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!

‘Twas a Difficult Read

I’ve just finished reading the novel from which the movie My Sister’s Keeper was adapted. The book, which had the same title (of course) was by Jodi Picoult.

My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult

Jodi Picoult was introduced to me by the very cinema where I saw the trailer of My Sister’s Keeper. And then her name was offered to me again by one of my friends who also loves to read. It actually took me a long time to get my hands on a book of hers, well, on My Sister’s Keeper. And it took me longer than that to actually pick my brain for decent thoughts about it.

On the Novel: Style, Content, etc.

Before reading the novel, I was already marveling at the idea of the story partly because I’ve seen it in the motion picture version and partly because it was the first of its kind that I’d ever heard. I deduced Picoult isn’t your ordinary writer. She’s got something else. A very visible heart, I guess. A heart that dictates the words more than her mind does. And a wide, wide range of thoughts on life.

While reading the novel, the next thing I marveled at was the amount of information Picoult was able to incorporate in her story. I’ve read a lot of Grishams so I can somehow say that law and fiction is a palatable combination for me as much as it’s understandable. But it was the first time that I saw both law and medicine together in a story. And if Picoult never even got to the threshold of either practice, then she’s one hell of a researcher. I was both annoyed and amazed at the facts she was able to research and include. Annoyed because, well, there were too much words that simply flew out the window before I managed to pronounce them. And amazed because these were words you’d really have to look for.

I also liked the way it was written in the first perspective point of view of each character. I always say I have reservations against the first person style. Like, if you write in that way, then you make sure your narrator is either omnipresent or omniscient enough. But this time, under Picoult’s hands, I got the best first person story ever. I didn’t have to wonder how the others were feeling over the entire story and conflict. And yes, maybe it was a bit difficult because I had to keep in mind who the narrator was supposed to be in a specific part of the story. But still, in a story like this one, you’ve got to know what each person was thinking. And that’s just well taken-care of.

I remember reading a movie review written about My Sister’s Keeper, about how the review-writer thought the film lacked enough transitory excitement because there were simple fade-to-blacks and fade-ins, as if the director didn’t think about how to do the storytelling with transitions. Well, I guess it was exactly the way the novel was written. One paragraph has Anna telling you about what’s happening at present, then in the next paragraph, talking about a past incident. That’s without transition, too. Like fade-to-black and fade-in. It gets irritating sometimes, because you have to keep your head into what you’re reading or you’d get lost in the stories and anecdotes told without a seeming pattern. But effective nonetheless.

Movie and Book

(WARNING: Spoilers may be included.)

I could say ‘movie vs. book’ or probably use ‘or’, ‘/’, or even a ‘-‘. But no, I’ve said before that I loved the movie and I’m not anywhere near taking it back. I can only merely compare, wish there are things that didn’t happen, and voice out my opinions. By that, I mean that as much as I love the movie, I still wish there weren’t parts or characters cancelled out or changed.

Judge DeSalvo as a male in the novel but was portrayed as a female in the movie, Sara’s sister Suzanne’s name was changed to Kelly, the more focus given to Kate and Taylor’s going out–all of these are forgivable alterations. I’ve had a lot of Harry Potters to understand that.

But Jesse being an ignored dyslexic kid in the movie but was actually a pyromaniac in the novel, I wish they didn’t change that. Someone from that family has to knock hard enough to be noticed in spite of Kate, and if Anna couldn’t do that then Jesse maybe could. I also wish they didn’t exclude Julia Romano and Campbell Alexander’s connection with her. I think there wasn’t a single important character in that movie who came in without a plausible reason. Campbell had to have that, which went beyond his being an epileptic, and Julia could have provided that. Lastly, I wished they didn’t erased Anna’s prowess at hockey because I thought it was the perfect metaphor for her character. As Sara said so, Anna always saves.

And then there’s the ending. Which I’m still working on right now and would have to wait for later. But I promise to make the most of it before I conclude.

Characters

Picoult’s characters will have you rocking back and forth and racking your heart on how you would feel toward them. That much I can say. I went constantly in conflict with myself and with my beliefs as I tried to understand and work my way around each person.

Sara. I don’t understand how a mother’s mind works. Maybe it really could make you do all the things Sara’s done, believe in all her beliefs, put Anna into all those painful surgeries for Kate to survive. Or maybe it won’t. That’s why I’m undecided whether I’d hate Sara or admire her potency. I could hate her for ignoring Jesse and using Anna just because she couldn’t let go of Kate. But then if she had let go before, then she wouldn’t have Anna. And everyone’s life wouldn’t change. So maybe I’d stick with something I’ve always believed in: that mothers have this tendency to love more the child that needs her most. Don’t tell me she could love every one of her children equally. She’s supposed to, but it doesn’t always work that way.

Brian. The firefighter through and through. I see a lot of my father in Brian Fitzgerald and maybe that’s why I like him so much. He’s there, both the beacon and the extinguisher. He’s as confused and conflicted as he is sure of the way out. I like him for that, too, although of course I wish he didn’t turn his back on Anna at trial. The kid could use one of her parents taking her side, too.

Jesse. At one point or another, there’s always a Jesse around. One who destroys because he couldn’t save. One who’s got more in him than what he lets meet your eye. His recollections in the novel aren’t the simple rants of some neglected kid, his are significances of just how much neglect a child can survive and forgive before they turn to the more harmful option of drawing attention to themselves through hatred. I would probably like it more if he was given a proper send-off, but I guess we could make do with him accepting his faults.

Julia. I’m partly irritated at the fact that Julia didn’t actually help out Anna, that her perspective of the child wasn’t even very different from the others. So why include her in the story at all? I won’t even be surprised if that’s the reason that the movie crew decided to leave her out. But Julia’s character had an effect over Campbell’s. She made him more humane and that helped because Anna’s case wasn’t as simply as an evidence-driven one.

Campbell. Well, he wasn’t the Campbell that Alec Baldwin portrayed. He made me happy that I read the book after I saw the movie. Because the difference was so striking it could’ve bordered on annoying. But he was very smart, very lawyerly, and very admirable. He was honest with several touches of lies. And I especially loved his witty retorts to those who ask him about the service dog Judge. I also admired the way he took care of Anna, which may be rude at some points but was very touching at others.

Kate. I don’t know what to feel about Kate. And I know that’s not the default attitude. You’ve got to be for her, siding with her, pitying her even for a while before you make your mind up about her. But I didn’t feel that. Yes, she was dying and that’s a very hard fact to deal with. But there were times when I felt like she was taking for granted the fact that her family was doing everything they could for her. I felt like she was being so much of a brat and a drat, feeling her way through her sickness, knowing it kills everyone around her. I didn’t feel enough of the weakness she was supposed to have. But I liked her having the last part of the book because I did expect that of everyone who grieved for Anna, Kate would do so the most.

Anna. For a thirteen-year-old, she sure had so much in her. She understood things the way others didn’t. In many ways, I hated losing her in the end of the novel (this is sooooo spoiling, sorry). But maybe it was what should really happen (I’ll explain why later). I liked Anna’s bravery, her wisdom, and the many lessons she’s taught us in terms of family and selflessness.

The Ending

The very controversial ending, if I consider all the differing opinions about how the movie ended and how altered it was from the way the novel ended.

I’ve yet to find out why the director/screenplay writer decided to change the ending–meaning, why they chose Kate to die instead. But as for the book, I side with Picoult for letting Anna go instead.

If Anna didn’t die and she was medically emancipated and she decided to keep her kidney, nothing would prevent Kate’s death. I felt like if Kate died, Anna would live with two things: grief and guilt. Grief over losing her sister and guilt because even if she didn’t want to, she didn’t prevent what she could. And even if Anna gave a kidney and Kate still died, Anna would hate Sara forever because somehow, she’s likely to feel worn and used. And even if Anna gave a kidney and Kate lived, it would create a crack too deep for healing between them. There would be a whole lot of possibilities in exchange of Anna’s living. And each one of those would hurt everyone else, probably as much as Kate’s sickness did.

But Anna died and everyone grieved. Kate was taught the importance of the life her mother has stanchly fought for. Anna died and everything that hurt was erased, and even if it was replaced with a very hollow ache, the pain was bound to recede. Anna died and saved everyone else.

I wish I could write like Jodi Picoult–sensitive, thoughtful, heartfelt, and intelligent.

I have a sister, she’s younger than me, and thankfully we’re both healthy enough to live independently. Because I wouldn’t probably know what to do if I were Anna and she’s Kate, or if it’s the other way around.

Pair Up!

Recently, I have been seeing discussion among Tumblr users on the pairings that have happened and not happened in their favorite series/books/movies. For quite some time now, choices are being made, rationalized, and challenged. One group goes for Team Person A, another for Team Person B. Amusingly, there are those who go for neither sides being presented and choose an entirely another character relevant or not to the argument.

But I’m not here to take sides, whether or not I have interests over a particular faction. I’m here to merely voice out, or write about rather, my thoughts on these arguments. I have only three categories, by the way, as they’re the ones most prominent amongst the blogs I follow. And because they feature the eternal conflict of choosing between the best friend and the love interest.

Let’s take them one by one.

Category: The Twilight Saga

Over Which Girl: Bella Swan
The Contenders: Edward Cullen and Jacob Black

Bella is a teenage girl who moves in with her father in a small town where she meets and falls in love with Edward who, she later comes to know, belongs to a vampire coven. The story is mainly about that: vampire guy and human girl, the threats of the relationship worsened by the fatality of the supernatural. Then Bella befriends Jacob, who later develops to be a werewolf and the vampires’ archenemy. The romantic triangle becomes a default conflict especially after Bella herself realizes the kind of more-than-a-friend feeling she has for Jacob.

Edward and Bella

Why I Think it has to be Edward:

This is a difficult thought because as just himself, Edward’s character has never gained favors from me. He’s way too romantic and superbly beautiful for comfort. But for the sake of objectivity, I’d say it has to be Edward with Bella because he cares for  her. As in honest to goodness, I’ll-die-for-you, caring. And okay, maybe that’s because more than half of the threats to Bella’s life has came from Edward’s supernatural world. But the way he cares for her somehow brings out the child in Bella, which she’s never gotten while she has to take care of her mother. In a way, he complements her and since the books are written in Bella’s perspective, I like that Edward gets to bring out thoughts within her that she doesn’t find easy coming up with.

Why I Don’t Think it has to be Edward:

Because he’s too addicting for Bella. And I can’t personally ever consider that as a healthy base for a relationship. Bella can’t be her 100% self when she’s with him, either because she’s gonna get hurt or he’s gonna be uncomfortable. For me, it just defies the entire relationship to more conflict. And then everything just turns into this huge cliché that’s too tiring to let on for four solid books.

Jacob and Bella

Why I Think it has to be Jacob:

While Edward can take a bullet for Bella, Jacob can also do the same. And much more. He lets Bella be Bella. Jacob and Bella gets to be halves of a pair and still keep their own selves. He’s everything un-Edward when it comes to dealing with Bella, which somehow enables him to know what’s up with her before she even speak of it. He trusts Bella to be strong enough, which I saw those times he’d rather tell her the truth no matter how much it could hurt her.

Why I Don’t Think it has to be Jacob:

Because they’re best friends. And the argument just ends with that. You may say it’s a good point, starting off from the best friends level. But it’s not always the case. Because they become friends for being so like each other. And someday, they’d have to choose between that level of togetherness or going up a notch higher, with both options threatening to break the solidity with which they’ve built their friendship.

Category: The Hunger Games Trilogy
Over Which Girl: Katniss Everdeen
The Contenders: Peeta Mellark and Gale Hawthorne

Katniss volunteers to take her younger sister’s place in the Hunger Games, a horrid reality-show style of games where 2 kids from each of the 12 district in their country are thrown together in a dangerous arena to kill each other. The rule is simple, kill the 23 other kids and you win. This is where she allies with Peeta, the boy who’s once saved her and her family’s life with a loaf of bread. But while in the Games, they had to act like romantically taken with each other when an announcement was changed: last 2 kids from the same district to stay alive wins. This whole act troubles Katniss and amidst her reasons is Gale, her best friend (and somehow, an indicative more-than-friend) waiting for her back home.

Peeta and Katniss

Why I Think it has to be Peeta:

He nearly died protecting Katniss. If that doesn’t merit a vote, I don’t know what else. More than that, though, Peeta serves as the guy who puts Katniss’ fire out when it gets destructive. He also represents the bread that satisfies her hunger. He’s entirely different from Katniss, background and values and perspective considered. And that’s what makes him a perfect fit for her: he gets to maintain her survivor’s instinct, being the one who needs the more care, and also provides for her in the form of hope against her despondency.

Why I Don’t Think it has to be Peeta:

He slows Katniss down, softens her up, and brings out her weaknesses. And being fast, hard, and strong are all Katniss has. She’s not very talented when she’s without killer weapons. She’s not very smart when she’s not adrenaline-pumped to be. But she’s constantly fast, hard, and strong. Being with Peeta erases all that ultimately. Because being with him makes her dependent, and not even in the way he depends on her. It’s a dependence that if made habitual would never let Katniss grow further.

Gale and Katniss

Why I Think it has to be Gale:

Gale has been around the entire time Katniss is having difficulty keeping her family alive. He’s there when she breaks the law in their district and goes out for a hunt. While Peeta slows Katniss down, Gale does the opposite. He makes Katniss stronger, even if he doesn’t always have to lend her some of his strength. Gale is also a comfort to her, being the only one she gets to speak truthfully with.

Why I Don’t Think it has to be Gale:

Gale is Katniss’ best friend. Again. And if you’ve read the whole trilogy already, you would know it didn’t do both of them any good. Because it hurt them to the point that all their years of friendship just practically burned. Especially after Katniss was named Victor of the Games. Somehow, I’ve seen him jealous. Not because Katniss won and became famous, he’s not as shallow as that. But I think it’s because she got to have choices while he remained stuck with the bound life in their district. Plus he remained a constant pain for Katniss. She realized there was something she felt for him, and he knew that because knew her so much. And he used that against her. Frankly, that’s what put me off–the fact that he couldn’t be selfless enough for her.

Category: The Harry Potter Series
Over Which Girl: Hermione Granger
The Contenders: Harry Potter and Ronald Weasley

(This isn’t even 100% valid, because we all know JK Rowling has already decided not to even start this type of discussion. But because it’s being rampantly argued over, let’s do this.)

Hermione has been friends with Harry and Ron since their first year in Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Mostly, the story is about Harry, his adventures with the two, his mission to get rid of the dark wizard Voldemort. On the background, is a teen story as complex as a wizarding novel. There’s Harry with girl problems and Ron with no-girl problems and Hermione with boy problems. In their sixth year together, though, realizations start coming in. By the epilogue, partners are built for life.

But at present, discussions have started to question JK Rowling’s choice. Harry-Ginny vs. Harry-Hermione vs. Ron-Hermione. I’m not thinking about the Harry-Ginny thing because it’s not very conflicting. So here goes my thoughts on the other two pairings.

Ron and Hermione

Why I Think it has to be Ron:

I side with Rowling when she said she made Ron and Hermione go together because they were complementary characters. Hermione for me doesn’t need some serious guy who’s serious about her in a serious manner. Because that’s outright boring and utterly stagnant. I think she has to be with someone who can thaw her out, someone who can make her smile even if its at stupidity’s expense, someone who can be on the receiving end of her brash caring and turn it into something very soothing. And that someone is Ron, of course. He might not be the smart, brave, daring guy who would turn Whomping Willows for her. But he’s loyal and fun and full of heart inspired by a large, loving family. And for Hermione who’s lost her parents to oblivion, that’s just who she needs.

Why I Don’t Think it has to be Ron:

Because he’s too expensive. Emotionally and mentally, that is. You’ve got to invest a lot so you can take back what you deserve. Ron seems to be on that mould, for me. And Hermione would benefit from some time off the thinking, let someone else do it for her without risking too much. I don’t think Ron can do that for her. In the long run, if you think about it, she just might be tired of all the thoughts that’s in her mind. And if we’re completely honest, when that happens, a Pensieve could do more than Ron.

Harry and Hermione

Why I Think it has to be Harry:

Because he understands her and she does him. Because she takes away from Harry the hot-headedness, the danger-loving impulse, and the messianic trait. And he gives her a lot of the credit she deserves. If we notice it, they get to be the last two together–except in the second novel–before Harry sets off alone to do the imminent life-risking. As in the 1st book, they’re left together to decipher the Potions riddle after Ron has been knocked out at wizards’ chess. As in the 3rd book, where they’ve traveled through the Time-Turner. As in the 4th book when she’s the one who stayed and helped with the Triwizard tasks when Ron was being eaten up by jealously. As in the 5th book, when they scared Umbridge off to the centaurs. As in the 7th book, when again Ron ran out on them. These are moments you’d find hard to forget when you grow old. And sometimes, I am assailed with the thought of Hermione, old beside a sleeping Ron, and thinking: “Wherever is the guy I fought Nagini for?”

Why I Don’t Think it has to be Harry:

Again, the cardinal argument: they’re best friends. Best-er friends than Ron and Harry are. Or than Ron and Hermione. All of those incidents I’ve mentioned above? Those are events you’d never get pass through if you’re with your, say, girlfriend. He’d always turn back, try to make sure Hermione isn’t captured by dark wizards even as he himself prepares for a battle with one. He’d never proceed without thinking what happens to her. And that wouldn’t have worked for Harry’s character. Not even for Hermione, because she’d know. She’d understand what has happened and she’d hate herself for it. That’s why best friends mostly don’t work being together. Because they lose the friendship that allowed them to be themselves.

Let me get down to the common denominators.

The love interests (Edward, Peeta, and Ron) are guys who doesn’t compare and parallel too much with the girls in question. That’s why they become interests. They have provoked something out of the girls that have made them, us, realize how relationships are really composed of two individuals melting together as one.

The other side (Jacob, Gale, and Harry) are the best friends who, save for Harry, have indeed thought about optioning themselves out for the girls to choose among. But they have the disadvantage of carrying with them a whole other sense of a strong relationship–friendship. And that’s a relationship that would be hard put to bring back together if shattered.

In the end, we can only assume. I can only weigh. The options have lied and have been picked by their respective writers. We can only nod at that fact, whether or not we agree.

Photo credits: Rotten Tomatoes (for the Twilight Saga and Harry Potter photos), thehungergamestribute.co.cc (for the Peeta and Katniss fan art), & theboywiththebread.tumblr.com (for the Gale and Katniss fan art).

An Open (and Incredibly Long) Letter to Suzanne Collins

Dear Ms Collins,

I change my mind again.  I want your trilogy on reel. I want to see Katniss and Peeta and Haymitch and even Gale. I want them under the hands of the most creative screenplay writer and through the eyes of the most skilled directors. And please, Ms. Collins, please do not make a lot of changes. Just enough for the sake of cinematography, I guess.

But that’s not what I’m writing about. I am trying to write a review of Mockingjay, your last book in the trilogy. But my attempt is reduced to simply wanting to tell you how I feel about your books. Less technical and more personal, if I can muster so.

The Hunger Games Trilogy (hereforpizza.tumblr.com)

First, I wish to thank you for the fresh concept. As I’ve written in my review of The Hunger Games, your story is a refreshing break and deviation from the now rampant tales about our fanged protagonists. In an almost feverish way, I have went through your books because suddenly, I am reading something I have lots of trouble predicting what’s gonna happen next.

With your fresh concept also comes the politics of the world you have created. And that has, for me, added an additional attraction. Politics in a YA book is very rare but your approach to it doesn’t hamper its spirit. If only for that, you have provided a passable bridge for YA readers and adult book-lovers.

Second, I like that you have written the story in the way that you have. The first-person point of view, in all its susceptibility to lacking perspectives, has worked for your tale. Because we have to understand the Games and the war and how it internally affects the people in it. More importantly, how it affects a mockingjay. And I’m not sure, but I seem to think that your first-person way of writing addresses that need for understanding.

Aside from that, I especially like your choice of words. Direct, expressive, tell-them-like-they-are kind of words. From the heart and sometimes hidden under nasty meshes of hurtful circumstances. Short sentences like “Twirl for me“, “Stay with me“, and “Whatever breaks you” that actually speaks for a heart-full of feelings.

Next, I love your characters. There’s your heroine, Katniss Everdeen. The girl on fire, the impulsive and yet accurate hunter whose complexity I love unconditionally. I love her wooliness, the way she gets presented with conflicting ideas and feelings, and her struggle to choose among them. Thank you for making her vulnerable to as many harms as her strength can cause.

And then there are the people who have made Katniss’s life as intricate.

There’s Gale Hawthorne, her best friend, her hunting partner. In his individuality, I still like Gale. Even with his bloodlust. Even with his desire to fight at the expense of innocent people. Because the war does that to people, too. If I understand it correctly, Gale is made into the other result of a war: vengeful and spiteful.

But as a potential lover for Katniss, I guess I would stand by your own choice, Ms. Collins. Because honestly, ma’am, I have had a fair share of best-friends-to-lovers stories that if yours end with Katniss choosing Gale, I would have been sad. Because, yes, I agree with you. We become best friends with people who, at best, are of the same mould as we are.

What we need then, for a lover, is someone who would complement us. Harmonize our strengths and weaknesses. And fill in what we lack. That’s why I love Peeta Mellark being with Katniss in the end. And even in the end of the beginning novel (The Hunger Games). I have somehow understood why it is Peeta who gets to be in the arena and not Gale. Why it’s him who gets to share with Katniss’s fire. Because he can put it out when it becomes destructive, while Gale can only strengthen it. Because after all the heat of the fire, what we need is the coolness of true pearl–pure and relaxing.

And then there’s Haymitch Abernathy. An older, male version of Katniss. I like that mirror-effect he has with her. He seems to exemplify the possible results to Katniss’s causes. On top of this, there’s the unlikely existence of a softer, more humane person deep within the drunken exterior of Haymitch’s character. A man who has been shattered to irreconcilable pieces by grief and cruelty and yet still finds the heart to take care of two equally victorious and suffering people. Needless to say, I love his multiple layers.

Maybe the same is true with Johanna Mason. And Boggs and Paylor. And Beetee, too. As well as the prep team Octavia, Flavius, and Venia. All of them, their multi-faceted personalities. The strengths and the weaknesses. The way they personify the many faces of war and the world itself.

Same goes with Finnick Odair, well that and the fact that he has shown Katniss the way through her heart. I feel quite glad at the idea that Finnick’s love for Annie has mirrored that which Katniss feels for Peeta.

I’m afraid I cannot say the same with Plutarch Heavensbee. That imprudent, sorry excuse for a Head Gamemaker. He’s Capitol inside-out, I guess. With only entertainment to sustain him, regardless of how many innocent lives he kills, I know I have been right when I said (in my review of Catching Fire) that there’s something unsettling about him.

But then, Ms. Collins, their lives are marred by death. With so much gore and blood and nausea and unseeing eyes. I’m sorry people had to die.

Well, maybe not much in the case of the two presidents. President Coin, who I hate for being so intelligent and yet unfeeling. Who has made every citizen in Panem a piece of her Games. Who has done what the Capitol has done all those years of superiority: watch as people battle for life through murder.

President Snow, who I hate for being an active piece of Coin’s Games. He has had it right when he said he shouldn’t have turned the Capitol and the districts against one another. That he should have united them against the ominous threat that is District 13. And although he couldn’t have known what Coin has prepared against him, I still think his way of ruling is unforgivable. Huge, huge ego does not pay for all the lives he had spent.

But there are deaths that I do feel sorry for. More than anything.

Cinna, the silent warrior. The man who has caught so much of my attention and affection. I am resentful toward his death, which is delivered in such an unjust and unnecessary way.

And Prim. Her death, so unfair to come just as she is blossoming into her full self, breaks me. Prim, who has provided light to the darkness of the war, whose presence is soothing even without her consoling words. And yes, people like her die in battles. Even as pawns, as reminders that no one really is spared from wars.

Maybe all of these–the nightmares, the pain, the loses–maybe they are also reminders. That victors, those who win in the Hunger Games, can make it out alive and well. But that in reality, they make it out with either only one of the two, which I guess is pretty clear a choice, or with neither true at all.

Maybe all of them are encased in your metaphors. The fire, the ever burning fire, of feelings and emotions and strengths. The mockingjays that have surpassed extinction and have ever since served as a reminder that as long as they live, the memory of the Dark Days do, too. And now, they carry with them the memory of the war as well. The spark of rebellion, the face of relentless fighting, the need for a thorough discernment between what is real and what is not.

In the end, Ms. Collins, I end my reading with a sharp jab of the pain I usually associate with losing a friend. I end a journey I have taken on with your books. A journey that is both agonizing and relieving. Thank you for them.

P.S.

It feels good to know Katniss has become a mother. She would make a good one, I think.

P.P.S.

I’ll wait for the movies.