{Book Review} The Martian by Andy Weir

 

Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars. Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first person to die there. After a dust storm nearly kills him & forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded & completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—& even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive. Chances are, though, he won’t have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment or plain-old “human error” are much more likely to kill him first. But Mark isn’t ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills—& a relentless, dogged refusal to quit—he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?*

I never realized how much of a nerd I really am until this book. You see, I’m not a very good student. I do better at standardized tests than my grades would suggest, but when you put me in a classroom for prolonged periods of time, the grades I churn out give a convincing argument that I’m a pretty average student (I was better in high school, but everyone knows that college is a different ball game altogether), so it came as a bit of a surprise that I really liked this book. It’s like a novel-length solution with pretty solid mathematical proof (I wouldn’t know, I just took Watney’s word for it that his calculations were right, haha) for the problem of how anyone can survive on Mars. Okay, Mark Watney’s obviously not anyone, as he’s a botanist and mechanical engineer on top of being a trained astronaut. He’s way ahead of majority of Earth’s population in terms of chances of survival, but you know what I mean. There is a lot of technical stuff thrown around, from the way the NASA machines work to how they get messed up (which happens several times in the book – who knew life on Mars was hard?!?). It sounds boring and cerebral, but somehow I, the person who never waxed poetic about technical subjects in college, enjoyed it. I think it really says something about a character’s likability if you’re willing to read through how oxygenators and water reclaimers work just to see if he survives at the end. It really helped that Watney is a very good-natured, funny, optimistic kind of guy, because I really wasn’t under the impression that I’d laugh at all while reading this. I totally get how his journal style sometimes can make people feel like he isn’t taking anything seriously, but I liked how it wasn’t all bleak and serious like most sci-fi books are. Maybe it’s because Watney’s log entries exhibit my type of humor, but it definitely made reading the technical parts easier.

TL;DR lots of technobabble but hero’s pretty cool so I really liked it.

I have no idea how this will be translated to the big screen, but I’m ready to see it!

In a nutshell…

Rating: 4/5
Hardcover, 369 pages
Author: Andy Weir
Publisher: Crown
Published: September 23, 2012
Language: English
Genre: Science Fiction

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{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} After Dark by Haruki Murakami

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

In a nutshell…

Rating: 4/5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She’ll be all, “Green slime? Meh.”

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

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

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

In a nutshell…

Rating: 4/5

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

{Book Review} The 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

{Book Review} Looking for Alaska by John Green

Miles Halter is fascinated by famous last words and tired of his safe life at home. He leaves for boarding school to seek what the dying poet Francois Rabelais called the “Great Perhaps.” Much awaits Miles at Culver Creek, including Alaska Young. Clever, funny, screwed-up, and dead sexy, Alaska will pull Miles into her labyrinth and catapult him into the Great Perhaps.

Looking for Alaska brilliantly chronicles the indelible impact one life can have on another. A stunning debut, it marks John Green‘s arrival as an important new voice in contemporary fiction.*

Looking for Alaska is one of those books I’ve been meaning to read for years but never got around to doing it. It was published seven years ago (2005) and won the Michael L. Printz Award from the American Library Association the year after. I first heard of it through this magical microblogging website called Tumblr where I saw the powerful quote that made the book very memorable for me:

I wanted so badly to lie down next to her on the couch, to wrap my hands around her and sleep. Not fuck, like in those movies. Not even have sex. Just sleep together, in the most innocent sense of the phrase. But I lacked the courage and she had a boyfriend and I was gawky and she was gorgeous and I was hopelessly boring and she was endlessly fascinating. So I walked back to my room and collapsed on the bottom bunk, thinking that if people were rain, I was drizzle and she was a hurricane.

Right then and there I wanted to read the book. I never got to obtaining a copy, though, until last Christmas, when my friend Yong gave it to me as a present; when I unwrapped the book, all the excitement started flowing back. He told me it wasn’t the happiest book ever, so I tried putting off reading it until what I thought was ‘the right time’. I never knew if this was the right time, however, but I decided to just read it and see why everybody else loved it so much. 

Looking for Alaska is a coming-of-age story that deals with love, life, friendship, loyalty, and the uncertainties of “the Great Perhaps”. It is divided into two parts, Before and After, but I can’t tell you what the reference point is, lest the whole story is spoiled. All of its characters are very well-written. Miles “Pudge” Halter was very effective as the protagonist, existing most of his life as a general nobody before transferring to Culver Creek Preparatory School, collecting last words and looking for a change in his life, or at least something different from what his life before used to be. These changes come in the forms of Chip “the Colonel” Martin, his roommate, and his friends Alaska Young and Takumi Hikohito. Miles gets instantly smitten with Alaska, a bookworm-slash-prankster extraordinaire who also happens to be impulsive, daring, and bold, something I suppose he considered as a refreshing change.  

More than being a story about teenagers going through high school while living rebellious lives, Looking for Alaska presents thought-provoking questions that adds depth to the book. How will I get out of this labyrinth of suffering? I loved how, between the lines and layers of teenage angst and rebelliousness, John Green managed to insert wisdom and insight about life, and even though some of it is deep, his writing can make you understand and grasp the beauty of it.

Looking for Alaska is my first John Green book (I know, I’m so late!), and true to the testaments of several other readers, this is indeed a book you will never forget. Funny, witty, clever, and insightful, I highly recommend this book. 

In a nutshell…

Rating: 4/5
Paperback, 221 pages
Author: John Green
Publisher: Dutton Books
Published: March 3, 2005
Language: English
Genre: Young Adult, Teen, Coming of Age

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In a nutshell…

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

{Book Review} Courtney Crumrin and the Night Things (Courtney Crumrin, #1)

Courtney Crumrin and the Night Things (Courtney Crumrin, #1)

*Review copy provided by the publisher

Courtney Crumrin and the Night Things is filled with dark humor and wild characters that I did not expect from a series that seemed to be aimed to a younger audience. I liked it, however, and for a first volume, it kept me engaged and wanting more. 

Courtney Crumrin, its titular heroine, just moved with her parents to her Uncle Aloysius’s house. I think mansion would fit better, but it is obvious that it has seen better days. It is now dark, spooky, and had all the looks of a haunted house. Courtney finds herself having a hard time fitting in anywhere for the days and weeks that follow, even in her own home. However, she finds out more about herself – she is in fact a witch. Uncle Aloysius is considered an oddball by many, and Courtney soon finds his strange but interesting collection of magic books. From here, she discovers a world far from anything she has ever imagined. Here she meets goblins, changelings, talking animals, faery queens, and a whole lot more. 

I am extremely fond of stories based on folk tales and paranormal mythology, and this is no exception. I really liked how writer/artist Ted Naifeh illustrated everything, and I enjoyed both the colored and black and white panes. Courtney Crumrin is filled with dark humor and wild characters – it is not unusual for children to be eaten by goblins, or mortal babies sold in the underworld market while a changeling cries for milk in its place. The fact that the author is unapologetic for these horrible occurrences, as if it really is a fact of life for the characters (and indeed it is, whether they are aware of it or not) made me love this.

For a first volume in a series, it did not fail to engage me, and I would not pass up a chance to read more of Courtney Crumrin. This series is especially recommended for people who love fairy tales and myths. People who love paranormal/supernatural cases in a graphic novel would find this fun to read. Despite looking like something suited for middle grade readers, I think this would suit young adults better.

The full color hardcover edition of Courtney Crumrin and the Night Things will be released on April 11, 2012.

In a nutshell…

Rating: 3.5/5
Full color hardcover, 144 pages
Writer/Artist: Ted Naifeh
Colorist: Warren Wucinich
Publisher: Oni Press
To be published on: April 11, 2012
Language: English
Genre: Fantasy, Adventure


{Book Review} First Date by Krista McGee

Addy Davidson is the last girl in the country who wants to be on the new reality TV show to win a date to prom with the President’s son. She’s focused on her schoolwork so she can get a scholarship to an Ivy League college, uncomfortable in the spotlight, never been on a date, and didn’t even audition for it.

But she got selected anyway.

So she does her best to get eliminated on the very first show… right before she realizes that the President’s son is possibly the most attractive guy she has ever seen in person, surprisingly nice, and seemingly unimpressed by the 99 other girls who are throwing themselves at him.

Addy’s totally out of her comfort zone—but that may be right where God can show her the most about who she is . . . and who she was meant to be. -NetGalley

*Review copy from publisher

I really liked this book, hence the four stars. Even though the plot is sort of cliche and predictable, I liked how cute it was and how Krista McGee incorporated Christian belief into it through Addy, the book’s protagonist. Despite the simplicity of the plot, the characterization was well-thought out, and each one has a distinct personality. It was easy to relate to them, especially Addy, and why they did what they did in the story was understandable. Also, I loved how this book, despite initially seeming to be a cute love story at first sight, managed to make me return to my faith with a renewed vigor and understanding. It is also admirable how the insertion of things related to religion is not stifling; in fact, it was just right. Not too much to alienate people of other religions, for instance, and not too little that it did not make any effect.

I admit, I am a sucker for well-known/nobody pairings, which is partly why I chose to read this from my ever-mounting TBR pile. It’s an interesting dynamic, don’t you think? A reality TV show to be the prom date of the president’s son? It was partly intriguing, partly preposterous for me. I couldn’t help thinking, ‘Wow, what a guy. A reality TV show just to pick a date? Really?’ and believe me, I thought that throughout the first parts of the book, but Jonathon (not a typo, that’s really how it’s spelled) proved to be endearing, so no problem.

What I wished I could have seen more of was Addy’s relationship with the other contestants. I mean, she had her roommate (trailer-mate?) Kara as her buddy throughout the duration of the show, and it was finely established that the other girls hated everything about her, but I felt bad at the lack of closure. Much as Addy wished to help change people for the better, she was able to do that with only a few people – which is really remarkable, I’m not complaining – but I wonder what would have happened if the other girls finally softened
and were ready to be friends with Addy. Still, I guess that lack of that made this a bit more realistic, so it’s okay.

I really enjoyed First Date. I haven’t read much Christian fiction, and I hardly knew this was one before reading it, but I have no regrets! This is Krista McGee’s first novel, and I like it. I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled for more of her work in the future if I were you!

PS By the way, this counts if you’re joining the 2012 Debut Author Challenge

In a nutshell…
Paperback, 336 pages
Rating: 4/5
Author: Krista McGee
Publisher: Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Published: January 10, 2012
Language: English

Genre: YA, Christian Fiction, Contemporary Romance

{Book Review} Bossypants by Tina Fey

Bossypants

“Before Liz Lemon, before “Weekend Update,” before “Sarah Palin,” Tina Fey was just a young girl with a dream: a recurring stress dream that she was being chased through a local airport by her middle-school gym teacher. She also had a dream that one day she would be a comedian on TV. 
She has seen both these dreams come true. 

At last, Tina Fey’s story can be told. From her youthful days as a vicious nerd to her tour of duty on Saturday Night Live; from her passionately halfhearted pursuit of physical beauty to her life as a mother eating things off the floor; from her one-sided college romance to her nearly fatal honeymoon—from the beginning of this paragraph to this final sentence. 

Tina Fey reveals all, and proves what we’ve all suspected: you’re no one until someone calls you bossy.”* 

Before I go on to my review, let me insert a little disclaimer: I don’t know much about Tina Fey. I am serious. Her name is familiar, I know her face, she looks like she has a funny bone, but I haven’t really watched anything of hers. I haven’t seen an episode of 30 Rock or Saturday Night Live, or watched her movie Date Night, so I was initially just content to let it sit quietly in my iTunes as an audio book, forgotten. The only thing I know about her is in a .gif  file uploaded by someone in Tumblr where she was waving a plastic bag, saying she will put other plastic bags in it so that it is committing cannibalism, or something. I forget these important quotes. Even in that 10 second gif loop, I found her funny, so when I saw that audiobook, I decided to just listen. Heck, why stop yourself from reading a book anyway?

Not once during those 5 and a half hours did I regret this decision. Turns out you don’t need to have background information on Tina Fey after all – this book talks about the most important moments of her life. Bossypants also includes a tour through her mind, with various essays on her opinions of Photoshop, Sarah Palin, office hygiene, and several other things. All throughout the book, I could not stop laughing at her witty and sarcastic remarks. If you know Tina Fey (more than the little I know of her, anyway) and love her type of humor, you will definitely enjoy this book.

I expected this to be a sort of autobiographical tell-all, but it is not. Well, she does talk about various points in her life (like her college romances, less than normal honeymoon cruise, working in SNL and 30 Rock), but she also raises points on topics like sexism and ideal beauty that could serve as food for thought if you let it. For example, she highlights people’s perception of beautiful as something based on a “laundry list” of features women must have to be considered one:

Caucasian blue eyes, full Spanish lips, a classic button nose, hairless Asian skin with a California tan, …, the arms of Michelle Obama, and doll tits.

That part was really spot on for me. And just before you think it’s beginning to sound serious, Tina ends the list with the punch line: “The person closest to actually achieving this look is Kim Kardashian, who, as we know, was made by Russian scientists to sabotage our athletes.” So there you go.

In addition to that, she also makes a good job of teaching how to be a good boss. I really listened for that because the book must be called Bossypants for a reason. True enough, there are stories of her working with other people in the business, with her trying her best to excel in her field despite the discriminating idea that “Women aren’t funny!”. I find it admirable how she has handled it well, and seeing where she is now, I think she deserves it.

My absolute favorite part of the book was when she read aloud a prayer she made for her baby daughter. It’s almost as long as this blog post, but the subliminal message is so heartwarming and touching despite the jokes. It almost drove me to tears. Mother’s prayers do that to me sometimes. 

It helps that Tina Fey herself narrated the audio book. As I am new to this audio book listening thing, I very much appreciated listening to the book in the author’s voice – feelings are much easily interpreted, and there’s nothing quite like hearing something from the original source herself. If I had read Bossypants instead of listened to it, I doubt I would have enjoyed it as much. There’s something about listening to Tina saying her own jokes and narrating her life that makes listening to audio books a wholly different experience.

I recommend this book for anyone who loves a hilarious book with meat in it. And, of course, people who love Tina Fey. I am now very much intrigued about her shows and want to watch them. I suspect this was part of the plan, but who cares?!

In a nutshell…

Audio CD

Rating: 3.5/5
Author/Narrator: Tina Fey
Original Language: English
Published: 5 April 2011 by Hachette Audio
Genre: Autobiographical > Memoir, Nonfiction, Humor