**spoiler alert** There was this one stand-out moment back when I was reading the first installment, Artemis Fowl. I remember it was while I was waiti**spoiler alert** There was this one stand-out moment back when I was reading the first installment, Artemis Fowl. I remember it was while I was waiting for my next class at the university.
That was about 6 years ago.
I remember that I was sitting cross-legged at the corridor and was immersed in the story when one of my professors happened to walk by. He called my attention and we greeted each other hello but then at the last second he did a double take upon seeing the cover of the book in my hands. His smile grew wider, saying that he loves Artemis Fowl, and that he was glad to see one of his students reading the series.
Indeed, I remember a few days later after having finished the book feeling that I can't wait to latch on onto the second installment. There's a certain charm about Colfer's writing. Added to that was the sometimes-distracting allure of the symbolic codes on the pages.
Alas. As I said, that was half a decade or so ago. I cannot really give an excuse as to why I haven’t made good on my promise to myself to immediately hunt for the 2nd book.
Fast-track to the present.
These days? These days I must admit to becoming more and more predisposed towards the digital format. Perhaps there’s still a part in me that can wax nostalgic about the sensate experience of riffling through the crisp pages of a paperback, the old musty smell that leaps out of the pages. But I also have come to appreciate the convenience of the ecopy.
Because that is exactly how I crammed years of regret for promises unfulfilled and subsequently compensated for lost momentum. Perhaps driven by this guilt, I ploughed through the entire Fowl series in a few weeks’ time.
I re-read the first installment after 6 or so years and found myself grinning yet again once I stumbled upon one of my favorite quotes: “Confidence is ignorance. If you’re feeling cocky, it’s because there’s something you don’t know.”
From then on I resolved to finish what I began.
And in every installment, do you know what I found? I found that I couldn’t wait for Mulch to pop up. For yet another one of his wise cracks and pithy declarations of ‘enforced’ cooperation you would think he’s being asked to self-immolate. For Foaly to boast yet another one of his inventions while suffering the indignity of having ‘average’ people still unable to appreciate the extent of his brilliance. For Artemis to up the ante on his ‘insufferable’ meter as he privately becomes more self-aware of what his actions can lead to, and the importance of having friends whom he can rely on. For Julius Root to be all bark and no bite, a crusty old bear that has no time for nonsense and who is laughingly easily baited to lose his temper.
(And, yes. I KNOW. I don’t really want to think about Root because I still mourn. And pages and pages after that incident, I still believed he really wasn’t gone. No one can replace the curmudgeon.)
Also for some reason, I became increasingly interested in Butler. The seemingly cold-hearted bodyguard whose singular name can spark fear in Artemis’ enemies became more and more ‘human’. I found myself despairing when he was shot dead… when he revealed his name – I was edging Artemis on to hurry up and find Holly to resuscitate Butler. BECAUSE BUTLER DEAD IS SIMPLY.NOT.ACCEPTABLE.
He was Artemis’ moral compass. The one who, although would never dream to challenge Artemis’ decisions outright, nevertheless can succinctly convey his disapproval should his principal cross the line. And that moment when he demanded a ‘proper’ greeting from Holly? I gushed when she kissed him on the cheek and hugged him as far as her arms would allow. He’s such a dad.
So when Artemis went back from Limbo and was trudging up the cabin where Foaly told him that Butler has kept vigil for 3 years… when he perused the books that his faithful protector and friend has been reading all this time until his return… and when Butler confronted him from behind…. I felt that that moment was the pinnacle of the series. Theirs is not a love story and yet… you know what? In a sense it was.
The instances when Butler can read – and read well – what Artemis is currently hatching in his devious little mind. And how Artemis himself can automatically and clearly surmise what Butler is thinking. The angst that Butler felt when he thought that Artemis no longer trusts him. His frustration that he has aged and is no longer as quick or as strong in order to protect his charge after being brought back to life. And that moment when Holly realized how Butler can never be the same should Artemis be lost to them yet again. I felt vulnerable (?) in these moments.
(Perhaps this an appropriate moment as any to insert that this is where I am conflicted about ‘The Lost Colony’. More than half the time I absolutely cannot understand the convoluted complications of time travelling back and forth and across dimensions and planes. But I think the installment made up plenty nevertheless what with Number 1’s adorable personality and the Arty-Butler reunion.)
I don’t know… but these moments… Butler and Artemis. Artemis and Butler. The dynamics between these two goes so far and so deep. Can I just say I cried when Artemis was saying goodbye to Holly in this last installment and was agonizing in the knowledge of how Butler will take the news of his decision to sacrifice himself?
Yep. I was dripping snot.
Belated this – I should have said that this categorically is not a review of any of the Fowl series. I can’t review any one book because I really don’t think I can without considering the overarching narratives of the main characters across the entire series. Colfer has deftly allowed room for each to grow and develop, making this small and merry band of mismatched characters endear themselves to the reader.
Sure, the interest will always be the genius of Artemis and how he can make sense out of such a quagmire as they repeatedly find themselves in with a brilliant stroke of hutzpah. The unrelenting mania of Opal Koboi whose ambitions transcend anything, everything, and anywhen.
But I would like to think that the legacy of the series is also about relationships. How the many fantastical death-defying adventures in fairy and human world alike can forge something so resolute and lasting. It can be bent and beaten to the brink of breaking but the trials only serve to make the bond stronger. More unyielding.
And to be frank – For me? The shenanigans of the antagonists across the series blur into one another. What really sticks out is how, little by little, Artemis and Co. welcome each other in warmer tones than the last in every beginning of their adventures. They’d rather, of course, not meet at all in such dire circumstances and actually wish that they all can hang out without the threat of world annihilation or some such hanging over their heads, but there’s no denying their growing delight in being reunited in each other’s company as the series progresses.
Okay, to get it out of the way: Charmain is one of the main characters I've ever come across who I did not particularly care for. And, believe you me,Okay, to get it out of the way: Charmain is one of the main characters I've ever come across who I did not particularly care for. And, believe you me, I am saddened by that fact.
I thought that she was going to be this young lady who, despite having her head up in the clouds with her books, will display some charming qualities that would make her irreverent and interesting. But -- spoiler alert (?) -- she turned out to be selfish, thoughtless, lazy, irresponsible, rude, and ungrateful.
Sure, the novel seemed to attempt to show her in a bit of good light later on. But there really is that impression -- at least with this reader -- that she did not come away from her adventure truly learning anything for the improvement of her attitude or behavior.
Good thing, at least, that there were Howl and Co. to make the story somewhat bearable. Better, still, that Howl in this instance was so adorable to such an extent that I kept having the compulsion to re-read Howl's Moving Castle. Sophie was still Sophie although she really was more preoccupied with being a mother to a bratty (?) son (sorry, Morgan. But you really are a handful. I wonder if Howl finds you intolerable).
Curiously enough, this third installment to Howl -- aside from being the one I least liked -- also seemed to feature a truly formidable and frightening enemy. The respective quote-unquote antagonists in Moving Castle and in Castle in the Air were devious in their own ways but were not what I would call as "cold-blooded killers".
The lubbock in this novel, however, is as bad as they get. And it is the first time in this series that the author perpetuated the feeling of abject fear for the lives of the protagonists.
My point, though? Nothing. I just thought it was a curious fact that there's a darker "feeling" in this novel.
Another aspect that I found peculiar in this story, with respect to the first 2 novels, is the flimsiness of the "conflict" necessitating a wizard's interference: investigating where the coffers of gold are disappearing to.
Maybe I was spoiled by the first 2 installments. They had the honest-to-god-goodness feel of being real adventures. And almost all characters were funny. But this third book seemed a bit flat. A little lackluster. Maybe because of Charmain and her churlishness.
Or maybe it's me. And I just didn't want to accept that, after this, I would never encounter any adventure of Howl and Sophie's ever again. *(unless I'm wrong -- someone please correct me if I am horribly wrong. I shall welcome it)....more
Perhaps it is a measure of how excited I was over the prospect of encountering Howl and Sophie again, that, for quite some time, I deluded myself intoPerhaps it is a measure of how excited I was over the prospect of encountering Howl and Sophie again, that, for quite some time, I deluded myself into believing that Flower-in-the-Night was their daughter and that the garden where Abdullah and she first met is the same one found in the property that Howl (and Calcifer) found for Sophie.
But of course that was firmly squashed once Flower-in-the-Night described the only man she has ever seen in all her life -- her father. Howl with a belly? Inconceivable.
Quickly recovering from that mild disappointment, I continued on with Abdullah's exploits with the flying carpet. And, after turning the last page, I can come up with nothing less than praise for this sequel. Not a single chapter will bore the reader. And every new adventure is better than the last.
Abdullah turned out to be an extremely likeable, hugely relatable character. He is far from stupid or recklessly impulsive, yet events conspire to put him in the middle of a rut that leaves you smacking your palm against your forehead. And continue reading.
And Flower-in-the-Night is so surreal-lynice and surprisingly smart about the ways of the world, considering her sheltered childhood. Though not as iron-willed as Sophie, she will nevertheless surprise readers by her level-headedness. I would admit that I was initially hardly interested in Abdullah's resolve to rescue her, as I -- once again -- believed that she might turn out to be flighty or self-centered. But the woman Abdullah encountered in moving castle was hardly a damsel in distress. And, is, in fact, more than a match for any man.
The surprisingly refreshing aspect of this novel, as well, is the lack of a purely, fervently, evil character for the sake of pitting good against bad. The one being that had to be "bad" -- if the story really had to have a "bad" persona -- turned out to be so comical as to be endearing.
Actually -- come to think of it -- practically every character in the novel was hilarious, that I soon forgot that I was on the lookout for Howl or Sophie.
For sure, when the time came for the "big reveals", I was left slack-jawed and asking myself, "how the hell did I not realize---??"
And, oh, how wonderful it was to indeed, finally be reacquainted once again with Howl and Co. The story can sure stand alone relative to Howl's Moving Castle yet is still very much influenced by the memorable characters from that novel. This sequel truly is a treat....more
I cannot recall what exactly got me going, but about a month ago, I found myself suddenly gripped with restless yearning to watch (or re-watch) any fiI cannot recall what exactly got me going, but about a month ago, I found myself suddenly gripped with restless yearning to watch (or re-watch) any film by Studio Ghibli. I cannot remember if this was brought about by seeing a Ghibli film on cable around that time (honestly, I can't remember if this happened, or what film it was if such a thing indeed occurred), or coming across a post in tumblr about a Ghibli film. Nevertheless, the restlessness took root and had to be quenched.
So for the following weeks, I re-watched the likes of My Neighbor Totoro (and promptly fell in love all over again), Ponyo, Princess Mononoke, and Spirited Away, while belatedly discovering the wonders in the likes of From Up on Poppy Hill, Only Yesterday, Whisper of the Heart, The Wind Rises, Porco Rosso, Nausicaa, The Cat Returns, and My Neighbors the Yamadas. I staunchly refrained from re-watching Grave of the Fireflies because I refuse to subject my feelings to that kind of raw pain again.
Amidst the re-discovery and the new discoveries that have left me -- up to this day -- thirsty for more Ghibli productions, there's really only 2 films that have strong sentimental value to me: Spirited Away and Howl's Moving Castle. The former because it was the first ever Ghibli film I watched and is perhaps solely responsible for why I am writing this right now; and the latter as the second film which cemented this awe I have with this brand of animation.
True, Ghibli's rendition of Howl's Moving Castle, for me, was not so much preoccupied with a tidiness in plot as with rendering unforgettable special effects. Thus, as breathtakingly beautiful animation films go, Howl will always have choice spot.
Then of course, in re-watching Howl, there arose the disquiet on the perhaps-unintentional vagueness in some aspects of its storyline. In between the scenes when Sophie kept reverting from being a bent old woman to her own young self albeit with grey hair, and the somewhat confusing scene when she encountered the younger Howl, I wanted to know how the novel the film was based on fared against its silverscreen counterpart.
It helped that Diana Wynne Jones apparently gave her approval on this Ghibli adaptation -- this, in spite of the fact that Miyazaki was observed to have significantly veered away from huge aspects of the novel.
And, after reading the novel, let me tell you here and now: if Ghibli's Howl was enjoyable, Jones' Howl was even more so. I would go far as to say that it would be a huge injustice (to yourself) if you confine (er... yourself) to only watching the film adaptation.
Because Howl and Sophie on paperback is infinitely more charming. More engrossing. And more engaging. Certainly had oodles of space to grow as characters.
Reading Jones' novel did, in fact, resuscitate one reservation I didn't know I still had after having watched Ghibli's Howl those many years ago. The romance between the two. The wonder of witchcraft and sorcery and magic in the film can perhaps be excused for blinding the viewer to the glaring deficiency in developing the feelings between Sophie and Howl.
(and -- I will stop you right in your tracks before you break something in your fervor to violently protest something so insipid as romantic love. I take no notice of the fact that this is categorized as "children's fantasy". And I don't mind that neither is this pegged as "romance," -- it would be foolhardy to simply refer to this work as one. What it does is straddle the charm that can be found between the easy reading of children's lit and the feel-good sensation of budding romance.)
The novel will show you just how this "love" wondrously came about. There are the incessant bickering between Howl and Sophie. The moments when Howl forgot himself and actually showed kindness in front of Sophie's disbelieving eyes. In times when he expressed exasperation over Sophie's new mishaps, and in times when Sophie slowly truly became Howl's champion, precisely because of his flaws.
Howl in the film is -- let's be honest -- shallow. In the sense that he is shallow for vanity as well as shallow for anything inherently good. There is the impression that he found a bit of humanity once Sophie came into his life, but precious little is left for anyone else. In the novel, he presents himself as all things undesirable from the get-go, but is, in truth, much more than he lets on.
Jones' novel will also show just how much more complex Sophie's family's role is. And, really, how much more there actually are characters in the story. And how everyone is so expertly entwined with the lives of one another that you marvel at the intricacies that Jones has woven.
I implore you to read this novel. Watching the film will help, if only to visually show how Howl's castle is ensorcelled. But for everything else, Jones' novel will leave you with an infinitely more satisfying feeling.
And it got better when I realized there were two -- yes 2! -- sequels. Because Howl and Sophie is a couple that you will find difficult to tear away from....more
I am not one much for writing letters. I used to when I was small. And all of them were addressed to my father abroad (dWhat a charming piece of work.
I am not one much for writing letters. I used to when I was small. And all of them were addressed to my father abroad (decidedly NOT unknown). Most of these, however, took no more than one page of a yellow pad. And lasted only for a few years before sputtering to a complete stop.
I cannot even recall what I wrote to him in those days. But I imagine that they were inane happenings in my as-yet uncomplicated childhood that, looking back now, were probably boring as hell.
But Jean Webster’s work reminds me how the art of handwritten correspondence is really on a league of its own. And perhaps something that only a character like Jerusha Abbot can master.
It’s not so much her ability to flit from grave despondency at what used to be her lot in life to the joys she is experiencing now in being out and about in the world, while also retrospectively appreciative of the lessons she has learned while in the Asylum. It’s more of keeping this undiluted vibrancy of the youth in the face of the silent audience of her missives. I adored how she prods and pokes at the character and imagined description of her “daddy” in the hopes of getting a reaction out of him. And yes, sustaining these letters is one of the conditions of her education… but it was the way she sustained it that kept me turning page after page. For, if it were me, and the recipient of my letters was silent as the grave (save for the odd gifts or two), it would not have been long before I wrote nonsensical stuff that perhaps would have increasingly turned slightly-hysterical for want of attention.
To be true, it became a race to reach the end of this novel – for surely we all were in tenterhooks as to the revelation of D-L-L. And perhaps most readers have already guessed way way long before the end; but I, being a special cookie, thwarted whatever hints might have been thrown my way.
And so it was really a nice surprise to this simpering reader of romance when she addressed her “first love letter.” ...more
Ever had the feeling that the characters were too big for the story?
I haven’t read much of Gaiman’s work, and my sentiments after reading this book isEver had the feeling that the characters were too big for the story?
I haven’t read much of Gaiman’s work, and my sentiments after reading this book is probably something familiar among his fans, but in reading The Graveyard Book, I could not help but have this niggling feeling that we were only being shown teasing glimpses of the promise behind each character.
Naturally, I think a lot of people will agree that the story will be far less interesting were it not for the mystery that is Silas.
Actually, all I really want to talk about is Silas.
And how badly I wish there’s a separate story about him. And the Honour Guard. And how he lived before being part of the Honour Guard. And how he and Miss Lupescu and Kandar and Haroun slew evil as the Honour Guard.
But if I were to solely focus on this book, then I suppose I can say that Gaiman was successful if his goal was to instill restlessness among his readers long after they have turned the last page. Because I definitely wanted more out of his characters. The Sleer? Definitely more. The ghouls? For certain. Even the Jacks.
Added to that is the conflict I felt towards Bod and his own conflict over his home and his wanderlust. The moments when he felt more comfortable being ignored while attending school were the times I liked him best. While him wanting more interaction with live humans made me side-eye him a bit. And yet I envy him having the hutzpah to go after his desire to travel the world. See? I’m confused.
I ramble on.
This has been an engrossing read. I should have said that from the first. But yes, I enjoyed this story.
This novel was one which I’ve always come across in the ‘Classics’ shelves – whether it be under theAnne of the ann-with-extra-‘e’, I luff your life…
This novel was one which I’ve always come across in the ‘Classics’ shelves – whether it be under the cheerful, bright lights of our local bookstore or among the dim, musty corners of my uni library. And precisely because it’s been readily accessible, I never really felt the need to get hold of it. Don’t judge me!
Deciding which books to read first and which ones to set aside for a later time is proving to be a real dilemma. And the fact that it took me only now to read Anne of Green Gables is a profound testament to the ass-hattery that is my reading priorities.
The short of it: I loved the pace, the serenity, and overall seeming little cares that never reallyworried the denizens of Avonlea.
If the greatest preoccupations back then were finding a bosom buddy to love “…as long as the sun and moon shall endure”, hosting a successful and very “grown-uppish” afternoon tea engagement, and pulling off a token – but still highly-dramatic – adaptation of an Arthurian legend by the side of a brook, I think I’d very much want to swap places with someone from said time.
Anne is a gem of a character. From her surprisingly-unannoying flair for the dramatics, endearing sincerity and earnestness, deep love for nature… not to mention, that propensity to imagine, and imagine big, she is one terribly unforgettable gal.
What’s even more engaging (and, indeed, proved to be the novel’s more comic parts), her vivid imagination and wayward tongue is almost always met with a long-suffering sigh or sarcastic quip from the indubitable Marilla. Trust her to bring Anne humorously down from the heights of ecstasy brought about by musings gone overboard.
In a way, I echo Marilla’s sentiments when she later on admitted feeling a sense of loss for the girl that Anne was. This novel, I think, inadvertently shows the intangible tragedy that comes with growing into adulthood – no matter how much one might wish it so, there’s a piece in every one that’s inevitably lost or shed off which can never be regained. And adulthood will be there to show you how tough, demanding, bitter, and full of worries life is.
Satiric as this whole novel might be, what with showing the lengths with which young girls back then comically worried more about their toilette and sleeve puffs and being ungainly paired off with a boy from school, and perhaps highlighting just how utterly provincial a quiet, tucked-in village could be from the world at large, Montgomery nevertheless drives her message home.
For me, it’s a nostalgia for one’s childhood innocence and phase of carefree abandonment (wholesome abandonment, mind!), a deep envy of living in the country where trees and brooks and profusions of wildflowers vie with one’s space, and the utter ease of knowing that, since one is brought up unaware of the existence of superfluous things like the latest gadgets or the apparent fashion to be jaded about life in general… the biggest pleasures could actually be had from the simplest of things.
In a way, I was sheepishly annoyed with it: “How dare this little story make me feel small??”
Because I was an ungrateful, careless gitShort and sweet.
In a way, I was sheepishly annoyed with it: “How dare this little story make me feel small??”
Because I was an ungrateful, careless git with my toys back then.
No, I didn’t decimate, but I always grew quickly tired of them…and certainly never to the extent that I slept with a stuffed animal. I’m sure if I did, it would be full of drool in no time.
Anywho, setting aside my self-centered ruminations, The Velveteen Rabbit is, truly, a charming story. To the extent that I was half-expecting something horribly terrible (redundancy for emphasis) to happen to the gentle little rabbit. The way it was achingly confronted by the ‘real’ rabbits and made to realize it’s shortcomings hind-foot-wise felt all too familiar – how people more and more equate being ‘real’ with the misguided idea of being physically ‘whole’; when in fact, the only thing that matters is how one feels and finds contentment with one’s lot in life.
This lovely story is a must-read. Doesn’t demand anything from the reader, but the message packs a wallop. ...more
Simple, straightforward insight into a kid’s world…
I confess to not being the kind of person who is overly fond of children. I don’t gravitate towardsSimple, straightforward insight into a kid’s world…
I confess to not being the kind of person who is overly fond of children. I don’t gravitate towards them, and I think the little ones can sense that – so they keep away from me. And in the end, we’re both left happy.
But that is not to say that I don’t empathize with kids. In those rare times that I have to be in the company of a gaggle of young ones, I find out how smart and even introspective they are, and how often they are underestimated by adults.
And that’s why I appreciate Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are. Hardly a hundred pages, but it managed to convey how earnestly simple a child’s wants are. They can be as audacious and precocious as they want to be, but, in the end, what it all comes down to is their expression of their need for love and attention.
Sendak’s book also imparts how richly endless a child’s imagination is. Something that is slowly forgotten as one grows up into adulthood. Such imagination is often supplanted later on with cynicism and distrust.
All in all, this little book full of iconic, elegant illustrations is sure to be a treat to little kids. I may not volunteer to read it to them (I’m really not that kind of a person), but I won’t hesitate handing it over as a present. ...more
It’s amazing how a book, barely a hundred in pages, could quickly and intensely impart so much sadness and despair, and with something so simple and aIt’s amazing how a book, barely a hundred in pages, could quickly and intensely impart so much sadness and despair, and with something so simple and as complicated as unconditional love.
Sure, a number of readers have probably thought that the tree was nothing but a big sop, a martyr blind to the selfishness and capricious whims of a child, but shouldn’t the object of our unceasing wonder be the always unpredictable capacity of one’s sacrifice for love? Beyond what a tree could give, imagine what a person would be willing to go through. Tragic, true—but that is what also makes us human. ...more
Lest I get carried away with verbose praise, I just want to say that this is superb storytelling by DonnOne of the most engrossing fictions I've read…
Lest I get carried away with verbose praise, I just want to say that this is superb storytelling by Donnelly. Admittedly, I had no knowledge of the real murder of a Grace Brown. And though her letters were indeed heartbreaking, and at turns, horrific to read, I was more fascinated with the lives of Mattie and Weaver – two of the strongest characters I've ever encountered. After reading this novel, I found myself grateful that I, as yet, have not gone through the kind of back-breaking, and, dare I say it, near soul-defeating hardships the people in this novel had. But it takes masterful narration like that of Donnelly's to infuse hope, laughter, and spirit in the stories of those living in Eagle Bay.
Mattie is as real a person as one could get – loves her family so much yet still aware of all of their flaws, including her own, torn between making right by her loved ones as well as yearning to break free of a suffocating way of life, so young still in so many ways yet mature enough to realize the kind of dreams she can have. And Weaver makes me envious as well for his fearlessness and strength.
A Northern Light will take you to heights of teasing glimpses of a happy-ending for all, as well as to the downs of heartrending drama and seemingly endless trials in a small, simple town. Very provocative. Intensely memorable. A must read for all....more
As Heller said, “the atrocities that horrified us a week ago become acceptable tomorrow…”
It’s a bit difficult to put into words how I felt about LowryAs Heller said, “the atrocities that horrified us a week ago become acceptable tomorrow…”
It’s a bit difficult to put into words how I felt about Lowry’s The Giver. The first thing that came to mind and just wouldn’t go away is “horrific”. And though one can’t really be caught surprised with the unfolding of events since Lowry, as a measure of her skill as a storyteller, quite expertly built up the climax, there’s still a part of me that kept thinking, “Surely it wouldn’t be so bad…”
Of course, it was inevitable that this seemingly eerily perfect world she created would topple. And it was all brought about by the power of memories and one’s yearning for love. It made me realize that I’ve never felt so perplexed and awed by a story in a long while.
Certainly dialectic and begging for a multitude of interpretations, The Giver is another one of those worthy reads that dared to explore, among other things, the boundaries of threshold a person can reach, along with one’s capacity to break free of bonds just to truly realize what it is to be human....more
(FYI, because of this overblown hype [and yes, I'm aware of the redundancy:], this previously held-as-a-favorite novel is now relegated to a 'good' re(FYI, because of this overblown hype [and yes, I'm aware of the redundancy:], this previously held-as-a-favorite novel is now relegated to a 'good' read. Damn it.)...more