Fahrenheit 451

Fahrenheit 451Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Blackbury
Publisher: Blackstone Audiobooks
My copy: Unabridged Audiobook

Fahrenheit 451 is set in a grim alternate-future setting ruled by a tyrannical government in which firemen as we understand them no longer exist: Here, firemen don’t douse fires, they ignite them. And they do this specifically in homes that house the most evil of evils: books.

Books are illegal in Bradbury’s world, but books are not what his fictional — yet extremely plausible — government fears: They fear the knowledge one pulls from books. Through the government’s incessant preaching, the inhabitants of this place have come to loathe books and fear those who keep and attempt to read them. They see such people as eccentric, dangerous, and threatening to the tranquility of their state.

But one day a fireman named Montag meets a young girl who demonstrates to him the beauty of books, of knowledge, of conceiving and sharing ideas; she wakes him up, changing his life forever. When Montag’s previously held ideology comes crashing down around him, he is forced to reconsider the meaning of his existence and the part he plays. After Montag discovers that “all isn’t well with the world,” he sets out to make things right.

* * *

There were several times when my bookish friends and I would joke around about burning some books that we don’t like, especially that vampire series that just doesn’t seem to want to die (or well, I think other books are replacing it now?). It’s really all just a joke, because for the life of me, I can’t imagine myself burning a book, no matter how much I disliked/hated it. I remember this one time where I heard of a book being torn in front of some people in school — some hater getting at it at the face of the authors — and even if I didn’t witness it first hand, my heart hurt just a little bit at the thought of a book being damaged like that.

in Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, doing such things to books are a commonplace. Books are illegal, and firemen go around hunting for books (and houses of books) to burn. Everyone’s focused on television and other seemingly mindless things, and anyone who thinks otherwise are considered dangerous. Guy Montag is a fireman, and he has lived with burning books, until he meets his neighbor, Clarisse. Clarisse makes him ask questions about his life — his wife, his job and all the question about books. He slowly realizes that maybe his life wasn’t really what he wanted it to be and sets out to do something about it.

It’s been a while since I read a dystopian book, so it took me a while to adjust to Fahrenheit 451‘s world. Since I was listening to this on audio, it took me an even longer time to really get into it. I liked the premise of the book, and as a book lover, Montag’s world felt depressing. I didn’t want that, and when I got to the chapter where Montag and his firemen buddies burned a house of books, I was wincing all the time. Ack. Perhaps there’s also something about the way Bradbury writes (and how the book was narrated) — the rhythm of his words felt almost hypnotic. I suppose it helped that I listened to the audiobook, because I thought the narrator had a very fitting voice for the story.

I liked Fahrenheit 451, and I think that it’s still quite relevant now. Bradbury wrote this book as a statement about how “…television destroys interest in reading literature,” and while that is still true, I think that there’s another competition that’s really taking everyone’s interest: internet. I mentioned during our book discussion how everyone’s so attached to being online now — myself included. I remember reading this story about the mom who gave his teenage son an iPhone for Christmas but with a contract, and this particular line in the contract got to me: Turn it off, silence it, put it away in public.  Especially in a restaurant, at the movies, or while speaking with another human being.  You are not a rude person; do not allow the iPhone to change that. (Source) I’m very guilty of this, and I’m trying to get rid of this habit, and I realized that our attachment to our smart phones and internet is another way for us to lose interest in reading. I mean, I haven’t lost interest yet, but how many times have I ended up playing with my phone, going online in all my social media accounts on the times I said I would be reading? How many times have I chosen tweeting over making an effort to make actual conversation? Those kinds of things. It’s a bit disconcerting to think about it, but I guess that’s the point of this book, anyway. It’s definitely something to think about.

I just wished there was more to Fahrenheit 451‘s ending. I wished there was more to know about the people who memorized books so no one would ever forget them, and that it didn’t simply feel like an afterthought to the story. The ending kind of reminded me of The Giver — a bit open-ended, but good enough to leave the reader asking some questions. Especially questions like, If I can only memorize one book and one book alone, which would I pick? I do not have an answer to that question. Do you?

Rating:

Required Reading: January

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My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece

My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece by Annabel PitcherMy Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece by Annabel Pitcher
Audiobook, read by David Tennant

My sister Rose lives on the mantelpiece.
Well, some of her does.
A collarbone, two ribs, a bit of skull, and a little toe.

To ten-year-old Jamie, his family has fallen apart because of the loss of someone he barely remembers: his sister Rose, who died five years ago in a terrorist bombing. To his father, life is impossible to make sense of when he lives in a world that could so cruelly take away a ten-year-old girl. To Rose’s surviving fifteen year old twin, Jas, everyday she lives in Rose’s ever present shadow, forever feeling the loss like a limb, but unable to be seen for herself alone.

Told with warmth and humor, this powerful novel is a sophisticated take on one family’s struggle to make sense of the loss that’s torn them apart… and their discovery of what it means to stay together.

* * *

I listened to this book months ago, but you know how I have that backlog in reviewing books? Yeah, this is one of them.

I was on the search for an audiobook to listen to after I realized I wanted to listen to more audiobooks because it helps me multitask. I know audiobooks are dependent on the narrator, too, so I didn’t want just any audiobook, but something that I would enjoy. And then Aaron told me about My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece by Annabel Pitcher, narrated by David Tennant. Oh, I am so in. :)

My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece is the story of ten-year-old Jamie as he tries to live in the aftermath of his older sister, Rose, dying in a terrorist attack. It has been five years since Rose died and Jamie could hardly remember her, but he could see the effect that this had on his family. This novel deals about loss, grief, hate, family and religion, all told in the eyes of a ten-year-old boy.

It was a pleasure listening to this book, not only because it was narrated by David Tennant, but because it was actually quite charming despite the serious topics it dealt with. The main character, Jamie, reminded me a bit of Auggie from Wonder, and I was immediately drawn to his story. Somehow, this gave the book a more honest point of view, and it gives us a different insight on grieving, especially for someone who you barely know but you should still grieve for.

I really liked Sunya, Jamie’s Muslim friend, too. I liked how smart and resilient and friendly she was, and how she changed Jamie’s perception of something that his father really hated and blamed for the loss of Rose. Jamie and Sunya’s friendship was cute and funny and heartwarming, and that little hint of a young romance was done quite well. But more than this friendship, I really liked Jamie’s relationship with his older sister, Jasmine. In a way, Jas lost more than anyone did, because Rose is her twin sister. Their sibling relationship made my heart hurt several times, and I liked how protective Jas was of Jamie even to the point of keeping something from him so he won’t get hurt.

This book made me laugh and tear up several times, and when it left me with a nice and hopeful feeling in the end. It’s not an easy novel to read, I think, but the author handled all the difficult issues very well. :) I liked My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece a lot, and I also need to say that I think I liked it more because David Tennant narrated it to me. <3

P.S. I can’t help but smile every time David Tennant says “Rose” in the audiobook. He turns into the the Doctor for a few seconds in my head before turning back into just the audiobook’s narrator again. :D

Rating:

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The Reread Factor (3): On the Jellicoe Road

The Reread Factor

The Reread Factor is a semi-regular blog feature that is all about the reread. I pick some of my best reads from the past and reread them to see if I like it as much as as the first time and see if they could be a book for the favorites shelf. :)

Sometime early this year, my book club started selecting books that we will discuss for our monthly discussion. When the YA theme came up, I was excited to see that my one of my favorite books last year, Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta, was included in the short list. Of course that got me campaigning for the book,  because when you love a certain book, you just want a lot of people to read it and hope to be enthralled by it like you were.

The book won by one vote, and I was happy because it gave me the perfect excuse to reread the book. This time around, though, I wanted to try another format, so I got myself an audiobook version of the book and settled in for the ride. :) My mind was ready, but I wasn’t really sure if my heart was. Still, I wanted to know if I would love the book as much as I did the first time around, especially since I know what was going to happen.

On the Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

On the Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
First read in April 2011

How did I describe this book last year? …reading this book was like breaking my heart and then putting it back together again. I know that sounds terribly dramatic, but that was exactly what I felt back when I first read this and I was anticipating the same thing when I listened to it.

Listening to the book was a different experience, mostly because it gave me a bit of room to “read” while doing something else. The audiobook became my companion for my night shift work and at home with my neck pillow, and I was transported to that little stretch of Jellicoe Road every time I turn my player on. I found that I was paying attention to the things more, and that I caught little quotes that I wasn’t sure if I caught before (my print copy has lots of dog-ears — I didn’t exactly take note what I was dog-earing then). I found the parts I love were still well-loved, and found new things to love in the book as well.

One might think that rereading this book known for its confusing start will lessen the thrill of the reading experience because you know what’s going to happen already. I was ready to be a bit less enchanted with the twists, to be less heartbroken when the things happen as I was expecting them…but I wasn’t. Okay, perhaps it’s because I came into the book expecting to love it again, so it was harder for me to find fault. There’s one chapter that still killed me, over and over again, and there were those chapters that made me smile and stop and want to listen to them again, because I forgot about them already. Despite knowing what the story was about, the reading experience was still as enjoyable as the first.

Admittedly, there was a time when I was asked, “What’s the point of all of this again?” But then as I finished listening to the book, I realized that maybe it doesn’t really have to have a point. It’s a story of real life — of Taylor and Jonah and Raffy and Santangelo, of Narnie and Jude and Webb and Tate and Fitz — and it doesn’t really have to make a single and simple point. Like what C.S. Lewis said in Mere Christianity, real things aren’t made to be simple. So maybe, a story about real life and all its complications isn’t supposed to be simple, either.

I can’t relate to Taylor’s family woes, but once again, I’m amazed at how the friendships were forged in this book. This is the kind of friendship that makes you want to keep on fighting, to keep on going back, to keep on trying. If you ever have the chance to run into this kind of friendship, do everything in your power to keep it — these are the kind of friendships that can save your life.

So did I like it as much as I did the first time? There is no other answer to that question but yes. Maybe I will grow out of this in a few years, maybe not. But for now, I still stand by every word I wrote last year, and I am very happy to know of a place “…where they would all belong, or long to be. A place on the Jellicoe Road.” :)

Going Audio

Last year, I won an audiobook of Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson during one of the Armchair BEA twitter parties. I thought it was about time for me to try an audiobook, and Suite Scarlett didn’t disappoint. It’s not that I’m new to audiobooks, anyway — I remember listening to The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe on audio first before I got the Narnia boxed set. That was fun to listen to because there were actual voice actors instead of just one person reading from the book, and I had fun listening to Aslan roar. :D

But anyway, I want to expand my “reading” by including audiobooks in my list. Audiobooks are good for multitasking (I can “read” while taking a shower! While cooking! While doing other things!), and it is absolutely perfect for the gym. Or when I’m walking.

However, they say that not all audiobooks are good, and sometimes a bad audiobook can ruin a perfectly good book. So here’s where you, bookish friends who have probably “read” an audiobook or two, come in: I need audiobook suggestions.

As much as possible, I want an audiobook of a book that I haven’t read yet. But if it’s one of my absolute favorites, or you swear that the audiobook is better, then I can probably give it a go. So, leave a comment with your favorite audiobooks and why it was your favorite and I’ll get it. Well, I’ll try, since audiobooks are a bit more expensive than normal books. I have the rest of the year to acquire them, anyway. So if there’s one audiobook that you really liked, then I want to hear about it (pun intended). Please? :)

Suite Scarlett

Suite Scarlett by Maureen JohnsonSuite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson
Publisher: Brilliance Audio, Read by Janie Stith
My copy: audiobook, won from Helen’s Book Blog during Armchair BEA

Scarlett Martin has grown up in a most unusual way. Her family owns the Hopewell, a small Art Deco hotel in the heart of New York City. When each of the Martins turns fifteen, they are expected to take over the care of a suite. For Scarlett’s fifteenth birthday, she gets both a room called the Empire Suite and a permanent guest named Mrs. Amberson. Scarlett doesn’t quite know what to make of this C-list starlet and world traveler. And when she meets Eric, an astonishingly gorgeous actor who has just moved to the city, her summer takes a second unexpected turn.

Before the summer is over, Scarlett will have to survive a whirlwind of thievery and romantic missteps. But in the city where anything can happen, she just might be able to pull it off.

* * *

I’ve heard a lot about Maureen Johnson from YA contemporary circles, but somehow, I never really got around to getting her books. This almost feels like a sin for someone who loves contemporary YA as much as I do. So at the back of my mind, I have this little to-buy list that includes one of Maureen Johnson’s books in case I wanted to splurge on something, but winning a giveaway during Armchair BEA saved me from spending and instead, I got an audiobook of Suite Scarlett, which some of my blogger friends recommend.

Scarlett Martin has just turned 15, and as with her older siblings Spencer and Lola, she was given the Empire Suite in Hopewell Hotel, their family business, to take care of. This is a great honor, however, business isn’t exactly as booming as it was before in the Hopewell, so Scarlett’s dreams of getting a summer job was put on hold since she had to help out at home. Things turn interesting, though, when rich, world-traveler and theater actress Mrs. Amy Amberson comes along and rents the Empire Suite. Pretty soon, Scarlett becomes her personal assistant and a part of some harebrained schemes that involve directing and producing a play (with crazy antics that may or may not involve a chromatic tuner), conning a nemesis, and a possible summer romance.

Like everyone I know who’s read this, my favorite part of this book is the sibling relationship of Scarlett and Spencer. I love brother-sister relationships because I can relate to it so much. Scarlett and Spencer remind me of my own relationship with my older brother. They’re probably closer, of course, but their banter and their instinct to help each other is ingrained in every brother-sister relationship out there, I think. I liked how Spencer can tell things just by looking at his sister and how he has this instinct to protect her even from his friend. I also liked the other two Martins, even if I saw them as the “enemies” at the start of the book because they’re at odds with the brother-sister tandem.

The story isn’t really that monumental, but it has enough elements to make it just the right amount of crazy. I don’t think people will actually get into as much chaos as Scarlett did in her summer, but the setting helped in making it believable. I bet if this story was set outside of NYC or in anything other than Hopewell, I wouldn’t have accepted the craziness as easily as I did here. Suite Scarlett makes me want to go to New York City (not that I haven’t wanted to go there for the past years now) and go to the places described in the book.

I really enjoyed reading/listening to Suite Scarlett. It’s fun, light and it’s easily one of those books that will cheer you up after reading a depressing or heavy book. I’m curious about Maureen Johnson’s other books now. :)

This should be for another post, but since this is my first audiobook (for a long time now, anyway), I should mention it in this review, too. The audiobook I wanted to listen to was usually one with different voices for the characters, so the first time I listened to this, I had a hard time with the way the reader changers her voice for every character. It was kind of weird because I could tell it was still her and I couldn’t detach myself from that. It took a while to get used to it, but when I did, I had to marvel at how different each voice sounded after all. I’m pretty sure this won’t be my last audiobook. It’s not a conventional way to read, but it is definitely helpful in the gym. ;)

Rating:

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