Book Review: “One Day in December”by Josie Silver

A novel just in time for Christmas

What do you do when you spot The One, fall irrevocably in love in the span of 60 seconds, lose them right after, spend the next year searching for them in every bus stop in London, then finally meet them again when they’re introduced as your best friend’s new boyfriend? Thus begins One Day in December and the love story of Laurie and Jack, spanning ten years of heartbreak, choosing to be happy, loss, what-might-have-beens, and finding happiness again.

Laurie James meets, or doesn’t meet, Jack O’Mara at the bus stop on December 21, 2008. She’son an overcrowded bus, on the way home from a long shift at a hotel reception desk – a job she’s working while she’s trying to get a job as a staff writer at a magazine. She looks out the window and sees the most beautiful man sitting at the bus stop. He looks up, their eyes meet, and something shifts in the universe. But as fate would have it, Laurie’s bus pulls away just as Jack gets up. Laurie spends a year looking for “Bus Boy” throughout London, roping in her best friend Sarah to help with the search. She doesn’t find him, not until that fateful day when Sarah introduces the new boyfriend that she’s head-over-heels for. “Bus Boy” is Jack, Sarah’s boyfriend.

Romance novels live and die by their characters, and One Day passes with flying colors. Laurie and Jack are fully formed and relatable: good people who genuinely care for each other and the people around them but are deeply flawed as well. The story is told from Laurie and Jack’s alternating point of views, which gives us a lot of insight into their motivations. The downside of this is that Sarah’s characterization gets lost in the shuffle. As Laurie’s BFF and Jack’s girlfriend, Sarah becomes the ultimate example of virtue and success, and any flaws she has is told to us,not shown.

The story also benefits from the longer time span. The ten years it takes for Laurie and Jack to finally be together are caused by both circumstances and their personal choices, which makes their journey all the better for it. There’s some pining to be sure, but neither one fully depends on the other for their personal growth. Josie Silver handles their will they-won’t they with a deft hand, making sure that there are no irredeemable bad guys.

One frustration of mine with regard sto romance novels is when the characters are at the mercy of the plot, where they have no agency and every roadblock to their happily ever after is an external force. I’m happy that it wasn’t the case here.

My only major regret is that the resolution happens so quickly. Laurie and Jack were separated for so long.Surely Ms. Silver could have devoted more page time to their happily ever after? As someone who got sucked into this story, I would have appreciated a longer and more substantial final act.

All in all, One Day in December is highly recommended for believers in love at first sight. And even if you don’t,it’s still recommended for its depiction of supportive female friendships and the importance of finding your own happiness and way in life even without The One.

This review was first published as part of Fully Booked’s First Look Club. Thank you very much to Fully Booked (and Ilia!) for the opportunity 🙂

Movie review: “Crazy Rich Asians”

Some background before my movie review for Crazy Rich Asians:

I LOVE the Crazy Rich Asians series. I went to both signings that Fully Booked organized for Kevin Kwan: the first one in 2015 to promote China Rich Girlfriend, and the second one in 2017 for Rich People Problems.

So yes. Because of this:

  1. I’m heavily invested in this series.
  2. There will be SPOILERS in this movie review.
  3. There will be comparisons to the books.

All set? Everyone ready? Let’s do this!

Continue reading “Movie review: “Crazy Rich Asians””

Going crazy for Kevin Kwan

Crazy Rich Asians Kevin Kwan book signing

The author of two of my new favorite books was in town last weekend! Kevin Kwan of Crazy Rich Asians and China Rich Girlfriend fame held book signings and readings at Fully Booked‘s Bonifacio High Street and Alabang Town Center last August 15-16, 2015.

 

A photo posted by Macy (@theislandergirl) on

 

Crazy Rich Asians was published last 2013 but I only got to read it last year. I loved it so much that I read China Rich Girlfriend as soon as it came out. Crazy Rich Asians starts off with Rachel Chu, an American-born Chinese (ABC) economics professor who gets invited by Nicholas Young, her boyfriend and a history professor, to go with him to his best friend’s wedding and spend the summer in Singapore. What Rachel doesn’t know is that Nick just happens to be the scion of one of Singapore’s wealthiest families and the most eligible bachelor on the island. Once she gets there, it’s private jets galore, palatial homes, couture dresses and all the other trappings that come with being crazy rich, plus the requisite backstabbing, gossip, and meddling relatives. I can’t describe China Rich Girlfriend without spoiling the end of Crazy Rich Asians, but be rest assured that whatever outrageous antics the characters got into in the first book are multiplied a hundredfold in the second book. Because hey, there’s crazy rich and then there’s China-rich.

Side note: personally, I think the secondary characters make the books. Rachel may be the heroine but I found Astrid Leong’s (Nick’s cousin) story to be more engrossing. Sorry Rachel.

Danes and I arrived in BHS at 8am, ate breakfast, and lined up at 9am for the 10am registration and distribution of book passes. We ended up being #19 and #20 in the signing line, which wasn’t bad at all. The event started at around 2:15pm with a Q&A session with Kevin, moderated by someone from Fully Booked. Some interesting tidbits from the Q&A:

1. They’ve already started scouting for locations in Asia for the CRA movie (as they should be!). They’ve also started talking to actors who could be in the movie. (I’d love to see Ming-Na Wen and Gong Li take on the roles of the mothers but gawd, they look so ageless that I don’t think they’ll be cast. Can I get Shu Qi for Astrid please? Shu Qi is 39 but certainly looks younger than that.)

2. Everything in the books is real. Everything – except the characters and the plot – are real. That Boeing 747 in China Rich that’s fitted with a freaking koi pond? It’s real. Kevin said that he “doesn’t have an imagination” (ha!) so everything he describes in his books is something that he’s seen for himself. OH. MY. GOD. I had a follow-up question on how he even gets access to everything (since he said he’s seen everything he’s put in his books) but I was too shy to ask. Boo.

3. The series is planned out as a trilogy BUT the fate of the third book depends on how sales are for the second book. I hope CRG is doing really well!

Kevin then read part of a CRG chapter – the one where Kitty Pong steps into Hong Kong’s most exclusive Christian church for the first time. He does a great Corinna Ko-Tung but his Kitty Pong needs work. That doesn’t matter though as I still like him anyway 😛 kevin kwan signatures The signing itself started at around 3pm. The line moved pretty fast so Danes and I finished at 3:30pm. I stayed in Fully Booked to finish some work so I got to see the event end. The folks at Fully Booked were nice enough to let me talk to Kevin again after he was done signing the books ordered online. Kevin was really nice about it too and I appreciated him taking the time to discuss the ending of CRG.

Thank you again to Kevin Kwan for coming over to the Philippines and to Fully Booked for making it happen!

Book review: “The Hangman’s Revolution” by Eoin Colfer

hangman's revolution coverI’ll say this right now: The Hangman’s Revolution by Eoin Colfer, the second book in the WARP series, is the most enjoyable book I’ve read so far this 2014. (Whether that holds after The Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan comes out tomorrow is another matter entirely. But I digress.)

Colfer hits another winner as The Hangman’s Revolution is even better than last year’s The Reluctant Assassin. It’s more fun, more action-packed, and an even better and tighter story overall.

The synopsis from the book jacket:

“Chevron Savano, a seventeen-year-old FBI agent not known for obeying the rules, has arrived home after a time-trip to Victorian London, where she helped an orphan boy named Riley escape his murderous master. Present-day London is very different from the one she left. England is being run by followers of a Colonel Box, who control the territory through intimidation and terror. Chevie is absorbed by this timeline and cannot remember fully the history she once belonged to. Though a part of her senses that something is wrong, she moves on with her life as a junior cadet in the Boxite police.

The day Chevie is ordered to confront Professor Charles Smart, the inventor of the time machine, she finds herself thrust into the past. There, with the help of Riley and a few unlikely allies, she must venture into London’s catacombs and derail the plans of the charismatic leader who is intent on using his knowledge of the future to seize power.”

[I have no problems with this synopsis because it’s accurate and gives a great overview of the overall story arc.]

Reasons why I’m so happy with this book:
1. Chevie is still awesome. Riley is still awesome. I love them both. Riley’s still haunted by his memories of Garrick but he doesn’t let that stop him from training to become the best magician he can be. He’s now the proud owner and headliner of The Orient and is determined to make a name for himself. In the meantime, Chevie’s not right in the head (having two sets of conflicting personalities and memories will do that to a person) but she still manages to literally kick some Thundercat ass.

2. Dumping FBI Chevie into Cadet Chevie’s body and having both personalities and memories duke it out for supremacy was a great plot point. I haven’t seen this consequence of time travel in recent books and movies, as they all just have the original personality take over the current body (e.g. Wolverine in X-Men: Days of Future Past as he wakes up in the new present where everyone is not dead). Seeing this tackled in The Hangman’s Revolution was a nice surprise. The plot point was also handled and written very well. You can feel Cadet Chevie’s confusion and desperation to silence Traitor (FBI) Chevie and FBI Chevie struggling to overcome Cadet Chevie’s ingrained fear of Colonel Box.

3. Colonel Clayton Box is a worthy successor to Albert Garrick’s villain mantle. A sociopath with an analytical mind, Colonel Box is willing to do whatever it takes to shape the world in his own image. If that includes genocide with some coup d’etat on then so be it.

4. The new characters of Thundercats Clover Vallicose and Lunka Witmeyer are pretty darned interesting. Colfer skirts that delicate edge between amusing caricature and annoying caricature with great success.

5. Chevie’s determination at the end of the book was especially poignant. She doesn’t know what the future holds, but is taking things one disaster at a time.

The (few) slightly negative things that I spotted:
1. The Hangman’s Revolution has minimal “this is what happened in the previous book” exposition. Now, whether this is actually a good thing or a bad thing is entirely depended on whether you read The Reluctant Assassin or not. Truth be told, I’d forgotten some of the details from Assassin so I had to Google and remind myself of some of the previous story points that Riley or Chevie mentioned. Bottom line: The Reluctant Assassin is required reading if you want to understand The Hangman’s Revolution.

2. The plot “twist” as to who Box’s inside man was was just okay. Colfer tried to play it off as a big surprise but I didn’t care that much about it.

3. While the Sisters were somewhere between amusing and annoying, Otto Malarkey steps over the edge and into annoying territory. While it wasn’t enough to stop me from reading the book, he does become grating at times, especially when he becomes especially grandiose. I’m not sure if Colfer meant for him to be annoying or annoying-endearing. He does have his redeeming scenes – like when he distracts the Boxites so Riley can get away – but he’s still annoying.

Overall rating: 4.75 out of 5 stars. Yes, my dislike of Otto Malarkey merits 0.25 stars. But otherwise, the book is excellent and worthy of every bit of time spent reading it 😀

WARP #2: The Hangman’s Revolution by Eoin Colfer is available from The Book Depository.

Book review: “Codex Born” by Jim C. Hines

codex born coverAfter only a year of waiting, I finally got Codex Born by Jim C. Hines in my grubby hands! Codex Born is the second book in the Magic Ex Libris series and the sequel to Libriomancer. If you haven’t read Libriomancer, I highly suggest that you do so before reading Codex Born. Codex Born jumps right into the action with minimal worldbuilding exposition since all that was taken care of in the previous book. But if you insist on reading Codex Born anyway, here are some things you need to know:

  • Isaac Vainio is a libriomancer – an individual gifted with the magical ability to pull stuff out of books. When he’s not trying to save the world, he works as a librarian.
  • Lena Greenwood is a seriously ass-kicking dryad in a relationship with Isaac.
  • Dr. Nidhi Shah is a therapist for the Porters. She’s in a relationship with Lena.
  • The Porters are an organization formed by Johannes Gutenberg. They exist to protect the world from magic, expand their knowledge of magic, and to preserve the secrecy of magic.

So what’s in Codex Born? The summary from the book jacket:

Isaac Vainio’s life is just about perfect. He should know it can’t last.

Living and working as a part-time librarian in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Isaac has finally earned the magical research position he has dreamed of with Die Zwelf Portenaere, better known as the Porters. He is seeing a smart, fun, gorgeous dryad named Lena Greenwood. He has been cleared by Johannes Gutenberg to practice libriomancy once again, reaching into books to create whatever he chooses from their pages. Best of all, it has been more than two months since anything tried to kill him.

And then Isaac, Lena, Porter psychiatrist Nidhi Shah are called to the small mining town of Tamarack, Michigan, where a pair of septuagenarian werewolves have discovered the body of a brutally murdered wendigo.

What begins as a simple monster-slaying leads to deeper mysteries and the discovery of an organization thought to have been wiped out more than five centuries ago by Gutenberg himself. Their magic rips through Isaac’s with ease, and their next target is Lena Greenwood.

They know Lena’s history, her strengths and weaknesses. Born decades ago from the pages of a pulp fantasy novel, her powers are unique, and Gutenberg’s enemies mean to use her to destroy everything he and the Porters have built. But their plan could unleash a darker power, an army of entry of chaos, bent on devouring all it touches.

The Upper Peninsula is about to become ground zero in a magical war like nothing the world has seen in over five hundred years. But the more Isaac learns about Gutenberg and the Porters, the more he questions whether he’s fighting for the right cause.

One way or another, Isaac must find the means to stop a power he doesn’t fully understand. And even if he succeeds, the outcome with forever change him, the Porters, and the whole world.

A note about the jacket blurb: While we do discover new things about Lena and see her develop as her own person, this is still very much Isaac’s book. The blurb makes it sound like Lena takes over the story but she doesn’t.

What I loved about Codex Born:

The action never stops! Codex Born starts off a few months after Libriomancer, basically as everything is finally starting to settle down after the events in Libriomancer. Once the ball gets rolling with the wendigo murder in Tamarack, Isaac, Lena, and Nidhi have to deal with a megalomaniac father, another secret society, and their plans to destroy the Porters. They pick up some unexpected allies and frenemies too.

Less exposition! I didn’t like the massive info dumps in Libriomancer but thought them necessary since it was the first book. Since this is the second one, Hines doesn’t need the massive blocks of dialogue anymore so the story moves at a faster pace.

More information about and character development for Lena. Each chapter starts off with a small snippet of Lena’s past, starting from when she first emerged from her tree and met the farmer Frank Dearing. Time and time again, Lena proves that she’s a person and not just a construction from a book. While her sensuality is part of her, it does not define her.

New characters that felt right. We get Jeneta, a teenager who loosed a snake from Harry Potter through her smartphone, plus the werewolves Jeff and Helen.

We get a great menagerie of villains – some more human and relatable, some just utterly despicable.

The Isaac-Lena-Nidhi triangle still weirds me out, so I’m glad that the characters themselves are weirded out too. It would have been really strange for them to just accept the situation without batting an eye so it’s nice to see their internal conflicts regarding their arrangement.

Books, books, and more books! Isaac casually mentions science fiction and fantasy books left and right, some I’ve read but even more that I haven’t. He makes me want to read them all, just so that I can understand what he’s pulling out of them. It’s total book-wank and I love it!

Things that confused me/made me feel iffy about Codex Born:

Hines addressed the ebook issue somewhat but I’m not sure I like how he explained it. All of the libriomancy rules set up in Libriomancer made sense, but then Jeneta and the ebook come along and change everything. Jeneta pulled a snake out of a supposedly locked Harry Potter book via her smartphone. Does this mean that ebook Harry Potter doesn’t count as a “real book”? Is the locking format-specific? If so, then Gutenberg will have to lock all print, epub, azw, mobi, pdf, and other formats. The ebook loophole made libriomancy less magical, if that makes any sense at all. Hines doesn’t have a real explanation for it just yet – Isaac is still figuring it out, after all – so I shall reserve final judgment until he does. But for now, I’m iffy about it.

The twists and turns in the plot made me dizzy. Haha. This isn’t an actual complaint but the book now requires an immediate re-read because of the twists.

Overall verdict: 4.75 out of 5 stars.

Codex Born is a worthy sequel and the perfect bridge book for the next one in the series. I’m not sure if Hines has mentioned how many books the series will be but I’m hoping Magic Ex Libris will continue for a good long while.

Oh, and something that made me happy:

jimchines reply

Book review: “Born of Illusion” by Teri Brown

born of illusion coverIs 1920’s New York the new “in” thing in Young Adult publishing? Not that I’m complaining, but Born of Illusion by Teri Brown is the second book this year I’ve read that’s set in 1920’s New York and features a girl with unusual powers (see: The Diviners by Libba Bray). The good thing is that’s where the similarities end.

Born of Illusion centers around Anna Van Housen, a gifted teenage stage magician working with her mother, the “medium” Marguerite Van Housen. Her father (or so her mother says) is the most famous magician of the time: Harry Houdini. But while her mother’s powers are fake, Anna’s powers are not. Behind her illusions and tricks lies a real power: the ability to feel other people’s emotions, to see the future, and to communicate with the dead.

From the back cover:

But as Anna’s powers intensify, she experiences frightening visions of her mother in peril, which lead her to explore the abilities she’s tried so long to hide. And when a mysterious young man named Cole moves into the flat downstairs, introducing Anna to a society that studies people with gifts like hers, she begins to wonder if there’s more to life than keeping secrets.

As her visions become darker and her powers spin out of her control, Anna is forced to rethink all she’s ever known. Is her mother truly in danger, or are Anna’s visions merely illusions? And could the great Houdini really be her father, or is it just another of Marguerite’s tricks?

What I enjoyed:

I actually liked Anna. Compared to Evie O’Neill of The Diviners, Anna is a likeable person who’s unfortunately stuck in the unenviable position of trying to “parent” her mother. She’s talented, works hard, and keeps her and her mother’s lives from falling apart. In short, she’s easy to root for.

It has a good ensemble cast. There are only a few characters so everyone gets fleshed out to some degree.

The mother-daughter dynamics are notable. You can feel Anna’s frustration at having to constantly look after her mother and stopping herself from shining just to keep her mother happy. Anna and Marguerite are so different, I’m surprised their big blow-up came so late in the book. Marguerite does redeem herself somewhat but it felt a bit fake and out of the blue.

What could have used some work:

The book suffers from a thin plot. It was interesting enough but “Born of Illusion” felt like it was only the first half of a novel. Sigh. I guess that’s what sequels are for.

The so-called “red herrings” are hardly misleading. It’s pretty obvious who the villain is right of the bat and who between the two guys chasing after Anna is the good guy.

The long and dragging exposition. “Born of Illusion” is told from Anna’s point of view and we suffer through continuous exposition and info dumps as the other characters tell Anna what’s happening in order to move the story forward.

Overall verdict: 3 out of 5 stars. I wanted to love this book the same way I loved The Diviners but it just wasn’t possible. Born of Illusion isn’t bad per se, but it’s not extraordinary either. I’m hoping that Book 2 will have a more substantial plot.

 

P.S. Huge thanks to Fully Booked, who gave me a free copy of this book during Lucy’s Birthday Party last July 27 in Fully Booked-Bonifacio High Street! Here’s to more years of making booklovers happy! 😀

The Fully Booked-RCBC Bankard MasterCard – the booklover’s credit card

Fully-Booked-RCBC-Bankard-main

The booklover’s credit card is finally here! I was invited to the launch event last April 17 but was unable to go because of work commitments. Much sighs of disappointment were expended. But the important thing is that they finally released it – the Fully Booked-RCBC Bankard MasterCard! If you consider Fully Booked as your second home, then you’ll definitely like this card.

What’s so great about this credit card?

First up: a year-round 10% discount on regular items! You probably already have Fully Booked’s in-store discount card but this card limits you to a 5% discount on credit card purchases. The Fully Booked-RCBC Bankard card is the only credit card that gives you 10% off the regular price. Please note that the discount is not applicable to magazines, office supplies, CDs, DVDs, consigned items, gift certificates, and sale items.

Second: up to 10% rebate on your Fully Booked, Bibliarch, and Sketchbook purchases when you charge at least P20,000 elsewhere per billing statement! You also earn a flat 0.5% rebate on all of your outside purchases, such as restaurant meals, groceries, airline tickets, utility bills, and the like. You can earn as much as P1,000 worth of rebates per monthly billing statement for a total of P12,000 per year.

Fully-Booked-RCBC-Bankard-rebate

Third: invites to Special Buys and Private Sale Events and advance notifications on new arrivals, special events, and promos. Hey, the little things count too so this is a nice perk.

And finally…

Four: 0% interest installment plans for big book purchases! You can get a 3-month installment plan for a minimum purchase of P3,000 and 6-month installment plan for P5,000.

One last bonus: you get a P500 Book Voucher for spending at least P12,000 anywhere within the first 3 months of receiving your card. Just remember that you need to present both your card and the charge slips when you claim the Book Voucher at any Fully Booked branch.

Part of me is seriously thinking about getting this card, especially since they waived the first year membership fee. Nuninuninu… *dreams about all the wonderful books she could get*

Fully-Booked-RCBC-Bankard-Fees-and-Charges

Complete details here
Online application
Printable application form