Challenged: The Host

Well, finally, a book-related post!

Seriously, it had been so long since my last book-related blog post that I had sort of forgotten already how to do one. Yeah, it’d been a tough time for the reading–and writing–me. I have so many pending articles on the books I had read (Stieg Larsson’s trilogy, The Catcher in the Rye, and A Visit from the Goon Squad among others) that I think I should already be rereading them before I take time to sit and type out my thoughts.

With this said, I would be writing about the latest book I was able to finish: Stephenie Meyer’s The Host.

The Host (photo from goodreads.com)

I had reservations reading my borrowed copy of The Host (yes, despite the fact that I did borrow it). One, it’s sort of sci-fi and that’s something I’m quite unsure if I could like. Another thing, I doubted it because I liked The Twilight Saga so much that if The Host became not-even-close-to-exemplary, it would be quite difficult to forgive.

But still, curiosity and the bookish side of me got the better of these reservations. And well, I couldn’t tell myself I did the wrong thing after all. The Host is a unique story, with lots of crazy ideas and amazing takes on humanity. It was written in first-person view but was taken from a perspective that could be easily translated to third person. In other words, Meyer had so wonderfully crafted her novel that readers were all over the story without difficulty.

And because the story of The Host is a bit lengthy to narrate even in summary, forgive me for offering this synopsis from Goodreads instead:

Melanie Stryder refuses to fade away. Our world has been invaded by an unseen enemy. Humans become hosts for these invaders, their minds taken over while their bodies remain intact and continue their lives apparently unchanged. Most of humanity has succumbed.

When Melanie, one of the few remaining “wild” humans, is captured, she is certain it is her end. Wanderer, the invading “soul” who has been given Melanie’s body, was warned about the challenges of living inside a human: the overwhelming emotions, the glut of senses, the too-vivid memories. But there was one difficulty Wanderer didn’t expect: the former tenant of her body refusing to relinquish possession of her mind.

Wanderer probes Melanie’s thoughts, hoping to discover the whereabouts of the remaining human resistance. Instead, Melanie fills Wanderer’s mind with visions of the man Melanie loves – Jared, a human who still lives in hiding. Unable to separate herself from her body’s desires, Wanderer begins to yearn for a man she has been tasked with exposing. When outside forces make Wanderer and Melanie unwilling allies, they set off on a dangerous and uncertain search for the man they both love.

I Liked Best

The best, most amazing thing that could be said about this Meyer novel was that it had taken the issue of humanity to a level that people would be able to comprehend only with an open mind and whole heart. Since the lead character was a mix of two species–human and otherwise–the story took turns describing, hating, loving, and continuously wondering about humanity.

Life was taken as a complex existence, with warring ideas and conflicting emotions that were conspicuously difficult to handle. It was certainly hard to understand or even accept especially from the point of view of a soul like Wanderer, who knew and tolerated nothing but positive emotions like love, care and trust.

But when she came to live with the humans, understand their thoughts and courses of action, she began to realize that there are grey areas to a situation. That there could never be just simple choices like yes or no. That humanity was never pure evil, nor was it ever purely golden. That there were moments when violence, pain and hatred were actually the right things to feel even if they were repugnant emotions. This was very much helped by Melanie’s character, who had so much humanity within her that she was able to make Wanderer see reason however shrewd.

I also liked how such arguing thoughts were debated by other characters than Wanderer herself. There was the all-understanding nature of Ian who had so much care for the souls as opposed to Jared’s human-survival priority. Then there was Jeb with his deep curiosity, Doc’s acceptance and even the straight-backed resistance of Sharon.

All of these attitudes were necessary for us to understand the complexity of the issue. Meyer had seen to it that we had them, without the conveniently humans-thrown-together plot that seemed to be so obvious at first.

Finally, I appreciated Wanderer’s omnipresence and, er, eavesdropping abilities. Since the book was written in first person, it was necessary that we as readers were given a good account of what could be happening in places where Wanderer was not part of. It was then necessary that Wanderer, true to her name, was everywhere to hear conversations that were never meant for her.

I Liked Least

I might be a bit partial with this. But I never did appreciate much reading two different works of an author that had so much of each other’s characteristics that they could just as easily be branded as the writer’s signature. Didn’t know how to phrase this one better, I hope you did understand. I’d try to explain . . .

Hmm. You knew how Bella Swan of The Twilight Saga sort of had this different type of mind? The one with the “wall” inside it that it was impossible for Edward or anybody else to read her mind? It felt like that with all those mental argument scenes of Melanie and Wanderer.

Even some of Melanie-Wanderer’s traits were so like Bella: self-sacrificial, motherly and hopelessly in love.

I couldn’t really say it was a bad thing, having this sense of déjà vu in terms of character development. But I still think Meyer could have done a bit more tweaking with her female characters so they would not be so like each other. Apart from all other reasons, it would at least give a distinction in the personality aspect.

Chapter/Part I Liked Most

Definitely, this goes to the final pages–the ones that took place after Wanderer woke up in her new body. Not because it had this sappy happy-ever-after feel (because, well, it was a tarred form of sappy) but because it tied ends, however quite loosely.

Kyle was the best part, with his acceptance of Sunny even if she was a soul. There was reconciliation. There were changes that had me thinking all could be well even if they were far from it still.

My Personal Rating

*sigh* Always, always difficult to rate. But I’d say this one’s a 4 out of 5 pages. The story was uniquely great. Character development was defined. Even the conflicts were progressive in that it did not feel as though the characters were thrown into a quicksand of issues.

Regardless of what others thought of Stephenie Meyer, largely due to their impartial and sometimes prejudiced take on her more famous Saga, I still recommend The Host as a good read. It’s different and very interesting, if ever those words even suffice.

*** P.S. This one’s still counted under my unfinished 50 Books Challenge, okay?

Claps and Cheers

Well I just gotta drop by and say my congratulations to the very much deserving winners at the MTV Movie Awards 2012. And by very much deserving, I mean:

Best On-Screen Transformation: Elizabeth Banks (as Effie Trinket in The Hunger Games)

Elizabeth Banks at the MTV Movie Awards (ahyeahmockingjay.tumblr.com)

Well, who could ever say it was a bad choice, right? (thehungergames.wikia.com)

Best Fight: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson and Alexander Ludwig (The Last Fight of Katniss, Peeta and Cato)

Alexander Ludwig & Josh Hutcherson at the MTV Movie Awards

Fight at the Cornucopia (brainlessgifs.tumblr.com)

The gif above is the best I could find for the category, sorry. Or maybe it’s just that I don’t want to see Cato’s bloody face in my blog. But just the same, best fight is what this whole scene’s about.

Best Male Performance: Josh Hutcherson (as Peeta Mellark in The Hunger Games)

Josh Hutcherson accepting his MTV Movie Awards golden popcorn (3news.co.nz)

As the ever adorable Peeta (hitthefloor.co.uk)

Best Female Performance: Jennifer Lawrence (as Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games)

From Jennifer Lawrence’s acceptance video (dailymail.co.uk)

As the phenomenal Katniss Everdeen (hungergamesdwtc.net)

Best Cast: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II

Emma Watson accepting the golden popcorn in behalf of the entire cast (uk.omg.yahoo.com)

Semi-complete Deathly Hallows Part II Cast (zimbio.com)

Any other cast you think should win this? I can’t think of any! (syaoran.net)

No surprise here, you know. Dan and Emma and Rupert. Ralph Fiennes, Maggie Smith, Alan Rickman, Helena Bonham Carter, Matthew Lewis, Evanna Lynch, Bonnie Wright, Tom Felton. . .

James and Oliver Phelps . . .

Julie Walters . . .

Gary Oldman . . .

Can we go on forever? :))))

Emma was the only one present to accept the award. And she still was able to give the best speech of the night:

I don’t think I will ever accept an award on behalf of so many people. From Ralph Fiennes to Helena Bonham Carter to Hedwig and Dobby and all of them, this is amazing! We had over 200 cast members and I wish they could all be up here with me now. Sadly, they can’t. Obviously, I share this award, in particular, with Dan and Rupert. Wherever you are, I hope you’re watching and I miss you both dearly. Just thank you! I really, really appreciate it. Thank you!

And in true Hagrid fashion, may I just say: Well done, Hermione!

Best Hero: Harry Potter!!!!!

Daniel Radcliffe (topnews.in)

Harry Potter (moviechopshop.com)

Hell, you name anybody else as the better hero than this boy who saved an entire world on his own and I’d say you’re crazy. Haha! And maybe I’m biased because of my undying love for the series. But the fact that MTV Awards is based on fan choices, well that is saying something.

I love, love, love this set of MTV winners. And I hope next year’s would be even better even if it has no more Harry Potter nominations.

Did Everything Really End?

Well, I guess the answer is and will always be “No.”

Finally, I’ve found the courage to search for the videos of the thank you speeches of four of the most wonderful people in the world of film and literature: JK Rowling, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, and Daniel Radcliffe.

Daniel Radcliffe, JK Rowling, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint (photo from cooltowear.com)

These are the speeches they’ve made in front of the rowdy crowd at the world premiere of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II.

Now, given all of these thank you’s, I think I’m now ready to say my own.

To Dan:

Emma’s right. You were, are, and will always be the perfect Harry. You’ve no idea how we have all been thankful that you looked exactly the way Harry is described in the books. You have grown into a fantastic man who’s not afraid to say he microwaves his food. Thank you for showing us the best portrayal of being that boy with a lightning scar, that brave, brave man who has the biggest heart that enables sacrifices for so many people.

To Rupert:

Such a laid-back attitude that gets all of us mostly swooning. You have made gingers look so amazing. The loyalty that your character Ron has seems not to emanate from a book description but from within your own heart. Thank you for being such a down-to-earth man. You have so much truth within you that we all cannot help but simply be glad that you have become a part of the journey of our most favorite character.

To Emma:

You are such an inspiration to all of those girls who work so hard to improve themselves. We have seen you grow out of that bushy brown hair and mature with so much wisdom. Thank you for being very open with your thoughts and feelings, for having such intelligence that not even the spotlights can outshine. You have always known what you wanted in life and we have seen that not only in your interviews as Emma but also in your portrayal of Hermione. Just like your co-stars, you have perfected your role so much that we cannot find nor imagine someone else do it.

Lastly, to Jo:

For the most amazing writer, the only one who have bound together several nations with her fantastic talent, the woman who has not only created a magical world but a place where everybody else is encouraged to simply be their best, thank you is not enough. We have loved your creation. We have waited for our owls on the day of our eleventh birthday. And like I’ve always said, you are our Dumbledore–who have sent us again and again invitations to come to Hogwarts and be mystified by that wonderful world.

You are the kind of writer we all want to be like. You are the kind of mother whose passion so shines in her works that your love for your children is not something to be doubted. And you are the kind of woman everyone else needs to embody–honest, brave, and talented.

It’s been four months since the last film, ten years since the first movie, and a childhood’s worth of time since I’ve first set my eyes on that fateful copy of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Until now, I find it difficult to say goodbye.

Which may mean that it has all ended but as everybody else has predicted, we will always, always be back.

Challenged: Super Freakonomics

Super Freakonomics by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner

I wanted to read Super Freakonomics–or, originally, I wanted the first book Freakonomics–for a number of reasons. One, is because my friend had read it and she attested to its goodness. Two, the whole lot of topics within the book is something I don’t usually read. Three (and last), this isn’t my type of book.

Super Freakonomics is the follow-up to the the New York Times bestselling title Freakonomics. It is about, well, economics and how the field applies to seemingly everyday, ordinary occurrences. The book is written by John Bates Clark Medal recipient Steven D. Levitt and acclaimed writer Stephen J. Dubner.

S and S, the authors I mean, write four years after their first book unexpectedly hit success road. And this time, they talk about prostitution, suicide bombing, altruism, cheap fixes, and Al Gore. They point out the wrongs of the very society they live with. They string together facts, from thorough research, to drive their ideas to its destination.

Trivia: (You will find this in the introductory chapter, but whatever.) The authors admit in this book that they lied in their first work–twice.

What I Liked Best

I’m going to repeat that Reason #3 from the introductory paragraph, this isn’t my type of book.

If you cannot bear numbers written in black-and-white, if you would rather have a fact explained through exemplification than by statistical tables, we’re on the same club. I would never appreciate Math even if it explains to me why my blood pressure shoots up for no reason.

This is exactly what I liked best about Super Freakonomics–the writing style, meaning the tone, the word usage, the construction of thoughts. It is about economics and is probably intended to readers who appreciate the economy and the Math it entails. But the way it is written betrays that thought. Even those who wouldn’t possibly understand which between 99% and 1% is bigger would understand that walking drunk is statistically more likely to kill a person than driving drunk.

I love the fact that S and S managed to stuck with their topic and made appreciating it so much easier. I like how everything is written straightforwardly, with words that are alternately scholarly and layman. And I love how readers can probably sit together with friends over a friendly, hassle-free dinner and talk about the facts in the book.

What I Liked Least

Mmm. This is difficult. Seriously, because of course I would have to assess without letting that I-hate-Math thing get in the way (a lot).

Okay. So I liked least the fact there is just too much information. And I mean that content-wise. Yes, it is understandable because definitely a book about economics should have lots of information. But there are parts when some information are like floating around without really anchoring itself onto the topic being discussed. There are anecdotes that, while thought of as amusing, are simply minutely and remotely related to what the readers are expected to understand.

Although I guess the conversational way and household words used kind of negates that too-much-info factor, I also think readers are better off spared from the drowning pool of facts.

Chapter/Part I Liked Best

This would have to be the first chapter: How is a Street Prostitute like a Department-store Santa? That’s not so perverse, if you ask me. I like it best because it explains a lot with so much rationality. It, prostitution, is a difficult topic to write because of the social implications and the many legal touches it requires.

Which means, what the authors have done to put in what they’ve put into that chapter is no joke. And I appreciate it.

(Personal) Rating

For ratings, I would give 3.5 Pages for Super Freakonomics. I would do so for two reasons: 1) personally, because I really am not into such topics as economics but for a first attempt at out-of-the-box reading, I do feel like I made the best decision; and 2) as a reader, generally the book can be used as both reference and a nighttime read, although for the latter you’d rather not unless you want nightmarish numbers in your sleep.

In the end, maybe this isn’t really about me or my interest or what the book has given me. It may be but it may not totally be. I never asked those questions that the book has answered. But if we think about it, between many and few is a huge difference in the number of people who wouldn’t ask as well.

To Serve as Introduction

January 16, 2011: I took on the challenge of reading 50 books within the year 2011.

50 Books Challenge (prettybooks.tumblr.com)

And now, almost a month after, I am nearing the end of my first book. I know it isn’t much when it comes to pacing, but I certainly am glad I’m moving forward. Hopefully, by the following week I would be able to come up with a nicely-written post about that first book.

Having said that, I am trying to think of a way to at least distinguish these soon-to-be-written articles on the books I would finish from the other book-related posts I’ve done before.

And I do admit to realizing I have not the best and most creative ideas. The posts, as I envision them right this moment, would follow the format:

Introduction

What is it about? Who wrote it? Who are they? Any facts/trivias about the book and/or the authors? Any awards received? A few basic facts . . .

What I Most Liked About It

In the past, I have somehow done enumerations on the stuffs that I liked about the book–from the writing style to the word-usage to the tone. Now though, in an attempt to dig further, I would be contemplating on which of the book’s many plus points is the best.

What I Least Liked About It

The same goes for the negative side. I would be picking which not-so-good attribute of the book is most disturbing (in whatever sense) or most unpopular for me.

Best Part/Chapter

Not necessarily the climax, if I may be clear about this. Just the part of the story that I enjoyed most.

Personal Rating

This, I’ve never done before purely because I feel like I have no right to. But since I’m reading for a specific purpose among many others now, I guess I do get a few merits for coming up with my own rating of the books. I would be using Pages, not the usual stars or checks ranging from 1 to 5, 5 being the highest. Of course, I would be trying my best to explain the reason behind each rating.

 

In the end though, I still would want to retain one thing: that what I would write, except for the intro part, would be at best subjective. I’m not the best reader there is and opinions ought to be subjective after all.

A Novel on the Fallen

Fallen by Lauren Kate

I got myself a copy of Lauren Kate‘s Fallen after reading about it in one of my friends’ blogs. I was pretty interested because the book was about fallen angels, characters I’ve never read about before. Although the storyline seemed familiar, if not predictable, there was still a flicker of hope that is encouraged and that which makes readers hope that they might be in for something else.

The said storyline is, as in what seems an ordinary plot nowadays, centered around a couple who falls in love with each other despite the differences in their identity. This time, though, the love happens between a fallen angel and a mortal girl. Daniel Grigori, a fallen angel, is a supposedly damned boy who falls in love with the same girl every seventeen years. The girl dies every time she realizes their love for each other and gets reincarnated after to another life and as another person. But she’s always the same girl Daniel finds and loves and, ultimately, gets killed.

In the story, Lucinda Price is another reincarnation of that girl. She meets Daniel again when she was sent to a reform school after being accused of killing her friend. Inexplicably, she gets drawn to Daniel and instantly, she falls in love with him, too.

Daniel tries to make Luce stay away from him for fear of losing her again until he finds out that her life at that time was already different. The change in the cycle has made her more vulnerable to the darker forces because if she dies again, she goes permanently. Thus, Daniel has to protect her more, especially after they have professed their love for each other.

This is a story of religion, love, and the forces that oppose each other in the mighty and vague Heavens. Fallen explores the stories of the Bible, with reference to the usual human connotations given to the concept of heaven and hell.

What I Liked:

Fallen has a really good concept. For me, it’s very new. After all the vampire novels that have become definitely rampant in the YA world, the concept of another set of characters is a good break. I also liked how Lauren Kate have presented imageries of the angels in a way that is not far from what we usually see in photos. It helps readers in imagining the scenes written in the book. Even the names given to the characters are a good mixture of cliché and unusual ones. That helps in giving a sense of reality, albeit the seeming unrealistic existence of the characters, to the book.

The plot setting is also something I appreciate, because reform school gave a different sense to the way the story was presented. It emanated a feeling of rawness and being something out of the ordinary. I like how Lauren Kate describes the settings with a clarity that makes a clear imagination. She uses the senses a lot, from the description of the colors, to the feeling, to the smell, and the silences of the places. I like best the lake setting where Luce and Daniel’s escapades happened, it seemed to be the only “lively” place in the reform school and the way it was described did just that.

What I Didn’t Like:

The story gives me something so Twilight. And I mean that in the love story department. There is so much of the boy-can’t-love-girl theme complete with the girl pining relentlessly for the boy. It is a concept that gets tiring and utterly predictable after. Like, hey, let me guess . . . they’re still going to be together right? The against-all-odds couple who would move heaven and earth just to be together. And then there would be follow-up books (there already is one) to lengthen the conflict.

Another thing I don’t like is the absence of foreshadowing in many parts of the story. There is a limited way of giving out a feeling that there may be something more to the characters than what they appear to be or that one incident is a likely precedent to another, more major revelation.

Lastly, I find difficult to like the slow pacing of the novel. Luce’s relentless pining is even made unbearable by the fact that it’s present for more than half of the entire book. It goes on until you’d simply want to slam the book shut just to get out of Luce’s mind and not think about why Daniel doesn’t get along well with her.

I do think this is why some more important parts are left out: the first-person type of storytelling didn’t mix well with the girl-in-love thoughts. This is also a manifestation of how “I-stories” can go wrong–when the story is told from a certain character’s perspective, that person must be omnipresent, almost omniscient, and utterly assertive. However, Fallen‘s storyteller lacks just that.

On the whole, Fallen is an exciting read if what’s to be considered is the character background and development (with the possible exception of the female lead). However, the excitement goes downhill before the middle part comes in purely because the story has dragged mercilessly due to lack of climactic incidents.

If YA news have it right, there are follow-ups to the first two novels. And if we can be forgivable enough, then maybe we can hope that the story invites a smarter line.

The 50 Books Challenge

(Updated: January 24, 2010)

I solemnly swear to try my best to keep up with the 50 Books Challenge.

This is a sort of bookworm challenge that has gone around Tumblr at the start of the year. It’s rule is fairly straightforward: in the duration of year 2011, you’ve got to read at least 50 books–of any author, within any genre. I can’t remember if the challenger is supposed to blog about each book after having read it, but I guess if you read and blog then chances are you’re gonna blog after reading.

So yesterday, I had the urge to actually list the books I’ve had in mind to read within the year. It’s not a tough list, meaning not everything was New York Times Bestseller’s material or deep-thought-inducing types. It simply has books that I’ve heard from friends or read from the Internet or others by authors I’ve already read. I didn’t even make it in reading order, because of course I couldn’t be sure when within the year I’d get my hands on them.

The list goes like this:

Books in/per Series:

The Millenium Trilogy

1. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

2. The Girl who Played with Fire

3. The Girl who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest

The Uglies Series

4. Uglies*

5. Pretties*

6. Specials*

7. Extras*

The Chronicles of Narnia (I didn’t include all seven books, because honestly not everything in this series appeals to me.)

8. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

9. The Magician’s Nephew

10. The Last Battle

Books by Author:

John Grisham

11. The Appeal*

12. The Rainmaker*

13. The Summons*

14. The Pelican Brief*

15. The Runaway Jury*

16. The Street Lawyer*

Jodi Picoult

17. House Rules*

18. Keeping Faith*

Nicholas Sparks

19. The Wedding

20. Dear John*

Mitch Albom

21. Have a Little Faith*

22. For One More Day*

Paulo Coelho

23. By the River Piedra, I Sat Down and Wept*

24. Veronika Decides to Die

Classics:

25. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen

26. Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen

27. Emma, Jane Austen

28. Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger

29. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee*

30. Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll*

31. Little Women, Louisa May Alcott

32. Anne of Green Gables, L.M. Montgomery*

33. The Secret Garden, Frances Burnett

34. The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupery

35. Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy*

Chick Lit:

36. Carrie Diaries, Candace Bushnell*

37. LA Candy, Lauren Conrad*

38. P.S. I Love You, Cecilia Ahern*

Horror/Suspense-Thrillers:

39. The Shining, Stephen King*

40. Let the Right One In, John Ajvide Lindqvist

41. Interview with the Vampire, Anne Rice*

And finally: Books That I Don’t Know How to Categorize But I’d Love to Read Nonetheless:

42. [The Death and Life of] Charlie St. Cloud, Ben Sherwood*

43. Atlantis Found, Clive Cussler*

44. Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro*

45. The Lovely Bones, Alice Sebold*

46. The Memory Keeper’s Daughter, Kim Edwards*

47. What the Dog Saw, Malcom Gladwell

48. Stealing Heaven, Elizabeth Scott*

49. Digital Fortress, Dan Brown

50. SUPERFreakonomics, Steven Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner*

Some of these books, as in those with asterisks (*), I already have either in true (paperback) form or as E-book material. Which means I can start anytime I want.

And, okay let’s be honest with this, the list is subject to change should I find difficulty in securing copies. So . . . ’til the next update/post/review on this challenge!

Wish me luck!