Books, Reviews

Book Review: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

Title: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

Author: Jenny Han

Format: Paperback

In a nutshell
The book is about the shy protagonist Lara Jean Covey, who has been in love several times in the past but didn’t know how to express her feelings — except for writing them in the form of “secret” letters. But even though she kept all the letters in her room (particularly in a teal hatbox given to her by her late mother), she wrote addresses on each and every one of them.

And then one day, she just realized that all of the letters went missing. She then confirmed that they were all mysteriously sent out when she received her first “reply” from one of the boys she wrote to and so on.

My thoughts
Let me start by telling you that the first time I’ve laid eyes on To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, I was instantly smitten with its cover! Haha! How could I not? It was so “girly,” just like me! 😛

Anyway, the plot isn’t really that deep (girl falls in love with boysssss, boysssss didn’t know how she felt until such time, complicated love triangles, unrequited love… the stuff of young adult romances!). But once you read it, I guarantee you that Jenny Han‘s writing is what would keep you hooked and make you constantly turn the pages.

Apart from the “romance” part of the story (which is evident in the book title alone), I loved that the story was also about the importance and role of “family.” The main character Lara Jean lives with her father and two sisters, Margot (the eldest) and Kitty (the youngest). All of them were carefully crafted by the skillful Ms. Han, making Lara Jean‘s family effective supporting characters. (I also especially liked the fact that St Andrews University — a.k.a. the alma mater of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge IRL — was mentioned here! Why? That’s for you to find out! Wahahahaha!). 😀

As you can see, I didn’t dwell on the actual boys (five all in all!) and Lara Jean‘s love story. Simply put that it was something I kind of liked and hated at the same time. Some were predictable, some were not. In fact, I appreciated Lara Jean‘s relationship with her family in the story more than the actual “relationships” she had with “the boys she has loved before.” I was just glad that there were twists at the end, and the open-ended last chapter was enough to make me recommend this read to all of you! 😉

Don’t worry though, you know what they say that it’s always the journey and not the destination that matters? Well, reading this book is exactly that! This is more about the “journey” (Han‘s writing style) than the “destination” (the ending).

On that note, I dare you to join me in the journey of knowing more about Lara Jean and Han‘s other characters and stories! 🙂 Let’s exchange thoughts xx

Rating: 4 out of 5

Have you read this? What other books by Jenny Han can you recommend?
Share your thoughts by sounding off in the comments section below!

Books, Reviews

Book Review: The Selection series by Kiera Cass

Titles (in order): The Selection, The Elite, and The One

Author: Kiera Cass

Format: Paperback

In a nutshell
A young adult book series, the story is all about America Singer (the lead character) who lives in a dystopian society called Illea (or the “new” United States of America after another world war). In Illea, the people are divided in different castes depending on their skills. And then of course, there’s the royal family.

The current royal highness is Prince Maxon and it has been a tradition that whenever a prince is ready to marry, he has to pick a wife from the different groups in Illea. Hence, he has to hold a “dating” event that invites 35 pre-selected girls. This event is called none other than — you guessed it — The Selection.

To be honest, I’ve already seen books of The Selection series a few months before I actually decided to buy my own copies. The first time I saw them (The Selection and The Elite), I didn’t even bother to pick one and even read its synopsis. So in short, the covers didn’t really catch my attention as they were supposed to. I’ve always been a fan of anything related to royalty so if I had known earlier that this was so, I would’ve picked it up the first time I saw it. The covers should’ve done that. Instead, each one looked like there’s a girl who’s about to attend her prom — not a royal event. Then again, that’s just me. I always judge a book by its cover — literally!

Thankfully, I read an article about Kiera Cass (the author) and her visit to my hometown in a local teen magazine I was affiliated with before (that’s why I’m still a loyal reader of the magazine even though I’m not a teen anymore! Hahaha!). I won’t talk about the article, but reading it was what changed my perspective on The Selection series. In fact, my perspective was “completely changed” that I immediately bought copies the next time I went to a bookstore after reading that article! 😛

Sure, the plot has already been dubbed as “The Bachelor meets The Hunger Games” and for those who aren’t really into the young adult (YA) genre, you might’ve just rolled your eyes just a couple of seconds ago. But if you’re flexible enough when it comes to your reading choices and you’re willing to give anything a “read,” then The Selection series might just open your eyes to a whole new world (no pun intended) of possibilities — say, what it could be like in a “future” post-war era (that’s a far cry from what we have today), etc.

On that note, here are my thoughts:

The Selection

Being the first book in the series, this didn’t disappoint. In fact, I finished reading it in just two days! That’s how engrossed I was upon finding out that The Selection has something to do with the classic fairy tale. Since this is the first book in the trilogy, this was where everything was introduced: America‘s group (she’s a Five), the reasons why she ended up joining The Selection, and of course, her first love Aspen — yes, there’s a love triangle in this story.

This was also where America and Prince Maxon met for the first time. To be honest, I didn’t really root for the prince during their first encounter. I thought his description lacked something in order to unlock the “love at first read” in me whenever I curl up with a novel.

But despite that, there’s something in Cass‘ writing that eventually made me fall in love with her characters and their story along the way. In fact, this first book is my favorite in the series. It beats The One only because of how unputdownable it was. Like I said, only. two. days! 😉

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

The Elite

From 35 girls, it was now down to just 6. If I loved the first book, this wasn’t the case with the sequel. Unfortunately, I found The Elite such a drag. Sure, this was where some of Illea’s secrets were revealed (shocking!), but this was also where the love triangle “flourished” — in an annoying way! How? I was annoyed with:

America – for not being able to choose between Aspen and Prince Maxon. Talk about being fickle!

Prince Maxon – for still hooking up with the other girls even though it was pretty clear that America‘s the one who owns his heart (as mushy as that may sound!). I know that the whole thing was a “dating” event, but please. At least he could’ve made the other dates with the other girls more “friendly” and tried to keep his hands all to himself — if you know what I mean! If I were America, I would… well, let’s just say I’m glad I ain’t part of The Elite! Wahahahaha!

Aspen – for still sticking around. Yeah, yeah. As much as I was annoyed with America and Maxon, I’ve always been Team Maxon. That’s a no-brainer for someone like me who’s always been rooting for the prince — even IRL! Haha!

Anyway, The Elite is my least favorite in the trilogy. I found myself reading it for “weeks” before finishing it. And to be honest, I only pushed myself to finish it because not reading it would make my reading of the series incomplete. ‘Nuff said.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Disclaimer: I do not own this photo.

The One

Ah, the finale. This was fifty-fifty for me. The first half was like an extension of The Elite. Thankfully, the other half (including the ending!) made up for it! Yay! I won’t sugar coat this for you. There were some lives lost here (just like in any epic story), but I’m very, very, happy that at least Cass really delivered on the love department! The love triangle was solved, and I got a satisfying ending (though bitin!). Three words: I want mooore! 😀

Rating: 4 out of 5

In spite of disliking The Elite, The Selection series as a whole was enjoyable for me. I recommend it for avid YA-genre readers. Besides, I agree with how the author ended it:

“This isn’t happily ever after.

It’s so much more than that.”

Having said that, I’d like to request the author to please consider making a spin-off series — say, what happens after America‘s love story? Maybe the lead character could be her child? Or something like that. Because if you don’t, I will — in the form of fanfic!

Of course, I kid! =))

Have you read The Selection series?
Share your thoughts by sounding off in the comments section below!

Books, Reviews

Three Things “Before Ever After” Made Me Reflect On…

Title: Before Ever After

Author: Samantha Sotto

Format: Paperback

First thing’s first.  I’ve to admit, I judged a book by its cover! 😀  It was one random August Friday when I decided to go inside National Bookstore and saw this:

And as a self-proclaimed hopeless romantic, I instantly grabbed it and didn’t have any second thoughts.  C’mon, I’m practically Kate Middleton‘s self-proclaimed NUMBER ONE FAN!  So if the words fairy and tale and ever and after don’t catch my attention, then there must be something wrong with me!  Hahaha!  But seriously, I only decided to read the book’s synopsis when I was already THIS|CLOSE to the cashier!  Having admitted that, I guess I “judged” well because now, I’m done reading it and I have my TWO THUMBS UP!  Plus, it doesn’t hurt that the book is internationally published and has a Filipina author — a full-blooded Filipina at that!  So yeah, it’s warm and fuzzy all the way! 😉

Before Ever After is written by Samantha Sotto, and it’s a one of kind novel that makes its main character (and readers!) discover “that not all stories end where they are supposed to.”  It’s a book that combines love, life, history, and even chickens and eggs all in one very compelling story that is worth reading!  Which made me come up with the following things (in alphabetical order) to reflect on:

EUROPE.  Austria, England, France, Italy (including Ancient Rome), Slovenia, Spain, and Switzerland are some of the European countries you can travel to just by reading this book alone! 😉  I’ve never been to Europe.  If only I can travel to Italy and the U.K., I’ll already be content.  It’s always been one of my lifelong dreams to travel there and I’m not giving up!  Hehe.  Anyway, I know a few people (actually, A LOT of my family and friends) who’ve been to Europe and they don’t have anything to say about the continent except for GOOD STUFF.  So yeah, they’re lucky people indeed!  But for us who still have YET to apply for Schengen and U.K. visas, don’t fret!  I still consider us lucky!  Why?  Well, I have two justifications to somehow sweeten our “bitterness” (haha!):

First, we get to be creative and enhance our imagination.  Sure, there are pictures.  Sure, there are movies.  But don’t you think it’ll be nice to know that once you finally go to Europe, the things that were once confined only in your thoughts will already be in front of you?  If not, then I guess that’s just me.  But the mind works wonders, people!  I repeat, THE MIND WORKS WONDERS! 😉

Second, we have something to look forward to.  Yes, those who’ve been to Europe can always go back, especially if they threw a coin and made a wish at the Trevi Fountain! 😉  But you know, there’s always something special about THE FIRST TIME…  something to look forward to.  I couldn’t emphasize more on that.

LIFE.  Hmm…  how do I go about this without spoiling the story?  Haha!  Fine.  Let me take an excerpt from the book itself to explain what I mean to say:

“Our world, after all, is what we choose to create around us, here and now.  We build homes, towns, cities, civilizations — grander than all that came before, but never enduring.  Etruscans.  Egyptians.  Greeks.  Romans.  Venetians.  Where are their empires now?  Where are the worlds they built?  Gone.  Judged.  Ended.  But life goes on.  We take our shattered bricks, spread our plaster, and build again…  hoping that we are starting over for the last time.”

Yeah.  THAT and have you ever thought about immortality?  If you could live forever, would you be up for it?  WHY? — if you could answer that “simple” question, then I guess we’re done here.  ‘Nuff said.

LOVE.  Ooh!  Here we go again with that warm and fuzzy feeling! ♥  But seriously, I don’t think that any story will be complete without a touch of love in it!  Don’t you agree? 🙂  Anyway, Max and Shelley‘s love story is basically the alpha and the omega of Before Ever After, and I’ve to warn you, theirs is a love story that conquers ALL.  If I may say, walang sinabi sina Alladin and Jasmine, Jack and Rose,  Romeo and JulietSamson and Delilah…  Hihihi.  But the good thing about the book is it covers “love” in the broader sense of the word.  Love for the opposite sex is already a given.  But you know, there’s also love for life, love for friends, and most of all, love for family:

“My parents died, but I was never an orphan.  Nonno was my family.  He raised me as his son and there was not a single day that I doubted that.  Even now.  You can make a child believe a lot of things.  Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny…  just about anything really, except love.  You cannot make a child believe you love him if you don’t.  My grandfather loved me, Shelley.  I know that.  Whoever else he was or turns out to be, he was and always will be Nonno to me.  My childhood was not a lie.  And I don’t think your life with Max was, either.”

There. 😀  I highly recommend Before Ever After because there are many other things you can learn from reading it.  Whether you are male or female, I’m sure you’ll enjoy it as long as you love traveling, have a sense of adventure, are interested in history, and just love life for what it is!  Of course the three things you’ve just read (Europe, Life, and Love) are just “me,” so feel free to make your own list of things to reflect on.  Having said that, I give this book an OVERALL RATING of: ♥♥♥♥♥

Lastly, most people may think that “happily” precedes “ever after” only in fairy tales.  But if there was one thing Ms. Sotto’s book taught me, it would be to think otherwise.  I say our “ever after” will depend on what WE make it to be.  Always.

Look who saw this very entry (thanks to Twitter!):

Oh lovely! ♥

😀 😀 😀

P.S: Samantha Sotto will be signing books on September 18, 2011 (Sunday) at the Manila International Book Fair at the SMX Convention Center.  She’ll be at the National Book Store Booth from 1:30-2:30PM.  She’ll also be answering questions at the panel discussion at 3:30-4:30PM (meeting rooms 5 and 6).  I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to get to meet her and have my book signed!  See you there, yes? 😉

(Read about the book signing/discussion here.)