Friday, December 30, 2011

Review: The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

Title: The Invention of Hugo Cabret
Author: Brian Selznick
Genre: Children Mystery
Release Date: January 30th, 2007
This edition: March 1st, 2007
Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 533
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Bookdepository
Read on December 25th, 2011
My rating: 5 stars: I love it! It's amazing!Favorite
Summary: Orphan Hugo Cabret lives in a wall. His secret home is etched out in the crevices of a busy Paris train station. Part-time clock keeper, part-time thief, he leads a life of quiet routine until he gets involved with an eccentric, bookish young girl and an angry old man who runs a toy booth in the station. The Invention of Hugo Cabret unfolds its cryptic, magical story in a format that blends elements of picture book, novel, graphic novel, and film. Caldecott Honor-winning author-illustrator Brian Selznick has fashioned an intricate puzzle story that binds the reader like a mesmerist's spell.


I can't believe I only got to read this awesomeness almost 5 years after its publication. Yes, it is AWESOME. One of the best for me this year!

This mind-blowing book is about a boy named Hugo Cabret. Parentless, he lived with his uncle inside a train station in France for some time, helping him with his job by fixing the clocks in the station. One day his uncle disappeared, but Hugo keeps doing his job anyway. 

In his room, Hugo has a project going on. Hugo's father, while still alive, worked in a museum, and found a broken automaton there, apparently unwanted. He began fixing it, and Hugo was also excited. But unfortunately, one day the fire broke out in the museum and almost everything was destroyed. Hugo lost his father. Somehow the automaton survived the fire. Hugo took it home and began fixing it following his father's drawings and notes in one of his many notebooks given to Hugo. 

Our little Hugo is also a thief. He steals food because he's starving. He steals toys from the toy shop because he needs parts for the automaton. One day he's caught, and that's how he met Papa George, the owner of the shop, and Isabelle, his goddaughter, whom Hugo befriends. Together with some help from Isabelle, Hugo digs deep into the past of Papa George, as revealed by the automaton, and help the man get his life back. 

What do I love about this book? Hmmm.. let's see. The story. Any stories with parent-less protagonists are usually good for me. I cried a little bit when Hugo thinks about his dad (don't I always?). I love how everything is perfectly tied together. When something is mentioned, it isn't just mentioned just for the sake of being mentioned, it actually has a meaning and it also plays a part in revealing the past! For example, Papa George doesn't like the sound of heels clicking, and doesn't allow Isabelle to go see any movies, because he used to make films in the past and the life he once had is haunting him. I also love how strong the characters come out to be. The book is very cleverly written indeed!

However, the illustration is even better than the writing. It's amazing how one picture can say so much, and how much it can make you feel its power just by you looking at it. The artwork is gorgeously drawn. You can see every line and minor detail that together make perfection. So very beautiful. Breathtaking. At first I wasn't sure, but after I've finished it, I felt like I had to own a copy. I know I'll have to look at those illustrations again and again. 

In short: big fat five stars. You can't get enough. Must-read. It's just so incredibly awesome. 


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This review is also posted on Goodreads.

Review: Veronika Decides To Die by Paulo Coelho

Title: Veronika Decides To Die
Author: Paulo Coelho
Series: On the Seventh Day, #2
Genre: Contemporary
Release Date: September 30th, 1999
This edition: 2000
Publisher: Harper Collins
Pages: 208
Format: Paperback
Read from December 19 to 25, 2011
My rating: 2 stars: Nothing special
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Bookdepository 
Summary: Twenty-four-year-old Veronika seems to have everything she could wish for—: youth and beauty, pleny of attractive boyfriends, a fulfilling job, and a loving family. Yet something is lacking in her life. Inside her is a void so deep that nothing could possibly ever fill it. So, on the morning of November 11, 1997, Veronika decides to die. She takes a handful of sleeping pills expecting never to wake up. Naturally Veronika is stunned when she does wake up— at Villete, a local mental hospital, where the staff informs her that she has, in fact, partially succeeded in achieving her goal. While the overdose didn't kill Veronika immediately, the medication has damaged her heart so severely that she has only days to live.


Although previously infuriated by Paulo Coelho's The Alchemist, I decided to give Coelho another chance. While it's right to say that I didn't hate this book as much, it didn't impress me either. It was just plain okay. And it bored me. 

Veronika is a 24-year-old pretty girl. She decides to die because 1) she feels like life has nothing more to offer her. She's tired of the same things happening daily, doing the same things daily, with nothing new in her life, and 2) she realizes that one day she will be old and she doesn't want to be old. That day she overdoses on sleeping pills, expecting to die. Unfortunately, she is sent to Villete, an asylum, in time to be saved. Temporarily. The doctor, Dr Igor, tells her that she only has days to live because the pills somehow managed to damage her heart. 

During her stay at Villete, she gets to know some people in there. She makes some friends and plays the piano and falls in love. Then the thought creeps in, from time to time, despite her trying to push it far away, whether she still wants to live, now that there are new things in her life and life doesn't seem so empty anymore. 

In the first few chapters, Paulo Coelho wrote about himself as Dr Igor's daughter's friend. I'm not sure whether he implies or says it outright that he was also sent to a mental hospital because he wanted to be an artist (or writer I'm not sure) and therefore his parents thought he was mad. That's what I understood. So while this book is about the value of life in the face of imminent death, it also questions the way people judge 'madness'. 

I really did want to like this but sadly Coelho failed me again. The translated text flows well enough, the story sounds promising. The main problem with this book for me is the way Coelho wrote it. I didn't like that he put himself in the story, because it didn't relate to anything in it. It just looks out of place and comes out of nowhere. I also didn't like it because the story was just so boring. I mean, it's nothingness. I didn't care about any of the characters. Veronika decides to die, well, that was interesting. But all that follows is all her interactions with people in Villete and stories of some patients' lives. It bored the hell out of me. And it didn't make me feel like life is so great, either. 

And don't even get me started on THE ENDING. Oh dear Lord. It was terrible. In the end, it's revealed that Dr Igor lied to Veronika when he said she had only days to live. In fact, there was nothing wrong with her heart at all. She was perfectly fine and healthy. He only wanted to know whether life becomes more valuable knowing that death is imminent. It's like the author wanted to force a happy ending (she didn't have to die in 7 days) into a story that's built to end with what it promised: death. The idea that a doctor uses an innocent patient as a guinea pig for his personal experiment in hope to be famous for it one day is SICKENING. He didn't even tell her. She lived her life expecting death. It's just so wrong on so many levels. This is one of the reasons why I didn't like this book. 

All in all, disappointment. Nothingness in the form of 208 pages.


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This review is also posted on Goodreads.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

In My Mailbox (5)

Ah! Busy, busy, busy life! But then again, what else is new? I've been reading Veronika Decides To Die for a whole week and still haven't managed to finish it. Uni leaves me no time for anything at all.

Usually I do IMM on Saturday, but yesterday was pretty crazy. I was out doing two projects, so that took the whole day. So this, though done on Sunday, covers the date from December 18th to 24th.

This week I bought: 


Room by Emma Donoghue
Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott
The History of Love by Nicole Krauss
Animal Farm by George Orwell (second copy because I loved it)
Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman by Haruki Murakami
On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan
Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
The Autograph Man by Zadie Smith


This week I borrowed:

The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
(Mr Wright, my English teacher surprised me in class by lending me this book. I didn't ask! That was sweet of him!)

This week I reviewed:

Just Listen by Sarah Dessen

Netgalleys:


Flatscreen by Adam Wilson
A Brief History of Thought by Luc Ferry
Ditched by Robin Mellom
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews
If I Have a Wicked Stepmother, Where's My Prince? by Melissa Kantor
The Chronicles of Amber by Roger Zelazny
A Greyhound of a Girl by Roddy Doyle
Dying to Know You by Aidan Chambers
The Mice of Bistrot des Sept Freres by Marie LeTourneau 
It's a Wonderful Life by Jesse Goossens
How to Make a Golem and Terrify People by Alette J. Willis 
Winter in Wartime by Jan Terlouw
Wreath by Judy Christie

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I'm hoping to finish Veronika soon, and then I'll start The Invention of Hugo Cabret. :-) And then Just in Case, for my English class. 

Happy reading, everyone! And merry Christmas! ♥

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Review: Just Listen by Sarah Dessen

Title: Just Listen
Author: Sarah Dessen
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Release Date: April 2006
Publisher: Viking Juvenile
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 383
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Bookdepository
Read from December 17th - 18th, 2011
My rating: 4 stars: I really like it
Summary: Last year, Annabel was "the girl who has everything"—at least that's the part she played in the television commercial for Kopf's Department Store.This year, she's the girl who has nothing: no best friend because mean-but-exciting Sophie dropped her, no peace at home since her older sister became anorexic, and no one to sit with at lunch. Until she meets Owen Armstrong. Tall, dark, and music-obsessed, Owen is a reformed bad boy with a commitment to truth-telling. With Owen's help, maybe Annabel can face what happened the night she and Sophie stopped being friends.


Just Listen is the second Sarah Dessen book that I have read in my rather short reading life. I was blown away by the first, Dreamland, and I have to say I like Just Listen just as much. I found this gem in the library, and now want to own a copy of it. I went through all the 383 pages in 24 hours, and 3 sittings, and that says a lot for a slow, impatient reader like me. 


This story is basically about a high school girl named Annabel Greene. Annabel is a model, and from the outside looking in, she looks perfect, so people usually jump to conclusions that her life is perfect. But yes, looks can be deceiving. Annabel is scarred. She has a story she would never tell, and by keeping it in, she decides to hurt herself, rather than let it hurt the people she cares about. She has lost two best friends, Clarke, by ditching her just one night for the girl who later became her new best friend, Sophie. Apparently, Sophie wasn't a very good friend, but Annabel stuck with her because she thought tolerating Sophie was worth this entirely new fabulous world she was now a part of, the word she would otherwise never come across had she still been best friends with Clarke. And then their friendship ended one night, I'm not going to say what happened because that's the biggest mystery of the book. Sophie jumped to conclusions and then their friendship was over. Afterwards Annabel is still haunted by what happened that night, and her life changed. She has no best friend now, no one. Until that day Owen reaches out his hand and saves her.

I love the complexity of Annabel's life. There isn't just what's going on with her life at school, but also her life at home. All the falling out and conflicts, the sisterhood and family. They make this book seem so real. Most characters have voices of their own, and they're very believable. I had vivid pictures in my head as I read. As the pages went on and on, I came across a lot of things: modeling, music, eating disorder, family, friendship, loss, sadness, anger, secrets, therapies, etc. I personally understand Annabel. She's not good at confrontation, so she doesn't confront at all. She keeps all these things inside, she never talks about it, so when she tries to, she can't exactly say it. I also love the concept of the glass house. People look at it and think they see everything, but they don't. They see a family sitting together at a dinner table and think they're a happy family, but they aren't. Everything looks too perfect to be understood as something else. 

I love Sarah Dessen's writing. I do. She's excellent. She has that power with words that always keeps me reading even if it's 3 am in the morning. She did that to me with Dreamland, and now also Just Listen. I would read a hundred pages on end and found it hard to put the book down. Dessen's descriptions are outstanding. She's great at describing feelings, her words are perfectly strung together. Her writing flows on and on, making it hard to stop at one point, and not read the whole book in one sitting without moving. There are some pages that set butterflies loose in my stomach, there are pages that made me cry. And you know how I feel about books that make me cry. 

Without any doubt, this one is another excellent Dessen book. Looking forward to reading more of her work! She might as well just be one of my favorites now. :-)


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This review is also posted on Goodreads.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

In My Mailbox (4)

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren to let bloggers share books they've got in a week.

First week of second semester at uni has gone by! As expected, I'm busy as hell, and when I get home, I'm too tired to read any more than 20 pages. My reading progress is really suffering. 

This week I borrowed a whole lot of books. 


Borrowed from libraries
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak 4 stars: I really like it
Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer
Just Listen by Sarah Dessen
The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
The Brief History of the Dead by Kevin Brockmeier
Veronika Decides to Die by Paulo Coelho

Borrowed from friends
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
Dear John by Nicholas Sparks
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger (currently reading)

I also bought only one book out of need this week (yay!). It looks like I can control myself now. I've wanted to read Before I Fall! And I also bought another book because I had to. It's assigned in English class. I have a feeling I'm going to hate it. Has anyone ever read it, Just in Case?

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
Just in Case by Meg Rosoff

And then I also got a whole lot of galleys on Netgalley. All of these are from Random House Children's (thank you!).


The Whole Story of Half a Girl by Veera Hiranandani
May B. by Caroline Starr Rose
Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard
Precious Bones by Mika Ashley-Hollinger
The Wednesdays by Julie Bourbeau
Someone Else's Life by Katie Dale
Don't You Wish by Roxanne St. Claire
Summer at Forsaken Lake by Michael D. Beil
Dust Girl by Sarah Zettel


All the galleys have to wait until I get my Kindle. Not long now. About 10 to go.
Alright, back to homework. u___u 

Saturday, December 10, 2011

In My Mailbox (3)

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren to let bloggers share books they've got in a week.

I usually do IMM on Saturday. This is a Saturday. But I almost forgot.

Second semester starts next Tuesday already. I'm not ready to go back to that routine just yet. I don't want to wake up at 6 am in the morning, go to class, and get home around 6 pm in the evening, and then shower, dinner, homework, read, then go to bed around 10 pm - midnight. I want more time for reading. :( There's never enough time. So many books, so little time. :(

This week I bought only ONE book. That's an improvement! I can actually stop buying! YAY! I ordered it last Saturday, and it came in the mail on Friday.

The Sky Is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

The copy is actually very pretty! Last week I wanted this book so much that I went to various bookstores to check out each editions and decide which one I wanted on my shelf. The UK/Australia edition won, as you can see. It's so pretty! <3 I know that I'm going to love it just by looking at it!

This week I've also received approved requests of galleys on Netgalley. 


Hushed by Kelly York
Love Lifted Me by Sara Evans and Rachel Hauck 
Whatever You Love by Louise Doughty
A Little Night Magic by Lucy March
Guantanamo Boys by Ann Perera 
The Princesses of Iowa by M. Molly Backes
Letters to Leo by Amy Hest

Yay! :D But sadly, I won't get to read any of these, or any books at all, for now. Right now I'm supposed to be re-reading Things Fall Apart and studying it for the test for English on Wednesday. I don't have much time. My friend from Egypt is coming to visit Bangkok, her flight arrives around noon tomorrow. I'll be hanging out with her all day, and then on Monday too. Sigh. I have just a few hours to finish this book. My life is so sad. 

This week I reviewed two books: 
The Next Door Boys by Jolene B. Perry (see review)
Incarnate by Jodi Meadows (see review)
Thanks to Netgalley and the publishers for both of these!

Oh, by the way, HAPPY ONE MONTH ANNIVERSARY TO B'S BOOK BLOG! Haha, that would be this blog. :D I just did a blog makeover today. I like the way it looks now. :D AND. I can't believe I almost forgot to mention this. I ordered a Kindle Keyboard (with wi-fi, free 3G, and special offers) AND a hot pink lighted leather cover yesterday! It was my first time ordering something on Amazon and I was scared to death. I had them shipped to a friend's address in California. He'll be coming home (Bangkok) before the end of this month, so I asked him to bring my Kindle to me. By doing this, I avoided around 120 USD ($50 price difference + tax + shipping cost) of having them shipped directly to Thailand. Yeah, worth the wait. I can't wait for him to come home from Berkeley already. :-)

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Review: Incarnate by Jodi Meadows

Title: Incarnate
Author: Jodi Meadows
Series: Newsoul #1
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Release Date: January 31, 2012
Publisher: HarperCollins Children's Books
Format: eBook
Pages: 234
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Bookdepository
Read from December 5 to 6, 2011
My rating: Photobucket
Summary: Ana is new. For thousands of years in Range, a million souls have been reincarnated over and over, keeping their memories and experiences from previous lifetimes. When Ana was born, another soul vanished, and no one knows why. Even Ana’s own mother thinks she’s a nosoul, an omen of worse things to come, and has kept her away from society. To escape her seclusion and learn whether she’ll be reincarnated, Ana travels to the city of Heart, but its citizens are suspicious and afraid of what her presence means. When dragons and sylph attack the city, is Ana to blame? Sam believes Ana’s new soul is good and worthwhile. When he stands up for her, their relationship blooms. But can he love someone who may live only once, and will Ana’s enemies—human and creature alike—let them be together? Ana needs to uncover the mistake that gave her someone else’s life, but will her quest threaten the peace of Heart and destroy the promise of reincarnation for all?


Can I just say that Incarnate totally blew me away? This doesn't happen very often, so it's a big deal here. Thank you Netgalley and HarperCollins for sending me a galley to read and review! I'm so glad to have read this awesomeness!

Love, love, love it. I don't really read much fantasy other than the Harry Potter series but I have to say that this one is REALLY GOOD. I didn't know what to expect when I dove into it, and I found myself attached to my chair and unable to take my eyes off the screen! I usually don't have much patience with ebooks, but I finished Incarnate in two sittings, so that says a lot. It's so addictive!


Incarnate is the first book in the Newsoul trilogy. The books are expected to be published in 2012, 2013, and 2014 consecutively. In the first book, the story revolves around an 18-year-old girl named Ana, who was born in the 330th Year of Songs, in a world where there is exactly one million human beings, plus other creatures like sylphs and dragons. In this very world, the one million souls reincarnate over and over again when their bodies die, and grow up remembering all their past lives. But the problem is this: Ciana, a soul who died and was supposed to come back, didn't reincarnate after all. Five years after Ciana's death, Ana was born. She is the only one newsoul in the world where other 999,999 souls have already known each other since their thousands of years of living. No one knows why Ana is born, and why she replaced Ciana. Ana grew up with her mother, Li, hating her for a being a 'nosoul', not acknowledging the world outside the wall of her house. Her father, Menehem, is believed to have abandoned them since her birth because he was ashamed. She comes to believe that she's a nosoul, and nosouls aren't capable of feeling things like love, or don't deserve things like honey and coffee. She feels incredibly alone. On her 18th birthday, she decides to leave home to go to the city of Heart to find some answers for all her why's. Li gives her a bad compass, sending her far in Range, where she is attacked by sylphs (invisible shadowy creatures that burn when touched), jumps off the cliff to face a more pleasant death, and is rescued by Sam.

The world building, in my opinion, is great. I mean, I could see what the author wrote in my head. Still, I wish there were more fantasy/mythological creatures in this book other than sylphs and dragons all the time. At first I didn't quite grasp the reincarnation idea and all, but as I read on, it made more sense. It's a bit weird, but interesting nevertheless. Someone could be a male in the last life and be born a female in this life, and your best friend two lives ago could be your mother in the current one. Awkward, but fascinating. I haven't quite seen anything like it before. As someone in a Buddhist country, I am very well familiar with the concept of reincarnation. People with sins have to reincarnate to suffer the consequences of the sinful deeds in their past life which I personally find quite unfair. Buddhists believes that there is a way out of reincarnation, a way to eternal peace, which is Nirvana. A lot of Buddhists become ordained as monks to train themselves, become enlightened, and go to nirvana and eternal peace for good when they die, while in Incarnate, sins have nothing to do with it, and it never occurs (as I know of) to people that maybe they don't want to be reborn. In fact, they're quite afraid to stop existing. Lord Buddha's teaching and doctrines are to help Buddhist souls stop reincarnating, while Janan, the God in Incarnate, is the one who keeps reincarnation going. So while the concept of reincarnation isn't something new for me, the way Incarnate deals with it actually is.

The romance between Sam and Ana made me continually grin like mad. I'm a sucker for cute romance, okay? The thing about her liking him and his being her hero even before they met was like FKGJADOJFEPCFKAOAE. Nicely done there, Jodi Meadows. While it's clear why Ana falls in love with Sam, I couldn't really figure out why he likes her. Maybe because of the extreme closeness? Or by getting to know her intimately? By being together 24/7? By constantly saving each others' lives? He never really says anything much more about that than that he wanted to kiss her since the first day they met (why?). But the romance is good. The tension was great. Especially at the masquerade. Whee!

I really enjoy Meadows' writing. It's simple and it flows. It keeps you going on and on without pause!  However, should  any changes be made in the final draft before the official publication, here are my ideas there are some minor things that bugged me about this book.

Firstly, I have to admit I found it a little bit difficult to follow the conversation. At first I thought it was just me, but I've read some reviews and it seems like other readers felt the same way. I had to reread the dialogue a few times to figure out who said what. So adding dialogue tags would be good idea.

Secondly, there are still some questions left unanswered. I don't know whether Jodi Meadows planned to answer them in the second or third book or just ignore them. Some of the questions are asked since early on in the novel, some later, and I don't think they should be left like this. LOOK AWAY IF YOU MUST, THEY'RE SPOILERS. Here are some of mine: 1) Why did Sam lie about his birthday? When is his birthday actually? 2) Is Janan real? What's his purpose of reincarnation? 3) Why do dragons keep attacking the temple? Any significance or purpose? To stop reincarnation? But why? I mean, they're dragons, they don't reincarnate, do they? 4) Why does the door to the temple suddenly appear out of the blue to Ana? 5) So she's a "mistake"? THAT'S IT? Does this mean her search for the meaning of her birth is over? 6) How does Menehem poison Janan? Why does he want to stop reincarnation? 7) Is it Li who tried to kill Ana? Why? I really want these questions answered in the book.

Lastly, I think some of the things in the book are not given much importance or just ignored. Things like progress reports are like empty threats. Ana doesn't even talk about the results or anything, or her progress, for that matter, other than piano and dance. And according to the book, she spends a lot of time going to the library, but she rarely talks about what she's found. Isn't that a bit pointless?

There are just so many things I love about Incarnate, but I'm also aware that it is not perfect. The thing is these things can be overlooked because the thrilling experience Incarnate gave me during reading was all it took for me to give it big fat 5 stars!

My favorite quote: “There's always the option of deciding for yourself who you are and what you'll become.” - Sam

I can't wait for book two and three! SERIOUSLY!!!!!!!!

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This review is also posted on Goodreads.

I received a digital ARC from NetGalley and the publisher for review. 

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Review: The Next Door Boys by Jolene B. Perry

Title: The Next Door Boys
Author: Jolene B. Perry
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Release Date: October 4 2011
Publisher: Cedar Fort, Inc.
Format: eBook
Pages: 272
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Bookdepository
Read from November 29 to December 3, 2011

My rating: 2 stars: Nothing special

Summary: With her body still recovering from last year's cancer treatments, Leigh Tressman is determined to be independent. Despite the interference from her overprotective brother, physical frustrations, and spiritual dilemmas— not to mention the ever expanding line of young men ready to fall in love with her— Leigh discovers what it actually means to stand on her own and learns that love can be found in unexpected but delightful places.


I was really excited to start it because The Next Door Boys has such pretty cover and I'm that kind of person who judges a book by its cover. And though I've been disappointed by my judgement many times, I haven't yet learned, and that's also the way it is with this book.

I really wish I had liked it better. At first I gave it 3 stars and then I spent the night thinking about it, and decided that 3 stars was too generous. Therefore, 2 stars. And I feel really weird because most of the readers seemed to have liked this book. At first I decided not to review it, because it didn't really make me feel anything, and I didn't think I had anything worth saying. But then I changed my mind and am now giving it a try.


Leigh Tressman is a cancer survivor. She had to take a year off to be in the hospital because of ovarian cancer, and when she was released from the hospital, she couldn't wait to live independently. She starts college, and moves away from her parents to live in the basement of a house next to where her protective brother, Jaron, lives. That's where our boy next door, Brian, lives too. Leigh has two roommates, Kim and Megan.

The story started off so slowly, and continued to progress really slowly, that I lost my patience a lot of times. I think it's also partly because it's an e-book. I have much less tolerance with e-books unless they are really good. And sadly that's where this book falls short. I don't feel anything about Leigh at all. I know that she's a cancer survivor, that she has a good personality, and that she should make me feel sympathetic and all, but no, I didn't feel any of that. I didn't feel anything at all. And that's also the way it was with every character. I really don't know if it's because of the writing or because of myself that I didn't like this book. I also had no idea how it can be improved to become better. I just didn't feel very connected to it. And then there's Brian. I can't really say that I like this character, because as I said, I didn't feel anything. Brian is a much older guy who's been there and done that. He's divorced and already has a 5-year-old son. He has tattoos and they represent where he has been in his life, and he works at night in a bar to earn extra money. Jaron admires Brian so much and talks about him in a really affectionate way. And at first I thought Jaron was in love with Brian, so it really took me by surprise when Jaron starts dating a girl.

Despite the blank feeling towards every character, I did feel something about the writing. I didn't like it much. The story jumps from scene to scene too often. It's like it stays in the same scene for a couple of pages, and then jumps. It was really frustrating because just as when I got into that scene, it suddenly moved on, and I didn't get to feel anything. This is what I thought the problem was that caused my apathy, it didn't allow me to sink into the story enough to feel. Another thing I didn't like is Leigh's cluelessness about the boys liking her. Someone has to point it out to her, and she would be all no no no. I found it a bit annoying.

I guess that's all I have to say about this book. As I said earlier, I didn't think I have anything worth saying. When you don't feel very connected to the main character(s) or the story, it's hard to find something to say.   However, I'm glad I'm telling you why. I don't feel so guilty about not liking it very much anymore. Still, I wish I could've liked it better.

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This review is also posted on Goodreads.

I received a digital copy from NetGalley and the publisher for review.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

In My Mailbox (2)

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren.

Seeing my November's haul you'd think I would be satisfied and stop buying. I thought so too, until I went out and lost myself again. I'll stop now! I promise. I'm really having a hard time catching up with all these.

Books

Bought:
1. Across the Universe by Beth Revis
2. Breakfast With Socrates: The Philosophy of Everday Life by Robert Rowland Smith
3. Great House by Nicole Krauss
4. What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen
5. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer *This is my second copy ♥! (See my review)
6. The Motivated Mind by Raj Persuad
7. When God Was a Rabbit by Sarah Winman

Won:
8. Diary of A Wimpy Kid: Cabin Fever by Jeff Kinney

Netgalley E-Books


1. Spin by Catherine McKenzie
2. The Next Door Boys by Jolene B. Perry (See my review)
3. Incarnate by Jodi Meadows
4. Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi
5. A Full Moon Is Rising by Marilyn Singer
6. Me@you.com by KE Payne
7. Addison Blakely: Confessions of a PK by Betsy St. Amant

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Review: Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

Title: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
Author: Jonathan Safran Foer 
Genre: Comtemporary
Release Date: March 7, 2005
This edition: 2006
Publisher: Penguin UK
Format: Paperback
Pages: 326
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Bookdepository
Read from September 5 to 7, 2012
My rating: 5 stars: I love it! It's amazing! + Favorite
Summary: Nine-year-old Oskar Schell is on a mission to find the lock that matches a mysterious key belonging to his father, who died in the World Trade Center on 9/11. An inspired innocent, Oskar is alternately endearing, exasperating, and hilarious as he careens from Central Park to Coney Island to Harlem on his search. As he roams the five boroughs, Oskar encounters a motley assortment of people who are all survivors in their own way. His journey concludes in an emotional climax of truth, beauty, and heartbreak.


Gosh, this is so hard. You have no idea how many times I have tried/re-written to make this review as perfect as it can be, and I hope that it is now. Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close is my most favorite book in all history of time, so I wanted to do it justice. Yes, it did break my heart, every moment of every day, into more pieces than my heart was made of, during the 3 days I was reading this heart-wrenching masterpiece. I love it so, so, so much that mere attempts at explaining just how much would be an insult to my true feelings, and that I have to own two copies, different editions, of this book. Let me warn you first, this review isn't going to tell you much about the story, in fact, it's going to tell you what this book means to me personally.


I finished Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close on September 7th. And I mean thoroughly finished. I'd read it a lot of times before, but had never got to finish it (partly because I'd loved it so much that I hadn't wanted it to end for me). I started reading again on September 5th, and I finished two days later. I must’ve been reading for four hours on end that day, because I got home around 4 pm, and when I finished I looked at the clock and it was 10 minutes to 8 pm. I looked at it with dry tears on both of my cheeks. And I realized there were also teardrops on my knees. Thank God it wasn't on the precious book. And to be honest, it didn’t even feel like 4 hours at all. I didn’t even remember turning pages. Everything went by really fast, and I was absorbing everything. 

I can relate to a lot of plots and themes in the book. That’s why I loved it then in the first place. And once I finished reading it, I was sure I couldn't love it more. I love it as much as a reader can possibly love a book, and I adore Jonathan Safran Foer as much as it is possible for an aspiring writer to adore his/her idol. Extremely Loud is my number one favorite book ever, no doubt about that. I am completely convinced it's the best thing that has ever happened to my bookshelf. Overstatement? I don't think so. I'm going to tell you why. 

First off, although this book is told in the voices of three people, it is Oskar's story that relates so much to my life, to the point of choking me with memories and feelings. Extremely Loud revolves mainly around Oskar Schell, a child who's lost a father. I am also a child who lost a father. And there are a lot of other things that I don’t think normal people would understand unless they have lost someone, or say, a father, like Oskar and I both have. The feelings and thoughts inside Oskar's head that Foer wrote so heart-wrenchingly were like buckets of ice being thrown at me in the middle of the coldest winter days. I was like, Ouch, Yes!, or sobbing all the time. It brought back my old memories of my dad and I was so pained that I felt alive. How could a 9-year-old say things that I could only keep shut behind the wall of my heart? The answer is just because. There's blissful innocence in the voice of this amazing 9-year-old that unleashed the bitterness inside of me, that untangled the knotted feelings I kept hidden so well, unspoken. One obvious example would be how Oskar resents his mom for being happy. I resented my mom when she seemed happy, too, back then. I thought it was an act of insulting Dad's memory. And I'm sure Oskar feels the same when this dialogue happened:
"I miss Dad." "So do I." "Do you?" "Of course I do." "But do you really?" "How could you ask that?" "It's just that you don't act like you miss him very much." "What are you talking about?" "I think you know what I'm talking about." "I don't." "I hear you laughing." "You hear me laughing?" "In the living room. With Ron." "You think because I laugh every now and then I don't miss Dad?" 
She said, “I’m trying to find ways to be happy. Laughing makes me happy.” I said, “I’m not trying to find ways to be happy, and I won’t.” She said, “Well, you should.” “Why?” “Because Dad would want you to he happy.” “Dad would want me to remember him.”
I don't know about any of you, but for me, this dialogue reached in and took out my heart, ripped it apart, threw it on the floor, and stomped, stomped, stomped on what was left of it. That slow, penetrating pain. I cried like there was no tomorrow, because this had also happened to my mom and me. When I read the voice mails part, I cried some more. This book murdered me. When Oskar talks about his dad, Thomas Schell junior, I felt like he was talking about mine too. Our dads were so much alike. They liked to go on about things, saying random, knowledgeable stuff. The difference is that mine wasn't German-American, and mine wasn’t in the World Trade Center that 9/11. When Oskar misses his dad, I missed mine so terribly. When Oskar cries, hell yes I cried my eyes out with him. (Well to be honest I cried most of the time). This book. It gets me. So, so, so much. It expresses things I don’t tell anyone. It expresses me. It expresses those of us who's lost a parent or someone so close and significant to our lives and wanted to embrace and  hold on to what's left of their memories.

For another thing, beauty emanates from every word that Foer wrote. The writing is gorgeous. His prose is poetic, and meaningful, and touching, and perfect. It made me fall in love even harder with this book, if that was even possible. There are always killer lines like this: 
Does it break my heart, of course, every moment of every day, into more pieces than my heart was made of, I never thought of myself as quiet, much less silent, I never thought about things at all, everything changed, the distance that wedged itself between me and my happiness wasn’t the world, it wasn’t the bombs and burning buildings, it was me, my thinking, the cancer of never letting go, is ignorance bliss, I don’t know, but it’s so painful to think, and tell me, what did thinking ever do for me, to what great place did thinking ever bring me? I think and think and think, I’ve thought myself out of happiness one million times, but never once into it.
 Or this: 
She wants to know if I love her, that’s all anyone wants from anyone else, not love itself but the knowledge that love is there, like new batteries in the flashlight in the emergency kit in the hall closet.
Gosh. This is beauty. His writing hit my cardiac veins and arteries all at the same time, making it hard to not appreciate it and cry some more. Never before have I enjoyed someone's writing so immensely. It flows and flows and flows. I want to be able to write like that, to express my thoughts and feelings in words that truly capture them, the way Foer does in this very book. This is precisely why I idolize him so much. 

Lastly, I love that this book is about love and loss. I like love and loss in novels, because they break my heart. I love having my heart broken and wrenched and trampled on by books, because that just goes to show how amazing those books are. This book tortured my heart again and again in the most pleasurable ways possible. And I couldn't get enough. I always came back for more, re-reading, again and again and again. Oskar's story is about holding on to that loved one, even when he's gone, refusing to let go. Thomas Schell senior's letters are filled with the love for the son he has abandoned and never got to know, forever lost to him, telling Oskar's dad his life story of love and loss in the horrible time of WWII. And Oskar's grandmother --no name given-- writes her letters to her only grandson, the one she loves most dearly, telling her own sides of lost love and life loss, and always saying something like, I hope you never love anything as much as I love you. This book shows me many aspects of love, and how destructive loss can be, something I already know very well. Still, it's nice to see that other people get it too. 

One of the things I learned and will forever cherish is the fact that it is always necessary to tell someone you love them. Speak now. Don't be afraid. I've seen how things couldn't be undone, or done, when it's too late. Forget about the idea of perfect occasions, because it may never come when there's still time. 
We slept in the same bed.

There was never a right time to say it.
It was always unnecessary.
The books in my father’s shed were sighing.
The sheets were rising and falling around me with Anna’s breathing.
I thought about waking her,
but it was unnecessary.
There would be other nights.
And how can you say I love you to someone you love?
I rolled onto my side and fell asleep next to her.
Here is the point of everything I have been trying to tell you…
It is always necessary.
I love you.
I will never ask for a more perfect book, merely because I know there never was/is/will be another one for me. I’m running out of words. I don’t know what else to say. Only that this book means much more to me than anyone would understand. It breaks my heart over and over, in a good way. It's the one book I will always be glad to give my whole heart to, and get it shattered by, because I know it's well worth it. And I also have two copies of this book. 

I'm definitely going to try re-reading this book every May, in remembrance of my father. It's nice to curl up in bed and read a book that allows you to remember all the good things.

Love, love, love. So much love for this one.



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This review is also posted on Goodreads.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Review: Sammy's Hill by Kristin Gore

Title: Sammy's Hill
Author: Kristen Gore
Genre: Chicklit
Release Date: 2004
Publisher: Random
Format: Paperback
Pages: 387
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Bookdepository
Read from November 4 to 9, 2011
My rating: 3 stars: I like it
Summary: Samantha Joyce, Gore's heroine, is a 26-year-old self-deprecating health-care policy advisor to Robert Gary, a well-respected senator from her home state of Ohio. Between endless work days, a grueling campaign schedule, and frequent trips to the pet store where she seeks advice on caring for her listless Japanese fighting fish, Sammy finds time to obsess over her new boyfriend, sexy speechwriter Aaron Driver. As things heat up with Aaron, Sammy's work schedule takes on a new intensity when Gary becomes the Democratic candidate for vice president. Along the way, scandal clouds both her personal and professional life, and our heroine discovers the often salacious underbelly of life on the hill.


Oh myy! I just completed my 2011 reading goal with this book! *throws confetti*

I've had this book for almost a year now and never really wanted to read it, until one day, my main bookshelf became sadly clustered and full, so this had to be taken out. Feeling slightly guilty for it to be homeless, I decided to finally go through with it.


I have mixed feelings about this book, there are some things that I really like about it and some that turn me off. Well, first of all, Sammy is kind of funny, as expected to be in chicklit. She's a health care adviser (if my memory's correct) to Senator Robert Gary (called RG in the book). She's obsessive and ambitious and sometimes reminds me of myself (crying over the death of fish, obsessive thinking, etc.). I find her character to be believable, though I'm not sure if I like her all that much. Secondly, I think this book is too full of political stuff to really be fully identified as chicklit. I found that there are more of professional than personal stuff in it. And yes, it sometimes bored me. Kristin Gore, the author, really knows so much about politics, I assume, but then again I could be wrong, because I'm not really a native and don't know much about America's political system. I like to think I've learned some knowledge on politics just by reading it. Lastly, the getting together with Charlie Lawton (hover to see spoiler) doesn't look very believable to me. It's too easy, after all that's been happening between them and Sammy's many guys. But I can't deny that I like them being together.

There are a couple of things that I specially I like about this book. I like how RG and Sammy seem the care so much about the public good, whereas other politicians view politics as a means to do something for their own goods, rather than for the people. Politicians like that are everywhere, and that's why it's nice to read about the good ones, even though they're fictional. It kind of restores faith in me that maybe there really are the good ones out there waiting to show themselves and make some great impacts. And also, the last page of the book, how it ends, is hilarious. Hahahahhahaha. RG FTW! All in all, Sammy's Hill is an enjoyable read.


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This review is also posted on Goodreads.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Review: Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely

Title: Predictably Irrational
Author: Dan Ariely
Genre: Non-fiction, Psychology, Social Science
Release Date: February 19, 2008
Publisher: Harper Collins
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 280
Links: Website | Goodreads | Amazon | Bookdepository
Read from November 18 - 31, 2011
My rating: 5 stars: I love it! It's amazing!
Summary: How do we think about money? What caused bankers to lose sight of the economy? What caused individuals to take on mortgages that were not within their means? What irrational forces guided our decisions? And how can we recover from an economic crisis? Blending common experiences and clever experiments with groundbreaking analysis, Ariely demonstrates how expectations, emotions, social norms, and other invisible, seemingly illogical forces skew our reasoning abilities. As he explains, our reliance on standard economic theory to design personal, national, and global policies may, in fact, be dangerous. The mistakes that we make as individuals and institutions are not random, and they can aggregate in the market—with devastating results. In light of our current economic crisis, the consequences of these systematic and predictable mistakes have never been clearer.


Predictably Irrational first came to my knowledge about three years ago. It was featured in the New Release section of a magazine I was reading at the time (I don't remember which). And although it's been a long time since then, the name of this book's been kept particularly well in my head, for some reasons I can't explain.

I don't usually read non-fiction books, except for the ones on philosophy, psychology, and mythology (my areas of interests). And though I hadn't really had that high an expectation on this book, it ended up blowing me away. Seriously.

I remember that the Introduction part of this book is somewhat long. About 23 pages, I suppose. I was totally absorbed in it since Ariely's first sentence. His writing flows so smoothly and flawlessly, making the reading as enjoyable as can be. There was never a moment when I pause and think the writing sucks, which happens all too often with books I've read lately. His life story is also interesting. I remember feeling some respect for him when I read about his accident and the burns and his being hospitalized. Although this really had nothing to do with the book, it kind of made me feel like this man must be a tough and strong and nice and awesome person.
I love how this book is full of interesting questions, and how every one of them is answered. I love how Ariely has done a lot of researches and they are mentioned in this book to illustrate and prove certain ideas. And these ideas are nothing too distant from us people. They concern our decision-making and behaviors that are predictably irrational. Like how "FREE!" can have a huge effect on us and blind us from really seeing the big picture. The things about money and social behaviors in this book are extremely interesting. I also have to admit that in some cases I am one of those people, though in some, I am not. I like to think that I've learned some things about myself and people around me (such as my mom) from this book. And I really do feel like I'm somewhat wiser with decision-making now, or maybe that's just my wishful thinking. 

I do love this book. And I also know that this review sucks. But I'm sorry, I'm really not good at reviewing non-fictions. But let me tell you, this book is very thought-provoking and it can make you look up and think about what you just read and go oh my gosh! or whoa! or really? who'd have known! or even THAT'S SO ME! It's highly entertaining as well. I didn't ever get bored by this book. Therefore, yes, 5 stars!


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This review is also posted on Goodreads.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

In My Mailbox (1)

I've seen this In My Mailbox theme post (hosted by The Story Siren) on almost every book blog I'm following. So I think, why not? Right? Only the thing is it's supposed to be posted every week. This is the fourth week of November already, so I thought I might just wrap it up, and make it one post.

However, due to the overwhelming amount of books this month, I decided not to pull them out of the shelves and take photos of them, because it's too much work for me to handle, instead, I'll just post the covers. Just this once, I promise.

Here we go. Here's my November glory.

First week (October 31st - November 5th)
1. How I Paid for College by Marc Acito
2. The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling 4 stars: I really like it

Second week (November 6th - 12th)
None

Third week (November 13th - 19th)
1. Teen Idol by Meg Cabot (used) 2 stars: Nothing special
2. Seinlanguage by Jerry Seinfeld (used)
3. If I Stay by Gayle Forman

Fourth week (November 20th - 26th)
1. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
2. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
3. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
4. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon
5. Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
6. Where She Went by Gayle Forman
7. Lock And Key by Sarah Dessen
8. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins [see my review5 stars: I love it! It's amazing!
9. When It Happens by Susane Colasanti 4 stars: I really like it
10. Second Helpings by Megan McCafferty
11. The Business of Changing the World by Marc Benioff
12. A Warrior's Life: A Biography of Paulo Coelho by Fernando Morais
13. Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer
14. Beatrice and Virgil by Yann Martel
15. Kluge: The Haphazard Evolution of the Human Mind by Gary Marcus
16. How Many Friends Does One Person Need? by Robin Dunbar
17. Learning to Live: A User's Manual by Luc Ferry
18. My Father's Keeper by Julie Gregory

So that's it. This week really has been extremely crazy. And it makes me as happy as I can be. :)

Total books bought so far this month: 23

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