{Book Review} Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor

Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil’s supply of human teeth grows dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war.

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real, she’s prone to disappearing on mysterious “errands”, she speaks many languages – not all of them human – and her bright blue hairactually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out.

When beautiful, haunted Akiva fixes fiery eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?*

This is another episode of me putting aside all other reading commitments in answer to a challenge to read and review another highly recommended book (*shakes fist at Maria* honestly, woman, the things you make us do). I wanted so badly to go write a review for another book but unfortunately this has to take precedence, because I don’t often get competitive and it’s a moment to be treasured. Anyway.

The world Laini Taylor created was beautiful, and my imagination ran wild with envisioning the creatures and the characters, as well as the places described. One of my bookish friends said I would want to go to Prague after reading this, and she was right. One of the reasons I couldn’t finish reading this book in one sitting as I planned was because I constantly had to stop and look pictures of Prague. Sometimes I would stop and bring out my sketchbook (number two, if you must know, and unfortunately still not art student material) and try drawing Madrigal or Akiva or some other chimaera, because all of the scenes with Karou drawing in it made me want to try it too. I loved imagining everything in my head, and certain aspects of the book brought out that childlike wonder.

The writing was also exquisite. I loved all the cosmic adjectives and the author’s pretty ways of describing things, and while some were pretty wordy (or was I the only one constantly checking the dictionary just to see if I deducted the meaning right?), it didn’t feel contrived or affected at all. The flow of words was natural, and reading it was like a dream, so there’s definitely no problem on that front…

…but. See, this is why I am always weary of paying attention to hyped anythings – it’s hard not to have expectations. While said expectations have been met in the aforementioned aspects, I thought there was something missing that prevented me from really enjoying this book. I suppose it’s just a matter of taste, because a lot of people like this book, and I could see why, and it’s just that it’s not for me. There were some parts that reminded me too much of other books I didn’t enjoy, books that also had hints of too beautiful men and instant attraction that didn’t make me as invested in the relationship. Something felt a little off. Then there was this bunch of chapters in the second half that detailed a flashback that at that moment I didn’t really want to read about – I just wanted to get to the main storyline to see what would happen, so I found myself getting more and more impatient with each flashback chapter. It was at this point that I gradually lost interest, which was a shame, because the last few chapters were great, and if only that flashback was a little shorter, I would have enjoyed the book as a whole more.

Still, I’m burning to know what happens in the next book. I could finally see characters that I liked, and wanted to know more, before that pretty abrupt ending. This one felt too much like an exposition for its sequel, so maayybbeeee I’ll like the second more than this. Not sure if I’ll get to read it though, with all the other books from my to-read pile calling out my name, but that’s a door I won’t close.

In a nutshell…

Rating: 3/5
Hardcover, 418 pages
Author: Laini Taylor
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Published: September 27, 2011
Language: English
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

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{Book Review} A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

Kell is one of the last Travelers—rare magicians who choose a parallel universe to visit.

Grey London is dirty, boring, lacks magic, ruled by mad King George. Red London is where life and magic are revered, and the Maresh Dynasty presides over a flourishing empire. White London is ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne. People fight to control magic, and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. Once there was Black London – but no one speaks of that now.

Officially, Kell is the Red Traveler, personal ambassador and adopted Prince of Red London, carrying the monthly correspondences between royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell smuggles for those willing to pay for even a glimpse of a world they’ll never see. This dangerous hobby sets him up for accidental treason. Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs afoul of Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She robs him, saves him from a dangerous enemy, then forces him to another world for her ‘proper adventure’.

But perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, Kell and Lila will first need to stay alive — trickier than they hoped. *

I started reading this with just a fair amount of interest, and I wasn’t as invested at the beginning because I found it quite slow, so it was always in the back burner for a while until I finished the other books I was reading at the time, but as I journeyed with Kell and Lila throughout the book, my imagination pretty much exploded trying to imagine all the other Londons, and I had so much fun trying to see everything in my head. I reasoned that I didn’t want to rush it, because I wanted to absorb as much of the worlds as I could, and I figured reading by parts would be the best course of action I could take (yes, I like planning things way too much). That plan turned out pretty well until more than halfway through the book, when I was just, sod it, I’m going to finish the entire thing. Goodbye, schedule for the rest of the day.

The worldbuilding was fantastic. It was like I could imagine what all the Londons looked like, but I still wanted so much to have been there myself, journeying with the characters even though I would have been as much of a liability as a sack of bones. All of the Londons, even White London, were vivid and real to me, and imagining worlds as different as they are but with the same geography made is somehow both easier and more confusing, but that’s okay, because it made me think about the book even while I was doing other things (maybe not such a good thing if you’re busy, but it’s my summer vacation, so it is for me). It came to the point where I wished so much that I am a really good artist so I can put onto paper the Londons as I imagine them to look like.

I also found the characters great. It wasn’t love at first sight for me, because I only started actively rooting for them when the masquerade started and things finally started getting exciting, but I liked them just the same. I wish I got to see Rhy more, because Kell’s really biased and I wanted to form my own opinion of him. The interactions with Lila was a promising start, and perhaps there will be more ways I could get to know him in the sequel, so yay! Also, *spoiler alert* some of the supporting characters die, so best not get too attached. I was so upset about a couple of the deaths, even though I don’t even know them that well, but I guess it just has to be done. This is a war, after all, albeit a really small-scale one that the masses of Grey, Red, and White London know nothing about, but it’s the beginning of one, so I’m sure the dying won’t stop anytime soon.*end of spoiler alert*

This is the kind of book that made me so eager to see what’s next that I was already reading the next page before I realized that I haven’t even finished reading this description paragraph thing a page before, so then I have to read everything again, and then I get ahead of myself. I blame that as the main reason why I couldn’t finish the book sooner, but really, it’s just an excuse to keep reading before it actually ends. I highly recommend this book for anyone who loves fantasy, adventure, and a dash of steampunk. 

Favorite quotes

Purity without balance is its own corruption.

‘I’d rather die on an adventure than live standing still.’

‘Love doesn’t keep us from freezing to death, Kell,’ she continued, ‘or starving, or being knifed for the coins in our pocket. Love doesn’t buy us anything, so be glad for what you have and who you have because you may want for things but you need for nothing.’

Delilah Bard looked like a king. No, she thought, straightening. She looked like a conqueror.

In a nutshell…

Rating: 4.5/5

400 pages
Author: V.E. Schwab
Original Language: English
Published: February 24, 2015
Genre: Fantasy

{Book Review} After Dark by Haruki Murakami

After DarkA short, sleek novel of encounters set in Tokyo during the witching hours between midnight and dawn, and every bit as gripping as Haruki Murakami’s masterworks The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and Kafka on the Shore.

At its center are two sisters—Eri, a fashion model slumbering her way into oblivion, and Mari, a young student soon led from solitary reading at an anonymous Denny’s toward people whose lives are radically alien to her own: a jazz trombonist who claims they’ve met before, a burly female “love hotel” manager and her maid staff, and a Chinese prostitute savagely brutalized by a businessman. These “night people” are haunted by secrets and needs that draw them together more powerfully than the differing circumstances that might keep them apart, and it soon becomes clear that Eri’s slumber—mysteriously tied to the businessman plagued by the mark of his crime—will either restore or annihilate her.

After Dark moves from mesmerizing drama to metaphysical speculation, interweaving time and space as well as memory and perspective into a seamless exploration of human agency—the interplay between self-expression and empathy, between the power of observation and the scope of compassion and love. Murakami’s trademark humor, psychological insight, and grasp of spirit and morality are here distilled with an extraordinary, harmonious mastery.*

It was the last week of 2012 before I realized that I had blog challenges for myself. While I have given up the 2012 Debut Author Challenge for naught, I remembered that my personal challenge to finally read a Haruki Murakami book once and for all still has hope. I happened to have a copy of After Dark ready, and because I was sick for a couple of days, I had all the time in the world to devour all 191 pages of it.

Managed to cram a review in before 2012 ends! Which is in, like, 9 hours. (Philippine time, GMT +8)

 

So how was my Murakami experience? The first and only word that brands itself in my mind at the moment is surreal. This is a story set after hours – after the sun has set and dissolving as the sun’s rays penetrate the horizon. Unlike what you would expect for a book set in this time frame, though, the pace is rather slow. Murakami has a way of weaving strange curiosities into his writing, making you feel like an entity that is invisible, and everywhere all at the same time. I don’t know if this was brought on by being in my sickbed, but reading the whole thing felt like a dream. Details and such just floated beyond me, and what remained was an odd mixture of desolation and a burning desire to understand what was going on. I felt like I belonged to the world of Mari and Takahashi and the other characters, people who seemed so mysterious and fascinating in the veil of night, wandering as everything is cloaked in impenetrable darkness dusted with the light of the moon.*

One of my favorite quotes from this book was by Mari Asai:

“You know what I think?” she says. “That people’s memories are maybe the fuel they burn to stay alive. Whether those memories have any actual importance or not, it doesn’t matter as far as the maintenance of life is concerned. They’re all just fuel. Advertising fillers in the newspaper, philosophy books, dirty pictures in a magazine, a bundle of ten-thousand-yen bills: when you feed ’em to the fire, they’re all just paper.”

There’s a darkly whimsical element in the book that kept me curious all throughout. This wasn’t even a plot-driven kind of book, but because of Murakami’s skill, I enjoyed it in all its passiveness and floaty quality. Honestly, I still don’t know what to make of it. I still couldn’t understand the deal with Mari’s sister, Eri, and her peculiar sojourn into the television set, among other things. However, I’m choosing to just go with the flow and accept my inability to understand, so that I can appreciate the way it was written, and because it is beautiful.

*Aaaand here was my attempt to sound poetic. Forgive me. I had Moonlight Sonata playing in the background and I somehow got into the zone.

In a nutshell…

Rating: 4/5

191 pages
Author: Haruki Murakami
Original Language: Japanese
Published: 2000
Genre: Fantasy, Magic Realism

{Book Review} Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

Howl's Moving Castle (Howl's Moving Castle, #1)

In which a witch bewitched the hatter’s daughter – and then some….

Sophie lived in the town of Market Chipping, which was in Ingary, a land in which anything could happen, and often did – especially when the Witch of the Waste got her dander up. Which was often.

As her younger sisters set out to seek their fortunes, Sophie stayed in her father’s hat shop. Which proved most unadventurous, until the Witch of the Waste came in to buy a bonnet, but was not pleased. Which is why she turned Sophie into an old lady. Which was spiteful witchery.

Now Sophie must seek her own fortune. Which means striking a bargain with the lecherous Wizard Howl. Which means entering his ever-moving castle, taming a blue fire-demon, and meeting the Witch of the Waste head-on. Which was more than Sophie bargained for….*

I was very excited to read this book. I absolutely loved the film version by Hayao Miyazaki, and the gorgeous soundtrack by Joe Hisaishi. I think I’ve played the main theme a couple hundred times already since I watched the film earlier this year, because if there’s something I’m a sucker for more than beautiful writing, its beautiful music (I’m actually writing this with it playing on repeat in the background, teehee). I really can’t get enough of the music. Despite my excitement, for some reason, I kept putting off reading the book – even though I got my copy in May – until this month. I think I saved this because of the holidays, which would give off the magical atmosphere I would very much prefer in reading a book like this.

Howl’s Moving Castle stirred somewhat lukewarm feelings within me at first, because I was expecting it to have the same effect on me as the film had. The film version was more exciting and dramatic, definitely, but then I realized that it wouldn’t be fair to judge a book by its movie. I’m very okay with judging a film by its book, but vice versa? It just feels weird, so I decided to try reading Howl’s Moving Castle with a mind that wasn’t familiar with it. It worked. I enjoyed reading about Howl and Sophie, and I felt like a child again. Gosh, how I missed reading fantasy that didn’t have such convoluted plots!

I really loved the characters. I am absolutely amused by Howl, the entertainment factor of which helped me in rating this book. He is so vain and conscious of his appearance that I sometimes want to throw a fit and make green slime myself (because no one, and I mean NO ONE, should take that long in the bathroom EVERY DAY sheesh) but also very scatter-brained everywhere else, so the results are just hilarious. I keep imagining the events in the book transpire with the film characters* and I am all laughey-dovey for hours. Well okay, minutes, but you know. He started to grow on me somewhat because of those moments. Also, let me just mention how I admire Sophie very much. For someone in a granny’s body, she is everywhere! I would like to be like her, (still) sassy and full of energy when I am ninety, if ever I do reach that age. I also love how determined she is when she is set to do something. She’s like, “Oh, I’m an eldest kid so I can’t be exciting? Qurl, Imma find my fortune and prove y’all wrong. I’m sorry, being ninety all of a sudden just ain’t enough, so lemme see if I can poke the Wizard Howl’s eye or summat.” That’s the impression her character made on me. So sassy. I love it. (For some reason, I remembered McGonagall, and by association, Dame Maggie Smith. She would make a perfect Sophie, I’d say!)

She’ll be all, “Green slime? Meh.”

Overall, I really liked this book. Despite Howl’s vanity and Sophie’s stubbornness, I found myself rooting for them until the very end. It was a very cute story, whimsical in a way that makes you remember all those fairy tales you used to read as a little child. It’s got a very simple plot, but it has its very own charm, which is why I have no doubt many readers will enjoy this. This is the first novel I’ve read by Diana Wynne Jones. I’ve read a short story of hers in Firebirds, and I enjoyed her writing even then, so I wouldn’t say no to reading more of her works.

*okay, maybe I failed in the complete separation of film and book part, but hey, I still liked the book!

PS
Now I want to watch the film again. Or any Studio Ghibli film, for that matter. 

In a nutshell…

Rating: 4/5

429 pages
Author: Diana Wynne Jones
Original Language: English
Published: 1986
Genre: Fantasy

{Book Review} The Last Unicorn by Peter Beagle

The Last Unicorn is one of the true classics of fantasy, ranking with Tolkien’s The Hobbit, Le Guin’s Earthsea Trilogy, and Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. Beagle writes a shimmering prose-poetry, the voice of fairy tales and childhood:

 The unicorn lived in a lilac wood, and she lived all alone. She was very old, though she did not know it, and she was no longer the careless color of sea foam but rather the color of snow falling on a moonlit night. But her eyes were still clear and unwearied, and she still moved like a shadow on the sea.

The unicorn discovers that she is the last unicorn in the world, and sets off to find the others. She meets Schmendrick the Magician–whose magic seldom works, and never as he intended–when he rescues her from Mommy Fortuna’s Midnight Carnival, where only some of the mythical beasts displayed are illusions. They are joined by Molly Grue, who believes in legends despite her experiences with a Robin Hood wannabe and his unmerry men. Ahead wait King Haggard and his Red Bull, who banished unicorns from the land.

This is a book no fantasy reader should miss; Beagle argues brilliantly the need for magic in our lives and the folly of forgetting to dream. –Nona Vero*

My love affair with this book was just way I liked it – slow-burning and unexpected. I started out feeling fairly lukewarm about the story, as it was very simple, but like a seed you didn’t know was there, days went by before I realized that it has grown on me. I am not sure if it is because of Prince Lir’s growth from shallow young ‘un to lovesick hero, or Lady Amalthea’s painful beauty, or Molly Grue’s cream puff (solid on the outside but softie on the inside) persona, or Schmendrick’s quest of true magic, but when I closed the book, I had a big smile plastered on my face for the rest of the day.

As I said, the plot is simple. The titular character is the last of her kind, on a quest to find the other members of her species, meeting interesting characters along the way – nothing really new. What really endeared the story to me were the emotions of the characters, and how they matured towards the ends of their respective journeys. The character most apparent in this change was Prince Lir, who was really shallow and annoying at the beginning, but developed into a strong and brave hero who is not afraid of showing how he feels, and fighting for it. Normally, I would have found his lines cheesy (they really were), but they came from such an unlikely character (at first, anyway), geared towards another unlikely character that you can’t help but understand why he does what he does, and says what he says, for that matter. 

Speaking of feelings, I feel the romance part of the story is a bit iffy. I have no problems with the characters, but I just find it weird that something as powerful and magical as a unicorn turned out to be mostly helpless. Maybe that was the whole point, because she’s the last of her kind? But that’s just me. Anyway, it’s a tiny thing compared to the rest of the book, so I hope you don’t decide against reading this just because  of a slight nuance I had. It’s really nothing compared to how beautiful the book turned out to be.

Just in case I haven’t made this clear enough times in the past, I am going to reiterate this once more: I am a sucker for gorgeous prose. I really am. Figures of speech used right, in all its glory, is enchanting. The language in this book is so lyrical and poetic, with metaphors that are so dreamy yet feel so right that my imagination never ran out of things to marvel at. However, it is important to note that Peter Beagle did not overdo this, as some writers often do. His writing does not feel pretentious and forced. The mythical creature that is the focus of this novel could actually be compared to his writing. Unicorns are known for being pure, and the is The Last Unicorn in essence. It felt so innocent, and clean, and effortless, that it made me remember my childhood, particularly when and why I fell in love with this genre.  

Do not be fooled into thinking that it is an ordinary children’s fairy tale because of its whimsical title (like I did). I was surprised with how much I ended up liking it. Now I find no trouble at all believing the big-time fantasy authors like Patrick Rothfuss and Ursula Le Guin when they say that this is a must-read. It is simply magical.

My favorite quotes: 

“You have all the power you need, if you dare to look for it.”

The magician stood erect, menacing the attackers with demons, metamorphoses, paralyzing ailments, and secret judo holds. Molly picked up a rock.

“It must be that great power cannot give me whatever it is that I really want.”

“You can strike your own time, and strike the count anywhere. When you understand that – then anytime at all will be the right time for you.”

“I love whom I love,” Prince Lir repeated firmly. “You have no power over anything that matters.”

But the true secret of being a hero lies in knowing the order of things. […] The happy ending cannot come in the middle of a story.

“I did not know that I was empty, to be so full.”

PS

I just found out that there is an animated movie version of this book! How cool is that? And.. oh my. It features the voices of Jeff Bridges,  Angela Lansbury, and Christopher Lee! I NEED TO WATCH THIS.

In a nutshell…

Rating: 5/5

296 pages
Author: Peter S. Beagle
Original Language: English
Published: 1961
Genre: Fantasy, Classic

{Book Review} Me and Mr. Darcy by Alexandra Potter

“Dreams come true in this hilarious, feel-good fairy tale about life, love, and dating literature’s most eligible bachelor!

After a string of disastrous dates, Emily Albright decides she’s had it with modern-day love and would much rather curl up with Pride and Prejudice and spend her time with Mr. Darcy, the dashing, honorable, and passionate hero of Jane Austen’s classic. So when her best friend suggests a wild week of margaritas and men in Mexico with the girls, Emily abruptly flees to England on a guided tour of Jane Austen country instead. Far from inspiring romance, the company aboard the bus consists of a gaggle of little old ladies and one single man, Spike Hargreaves, a foul-tempered journalist writing an article on why the fictional Mr. Darcy has earned the title of Man Most Women Would Love to Date.

The last thing Emily expects to find on her excursion is a broodingly handsome man striding across a field, his damp shirt clinging to his chest. But that’s exactly what happens when she comes face-to-face with none other than Mr. Darcy himself. Suddenly, every woman’s fantasy becomes one woman’s reality. . . .” *

 

Being a total Pride and Prejudice fan (I am a sucker for love/hate stories. There. I said it.), watching all the film and TV versions, and reading/rewatching everything repeatedly with poor, unsuspecting companions is really not enough, which is why this book immediately drew me near. Me and Mr. Darcy tackle every woman’s fantasy of meeting the dark, brooding hero of Pemberley, which piqued my interest, if not for the ‘Mr. Darcy’ in the title. 

Me and Mr. Darcy is one of those books that are laugh-out-loud funny. I can’t help but laugh at Emily’s antics and her encounters with Spike Hargreaves, the only annoying person in the whole literary tour, and Mr. Darcy himself, who is either real or the result of continuous banging of your head against a rock. There are passages of Pride and Prejudice inserted in the paragraphs that put the parallels between Emily Albright’s and Elizabeth Bennet‘s stories in full relief. It’s everything you’d expect a romantic comedy to be – fun, playful, the works. However, I give it 2 stars for a simple but major reason:  I really didn’t like Emily all that much. I admit I did find some of her thoughts funny as she scrambles to understand everything that’s going on, but that’s just it – for a P&P fan, it took her too long to realize the parallels between her life and the book, and she found it rather hard to understand Mr. Darcy’s personality. Maybe I shouldn’t have read anything that says Mr. Darcy isn’t all he’s cracked up to be, but I can’t grasp her indignation at his seriousness and stiff manners – I mean, isn’t that part of the charm? And customs and etiquette of centuries ago is obviously so different from now that she shouldn’t have been so surprised when Mr. Darcy brings uses silverware in a picnic or try to cover her with his coat when he sees her wearing a revealing dress, or something. For somebody supposedly intelligent she took long enough to understand that. I found it really annoying. And I couldn’t understand how the time travel thing worked. 

On the other hand, the real love story made it up for me (I’m not spoiling anything, right? It’s obvious she ends up with Spike anyway, from the blurb). It was enough to make me finish the book. It stuck too closely to the original text to offer much variation, but it’s okay. It’s not Bridget Jones, but it’s fun in its own way. It’s really hard to find decent Pride and Prejudice-based books (I’m much pickier here than on any other kind of book), and I can see that Alexandra Potter‘s a really big Darcy fan, so I won’t hold it against the book. Still curious about Alexandra Potter’s other books, though (this is my first), albeit a bit more cautious now. 

In a nutshell…

Rating: 2/5
Paperback, 336 pages
Author: Alexandra Potter
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Published: November 12, 2008
Language: English
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Chick Lit


{Book Review} Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury

By the prickling of my thumbs
Something wicked this way comes.

It’s the first time I’ve read something of Ray Bradbury’s, but I already had high expectations from this book because I’ve heard so much about him. I have a friend who has read a lot of his work and she insists I read it every time I drop by the elusive secondhand bookstore in our school (which comes and goes as it pleases), and even the cover of this book says he is ‘the world’s greatest living science-fiction writer’. He’s still alive and kicking at the ripe old age of 91, but saying something that bold on a book cover must mean something – I mean, there must be a reason he has all those accolades, right? He even has an award named after him by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer of America. Now, on with the story!

A carnival and all the strange things that occur after its arrival to Jim and Will’s quiet little town make up Something Wicked This Way Comes. Jim Nightshade and William Halloway may look like two typical boys – curious, active, rowdy – but there is more to their connection than the fact that they’re neighbors and very close friends. Will was born a minute before midnight on October thirtieth, while Jim was born a minute after midnight, which makes it Halloween. This detail makes them almost like twins, and this forged a bond between them that overflows to everything they do – they win races together, neither a winner nor a loser, they sneak out of their houses together, they even do the same things at the same time even if they are in separate places. Just as you think they must have no differences, the mysterious circus arrives in the dead of night. This invokes a series of strange events that affect not only the boys, but the rest of the townspeople as well. While at first Jim and Will agree on their opinions of the carnival, as events get weirder and weirder, the decisions of each boy diverges. Nothing in Cooger and Dark’s Pandemonium Shadow Show is what it seems, but will Jim and Will realize this before it is too late?

The book’s gothic themes make for one enjoyable read. I have always had a fascination with circuses and magic (part of the reason why I enjoyed The Night Circus [review] so much, and why I am looking forward to reading Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell), but this one had a touch of horror in it, a genre I have been too scared to explore. Something Wicked This Way Comes does not make me have nightmares, but it certainly has that creepy factor that makes it really good. More than that, I really enjoyed Ray Bradbury’s writing. His descriptions of things are very poetic and – I swear I’m not exaggerating – mystical. There’s this magical feel to his words that are just so beautiful that I can’t help but be impressed. One of the passages that stood out for me was this:

Sometimes you see a kite so high, so wise it almost knows the wind. It travels, then chooses to land in one spot and no other and no matter how much you yank, run this way or that, it will simply break its cord, seek its resting place and bring you, blood-mouthed, running.
“Jim! Wait for me!”
So now Jim was the kite, the wild twine cut, and whatever wisdom was his taking him away from Will who could only run, earthbound, after one so high and dark and suddenly strange.

I have no trouble seeing why he is considered a master storyteller.

The book is divided into three parts, with chapters in it that weren’t lengthy, so it’s not too difficult to read. Several parts are wrought with imagery, descriptive that it’s not hard to see the story unravel in your mind’s eye, but a lot of the descriptions can be brief and to the point. One of my favorite chapters would have to be chapter thirty-one, which contains only ten words:

Nothing much else happened, all the rest of that night.

Just when I think I get Ray Bradbury’s style, he always manages to surprise me, which is really not a bad thing. It reflect onto this book, which is full of so many twists and turns not unlike the carnival’s Mirror Maze, and just like this fatal attraction (no pun intended), you can’t help but be drawn to it.

Now that I have finally made a dent into Ray Bradbury’s collection of works, there’s no looking back. I only have one other novel of his (Martian Chronicles) and an anthology (We’ll Always Have Paris), and though both are not high up my TBR pile right now, I have no doubt that one day I’ll devour them as fast as I did Something Wicked This Way Comes.

In a nutshell…

Rating: 4/5
Paperback, 215 pages
Author: Ray Bradbury
First published: 1962
Language: English
Genre: Horror, Fantasy

{Book Review} Hearts, Keys, and Puppetry by Neil Gaiman and the Twitterverse

“Sam was brushing her hair when the girl in the mirror put down the hairbrush, smiled, and said, “We don’t love you anymore.” So began the Twitter Audio project, with a dazzling first line penned by New York Times best-selling author Neil Gaiman. What followed was an epic tale of imaginary lands, magical objects, haunting melodies, plucky sidekicks, menacing villains, and much more. 

From mystical blue roses to enchanted mirrors to pesky puppets, this classic fable was born from the collective creativity of more than one hundred contributors via the social network Twitter.com in a groundbreaking literary experiment. Together, virtual strangers crafted a rollicking story of a young girl’s journey with love, forgiveness, and acceptance.”*

This is the first audio book I actually finished so this will always have a special place in my heart. Hearts, Keys, and Puppetry is a the result of a collaborative effort by Neil Gaiman and the Twitterverse, wherein the famous author gets the ball rolling by tweeting the first sentence, and the rest of the world pitches in. The result was then turned by BBC into a script for an audiobook. 

I admit I was at first doubtful at the resulting quality of the story. Many a time have I tried playing that game where a person writes a sentence, and then another one continues it, and so on, and the resulting plot almost always turned out to be messy. Because of this, I steeled myself for what the outcome might be. After almost two hours, I resurfaced quite reluctantly into the normal world. Needless to say, I really loved it. Everyone who contributed managed to spin a beautiful tale of adventure and redemption, and I couldn’t help but root for Sam all throughout. I was very pleased at the resulting twists and revelations. Imagine all the contributors reading every tweet as they came and figuring out the best course of action to take for Sam and the other characters! It was brilliant, and I’m so happy for everyone who contributed to the story. I also commend Katherine Kellgren for her wonderful job on narrating. I was quite scared of listening to an audio book for fear that it would not be able to retain my attention, but her skill in adapting the best voice for each character and the emotions they felt were not lost to me. I really enjoyed the whole listening experience. 

This is indeed a very good starting audio book for those who want to try listening to them. You can download the audio books here. Enjoy!

In a nutshell…

Rating: 4/5

Audiobook from Audible

Authors: Neil Gaiman and the Twitterverse

Original Language: English

Published: Feb. 8, 2010 by BBC Audiobooks America

{Book Review} The Night Circus

“The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway—a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love—a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.

True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus per­formers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead.

Written in rich, seductive prose, this spell-casting novel is a feast for the senses and the heart.”*

I have never been to the circus. I know, it’s really sad. I have heard so much about it, but the circus is still something of an enigma to me. There are stories of trapeze swingers and fire eaters, and it really saddens me how I’ve never witnessed any of those, which was why I was particularly drawn to this new book, which was released just September of last year. Aside from my lack of circus experience as the reason for picking this up, I also liked the echoes of the movie The Prestige that were eminent in the synopsis at the back cover. I am sucker for stories like that, so I eagerly devoured this as well.

“The circus arrives without warning.”

This is the opening line of Erin Morgenstern’s debut novel “The Night Circus”, and you’ve got to admit, that line’s really strong. It feels like the type of line people would say first as they grapple about how to describe this novel. I finished this book the other day but I couldn’t bring myself to write a review since I had a Lit midterm yesterday. Now that I got that out of the way, I can finally spazz about how much I loved this book! I have heard nothing but good reviews about this book, and I must say, I was not disappointed. In fact, I liked it so much I’m planning to have the UK HB edition delivered (because it’s so pretty and totally worth it). Before I explain why I love this book so much, though, let me give you a little preview.

This book is set in 19th century England, but it sometimes shows up in other timelines and LOTS of other places, so be prepared. It’s about two magicians, representing two schools of thought, pitting their students against each other in a competition which would only end if one of them dies. One of the students is Celia Bowen, daughter of famous magician commonly known as Prospero the Enchanter, while the other is Marco Alisdair, protege of a certain Mr. A. H—- (though it has been revealed at one point that his real name is Alexander). Celia and Marco fall in love, which further complicates things. Their duel, which lasts a lifetime (literally), involves a circus called Le Cirque des Reves, which differs from other circuses by having multiple tents instead of only one, open only at night, and leaves without notice of where its next location might be. Apart from that, there’s something about the circus that rings true to its English translation, the Circus of Dreams. There are the usual attractions of acrobats, fortune tellers, Hall of Mirrors, and illusionists, but there are more curiously named attractions such as the Wishing Tree, the Cloud Maze, and the Labyrinth. Things are more than what they seem, and in Le Cirque des Reves, the illusions are so real they could be magic, which they very well are.

The Night Circus is told from several points of view, more than ten of them, not placed in a linear order. What adds to this book’s charm is how each chapter is reminiscent of the circus: brief, but enough to keep you hooked. Morgenstern employs imagery and vivid descriptions of the setting, leaving you with sensory overload and a desire to go to the circus, and to travel around the world, as the circus does.

What I really liked about this book is how it doesn’t focus on the romantic aspect. I mean, it’s there, but somehow it doesn’t turn the whole story into a pile of pink mush. It is there to push the story along, and is told as the story of two people within the story, because even though Celia and Marco were the ones focused on, you could tell how important all the other characters were. The circus is described in such detail, but how it actually looks is left to your own interpretation. It is such a vital part of the story that somehow I think it is a character and not a setting, because even though it is not indicated, you know the circus breaths and thrives and survives as much as the other characters do. The characters, the attractions, the decorations, everything makes the circus, and somehow the circus also makes them. It’s rather complicated to explain, but if you read it you’ll see what I mean. Another thing I commend is Erin Morgenstern’s writing. Her prose is sophisticated and it doesn’t feel wordy at all. Her words are appropriate for the setting, and she leaves just enough for you to reflect on long after you’ve read the final words. I have been researching her while reading this book (that’s how much I love it) and I found out that she is also an artist. She said in one interview, “I write what I can’t paint and I paint what I can’t write” which, for me, adds a lot of amazing points.

Like I mentioned before, The Night Circus is told in a nonlinear fashion. In one chapter everything’s from your point of view, in the present day, while in the next it is in 19th century England from the point of view of a magician. The next chapter could occur decades into the future. It seems confusing at first, but the more you read the more it makes sense. Details that seem mundane and something mentioned in passing are reiterated in another scene, and suddenly they are important. I remember doubling back after I read a detail about the scent of ginger and cream that I read several pages ago. It’s become like an Easter egg hunt, and it makes me want to read the book again just so I can find everything.

I recommend this for everyone, even if fantasy isn’t really your genre of choice. Let is sweep you away! It offers more than you would expect from a story about a circus and its folk, because it’s got a bit of everything in it. At some point in the story you’ll find adventure, mystery, romance, even a bit of the paranormal, and all of these elements come together in a glorious mix that will keep you reading all day and night. Erin Morgenstern’s debut novel is impressive, and I couldn’t wait to read more of her work. It is confusing at first, but I tell you to stick with it and it all comes together, as it should.


In a nutshell…

Rating: 4/5
Author: Erin Morgenstern
Original Language: English
Published: 2011, Doubleday, New York
Genre: Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Romance
P.S. I heard Summit Entertainment got the film rights to this book. I got mixed feelings about it, but I’m glad they recognize the beauty of the book enough to turn it into a movie.