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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Whether it hurts is kind of irrelevant.”

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

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

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

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

Your now is not your forever.”

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

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

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

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

Life is a series of choices between wonders.”

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

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

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

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

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

In a nutshell…

Rating: 4.5/5

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

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{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

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:

GR-TFG F2F7: The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
(c) Tina Matanguihan

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. 🙂

Haruki Murakami Challenge 2012

This blog is still relatively young, and I’m still trying to understand how this really works – while running one – so I decided to join a challenge and spice things up a bit!

As you can see, my challenge is something related to that author whose books you always see propped up prominently in your local bookstore, and whose name you probably pronounced slowly the first time you read it. Yup. In this challenge, the rules are simple: read at least one Haruki Murakami book this year, and write a review about it. Okay, let me admit this: I have never read any of his books. I know, I am missing something major here. I actually just found out this year that Murakami is male. I always, always thought he was female. Now I can’t wait to read his books! Keep an eye peeled for a Murakami review sometime this year, guys!

The Haruki Murakami Reading Challenge 2012 is posted by tanabata. To read more about it, click here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

In a nutshell…

Rating: 4/5

Audiobook from Audible

Authors: Neil Gaiman and the Twitterverse

Original Language: English

Published: Feb. 8, 2010 by BBC Audiobooks America