{Book Review} Les Misérables by Victor Hugo

Les Misérables

Introducing one of the most famous characters in literature, Jean Valjean – the noble peasant imprisoned for stealing a loaf of bread – Les Misérables (1862) ranks among the greatest novels of all time. In it Victor Hugo takes readers deep into the Parisian underworld, immerses them in a battle between good and evil, and carries them onto the barricades during the uprising of 1832 with a breathtaking realism that is unsurpassed in modern prose. Within his dramatic story are themes that capture the intellect and the emotions: crime and punishment, the relentless persecution of Valjean by Inspector Javert, the desperation of the prostitute Fantine, the amorality of the rogue Thénardier and the universal desire to escape the prisons of our own minds. Les Misérables gave Victor Hugo a canvas upon which he portrayed his criticism of the French political and judicial systems, but the portrait which resulted is larger than life, epic in scope – an extravagant spectacle that dazzles the senses even as it touches the heart. This Signet Classic edition is a new version translated by Lee Fahnestock and Norman MacAfee, based on the classic nineteenth-century Charles E. Wilbour translation.*

You might have wondered how come there are copies of Les Misérables out on the market with only 500 pages while there are others that are a staggering ~1500 pages long. What could possibly be in the unabridged version that only a third of the book remains for abridged consumption? I am not going to lie. I totally understand how a thousand pages could be shaved off and honestly, you could still get the meatiest parts of the plot. Victor Hugo has a knack for relating the histories of the most obscure things in painfully long paragraphs filled with meticulous details that you could live the rest of your life not knowing. There are whole chapters on battles (those were interesting for me), goings-on in secluded convents (slightly interesting), and sewers (not at all). It’s crazy and even the most patient reader could get a tad annoyed. If you are to read Les Misérables, though, I would still insist on reading the unabridged version. All 1463 pages of it, like my paperback version. In all its full glory.

Why?

(WARNING: As E.M. Forster would say: ‘One always tends to overpraise a long book, because one has got through it.’ So get ready.)

Les Misérables is one of the most thought-provoking, beautiful, and thorough books I have ever read. I know I use ‘beautiful’ quite a lot in my past reviews, but this is just a whole other level. It transcends beauty. I picked up the book expecting to read about some character’s life journey, because that’s the only way this book could reach that many pages, right? Wrong. I expected to get myself acquainted with the characters and their lives, but in the end I got their entire world. This goes complete with history, geography, politics, with bonus philosophy, and several others things thrown in that I certainly didn’t bargain for, but you know what? For all the difficulties reading those things gave me, I loved it.

Hugo’s (somewhat) helpful supplications of history and explanations gave me the background information I didn’t know I needed, making me appreciate the setting more. I felt like I lived within French society in the early 19th century because of the information I gathered that only a resident could possibly know.

And goodness, the characters. I cannot even begin to say how much I loved them all. Hugo’s detailed descriptions of their personalities, back stories, memories, thoughts, actions, and internal conflicts created a myriad of people with intersecting lives, making the main parts of the story very interesting. I particularly love Jean Valjean, Fantine, Gavroche, Enjolras, and Eponine, but honestly, you could like any character and I wouldn’t be surprised. They all had several facets in their personality that goes beyond your first impression of them. You couldn’t help but understand why they do what they do once you understand their motives. I really felt sorry for all their hardships, even the difficult ones, because you know they all need to survive, but only do them in their own ways.

I was lurking around Goodreads when I stumbled across this quote by Mick Foley:

“A big book is like a serious relationship; it requires a commitment. Not only that, but there’s no guarantee that you will enjoy it, or that it will have a happy ending. Kind of like going out with a girl, having to spend time every day with her – with absolutely no guarantee of nailing her in the end. No thanks.”

When you pick up Les Misérables, don’t expect to read something gripping that’s supposed to make you fly through the pages till the end. There are several books out there for that purpose, and Hugo never meant for it to be like that. Don’t expect happy endings. Sometimes a perfect ending is nothing you expect it to be. Don’t expect instant enlightenment. Like the characters, you would have to journey and think about it for a while. Do expect a commitment. It’s not going to be easy reading this book, but I promise, it will be worth it. Don’t leave it, and it won’t leave you. Do expect change. The two weeks it took me to read through this book turned out to be my own personal journey, because when I finished it, I honestly wanted to be a better human being. Really! I know it sounds preposterous and silly, but it’s true. I feel engulfed in a halo because I swear, the book changed me. I may forget some characters’ names, or some parts of the book, but I will never forget the emotions it got out of me and the way it has touched and inspired me in so many ways.

Les Misérables is a beautiful story of humanity in all its forms, good or bad, in all its beauty and filth, in all its problems and triumphs, as it goes through life in its constant struggle for redemption. Just please, please, please, read it and be inspired.

PS
I feel the need to mention the highly successful musical and film adaptations here. I loved them so, so much. I am pretty much still reeling from watching Les Misérables in the cinema last night. If you loved them, I promise you, you will love the book. It’s all really beautiful.

PPS

Day 6: Or, it’s already been six days since you finished the book. Just get over it already. To which my heart says: No.

In a nutshell…

Rating: 5/5

1463 pages
Author: Victor Hugo
Original Language: French
Published: 1862
Genre: Classic, Drama

{Book Review} Life of Pi by Yann Martel

Life of Pi

Life of Pi is a masterful and utterly original novel that is at once the story of a young castaway who faces immeasurable hardships on the high seas, and a meditation on religion, faith, art and life that is as witty as it is profound. Using the threads of all of our best stories, Yann Martel has woven a glorious spiritual adventure that makes us question what it means to be alive, and to believe.

Growing up in Pondicherry, India, Piscine Molitor Patel — known as Pi — has a rich life. Bookish by nature, young Pi acquires a broad knowledge of not only the great religious texts but of all literature, and has a great curiosity about how the world works. His family runs the local zoo, and he spends many of his days among goats, hippos, swans, and bears, developing his own theories about the nature of animals and how human nature conforms to it. Pi’s family life is quite happy, even though his brother picks on him and his parents aren’t quite sure how to accept his decision to simultaneously embrace and practise three religions — Christianity, Hinduism, and Islam.

But despite the lush and nurturing variety of Pi’s world, there are broad political changes afoot in India, and when Pi is sixteen his parents decide that the family needs to escape to a better life. Choosing to move to Canada, they close the zoo, pack their belongings, and board a Japanese cargo ship called the Tsimtsum. Travelling with them are many of their animals, bound for zoos in North America. However, they have only just begun their journey when the ship sinks, taking the dreams of the Patel family down with it. Only Pi survives, cast adrift in a lifeboat with the unlikeliest of travelling companions: a zebra, an orang-utan, a hyena, and a 450-pound Royal Bengal tiger named Richard Parker.

Thus begins Pi Patel’s epic, 227-day voyage across the Pacific, and the powerful story of faith and survival at the heart of Life of Pi. Worn and scared, oscillating between hope and despair, Pi is witness to the playing out of the food chain, quite aware of his new position within it. When only the tiger is left of the seafaring menagerie, Pi realizes that his survival depends on his ability to assert his own will, and sets upon a grand and ordered scheme to keep from being Richard Parker’s next meal.

As the days pass, Pi fights both boredom and terror by throwing himself into the practical details of surviving on the open sea — catching fish, collecting rain water, protecting himself from the sun — all the while ensuring that the tiger is also kept alive, and knows that Pi is the key to his survival. The castaways face gruelling pain in their brushes with starvation, illness, and the storms that lash the small boat, but there is also the solace of beauty: the rainbow hues of a dorado’s death-throes, the peaceful eye of a looming whale, the shimmering blues of the ocean’s swells. Hope is fleeting, however, and despite adapting his religious practices to his daily routine, Pi feels the constant, pressing weight of despair. It is during the most hopeless and gruelling days of his voyage that Pi whittles to the core of his beliefs, casts off his own assumptions, and faces his underlying terrors head-on.

As Yann Martel has said in one interview, “The theme of this novel can be summarized in three lines. Life is a story. You can choose your story. And a story with an imaginative overlay is the better story.” And for Martel, the greatest imaginative overlay is religion. “God is a shorthand for anything that is beyond the material — any greater pattern of meaning.” In Life of Pi, the question of stories, and of what stories to believe, is front and centre from the beginning, when the author tells us how he was led to Pi Patel and to this novel: in an Indian coffee house, a gentleman told him, “I have a story that will make you believe in God.” And as this novel comes to its brilliant conclusion, Pi shows us that the story with the imaginative overlay is also the story that contains the most truth.

From the Trade Paperback edition.*

Let it be known that I love tigers. In fact, tigers are my favorite animals. I have stuffed toy collections of them, and up until high school, I slept with them all around me in the belief that they will scare away whatever evil being that plans to visit me in the night. To be honest, that was the thing that drew me to this book, above all. It all began when I was 11, and my class had a field trip to Subic. My friends and I dared to take a picture with a tiger cub named Eo (the size of which was too big for a cub, in my opinion), and I was the one who fed it. Its paws were heavy and resting on my arms, and I fell in love. Lookie, a picture!

I'm in love with the tiger, but I think the tiger's in love with my hand.

I’m in love with the tiger, but I think the tiger’s in love with my hand. On another note… well, this is embarrassing. (By “this,” I meant my face, haha!)

This book, however, is not just about tigers. Tigers are only part of the equation, and trust me, this book is beyond the sum of its parts. Pi, contrary to what I originally thought as the tiger’s name, was actually the interesting nickname of an Indian boy who happened to be shipwrecked with a tiger and some other animals to begin with. It was a ridiculous and at the same time incredible situation. The book is separated into three parts, and the tell-tale tiger on several book covers does not get much exposure (literally and figuratively) until the second part. You would have to endure Pi’s musings on his name, religion, and zookeeping, among others. Thankfully, they weren’t too dragging for me so it was okay, but then I was also reading Les Miserables alongside it, whose meanderings are even longer than those of this book (but that is for another entry). Try to bear with it if you aren’t fond of draggy bits, because after that, things get more interesting.

The whole reading experience could be likened to a sojourn into the ocean. A fun thing to do, theoretically, but no matter how much you prepare for it, you’re not really ready. You get used to it, and you calm down. Life goes on, but then you catch sight of land, and you try to go there, and you feel safe. A few feet from shore, however, a huge wave comes up from behind you and lashes down. Couple that with the vertigo of walking on a steady surface, and you get the unpredictable nature of this book. I mean, I was calmly reading it and feeling enlightened and pretty much basking in the glory of so much wisdom when suddenly, something happens and you see the book in a whole new light. Everything changes. Drastically. You are then left to choose what to believe. You can choose to read it like the atheists. Pi believed that “like [him], they go as far as the legs of reason will carry them – and then they leap.” Or you can read it like the agnostics, who will find the logical explanation and miss the better story. After all this, in the end, you will realize that Life of Pi’s not just about a journey with a tiger. It says as much about you as it does with Pi Patel, and possibly even more, if you think about it. It is a very unique experience, and more than you can possibly expect for less than 400 pages.

The thing is, better story or not, you cannot deny each version’s individual beauty and wisdom, parallels though they may be. That is what I love about this book. On the one hand, you have a story that is fantastical and memorable, heartwarming and brought on by faith. On the other, you have a story rife with symbolism and the brutal honesty of reality. You don’t lose anything whether you believe in one story or the other. It’s a win-win situation.

This is the first book I finished and my first 5-star rating for this year. I’m very excited to see the movie version. Before I do so, I have to say this: Read this book. Deciding whether to let go and believe, or listening to what makes actual sense, will probably prove to be a challenge (like it was for me), but it will be worth it. You will know how you see the world and you will understand why people need faith. And that, in itself, is a beautiful and rewarding experience.

In a nutshell…

Rating: 5/5

356 pages
Author: Yann Martel
Original Language: English
Published: 2001
Genre: Literary, Philosophy, Cultural

{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

{Book Review} The Last Unicorn by Peter Beagle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My favorite quotes: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PS

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

In a nutshell…

Rating: 5/5

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

{Book Review} 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} Trese #3: Mass Murders

Mass Murders (Trese, #3) 

“12 midnight at Metro Manila.

Try to remain calm if you suddenly spot a tikbalang speeding down EDSA or a manananggal swooping across the Makati skyline. While partying at the Fort, never ever let the enkanto at the bar buy you a drink.

Yet, there are deadlier things than walk the streets of this city.

One of them now demands blood and sacrifice.

When crime takes a turn for a weird, the police call Trese”*

This volume is not like the previous Trese graphic novels. While the foundation of the plots of Murder on Balete Drive and Unreported Murders were based on entirely different cases, the cases presented in Mass Murders were all connected to one another, revealing the intricate web of the Trese clan and Alexandra’s heritage. In my past reviews of Trese, I have been constantly looking for something to explain how Alexandra Trese became who she is in the present, along with the mystery of how the kambal are so devoted to her in the first place. After a year of waiting (for those who followed Trese since it first came out in 2008), or more appropriately, 3 days for me (since I bought the first two volumes first), those niggling questions finally got answered.

I am not going to spoil anything by typing in Alexandra Trese’s family history and everything, but I have to say that I really enjoyed this volume. This is my favorite yet from the series, and the difference in thickness between this book and its predecessor (Unreported Murders only had 88 pages which definitely left me hanging) was really good for me who wanted to read more of Alexandra and her adventures. For people who love learning about the history and background of the characters they are reading about, this book would prove to be an enjoyable one, though like most series books, answers only enough questions to leave you thirsting for more. I don’t mind this, since I very well intend to read all the Trese books in existence. Budjette Tan’s writing was splendid. The dialogue, the plot, the little twists and descriptions, everything, was perfect. Gah. I can’t spazz enough.

Another thing. If you enjoy reading superhero comic books and the like, I’m pretty sure you’ll like Mass Murders as well. It is exactly as its title suggests. There are a lot of action scenes that hardly require any speech bubbles because KaJo Baldisimo’s drawings make you understand what is going on at once. There’s a lot of fighting and gore, which I find really cool because, in my opinion, most of the paranormal stories I’ve read have helpless victims who never see the light of the next day. Having a strong heroine who the monsters are afraid of is an idea I really love.

Reading Mass Murders for me is like.. okay, I was about to say pizza, since after you’re done with the whole thing you still want more, but I think that only applies to me and other very hungry people, but you get the point. I really loved this, and I am more in love with the series than ever. 5 stars!!!

PS. Incidentally, this is my thirteenth post. Reveling the coincidence thus far ^__^

In a nutshell…

Rating: 5/5
140 pages
Writer: Budjette Tan
Illustrator: Kajo Baldisimo
Publisher: Visual Print Enterprises
Published: October 2009
Genre: Paranormal, Horror, Crime

Related Links:

Trese #1: Murder on Balete Drive

Trese #2: Unreported Murders

Trese #4: Last Seen After Midnight

{Book Review} The Night Circus

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

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

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

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

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

“The circus arrives without warning.”

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

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

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

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

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

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


In a nutshell…

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

{Book Review} Batman: Year One

“A young Bruce Wayne has spent his adolescence and early adulthood, traveling the world so he could hone his body and mind into the perfect fighting and investigative machine. But now as he returns to Gotham City, he must find a way to focus his passion and bring justice to his city. Retracing Batman’s first attempts to fight injustice as a costumed vigilante, we watch as he chooses a guise of a giant bat, creates an early bond with a young Lieutenant James Gordon, inadvertently plays a role in the birth of Catwoman, and helps to bring down a corrupt political system that infests Gotham.”*

I’m relatively new to comic book reading because of the scarcity of comic book stores here in the Philippines, but I got an opportunity to read this because I knew someone who had a copy and shared it with me. I really like this comic book because I always wondered how Batman started out. I mean, I knew how movie-wise, but really reading them on the actual comics they were based on is a whole other experience. There is also an animated movie of the same name released just this year. I haven’t watched it yet, but I heard it is faithful to the comic book.

You’ll find in Batman: Year One Batman at the infancy of his planning stage. Eighteen years after his parents’ death, the business empire heir thinks that he is now ready to “clean up a city that likes being dirty”, the infamous Gotham City. The city really needed a hero at this time since it was wrought with crime and danger everywhere. This book also chronicles the life of Lieutenant Gordon, a detective, after his arrival to Gotham City and his interactions with the Dark Knight.(view spoiler). I really liked the story since it provides a good, solid background for people who want to know more about Batman. This is the first comic book I’ve read that was written by Frank Miller, and I can’t wait to read more.

As I advanced through the pages, I couldn’t help but admire the graphics as well. I mean, it’s a comic book! I love the old-school feel of David Mazzucchelli’s illustrations, reminiscent of the superhero comic strips in the comic sections of newspapers that I religiously followed as a child.

Even if it’s more than two decades old, this book is a must-read for everyone, not just DC or Batman fans. It’s easy to follow for new comic book readers, and if I’m not mistaken, I think this comes first if the Batman comics were to be read chronologically. I’m seriously considering buying the physical version of this book, not the digital comics, and hopefully the 4 issues instead of the compilation. I don’t think it will come cheap though. Then again, for such a brilliant series, it deserves it. Let’s support the comics industry! Not much people buy anymore, and it would be a shame if the industry died out.

In a nutshell…
Rating: 5/5
Writer: Frank Miller
Illustrator: David Mazzucchelli
Colorist: Richmond Lewis
Letterer: Todd Klein
Publisher: DC Comics
Published: 1988, New York *originally published in single magazine form as Batman: Year One 1-4, (c) 1986-1987
Genre: Superhero