A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

8621462I gave this book 3 out of 5 stars.
Although I started this book with high expectations after reading so many good reviews and high-ratings, this book didn’t move me as much as I had expected.
In retrospect, I might have expected TOO MUCH, the ducked stars might not be the book’s fault, the fault may have lain with me after all; I probably should have started this book with a clean slate rather than let the fixed idea of this book being good cloud my judgment.

The illustrations are amazing and the writing and the story line are generally gripping and relatable, I personally think this is a page-turner. The story moves at a brisk pace.
However, I didn’t get invested in any of the characters except for the Monster; they all felt kind of aloof and it was hard to read their emotions. I think it is too bad that I didn’t get to relate to the main character, Conor, in particular.

I understand that Conor is going through a tough time with his mother being gravely sick, but I couldn’t relate to him for closing himself off and not letting anybody emotionally be close to him. He could confide in his father or his grandmother that how badly he has been tormented by the ‘Truth’ which he keeps to himself. He could lift the load from his shoulders by letting out his feelings, but he kind of refuses to face it. I know the ‘truth’ is awfully hard for a 13 year-old boy to bear, but that’s all the more reason why I wanted him to open up and let the others know his true feelings. I felt rather frustrated with him being so distant, he felt so out of reach.
My frustration disappeared and I even felt some sympathy toward Conor in the end, though.
The irony – the medicine made from yew tree fails to bring the outcome what Conor desperately was hoping for – felt so poignant. That was probably one of the scenes that spoke to me most strongly.

Although I was impressed with what the fourth tale has done to Conor, and I think it is definitely worth a read, personally, I found the message the Monster tries to convey to Conor a bit difficult to grasp. It felt a bit too vague and fuzzy so I almost let it slip.
I still enjoyed reading how the fourth tale helped Conor to be honest with his true feelings though. It is really cathartic and therapeutic.

What I really like about this book is the monster’s voice. He is sage and insightful yet I can also see he has a sense of humor. Some of his remarks made me giggle.
I also enjoyed reading the dialogues between Conor and the monster so much. The monster’s words are all pregnant with meaning, which may be a bit hard for kids to understand, but I think there are a lot that resonate with everyone.

That being said though, I was a bit underwhelmed by the ending; I did want it to grab me, break me, or even shatter me. With regard to the point, this book fell short of measuring up to my ‘probably way too high’ expectations.

I generally enjoyed the book, but it failed to reel me in and make me emotionally attached completely and that’s the only issue that I had toward this book.

This is not a straight 5 stars book for me (I’m so sorry about that), yet I think it’s worth a read and you may find this book really touching and moving.

The Reptile Room by Lemony Snicket

the-reptile-roomTitle: The Reptile Room (A Series of Unfortunate Events Book 2)

Author: Lemony Snicket

Length: 192 pages

Lemony Snicket did it again – this book enthralled me from beginning to end.

This is the second book in the series and I love it so much; I adore this book much more than the first book.

His prowess as an author is beautifully displayed throughout the book. There is never a dull moment in this book at least for me and I literally gobbled it up in two sittings. (I’d been reading two books simultaneously so while I was at the other book, this book was on the back burner if you like.)

I particularly like how Lemony Snicket portrays Count Olaf in this book.
In the first book, Count Olaf was portrayed as a despicable, insidious man who is capable of the most horrendous thing we could think of when he flies into rages.

However, I didn’t particularly feel that way; yes, he is such a despicable, cunning and ugly man but the descriptions of him didn’t give me chills running down my spine in the first book.

In the second book, however, I shivered at the thought of him slashing one of the Bourdelair orphans’ throat with his jagged knife (That’s what he says he will do, not what he actually does.)
The knife – the glint of the knife in particular – was also used amazingly effectively to send warnings to the Boudelair orphans as well as displaying how merciless and inexorable Count Olaf can be if he so chooses.
I thought I could even sense the hushed silence filling the room by the mere sight of the knife, how scary it can be! I shuddered. 

I was also mesmerized by his prowess in story-telling.
We all know something bad and miserable is going to happen to the Bourdelair orphans, but rather than unfolding the story bit by bit like untangling twined threads, he blurts out that their new guardian – whom the children adore and find amiable – is destined to die.
He doesn’t divulge how or when, but he does come out and say things are definitely not going the way we readers hope.

I found it worked fantastically to underscore the forthcoming days of doom and gloom in store for the Bourdelair children.
By juxtaposing the grim future that awaits the children TO the ephemeral happy time that they get to spend with their new guardian, I was in a way reminded that only bad things were going to happen to the children and came to yearn to save them out of the misery as the grim realization dawns on me.

As it was two years since I last read this book, I only remembered the fraction of the story so everything in the book felt fresh and I enjoyed so much.

It was such a delightful, entertaining read. I can’t wait to find out what happens next to the Bourdelair children 🙂


Lemony Snicket、またしてもやってくれましたーこの本には最初から最後まで、完全に釘付けでした。

こちらはA series of Unfortunate Events の2作目で、すっごい大好きです。多分1冊目より好きだと思います。

Lemony Snicketの作家としての技術全編を通しが見事に遺憾無く発揮されていています。退屈な場面なんか一つもなくて(私にとっては)、この本は実質2回で読み終えました。(もう1冊同時進行で読んでまして、そのもう1冊を読んでいる間、こちらはちょっと棚上げになってたんです)

Lemony Snicketの、Olaf伯爵の描き方が特に好きです。
1冊目ではOlaf伯爵は憎々しい、油断のならない、激怒したら想像もつかないほど凶悪なこともしでかしかねない人物として描かれていますが、私個人としてはそこまでとは感じませんでした。
確かに憎たらしいし、狡猾でぶっさいくw なんですけど、でも1冊目での描写で背筋がゾクッとするような感じはなかったです。

が、2冊目では身震いしました。Olaf伯爵が子供達の喉をナイフでかき切ると想像するだけで(こちらは実際に起こることじゃないですよ。Olaf伯爵が「そうする」と宣言していることです)怖いのなんの((((;゚Д゚))))
で、ナイフです。特にナイフに反射する光がこの2冊目では非常に効果的に使われているな、と思いました。子供達に対して無駄な抵抗はやめろと警告したりとか、その気になれば無慈悲で冷酷なこともできるんだと見事に表現していたな、と。
ギラリと光るナイフを目にして訪れる沈黙が聞こえる気すらしました。ちょー怖い!ほんとにゾクッときましたよ。

あとは展開の仕方にもやられました。
子供たちに何か悪いこと、惨めなことが起きるぞ、というのは百も承知なのですが、でもそれを絡まった糸をほどくように少しずつチラ出しする代わりにいきなり新しい後見人ー子供たちが愛しく思い、一緒にいて楽しいと感じるーが死んでしまう運命だ、とバラしちゃうんですね。
いつ、どのように彼が死んでしまうのかは当然明らかにされませんが、でもLemony Snicketは物事は私たち読者が願うようには進みませんぜ、と言っちゃうんですよね。

こちらについては非常に効果的だったな、と感じました。子供たちを待ち受ける惨めな日々がより浮き彫りになったというか。
子供たちを待ち受けるくらーい、どんよりした未来と、束の間ではあったものの新しい後見人と過ごした楽しい日々を並列することによって、この先悲しいことしか子供たちには起きないんだと実感させられたし、何とかして状況を変えたい、と願うようになったというか。うまいなー、と思いました。

最後に読んでから2年くらい経っていたので物語については断片的にしか覚えていなかったので、全てが新鮮に感じられました。読んでいてすごく楽しかったです。

こちらは本当に面白い本です。次に子供たちに何が起きるのか、展開が楽しみです。 😀

The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket

bad-beginningTitle: The Bad Beginning (A series of Unfortunate Events, Book 1)

Author : Lemony Snicket

Length: 192 pages (Hardcover)

Grade: 5 and up  or 8 – 12 years (by Amazon)

 

I have heard a lot of people say this series is depressing to read on, but I’m not quite sure about that.
If anything, I find this book really enticing, even delightful.

I am definitely not talking about the plot; I’m talking about the writing style. It is so unique, if anything, it’s so beautiful.

The story begins with a terrible fire that engulfed the entire Boudelair mansion and Mr. Poe visiting the Boudelair children to deliver the terrible news of their parents having perished by the fire.

In accordance with the very specific direction in Mr. Boudelair’s will, the children are then  entrusted with Count Olaf, the geologically nearest relative of them.
As if to say the fire itself weren’t devastating enough, the author forebodes even grimmer events await the Boudelair children and warns the readers to put the book down immediately if they expect a feel-good, happy-ending story.

As I mentioned earlier, I read with book with much delight. I love his writing style, it’s somewhat quaint and quirky yet it definitely has a very dignified vibe.
I particularly love the moments where he stops right middle of a sentence and then starts explaining the definition of the word he has just used. It makes you feel like having him right in front of you and listening to him narrating the story.

His diction is what I think makes his writing stand out from others’. I don’t know how to articulate this and I can’t possibly find the way how, but I believe you’ll see it when you actually pick up his book and start reading.

The latter half is, in particular, an amazing read. The plot is well-crafted and so riveting and compelling.  I had so many moments when I gritted my teeth and cried, “Ughhhhhhhh!!” out of frustration from things not going in favor of the Boudelair children.

Although the book doesn’t end with a positive note as the author warns, it is definitely an enjoyable read. Trust me, the plot itself is NOT as depressing as some may say. Think of it, this series is for children; what is depressing to kids doesn’t mean it’s depressing to us adults.

I personally highly recommend this book on so many levels 😀

 

このシリーズは読んでて気分が滅入る、と良く聞きますが、私には実のところどうだか良く分かりません。
むしろ、私にとっては滅入るというよりもすごく面白くて読んでて楽しいくらいなんですけどw

もちろん、ストーリーのことを言ってるんじゃないですよ。作風やライティングのことなんですけどね。とてもユニークで、文体がとても綺麗です。

物語はというとどでかいBoudelair邸宅を焼き尽くした火災から始まり、両親の友人、Poe氏がBoudelair家の子供たちを訪ねるところから始まります。火災で両親が焼死してしまったことを伝えに来るのですが。

で、両親の非常に具体的な遺書による指示により、子供たちはOlaf伯爵のもとに預けられます。地理的に一番近い親戚、という理由なのですが。
火災だけでも(子供たちにとっては)気が滅入るような、破壊力抜群の出来事ですが、作者は更にもっと気が滅入るような出来事が待ち受けると警告します。そして読者にも告げます:明るく、楽しい本が読みたいのなら今すぐ本を閉じなさいと。

先程も書いたように、この本は楽しんで読めました。私は彼の文体がすごく好きです。どこか変わった趣があって、風変わりで、でも威厳を感じる文体というんでしょうか。
特に彼が文章のど真ん中でいきなり話を止めて直前に使った単語の説明を始めたりとか、なんか目の前に作者がいて、彼が物語を語るのを聞いているような気分になります。

この本がほかとは違う、と思う理由には彼の言葉の使い方があると思います。じゃあ具体的になによ、と言われると分かりませんし、頭をひねっても「何か」は思いつきようがないですが、でも実際読んでいただいたらきっと「あ、こういうことか」と分かっていただけるかと思います。

後半は特に、すっごい面白いです。筋が良く練られていて、そりゃもう釘付けです。ぐいぐい引き込まれます。何度「あああああああああ!!!」と実際声を出したことかw 物事がね、思うように進まないのはこんなにイラつくのかとw

作者が予言したとおりこの本はハッピーエンドでは終わりません。ですが、楽しめることは請け負います。
それにね、話自体もそこまで滅入るようなもんじゃないです。正直。考えて頂ければわかるかもですが、こちらは子供向けです。ということは、子供達にとって気分が滅入ることが必ずしも私たち大人にも同じ効果を及ぼすとは限らないわけです。

ということで、私個人としてはこちらの本はあらゆる意味でおすすめ、です :D

The Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury

the-halloween-treeHappy Halloween!

I’ve now come to wonder if it’s appropriate to use this common phrase having finished this book.

As I previously mentioned, I managed to finish reading it last Saturday, thanks to my mom going out for a walk for an hour or so.

My gosh, this book amazed me in all respects; the writing is just grand and beautiful, it sounds like a poem and oh, THE BARGAIN the boys make with Mr. Moundshroud to save Pipkin!! It ripped my heart; it was incredibly profound (for children’s book) and pregnant with meaning. Literally mind-blowing. I momentarily lost for words and couldn’t say anything but ‘Oh, my gosh, Oh, my gosh!!

Spoiler Alert: The following paragraphs contain some spoilers. Those who haven’t read this book before, I strongly suggest you read this part AFTER you’ve read the book. For those who have already known how it goes, drag your mouse down to ‘End Spoilers.’

The bargain they make with Mr. Moundshroud to save good-old Pipkin trapped in the world of Death and Darkness is to give up one year out of their lives.

One year doesn’t seem like much with the boys being so young and sprightly, but as Mr. Moundshroud says it carries a significant meaning when their days are numbered. I think they will come to wish to live as long as possible, every single day counts in such situations, but once they make the pledge, Mr. Moundshroud will come to them and take away one year of their lives.

So he asks the boys – Can you make this commitment? Are you willing to sacrifice your precious one year of your life to save Pipkin?? Consider and deliberate this; think about a time when your life is coming to a close.

I literally sucked my breath, thinking, “What a huge decision for the boys to make!” One year out of their lives. What will the boys be thinking of having their one-year taken out of their lives when they want to live longer?

I just couldn’t put it down – completely got wrapped up in reading and was desperate to see how the story ends.

–End Spoilers —————————-

I would not say that I get to comprehend all the-origin-of-Halloween part, but in spite of that, I am glad that I picked up this book for this year’s Halloween.

Having read this book, I now feel sorry for all the craziness and racket that we’ve seen here in Japan (especially in Shibuya, Tokyo): dressed up in crazy costumes and traipse down the streets not knowing what Halloween really is, or what meanings Halloween carries to the dead.

Halloween is a celebration for the dead and personally, I don’t think it should be taken lightly; it shouldn’t be reduced down to a mere festival propagated by some guys who just want to jump on the bandwagon.

A great book does possess a power to change our perspective.
Mine has definitely changed upside down having read this book and I think it’s a wonderful thing.

Now, what do you think?
As I said, I’m glad that I picked up this book in time for Halloween and I am seriously thinking of getting a hardback because I want to read it again and again and again when Halloween rolls around!

 

Happy Halloween!

ってね、この本を読み終えた今となってはこんなこと言ってもいいもんかどうなのか考えてしまいます。

以前にも書いたとおり、何とか先週土曜日に読み終えることができました!母親が1時間かそこら散歩に出てくれたのでw

なんてことでしょう。この本にはいろんな意味で驚かされました。文章はとにかく格調高く綺麗だったし、まるで詩のようで。それに、それにですよ!少年たちが闇と死の世界に囚われたPipkinを救うためにMoundshroud氏と交わす取引が!!! もうほんとに心が張り裂けるようでした。子供向けにしてはえらい深い意味を持っているし、含蓄があるなあと。とにかく、ぶったまげました。一時言葉を失い、「まじ?まじで?!」としか言葉が出てきませんでした。

※ネタバレ注意!: 以下の段落にはネタバレが含まれています。まだこの本を読んでいない方は「読んでから」ここを読むのを強くおすすめします。読んでいて流れをご存知の方は「ネタバレ終了」部分までマウスをドラッグしてください。

少年たちがMoundshroud氏と交わす取引は「自らの命1年分をPipkinを救うために差し出す」というものでした。

1年ってね、子供で元気いっぱいの彼らには大したものではないかもしれません。でもMoundshroud氏が言うように、寿命が短くなってきた時には1年というのはとても大きな重要性を帯びてきます。少しでも長く生きたいと、1日1日が重要になってくるので。

なのでMoundshroud氏は少年たちに問いかけますー 君たちは確約できるか? Pipkinを救うために貴重な1年を犠牲にする覚悟があるか? 良く考えなさい: 命の灯火が小さくなった時のことを。

本当に息を呑んでしまいましたね。「少年たちにとっては何と大きな決断か!」と。自分たちの寿命から1年。「もっと長生きしたい」と思うようになったときに奪われてしまう1年を、彼らはどう感じるのか?

読むのをやめられませんでした。完全に熱中し、どのように物語が結末を迎えるのかを確かめずにはいられませんでした。

ネタばれ終了——

ハロウィンの起源の説明部分については全部理解できたとは言いません。それを差し引いても、この本をハロウィンに合わせて読めて良かったと思ってます。

この本を読んで、ここ日本(東京渋谷)で目の当たりにするばか騒ぎにはちょっと遺憾の念を覚えます。

ハロウィンとはなんなのか、ハロウィンが死者にとってどんな意味を持つのかを全然理解しないでただ仮装して通りを練り歩く。

ハロウィンは死者を祀る祝いの儀式。個人的には軽んじるものではないと思っています。
ただ流行りに乗りたい人達によって単なるお祭りに成り下がってはならない、と。

本当にいい本は私たちの視点、ものの見方すら変える力を持っています。
この本を読んで私の視点は確実に、180度変わったし、それは素晴らしいことだと思います。

さて、皆さんはどうお考えになりますか?

さっきも書いたとおり、今年のハロウィンに間に合うように読めて良かったと思ってますし、真剣にハードカバーを手に入れようかと考えています。だって、ハロウィンが近づく頃になんどもなんども何度も、読みたいので!

A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett

a-little-princessI assume I don’t have to tell you much about this book – this is THE classic loved by both adults and kids around the world and I did love it so much – except the fact that I have never read the actual book; I have only read its comic adaptation or animated one when I was a child.

Back in the day, there was a popular animated program broadcast on Sunday evenings featuring word-classics such as Little Women, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and this, ‘Little princess’ was my absolute favorite.

After all these years, I finally got my hands on this book – the original one not the translated version – and I have to admit, it was as moving as ever; it still holds so much power to enchant me. This book is simply amazing.

However, I’m not sure if it is because of me being jaded and cynical, there are some points that I couldn’t related to Sara wholeheartedly.

First and foremost, she is PERFECT for a mere 11 or 12 something year-old girl. How can a mere child be so matured, calm and collected? Of course, there are scenes where she takes her rage out on her beloved doll, Emily or distances herself from her friends, yet she still retains her dignity and refuses to be reduced down to being spiteful. I think I’ll need to take a page out of her book in this regard.

Secondly, although she eventually amends her remark about Ermengarde before she actually says it, it can’t be denied Sara in fact thinks of her as being ‘stupid.’
In my opinion, ‘stupid’ itself is a very derogatory, strong word and that implies one disregards others, looking down on them.
By the same token, I felt Sara is a bit disrespectful to Miss Minchin after Sara has lost everything – her beloved father, her fortune, anything you can think of – and fallen in a state of a penniless with no one to be looked after.
She could have been dead out on the street had it been for Miss Minchin; she ought to have thought of herself as fortunate to have a roof over her head, yet she refuses to utter a word ‘Thank you.’
It goes without saying that Miss Minchin is very detestable (as we all know too well), but she could have shown her gratitude even a bit, if you ask me.

Other than that, this is a very moving story. Sara teaches us that we don’t have to stoop ourselves to the same level of those who despite us or make fun of us, or we don’t have to resort to the ‘eye-for-eye’ tactic. Instead, we should just hold our heads high and not let them get to us.

As this is a Classic story written more than 100 years ago, it may be a bit challenging for beginners, but I think it would make a nice change to revisit some classic stories that you adored in your childhood 🙂

 

この本については深く説明することもないと思います。世界中のみんなに-老いも若きにも-愛されている古典作品なので。もちろん私も大好きでした。「マンガ版、そしてアニメ版しか見たことがない」ということを除けば、ですがw

子供の頃、毎週日曜日の夜には世界名作劇場なるアニメ番組があり、「トム・ソーヤの冒険」とか「若草物語」とか世界名作のアニメ版が放映されていました。で、その中でこの「小公女」は一番のお気に入りでした。

何年も経って、ついにこの本を手にとったわけですが。翻訳版じゃなくて、原書。感動作であることには間違いありません。子供の頃と同じく、魅了されてしまいました。本当にただただ素晴らしいです。

とは言いながら、自分がまぁ色々と疲れたり気持ちがささくれ立ったりして皮肉っぽくなってるからなのかは分かりませんが、Saraに対して「もう、超共感!!!」というわけでもなかったシーンも当然ありました。

まず最初に、Saraは11~12歳にしては完璧過ぎます。ただの女の子がどうしたらこうも落ち着いていて、成熟してるんでしょう? もちろん、怒りを大好きな人形、Emilyにぶつけたり、友達からわざと遠ざかったりするシーンもありますが、でも彼女は自身の威厳を保ち、意地悪に成り下がらないように努力します。こういう点では見習わないといけませんねw

二つ目に、最終的にはErmengardeに対する発言を口に出す前に訂正するわけですが、でもErmengardeのことを「頭が悪い」と思った事実は否定できないんですよね。
個人的に言えば、このStupidという単語は非常に軽蔑的で、他人を見下しているニュアンスを持つ言葉です。
同様に、父親も財産も何もかも失ってしまい正に無一文になった時、ミンチン女史の(まぁひどい扱いは受けますが)引き続き置いてくれる、との申し出に対しSaraはもうちょっと感謝の気持ちを表せなかったのか、という感を受けました。
ミンチン女史がいなかったら野垂れ死にしてもおかしくなかったわけです。寝るところがあるだけ幸運だと感謝すべきだと思ったのですが・・・でもSaraはThank you を口にしたがりません。
ミンチン女史がひどい人なのは書く事もないわけですが、少しはねぇ、感謝を表してもと個人的には感じました。

それ以外では、本当に感動的な物語です。Saraは私たちを嫌い、からかう人達と同じレベルに成り下がる必要はない、と教えてくれます。「目には目を」という方法を取ることはないと。
その代わり、堂々とし、気にしないべきだと。

100年以上前に書かれた古典作品なので、ちょっと洋書初心者さんには難しいかもしれませんが、ときには子供時代に大好きだった作品に戻ってみるのも、いい気分転換になると思います 🙂