Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

I’ve been reading a lot of YA lately based on the great reviews that I’ve seen around the blogosphere. I was excited to read Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta. I was all set to buy the hardcover at the Fully Booked sale and was delighted to find that the paperback version was already available.

Here’s the summary from Melina Marchetta’s website:

“What do you want from me?” he asks.
What I want from every person in my life, I want to tell him.
More.”

Taylor Markham is not a popular choice. She is erratic, has no people skills and never turns up to meetings. Not to mention the incident when she ran off in search of her mother and only got halfway there. But she’s lived at Jellicoe School most of her life and as leader of the boarders that’s her greatest asset. Especially now the cadets, led by the infamous Jonah Griggs, have arrived. The territory wars between the boarders, townies and cadets are about to recommence.

But Taylor has other things on her mind: a prayer tree, the hermit who whispered in her ear, and a vaguely familiar drawing in the local police station. Taylor wants to understand the mystery of her own past. But Hannah, the woman who found her, has suddenly disappeared, leaving nothing but an unfinished manuscript about five kids whose lives entwined twenty years ago on the Jellicoe Road.

I have one word to describe this book: intense. Everything about this book, from the characters to how they relate to each other to the emotions, is intense. I finished reading this a couple of days ago and I still can’t stop thinking about it. Book hangover alert! This is such a beautiful book about love, friendship and family. The characters went through so much that you can’t help but empathize and feel for them.

Taylor was abandoned in a 7-eleven store by her mom when she was 11. One of her boarding school’s house mothers, Hannah, picked her up and watched out for her ever since. When Hannah suddenly disappears without an explanation, Taylor realizes that her past is somewhat tied to Hannah’s and she has to uncover mysteries to learn more about herself.

I admit that I was lost and confused by the first few chapters of the book. Taylor narrates but interspersed in her story are pages from Hannah’s manuscript about the incredible friendship of five kids who used to live in that area. Hannah’s story occured more than twenty years ago so basically you’re following two story arcs as you read. I think this is also the first time that I’ve read a novel set in Australia so some of the terms used and the school structure were a bit confusing for me. Just keep reading and by the time you get to the middle, I’m sure you won’t be able to stop. Each revelation will make you want to know more. I love the characters in this book – Taylor, Jonah, Raffy, Chaz and also the kids in the manuscript: Narnie, Webb, Tate, Jude and Fitz. They’re all a part of this amazing story. And the sizzling connection between Taylor and Jonah has fed my YA romance hunger.

I highly recommend this to fellow YA fans or even those who aren’t into YA. I wonder if Melina Marchetta’s other books are just as good? I’d love to read them if they are but I haven’t seen them around.

Books vs. Food

If you’ve known me for a while, you know that I love to eat. In my old job, all of my co-workers knew this. Mostly because most of the employees there were workaholics who skip meals because of work or if they bother to eat, they eat in front of their laptops while working. I was different because I always make a point of eating whenever I’m hungry. Plus I’m enthusiastic about the food places that I love so I always tell people about these places and thus encourage them to try the food there. Before I left, they were joking that they should compile a list of the food items that I persuaded people to eat.

I’m writing about this because hakaw has asked me before this question: if I had to choose between good food and books, what would I choose? I said I honestly don’t know. Up to now, I haven’t given her an answer. I remembered it because this topic has been brought up in one of my Goodreads groups. One of my friends there said that she had to make this choice before – there wasn’t any food in the house so she decided to get take out but then she saw a book that she really wanted but she only had enough money for food. She decided to buy the book and just skip dinner.

My top three favorite activities are eating, sleeping and reading (yes I know, those are all activities for the lazy) so it’s really a tough choice for me. But I realize that while I’ve always liked reading, I wasn’t into food when I was younger. I was a really picky eater and I didn’t enjoy good food like I do now. I didn’t even eat Japanese food back then! When I really think about it, I’m more excited about getting a book that I really want than eating at a great restaurant. For example, if I had to choose right now between having a copy of A Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner and eating at a hotel buffet like Heat, I’d choose the book right away. So there, I guess I choose books. hakaw, I finally have an answer! I’m just really thankful that I can afford to buy books and eat out from time to time.

“When I have a little money, I buy books; and if I have any left, I buy food and clothes.”
— Desiderius Erasmus Roterodamus

How about you, what would you pick if you had to make a choice, food or books? Or have you ever had to decide between two favorite things?

Beauty and the Beast

I like fairy tales because I like the phrases Once upon a time and Happily ever after and what they mean. I like happy endings because I want to feel good after reading a book. This is one of the reasons why I like fairy tale retellings. I also like retellings because it’s always interesting how an authors come up with a new story woven around the basic premise of old fairy tales.

My favorite fairy tale is Beauty and the Beast. I’ve read a couple of retellings of this tale such as:

Beauty by Robin McKinley
Rose Daughter by Robin McKinley
Fire Rose by Mercedes Lackey
Beast by Donna Jo Napoli

I also have Beastly by Alex Finn in my wish list. Beauty is my favorite out of all these books.

In my quest to find more retellings of Beauty and the Beast, I came to realize that there are other stories that are similar to this tale such as Cupid and Psyche’s story in Greek mythology and the Norweigan fairy tale East of the Sun and West of the Moon, which in turn, have their own retellings. Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis for Cupid and Psyche and the following for East of the Sun and West of the Moon:

East by Edith Pattou
Ice by Sarah Beth Durst
Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow by Jessica Day George

I don’t have a copy of the last one so I haven’t read it. But I just finished reading Ice, which is the reason why I’m writing this post. If there are other retellings out there, please let me know.

Speaking of Once upon a time, here’s a nice quote that I got from Godreads:

“We don’t need a list of rights and wrongs, tables of do’s and don’ts: we need books, time, and silence. Thou shalt not is soon forgotten, but Once upon a time lasts forever.” — Philip Pullman

Favorite Literary Couples

It’s Valentine’s Day on Sunday so I thought I’d write about my favorite literary couples to celebrate the holiday dedicated to love.♥ Here goes:

Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice – this is a classic pair! Who doesn’t love Mr. Darcy? Every girl who’s read Pride and Prejudice probably has a crush on Mr. Darcy. I have a guy friend who has a crush on Elizabeth. It’s funny because Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy try to stay away from each other but they just can’t help falling in love.

Jessica Darling and Marcus Flutie from Megan McCafferty’s books Sloppy Firsts, Second Helpings, Charmed Thirds, Fourth Comings and Perfect Fifths – I remember when my friends and I first read this series back in college. We all wanted our own Marcus Flutie – the proverbial bad boy who turned out to be a genius, acting out because he was bored with school.

Gen and Irene from Megan Whalen Turner’s Queen’s Thief series – No surprise here, I talk about these books often enough

Meliara and Vidanric from Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith – Yay for subtle romance and an unreliable narrator! Mel didn’t even suspect a thing until the last minute, she was even confused about her own feelings.

Keturah and Lord Death from Keturah and Lord Death by Martine Leavitt – An immortal or a god falling in love with a human is a usual formula but what can I say, I loved the movie Meet Joe Black so I was intrigued with the premise of this one. Here’s a nice quote from the book:

“… the girl longed for a love that could not be ended by death. From the time she was young, she knew that her true love was there, somewhere, living a life that would one day intersect her own. Knowing this made every day full of sweet possibility. Knowing that her true love lived and breathed and went about his day under her same sun made her fears vanish, her sorrows small, and her hopes high. Though she did not yet know his face, the color of his eyes, still she knew him better than anyone else knew him, knew his hopes and dreams, what made him laugh and cry.”

I would also like to throw in my favorite quote from Meet Joe Black. I’m not sure if this is an exact quote because search results in Google vary but you get the drift.

“I want you to find someone who makes you deliriously happy, someone who will sweep you away, someone who will levitate you and make you sing with rapture. Love is passion, obsession. someone you can’t live without, fall head over heels and vice versa. Find someone you can live like crazy. How do you find them? Well forget your head and listen to your heart. There is no sense living without this… to make the journey and not fall deeply in love, you haven’t lived at all. And who knows, one day, out of nowhere, lightning could strike.”

I will cut my list short before it gets too long, but I would just like to list down other favorites:

Harry and Corlath from The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley
Ella and Char from Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
Isi and Geric from The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale
Howl and Sophie from Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
Katsa and Po from Graceling by Kristin Cashore

So, who are your favorite literary couples? 🙂

Megan Whalen Turner’s Queen’s Thief series

I thought I’d start this recommending thing with the awesomeness that is Megan Whalen Turner (MWT). MWT’s Queen’s Thief series (The Thief, The Queen of Attolia, The King of Attolia) is one of my favorite series of all time. If I was stuck in one of the tropical islands of the Philippines with no hope of rescue for a considerable amount of time, I’d want to have these books with me.

Here’s a summary of The Thief from MWT’s website:

The most powerful advisor to the King of Sounis is the magus. He’s not a wizard, he’s a scholar, an aging solider, not a thief. When he needs something stolen, he pulls a young thief from the King’s prison to do the job for him. Gen is a thief and proud of it. When his bragging lands him behind bars he has one chance to win his freedom – journey to a neighboring kingdom with the magus, find a legendary stone called Hamiathes’s Gift and steal it.

Simple really, except for the mountains in between, the temple under water, and the fact that no one has ever gone hunting Hamiathes’s Gift and returned alive.

The magus has plans for his King and his country. Gen has plans of his own.

I first read The Thief when I was 12-years old or so, back when I was collecting all the Newbery books that I could get my hands on. For some reason, the story didn’t stick with me. My favorites back then were The Giver, A Wrinkle in Time and From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. I became re-acquianted with MWT’s books when I read her interview with Shannon Hale. This was in 2007, when I started to realize that I’m more into fantasy than any other genre (although the Queen’s Thief series is more historical fiction than fantasy, more on that later). I checked out the bookstore and was delighted to find out that the books are available here and they have such beautiful covers too.

So I bought the books then I read The Thief, I liked it but didn’t fall in love with it. To go back to what I said earlier about this series being more historical fiction than fantasy, I think it is fantasy because it is set in a made-up world reminiscent of ancient Greece. This world doesn’t have a lot of magic and the magic that does exist comes from the gods, similar to the gods in Greek mythology.

The first book is narrated by Eugenides (Gen for short), the main character of the story who gets drafted by the magus of Sounis to steal a legendary stone that no one has ever seen. Gen is a whiny brat but extremely clever and funny. He narrates their adventure as they travel across three neighboring kingdoms – Sounis, Eddis and Attolia. I liked the character development in this book because you get to know the minor characters even though you only see glimpses of them. As said earlier, I had already read the book when I was younger but for the life of me, couldn’t remember the story. Even though I wasn’t enamored of The Thief, it was still a good read.

Then I read The Queen of Attolia and was blown away. There were so many unexpected developments in that book. And it had more political intrigue and a more mature tone than The Thief.

Here’s an excerpt of the summary of The Queen of Attolia from MWT’s website:

The strong-willed queens of Attolia and Eddis maneuver for power and to protect their lands in this fast-paced sequel to the stellar Newbery Honor Book The Thief. Scheming, spying, thieving, and fighting fill the pages of this cleverly plotted, enjoyable tale.

I didn’t put in the whole summary to avoid spoilers (don’t click the link if you haven’t read The Thief). I also couldn’t say more about the plot because I’m trying to stay as spoiler-free as possible. Anyway, in this book we see Gen grow as a person and develop his skills, not just as a thief but also as a spy. But this book is not just about Gen, it’s also about the three countries – Sounis, Eddis and Attolia (although more of the latter two) and how the gods affect these nations. One of my favorite quotes from the series is this:

“If I am the pawn of the gods, it is because they know me so well, not because they make up my mind for me.” – Queen of Eddis

Suffice it to say that I was really amazed with The Queen of Attolia and I didn’t want to read the next book because I wanted the story to sink in first. And I thought the next book will probably not live up to this one. But I was wrong! The King of Attolia is as good as, if not better than, The Queen of Attolia. Again, I can’t say much about this book but it starts where The Queen of Attolia left off. Note that I didn’t put a summary. I’d advise others not to read blurbs found in other sites or other reviews because they may contain spoilers.

This series also has romance (I’m a sucker for those!) but a very subtle kind of love story. One that is unexpected and will take you by surprise. I think one of the reasons why I love this series is because of that romance.

I cannot say it enough – THIS SERIES IS BRILLIANT! Absolutely brilliant. After reading the series, I had a book hangover. You know that feeling that you get when you get hooked to a book and you feel like you left your mind behind in that world? It’s like that. I remember the time when I just finished reading the series, I had that hangover and I wanted to talk to someone about this awesome series but couldn’t find anyone else who’ve read the books. So I searched online and found an LJ community as crazy in love with the series as I am: Sounis. I love this community! People have so much fun just discussing the books down to the smallest details. And I’ve gotten a lot of great book recommendations from this community as well. I was lucky enough to meet up a couple of Sounis in SoCal when I was there last year. If there are any other QT fans in Manila, let me know! Maybe we can do a Manila meet up.

So that’s it, one of my favorite series of all time – Megan Whalen Turner’s Queen Thief series: The Thief, The Queen of Attolia and The King of Attolia. The fourth book, A Conspiracy of Kings is coming out this March 23, 2010. I can’t wait!

Here’s a nifty book trailer created by Greenwillow (the publisher of the series) for The Thief:

Other book details:
Availability – these books used to be available in some National Bookstore, Powerbooks and Fully Booked branches. Nowadays, only Fully Booked has copies of all three and some Powerbooks branches have copies of The Thief.

Price – P252 each for both The Thief and The Queen of Attolia in Fully Booked and P360 for The King of Attolia

You can get signed copies of the books from Mysterious Galaxy.

Austenland by Shannon Hale

I just finished reading Austenland by Shannon Hale and I loved it! This is not a review because I’m not much of a writer but just a general squee about the book. I’ve read all of Shannon Hale’s young adult books and some of them are in my list of favorites. Austenland is Shannon Hale’s first adult novel.

This is the premise: Thirty-three-year-old Jane Hayes is obsessed with Mr. Darcy, as portrayed by Colin Firth in the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. This obsession is the cause of her failed relationships because she always compares the guys to Mr. Darcy and they come up short of her expectations. Her great-aunt bequeaths her with a vacation to Pembrook Park, a resort where everyone speaks, dresses and acts like they’re in one of Jane Austen’s novels. Jane decides to go to finally get over her Mr. Darcy addiction. Austenland narrates her three-week stay at Pembrook Park and her interactions with fellow guests and actors paid to romance them, Regency style.

I highly recommend this to fans of Jane Austen. It’s a light, fun read and I’m sure girls will be able to relate to the main character. It made me want to watch the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice but I don’t know where I can get it. I only saw the film adaptation with Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Bennet.

I found an excerpt from Shannon Hale’s website if anyone wants to check it out. 🙂

Quote from the book under the cut

Man of My Fiction

I think one of the main reasons why I love reading YA (young adult) so much is because of the kilig factor. You know, the feeling that you used to get back when you were a teenager and you start to realize that you like someone (and if you’re lucky, that person likes you back). And everything that person does has an impact on you – a look, a smile, a gesture can represent so many different things. YA romances lets you relive those moments for yourselves. I think this is also one of the reasons why Twilight is such a big hit. I remember I have an icon somewhere that says “Bella Swan – most envied fictional character since Elizabeth Bennett”.

I am not immune to the charms of fictional guys and I have a few crushes of my own. Here are a couple of examples and some excerpts from the books to show why I like them so much♥ (these excerpts do not sum up these characters so I highly recommend that you read the books):

Marcus Flutie from the Jessica Darling series (Megan McCafferty)
He looked straight at me, then stripped off the button-down he was wearing, under which, he was wearing a passion-red T-shirt that said: YOU. YES. YOU. Then he strummed the guitar and began singing his song for me. Yes. Me.

Eugenides from The Thief, Queen of Attolia, King of Attolia (Megan Whalen Turner)
Unable to guess the answer, she asked, “Who am I, that you should love me?”
“You are My Queen,” said Eugenides. She sat perfectly still, looking at him without moving as his words dropped like water into dry earth.

Vidanric from Crown Duel (Sherwood Smith)
“How about a wager”
“A wager?” I repeated.
“Yes,” he said, and gave me a slow smile, bright with challenge. “Who reaches Jeriab’s Broken Shield in Lumm first.”
“Stake?” I asked cautiously.
He was still smiling, an odd sort of smile, hard to define. “A kiss.”

I couldn’t choose an excerpt for the other characters so here’s the rest of the list:
Po from Graceling (Kristin Cashore)
Corlath from The Blue Sword (Robin McKinley)
Geric from Goose Girl (Shannon Hale)
Charmonte from Ella Enchanted (Gail Carson Levine)
Lord Death from Keturah and Lord Death (Martine Leavitt)
Tristan from Stardust (Neil Gaiman)

You know that phrase “man of my dreams”? I think in my case it should be “man of my fiction” hahaha. So who’s your fictional crush? 😛

Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist

Thanks to Aika for letting me borrow this book.:)

Quotes from Norah:

“There’s one part of Judaism that I really like. Conceptually, I mean. It’s called tikkun olam… Basically, it says that the world has been broken into pieces. All this chaos, all this discord. And our job – everyone’s job – is to try to put the pieces back together. To make things whole again.”

“I don’t know how the world broke. And I don’t know if there’s a God who can help us fix it. But the fact that the world is broken – I absolutely believe that. Just look around us. Every minute – every single second – there are a million things you could be thinking about. A million things you could be worrying about. Our world – don’t you just feel we’re becoming more and more fragmented? I used to think that when I got older, the world would make so much more sense. But you know what? The older I get, the more confusing it is to me. The more complicated it is. Harder… I find myself grasping, Nick. You know that feeling? That feeling when you just want the right thing to fall into the right place, not only because it’s right, but because it will mean that such a thing is still possible? I want to believe in that.”

Why fantasy is my favorite genre…

I got this from Shannon Hale’s blog

“We all like astonishing tales because they touch the nerve of the ancient instinct of astonishment. This is proved by the fact that when we are very young children we do not need fairy tales: we only need tales. Mere life is interesting enough. A child of seven is excited by being told that Tommy opened a door and saw a dragon. But a child of three is excited by being told that Tommy opened a door. Boys like romantic tales; but babies like realistic tales – because they find them romantic. In fact, a baby is about the only person, I should think, to whom a modern realistic novel could be read without boring him.

This proves that even nursery tales only echo an almost pre-natal leap of interest and amazement. These tales say that apples were golden only to refresh the forgotten moment when we found that they were green. They make rivers run with wine only to make us remember, for one wild moment, that they run with water.”

– The Ethics of Elfland, Orthodoxy, G. K. Chesterton