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

Friday, November 25, 2011

Review: Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Title: Anna and the French Kiss
Author: Stephanie Perkins
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Release Date: December 2, 2010
Publisher: Dutton
Format: Paperback
Pages: 375
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Bookdepository
Read on November 25, 2011
My rating: Photobucket + Favorite
Summary: Anna can't wait for her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a good job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. So she's not too thrilled when her father unexpectedly ships her off to boarding school in Paris - until she meets Etienne St. Clair, the perfect boy. The only problem? He's taken, and Anna might be, too, if anything comes of her crush back home. Will a year of romantic near-misses end in the French kiss Anna awaits?


Okay. So here's the deal with this book. I picked it up at around 1 am today (which means last night) because I'm a pathetic insomniac who likes to read when it's time for bed and likes to sleep when it's time for breakfast. Anyhow. This book sucked me right in!. I did NOT even have to make an effort. NONE. And it wasn't until I caught the slightest signal of sunrise that I decided, extremely against my will, to put this book down and save my deteriorating sleep-deprived self. Then I woke up 6 hours later and Anna and the French Kiss sucked me right in again. Then I finished the book in one day. In three sittings (that 1 am reading in bed, then the living room sofa reading after lunch, then another sofa reading in the privacy of my own room). 

What do I say? Um. It's been quite a long time since I last felt so giggly and giddy and in love with a book. Let's see. The last time I could recall was with When It Happens, and that was like in 2008. Gosh, I'm such a loser.

Where do I start? My head is spinning. Now I'm in love with the idea of beingin love, because if it feels this nice to be in love, then it doesn't sound like a bad idea. Or does it? Jeez! I don't even know what to say about this book! 

Okay, let me try. 

This is a really cute story told in the voice and point of view of Anna Oliphant, nicknamed Banana Elephant. She originally doesn't like her dad, and worse, he decides to ship her off to a boarding school in Paris! She doesn't want to leave Atlanta which means leaving her little brother, Sean, and her best friend, Bridge(tt), and her crush, (Chris)Toph(er), who's on the verge of becoming more than just a crush. She feels bitter when she unpacks her stuff in her dorm room. This school is, according to Anna, full of rich and stylish and sophisticated kids whose parents are, you know, biggies, who don't really want their kids around. On the first day at SOAP (School of America in Paris), she makes her first new friend, Meredith, whose room is next door to Anna's. After enjoying chatting and chocolat chaud with Meredith, Anna starts to feel good about this school, and on her way out of Mer's room, she bumps into this English French American Boy Masterpiece whose name is Etienne St. Clair, who is drop-dead gorgeous and makes me SQUEAL. And SWOON. 

Her first days at the school really captures the feelings of being in a foreign land. I can totally relate to her. She avoids food that requires ordering, because she doesn't speak a bit of French and she's still insecure about it. That totally happened to me once or twice in Germany. She looks lost and feels lost for some time, but life gets better. She makes great friends with Meredith, Rashmi, Josh, and most importantly St. Clair. SQUEAL. They both like each other in an instant (or so I think), but it's not that easy. St. Clair has a long-term girlfriend who's now in college, and Anna's still holding on to Toph. Moreover, Meredith's also crushing on him. Anna and St. Clair become immediate friends and hang out often and share problems about their lives (mostly fathers) and become comfortable with each other's friendship. 

Isn't that the cutest thing ever? Being in love with your best friend? Sigh. 

I love this book. There are just so many elements to it that I really really love. In this book, friendship is just as important as the attraction between Anna and St. Clair. Although the attraction "just happens", the author took time to work up the romance. It's like attraction developed into great friendship which is developed into being in love with your best friend. I don't know how to explain it. They're both perfect for each other. I smiled reading their funny sarcastic remarks and what they have to say to each other. It's just so cute, okay? And how St. Clair tries to conquer his fear of height for Anna. GOSH. ARGH!!! TOO BLOODY LOVELY! And Anna's later idea of "home". Oh my. I love that. Because I think it's true, it's more of a question of who you're with, rather than where you are, that gives you the feeling of being home.

I love the fact that this is not a book about the perfect-in-every-way-possible guy and i'm-an-ordinary-person girl. Or vice versa. Or whatever. I love that the characters are flawed, but yet still beautiful. St. Clair has crooked bottom teeth, and Anna has a huge gap (that's what she says) between her front teeth. And St. Clair is short. But he also speaks British accent (OH DEAR GOD). And they both have financial issues. And their fathers are asses. I love that there are more realistic elements crafted in this book than just sparkly teenage romance. I believe we all have people like the characters in our lives, so it's really believable and interesting, because while you read about them, you have your own versions of them in your head. 

Hmmm, what else? Oh, the writing. Can I just say that Ms. Perkins' writing is something you can totally get lost in? In a good way, of course. Like I said earlier, it will suck you right in. It's a quick and easy and enjoyable read. Which reminds me again that great books don't necessarily have to be written in such difficult language so as to portray literary gorgeousness. This book is perfect just the way it is. Oh, and I also love that Anna takes me to visit different tourist attractions in Paris with her. Makes me want to book a ticket and go there right now. 

Anna and the French Kiss really reminds me of what it's like to be in love. The heart racing thing, the confusion, the he-doesn't-like-me-okay dialogue with myself, the staring, the awkwardness, the warmth, the good feelings, the heartache. Ah. I do miss those things. 

All in all, this book is just perfect in every way possible. It will certainly make you abandon your priorities and just keep going until you finish. I love, love, love it! 

And for one last time, SQUEAAAAAALLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL. 

By the way, I'm not really as crazy about St. Clair as everybody else seems to be. I don't know. I know he's gorgeous and has a British accent (I KNOW!) and all, but he still fails to beat Michael Moscovitz from the Princess Diaries in the race to be my "dream guy". Still, I wouldn't complain to have him in my life. He makes me SQUEAL with delight, remember? 

SQUEAL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ♥


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This review is also posted on Goodreads.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Review: Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami

Title: Kafka on the Shore
Author: Haruki Murakami
Genre: Japanese Literature
Translator: Philip Gabriel
Release Date: October 31, 2005
Publisher: Vintage
Format: Paperback
Pages: 615
Read from October 19 to 25, 2011 
My rating: 4 stars: I really like it
Summary: Kafka on the Shore, a tour de force of metaphysical reality, is powered by two remarkable characters: a teenage boy, Kafka Tamura, who runs away from home either to escape a gruesome oedipal prophecy or to search for his long-missing mother and sister; and an aging simpleton called Nakata, who never recovered from a wartime affliction and now is drawn toward Kafka for reasons that, like the most basic activities of daily life, he cannot fathom. Their odyssey, as mysterious to them as it is to us, is enriched throughout by vivid accomplices and mesmerizing events. Cats and people carry on conversations, a ghostlike pimp employs a Hegel-quoting prostitute, a forest harbors soldiers apparently unaged since World War II, and rainstorms of fish (and worse) fall from the sky. There is a brutal murder, with the identity of both victim and perpetrator a riddle - yet this, along with everything else, is eventually answered, just as the entwined destinies of Kafka and Nakata are gradually revealed, with one escaping his fate entirely and the other given a fresh start on his own.


[Review written on October 25th, 2011]
Wow. I just finished this about 7 minutes ago and that is around 1.45 am in the morning. This book is, as the cover advertises, "addictive". I never thought I would say that. Before this I have read Norwegian Wood by Marakami, and hated it. It made me so angry that I had to sit and scream, because I found it that bad. I remember thinking that I would never ever lay my hands on any Murakami books again, having read Norwegian Wood as my first. However, I didn't stick to that. A really good friend of mine who's a huge Murakami fan often tries to make me get over my prejudice by lending me this book. Now what I've got to do is wait till morning to call him and congratulate him on his successful attempt at that. 


The book is interesting since the very first sentence. No lie. It's just as seriously addictive as it is long. Despite the length, I believe I would've finished it in 2 or 3 days if it weren't for the news that Westlife would be splitting up in 2012 that made me literally depressed for a few days and unable to do anything other than watching Westlife videos and listening to their songs and crying. 

Anyway.

I'd be lying if I said I understood this book. I don't, for the most parts. I think the book is weird. But in a good way. I'm not even going to attempt to summarize it, because I don't think I can. It just isn't that simple. All I can say is that it's brilliant, and thought-provoking. And most of all, unlike anything I've read before. This is the first magical realism book I've read. 

Although I've finished reading the book, I don't think I'm done with it yet. There are still things that I don't thoroughly understand. I mean, I do understand them in my own interpretations, of course. But I do not know if I got it right, so I'm gonna be off reading discussions about this book now.

[Update on November 21st, 2011]
Almost a month has gone by since I've read this book, but my feelings for it remain the same. I still do believe that Kafka on the Shore is great. 

Since the earlier review, I've been hunting explanations and others' interpretations and I have to be honest with you and say that my understanding for it doesn't differ much, even then or now. It's just one of the books that leave a lot of questions unanswered and don't need to be thoroughly analysed and understood, but enjoyed and appreciated. That's the way it is with most Murakami books.

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This review is also posted on Goodreads.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Review: Leftovers by Laura Wiess

Title: Leftovers
Author: Laura Wiess
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Release Date: January 1, 2008
Publisher: MTV Books
Format: Paperback
Pages: 256
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Bookdepository
Read from November 16 to 18, 2011
My rating: 4 stars: I really like it
Summary: Blair and Ardith are best friends who have committed an unforgivable act in the name of love and justice. But in order to understand what could drive two young women to such extreme measures, first you'll have to understand why. You'll have to listen as they describe parents who are alternately absent and smothering, classmates who mock and shun anyone different, and young men who are allowed to hurt and dominate without consequence. You will have to learn what it's like to be a teenage girl who locks her bedroom door at night, who has been written off by the adults around her as damaged goods. A girl who has no one to trust except the one person she's forbidden to see. You'll have to understand what it's really like to be forgotten and abandoned in America today. Are you ready? 


This book is much better than I first expected! If it hadn't been for Leftovers, I might have forgot for good how addictive a good book is supposed to and can be! The last time I was this seriously absorbed in a book was two months ago, so I really missed this feeling. You know when you finish a book and it leaves you with your heart racing and your brain thinking? With that feeling that you don't want it to be over yet? You know when you reach the last page without noticing it? Yup, Leftovers did that to me.

Leftovers is written in a style I haven't experienced before. It's told in the voices of two best friends, Blair and Ardith, that come out so real, so believable. Each tells their side of the story in alternative chapters to a third person, and it wasn't until about half way through the book that I figured out who it is. They talk to that person to let him know about their totally different lives at home and at school. Blair is a girl from a broken, rich family. All her lawyer mother cares about is her career, she tries to keep the apparently fallen-apart family together because "appearances count", and she won't let anything come in her way of making judge, not even Blair herself, who is used to get her what she wants. Blair used to be the inexperienced and innocent one, until she went and let her ignorant innocence screw up herself. (Some people might disagree with me, but yes, I do think that she asked for it, and what happened to her was partly her own fault.) Then she becomes a very different person, damaged as she is, and sees the world in another different attitude. Her character development in the story is very obvious. Ardith, on the other hand, doesn't develop much in the story. She comes from a house that's never quiet, that hosts parties daily and has a pool where teens are caught "doing it". Growing up in a house like that, she hates it. You might wonder why her parents do nothing about it, well, it's because they're the leaders. Her mother owns adult websites and her father is a goddamn pervert. Her brother and his friends find girls to hook up there, and even her father perversely feels up those girls. Ardith lives in constant fear of being sexually harassed in her own house. She also admits that she doesn't feel safe even with her own father. He also likes to touch her when he can. These two best friends, Blair and Ardith, are partners in crime, and they're telling all of this to the third person, so he can understand them, their motives, and what they want.

This book is so good. Almost everything seems so real to me. So scarily real and accurate. Also disgusting. And very disturbing. The story is so powerful and addictive that it's hard to put the book down once you've picked it up. I was so close to giving this five stars after finishing it. The reason I didn't is because there is one thing I don't like about it.

What annoys me about this book is the narrative. That's the only drawback I can think of. When the girls tell the story, they don't tell it like this, "I woke up and felt hungry," but instead, "You wake up and feel hungry." It's like this almost all the time, and I don't like it. It doesn't work. What's wrong with saying it with "I"? Why bother? I think the author tried too hard at this one, and it fails. It doesn't help the reader get into the story more than narrating it normally. It seems unnatural. And sometimes it doesn't feel like they're TELLING a story, because the words and sentences sound too fiction-like, if you know what I mean. It sounds like what other normal fiction stories sound like, but it's not supposed to be like that with this book, you know? It should be more conversation-like, talking-like, because, well, the girls are TELLING a story at that very moment in time to ANOTHER person.

Other than the narrative, everything else is AMAZING. The characters are so real. Every single one of them. The girls' voices are so loud and clear, the things they talk about come out so graphic, so vivid. Every feeling, every rage, every misery, I can feel them. The "crime" they commit together isn't a crime at all, though it's disgusting to think about. But they have their reasons and though the end doesn't justify the means, the purpose is very understandable and heart-breaking. As far as everybody else is concerned, they didn't do anything at all. When they finally tell what it is, I was caught a bit off guard. It wasn't what I had in mind, but it wasn't disappointing either. Although the girls are not very like-able all the time, it's hard not to sympathize with them. This is one of the books that make you realize you have a good life, no matter how crappy you think it is. It makes you appreciate the life you're having. It makes me glad that I didn't have to go through anything like that in my high school life. But it also makes me think about what I would do, were I in their position. Would I let the society label me and destroy me, sit back and let the villains be seen as some kind of heroes, let injustice roam the society, or would I strike back? What would you do?


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This review is also posted on Goodreads.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Review: Perfume by Patrick Süskind

Title: Perfume
Author: Patrick Süskind
Genre: Historical Fiction, Horror, Classics
First published: 1985
This edition: 2001
Publisher: Knopf Publishing Group
Format: Paperback
Pages: 272
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Bookdepository
Read from November 9 to 15, 2011
My rating: 3 stars: I like it
Summary: In the slums of eighteenth-century France, the infant Jean-Baptiste Grenouille is born with one sublime gift - an absolute sense of smell. As a boy, he lives to decipher the odors of Paris, and apprentices himself to a prominent perfumer who teaches him the ancient art of mixing precious oils and herbs. But Grenouille's genius is such that he is not satisfied to stop there, and he becomes obsessed with capturing the smells of objects such as brass doorknobs and frest-cut wood. Then one day he catches a hint of a scent that will drive him on an ever-more-terrifying quest to create the "ultimate perfume" - the scent of a beautiful young virgin.


Everyone seems to like or love this book, but even to my surprise, I feel kind of underwhelmed. The story is without a doubt extraordinary and unusual, based on the idea that the sense of smell is superior to all others, as your other sensory perceptions can be turned off (shutting eyes, covering ears, etc.) except for smelling, so long as you want to live. However interesting it sounds, I often found myself not engaged with what was going on as I read at all. At some points I would look up from the book and feel so blank--I couldn't recall where the story had taken me and how it was going--that I had to flip back, sometimes a few pages, sometimes a lot of pages, to start again. I wasn't as absorbed in it as I had wanted to be. I came to conclude that it was because of the writing.

I had mixed feelings about the writing and the narrative. Sometimes, like I said, it seemed to push me away from grasping what it was telling me. I had to reread sentences or paragraphs a lot of times that it wore me out. However, there were times when it flowed so smoothly and rapidly that I actually enjoyed it. And I also noticed that what seemed like the first 73.07692% of the book was what I felt uneasy with, while the rest after it was somewhat livelier and more exciting. Or maybe all this is just me. Maybe it's just my reading deficiency. In addition, I felt like the narration could have been better and more detailed. When the killing spree part comes, it looks as if the author didn't care about it that much to give more details. I didn't like that. It was like writing one sentence to let the readers know that between this line and the line above, 23 murders had been committed and done. Like that. No more details. Also, kudos to the author's description of smell/scent/odor. I think it's great.

I have only a couple of thing to say about the storyline. Firstly, I think the author focused too much on the first stages of Grenouille's life. A lot of times I wondered why he has killed only one girl when it was almost 200 pages on already. I expected The Story of A Murderer to focus more on acts of murders, rather than what the murderer did in a perfume shop or in a cave. And I don't really like how Grenouille killed one girl in Paris once, paused--lived in a cave for SEVEN years, then started a killing spree, after all those years, which was described within JUST a few pages I think that it's unforgivably unbalanced. I felt the story goes all too slowly, and when the climax of the book comes, it's almost the end of the book itself, and that passes by all to quickly. Secondly, why did some people who gave him shelter have to die after Grenouille left them? What's with that? First, his cruel employee whose name I don't remember. Then Baldini the perfumer. Why? I mean, they didn't have any more significance in the story, why not just leave them alone? Why further going into details their deaths? Perhaps to portray that without him their lives couldn't go on? Hmm... This is quite unnecessary, why not focus on something that would enrich the story instead?

The main character, Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, with one crippled foot and tough personality, is an odorless person. I like how the obsession with scent has its motive from his own shortcoming. He wants to create an odor for himself. When reading about his unfortunate birth and tough childhood, I felt sympathy for him. Even when he's grown up and sinister, I still felt it. I think the author meant for it to be like that, to make the character seem real, to make readers sympathize with him, but dislike him all at the same time. Or at least that's how it was for me. His high ambitions and genius make him a murderer, yet he didn't seem to care much about that. He definitely took obsession to the next level.

This book is definitely fine literature, no doubt about that. But I have to say it didn't quite do it for me. It didn't blow me away, no matter how much I wanted it to. Perfume could, dare I say it, have been better. There.


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This review is also posted on Goodreads.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Review: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

Title: The Alchemist
Author: Paulo Coelho
Genre: Classics
Release Date: May 1, 1993
Publisher: Harper Collins
Format: Paperback
Pages: 167
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Bookdepository

Read from September 30 to October 2, 2011

My rating: 1 star: I don't like it


Summary: Paulo Coelho's enchanting novel has inspired a devoted following around the world. This story, dazzling in its powerful simplicity and inspiring wisdom, is about an Andalusian shepherd boy named Santiago who travels from his homeland in Spain to the Egyptian desert in search of a treasure buried in the Pyramids. Along the way he meets a Gypsy woman, a man who calls himself king, and an alchemist, all of whom point Santiago in the direction of his quest. No one knows what the treasure is, or if Santiago will be able to surmount the obstacles along the way. But what starts out as a journey to find worldly goods turns into a discovery of the treasures found within. Lush, evocative, and deeply humane, the story of Santiago is an eternal testament to the transforming power of our dreams and the importance of listening to our hearts.


The moment I finished this book I almost cried of frustration. I was so seriously disappointed by how awful the book is that I had to sit down and shut my eyes and control my in- and exhalation. My rage was only burning hotter; the book was my fuel. I know, the summary sounds interesting, and I'd been told a lot of times that The Alchemist is excellent this, amazing that. But now that I read it, I wish I hadn't.


The story is simple enough. A boy becomes a shepherd for the sake of wandering. Then he meets a man who believes himself to be a king, is told that he will find his great treasure near the Pyramids in Egypt, and off he goes. I have to point out that it is not really a tale of following your dreams, because dreams don't really play any part in this novel. What plays a great role, in fact, are omens. Omens here, there, omens everywhere! (How do you know that something is an omen anyway? It could be coincidences? I don't know..) Everyone he meets on the road seems to know what the boy is up to. They all know about his dreams (again-- not really. More like his "goals" or "aspirations") and where he's going. (What the? It doesn't even make sense!) Then he travels to the Oasis and his eyes fall upon a girl and WHAM! TRUE LOVE! (SERIOUSLY???) He meets an alchemist and they both hit the road to search for his treasure. Along the way they get caught and Santiago is to "turn himself into the wind". Days drag on and on, and he still hasn't figured out how. (I knew it!) And then the day comes where he has to prove himself, and he talks to the wind", making a miracle happen. What's more, he even talks to the sun! In the Language of The World! (WHAT????) He understands the Soul of The World too! Isn't that very touching? Then he go off to the Pyramids only to find out by "dreaming" that his treasure is somewhere else! Cool! *sighs*

I'm going to try and be reasonable and tell you why this book failed me.
1) The writing style is not good. The story is told in simple sentences. I personally have nothing against that, but the way it's written just doesn't get to me. It looks as if it's meant to resemble the style of fables, but it is nothing compared to that. However, this could be something that gets lost in translation. Maybe the writing style--word and sentence structure and whatnot--is beautiful when it's Portuguese. Although that may be true, it just doesn't work when it's English, that's for sure.

2) Coelho kept calling Santiago "the boy". The boy............... The boy...................... The boy....................... The boy............................ All. The. Time. I mean, he has a name, okay? There were times when I'd only read "the boy" that I almost forgot what his name actually is!

3) The messages and story aren't deep and philosophical as portrayed. Sure, A Fable About Following Your Dream sounds cool. But no, this story isn't really about following dreams. It isn't about a certain idea of philosophy, either. It's more about reading omens, and pursuing Personal Legends, and talking in the Language of The World, or reaching through to The Soul of The World. All of which are as deep as..... Gah! I don't know. "...when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it" would have been an inspiring quote, had it any supporting facts or evidences (not the omens, please), otherwise it would just be a cheesy line attempting to be deep but failing, and yes, that's precisely what I think it is. When something touches your inmost heart and makes you feel something special, that is deep, that is profound. When something makes you irritable and your brows furrow in extreme annoyance, that is definitely not deep. Are we clear here, Coelho? 

Extremely annoyed, yes, that's what this book did to me. Everything about it bothered me so much that I had a hard time trying to finish it. Good thing it was thin. I can't believe the hype, really. My friends told me it's so great, but I find it totally awful. It's the first book I've ever rated 1 star. It's just awful.

By the way, I have been told by a friend who loves this book that the reason I dislike it is because I am not a Christian believer. Maybe that's partly why.. However, there are other problems with this book that still would make it displeasing for me, weren't I an atheist.

I hereby insist: this book is awful. It wasn't for me. I'm sorry I'm so harsh on it. I just hated it so much.


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This review is also posted on Goodreads.

Review: New Moon by Stephenie Meyer

Title: New Moon
Author: Stephenie Meyer
Series: Twilight, #2
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal
Release Date: May 1, 2008
Publisher: Little Brown Books for Young Readers
Format: Paperback
Pages: 563
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Bookdepository

Read from October 4 to 9, 2011
My rating: 2 stars: Nothing special
Summary: In New Moon, Stephenie Meyer delivers another irresistible combination of romance and suspense with a supernatural twist. The "star-crossed" lovers theme continues as Bella and Edward find themselves facing new obstacles, including a devastating separation, the mysterious appearance of dangerous wolves roaming the forest in Forks, a terrifying threat of revenge from a female vampire and a deliciously sinister encounter with Italy's reigning royal family of vampires, the Volturi. Passionate, riveting, and full of surprising twists and turns, this vampire love saga is well on its way to literary immortality.



New Moon is a sequel to the famous first novel of the Twilight saga, that is Twilight. Having read Twilight for the first time in 2008, I am ashamed to admit that I was crazy about it for months. But when I read it again, I couldn't see why I'd even liked it in the first place. Now, three years later, freshly freed from final exams, I wandered around aimlessly in the library. Then New Moon caught my eye. Not because it's pretty or anything, but because there are 3 or 4 thick copies of it lined up on a library shelf. I decided, what the hell, and picked it up.

I was struggling so much trying to get it over with this book. Not gonna lie, it was real torture. The story drags on for too long, if you can't tell by the thickness that is over 500 pages, and most of the time the story is just boring. And it also bugged me so much. Here are some things that annoyed me:


1) Bella keeps talking about the hole in her chest throughout the book! What's with that? That phrase really doesn't have to show up every few pages, you know?

Now, with the help of my e-book version of this book, I'm going to show you just what I mean.







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Not only the hole in her chest that she so often mentions, but it looks like Bella is specially attracted to holes. There are other no less than 10 mentions of the entrance hole, too, to where the Volturi live. So much for Bella's holes...

2) Bella's not-until-this-that-I-realized-that. All. The. Friggin'. Time. Seriously, Bella, you're incapable of realizing your physical state or what? Or even the environmental changes? The word realize is well too overused in this novel that it bugged me.

3) The idea that a teenage girl finds it hard to keep on living with the depart of her boyfriend. Isn't that disturbing?

I got annoyed so many times by acknowledging Bella's thoughts. The writing style is lacking on so many levels. I think my problem is Stephenie Meyer. I just don't like the way she writes. And although there are so many annoying parts, there are parts that are entertaining enough. So I would say that it's not that bad, but bad enough to be considered one of the books I regret having spent time with, and definitely one of those I have no intention whatsoever to lay my hands on again.


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This review is also posted on Goodreads.
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