My Bookcase

The Year of Secret Assignments

Have you ever wondered how the ladies of Lipstick Jungle must have been like as kids or teenagers? Probably just like Em, Lyd and Cass from Jaclyn Moriarty’s The Year of Secret Assignments. Or not.

This book was again one of those books I picked up at my favorite second-hand store. That’s what I love about those places, they just get me to be so open about books that I would normally have snubbed at full price. Haha 🙂 In the past, I would only buy books by authors I’ve read before and liked. Or I’ll stay safe and go for those referred by a friend. When I started frequenting second-hand bookshops, I was more daring so to speak. The good thing is that I have only ever regretted buying one book. I picked it up (a novel that  a tear-jerker of a movie was based on), tried to read it, couldn’t continue. It was soooo slow. Anyway, it wasn’t this book.

I enjoyed reading this book. A lot. It’s for kids/young adults as the characters are in high school. There’s no magic here, or mythical creatures. Rather, you’d read about kids who cut classes, pick locks, and play pranks. Very nice, haha. 🙂

The girls in the book go to Ashbury, a private school for girls. Their parents were all friends, and lawyers. I could imagine them with their book bags, binders, maybe even with their blazers/jackets, hair bows, or beaded lanyards, walking the corridors of their school just talking about the boys they’re exchanging letters with. I also imagined them on their sleep overs, talking about their hopes and dreams 🙂

They had a penpal project for their English class and their pen friends were to be from another English class from the rival school (seems to be a public co-ed highschool). The story is told through the letters exchanged by the girls and their pen friends Matthew, Seb and Charlie. Lyd’s special notebook and Cass’ diary also come into play. It was interesting to see how their relationship developed through the letters, until they all met in person. It was also interesting to see how their characters developed as they continued corresponding with each other.

Friendship and loyalty was, not surprisingly, the central theme in the novel. It also showed how friends help one cope with the death of a parent.

I’ve laughed a couple of times while reading this book. These kids are cool! Haha. And I might just pass this one on to my niece for a bit of reading. 🙂

Voices by Ursula Le Guin

Anyone reading my blog, and most everyone who know me, also know about my propensity to hoard books. Specifically second-hand ones. In fact, if I take the time to look for them, I’d probably find any number of blog posts talking about this, and how it takes a lot of effort for me to stay away from book shops for fear of spending too much on books (like what happened this time). Most of the time though (98% of the time), I do not regret shelling out the money. I find solace in reading. When I’m in a bad mood, or a bit out of whack, or just bored, books keep me company.

Reading also wakes up my mind. 🙂

In one of my book shopping sprees, I came across this book:

My copy doesn’t actually have this cover 🙁  It was hard bound and cost half as much as what a paperback copy would have. It’s my first Le Guin book. I read one of her short stories back in College but I can’t remember the title. I think it’s the one with Mr. Underhill. :S Anyway, I just knew I would like her writing, and I wasn’t wrong.

It amazes me how stories are written, and ones like these that are set in a totally different reality than ours keep me in awe. Le Guin built a whole new world with its own belief system and there created conflict that was so believable, and surprisingly, relevant.

Set in the city of Ansul, Voices tells the story of young Memer who was born in the year that her city was occupied by foreign troops. The invaders have banned books for their demonic nature, and because Ansul was the seat of learning it was especially ravaged and its great university was torn down. All the books that the Alds could gather were burned and those who possessed them were persecuted. The head of Mer’s household, the Waylord, was among those who were thrown into prison and tortured.

Voices is about Mer’s discovery of many secrets. First, of the hidden library in Galvamand, then of her own abilities and her role in the larger scheme of things. She grew up learning to hate the invaders, but she later learned that not all of them are despicable. In the reviews that I’ve read, this one echoes my sentiments: 

Perhaps the strongest element of the novel, however, is the way it moves from black and white to shades of gray. Orrec believes that all people have some good in them, and as Memer is forced to get to know the invaders she despises, she realizes that they are not all terrible and cruel. Some of them are simply different, and unable to understand her way of life. The message seems to be that it is far better to reach an understanding with others, even if you dislike them, than to take revenge. In a time when cultural and religious clashes make news almost every day, this should hit home with many readers.  – Review by Lynn Crow, on the Amazon.com website

I can’t ever imagine living in a world without books! I guess though, if you grew up without them, then you don’t know what you’re missing. The people of Alds relied on Makers, storytellers, like Orrec. He travels far and wide not only to tell stories, but to learn them too. Much like how our ancestors kept culture alive, by passing on our stories by mouth, so does he.

Only by the end of the novel did I realize that Voices was part of a series. It definitely stands on its own, but I would be very interested in finding a copy of Gifts too, along with Powers. And you know what? If I find a copy of The Wizard of Earthsea, I’d definitely buy it.

Lady Killer

Normally, when I write-up a post about a familiar theme, I run a search on my blog so I can make references to earlier posts on the subject. I was surprised that a search on my blog with the keyword Scottoline only brought up four posts. I mean, isn’t Lisa Scottoline one of my recent favorite authors? Have I really only read four of her novels? But I feel like I know the girls of Rosato & Associates so much. Haha.

I searched via Google too, and my post on my Bravejournal for Courting Trouble showed up, I mentioned Devil's Corner there too.

Anyway… I recently read another of Lisa’s novels, and Mary DiNunzio once again takes center stage.

For me, it was the usual Scottoline experience. There’s the familiarity with the characters, and the very comfortable and homey feel when Mary goes to her parents’ house. Judy wasn’t in the picture so much this time around though, it was really about Mary going her own way and dealing with the skeletons in her closet. There was a lot of mention of her husband Mike who had passed away, but I couldn’t remember Mike at all! 🙁

It was not surprising how the book touched on the what ifs of life. Mary was wondering how life could have turned out if things were different in high school. Sometimes I think of crossroads I’ve gone through, and wonder how things could be had I chosen a different path. The good thing is, I have no reason to really regret any of the choices I made. Mary shouldn’t regret any of hers either.

If there was something I didn’t like about Lady Killer, it’s that none of the Mean Girls turned out to be okay in their adulthood. No, scratch that. They apparently were happy with their lives and they probably even consider themselves successful. But it’s so obvious that Mary was being held on a higher ground because she’s now a lawyer and all that. The Mean Girls all worked in a beauty salon. They still had each other though, and they were still for the most part, Mean. Why couldn’t Mean Girls have turned out to become lawyers too? Why couldn’t they have made something else of themselves? Not ALL geeks turn out okay, and not all meanies turn out to be losers when they grow up. Haha.

Hays. I thought that if I tried focusing on something like a book I read, I would write and it would make sense. Apparently, it doesn’t make a difference. I’m still stuck in a rut. Pfft.

I hope my awful writing doesn’t turn you off on Lady Killer.

BookSale Finds

I don’t know how many times I’ve mentioned this before: I’m a sucker for second-hand books. Sunday’s Greenhills date would not have been complete without checking out BookSale. We walked out of there with almost a thousand pesos worth of reading material. Haha.  I’ve said it before, with the books we have in this house, we would be wise getting into business to sell used books.

Apart from this pile, we got one for the boyfriend, and a PC Utilities magazine too. That last one turned out to be a good find but I’ll blog about it more some other time. Maeve Binchy is one of my favorite authors, the last one of hers that I read is Quentins.

I was excited with this particular find:

And I almost didn’t get it. After all, I still haven’t really baked anything out of The Pioneer Woman Cooks which I finally got back in February, and it’s been a long time since I took out my Field Guide to Cookies. And then there’s also my Hello, Cupcake! book that’s sitting in a dark cabinet. I just don’t want this one to meet the same fate. Besides, it’d be a waste of money to buy something and not use it.

But I opened it, and well, couldn’t put it back on the shelves:

Could you have resisted these? The Cupcake Deck has 25 cupcake recipes in individual booklets. No need to copy the recipe onto an index card. 🙂 The photos are great too. The deck makes for a nice gift. The box I got isn’t mint condition though (2nd hand remember), it’s breaking apart at the seams, but I don’t mind.

Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief (movie)

I blogged about reading The Lightning Thief last week, now here’s my take on the big screen version. Checkout the trailer:

This is one of those films that really followed their own take than stay true to the novel that was originally written for young kids. First I would like to say that I liked that movie and think that it is still worth watching. But I will also have to say that I like the book more. Okay, so we say that very often but this time is a bit different. I actually felt disappointed and a little let down. I guess I was expecting a lot from a Chris Columbus film.

Percy Jackson was supposed to be 12 years old when the series started. The actor looks nowhere like he was in sixth grade. He looks more like a highschool freshman or even older, and resembles Zac Efron of HighSchool Musical fame. He is cute though. 🙂 As for Athena’s daughter Annabeth, wasn’t she supposed to be blonde like her mom? I like her, she’s pretty and has personality, but she just didn’t fit the description. And where was her cap of invisibility?

Clarisse, daughter of Ares, was nowhere in the film. Now I wonder, if they ever come out with the sequel, how do they introduce her and her history with Percy? Oh, Ares was nowhere in the film too.  And come to think of it, was Kronos even mentioned? There was no Oracle too, and no quest.

I’m also not very happy about how they presented Camp Half-Blood Hill (Mr. D was missing too). It seemed so medieval. The boyfriend says it was very Spartan-like. The Camp was supposed to look like just any other camp, and the campers wearing shorts and t-shirts. No, in the movie they wore armors and they had old-school cabins. Chiron also knew beforehand who Percy’s dad was, instead of having to wait for it to be revealed. So that meant that Percy didn’t have to crash at the Hermes cabin at all.

There were other points of departure from the novel, and I probably won’t be able to name all of them now.

In terms of special effects, we felt like the movie didn’t do so well specially in the beginning of the film. Eventually though, you kinda started to appreciate it. So I guess it just wasn’t consistent? Medusa’s snakes looked great…

And Luke, he didn’t get much exposure even when he turned out to be the bad guy. They didn’t show him teaching Percy sword fighting. And he didn’t look like he had a scar on his face, it was flawless and didn’t look like he needed an acne scar cream, lol. Well okay I don’t think he had acne problems at all, but the scar he got from his earlier quest was, I think, an important facet of his personality…

Now I realize that all I’ve got to say are criticisms, aren’t we normally like that? If I didn’t read the book prior to seeing the movie, I might have appreciated it more.  All in all, it wasn’t a very memorable movie.

Since posting about this book and watching the movie, I have read books 2 and 3, and have liked them even more. There is more excitement in the next books. I just started with the fourth book today.

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