The Ask and the Answer

The Ask and the Answer by Patrick NessThe Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness
Chaos Walking # 2
Publisher: Walker Books
Number of pages: 517
My copy: US paperback, bought from Fully Booked

Fleeing before a relentless army, Todd has carried a desperately wounded Viola right into the hands of their worst enemy, Mayor Prentiss.

Immediately separated from Viola and imprisoned, Todd is forced to learn the ways of the Mayor’s new order.

But what secrets are hiding just outside of town? And where is Viola? Is she even alive? And who are the mysterious Answer?

And then, one day, the bombs begin to explode…

* * *

So it’s been a little over a year since I read The Knife of Never Letting Go, the first book in the Chaos Walking series. Having loved that book, it would have made sense if I immediately dived into the second one, especially since I had a copy. But here’s the thing I realized with the Patrick Ness books I’ve read so far: they’re all pretty emotional, the kind that makes you need some time and space in between his books to prepare yourself for another ride. Especially if you’re one who gets a bit attached to the characters, like me.

Spoilers for the first book inevitable at this point forward. And so now that a year has passed, I pick up The Ask and the Answer. The book picks up almost immediately where Knife left off: Todd wakes up and finds himself tied to a chair facing Mayor Prentiss, now President Prentiss, questioning him. Todd had only one concern in mind — where Viola was, and if she’s still alive, especially since he remembered carrying her almost-lifeless body towards what they thought was Haven. The “haven” that they expected is now New Prentisstown, with the Mayor as the new leader. But it seemed like the Mayor doesn’t want Todd dead. He spares his life, teams him up with his son Davy to do some work in New Prentisstown, promising Todd that Viola will live if he follows the rules. The Mayor suddenly doesn’t seem to be the person Todd believed he was…but can he be trusted?

In the other side of town, Viola wakes up, far from dead. She meets Mistress Coyle, one the best healers in Haven, and Viola finds out that the Mayor has locked all women in for reasons yet unknown. As Viola recovers, she becomes an apprentice healer, constantly worried about Todd and if he has survived whatever the Mayor had in store for them. But soon, Viola finds out that there’s more to Mistress Coyle than being a normal and best healer in New Prentisstown — and she needs Viola on her side.

Then the bombs start exploding.

The Ask and the Answer picks up the pace from the first book, dropping us straight into the conflict. Todd and Viola’s separation tears at them both, and while they don’t really know what to do or who to trust, they know they have to be with each other, no matter what. They both grow up lots in this installment, with all the politics and manipulation and desperation going on around them. This is also far darker than its predecessor, tackling themes such as torture, genocide and terrorism to name a few. This book had the same vibe I got from Mockingjay, with the violence unleashed in the pages…and this isn’t even war yet! It makes me wonder if the second book is as intense as I found the third Hunger Games book was, what more of Monsters of Men? I can’t imagine how dark that would be now.

This book blurs lines between the good and the bad guys, and truly, it’s hard to pick a side in the entire story. Should the end justify the means? Is terrorism the only way to achieve “peace”? Gray areas abound and the moral issues were tackled with the same detail as in Knife, but not too deep that it’s not so hard to understand. As if that’s not enough, Ness brings in another player into the field by the end of the novel, which I should have expected but took me by surprise.

My favorite character in this installment isn’t Todd or Viola, though, but Davy Prentiss. Davy, who only wanted to make his dad proud. Davy, who acts like a tough man but who’s really a boy. I loved how the relationship between Todd and Davy was developed, especially since I hardly saw it coming. It was easy to dismiss Davy as a villain especially after he shot Viola in the first book, but his evolution was a definite surprise. I am impressed at how Ness made him into a character that would earn the sympathy of the readers in the end.

Lately, I found myself balking whenever I see that a book I was about to start reading is more than 350 pages. With all the books in my TBR pile, I feel like I can’t invest that much time in a too thick book — you get what I mean? This book defied that though — it had 500+ pages but I hardly felt it. My friends, I think that is a good measure for a great book. :) While not as heart-wrenching as Knife (I admit that I’m still quite attached to that), The Ask and the Answer is a very good follow up in the trilogy. I am really looking forward to reading Monsters of Men now. Yes, I still need a breather before jumping into that, but I think I can promise that it won’t take another year before I crack my copy open. :)

Rating:

2011 Challenge Status:
Required Reading – September

Other reviews:
Persnickety Snark
The Book Smugglers
Book Harbinger

A Monster Calls Trailer

Forgive me if I’ve been ignorant. I thought Patrick NessA Monster Calls has been released everywhere because…well, I have a copy and we have copies here, and some friends I know have copies. Imagine my slight surprise when I found out that it’s not yet released in the US, and won’t be until the 27th.

No wonder not a lot of people seemed to have read it yet. And why it’s so hard to find a copy here. (But hey, Book Depository has had that book for ages!)

Anyway, Candlewick Press has released a trailer for A Monster Calls, and I must say: like the book, the trailer is awesome. It definitely made use of the illustrations in the book well. Check it out:

YouTube Preview Image

You can check out a bigger version here.

There’s more Patrick Ness / A Monster Calls goodness in this Shelf Awareness Maximum Shelf August 24 issue (may be a bit spoilery, so if you haven’t read the book yet, proceed with caution!). A Monster Calls is one of my favorite books this year, and I definitely recommend that you get your hands on it if you haven’t yet. If you’re not a fan of his other books, don’t worry — this one is very different, and I’m pretty sure it will be worth your time. :)

Required Reading: September

(I promise to write that book-related trip post soon; I just have to prepare the photos :D)

So, I was kind of doubtful that I would reach my August Required Reading goal, given that I was traipsing all over Europe at the second half of the month. But I guess I shouldn’t underestimate myself and long plane/train rides because surprises! I actually finished reading all the books I set to read in August. :) Unfortunately, no reviews up for them yet because I’m terribly behind. Eeep!

  1. Before Ever After by Samantha Sotto – I actually finished this weeks before I left. I wasn’t exactly a big fan of The Time Traveler’s Wife, so I was kind of wary of the story for this one. I liked the European setting a lot, though, even if I didn’t really get to visit any of them. :P
  2. Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly – Oh, this book. I was intimidated by its 8o+ chapters, but it turned out to be a very quick read. Plus it made Paris come alive to me, and I couldn’t help but squeal a bit every time I see familiar places I read about in the book while we were touring the city. Bastille! Palais-Royal! Eee. :D
  3. No and Me by Delphine de Vigan – This was cute, but also not so much in a totally unexpected way. I think I understand what made people like this book so much, with its charm despite its sort of broken ending.

Like I said, never underestimate 11-13 hour plane and train rides. It gives you good reading time when you’re not sleeping. :D

Required Reading: SeptemberNow here we are on September. I’m back on night shift, but I don’t really know if that is helpful with my reading (July was awesome, though, so maybe?). I was thinking of a theme for this month yesterday and I honestly couldn’t come up with anything. I was just trying to remember the reading buddy things I’ve promised to do when I return, and that’s when a theme hit me. Kill [n] birds with one stone, right? Or something like that.

So September’s Required Reading theme: sequels/spin-offs!

I’m not a big fan of sequels, because they’re really a hit or miss, but I love spin-offs, especially for other characters in a book. :) The thing with me and sequels/second books/spin-offs is, I don’t really pick it up immediately after reading the first book because…well, I’m not sure, except maybe I didn’t want the story to end just yet. Haha. I figured it’s time to get myself reading those books I’ve put off long enough now, right?

So the list!

  • The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness (Chaos Walking # 2, the second book after The Knife of Never Letting Go)
  • The Piper’s Son by Melina Marchetta (spin-off to Saving Francesca)
  • The Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan (second book of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series — took me long enough to finally decide to read this)

Just three books for now. I kind of need to take it easy since I’m still reeling from my trip. :) Thank goodness my job isn’t as demanding as some Network Engineer Jobs out there.

Joining this month’s challenge? Leave a link to your entry so I can list you here! There’s no need to follow my theme, just pick books from your shelf that you need to read or get out of your TBR and try to finish them within the month. :)

Happy September, everyone!

Filipino Friday: ReaderCon Intro

Filipino Friday

It’s not Friday here anymore, but you know that thing where the day is not over until you’ve slept? Yeah, I’m doing that here.

It’s been a crazy couple of days that’s why it’s kind of quiet in the blog, and it will be quiet again soon because I’ll be off to a trip for the next two weeks! I’m breaking the blog silence to join the first Filipino Friday meme in preparation for the first Filipino Reader’s Conference that will be happening next month (more to that in a future post, hopefully this weekend :D).

So, hi! I’m Tina. I’ve been reading since I was a kid and I’d like to believe that my dad’s reading time with me was what made me a reader. I remember the times he’d read this Pepito the Catfish to me when I was younger, and there was this other book that he used to read to me in the province when we were staying there. Anyway, the first time I truly wanted to start collecting and reading books was when a classmate in Grade 3 brought some Sweet Valley Kids books in school. Ever since then, the bookstore has always been my favorite place to go to when I go out.

I wish I could say I read any genre, but I’m really very biased towards YA, especially contemporary. I’ve learned to love fantasy last year, and right now I’m working on getting to know more sci-fi and classics. My favorite a.k.a auto-buy authors are Sarah Dessen, John Green, Frank E. Peretti, Ilona Andrews, Melina Marchetta, Mira Grant, Camy Tang, Patrick Ness, Stephen Emond, and Mina V. Esguerra to name a few. :) I’m pretty sure I missed someone there — there’s just too many good books by good authors out there.

Comfort reads include anything swoony or funny, preferably both — best examples are The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen and Fairy Tale Fail by Mina V. Esguerra. I like my books with enough swoon. ;) I also tend to like books with zombies and just recently, superheroes.

Two of the best books I’ve read this year: Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta and A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness. And just because it’s unusual, I think it’s worth a mention that I thought Unearthly by Cynthia Hand is one of those paranormal books that went against the norm. And because they’re from favorite authors, I also thought Jasper Fforde’s The Last Dragonslayer and Mira Grant’s Deadline are full of awesome. :)

If this post sounds just a teensy bit loopy, I apologize. I’m actually really sleepy right now. :P So, hi! :)

A Monster Calls

A Monster Calls by Patrick NessA Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
Original idea by Siobhan Dowd
Publisher:
Candlewick Press
Number of pages: 240
My copy: hardbound, ordered from Book Depository

The 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.

Costa Award winner Patrick Ness spins a tale from the final idea of much-loved Carnegie Medal winner Siobhan Dowd, whose premature death from cancer prevented her from writing it herself. Darkly mischievous and painfully funny, A Monster Calls is an extraordinarily moving novel of coming to terms with loss from two of our finest writers for young adults.

* * *

I wasn’t planning to read A Monster Calls soon, because I wanted to save it for my slump days. I heard so many good things about this, but I savored the fact that it was patiently waiting for me on my shelf. But last weekend, after my friend asked if I knew if this book is locally available, I had that urge to pick it up and read it, thinking it shouldn’t take me too long. And if my fellow bloggers were right and this would also make me cry, at least I can do it in the privacy of my own home, right?

It’s 12:07am. Our main character, Conor, wakes up from the nightmare, the one that’s been haunting him ever since his mother had a “talk” with him. He wakes up, thinking someone has called his name, but there was no one in sight, save for that yew tree by the churchyard on a hill near his house. When the yew tree turns out to be a monster, Conor finds himself unafraid, because there were far scarier monsters in his world. The monster is a wild, ancient monster who comes with four stories: three coming from him and the fourth coming from Conor, the truth that he has been hiding for so long.

A Monster Calls is simple, really. It may seem like a paranormal or fantasy book from its title and the blurb and the cover, but it’s really a contemporary novel at its core. I haven’t read any of Siobhan Dowd’s work, and I’ve only read two of Patrick Ness’, but I didn’t really have much doubt over how good this book would be. What surprised me, though, is how this book left me biting back the sobs as I finished it during breakfast on Sunday morning. Sure, The Knife of Never Letting Go made me shed some tears, but this! A Monster Calls had me sobbing. How my chest hurt so much with emotion, and how close it hit to my heart even if I am — thankfully — not in Conor’s position.

But I think that’s the thing. Anyone can easily be Conor. Anyone can easily be in his shoes, think his thoughts and find the same nightmare he wrestles with every night. But the thing is, not everyone can have “monsters” to tell us and help us face truths. I think this is why books like these are so important: in the absence of our own yew tree monster, we get this. We may not wake up with a monster calling our name, but we can always turn to a book like this and find important lessons that would give us strength to face some of the hardest parts of life.

Fans of Patrick Ness will undoubtedly love this book. I haven’t even read the entire Chaos Walking trilogy yet and I am in awe of his writing prowess. If you were turned off by the any one of his previous novels, I urge you to give him another chance and read A Monster Calls. Patrick Ness is an excellent storyteller, and if that is not enough to convince you, maybe the illustrations by Jim Kay will (and these illustrations make this book worth to own in print):

A Monster Calls

Illustrations from A Monster Calls

Suffice to say that this is one of my “This is why I read!” moments. Patrick Ness has successfully made a mess out of my heart once again. There’s a line in the book that perfectly fits what this book is:

“Stories are wild creatures…When you let them loose, who knows what havoc they might wreak?”

And what a havoc this story wreaked, my friends. Beautiful and powerful. I definitely recommend A Monster Calls.

Rating:

Other reviews:
Coffeespoons
Book Harbinger
The Book Smugglers
Ficsation