preceded His resurrection rounds out the great plan of salvation. Our carnal or sinful ways can't hold us down if we choose to exercise the redeeming sacrifice that Christ paved for us.  So, when we come to a point in our lives that seem hopeless, bleak, or even a point of no return; let's remember that Christ understands the agony and has paid the price to turn it around for us. There is a way. We sure have an awesome big brother!

My heart is full.  I thank thee Lord. 


Saturday, April 23, 2011

Happy Easter!

Thomas S. Monson shares the story of a mother who lost her son at war but learned he would live again because of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

"Where She Went"

If I Stay, book #2 by Gayle Forman, YA, 2011, 264p, rating=4

It's been three years since the devastating accident ... three years since Mia walked out of Adam's life forever.  Now living on opposite coasts, Mia is Julliard's rising star and Adam is LA tabloid fodder, thanks to his new rock star status and celebrity girlfriend. When Adam gets stuck in New York by himself, chance brings the couple together again, for one last night. As they explore the city that has become Mia's home, Adam and Mia revisit the past and open their hearts to the future - and each other.  Told from Adam's point of view in the spare, lyrical prose that defined If I Stay, 'Where She Went' explores the devastation of grief, the promise of new hope, and the flame of rekindled romance.  (book's synopsis)
What a wonderful read, especially after a couple of not so good ones!  I enjoyed the softness of this telling story.  Using Adam's point of view this time around was an excellent choice.  The tenderness that left you at If I Stay continued and expounded.  You did not just discover where Mia went, but where Adam went as well.  Then their chance meeting in New York would define the next step.

This was a sweet series.  The two books flowed well and it was calming to me even when anger and confusion were explored.  It was the insights of the two protagonists that brought empathy to light.  How Mia and Adam spent the three years individually made for understanding their pledge.  The array of emotions was intense ...grief, guilt, anger, confusion, love, ... all in line with the healing process.

Like a good bowl of hot soup, this series gave me warmth.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Brief reviews: Delirium; The Lace Reader

Delirium by Lauren Oliver, narrated by Sara Drew, YA, 2011, audio CD, 11.5hrs, rating=2

Before scientists found the cure, people thought love was a good thing. They didn’t understand that once love -- the deliria -- blooms in your blood, there is no escaping its hold. Things are different now. Scientists are able to eradicate love, and the governments demands that all citizens receive the cure upon turning eighteen. Lena Holoway has always looked forward to the day when she’ll be cured. A life without love is a life without pain: safe, measured, predictable, and happy. But with ninety-five days left until her treatment, Lena does the unthinkable: She falls in love. (Goodreads)
This is awful to say but the voice of the narrator helped to kill this for me!  I'm not sure how to describe her voice.  It was appropriately young but almost shrill to me and the change in intonation for drama was equally annoying.  But I endured the 11.5hrs.  Sorry, Ms Drew, it's just my ear ...nothing personal on you. 

Anyway, this book was just so-so for me.  Another dystopian world story, but this time taking out love in the equation.  That was an interesting lure.  Unfortunately, it lacked.  The Giver is my kind of dystopia.  However, there were evidence of excellent writing.  And, whoa, that ending!!

The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry, narrated by Alyssa Bresnahan, AF, 2006/2008, audio Playaway, 11.75hrs, rating=1 (couldn't find actual cover image, so I picked a pretty one :) )

Every gift has a price . . . Every piece of lace has a secret . . .

My name is Towner Whitney. No, That's not exactly true. My real first name is Sophya. Never believe me. I lie all the time . . .

Towner Whitney, the self-confessed unreliable narrator of The Lace Reader, hails from a family of Salem women who can read the future in the patterns in lace, and who have guarded a history of secrets going back generations, but the disappearance of two women brings Towner home to Salem and the truth about the death of her twin sister to light. The Lace Reader is a mesmerizing tale that spirals into a world of secrets, confused identities, lies, and half-truths in which the reader quickly finds it's nearly impossible to separate fact from fiction, but as Towner Whitney points out early on in the novel, "There are no accidents." (Goodreads)

Lots of things were going on in this book ... clairvoyance, abuse, psychosis, suspense, mind games, and a dash of romance.  The craziness of the characters and storyline got me wiggy in the head as well.  So many unanswered questions and mess!  Some foul language didn't serve well in my ears too.  Anyway, I understand that this has a "Fight Club" tone, so if you like that movie this might be the book for you.  I personally haven't seen the movie so I can't tell you which parts were similar.  ~On a good note, Ms Bresnahan did a great job narrating.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Hoppy Easter Eggstravaganza Hop

Welcome to my stop on the Hoppy Easter Eggstravaganza Blog Hop hosted by I Am A Reader, Not A Writer and Once Upon a Twilight.  There are over 200 bloggers participating in this book related giveaway event.  I'll make this stop simple so that you may move on to the list a little bit quicker. 

I am giving away a $20 gift e-card to or up to $20 worth of book(s) from The Book Depository; you choose whichever is appropriate for you.  All you need to qualify to enter is be a Google Friend Connect follower and fill out the following entry form below.  I will give 2 extra entries if you follow me on my Facebook Fan Page.

This contest ends April 25th at 11:59pm (PST).  I will use the services of to pick a winner.  The winner will be notified via e-mail (please check your spam folder too) and announced on this blog on April 26th.  The winner will have 72hrs to reply or the prize will be given to the runner-up.

Choose a gift e-card to
(must have valid e-mail address)
up to $20 toward book(s) from The Book Depository
(make sure that they deliver to your country)

Thank you for entering my giveaway and for the follow.  May you find it a pleasant visit here and hope that you will return often.  Now, head on over HERE for the list of those bloggers that are offering you a chance to win wonderful books!
Hoppy Hopping and Good Luck!!
...and of course, Have a Happy Easter this Sunday.  :)

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Pondering the Scriptures Sunday #23

I apologize that this is late today ...zillion of things going on right now.  Anyway, Easter is coming up and so today's scripture will reflect on that topic.

"For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive."
1 Corinthians 15:22
Another feast ... encompassing discussion for Fall of Man, Plan of Salvation, Atonement of Jesus Christ, Mission of Jesus Christ, and of course, Resurrection.

Have a wonderful Easter!!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

"Butterfly People"

by Robin Lim, AF, 2009, 202p, rating=4

"A cast of characters as multicultural as fiction history can conjure. The clash of cultures: revulsion against female circumcision, American disdain of native culinary habits (dog-eating, bagoong) and even cultural artifacts (woven hangings, wooden saints) and the East-West divide on family values. Weaving the tribulations of being a mixed-race person into a technicolor tapestry, that is Robin Lim's fine achievement of biographical fiction. This work of "magical realism" strikes all the right chords. One is brought to tears and then laughter, and above all to a reflection on the "butterfly effect" as applied to the human condition: how acts of love or cruelty in the past, at disparate places, could have repercussions in the lives of people brought together by the tides of history." ~Edgar B. Maranan (book's back cover)
Can you tell that my brother's in town from the Philippines?  I had requested Filipino books from him and he brought me back three... Tall Story, the Filipino edition (I had already read the American edition just a few days before I received these books from him); this book; and one of Bo Sanchez's books that na arbor nang aunty ko (my aunt 'borrowed' ..she's going out of town and wanted a book to read on the flight and of course I was the only one with a book in my purse so there it went!  I won't see that book for awhile.).  Anyways, what a treat it has been to reminisce through the books.  I want more!!

Okay, about this book.  Well, it seemed to go all over the place but the meat of the story was a delight.  It began in the era of Spaniard occupation then moved on to other colonizers, the Americans, the Japanese, and finally the nation's independence.  This tracing was told through stories from several generations of the Lim family, a Filipino family from the northern mountains.  In this fashion, learning about culture and history was an interesting read.  A little taste of East and West culture clashes.  We see the evolution of integration and it's affects ... the good, the bad, and the ugly!

The feel of this novel was as if my grandmother was telling me about our family's history going five, six generations back. Truly there's a warm feeling in having an account of family lineage.  A soup for the soul!  And this book did that for me.  Some stories were sad but then the next lines you'll find laughter, joy, and love.  Such a precious way to honor a family's legacy.  Now, I want to know about my family history.  I have no grandparents left, so I have to nag my parents, aunts, and uncles.  ~I really need to get my genealogy going.

If you can get your hands on this book, grab it!  The Lolas are a hoot'll find moments that you will exclaim, "That's too much information!", but on the same breath roar out a hysterical laughter.  A sweet, tender book.  ~Thank you Ms Lim for sharing.

Monday, April 11, 2011

"Tall Story"

by Candy Gourlay, YR, 2010, 296p, rating=5

"What you want is not always what you get.  Even when your wishes come true.  Andi desperately hopes her long-lost half brother, Bernardo, will be as crazy about basketball as she is.  But when he steps off the plane from the Philippines, she can't believe her eyes.  She hasn't seen him for ten year, but even so, how did he get to be EIGHT FEET TALL?  This eight-foot-tall boy is about to crash into her life with his size 22 feet.  But Bernardo is not what he seems.  Bernardo is a hero, Bernardo works miracles, and Bernardo has amazing story to tell." (book's blurb)
I had high hopes for this little fat book and when I read this blurb (which doesn't do the book justice), it had me thinking that it was going to be just another run of the mill culture shock story so I braced myself for a disappointment.  Then I began reading and it was a page turner!  The warm characters and sweet storyline had me charmed, laughing, cheering, and fighting back tears ... the ingredients for an unforgettable heartwarming tale.

This was particularly meaningful to me because it gave a glimpse of Filipino culture, particularly regarding close-knit family relationships, superstitions, and faith.  This was successfully conveyed by tackling with heart dichotomies such as need vs want, superstition vs science, real vs magic, and of course, short vs tall.  More importantly, the characters (main and supporting) themselves were dynamic.  I absolutely felt that I was walking in their shoes!  And in this case, I did similarly walk in Bernardo's ...just 16 sizes smaller!  I too am an immigrant and assimilated to a secondary home.

I did notice a slight awkwardness/confusing writing but the powerful charm of the story had me pardon that blemish.  Hence, this was a wonderful young reader book debut.  I'd vote it for a Newbery Award or the like.

Unfortunately, I'm not a gifted writer so I didn't do this book much justice either but my friend Jzhun did so please check out his eloquent summary and review on his blog, Dark Chest of Wonders (he didn't pay me to put this plug).  He's an incredibly apt writer and never ceases to amaze me!  So if you're serious about in depth reviews; readers follow him and authors have him review your book.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Pondering the Scriptures Sunday #22

Going back to basics today... FAITH.

"Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."  Hebrews 11:1

This one's a feast!  ~What scripture are you pondering about?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Mail giddy

Yeay, it's not just bills or junk mails in my mailbox!  On occasions I receive books and oh how I enjoy those times!  My face gets all lit up, I smile from ear to ear, and I do my version of the jig, aka, a happy dance.  Please keep it coming ... I might finally lose some weight!!

Recently I received these winnings in the mail:

Thank you, thank you, ladies!  Now it's just a matter of timing to get to them (read and reviewed Across the Universe already).

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

"The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy"

by Douglas Adams, AF, 1979, 208p, rating=2.5

"Seconds before the Earth is demolished to make way for a galactic freeway, Arthur Dent is plucked off the planet by his friend Ford Prefect, a researcher for the revised edition of the The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy who, for the last fifteen years, has been posing as an out of work actor. Together this dynamic pair begin their journey through space aided by quotes from The Hitch Hiker's Guide "A towel is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have" and a galaxy-full of fellow travellers: Zaphod Beeblebrox - the two-headed, three-armed ex-hippie and totally out to lunch president of the galaxy; Trillian, Zaphod's girlfriend (formally Tricia McMillan), whom Arthur tried to pick up at a cocktail party once upon a time zone; Marvin, a paranoid, brilliant and chronically depressed robot; Veet Voojagig, a former graduate student who is obsessed with the disappearance of all the ball-point pens he has bought over the years." (Goodreads)
I didn't get this!  This sci-fi take perhaps was too deep and bizarre for me.  Yes, there were some very funny moments using intellectual kind of sarcasm oppose to the slapstick type.  Unfortunately, it wasn't enough to get me on the fan bandwagon.  The names/terms were too outrageous for me to follow and the read itself gave me a sense of blah.  I felt unhip .. in other words, stupid!

An interesting premise and imaginative insights but overall was not my cup of tea.  However, I'll be sure to bring a towel should I venture the galaxy realm and keep in mind that forty two is the ultimate answer.  Hmmm, I just turned forty two a couple of days ago, what a coincidence.  Did I get a vibe from the mice to read this book now?  Ha ha.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Brief reviews: The Quilter's Apprentice; The Gift of the Magi

The Quilter's Apprentice by Jennifer Chiaverini, AF, c1999, 2004, Playaway audio, 8.5hrs, Narrated by Christina Moore, rating=3.5

"When Sarah and her husband move to Pennsylvania, she takes a position helping Sylvia Compson prepare her estate for sale after the death of her sister. Sylvia is also a master quilter and offers to share the secrets of her creative gifts with the younger quilter. During her lessons, the intricate, varied threads of Sylvia's life begin to emerge." (Goodreads)
If you like homely stories ...quilting, young and old ladies, history, etc. then you'll enjoy this book.  A warm and rich story with interesting quilting tidbits.  Also, Ms Moore did an outstanding job at narrating.  You can distinctly separate the characters unlike some audio actors.  Amazing!

The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry, AF, 1905, 32p, rating=4

"Set in New York at the turn of the century, the story centers on a young couple and the sacrifices each must make in order to buy the other a gift." (Goodreads)
A great example of the power of short stories to move.  This is a marvelous story of love.  A wonderful reminder of the goodness in marriage ... or true lovers in general.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Pondering the Scriptures Sunday #21

Good morning!  It being my birthday today I'd like to ponder about eternal life.  :)  So here goes:
  • Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump:  for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.  For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.  So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.  1 Corinthians 15: 51-54
  • Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life:  he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:  And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.  Believest thou this?  John 11: 25,26
  • And this is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life.  1 John 2:25
  • Verily, verily I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life.  John 6:47
Looking forward to family coming over soon to celebrate my special day ... especially my brother and his family who are here on vacation from the Philippines.  Whoohoo!!! 

P.S.  Happy General Conference weekend!!  Go HERE for details.


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