Showing posts with label book reviews. Show all posts
Showing posts with label book reviews. Show all posts

Behind Her Eyes Book VS Netflix Review

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Behind Her Eyes is a novel written by Sarah Pinborough. The book was published in 2017. It's one of those stories that make you spellbound for weeks. Too bad, I wish I had read it before seeing the Netflix version. The whole experience had been gravely watered down, the ending totally spoiled... 😂 But then again, I wouldn't have known about the novel if not for the series. 

In fairness, the TV version had closely represented what was in the book, but there are just elements in a novel that are impossible to portrait in a movie, such as a character's intentions behind her actions. Then there are also details that can't be given justice on screen.

I won't be reiterating the plot here. I have written about it on my previous post, "Behind Her Eyes Netflix: You'll Never Guess The Ending." If you have either watched the Netflix series or read the book (or both), it is my pleasure to compare notes with you. 😉

First of all, I like the book better but that's because I am just generally inclined to like the book versions. After all, I love reading but not very much watching. 

But I really love the casting of the Netflix series. The actors/actresses portrayed their characters very well that it was hard to imagine otherwise while reading the book. There were huge variances though, such as Louise who was described to be blonde instead of Jamaican like the actress, Simona Brown. Rob had long dark hair and was spotty and skinny in the book in contrast to Robert Aramayo's skin head and buff built. But for me, Eve Hewson was perfect for Adele and she was versatile enough to be the gentle and beautiful young Adele as well as the sinister but still beautiful older Adele.

One of the glaring differences I found was how the stories started. In the Netflix series, emphasis was given to the chance meeting between Louise and David, their first meeting. In the book, this scene was just a shadow in the form of conversation between Louise and her friend. The movie created a bigger impact to the audience and I think that this is important because it sets the foundation for us to understand Louise and David's characters.

Then there were scenes that made more sense to me after reading the book, the part where Adele got a black-eye in particular. Up to the end, I had to guess what really happened? Did Adele do that to create suspicions over David? What was she doing there anyway?

You wouldn't find out in the book too, but it was intentionally left that way until the last parts when the author slowly pieced together the clues. And I was like, "Ohhh so that's what happened," nodding my head while reading every word of the thrilling last chapters. Adele, or rather Rob, was buying heroin because she was already planning to steal Louise's body.

Chapter 27 - Louise was shocked to see the bruise on Adele's eye

One other part that was clearer in the book than the movie was the accidental meeting between Louise and Adele. It was easier to explain in the book that the meeting was actually staged by Adele whereas these details become unimportant in the movie.

In the book it had to be emphasized . At first, she was just planning to scare Louise, just like she did to Marianne, knowing about the attraction David had on her. But after she heard about Louise's night terrors, she changed her plans and decided that taking over Louise's body would be a better idea. That makes more sense why she "befriended" her husband's potential mistress.

I find this the creepiest scene in the entire series hahaha.

This scene was one of my faves in the series. I was waiting for a jump scare and it's really tense. Knowing that Adele's personality was so unpredictable, she could just jump anytime and plunge a knife on Louise's heart but none of that happened - she was actually just very weak from the heroin. As explained in the book, Adele was already "practicing" for the time when she will swap bodies again, this time with Louise.

After everything, I still give the book 5 stars - ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 

I gave 5 stars to the series as well, due to it's shocking double twisted ending. I was inclined to deduct 1 star though because Louise's character also took a double twist at the end from being the funny, bubbly and no-nonsense single mom to a foolish, stubborn, silly woman who plunged to her own demise.

However, I never felt any of those in the book. Again, as I have mentioned above, there are intentions that are impossible to portray on screen. Then time constraints - whereas you can lay down as much incidents in a book leading to the end, you don't have that liberty on screen.

So the folly of Louise's actions that caused her death in the end (and the consummation of Rob's plans) became a bit more realistic to me after reading the book. And poor Adam, he can tell something was off about her mom. Finally, at the last pages of the book, Rob, now in Louise's body, was actually planning to kill Adam soon. 

That made me hate Rob a little bit more in the book than in the show.

Still, who's gonna tell David? 

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Practical Money Management for Everyone

Monday, February 22, 2021

First of all, if you are the finance savvy one in the family, then brace yourself. I'm sure you've had your share of being labelled as "kuripot," "stingy," or in some extreme cases, "mukhang pera." 😂 

Don't be disheartened.Trying to be wise about money, you're actually doing your family a service, whether you're doing this as a partner, as a daughter or whatever your role is.

Second, I'm not a finance management expert. I am just sharing what I learned from Scott Pape's "The Barefoot Investor," and the actual worksheets and bank accounts I use in order to manage our family's finances. 

This book has practical and specific tips that are helpful in managing your personal finances

So far, it's working but there are still struggles along the way. It will be particularly challenging if you have outstanding credit card balances as this will eat up a portion of your budgeting (plus the interests) but it will be worth getting rid of them.

Without further ado, let's start.

How much income can you allocate?

List down your periodic income and expenses. It might be a good idea to breakdown your budgeting to weekly because it's easier to estimate your spendings over a shorter period of time. If you're income is monthly, then you just need to break this down into 4 weeks. But if you're more comfortable with monthly or quarterly, then you can do so whatever floats your boat.

Just write down the amounts first to get a clear cut view of how much there is to allocate. It's ideal to combine the family income so you will need the details for your partner too. If you have a business and your income is not fixed, just write down the minimum income your business produces periodically, or your minimum target income that you think will allow you to live comfortably.

    This is an example of how you can list down your income - list down ALL your sources of income

List down your necessary expenses

Start with the expenses that are fixed and recurring in nature, like rent, car loan, personal loan etc. Then estimate the ones that vary in amounts but are necessary expenses you can't do without such as electricity, internet, water and phone bills. Once you have the total amount of your necessary expenses, calculate the rate against the income you receive. 

If you end up with expenses greater than your income, that's serious trouble! You have to adjust either your expenses or look for additional means to earn money. Otherwise, you will end up in financial quicksand.

This exercise will give you an idea if your income is more than enough to satisfy all your necessary expenses. It will let you know if you are living within your means or not.

Allocate the rest of your income

Depending on how much is taken up by the inevitable expenses, you will divide the rest of your money for other variable expenses. The reason I didn't include groceries above (even though food, toiletries and other household items are also inevitable) is because this is where we can be more flexible in our spendings.

In the book that Scott Pape wrote, he discussed about marketing as manipulation. One of the reasons why we sometimes find ourselves out of budget is because we buy things we "think" are necessary. 

A concrete example is a conversation from a couple below, regarding a set of pyrex containers that were on sale in Woolies (note the use of spouse 1 & 2 because it's not always the wife that's got the impulsive buyer behaviour hehehe):

  • Spouse 1: Oh look, these pyrex set is now just $9! It's better than 50% off.
  • Spouse 2: But what are you gonna use those for?
  • S1: We can use them to heat up food in the microwave.
  • S2: We don't have a microwave and we never use one. We hardly have any leftover food to begin with.
  • S1: Oh come on, it's a huge savings! What if we need them next week and they're no longer on sale!? You'd pay extra $11 then. 
  • S2: But...
  • S1: Trust me... I'm the one cooking most of the time so... (puts the dish set in the trolley).
Guess what? The dish set gets stored on the top shelf because as the other spouse pointed out, they don't use them. They eventually end up in the bin when the clutter builds up in the house. 

Imagine how often this happens in your house. If you look at your closet now, how many pieces of clothing are in there that's not been worn for ages vs the ones you regularly wear? Or shoes that get dusty in the storage? What about bags? In short, a lot of our spendings end up in the garbage because we bought them for the wrong reasons.

One of the lessons I have learned and am teaching to my husband and kids now is that we only buy something when we need it or really really want it and will use on a regular basis. If you pick something up and think, "I might need this someday," chances are, you're not going to need it. The best way to avoid buying on impulse is to plan ahead the things that you need and want to buy.

Anyway, going back, now we are going to allocate the rest of our income. This is the part where you should also allocate for things like splurge (we need to spend on some small things that make us happy every once in a while, such as bubble milk tea or books hehehe), savings (for short-term plans like celebrations, holidays), emergency, etc. 

I will show you an example of how the rest of the 45.40% of income was allocated but of course, feel free to play around the rates. In this example, I just used a fixed rate of 5% for each item and then the rest was allocated to groceries. But it's really up to your circumstances.

How you can allocate your income down to the last zero - without being too stingy to yourself and others

When allocating your income down to the last zero, make sure that you're giving an allowance for things like splurge, which is your budget for things like eating out with the family or for buying petite things that bring joy to you. 

You should also allocate some money for bigger wants that take longer to save up, like a nice watch, branded shoes, family holidays, celebrations... you know the deal. 

Savings and investments are important too because it provides you with passive income in the long run. I'm not knowledgeable yet in this area but I try to learn from reading and experiences of my more finance-savvy friends. As soon as I have seen some developments in my own journey, I will share some helpful information too.

Long term would be for your bigger plans like purchasing a home if you haven't yet (so you may also set a higher rate for this), while emergency, as the name suggests, for unexpected expenses such as your car breakdown. It's ideal to keep at least $2000 in emergency fund.

In the book, Scott Pape calls this emergency fund as MOJO. With a maintained balance of $2000, that means you can pay for smaller insurance premiums because you have spare for excess payments in case something happens. 

I didn't include insurance expense in my example but this expense is actually a necessity. Again feel free to add it to your worksheet once you start filling it out. 

Finally, try to allocate some for "giving" too. This will give you a feeling of contentment and gratitude that you have enough means to share to others who are in need. 

Now that you have every cent of your money laid out for its purpose, the next step is: How do you manage the budgeting to make sure that what you have planned would actually be implemented? 😉 

On my next post, I will share how I set up our bank accounts to automate my deposits and payments. It only takes a few minutes each week to check whether the money is on track - no missed payments, no amounts improperly allocated and learning what your limits are in terms of splurging.

For now, you can download the template spreadsheet here to help you start your money management now. 💗

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My Rekindled Love for Max Webber

Friday, February 5, 2021

Photo credits

Have you ever felt an urge so strong that you have to appease it right there and then? That was the kind of urge I felt on the morning of Thursday, 4th of February. A love was rekindled that day and I felt so relieved, like a homecoming.

It started last week, when my friend shared a project she made with her little boys about mindfulness. On one of her Facebook posts was Susan Verde's book by the title, "I Am Peace, A Book of Mindfulness." It caught my eye. 

My friend said the book makes the idea of mindfulness tangible and understandable so I was all for it. For days, I was browsing online shops looking for the book. It wasn't a difficult find. Target has it for $10 but lately, I had been splurging too much on books. I was guilty of eating up the family splurge budget. 

That's when it hit me, in the past, when I was hungry for reading, I would go for a quick trip at the library. If I were lucky, there would be withdrawn books by the entrance, $1 for non-fiction and $0.20 for fiction books. I never left empty-handed when that's the case. The walk home was always light, despite the heavy stack of books I was carrying, my face beaming with joy.

It's been a while since I last went to the library. They have closed all branches since COVID hit in March last year so I kind of forgot about them.

A quick search online revealed they were back in operations - I was elated! However, when I checked my local branch, they didn't have a copy of "I Am Peace."

Max Webber library has it, so I begged my husband to take me there after work. I didn't really need to beg hehehe. He supports all of my reasonable whims. But if I haven't been to my local library for almost a year, I haven't been to Max Webber branch for ages.

I was worried that if we go in the afternoon, they won't let me borrow anyway. I used to own a library card with them when we first came in Australia back in 2012. They issued me one because I lived within the Blacktown council area. However, we have been living in Penrith council since then.

Hubby dismissed my worries and took me and Darla in the afternoon anyway. As soon as I got inside, my anxious feelings disappeared. It was haven! If the library could fit inside my arms, I would have hugged it close to my heart hehehe.

I approached the librarian and explained that there's a book I wanted to borrow however, I didn't have a library card. She was a very lovely lady who helped me get one quickly and without hassles. 

But I have to admit that while she was processing on the computer, my heart was racing fast and my brain was playing out all sorts of issues that could stop me from obtaining that library card. That would be so much heartache!

Fortunately, it only took a few minutes and a couple of questions before she handed me my card. It felt wonderful to see it in my hands, so shiny and new! I thanked her and rushed off to get the book, "I Am Peace." I realised that even after years, I still know my way around as if it was the home I grew up in.

The card was a symbol of my love for the library rekindled

Max Webber Library Non-Fiction Section

I found the book right away for I had the reference number in my head hehehe. That's how obsessed I was. To make the most of the trip, I searched for more books to borrow while Darla explored the children's area with her Dad. It was a wonderful afternoon and her delighted face as she browsed the children's book was cherry on top.

Darla beaming with joy at the library

We left the place with a silent promise in my heart that I will visit more frequently again. Libraries often hold a playgroup for children under school-age although I am not sure if they started doing this again after COVID. Still, short visits to return and choose new books are more than enough to excite me. Until our next return God willing.

Though I haven't opened the book that started all this adventure, I sure already have found peace... hehehe.

PS: Special thanks to my friend, Michelle, for being an instrument in the occurrence of this story.

PPS: The books I chose: 

I Am Peace is a short read with practical guide to mindfulness at the back. I am only a few pages into The Self-Esteem Trap and I can tell I will love this non-fiction book already.

A graphic novel for my young ladies. I'm not familiar with the popular titles anymore so the girls can choose next time we take them with us.

I didn't want to go overboard so I only chose 3. After all, I still need to re-read the book I have bought for myself last December. But I'm really very excited, I can't help sneaking into the other book. I'm so glad I have come back to Max Webber Library. Although I love St Marys Public Library too, Max Webber was a "first-love" kind of love. 😍😆 In my future posts, I will explain why hehehe.

Until then! Thank you for reading. 💗

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Book Review: Bridge to Terabithia

Wednesday, May 9, 2018


Synopsis:

'We need a place,' Leslie called to him, '...just for us.'



It was Leslie who invented Terabithia, a secret kingdom on an island across the creek. Here Jess is strong and unafraid. So when something terrible happens, Jess finds he is able to cope better than he could ever have imagined.

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Book Review: My Sister’s Keeper

Monday, March 19, 2018

I chanced upon this book in August 2017. While I and some colleagues were waiting for our turns to donate blood, I found this book on the shelves and gave it a try. Naturally, I didn’t get to finish the book, let alone read through chapter 1, although I didn’t get to donate blood either because I left all my IDs in the office. But I couldn’t forget about the book and here praises go to Jodi Picoult for starting the book with some really thought provoking ideas.

Fast forward to 6 months after, I finally secured myself a copy of the book. For the past few years in my life since I started my CPA, I have lost my passion for reading books. Even after I took a break from studying, I found myself struggling to get back into the passion. In fact, before My Sister’s Keeper, I have attempted reading a number of books but haven’t got close to finishing a chapter before I give up altogether. My Sister’s Keeper kind of triggered the passion. In less than 2 weeks I was able to finish the book. Actually, correct that. It was technically 4 days (2 weekends), because I couldn’t really touch it on weekdays due to a busy schedule. Mind you, I was dying to read it though. It is one of those books that are very hard to put down.

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Camilla by Madeleine L’Engle

Friday, July 14, 2017


Synopsis:

Fifteen-year-old Camilla Dickinson has led a sheltered life with her architect father and stunningly beautiful mother. But suddenly, the security she's always known vanishes as her parents' marriage begins to crumble-and Camilla is caught in the middle. Then she meets Frank, her best friend's brother, and he's someone she can really talk to about life, death, God, and her dream of becoming an astronomer. As Camilla and Frank roam the streets of New York City together, lost in conversation, and he introduces her to people who are so different from anyone she has met before, he opens her eyes to worlds beyond her own, almost as if he were a telescope helping her to see the stars. But sill Camilla's first love be all she hopes, or will Frank just add more heartbreak to her life?

  ***
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The Secret House by Carol Beach York

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Almost a score ago when I have first encountered this book and yet its story still holds a special part inside me, prompting a certain crave now to read the book again, even though at my present age, the delight in this experience had probably faded to a great extent. This book is special in a class of its own in that it marks the shift in my reading trek from the cozy picture books to a more complex and wordy short novel (it has chapters). Thanks to The Secret House by Carol Beach York for making the shift experience a gratifying one.

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The Shack: A Reflection

Monday, February 11, 2013

Several years ago, I encountered this book entitled “The Shack” by William P. Young. I heard it was bestseller and inspirational, an excellent read. It was an expensive book even 5 years afterwards, and you would hardly find copies of it from bookmooch.com. So when I chanced upon it at Blacktown Library, I figured it was the best time to give it a try.

Up to the first 4 chapters, I regard the story with great interest. It was about Mack, a man who might have been perfectly normal as a husband and father of 5 kids except that as the story unfolds, you would discover that he was undergoing internal turmoil since the murder of his youngest child. In addition to this, he also had to deal with how one of his children was slowly crumbling inside. His wife kept a constant faith to God, an attitude he totally respected and even admired to an extent. He however was battling with his faith which had never been really strong from the start as he grew up with a vicious alcoholic father.

When he took his kids to a camping trip, Missy, his youngest daughter was abducted and was never seen again. All evidences suggest that she had been brutally murdered. It was in the shack where the authorities saw the blood stained red dress which Mack undeniably identified as Missy’s.

It was interesting… until the 5th chapter, when Mack met Young’s concept of “God.” And from there on, I ceased believing that the book was based on a true story as the author claims in the Foreword. I did not want to continue, but I felt the need to list down the things that I found as “glaringly” and totally against the Bible. I was furious actually that I finished the book in great speed with a handful of claims from the author which is factually against the Bible as follows:

1. Firstly, I believe that this book may actually be a disguised propaganda of the writer to spread out his personal views of religion.

The main story is just about 7 chapters. The rest of the chapters were mostly conversations of Mack and the “trinity” explaining the author’s concept of religion. There’s actually too much inconsistency with the Bible.

2. Young represented God as a big black woman with a questionable sense of humour.

Biblically, God never did take the form of a human being, much less, a giggly domesticated woman, and He would certainly not do it just to make ONE stubborn person see His light. While it is true that the heaven rejoices when a soul finds his way back into God’s care, Young’s concept seems just plain disrespectful. It gives the impression that God would go to the most extreme extent of downgrading Himself for human’s sake. God is merciful and patient enough. But if people refuse to believe Him, God does not need to beg them to change. This idea makes people nowadays to act like spoiled brats doing selfish things and still have that confidence that they will be saved. The truth is salvation entails great responsibility. After all, people NEED God, not the other way around.

3. The author said that Jesus was “stepbrother of that great family.”

Stepbrother? What’s that supposed to mean anyway? It gives the sense that Jesus was not rightfully part of the family tree, like He just accidentally belonged to it.

4. God the Father, was crucified too? How can that be?

There was a part in the book when Young tried to implicate that God was crucified along with Jesus. I think the author just wants to imply his belief on the Trinitarian principle but this is not really Biblical and it’s about time that we actually leave behind this obscure belief. Guess what: God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit (which the author ridiculously named as Sarayu) are actually 3 different beings.

5. God was having devotions?

Devotion means: fidelity, dedication. The author wanted us to believe that God acts like human and it’s not even clear whether because he wanted to us to have devotions as well. Personally, I do not really understand the concept of people when they say “devotions” but in its religious sense, if God was God, to whom was He having devotions??? It is a crazy act and I wonder why the author even thinks this is possible.

6. Jesus looking up at the stars saying, “I created it as the Word, before the Word became flesh. So even though I created this, I see it now as a human. And I must say, it is impressive!”

In the Bible, the Word was not even created. It was in the beginning, with God, and was God. Flesh in fact means when Jesus took the form of human and lived among humans. Not the stars! That’s just so… darn.

7. Young says that God has no concept of authority.

That is the author’s opinion and fearless claim. This idea is not Biblical though, and Jesus does recognize that His Father is above Him. As a matter of Biblical fact, Jesus recognizes His Father’s authority and He will subject all the glory to God in the end when He wins over evil.

8. Why would Young even suggest that Jesus, who is male, would say that “the world, in many ways, would be a much calmer and gentler place if women ruled?”

Biblically speaking, women were not even allowed to become leaders of the church. Women were taught to submit themselves to the man under Christ’s leadership and the men in return are to treat women with great care.

9. And why would Jesus say, “Seriously, my life was not meant to be an example to copy. Being my follower is not trying to ‘be like Jesus,’ it means for your independence to be killed.”

Following Jesus is not killing independence. Anything we do out of our own free will is independence. The author has to know that people follow Christ’s example not by force but by faith and that is what Jesus and God wanted from the beginning. People were given choice between life and death with the recommendation to choose the former. And what are Jesus’ teachings for if we are not follow them anyway? The author might as well have said to ignore the Bible and that is utterly ignorant.

10. What’s next, judging God, and the entire human race?

Seriously, does a man even have the right to think about that? This was the part where the author implied that we are God’s children no matter how horribly we spend our lives. God’s only begotten son is Jesus. We were made to make His son happy. We become His children only if we follow Him. Sad to say, there are people who follow another path.

If we could not endure the laws of Christ, then we cannot become God’s children. We must not abuse the thought that we are His children no matter how evil we lived our lives, in the end, His compassion will save us. Come on, it encourages irresponsible existence!

11. God’s wisdom is Sophia?

Where the heck did that name come from anyway? The wisdom of God is Christ. Period.

12. Heaven is a recycle of this earth and universe we’re living in presently?

No way! God the Almighty, who owns everything, would settle to give us something tawdry and second-hand? That’s ridiculous. It’s about time that the author knows that this earth shall be removed. There is a kingdom which the faithful servants will receive. The beauty of this place cannot even be perceived by the limited senses of mankind. God is not cheap to reward us with recycled earth!

13. Joining the church is being open and available to others?

How’s that supposed to be done anyway? Nowadays, if you become open and available to others just like that, you’d probably end up robbed, used, wasted. It’s just so vague it won’t do for me sorry. First of all, what is the true church which we must join? In the Bible, to become part of the church, one must undergo a series of life changing events, dying in sin and being cleansed in Baptism.

14. “Who said anything about being a Christian? I’m not a Christian… I have no desire to make [people] Christian.”

And this was supposed to be said by Jesus… terribly sad isn’t it? But what is Christian anyway? It seems the writer must be educated. Being Christian means to follow the ways of Jesus Christ, thus the term Christian. So now he’s trying to defy all the efforts of the apostles to make people Christian? If he doesn’t want to become Christian, I think he should just keep that preference to himself.

15. The Bible doesn’t teach you to follow rules.

No no no… This is such a big lie. Didn’t he know that the complete duty of man is to follow God’s rules? This irresponsible claim of the author discourages people to read the Bible. So darn infuriating!

16. In Jesus, you are not under any law.

So he goes and says that people who follow Christ are free. But not in the sense that he’s trying to implicate! People who decided to follow Christ had been FREED FROM SINS in baptism. But they are bounded by laws. He even wants us to respect the laws of man. Logically, the more that He’d want us to obey His laws. It seems the author is afraid of responsibility here, because rules entail responsibilities of course.

17. God forgets nothing.

Not really. If God forgets nothing, then nobody will be saved. God forgets the sins of people who struggle to follow his will. In like manner, He wants us to do the same when we forgive our brothers in faith. Because prolonged anger could result to grudge and when we hold grudges, we are likened to criminals.

18. God redeems a killer? Err a serial killer who killed innocent children?

I cannot stomach this really. The author said that God will redeem Missy’s murderer. Well, it can be possible, if the murderer has changed his evil ways and regretted in baptism. But it didn’t say so in the story so it appears like he’s getting off the hook just like that. God is a God of justice. He hates criminals because clearly these murderers were people who went after satan who is the father of liars and murderers. In the Bible, taking an innocent life is very grave. So no, murderers will not be redeemed.

19. God is everywhere.

At the end of the story, this information was regarded like it was a general fact. But believe it or not, God is not everywhere. There are certain places where we cannot find Him. There are many but the clue is, where there is great evil, God’s presence is not there.

20. Finally, if this really did happen to Mack as the author claims it, then I’m freaking out. Certainly, these revelations could not have come from God because they’re so totally against the Bible. If it did not come from God, then whom? Creepy… I’d just rather think that this was the author’s strategy to spread out his religious personal beliefs that are outside the Bible. After all, he’s not living a Christian life, didn’t he claim so?
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Reading Adventures for 2013

Monday, January 21, 2013

I was overwhelmed by the sudden access to the most popular books which I didn’t have the liberty a few months ago. As a result, I start to regard reading books with less fervor, I think. Or maybe some books were just promoted to an exaggerated extent. I don’t know. But I do hope it’s the second reason.

So why am I telling this? Last year, I was able to read 19 books. So that’s 1.6 books in a month which is more than okay considering that year 2012 had been a busy one for me. That was the year we moved house (in February), the year I ventured with beaded watch crafts (from March to July, maybe), the year we got our visa granted (in July) so we had lots to prepare for, the year I took driving lessons (September). There’s a lot of changes if you get the point. So I managed to squeeze reading these books and that would have to be the travel time it took to go to the office and back to the house. Plus, when I arrived in Australia by myself, without the kids, I had plenty of time for leisure. And luckily, that was the time I found this liberty of access to the books I’ve always wanted to read.

As 2013 started, I had 3 books waiting to be read. Coraline and The Graveyard Book both by the author Neil Gaiman and Fifty Shades of Grey by EL James. The first one was a fast read and I would like to make a separate post for its review. The story was good although I’d say now and probably reiterate in my review, that the movie was a better version.

The Graveyard Book was a little more difficult to read and it was disappointing because I have high regard of it. Maybe because the theme was a little unacceptable to me, which was ghost fantasies and adventures. I do like fantasies but only those that are science related like Madeleine L’Engle’s time quintet. The Graveyard Book is different though so I decided to move on to Fifty Shades.

Now this last book is 50-50. I have read several reviews from bloggers alike about how much they hated the novel so I didn’t bother reading it. Still, I was curious because most of my friends, and friends whom I respected too, were thrilled about it. So when I chanced upon a copy in the library, it couldn’t hurt to try.


So here goes my opinion. Sorry fans but first off, I’m really not inclined to love stories so that’s probably why I wasn’t so thrilled although the fashion in which the novel was written was not totally difficult to endure. But personally, I did not develop a liking to the heroine who was Anastasia Steele. Although she was supposed to be “beautiful” and naïve about it, she didn’t strike me as such especially on her first meeting with her dream guy. Falling flat on your hands and knees isn’t exactly attractive. Plus, she always flush in different shades of crimson, red, scarlet, name it. I thought the book may also be fittingly entitled “Fifty Shades of Ana’s Face”. And then she has this vice of looking at her hands and biting her lip, the latter an act which Grey (Ana’s love interest) finds very seductive. Personally, I don’t understand how.

Other things I did not like about her was her frequent reference to her inner goddess who dances the meringue, salsa, samba etc. and her subconscious who seems to hate her and always smirks or shouts at her. Both of them recurrently taps their foot on her impatiently or whatsoever. Oh, and I almost forgot. Ana’s favorite expressions were “oh my,” “crap,” “holy cow,” and “holy shit.” So brace yourself for these words and you might as well keep a paper and pen for tallying just for the fun of it and see which of these were the most used throughout the book.

I could look beyond these annoying repetitive matters but some of the things about Grey made me really feel uncomfortable. Mostly these were his reactions such as his frequent gasps on such little things. It just doesn’t match with his purportedly hard core image. Or the way his mouth hangs open a lot. It made me think he’s stupid-looking. But the most annoying of all is his cocking of head to one side. I’m not sure if the problem is with me but I just don’t feel that this act is so masculine. Reading takes one to imagine, and every time I see him cock his head to one side, I wince. I try to imagine the husband doing the same and I cringe even more at the thought, I think I might divorce him when I see him do that (hehe just kidding, but the cringe was real). This made me really restless so I asked the husband outright what he thinks about a guy who cocks his head to one side and he says that’s not straight…
"But the most annoying of all is his cocking of head to one side"

When a person’s head tilt to one side, it means that an interest has been developed. Remember how a dog tilt his head when curious? It’s the same with humans too:)
This is a common gesture for women when they are interested in an attractive male.
(Source here)

"Don't I look better than Christian Grey?" Photo Source
Well anyway, this habit of Christian Grey annoyed me ultimately that I lost appetite to finishing the book. Plus, it appears as if half of the story was a description of their love making adventures but I was thinking I could skip those and just get to the point what’s so mysterious about Grey. But the cocking of head to one side got a bit irritating so I made a pact that if he had to do it again, I’d stop reading the book. Alas! Before chapter 10 ended, he cocked his head to one side again (the part where he was having lunch with Ana in a nice restaurant) and I got so pissed I closed the book altogether.

Okay, I admit it. I’m not really harsh. I still plan to finish both books, perhaps go back to Graveyard first before Grey. But one other reason why I wasn’t so patient with Grey was because I found another book called Clockwork by Philip Pullman and guess what? It was like I’ve found oasis after walking miles in the desert! The book was a lot more interesting but it was very short so I finished it in one day and it left me feeling a little regretful because such a great read came to an end so fast. I’ll definitely write a review about it perhaps after reading it a second time.

Anyway, I’ll try to refrain from borrowing books until I’ve finished the Graveyard and Grey first, the latter with a condition that I’ll give a limit of 10 more times for the cocking of the head, 15 for saying “oh my” and 20 for the dancing inner goddess. If anything exceeded the limits, whichever comes first, then ultimately, I’d put down the book and return the same unfinished.
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The Phantom of the Opera: A Review

Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Phantom of the Opera is a famous story documented by the French author, Gaston Leroux. Since it's original publication in 1911, his work has been adapted in various theatrical and film versions. As well known as it is for ages, this was the first time I took interest to grab a copy and read what's all the fuss about. As for the motion picture, I have yet to check it out.

At first, reading the prologue sent me into a wild confusion. Here, Leroux explained how he did his research over the "Opera Ghost" mentioning a number of uncommon names which are difficult to pronounce. Before he wrote the book, he was convinced that the OG existed in flesh and blood but his initial interviews prove otherwise. The major confusion was caused by the disappearance of the actress Christine Daaé in the middle of her performance followed by the loss of the Viscount of Chagny, Raoul, and the discovery of the lifeless body of his brother, Philippe, by the banks of a lake. Without the phantom's participation which was the missing link, people speculated that the brothers fought because of the older one's disapproval of the love affair between Raoul and Christine, irregardless of the fact that both brothers "worshipped each other all their lives". Anyway, the prologue is better at second reading, after the book has been finished.

Honestly, I was a little bored while reading the book. For one thing, it was difficult to assimilate the foreign names. Then, although Leroux had ascertained that the OG was real, the circumstances made it not easy to believe so. For instance, how could the Managers of the Opera House hear something in their ears and see no one? And what human can cause Christine Daaé a majestic performance when the girl was an ordinary singer as can be? And what with the death head and yellow eyes that glow in the dark?

One other thing that was quite perplexing was that despite Christine's realization that the OG was tricking her, she decided to play by his rules. A lot of times, she denied her love for Raoul and made him miserable with jealousy. But instead of taking pity over him, she thought otherwise and said "poor Erik!" (which was the OG's name btw). I couldn't understand why she took pity on the OG who apparently caused nothing but trouble, or evil, to those around him. I was thinking, why didn't she just went away from the Opera when Raoul was so willing to make her his bride.

Almost through, I dragged myself to reading the rest of the story for I do not want to leave it unfinished. Besides the first impression of incredibility over the book, there was one other reason for the total loss of interest. Last Monday, holiday, I took my little siblings out and found a treasure!
Yes, I found this treasure at Booksale for only Php35! Imagine my joy!
This book was part of my childhood days and after perhaps, 15 years, I'll be able to read it again. But that shall be another story.

Going back, I almost had the urge to set aside the Opera Ghost and start with this treasure yet I felt bad at having to start something and not ending it. So I read on. Fortunately for me, I had enough discipline at the time. The story turned out impressive towards the end! All the skepticisms I've had with the reality of the OG was answered as Leroux shared the journals of the "Persian" who knew about Erik too well. Every one of my confusions had been cleared. I began to understand the ironic feelings that Christine had for the OG for I, myself, felt the association with these feelings. Erik's genius and obsession with Christine was frightening. He did things that were horryfyingly evil. But the Persian said, Erik, who had not been loved even by his own family, might not even know the difference between good and evil. Everything that he did was out of necessity. He only wanted simple things, to live like a normal person, with a wife he can take out on Sundays. But the norms of the humankind did not allow this possible to him. Thus, it is quite natural, that one feels pity over him.

In the end, one thing I realized was that OG was capable of loving. He was as human as all of us can be but his ugliness did not let him live a normal life. And I can't agree with Leroux more when he said:

"...he had to hide his genius or use it to play tricks with, when, with an ordinary face, he would have been one of the most distinguished of mankind! He had a heart that could have held the empire of the world; and, in the end, he had to content himself with a cellar."

It was the exact same thing I was thinking about Erik. If I had met him, I might have cried and held his hand too, saying "poor, unhappy Erik!"

The book's ending gloriously redeemed the pessimistic notions I had at the beginning. My only goal was to finish the book and move on to the next. After reading though, I found myself staring into space... imagining, contemplating. Erik was such an extraordinary person. He should have been a loveable person, if one was only willing to see past through the facade. Such strong feelings I had for the OG, mostly pity and I can't help but wish that somehow, he get his second chance at life to be happy and normal and free. But it's useless. He's long dead. It's just a shame how the norms of mankind can sometimes make life miserable...
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The Late Bloomer Harry Potter Fan

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

After the addiction with the Hunger Games trilogy, I was shaking uncontrollably and there were inevitable moments of hallucination. I guess that’s the withdrawal syndrome. My best friend was at my aid, so she sent me more addictive stuff. Just kidding, hehe. Bes gave me more e-books to read which include the complete Harry Potter series, works of Nicholas Sparks, Paolo Coelho, and the famous 7 Habits of Highly Effective People among others. With all these wonderful writings, choosing was a bit difficult but I thought I’ll save the romance for later, the human understanding next, and being highly effective last (haha).
Reading the HP series was actually a long overdue goal. Just like with THG, I was the listener while the rest of the world conversed about this new book. At first, I even regarded the book as atrocious because people kept commenting about the bad influence it impressed over the young ones. Then I guessed the book must be really good to attract this much criticism. When the first movie was released, I almost laughed at my expectations. It’s a fantasy alright, and not at all wicked. Kids would tend to imagine things like this anyway, HP or no HP, so it didn’t deserve this grave criticism at all.
Well, onto my experience with reading the book. First, I’ve watched several HP movies but never got straight which is which from the sequence. I don’t enjoy watching as much as reading so the only occasions I viewed HP was when my brothers would watch them too. Sometimes I’d watch the latter part, other times the first. Either way, it’s usually just midway so you’d probably understand my confusion. I recognized scenes from the movie though, while reading, and it was like fitting pieces of a puzzle while the story unfolds. It’s not a very thrilling experience because I’ve been spared of the imagination factor. Everything, from characters to setting to plot, had been provided already. Nevertheless, HP movies deserve praise based from these aspects because they depicted the books very well.
Now that I’ve finished reading the 1st book, I realized I’ve become a HP fan myself. JK Rowling is a tremendously great story – teller. I secretly envy her for inventing Bettie Bott’s Every Flavoured Bean. It’s such an innocent creation with just a hint of naughtiness in it, the kind I trusted my mind to come up with. And I really find Dumbledore’s vomit-and-earwax-flavoured-bean-experience the best, haha! She’s such a natural humorist, throwing witty and sarcastic dialogues all throughout the pages. And without question, she has a very imaginative mind, down from the wizard terms, the train station, disappearing stores, moving stairs and photos, the sorting cap, every foreign thing seemed real and it’s no wonder kids probably hoped to receive a letter from Hogwarts right after reading the book. Even the broomstick, which isn’t a new thing with witches and wizards, was given a different light that made the idea interesting rather than creepy.
My favourite part was Harry’s conversation with Dumbledore, after he had defeated Quirell and Voldemort. I was particularly impressed with how Harry found the Sorcerer’s Stone: only one who wanted to find the Stone – find it, but not use it – would be able to get it. Brilliant, isn’t it? And she did have several perceptive ideas expressed through Dumbledore in the last parts and let me quote:
“…humans do have a knack of choosing precisely those things that are worst for them.”
“Fear of a name increases fear of the thing itself.”
“The truth… It is a beautiful and terrible thing, and should therefore be treated with great caution.”
And just like any other fairy tale, the HP book 1 had a happy ending with Gryffindors beating the nasty Slytherins for the first time after 6 years. Meanwhile, while the rest of the HP fans are silently mournful for HP’s coming to an end, I think I’ll savor the other 6 remaining books. I guess this is one of the benefits of being a late bloomer. 🙂
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The Late Bloomer Harry Potter Fan

After the addiction with the Hunger Games trilogy, I was shaking uncontrollably and there were inevitable moments of hallucination. I guess that’s the withdrawal syndrome. My best friend was at my aid, so she sent me more addictive stuff. Just kidding, hehe. Bes gave me more e-books to read which include the complete Harry Potter series, works of Nicholas Sparks, Paolo Coelho, and the famous 7 Habits of Highly Effective People among others. With all these wonderful writings, choosing was a bit difficult but I thought I’ll save the romance for later, the human understanding next, and being highly effective last (haha).

Reading the HP series was actually a long overdue goal. Just like with THG, I was the listener while the rest of the world conversed about this new book. At first, I even regarded the book as atrocious because people kept commenting about the bad influence it impressed over the young ones. Then I guessed the book must be really good to attract this much criticism. When the first movie was released, I almost laughed at my expectations. It’s a fantasy alright, and not at all wicked. Kids would tend to imagine things like this anyway, HP or no HP, so it didn’t deserve this grave criticism at all.

Well, onto my experience with reading the book. First, I’ve watched several HP movies but never got straight which is which from the sequence. I don’t enjoy watching as much as reading so the only occasions I viewed HP was when my brothers would watch them too. Sometimes I’d watch the latter part, other times the first. Either way, it’s usually just midway so you’d probably understand my confusion. I recognized scenes from the movie though, while reading, and it was like fitting pieces of a puzzle while the story unfolds. It’s not a very thrilling experience because I’ve been spared of the imagination factor. Everything, from characters to setting to plot, had been provided already. Nevertheless, HP movies deserve praise based from these aspects because they depicted the books very well.

Now that I’ve finished reading the 1st book, I realized I’ve become a HP fan myself. JK Rowling is a tremendously great story – teller. I secretly envy her for inventing Bettie Bott’s Every Flavoured Bean. It’s such an innocent creation with just a hint of naughtiness in it, the kind I trusted my mind to come up with. And I really find Dumbledore’s vomit-and-earwax-flavoured-bean-experience the best, haha! She’s such a natural humorist, throwing witty and sarcastic dialogues all throughout the pages. And without question, she has a very imaginative mind, down from the wizard terms, the train station, disappearing stores, moving stairs and photos, the sorting cap, every foreign thing seemed real and it’s no wonder kids probably hoped to receive a letter from Hogwarts right after reading the book. Even the broomstick, which isn’t a new thing with witches and wizards, was given a different light that made the idea interesting rather than creepy.

My favourite part was Harry’s conversation with Dumbledore, after he had defeated Quirell and Voldemort. I was particularly impressed with how Harry found the Sorcerer’s Stone: only one who wanted to find the Stone – find it, but not use it – would be able to get it. Brilliant, isn’t it? And she did have several perceptive ideas expressed through Dumbledore in the last parts and let me quote:

“…humans do have a knack of choosing precisely those things that are worst for them.”
“Fear of a name increases fear of the thing itself.”
“The truth… It is a beautiful and terrible thing, and should therefore be treated with great caution.”


And just like any other fairy tale, the HP book 1 had a happy ending with Gryffindors beating the nasty Slytherins for the first time after 6 years. Meanwhile, while the rest of the HP fans are silently mournful for HP’s coming to an end, I think I’ll savor the other 6 remaining books. I guess this is one of the benefits of being a late bloomer. :)
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3 Books Rolled Into 1: For the Love of Peeta

Monday, April 23, 2012

That’s it. All 3 books finished and though the 1st book was a lovely read, I had to say that the next one was quite good, the last one a drag. All in all, I guess I was just after Peeta who eventually outshined Katniss from my point of view. If I had not cheated reading the last part wherein Peeta, not Gale, ended up with Katniss, I guess reading the book would have taken me a longer time. I’m glad the story ended the way it did, but a lot of characters died in book 3 that it depresses me. Prim, of all people, to think that Katniss volunteered and underwent all the disaster just to protect her, died in the end. I wanted to say, what the?! when I reached that part, and had to read all over from when Katniss went hallucinating over the last blasts from the parachutes to check if I’d been reading things correctly. It was just so sad, and I had tears in my eyes when Buttercup returned to the Victor’s Village and Katniss had to drive him away because Prim’s dead.

* sigh * What was I thinking anyway? That after book 1 Peeta and Katniss would snuggle in each other’s arms at District 12? Maybe not, or Katniss would lose the charm she has when she’s tough. Affection is Peeta’s forte, not hers. Besides, Hunger Games is not a love story (really, is it not?) and didn’t I hate love stories anyway? But reading through the 1st part of book 2 at least made me wanna freeze the story to the part where they lived in Victor’s Village adapting an impressive routine; Katniss hunts, Peeta bakes, and Haymitch, their mentor, drains liquor bottle after bottle. The story of the Hunger Games was completely out of my mind then. I just wanted to know what happened to the characters I’ve grown familiar with and loved.

In book 2, there was more humour and more characters were explored. It would have been a cheery scene after the Tributes’ parade except for the nagging fact that this is a fight to the death. Finnick was funny in his own sensual way and Johanna’s viciousness was ironically appealing. Both characters were likewise realistic. I particularly had to laugh when she stripped herself naked of the stupid tree costume and went about how idiot were her prep team compared to theirs. I was thinking, I’d like to have a friend like her, if only I could trust her not to break my neck in a fit of petty quarrel. And though Finnick was presented in an aggressive way, it later turned out that he was a great and loyal ally. The Quarter Quell, which was a “special” kind of Hunger Games done every 25th year, was altogether okay thinking that I don’t have to feel scared for Peeta or Katniss’ life. I knew they’d survive. There was just one problem. The other tributes were likeable enough to make me want to keep them. My expectations were met as all of these favorite characters endured the Games. Afterwards, I just couldn’t wait for more romantic encounters between Peeta and Katniss. Sadly, there’s none after the Games ended in book 2.

In book 3, there was less mention about Peeta in the beginning except that I knew he was kept prisoner at the Capitol. Since he was my favorite character, it explains my previous assessment that book 3 was a drag. I just kept waiting for him to re-appear until curiosity was killing me I could no longer contain questions of whether he is still alive or if he’s going to be mentioned again. So I had to cheat. I read the last paragraph before the epilogue. There was Peeta, and he ended up with Katniss after all. Somehow my agitation subsided. Next, I couldn’t wait until he’s rescued. When he was, they discovered that the Capitol used a torturing technique and the effect was he no longer recognized Katniss. Quite the opposite, he viewed her as an enemy. Violent hands replaced the steady hands which were always ready to offer her comfort. The altered Peeta wanted to strangle her or even more passionate, bash her brains out. So next, I was only waiting for the old kind Peeta to emerge again. The cheating had to be excused because my anticipation of the things that would happen to Peeta helped me manage to read through the dreadful combat parts. Dreadful was not even attributed to the violence. I just find war and action movies (stories) boring and book 3 was mostly on plotting a war against Capitol and you could just imagine the details on military and such. Plus, Collins kept on killing the characters I love, Finnick then Prim it was just so heart breaking.

Finally, I was left wondering if an innocent girl like Katniss could really turn a whole country into chaos by just holding out her hands with nightlock berries to the audience. And then I’m briefly reminded by Peeta “you still don’t have an idea, the effect she can have.” So I just say to myself, “Fine.” If Peeta says it, then I believe it. :)
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Hungry for More: Hunger Games Review

Monday, April 16, 2012

* CONTAINS SPOILERS, LOTS OF SPOILERS!

For those who haven’t read the book, this paragraph and the next are all that you should read or I might spoil the book’s flavor to your content. My first impression of the book was a televised contest, much like the reality game Survivor we watch on TV, although this was a final word in the meaning of survival, where people battle to the death literally. And unlike the Survivor series, contestants in the Hunger Games were more obligatory than voluntary. Who wants to risk their life for a game after all?

Over the weekends, I have finished the book at incredible speed considering that I have 2 toddlers clinging to me every minute that they’re awake leaving me only when it’s night and by that time, I’m too exhausted to read even a couple of pages. What I did was to wake up earlier and while the rest of the family is still asleep, I devoured the book like a hungry wolf. At this rate, I read the whole book by Sunday morning, and it wasn’t to my credit but to the book all by itself. Somehow, it has an unseen force which made it hard for me to stop reading and left me still pondering even when the story’s over.

From the beginning, the story was already intense. With the world characterized by the situation we so currently prevent at present to happen, the rich holding the common people by the neck, it’s no wonder that the adrenalin rush might be one reason to keep the readers going, no, yearning for more. And the heroine, Katniss, is just so likeable. I have always loved females who represent a paradox of being strong and weak at the same time.

The Hunger Games was something that the Capitol invented for Panem to remind the people how they are so totally under their hands. Each 12 Districts are mandated to sacrifice Tributes, one girl and one boy from 12-18 years of age, to battle each other to death. Katniss was spared during the drawing of the names but the ironic twist was, her younger sister, just 12 and gentle as a flower, was drawn instead. She loves Primrose more than anything and voluntarily takes her place. To add intensity, the boy who got drawn, Peeta, had an important role in Katniss’ life as well, although they have no direct relationship. During Katniss’ most desperate times, Peeta once got himself beaten up by his mother when he deliberately burned the bread to have something to give to her when even the garbage bin she’s scavenging was empty. They were a lot younger then but it’s quite presumable enough, that Peeta had loved Katniss all his life. The odds were definitely not in Katniss’ favor during the drawing of names.

If I could have read as fast as the DVD player can forward, I would have done it. Surely, there has to be only one winner and no doubt it will be Katniss but because Peeta is so willing to sacrifice himself for the love of Katniss, it’s just heartbreaking if he dies. From that moment, I began wishing that they both live in the end but the question would be how? Or if Peeta dies, how too?

The next series were charming as well when they get teamed up with a novice but creative designer, Cinna, who managed to make them both outstanding at the parade where Tributes were introduced. They needed this much attention because although they’d be very much dead by the end of the Games, they’ll need to attract sponsors to aid them while they fight to stay alive as long as they can. Their chances were not altogether attributable to Cinna though. Katniss did manage to impress the Gamemakers by shooting an arrow right through the roasted pig’s direction, which seemed more interesting to the judges at first than her skills with archery. And despite the other Tributes who careered this game from when they were young, usually coming from richer Districts, she outscored them all with 11 out of 10. But what made her most likeable and even unforgettable to the people was Peeta’s confession. During the interview with the Tributes, he confessed that winning is a difficult thing because the girl he loves for all his life came with him to compete for the Games. Katniss was furious and Peeta was compelled to say that this act was part of strategy to get more attention, and sponsors. Although the prestige was beneficial, it also reaped hatred from the most vicious Tribute, Cato who promised to hunt her down right then.

Inside the arena, Peeta’s real intentions and motives were confusing. Well, of course, for the readers, it might have been clear from the very beginning, from the moment Katniss remembered the incident with the burnt bread that gave her hope when she was at the brink of giving up, that Peeta was trying all means to protect and let her win. One incident, she discovered Peeta teaming up with the brutal Career Tributes. But when close encounters with Cato arose, Peeta warned her to run and he received a cut from Cato’s sword in return.

Katniss was left wondering at this change in events but she knew that she was once again indebted to Peeta for he had saved her life. She started to worry about his condition, because Cato would never leave him without revenge. She just knew that he was still alive as long as his face did not appear in the sky, which was the Games' way of telling the contestants who among them had just been eliminated. With their love story stirring interest to the people of Capitol, the Gamemakers made another twist in their rules: they allowed 2 winners that year if both of them come from the same district. Katniss immediately searched for Peeta.

The next events were somewhat romantic save the fact that both of them were trapped in an arena fighting for their lives and that she found Peeta camouflaging himself in the mud, the last resort of the dying. But I have always waited for the moment when Peeta became open with his feelings while Katniss took this as an act, again to give entertainment and attract sponsors. I had never been a fan of love stories, they are the least appealing genres to me. But Katniss was so innocent and Peeta was so noble which made the love story part pleasant to me. For the rest of the games, Katniss went all means to restore Peeta to life. Although I had to admit, her innocence about Peeta’s true feelings was a little overdone. I mean, at some point inside the arena, she must have discovered and more importantly, felt that Peeta was not at all acting. This could do less difference in the story after all. She could just pretend to love him back for the audience which is what she did anyway. It’s just that I think, learning about Peeta’s true feelings seem more realistic.

They defeated Cato last, but not by their efforts alone. Sometimes, when things were a bit slow with the Tributes, no encounters, no casualties, the Gamemakers would bring in a few dangers themselves such as the man made fire and the mutated wolves which was mostly responsible for Cato’s death and Peeta’s fatal leg injury. As if the Gamemakers were not yet satisfied, they tried to revoke the rule about 2 winners. I found this part very moving when Peeta took out his knife and as an instinct, Katniss pointed her arrow to his heart and was a little too late to realize that the knife had been released at from his hands. This shamed her much but Peeta convinced her to kill him, that to die is what he wanted and when she let go of the weapon in her hand, he removed his leg's bandage to bleed to death. There has to be a victor. This principle gave Katniss the idea which saved them both. If they both died, then the Capitol had failed to give a victor. Finally, they agreed to just eat the poison berries together in an act of suicide which was of course, interrupted by the Gamemakers as both of them were declared victors in that instant.

Now we know that Peeta’s motive to let Katniss win was because of his love for her. Katniss on the other hand has different motives, as demonstrated in her earlier instinct to kill Peeta. Because she realized that she was becoming more and more indebted to Peeta, even if she wins, she’d never get out of the arena for the rest of her life, and I agree. It will haunt her forever if she killed the person who gave her only love from the beginning. So she'd rather chosen death because winning meant lifetime imprisonment in guilt. And in fact, if it was I in her shoes, I’d probably have fallen in love with Peeta already.

All in all, it was a delightful read, heart throbbing love story. It mostly evolved in choosing the Tributes, introducing them like regular contestants to a game, and how they survived in the arena during the game, the Hunger Games. But if I am to dig deeper, the love story is what I liked best which is somewhat surprising because as I have said, I don’t like cheesy and mushy romance. Peeta did discover that Katniss’ love was just an act and that everything will change the moment they return home and in the end, he was gradually detaching himself from her already. It was hanging really, when he asked for her hand and said “One more time? For the audience?” and Katniss dreading the moment she’d let go. It was hanging the way I wanted to know what happened to her sister Prim, her best friend Gale, who weren’t reasonably explored as characters. And more importantly, what happens to Peeta whom I started to become very fond of. Lucky thing, Book 2 is just waiting for me to be read. And in the meantime I am ending this review, I’d definitely recommend this book as a GREAT read. As for me, I’d move on to the next book hoping that Peeta not Gale, would end up with Katniss. :) and may the odds be ever in our favor ;)
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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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