There was a time a few years ago when I was hearing mass with my family, and I happened to stand beside this man at churOriginal post at One More Page
There was a time a few years ago when I was hearing mass with my family, and I happened to stand beside this man at church. The man wasn't dressed the way other people were dressed during Sunday mass. He looked scruffy, almost like he came straight from the streets to the church. He didn't look dangerous, and perhaps he even is nice given that he was in church and all. But what I really noticed were his hands. They were, if I were to be perfectly honest, kind of scary. The memory's vague, but I remember that it looked like he had some kind of skin disease -- lesions, wounds and spots -- the kind that one would refuse to touch in fear of contagion. I was afraid to touch it, knowing especially that at a certain part of the mass, I would have to hold his hand while praying The Lord's Prayer.
I tried, I really did. I was in church, and holding hands with a stranger during a prayer is the thing to do. It was the good thing, the kind thing, the loving thing. It was expected. I told myself that I would do it, that I would hold his hand during The Lord's Prayer and not be scared or repulsed or look for a hand sanitizer after the prayer. I told myself, I prepared myself and I wanted to do it.
But I didn't. When the priest told everyone to "join hands and as one family pray the prayer Jesus had taught us," I chickened out, opened my hand but did not take his, looked ahead and prayed, feeling the guilt grow heavier as the mass went on.
This particular memory may seem insignificant and well, I may be blowing things out of proportion. Perhaps the man never even noticed me at all -- but it struck me because I really wanted to do the kind thing, but I didn't because I was afraid. Just like how the other kids and grown ups in the book reacted to Auggie in Wonder by R.J. Palacio. August Pullman was born with a facial deformity that made him quite special to his family for his need of extra care. He has never attended a normal school, until he agreed with his parents to start attending fifth grade at Beecher Prep. Auggie is a perfect fit for the school, except maybe for his face. Told in Auggie's point of view as well as five more from the people around him, we follow Auggie as he faces one of the most challenging times of his young life.
I was prepared for a barrage of emotions that Wonder could probably give me, after reading several reviews and updates from Goodreads friends about this book. I knew that I was probably going to like it, but what I wasn't prepared for were what kind of emotions it would bring. Being a middle grade book, the writing was pretty simple and easy to read, especially since most of the narrators were kids as well. Wonder is bound to remind readers of their own middle school (or in my case, late elementary years, since we do not have middle school in the Philippines) experiences. It's strange to think of it, but young people can be very mean, even if it's not on purpose, and Wonder shows how it could be. My heart went out for Auggie, especially since he did not ask to look like the way he does. Like his parents, I wanted the best for him too.
The story was told not just in Auggie's point of view, but also with five other kids who surrounded Auggie's life. This made the book a little easier to relate to because let's admit it: most of us don't have what Auggie has. Of all the characters, I identified the most with his friend, Jack. I really wish I could be like Summer, that I could choose to be kind before anything else. I think Jack represents the side of everyone who tries to be good but fails, and then tries again anyway. And I think the trying is the most important part of it all.
There's a lot of buzz with what Wonder teaches, or attempts to teach, but I think maybe we shouldn't over think it too much. Sure, there are some parts that may seem a little simple, that the ending may seem to be a little too nicely wrapped up, almost like how a movie is done and we know real life is never that way. I see it as a simple thing: I see Wonder as a middle grade book that teaches kindness -- to quote, "...to be kinder than necessary." That as human beings, we do not just have "...the capacity to be kind, but the very choice of kindness..." and to choose that even when it's not easy, when it's inconvenient, even when it's uncomfortable.
Even though reading Wonder reminded me of that particular incident I shared at the start of this review which brought back some of the guilty feelings, this book made me feel a lot better after reading it. A little bit more whole, even. With a stronger resolve to be kinder than necessary. I think that a book that can make its readers feel like that is worth a second glance....more
I've been trying to think of the best way to review this book, because I feel like the first review I wrote for The TruthOriginal post One More Page
I've been trying to think of the best way to review this book, because I feel like the first review I wrote for The Truth About Forever did not do it any justice. The thing is, I don't know how to write a proper review for this book without squealing or "sa-woon"-ing so much. Because believe me, I know I did that so many times when I was rereading this book.
But let me try again. Sarah Dessen's The Truth About Forever is one of my favorite books of all time. It's not my first Dessen, but it's the book that made me love Dessen and made her one of my auto-buy authors. It's one book I've reread multiple times and still get all swoony and happy and wishing for a romance like Macy and Wes did. Yes, even with their drama, because it made the ending so much satisfying in the end.
The Truth About Forever is about Macy Queen, whose life spun out of control when her dad died in front of her. Macy tried to hold it together for the sake of her family, hiding her grief and seeking perfection, thinking that this would help her mother who seeks perfection in everything she does as well, her own way of dealing with loss. The story starts with Macy's boyfriend, Jason, leaving for Brain Camp and Macy facing a long summer with her strict schedule and routine. She's okay, she always thought. Until one day, she meets the Wish Catering crew. One bad afternoon at her summer job, with a bad email to boot, she joins Wish, makes new friends, and meets Wes -- the seemingly perfect guy with his own not-so-clean past, who likes flaws. Things turn interesting for Macy as she gets to know these people, and as she realizes that maybe it's not so bad if her strictly-scheduled life unravels and she lets chaos in bit by bit.
Ah, this book. I think what makes me love this book more than I loved This Lullaby is how much I could relate to Macy. I'm fortunate enough to have my parents here with me so I can't relate to Macy at that front, but the schedules? The need to be as perfect as I can be (sometimes, anyway)? Oh, I've been there. At the next rereads, I found that I wanted to shake Macy so hard -- she needs to cry! She needs to snap out of the illusion that she needs to be perfect to hold things together. She needs to let go and reach for her mom so they could grieve together! Ah Macy, why do you frustrate me so much?
But it served as a good starting point. If there was anything that Sarah Dessen really knows, it's how to write a story that seeps into you and hooks you, pulling you in up until the last page. There's no need for magic or any supernatural creatures -- just plain everyday things magnified, with added significance. The conversations could be just any normal conversation, but somehow they pack a punch. For example:
"Honestly," I said.
"Come on. You have to admit it's sort of ridiculous."
Now that I had to define it, I found myself struggling for the right words. "You know," I said, then figured Kristy had really summed it up best. "The sa-woon."
"Wes, come on," I said. "Are you seriously not aware of how girls stare at you?"
How cute is that?
There's really nothing new with the story, but thanks to the writing and the vivid characters, it becomes a little bit extraordinary. This book is one of the reasons I appreciate characters more, why I believe that even the most common storyline can be interesting when the roles are played by strong, well-developed characters.
And then there's Wes. Dessen boys are well known among readers, and Wes is definitely my favorite. He just seems so...perfect. Strange to see a seemingly perfect guy in a book that tells the main character that perfection isn't everything, don't you think? Believe me, I'm still trying to find some kind of flaw in Wes. But I guess that's what crushes are -- it's so hard to find a flaw in them. I think I'm not that infatuated with Wes that I'd try and look for someone exactly like him (but hey, I wouldn't mind, haha), but I would like to have the same kind of development that Macy and Wes had. Their relationship is one of the most authentic ones I've read -- built on shared experiences and conversations. Now where is that guy I could play a game of Truth with?
So yeah, even on my third reread, I still loved The Truth About Forever. It reminds me of why I started reading YA and why I like the contemporary genre. If you're looking for a good contemporary YA novel you can sink your teeth into, or if you're looking for a good Sarah Dessen novel to start with, I highly recommend The Truth About Forever. Read it and sa-woon. :)...more
Ah Screwtape. I've heard so much about this book but I never got to buy it because the print copy was just too expensiveOriginal post at One More Page
Ah Screwtape. I've heard so much about this book but I never got to buy it because the print copy was just too expensive for something so thin. I remember splurging on the ebook instead a couple of months ago, but true to form, it took me a while to read this. I know a Lewis book is never easy reading. What better time to read this one than during the Lenten season, right?
The Screwtape Letters is an epistolary novella that contains the letters of a demon Screwtape to his nephew Wormwood with detailed advice on how to lead his assignment, a man only named as "the patient" to sin and eventual eternal damnation. In these letters, Screwtape tells Wormwood of particular human weaknesses and how they can exploit it, of religious weaknesses and how to make it their patient's downfall, of how they're just not in it for general mischief but snatching human souls from their Enemy.
I was discussing this book with a friend a few days before I finished reading it, and he told me that while he liked the book, he didn't have the heart to review it because it struck too many familiar chords. I could say the same for me, too. The Screwtape Letters is almost humorous in some ways, especially whenever Screwtape would scold Wormwood for messing up, but it's more chilling in more ways than it is humorous. Screwtape outlined ways on how Wormwood could lead his patient to eternal damnation, and the ways he listed were a little too familiar that it borders on being uncomfortable. I admit that it really made me think of the times when I fell for the same things -- the feeling of "owning" my time that I get mad at any interruption, or worrying too much about tomorrow instead of focusing on today, self-righteous thinking. This book poked a little too much at the parts of my heart that I try to not look at, and helped me see myself for all the ugliness with all the sin that I've fallen into. I remember cringing as I highlighted the parts of the book that struck me the most, like these:
It is funny how mortals always picture us as putting things into their minds; in reality our best work is done by keeping things out. (p. 16)
There is nothing like suspense and anxiety for barricading a human's mind against the Enemy. He wants men to be concerned with what they do; our business is to keep them thinking about what will happen to them. (p. 25)
It does not matter how small the sins are provided that their cumulative effect is to edge the man away from the Light and out into Nothing. Murder is no better than cards if cards can do the trick. Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one -- the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts. (p. 60)
Now you will notice that nothing throws him into a passion so easily as to find a tract of time which he reckoned on having at his own disposal unexpectedly taken from him...They anger him because he regards his time as his and feels that it is being stolen. (p. 112)
It's not that this book is not without hope -- in fact, it ends quite hopefully. But seeing it in the eyes of the "protagonists" it doesn't feel like it. This book is not really for fast reading -- each letter is meant to be read slowly and reflected on, maybe even discussed with other people of faith. Like other Lewis books, I think The Screwtape Letters is one for re-reading, because I'm sure different passages would hit people depending on what is the state of their life when they read this.
Of course, this is still considered as fiction, but like all other Lewis books I've read, it's one that made me think. I can't help but remember Ephesians 6:12 as I read this book: "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." The Screwtape Lettersis a book that definitely needs to be read more than once....more
I attended the wedding of my brother's best friend last week. I like weddings. It may be something that runs in the family since my brother is a weddiI attended the wedding of my brother's best friend last week. I like weddings. It may be something that runs in the family since my brother is a wedding videographer. But I really, really like attending weddings, because it's such a happy, happy day. Plus, I really like hearing wedding vows.
Anyway, my wedding weekend read was Raymond Carver's What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, which I borrowed from Angus when I got the chance to check out his bookshelf. This is my first Carver, and the first time I have heard about him also because of Angus' rave review. This is a collection of short stories about people who talk about, well, love. I figure it may be a fitting book to bring since it's a wedding and all. What do people talk about when they talk about love in weddings?
Before I go to the proper review, let me tell you what people talk about when they talk about love in a wedding. Weddings are happy, happy days, not only for the couple but also for everyone who came to celebrate with them. It's funny, though, how people often look forward to the wedding and see it as a "happily ever after", when it is really just the start of something new. The priest gave this lovely homily during my brother's best friend's wedding that had all of us laughing and me thinking really hard. He talked about good memories and bad memories, and how ten, twenty years down the road, the couple will lose a lot of things: their youth, their health, their money. And when people lose these things, when life gets difficult, sometimes it's harder to hold on and remember your commitment. And then he reminds them that they're not the boss of each other, and getting married in the church - in front of God and in front of the people - is their promise of giving up the right to give up on each other, no matter how hard life gets. Then they said their vows, and...it was so real and so beautiful.
Then, I spent time with my parents over the weekend, and I took the time to observe how they treat and interact with each other. My parents have been married for 30+ years, and sometimes I think I take that for granted. That weekend, I saw how they act around each other, and I realized how their love is that quiet, enduring love that I also want for myself. There are some things that my mom would say or do that, if I were my dad, would rub me the wrong way and I would say something back in defiance...but my dad does nothing. Instead, he smiles, and just takes it and does something. My dad would do something, or say something that, if I were my mom, would feel like it lacks emotion or affection, but I see that my mom doesn't see that. I see how they're around each other and how they support each other and how they love us so much, and my heart just swells because I see a glimpse of what the priest said, and I see what kind of love I want, and the one that I wish I would be able to give, too. Imperfect, yet strong and enduring.
What We Talk About When We Talk About Love isn't too romantic -- in fact, sometimes I think it's not romantic at all. It's not like the romance books I usually read, with fluff and cheese andswoon and kilig that makes them so fun to read. No, Carver's collection of short stories about love is about love in many forms, but it dealt with love after all the kilig and swoon and cheese and fluff are gone. Most of the stories are melancholic in its nature, and for a moment, it didn't seem like the right thing to read on a wedding weekend. But it seems perfect, too, because this book somehow set my thoughts straight -- or at least, gave me a different perspective, after the reception is over and the wedding fuzzies have started to fade.
Most of the stories in this collection are stories of lonely people, or people seeing lonely people, or people talking about old experiences of loneliness that is related to love. The realness in these stories is what got to me: this is what could happen, days, months or years after the wedding day. These stories can happen, but it doesn't mean that it is the only ending. Love doesn't mean mistakes won't happen, or your loved ones will always be healthy or you will never fight. It's a little bit more complicated than that. The stories were short and the writing was simple, and sometimes I get surprised when a story is over and I wasn't exactly sure what it was supposed to tell me. But as I read on, I realize that these stories are fragments of love in its everyday form, during the hard parts, and also, in some of the happy parts, too.
I liked most of the stories, but three stories stood out: After the Denim ("He'd tell them what to expect! He'd set those floozies straight! He'd tell them what was waiting for you after the denim and the earrings, after touching each other and cheating at games."), Everything Stuck to Him ("Things change. I don't know how they do. But they do without realizing it or wanting them to [...] he stays by the window, remembering. They had laughed. They had leaned on each other and laughed until the tears had come, while everything else - the cold, and where he'd go in it - was outside, for a while anyway.") and the title story, What We Talk About When We Talk About Love ("I'm telling you, the man's heart was breaking because he couldn't turn his goddamn head and see his goddamn wife."). When I was done, I found myself rereading parts of some of my favorite stories (especially the last one), and then sitting down at home and thinking about love.
Because really, what do people talk about when they talk about love? My friends and I do this a lot, and while we all have these ideas and dreams and everything, I don't think we will ever grasp what love really is about. The best we can do, I think, is try.
Let's have a toast. I want to propose a toast. A toast to love. To true love. (p.141)
This is my first Carver, and I don't think this will be my last. :)
The bright yellow cover called me the moment I entered the YA section of Fully Booked Eastwood. It was bright, and the sOriginal post at One More Page
The bright yellow cover called me the moment I entered the YA section of Fully Booked Eastwood. It was bright, and the smiley made an interesting cover, and when I took a peek inside, I saw that it was a book...with drawings!
But what really convinced me to buy is when I removed the half dust jacket and saw this:
This certainly got me very, very curious. How can a book entitled "Happyface" have a sad face inside?
Happyface is the journal of a boy who has been christened Happyface by the girl he likes because of his sense of humor and his happy demeanor. Happyface is a high school sophomore, and a shy, artistic kid who tries to reinvent himself when he moves to a new town. The journal contains the account of the school year, from June to March, as he tries to make friends, ask out the girl he liked and be the happy person that everyone expects him to be.
This isn't exactly a comic book, but it's also not a plain novel. I like reading journal-type novels because I like first person accounts, and I'm a journal keeper myself. The drawings in this book are fascinating and entertaining at the same time. Look:
I'm not big on graphics or photos in a novel -- I like words more. However, Happyface made me appreciate art (simple as they may be sometimes), and the images were not there just to be there, but they really add to the story. I can't draw to save my life, so I am immediately in awe of anyone who can draw something that is more than a stick figure. I do wonder sometimes how Happyface can have the time to draw and write -- writing is hard enough, but drawing them as well? Wow. Of course, again, I'm not an artist, and I can't draw, so I can't exactly say how hard or easy keeping a journal with art is. Perhaps someone can enlighten me?
Happyface may sound and look like a happy book, but I was surprised to find myself sighing and feeling really...well, sad, about Happyface. Like what the dust jacket and cover shows, there is more to Happyface than his smiley face. When I was in college, I used to call myself a sugarcoater. I remember telling my YFC household head to never ask me how I am once -- she needed to ask me twice (and sometimes even more) because I automatically answer "Fine" or "I'm okay" whenever they ask me how I am. Ever since then, people were careful to really ask me that, and conversations usually start like this:
Friend: Hi Tinamats! How are you? Me: Hi! I'm okay. Friend: (pauses) Okay. Again. How are you? Me: (take a deep breath and tries to answer the question again)
It's a defense mechanism, I think. It's not that I'm never okay, or I lie at the first answer, but it's become such an instinct to just answer that I am okay, rather than explain why if I am not. Plus I always felt like if I open up and tell them exactly how I am, it's like I'm laying the burden on them. I figure I'd be of better help to them if I was okay, and I can listen to them better rather than give myself room to rant.
I'm happy to say that I am doing my best not to be that way anymore. Reading Happyface reminded me of those days, and I really empathized for Happyface in his plight. It's easy to think Happyface was just a shy, awkward kid who would rather spend time in front of the computer or at home with his comic books and sketch books. It's easier to think of that because I didn't think he's the kind of guy who has serious problems, because he was so cheerful all the time, even to himself, and this book was supposed to be his journal! But as the story went on, we find out what happened to Happyface and his family, why he moved in the first place and how he really, really felt (with some help from alcohol). It's sad, almost heartbreaking, and now I really understand the presence of the sad face.
Happyface is the dorky boy in school who you would never have a crush on, but would be really good friends with. He's the guy who'd draw stuff for you, join you in shopping and hand you a Christmas gift that he made himself, looking all awkward and blushing. He's the guy you will call when you're dating someone and you need someone to encourage you or tell you that everything will work out -- heck, he may even help you work things out with the guy. Happyface is the guy who is secretly in love with you, and you may never ever know because he's too shy to tell you about it.
Altogether now: awwwww. :(
I also love how refreshing a male point of view is in contemporary YA fiction. I am a girl and I appreciate it if I read a girl's story about life or love or whatever...but let's face it girls: we can be too whiny and we over think a lot. Happyface's voice is refreshing and funny, and it's a relief to read that guys can be awkward and dorky yet be totally sweet all at the same time.
Happyface is a fun yet painfully honest journal, not about self discovery, but realizing that everyone of us hides behind our own happy faces. It may not be like how Happyface hides behind his smiles -- we may hide behind what we wear, what we eat, what we do, who we date, how we act, but we all hide something, that we are afraid of others to see. Happyface the novel and the character teaches us that it's okay to (and I quote) "...allow myself to cry or sit by myself when I need to...and find things to really smile about..." after.
I recommend this book to anyone who's loved The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, or, if you haven't read that yet, those who can appreciate a good, non-paranormal YA story. My friend Aaron says this sounds similar to what John Green writes, and that I have yet to find out. I'm pretty sure girls will like this book (who doesn't like reading about sensitive, awkward and geeky guys? :P), but I'd recommend this book more to guys who may have been a Happyface at one point in their life.
Oh, and my favorite part of Happyface? This drawing. I really think I look like her when I don't dry my hair properly and when I wear my glasses. What do you think? :)
When I first heard about David Levithan's latest book, The Lover's Dictionary, I wanted to read it only because of theOriginal post at One More Page
When I first heard about David Levithan's latest book, The Lover's Dictionary, I wanted to read it only because of the clever idea behind the book. I love anything that involves wordplay. I loved the idea that this book is told using dictionary words, and for some reason, this gives me the feeling that this book has a universal feel to it, like anyone could relate to an entry here at one point. I ordered a copy off Book Depository a few weeks ago after I realized that it's cheaper there, and when it finally arrived, I actually dropped the books I was reading to devour this one.
The Lover's Dictionary is quite easy to devour given its short, dictionary-like format. This book, as mentioned in the blurb, tells the story of an unnamed couple, written using different words from a dictionary. The narrator, who is a guy based on the entries, is a writer while the girl seemed like a wild, whimsical character who seems to have enchanted our narrator. But as their relationship goes on, it gets harder for the both of them, and we readers are left wondering if the they decide to stay together or part.
The entries weren't written in chronological order so the timeline tends to jump from one anecdote to another, while others just seem like a sharing, or a comment on how the relationship is or how each has changed because of the relationship. It's equal parts sad and happy, a lot mushy and it tends to leave the readers pondering on what makes a relationship tick. There's something about finding common ground, which I really liked:
I noticed on your profile that you said you said you loved Charlotte's Web. So it was something we talked about on that first date, about how much the world radiant sealed it for ach of us, and how the most heartbreaking moment isn't when Charlotte dies, but when it looks like all of her children will leave Wilbur, too.
In the long view, did it matter that we shared this? Did it matter that we both drank coffee at night and both happened to go to Barcelona the summer after our senior year? In the long view, was it such a revelation that we were both ticklish and that we both liked dogs more than cats? Really, weren't these facts just placeholders until the long view could truly assert itself?
We were paining by numbers, starting with the greens. Because that happened to be our favorite color. And this, we figured, had to mean something.
Or this, about being intimidated by one another:
Really, we should use this more as a verb. You daunted me, and I daunted you. Or would it be that I was daunted by you and you were daunted by me? That sounds better. it daunted me that you were so beautiful, that you were so ate ease in social situations, as if every room was heliotropic, with you at the center. And I guess it daunted you that I had so many more friends than you, that I could put words together like this, on paper, and could sometimes conjure a certain sense out of things.
The key is to never recognize these imbalances. To not let the dauntingness daunt us.
I'm pretty sure the story the authors intended for the characters here is not the same for everyone, but I think everyone who's ever loved will find that they are able to relate to one or two or more entries in The Lover's Dictionary. This makes the book very rereadable, especially in random -- just pick it up, open to a page and read. This book also makes me wonder: if I were to make a dictionary of my own love life, what words would I use?
But alas, my own love life is still nonexistent. That fact made me a bit distant to the novel, because I can't relate. Not yet, anyway. However, The Lover's Dictionary affirms things that I know, based from stories, reading and yes, even experiences (the proper place to elaborate on this is on my personal blog :P): relationships are messy, it takes a lot of work and it would hurt both parties a lot...but allow me to believe that even so, relationships can be beautiful at the same time. :)
Whether you're a romantic or not, I recommend The Lover's Dictionary by David Levithan. I'm sure you'll find a bit of yourself in one of the entries in this dictionary....more
It's been a while since I read some dystopia, and to be perfectly honest, I think I may have lost some of my taste in thOriginal post at One More Page
It's been a while since I read some dystopia, and to be perfectly honest, I think I may have lost some of my taste in them. Oh, don't worry, I still like it a lot, but I guess I have this feeling that I've run out of really good and credible ones that make my heart race, or make me rave like the way The Hunger Games or The Knife of Never Letting Go did (I do have the rest of the Chaos Walking trilogy on my TBR, but I need to be emotionally ready to read it).That, and I've been enjoying immersing myself in fantasy and contemporary, so that other little sub-genre of seeming despair, destruction and surviving some sort of end of the world or society as we know it has taken a back seat.
This pause of dystopia stopped because of Divergent by Veronica Roth. I've heard so many good things about this book that it's made me curious, and it doesn't really help that the cover of the book looked, well, fiery. Well and fine, so I got the book in hardcover in case it is what everyone said it would be and I'd want to keep a hardbound copy for my collection. In case it wasn't...well, with bookish friends, it's become easier to dispose of un-rereadable books.
In a future Chicago, the society is divided into five factions that uphold certain virtues that are believed to be a solution to the evil in the society: Candor the honest, Amity the kind, Erudite the intelligent, Abnegation the selfless and Dauntless the brave. Every year, all 16-year-old would take an evaluation that would tell them which virtue they display the most, and are given the choice to choose which faction to live with for the rest of their life. Beatrice Prior is Abnegation, but she knew she was far from selfless. On her choosing ceremony, she leaves her faction and joins the Dauntless, intrigued by their recklessness and bravery. She renames herself as Tris, and what follows is a series of challenges for her and other batch mates for the Dauntless initiation, and surviving it means being able to join the society and upholding the faction's beliefs. Failure is not an option, as it means either death or worse, factionless -- forever shunned by everyone but Abnegation. But Tris has a secret that makes her special and wanted and dangerous, and she discovers that her secret is related to the growing unrest in the seemingly perfect society.
Divergent was interesting. It's definitely a little different from what I've read before, with the society focusing on something as abstract as virtues to make it run. This makes it a bit hard to wrap my head around the society because I don't think a human being can be just only brave or selfless or intelligent. Virtues are hard to quantify, and I'd think that everyone will be evaluated as Divergent at the start because everyone can exhibit all those virtues, even if one is dominant over the other. So this should really be a deal breaker for me in this book, but here's the thing: somewhere while reading, I find myself accepting the world the author created, faults and all. It didn't really make sense if I think about it too much, but a part of me decided to say, "Who cares? Just let it go and read on."
Perhaps what contributed to this acceptance is the fun readability of this. Divergent is addicting. It's been a long time since I find myself immersed and somewhat invested in a dystopian world. I guess being set in the Dauntless faction and reading about the training is really fun. I liked how the trainings were set up. It's action packed, bloody and almost brutal -- as in knife in the eye socket brutal. There are a lot of themes explored in the book, and I liked how they tried to define bravery. I liked how one of the lines in the Dauntless manifesto says this:
I believe in ordinary acts of bravery, in the courage that drives on person to stand up for another.
It's heavy without being really too heavy, if you get what I mean? Tris is also an excellent heroine, IMO. I loved how she's no pushover, and how she can be cold and calculating and vengeful one time and guilty and compassionate after. I also liked her little group, and the moments she spent with them softened their hard times and gave them a more human side. It somehow reminds the readers that even if they're being trained to shoot guns and beat other people up, Tris and company are still teenagers.
The only other complaint I have in this book is it's a tad too predictable -- two of the three twists I managed to predict pages before it was revealed. I don't know if it's the same for everyone, but I guess I managed to pick up on the other clues in the book too easily to predict these twists. Also, I may be one of the few who's not really that interested in the romance aspect in the story. Not that I thought the guy wasn't hot -- he is, but perhaps he's just not my type. Heh. Or I'm just nitpicking.
Despite all that, Divergent is a fun and addicting read. A little bit on the violent side, but not too gory. To address the question of comparison with other hit dystopias: this book is no Hunger Games, but it's entertaining. I really like it enough for me to be curious about the rest of the trilogy....more
A few days ago, I was lamenting over Twitter about how I seem to be deprived of good literature back when I was in schooOriginal post at One More Page
A few days ago, I was lamenting over Twitter about how I seem to be deprived of good literature back when I was in school. The only times I was required to read a novel for school was during senior year in high school and then in college. I didn't get my love of reading from school, that is for sure. Because of this, I wasn't able to read the books that my friends had read for school, and now I am making up for it.
But in a way, it's also good, because I get to read these books now for leisure instead of for grades. So I guess it's not really a loss?
I picked up The Giver early this week because I was pondering on getting Matched by Ally Condie via Kindle. I was hesitant to get the latter because there were many lukewarm/cold reviews on it from the reviewers I trust, and most of them compare it to the former. I decided that if I was getting Matched, I have to read The Giver first. I also thought that I cannot call myself a real dystopia reader if I haven't read this one, and it's always nice to go back to basics, right?
The story starts with Jonas as he thinks about the upcoming December ceremony in his community. He's about to turn Twelve, in in Jonas' world, turning Twelve means he is going to be given his Assignment in the community. He was kind of apprehensive about it because he had no idea what his Assignment would be. To his surprise, during the ceremony, Jonas was selected rather than assigned: he was selected to be the next Receiver of Memories. It was an honor to be selected, but it was also painful in ways the Elders cannot describe to Jonas. Little did Jonas know that the pain involved in his training is really more pain than he ever imagined, but at the same time, he was given the chance to experience true happiness that he had missed out in favor of an equal community.
There is a simplicity in The Giver that other dystopia novels nowadays do not have. Most of the dystopia (ex. The Hunger Games, The Knife of Never Letting Go) I read this year are about worlds that are not peaceful, where oppression is apparent and death and destruction are normal. The Giveris different because it presents itself first as a utopia -- a seemingly ideal world where there is no poverty, violence or inequality. The people in the community work as a well-oiled machine and truth be told, the control freak in me liked it. I liked how everything has its place, how everything was so orderly. It was so uncomplicated, and I wonder how it feels to live an uncomplicated life.
Wait, I think I know how it would be: boring. Sure, we could use less complicated living, but not always. I remember some times when there were so many things happening in my life that I'd wish for a boring one, but once nothing happens in my life, I would wish for something to happen just so I won't be bored. If I were to live in the world that Jonas lived in with my memories still intact, I would probably go crazy.
But that was the thing: no one had memories of the past except for The Giver. I loved the way Lowry described the Jonas' life before he became the Receiver. It may seem, well, boring, but the writing style fits the world perfectly. I liked how as Jonas learned more and more of the truth, that we get to feel the sadness and horror he felt when he realized that the utopia he is living in is not what it seems.
The ending is much-debated for its openness, but I liked it. I am fond of open endings because it gives me room to think, and it opens up a lot of possibilities that could be a springboard to a sequel. However, as some of my friends in Goodreads said, The Giver has the type of ending that could stand on its own without feeling the need to read its other companion novels.
It's a good book. The Giver is one of those books that you have to read even just once in your lifetime. It has this haunting sadness that made me really think of what utopia really is, and if it's really worth losing so much just to gain an uncomplicated life....more
I wasn't planning to read A Monster Calls soon, because I wanted to save it for my slump days. I heard so many good thinOriginal post at One More Page
I wasn't planning to read A Monster Calls soon, because I wanted to save it for my slump days. I heard so many good things about this, but I savored the fact that it was patiently waiting for me on my shelf. But last weekend, after my friend asked if I knew if this book is locally available, I had that urge to pick it up and read it, thinking it shouldn't take me too long. And if my fellow bloggers were right and this would also make me cry, at least I can do it in the privacy of my own home, right?
It's 12:07am. Our main character, Conor, wakes up from the nightmare, the one that's been haunting him ever since his mother had a "talk" with him. He wakes up, thinking someone has called his name, but there was no one in sight, save for that yew tree by the churchyard on a hill near his house. When the yew tree turns out to be a monster, Conor finds himself unafraid, because there were far scarier monsters in his world. The monster is a wild, ancient monster who comes with four stories: three coming from him and the fourth coming from Conor, the truth that he has been hiding for so long.
A Monster Calls is simple, really. It may seem like a paranormal or fantasy book from its title and the blurb and the cover, but it's really a contemporary novel at its core. I haven't read any of Siobhan Dowd's work, and I've only read two of Patrick Ness', but I didn't really have much doubt over how good this book would be. What surprised me, though, is how this book left me biting back the sobs as I finished it during breakfast on Sunday morning. Sure, The Knife of Never Letting Go made me shed some tears, but this! A Monster Calls had me sobbing. How my chest hurt so much with emotion, and how close it hit to my heart even if I am -- thankfully -- not in Conor's position.
But I think that's the thing. Anyone can easily be Conor. Anyone can easily be in his shoes, think his thoughts and find the same nightmare he wrestles with every night. But the thing is, not everyone can have "monsters" to tell us and help us face truths. I think this is why books like these are so important: in the absence of our own yew tree monster, we get this. We may not wake up with a monster calling our name, but we can always turn to a book like this and find important lessons that would give us strength to face some of the hardest parts of life.
Fans of Patrick Ness will undoubtedly love this book. I haven't even read the entire Chaos Walking trilogy yet and I am in awe of his writing prowess. If you were turned off by the any one of his previous novels, I urge you to give him another chance and read A Monster Calls. Patrick Ness is an excellent storyteller, and if that is not enough to convince you, maybe the illustrations by Jim Kay will (and these illustrations make this book worth to own in print):
Suffice to say that this is one of my "This is why I read!" moments. Patrick Ness has successfully made a mess out of my heart once again. There's a line in the book that perfectly fits what this book is:
"Stories are wild creatures...When you let them loose, who knows what havoc they might wreak?"
And what a havoc this story wreaked, my friends. Beautiful and powerful. I definitely recommend A Monster Calls. ...more
A good friend has been pushing this book to me for a while now, saying that this is probably one book I will like. NotOriginal post from One More Page
A good friend has been pushing this book to me for a while now, saying that this is probably one book I will like. Note that this friend and I had different tastes in books, and it's only just recently that we started reading similar ones and it was mostly because of the book club picks. If this book was recommended to me say, early in 2011, I wouldn't have picked it up, but since I feel like I've been growing as a reader, I was actually quite excited to read this when I finally found a copy. This wasn't my first choice for our book club's book of the month for April, because there was an initial plan of reading this book with a some friends. But I guess everyone else wanted to read it for April, and who am I to disagree with that, right?
Marilynne Robinson's Gilead is actually a long letter of Reverend John Ames, a dying pastor, to his young son. There are stories of his father, and his grandfather, of his first wife, of his friendship with old Boughton and his complicated relationship with Boughton's youngest son who was named after him. He mused about life, and death, and wrote what he can to give his son a memory of him, his old father, who can only do so much now that he's about to leave his family to go to his Heavenly Father.
Gilead felt like a pretty short book, and I was kind of expecting that I would finish it real quick. But instead, I found myself reading it a lot slower than I expected. The book was slow, and it meandered, and its lack of chapter breaks made it a little bit harder to devour (what, I'm used to the normal structure of books), but I guess there was a reason for that. Gilead is actually meant for slow reading because of its content. Gilead is really more about...memories. Wishes. Regrets. Hope. It's a journal and a letter, and you just can't rush through something like it because it contains wisdom from the eyes of someone who has lived long. The number of pages I have dog-eared in my copy is the sure indication of this, but I do not regret a thing because there were just too many beautiful passages in the book. Some examples:
The twinkling of an eye. That is the most wonderful expression. I've thought from time to time it was the best thing in life, that little incandescence you see in people when the charm of the thing strikes them, or the humor of it. "The light of the eyes rejoiceth the heart." That's a fact. (p.61)
Now that I look back, it seems to me that in all that deep darkness, a miracle was preparing. So I am right to remember it as a blessed time, and myself as waiting in confidence, even if I had no idea what I was waiting for. (p.64)
I must be gracious. My only role is to be gracious. Clearly I must somehow contrive to think graciously about him since he makes it such a point of seeing right through me. I believe I have made some progress on that front through prayer, though there is clearly much more progress to be made, much more praying to be done. (p.145)
And grace is the great gift. So to be forgiven is only half the gift. The other half is that we also can forgive, restore, and liberate, and therefore we can feel the will of God enacted through us, which is the great restoration of ourselves to ourselves. (p.190)
I think there must also be a prevenient courage that allows us to be brave - that is, to acknowledge that there is more beauty than our eyes can bear, that precious things have been put into our hands and to do nothing to honor them is to do great harm. And therefore, this courage allows us, as the old men said, to make ourselves useful. (p.290)
Many times, I had to stop a bit in reading this because some of the passages hit home, a bit too hard. I have to stop and reflect on them, and sometimes I feel the tinge of guilt in some because I know that I have failed in what Reverend Ames had written. That particular bit about graciousness is hard to swallow, because I find myself being in his position ever so often, and it's always a hard battle to think graciously of someone who you somehow dislike. I can't say that I am a truly gracious person just yet, but I definitely agree that there is a lot of praying yet to be done. Will you pray with me about this?
There was a little question of whether this book was a sad one before we started discussing it online, but our moderator just said that it's a book that will make us heave deep sighs. And she was right. Deep sighs, indeed. I found myself close to tears in the end, and it made me wonder what kind of legacy I would leave, and if I would be ever able to say or write that same last line in the book with peace and surrender, just as Reverend Ames did for his son. I'll pray, and then I'll sleep.
My friends have said it a lot, but I will say it here, too: Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
beautiful. There is no other word that can be used to really describe it.
There are a thousand thousand reasons to live this life, every one of them sufficient. (p. 287)
So everyone who's ever read and loved science fiction has read and loved Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card. My friends wOriginal post at One More Page
So everyone who's ever read and loved science fiction has read and loved Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card. My friends who have read and loved science fiction also were true to their responsibility to push this book to everyone, particularly people who are curious about the said genre. Particularly, me.
But a little commercial first: I've always thought that I never read any science fiction book in my entire reading life. But it turns out, one of my favorite young adult series growing up was science fiction: Animorphs by K.A. Applegate. Five kids and one alien with the power to morph into any animal they touch against an alien race of parasite slugs set to invade the world? If that is not science fiction, I will eat my hat.
And so Ender's Game. It was duly recommended, but for some reason a copy eluded me until my friend Monique found one for me. Of course, as luck would have it, I end up seeing copies of the book everywhere after I got the copy. But anyway! Of course, it takes me another year to read it, but I don't really think it matters now.
The Wiggin children, Peter, Valentine and Andrew aka Ender, were all candidates for the soldier training program in their childhood, but only the youngest, Ender, makes the cut. Ender has always been distant with his family so joining Battle School wasn't much of a difference in his young life. Ender's skills made him a leader in Battle School, admired and hated at the same time by his classmates. But Ender's brilliance in the Battle Room had a price -- isolation, loneliness, and the fear that he is becoming like his older brother who he despises. But there are secrets around Ender's training, secrets that could very well mean the survival of the human race in a war against an alien race for the last hundred years.
Here's one thing about Ender's Game: it's so readable. I'm initially apprehensive of reading science fiction (and high fantasy) novels because I'm afraid of not being able to fully immerse into the world. If it's not very obvious yet, I'm really a contemporary reader and most of the books I read are set in the real world, so reading something set in a different world, or set in the future is quite a challenge for me. Orson Scott Card made Ender's Game very accessible, though, and it was easy enough to understand what was happening in Ender's world. Oh, I didn't really understand much of how the Battle School worked, or the space travel later into the book, but I had a pretty okay grasp with it early in the story, so reading it slowly became a breeze.
I loved the military set-up over the sci-fi aspect. People say this is really more of a military novel, and I kind of agree with that. Reading this reminded me of those Citizen Army Training days back in high school, where we'd practice rifle drills and do other activities during camp, like Search & Destroy and Escape & Evade (I hate the latter, btw). I liked reading about the strategies and the platoon (toon) set up and the promotions. I love reading about the war games in null gravity -- it made me wish that laser tag games here were done in the same environment! I would probably be the first to be frozen in that, but it would be so much fun. It was fascinating to see how Ender came up with strategies to confuse his enemies in the games and wonder at how he was able to see it and make it work. And there isn't just the military thing either. The political aspects of war -- in space and on earth -- were discussed, too, and it makes readers see that some well-placed words said (or written) on a platform can be enough to start a war. A bit of suspension of disbelief might be in order for the part of the novel is needed, but if you can believe that a six year old is the hope of the world against an alien race, then believing that part should be easy enough.
Poor Ender, though. I keep on forgetting that he was just a kid (six years old at the start of the novel) as the story progressed. He always seemed older, especially with all the military school talk. Ender's fighter qualities were admirable and oftentimes scary, but it was hard not to root for him in the story. I sympathized a lot with Valentine, Ender's sister, with how she cared for him because I wanted to take care of Ender too, and keep him a kid longer because he deserved to be one. I also liked Ender's friends, too, especially the ones who were with him at the end. There was this one particular scene that really made my heart swell with happiness for Ender that involved his friends, and it shows that true friends are those people who are with you in your darkest hours.
There is a fair amount of violence in this book, so a fair warning to those who think that this is about some kids who get roped into a "save the world" thing. Even more horrifying is that these are just kids beating each other up. Despite that, Ender's Game is pretty, well, darn good. I know I'm not a credible judge of science fiction since (like I said) I barely read the genre, but I think Ender's Game is science fiction at its simplest and maybe at its finest, too. It's no wonder why people kept on recommending this to me. If you're a newbie to science fiction and you're looking for titles to start with, then listen to everyone who has recommended this book to you because trust me: they are right about it. If it's not enough, then let its awards push you to the right direction. Also, a movie is coming out next year. Enough reasons? Get a copy and remember: the enemy's gate is down! :)...more
I tried reading Markus Zusak's The Book Thiefin 2011, a little over a year after I got the book. Then I stopped, because I wasn't in the mood to read the book yet, so I shoved it back into my TBR with no concrete plans of reading it. I knew it was good, but I didn't know when I'd have the time to read it. Two years later, the book was selected for our book club's discussion this month, and I figure that's why I didn't read it back then.
The Book Thief is a World War II story, set in Nazi Germany, about a little girl who steals books because of her love of books and words. But it's not really that simple, because of the war, and all the other things going on around her and in her life with her foster parents. The story is also a little bit more complicated because it wasn't narrated by the girl or any other people surrounding her. Instead, the entire story was narrated by Death, who was very busy collecting souls at the time of war and yet Liesel Meminger the book thief caught his eye.
I don't like WWII stories. I've read several books but they weren't books that totally focused on war or the casualties of it. I never really read much about bombings or the people dying, and I never liked reading about them because it saddens me, and quite frankly, it gives me the creeps. I didn't know what to expect with The Book Thief, except maybe that people I know who read and loved them cried at the end...so maybe, I will cry too?
Here's the thing: I thought that having Death narrate this story is quite ingenious. Sure, Death is quite snarky and he loves giving spoilers, but it gives the story a little bit of a different perspective, than say if Liesel was the narrator. I actually liked Death's segues and the random facts, although it took me some time to get used to. There also wasn't as much war in the book as I thought it would have, and it was good...but there were enough to make me stop reading for a while and breathe because I felt horrified at what I was reading. War is never a pretty thing, after all.
The little neighborhood in Molching, and the people in Himmel Street grew on me, some quick like Hans Hubermann and some took a while, like Ilsa Hermann. I was constantly holding my breath, hoping against hope that nothing bad would happen to them...but like I mentioned, Death loved giving so many spoilers, so even if I managed to spoil myself accidentally while we were having the online discussion for this book, I realized that getting spoiled early on didn't really matter because the narrator would do that for you. But in a way, this builds the right expectations, and somehow, a part of me still didn't want to believe what Death said would happen. Oh how I wished it wasn't so. I'm also particularly fond of Rudy Steiner, too, and ...that boy really just broke my heart.
The Book Thiefmade me reflect on several things, especially with how words and reading played such a big deal in the characters' lives. That was my favorite part, how there was so much emphasis on reading and the power of words. I liked how it was illustrated in the book and how it showed that even if words were used for evil, you can use it for good, too, and using it for the latter touches so many people, even Death himself. I'm all about words, you see, and I could really relate with Liesel when she found her words and how she "...would wring it out like the rain." (p.80) It made me wonder if I can still remember how it is not to have words at my disposal, and not to have the books where I have access to so many words. Furthermore, it made me wonder: do I use my words like the Führer? Or do I use them like Liesel?
I have hated the words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right.
I didn't bawl at the end of The Book Thief, but I did shed some tears, and it took me a while before I could move on from the story. I suppose, like Death, I was haunted. And I think that I will remain haunted by it for a little while longer, because there's really so much in this book than what was written on the synopsis, or from its black and brown (at least in my edition) cover. It's not just a WWII story, but more, and I'd rather that Death the narrator would spoil it for you rather than me.
I wanted to tell the book thief many things, about beauty and brutality. But what could I tell her about those things that she didn't already know? I wanted to explain that I am constantly overestimating and underestimating the human race - that rarely do I ever simply estimate it. I wanted to ask her how the same thing could be so ugly and so glorious, and its words and stories so damning and brilliant.
One last thing: I hope that when Death comes for me, he'll find my soul sitting up....more
I'm a little bit OC when it comes to my reviewing order, and it's not often that I skip over some books I need to reviewOriginal post at One More Page
I'm a little bit OC when it comes to my reviewing order, and it's not often that I skip over some books I need to review first to write one for another. Usually doing that means one of the following: I am in a hurry to post a review for the book for a deadline (doesn't usually happen), or I love the book so much that I just have to write a review about it immediately.
Such is Jellicoe Road, my second Melina Marchetta book. Ever since I finished and enjoyed Saving Francesca, I've been itching to read another Marchetta book to experience the goodness of her writing and the realness of her characters. But alas, I know I must pace myself because Jellicoe was the only other book I had of hers -- I still had to buy The Piper's Son and Looking for Alibrandi after Holy Week. After finishing two books from my Required Reading for April, I decided to reward myself with her book.
And man, was it such a good idea. I gobbled up Jellicoe Road so fast that I surprised myself. Jellicoe Road is the story of Taylor Markham, whose mom left her when she was 11, picked up shortly by Hannah. At fourteen, she ran away from her boarding school to look for her mom only to be found and brought back by a stranger. Now, she's almost eighteen, and she is the leader of their school's underground community that is neck deep in a territory war with the kids from Jellicoe town called Townies and a group of kids undergoing military training aptly named Cadets. Then Hannah disappears and it throws Taylor's life out of the loop. If it wasn't enough, the leader of the Cadets turn out to be Jonah Griggs, a guy from Taylor's past that she's trying hard to forget. Taylor's life unravels as she tries to cope with Hannah's disappearance, piecing together clues Hannah left and things her memory is trying to hide from her.
One word: wow. I was warned that this book would be an emotional ride, but I wasn't expecting that. It's really hard to describe the book without putting a spoiler, and the last thing you want to be with this book is to be spoiled. I've been warned that the first 100 pages or so of this book would be confusing, and indeed it was. For some people, this might be enough for them to stop reading and never revisit the book again, but trust me when I say this: don't. Keep on reading, and somewhere a few pages later, you'll find that this book had you in its grip and will refuse to let you go up until the last page.
Just like in Saving Francesca, Marchetta definitely had her way with the characters and how they interact here. I thought the book would just be about the territory wars, which kind of turns me off, but the author made that as interesting as figuring out Taylor's past. I loved the relationships that the characters formed in this book -- they all had history with each other, and even if I have equally awesome friends, this book made me crave the same history that Taylor wanted: "These people have history and I crave history. I crave someone knowing me so well that they can tell what I'm thinking." I loved how they all just formed this friendship without too much effort, and how some characters who come off as annoying at first become even a little bit endearing in the end.
But that plot -- oh that plot. When I got to my first "aha!" moment in the book, I just couldn't stop reading. I wanted to know what happens next and I want it now. At the same time, I also didn't want it to end. I just want to live in Jellicoe Road, if that was possible. I loved how everything tied up together at the end, and how the story kept on surprising me everyday. Even when I thought I had it all figured out, I was still surprised at the end, and I don't think I've ever read a book that did just that. When I was done with the book, I had an extreme desire to reread it all over again, if only to figure out what part I missed now that I knew how everything fits.
While I was going through the first part of the book, I wasn't really sure if I would like it as much as my other bookish friends did. When I closed the last page, I was sure that I had just as much love for this book as they do. Like what I tweeted, reading this book was like breaking my heart and then putting it back together again. It was that awesome. Jellicoe Road reminded me of why I love contemporary YA, and it definitely made me a fan of Melina Marchetta. :)
Read it, read it. Take your time with the start and be amazed at how Marchetta weaves a story so beautiful that it keeps a hold on you long after you have closed the book. ♥...more
It's a rare occurrence nowadays when I actually review a book I just finished reading. Usually it takes me a few days weOriginal post at One More Page
It's a rare occurrence nowadays when I actually review a book I just finished reading. Usually it takes me a few days weeks to write one, but since this is up for discussion for our book club this weekend, I thought I'd try something new and actually write a review soon after I finished the book.
The Remains of the Dayby Kazuo Ishiguro is the story about a butler. Stevens has been a butler for Darlington Hall for almost all his life, working for the "great" Lord Darlington and later for an American gentleman, Mr. Farraday, who bought the big house soon after Lord Darlington passed away. When his American employer told him to go take a vacation while he is away, Stevens sets off on a motoring trip to meet an old colleague, Miss Kenton, with the pretense of asking her to work for them again to correct some certain staffing errors in Darlington Hall. As with every road motoring trip done in solitude, Stevens thinks of his experiences and subtly questions the things he knew about his old employer and his own affections for a certain co-worker.
Hindsight is 20/20. That's a popular quote that I never really understood until I started thinking about things more often than usual, and I wish it wasn't always the case -- the thinking and how hindsight can be 20/20, I mean. Sometimes I wish we could make better decisions when we need to, and not regret things in the end when we realize how we could have done better and we should have done this. That's one of the things I remembered while reading The Remains of the Day. Stevens is an interesting character, not quite like Kathy H from Never Let Me Go, but also the same in how they reminisce the past. Of course, Stevens is older, so he has more experience so to speak, but can I be honest? Sometimes I have to admit that the experience he shares can be quite...boring. Maybe it's because I can't exactly relate to him. Or maybe because we have a kind of generation gap. It was interesting to see what he thinks of dignity and what he thinks of his employer, and how he tells of tales from when he served him. He didn't question it back then, and even as he related his stories he never questioned it either -- but there was that subtle doubt that made me wonder if he thought if he could do anything about it, or if he should do anything, given that he was just a butler. Does he have the power to do it? Can he even say anything about it, especially since he believes that his employer is a good man? To put it in a better and more personal context: I'm an employee of a multinational company, one of thousands in this country. Do my decisions count? Can my voice be heard amongst all the executives? Do I have a right to say something if I notice something is amiss? Or will I even notice that? And finally, if I do that, will I even matter?
I don't want to be a fool wondering what might have been. Trivia: in college, I used to like that song. :P As with Never Let Me Go, there's a certain romantic aspect in The Remains of the Day, too. Miss Kenton was one of the characters that Stevens kept on talking about, and I found his interactions with her both annoying and hilarious. To say more would be spoilery, but I had to laugh at their interactions because they seem to be beating around the bush and making excuses about their conversations. It goes to show that even someone as "dignified" and knowledgeable (in his own right) as Mr. Stevens can know nothing about how women are -- but maybe it's because it was his choice. I can't blame him too much, though. He made his choice, even if he didn't know it, which forced Miss Kenton to make her own, leading them to where they both ended up in the end.
There's no time for my regrets. One of our pre-work for the book discussion this weekend is to write a piece that talks about love, loss, hope, and/or regret. When I was writing my piece, I realized one thing: it was easy to remember tales of love and hope, but not of loss and regret. Perhaps it's because I don't have any tales of loss and regret (thank God for that). I figure that is true for loss, but for regret, I'd like to think it's because I've long told myself that I choose not to regret over anything. Maybe that's me being positive, but I have always believed that mistakes are made for learning and there's always a higher purpose to why things happened, and regrets will just bog you down. I guess what matters is how we should be aware of our choices so we won't have to think of regrets in the future.Yes, hindsight is 20/20, and we won't really know if we chose the right thing later on. But like I said, maybe all we need to do is to trust that things will be okay, eventually, and that despite making wrong choices, we always have a choice on how we shall see our life after that.
The Remains of the Day is my second Ishiguro, and I'm glad that it still has that quiet, calm writing, one that I really needed after reading several high-action zombie books. I really loved my first Ishiguro, so I had high expectations for this one which I am glad was met. It's not quite as amazing as Never Let Me Go, IMO, but it's a good book that makes you think about life, just as how I did in this review, I think! :) This will definitely not be my last Ishiguro book.
Also, you know what, maybe I will reread this a few years later, to see if I still think of the book the same way as I do now....more
I heard about this from my book club friends around two years ago, but it was already out of print so I knew my only chances of reading this was borroI heard about this from my book club friends around two years ago, but it was already out of print so I knew my only chances of reading this was borrowing it from someone. Of course, that plan never materialized because it wasn't such a high priority book for me. Come Komikon 2014, I saw some friends carrying copies of the new editions of The Mythology Class during the book discussions so I made a mental note to get it afterwards. So I did (and was pleasantly surprised that Arnold Arre was there and he drew me when I asked him to sign my copy :D), and told myself I'd read it perhaps during the long December vacation.
But I couldn't wait, so I read it today.
Halfway through reading, I didn't want it to end.
A few hours later, I was done, and now I understand why my friends were raving about this. The Mythology Class is so, so good. I loved all the characters and their quirkiness. I love the idea of a group of kids called on a quest that brings them into the world of Philippine myth and folklore. I loved everything about this, and I felt good chills and part sadness when I reached the end because I really didn't want this to end.
It's so, so, good. :)
Don't forget the stories I've told you. Can you do that for Lolo? For who knows, maybe someday you might find yourself in one of them....more
There are books that grab you by the collar from the very start and force you to pay attention to what you are reading.Original post at One More Page
There are books that grab you by the collar from the very start and force you to pay attention to what you are reading. These books are typically the explosive, action-packed ones, ones that plunge you right into the action, leaving you breathless from the start all the way up to the last page. However, there are books that start off quiet, with barely a bang. You're not quite sure what would happen with these books, but you allow yourself to be carried gently with the languid flow of the story. You think it wouldn't really grip you so much as those action-packed books that you can put it down every now and then, reading at your own pace.
And then it proves you wrong. Somewhere in the story, the book grabs you by the hand and pulls you in, refusing to let go unless you get to the very last page, and you're left even more breathless, wondering what just happened in the past pages and chapters.
That, my friends, is the kind of book Never Let Me Goby Kazuo Ishiguro is.
I've been seeing this book for a long time now, but I never thought of picking it up because I often confuse it with other books written by Japanese authors that I am not sure if I want to read. Even my friends reading it in my book club didn't make me read it because by then, I was more into reading YA books, and I never thought it would be something I'd like to read, anyway. When I ran across its ebook on sale on Kindle, I finally surrendered and purchased it. If my other friends liked it, I probably would, too, right?
Never Let Me Gotells the story of friends Kathy H, Tommy D and Ruth, who all met and grew up in Hailsham, a private boarding school somewhere in England. Kathy, now 31 years old, narrates her memories of her life as a child and early teen there, the next years as she, Tommy and Ruth moved to the Cottages after their time in Hailsham and finally her years as a carer where she crosses paths with Tommy and Ruth again. The book is really a collection of Kathy's memories, told almost out of chronological order but in a way of significance, all leading to the readers wondering who Kathy is, why there were in Hailsham and what they are up to in present time.
To say anything more would be a spoiler, so I will leave you at that. I was partially spoiled already as I read the book because of some reviews that I read even if it was clearly marked with a spoiler. However, that didn't lessen the enjoyment of reading this wonderful piece of work. As I mentioned above, Never Let Me Go is a book that starts off very quiet, with hardly any bang. In fact, there isn't really much excitement in the book, yet I never found it boring. Kathy's voice rang clear all throughout the book. It almost felt like I was sitting with her in a shop and she was just telling me her life story, or perhaps I was sitting at the passenger seat of her car as she regaled to me their little misadventures in Hailsham.
Even if it was told in Kathy's point of view, the other characters' voices were distinct, too. Kathy tells her stories about her friends with little bias to herself, which allows us to see and forgive them for their own faults towards the heroine. For example, every time I would feel annoyed at Ruth for being so dominating, Kathy would say something to make me understand her in a way, or would convince me that somehow Kathy was also at fault. Perhaps it was written that way because these are Kathy's recollections and at her age, she definitely knew better than she knew then. Tommy and Ruth felt as real as Kathy was, and I truly felt their importance in Kathy's life.
The strength of the characters didn't really water down the plot, so there is still much satisfaction as the secrets behind their existence and Hailsham were revealed. As these are Kathy's memories, they tend to jump from one scene to another before going back to the original intent. It may take a bit to get used to that kind of narration and it may turn some people off. However, that is almost the same way as some Sarah Dessen novels are, so I'm fairly used to that. Everything is revealed gradually and there seemed to be a quiet acceptance to everything that's happening that even I am convinced that it's really just the way it is and there is no way out.
Perhaps that is the most striking thing about Never Let Me Go. Kathy tells her story as if there was no other alternative, that it is really the only way for her and her friends. There is a quiet resignation in Kathy that she was destined to do what she was made to do, that there was no other choice but that. It makes me wonder what I would have done if I grew up in Hailsham and I knew what I know as I read this book -- would I accept my fate as Kathy did or will I rebel? Or what if I was a guardian -- how can I face those kids everyday for the first thirteen years or so of their life knowing what awaits them sometime in their life? Can my conscience take it, even if it is all in the name of science and the progress of humanity?
A movie version of this book starring Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield and Kiera Knightley came out last year (in all other parts of the world, that is. It hasn't been shown here yet). If you're planning to read this, DO NOT watch the movie trailer if you don't want to be spoiled. I haven't watched the movie yet, so I don't know the difference, but it is always wiser to read the book first before watching the movie. Even if you're not much of a reader, Never Let Me Go is too good of a book to pass up for the movie version. Make it one of the few books that you'd read in your life, if you must.
Never Let Me Go is one book that truly did not let me go (no pun intended). It reeled me in with its simplicity and refused to let me move on long after I finished with the last page. Beautiful and haunting, this is definitely one of my best reads for this year....more
I have been seeing John green's novels for a while now, but I never had the time to pick them up. I think I saw Paper ToOriginal post at One More Page
I have been seeing John green's novels for a while now, but I never had the time to pick them up. I think I saw Paper Towns first, but they reviews were saying that Looking for Alaska has more awards, so I was always on the lookout for it. Of course, I promptly forgot all about it, until I saw other book bloggers I am following posting reviews on his books. After one particularly boring night at work where I wrestled with the urge to buy a new book, I got this one, thinking his first novel should be a good place to discover if John Green is really as good as people say he is.
I guess I wasn't sure what I was expecting in this novel, except maybe for a dorky guy character to fall in love with a cool but not exactly popular girl, and will turn his world upside down as he tries to get out of his shell to impress her. I can't remember where I read this, but I hear John Green is the king of nerdy guys in contemporary YA. I have yet to prove that, but with Looking for Alaska, I was very surprised. I can't say pleasantly, but I was surprised.
I won't say much about the story, so as not to ruin a reading experience of those who haven't read this yet. Looking for Alaska is about Miles "Pudge" Halter, who transfers to Culver Creek Boarding School in search of The Great Perhaps. Here he meets new friends Chip "The Colonel" Martin and Takumi, and Alaska Young, the girl across the hall that rocks Miles' world and ultimately divides his world into a "Before" and "After". I wasn't sure about what "After" meant in the book until I got to it, and that was where I experienced John Green's magic with words.
The question that readers will get here is the same question that Alaska and the other characters wrestled with: How will I get out of this labyrinth of suffering? I admit that it's not a question that I would ask myself. I'm generally a cheerful and happy person, with random bursts of sentimentality and sadness every now and then. I can relate to Miles a lot in the sense that his life is generally okay: good parents, good school, and no big traumatic problems in his past. Save for the lack of a group of friends (or even just a single friend), we're pretty much the same. I guess I can say his approach to the labyrinth would be essentially the same as mine: pretend it doesn't exist, and live in a self-sufficient world. But one can only live like that for so long, until the suffocation of living on my own will crush me and break me, just as like those people who get lost in their own labyrinths. I don't think there is ever one answer to this question, because I think every person has their own labyrinths, and it's never the same with others. I thought that Miles' answer to the question was brilliant, though, and it may be one of good exit plans that other people (myself included) use in their own labyrinths.
I don't know if that paragraph made sense, but I hope it does when you decide to read this book. Looking for Alaska is more than your nerdy guy meets cool girl and things change story. This is a surprisingly heavy book that deals with a lot of growing up issues, yet John Green's prose made it somewhat light and funny, and poignant all at the same time. This isn't the same world I grew up in, but this world felt real and their situations were something that I know other teens can get into, and it's something that I appreciate. John Green doesn't sacrifice dialogue for it to sound real (one that I think Take Me There by Susane Colasanti kind of failed in), but instead makes use of the setting and the situations to bring us all into Miles' world.
I think my favorite lesson in Looking for Alaska was how you never really own a person, regardless of your relation to him or her. I don't know about you, but I know I have a tendency to feel like I own the person just because we're friends, or because I like the person. It's like their world should revolve around me, because my world can easily revolve around them -- it's just fair, right? But the truth is, we never own anyone, and there's always something we don't know about the other person even if we feel like we know them, like we've figured them out. We may be important to the other person, but that doesn't mean they don't think other people are also important, or that other people think the world of them like you do. The best thing we can do for the people that mean a lot to us is to love them and accept them and forgive them and be content at the fact that they will always surprise us. It may not always be in a good way, but it was what made Miles like, love and forgive Alaska for in the end.
This isn't my favorite, but I liked Looking for Alaska. It's left me hopeful and smiling and thinking of things that I have never really thought about, or at least, never really bothered to think about. I am definitely going to read the rest of John Green's novels....more
I’ve had this book for ages, but I haven’t reviewed it ever (then again, I hardly review books back when I bought this).Original post at One More Page
I’ve had this book for ages, but I haven’t reviewed it ever (then again, I hardly review books back when I bought this). This, along with Stargirl is one of my favorite young adult books. I bought this on a whim, and ever since I first read it, I’ve loved the story. Julianna, especially, is a very memorable character that I wish a lot of times that I carry the same wonder and sparkle she has. :)
When Bryce Loski moves into the neighborhood, Julianna Baker was mostly interested in having a playmate than a boyfriend. But when she saw his blue eyes, she flipped. Bryce wasn’t interested in the Juli, mostly because she scared him. He spent the next few years running away from her — from avoiding her when she’d visit to play, to asking someone out so she’d stop chasing him (backfired big time), to throwing the gifts she gives him, and every thing he could manage to do. As they grow up, Juli realizes that Bryce isn’t really the guy she thought he is, and Bryce realizes that he really didn’t take the time to know Juli and started seeing her in a new light.
This is a cute he-said/she-said story, which talks about childhood crushes, seeing beneath the surface, being a man, growing up and second chances. It’s quite deep for a YA novel, but the way Ms. Van Draanen wrote the story made it easy to understand; and it sounds so realistic that you’d believe there are situations like this.
What’s funny was, when I re-read it yesterday, I realized I understood it better now than when I bought it first. Let’s say…I was in a situation back when I bought this book, which made it a bit harder to understand and put myself in the place of the female protagonist. ;) All I liked back then was then Bryce finally realized what he’s missing, but the other things didn’t really strike me. This time around, however, I finally understood and related to the major parts of the story, such as:
* How Bryce realized that he was running away from Julianna for no reason at all. True, he had an effective strategy to avoid conflict – diving under – but it’s not really much of a strategy seeing that he carried it over to how he acts with things he should take responsibility for. Bryce is an example of someone who succumbed to easily to peer pressure and a guy who wouldn’t be accountable for his actions until it bites him back. I’m glad he managed to redeem himself in the end. :D
* How one shouldn’t be attracted to someone only with the looks. In a way Mrs. Loski seemed like a future Julianna, that is, if Juli didn’t realize what she realized in the end.
* And the major lesson of the story, IMHO, is that how one must not let shallow things such as the color of the eyes and how they used to act as kids in choosing someone as a lifetime partner, or at least, a boyfriend. I related so much to Juli because I was — and sometimes still — like her: easily swayed by the things a guy does, and excusing everything he does even if it is offensive and disrespectful, until it finally hits back. And there’s also the disappointment of the guy not being able to live up to the expectations set to him, as well as “getting over” the guy at some point and feeling relapses when he’s suddenly within proximity or when he does something. It’s a wonder I didn’t see this immediately. Then again, when I bought this, I was in a middle of something like this too. ;)
Flipped will always be one of my favorite books, no matter how old I get. I’d recommend this to everyone, especially the teens. The language is safe, the story is cute but not too cute, and it teaches both guys and girls some valuable lessons that I think they could definitely use as they grow up.
I've had Life of Piby Yann Martel on my radar since my senior year in college, but I never got it because I couldn'tOriginal post from One More Page
I've had Life of Piby Yann Martel on my radar since my senior year in college, but I never got it because I couldn't really afford it on my allowance back then. Later, much later, there were many, many times I could have bought it but I prioritized other books so I didn't get it even then. One time, during a book club meet-up, some friends were talking about this book so I asked them if they think it was something I would like. I remember someone telling me that I might be bored with it, so I decided to just borrow instead of buy. But alas, I never got to borrow it even after. It still wasn't in my priority list, up until late last year, when my friends were talking about the books that will soon become movies. I figured, since I was starting to explore outside of the genres I usually read, that maybe it's finally time to read it.
That, and there was the tiger.
I love tigers. Tigers are some of my favorite animals. If I could own a tiger for a pet, I would do that in a heartbeat. Tiger photos are an automatic reblog in my Tumblr, and I swear, I could stare at them for hours on end. So a big part of my wanting to read and watch Life of Piwas because of the tiger in the story.
Piscine Molitor Patel -- Pi, for short -- is a teenage boy whose family owned a zoo in Pondicherry, India. Pi has lived an interesting life, one that made the author seek him out so he can write his book, intrigued by the idea that Pi's story can make him believe in God. Life of Piis really, well, Pi's life, as he grew up surrounded by animals, his quest for (three) religions, growing with his belief and of course, his 227-days in the middle of the ocean after the ship carrying them to Canada sunk, leaving him on a lifeboat with a zebra, an orangutan, a hyena and a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker.
I wasn't sure what to expect with this book, which probably helped me appreciate it. I just knew about the shipwreck and the tiger, but I didn't know what was supposed to happen around it. I liked Pi's voice, his boyishness that was slightly tinged with pain of recollection, since the story was being told from the point of view of the older Pi. I liked the lush atmosphere of Pi's life in the zoo, and all the animal behavior lessons that he shared. It reminded me a bit of all the animal lessons in Animorphs by K.A. Applegate, my favorite scifi series growing up. This made me want to go visit a zoo and observe the animals for myself.
I also really liked Pi's journey into religion. Or religions, rather. I think this is a part that people either really get or don't get in the book. I don't claim to get it all completely, but I appreciated Pi's attempts to find God, even if it meant going to the other religions. It was more of a spiritual journey rather than religious, really, and there were several things that he learned from all three religions that I felt applied to life in general. I liked how Pi learned about God willingly, and I am pretty sure his earlier spiritual journey helped him in his predicament later on.
I realized while watching the movie that being stuck in the middle of the ocean with no sign of help or no land is now my worst nightmare. When I am island hopping on vacations, I am always the one wearing a life vest, because I am not the strongest swimmer. In the book, I cannot envision how the ocean can be merciless because I kept on thinking of it as a calm ocean since they were in the Pacific, right? Then I watched the movie and oh my Lord, I never want to be in that situation ever. Especially with a bengal tiger, even if I love that animal.
I found Pi's adventures in the middle of the ocean very interesting and I was really, really rooting for him to live. Or rather, I am really, really hoping Richard Parker the tiger would live in the end. I can just imagine the tiger in the story, and the visuals in the movie (even if the tiger is completely computer generated) helped me love Richard Parker more. Pi's adventures in the ocean had the most meat in it, I think, and there were so many, many things that got me even if I wouldn't even dare to be stuck in the middle of the ocean like him. Some of my favorite passages:
It begins in your mind, always. One moment, you are feeling calm, self-possessed, happy. Then fear, disguised in the garb of mild-mannered doubt, slips into your mind like a spy... So you must fight hard to express it. You must fight hard to shine the light of words upon it. Because if you don't, if your fear becomes a wordless darkness that you avoid, perhaps even manage to forget, you open yourself to further attacks of fear because you never truly fought the opponent who defeated you. (p. 161, 162)
Despair was a heavy blackness that let no light in or out. It was a hell beyond expression. I thank God it always passed...The blackness would stir and eventually go away, and God would remain, a shining point of light in my heart. I would go on loving. (p. 209)
It's important in life to conclude things properly. Only then can you let go. Otherwise you are left with words you should have said but never did, and your heart is heavy with remorse. (p. 285)
The ending left me...reeling. A friend told me about the twist in the story, but I wanted to be surprised and boy was I surprised. I couldn't wrap my head around it for a while, and I had my first case of a book hangover for the year, which was extended right after watching the movie.
I'm really glad I started the year with this one. Life of Piby Yann Martel is a beautiful book. It's not often a book leaves me with a delicious hangover that leaves me thinking and talking about the book after I was done. While it didn't exactly make me believe in God more than I already do, I think this is a book that speaks of hope and belief even in the most impossible situations. :)
I meant to rate this four stars, but I am giving one full star for Richard Parker the tiger. Just because. :3...more
Soon after Sarah Dessen posted the first chapter of her new book up on her blog, I was craving for more Dessen. It's no secret that I'm a huge, huge Dessen fan, so as I was thinking of picking up one of her books for a reread, I saw Infinity on the Amazon Kindle store. What is this, a Dessen book that I haven't read? Gasp! I immediately clicked on "Buy with 1-click", not minding the price. I couldn't wait to read it.
It turns out, Infinityis a very short story about an unnamed girl who faces two rites of passage in her life: first is driving, where she has to learn how to go through the major roundabout road in town that her mother is afraid of causing her to make all kinds of "shortcuts" around town just to avoid that part of the road. Second is whether or not she would have sex with her boyfriend for six months, Anthony.
The beautiful thing about Sarah Dessen's works are how introspective they are. She writes in a way that really sounds like what a teenager would think without making it sound too juvenile for those reading it who are way past their teens. As with her other books, the heroine in Infinityhas a strong voice that makes you feel like you were the character, or if not, the character is telling you these things in confidence. The symbolism of the roundabout and the choices that the heroine has to make may seem a bit cliche, but I thought it was beautifully executed. All dots were connected smoothly, forming a story that was already satisfying in its 33 pages.
On a personal note, I love the driving reference in this book. One of my 2011 goals is to finally drive on my own. Infinity didn't really give me tips on how to drive (and trust me, driving in Manila is scary :P), but I found comfort in the words of the unnamed heroine as she said these words:
Even though I'd only been driving for a couple of weeks it already felt more natural. Things that before I'd had to think consciously, like switching gears and working the clutch, now happened automatically as if that part of my mind was handling it, making those decisions for me.
And I liked how that particular part was connected to decisions in real life, too. :P
I think my only gripe for this book, along with others who bought it, is its price. The book is composed of the short story, Infinity, and excerpts from Just Listen and That Summer. While I don't mind buying an ebook of one of my favorite authors, I felt that $4 is a bit too much for the short story, even if excerpts of the other books were included, especially since I already own and read her other books. However, if you're new to Sarah Dessen and you want to try something without the pressure of having to read an entire novel, Infinity is the perfect book to get your feet wet. :)...more
I spotted Naermyth by Karen Francisco in Fully Booked by sheer accident. I was supposed to get The Giver by Lois LowryOriginal post at One More Page
I spotted Naermyth by Karen Francisco in Fully Booked by sheer accident. I was supposed to get The Giver by Lois Lowry when I felt like ambling over to the Filipiniana section of the store and then I saw the black and orange spine of the book. I thought it was just a new local comics or something but when I read the blurb, I was sold. Could it be? Local dystopian fantasy? This I have to read.
Naermyth is a word play on the phrase "never myth", which is what the people used to describe creatures that caused the apocalypse after they attacked the human race. These are creatures from Philippine mythology that we have often watched or heard stories from as children -- aswang, duwende, kapre, nuno sa punso, diwata, etc -- that we thought were just that: myths. However, it turns out they were never myths at all, and they attacked defenseless humans, quickly wiping out civilizations and most of the population. The only remaining resistance against these creatures are the National Bureau of Conflict and Transport or the NaBuCAT, informally known as the Shepherds, who find remaining survivors and give them refuge against the Naermyth.
The story is set in the Philippines 5 years after the war between human and Naermyth started. We meet Athena "Aegis" Dizon, one of the best Shepherds on their way back to the Ruins after a rescue mission. Aegis is one of the best Shepherds in their NaBuCAT branch, but she is also one of the least affectionate and most brash among all of them, an issue that her brothers often tease her with. Aegis doesn't mind, because she knows that if she wants to live in the world now, there is no room to be soft. On their way back to their headquarters after a particularly bad night with an aswang and a duwende in the morning, Aegis rescues Dorian, a mysterious man who has no memory of the last five years and no knowledge of the Naermyth at all. Aegis brings him to the headquarters, and despite her usually brash nature, she finds herself connected to Dorian in ways she could not explain. When they find out what Dorian is, Aegis goes against all she believed in as a Shepherd to protect him. As Dorian tries to find out about his past, Aegis finds out more about hers, and they uncover a conspiracy that could destroy everything they had worked for.
I think the best thing about Naermyth is its realistic world building. It's often hard to get into dystopian fiction especially if the world is does not feel real, but Karen Francisco managed to create a very believable post-apocalyptic Philippines, making the different places in the country come alive as a setting. I liked how she used Ruins as a fortress from its bazaar status in the past, and how Makati is Naermyth territory because of how it used to be a swamp. It wasn't contained in Manila, too, but in other provinces in the Philippines: Baguio is a dead spot for Naermyth because of its altitude, as is Pangasinan being the country's salt center (salt was used as a weapon against aswang because it stops them from regenerating), while Capiz is obviously Naermyth headquarters. And it didn't stop there, too, because it's not post-apocalypse if it doesn't involve the rest of the world, right? Other countries were also affected by the uprising of these creatures, but each country has their own kind of Naermyth based on their folklore. Norway has dragons, and yes, even the Loch Ness monster is alive. With all these elements securely in place, it's easy to believe in the world that Aegis lives in, and I don't get surprised when weirder creatures surface.
That being said, however, Naermyth suffers from attempting to cover so much ground in one book. Don't get me wrong -- I liked a good mystery, I liked conspiracies, I liked betrayals in my dystopian fiction. However, I felt a little bit overwhelmed with all the events happening...and then, that feeling would be abruptly interrupted with information overload, in the form of a dialogue. It seemed like some parts of the book were too much tell rather show, and even the encounter with the bad guy at the end felt more telling than showing. Also, while I liked Aegis as a heroine, I wasn't sold on her past. I felt that it was opened up a little too late. If Aegis' past was so important in the end, I didn't feel it was stressed too much at the start since most of the focus was on her family and Dorian's past. The romantic angle was kind of weak, too, and personally, I could have done without it. And if you would allow me to nitpick a bit -- I was very distracted at how many synonyms of "said" were used. I'd like to believe that the characters don't always roar or scream when they're in a normal conversation. It is true what they said: replacing "said" a bit too many times in the text is very distracting.
I think Naermythis the first of its kind that is not a graphic novel (correct me if I am wrong, though), and I think it's a feat in itself. This book is a fulfillment of what some friends and I were wishing for a few months back: a fantasy novel written by a Filipino that makes use of the plethora of creatures from our own mythology. Despite my slight issue with the plot and the pacing and that little nitpick, I still enjoyed reading Naermyth. This is not YA, but I think YA dystopian fantasy fans will like this well enough. It's a solid debut, and this book gives me hope that we will see more Filipino fantasy books on shelves (virtual or not) soon. It's about time, don't you think? :)...more
One day early this year (way before I met the Goodreads people) I was going around Fully Booked in Eastwood when I suddenly had this little fantasy. I wondered: what if, as I was looking for books to get, I meet a guy who has the same taste in books as I do? A straight, single guy, near my age, who reads for fun? And let's make him cute, too.
It was a little fantasy that my friends and I entertained often, and it almost became a topic of a story for my fiction blog (one day I will write that). It was definitely something my single bookish friends and I thought would be very nice but may be rare, as we know few guys who are willing to read the same books we do, and most of the people we see in the bookstore near our office is filled with girls (that is, until I met the Goodreads people, again).
So it's no wonder why Dash and Lily's Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan would call to me. Okay, I didn't really pay attention to it first because I wasn't really a fan of Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist by the same authors, until I read a review. I checked the sample and fell in love with it on the first few pages, particularly on the opening scene. Dash finds a red notebook amidst the books in the Strand, and inside were a bunch of clues left by a girl named Lily. He figures out the clues and thus starts the passing of the red Moleskine notebook back and forth between the two. Dash and Lily accomplish dares all around New York City from each other and bare their innermost thoughts to the other through the red notebook, all the while wondering if the words represent the persons behind them.
The story happens during the holidays, so I figured Christmas should be the right time to read it (thanks again to Ace for giving me a copy during the Goodreads Christmas party). And I was right. I am so glad I read it at this time of the year. :) Like I said, I wasn't very enamored by Nick and Norah, but Dash and Lily really made me fall in love. There's so many things to love. Maybe it was the bookstore? Maybe it's the Moleskine notebook (which I love, by the way)? Maybe it's how the story unfolded despite it being slightly hard to believe?
Dash and Lily are two very interesting characters. They're not the angsty teenagers that we read in contemporary YA but they're very smart and witty teens who are very different yet they speak to each other in ways only they can understand. While I didn't find Dash particularly dashing, I thought he was very well-adjusted for his age. Perhaps it was all the reading that he does that makes him a gentler version of the male gender? I don't know, but I'd like to think so. Lily, on the other hand, is probably the most optimistic female character I've ever read so far. She reminds me of myself in so many ways: she bakes, she likes animals, her positive outlook, and in how she's never had a boyfriend. Lily is such a delight to read because I feel like I'm reading some things I write, almost like I was reading my journal.
And just as the characters, the story was very charming. It tried to tackle more than the usual boy-meets-girl-and-they-fall-in-love story and that's good, but sometimes the connections and issues feel a bit too messy and hard to follow. The entire interaction may seem a bit far-fetched too, and I don't think this will be very effective here in Manila, but I can forgive that for the sake of fiction (and that's why it happened in New York and not here, LOL). Despite that, though, I thought the plot was well-executed, and I found myself hanging on to every word all the way up to the end.
My copy of Dash and Lily's Book of Dares has so many dog-ears too because of the quotable quotes! For example:
Prayer or not, I want to believe that, despite all evidence to the contrary, it is possible for anyone to find that special person. That person to spend Christmas with or grow old with or just take a nice silly walk in Central Park with. (Lily, p. 75)
I wish I could remember the moment when I was a kid and I discovered that the letters linked into words, and that the words linked to real things. What a revelation that must have been. We don't have the words for it, since we hadn't yet learned the words. It must have been astonishing, to be given the key to the kingdom and see it turn in our hands so easily. (Dash, p. 87)
You think fairy tales are only for girls? Here's a hint -- ask yourself who wrote them. I assure you, it wasn't just the women. It's the great male fantasy -- all it takes is one dance to know that she's the one. All it takes is the sound of her song from the tower, or a look at her sleeping face. And right away you know -- this is the girl in your head, sleeping or dancing or singing in front of you. Yes, girls want their princes, but boys want their princesses just as much. And they don't want a very long courtship. They want to know immediately. (p. 131)
And my favorite (and is very applicable for the coming year):
There are just lots of possibilities in the world...I need to keep my mind open for what could happen and not decide that the world is hopeless if what I want to happen doesn't happen. Because something else great might happen in between. (p. 227)
The blurb was right. Dash and Lily's Book of Dares is a feel good book that would make you want to start "...perusing bookstore shelves, looking and longing for a love (and a red notebook) of their own." It doesn't have to be Christmas when you read it, but the holidays add to the ambiance. It's the kind of book that will surely leave you smiling long after you have read the last word. :)
I'm not about to start looking for a red notebook in Fully Booked...but as for leaving one? I'll never tell. ;) ...more
One of my best book discoveries last year was Mira Grant's Feed, the first book in the Newsflesh trilogy. I was so exciOriginal post at One More Page
One of my best book discoveries last year was Mira Grant's Feed, the first book in the Newsflesh trilogy. I was so excited about it when I heard it was about zombies AND blogging, and it was my first big Kindle purchase. It remains as one of my favorite books, one that I have given away as gifts and prizes numerous times. I was excited for the next book, Deadline, but I wasn't expecting that much, given that second books are usually so-so compared to the first books in a trilogy. I had a feeling it would be good, but I wasn't expecting it to be as good as its predecessor, you know?
Deadline starts shortly after Feed, where Shaun Mason and the rest of the staff of After the End Times are still reporting the news and making noise in the blogosphere. Shaun, however, is no longer the Irwin that he used to be -- he's tired of it, and he's just running the news organization because he had nowhere else to go and nothing else to do. When a CDC researcher fakes her death and drops by their office with a lot of terrifying and confusing medical research, Shaun and the team find themselves in the middle of a conspiracy connected to the ones they encountered during the campaign. Hungry for the truth, they follow the trail, and find themselves facing an enemy bigger and scarier than the living dead that has become a constant threat in their lives.
I decided to reread Feed shortly after Deadline was delivered to my Kindle to refresh my memory of the Newsflesh world. I was a bit impatient while rereading because I kept on seeing really good reviews for the newest book, but I soldiered on, determined to have the best reading experience for the sequel. It took so much control for me not to read reviews and comments in reviews in full, too, so I won't be spoiled (and believe me, there are spoilers galore in the reviews for this book). I finished the first book, loved it just the same, and then moved on to the next book. Not even 1/4 into the book yet and I was already crying. A little over that, and my heart was breaking. And then, I just can't stop reading it. I finished the book at one in the morning last Sunday and it took all of me to stop myself from swearing. If my mom wasn't fast asleep beside me, I would have yelled many, many expletives that morning.
Mira Grant achieves a great balance between detail and action in Deadline. The previous book was admittedly wordy with all the exposition on the history of the Rising and the Kellis-Amberlee virus. Deadline may be just as wordy, but since the book is told in Shaun's point of view, we are given a bit of time to process the information in the same way as he does. There's less politics here, as it focuses on the virus itself -- lots of science, lots of medical terms, but not so much that it's too hard to follow. It's got good, solid world building, with lots of references to pre-Rising things, the things we have now. I love the references to zombie video games, most especially, and it makes the action scenes easier for me to imagine. There was a time when I was reading a zombie chase scene when something similar to a Resident Evil background music played on the TV. Talk about setting the scene. The story is tight, and it honestly had me totally creeped out as the story progressed. I had the same feeling while rereading Feed, but I dare say Deadlineamplified that feeling. By the end of the book, I was ready to hide under the covers and never go out.
While this is more of Shaun's story to tell, the girls Georgia and Buffy still play a big part in the story. The best part, I think, is how their staff gets to play bigger roles. Mira Grant created excellent characters that you'd want to be on your side when zombies walk with the living. I loved Mahir and Maggie (with her epileptic teacup bulldogs!) the most, but I also liked Dave, Becks and Alaric well enough to get attached to them even if I knew better not to get attached to any of Mira Grant's characters. Lines are blurred and gray areas abound in Deadline: the stereotypical villain in the previous book suddenly had more depth, there's no clear villain in this book, and there really is no one you could trust.
Unlike Feed, Deadline ends in a major cliffhanger, which could have also resulted in many, many expletives if I hadn't finished this book late in the night. And to prove the evil (genius) that Mira Grant really is, a preview of the third book, Blackout, is included in Deadline (A word of advice -- do not read the preview if you're not yet done with the book. YOU WILL REGRET IT IF YOU DO, TRUST ME.). While that's a teensy bit comforting, it still doesn't change the fact that it would not be out until next year. Alas, I wait in agony with the rest of the world. :o
Deadline by Mira Grant definitely exceeded all my expectations. I love it when a book does that. Even if I have to wait for a whole year for the conclusion of this wonderfully terrifying, expletive-inducing trilogy, I have a good feeling the third book will shoot straight up the ceiling with its awesomeness....more
I've heard so much about this novel, and I hated that it cost P700+ when I first saw it in Fully Booked Eastwood. When I saw cheaper verOne word: wow.
I've heard so much about this novel, and I hated that it cost P700+ when I first saw it in Fully Booked Eastwood. When I saw cheaper versions of it in Fully Booked Fort, I got it. Two weeks later, I read it in a day, and I finished with tears in my eyes and a heart that felt like bursting.
When I was a kid, I used to watch TV shows whose storyline involve a the main character losing his/her parents because of an accident and their parents leaving a favorite toy, book or an item that would be a remembrance of the parents. After watching so many things like that, I started to become fearful of my parents' well-being while they were out and I wasn't with them. Cellphones are not the in thing then, so I have no way of getting in touch with them as I wait for them to arrive. Oftentimes, I'd end up crying with worry, calling their friends to know where they are and...well, generally making a fool of myself because of my fear.
I felt the same kind of fear while I was reading If I Stay. It's hard to write what I felt while I was reading it, but there were so many questions racing through my head, questions that I wonder about in real life as well. Like, do people who are close to dying know that they are about to say goodbye? What would I do if I was in Mia's place? Can I choose to stay if I know I have lost a lot?
If I Stay doesn't have the answers to those questions, but rather presses them on to the reader. The story starts off happy and carefree, and then Forman quickly plunges the readers into the heat of the action. As a reader, I felt Mia's pain and confusion, and I learned to care for her deeply as I got to know her through her flashbacks. She's not the most remarkable character once you got to know her past (not counting her cello talent), but her pain and her choice makes her a strong character, one that resonates deeply with the readers even long after the book was finished.
It's not a comforting book, mind you, so don't read it if you're feeling down. Despite its slightly morbid theme of death, it is also a book of hope, one that encourage the reader to face life despite all its sadness and loss.
If I Stay is a beautiful, thought-provoking book about life, death and love, and it is definitely one of my favorite reads this year. :)...more
I admit: I requested this book on Netgalley because of the cover. Don't you think it's so cute? This is the kind of coveOriginal post at One More Page
I admit: I requested this book on Netgalley because of the cover. Don't you think it's so cute? This is the kind of cover that I would want to be printed as a poster and placed on my room. Or over my desk. The colors in this cover is enough to cheer me up, and I wouldn't mind just looking at it without really knowing what's inside.
Oh but wait, I actually read it. I don't know about you, but the book's synopsis reminded me of a John Green novel -- and not just because The Fault in Our Stars had a girl with cancer in it (I haven't read the book yet, in case you're wondering). Even the start of the book kind of reminded me a bit of Green, with the geeky guy and the "sidekick", but that is really pretty much where the similarities end.
Here's the thing about Me and Earl and the Dying Girl:this book had a guy named Greg who's content with just skimming and being under the radar and not making any real friends so he won't have to be ridiculed for being a part of a group. The only "friend" he had is black-guy Earl, who's had a difficult home life and whose default expression is "pissed". And then there's Rachel, the dying girl who Greg used to be linked to, and is linked to again because his mother asked him to visit her and keep her company. And there are movies, too - home movies, since Greg and Earl are big time movie fans and pseudo movie makers. Secret movie makers because they never let people watch any of them, until Rachel came along anyway.
Here's another thing: this book doesn't really have a real and solid plot that isn't mentioned in the title. This book really feels more like a study on high school and how a kid deals with having a friend (who he won't admit is really a friend) who's battling cancer. And even then, Greg didn't even admit it. He isn't out to win any trophies for friendship, or any of his abilities for that matter. Greg is so down on himself and what he can do that it made my heart hurt. At one point in the book, I wanted to shake him and say that he better snap out of his "Oh I'm good for nothing so I'll just make you laugh" type of thoughts. I guess there was just too much self-deprecating quips in the book that it got me a bit turned off -- it's either I'm just too positive, or his character is really just too negative. I'm not really sure.
That being said, though, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl really is hilarious, and it's a good book to lift you out of a bad mood with all the quips and tangents and all the movie stuff (if you don't think of the things I mentioned in the previous paragraph and stuff). I also loved Earl -- maybe even more than I liked Greg -- for all his tough-guy persona with a soft heart inside. I can imagine his "pissed" and "mega-pissed" expression, although I can't exactly think of him as an actor. I think most of my LOL time happened when Earl was present, although he also showed that he had a more difficult life compared to Greg. Personally for me, if anyone had the right to complain about his life, it was Earl. Rachel also had more rights to complain, with the cancer and all. I liked Rachel's quiet presence in the story, her snort-laugh and how she changed (but also not really changed) Greg's life. I thought all the scenes with her was pretty poignant, and I liked how she really tried to help Greg even if he wasn't willing to be helped that much. Their dynamic was pretty unusual, but it worked, and it really made the book true to its title.
Overall, this book is an enjoyable read, albeit not really as much as I expected. I guess I was used to having books make me feel so many things and think so many things that I imposed these expectations on Me and Earl and the Dying Girl too, when it's really not that kind of book. I doubt this will be one of my favorites but in the grander scheme of things (Wow, look at me using this phrase, haha!), this book is one I'd recommend for anyone who's looking for a few lot of good laughs....more
I've heard so many good things about Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen, but it took me a while before I acquired itOriginal post at One More Page
I've heard so many good things about Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen, but it took me a while before I acquired it and even some more time before I decided to read it. Every now and then, there's a book that comes along and takes you in and makes you comfortable with every page. They're those books that you just sink into effortlessly, almost like it was an old friend welcoming you with warm food after a long day's travel. I am very, very glad to say that Garden Spells is one of them. :)
Claire Waverley has lived alone for a long time now, choosing to stay in the Waverley house, running her catering business that offers the strangest but life-altering delicacies. Being a Waverley, Claire possesses a kind of magic that is unique to her: she can cook food from their garden that can shape the minds and moods of people who eat them. Claire is content with living alone and is not in any hurry to relinquish control over her routines until her wild and rebellious sister Sydney comes home with her daughter. Claire's quiet life is turned upside down as she deals with her sister's homecoming, and she tries desperately to stay in control even if she's afraid of the changes this would bring in her life.
Garden Spells, in a word, is lovely. This book reminds me of Marisa de los Santos' books, Love Walked In and Belong to Me, both of which I loved. The prose is lyrical but never flowery, the characters quirky but never too much that they'd be annoying or forced. I love that all characters had something going on with them -- even the apple tree had a personality. Just like Waverley magic, there's something really magical about this book, just enough that you wouldn't question the people's abilities or the things they believed in the little town of Bascom. Granted, there isn't anything that surprising with regards to the book's plot, but there's just a certain charm in this book that would stop you from caring too much. It's like you want to live with them there. This book should also not be read while hungry because all the descriptions of food made me hungrier! It makes me wonder if there is some truth in the life-altering food that Claire makes. Maybe if I put candied violets in my cake...? Haha, right. I can dream.
It's not often I let out a contented sigh at the end of a book, but this got one out of me. Sigh. If all of Sarah Addison Allen's books are as yummy and as magical as Garden Spells, then consider me a fan. I can't wait to get my hands on her other books. :)...more
The YA reading world was buzzing with excitement last year when John Green announced that he would have a new book out,Original post at One More Page
The YA reading world was buzzing with excitement last year when John Green announced that he would have a new book out, and I was one of them. I was one of the people who was terribly excited when he said he would sign all pre-orders and I pre-ordered mine by December, which kind of made me wait a bit when our local bookstores surprisingly got copies on the day The Fault In Our Stars was released. I had to avoid reading reviews of the book because I was so antsy to read it but I had to wait an entire month to get it. I forgot about that because this greeted me as soon as I opened the book when it finally arrived:
Yay a yeti!
The Fault In Our Stars introduces Green's first female protagonist, Hazel Grace Lancaster, who was diagnosed with a Stage IV thyroid cancer at the age of 12. By a medical miracle, she is now 16, but remains terminal and knows that one day cancer will come back to claim her. During a cancer support group meeting, she meets charismatic Augustus Waters, a cancer survivor who seems to be interested in her. Wary but also mildly curious, she starts spending time with Augustus, inadvertently changing her life as she knows it.
Reading The Fault In Our Stars reminds me of this time a few years ago when some high school friends and I attended a wake of a classmate's sister. The sister's -- let's call her Mary -- death was a shock to all of us. Our high school was small so we pretty much know each other, especially the ones who belong to a certain group of kids, like the achievers. Mary was one of those, and not only was she a smart kid but also a jock, and pretty much an all around nice girl too. She took up Psychology in college and just graduated before cancer took her away from everyone at the age of 20.
We weren't close, but I was good friends with Mary's brother, who was in my batch. We went to the wake, and I remember being nervous at looking at her casket because...well, I was scared to look at someone so young yet dead. I remember bursting into tears when I finally looked at her, and to be perfectly honest, it wasn't only because I was sad she was gone but because it reminded me of something that I was afraid to think of.
It was like I was staring at my own mortality. Back then, I only hear of cancer from people who are aging, from people on TV. It wasn’t a possibility for me or any of my friends before — we’re too young and the world’s so big and there’s so many things to do for us to suffer from a disease like that. But seeing someone even younger than me pass away, not even getting to experience how it is to be outside of school…to imagine someone like her going through chemotherapy treatments…it doesn’t feel right. It’s so unfair.
You know what they'd say about this: but life is never fair. And anyway, everyone will die at some point, it's just that someone left earlier. But that doesn't really make it feel any better, or make losing people to death (and cancer) less painful, right?
Here's a fact: after reading The Fault In Our Stars, I am still pretty much convinced that John Green can do no wrong with writing contemporary YA. His latest novel has all the wit and charm and realness that only he can write. This book is just as charming as An Abundance of Katherines with all the funny dialogue, as well as having the memorable characters and scenes as Paper Towns (Isaac is one of my new favorite sidekicks). The Fault In Our Stars has the comic relief and the seriousness of Looking for Alaska, but definitely less of the unattainable girl because Augustus made himself attainable right from the start. ;) The only thing this book has that the other Green books don't have is the cancer, and John Green tackles that subject with enough sensitivity and seriousness that it makes us who are blessed not to experience that (whether with ourselves or with someone else we care for) somewhat understand a fraction of it. The book is very readable and realistic, despite some of the scenes that felt a little too outrageous and yes, a little too romantic and almost cheesy for my taste. Oh, but don't get me wrong -- this romance is probably the best of all in all of Green's novels. Chasing an unattainable person and deciphering their mysteries can be a bit tiring, don't you think?
Cancer plays a big part in this book, but if I you ask me, I didn't see this as a cancer book. Cliche and cheesy as this may sound, I saw this book as a book for the living, to remind us of some things that people with terminal cases know: that we are all dying. I think if this was a normal contemporary YA story without the sick characters, I would've felt annoyed at Augustus' presumptuous comments to Hazel, and I would tell Hazel to stay far far away from this boy who thinks he's got her all figured out. But I believe Augustus was acting that way because he knew that life is short, and if you don't say what you feel, or at least, if you're not perfectly honest with the people you care about, then one day it might be too late for you to say the things you wanted to say in the first place. It goes both ways too -- learning to receive the care and love and attention that other people offer out of their affection. Sometimes that's even more difficult than giving it, because we think we don't deserve it. There's just as much grace in receiving kindness and love as in giving it. If anything, Hazel and Augustus' love story is about choosing to live our lives despite the fact that we are all dying.
And because comparisons are unavoidable -- here's the order of all John Green books I have read based on how much I like them:
1. Paper Towns 2. The Fault In Our Stars 3. An Abundance of Katherines 4. Looking for Alaska
Paper Towns has the best plot out of all IMHO, but I think The Fault In Our Stars shine just as well as my favorite. So it might have taken me some time to get this book in my hands from its announcement to its release, and some more time to read it but the wait for this book was definitely worth it. :)...more
I love traveling. Granted, I'm not the most traveled person around, but I love being able to go to places. I love seeingOriginal post at One More Page
I love traveling. Granted, I'm not the most traveled person around, but I love being able to go to places. I love seeing new things, I love being (almost) anonymous in a sea of people who may or may not understand me. I love figuring out how a train system goes and how I can go from one place to another. The itch to travel hasn't been that big in me until I got to go to Europe last year, and ever since then, I've been thinking of other places in the world that I must see in this lifetime. There's something about being able to achieve a traveling dream that makes you want to travel again, especially while I still can. I've got a bucket list of places that I want to go to and while a part of me wonders how will I be ever able to afford all those trips, it does not stop me from dreaming.
I guess that's why Wanderlove was such a hit with me. Bria Sandoval wanted to be a global vagabond, especially after her senior year in high school spun out of control and left her lost. She signs up for the Global Vagabonds tour to Central America, thinking that she would be with people her age. But the brochure she read was wrong and she ended up being with a group of tourists that followed a too-rigid schedule for her to actually find time to rediscover herself. Then she runs into a group of backpackers -- real backpackers who go from one place to another with just the clothes and the bags on their backs -- led by dive instructor with a bad boy aura Rowan, and his humanitarian sister Starling. Bria takes the chance and joins them. It's the trip of a lifetime for Bria, and she hopes that somewhere along the way, against the backdrop of Mayan temples and Belizean islands, she finds exactly what she was looking for.
Again, I love traveling. But truth be told, traveling is kind of a cliche interest among people my age, at least from where I come from. Everyone wants to travel, because it's such a good way to spend money and to see something new. But I know that only a few of those people who has put "traveling" in their interests can actually quit their jobs, sell everything and just travel.
I know I am definitely not one of those people.
The backpackers in Wanderlove? They're the real deal.
I wasn't really expecting to love this book so much. I was just expecting to like it, but not really like it. But I was captured from page one. I loved Bria -- her doubts and uncertainties, how she pretends to be a well-seasoned traveler even if that wasn't true. I loved how different she was from the first chapter to the last, and how her fears can translate into something universal, even if I'm not an artsy person. Bria's need to escape is something everyone feels, and something that traveling can quickly fix, even if it's just for a while. I feel you, Bria. I really do.
Also: the romance. This is another one of those slow burn romances that just makes my toes curl with delight. :) While the build up to the romance didn't really span months like how it was in Flat-Out Love, it was still believable with all the time that Rowan and Bria spent together. I loved how they danced around one another, how their conversations can go from disliking each other to having a mutual understanding that led them to protect one another from people who do not understand them. There wasn't too much drama in how their relationship was built up, and I liked how it all ended, especially where it all ended. Wanderlove at its finest. :)
Finally, the setting. I think it helps that the author is also a backpacker, so the experiences and the places that the characters visited felt very real. I have to admit that Central America was never in my bucket list. After reading this book, though, I also wanted to pack my bags and go see the places they saw. Okay fine, I don't think I'll go backpack like they did anytime soon, but I so want to go where they went. Someday, someday. I'll go there. Maybe after I hit South America next year (World Youth Day 2013 is in Rio de Janiero -- wohoo!).
If you're ever one who's loved traveling, or one who's wished to travel but never got to, I recommend Wanderlove by Kristen Hubbard to you. I hope this book fills you with the same kind of love as Bria found and Rowan had, and that somehow, it also helps you find the place(s) in the world that would stick in your heart. :)
I leave you with this quote:
You got to find your own places. The places you get, girl, the ones that stick in your heart. And if you’re lucky, you find people to share them with.
If you asked me a year ago if I knew who David Mitchell was and if I have plans of reading any of his books ever, I probOriginal post at One More Page
If you asked me a year ago if I knew who David Mitchell was and if I have plans of reading any of his books ever, I probably would just give you a blank stare and then shake my head. I had no idea who he was, and his books weren't really my type of books. So when my friend Monique reviewed Cloud Atlas early this year, I liked the review, but I didn't think that I'd go and get it because it felt like a "serious" book and I was still attached to my YA.
Then...I don't know, peer pressure? Word of mouth? Hype? I see more and more of David Mitchell's name on Goodreads, and more and more people raving about him and so I wonder -- what's the deal with him? Is he really that amazing? Will I like him too? Curiosity won me over, so I decided to finally try a Mitchell book. Since Cloud Atlasseemed to be the most popular, and the fact that its movie is coming soon, some book club friends and I set up a reading buddy session with the fans eagerly eavesdropping on our mini-discussion.
Cloud Atlas contains six stories that span across different eras and set in different places all over the world with completely different characters and story lines. At first it seems that each story is independent from one another, until after I finished the first chapter and I was all, "Huh?". As it turns out, the six stories were structured in a way that each is connected to the other despite the differences in settings, characters and genre. Yes, genre. Curious yet?
We start with The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing, a journal of an American notary from Chatham Islands back to California set in 1850. From Adam we meet Robert Forbisher in Letters From Zedelghem, who writes to his friend Rufus Sixsmith about his time as an amanuensis to an old and blind musical genius, Vyvyan Ayrs. Decades later, in Half-Lives: The First Luisa Rey Mystery, there's Rufus Sixsmith again, and he meets journalist Luisa Rey who attempts to blow a conspiracy wide open. After we are left hanging with Luisa Rey, in comes the British Timothy Cavendish, a publisher who gets in all sorts of scrapes which he thinks could form a movie on his life entitled The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish, if he can get out of it alive. Even more years later, in An Orison of Sonmi~451, we are transported into a dystopian world set in a new Korea called Nea So Copros, and clones called fabricants are employed to do all sorts of dirty work for everyone. Sonmi~451 is a clone who is up for execution and she is given the chance to tell her stor before she goes to the Litehouse. Finally, set into the very distant future, there's Zachry and the story of his tribe in Sloosha's Crossin' an' Everythin' After. From there, the story goes back to Sonmi~451, Tim Cavendish, Luisa Rey, Robert Forbisher and finally back to Adam Ewing.
Here's the thing about Cloud Atlas that made me realize that I will like it: it's like a novel of spin-offs stories. And I like spin-offs. I liked how Mitchell surprised me in every story, and I wasn't sure what to expect every time a chapter ends (and more often than not, I'm left wanting more with every chapter because it just ends). I liked how he stretched my imagination with every story, I liked the way he writes and how the novel switches from one genre to another seamlessly. By the third story, I knew I would like the book -- the question is how much I would really like it. As I read the last few chapters, I thought this would just be a four-star book...and then I got to the end. You know how you don't want the book to end, but you want to keep on reading because you want to know what happens? Then when you get to the very final line, the chills just come? And they were awesome chills? Really awesome chills? And then you want to read the book all over again? That's what Cloud Atlas did to me.
I know this review is being a bit vague, but this book is not the kind of book that you'd want to be spoiled when you read it. The structure may seem like a gimmick, but I think for this story, it's an effective way to tell the story and make connections. As a whole, I think Cloud Atlasis a book that deals with connectedness. Each character's story can stand on their own and can be taken as it is, but once you start putting them together, we see that their stories become richer, more meaningful in several ways. It's just like how each of us has our own story and we can live with just that...but once our lives cross with one another and our stories touch...everything changes.
To summarize: I loved Cloud Atlas. I loved it, I loved it. And from how my friends have raved about Mitchell's other books, I am now looking forward to reading the rest of his works. Especially if his other characters make a cameo in his other novels! :) I think that's the best part of this Cloud Atlas reading experience: discovering a new author whose works will make you just want to read more and more and more.
My brother doesn’t know this, but I consider him to be one of my best friends. He’s four years older than me, and like everyFirst posted at Pinoy Pop
My brother doesn’t know this, but I consider him to be one of my best friends. He’s four years older than me, and like every other sibling pair, we used to have our share of screaming matches when we were kids. We only started having serious conversations as we grew up, thanks to the long rides from school to our house during college, when he'd pick me up. My relationship with him gave me a soft spot for stories about brothers and sisters, so it was no surprise that I couldn't wait to read the recently releasedTall Story by Candy Gourlay.
Tall Story chronicles the tale of half-siblings Bernardo and Andi, from the day they meet for the first time. Bernardo grew up in the Philippines under the care of his aunt and uncle, after his mom, a nurse, relocated to the United Kingdom to work. Bernardo grew up waiting for his papers to get approved by UK Immigration, so that he could live in London with his family. Andi is a small girl who loves basketball and barely knows her older brother, save for a few letters and phone calls. All that Andi knows is that her brother is tall, as her mom often stresses, and she wants him in London so they can play basketball together--but when he finally arrives, Andi is in for a shock. Bernardo is not just tall--he’s an eight-foot giant! As Bernardo and Andi get to know each other, Andi is pulled into Bernardo’s “magical” world and Bernardo learns how it feels to have a family.
If I could use one word to describe this novel, it would be "heartwarming." I was thoroughly charmed by the entire book, and not just because it's a brother-sister story. I knew I’d like Andi from her first line: Rush hour. So many armpits, so little deodorant. What Andi lacks in height, she makes up with ferocity and her can't-miss basketball skills. Bernardo, on the other hand, is literally a gentle giant – he’s huge but not aggressive, sometimes rash and forgetful, but always bearing good intentions. Bernardo and Andi's voices are distinct, and they play very well off each other, giving readers a chance to understand and sympathize with both points of view. I ached for the two main characters to be friends, and rejoiced when they grew closer as the book went on.
They weren’t constantly in conflict, which is how some authors portray estranged siblings, but instead, simply ignorant of how to act around each other. There was a mutual love and affection, but it was hard to bridge the cultural gap that had grown between them.
Bernardo’s Filipino culture was juxtaposed against Andi’s British culture, in such a way as to highlight the differences between them. Filipino was portrayed with a lot of color, laden with some superstition and magic unique to Filipinos. I’m not too familiar with local folklore, so I wasn’t familiar with the legend of Bernardo Carpio, so I came to the story with little more knowledge than these foreignreviewers, and I agree that Gourlay managed to weave the legend cleverly into the story, leaving readers wondering if Bernardo the human is actually a reincarnation of Bernardo the giant. Candy also added another magical (and scary) element, in the form of Nena, the town witch, and her daughter, Gabriela, which gave the story more depth, and showed the diversity of Filipino culture and myth. If you’re not keen on magic, however, you aren't forced to accept that world-view--Gourlay provides a possible scientific explanation for Bernardo’s height and other ailments, and leaves the "truth" open. I thought this was really smart, as it grounded the story into the real world while it still reached for something out of the ordinary. While there were still some things in the end that seem to defy rational explanation, the author leaves it up to the readers to decide which to believe.
(view spoiler)[ Underneath all the height is a lot of heart, as a reviewer on Amazon said. I found myself in tears at several parts in the book, especially when Andi and Bernardo start to bond. The fate of some of the antagonists was something you’d not wish on your enemies, too, and my heart broke during a scene where calamity struck the Philippines. In the last few chapters of the novel, Gourlay effectively showed how many people turn a blind eye toward what happens in distant parts of the world. Like this reviewer, I found this particular passage heartbreakingly true:
"And the weird thing was, everybody probably knew about it. Everybody had glanced at the newspaper headlines or heard the radio in passing or glimpsed something as they changed channels on the TV. Hundreds of Casualties in Massive Philippine Earthquake. But 'hundreds' are not people, are they? And blank faces on TV are not people either."
Despite this, Gourlay also showed how resilient Filipinos can be, and how distance will not stop us from caring for our homeland. (hide spoiler)]
Candy Gourlay certainly knew her stuff, having lived in and been immersed in two different cultures, and she knows how to write a good older brother-younger sister relationship--despite not having an older brother (although she had an older sister and some younger brothers). Tall Story is a poignant, heartwarming story of clashing cultures, of family and sibling love, with just the right amount of magic, tears and laughter. This is one story that everyone, whether British, Filipino or otherwise, would not regret having read. ...more