Book Reviews

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

For the past weeks, life had become VERY busy and action-filled for me. I think I’m overdoing my “pro-activity” resolution but honestly, I’m enjoying every bit of my busy life. I realized though, that my plan to write a review about the book by Sophie Kinsella had been buried in the heap of my activities. Actually, my enthusiasm over the book had gradually receded because I have read two more books after that. Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech had been a delightful read and altogether drowned my fondness over Twenties Girl while Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George was somewhat just okay. But because I can no longer recover my initial excitement over Kinsella’s book, I decided to make reviews for all three of them instead.

Twenties Girl

At the beginning of the story, my interest was softened a little on the part where the ghost of Sadie appears before Lara. First off, I do not really believe in people’s soul coming back in the form of ghosts. Despite ignoring this fact because after all, the story was FICTION, why didn’t Sadie come back as a 100-year old woman? These questions had to be overcome though, and in the end the reader will realize why Sadie returned as 23 and not 100. Even though we get older, there is this undeniable truth that we retain the certain age wherein we are most happy and that the aging body is just casing. What's inside is still the Jenny I knew several years ago. Overall, I enjoyed the book up to the end.

It was really hilarious to start with. Although my personality is not similar with either Lara or Sadie, there were several times when I can almost associate myself with both girls. Maybe that’s what made the story so appealing especially to girls. Lara and Sadie somehow represent women of various characters. I ended up wishing I had my own Sadie, too. A ghost by your side is especially helpful in understanding people’s actions like the part where Lara was clueless why her ex left her. I believed Lara didn’t really want her ex back. It was just her pride of being left hanging and not knowing what’s going on, that kept her persistent to have her ex back. Although she was able to get her ex to love her again by force (through Sadie’s ghostly influence), in the end, she herself realized that the relationship was anything but real and let go.

And the introduction of a new love life for Lara was charming. It wasn’t anything cheesy (I hate cheesy parts) and the love triangle was as innocent as it can be. It was just so natural and realistic, well except for the ghost part (hehe).

The ending was quite sad. I almost wished that Sadie would refuse to receive the dragonfly necklace, which was the root cause of Sadie’s ghostly appearance, and give it to Lara instead. If she does that however, she will not be able to rest. But that would be okay, because it means having her around forever. Well, I was glad Ms. Kinsella ended the story on her own way. It was sad but definitely better. It made the story even more realistic with the idea that the inevitable, although unwanted, is sometimes better.

Walk Two Moons

This Newberry awarded book for young adults was written with so much simplicity that I underestimated its character and impact. The story was about Salamanca or Sal, and her quest to have her mother back. Her mother recently left her and her father, causing them to move to Ohio. There she met Phoebe Winterbottom who became her friend. On her road trip with her grandparents to see her mother, Sal tells of the story of Phoebe’s mother which was somehow similar with hers.

The theme was about suspense and prejudice. One was about Mrs. Cadaver, who wrote letters to Sal’s father and whom his father often visits for dinner. She hated Mrs. Cadaver for apparently replacing her mother. Then Phoebe’s mother gets an unexpected visit from a strange boy and soon afterwards disappeared. Phoebe suspects the strange boy to be a “potential lunatic” who kidnapped her mother and in the course of tracking him down, they discovered them sitting side by side holding each other’s hand. At the surface, one can see that Phoebe’s mother might have been cheating on her husband and that could have been the same case with Sal’s while Mrs. Cadaver was trying to replace her missing mother. But through the end, there was a beautiful twist in the story. Phoebe’s mother came back, totally different from her own “respectable” image. Short haired and dressed liberally, she confessed to her family that she had a secret son before her marriage. Here, the author offered that love is greater than reputation. Phoebe’s father immediately forgives and haves her mother back.

While the story of Phoebe was resolved, Sal’s story was gradually unfolding to its end. She reaches her mother’s grave in time for her mother’s birthday and discovers a touching truth. Her mother was among the victims of the bus accident and the sole survivor was Mrs. Cadaver. On their way, they became friends such that when Mrs. Cadaver awoke from the accident, she wrote to Sal’s father telling him how sorry she was for the loss of such a great person. Sal’s father, who seemed happy during the dinner with Mrs. Cadaver, was actually hankering for more stories about her mother. Phoebe wept upon this confession and her view of Mrs. Cadaver was changed forever.

It was a truly beautiful story for me where profound insights were laid before the readers so casually. I actually found this read better than Twenties Girl which is why the excitement in making a review died. I say, it was replaced (hehe).

Julie of the Wolves

This book had been a little difficult to finish. One factor could be the high expectation since this book was also Newberry awarded. Another could be the manner in which the book was written. Unlike Walk Two Moons with 44 chapters, this one has only 3 parts. The continuity was sometimes tiring I guess.

The first part was Julie’s dilemma. She ran away from home and got lost in the tundra. In order to survive, she learned the ways of a wolf pack and was soon adopted by the leader wolf. At this part, Julie became inclined to her Eskimo ways and her name Miyax. She realized the wisdom behind her culture’s practices and how it helped her to survive. Her admiration for her father, who taught her everything she used for survival, deepened as she remembers every useful advice.

The second part tells us of her past and how she had gotten lost in the wilderness. When her father, Kapugen, was forced to serve for war and never came back, Julie was also forced to lived with her strict aunt. In order to escape, she agrees to an arranged marriage with the son of her father’s friend. Things were fine at first and she discovered that Daniel, her husband, did not bother her or obliged her to be his wife. But people were teasing him “dumb” for having a wife he cannot mate. One day, he came home and forced Julie which was the reason for her running away. Julie had a pen pal in San Francisco. She decided to go there.

In the third part, the story tells of Julie’s confusion on whether to retain her Eskimo ways or live Americanized. In the course of her journey, she witnessed the cruel hunting games of humans from which her beloved wolf leader died. Appalled, she changed her mind about coming to San Francisco and decided to live alone as an Eskimo. By and by though, she learned that her father was still alive. Full of excitement at their first meeting, she was later disgusted to have learned that her father remarried a white woman and abandoned their Eskimo ways by owning a plane used for hunting games. She left and went back to her camp but in the end, decided that “the hour of the wolf and the Eskimo is over.” The writer ended the story with “Julie pointed her boots towards Kapugen.”

When she first decided to see her father again, George wrote “Miyax pointed her boots toward Kapugen” and Julie pretends she doesn’t understand English and speaks only her native tongue. With the ending words plus her singing in English, it can be deducted that Julie decided to abandon her Eskimo ways, although not whole heartedly. In fact, I’d say it was triggered by the death of her pet bird. She knew she could not live alone therefore she’d just go with the flow of life.

It was a good story all in all, but it didn’t strike me with a great impact. Not like Walk Two Moons. Still, it left me with the realization that our choices may not always be what we like. I believed Julie was prouder of her Eskimo way of life but in order to survive, she had to abandon these ways.
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10 Years of Conviction

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Today marks one of the most important dates in my life, my birthday in spirit. 10 years ago, I engaged myself in a life-long conviction, a truth I discovered and believed so profoundly. I can not say that my life had become easy after that, nevertheless, it was more understandable and bearable.

I can still remember that special turn-over in my life. It was a cold day in February. We were among the 2,000 people waiting to embrace this new faith. And what made it most special was that I was with my family. All 4 of us, my parents, my brother and I vowed to accept the truth we so fortunately received.

As I have stated previously, life did not really become easy after that. Moreover, I had to adjust myself to even the slightest things such as dress code and hair. It was worth it anyway. Everything's worth it when it's sacrificed for the sake of God, of course. It's actually so little compared to the things that we unconsciously receive. Troubles kept coming, if not of the same frequency, perhaps even more. But above all these things, I still believe, up to now, that life was brighter afterwards. Things just became clearer and I, personally, could say proudly that this aspect of my life is 100% fulfilled.

True, not everything that I longed for was granted. I had to brave the darkest parts in my life within that span of 10 years. Frustrating as this may have seemed, gradually, I began to accept that if what happened was not my will, then it must be somebody else's, God's. Moments that might have been depressingly hopeless always turned out alright in the end. These things made me realize the wonder of God's will. My conviction that everything works for those who love God is what keeps me hoping.

Yes, for the past 10 years, I may not have been the most fruitful and useful person, nor the most kind and generous of heart. I still struggle up to now. But one thing I can guarantee, the faith I so earnestly believed in, is still intact, very much alive and burning. 10 years is just a start. God willing, I can say these things again, in the next 10 years, and the years after that, for as long as I live.
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Moving House

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

It has been two nights since we have slept on our new rented apartment. There’s so much clutter at the moment and some stuff were still at the old house. One by one, the stuff that once filled the old apartment were being taken away and I can’t help but feel a little sad for leaving. Not that I do not like the new one, of course not. I just remember the time when we first saw the old house. It was small, just like a box. But it was clean and tidy and well-ventilated. What we liked best was the view from our window. Everything was green, plants, trees, it’s as if we were taken some place provincial. It was the perfect place to start living independently and our excited feelings told us so. We just cleaned a little and put puzzle-mats on the floor because back then, Daisy was just starting to walk. And when we finally took the kids to the house, they were so happy for it seemed like a little playroom house.

For more than a year, we built tender memories inside the little playroom house. The kids grew safe and secure. But afterwards, we realized that we needed more space. At this point, I’d like to share how we had lived in the little playroom house. At night during bed time, the whole house becomes a bedroom. We lay the bed mats by the window, and drape the curtain that serves as the divider to us and the house helper. In the morning, the house is transformed into a living and dining room. The beds become the couch and a wall covering (again for Daisy’s protection). And the square table is set right beside the sink and stove. Now the table takes much space in the room so when it’s not used, we set it up to the top of our dresser so the kids could have all the space where they could run about. Everything is moveable and transformed. The only fixtures were the dresser, study table at the same time TV shelf, and refrigerator. It was a modest kind of living, nevertheless, a comfortable one. That was until, we figured out that we needed more space. We all realized that we needed some stuff until the little playroom house became overcrowded.

Looking for the new house was quite a story too. We started scouting in December, when the 13th month pay was given. We did find one, it has 2 rooms and big living room and the rent was just higher by 1k, but the place was not well ventilated. Sacks of yarns and fibers were dumped around the house, which was bad for the kids when inhaled, pointed out by Mom. The next one, I found from the internet. It has the same rent fee, but it has no bedroom although the area was bigger than the little playroom house. It was a newly built apartment and the room we chose was situated on the second floor. The place was very cool, there won’t be any need for air-con, and the kids could play in the garage below. I can feel that Nilo loved the place but I could not share the same feeling with him. For one thing, when I started computing how much cost we’d be spending for the division, I figured out that the rent was not worth it. Moreover, it would add another 20 minutes to my travel time, and consequently, additional travel cost too. So we decided to scout some more. Later on, Nilo found another apartment, which was likewise new. The rent was much higher (plus 2.5k) but we viewed the only available room anyway. It has 2 bedrooms with ceiling high built-in cabinets (although we don’t see the need for these), and the bathroom was a bit more spacious. The kitchen was a little crowded though but we could take a few space from the living room. The community was great, with walking distance school, market, malls and park. Looking for a house was becoming tiresome so I started to convince Nilo that we take it. Nilo didn’t like it I could tell and he keeps pointing out the significant increase in rent which I oppose by saying that my travel cost is the same and we could save the fare going to school, market, malls and park by walking. I guess I was just desperate. But I have to admit, none of these houses gave us the same feeling of excitement like the little playroom house. But then I rationalized that perhaps we’d never get the same feeling again, after all, that was the first time, we were unaware about independent living, and we didn’t have much stuff. Finally, he convinced me by saying that our unknown neighbor, supposed to be Taiwanese who does not come home very often and keeps large boxes with unknown contents, could be a syndicate or something. We decided to think and wait again.

Just when we chose to wait some more and not rush things, out of the blue, my sister-in-law came with a news that an apartment had just been vacated. It wasn’t new though, and I could see that Nilo isn’t so interested but I pushed him to see the place anyway. Afterwards, he came back and asked me to come and see the place myself. And what do you know? We both felt the same excited feeling we did before. It was true after all. Deep inside, I told myself, thank God, the search is over. The house was spacious and the kitchen was somewhat detached which is a good thing. We made a barrier so the kids don’t have access to this part of the house. With a big help from tito Rene, we managed to improve the house by building pretty shelves in the bedroom and kitchen plus another barrier in the front door so the kids can’t get out. It costed us much but it was worth it! And the bathroom was really big! The first night we slept there, we bathe the kids together and they were so delighted to play in the shower. The bedroom was large enough to reserve space as their play area. Likewise, we placed puzzle mats on the floor as well as in the living room. This was our new playroom house. :)
[caption id="attachment_706" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="Bedroom"][/caption]
[caption id="attachment_707" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="Living Room"][/caption]
[caption id="attachment_708" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="Living Room"][/caption]
[caption id="attachment_709" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="Kitchen"][/caption]
[caption id="attachment_710" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="Kitchen (before cleaned up)"][/caption]

Finally, for another 1 and half to 2 years perhaps, we’d make special memories in our new playroom house. And then God willing, another part of the journey unfolds.
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