Filipino Friday: Kids and Books

"Filipino Friday"

This week on Filipino Friday, bloggers talk about kids and books by answering the following questions: “What were your favorite books as a kid? Do you still read children’s books? If you would give a book to your younger self, what would it be?

I don’t remember having one particular favorite book as a kid. I do remember reading. A lot. I remember getting a reprimand for reading while the car was moving, for reading while walking–and then, because it happens, falling down a sewer because I was paying more attention to the book than where I was walking.

Even then I didn’t discriminate with the books I read. I would pick up a volume from the encyclopedia one day, and a Bobbsey Twins novel the next. I remember picking up a romance novel, the one where characters ‘make love,’ and never being told to not read it. I remember my parents bringing me my weekly local komiks every Friday when they come home from work. I remember stealing into my mom’s stash of horror komiks too.

No, I don’t have a favorite book. I still don’t, mulling it over now. I do have books I like to read again from time to time, but are they my favorites? What’s the criteria? I just like them.

There are books that really stand out in my reading history though.

There’s Jude Deveraux’s A Knight in Shining Armor which was the first romance novel I really enjoyed reading. I loved the mix of fantasy, comedy, and romance. I loved the time travel. And I remember loving the premise of time affecting love much more with Jude Deveraux’s Remembrance.

But those aren’t really books for kids.

I remember not liking A Little Princess very much when I first read it as a kid. But fast forward to a couple of decades later, and it’s now one of my go-to books when I just want to feel good. That’s considered a children’s book, right? A Little Princess?

And then there’s Rot & Ruin by Jonathan Maberry. It’s Young Adult, not really a children’s book. But if there’s one book that I’ve read that I would want to give my younger self–that would be it.

There’s also Inkheart. The early years of Harry Potter, although I much preferred the latter years… Artemis Fowl

Again, I don’t really discriminate when it comes to books. I read anything I find intriguing. It doesn’t matter if it’s for kids, for young adults, or for more mature readers. As long as it interests me, you’ll see me pick it up. And then I’ll write about it here. And if I really like it, I’m going to share it with everyone I know. Heck, I’d even share it with people I don’t know–

Which I’m planning to do at the Filipino ReaderCon this coming November 9! So if you have nothing planned that day, hang out with us at Ateneo de Manila University’s Rizal Library. Join us for an afternoon of talk, talk, book sharing, and more talk!

See you there!

Book: Moonlight Masquerade

"Moonlight Masquerade"

After being abruptly jilted, Sophie Kincaid flees to the place her friend Kim Aldredge calls heaven on earth. But Sophie’s first taste of Edilean is far from heavenly: after her car breaks down on a country road, she is nearly run over by a speeding sports car. A small act of revenge brings satisfaction, and word quickly spreads that a gorgeous newcomer gave the driver, the notoriously bitter Dr. Reede Aldredge, a dressing down! But it isn’t the first time the fiery artist has gone too far for payback; a secret possession she carries with her could shatter her ex-boyfriend’s future. Reede Aldredge has secrets, too, including a desire to get closer to the beauty who is turning his dark world upside down. Under the night skies, their masquerade is magic–but will it turn to dust by the light of day?

Magic definitely turned to dust with this latest romance novel by Jude Deveraux.

Now, I think it’s no secret that I’ve been following Jude Deveraux’s romance novels. Heck, she’s the only romance author I’ve been reading so far for this blog. Save for Kristin Hannah that one time. So it saddens me to say that I am extremely disappointed with Moonlight Masquerade.

Oh, it starts out good enough. Jude Deveraux is still a great writer for easy-reading. But it’s the plotting and the pacing that’s gotten sloppy.

Romance novels usually end one way: with a happy ending. Sometimes, they’re open-ended enough that a second or third book might be in order. With this trilogy, Jude Deveraux gives enough of an ending for the first two books that you don’t long for more. Unfortunately, she has overdone it a little for this last book.

In Moonlight Masquerade, we get one fully-formed heroine in Sophie. Reede is a little too cut-out for my taste, but he has more character in him than Travis from Stranger in the Moonlight, definitely. Unfortunately, those are the only two good things I can say about this book.

Let’s list down the bad:

Number one: we have meddlesome characters who push the story forward because the story doesn’t want to move on its own. That, I feel, is lazy writing. Especially for someone like Jude Deveraux who I don’t remember having to resort to such tricks before.

Number two: the love story doesn’t sweep you off your feet. Jecca and Tristan, from the first book, had the love that defied what was expected. Kim and Travis, from the second book, had the love that was deep-rooted. In Moonlight Masquerade, Sophie and Reede had a love that made them miserable. How are you supposed to feel romantic after that?

Number three–which, I think now, should have come after number one–we have way too many characters to care about. There’s Carter, the ex-boyfriend, there’s the robbers, and then a guy named Henry who appears out of nowhere. I mean, come on. Are they really that important to the story? Well, Carter, maybe. But the others?

Number four: too many subplots. Isn’t this a romance novel about the love story of Sophie and Reede? Then why do they disappear at times? Why do we have to find out what’s happening to them through the eyes of other people who are better off in the background? And what the heck was up with Sophie starting a sandwich shop?! Really? What did that add to the story? Aside from the excuse it gives Sophie to stay in Edilean for a few weeks more? It reeks of deus ex machina.

And number five: a forced happy ending. There’s nothing less romantic than compromise. It’s a reality of life, yes, but isn’t that what we’re supposed to escape when we dive into books like this? We don’t want reality! We want true love! We want passion! We want to see two characters so in love that they would do anything in their power to be with each other! Compromise can work–but did we really need to see how miserable they were with their compromise?

And the novel had the gall to cite The Gift of the Magis! That short story worked because the sacrifice the two characters made didn’t make them miserable. It made them better people, and made them appreciate each other more. If that was the intent for Sophie and Reede, it did not translate.

I could probably go on and on about what I didn’t like about this book. But I’ll stop there. Instead, let’s see if other people felt the same way as I did–or if they saw something in it that I didn’t:
Oh Damn Books
Wakena Runen’s World
Fresh Fiction

Book: Stranger in the Moonlight

"Stranger in the Moonlight"

Kim Aldredge is delighted that her dear college ‘sister’ Jecca has found lasting love with Kim’s cousin Tristan. But despite her flourishing jewelry-making career, Kim’s own happiness seems as distant as the childhood summer when she played the hours away with young Travis Merritt, who came to Edilean with his mother under mysterious circumstances. At the end of that innocent season, he promised Kim he would return one day…and then vanished without even a goodbye. Years later, a worn photo is Kim’s only proof of the perfect joy they shared. But when she least expects it, Travis, now a savvy Manhattan attorney, will crash into her life once more. Will Kim see the boy she knew under the man he’s become?

Why do male leads in romance novels have to be so perfect? Don’t the authors know they’re developing more hopeless romantics, as well as reinforcing the notion that women will not find better in the real world?

I mean, come on, how can someone like me compete with a guy like Travis?

Not that I’m in love with Kim or anything. I hardly know her. Which isn’t a good thing, considering I just read a whole book about her romance with Travis.

Okay, to be fair, Jude Deveraux hasn’t lost her magic. The novel was nice, and it was an enjoyable read. It’s just that–with all the build-up about Travis, and about Joe Layton, and Penny, and Russell, and the little about Lucy Cooper’s past–I feel as if the author forgot that Kim was her main character.

Aside from her being one to embrace fun, her feisty character, and her jewelry-making–I don’t know her at all. Which is a little disappointing since Jecca, the heroine from the previous novel, felt complete. As did Tristan, although he too was a little too perfect.

I feel like author Deveraux did her character a disservice by making her too hung up on one guy. On hinging this whole story in a destiny premise that ends the book before it has even begun. And while, as I said, the book was enjoyable, there never really was a doubt on who would end up with who. That the book will offer something new.

Which is why it took me a while to finish the book, considering the fact that it’s chic lit. I eat chic lit. I can finish it off in one sitting. This took me days because I couldn’t invest in Kim’s journey.

And you’re probably wondering if I’ve gone mad because I seem to be saying two different things. Let’s clarify: the book is good enough. It’s enjoyable enough. But it’s not original. It reads like a Jude Deveraux novel because you get updates about characters you’ve met in the past. But at the same time, it doesn’t read like a Jude Deveraux novel because there’s nothing new to learn, and there are no plus ones that would make this novel stand out from other novels.

Those are my thoughts.

Let’s see what other people have to say about the novel:
Bodice Rippers, Femme Fatales and Fantasy
RT Book Reviews
Caught in a Bad Romance

Book: Moonlight in the Morning

"Moonlight in the Morning"

Sparks are flying between Jecca Layton and Dr. Tristan Aldredge. At the urging of her dear friend Kim, Jecca put the ruthless New York City art world on hold to spend the summer pursuing her passion for painting while enjoying Edilean’s tightly knit artistic community. For years, Kim’s cousin Tris–the town’s handsome and dedicated doctor–felt a deep connection to Kim’s college “sister” Jecca, though they had met only once before; now, Jecca is sswept off her feet by this strong, sensitive man in a summer of sensual delights. But when long shadows announce Jecca’s return to “real life” and the big city, the lovers must decide: Can they survive the distance? And who will sacrifice the life they’ve created for themselves to be together?

This being chic lit, I think it’s safe to say that we already know the answer to that question. What I would like to know now is, how was this synopsis able to pass the standards of Jude Deveraux’s editor? I mean, seriously.

Bad synopsis-writing aside, I liked Moonlight in the Morning enough. Not because there was anything new in how the story was told, nor was it because of particularly strong characterizations–it was just sweet. Predictable. A reading for lazy days. Which explains why it took me a few days to read this book through. I mean, I know I’ve been busy, but even during the odd hours I found to rest, I never felt the urge to continue reading the book.

Now, I’ve become sort of a fan for Jude Deveraux books, because they tend to lean toward the fantastical. But reading Moonlight in the Morning, I noticed that the author isn’t really good at giving her characters distinct voices. Or maybe it’s just with her later works. I had to do a number of double-reads just to make sure if I was reading lines from Jecca or from Tristan.

When your male lead starts to sound like your female lead, there’s a problem.

Moonlight in the Morning presents an unusual set-up for a chic lit romance novel: it’s the guy who’s acting like a girl, and the girl is acting like a… Okay, maybe not so unusual. The thing is, it’s not very common for romance novels to have a male lead who is so feminine. And Tristan, with his pretty face, and his love of orchids, and his love for caring for other people? He’s not exactly the type of man girls would swoon for. Right? He’s not a bad boy. He’s not a fixer-upper.

And so we go back to the question posed by the synopsis: who will sacrifice the life they’ve created for themselves to be together? Do you even need to guess?

As a romance novel, Moonlight in the Morning is definitely not one of Jude Deveraux’s best work. But even though it isn’t a good book, I must say, Jude Deveraux hasn’t lost her touch when it comes to grand gestures. They still bring that loving feeling.

If only she’d been able to sustain that feeling for the whole book.

Anyway, here’s what other people said about the book:
Fiction Vixen
Book’d Out

Book: The Scent of Jasmine

"The Scent of Jasmine" by Jude DeverauxWould you risk your life–on the love of a lifetime?

Charleston, 1799: A daughter of Southern gentility and a gifted painter, Catherine Edilean Harcourt has no lack of suitors at home in Virginia, waiting to fulfill her dream of marriage and family. But Cay’s adventurous spirit, fostered by growing up with her three brothers, is piqued while visiting her godfather in South Carolina. Bedridden with a broken leg, he asks Cay to fill in for him on an urgent task: on her way to a fancy dress ball, she must deliver a packed horse to an old friend’s son–who also happens to be an escaped convict charged with murdering his wife! Cay agrees to the plan, which doesn’t go at all as planned . . . whereupon she finds herself fleeing Alexander McDowell’s captors, riding blind into the night with the fugitive Scotsman. Though she should fear him, Cay finds herself overwhelmingly attracted to Alex, and drawn into his tale of misguided justice and his innocence as they seek refuge in the steamy Florida everglades. Will trusting him be the worst mistake of her life? Or will falling in love be the salvation both of them have been looking for?

The last time I read a Jude Deveraux novel, I was looking to cleanse my book-reading palate. My other reason, I was trying to study romance. This time, there’s no palate to cleanse as I haven’t been reading a lot–but I am still trying to study romance. And I picked Jude Deveraux once more because I find it easy to read her book. It took me around six hours to finish this one.

The Scent of Jasmine is the fourth book off her Edilean series, and it is this book that makes Miss Deveraux’s formula for a successful series most apparent.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that almost all of Miss Deveraux’s books have something to do with a feisty heroine, a wronged hero, and a comic relief here and there. Usually, the setting has a lot of people you would grow to love as well, people you would want to read about next. But that’s where The Scent of Jasmine changed courses.

The book centers on the two main leads. And while you do get introduced to other characters, they play very minimal roles. This time, Miss Deveraux doesn’t support her leads with quirky and lovable characters you’ll grow to love as well. The author just gave the basics for a love story to work: a man and a woman. Sure the feisty heroine and the wronged hero archetypes are in full force, but Miss Deveraux still manages to weave her magic and make this story seem something you’ve only now encountered.

So no, when I wrote that this book made the author’s formula very apparent, it wasn’t because The Scent of Jasmine was very formulaic–though, aren’t all romance novels that? What I meant was that the book takes off in a refreshing way that makes you see how standard her previous books were. The book still has the author’s voice, but she’s also breaking her mold at the same time.

And because of this, I want to read whatever Miss Deveraux writes next–even if it’s just to see how she tops this one.