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August 25, 2017

Books read lately

A great book should leave you with many experiences, and slightly exhausted at the end. You live several lives while reading. –William Styron
These are the books I finished reading so far this year with little notes on what I thought. Normally, I would say I only list books I would recommend reading but now I think every book has an audience and it's fair to talk about them even in the negative. These are my opinions and if you don't like them, forget them or read the book and judge for yourself.  Please note: There will be minor ramblings & no, I'm not paid to read these books or write these reviews.

01/ The island at the end of everything by Kiran Millwood Hargrave
It's a beautiful book but I think the subject of leprosy and butterflies might not appeal to people but it's more about family anyway. I must admit, I didn't really read the synopsis all that clearly when I decided to read the book as I was sucked in by the beautiful cover and I also loved Hargrave's previous book (The girl of ink & stars) but I still end up liking The island at the end of everything a lot. I don't love it but I think it's mostly because the ending was a bit short. There are two endings of sorts with the second taking places thirty years later which surprised me and also it is told with a new character which at first, I hated it but then I realized it's actually better this way. We are then re-living the whole story in a new light and it gives the ending a more of double joy kind of feeling.

Favorite Quote: "And now I see them clearly for what they are: the colours patterning each wing, the black bodies, some large, some small, and all of them shifting like breath across the clearing. Butterflies. Dozens, maybe hundreds of them, coasting on the air like a visible, fluttering wind."

02/ The Crow-Girl by Bodil Bredsdorff, translated from the Danish by Faith Ingwersen (The first of The Children of Crow Cove series)
After her grandmother dies, Crow-Girl left her home and set out to find a family, well, I'm not sure that was her intention but that's what happened. She meets people - cruel, abused, kind, lost. One of them is a boy named Doup and then a few more which I don't think I should name as the book is quite short. Despite being short and the story told in a direct, forward manner, it was an enjoyable read. I really like Crow-Girl and the way she draws people into her life - never pushing people to move one way or another. And she gets a name at the end of the story though I really did like how Crow-Girl's grandmother calls her 'my chick.' I also read the other three books in the series - Eidi, Tink, Alek - but they are just okay but I like Crow-Girl the best.

Favorite Quote: "Her eyes were dark blue, nearly black in the dim light. She had a large curved nose and dark, bristly hair that was very short in front where the fire had singed it."

03/ Witch Song by Amber Argyle (Book 1 of The Witch Song series)
Right away, I sort of hate the book because the protagonist's name is Brusenna but later when she left home to find her mother, she introduced herself as Senna as some sort of disguise which is just silly because who just shorten their name for a disguise? Senna's power is activated through singing which there are a lot of in the book. To me, singing is really a weak way to get your power working. It's very easy for anyone to gag her and she's done for which is illustrated right in the beginning of the book. But I like seeing heroines with a weakness because she would be too perfect if she doesn't have any. In fact, Senna is a bit of a cliche. She is a girl that is beautiful but doesn't quite know it, a girl that is powerful but doubting herself, a girl that is destined to overcome anything - the usual heroine story. I mean, I sort of know where the story is heading. There are some vivid side characters like the evil witch that kills witches like Senna and the evil witch's two male minions but nobody reallly stands out. Senna's love interest/bodyguard Joshen is a bit of a cliche too. Joshen is a honest good guy who just happens to be big, tall and good looking as expected like any love interest might be.

I think Witch Song is more of a find-yourself kind of book more than a supernatural/adventure book. Not to say there aren't adventures and dangers and such but I guess I expected more. There are some magic moments that I like but they were kind of brief and really, they are the only thing that keeps me reading to the end. Since it's a first book in a series, I guess this is more of a set up for something bigger but the ending is satisfying if not a bit lukewarm. I like Witch Song enough but not enough to read the sequels.

Favorite Quote: "Well, then, find another way. I'm not going to stand by and watch you sing yourself into old age."

04/ A Series of Unfortunate Events: The bad beginning, or Orphans! / The reptile room or, Murder! /The wide window or, Disappearance! by Lemony Snicket with illustrations by Brett Helquist
These first three books have almost the same storyline: the children gets sent to a relative/guardian and then something bad happens and the children starts again with a different relative/guardian, all very tragic. I like the moments when Violet, Klaus and even the baby, Sunny, comes up with answers to solve their miserable predicaments. The writing is a bit annoying sometimes because words keep getting explained/defined and sometimes there are ramblings but these books are short which I like. However, I dislike the way the adults keeps disbelieving the children, making it too frustrating a read. I mean, are the adults in that world so gullible that they need hard evidence to believe the children? And how many tragedies does it take to get the children to have a happy ending? 13, I suppose since there are 13 books in this series.

Cover Note: Sadly, they didn't publish the other 10 books with this design (see above) which I like a lot. Honestly, I thought about getting the hardcover box set for my collection but they all have these Netflix stickers on all 13 covers which to me, is a bit excessive and I really hate how the covers are ruined by stickers either printed or stuck on.

Favorite Quote: "Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire were intelligent children, and they were charming, and resourceful, and had pleasant facial features, but they were extremely unlucky, and most everything that happened to them was rife with misfortune, misery and despair. I'm sorry to tell you this, but that is how the story goes." - The bad beginning

05/ Charlie & The Chocolate Factory/Charlie & The Glass Elevator by Roald Dahl & illustrated by Quentin Blake
I really like Dahl's style of writing - somewhat serious but at the same time, kind of making fun of everything and everyone but it's just so much fun reading them. (Matilda is the first Dahl book I read and it's still my most favorite Dahl book.) I do think Charlie & The Chocolate Factory is a little lighter than Charlie & The Glass Elevator which seems a bit on the dark side especially when they brought up those strange worm aliens 'The Vermicious Knids.' I really don't like them. But I like Charlie's family and Mr. Wonka who apparently likes to pretend he didn't hear something when he didn't like them. I thought he is rather fun.

Cover Note: My editions are the Puffin hardcover editions which have purple/dark blue color text which matched the cover colors.

Favorite Quote: "Only once a year, on his birthday, did Charlie Bucket ever get to taste a bit of chocolate. The whole family saved up their money for that special occasion, and when the great day arrived, Charlie was always presented with one small chocolate bar to eat all by himself. And each time he received it, on those marvelous birthday mornings, he would place it carefully in a small wooden box that he owned, and treasure it as though it were a bar of solid gold; and for the next few days, he would allow himself only to look at it, but never to touch it. Then at last, when he could stand it no longer, he would peel back a tiny bit of the paper wrapping at one corner to expose a tiny bit of chocolate, and then he would take a tiny nibble - just enough to allow the lovely sweet taste to spread out slowly over his tongue. The next day, he would take another tiny nibble, and so on, and so on. And in this way, Charlie would make his ten-cent bar of birthday chocolate last him for more than a month."

06/ The Dragon with the Chocolate Heart by Stephanie Burgis
I want to love this book. But all I could really say is I half-like this book. So this is about a dragon that turned into a girl and it involves chocolate which is a good combination right? Dragons and chocolate? Good combination? I thought so but I was disappointed. I wish her dragon side was spoken of more often, all we are getting is her telling us how she is learning to be human with some side bits about her dragon days. I didn't like her name either - Aventurine - it sounds like 'adventure' and it's just too obvious. This is a decent read but I sort of hate how the story just got a bit too generalized about being human, about being a dragon, about basically the basic element about finding your true self. Younger readers might like this but adults would probably get a bit bore unless the talk of chocolates makes you extremely happy. But the cover is gorgeous!

Favorite Quote: "If I'd still been in my proper form, I would have snorted out gallons of smoke at the very idea of caring about what humans chose to put on their little bodies. As it was, I was horribly certain that the information was going to actually matter to me soon."

07/ Chime by Franny Billingsley
I would say Chime is a complex book that makes me hate it and then love it and then hate it and so on. Chime is classified as an young adult mystery with supernatural elements and to me, that sounds about right. The main character is Briony and the story is told in her point of view. Briony has a secret that is suppose to end her life which we get to know right away - she is a witch - but there are other secrets/revelations that could save her and that is what keeps me reading. I just wasn't sure if some of the events at the end really happened. They just seemed a bit foggy - like perhaps it happened in Briony's head instead of in the real world but I guess a re-read would probably clear that up. Since I read this on and off and having taking so much break in between reading the beginning and the end, I guess my mind was a little foggy as well. As for the supernatural elements, well, I don't really care for them but they are part of Briony's story and they have great significants at the end. I think Chime is one of those books that can't really be judge easily. It's well written and you do get to know Briony really well in all her honest, angst-filled, see-saw, unbalanced mind. It is definitely not a dull book and not your standard teen-angst book either. I would recommend this only if you're not afraid of some creepiness and some unsuitable contents.

Cover Note: The version I have is the green one (see above, right) though I would prefer the cover at left but it's not available in paperback. Honesty, the face on the green cover represents Briony perfectly but I really, really hate the way it is framed and the green. Seriously, just because the book has supernatural/paranormal elements doesn't mean it has to be green.

Favorite Quote: "Say something, Briony; say something! The Briony mask always had something tart or amusing to say, but the underneath Briony could think of nothing. The clock tut-tutted in the silence. How slowly it spoke, so slowly that between tick and tock came the sharp silvery plink of rain on glass."

Read any good books lately? Tell me about it in the comments.
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