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!

Required Reading: December

Well November was quite a dismal reading month. Not because I was having a slump, but because I was just so, so, so busy. :/ Ugh. Most of the time, I just wanted to go home and sleep, instead of stay up and read. And did you see how many times I blogged last month? Even more sad.

I only finished one book for my November reading list, and it was a spillover from October. (Speaking of, can you believe I still have a spillover from my October reading list? I’m so sorry Will Henry!)

  • The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova (3/5) – I liked it, but perhaps not enough. I will write a review. Someday.

But it’s a new month, and while I can’t guarantee that I would not be busy, I will promise to catch up with stuff before 2012 ends. I will find a way to get rid of all the review backlogs even if it’s been months since I read them. Good luck to me.

On to December! Can you believe it’s the last month of the 2012?!

Required Reading: December

I will take it easy for December, because I don’t want anything too heavy, and because I did say I was going to catch up on my backlog, right? I don’t want to pressure myself with all the reading, so I will just stick to these two light ones. :)

Required Reading: December 2012

  1. Let It Snow by John Green, Maureen Johnson and Lauren Myracle – I’ve been wanting to get this book for ages, but I never got around to it because it doesn’t feel right if I get it when it’s not December. Plus I always seem to run out. Thank goodness they came out with this pretty copy, so now is the time to read it! :)
  2. The Complete Adventures of Charlie and Mr. Willy Wonka by Roald Dahl – This is a spillover from last month, and I’m really just supposed to read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, but I got the book with the two stories anyway. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is our book club’s December book, and we’re discussing it on the day of our Christmas party too. I’m so excited! Our moderator asked us to choose a name for our discussion, and I am Tinaweena Peanutbutterina, the girl who makes magic with peanut butter. :)

There you go. If I don’t get to read these books, I don’t know what’s up with me. o_o If only it’s possible to go on vacation and read while I bundle up patagonia downtown loft somewhere cold this month…but alas. I cannot. I might squeeze The Hobbit in since the movie is showing soon, but I really hope I find the time. Hee. Or maybe I should just watch the movie without reading the book first, since I did do it for the three LotR books, anyway. :)

And that’s it! Again, can you believe that it’s the last month of 2012? Wow. Happy December, everyone! :)

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:

Other reviews:
Young Adult Anonymous

The Chronicles of Narnia # 7: The Last Battle

The Last Battle by C.S. LewisThe Last Battle by C.S. Lewis
The Chronicles of Narnia # 7
Publisher: Scholastic
Number of pages: 224
My copy: paperback, bought from Scholastic Book Fair

The conclusion of the saga that began with The Magician’s Nephew.

NARNIA…where you must say good-bye…and where the adventure begin again.

The Unicorn says that humans are brought to Narnia when Narnia is stirred and upset. And Narnia is in trouble now: A false Aslan roams the land. Narnia’s only hope is that Eustace and Jill, old friends to Narnia, will be able to find the true Aslan and restore peace to the land. Their task is a difficult one because, as the Centaur says, “The stars never lie, but Men and Beasts do.” Who is the real Aslan and who is the imposter?

* * *

So right after reading The Magician’s Nephew, I jumped straight to the last book of The Chronicles of Narnia. Given the choice, I wouldn’t really have done that just yet — I tend to let the last book of any series linger a bit longer on my shelf, because I need a certain mindset before I say goodbye to any series I have loved, or at least, invested in. But I was on a little time pressure here — I was determined to read this book for Holy Week, and it just so happened that my reading The Last Battle was also on Good Friday.

Perfect timing, you think?

In The Last Battle, there is trouble in Narnia. As a reader, I was immediately introduced to this trouble, and I already know that the Aslan parading around Narnia is false one. I think C.S. Lewis did that on purpose instead of putting the readers in a state of the unknown like the other Narnians. For the first time since reading the series, I was really and truly scared for Narnia. How could they believe that this Aslan is the real one they know? How can they believe that so easily? How can they lose all that hope so easily, too? With all this trouble, Eustace and Jill came tumbling down Narnia, to help out and save them — but the question is, do they even want to be saved?

Like I said, it was the first time I was truly scared for the things happening in Narnia. I don’t know if this is investment in the series, or I was just…well, scared. Aslan is hands down one of my favorite characters, and possibly one of my favorite representations of God in literature, so seeing someone parade as a false one is scary. But in a way I can’t blame the people for acting that way. I’m not saying it’s right, but it just wasn’t surprising. Aslan being gone for a long time and with only his believers passing the belief down from generation to generation is bound to make some people question him at some point. I can’t help but think of how it is here in the real world — how people can just believe anyone and anything, and how, when disappointed by that, can make them not believe the one who should be believed in in the first place. It’s a messy, messy, thing. The Last Battle reminds me a bit of Prince Caspian, where the characters’ faith in Aslan was challenged so much that it was almost too late before they finally realized that they were wrong.

The Last Battle has a darker tone compared to the other books, and perhaps it also has the most bloodshed too. There were a bit too many battle scenes in this book that I can hardly think that this is a book for kids anymore. Reading The Magician’s Nephew before this was a good idea, I think, because there were a lot of details mentioned there that was mentioned in this book. The final scenes were a bit confusing but I liked how they brought all the characters back together.

I wasn’t planning to mention Susan in this review, but I guess I kind of have to. I think the Susan aspect is what makes The Last Battle a little dated. I mean, I understand what C.S. Lewis meant about it, and I guess it just so happened that Susan is that character who didn’t go the way the others chose to. It might not sit comfortably with other people, though, especially with how it was explained. I think readers should be careful to remember the time when this book was written to put the Susan thing in the proper context.

Nevertheless, I think The Last Battle was a pretty good ending for a beloved series, even if it is one that can spur new questions, not about the book but about what the author intends for it to represent in real life. If anything, I think The Last Battle is the Narnia book that dealt the most about faith and its nature, and how it is really a matter of choosing to stand up for what you believe and for who you believe in, even if everyone and everything else around you is saying otherwise.

So long, Narnia. It’s been a wonderful ride. One thing is for sure — wherever I go live in the future, there will always, always be a copy of the seven books of The Chronicles of Narnia. :)

But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at least they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.

Rating:

Required Reading: April

Other reviews:
Dark Chest of Wonders

Reviews of other Narnia books:
#1 The Magician’s Nephew
#2 The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
#3 The Horse and His Boy
#4 Prince Caspian
#5 Voyage of the Dawn Treader
#6 The Silver Chair

The Chronicles of Narnia # 1: The Magician’s Nephew

The Magician's Nephew by C.S. LewisThe Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis
The Chronicles of Narnia # 1
Publisher: Scholastic
Number of pages: 202
My copy: paperback, bought from Scholastic Book Fair

The secret passage to the house next door leads to a fascinating adventure

NARNIA…where the woods are thick and cold, where Talking Beasts are called to life…a new world where the adventure begins.

Digory and Polly meet and become friends one cold, wet summer in London. Their lives burst into adventure when Digory’s Uncle Andrew, who thinks he is a magician, sends them hurtling to…somewhere else. They find their way to Narnia, newborn from the Lion’s song, and encounter the evil sorceress Jadis before they finally return home.

* * *

How many times have I tried reading this book and stopped? Twice, thrice? I can’t remember. But I am kind of glad my reading ADD got me to push this book deeper down my TBR until I decided to do the right thing and read The Chronicles of Narnia in publication order.

But if you noticed, I didn’t really read them one after the other. They say Narnia books are best read at a specific time of the year, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe being best read during Christmas, while The Last Battle during Lent. Since I want to have a dip in the Narnia world before going through the final book in the series, I decided to let The Magician’s Nephew wait a bit more after I finished The Horse and His Boy, bundling it with the last book for a Holy Week read.

The Magician’s Nephew is said to be a prequel for the series, but how much of it as a prequel is something I know nothing about. I remember being confused with who Digory and Polly were, especially since I really only knew and care about the Pevensie siblings. Digory and Polly were two friends living in London who were, well, quite bored. One day, they decided to do some exploring and somehow landed in Digory’s uncle’s room, who he was quite scared of because of his strange experiments and crazy antics in their house. His uncle made them a subject of his experiment, landing him and Polly in a strange new world — another dimension, with only some rings to guide them. In this world, they meet a woman who is not who she seems, and a majestic lion whose song and breath can bring things to life.

I wasn’t expecting to love The Magician’s Nephew because of my previous reading ADD experiences, so I was pretty surprised at how I reacted to the end. I loved it in the same level as how I loved The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and The Silver Chair. It was written in the same children’s book way as the other books, but I guess the back story and the idea of “where it all began” fascinated me — we see exactly how Narnia was created, from lands forms to water features and all that. There was enough adventure and fun in the story to keep me invested in it (and mind you, I was reading this on a long Maundy Thursday, so there were other books that I could easily pick up over the weekend to replace this). Even if the Pevensie siblings weren’t there, I was interested in the characters, particularly Digory and Polly. I thought Digory’s story with his mom was sweet and a bit sad, but I was glad it turned out well in the end.

The Magician’s Nephew is a great example of creating a rich back story for a series, and even if it has been a while since I last read a Narnia book, the details came rushing back just as clear. This may be cheesy, but maybe it’s because a part of me has started living in Narnia when I first started reading it? I like how this ties everything neatly, and I honestly think that making this a penultimate read in the series is the best way to read it, because it makes me want to go visit the previous books to check the other details. My friend said that reading this as the first book might lessen the wonder of Narnia come second book, and I must agree with that. Of course, I’ll never know now given that I read it in a different order, but if you haven’t read any book yet and I may recommend? Read The Magician’s Nephew second to last. :) It would make the reading experience a little bit more magical.

As usual, I liked Aslan’s presence in this book, and I liked how the final events were tied neatly at the end, explaining just exactly why some things happened in the next books. Oh, and if you’re wondering — the explanation of the lamp post is there, too.

Like I said, I wasn’t expecting to really like this, but I was glad those expectations weren’t met. This definitely made me more ready to read The Last Battle, and a little bit more ready to say goodbye to Narnia, a land that I’ve been visiting for the last two years. :)

Rating:

Required Reading: April

Other reviews:
Dark Chest of Wonders

Reviews of other Narnia books:
#2 The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
#3 The Horse and His Boy
#4 Prince Caspian
#5 Voyage of the Dawn Treader
#6 The Silver Chair