{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} Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand

Cyrano De Bergerac

Cyrano de Bergerac occupies a unique place in the modern theater. Deliberately disavowing realism and contemporary relevance, Rostand’s masterpiece represents a turning back in time and spirit to an earlier age of high adventure and soaring idealism. Its magnificent hero, Cyrano – noble of soul and grotesque in appearance, gallant Gascon soldier, brilliant wit, and timid lover, alternately comic, heroic, and tragic – represents one of the most challenging of all acting roles in its complexity and mercurial changes of mood. From its original production to the present day, Cyrano de Bergerac has enjoyed a charmed existence on the stage, its unflagging pace of action and eloquence of language enchanting critics and public alike. Here, in a superlative translation, is the ultimate triumph of the great French critic Lemaître, “prolongs, unites, and blends… three centuries of comic fantasy and moral grace.”*

*from my book blurb

I have noticed that my latest reviews are brought about by intense feelings that had to be expressed. This applies to this book VERY MUCH. You know those stories where the guy falls in love with a girl, but the girl likes someone else, and so the guy helps that someone else just for the girl’s happiness? This is like a classic version of that. It is so heartbreaking and at the same time so beautiful that I just can’t help but stop as I drink the words in. This is the kind of plot that transcends time and could be universally understood by just about anyone, but there is something about the language in which it is executed that manages to make you stop and read it all over again.

I love Cyrano de Bergerac for many reasons. He is funny. He is witty. He is intelligent. He is headstrong and courageous. His sensitivity on the topic of his thrice-larger-than-normal nose is sadly amusing. He is in love with Roxane, but because he knows that she is in love with Christian, one of his fellow Cadets, he has taken it upon himself to help Christian in wooing her. It’s a really depressing situation, but Cyrano’s love for Roxane is such that he would be willing to see her happiness at the expense of his own. The events that transpire in this sort of arrangement are such downers indeed for Cyrano, and even though I was screaming to him in my mind to just admit that all those letters Christian wrote for Roxane were really products of his amazing talent, I couldn’t help but see the beauty of it. I doubt that this story would have been half as tragically beautiful as it is with him being the agonizing lover in the shadows.

I also have to give props to Edmond Rostand for his flawless writing. I have the sort of modernized translation of the play by Lowell Bair, but even then, the words that frolic together in the verses pay homage to a timeless romance that is totally unforgettable for me and to several generations of readers and theatre-goers who had the privilege of learning Cyrano’s story. The type of love that Rostand managed to portray through Cyrano is so pure and sincere, the type that makes anyone radiant to the point that even a nose that is not pleasant to look at cannot outshine it.

Please read this play. Its beauty just pierces the heart in a way that contemporary romance doesn’t (at least for me). If ever I do fulfill that part of my bucket list that says “learn the mother tongue of Victor Hugo, Madame de Pompadour, and the Phantom of the Opera,” I am going to find a copy of this in the original French, and I will read it.

And because I am such a sucker for magnificent prose, I am going to share a few of my favorite quotes:

There, now you have an inkling of what you might have said to me if you were witty and a man of letters. Unfortunately you’re totally witless and a man of very few letters: only the four that spell the word “fool.” But even if you had the intelligence to invent remarks like those I have given you as examples, you would not have been able to entertain me with them. You would have spoken no moe than half the first syllable of the first word, because such jesting is a privilege that I grant only to myself.

She’s a mortal danger without meaning to be one; she’s exquisite without giving it a thought; she’s a trap set by nature, a rose in which love lies in ambush! Anyone who has seen her smile has known perfection. She creates grace without movement, and makes all divinity fit into her slightest gesture. And neither Venus in her shell, nor Diana striding in the great, blossoming forest, can compare to her when she goes through the streets of Paris in her sedan chair!

After all, what is a kiss? A vow made closer range, a more precise promise, a confession that contains its own proof, a seal places on a pact that has already been signed; it’s a secret told to the mouth rather than to the ear, a fleeting moment filles with the hush of eternity, a communion that has the fragrance of a flower, a way of living by the beat of another heart, and tasting another soul on one’s lips!

My personal favorite is Cyrano’s last monologue. It is too long to be typed here, and I don’t want to spoil it, but the effect it had on me was such that after reading the last words, I had to put down the book for a bit and think about life… really. It is THAT good. So please. For my sake, for the sake of theatre, for the sake of romance, read this.

PS

No, I haven’t watched Cyrano de Bergerac (1990)nor have I watched the famous Roxanne (1987) with Steve Martin in it, but now that I have read this, they are my topmost priority for film choices at the next available opportunity. I have, however, watched Penelope (2006) with James McAvoy and Christina Ricci. Very cute, without the tragedy of Cyrano’s tale but with the ugly nose in the form of a pig snout, and not as good as the emotions I got from reading this.

PPS

Incidentally, this is the last book that completes my personal reading challenge for this year! 125 books! This personal achievement is made  so much sweeter by that fact that this book is quickly becoming one of my favorites. ❤

In a nutshell…

Rating: 5/5

240 pages
Author: Edmond Rostand
Original Language: French
Published: 1897
Genre: Romance, Drama, Classic, Play

Belated Merry Christmas! Or: How I Love Christmas More Than My Own Birthday

FINALLY, after more than three months’ hiatus, I’m back! I am so sorry it took me so long to write anything at all. I expected things to slow down once the second semester started, but it just left me with less time to spend as I’d like. Thankfully, because it’s Christmas break, I have more free time than usual. What better to write about than Christmas, though, right? ’tis the season, after all!

From a bookish point of view, my Christmas was very, very eventful indeed. Because I joined this fantastic book club, a bookish loot almost couldn’t be avoided, of which I am really glad. To be honest, I didn’t expect anything at all because it was my first Christmas with them and I had no idea how things worked. I was pleasantly surprised that by Christmas, a new pile of books were added to my tiny library. Come and look! I’m going to show them all wrapped so I look like I have self-control (In fact, I opened them all after I took this picture, which was 10 days before Christmas. Oops.)

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Thank you so much, TFG friends! You know who you are :”)

I’m not saying this because of my amazing loot, but I can’t not say it: Joining a book club was one of the best decisions I made this year. No regrets. Our Christmas party was held about a dozen days past, but I still can’t get over how much fun I had. Being around like-minded loons is really good for you! (Just kidding guys, you’re not really loons, haha. Love you!)

Despite lots of conflicts in our respective college schedules, I actually got to have my annual Christmas tea party with Yong, Claude, and Ingrid! No pictures this time, but I still got some fantastic books like Gennifer Choldenko’s Al Capone Does My Shirts and Jack Kerouac’s On The Road: The Original Scroll, the latter bought with a gift certificate. 

Here’s a round-up of the books I got this Christmas:

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(Okay, I’m going to be honest. Anathem wasn’t a gift from anyone. I bought it from a book sale in school, brand new for only P180 (~$4.5)! I’ve been eyeing this book for some time, and since I haven’t bought anything for the past few months, I was just all, “What the heck” and bought it as a gift for myself. )

Also, I got a fancy-looking file box with “Royal Post England” on it that makes me feel very British (thank you to my godmother, Ninang Fema!) which I think looks perfect with my new books, so I took photos of those as well. Joy!

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Again, thank you, thank you so much, guys! I already have a very good feeling about 2013 if these are the books I will be reading. 🙂

Speaking of bookish Christmas gifts, writing this post suddenly made me nostalgic. The first books I received as Christmas gifts was when I was seven, and it was from Santa Claus! I remember writing to him asking for Harry Potter books 1 to 7 (I have no idea how I knew there would be seven books, prolly from the radio, but I do remember asking for them). When I opened my gift from “Santa”, I got a boxed set of Harry Potter books 1 to 4! Santa even apologized for not giving me the fifth to seventh books because they weren’t published yet. But oh, what joy to receive hardbound, perfect-smelling books! I think I may have mentioned these in a previous post, but I swear, my Harry Potter books still smell the same as they did ten years ago. I am sure of it!

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My Harry Potter books that smell like parchment (or what I think parchment smells like). Like Hermione, my Amortentia would have a whiff of parchment in it, too!

Seeing the title of this blog post, you would think that I love Christmas because of the stuff I received. Hard to believe, but really, no. Everybody’s so happy during Christmas that you can’t help being happy as well! I didn’t have time to think of my expectations because to be honest, I was more excited at the thought of having an excuse to bond with everyone, and the seeing the priceless reactions of my parents after opening my presents for them (they didn’t expect me to have a gift for them – I usually am in cahoots with the other parent and my brother). You don’t get that during birthdays, which is why this will always be my favorite time of the year. 

So, what was your Christmas like?

{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

ReaderCon 2012: Filipino Fridays (5) – Celebrating the Best

Filipino Friday

It’s time for another Filipino Fridays post! This is the last one for this meme, but worry not, since it’s the 2nd Annual Filipino ReaderCon tomorrow!! I  am so excited! This is my first time to go, and I’m hoping the 1st ReaderCon will be the only one I will miss 😉 Okay, so this week’s prompt, copied from the ReaderCon website, is this:

August 17 – Celebrating the Best. In honor of the first Filipino Readers’ Choice Awards, let’s talk about our favorites for this year. What are your favorite books in 2012 so far? Have you read any awesome Filipino books in the year? If yes, make sure to include them in your list!

This year, my initial goal was to read 75 books. However, I passed that mark last July, so now I increased it my goal 125 books. Before I go on, I have to elaborate that most of those books were graphic novels you could finish in one sitting, and I don’t really read that fast, haha! Moving on…

I am so happy that I got to read a lot of good books this year. I have to thank my Goodreads TFG family for many of those, which stemmed from recommendations and also from reading the reviews of the members. Some of them were also group reads! Here are this year’s newest additions to the favorites list (in no particular order):

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern – I love, love, love reading about magic and London and the circus. I am endlessly fascinated by those and seeing them all in one novel – what’s not to love? 
Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta – This is an intense novel, and I loved the use of dual narratives here.
1984 by George Orwell – Took me a while to finish this, but I loved it all the same. I always look for 1984 references in everything I read ever since I finished this book!
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams – Douglas Adams’s dry British humor is something I absolutely adore. I found everything funny and I was just laughing like an idiot with every page. The fact that the movie version (which I haven’t watched yet) has Martin Freeman and Alan Rickman’s voice, among others, doesn’t hurt!
Feed by Mira Grant – One of my buddy reads for this year! This is the first of the Newsflesh trilogy, which combines blogging, politics, and – one of my favorite evil creatures so far – zombies! It left me mindblown, though thankfully not literally, or the zombies would have rejoiced.
Angelfall by Susan Ee – This is an indie book, but this is soooo good. I love that they were really quite accurate with the angel mythology references. It has one of those slow-burning romances that really fits well with the evil angel-infested, dystopian world it is set in, and it’s not cheesy, either. 
The Fellowship of the Ring by JRR Tolkien – I watched the movies repeatedly when I was younger, but it’s only now that I ventured to read the books. Really good stuff, I tell you. It’s easy to see why Tolkien is considered to be the best fantasy writer of all time. Most of the fantasy writers today have been influenced by him somehow! 
Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card – One of those books that I kept putting off reading just to annoy the legions of people who keep on insisting that I read it. I just wish I read it sooner! I love reading about geniuses, and Ender is definitely one of my faves. I just get so gooey inside seeing all the tactics laid out and – gosh, I should totally write a review for this or else I’ll never stop.

That’s not the final list, though, since the year is far from ending and I definitely see myself reading more books. These are *subtle* nudges for you to read them, if you haven’t, though! 

I feel so ashamed for not reading enough local books. I have been buying more this year, though, especially in the graphic novels department (I have Kikomachine Vol. 1-2, and Ang Kagila-gilalas na Pakikipagsapalaran ni Zsa-Zsa Zaturnnah, but I’m not done with them yet!). The ones I read and liked recently, though, were Lumayo Ka Nga Sa Akin by Bob Ong, and Mina Esguerra’s books That Kind of Guy  and No Strings Attached. I shall try to read more, especially now that it’s August, which is Buwan ng Wika for us Filipinos!

I still can’t believe this is the last one, but hey, at least we’ll have ReaderCon tomorrow! Yay! I’m really so bloody excited, you guys. Hope to see you there!

Oh and by the way, enjoy the looooooooong weekend! 😀

 

PS

ReaderCon has some reminders for tomorrow’s event. Click here to read it, it’s mighty helpful!

ReaderCon 2012: Filipino Fridays (4) – Books and Friends

Filipino Friday

It’s time for another Filipino Fridays post! I can’t wait for ReaderCon 2012, and it’s only just a week away! Aren’t you excited?! I particularly love the topic for this post: friends! Friends found through a common passion for books are just a whole new level of special, don’t you think? This post is all about them! Here’s the prompt:

Books and Friends. We will have book discussions hosted by several book clubs during the ReaderCon, so to prepare us for that, let’s talk about books and friendships and book clubs. Are you a part of a book club? If yes, what made you join one? What’s your favorite activity that you have with them? If you’re not a part of one, will you consider joining one? Why or why not?

Or if you’re not (yet) a part of a book club, do you have friends who share the same passion for books as you do? Do you have a “bookish” best friend? If yes, tell us about them! How did you become friends? What’s your favorite memory with them?

I’m going to try connecting all my answers in chronological order so it will be easy to understand. But first, the obligatory introduction story…

*cue nostalgic music, preferably with an acoustic guitar or a piano* 

Not until fairly recently, I enjoyed books by myself. It was fine at first, since I’ve been reading alone, growing up, but it’s really hard to gush about a book when no one is there to understand. 

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I was kind of an oddball in my younger years since everybody else would just play or watch TV (which I also do, just not that much) while I become best buds with the school librarians. Looking back, I was such a geek! Still am, actually. I thought it was normal and that bookish people were rare. Aside from being lonely (which I didn’t know I was), it was really hard to know which books were good! Since I loved buying books with no restraint whatsoever, my parents decided to let me buy books from my own allowance, which made me cut back on book expenses and rely on the library supply. The books there were good, but there were always new ones coming out in bookstores that take years before they get added to the library collection (like the Harry Potter books, which I eagerly awaited the release of). Having limited connections to anything book-related, I was forced to rely on book covers and blurbs when deciding the next book to read.

Okay, let’s quit the drama thing and move on to 2010, when I joined Goodreads! I just lurked around, mainly using Listopia and Recommendations for my reading needs, so nothing much happened and I was basically still just a loner. Then I joined the book club I’m currently active in, GR-TFG. It’s short for Goodreads – The Filipino Group, which is a hub for Filipino readers all over the globe. TFG started having regular monthly meet-ups this year, and I finally got to join one last April, when we were discussing Jane Eyre. Needless to say, this is my favorite book club activity. I got to meet so many people who love books as much as I do, and suddenly a whole new world opened up, and so did a realm of numerous possibilities! This is a photo from the July book discussion of Kazuo Ishiguro‘s The Remains of the Day:

I got the courage to explore new genres, and I actually had an idea of what’s good and what’s not, thanks to my fellow TFG members’ recommendations. Meeting people of all ages and genres is such an awesome experience that I just feel really lucky to be a part of this book club. Furthermore, the friendships I made keep the reading experience somehow more enjoyable. I love having new friends, and I’m thankful to my book club, and books, the root of it all, for providing me with that. 

As for “bookish” best friends, I do have a lot. All of my high school best friends love to read, but they don’t blog about it or anything, and it’s not really something we discuss in earnest like in a book club. I have to thank my friend, Jenine, though, for introducing me to the Hunger Games series. She recommended it to me and lent me her books even before it got famous (hipsters, much? haha). I’m going to refrain from putting our group photo here because it’s too embarrassing – oh wait, I found a half-decent photo! Yay.

(L-R) Charelle, Jenine, moi, Oona

Charelle is my soulmate for all things geek (we could ramble about Star Wars, Doctor Who, Misfits, Sherlock, EVERYTHING for hours, and laugh together for even longer). She last read and cried over The Fault in Our Stars. I remember her mother loves books too, and gives me books for Christmas and birthdays! Jenine owns A LOT of these historical romance novels that her mother bequeathed onto her or something, and she also loves reading young adult novels. Her mother reads a lot of those too, which is why she gets to read a lot of them in the first place. I love borrowing books from her because she’s updated with the cool recent ones. Both Jenine and her mum insisted I read Cassandra Clare‘s books (which I haven’t gotten around to doing… yet). Oona reads mystery-thrillers, and she and her siblings read A LOT of them. Deep inside, though, I know she gets all kilig reading romance too. That girl. (The fun thing about your friends not blogging is that they don’t know if you talk about them LOL)

My college best friends read a lot too, but because it’s college, I don’t get to see them doing much of it. I only fully realized that they love books too when Christmas of 2011 came around. We began a tradition of having annual Christmas tea parties (I wasn’t allowed to go home late that time), and we were surprised when we discovered that we all gave each other books! We even asked the waiter to document this event. Kind of embarrassing, in retrospect – what with gift wrapper strewn on the tables and all – but what the heck.

(L-R) an alien, Ingrid, Yong, Claude

Ingrid’s also into sci-fi, particularly the classic sci-fi ones written by authors like Ray Bradbury (she made me read any of his works, and I picked this). Yong is sort of a literary-type person, and he made me read Blindness by Jose Saramago. I remember his Christmas wishlist had Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s Shadow of the Wind in it, but I gave him Perks of Being a Wallflower instead, heh. Claude loves fantasy, especially books with fairies and magic in it. She practically forced us to give her Zombies vs. Unicorns! Lol jk. (It was actually Yong’s gift.)

This has been a pretty lengthy (and graphics-heavy!) post, but it just goes to show how reading, though a predominantly solitary activity, can bring people together. Dave Kellett once said, “A book is like a dream you’re borrowing from a friend,” but I’m going to add to that by saying that “A friend is like a dream you’re borrowing from a book.” I’m very thankful for what books and friends have done to me, and my life’s certainly richer, more interesting, and more fulfilling because of that. 🙂

{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

ReaderCon 2012: Filipino Fridays (1-3)!!!

Filipino Friday

Hello everyone! I know I’ve been pretty M.I.A. lately but I’m participating in this awesome new meme now that ReaderCon 2012‘s so near… Aren’t you excited? This meme started two weeks ago. I am obviously late, but they still welcome late posts, so here I am! You should join.

Okay, lemme start. HI! I’m Blue (but when I’m not trying – and failing – to be a superhero, I’m known as Alexa). Like you most probably are, I am a bookworm. I’m a college student, but I like to think of myself as a frustrated artist. I’m also a shameless fangirl.  

Yep. Like I said. Shameless. (This is Ten from Doctor Who, by the way!) Allons-y!

My favorite books change a lot, but one thing that’s always been constant is my curiosity and constant exploration of genres. I’m in kind of a classic and sci-fi/fantasy fix at the moment, with a dash of old superhero graphic novels. I haven’t been to last year’s ReaderCon, making me doubly stoked for this year’s! I don’t know what to expect, but I know it will be fun!

My mom taught me how to read. I remember the first word she ever made me read was “avocado”. And she was so happy when I got it right the first time! She suspected I must have learned to read somewhere but didn’t know it was called “reading”. My childhood was not spent playing with other kids. I resorted to cartoons and books, and since I was a kid, I’ve had a love affair with books. I really fell in love after getting the first four Harry Potter books when I was six. From Santa! I was so amazed at everything I read that I never stopped, and now here I am, blogging about that love! 

This week’s questions were about reading styles. Here’s the thing. I read anytime, anywhere, and I mean it. ANYWHERE. I’ve read in the loo, in the lift, in the mall, while walking in the mall, in class (when I was younger and could get away with such things), in the bus, in the jeepney, in the dark with a candle as light a la Jose Rizal… anywhere! Reading while moving around doesn’t bother me at all. My parents always told me when I was a kid that I would have to wear glasses if I keep abusing my eyes. It never stopped me, and though I want to take care of my 20/20 vision, I would never be able to. Heh. I read any minute I can, but those are usually located at the wee hours of the morning. I am not really picky about the format (print, ebook, audio), and I utilize these formats to my best advantage.

It’s not the wee hours of the morning yet, but since it’s a Friday (almost a Saturday), I am going to read! Yay! Thank God for the weekend!

PS

Yes. I inserted a picture of alpacas for no good reason other than they’re cute. And they look like the lovechild of a llama and a goat.

Stories through Objects: July 2012

Hello world!!!

I know, I know. I’ve been practically MIA for the past several weeks and I can’t just expect a warm welcome. But did you guys miss me? *crickets* right. Okay, let me explain.

June marks the beginning of a regular school year in the Philippines. I just began my sophomore year in college, and to be honest, just when I thought I had broken in, it gets harder. I should have expected that, but because of a handful of things I’m getting involved in lately, I haven’t been able to write reviews. I really miss blogging, though, so I’m going to start this feature, Stories through Objects for when I am unable to write reviews and just want to share a bit of what’s happening at my end of the world.

You ready?

Since my last entry, I’ve still been getting a lot of stuff in the mail! I looooove getting snail mail, especially if they are gifts from people!

Exhibit A:

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I’m still getting postcards from Postcrossing! I am pretty sure this is a mistake, since I only sent five postcards and instead of the five I am supposed to receive, I got eight. Still, it feels pretty nice to get such beautiful cards!
The top left with the blonde children sitting on hay (I think they’re brother and sister – so cute!) is from Jutta of Finland. The vintage looking photo of the couple in the sea is from Sanne of the Netherlands. It has a lomo feel to it (I’m secretly into photography – more on that later), and I love it! The top right is from an anonymous friend from Taiwan. According to her (I think the sender is female, and I’ve never gotten a postcard from a guy yet), the postcard is about “three children missing their beautiful and kind mother in heaven.” Every postcard has a story, but she’s the only one who told me one directly! I wish it had her name on it so I could thank her properly. The last one, at the bottom, is from Isa of Brazil! It shows a beach in Rio Grande do Sul. I find the colors so enchanting, even though I’m not too fond of the sun. Thank you, postcard-friends! I’m adding this to my tiny but growing collection, heh.

Exhibit B:

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This came as a surprise. Well, I knew about it months ago, but I completely forgot that I was going to receive it when the time finally came! I forget about a lot of things, but this makes way for such a pleasant surprise! I joined a contest held by the publishers of The Night Circus (review here), wherein I try to encapsulate the book in just a sentence or two. And I won! So they sent me a UK TPB version of it with my name and my quote printed at the last page. Check it out:

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That was one of the proudest moments of my life! Good vibes.

Exhibit C:

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I got my first lomo camera! My dad brought it here in Manila last weekend from Sprockets Coffee + Milk Tea Cafe in Cebu! It’s a Suoerheadz Ultra Wide and Slim toy camera, a clone of the cult classic Vivitar Ultra Wide and Slim series. I love that I got it in blue!! There are also other colors, like the White Slim Angel and Black Slim Devil, among others. I have already consumed two rolls of film, the CD of which will be delivered sometime this week. I can’t wait! The last camera I had was a film camera when I was eight. Since in my household I have to use my allowance for non-academic needs, and I didn’t have money to develop photos, I eventually stopped. Now I’m reviving my photography frustration once again! Heh.

Exhibit D:

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I did not get this in the mail, but I added this anyway because it means so much to me. I got this during a book discussion of Kazuo Ishiguro‘s award-winning novel (turned into a movie starring Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson), The Remains of the Day. This is a mini book that contains all the personal stories shared by the members of my book club. It’s not mass produced, and I have one of a few hard copies, so it’s really special. I’ve only been to three book discussions, but the people I’ve met have been really friendly and I feel like I know them more because of these stories, despite their anonymity. I felt that, more than a bunch of people brought together by a passion for books (which is already amazing in itself), we were a family. *happy tears*

Wow. Amazing how many stories you could tell just from these things. I could get used to this.

OH. WAIT. Let me share what I’m currently reading!

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(L-R) The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë, The Lover’s Dictionary by David Levithan (thank you, Kuya Doni, for lending it to me!), and The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

I’m very slow in my reading progress because life keeps getting in the way, but as the saying goes, “It doesn’t matter how slow you go, so long as you don’t stop.” For people with Tumblr accounts, this is the famous default quote when you test out Tumblr themes! It’s really hard to squeeze in reading time, but as long as you keep going, you’ll eventually reach the last page… and grab another book. Ooh, life of a bibliophile.

Whew. This was a pretty lengthy post! I missed writing so badly, and this is the result. Feels pretty good to let it all out.

But hey, how about you? Do you have any stories to share? 😀

In My Mailbox (3): June 2

I was so surprised when my family and I came back from Hong Kong and, lo and behold, discovered so much mail!

First of all, I have to thank my Auntie Karen for giving me gift certificates for books! Thank you so much, Auntie! Now I have an opportunity to buy another pile of books, even though I’m barely halfway through the first pile a few months ago. Thank you!!

Furthermore, I also received two postcards from Postcrossing!!! I love postcards. Thank you to mystery Japanese friend from Singapore – too bad there’s no name! 😦

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and to Anastasia from Germany! She even included cherry tea that I don’t want to waste on drinking because it smells soooooo good! It scented up my room really nicely, and it’s smells better than potpourri! She also added Latvian money since she came from Latvia. Thank you!

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As for books, well, I also got a book in Chinese!! I’m going to show it in my next post though.