The Chronicles of Narnia # 6: The Silver Chair

The Silver Chair by C.S. LewisThe Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis
The Chronicles of Narnia # 6
Publisher: Scholastic
Number of pages: 243
My copy: paperback, from Scholastic Book Fair

Jill and Eustace must rescue the Prince from the evil Witch.

NARNIA…where owls are wise, where some of the giants like to snack on humans, where a prince is put under an evil spell…and where the adventure begins.

Eustace and Jill escape from the bullies at school through a strange door in the wall, which, for once, is unlocked. It leads to the open moor…or does it? Once again Aslan has a task for the children, and Narnia needs them. Through dangers untold and caverns deep and dark, they pursue the quest that brings them face and face with the evil Watch. She must be defeated if Prince Rillian is to be saved.

* * *

I remember talking to my friend who’s the biggest C.S. Lewis fan, asking him if there will be a next Narnia movie. I caught The Voyage of the Dawn Treader on the plane on my way to Europe last August, and as usual, I shed some tears with Repicheep’s scene and whenever Aslan comes out. To my dismay, he told me it might take a while years before the next movie will be made because the license expired. And that just made me sad.

But that doesn’t really excuse me from continuing my Narnia adventures, so when I was already feeling too full of contemporary stuff while writing my NaNoWriMo novel, I decided to pick up some simple and familiar middle grade fantasy and what better book to read than a Narnia one, right?

The Silver Chair introduces different characters from what I have been used to, save for Aslan and Caspian and Eustace, who I first got to know in the previous book. In this book, I was introduced to Jill Pole, Eustace’s school mate and a bully target. One day, while she was hiding from the bullies in their school, Eustace finds her and tells her about the magical place he had been in with his cousins that changed him. The bullies arrived, and Eustace and Jill scramble away, going to a door on a wall that led them to Narnia. Or what looked like Narnia. Jill was surprised and scared, so much that she ends up pushing Eustace off a tall cliff. But Aslan comes to the rescue and saves him, and then gave Jill a mission with specific signs. Aslan warned Jill that she must remember these instructions and repeat them and put them in her heart, especially since it was different there in the mountain where they landed and in Narnia where they have to fulfill their mission. Aslan sends her away and she finds herself in the Narnia that Eustace also knows, and off they go to follow Aslan’s instructions, not knowing the adventures and troubles that would await them.

The Silver Chair had that same vibe that The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe had, in the sense that it was also an adventure book where our heroes and heroines have a mission to fulfill. While it didn’t feel as magical as the first book in the series, there was still that sense of the unknown and the various charming and fearsome creatures that mean them good and bad. I liked how it feels like it’s a different Narnia from what I know from the first three books I’ve read.

Eustace is loads better in this book, even if I can’t stop imagining him the same way as how the actor who played him spoke and acted. He still had that annoying know-it-all tendencies, but it was not as annoying as it was before. On the other side, there is Jill. Oh Jill. How much you reminded me of myself! I always thought I would be an Edmund (and in a lot of ways, I still am), but Jill. I saw so much of myself in Jill Pole that it felt uncomfortable. At the start of the story, I kind of wanted to strangle Jill for being so stubborn — as a reader I could see where she would go wrong from a mile away, and I knew that it’s all going to bite her back. But then as I think about it…don’t I do the same thing, too? Aren’t I just as stupid and as shortsighted as Jill was, trading quick, temporary comforts for the things that really matter?

But I kind of have a feeling Aslan knew that Jill would mess up, hence the warning (also one of my favorite quotes in the book):

But, first, remember, remember, remember the signs. Say them to yourself when you wake in the morning and when you lie down at night, and when you wake in the middle of the night. And whatever strange things may happen to you, let nothing turn your mind from following the signs. And secondly, I give you a warning. Here on the mountain I have spoken to you clearly: I will not often do so down in Narnia. Here on the mountain, the air is clear and your mind is clear; as you drop down into Narnia, the air will thicken. Take great care that it does not confuse your mind. And the signs which you have learned here will not look at all as you expect them to look, when you meet them there. That is why it is so important to know them by heart and pay no attention to appearances. Remember the signs and believe the signs. Nothing else matters. (p.27)

There was more of Aslan in this book, but one of my favorite scenes in the book was actually one without Aslan. I liked how the kids and Puddleglum got through the encounter with an enemy without Aslan’s direct interference, but just plain belief in him. I wasn’t expecting to like The Silver Chair that much, really, but I’m glad to say it’s one of the books that surprised me. I think The Silver Chair is that book for people who’s already found the faith and is in need to strengthen that faith they found. I think it’s a book that teaches how it is to follow, how it is to live and keep the faith even in the face of adversity, and how Aslan is victorious even with the slightest, smallest concerns that we have.

Rating: [rating=4]

2011 Challenge Status:
TwentyEleven Challenge (Show it Who is Boss!)

Other reviews:
Bookie Woogie

Reviews of Other Narnia Books:
#2: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe
#4: Prince Caspian
#5: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

No and Me

No and Me by Delphine de ViganNo and Me by Delphine de Vigan
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Number of pages:  256
My copy: ebook, from Amazon Kindle Store

Parisian teenager Lou has an IQ of 160, OCD tendencies, and a mother who has suffered from depression for years. But Lou is about to change her life—and that of her parents—all because of a school project about homeless teens. While doing research, Lou meets No, a teenage girl living on the streets. As their friendship grows, Lou bravely asks her parents if No can live with them, and is astonished when they agree. No’s presence forces Lou’s family to come to terms with a secret tragedy. But can this shaky, newfound family continue to live together when No’s own past comes back to haunt her?

* * *

I stumbled upon No and Me by Delphine de Vigan from Nomes, who gave it a glowing review on Goodreads. I was looking for a translated book to read for my TwentyEleven Challenge and this seemed like a perfect one, seeing as it was translated from French to English. Plus, I have learned to trust Nomes’ taste in YA contemporary books, so I decided that splurging on an ebook of this is worth it.

Lou Bertignac is a smart kid, youngest in class with some OCD tendencies. She’s also painfully shy, so she lives in her own world, admiring popular guy Lucas from afar, and hiding the fact that things at home were not okay ever since her mom sank into depression. During one class, Lou was asked to come up with a project idea and she blurted out “homeless teens” without much thought. True enough, on her way home, Lou meets No, a homeless girl living in the streets. Pressured by her project, she gets to know No, and as their friendship grows, Lou finds the courage to ask her parents if they could “adopt” No. To Lou’s surprise, her parents agree. Lou and No promise to be there for each other forever, but when No’s secrets come haunting her again, can this promise hold them together?

There’s this local TV show that’s been airing here since I was a kid, one that creates a reenactment of some real life experiences that people sent to the network through letters. No and Me felt like a perfect story that can be submitted to this TV show. I wasn’t sure what to expect with the book, really, except that it was a contemporary read. So maybe I was expecting some kind of family talk, not a lot of romance, but certainly not something…well, almost sad.

Not that I’m complaining, of course. It wasn’t what I expected, but hey, shouldn’t I have known by now that expectations in life are rarely ever met? (As a good friend once told me, “The key to happiness is lowered expectations.” But I digress.) But what No and Me lacks in happiness and lightness, it makes up with its characters and the charming writing. Lou is such a character, and even if we’re so different, it was easy to get into her shoes and see things her way. I really and truly felt for her, especially when she was determined to stick with No even at the expense of defying her parents. I felt her frustration when she can’t say the words she wants to say, or when the things she wants to say turn out wrong. She’s young and strong in her own way. Other people say that Lou reminds them of the autistic kid protagonist of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. It is partially true, but I thought Lou was easier to get into.

And the writing. Nomes was right: it was very, very charming. Maybe the charming factor came from how it was translated from French? I read this while I was on the train from Vienna to Geneva, and in my mind I was comparing how different French and German sounded to my ears. It was then I fully realized how charming the French language sounded, and I’d like to believe that that charming factor managed to cross over when No and Me was translated to English.

No and Me is not exactly a happy book, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad. I liked it a lot, and it gave me that feeling of wanting to be Lou – wanting to believe in the best of every person, even if they have disappointed me a few times. If Lou truly existed, I’d like to believe that she still continued to hope even after all that had happened to her. I’d like to believe that she heeded what her teacher told her: “Don’t give up.”

Rating: [rating=3]

Other reviews:

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

Alice's Adventures in WonderlandAlice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
Publisher: Public Domain

Number of pages:  96
My copy: free ebook from Kindle store

I wasn’t one of those kids who grew up with Alice in Wonderland. In fact, I remember being pretty scared of the entire story. I never watched the cartoons or read the book. I felt like it was composed of too much oddities that my mind cannot really handle, and its weirdness borders on fright. I guess I just couldn’t see the “wonder” that this piece of literature has. Maybe I’m the weird one?

But anyway, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is a classic, and a short one at that, so I decided to finally read it just so I can add it to my classics reading challenge this year. I figure it may not be as weird and scary as I thought it was when I was younger, and the ebook is free so there’s no reason for me not to read it.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is a novel written in 1865 by Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, under the pen name Lewis Caroll. It tells the story of a girl named Alice who was bored one afternoon and follows a White Rabbit with a watch down a rabbit hole. She falls into a fantasy land filled with strange, talking creatures such as a talking mouse, lizard, a blue caterpillar who smokes, the sleepy dormouse, and of course, the Mad Hatter, the Cheshire Cat and the Queen of Hearts who keeps on ordering to remove the heads of random people.

According to the Wikipedia article, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is considered as the best example in the literary nonsense genre. Truth be told, I have no idea what was happening half the time, and what the point of all of it was. I was expecting some kind of plot to unfold, but there really wasn’t. There was just…lots of absurdity. I guess all my fantasy reading was used to a main character having a specific big goal to work on for the rest of the novel with things happening to push the hero/heroine towards that goal. Alice is different. Not really bad different, or even scary different as I thought when I was younger. Just…well, a little bit odder than what I usually read.

I think the format I read it in had an effect with what I read. Since my copy was an ebook, it was devoid of illustrations, and I think Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is better read as an illustrated book than just a plain all-words ebook. I think I would have appreciated reading it more if my copy had illustrations like these (photos from Lenny’s Alice in Wonderland site):

I liked it, but I’m still not sure if I really got it. Should I think about what it means or just accept it for what it was? Should I read it again to get it? Or maybe I should watch the cartoon movie? Ah I don’t know. But again, it’s not that it’s bad. Maybe it’s just not for someone who over thinks things, like me. Oh, but the good thing with reading this though, is I don’t think I’m scared of it anymore. :P Our book club moderator says the sequel, Through the Looking Glass is better than this one, so I may also look out for that. :)

Rating: [rating=3]

Weddings and Wasabi

Weddings and Wasabi by Camy TangWeddings and Wasabi by Camy Tang
Sushi Series # 4
Wine Press Publishing
Number of pages: 124
My copy: ebook, review copy from the author (Thank you!)

After finally graduating with a culinary degree, Jennifer Lim is pressured by her family to work at her control-freak aunty’s restaurant. But after a family dispute, Jenn is determined to no longer be a doormat and instead starts her own catering company. Her search for a wine merchant brings John into her life-a tall, dark, handsome biker in form-fitting black leather, who’s Hispanic to boot. It would be wonderfully wild to snag a man like that!

Shy engineer Edward tentatively tries out his birthday present from his winery-owner uncle-a Harley-Davidson complete with the trimmings. Jennifer seems attracted to the rough, aggressive image, but it isn’t his real self. Is she latching onto him just to spite her horrified family? And if this spark between them is real, will showing her the true guy underneath put it out?

And what’s with the goat in the backyard?

* * *

I’ve been a fan of Camy Tang ever since I heard about her and read the first book in her Sushi series, Sushi For One?. I liked that she wrote chick lit with an Asian flavor, and while I’m not Chinese/Japanese like her heroines are, I find that I could relate to the family and growing up woes that the four cousins experienced. And they’re Christian, too, so the stories resonate with my faith.

Unfortunately, Camy’s contract for the Sushi series only covers 3 books, so only Lex’s, Trish’s and Venus’ stories came out in full-length novels. Fortunately, Camy announced a few years back that she would be releasing a novella about Jennifer, the fourth cousin. Imagine my delight when she sent her street team a free copy. :)

Jennifer Lim is the nicest among the cousins, so nice that she knows she can be a doormat sometimes. When she finally graduated from her culinary degree, she finds herself pressured with having to fulfill some family “duties” that her aunts had pressed upon her. After a particularly bad party with an encounter with her ex, Jenn finally stands up for herself and starts a catering company. This starts her adventure that brings Jenn into learning that it takes a lot of courage to follow your dreams and even more to leave those dreams and trust that God will make things happen.

It felt nice reuniting with Camy’s characters again. I love the bond that Lex, Trish, Venus and Jenn had, and how they would always be there for one another no matter what. I also loved and hated their family. I don’t know how Chinese/Japanese families really are, but their Aunty Aikiko really grated my nerves. How can a relative be so manipulating and conniving and just…annoying? Ugh. It almost felt a bit unreal with that aspect, but who knew, right? Maybe people like that do exist.

I like how things came into somewhat of a full circle in this novella. While this could be read as a standalone, like the first three, but I think reading all of them would provide a fuller experience with the story. I always find back stories interesting, so knowing what happened to who in previous books while reading this one helped a lot in appreciating the events in this more. I especially liked how one of their cousins seemed to be friendlier to them now, and how their grandmother played a surprising role too.

The only thing I probably did not like in Weddings and Wasabi was how short it was! I missed the build up in the old novels, especially in the romantic sense, so I was a little detached from the romance here unlike in the others. It did provide for a good, quick and light read, but I was definitely hungry for more. :)

Weddings and Wasabi is available now in print and ebook through WinePress, Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Rating: [rating=4]

2011 Challenge Status:
11 of 20 for TwentyEleven Challenge (Slim Pickings)

The Best of This is a Crazy Planets

The Best of This is a Crazy Planets by Lourd de VeyraThe Best of This is a Crazy Planets by Lourd Ernest H. De Veyra
Publisher: Summit Books
Number of pages:  116
My copy: paperback, review copy from publisher

Lourd Ernest Hanopol de Veyra is many things at once: front man of the band Radioactive Sago Project, TV personality, poet, award-winning writer, blogger, and now, author. His two-year-old blog This is a Crazy Planets has gained a large following on, and his best works are now compiled in a book of the same title.

With Lourd’s various entries on everyday life’s absurdities, This is a Crazy Planets mirrors Filipino pop culture in a way that is both humorous and endearing.

* * *

I’ve only heard about Lourd De Veyra through friends, because most of my friends are big fans of him. I’ve seen him every now and then on his TV5 segment, Word of the Lourd, and I have read some of his articles in his blog. But I was never really one who followed his stuff regularly. I wasn’t really 100% excited to attend his book launch when I was invited, except that I can’t really say no to a free, local book. Unfortunately, the launch happened on the night that tropical storm Falcon made an ocean of Manila.

I was glad when the publisher still sent me a book for review because despite my being a not-so-much-of-a-fan, I was curious about the book. I was pleasantly surprised when I saw how nice the book looked. Okay, it wasn’t just nice, it was quite beautiful for a local publication. My fellow bloggers and I often complain about the print quality of the local books here, but The Best of This is a Crazy Planets is far superior than the others. The paper quality is nice, the cover design is pretty and illustrations/artwork were there for every article. I am delighted to see that it was affordable for its quality, too – P195 (less than 4 USD) is a pretty good price to pay for a book that looks this pretty.

That price is even more justified once you read what’s inside. Like I said, I’ve only read a few of Lourd’s articles online, so I was pretty new to his writing. Lourd De Veyra offers a funny, oftentimes sarcastic but very real commentaries on Philippine current events, people, culture and even showbiz. I found myself giggling and having to hold it back whenever I’m reading this in a public place. Some of them, I can’t really relate to, some of them, I agree with, some of them, I just find really, really funny. Underneath its wit and sarcasm, Lourd’s articles show a lot of truth in the current state of our country. It’s not always pretty, and sometimes I feel bad when I realize that it is the ugly truth about the Philippines. But even so, Lourd never ever showed a hint of not liking his home country despite this truth (at least, that’s the impression on me). It’s like he writes it all out, shrugs and then says, “This is a crazy planet.” Or planets.

Why buy this book when you can read it online? Well, if you’re not enticed by the beautiful quality of this book and its relatively cheap price, think of it this way: you can read his articles even without Internet, even if you’re in the remotest areas in this crazy planet we live in. And I think that’s pretty much worth it, right?

The Best of This is a Crazy Planets is now available for Php195 in local bookstores nationwide.

Rating: [rating=4]

Other reviews:
taking a break