Saturday, July 12, 2014

Review: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

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Title: The Fault in Our Stars
Author: John Green
Genre: Young Adult Ficton
Release Date: January 2012
Publisher: Speak
Format: Paperback
Pages: 313
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Bookdepository
Read from June 6 to 12, 2014
My rating: 3 stars: I like it
Summary: Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten.


There is no shortage of fault to be found amid our stars.

The thing about this book is that I can't quite put my fingers on anything. I can't say I like it, but I don't dislike it either. I can't say it's a good book, but it's not a bad one either. I don't care much about it, but I've read it three times (trying to find something to like). I can't say John Green disappoints me, because he certainly doesn't. I just DON'T know how I feel about The Fault in Our Stars, whether the book or the movie. The story just doesn't work for me.

When I read it in March 2013, my feelings leaned toward the negative end of the spectrum. So here was the book everyone's been raving about, the book I supposed would change my life in some ways, and I expected nothing short of amazing from John Green anyway. And there I was, failing at feeling anything. Finishing the book thinking: well that's it? That in itself, not necessarily the story, was a huge, underwhelming disappointment. I felt like I'd been majorly cheated. I concluded that TFiOS is the most overrated book in the 21st century.

Though this time I had no expectations whatsoever, I still held the same conclusion. I started rereading again because I just wanted to find out exactly why it failed with me the first two times, and I still came away with no satisfactory answers. So I'll just stop trying to rack my brain and begin to tell you frankly how I feel, and maybe figure something out along the way.

First of all, I think a considerable amount of the hype surrounding TFiOS is cancer perks. I'm not saying anything bad here; I'm just pointing out that I think the book wouldn't have been so hyped about, hadn't it been for the fact that it involves cancer. And anyone arguing otherwise might be deluding themselves. I understand that cancer is an extremely relatable subject, and that naturally makes the book popular. (I like reading about subject matters that I can relate to as well, and I tend to like them, too.) What bothers me, though, is when people say this is not a book about cancer, but seriously, how can this book not be about cancer? It's all the characters ever talk about. It affects everything they do and don't do, their feelings and thoughts. Saying TFiOS is not a cancer book is like pretending you love the book for its beautiful story, not because it's about cancer. That you're not manipulated into liking it by the presence of cancer which defines the whole story as you know it. What makes a story beautiful, anyway? Doesn't cancer determine that they're not going to live long and yet they love each other that makes it a beautiful love story? I don't know how to put it nicely, but I feel like TFiOS is a pretentious book about cancer and uses the fact that it's a love story about people with cancer to manipulate readers' feelings and then bask in all the sympathy and tears it can get from them, which are people's natural reactions to cancer. I don't know what John Green's intention was, but I felt that the book tries to manipulate me the whole time. All I heard in my head was "OMG I'm gonna write a cancer book and people are gonna cry so hard and they're gonna love all the feels!!!!!!!!" That was a huge turn-off.

There were times when I liked Hazel and Augustus, but most of the times I didn't. Let's start with  Augustus--to use Isaac's words--what a self-aggrandizing bastard. So. Pretentious. Apparently, he can't say anything without making it sound like a soliloquy, like he's prepared a speech for every occasion and memorized them so that when the occasion arises, he can recite the speech flawlessly on the spot and end it with a smirk to make the girl go even crazier. What's that you say, you fear oblivion? I don't see you trying so hard for the world to remember you, sorry. And what's with all these "metaphors"? How is a cigarette a metaphor for a "killing thing"--it IS a killing thing, no metaphor involved. Dear Gus, a metaphor is when you say something is another thing, whose similarities are not easily arrived at until you really analyze and think about them. Like in Carol Ann Duffy's poem "Valentine," an onion is a metaphor for love because it makes you cry or whatever. No, that pretentious act is not metaphorical, it's symbolic. It symbolizes defiance and the need to control, I get it. It just bothers me so much. For someone who complains about people's wrong use of literality, Augustus isn't good at literary terms either.

Hazel, however, is more bearable. I liked her at times when she shows her firm stance in reality and not grand daydreams, especially when she tells Augustus off about how this is the life you get now live with it. And she annoyed me really bad with her overly girly moments. I guess that's all I have to say about Hazel. She didn't make much of an impression on me. And oh, I didn't for a minute buy that they really loved each other. I didn't. Sorry. It just felt too forced.

I understand that they're supposed to come off as smart above their years, with their philosophical pondering and existential concerns and deep understanding of life and all, but honestly, I just didn't believe it. It didn't feel like them speaking THEIR thoughts. Augustus and Hazel feel more like quote-making machines, whose inner ramblings and dramatic monologues and soliloquies are literary devices through which John Green can deliver his most contrived yet gorgeous lines aiming right for the tear ducts--with expected responses of agreement such as "OMG so true!" or something along that line or real crying, for that matter. (Though I'll admit I highlighted those quotes, too. They're beautiful as standalone quotes, not suited for dialogues of teenagers.)

And yet, I understand why they're written this way. What I appreciate about TFiOS (I'm not so hateful, people) is that it's the most literary of all John's novels. I mean, almost everything can be analyzed to imply deeper meanings. For example, Augustus wants to be remembered by the world, hence: fear of oblivion, the air of self-importance, aggrandizing bullshit--all this so he can validate his significance. Hazel's obsession with An Imperial Affliction and how it ends represents clearly her concern for her parents after she dies. Many literary references and intertextuality appear in the novel. Like T.S. Eliot's "Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock," which Hazel knows by heart and can recite from memory, can illustrate the pointlessness and mundaneness of living, or even Hazel's "disturbing the universe" by falling in love with Gus despite her not wanting to be a granade. Or Hazel's continuing William Carlos Williams' "The Red Wheelbarrow" can reflect how she wishes she could've prolonged Gus's life. The motif "star(s)" occurs throughout the novel and in its title, but I haven't really given it much thought yet.

Although my experience reading TFiOS this time didn't improve much from the previous times, I can now rest in peace knowing that the reason I didn't enjoy the book was not because I was prejudiced or I expected too much, but because it was written in ways impossible for me to enjoy. That's not to say the book is bad; it seems to have achieved its purposes with other readers alright. It is as guilty for my not liking it as my programmed to reject anything that feels artificial is. I'm not upset like I was last time. After trying 3 times, it's clear that it just doesn't work. I made peace with the fact that we're not meant to be. The fault is neither in TFiOS nor in myself that I felt underwhelmed.

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This review is also posted on Goodreads.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

#BookADayUK 27 and 28: Want to Be One of the Characters and Bought at My Fave Independent Bookshop

I'm still waiting for my Hogwarts letter. I've been to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and felt at home. I know I'm not a Muggle. Enough said.

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My fave independent bookshop is in Bangkok, Thailand, and it's called Dasa Book Cafe. I've been to tons of indie bookshops in the US, and I've really fallen in love with them, but Dasa still remains my fave. This may be because it's the first indie shop I've ever been to, and because I've bought more books there than anywhere else (Kinokuniya is a chain, so it doesn't count). And because every time I walk in I smell coffee and old books, and I know the people who work there, and they know me, and there's always something to talk about. Over the years, Dasa and I have built such a strong sense of friendship (if I may call it that) and familiarity that no other bookstores can hope to be comparable to. 

And I was just there yesterday! I didn't intend to get anything, but like always, I ended up with something.

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Recently I've been listening to Wallace's speeches, and found he's a well-informed, smart, interesting person. My teacher's been sending me his essays to get my feet wet, which I haven't read. Wallace's Infinite Jest has always intimidated me. I don't know if I'm intellectually ready to take on this giant of over one thousand pages, but I'm definitely eager to. And now I have a copy at home to remind me to keep climbing up the literary ladder. 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

#BookADayUK 25: Never Finished It

Hey, hey!

I was just thinking about bailing today and going straight to bed (without even showering) because I feel so tired, but then I heard a voice in my head saying: procrastinator. Now wait a minute. I am so procrastinating, and I need to stop it already, otherwise it's gonna be all I'll ever do. So here I am. Fighting my inner laziness. Keeping up with #BookADayUK.

It's actually funny to think about how a lazy person that I am rarely ever not finishes a book. I always try to finish whatever book I start, no matter how bad it is, just so I'll at least know it's really bad and I didn't miss out on anything because there's really nothing amazing waiting to happen in the book. So when I looked at today's topic, "never finished it," I had to consult my Goodreads what book I have started but never finished. Goodreads wasn't so useful, because those I listed as DNF (did-not-finish) are books that I never should've started and never wanted to read in the first place. So I racked my brain for a book I actually wanted to read, started reading, and just never felt invested in it enough to want to go on. I couldn't think of any. (That's why I wanted to bail and just go to bed.) But then I went to my reading room slash library, and looked through all the shelves, and found one book I haven't thought about at all in 8 years ever since I've bought it.

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I started Lauren Weisberger's The Devil Wears Prada after I saw the movie in 2006, and left it before I had a Goodreads account, and that's why it's just marked as "to-read." That means I was hoping to finish it one day. And that also means when I added it to the shelf I didn't even remember that I'd started it. And if I had to go through the book finding where I'd left off, I wouldn't even know. All I know about the story comes from the movie. Yup, that's "never finished it" for you. Though "never had it cross my mind" sounds more like it. Sorry, Devil, I was too young for chick lit at the time. And now I'm not interested in chick lit at all. Maybe someday.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

#BookADayUK 24: Hooked Me into Reading

Hiiiiiiiiiiii, it's B again.

In an attempt to keep the blog alive, I'm here again to continue the #BookADayUK posts. Today's topic is: hooked me into reading. As soon as I saw that, I had only one book in mind--or one book series, to be precise. 

I wasn't much of a reader when I was younger. I read only in small chunks, or read really thin books about nothing in particular. I remember I loved reading trivia, because things are listed out and you can leave it whenever and pick it up again whenever. And whatever reading I did when I was younger was all in Thai. I grew up in a country with its own national language, and my English proficiency was very limited. In kindergarten I learned to sing the ABC song. In 6th grade I still couldn't quite grasp how the three basic tenses worked, let alone all the 12. And with the language barrier taken into account, I didn't have enough knowledge and confidence to start reading books written in English until I was in secondary school. Grade 8 was the critical time when a lot of things began in my life and affected me in positive ways and have stuck with me until now, shaping who I would later become. Like how my devotion to German football motivated me to study German. Like how the first book that I read that was written in the English language was Meg Cabot's The Princess Diaries, and I had to wait a year for the next books to come out, and by the time I finished the 10th, I realized I was already a reader. When I knew the next book was coming out, I had to reread the whole series from the first book up to the latest one to refresh my memory. If my memory serves me right, I've read the first three books 4 times, book 4 and 5 and 6 three times, book 7 and 8 and 9 twice, and the 10th just once. Yep, it was this series that hooked me into reading.

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This is actually a funny pile to look at. First of all, I forgot that V is before VI. Second of all, notice how only two books match? That's because like every two year Macmillan and Harper Collins reprinted the series in new editions. That's why I don't have the latest edition; I completed my collection before the new one came out. Lastly, I love tiaras. I couldn't resist.

Monday, June 23, 2014

#BookADayUK 23: Made to Read at School

Hi guys! B is back!

After three months away from home, I can tell you what I miss the most is reading, and I'm finally trying to get back in the game. Throughout my time in the States, I went to many, many amazing bookstores, and I hope to find the time (and effort) to share what I've experienced. But that's for later.

Yesterday I stumbled upon something called #BookADayUK on Prettybooks. It looks like a fun thing to do, so I'm joining right now, even though I've missed the first 22 days. Ha!

So, a book I was made to read at school? My high school reading list wasn't all that interesting. Things started to get real when I became an English major at Chula's Faculty of Arts, where we have to read an average of 5 books for one literature course. One of the best classes I've had here is Mythological and Biblical Background to English Literature, which we call "Mytho" for short. For this class, we studied the whole Edith Hamilton book (yes, that one). I actually had to memorize everything for midterms and finals. EVERYTHING. Stories, date, characters, family trees, places, and you know how crazy Greek names are, right? Reading one book had never been that exhausting... until this course. It's super useful, though. Now I don't have to draw a blank every time an allusion to classical mythology shows up in serious literature, and it tends to appear here and there very often.  And I can now pretend to be smart by alluding to Greek myths. Fun. No, seriously, it's really useful.

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Some of my friends couldn't hate it more, but I actually enjoyed it. I haven't read other books on mythology, so I cannot really say if this one is the best one out there. But judging from what I've read, this book is really comprehensive already, and it's not even that thick! Hamilton sure does have a gift for retelling stories.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Review: Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

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Title: Thirteen Reasons Why
Author: Jay Asher
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
First Release Date: October 18, 2007
Publisher: Razorbill
Format: Paperback
Pages: 288
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Bookdepository
Read from June 15 to 16, 2014
My rating: 4 stars: I really like it
Summary: You can't stop the future. You can't rewind the past. The only way to learn the secret. . . is to press play.Clay Jensen doesn't want anything to do with the tapes Hannah Baker made. Hannah is dead. Her secrets should be buried with her.
Then Hannah's voice tells Clay that his name is on her tapes-- and that he is, in some way, responsible for her death.All through the night, Clay keeps listening. He follows Hannah's recorded words throughout his small town. . .and what he discovers changes his life forever.


“I hope you're ready, because I'm about to tell you the story of my life. More specifically, why my life ended. And if you're listening to these tapes, you're one of the reasons why.”

I read according to my mood. You can probably tell something about a person's state of mind at the moment by observing what they're currently reading. And as you can guess, I was feeling pretty damned depressed when I picked up this book. Long story short: I was (have been) feeling like I was getting nowhere with my life and I felt trapped with no way out and I'm constantly falling short of my own expectations. The idea of suicide crept into my head and I played around with it, and then came to the conclusion that I wouldn't mind it if I were to not be alive anymore the next minute. Now, don't be alarmed, I'm okay now. I wasn't even contemplating suicide; it's just that I happened to be in the right state of mind to be thinking about it (and I was only thinking).

Growing up in a Buddhist country, I was taught that suicide is an unforgivable sin. And I don’t mean to go into details about this, but I’ve had my lapses of depression and thoughts about suicide. Sometimes my brother would ask what the heck is wrong with me, and most of the time I’ll just ignore him because socialization is just too much of an effort to make when I cannot care less. Sometimes, though, I’ll tell him I don’t feel like living anymore, just so he can stop nagging me. In my family, the suggestion of suicide triggers an incredibly automatic response: the caring look is gone from my brother’s eyes and every word that he utters is tinged with accusations. Anger replaces sympathy. Mine is a society that condemns anyone who commits suicide as a cowardly, selfish, worthless person who craves attention and acts upon superficial impulses. And let’s just say that this is just one of countless other opinions that Thailand and I don’t share.

Before this review turns into a rant fest, let’s talk about Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why. It’s been sitting on my shelf for years, so when I suddenly needed it, it was already there waiting for me: the first book on the YA shelf, because I arrange my shelves alphabetically according to authors. (This is a real benefit of hoarding books– you always have the right book at hand when the mood hits.) The book is just as I expected: dark, heartbreaking and extremely suspenseful. For someone who has to get up at 7.30 to be at work at 9.30, staying up to watch a World Cup game until 1 am says a lot about dedication and loyalty. And what do you think it says about a book when that someone, instead of collapsing in bed, sacrifices some more hours to finish that book? Yup, that book must be friggin’ awesome.

And it is. Thirteen Reasons Why, while not exactly a mystery book, works the mysterious charms so well. From the first page where the main character Clay Jensen receives a shoe box full of 13 cassette tapes from a dead girl whom he’s had a crush on, we can’t help but wonder what exactly that he’s done to make him deserve such a torturous punishment. The fact that he keeps wondering the same thing and that he’s oh-so-sweet add even more to the suspense. And what are her 13 reasons? How are they so horrible as to drive a girl to kill herself? Opening this book is like opening a box of questions that can’t demand answers immediately enough, and I love that about this book.

The narration switches between Hannah Baker’s recordings and Clay. The interaction between Clay’s narrations, interspersed into Hannah’s, gives the book a sense of real-time urgency, which in my opinion is better than keeping them in big, separate chunks. Sometimes, it doesn’t work so well, as his responses tend to be too frequent, thus interrupting the flow and keeping me from fully immersing myself into her story. When that happened, I would be like: will you just calm your shit and let her finish, Clay? This would be followed by an unhealthy amount of exasperated eye-rolling. But then again, this didn’t happen often. Most of the time I would be too engrossed to notice.

Personally, I believe that feelings and pain are always real, and the magnitude of suffering may vary from person to person. Have you ever had someone tell you the pain you feel isn’t a real pain because what causes that pain doesn’t “seem” like a legit pain causer? I’ve had that shoved in my face one too many times. They would sometimes say they fail to sympathize with me because my problems are so small that it’s rather impossible to be suffering as greatly as I am; I must be overreacting and need to quit being such a drama queen already. How about people feel differently about different things? And how about some people feel more intensely than others? Sure, it might just be a spur-of-the-moment-thing, but that doesn’t make them overly dramatic and their feelings any less real. I never doubt the “realness” of the pain suffered before a person chooses to commit suicide. It’s unfair to judge unless you’re in their shoes, but the thing is you can never pretend to be in anyone’s shoes and understand them, because no two pairs of shoes have been through the exact same shit and taken the exact same roads leading up to that spot where suicide is decided. I’m in no way glorifying it; I’m just trying to point out that since we can never know to what extent a person must be suffering, it’s not our business to judge the legitimacy of their motives and call them cowardly or selfish or stupid or whatever. (Family and friends, please take notes.)

That said, I wish Hannah would’ve reached out to her parents. It’s like they’re not even a part of her life. All her decisions are made without taking her parents into consideration. Because they’re not a part of her problems, I think it’s a bit unfair for her to actually be bothered to meticulously make maps (and secretly drop the maps into lockers weeks before she kills herself—such a planner, huh?), tapes and a second set of tapes for those who make her life miserable, and leave not a single word for her clueless parents. While these people get explanations they might not even care to know about, the parents might be asking themselves “why” for the rest of their lives and getting no answer. Ouch.

For those who don’t like books that sound preachy, be warned that there are didactic messages like:
"You don’t know what goes on in anyone’s life but your own. And when you mess with one part of a person’s life, you’re not messing with just that part. Unfortunately, you can’t be that precise and selective. When you mess with one part of a person’s life, you’re messing with their entire life. Everything. . . affects everything."
And
"No one knows for certain how much impact they have on the lives of other people. Oftentimes, we have no clue. Yet we push it just the same."
I’m not recommending this book for its lessons. (I think books shouldn’t focus primarily on lessons. Yawn.) Rather, read it for the story. Explore how pretty amazingly one event leads to another to another like a “snowball effect.” This book is such a page-turner. It’s safe to say that I haven’t enjoyed a book this much in a long, long time.


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 This review is also posted on Goodreads.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Hiatus Alert!


Hello, hello! 

It's Best. You haven't heard from me in months. And you're still not gonna hear from me for a while. I'm currently in my third year as an English major (whee!), and guess what, the reading materials this year tripled last year's. Fun. The little free time I have after class and during weekends have to be dedicated to preparing for class and catching up with assignments--all of which I'm terrible at. I'm constantly failing at time management. Thus: no time to review or blog. 

So, yes, this is an official hiatus! *throws confetti* Eh, not really. See how busy I've been? I didn't even have time to write a hiatus post until today. Right now, the political unrest in Thailand makes it impossible to attend class, thus classes are canceled until next week. And you'd think I can take the time off to do some reading, right? Yes and no. Teachers have been assigning papers and homework like mad. Talking about making use of the break. So what I'll be reading during the time off is 3 novels for Children Lit class (finished We All Fall Down yesterday, now reading Anne of Green Gables) and 1 novel for German Reading. Also, I need to write papers and study for tests and finals already. Crazy stuff. In comparison to others, I'm considered lazy ass. They've finished a bunch of assignments already and I've just finished one book. *groans*

I hope to return to book blogging soon, though I have no idea how "soon" it can be. Almost immediately after finals, I'm leaving for the US in March. Guess who's going to be a cast member at Walt Disney World, Orlando, FL? Yep. Gonna be back in Thailand on June 4, and who knows? Maybe I'll be active during the two months I have before next semester starts on August 11. I'm gonna be a senior.

Fun fact: tomorrow is my 21st birthday.

I'll be back!

Best

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Review: Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Title: Never Let Me Go
Author: Kazuo Ishiguro
Genre: Science Fiction
Release Date: 2005
Publisher: Faber and Faber
Format: Paperback
Pages: 282
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Bookdepository
Read from October 5 to 6, 2013
My rating: 5 stars: I love it! It's amazing!
Summary: As a child, Kathy – now thirty-one years old – lived at Hailsham, a private school in the scenic English countryside where the children were sheltered from the outside world, brought up to believe that they were special and that their well-being was crucial not only for themselves but for the society they would eventually enter. Kathy had long ago put this idyllic past behind her, but when two of her Hailsham friends come back into her life, she stops resisting the pull of memory. And so, as her friendship with Ruth is rekindled, and as the feelings that long ago fueled her adolescent crush on Tommy begin to deepen into love, Kathy recalls their years at Hailsham. She describes happy scenes of boys and girls growing up together, unperturbed – even comforted – by their isolation. But she describes other scenes as well: of discord and misunderstanding that hint at a dark secret behind Hailsham’s nurturing facade. With the dawning clarity of hindsight, the three friends are compelled to face the truth about their childhood–and about their lives now.
A tale of deceptive simplicity, Never Let Me Go slowly reveals an extraordinary emotional depth and resonance – and takes its place among Kazuo Ishiguro’s finest work.


Memories, even your most precious ones, fade surprisingly quickly. But I don’t go along with that. The memories I value most, I don’t ever see them fading. 

There are only so many things you can say about this book without giving spoilers, that’s the problem. So I don’t intend to say much about the plot. I’ll leave it so that you, like me, can dive into the world of Kathy H. and be receptive to the information exposed to you and feel it fresh. Having the plot gradually unraveled before your own eyes was a wonderful experience.

I love that everything in this book conspires to make it so heart-breaking. Everything works. I especially appreciate the narrative style. I’ve seen other reviewers say that it’s off-putting in that it’s so disorganized and hard to keep up, and in a way, they’re right. It is disorganized, but to me it’s in no way off-putting or hard to keep up. And I think there’s a beautiful organization in such a disorganized narrative; I think it has a purpose, and it works extremely well. Kathy would link one thing to another because something in one story reminds her of something in the other. And she always announces beforehand what she’s going to do next, would hint at first what the story she’s about to tell has to do with anything, and what she hopes to make clear. So I actually felt anything but lost. The narration reminds me of the stream of consciousness technique. Its effect that I was always kept on the edge of my seat. Because with every new paragraph comes a new revelation, and there are always more revelations to come. And because it’s not linear story-telling, when the jumbled pieces come together, it clicks and it makes sense and it’s powerful and wonderful. You can see how this event has an impact on the other ones like a domino effect, and how one event that comes later sheds light on many events that come before. You see the characters drift apart and then come together and then drift apart again. I truly think the narrative style is brilliant. There’s always more to find out.

Our narrator’s name is Kathy H. She’s 31. At all times I could feel this nostalgic tone consistently throughout her narrative, and it really breaks my heart. She’s telling the story in the light of everything that has happened, and her stories are tinged with ripe wisdom of someone who’s seen it all. We’re reading her story and understanding it in the way that she makes sense of it now, so there are layers of complexity upon each event. Memories are powerful. Imagine if she loses one memory, the whole piece would really lose its impact. If asked whether I like Kathy, I would say absolutely, I do. Her characterization is one of the brilliant things about this book. She’s wise. She’s an extremely loyal friend. She’s selfless. And she’s complex. She’s so good at reading people, reading situations, but I can’t really read her, and I love that. Not just Kathy, but also Ruth and Tommy; they’re so well fleshed-out that I felt convinced they’re real. They all have a good side, and they have a side that we don’t completely understand, but it’s a part of who they are, and it’s what makes them human. How can anyone say otherwise, having read what I have?

We’re not given so many glimpses of the outside world. Most of the story is set in Hailsham, and the Cottages, and back and forth between hospitals. And I think that illustrates one of the points that this book raises: the moral justification of scientific progress. I won’t say what it is, though I guess some of you already know, but this book deals with this issue that is so 21st century that we all must inevitably have heard of it. I remember this issue was brought up to discussion in one of my classes, but I don’t remember which class or when that was. I remember, though, that we expressed such optimistic, eager, and—now I know—ignorant opinions. It would be wonderful for humanity, we’d say, now that cancer and the likes can go away. Science is god-like, we’d say. But now if I were to take side, I wouldn’t know where to stand. And the book is right in saying that people don’t want to know what’s happening behind the curtain, because it isn’t pretty. And no, it isn’t. These people are pretty much shut away from the outside world, confined in a world of their own where they can be comfortable with who, or what, they are. This book’s got me looking at the world and its scientific advancement in a new way.

Never Let Me Go is so mesmerizing. I waited so long to read it because I was too intimidated to. But really, there’s nothing intimidating about this book, let me tell you. Kathy tells me her story like I’m sitting beside her on bench, enjoying a chilly day together, reminiscing. And she’s talking like she’s speaking to me, face to face, making sure I keep up with everything she says, always giving cues as to where we’re heading. And though the book didn’t make me cry, it did trap me within its sphere for the whole duration I was reading it, and I could feel the nostalgic sadness in the air all the time. I feel for Kathy and her people and all they’ve been through. A story about memories, friendship, love, this is such an amazing, heart-warming book.


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This review is also posted on Goodreads.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Review: The History of Love by Nicole Krauss

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Title: The History of Love
Author: Nicole Krauss 
Genre: Contemporary
Release Date: January, 2005
Publisher: W.W Norton & Company
Format: Paperback
Pages: 260
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Bookdepository
Read from May 17 to June 8, 2013
My rating: 5 stars: I love it! It's amazing! + Favorite
Summary: Fourteen-year-old Alma Singer is trying to find a cure for her mother’s loneliness. Believing that she might discover it in an old book her mother is lovingly translating, she sets out in search of its author. Across New York an old man named Leo Gursky is trying to survive a little bit longer. He spends his days dreaming of the lost love who, sixty years ago in Poland, inspired him to write a book. And although he doesn’t know it yet, that book also survived: crossing oceans and generations, and changing lives. 


Once upon a time there was a boy who loved a girl, and her laughter was a question he wanted to spend his whole life answering. 

Prior to reading this book, Nicole Krauss was just another writer whose works I'd heard of in passing and wanted to read. What made me give her special attention was the fact that she is married to my personal hero, my literary god, the extraordinary, the one and only Jonathan Safran Foer whom I adore and idolize. Of course, I was aware of the many reviews stating how much Krauss's writing resembles that of Foer's. And since I love him so much, I couldn't help but want to give her a try. And I can't believe I waited this long to find another favorite book.

When I dove in, I realized almost instantly that those reviews were right; Krauss's writing in The History of Love reminded me of her husband a lot. But the ways in which I fell in love with both differ. With Foer, I fell hard and all at once. I fell long and deep and couldn't get back up even if I tried. He struck a chord within me, one that's very special and intimate--one that, once struck, sets free all the pent-up emotions and tells me never to let go of the person who does it. Actually, I'm still falling. But with Krauss, the process was slow and almost static, unsure--the way you learn to love again. And that's how it was; I didn't so much fall in love with The History of Love as I learned to love it. (In fact, I believe this is always going to be the way it is. Once you've found your one true love, you cannot really fall in love that same way again, but the best thing you can do is to learn to love someone.)

I am at a loss for words to say about this book. I loved it. The History of Love tells you about how a seemingly insignificant man waiting for death can make great impacts in many lives. How people struggle to fill in the gaps left by the losses of someone in their lives. How people cope with loss and loneliness. How some run away from the truth, and how others would do anything to uncover it. How love isn't really about choice, and how it can go on and you can't do anything about it. How people live. What life is. The characters are very well fleshed out and I could feel them and their earth-shattering impacts through every word. The writing is beautiful and moving. As soon as I finished this book, I--overwhelmed and bursting with emotions--wanted to read it again. Leopold Gursky lives a life larger than the space of the pages, and will live long in my memories even after the last page ends.

Sometimes I thought about nothing and sometimes I thought about my life. At least I made a living. What kind of living? A living. I lived. It wasn't easy. And yet. I found out how little is unbearable. 

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This review is also posted on Goodreads.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Review: The Rose Throne by Mette Ivie Harrison

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Title: The Rose Throne
Author: Mette Ivie Harrison
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Release Date: May 14, 2013
Publisher: Egmont USA
Format: eARC
Pages: 400
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Bookdepository
Read from April 16 to 29, 2013
My rating: 3.5 stars
Summary: Ailsbet loves nothing more than music; tall and red-haired, she's impatient with the artifice and ceremony of her father's court. Marissa adores the world of her island home and feels she has much to offer when she finally inherits the throne from her wise, good-tempered father. The trouble is that neither princess has the power--or the magic--to rule alone, and if the kingdoms can be united, which princess will end up ruling the joint land? For both, the only goal would seem to be a strategic marriage to a man who can bring his own brand of power to the throne. But will either girl be able to marry for love? And can either of these two princesses, rivals though they have never met, afford to let the other live?


When something goes wrong, it is always the ones who are different who are blamed. 

I have to admit that before I started the book, I already had high hopes for The Rose Throne. I mean, look at the cover! (I'm a little superficial when it comes to pretty covers.) The coloring, the girl (whom I suppose is Princess Ailsbet), her facial expression, the details of her hair! And the words in the blurb paint the book in such a great light that it is hard to resist. Princesses, magic, kingdoms, love, rivalry? It's a no-brainer for me!

Now that I've read this book and thought it over, I'd say that it isn't bad. It's riveting, fun, mysterious, but at the same time it does disappoint me to some level. Now, I am not going to summarize the story, as 1) I have come to learn that summaries aren't ever 100% accurate and in fact often times misleading, no matter who writes it and 2) I read this book a month ago, so things aren't as fresh for me right now. Thanks to my notes, however, I know how to go on and where I'm going with this.

First things first: this book is slow. I'm usually not someone who likes slow books, and even though I tend to finish every book I read, my attention span and tolerance are very limited when it comes to slow-paced books. But that's not necessarily a bad thing; a slow pace allows for a great story building, only when an author knows how to make use of it. And unlike other books I've read that stretch the story aimlessly for far too long, The Rose Throne makes a good use of its slow pacing and develops its story well. This book also takes a lot of time to digest--a quality I'm not generally quite fond of. Initially, the magic terms (e.g. taweyr, neweyr, unweyr, ekhono) were confusing me a lot, and that was a bit frustrating. The author did not exactly give a clear definition to these terms, but you can infer from the context and story, and yes, that took time to make sense.

The story was exciting and fun, and I think the author also did well on the characterization of Ailsbet and Marlissa, but not really of the other minor characters. I really enjoyed the wit of both princesses and their unique characteristics. I'm not going into details here, but let's just say that I enjoyed this book a whole lot.

One thing, though, is that I really wanted to appreciate the twist near the end of the book, but think it isn't very well executed. It didn't feel grand. I didn't see it coming; it just felt like the author couldn't decide what to do next, so she threw in this twist out of nowhere and hoped for the best. Well, I didn't like it, and I found it disappointing for a good book to suffer this bad twist. I think it took away the energy it was building up. And I also wanted to like the ending, but something feels off. After the awkward plot twist, things were quite awkward until the end. And I was consequently underwhelmed.

After such an ending, there has to be sequels. And I still would definitely read other books in the series, as I enjoyed this book and I'm curious to know how it all will turn out.

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This review is also posted on Goodreads.
I received a digital copy from NetGalley and the publisher for review.
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