Recent Book Haul

I haven’t done a book haul post in ages! I’ve done some bookstagrams for some of my newly acquired books so I thought it would be a good idea to put them all together in one page. One of my bookish resolutions this year is to buy more ebooks than physical books because I find it easier to read on my Kindle. I’ve been able to follow this resolution, so far! I attended the Book Binge Bazaar hosted by National Bookstore, and only bought one book for the signing we went there for:

The Last Line I’ll Write About You by Dawn Lanuza
https://www.instagram.com/p/BfBisX2lCV3/

And here are some Kindle editions that I either bought or received as gifts:

Hello, Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly
https://www.instagram.com/p/BfNzJGcFuNU/

The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart by Stephanie Burgis

The Last Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli

Speak Easy Speak Love by McKelle George
https://www.instagram.com/p/BfdkjZyFvp1/

I’m planning to go to Komiket, a local indie comic book convention and I have a few titles on my wishlist so I’m pretty sure I’ll be adding more to this pile! Comics and graphic novels are the exception to my rule of buying physical copies of books.

What about the rest of you, have you guys bought or received any books lately?

Graphic Novel Challenge: The Stonekeeper (Amulet #1) by Kazu Kibuishi

I read The Stonekeeper (Amulet #1) by Kazu Kibuishi months ago when I was in Manila for a vacation. I brought it with me to the hair salon and was able to read a good chunk of it while I was there, and I finished reading the rest of it when I got home. Months have passed and it’s taken me this long to write a review. I was thinking about catching up on my 2016 Graphic Novel / Manga Challenge when I remembered that I had already read the first Amulet book and I just needed to review it.

Amulet The StonekeeperHere’s the summary from Goodreads:

After the tragic death of their father, Emily and Navin move with their mother to the home of her deceased great-grandfather, but the strange house proves to be dangerous. Before long, a sinister creature lures the kids’ mom through a door in the basement. Em and Navin, desperate not to lose her, follow her into an underground world inhabited by demons, robots, and talking animals.

Eventually, they enlist the help of a small mechanical rabbit named Miskit. Together with Miskit, they face the most terrifying monster of all, and Em finally has the chance to save someone she loves.

I can’t even remember who specifically recommended the Kazu Kibuishi’s Amulet graphic novel series to me but I’ve had it in my radar for a while. For some reason, I was curious enough about it to grab a copy from Kinokuniya during one of their book sales. I’m so glad I decided to give the first book in the series a try because I had a lot of fun reading it! I was pleasantly surprised at how much depth there was to the story right from the start, something that I didn’t expect from a middle grade series. I sympathized with Emily, Navin and their mother and I wanted to give all of them a huge hug. The three of them bravely move to a new home, hoping to make a fresh start. Instead, they encounter one adventure after another and they all get to show their courage in unexpected ways. The Stonekeeper is an action-filled introduction to the series, and I can just imagine how fast the pace will be in the next installments in the series. It was really easy to get into The Stonekeeper – I liked all of the main characters and I wanted to keep reading to find out more about them. I found the worldbuilding intriguing and would be interested in learning more about it. The artwork reminded me of Japanese cartoons that I used to watch as a child, and it went very well with the story. This would definitely have been a book that I would have loved as a young reader, and something that I can recommend and give as a gift to my godsons and younger cousins. As it is, I have already passed along my copy to two other friends who have read and enjoyed The Stonekeeper too.

I’m looking forward to reading the sequels. I believe there are currently seven books in the series and I’m not sure when it will end. If you’re planning to read this series then I suggest having a few of the books on hand so you can read all of them together. I’m sure I would have enjoyed doing that if I had the chance. I saw copies of the other books in the series at a Manila bookstore, and wanted to get them but the lines to the cashiers were super long at that time because everyone was busy buying school supplies. Just means I need to find another way to get copies! In the meantime, I will keep my fingers crossed that I’ll enjoy reading the rest of the books in the series.

Here’s a link to the 9th Annual Graphic Novels & Manga Challenge 2016, credit to Kim for the graphic below:
graphicnovelmangachallenge by espressodream

Reading at the hair salon

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I’m currently on vacation in Manila. You’d think that because I’m on vacation, I’d have more time to blog. As always, I’m behind on posts! There are several things I want to blog about but I always feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day to squeeze in some blogging time. So I thought I’d come up with a short, book-related update.

Earlier today I was at the hair salon getting a hair cut and treatment. These are services that I usually try to do whenever I’m in Manila because they’re way too expensive in Singapore. In my almost four years of being based in Singapore, I’ve never gotten a hair cut or treatment there. Same goes for my Filipino girl friends in Singapore. Usually when I go to the salon, I’d just bring my Kindle with me and read whatever I’m currently in the middle of. Or I’d go through the magazines provided by the salon. But since I brought my copy of Amulet, Vol. 1: The Stonekeeper by Kazu Kibuishi all the way from Singapore, I thought I might as well bring it with me when I have a few hours to kill. What a great idea it was! This is such an engaging book and it’s super easy to get into. I was instantly absorbed and was able to read quite a huge chunk while I was waiting. It’s also easy to read in installments whenever I had to stop for them to rinse my hair. I will probably finish the book tonight and will try to look for copies of the sequels in local bookstores.

Amulet at the hair salon

The hair salon served coffee. Yay!

Note to self: bring more graphic novels with me whenever I have errands to run. What about you, what books do you usually bring with you when you know you’d have some time to kill?

A Face Like Glass by Frances Hardinge

I remember being fascinated by The Lost Conspiracy a few years ago and I’ve been meaning to read more of Frances Hardinge’s novels since then. But you know how it goes, you get distracted by other books in the TBR pile and you forget your intentions to read books by a certain author. Fortunately, I was attracted by the pretty cover of A Face Like Glass when I saw it in one of the bookstores here. I’ve been hearing good things about this book so I was pretty excited to read it.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

A Face Like GlassIn the underground city of Caverna the world’s most skilled craftsmen toil in the darkness to create delicacies beyond compare – wines that can remove memories, cheeses that can make you hallucinate and perfumes that convince you to trust the wearer, even as they slit your throat. The people of Caverna are more ordinary, but for one thing: their faces are as blank as untouched snow. Expressions must be learned, and only the famous Facesmiths can teach a person to show (or fake) joy, despair or fear – at a price.

Into this dark and distrustful world comes Neverfell, a little girl with no memory of her past and a face so terrifying to those around her that she must wear a mask at all times. For Neverfell’s emotions are as obvious on her face as those of the most skilled Facesmiths, though entirely genuine. And that makes her very dangerous indeed…

At a little less than 500 pages, A Face Like Glass is quite lengthy compared to some of the other YA novels that I’ve been reading lately. Which is why it kept me captivated for several days. Towards the end of the book, I decided to stay up late one night to finish it, I was so curious about where the story would go. I can’t even remember the last time I did that, probably not since I moved from Manila to Singapore last year. I found A Face Like Glass engaging for several reasons:

– I found the idea of wearing Faces like most people wear clothes intriguing. You can never know what a person is feeling based on just the expression that they’re wearing because they can choose which Face to use at any given moment. I’m fascinated by characters who are unreadable because they can surprise you in so many ways. In this book, most of the characters are like that because you can’t even use facial expressions to gauge what they’re thinking of.

– I enjoy reading about how complicated court intrigue is. I love how subtle court movements are and how the smallest of things can be significant because everything means something. There are complicated rules that courtiers follow and it requires a highly intelligent person to navigate the tricky waters of court. I liked how the craftsmen are divided into mafia-like families that compete against each other.

“It is terribly bad form to admit to being terrified for one’s life, but nobody in their right mind would go to a Court banquet without making preparations. One must have the right costume, the right Faces, and at least eighty-two ways of avoiding assassination.”

– I’m a big fan of cheese so I found Neverfell’s apprenticeship with Cheesemaster Grandible interesting. I can’t imagine what it must be like to have to take care of cheese that has its own personality – they can explode and harm people if not handled properly. The same goes for wine and everything else that Caverna excels at making, here’s a passage that I really liked:

“They were masters of memory, its loss and recovery. They could brew Wine that would make you remember the face of your dead love so clearly you could count her eyelashes, or that would make you forget specific chapters of a book so that you could read them again with pleasure.”

– The underground setting because I’ve lived in tropical countries all my life and I can’t imagine living in a dreary world below ground with no sunlight. I would probably feel claustrophobic and suffocated most of the time. It was interesting how Caverna’s inhabitants functioned underground and how they were willing to suffer the consequences just to keep the secrets of their craftsmen.

– There’s a mysterious thief in this novel called the Kleptomancer. As you well know, sneaky thieves in fiction have a special place in my heart. So when bits and pieces about the Kleptomancer started showing up in this book, I was immediately curious. I wanted to know more about him and his reasons for stealing.

– Of course, Neverfell is also another intriguing character. She’s a bright and curious individual and has such a good heart. She genuinely cares for other people, even if she had an isolated childhood. She’s always interested in helping out whenever she can.

With all the reasons listed, I think it’s pretty obvious that I loved reading A Face Like Glass. This beautiful book will definitely make it to my best of 2013 list. Highly recommended for MG/YA fans of fantasy, political intrigue, class conflict and unique world-building. I look forward to reading the rest of Frances Hardinge’s books, I have a copy of Fly By Night waiting for me back home in Manila.

A Face Like Glass paperback

Other reviews:
The Book Smugglers
The Readventurer

The Coming of the Dragon by Rebecca Barnhouse

The Coming of the Dragon by Rebecca Barnhouse is a retelling of the latter part of Beowulf. I don’t think I’ve ever read Beowulf or a retelling based on it. I don’t know much about this epic tale because we never studied it for school. The Coming of the Dragon came highly recommended by both Brandy of Random Musings of a Bibliophile and Charlotte of Charlotte’s Library so I decided to give it a go. Also, I’m very curious about the companion novel, Peaceweaver, because Ana and Thea of The Book Smugglers gave it a positive joint review. You can imagine my delight when I discovered that both books are available in the library. Yay for making the most out of my library membership!

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

The Coming of the DragonWhen he was a baby, Rune washed up onshore in a boat, along with a sword and a pendant bearing the runes that gave him his nickname. Some people thought he was a sacrifice to the gods and wanted to send him right back to the sea. Luckily for Rune, King Beowulf disagreed. He lifted the boy from the boat and gave him to Amma, a wise woman living on a farm far removed from the king’s hall, to raise as she saw fit.

Sixteen years later, Rune spends his summers laboring on the farm. And at King Beowulf’s request, he comes to the hall each winter for weapons training. But somehow he never quite fits in. Many people still fear he will bring a curse on the kingdom. Then a terrible thing happens. On a lonely crag on a mountain that belongs to the giants, someone awakens a dragon. It is time for Rune to find the warrior inside himself and prove to the doubters once and for all that he is a true hero.

If you’ve been following my blog for a while now then you’re probably aware that I read all kinds of books but I rarely venture into middle grade territory. I only do that when a book comes recommended by book bloggers I trust. And when I end up enjoying the book, I usually feel like I would have loved to read it when I was in the target age for it. The Coming of the Dragon is one of those novels. I really liked Rune’s character development – he starts off as an insecure young man but grows into something more as the story progresses. I understood how difficult and confusing life must have been like for Rune while growing up. I mean it’s hard enough to figure out what you’re meant to do with your life but with Rune, he had to deal with not knowing who his real parents are or where he came from. He desperately wants to prove himself, he just needs the chance to do so. I liked how the change in his character from the beginning to the end wasn’t drastic, it felt believable based on the challenges that Rune experienced.

There is magic in this book but most of it is subtle, aside from the presence of the dragon. The novel reads more like historical fiction instead of epic fantasy. Maybe I should just describe it as historical fantasy and leave it at that. Like I said, I’m definitely not an expert when it comes to Beowulf or this time period so I’m not sure how accurate the setting is. What I can just say is that I enjoyed reading about the characters and their struggles to overcome their biggest foe: the dragon. I found the first few chapters a little slow but things picked up towards the end. Also, I got the feeling that the kingdom wasn’t that big? I was wondering why there weren’t more people who were there to fight against the dragon. Although that might really be the case, Beowulf’s kingdom might just be a small one. I was really curious about Peaceweaver after reading this one and was a bit disappointed to discover that it’s not a sequel but a companion novel instead. It doesn’t continue the story after The Coming of the Dragon but occurs simultaneously with the events of the novel and features a different character. I’m still interested in reading it though, I just hope Rebecca Barnhouse returns to Rune’s story. Would you happen to have any other recommendations based on Norse mythology?

Other reviews:
Charlotte’s Library
Random Musings of a Bibliophile

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente is one of those books that make an impact the moment you hear the title. You immediately wonder what it’s all about. I saw this one pop up in several Best of 2011 lists end of last year so I’ve been planning to read it for a while now. The perfect opportunity arrived when read-along buddies Janice and Holly agreed that this would be our next pick.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

Twelve-year-old September lives in Omaha, and used to have an ordinary life, until her father went to war and her mother went to work. One day, September is met at her kitchen window by a Green Wind (taking the form of a gentleman in a green jacket), who invites her on an adventure, implying that her help is needed in Fairyland. The new Marquess is unpredictable and fickle, and also not much older than September. Only September can retrieve a talisman the Marquess wants from the enchanted woods, and if she doesn’t… then the Marquess will make life impossible for the inhabitants of Fairyland. September is already making new friends, including a book-loving Wyvern and a mysterious boy named Saturday.

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland is a delightful read. If I was the type of reader who highlighted books then my copy would have colorful pages. I wanted to take note of so many of the passages that I liked. This is the type of novel that has lyrical writing that just sweeps you away. I’m definitely a fan of that kind of writing but there were times when it felt a bit much. There were moments when I had to read this in bits and pieces instead of swallowing everything in one big gulp because I felt like I could use a break. In a way, I wasn’t as engrossed in the story as I wanted to be. I still enjoyed reading about September’s adventures in Fairyland though. September is a pretty easy character to like – a reader craving to be part of something bigger than what she feels like is a very ordinary life. I guess my expectations were just a bit high after everything that I’ve heard about the book. Since I loved how unique the writing is, I thought it would be a good idea to give non-spoilery samples:

“Stories have a way of changing faces. They are unruly things, undisciplined, given to delinquency and the throwing of erasers. This is why we must close them up into thick, solid books, so they cannot get out and cause trouble.”

*nods head* Here’s another one I really liked:

“For the wishes of one’s old life wither and shrivel like old leaves if they are not replaced with new wishes when the world changes. And the world always changes. Wishes get slimy, and their colors fade, and soon they are just mud, like all the rest of the mud, and not wishes at all, but regrets.”

Wishes that become regrets, I think that’s beautiful. Last but not the least:

“Temperament, you’ll find, is highly dependent on time of day, weather, frequency of naps, and whether one has had enough to eat.”

Love that last bit because that is so me. My mood is dependent on whether I’ve had enough food and sleep. Also, if I’m reading a good book or not. The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland is reminiscent of the Narnia books, Alice in Wonderland and other books that follow the same format – a human child gets whisked off to a magical land, where he or she has to go on a quest although September’s story has its own twists and turns. This book is also September’s coming-of-age story, how she learns to view the world in a different light as she matures. While I did find Fairyland fascinating, I was hoping that the story would have something different to surprise me and I was starting to think that it wasn’t going to happen until revelations near the end resulted in events that I didn’t expect. I apologize for being vague but I finished reading the book on a high note and I’m really looking forward to reading the sequel. If it was available in the library or any of the bookstores that I’ve visited, I would have grabbed a copy of it already. Even though this one didn’t make it to my list of favorites for this year, I very much enjoyed reading it and I get the feeling that most fantasy readers will feel the same way about it. I feel like we made a good choice when we picked this to read together.

Fairyland chapter illustration

One of the chapter illustrations in the hardcover edition

Reviews by readalong buddies:
Book Harbinger
Janicu’s Book Blog

Silksinger by Laini Taylor

Silksinger is the second book in the Dreamdark series by Laini Taylor and is the sequel to Blackbringer. Laini Taylor has become an auto-buy author for me because I fell in love with her YA books: Daughter of Smoke and Bone and Lips Touch. I found Blackbringer a little harder to get into that her other books but ended up enjoying it quite a bit once I got used to the writing and the worldbuilding. I picked up Silksinger right after reading the first book because I wanted to see how the story would progress. Okay, I just realized that I posted my Blackbringer review a month ago – I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to write about the sequel. Sorry about that!

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

Whisper Silksinger is the last of the secret guardians of the Azazel, one of the powerful Djinn who dreamed the world into being. Relentlessly pursued by bloodthirsty devils, she flees to the city of Nazneen to restore the Azazel to his temple. At the same time, Hirik Mothmage is also on a secret quest, to find the Azazel and restore his disgraced clan’s ancient honor.

And behind them all flies Magpie Windwitch, desperate to rescue Whisper and the Azazel alike before they fall in the clutches of a sinister hidden enemy.

I’ve heard from other bloggers that Silksinger is a lot better than its predecessor, Blackbringer, and I have to agree. The second installment in Laini Taylor’s series about faeries is a lot easier to get into that the first book. Or maybe it’s also because I’m more familiar with the details so it wasn’t as difficult as experiencing Dreamdark for the first time. I found the action-packed adventure story engaging right from the start. Here’s a glimpse of how the first chapter begins:

“Whisper Silksinger knew two kinds of death. There was the peaceful kind, quiet as eyelids fluttering shut, and there was the kind with teeth, sudden as a spurt of blood, a devil pounce, a scream. She had seen both. Of her whole clan only three faeries remained, and now death had come for them too.

And it had come with teeth.”

Doesn’t that make you want to know what happens next? The characters in the first book – Magpie, her crow companions and Talon – are back in this novel but new characters are also present. What I liked about Silksinger is that Laini Taylor continued to breathe life to the world that she created in Blackbringer by introducing new characters like Whisper and Hirik, moving the setting to different locations in the same world and adding new kinds of magic. I feel like there are more layers to the story as it moves forward, giving it more depth. I like that each Dreamdark novel focuses on one of the djinn and the fairies that have special connections to them. So even if Magpie, Talon and crows are in this novel, it really is more of Whisper and Hirik’s story. At the start, Whisper might seem like such a timid person but she has a backbone of steel when it comes to doing her duty as a guardian of Azazel. She’s not as feisty as Magpie but she has her own strengths. And Hirik is the same – he’s determined to bring back honor to his clan by serving the Azazel in spite of all the dangers involved.

I’ve only read a handful of middle grade novels this year but I’ve really liked all of them, which shouldn’t be surprising because I base my reading choices on recommendations from blogging buddies or Goodreads friends. After reading Silksinger, I really felt bad that the publisher has decided not to continue the series. I don’t understand why because it’s well-written and I would really like to read more of Laini Taylor’s writing. Her Dreamdark books are different from her YA novels, which I think is a good thing because it shows her capabilities as a writer. She switches from middle grade epic fantasy to YA urban fantasy and does it successfully. Isn’t that amazing? I believe she’s working on Daughter of Smoke and Bone’s sequel and then she’ll probably work on the third novel in the trilogy after that. Which means she won’t be able to come back to Dreamdark until after a few years have passed. SAD. There’s closure in both Dreamdark books and they don’t end in cliffhangers so they can be read on their own but come on, I want to know what happens to the other djinn! I really hope the series finds a new publisher and that we’ll eventually see the rest of the books. So if you’re a Laini Taylor fan and you love epic fantasy, support her Dreamdark books by reading (and if you can, reviewing) them.

Here’s another reason to read the books, they include beautiful illustrations by Jim di Bartolo:

Other reviews:
Fantasy Cafe
Charlotte’s Library
By Singing Light

Retro Friday: Blackbringer by Laini Taylor

Retro Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Angie over at Angieville and focuses on reviewing books from the past. This can be an old favorite, an under-the-radar book you think deserves more attention, something woefully out of print, etc.

Laini Taylor is one of my favorite discoveries this year. I fell in love with both Lips Touch and Daughter of Smoke and Bone when I got to read them. Since the latter is getting a lot of attention from bloggers and readers alike, I thought it would be a good idea to feature her lesser-known Dreamdark novel during Retro Friday.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

Magpie Windwitch is not like other faeries, most of whom live in tranquil seclusion. When she learns that escaped devils are creeping back into the world, she travels all over with her faithful clan of crows, hunting them down. The hunt will take her to the great forest of Dreamdark, where she must unravel the mystery of the worst enemy her folk have ever known. Can one small, determined faerie defeat the forces that threaten to unmake the world?

Blackbringer is the first book in the Dreamdark series. Laini Taylor mentions in her website that she initially wanted to write five Dreamdark books but the publisher has decided not to continue with the series. When I found out about that, I rushed to the bookstore to get my own copies of both Blackbringer and Silksinger because I was afraid I would have a hard time looking for copies later on. I had a difficult time getting into Blackbringer at first because it’s different from the other Laini Taylor books that I’ve read but after a couple of chapters, I was hooked and enjoyed reading the whole thing until the end. It’s written for younger audiences, middle grade instead of young adult, and is epic fantasy rather than urban fantasy.

Other faeries are content to live in their own world, enclosed by protective spells that keep away both humans and devils. But Magpie is different, she gets her restless energy from her parents and her grandfather, the West Wind. She travels with her band of crows to fight against devils, just like the champions in the golden days of Dreamdark. Devils are evil creatures who devour and destroy everything they can get their hands on. Magpie is one feisty character and I didn’t have trouble liking her. She’s young for her race, about a hundred years old, but she’s determined to do something for their dying world. Even though I didn’t think the writing in Blackbringer is as beautiful and lyrical as her YA novels, I still think she created an enchanting world in her first Dreamdark novel and I look forward to seeing how she builds upon that. Some things that I liked about her faeries: they belong in different clans and have their own special skills (e.g. one clan tends to plants and trees while another warrior clan is in charge of protecting Dreamdark) and their wings vary too. Some faeries have butterfly or moth wings while Magpie has dragonfly wings. Another thing that I liked is how significant dreams are in this story – dreams play important roles in the events that unfold in this novel. Illustrations by the author’s husband, Jim di Bartolo, also appear in various sections of the book. Here are samples:

I love books with illustrations in them and I think these are beautiful. While the book didn’t end on a cliffhanger, it’s set up in such a way that the reader knows that there’s more to this world. I’m excited for the sequel, Silksinger, especially since I’ve heard that it’s even better than this one. Recommended for those who enjoyed reading R.J. Anderson’s Knife or for fans of faerie books. I’m hoping that because Daughter of Smoke and Bone is getting a lot of attention, more readers will pick up Laini Taylor’s backlist.

Other reviews:
Fantasy Cafe
Charlotte’s Library
The Book Smugglers
Squeaky Books

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

I remember buying my beautiful copy of The Invention of Hugo Cabret when I was in the States for a vacation back in 2009. I got the gift edition for just $11 (yay bargain!) and I haven’t gotten around to reading it until this year because of the huge TBR pile. I finally got to pick it up for a read along with my friend Capillya of the fabulous That Cover Girl and fellow Filipino book blogger Aldrin of Fully Booked .Me.

Here’s the summary from the book’s official site:

ORPHAN, CLOCK KEEPER, AND THIEF, twelve-year-old Hugo lives in the walls of a busy Paris train station, where his survival depends on secrets and anonymity. But when his world suddenly interlocks with an eccentric girl and the owner of a small toy booth in the train station, Hugo’s undercover life, and his most precious secret, are put in jeopardy. A cryptic drawing, a treasured notebook, a stolen key, a mechanical man, and a hidden message all come together… in The Invention of Hugo Cabret.

If you’ve seen an actual copy of this book then you know that it’s quite a doorstopper. But don’t be daunted by the book’s size because it’s actually a quick and fun read with all of the illustrations and black and white pictures interwoven into the story. I only read the book at home, I couldn’t carry it around with me because it was so heavy and I was surprised at how quickly I went through it (didn’t beat Capillya’s record though, she read it in one sitting). I wanted to take pictures of all my favorite scenes in the book but I restrained myself since I couldn’t post all of them anyway. Hugo is a twelve-year-old orphan living in an apartment inside the walls of a train station in Paris. Isn’t it cool that there are apartments IN the walls of the train station? Pretty nifty. His uncle has disappeared and he has no choice but to take over his uncle’s duties as the station’s clock keeper. Hugo does this in secret though because he’s afraid that he’ll be sent to prison or to an orphanage when authorities discover that he’s living on his own. He can’t let that happen because he’s working on a little project. Want to know what that sekrit project is? Then go read the book! Sorry, I don’t want to reveal any spoilers but you find out early on what Hugo’s secret is.

I sympathized with Hugo because he’s obviously smart and has awesome skills when it comes to fixing mechanical devices and yet he was so alone. Poor Hugo. He felt like he couldn’t depend on anyone else so he relied on his own skills (as a sneaky thief) to keep him fed. I think I’ve already established my fondness for thieves in fiction here on the blog. His thieving ways lead him to and old man who owns a toy booth at the station and the old man’s god-daughter. When I think about it, nothing spectacular or unexpected happens in the book but I had so much fun following the story through both pictures and words that I didn’t really mind. Brian Selznick has a unique storytelling method, his artwork tells as much of the story as the text. While I’m not a huge movie buff, I did enjoy learning about the details of the first few films and how they were developed. Now all I have to do is look for these old films so I can watch them. The Invention of Hugo Cabret is one of those books that I can recommend regardless of a person’s preferred genres. It’s a middle grade novel but told in such an unusual format that is really worth checking out. This is the kind of book that you can read even when you’re in the middle of a reading slump because it’s so easy to fall into. I’m looking forward to watching the movie, directed by Martin Scorsese, when it comes out later this year and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it will be just as enjoyable as the book.

Other reviews:
Fully Booked .Me
The Book Smugglers
Random Musings of a Bibliophile

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

Even though I didn’t fall in love with Patrick Ness’ The Knife of Never Letting Go, I enjoyed it enough to read his other books. I’ve seen rave reviews of A Monster Calls so I decided to request a copy from NetGalley when it became available there. I finished reading this book weeks ago and I’ve let a draft of my review rest in my dashboard, hoping that I’ll be able to write something substantial while the dust settles. I admit defeat, nothing that I can write will do this book justice.

Here’s the summary from Patrick Ness’ website:

A Monster CallsThe monster showed up just after midnight. As they do.

But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting. He’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the one he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming…

The monster in his back garden, though, this monster is something different. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor.

It wants the truth.

This book should come with a warning: “Avoid reading this in public places because it will make you cry.” I should have known better than to read A Monster Calls in Starbucks while waiting for friends. I figured I was immune to Patrick Ness’ emotional punches since I remained tear-free while reading The Knife of Never Letting Go. I was wrong. I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned it here on the blog but back in January 2007, my dad was diagnosed with stage three lung cancer. Five months later, he passed away. I don’t talk about it here because I used to think it’s too personal but I want to share why this particular book resonated with me. To say that I could relate to Connor is an understatement. I wanted to go inside the book and hug him to let him know that he isn’t alone in his pain. And I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who felt that way. In a world where cancer is becoming more common, I feel like it has touched the lives of almost everyone – be it through a family member or a friend. I’ve lost count of the number of wakes and funerals that I’ve attended because someone lost his or her battle to cancer. I’m thankful that Patrick Ness decided to write this novel because it articulates what so many of us can never put into words – all the anger, the hopelessness, the fear and yes, the denial because accepting the truth is never an easy thing. And that’s what the monster wants from Connor: for him to reveal the truth because he can never move on if he can’t even admit it to himself.

This a contemporary middle grade or younger YA novel and only the presence of the monster adds a touch of whimsy to the story. You don’t have to be a Patrick Ness fan or a middle grade/young adult reader to appreciate this book. What Connor experiences is something that every human being will understand. You know that feeling when a book does a better job of describing how you feel? A Monster Calls is that kind of book. Just thinking about it while writing my review brings to the surface all the emotions that I felt while reading Connor’s story. Ever since I started the blog, I’ve become drawn to well-written, emotional reads that deal with grief and maybe it’s because of my own experience, maybe I’m trying to find the words to illustrate how I felt in the books that I read. I’m fond of quoting C.S. Lewis, “We read to know we’re not alone” because it’s true. A Monster Calls makes me feel that I’m not alone. So thank you, Patrick Ness, I know you already have numerous fans but I just want to say that you’ve gained another one and I will read everything that you’ve written and everything else that you will write. I need to buy an actual copy of this book so I can read it over and over again.

Other reviews:
Book Harbinger
The Book Smugglers
Coffeespoons
Ficsation
One More Page