I got back my reading mojo last month. I read some pretty good books and some pretty annoying ones but it’s all good. Whenever I read a book I don’t particularly like, I just tell myself that it’s good to feel something. It’s better to be annoyed than not feel anything at all. I’m pretty I’m not making any sense. Heh.
1. Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami
Of all the depressing books I have read, Norwegian Wood stands out tall and proud. Every turn of the page seems to lead me into something more crushing, something more heart-wrenching. The ever-present death also seems to be the number one driving force of our two main characters. Hence, the main character’s mantra summarizes (I believe) the story: “Death is not the opposite of life but an innate part of life.
It’s really beautifully-written but I don’t think I have fully grasped what Murakami is trying to say. This is his first book that I have read and I am excited to read more. His words have a way of taking you to the very core of the story. Toru Watanabe may be the narrator of the story but it’s not only his emotions that we see. I kind of understand why people say that this book is honest. It’s as if all the emotions of the characters are exposed in plain sight. We see their pain, we see their happiness. It’s all out in the open that it’s impossible not to feel what they’re going through. Everything feels so raw. I haven’t read other people’s reaction to Norwegian Wood. All I know is that a lot of people I respect love the book. But I really think that Naoko and Watanabe are bad for each other. They become isolated from the whole world and are often enveloped in sadness when they’re together. Kill me for saying this but I think Watanabe’s presence pushes Naoko into depression. Midori and Watanabe’s relationship, on the other hand, is what I would call healthy. It’s not clear what happened between them but I’m really hoping that it ends well for these two.
The number of suicides in the book baffles me. I have said this out loud before but it really bothers me how Murakami makes suicide as if a usual occurrence in Japanese society. I know that Japan has high suicide rates for both sexes but for it be part of a novel, it’s still unsettling. I understand what drives Naoko to do what she did. Two of the people she has loved committed suicide. She’s even the one to discover the body of her sister. What I don’t like is how she explains Kizuki’s suicide as something that is inevitable. The two of them are so happy that it’s kind of unfair for the world so Kizuki kills himself because that’s bound to happen anyway, she says. Well, to me that’s what she means. That’s just a stupid thing to say. Other than that, this is a really good story and I recommend it to anyone who wants to have his/her heart broken.
2. The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
It took me quite some time to finish this book. It’s 900-page thick, and I’m quite glad that I only bought it for P80. It’s exciting enough, quite gripping at many parts. I am not the best History student in the world but I like mysteries. I like the tone of the book, the way the author builds up tension by only revealing snippets of information in every turn. There were thousands of turn, I think. That’s why the book is so long. But before the criticisms (constructive, I hope), I should mention the good ones. I really like how Kostova incorporates the story of Vlad Dracula into the lives of the characters. She also uses a lot of cliffhangers so I end up finishing the book just to know what will happen next. At times, I almost give up, and sometimes I want to throw it outside the window. What I hate is how she builds up the tension and the mystery around Vlad Dracula, then finally reveals the anti-climatic reason behind every suspenseful event in the book. The reason behind Vlad Dracula’s seemingly blood-thirsty drive to frighten archivists, historians, researchers, scholars, etc. is quite shallow. Definitely not worth 900+ pages.
Kostova includes an incredulous amount of unnecessary details that do nothing good for the story. The love stories included aren’t interesting enough. I know some of the romances are necessary but she doesn’t make them compelling. They’re lackluster compared to the history of Vlad Dracula. Only one is worth poring over. The narrator frustrates me, too. It’s enough to know that you’re smart but to rub it off countless of times is simply annoying. She’s also a tad too dramatic sometimes. This book has so much potential but the ending just doesn’t make up for the promising plot. Kostova makes a great historian, the details in the book would be hard to gather but not only did she condensed it but she even incorporated it to a story. With all these said, I think Elizabeth Kostova is a great historian but a mediocre fiction writer.
3. A Pocket Full of Rye by Agatha Christie
This is my first Agatha Christie book and it didn’t disappoint. I have nothing to compare it to but the story alone is entertaining enough. I like detective fiction, and it’s nice to read a style that’s entirely different from James Patterson’s and John Grisham’s. It’s surprising how the tone of the story is quite playful, heck, Miss Marple, the lead character, uses a nursery rhyme to crack the case. It’s just nice to see how detective fiction doesn’t have to be feel so heavy, so action-packed, to work. I am new Chritie’s style but I like it already.
Miss Marple has a little role in this story but her part is just as vital as the suspects’. I came close to guessing the right perpetrator but I missed one clue so I dismissed the suspect. Miss Christie is really clever with all the clues, plotting ones to mislead the detective but never giving one to lead to the wrong one. All the clues are there, the reader just has to be quick enough to see it all. I haven’t read a detective novel that made me guess like in this novel. I like it because I feel like I’m not using my brain lately and it’s nice to think again, to figure out the puzzle. Sadly, I didn’t figure out the puzzle but I still had a nice read. I’ve said this before, a book that makes you think is worthy enough to read. I hate just taking in information, taking in everything. Where’s learning in that? I have three more Agatha Christie books piled next to my bed. I hope to tackle it soon enough.
P.S. I no longer have the copy because it caught fire. Nobody’s fault, but I won’t go into details. Heh.
4. Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
I don’t even know where to begin with this book. I have seen the movie numerous times because it’s simply amazing but I admit that it’s also quite confusing. When I saw this book at Powerbooks, I almost flipped. I knew that there’s a book but it was beyond my wildest dreams to see it in a bookstore. It is worth every cent. It’s a quick read and a lot easier to understand than the movie. If you don’t want to read this book because you’re turned off by the movie (but that’s absurd, how can you hate it!), you must still give this book a try because it’s different. It’s quite hard to review this book without relating it to the movie. But I’ll try.
Sophie shines in this book. She’s far from perfect. She’s too sure that it’s her fate to always fail in life and it’s hard to convince her otherwise. When the Witch of the Waste turned her into an old lady, she sees no hope for herself. She immediately leaves Market Chipping and somehow ends up in the evil Howl’s moving castle. She’s a really entertaining character as her stubborn nature takes her to some silly misadventures. She’s the only who can stand up against the great Howl, and I enjoy their every banter. All the characters in this book has their certain quirks and moments that I certainly love. Howl is a character that will probably be etched in my heart forever. Insert more cheesy cliches here. Unlike other heroes, Howl is narcissistic and has too many flaws. He’s a self-centered, infamous playboy that throws childish tantrums because of petty things like his hair. But these flaws just make him more human.
I think I’m a little biased with the fantasy genre because I end up liking everything I read. I swear, though, that Howl’s Moving Castle is a compelling story. I can probably read it ten more times and wouldn’t be bored by it. Howl’s Moving Castle definitely goes in the imaginary shelf of my favorite books.
5. Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
It’s an easy enough read and I kind of wish I have read it sooner. I’m saving enough money to buy the four remaining books this year. Heh.
I know very little about mythology so I made sure to learn first about the Titans and the Olympians before burrowing my nose in the series. It’s a really interesting take on mythology in the modern world. Where are the gods and goddesses who walked the earth thousands of years ago? I enjoy meeting mythological characters as much as Percy’s adventure of finding the Lightning Thief. Percy’s narration is interesting enough, and I often unashamedly laughed at his too many side comments . He’s a likable character who has flaws. Flawless characters are easy enough to hate, I’m not even sure why. But Percy is just a kid who is as unsure as your normal teenage boy. He’s not selfless which is pretty understandable, but he always tries hard to do what is right.
People should stop comparing Percy Jackson to Harry Potter. I only see thre similarities: 1.) Percy and Harry did not what they truly are; 2.) they both have two best friends (or companions, if you may) which happens to be a male and a female and; 3.) Mythological creatures are used. I am pretty sure there are other books that have those elements, too. I am still not obsessed with Percy Jackson but I can actually see myself falling in love with the series. I understand why people say that the movie doesn’t give the book justice. Percy’s humor certainly doesn’t translate into the film, but it’s a good thing that Logan Lerman’s good looks make up for it.
6. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
S.E. Hinton was only 16 when she wrote the book so I will try to be gentle and nice in writing my comment about the book. I didn’t like it. I am quite confused how The Outsiders became a classic because I really didn’t like it. First, Ponyboy is a brat and a hypocrite, and I find it hard to empathize with his character. Maybe he is young but he’s too snotty for a fourteen-year-old. Second, Ponyboy contradicts himself about a million times in this book. He prides himself as a greaser but kept saying degrading things about being a greaser. Third, all the characters in the book are too feminine. They are gang members yet they study gymnastics, they make sure they look tough, they care so much about their, etc. S.E. Hinton said she uses only her initials since people might think that a girl cannot write a novel about gangs. Well, she really translated her girl tendencies into the book.
I should have counted the number of times I rolled my eyes (how mature) and thought, “Shut up, Ponyboy,” while reading the book. Ponyboy is probably one of the most judgmental fictional character I have ever met. He seems to only know how to say bad things about others. Another thing I noticed is how Hinton seems to be making up the story as she goes along and it obviously shows. She forgot to mention that Ponyboy is a track athlete and curiously inserted it in the story as Ponyboy runs for the first time in the story.
I do not want to say too many bad things about because I certainly didn’t get anything published when I was 16. But I have so many things I didn’t like in the book. I hate how Ponyboy always acts like he’s the victim and complains a lot (about his hair, mostly). Hinton also killed Johnny Cade, one of the only two characters I like, and I don’t think I can forgive her for that.
7. Superfudge by Judy Blume
I am slowly turning into a Judy Blume fanatic. It felt silly to read Superfudge in public but it was worth it. There really isn’t much of a conflict in story. It’s actually the sequel to Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing but it can be a standalone book. I haven’t read the first book but I still enjoyed Superfudge. It’s about Peter and his life as the eldest child. Fudge is his younger brother and gives him more troubles than homework. Peter gets angry when his parents tells him that he’s having another sibling. Superfudge is a year-long tale of Peter and his life being the eldest of three and a sixth-grader, and moving to another town. Saying that I find this book adorable is an understatement.
What I like about Superfudge is how it shows life living with siblings. I’m like the Fudge in the story, as a kid I craved attention and I was hyperactive and did a lot of silly things. I knew that my sister didn’t like me to some degree. In Superfudge, we don’t see Pee-tah, as Fudge calls him, turn into the super brother who loves his siblings and is never annoyed with them. We only see him learn to live with his siblings and to love them in a way he knows how. The book isn’t superficial. It has a happy ending but it’s not insanely cheesy. I only gave it four stars in Goodreads because I wanted more. I know it’s a pretty shallow reason but I really want to read more stories about Fudge and Peter.