{Book Review} Speak Easy, Speak Love by McKelle George

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Six teenagers’ lives intertwine during one thrilling summer full of romantic misunderstandings and dangerous deals in this sparkling retelling of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing.

After she gets kicked out of boarding school, seventeen-year-old Beatrice goes to her uncle’s estate on Long Island. But Hey Nonny Nonny is more than just a rundown old mansion. Beatrice’s cousin, Hero, runs a struggling speakeasy out of the basement—one that might not survive the summer. Along with Prince, a poor young man determined to prove his worth; his brother John, a dark and dangerous agent of the local mob; Benedick, a handsome trust-fund kid trying to become a writer; and Maggie, a beautiful and talented singer; Beatrice and Hero throw all their efforts into planning a massive party to save the speakeasy. Despite all their worries, the summer is beautiful, love is in the air, and Beatrice and Benedick are caught up in a romantic battle of wits that their friends might be quietly orchestrating in the background.

Hilariously clever and utterly charming, McKelle George’s debut novel is full of intrigue and 1920s charm. For fans of Jenny Han, Stephanie Perkins, and Anna Godbersen.*

Much Ado About Nothing meets the Roaring Twenties – my favorite among Shakespeare’s comedies, and my favorite musical era, all in one book? What’s not to love? I fell in love with the spiel, but stayed for the writing, because the execution was phenomenal. I was immersed in the time of the Prohibition despite it not really being a topic of historical interest for me (beyond my love for the music produced at that time, anyway), and what’s more, I enjoyed it. This novel is very character-driven, more so than plot, but personally, I like my books character-driven anyway. Beatrice, Benedick, Hero, Pedro/Prince, Maggie, and John were fleshed out perfectly, and I had a fun time getting to know the characters I loved in the play version getting into the same shenanigans but with more backstory and more heart. The dialogue was delightfully witty, especially the banters and sparring matches between Beatrice and Benedick, enough to do even Will himself proud.

I’m glad I read this during my Christmas break – reading every chapter was like unwrapping a gift from a close friend, a friend who also happened to know exactly what I wanted. It’s definitely one of the best adaptations I’ve read, with a fresh enough take that I’d say I would’ve loved this anyway even without knowing it was an adaptation.

My favorite quotes: 

“There was a sunniness in his words that somehow even disguised his appearance, erasing the boy shaking with exhaustion, flattening all his mercurial layers into one outfit of razzle-dazzle. But the razzle-dazzle was also real. That was the most baffling part of all. He was this, too.

She let him do it, not only because she came out looking all right in his story, not a clock-throwing ruin of a girl, but also because Benedick’s talking about her as if she were already one of them made her one of them.

Words. What a tricky, tangled science.”

“Perish the thought, me in love with this magnificently hideous bluestocking! For surely she was ugly, and yet there was never a question of attraction, because she had such beauty of thought. A luminous intelligence that outshone her perceived flaws. Small-minded criticisms of her visage could not withstand such tenderness, such strange, endless mystery in her eyes, of which most mortals had no conception, that left behind a sense of having encountered something truly exquisite.”

“No one wants to be told all the ways they’re falling short of your lofty standard of humanity. Kindly allow me the relief of not engaging with you”

“He felt like climbing a mountain, not for any heroic reason but for something stupid, like picking her a flower; he felt subservient to her whims, desperate for her not to command anyone but him; he felt terrified for feeling all those things after a tiny kiss, a nothing kiss, a fraction, a weed, a sneeze, compared with a dozen other tokens of affection he’d received in his life.”

“What are you rambling about, you nonsensical contradiction?”

In a nutshell…

Rating: 4.5/5

368 pages

Author: McKelle George

Original Language: English

Published: 2017

Genre: Young Adult, Fiction

{Book Review} Turtles All The Way Down by John Green

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Sixteen-year-old Aza never intended to pursue the mystery of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett, but there’s a hundred-thousand-dollar reward at stake and her Best and Most Fearless Friend, Daisy, is eager to investigate. So together, they navigate the short distance and broad divides that separate them from Russell Pickett’s son, Davis.

Aza is trying. She is trying to be a good daughter, a good friend, a good student, and maybe even a good detective, while also living within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts.

In his long-awaited return, John Green, the acclaimed, award-winning author of Looking for Alaska and The Fault in Our Stars, shares Aza’s story with shattering, unflinching clarity in this brilliant novel of love, resilience, and the power of lifelong friendship.*

(Yes, it’s been a while since I posted! Life, especially medical school, has proven itself to be a black hole for most of my time and energy, and I haven’t been able to read for pleasure as much as I would have liked. I still get to read books for fun, but only this one has compelled me to write a review this year so far. That, and it’s ASEAN week for us here in the Philippines, so I have no classes this week! We still have schoolwork to do, but yay, conditional freedom. Anyway, on to the review!)

Let it be known that I had no idea what this book was about when I started reading it, even though I’ve heard about it for a while now. I think that’s probably an amazing feat, actually, granting that I follow a lot of book bloggers in various social media sites, but med school blinders are pretty powerful. I’m glad I read this book, though. I thought I had John Green all figured out, and therefore could brace myself from emotional onslaught, but then Turtles All The Way Down prances into the picture and I end up getting all sorts of unwarranted feelings from a book again. 

I just read the book’s final page around 40 minutes ago, and the time it took reaching to typing this sentence was mostly spent trying to figure out how I really feel about this book. I had such a hard time reading this because of Aza’s obsessive-compulsiveness (she has OCD, even though it was never explicitly mentioned), or what she calls her “invasives”, but I flew by the pages anyway because I wanted to know what would happen to her. I didn’t find Aza likable at the beginning, but accompanying her in her journey to become a better version of herself has made me quite attached to her by the end. I suppose in a way, her psychiatrist Dr. Singh was correct in saying that your thoughts are not you. The book was narrated by Aza, yes, but beyond her warring thoughts, her personality just shines through.

It’s become so typical to read about teenagers who have meaningful conversations about science, philosophy, and life in a John Green novel, but I loved this nevertheless! Some people have mentioned how unrealistic the conversations portrayed teenagers, but I will argue that as a teenager not too long ago, I loved thinking about this sort of thing. I just never had the eloquence nor the courage to express those thoughts out loud. To be quite honest, between the conversations, the main character, and other aspects of the plot, I found the missing billionaire part the most forgettable. It wasn’t as fleshed out as I expected, but eventually, even as its loose ends were tied up, it wasn’t the reason I continued reading until the end.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. The most fascinating part for me was Aza, her relationship with herself, and how she got along with the people around her. It felt really vulnerable and personal, and learning that this is but a foggy reflection of the John Green’s own struggles with OCD made more of an impact for me, because it helped me understand mental illness a bit better. That definitely makes this book important.

My favorite quotes (the whole thing is pretty quotable, really): 

Whether it hurts is kind of irrelevant.”

“At some point in life the world’s beauty becomes enough. You don’t need to photograph, paint or even remember it. It is enough.”

And the thing is, when you lose someone, you realize you’ll eventually lose everyone.”

One of the challenges with pain—physical or psychic—is that we can really only approach it through metaphor. It can’t be represented the way a table or a body can. In some ways, pain is the opposite of language.”

And we’re such language-based creatures that to some extent we cannot know what we cannot name. And so we assume it isn’t real. We refer to it with catch-all terms, like crazy or chronic pain, terms that both ostracize and minimize. The term chronic pain captures nothing of the grinding, constant, ceaseless, inescapable hurt. And the term crazy arrives at us with none of the terror and worry you live with. Nor do either of those terms connote the courage people in such pains exemplify, which is why I’d ask you to frame your mental health around a word other than crazy.”

Your now is not your forever.”

Everyone always celebrates the easy attractiveness of green or blue eyes, but there was a depth to Davis’s brown eyes that you just don’t get from lighter colors, and the way he looked at me made me feel like there was something worthwhile in the brown of my eyes, too.”

It’s a weird phrase in English, in love, like it’s a sea you drown in or a town you live in. You don’t get to be in anything else—in friendship or in anger or in hope. All you can be in is love.”

Thoughts are only thoughts. They are not you. You do belong to yourself, even when your thoughts don’t.”

Every loss is unprecedented. You can’t ever know someone else’s hurt, not really—just like touching someone else’s body isn’t the same as having someone else’s body.”

Life is a series of choices between wonders.”

In the best conversations, you don’t even remember what you talked about, only how it felt.”

“…the world is also the stories we tell about it.”

People always talk like there’s a bright line between imagination and memory, but there isn’t, at least not for me. I remember what I’ve imagined and imagine what I remember.”

I missed everybody. To be alive is to be missing.”

You remember your first love because they show you, prove to you, that you can love and be loved, that nothing in this world is deserved except for love, that love is both how you become a person, and why.”

In a nutshell…

Rating: 4.5/5

286 pages
Author: John Green
Original Language: English
Published: 2017
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Fiction

{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

Reviews elsewhere

{Book Review} The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen

The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen

That’s what Macy has to look forward to while her boyfriend, Jason, is away at Brain Camp. Days will be spent at a boring job in the library, evenings will be filled with vocabulary drills for the SATs, and spare time will be passed with her mother, the two of them sharing a silent grief at the traumatic loss of Macy’s father.

But sometimes, unexpected things can happen—things such as the catering job at Wish, with its fun-loving, chaotic crew. Or her sister’s project of renovating the neglected beach house, awakening long-buried memories. Things such as meeting Wes, a boy with a past, a taste for Truth-telling, and an amazing artistic talent, the kind of boy who could turn any girl’s world upside down. As Macy ventures out of her shell, she begins to wonder, Is it really better to be safe than sorry?

I’ve seen people constantly recommending Sarah Dessen books in my Goodreads feed for years now (most of the ladies in my book club have read at least one, I’m sure), and I always see her books in bookshops as well, but for some reason, I’ve never really been compelled to read any of them. I’d say perhaps I judged the books based on their cover, but I’ve read (more than) enough “trashy” books to know that isn’t the case. At any rate, I’ve always found some other book to read other than Sarah Dessen’s books. Until now.

It was pretty funny how it started, actually. We were challenged by our book moderator of the month at The Filipino Group, Maria, to read a YA book and post a review, and since this was one of the books I had on hand (I didn’t say I didn’t have copies, only that I never actually got around to reading them), I might as well read it, seeing as I didn’t have the time to look for anything else. And since I’m writing a review already, why not post here, as a comeback entry to the blog after *gasp* two years?!

Long story short, I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. I expected a tired romance plot with cliche characters that I’ve seen millions of times, but I’m happy to report that no, that’s not really the case. Beyond Macy’s development from a timid and mousy pushover to a strong and almost-fearless woman, I genuinely enjoyed her relationships with the other characters – her control freak mother, her daring sister Caroline, and especially the endearing Wish team: scatter-brained Delia, confident Kristy, “sa-woon”-worthy Wes, Bert who always looks at the dark side of life, and even half-robot Monica.

It wasn’t a mystery, the way the story ended. It’s something you can kind of expect from the beginning, but what I liked about this book was the process of how Macy started moving on. I liked seeing how she changed for the better, because even if at the start I was pretty frustrated with her life choices, I really couldn’t help wishing the best for her. When she finally got to do what she had to do, I practically swelled with pride, even though it was inevitable anyway, which just goes to show how great Sarah Dessen is with her characters. 

Beyond the sweet romance with Wes that I expected (which I got slow-burn style, just the way I liked it), I also got a story that dealt with loss, relationships, moving on, and the truth about forever with more depth and heart than I imagined. If the rest of Sarah Dessen’s books are like this, then I can clearly see why there would always be people reading and reviewing them in my feed. I’m already one of them, after publishing this review. Who knows, this might not even be the last.

In a nutshell…

Rating: 4/5
Paperback, 374 pages
Author: Sarah Dessen
Publisher: Penguin Group, Inc.
Published: May 11, 2004
Language: English
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary

{Book Review} The Catcher in the Rye

The Catcher in the Rye

Since his debut in 1951 as The Catcher in the Rye, Holden Caulfield has been synonymous with “cynical adolescent.” Holden narrates the story of a couple of days in his sixteen-year-old life, just after he’s been expelled from prep school, in a slang that sounds edgy even today and keeps this novel on banned book lists. It begins, “If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth. In the first place, that stuff bores me, and in the second place, my parents would have about two hemorrhages apiece if I told anything pretty personal about them.” His constant wry observations about what he encounters, from teachers to phonies (the two of course are not mutually exclusive) capture the essence of the eternal teenage experience of alienation.*

Ooh, the book that stirred up quite a frenzy when it was originally published, and still causes some controversy now. Whenever people see me reading this book, they wonder whether it’s required reading for some class or other, but I got really curious because it’s one of those books that excite such strong opinions and I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. Keep reading to see what I think.

When I began reading The Catcher in the Rye, I thought Holden Caulfield was, pardon the word, an ass. I could not think of a better term to describe him without using worse words, because he really is an ass. Being the sunshine-y, vomiting rainbows kind of person, I could not stand a character who is such a darned pessimist, grumbling about every tiny thing like it’s the end of the world. Holden’s the type of guy who sees the glass not only as half-empty, but really helluva phony that it’s depressing. It would be totally like him to come to the really witty conclusion that all the water in the world is phony if you just leave it in a glass with air taking up half the space, thinking it’s important and all. Sort of like that. 

One of my biggest pet peeves is when people think they’re so cool that everything they do is justified. Holden blames everybody for his mistakes, and holds minimal to zilch remorse at the thought of getting kicked out of school. The book seemed like an endless diatribe that doesn’t do anybody, even him, any good. Some parts made me think about life and all (oh my gosh. I am starting to sound like him. Help.), but most of the time I didn’t even think. I just zoned out, filtered away all the cussing and stuff, much like when somebody yells at you, making me read the passages like an automaton. 

Aaaaand he repeats phrases all the time! I’m not even going to type those phrases here, since I’m quite sick of reading those and I don’t want to exert myself and remember. I mean, it’s okay to repeat phrases (I do that all the time), but please, not every other sentence or something. By the end of the first twenty pages, I was wondering how his brain could stand spouting the same things over and over and over and over again. I could not give a Slitheen‘s fart about his rants, which make up about 90% of the book. The best job for him would totally be as a dartboard or something for target practice. I already set my mind to giving this book 1 star.

But then…

Maybe that was the point. Holden was supposed to be an angsty, rebellious teenager in the first place. I admit, I still think it’s a wee bit overdone, but I think J.D. Salinger is brilliant. It’s perfectly normal to hate a book character, especially a whiny one, but if it’s because the characterization is perfect, then you can’t help but concede that the writing is really good. There are a lot of books that receive a lot of hate because the characterization sucks (I’m looking at you, Twilight), but for sure that’s not the reason why The Catcher in the Rye is controversial. Yeah, Holden starts hating on everyone the instant he sees them, but for a few parts of the novel, you can see the layers of him that have more depth in it. His affection for his sister, Phoebe, was what made an impact on me most of all. I really didn’t expect him to take break from complaining about silly stuff all day. It’s like his whiny exterior melts off into a ball of marshmallow-like stuff the moment he thinks of his sister. So maybe Phoebe is the only (living) person he cares about other than himself, but it’s enough to make him human. That, and sometimes I find him funny. I will never forget this quote:

“You can hit my father over the head with a chair and he won’t wake up, but my mother, all you have to do to my mother is cough somewhere in Siberia and she’ll hear you.” <—-LOOOOL WINNER because my parents are EXACTLY like that

because I didn’t expected that and I probably read it at a time when I was on a sugar high, so it won Holden some plus points for me. I laugh easily like that.

I still don’t like Holden, and I probably never will, but I now see why a lot of people like this book. At some parts, I found myself relating to his thoughts and realizations (right before he jumps into an entirely different topic, anyway) and you could see that he is just a kid trying to make sense out of life. I do not approve of his way of coping with things, but I could sympathize with his confusion. It’s a dead giveaway even from the way he speaks. He is desperately trying to make a path for himself in the world, and still failing at it. He’s actually a big softie, though he will never admit it, what with being unable to defend himself, and his regard for vulnerable people, like James Castle and Ernest Morrow’s mother. Holden is probably moaning about everything as a way of estranging himself from the world, maybe to protect himself from its “phoniness” through the only way he knows how. He feels alone in the myriad of things that are constantly changing in his life: his brother Allie’s death, moving from school to school, etc., which could explain his dream of being a “catcher in the rye”. He is projecting, wanting to protect the kids from falling off of cliffs when all he really wants to do is project himself. I am coming to these realizations as I type this, and I have to concede that this book really is beautiful after all.

I am giving this 3 stars instead of the 1 star I originally planned because J.D. Salinger is a genius and he deserves those 2 extra stars. I couldn’t get invested in his characters, but I surely could get invested in his writing.

Even if I really hate Holden.

If you want to know the truth.

PS

I just realized how much I love dissecting characters. This is awesome.

In a nutshell…

Rating: 3/5
Author: J.D. Salinger
Original Language: English
Published: 1951
Genre: Coming of Age, Classic

{Author Interview} Shannon Greenland

 

I may have mentioned this awesome new summer book called The Summer My Life Began. Earlier, author Shannon Greenland shared with us her favorite recipes, which I’m sure some of you have tried, filling up your bellies with scrumptious goodness! Now, we have here Shannon again as we ask her questions about her book. Are you ready? Let us all welcome, once again, Shannon Greenland!

1. How long did it take you to write The Summer My Life Began?
From plotting to rough draft to final edits, it took roughly a year.
2. Have you ever had problems like Elizabeth Margaret? Like fighting for something you love?
Sure, I think everybody does. That’s what makes life interesting.
3. Describe your ideal guy. Is he more of a Cade or a Jeremy?
A great combination of both.
4. Elizabeth Margaret spends a summer she will never forget in a magnificent island. Where did you spendyour most memorable summer?
In a RV on the beach in Florida tops the list!
5. Some of the characters in your book have hidden talents, like cooking. Do you have a hobby, skill, or talentaside from writing?
I’m very athletic. I love trying new things. I’m really into hiking right now.

The Summer My Life BeganThank you very much for the interview, Ms. Greenland! And to Samantha Lien of JKS Communications for helping us get an interview as well!

The Summer My Life Began is already out! Check bookstores near you for a copy.


Check out Shannon’s website here.

This is part of a virtual blog tour hosted by JKS Communications. To visit the other participants’ blogs, click here.

{Guest Post} Author Shannon Greenland’s Top Recipes

 

Psst. There’s an awesome summer book out called The Summer My Life BeganNothing beats summer with a dash of romance to spice it up, but the main character, Elizabeth Margaret, is cool enough to even add two part cooking into the mix, making for one interesting read. Because of all the cooking done in the book, I wondered what kind of cooking author Shannon Greenland does – thank goodness, she’s here to tell us herself! Let us all welcome Shannon!

My Top Recipes

Easy, healthy, and yum—three words that must apply to anything I make.

 

Frittata: For a weekend breakfast I love a nice frittata. Start by putting your favorite things in a big skillet. For me that would be fresh spinach, feta cheese, crumbled cooked bacon, and sun dried tomatoes. In a separate bowl whisk together three eggs with a bit of milk, minced garlic, and dill. Pour the egg mixture down over everything in the skillet, ground it liberally with fresh pepper, cover, and cook on low for 30 minutes. It serves two, but I have a healthy appetite and tend to eat the whole thing myself.

 

 

 

Coke Roast: After a busy day, there’s nothing like coming home to dinner already made. In a crock pot, place a large beef roast (whatever cut you like most). In a separate bowl combine one can of coke, one cup of vegetable stock, and one package of Lipton dried onion soup mix. Pour the coke mixture down over the roast and let the crock do its magic all day long. Serve with favorite veggies and potatoes.

 

 

Cranberry Chicken: This recipe gets requested a lot by my friends. Take 2 pounds of chicken, cube it up, and spread it out in a baking dish. In a separate bowl combine one can of whole berry cranberry sauce, one cup of French dressing, and one package of Lipton dried onion soup mix. Pour the cranberry mixture over the chicken and bake for 30 minutes on 350 degrees. Serve over brown rice with steamed broccoli on the side.

 

 

PB & N: I know, right? N? On your favorite bread (for me that would be flax wheat or Ezekiel sprouted) spread 1 tablespoon extra chunky peanut butter and 1 tablespoon Nutella. With each bite it’s equal parts lunch, dessert, and pure yum.

 

 

Wow. Those look mouth-watering indeed – I’m particularly craving the PB & N! Thank you, Shannon, for sharing your recipes with us! And to Samantha Lien to for helping us contact Shannon!

PS: We’re going to have an interview as well with Shannon later on, so stay tuned! 

The Summer My Life Began The Summer My Life Began is already out! check bookstores near you for a copy.


Check out Shannon’s website here.

This is part of a virtual blog tour hosted by JKS Communications. To visit the other participants’ blogs, click here.

{Book Review} On the Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

<<Update: I am so so so sorry I haven’t clogged your dashboards for almost a month (probably something to be thankful for, but I’ll pretend otherwise)! I was busy with schoolwork, and I found a subject I really liked loved! General Psychology! I am now reading characters (and people) in a new light. This stuff is amazing, guys. Really! Aaand I’ll finally put up an In My Mailbox post later this week because of all the books and mail I have accumulated (some totally unexpected!) Yowzah!>>

I’m dreaming of the boy in the tree. I tell him stories. About the Jellicoe School and the Townies and the Cadets from a school in Sydney. I tell him about the war between us for territory. And I tell him about Hannah, who lives in the unfinished house by the river. Hannah, who is too young to be hiding away from the world. Hannah, who found me on the Jellicoe Road six years ago.

Taylor is the leader of the boarders at the Jellicoe School. She has to keep the upper hand in the territory wars and deal with Jonah Griggs – the enigmatic leader of the cadets, and someone she thought she would never see again.

And now Hannah, the person Taylor had come to rely on, has disappeared. Taylor’s only clue is a manuscript about five kids who lived in Jellicoe eighteen years ago. She needs to find out more, but this means confronting her own story, making sense of her strange, recurring dream, and finding her mother – who abandoned her on the Jellicoe Road.

The moving, joyous and brilliantly compelling new novel from the best-selling, multi-award-winning author of Looking for Alibrandi and Saving Francesca.

Here’s a funny story I want to insert before I write the real review: when I first heard of Jellicoe Road, I immediately thought of that song from the musical Cats, “…because Jellicoes are and Jellicoes do, Jellicoes do and Jellicoes would…” I Googled the lyrics and looked for it in Youtube, feeling so cool that I remembered the song and everything, and then I realized it was JELLICLE, not Jellicoe. *facepalm* (By the way, if you’re reading this from my blog, I inserted the video of the song below, just in case you want to hear it too! Careful, it gets quite catchy.)

Totally unrelated (though hopefully funny) story aside, here’s the review! (You: Finally!)

Jellicoe Road by Australian author Melina Marchetta is set as a dual narrative, a technique which I have loved ever since I read Holes. It starts out sort of like a puddle of string, entangled in itself, with you hardly knowing what to do with them, but somehow, somewhere along the book these little string ends start finding each other and connecting and forming something beautiful and perfect that absolutely makes sense. It’s hard to understand my explanation, but really, it’s my subconscious channeling you to read it stat. As you journey with Taylor and Co., everything seems complicated but wait until you read the final pages. Ahh, so that’s why this happened. You may find the resolution a bit long, but it’s okay because it ties up all the loose ends which leave you in no doubt regarding the fates of the characters, while maintaining a little ambiguity as you wonder what happens to them beyond the book’s scope.

Feelings-wise, I think this book is so… passionate. Powerful. Intense. It comes across to me that way, not because of the vivid imagery or the intricate plot, but because of all the emotions the characters are feeling. I measure a book by how it evokes feelings in me, and this book takes home all the awards because I think it made me feel everything I could possibly feel at my age. I read this at the end of my college summer semester, where I felt like a prune, numb and empty from all the schoolwork and literally sleepless nights, but this book managed to make me feel good, which is not at all unwelcome (I’m like a grape now. Sorry for the food analogy, I just want to eat some grapes.) Wow, Marchetta.

Also, Taylor Markham and Jonah Griggs both possess strong personalities, which definitely adds to the passion + tension + overall intensity of the story in a lot of ways. It makes for an interesting dynamic.

But here’s the thing: what really did me in was the prose. Marchetta’s writing contains a flowy, dreamlike quality that is part witty and part poignant, among other things. It’s an interesting combination that manifests itself several times in the text. Like this quote, for example:

And life goes on, which seems kind of strange and cruel when you’re watching someone die. But there’s a joy and an abundance of everything, like information and laughter and summer weather and so many stories.

There are several others, believe me, but I didn’t have the foresight to write them down because I was too busy reading everything that I finished the book in a day. It is THAT good. 

If it is not obvious yet, Jellicoe Road is something I DEFINITELY recommend you to read! The experience is nothing short of magical, as all dreams are, no matter bad or good. 🙂

In a nutshell…

Rating: 5/5
Paperback, 422 pages
Author: Melina Marchetta
Publisher: Harper Teen
Published: March 9, 2010 (first published August 28, 2006 by Penguin Australia)
Language: English
Genre: Young Adult

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{Book Review} Hunted by Cheryl Rainfield

 Hunted

“Caitlyn is a telepath in a world where having any Paranormal power is illegal. Caitlyn is on the run from government troopers, who can enslave, torture, or even kill her, or make her hunt other Paranormals. When Caitlyn settles down in a city, she falls for Alex, a Normal (someone without Paranormal powers), which is dangerous because he can turn her in. And she discovers renegade Paranormals who want to destroy all Normals. Caitlyn must decide whether she’s going to stay in hiding to protect herself, or take a stand to save the world.”*

I really loved this book. It begins normally – as normal as a Paranormal can be, anyway – but towards the middle I just got sucked into the story, which I really love. The conflict feels so real, and I can imagine all the events playing out in my mind, bringing out unique images as I try to visualize Caitlyn’s powers. I really feel bad that I can’t articulate everything I feel for this book. I didn’t expect much, to be honest – I hardly knew what to expect. I gathered that it’s sci-fi and young adult, but those genres are so broad and cover a lot of premises that I couldn’t let myself imagine what it’s going to really be like, despite the blurbs from Goodreads and NetGalley. Reading Hunted reminded me so much of the X-Men, who were shunned for having powers, despite being the logical next stage in the evolutionary process and could have done a lot to, you know, make the world a better place if you are actually nice to them. This association made me appreciate this work more, and led me to think about a lot of things. It’s another of the reasons why I really liked this book.

I guess the thing that really made me like Hunted was how this could be reflected in society today, in so many ways. (Okay, let me warn you. This is the part where I get all analytical and try to connect everything with life. You have been warned.) Paras (short for Paranormals) are treated like pariahs because they have powers, but most of all, because they are different. Because they are not normal. Cycles all throughout history have shown humanity doing this over and over again. Look at the Holocaust. The burning of people just because they were black. The suicides committed by teenagers who are queer because of how intense the bullyings are. I am not a Jew, nor am I black, nor am I gay, but reading how most of the Normals treated the Paras just because of how different they are really made an impact on me. For all we know, there are people being tortured somewhere in the world just for being different from the rest. It’s entirely plausible. The author writes about these issues in the subliminal level, but towards the book there are hotlines that offer help for victims of bullying that are really helpful. It enhances the message she hopes to send to people through the novel, which is a brilliant idea.

Hunted was amazing. Whew. And for a book to make me think that much, I salute you, Cheryl Rainfield!

PS This post is part of the Hunted virtual book tour by JKS Communications. For a list of other blogs participating, click here.

In a nutshell…

Rating: 5/5
Hardcover, 370 pages
Author: Cheryl Rainfield
Publisher: WestSide Books
Published: December 15, 2011
Genre: Sci-Fi, Dystopian, Young Adult

{Book Review} The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith

“Who would have guessed that four minutes could change everything?

Today should be one of the worst days of seventeen-year-old Hadley Sullivan’s life. She’s stuck at JFK, late to her father’s second wedding, which is taking place in London and involves a soon to be step-mother that Hadley’s never even met. Then she meets the perfect boy in the airport’s cramped waiting area. His name is Oliver, he’s British, and he’s in seat 18C. Hadley’s in 18A.

Twists of fate and quirks of timing play out in this thoughtful novel about family connections, second chances and first loves. Set over a 24-hour-period, Hadley and Oliver’s story will make you believe that true love finds you when you’re least expecting it.”*

Like Oliver, I love airports. I love the feel of being suspended, neither here nor there, waiting impatiently to be brought to different places, unfamiliar or otherwise, book and another book in hand. I love to travel, and I don’t get as much opportunity as I wish, so I just make up for it by reading books involving travel… which makes this book count.

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight presents the exalting feeling of love and the downtrodden feeling of grief at its purest. The characters’ emotions are so raw, especially that of Hadley, the protagonist. I thought this would be a quick, fluffy read but it turned out to be so much more than that. Aside from the main story of Hadley and Oliver falling in love, both of them fight their own family issues, especially their relationships with their fathers. While that part of the story may be filled with so much angst, I can understand them, especially Hadley, quite a lot, because I’m close to my father and I could barely imagine how hard her father’s wedding must be for her. 

Jennifer E. Smith’s writing managed to evoke so many emotions out of me, and I know I’m quoting so much, but I can’t think of another way to show you how touching and full of things unsaid the book was. Here is my particular favorite passage, which was a flashback Hadley had of her father. It’s long, but by the end of it I hope you’ll see what I mean when I say it made me emotionally vulnerable for a time.

“Do you want me to read you another one?” he asked, gently taking the book from her and flipping to the first page. “It’s about Christmas.”

She settled back into the soft flannel of his shirt, and he began to read.

It wasn’t even the story itself that she loved; she didn’t understand half the words and often felt lost in the winding sentences. It was the gruff sound of her father’s voice, the funny accents he did for each character, the way he let her turn the pages. Every night after dinner they would read together in the stillness of the study. Sometimes Mom would come stand at the door with a dish towel in her hand and a half-smile on her face as she listened, but mostly it was just the two of them.

Even when she was old enough to read herself, they still tackled the classics together, moving from Anna Karenina to Pride and Prejudice toThe Grapes of Wrath as if traveling across the globe itself, leaving holes in the bookshelves like missing teeth.

And later, when it started to become clear that she cared more about soccer practice and phone privileges than Jane Austen or Walt Whitman, when the hour turned into a half hour and every night turned into every other, it no longer mattered. The stories had become a part of her by then; they stuck to her bones like a good meal, bloomed inside of her like a garden. They were as deep and meaningful as any other trait Dad had passed along to her: her blue eyes, her straw-colored hair, the sprinkling of freckles across her nose.

Often he would come home with books for her, for Christmas or her birthday, or for no particular occasion at all, some of them early editions with beautiful gold trim, others used paperbacks bought for a dollar or two on a street corner. Mom always looked exasperated, especially when it was a new copy of one that he already had in his study.

“This house is about two dictionaries away from caving in,” she’d say, “and you’re buying duplicates?”

But Hadley understood. It wasn’t that she was meant to read them all. Maybe someday she would, but for now, it was more the gesture itself. He was giving her the most important thing he could, the only way he knew how. He was a professor, a lover of stories, and he was buildng her a library in the same way other men might build their daughters houses.Add that to the novelty of finding love in an unlikely place, and you get a beautiful novel. Of course, the fact that the cover is gorgeous doesn’t hurt.

I love how so many kinds of love were described in the book: young love, familial love, even a love for reading, and somehow it made me understand the characters more.

Bittersweet and poignant, The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight proved to be a pleasant surprise, and for that I give it 4 stars.

In a nutshell…

Rating: 4/5
Hardcover, 236 pages
Author: Jennifer E. Smith
Publisher: Poppy/Little Brown
Published: January 2, 2012
Language: English
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Young Adult