The Final Descent

finaldescentThe Final Descent by Rick Yancey
The Monstrumologist # 4
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Number of pages: 320
My copy: Kindle edition

Will Henry and Dr. Warthrop have encountered many horrors together—but can Will endure a monstrumological terror without his mentor?

Will Henry has been through more that seems possible for a boy of fourteen. He’s been on the brink of death on more than one occasion, he has gazed into hell—and hell has stared back at him, and known his face. But through it all, Dr. Warthrop has been at his side.

When Dr. Warthrop fears that Will’s loyalties may be shifting, he turns on Will with a fury, determined to reclaim his young apprentice’s devotion. And so Will must face one of the most horrific creatures of his monstrumology career—and he must face it alone.

Over the course of one day, Will’s life—and Pellinor Warthrop’s destiny—will lie in balance. In the terrifying depths of the Monstrumarium, they will face a monster more terrible than any they could have imagined—and their fates will be decided.

* * *

I reserved reading the last book in the Monstrumologist series for Halloween, and I promised myself not to read it the way I read the third book — meaning I won’t read it for ages. I was a little bit hesitant to dive into it, actually, because my memory of the third book told me that things have gone down the darker path for Will Henry and Pellinore Warthrop. Not that it hasn’t been dark from the start, but really, I was kind of wary about how things will end, and what we will know of Will Henry and what exactly happened to Pellinore Warthrop.

In The Final Descent, we meet an older Will Henry than the one in the previous books — one just a little older than the Will Henry in The Isle of Blood, and one way older, who returns to Warthrop after a long time of being apart. There’s another monster, one that hatches from an egg and becomes a snake that just grows bigger and bigger as it devours its prey inside out. There’s still the society, Lily Bates and the Monstrumarium and the Abraham Von Helrung, and of course, lots of gore and darkness, just as the first three books had.

The Final Descent is written in a different way, flashing forward and back, that I’m not entirely sure which was the more dominant time in the story. It gets a little confusing at first, but the voices of the younger and older Will Henry were both distinct, and I can’t help but wonder what exactly happened in between that made the older Will Henry like that. It was a far cry from the Will Henry in the first two books, which made me just a little uncomfortable because this wasn’t the Will Henry I’ve known to love. I guess this is an effect of puberty, as well as what happened in the third book, but it didn’t exactly sit well with me, so much that I almost had a hard time reading through the book to get to the end.

The book is all parts ambiguous and it circles around, until it gets to the end and I sort of understand what happened. Except that I’m still not entirely sure, because it really felt like the Will Henry I read in this book was just different. That doesn’t mean I feel a lot satisfied, because I really and truly missed how it was in the earlier books. Oh, the writing was beautiful, I have to give it that. But by the time I got to the end, I was just happy I’m done reading that I can put it behind me. I’m not really wishing for a happy ending, but something a little less…philosophical or existential, I guess?

But then I realize that maybe I started falling a little out of love with the series by the time I started slowing down in reading the third book. Perhaps I was just in this for the adventure, and to get my own dose of gore. I still think that The Monstrumologist series is one of the best out there, but unfortunately, this book is the one I liked the least.

Number of dog-eared page(s): 16

Favorite dog-eared quote(s):

I am the infinite nothing out of which everything flows.

We are vain and arrogant, evolution’s highest achievement and most dismal failure, prisoners of our self-awareness and the illusion that we stand in the center, that there is us and then there is everything else but us.

For true beauty – beauty, as it were, with a capital B – is terrifying; it puts us in our place; it reflects back to us our own ugliness. It is the prize beyond price.

You cannot choose not to fall in love, but you can choose for the sake of love to let love go. Let it go.

Rating:

Reviews of other The Monstrumologist Books:
#1 The Monstrumologist
#2 The Curse of the Wendigo
#3 The Isle of Blood

Other reviews:
Opinions of a Wolf

Tigana

tiganaTigana by Guy Gavriel Kay
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Number of pages: 692
My copy: Kindle edition

Eight of the nine provinces of the Peninsula of the Palm, on a world with two moons, have fallen to the warrior sorcerers Brandin of Ygrath and Alberico of Barbadior. Brandin’s younger son is slain in a battle with the principality of Tigana, which the grief-stricken sorcerer then destroys. After sweeping down and destroying the remnants of their army, burning their books and destroying their architecture and statuary, he makes it so that no one not born in that province can even hear its name. Years later, a small band of survivors, led by Alessan, last prince of Tigana’s royal house, wages psychological warfare, planting seeds for the overthrow of the two tyrants. At the center of these activities are Devin, a gifted young singer; Catriana, a young woman pursued by suspicions of her family’s guilt; and Duke Sandre d’Astibar, a wily resistance leader thought dead. Meanwhile, at Brandin’s court, Dianora, his favorite concubine and–unknown to anyone, another survivor of Tigana–struggles between her growing love for the often gentle tyrant and her desire for vengeance. Gradually the scene is set for both conquerors to destroy each other and free a land.

* * *

I don’t read a lot of high fantasy novels because I’m more of a contemporary romance kind of person. And because of that, it takes me a while to really get into a world, especially one that required maps and had different names of people with powers and such. I noticed that a lot of high fantasy novels often had a lot of characters, too — with odd names to boot — so sometimes I feel like I need to get into a different kind of mindset before I take on a high fantasy novel.

Hah, I feel like I sounded like such a wuss there, especially since two of my closest friends in the book club are fans of high fantasy novels. So when they moderated the high fantasy discussion for our book club in 2013, I can’t not be too whiny about it. Especially since the book was about 800+ long. But I’ve finished Les Misérables this year, and while it’s not a high fantasy novel, it had a lot of characters. This shouldn’t be that hard, right? *cracks knuckles*

Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay is a standalone high fantasy novel set in a place called Peninsula of the Palm. Two people rule eight of the nine provinces in the Palm — Brandin of Ygrath and Alberico of Barbadior. Sometime in the past, Brandin’s younger son is slain in Tigana, and in his grief and anger, he flattened Tigana and cursed everyone to forget that it ever existed, except for those who came from Tigana itself. Some years later, some survivors banded together in hopes of destroying Brandin to get Tigana back, and also to overthrow the other tyrant in the Palm. What follows is a long story of magic, psychological warfare, political intrigue, hidden identities and a story layered with so many complexities that it’s hard to pick just what side you want to win at the end.

First off: Tigana was an easy to read book. Far from, say, Tolkien’s LotR, Tigana had such an accessible language that it wasn’t so hard to get reading. It helped that our moderators provided a guide to their naming conventions and who owns what province because it helped adjusting to the novel a lot easier and listing the characters in the head easier, too. And speaking of characters, I really liked Devin from the start — he seemed like a very interesting character, and I knew, even if I have essentially no idea what was going to happen in the novel (I didn’t read the back cover blurb before I started reading) that he was in for an interesting ride. I liked how he changed from a simple musician to something else, and how he had learned to accept the discovery of his roots and defend it. The other band of people surrounding Devin were so fun to read, too — they played off each other’s characters perfectly, and I liked how they all formed a tight-knit group that were there for each other throughout the story.

But I’m making it sound like it’s all light and fluffy. Truth is, it wasn’t. Tigana is a book filled with so many twists and turns for the characters to get to a certain goal. The interesting part of this is we don’t see just one particular point of view, but several. In Tigana, we also sort of get into the mind of Brandin and Alberico, and the things that surround them. We see their motivations, and how they changed from being this person to another, to the point that it was really kind of hard to choose which side to pick at the end. This gives another layer of depth to the novel, and somehow make it a little more realistic as far as how it parallels real life. Nothing is ever black and white, and even people we have pegged to be a certain kind of person. In a way, I wished there was some sort of happy ending for everyone…but then, you can’t always get what you want.

In the end, Tigana brings about a pretty satisfying ending…and then GGK suddenly brings another thing into the mix, and then it’s over. This is the first time in the longest time that I wished there was a sequel to a novel, and a high fantasy one at that, that I would totally read. I mean, that ending! How can I not want to know what happens next?

Overall, Tigana was a really great read. I think there were just some parts that seemed unnecessarily long, but like what I said in Les Mis, those parts make up for the novel’s background and gives it a richer texture, and I think that’s what makes chunkster novels different from the usual 300-400-page books. While I still think that I’m a contemporary girl at heart, I wouldn’t mind reading more high fantasy + chunkster novels if they’re as good as Tigana.

Number of dog-eared page(s): 21

Favorite dog-eared quote(s):

The beauty we find is shaped, at least in part, by what we know the morning will bring.

He could guess, analyze, play out scenarios in his mind, but he would never know. It was a night-time truth that became a queer, private sorrow for him amid all that came after. A symbol, a displacement of regret. A reminder of what it was to be mortal and so doomed to tread one road only and that one only once, until Morian called the soul away and Eanna’s lights were lost. We can never truly know the path we have not walked.

“My third glass of a night is blue,” Alessan said. “The third glass I drink is always of blue wine. In memory of something lost. Lest on any single night I forget what it is I am alive to do.”

But time was not rewound, neither in the heart nor in the world as they knew it. It moved on, and things changed, for better or for worse; seasons changed, the hours of sunlit day went by, darkness fell and lingered and gave way to light at dawn, years spun after each other one by one, people were born, and lived by the Triad’s grace, and they died.

Words were power, words tried to change you, to shape bridges of longing that no one could ever really cross.

In this world, where we find ourselves, we need compassion more than anything, I think, or we are all alone.

Rating:

Other reviews:
Rabbitin
Angieville

The Scorpio Races

The Scorpio RacesThe Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
Published by: Scholastic
Number of pages: 404
My copy: hardbound, gift from Scholastic Philippines

It happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line. Some riders live. Others die.

At age nineteen, Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. He is a young man of few words, and if he has any fears, he keeps them buried deep, where no one else can see them.

Puck Connolly is different. She never meant to ride in the Scorpio Races. But fate hasn’t given her much of a chance. So she enters the competition — the first girl ever to do so. She is in no way prepared for what is going to happen.

* * *

I’ve had The Scorpio Races on my TBR for a long time now, and I even planned to read it last year but I never got around to it. After a series of non-YA books from the latter part of the year, diving into Maggie Stiefvater’s standalone book felt like a breath of fresh air.

The Scorpio Races is set in the small island of Thisby, in November, when and where Capaill uisce — commonly known as water horses — come out from the ocean and sort of terrorize the town. But the people of Thisby has learned to adapt, and they have the Scorpio Races, where men capture these horses, try to tame them and race them without getting killed or pulled into the water (and still get killed). In this little island is Sean Kendrick, the returning champion who works in the local water horse ranch, whose only real friend is his red capall uisce, Corr. And then there’s Puck Connolly, who never meant to ride the races but ends up doing so, to keep what’s left in her family. She’s the first girl to ever join the race, and it’s ruffled the feathers of the other men…but then again, who says she’s going to survive it?

I remember liking Stiefvater’s Shiver mostly because of the beautiful writing. It was a “mood” read. I was in the mood for something cold because it was December, and that book delivered it perfectly. I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to feel when I picked up The Scorpio Races, but like Shiver, it had a certain mood in it because of the writing: dark, mysterious, dangerous, and probably tinged with a little despair, too, because of Puck’s situation.

The book was a little slow in parts, and it feels like forever before the real show — aka the race — happened. But even so, I liked how the author built it all up. I got to know Puck and her family and her relationship with her younger brother Finn was one of my favorite parts of the book. It was a sad thing, too, because of how each of them were driven to do what they had to do, but you have to admire Puck’s courage to do what she did in the book. And then there’s Sean Kendrick, who seems to be the epitome of the strong, silent type in fictional guys that I’ve read so far. I liked him a lot, and his chapters were really a delight to read. Granted, the fascination with the horses — especially Corr — was a little creepy, but I try to think of it as how some people are very close to their dogs. It’s basically the same, right?

Oh and I must mention the swoon in this book. Oooh, I really liked how that played out. Again, it sort of took forever, but I liked how the two main characters danced around each other that sometimes I wasn’t really sure if there’s really something going on between them that isn’t about their horses. Their growing friendship and the romantic tension were so well-written that I was really happy there weren’t any third parties involved because it would be just too much if there’s still one. They have to race killer horses and figure out a love triangle? Please, no.

I liked The Scorpio Races, but I think I would have liked it better if I was more of a fan of horses. I can see why people would like it, but I’m just a horse person, like how I’m a dog person. Does that make sense? But still, I really enjoyed this book, and I will definitely read another Stiefvater book soon. :)

Number of dog-eared pages: 13

Favorite dog-eared quote(s):

This island runs on courage, not blood. (p. 198)

It’s easy to convince men to love you, Puck. All you have to do is be a mountain they have to climb or a poem they don’t understand. Something that makes them feel strong and clever. It’s why they love the ocean…When you’re too much like them, the mystery’s gone. No point seeking the grail if it looks like your teacup. (p. 252)

“I will not be your weakness, Sean Kendrick.”
“It’s late for that, Puck.” (p. 337)

Rating:

Other reviews:
Chachic’s Book Nook

Hyperbole and a Half

Hyperbole and a Half by Allie BroshHyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh
Publisher: Touchstone
Number of pages: 384
My copy: ebook from Netgalley

This is a book I wrote. Because I wrote it, I had to figure out what to put on the back cover to explain what it is.

I tried to write a long, third-person summary that would imply how great the book is and also sound vaguely authoritative—like maybe someone who isn’t me wrote it—but I soon discovered that I’m not sneaky enough to pull it off convincingly.

So I decided to just make a list of things that are in the book: Pictures. Words. Stories about things that happened to me. Stories about things that happened to other people because of me. Eight billion dollars. Stories about dogs. The secret to eternal happiness.

These are lies. Perhaps I have underestimated my sneakiness!

* * *

I’ve loved Hyperbole and a Half ever since my colleague told me about the blog. I remember there were days when I’d read the blog and start laughing uncontrollably at my desk, reading and rereading my favorite entries and hoping for more, more always more because the world needs more stories from Allie. I loved the drawings, the seemingly impossible stories about her dogs, the stuff about cake, the Alot and stories of her childhood. They were funny and crazy and just a delight to read, and the blog became one of my go-to places whenever I need some cheering up.

So I was thrilled when I found out she had a book coming out, because like I said, I can’t get enough of her stuff. It took a little while, because of her adventures in depression, but I was glad when I saw the book up on Netgalley. It came at a pretty good time, too, because I needed something quick and funny to read, and this was just the one I needed.

Hyperbole and a Half contains some of the stories that you can find in Allie’s blog, with some new stories, too. I had fun reading the stories in this collection, although I have to admit that some of them didn’t make me laugh too much because I have read them too many times in the blog. I guess I can only laugh about them so much?

The other never-before-seen stories were funny, though, and I especially loved the one with the goose. Oh my Lord, I had a grand time reading that one, and I can’t stop laughing over the images of the goose trying to get in the room, and the scene in the car. The funniest part of it were the actual photos of the goose to prove that it really happened — you know what, even if it didn’t really happen, I don’t care. It was just so unbelievably funny that it is now a part of the favorite Hyperbole and a Half stories in my head.

I think most of my reading experience was hampered a bit by the device I used to read the book and the ebook formatting. I read the book in my phone because reading it in Hannah the Kindle Paperwhite won’t be fun because the illustrations aren’t colored. My phone has an itty-bitty screen though, and it made reading just a little bit bothersome compared to say, if I read it in an iPad or a bigger tablet. Plus the formatting was sometimes wonky, so I wasn’t sure if I was reading a new story  or if it’s a part of the previous story until I’m sort of halfway through.

But I think Hyperbole and a Half is best read in print format, because of the illustrations. I liked it a lot (alot, heehee :P), and it was still pretty funny despite the technological limitations I faced. If you’re a fan of her blog, go and get this, at least to have a print copy of the stories you loved. But if you’re sort of new to her, you can dip your toes in her stories by browsing through her blog.

Oh, and like everyone else who reviewed this book said, I have to say it too: I missed the Alot. :(alot

 

Number of dog-ears: 6

Favorite dog-eared quote(s):

Nobody can guarantee that it’s going to be okay, but – and I don’t know if this will be comforting to anyone else – the possibility exists that there’s a piece of corn on the floor that will make you just as confused about why you are laughing as you have ever been depressed.

Sometimes expectations arise as a result of oversight on my part. But when there’s a snag in my plans because I failed to account for something, it still feels like reality’s fault. Reality should know about my plans. It should know when I’m not expecting to deal with the unexpected, even if it isn’t very unexpected.

Rating:

Required Reading: December 2013

I thought I missed writing a Required Reading post for November, but it turned out I just put it together with another post. Oops. :)

Anyway, November has come and gone and the blog is silent again. I’m sorry about that. It was a busy month, a month where I actually kind of hardly read books, too. Sometimes all I want to do when I go home is lie down and sleep, especially when my weekends are filled with all-nighters and sleeping at five in the morning when you woke up at six the previous day. I am really getting too old for this.

But here, a report for November! I managed to finish both books I set out to read so it wasn’t really so bad. Reviewing them is another matter, though. :D

  • The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater (3/5) – I enjoyed this book for the lush setting and the writing and the entire idea of the killer horses and Sean Kendrick. :3 I enjoyed it, but I’m not really much of a horse fan for this to be a 4. But I realize how relaxing it is to read a Maggie Stiefvater novel. Good thing I have two more on my TBR. :)
  • The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster (4/5) – Okay this one just…befuddled me. It’s a good book, but also quite confusing and a lot mind-bending. Haha! I finished it hours before our book discussion, and even after the discussion there were still some parts of the book that aren’t clear. But perhaps it was meant that way.

And now we go to December. But wait — can you believe it’s already the last month of the year? Wasn’t it just January yesterday???

rr2013-12

Just two books again this month, even if I am 9 books behind on my reading challenge. December is going to be really busy again, with the new ReaderCon date and the parties and all that. I will still try to reach the 75 books after all the festivities have ended, though.

Anyway, for December, I’m reading something philosophical and something about a philosopher’s stone:

rrdecember

  1. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by JK Rowling – a reread! For our book club’s discussion this month and for the Christmas party! :D We’ve got a lively start to the online discussion — care to join us? :)
  2. History in English Words by Owen Barfield – Back in June, we gave one of our good friends, JL, favors that he can claim from us for the entire year as a birthday gift. One of the favors I gave him was that I’d read anything he lends me, write notes (and now a review) and we’d discuss it (over coffee and lemon squares, I think). He has come to claim this favor and lent me this book. This isn’t something I would normally read, really, but since it is a favor. I’ve finished Chapter 1 today and it’s interesting, so far. Must not forget to write notes.

Wait. 9 books before this year ends. HUH. Crazy…but maybe doable. Maybe. I can do that. Time to bring out those short books and comics. :P

Have a happy December everyone!